June 28, 2011


your name hereHow many chickens does it take to cross the road to change a light bulb? That's not quite right. Here's the real question: How many authors does it take to write a book? The answer isn't funny but includes Ken Blanchard, Jack Canfield and Stephen Covey.

Your Expertise

Writing helps establish whether your ideas have value. Blogging lets you share your thoughts instantly for free.

A book hikes credibility, especially when printed by a well-regarded publisher. Books might also bring in revenue. The only problem is doing the writing.

Collateral Damage

A pre-written, pre-packaged book looks like a convenient shortcut. What's the downside?

In school, taking credit for something you didn't do was called plagiarism. Now it's called outsourcing. We use routinely use templates. For instance, in Microsoft Office templates save you time and mistakes. In exchange, you lose flexibility and control. For instance, this blog uses a standard template that my web designer customized. Yet all the content is mine.

Why "reinvent the wheel"? Reinvention leads to improvements, a better mousetrap (and smarter mice). Unless there's not enough difference, there's no point shipping. That applies to books too.


These days, Google reveals secrets fast. How did I find out about the fill-in-the-blank authors? A ho-hum speaker was selling a book she co-wrote with Stephen Covey and the rest. This puzzled me. We're judged by the company we keep. Why would Covey associate with this so-so speaker? He'd get money but risk losing reputation.

I went online for reviews and found the same title but now the no-name author was a man!?! I did more searching and started seeing the insert-your-picture-here pattern.
Speaking Of Success with Blanchard, Canfield and Covey: one book? (click to enlarge)Click to see for yourself. Names of the insert-name-here authors masked.

Outrageous! How would you feel if you paid $20 for this title?

Loss of Trust

Even if each book is materially different, how do you set yourself apart by mimicking your competitors? You certainly won't get an "A" for originality. Once discovered, will you get a premium for your products or services?

Do you trust a fill-in-the-blank author? Do you still trust the name-brand authors? We're judged by the company we keep. What are you doing that might deceive others?


PS If you're going to use a pre-written book, at least change the title and cover.

June 21, 2011


Steve Gupta (click for source article)Business speakers tend to fall into three groups
  1. celebrities/keynotes: often entertaining and informative
  2. technical experts: often dull but a path to Continuing Education credits to maintain your licenses and designations
  3. disguised sellers: annoying if you were expecting groups 1 or 2 instead of a sales pitch
This morning, the Mississauga Board of Trade hosted Steve Gupta, the President and CEO of the Easton's Group of Hotels (website). He fell into the first category. We got the usual crowd-pleasing tale of rags to riches to philanthropy.

There's a quote to the effect that you can't do a bad deal with a good person or a good deal with a bad person. Steve seemed to fall into the "good" category but how could we separate fact from legend?


Can you trust the speakers you see? That's tough to answer. They routinely come across as nice people — a criterion for getting invited. Is that how they really are? Audiences can't easily tell from what they say. Tough questions — if asked — are easily side-stepped. There's rarely an objective assessment published by a reputable source. These factors seed distrust which the speakers can't remove themselves.

Your prospects face similar challenges evaluating you. There's a way to dispel the skepticism and engender trust.

The Lesson

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
— The Legend of Liberty Valance (
Steve's session provided a valuable marketing lesson: let others spread your legend. Not even Warren Buffett or Steve Jobs can spread their own. Like you, they need credible supporters to tell others.

I spoke to two fellow attendees who did work for Steve. They confirmed that he was genuine and true to his word. This mild form of consensus confirmed my impressions.

The Way

How do you help your supporters help you? First, you need to be legend-worthy. Following the four habits of the highly referable helps. Also, you need to provide visible proof (see the three marketing essentials for today). That lets others check online to confirm what they heard.

Steve came across as fair — not after the last dollar (or $100,000). He's probably a tough negotiator but this aspect of his legend encourages suppliers to continue doing business with him. This is also a way to attract new deals.

When your legend is established, what you say is more likely to be believed without verification. For instance, Steve said he evaluates about 1,000 deals a year and accepts five. The other 995 provide practice. This looks like the 10,000 hour in practice. And adds to the legend.


PS Tip for organizers: post links to articles about your speakers in your invitation emails and on your website. That saves us time :)

June 14, 2011


Snowy woods 500x755To get a competitive edge
  1. avoid trade conferences
  2. ditch common coaches
  3. monitor another world

Trade Conferences

There's little point going where your competitors gather. That's one of Tom Stanley's  many valuable lessons in Networking With Millionaires. Yet conferences and trade shows are packed with your competitors. How do you get ahead when you're learning the same things at the same time in the same way?

If you want to copy what others are already doing, learning from them is fine. However, times change. What worked then or for them may not work now or for you. If you're forging your own path, you'll get better results by learning elsewhere and applying those lessons to your business. That's how I learned how to build trust with social media years before my competitors even started.

Coaches Smoaches

If you want coaching, avoid the coaches your competitors use. Unless you want to be like them.

Here's the key question: could your coach give you referrals? If you have competitors in the room, the answer is no. You're nothing but a customer. The revenue flows one way: from you to them.

If you get coaching elsewhere, you might get referrals from the coach. In a workshop setting, you could find new clients or referral sources among your fellow students. Learning + Earning.

If you get coaching elsewhere, you'll get different perspectives too. Yes, there's more effort in transferring skills to your business. That's good because your competitors will have difficulty copying you.

Another World

You can also learn by observing a different business and transferring what works to your sphere. Watching is free.

Look for a past-paced, innovative world. When I developed insurance products at National Life, I focused on consumer electronics (including computers). This lab showed how ideas spread and how the world was changing (e.g., due to the Internet, low cost manufacturing in China and the fascination with novelty). Becoming aware of trends and possibilities helps you implement ideas before your competitors even notice that fundamental changes have occurred.

Here are three examples
  1. The fast pace of adoption (half of Apple's revenue comes from a product that didn't exist until four years ago: the iPhone).
  2. The migration of GPS from an expensive novelty to a basic in smartphones. The shift from boring commodities (e.g., Dell) to elegant design (e.g., Apple).
  3. Launches with mass market pricing. Apple could have priced the iPad at $999 US instead of $499 but adoption would have been slower. In contrast, optional car features like HID-headlights or Bluetooth integration start in the flagship models and take years to become standard equipment in lesser models.
You may choose to observe a different world. Maybe cars or golf or ecology. What you see may not translate directly to your business but you never know ...

Opportunity awaits along the less trodden paths.


PS Yogi Berra said you can observe a lot just by watching. Yes, if  you avoid where your competitors are looking.

June 7, 2011


Campell And Low Sodium 425x305When you're marketing, you accentuate the positive and leave out some details. What if your target market notices … and minds?

You may win in a court of law but lose when judged by the public. Goodbye trust, perhaps forever.

We'll look at three recent examples of guilt by omission.


Would you like a free two-week trial of a dashboard that monitors your social media success? The vendor omitted two key items that might affect your decision:
  1. the price, which starts at $500 per month
  2. free options like PostRank (which Google just bought), Klout, Peerindex,, Google Alerts and Google Analytics
Why not advise prospects to start with free options and then upgrade when their business grows? If no one attending is ready to pay $6,000 a year now, no business is being lost.


A friend has been applying for jobs that require travel, typically a maximum of 20%. One position showed 20% as a minimum. Surely that's a typo. No. That position required travel 20% to 100% of the time. Imagine how a casual reader would feel about getting duped.


If someone infers what you imply, who's to blame?

Campbell's implied their healthy tomato soup had less sodium but has the same 480mg as regular. The big difference is in the price, which jumps from $0.99 to $1.49. Hello lawsuit and bad publicity.
Soup label conundrum
You might get clever with your wording but potential clients are tough to trick and can be vindictive when fooled. They now have outlets to make their views known.

Better take the long way home. Shortcuts can lead to dead ends.


PS Diluting the soup isn't bright either