Friday, April 29, 2005
Wendy's gives accuser the finger...

Well, it appears as if the mystery of the finger found in the Chili at Wendy's is coming to an end with the arrest of the woman that found the digit in the first place. While the origin of the finger remains unknown, authorities say it definitely didn't originate at Wendy's or one of it's suppliers, and as such the accuser is now facing trial for attempted grand theft. The Wendy's locations in the San Jose area have lost millions in sales over this event, and the employees of the chain in the area have all lost money due to reduced hours they have been able to work because of the loss in sales. All for something for which the company has NO responsibility!

While this type of fraud is rare, think about how you are prepared to deal with a situation like this. As a small business owner, an unscrupulous individual could potentially cost you dearly. What contingencies do you have in place for loss of revenue due to circumstances beyond your control? Read Mark's article on making your business "recession proof". The ideas mentioned also apply to other events beyond your control. When and where the next case of fraud such as this will occur, I don't know. All I do know is that Wendy's is unlikely to give out finger puppets with their kids meals any time soon.

-Matt Walker
SBA Network Sales Technology Specialist

P.S. Be sure to tune in to the Small Business Hour this Sunday morning at 7 AM as we have a very special guest joining us. Tim Sanders, author of "Love is the Killer App" will be on the show with Mark and myself. He's always a very informative and entertaining guest, so be sure to listen to KLSX, 97.1 FM in Los Angeles Sunday at 7.

Monday, April 25, 2005
Street-Smart PR

Ed Kushins, President of HomeExchange.com, attributes Press Releases and unpaid articles for much of the growth of his company, so much so he has all but eliminated costly traditional advertising. In our Attract More Business Program we talk about why traditional marketing just doesn't work anymore and how to employ street-smart marketing and publicity. The ultimate objective of PR is to get media people to do a story about your business, but first you need to get their attention. Here are how Ed prioritizes his PR stories:

About the Company stories
Usually pretty boring unless the reader is already interested in what your company has to offer.

New and Improved stories
These are better. They tell about some new feature or benefit. Sometimes Ed will create a new feature just so he can announce it. This will usually generate some interest, if only because of the curiosity factor.

Elephant Comes to City Hall stories
These are the best type of stories. Newspapers, magazines and TV news can’t resist showing a picture of an elephant at City Hall. Even if the elephant has nothing to do with your company or product, it will almost surely get you in the paper. Ed suggests that you and your staff find the elephant that will make your story impossible for editors to resist. Be creative, be imaginative, have fun with it. You will get your story out and people will remember you. Here's an example:

Moving your office to a new town and want to get some press? You probably wouldn not be able to get a cub reporter to return your phone call. But move into your new office and on your first day there present a 6 foot x 2 foot check for $1000 to the local Boys Club It's our way of saying we are looking forward to being part of this great community, and they will send out a photographer. Much better than a 6 INCH x 2 INCH ad the same $1000 would buy in the same newspaper.

Friday, April 22, 2005
Rejecting the Buff

Who is the fastest growing franchise chain in the United States?
McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks? Not even close. Try Curves.

From humble beginnings barely a decade ago, fitness center Curves International has expanded to nearly 9,000 locations. To put that growth into context, consider that it took McDonald's and Subway 25 years to open 6,000 franchise locations. Curves needed just seven.

How could this be? What is the secret of such exponential growth? Strategic Rejection. In the rules of attraction we talk about rejecting more business than we accept. This makes us more attractive to our target audience.

If you're a body builder you definitely will not want to go to Curves. In fact if you're a man, I doubt you would be caught dead in Curves. Curves targets the soccer mom. Designed to appeal to an older, female demographic, Curves is a fitness center that differs greatly from other gyms. Instead of 50,000 square feet of saunas, pools and fancy equipment, a typical Curves occupies 1,200 square feet and has 10 to 12 machines. It is simple and affordable.

Curves has effectively applied two of the rules of attraction to their business to create breakthrough performance. They have rejected the largest segment of the fitness market and thereby become a big fish in a small pond. In our Attract More Business program we look at how by targeting a very specific audience and rejecting others we make ourselves far more attractive. In fact we analyze some of the ads from Curves and see precisely how they and other companies have done this.

I will be talking mire about this on my radio show this Sunday as I interview the CEO of the Independent Business Alliance for their "weird retailer" campaign that uses rejection to effectively attract more business.
Listen to me every Sunday, 7am Pacific time on CBS Radio (97.1fm in Los Angeles) or on the web at: http://www.sbanetwork.org/media/media_radio.htm

Thursday, April 14, 2005
You Can't Even Go OUT of Business These Days

If you were thinking about filing for bankruptcy to clear your debts, you might think twice -- or act twice as quickly, since the new Bancruptcy law goes into effect six months after the bill is signed into law. Under current law, the majority of consumers who file for bankruptcy do so either under Chapter 7 or under Chapter 13. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your assets (minus those exempted by your state) are liquidated and given to creditors, and many of your remaining debts are cancelled, giving you what's known as a "fresh start." In a Chapter 13 debt is reorganized by establishig a creditors committe and paying creditors while the company continues to operate. Better than either of these options would be to start building some attraction into your business. Check it out at The Rules of Attraction.

Monday, April 11, 2005
Focus on Emerging Markets

Here's an interesting marriage: XM Satellite Radio and Time Warner-AOL. Huh? The question that comes to mind is... why?

Don't worry it doesn't have to make sense yet. I think this is an outgrowth of the posturing that everyone seems to be doing to get into the on-line music business. Yahoo's recent announcement of becoming the entertainment portal of the 21st century, Apple's raving success with the I-Pod, Sony's PSP II, and MSN's new on-line audio initiative.

Everyone is vying to get into the emerging on-line music business in some way. But notice anything different? Few companies are creating new internal divisions. Few are making hard-money investments. Most are partnering or collaborating with someone who is ALREADY successful in an emerging market - an enterprise that brings something valuable to the party. In some cases that's technology or financial resources or even customers .

Think about what YOU can do in your own business to partner with another organization that might be successful in an emerging market. When we are able to offer our customers emerging solutions that compliment our own current solutions, we become more important to them and reverse their risk of changing in the future. Focusing on emerging markets might not make a lot of sense today but it may be the difference between extinction and survival tomorrow.

By the way listen to some of my own on-line music (ME playing my guitar) and talking about this week's happening by clicking on the link above at the right.....

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Today SPEED is the name of the game. Take the latest techno-rage, the Sony PSP. Less than two weeks after Sony released its long-anticipated Play Station Portable, a handheld gaming device with multimedia capabilities, fans are already spreading details about successful hacking networks. While that may not make Sony too happy, they may hurt themselves more by "stopping" the PSP hacks rather than going with the flow. It just goes to show how fast product life cycles can be in the 21st century.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Becoming the Problem

I recently had the opportunity to see the movie, Super Size Me. I couldn't help but think that Morgan Spurlock really understands the second Rule of Attraction: The problem is more important than the solution. How successful do you think he would have been if he had gone to McDonalds with a solution to the problem which they are "in part" causing? Not very! I doubt they would have listened to him. Instead he focused on the "problem." In fact he BECAME the problem. As a result, they were FORCED to make a change. A little man intimidated a multi-billion dollar institution by focusing on the problem. I loved the movie, the marketing and the message and you will too. As one critic said; "It will wipe the smile right off your Happy Meal." Nice job Morgan! Grab you're Balance Bar and I'll see you at the gym.

Sunday, April 03, 2005
Got Milk?

It's hard to think of a product that is considered to be more of a commodity than milk. There are no national brands, the only advertising one sees for it is by industry cooperatives, and local brands are pretty much interchangeable. Why is it that I drove 7 miles last night to a dairy in Montebello to buy some milk at a price higher than what I can find locally? Counting all grocery stores, gas stations, liquor store, and convenience stores, I probably passed anywhere between 50 and 75 places that sell milk on my way there. So why drive that far to pay more for a product that is the same as what I can buy from a convenience store that's a short walk from my home?

Simple- Broguiere's Dairy, a family owned business since the 1920s has succeeded in creating a brand name for a product that every competitor sells as a commodity. How? By selling their milk in a glass bottle. Is milk from a glass bottle any different? I don't know for sure- but as a consumer, there is something satisfying about buying milk in packaging similar to what my grandfather experienced. The bottle does seem to be colder than the plastic containers one finds at the grocery store. And their bottles have even gone on to become collectors items, with special limited edition ones being swapped on eBay. Their glass bottles have led to distribution for their milk in high end grocery stores such as Bristol Farms. Another advantage is that now that consumers have their bottles, many bring them back to the dairy- and when a customer returns, they are in a perfect position to gain repeat business.

Do you ever feel as if your business is falling into the commodity trap? How can you find some ways to differentiate your business from competitors so as to justify a higher price, and higher profitability? Read this article on how innovation can help.

-Matt Walker, SBA Network Sales Technology Specialist

Saturday, April 02, 2005
Make a Splash with Contests

How do you attract more business, make a PR splash and align yourself with a powerful media machine?

Run a contest and give away something valuable. Do it in a newsworthy manner and you will create more buzz than your ad budget could ever buy. Take Country Living Magazine. They were looking for a way to get some visibility in the competitive consumer publication arena. They went to CBS TV and offered to create the very first "Messiest Garage in America" contest.

Check it out at: CBS television Search For The Messiest Garage . Thousands of people have entered to win a FREE garage makeover! Their subscriptions soared, advertising is up and newsstand sales are through the roof! One of the rules of attraction is to "Create an exclusive community of super-users." Read my article on Buzz Marketing for more details.

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