Summer is approaching and who doesn’t love taking the family out for ice-cream? I read this great article on Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog about Amy’s Ice Creams in Austin, Tx.
Amy’s is a small business that has grown in the last 25 years to 15 franchised stores with sales that exceed $7 million. How’d they do it? Jeanne Bliss’ article on Marketing Profs credits, in part, their hiring process. They look for creative people who will engage. Their job application is a white paper bag! Read the article here: Ice-Cream Slingers Turn a Good Product Into a Great Experience
The title of the article is why I read it to begin with. Going out for ice-cream is always an experience for me. It’s never a chore, or something you just pick up on a drive-by. In my family we will even go out of our way – passing THREE other ice-cream shops to get to the one with the nicest location – on the lake, in the woods.
One ice-cream stand I will NEVER again patronize really doesn’t get this. I approached the counter with my two young kids. The three of us, all smiles and excited for the yummy ice-cream treat. I asked for a scoop of ice-cream for my youngest and would he please put that in a large cup -
“Yes it goes in a cup, I’m not just going to put it in your hand,” he interrupted me and he was serious.
My smile dropped and I stared at him for a moment. He glared back at me. I said, “What I was saying, before you interrupted me, was would you please put it in a larger cup so that she doesn’t spill it. Do you think you could do that?” He ruined our experience. No joy. Fail.
Then there are the chain ice-cream stores, run like an assembly line by young people who barely make eye contact with you. They’re trained to move you through as fast as possible, maximize profits, give you the exact same ice-cream concoction at every single franchise location around the world. No personality. Fail.
By contrast the shop across the street engages my little kids at the counter helping them decide on a flavor, walking around the counter to deliver the ice-cream treat in person, and adding little candy eyes and nose to make a face on the dessert. They get it, and their parking lot is always full in the summer and their tip jar is overflowing. Personality, creativity, engagement. YOU PASS!
So my take away is this: What do you do to make working with you a joyful experience for your clients? Are you engaged with each one of your patrons? Are you giving them more than the product/service you’re contracted to give by also giving them a joyful experience?
This week we’re going to highlight one of our partner companies, GStirrup.
Years ago Dr. Gauta, a board certified OB/Gyn, realized that many of the procedures he was doing in the hospital OR or surgery centers could be done in his office. The only obstacle standing in his way was the standard exam table in each of his exam rooms. The tables did not provide the comfort and stability necessary for these longer procedures.
Dr. Gauta searched for a solution and determined that he could create a better solution on his own. That solution was the GStirrup. The GStirrup is a boot that fits into the existing stirrups of the exam table, can be attached and removed quickly without tools, is simple to clean and store and offers patients greatly improved comfort and stability.
His solution was a win, win, win situation. Patients could now have procedures performed in the familiar surroundings of their own doctor’s office not a large, impersonal hospital or surgical facility. Patients and their insurance companies would pay less for procedures done in Dr. Gauta’s office. And Dr. Gauta would be able to serve his patients better and increase his revenue. It was an idea worth sharing but with no experience in manufacturing, sales or marketing it looked to be a long row to hoe.
Nevertheless, Dr. Gauta and his wife set out to create the GStirrup and offer it to other OB/Gyn offices. They designed and built a prototype that worked superbly and took it to a manufacturing company, looking to the company’s engineers for expert advice and guidance on design and manufacturing.
The Gauta’s were introduced to Bill McHenry of ESM through a networking event and Mr. McHenry listened to their story. After hearing about their experiences with the manufacturing firm, McHenry found the design process was taking far too long and they were getting bad advice from the engineers.
“I just told them,” says Bill, “You don’t have to accept what they say. You can talk to other people. You can tell THEM what to do, not the other way around.”
The Gautas hired ESM to help them through the process and to get their GStirrup boot ready for market. The first issue on the docket was to straighten out the confusion with the manufacturing company. The process was taking too long and the Gautas weren’t talking to the right people. With experience in manufacturing and an understanding of the industry ESM was able to save the Gautas thousands of dollars and weeks of precious time.
“We taught them how to handle the manufacturer and how to better understand the channel,” Said Bill.
With the manufacturing process squared away the next step ESM took on was helping the Gautas structure their pricing. By analyzing costs and studying the medical equipment industry ESM taught the Gautas how to structure a pricing schedule that was appropriate for the channel and would maximize their profits.
ESM Sales Strategy
The Gautas didn’t have a sales strategy. They were grasping at opportunities as they arose such as trade shows and promotional videos. The problem was the trade shows were not the right audience and the videos were expensive and useless without a good broadcast channel. ESM helped them understand their sales channels and taught them how to present their product to key contacts in appropriate venues. ESM created marketing literature for them and taught them how to use it. Then there was the question of where and how to sell the boot: direct to doctors or through distribution.
“We helped them understand the different market segments and the challenges and benefits of each and then we implemented the strategy with them.”
The results have been outstanding. By teaching the Gautas how to understand manufacturing, marketing and sales in their industry ESM saved them years of struggle, saved them thousands of dollars and helped them to maximize their profits.
What’s been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
Or lack of it…
Inventors have an idea which they develop into a new product or service.
Entrepreneurs gather resources like people and connections, money and capital to take the product or service to the marketplace in the hopes of making a profit. Entrepreneurs take on all of the risks associated with selling that new invention.
Sometimes the Entrepreneur is the Inventor, sometimes not.
Being an inventor is creative, challenging and rewarding work. Moving from the world of inventing into the world of entrepreneurship feels like sailing off the end of the world. There are very, very, very few college/university based programs designed to encourage and assist the entrepreneur and hundreds that teach and mentor innovation and inventors: computer programming, biotechnology, chemistry, engineering, etc.
In recent news it was encouraging to see that UCLA is stepping up to help bridge the gap between inventing and entrepreneurship. A new program called Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) launched April 2013 brings in experienced entrepreneurs to coach and mentor university based inventors. The EIR program is backed by the Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Sponsored Research. Seems like a win win for everyone!
The group of Entrepreneurs-In-Residence will hold seminars, panel discussions, and office hours to share what they know with faculty and students. They’ll focus on starting and maintaining a business and commercializing research and technologies.
Here are a few colleges with entrepreneurship programs:
Baylor University – roughly two thirds of Baylor’s graduates start up a business and 75% stay in business
University of Houston – Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship offers nine mentorship programs from a faculty made up entirely of experienced entrepreneurs
USC – Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies this program offers competitions and in the 2011-2012 school year gave out $157,000 in prize money.
Brigham Young University – Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology – while this program only has 88 enrolled students it is one of the most affordable programs in the country and boasts 13 entrepreneurship clubs and 20 mentorship programs.
Other schools with entrepreneur programs:
University of Arizona
Washington University in St. Louis
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Something to think about:
What’s your take on the lack of entrepreneur education in the US? Are we failing our future economy by preparing our college students to be employees rather than employers?
At ESM we are all about the entrepreneur. Our goal is to help business owners increase sales through creative and innovative marketing ideas, increasing sales volumes and profits, and grow your business. But we’re also about the inventor. We’ve helped several companies, large and small, get their innovative products to market. We’ve helped large established companies expand their product sales into new, alternative markets.
Inventors are awesome people! These are the folks that jump in and act on their good ideas. They are risk takers. They are passionate. They are creative. Sometimes, they are alone. They are taken advantage of. They are lost and confused about how to get that invention to market.
Today, in support of the inventor, we’re going to promote two awesome resources for the inventor entrepreneur: The United Inventors Association and QVC Sprouts.
The United Inventors Association is a nonprofit educational foundation that supports inventors on multiple levels. Membership is free and all educational programs are free. Their mission is “Empowering inventors through education, access and advocacy.” This includes ACCESS to industry segments through tradeshows and events, access to education, fellow inventors, experts in whatever field or subject matter needed. ADVOCACY includes nearly anything in support of the inventor and notably through the United States Patent and Trademark office, with which the UIA has a close working relationship. The USPTO created the UIA in 1987 and still works closely with the association to gain information and feedback from the inventor community.
The UIA worked closely with QVC, the standard in televised home shopping, to create the QVC Sprouts program. This program was started in March 2012 to help inventors launch their innovative products with reduced risk and to gain valuable consumer feedback in the process. Each week new products are hosted on the QVC Sprouts website and consumers vote for the products they would like to see for sale on the QVC website. One winner each week will have his/her product promoted throughout the QVC channels and may even make a sales presentation on QVC TV.
Do you have an innovative new product? We can help you make it retail ready with packaging, pricing, marketing and sales. We create the strategies for you and we’ll help you implement every step of that strategy. We can build a plan for any budget. But in the meantime, join the UIA and gain the support and educational community you get from a community inventors just like you!
Questions are powerful things. My dad once told me, “If you can phrase it in a question you can make it happen.” I think we were talking about whether or not we would have personal jet-packs one day.
But questions are very powerful because that’s how we think. We ask a question and our brain goes to work on an answer. Note the powerful distinctions in this example.
You spill your drink at dinner. Immediately you ask yourself one of two questions:
1. Why does this always happen to me?
And your brain answers “because you are clumsy and unlucky. You make lazy mistakes because you are lazy. And finally, you’re simply not that cool.”
2. What should I do so this doesn’t happen again?
And your brain answers “you should always keep your drink at the top of your plate where you can see it and where your elbows are unlikely to accidentally knock it over. You’re too cool to go around spilling drinks.”
Which one makes for a better day and a brighter future? Of course that’s not exactly what your brain says but you understand what I’m saying. In number one you are looking for problems. In number two you are looking for solutions.
We can use questions to find solutions in all areas of our lives. I came across this wonderful site and blog article about harnessing the power of questions here. Tony Robbins talks about using questions in all of his materials, and the Bible tells us, “Ask and you shall receive”. For this article I want to touch on using questions with your prospects.
In addition to asking yourself questions to get what you want, you can ask others questions to get them to give you what you want. Whether you are sitting in a sales meeting or trying to get investors to look at your invention getting the prospect to slow down and consider you is as simple as asking a few key questions. Here are five suggestions. I challenge you to think and come up with a few of your own.
Why did you agree to see me? or Why are you interested in me or my product/service/company?
Now you’ve got him talking about all your assets and why he wants to work with you.
Why is this a priority for you NOW?
The purpose of this question is to shorten the buying cycle and get her to identify all the reasons this business has to close quickly. Take note of her answers to remind her when she starts dragging her feet later.
How do you see this working?
See what you’ve done there? You’ve given the assumption that it IS going to work you’re just asking him how he would like it done. I love this one. If you listen and follow through you will have given him everything he wanted and more.
What is your most important priority with this? Why?
With this question you are learning her goals. Now you can tailor the presentation of your product or service to meet her goals.
“I’m confused, would you clarify what you mean when you say… ?”
This is a great one to use to overcome objections. It will give you a moment to regroup and discover what exactly is on the prospect’s mind. Listen carefully to what he’s saying don’t just sit there planning your argument. Become the prospect’s ally, stay out of an argument.
Questions are a great habit to adopt. Use them on yourself and use them on others and someday soon we’ll fill the air flying around on our personal jet packs! (photo credit http://martinjetpack.com/photo-gallery.aspx it’s a real jetpack and it’s for sale!)
Please share some of your favorite power questions.
It may be obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me. There is a simple, no nonsense way to get what you want. Decide, then find a way. In my house we say, “Pick your spot and GO!”
So often we want something but we do nothing to get it. We have a goal but we don’t move toward achieving that goal. We wish. We lament all the obstacles in our way. We identify all the reasons why we can’t, such as: I don’t have enough time. I can’t afford to, right now. If only the kids were older/younger. I don’t know how. I have no experience. I’m too short/tall/old/young.
Take a look at the rock climber in the picture. Standing at the bottom of the rock he may have said to himself, “I wish I could get to top of that rock.” And looking up he probably saw an area with no footholds, a really steep part, a big drop, a scary crack. He could have walked away wishing he could have climbed that rock. OR – instead he could use all his knowledge, skill and tools to tackle it and deal with one challenge at a time.
There are a million reasons NOT to do something.
What would happen if you decide to go for it? Once you decide then you start solving the problems one by one. You work to find a way around the obstacles. If it’s really what you want, you’ll find a way. Don’t wait until the smoke clears and the seas part. Don’t wait for what you want to fall out of the sky at the absolute perfect time. Make it happen.
In the words of Zeke Topanga from Surf’s Up, “Don’t give up. Find a way. Because that’s what winners do.”
Josh Linkner always has great words of wisdom and encouragement in his blog articles. Subscribe to his blog if you haven’t already, it’s awesome. Today was no exception. His article 5 Ways To Get Back Your Mojo comes at a perfect time.
Winter in the Midwest really stinks once you get to mid February early March. Talk about being in a rut! We’re stuck inside and the walls are closing in. I start to feel like I’m in an obstacle course all the time, tangled in my coat and scarf, tripping over boots and snow drifts. It’s enough to drive you crazy. It’s certainly enough to suck the motivation and inspiration out of you.
Josh Linkner has five things you can do to get back your confidence and your spirit. I’m going to give you five more to help you out of your rut.
- Get outside. According to the Book of Tao we should not live on upper floors because you lose your connection to the Earth and essentially your connection to the Universe. Get yourself outside, even in the bad weather. Get your feet on the ground, feel the wind on your face, stretch your legs and your body in open space. Once when I worked for a software development company I came across one of our programmers standing at the window looking out. He said he was just looking at infinity and stretching his eyes after staring at his computer screen all morning. Do that.
- Review your goals. Remember New Year’s Day when you were so excited about the plans you made for the coming year? Oh baby, the things you were going to achieve! Get those out. Pick a few. Make a to do list and do at least one thing EVERY SINGLE DAY to move toward the achievement of those goals. After two or three weeks of these forward moving steps you’ll begin to see amazing progress which will fuel your motivation and build your momentum.
- Just do it. Nike was on to something with that one and everyone knew it. Most of us have so much internal chatter about why we can’t, or why we don’t have to, or why we shouldn’t have to. I’m too tired. The weather’s too bad. I can do it later. What if I fail? What if I succeed? It’s too hard. Don’t waste time trying to stop that chatter or trying to talk yourself into doing something. Shut up and do it. Even if you could fail, even if you’re too tired, even if you’re scared. Look at your to do list from number 2 and do it. Pick up the phone and make the call. Put on your shoes and go for a walk. Get that research done. Finish that proposal and send it. Today. Right now.
- Play. You need to take a break from working on stuff all the time. We’re constantly grinding forward, pushing through, solving problems, trying to overcome obstacles. There will always be a long list of Have To’s and To Do’s. Commit to a complete mental vacation from work for a little while every day and play. Do something you really enjoy like: woodworking, dancing, racquet ball, playing with your kids, reading a book, golfing, hiking. Just make sure it’s play and not another TO DO from your list of goals.
- Do something for someone else. Doing something for someone else has multiple benefits. First, someone gets the help they need. Second, you feel needed and valuable. Third, you realize how fortunate and capable you are. Fourth, you flex your personal power and you realize how much power you have to make things happen. Fifth, you stop focusing yourself and your problems and you stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Let’s face it, the only thing keeping you in a rut is you. It’s not the economy. It’s not the weather. It’s not your boss. It’s not your circumstances at all. It takes effort to get out of a rut, but the effort is so worth it. What do you do to get out of a rut?