8

Tanner Christensen has been making regular comments on Brainzooming this year, and when he reached out recently to go a guest post, I was excited to have him share longer-form content. Tanner Christensen is a leading creative thinker, entrepreneur, and founder of the creative digital publishing company A Spindle. He frequently writes on creativity and innovation and believes that your ideas can help change the world.

Here’s Tanner on what has set Apple apart from other organizations that also  have great ideas, but stall out in their growth.

Paddling

In June of 2007 Apple Inc. made a bold move into a market they had never touched.

To nearly everyone’s surprise, one of the top — but, notably, not the top — computer manufacturers had created a mobile phone. Of course, it was more than just a phone, but the move was unexpected and entirely different than what most people had come to imagine was possible from a computer company.  The creation of the iPhone proved to be valuable for Apple as, near the middle of the year 2011, the company owned roughly 19% of the entire U.S. mobile market.

Rare is a tech company the size of Apple who can report annual growth of 125% year over year. So how did they do it?

What It Takes for Real Growth

The truth is that growth comes from change. But even that’s an understatement. Real growth comes from paddling.

Businesses that have succeeded in the past — Myspace, Yahoo!, Nokia — grew to a comfortable place and then stopped innovating. The process of growing was, as they saw it, a natural one that follows any business which reaches a certain size. These were businesses that had worked hard to reach a point where they felt confident in moving forward without having to try anything new. Why would you continue to worry about producing new products or services when your existing products had sold so well to-date? When you’re floating down a river in a canoe and suddenly find yourself in the most beautiful spot along the entire river, what reason do you have to paddle forward and explore further territory?

Unfortunately in business, as in a real life canoe trip down the river, storms are to be expected.

One day you’re safe and comfortable, floating gently down the stream of success, and then suddenly there’s a competitor, a better or cheaper product, a new innovation you never saw coming. For Nokia and Microsoft the storm was the iPhone. For Myspace it was Facebook and now Google+. If you’re in business then a storm is coming, you can count on it, you just don’t know what shape that storm will be.

So what should you do? Paddle. Keep moving forward.

A Dedicated Creative Team’s Role

Investing in a dedicated creative team is the best way to keep moving forward. Whether you’re a large corporation or a freelancer, you have to focus on exploring uncharted territory, otherwise you’re sitting in a river under a darkening sky.

For Apple there isn’t any hesitation, they have an entire team of leaders who are focused on moving the business forward every single day. Steve Jobs isn’t a product designer or marketing executive, he’s a thinker. For the rest of us the choice remains: hire someone to help move ideas forward (not just keep existing structures going), find the flexibility to make your current team dedicate part of their work hours to doing so, or face the impending storm and find yourself dead in the water. Sure, focusing on innovation can be risky, but without it you’re already dead.

Even if you’re a new business just starting out, focus on exploring new territories, as success is surely around one of the river bends.

A dedicated creative team can help paddle your corporate boat upstream, pursuing ideas and making them a reality. As a creative thinker the job description isn’t to just show up and do the necessary work; it’s to come up with ideas and see them through. To physically take action and move the whole boat of business forward. Sometimes that means failure. Sometimes an idea will sink into the abyss, and sometimes things will break, but as long as you’re continuously moving, there is no way your boat will be swallowed by the storm.

Keep Moving

As a business or even in your career, look at ways you’re sitting in the water now. Understand that the longer you simply sit there the longer you risk drowning. You should be paddling your way up the river and discovering what’s new. That’s where the real adventure lies. Just ahead. Keep moving. – Tanner Christensen 

Guest Author

The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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6

This video on the creative thinking-based strategy TESCO employed to penetrate the South Korean grocery market was shared on Google+ recently by James Fraser. With TESCO using an alternative name, Homeplus, it was able to become the number two player in the South Korean grocery market even though it suffered a deficit in the number of retail locations.

If you jump to framing the business objective as “we have to get more stores,” the answer is easy, self-evident, and all too routine: build or acquire more stores.

Instead, the grocery chain remained focused on the real business objective (grow sales) and based on consumer insights (South Koreans are incredibly busy and the in-store grocery experience is a nightmare), Homeplus used (or approximated the results of) creative thinking exercises to look at the opportunity in reverse: take the in store buying experience to where shoppers already are with a virtual subway store!

Homeplus created the virtual subway store with displays identical to those in actual stores, QR codes for online ordering by phone, and home delivery. Putting the virtual stores where potential grocery shoppers already are in subways increases personal productivity and maximizes their free time. The virtual store campaign led to online sales gains highlighted in the video.

All this success by sticking to the fundamental business objective, but re-framing the business issue in a very different way.

That’s creative thinking for business success at its best! – Mike Brown

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help on how to be more creative! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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6

I was in Lawrence, KS yesterday for the latest SocialIRL program created by Ben Smith and featuring HARO-creator, Peter Shankman. The day’s underlying theme was customer service in the age of social media. That’s actually a bit of a misnomer though, because so many of the principles Peter Shankman shared are solid customer service and communication strategies even if social media weren’t around.

As opposed to a lot of presentations you see, Tuesday’s Peter Shankman SocialIRL session was more about storytelling, entertainment, engagement, videos, and technical glitches. You probably couldn’t have a better translation of what happens in social media to an in real life setting. From that standpoint then, the day definitely fulfilled the event theme!

As a recap, here are 11 take-aways from SocialIRL:

STRATEGY

1. “Embrace the concept, not the brand.”  – Peter Shankman

Absolutely. Brands (in this case, social media platforms) may come and go, but underlying concepts (i.e., mobile marketing) have more staying power and can be the strategic foundations for marketing plans.

2. “Social media is all about quicker, faster, and better. People do the quicker & faster, but forget about the better.” – Peter Shankman

If you’re not getting attention for your content, then you have to look at what you’re creating and how to make it more relevant and meaningful to your audiences.

3. “If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will.”

Even if you can’t sell-in a social media program in your organization, you have to start listening to understand what customers, prospects, and others active in your industry are saying about you. Social media listening is both the source of opportunities and the way to head off more serious problems.

4. “Let us not underestimate the power cool has. Any time you can make your customers feel cool, they will do your PR for you.” – Peter Shankman

Give your audience things that make them seem cool and cooler than the audience they’re sharing your content with online.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

5. Good customer service kills online problems before they become problems online.

Finding links between brands with strong customer service and successful social media efforts (i.e. Southwest Airlines) isn’t a coincidence. A cultural orientation toward understanding customers and going out of your way to meaningfully engage with them translates from offline into the online world much easier than trying to create a new attitude in social media.

6. There are 3 critical steps in addressing customer issues online.

Relative to customer issues, the three key steps are to listen, analyze, and personalize your reply. The analyze step is especially important. While there’s a need for a timely reply (Shankman claims 1 to 3 hours response time on Twitter is adequate), your person responding should understand the service recovery options available and know what steps they’ll be using to address the customer issue.

7. If legal concerns are an issue for social media in your organization, use the 80-20 rule to be able to interact more effectively online.

When it comes to having a two-way conversation, many organizations, especially regulated ones, can look at what customer service issues come up most frequently and craft 5 or 6 messages which answer a majority of questions and point people in the right directions.

SOCIAL MEDIA MISTAKES BRANDS MAKE

8. In answer to a question about what he sees brands doing wrong in social media, Peter Shankman offered these:

  • Not acting quickly enough – This is a result of fears from legal implications or other potential issues, or the need to get more people involved. By the time everything is ready to go, opportunities are lost.
  • Afraid to offend anyone – Lots of humor isn’t being used because brands are afraid of it. When a brand uses humor, the humor needs to tie to the brand and its audiences. As Shankman puts it, “Funny stuff equates to viral.”
  • Not learning from mistakes – He suggests Googling the top social media mistakes and learning from what mistakes others have made in social media.
  • Not listening enough (or well enough) – Peter Shankman recommends more listening and less talking. And when listening, brands need to do a better job of responding.

COMMUNICATION SKILLS

9. The killer social media skill is writing.

Peter Shankman’s stat was that we have 2.7 seconds (or essentially 3 sentences) to reach our audiences. Doing that successfully depends on knowing how to write, and knowing especially how to write headlines. He encourages his employees to take as many writing classes as they want to continually improve.

10. When you have a speaking element that works, repeat it often.

One of Peter Shankman’s most effective speaking approaches is drawing comparisons to yesterday’s world by linking it to things people under 30 are familiar with. Examples: “The radio is like Pandora before the Internet” and “Madonna is like Lady Gaga with more kids.” Not only are these similes effective for all age ranges, the familiarity of hearing them throughout his talk added both impact and anticipation.

AN OBSERVATION

11. Peter Shankman may be the Forrest Gump of web 2.0.

The day opened with stories form Peter Shankman about his move from being 18 hours short of a degree in California to being at the center of a variety of online blow–ups, including HARO. He didn’t really offer any rules or strategic lessons learned for accomplishing this, other than to create strong content, have a brilliant idea, and plan for outrageous success. Absent any easy lessons, it seems to be either a numbers game (create enough content and hope for brilliance), dumb luck (Lance Armstrong RTs an xtranormal video you did), or some apparent combination of the two. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us atbrainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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10

It’s always helpful when someone calls you on a good intention to make sure you actually follow through on it. When I spoke last month to the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association on social media strategy, the format allowed the audience to select from among 12 topics in the social media framework to customize the presentation to the social media strategy issues most relevant for them. To provide additional background on the social media strategic topics we didn’t talk about, I promised to create a compilation of links that formed the backbone of the presentation’s content. The full compilation has been on my to-do list ever since, and a very kind email from one of the TMSA attendees late last week prompted me to get it done!

My rationalization for the delay? The list now includes several posts written in the last two weeks (after the TMSA conference), including the post on who should create content that’s generated so many rich comments here and nearly 6,000 page views in its first week on the Social Media Today blog as well.

OVERVIEW

STRATEGY

1. Integration

 2. ROI

3. Guidelines

SOCIAL NETWORKING

4. Listening

5. Building Relationships

6. Getting Noticed

INFRASTRUCTURE

7. Platforms

8. Time and Talent

9. Minimizing Risk

SOCIAL BUSINESS

10. Content Marketing

11. Customer Engagement

12. Innovation

 

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed  integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.


Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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5

David Rogers, author of “The Network Is Your Customer” and executive director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School, stopped by the Kansas City Public Library last week for a speech on his book and its 5 strategy implications for brands.

Strategy Implications from New Customer Roles

“The Network Is Your Customer” examines how networks connect and change us since individuals can now be viewed as networks themselves. Rogers’ social networking model recognizes the advent of mobile technology in opening a whole new array of brand roles for individuals. These brand roles include (among others) serving as:

One implication of the self-organizing nature of networks is brands should see themselves as situated within a network, but not at its center.

With this fundamental shift, simply adding a Facebook page to a traditional advertising strategy, sharing intermittent content, and getting people to like a brand isn’t sufficient. Fully realizing the opportunity requires rethinking a brand’s business model.

5 Customer Behaviors Requiring Strategy Responses

There are 5 customer behaviors David Rogers calls for brands to strategically address within the “network is your customer” model. He covers the 5 strategies in the video below:

1. Access – Provide the network with easy, flexible, and quick interaction on network members’ own schedules.

2. Engage – The interruption model advertising uses isn’t resonating anymore. Every company needs to think and act as a media company by creating compelling, attractive content.

3. Customize – How do you deliver an incredible number of choices – both virtual (gaming, Pandora) and physical (Starbucks design your Signature drink, Amazon) – so consumers can dial in their wants and needs?

4. Connect – Listen and interact in the marketplace with audience members by responding (@Comcast Cares), providing forums for conversation, and inviting ideas from outside the company (Dell).

5. Collaborate – Open contributions (the 100 million hours behind Wikipedia), open competition (Innocentive), and open platforms (the iApp marketplace) are all examples of new models of creation-oriented collaboration between brands and audiences.

David Rogers advises brands to not start with technology (since it will always be changing and developing), but instead to begin with understanding what the organization wants to achieve.

When asked who does all five of them well, David Rogers pointed to Dell and the 2008 Obama campaign. Getting a handle on the 5 behaviors can be overwhelming for companies, but the best brands are figuring out how they can help customers carry out these desired behaviors.

My 3 Walk-Away Ideas

I discovered the David Rogers talk via the Social Media Club of Kansas City, but it was decidedly NOT a typical local social media crowd. There was very little live tweeting, other than my tweets. This fact was interestingly pointed out to David Rogers during the Q&A section by an individual who just happened to be sitting next to me – unbeknownst to him. He reported the number of live tweeters and wondered aloud whether this “Brainzooming person” was an intense introvert (huh?).

Amid my many tweets on what David Rogers shared, I managed a few reflections on ideas triggered for me by his remarks:

  • Amazon is a great example that where the virtual and physical worlds touch, density is still important.
  • Maybe the push for brands to create great content will lead to a radical re-imagination of the original soap opera model?
  • The move from physical to virtual (seen most especially in content) will dramatically extend to services and other products too as apps change how services and goods are created, delivered, and maintained, and replenished.

It was definitely a worthwhile and thought provoking trip downtown! – Mike Brown

 

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can develop an integrated social media strategy for your brand.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4

After yesterday’s post on low-priced, part-time competitors wrapped, I was searching Sunday for a reality TV program marathon to supply potential blog content on strategy or creativity. I watched several hours of a “Pawn Stars” marathon on the History Channel and got a big dose of pricing negotiating strategy lessons. Thanks to frequent promos, I learned this reality TV show about a Las Vegas pawn shop run by Rick Harrison and his family is the number one show on cable TV. Who knew?

“Pawn Stars” focuses only on a relatively narrow slice of activity – the part that fits with History Channel themes. There are hardly any pawns (all but one transaction involved people selling merchandise), and every transaction revolves around an item of real or alleged historical or cultural interest. Imagine the PBS series “Antique’s Roadshow” with dickering and cash actually changing hands.

There were a variety of negotiating strategy lessons applicable to yesterday’s post (a freelancer negotiating for market prices against a low-priced competitor) and to readers using negotiations to establish price points for their work (us included). Here are five negotiations lessons which stood out:

1. Having trusted experts at your disposal makes you a stronger negotiator.

With so many merchandise categories (i.e., jukeboxes, historical films, Revolutionary War bonds, 500-year old armaments, nearly-new semi-tractors), Rick consults multiple experts for insight, corroboration, and pricing opinions. He’s open about these experts, and typically has them share their perspectives directly in front of the seller. Beyond appraisal experts, Rick’s restoration specialist (Rick Dale, who also has a History Channel show) can apparently rehab any item. Having a “turnaround person” on the team allows for more timely and aggressive negotiations.

Negotiating Strategy Question: Are you trying to go it alone in pricing negotiations without the right experts around you to help you be more effective?

2. Before negotiating, know what matters for your organization and critical decision making rules of thumb. Don’t veer from them.

Rick and  his father, “The Old Man,” are adamant about making money on everything they buy. Since the  pawn shop functions as a wholesaler when buying merchandise, the Harrisons target a 25-30% margin on each item for overhead and profit. Clearly knowing what matters and their profit objectives, much of the pricing negotiation becomes relatively simple mathematics. The rest is keeping emotions in check and improving the odds of success by being a conservative negotiator. That means being willing to say no to merchandise (or clients, sales, projects) you may really want that don’t make sense.

Negotiating Strategy Question: Do you know what matters for your organization, and how often do you walk away from deals where the fundamentals aren’t good for you?

3. When someone says, “Lots of people think this about that,” call B.S. on them. Immediately.

Many a person comes into Rick’s pawn shop saying other people told them their items are worth lots of money. Rick’s response is, “Did any of those people offer to buy it for that much?” The answer is always no. When people are throwing generic, non-attributed opinions into a negotiation (be they about cost, ease of completion, ability of others besides you to perform the work. etc.), ask them straight up, “Are any of the people acting on what they think?”

Negotiating Strategy Question: How often do you stand up to a potential client and call B.S. – even if in a nice way?

4. Start by asking question to make the other party go first.

Once the initial information gathering discussion appears done, Rick and his family seem to use a standard kickoff to negotiations. They ask what the person wants to do (pawn or sell), and what the individual wants to get for the merchandise. Asking the first question puts Rick Harrison in control of pricing negotiations and sustains the information gathering. Finding out whether the seller has a price in mind (and how it was arrived at) reveals further insights on their research and knowledge level.

Negotiating Strategy Question: Do you have a first negotiating question, and are you asking it so the other person talks first?

5. Use a wide variety of reactions during negotiations.

If there are patterns in how Rick Harrison responds during price negotiations, they’re tough to discern (even after getting the perspectives he shares in off-the-floor interview snippets). During negotiations, Rick flattered, stalled, offered excuses (for why he couldn’t pay more), laughed, did nothing, said nothing, stipulated caveats, and counter-offered. Only once did he accept a first offer (paying $80 for a 1960’s shortwave radio he thought was very fairly priced) or go first in the negotiation (making an offer for a Revolutionary War bond engraved by Paul Revere, Jr.).

Negotiating Strategy Question: Have you consciously developed a whole variety of reactions you use during negotiations?

Wrap-Up Lessons

Those were my take-aways from the “Pawn Shop” marathon. Have you watched the show? If you have, what negotiating lessons have you learned? Or what negotiating tactics have you seen that work well? – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4

On Twitter recently, a full-time freelancer complained about a part-time freelancer, who also has a full-time job, using a strategy of undercutting the market with overly low-priced proposals for creative projects. She complained that part-time competitors’ pricing strategies were unfairly bringing down client perceptions of market prices.

In any business, competitors in related markets can enter “your” space as an add-on strategy to what they do. Since what you do isn’t a core market for them, they’re often operating from different cost structures and commitments to the market. They may be quite willing to implement low-priced strategies to grab market share at the expense of traditional competitors.

Back in my corporate position in business-to-business transportation, we endured more than a decade of UPS and FedEx, much larger competitors in adjacent markets, serving a large, profitable portion of our market  through implementing new pricing strategies. Our company, tied down by various real and perceived roadblocks, never delivered a shot across the bow to let UPS and FedEx know they weren’t welcome in our market. Ironically, both competitors eventually entered the market using a more traditional strategy with some successes, but many challenges.

9 Strategy Ideas You Could Try

If part-time competitors are wreaking havoc in your market with low-priced products and services, here are 9 strategy ideas to protect your overall competitive position and make it harder for them to compete:

1. Identify where you can be a part-time player, employing a strategy to disrupt that market and grow your business.

2. Dramatically change your processes and cost structure to compete at a lower price.

3. Since your core market is your full-time focus, compete through some combination of greater responsiveness, sharper focus, being smarter about what you do, offering better quality, and/or providing better overall value.

4. Offer more options as a way to showcase your specialization.

5. Provide questions a potential customer should ask and get answered to ensure a low priced part-timer is a legitimate provider.

6. Offer an introductory promotional price in exchange for a longer-term commitment.

7. Develop other revenue streams which subsidize your primary market.

8. Buy and re-sell the part timer’s service to more price-sensitive customers.

9. Offer a satisfaction guarantee on the part-time competitor’s work. If a customer isn’t happy with the part-timers work, offer a discount to “fix” it.

What Are Your Strategy Ideas?

Are you facing low-priced, part-time competitors? What strategy ideas  are working or not working for you in dealing with them? – Mike Brown


The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help you devise a successful innovation strategy for your organization.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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