Saturday, June 30, 2007
Great buzz for 24-Hour Fitness
Friday, June 29, 2007
The concept of the elevator pitch is not new. But I hadn't really considered the elevator question until reading Tim Connor's great book, 91 Mistakes Smart Salespeople Make.
According to Tim, an elevator question is any question that cuts to the heart of your prospect's challenges, concerns or fears to make them think. It's a question that implies you or your organization may have a possible solution for their problems.
Of course, elevator questions are not confined to elevators. They can be used on the trade show floor, at the start of a phone conversation, even in voicemails.
Get right to the heart of what your customers care about, worry about, and are themselves paid to do. Imply with the question that you may have a solution. Then watch your prospects engage.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
And yet change and innovation is one of the most complicated and challenging issues facing existing business. It's why start-ups can gain such incredible traction on entrenched market leaders, because they're starting from scratch with a new set or rules, assumptions and business practices that more directly map to current conditions.
Peter Drucker called this systematic abandonment, the deliberate process of letting go of familiar products in favor of the new or as yet unknown. He offered clients three key questions to focus their thinking on strategic abandonment:
- If you weren't in this business today, would you invest the resources to enter it?
- What unconscious assumptions might constrain your business practices and limit your innovative thinking?
- Are your highest-achieving people assigned to innovative opportunities? Or are they merely working on yesterday's problems and yesterday's products?
These are difficult questions to answer, and far more difficult to put into practice. But the hard questions, and even harder conversations, are key to innovation and growth.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Making your customers right
Drucker on Focus & Innovation
- Who is your customer?
- What does your customer consider value?
- What are your results with customers?
- Does your customer strategy work well with your business strategy?
If you haven't done so in awhile, apply these questions to your business. Make sure that both you and the rest of your management team knows, understands and believes the answers.
Who are you selling to?
Your customer, for example, may not actually use your product. They may not even really care about your product.
Let's assume for simplicity's sake that customers come in three categories:
1) the user
2) the buyer
3) the influencer
All three exist, in nearly every product and service available in the market today. But do you have a strategy for how to reach and mobilize each group? Do you know how to identify each customer individually?
This is all about relationships and leverage, and knowing your customers intimately. Getting to that level of insight, and knowing how to leverage the complex relationships your customers have amongst each other, is a critically important element of marketing strategy.
And if you haven't thought about it this way before, you might find that it immediately opens up new opportunities within your business for growth and market share.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
MoM Links for June 26, 2007
What has your intern taught you?: Make this summer's "seasonal help" a two-way street (like Pete did).
Seth gives two examples of creative sponsorship opportunities that quickly and immediately would pay dividends in brand awareness and perception. But would you have the guts to do it?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
What's your time worth?
They all need to get done. But too often, I do them the hard way. Much of the time, it's not really worth my time to do it that way.
There are things in my life that I now outsource. Things that may cost a little money to do so, but let me make far better use of my limited time.
For example, I have an older, diabetic cat. She needs special diabetic dry cat food, which is only available at one of two vet clinics in the area. In the past, to get a new bag of cat food, I've had to make a special trip to one of these clinics.
What if I could get that food, and not have to make the trip? Don't I have something better, more productive, more efficient to do with that 30-40 minutes?
I'm not talking about paying someone else to run that errand for me. There are far cheaper ways to get that bag of food than that. Instead of 40 minutes to get that food, I spent five:
- PetFoodDirect.com sells the food I need, at the same price as I get it from the vet clinic.
- My diabetic cat food requires a prescription, which I had faxed over from our vet.
- Five minutes later, I've ordered my cat food. It'll arrive at my doorstep in a few days
That's 30 minutes I have back - to spend more time with my family, squeeze in a quick workout, or crank out another quick project at work. It's my choice what I do with that time, but I guarantee it's better spent than sitting in my car (burning gas, sending more emissions into the atmosphere, etc.) And that cat food is one of several things I can automate to get more time back in my personal and professional life.
What's your time worth? What would you rather be doing?
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
MoM Links for June 19, 2007
Headlines are stop signs: They're not "buy" signs, as Copyblogger points out, so don't worry about making them work too hard. More great copywriting tips follow.
54 questions for entrepreneurs: Good list for product planners and business leaders as well. Thanks, Scott.
Why the iPhone will fail: Laura is absolutely right. Despite similar names, it's the anti-iPod.
Simple, brilliant customer evangelism: Started with a simple customer effort, then magnified by an even simpler company effort. Brilliant.
Don't do it: Why Marc Andreesson thinks starting your own business is a bad idea.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Three Questions about Productivity
Click on the question below and you'll see how several prominent productivity experts answered. Then see my personal answer below:
What is the single biggest way people waste time without even realizing it?
Not knowing what your top priorities are. If you established a top five and "first of five" every single day (I'm talking work days primarily, but this would work on weekends too!), then you could manage everything else accordingly. You would know that you can leave your email alone, for example, because it can't be more important than your "first of five" priority.
What change has made the most difference in making you effective in life?
Getting up early. I wake up at 5:30 a.m. every weekday morning now, and it's had an incredible impact on my energy and productivity throughout the rest of the day.
If someone were to read just one post from your site, which would you recommend the read and why?
Here's one of my favorite recent posts about Cooks in the Kitchen. It identifies a key problem that almost every professional has, with tips on how to get stuff done in spite of it. I think it's a good example of the kind of topics I like to write about, with practical advice that anyone can follow.
How to instantly be credible
One such passage had to do with creating credibility and believability in record time.
The secret? Admit a weakness.
Tell your audience (whether it's one or many) about something you did wrong, something you're terrible at, or something that has always been a steep challenge.
By showing honesty in this way, your audience will assume the rest of what you say is the truth. Admitting a weakness will also disarm your audience, and serve as a stronger ice-breaker in a sales situation than you might think.
Choose your publicized weakness carefully, but find ways to use this to your advantage.
Get more great advice and insights from Harry here.
Breakthrough ideas from a change of scenery
The majority of that work time is at the HouseValues office. I feel fortunate to have a great working space here, but sometimes it's way too familiar. The same distractions and stimuli surround me every day, people know exactly where to find me if they need something, and I typically have the exact same things to stare at (in the office, and out the window) in my constant search for inspiration.
I spend less time at my home office (thankfully), but still enough that it's a steady work environment for me. Same issues apply there - the window I stare out at, the cat that constantly wants to sit on my keyboard, etc. - all the same, almost every day.
Despite the significant time I spend at these two desks, some of my best ideas have come elsewhere. Sometimes it's something on a weekend that sparks the right brain cells. Sometimes it's forcing a lingering cup of coffee with my Molskine notebook on a weekday afternoon.
Too often, it's in the shower or during a workout, when neither the Molskine or Jott are readily available.
So if some of my most productive, creative thinking comes away from my primary work stations, why not capture more of that time for myself?
How could you plan such "out of office" work time into your schedule, specifically to think about particular challenges you have in your work or personal life? How can you use this time to spark new creativity, and actually increase your productivity?
Don't fall into the trap of thinking about this time as less productive or valuable. If you need a chance of scenery to be creative, do it. Use your primary work stations for execution, not creation.
Category before brand
Yes, having a strong brand is important. But it's even more important that your brand leads in a relevant, vibrant category. You can have the clearest, most compelling brand in the world, but if it's playing in a largely irrelevant category, it just doesn't matter.
So what happens when your once-great brand is suddenly in a category that nobody cares about anymore? Figure out where your customers went, which new category they care about how, and create a new brand to dominate there. This is the challenge facing Dell right now, and many others in shifting markets.
Read more from Laura here.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
MoM Links for June 17, 2007
Getting Up Early, Part II: Here are 15 more tips for how to get a better start to your day.
15 ways to become a better presenter: Guy does it again with another fantastic contributed post on practical ways to better engage your live audience.
Email Zen: Simple tips for keeping a clean inbox, no matter how much email you get.
Why testimonials do (and don't) work: Great post explaining why many testimonials backfire, plus tips for how to make your happy customer quotes work even harder.
Do you love your job?: If so, tell people! (it'll only cost you a dollar...)
A day in the life of a productivity master: Check out how efficient, how effective, and how happy this guy is.
When being predictable is a good thing: Smart advice from that guy.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Get Buzzed with Buzzoodle
Ron runs one of the Web's best marketing blogs, has written the book on buzz marketing, and has a knack for providing highly practical and applicable marketing recommendations to everyday business challenges.
I recently had an opportunity to chat with Ron about his approach to buzz marketing, and here's a quick transcript:
How and why did you decide to focus on buzz marketing?
We began by helping people with Internet Marketing. What we realized over time was that getting more people involved, including employees and the public, could get clients incredible results for a very low cost. So we decided to focus on Employee Evangelism and that morphed into Buzz Marketing with a heavy emphasis on helping organizations get a team of employee evangelists creating buzz.
What strategies have been most successful in creating buzz for Buzzoodle?
My blog is the top lead generator for me. It has led to book sales, speaking opportunities, partnerships and more. Even though it is a lot of work to maintain, it is more effective and fun than most other activities I could do.
One problem people do not realize is that having a blog is not enough. You have to promote it and use it to build relationships. You have to spend time creating content and spend time building relationships. And if you need fast results, it is not the best option for you.
Why do so many products and businesses fail to generate buzz?
People, including myself, have trouble looking at their business and products with a fresh eye. Most small businesses start with an idea, then they build the idea, then they see if people will buy it. The general public will almost never care as much as you do. So they will not pass on information about your product unless it is really incredible or useful.
Saving me 5% on something probably is not worth the time it takes me to change services. You have to fundamentally enhance the quality of my life with little effort on my part to get me excited about something.
That said, Buzz Marketing has really become the new PR. It is all about crafting good stories and finding people that care and can pass that information on to other people. If you look at it as a marathon where you are going to create some buzz every day, forever, you are more likely to succeed.
If a business owner or employee reading this has 15 minutes this afternoon to create buzz, what should he/she do?
Buy my book (just kidding, no really...). Then if they have time left over, I would say email some people you have not talked to in a few months and ask them how they are doing. Let them know if there is anything new (buzzworthy) going on with you. I regularly do with and it gets good results because so many people exchange a few emails and then move on.
What are you reading right now? What’s the best book you’ve read in the past six months?
I am reading The Dip right now by Seth Godin. I just read the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and that one got me really excited. I am changing my business model based on some of those concepts, so that I can stop working 10-12 hour days.
I find it very funny that you can read two books like those that have very different and seemingly contradictory messages and agree with both. Like most things in life, you can make them make sense together with some mental stretching.
Aside from reading the Buzzoodle blog on a daily basis, where else can folks learn about effective buzz marketing?
I do read additional marketing blogs, but I also look at technology blogs to see what new things are coming out, and even look at HR resources to learn more about helping people be more effective. I think the best way to approach Buzz Marketing is to remember it is about empowering (technology) people (HR) to communicate more effectively and more regularly with minimal effort. For a list of good marketing blogs you can visit the power 150 and you get a list of more than you can ever read.
Everyone's a contact
Networking, quite simply, is the act of building relationships. With everyone.
There is no contact too small, too irrelevant, or too distant. Yes, meeting peers in your industry, your job function, and within your professional community are important network members. But so are the ad reps who cold-call you for your business. So are the random people you meet at a concert or ballgame tonight.
The barista? Your bank clerk? Your spouse's colleagues (no matter what he or she does)? All a part of your network.
Why? It's simple. We live in a small and shrinking world, a world in which everyone's connected to everyone. Your barista? She might play ultimate frisbee with your next big business deal. That ad rep who keeps cold-calling you? He might soon get a biz-dev job at a company you've been dying to do business with.
The guy at the ballgame? What if he mentions your name and/or company to someone in his network that helps you:
- Make your next sale
- Get your next great job
- Hire your next superstar employee
- Get you a great deal on the car you want to buy
- Find a better ad agency for your business
The lesson here? Always be networking. Always take the opportunity to meet a new person, introduce yourself, and make new contacts.
Then simply keep in touch. At a minimum, add them to your rolodex, or Outlook Contacts, or LinkedIn account. Get in the habit of sending quarterly e-cards to your entire network. The end-of-year holidays are the easiest excuse, but summertime well wishes aren't bad either. And your network will appreciate you being proactive about staying in touch.
Take advantage of every opportunity to meet new people, make an impression, and expand your ability to get things done - for yourself and your business.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
10 great things about Seattle
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Blueprint for a successful online community
MoM Links for June 12, 2007
12 ways to decompress after a stressful day: Another great set of suggestions from ZenHabits. Even more great suggestions from readers in the "comments" section as well.
What does that office-talk really mean?: Here's a quick set of translations from Penelope Trunk (with a healthy layer of sarcasm added). An entertaining read.
Tired of the same old blogs?: Pick a new favorite from this list of the industry's top 150 marketing blogs.
Edit your life: Start with your commitments, and make sure they're all important. Thanks again to ZenHabits.
PR agencies of the world, unite!: Great work by Paul Holmes describing how PR agencies need to evolve to not just survive, but thrive in a consumer-driven marketing world.
The brand is everything: Doesn't matter if your marketing and executive suite are united and consistent. If your front-line staff doesn't live it, you're screwed.
Monday, June 11, 2007
How to get 80% fewer voicemails
Until a couple weeks ago, I regularly received 6-8 voicemails almost every single workday. A few were from people I truly wanted to hear from, but many were sales calls from vendors, ad reps and others interested in selling me something.
I don't have time to return 6-8 voicemails a day, especially from vendors I don't yet know. But it's always really bugged me that I basically ignore most of these calls. They might actually have something I need, but I don't have time to do the weeding out.
I also got in the bad habit of just letting my phone ring most of the time, and letting it go to voicemail. If I didn't recognize the inbound number, I'd just ignore the ringing. This was in part to avoid the cold calls, but it was also to avoid the interruptions.
But now, with one simple phone feature activated two weeks ago, I get 80 percent fewer voicemails and am responding to 100 percent of inbound messages to me (yes, even from unknown vendors and ad reps).
That phone feature is Call-Forward. Except for when I'm expecting an important inbound call, my work phone now always forwards calls direct to my voicemail.
This means that when you call my work line (give it a shot at 425-952-5664), you'll be sent immediately to the following message:
Hi, this is Matt from HouseValues. You'll get a much faster response from me by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do leave a message, please leave me your name, number, email, and the reason for your call. Thanks, and have a great day.
My phone still rings a lot. But I get very few voicemails. I also get very few emails from the cold callers. The emails I do receive typically get a response within 24 hours, sometimes with a polite "no thanks", and other times with a note that I've forwarded their information to a more relevant person within the company.
What about all those callers who used to leave a message, but now don't send me email? If they can't bother to change communication channels, then they probably don't have anything worth interrupting me for.
This simple change has allowed me to condense the time I spend sorting through inbound information, and also allows me to focus that time on a channel (email) on which I'm far faster and more productive.
Getting the cooks out of the kitchen
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Thursday, June 07, 2007
MoM Links for June 7, 2007
Craig On Breathing: Good, short interview with Craig Newmark of CraigsList fame, with a particularly good suggestions for reducing stress (hint: breathe slower)
The Power of Scarcity: Steve riffs on when scarcity is good, and how you can put it to your advantage to create demand, premium demand.
Beer can make you more remarkable: This post is about blogging, but its lessons go far deeper. Drink and read responsibly.
YouTube for Entrepreneurs: And there's not just one! Vator.tv is about to launch, but so are 'competitors' from Business Week and Incuby. Ain't nothin' like a video business plan!
20 ways to get you started.
The government is blogging
That's the best you could do?
So, at least for now, I'm officially the worst book promoter of all time. But please, don't take pity on me (unless, of course, you want to buy a copy of the book to demonstrate said pity, then it's fine. See, I'm getting better already!)
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
MoM Links for June 5, 2007
Think like a child: Paul's right, we would do ourselves a favor by emulating kindergartners more often. Hat tip to Rob Eastaway's new book, too.
Buy your buddies a drink online: With coupons redeemable at the local bar, thanks to this enterprising online event-finding community.
Mark Andreessen's Guide to Personal Productivity: A long post, but some really great advice on how to focus more on what's important, plus eliminate the typical distractions that keep you from doing so every day.
Harsh but true: Honda cancels a hybrid version of the Accord. Kiley's right, in today's environment of heighten environmental awareness and ridiculous fuel prices, there's no excuse for that kind of failure, and he blames it all on marketing.
Traveling at the speed of blogs: Great recap here of how a disgruntled customer's story went form personal blog to national, headline news in just three days.
Marketing before manufacturing
This is backwards execution.
We may start with a high-level vision for what our customers want, a vision that goes into the product plan and inspires the work your manufacturing or technology team begins to build. But then reality sets in. Production schedules get constrained. Sacrifices and compromises are made. Features are shaved to meet launch dates.
The product or service you end up with may no longer match your original vision, or worse, it may no longer directly address or solve the problems and pain points of your customers. How could you have avoided this?
By doing the marketing in advance. By writing the launch press release on day one. By teaching each other the product or service's story before any manufacturing or coding takes place.
Understanding your customers and having a product vision is important. But if you don't know how to talk about your product to customers, if you don't really understand the story it's telling (and how press, influencers and others will also tell it), then it's impossible to ensure that the final product will match that story.
As you engage in the manufacturing or development process, compromises and adjustments to the original plan are inevitable. But every single adjustment - no matter how small - needs to be vetted against the story you want to tell customers.
Will this feature change enhance or detract from our story?
Will taking out this feature to meet a launch deadline hurt the effectiveness and simplicity of our message to customers?
Do the marketing before you begin manufacturing. Know the story you want to tell, and make sure your entire organization knows that story as well. This will ensure that the final product or service not only matches that story when it's completed, but will also ensure that you have far more evangelists (inside and outside of your business) who can effectively tell that consistent story on launch day and beyond.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Building a Web 2.0 business is this easy...
1. Smart ideas don't need much to get rolling
2. Stop thinking and just start doing!
Thanks to Guy for this great reminder, and for the suggestions!
Give and take
Many managers, unfortunately, focus on themselves. They extract from others what's necessary to make themselves look good. Their management styles, both with their teams and in prioritizing corporate strategy, are focused on what's best for them - not necessarily what's best for the company or their team members.
These managers take far more than they give, and although many may appear successful, their impact on your organization can be dangerous.
The best managers know that their job is to serve. Their job is to make those around them better, more efficient, more focused, and more successful. They know that their own success will ultimately be measured by the success and progress of those around them, and they make investments accordingly.
What kind of manager are you? Are you a giver or taker?
Both paths can make you successful and wealthy. But only one will do the same for your organization, and your employees.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
MoM Links for June 2, 2007
KnowFat!: A health-conscious restaurant chain has sprung out of Massachusetts. and is making its way to a street corner near you. Very cool concept, and ripe for organic marketing growth.
Turn your stairs into drawers: This isn't business-related, but was just plain cool. Talk about creating significant added value out of a commodity!
Jarvis is right. Someone should create a Google mapping mashup to help us choose where to stay when we travel.