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Posted by on in Business

An article by Donald Cooper, MBA...

At the end of every year we retreat to our country place for three wonderful and peaceful weeks to reflect, refresh and relax.  Although it's only two hours north of Toronto, it feels like a million miles from anything 'city'...especially in winter!  But, even here, one learns important business lessons. 

As soon as we arrived this year, I hung a bird feeder right outside our kitchen window.  Think of this as a new business start-up with a great product (ok, so peanuts from Bulk Barn), no customers, but great potential in the form of a nearby forest full of hungry birds.  This new venture had 'success' written all over it!

But how, I wondered, do I promote my 'grand opening'?  First, I thought of advertising but birds don't read newspapers, don't listen to the radio or watch TV...but they do ‘tweet’.  Then, I thought that maybe I should create a 'grand opening special' by lowering my price...but hell, I was giving my peanuts away.  How much lower could I go?  I even considered sampling, but didn't fancy myself standing outside, under the feeder, at minus 35 degrees, holding out a handful of free peanuts. 

Here’s what happened during the first five days of my new ‘business venture’…

Day #1...No customers.  Not one single bird. Our new business was a failure!  

Day #2: Things are looking up!  We are visited by one chickadee, who apparently loves free, imported Spanish peanuts. He stays to shop the entire day.

Day #3:  Things are really looking up. We have dozens of chickadees and two kinds of nuthatches.  Apparently birds tell other birds. Funny how that works.

Day #4:  We have dozens more chickadees, endless nuthatches and two sizes of woodpeckers…both males and females.  Apparently, peanuts are a one-size-fits-all item...and not gender-specific.

Our 'grand opening' is officially declared to be a huge success!  We now have line-ups. It’s like an Ikea grand opening…our customers are actually fighting for the ‘merchandise’. 

By the end of the day we're running out of peanuts and I make a special trip to town to replenish our inventory and purchase two additional feeders to expand our operation, eliminate line-ups and improve our customer service.

Day #5: Our customer base grows even more with the addition of one blue jay and a red squirrel.  He doesn't fit our demographic, but we welcome him anyway, as long as he doesn't frighten away our primary target customers.

So, here are your five important business lessons from the bird feeder...

  1. You can't build a business in one day. Be in it for the long haul.

  2. Word-of-mouth works! One delighted customer can profoundly affect the success of your business.

  3. Don't run out of what your customers want.

  4. Expand your business only when you have lineups. Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Too much inventory or too much overhead can kill you.

  5. You may get customers that you didn't expect.  Welcome them!  They create a whole new possibility to grow your business. 

- Donald Cooper

Posted by on in Business

An article by Donald Cooper, MBA...

Customer “ownership” starts with a clear understanding of who our target customers are...and what they really want from us.  But trying to get inside their heads is not always easy.  So, here are our 4 simple questions that have worked powerfully for hundreds of our clients.  

Answering these questions, honestly and completely, will bring you a profound understanding of your customers and help you create hundreds of innovative “customer owning” service and marketing ideas.

When our target customers are buying or using what we sell, and when they’re doing business with us...

  1. 1. What are they tryingDO?  Functionally, financially, emotionally, what are they really trying to do?  How can we help them to do that more easily, more conveniently, or more effectively in a way that will give us a competitive advantage?

2(a).  What do they want (or need) to KNOW ABOUT US in order to…

-  be aware of us and understand all the value we offer,
-  have confidence in us and trust us,
-  to know how to find us...and to,
-  have an efficient, uplifting, stress-free experience doing business with us?

What extraordinary things can we do to help them to know what they want or need to know about us?

2(b). What do they want (or need) to KNOW ABOUT WHAT WE SELL in order to…

-  have confidence in themselves,
-  make the best purchase decision for them,
-  to get the most functional, emotional and financial value out of what they buy from us…and,
-  have an efficient, uplifting and stress-free experience with what we sell?

What can we do to help them to know what they want and need to know about what we sell?

  1. 3. How do our target customers wantFEEL when they do business with us and every time they use what they buy from us?  What are the many extraordinary things that we can proactively do to help them to feel this way at every point at which they “touch” our business and our products or services, in any way?
  2. 4.  About how much do they expect to PAY?  Price isn’t everything, but price is. Being too expensive is deadly…but so is being too inexpensive. Your pricing strategy is hugely important to your bottomA price increase of just 5% could increase your bottom line by as much as 70% to 80%.

That's it!  These 4 questions are easier to ask than to answer but the resulting insights will amaze you!  They will open you up to hundreds of marketing and service innovations that will “grab” your target customers, clearly differentiate you from your competitors, make you famous…and grow your bottom line.  

Create a Task Force of a few of your best people and set aside just two hours to ask these 4 questions.  Think and feel like a customer through every step of the process of choosing, buying and using what you sell…and then, get creative!   Think awesome; think extraordinary; think “what has never been done before”.  That’s how you’ll create customer “ownership”.

- Donald Cooper

Posted by on in Photography

I don’t want to make too much of an assumption here, but I am pretty sure it’s almost summer.  While the deluge of rain that we’ve recently had seems to spoil our excitement, July 1 is just around the corner. I like to approach it like it is its own New Years Day: I will make the same cliché list of goals, but this time the warmer weather will hopefully encourage me to actually meet them!

Posted by on in Business

An article by Donald Cooper, MBA...

Many businesses make the mistake of defining themselves by what they sell, or by how they do business today.  They’re internally focused and it’s all about them.  Central to my transformational work with companies is to have clients redefine themselves by how they HELP their target customers. This is a simple but powerful shift in thinking. 

Posted by on in Business

An article by Donald Cooper, MBA...

As a business speaker and coach I run into hundreds of businesses every year that are to trying to be successful by being mediocre, undifferentiated and boring.  They don’t have a chance…and they don’t even know it!

Posted by on in Strategy

One of the most difficult things in business is determining what price to sell your products or services for. In most cases, businesses base their prices on the cost of production, as they are unsure of the value they provide. For example, a jewelry maker may sell their jewelry at (x) times the price of silver. In another example, an accounting firm will figure out that they are paying a bookkeeper $25/hour, and thus bill out $75/hour as per the rule of thirds. If you aren’t familiar with the rule of thirds, it states that the revenues are made of three equal parts: cost of production, overhead and profit. No matter what multiple is used, businesses that do this are selling commodity instead of value.

Tagged in: Advertising Brand Brands

Posted by on in Creative

Over the past 12 months we've had the chance to work on some pretty fun projects. This past weekend in Saskatoon, some of those projects were recognized at the 2014 Elevators Awards.

The Elevators are Saskatchewan's premier design awards, where the most compelling work in our province is showcased. And gosh darnit, we're pretty excited to announce we went home with some hardware!

Posted by on in Advertising

The advertising industry is very competitive, and thanks to television shows like Mad Men, it can be perceived as sexy and exciting to a lot of people. In addition, like any occupation that society looks at with celebrity status, there is a pressure to perform day in and day out. Advertising agencies work is their calling card, and one of the best assets of someone’s work is their originality.

Posted by on in Culture

I want to tell you about the last conversation I had before leaving Italy. It was at the airport while paying for extra luggage, thanks to irresistible Italian fashion industry. The lady working at the counter asked me what it was like living in Canada, and I told her that if you are willing to work hard and obey the law, you can have a very good life.

Posted by on in Business

An article by Donald Cooper, MBA...

Businesses all over the world whine that there’s no such thing as customer loyalty anymore… and they’re dead wrong.