Book Review: Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin

Meatball Sundae was not as easy a read as most of Seth Godin's books are.  The book as a whole was messy (The title should have warned me) and definitely not up to his usual quality.

The main point of this book is that running your business the old way, which Seth defines as selling mass market products targeted at as large a demographic segment as possible does not work with what he calls the New Marketing - online and social media marketing.  An example of the old way would be Walmart or Coca-Cola.  Amazon and Google are excellent examples of New Marketing, as is Seth's own   The meatball sundae is two things that don't work together at all, even if they're both good. 

While I agree that most traditional brick and mortar companies aren't structured to really benefit fully from what online and social media marketing, I disagree that they can't benefit at all.  As a matter of fact, one of the points Mr. Godin makes later on in the book, which I fully agree with, is that any company ignores social media at their peril.  With social media, everyone becomes a critic of the company, for good or bad as many examples illustrate.  And you never know what story will catch the attention of the public, whether or not it's true.  One damaging story can have a huge impact on the company's bottom line.   Seth gives the example of Delta throwing a woman off a plane for breastfeeding, among several others.  If we thought about it, we could all come up with similar examples.  Your company may not be posting anything on social media, but they should be monitoring at the very least.

He also makes an excellent point  that you can't use online and social media the way TV, radio and print advertising work.  It's a completely different medium which requires a completely different strategy and orientation. 

Another difficulty I had with Meatball Sundae is working out how to apply it to my target market, independent professionals and small service firms  who traditionally don't benefit from traditional advertising or marketing campaigns such as direct mail.  

What I concluded is that what he describes as the trends of the New Marketing actually favor the independent professional and small firm. You don't need a huge budget anymore to make a substantial niche.  Online and social media allow a small company or independent professional a much wider voice and outlet than was ever available before.  He goes into detail on what he calls trends of the New Marketing.  These trends, such as the long tail, outsourcing, infinite communication channels, amplification of the voice of the consumer and independent authorities work in the favor of the small independent more than the big firm.

According to Seth Godin, the small businesses with very high quality service,  like those that were put out of business by the large discount houses (Walmart, for example),  can now compete against the big firms by having a much more targeted audience that is both large and more dispersed than ever.  A great example would be Blendtec (you can check out their videos on YouTube).

All in all, Meatball Sundae did have a fair amount of useful information, even if it didn't seem to tie together well enough to support his main point.  It's worth reading, even if it's not what I would consider among his best. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Meatball Sundae as well.

More on Why You Should Have a Narrow Target Market

I had a very short conversation with a salesperson from a sales training company last week.  It was less than 5 minutes.  He listened to me describe my target market and only heard as far as attorneys, independent financial advisors and chiropractors.   He heard those three word and only saw that he had clients that were attorneys and financial advisors.  At that point he stopped listening.  He really didn't have a target market and focused on everyone who sold anything - which is everyone, by the way.  Even if you work for a company you are a free agent who sells their services to one client.  Because he only saw the overlap in our demographics, he didn't see any opportunities for us to help each other.

He lost out on the referrals I could give him, and by trying to appeal to everyone, he loses other opportunities as well. 

There's two parts to this - you have a brand and an image whether you like it or not and you develop that image and brand every single time you interact with anyone in any way, whether it's direct contact, personal, email, mail, word of mouth, etc.  Your brand will attract a certain kind of client, whether you want it to or not.  Nothing works exactly the same way for everyone.  There is no single product on earth that appeals to everyone.  If you don't create your brand deliberately, the world will create it for you and you will have an extremely difficult time changing it.

The second part is this - by trying to appeal to everyone, or thinking that your product or service works for everyone, you will alienate people instead of attracting them.  People are much more attracted by the idea of being a member of an exclusive group than by being treated just like everyone else.  It's the other side of the same principle that Harry Beckwith states in Selling the Invisible (see my last blog post).  Narrowing your position ( another word for brand) broadens your appeal.  So trying to have too broad a position or brand limits your appeal.

Wouldn't you rather be seen as belonging to an exclusive club?  Think about all the restaurants and country clubs that thrive on this principle.

Had the sales training person spent more time with me and seriously considered whether we could work together, he would have found out that in reality there is no overlap at all.  Our clients might have the same demographics in general, but they differed greatly when you looked closer.  My clients would never hire him and his clients wouldn't be interested in me at all. We appeal to very different segments of the same market.  I was very clear on that, he wasn't. 

I make much more efficient use of my time and pick up clients that aren't related to my target market at all because they get the appeal, even though I don't market to them.   And I have other associates that do what he does and get the referrals that I might have given to him.

That's one of the side benefits of being very focused.

So how can you further focus your marketing efforts?

Book Review: Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith is not aimed at the small or solo professional.  It is directed at salespeople and marketing in organizations that sell services.  And by services, he's talking about companies like Federal Express, American Express, Levi's and Dayton's (The book was written in 1997, so you need to make some allowances.).  

So why am I even bothering to review this book, when it is clearly not aimed at my target market?  

Because Selling the Invisible should be required reading for all professionals. 

Mr. Beckwith has a clearer understanding of what is going on in the minds of your clients and prospective clients in regards to your service than any other author I've read.  In order to really be successful, you need to understand what people are thinking before, during and after they do business with you.  Most marketing books focus on product, and even the ones that focus on servicea don't really do a good job of explaining WHY people prefer one service over another or what can impact the decision, or why they buy or don't at all.  Selling the Invisible not only explains what's going on in the minds of your current and prospective clients, he also details what you can do about it.   Some of the things he says don't apply to the independent professional, but the reasoning and understanding do.

The examples Harry Beckwith gives are also clear and explicit, so that you can easily understand the point he's getting at.  This is especially important for things like branding and niche marketing, which are often the opposite of what most professionals believe.  Narrowing focus (Harry calls this positioning) is probably one of my favorite examples in the book because it's one of the main things I work on with many of my clients.  He gives the example of Scandinavian Airlines in 1980.  They decided to position themselves exclusively as "The Business Traveler's Airline" after sustaining massive losses.  The airline focused it's marketing and advertising on business travelers and developed their brand in that direction.  As a result, they gained not only business travelers, but more tourists. They had the highest percentage of business travelers and the lowest tourist fares in Europe.

There are many other great examples for understanding marketing and business development for services in the book as well.   You will really be able to understand what works for you and more importantly, why.  This book won't tell you how to market your practice, but it will give you a much better understanding of what works - which can only improve your business development and growth.

Read this book once, twice, even more and you will really grow as a result.

Let me know your thoughts here on Selling the Invisible as well, after you've read it.

21st Century Leaders Program "Apprentice" Presentations

This past Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of serving on the  Panel for the "Apprentice" portion of the 21st Century Leaders program sponsored by the Birmingham Community House.  The program runs from September through April and is modeled on the Leadership Oakland program.   3 seventh grade students are nominated by about 10-13 schools in the Birmingham & Bloomfield area to participate in the program.  It was quite an amazing experience.  For this portion of the program, the students were broken into 7 teams to get a crash course in entrepreneurship, culminating in a presentation to request resources.   The Panel was responsible for determining what resources each team would receive based on their presentation and what they requested.  All seven teams were amazing.  We had a wonderful time seeing what products they came up with and how they put together the business cases. I was very impressed.  It was really quite an accomplishment - this four-session process was the first introduction that the majority of the students had had to everything that goes into a business plan -- marketing, operations, product development and finance.  These are not things that are taught in school, for the most part.  Each team was impressive and did very well.  The products were unique and innovative and the presentations were very good.  I had a wonderful time.

George Marsh, Elisabeth Garbeil and Phillip Seaver

Book Review: The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne

I re-read The Secret from a business standpoint recently and would like to share my thoughts with you.

My main point of disagreement with the book is  with the premise that you attract every single thing that happens to you.  No one attracts cancer, murder, rape, etc.  Children do not attract abuse.  My basic philosophy is that we cannot always control what happens to us but we can control how we respond.  That is the root of the word responsibility.

Having said that, there are a lot of good ideas to help you reach your busines goals.  It's worth looking at.   I have included several below.

1.  Be happy now.  -  Negative emotions and feelings weigh you down and turn off other people.  It's like trying to swim uphill.  Feeling good makes everything easier, especially getting new clients.

2.  Act as if you already have your goals.   -  Obstacles that seemed insurmountable become easy if you look at them from the vantage point of already having passed them.

3.  Focus on what you want, not what you don't want.   Most of us spend our time thinking about what we don't want, and that's what we end up with - not enough money, not enough time, not enough clients, etc.   If you're focused what you don't want, you will miss opportunities to get what you do want.  So look for what you want instead.  Vision boards, screen savers and putting pictures of what  you want all over your house are all great ways to do this.  So is writing down your goals and really looking at them every day.

 What did you get out of The Secret?  Post a comment and let me know.

Straker Bar Association eNewsletter

The Straker Bar Association published an eNewsletter this winter in honor of its 20th anniversary.  It has some excellent articles (including one by yours truly) on both the business and practice of law.  Open the full blog post to access the eNewsletter. 

Are We Sliding into a Dictatorship? What happened to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution?

I find myself doing something I never expected to do:  post a blog on politics on my business site.  I am neither a republican or democrat.  I do vote in every election after carefully examining the issues and the candidates.   I find myself more and more disturbed with every news report I read or watch.   Things are happening in this country that I never dreamed would happen and not in a good way.   There is a difference between not liking unions and the basic right to organize and protect the rights of the worker.   If you study the history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (or take a look in many third world countries today), you'll understand why this is so critical.   Supposedly, we have laws to prevent such things from happening again, but that's worthless if they are repealed or not enforced.  And I do not agree that a corporation is inherently better at providing basic services such as water, fire, public safety, etc.  without any oversight. It might not be a problem if it's contracted out by the town with due process and oversight, but not otherwise.   Look at all the abuses by Blackwater and other contractors in Iraq.  All these things are happening today. 

In Wisconsin, the State Senate voted 18-1 to eliminate the ability of state employees other than police and fire fighters from collective bargaining. (CNN, etc.)  Wisconsin is only one of at least 10 states attempting to curtail and/or eliminate collective bargaining rights, although they seem to be the most obvious about it.

In Missouri, Representative Jane Cunningham is pushing forward a proposal eliminating most of the child labor laws.  (SB222).   Do you remember Oliver Twist? 

And most serious of all, since we do live here, in Michigan, the Michigan Senate approved emergency manager bills giving both the governor and his appointed emergency managers extremely broad powers - including the ability to unilaterally cancel contracts (all contracts, by the way, not just union contracts), remove elected officials, etc. etc.   The bills also give the governor the authority to decide what constitutes a financial emergency.  And given his plans to dramatically cut state funding to schools and municipalities, the governor can easily create the situation that will allow him to move in and take over.   Another provision of the bill allows for takeover and administration of schools and municipalities by private corporations.   This bill is frighteningly similar to tactics used in other countries to create dictatorships under the guise of an "emergency."   I never expected to see such tactics used here.  What's next?  Private companies providing public safety?    That's another word for private army or militia - who are they accountable to?  Look at what's going on in Libya now.  You could also find your town or school district consolidated with another school district or town without being able to have any say in the matter.The bill is intended to remedy issues within such school districts as Inkster and Detroit, but it goes way too far.  There are numerous sources for this, including existing laws that can be found on the state website, the Detroit News, Free Press, Crains, etc.  I found some summaries of the proposed bills (not all) on Scribd, but I wasn't all that pleased with these - there are probably better sources, but I do have to work).  

The thing that concerns me is the trampling of civil liberties using a budget deficit as a justification.   There is a reason we have the constitution and the bill of rights.  

"I am officially freaked out now."


2011 Goals

My goals for 2011 are as follows:

  • $9000/month or more in revenue for EFG Consulting by 12/31/2011
  • A BMI (body mass index) of 25 by 7/30/2011
  • Be training solidly at 3rd level dressage (with my horse) by 12/31/2011. 

What are your goals for 2011 and how can EFG Consulting help you reach them?


Consistency is Key in Growing Your Business

There are 3 parts to creating reliable, steady growth for your business.  The first part we've talked about a lot - where and how to find clients or referral partners.  The second is consistently working to develop relationships and get known.  The third part is knowing how much is enough to gain clients.  By that I mean,  how many people do you need to talk to in order to get one paying client.  This is often referred to as the sales funnel.  I'll focus on that in a later post.

Today, I want to talk about consistency.  Consistency is showing up and participating day after day, week after week, and month after month in whatever networking or other marketing methods you have chosen to employ.  It takes a while for people to get to know you enough to think of you when they're ready to buy or hire and to trust you enough to want to hire or buy from you.  How long that time period is will depend on what service you provide.  If you'r a coach or a financial advisor, it's going to take a  lot longer to establish that relationship than if you clean carpet.  You'll talk to some people who will become your clients immediately, but they are the exception rather than the rule and not what you build your business on.

Showing up one time is not effective in getting clients.   You can't lose weight or build muscle that way - you can't build your business that way either.  You must pick  your approach and keep doing it until you are sure it either is or is not working.  A rule of thumb for any service business is at LEAST three or six months to a year.

Consistency builds upon itself, just like it does in exercise or weight loss.  The more you do, the more you gain and the easier it becomes. 

I see a lot of professionals taking the start-stop approach to developing  their business.  I call this the feast or famine cycle.   People run out of work and then start marketing like crazy until they get more work and then they stop marketing.  This is not a way to grow your business.  You'll find it more and more effort just to maintain your existing business doing marketing this way.  It's a lot like yo-yo dieting and exercise.  Every time you stop exercising and gain the weight back, you are actually losing muscle so it becomes harder and harder to lose those pounds.

Work on building your marketing muscles consistently so that you can steadily grow your business over time with less effort.

"I hate to admit this, but mediocre marketing with commitment works better than brilliant marketing without commitment."

-- Jay Conrad Levinson (author of the Guerilla Marketing series)

Next time we'll talk about the third part - How much marketing is enough? (or What Does Your Sales Funnel Look Like?)

Is the American Dream Dead?

I just read a blog on the new book by Suze Orman called The Money Class, due out in March 2011.   According to the blog, Suze believes that the American dream of owning your own home, working in one job and retiring at age 65 is dead.   I disagree - I don't  believe that really is the true American dream.  I don't think that particular version ever showed up in American society before the advent of baby boomers and home loans - i.e. about the 1940's or 1950's.  I think we owe that particular version of the American dream to the banks which also brought us junk bonds, the Savings and Loan debacle and the current situation with home mortgages. 

I believe the real American dream is about opportunity.   For some it was and is the opportunity to practice your religion free from persecution, for others it was the freedom of opportunity to start a business and make a living or buy a farm.   I think if we asked our parents, grandparents or great grandparents why they came to this country - it wasn't to own a home, work in one job for your entire career and retire at age 65. 

The Declaration of Independence states "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  That is the real American dream.   And I believe it comes in a lot more flavors that just owning your own home, working for someone else your entire career and retiring at age 65.  And I believe that this has always been true, even in the 1950's.

Not to belittle the joys of owning  your own home - but it isn't the be-all and end-all of life.   Working for someone else is also not everyone's dream and never was.   Which, if you think about it, is a very good thing.   Someone has to take the risks and start the companies that drive the economy and  hire all those people.

I think opportunity is still alive and well in America if you are willing to work hard and work smart.  If anything, there is more opportunity for those who are willing to open their own businesses and embrace change than there ever have been.

Owning your own company also provides you with lots more opportunity than working for someone else.  Flexibility, higher incomes, chances to grow and change in areas you are interested in and meeting many more people than you would working for someone else.

It's really easy to see the downsides of being unemployed - but self-employed is far better than employed in my book. 

Now on to retiring at age 65 - Considering that life expectancy is now around 80 - 85, who wants to spend 20 years doing nothing.  The concept of retirement might make sense at 75 or 80, but if you really love what you do, then it's better for your health to keep working.  So maybo work part time instead of full time. Or look into a second or third career?  

I think it's a good thing that those ideas are "dead".  They were right for a few people, but not everyone. 

Certainly not me.   I don't intend on ever retiring and I'm on my third career and working for myself, not someone else.  I work 25 hours a week, and spend the rest of the time with my family and my horse.   I no longer work 60 hour weeks working for a large company with little or no control over my hours. 

That's my "American Dream"

What's your "American Dream?"

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