Are You Solving Your Customer’s Problem – Or Just Selling What You’ve Got?

Is Your Business Selling Junk I don’t care what kind of business you are running – I don’t care if you have 1 employee (you) or 50,000 – there is one question that matters more than any other. Are you solving your customer’s problem – or just selling them what you’ve got?

Solving a customer’s problem is hard. And it never gets any easier. Your customer’s problem changes over time – and you’ve got to keep up. Or, even better, be just ahead of them, recognizing the problem just before they do.

Selling what you’ve got is easy (or so it would seem). You make cabinets. People need cabinets. Sell them some cabinets.

The problem with selling them what you’ve got is, well let’s face it, lots of people make cabinets. So why are they going to buy your cabinets?

Pretty soon you find yourself talking less and less about cabinets and more and more about what they want to do with their cabinets. About how you specifically design cabinets to optimize storage space. About how shelving and wine racks are great space optimizers and can be even better ascetically than cabinets. Pretty soon you’ll realize that you are selling attractive and functional kitchen organization solutions.

Turns out you can’t just sell what you’ve got. The truth is you are either solving your customer’s problem – learning to solve your customer’s problem – or going out of business.

The entrepreneur’s mission is:

  1. Know what problems you are trying to solve and for whom.
  2. Figure out how to solve them.
  3. Sell the solution.
  4. Repeat

NOT

  1. Decide what you know how to do/want to sell.
  2. Sell it.

In Arizona – Education is now an Option

If you’d like to see an example of the extreme “no taxes” political persuasion – you need to look no further than Arizona.

In Arizona taxes are evil, for years our politicians have built their reputations on one simple idea – taxes kill growth, so let’s not have any. They’ve perpetuated a myth… and now we are going to pay for it.

Arizona is full of people and companies that are here for one reason – they don’t want to pay taxes. Our economic structure is built on developers putting up planned communities and strip malls. Our tax base is based on people buying all the things they need to fill their new McMansions. The problem is, that model isn’t sustainable – never has been. An effective government would have begun making the investments years ago to allow our economy to smoothly transition from population growth to a sustainable industry based model.

Instead our government (and quite frankly, we) ignored a simple reality – you can’t build a sustainable economic base on a foundation of tax cuts.

Sustainable economies don’t occur by magic – and much of what is required by companies will never be invested in by those companies:

  • Education
  • Public Infrastructure
  • The Arts

So here we are – and it is time to pay the piper. And for all the conservative bluster about not saddling the next generation with debt or higher taxes they will instead be saddled with something much worse – a woefully substandard education and with it hugely diminished lifetime earnings.

While I do not believe that money alone can solve the problems we see in the state’s education system – I also know that reducing school funding to roughly the level of high quality daycare won’t result in better educated citizens.

And sadly, Arizona has already reached rock bottom – 50th in the US in graduating high school seniors going on to higher education, 50th in the nation in education spending, bottom third of US in high school graduation rate.

Now, it is time for the next round of cuts – and (no surprise here) education leads the way:

  • Reduced Funding for Charter Schools
  • Elimination of “non-Formula” K-12 Programs
  • Elimination of all day Kindergarten
  • Reduce funding to 2005-2006 levels
  • Elimination of Building Renewal funding

Link to Govenor Brewer’s Budget Proposal

What does all this mean? No art, no gifted programs, no music, closing charter schools, no restoration of dilapidated schools, all day kindergarten eliminated.

The worst part is, there will be more to come. Why? Because our elected representatives do not have the moral character required to admit that you can’t sustain anything on a platform of:

  • Times are Good!!! Lower Taxes!
  • Times are Bad!!! We can’t Raise Taxes!

At some point you hit the logical limits of that line of thinking – and we are there. It is time for the citizens of Arizona to realize that there is no sustainable future for this state (or our country) if we fail to invest in the future. There is no more important investment than an investment in our children’s education.

As the owner of an Arizona Based business – and as a father, I am happy to pay more taxes in order to ensure the education of our states children. Sure, I could just spend my money on my kids – send them to private schools, but that doesn’t improve our state or our nation. Essentially it will just allow my children the opportunity to one day leave Arizona for a college or a job that is appropriate for them.

It is time for all of us to start thinking about the future. It is time for us to demand our local and state governments implement sound taxation policy (the temporary sales tax increase is a band-aid and a poor one at that). In short, it is time for Arizona to grow up…

Arizona – Entrepreneurship Is NOT the Problem

People make a lot of noise about what is wrong with Arizona – and specifically our ability to start and sustain technology companies. Most of it is pointless blather and pompous windbaggery – here is why:

The problem is we have too many people who want to be the expert, advance their point of view or prove how freaking smart they are instead of doing one of the only three things that will change it:

  • Found a Technology company in Arizona
  • Invest in an Arizona Technology Company
  • Engage in making changes in our Public (because that’s all we’ve got) education system

Everything else is noise.

I admit I have not read the entire report from the Milken Institute entitled Charting a Course for Arizona’s Technology-Based Economic Development but I’m willing to bet the phrase “creative class” never appears once. You know what does?

Arizona actually ranks 3rd in the country for number of business starts per 100,000 people; it also places 12th for the percentage of business births in the high-tech sector. But too many high-tech firms fold or leave the state, and Arizona has only five firms ranked in Deloitte and Touche’s Fast 500 company list. Addressing human capital concerns and increasing access to venture capital would jumpstart the right kind of long-term development.

I’ll bet you didn’t see that one coming. How about:

Perhaps the single greatest threat to Arizona’s high-tech future is the fact that the state does not develop and retain enough skilled technicians, scientists, and engineers. In terms of sheer numbers, Arizona seems to produce sufficient graduates in science and engineering, but many are foreign-born and therefore more likely to return home, either due to preference or to a limited number of available work visas.

Shocking – our Universities actually produce “sufficient graduates”. Or my personal favorite:

Arizona will clearly be on the right track when it achieves solid gains in the indicators measuring whether local high-tech growth outpaces the national average; in recent years, it has fallen behind in these measures.

I defy anyone to tell me they are shocked by this or fundamentally disagree with that finding.

The problems, and their solutions, have been obvious for years:

  • We need a robust public/private R&D partnership
    • We get private organizations and companies openly bashing our Educators and Institutions without making any attempt to partner with them and create systemic change.
    • We get Universities who blatantly attempt leverage “incubators” as a source of revenue.
  • We need an active investor class
    • We get realestate investors who have no affinity with technology looking for a guaranteed 4% (to replace their realestate investments).
    • We get pay to pitch events, endless gatekeeper organizations, and every imaginable mechanism possible to keep actual investors from talking to actual founders.
  • We need jobs for the quality Math, Science and Engineering students our Universities churn out.
    • We get organizations who complain about how much our Higher Education System sucks – and watch the best and brightest they turn out go to CA, UT, OR and NM
    • We get a legislature that thinks shipping in University students from overseas/out of state is a great way to reduce education costs borne by the state.

We are failing – across the board, by any measure EXCEPT our ability to plan events, talk, point fingers and sit on the sidelines doing nothing.

We don’t have an entrepreneurship problem – we are 3rd in the nation for new companies and 12th for technology companies – we have an attitude problem.

It is time to drop the “it happens my way or I’m not playing” attitude and start engaging – across organizational, belief, strategy and ideological lines to generate results.

Because I swear to you – as a Founder of a Arizona based Technology Company – the next organization that spouts off about how “we’ve got it all right and everyone else is stupid” will earn my wrath.

Found, Invest, Engage or Shut Up.

TweetsForBoobs – How justSignal Helped Make it Happen

200910090957.jpgReposted from the justSignal Blog (http://justsignal.com)

Sometimes the best way to illustrate how justSignal can accelerate your strategy is by providing concrete examples of how others have accelerated theirs.

TweetsForBoobs is raising money for the Susan G. Komen foundation by encouraging folks to tweet the #tweetsforboobs hash tag on Twitter. It is the brain child of Chase Granberry and Josh Strebel – justSignal (and I for that matter) claim no credit for the idea or it’s successful execution.

In the interest of full disclosure, we did donate justSignal to TweetsForBoobs.

TweetsForBoobs needed four things in order to complete their vision.

  1. A way to capture Tweets about the site and with the hashtag
  2. The ability to put those Tweets on the site in real time.
  3. A way to count how many times a Twitter User used the hashtag.
  4. A way to measure the effectiveness of their efforts.

justSignal, because we focus on the complete Social Media Lifecycle, was uniquely suited to get them there – fast.

TweetsForBoobs was able to create a Signal that pulled in the content they were interested in. They were also able to – using our Exclusion Engine – remove spam and re-tweet bots from their Signal.

In order to create an engaging user experience on the site TweetsForBoobs dropped in and customized our real-time Twitter widget.   

Using our API service, TweetsForBoobs was able to pull in all mentions of the hashtag and the site in near real-time. This enabled them to count how many times each user tweeted the hash tag and update the site with current pledge totals.

Finally, TweetsForBoobs wanted to have some information (analysis) that gave them some indication of how the campaign was going. Since every Signal comes with our SignalReports (SignalMeter, SignalDensity and User Activity) they had basic who, when, and how much information.

sm-lifecycle.png

That is execution of the complete Social Media Lifecycle enabled by justSignal.

  1. Signal – Getting the #tweetsforboobs content.
  2. Engagement – Using our Widgets to put the content on the site, and using the API to create site specific information.
  3. Analytics – Using our SignalReports to gauge the effectiveness of the effort.

What makes TweetsForBoobs even more interesting is that they clearly show the benefit of our approach to data and analytics. When Chase wanted to understand the “Reach” of the hashtag he wasn’t confined by the data we provide “out of the box”.

The data is yours, when you have a question we don’t answer – because it is the really, really important kind, those specific to your business, company, product or service – you have access to the entire data set and the unfettered ability to mine out what is important to you.

You can read Chase’s excellent summary of the data and his thoughts on justSignal at the Authority Labs Blog.

What about action?

That is where you come in… head over to TweetsForBoobs or just grab your favorite Twitter client and send a tweet with #tweetsforboobs in it. Every time you do you pledge $1.00 to the Susan G. Komen foundation.