The Only Solution

It was literally unheard of a decade ago, yet today it is fast on it’s way to becoming America’s NUMBER ONE cold remedy!

How has this simple, non-prescription product become such an overnight sensation?
Victoria Knight-McDowell spent years brewing herbs and swallowing vitamin cocktails to ward off students’ bacteria, but the second-grade teacher couldn’t vanquish one of the world’s most common plagues.

She refined her herbal-vitamin remedies throughout the 90s, and she experimented on herself and her family. After nearly two years without a cold, she realized she had come up with the proper ingredients for her potion. She called it Airborne and managed to sell it to a local drug store on consignment! Airborne is now sold at Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Trader Joe’s and just about any self-respecting retailer.

How has this unknown product risen from relative obscurity in one of the most competitive product categories in marketing?

By using the sixth rule of attraction… “Don’t be a better option, become the only solution.”

Mrs. McDowell didn’t create a BETTER option to other cold remedies. She literally formulated what was perceived as the ONLY solution to stopping the spread of airborne illness! Her solution is not just unique it is exclusive in several ways:

First, the product was initially marketed specifically to those who travel or often find themselves in public places. No herbal, vitamin or pharmaceutical product ever made a claim to such a tightly confined audience.

Second the product is aptly named so that it exclusively addresses this particular market segment… Airborne (as in “airborne” bacteria). This is quite simple and easy to remember.

Finally the formulation of the product itself is not only unique but quite exclusive. Airborne is the world’s first effervescent cold tablet. The marketing is built right into the product!

Think about this simple product and how they managed to win in such a fierce competitive arena. What can you do to make your product or service EXCLUSIVE? How can you aim your solution at a not a larger audience but rather a SMALLER market? How can you re-engineer you product or service to be “effervescent” – that is have a twist that makes it completely different than any of your competitors? Finally what can you do to build your marketing right into your product so that you are seen as the ONLY option in a sea of copycats?

For more information on how you can leverage the Rules of Attraction to gain greater market advantage go to

Have a great week! –Mark Deo

Setting Ourselves Apart

Remember the star of the old TV series, Wyatt Earp? Hugh O’Brian was his name but he has a greater claim to fame than being do-gooder Marshall Earp. That is the organization that he established in 1958 called HOBY. HOBY is a youth leadership development program. Every year HOBY accepts only ONE sophomore from every high school in the world to participate in a world leadership conference.

I was honored to speak at the Los Angeles Annual meeting this weekend and I can’t tell you how exciting and rewarding it was to work with these kids – (see some photos of the conference – WOW! Talk about enthusiasm!). These are our future leaders and I am proud to say that we are in GREAT hands. My presentation was on entrepreneurship. We created what is called “the management game.” This is classic business game theory at work. Teams of nine students are formed and they are asked to create a new product, develop a marketing strategy, present it to the board and then perform a 2-minute commercial promoting their product or service.

My presentation focused on how the teams could differentiate their products and services. I talked about I.P.S. This acronym is a great way to remember how to differentiate your company, product and service and create marketing attraction. It stands for: Integration, Personalization, and Scarcity.

Today traditional advertising and marketing is more expensive and less effective than ever before. People are numb to sales pitches and they have a very short span of attention. Integrated marketing solutions help us to build the marketing right into the product itself. Think of Hotmail when they first began nearly a decade ago… When you sent someone a message using Hotmail, they received an invitation to join themselves. The marketing was built right into the product. Even more relevant today is Now with nearly 80 million members you can configure to automatically send information to everyone in your address book if you like. That means that everyone in your sphere of influence knows what’s happening in your life. That’s super connectivity!

Personalization is all around us in marketing today. How about the way that Scion automobiles have created thousands of choices for car buyers? It is probably the most customizable automobile ever built. Virtually EVERYTHING can be changed, type of body style, interior, exterior, sound, wheels finish, trim, etc. This allows buyers to truly personalize their Scion. All kinds of products and services are personalizing these days. I went to get ice cream recently (that means another hour on the treadmill). It was a place I’ve never been – Cold Stone ice cream. I was amazed at the way they have build personalization into the product. At Cold Stone, you create your own personal desert. You pick the ice cream, tell them how you want it prepared, the toppings and they mix them right into the ice cream. This all happens right in front of you in minutes.

ScarcityFinally, scarcity is another powerful marketing tactic that can be employed. Think about how many products have incorporated scarcity into their marketing. Apple’s I-pod when it first came out. The Xbox 360 – some kids waited in a line overnight just to be the first to get the product when it was released. Motorola decided to build demand for the Razr phone when it was first released by manufacturing only a very limited quantity.

Often times these three methods of marketing are counter-intuitive. We think that we should homogenize our product and design it for as many people as possible. Yet this is counter to I.P.S. and the Rules of Attraction. My advice to you is to think about ways that you can use these methods to create demand with your own company, product and services. When you do, you will find that you can spend less on marketing and reap far greater rewards.

Also, check out our Attract More Business Program that takes you systematically through creating a marketing attraction program.
I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or email

Have a great week!

Products That Deliver, Part 2

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The following is part two of last week’s article on product development.
Tired of reading already? Click here- LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE.
This week we will be looking at some of the areas of product development that can help us to ensure that the products or services we are creating are timely, tailored to our marketplace and that everyone on the team is pulling in the same direction.

Collective Commitment
Everybody commits whole-heartedly and knowingly to a worthwhile vision. See my article on visions, missions, and goals. Make real commitments of specifications and schedules. Involve customers and suppliers. Justify project for ROI (Return On Investment) based on performance, time and cost. Finally, we must fully understand and be clear about the objectives. Management studies repeatedly cite lack of common understanding of project objectives as the number one most common reason why a project fails. You may have heard this in the office hallways: “How can we meet the schedule when we keep working on a moving target?” This is typical chaos with predictable results: nebulous corporate objectives evoking minimal commitment on the part of team members to accomplish the goals.

Seek to Inspire!
It is this kind of ‘bigger than life’ vision that a project leader must impart to the team. Emphasize the extensive importance of the project to your people; what is it giving the customer; where will it take the company; how will it advance their career? Consider this dramatic example…. A team of engineers was designing a very important piece of medical equipment. How did they know it was of such great importance? The project leader calculated the number of intensive care patients who were dying throughout the world for each day that this new piece of equipment was not yet ready for use. How’s that for a motivating sense of purpose? As team members are shown the range of valuables, enthusiasm and a deeper sense of meaning is cultivated, which is intrinsic to commitment. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, used to walk throughout the office and declare about the Macintosh Computer, “It’s going to be insanely great!”

Ideas from Clients
Defining requirements is much more complex than simply asking customers ‘what’ they want. The process must be able to handle customers who are not sure what they want or change their minds after they get what they asked for. We must develop tools for understanding the customer such as surveys, focus studies, and verification techniques. In addition, we must also use continuous customer feedback as a basis for creating better requirements.

As businesses develop fresh ideas, launch innovative products, and expand, accurate and timely collection of data is essential. As fundamental as market research is to effective business management, too often the soaring price points and extended time lags associated with this work lead many to dismiss it as superfluous rather than necessary. There are numerous organizations devoted to service/product R and D. Some of my favorites are Find SVP, Brain Trust, and Lexis Nexis.

Competitive Intelligence
Competitive intelligence is a necessity for businesses of all sizes. You need to know who your competitors are and what they are doing in order to compete. By identifying the strengths, weaknesses, pricing, and incentive strategies used by your competitors, you can identify opportunities and make informed decisions about the future of your business. Knowing your competitors will allow you to develop strategies to market your strengths and maintain an edge. Prior to beginning any product/service development project, it is critical that we fully understand the competition.

Ideas from Inside Your Organization
The best ideas for new products or services can come from your customers or employees. Dean Schroeder, recent guest on the Small Business Hour, and author of the book, Ideas Are Free, states and affirms that “the key to a successful company is encouraging a corporate culture that swiftly recognizes and implements ideas and improvements. Managers who recognize this can increase profits and avoid budget cuts and layoffs.”

Stepping Outside Commonly Acceptable Practice
Consider the man who became the first person to pilot a privately built craft into space called this past Monday. He took his rocket plane, SpaceShipOne to an altitude of more than 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) — the internationally recognized boundary of space. He ascended into space at Mach 3, three times the speed of sound and accomplished what most have felt impossible. Do you think this will begin to shatter commonly held product development beliefs in the space industry? You bet! How can you step outside the Commonly Acceptable Practices in your business?

Not the drug; but rather a common precept to product/service development.

Sony has given us thousands of new versions of the Walkman since the product was launched in 1979. Every thing from tape to CD to MP3. If this week is average, we will harvest 250 or so new products aimed for American grocery and drugstore shelves. Speed is critical to success. Old-fashioned hierarchies are not only unmercifully sluggish, but their committee-born products are also usually dull as doornails when they finally arrive. But there’s more to life than speed.
Tom Peters admiringly talks about his friend at CBS who drove top management crazy. He would get an idea for a documentary, he says, and then take it to his bosses — who would usually approve. He would return to his office, sit quietly, and mull. And mull. Days would pass. Weeks would pass. Often as not, months would pass. “When in the hell is he going to go out on the road and shoot?” the hierarchs wanted to know. One day his office would be empty, and a few weeks later, he would be back with canisters of film in hand. Did he start editing? Fat chance. Back to office. Feet up. Mull. Massive accumulations of pipe ash. Eventually, he would head for the editing room, and a near perfect show would emerge. The sequence was repeated time and again, and the results were invariably so good that CBS’ muckety-mucks had little choice but to put up with his aberrant behavior.
Often improvement comes in fits and starts. Each week may bring 250 new grocery products, but the odds are that only a couple will last even two years. How many will really be significant? Fewer still. Does that mean all Proctor & Gamble product developers should spend five years peddling soap door to door to get a sense for the product? No. Ought P&G aim to extend its already lengthy product-development cycle in pursuit of breakthrough products? Hardly. Yet Tom Peters would say P&G — and CBS and Sony — ought to have a few folks on the payroll who march to a different drummer.

Products That Deliver, Part 1

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Everyone wants products and services that deliver tangible benefits and long-term value. They are good for customers, good for manufacturers, good for merchants, and good for the entire industry.

Then why are there so few of them? Tired of reading already? Click here- LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE. Blame it on the marketing people, research department, or product/service development group. There isn’t a business in America that doesn’t want to be more creative in thinking through products and services.

Brainstorming new products, however, is only the tip of the iceberg in delivering real benefits and long-term value. It’s not enough to simply create new products because your competition has something similar. I see too many companies (product and service providers) playing follow-the-leader. In this new economy, there is less and less room for copycat products and services. In fact in many industries, being first with a concept and first to market are critical just to survive.

Look at the consumer electronics industry. I was in this business for many years and I know that merely developing another DVD player isn’t enough. In fact, it is suicide! Now your new line of DVD machines had better have record functions, DVR, unified remote, multiple A/V interfaces, as well as that special feature that ONLY your brand offers. If you’re an electronics buff, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, know this… You had better find a way to LEAPFROG the competition with your product/service offerings because simply slapping clever marketing onto “me-too” products just isn’t going to cut it any more!

With this in mind, I thought we’d taka a look at what gets in the way of truly revolutionary product/service development and what we, as leaders can do to turn these obstacles into opportunities. This two-part essay will focus on how to create products that deliver.

Managing Uncertainty and Risk
Risk minimization is not the same as risk management. Minimizing risk involves avoiding any chance of failure. Managing risk is taking gambles that make economic sense. There is always technical and market risk. We must fully understand these in the framework of our industry. Knowing the technical capabilities of our competition is paramount in developing a product/service development strategy. For example if IBM would not have underestimated the technical savvy of Dell perhaps their market share would be double what it is today in the computer business.

Specifications vs. Market Benefit
Alan MacCormack, a professor at Harvard Business School, was studying successful software development processes. He and his colleagues asked executives at a software firm to provide two case examples, one from a “good” project, and another from a “bad” one. Two projects were identified, each of which yielded products that had just shipped. Observing the state of these products over time, MacCormack and his researchers saw that the “good” project failed in terms of such factors as market acceptance, expert quality rating, and productivity. According to MacCormack, the project that management said was a good project “turned out to be uniformly bad,” while the project that executives said was “bad” was a marketplace success.
MacCormack discovered that what executives judged to be a “good” project was one where the specification was completed up front, where the design had been frozen, and the project had been executed efficiently. For executives, a “good” project was one that built the product that it set out to build. A “bad” project, according to executives, was one in which the results ended up looking completely different from what they set out to build. Yet the market reaction to the project that had gone through continual change was much better than the project that had a design that was frozen in time. Says MacCormack, “The way they thought about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in that case was completely upside down. The people who were overseeing projects there assumed that the good projects were the ones that delivered to the spec. In fact, good projects are ones that deliver to the market.”

The Cost of Delay
I think this is a greatly underestimated variable of product/service development. When creating product/service development budgets we take into account all kinds of variables such as research, materials, staffing, testing, analysis, product launch and so on. We fail to quantify perhaps the most costly and critical element of the product/service development process…time. Specifically the cost of delay. Releasing a new product BEFORE its time has come can have a devastating effect on not only the cost of the product but also the entire reputation of the company and its brands. Take for example the personal computer. I remember having sold the VERY first personal computer to over 250 Target and Venture stores back in 1980! I was part of the development team at Atari, and I went on several in-store demonstrations inside Target stores. I laugh hysterically today when I think about the reception we received when we demonstrated to your everyday Target shoppers how you could use your Atari 800 to do your personal finances, play games and keep electronic records. People thought we were absolutely CRAZY! This was well before the Apple was placed in mass merchants. At Atari we were attempting to sell a product whose time had not yet come to a marketplace that even today, in 2004 is barely getting a handle on their needs for home computing.

Next week we’ll focus on product/service development research, competitive analysis, creating inspiration and outsourcing. I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or email

Mark Deo Print this article.Click here- LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE.

Outsourcing – “The Future of Business”

It seems that the 777 wasn’t BIG enough for Boeing. Rolling off the line this week is the very first mammoth Boeing 787. Dubbed the “Dreamliner” it has already sold 584 copies as of June which makes it the fastest-selling new plane in the history of commercial aviation.

For decades, Boeing has outsourced a portion of the work on its planes, and its reliance on sub-contractors has risen with each succeeding generation of aircraft. But with the Dreamliner program, the aerospace giant has reached a point where its role has changed. It now functions less as a manufacturer than as a project manager, supervising its first and second tier subcontractors, each of which may rely on scores of more specialized subcontractors. A recent article in CNN Money and FSB Magazine outlines the commitment that Boeing has made to outsourcing. In fact it states that Boeing has utilized 900-plus contractors to develop and build the aircraft. Boeing’s new manufacturing template has captured the imagination of the aerospace industry. Recently officials from Airbus announced that it will be relying more heavily on outsourcing to become more competitive.
I have said this before: “Corporate America is DEAD!” In fact, I believe those organizations that elect NOT to commit heavily to outsourcing will cease to exist in the next decade.When you consider today’s shorter product life-cycles, outsourcing provides a far more cost-effective strategy to product development. It eliminates ongoing capital investments required to constantly retool. In addition, outsourcing permits the experts in every area of endeavor to focus on mastering their technology. It satisfies a marketplace demanding ever-increasing levels of performance. And outsourcing is good for the business economy. It promotes competition, holds vendors accountable and lowers the effective cost of deliverables.So think about how you may be able to use outsourcing to improve the performance of your business. This can be accomplished for small businesses as well as larger ones. Outsourcing has helped me to deliver a better service to my customers and our entire organization is based on the outsourcing “network” concept. Maybe outsourcing can help you to achieve your dream for your business.