Turn a Minus into a Positive

It took a pandemic to slow me down enough to unpack from a 6 month sabbatical in Australia. The COVID-19 pandemic probably changed your life a lot, too.

This is a great time to stop, look around, take inventory, and do some maintenance or upgrades on your sales, marketing, and business development activities.

It reminds me of an event that happened four years ago….

My mother-in-law’s sister, “Jane”, came to visit. She came over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays, while my family was off visiting other people. Jane used our house as a free AirBnB while she spent her days at the assisted living facility. When Jane left, she accidentally left the refrigerator door ajar. For two weeks, the refrigerator was trying to cool down the inside, while the open-door-light was pumping in new heat. Eventually, the refrigerator stopped working. I came home to a lot of rotten and about to explode food.

First, I was, frustrated with Jane. I brought the 65-gallon trash can from the garage to the fridge and emptied it all out. I washed down the entire fridge: all that stuff that seems to collect around the milk jugs, the weird thing that leaked from 2008 on a back shelf, the red wine stain from 2005…

As I threw out food, jams that had crystallized, spreads I didn’t like the taste of, sauces dating back decades, I could see that what was in the fridge was NOT what I needed IN the fridge.

Your marketing and sales activities may be as dated or inappropriate as my refrigerator contents. Now is a great time to take inventory and pitch the stuff that does not work, is too 2003, or is not suitable for your current customer-base or product offering.

Where to start?

  1. Take Inventory
    • What are you doing?
    • Are your new products included?
    • Do you have old products you should stop promoting?
  2. Evaluate effectiveness
    • Do your marketing assets still work the way they should?
    • Are you spending the majority of your time on the pieces that do work and little time on the ancillary items?
    • Or is the equation flipped and you are spending 80% of your time on 20% of your sales?
    • Can you imagine an improved workflow?
    • Does it work if in-person meetings, conferences, or tradeshows are virtual?
  3. Delete the non-essential
    • Simplify, simplify, simplify
  4. Plan the new and improved path forward
    • Improve the workflow now that the non-essential is gone
    • Add new content or new outlets as appropriate
    • Schedule a re-review
    • Put someone in charge of the maintenance

Fast Track 4

Whether you’re selling a product, yourself, or your company, you have to do four things:

  1. Make what the customer wants
    • There’s what you do.
    • Then there’s what the customer wants. 70% of companies fail 2 years into the game because they didn’t make what the customer wanted or needed. Be in the 30% who succeed.
  2. Price it accordingly
    • Be good fast or cheap. Pick 2.
    • Price is what the market will bear.
    • It really comes down to the two most important specifications and how you position the product in the market place for customer need.
  3. Get your village to support you
    • OK, really you need to create the village you and your company need to succeed.
    • What are your strengths?
    • What do you need someone else to do (you can’t do everything)?
    • Who can be a partner, a mentor, a trusted advisor?
    • It is about who you know.
  4. Make a plan
    • A business plan is really a hypothesis which combines all of your assumptions about the market, the pricing, your ability to make and ship the product, and costs.
    • Then you test the plan in the real world.
    • Finally, you validate or invalidate your hypotheses.
    • Without a plan you won’t really know where you were correct and incorrect.
    • As they say in the Navy: “Fail to plan; plan to fail.”

Alexander Graham Bell Day

It is March 7, Alexander Graham Bell Day. Pick up that telephone and call someone.

It is that simple and yet it is still hard.

Three ideas to get you going and lower your energy barriers:

Check in on how the last order, service call, or project was received by their customer. I had a consultant in a previous life who was really good at this. About every six months, if I had not called her, she would call me and ask “how is it going?” Not only did she get feedback, I usually had another project to give her and get off of my desk.

Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, derives from the data presented in a 1953 psychology paper that our short-term working memory is limited. People forget to reach out, even when they need to. Save them the time, energy, and embarrassment. Call them first!

The “Did you know we also do?” call. Just this weekend I was speaking with a general practitioner friend, and he was telling me a story about a patient who needed a doctor to see her kids. She had never thought her GP could be their GP until it was mentioned during a routine visit. He had never asked her if she was happy with her kids’ doctor. We often forget that the people with whom we do business add services, do more than one thing, or already have the solution to a problem we have.

Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, re-iterates that when you do not need the information, you let it go out of your easily accessed memory. This is especially true for customers who associate you and your company with a particular solution or product. If they had no need of other products or services when you mentioned it, they immediately lost the ability to recall that.

“Did you know” will place a new memory in their brains — especially if they need it now!

Calls trump email. Follow up with a quote, a trade show call, or a inquiry.  You never know if the email got lost in the ether or they forgot it was in their inbox.

In the rule of remembering, 7 ± 2, your customer has probably already forgotten your email. That email got forgotten about the time she suddenly remembered to pick up milk on the way home the other day.

“It’s been xxx days/weeks since we last spoke and I was wondering if this project was still under way.” Who knows what you will learn.

It’s called “dialing for dollars” and it works. What are you waiting for? You can always start with “Happy Alexander Graham Bell Day”!

Opposite Day

¡ January 25 is Opposite Day !

Sounds like an episode from Jerry Seinfeld. The one where George decides if he does everything opposite from how he normally does things, life gets better.

A different perspective

You have done this before. You drive the opposite way home or to the office and the road looks different (e.g., when driving south, I nearly always miss the turn into my neighborhood because it looks so different). You sit in the passenger seat and see businesses you had not noticed before.

What could you do to get a different perspective on your marketing strategy? your customer segments? your partners in your target market?

The “Tiny House” movement is an Opposite Strategy to home ownership.
The “Cut the Cord” movement is an Opposite Tactic for reducing entertainment costs.
“Minimalism” is an Opposite Way of Life for reducing clutter, right-sizing costs, and improving quality of life.

If you buy, sell. If you sell, buy.
Work on the floor.
Run a focus group with past customers.
Do something that is different to see your world, your business, and your strategies from an entirely different perspective.

Change it up. Examine the “we always do”

In a Netflix movie on Queen Victoria, Prince Albert walks into a room to see the staff setting the table to serve a meal for a king who had been dead for 20 years. Because “that’s how we always do it.” No orders to stop setting the table, so the table kept getting set for 365 days for over 20 years. That’s 7300 uneaten meals.

You may think your organization is not quite as silly. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.

I am sure there are things you do that should be re-examined, questioned, and either improved or stopped.

Blue ocean strategy

A good read, “Blue Ocean Strategy“, gets its title from a strategy of sailing into “clean” air. When you sail as part of a pack,  only the lead boat gets good wind. Everyone else gets what is called “dirty air”.

Dirty air is slower.
Dirty air comes from a less preferential angle, influenced by the sails it hits before yours.
Dirty air is more turbulent.

The lead boat gets good wind. To get out of “dirty air” one must sail away from the pack.

Are you doing what everyone else is doing?

Is it time to sail away from the pack?

An excellent tool to examine how you might find new opportunities and sail away from the pack is to use Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas to examine your model versus what your customers may want.

Change up a revenue source (rent versus sell, pay per use, subscriptions)?
Change up a distribution system?
Change a partner or supply chain?