Tuesday, November 27, 2012


First Out – Last In
Avoid the Fiscal Cliff for Your Business

 

Most marketers agree that “we” are the first group to be cut when an organization faces financial hardship. This is baffling as studies have shown that those organizations that continue to commit financial resources to marketing through tough times, even Recessions, are significantly faster to rebound than those who do not.

 

Likewise, when an organization is on its last leg, the leadership decides to  pull from the coffers and get marketing help to save their business. Although this is better than doing nothing, inevitably, the cry for help is too late. Even the best in the business cannot save a financially struggling business in under three months.

 

Although this is a short post. Please re-read if you are in a leadership position within a company. Too many businesses are failing and much can be attributed to the behaviors (mistakes) described above. To survive in this environment, you must be smarter than the rest of the pack. Don’t follow the same knee jerk reaction that most businesses do, be fearless and let the professional marketers save your business from its fiscal cliff.

 

Good Marketing = Good Business,

Mary

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

GREAT EXAMPLE: The New Rules of Marketing and PR



In his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR , by David Meerman Scott, the author postulates that the introduction of the internet has changed the game for Marketing and PR Professionals like nothing be for it. (I’ll voice my opinion on that another time.) He especially points to the advent of Social Media. He poses much needed rationale, considering many large enterprises are running – not walking – away from SM, as to the importance of playing in this playground and as to its importance in intelligence gathering and interaction with (potential?) users/buyers/consumers. From what I surmised from his writings, we should all be using SM - at all cost - as it offers so many benefits.

Whether you agree with this as a tenet of your Marketing/PR Mix or not, one thing that is very clear and I believe to be true is the importance of content when using SM. I will state that I think that with many things, if you are not going to do it right, don’t do it at all and this is definitely my opinion on Social Media. And this is where Mr. Scott and I agree completely. Social Media MUST HAVE good content.


An example to follow –

The gist of this article on most pages would have been an announcement similar to: XXXX event on XXXX date at XXXX. Those X’s represent most people’s idea of SM. In this piece, however, Gordon Durich does a fabulous job of drawing the reader in with a question, answers and a (BTW) announcement. It is well done. It a perfect example of providing content to draw general interest and I bet many that read (and maybe attended the event) are not even really art/movie enthusiasts. But Gordon has intrigued the reader with the wonders of the art form. You feel his PASSION and KNOWLEDGE and it translates into interest. It is great content and I urge you to read it and to follow this example the next time you pen a post on your SM site.

Here’s Gordon’s piece: http://www.gordondurich.com/

Happy Marketing!

Mary  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Important Than Ever - CRM

The top 5 tips to engage and deepen your customers loyalty

Today Customer Relationship Management (CRM) plays an immensely critical role in this hellacious business climate with increased competition, fewer consumer dollars to spread around and an ever increasing feeling by consumers of not being listened to.

If you aren't taking care of your customers - someone else will. Hence it is vital for companies to have strong CRM in place; otherwise it not only leads to losing customers but also creates a ripple effect of brand degradation and a bad image in the market.

Once a business is 'tainted' with a bad image, the cost of repair is great. You are much better off to invest in solid CRM tactics upfront and avoid the damage.

Think about it, it is just too easy to post negative comments about a business on SM sites. And, as the old saying goes, "People will tell one person about a good experience but will tell ten about a bad one." In today's world, they can tell thousands - even millions with the click of a mouse!

Whether you are talking about on or offline tactics, even though the vehicle is slightly different, here is my short list of "must have" CRM activities for any business:

1) Recognize customers' interactions with you. Thank and reward them - every time.

2) Don't set finite triggers that blast everyone at the same time in the buying cycle with the same message. Refine your analytics to determine the unique triggers of each customer and establish actions that are exclusively personal and meaningful.

3) Reward complainers. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but if they take the time to complain, they are wishing that they had experienced a positive exchange with you and you let them down. Listen and learn. Complainers can very quickly be turned into your biggest fans and advocates.

4) Be consistent. DO NOT start a CRM Program and then abandon it or get lazy. This will backfire on you, big time. Give it time to impact your relationship with your customers.

5) Ensure that you have C-Level support for your Program and that means: make sure you are allocated the appropriate budget to do the job right (or don't do it at all) and create timely reporting to show the gains or losses caused by the Program. If you show losses, include swift remedies in the report and implement them immediately. Once you have turned the situation around, report your success (hopefully!) on the next report.

Happy Marketing!

Mary

 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I will admit it. . . I FALL for E-Mail Marketing also!

This is a guest post from a top notch marketer with mad social media skills and creative concepts to unusual marketing challenges.
Please enjoy "I will admit it. . . I FALL for E-Mail Marketing also!" by Pamela Bernstein.


As a marketer, I find myself either completely falling for marketing tactics or ripping them apart, probably unjustly. I find myself doing this more so than ever as I am in the middle of planning my wedding. I was told by many in the beginning of my planning to go to as many wedding shows as possible, as vendors give great discounts just for coming to their booth. Instead of going to those awful shows I have been signing up saying I am going and never show up. Then I am on the vendors’ mailing list for doing nothing. Brilliant, but annoying, since the sheer number of emails I get is out of control! 

Case in point, I was lying in bed when an e-mail comes through thanking me for stopping by their booth at the Bride World Expo Woodland Hills Wedding show. I never stepped foot inside this show but signed up for it and now am on the email list. The email went on saying the first 10 people to respond to this email will receive 1 hour engagement shoot free of charge just for meeting with the photographer with no obligation to use her.

Check out the copy of the email  . . .

Just a quick hello and a re-introduction to myself and my business, I'm ******  and I am the Owner and photographer of **** Photography based in Los Angeles.

It was so nice to meet you at the Bride Word Expo in Woodland Hills. Thank you so much for your interest in my work and coming by my booth to meet me. I know that the expo can be hectic and a little impersonal, but I would love hear more about you, your fiance and your amazing love story that got you to where you are. Every wedding & couple are unique and beautiful and I have to tell you that this is my favorite part of the job, getting to know each couple and creating beautiful images together to tell your story!

If you were able to stop by my booth this past Expo, I was offering an amazing opportunity: a free Engagement shoot! The catch is, each couple needs to schedule a meeting with me...even if its just for coffee and in turn I give you a free one hour engagement session with printed proofs and 5 digital copies via Facebook.

I have already had an amazing response to these completely free E-sessions...but I'd love to offer a few more. The first 10 couples to respond to this mailer will receive a FREE 1 hour engagement session with me($250 Value).....no contracts, no deposits, just getting together to take some amazing photos!

Thank you so much for coming to my booth, and I look forward to creating beautiful images with you soon!

I sat up and responded quicker than you can say Wedding show! We were one of the 10 people to respond, and will get our engagement session for free! In fact, we met with this photographer, and fell in love with her work we booked her. I would never have found her if it wasn't for signing up for the simple e-mail list and responding to her message.

E-mail marketing does work when you send your message to the right list of people with an eye catching subject line, the rest as they say is history, however, I would highly suggest an incentive for people to respond, sign up, like your Facebook page, etc. Incentives are the best way to get people to interact with you and your company! 


Monday, May 21, 2012

More Views (and Data!) on Social Media...

I've written several posts and had guest writers post opinions on Social Media. Here's an interesting view--and it actually has some data to back it up.

Hope you take a moment to read it and let me know your thoughts:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/05/21/five-ways-to-make-people-hang-on-your-every-word/

Happy Marketing!
Mary

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What To Do In A Recession –Get Help – A Consultation!




So many are struggling with how to hang on to their life’s dream – their business. Others are hanging in there but are seeing declines not growth.

Unfortunately, what most business people do in times of difficulty is cut back on marketing. There is a study that shows that businesses that continue to spend on marketing through a Recession rebound 30%+ faster in growth than those who do not.

Listen, I know it is hard, but try to use this time to take a deep breath and get some help. It might be time to focus more on customer service. It might be time to offer better pricing. It might be time to fine tune your product/service offerings. Or……

I have been doing this a long time and I can tell you that no one can assess your business, its niche and its shining and unique characteristics faster than I can. I can also spot the problems and solve them faster than anyone. So, take advantage of me, use me and let me help you. No one will be more honest with you about your business, your opportunities and your potential than I will be. And, (heaven forbid), if the hand writing is on the wall and it is too late to salvage, I will help you with an exit strategy so that you can remain as whole as possible.

For the month of May, I am offering a consultation to businesses that are really willing to put effort and work into making their businesses not just survive during the recession – but THRIVE! Hopefully, you will get some thoughtful insight from our time together and I can further help you through consulting to deliver your business into what it should be and what you dreamt it would be. We’ll discuss what tools and tactics you currently use and those that you should invest in (time and/or money). We’ll discuss what has worked and what hasn’t (and I can probably tell you why).

Feel free to read some of my other postings so that you understand my straight shooting approach to business. It is a competitive world and straight talk wins the game every time. I will give you that plus ideas and strategies to help your business beyond your existing thoughts and dreams.

I look forward to hearing from the brave ones! Contact me at mary.mussard@yahoo.com

Monday, April 23, 2012

Question: Is Email Marketing Dead?

I was recently asked if Email Marketing was now ineffective, useless and a waste of time and money... 

After you read my response, I’d love to hear your viewpoint.



Here was my response:


Email marketing success is affected by many factors.


The lack of success in email marketing is also affected by several factors.



There are many mistakes being made in email marketing but here are the top three success zappers that I have seen all too often:



·         There is an overall belief that email marketing is the only effective tool to acquire customers. As a result, follow up activities and/or other channels are not given funding or attention and tactics that would support the email marketing activity would bring acquisition are not practiced. As a result, the "email campaign" is viewed as ineffective.



·         There is a belief that "the more the merrier”.  As a result of ‘over touching’ prospects by email, they tune you out or just drop you into their junk folder; thereby making email marketing ineffective.



·         Lists play a huge role in email marketing success or failure. Often lists are purchased or gathered in random ways such as contests, transactions, etc. Then email blasts are done, regardless of any correlation to the way in which the list was gathered.



For example, if someone enters a contest for a free vacation, they are most likely interested in leisure activities. Unfortunately, a plumber may use the free vacation ploy as a way to gather a list and then email to those hopeful "free vacation" people over and over again.

 It is very important that the list be segmented and the email that is sent be relative to what the recipient is interested in. Otherwise, it is no better than the "spray and pray" direct mail days and you must have a very large list with a very large budget (due to CAN SPAM Laws, Opt In list are very pricey to acquire). If you take this approach, you can expect a measly 1% response and then you still have to convert them to an acquired customer! This can be a very time consuming and expensive approach.


 There is a way to make email marketing effective as part of a multi-channel marketing approach but unfortunately, the days of email marketing being the silver bullet for acquisition are gone. The space is just too crowded.


Do you have a success story or failure to share that will help others with email marketing? Write and let us know.



Happy Marketing,

~Mary

Monday, April 9, 2012

Think You Know Who Your Customer Is…Think Again!


It never ceases to amaze me when I ask business leaders who their customer is, inevitably, I find that they really don’t have a clue. (This goes for both B2B and B2C by the way.)

I have challenged many business leaders to tell me who their best customers are. I make a deal with them that if I can’t tell them something about their customer that they didn’t know; they don’t have to pay me for the work. I have always been paid ;)

What I find most common, especially with entrepreneurs and start ups, is that the business leader had an idea of who s/he would sell the businesses products/services to. This idea stuck in their head and it is often who they believe they are truly selling to now.

Once I am engaged, I inventory their belief about who their customer is and then I look at data and some appends and I am able to profile their customer to a geo, psycho and behavioral level that usually enlightens not only the business leader, but the entire executive team. Once the “best customer” is identified, I often provide an analysis that shows the other ‘good’ customer groups and provides the business with the most effective ways to acquire, keep and get more from their targets.

Once armed with facts about their customers and what motivates them, the business leader is well equipped to out play the competition in defining a strategy that works and drops serious results to the bottom line.

One example I can give you is a graphic artists’ shop that was keeping up on technology advances but was not on the cutting edge of advances. When I did a profile of their customers and reviewed the landscape of the customers in their area, we identified a target market and the best way to interact with them. In this case, the best way to interact was a very “old fashioned” approach, the local Chamber of Commerce. As it turns out many years later, this company is thriving and healthy (and even turning down work) as they are a good fit for the businesses that join the Chamber. The plan we designed several years ago is still effective today and the company has gained top rate status in their Chamber and as a result, they get a lot of business.

Stories like the one above are not just a win for the client; they are a win-win for all. I truly look at the seller-buyer relationship as a matchmaker’s job. I help businesses identify who wants their products/services and then I help them to design a strategy that gets them to the buyers’ who need and want them. It is really satisfying work. One of the most fun parts of doing what I do is surprising the client with who their customers really are. Many are skeptical at first, but after proper testing and well designed campaigns, nothing speaks louder than success.

It isn’t a one size fits all world out there. I shudder at businesses blindly putting all of their eggs in an online presence or email marketing or direct mail without knowing what and how their customer really looks for and is attracted to goods and services.

Its 3:00 pm PDT, do you know who your customers are and what the most cost effective way to acquire their businesses is?

If not, I’d love to help you find out.



Happy Marketing!

Mary Mussard Woods


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Follow the Data Brick Road

So much is being written and debated about data: Big Data, Relevant Data, Data Your Boss Wants to Hear and more. A lot of it sounds like complaining and whining to me! It seems as if Technology has provided this big, huge lump of information to Marketers and many seem to be trying to figure out how to make it go away or at least how to minimize the quantity. I say it is a huge, wonderful gift and Marketers should be so thankful for ALL of the data available to them today. Stop worrying about the quantity, focus on the quality and listen to what it is telling you.

Let me take a non-product example and illustrate how data has utterly enhanced our chances for success. Let’s look at the entertainment industry, specifically a television series...

You may or may not be a fan of one of your favorite TV show’s many Social Media venues, but there are a lot of people who are. Just for fun, take a look at a fan page or the show’s web page and look at all of that viewer interaction. It is amazing how much and how impassioned the communication is and it can serve as a recipe for success if listened to. In fact, taken to the extreme, if the writers and producers listen close enough, the fans will tell them what they like, don’t like and can’t wait until the next segment to see.

Now, you could argue that takes a little bit of the creativity away from the writers, but I argue that it provides them with a desired story outline from which they can provide their viewers with what they want to see. Then the writers can utilize their creativity in developing the twists and turns in the way in which the story unfolds for the viewer. With the almost instant feedback, writers have a much better “applause meter” telling them whether or not they are hitting their audience with what makes them come back week after week after week.  This is not detrimental to the art form of writing, it is extremely helpful. If you give the viewing public what they want, they will continue viewing, the show will stay on the air and the writers will keep their jobs. This doesn’t dilute creativity. It ensures that it has a viable place to live!

How can you use this same process to interact with your customers to get their valuable feedback in a fast and usable vehicle to ensure your success in the marketplace? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

For the C-Suite: 5 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid


Some of these may seem so fundamental to you and if they do, congratulations. Unfortunately, these mistakes at the C-Level are all too common…

Flip Flop – We are living in lightning speed times and the good thing about that is if you really make a blunder, you can pull the plug, reverse positions or reframe strategy very quickly. With that being said, the worst thing to do is to use this as a management practice.

 If your team has researched a position and developed a campaign strategy, let them execute it. Don’t dictate that email marketing is the Holy Grail because someone told you it was successful for them and when you don’t get the same results after the first week, switch to traditional ad placement as your new Holy Grail next week. This approach will not only continually fail as you are not giving any tactic long enough to take effect, but you will drive your marketing and sales team crazy. It is a fast way to go broke, lose good people and a sure straight line to never finding out what your businesses’ true marketing mix should be.

Go Back to Old Tricks – For the same reasons as above, “we are living in lightning speed times,” when you find yourself in a slump, don’t revert back to what worked when you first opened your doors. Many young businesses hit a slump somewhere between 7-10 years into business. What this usually means is that it is time for the leadership to assess, re-strategize and try a new approach. However, at this time many make the mistake of thinking that their business will be revived if they go back to the approach they used when they started the business. What many fail to see is that their business is not what is was when they started, their customer is far more sophisticated than when they started (and so is the competition) and the tools today are more vast than ever.

Let me relate this for a moment to raising a child. What worked to guide them as a one year old does not work when they are 13! In my own case, I can remember that only 12 years ago, I gave my young child a pager so we could keep track of her. The thought of using this tool in today’s world makes me laugh. Although it was a step up from the school bell my mother rang through the neighborhood when it was time for her flock to come in from playing and get washed up for dinner and do homework, it is an archaic electronic leash in consideration with what is available to parents today. Times have changed, the tools have changed and the market is more complicated.

Micromanage Creative Thinkers – If you are micromanaging marketing, creative or sales staff, you might as well fold up the tent now. Read, listen and learn what makes creative thinkers thrive. Even say the words out loud, “CREATIVE THINKERS”. They need to think – for themselves! Telling them what and how to do every aspect of their job will stifle them and short change your business from solving problems. It will also choke the organization and if you can’t get on board and embrace the positive in your creative thinkers, at least be smart enough to get out of their way and let them be creative, solve problems and make money for you. Most micromanagers are control freaks and I don’t mean that to be disrespectful. I want my accountant to be a control freak and maybe even have a little OCD ;) – so if you have ever been accused of this, step aside and exert your control by holding your creative thinkers  accountable for results. Success is what matters not micromanaging every step along the way.

 Management by Consensus – Listen, we all have our opinion and sometimes it is based on experience, words of wisdom past down from others or just our own deductive thought process, but there comes a time to voice it and move on. If you run the C-suite with the expectation that “nothing moves forward without consensus” then you are putting a huge cork in your company’s trajectory. Stop it! Allow everyone to voice an opinion. Input is healthy, good and often new ideas spin off of feedback but when decision time comes, let the most knowledgeable person on the topic be the decision maker. After all, they have to fly or die by the outcome of their decision. If you can’t trust them to make a decision in their area of expertise, then you have the wrong person in the job.

No Plan/No Budget – Many start ups, entrepreneurial environments and some corporate halls are run without budgets, plans or long term strategy. Fly by the seat of your pants is their MO. This might work and I have seen it work in the very early stages of a business. If you have success with this approach, it is luck. When you are at the point of hiring professional marketers, require and use a plan and budget. Don’t induce an “ask as you go” budget approval for each project or email campaign as you go. It is an inefficient and ineffective way to manage. At best, you will clog up decision making. At worst, you will not approve something that you should because you don’t understand the context in which the expense falls and asking your marketer to explain it to you , EACH TIME, is a waste of everyone’s time. Get a strategy and budget up front, approve it and hold your marketer accountable to produce against the expenditures. Demand ROI – don’t demand begging to spend every dollar.









Thursday, March 8, 2012

Is Your Marketing Strategy Stuck in 2010? WARNING! It is almost Q2 of 2012


At times, I feel like a broken record, “Follow the data. Follow the data. Follow the data.” However, recently, this became so clear to me that I not only need to keep repeating this but perhaps I need to get a megaphone and blast it from the rooftops! “FOLLOW THE DATA!”
While reading a few articles, I ran across an old one in the related articles section that is often underneath blog or article postings. The topic was Digital Marketing Trends for 2010. On the top five recommendations were:
<!>SEO
<!>Paid Search
<!>Email Marketing
<!>Social Network Marketing
<!>Blogging
First of all, if it were only that easy... follow this recipe and you will be successful. I wish I could tell you it was that simple.
Secondly, not one word of the article referred to analytics on the front or back end of these activities. NOT ONE WORD!
Thirdly, I sadly realized that so many clients I talk to are STILL busy spending time, money and resources JUST STARTING to implement these strategies or at least becoming consistent with using them. And the DIY Email Marketing SaaS Providers make it look so easy, don’t they? Sigh….
So many caution alarms went off when I came to the realization of how prevalent and dated most businesses are in their Marketing. And, I am not bashing any of the above tactics as they all have their place and can be effective for some businesses. But they just ARE NOT a one-size-fits-all solution. Businesses continue doing them because of their perceived cost effectiveness. But, everyone wants an easy 1-2-3 Marketing Plan and Email Marketing and SM are deemed to be cheap - so a lot of focus is being spent on these two areas, regardless of whether or not it is currently producing results or not.
Please be warned that the above list is two years old and your customer, whether B2B or B2C, has become a lot more savvy and has much higher expectations today. Not to mention the C-Suite expects bottom line results – or else.
While poking around and doing research, I also read a fascinating article that offered information relaying that most buyers are 60-70% done with their buying research by the time they contact you. What does this mean? They are doing the DIY! They are looking through data, customer feedback, consumer reports, etc. before they decide who to contact to fulfill their needs.
So how do you influence this? Content and Data.  Provide content for the “DIYers” to devour about your product or service. Keep ON TOP of your SM outlets and take care of ANY negative comments/remarks as soon as they are posted. Praise and thank the positive posters.
Use the tactics above from 2010, there is nothing wrong with them; just be sure you are analyzing them and they are providing you the exposure, leverage, branding and ROI that they should.
It is almost Q2 of 2012 and you need to Market like it is. Are you stuck blindly following two year old advice and wondering why your sales are falling? Take charge and keep up with the current and upcoming trends in Marketing. Got mobile?  Never before have we lived in such an exciting time when technology can deliver us such exciting tools and possibilities. Embrace them - if the data shows they pay off ;)
Happy Marketing!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What’s the Best Recession Strategy? Ostrich? Gimmick? Fold The Tent? Analysis?

What’s the best Recession strategy for your business? I can’t give you a one word answer, but I can tell you how to get to the exactly correct answer for your business.

Here are a few scenarios that I have encountered recently with several (rightfully so) frustrated entrepreneurs. Take a look and see if you can identify with any of these scenarios or traits and what you can do to help your business through these frigid waters.

The High End Product Start Up – As a person with higher educational degrees, this entrepreneur did all of the right research on his industry. He made all of the right supplier connections, developed smart and memorable branding and established the highest quality of customer service standards to cater to his high end clientele. With a (then) booming market, the target market for vanity/high end products was quite large. Then the market changed.

This entrepreneur is now struggling. As many providers have experienced, the  market for his product shrank (virtually) over night as the middle class found that they couldn’t afford the million dollar plus home they were living in, the cars they were driving, the clothes they were wearing nor the vanity products offered by this entrepreneur.

With the coffers of the business dwindling, this entrepreneur looked for the cheapest quick fix --- email marketing. This is a pattern many businesses , large and small, run to under situations like this. It seems to be the one size fits all alluring elixir that many count on when in trouble.


Having signed up with one of the many DIY email providers, this entrepreneur bought a large list and started emailing product offers. The product offer emails then turned into product “deal” emails and some sales came but the infrastructure established to cater to a high-end clientele was time consuming and costly and therefore the margins on the meager sales flipped the P&L upside down faster than you can say, “We’re in trouble”.

As illustrated, the Start Up Entrepreneur took the Gimmick route and as you can see, it did not pay off.



The Right Time, Right Place and Right Product Success Model – Looking for a way to make a living, a detail oriented woman started tinkering with some ideas from home and in the garage. Through hard work, building a network of others who were doing the same thing, this woman quickly moved from the garage to her own facility. Due to the “ground up” and “built from scratch” involvement from the beginning, this entrepreneur built a methodical manufacturing environment to ensure that her product came off the assembly line with an extremely low level of “rejects”. The product quality was very high.

Along with intimate knowledge and being the driving force in developing the product and manufacturing process, this entrepreneur entered the market place very early. Being a pioneer in the industry helped in building relationships, customer trust and a good symbiotic relationship of a feedback loop for receiving customer and colleague feedback.

Another benefit in favor of this entrepreneur was timing. There was (and is) a “green” element in her business and as Al Gore and others were beginning to really saturate the media with societies' need and responsibility as Earth’s citizens to be less wasteful and look for little and big ways that each of us can daily reduce waste. This entrepreneur was able to ride the wave of these high cost and impactful media campaigns launched by others without spending a dime. The beauty of scenarios like this is that in this example, the “sell” for this entrepreneur was made much easier as she pitched her product because of the millions of dollars spent by others impressing people to “go green”.  Had these millions of dollars not been spent and the road paved for buyers to be open to “green” products, the road to success would have been much harder. But as luck would have it, she was able to make the most of the “spend” of others and build her business faster than may have happened without the “Al Gores” of the world making us think about being more “green”.

As often happens, even though this entrepreneur had the idea before the “green” movement campaigns were airing everywhere, others saw this opportunity to exploit the situation and therefore, in entered the competition. Thankfully, due to her intimate knowledge of her industry, product and a deep commitment to quality, she was able to outlive many of the competitors. Today, she is one of the few early entry players to still be in business.

So far, this is a great success story as the business not only survived, but it thrived and grew. But then, as often happens in profitable niche markets, a big player with big backers entered the marketplace. Instead of knocking out the competition, they began buying them up. Many of the pioneers were beginning to struggle and the offer to sell and get out was a pleasant relief to them so they took it.  

Now the game has changed. Whereas before the financial playing field was relatively even with the competition. Now the playing field was uneven. It was a David and Goliath situation. The entrepreneur recognized this competition and was aware of its maneuvers but was certain that her successful strategies in the past of delivering a high quality product, continuous product development and caring relationships with their customers and vendors would continue to keep this business from being impacted by the monster sized competitor. Simultaneously, more start ups entered the market and the economy fell into a Recession. Now what?

Her response to this complicated situation was to continue to do what she had always done. She worked day by day, focusing on building and delivering products and the result was a superior product but a drastic decline in sales. The Ostrich had entered the building.





 Stay the Same or Expand?

A small town tavern with “comfort foods”, those found mostly at amusement parks, wasn’t thriving but they were servicing their customers - who by the way came to this facility to do sports activities. The tavern was not losing its shorts but it wasn’t thriving. Could they improve it – YES! Could they leave it alone- YES! The owner entered into an agreement with a partner who specialized in the food business. This partner had their own vision of what she wanted the “tavern-style” eatery to evolve into. As the “new vision” was implemented, it was not supported by the mainstream customers nor the surrounding neighborhood. The reasons for that were complicated, but the bottom line was a round peg was being shoved into a square hole. All of the things that the past patrons enjoyed about the tavern disappeared and they were swiftly replaced with unreasonable customer un-friendly policies and procedures that left a poor taste in patrons’ mouths (in more ways than one). The sales never went above the red line. It never even reached flat-lined. This business was a corpse now.  They deployed both techniques above, Gimmicks and Ostrich. Through legal maneuverings, the deal was nullified and the tavern control came back to the facility management. As it stands now, the tavern is limping along. It is not as it was and it is not what it was tried to be turned into. In effect, they have Folded Up The Tents and are not fiscally where they were before nor in the red as they became, so I will leave it to you to decide if they “won”.



Now What?

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, by I haven’t posed a bad scenario for Analysis. Now, believe me, I have been in bureaucratic establishments and I know ALL too well about analysis paralysis and I’m not a fan. I am a fan of thoughtful, well organized and key indicator business reviews which often lead to a business re-set so that the business can face the new challenges that it is currently dealing with as well as be flexible enough to adapt to the changes to come.

Please keep these lessons in mind:

·        Your original business plan may have produced success but it may not carry you through market changes.

·        Quick fixes and Gimmicks rarely work. They are designed to have a very short LTV (lifetime value). By design they use a blitz media and advertising approach, make their money and then Fold Up the Tent and laugh all the way to the bank – until they come up with the next Gimmick.

·        Reach out to a third party who only has your best interests in mind. Don’t hire a “yes person”. Expect to hear things you don’t like, but if the business plan is sound, the proper analysis was done and the key success indicators were reviewed – Go ahead and re-tool your business for continued success. All long-lived American establishments have done it so it might be good enough for you too ;)

I’ll give you one example who missed the boat…Sears. They will sadly go by the waste side because they didn’t monopolize the Holiday market as they once had with the Wish Book. This was something ever kid in America waited for to come in the mail. Millions of kids dog eared pages, circled items for their wish list with crayons, pens and pencils and hoped they’d been good enough that year to get at least ONE THING from the Wish Book. Instead, they eliminated it. They never really embraced online shopping and they  buried their heads in their brick and mortar buildings. They underestimated the Wish Book and the love  that kids have developed for technology. Had they re-tooled their business to build an online “Wish Book” and put it online for a sign up audience only, they may have had Black Fridays that kept them afloat. (Disclaimer: this is just an educated guess as I have not reviewed or analyzed their business model thoroughly*wink*)



Take a step back and be open to someone who cares about your success as much as you do.



If I can help you at all please contact me at mary.mussard@yahoo.com.