Monday, August 28, 2006

The Power of Pain

Want the all time secret to selling anything? Its all about Pain.

Or Change, as author Pip Coburn puts it in his book, The Change Function: Why Some Technologies Take Off and Others Crash and Burn.

While Coburn's book is centered on the Pain/Change principle, the application is applicable for us all.

Coburn says that many great technological ideas have failed because they failed to anticipate the end users pain threshold. I.e., how much pain is there current situation causing them, versus the pain it will take to adapt to your new technological fix.

If you are trying to sell ANYTHING, first, ask yourself this: What is the pain that my product or service hopes to end or reduce, and is it significantly more painful than any pain that might be produced by the change or purchase that you're trying to sell them? Do you know what the pains are of your customer? How about the pain that a change or adaption to your product or service demands?

See Fast Companies article on Coburn's book here:

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Differentiating yourself in a changing marketplace

How To Hit A Moving Target
Source: Business Week

These days all competitive advantages are fleeting. So the smartest companies are learning to create new ones—again and again and again

Spend a weekend plowing through even the best of the 18,038 business books found on (AMZN ) that mention the word "competitiveness," and you're left with four things: a splitting headache, two bleary eyes, and a mishmash of utterly random and conflicting advice. Advertisement

Differentiate your products. No, nothing's unique anymore; just slash your costs. Sorry, everyone's doing that. Invent new markets instead. Hug your customers, that's the ticket! Get real, you wuss -- it all comes down to squashing your competitors like bugs.

The message between all those lines is unmistakable: No matter what strategy you try, competitive advantage -- whether it's Home Depot's (HD ) big-box appeal, Intel's (INTC ) chip technology, or Disney's (DIS ) magic aura -- is tougher to create and sustain with each passing year. Says C.K. Prahalad, professor of corporate strategy at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and co-author of several books on competition: "Whatever advantage you have, someone will take it away from you."

Yet there's hope behind this harsh truth. As hard as it has become to create an edge, some smart organizations are finding new ways to do it. Not for good, mind you -- maybe not even for the years that many companies and their investors have come to expect. But a few standouts are managing to do the next best thing: They keep creating new competitive advantages, over and over, faster and faster.

Meet the corporate chameleons. They're organizations that have learned to adjust to rapid social, economic, and competitive changes with relative ease. The most successful among them don't settle for hunkering down in soul-depleting market-share wars to protect an increasingly fleeting edge. Instead they zig and zag with the zeitgeist to keep coming up with new ideas.

And they don't much care if those ideas sound a little nutso. Analysts still aren't sure, for example, about those digital music kiosks at Starbucks (SBUX ). And what the heck is Amazon's Mechanical Turk? (It's a sort of online marketplace for farming out small jobs.) But a culture of experimentation is crucial in a fast-changing world. As Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos told a group of Stanford University students last year: "Invention always leads you down paths that people think are weird."

Not that there's much choice. Competition keeps intensifying around the world. For one thing, after decades of rising power, Asian companies are starting to run circles around American and European rivals across a wide variety of industries. A few years ago, who would have thought that India's Wipro (WIT ), Infosys (INFY ), and Tata Consultancy Services each would have market caps bumping up against, or even eclipsing, that of General Motors (GM )?

Not only that, the Internet is busting the boundaries of many industries, creating openings for unexpected newcomers. With its Net communications subsidiary Skype, for instance, eBay is assaulting telecommunications players by offering free phone calls. Even more broadly, as the Net helps more businesses evolve from merely selling products to providing services, companies are invading markets they could never touch before. Google's (GOOG ) new online services, such as e-mail and word-processing, challenge Microsoft's (MSFT ) cash-cow software applications. Caterpillar's (CAT ) new logistics services go up against the likes of Ryder (R ) and FedEx (FDX ).

What's most striking is that the classic mano-a-mano battles, such as Coke (KO ) vs. Pepsi (PEP ) and Microsoft vs. Apple, are only one small part of being competitive. From Starbucks and Cirque du Soleil to Caterpillar to Whole Foods Markets (WFMI ), companies are finding new ways to differentiate themselves and create entirely new markets. Many are finding that in an intensely networked age, cooperation works better than direct competition. Leaders know that if they fixate on competitors, they'll miss the real prize. "If you want to do a breakthrough, don't look around," says Daniel Lamarre, president of Cirque du Soleil. "Look ahead."

That's what the best of the bunch are doing. Granted, not all of the practices they employ will work for every company in every industry or at all times. But in an era when the competitive playing field is constantly morphing, a few key guidelines have emerged for how to stay ahead of the pack.

DON'T JUST GET BIGGER, GET UNIQUE. Dell (DELL ), Wal-Mart (WMT ), Intel, Home Depot, and Microsoft: Each dominates its field -- and each faces new challenges to growth and profits. Is the quest to be an 800-pound gorilla the smartest strategy? Harvard Business School strategy guru Michael E. Porter doesn't think so. In an age of infinite choice, he contends, there's a better way to achieve competitive advantage. "There is no best auto company, there is no best car," he says. "You're really competing to be unique. One can now be a very, very large company by really meeting a very well-chosen set of needs -- but doing it on a global basis."

Whole Foods Markets, for instance, is "not just trying to be a great food retailer," says Porter. "It's trying to meet the needs of a certain set of customers." Those customers view the 183-store chain's eco-friendly ethos as representative of a healthy, socially responsible lifestyle they want to identify with (not to mention that they crave those Medjool dates and organic heirloom tomatoes). It's unlikely that Kroger's (KR ) or Wal-Mart will ever be able to claim that kind of brand loyalty -- even if Wal-Mart is out trumpeting its goal of "going green."

WHY COMPETE? CREATE NEW MARKETS. Niches are nice, but inventing a new market is a whole lot better. Former fire-eating street performer Guy Laliberté founded Canada's Cirque du Soleil 22 years ago on the notion of a unique combination of circus (but without the animals) and theater (but more acrobatic). Despite massive global expansion, with about $700 million in profitable annual sales, Cirque has no significant direct competitors.

Cirque's Lamarre attributes the company's edge to a stubborn resolve to "stay crazy" and keep "the suits" away from all creative decisions. To keep shows fresh and get a read on shifting public tastes, an in-house group called New Tendencies studies what's new in restaurants, car design, fashion, and other unrelated industries. One result: The group noticed the ascendence of Asian themes, so that flavor was injected into Cirque's hit MGM Grand show Kà.

This kind of market-making lets innovators from Cirque du Soleil to Apple to Starbucks avoid market share wars and reap big rewards, says W. Chan Kim, co-author with Renée Mauborgne of the 2005 book Blue Ocean Strategy. Their research over the past decade shows that 86% of launches by 108 companies were mere line extensions, which accounted for 39% of profits from all new-business launches. The remaining 14% represented new markets, and they generated 61% of profits.

OBSESS ABOUT CUSTOMERS, NOT RIVALS. Heavy equipment is an intensely competitive business, but No. 1 Caterpillar keeps its eyes on the prize: what its customers want. Instead of just selling that familiar yellow gear, the Peoria company sells service -- or, as its informal motto says, "Buy the iron, get the company."

Caterpillar will ship spare parts to a customer anywhere in the world, from the Alaskan tundra to the deserts of Timbuktu, in just 24 hours. But the dividends of that high level of service extend beyond customer loyalty. The company's various service contracts serve as a kind of annuity, and the need to arrange distribution of several hundred thousand parts worldwide led it into a profitable, fast-growing logistics business. Even with a recent slowdown in housing construction, Caterpillar saw its second-quarter profits jump 38% and raised its earnings outlook for the year.

GIVE AS GOOD AS YOU GET. More than a decade ago, James F. Moore noted in his book The Death of Competition that huge, cooperative networks of companies such as the IBM (IBM ), Intel, and Microsoft troika in computing, or Toyota (TM ) and its close-knit supplier network, were overtaking individual companies as new competitive forces. Now a lot of companies are taking an even bigger leap forward. They're tapping into the cooperative crowds that create things like open-source software, eBay's massive marketplace, and Skype's peer-to-peer Net phone network.

In some cases they're finding ways to leverage that cooperative force to huge advantage. Google, for instance, instantly polls millions of people and businesses whose Web sites link to one another, and as a result the company produces better search results than its rivals do. That has allowed Google to continue gaining market share. It has also enabled the company to build a highly profitable ad business with $6.1 billion in revenues, up 93% from a year ago.

GET PERSONAL. Thanks to the Web and just-in-time supply chains, the mass-market era is fading as customers begin to tailor companies' products to their tastes. Amazon offers personalized book recommendations based on your literary leanings, Build-a-Bear Workshop lets your kids design their own teddy bears, and virtually every Dell PC is a custom job. "With personalization, you have infinite ways to differentiate," says Prahalad, whose 2004 book The Future of Competition, co-authored with Venkat Ramaswamy, urged companies to "co-create" products with customers.

That approach is working wonderfully for Lands' End. Six years ago the mail-order and Web apparel retailer began offering customers the ability to order jeans, men's dress shirts, and other items to their exact measurements. Today, even though the clothes cost at least $20 more apiece, up to 40% of Lands' End customers choose the customized versions. And 33% of those customers reorder the personalized product. Even better, about a quarter of these made-to-measure fans are new customers.

STAY HUNGRY. A low-cost business model isn't much of a differentiator anymore, but staying efficient remains crucial. So is engaging in direct combat when necessary -- let's face it, in some industries competition ain't pretty. "It's a hard world," shrugs Boston Consulting Group's George Stalk, co-author of 2004's Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win? "It's 'I'm going to eat your lunch or you're going to eat my lunch."'

Today, even the most dominant companies need to stay on their toes. The truth is, there's no final winner in the global game of corporate competition. "All winning does is let you compete against a whole new set of better-funded competitors," observes Joe Kraus, founder and chief executive of Web collaboration software startup JotSpot. "Competition never ends."

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

We've changed to "6 Below"

I've given up on my "group blog" idea. I've released the blog to for anyone to find, and changed the name to "6 Below."

Why "6 Below" ? Well, first, it wasn't taken. And second, 6 represents the number of items that I try and focus on each day. Mary Kay read about a consultant that helped corporate executives to become more effecient by concentrating on just 6 "to-do" items each day, and she made the practice a hallmark of her businesses operating model. Psychitrist tell us that there is a finite number of "windows" that the human mind can keep open at any one time, I think it's between 6 and 8.

"Below," is below the surface, where all real value exist. It's representative of thinking, digging, and exploring that which isn't easily seen.

These two things, together, represent my postings as they have evolved, and my mindset in life and in business. I think they represent the mindset of most entrepreneurial people as a whole - we're always looking to find a "leg up," an advantage, a better way to do things. We're building the better mouse trap and changing the world by solving its problems.


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Leverage, Collaberation, and Synergy - 3 great words

"I’ve tried to pare down my day so that the stuff I actually do is pretty well leveraged. That, and I show up. Showing up is underrated. "
-From an interview with marketing guru Seth Godin

I think there is a lot of wisdom in that statement - it really made me think.

Two thoughts:

First, Godin says that he "pares down" his day, so that Second, the stuff he does is pretty well leveraged. If I'm reading this right Godin is saying that 1.) He doesn't spend a lot of time working in a day, and 2.) When he does work, its intense, its "leveraged." I'm an efficiency freak (probably because I loose so much time to distraction), so I'm wondering just what he means by "leveraged." Leverage has become a big, big word for me as I have realized its power. Leverage is what frees men from jobs. Leverage is what makes men rich. Leverage is what makes men extraordenary. Leverage is the internet. The new leverage is "collaberation." Do you know about internet collaberation? Check out - an incredible online, human edited encyclopedia that was written and is still being written, revised, and expanded by millions of people around the world. Your encyclopedia may not have a reference to Mark Cuban, or the newest technology, or "exurbs," but wikipedia does. In a few years the internet has written what would have taken decades (and been greatly out of date by then) by using collaberation, by using leverage. It reminds me of the great buildings and pyrimids that were built thousands of years ago. They were built by diverting massive amounts of money and manpower, or slaves to a project over decades.

Anyway, back to leverage, and shortening your day. The average American worker used to work 8 hours a day - I guess the average clerical or industrial worker still does, but the rest of us went to 10 hours a day, and if you're an entrepreneur, it seems like you never stop working. In fact, you're probably not reading this blog because you're working. Yet, advancement, creativity, effeciency, wisdom, and just plain sanity requires some free time to think.

Let me ask you two questions:
1.) How much of that 10 or 12 hour day are really working? I'm serious, how much of that day are you completely focused on completing a task that is essential and of great importance to your business? And how much time are you spending on things that really matter very little, but you just like doing...maybe you don't like doing it, but you like doing it more than the other hard things you should do. If you were to really track the important and necessary work you do in a day, how much time would that equal? Could it really only equal a couple of hours a day? If it is, might you be better off working 3 hours a day and thinking and playing and growing, and reading, and spending time with your family during the other hours?

2.) Lets think about that word "leverage" again. I'm a Realtor, and a small time investor. If I want to invest in real estate, I can use my money, or someone else's money (mortgage). If I buy a $100,000 home and make 10% appreciation a year over one year, I will have made $10,000 in appreciation. If I take that same $100,000 and spread it out over 5 homes at $20,000 a piece and get a mortgage for the rest, I'll still make $10,000, a house....that's $50,000 instead of $10,000, minus the interest. I've used "leverage" to make myself 5 times as effective. How can you use leverage to make yourself 5 times as effective?....My first thought is computers, which I love to leverage, but maybe we ought to think people as well. How much of what you do during a day could be done by someone who makes $10 an hour?

Another word I like is "synergy." My wife hates synergy, or rather, she hates the word. She says some guy made it up and then it was the cool word to use to make yourself sound smart. i think she's right, but the concept is amazing. My barber is 35 minutes from my home. When I need to go to the barber, I wait until I have something else I need to do in that part of town. I kill two birds with one stone - synergy. My business model is loaded with synergy - it runs on it. Synergy multiplies, it's Gung Ho , that's "working together" for those of you who didn't read the book or see the film. Have you thought about what things you can do that will have multiple effects? If there something that you're not doing for your clients or customers becuase its too costly or time consuming, that, in reality have multiple effects? For example, maybe you're thinking "boy, this guy has absolutely nothing to do but sit around and write this blog - I could never find that much time to waste on something like that." But then, you may be thinking that I have some very interesting thoughts, and maybe you're thinking that you need to explore some of them in your business model. For me, this blog has multiple effects (by the way, Mark Cuban, the Billionaire, has a blog which is updates daily):

1.) This blog allows me to document my observations.
2.) This blog allows me to expand my thoughts on those observations.
3.) This blog allows me to write.
4.) This blog pounds in those observations and thoughts and permits me to review them at a later point.
5.) This blog allows me (from time to time when someone actually reads it) to give something of value to people.
6.) This blog exercises my brain, makes me a better speaker, and a better thinker.
7.) This blog links to my website,, which helps my ratings in Google.

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Gem from "Indispensible"

I picked up a new book last night called Indespensible: How to become the company your customers can't live without by Joe Callaway.

Callaway greatly appeals to the ADD in me by using Case Studies to present much of his information.

In one Case Study, he interviews Jeffery Gitomer, who regularly has books on sales in the top 10 list on Gitomer has literally become a legend in the sales training business and has a huge fan base including blue chip companies.

Callaway asks Gitomer "What's the key factor that makes you so successful?" Gitomer responds without any hesitation:

"Create value, then give it away. If you have good stuff, people want more."

Gitomer gave two examples of this practice:

1. The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones produce a song and then let radio stations every where play it for free. People hear their songs, love them, and want more, whereby they buy the song.

2. Mrs. Field's Cookies: One of the first things that Mrs. Fields does when she opens a new store is to give away cookies. She knows that once people try them, they'll buy them, today and tomorrow and forever. I've often wondered why more companies who have their product in the supermarket don't have the little old lady giving out samples. I look at all those cheeses in the market and wonder if any of them are really good - if I only knew, I'd buy the good cheese. But I'm not willing to pay $5 for a chunck of cheese to try it.

How revolutionary could this marketing technique be in your business?


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Monday, July 17, 2006

The Power of Blogs

Are you up on Blogs? And what they can do for your business? For free? !

Here's the skinny: Blogs are just websites that typically display an ongoing log of entries. For instance, each new "post" on this blog starts at the top of the web page, and then descends down the page as other newer post are put here. I set the number of post that will appear on the main page. The other older blogs can be accessed by clicking on a link on the side. Additionally, you can search all the post in this blog through the search feature above.

And how much does this blog cost me? Zero. Nota. Nothing. Yes, it has a long and difficult name,, but for $8.95, I can go to, buy a URL named (if its available), and point that URL to this one.

There are also COMMERCIAL blogs, which provide other features on the blog, making it more like a website. For instance, there is a company that provides Community Blogs for Realtors. As a Realtor, I can lease a nice blog template from them that has a lo of extra features to facilitate community happenings, etc., and provide that to the community at no charge. Of course, my Realtor ad stays up front and prominent.

Here's some points you should know about blogs:

* Sites like offer free blogs. They're easy to set up and use.

* Blogs can help your regular website to rise in the search engine rankings. For instance, is my Frisco Real Estate Blog. In addition to current news on Frisco Real Estate, you'll find links to my main website, . So, this is a Real Estate website that links to my business real estate website - that tells Google and Yahoo that my main website is important to another site that deals with Real Estate.

* Blogs are an excellent way to create community among your customers or clients. For $5 a month, you can even ad a message board to your blog. My friend Andy, sells very expensive medications to a small community of people spread out across the U.S. I've suggested that a blog would be an excellent way to develop community with these clients of his who have this disease in common. And of course, he would be the common thread.

* Blogs can be used as a business communication tool. I'm about to start offering a blog for every client of mine. We'll post information relevant to their search or listing on the blog, and they can comment back to us. At any point, from anywhere in the world, they can know what's going on with their home, or search. I've also toyed around with the idea of using a blog to plot out long term goals with my wife. As both of us run across interesting articles concerning our goals, or have new thoughts about them, or want to post a picture of the goal (like a trip to Italy or a home), we can post them, capture the moment, and have a point of reference for both of us.

* Blogs can make you the expert. Anyone who looks at my FriscoRealEstate Blog, will probably draw the conclusion that I'm an expert on Frisco Real Estate, that I have a command of using technology, etc. Also, it wouldn't be to illogical for a local newspaper to call me as a Frisco Real Estate expert after seeing my blog (and give me free publicity).

* Finally, Blogs are a great source for business information. Just as you, hopefully, have gleamed some ideas and information from this blog, there are millions of highly specific blogs dealing with any and all areas of business and life. Remember, too, that you can add a blogs RSS Feed (see my previous blog on RSS) to your RSS viewer, and see the incoming post from tons of blogs in one central location. Its kind of like adding yourself to a email list, that you only look at when you want to.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

IE 7.0

Internet Explorere 7.0 Beta 3 is out, with some new and improved features. One that I like, right off, is the ability to choose the screen size as a percentage. I'm choosing 90% as a default, and then moving it, with a single click, to 100% when I need it. The benefit? Faster loads! IE 7 also has the tabed pages feature that Firefox invented, and improved security. Finally, when you visit a site that has RSS feeds, like this one, a RSS icon will light up, and you can click it to add the page to your RSS Feeds.

You can download IE 7 here:

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Yahoo 1ups Google Maps

Google Maps, since its updated version has appeared, has been the undisputed king of online maping. Quite simply, it has been light years ahead of mapquest, yahoo, et al. Well, that was, until now - Yahoo Maps has just antied up and raised Google to become the new killer map application on the web - and I mean KILLER.

Go to to see for yourself. Besides a lot of small enhancements to Google's maping, Yahoo sports a LIVE TRAFFIC feature - turn it on, and Yahoo will map any accidents, the flow of traffic on specific highways, and any closed roads, courtesy of the Texas Dept. of Transportation.

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