When you’re a powerhouse player in your industry, the key to success is often the ability to step back and take stock of who you are, where you are and where you’re going. Sometimes, an existential approach is intuitive; it’s easier to self-reflect when you’re beginning a new venture or making a monumental change.

But what about when you’re experiencing success? Taking stock when you’re on top is far from redundant; in fact, figuring out where your accomplishments have come from makes you more likely to duplicate them. Here are some suggestions for seizing the moment and sizing up your business.

Don’t agonize — organize

Rather than rely on the year’s end to inspire a big-picture appraisal, set quarterly dates to dissect core activities, finances, human resources and sales/marketing strategy.

Not only will it save you from feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of an annual assessment, but it will help you reassess and realign continuously, which can help make transitions more seamless — especially when they are unexpected.

Turn projects into projections

A few years after launch, Petplan transitioned to being an entirely paperless organization. Initially the transition was a success, and operationally, the project had already paid dividends.

But as time went by, it became apparent that we needed to create a tangible product for our clients. We decided to publish a glossy pet health publication for policyholders to help communicate our company’s core values and add a “touchable” touchpoint to our customer communications.

To our delight, Fetch! magazine was an overnight success and has grown its readership from 50,000 to more than 250,000 in just a few short years. The magazine project led to some new projections about ad revenue, and we eventually began selling space in its pages.

Because of big-picture thinking in small, regular doses, we were able to take an internal project, build off it to create something new, and then leverage that to add to the company’s overall profitability.

Find a fresh set of eyes

When trends need to be changed, getting back on the right track is essential, but sometimes the people closest to the “problem” are the least likely to be able to solve it. One of the best ways to chart a new course is to bring new talent to the table. This could mean finding a mentor, hiring a new executive or perhaps finding a visionary investor.

When we launched Petplan, we focused almost exclusively on sales, and all of our customer communications reflected that. Soon, it became clear that we needed to rework strategy to include not just sales but customer service.

To help us course-correct, we turned to Vernon W. Hill, the founder of Commerce Bank. Vernon joined our board as chairman and brought extraordinary experience around customer satisfaction to the company.

This year, in an effort to evolve partner veterinarian relationships, we’ve placed a heavyweight at the helm of our veterinary channel: Steve Shell. A fresh set of eyes can invigorate vision — whether it comes from the people above you or the employees you entrust with managing the daily activities of your business.

When you commit to unplugging from the daily drudgery to assess the scope of your operations a few times throughout the year, you’ll soon find that the only place to go is up.

Natasha Ashton is the co-CEO and co-founder of Petplan pet insurance and its quarterly glossy pet health magazine, Fetch! — both headquartered in Philadelphia. She holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. She can be reached at press@gopetplan.com.

Published in Columnist

The old term “putting lipstick on a pig” refers to prettying up a mediocre asset right before you want to sell it. Prior to marketing, the seller makes changes that cause things to look better than they really are under the surface. There is little difference between a cheap paint job on a used car to hide rust or new carpet in a house to cover cracks in the foundation and short-term cosmetic changes at a company justified as “preparing for sale.”

Here are four key mistakes business owners often make when trying to prepare their companies for sale:

?  Shallow bench: Sellers often hold off hiring personnel in key management positions such as senior vice president of sales, controller and manager of procurement. They do this to minimize administrative costs in hopes of increasing sale value. Most buyers will evaluate the leadership team and make purchase price adjustments to account for those vacant positions.

The leadership team (both the C-suite and upper management) is a critical value-driver for buyers of businesses. As such, business owners should always maintain the strongest, most complete team whether the business is for sale or intends to remain independent.

?  As-is, where-is: Often, sellers neglect making necessary investments in machinery, facilities or IT systems to preserve cash and/or pad the bottom line. Any sophisticated purchaser of your business will take into account the need to remedy inappropriately deferred capital expenditures and a buyer’s perception of these deferred costs could be greater than those if the business had been maintained all along.

Well-run, growing businesses require ongoing investment. Machinery wears out, IT systems require updating and facilities need refurbishment. While every capital expenditure should be highly scrutinized based on cost and overall contribution to efficiency, deferring critical investment in hopes of increasing sale value is a mistake.

?  Pump-up the balance sheet: Another mistake sellers make is in the area of working capital. Balance sheet cash can be increased by more aggressively collecting receivables and extending payables in ways that are inconsistent with historical practices.

To detect this, buyers of businesses often include a “working capital adjustment” in their purchase consideration. If the company has been pulling cash out by collecting accounts receivable and/or extending payables, there will likely be a negative working capital adjustment.

Strong businesses have consistent working capital and cash-conversion cycles, and temporarily changing best practices can irreversibly impact vendor and customer relationships. Maintaining consistency will preserve these relationships and be rewarded in the purchase multiple offered by a discerning buyer.

?  Run on a shoestring: Some sellers try to operate their businesses with the bare minimum of liquidity in order to increase perceived working capital. This is more difficult to identify, since there is a fine line between capital efficiency and too little operating cushion.

Buyers will again employ a working capital test and closely evaluate the historical monthly fluctuations in receivables and payables. If there are certain months where larger fluctuations necessitate an operating cushion, this will be factored into the purchase value.

Once lost, liquidity can be difficult to regain. It is better to always operate the business leanly but with enough liquidity to provide cushion for seasonal working capital variances and to support ongoing growth.

While the decision to sell your business requires a new perspective, it doesn’t necessitate changes in fundamental operating principles. Making short-term cosmetic changes in an attempt to “prepare the company for sale” will ultimately be visible to the buyer, can create lasting customer and vendor challenges, and won’t be rewarded in increased sale value.

Focus on fundamental operating principles and maximize the value of your business — no lipstick required.

Craig Dupper is managing partner at Solis Capital Partners (www.soliscapital.com), a private equity firm in Newport Beach, Calif., focused exclusively on lower-middle-market companies.

Published in Columnist

Does your company employ a multigenerational workforce? If so, your organization might significantly benefit by adopting a reciprocal mentoring program that leverages talents, skills and knowledge to bridge generational gaps surrounding technology — such as social media — corporate culture and team building.

Given the generational divide, older and younger workers often feel disconnected when it comes to adapting to technology, corporate culture and working as a team.

With reciprocal mentoring, workers across all generations individually and collectively play a pivotal role in creating multigenerational buy-in to the workplace changes that accompany the adoption of technological tools such as social media, cloud computing and text usage that will streamline workflow communication, processes and practices.

Reciprocal mentoring takes the traditional mentoring concept of a seasoned employee guiding a worker’s development and transfers it from a one-way relationship to a two-way or team-building relationship in which newer or younger employees also impart their knowledge and guidance.

It can be especially important when it comes to the integration of newer technologies into the pre-existing corporate culture and workflow processes. To create a dynamic program, it’s important to understand the intrinsic generational differences within your workforce.

Consider your longtime employees. When someone has been on the job for an extended length of time, they form ideas and habits that have been repeatedly reinforced by experience and success.

When they are introduced to a new tool, piece of information or technology, some might feel threatened because it changes what they know and how they have become used to doing things, and the immediate challenge will be to figure out how they might adapt this new knowledge into their existing work practices.

As you add younger workers, it’s important to understand that the Y2K generation, or millennials, have a much different set of motivators from many baby boomer, generation X and generation Y employees.

Millennials thrive in situations that allow them to take ownership of their skills, knowledge and work. Challenge and change are key motivators for most millennials.

A successful reciprocal mentoring program will allow your millennial workers the opportunity to impart their technical savvy, to teach seasoned employees how to leverage and navigate the world of social media and the time-saving and efficiency tools available by leveraging mobile, messaging, text and cloud computing technologies.

In my company, we have taken more of a team-building approach to our reciprocal mentoring. We have set up a schedule of twice-monthly lunch-and-learn events. For these lunch-and-learns, we have put together a calendar of topics that my staff and I feel are of interest and importance to our business. We have tapped every employee, from entry-level to executive, with a topic or series of topics that each will present during one of the events. To keep things organized and to provide structure, we have set up the following outline for each presentation:

?  Who is presenting? Give us some of your personal, professional and/or academic background.

?  What is the topic you are covering?

?  Why is it important to our organization?

?  How can it or does it help move our organization forward?

?  How and/or when do we put it into practice?

?  What are some examples, case studies or best practices surrounding the topic?

During the presentation, we ask the presenter to use presentation tools to provide a show and tell of the topic he or she is covering.

By providing employees a forum to share their skill sets and knowledge, we create an environment where individuals feel they are making a valuable contribution to the entire team. By presenting in a team-like atmosphere, we are fostering individual presentation skills and creating an environment of team support, knowledge-sharing and problem-solving.

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management, Shazaaam Public Relations and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. Her companies have been seven times named a 101 Metropolitan Detroit Best and Brightest Company to Work for, a two-time Crain’s Detroit Cool Company to Work For and a National Best and Brightest Company to Work For. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com. Follow her on Twitter @alenhoff.

Published in Columnist
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 20:00

Five strengths of the vulnerable leader

The biggest misconception in corporate America is the thinking that vulnerability and weakness are synonymous. They couldn’t be more opposite. If you don’t think so, think about the kind of managers

you want to work for and respond yes or no to the following:

 

 

  •  Has all the answers.

 

 

  •  Does not ask for suggestions on the ability to lead more effectively.

 

 

  •  Refuses to confront sensitive interpersonal issues.

 

 

  •  Frequently keeps office door shut with a sign on it that says, “Not Now!”

 

 

This last one may seem like a joke. It isn’t. At a particular organization, this is promptly displayed for all direct reports and those who pass by to see. Yikes.

To clarify, vulnerability in leadership is not reflected by managers who are quivering bowls of insecurity that freak out twice a day, questioning themselves out loud on every decision.  Vulnerability is demonstrated by managers who have both the confidence and courage to make tough choices.

Yet, in the process of these choices, they are willing to reach out for help, because it’s in the best interest of the organization as well their continued development.

The following are five areas that demonstrate the strong, vulnerable leader. Do a quick self-assessment as to how you measure against these:

Ask the opinion of those lower in rank.

Many managers view their competencies as milestones they passed, no different than a child who has learned to crawl then walk. Why look back? Yet, the perspectives of those under you not only builds morale and makes team members feel valued, managers may learn a fresh perspective they never considered.

Be willing to apologize and admit fault.

No one wakes up and thinks, “I can’t wait to screw something up so I can make a public apology!” Yet, the well-managed ego of a leader knows that both trust and character is on the line when it comes this one.

Get feedback from direct reports.

This is a distinction as the strong, vulnerable leader proactively seeks specific areas to be more aware and effective. This willingness to be enlightened is paramount for modeling continuous improvement.

Ask customers to critique your service.

Verbal critiques are best here so dialogue is involved. We have a propensity to bristle when those not making or selling our products or services chirp up. But the perch from which they view our approach to service not only offers a different vantage point, but one that may increase future business and referrals based on the openness of that relationship.

Tell colleagues to hold you accountable.

Empowering a circle of trusted advisers, above and below you in rank, creates a positive environment, one that knows higher trust, support and stronger likelihood of better performance outcomes.

Which one of these qualities resonates with you most? If you immediately have a couple in mind, that’s a good sign. If you are willing to openly discuss these with those you work with, that’s a great sign. Stay vulnerable, my friends.

Joe Takash is the president of Victory Consulting, a Chicago-based sales and leadership development firm. Joe is a keynote speaker for executive retreats, sales conferences and management meetings and he has appeared in many national media outlets. His firm, Victory Consulting, coaches executive teams and individual leaders, helping them maximize strategic execution.  Learn more at www.victoryconsulting.com.

Published in Columnist

Ronald Reagan was well known for not only his confidence but also his positive outlook and sense of humor. He had a way of never taking himself seriously and always found a way to find humor even during the direst times.

In fact, following the assassination attempt, he told his wife, “Honey, I forgot to duck.”

His constant positive outlook made him appealing to voters and is one of the reasons he continues to score high in polls ranking presidents.

Do we approach life and leadership the same way that Reagan did? Do we always take a positive outlook into the start of each day?

Some CEOs act as if being in charge makes them a victim and complain of the burden. Leadership is a privilege that all of us should learn to enjoy. We have to train ourselves to enjoy the process, not just the end result.

Let’s take some time to reflect on the victories, no matter how small, and celebrate them. Learn to reflect on the great clients we have and the great people who work for us instead of focusing on the one unhappy customer or an employee with a bad attitude. But most importantly, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Each day that passes is a day that we do not get back. We have to look at each day as a series of moments and find the happy things that put joy in our life.

These can be simple things — a funny comment from your child, something silly you heard on the radio or a bright, sunny day. When we start focusing on these small joys in life and start stringing them together, we’ll find that an entire day has become joyous. Enjoy the time you are in now and don’t spend so much time fretting about tomorrow. Be intentional: Start by writing down four little things a day at work that bring you joy on a daily basis and build from there. This can even be a conversation around the watercooler that makes you laugh. String together a few days like this, and we are well on our way to a more joyous life.

By developing this habit, we will be more inclined to treat people better, and they, in turn, will treat others better, which will increase the overall positive culture of our workforce. The work environment is a bigger factor in why employees leave than money is, so focusing on providing a more joyful environment will also help your business in the end.

Whether in business or in life, it all comes down to being joyful. Happiness is fleeting based on circumstances, but joy becomes permanent once we have cultivated it. Start by focusing on the little joys and build from there. Remember, people won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you treated them.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or fkoury@sbnonline.com.

Published in Akron/Canton

The more there is available of something, the less it costs. Conversely, when there’s a limited quantity of that same something, the more it’s coveted and the more expensive it is. This is a rudimentary concept, but few companies know how to effectively manage the process to ensure they balance supply with demand in order to maintain or improve the profitability of a product or service. Of course, before you can maximize profitability, you must have something customers want, sometimes even before they know they need it.

Think about precious metals, fine diamonds and even stocks. The beauty and a portion of the intrinsic value of these things are effectively in the eyes of the beholder. In reality, much of their value or price is determined by the ease or difficulty of obtaining them.

As for equities, as soon as everyone who can own a given stock has bought it, then, in many cases, the only direction that stock can take is down because there are simply more sellers than buyers. On the flip side, when few people own a stock but everybody decides they want it, for whatever the reason, that stock may take a precipitous upward trajectory.

A case in point is Apple. At one time, when its per-share price was more than $400, $500 and even $600, everyone thought the sky was the limit and the majority of institutional funds and many home gamers, aka small individual investors, jumped on the bandwagon. The stock reached $705 a share in the fall of 2012, and just when all of the market prognosticators were screaming, “Buy, buy, buy,” there were too few buyers left (because everyone already owned it) and the stock fell out of bed. In many respects, Apple was still the same great company with world-class products, but there were simply more sellers than buyers and — poof — the share price evaporated, sending this once high-flying growth stock to the woodshed for a real thrashing.

The question for your business is how can you manage the availability of your goods or services to maximize profit margins? The oversimplified answer is once you have something of value, make sure that you create the appropriate amount of tension, be it requiring a waiting list to obtain the product or service or underproducing the item to create a backlog. However, this is a delicate balancing act, because if it’s too hard to get, then customers will quickly find an alternative, and your product will become yesterday’s news.

Some very high-end fashion houses, such as Chanel, have it down to a science. It can be very difficult to walk into a marquis retailer today and obtain one of its satchels without being made to jump through waiting-game hoops, just for the privilege of giving the store your money in exchange for the fancy schmancy bag. That stimulates demand and keeps the price up because customers tend to want something they can’t seem to get.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Published in Akron/Canton

Procrastination eats up a ton of energy — in worry, negativity, angst and efficiency, not to mention wasting time itself.

When you think about the basic allotment of time you and I have each day, I can’t think of a more precious thing to waste.

It’s been said that when you eliminate procrastination forever, you become a “master of your time.” But how to end that thing we all do — especially when we are up against a difficult project or deadline?

Time to reinvent yourself.

Begin by retooling yourself. Start with time management, and divide your day into “small bites.” Schedule and organize each portion of every day. Set daily goals, then prioritize and organize your schedule to meet those goals.

If you are most productive in the mornings, schedule your most intense tasks then. If you are full of energy toward the middle of the day, don’t waste that part of the day on lunch.

Work to eliminate time wasters such as frequent checking of email, side chats and taking phone calls when you are in the middle of the most productive (scheduled) part of your day.

Make this month your most productive month by ending your tendency to procrastinate — forever.

Get in the right frame of mind.

What else drains your energy? No doubt about it, cynicism and skepticism is heaped high and pretty prevalent now, professionally, politically and personally. Much of it is warranted and probably even useful.

The best place to be, though, is open-minded and open-hearted.

Sure, you could say that’s a pretty “Hallmark moment” perspective. But carrying heavy chips of skepticism on your shoulders absolutely closes you off to hearing the good and mires you down in negativity.

Develop a more caring attitude.

Care more. Ghandi and Jesus embraced the concept. So did Mother Teresa. In fact, so did Steve Jobs. And although he wasn’t liked very much, Jobs was known for caring deeply about what he was making and how it was used.

But really, who talks about caring these days? Certainly not most businesspeople or Congress or those depicted in reality shows.

In business terms, caring is what you do to increase customer retention and keep the value of your brand. Caring = profitability. But caring also gives you a compass. It’s the reason you do the work you do in the first place.

I recommend not just simply caring but caring more. Sure, the mantra may help your organization’s bottom line. More importantly, in the process of caring more, there’s an opportunity to take “the road less traveled,” the road of someone who truly cares about what’s being made and who it is for.

Beware of consequences of apathy.

It has been said that anything left to its own devices with no oversight will degrade to its lowest common denominator and eventually lose its beauty and function.

That’s why we have laws, industries are regulated, bushes get pruned and products have designers.

It’s also true with regard to leadership. A business leader not only sets standards but also helps prune and hone his or her business, staff, products, methods and strategies.

A good leader sets the tone for all this and doesn’t get bogged down in the details. But — the leader is careful to take the pulse of the business area, to make sure those very same standards, staff, products, methods and strategies are not losing beauty and function. It’s an artful dance.

This time of year is natural for taking stock and looking ahead. Take some time to see what pruning needs to be done for the betterment of your business. ?

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.

Published in Indianapolis

Have you read the ancient Indian story about the elephant and the six men? The story holds an important lesson for organizations.

In the story, six friends blindfold themselves and play a game where they try to identify objects they come across. As they venture out, they come across an elephant. As the story goes, none of them had seen an elephant before. Each one of them proceeds to feel different parts of the elephant.

After careful analysis, the first man declares the object is a large drum. He was touching the elephant’s stomach. The second man objects vociferously. It is a rope, he asserts as he feels the tail. The others vigorously forward their assessments: the trunk of a tree, a fan or a curved stick.

Finally, when they cannot agree on their assessments, they take off their blindfolds to discover that the object they were envisioning and the real object are starkly different. While their individual assessments were based on valid information gathering and analysis, they realize they could not have been more wrong.

Different points of view

The different teams and departments in a company more often than not act like the six blindfolded men. They view the company and the issues it faces from their distinct perspectives, which leads to different assessments of what is important or what is urgent and, unfortunately, sometimes a lack of respect for the viewpoints and capabilities of the other teams.

For instance, in many companies, sales and operations departments do not share a high opinion of each other. The operations team may feel the sales team makes unrealistic promises to customers. The sales team, on the other hand, may feel the operations team is unable to deliver the quality and timely performance necessary to thrive in the marketplace.

The issues exist at all touch points and involve all the teams. While teams have their heart in the right place and want to contribute, they are caught up in their way of thinking and fail to see the big picture. Their hard-nosed assessments do more harm than good.

Re-engineering and realigning perspectives

As a leader, you must recognize the severity of the problem and address the issue diligently. Ensuring that your teams develop a broader perspective and solve problems from a company perspective rather than a departmental perspective is a crucial component of your job.

Changing the perspectives of successful departmental leaders who have a good measure of self-esteem (read it as ego) is an excruciating task. To encourage a company perspective, invest heavily in cross-functional, companywide initiatives. For instance, develop, crystallize and propagate a detailed and meaningful mission to unite the teams. A strong mission would serve as a higher purpose than individual departmental interests and concerns.

Emphasize improvement and performance themes that are cross-functional in nature and scope. Hoping that the teams will just rally around companywide goals is not a good strategy. Generate a vigorous discussion with all the teams present so they can appreciate the goals and develop joint ways of achieving them.

For example, achieving revenue goals cannot be the sole responsibility of the sales department. If it is perceived that way, the probability of success is lower.

Similarly, efficiency cannot be a goal of the operations team alone. All the other teams, from sales to customer service, HR, IT and accounting have to understand and respect the value of operational efficiency and provide their full support, ideas and active cooperation and contribution.

Help your team members recognize and appreciate the elephant so they are not lost in their individual parts. ?

Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and WorldNews, Ravi Kathuria is a recognized thought leader. Featured on the “BusinessMakers” show, CBS Radio, and “Nightly Business Report,” he is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “How Cohesive is Your Company?: A Leadership Parable.” Kathuria is the president of Cohegic Corporation, a management consulting, executive and sales coaching firm, and president of the Houston Strategy Forum. Reach him at (281) 403-0250 or feedback@cohegic.com.

Published in Houston

I have spent the last 15 years testing, tracking and tweaking my marketing plan to try to get the absolute best results for my business. In 1998, it was just me with a phone and a computer. Today, I have more than 200 employees and bring in more than $40 million in revenue annually.

I don’t say this to toot my own horn but just to give you confidence that what follows is legitimate.

There are just four things that you need to do in order to build the ultimate direct mail marketing system. This is a marketing system that continually generates leads and turns them into loyal customers. Best of all? The end result is that it enables your business to steadily and sustainably grow — along with your bottom line.

Step 1: Use direct mail.

This effectively generates leads to fuel your marketing growth.

In addition to using targeted mailing lists to reach out to prospects, a truly complete marketing system is dual-focused. It doesn’t just focus on new clients. You have to continue to build the loyalty of your current clients as well.

Marketing to both prospective and current clients is the best way to create sustainable growth. This allows you to simultaneously build your brand recognition and your brand loyalty.

Step 2. Track your mailings.

This is how you prepare yourself for success.

When your direct mail reaches your prospects’ mailboxes, the calls and Web visits will start to come in. You need to be ready for that. You can’t get the best return for your investment in a mailing if you don’t put yourself in prime position to convert every lead generated. Luckily, you can do this by tracking your postcards or mail. Your mail house should offer this to you.

Step 3. Develop a follow-up system.

This gives you a form of hassle-free review to get the most out of every lead.

A majority of your prospects will visit your website before they call your office. So once you’re prepared to handle your in-office response, you have to do the same for your online presence. Without a system in place to follow up with these prospects, your leads will likely slip away.

I’ve found that a wonderful online resource for this is Google Remarketing. It provides you automatic targeted follow-up with prospects that visit your website.

Step 4. Track your response.

This is how you empower yourself to continually improve your results. Call tracking is the way to do it.

Using a unique routing phone number on your mailing, call tracking allows you to track the response that each campaign achieves. You can also experiment with design or message changes to optimize your marketing response.

This technology records your calls so you can quality-check your reception process and sales tactics. Lastly, it gives you all the data and resources you need to continually analyze and improve your marketing results.

When you are building your company’s marketing system, be sure to include all four of these components. Once you do, your marketing will be on track to help you drive your desired results and fuel your growth. ?

Joy Gendusa is the owner and CEO of direct mail marketing firm, PostcardMania. She originally started PostcardMania in 1998. The company now employs more than 200 people and has more than 53,000 customers in more than 350 industries. Visit www.postcardmania.com for more information. Find her on Google+.

Published in Florida

A few weeks ago, I was in a CVS, buying a few items that included a case of water, a newspaper and a candy bar for one of my kids. As I was leaving, the cashier handed me my receipt, which literally took 15 seconds to print out — no exaggeration. As I was walking out, I chuckled a little bit while reviewing the 42-inch receipt. I bought three items and the receipt was more than 3½-feet long.

OK, let’s get past that and go to what was on the receipt. Besides my items, there was an opportunity for a $1,000 sweepstakes and coupons for:

?  Get a flu shot today and receive 20 percent off.

?  $4 off when you spend $20 on vitamins.

?  $6 off a beauty purchase of more than $15.

?  $1.50 off any shampoo or conditioner.

?  $2 off any Nature Bounty Vitamin.

?  $1 off Excedrin — for life’s headaches.

Very few of these coupons are personalized to me — meaning based on prior purchases. Why is this? Since I used my ExtraCare card, CVS knows a ton about me, my habits, what I buy, when I buy it and the regularity of those purchases. Of these six offers, I bought only vitamins a week prior to this purchase. Clearly, there was no chance for me to buy them again. I forgot to mention that all of these coupons expired less than a week after my visit.

Use resources wisely

I must admit: I don’t get it. I feel that CVS has wasted resources, information, paper, my time and — most importantly, from the company’s standpoint — an opportunity to persuade me to shop more in its store and increase its revenue.

The way I look at it, I am in the company’s store, I am a customer, I am buying products, and then I am leaving the store. Furthermore, I assume CVS wants me to return, it wants more of my business, and it wants me to spend money in its store.

Since we know all of that is true, CVS should find a way to personalize all the offers to my needs. It should understand that I have seasonal purchases and understand how often I buy water, soda and candy bars. Customize the receipt to the customer. If you can’t customize all of the offers, then customize a few of them.

If the six coupons were about the products that I shop for there, such as soda, newspaper, candy for my kids, dish soap, detergent and paper towels, then the coupons would have had a positive effect on my purchase intent.

Problem is pervasive

Even though I mentioned CVS, the same is true for many other retailers. When looking over recent receipts from Walgreens, Panda Express, Tom Thumb and Golfsmith, they are all missing opportunities to effectively communicate with customers. In the age of big data, why aren’t companies using this more to their advantage?

To me, the winning retailers in 2013 will be the ones that understand and can implement personalization in dealing with their customer base. As a customer of a lot of retailers, I truly hope this happens sooner than later. ?

Merrill Dubrow is president and CEO, M/A/R/C Research, located in Dallas, one of the top 25 market research companies in the U.S. Merrill is a speaker and has been writing a blog for more than six years. He can be reached at merrill.dubrow@marcresearch.com or at (972) 983-0416.

Published in Dallas