When Less is More

It may seem counter intuitive, but you can often achieve better marketing communications when you limit what you say to fewer words and topics, to deliver a more refined and narrow message. In fact, this concept can apply to other concepts and “walks of life,” such as product management, career strategies or business planning.

The challenge is how to overcome the perception that by limiting your focus you will “miss out” on a future opportunity. There is a natural inclination to expand focus to offer a more comprehensive solution, a wider scope of product functionality or to address a broader range of industry challenges.

The classic case is the start up organization that is inevitably asked by a prospective customer to perform custom work to address their specific needs, when that work veers the company away from their previously chosen direction. On the one hand, a paying customer in the “hand” is worth two potential customers in the “bush.” On the other hand, if you never achieve economies of scale from selling a repeatable product or service, you many never earn a profit, and ultimately go out of business.

A great example of a business that has embraced this concept well is one of my favorite local Southern California burger joints: In-N-Out. Their menu is limited to three combo meals, consisting of various choices of a single or double patty, with or without cheese, and with or without onions. I have learned that if I want a great burger, In-n-Out is at the top of my list.

Simplify with less to tell more of a story.Their message is highly focused. If I am in the mood for steak, soup or salad, I will go elsewhere. In-N-Out is just fine with that. Arrive at 12 midnight and expect to wait in a line on a Friday or Saturday night. They have no problem in getting all teh business they can handle. Staying hyper-focused on their menu has allowed them to master their delivery process of their product highly consistently, year after year after year as a privately held company.

You should use this same focus on your business messaging too. The world is too competitive to try and be multiple things to many people. Pick one. Do it well.

As a marketer, keep this in mind when preparing your communications, writing a business plan or executing upon a marketing strategy. Keep your content and messaging concise and to as narrow a point and message as possible. If you can be relentless in this exercise, your reward will be a highly effective retention factor by your prospective customers, and ultimately, the best chance for a future sale.

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

The Role of Pricing in Messaging

“If you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can’t afford it”

– JP Morgan

According to Google books, the origin of this quote is a conversation JP Morgan had with a neighbor regarding the purchase of a yacht. The quote has been made famous by Henry Royce, when applying it to the purchase of his Rolls Royce automobiles.

Importance of pricing on messaging and marketing communications
If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford this toy.

From a marketing communications perspective, the concept is actually quite compelling – a message that rings loud and clear to your prospective customers. If you must know the price before purchasing, then it is probably too luxurious for you. A purchase decision that falls into this type of classification is clearly high end, something that only the wealthy need consider. As a business strategy, if you are selling a high end product, this type of positioning could be just right.

Pricing plays a critical role in your messaging and marketing communications surrounding not only the quality of your goods or services, but also on your focus on customer satisfaction. Do you deliver consistently superior results that your customers can justify spending more for your product? If so, then you should be charging more, and your customers will pay more, helping you to preserve your brand integrity. It is all part of a consistent message that you, as a marketer, need to convey to each of your current and future customers.

Alternatively, if your product is “me too” (non-differentiated) or if you are the low price leader, then you have no claim to charge a premium and shouldn’t. If you do, your customers will be confused, and will likely not justify the higher price, preferring instead to purchase from your competitors.

BMW is an excellent case study on how to leverage pricing as part of their messaging. Back in the 1970s, the brand was not considered premium, akin to the likes of Volkswagen. In the 1980s, however, they made a decision to dramatically increase prices across all products at a time when their marketing communications shifted towards positioning the brand as premium. It worked.

I had an interesting experience with the AAA club of Southern California about a month ago. I inquired about purchasing their premium service, which included expanded towing coverage. They refused to sell me the service, stating that I must first purchase their standard service for a year and not use it before having the “privilege” of purchasing the premium service, for more money. Needless to say I was infuriated. Here I thought they were eager to offer expanded, higher margin services. They, on the other hand, see themselves as a “country club” of sorts, where I have to pay my “dues” for a year before being considered for an upgrade, like they are doing me a favor. Talk about a confusing messaging strategy!

How does AAA get away with it? Well, it turns out they have a bit of a monopoly in the Southern California market, so there really isn’t a viable competitor. Clearly, not only is their pricing calculated incorrectly, but their view on customer service is that of a monopolistic organization, such as the US Post Office. In other words, it isn’t a priority. Even to a customer of 31 years!

To conclude, pricing plays a critical role in your marketing communications – the story you want to tell. Are you customer friendly? Are you premium? Or, are you a generic product with no differentiation other than price? Pick your story and be sure to set your pricing to support that message.

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

Avoiding “Article Vomit”

Q: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound?

A: No, if no one is there to hear it.

In the same way, you may have the greatest product or service, but if no one knows about it, then all your work has been for nothing (and your marketing prowess could be called into question). As a marketer today, you must incorporate the Internet in your marketing communications … which means you need to understand Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.

As a concept, it isn’t hard to comprehend. Your prospects will typically go to an Internet browser when considering a product purchase, performing a search by keywords of what they seek. Some will already have an idea of what your product is called or what your industry terms are. Some will not, so will search by the challenge they face. It is up to you to know which is relevant, and then build search engine optimization into your marketing communications to match these search profiles.

Search Engine Marketing
Keep SEO a top of mind item when preparing marketing communications

The challenge is that you are competing for these words with often hundreds or even thousands of other sites, many that have dedicated staff working every day to improve their rankings. This is an onerous task to those just getting started. There is a first mover’s advantage. Those building their keywords and search phrases first tend to secure the top rankings and can defend them effectively. The best offense to a well placed competitor is to further refine your keywords to be more specific to a smaller sub segment of the market you are trying to reach. And, create a lot of new content.

There is another angle … game the system, known as “Black Hat SEO.” A recent approach has been to post a lot of content on different sites with links to your site, to help increase your ranking. This is against Google’s policy – it is artificially raising your rankings. JC Penny just got busted for it (read more here), and now their site has been black listed from Google. Just last week Google announced they are changing their search engine algorithms to put a stop to this type of behavior, penalizing sites that really are only comprised of “Article Vomit,” as Chris Knight, CEO of Spark-Net Corp coined, as stated in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

There is really no substitute for continuing to add new content. New information, commentary or announcements – especially with links coming from other websites – is a great way to demonstrate to Google, Yahoo!, Bing and the others that you are an authority in your field. This is one of the biggest reasons why blogs have become so popular. They are a great way to show frequent new content that is specifically tied to the needs of your target market.

So, next time you are writing a press release, web page or piece of collateral, think carefully about how your document might be found on the World Wide Web. What need you are serving and what problem are you helping to address? What words would be used in a keyword search on that topic? Then, go back and finish your piece. After all, if no one finds it or reads it, it might as well have not existed!

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

What’s the Velocity of Your Marketing Communications Pipeline?

While driving on the freeway during my morning commute the other day, I had an epiphany moment. A stretch that had traditionally been a bottleneck seems to have improved. Interestingly, the number of lanes has been reduced from 3 to 2, yet throughput has increased. My theory is that maybe we drive faster when given fewer choices compared to facing a series of merging lanes and decisions.

I would propose that your marketing communications strategy could benefit from applying my observations on freeway traffic.

How difficult are you making it for people to “find a lane” of what message you are saying and what value proposition you are presenting? Do you make it straightforward, so it is easy to “pick a lane” early, even if that lane is to exit? Or, do you offer many choices that merge at various times, resulting in a cluttered message? Think about the ramifications of a confusing message on your prospects trying to learn what you do, an investor trying to identify your revenue model or a sales rep trying to close a sale. The impact extends across your entire organization, slowing down your throughput of leads or opportunities.

Higher velocity is more efficient on multiple levels, from accelerating sales processes, locating new investment capital and training new employees.

What do you think? Do you have a story on how a simplified message helped you to improve your marketing or sales efficiency? How about for raising capital? I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

In Pursuit of Effective Communications

While discretion may dictate speaking “on the QT,” the most effective business communications tend to include more of an open dialog and, ideally, a feedback loop for clarification.

I would propose that part of the reason why social media has made such a rapid impact on the marketing world is because it has helped to facilitate more effective communications, both from a content perspective as well as from a “trust” point of view.

Take, for instance, the list of top 100 PRs on Twitter that Liliana Dumitru-Steffens put together on her blog. If this list were published on traditional media, it would have been printed and distributed to her readers, as a static list soon forgotten. This online social media list, however, has taken on a life of its own, being modified and updated based on feedback she has received from her many readers. In the end, this feedback loop has increased the accuracy of her communications – a luxury afforded this type of communications medium. If only some of our verbal conversations could be updated after the fact, to better communicate what our actual intent was at the time!

Marketing communications is a challenging task. It isn’t that speaking or writing is hard – but getting the right message of what you meant to say is where the challenge lies. There may be times when you are speaking to an audience that does not understand what you are saying. Often, however, they simply won’t tell you their confusion, contributing to a poor communications feedback loop. While it may be easy to blame your audience for just “not getting it,” in reality, it is your responsibility to communicate your message.

In fact, these challenges exist in personal communications as well.

As a marketer, I would propose that there are only two media communications “vehicles” to convey your message – the spoken or written word. Each medium has unique challenges. Address these challenges, and your messaging accuracy will improve, helping you to be a better marketer.

The Spoken Word

Here the issue is consistency … how can you be sure everyone at your organization will say the same thing and speak in the same language or tone? An engineer, for example, may talk about your product’s benefits differently than an executive. Both must be able to speak comfortably, on their own, when telling your corporate message.

We can’t control what others will say. But, we can provide guidance. As new products are launched or new customer values are identified, it is critical to invest time with each of your stakeholders to coach and train them to get it right. Practice makes perfect.

One approach is to provide visual clues or “cheat sheets” to your teams, as a handy reference that can be viewed to help remember the key points of your company’s messaging strategy. For example, a placard hung in a customer service support center explaining the benefits of a recent product launch might help function as a reminder to the team.

The Written Word

The written word offers greater consistency of message. Collateral and other content can be prepared and distributed to your employees, customers and prospects. However, without a feedback loop, it can be difficult to gauge understanding. As mentioned previously, the growing use of social networking websites now offers this capability to help address this challenge, by offering readers the opportunity to post comments and replies. Of course, if no one finds your message, then you won’t get any responses!

One way to address this potential communications challenge is to seek feedback on your marketing collateral, business plan or other written marketing communications prior to distributing to the general public. While it may be obvious to you what you were intending to say or speak, you would be surprised how often ambiguity exists, especially when your message is heard by someone from another “walk of life,” such as a different department, country or culture, or even someone that reads or speaks English as a second language (assuming your communications are primarily in English).

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what you meant to say … prospects, customers, investors and others will come to their own conclusion, based on what they thought you said – what they heard you say – and make their decision accordingly. Take ownership for this action and recognize that the responsibility for accurate communications lies on your shoulders, mouth and arms!

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

Forget About Marketing Ethics – Let’s Start with Truth-based Messaging

If marketing professionals seek to conduct business ethically by promoting goods and services beneficial to a customer’s well being, they must first start with truth-based messaging. Regardless of the product or service, if marketers can’t speak honestly when describing features and benefits, then forget about thinking marketers could possibly be ethical, as James Stephenson postulates in his article, “Is Marketing Ethics an Oxymoron?”

Having been a marketer for the past couple of decades, I am quite familiar with the pressure to stretch the truth about product attributes, features or benefits, all in the name of trying to increase sales. My experience in marketing and business communications has been concentrated in the high tech field, including network security and software. With such ambiguous products that are impossible to “touch and feel,” marketing communications tend to fall into broad benefits categories, such as to reduce costs, increase productivity or eliminate potential threats, where the temptation to inflate product benefits definitely exists.

Underlying each of my messages, however, has been a story based in truth. Calculating actual benefits can be tricky. It might be necessary to make assumptions about a prospective buyer’s usage of your product, how your software performs at your client’s company, and so forth. As part of this process, I build a reasonable “story,” backed up by case studies, customer feedback or observations from the field to support my messaging claims.

I am now concerned in the direction of recent corporate marketing communications. A new level of deception now appears to be status quo, as highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “AT&T Relabels Networks as 4G.” AT&T’s marketing department decided they needed a “4G” product to stay competitive, so they decided to simply rename their existing “3G” network as “4G.” Justification was based on comments issued by the International Telecommunications Union, a wireless industry standards body, which indicated that they have not yet set a firm 4G definition. In AT&T’s view, this was a wide open door to apply the 4G term to their “advanced” 3G technologies – look for a future announcement.

This decision goes way beyond a question of ethics, representing an outright deception and lie to prospective customers. Apparently, truth-based messaging is not a requirement at AT&T.

The sad part is that the wireless industry is not acting alone, but is simply following the current direction of the automotive industry.

It used to an accepted truth that automobile model numbers designated meaningful data. For example, Mercedes Benz used to have a strict numbering convention, which made it very easy to understand model and engine size.

If you see a Mercedes Benz SL 55, it denoted an SL body with a 5.5 liter engine. Today, if you buy a SL 63, you get one with a 6.2 liter engine. Rumor has it that the next replacement model will have a 5.5 liter engine, yet be called a SL 63.

I see no truth-based messaging or communications in Mercedes’ decision to change their model number methodology. What I see is deception, which will cause consumers to question the company’s communications, leading to a lack of trust in future messaging.

If you go down the road of deception about product specifications, you are setting yourself up for customer dissatisfaction, opening up an opportunity for your competitors. Your sales team will suffer reduced effectiveness, customer satisfaction will decline and, in the end, brand integrity will suffer. Compounding matters further, the Wall Street bonus philosophy exists here too … those involved in making these messaging decisions will have already been rewarded for their actions with promotions, bonuses or new job offers, prior to when the proverbial “shit” hits the fan.

I propose that a new, higher level of ethics is sorely needed, to be self-imposed by marketing professionals, such that a company’s marketing collateral and business communications can at least be truth-based, rather than outright fabrications. Perhaps I am expecting too much – maybe a better course of action is to institutionalize some sort of “whistle blower” program, such as what the SEC has implemented? Do I sound unreasonable? How far can this messaging strategy continue before the public has had enough? Let me know your thoughts.

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

5 Questions to Ask Before Writing a Business Plan

Writing a business plan is an excellent way to discover if your idea for a new business has merit. Going through this exercise will challenge you to see if your idea for a business has the foundation for a viable business, or if it is just a neat idea worthy of a cocktail party conversation. The difficulty, however, is that the whole process of writing the business plan can be quite time consuming, even if you elect to hire a third party business plan writer.

Before you invest the time and effort to write your business plan, there are a few questions you should consider as part of an evaluation process if your idea is worth pursuing.

5 questionsI just discovered a great blog written by Pamela Slim where she talks about transitioning from the corporate world to starting your own business. As part of this process, Pamela posted “Can you answer these 5 questions about your business?” I would propose that these questions can function quite well as a “filter,” which can then help guide you through your decision making process. If you can answer each of these questions, then you understand your value proposition and are now ready to prepare a business plan.

  1. Who is your ideal client? This is a simplified way of stating “who are you going to sell to?” Specificity is needed, to help you hone and refine your message. From a marketer’s perspective, the question here is “Who is your target market?” Who will buy your goods or services, and why would they buy it from you? Most importantly … do you have the skills and background to SELL it to them? Great first question to consider before you decide to write your business plan.
  2. Where do I send people who are interested? This question is stating that you better be ready to make an investment in building an online presence, no matter what it is you are selling. Do you have a site already? As part of evaluating the decision to write a business plan, have you thought about the investment of your time and resources to build an online presence? What would that website’s URL be? What would your business name be? How would you portray yourself and what sort of message would you include on the site? The answers to these questions will layout a framework for you to establish a marketing communications style and plan of how your message is communicated to your ideal client.
  3. Who would you really love to meet? I see this question as a gauge to the level of passion you have for your idea. Without the passion, your new business idea is doomed. So, who would you be really excited to meet that is a “player” or key influencer in your industry? Once you have identified that person, are you ready to reach out and try and meet them? One of the biggest attributes of a successful entrepreneur is if they feel they can change the world by doing something better, faster, easier, etc. than everyone else … you can’t do that unless you are a guru in your space and have a passion for meeting the other key players in your industry.
  4. Which media would you love to cover your business? This might be a question asked when it comes time to write your marketing plan … where will your message be displayed, how will you market to your customers and what medium is best for establishing this marketing communication? But, if you are ask this question early in the process, it can reveal quite quickly if your business plan will be tough or easy to launch. If you don’t know the answer to this question, maybe you don’t know your target audience as well as you should, which then poses the question “Is there really a viable market out there for your goods or services?” This is a pretty important question to consider.
  5. How do you make money? Or, what is your revenue model? Another great question. This should be on the top of your list when evaluating a new business or expanding a new division. Challenge yourself to answer this question with detail. For example, if your business is web-based e-commerce site, saying “I will sell banner ads” really isn’t sufficient of an answer. You need to know what traffic levels are needed before anyone considers placing an ad. How long will that take? What revenues are possible, and what level of traffic do I need to achieve X dollars of banner ad revenue? These are the types of questions that should be considered in great depth before spending the time and resources to get your business plan written.

Don’t worry if it takes some time to answer these questions … the knowledge you will gain will be well worth the effort. Not only will this exercise help you better understand if you really have a viable business model, but it will give you an outline of what your business plan should look like.
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

Another Evolving Social Behavior to Consider in Your Marketing Communications

Words are flying out like endless rain into a paper cup;
They slither while they pass; They slip away across the universe.

– John Lennon & Paul McCartney

The words and way we communicate today is obviously very different than in the past. In fact, over the past 5 years, the increasing usage of Twitter and texting has been nothing short of spectacular. Twitter reported that more than two billion tweets were sent just last month. Wow!

What is interesting is that as a new communication medium is launched, we keep compressing the time frame to contact someone and expect a response. Back in the 1960s when the Beatles were writing their legendary songs, the only way to talk to your girl was on a rotary dial up phone – an answering machine didn’t exist. If you had to reach someone, you simply kept calling until they were home. Then, along came the answering machine. Now you could leave a message and probably get a call back later that day or the next. By the early 2000s, email broke through the next threshold where a response could be expected within 24 hours.

Today you can text or twitter someone, and if they don’t reply back within a few minutes, some might be offended. Worse, they might think you lost your phone or are in trouble! The time required to reach out and talk with someone anywhere in the world has been compressed from days to minutes with texting and twittering. And, not only has the length of time for response been compressed, the actual content of the message has been shortened from having a 30 minute phone call to sending a 140 character tweet.

twitter-logoAs with other technology advances (see “Evolving Social Behaviors Necessitate a Change in Marketing Communications“), a new social behavior has also evolved with this communications transformation. The concept of where and when to meet someone for dinner, a movie, etc. has changed. Now, it is acceptable to simply suggest a general area and time for your social interaction … details can follow later. And, if you are running late, no sweat; texting has made it socially acceptable to be late, as long as you communicate your delay to the affected party.

But, as a marketer, it is highly unlikely that your target audience will be as forgiving.

If you approach your marketing communications in the same way, you might not be very effective. To start, if you are meeting with a client, you are the one that is expected to be prompt and on time; if your prospect is late, then that isn’t a problem. The same holds true if you are advertising your product’s availability or a promotion. Even if it is a 20 minute special, your decision to text your prospects about your current offer might not be seen as relevant or appropriate in their minds, causing frustration on their part from your message.

Or, it might be just fine. Let me explain. A twitter user or company that sends out a 140 character message that is perceived to have significant value to a recipient will be welcomed, such as a tweet announcing free concert tickets to the first 100 people that arrive at a certain location. But, the line between what is appropriate and what is not is a fine line, with the potential of alienating your target audience if you get it wrong. Best to choose those 140 characters very carefully!

Personally, I am offended at every one of the marketing or sales texts that I have received, such as to call now to refi my home mortgage. Seriously, is this a message that I need to drop everything regardless of where I am and immediately start a refinance process? This is an excellent example of an evolving social behavior that must be addressed by marketers, and not abused. It may be totally inappropriate to expect an instant response from your prospect, even though today’s technology could support it.

It is critical that we, as marketers, choose a medium and expected time frame for response that matches our offer if we are to avoid alienating our prospects. For example, if I am offering a service targeted at residential real estate agents, then an email might be most appropriate for matching the time to reply to the offer, especially considering that most real estate agents now carry smart phones capable of reading and responding to emails. A text, however, sent to an agent out in the field while showing a prospect an open house might be disruptive, annoying and ill timed. Be careful when exploring these new communications mediums. Given the ease of today’s mass communications, a poorly executed marketing communications can go viral in an instant, causing potential long term damage to your brand or company.

Texts and tweets now fly out like endless rain while they slip away across the cyber universe … best to be sure your message is relevant and time appropriate when trying to reach out across your universe.

 

 

Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

The Power of the Digital Written Word

The expression that the pen is mightier than the sword may soon need to be updated … if the recent news about the Oxford English dictionary foreshadows the future.

In this recent news article, it was reported that the next edition of the world’s most definitive work on the English language will never be printed again, due to the impact of the Internet on book sales.

The power of the “written” word obviously still exists today … just look at all of the blog postings, comments and feedback that is typical on any given day. However, it is now becoming increasingly obvious that the Kindles, iPads and future book readers of the world will indeed replace the printed book, as well as the daily newspapers and monthly magazines. This transition will likely take an entire generation to be completed, but, the transition has already begun and will continue.

As a marketing communications professional, if the future of your business model or lead generation campaign is based on collecting leads from ads in a paper newspaper or magazine, now might be a good time for an overhaul (either strategically for your business, or time for a new career). More importantly, if you are a publisher of paper books (ex: Random House, HarperCollins or Simon & Schuster), you face a challenge no different than what Blockbuster and Hollywood Video faced … and failed miserably. Having a vision of what the future holds isn’t a panacea to identifying a replacement business strategy.

One challenge why an incumbent provider in a “dying” industry is seldom the next leader in the transformed industry is the fact that the incumbent has significant psychological and physical investment in the way things used to get done. Think about the physical infrastructure that today’s leading book publishers have made investments in – it would be very difficult to simply “chuck” their existing equipment, facilities and employees.

Yet, a new crop of businesses will emerge without the financial “baggage” of the incumbents, helping them to be more nimble and willing to experiment with new approaches and untested methods or strategies. This highly dynamic nature of start ups is a powerful force, one that will ultimately result in a new market leader in how this industry evolves into one that is not based on paper, but the power of the digital word.

One business strategy that has worked in the past is for an existing player to set up completely new division, one that is not encumbered with financial, political and other constraints of the parent company. The smart car is a good example, which began as an idea by the Swatch watch company, and became a reality with an investment by Mercedes Benz. The car is clearly not a luxury product, so Mercedes thoughtfully financed its launch it to address the growing sub-compact car market, which it correctly predicted. This strategy enables the new entity to be given a truly “free reign” on trying a new business strategy without diluting the parent company’s brand.

As a marketer, it helps to keep an extremely open mind on how to find the next lead, as well as what industry you choose to work in. Content is still king, but it will increasingly be a digital king, and not a paper one. When naming my blog, I am sure glad “Making Every Word Count” works in both paper and digital format, helping to avoid future obsolescence, at least the foreseeable future, which is all I can reasonably expect in today’s highly fluid business climate!

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

When Taking a Step Backward can Yield an Innovative Business Plan

Carbon-free Landscape RemovalI read a most interesting article today in the Wall Street Journal about a business start up in Chapel Hill, N.C. called Rent-a-Goat.com. What they offer is a completely environmentally friendly way for home and business owners to clear fields of unwanted shrubbery, grasses and any other prickly plants that need to be removed. What is remarkable is that this company has figured out a way to execute upon a business plan first launched thousands of years ago, and still make money today.

As I read further, I learned that Google has hired a similar company to clear their corporate campus of un-needed plants. Other end users include the Vanderbilt estate, where goats were hired for $9,000 to clear seven hilly acres, according to Dave Hayes, the estate’s natural-resource program manager. See the video. Apparently this price tag was two-thirds the cost to hire workers to do the same job … with a zero carbon footprint!

This story is an excellent example of how technological progress and innovation can sometimes take a “U” turn, especially when the social green movement is involved, despite the typical technology innovation cycle we so commonly see and write about (see my prior post on how technology innovation can be treated as a constant). Goes to show that there are no true constants in life, but some highly probably outcomes!

When seeking a business plan writer or preparing a strategic marketing plan, at times it can be helpful to take a completely opposite perspective with regards to what your new service or product should be. This strategy can be quite effective in markets and industries where a growing backlash is starting to gain momentum.

A good example of a business plan that has taken advantage of going “against the mainstream” is the latest offering from Knock Knock, a Los Angeles-based company that sells specialty paper products. They are now offering paper tweet pads, which limit you to a message of 140 characters that you can write down on a piece of paper. Their messaging in the product descriptions is quite good:  “Get on the social networking bandwagon with a cutting-edge notepad! The wireless miracle of pen and paper will have you expressing your mundane, or even pressing, thoughts anytime, anywhere!” In a way, they are making fun at all the notoriety and excitement around Twitter, and becoming just the opposite, pointing out that good old fashioned pen and paper is not a bad communications medium.

It turns out that maybe change is the only constant, rather than always counting on technology to drive innovation. Taking a step backward after several strides forward gives us a pause and time for reflection. People are always looking for something new and improved; the “new” maybe simply an old idea that has now gained new awareness and a fresh perspective.
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.