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Communication 101 – the Communication Model

January 31st, 2012

Communication seems so simple – I say something, you hear it, message received.

Unfortunately, as we all know, the message often isn’t received, or is received wrong.

There’s a model that explains very simply what can go wrong and what the components of communication are.

  1. You have the sender of the message (the communicator).
  2. You have the intended meaning (what I think I think I’m communicating).
  3. You have the medium (how I communicate, whether by words, verbally, by body language).
  4. You have the message itself (the actual words I say or write)
  5. You have the received meaning (what the recipient hears as the message)
  6. You have the recipient (the person on the other end, who is the target of the communication.

If only the intended meaning and the received meaning always matched, life would be simple.  But all too often they don’t.

Many things interfere and mean that the message you receive (or decode) may be extremely different from the message I sent (or encoded).

Picture this scenario:

Person A: “I’m getting better at prioritization” (thinking “I plan my day, I know my top three priorities each day and get them done, I have my urgent/import items organized, and I even led the team meeting last week on the topic of how to prioritize effectively”)

Person B: responds “I’ve found it’s useful to keep of list of what needs to be done so I don’t forget – would you like me to send you an example of the template I use?  And you might find it helpful if we talked about how it’s going from time to time instead of you trying to figure it out all on your own.” (thinking ‘oh, poor A – I know how hard I’m finding it to keep the list up to date and not get discoured, s/he must also find it hard & I can help out because I’ve been doing this for a good month now!’).

This type of misunderstanding is the source of a huge amount of comedy – when it’s harmless as in the above scenario (unless Person A now thinks Person B is a total twit!).

But it can also have much more serious consequences.

Imagine Person A is applying for a job where s/he needs to be a expert in a particular field.  But Person A is modest & says ‘I’m not bad at x, but I still have a lot to learn’ (meaning in comparison to the absolute stars of that particular field) and the interviewer hears that Person A is just at the intermediate level and so does not hire Person A.  Now both the interviewer suffers (not getting the use of Person A’s skills) and Person A also suffers (not getting offered the job).  All because of the difference between the intended message and the received message (and note that neither has much to do with the actual words said!).

Equally in marketing or sales materials, the message we think we are conveying is often not the message actually being received (and I know this from personal painful experience!).

So what is the solution to getting the message across that we intend to send?

The answer is fourfold:

  1. Recognize and understand the difficulty (understanding the model is a solid first step)
  2. Get feedback (opening a feedback loop is the single most effective way to learn what message the recipient thinks you meant to send; this may be asking customers or prospects for feedback, or asking the person you are talking to what they just heard, or asking someone like the person you are creating a message for to tell you what they think it says)
  3. Recognize that one message may have multiple received meanings depending on the recipient (each person brings their own filters, background, past experiences to interpreting a given message, so with one sole communication to multiple people, each one of the recipients may actually receive a different perceived message) – know which types of recipients you are trying to communicate to and focus on those similar types of people – don’t worry about what other possible recipients might interpret
  4. Be aware that no message is ever received exactly as intended – stay alert to hints and indications that tell you that your message is not landing in the way you intended – and don’t take it personally when that happens!

Best Practices, Communication, Productivity

Your Secret Weapon for Social Media

September 15th, 2011

What is your motivation behind starting a social media campaign?

Social media is all the buzz; it’s unavoidable whether you are at work or play.  It is extolled online by bloggers and web writers, and is ballyhooed in traditional learning environments like conferences and seminars.

Not only are we constantly being bombarded by social media, we are being sold on it.secretweapon

Most of the information serves to hype the various platforms and to illustrate how ‘easy’ it is to get up and running.  This hype gets people eager to join in, or feeling like they should join in when they don’t want to.  A critical component has been left out.  The secret weapon behind a successful foray into social media lies in your answer to one question:

What are you trying to achieve?

Without asking this question first, it is easy to get overwhelmed and confused.  Multiple options, peer pressure and media hype can leave you stressed and unsure where or how to begin.  You may shut down at this point, or -worse- jump in feet-first, ending up frustrated and entangled in an unproductive task.

Once you know clearly what your goals are, building an effective social media strategy is almost formulaic – just follow the steps to get to your goal.  Social media is a tool to help you get where you’re going:  it is not an end in itself.

A social media campaign is strategically no different than a traditional marketing campaign: it all begins with specifically identifying what you want to accomplish.

You can’t hit a target you can’t see, and you can’t see a target you do not have. (Zig Ziglar)

This means that before you commit to a social media plan, you need to know what the success measures will be.

  • Are you looking for more customers?
  • Increased sales from existing customers?
  • Are you looking to increase traffic to your website?  If so, why?
  • Is it a branding exercise?  A public relations move?
  • Are you trying to build credibility with prospects reached by your sales team?
  • Are you trying to find strategic partners to work with?

Know what you want to accomplish, and then check out companies that have successfully done what you want to do, and see how they did it.  For example, Blenz Coffee has been extremely successful in getting great PR using social media.  They also use it to increase sales to existing customers and to find new customers.  Do a simple google search for ‘Blenz Social Media’ for some great examples of ways to get achieve business results.

But before you try to jump in, remember the question – what do you want to accomplish? And if you look at the best ways to accomplish your goal, is social media the right tool for your company?

Best Practices, Business Growth, Technology, Tips

Bill C-28 – Are you an Inadvertent Spammer?

September 7th, 2011

InadvertantSpammerAre you a spammer?

Most companies will answer ‘of course not!‘.  But are you aware of Bill C-28 and the implications it may have for your business – particularly your sales and marketing processes?  There are a lot of good articles online aboutmarketing compliance for email marketing and newsletters, but it’s important not to forget that your sales processes may be affected as well – certainly if you do cold calling to potential prospects.  Here is the skinny to help you avoid being an inadvertent spammer.

Who

Bill C-58 is specific to ‘commercial messages’ – according to some, this does not apply to other types of email messages that are purely transactional or provide information requested by the recipient or in follow-up to a transaction that has occured.  I would love to know if downloading a white paper or other document from a website is considered a transaction for these purposes – if so, the value of content downloads would be reinforced as part of a marketing program.

Basically any company that sends commercial messages needs to be aware of the regulations and evaluate the impact on their processes and how they will ensure compliance

Why

For example, When you are developing sales processes, do you have a cold-calling process where you then follow up by email?  If so, you want to be very aware of the new regulations coming in, and of the contents of Bill C-28.  The penalties are stiff.  Individuals can face fines of up to $1 million, while businesses face penalties of up to $10 million per violation.

What

If you use emails for prospecting, make sure that you either have consent (this can include such things as the prospect having given you their business card or email address, or having published their email address without a statement saying that they do not wish to received unsolicited commercial electronic messages) or that you have an existing business relationship with the customer.

You also need to ensure that your emails include contact information of the sender (including company name, contact name, address and phone number) and a clear and easy way to unsubscribe.

When

One of the key questions about Bill C-28 is when it will come into effect.  The deadline for comments on the draft legislation is September 7th, 2011.  The implementation will likely follow relatively quickly afterwards (i.e. late 2011 or early 2012).

How

Industry Canada has a Q & A page about Bill C-28 that outlines some common questions and answers, but it doesn’t have a lot of detail about how this affects your business.  Check it out for a basic grounding in what the bill covers.

You can find the Industry Canada draft regulations online to read all the details for yourself.

At Open Box, we have always done our best to follow best practices for all newsletters we send out, but after a review of these regulations, we are updating our signatures to include more detailed information (i.e. our address – we used to just have a link to our website), as well as ensuring that all emails to any type of prospect or new connection we have met include an ‘unsubscribe’ link that will flow through to our customer relationship systems.

Best Practices, Communication, Marketing

Please don’t waste my time! and I won’t waste yours…

August 17th, 2011

There have been a few examples recently of potential vendors who waste their opportunities to do business with us. It got me thinking about what makes for a waste of time.  Because I really do want to do business with other companies, but I want them to make it easy for me and to show me how great they can be.  (I know I sound curmudgeonly as I write some of this, but it’s from the heart…)  So here’s what I do and don’t want, and then what we commit to for our potential customers.

The biggest errors from potential vendors to us in the last few weeks have been:

1) Lack of clear message

I was at an event where a series of presentations were made. One of them looked interesting – an opportunity to support a group I would like to help by using their skills. Unfortunately the presenter didn’t know his core differentiator or how to describe his offering clearly – or if he did, he wasn’t able to articulate it to the group. During question period attendees asked ‘but what do you do?’, ‘what can you do for me?’, and unfortunately the answer was essentially ‘almost anything you want’. Instant loss of credibility when talking to a business.

2) Process for the sake of processTime

A company I was interested in doing business with sent me an introductory questionnaire, including questions that I didn’t even understand like ‘A story about your relationship with this industry or company’.

I’m sorry – what relationship with what industry or company? Not only is the question impossible to answer, but I don’t see how it will move us closer to doing business together.

On top of that, the questionnaire had lots of deep probing questions about our business strategy, marketing strategy, etc. Again, none of those will help move us closer to doing business. All they do is take up my time filling in the answers or make me think that you don’t know what you’re doing and so are asking lots of generic questions that are really ‘fishing for a problem’ so you can propose a solution.  They don’t tell me what solutions you offer or help me narrow in on whether I can use one of them.

Lastly, the questionnaire asked for our company’s address, website, phone, email, fax, social media links, my name, phone, email, etc in great excrutiating detail. Again, a waste of my time. Ask me for our contact us page & maybe my contact details (if you don’t already have them) & then go do the research yourself. Until I have decided to do business with you, ask me only what you need to know to help us both get closer to a solution, and please help me understand how answering the questions you do ask will benefit us both.

3) Meeting mania

You’ve learned that a meeting will get you to get closer to doing business with me. That’s fine. But make sure the meeting provides me with value and is not just to ‘move the sales process along’.

If I take the time to meet with you, please come with an agenda, a plan and a clear way that we will each benefit from the time. Once you have established that rapport, please try to send me what you can by email, with any questions clearly phrased so I can respond at my convenience. Please don’t ask for frequent meetings so you can build rapport – if they’re not adding to my perception of your value in a tangible way, I will hesitate to do business with you because I’ll be afraid that it will take too much face time.

4) No clear qualification process

One vendor I met with recently (yes, a meeting first!) asked me lots of questions about our business and our needs, said that he would go away and find out how they could solve our problems, set a follow-up meeting time, and then never showed up. My assistant followed up with his company to see whether he was just running late & apparently they couldn’t reach him. We never heard from him again.

I have no idea whether he decided our needs weren’t big enough for the service they offer, or were too hard to solve, or whether he just forgot. But I’m guessing that it’s the first one – we don’t need a lot of his solution. If so, that’s fine, but I really appreciate vendors who pre-qualify clearly. If you say to me ‘we want to work with company of size x-y’ and if I’m not in that size, then neither of us is wasting time exploring options, and goodness knows we both have lots of other things to do!

Which leads to my commitment to our customers & potential customers

  1. We will tell you what differentiates us.
    1. If it’s not clear enough, please let us know! We’ll fix it.
    2. If the message has no value, please let us know! We’ll fix it.
    3. If you couldn’t care less about what we think differentiates us, please let us know! We’ll fix it.
  2. We will not ask you for information that we can find on your website or through a little research. We value your time and respect the great things you are doing.
  3. If we ask you for any information where you don’t see the direct benefits to what we are asking, please let us know. We don’t need to know everything about your business plans and strategy – we only need to know what may have an effect on what we are doing together.
  4. Especially in the first phases of getting to know each other, we want to help you quickly either rule us in or out as a potential vendor. If you’re not going to work with us, we know you have other business strategies to move forward.
  5. We will absolutely respect your time & do as much as we can to move things forward without your involvement.
  6. We will come to each meeting or conversation with a clear agenda and goals to achieve. If you want to change that on the spot, feel free.
  7. We will not ask for meetings to make us feel good; warm and fuzzy is lovely, but if it’s not moving your business forward, we have no business taking up your time.
  8. We know what qualifies companies to work with us and helps them get the most value. We will not be afraid to tell you what it is. We will tell you if you do not fit that criteria; not to offend you but to save your time. And if at all possible, we will suggest other companies who do work with your type of business.
  9. We will not miss scheduled meetings or be late without letting you know. We are proud when our customers laugh at us about how prompt we are to scheduled meetings. Every minute you spend waiting for someone to arrive is a minute you are not making money – we want you to make money and grow your business.

If we miss the mark on any of these, please let us know.  And feel free to share with us anything else we can do to be better prospective vendors for your company.

Best Practices, Business Growth, Communication

The surprising power of asking for feedback

August 10th, 2011

… and what makes it scary

I just relearned a lesson that I have learned before – asking for feedback is a huge winner for me and for our company.
We talk a lot about feedback inside our company.  We try to end every project with a request for feedback on how the process went and whether it reached its business objectives for the customer and what we did well and what we can improve.  And last year we reached out to past customers asking if we could shoot some video about their experiences working with us.  Then just recently our company was nominated for an award that also related to the personal values of the entrepreneur running it, so I reached out to people in the community that know me well enough to comment on that aspect.
Every time we’ve asked for feedback, the results have been amazing; touching, humbling and very affirming about where we excel.  It envigorates the team and reminds us that we are providing the kind of value we want to provide and that our vision (setting people free to be their best using technology) is not just words on paper, but actually takes life in the projects we do.  It gives perspective, encouragement, validation and fresh energy.
It also always makes me wonder why we don’t do this more often.  I think sometimes we see the little glitches and magnify them mentally so we are afraid to ask.  I think sometimes we are too busy to remember to ask.  I think sometimes we are afraid that if we ask for feedback, then we will need to do something with it, and maybe we feel too busy to want to take that new stuff on.  I think sometimes we take for granted the things we do really really well and forget the impact they can have on customers.

I just relearned a lesson that I have learned before – asking for feedback is a huge winner for me and for our company.

Say What?

We talk a lot about feedback at Open Box, both internally with each other and externally with customers and partners.  We try to end every project with a request for feedback on how the process went and whether it reached its business objectives for the customer and what we did well and what we can improve.  Last year we reached out to past customers asking if we could shoot some video about their experiences working with us.  Then in July our company was nominated for an award that also relates to the personal values of the entrepreneur running it, so I reached out to people in the community that know me well enough to comment on my values and how they have affected the community around us.

It makes me wonder why we don’t do this more often…

I think sometimes we see the little glitches and magnify them mentally so we are afraid to ask.

I think sometimes we are too busy to remember to ask.

I think sometimes we are afraid that if we ask for feedback, then we will need to do something with it, and maybe we feel too busy to want to take that new stuff on.

I think sometimes we take for granted the things we do really really well and forget the impact they can have on customers.

Every time we’ve asked for feedback, the results have been amazing; touching, humbling and very affirming about where we excel.  Feedback

  • invigorates the team
  • reminds us that we are providing the kind of value we want to provide
  • remind us that our vision (setting people free to be their best using technology) is not just words on paper, but actually takes life in the projects we do
  • gives perspective, encouragement, validation and fresh energy.

I shared this idea with one entrepreneur I know a while back when she was struggling with how to market her company, and her past customers came through big-time; giving her phrases that were much stronger and more powerful than anything she would have come up with on her own.  So there’s another benefit – getting great marketing content and materials.

What have you learned through asking for feedback?

If you want to learn more about the type of feedback we’ve received, check out our customer testimonials or our videos (all done thanks to the amazing feedback we’ve received).

What have you learned through asking for feedback?  Did it hurt?

Best Practices, Business Growth, Communication

One Simple Tip to Increase Sales Volume

May 10th, 2011

Reduce the number of choices you offer your customers.

Sound too simplistic?  In a way it is, but what matters more is that it works.

People faced with too many choices will be drawn and interested, but less likely to buy.

There have been some fascinating studies on this topic, starting with Sheena Iyengar and her jam experiment at Draeger’s.  For all the details, read her publications (links below) or watch her Ted talk (broader than this one question – she branches into the question of whether choices are linked to upbringing and culture – but fascinating) or check out her telling her story about this experiment and what led to it.

In short, she set up an experiment where people had either 24 choices of types of jam, or 6 choices.

The findings were that the 24 choices drew more people to look at the options, but actually led to fewer sales.

6 choices made it easier for people to make a selection and actually complete the purchase.

I know which one I prefer :)

To quote Sheena Iyengar, “they were actually less likely to make a choice if they had more to choose from than if they had fewer to choose from.”

Psychology Driving Business Growth

I’m fascinated by how psychology & the knowledge of psychologists can help drive business growth.  It’s not actually surprising – what we as people chose to do and buy and be is rooted in our brains – but it’s easy to think of psychology as a slightly wishy-washy ‘how do we feel’ science.  Where the real value comes in is the data driven research that helps us learn about how people behave and how we are wired – that will all tie in to helping drive business success.

For those who want do want more choices, here are some other fascinating links:

Related to Sheena Iyengar & the jam experiment:

Other useful articles online referencing this study or other similar ones and drawing additional conclusions:

Interesting (and useful) psychology links:

Have you ever tried this?  What psychological insights have helped grow your business?

Best Practices, Business Growth, Communication, Marketing, Tips

Franchise Candidates: A Changing Mindset

April 15th, 2011

caution-01I was reading some interesting articles online lately and this one by Paul Segreto stood out because it gives a realistic impression of Franchise Candidates’ changing needs and perspectives. Paul as always, kindly, agreed to let me post it here (it’s from a while ago, but just getting more true with time).

By Paul Segreto
A look at today’s franchise candidates will reveal they are more sophisticated, better educated, and more technologically advanced than ever before. In addition, and even more so because of the economic downturn, they are extremely cautious.

Today’s candidates are spending more time researching opportunities, and doing so at a much slower pace. In order to be diligent in the process, more time is spent online pouring through page after page of information, constantly bookmarking, and moving back and forth from new information to saved information. They’re comparing notes with other franchise candidates on social networking sites. As well, they’re gaining invaluable insight monitoring online discussion groups and forums.

Ultimately, today’s franchise candidate desires, needs, to be certain the franchise opportunity is as close to perfect for his or her situation, as humanly possible. In the past, and especially after previous recessions, franchise candidates took their capital gains and invested in a franchise opportunity. Many times leaving the principal investment untouched. There was a sense of throwing caution to the wind because they were investing profits. Many times ungodly profits, at least by today’s standards. Does anyone remember when money markets kicked out 17% profit margins?

Unfortunately, many individuals looking at franchise opportunities today are looking at things differently. They have to. Many are transitioning corporate executives staring at the back end of illustrious careers trying to squeak out just ten more years before retirement. Facing the challenge of younger talent, new technology, and a rapidly changing business environment, many opt to “buy” a job and explore franchising and small business ownership.

What Changed?

Here’s the difference between today’s recession, and of those in the past. As huge fortunes have been lost, and large gains have not been realized in current financial markets, today’s candidates are forced to invest all or part of their remaining nest egg in order to enter the world of business ownership. Of course, everyone knows and fully understand the risks involved in owning a business. But in yesterday’s business environment, many franchisees and business owners were “gambling” with profits.

Certainly, no one wanted to lose money in a business venture. But, many had fallback positions with funds still in retirement accounts and of course, if they had to, employment. For many of today’s candidates, failure is not an option because fallback opportunities are fast becoming non-existent. Actually, I believe many of today’s candidates might not have even considered franchise or small business ownership in the past.

So, as many individuals explore their options, they will focus more and more of their efforts online. Franchisors must embrace this fact, and dedicate more resources to the internet and look to social media to complement, not replace, their traditional franchise marketing strategies. By doing so, they’ll realize multiple benefits for their entire system including:

- Creating or further developing brand awareness with franchise candidates and consumers alike
- Generating franchise leads that are genuinely interested in exploring what franchising and small business ownership has to offer, and how a particular concept may be the vehicle to achieve their goals and objectives
- Establishing an interactive environment of communications and information sharing that will become the backbone of future franchise relationships throughout franchise systems

Last, it used to be that many franchise candidates viewed franchising and small business ownership as a way of achieving their wishes, hopes and dreams, regardless of what they may have been. Today, it’s more about goals and objectives, and necessities. We, as an industry need to fully realize this, and understand the mindset of today’s franchise candidate.

To see the original post go to:
http://franchisessentials.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/franchise-candidates-a-changing-mindset/

Best Practices, Business Growth, Franchise, Marketing , , , , ,

Adapt service standards to suit the changing times – A Personal Experience

March 18th, 2011
Guest Post by Nancy Baye

‘Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle’ is not just a motto: it’s a mindset.

I find waste offensive.  If it’s not needed, don’t use it.  If it is needed, then reuse and recycle it.  Go ahead and laugh at the re-used zip-lock bags and gently-damp paper towels that hang drying in my dish-rack; just know that this attitude is prevalent among today’s consumers.

Is it on the mind of your franchise operations?

On a recent visit to McDonald’s for a (relatively healthy) chicken wrap, I specifically stated that I did not need a bag.  My comment was noted by the girl who took my order and my money, then went to retrieve the order.  Another staffer (highly bored) ventured to the counter and glanced at my order.  He automatically reached for a paper bag and shook it open.  I tried to stop him, but he was quick as a bullet.  When I re-iterated my request he shrugged his shoulders, indifferently crumpled the bag and – to my horror –threw it into the garbage.

iStock_000002457630Small

I explained to the blemished offender my attempt to avoid waste, adding that had I used a bag, (forgive me old growth forests) it would have been respectfully recycled.  Again, he shrugged his shoulders, and then walked away.  

My request was dismissed and I felt dismissed.

What recourse do I have?  What is the likelihood of the burger jockey reporting my feedback?  About two shoulder shrugs out of ten.

How do you, as a franchisor, keep up with consumers’ shifting mindsets and resultant requests?

Some encouraging examples to consider

  • many grocery and liquor stores now give away reusable bags (with logos smartly displayed) to brace customers for the upcoming ban on plastic bags
  • ‘Mom & Pop shops’ seem sensitive to their customers needs, perhaps because the owner is on the front lines to witness those glances of approval / disapproval

It’s too late for that McDonalds’ bag which now faces years in a landfill.  But my tale is not simply about a wasted bag: it’s about a principle. 

Today’s consumers want to be as socially and environmentally responsible as possible.   Can you afford to overlook this way of thinking?

How do you get feedback from the front line:  your consumers?

Best Practices, Focus, Franchise, Tips , , , , ,

Support development and implementation of best practices

February 18th, 2011

Selling a franchise is – by definition – selling a system of operations, sales, production and delivery that will make money for the buyer.

One often unspoken assumption by franchisees is that you will provide them with ‘best practices’ and will continue to provide them with improvements to procedures and operations.

The franchisee expects to acquire a system of operations, sales, production and delivery that will generate profits; and they expect it to be continually updated.

A big part of the value of a franchise is having a group of intelligent invested people who are constantly trying out new things and learning from their experiences.  Since the learning that arises from this is carried out in disparate locations, the challenge becomes how the franchisor can gather, collate, distribute and continually update these found improvements to all the franchisees.

Why this is so important

Eager Businessman

  • When this does not happen, the learning process comes to a grinding halt and the newly acquired data is lost.
  • But when it does happen, the competitive advantage of this franchise will go through the roof!

Sir Isaac Newton said:  “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  (Letter to Robert Hooke, 1675)   This quote speaks to any successful franchisor who learns from his franchisees.

Set up systems for people to:

  • See what has been done before, what worked and what didn’t
  • Easily track what they are trying, and filter results for fellow franchisees
  • Easily generate graphs to see trends, leading indicators, etc.
  • Learn from you about franchise-wide best practices that have been discovered
  • Have a place for updated best practices, and a forum for questions and conversation

Distributing continual improvements further benefits you as it is proof of all the ongoing advancements, upgrades and value that you are providing.

It helps to justify your royalties even before the franchisee asks the question,“What have you done for me today?”

Best Practices, Business Growth, Communication, Focus, Franchise , , , , , , ,

How to Develop Your Social Media Strategy

November 12th, 2010

Continuing from the last post, “Your Secret Weapon for Social Media,” keep in mind that social media is one marketing tool among many.  Remember the keys to success:

  1. know what success looks like for your company
  2. use that knowledge to select your strategy
  3. implement and then
  4. measure using your key metrics
  5. adapt direction as necessary based on your results
  6. repeat

With a good plan, social media can be a great boost to your business.  Your first step lies in defining exactly what it is you seek to accomplish.   There are five common business needs that social media can facilitate.

Choose the most appropriate one for your company:

  • You want to grow sales directlyiStock_000012639594XSmall(2)
  • You are trying to drive online traffic
  • You want to learn about what your customers are thinking and get product feedback
  • You are building your brand
  • You are looking for people who will make good strategic partners

Focussing on your goal will dictate what particular strategy to follow and what to avoid. We’ll describe strategies that one might adopt for each of these goals using fictitious companies.

1-          Grow sales directly. ‘Sock-It-To-Ya’ is a new company that manufactures ladies socks and tights (their customers are young, fashion-conscious women).  They have a website, have set up e-commerce and are eager to begin direct sales and are sure that having a presence online will serve them well.

2-         Drive online traffic to the company blog. ‘The Hard Software Company’ is expanding rapidly.  The highly creative owner knows that she has a high level of expertise, and wants to establish herself as an industry expert so that she can be invited to speak at conferences and further grow her business.  She has recently set up a content-rich blog and wants to drive traffic to it so that she can expand her influence and firmly entrench her industry position.

3-         Learn what my customers are thinking and get product feedback.

‘Juicy’s’ is a regional chain of juice bars.  They are about to introduce a new high-protein smoothy, targeted to fitness fanatics.  The samples have been well-reviewed, but the owners are deliberating what to call the new offering.  They decide to launch a contest that allows customers to vote on name choices.  Juicy’s already has a website and a mailing list; now they want to harness the power of social media to get as many people involved as possible, so they have a wide base of feedback.

4-         Build our brand.   Texas is no longer big enough for ‘Texas’ Biggest Buns,’ bakers and wholesalers of hamburger, hotdog and sandwich buns, and it is high time to move into the surrounding states.  Siggy, the CEO, turns the task over to Johnson, telling him to, “Spread the word over the internet waves!”  An anxious Johnston needs to formulate an online strategy to build the brand online so that other states will want to buy franchises.

5-         Find strategic partners. ‘Cats vs. Dogs’ find themselves in an enviable position:  their business has soared to new heights.  They have done so well, that they are ready to expand into bigger -perhaps international – markets.  They want to find experts in financing & business expansion in other countries that they can joint venture with.

Each business knows specifically what they want to accomplish.  But how will they do it?  Tune in to the next posts to follow their progress.

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