My family and I attended one of the most amazing weddings in New Jersey this June. My parents flew in on American Airlines, I flew in on my old friend, Southwest Airlines and my sister tried a new airline – JetBlue. I’ve not yet had that the pleasure of travelling on JetBlue, but my pal Smitty is a pilot for the airline, so they enjoy a positive mindshare due to our friendship.
Peter Winick is a friend of mine. I met him a few years back in Vegas when he was working with Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back (amazon affiliate links). Thankfully, he and I have been able to keep in contact. He’s worked with other incredible authors and speakers including my friends Jack Daly, Mark Goulston and Bob Bloom. He and Warren will be putting together a webinar that you need to consider if you’re an author that wants to build a sustainable platform. Below is the information from Warren’s site…
Book Marketing Strategists Warren Whitlock and Peter Winick announce a new value priced webinar series for authors who want to turn their content into self sustaining income streams while keeping cost inline.
“We have used webinars for clients to save on travel costs and get cost saving efficiencies, but I normally work one on one with my clients” said Whitlock. “Peter has done the same with some very large book and information product launches. However, we know there is a need for authors wanting this knowledge so we’ve come up with a program to combine our talents at a fraction of our costs. It’s our author stimulus package”
The Platform Roadmap Coaching Series is the least expensive way to engage the same top talent that millionaire and NY Times best selling authors rely on to focus not only on your book but to enable you to develop a business with multiple income streams such as keynote speaking, training, consulting and such.
The webinar series will be held in June with authors who are accepted into the program. The group will be large enough to lower costs, but much smaller than most online courses. Winick and Whitlock will supplement the webinars with private coaching to insure each other has a success.
Limited seats for new clients are available at http://PlatformRoadmap.com
Peter Winick has over twenty years of experience and has worked with a variety of thought leaders. In addition, he has built and managed several consulting and professional development organizations.
Warren Whitlock has been a serial entrepreneur over the past 23 years, focusing on book marketing, authors, publishing and conversation strategies for social media. He is co-author of the first book on Twitter “Twitter Revolution: How Social Media and Mobile Marketing is Changing the Way We Do Business & Market Online”
The past few weekends have been brilliant in proving that audiences vary all over the world. Two different events with which I had a personal experience painted a vivid picture. First, the iPad launch. I’ve read a number of tweets, blogs and even a clip on Modern Family asking why someone needs an iPad. It’s not really a computer, ebook reader or netbook. It’s just…different and it’s at $500 in it’s least expensive form. But you can read books on it! You know where else you can read books? In books. Consider Luis Soriano, who has a “biblioburro” or a “library donkey” in Magdalena, Colombia. Children in his part of Colombia will walk up to 40 minutes to get to school. He’ll ride 5 to 8 hours to get books to kids. The iPad’s price, need for electricity and web seem preposterous in those terms. Think of all the books we could buy in developing countries! Nonetheless, Apple raked in about $150 million in sales the first weekend.
This morning I watched the new Best Buy Twelpforce commercial (@twelpforce) where a gentleman stands up in the middle of a football field and proclaims his need for a new tv. Best Buy’s team of people, known on Twitter as the Twelpforce respond to him from the bleachers suggesting an LED tv. He responds back that he’s price conscious and the Twelpforce explain they have a price match guarantee. Here’s where it gets interesting. Back in March 2009, Best Buy was charged with a class action lawsuit for providing financial bonuses, based in part, by denying valid price match requests. So, I posed the question to the @twelpforce linking to the Consumerist article (linked above).
@twelpforce replied back:
I understand that Twelpforce, as most twelpforce’s go, is powered my hundreds, maybe even thousands of people (look at those commercials!). My curiosity extends to wonder whether there was some type of approval process for determining how you get to join the Twelpforce (are there elite Twelpforce SEALS or Rangers?) and who answers what questions? At this point, the Twelpforce says it’s business as usual with their price matching shenanigans. The tweet was surely a mistake, right?
So do you think the Twelpforce approach is helping or hurting Best Buy? I’d love to know your thoughts.
UPDATE: Thank you to @bernierjohn, @TWELPFORCE, @rickmead, @Coral_BestBuy, @BestBuyDanvers. You all responded back quickly via Twitter to let me know that if there’s ever a price match discrepancy, to contact (888) BEST-BUY and the Customer Relations Department should sort it out. I appreciate the responses!
Vision at 55, just like driving the speed limit, sucks. Unfortunately, what you’ll find is designers love putting together beautiful marketing materials that only a fourth grader can read due to the 8-point font. Have a good look at all your marketing materials, business cards and websites to make sure you use a legible font and text size. If the customers with the money can’t read what you put in front of them, they’ll likely toss your materials, rather than admitting that their eyesight is too poor to see what’s in front of them. So make sure you use clear and concise words anytime you communicate with prospects and clients and you use a font anyone can read. How do your marketing materials hold up?
Recently, Erik and I traveled to the Eureka! Ranch in Cincinnati, Ohio. You may have never heard of Eureka! but you’ve likely been affected by their innovations; most Americans have interacted with about 18 products or services that were conceived or developed at the Eureka! Ranch, including the Swiffer Sweeper, Nissan Xterra and American Express Centurion Card aka “The Black Card.”
The takeaway from the Ranch was amazing. Today, you either have to be meaningfully unique or you’d better be cheap. Meaningfully unique means that your profit margins are 10%+ greater than your industry. Interestingly, we also found that only 1 in 7 small businesses closes leaving debt, while the other 80% determine it’s just not worth the effort and shut down.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost. There is a system to affecting change in your organization to become meaningfully unique. Doing so involves 6 components.
Having a dramatic difference increases your odds of success 3.7x when selling to new customers. People love buying things that are the “first” or the “only” one of it’s kind. The iPhone is a perfect example. The market was flooded with smartphones, but iPhone brought the experience to an entirely new level and has proved to be a tremendous success.
How many times do you see a new product with a new polymer, a special stainless steel finish or different battery technology? We see these too often. These are features. People want to see features, but most importantly they want benefits. Having an overt benefit (“the battery lasts a lifetime, you never need a charger!”) makes your sales 3x more effective. Keep the features as backup.
Real Reason to Believe
If companies followed through on what they said they’d do, this wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately, it’s not the case. When you make fantastic claims, you’d better be ready to back them up. Was this technology developed by NASA for the astronauts? Do you have a patent? These are all real reasons to believe that you can deliver what you promised and they yield a 2x probability of success.
If this is the end of the road with you, be sure to consider the
critical components listed above. Always ask yourself and your team
“Why should I care?” similar to the way a child would ask. Ask this
question repeatedly and often, to help get to help you crystallize the most basic value of
your offering. If you’re interested in learning the remaining 3 components, come back tomorrow for the end!
A word that people can’t stop saying is “viral.” Everyone wants their ideas, videos, books, products and services to all go viral. On the other hand, we’re stuck making the same old boring thing, slightly repackaged in hopes that people will notice. What you really need is a dramatic difference. Notice that it’s not a minor difference, it’s not a slight difference, it’s a DRAMATIC difference. Eureka! Ranch, where the Swiffer Sweeper and the American Express Centurion Card aka the “Black Card” were developed, say that a dramatic difference causes organizational chaos and provides a 370% better chance of success and profitability. That means, you have to change systems, move people, add new support or whatever else is required to cause a massive shift. So, if you want your (fill in the blank) to go viral, be remarkable and do something dramatically different.
The video above caused my wife to repeatedly say “I wish we could go back and do this” is a perfect example of doing something dramatically different. After one week and at the time of this writing, this video had over 7 million views.
As seen on MySA.com
This weekend, Pixar took top honors at the box office with Up, smacking about $70 million dollars out of our pockets and tickling the cranky critics. At the same time, GM is approaching bankruptcy and, if it clears, will be the third largest in the history of this country.
Why bother mentioning both of these companies in the same post? Although it would be insane for me to say that I know what that one thing was that sunk GM and made Pixar a winner, I will offer up food for thought. GM lost the race because they offered too many choices (aka brands) to allow for their success and Pixar kept it simple.
In 2008, GM manufactured Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Vauxhall and Wuling. General Motors began by purchasing different car and truck companies in its early years, but kept the manufacturing, looks and brand personalities separate. More recently, it merged different brands and models together. No longer was it clear to GM and its customers what a brand or model stood for and why it was necessarily different or better than its shared parts cousin.
Pixar’s history is quite different. Since the launch of Toy Story in 1995, Pixar has only launched one movie every one to two years. Pixar has been nominated six times and has won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature 4 times since its inception in 2001. The company’s movies consistently earn well at the box office and are well received by critics and viewers alike.
If you review the mission statements/objectives of these companies, you will notice that GM’s generalized statement talks about providing their customers “superior value” from “products and services.” Contrast Pixar’s objective to “develop computer-animated feature films with memorable characters and heartwarming stories that appeal to audiences of all ages.”
When you overwhelm your employees with too many options, you make it difficult for them to provide a clear and concise sales message for a particular item. Additionally, it does not allow your company to focus on what matters most and what your company can be the best at. At the same time, too many choices confuse your customers. The decision becomes overwhelming and customers become lost. Could you slice your product offering in half, leaving more time to better your best offering? What effect would this have on your employees and your customers? I’d love to get your feedback in the comments!
As seen on MySA.com
On July 2nd, 2009, I was interviewed by Luis Sandoval aka @pandaran and Jennifer Navarette aka @epodcaster for Tech In Twenty. We discussed two of my favorite topics, business and technology. Have a listen!
Have you noticed that there are pieces of technology that should be wildly popular, but they become overly complex so the soccer moms never seem to quite transition over to them? Interestingly, this is not a new concept. Aesop did this centuries ago with his simple fables. Simplicity is able to transcend languages, cultures and physical boundaries. What happens is that we get excited about our work and try to include as many features as possible. Doing so oftentimes complicates our attempts and the message gets lost along the way. Let’s take a look at some examples of this. Remember, I’m not saying that these examples are failures; I’m merely suggesting that you consider how these changes could affect the adoption rates.
WordPress vs Blogger
WordPress is an amazing platform for blogging and websites. Its flexibility is incredible and Google loves it for SEO. If I were to set my mom up on it, my phone wouldn’t stop ringing with her requesting technical support on how to post, add a photo or change the header. As a matter of fact, my wife, Ashley, ended up leaving WordPress for Blogger. As a photographer, she wanted to be able to change her header without knowing HTML, CSS or any other programming language. Needless to say, she couldn’t figure it out. Am I saying that Blogger is the platform everyone should use? Absolutely not! What Blogger did right, though, is make it easy enough to make changes that she could figure it out on her own. In WordPress, she had to upload updates via FTP. Haven’t we evolved enough online to not have to FTP anymore? This created a massive barrier to entry for her and it led to a defection. My suggestion? Make WordPress crazy simple so people that are non-techies are able to join, making the platform more accessible to the small business owner or personal user that doesn’t have a techie on staff.
Firefox vs Internet Explorer
Firefox is quickly growing in popularity as a browser. Depending upon the statistics that you see, Firefox and Internet Explorer (considering all the versions) are running about even. Firefox, similar to WordPress, allows for amazing flexibility. Similarly, though, the non-tech crowd oftentimes hesitates changing from their convenient and well-known, Internet Explorer, to the oftentimes superior Firefox. Typically, you can accredit this to transitioning to the unknown and not experiencing enough pain with Internet Explorer to warrant a change. Additionally, when you change to Firefox, not everything is the same. Some examples include Firefox not having an easy to find “Print Preview” button, not having a default “run” function when you want to download a file, or having the ability for the next tab to open to your selected home page by default. These are all easily remedied by plug-ins or settings within the browser, but why is that required? Why not have a simple mode that pre-selects these expected features when you install Firefox to make the transition less scary, safer and manage expectations.
iRiver vs iPod
On paper, iRiver should be ruling the world right now. Many of their devices use standard USB ports to connect, allow for common batteries, have a better sound processor for louder and cleaner sound as well as oftentimes beautiful design and quality. On the other side, you see the iPod. The iPod has had issues with non-removal batteries, proprietary plug and inferior sound quality. As you well know, it wasn’t enough for iRiver to take over. iRiver has failed to recognize that the overall experience in using their devices is also important. At this point in time, it’s easy to argue that the iPod has name recognition and bigger marketing budgets that allow for it to win. This wasn’t necessarily the case. What has made the iPod successful is that its entire ecosystem is cohesive. Apple has made it convenient to locate music via iTunes, where the attorneys did the back end work to get the deals done, the engineers worked with the folks doing the user interface to make the device beautiful and functional and the overall feel is excellent. Are there better media players with more features and higher quality? You bet. It’s just not enough.
Take a look at your offerings. Are you making them easy enough for your users and buyers to be able to use them right away? Is your offering easy enough that your fans will be able to recommend your products and services to their less tech-savvy friends with ease, knowing that they won’t have to do a bunch of handholding to get everything rolling? Can you get all your members of the design, sales, marketing and engineering teams together so they can make sure all the parts in the offering work together seamlessly? These are the keys to winning.
As seen on Sparxoo.com