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Yep, I’ve got a sure fire, time-honored, market-proven system that’ll help you have all the success you want in your endeavor, and then some.

Three simple steps:

1. Find out what your customers want.

2. Find a cost-effective and profitable way to give it to them.

3. Repeat.

Just that simple. Start doing this and you’ll be amazed at the results you get. If you’re already doing something like this, go back and make sure you’re not leaving a step out.

Test it for yourself and I’ll bet you’ll have a hard time arguing that it’s a simple strategy.

Simple, yes. Easy? Not so much. And that’s why so many fail.

A complex system that does not work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine. – Murphy’s Law of Computing


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Every time your team members open a conversation with a new customer or prospect, the very first question they should clearly, enthusiastically ask each one is this:

“How did you find out about us?”


This gives you true, direct, voice-of-the customer feedback about what marketing is working and how well. You can also train your people to probe a little and find out not only how they heard about you, but if it’s a particular tactic or campaign they reference, find out what the liked about it, what they remembered most, and so on.

You can experiment with the wording, of course. You may prefer something like, “Thanks for coming in today. Say, How’d you hear about us?” or “Hey, could I ask how you first learned about us?” or “We’re glad to have you here, do you mind sharing, what brought you to us?” Whatever phrasing suits you best, with the goal to make it as conversational as possible. But the bottom line is, you, and your team, need to be in the habit of opening every new customer conversation with this type of very important question.

It could be the best market research you ever get!

I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.”-  John Wanamaker

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valentine candy boxIf there’s one resource I absolutely love, it’s the library. If there’s one place that levels the playing field, if there’s one place I don’t mind my tax dollars going, it’s the library. The OKC Metro Library system has been a resource I’ve used for over 20 years now, and I continue to marvel at what the library system has to offer.

I once heard a speaker say that information wasn’t power, that only applied information was power. If information by itself were power, then the library wouldn’t be the quietest, deadest, least-crowded place in town. The point being made was that in order to get results, just having “information” wasn’t enough, one had to do something with it. To take ACTION. I agree with that, as I’ve written before, but I think we might be tempted misinterpret that to think it’s a slam on the library, when the exact opposite ought to be the case.

Og Mandino wrote that at his lowest point emotionally, found himself at his public library. He found himself strangely compelled to start investing his time in a self-directed education that would ultimately result in helping him raise himself from a “hopeless bum” into a millionaire. He ended up writing books that would inspire millions, too. In fact, there have been several stories told of how “bums” literally went to the library to get out of the cold and ended up using that time to read. To better themselves. And they wound up finding solutions that would turn their lives around and ultimately help them not only “survive,” but prosper. The point is often made that it was the ACTION of applying what was learned to achieve the success, but isn’t it worth celebrating that the same education that enabled that success is available to all of us? Right down the street, in many cases?

I was just there with my son and I was amazed at how they now have Kindle Fires that families can check out that have all kinds of interactive learning tools and such. Heck, I was dazzled a few years ago when they started offering digital downloads of books and periodicals that you could get, from your library onto your phone or tablet, without even leaving the house. That they now make technology available to those who need it, and might not otherwise be able to afford it, is pretty doggone cool as far as I am concerned.

The resources are plentiful and they’re yours for the borrowing. You’ll find your local library is peaceful and quiet…and rarely is it crowded!

You’ve already paid for it, so are you really maximizing this amazing asset?

You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!” – Doctor Who, Tooth and Claw



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Krugman was wrong?

By Dr. Burt Smith November 30th, 2015

wrongOh no, you may be thinking. Krugman was wrong? Say it ain’t so! Not Krugman!

To be honest, I had never heard of Paul Krugman until I ran across this little tidbit on a Motley Fool Podcast.

Paul Krugman is an economist who, in 1996, said that by 2005 or so the economic impact of the internet will be no greater than that of the fax machine. Well, oopsie, I guess.

You can learn more about him and the infamous quote Here if you like.

What it amounts to is that a smart guy just made a wrong prediction. And according to him, he was taken out of context anyway.

The more relevant point is that nobody has all the answers. The remedy is to boldly seek knowledge from a bunch of sources, then  make your own decisions. Do your own thinking!


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Wrigley’s says gum sales are down. Why? Largely because of technology. Yes, you read that correctly. Technology.

Most chewing gum is sold at the checkout counter thanks to its being conveniently placed right by the register as you complete your shopping experience. In days gone by, the colorful displays and packaging might catch the customer’s eye and entice a purchase. But today, buyer behavior has changed. Rather than browse the displays, shoppers at checkout stands are often preoccupied, if not completely absorbed, with their smartphones.

Recall from posts-past, such as this one, that you have two basic categories of competition. Direct and indirect. Wrigley is the leader, the dominant force in the chewing gum category, yet they are now facing their toughest competition from an indirect competitor in the form of the smartphone.

So what’s a marketer to do?

One of the nation’s largest media firms, the Hearst Corporation, has researched what areas of the store are less prone to shoppers grabbing for their phones, and have started placing magazine displays in such areas of grocery stores so they won’t have to  compete with the smartphone.  Coke and Pepsi have sought different locations in the store with these concerns in mind as well.

We can’t control the forces of the environment, but they can sometimes be predicted. By always doing your own environmental analysis, you may not only avoid being blindsided by a threat, you may be able to more quickly take actions to counter it.

If we knew what were doing it wouldn’t be called research” – Albert Einstein


storm cloud prarieWhat makes the environment in which we operate so dynamic is the constant interaction of a set of environmental forces. They can be totally independent of each other or they can influence one another, so they have quite an impact. In any case, they’re worth knowing about. So, what are the categories of environmental forces?

Different authors use different labels for the categories of forces, but because I like things that are simple and memorable, I’ve always preferred the PEST model. PEST stands for Political/Legal, Economic, Socio-cultural, and Technological forces. Here are some examples:

Read the rest of this page »

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What would Joan do?

By Dr. Burt Smith August 12th, 2013

question mark sharpieProcter & Gamble is considered a “best of breed” company. Their stock is considered a must-own by the vast majority of stock analysts, and their legacy has spanned two centuries.

One reason for their ongoing success is the power of their brands. One reason they have such powerful brands is because they stay so close to their customers. One way they do that is to literally put the customer at the center of EVERY decision they make.

As former CEO Arthur Lafley described in his book, The Game Changer, they actually have a ritual they go through. They have a life-sized, cardboard cutout of a female character they call “Joan” who occupies a spot in their offices. “Joan” is an amalgam representing their typical consumer. Every time they find themselves stymied wondering how to make a particular brand or strategy decision, or just wondering where to go from here, they ask the simple question, “What would Joan do?” They ask what would be the best course of action for their target market, their ideal customer, and that helps move them forward.

Develop profiles of your ideal customers. You can even give them clever names so that as you develop every aspect of your brand, you can envision exactly who benefits from the value you’re delivering. You may find that being able to identify with those fictional characters can help you make  decisions worth real profits.

The customer isn’t a moron. She’s your wife.” – David Ogilvy




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Headache One of the first lessons of leadership is to constantly acknowledge that we operate in a very dynamic environment. While the ongoing nature and rapid pace of the change is often frustrating (if not mind-boggling!), we can also acknowledge that there are specific categories of environmental forces at work that can be studied to help us predict possible changes that may affect us. Then we have the chance to plan accordingly. In fact, investment columnist  Malcolm Berko alluded to these very items as a way to make investment decisions in this article a while back.

The four basic categories of environmental forces are: Political/legal, Economic, Socio-cultural, and Technological (PEST). Before we talk about what each of these are, I think it’s important to note that there’s good news and bad news with regard to environmental forces. The bad news is that  they are ultimately out of our control. The good news is, anything that can impact our decisions will ultimately fall under these categories, so if we study them constantly and ask how they relate to our business, we can use them as indicators of what the future might hold. The fancy term for that is “trend spotter” and if you can become one who wears this label, just watch your market value shoot up. Later on, we’ll look at examples of each of these categories and what to watch for.

 You can observe a lot just by watching” – Yogi Berra


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tunnel what lies aheadA while back we talked about what your customer thinks about all the time. You can click here to revisit that article if you like but the simple thing your customer thinks about constantly is the future. Perhaps not surprisingly, that relates very closely to what your customer ultimately, REALLY wants – A BETTER future!

It’s just basic human nature. If things aren’t so good today, tomorrow we hope they’ll be better. In fact, most of the actions we’re taking today, including the less pleasant ones (like dieting or saving instead of spending), are about getting to a better future. If today things are going great, we hope to keep it that way tomorrow. Whatever a “better future” is, that is the benefit the customer is ultimately buying.

So how can we use that information?

Well, for one thing, we need to understand what “a better future” really means to our customer. You may know this through formal market research or through what your most satisfied customers have told you they appreciate most about your product, or you may have observed how your product benefits your customers first hand. There are any number of simple ways to visit the customer’s world and understand what’s most important to them, what they value, and what represents a better future to them.

Once you do, you know what to dramatize as you’re promoting the value of your offer. View any number of commercials on television, view ads in print, or listen to commercials on the radio, and chances are the really good ones, the ones that ultimately get you to want to learn more about them or take the actions they suggest, are the ones that dramatize the benefit of their product or service in terms of how it delivers a better future for you.

 The philosophy behind much advertising is based on the old observation that every man is really two men – the man he is and the man he wants to be.” – William Feather, Author


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color paletteEver wonder what psychology goes into choosing a color scheme for a logo or overall look for a brand? Here’s a link to a short but remarkably detailed discussion on that very subject. Good stuff, well packaged, and worth knowing.

Of course, there are also plenty of examples of how completely ignoring convention and doing something totally different, totally original works, too. One of my favorites is how racing legend Dale Earnhardt decided to go with a black race car for his brand’s signature look. “Experts” and “studies” said a black car was a bad idea simply because it wouldn’t stand out on the dark asphalt tracks. A flat black car wouldn’t “pop” on television, they argued, and the arguments were indeed logical and supported with research. Instincts had served Earnhardt well behind the wheel and in the boardroom, so he held firmly to the notion of having a black car. The rest is part of NASCAR lore. The black car and the number 3 remain signatures of the Dale Earnhardt legacy over a decade after his death.

We want to be looking for resources from every source, being careful to never blindly adopt anybody’s theories or ideas, but to instead consider EVERYTHING and see how we might adapt what we think could work for our specific situation. Don’t ADOPT, ADAPT!

“The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car, its the one who refuses to lose” – Dale Earnhardt


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