Date archives "March 2009"

BuzzMarketing Review

I am quite fascinated these days with the way word of mouth marketing actually works. I am particularly interested in the way it is created, how it can be measured, and some common pitfalls to avoid when devising such campaigns. When I heard the author of this book convinced a town in America to rename itself as for a year, to promote it’s website, this book become an automatic read for me.

The author defines buzzmarketing as “capturing the attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking your brand or company becomes entertaining, fascinating or newsworthy.”

The book focuses on how companies can use word of mouth campaigns to start conversations that will get people talking about their product or service. It does however sound a lot easier than it actually is. Getting people to start talking requires much creative thinking besides the willingness to take incredulous risks; such as renaming a town. The author however does a great job of breaking down the process of buzzmarketing into six different sections in the book. Each one is followed by examples and case studies to drive key messages home.

The sections are:

1. Pushing the Six Buttons of Buzz
2. Capturing Media
3. Advertise for Attention
4. Climb Buzz Everest
5. Discover Creativity
6. Police your Product

Each section provided me with much to think about on how to start devising a word of mouth campaign. What are the triggers we need to target? Who are the people who have the influence required to spread the word? How can we use the media effectively to generate the greatest amount of buzz? Each section is loaded with tips that provide answers to some of these key questions. I particularly liked the section on discovering creativity. It had some great points to get one thinking about the creative side of the campaign. This is in my opinion, one of the most critical areas when devising any sort of marketing campaign.

This book however lacked any information on how word of mouth campaigns can be measured and bench marked. For readers looking for data regarding this, WOMMA is a website where you will find some really good pointers for measuring such campaigns.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. I think all entrepreneurs should get a copy for themselves to stretch their horizons as far as marketing is concerned. Sticking to the old true and tested concept of blasting messages through maximum number of channels may have worked in the past, however times are very different now, and consumers are filtering information at a far more rapid pace.

If you have recently read an article, blog or book regarding word of mouth advertising please let me know. Thank you.

Times are Changing

The first quarter of 2009 is coming to an end. It seems to have flown by. With the accelerated pace of technology, innovation time seems to have started moving. The day just seems to whiz by, and each next day blends seamlessly into the other. The buzzing of your email is a constant reminder of all the various things happening in your life. The brain never seems to have time to rest and reflect on the path that is being taken. If this is not looked into, time will continue to pass us by without our paying adequate attention to the bigger picture. Some changes that I am actively incorporating in my life to manage this are:

1. Goals list: I manage my goals on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. I use a program called “Things” to manage all the data. The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is to look at this list and plan my day accordingly. This enables me to achieve SMART goals and the satisfaction of tick marking each completed task really makes my day.

2. Meditation: 20 minutes during the course of the day I do my best to turn off any distractions and turn the noises in my head off to minimum. This is something that I am still unable to do on a daily basis, but I am working on it and plan to make it a habit by the end of the next quarter.

3. Gratitude Note: We tend to get so caught up in our daily routines that we tend to forget to connect with important family members, friends and work colleagues. I do my best to send out an email or make a call to someone in my contact list that I have not spoken with for sometime. This helps to keep relationships alive and I am always pleasantly surprised at how many business referrals I have been able to generate with this small task.

These are some of the things that I am making a concentrated effort to incorporate into my life. They have been most helpful in helping me manage my time better, as well as improve the overall quality of life.

What are some of the things that you are doing to assist you in balancing out the changing pace of life? Look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Looking Within

I started reading the “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle today and the opening passage of the book really moved me. I put the book down and just thought about what I had read for around 30 minutes. Before I get into my take on the passage, please take 2 minutes out to read it.

A beggar had been sitting by the side of the road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. “I have nothing to give you”, said the stranger. Then he asked, “What’s that you are sitting on?” “Nothing”, replied the beggar. “Just an old box. I have been sitting on it as long as I could remember”. “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger. “No” said the beggar. “What’s the point there’s nothing in there”. “Have a look inside”, insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw the box was filled with gold. – Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

When I read the passage for the first time I went back and re-read it several times. The author has written a simple story with an incredibly strong message. My initial thoughts when I read the passage was that we truly never really get to know ourselves. The world works in such a way these days that we have automatic responses to most things and do them almost in a robot fashion. It is as if we are on cruise control, not knowing that we can put this function off and take control of the vehicle. Paths are laid out for us, deviations are looked down upon or they scare us so much that we do not even attempt to deviate from them. Everything in life is so well planned out when we follow the known path, we go to school, get into university, work hard to get a good job, get married, have kids and hope to live happily ever after whilst preparing our kids for the same path. This is not to say I believe there is anything wrong with this path. It does however have fewer bumps along the way, options are limited, and most of the time we never really have the time to look into ourselves to find out what we really want.

Then there are those of us who want to know more. You could draw parallels to this post and the story behind the Matrix. We begin to question norms and the reasons we believe in certain things almost blindly. We begin to ask ourselves what we really want in life. More often than not this happens when someone points these things out or we go through such emotional periods that the noises in our heads are silenced, and for the first time we get in touch with our inner-self. We have become so accustomed to our set ways that it takes a lot to shake us up and have our eyes opened. We really need to take time out and look into ourselves. What are your strengths? How can you best use them? Are you currently using them to the best of your abilities? What steps can you take to make changes in your life? It all begins with looking within ourselves because that is where all the answers are.

What are your views on the story? What were your thoughts when you first read it? Look forward to hearing your views and opinions.

Views on the Economic Crisis

climate. The first thought that comes to my mind when the economic crisis is mentioned is opportunity. Does this mean that I am an eternal optimist or in denial? My world view certainly does not have a doomsday prediction for the near future. Given that a lot of people are reverting to defensive stances opens up a world of possibilities for those who are more aggressive.

If you are a poker player this is a common reaction by players who either try to limit their losses or have lost confidence in their abilities. At this point the aggressive player on the table takes note of this tendency and begins to run the meeker opponents over. The scenario these days is not very different. As aspiring entrepreneurs choose the safer path and get a 9-5 job, we effectively have less competition. When our competition begins to scale back on their marketing and expansion plans they leave themselves open to attacks on multiple fronts.

Do not get me wrong, this is not the time for reckless aggression. Quite the contrary actually. It requires us to find new ways to become leaner, recruit our stars daily and provide even greater value to our loyal customers. The economic crisis is going to be here for a while, how we react to the situation will have a lasting impact on how the next decade of our lives plays out.

What are your views on the economic crisis? How are you reacting? What would be your advice to entrepreneurs who are starting up?

Knowing What You Want

We were discussing the book “The Secret” a couple of nights ago, and some people related how they thought it was all fluff. To a certain degree I understood their point from a certain perspective. Getting what you want in life takes more than just thinking about it and waiting for it to manifest itself. We are constantly reminded as we are growing up that life is tough and you need to put in a lot of hard-work to make a place for yourself in the world. I do not dispute this statement in any way. I do believe that it is only through hard-work and dedication that we actually achieve things in life. However, it does leave you wondering when you start thinking about it in greater depth. If I work hard doing just about anything, will I achieve my goals and be happy? I realize this is a simplistic example, but it is what the youth take from that statement.

I believe we need to start providing the younger generation with the ability to explore their passions, likes and dislikes from a very young age. Instead of repeating the mantra of study hard in school and university and then get a good job, start by asking them to explore their personal preferences. In the end we will only get what we want in life…if we know what it is that we are looking for. We cannot begin the journey blindly and take the ‘come what may’ attitude, that only confuses us further. As a parent, brother, sister, friend or teacher we have to get the younger generation thinking about what they want, instead of telling them what we want for them. It is only natural that we want the best for them, at the same time we want them to have all the things that we did not have. That in itself could be a good education, the ability to travel, learn more about the arts or anything else that we would have liked to have done when we were younger.

Each one of us is unique. We each have a set of strengths and weaknesses and we need to figure out how best to use them. This process requires introspection, creativity and a channel to allow for expression. I do think we have to get the thinking process started at a young age to determine what interests us, excites us and gets us out of bed in the morning. I can tell you for a fact, that for me it was not my early morning math classes at school! However, I would be up bright and early working on entrepreneurship modules at universities. I am still developing my goals list about the things I want in life. This begins the process of the law of the attraction that is talked about in The Secret. It is the starting point, that first step that we all need to take in order to get what we truly want.

We should not leave this to chance and to what others think we want in life. We need to make a concentrated effort and take time out to map all we want, and then work towards planning to achieve that.

Harnessing Creativity

Lately I find myself getting lost in my thoughts. There is a great deal of activity happening lately in the realm of idea generation and brainstorming. I find myself shifting from one tangent to another. If you are an Apprentice fan and are watching the show’s latest season, you will notice that many similar discussions take place in the first couple of episodes. Tom Green, one of the participants, is an highly creative individual who provides his team with a lot of ideas and options. However, in the first couple of episodes no one has been able to harness his creativity and channel it in a productive manner. I empathize with the project managers because harnessing creativity in a team is a challenging task. The bigger the personalities the more challenging it gets. At the same time, the goal should not be to suppress levels of creativity by setting stringent measures. A balance needs to be struck which requires both these two major components.

Self Awareness: Creativity stems from knowledge about your industry, product or service. The deeper the level of knowledge and experience, the more directly correlated it is with higher levels of creativity. Personally, whenever I find myself going off on a tangent, I do my best to re-focus my thoughts on the matter being discussed. I used to do this initially with a notepad, and would write down when and why I drifted off course during a discussion. I am now more aware about the way I channel my thoughts and even though I still do go off on tangents occasionally, I am able to correct the course a lot faster. Once we are able to do this, we will find ourselves adding more value to conversations and more importantly, get specific and pertinent feedback from our peers.

Management: As far as management of many creative individuals is concerned, the leader or facilitator of the discussion needs to have the ability to pick key points from ideas and suggestions being discussed and probe them deeper. Whenever I am leading a discussion in which I do not possess the same level of knowledge as my peers, I constantly write down and review key points being discussed. After this, I ask for specific feedback on certain ideas that I feel fit the larger vision and discuss them further. The last thing you want to do in a highly creative group is to let the conversation run wild with everyone giving their ideas without any concrete discussions around them. These points have helped me make brainstorming sessions much more productive and efficient.

As an entrepreneur I am constantly exposed to new business concepts and ideas that my friends or I may be working on. Things do tend to get a little out of hand when we have too many things going on at the same time. It is important that we do not let this flurry of activity effect the level of productivity associated with each project we are associated with.

How do you think creativity can be harnessed? What are some steps you take to harness creativity in your business? Would like to hear your comments and suggestions.

Kicking Out the Ladder

I was referred to this website today,, this has a few short films on it regarding Honda. Needless to say while watching the video I was itching to input my two bits in about “Kicking Out the Ladder”. It is a term that is not used very much, probably because it sounds a little harsh at first. No one wants the ladder kicked out from under them as they progress. However, I do believe that if the ladder is not kicked out from under us in life we will never really know how it feels to survive. When there is no safety net, it is make or break time. I think this is the reason why many individuals do not choose to climb tall ladders. The fall from a short ladder leaves one slightly bruised with minor injuries. The fate of a person falling from a taller ladder is very different. To achieve excellence in life we have to choose to climb taller ladders. As entrepreneurs we need to acknowledge that many times we will not have a safety net and if the ladder is taken out from under us, we will need to find another way up.

I remember one venture earlier in my journey when I invested in a pet store. The person who had been selected to run the store was a capable person who had a lot of experience in this field. The location was set, renovation works started, and things were coming along well. One day halfway through the launch phase I get a call from him telling me that he had overlooked a particular zoning requirement and we would not be able to sell animals from that particular location. Talk about getting the ladder kicked out from under you! I vividly remember the following 2 weeks being highly stressful. I had to find another person to take over the store and find a new location to set up our store. We managed somehow to get it done, and looking back at it now, I often wonder how we did it. The important lesson is that when we find ourselves in positions where there is no other option to turn back to, we are capable of doing amazing things. We will undoubtedly suffer some really nasty falls, but along with that , we also put ourselves in positions to achieve great things.

Whatever your occupation in life may be, it is important to gather courage to climb these tall ladders. Life is too short to live with mediocre results. Each and everyone of us is unique in our own way, we need to find how we can use our strengths, and then choose the right ladder to start climbing.

I would really like to hear stories of how and where the ladder was kicked out from underneath you. How did you react? What were some of the difficulties you faced? How did you overcome the challenges? What advise would you give to people who have the ladder kicked out from underneath them.


Life has a funny way of working out. As an entrepreneur, there have been times I have started a project from a certain angle and ended up changing paths to a totally different one altogether. This has much to do with flexibility and adaptability based on the feedback one receives along the way. The fact of the matter is, that opportunities are there all around us. The difference between those who actually find them, and those who do not, is simply…… one set of people are “doers” and others are “observers”. Opportunities have the strangest way of popping up in random conversations through networking opportunities, or by identifying trends becoming prominent. Most importantly, one has to be open to receive and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

Like most things in life, we have to carefully evaluate opportunities that present themselves, evaluate them, and if they do not fit into what you are doing at that time, file them away, and move on. A factor that holds many entrepreneurs back is, that although we have a great ability of finding opportunities in many places, an overload of opportunities can be paralyzing. This is something I have to confess that I have been guilty of many times in the past. I have now developed a process through which I evaluate each opportunity as it present’s itself. Only if it is in line with my goals and objectives, do I explore it further. This has helped me greatly to evaluate opportunities faster and more efficiently.

Is there a particular source through which you find most of your opportunities? Do you have a process of evaluating opportunities that present themselves? How do you choose between two opportunities that look equally interesting?

Permission Marketing

Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors. His blog and books have been a great source of inspiration over a period of years. Permission Marketing is one of his books I continuously refer to whenever I think about marketing campaigns and developing deeper relationships with clients. Like most of his books, it is relatively short but an extremely informative read. Many of his theories about permission marketing are now being taken a lot more seriously, and businesses have begun to question the mediums they use to speak to their customers. Mass media advertising is steadily decreasing as advertisers switch to mediums which help them relay messages to their target audiences. Instead of blasting the public with superfluous advertisements, businesses are beginning to look for ways to direct their message directly to their target audience.

In this book the author outlines several strategies that business owners can use to integrate permission marketing into their marketing strategies. Instead of measuring how many eyeballs actually see your advertisement, business owners need to start thinking about how to gain their target customers permission and share their products/services with them. This requires a fundamental shift in the total way that one looks at marketing. The concept of developing deeper relationships with clients is often overlooked because it requires more time, effort and constant attention. Marketers  are unfortunately in the habit of just putting their message out there hoping for something to happen. This method may have worked in the past when communication mediums were limited and the public unable to filter messages as effectively. Today the tables have changed and we need to adapt, otherwise our messages will continue to fall on deaf ears.

I recommend this book to all business owners and entrepreneurs and anyone  serious about marketing activities and how to gain a level of permission from their clients so as to actually start making choices for them. Developing such relationships will enable us to increase cross selling opportunities, increase revenue per customer and most importantly increase levels of trust and build  stronger relationships. This book is filled with strategies detailing how to do that.

Have you read this book? What are some ways and some permission marketing strategies that you use? What are some of their benefits and drawbacks?

Decision Making

In life we all make decisions on a regular basis. Some decisions decide  how we spend an hour or two, others impact the route our life will take. Most decisions are time bound,  as we reach deadlines, pressure starts to build. This is that moment in time when those who are well prepared will be in a position to make much better decisions than those who make impulsive decisions that may “feel” right at the time. I do believe that most of us are able to relate to decisions that would have been made differently, if only we had been better prepared. I remember quite vividly one such decision, I was hiring someone to take care of an administrative role in one of my portfolio companies. We were under severe pressure to manage our paper work and were desperately looking for someone to help distribute this load. We ended up making a rash decision, this caused further disruption in our work because we were not specific enough about what we wanted. I have made several such errors in the past and  do my best to learn from each one to avoid making them in the future.

The fact of the matter is that it is easy to make an impulsive or emotional decision. It almost feels ‘right’ in the moment as well as temporarily removing decision making stress. However if made incorrectly the repercussions are far worse. Therefore whenever one is making a decision that will bring about a significant change in life, it is important to evaluate it from all angles. We need to have a clear focus of how this decision will  impact our life and whether it is something that we want. As difficult as it may seem, we have to balance our emotions and logic in such scenarios. We have to do our best to make a decision with the bigger picture in mind. At the same time, we have to ask ourselves whether this is a decision that we would be able to live with, even if things do not work as planned.

I may sound as if I am trying to remove the element of risk from decision making. I wish I could do that at times, but I am aware that is not possible. The point that I want to drive home in this post is that we need to take time out to really think about decisions we want to make. There has to be a balance of emotion and logic. At the same time, we need to remain flexible and not let the process of decision making paralyze us for fear of making a wrong choice. Sometimes, we have to make tough decisions in life, these are not easy. But that is life….all we can do is to make sure that we spend as much as required to make an educated decision rather than an impulsive one.