Monday, December 15, 2014

“The Times They Are A Changin’…”

Today we have a guest blog from Elizabeth Andreini:

With apologies to Bob Dylan, the title of his song and album often comes to mind as I watch today’s dynamically shifting business landscape. You probably feel it too. The market is shifting, your competitors are making adjustments, customers’ needs change and your business continues to evolve. Nothing stays still for long.

One of the most challenging situations occurs when your business evolves so that your target customer isn’t the same as portions of your existing customer base. Your customers’ business needs may have shifted and you may no longer be the best match for one another. Other times a customer base is built opportunistically, and becomes a hodgepodge of different customers with different needs and wants, and these conflicting requests become a strain on company resources. Sometimes a low price competitor comes in and targets smaller customers who are more price (than value) driven and starts eroding your market share.

Here are some of the topics you might consider when you need to focus resources and clarify customer fit and changes to your ideal target customer:

Fit & Alignment
  • How profitable are your existing customers? Are certain segments more profitable for you or are there certain situations where the solutions you offer are a better fit?
  • Has your target customer changed or are your current customers’ needs changing so they want different products and services?
  • Is your customer base a better fit for your older products & services? Have newer products & services been more successful with different types of companies? How similar are these two groups?

  • What is the level of effort and cost it takes to service your current customer base? How far are you willing to go if a customer insists on a product or service to keep them but it isn’t one you want to offer broadly?
  • What is the process for proactively deciding if you want to continue to meet a customers’ product (and services) needs? If you don’t, how do you mitigate the risk of them leaving or creating dissatisfaction in the marketplace?
  • Do you want to “grandfather” existing customers so you continue to serve them while you focus on new or different customers and passively allow customer turnover?

Alternative Considerations

  • Will holding on to your existing customers help block any competitors? What, if any, extra work or services will you have to provide to keep them satisfied? What is the resource cost of providing these extra services?
  • Are there alternative products and services that can be offered to customers and others in their market segment if their needs have changed? Would a “lite” less expensive offering or a differently bundled offering keep them satisfied?
  • How different is your ideal customer from your current customers? Is the difference size, type or location? What are the similarities and can you leverage any portion of your current customer base to help you move into a new market?

Not every customer is profitable and although it can be hard saying goodbye to a long-time customer, sometimes needs and the price a customer is willing to pay are no longer a fit for your company. It helps to take a step back and make sure customer needs and wants, what they are willing to pay and what you want to offer are still in alignment. Every choice a company makes has a resource and opportunity cost that limits your business’ ability to pursue other choices so make sure you are saying “yes” to the right customers.

Elizabeth Andreini

As the President of Accelerate Marketing, LLC, Elizabeth Andreini, is the "secret weapon" CEOs turn to at key growth points when they need to transform marketing and product management to grow their customer base, increase revenue & scale their business. 
 In addition to providing experienced executive insight and guidance, Elizabeth often works as an interim CMO or VP to provide the hands-on leadership needed tore architect marketing and product management and improve execution from the inside.  

Elizabeth Andreini, founder & president of Accelerate Marketing, LLC Accelerate Marketing, LLC
206-769-3420 or
Twitter: @acceler8mkting

Monday, December 8, 2014

Do You Taste Like Chicken?

Today we have a guest blog from Dan Weedin:

If your business looks, tastes, and smells like any other business or competitor, why would someone work with you? Uniqueness is critical for businesses trying to influence new customers and clients. It’s easy to slip into “same old, same old,” which ends up the equivalent of “tasting like chicken.” This article will show you how to spice up your business.

I remember attending a Wild Game Dinner fundraiser several years ago replete with exotic hors d'oeuvres featuring animals that I was most familiar watching roam the prairies and jungles on the old television series, Wild Kingdom. They served antelope, wild boar, alligator, and cougar. The one thing that I most remember of the experience was hearing the servers proclaim about almost all the offerings, “Don’t worry…. it tastes like chicken.”

That adage has become a part of American culture, whether you’re describing frog legs, kangaroo, or cane toads. Chicken has become the generic standard that we base all other meats to. If it tastes like chicken, we are “safe.”

Here’s the problem. If everything tasted like chicken, it loses that joy of adventure and curiosity. It becomes stale and uninteresting. It’s just chicken.

The very same problem can happen to you and your business. If your customers and target market consider you to “taste like chicken,” then you’ve sunk into the abyss of ordinary and generic. You’re boring. When that happens, your viability is as threatened as a chubby chicken wandering aimlessly in a poultry farm. Dead meat walking.

How do you know if you “taste like chicken?” Consider these 3 signs:

  1. You have no new clientele. The same people and businesses use your products and services, yet nobody new seems interested in your work. This appears to be success, yet it’s a fatal trap. No new blood means no energy, no interest, and no sustainability.
  2.  You haven’t produced anything new in years. Whether yours is a service or product, stagnation is a killer. The world renowned speaking coach Patricia Fripp has said that sameness is the enemy of a speaker. Sameness is also the enemy of a business. No innovation leads to decline.
  3. You live in a culture of “same old, same old.” If that’s your mentality when you get up and go to work; if it’s the mentality of your employees; then you’ve got a serious problem. In the rapidly moving business world brought about by escalating technology and global thinking, being in “same old” mode will get you run over. That chicken trying to cross the road today can’t take the same path he did 10 years ago or he will be road kill.
If any of these signs pervade in your company or in you, then you’re probably beginning to smell like the chicken dinner your grandmother used to prepare. Here are 5 strategies and tactics that you can implement immediately to mix up the menu to bring new flavors and add spice to your world and to your customers:

  1. Create new intellectual property or products. Remember what I said about “sameness?” I don’t care what you do or what industry you’re in, you can create something new and exciting to offer your target market audience. It might be a workshop; a newsletter; a free webinar; or a new product that you created to help them when they didn’t even know they needed help! It doesn’t matter initially how successful it is. What really matters is that you have something new to talk about. Do something different than what everyone else is doing!
  2. Boost your marketing. In the height of the recession, many small businesses hunkered down and hoarded cash for fear of running out. One of the areas they stopped was marketing. It should have been where they placed MORE resources. Boost your marketing by utilizing more technology, ask for more referrals, send out more press releases; seek out more interviews; and attend more networking events.
  3. Fix Your Own Swing. My golf swing is terrible right now. I’ve been golfing for over 30 years and it’s time to get it fixed, so I need a lesson from a pro. Regardless of how long you’ve been in business. You can use your own “swing fix” from a professional coach or mentor. In fact, the longer it’s been since you’ve had one, the more you will need it! You can’t be brilliant or as creative by yourself. Seek help and utilize it to maximize your talent and opportunity. It’s worth the investment.
  4. Get Out of the Office. We’ve become too tied down to our desks due to technology. Email has changed how we communicate in good ways (speed of information) and bad ways (stopped actually talking to people). Get out and see people face to face. Visit your best clients and customers. Make phone calls to those that you can’t readily see in person. Business is still about relationships. Remind them of what you look like.
  5. Change the Culture. If the chicken taste has seeped into your workforce, it’s time to shake things up. How do you do this? Simple. Make work more fun by challenging your employees to create new things; help them grow personally and professionally; and offer mentoring to them to help them more rapidly succeed.
Bottom line ~ if you are perceived to be chicken, your goose is cooked. The business world demands difference and innovation; speed and accessibility; and technological sophistication and savvy. These are now becoming the new normal and those norms will continue to change and evolve just like menus in the finest restaurants in the world do. Does your business taste like chicken? If it does, don’t despair. You can always change the menu as long as you have the courage to do so. 

Who’s hungry?

© 2014 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Dan Weedin, CIC, CRM
The Crisis ConquerorP.O. Box 1571 / Poulsbo, WA 98370

Blog –
Skype: danweedin

Inducted to the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame – 2012

“Dan’s guidance helped us crystallize our somewhat vague ideas about what we would do in the event of a disaster, into a well-thought out (and written) Crisis Prevention & Disaster Recovery Plan.  We appreciated Dan’s ability to combine his subject matter expertise with an easy to work with approach.  Hopefully we will never experience a disaster, but there is great peace of mind knowing we have a plan in place for that eventuality.” ~ Steve Richardson, CFO AEC, Inc. (Portland, OR)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Intentionally growing your company - The changing role of the CEO: Your business model is a Key Performance Indicator

Recently, I began teaser introductions to the following five topics.  I believe that each topic is a key issue for growing your company from 15 to 50 and then to 150 people or more.  So, here is my take on that Holy Grail, on what companies and my clients need to focus:

Know Thy Self  
Look at Your People 
Business Model

Today we will focus on #5, Business Model.  When asked, almost everyone says they have a business model.  The question should be, does your business model work? 

At 15 employees, most companies take any customer and are delighted with them all.  What most often happens is that many businesses at this level, essentially focus on materials, direct labor and determine profit. 

At this stage most companies business models don’t take in to consideration all of the cost factors that have to be included in operating their company.  This recognition failure means that they become resigned to staying at this level.  The two most overlooked cost factors seem to be administrative and Top Management (owner may be taking a salary or may not; the owner may be doing what will become two or three full time positions). 

The personal costs are failing to pay the owner as an employee of the company.  Often, the owner is both General Manager and Sales force.  If the owner is not separating out their roles and the value brought in to the company from the ownership value, then it becomes very difficult to afford hiring the right people as the need arises and the owner let’s go of some of their roles. 

The administrative costs are especially front and center when a business begins to come up against competitors.  Pricing in small companies almost never takes in to account the costs of having people who don’t directly support the sales and production part of the business.  Initially, this gives the small company an advantage over larger competitors.  As the Company grows and G&A increases in both real dollars and possibly in percentage of G&A to the rest of the company, it will continue to be important to manage/control expenses and it will become more important to understand how to include G&A as a part of your business model. . 

As companies grow towards 50 employees one of the big learns is when a company analyzes its customers and find that some make them lots of money and others don’t.  This is often the beginning of a shift/change in the business model because quite often the early customers (who are loyal and love the company) are not what the company needs in order to further grow and develop.  This quite often means that the tough decision to move on from (get rid of) these customers has to take place.  Also, at about 30 employees on the way to 50, it is often the time that a company has to move to more experienced/skilled managers.  What often happens is the existing key employees dig in their heels around letting go of old/core customers. 

On the way to 150 employees, the business model again needs to morph.  The complexity of the business requires further analysis of who is a target customer, how we profitably address their needs, are we aligned to service that kind of customer and how do we close the gaps as we begin to compete with more sophisticated larger companies? 

At both the 50 and 150 employee stage, one of the largest issues is ROI (Return On Investment).  Companies find that they must re-invest in people and equipment with significant cost tags.  Much of the time, this is when a company that has been profitable, become unprofitable.  Anticipating these growth needs and keeping an eye out toward what the needs will be and when are critical factors in success at these stages. 

At what stage are you?  What is your business model and at what point do you think it may not work anymore?