Monthly Archives: June 2011

If You Decide to Take a Chance and Develop a Truly Innovative Product

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A lingering recession is actually a very good time to introduce exciting new products.  Continuing to provide the same old thing just doesn’t do it. But a product that truly represents “value add”, advanced technology, or ease of use garners the attention of even the most cash tight customers.

But this may be the first real innovation your well established midsized company has done in a long long time. If so, it pays to focus your attention on a small group of your most desirable customers (the sweet spot). Beta tests can be done for people you truly care about and the product can be tweaked until it is really ready to launch.  A broader launch is much easier and more successful if you can confidently brag about the premiere customers who chose to embrace your new product.  Frankly, most customers are followers and won’t take a chance on a new product until leaders endorse it. And the percentage of followers increases during tight economic times.

Breakeven and ROI can be difficult to project if product development isn’t an ongoing part of your daily lives, so it pays to learn from companies with a track record of successful product launches. They immediately measure the time, effort, and cost involved in developing a new product and winning first wave early adopter premiere customers.  And then they measure the time, effort, and costs associated with attracting their followers.

If it’s been a long time since you launched a truly innovative product, you may not like the numbers that are generated when you measure these things but you do need to know. It’s important to have some faith in your capacity to improve.  With information, each subsequent product launch can be more cost efficient.   The ROI on product launches becomes easier to calculate with each innovation.

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions. Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability™.  Ambler is in her 7th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer on line program at www.Business.VoiceAmerica. com and www.growthstrategistradioshow.com that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. Family owned businesses are being emphasized in 2011. Ambler is in the process of launching her 8th enterprise. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

Don’t Kid Yourself – Making Some Improvements Is NOT the Same as a New Business Model

Recently, I realized that I’ve been recommending zero based thinking and the creation of new businesses from scratch more often than I am encouraging the process of changing business models. New thinking is needed. Bad habits can’t carry forward. Old pricing assumptions can’t be permitted to interfere. Assumptions about promoting existing people can’t anchor the new approach.

Perhaps you are among the many executives who have concluded that you now need to implement some drastic changes or even find a new business model. The lingering period of uncertainty, the speed of technological advances, numerous natural disasters, the political climate, the expense of growth financing, and the scale of global competition all feel like ”game changers.”

But finding “new business models” through a series of improvements is succeeding less and less often, especially for well established businesses with familiar routines.

Readers of my weekly blog know that I am currently in the process of creating my eighth enterprise. This entity is a nonprofit economic development initiative. So I am seeing this need for zero based thinking through three very different clients and first hand experience.

The new economic development initiative clearly represents “blue the ocean” strategy in that it brings the best of a few industries together and leaves the problems associated with each behind. Granted, there are many challenges associated with something truly new. Legal questions. Insurance and risk. Skepticism. No template to follow. When we start a sentence, people finish it with a phrase for something that feels more familiar to them. Everything needs to be explained and demonstrated. Questions need to be answered. Clearly, this launch will require a significant investment in marketing, When people realize the power of the new concept, the enthusiasm is palpable and momentum builds quickly.

Give me something truly new and special over something “kindda’ improved” any day!

It’s Too Easy to Proclaim that Your Company is a Leader

Picture the scene. It’s the annual strategic planning retreat at the country club near your corporate headquarters. And the question of POSITIONING comes up.  Will your company be the LEADER, a FOLLOWER, a CHALLENGER or a NICHE player?

 

It’s just too easy for the group of executives to proudly proclaim “we are the industry leader!”

 

Success and profit can be made by being a challenger.  Someone else takes on the expense and risk of creating new product categories.  You look for ways to improve them. Manufacturers have figured out ways to make sweeter smelling detergents or shampoos without sulfates.

Serving niche(s) can lead also generate success and profit when you become adept at tailoring products/services for specific groups of people.  Translating educational products into Mandarin has value.

What if you became really good at identifying trends?  You apparel company could follow fashion trends and provide dresses that resemble those worn at the recent royal wedding.  And you would know which years animal prints will rotate in or out of fashion so your warehouses wouldn’t end up with tons of unsold product.

Once you publically declare a commitment to being the leader, you have taken on a huge responsibility to follow through.  Just imagine the difficulties Johnson and Johnson® Corporation faces these days.  Lots of companies have to deal with product recalls.  But the public trust in Johnson and Johnson® was huge. Their executives and managers must be dying a thousand deaths inside as they work harder and harder to not only fix the problems while they also work to regain public trust. APPLE® certainly had to move quickly when its upgraded I Phone® had too many dropped calls. Mattel™ Corporation had to respond quickly recently. Didn’t we all watch to see what BP Oil Company would do during the Gulf Spill?

This can happen to midsized companies too. Don’t assume you are below the radar. Imagine if your company had a program that helped businesses attract and retain top talent, but you couldn’t retain your own employees? You would feel like a hypocrite. What if your company’s reputation was built around product innovation and you hadn’t had a successful new product launch in several years?  What if your marketing emphasizes ethics or “eco-friendly” and then folks learned that your lead-based products were being manufactured in unsafe child labor sweat shops?  Sound preposterous? Those exact things happened to a few celebrity owned companies.

If you claim industry leadership, be prepared to invest, follow through, be consistent, and pace your growth.

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability™.  Ambler is in her 7th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer on line program at www.Business. VoiceAmerica. com and www.growthstrategistradioshow.com that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. Family owned businesses are being emphasized in 2011. Ambler can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

The High Cost of Fragmented Marketing

Does your marketing feel like a boat…a hole in the water into which you throw more and more money?

One client has decided that she should write a book.  They are in the financial services sector.  A book focused on important financial decisions faced by their target market makes sense.  They immediately ran into difficulties because (like healthcare) the field is now filled with specialists.  One vendor can help with editing, proofreading.  A second company can help with ISBN numbers, copyrights, etc.  Another company can help with graphics, printing, and binding.  A third company can help to promote the book launch but another vendor will be needed for the sustained promotion.  And they still have to thread the new book into the fabric of their overall marketing plan.

Another client has close to a dozen specialty vendors involved with their marketing.  A dozen! One does social media.  Another is great at public relations. Another handles book launches.  A fourth is great with websites. You get the idea. Surprisingly (at least to me) the owner of this business is reluctant to hire a marketing coordinator.  You have GOT to be kidding! The owner doesn’t have enough time or patience to oversee the minutia. Even motivated vendors don’t have enough incentive to collaborate with one another to the degree that is needed to prevent duplication of effort.

We’re running into similar challenges as my weekly on line radio show is moving quickly to video.  The number of people involved has increased exponentially.  If we aren’t careful, fragmented marketing will happen to us too. Will the social media piece be congruent with the website?  Will the published articles complement the association networking schedule? How does the direct mail campaign fuel media relations? Do the people who read the blog ever see the trade show display?

Marketing can quickly become a bottomless “to do” list of activities.  I know people who are busy busy busy with marketing tasks and no one is even measuring how many qualified leads are resulting from each piece of the marketing.

This is how marketing gets a “bad rap.”  We all know owners of midsized companies who actually refuse to invest a dime on marketing.  The truth is…marketing does require coordination.  And it does need to be monitored and held accountable.  Otherwise, smart sounding ideas just become a lot of effort and wasted money.  None of us can afford to write off marketing.  It is essential.  But none of us can afford to let the pieces of marketing just “run amuck.”

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability™. Ambler is in her 7th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer on line program at www.Business. VoiceAmerica. com and www.growthstrategistshow.com that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. Family owned businesses are being emphasized in 2011. Ambler can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

When You Change Your Business Model…

Sometimes, the focus of my weekly blog complements the growth strategy-of-the-week addressed on my peer-to-peer on line show for Presidents of midsized companies, THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™.  A few recent guests have been changing their business model.  Drew Morrisroe, President, CTN Solutions, has been overseeing their change from traditional T&M (time and materials) to a recurring revenue (retainer) model.

Presidents of midsized companies don’t easily reach the conclusion that they must completely change their business model.  In fact, most fight even considering the possibility hoping that sufficient improvement can be accomplished through clarifying procedures, working harder, improving training, hiring a few new people, etc.

But a new business model may be needed when customer needs, expectations, and buying patterns have dramatically changed.  A new model may be necessary when your employees always feel behind and you can’t afford to hire enough additional people to ever catch up. Erosion of profitability is another cue.  Rapid changes in technology and/or international competition can also force business model changes.

If you have concluded that it is time for your company to change its business model, prepare yourself for a comprehensive process because it will impact everything.  One of our strategic planning clients made the shift from T&M, borrowed from the recurring revenue model, and went right to the network model.  One minute they felt like they were overseeing a start up.  The next minute they could sense that they were leveraging their wealth of experience. The next minute they realized they were over their head and needed guidance.  Although it can be the most important step a business can take, the truth is a business model change requires excellent project management. It is time consuming, disruptive, tiring, sometimes confusing, scary, and expensive.

Recently, when it was clear that a new business model would be needed for one of my businesses, I chose to launch a new company with the new model instead of trying to completely change the existing business.  It’s still tiring, time consuming, and expensive. But so far it is not as disruptive, scary, or confusing. Stay tuned.

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability™. Ambler is in her 7th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer on line radio program at www.Business. VoiceAmerica. com and www.growthstrategistradioshow.com that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. Family owned businesses will be emphasized in 2011. Ambler can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

 

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