You’ve probably heard the question asked, “Why are manhole covers round?” Answers vary from the obvious (“because manholes are round”) to the more obscure. Wikipedia offers several possibilities. My personal favorites?
- A round manhole cover cannot be accidentally dropped into the round hole it covers.
- The circular shape makes the heavy covers easier to roll.
- Round castings are easier to machine lathe than those of another shape and less expensive to produce in a size wide enough for a person to fit through.
- The round shape makes it easy to replace an open cover without having to line up the corners.
- A round tube holds up better against the earth’s compression surrounding it than a shape with corners would.
If I were to guess, I’d say it’s probably a combination of all these things (and maybe more) that made round manholes and manhole covers so popular.
Which brings me around to marketing.
Like a manhole cover, the best shape for your company’s marketing is also round. More to the point, the best approach to your marketing is a well-rounded one. Just as the reasons for using a round manhole cover are many and varied, so too are the reasons for choosing each specific element in your marketing plan. The big difference? In marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all.
As you consider new marketing opportunities for your company — and reexamine existing channels you’re not sure are still working as effectively as before — ask yourself, “How well does this approach fit with my overall marketing plan?” If the answer is “not very well” or the reasons you come up with for trying it aren’t very sound, you know where that idea should go: straight into the file shaped like a manhole cover.
You have seen them. In subway or BART stations, at the movie theater displaying coming attractions, in sports arenas with the logos of big name sponsors, but did you know you can have one in your own home or business? Yes! It’s very possible. They are known as “Light Boxes” or “Back Lit Displays”. There is of course an upfront cost, but you shouldn’t look at it that way. It’s more of an investment. For your business, it’s a constantly changing marketing tool. The frame itself is a one time buy and the interchangeable films are very affordable (especially @ PrintPapa.com) and can last up to 3 years outdoors. They can be used for everything from bright window signage for businesses open after dark to in-store displays and POP signage. Example? Now let’s say you aren’t a business owner, but just want some unique artwork to place in your home. Why not get your favorite movie poster printed on a backlit film for your in-home theater or Den. Maybe your favorite painting or family portrait, backlit over the fireplace. There are tons of applications and ways you can use the “Light Box“. Brighten your business or your home, it’s just a good idea.
Anyone that has been to a trade show or convention can tell you that they’ve seen the vertical banners and Banner Stands. The truth is, times are changing and people are finding new and creative ways to use the Banner Stand. When you think about it, they are a little more versatile than your conventional horizontal hanging banners. Why, you ask? Well, imagine if you will 2 store fronts. Store A has a hanging banner that stays stationary and never moves. On the other hand, store B has a Banner Stand that they can move around daily and even place further away from the store to gain more viability. Store B is able to bring their banner inside as well and use it for in-store POP (Point of Purchase). Don’t misunderstand, the conventional banners have their place, but the banner stand is an excellent way to reinvent the banner. Book signings, art displays, birthdays, special events…the list goes on and on.
The business annals are filled with examples of successful (and not so successful) collaborations. Many of the innovations we take for granted today are the result of individuals and organizations coming together to work toward a common goal. If your company is considering a collaboration (even internally between departments), here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Start with a common goal, and make sure all parties understand it. Outline your plan, and decide up front who will be responsible for which aspects of the project.
- Spell out your expectations, key deliverables, and a timetable for completion. That way, everyone will start on the same page.
- Establish trust… and work to maintain it. Without trust, information will not flow freely, and if that happens, the collaboration is doomed. Starting with common goals and expectations (see above) will go a long way to building trust, as will delivering on the promises you make.
- Of course, building trust doesn’t mean compromising security. When collaborating with another company or with individuals outside your company, share only information that is vital to the project at hand. This will serve two purposes: First, it will save time that could be wasted getting into details that are irrelevant to the work. Second, it will eliminate leaks that could damage one collaborator’s position.
- Along those same lines, have all parties involved sign non-disclosure agreements, as a legal safeguard to ensure everyone has the project’s best interest in mind. Obviously, this is not necessary for internal collaborations, but when working with outside parties, an NDA can keep everybody protected.
- Let each collaborator focus on their strengths. In successful collaborations, each party brings its own strengths and skillsets to the table. Trouble starts when egos get wounded and collaborators are unwilling to give up control of certain aspects of the project. A well-defined and documented plan, like the one outlined above, will help.
- Keep in close touch with your superiors. If you’re representing your company in a collaboration, let your supervisors know how things are progressing. Keep them in the loop, so they can step in when necessary to help ensure the project remains on track.
What other tips or examples do you have to share from your own collaborations or from collaborations you’ve seen? I’d love to read about them in the comments below.
Few of us enjoy making cold calls, but for many salespeople cold calling is inevitable. Here are six tips to help warm your next cold call:
- Don’t make the cold call your first point of contact. Instead, start with a letter or email. Introduce yourself, your company, and the products or services you provide. Explain the benefits the prospect will gain from working with you, and let them know you will be following up with a phone call to set up an appointment to talk.
- Or the last. Don’t jump right into a sales pitch on your first cold call and expect to close a sale. Respect the person’s time, their schedule, and the fact that your call was not on that schedule before you made it. Ask if this is a good time to talk. If it isn’t, suggest times when you could call back, or offer to meet in person if that will work better for the prospect.
- Do your homework. Find out ahead of time who you should be contacting at a prospective company. Learn what you can about their business and how your solution can best fit their needs.
- Prepare an outline. Have some idea what you want to say before you make your call. Start with a script if that makes you comfortable, but try not to make it sound too mechanical or forced. Relax as best you can and try to be yourself. Your preparation and earlier contact should help.
- Ask questions. Don’t do all the talking. Instead, introduce yourself, and then ask the prospect about their company and the role they play in it. Listen carefully to their responses. Work to build a rapport and connect with them one-on-one.
- Follow up. As your call wraps up, try to set a time to meet face-to-face or over the phone again. After hanging up, send another email, thanking the person for their time, and reminding them of any future appointments you made. If they had questions you were unable to answer on the spot, find those answers and pass them along as quickly as possible. And create a schedule of regular follow-up activity to help you stay front-of-mind.
So what other advice do you have for warming up cold calls? I’d love to hear your suggestions and success stories in the comments below.
Every year, Cub Scout packs across the U.S. hold pinewood derby races. In Canada, Cub Scouts take part in a similar event, known as the kub kar rally. In both events (and others like them), the idea is simple. Participants are given a block of wood, four plastic wheels, and four small nails to use as axles. They can fashion their cars pretty much any way they want, as long as they meet the guidelines for the race. Weights are added, and the cars are raced down a track, with gravity as the only source of power.
As you might imagine, designs and color schemes run the gamut. Some scouts will create traditional-looking race cars, while others will add their own creative flair. As racers line up, it’s hard to imagine that all those cars started out exactly alike, as simple blocks of wood.
In business, many companies start out with similar sets of raw materials or similar product lines. Some focus on creating flashy or innovative designs and marketing campaigns that help them stand out from the crowd. Others focus on the basics, like making sure the axles and wheels are sanded smooth and properly lubricated with graphite, to ensure an optimal ride. Still others strive to distribute the weight properly, to maximize efficiency and make sure the right people are doing the right jobs that best suit their skills.
And the best companies? You guessed it. They do all three.
So, while the business world may not always run on a nice, smooth track — and the playing field is not always level — with the right preparation and some good, old-fashioned hard work, your company can win the day.