Caught on Google Maps Street View

If you want to waste some time, check out Google’s new feature called Street View. It uses Google Maps to get down to the street level (only in San Fransisco at this time). After only a few minutes of browsing, I spotted this kid in the picture below in a private moment (click to enlarge):

Caught on Google Street View

Here is the link, go check it out (you may need to click on the yellow street level man icon). Does this freak you out a little??

That meaty part of the curve

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Steven Koren. His G.P.A. is a solid 2.0! Right in that meaty part of the curve – not showing off, not falling behind.

-George Costanza, Seinfeld

My local dollar store (you know…the stores that sell everything for $1) is striving to become mediocre. They used to sell almost everything for $1, except a very small section of the store. Now the items that sell for more than $1 way out number the $1 items. They are becoming like everyone else. Soon I am afraid they will become invisible.

Why would they let this happen? It may be for a couple of reasons:

  1. The amount of items that you can sell for $1 and make a profit is shirking. Then I say, become the best $2 store or $1.73 store. Whatever is takes to stay away from the meaty part of the curve and back on the edges where you stand out and get noticed.
  2. Someone remarked that by only selling $1 items they are “limiting their pool of potential customers”. Limiting your market is the only to become and stay noticed. Stretch yourself too thin and you’ll become invisible.

    As your market is changing, what are you doing to stay noticed?

2 ways to increase your profits

As I see it, there are really only two main ways to increase your profits:

1. Add something (attracting new customers, opening additional locations, offering more products or services, etc.)
2. Subtract something (lowering costs, dropping unneeded products or services, restructuring the company, etc.)

But before you start adding or subtracting anything to your company, you need to be aware of the potential consequences of each action:

More is more (adding): From grade school math we learn that “more” is better (If you have two quarters and Tommy gives you two more quarters, how many quarters do you have?”). However, more is not necessarily better. More can cause people to “freeze up” when faced with too many choices. More can cause waste, slower response times (think of it as extra pounds around the waistline) and bigger heads (“we are better because we are bigger”).

Less is more (subtracting): “Less” also comes with its own set of potential problems. Many companies start down the trail of slashing or altering unnecessary products or services and the costs savings adventure becomes addicting. You may ask yourself, “if I can still sell my soup by watering it down only 1% more, think of the costs saving if I watered it down 10% more!” Remember the game Jenga? The object of the game is to take away one wooden block at a time from a tower of blocks until the tower topples over. Taking away from your company until you are flirting with collapse is never a good idea.

Whether you decide to add or subtract (or a combination of the two) to increase your profits, remember that altering your company always comes with consequences.

Seth Godin’s Visit to Utah

Seth Godin has now come and gone. He was here to promote his new book The Dip.

I won’t go over all of his presentation; it was more or less one of those “you-have-to-be-there-to-enjoy-it” presentations. However, I will highlight some of his more memorable quotes:

  1. “Being average is dramatically over-rated.”
  2. “Ad agencies should cross the street and meet with their clients and help them make better products.”
  3. When asked his opinion about persuing an MBA, Seth responded “The (school) academy is about teaching people what we have done yesterday, a little better.” Basically, I interpret that as there are many other ways to learn up-to-date business ideas, but an MBA is not the best way.
  4. When asked to imagine that he was a substitute teacher in a middle school marketing class for a day, what would he teach? He mentioned three things: 1). “No one cares about you, at all. Get over it!” 2). “Start selling stuff on Ebay” and 3). “Get good at telling stories that others want to hear.”
  5. When asked which three books he would recommend everyone read, he said: 1). Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash “keeping in mind it was written 10 years ago” 2). Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm “preferably the old, original version” and 3). John McWade’s Before and After Page Design – which will teach you to “see before you do” and “how to be a graphic designer in about an hour”.
  6. “Those that are succeeding are asking ‘How can I be of service’ instead of ‘How can take advantage of the system’”.

All in all, I would say that Seth Godin is an incredibly nice individual with amazing insights. Easily worth more than the $50 I plopped down (but don’t tell Seth that!)

Monologue or Dialogue?

My time lately has been eaten up by other things. In the mean time, enjoy this beauty about having a dialogue with your customers:

Principles over policy

Sara over at the The Curious Shopper, has a great blog post about her creative means to adhere to a bank’s policy for not serving customers at their drive-up window who are not in cars while satisfying her desperate need to deposit a check without a car (be sure to read this post!). She went on to relate the effects such policies have on employees. One great quote is:

If you limit people, they will behave with a limited outlook. They’ll blindly follow rules because they weren’t trained to think otherwise. But if you trust people, and empower them with training, they will see the rules from the viewpoint of the customer.

Policies only tend to create mindless actions. In other words:

policies.jpg

I think what we need here are guiding principles and not policies. Give your employees principles to judge customer service situations and not a thick policy manual to memorize. These guiding principles should:

  1. Be constructed from the customer’s point of view
  2. Be easy enough for everyone to understand and put into practice
  3. Allow the well-trained employee to have full autonomy to make decisions quickly
  4. Be part of the company culture

Building a better error message

While trying to plan a family vacation, I came across the following error page on the homepage of a movie theater:

error_small.jpg
(Click to enlarge image)

If I were the hosting company, I would make a few changes:

  1. Attitude – Come back tomorrow? What about the hosting company being proactive and calling the website owner when this shows up on their site.
  2. Contact – E-mail support. There is no e-mail address on the error message. How do I contact them?
  3. Audience – This message was written for the website owner. This is okay, but the majority of the visitors to the website will be surfers. What can I do as a visitor to the website to take action?

Bonus: Go have fun for a moment and create your own customized Windows error message here.