The Cotton Candy Effect

When I was a kid, going to the fair was a special treat that came each fall. Looking forward to the fair- for us it was the Deerfield Fair- started as soon as the weather turned in mid-September. Dad would pull the pumpkins from the garden and we knew it was soon to going to be fair time. The Deerfield fair is a small community fair where you can see oxen or horse pulls on Friday nights, run around the midway with your friends, sample some homemade fudge, see your school projects in the School Building and see your 4-H projects in the 4-H building.  It’s a place where you can find homemade strawberry rhubarb pie and find my mom at the horse show.

Each year, I couldn’t wait to go to the fair! I mean truly, where else can you get a purple feather ‘roach clip’ for your hair and a Def Leppard mirror for your bedroom, right?  Besides the freedom from my parents the fair provided as I got older, my favorite part of the fair was the food. Nowhere else could you get candied apples, caramel apples, and cotton candy. I would dream about eating that cotton candy. It was a fair exclusive and that made it even more delicious when fair time came and we could get some. Remember watching the man make the cotton candy? How he spiraled the stick around in the machine and layer upon layer of the sweet stuff piled on until you had a huge glob of the sweet goodness to eat? And remember how it made your lips pink and it melted in your mouth? Warm cotton candy was the BEST!  As time wore on the vendors started making it ahead of time and bagging it up, selling both bags and sticks of candy. This was an interesting complement in their product line because it allowed them to sell to the audience of people who wanted to ‘save it for later’. Even still though the candy was relatively fresh and the portions were huge.

Fast forward 30 years… now you can get cotton candy in the grocery store! It’s a travesty. True, those of us who had the fresh made cotton candy on a stick at the fair know the store-bought version does not compare, but try to tell the next generation that.

The cotton candy effect refers to over saturating the market with a particular product. For me it’s cotton candy, but there are other items where I’ve seen this effect happen. Taking something and changing its position in the market, can lead to more sales in the short-term because you have a larger audience, but in the long-run you’ll see a decline in those short-term sales as people realize there’s nothing special about the item, your prices go down and your margins will decrease.  When this happens the product has moved from the specialty market to the commodity market. Why should someone pay $5 for a stick of the puffy fluffy sweet stuff that’s bigger than their head, when they can get a condensed (and I mean dense) bag of processed gunk for $2 at the grocery store? There’s a shift in quality, quantity and price and with that is a commodity. I call this shift from specialty to commodity the ‘Cotton candy effect’.  Think of it as too much of a good thing.

Assessing Your Marketing Efforts- Part 2:  Setting Achievable Goals

In Assessing Your Marketing Efforts- Part 1: Putting the Cart Before the Horse, I talked about defining goals and making a plan to achieve them. So let’s talk about that for a bit. Whether you’re trying to grow your business, expand your sales territory, plan for the long-term, or even lose weight setting achievable goals is step #1.

I’ve learned the value of achievable goals over the years, mostly because I’ve set unachievable goals a lot of the time. Whether it’s wanting too much too fast or trying to keep up with the Jones’s or just being competitive, I’ve learned it’s important to set goals that work for me. Goals that fit in my life. Goals that are realistic for me.

Here’s a good example…. Going to a gym has been problematic for me and I seldom meet my goals. I get bored. I get sore. I plan to go five or even seven days per week. I get upset that don’t want to go. I don’t go. In comes the negative talk out goes the plan.  I hate it and then I quit.  The problem is… my goals have been unrealistic. Unachievable.

I recently started going to the gym but before I started, I assessed the challenges I’ve had in the past. I set an achievable goal and I tackled each of the obstacles that have derailed me in the past:

  • Goal– Go to the gym 3 times/week. Although it’s not as good a going five or seven days, it’s better than not going at all. And most weeks I end up going more than three times. A bonus I can feel good about.
  • Bored- I figured out how to watch my favorite shows on my tablet at the gym. It’s a little dangerous to be laughing through Duck Dynasty while walking intervals on the treadmill, but so far I’ve managed not to fall off and last week I walked long enough for the machine to time out on me (1 hour)! I also mix it up. Some days, I do a warm up on the treadmill and then circuit the machines. Some days I skip the warm up and go straight to the circuit or I just stick to the treadmill. I used to get wrapped up with form, function, repetitions, weight, but now I remind myself that anything I do at the gym is better than doing nothing at all and this is MY goal remember?
  • Diet– I’m balancing the exercise with nutritious eating. Am I on a diet? No. Am I conscious about what I eat? Yes. I learned I haven’t been eating enough protein, but now I am. And I’m listening to my stomach, not my taste buds. It’s working.
  • Soreness– I consulted a professional about the soreness. I learned about L-glutamine, which is an unnoticed addition to my post-workout protein shake and as a result I have experienced no soreness from my usual workout.

I slipped up a bit twice during the gym journey these past five weeks. First I joined in a six-week weight loss challenge. My competitive streak would normally derail me on this one because I lost one week and gained it all back the next, but I’m keeping my eye on the long-term goal. I’m down from where I started that’s all that matters, plus… I’m going to the gym- remember the original goal?  When you lose… you win!

My second slip up was to get lured into a boot camp type class for which I am grossly unqualified. The class put me out of commission for three days because I could hardly walk. I know if I stuck to the class I would eventually become qualified for the class, but I’m not into torture to reach my goal, plus I forgot my ‘slow and steady wins the race’ motto. I forgot the pace that works for me. I waivered from the achievable goal I set for myself. The one that works for me.

What is your goal? Is it realistic? What is your plan for reaching the goal? Is it realistic? Does it fit into your life? Your business? Does it work with your family values? Is it a goal that works for YOU? Yes? Great. Go after it. Slow and steady wins the race.

Negative Land of W’s

I was watching some training videos for work recently and one of the topics really struck me. The video was “Cutting Edge Communication: Developing Successful Mindsets” and it discussed a concept of the Negative Land of W’s. Essentially having a negative attitude:

  • Wasting time
  • Wishing things were different and
  • Whining

I used to work in a restaurant and encountered staff that were constantly stuck in the Negative Land of W’s.  Pretty much everyone who knows me knows I am one of those annoying ‘glass is half full’ people. I would dread the shifts when I had to work with these negative people. Negativity festers and it spreads faster than the flu. And well, it’s just a downer.

We all get down from time-to-time and yes I know all about clinically depressed people. I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about in the big picture of life, we choose our attitudes and as they said in the video, we ‘can’t quit before the miracle happens.’ If you’re on a path that’s veering from your long-term goals, get off that path!

You have the power of change.

Turn the Negative Land of W’s into a Positive Land of W’s:

  • Be willing to learn
  • Want to achieve
  • Wholeheartedly embrace change

What if you’re big moment is just around the corner?

Putting the Cart Before the Horse- Assessing Your Marketing Efforts Part 1

Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand. In some companies products and services are developed, marketing materials are created and then distributed to the sales team. This is Marketing Driven Sales. In some cases, the products and services exist and the sales team is selling them and the sales team requires marketing materials to sell the products or services better. This is Sales Driven Marketing.

No matter whether your company follows Marketing Driven Sales or Sales Driven Marketing, your efforts need to be cohesive. And before you can have cohesive marketing efforts, you first need to have direction. Just as it does no good to put the cart before the horse, it does no good to throw money at marketing and advertising if you haven’t yet defined a goal and made a plan.

  • Do you have a Business Plan? Your business plan helps define your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; your products, services and those of your competitors; your prices and features; your opportunities for growth and expansion; and your goals. This is the time to plan your long-term journey.
  • Do you have annual Sales Forecasts and Budgets? What are your projected sales? What are your projected expenses? Are you planning to introduce a new product or service in the next 12 months and how will that affect your projections and budgets? This is the time to plan the short-term trip that will lead you to your long-term journey.
  • Do you have a Marketing Plan? Marketing serves a multitude of purposes. Two are: To inform and educate current and prospective clients on 1) the surety of your company and commitment to your company values and 2) the value of your products or services. A solid marketing plan will outline how you plan to inform and educate your current and potential customers.
  • Is your company mission and vision defined and have you communicated it to all of your employees? It’s important that everyone is on the same page with regards to what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Have you defined reasonable, achievable and measureable company goals? Again, everyone needs to be on the same page and making forward progress.
  • Have you defined your company brand? One cohesive look lends to customer confidence that you know what you’re doing and you’re a company that can be trusted. You appear professional.
  • Have you implemented your company brand all internal and external communications? Websites, social media, letterhead, invoices, envelopes, business cards, uniforms, trucks, signage all need the same branding elements.

In my upcoming blogs, I’ll go into detail about topics presented in this issue.

You Get What You Put Into It

As with most things in life, you get what you put into an association or chamber membership. I’ve known a lot of people who have joined an association or chamber of commerce strictly to have something they can list for community involvement. I too have joined in the past just to say I was a member. I would put all the meetings on my calendar, but then it would get cold outside (when I lived in New Hampshire) or

there would be a snow storm or any of a gazillion other reasons for me NOT to go to a meeting. You name the excuse, I’ve used it. But that was then and this is now. For me, I truly believe in the power of the people. We lived in FishHawk Ranch in Lithia, FL for three years before I started running into people I knew at the grocery store or knew a neighbor I could call in a pinch to let my dogs out if I was running late.

What does any of this have to do with running my business, you ask?

Well the concepts are the same…. That sounds kind of corny, but it really is about who you know. Association and Chamber memberships provide an opportunity for you to meet other people who might be interested in your product or service. A time will come when the person you met ions ago at a meeting is in need of the product or service you offer and it’s your job to keep your business in front of them until that time comes. I still remember a fellow member from a Chamber in New Hampshire that I belonged to. Even though I did my best to miss as many meetings as I could, I remember this woman. She was a realtor and without fail she was at EVERY meeting. Even the meetings I wasn’t at, I am sure! We’re talking over ten years ago and I still think of her often, not because she was extraordinary in appearance or because she was super outgoing or drew attention to herself, but because she was a constant at the meetings.

No Bang For Your Buck?

If you join a chamber or association, make sure you are joining one that has members who are your target audience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to join an association of like-minded people too so you can stay on top of best practices and have some colleagues to brainstorm with, but I’m talking about joining an association with the purpose of meeting people who want your product or service or who can refer you to people who want your product or service. And once you join… commit to participating! Make your annual membership part of your marketing budget and go go go! Attend each and every meeting you can possibly attend- even if you feel the topic or setting has no value add for you and your business. You never know when you are going to meet someone who needs you! And be sure you bring PLENTY of business cards. Hand out three to each person you meet. One for them to keep and two for them to give away to people who need you.

In addition to attending meetings, consider the sponsorship and advertising benefits offered by the association or chamber in your comprehensive marketing plan. The idea is to get your business in front of the captive audience that is your fellow members, as often as possible. Is it time to sponsor an upcoming meeting? How about running an insert in the monthly newsletter? Should you buy a banner ad on the website? Maybe it is time to review the benefits of membership and see how you can leverage this captive audience. Just remember, carrying the membership card is not enough. With memberships, you get what you put into it. If you put nothing into it, you will get nothing in return.