Feature Articles: Business Sense

Abraham Maslow, well known for the creation of his hierarchy of needs chart, managed to delineate in five steps all the needs of humanity. He starts with the most basic, physical needs including food, water and clothing and then progresses up through safety, love and esteem to what he calls self actualization. In the marketplace there are products to address and capitalize on these needs. Those products meeting the needs of the categories higher up on the chart can command a greater price because theoretically, they are harder to achieve. Knowing where your product is on the physical to emotional spectrum helps to direct how you communicate your product to the marketplace.

Lately I’ve been allowing my sweet tooth to make more and more of my eating decisions. Cupcakes in particular are a personal favorite. And clearly I’m not alone. The cupcake business continues to boom with new bakeshops popping up on every street corner. We certainly don’t need them to survive, so why are we consuming them at such a high rate? Obviously we’re addicted to the sugar rush, but there’s more to it. It seems the bakery industry has developed the perfect recipe for cooking up demand. And it’s time for other industries — ours included — to take note. Because let’s face it, no one needs anything brands are selling.

Wouldn’t we all like to see into the future and know exactly how successful our businesses are going to be? Forecasting sales demand is not that different than trying to forecast the weather; even when all indicators point to one likely outcome, something could happen to change everything in an instant. So what is a manager to do? Well, like most meteorologists you can hedge your forecast success with historical and present day data, and then use that information to make an educated guess.

RuffleButts / RuggedButts

There are certain brands that are considered “lifestyle” brands: Apple, Harley Davidson and Louis Vuitton for example. These brands evoke a particular image in the mind of the consumer. This image speaks to the type of person who uses these brands. We are told what they like to do, what they value and even the places they like to go. There’s no question that these companies have a delineated voice that expresses quite distinctly who they are to the public and how they relate. Not every brand has a clear voice, and those that don’t suffer for it.

For years, the symbiotic relationship between companies and unpaid interns was routine. Although they worked alongside paid employees, and often performed tasks required of the paid employees, interns were not paid, and they did not (outwardly) complain about their arrangement. Unfortunately for employers, in many cases unpaid interns are entitled to wages for the hours they work, and even more problematically, are beginning to file and participate in lawsuits to get what they are owed. Each day, employers see the effects of workers and their attorneys aggressively pursuing unpaid wages under federal and state wage and hour laws…

This time last year I told you about my adventures as a buyer (or more accurately, the plus-one to the actual buyer) at a national trade show. In “Putting Relationships at the Heart of Your Sales Strategy”, I nailed a few exhibitors to the wall for failing to remember that we buy from people we like. Well, a few weeks ago it was my turn on the other side of that scenario. So as we approach the Spring ’13 shows, I hope you find my observations constructive for your business.

HALO® Innovations
Attitude Pie

Free is good. Who doesn’t agree with that? Publicity is often perceived as free advertising, and as such is highly sought after by anyone looking to get their brand name out there. Those attempting to get media coverage, however, soon learn that it’s anything but free. Instead of paying directly for placement, as is the case with advertising, costs related to Public Relations (PR) are indirect, such as a publicist’s fee. In addition, even the best publicist can’t guarantee placement, because there are a myriad of factors that come into play when a company gets mentioned in the media.

When King Solomon was posed with an opportunity to receive anything he wanted, instead of riches or power, he chose wisdom. The King realized that wisdom was far more valuable than anything else he could have chosen. Ultimately he attained both power and riches, likely as a result of his wisdom, affording him the ability to make better decisions. Market research yields wisdom. That said, it is often overlooked either because it’s believed to be too costly or not truly necessary. Truth is, market research is one of the most important activities a company can pursue.

If you’ve been reading my columns, you already know I watch too much TV. I’ve confessed my addiction to “Shark Tank” and “All on the Line” here before. And now, I’m on a new trip: “The Pitch.” In this one, viewers travel along as two advertising agencies vie for the same client. The show isn’t perfect, but it’s a nice bit of escapism grounded in reality. During each episode, the client introduces its company and ad dilemma — like how to create one campaign to suit multiple brands or how to build excitement around a new product launch. Then it’s up to the agencies to pitch a winning idea.