Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Would Mitt Romney as Secretary of Business Be Good for Small Business?

A possible new cabinet position could be right for Romney,
but his Bain experience and jobs platform indicate that he might not be right for SMEs

While on the campaign trail, President Barack Obama suggested that he would want to create a new cabinet-level position called Secretary of Business.  The responsibilities assigned to this new role would include the oversight of nine existing commerce-related government agencies, including the Small Business Administration.  The day after the election, Toure - a featured pundit on MSNBC's weekday show "The Cycle" - opined that Mitt Romney would be the perfect person to fill the job.

Romney enjoyed a stellar career as the founding CEO at Bain Capital.  But facets of his work at Bain, along with the ideas that formed the basis of his candidacy's job creation platform, suggest that his success in one type of business does not indicate proficiency in others, especially when it comes to helping small to medium-sized companies as a Secretary of Business.
Romney presented himself as a credible business expert during the campaign, and his extraordinary achievements at Bain Capital confirm this assertion.  Yet while he was a visionary at buying, optimizing, and selling companies, his Bain experience didn't include the operation or supervision of these organizations on a day to day basis.  He was involved in the macro financial processes of the firms that he acquired, not in the workaday details of figuring out how to attract and keep their clients; build their sales; manage and motivate their staffs; effectively define their brands and communicate their sales messages; or improve the quality of their products/services.

His goal at Bain was to scrub and polish his purchased companies so they'd be attractive for eventual sale to potential purchasers, and his success in achieving this goal has been proven.  What isn't proven, however, is the assumption that Romney understands how to successfully execute the quotidian details of running a B2B or B2C business, or grasp what owners of small to medium-sized firms need to do in order to survive and flourish.
Also in question are the solutions that Romney presented during the campaign to remedy our employment challenges. 

Romney's job creation platform relied upon three planks: reduce corporate taxes, reduce corporate regulations, and increase training of America's work force.  According to Romney, these three solutions would allow American firms to become more competitive, more profitable, and more open to hiring new workers 

The problem with this approach is that it does not address the key reason why firms of any size hire new workers:  to meet increased demand.  If consumers are buying more of a company's products or services, that company would need to increase its workforce in order to meet this surge in sales.
By not considering the link between increased demand and increased hiring, Romney offered a job creation plan that was predicated on a mistaken notion: companies would create jobs, but only if there are sufficient incentives to do so.  In Romney's macro business view, this idea made complete sense.  But for business owners, the only true inducement to hire is if there are sufficient new sales coming in for them to be able to afford to pay additional salaries and benefits on a sustained basis.

Mitt Romney's business acumen has been confirmed by his impressive private sector accomplishments at Bain Capital, and Toure's respect for these achievements is understandable.  But Romney achieved success in a specific type of business, namely private equity, venture capital, and public market investments.  To assume that Romney's financial wisdom would translate to good judgment as Secretary of Business - in which he would seek to improve the prosperity of America's small to medium sized companies - isn't supported by his lack of experience in the day-to-day operations of B2B and B2C organizations and his unproven ideas of how to increase American employment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Here are three completely random yet absolutely essential tips that all business owners need to memorize and be able to recite in their sleep.

Too many business owners invest huge amounts of money into marketing initiatives like fancy logos, elaborate websites, etc. that are great for building their image, but do nothing to build sales.  Instead, put your energy into delivering an excellent product/service that exceeds customers' expectations - and the sales will follow.  If your product/service is lousy, a great image won't help you sell it.

If you can't articulate what you do, why it's different from and superior to your competition, and who your customer is, you're in big trouble as a business.  Also, if you can't state this info clearly, concisely and convincingly – you’re chances of survival will be quite slim.

When selling your product/service, don't keep going back to the same prospects to ask if they're ready to buy.  Instead, serve them a bite of sweet, tasty news about your company,  like some press that you've generated, a customer's success story, or a new deal that you've closed.  Don't mention a word about selling them anything.  Eventually, after sampling a series of your yumminess, they'll soon be ready to dig in - and that's when you can begin doing business with them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A New Idea For Marketing Pros: Communicating In A Way That Clients Understand

In “B.S. Detector”,a :60 spot for the Adobe Marketing Cloud suite of online measurement tools (Goodby Silverstein), an assortment of young execs are asked how their firm measures the results of its digital marketing efforts.  Each marketer responds by tossing out such jibberish as ripple effects, key influencers, cross segment synergies, and 360  views of the customer.  As they do so, they receive a shock from a machine that’s calibrated to penalize the usage of marketing-speak that sounds intelligent, but means absolutely nothing.

While the spot’s humor is based on its exaggeration of reality, I think that it actually reveals a troubling truth:  too many marketing pros are steeped in the argot of their discipline, and unable to explain how their work can deliver the results that their clients need in order to thrive in the marketplace.

According to author and corporate sales trainer Lee Boyan, there are three ways in which sales reps can close B2B sales:  they need to be able to explain how their product or service can make their clients money, save their clients money, or improve a client’s image in the marketplace.  These are the essential “big three” achievement areas in which all companies must gain traction, and the “big three” results (revenue generation, cost savings, image improvement) that business owners and C-suite executives are focused upon.

Unfortunately, while many marketing pros can effortlessly sprinkle dazzling (and dizzying) buzzwords into their pitches and presentations, many are at a loss when it comes to concisely delineating how their offerings can deliver one or more of the three key results that will keep their clients operating in the black.

I think that the reason for this disconnect is because most agency marketers have never owned or operated their own businesses.  If they did, they’d realize that their clients need tools that will help them make money, save money, or improve their image in the marketplace.  If a marketer can’t plainly explain how a particular tool can help a client meet those needs, then it’s worthless to the client – irrespective of how successfully the tool can stimulate ripple effects, key influencers, cross segment synergies, and 360  views of the customer.

To help marketers communicate more effectively, they need to first realize that their primary function is to support their company’s sales team.  Marketers must strategically identify the target buyers for their products or services, create the multimedia collateral that succinctly explains their offerings, and enunciate crystal clear value propositions that capture the deliverable benefits which would be most appealing to potential customers (and helpful to their company’s sales pros).  If five different marketers working for the same company give five different answers about why their customers should buy their product or service - and they do so using the same kind of inane yang that’s featured in the Adobe spot - then those marketers are failing their department, their sales force, and their company overall.

To remedy this situation, marketers should spend more time learning about the unique needs, goals, and challenges of their customers and less time inhaling the sweet smoke of their own overcooked, overdone marketing slang.  By putting themselves into a buyer’s mindset, they’d realize that a simply stated description of the specific “big three” benefits that a product or service can deliver is much more convincing than a string of moist, meaningless marketing mush that’s so devoid of substance, it could be used to describe just about anything.

Another option would be for all agency and in-house marketing directors to borrow Adobe’s B.S. detector and hook up each member of his/her team to it.  After a few rounds of responding to the question “what are the benefits that our product/service delivers to our customers?”, staffers would painfully get the point of how to provide the correct answer.  The result would be a reduction in the cliché quotient, an increase in brevity and clarity, and a much more effective – and profitable - way of communicating.