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First, Best, or Different

Niche Marketing Matters
By John Bradley Jackson

The Busyness of New Age Marketing

July 1st, 2012

A recent article titled “The Busy Trap” by New York Times columnist Tim Kreider got me thinking about the busyness in my own life and the current state of what I call “new age marketing.”

This is a powerful article and it sadly describes my own busyness. Yet, I was not always this busy. I used to have unstructured time.

As a youth and young adult, I was not this busy. I lived an almost improvisational life with just a few major goals such graduate from college, learn to snow ski, and get a job

Even as a new parent I was not this busy. Yes, I had little or no sleep but I had a keen sense of what to do when the baby cried: pickup the baby, get a bottle or change the diaper.

Yet, today I am very busy. Too busy. I am doing so many things for myself and others that I cannot even remember them all.

What changed?

I think the web and its encroachment into everything I do is a factor. I have four blogs and I am deeply involved in social media which I justify for professional reasons. I say yes too much to others and rationalize it as my own generosity. Mostly, I think it is my choice to have been this busy. Or, better said, maybe a lack of prioritization creates busyness.

The new age of marketing reflects this as well. Companies measure their sales success using KPIs (key performance indicators) which measure busyness: # of sales calls, # of proposals, # of new customers, etc. Note that the KPIs describe activity rather than meaningfulness or satisfaction.

Facebook success for many brands is gauged by the # of “likes” or fans or contacts with a mantra of “more is better.” Likes are so absurdly important on Facebook that now you can actually buy “like” packages in quantities of 500 or more raving fans. Of course, the # of likes is almost meaningless as they truly measure little in the first place. (By the way, please like my page called First, Best, or Different” on Facebook.)

The new rage in new venture development is the “Lean Start Up” which advocates launching new products which are merely untested prototypes. Rather than perfect the product prior to launch, let the customers debug it for you. The thinking is that time is short and why waste it in product development. Who cares if the customer gets an usable piece of crap. Let them figure it out.

I submit that busy is not better. Activity is not an indicator of success or quality. Activity cannot be construed as a result. Busy is just busy.

I must now pause  to reflect.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2012
All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

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Executive Summaries Create Interest

September 27th, 2010

Business plans are great but many potential investors don’t read the whole plan. Many choose to read the executive summary and scan the rest of the plan. If that is the case, then your executive summary needs to tell whole story.

As simple as it sounds, the executive summary is a summary of the business plan (including operations, sales and marketing, and finance), but is also a selling document. Here is a short list of things to consider or include.

1. Is the executive summary concise and well written? One to two pages is all you will need.
2. Does the executive summary include a description of your business? This should appear in the first or second paragraph.
3. Does the executive summary identify the product or service along with an explanation clear of a customer need for the product or service?
4. Does the executive summary identify the target market and market opportunity?
5. Does the executive summary identify the value proposition? Why will they buy?
6. Does the executive summary identify the competitive advantage and the competitive environment?
7. Does the executive summary show that the business idea fits the owner’s distinctive competencies?
8. Does the executive summary identify how the product or service will be made or delivered?
9. Does the executive summary identify a proof concept? This is the evidence that the idea has legs.
10. Does the executive summary describe the basic financial opportunity including a forecast of sales for three years?
11. Does the executive summary describe how the company will make money? This is often referred to as the business model.
12. Does the executive summary identify the type and amount of funding required and the ROI?
13. Does the executive summary describe a potential exit for investors?

Answer these 13 questions and you have done your job. The goal after that is to continue the conversation.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2010
All rights reserved

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Schedule Only 50% of Your Day

September 23rd, 2009

“Every leader should routinely keep a substantial portion of his or her time—I would say as much as 50 percent—unscheduled. … Only when you have substantial unscheduled time will you have the space to reflect on what you are doing, learn from experience, and recover from your inevitable mistakes. Leaders without such free time end up tackling issues only when there is an immediate or visible problem. Managers’ typical response to my argument about free time is, ‘That’s all well and good, but there are things I have to do.’ Yet we waste so much time in unproductive activity—it takes an enormous effort on the part of the leader to keep free time for the truly important things.”

– Dov Frohman

The above quote is very powerful. Entrepreneurs, in particular, get so involved in “the chase” that they seldom take time to access things. The things that don’t get addressed include long term strategy, relationships, personal health & well being, and employee development. The consequences are obvious.

My long time friend Jim Kelton of Altius Technologies blocks out every Friday afternoon to plan, think, and dream of what he might do better for his business and for himself. He takes that time off-site from his work so that he can be uninterrupted.

How about you? Isn’t it time to schedule some free time?

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Just Be Yourself

May 10th, 2009

Just be yourself—-I imagine that you have heard that advice all your life from friends, family, and co-workers. And it is true.

This weekend I watched 12 student teams from my New Venture Creation class at CSUF present their business plan concepts to an executive panel made up angel investors, bankers, and entrepreneurs. The small student teams each had 15 minutes to pitch their business ideas.

The teams were all prepared and were quick to describe the merits of their business ideas including value proposition, strong return on investment, and competitive advantage. Yes, they presented exactly as I had coached them to do.

But, guess what factor meant the most to this panel? Interestingly enough it was the authenticity of the presenters. The panel responded most positively to the students that were the most passionate and genuine about their ideas—this heartfelt enthusiasm trumped the ornately prepared spreadsheets and the overly scripted delivery by the more academically inclined students.

In reality, the panel responded to eye contact, smiles, and passion of real people who were just being themselves.

Another lesson leaned by Professor JJ.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Never Waste a Good Crisis

April 29th, 2009

These clever words are attributed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I think I understand what she means.

It often takes a crisis to get people to take action. People hate to change, but will willingly do so if they have to (but not a day before). You know what I mean. The heart attack victim gets the bypass and then takes up running and eating right. The city decides to put a streetlight on a busy street after a major automobile accident. And so it goes.

This economic crisis has challenged many of us take a hard look at our spending and to evaluate what is important. Companies have slimmed down with layoffs and cost cutting. I read today that GM is considering dropping the Pontiac brand after 50 years. In reality the brand has been dead for more than a decade, but they had held on to it with the hopes of reviving the brand for a new generation.

Yes, a crisis can motivate you to change. But, I prefer the advice from former GE CEO Jack Welch. Welch said, “Change before you have to”. I guess that is more like crisis planning—it just makes more sense to me.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Executive Summary Must Haves

April 23rd, 2009

The executive summary is a summary of the business plan (including operations, sales and marketing, and finance), but it is also a selling document. This means that you must answer your readers’ questions if you want to sell your business concept.

Here is a short list of questions you must answer in your executive summary:

1. Does the executive summary include a description of your business (this should appear in the first or second paragraph)?
2. Does the executive summary identify the product or service along with a clear customer need for the product or service?
3. Does the executive summary identify the target market and market opportunity?
4. Does the executive summary identify the value proposition?
5. Does the executive summary identify the competitive advantage and the competitive environment?
6. Does the executive summary show that the business idea fits the owner’s distinctive competencies?
7. Does the executive summary identify how the product or service will be made or delivered?
8. Does the executive summary identify a proof of concept (not all plans have this)?
9. Does the executive summary identify describe the basic financial opportunity (this includes revenue and profit expectations)?
10. Does the executive summary describe how the company will make money with the business or revenue model?
11. Does the executive summary identify the type and amount of funding required and the ROI?

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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The Dehydrated Business Plan

March 25th, 2009

There are times when a full business plan is not needed. Time may not allow for the creation of a full length plan or the reader might just want a shorter version. In this case, a dehydrated business plan is often chosen.

This type of plan is a very brief version of the traditional business plan. It is also referred to as a skeleton plan or business brief. Amazingly, the process of writing the dehydrated business plan can be very effective since the entrepreneur is challenged to condense the idea into only 5-10 pages. This condensation eliminates the fluff often seen in full length plans.

The end product ends up reading more like a long executive summary with a few financial tables. The plan often includes the customers’ pain, the solution, the competitive advantage, and the value proposition. Most importantly it must communicate the business model—it must describe how the business will make money. Add a forecast, some basic costs, and the capital required. The plan is complete.

While this type of plan can be completed in much a shorter time, the sophisticated investor will want to know more. In this case, the entrepreneur typically scrambles to come up with the missing details. Generally, a dehydrated business plan is not designed for the process of raising capital. Maybe the best application is within a large corporate environment when the basic idea is enough to get the approval to go forward.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Proof of Concept

March 17th, 2009

To get money from an Angel investor or from a banker will often require entrepreneurs to demonstrate a proof of concept. This begs the question, “what exactly is a proof of concept?”

While the term is kind of fuzzy, a proof concept is evidence that the company, product, or service is financially viable—the business model works. Normally, a proof of concept includes research or testing or testimonial.

A simple proof of concept might include the use of qualitative research methods such as focus groups or interviews with prospective customers. A more definitive proof of concept could include orders for a new product or letters of intent from customers. Alternatively, a manufacturer might develop a working prototype of a new product for demonstration purposes.

Essentially, the business or revenue model is justified by a proof of concept. Ultimately, this reduces the amount of uncertainty involved with a new product or service and this evidence gives the financier comfort that the money is well spent.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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What a Start-Up Firm Should Tell The Bank

March 2nd, 2009

When a small business or start up approaches a bank for a loan, you need to be able to answer the following eight questions:

1. How much money do you want?
2. Why do you want the money?
3. How will the money be used?
4. How will you repay the loan?
5. What is the main source of funds for repayment?
6. What is the back up source of funds for repayment (such as liquidating equipment or inventory?
7. How will the loan be secured (collateral)?
8. Who will guarantee the loan?

Also, remember the goal is to establish a relationship with the bank, so start the dialog in advance of your need.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Blogger Hits Head

January 21st, 2009

I normally avoid including myself or my personal travails in my blog, since my blog is not about me. Rather, my blog content is about what matters to you. But, I had a concussion a few weeks ago and it really shook things up—literally.

OK. Here is the story. I was in the local mountains for the holidays and slipped on the ice and bounced my head on the sidewalk. In a split second things changed for me: whiplash, bloody head, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in my ears, and a major league headache. Ouch!

A “Good Samaritan” rushed to my side and asked, “Are you all right?” I responded, “Nope”. Later, my doctor determined that I had no significant brain damage, which was little comfort—I did like the painkillers, but I digress. Three and half weeks later I am on the mend although my ears still ring.

The point is that my little world changed dramatically in an instant and the same might happen to you or your business. Will you be prepared to manage the crisis?

Does your firm carry adequate liability insurance, key executive coverage, long term disability insurance?

What about contingency plans for earthquakes or other natural disasters? Do your IT systems have built in redundancy? Do you have a disaster recovery plan?

How about your personal computer—do you routinely back up your files? This is always on my “to do” list, but never seems to get done.

What will happen if your partner dies or wants out? Do you have a succession plan? How about an exit strategy and a buy/sell agreement? Are you prepared for a hostile acquisition?

What if your biggest customer declares bankruptcy? Or, what if a new competitor enters your market? What if the Feds change the law and injure the market? What if the price of oil races to $5.00 a gallon?

My recommendation is to plan for an occasional disaster. Disaster planning and a periodic review sound in order to me. Things may be fine now, but you may bump your head now and then.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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