Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Archive for May 2009

Tell me something I don’t know

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600px-information_iconsvgI want to share something with you. You could have found it on your own, but you didn’t. Maybe I use Internet search tools better than you do. Maybe I needed this information before you did. Or maybe I have more free time on my hands than you do. But the bottom line is you and I might have similar interests, similar levels of curiosity, or have the occasion to solve similar problems. And I have information you might want or need.

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of having to search the whole of the Internet, you could just tap into my bookmarks or my central depository of information?

Wouldn’t it be even better if you could find a group of people like us. And we’d all be willing and able to share what we know?

Like a lawyer asking a question in a courtroom, you have to know that I already know the answer.

Delicious. Or wait. Maybe Wikipedia. Or StumbleUpon. Or even my own wiki that I only let certain people have the password to. Maybe I don’t have THE answer after all since there is no ONE answer.

The bottom line is information is power and in today’s online world, people are willing to give that power away for free all the time.

Your online information gathering is so important that your OS or browser has some way of backing up your bookmarks. That information that you have deemed important enough to have it added to your browser’s database is probably very interesting to me. Let’s share.

A typical organization has vast amounts of internal knowledge and wisdom that it has gathered over the years. How is it being stored, vaulted, and recalled as needed? Do people sit around the company elders and have them spin yarns. Or is there a central database where anyone that needs the information has ready access, yet secure enough to be protected against competitor’s prying eyes.

On a personal level, how to you collect and store your information? How much are you willing to share?

At the corporate level, do you know of any positive examples where company knowledge and wisdom is collected, protected, and made available on an as-needed basis?

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Written by Jeff York

May 30, 2009 at 9:20 am

Are you sure the price is right?

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sprocket kitNo one can deny it. You have spent a great deal of effort and energy in determining the price of your services and/or widgets. You looked at cost of construction, pulled apart your competition’s pricing, and nailed the price points the market will bear which you will make enough of a profit margin to build and grow your business.

Enter the recession. People are thinking twice about every single purchase before they make it. They are thinking long and hard about your price point. If they don’t continue to see true value in your offering, they are going to pass. Pass on you for too long and you could no longer have any mind share within your customer base (you are still advertising, aren’t you?).

Before you head too far down this path, now is the perfect time to take another look at your pricing structure. If you’re like many businesses, you did this initial work when you introduced your business or product, but simply adjusted for inflation and may have become complacent.

Take another look at your own pricing. Are the components cheaper? Is there a new technology out there that would lower your cost per unit? Any way in which you can demonstrate additional value from your business in the current environment will give you additional advantages over your competition.

Written by Jeff York

May 25, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Try it, you’ll like it

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364543785_9f2275ebc5At the risk of sounding like a Successories poster, it’s against man’s nature to be complacent. There is an explorer’s spirit in all of us. Whether it’s sailing new routes and discovering America or devising a strategy for sending a person to Mars, we have a long history of trying and discovering new things.

So, how does that impact us personally?

I can’t argue that while being pressed to deliver more constantly in our professional lives, it’s easy to just keep our head down and to remain within our comfort zone by pumping out what we know has worked in the past. It’s easy to justify in your head that you just don’t have the time right now to be inventive. Just get through the project in front of you now and you’ll do something different when there’s more time.

Ever notice that there’s never more time?

Try this: when you’re starting your next project, put your foot down and say to yourself, “This is going to be the project where we try something new.” Find a boundary and push it. Set a new limit. Turn the project around in your head to look at it from a different angle.

You might think this is easier said than done, but consider this…how much off time do you have in your life? Morning and evening commutes? Time in the shower? There are good stretches of time when you can be devoting time to coming up with new angles on a project.

Written by Jeff York

May 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Invest in your people

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41T9YVNKTNLIn a past post, I suggested that it it always a good idea to invest in education and training for yourself. The best way to stay on top of new technologies, new processes, or just learning new tricks is from education.

The same also holds true if you are an employer. You’ve heard it time and time again. Your employees are your biggest asset. It’s true. They are committed to your organization and want to do anything they can to help it succeed. In fact, their success is dependent on your success. One of the best things you can do to help your employees to help you is to get them training.

Many sales professionals are given a formal training curriculum before they hit the streets. If they are new to the sales profession, then this training will help them develop their techniques. If they are experienced, then at a minimum the training will help with learn the company’s product/service and how to be effective quickly.

Why would you not offer the same to the rest of your staff? From support staff to senior management, everyone has something new they can learn.

Do you have a formal education or training program in place in your company? If so, what have you found to be effective for your people? If not, are you planning to develop one?

Written by Jeff York

May 10, 2009 at 1:03 am

The Peer Posse

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open_signYou’re a small business owner. Every day you wrestle with problems and challenges that impact your business. When a new situation arises, you call upon your background and muscle through the situation as best you can. You know you’re not the only small business. You have to think that you’re not the first person to deal with these particular problems.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find someone like you that’s been in this situation before? Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a like-minded individual that you could bounce ideas and thoughts off of?

You can.

Growing up, my parents owned a small business. It was a small store in a medium sized city in Connecticut. For the first decade, my parents rarely interacted with other store owners or even other business owners. They belonged to the chamber of commerce, but I don’t know why. They never took advantage of anything the chamber offered. Every time a new challenge presented itself, they struggled with it as if it was the first time this situation ever appeared in business. They had a brain trust of two, each other, in which to put towards a solution.

Then, they started talking with other business owners. And not just any business owners. They started talking with a few people that owned exactly the same kind of store they did. Something very interesting happened then. They stopped feeling isolated. They started working with the other stores as a collective group. If we were out of an item, the other stores would sell it to us at cost knowing that in the future, we will do the same. We started buying from distributors collectively driving the cost of goods down. Had I been a teenage marketing wizard, I would have been able to help them all with their advertising with solutions that no one store could have been able to afforded or executed on their own. But another interesting thing happened. My parents stopped feeling isolated. Their problem-solving brain-trust increased. There was a larger experience base to draw from.

By now, you have to be thinking that my parents got lucky. They did. After all, other businesses are called competitors for a reason. I’m not advocating that you start sleeping with the enemy. But I am hopeful that you will stop acting as if you’re on an island.

Want to know the easiest way to speak with other business owners and to find help in working through challenges that confront your business? Peer groups. Networking groups. These people have joined these groups for two reasons: to generate new business leads and to discuss small business topics with other people…people exactly like you.

I’ve found the best way to get started is to join your local chamber of commerce. Most chambers have meetings designed for just this purpose. Today, as a small business owner myself, I belong to exactly the same chamber group my parents did. However, I am much more active in the chamber’s events than they were. It helps me be more at ease with working crowds, it helps me generate new business leads, and just as importantly, it provides me access to other small business owners would are facing or have faced the same issues I do.

Your days of being alone in this are over.