Archive for the ‘Ideas and Strategy’ Category
Creating Products For Your Service Business Is Easier Than Ever Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Products and business go hand in hand. You can’t have a business if you don’t have anything to sell. Now that I have earned my master’s degree in stating the obvious, what I really want to do today is inspire you to keep creating for your business. Especially now that creating products for your service business is easier than ever.
Despite the fact that creating products for your service business is easy, there are still a lot of businesses not creating for their business. By not creating new products, these business owners are missing out on the opportunity to engage with their clients at a deeper level, tap new markets and grow their business in the process.
What’s the reason for the neglect? It could be the usual suspects:
- Don’t have the right players on the team
- Not sure how or what to create
- Maybe you even think you don’t have any good ideas
Do these sound familiar? Business owners are notorious for using them.
In today’s day and age, there is no excuse for not creating products for your service business. Take a look at some of the traditional product creation vehicles and how easy and inexpensive they are to use today:
- Video- It used to be that you needed a ton of expensive equipment. Digital format for videos wasn’t invented until around the early 90s. Since that time, creating a video is as easy as pointing a camera where you want it and start creating. With equipment like flip cams you can record a video and plug it straight into your computer to start editing. Apple computers has made editing videos easy as well. Don’t have a video camera. Use a service like Camtasia to roll a slide show that you can talk over and put music to.
- Audio- You don’t have to have a professional recording studio to record professional sounding audio to use with products and podcasts. Microphones like the Snowball make creating audio as easy as plugging the mic into your computer. Free services like Audacity make editing simple as well. You can use an inexpensive program like Reaper to capture your audio as well and lay multiple tracks.
- Workbooks- You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a professional looking workbook laid out and designed for your products. Places like Elance make it easy to find solid professional designers to out together great looking material at a fraction of the cost.
- Books- Whether you are creating an e-book or self publishing, creating a book is easier as well. Not only is it easy to create content through channels like a blog where you can literally blog your book. You also kill two birds with one stone by not only creating content to engage your following but you are also working towards a finished product of a book. Amazon has a number of options to help you put out a finished product that can be used as an e-book, physical book or is compatible with their Kindle reader as well. They will find editors, designers, etc.
- Home Study Courses- Do you have a service or process that you take clients through? If you do, are you missing out on the opportunity to capture that in the form of home study course? A home study course will incorporate a number of the elements that I talked about above. Videos, audios, a workbook, etc. This is a great way to show people what your service is all about at a lower barrier to entry. You can offer this as a physical product or make it strictly digital or even do both.
As you read through this ask yourself the following questions:
How good is your business at creating new products?
What holes are missing that need to be addressed with products?
To get you started and help you overcome some of your product creation obstacles, here are some of my most critical tips for getting more product created:
- Have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish with each new product you create. This seems fairly obvious but it’s easy to not articulate this upfront and then lose sight of what it is that you are really trying to accomplish. Keep your end user in mind.
- You have time here’s how to use it. Creating new products for your business is about setting aside the time. It’s all about creating the time and the space in your calendar to do this. I would set aside time in your calendar each week that is focused on product creation and idea development. If you don’t create the time on your calendar and stick with it, it will never happen. It’s about creating a rhythm that you work in.
- Holes that exist in your knowledge. You may have avoided creating because you don’t feel like you are “tech savvy”. I hear this a lot about entrepreneurs but the great thing about tech savvy people is they don’t come out of the womb knowing how to code in HTML and PHP, they learn it. Granted some people have more of an interest in these things than others. If tech ignorance is getting in the way of you growing your business, then you need to get over your fear or dislike of technology and make it your friend. If you need help, then find it. There is a lot of talented, inexpensive help out there. They may already be on your team.
- You don’t have any good ideas. I don’t hear this a lot from entrepreneurs as typically I am trying to get them to rein in the “good ideas” but there is a decent percentage of entrepreneurs who feel stuck or are down on their abilities to come up with good ideas. My suggestion here is to create quiet time for yourself to create in a location that is not work. We call this time a “power hour” and it happens before we do anything else in the morning. Having some quiet time to work-out, brainstorm, read, meditate or pray is a great way to get your creative juices flowing.
You know what to do and how to overcome obstacles, now it’s time to go out and do it. Take a minute right now and put some product creation time on your calendar and stick to it.
Why You Should Sell To Your Employees Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
That’s right, you heard me. It is time to start selling not only to your customer but to your employee. In fact, if you really want to improve sales, selling to your employees is often the best way to do it.
If you are reading between the lines, you may have realized that I am not talking about selling your employees the same product as your customers but a very different product, let’s call it “employment.”
Many business owners I have worked with view the different roles in business as completely different “hats.” This is a common view, thanks in large part to the book “The E-Myth.” I really enjoyed this book and find it very relevant for any business owner. However, the challenge created by this viewpoint is a misinterpretation of what it means to change hats or roles.
To change “hats” simply means it’s time to change which product you are selling and to whom. Instead of widgets to customer A, it is employment to employee B. Now, are their other roles? sure. Somebody needs to do the web programming or prep and send mail or whatever it might be. If you don’t think it should be you, then prep the “sell” of programming to the employee or staffer that you would like to do it. Sell em’!
Do not think you are entitled to their labor since you give them a pay check. You need their help more than you need the paycheck.
Do you ever expect customers to buy from you over and over just because they bought once? Are you entitled to the continued patronage and can you treat a customer however you want because they owe you having delivered your product or service?
Um… no unfortunately not.
Your delivery of a product or service to a customer is no different than your delivery of a paycheck to an employee. Just because you delivered one doesn’t mean they will continue to work with you or even have to. Without good customer service and experiences, your customer will leave looking for greener pastures. The same goes for your employees. Don’t ever think they have to stick with you; there are others willing to sell them employment…
The key… there is really only one “hat” that is used in different scenarios. That hat is sales. The difference is to know which product you are to sell and to whom in any given scenario.
So what is the product to be sold to employees?
Employment is your product. It includes not only the paycheck but other perks such as work environment, scheduling, a good (or bad) boss, punishments, etc. There are many components to this product. The goal is to improve the quality of your product so it may not only garner “sales” in the form of employees but repeat customers and higher prices in the form of lower employee turnover and better employee performance.
So what do you get for selling employment?
Your currency is time, energy, focus, productivity, loyalty, all wrapped up in employee performance.
If you are a good salesman and have a better employment product, you can “charge” more for it in the form of these different currencies. If an employee is unwilling to part with some of these, they simply do not see your employment product as worth it. They feel it is overpriced. That doesn’t mean they leave. In most cases, it means they will simply pay you less (less time, productivity, loyalty, etc.).
Why do they pay less? Why is my employee performance always poor? Typically 2 reasons: They either are the wrong “customer” or your product is not worth the price you charge in their eyes.
An example of reason 1, of the “wrong customer,” I love watches. I am willing to pay far more for a watch than my wife would like. Spending over $1,000 for a watch doesn’t strike me as odd or overpriced (depending on the watch of course). For others, that is too much regardless of the watch. They are unwilling to spend more than $100 for a watch. If you offer them a very well built, expensive watch, they will still only pay you $100. They are just the wrong customer and it matters little what you do to make the watch better, it just isn’t in the cards for them to ever bite on what you expect for the watch.
Sometimes, business owners feel they have a phenomenal employment product worth much more time, energy, loyalty and production but simply have the wrong employee, selling to the wrong market. The employee will never increase performance above the $100 mark, they don’t see the point. Learn your market to overcome this issue.
You wouldn’t sell baby buggies to 16 year old boys in heavy metal bands, why do we try to sell employment the same way?
Example of reason 2, if you try to charge me $1000 for a cheaply built watch, I won’t buy, even though I am a watch lover. The product is overpriced in my opinion. Maybe to you, it is different. Maybe you built this watch with your own two hands. It means a lot to you since it is the first watch you ever created; so in spite of its flaws, it is priceless. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that much to me and you will likely never get me to see it as that valuable. I might even see why it is valuable to you but those reasons do not translate to me. I didn’t make it, therefore I don’t get that satisfaction out of it.
Business owners struggle with this issue often. They often expect employees to value their jobs as much as the owner does. Well, it doesn’t translate. They expect too much for what they give in the form of employment. That doesn’t mean wage alone. In fact, wage is lower on the totem pole (although still very much important). It often means other benefits, autonomy, control, participation in the creative process, etc. If the product performs poorly, it is worth much less. With employment, this includes systems and processes to follow, clarity on purpose, results expectations, and proper reward systems. If these perform poorly, it is like the poor performing watch. Even if it is made out of diamond encrusted solid-gold, if it can’t keep time at all, its functional value decreases considerably. I might keep it since it is gold but I won’t wear it. Just as I might keep the job because it pays well but I won’t necessarily give my all.
Are there bad employees or just bad sales?
This is where it gets interesting… when you have bad employees, or even better, simply some bad employee behaviors, is it their fault or just bad sales? If an employee is truly sold on their job, the number of issues is inconsequential. If I am sold on a watch, I don’t neglect or abuse it. I cherish it. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you cherish something, you treat it differently. If we can sell our employment products in such a way that they are cherished, even at higher costs (time, energy, and loyalty), employees will treat them differently and stay as repeat customers of them.
Take a tech startup as an example.
Most startups pay mediocre wages. They don’t have the sales and size to justify higher wages yet. On top of that, their employment products are very costly in the form of long hours, expected evangelism for the company, supreme dedication, and more. All of that for little pay. How does that work?? Well, the employees are sold very well as they should be. The employment opportunity has a lot of other features beyond pay such as opportunity to participate in the excitement of a startup and truly build something. These features are simply pointed out appropriately to the employee. It’s part of the sale. They end up with many very dedicated, happy employees and they pay lower wages and expect more from their employees than you do!
In the end, keeping happy productive employees is a function of sales. If you are a good salesman with a good employment product, you will be able to build a loyal, dedicated team of employees that will help you sell on the other end, where the revenue is generated.
How To Build Instant Credibility Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Making a name for yourself in the business world is difficult. It’s a factor that holds a lot of businesses back. The reason it is so difficult is because there is a catch 22 that exists with regards to building credibility. You need people to do business with you to gain credibility. The only problem is that no one wants to do business with you until you have proven yourself. How can you build credibility quickly?
There are stupid ways to build instant celebrity. You can participate in a reality show, drink too much, say shit that you shouldn’t and…bam!…you’re famous. I’m sure you don’t want to go that route so we will skip that for another post.
The instant credibility builder that I am talking about is utilizing case studies. Case studies have been around forever in the physical product world. In the physical product world, they are called “free samples”, “test drives” or a “trial period”. If you work in a service or thought leader business, then case studies are a great alternative for people who need help building credibility.
Are you confident that what you have works? Great, then prove it.
The first thing you need is some potential clients to do a case study with. So ask yourself, “Who do I know?” Identify some people that you feel could benefit from your service. Ask these people if they will participate, for a reduced rate or even free, in exchange for their specific feedback on the experience. These potential case study clients also need to be willing to share their results with the public.
Assuming that you deliver on the goods with your potential case study clients, now you have some credibility for your process that didn’t exist. Now you can demonstrate how your process works and you can back that up with social proof.
Beyond social proof, there are several other benefits to case studies, including testing the assumptions that you have about your product or service. Software companies do this, in the form of beta testing, all the time.
Case studies are simple to set up and easy to execute. If you are someone who is looking to build some instant credibility, then you need to give case studies a try. Oh yeah and don’t forget to bring your “A” game.
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The Only Path To Quick Results Monday, April 4th, 2011
You ever ran 100 miles an hour in a certain direction only to realize your were running the wrong way? I know I have. The best way to prevent this from happening and in the process realize quicker results is to have clarity behind what you are doing.
Some people may read the above message and think that trying to gain clarity will slow down their ability to produce not speed it up. I am not saying that you need to completely vet out every idea and move that you want to make because no plan is fool proof. What I am saying is that you should have a general idea of what you are doing and what you are trying to accomplish.
Don’t be afraid to breath. There is benefit in gaining clarity for these reasons:
Less Wasted Effort: This just come down to understanding the results you want. For too often we start something without even thinking about the finish line and what that might look like. This isn’t to say that you will be right but it does help at least point you in a more accurate direction. Time is precious in business. Use it wisely. Sometimes you only get one shot.
More Production: This is a no brainer. Having a focus allows you to work on the right things rather than being distracted by all of the wrong things that interfere with productivity. Things like phone calls, e-mails, useless meetings, etc.
Saves Money: When you are focused, your business doesn’t waste money. They tend to hire better people. They employ the right marketing strategies for their business. They also understand what activities are going to positively affect the bottom line.
Keeps Your Team Engaged: Nothing kills team morale more than not knowing where their efforts are taking them or their business. Consider this scenario: Your boss has you work on a report that takes the better part of your work time for 2 weeks. After handing in the report, your boss tells you that they aren’t moving in that direction anymore and sorry he forgot to mention it. That sucks. Unfocused businesses are morale killers.
Focus in your business seems like a no brainer yet I am surprised at how poor of a job that business owners do at taking the time to gain some additional clarity around why their business exists and formulating strategies for getting there. If you find that your business lacks focus, take some time and work on getting a clearer picture. Get other people involved if you need to.
How have you failed or succeeded because of focus?
You Think You’re Great Now Prove It Thursday, March 24th, 2011
There are a lot of business owners out there, myself included, who don’t lack for confidence. They will tell you whenever they can how great their product/service is and dazzle you with how smart they appear to be. Not all business owners are created equally, however. Customers know this to be true so how do you prove to them that you really are great?
Self aware entrepreneurs will ask the same question. There are times when they will wonder if they are any good? Testimonials and endorsements are a great place to start with building the social proof of how good you are.
I think it’s a given in today’s socially connected society that most business owners reading this understand that testimonials are important. In that same breath, I am amazed at how many of them don’t actually get testimonials from their clients.
The key to getting testimonials, like many other things, is to be intentional about it. Don’t be casual about how you approach clients with these requests. Get some method to your madness. If I am going to put my stamp of approval on something I want to make sure it’s something that others will have a good experience with. I know most people are that way so take it seriously.
Creating the system entails knowing who is going to be in charge of gathering testimonials in your business. Then it becomes a matter of when and how you are going to do this. There is no right or wrong answer. I think that one of the best times to get a testimonial from someone is after you have done something really great for them. You don’t have to ask them right after you did but you might just send them a little note thanking them for being such a great customer and then follow that up with a testimonial request.
The process depends on your business and the culture of you business. I would encourage trying a few different things and seeing what works. One thing I will say as a hard and fast rule is not to offer someone something in exchange for their testimonial. This just cheapens the testimonial and the relationship for that matter.
Once you have testimonials for your business make sure that you use them. I have worked with several companies who just store these away and never display them anywhere. What’s the point of getting them if no one sees them?
Take a look at how your business is bringing social credibility to it. There are several social media outlets that can help you with this as well but testimonials is one of those areas that you can manage better as you typically have a more close, intimate relationship with your actual customers. Take a look at your current system and ask yourself if it helps to prove how good you really are. If not, make some changes.
How To Get Your Process Some Credibility Monday, March 21st, 2011
Despite any success I had ever had in my corporate life, it wasn’t until I went to work with a smaller firm that I actually started meeting people who could help my career. Even then, despite helping to create a NY Times Best Seller campaign, getting a firm on the Inc. 500 list as well as one of Utah’s fastest growing companies, I was still a relative unknown when I decided to go out on my own.
I was definitely worried about credibility when I first started my business which is why I started a blog. After that I was looking for ways to get known. Endorsements are great and I will talk about them next week. Strategic Partnerships are also a great way to expand your reach but I wanted something a little more specific. I didn’t want to tell people or have other people tell them I was good. I wanted to prove it.
What I needed were some case studies.
To start, I put together a list of people that I could potentially help. These were primarily newer business owners as well as some more established thought leaders that I knew needed organizational help.
From there it was just a matter of reaching out to these people and gauging interest. The kicker of the whole program and why it wasn’t hard to get three people to agree was that I was offering my service for charge. My only request was that they let me share the results of the case studies and their thoughts on my process with prospective clients.
The results were great. One client I had been coaching had been previously working with a SCORE representative and had mentioned that my information and help was more up-to-date and effective than the advice that he had been getting.
With three positive case studies in hand I was able to better connect with clients as they could see the type of work that I did in action. It was a great credibility tool. If you are wondering about other specifics of your case study, here’s a great resource.
This advice is great for consultants and thought leaders. If you work in the physical product industry then obviously a free sample of your product works in much the same way. When you are getting started or you are looking to break into a new niche in your business, think about how case studies can help you move your business forward.
Have you used case studies in the past? How have they worked for you?
Executing Great Ideas as Innovators Monday, March 14th, 2011
This is a great vid put out by 99% regarding executing ideas and working toward innovation. Fans Johansson of the Medici Group is the presenter. Are you looking to innovate? to explore your creativity? Learn to execute on ideas, not just think them up. Ideas without action are worthless, everyone has a good one. Ideas WITH action may be priceless as most fail to move… In the end, there is definitely an ART to evolving and executing revolutionary ideas.
Frans Johansson: The Secret Truth About Executing Great Ideas.
Your Brand is a Sculpture Saturday, March 12th, 2011
Branding is a common term in business, known by most who hear it. It is discussed in business school, in noted publications and professional journals, focused on by gurus and consultants, and culminates in an empty “buzz” concept for most business owners, especially smaller businesses. Some businesses may give some heed to the concept of “branding” as one of the first steps toward opening your doors which results in a logo, business card, and letter head design. Done, right? Now that the brand is out of the way, we can move on to real business! Not so fast…
Branding is likely one of the least understood concepts in business yet carries a power much greater than the next “super” marketing technique or really any technique available today. Most individuals think “logo” when they hear the word “brand”. That is just one piece.
Every top executive team or business owner is an artist with their brand as the sculpture. The logo may very well be the “eyes” of the brand but there is much more to a complete sculpture than the eyes alone. The fact is, every business is a complete brand, whether they are conscious of it or not. A focus on the eyes alone leaves the rest of the body to the half-hazard design of the environment within which we operate. The ears, nose, mouth, head, limbs, and torso are all sculpted by the elements around us, whether that is the opinions and results of customers, the legal and regulatory landscape, or the internal bureaucracy of doing business. The sculpture ends up with unmatched and poorly formed results. Often the hideousness of the rest of the sculpture causes most potential customers to completely miss the well formed eyes (logo).
Not all brands ignore the rest of the sculpture although very few take into account the complete sculpture, maybe noting the eyes and nose but forgetting the rest. The fact is most brand design is incomplete at best and damaging to the organization at worst.
- A brand is defined by The American Marketing Association (AMA) as follows:
“a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”
This definition is not branding, it simply lists a few of the representations of a brand, a few of the potential components of a brand. Definitions such as this have lead most organizations to compartmentalize their brands into separate components that are viewed, researched, and designed separately. This is as if a different artist sculpts each piece of the body with their own thoughts and influences, coming together at the end with a somewhat complete sculpture (inevitably leaving out at least a few pieces.) The result is a chaotic mismatched, disproportioned mess. Each piece may have been a work of art independently but when brought together, the lack of cohesion destroys anything considered “art.”
Become a master brand artist and take the whole sculpture into account. In future posts, we will discuss more of the issues surrounding branding and the solutions to building complete, powerful brands. What do you think? How have you viewed branding? Do you know of brands that are better at seeing the entire sculpture?
A Great Example Of Win Then Play In Action Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
I introduced the concept of succeeding with your ideas a few a week ago without wasting a lot of money. We call the concept “Win Then Play“. It becomes difficult to get our mind around how we can use this concept to get our ideas moving without the right financial resources. I ran across a great example of how this can look in the marketplace with a product that needed to be manufactured.
The article is titled, How I Launched A Great Idea Without Any Money. Money is greatest reason or excuse given as to why we can’t move forward with an idea. Let’s take a closer look at financial capital vs. relationship capital.
Financial Capital: The first thing that Scott Wilson from Minimal (author of the article) did was take an idea he had for an iPod Nano watch to a big company to see if they would buy it. They didn’t. Scott, like many others, was perplexed about his next move because of the difficulty in manufacturing a physical product by bootstrapping. This is where most of stop. We can’t get funding and so assume that the idea is impossible.
Relationship Capital: There’s a reason why we say that this is the most powerful form of capital that you have at your disposal. Scott’s product example is a great lesson. You have probably heard of the term “Crowdsourcing“. In case you haven’t, Crowdsourcing is a way to outsource tasks for your business to a group of people through an open call. In the case of the iPod watch, Scott Wilson used Crowdfunding to raise money for his project launch. Anyone reading this ever think that social media is a total waste of time? I have but it’s examples like these that have turned me into not only a believer but an evangelist. This is the power of relationship capital and the best part is he did it with strangers.
One other quick point also about this idea is that, did you notice how Scott didn’t try and invent something out of thin air? He just took an existing product and made it better. This is innovation at it’s best.
Think about ideas that you have. What’s keeping you from putting them in place? What are the obstacles that you have run into? Who can help you overcome them? Win then play works in a lot of different situations as you can see. It’s up to us to look past the limitations to find the solutions that are waiting for us.
In business, change is your only constant so you must constantly create Monday, November 15th, 2010
Stagnation in business is a leading factor in business failure. The fact is, in life, change is your only constant and about your only guarantee. The challenge for business owners is to be prepared for this, regardless of your current successes. The market doesn’t care about your track record or past wins, it doesn’t even care if you are doing well right now. The market only wants demands met by supply. Once some of these are met, it will move on to others and often leave the old demands in the past.
There is no long term “pension” reward for past work in the marketplace, its all about current supply meeting up with current demands. Well folks, if you supply something great today, it may not be so tomorrow unless you are ready for the constant of change! I mean, the prime example of a failure to prepare for change is the vast majority of mortgage brokers. One day, you are making half-a-mil a year and the next, you are filing bankruptcy, losing your assets and saying “why me!?” It doesn’t mean business who are prepared for change do not experience any downswing, only that it doesn’t cripple them and they are also preparing for their next upswing.
The only way to adapt to this change is to be constantly creating. You must continually spend time specifically flushing out ideas, executing on some of them, adapting services, adding new ones, diversifying old ones and generally “tweaking” your business. Having a system in place to work through ideas will allow you to make change in your business a constant that keeps up with and meets the change guaranteed by life. Some simple steps start with creating time on a weekly basis to look at your ideas and make plans for action on them. What is the next step? Part of this time is spent simply vetting out new ideas and deciding on viability and priority, the rest is spent deciding how to implement the top ones and then you simply must do what you decide.
There you go, on a weekly basis, do the following:
- Get all the ideas out there and vet out their viability and priority
- Decide on the immediate next steps for the top ideas and those you are actively working on
- Now finish with all this pie-in-the-sky planning time and get down to getting this stuff done!!
Taking time to make change in your business as constant as change in life will create sustainability within your business and ensure your “best-year” will always be the one you are in!
Upcoming Training on Implementing a Cycle of Creation in your Business
Our Cycle of Creation event is coming up in Salt Lake on December 9th and 10th. You can check out details for the event and register for that as well by visiting here.