Archive of ‘Business’ category

De slager in dialoog

Vrijdagochtend om acht uur stond ik bij de slager in Goes. Voornamelijk om een belofte in te lossen bij Lucien Burm in Amsterdam. Al een aantal keren hebben wij het namelijk gehad over “Zeeuws spek”. Iets waar hij erg van houdt en waar ik als Zeeuw natuurlijk eenvoudig aan kan komen. Tenminste, dat dacht ik. Maar niets blijkt minder waar. “Zeeuws spek” blijkt namelijk helemaal niet te bestaan. Mijn opgetrokken wenkbrauwen waren het teken voor de slager om van wal te steken. Om te vertellen over oude Zeeuwse boeren en Groninger collega’s. Of West-Friese zo gewild. Over de eigen smaak van elke slager en de eenvoud van het recept die het zo makkelijk maakt voor een slager om zijn eigen versie naar zijn eigen smaak te maken. Daarna ging het al snel verder over mijn activiteiten en over contant geld, pinpassen en andere zaken. Leuk, gemoedelijk en heel vriendelijk.

Deze slager nam de tijd voor mij. Iets dat veel bedrijven missen. Zo was ook zijn eigen aanklacht in de richting van zijn bank. Hij had ook efficiënter te werk kunnen gaan. Mij snel een stuk van zijn versie van het spek toestoppen naar aanleiding van mijn vraag en dan terug naar zijn eigen producten. Sneller en makkelijker. Maar niet effectiever. Want had hij dat gedaan, dan zou ik er waarschijnlijk nooit meer komen. Nu ligt dat anders. Ik ben nooit eerder bij die slager geweest, maar de volgende keer dat ik wat speciaals nodig heb, zal ik zeker bij hem langsgaan. Want voor mij is hij het toonbeeld van wat een slager moet zijn. Iemand met passie voor zijn product en de wens om mij te helpen aan dat waar ik eigenlijk naar op zoek ben. Een instelling die elke onderneming zich eigen zou moeten maken.

De klant als verstorende factor in het perfecte productieproces

Voor sommige mensen is de klant soms gewoon lastig. Als zij lekker aan het werk zijn moet een klant ze niet storen met triviale zaken als vragen of verzoeken. Er wordt gezucht, gesteund en soms erger. Er wordt gezegd dat mensen er niet zijn, omdat dit interne stuk eerst af moet. Voor mij is het een ergernis. Uiteindelijk is het de klant die de organisatie bestaansrecht geeft.

Vorige week heb ik daarover in een twitter discussie een uitspraak gedaan die Jacqueline Fackeldey heeft aangegrepen om een hele goede en terechte blogpost te schrijven. Heel herkenbaar en goed om te lezen. Een aanrader.

Mijn tweet - met dank aan Jacqueline Fackeldey voor de screenshot.

Mijn tweet - met dank aan Jacqueline Fackeldey voor de screenshot.

De heffing is geweldig. “Overheid, help!”

De heffing is geweldig. “Overheid, help!”
Vandaag stond in Trouw te lezen dat de commissie Brinkman vandaag adviseert om een heffing op internetaansluitingen in te stellen vanuit de overheid. De heffing moet gebruikt gaan worden om innovatieve initiatieven in de krantenwereld te financieren. In april besloot de Stichting Onderhandelingen Thuiskopievergoeding (SONT) al om een heffing in te voeren op digitale opname en afspeel appraratuur met een opslagmogelijkheid. De heffing is geweldig.
Het klinkt misschien wat overdreven, maar ehct, de heffing is geweldig. De heffing is het enige middel dat er voor zorgt dat een verouderd businessmodel toch kan blijven renderen. Want uiteindelijk komt het daar op neer. Het internet is immers niet nieuw. De kranten hebben al heel lang aan zien komen dat er andere maniere van nieuwsgaring gaan ontstaan. Ze konden op hun klompen aanvoelen dat het businessmodel dat is ontstaan rond 1605 met Relation, wellicht de 21e eeuw niet zou gaan overleven. Ook omdat het delen van nieuws via het internet al een van de meest populaire activiteiten was.
Op een andere manier geldt hetzelfde voor artiesten. De structuren die de afgelopen eeuw zo succesvol zijn geweest, worden langzaam onderuit gehaald door het gemak van downloaden en bestandsdeling. Ook hier konden de platenmaatschappijen al jaren geleden aan zien komen dat de huidige manier van verkopen langzaam zijn einde zou gaan vinden. Half jaren negentig waren muziek en films al te vinden via de ftp sites van diverse universiteiten. En hoewel de kwaliteit toen nog te wensen overliet, was te voorzien dat dat binnen afzienbare tijd zou gaan veranderen.
Op het moment dat je geconfronteerd wordt met een verouderd businessmodel en teruglopende inkomsten, kon je maar twee dingen doen. Je kon erin berusten en langzaam ten onder gaan, of je kon je schouders er onder zetten en een nieuw model maken om weer geld te verdienen. Nu is er de derde optie. Je gaat naar de overheid, je klaagt en je stelt een commissie in. De commissie brengt dan een advies uit voor een heffing, zodat je niet zelf hoeft te investeren in een nieuw businessmodel voor je product. Ideaal. Maar als ik heel eerlijk ben, dan zie ik dat niet als meer dan een doekje voor het bloeden. Want succesvolle ondernemingen en succesvolle producten komen voor uit visie. Vanuit die visie komen ook de mogelijkheden om geld te verdienen met je product. En mocht dat niet meteen lukken, dan pas je je businessmodel wat aan, net zo lang tot je verdient. Want consumenten zijn best bereid om te betalen, als het maar is voor iets waarin ze waarde zien.

Vandaag stond in Trouw te lezen dat de commissie Brinkman vandaag adviseert om een heffing op internetaansluitingen in te stellen vanuit de overheid. De heffing moet gebruikt gaan worden om innovatieve initiatieven in de krantenwereld te financieren. In april besloot de Stichting Onderhandelingen Thuiskopievergoeding (SONT) al om een heffing in te voeren op digitale opname en afspeel appraratuur met een opslagmogelijkheid. De heffing is geweldig.

Het klinkt misschien wat overdreven, maar ehct, de heffing is geweldig. De heffing is het enige middel dat er voor zorgt dat een verouderd businessmodel toch kan blijven renderen. Want uiteindelijk komt het daar op neer. Het internet is immers niet nieuw. De kranten hebben al heel lang aan zien komen dat er andere maniere van nieuwsgaring gaan ontstaan. Ze konden op hun klompen aanvoelen dat het businessmodel dat is ontstaan rond 1605 met Relation, wellicht de 21e eeuw niet zou gaan overleven. Ook omdat het delen van nieuws via het internet al een van de meest populaire activiteiten was.

Op een andere manier geldt hetzelfde voor artiesten. De structuren die de afgelopen eeuw zo succesvol zijn geweest, worden langzaam onderuit gehaald door het gemak van downloaden en bestandsdeling. Ook hier konden de platenmaatschappijen al jaren geleden aan zien komen dat de huidige manier van verkopen langzaam zijn einde zou gaan vinden. Half jaren negentig waren muziek en films al te vinden via de ftp sites van diverse universiteiten. En hoewel de kwaliteit toen nog te wensen overliet, was te voorzien dat dat binnen afzienbare tijd zou gaan veranderen.

Op het moment dat je geconfronteerd wordt met een verouderd businessmodel en teruglopende inkomsten, kon je maar twee dingen doen. Je kon erin berusten en langzaam ten onder gaan, of je kon je schouders er onder zetten en een nieuw model maken om weer geld te verdienen. Nu is er de derde optie. Je gaat naar de overheid, je klaagt en je stelt een commissie in. De commissie brengt dan een advies uit voor een heffing, zodat je niet zelf hoeft te investeren in een nieuw businessmodel voor je product. Ideaal. Maar als ik heel eerlijk ben, dan zie ik dat niet als meer dan een doekje voor het bloeden. Want succesvolle ondernemingen en succesvolle producten komen voor uit visie. Vanuit die visie komen ook de mogelijkheden om geld te verdienen met je product. En mocht dat niet meteen lukken, dan pas je je businessmodel wat aan, net zo lang tot je verdient. Want consumenten zijn best bereid om te betalen, als het maar is voor iets waarin ze waarde zien.

The masses are dead

Ahhhh, the good old days. The days in which every company was there for its own good and was solely focussed on making as much profit as possible. The time when marketing was push and all you needed to do was broadcast the positives of your product as much and as loud as possible. The good old days. The days when you could be a marketing executive and mainly be concerned about the way your suit looked so people would admire you and your success. Your full page adds oozed smugness and glorious satisfaction based on your product. The glorydays of the P’s of marketing.

Snap out of it. There is no more use in trying to find the perfect five P’s to get the largest group of average customers for your product as there is use in going the manual for your dial telephone as a guidline for using your PDA. The average customer does not exist. And these days it shows more than ever. And as a brand, you need to be aware of this. In fact, you need to be aware that whatever you are doing, whoever you are and whatever you are making, you are a brand. And a brand needs to appeal to people. Not to the masses, but to the person.

Do you know your customers? Do you know who they are? Do you know what they are interested in? Do you know what they care about? Do you know what makes them tick? Lets face it, in todays world just sending them a nicely formulated mass mail message with their name on it will not make it happen. And you don’t have to. Todays technology can help you learn so much about your customers. Enough that will enable you to relate to them and dialogue with them, not just talk to them.

Saving money but getting more done

Today is the day of the Cost Engineering Event 2009. First held in 2007 the event can pride itself on being one of the biggest events on the subject of cost engineering in Europe. Cost engineering can be described as the art of assigning value to that which has been or will be engineered. However, in every day life this means that cost engineering is the ultimate profession for people who want to get ‘bang for their buck’. A cost engineer is looking to maximize effect for every little bit of money spent. And that makes the cost engineer a great addition to any company.

In these challenging economic times, cost engineers can help companies stay afloat. Not only will they get a company as much as possible for the money spent, they can also control the spending better and work with engineers to redesign with a view towards reducing cost. But there is more… Well, there always is, right? But to see more, you should better go to the Cost Engineering website. I will be at the Cost Engineering Event 2009  for both days as account manager for Cost Engineering. We might have a seat for you if you give me a call.

Monetizing your social network

Over the past couple of weeks, I have received more “how to monetize your network” than in the months before. And frankly, at times I am just amazed of how short sighted people are. The writers of the pieces often talk about how much money they managed to make in a very short timespan. However, this is social media. This is not a lemonade stand.

Social in social media means that you are connecting to people. Whatever way you are going to look at it, if you are connecting to people, you are going to be building relationships. A relationship is probably the most valuable thing you can have. It is the mutual sharing of your life with others. A fantastic phenomenon that we as humans can enjoy. And if you see how easy we do it and how much we love it, you could say that we were made to do it.

Monetizing on your network as most of these mailers see it, is getting as much money out of your social network as you can in the shortest possible timespan. Great. After all, the world is all about money, isn’t it? Wrong. The world is about your relationships. Of course there are relationships which have been made for the reason of being useful for business. And as a default, money gets involved there. LinkedIn is one of the networks that is mainly focussing on business contacts. Here you often connect to people that you have done business with, or that you hope to do business with in the future. However, if you are only about pulling as much money from them as you possibly can, you are connecting to wallets instead of people. And no relationship is going to last if it is only about the money. After all, nobody is going to be very enthusiastic about you if all you care about is their wallet. Relationships are meant to be mutual.So, is there no way to make money off your network? Sure there is.

Cater for the needs of your network. If you are truly connected to people, you know what they are looking for. You know what they need. Or you are able to find out. Then, offer them what you can do. If you can not do what they are looking for, recommend a friend who can. If they are not looking for anything, tell them loosely what you can do and get back to talking about them. For me, that is how I work. Do I make the most money ever on my network? No. Would I like to make more? Sure. Will I do whatever it takes to do it? No. Not in a million years. After all, my network are my friends. I don’t bother every friend I have with what I want to make. Honestly, I don’t. Hpwever, I do know that as people need the services I can provide, they will get in touch with me because of our relationship. After all, who better to realize something for you than someone you know.

Social networks are about being who you are. At LinkedIn you will be more about your business. At Hyves, Facebook and MySpace you will be more about old friends and catching up. At Twitter you will be more about sharing the here and now. How personal you are will vary with these services from superficial (LinkedIn) to very personal (Twitter). But whatever way you look at it, you need to be sharing you. It is about yourself getting out and connecting as you. And thinking about them. Thinking about your contacts and being genuinely interested in what they are all about. That is social media in the long run. Because it all is about the long run. Quick money is nice, but nobody would like to wake up with a couple of grand and a heap of lost relationships to look back upon. Get social. Be yourself. The money will come. Really, it will. But it should not be your main goal.

How to sell your house

It is that time of year again. The Christmas specials of everything seem to fill the doormat as soon as you have cleared it up again. Honestly, nobody really does anything special with the Christmas special. It is just another opportunity to copy paste last years’ Christmastree graphics, Santa’s, sleighs and all kinds of red nosed animals into otherwise product-focussed publications. One of the fields where this happens most, is the field of the realtors. It is funny to see that many are excited a couple of weeks before the special is released, but when I see it, I can only be disappointed. Especially in the current climate.

Lets be honest for a minute. The housing market is not really doing well at the moment. December is not a good month to sell in the first place, but right now it seems everything has been on sale for months. And that gets me to the question, why do people hire a realtor in the first place? Well, one of the main reasons would be because they feel he is much better to get the word out on the sale than they ever could. Another reason would be because you want to outsource the hassle. Though I completely  agree with the last reason, the first reason seems to be untrue nowadays.

What is it that realtors expect buyers to run up their doorstep and beg them to sell them a house? What is it that makes them advertise in the same way for over twenty years and probably longer? What I am looking for would be a realtor that makes a difference. A realtor that makes sure my house gets noticed. Because honestly, I care about nothing else except the sale of my house. As long as my house reaches the target audience and someone comes along to buy it, a lot is allowed. As an example, look at this youtube video by Mike Lefebvre. (I know it is not new, but it is relevant.)

So, if you are in the real estate business, ask yourself why your customers hire you. And what you can do different to make that sale happen.

What is your answer?

In a previous post I talked about finding out what your customer really wants. Even though the whole thing seems pretty obvious, it seems as if interpretation always wins over plain listening. AS an easy example I would like to look at a situation which has to do with information retrieval. What a contractor is really looking for, is something that will tell him where the cables and pipes are exactly before he starts digging. What the person storing the information wants, is an easy map that can be filed as piping for water in second street. So when the contractor comes in and asks him what pipes he has to mind he just hands him a stack of maps. Easy to find and easy to hand over. But what the contractor would really love, would be a gps overlay on the city streets so he knows where he can point his digger when he arrives on the site.

Does this mean you need to work in new ways? It can. It means letting go of what is most convenient to you and offering service to your customers. Will they like it? They will love it. Everybody loves their suppliers to lend a hand getting the job done. And they will return.

Small is the new big

Big companies are in trouble. Or at least, that is what the media wants us to believe. And big companies are the future of the economies of countries. Thousands work at big companies. They will all be hurt by the current economic situation. And yes, I cannot argue with that. But it does trigger a question. Why did these companies get big in the first place? Some of them became big because demand for their products forced them to. Some became big because acquiring extra businesses was the best way to maximalize profits. And some became big because big was fashionable, you just had to be big to be somebody.

With big has come status and the opportunity to play with power. And few people give up power once they have goten their hands on it. Control apparently is the biggest asset someone can have in his life. That is exactly what we have been witnessing over the past months. It might have been better to be smaller. It might have saved jobs, it might have saved a crisis. Or maybe not. But reality is that the bigger the companies the more support is needed now. So where are the small companies? Where are the freelancers? Yes, they might get into some rough times, but ultimately their flexibility will allow them to stand. Especially when the big players learn that small is the new big. If you bring together a group of smaller companies to build something big, they are just as good. They are just as driven to succes and they are just as cost effective. If not more on all these points.

Lets go small. And win.

What is the question

Do you know what your customer wants? Do you really know what your customer wants? It might seem like an obvious question, but very few people actually do. Everyone has his or her customers. The question is what they want from you. What do they want you to do? What is it they are looking for? 

The answer can not be found in books. The answer can not be found in best practices and the answer can never be found by asking people who do the same as you do. The question can only be answered by asking your customer. By listening to them and by looking at what it is they want need to achieve to reach their goals. And that might be something completely different from what you are thinking.

Can you force innovation?

There has been a debate going about the American automotive industry that I have been following with great interest. You will probably be aware of the fact that there is a danger of the ‘great American brands’ to go broke over the current financial crisis. And that is where the world seems to split up into two camps. One is in favor of rescuing the large corporations with huge amounts of money. The loss of employment when it is not done is one of the greatest drives for their argument. The other camp is in favor of having the big giants die their natural economical death. The latter camp usually says that by removing the big companies, the market will be open for new players that will be more innovative. In my opinion the thought is great. I would love to go back to smaller more innovative car companies, but reality will show a different story.

If we look back in history, seldom has succesful innovation sprung from an economic decision to have other companies die. Innovation has come from people who walk besides the big companies and one day decide that they can do it better. Or from people who are on the outside and decide that what is built now does not meet their requirements, so they will make it themselves. Or from completely new techniques that allow people to build something out of the ordinary that is a much better match for the demand out there. Forcing it will not be the answer to this debate. It will not lead to the innovation we dream of. And besides, there is a lot of interest in the old giants from new economies like the Chinese, to buy it if nobody else wants to anymore.

I don’t have a clear cut answer here, but I would love to see more innovation stimulated to allow people to develop their view on the automotive industry, because there is much room their for innovative players that do not only cater for the happy few who can buy supercars. But players that can give average families greener, more distinctive and more enjoyable transportation.

Common interests, feedback and appreciation

Last week I received an invite to the beta launch of Wayzon.com. Not specifically interesting as I get invites more often, but as it is close to an idea I used to have, I thought it was worth a try. After registration I came into a very pleasant looking visual representation of people that have similar interests to mine and who are on the same network. That is a great idea. One that I was talking about a year ago or so. Anyway, as I went over more of the details, I found a good couple of points which I would consider changing. As I am a demanding customer and one that likes to let people know what he thinks, I replied to the mail with the invite. I received a response within ten minutes thanking me for the suggestions and after a quick exchange of some suggestions by email, I received an extra mail telling me they were going to send me a t-shirt.

To be honest, I am not to be bought with a t-shirt. But what I do fall for is the service that is there. If we pull this thing apart it is a very basic way of dealing with your customers. A customer tries your product, he gets back to you with feedback, you tell the customer how you are going to del with it and then you give him something to show your appreciation. How many companies actually do that? And how many do I write about? There you go. On a very simple, very small scale, this is how it works. So are you rewarding your most valuable customers for their feedback on your business/product/service? Or do you not even give them a chance to make the suggestions. Because they will talk about you anyway, but it is your choice what they are going to be telling.