Monthly Archives: June 2013

Finding Feasibility

Ever been a part of a feasibility study?  You know – a bunch of people have a bright idea and it’s good enough that there needs to be a serious investigation into whether it can be done or not.

The former York to Hull Railway -

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A team is put together (hopefully including those whose idea it was in the first place) and questions are drawn up.  In some ways those questions are like a mini business plan.  What’s the potential market for this idea?  What are the resources needed to bring it to life?  What sort of on-going support will it require?  Can it be done in a reasonable time frame or will it take so long that the potential evaporates?  And of course, what are the legal ramifications if we do what we’re proposing to do?

I want to focus on that last little bit because I think it’s illustrative of a broader point.  Lawyers are trained to protect their clients (which are, by the way, the companies for which they work  and not YOU, dummy).   To many of them, the status quo is a lovely place (assuming the company is not tied up in litigation).   That’s not really the best place, however, for many businesses.  In fact, in some businesses such as tech, the status quo is a death sentence.  When the feasibility of something new is brought up, I’ve worked with some lawyers who were fabulous at finding ways to say “no.”  The could spot a potential problem long before any of us could and they didn’t hesitate to cite those problems are reasons not to proceed.

Here is what they – and you – need to keep in mind:

Obstacles are huge and opportunities are small:  one often hides the other.

How many people underestimate what’s feasible since obstacles can be readily apparent but the opportunities hidden behind them get missed?  We need to do what the better lawyers (and executives) I’ve known always did:  spot the opportunity and find a way to remove the obstacle blocking your path.  Some feasibility efforts are the business equivalent of the blue screen of death:  the system has reached an issue it can’t handle and throws in the towel.

I’m a believer in almost anything being feasible as long as there is flexibility, some tolerance for risk, and a willingness to adjust as you learn.  People – and businesses – have done things a certain way for years and in most cases it’s working for them.  Trying something new or doing things in a new way might not seem feasible and it’s not if there is a predisposition towards allowing the obstacles to obscure the opportunity.  But I’ll bet you can tell me about a time when you tried to do something in a new way – you shut your eyes and didn’t see the obstacles but visualized the opportunity – and succeeded.  So tell me!

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Radiant Marketing

Ever seen someone who you might describe as “radiant”?  You know what I mean – filled with light.

049e that inner glow

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Glowing.  Beaming.  The immediate image that comes to mind is of a bride on her wedding day or a parent watching their child do something that makes the kid beam and the parent glow even more brightly.  Radiant.  It’s pretty easy to read these people – that glow just shines through all the layers of defenses in which we adult humans often wrap ourselves.  You can’t fake it.

The same thing is true about businesses.  Consumers can see when a company has that “inner glow” and when it’s faking it.  Think about brands you know that seem to have a core confidence and I’m willing to bet that you can pick up that “radiant” vibe.  It’s not that they don’t ever commit missteps or do anything that wouldn’t cause them to be “perfect.”  In fact, quite the contrary.  They have the inner peace to admit when they’re wrong and they don’t stray from their centers to “fix” an emergency.

Why I raise this is  that more and more businesses are spending time engaged via social media with their customers and they’re putting out all sorts of messages.  The thing that gets lost is that customers can tell when it’s a marketing program and when it’s a reflection of a centered, radiant brand.  Some brands – Patagonia and Apple are the first two that pop into my head – have become enormous because they “found” themselves and stay true.  They don’t pander.  They radiate.  Everything they do glows.  When companies try to mimic that what they fail to realize is that it’s replicable only to the extent that a company can find its own core.

Consumers are people.  They’re used to spotting fakes and once in a while they see someone who radiates light.  They can sniff out when you’re trying to foster “engagement” when what you need to be doing is looking within and sharing what you find (hopefully there IS something to find) with them.  Maybe it’s allowing them to bask in your glow.

Finding and marketing that radiance is not marketing at all, in my book.  It’s a key to success and one that your fans will love to share.  After all, don’t we all love it when your friends have it?  Isn’t it catching?   Tell me.

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Green Tea

Let’s contemplate green tea to begin our Foodie Friday Fun rant this week. Many folks – myself included – drink green tea because it’s chock full of really good stuff such as antioxidants. While it used to be that green tea was the specialty drink of Japanese and some Chinese restaurants, it really has become a mainstream drink here in the U.S. – 10 Billion servings a year by some estimates.

Good mornig,guys! Why don't you drink with me?

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Because of the popularity of the drink, Consumer Labs did some research on bottled green teas as well as loose tea used to brew at home.  Their research showed that brewed green tea can vary widely from one cup to the next even when prepared in the same way. Some bottled varieties appear to be little more than sugar-water, containing little of the good stuff that gives green tea its solid health reputation.  Overall, the tea in bottles was far less healthy than tea made fresh.  The bottles are more convenient but the product is of much lower quality.  This, of course, got me thinking about business.

There is always a trade-off between convenience and quality.  Look at “fast” food.  I think most of us know we’re giving up a lot – flavor for one thing – when we choose to save time and patronize a quick-service restaurant.   It’s the same when we  buy prepackaged  baked goods instead of  taking the time to find a bakery where things are fresh-made (or make them ourselves – even better!).

Thoreau put it well.  “The cost of a thing,” he wrote in Walden, “is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”   People choose the convenient product because in their minds they’re getting back a little time, a commodity that’s becoming quite rare for most folks.  The real secret to being successful in business is to strike that balance more in favor of quality while offering some cost-savings in terms of time.  The green tea example shows up it’s not even a money thing – people pay more for the less healthful tea in bottles because it’s ready, not because it’s better for them.  I’m not sure that’s even a conscious choice since the bottled teas position themselves as healthy in many cases.

How do you solve the time/quality/convenience equation?  The answer to that might just be the key to your success.

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