Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
- Commenting on the key lesson learned from the fall in fiber optic business: Our big lesson learned was, for one, it’s not enough just to be the best at what you do. You also have to understand your customers’ business model and your customers’ customers’ business model.
- Talking about dealing with change: At our peak at that time, we were worth $120 billion. Right at the bottom, in 2002, we were probably worth $1.5 billion. So that’s a little bit of change.
- On rebuilding (and I would add growing): You can’t be wed to whether you were right or wrong before. You have to make a decision for the whole institution about the right thing to do.
- On purpose and values: The core of our company is our values and our people and our innovation culture. We’re never about the products that we make because the products that we make … will always change. What won’t change is the core of the company being about values and about innovation and the culture. A crisis in a way is too good an opportunity to waste. We took the opportunity to decide what type of company we were going to be for the next decade. A lot of companies when they get in that spot change fundamentally what they are. We instead really embraced the core of what we do, which is to create and make keystone components and to grow through innovation, and acknowledge at the same time there are inevitable downsides. We put ourselves in the position of being a better version of Corning. Not a different version of Corning.
I’ll let you read the rest.
I’m in the midst of reading an excellent book, Made to Stick. The authors, Chip & Dan Heath, make a point that I try to make with my clients. They do it so well, I thought it important to share.
One of their points in making ideas stick, is that they need to be concrete. As people gain expertise they become increasingly abstract in their communication. Without meaning to, a message becomes meaningless. The Heaths point out that one way to avoid becoming abstract is to be very clear about who you are trying to communicate with. They share the example of Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and the author of such books as The Purpose Driven Life. They site Warren’s, and Saddleback Church’s description of their target ‘customer’ (they call him ‘Saddleback Sam’):
Saddleback Sam is the typical unchurched man who lives in our area. His age is late thirties or early forties. He has a college degree and may have an advanced degree…He is married to Saddleback Samantha, and they have two kids, Steve and Sally.
Surveys show that Sam likes his job, he likes where he lives, and he thinks he’s enjoying life more now than he was five years ago. He’s self-satisfied, even smug, about his station in life. He’s either a professional, a manager, or a successful entrepreneur.
…Another important characteristic of Sam is that he’s skeptical of what he calls “organized” religion. He’s likely to say, “I believe in Jesus. I just don’t like organized religion.”
Saddleback Church has more than 50,000 members and Rick Warren has several best selling books. They got there, in no small part, because of their focus on clearly and concretely communicating with people, instead of demographics. Now look at your target client description. How does it compare? If your description of your target clients does not go into such depth, it is impossible to clearly, quickly and distinctly set yourself apart from all the others seeking your clients’ attention.
What’s in a name? When is it worth it to change a name? I was watching TV this evening and saw, for the umpteenth time, a commercial ‘reintroducing’ Cingular as AT&T. I certainly understand that the AT&T name has more cache, but it’s an old brand that was left for dead when Cingular purchased its wireless business a few years back. I can’t figure out whether its worth the effort – and money – to re-brand the company.
I believe that naming a company is a strategic exercise. A great name can go a long way to creating awareness and building a powerful brand – after all, where would Starbucks be if they’d named it Joe’s Gourmet Coffee? In naming my company “Imagine,” I spent a great deal of time and effort in deciding which name would make sense.
I am completely in favor of spending an extraordinary amount of effort on naming a company. However, I believe that the name is only one component (and not the most important one at that) in determining how successful a company will be. Rumor has it that the AT&T name scored higher in recall with European consumers and hence was the choice since the company has targeted Europe as its next growth market. In spite of this, Cingular’s name change to AT&T still seems trite, manufactured and manipulative. You have to wonder how the company’s stockholders feel about footing the bill for the enormous cost of changing the signage alone. Why would Cingular trash the equity it has built in its name in favor of resuscitating a dead brand that never built much of a reputation for reliability, service or innovation in the mobile phone market previously?
Wouldn’t it make more sense for Cingular to put its money and energy into creating and delivering a more compelling experience? (By the way, I think their agreement with Apple is genius.) I, and many others like me, neither find our cellular phone experience compelling (or even satisfying) nor do we care what the name of the company providing the service is.
Cingular, for all its lip service to consumer research and the glory of the AT&T brand, seems focused on pulling off a cheap marketing trick with a very expensive name change. Whenever a company focuses on an internal move like this one, it demonstrates clearly that it isn’t focusing on creating value. So customers, beware.
Idea Sandbox has a great post about elevator speeches, and how television shows provide a great blueprint for creating quick, easily understandable descriptions of who you are. Think about the following shows:
- My Name Is Earl
- The A-Team
- The Six-Million Dollar Man
- Star Trek
- Even… Survivor
In less than 15 seconds, these shows enable a brand new viewer to understand what the show is about, what happened and it provides the context to understand the show. Some of these shows are very complex and have a great deal of nuance, yet they are able to communicate their message in a brief and compelling manner.
This got me thinking, would your business make a good television show?
If you think it would and have a witty synopsis you’d like to share, send it to me at email@example.com.
I was working with a client today, discussing ways to monetize content on the web. He was talking about Google AdSense and other revenue generating techniques [full disclosure: I am an ‘affiliate’ of Amazon.com and people can buy books through Amazon on my site, after which I get paid]. These techniques have always seemed small and shortsighted to me.
I also have no problem, per se, with advertising. I work with a few media companies who do an effective job of building a community of people with similar worldviews. I have no problem with them getting paid for building the community.
My client was telling me that I should use these techniques to generate revenues through the increased traffic to this blog, the website and, soon, our podcasts. This got me to talking about my favorite website from a design standpoint – Google. It’s so clean, so pure. Even when you go to their “more” page it’s clean – and there’s no advertising. We then looked at Yahoo and MSN – their homepages were nothing but links and ads. It was then that I realized the genius of Google. They do not expose you to advertising or direct you to content (what’s in it for them) until the viewer has gotten something of value (the response to their search). They create value before they receive value in return– that’s a rule we should all live by.
Until next time, Doug
Walking through the airport in Indianapolis, I saw the news flashing across the televisions in the terminal – “Lawyer confirms Anna Nicole Smith’s Death.” Then I sat down to check my e-mail and peruse my favorite new sites. Splashed across the front of those sites was the headline: “Anna Nicole Smith 1967-2007.”
You can say a lot of things about Anna Nicole Smith, but one thing you cannot argue about is that she achieved a level of fame that few people do. But, so what? What impact has Anna Nicole Smith had on the world? She, like Paris Hilton and others, are famous for, well, being famous.
This got me thinking about all of the companies out there that appear to do anything to get attention. They do shocking things. They put messages on billboards backwards, just to stand out. Traditional public relations teaches us “it doesn’t matter what you say, just spell the name correctly.” But what’s the point? Who cares if people know your company, if they don’t know what you company stands for or what it means?
Today, I was consulting with a very successful company. One of their goals was to figure out how to communicate that their message is ‘different.’ Here’s what I told them (and I’d tell you if I had the chance): if you need to tell me you’re different, you’re probably not different. At least you’re not different in any way that matters.
Here’s what I’ve learned: if you want people to think you’re different, just be different. Stop proving it, stop talking about it and focus maniacally on doing it. Then, when you (or your company or your offering) become famous, people won’t ask, “So What?!”
Watching the Super Bowl served an illustration to a number of insights to the opportunities and challenges our today’s information-rich world provides. It was especially profound for anyone attempting to get the attention of qualified buyers. Here are the observations I made:
- It is still possible to get a group of people to pay attention. The world of ultimate niches and 153 or more channels does not necessarily mean that you cannot get a wide range of people to pay attention at one time. 2007′s Super Bowl was the second most watched Super Bowl and the 3rd most watched program ever. Here is the key to getting people to pay attention — give them something worth paying attention to.
- Advertisers still don’t get it. The NFL does a great job of putting on a show that people want to pay attention to. This year’s ads were the least interesting or compelling that I can ever remember.
- Prince, to me at least, proved that if you do something compelling you don’t have to be showy or outrageous. There was no ‘Janet Jackson incident’ this year, yet this was the first time I actually watched a halftime show in my memory. Prince, in three songs, proved you can be compelling and concise.
- Here’s what really got me. It appears that in today’s wisdom age, advertisers are taking the industrial age notion of repetition to create awareness and applying it to believe-ability. It appears that Madison Avenue thinks that if they lie to consumers, as long as they repeat the lie continuously, consumers will begin to believe it.
I speak specifically of ads like Chevy’s, which closes with the line: “People who love cars, love Chevy.” No they don’t. If people who loved cars, loved Chevy; GM wouldn’t be in the trouble that it is. Remember, GM is not just suffering because of uncontrollable expenses, they are suffering because people are buying other cars.
I speak of Coca-Cola’s commercials, which I am still trying to figure out. One shows a video game antagonist having a change of heart because of drinking a Coke. Another overinflation of the importance of Coke as it shows the different shapes of its bottles as historic moments in black history occurred – like Coke had anything to do with it.
How about this as an advertising idea: Just tell me why I should care about your product. Tell me the truth and treat me like a reasonable, competent person. Who knows, I may like it so much that I spread the word for you. Lying to me, however, isn’t a good start.
If you can’t do that, at least entertain me.
The central theme of any business is a value proposition, or promise, designed to solve important problems that potential customers face. Choosing your value proposition is only the first step in accelerating growth. The second is to determine where you are going to anchor your value proposition. There are four Value Proposition Foundations(tm) you can choose from:
Operational Excellence – This value proposition focuses on being the best at producing products and services at the lowest cost possible. The focus of this value proposition is taking out costs wherever you can, ensuring predictability and stability in the implementation or manufacturing process, passing on savings to your clients and adding some of those savings to your profit margins. Operational Excellence is typically the value proposition of great commodity organizations.
Customer Intimacy – This value proposition focuses on being the best at collaborating with your customers and having a close relationship with them. You want to get to know your clients as well as or better then they know themselves. Your solutions are always customized to their individual needs. Your customers, in essence, become collaborators with you in the development of your products and services.
Best In Class – This value proposition focuses on building the best, however you define it. The best does not mean the tightest fit. The company with this value proposition focuses almost fanatically on staying ahead of the competition. Your mission is to provide an offering that can’t be found anywhere else and is superior to everything else. When a new product/service comes to market, a Best-In-Class company is already at work making it obsolete.
Enrichment – This is the underlying value proposition of organizations that focus on being the best at making the world (or the individual) better. Much of the experience economy, comprised of companies such as Imagine, operates in the realm of enrichment. This value proposition does not mean that there is not a profit motive, but profit is pursued through the aim of enabling people or organizations to become their best or fulfill their desires.
You must choose one, and only one, value proposition foundation for your organization. Once you make that decision, everything you do should nurture and reinforce that value proposition. And I do mean everything! Your marketing must support it. Your hiring practices must support it. Your sales systems, operations and anything else you can think of must be coordinated to make you the absolute best you can possibly be in that area. The “absolute best you can” is necessarily limited by the resources you have available such as time, people and capital. But put the resources you do have available behind your one thing and be the best you are able to be at that particular moment.
You have to understand that every successful offering obviously has some elements from each of the Value Proposition Foundations. Even if you have chosen “Enrichment” as your value proposition, you must have some organizational structure, your offerings must be pertinent to your customers and the quality of what you do must meet a certain standard. But none of those things is your “one thing.” Enrichment is. The key is to develop enough competency to manage those other elements outside your chosen value proposition foundation, so they don’t prevent you from consistently delivering on your promise.