Profits with less People and more Powerful Products

From the Center for Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly supplement to Applying Strategic Relations, mailed at your request

  1. Defining the Terms
    profitability strategies
  2. In the News
    Thinning of the Management Ranks
    How Easy does your Product make your Customers Job
    Your Opinions are Desired (Secrets to Powerful Product Development)
  3. Strategic Relations Journal
  4. Shameless Self Promotion

Defining the Terms

profitability strategy

A series of specific actions taken to improve influencing factors that change profits certain period. These actions take into consideration "future market demands," cost of goods, and other contributing elements that could change the cost per transaction.

Glossary of Strategic Relations Terms

A key to understanding is know the terms used to communicate concepts or convey information. If there are any terms I use that are unclearly or used in a manner not commonly understood, please let me know and I will define the terms here. Email your questions to terminology

In the News

Thinning of the Management Ranks

The Associate Press Reports, AT&T to cut 3500 management jobs, released January 7, 2003. They missed issue 66 of the Strategic Relations Journal where I talk about tips for keeping your best employees during trying times.

AT&T's website describes the event as a "planned employee separation" while other sites around the Internet describe the event as a lay off. Sure, they are both pretty much the same thing, but how do these employees see it.

An interesting comment in the AT&T news release states:

�... The employee separations are largely the result of improved processes and automation in provisioning and maintenance of services for business customers."

One of the key reasons tools like CRM are difficult to implement is the underlying fear of individuals that they will be replaced by machines. When they see how computers make their jobs easier, one must wonder could I be completely replaced.�

The truth is that for some jobs machines can replace people. However, the even saddening fact of the matter is that people are not upgrading their own skills to maintain value in a competitive market. Look at your own career, how have things change, and how have you stayed ahead of the curve to provide value to your company.

As your company implements automation, think about how you can continue to improve the value of each employee -- not only to get more from them, but so they are not "surprised" by adjustments in your future labor force.

Traditionally it has taken few employees to perform the same tasks, as an employee, manager, or executive, you must consider this in your own personal development program. Listen to your customers needs, anticipate them, and keep your skills up.

Your relationship with yourself is one of the most important relationships in the realm of eight. How do you see your future, how are you going to stay ahead of change, and how will you make your life better for it.

[The theme of this segment is (a) automation only replaces employees who do not improve themselves enough to remain valuable to a company, and (b) look at your personal relationship to determine what you can do to improve your value.]

How Easy does your Product make your Customers Job

When your customer can use your product to make their job better, they need to know about it. Consider it your responsibility to every potential customer to educate them on how, why, and where your product can improve their business life. I recently had the experience with Bacon�s Media Source Internet, a product that provides access to lists of media editors, writers, and reporters.

This experience was profound, yet disappointing, even frustrating for me as a businessperson. For years, I have collected media lists by hand. At times my staff would spend hours updating lists before doing marketing work for clients, or promoting my own products. Spending thousands of dollars a year maintain my own lists was an accept part of doing business.

Are there places in your business where you do something because you think you have to do it? Maybe you have never considered looking anywhere else because though the process was difficult, your people handled it over time. I have even seen cases where people were defensive when someone came along trying to "out source" or replace that part of your business.

Now imagine someone came along and over time educated you about the real costs of doing what you do, the way you do it. Perhaps they educated you that processes outside your core business actually increase your overhead and take skills away from customer service. If you can tell your customers, what your business does for them in terms relevant to their hidden pains -- you will get their attention.

I have heard of media list services, I have seen Publicists that would do what I have done in house -- but I was hesitant to consider them because I felt my staff could do a better jobs. They have been doing it that way for years, which is the way we have always maintained media lists! (I never considered the real costs.)

Greg Perry of Bacons provided a demonstration of the product. First, they asked me about what I was already doing. They took a unique approach asking me was my method working, or did I see anything that could improve my own process. They built a relationship with me as someone experiencing pain.

After Greg listened to my needs, he then walked me through the process of solving my problems in an education-based presentation -- not a sales pitch. Not only did I realize my "old ways of doing things" was costing me much more than an outside service, I could figure it out for myself.

Many times when you show people how inefficient they are, their negative feelings reinforce what they are doing and closes out your opportunity to serve them. When you show a prospect (a) how to know if current processes are inefficient and (b) help them articulate what they feel can improve the situation, they will determine on their own that they need to change. Where can you help your customers know the difference between their current baseline and the value you could provide them -- without showing their weaknesses?

Bill Stoller, a publicity insider who has worked for the likes of Hasbro and Coca-Cola, referred me to Bacon. I have known this type of service existed, but it took time for me to be ready to look at it. The trigger was Bill's recommendation reinforced by his Newsletter.

Look at ways you can educate, and then trigger prospective customers to act. Bill has gained my good will because he triggered my action and Bacon's wins because their people found out what my needs were first, then presented the product from prospective. Very quickly, I realized I was burning time that I spend with my clients -- I was wasting energy building media lists instead of writing articles, or doing consulting work.

When you first educate your prospect in ways that helps them find their own faults, you can then trigger their action without offense. Where can you do this for your business?

Your Opinions are Desired (Secrets to Powerful Product Development)

I am putting together a third edition of my How to Gain More Profits by Cultivating Your Best Customers and need your opinions on the current addition. In fact, I will give you a copy of the current edition if you promise to give me your honest and critical feedback.

That is right, I want you to pick it apart and tell me how I can improve the report to better suite your needs.

Now why would I want you to do this? Have you ever had a product that got good feedback from those who have purchased it, but does not really sell as many units as it could? I have found that the fastest way to increase sales is to improve the product.

That is right, more marketing or efforts in sales do not ever sell something that is not pulling demand. In addition, it costs less to improve something than it does to ramp up a sales force.

This strategy works for virtually every type of product or services available, if, and only if, you do one thing. That one thing that will make the difference in fixing or breaking what you already have.

Some companies change their products only to find it makes it worse. Just because a focus group or your product development wizards say it is a good idea, does not mean it will sell in the market place.

The one thing you must do, which I am doing here, is get all the feedback as possible from real customers. Those people who actually buy and use your products are the individuals who will produce the most valid feedback. Remember, it is only your product when nobody buys it.

If you have not already read "Growing your Product with the Customer in Mind,� if you are a Journal subscriber you can follow the link at the bottom of the article where I go into more details. The key is -- work directly with your customer and improve your products so they had better serve their needs.

So I ask you now, if you will send me an email with your name, title, and fax number; I'll email you a copy of the second edition, then send you a fax next month with a special URL you can use to get a copy of the third edition. Send your request to me at Justin (a) (please turn around your feedback before close of business Monday to qualify.)

I appreciate your opinions in these areas:

The individual who provides the most useful (length and detail) comments will receive a gift -- in addition to the next draft! Send your request today; I am looking forward to your feedback.

Have you seen a news story that I may find interesting as it pertains to strategic relations? Does your company have a story about results with strategic relations? I'd like to hear about it. Email me at feedback-newsletter

Strategic Relations Journal

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Shameless Self Promotion

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