Monday, June 20, 2011

A Quick Way to Do Basic Market Research

In many situations, we tend to swing to one extreme or the other of the market research scale. Either we skip this step altogether, or we get so mired down in research that we lose sight of why we’re doing it. Here’s a solution that works well for lots of situations.

One problem with asking people what they would or would not like, buy, or champion is they don’t know. Until the opportunity arises to actually make a purchasing or other commitment-level decision, their views may be skewed.

Given this reality, a great way to accomplish effective market research in many cases is to offer a product or service in a live, but limited, situation. Depending on the nature of the product or service, production may even happen after this test is complete. Let me share a simple example from a real-life test I helped a client with a number of years ago.

This client made organizers for garages that included shelves, cupboards, closets, countertops, and so on. He wanted to ramp up to get into this business in a big way, but wasn’t sure if the market would support his vision. He had completed a couple of jobs on a word-of-mouth basis, but didn’t want to dive in without more substantiating research, so he came to me.

This guy was sharp, and had completed some of his own digging into how to conduct market research. He had a pretty good plan. When we looked at the time and expense of implementing the plan, however, he became discouraged. Then I shared this approach:

We created a half-page flyer describing his product and showing pictures of the two jobs he had completed. We made an easy call-to-action of a no-cost initial bid which included rough plans and put his phone number as the contact vehicle. We then made 250 copies, which yielded 500 half-page flyers. He and his family stapled rubber bands to the corners of the flyers and distributed them to homes that fit his target. In one day of distributing flyers he got two jobs--more than enough to warrant moving forward. (I might note that instead of telling him to go full throttle based on this initial outcome, I suggested he continue to distribute flyers while he completed these two jobs and let the business grow naturally and according to market demand.)

One of the beauties of simple marketing vehicles like this (another one I’ve seen good results from is free online classified ads) is that you can turn the prospect faucet up and down in volume according to need. Just make sure to consider sales cycle time frames and work ahead of your need.

Of course, this isn’t an answer for all businesses. And it shouldn’t be your company’s only marketing activity, even if it works well (because markets and response rates change). But this approach, or a similar one you devise with your team’s help, can turn market research activities into profit centers instead of expenses while taking the anxiety out of wondering if a product or service will be accepted by your audience.

Here’s to your profitable market research success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Best Way to Build a Network of Advocates

Those who know me know I’m an avid networker. I love to mingle with other business people. I enjoy the intellectual stimulation. The sharing of ideas by the amazing people I get to meet starts my mind racing. Best of all is hearing others’ success stories. Networking has played a huge part in my own success. Here’s why…

Networking is about everyone BUT ‘me.’ You read that right. The best way to build a network of advocates is to become one ourselves before we expect anyone to reciprocate.

The Rule of 2

To help me remember this truth, I developed a simple rule for myself a number of years ago. I call it “The Rule of 2.” This means every time we find ourselves in a networking situation, we look for two people we can benefit within the next two or three days. Sometimes this means we can send a good client referral their way. Other times there may be a strategic alliance opportunity we can help connect. And sometimes it’s just a matter of taking a little time to drop into a person’s place of business and/or study their website so we can become of value in sending the right people and resources their way. Easy, right? It’s just a matter of making it part of our calendars following an event.

I had to smile as I sat down to write this today, because in my email was an annual thanks-for-being-my-best-friend message from a guy I don’t even remember meeting. I got a similar message last year as well and talked about it then (if not on my blog, at least to some of my audiences). He starts out by saying I’m receiving his email because we do business together and he wants to ‘personally’ thank me. I’ve never done business with this guy. Then he goes on to say his fiscal year is ending in a couple of weeks and tells me exactly how I can benefit him by sending him the right kind of prospect who is hot and ready to sign on.

The interesting part to me is that last year I took quite a bit of time (two hours or so, as I recall) in a carefully crafted reply aimed at helping this lost soul understand the shortcoming in his approach. I do believe I got an email back that said, “Thanks for your reply,” but that’s about it. Apparently what I had to say didn’t help him much. I haven’t heard one word from this person in a year, and now I’m stuck with the decision of whether I ask to be taken off his list, or continue to watch with morbid curiosity.

The bottom line is this: If our approach to networking and staying in touch with those we meet through our networking activities takes the angle of, “Here’s what you can do for me…,” we’re missing the boat. Intent listening, meaningful follow-up, and an eye toward what we can do for others will always trump the slickest pitch or the greatest deal we might be able to offer others. It’s all part of the abundance mentality.

If you operate in a state of abundance, looking at how you can benefit others first, you may be a good fit for The Abundance Group, an organization that facilitates small, local, live gatherings of business people who know (or are open to learning) the right way to build a network of advocates. In keeping with the theme of this group, membership is complimentary. If you’re not a member, take a look at by clicking here. If you are a member already, thank you for being part of this new team of service-oriented decision-makers and leaders. We’re excited to take this highly effective networking tool to the world.

Best wishes in all your endeavors to build your network of advocates by serving the needs of others first.

Here’s to your networking success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Crowning Leadership Quality

Regardless of the type of company or organization we’re building, effective leadership is an absolute must. And there is a crowning leadership quality that sets the best leaders apart from the rest. I was reminded of that this weekend as I ran into an old friend and mentor.

I’ve served in the same operational position of two different geographic chapters of a large service organization. My first experience was under the direction of the gentleman I referred to above--a dynamic leader with a clear view of our objectives and superior results in achieving our prescribed goals. When I say “dynamic” you probably picture a high-energy person who pumps everyone up and gets the adrenaline flowing. Actually, that’s not the case at all.

This man is a relatively quiet, reserved individual who actually says very little. So why would I call him a dynamic leader? What makes him so effective? I’ve always known the answer to this, but it was reconfirming to hear him validate my beliefs during our brief conversation.

When I approached and greeted him, I could see in his expression that he recognized my face, but could not quite place me. We haven’t seen each other for over six years. I reminded him of our association. The light bulb instantly went on, and his already pleasant smile grew into the warm, friendly one I had seen so many times before.

He instantly asked about my family and how life was treating me. He shared a memory of our working together. I told him my experience under his mentorship had served me well, and that I hadn’t seen the kind of results in my subsequent involvement with the other division of this group, due to its bureaucratic nature, that I had seen under his direction. He smiled, and, looking me straight in the eye, said three simple words that sum up the quality I had always respected in him that I knew was his secret to success: “I love people.” The sincerity in his eyes spoke volumes and took me back to so many situations under his mentorship in which I learned to see people first and put processes and policies in their place as secondary support systems to help others achieve their goals and dreams. He taught me that the path to a winning public image and meaningful social standing isn’t the pursuit of such status as politically crafted destinations, but rather natural outcomes to focusing on helping others achieve their aspirations and always seeing the good in them and what they have to offer.

I walked away from this recent encounter walking on air, as I had dozens of times during the years of our prior association. As I recollected the energy with which our team worked together to serve, envisioning the countless hours of collaboration, planning, and execution of many activities and efforts directed at improving the lives and situations of our organization’s members, it was once again confirmed to me that among all the attributes and skills necessary for effective leadership, the crowning quality of truly effective leaders is a genuine love for those they lead. I appreciate the recharge I received from this chance meeting with this most extraordinary mentor and leader and hope you’ll find similar value in this message.

Here’s to your leadership success!

Bryan Waldon Pope

You can become a leader in your own local business networking organization with a no-cost membership to The Abundance Group. This is real business networking for real business people who understand the power of serving others' needs first. Get all the details at