Summer’s Setting Sun

Hefner_sunset

While it may be hard to believe, Summer 2015 is drawing to a close. Family vacations have been checked off the list, the kids are heading back to school (watch those school zones!) and football season is about to kick-off. It’s time to sit back and coast into the holidays… right?

Not so fast there, Santa. We are only half-way through the 3rd Quarter! There’s lots of year left for your business. Now is the time to dust off your business goals and marketing plans for 2015 and make something happen! From contacting clients with whom you lost touch during the summer hiatus to addressing your most important goals for 2015 to determining which projects should be pushed to next year, this is the prime time for action.

The smart folks at Inc. magazine identified 4 ways to dominate the 4th quarter (well, they didn’t call it that… but they should have!). I found these to be incredibly useful and think you will, too!

If you thought this summer went by fast, just wait and see how quickly the rest of the year goes! Get started today so you don’t find yourself “under the gun” during the festive holiday season.

Invasion of the Red Inflatables

Several years ago, a car wash was built down the street from my office. I was glad to see it because the old one (which is actually closer to my office) was getting pretty run-down and seedy looking. Plus, the new one had a better selection of products in the self-wash bays or you could do the drive-thru for $5, if you wanted. Let’s call this place Bob’s Car Wash.

Two years ago, another car wash was built almost directly across the street from Bob’s. This car wash, however, only has a drive-thru… but it has vacuum cleaners for its customers at no charge. Almost immediately, they put one of those goofy inflatable things out front to get attention. It’s tall and stringy looking, bounces all around and really doesn’t do much to make me want to get my car washed there. Let’s call this place Sam’s Car Wash.

Today, I was driving to work and I noticed that Bob’s now has a stupid, bouncy inflatable thing in front of it… JUST LIKE SAM’S! I know it is just like Sam’s because I could see both of them at the same time. Who is the marketing genius who came up with this tactic?

Rather than promote the fact that Bob’s has both coin operated AND drive-thru equipment, they chose to do exactly what the competition was doing. To make it even worse, I can’t think of a much dumber way to try to promote a car wash. An inflatable red stick thing? Really? That’s the best Sam’s could come up with? And Bob’s is going to copy it? Wow.

It made me wonder, though… How many times do we do things because that’s what the competition is doing?

Isn’t the real goal of marketing to stand out from the crowd? To show potential customers why your product or service is exactly what they need? Why, then, do so many companies make their marketing collateral (print, video, websites…) look just like the competition’s?

Here’s a thought… The next time a project comes down the line and you need to come up with a catchy way to promote it, DON’T look to see what your competitor’s are doing. If all you are going to do is try to dress-up the same tired idea they have, why not look at a completely different industry and see how they promote themselves? The brain power involved in trying to use an unrelated industry’s concept to fit your product might just inspire some creativity on your part.

And THAT, my friends, is where the good ideas start.

Imagine if the owner of Bob’s said, “We need to do something to get our business back from Sam’s. Get me one of those nifty inflatable things like they have!” And Bob’s marketing person said, “Actually, I was thinking about how Big Sky Bread gives customers a free loaf of bread after 12 purchases. Why don’t we reward our customers like that?”

That makes a lot more sense than putting another ugly, red stringy thing out in front of your business, doesn’t it?

Spring Planning


I really like spring. The whole idea of rebirth… A fresh start… New beginnings. It appeals to me in many ways.

For instance, this is the time of year that I get back outside to work in our flowerbeds. I used to hate having to do this, but over the years, I have learned to cherish this time. With the warm sun on my back and a cool breeze blowing by (this is Oklahoma, afterall!), a cold beverage sitting in the shade for my next break and some serious blues pouring out of the stereo speakers… This is not only a time to rejuvinate the flower beds. It’s a time to rejuvinate myself.

My thoughts wander while I do the work… Family… Friends… Work… Upcoming events… I am able to actually see these things as my hands work the soil, trim the bushes, plant the flowers. I can visualize what will be happening in my near future. Plans begin to form. Problems are buried in the dirt so that creative solutions can come in full bloom.

This is also a great time for your business to get a fresh start. It’s amazing how therapeutic it can be for you to clean your office, go through old files, get rid of the clutter and in the process, let your mind wander a bit. Before long, thoughts of old contacts, new friends, forgotten action items and endless possibilites begin to float around.

This is the perfect time for you to make a strategic plan – for yourself or for your company. Where are you going? Why do you want to be there? How are you going to get ‘there’?

Planning for success. Just like laying out a garden, your business needs a plan. You have to plant the ideas, nurture them, protect them from the weeds (the critics) and help them grow into the dreams you have.

Now is the time.

It is our mission to … (blah, blah, blah)

 

I have been having some great discussions with some really smart folks about Mission Statements. I know, I know… This is not your standard fare “Topic Du Jour”, but bear with me… It might just affect how you think about your business.

Most companies have a “mission statement” or “vision statement” or “guiding principles” or something with a catchy name that resembles one of these. But, how many companies actually DO what their mission statements say they do? In my experience, virtually none. I looked at the mission statements of some of my previous employers and, honestly, they are just a bunch of flowery words (one was actually two run-on sentences with every buzzword you can imagine tossed in for good measure). Puh-leeze.

So, I asked some of my friends (did I mention that they are very smart?) what they thought about mission statements in general… And their’s specifically. Here are some of the responses I received:

Kevin Jessop, principal at Evolve Research, had some great insights. As the owner of a small business, he is keenly aware of what his company does:

We have a Mission Statement and it does accurately reflect what we do. However, I think Mission Statements are pretty tragic, generally.

The effectiveness of any MS should be measured by a) do employees know what it is,  b) do employees live by it.   In my opinion, mission statements rarely work.

He went on to tell me what the Evolve Research ‘unofficial’ MS is. And it is awesome. Give him a shout and I’m sure he’ll share it with you, too (in a proper British accent, no less!).

For another perspective, I asked Nancy Entz. VP Marketing Manager at Tinker Federal Credit Union, for her two cents… And got about a buck fifty back! (Man, smart people ROCK!)

If you’re big enough that you need a “mission statement” to get the point across, so be it. But I think the whole thing starts with having a legitimate mission.

 I firmly believe most mission statements are born out of a very expensive, consultant-led strategic planning process. On the whole, they are too long, too vague and they sound like they’ve been stripped from a cheap book on employee motivation. Why can’t mission statements sound like something someone might actually say?

So… What is the TFCU Mission Statement, then?

“TFCU exists to help its members achieve their goals and realize their dreams.”

Wow. Simple, clear, concise and… Do-able. It is what they do. It’s a little open-ended, but that leaves room for interpretation, I guess.

Lori Philo-Cook, owner of InnovoMarketing, makes a great point:

Mission statements are very important. Employees cannot support/build the brand or the mission if they don’t know what they are. It’s up to senior management and the marketing department to be engaged & committed to creating a meaningful mission statement and not just pretty words. That’s what makes a difference.

Agreed. I’m seeing a trend here… Get rid of the pretty words, the buzz words, the ‘expected’ words. Cut to the truth. Define what you DO. I like it!

Finally, for a slightly different take on the subject, here is the response from Whitney Williams who manages Marketing and Business Development for “thesmallgroup” Architecture firm.

We don’t have a Mission Statement per se, but we do have a philosophy guided by this Frank Lloyd Write quote that is posted on our office wall:

“All architectural values are human values, else not valuable.” 

This summarizes our firm’s guiding design principle. From a non-architect’s view point, I see how our Principal and firm tend to be mindful of that when designing projects and speaking with potential clients.

Different approach, but singing the same song. I like it. By the way, Whitney has recently jumped into the world of blogging and has some insightful things to share here.

So… How does all this affect my original supposition that MS = BS? Well… I still think that in many cases this is true. Mission Statements are a bunch of words that make the owners and/or stock holders feel good about themselves. However, when used properly, they can be an effective tool in defining what a company does and aids in keeping the entire team focused.

For B2 Design, our mission is:

We help small companies compete in a global economy.

And that is the truth.

New Year… New You?

 Happy New Year

I think it’s obligatory that one’s first blog of the new year should be about how to improve yourself. How to do “x” better… Why we should stop doing “y”…  Business operates better by being “z”… Yada yada yada.

Why do we wait until January 1st to start worrying about these things?

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. Why? Because I never stuck to them! It always sounded like a good idea to make these life-changing lists:

  • I’m going to workout three times a week
  • I’m going to eat better
  • I’m going to study harder
  • I’m going to conquer the world

Nope. Still haven’t checked those items off my “To Do” list.  New Year Resolutions don’t get done. Not by me, anyway.

The good news, though, is that every DAY is an opportunity to make the changes you thought were so clever and useful on December 31st. And the best part is, you don’t have the pressure of the FATED DAY. You actually have time to plan.

“Plan?” you ask. Yeah… PLAN for the changes you want to make. What a concept.

I’m not a life coach and I’m not going to walk you through a step-by-step process that shows you how to do this. First of all, there are 16,432 books that already provide the info. Secondly, each person’s situation, struggles, goals and attitude is different. Part of this journey of life it to figure it out for yourself. Use the resources available and make your own plan.

I can tell you what is happening in my plan to make changes right now. I am in the second module of my Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership at SNU (and, I’m happy to report an “A” in my first module!). This module is entitled “Personal and Professional Development” and it is fantastic. I highly recommend our textbook, “Life Launch“, as a guide to making your own life plan.

Having a degree in Art has taken me a long way, but I think I need a Business degree to take me to the next level. What about you? What do you need in order to write the next chapter of your life?

Happy New Year… And, Happy New YOU!

Ending on a High Note

As hard as it is to believe, 2009 is quickly coming to an end. 2010 is right around the freakin’ corner!

What?!

This is where the panic sets in, right?

  • How am I going to meet my sales goals?
  • Where am I on next year’s budgets?
  • How do I (honorably) spend my marketing and advertising dollars so I don’t lose them next year?
  • How do I fit in 14 holiday mixers with extra time at the office to wrap things up plus do a little shopping for the loved ones on my list?

It’s a stressful time… A busy time… And as ol’ Mel Torme might sing, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”

Why?

I’m glad you asked! Because THIS is when the cream rises. This is when YOU show up with your game face on, ready to knock out some projects! Now is YOUR TIME!

You don’t have time to waste, so here’s the fast track to surviving mastering this crazy time:

  • Get Organized – Make lists, mark calendars, set deadlines
  • Get Focused – Once you have your “ToDo” list, focus on one thing at a time. This is called “mindfullness”. Multi-tasking has it’s place, but when it’s crunch-time, tackle one thing at a time.
  • Get Busy – There’s no time like the present!
  • Get Some Rest – Your mind, body and spirit need a break, too, so give it to them. Work hard; Relax easy. Meditate, sleep, visit with friends, listen to good music… Whatever it takes, do it.

It’s a great feeling to accomplish something. By setting deadlines (and meeting them!), wrapping up loose ends, touching base with friends, clients and colleagues, and preparing for next year’s initiatives, you can rest easy and truly enjoy the upcoming holidays.