Archive for August, 2009

How to Discount (If You Insist)

August 31, 2009

Discounting can wreck brand value and profits. Follow this discount strategy to avoid those pitfalls

via: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/aug2009/sb20090814_425078.htm?campaign_id=rss_smlbz

Discounting stinks.

As a marketer whose job is to create preference and profitability for my clients, I don’t like discounting. In fact, I hate it. I call it the D-word. It’s distracting. It’s demeaning. It’s destructive and depressing. And yet I see companies do it all the time.

These days discounting is more prevalent than ever. Now into the second year of our economic tsunami, we are getting used to headlines bemoaning declining sales and shrinking profits across virtually every sector of the economy. The current issue of the Harvard Business Review even coined the term Post-Recession Consumer, whose “new thriftiness and desire for simplicity” will change business for a generation. Just this month Yahoo! (YHOO) introduced a new Web site called Yahoo Deals, offering coupons, information about limited-time promotions, and even a cheap gas finder. The company reports that searches for the term “printable coupons” are up 50% this year because, as Greg Hintz, head of Yahoo Shopping, puts it in a recent Brandweek piece, “Frugality is the new ‘cool.’ ”

Many companies are getting caught up in the frenzy and slashing prices. Even marketers who should know better—those who have made big bets on discounting in the past and lost—have not been immune. Both McDonald’s (MCD) and Burger King (BK) recently fought public skirmishes with their franchisees over the price point of their low-end burgers. Their corporate offices want to drive traffic, but franchisees complain that it does them no good to sell any product at a loss. And Macy’s (M), the nation’s dominant department store chain, lowered its price on a popular line of men’s slacks in an effort to generate sales. While the decision resulted in “tremendous sell-through” according to CEO Terry Lundgren, it also required “low price points and no margins,” an article in The Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying.

Discounting destroys brand equity, hamstrings investment in innovation, and zaps profitability for companies and their stakeholders. Which raises an interesting question: Can discounting ever be an acceptable strategy for a business?

Rules for discounting wisely

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in more than two decades as a consultant, it’s never say never. There may be times and places where a discount can make sense to achieve a limited, well-defined objective. That said, discounting should be rarely used and carefully managed. Let me suggest three rules of thumb that should be kept in mind if (when) you begin flirting with the discount beast.

First: Discount briefly. Discounting is like a drug. Employed for a limited time to treat a specific condition, discounting can have its place. But like a drug, it’s addictive. Companies that get hooked on it do little more than drive their value proposition down, sometimes past the point of no return.

This is one reason why department stores have been in decline over the past two decades, launching Red Tag sales as soon as their Red Apple sales are over. They discounted so often that they trained customers not to shop if there wasn’t a sale going on. (My firm even produced a campaign for a retail client that spoofed how department stores would look for just about any reason to discount, such as the “Life’s Not Fair” and “President Polk Day” sales.)

Second: Discount credibly. Handled carefully, discounting can be used to achieve specific business objectives without compromising your brand’s overall value perception. The key is to make the rationale behind the discount credible (and obvious) to consumers, so they don’t perceive it as an act of desperation.

For instance, Apple’s (AAPL) student discount on laptops doesn’t damage the brand because it’s based on a rational corporate reason (get young computer users hooked on its products) and a credible consumer need (students are poor). The company also offers 10% off a new iPod when customers recycle their old one, which not only encourages upgrading but makes Apple look like a responsible corporate citizen. Both of these tactics enable Apple to maintain (perhaps even increase) brand equity while making its products more accessible.

Third: Discount creatively. Smart companies understand that price is just one element of the value equation, and find ways to “discount without discounting” by focusing on other elements of the marketing mix. Luxury leather goods maker Coach (COH) did just that by adjusting its merchandise inventory so that half of its handbags are regularly priced between $200 and $300 (compared to its historical average price of $325). While this will have a negative impact on the long-term equity of the Coach brand name, it’s less damaging than hanging a “30% off” tag from the handle of every purse.

Or consider video game retailer GameStop (GME), which is pushing the sales of more used games (that have a naturally lower price point) while times are tough. That will keep customers in the habit of coming to its stores to find what they want. GameStop understands that when the economy comes back, so will the sales of new games. Rather than hurting its future pricing power by discounting new merchandise, the company has found another way to satisfy its customers in the short term.

And then there’s Quizno’s, which has taken some licks from franchisees for discounting in the past. Facing not only a down economy but a powerful competitor making a compelling offer (Subway’s Five for $5), Quizno’s developed new sandwiches that it can profitably sell for four bucks or less. According to CEO Rick Schaden in an e-mail interview with me, the “Toasty Bullet” and “Toasty Torpedo” were designed “to appeal to consumers’ wallets and tastes while still protecting franchise owners’ margins” under a program called the Flex Plan. A major component of the Flex Plan is to provide, “a constant pipeline of new product innovation,” including, if necessary, additional lower-priced menu items.

The bottom line: In your customers’ eyes, your product is either worth regular price or it’s not. In tough times like these that may be a more difficult case to make, but if you’re not winning the value equation in their eyes you should focus on finding a way to meet their needs without reflexively taking a percentage off the top. If you do choose to incorporate discounting into your strategy, it must appear sensible and smart, not irrational or a result of panic.

People understand that prices are a market mechanism. If you start playing the discount card too much, you’re sending a signal that you don’t believe your product or service is worth it. And if you don’t believe it, who will?

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Best Sites For Figuring Out Small Biz Social Media

August 31, 2009

Best Sites For Figuring Out Small Biz Social Media

There are probably a million websites on the web that tout solutions for marketing and promoting your business online. When you are getting started it can be very difficult to know who the true professionals are and it can take months to figure out where the high quality information is located.

Below are five great sites I recently found on Small Biz Survival that will help you figure out the small biz social media that often leaves us frustrated.

These sites offer an understandable point of view and explanation on all types of small biz social media that you could ever need information on.

Humor: How to Be a Computer Expert

August 31, 2009

via: http://www.business-opportunities.biz/2009/08/24/humor-how-to-be-a-computer-expert/

Selfish Smokers – Funny and stupid customers

August 25, 2009

via: http://notalwaysright.com/category/top

Me: “Can I help you, sir?”

Customer: “A packet of 20 Marlboro Lights, please.”

(I hand him the cigarettes.)

Customer: “Wait, I don’t want these ones.

Me: “Why? They’re Marlboro Lights. Did you change your mind?”

Customer: “No, I don’t want ones with this health warning about cigarettes causing impotency.”

Me: “Ok. Do you want ’smoking harms those around you,’ or ’smoking causes testicular cancer?’”

Customer: “Give me the ‘harms others’ ones.”

"If Websites Were People"

August 25, 2009

If Websites Were People

“If Websites Were People”

Badly Placed Internet Ads

August 25, 2009

Sometimes the Internet messes up. Here are some ads that don’t really fit with the article next to it.

via: http://www.business-opportunities.biz/2009/08/21/httpimgur-comghnwg-jpgbadly-placed-internet-ads/

Funny Google Suggest Results

August 18, 2009

via: http://www.business-opportunities.biz/2009/08/14/funny-google-suggest-results/

When you start a search at Google, the software tries to help by offering real-time suggestions to complete your search query as you type.

One of the factors in the algorithm that determines the results is the overall popularity of searches by other users.

1. When will…

2. Why is my g…

3. Can I have a…

4. Why do…

Photos by Google.

The Boss Who Laid Himself Off

August 18, 2009

via: http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/hbr/hbreditors/2009/07/the_boss_who_laid_himself_off.html

My brother-in-law “Bob” (not his real name, because I promised not to identify him) has always been a tough top manager who brooks no fools. For more than 30 years, he’s worked for a successful, family-owned electronics distribution company, rising from the sales ranks to become president and general manager. Bob had fired dozens upon dozens of people over the years, and he had no compunction when it came to pulling the trigger. Recently, Bob’s company was getting ready to pull the trigger, unfortunately, again.

But this time, Bob laid himself off — not because he wanted to or was quite ready to retire, but because he wanted to save the positions of two younger managers whose names were on the layoff rolls.

Over the years, I’ve heard Bob complain about “coddled and demanding” Gen X and Gen Y workers. But he’d trained and mentored these younger managers and had grown fond of them. He told me, “I was looking at two good, loyal, hardworking people with young families who are about to be cut through no fault of their own. One of them had a wife who was eight months pregnant with her first child. The other one had two kids and an unemployed husband. They would be facing a horrific job market.”

By contrast, Bob had saved a decent, if not handsome, retirement nest-egg; as a very conservative investor (he only bought into municipal bonds and risk-averse mutual funds), he hadn’t lost all that much in the Wall Street meltdown. After 30 years at one firm, the idea of change was daunting, but also inviting. He tapped his network, landed a part-time consulting job that was perfect for him, and told the owner his plan. Take the younger employees’ names off the layoff list. Put mine on it.

Many older workers can’t afford to retire, and the recession is keeping them in their jobs. But others don’t want to retire simply because they enjoy working and wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they didn’t go to the office every day. Unfortunately, their reluctance to move on is having a devastating effect on younger workers who either can’t break into the job market, or who, lacking seniority, end up on the “last in, first out” layoff list.

That seems to make Bob something of a hero for what he did. The question is, are there more Bobs out there? Does his move signal a bigger change, or is he a rare, heartwarming exception to the rule?

Should more older workers think about passing the baton, if they can afford to?

99 Essential Twitter Tools And Applications

August 18, 2009

via: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/03/17/99-essential-twitter-tools-and-applications/

If you haven’t heard of Twitter by now, you must be living under a rock! It is everywhere, and everyone is using it. To say that the rise of Twitter has been explosive would be an understatement. As a result of this growth, the number of Twitter apps and tools available has become extensive. So, in this post we have filtered them down to a respectable 99.

Below, we present 99 Essential Twitter Tools and Applications, split into the following categories: Tools and Productivity Apps, Statistics and Analytics, Find New Twitter Friends Apps, Search Twitter Apps, Web-Based Mobile Apps, WordPress Twitter Plug-Ins, Adobe Air Twitter Apps and Firefox Twitter Extensions.

You may want to take a look at the following related posts:

Tools and Productivity Apps

Twittercal
Twittercal is a service that connects your Twitter account to your Google Calendar and lets you add events easily, directly from your Twitter account.

Twitter Web App

Twitpay
TwitPay is a simple way to send payments via Twitter.

Twitter Web App

Twibs
Find, follow and interact with businesses, apps and services on Twitter.

Twitter Web App

Twittermail.com
Users can post to their Twitter account by sending a message to their own unique email address.

Twitter Web App

Twitzu
Promote your business, special offers, promotions and events with Twitzu.

Twitter Web App

Twuffer
Twuffer allows the Twitter user to compose a list of future tweets and schedule their release.

Twitter Web App

TweetLater
This app allows you to post Tweets at a later time and date.

Twitter Web App

GroupTweet
Send private Twitter messages to specific groups of friends.

Twitter Web App

Twitter Alerts
Keep track of conversations that mention you, your products, your company and anything else, via hourly email updates.

Twitter Web App

TwitPic
TwitPic lets you share photos on Twitter. You can post pictures to TwitPic from your phone, the TwitPic home page or your Twitter account.

Twitter Web App

Your Twitter Karma
Twitter needs a decent page for your followers, with the functionality to sort them by type. This Web app does that.

Twitter Web App

Mr. Tweet
A personal networking assistant for Twitter, helping you identify relevant followers, recommending you to other users and regularly computing your Twitter usage statistics.

Twitter Web App

Remember The Milk
Remember The Milk keeps track of your tasks. Simply add Remember The Milk as your friend, and you can add and interact with your tasks through direct messages and get reminders, too.

Twitter Web App

StrawPoll
StrawPoll is the coolest way to follow the opinions of people on Twitter. With this app, you can create your own poll.

Twitter Web App

Twiddict
If Twitter goes down and you start to feel withdrawal symptoms, use this service to continue using it. Twiddict makes sure all your tweets end up going to the proper place.

Twitter Web App

Twitter Friends Network Browser
Browse through your Twitter friends, your friends’ friends, your friends’ friends’ friends…

Twitter Web App

Twitterfeed
Post your RSS feed to Twitter automatically.

Twitter Web App

Twitturly
Twitturly is a service for tracking what URLs people are talking about, as they talk about them, on Twitter.

Twitter Web App

Twittonary
The Twitter Dictionary, aka Twittonary, provides explanations of various Twitter-related words.

Twitter Web App

twtQpon
Enhance your social media marketing by offering discount coupons to the Twitter-sphere!

Twitter Web App

twenglish
Twitter translator: Simply type in your tweet, and twenglish will twanslate your tweet for you.

Twitter Web App

twtcard
Send a greeting card, a surprise message or an invitation on Twitter.

Twitter Web App

Tweet What You Spend
Cash-tracking made simple with Twitter.

Twitter Web App

Twittertise
Twittertise allows you to advertise on Twitter and track the success of your branded communications with customers.

Twitter Web App

TwitWall
With TwitWall, you can embed your favorite videos and widgets and upload your photos, MP3 music, podcasts, you name it.

Twitter Web App

UnTweeps
Unfollow Tweeps who have not posted tweets recently.

TwitRand();
Select a random Twitter follower, friend or retweeter.

TwitBlocker
If you become overwhelmed by a Twitter user’s constant tweets, you can keep them quiet with a single click of a button.

Twitterless
Twitterless tells you who stops following you and graphs your follower history over time, displaying the info in a variety of useful views.

Twonvert
With Twonvert, you can easily convert your tweets into SMS shorthand language and say more with less characters.

Postica
Create a sticky note for your tweets.

twi8r
Translate from English to text message shorthand and vice versa.

Twitter Statistics and Analytics

Twitterholic.com
This website is constantly being updated to allow you to find the most popular Twitter users. Want to be on the list? Twitter constantly.

Twitter Web App

TweetStats
An app that tracks your number of tweets per hour and per month. It basically creates a graph based on your tweets.

Twitter Web App

Twitter Grader
Twitter Grader measures the power of your Twitter profile. How high do you rank?

Twitter Web App

twInfluence
Similar to Twitter Grader, twInfluence lets you calculate the indirect influence of you and your followers on Twitter.

Twitter Web App

TwitterCounter
A thorough analytical Web app.

Twitter Web App

tweetVolume
Enter keywords or a phrase and see how often it appears on Twitter.

Twitter Web App

Twist
See trends on Twitter; find out what’s hot and what people are saying about it.

Twitter Web App

TweetRush
TweetRush provides estimated statistics on Twitter usage over a period of time.

Twitter Web App

Tweetwasters
Just how much time do you spend on Twitter? Are you wasting time?

Twitter Web App

Find New Twitter Friends Apps

TwitterTroll.com
TwitterTroll.com is a real-time Twitter search engine to find new friends.

Twitter Web App

Just Tweet It
Just Tweet It makes it easier for tweeters to find other tweeters with similar interests.

Twitter Web App

Friend or Follow
Who are you following who is not following you back?

Twitter Web App

Qwitter: Catching Twitter quitters
Qwitter emails you when someone stops following you on Twitter.

Twitter Web App

Twubble
Twubble is a Twitter extension that helps you find more friends.

Twitter Web App

Twitter Follower-Friend Ratio
Your Twitter ratio is the ratio of your followers to friends (i.e. people you follow). It is measured with the TFF ratio (Twitter follower to friend ratio). The higher the ratio, the more Twitter heat you pack.

Nearby Tweets
Who is tweeting close to you? This app helps you connect with them.

Search Twitter Apps

WhosTalkin
WhosTalkin is a tool that allows users to search for conversations on the topics they care about most.

Twitter Web App

Twitter Search
Search Twitter is an excellent search engine that allows you to find out what’s happening in the world beyond your personal timeline.

Twitter Web App

Flaptor Twitter Search
Comprehensive Twitter search.

Twitter Web App

Twitscoop
Input a Twitter username or keywords in the Twitscoop search box to track a conversation, topic or conference.

Twitter Web App

Twellow
With Twellow, you can search for someone on Twitter or browse through various tweet categories.

Twitter Web App

twitSeeker
twitSeeker is an alternate search engine for finding Twitter users and browsing the results in one interface.

Twitter Web App

Twitter Web-Based Mobile Apps

Hahlo
Hahlo is an excellent and fully featured Twitter client for your iPhone and iPod Touch.

Twitter Web App

TwitterFone
Send messages to Twitter using your voice.

Twitter Web App

PocketTweets
PocketTweets is a Web-based Twitter client for the Apple iPhone.

Twitter Web App

TinyTwitter
TinyTwitter works on any Java-enabled device and any Windows Mobile Pocket PC or smartphone.

Twitter Web App

TwitterBerry
TwitterBerry is a mobile client for posting updates to Twitter from your BlackBerry.

Twitter Web App

twitxr
Share pictures and status updates from your mobile.

Twitter Web App

Slandr
Slandr delivers an enhanced mobile website for Twitter.

Twitter2Go
Twitter2Go provides a quick and simple way to update your Twitter status.

Tapulous
Discover, connect with and send messages to people nearby. Upload photos and update your Twitter account.

Twittelator
Twittelator is an all-around great new application for your iPhone.

TwitterFon
TwitterFon is a simple, clean, easy to use and super-fast Twitter client for your iPhone and iPod Touch.

iTweet 2
iTweet 2 has built-in auto-refresh, search and hash tags. You can view user bios and locations and also view conversations with the “in reply to” links.

GPS Twit
Run GPS Twit on your phone to make it easy for your friends to find you.

iTwtr
An open-source Twitter client for your iPhone.

WordPress Twitter Plug-Ins

Twitter for WordPress
Twitter for WordPress displays yours latest tweets in your WordPress blog.

Twitter Tools
This plug-in integrates your WordPress blog and Twitter account. Pull your tweets into your blog, and create new tweets from blog posts from within WordPress.

Twitpress
Twitpress is a WordPress plug-in that submits a user-definable tweet to your Twitter account, notifying Twitter followers or friends that you have posted a new blog entry.

SimpleTwitter
SimpleTwitter allows you to add Twitter messages to WordPress templates (and not just in the sidebar).

Tweet This
A plug-in that adds a Twitter link to every post and page on your WordPress website, so that visitors can share your blog entries through their Twitter accounts. It also shortens URLs automatically.

TweetBacks
This plug-in imports any tweets that discuss your blog or post. The tweets appear as comments.

TwitterCounter
Install TwitterCounter on your blog to display the number of followers you have on Twitter.

MyTwitter
MyTwitter allows you to display your Tweets on your WordPress website and update your status on the MyTwitter settings page.

TweetRoll
With the TweetRoll widget, you can display the number of your followers and friends.

Twitt-Twoo
Twitt-Twoo is a simple little plug-in that allows you to update your Twitter status right from your blog’s sidebar.

Adobe Air Twitter Apps

Toro for Twitter
Designed to be simple, Toro uses an experimental Twitter client library to remove the Twitter API limit.

Twitter Web App

twhirl
Most of the features available on the Twitter website are accessible through twhirl, with usability enhancements.

Twitter Web App

Tweetr
Tweetr is a Twitter client that allows you to send and receive Twitter messages, but with some added cool features: support for taking photos with your webcam and sending files (up to 10 MB).

Twitter Web App

TweetDeck
TweetDeck aims to improve the existing functionality of Twitter by taking the abundance of Twitter feeds and breaking it down into more manageable bite-sized pieces.

Twitter Web App

DestroyTwitter
DestroyTwitter is a series of canvases that constantly update to keep tweets current and up to date using notifications that appear as soon as a new tweet is posted.

Twitter Web App

TwitterLocal
TwitterLocal is an Adobe AIR-based app that allows you to filter tweets by location.

Twitter Web App

Spaz
Spaz is a well-designed and well-developed Twitter client.

Twitter Web App

Snitter
Short for “Snooks’ Twitter,” Snitter is a cross-platform desktop Twitter client.

Twitter Web App

Twitch
Some features of Twitch are TwitPic integration, URL shortening, the ability to combine friends and replies, reply-highlighting hash-tag support and more.

Firefox Twitter Extensions

TwitBin
TwitBin is a Firefox extension that allows you to keep up with all of your Twitter conversations directly from your browser’s sidebar. Send and receive messages, share links and more.

Power Twitter
Power Twitter adds a multitude of features to the Twitter website interface.

TwitterFox
This extension adds a tiny icon to the status bar that notifies you when your friends have updated their Twitter status. It also has a small text input field to allow you to update your own status.

Twitzer
This Firefox extension lets you post tweets longer than 140 characters on Twitter.

TwitterBar
TwitterBar allows you to post to Twitter from the Firefox address bar.

Twitter Search
This plug-in gives you quick access to the real-time Twitter search engine.

Hoopla!
An essential Twitter plug-in for the Firefox quick search feature.

TwitterEyes
TwitterEyes keeps track of your character count as you compose tweets and replaces characters if you need extra room.

Finally, Worth A Look

Is Twitter Down?
Is Twitter down just for me or for everyone? This great app gives you a simple answer: yes or no.

Twitter Web App

twistori
An interesting Twitter experiment: click on a keyword on the left, and see what tweets are currently being published that contain that word.

Twitter Web App

Twittervision
A real-time geographic visualization of tweets. Amazing.

Twitter Web App

twittearth
Similar to Twittervision (above) but with a sleeker interface.

Twitter Web App

8 U.S. Economic Trends That Could Not Go On Forever

August 15, 2009

via: http://www.smallbizlabs.com/2009/08/new-era-from-deloitte.html

The accounting and consulting firm Deloitte puts out a semi-annual magazine called the Deloitte Review. The most recent issue is quite interesting and covers topics ranging from open source innovation to Chinese manufacturing to the growth of solar energy.

But the article that jumped out at me is The Great Transformation, which covers 8 U.S. economic trends that could not last forever. Each trend is described briefly and illustrated with excellent charts. The 8 trends are:

  1. Private sector debt levels could not keep growing
  2. Trade deficits could not continue to deepen
  3. Foreign appetite for U.S. investments is not sustainable
  4. Consumer spending as a % of GDP could not continue to grow
  5. Consumer savings could not continue to shrink
  6. Home ownership levels were not sustainable
  7. Financial services share of corporate profitability will have to rebound
  8. Low energy prices are not sustainable

The article argues that recession and related economic turmoil is creating a fundamental realignment between the U.S. government and the private sector. Key quote:

“Going forward, the U.S. government is going to have a much larger role with the issues of governance, green economics, energy and transparency taking center stage.”

The article also forecasts increased government spending, taxes and regulation.

We’re starting work on an forecast of what the post-recession economy looks like for small businesses. And these economic shifts all will have an impact on the future of small business.