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Archives for August 2007

Beef Up Your Sales with a Signature Line of Products

Four cows not playing poker

I was watching Leno last night. Blue collar comedian Jeff Foxworthy was on and one of the things he was promoting was his new, signature barbecue sauce. He alluded that someone just approached him with the idea and he liked it.

This kind of joint venture happens a lot. And it’s a win-win-win deal …

The Celebrity Wins

They bring in a new income stream (Tiger Woods earned $12 million golfing and $100 million through endorsements last year). Signature products also help celebrities strengthen their own personal brand; they get their name out there in front of people; on shelves and in commercials and other promotions.

Consumers Win

It’s a trust thing. Celebrities already have a personal brand. The last thing they (or their managers) want to do is cheapen that brand with a lousy product. It happens, but generally signature products are somewhere in between good and great.

You Win

The hardest thing to do is approach a buyer at a major retail chain and present them with yet another “whatever”. They’ve already got 10 brands on the shelf and they’ll do everything they can to convince you that the market is saturated. If you can even get in the door, they’ll often just flat-out tell you “no”.

But buyers aren’t stupid. You’ll still have to buy shelf space at any large retailer (yep, that’s how it works), but they’ll make room for you if you have a signature product, a smart marketing plan, and the cash to get started. The best way to start without a ton of cash is to start getting your product into distributors and small retailers that won’t charge you for face-time with the consumer.

Whether the product is great or just good, you can get a higher price than your competitors can. This helps bankroll the product marketing in the beginning, and pay the extra cost of splitting the profit with your celebrity partner.

Think about these massive successes:

Simple Tips For Starting a Signature Line Joint Venure

Creating a signature line of products is more than just an endorsement. It’s a partnership. A joint venture. That makes it more lucrative and appealing to a potential celebrity partner. And more appealing to investors, retailers and consumers. It IS a brand, and it’s more powerful than just an endorsement of another brand.

Think “partnership” …

  1. Find a star who isn’t crazy. Outrageous can be good, but downright loony celebrities are bad for business. They can destroy themselves as well as your products appeal to consumers.
  2. The product has to fit the personality. You can get creative matching products with stars, but you don’t want to approach Paul McCartney with an idea for a signature line of seal-skin slippers.
  3. Build a better than average product. Consumers associate excellence with celebrities. And celebrities associate it with themselves. A new twist, innovative design, or a little something extra is gonna go a long way to locking in the partnership and selling the product.

Signature line ventures are about leveraging an existing brand. They’re about taking one success and rolling it into another and they can change the whole game for a product. Just like that …

Baby, you’re a star.

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Webolution: Blogging is Changing. Forever.

The Mad Scientists of Blogging

Whether you’re an entrepreneurial blogger or a corporate marketer, you need to know that blogging is going through some big changes. The blogs of tomorrow will not look like the blogs of today.

This revolution on the web is happening because the internet is changing. There’s more.

  • More video
  • More users
  • More site creators

2 Revolution Predictors and 2 Change-Drivers

A couple of eBooks I’ve read recently; John Reese’s Rebirth of Internet Marketing and Jack Humphrey’s Authority Blackbook both talk about the importance of authority. They talk about how targeted and focused blogs and websites will better serve a niche audience as well as the search engines.

The more content you have that’s relevant to your niche, the better an authority you’ll be. And the more relevant your blog will be to your niche. A sensible prediction when you look at how the internet is growing, eCommerce is growing. And how competition on the web is growing.

Two major change drivers that are putting greater importance on authority are Nielsen and Google. Neilsen is using a new metric to rank websites; time. The thinking is, the more time visitors spend on your blog, the more relevant it must be. Video, anyone?

Google is moving towards becoming a multimedia search engine. And their Universal Search initiative is designed to capture the most relevant search results including websites, blogs, news pieces, images and video, and put that mash on page one of the results.

Universal Search means that building your authority is a multimedia challenge. Optimizing your images, video, and content to fit your niche is becoming more important to helping your audience find you via search.

The Tools of Blogging are Becoming More Sophisticated

WordPress just keeps getting better. It’s steadily evolving from a simple blogging platform into a full featured content management system. It’s a platform that’s increasingly capable of creating more and more sophisticated and interesting blogs.

And the 3rd party plugins available for WordPress are stepping up to the plate as well. I’ve been playing around with Ozh’s Who-Sees-Ads plugin here on Zoomstart. It allows you to target ads using any number of parameters, both default and one’s you custom program.

But it’s more than that. Who-Sees-Ads is amazingly dynamic. You can use the plugin to create special messages like “subscribe to my blog” that only new visitors see. The possibilities of serving dynamic, targeted content to your visitors using this plugin are literally endless.

Smart Blogs and Designers are Paving the Way

The look and feel of some well known blogs has been changing. Copyblogger’s new design by Chris Pearson and John Chow’s new theme by Nate Whitehill are packing more punch into every page than ever before.

And probably the biggest revolution in blog design recently has to be Ben Bleikamp’s redesign of Darren Rowse’s Problogger. With a static front page highlighting blog posts, features, video-of-the-week, and subscriber signup, they’re taking full advantage of the metric of time and the benefits of multimedia search.

There’s a revolution coming. Are you up for it?

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Customer Loyalty is all about Making Unconditional Connections

Our four legged friends have much to teach us

Most dogs can teach anyone more about loyalty in 10 minutes than all the classes, workshops, books and gurus on the subject combined.

Dogs are intensely loyal. They’re good at it. They know the true secret; it’s unconditional. Because it’s not something you get. It’s something you give.

3 Quick Stories about Customer Loyalty

In business, you can connect with people whether you’re the buyer or the seller. I like to meet people and form a connection even when I’m doing something as simple as buying a pizza. These quick little stories are from my perspective as “the customer”. You’ll see why later.

1. Pop. No Snap, No Crackle

Everyone loves pizza. Half the time I get it delivered and half the time I’ll go out to a pub or something. The third half of the time, I order it and go pick it up. The reason I go pick it up is because I want to know the people there. And I want them to know me.

A couple weeks ago I went to pick up a pizza and the manager says “Hey, take a free pop”. I looked at him puzzled. He replies, “You’re in here all the time. You’re a really good customer”.

No big fanfare or expense. Just a simple gesture. Connection. Mission accomplished.

2. “Bin” There, Seen That

Everyone hates going to the video store only to find all the good movies are already out. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re still sitting in the return bin. Whenever I run into my local video store I like to chat with the people there. I like to get their opinions on different movies. And I let them know what I thought of this or that movie.

I see a lot of people ask for a particular movie only to be told “They’re all out”. But whenever I ask, I usually get a different answer; “Let me check the bin for you”. Connection.

3. Sock it to ‘Em

If you’ve read my About page, you know that I go out with friends just about every Sunday for a 3 hour power-breakfast. The girls at the Yucca Tree are as much a part of the “club” and the conversation as we are.

Just before last Christmas I called 10 minutes before they opened and thought they were closed. We were disappointed. They were disappointed. After the holidays they had gifts waiting for us. I got socks. I forget what we got them. But again … connection.

Unconditional Means You Go First

These are not big, amazing stories. That’s the point. Connections are small and simple and easy to make.

But someone has to start. Someone has to reach out. Whether you’re the buyer or the seller; for customer loyalty or any kind of loyalty to happen, someone has to go first. No strings attached.

Just ask your dog. He knows.

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Getting Past “Push Once, Coast for 5″ and on to your Next Success

Swinging towards your next success

I was helping some friends move a couple weeks ago when another friend blurted out a hilarious one-liner describing her romantic experience with waterbeds … push once, coast for five.

You know I love metaphors. And we can use this one to understand the paralyzing effect a small success can have. Picture someone in the middle of a field. A football hurtles through the air and in a moment of triumph, they catch it.

If you’ve never made the catch before, it’s easy to freeze and bask in the triumph of the moment. It’s easy to coast. But this is the time to push even harder. This is the time to take the ball and run with it to the end zone so you can create an even bigger success. The time to capitalize on that first small success is right now.

And no matter how small the success is, you need to keep going while you still have all its momentum at your disposal.

How to Push for 5 and Coast Once

All you have to do is flip the numbers around and you have a better formula for capitalizing on success. But what we really need here is a way to break through the shock and awe of that first success so we can use it to get to the next one …

  1. Plan for success. By planning for success, you won’t get caught like a deer in the headlights when it happens. You know what to expect, and you’ve put some thought into “what to do next”.
  2. Celebrate along the way. One of the big traps that prevents people from getting to the next success is stopping for too long to celebrate the last one. Celebrate while you’re on your way to the next one.
  3. Use the buddy system. Partners, mentors, family and friends are all good for giving you the right encouragement at the right time. When you catch the ball, you want to have someone on the sidelines ready to shout “Run”!
  4. Think “now”. Just as important as the big goals are the small ones. Standing in the middle of the field ready to catch the ball, your only goal is to catch the ball. Your next goal is to make it 10 yards down the field. Then another ten, and another ten. All of these little goals get you to that big-picture goal of winning the season.
  5. Break through the perfection wall. It’s easy to have a small success and try to make it bigger by tweaking a few things here and there. Learn from all your experiences, but focus on your next success. The last one wasn’t perfect, but it was still a success.

Okay. Now you can coast.

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Find your Deal-Breakers and Fix Them to Capture more Sales

Thumbs up vs thumbs down deals

A deal-breaker is something a customer just can’t get past to make the purchase. If your products and services have too many built-in deal breakers, it could hurt your business.

A Deal-Breaker Example

I’ve been looking at buying a new laptop recently. I really like the Lenovo T61p. I like as much power as you can cram into a laptop and in benchmark tests this bad box absolutely dominates any laptop in its class you can throw up against it.

Then there are the deal breakers … The T61p has a matt finish screen. I really like a bright glossy screen. Lenovo also doesn’t have any real retail distribution. I can order it off the internet easily enough but I’m touchy-feely. I gotta try it before I buy it.

I simply can’t get past these two points. They’re deal-breakers. And so the search goes on and I’ll wait a few months and see what other manufacturers come out with.

Finding and Fixing the Deal-Breakers in your Business

Sometimes it takes a creative solution to fix a deal-breaker. But most of the time, once you find it you know exactly how to fix it. So the real key here is finding it and there are 3 easy ways to do that:

  1. Look at past sales failures. Experience tells you everything you need to know about what sells and what doesn’t. Every sales failure is an opportunity to tweak or develop your offering.
  2. Look at what the competition is offering. It’s always good to keep your eye on the competiton. What’s working for them? What’s not? You can benefit from their experience too.
  3. Get customer feedback. Successful sales can tell you a lot as well. Talk to your customers. Survey them. If you get a lot of similar feedback on something they’d like to see or wish was different that’s a strong signal. Even though “the thing they didn’t like” wasn’t a deal-breaker for them, it might be for a lot of other potential customers.

Not every deal-breaker is worth fixing. If I’m the only person who wants a glossy laptop screen, and the only one who needs to get my greasy fingerprints all over it before I buy it, then it’s not worth the cost for Lenovo to add that option. Sometimes you just have to say no.

But routinely looking at your goods and services and finding deal-breakers you can fix will bring in more sales. It’s also a good way to keep your products in the evolutionary loop so they don’t get stale.

It’s your deal. If you can break it, you can fix it.

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Building Alliances Between Your Customers that Bring You Business

Slam dunk deals on the golf course

Good business is all about building relationships. You want to KNOW the people you’re doing business with. You want to know that they’re knowledgeable and dependable. You want to know they’re the right supplier for your business or a good customer who pays their bills. Your business is counting on it.

Building those relationships involves entertaining or “getting to know you” time. Most companies will entertain a potential customer to land the account. Some take it a step further and regularly entertain their best customers to maintain that good relationship.

And then there are some companies that really know how to build profitable alliances …

Networking Your Customers Together

One of the best things you can do for your customers is bring them new business because the more they’re selling, the more they’re buying. From you. Your businesses both grow together.

The easiest way for you to help them get more business is to introduce them to your other customers.

By putting on a customer appreciation event and entertaining a group of your customers together, you’re creating a networking event where your customers can make deals with each other. Their businesses flourish and grow as a result, and the amount of business they have to give you goes up.

The best part; you’re right there to work with them and supply whatever they need to make their new deal happen.

Good Networking Events

A simple networking event might involve bringing a few key customers together where you see potential for them to work together. A bigger event that brings most of your customers together in one spot offers a lot more potential because it offers each of them more opportunity to strike a deal that fits their business.

Here are a few key points to staging a networking event:

  1. Make it a schmoozing event. Save the game tickets for one-on-one customer appreciation. You want your customers to interact with each other rather than be a captive audience at a sporting event. Good events include golf tournaments, fishing trips, barbecues or dinner parties; give your customers a venue where they can mingle and get to know each other.
  2. Introduce opportunities. The last thing you want to do is jump into the middle and try to run your customer’s business for them. Don’t push your deal ideas on them. Introduce opportunities by making sure that you introduce as many people to each other as you can. Be the host. Introduce them and introduce their strengths to get the conversation rolling.
  3. Create a memorable event. A networking event is a great place to strengthen your branding. A great annual event is a great way to build a sense of membership. They give your customers something to look forward to and make them happy about being your customers and getting that invite. Think customer appreciation. If none of your customers strike a deal that brings you more business, you’ve still strengthened your relationship with each one of them.

Appreciating your customers is good for business.

Letting them appreciate each other is really good for business.

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Making Money with the Boom, Bust, Blitz

The blitz

The standard business cycle lasts about 10 years. There’s also a bigger cycle called the long economic cycle which covers a span of 50 to 60 years. Both these cycles go through a boom, a bust, and a blitz, and at each of these stages there are some great opportunities.

The key to making a good play at any point in the cycle is to manage your assets and your liabilities to the best advantage.

First, Two Kinds of Assets

Many things are considered assets but they all boil down to one of two things …

  1. Real assets. Reach into your pocket and pull out all the cash you have on you. That’s a real asset. Simple. No matter where you are in a business or economic cycle, cash is king.
  2. Speculative assets. The value of your home is a good example of a speculative asset. It’s speculative because no matter what it’s worth today, six months from now the market price could go up or down. Stocks are also speculative assets.

Speculative assets contain some real worth. Your home will always be worth something, no matter what happens or where the market goes. So there’s a certain amount of its worth that’s real and a certain amount that’s speculative or uncertain. The same goes for your stocks and most other assets.

Next, Good Liabilities and Bad Liabilities

Most people think that liability or debt is a bad thing. But sometimes it’s a very good thing …

  1. Good debt. A mortgage is good debt. Another form is good debt is taking out a loan to start a business.
  2. Bad debt. Racking up your credit card to fill your house and garage with toys is bad debt.

The difference between good debt and bad debt comes from what you purchase with it. If you buy assets, it’s good debt. If you buy more liabilities, it’s bad debt.

Finally, Working the Boom, Bust, Blitz Cycle

Most people are out buying liabilities with their speculative wealth during a boom. When the bust happens, it’s never pretty. Boom times are the best time to be selling because prices are high and because of all those people out spending their on-paper profits.

During a boom, you want to stay away from taking on bad debt and concentrate on building real assets. It’s also a great time to sell off your speculative assets while the prices are high.

When a market goes bust, prices fall and it’s time to look for deals. It’s time to buy. It’s your real assets that carry you through a bust. And a bust is the time to leverage that real wealth to take on some good debt and buy speculative assets at bargain-basement prices.

And then comes the blitz. Between the bust and the next boom is the blitz. It’s a crazy time because prices are all over the place. Some things are still doing badly and others are rocketing upwards. This is a great time to leverage all your assets and do a lot of creative deal making.

The blitz is also a great time to take some risks because the next boom is on its way which creates a bit of a safety net.

The Takeaway

Every market; stocks, bonds, property, business, all go through the boom, bust, blitz cycle. And by following some simple rules you can take advantage of every part of the cycle:

  • There’s never a good time to take on bad debt
  • The time to sell speculative assets is during a boom
  • The best time to buy is during a bust
  • The blitz is the best time to take some risks

Hike!

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How to Capture Someone Else’s Market

OCC

If you’re a motorcycle enthusiast, you’re probably a fan of The Discovery Channel’s hit show American Chopper about the innovative and entertaining crew at OCC.

Here’s the catch; the show has a huge following of people who aren’t motorcycle fanatics at all. So the question is, how’d they do that? How did they reach a market that’s outside their target market?

The 2 Ingredients for Capturing Someone Else’s Market

1. Sell You, Not Your Product

The Teutul family at Orange County Choppers is a great cast of characters. They have all the comedy and drama you’d expect from a wacky made-for-TV family. The difference is, they’re real. And the strong family values and hilarious misadventures they go through day-to-day are things that everyone can relate to.

In the Laws of Leadership Challenge, law number 14, the law of buy-in, is all about selling yourself before you sell your ideas. You have to believe in the leader before you believe in their ideas.

The Teutuls don’t sell motorcycles on the show. They sell The Teutuls. Motorcycle sales follow.

2. Make a Product that Everyone Can Relate to

You’d think a motorcycle was simple enough for anyone to relate to. But if you’re not a big fan of motorcycles, then you probably don’t care about how they’re built.

What’s easier to relate to is how someone can take inspiration from a NYC firetruck or the Statue of Liberty or a Gillette razor and turn it into a motorcycle. And that’s what OCC does with the theme bikes they build on the show.

They build products that have a story that’s bigger than the product. And easier to relate to than just a regular motorcycle would be.

Keep it Real, and Keep it Simple

Marketing is not selling. Marketing is getting your message out there so people can find you and bring you a sale. If you do it right, it goes viral and then other people start spreading your message for you.

Because their message is real and it’s simple, OCC expanded their market quickly by crossing over into other markets. They captured an audience that should be someone else’s.

And that’s a wild ride.

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3 Simple Ways to Battle Procrastination

Burning time with procrastination

Our most valuable asset is time. Procrastination is the enemy of time.

To tackle it, we have to take Sun Tzu’s advice; “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. So let’s get to know procrastination a little …

1. Noun: Procrastination (pro’krastu’neyshun): To postpone doing what one should be doing.

The simple definition tells us everything. Procrastination isn’t the problem. It’s a symptom of the real problem. We need to understand WHY we postpone doing things we should be doing.

Why We Don’t Do What We Should

  • Connection. We connect with things we understand. When we don’t connect with something, it’s easy to not do it. It’s easy to not know where to start or what direction to take it in.
  • Overload. The fastest way to create indecision is to put too many possibilities on the table. And the fastest way to create inaction is to put too many tasks on a list that can’t be done before the list grows twice as long as it already is.
  • Passion. How many people here think the best part of a great meal is doing the dishes? Raise your hands … that’s what I thought. Most people are not passionate about doing the dishes. It’s just something that needs to be done.

So now we understand procrastination. It’s time to get some things done.

3 Simple Ways to Do What We Need to Do

  1. Just do it. Some things just have to be done. Do the dishes. It’s as simple as that. But the real key is to always keep learning. Connect with the things you have to do and find faster and easier ways to do them.
  2. Just don’t do it. Some things aren’t worth doing. Doing things just for the effort, just to fill every second of your time or feel productive is to sqaunder your most precious asset; time. Conquer your overload by doing the things that really matter. And by not doing the things that don’t.
  3. Just do something else. To do anything without passion should be a crime. Following your passion is the key to success, productivity, happiness and a hundred other things that are good for you, good for business, and good for the world in general. Sometimes it’s best to stop doing what you’re doing now, so you can start doing the things you really should be doing. The things you’re truly passionate about.

There will always be something you have to do that you’d rather postpone. By connecting and understanding how to do more things, by preventing overload, and by doing more things you’re passionate about, there’ll be a lot less of those things.

And a lot less procrastination. 

Some Procrastination Resources

Others, fighting the good fight …

I almost put off writing this post till tomorrow. But you know what. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

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The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership … Challenge

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

If you’re like me, you’ve flipped through a few books on leadership and business. Well, when it comes to leadership, there’s only one book I couldn’t not buy. And that’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell.

It’s a great book and the things John teaches should be practiced.

So I’ve put together a 21 day leadership challenge. Each day for the next 21 days, make it your mission to practice one of the laws of leadership. Someway, somehow, any way you can …

The 21 Day Leadership Challenge

  1. The law of the lid. Every leader has a ceiling. Maybe you’re destined to be the supreme master of the universe or maybe you can’t even get your dog to come when you call him. Think about your leadership lid and what you can do to push it higher.
  2. The law of influence. Leadership is not about your title or position. It’s about leading. Can you lead in a situation where your title or position don’t matter? Practice some anonymous leading.
  3. The law of process. Leaders use a process whenever they build something. It makes your ventures repeatable and scalable. Build a step-by-step process for doing something.
  4. The law of navigation. Setting goals is important. Navigation takes it one step further because you’re plotting a course of actions that take you to the goal. Define a goal for yourself and plot a course to reach it.
  5. The law of E. F. Hutton. This law is taken from the old commercials “When E. F. Hutton speaks, people listen”. Find someone who’s a stronger leader than you are. Now just listen.
  6. The law of solid ground. Leaders build trust. Spend some time today building or strengthening the trust that someone has in you.
  7. The law of respect. Loyalty and respect take trust a step further. Think about who you would follow no matter where they wanted to go. And why.
  8. The law of intuition. With experience, you’ll build great instincts. Leaders go with their gut many times because they need to make quick decisions. Practice making quick decisions using your intuition.
  9. The law of magnetism. Leaders attract people like a magnet. And good leaders always attract the right people to get the job done. What kind of people do you need to attract? Figure out how you can do that.
  10. The law of connection. Remember, without people there’s nothing there. Network and really connect with someone today.
  11. The law of the inner circle. Every leader has an inner circle of people they trust and rely on. Inner circle people have great talents and vision of their own. Better than yours in some things. Start building your inner circle.
  12. The law of empowerment. To build a team, you have to give other people ownership of what they’re doing. You have to let them lead. Empower someone else and let them lead.
  13. The law of reproduction. Leaders create followers. Great leaders create other leaders. Start being a leadership mentor to someone today.
  14. The law of buy-in. You believe in someone’s ideas after you already believe in the person. Practice selling YOU instead of just your ideas.
  15. The law of victory. When something doesn’t work out, you learn something new. But it’s important not to start with that idea or else you might give in to it. Strive for nothing less than total victory today.
  16. The law of the big mo. Momentum is capital. With every success, you build momentum that makes the next success easier. Take something small and use its success to do something bigger.
  17. The law of priorities. Leaders are busy. And some things are more important than other things. Put together a list of everything you have to do and prioritize it from most important to least.
  18. The law of sacrifice. You have more responsibilities to other people and other things as a leader. Sometimes, you have to give something up to take care of those responsibilities. Sacrifice something you care about for someone else today.
  19. The law of timing. Opportunities are everywhere. One of the big things that makes something a good opportunity is timing. Recognize an opportunity and pounce on it right away.
  20. The law of explosive growth. To grow, you need to lead everyone in the right direction. To create explosive growth, you need to lead other leaders in the right direction. Reach out and start leading other leaders today.
  21. The law of legacy. Eventually, someone else will do what you’re doing right now. More than building other leaders, more than being a mentor, you have to build the leader that can take care of and do everything you can do. Start building a leader you can pass the baton to.

It’s a big challenge. Have some fun with it.

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