Betting the Farm on Natural and Organic Foods

“Zen Management Makes Millions” by Lee Lusardi Connor (NYReport.com, 1 February 2011). Truth be told, I still do quite a bit of reading offline. I imagine my brain has been trained to consume more comfortably and completely when I’m not always nose to screen. Admittedly,  I struggle with my lack of green-ness in this area. It’s Friday, so let’s not get too distracted.

I mention this because I wish you could see how much of this article I’ve circled, starred, drawn arrows to, etc. So rather than reiterate such a high percent of this interview I’ll just saay that if you and your organization are looking for a road map for the future that is both socially and environmentally conscious, and not just about dollar and cents, then invest some time in this article. I promise you won’t regret it.

Side note: While Applegate Farms’ Stephen McDonnell probably knows better than I do, I disagree with his presumption that the sales of natural and organic food is going to level off around 2018. To me that’s like saying that the need for all of us to eat and live healthy is going to level off. That doesn’t seem likely, does it?

Social networking is only a means

“Interview: John Jantsch – 5 Minutes with…” by: Daria Meoli (NY Enterprise Report, 19 April 2010). You know John, author of Duct Tape marketing, as well as his new book The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself. Good stuff, right?

Well, if you read and retain one thing this week then this paragraph should be it:

DM: What does “teaching your business to market itself” mean?

JJ: I actually went out and interviewed people from about 50 or 60 companies that get a lot of referrals. They’re doing a lot of business by word of mouth. What I discovered pretty quickly was that the number one way that these organizations were successful in generating referrals had nothing to do with a super special cool way to ask for referrals; they just did stuff that made the experience of doing business with them so great that people voluntarily wanted to talk about them. That’s the idea behind teaching your business to market itself. How do you become the trusted resource? What are all the touch points? What about your culture and your people? The idea is to get your clients so connected to your business that they’d go out of their way to refer you, and not just because they like your product and it does what it says it does, but that they really want to see you succeed.

Brilliant, eh? What did you think of the rest of the interview? Are you going to buy the new book?

Survey sez…

“Want to Know How to Market Better? Just Ask” by Eric Groves (The New York Enterprise Report, February 2010). First of all, kudos to Eric for fighting the good fight and making the right recommendation. That is, just ask (the customer). It often seems that too many “experts” are so self-absorbed with selling their one-size-fits-all kool-aid that they forget the most easy and obvious answer. There’s no reason to guess. Just ask. And let’s face it, in a Web 2.0 world it’s getting easier and easier to do so every day.

There are however three caveats that should be mentioned here:

1) Realize that you’re human and try to be objective about the question you ask and how you ask them. Try to take it a step further and have an objective third party read what you come up with before going forward with the asking. Wording and understanding that you take for granted as an insider might not be heard the same way by those receiving your communication (i.e., survey).

2) Keep in mind that any survey results you do collect should always be interpreted with the understanding that what has been collected is not the opinion of all your customers, just the ones who elected to participate in the survey. Some good input is better than no input at all but don’t overestimate the value of what you’re collecting. That being said, don’t be too quick to dismiss your findings just because they are not what you want to hear.

3) Rest assured that the answers you do get will be subjective, and probably biased by the survery itself. We are all human and tend to forget, embellish, overlook, etc. Those who arer familiar with surveys understand that even something as subtle as the order of the questions can greatly influence the answers.

The bottom line here is this… Listen to your guests. They are telling you a lot and will tell you more if you ask. The biggest issue seems to be listening. Are you listening?

“No” is not an option

“Think Beyond Your Means” by Robert S. Levin – Editor-in-chief (The New York Report Magazine, 23 December 2009). For one reason or another it’s been somewhat slow starting this year in finding material to blog about. Not to worry, Mr. Robert S. Levin uncorks another bottle of bubbly inspiration. This was his Letter-from-the-editor in the latest issue so it’s a quick read. No need for pull quotes, etc. required.

Also, kudos to NY Report for beta launching their new web site: http://www.NYReport.com. As small biz resources go, this outfit consistently  provides “good stuff”.

Stop selling (and find out what they’re buying)

“Rouse Your Silent Prospects” by Steve Bookbinder (New York Enterprise Report magazine, November 2009). Pardon the rush job but given this morning’s time constraints the focus will be to stick to the highlights. First, the sub-headline of this one is: How to craft emails and voice mails that will get a response.

Pull quotes:

There is a golden rule for getting a response from a silent prospect: If you want a response, ask a question the prospect can answer.

Avoid using emails as an opportunity to type your entire sales pitch or provide your manifesto to strangers… Just get to the point. Your Blackberry-reading receiver of this message will appreciate this more while they walk and read.

If nothing else, on page 3, be sure to consume, “7 Tips for Getting a Response from a Silent Prospect”.

Also worth checking is, “Putting An End to Cold Leads” by Jeremy Nedelka (www.1to1media.com). Note: Unfortunately, the 1 to 1 site requires registering. None the less, here’s a pull quote to wet your whistle:

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, says that a little research like that to get in the door is all salespeople need to stand out in the ever-growing crowd. “Today corporations get pitched by so many people that the price of admission requires additional research and a deep understanding of what that company and its employees are going through…[like] looking at triggered events that happen within or external to a company that cause it to shift priorities.”

Multitasking is overrated

“Staying Productive in the Information Age” by Sharon Lowenheim (New York Enterprise Report magazine, November 2009). We are all trying to do more with less. More and more work with less time and less budget to do it. Quality, value and efficiency continue to be the mantras of the moment. Doing it all might not be possible, so doing the right things becomes the next best choice.

Truth be told, there’s not much new in Ms. Lowenheim’s suggestions but a friendly reminder on the topic of productivity isn’t going to hurt either. The best bit might actually come in the last paragraph:

Don’t multitask. Every time you switch tasks, your brain has to close out one task and boot up the other, resulting in lost time. Trying to do two things at once ultimately takes you longer and will produce substandard results. Instead, use your prioritized task list to guide your activities, and work on one thing at a time.

There is a reason why a production line is a production line. The human mind does better when it’s focused on less, not more. That is, quality and completion, not quantity and loose ends. Unfortunately, multitasking is probably one of the most overrated must-haves in business.

Finally, there are two other suggestions we like to add. One, be sure to take breaks. Aside from needing focus, the brain also needs to catch its breath from time to time. Less can in fact be more. Two, find work that you enjoy. Some say you don’t have to love your job. That’s bull! In terms of waking hours a person probably spends more time at work than he/she does with their kids. Is it alright not to love them too? Probably not.

Yes, work hard — and smart. But don’t sell yourself short. Love what you do and who you do it with.

The theory and the practice

“5 Minutes With… Jack Daly” by Daria Meoli (New York Enterprise Report) In theory Mr. Daly makes some good points, multitasking management and sales roles isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. On the other hand anyone who has been an SMB owner understands that what Mr. Daly proposes isn’t that cut and dry.

So what are the alternatives?

Instead of loosely vowing to split your time, take it a step further and schedule time in your calendar of choice. But don’t stop there either. Log your time. At lunch and with two hours to go in the day assess your time budget. Adjust and repeat as necessary. If you’re within a reasonable margin of error come Friday, buy yourself something special for lunch. But if you’re not that close then buy pizza for the team or take a client out to lunch. Take your shortcoming and use it as an opportunity to keep in touch with your people or clients. Ideally being more aware will help with arranging your time the following week.

Another alternative is to delegate some of your responsibilities. Force yourself if it’s not your nature to do so. If you can save yourself 15 – 20 minutes a day that’s approx 90 minutes at the end of the week. That’s pretty good “found money”, no? The bonus is you might discover  an employee who’s  more capable than you thought. If they come up short, then you’ve learn something there as well and now having some training to do.

Regardless, there’s are always good times for investing in the promise of tomorrow. It’s not going to happen on its own, is it?

The beautiful game of business

“Are You Holding Your Business Back? 5 quick tips to overcome your mental barriers.” by Joe Nunziata (The New York Enterprise Report, Sept 2009). Alright, let’s get this week started off right. Mr. Nunziata offers a fairly good pep talk. Somewhat clinical but ultimately he gets the job done.

Naturally, there seem to be a couple tweaks in order. First, it’s just that, the order the items are listed. Here’s the AU order. (The original place of each in Mr/ Nunziata’s list is in parentheses.)

1. Embrace change (5)
2. Willingness to do whatever it takes to move forward (4)
3. Accept that you are the creator (2)
4. Focus on the cause, not the effect (1)
5. You cannot be a victim (3)

Also, you’ll notice each of Joe’s steps ends with “Take action”. Or as David Schwartz says (in the classic “The Magic of Thinking Big”), “Action cures fear”. Analysis and planning are great but they are nothing without action. Never underestimate the power of action.

Another addition would be: Accept  set backs. Business, as is life itself, is like soccer. Not every pass is forward. Not every run results in getting the ball. What matters is the final score. So don’t let occasional missteps distract you from keeping your head in the game. Keep on movin’.

The pen is mightier than the mountain

“Reaching New Heights: Leadership Lessons I Learned Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro” by Yacov Wrocherinsky (The New York Enterprise Report, June 2009) Entertaining, interesting and most of all insightful, Mr. Wrocherinsky relates his climb up the mighty Kilimanjaro to his experience as founded and CEO of Infinity Info Systems (www.InfinityInfo.com). Spend a few moment to soak in what he has to share.

Even free has a price

“Levin’s Law On Cheap and Easy Marketing Mediums” by Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Robert Levin (The New York Enterprise Report, June 2009). Once again Mr. Levin uses his From The Editor address to deliver an optimal amount of wisdom in less than a full printed page. No one is too busy to consume such an amount of valuable information.

The one thought that is missing is the idea of not only having a compelling message but also having a compelling business behind it. Getting guest to your party is half-the battle. The other half is deliving on the promise of an experience worth staying for. Word of mouth is still the most cost effective form of marketing. Tweet that!

Let’s talk about the solutions

The latest issue (May 2009) of The New York Enterprise Report (NYReport.com) is bursting with must-reads. Below are the highlights with an essential pull quote from each, as well as a few caveats.

Enjoy! Pass it on…

“Marketing Matters More Than Ever” by Robert S. Levin

The reality is that marketing is on the back burner of most small businesses, but marketing is what puts your company on the front burner of your prospects.

AU caveat: As tbarriers to entry (read: costs) for marketing falls for the amount of clutter is going to increase. Now more than ever the quality and relevance of the impression is as important as the quantity.

“Levin’s Law on Cheap and Easy Marketing Mediums” by Robert S. Levin

There is no magic pill in marketing, regardless of the cost of the medium. Success in marketing depends, and always will, on hitting the right audience with a compelling message.

“Get The Right PR For Your Event In 8 Steps” by Beth Silver

Whether in magazines and newspapers, or on radio, TV, or the web, it’s vital to understand the different types of media and audiences that are available, and what is correct for your audience.

AU caveat: Where Step 4 speaks of focus we would use target, targeting, etc.

“Maximize Your Online Presence” by Tony Grass

SEO is not about chasing marginally interested traffic and then trying to sell everything to everybody, it’s about targeting and pulling in those customers who want to buy, and selling to them by featuring what they are searching for. To put it another way, traffic quality means more than quantity.

AU caveat 1: If it’s been three years since you’ve revisited the objectives of your web site – or any other part of your business for that matter – then it’s probably time for a redesign or at least a serious make over.

AU caveat 2: When done property SEO is all part of the up-front analysis / design / development process. Yes, there are adjustments that can be made after the fact but doing so once the site has been built is the less than ideal approach.

AU caveat 3: To paraphrase President Obama, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig.” All the SEO / SEM in the world is not going to save an ugly site with a poor UX. Get your house in order before you decide to invite guests.

AU caveat 4: In 2009, if your designer / developer isn’t insisting on a content manamgent system (CMS) then engage someone else. ASAP!

Stop whining and start wining

“Wine Online” by Daria Meoli (New York Enterprise Report Magazine, April 2009, NYReport.com)

There is one word for the story of NJ liquor store owner Gary Vaynerchuk and his $50m per year (and growing) Wine Library… OMG.

Conclusion: It’s not who you know. It’s not how many people you know. It’s not even what you know. It’s how many people want to know what you know. And figuring out how to make that happen for them. In other words, this isn’t about selling wine. That’s just the bonus round.

This artcle also contains the understatement of the year (so far). In the last line Vaynerchuk say, “I feel that America is ready for wine and I could be one of the next breeakout hits.” At $50m this guy is just getting started. How about that?

$1,000 and a dream

“5 Minutes With… Barbara Corcoran” as well as “5 More Minutes With. . . Barbara Corcoran” by Daria Meoli (The New York Enterprise Report, April 2009, NYReport.com).

A two part interview – because we can all use a little more inspriation. The bit about her experiment with  “Hot Homes On Tape” is a particularly interesting failure (that eventually turned out to be the “mistake” of a lifetime).

Generation Ecko

“The It Factor – Interview with Marc Ecko” by with NY Report Editor-in-Chief Rob Levin (New York Enterprise Report Magazine, December 2008). From college drop out to international brand icon and still going strong. Entertaining as well as enlightening. Read on.