Happy New Year

December 30, 2008

In just a matter of hours, 2009 will be upon us.  If you have not done so, please read my article on setting New Year’s Resolutions.  You may also be interested in some statistics about New Year’s Resolutions.

Happy New Year!

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Personality Poker ®

December 30, 2008

It’s official.  Personality Poker® is now a registered trademark.  In 2009 we will be announcing some exciting developments with this brand.

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Why Aren’t You More Successful?

December 29, 2008

A friend of mine is a fantastic freelance writer.  After telling her how great she is, she asked, “So if I’m that good, how come I’m not working now?  Tough market out there.”

Yes, it is a tough market.  But I suspect that is not the reason she can’t find work.  She has fallen into the trap of believing that being good is good enough.  It’s not.

I often tell other professional speakers… “We are not in the speaking business, we are in the marketing business.”  Or maybe more accurately, we are in the marketing and innovation business.

The late, great Peter Drucker once said, “You get paid for creating a customer, and you get paid for creating a new dimension of performance, which is innovation. Everything else is a cost center.”

His perspective is brilliant.  I particularly love that his definition of innovation is not focused on creating new products but rather on “creating a new dimension of performance.”

If your business is not as successful as you would like, maybe you need to focus more on marketing and innovation.

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Wii and the Bell Curve

December 26, 2008

Many of my recent posts discuss “Innovation and the Bell Curve.”

One quick comment on this idea.  I often say that the left-hand side of the bell curve is about affordability and accessibility.  But sometimes it is just about accessibility – for a premium price.

Two quick examples come to mind.

The Nintendo Wii is one of the best examples.  Here, instead of creating higher quality graphics that would appeal to the advanced gamer (the right-hand side of the bell curve), they created graphics and interfaces that would appeal to people ages 8 and 80 alike.  That’s accessibility (left-hand side of the bell curve).  They must be doing something right.  According to Engadget, 1.7 million Wii units were sold last week, when only 500 thousand XBox 360s and 240 thousand PlayStation 3s were sold.  And of course there are all of the Wii add-ons.

Another example comes from the Financial Times.  This is the best business and finance newspaper in the world.  In addition to the paper, they offer many advanced services that would appeal to only those in financial institutions (right-side of curve).  But they also offer their Lex subscription service for mobiles.  This boils down all of the most important news into bite sized nuggets (and it is one of the most popular sections on the print edition).  For people suffering from information overload (like me) this provides greater accessibility to the topics that matter most (left-side of curve).  The cost to deliver this service is close to nothing (it’s all digital), yet the price to the consumer is more than the price of a print paper subscription.

Sometimes being more accessible (simpler) can lead to greater value and hence greater returns for you.

Happy Holidays.

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Happy Holidays!

December 24, 2008

I hope that everyone will be taking time off to enjoy family and friends. See you in 2009.

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The Wisdom of Miyagi

December 22, 2008

Innovation SquishIn the Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi once told his student Daniel, “Walk on road. Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture] get the squish, just like grape.”

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to listen to Miyagi, press play

This fits nicely with my perspectives on innovating in tough times.  In my previous blog entries on how to make your products/services more affordable and accessible, I discuss why the middle of the bell curve is a dangerous place to be in these economic times.

I was just speaking with a client of mine and we had the same conversation.

His Fortune 50 company offers a commodity item, but is considered to be a premium brand.  They are never first to cut the price of their items (and they rarely cut prices), but they typically lead the charge in price increases.  Their brand is associated with high quality and high performance.  They are often focused on the right-hand side of the bell curve.  They have been doing exceptionally well.

Their competitors fall into two categories.

Some are white label, low price producers.  Budget brands. They provide a lower quality product that appeals to those with the least to spend.  These companies are in the left-hand side of the bell curve.  They seem to be doing particularly well now that people are looking for bargains.

Other competitors are in the middle of the bell curve.  They provide good product at a good price.  How are they going? These companies are being “squished”  by the low cost providers on one side and the premium brands on the other.  They are struggling.  My client wonders how many of these companies will survive.

The middle of the bell curve is a dangerous place to be these days.  If you aren’t careful, you might just get squished like a grape.

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Gas Guzzlers Top Selling Cars

December 19, 2008

2008 saw the $4 gallon of gasoline and the start of the current recession. Although car sales are down from last year, millions of vehicles were still sold.

What car do you think was most popular? A hybrid? A fuel efficient car? An ultra-inexpensive car?  A reliable import?

Interestingly, the two most popular cars were the Ford F150 (16 MPG) and Chevy Silverado (17MPG) pickup trucks with combined sales of nearly 1 million vehicles.

Why would people buy gas guzzlers when fuel prices are high and economic woes are running rampant?

According to Jeff Bartlett, deputy online editor of autos for Consumer Reports, when times are tough, “Buyers shift from what they want to what they need.” He continues to say that, “Pickups are a solution to a need” because they can be used for towing, off-roading, and cargo-hauling.

This is a fascinating point.

In a previous blog entry, I discussed how making your products/services more affordable and accessible is one way to beat the recession.

Focusing on what is needed versus what is wanted is another; sell the features that solve specific problems rather than the “nice to haves.” In the chart above, you can view the left part as the “needs” and the right part as “wants.”

This also plays nicely into my research on pains versus gains. The premise is that people take massive risks to eliminate their pains/losses yet will play it safe when it comes to increasing their gains. When times are tough, you must solve the pain first before the “extras” will be attractive.

What problem does your product solve? Can you provide a no-frills version of an existing product/service that focuses purely on eliminating a pain? In doing so, can you make it less expensive?

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Innovation Articles I am Reading

December 15, 2008

Today, I am catching up on some bookmarked innovation articles.  I will provide commentary on these in the near future.

Does Obama Need a Department of Innovation? (NYT)

Innovation at Kraft (USA Today)

Electric Car Innovation is Not Coming Out of Detroit (NYT)

Why Movies Disappear from iTunes and Netflix (Wired)

Innovation for Hard Times (Business Week)

Is Einstein the Last Genius? (Yahoo/Live Science)

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Interesting New Year’s Resolution Statistics

December 11, 2008

This article was originally published December 2008

Early this week I received an email from a researcher at a major national TV talk show.  They are doing a show on New Year’s Resolutions and saw my article on the topic.

They wanted to know if I had more details on the statistics referenced in the article.

I went back to the research we did with the help of Opinion Corporation of Princeton, NJ, and found the following interesting tid bits.  The survey has a margin of error of 3%.

  • 45% of Americans usually set New Year’s Resolutions; 17% infrequently set resolutions; 38% absolutely never set resolutions.
  • Only 8% of people are always successful in achieving their resolutions. 19% achieve their resolutions every other year.  49% have infrequent success.  24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. That means that 3 out of 4 people almost never succeed.
  • Of those who do set resolutions (these add to more than 100% because some people set multiple resolutions):
    • 34% set resolutions related to money
    • 38% set resolutions related to weight
    • 47% set resolutions related to self-improvement or education
    • 31% set resolutions related to relationships
  • It appears that the younger you are, the more likely you are to achieve your resolutions
    • 39% of those in their twenties achieve their resolutions every year or every other year
    • Less than 15% of those over 50 achieve their resolutions every year or every other year
  • The less happy you are, the more likely you are to set New Year’s Resolutions.  This is especially true for those who set money-related resolutions: 41% are not happy, 34% are moderately happy, and 25% are happy.
  • And here’s the punchline – There is no correlation between happiness and resolution setting/success.  People who achieve their resolutions every year are NO happier than those who do not set resolutions or who are unsuccessful in achieving them.

What Does This Really Mean?

Of course numbers only represent averages and do not reflect on YOUR personal situation. However, there are a few questions you may want to ponder as we inch closer towards New Year’s Eve:

  • What kind of New Year’s Resolutions do you typically set (money, health, self-improvement, or relationship-oriented)?
  • Why do you set these particular resolutions?
  • What do you hope to gain by achieving these resolutions?
  • What will you do to be more successful (than the typical person)?
  • Do you believe you will be happier in a year if you are successful in achieving your resolutions? If so, be aware that this is rarely the case – your attitude is more important than the results.
  • And finally, what could you do to improve your level of happiness TODAY, rather than believing your happiness lies in the future?

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner.  This year, instead of looking forward to what you want, spend your time reflecting on what you have.  This is especially important during these troubling economic times.  Listen to a brief MP3 I recorded on the topic of “Wanting What You Have.”

And if you do set a resolution, set a “theme-based” resolution rather than a “goal-based” resolution.  This will increase your level of happiness AND participation in the coming year.

I am formulating my theme for the New Year now.

What will be your theme for the New Year?

P.S. If you want to give a great gift that will change the life of a loved one, be sure to check out Goal-Free Living.  If you want signed copies, use the contact button above.  We can make the book out with a personal inscription.

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Getting with the Times

December 10, 2008

OK, it is time to branch out from the blog world…

For the past 2 days, I have been at the 800-CEO-READ event for authors.  Great conversations about books, publishing, marketing, sales, design, story telling, and anything else related to the profession.

One guy, Jose Castillo, talked about social media and how it relates to books.  He drew a chart that depicted media and size.  Books are typically 300 pages (50K – 80K words).  eBooks are often 30 pages 10K words).  Online eZine articles are 800 – 1000 words.  Blog entries are 300 words.  Tweets (via Twitter) are 140 characters or less.  Blogs and tweets are two-way communications while the others are typically one-way.

After listening to him speak, I decided to set up my own twitter account.  And you can now follow me at twitter.com/stephenshapiro.  In the early stages it will be an experiment and I hope you will join me.

You can also join me on my LinkedIn account.

But this is just the start.  Soon we will be launching even more ways for us all to interact.  I look forward to your feedback and suggestions.

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