jump to navigation

Steve Jobs – What I learned October 6, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Customer Service, human resources, Improving Personnel Performance, Internet, Marketing.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Steve Jobs passed away on October 5th, 2011. It’s hard even writing this fact down – the loss is so profound. I remember when I was in training at Apple in 2002, Steve came into the Apple Café and the Director of our program freaked out, warning us NOT to go up to him or talk to him. So we all, myself included, passed on speaking to the fellow who has revolutionized and changed our life.

Crazy isn’t it?

I am an Apple. Having been on the platform since the Apple II (and I may still have it somewhere), I have taken a lot of grief from the naysayers. The detractors said: its a toy, no IT department would adopt it, you could buy three PC’s for the price of one Macintosh, it doesn’t run any good software, blah blah blah. Now look at Apple’s market share and even more importantly, the charged-up, ecstatic, crazy customers that love everything Apple.

It is sad that many people will just get it today that Apple is and will always be something special. Born from a dream by someone who was a college dropout and described as directionless, Steve pursued his dream with fellow entrepreneur, Steve Wozniac. Steve didn’t make computers, he created tools that let us extend our current lifestyles and imagination. Seth Godin made a great point in his blog yesterday when he challenged all of us with the call to action, “What are we going to do with it?” The “It” is this wonderful tool that Steve and the other great folks at Apple have given us.

Now we just need to do like the Nike commercial and “Just do it”!

P.S. if Steve Jobs chose to invent the elevator, it would have a touch screen allowing you to deselect an incorrectly chosen floor AND the door open and close buttons would work! The iElevator would let you select relevant content about the building clients or local events thus helping passengers avoid those unnecessarily awkward elevator stares. The floor would have a small section that vibrates to sooth tired feet. You get the picture. Soon everyone would look forward to riding in an elevator again!

P.S.S. No, I am not an Apple snob – I have a PC and use it – mostly for Excel and VBA. If I were to liken it to a tool, I would call it an allen wrench – very good for very specific tasks. But I don’t carry an allen wrench with me all of the time….. I do, however, carry a MacBook, Ipad, and Iphone 24/7

Maximizing your trade show dollar August 12, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Marketing.
add a comment

Trade shows and events bring your customers to you and are still regarded by traditional and web 2.0 marketers as an efficient spend. On average, your cost per lead is 45% less and cost per sale is 38% less. With 78% of direct mail being opened over a trash can and a mere 1.2% response rate, companies that solely market using the mail continue to throw money against the wall. And the efficient marketing landscape is continually changing – email now has a 24% opt-in rate but this figure is only 1/3 of the acceptance of text messages. Customers want (and expect) a fast response to their inquiries – and the statistics prove this out – contact requests that are responded to within the first five minutes are 100 times more likely to get in touch with a live person than a thirty minute response delay.
Now imagine that you can leverage each of your trade shows and events to bring in leads and sales over a period of months. This strategy is only being used by a small fraction of exhibitors and you have the potential to ride a huge wave of competitive advantage – the details to follow.

Savings Corner – Trimming Your Print/Copy/Ad Specialties/Design Costs March 10, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Internet, Marketing, Procurement, Savings Corner.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

One of the low hanging fruit baskets of savings that you find in almost every business is printing and its related cousins. This broad category includes everything from design, printing, copying, advertising specialities and the internet.
COPYING: Let’s start with copying. If your office is using inkjet printers – especially lexmark or even some laser printers, chances are you are getting eaten alive in cartridge costs. You have several alternatives – First, if you are in love with your inkjets or laser printer, shop around for toner – hint – the big box office supply places are not the place to shop – we have achieved savings of 30% or more by partnering with smaller distributors and giving them a price target to hit. Second, rent a copy machine (or machine) – most copier companies will rent you a machine, provide toner and guaranteed service for a little over a penny per click on black and white. Color will (of course) be somewhat more expensive and is based on volume but it will still be less expensive than your inkjet or laser. Third, do not buy your paper from the office supply store – buy it from a paper merchant or better still – leverage your printing supplier to provide copy paper at their cost in exchange for your printing business. Fourth, if you have large copying jobs – do not take it to your local Fedex Office – I love the guys that work there but we have been able to save 50% or more using copy wholesalers. If you must use Fedex Office then get a discount card from the manager – you can save 15% or more with that little jewel.
DESIGN: Graphic Design staffing is size dependent on your business – that will determine whether you can afford to do design in-house, use freelancers or employ an outside agency. Regardless of who does your design work, demand copies of both the final files and working files. The reason for this is two-fold – 1) You can make your own versions/revisions without paying anyone and 2) If the designer disappears or the agency goes under, you are protected from having to recreate a catalog or web site from scratch. With the exception of very small businesses, I advocate in-house design and conversion of all paper documents to .pdf or web-based forms. If you can’t design from scratch, learn how to make changes – we have trained numerous companies and the learning curve is not as steep as you might think.
PRINTING: Nothing has become more competitive than printing prices whether you are printing digital, offset, half-web, full-web…. you get the picture. Most companies fail to obtain competitive prices by not bidding out jobs deep and wide – deep because you need to poll a statistically significant number of printers (and that doesn’t mean 3) and wide because you must gain understanding of the printer’s equipment capabilities and how you can leverage your job to take advantage of their production sweet spot. Never give all of your business to a single printer and require that they bid out every job every time – this keeps them honest. Don’t fall for the trap that only such and such printer can do a quality job or that your co-worker’s next door neighbor owns a print shop and will give you a “great” deal. The best part about purchasing printing is that printing prices are relatively easy to reverse engineer since equipment speeds are published, labor is relatively constant and the major ingredient “paper” is easy to source and price.
ADVERTISING SPECIALTIES: This is another easy one. Once you understand the industry pricing codes, you can easily negotiate from a position of power if you choose to use a specialty rep. company. Or if you are adventurous, you can deal direct with most specialty companies because they would rather make a sale to you then no sale at all. There are a lot of variations – I have negotiated cost-plus deals with a rep. company because my client didn’t have time to source. I have also purchased shirts direct from the manufacturer (US and China) and then had them contract printed or embroidered. The direction that I go in is oftentimes dictated by my clients internal resources, the size of the job and the amount of savings desired by the client.
INTERNET: Much harder to explain in a short blog but here’s my attempt. Web design should keep your company’s look and feel which means that you can repurpose (not re-design) your graphics which can be done very inexpensively. Most importantly, I can’t stress enough that you (or your marketing person) need to spend a day researching competitors web sites as well as sites that contain the functionality that you would desire in your own site. Make a list of the components that you like, create goals for your site, a statement of work (fancy talk for a brief describing everything you want the site to do) and then bid these out. Not to an agency necessarily – we use a combination of project managers, freelancers, local talent and foreign programmers. The delivered product should be well-documented so that anyone that understands HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, etc. can make programmatic changes. For larger sites, a content management system should be utilized so that you or your wordsmiths can update the site without a degree in computer science. Finally, be smart about promoting your site. You can go broke trying to create traffic and once you bid out a site, you will get bombarded by hundreds of companies that swear they can make your site a success. The truth is that there are recognized companies who have already figured out optimization, lead generation, nurturing, email campaigns, affiliate programs and the like. Regardless of how you approach your site, spend time researching and (please) don’t reinvent the wheel.

Yours in procurement,
Steve

Steve Gordon specializes in procurement and logistics cost saving initiatives – call him today at 865.356.3575

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

Solutions is happy to complete a complimentary audit of your firm’s expeditures. Just call or write to get started.

If you want to learn how to save money on a particular commodity, just send me a comment or email me directly. I will do my best to answer your request in a future post.

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
Blog: https://innovativeconsultant.wordpress.com/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegordonthecostsavingsguy

Opportunities in Marketing Procurement March 26, 2010

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in 1, Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Marketing, Procurement.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Thanks to Robert R. of New York City for his question, “Steve, I am a CFO of a medical supply manufacturer. Our marketing spend has spiraled out of control. What suggestions can you provide to help put this cost center in check?”

Great question, Robert. Marketing spend oftentimes represents a large portion of a company’s indirect spend. Without specific targets or a look at your detailed spend, I am going to provide a generalized list of items that you can focus on.

1) Rank marketing spend by dollars.
2) Focus on top 20% of spend.
3) Use agencies and outside creative ONLY for idea generation and development of concepts whenever possible. Never use them to outsource printing, video production, web-design, etc. unless you want to pay a large 25% or more premium. (Note – even though agency commission might be 10% they will always use the high cost provider (since they make a percentage of the final price).
4) Create an in-house agency to take advantage of agency discounts.
5) Resource top 20% of spend – print, video, web-design, seo/sem, etc. And source out to 7-10 supplies instead of the industry standard of 3 potential supplies. The advantages of engaging multiple suppliers in the quotation phase are based on statistics – you cannot locate innovative, competitive, and quality-oriented suppliers with a small sampling.
6) Require that all completed digital files are supplied to the marketing department including original files, fonts, images, etc. This way your in-house graphics/video person can repurpose graphics and video at no additional charge to your organization. (When I use the words “original files” I mean the original source files (such as a flash .fla file or layered photoshop file) instead of the completed file (flash video .flv or .swf or merged photoshop file). The reason for this is that you can only edit the source file. My experience is that you must require this to be done when you place the original purchase order.
7) Marketing has a tendency to go with who they know and oftentimes they have a personal relationship with many of these suppliers. Sometimes this can be useful but once a supplier knows there is no competition you can guess what happens – price creep (and it never creeps down).
8) In the web-space be careful of trying to reinvent the wheel. Chances are that someone has created that special widget or function that is needed. There are great sources for inexpensive quality code, Search Engine Marketing and Optimization, and other web services. Make sure to be careful when creating the scope of services document so nothing is left to chance and make sure to involve multiple suppliers. Even if you are in a major metropolitan area, you will need to conduct a national search. Research can help you target your sourcing.
9) Take the time to understand and document your company’s marketing strategy. Early involvement by Finance and Procurement can eliminate any rush procurements which is used as a tactic to avoid best practices.
10) Never allow marketing to unilaterally select suppliers and negotiate with suppliers. This is true with all departments, not just marketing so don’t think I am picking on marketing folks in particular.
11) Consolidate suppliers whenever possible to leverage spend.
12) Create a preferred supplier list of suppliers who provide quality service at approved pricing.
13) If you shoot video, this category has huge potential for savings. The economy and technology have produced a wide variety of talented individuals and equipment who can take your (or your agencies) concept to successful completion. Even if you are in a small market, a few phone calls can lead you to a wide variety of suppliers. Hint: Stay away from suppliers who use hardware based Avid suites or non-digital solutions Currently the best bang for the buck are editors who use Apple’s Final Cut Pro Studio.
14) Limit long-term contracts for marketing services – that means not signing any agency contract – business is tight and competitive so you as a buyer are not compelled to limit your options.
15) Develop strategic partnerships with suppliers – concentrate on value-add services, payments terms and other benefits that they can provide.

Yours in Supply Chain,

Steve

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

Solutions is happy to complete a complimentary audit of your firm’s expeditures. Just call or write to get started.

If you have a topic of interest you would like me to discuss in our blog, “in-person”, or if you find a typographical error, just send me a comment or email me directly. I would like to hear from you!

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
Blog: https://innovativeconsultant.wordpress.com/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegordonthecostsavingsguy

The Death of the Conventional Advertising Agency March 2, 2010

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Marketing, Procurement.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

Twenty years ago, while I was running a printing plant, I was told that printing on paper would be a thing of the past. Today, printing isn’t dead but successful printers have had to find their niche, take advantage of the new business fostered by e-commerce and work smart to find their competitive advantage.

I will go out on a limb and predict the end of an era – the Conventional Advertising Agency. I define the conventional agency as one that has makes its real profit on services beyond that of an innovative think-tank that takes the most mundane of products and turns them into consumer must-haves. Times have changed and no longer are agencies needed to send unneeded people to garner billable hours on photo-shoots, commercials, printing, web-site designs and other outsourced projects. The sophistication of the modern marketing director understands that a good photographer is a good photographer without regard of who hires him or her.

The idea of charging fifteen, twenty percent or more on outsourced projects is a procurement nightmare. With a cost-plus methodology, no agency is interested in competitive billing. In fact, when you are making a commission, the higher the check the better. I have audited agency billings that would make you cry and even laugh – but it’s not so funny when it is your money. The abuse in some cases is nothing short of gouging the company. And some of the agency contracts are specifically designed to remove the choice of purchasing control from your firm.

Their will always be a place for idea men and women. People who can create compelling campaigns to bring top-of-mind awareness and develop strong brands. But they should take a hint that today’s modern cost-aware companies are going to look unfavorably on those ad firms who do not first and foremost, employ a fiduciary responsibility to their clients.

Yours in Supply Chain,

Steve

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

We will do a sample complimentary audit of your advertising agency expeditures. Just call or write to get started.

If you have a topic of interest you would like me to discuss in our blog, “in-person”, or see a typo, just send me a comment or email me directly. I would like to hear from you!

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
Blog: https://innovativeconsultant.wordpress.com/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegordonthecostsavingsguy

Where to spend your marketing budget? April 14, 2009

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Marketing.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

With the new economy, you should have automatically received more bang for your buck from your traditional outbound marketing vendors. If not, then you should call them into the office and begin renegotiation of your current contract/future business. Often times, you may not reduce the total dollar amount but you should receive additional frequency, improved position and have a free promotion or two thrown in as well. (Here is a shameless plug: if you haven’t lowered your cost of goods and overhead, give me a call) That being said, this post is not a tactic to squeeze your existing vendor pool, rather, it is a request for you to look at your marketing spend based on the new economy,  current consumer behavior and the channels available to you.  You may find that it is time to shift part of your spend into newer channels that will garner more return on investment or you might want to just dip your toes into the social internet soup.

Background: From a consumer point of view, marketing is either pushed at them (traditional outbound marketing) or pulled toward them (referred to as permission marketing, Web 2.0 or inbound marketing). Traditional outbound marketing guarantees that every day we are bombarded by emails, popup ads, billboards, radio commercials, television spots, telephone calls, newspaper and magazine ads.

Does this traditional outbound marketing still work?  Not like it used to – consumers are shellshocked by the shear volume of push to buy this product messages – emails are deleted without being read and direct mail pieces hit the trash. Many consumers have abandoned traditional commercial-ridden radio and switched to XM. And who reads a physical newspaper anymore?  Finally, I believe that most consumers give little or no credence to the celebrity spokesperson or radio personality or printed brochure when it comes to chosing a product or service for their family. I could be wrong but at the least the effectiveness of these modalities have weakened considerably.

Example: Let me digress and add a personal example of consumer spend. While not scientifically accurate my experience has to represents a chunk of consumers:

My heat and air unit went out last year. We have no home phone so I couldn’t look in the yellow pages. So, I asked a couple of my neighbors, my dad, the head of facility maintenance at my old employer, and a realtor who they thought the best heat and air company was in our area. I then contacted these companies along with four others selected at random to submit bids for replacing my current unit. Not surprisingly the bids had a $2000 spread (some vendors were more hungry then others) and I ended up buying my unit from the company recommended by the facility maintenance manager ($600 off the low mark)  The key decision factors were that the winning bid was not out of line with competitive bid for units of similar specifications and that I had a recommendation from someone I trust. That means that all of that traditional advertising was wasted on me – Not only did radio, television, cable and newspaper ads failed to sway me and the slick literature and even the brand name had little influence. Sadly enough, I never even checked any of the companies fancy internet sites.

No, I relied on independent research and a referral from someone who used the product and the company and was happy with the service. Statistically, I should of included more companies to bid but just like you my time to spend on heat and air units is constrained. Most importantly (for this post and my decision) I seeked out and found someone whom I trusted to give me a referral.

The future: Now the new “pull” marketing certainly interests me as a consumer. It is more polite, I like the fact these applications ask my permission to join a group – linkedin, facebook, tweeter, etc.  and some of them provide me great content. It allows me to build a relationship in Facebook with people and companies that interest me and makes me feel like I am in the decision-marking driver’s seat. But and this key, there is noone in this social media pool whom I trust to help me make the heat and air decision. Don’t get me wrong, I have made some serious contacts via social media but the newness and remoteness of the relationship makes it near impossible to influence this buying decision (as of today).

Wouldn’t it be great: It would be great to do a search on (my city) heating and air companies and be presented with the local installer blog complete with pricing and  local references near my address. That would give me more of a comfort level. I would also like to see integrated complaints and compliments from third party consumer sites. Yes, sites such as Bizrate exists but isn’t comprehensive and doesn’t provide phone numbers and addresses for me to follow up on.

My point is that social media may be worth spending a little money on – after all, how much is a facebook page or tweet or blog cost to produce. But I would not expect huge results overnight. Why, because the same computer that displays my facebook and linkedin page is constantly trying to sell me into being an instant millionnaire or provide me cheap drugs I don’t need. Scams I don’t need, Relationships I do. But, relationships take time and they must develop along a logical course which means actual human interaction over time to produce a trusting relationship.

How to determine whom to trust is going to be difficult without more face to face (video) interactions and physical interactions among social media participants. The social evolution is going to have to clean up the spamming and profiteering it it expects to seriously influence  consumer and business spend.

Thanks for listening. I welcome your comments.

Steve Gordon is a former Apple Employee and Procurement & Logistics Professional who is now Chief Operating Officer of costavoidance.org. Costavoidance is dedicated to

• Develop strategy and implement goals
• Supply Chain and Cost Efficiency
• Project Management
• Interim Executives
• Process Improvement
• Marketing and Sales

Steve
costavoidance.org

Solutions Business Consultants are specialists in cutting costs and expenses without sacrificing employees™. We take an enlightened look at a company’s spend and create innovative cost savings methodologies which bring money to your bottom line! Many of our services can be enjoyed on a contingency basis – based on our success!

What’s in it for me? February 10, 2009

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, Customer Service, Improving Personnel Performance, Increase Profitability, Marketing, Travel Policy.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

I have had numerous requests asking “What can Solutions Business Consultants do for my business” In response, I have prepared a brief summary of what we do. If you learn anything from this post, it should be that we offer a complimentary initial consultation – let’s talk and discuss your issues… I have been known to successfully solve a problem or two on the phone call and if our conversation leads to an engagement or referral then we have a win-win situation we both can be proud of.

Businesses exist in a state of flux depending on 1) market conditions, 2) goals/objectives  of the company and the 3) internal and external processes the company employs to operate.

Business inefficiencies occur when #1, 2 and 3 are out of sync. My job is to help businesses redefine and understand the current market, modify goals and objectives to meet the challenges of the current market and then align the company’s processes making them more relevant and efficient.

To better understand the aforementioned explanation, I am listing recent categories of consulting business that I have completed. This should not be viewed as a list of services because every business is different and I will tailor my approach and execution dependent on your needs.

Business Development/Customer Intelligence: I assist businesses in understanding who their ideal customer is. Not all customers are born equal and profitability is key – minimum volume generation, product mix, sales/service support and infrastructure requirements all have to examined and possibly modified. Once the ideal customer is defined, it makes it much easier to focus efforts on new customer recruitment and proper servicing of existing customers. I show companies how to leverage this information to then go out into the field and develop new customers.

Cost Reduction/Expenditure Management: I assist companies in tackling and bringing their expenditures under proper management.  Expense control, vendor selection and negotiation, bid processes, travel policies and an intensive look at purchasing always results in a stronger organization and bottom line savings. Lenders and investor/shareholders alike are impressed with the results.

Website Analysis/Logic/Design and Search Engine Optimization: I assist companies in taking a customer-point-of-view analysis of their existing or proposed web-site focusing on simplicity of navigation, ease-of-use, goal maximization and sales effectiveness. Additionally, I focus on low-cost, no-cost methods of promoting your web site using social media, podcasts, key word/phrase selection, promotion and research tools.

Business Processes: I assist companies in tweaking their infrastructure processes to maximize staff utilization, customer experience, defining goals and objectives, creating business policies, correcting bad or faulty operations and more. . .

The best part about what I do is the diversity of the challenges- I have helped small companies, large companies, small projects, multi-departmental software implementation – the variety is endless, fun and productive. As always I look forward to our initial complementary consultation. Call me at 865-356-3575 or email me at steve@costavoidance.org