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Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Reward

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=stock+market&iid=7237024″ src=”d/5/e/2/High_angle_view_6dfe.jpg?adImageId=9873992&imageId=7237024″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]This disclaimer is quite popular in adverts for stock portfolios and precious metal investments: past performance is no guarantee of future reward.  So true.  Have you considered that it is also true of your business?

You’re only as good as your last iteration.  Or hit song.  Or hit movie.

You shouldn’t rest on your laurels.  Your next “big thing” may bomb.

Here’s a good one:  There is always someone new who’s never heard of you or your products or services.  How do I know this?  The population of the planet is over 6 billion souls.

Our businesses, if they are currently enjoying success, can be something easily taken for granted.  Especially if a business is doing well in these times of recession.  But taking something for granted means that you aren’t really seeing it.  It’s like having a painting hanging on your living room wall.  Perhaps when you first saw it at the gallery you loved it.  It either conveyed an emotional meaning to you…or, as often happens, it simply matched the color scheme of your home.  Either way, you bought it and hung it in a place of visual prominence.  Over time, as human nature goes, you cease to even see it.  We get comfortable when things go well.  This getting comfortable can blind us to dangers and new opportunities.

I’m re-reading Michael Crichton’s The Lost World for about the fifth or sixth time.  [I get in these moods and love to read again the works of favorite authors.]  In the early part of the novel Crichton’s character of Ian Malcolm [played so wonderfully by actor Jeff Goldblum in the movie version ] gives a lecture having to do with chaos theory and the “edge of chaos.”  The character says [on page 4 in my hardcover edition], “…We imagine the edge of chaos as a place where there is enough innovation to keep a living system vibrant, and enough stability to keep it from collapsing into anarchy…if a living system drifts too close, it risks falling over into incoherence and dissolution; but if the system moves too far away from the edge, it becomes rigid, frozen, totalitarian.  Both conditions lead to extinction….”  [Great stuff!]

Said by me, simplistically – if we let ourselves become too comfortable with our current success then our businesses can cease to be alive and “vibrant.”  I think it is very interesting to liken our businesses to a living system because without constant growth and change, our businesses can indeed fall into extinction.  Sometimes staying on that edge means:

  • listening to our customers – what are they telling us about our products and services?  Is there something we can do better or provide in a better way?  Are we not offering a product or service that our customer could truly use in addition to our current offerings?
  • listening and watching the marketplace – trends shift; people may love purple widgets this year but will abandon them for yellow ones the next.  We have to constantly be aware of shifting needs in the marketplace.  This also means in times of recession we should be aware that perhaps our customers aren’t buying, not because there is a problem with our products/services, but because the customers simply don’t have the spendable income.  What can we do to adapt?
  • watching for new opportunities – new technologies come out all the time; how can we adapt them to our business?

Be thankful and grateful if your business is currently showing a profit…or at the very least breaking even…right now.  However, also be constantly working on and revising your business plan so that you are not caught unawares of new opportunities, trends and technologies.

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Stick to the Basics to Stay Afloat in Hard Times

Morrow Bay, CA Photo by Linda C Smith

*My article first appeared at Technorati [dot com].  I did just a bit of updating.

Have you heard the news?  Economically speaking it’s tough out there!  But we all knew that.  The small business sector suffers just the same as Big Business…so what to do?  Stick to the Basics and do what you do best.

First things first:  be sure you know your business.

  • Have a dream and passion for the business that you chose.
  • Have determination to make the business work.  Show up every day and be the poster child for hope.
  • Give great customer service. Even if your business has slowed down, the very fact that you are still in business means that someone is paying for your business’ products and services and these customers and clients deserve your attention.
  • Offer added value. Go beyond just being in business…make your business different by giving the customer more than they expect.  Instead of merely selling your product or service, engage the consumer in a conversation about his or her needs and wants and how your product or service can meet or fulfill that.  In 2010 pure sales won’t be enough.  Added value will be key.

To weather the economic storm, you might think about:

  • checking and double-checking your current business plan; bring up-to-date your stated vision and mission statement; determine if you are on target.
  • checking and double-checking your current business strategies: are you in the correct marketplace for your products or services?  Are you actually and effectively reaching your desired customer-base?  Are you sure you’ve correctly identified your customer base and know how to communicate with them?
  • keeping your products and services clean, polished and ready to deliver…be proud to represent the products and services you have in your current inventory.
  • contacting your customers – have you shown your current customers that you appreciate their business?  It is not just a cliché saying that ‘happy customers bring referrals,’ it is a truism: satisfied and happy customers will often be a good source for new customers…have you asked your customers for referrals?

This is not to say that you oughtn’t to try anything new during an economic downturn; to the contrary, one thing you could do is experiment with new ways of communicating with your customers, find new ways of finding customers.  If you aren’t already, make internet marketing a part of your strategic communication and marketing plan.  You don’t have to get complicated to start, begin small:

  • build a web page...or do a little web page redesign and clean-up
  • tout your business on a few top social media sites like Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn
  • direct people to your website by writing articles
  • anything new or improved you do, write and submit a press release about it
  • start a blog, either as a part of your business web page, or independently [and have it point back to your business web page]
  • if appropriate for your business: (1) have classified and display ads in your local newspaper and regional magazines; (2) run radio and/or television spots; (3) arrange speaking engagements for yourself at local groups who might be interested in your area of expertise; (4) leave your business card everywhere and with everyone

I read a fantastic article in my local newspaper over the weekend that highlights a solo-preneur in my area who does stick to the basics and has built a successful business.  The article is written by David Morrill, the online title: One-stylist hair salon thrives on personal connections. Mr. Morrill wrote about hair stylist Jenny Mui, whose business is Zen Jen Hair Studio, and she has built her business on:

  • customer service
  • added value
  • word of mouth

…which builds her reputation.  According to the article Ms. Mui says, “…’How great is it to know that it’s your reputation that has built your business,” she said. ‘For me, it’s always been about making sure the customer comes first, and people appreciate that.’…”

The article describes how she marketed her business through personal service and word-of-mouth: “…When she first started in the profession, she would go to the nearby coffee shops and seek out the baristas. Mui would tell them that she’s going to do their hair for free. The only thing asked in return is if someone asks them about their hair, she refers clients to her. ‘I got many clients that way,’ she said….”

The present economy might not be the rosiest to look at, but you don’t have to let it ruin your day…or your business.  Just keep doing what is working and use the present climate as a time for continuous improvement.

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It’s your Business so do what you want to-Part One

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=business+graphs&iid=6752210″ src=”9/8/3/5/GM_CEO_Fritz_1d7c.jpg?adImageId=9360485&imageId=6752210″ width=”234″ height=”152″ /]*This is Part One of a 2-part post: It’s your Business so do what you want to.

PART ONE: It IS your Business so do what YOU want to.

Sometimes when people are asked to choose between two kinds of news, good and bad, they will take the bad first, to get it over with so they can end the conversation on a more pleasant note.  That’s what we’ll do here.  To that end, here’s the bad part of the conversation for those with tiny businesses, the very small business owner and the home-based business owner – if you happen to have a truly large business or you influence great chunks of our global commerce, well this is the bad news for you too.  If you do what YOU want to with your business at the expense of your integrity, your ethics, your clients and customers, your friends and family and your industry…then you ought not to be in business at all.

That’s a pretty bold statement.  I’ve actually heard a person or two say, ‘it’s MY business so I’ll do whatever I want to do with it.’  I wonder if that was the sentiments of those bullies on Wall Street who claimed recently before the U.S. congress that they were ever so sorry for “…severity of the 2008 financial crisis and apologized for risky behavior and poor decisions….”  I pulled this from the Associated Press story as it appears online at Tampa Bay Online.  Of the quotes that appear in the article that continue to raise my blood pressure:

  • “…Americans are furious and “have a right to be” about the hefty bonuses banks paid out after getting billions of dollars in federal help,….”
  • “…’Over the course of the crisis, we as an industry caused a lot of damage,’ Moynihan said….”
  • “…Like the other witnesses, Blankfein acknowledged lapses in judgment in some practices leading up to the crisis….”
  • “…Dimon said a crucial blunder was ‘how we just missed that housing prices don’t go up forever…..'”

Let’s talk for a moment about lapses of judgment as Mr. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs said in the quote above.  I would ask: lapses of judgment?  How could these people have such huge lapses of judgment as to cause the near collapse of an entire economic structure?  As a home business owner I have to watch very carefully every business judgment I make because I can see instantly what the ramifications of my decisions will be.  Is it that these institutions are so huge that the people who make the decisions and carry the influence can no longer see anything beyond their pen to paper?

Shoshana Zuboff, the author of The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism,  said in a BusinessWeek article :

  • “…The economic crisis is not the Holocaust but, I would argue, it derives from a business model that routinely produced a similar kind of remoteness and thoughtlessness, compounded by a widespread abrogation of individual moral judgment. As we learn more about the behavior within our financial institutions, we see that just about everyone accepted a reckless system that rewards transactions but rejects responsibility for the consequences of those transactions. Bankers, brokers, and financial specialists were all willing participants in a self-centered business model that celebrates what’s good for organization insiders while dehumanizing and distancing everyone else—the outsiders…..”

Don’t you think this hints at an erosion of personal business integrity and an erosion of personal business ethics?  I’m not so naive as to think that money and power won’t always be addictive aphrodisiacs for some people and that the siren call of more zeroes on the check can blind some people as to what cost those zeroes were arrived at?  [clumsy sentence but asks my question]  But what about the folks around those people?  Wasn’t there someone in those overpriced offices who thought, just for a moment, that perhaps this was a bit too good to be true and whenever this question arises it means that someone somewhere down the line is being hurt?

Ms. Zuboff’s references in her article another she had read about the Nazi war trials and the conclusions of “…Hannah Arendt’s ruminations on Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as she reported on his trial in Jerusalem for The New Yorker 45 years ago….”  What at first might seem an unfair comparison, I find not so and agree as Ms. Zuboff says:

  • “…This message is not restricted to the unspeakable horrors of mass murder. It is relevant to the relationship between individual judgment and institutional processes in any situation. It’s a message that says: you can’t just blame the system for the bad things you’ve done. Yet to the world’s dismay, thousands of men and women entrusted with our economic well being systematically failed to meet this minimum standard of civilized behavior. They did not capably discern right and wrong. They either did not judge, or they did not act on their judgment….”

I guess what I want to say is that just because it is YOUR business doesn’t mean that you get to do what you WANT to do at the expense of other people. Ms. Zuboff says, “…The economic crisis has demonstrated that the banality of evil concealed within a widely accepted business model can put the entire world and its peoples at risk….” Then she asks, “… Shouldn’t those businesses be held accountable to agreed international standards of rights, obligations, and conduct? Shouldn’t the individuals whose actions unleashed such devastating consequences be held accountable to these moral standards?….”

Then she says, “…I believe the answer is yes….”  And so do I.

And why not?  Small business owners are expected to pay their taxes, not cheat their customers, have truth in advertising,  make their prices competitive [not gouging the customer or stealing market share from competitors], recall products that don’t work, offer replacements and a host of other ethical practices…as well as giving to their communities and being good citizens.  So how are small business owners any different from the “big guys?”

I think it’s a matter of personal integrity.  I think a person has to choose to be ethical and to do so it requires that he or she begin with personal integrity.  In an article at Columbus Business First, John Maxwell, author of  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, said: “…In the midst of an ever-changing and uncertain environment, there is one thing over which you have absolute control – your integrity….When it comes to being principled and ethical, you are the master of your destiny. Other people and external forces might test it in various ways, but ultimately you alone control your integrity….”

Mr. Maxwell continues in the article with, “…This is a good way to think of us as leaders when it comes to integrity. People of integrity don’t live divided lives; their morals, ethics and treatment of others are the same wherever they are and whatever they’re doing….”

Yesterday Arianna Huffington wrote about renewing the hope of Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘…What we need is Hope 2.0: the realization that our system is too broken to be fixed by politicians, however well intentioned — that change is going to have to come from outside Washington…This realization is especially resonant as we celebrate Dr. King, whose life and work demonstrate the vital importance of social movements in bringing about change. Indeed, King showed that no real change can be accomplished without a movement demanding it….”

Maybe what’s needed is a movement from all of “us” – the individual citizens of the world [is that too broad a movement?] or to start local, the individual citizens of the U.S. – to ask that the leaders of policies [government] and industry [commerce] rediscover the meaning of personal integrity and business ethics and apply those meanings to themselves and to their business and political practices.

Is this a naive thing to ask?  No, I think it’s necessary.  The small business sector needs a healthy economy within which to prosper.  Home business owners need homes from which to conduct their business.  Everyone needs customers who have spendable income.  Can we expect a utopia?  Goodness, no…never happen because human beings are involved.  We’re fallible, but we’re also educate-able.  We can learn and grow and improve.  So let’s do so.

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Make the decision – be a leader

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=sailing+boat&iid=7204341″ src=”1/e/5/9/Outdoor_Sports_1706.jpg?adImageId=8930591&imageId=7204341″ width=”234″ height=”373″ /]Before you set sail it is probably a good idea to know where you’re going.  In fact, it is probably an even better idea to know if a sail boat will get you there faster or more comfortably than a train.  Or an airliner.  Or even an automobile.  Before you set sail you have to decide if sailing is the best use of your time.  You have to decide if leaving on a Tuesday is better than on a Thursday or if you should sail solo or with a friend.  Lots of decisions to make before heading out on a journey.

Business is not different than sailing in this regard.  Every business has a leader and the leader must make decisions regarding direction and timing.  Oh, he or she gets input from everything and everyone from the Farmers Almanac to the bookkeeper.  Shall you travel north next Tuesday? Well, only if the weather is good and the chores are done and you have the extra cash.

Leadership involves making decisions. And making a decision is the single most difficult task a leader must do.  Let’s look at a couple scenarios.

Scenario One: you and two buddies have a fantastic idea for a business.  You thought up a clever gizmo that will revolutionize the internet and your two friends have some money to throw in and some expertise.  One friend is great with numbers and the other is a super salesman.  However, the business dream is yours and mantle of leadership falls on you.  You get input from your friends and research you’ve done, but you have to decide:

  • what the business will look like
  • when to launch the business and where
  • what aspect of the gizmo to spend this year’s budget on
  • where to best use your sales efforts
  • how to spend your capital

None of these decisions is easy and the business will go nowhere until the decisions are made.  But it’s the making the decision process itself that causes the most stress and anguish.

Scenario Two: you and your buddies have been in business now for five years and are making an annual profit.  You are able to offer your employees good benefits and you were able to finally take a vacation.  One of the friends asks you: now what?  Now where do we go with this gizmo?  They are wanting to know if you want to take the next step of growth in the business through innovation and expansion into new markets.  There is risk involved.  What will happen if you take on the added expense of research and development and speculation?  What would happen if you don’t?  As the leader you have to decide:

  • how big you want your company to be
  • how diversified you want your product offerings to be
  • if the risk of expansion is worth the cost, time and effort

To be a good leader, you have to decide to lead.  What that means to a business is:

  • the leader holds the vision for the business – ‘this is who we are, what we stand for and what we look like’
  • the leader sets the direction – ‘this is where we are now and where we’re headed and hope to be in ten years’
  • the leader is willing to alter course – this could be necessary due to outside economic factors or due to rising opportunities
  • the leader is willing to make the decision to hold or fold [in this lies the interesting thought that maybe a business has a life span…when is it time to retire not just the human element, but the business itself? – that’s grist for a whole ‘nother post]

“…Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall….” Stephen R. Covey.

Even a home-based business person has to shoulder the daily decision of upon which wall to lean the ladder.  And sometimes those decisions just aren’t easy to make.  However, once made, it’s all management the rest of the way.

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Is your business on the Highway or the Byway?

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=highway+signs&iid=259699″ src=”0256/8cc02d39-2a22-43c0-ba77-ab28011c1391.jpg?adImageId=8890792&imageId=259699″ width=”234″ height=”158″ /]We all can admit that 2010 is going to be an uphill climb for businesses of all kinds and sizes.  Doesn’t matter if you are a solo-preneur or a global conglomerate with 20,000 employees…it’s an uphill climb.  And maybe now, this week, maybe even today, you decide on which road you will travel: the highway or the byway.

The highway is a main public road that connects one town or city with another.  It’s an artery connecting people one to another making commerce both possible and efficient.  The byway is a little out-of-the-way side road.  It is little traveled and isn’t really meant to be a commercial artery.

There was a feature story in my newspaper’s business section this morning that showcased a small family business that I believe is on the highway.  To me, some of the signposts of being on the highway are:

  • a dream and passion for the business
  • determination to make the business work
  • great customer service
  • offering added value

The article by David Morrill, Contra Costa Times, is titled “Vacuum center owner on job 7 days a week,” [different title in online version].  In reading the article, I find that Mr. Raees Iqbal’s business, Western Vacuum & Sewing Center, is not only traveling on the highway, Mr. Iqbal carries all the signposts. [from the article]

  • a dream and passion for the business – “…‘It’s great to be able to offer something that every single house needs,’ he said. ‘We give them good dependable vacuum cleaners to help keep their homes clean….'”
  • a determination to make the business work – “…Raees Iqbal keeps the doors open seven days a week. And he works nearly every day…’Right now we are just trying to hang out here and make it work,” Iqbal said. “I’m going to do everything I can to keep it going….'”
  • great customer service – “…Iqbal knows his company needs to be on top of the industry. Every vacuum cleaner brand that comes in, he needs to be able to fix. If a customer needs a part, it has to be on the shelf.…”
  • offering added value – “…’We have to treat everybody like they’re VIP,’ he said….”

These signposts of being on the highway are no guarantee of success certainly.  They are, however, indicators that the business is making every effort to be alive and vibrant.  Just like Mr. Iqbal is quoted in Mr. Morrill’s story, he’s willing to do what he must to keep his business going.  The article is not a long or comprehensive one, but Mr. Morrill gave a pretty clear picture of one small business owner’s strategy for 2010:

  • be available to customers – keeping his store open 7 days a week is one way
  • provide needed services onsite – keeping up-to-date on his industry and keeping his shelves stocked with parts
  • have a customer-centered business – in his own words, “…treat everybody like they’re VIP….”
  • keep the dream alive – “‘…make sure that you are really passionate about what you want to do and have a whole lot of patience.…'”

Not to put too fine a point on it and turn this into nothing but flowery prose I think what’s important for all of us who own businesses and wish to remain in business this year is to determine what we’re going to be willing to do to stay on the highway and off the side roads: defining the dream and vision; knowing our industry and products and services inside and out; offering customers quality care and added value…and hanging in there.

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How to try to succeed at business

Writing essentials

What you don’t see in the photo to the left is my laptop…other than that you see most of the essentials required for a day of writing: an interesting mug, gourmet tea, a mug full of pens and pencils, a phone [in case my daughters call] and a tv set.  You see I work to movies and tv shows.  Other people work in a void of silence or to music or the chatter and clatter of office background.  Since I have the luxury of working at home [home-based solo-preneur] I get to choose my working detritus.  I try to work with what I’ve got.  Hopefully a muse is in there somewhere.

I find great value in trying.  In the word Try.  I define try as:

  • making an attempt
  • putting forward an effort
  • endeavoring risk
  • gingerly going forward
  • not quite confident
  • a little south of competent as yet

WordReference.com dictionary adds: earnest and conscientious activity intended to do or accomplish something

Ever since George Lucas gave the planet the sage wisdom of Yoda’s “Do or do not…there is no try,” all the emphasis has been on accomplishment.  Get it done.  Skip the experiment and go straight for success.

That might be a bit overblown, but I think we’ve forgotten how much value there is in trying.  In business:

  • Try to communicate with the consumer, not at the consumer – give a shot at thinking about how cool it would be to see potential customers as people rather than numbers on a spreadsheet
  • Try to negotiate a better workplace environment for the sake of the employees not the bottom line – maybe paychecks won’t get any bigger this year but perhaps management could try something unexpected like letting the employees start a flower and vegetable garden out back and giving them work time to till the soil
  • Try out “please” and “thank you” and see what they feel like – infusing a little courtesy into business interactions just might bring in new customers and mend fences
  • Try to think how it would feel to have your success measured in respect rather than notoriety
  • Try out having your corporate image based on people rather than products
  • Try giving something away that costs you something

It can be scary and risky to “try” something new.  But in the trying lay the seeds of success.

  • Have an open meeting. Set aside a day and invite all employees from the top of the pay scale on down to the mailroom and delivery drivers and let them give you [the vision holder] their vision for their jobs and the company they work for
  • Invite hourly employees to have lunch on your tab – ask them to bring photos of their families and listen to their stories
  • Give every employee one of the products they work so hard to make – oh my gosh! you might just have to take a hit on inventory, but maybe the benefits would be pride and increased productivity [your company makes automobiles? Okay you’re not going to give every employee an actual car, but what if you commissioned a model of that car and gave each employee a numbered edition of it as a collectible?]
  • Train your people. If you can’t hire it done, do it yourself.  The more your people know about their own jobs, upgrades in the systems they use, the products they make and sell, the more they will feel valued.
  • Are you the CEO of a large business who gets a really big salary and bonus?  Great.  Use your bonus or one month’s salary and buy every employee a new chair and keyboard.
  • Put a dream board in the lobby/entry of the main building where everyone, both employees and others, can see it.  Have everyone who is employed put words and pictures on this board that reflect their dreams for the business.

There is one thing I recommend not trying but doing and that is being grateful.  If you own a business don’t just try to be grateful for your employees and customers, be grateful and let them know you are grateful.

All-in-all, try to try harder at trying and have a successful year.

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Marketing in 2010, Oh, and Happy Holidays

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=television+set&iid=7145195″ src=”2/3/7/b/Eager_Retailers_Greet_ce49.jpg?adImageId=8594827&imageId=7145195″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]I admit I’m jumping right into the making business predictions for 2010 and my topic will be marketing.  First, however, I want to give you my definition for marketing – it is not quite what others might say.

Marketing is telling everyone, everywhere:

  • what your business is, where it is, how to find it
  • what your product/service is, what it can do for the consumer, why they need it, why they want it
  • how your business differs from others that are similar – what your uniqueness’s are, what makes your business so very special
  • why the consumer should/ought to exchange their precious dollars and cents for your product/service

Marketing is telling everyone, everywhere in every way that people can and do receive information:

  • newspapers, magazines and direct mailers – the hard copy kind, the newsprint ink that smears on your fingers and the flyers, brochures and sales letters that come in the snail mail; AND the online versions: newspapers online, magazines online and email ads that come both solicited and unsolicited
  • television ads, radio ads – both via traditional tv and radio vehicles and online versions
  • internet banner ads, classified ad sites, display ad boxes on social media sites
  • social media relationship building
  • weblogs and forums and other self-publishing arenas where messages about anything and everything under the sun, moon and stars can be shared

A business’ marketing department is usually tasked with:

  • designing the message
  • crafting the message delivery system
  • delivering the message
  • measuring the results of both the message and the delivery system

My prediction about marketing for 2010 is that we all begin to realize that calendars are human conventions and that time is an amorphous mystery – we are actually calendar-less.  What 2010 is going to bring is already around us.  I came across a great article on Social Media Today that has some fantastic information on this very topic.  The article, “2010: The Year Marketing Dies…(Subtitled) Or at Least Marketing as We Know It!” by Augie Ray, has these points – among others – that I find worthy of comment here [from the article]: “… Of course, if marketing burns to the ground in 2010, a new and more powerful marketing will rise from the ashes.  The role of the new marketer [I picked the 3 of Mr. Ray’s 8 points that spoke to me the most]:

  1. Won’t be to plan bursts of communication on a yearlong calendar but to respond to and be part of the ever-changing dialog with consumers,
  2. Won’t be to count friends, page visits, eyeballs, readers, or viewers but to measure changes in consumer attitude and intent,
  3. Won’t be merely to talk at consumers but to listen and engage one to one….”

Point One I find significant and is one with which I totally agree – marketing is no longer a ‘January through December’ message plan – in fact I’d say this has been outmoded for some time now.  Consider that technology moves so quickly that in the electronics industry, as example, things are outmoded within a couple months – what good is a 12-month message plan for something that has a version 14.0 coming out only 6 weeks after version 1.0? [okay that’s exaggerated, but not by much].

I think what is important is to have a message that is not so much crafted as it is a photograph or hologram of what the product or service actually is and what it’s value actually could be to the end user.  In other words, not one message for niche A and a different message for niche B…the same message but told in as many ways as is relevant to the receiving system in place.

Point Two is very important and very misunderstood.  I’ll be the first to recommend to a business, large or small, that having a business profile on Facebook and LinkedIn is a good idea.  However, it is not the number of friends and contacts the profile has…rather it is the quality and the reason for putting up the profile.  You might have a business profile on Facebook because it is one place where you can link your Twitter updates and new blog posts…it gives you a wider population for sharing news and views.  Let’s say you launch a new product.  You write a post about it on the blog on your business website.  You announce the new product release in a Twitter update AND you tweet your blog post – both of these show up on your Facebook profile as new updates…in this tiny example you can see that three separate populations now know about your new product release.  The ROI will not be in numbers of page views or friends but in the chatter about your business and in sales.

Point Three is awesome.  Traditional marketing is indeed talking at the consumer.  New marketing is talking with the consumer; it is a conversation.  One cool way of marketing is being done online with the vehicle of reviews. Right now my husband is researching plasma television sets and blue ray players.  Yes, we have gone to the retail stores and looked at them and spoken with the salespeople.  He has read what the “experts” are saying about the various brands but what is having the greatest impact on him is what other consumers are sayingAmazon.com has used the review feature for some time and it is a great way to gauge what some people’s experiences are with products.  The example I’ve linked to here is for Paula Deen cookware – towards the bottom of the page are the consumer reviews.

I think what marketing needs is a change of clothing.  Instead of marketing being about selling your product or service, marketing ought to be about engaging the consumer in a conversation about his or her needs and wants and how your product or service can meet or fulfill that.  In 2010 pure sales won’t be enough.  Added value will be key.

Oh…and have a wonderful Holiday this year!  May 2010 bring you and yours many joys.

“Linda’s Business Blog” will be on vacation now until January 3 as our household is due to fill with family – I have a lot of cooking to do!

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