Archives for business strategy

The Slut, The Politician and The Broken Record…..Which Type of Entrepreneur are You?

South Park Business Strategy: Step 1, Steal the Underpants. Then Step 2. Step 3, we're rich!

The South Park Business Strategy: The gnomes in the cartoon TV show South Park outlined their business plan. First, they steal the underpants. Then there's step 2. At step 3, they are rich! Who else is missing step 2, just like the gnomes?

Any athlete out there understands the fine art of ‘finishing’. You can run the best mile splits of your life, but if you forget to cross the finish line, you won’t win the race. You can end the first half up 100 points, but if you don’t come back after half time, the game will be forfeited. No matter what you do in life, if you don’t finish, your hard work along the way will never truly be appreciated.

Unfortunately, I see many entrepreneurs who, for one reason or another, become stuck halfway through the race.  Instead of crossing the finish line, they end up wandering perpetually around mile 15 of their business development marathon.  All entrepreneurs have their unique strengths and weaknesses. Like athletes, they must understand where they are vulnerable and put mechanisms in place to prevent those weak points from throwing their business success over a cliff.

Although all entrepreneurs are slightly different, I’ve found there are three main camps that have the hardest time turning their ideas into viable businesses:

The Slut: This person has jumped into bed with more ideas than a Las Vegas hooker. They simply love ideas, and each month they become captivated with a new AMAZING one. Each new idea is ‘The One’ and will be described as the most ‘incredible’, ‘ground breaking’, ‘hot’ and ‘exciting’ idea to ever have been conceived. All their energy, attention and money will be poured into this new idea until sadly one day………….wait for it……………they find a new, hotter idea, and abandon all of their previous hard work to pursue this latest, even more AMAZING, concept.

The Good? They really do have some great thoughts, plus they are so passionate they can easily pull others in to help move things forward and create even more excitement.

The Bad? They will never take things far enough to turn an idea into a business. Perhaps it’s a fear that if they really evaluate the feasibility of their concept, they’ll end up finding out something they don’t want to know. Sluts also tend to dislike dealing with logistics and some of the other less ethereal aspects of creating a business. Continuing to have idea after idea allows them to sit in a bit of a safe zone. They don’t ever accomplish anything, but they don’t experience the pain of failing either.

The Politician: Full of grandiose talk, but not much substance, they have one clear concept they want to push forward, and they’ll talk to anyone who will listen, trying to get them on board. They may end up with a great network to assist in the creation of a business, but not enough actual meat to their concept to do much with it. They either have a lack of knowledge about how to fill in the details, or a lack of understanding that there are details that need to be filled in.

The Good? These folks are great communicators and salespeople; they can easily develop the network needed for business success, and therefore possess a huge amount of potential.

The Bad? They don’t know what they don’t know (and they may not know how to figure that out). Talk will only get you so far. Eventually, people need to see something that is defensible, fleshed out and complete. Normally, the politician has been successful in another type of career. Thus, they think they know what they are doing, but have no knowledge of how to put  an actual business together.   ‘Creating’ a business and ‘operating’ a business are two very different things.

The Broken Record: Stuck on the same chorus over and over again, this entrepreneur is the opposite, in many ways, to the slut and the politician. They stick ad naseum with one idea (even it if is a bad one) and agonize over little details without paying any attention to the big picture

The Good? They do realize that a business can’t be created unless you understand and work out the (sometimes sticky) details.

The Bad? Their focus is misdirected. They don’t realize that although it is true that details matter, they must be analyzed within the context of the larger vision.

None of these people will ever create a successful business. They might have great ideas, but they are clueless as to how to get to finish line. You don’t need to know it all as an entrepreneur, but you do need to understand your own bad habits. Figure out what is holding you back, and get out of the way of your own success.

Portrait of Laura K PetrolinoLaura Petrolino is Managing Director of Flying Pig Communications, a communications and business consulting firm which focuses on the needs of startups, small business and non-profits. She also serves as Chief Communications Officer at Ignite Venture Partners, which brings together consulting, capital and concept incubation to build value in businesses of all sizes and in all stages, and across industries.


Find her on twitter @lkpetrolino and @365startups

Laura is a great writer and a great advisor.  Be sure to check out her blog!

ping your podcast

Top 3 Online Tools You Need to Track Your Social Media Growth

Tracking your Social Media

Do you know how to track your social media?

Social media is becoming increasingly important as a way for businesses to connect with buyers, prospects, and the market. As social media grows, it will become critical for businesses to brand themselves and build relationships as part of the sales and marketing process. Social media marketing can be a great way for brands to start conversations with their users, but it can also be a time suck. It’s very important for businesses to understand what it is that they want to track and how social media fits into their overall business strategy.

Facebook Insight

Facebook Insights is an excellent free analytics tool built right into Facebook that allows you to track trends among your fans and see how they are interacting with your page. Insights is split into two main sections: users and interactions.

Users give you lots of basic demographic information about your fans, as well as show top referrers to your page.

Interactions can be a real goldmine, offering deep analytics into the updates you’ve made to your page and how users have interacted with it.

You can see which content has been most popular and which tanked, which helps understand what fans like to see on your page. Site owners with Like buttons on their sites can use Insights to see how many people saw the button, clicked on it, and how they got to the page.

Social Mention

Social Mention is a real-time search engine for social media. It’s a great tool for tracking buzz about your firm, product, or launch through Twitter, Facebook, forums, blogs, and other social media sites. A widget shows statistics over time like number of retweets, unique authors, as well as twists like the relative passion of the sentiment about your brand. Social media stats are broken down by content type, so you can see where the most attention is coming from. You can also sign up for emails to alert you whenever a keyword comes up in social content.

Not only is the world’s most popular url shortening tool, it is also an excellent way to use analytics to track link clicks and user behavior. This kind of information would usually not be available if the link were to a social site or to one on which you didn’t have access to the analytics software. However, creating a account gives you access to its full-fledged analytics suite, showing top referrers, historical data, and more. You can use their shortening service without having an account, but then you’d be missing out on all that analytical goodness.


Social media tracking is important. This list is only to get you thinking about how your business uses social media and how you can begin to track all those tweets and blog mentions. It’s important to analyze the data once you’ve gotten it. If social media isn’t directly helping your bottom line, it may be time to re-think your strategy. Above all, use your analytics to better engage and interact with your audience.

Ashyia Hill is a social media advocate at the small business credit cards comparison website, CreditDonkey.  Do you have any social media analytics tools that have helped you grow your business? Let us know in the comments!

War, the Marketing Strategy

Sun Tzu The Art of War

What is your strategy?

There is often a parallel between business strategies and war strategies. Many of the same rules apply in both business and combat. Reaching your customer requires a concise strategy that includes all available resources, from email marketing to direct contact. The business is, after all, competing against all other suppliers of goods and services within its field. One is chosen because of an indelible first impression and continued excellence. How can a business survive and maintain a sustainable competitive advantage within these environments?

Old School — Sun Tzu versus von Clausewitz

The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and On War by Carl von Clausewitz are two profound works illuminating military strategy. Sun Tzu relies on specific battle axioms that are to be followed regardless of the situation, while von Clausewitz emphasizes the genius of adapting to circumstances.

Business follows both strategies. There are fixed maxims for both defensive and offensive tactics. It is the creative mind, however, that can visualize and measure approaching trends that influence consumer behavior.

Broad Strategy

Michael Porter’s Strategies are often considered when developing strategic plans, but they are generic by nature and intended to serve as starting points rather than conclusions. All are geared toward the highly coveted “sustainable competitive advantage” that bestows the needed edge against the competition:

  • Cost Leadership: Price is king. This strategy is characterized by targeting price-sensitive customers who are looking for the best deal. This is by far the hardest for any new entrant to succeed in, given the retail giants (Wal-Mart, Meijer, Target, etc.) that already dominate the market.
  • Differentiation: Value is king. This strategy emphasizes the value of the product as perceived by each customer. The product itself is priced higher as a result of this perception. Most differentiated companies employ multiple product lines in order to meet demand, and therefore can measure the mood of the buyer through sales of the strongest product. The danger in this strategy is  that costs incurred during the branding process have to be recouped, and products must be innovated continuously in order to stay ahead of the competition.
  • Niche: Focus is king. Most businesses are not retail giants, and therefore must focus on a particular customer segment through their product or service. The danger with this strategy comes with extreme focus; the company pursues too narrow a niche and raises the chances that the need for the product or service will disappear. Tastes and trends change, it is smart to be ready for that shift.

The business axiom associated with Porter’s Strategies is “Do not get stuck in the middle”.  Simply put, a business needs to pick a strategy so that its resources will be focused. No business, especially in this economy, is made of money. A weak or non-existent strategy will waste monies that, if concentrated, could have a lasting brand effect. This being said, there are no rules to say that strategies cannot be changed or blended.

While there are specific rules that govern the battlefield of business, the true collective genius of a company is reflected in its ability to adapt during the battle. Businesses flank each other, maneuver into better positions, gain high ground, and die. The difference between a mortal wound and a flesh wound can be the position in which a company puts itself and how it maneuvers on the field.

In a limited economy where resources are scarce and customers are few, utilizing a strategy and predicting trends goes hand-in-hand with survival. If managed correctly, survival can be translated into success, and success into a win that by definition equals a sustainable competitive advantage.

Joseph Baker’s business experience in management spans more than 15 years. A leader of development and management teams, he also implemented budget reductions professionally and as an independent contractor. Joseph led strategic planning and systems of implementation for nine organizations, public and private, and worked extensively with small businesses.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.

Kim Kardashian Crowdsurfs Twitter as a Business Strategy

Kim Kardashian in a big feathery dressLast week I was drinking my morning coffee when I saw a brief interview on the Today Show with Kim Kardashian.  Matt Lauer was talking to her about her personal brand-based empire. Though they did not focus on it, Kim shared that she often crowdsurfed Twitter to make both personal and business decisions.

In case you are not sure who Kim Kardashian is, she is the star of the reality TV show “Keeping up with the Kardashians”.  If that didn’t answer your question (I know it didn’t for me), she is the daughter of Kris and Robert Kardashian. Her father, Robert, is a prominent defense attorney.  Her parents divorced and later her mom married Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner.  She has 9 siblings; 3 from her mom, 4 from Bruce and 2 from Bruce and her mom.  Her family dynamic contributed to getting the reality show. But Kim is a PR maven. Like Paris Hilton, she is another person who has managed to become famous just for being famous.

Though Kim did not rely on her fame as a basis of success, she has created a very successful business. Starting off as a fashion stylist, she and her sister opened up a clothing store called DAS. She has also launched that into a high end fashion line in conjunction with fashion house Bebe; an Armenian-inspired jewelry line;  a shoe company (; a fitness DVD, and most recently her own brand of perfume.

In the interview, Kim mentioned that she is often indecisive and will ask her Twitter followers for their opinion, whether it be about what color nail polish she should use or design concepts for the bottle for her new perfume.  She said that involving her followers made her more accessible. It allows them to relate to her more easily and feel like they are a part of what she is doing.

This is the key. Crowdsurfing is great for gathering opinions and thoughts, but it is also an excellent way to allow people to feel that they are playing a role in your decisions.  It keeps your audience involved and turns them into active participants. However, if you ask your followers for their thoughts and opinions and then completely ignore them, you will have accomplished the opposite of what you set out to do. If you are not actually interested in people’s opinions, then don’t ask.

Below is the short video interview from the Today Show – enjoy.

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My Business IS Personal: Emotional Involvement and Success

A woman with her arms in the air feeding seagullsNew business ventures are extremely personal. It doesn’t really matter what your business is, because in the beginning it is all you. The success or failure of any enterprise is dependent on what you do.

When we start something, be it a big project, a company, a new division or a partnership, it is very exciting. In part what makes it so exhilarating is that it is so close to us. People joke about the term “brain child” but this could not be closer to the truth.

Once you decide to let your venture take form and become more than thoughts and ideas, it becomes susceptible to the critiques, opinions and influences of the outside world. As it takes form you clarify your vision; you begin to define it and refine it. But the refining process has to happen out in the open. You have to begin working on it before you are able to truly see all the steps and developments that are needed. This means that your growing pains are happening in public view.

For some the next scary step is taking this brain baby that is still fresh and not fully developed to a financier and essentially asking, do you find me worthy? If they do then they give you the money necessary to grow your venture into something with real potential. Or at least that is how we feel about it. We internalize such things as financial investment as a judgment on the worthiness of ourselves and our ideas.

The first investment in your business is an emotional one. The first successes raise you up –  your work is validated and you feel the elation of being on the right path. But criticisms can send you down to a new level of feeling bad. You question what you are doing. Question how and why you are doing it.  This whole process is an emotional roller coaster where the highs are amazing and the lows are devastating.

The emotional involvement we have in our ventures is what gives us the drive to work crazy hours and commit 200% to make something work. However,  that same emotional enngagement can also hold us back.  What feeds our drive and passion gives us doubt and insecurity on the flip side.

At the beginning our emotional attachments are central to our drive, but at some point they can become detrimental.  Once you truly make the commitment, though, there is no point in questioning the decision. Honestly, it is more than just saying, “I’m doing this!” It’s saying, “I’m doing this, and signing this, and certifying this.” Essentially you are in it. Embrace it.

The challenge is to use this energy to drive you forward, but recognize that at the beginning you have no emotional separation between yourself and your venture. Every reaction, judgment, success and pitfall gets internalized as a comment on you and your ability to achieve your goals. To be successful we need our emotional drive, but we also have to be able to separate ourselves when the time is right.  This is your business, not an economic-based effigy of yourself. Ultimately, your self worth is not contingent on the success of your ventures.

For me, understanding this makes creating that separation easier.