Category Archives: Outside:In Mindset

Turn Customer Listening into Learning and Go-To-Market Action

Good things can happen when you listen to customers.

Consider Hostess Brands,  which “has nurtured retail sales of its products nearly back to their pre-liquidation level of more than $1.3 billion in 2012” as reported by Julie Jargon in The Wall Street Journal.

Credit: Captain Cupcake1 Flickr

Credit: Captain Cupcake1 Flickr

This summer, the company expanded the Hostess brand product range with white and wheat bread along with hamburger and hot dog buns.

Why is Hostess getting into bread?  They listened carefully to customers and realized there was a business opportunity. Continue reading

Marketing is Fun, Differentiation is Hard. A 3-Part Series.

Marketing is fun – and hard work.

It’s the latter part that’s not always so obvious.

I remember a former colleague who sought a cross-functional transfer from technical product management into global marketing.  I asked why.  Her response:  marketing is more fun.

Yes, marketing can be fun, but like the rest of business, it’s also a serious challenge.  Non-marketing observers may not realize all the hard work and preparation required to achieve success.

Which leads to the focus of this post – marketing differentiation.  It’s hard to do.

To stimulate your thinking, I have three new examples to share.  Note how the idea of “customer experience” is central to each marketing story.

And, I’m experimenting with something different myself to provide a better reader experience:  short, one-example posts on three consecutive days.

Part 1:

User Experience Innovation Creates New Kind of Wine Store Continue reading

How L.L. Bean Creates Employee Brand Ambassadors

Wouldn’t it be financially advantageous if employees throughout the organization could regularly think like their customers?

There are creative ways to encourage the development of passionate customer-focused champions/ambassadors for products and services.

L.L. Bean store in Freeport, ME. Credit: L.L. Bean.

L.L. Bean store in Freeport, ME. Credit: L.L. Bean.

Iconic brand L.L. Bean offers and implements a suite of programs to create raging fans inside the company, which ultimately help Bean outside the company.

Consider Bean’s “Team Days” and “Outdoor Experience Days:”

“From hikes to paddling trips, we provide opportunities for employees to develop their outdoor interests, enjoy L.L.Bean products and build stronger relationships with coworkers.”

These are paid days out-of-the-office.  Depending on seniority, salaried employees receive 3-5  per year for such activities.  That’s money well-spent. Continue reading

How To Take a Fresh Look, Get New Ideas & Tackle A Challenging New Job

Let’s say you’re a new business unit leader or CMO.

You want to get an unvarnished, 360-degree view of the situation and challenge at-hand.  You have to get prepared to give your boss an action plan.

What do you do and how do you do it?

To demonstrate, let’s use a high-profile, global example that just happened.  I’ll tell you who it is at the end of the post.

Blackboard with words Look Listen Learn

Image: iStock

Here are some of the steps taken by the new leader:

* Invited a range of outside industry experts to a private dinner.  They represented views both consistent with, and alternate to, the company’s strategic direction.

* The guests had to earn their meal by commenting on the most pressing problems facing the company.  Specifically, they were asked:  “Tell me something I don’t know;” and “Give me a new way of thinking about things.”

Continue reading

Joe Pulizzi Knows Content Marketing. You Can Too.

Do you want to get smarter about using content marketing to grow your business?

Then read Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi. Recognized as a content marketing evangelist, Pulizzi is the author of three books and the founder of the Content Marketing Institute.

His third book is full of practical tips that are integrated with solid marketing discipline.  It’s easy-to-read, has lots of examples, and contains “how to” implementation steps.

Whether you’re an up-and-comer marketer or a skilled practitioner, there’s something to strengthen your marketing tool kit in this book.


1.  Content Marketing Definition.  “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services.  They care about themselves. their wants, and their needs.  Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.Continue reading

Fun Test at School: Get Your Healthy Lunch from the Food Truck

You might think it’s a mission impossible marketing challenge to get high school students excited about, and actually eating, healthier school lunches.

Perhaps not.  A Colorado high school nutrition team, facing an 80% non-dining rate, has come up with a creative, disruptive action plan.  

Photo: iStock.

Photo: iStock.

Last week,  the Boulder Valley School District agreed to accept a $75,000 donation from Whole Foods to acquire a used food truck and create their own healthy eating food truck program.

It’s smart marketing for two, key reasons: Continue reading

Master of Disguise – Texas Roadhouse CEO Goes Incognito for External Learning

“It’s important that I not be recognized when scouting. I have Bubba teeth to dive to another level. The goofier you are, the more folks don’t care about telling you stuff.”  Kent Taylor, Texas Roadhouse CEO

Photo: Texas Roadhouse Facebook.

Photo: Texas Roadhouse Facebook.

Getting closer to your business operations, employees and even competitors doesn’t require a trip to your local pop-up costume store.  Save that for this year’s Halloween shopping.

Kent Taylor, the founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse provides a funny reminder that business leaders need to avoid the ivory tower syndrome and get out into the market for real learning. Continue reading