An investment banker, 47, was so upset about an ongoing battle with the board of his luxury Manhattan apartment that he jumped out of the window of the seventh floor. His problems relate to his job and he and his wife’s three French poodles. Neighbours had complained about the dogs’ barking and “rambunctious, ” play in the lobby, the New York Post reported.
The jumper survived the fall when he hit a second-floor awning which broke his fall. Paramedics rushed him to the local hospital.
Asking what-if questions can help spark new ideas but you’ve got to ask the right ones. Right ones? Shouldn’t you let rip and come up with anything? Well, you might get ones like this:
What if you stand outside your house and look straight up for at least a year or so – would you appear on Google Earth?
What if you were a hotdog and you were starving, would you eat yourself?
Perhaps these what-ifs could get you thinking with a new perspective. But will they? No they won’t, I hear you say. You’re right. Why is that? Let’s see:
What-if questions help you see the ordinary in a new light, to gain new perspectives. The ideas that result from “what-if” questions are merely seeds that may spark explorations into areas that you have never thought of before. Asking “what-if” questions is unlikely to present you with a practical idea that you can implement right away.
You need to ask further questions that lead to new ideas. The initial “what-if” question is really only a springboard to get your imagination working.
Now, listen up. What comes next may surprise you:
A man ran a small service station and a restaurant outside of town on the main highway to Florida in the United States. He concocted a seasoning for fried chicken. He made a “nice living” until they changed the highway into the Interstate system and the new road bypassed his business. Colonel Harland Sanders was 66 years old, looked at his $105 Social Security cheque and decided what if he used the money to try franchise his chicken recipe. What if he were to take 5 cents from a chicken just as Mr Woolworth had built up his business with his five-and-10-cent stores?
From a simple idea – a what-if question – he launched an international fried chicken franchise that spread worldwide.
What “what-if” questions could you ask yourself?
Here are some that could get you started coming up with your own:
What if you could do something that would make your customers laugh so they feel happy buying from you?
What if you were a product, what product would you be and why?
What if you were a service, whose problems would you solve and how?
What if you were a search word on Google, what would you be?
What if your new product was a woman, what would she tell other women?
What if your competitor created your product, what would they do?
What if you could anticipate the needs of your customers before they even know it?
Try some what-if questions yourself. See how many you can come up with. It’s not as hard as you may think. Write down 20 of them and select your best three. Take these three and see how you can expand them.
For example, the first question may lead to: what if we make customers feel welcome when they make first contact with your business whether it’s off-line or on-line? What if we shipped their products so quickly to them that they felt thrilled by our service? What if we sent customers a thank you note telling them how delighted we are with their purchase and that if they have any questions or problems, they can contact us immediately? And when they do, what if we received their complaints with a smile?
To use what-if questions effectively, you need to be imaginative as possible but remember that they are merely a springboard to further questions that are relevant to your business. They can provide you with valuable insights into how you could launch new products and services and improve those that you already have.
Hooked yet on what-if questions?
Try out some of your own and see where your inspiration leads you.
What if you came up with a hot new business idea for a product or service?
Who can you trust when buying products or services online?
Sorry to sound cynical but there’s a reason:
As a buyer or consumer these days even off-line you have to be ultra careful. For example, take your credit card or ATM card. You have to watch out that no one sees your three-digit number at the back of your credit card or your pin code. In the wrong hands, you can lose a lot of money. So many people get caught. Continue reading “Four things you absolutely must know when buying online”
Recent reports reveal that small business closures are up dramatically. Publicity plays a vital role in gaining the right sort of attention for your business to keep existing customers and win over new ones.
Winning the attention of customers and prospective customers is one of the more important priorities as small businesses fight for survival in these difficult economic times. Publicity helps businesses get noticed without forking out a lot of money. Though the attractive thing about publicity is that you don’t need to invest a lot of marketing cash to get results, you need to invest your time. Doing publicity yourself involves thinking about your strategy, coming up with unusual ideas that fit your business and implementing them with consistent follow-through.
Come up with your own free, easy and low-cost promotion ideas that can help you to lift sales in a difficult economy
In this rough and tumble economy, some business people sit, like frogs in a pot immobilised with the water temperature rising. Even when the temperature hits boiling point, they remain in the pot. If the frogs suddenly stumbled into the pot of boiling water, they wouldn’t hesitate to jump right out. Why then don’t small business people react quickly when they recognize warning signs?
Many business people seem to stubbornly believe that they can rough it through the difficult economy doing business in the same familiar way, despite turnovers in some cases plummeting by a third or more. Small business has such a high mortality rate in “normal” economic conditions but when economic activity declines, the mortality rate rises.
Riding high and spending less
During the good times small business owners were riding high. They spent less on their marketing as customers walked in and bought whatever they wanted. Small business owners were spoilt as they had to do little personal selling or advertising.
Now, when times are tough and small business owners and entrepreneurs are more concerned with meeting personnel expenses and covering overheads they are even more reluctant to spend money on promotion. Yet clients and customers are holding onto their cash, waiting for times improve, hanging onto their homes, cars, computers, household appliances for longer, repairing them instead of replacing them.What should store owners and small service businesses do?
Ignore selling and promotion at your peril
Even though small business owners have seen turnovers drop many are wary of spending money on promotion. Some are trying to play it cheap by bringing in well meaning family and friends to help them promote their products and services. Other owners knuckle down on the technical areas and processes in their business, ignoring selling and promotion at their peril.Promotional ideas need to work
Little do those businesses who use retail space or have high visibility and walk-in customers realise that if they don’t do something to promote their business and lift sales, they will be forced into operating the business from home to chop overhead. Running a business from home ironically means needing to acquire a whole set of new marketing skills.
How do you go about promoting your business in a stormy economy where every cent counts? Small businesses and entrepreneurial enterprises cannot pour vast sums on vague institutional (image) advertising with no way to measure sales. Entrepreneurs need to generate sales — even when advertising in traditional print media, adverts have to be “keyed” and have special phone numbers specific to adverts. This way they can measure their advertising conversion. A small travel agent told me recently that she had a separate phone number for each advert to measure response. If the newspaper, magazine, radio or television advertising didn’t pull, it had to go.
Test, test, test
Promotional ideas that work are specific to each business and the mind or emotional triggers of their customers. Small business owners need to brainstorm ideas that they think will work for their business. Try some no-cost, low-cost ideas out first and see how they work. Remember to test, test, test. As Claude Hopkins said, “Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign.”
To get fighting fit in this economy small business owners and entrepreneurs need to focus their attention on attracting customers to their business through a variety of low-cost, no-cost promotional ideas. Idea generation techniques can be effective as can meeting with fellow business people to share and swop ideas. In the next article on www.ideaaccelerator.co.za we’ll look at tips, strategies and other ideas to promote your business. In the meantime, take a look at what your competitors are doing as well try to spot other businesses that seem to be doing well no matter how hard the harsh economic winds blow.
How much money do you leave on the table when pricing your services and expertise? Are you charging enough for your service or expertise? Do you often feel that you have over serviced clients but have been underpaid?
If any of these questions get your blood churning you might want to consider your current pricing strategy. Are all your services priced the same or do you charge different hourly or project fees for high level work? Routine work may only warrant standard industry rates but as the level of your value in your speciality rises, fees may need to be adjusted upwards. Complex, specialised work that requires a high-level of technical expertise and judgement would attract the highest hourly rate or project fee. Geographic market location, market position and size of client also have an influence.
The most audacious example of a high fee strategy in a field that requires a high level of judgement, creativity and strategic thinking I have come across is that involving a brand naming company. The agency did not particularly want the business from a client so decided to put in a bid at an outrageously high project fee. Work from similar companies was priced in the $15,000 range. The agency put in a bid for $150,000 – and won! Much is at stake when renaming a company and the company thought the highest priced solution would give them the best advice.
Times like these draw the best out of us. We need to dig deep and pull on our inner resources. Wealth and value creation take on a new importance. What are we doing to increase our sales? How much money are we leaving on the table? How can we get our products faster to market? What innovations on the backburner can we fast forward? Are our selling and promotion campaigns achieving the results we require? How can we transform our hobbies and interests into money making opportunities?
It takes more than hard work in tough times. Innovation is more important than we think. Joe Vitale points out in “The 7 lost secrets of success” that Bruce Barton, the second “B” in BBDO (the famous Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborn agency), became chairman of the board of BBDO in September 1928 when the agencies became one. The agency had 113 clients, 600 employees, and billings of $32.6 million in their first year — the first year of the Great Depression. Can you believe that? A business based on ideas making truckloads of money in the worst of times.
You may have all the best intentions in the world. You may have decided that you want to be more creative and produce more ideas to benefit your personal or business life. You may be inspired to create more ideas. Now what? You’ve got your week laid before you and have decided that you will spend a half an hour each morning to produce ideas.
Monday comes – you wake up late. Monday evening you are too tired to think creatively about generating ideas. Just as well because you can’t force creativity. Tuesday comes around and you have a meeting at eight o’clock and will to wake up half an hour early if you want to produce ideas. Perhaps you could find a quiet place with the right atmosphere to produce ideas. And so it goes.
Viewing producing ideas as some activity that you have to do at set, allocated times can be too forced, out of kilter with the inner human creative process. For those who are extremely self disciplined, it can help to allocate a set time. Creativity can’t be viewed as some add on to your life: it needs to be part of your way of living. Let me explain.
Almost anything you do every day can benefit from creative thinking. If you are planning a project, an event, a consulting proposal, a creative work such as a painting, a photographic shoot – all of these will have greater impact with pre-thinking, visualisation and imagining possibilities. You need to build creativity into important tasks in a seamless way.
With many tasks to do in a week, how can you find time to produce more creative ideas?
How do you integrate creativity into the most relevant or high impact processes where you hope to achieve amazing results? You are planning an important project. Do you just go ahead in the usual way? Perhaps you need to rethink what you’ve been doing. Is it still relevant? Does it give you maximum impact? Is it the most cost-effective way? Have you maximised the benefits for all involved? Will it make money?
By sitting down perhaps in a quiet place such as a coffee shop before you start dashing out your list of activities for your project, you could brainstorm, mindmap or perform a clustering exercise for 10 minutes. Right there, before you begin your project you can engage in a creative process. If you’re not familiar with using creativity tools like freewriting, you may not benefit from your first few attempts. Try it a few times and you could be amazed at the ideas you produce.
Why go to this trouble? With stiff competition for better, smarter and more cost-effective ways of doing things that stand out, you need to raise your game.
You can inject creativity into just about anything you do if you want superior results. Use creativity tools and techniques before you start anything important – a proposal, a sales letter, a business strategy.
Find out what works best for you. By placing creative processes at the forefront of your routine and new projects, you stand a much better chance of producing outstanding, profitable results.
1. Evaluate your projects. Make a list. Prioritise your top three projects.
2. Take your most important project and freewrite for 10 minutes on ideas to create more value. Or, if you don’t have time to look up what freewriting is all about, just list 21 ideas fast.
3. Select your best idea and include it in your project to generate greater value.