From the time of Alexander the Great to the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century, there was almost no increase in people’s productivity.

The speed a soldier in Alexander the Great’s army could travel was limited by the speed of the horse he rode or the beasts pulling his wagon; and weapons they used were all hand forged. The same was true for Napoleon’s troops 2,000 years later. But with the invention of the steam engine, things began to change. Since that time, the nominal annual rate of productivity improvement in developed economies has been between 0.5% and 2%. This is approximately the same natural improvement rate that is found in most traditionally run organizations.

But what if you could improve faster, at a rate that outpaced your competitors? And what if you could maintain this rate year-after-year? The result would be a considerable competitive advantage.

We have studied a number of companies that have been able to increase their productivity by as much as 13% to 15% annually.…

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The parental prompting to say “thank you” is a common childhood experience. Most of us remember when we were young, our mothers repeating over and over: “Say thank you”; “Don’t forget to say thank you”; “Did you say thank you?” And it was for good reason: to teach us to be polite and express sincere and heartfelt gratitude when it is appropriate.

The typical error I see presenters make when saying “thank you” is to use it more as a “filler,” something a presenter says as a default, not knowing what else to say in that moment. My advice to business leaders who are about to take the main stage? When it comes to “thanking,” don’t do it. Try these three alternatives instead.

Nix saying “thank you” as your opening comment. Frequently, business leaders open their presentation saying, “Thank you for …“and then quickly proceed to what they really want to say.…

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Sophisticated marketers have a lot on their minds these days, such as developing and reaching audiences, creating consumer connections with meaningful content and campaigns, demonstrating business results — and, of course, doing it all in compliance with legal rules and guidelines.

The Federal Trade Commission recently completed an investigation into a Pinterest-based contest conducted by fashion brand Cole Haan. The contest asked participants to create Pinterest boards called “Wandering Sole” and pin five images of shoes from Cole Haan’s own board and five additional place images, all tagged #WanderingSole. The most creative entry, as judged by Cole Haan, would receive a $1,000 shopping spree.

In a public letter to Cole Haan’s counsel, the FTC expressed concern that the re-pinning of product merchandise without a clear indicator that the pins constituted a contest entry may have violated Section 5 of the FTC Act, which “requires the disclosure of a material connection between a marketer and an endorser when their relationship is not otherwise apparent from the context of the communication that contains the endorsement.”

The FTC chose not to pursue any action against Cole Haan, but the incident has raised questions in the minds of savvy social marketers.…

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Snacks used to be those after-school occasions when children savored milk and cookies, or an adult grabbed an apple to tide herself over until dinner. Now snacks are edging in on meal territory, representing half of all eating occasions.

The reasons for this shift are embedded in U.S. food culture. People’s time — and therefore their traditional meals — have become increasingly fragmented, leaving snacks to carry a greater proportion of the physical, emotional, social and cultural desires people have around food, according to The Hartman Group’s 2013 report, “Modern Eating: Cultural Roots, Daily Behaviors.” For example:

  • 73% of snacking is physically driven: That includes 44 percent hunger abatement, often between meals, plus 15 percent nutritional support to recover from physical exertion or meet specific nutrient needs and 12 percent pick-me-ups for a burst of energy to combat lethargy or mental fatigue.
  • 36% of snacking is emotionally driven: That includes 23 percent “time markers” to create structure in the day and provide moments of anticipation, plus 13 percent boredom alleviation and 6 percent reward, encouragement or temporary alleviation of discipline.
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How many times have you heard or even said, “Is that market attractive to us”? We look at the markets we’re in, the markets our competitors are in, maybe even some that are new and wonder if they are/could be good for our business. We may even think of creating or segmenting in a new way.

Stop and think of the hubris in that very question: “Is that market attractive to us?”

What is the real subject of that question? Us! Not the market! This is not as subtle as it seems. Subtleties reveal our organization’s basic assumptions and beliefs — our culture. Words — what, how, when, in which order we use them – mirror our culture. When I hear this question, which I do all the time in my line of work, I don’t hear a marketing question, I see a red flag. I see an organization that is internally focused, not outwardly focused on the customer.…

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