Tip of the Week

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow…

Tip of the Week has jumped in to your Friday to announce that it will not be appearing on Saturday (but fear not, I’ve cooked up something special for our weekend).

An announcement, and a tip (for you read-between-the-lines types), all in one.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Planning, Startups, Stories, on what else? Business plans!

Tim Berry’s blog is always a great read. I never miss a post. His 8 Factors That Make a Good Business Plan this week really grabbed me, because after the first five points, he leaves the document alone.

Writing your plan is critical, of course—Tim (who’s also the author of The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan) is frequently called on to judge business plan contests, so he’s got a fine idea of what the best writing looks like—but in this post he puts special emphasis on what makes a business plan work, that is, the work you put in after you write the plan.

[A] plan that isn’t managed isn’t a good plan…. a good plan is communicated….

I suggest that the qualities of writing and editing are not essential for all plans…. If only the team understands it, it can still be a good plan; but it has to be communicated to that team.

We’re judging the plan by the business improvements it causes.”

Hear, hear. If your staff doesn’t buy into it, if no growth comes of it, you might as well have left the planning stage alone. Run right over to read the rest, and if you haven’t heard me say it before—subscribe when you’re over there. You’ll be glad you did.

How do you make your business plan a working document, rather than a bunch of paper in a drawer?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Just Give It Away!

Free Food February - Chick-fil-A. No purchase necessary, one free item per person each Wednesday in February between 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

 

What do office supplies and chicken sandwiches have in common?

I went shopping for office supplies recently at a superstore that’s moving down the street from their current location, directly across the street from their biggest competitor, our other local office superstore. They had a lot of their inventory on clearance, trying not to have to box and move quite so many of the little items. I walked out with over $150 worth of supplies for $11, and remarked to a friend that I felt like I’d stolen the stuff. They might as well have given the loot away.

Ever since then I’ve been mulling that over—what an event it could have been if they had simply given away their 90–95% off clearance items. A “help us move” party, perhaps. Give away coupons for this weekend’s grand opening. Make folks feel a part of the move, and make them feel a bit obligated to check out the new digs because they’re indebted.

They could have generated a lot of buzz for the move and a lot of goodwill, but instead the whole thing took place so quietly that plenty of folks don’t know this enormous store is moving.

Free Food February

Still mulling it over, I went for a chicken sandwich yesterday at a fast food joint here in north Delaware. The flyer you see above was tucked into my bag with a smile and a “Don’t forget to come back Wednesdays!” from the friendly cashier.  Go ahead and read the fine print (click to enlarge), I’ll wait.

No restrictions. I don’t even have to bring the flyer back in. Just show up on Wednesdays, eat free food. I asked a friend who goes there regularly, and she said yes, she was there this week, and the line was out the door.

The truth is I probably won’t think to go. But they’ve just gotten an enormous bump in how I perceive them.

Pricing, discounting, what to do in a recession, oh my!

We’ve talked about it here before. An awesome promotion is designed entirely from the customer’s perspective, for convenience and delight. Now the idea is spreading. (Harvey’s, eat your heart out! Chick-fil-A has outdone you!)

Discounting says weakness and desperation. Free says joy, generosity, and position of strength.

Discounting creates price-sensitive customers. (Yes, you create them yourself!)

Free creates word-of-mouth marketing. Buzz. Satisfied, astonished, repeat customers, from prospects and fence-sitters.

Which one should you be doing?

Check today’s title again.

You want to be around for the long haul. Build the Perception that your company shares its good fortune; that you’re thinking of your customers and their wallets, not only your own; that you’re even a little wild and edgy.

Give it away!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

… and Let Me Lean In

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who’s speaking just below a normal speaking volume?

You leaned in. You paid close attention—not because the subject was fascinating, but because you had to, just to hear.

Weeks later, you remember that conversation more than one you had yesterday at the office, and you know what? It was kinda fascinating, now that you think about it.

Speak Softly

Sheepishly, I admit to you that I’m known for forgetting my volume. This story is not a cutely disguised pat on my own back.

“Speak softly” is a classic persuasive technique that I’ve read of, but I’d never seen it used in business. Then a few days ago I saw it done to perfection, by a colleague I know who’s usually a much louder person.

Wow. He had his listener locked in.

While I can get quiet in personal conversations, I sure can’t say it’s in my nature to do this in business. But my colleague turned a difficult situation around almost instantly with his quiet authority—and I stashed it in my bag of tricks right then. I’ve had plenty of complex or awkward conversations where this would have been a big help. Now I’m dying to give it a try.

How about you? Ever tried it—or had it tried on you? Does a soft voice force you to concentrate more, and remember the message better?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Can a bucket of bagels be a brand ambassador?

Racing out of town a few weeks ago to bring our much-loved local bagels (and much-loved selves) up to New York State, I got to wondering about the power of being portable. This simple bucket has created eager fans six hours away from Delaware, through ease of purchase and repetition. Here’s how portability can grow your business, too.

5 Keys to putting your product or service in a bucket:

Portability should extend your reach, not cut into your regular business

Portability may make you accessible to customers who couldn’t otherwise afford you

It can make you available to customers at times (in places) when you can’t be open for business

It can put you within easy reach of customers who don’t have the opportunity to purchase from you normally

It should expose you to a wider audience

What, no bagels or other product to put in that bucket? Well, then, how can you and I make our ideas and our services more portable?

A bucket of ideas:

Books—let me curl up in bed with you or take you to the beach

“Sampler” service, like Tapas—offer only a tease to the “lightly” committed, so they can fall in love with your company

Remote service—could you offer telephone/email consults?

Speaking/teaching/seminars/workshops—online or off, speaking gigs bring your ideas to life and can even make them more memorable

Giving it away—this one is your secret weapon. You must set limits, but a few wise words to a customer or prospect “off the books,” stays with him or her (in goodwill) and travels farther than you can imagine (in word-of-mouth)

Got a great idea for making small business offerings more portable? Share it in the comments!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Or a pizza… ‘Cause it’s too late for a holiday party

Last month we discussed cheats here at MCE, and in the comments one pain point stuck with me: cheating your staff out of enjoying time together and relaxing on-the-job, will eat away at your most precious assets—your people—more than you realize.

Yes, I’m talking to you.

Please run over to George Tannenbaum’s Ad Aged. In addition to looking devilishly like Tony Curtis, he writes a witty, ranty, occasionally sentimental blog, skewering all things ad and Mad, and many things perverse and worse.

In his recent post, I guess it’s a holdover from a different era, I found George’s simple explanation for this pain: “I know the economy sucks… but if we give up institutions like this one, we are giving up our soul.”

Don’t just treat your employees well. Treat your employees. Maybe have a lobstah.

It’s a quick read on Maximum Employee Experience, but plan to spend some time at Ad Aged. He’ll draw you in with his wonderful words.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

P.S. For all you readers who’ve known me a while: George also hates emoticons at least as much as I do, but he’s still managed to invent one. I can only claim to have art-directed one, myself, so I’m hugely impressed.

^^
. .
^
o

Groucho wiggling his eyebrows. By Brett—free until 2012, or thereabouts.

Real Perspective From One of the Big Boys

Our roles as fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, etc. are infinitely more important than our roles at work.  At the end of our journey I assure you ‘Best Buy’ will appear nowhere on your gravestone.”
—Steve Jensen, VP of Best Buy, quoted in Interview With Tyler Shaw by Cali & Jody

Or mothers, sisters, daughters, wives. Like he said.

I want to help your business (and mine!) to soar in this new year. I believe in it with all my heart. Once in a while, I read something like this, and it reminds me to step away from the keyboard, the drawing board, and the work I take home. I take it home so I can be at home. It can wait until after The Kid goes to bed.

At the end of the journey, let it say that you were loved, and that you took time to love. Not that you were a slave to your career.

 

Grow wisely, and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Or is it time to rethink the Stingy Strategy?

If you did all your cost-cutting measures before, what on Earth are you going to do now?

You can’t go back and fix that, I know, so there’s got to be another lesson here.

Provide value. Be the best you can be. Be the expert, the specialist, the one in a million. Be top of the mind.

Engineer delight, because chiseling away at your costs day after day, looking for another way to make the same buck with less product or less work, will always backfire.

Like it is now.

Don’t be the cheapest solution.

Be the Ideal Solution.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

It’s only bad if we think it is…

Eat Here or We Both Starve

At least you can be known as the one who never let ‘em see you sweat. Though popular wisdom says to avoid humor in marketing, I’m not much for that particular bit of popular wisdom.

Avoid unfunny humor in marketing. And in bars, parties, and meeting your future mother-in-law.

If you’re funny—be tasteful, and go for it. No one else is.

Maximum impact.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Forget about oil… What’s your company policy on people?

“Human resources” are resources.

Invest wisely, don’t waste ‘em, treat them with respect, and use them to their fullest—but don’t use ‘em up.

Like every other resource.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

P.S. Thanks, Brett—your comment on Thursday’s Ambition post (among so many wonderful comments) really made me think.