Category Archives: Outside:In Mindset

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

Ask Your Customer – Part 3 of a Continuing Series

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers how you’re doing.

The alternative is that maybe one day you won’t have the same number of customers to ask.

I’ve written about the importance of customer learning and market research before, including posts titled A Cure for We-know-it-itis and Ask Your Customer.

ShopRite SurveyMy latest “Ask Your Customer” example comes from the retail grocery industry.

ShopRite is a leading northeast supermarket retailer with 250 stores in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.  It’s the primary consumer brand for Wakefern Corporation, “the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States,” per the company.

Wakefern has a sophisticated marketing and merchandising operation.

At the same time, they deploy this simple customer learning tool (picked-up in a NJ store):

Dear ShopRite

I especially like the following two questions because (1) it’s about time good people get credit; and (2) it’s an opportunity to learn something about the product assortment selection: Continue reading

For Growth & Success, Get Out of the Office

There’s only so much you can do sitting at your desk.

Let’s face it.  If you’re not engaging off-site with everyone and everything that makes your company tick, that’s a problem – and lost opportunity.

That’s why you and your business team colleagues need to periodically get out of the office and, for example:

•  Listen to your customers;

•  Get direct feedback from your ultimate end-users;

•  Work with sales colleagues;

•  Investigate and learn about important marketing geography;

•  Talk with manufacturing colleagues in the plant.

Photo: Company Facebook.

I was reminded of this critical factor for success by Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Twice in the last two years, Starwood has temporarily moved corporate HQ to another country for month-long immersions:

“To get to the heart of two of Starwood’s key markets — China and the Middle East, which account for 75% of its growth — the hotel group’s leadership team, including Mr. [Phil] McAveety [Executive VP-Chief Brand Officer at Starwood], the CEO, chief financial officer and others, took a month to immerse themselves in each location. The team spent March in Dubai and visited China in 2011.”

(Emma Hall, Advertising Age, A Peek Into Starwood Hotels’ Marketer Immersion Program)

Starwood does this to learn.  Here’s what they said in a company statement: Continue reading

9 Thought-Provoking Leadership & Personal Growth Ideas for 2013

As we close 2012 and enter 2013, many of us will take stock of how we’re doing as marketing and business leaders, and perhaps in our personal lives as well.

In that spirit, I’d like to share a few thought-provoking ideas from my recent reading, including from Jeff Bezos and Clayton Christensen, that resonated with me and could prove valuable to you.  While they’re mostly for your professional consideration, you may also find some personal overlap.   I’ve organized these ideas into nine categories for easy processing.

Good luck and Happy New Year.

iStockphoto.com

1.  Figure Out How To Get Real Feedback & Input. 

A.  Doug Parker – CEO of US Airways

I try really hard now to have forums that allow employees to talk to me, rather than me being in front of 1,000 people. Four times a month, I put myself in a room with 30 or 40 pilots and flight attendants, and I talk for 10 minutes; they talk for 50 (emphasis added). It’s not just listening out of respect — you can’t imagine how much better you can do your job when you operate this way. When you’re leading a big organization like an airline, there’s a whole lot you can miss, so you have to start by listening to people. Then you can decide what the right course is.  (Source: Fortune)

B.  David Boies – Superlawyer, founder of Boies Schiller & Flexner

Anyone who’s worth talking to is worth listening to.  (Source: Fortune) Continue reading

Attention Marketers: Watch Undercover Boss

You can learn a lot from the new reality television show Undercover Boss.

Now, more than ever, marketers need to build connections across the entire business.  Operating at peak effectiveness requires a level of 360 degree sensitivity and insight up and down the company.  Savvy marketers are able to develop the cross-functional knowledge and organizational understanding that enable them to operate effectively, earn respect and get things done.  Working this way can yield great ideas, provide an important reality-check on marketing effectiveness and help strengthen decision-making.

Undercover Boss provides tv entertainment that will stimulate important reflection about your job and company.  The premier episode featured Waste Management President and COO Larry O”Donnell on his “first day” in jobs including collecting garbage, sorting recycling and cleaning portable toilets.  Here are two of his lessons learned:

1.  Unexpected Implementation.  Waste Management apparently has a lateness policy for hourly workers who use time cards.  Punctuality is important but the method one local manager used to enforce the policy disturbed O’Donnell.  Anyone clocking in late (e.g., from a 30-minute lunch) was docked two minutes in pay for every minute of lateness;

2.  Productivity At All Costs?  Waste Management was apparently so obsessed with productivity that it did not factor in bathroom breaks for its garbage collection drivers, forcing at least one female truck driver to urinate in a small can.

In a speech to employees at the end of the show, O’Donnell remarked:  “I’m going to be a better manager because now I have a whole new appreciation of the impact that some of my decisions can have on you folks.”

The show reminded me about some of my early career adventures and the invaluable learning I gained via a six-month stint in grocery field sales/merchandising prior to my first brand management assignment.  I could have starred in the reality series “Surviving The Supermarket.”  The first episode (New Product SNAFU) would have shown what happens when you give the Grocery Manager the wrong UPC code to order a new product, and what to do when he asks about the cases of another company’s product sitting in the corner.  Episode 2 (Bad Planograms) would have immortalized this classic Grocery Manager wisdom upon surveying the mess on the shelf:   “You can’t put 10 pounds of ____ in a 5-pound bag.”

Headline

Understand the front lines of your business.  You need to know how your products are made and sold.  There’s no substitute for being an effective marketer.  Make time to understand the people that do these jobs, appreciate their challenges, know the tools required for success and look for opportunities to improve.  Remember that decisions have implications; and plans are no good unless there’s buy-in, they can be implemented, and they can be implemented correctly.  Watch Undercover Boss.  You’ll have fun and will be prompted to think differently about your own job and company.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success. Contact him at hchimoff at gmail dot com.

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