December 2015

Creative, Elegant Temporary Solutions To Problems

2015-12-03T15:03:23+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

There is construction taking place at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and a small leak has developed in the roof. They’ve put a plant in place to catch the leak. Not a mop bucket or 50-gallon trash can.

You almost wouldn’t notice there was a leak. The watervanger (water catcher) is attractive and the water gets put to use.

water catcher

Of course, addressing the symptom (water on the floor) isn’t addressing the root problem (hole in the ceiling), but temporarily this is a great solution.

October 2009

Describe Solutions Rather Than Ask For Tasks

2017-03-01T11:56:19+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

Below is a word-for-word cut-and-paste from today’s Seth Godin’s blog post: “What do you need me to do?”

“What do you need me to do?”

This is a question that defines the person asking it. It is very different from, “here’s what you might need…”

If you ask people for the next task on the list, if you allow them to define the thing they are buying from you, you have abdicated responsibility. Your work product becomes dependent on the insight and guts of the person giving you an assignment. This is especially dangerous for consultants and freelancers, because the answer might be, “nothing.” Or it might be a paying gig that’s profitable in the short run but a career deadener over time.

Far better to reach a level of confidence and skill that you can describe solutions rather than ask for tasks.

Seth’s comments jibe with two concepts I’ve shared in the past.

(1) Don’t present a problem, show up with the solution.

I only needed to hear this once, it has stuck my entire career. Don’t just show up to your boss with the problem, offer a solution.

Goffus: “Whoops! Wanted to let you know, there is a misprint on the Grand Opening invitations!”

Gallant: “Listen, wanted to let you know… I spotted a misprint with the date on the invitations… that’s pretty important. I’ve contacted the printer, they can do another run for us and can still make our delivery date. Sound good to you?”

Who is going to get the promotion? What is even better, is if you arrive with the problem solved. (If you are authorized to spend the budget to re-print the invitations – do that, why wait?)

(2) Add Knowledge

When someone gives you an assignment – for example, completing the spreadsheet with your numbers – instead of just doing the minimum, see if there is a way to provide additional value through knowledge. In addition to the numbers, perhaps it would be better presented in chart form too? Maybe the spreadsheet is poorly formatted and could use some clean up? Perhaps there is a more efficient way to do the entire project online vs. emailing a spreadsheet from peer to peer.

These lessons apply to being a better employee, or being a better brand to your customers.

August 2009

Marketing Lessons from School Lunch

2010-07-13T23:16:37+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , |

“If you can successfully promote sloppy joe sandwiches, you can perform marketing for anything!” That was my motto, early in my career, as marketing director for a food service company. We were hired to manage the school district’s food program. The school district could then focus on teaching children.

Chicken nuggets, tater tots and a carton of milk served in a sectional tray, taught me a key marketing lesson: Understand and satisfy your customers in each section.

At first…

…it seemed my job would be easy. Other than trying to reduce the stigma associated with cafeteria food, the only other challenge was to keep my end user customer happy… the diner… the kids. It is a simple equation.

The (A) Audience, minus their (P) Problem = equals (S) Solution/Success.

However, I quickly found out… I didn’t have a single audience… but many. And each needed to be considered with every communication program and marketing promotion.

My audiences are illustrated in my pizza diagram* below. Each slice of USDA-inspected pepperoni represents a different audience I needed to think about, to be considerate of, and include in my marketing equation.

*(forgive the inaccuracy, most school pizza is rectangle as it is cooked on large sheet pans).

Like the cafeteria tray…

…they’re all on the same plate, but divided by different needs.

  • Kids – Our “customer.” While mom and dad may provide money, ultimately the child chooses to buy or not.
  • School Board – My company was under contract with them, they’re our client. Keeping all the other groups happy keeps the board happy. Saving money makes them even happier.
  • School Principal – The boss of the school. They have to manage complaints from kids, parents and teachers. They report to the School Board.
  • Cafeteria Team (i.e., “lunch ladies”) – The front line workers. They make it all happen. While the school district employed them, we hired, let-go, trained, managed, and recognized their good work.
  • Parents – If the parents are uncomfortable with the food quality and/or get complaints from their child – we’re doing something wrong.
  • Teachers – Teachers themselves get tired of the same lunchroom food. Yet another customers.
  • US Government – Constant oversight and reporting to/from the government ensures quality for the kids.
  • Local Media – A slow news week often leads to a cafeteria pop-in visit to report, “What they are actually serving our town’s youth.”
  • Community – Unless you have kids of your own and join them once in a while in the lunchroom, you probably assume what’s served today is exactly what was served when you were in school. As does the rest of the community.
  • My Employer – Of course, I needed to keep my boss happy and manage with the resources provided by the company.

What’s more… there’s a tight communication link among these groups.

If one group is upset, news spreads to the rest… quickly.

So the lesson I learned was to always include these ten groups in all of my planning. If we launched a new program… Or re-worked the menu for healthier options… I had to consider how to best reach and communicate this information to a broad and skeptical group.

Quick realization of the simultaneous needs of all your audiences will lead to success.

This lesson has stuck and helped all through my career. So yes, promoting sloppy joes is a recipe for marketing success.

What experiences do you have to share?

This article is re-worked from an article I originally published on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog.

March 2008

Uncover Solutions Using Idea Sandbox’s Big Dig

2010-09-22T22:27:44+00:00 Categories: create, grow, SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , , , |

Suffering from idea block?

Like writer’s block, you know your idea or solution is just below the surface… but you can’t quite dig it out.

You need an idea shovel. Well, Idea Sandbox has help!

We present to you, the Idea Sandbox: Big Dig.

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Idea Sandbox Big Dig

Using it is fast, simple, and helpful.
Have your challenge in mind.

  • Click the above link. (
  • Click the idea sandbox to reveal your first suggestion.
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