Funny Pictures

December 8, 2008

During my travels, I took pictures of signs with my BlackBerry.  Some are funny.  Some are creative.  And some are just plain silly.  Regardless, all make me laugh.  Click on the thumbnail to see the full size picture.

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Help Me with the Math

December 7, 2008

Today’s topic is less about innovation and more about critical thinking.

I am in Florida in a timeshare I bought a couple of years ago through the Hilton Grand Vacations Club (HGVC). Although I bought it on impulse rather than logic, I have been taking full advantage of it and am glad I purchased it. Today, I had a chance to step back and reflect on my “investment.”

This morning I attended a sales pitch from the good people at HGVC. I currently own the lowest point allotment allowed, so they wanted me to increase the number of points I get each year.

For the bargain rate of $10,000 down, a $1,000 closing fee, and $500 a year (extra) in dues/taxes, I can get an additional 2,300 points per year.

I told the nice saleswoman that so far I have not been able to use the points I already get.

Her response was, “That doesn’t matter. For $69 a year, you can convert your unused HGVC points to Hilton Honors (HH) points, allowing you to stay in Hilton Hotels anywhere.” Each HGVC point is converted to 25 Hilton Honors points (2,300 HGVC points = 57,500 HH points). She continued to tell me that she converts half of the points she gets each year into Hilton Honors points, because it is such a good bargain.

I think that she and I have different definitions for the word “bargain.”  Here’s why…

I had a choice of parting gift for spending the hour in the sales pitch: either a restaurant voucher, a theme park discount coupon, or 20,000 Hilton Honors points.  Each are said to be worth $100.

If 20,000 HH points are worth $100, then 57,500 HH points are worth $285. Yet, the total cost to get these 57,500 is $569 per year (dues, taxes and conversion) PLUS the $11,000 down (buy-in and closing costs).

Call me crazy, but this does not sound like a bargain to me.

P.S. My gripe is only with the conversion to HH points and not the overall program.  My experience to date with HGVC has been quite positive.

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Servicize a Product

December 4, 2008

I am sunning myself with my family in Florida right now, hence the shortage of blog entries. We have been busy every day, so today has been my first day to relax and think. And no surprise, I have been thinking about innovation.

The balcony of my timeshare overlooks the water with boats (the picture left is our view). I always wanted a boat, but am often reminded of a joke. “What are the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life? The day he buys his boat…and the day he sells it!”

Boats are expensive and a pain to maintain.

In my previous blog entry, I discussed ways of making products and services more accessible and affordable. One idea was to “productize” a service. The question of the day is, how can boats be made more affordable and accessible? Maybe the answer is to “servicize” a product.  Let’s look at a few options…

Option 1 – Make Product Cheaper: If you want to make boats more affordable, you can make them less expensive and maybe easier to maintain.  As an owner this gives you the greatest flexibility and unlimited access to your boat.  Of course, you need to do all of the work.

Option 2 – Timeshare: Most people only want a boat from time to time. So another logical solution is to create a boat timeshare. A quick Google search shows that there are quite of them out there. With this model, a corporation owns the boats and sells “slices.” Yesterday I met a couple that get to go on a yacht for one week each year in a different location.  This is nice if you only want a boat infrequently.

Option 3 – Fractional Ownership: Another option is “fractional ownership.” Instead of a corporation owning the boat, the individuals that use the boat own the boat. They split all costs.  This gives you greater flexibility with potentially more work.

Option 4 – Netflix Model: The most interesting option is one that uses the Netflix model. This gives you unlimited access to a number of boats. You get two reservation slots. As soon as you use one, you get another. This gives everyone equal access to the boats they want, yet does not restrict how often they can be used. You are also not limited to one boat or one location, but rather have many to choose from.  The company that owns the boats maintains and cleans them. The only additional cost to the renter is fuel. The total cost per year is less than the cost of the boat slip dues. One company that offers this is the Freedom Boat Club.

There are pluses and minus to each model.  Different options will appeal to different people.  The key is to recognize that there are many ways to sell and price your products and services.

I love the Netflix model and believe that it can be applied to many different businesses. I am in the process of creating a Netflix consulting model that will give clients unlimited access to me for one monthly subscription fee. It will be designed in such a way that everyone gets equal access.

What other creative options are there for offering affordable and accessible products and services?

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