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North_Dallas_Forty.jpgFootball season is upon us!  Anticipation over both professional and college football always puts excitement in the air here in Oklahoma, and let’s hope that there’s a crisp, cold front in the air before long, too, to really put is in the spirit of the season!

Though I remain a fan of the sport of football in general, I’m a little sad to report that I don’t really feel an attachment to any one team, and haven’t really since the Packers traded Brett Favre. In fact, if it hadn’t been for getting to watch Favre perform miracles every time he hit the field, I would have probably dropped out of football after the Cowboys started to slip in the late 90s. It just seems to get harder and harder to see my favorite stars get old and retire, or to watch teams that were once powerhouses deteriorate. To have to reinvest that energy getting to know a new team is just something I find tougher each year.

One fall ritual I’ve found hasn’t lost its luster is my annual tradition of re-reading Peter Gent’s groundbreaking classic, North Dallas Forty! This is a great story in any context. It was an extraordinary expose on the reality of professional sports in its day, and it even offers a lot of great lessons in business, human relations, and management. I’d recommend you read it if you haven’t already. If you have already read it, read it again and view it as a management handbook as you do! The way athletes were once treated like equipment to be depreciated is eerily similar to how employees are treated in the workplace today. The way management goes out of its way to keep even the star performers off balance and in line also reminds me a lot of the tactics some organizations seem to be using a lot more frequently these days. Of course the notion that we’re all ultimately replaceable, no matter how good we may think we are, is also a point the book makes that we should probably think about. All in all, it’s just a good read.

And if you’ve ever doubted that truth is stranger than fiction, check out Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes.

Writing is the only thing I have done that comes close to being as terrifying as being a pro football player.” – Peter Gent

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company.jpgTrick question!

Companies don’t buy anything! Companies don’t browse the web, companies don’t call to praise or complain, companies don’t use your product, companies don’t refer you to other companies, companies don’t buy anything! PEOPLE do these things. Those people may work for companies or organizations, but they’re still human beings with all the human emotions and human wants. Indeed their “job” may involve “purchasing,” and they may be rewarded for making sound purchases, and their purchasing criteria may be heavily influenced by factors directly related to business, but keeping the human emotion out of the decision is impossible because, well, we’re all human.

A frequently discussed marketing topic is whether to categorize purchase types or markets by either “consumer” or “business” or “business to business.” A better idea is to remember that regardless of which categorization you’re tempted to give your organization, the truth is that there’s ultimately a customer, a person who’s buying from you. And the best thing you can do is to get to know as much about the person who is buying from you as you possibly can and to learn as much about their ultimate customer or consumer as you can. Do this and you’ll run circles around your competitors who are short-sighted enough to believe they’re selling to a “business!”

Ignore conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by doing it in exactly the opposite direction.” – Sam Walton

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Without question, the very best investment any of us can make is in our education!

In an up economy or down, investing in your own knowledge, your own education, your own ability to do what you do even better or otherwise provide more value in the marketplace will most likely yield the greatest returns. Your education is something whose limits YOU can choose to determine and it’s something no one can take away from you!

Whether formal or informal, an education, in the vast majority of cases, is also the best hedge against the insecurity that often accompanies change. Nobody knows for sure what the future is going to hold, which is exactly why we need to continually be LEARNING as a way to ensure we increase our VALUE.

If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. – Ben Franklin

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Cell_Phone.jpgBill Gates had this idea several years ago that someday we’d all carry one device, and that one device would carry our medical records, replace our car keys, our house keys, would replace our wallets, you name it. People kind of scoffed at the idea that it would be practical for one device to accomplish so much, or that anyone would be willing to surrender that much information to an electronic device, but today’s smartphone is right on track to do just that. The current label for this innovation is the “digital wallet” if you’re looking for a buzzword for your next water cooler conversation.

A while back I remarked about how the smartphone could shorten the grocery shopping experience. Here’s a short video news story that shows this notion could explode into a half a trillion dollar industry in just a few years.

I have more than a few concerns about all that info being available in one device and potentially that vulnerable, but I also see that it’s got a lot of game-changing possibilities and customer benefits. I don’t doubt that this will be how it is in the future. In fact, it may be here before you finish this sentence!

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alan Toffler, Author and Futurist

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An undeniable truth?

By Dr. Burt Smith August 1st, 2011

True.jpgStudying marketing is a lot like studying philosophy. Knowing exactly what is a “right” answer is a pretty tall order to fill. In fact, hanging on too tightly to a “right answer” can spell disaster. As Harry Beckwith mentioned in his latest book, The Invisible Touch, “In this time when even the great physicists – especially the great physicists – are wracked with doubt, total certainty signals foolishness. In fact, total certainty can be fatal.”

One marketing principle that does stand out as an undeniable truth, however, one you can take to the bank and hang your hat on, is this: It’s just far more cost-effective to keep and grow an existing customer relationship than to have to continually build new ones. 

Something worth paying attention to is whether or not you’re focusing every resource at your disposal on keeping and growing the business done by your customer base (also known as share-of-customer). Often when we think about growing our business we think we have to “do some marketing,” which we usually interpret as coming up with something new and different. In reality, there are probably customers who are eager to do more business with us if we’d just give them the opportunity.

Assuming we have chosen the optimal target market in the first place, it is just far more cost-effective (and profitable!) to keep and grow an existing relationship than to build a new one. 

A lot of people don’t know what they want because they don’t know what’s available.” – Zig Ziglar, Sell Your Way to the Top

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