Is it a Cost or Investment? Answering this Right is Crucial


 

One of the hardest decisions a business owner must make is determining when an outlay of scarce business cash should be seen as a cost...


...and thus with the goal of minimizing “money out” as much as possible.


And when that same outlay should be viewed as an investment...


...with the goal of building a company’s asset portfolio and maximizing long-term ROI.


Sadly, in most small businesses no distinction is made.

The usual mind-set is frugality, whereby any “money out” no matter its potential strategic value is reviewed through a strict “minimization” filter - i.e. the lowest cost option being highly preferred.

Now, for sure frugality is and can be a business virtue, as evidenced by the legion of over-funded startups that burden themselves with high, unsustainable cost structures and then recklessly burn cash and doom themselves to quick insolvency.  


In more mature businesses, high cost structures often force companies - even if they don’t really want to - to sell “legacy” products and services and take on patently "unstrategic" and unattractive customers to pay the bills and keep the lights on.


In contrast, frugal businesses stay nimble, and pivot and respond as marketplaces become more competitive and customer preferences and demands change and evolve.

But too often, frugality becomes an end in itself versus what it should be...an empowerer of a brighter company future.  


Contrastingly, usually the most interesting cash outlays a business are its potential investments where long-term ROI and the contribution of that outlay to a company’s asset portfolio are far more important considerations than cost.

Here are some common scenarios where this is the case:

  • When evaluating employee compensation.  

  • When designing and building new products and services.


  • When building "soft" company assets, like the brand of the company, its logo, collateral, and its strategic and financial plans and forecasts.


  • When evaluating “inorganic” growth opportunities, like financing and M&A.


  • When evaluating outlays for technology - both on the hardware side (desktops, laptops, fast Internet, etc.) and software (Salesforce, Slack, QuickBooks, et al).


All of the above are examples of working on and not in the business kinds of decisions and cash outlays, and where the three questions below can be a quick acid test to distinguish between when we should be assessing them through investment and not cost lenses and filters:


  1. Will the outlay be a saver of time and worry for senior leadership?

  2. Will the outlay make more of a long-term versus short-term business impact?

  3. Is the outlay one we “fear” to make?


This last question is of the “trust our business gut” domain - the natural wisdom that arouses: a “pit in our stomach” when we contemplate projects and opportunities that call to our highest and best selves.


A neat thing about this three question approach is how it shortcuts more complex and data, financial and accounting analysis while as often as not arriving at the same answer.


And with time and energy saved, we can then turn our full focus to finding the courage to do what we know we should:

Make the best long-term decisions, commitments, and investments we can for our businesses.


And ourselves.


Need to Focus More on Opportunities in Your Business?


Feel like you are just “treading water,” and focused too much on the costs and expenses of your business and not its opportunities?


Need a burst of energy, ideas, and vision to get your business unstuck?


If so, we should talk.


To learn more about our business planning, innovation, and execution services, click here.

 

And we’ll reach out with our thoughts to help you.

Categories:
 

What Tesla and Playdoh Do that Your Business Should Too


 

Growing wider every day is the divide between companies that “get it” when it comes to modern marketing and business promotion...

...and those that don’t. 

Luckily, there is a super simple way to upgrade your company’s marketing

from old, tired and slow to... 

...futuristic, engaged and hyper-fast.  

To illustrate, garner a peek at the Instagram feeds of Tesla, Playdoh, Airbnb, and Adobe. 

What we find is marketing that is beautiful, creative, dynamic, and relentless.  

And very different from how most of us go about it, sadly not all that differently from how JC Penney and Sears did so more than 100 years ago. 

Statically and unidirectionally. 

It was catalogs back then, and websites and mass emails today. 

Now, these methods still do work, to a degree - as evidenced by the huge sums spent on digital marketing and by the flood of promotional emails we all get.

But, they don’t work at all for huge swaths of target customers in almost every business category. 

Because those customers have opted out and sealed themselves off.  

Because the marketing is too much of a deluge and too never-ending.

And because of our smartphones. 

These immensely powerful, intensely addictive little things that are on us and part of us always, at work and at play.  

These little things that train us to expect personalized emotional experiences. 

As in watching, listening, and reading any kind of entertainment, informational, or titillating content that our hearts and minds might need and desire. 

At the exact moment when we need and desire it. 

Then, we bring with us this extremely high communication expectation with us when we shop for things and services.  

That they should be produced and presented just for us.  

And done so in that way as old and basic as Homo Sapiens themselves. 

As a conversation.

Between two people, on balanced and mutually respectful footing.

From this perspective, the platforms on which these conversations take place are of secondary importance.  

For sure, beautiful, visually-based platforms like Instagram are engaging in ways that the written word can never be. 

And are even more so when the conversations there are made so quick and easy by maligned but emotionally resonating tools as are “likes” and emojis.  

But modern marketing conversations of course can and should still take place in the traditional channels  - over the phone, in person, and via email.

They just have to be devoid of the marketing schmaltz and sales trickery. 
 

Instead, let’s meet our customers where and who they are.

As one-of-a-kind individuals with their particular hopes and fears big and small.

Marketing this way asks a lot of us.

We can no longer just “play the part” as engaged and empathetic businessmen and women.

Now we really have to be these things!

So it is harder, but so much more human in so many ways.

Scroll again through Tesla, Playdoh, Airbnb, and Adobe Instagram feeds if you have any doubt. :)

Is Your Marketing Tired? 

Do you “apologize” for your website? 

Are you struggling to exploit all of the new modern marketing and sales channels?  

And as a result, are your sales and profits not anyway near where they should be? 

Need a jolt of ideas, energy, inspiration? 

Have a key business initiative or new product that you want to get moving on this year?

Well, we can help. 

Click here and complete this short questionnaire. 

And we’ll reach out with our thoughts to help you.

Categories:
 

The First Thing I Learned In My Marketing Class


 

Marketing-Class

I took my first marketing course 20 years ago. And I absolutely loved it. I was in my third year at the University of Virginia, and my professor, Sandra Schmidt, was simply awesome.

She was one of those professors who loved what she did. She was always smiling, spoke with great emotion, and truly loved marketing and teaching. And on the very first day of class, I still remember to this day, she asked us two questions to test our knowledge.

The first question was whether the following statements represented good news or bad news to the companies associated with them. She then read off a few lines. The one statement that I remember was someone famous (maybe a President) asking someone else to Xerox something for them.

I immediately thought that this would have been good news for Xerox Corporation. Free PR...what could be better. But, buzzzzz...I got this one WRONG. She explained that brand names lose their registered trademark protection if they became so successful that they become commonly used.

She told us that names such as the following were all originally trademarked brand names that lost their protection: trampoline, nylon, escalator, thermos, kerosene, laser, linoleum and Frisbee (interestingly other brands such as Band-Aid and Kleenex have been able to fight this off).

The second question she asked was what business discipline most CEOs started in. This one was easy. Marketing, of course, was the answer (she had to be promoting her own course I thought). Buzzzz...wrong again. Sales was the answer.

So, I got both questions wrong. But they stayed with me. For a long time. And this second question has really helped me. It has taught me that to be an entrepreneur or CEO (which an entrepreneur is), you must be well versed in sales.

You are always selling. Selling to employees, to customers, to investors, to partner, etc.  And if you're great at it, you have a major competitive advantage.

To ensure that you are as effective as possible in your sales efforts, I want to convey to you two key points that I took away from my recent interview of Adam Shaivitz, co-author of the best-selling book called "Selling is Everyone's Business: What it Takes to Create a Great Salesperson."

1. Make sure that you are properly motivating and solving the problems of your buyers.

The best salespeople are problem solvers who are able to sell the benefits of their offerings tailored to one or more of the six basic fundamentals that all of us as humans want:

1. Desire for gain
2. Fear of loss
3. Security and protection
4. Comfort and convenience
5. Pride of ownership
6. Satisfaction of some emotion like love or hate or ego

Great sales people understand which of these six motivators are most important to their prospects, and sell into them.

2. Spend time with your best sales performers. Adam told us that too many business owners neglect their top sales performers. Rather, they tend to focus on improving their lowest performers.

There are two problems with this approach. First, working with and improving the performance of your best sales performers by only 10% may be easier and more beneficial than improving the performance of your lower sales performers by 25%. Secondly, your top sales performers are the ones that will be targeted by headhunters and other firms, and you can't afford to lose them.

------------------------------------------------------------

Get Growthink's Ultimate Marketing Bundle
for 80%-OFF

For a limited time, you can get ALL of our BEST marketing secrets for an incredible 80%-OFF discount.

On this page, you'll see everything that's included.

Right now is a GREAT time to kick your marketing into high gear, so you hit your goals for the rest of the year.

But hurry, this sale ends soon.

------------------------------------------------------------

Categories:
 

Breaking Through Data Overwhelm (3 Easy Steps)


 

Over the past few weeks, I have had the good fortune to speak to many executives and entrepreneurs about how the “Humans” in their companies grapple with data and information technology to improve critical work processes and business results.

These processes include “New School” ones like formulating, launching, and managing multi-channel digital marketing campaigns - i.e. simultaneously advertising on Google AdWords, Bing, Facebook, and LinkedIn - and then utilizing various forms of re-targeting to ensure the right prospects see the right message at the right time.

And “Old School” ones like tracking and evaluating sales activities and results, how many calls are being made daily, weekly, monthly, and what the results of those calls are – leads, proposals, wins.

And as customers are secured, the operational processes and their related data points – cost and time of delivery, customer satisfaction as measured by retention, upsell, survey, etc., and how employee performance and engagement drives / detracts from these outcomes.

All this “Nitty-Gritty” can and does make the difference between profit and loss, between winning and losing.

The problem is that there is so much of it.

So much data. So many processes. So many new technologies.

And yes, so many opportunities to explore and to pursue.

All of these “so muches” and what do you have?

Overwhelm.

To which an all too natural response is to comfort ourselves by “staying busy, - with minutiae, with confusing activity and frenzy and response with accomplishment and forward progress.

It goes without saying that in this oh-so-competitive world of ours this is not going to cut it.

So how can we leverage all of the amazing and abundant data surrounding our businesses to empower and improve our workflows and results instead of overwhelming them?

Here are three quick ideas:

First of all, don’t let the Desire for the Perfect get in the way of the Possible. Accept that it is simply not realistic to tackle and leverage data like an Amazon or a Google does (i.e. world class analytics companies).

Businesses like these have large teams of high IQ analysts to parse and interpret their data sets to a degree and depth unavailable to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

But just because we can’t do “Industrial Analytics” doesn’t mean there isn’t big value to be had from a more “entrepreneurial approach”.

In fact, given the sometimes shockingly low level of analytics and data management at most SMEs, even small steps toward making business decisions with a more quantitative basis can yield quick and high ROI.

Secondly, look for and find the Low Hanging Fruit. My experience is that every business has one area, one dimension -- whether it be email marketing, PPC, sales team performance, delivery costs, etc. - that a focused look at its analytics can lead to easy action plans to attain quick wins.

And if you’re not confident / comfortable to make these quick inductive “jumps” yourself, then hire a consultant to do it for you.

Finally, leverage Technology. In the end, the ultimate solution to overcoming data overwhelm is to be found in what causes it in the first place.

Yes, the same technology that on the bad side inundates us with so many pings from everywhere at all times, and on the oh-so-good side opens amazing possibilities for us to sell, market and deliver to customers anywhere in the world…

…that technology in turn, can automate our work processes, data flows, and decision making to free us do those things to which as humans and business executives we are attracted to and designed to do.

Collaborate. Connect. Create. Innovate. Inspire. Like. Love.

All only truly possible from the top and in control of our data mountain.

Yes, we have to do the climbing to get there, but when we do, what is won is the ability to focus on and improve the processes and connect with the people that really matter.

Categories:
 

Happy Thanksgiving!


 

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday.

It acknowledges the best qualities of our blessed land - hard work, diversity as strength, and a focus on solutions not problems.

Whenever I am feeling down about America’s prospects in this brave new world of ours, I reflect on Thanksgiving’s timeless lessons.

As every schoolboy and girl knows, Thanksgiving traces its origin from a 1621 Pilgrim harvest feast to celebrate surviving an extremely difficult first winter in the New World.

The Pilgrims owed their survival to the goodwill of the Wampanoag Indians - the original inhabitants of the area - who taught them how to grow corn and how to fish in the very unfamiliar New England soil and seas.

As a gesture of thanks and goodwill, the Pilgrims invited the Wampanoags to sit down and break bread in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie.

What a story! First, let's reflect on the guts, tenacity, sense of adventure, and just “never say die” hard work and perseverance of the Pilgrims.

Think about it - if they can make it then with their oh-so limited 17th Century resources, what can we do / where can we go with our virtually limitless 21st Century ones?

And let's reflect on that happy day of brotherhood and be justifiably proud of the powerful diversity of modern America.

Doubt me? Then spend a Saturday with me and my 7 year-old son’s AYSO soccer team. 

With its Hawaiian coach.

Its son of Ethiopian refugees star player.

And its African - American, Mexican - American and suburban white kid players all happily frolicking in a melting pot scene not to be duplicated anywhere in the world.

Soccer with my sons is a welcome break from what I am sad to say has become a bad, gossipy vice – keeping up with the “news.”

Between the dire talk of tepid economic recovery, government gridlock, perpetual Mideast crisis, disease scares, and impending environmental doom, if you don't catch yourself you can't help but feel sorry for yourself, the country, and the planet.

It is 99% bunk.

Both the world and America have NEVER offered more opportunities for a larger percentage of
us to live affluent lives, to do self-expressive, remunerative work, and to be amazed daily by the wonders of modern technology than it does right now.

On Thursday, let’s give thanks for all that and more.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Categories:
 

Who Gets Funded? Great Businesses vs. Great Presentations


 

From businesses come needs – like raising capital. Raising capital usually means pitching investors.

So which businesses are most likely to be among the approximately 5% who raise funds from professional investors? The chart below tells the brutal truth quickly and easily.

 

A great business which gives a great presentation is most likely getting funded.
A lousy business with a lousy presentation isn’t getting funded.

But what about a good business with a lousy presentation? Is it more or less likely to get funding compared to a good business with a great presentation? The answer probably won't surprise you.

After speaking with over 110 angel investors, VCs, entrepreneurs and educators, the consensus was solidly in favor of the good business with a great presentation. The deciding factor came down to the team, the single factor which most influences investors.

A person and a team who made a great presentation took the time to practice. Investors like to see the results of preparation and hard work. A great team willing to practice may simply need some advice and be willing to pivot, changing a good business into a great business.

A good business which gives a lousy presentation says to investors, “We didn’t care enough to put in our best effort.” The lack of preparation and the condescending attitude toward investors will derail just about any business seeking capital.

At the very least, it says the team is not ready, not mature enough, and probably not coachable.  With plenty of investing opportunities from which to choose, investors quickly move on.

Want to improve your chances when pitching to investors? Follow the eight recommendations below to maximize your chance of raising capital.

PRACTICE your pitch

If you didn’t practice 25-50 times before presenting, it will show in your lack of confidence, poor pacing, and use of filler words like “uh”, “um” and “like”. Then you’ll likely resort to the boring reading-slides-to-your-audience-with-your-back-turned method of pitching. Buy the coffin. You’re dead.

GENERATE some enthusiasm!

No one expects you to have over-the-top local sportscaster enthusiasm. But don’t pitch with a sleep-inducing monotone, either. If you don’t have passion for your business, neither will an investor.

PREPARE for contingencies

Fertilizer happens. Prepare for it.

* Know every slide in your pitch deck by heart

* Have two thumb drives with your pitch deck saved in PowerPoint / Keynote and PDF

* Bring your own laptop, projector, clicker, batteries, microphone, cables and cords

* Inspect the room beforehand, if possible. Know the lighting and sound conditions

BREVITY is king

Got 10 minutes to pitch? Finish in 9:45. Almost nobody finishes with a strong close in the allotted time. Investors love someone who can manage time effectively. It sends the message that you can manage other areas of business effectively, too. Keep your pitch deck to 10-12 slides maximum.

NAIL the opening and closing

Tell a brief story; do something unexpected; focus on emotion. Those are great concepts to open a pitch. Close powerfully with your call to action. Now think about how most people open speeches – and don’t do that.

STORIES sell

Sprinkle in stories to drive home a point, to magnify emotions, and to keep your audience engaged. Generally, a single story should take no longer than about 7% of your total pitch time. For a 10 minute pitch, a story is most effective when 45 seconds or less.

Use storyboarding, a technique invented by Walt Disney in the 1930s, to create your overall theme. Do this before designing your pitch deck.

VISUALS, not text

Your pitch deck should be primarily visual. You’re the focus, not your pitch deck. If your slides are full of text, your investor audience is reading the slides and not listening to you. Your audience can read faster than you can speak. When they finish and you’re still talking, they’ll disconnect. After that, they’re almost impossible to re-engage. Great visuals enhance your story because vision is the most dominant sense in people.

WIIFI: What’s In It For Investors?

Why you? Why now? Why should an investor care? When your pitch answers those questions in a concise yet detailed manner, your chance of funding improves.

Knowing your investor audience is essential. Pitching friends and family is somewhat causal, pitch angel investors is more serious and pitching institutional investors is sophisticated. Tailor your pitch accordingly.

Successfully raising investor funding is often a long, frustrating and complex process. Getting turned down dozens or hundreds of times will test an entrepreneur’s patience. Persistence doesn’t guarantee success but quitting guarantees failure. Investors use the process to find the most resilient entrepreneurs worthy of funding. Getting investor funding will often change your life and your world for the better. The guidelines above will make your process faster and easier.

P.S. The author Luke Brown is an Engagement Partner with Growthink.  If you would like to discuss how Growthink could help in creating your presentation for you, do reach out to Luke directly at [email protected], and / or at 310-846-5047

Categories:
 

Do You Make These Internet Marketing Mistakes?


 
For many businesses, internet marketing is the “low hanging fruit” -- the most-cost effective method for gaining and sustaining a competitive advantage. 

However, most websites are poorly optimized for search engines and are not effectively designed to generate leads or produce sales. 

That’s why we’re developing a new webinar that identifies common mistakes as well as proven strategies and tactics to accelerate your website’s growth and profitability.

In this upcoming webinar, Growthink co-founder and President Dave Lavinsky will reveal:
  • Why achieving "top rankings" or "driving traffic" is less than half of the battle
  • Which segments of internet marketing are growing, and where you need to invest today to remain competitive
  • How to create an inbound "pull" strategy to have customers knocking down your door
  • How to effectively convert website traffic to prospects, buyers, and lifetime customers
  • Why a holistic, integrated approach consistently delivers superior ROI

Reserve your spot in our upcoming internet marketing webinar.

Learn more about Growthink’s internet marketing services.
Categories:
 

How to (and How NOT) to Deploy Controversial Marketing


 
What marketing strategies can you use to make your company stand out from the pack? In order to answer this question, many marketers push the envelope seeking to gain mindshare by humoring, shocking, or in some cases, offending their audience. Known as Controversial Marketing, these efforts do just that: they seek to spark awareness and dialogue through sensational, controversial content.

While often considered a guerilla tactic, best saved for fledgling companies in need of a “big bang,” controversial marketing and advertising initiatives have recently been adopted by many large companies such as Clearasil, Dove, GoDaddy, and Carl Jr’s.

But before Carl Jr’s made the decision to put a large cheeseburger in the hand of a scantily clad Paris Hilton, or Dove posted large billboards above New York City featuring un-retouched images of unclothed women without makeup, these companies had some strategizing to do. While a well-executed, controversy-laden campaign can be just what’s needed to push brand awareness or sales through the roof, the mantra “no publicity is bad publicity” is not always the case, and missteps can send marketing teams back to the drawing board, and that’s only after they’ve groveled for public forgiveness.

Before you decide to put your company in the line of fire with a controversial advertising or marketing strategy, there are a handful of things you need to carefully consider. First off, you must have a crystal clear understanding of who your customers are. If you can design a campaign that speaks directly to them in an honest and direct fashion, you are on the right track. Understanding their wants, needs, fears, and desires will help you to make decisions that don’t accidentally alienate any part of your target market. For instance, in the case of those racy Carl Jr’s ads, the company had an unwavering desire to address the 18-35 year old single male. They didn’t care if they alienated or offended the family market that companies like Wendy’s or McDonalds so eagerly pursue.

Secondly, you must always consider what the backlash might be. Not that this should deter your efforts, but upon creating a campaign, step back and ask the questions: “How many customers might we lose because of this?” This is the time for expert risk assessment. If you determine that you’ve positioned yourself to gain many more than you’ll upset, then its okay to go full steam ahead. No matter what, you must make sure you’re business is prepared to navigate whatever the repercussions may be.

The last and most important tenant of controversial marketing is to know when to pull the plug and apologize. There are times when companies overstep their boundaries, offending the good taste of those they didn’t mean to offend. Efficiently issuing genuine apologies can be the first step in repairing any bruised customer relationships.
Categories:
 

3 Common Marketing Misconceptions


 

For the growing business, the implementation of carefully targeted, high-quality marketing initiatives can make all the difference. The world of marketing, however, consists of a broad amalgamation of techniques and sub-disciplines that should, ideally, work harmoniously to convey what people need to know about your business. How does a company ensure that they’ve maximized the variety of options that marketing can provide?

Guerilla Marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson recently wrote his thoughts on the most frequent mistakes companies make with their marketing initiatives. Through a list of 11 missteps, the problems are effectively boiled down to three main misconceptions:

1) The heart of marketing lies in the superficial, the “whiz-bang”, or the punch-line.

2) A business only needs one marketing mechanism at a time.

3) If the marketing is good enough, the results will be quick and earth-shattering.

The first of these errors takes hold when marketing executives lose site of their main purpose, which is to motivate people. Distracted from the primary mission, they might aim for a clever or humorous marketing stratagem. This is a trap. While humor or cleverness can successfully engage a potential client or customer, chances are those elements will overshadow the product or service you’ve set out to promote. Similarly, too much emphasis on entertaining your audience can eclipse your product or service as well. The job at hand is to make the truth fascinating – not to entertain for the sake of entertaining.

The second common mistake, especially in the case of many small businesses, is under-executing-- implementing only a pinch of the marketing ingredients at your disposal. Marketing areas such as direct mail, telemarketing, brochures, or phonebook advertisements, when executed properly, can provide a fantastic ROI for the growing company. Any of these elements alone, however, is just a drop in the bucket and can prevent you from reaching the full breadth of your target audience. Diversifying your marketing initiatives isn’t an extravagance – it’s a necessity.

The last, and arguably the biggest, misconception is that marketing is a “panacea” for the business; one that results in customers breaking down your doors moments after the launch of a campaign. It is true that strong marketing efforts will (and should!) correlate to increased profits, but it’s seldom overnight, and it’s wrong to expect miracles. As will many other aspects of growing a business, patience is a virtue.

So if these are the misconceptions, what is a true picture of marketing? As stated by Levinson, "Marketing is an opportunity for you to earn profits with your business, a chance to cooperate with other businesses in your community or your industry and a process of building lasting relationships."

Categories:
 

The Marketing Plan: Documenting Your Growth Strategy


 

The marketing plan describes your strategy for penetrating the market, delivering your product, and retaining your customers. This video explains how to create an effective marketing plan.

 

 

 

 

Categories:
 
Syndicate content

Get a Free Consultation
with a Growthink Expert

Click Here