February 2015

Making Better Decisions Considering Time, Talent & Treasure

2015-02-14T14:12:57-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: |

Being more innovative requires making better decisions. A friend uses a filter called “Time, Talent, Treasure” to help her make important decisions. She learned this from a co-worker years ago and passed it along to me. And, now I pass it to you.

When determining where she should focus effort she asks… Is this worth our Time, Talent, and Treasure? Below are suggested questions to ask about the project, plan, or idea…


  • Is it worth the time investment?
  • Are there better/more effective things we could be doing with our time?
  • Does the effort provide a worthwhile return?
  • Is there a way to do this that will allow it to take less time… make it easier (but without compromising the integrity or watering down the idea?)
  • Is there a way to make the time work harder for you? (i.e. if you’re already having a regional meeting pulling together your management team – is there something else you can do to all value to their time?)


  • Is this something I should be working on?
  • Should it be delegated?
  • Is it part of my role?
  • Is there someone else more skilled with a project like this?
  • Is it something our employees (talent) should be focused on?


Treasure can be viewed from two perspectives… Money as treasure… Brand as treasure.


  • Is it worth our financial investment?
  • Should we spend against this?
  • Is there a better use of our cash?


  • Is it worth our brand investment?
  • Does it strengthen our brand or does it stretch it?

Next time you are planning and prioritizing, try using this filter on some of the most important questions.

If it isn’t worth your time or talent or treasure is there a way to modify it so it is? If you can’t figure out a practical way – perhaps it’s not worth doing.

August 2013

Don’t Manage Like a Stooge, Look Before You Leap

2013-08-01T12:48:12-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , |

We are all in a hurry with our businesses.

We all want results immediately.

Because of this, we often act immediately without taking the time to think-up alternate ideas or think thru the implications of what are about to do. Something is better than nothing, right? This is thinking tactically, not strategically. We confuse activity with productivity. There’s a difference.

I’m ripping off yet another Seth Godin post to reinforce this idea. He says it brilliantly.


You probably have better things to do than to analyze the basic trait of the Three Stooges, so I will do it for you.

They have impulse control problems.

It’s not that they are evil or even particularly selfish. No, the challenge all three Stooges face is that they do whatever comes into their minds, immediately. If they want to lash out or poke or twist, they do. If they think it might be effective to make money running a plumbing company, they don’t consider, they merely do it.

Stoogecraft is what happens when people or organizations in power do what feels right in the short run without thinking at all about the alternatives or the implications. It’s the result of fear or boredom or a misplaced focus.

Every customer service horror story is an example of stoogecraft at work. Every business development deal gone awry because of personalities, greed or miscommunication is a result of the same thing. When we don’t say what needs to be said, postponing it for later, we’re playing the Stooge game.

Humans being human. People who can do what they want doing what they (think) they want.

Short-term thinking used to mean a rake to a face. Now it leads to dead ends, broken promises and success avoided.

Thanks, Seth!

Three Stooges &copy C3 Entertainment Inc.

August 2012

Marketing Offers Can’t Feel Selfish

2017-03-01T11:56:07-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , |

When creating a marketing offer, you’ve got to make sure they are as meaningful to your customer as they are for your business. Today, my old* dentist sent the following automated email.

As we near the end of 2011, I wanted to remind you about your unused dental benefits. Every year you receive an amount from your dental insurance company – make sure to use your available benefits to complete any outstanding treatment. Most dental plans do not let you rollover unused dollars to the next benefit year. …Now is the time to schedule treatment so your copayment amounts can be claimed this year.

For starters, they forgot to change the template from 2011 to 2012. They lose a few points for “attention to detail” but, that’s not the problem.

From a business owner perspective…
It sounds like a win-win. We alert patients they may have access to treatment funds. We increase sales by collecting otherwise wasted insurance money. This idea probably came from a “Folks, we’re leaving money on the table” discussion.

From a customer perspective…
It sounds overly opportunistic and self-serving. If it were Disneyland letting me know my tickets were expiring or my gym informing me I had free classes left on my membership – that would feel okay. But, an extra trip to the dentist? Not the kind of marketing offer that appeals to me. And, I *love* getting my teeth cleaned!

I would classify this tactic under “can ≠ should.” Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. A great idea, just maybe not for a dental practice.

*They are my old dentist because of practices like this.

October 2010

Five Expert Twitter Tips For Better Connections

2017-03-01T11:56:07-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , |

Twitter Logo

Five secrets to make even stronger, meaningful connections with your Twitter followers.

For each and every person who has chosen to follow you on Twitter:

  1. Read their profile.
  2. Follow and explore the link they provided in their bio.
  3. Send a personal direct message to each and every one who chooses to follow you.
  4. If they are listed as a company (instead of a person) visit their site and find out their name. Use their name in your thank you note.
  5. If they don’t allow direct messages on Twitter, visit their website and use an email provided or say “thank you” in their website’s contact form.

My thank you starts with this:

[person’s name], thank you for choosing to follow me.
I hope you find my tweets interesting. – Paul

  • I include their name. I then further personalize the ‘thank you’ with something interesting I read on their site. Something we have in common. Or, call out that we should talk because we have such similar interests.
  • Sometimes, if the follower speaks another language, I’ll even use Google Translate to try to convert my ‘thank you’ into their native language.
  • If it is a company and it is unclear who the twitter’er is, and when visiting the website there is a small team, I’ll address my message to the team.
    Shannon, John, Jeff, and Amanda, thank you for choosing to follow me….
  • If there are too many people listed, I’ll outright ask “who is tweeting?

I’m genuine with my comments. I won’t flatter simply to flatter, that’s dishonest. If I can’t find a meaningful connection due to different interests, or not enough information I will – at minimum – send my basic thank you.

It is an honor to have Twitter followers who, when you write something worthy, pass it onto their following. And, that reaction repeats itself with their followers.

We should respect the relationship we can build with our followers. They are customers of our content. We are responsible to maintain the quality of our tweets, so that with each new tweet, they are happy – all over again – they chose to follow us.

November 2008

Black Friday: How Black Will It Get?

2017-03-01T11:56:43-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: |

Today is “Black Friday,” the beginning of the American Christmas shopping season, and one of the busiest retail shopping days of the year.

Some shoppers think it is called Black Friday because – to take advantage of the deals – you have to get up when it is still black outside…

Others believe it should be named Black and Blue Friday due to the brawls that breakout over limited quantities of this years’ “hottest” toy or electronic item.

Retailers have traditionally provided special sales and incentives to drive traffic to their stores today with the hopes of turning a profit for the year; taking their sales books from “in the red” to “in the black.”

Interesting, while today may be one of the highest traffic days, it traditionally is not the highest sales day. Discounts and special offers end up eroding margins.

Watching commercials during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (the Super Bowl for Christmastime) was interesting. Ads for super-early morning sales, deeper discounts, and extra-special offers gave a sense how anxious retailers are.

CNN Holiday shopping headlines tout: do-it-yourself gifts, getting resourceful with gift wrapping and low-cost decorations, cheaper gadgets in vogue this season, and that, this year, Santa is on a budget.

So, how much are customers willing to pour out of their wallets considering the financial unease and higher prices elsewhere?

Good timing too in reporting gas prices… Last week the average price for a gallon of gas dropped under 2-bucks. The lowest it has been in 46 months. Just in time for gassing up for holiday shopping.

It will be interesting to see the reports by the end of today and on Monday.

Did your company engage in out-of-the-usual tactics to drive traffic and sales? Higher than normal discounts? More than normal value-added items?

This entry is a simulpost with MarketingProfs DailyFix blog.

October 2008

Get In On The “Conversation”

2017-03-01T11:56:46-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: |

The Age of Conversation, that is…

I’m excited to share with you that The Age of Conversation: Why Don’t They Get It – the new marketing book written by 237 writers, marketers, and business people (including me) from 15 countries – goes on sale tomorrow, October 28, 2008. You can get the book in three ways… an ebook, hardcover, and softcover.

I would summarize the book like so…

We’re in an age where the digitally-connected individual consumer, (using a free blog site, for example), can affect purchase decisions as much a multi-million dollar ad campaign. It is less about mass communication, and more about individual conversation… The Age of Conversation… and what is taking place between consumers, companies, agencies and brands to foster this communication?

Not only does the book provide a plethora of perspective on contemporary marketing, but also… all proceeds (less production cost) are being donated to Variety, the children’s charity.

Great book. Great cause.

Each writers selected a topic from the below list, providing our thoughts, insights, and expertise on the topic.

  • Manifestos – The Age of Conversation. Why don’t people get it? Where are things going?
  • Keeping Secrets in the Age of Conversation – With everyone talking so much, what is the role of privacy? Do consumers understand that their online conversations are tracked and can come back to haunt them?
  • Moving from Conversation to Action – Talk is cheap, (or so they say). How can businesses and brands move from conversation to something more valuable to their business?
  • The Accidental Marketer – What is the attraction to a career in marketing?
  • A New Brand of Creative – What type of creative person does it take to communicate in the media of the 21st Century.
  • My Marketing Tragedy – Brave writers share their not-so-successful projects and what they learned.
  • Business Model Evolution – With markets and people changing, how has the business model between client and agency changed?
  • Life in the Conversation Lane – How is life in a digitally connect world affecting the individual?

Charity Donation Breakdown

Here’s the breakdown of the donations being made to charity.

Type Price Donation
eBook $12.50 $10.00
Hardcover $29.95 $6.04
Softcover $19.95 $8.02

Purchase online at http://stores.lulu.com/ageofconversation. Get more information online at www.AgeOfConversation.com.

The Contributors

Here we are… If a link is shaded, you’ve probably been to their site before. If not, chances are you may have found your next favorite site.

Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi,

Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich,

C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Chris Brown, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson,

Daniel Honigman, Dan Schawbel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Dave Davison, David Armano, David Berkowitz, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner,

Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller,

Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson,

Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming,

Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber,

J. Erik Potter, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne & Todd Cabral, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, John Herrington, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Foster,

Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kristin Gorski,

Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux,

Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel,

Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice,

Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz,

Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman,

Rachel Steiner, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen,

Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Sreeraj Menon, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood,

Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tim Brunelle, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman,

Uwe Hook,

Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau,

Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, and

Yves Van Landeghem

June 2007

“Greatest Promotion” Wouldn’t Scale

2017-03-01T11:57:04-04:00 Categories: grow|Tags: , , , , |

Washington DC-area California Tortilla restaurants offered a $1-off your purchase if you beat the cashier playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.

A really cool idea.

I just heard about this from John Moore (from Brand Autopsy), who saw it on the website of Seth Godin, who read about it on the Freakonomics blog, who spotted it on the DCist blog, a site about all things Washington DC… Whoosh!

I agree this is a buzz-worthy promotion. Just look at the path it took to get posted here!

At his site, Seth comments that this idea showcases the front line worker. Makes them “part of the deal.” He adds how great it is to allow them judgment. Perhaps even build enthusiasm among employees who are typically gears in the business machine.

Seth then suggests… What if you could get a free biscotti if you told a great joke to your Starbucks barista? Or what if the customer service team could give a prize to the nicest person who calls in that day?

A neat idea… but not at all realistic for a large company.

The California Tortilla idea works because they don’t have very many locations. Smaller businesses can get away with bigger ideas like this because there is less ‘exposure’ to risk. What California Tortilla hoped was that enough people will talk about it… and visit the stores… and the $1-off discount offer would be offset by increased traffic for the day.

I’m sure that California Tortilla is prepared to give EVERYONE walking through their door on that day a dollar off. So, for them… the extra 100 customers who visit each of their 10? locations? That’s a discount budget of $1,000. Not too risky.

While I like Seth’s sentiment… Could you imagine if Wal*Mart or Starbucks actually tried this same promotion? It wouldn’t work.

  • They’d have to be prepared to give away hundreds of thousands of dollars
  • I’m certain that the “rock” of the Rock Paper Scissors, would be used as what it really is – a fist – and someone would get hurt.

So often, the marketing tactics of small, fast growing companies are admired… But doing it while small isn’t the same as when you’re big.

The hotshots we were watching a few years ago… Build-A-Bear Workshop, Krispy Kreme, and Whole Foods were the darlings other companies wanted to be like. We were scrambling… benchmarking and doing store tours of these guys… How can we be more like them?

I’ve always argued, it is easy to do “cool” things when they had 5, 10… even 50 locations… Wait until they have more locations. It isn’t the same. It isn’t easy. And now, each of these businesses has growing pains…

  • Krispy-Kreme has had financial problems.
  • Build-A-Bear has gone public and now watered down their concept by offering pre-made stuffed animals in the toy aisle of Target.
  • Whole Foods is in a whole lot of hubbub in trying to get bigger.

So, realistically… what ideas would work for the big guys? What could a 7-Eleven, Starbucks, or Subway sandwich shop do? Anyone?

January 2007

Points of Contact

2017-03-01T11:57:21-04:00 Categories: grow|Tags: |

It’s important to pay attention to the points of contact you have with your customers. These are known as customer touchpoints.

These are all the times/places when you or your business comes in contact with customers or potential customers.

A simple way Idea Sandbox may connect is illustrated below.


I’ve divided these points into four phases…

  1. Unaware – unaware of Idea Sandbox
  2. Potential – potential client
  3. Client – client
  4. and back to Potential…

    Each of these phases a (potential) client

December 2006

How to Be Different: “Create a Purple Cow”

2017-03-01T11:57:25-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

Seth Godin points out in his book “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” that… “In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” What stands out more in a field of average cows than a purple cow?

Who: Seth Godin

Author, speaker and marketing guru.

What: “Purple Cow”

What is it?:

Purple Cow – something that stands out – something remarkable.

Seth defines remarkability as something worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting. It’s a Purple Cow. It’s an idea that spreads.

How is is done?:

  • Go for the edges. Challenge yourself and your team to describe what those edges are (not that you’d actually go there), and then test which edge is most likely to deliver the marketing and financial results you seek.
  • Explore the limits. What if you’re the cheapest, the fastest, the slowest, the hottest, the coldest, the easiest, the most efficient, the loudest, the most hated, the copycat, the outsider, the hardest, the oldest, the newest, the… most! If there’s a limit, you should (must) test it.

Selected tips from “Purple Cow”

  • Come up with a list of ten ways to change your product (not the hype) to make it appeal to a sliver of your audience.
  • Think small. Think of the smallest conceivable market, and describe a product that overwhelms it with its remarkability. Go from there.
  • Copy. Not from your industry, but from any other industry. Find an industry more dull than yours, discover who’s remarkable (it won’t take long), and do what they did.
  • Find things that are “just not done” in your industry, and do them.
  • Ask, “Why not?” Almost everything you don’t do has not good reason for it.

Additional words of advice…

  • Differentiate your customersFind the group that’s most profitable… Cater to the customers you’d choose if you could choose your customers.
  • Criticism comes to those who stand outIf you’re remarkable, it’s likely that some people won’t like you. That’s part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise – ever.

Check These Out:



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How to Be Different: Offer “Dramatic Difference”

2017-03-01T11:57:26-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

Not just different, but dramatically different is what Doug Hall prescribes…

Who: Doug Hall

Inventor, author, consultant, and recent judge on the the ABC television network show “American Inventor.”

What: “Dramatic Difference”

What is it?:

Your job is to create a MONOPOLY.

Every product or service that is sold lies somewhere on the continuum from MONOPOLY to COMMODITY. At the extremes, your offer is either one-of-a-kind – in effect a MONOPOLY – or it’s the S.O.S. (Same Old Stuff) – a COMMODITY. In the case of the latter, the only way you can enhance customer value is by lowering your price.

How is it done?:

Doug’s Three Steps to Successful Marketing

Step 1 – Overt Benefit: “What’s In It For Me?” – Articulate the benefits of your product/service (not the features). Customers won’t necessarily know how to translate your features into their benefits.

Step 2 – REAL Reason to Believe: “Why should I believe you?” – …The benefit will have caused some tension and anxiety in the customer’s mind. It will require you to resolve the tension by offering a REAL REASON to believe. Being overt and obvious about your unique and Meaningful benefit will get customers to notice you… Today’s customers are media savvy. They’ve learned to discern the difference between real substance and smoke and mirrors.

Use overt honesty to find your credibility. Your credibility is built from honesty. When an offering is not right for your customers, tell them so. When you don’t know the answer, don’t bluff; them them you’ll research it and find the answer.

Plan to Exceed Customer Expectations. Credibility is built when the customers’ experiences exceed their expectations. Design pleasant experiences into your brand experience…

Here’s where Dramatic Difference comes into play…

Step 3 – Dramatic Difference: “Why Should I Care?” The First and Only… – Evaluate how MEANINGFULLY Unique your offering is. Is it the FIRST and ONLY to:

  • …offer the benefit?
  • …solve this specific problem?
  • …offer a COMBINATION of benefits?
  • …offer customers this level of VALUE?

If it is not one of these, then you must think hard about the viability of your offering…

Check These Out:



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