Google Should Only Buy Groupon if…

December 1, 2010

They’re smart.

The biggest purchase in Google’s long history of acquisitions has yet to happen, but it’s about to.  It’s a $6 Billion plus offer that makes a lot of sense for both companies.

Having never met Groupon’s founders, or any members of the team other than a few phone calls with some of their sales reps, I cannot attest to the vision or goals of the company.  But to be acquired by Google can’t be too far down on anyone’s wish list.

As far as the huge valuation that Google has given them, I would warn that Groupon is worth every bit of it, and then some. In a field that is quickly becoming overcrowded with clones, Groupon has demonstrated an ability to stay relevant, and become even more relevant.  As the local coupon company that took a deal a day to the next level, as the company that today thousands try to imitate, Groupon has set themselves apart.  And through the right kind of marketing, and the right kind of positioning, they’ve built an army of potential consumers for every brand.

Here’s a hint that every potential business owner should take from Groupon: create a way for consumers to get deals on products that they most likely would have bought anyway at full price, and you’re bound to make anyone happy.  In a lot of ways, that was Walmart’s vision when they got Sam Walton got started back in the early 60’s.  Serve the under-served yes, but offer deals on products people need or want based on another company’s advertising.

In any case, am I surprised that Google didn’t try to create their own clone? Yes. Am I surprised they’re interested in Groupon’s business? No. It opens up new doors to Google’s plans to take control of the “local” business of mobile and web apps.  Using Groupon in conjunction with other Google services may prove Groupon to be the company’s most successful acquisition ever.


Willy Wonka is a Marketing Genius

June 3, 2009

willy-wonka-wilderTake into account these two facts, kids like candy, people like to win stuff.  Now take into account the fact that Willy Wonka has been mysteriously locked in his factory pumping out world famous chocolate.  The word has spread of how this entrepreneur is secluded from the world, seemingly by himself, and continues to mass produce this candy that he sells across the globe.

Already this company has amazing distribution, a viral marketing story that people are obsessed with, and a strong brand name.  That sounds like a success story to me.

This is the point when any business owner must make a decision. Am I comfortable where I am at, or is it time to innovate, to create, and to grow? Willy Wonka decided to push a huge marketing effort on the world, and he did it without spending any money.

He launched a contest.  5 golden tickets, placed in 5 Wonka Bars, would allow 5 lucky people into a factory that has been closed to the public for decades.  Since the word of mouth story of Wonka’s mysterious seclusion is so wide spread, this contest touches on the nerves of evryone who hears about it.

Immediately, sales take off in countries all over the world. There are shortages in places that have never had shortages before.  People devote their entire lives to finding a golden ticket. And since the only way to do that is to buy more Wonka Bars, Willy Wonka not only increases the entire market for candy in the first place, but he increases his own market share to almost 100% during the contest.

Now I know that at the end of the movie Willy Wonka says the contest was all about finding a predecessor to take over the company, but you have to think that the main goal was to boost sales and create an even stronger brand image through PR and word of mouth.  Stock prices probably went through the roof.

I wanted to have some fun with this post after watching the movie on TV the other night, but there are also some real life lessons to be learned. A lot of companies run promotions here and there, but most are not as successful as they could be.  Tying a promotion into an existing word of mouth story rather than trying to create word of mouth based on the promotion alone will work much better.  Take one aspect of your existing marketing and build on it to create a contest for new and current customers.

Also, base your promotions around core products.  If you have something that sells well, use contest to promote its usage, and maybe tie it to something new or one of your less popular products.  This will make it more attractive for more people to participate.

Don’t be afraid to make the prize of your contests too big.  The more you offer, the more you will get from it in return.  Wonka offered the greatest gift of all for his particular situation.  A chance to see the factory and meet the man behind the legend.  Doing this was a risk, but it paid of big time.

I salute you Willy, one of the first true marketing gurus.

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If I Could Meet One Entrepreneur…

April 24, 2009

question_markYoungEntrepreneur is running a poll today for its readers.  The question, “If you could meet one famous entrepreneur, dead or alive, who would it be?”

For me, it’s an easy one.  I want to pick someone who built something from scratch, someone who challenged the system, and someone who continued to innovate all the way to the top.  And though it may seem somewhat obvious, I would not change my answer for anything in the world.

It’s Steve Jobs.

I have discussed the lifelong innovator before on this blog, and for good reason.  As an avid enthusiast of all things creative, I have to appreciate the work that he and Steve Wozniak did in creating Apple.  They saw something that no one else did in the area of computing.  They did what many people, even people in the industry, said was not possible and not “profitable”.  They created a personal computer that people could actually use.  And not only that, people wanted to use it.

Since then, Jobs has continued his journey with Apple at the speed of light, battling with Microsoft to gain market share over PC’s, adding the iPod to everybody’s list of must have gadgets, and successfully launching a smart phone with AT&T.

Through it all, Steve has fought his own battle with cancer.  I have great respect for Steve Jobs, and think that spending a few hours picking his brain on topics ranging from managing a growing company, to brainstorming new ideas, to successfully launching products, would be a great experience for any would be entrepreneur.

If you had to choose, who would you want to meet?  Share it with me in the comments section below, or hop on over to the real poll at and add your answer there.

Use Incentives Instead of Salaries to Recruit Early Hires

April 13, 2009

carrot-incentiveMost companies start with nothing.  But it takes people to run a company.  So what should you do?  You don’t have any money coming in to pay your employees, but you can’t hire anyone with any talent if you can’t pay them.  You’re stuck.

Not if you are creative.

Instead of offering competitive salaries to the first round of people that you hire, offer them a chance at even higher earning potential down the line.  I have always been one that thought that giving your employees a vested interest in the success of your company will lead to better results.  When people see that their work directly leads to the company’s success, and they are rewarded based on that productivity, they are much more likely to increase their effort.

If you hire a salesman, consider higher commissions than he expects.  Consider allowing the sales team to make suggestions to the marketing and development teams that will make selling and customer communication easier.  Reward them for suggestions that they help get implemented.

If you hire marketers, tie their earnings potential in with revenue that can be tracked directly to the marketing campaigns that they controlled.  If someone helps to create a strategy that works out in a big way, don’t hesitate to let them in some of the revenue that the strategy brought you.  For more ideas on creating a successful employee incentives program, check this out.

Your employees are much more likely to take an active role in the building of a new company if they feel some sort of ownership role.  They will stay with you longer, produce better results, and work harder to turn your new company into a stronger, larger one.

Anyone can offer a competitive salary.  Only the best and brightest companies offer a sense of responsibility and reward system based on the various roles played by employees.  Those companies will continue to recruit and retain A Players.

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Book Review: Fortune and Freedom

April 3, 2009

476The basics to a happy life: define success, work towards it every single day, balance work and social life.  That is the basic philosophy behind the teachings of Jim Hirschfield, lifetime entrepreneur and author of the book, Fortune & Freedom: The Entrepreneurs Guide to Success.

Too many books on entrepreneurship have the same cliché advice and false promises.  This book challenges conventional wisdom about owning and operating your own business by approaching it from another direction.

Throughout the book, you are reminded that success is something that you have to define for yourself.  It is not something that can blindly seek and stumble upon.  It is about setting goals, and working each and every day to accomplish those goals.  In a sense, those people who are truly successful and happy in their success get to where they are on purpose, never by accident.

In addition to some fine business planning and strategic advice, the book ties in some personal advice for your life outside of business.  As Jim defined success for himself, it was a successful business alongside a balanced personal life, where family events were just as important as business meetings.  The happiness of his family and friends was held just as high as the success of his business.  With this philosophy, Jim preaches finding a steady balance in all your endeavors to attain true happiness.

As you read the book, you feel as if you are sitting down with an old friend and discussing the many joys of life.  You get a good sense of who Jim is, and what kind of life he lived.  As the reader, you can view a successful entrepreneur’s experiences up close and personal, and feel comfortable knowing that everything you read is attainable.

One of my favorite sections of the book focuses on the definition of success as freedom.

If you have your long term goals in mind and you are progressing toward them, then the other day-to-day stuff is an irritant with which you can deal.  Defining success is crucial in almost anything you do, including business deals, working with people, and the many day-to-day decisions involved in business.  How can you be free if you do not define what that means?

We are all working towards freedom.  Whether it’s the freedom to travel, the freedom to spend more time with our families, the freedom to work in whatever industry you want, or the freedom to just do nothing.  This book will help get you there by offering some real life advice on passion, commitment, and decision-making. By the end of this book you will feel like all your goals are that much more possible, and your eyes will be open to new opportunities to improve your life.

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Getting Attention vs. Getting Respect

March 25, 2009

respectMake an impression.  That is the goal.  Whether you are an entrepreneur, a small business owner, a company, or just a person at an event or party.  But how?

Be different. I have referenced Seth Godin a number of times when I talk about the need to stand out and be different.  But it is very true, and he says it the best (and most often).  No one will ever notice you if you are the same as everyone else.

But here is the catch, there is a difference between getting respect and just getting attention.

Getting attention can help you get in the door. It can make potential clients and customers aware of your existence.  It can start a conversation.  But it doesn’t necessarily lead to success.

The guy who trips over the carpet in the middle of a crowded party might get my attention.  The company that offers a free car to the winner of a contest might get my attention.  But neither of those means anything in the long run.

Getting respect, in a business sense, means having a brand that makes people take notice. In a personal sense, it means that people genuinely understand you, and appreciate your point of view.

Getting respect leads to success.  It means, not only did you get their attention, but you did it in a creative and fashionable way, and you were able to keep their attention after the initial wave of awareness died down.

Getting respect means long term clients, it means brand loyalty, it means word of mouth marketing and referrals, and it means a corporate culture that stands for something.

Next time you have something to say, or you’re in a position to start a conversation, go for respect.  Start with something unique, something creative, and something that stands out.  But be sure to follow up with something real, something of substance, something powerful and meaningful.  The business, or person, that does this, will pave the way for lasting success.

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Book Review: The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

March 3, 2009

tpeLooking for a book that can help you jump start your business idea?  Well I’ve got one for you.  For the second time since its release, I just read The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Michael Michalowicz.

Many of you may have noticed this book already on my Recommended Reading list, but after going back through it a second time, it was clear that I needed to expand on that recommendation.

Why is this book so valuable? It is rare that an author gives out such real, to the point advice in their first book, if ever.  What I mean by that is, instead of dishing out the usual dose of vague inspirational advice, Mike dives right into real businesses.  From his own experiences, and the experience of others he has worked with, Mike lays out the fundamental approaches to any small business strategy.

From financing to marketing, from organizational structure to idea generation, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur is filled with real life stories and suggestions that will help you get a clear vision of how to run your company.  This works for those entrepreneurs in the idea stage as well as a small business owner running a successful company.

The book is written in the most basic conversational tone, which makes it a quick read, and drives home the various tips that the author makes.  It is easy to pick up on important points, and even easier to apply those points to your own business or idea.  And unlike the average business book which harps on the same point over and over, making it easy to lose interest or lose focus, this book continues to throw new ideas at you with every page turn.

I love a book that inspires you to take notes in the margins, stop in the middle of a page because you just had an idea, and can be used as a reference after the initial reading.  For me, this book did all three of those things.  I would recommend it to anyone with dreams or a vision of starting their own business, or anyone who is interested in the subject of startups and small business in general.

To order the book from Amazon, click here.  To find out more about the book and its author, Michael Michalowicz, check out his website at, or connect with him on Twitter at

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