In this issue:
• Make 2010 a Breakthrough Year
• The new collective buying power
• Demand for 'life support' on the rise
• Harvard study: What really motivates employees
• Shopping: The sexes have different priorities
• The five skills of real innovation
• Using co-branding to generate word-of-mouth referrals
• Keep customers loyal by staying closely connected
• How to combat a negative customer review
• Don't redesign your website until you read this!
• Use the competition's social network against them
• How to get started creating a company blog
• Much more...
Make 2010 a Breakthrough Year
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This year, skip the uninspired business plan and take a new approach
to creating an action plan for success.
WITH EACH NEW YEAR, I urge clients to dust off the past year’s
business plan and compare it to what is really going on. Many
people, believe it or not, forget what they committed to for the
year. Oh, they know their sales and profit projections, but most
people don’t pay close enough attention to the other issues, such
as, market development, new customer growth, distributor
relationships, customer service improvements, even new products —
all the things that make it possible for a business to grow and
prosper year after year.
If you haven’t done so recently, now is a great time to review the
past year’s results and plan for the new year. Take a look at how
you did compared to how you hoped you would do. If you’ve already
built this year’s plan, you may want to consider it in a new light.
The Typical Approach to Planning
Start by setting a goal for this year’s sales growth. This figure is
often arrived at by multiplying last year’s results by some
acceptable factor. In business school they taught us to use 10% if
we didn’t have a better idea. This 10% shows up again and again.
Standards vary from industry to industry, ranging from 5% to 25%.
But in today’s economy, many people will consider it a win if they
just remain even with last year.
Next, add solutions to a few key problems you’ve been meaning to
address. Follow this by some enhancements to your product line, and
there you have it, instant plan!
I encourage people to think differently. Here’s a process I’ve used
with all kinds of clients; it has led to some truly inspiring — and
profitable — results:
Step 1: What do you want to accomplish? What do you, in your
heart of hearts, want to accomplish this year? The key words here
are “want to.” Not what do you think will happen, not what will the
market let you do, but what do you want to do?
When you answer this question, it does help to think about financial
matters (revenue, profits, cash flow — as if anyone wouldn’t), but
also consider other nonmonetary details as well.
Think about what new products or services you’d like to introduce,
what markets you’d like to branch into, how you’d like to improve
your relations with customers, how many new distributors you’d like
to add, how you will make things better for your employees,
partners, even your community, and of course, what lifestyle and
“work-style” changes you’d like for yourself.
For each target or goal you are about to set, why do you want to set
it? Make sure your reasons strongly support you.
Step 2: Learn from last year’s results. This is something
many of us simply don’t do. For example, make this year the year you
act on the knowledge that it takes three months to train a new
distributor, not the four weeks you generally plan for. You’d be
surprised at how many entrepreneurs repeat variations on the same
mistakes over and over again.
Deliberately capturing the lessons of the past year, and thinking
about how to use that new knowledge, can provide major opportunities
to boost profits.
Step 3: Set targets. Set targets that will inspire you and
your team to get out of bed every morning (even when it’s snowing.)
Instead of using that 10% multiplier, or 25% or whatever, come up
with growth numbers that you believe in and which will make it all
worthwhile. Say you are committed to 35% growth. But you’ve never
had more than 15%. Well, how are you going to do that? What would it
take? Is it possible? If you believe it is, but you don’t know how
yet, don’t worry. You’ll tackle that in a minute.
Step 4: Consider the critical success factors. Now is the
time to review changes in your market. Are there new factors —
changes in customer buying behavior, shifts in the demographics, new
issues in your industry and fresh competitor activity? Consider how
these changes will make it easier or harder to achieve your bold
Do any of these changes cause you to rethink the targets you’ve set?
If so, go back and make adjustments.
Figure out how to reach the targets in Step 3. How can you achieve
the targets you just set? Do you know how? Will that plan work? You
may have to work backwards using the Merlin Method (Merlin was a
wizard who was born old and lived his life getting younger. What he
called seeing the future was really just looking into his own past).
Use this idea to create action plans.
Visualize those bold targets as already met. Looking back from the
future to the present, ask what was the final step or milestone you
achieved before completing the goal? What was the step before that?
And before that? Continue all the way to the present day. Check for
That’s your action plan. Believe me, this works! Do this for each of
your targets and goals, then execute that plan, and you can almost
guarantee a breakthrough year..
Paul Lemberg, business coaching expert and growth strategist,
is President of Axcelus Consulting, offering advanced business
acceleration for entrepreneurs. His newest book, Be Unreasonable
(McGraw-Hill), recently reached #3 on Amazon.com’s business list.
T R E N D S
The new collective buying power
Social media is starting to throw its weight around as websites
like Groupon, TownHog and BuyWithMe use collective buying power
to get steep discounts from local merchants. While the sites
started in major cities, each is beginning to spread around the
country as retailers sign up to offer up to 90% off of their
products and services.
Each markdown is activated only after a number of consumers
commit to purchasing. The stores set that threshold, sending
those who buy online a printable coupon to bring to the store.
The sites put up limited-time offers daily, using Twitter and
email to stoke demand among their members.
For example, Balani Custom Clothiers, a small Chicago outlet,
offered a $225 gift certificate for $95 on Groupon. The site
sold 850 of them that day, a number equal to the customers
Balani would attract in a year and a half, says owner Sonny
Balani. “We’re slammed now,” he says. “That is to say, happily
Source: BusinessWeek, December 14, 2009
Demand for ‘life support’ on the rise
Taking care of the kids, scrubbing the toilets, checking in on
Mom, helping with homework, coaching Little League — more people
than ever are paying professionals to do their domestic chores.
The trend even has a name: parental outsourcing.
It’s something of a surprise, since recessions tend to affect
the middle class more dramatically than the wealthy, and some
services that seem like luxuries are still thriving. But the
numbers tell the story. For example, revenue for tutoring, test
prep and driving schools is expected to increase $100 million,
to more than $7 billion in 2010.
And about 10% of all U.S. households now hire cleaning help; 70%
of those clients make twice-a-month appointments (up from a
once-a-month majority five years ago).
Source: Entrepreneur, December 2009
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N E W S
Harvard study: What really motivates employees
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When researchers from Harvard Business School asked managers to
rank the impact on employee motivation of five workplace factors
commonly considered significant, recognition for good work came out
number one. Unfortunately, those managers were wrong.
A recent multi-year survey of knowledge workers reveals the top
motivator of performance — and amazingly, it’s the factor managers
ranked last. It’s progress. Progress came out ahead of
collaboration, instrumental support, interpersonal support and
important work. By analyzing daily diary entries and ratings by
participants, researchers found that on days when workers feel that
they’re making headway on their jobs, or when they receive support
that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive
and their drive to succeed is at its peak. On days when they feel
they are spinning their wheels or encountering roadblocks to
accomplishment, their moods and motivation are lowest.
This is great news for managers because they have powerful influence
over events that facilitate or undermine progress. Managers should
take great care in clarifying overall goals, ensure that people’s
efforts are properly supported and refrain from exerting time
pressure so intense that minor glitches are perceived as crises
rather than learning opportunities. Avoid impeding progress by
changing goals autocratically, being indecisive or holding up
As for recognition, the diaries revealed that it does motivate
employees and lift their mood. So celebrate progress. But there will
be nothing to recognize if people aren’t genuinely moving forward.
Source: Harvard Business Review, January-February 2010
Shopping: The sexes have different priorities
When it comes to shopping, women tend to be more invested in the
shopping experience, while most men experience shopping as a mission
to be completed as quickly and easily as possible.
Researchers at Wharton School of Business and The Verde Group found
that, on average, women respond strongly to sales associates’
familiarity with products and their ability to determine what
products best suit the customer. In fact, the top problem
encountered by women shoppers in the study was “lack of help needed”
(29%). It also is the likeliest reason that stores lose women
Men, however, ranked “difficulty in finding parking close to the
store’s entrance as the number one problem (also 29%). The problem
most likely to result in lost business from men is if the product
they came in for is out of stock.
Source: Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania,
December 17, 2009
The five skills of real innovation
What is the secret of true innovators? Professors from Harvard
Business School, Insead and Brigham Young University have just
completed a six-year study of more than 3,000 executives and 500
innovative entrepreneurs. The researchers identified five skills
that separate the blue-sky innovators from the rest: associating,
questioning, observing, experimenting and networking.
Associating is the ability to connect seemingly unrelated
questions, problems or ideas from different fields. The researchers
say it’s the key to innovators’ ability to think outside the box.
Questioning is the innovators ability to constantly ask
questions that challenge the common wisdom. They ask “why?”, “why
not?” and “what if?”
When observing, executives scrutinize common phenomena,
particularly the behavior of potential customers.
By experimenting, innovative entrepreneurs actively try out
new ideas by creating prototypes and launching pilots.
Finally, networking innovators go out of their way to meet
people with different ideas and perspectives. This allows them to
see patterns before others can.
The researchers say anyone can be a better innovator just by acting
like one. For example, to improve your questioning skills, identify
a problem and write nothing but questions about it for 10 minutes a
day for 30 days. Over time, the questions will change, and so will
your understanding and approach to the problem.
Source: CNN.com, November 26, 2009
T I P S
- Generate more word-of-mouth referrals by
co-branding educational content. If you’ve created tip
sheets, how-to articles or other useful information to use
for lead generation (e.g., an accountant’s “10 Little Known
Ways to Cut Your Taxes in Half”), consider reaching out to
strategic partners and offering to let them use your free
report. Let them add their logo and contact information and
provide it to their customers and prospects. Take this
concept further by turning a report topic into a seminar. By
creating a compelling, nonsales-oriented workshop, you can
offer it to your strategic partner’s prospects. It’s a
win-win situation — they both get to offer great content to
their customers and get to meet and greet each others’
customers. Plus you’ll be referred to as the expert.
Source: John Jantsch, www.openforum.com
- Keep customers loyal by staying closely connected.
Learn what they think and worry about, as well as what
inspires and engages them. The key to relationship marketing
is to ask great open-ended questions. These questions get
customers to talk, share and explain. Pay close attention to
the answers and develop the right actions in response. Ask
the following: 1) What is the most important thing you look
for in a retail (service, construction, etc.) business? How
do we measure up in this area? 2) Are we your first choice
for products (services)? Why or why not? 3) What is the most
extraordinary thing we have done for you? Why did this
impress you? 4) If we could improve just one thing, what
would be the most meaningful for you? What would the benefit
be for you? 5) Have we made you feel part of our family?
How? What else would cause you to feel like family?
- Combat a negative customer review. With all of
the customer review websites out there, sooner or later
someone will give your business a bad review. The good news
is less than 25% of shoppers say they are unlikely to do
business with a company because of a negative review. But
what if false statements were made? In that case, email the
site’s Webmaster with proof the information posted is false
and ask that the review be removed. Sites will often remove
the comments because they want consumers to trust their
information, but there is no guarantee. If that doesn’t
work, then neutralize the review by asking your loyal
customers to post an honest review for your business in
their own words. One negative review surrounded by positive
comments will certainly lose its impact.
- If you’re trying to qualify for a business credit
card in 2010, look to your local bank. While it’s still
possible to go to a big bank’s website and be approved for a
new business credit card, there is a definite trend toward
banks giving more love to those who already have a banking
relationship with them. By giving a card-issuing bank some
of your money to hold, you increase the chances that they’ll
(temporarily) give you some of theirs.
- Redesigning your website? Make sure your
developer avoids these common mistakes. Pages that are
linked from every other page will be given more weight by
search engines than pages that are only linked from a few
others. Therefore, if any original pages were ranking well
on the search engines, make sure they remain high on your
site hierarchy and not buried within the site. If URLs must
change, it’s critical to 301-redirect all old URLs to their
relative counterpart in the newly designed site. This will
pass the original link popularity to the new pages and
ensure that visitors don’t receive a 404 error page.
Finally, make sure the new navigation system is search
engine friendly. Many DHTML, Flash and drop-down menus are
invisible to search engines.
- Outsell the competition by using their social
networking against them. Most sales reps have profiles
on LinkedIn, Plaxo and other social networking sites. When
meeting with a prospect, ask who else they are talking to —
including the rep’s name. Next, check out the rep’s profile.
This may give you insight into how the rep is likely to
approach an opportunity. Also, pay attention to the rep’s
list of contacts (Plaxo allows this) — try to find other
connections inside the prospect’s company. Now you can
position your offering so that it weakens the likely
positioning of the other rep, and possibly meet with the
same people the rep is connected to. Of course, there’s
another lesson here: Think twice before displaying your own
contact list publicly.
- Employees will appreciate this affordable perk.
More employers are offering free or discounted income-tax
preparation as an employee benefit. Strike a deal with a
local accountant to handle the returns. Most will offer a
discount to win your guaranteed work.
- A blog can be a powerful way to promote your
expertise, but many business owners struggle with what
to write. The content should be short and simple, yet
thought provoking. Try using one of these blog writing
formulas: 1) Conversation Starters — Write about an
incident, offer your thoughts and reflections about the
incident, then toss it to the reader in an interesting way;
or, alternatively, write about a common belief, explain why
it may not be true, then toss it along to the reader. 2)
“How-to” Blog — Give a colorful introduction, provide steps
or tips, then offer resources or final thoughts. 3) Opinion
Blog — Mention a news item or personal incident, then give
your opinion about that trigger and elaborate.
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Business Intelligence Report
(ISSN 1091-9597) is published 12 times a year by DBH Communications, Inc. PO
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