What Do You and Elon Musk Have in Common?


 

This past week, I had a pair of experiences that painted in inspirational relief the power of innovation to change the world for the better.

The first was first reading the cover article of the most recent issue of BloombergBusinessWeek, featuring Tesla's and SpaceX's founder Elon Musk and his new "Boring Company, " and then traveling to SpaceX’s headquarters just a short drive from my Los Angeles office to see for myself what all of the hubbub was about

The Boring Company is Musk's and fanciful idea to build giant tunnels under the congested freeways of Southern California.

Musk and his team have already started digging, along with calculating the reduction in tunnel cost per mile, currently at $1 billion / mile(!), to make the economics of the project work.

This, like Tesla and SpaceX, is innovation on the grandest and most inspirational scale.

My second experience last week was one of innovation on a smaller and yes much more “boring” scale.

Through my firm’s advisory practice we are in the process of developing a business and marketing plan for a team of executives with a lifetime of experience in reducing workers’ compensation costs in high injury prone environments like large construction projects.

Sadly, for many of these projecs and work environments injury and workers compensation costs amount to as much as 12% of the total project cost.

This statistic is probably not surprising to any business person with first hand experience of workers' comp, especially in ”pro-labor” states like New York and California.

At the heart of the problem is the adversarial relationship that has traditionally existed between management, labor, and the insurance company before, at and after when a worker gets injured.

Our client's key innovation is to "flip" this traditionally adversarial dynamic to one of partnership and collaboration.

While the details about how they do it are confidential, suffice to say they are able to effect workers’ comp savings of as much as 80%!

The “aha” connection I immediately made was that it was the smaller, "boring" innovations like workers’ comp reform that make possible the larger, headline - making ones like Elon Musk’s giant tunnels.

Yes, we all need the Elon Musk’s of the world to dream and make happen very big ideas like the Boring Company...

But just as much so Elon Musk needs the smaller process and relational innovations to make his big ideas economically feasible and possible.

Very importantly, for the vast majority of businesses and entrepreneurs, it is almost exclusively through these “smaller” innovations where real money can be made.

This simple fact is more true today than ever, as the modern economy is so dominated by a relatively few number of societal-changing giant technology companies like Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber, Tesla, SpaceX, et al.

Odds are very long that any of our businesses will grow to their size and impact but...

...if we plan and act right, odds are very short that we can devise, build, and market new business models that thrive off of their big innovations.

So hopefully, the next time you are driving in Southern California, rather than crawling along on one of the region's painfully congested freeways, you are instead whisking to your destination through a safe and state-of-the art giant transportation tunnel.

I hope you do so with a big smile on your face, both from awe and excitement for this new mode of transport.

And because you had made your business thrive by finding and pursuing opportunities that handsomely profited from the big changes and innovations around us always.

No matter how small and boring they might seem.

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Lead Generation - Your Top 5 Lead Generation Questions Answered


 

Lead generation is critical for all entrepreneurs. And once you master it, your business will thrive.

To help you with lead generation, below I have answered the most common questions entrepreneurs. However, let me start with some definitions.

Your "leads" are simply your pool of prospective buyers who might be interested in your product or service.

For physical stores, your lead list can be residents in a certain zip code or a list of shoppers with certain demographic characteristics. For online or virtual businesses, your lead list is often defined as the list of prospects that subscribe or "opt-in" to your email list or otherwise contact you so you have their contact information.

Whether online or in a physical store, communicating with your lead list is a primary marketing strategy for generating new and repeat customers.  A general rule in marketing is: the bigger your list of leads, the more opportunities you have to generate new clients and sales.  This is why lead generation is so important.  Sound lead generation tactics grow your lead list.  Great lead generation strategies grow your list with prospects that are most likely to buy.

Below are answers to the most common lead generation questions I get:

1. How Do I Create a Lead List?

There are many ways to start building your lead list. The easiest is to put an opt-in box on pages of your website where visitors can register their email addresses - typically in exchange for content or freebies. Most websites offer free guides, e-books, tools or a newsletter.

You can also offer free samples of a one-time discount coupon.  Make sure the freebies are enticing.  Once the website visitor opts-in to receive the freebie, he or she now becomes part of your email list.

2. Does My Target Audience Matter?

Yes.  Know your niche and determine the people you want to target. This important element should be clear to you from the beginning. You will likely fail if you do not understand what type of customer best appreciates your product or service.

Once you truly know your target audience, you can do a better job of "talking" to them on your website. For example, you will use different verbiage to convince a 20 year old, single, suburban woman to buy your product than you would to convince a 60 year old, married, rural man to buy it, since each has different wants and needs.

3. How Will My Audience Find Me?


In order for your prospective customers to find you, you should be promoting your website in places where your targeted audience already frequents. For example. Let's say your business sells electronic gadgets. If so, make sure customers find you on other websites that discuss electronic gadgets. You can advertise on these sites or submit guest blog posts and articles to them. You can do the same with social networking groups that discuss this topic. In many cases you can also pay the other websites to send an email promoting your company to all their subscribers.

Likewise there are other tactics to reach these customers such a direct mail, door hangers, radio spots of TV ads.  Naturally, you must align your strategy to your specific product or service, and to your budget.

4. What Should I Put On My Site To Attract Visitors To Opt-In Or Buy From Me?


Content is key. When your visitors find your site helpful and informative, it will be easier for you to get them to opt-in or buy. They will see you as the expert and be hungry for more information from you. The key is to provide quality content that gives solutions to your audience's problems.

Also, the more quality content you have on your website, the more other websites will link to you and thus drive new visitors. Likewise, these links will boost your search engine rankings, so you'll get more organic search traffic.

5. How Do I Maximize Social Media In Getting More Opt-Ins?


Most of your customers are using social networking sites (event if you're in the B2B space). Build your reputation as an expert in your niche when you are creating your social media presence. Become the "guru" of your circle of influence and continuously expand that sphere of influence. 

Even brick and mortar businesses have a huge opportunity to build genuine, trustworthy relationships with clients and prospects on social networking sites. Offer tips, publish sales offers, share today's menu, teach a skill, publish testimonials and so forth. These steps create opportunities to get followers and convert sales.

It's All About The Relationship

A growing email and/or lead list is crucial for business growth, especially for businesses that operate online.  You can publish a website or open an online store and HOPE that customers come.  Or you can build top-notch content and opt-in system that allow you to communicate and build relationships with your prospective customers. 

It's a common phrase that "people do business with people they know, like, and trust."  Using social networks and content generation strategies (like newsletters and quality emails) you can develop strong bonds with people who you will never meet in person.

The strategies detailed herein will deliver prospects to your business that are interested, ready, and able to buy your products and services. It will take some time to implement these strategies, so get started now!

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How "Frankensteining" Can Reinvent Your Business


 

This past Saturday night me and my nine and ten year old sons went to see the new Lego Batman movie.

I would like to say that they begged me to take them, but it was really the other way around. Because I love Batman and I love Legos!

And I have been so impressed with how Lego has re-invented itself from a stodgy manufacturer of plastic kid's building blocks into to one of the leading toy and entertainment brands in the world.

We excitedly made our way to the theater, and a mere $71.90 later were all happily chomping on our popcorn and enjoying a movie that entertains on all of the best levels: visually impressive, funny, and thought provoking for a mixed-age audience.

And when I read on Monday that the movie topped the box office charts with over $90 million in ticket sales on its opening weekend (against a production cost of only $80 million!), the phrase that immediately came to my mind was “Commercial Frankenstein.”

Yes, in making the movie Lego has mixed, matched and “Frankensteined” together a number of disparate concepts, storylines, and brands to create a new business form.  

A form monetizable with new customers and with multiple, additional revenue streams associated with it.

And we can all learn a lot from their crazy creation!

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Their first Frankensteins is the obvious combo-ing of the Lego and Batman brands.

For our purposes here, the basic concept is to “sizzle up” a somewhat flat and functional brand (Lego) by pairing it with a far more glamorous one (Batman!).

Restaurants famously do this by adorning their walls with pictures of celebrities enjoying their food.

Smart service providers do the same - highlighting in their marketing collateral and on their websites famous and well respected clients.

Co-hosting industry events is another great way to do this, as it can allow our brand to “bask in the reflective glow” of more "exciting" people and businesses in our space.

Another basic but often overlooked concept to borrow from a big tentpole movie like Lego Batman is to cross-sell and upsell everywhere and anywhere.

Lego goes all out - ubiquitous merchandising tie-ins, video games, cartoons, theme park attractions, sequels, etc.

An easy way to put this concept to work is through a “VIP Tier.” What this tier might lack in volume of buyers because of its higher price points it can more than make up for with profitability and the ability to “sell off premium” and thereby drive up pricing for more "core" product and service lines.

Finally, there is Lego’s clever expansion of its target demographic.  

Lego, at its core, is a children’s brand. Batman’s demographic overlaps with this for sure, but skews older.  

Then, the movie’s clever scripting and snappy dialogue (go see the movie, it is great!) accomplishes that holy grail of any kids' film: appealing to parents and an older audience.

We can do the same by finding the marketing “adjacencies” - those potential buyers just one level removed from our core customer demographic.

For software companies, it could be repurposing code to serve a related business process. For accountants, it could be selling predictive analytic and "Big Data" tools to help clients better forecast sales and cash flow.

And “Commercial Frankenstein” thought processes like these aren’t just limited to just marketing and sales.

In every business, ample opportunities always abound to morph operational and customer services processes to different and more vibrant forms.

It is as simple as mixing and matching traditional elements in ways that haven't been done before and then see what comes out....

When Lego did this, they transformed a boring plastic bricks business into a brand worth more than $7 billion.

How much value can you unlock by doing the same?

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4 Simple Strategies for Getting New Customers


 

Astute entrepreneurs and marketers understand that as much as 80% of their revenues come from repeat customers. Because once you transform a prospective customer into an actual customer and then give them a great experience, getting that customer to buy again is much easier. In fact, many times the next sale will be initiated by the customer; you won't have to do anything.

So the best way to get more sales from repeat customers is to get more first-time customers (and then really satisfy them of course).

For instance, if your initial sale to a customer is $40, but the average customer will purchase four more times within the first year, then a new customer is actually worth $200 in the first year. Much more than the initial $40! So, clearly, you want to attract as many new customers as possible (and take care of them so they keep purchasing from you).

To help you achieve this I have detailed below three key tips for attracting new customers.

New Customer Strategy #1: Give Them a Deal


Some companies go as far as to lose money on their first sale (known as a loss-leader), knowing they'll make it back with an immediate upsell, monthly service plan, or future sales. Your goal is NOT to make as much money as you can on the first sale. It's to make a first sale!

But of course, it's better if the first sale naturally leads to selling your next item or service. For example, I know a pressure washing company who will clean your house's exterior at cost the first time. But then it upsells 80% of these customers to their "twice yearly" plan -- this is where it derives massive profits.

Restaurants offer specials, phone companies offer you deals if you switch providers, etc. - I'm sure you've seen this. You need to give customers a powerful offer either in the form of a low price or incredible value for their money. When you do, they'll be much more likely to buy from you.

You've also probably seen coupon offers and deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon offering $20 massages and other great deals all the time. This works in getting tons of new customers. However, be careful. A lot of businesses have reported "The Groupon Effect," in which they will post a special, get a herd of penny-pinchers in the door that take advantage of the offer and then disappear to find the next deal at whoever's cheapest tomorrow. In other words, it can attract the wrong crowd and may not produce repeat business-which is the whole point of making a first sale.

So use these special offers carefully. One idea is to use direct mail. Doing so allows you to target the specific customers you want with your special offer; the ones who are most likely to keep buying from you.

New Customer Strategy #2: Incentivize Your Sales Force

If you have a sales force, give them great incentives to close new sales. Particularly in the case where you know you have significant lifetime customer value (i.e., customers will purchase from you many more times in the future), be more generous with your commissions.

In fact, I've heard of companies giving 100% commissions to salespeople who secure new customers. While the company clearly loses money in the short term, such a strategy really motivates the sales team to get new customers. And over time, the company's revenues and profits grow much faster since they have so many new customers that keep buying from it.

New Customer Strategy #3: Give Them an Experience


Think about how much money people spend on vacations, sports, dining, and entertainment. What do these all have in common? They're experiences that people want and for which they are willing to pay.

Try positioning your service as a personal experience. It's one thing to offer a massage, it's another to offer a "spa experience" with music, lights, nails, and a free facial.

You can also plan and offer group experiences like luncheons, parties, open houses, or tours. Or find a way to piggyback on existing events going on in your community, like parades, festivals, expos, etc.

These will take a little creativity, but remember that people are naturally drawn to fun times. Make it memorable and do it a few times per year.

Look to Zappos.com for inspiration. Even though it sells a commodity (shoes), the company provides a great experience through exceptional customer service. For many other businesses, providing a great experience is much easier than this.

New Customer Strategy #4: Give Them Information

Every business needs to educate its customers, whether you charge for that education or not. I love it when my mechanic, Vinny, explains to me my car's problem, what caused it, how to fix it, and what it will cost. Sometimes we even go through options together, and I couldn't make a decision on the right one without getting the facts first.

Providing education demonstrates that you're an expert, increases your trust, and gives you higher credibility in the customers' mind. It also gives you an easy segue into showing the benefits of what you're offering and how it will help.

Some lead generation methods tie in very well with education. For example, if you're trying to get blog posts ranked in the search engines, you'll need to write articles on topics of interest to your readers; like how to do something, the pros and cons of different products or services, etc. These posts will show your expertise and educate the reader.

You can do the same with videos. Simple, informative videos can get the attention and interest of prospective customers. End each video with a special offer or a "call to action" that encourages the prospect to contact you.

To summarize, figure out how you can give new customers a great deal, an experience, and the information they need. And consider giving better incentives to your sales team. Use these 4 tips to get new customers. And then once you secure them, deliver high quality products and/or services. When you do, you'll start building a strong book of repeat business that helps your sales and profits soar!

 

Suggested Resource: Download Growthink's Ultimate Marketing Plan Template today in order to quickly and expertly complete your marketing plan. Among other things, your marketing plan will give you multiple strategies for gaining new customers.

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Business Lessons From The Greatest Super Bowl Of All Time


 

As a lifelong New England Patriots fan, Sunday's Super Bowl was a sport-watching roller coaster like none other.

In addition to being an awesome inspirational adrenalin rush from the desperate competitive effort displayed by both teams, this game like few in recent memory served up many tasty nuggets of business value and wisdom. 

Here are my top five:

#5. Nothing is Over Until it is Over. Let’s say it again and again. In football, life, and business, it is
always best to just keep playing, with every ounce of our best effort, until that clock hits 0:00.

At one point, according to ESPN Stats & Info’s probability chart, the Patriots' chances of winning had dropped below 1%.

So what?

It is cliche because it is true: always we must keep at it, keep giving our all, both because you never know and as importantly...

...we owe it to the game, to our lives, to our businesses, to always give it everything we’ve got.

#4. Tom Brady. Has there ever been anyone in the public eye with such bountiful blessings of the good life who has also maintained their competitive fire for so long and so effectively?

What I see when I watch Tom Brady play is a deep and abiding love of the game.

And the byproduct of that love is that what matters above all else is not yesterday's victories or accomplishments, no matter how impressive they might be, nor those games to be played "someday" but this game right here, right now.

Business, at its best, is like this too.

What will we do for our clients and customers today?

How hard will we work to make our product / our service as great as it possibly can be?

How much will we strive to improve ourselves? To be the best?

Or if we are already at the top of our profession, what will we do and sacrifice to maintain that level as age tries to chip it away?

#3. Aggressiveness is Great, Planning is Better. The Atlanta Falcons made it to the Super Bowl and built a seemingly insurmountable lead in it through one of the greatest offenses in league history.

Their game plan and team identity all season was one of aggressiveness and risk taking.

This is nice, but it doesn’t win Super Bowls.

At many points in Sunday’s game just a little more thoughtfulness in their decision making would have resulted in them making a play or two that would have easily won them the game.

But they were seemingly blinded by too firm a commitment to a style of play even when the game's circumstances no longer warranted it.

Sure, let’s be confident and aggressive in our plans and actions, but let’s also remember that these are just tools toward higher goals and not ends in themselves.

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#2. Losing is Terrible. No matter their future accomplishments, the Falcons’ players and coaches will never forget this loss.

This can’t and shouldn’t be sugar-coated. The hard truth is that winning is so much better than losing that it’s not even in the same universe.

In sports and business, you’ve got to win.

And yes in a higher number of scenarios than perhaps we would like to admit, to do so by any means necessary.

Because on very many levels nothing else matters.

#1. It is Just a Game. The paradoxical corollary to the above is that even though the Super Bowl is the biggest game played each season, in the end it is just one game.

And at the Monday press conference the morning after it, Patriot's coach Bill Belichick, after winning arguably the greatest of them ever played, already was talking about getting ready for the first game of next season.

Yes the great ones know it, both intuitively and from a lifetime of hard work and repetition that...

...you just give it all you got, to the final whistle, playing with both your head and your heart...

and hate losing as much as you love to win and then always it is...

...onto the next game.

This is how Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots do it, and how in our businesses we should too.

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Funding Your Business Using Social Media


 

In the United States, there are many laws that protect investors. One of them prohibits entrepreneurs from mass-marketing investments in their businesses. For example, you can't solicit investors on your website nor via social media sites like Facebook.

However, if you set up a crowdfunding campaign, you can (and should) market that campaign and drive traffic to it using social media.

This article will help you do just that.

A Little Knowledge Will Strengthen Your Efforts


You can't use social media websites without understanding how the different ones work. Here are four of the biggest:

  • Twitter. This platform offers short broadcasts or tweets, and members actively seek the latest news in real-time. The network has more than 500 million users.
  •  
  • Facebook. This forum reaches 995 million active users, making it the largest social network. Members have vested interests in making connections with family members, people with similar interests, high school or college classmates, or people committed to certain social or environmental issues.
  •  
  • Pinterest. This rapidly growing network features pinboards where members can organize recipes, tips, photographs and other materials such as blogs and how-to videos.
  •  
  • LinkedIn. This network concentrates on business and professional people, and businesses need to maintain active profiles on this network to demonstrate to investors and donors that you're legitimate.


Benefits of Building Network Connections

You should try to build a group of supporters before starting your crowdfunding campaign. Support need not always be financial because favorably disposed members could recommend your project to their friends and associates. Fans love to take part, so you should listen to what they say and adopt suggestions to foster loyalty. Basically, you're looking for your advocates and cheerleaders. Find them and connect with them on the social networks.

Set up Your Crowdfunding Project


There are many crowdfunding platforms (e.g., Kickstarter, IndieGogo, etc.) where you can set up your crowdfunding project.

Importantly, when you do, make your project pitch clear and concise, so people "get" it right away. Also, in the ideal case, you pull on people emotionally, so they really want to see you succeed. The key is to try to bond with people, which you can effectively do via a video you create showing why people should fund you and your venture.

But also keep it real. Show funders how you will spend the money and over what period of time.

Start the Conversation About Your Project

Once your crowdfunding project is set up, use your social media presence to promote it. Post out to your network to tell them to visit your crowdfunding page and to tell others about it.

Also, feel free to go beyond social media. You can use email, creative Youtube videos, a blog, and/or discussion forums to boost your efforts.

Crowdfunding is a great new way to raise funding for your business. However, once you set up your crowdfunding page, don't expect people to just show up and fund you. Rather, you need to market your crowdfunding project. And social media is a great way to do just that!

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Opportunity & Danger on February 1st


 

February 1st is a great day to look at the various start-of-year economic and business predictions, and at our business resolutions and plans to profit from them.

Famously, the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters, respectively signifying “opportunity” and “danger.”

What a great description for 2017 one month in!

Opportunity. With the new administration in Washington comes high hope for reform in five areas of strong business interest and concern: Corporate Taxes, Regulation, Infrastructure, Healthcare, and Education.

Real movement toward positive change in any one of these areas would have profound impacts on whole swaths of the U.S. and global economies.

To the degree that
all of these areas were to be successfully reformed, well that could result in the kind of 3% - 4% annual GNP growth not seen in America and in other developed economies in 25+ years, which in turn would mean a whole new ballgame as to business opportunity and money-making.

Danger. Concurrent with its pro-business tenor this new administration has consumed much precious airtime on agendas both tawdry (size of inauguration crowds, media fights, etc.) and depressing (impractical and "small" executive orders on immigration and trade).

Quite simply, the businessperson’s hope is that the distractions and discouragements of the latter don't crowd out and forestall action on the great promise of the former.

Opportunity. This week's announcement of Snap's IPO, combined with the expected public offerings later this year of Airbnb, Spacex, Spotify, Lyft, and Uber, reminds us yet again that
more than any other factors technology and innovation drive the business and financial world.

Yes, if there is a business process in need of improvement, whether it be to increase marketing effectiveness, sales conversion, customer engagement - or to reduce their cost in a meaningful way - then there is a technology service out there to help us do so.

This is truly awesome, and we should not let our justified frustrations with modern technology’s complexity and capacity for distraction cause us to lose sight of the massive business opportunities it alone makes possible.

Danger. Right alongside its promise is technology’s massive threat.

The threat from cheaper - and oftentimes better and faster - overseas competitors that technology empowers.

The threats of cyber-security and cyber-warfare.

And the fundamental threat of technology to just eliminate the need for us altogether (see travel agencies, brick and mortar retail, taxi cabs, etc.).

So we all must develop strong processes and disciplines to build our companies such to be “technology hammers and not technology nails.”

And if you don’t know how to do this - how to build and act upon a technology strategy that protects and grows your business, then find someone to help you that does.

Promising. The best business people I know stay informed as to the wider world and its political and technology trends. They are also blissfully untouched by them.

They intuitively know that on a fundamental level businesses still succeed and fail as they have always done so -
in the micro and by its leaders working very hard, and focusing and striving on just being a little bit better every day in some meaningful business way.

And February 1st is a great time to look back at those start-of-year goals and plans (or make some if you don't have them!) and recommit ourselves to both dreaming big and backing those dreams up with daily hard and intelligent work.

Dangers. There's nothing dangerous about the above. When in business doubt, or anxious from the political and technological changes and upheavals all around us always - let’s come back to those few timeless, simple business principles.

Value, Integrity, Hard Work.

Those work on January 1st, February 1st, and Forevermore!

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Entrepreneurs Don't Plan To Fail, They Fail To Plan


 

I periodically read research reports about business failures. I always find them interesting, although often they are depressing.

Such as what I recently read. Which was research from Bradley University in Peoria, IL.  This research found that 70% to 80% of new businesses fail within their first year.

And while this was frustrating enough to read, the research further stated that half of those companies which do survive the first year will fail within the next four years.

Now, let's turn to the cause of this failure. According to Dun & Bradstreet, the number one cause of this failure is lack of business planning.

What this essentially means is this: entrepreneurs and business owners don't plan to fail; rather, they fail to plan (which causes them to fail).

In my view, there are two types of business plans. The first is the business plan you must create when you start your company. The purpose of this plan is to ensure you have fully thought through your venture.

Among other things, this plan includes significant market research. It assesses your market size to ensure the opportunity is big enough. It analyzes customer segments to confirm that customer needs match your company's proposed product and/or service offerings. And it analyzes the competition to determine how your company will position itself and how you will most effectively compete.

From a strategic standpoint, the business plan must document your marketing plan (how you will secure customers), your human resources plan (who you will hire) and your operations plan (what key milestones you will accomplish and when).

When you're done, your business plan will confirm your market opportunity and give you a roadmap to follow. It will also be required should you wish to gain funding from investors and lenders.

Now, once your business is up-and-running, you still need a business plan in order to succeed. I refer to this type of business plan as a "strategic plan." I term it as such because this type of plan requires much less research (since you already know who your customers are, the market fundamentals, and lots of information about your competitors). Rather, the focus of this plan is strategy.

Specifically, this plan needs to identify precisely:

1. Where you want your company to be in five years

2. What you need to accomplish within the next year to progress you to that point, and

3. What your strategy is to complete your key milestones in the next 12 months

In determining the optimal strategies, you need to consider your company's strengths, and opportunities that can best leverage them. If you don't take time to do this, you become too tactical. That is, you continue to use the same tactics that have gotten you to the point you are at. And oftentimes, the strategy and tactics that got you where you are today are NOT the strategy and tactics that will get you to the next level.

So, spend time figuring out the best strategies to follow. The good news is that you've already proven you can execute on strategies (which is what got you to where you are now).

After you figure out the big picture opportunities to go after (which often fall into the categories of further penetrating your existing market, going after a new market, or creating new products/services for existing and/or new markets), you need to revisit the three core strategies you developed in your initial business plan.

To start, you need to modify your marketing plan. Importantly, your marketing plan should always be adding new marketing channels (e.g., direct mail, print, radio, search engine optimization, etc.) as the more channels you have, the more customers you will get and the less risk you have of one channel losing effectiveness (think about businesses who used to get all their customers from the yellow pages).

Next, consider your human resources strategy. What new people will you need to hire to accomplish your key goals in the coming years? And finally, you need to develop your operations strategy. Figure out what key tasks and milestones you need to accomplish over the next year and break them down into smaller projects that you and your team must accomplish. And then create a master schedule showing who, how and when these projects will be completed (I like using a Gantt chart to do this).

To achieve maximum success in your business, create a business plan when you start your company, and annually create a strategic plan to grow your company.

The planning process will force you to focus on accomplishing the right things in your business. Since even if you execute flawlessly, if you are executing on the wrong strategies and opportunities, success will elude you.

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Change this Habit & Watch Sales Soar


 

Last week, I wrote about the “Commercially Important People, the "CIPs," in all of our business lives, and of the importance of being very clear as to who they are (and are not!), and to then connect and communicate with them in a manner and with messaging apropo of their so special and valuable status.

A fundamental premise of the post was that the distractions and "leveling effect" of modern technology and social media make it dangerously easy to treat our contacts and professional network too much the same, and thereby not prioritize our CIPs to the exalted status they deserve.

So the first point was to just not do this - to recognize that for the vast majority of business types and executive roles electronic communication - email, text, social media, etc. - is fundamentally limited as to maintaining and growing the very high value relationships that can and do propel businesses forward.

Instead, we must and should nurture our CIPs as has been done since business time immemorial - in-person and over the phone.

Yes, with just the simple habit change of more meetings and phone conversations and less “electronic stuff” our best business relationships returns will go up significantly.

The key caveat is that the quality of our CIP interactions can and do swing wildly.

From interactions that are filled with positive energy, mutual value add, and win-win next step projects and action items... 

...to ones that are “salesy,” leave both parties feeling empty, and for our CIPs with the sense that that the next time our call comes in voicemail (and an unreturned one at that!) is its most likely destination,

How do we avoid this depressing fate? And especially so with our most Commercially Important People, the ones that  make multi-million dollar financial differences to our businesses?

Well, it comes down to a few bedrock principles on which every business rises or falls.

And again, in our technology-enabled, shallow communication-defaulted modern business world principals that we can too easily be distracted from and overlook.

The most basic of these is value.

Yes, before we pick up the phone, before our CIP steps into our office or we into theirs, before we go to that conference, lunch, dinner, golf outing, Burning Man, etc...

....we need to look deeply within our businesses and our ourselves and ask what real value we can and do bring to those that make the biggest difference in our business lives.

As in how much, in quantifiable dollars today and in the near future can we contribute to our CIP’s bottom lines?  

Or, more softly how can and will our CIPs feel better about themselves and their life prospects by speaking to and working with us?

Unfortunately, for too many businesses and executives what will be found as they ask these questions are big gaps as to “CIP value adds.” 

Our products and services are found to be dated, or overpriced, or incomplete in some critical way.

Or as damningly, we find our organization lacks the "evangelical" belief in those products and services that would inspire our CIPs to buy, use, and enjoy them.

As we identify these “value holes,” the only right response is to roll up our sleeves and work like heck to fill them.

To improve and modernize our product and service offerings.

To reduce their price. Or to add such great features and benefits to them that it is easy to increase it.

And to improve ourselves. 

To re-dedicate ourselves to our craft and rediscover the enthusiasm and passion we had for it when we first started.

As we do this, as we increase our fundamental business value and our ability to passionately embody and share it...

....we might just not find that not only do our calls with our most Commercially Important People go easily and swimmingly well...

...but we don't even have to pick up the phone to make them, as our CIPs are standing in a long and patient line just waiting and hoping for the opportunity to talk to us!

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Are You Using CIP to Grow Your Business? Why Not?


 

At Singapore Changi Airport for a fee available to all is the “Commercially Important Person,” or CIP experience.

At its highest "Jetside" level, as they exit their planes traveling CIPs have a uniformed agent greet and whisk them to the tarmac to a waiting Mercedes that chauffeurs them to a special terminal where customs is cleared quickly, luggage routed, and for travelers with connecting flights amenities of the elegant CIP lounge include complimentary food and drink, free wifi, private showers, and more.

While not materially different from high-end VIP experiences the world over, I find the phrase “Commercially Important Person” wonderfully evocative of the super pro-business culture for which Singapore is rightly famous, and a great one for entrepreneurs and executives to adopt as they think about those most important relationships that can and do propel their business forward.

CIP is value-neutral - it just recognizes that
of course some clients, partners, and employees are far more important than others for a company's bottom line and should be treated as such.

For client and partner CIPs better and more personalized service and attention.

For employee CIPs more money, perks and recognition.

All of this should be obvious. But in our technology and social media overwhelmed world, it can be dangerously easy to treat as of having the same value the various likes, followers, and online friends and connections that can be globbed onto oh so easily and seductively!

And then what happens is that start to treat quantity of contacts and breadth of exposure as sufficient measurements of marketing, sales, and client relationship management effort and success.

CIP is a shorthand to break out of this trap. We just ask:

How much value - in quantifiable dollars today in the near future - will this relationship bring to me and my organization?

Yes, this is an unfeeling question.

And a difficult one to answer, as most business relationships are somewhat indeterminate as to when and how they might be monetized, or might not lead to direct compense themselves but are enablers for other relationships that do, or are relationships that provide us the comfort and inspiration we need to build and do great things.

Yes, all of this is true and right and real, but...

...really grappling with what a business relationships’ true and quantifiable value actually is can save
a lot of wasted and frenetic effort.

My experience with this exercise is that the vast majority of businesspeople find that the truly Commercially Important People in their business lives are:

  • Actually far fewer than first surmised (or would be signaled by online connections / contacts)
  • That for most (but certainly not all!) types of business, it is far more profitable to have fewer, higher paying clients than a lot of lower paying ones
  • That for these “chosen few” clients, social media - LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter et al - are terrible tools through which to cultivate with them deep and monetizable relationships
  • That email, no matter how personalized, is only slightly better

And so yes, in spite of all of our technological progress, in spite of the almost cultural “faux pas” it has become to not put technology at the center of all of one’s business efforts, that the best business is still done pretty much as it has always been - over-the-phone and in person.

Now, a really neat byproduct of this realization is that as we winnow down and focus our efforts on those few and truly relationships, that a lot of the noise of our business lives naturally goes away.

What is freed up is more business time to invest in those things that actually make us have more value to our clients in the first place.

Like investing in professional skills development.

And in preserving and cultivating our energy so as to be able to deliver those skills to clients that can both benefit from them and pay us for them.

And as we keep doing this over and over again, to and for the right and few commercially important people in our business lives, we might just start to find....

...that the most commercially important person in your business life will become exactly who it should be.

You.

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