Sunday, July 31, 2005

"Inside Golf Travel"

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but one of the blogs I visit regularly to see if there's been a new post is that of my friend, Gordon Dalgleish.

Gordon's latest post (see it here) involves what he calls the "3 golden rules" for a service business. What are they?

(1) Set the customer's expectations clearly and thoroughly.
(2) Avoid the possibility for surprises.
(3) Respond swiftly when mistakes occur.

It's interesting that PerryGolf, Gordon's company, has codified these principles, but there's no question that this kind of thing - and that all service businesses - work better when the entire staff knows the rules when dealing with a customer.

It's no wonder PerryGolf is a leader - and command, I'm sure, some of the best margins - in the golf travel business.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The lonely "Inspirator"

Several months ago our own Dean Wagner invented in his workshop a device - a very simple contraption - that when switched on stimulates creative thinking. A true Eureka! moment.

Dean also made me a mini-version of the same, one small enough to fit in my briefcase. There it rests, along with my cables and digital camera, ready to be called to duty.

We - the Inspirator and BURRIS - are working on a branding project with a Greensboro-based accounting and business and personal services firm. The Inspirator is in use now, but the mini- is still available for one-on-one consultations.

Talk about creativity unleashed! You should see this baby in action!

"Get Creative!"

A quick post to alert you to a fascinating study of innovation in business, 2005-style, in the current (August 1, 2005) issue of BusinessWeek. As I told the people with whom I work: this is one of the best end-to-end special reports I've ever read.

BusinessWeek is particular about access to its content on the web, but if you don't want to pick up your own copy, you may have some luck at Plus, BW put up its own, ongoing study on the topic of innovation at this special site.

Do yourself a favor - do your business a favor: Pick up this issue.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Why not an advertising agency?

I don't agree with everything in it, but this article from Chief Executive kicks sand in the face of the traditional advertising agency.

"Your company and its advertising agency are like ships passing in the night," Mark Stevens, the article's writer, says. "The agency is after awards ... [and] you are in the pursuit of the only goal that truly matters in a corporate entity: profits."

A lot of vitriol here, but some most of the opinions we read. But to me, enough truth for BURRIS to be "an idea cooperative."

Mind your manners, please

This week, among other stops, I'm headed to Pinehurst as a guest of The Golf Channel for their second Viewers' Cup. In spite of anticipated 100+ degree temps, I expect it to be a grand time: an opportunity to play two very good golf courses (Nos. 2 and 4), meet and network with some interesting people (their really big clients), and watch an underachieving brand interact with some of its more zealous supporters.

I'll save the "underachieving" comment for another post...coming soon.

No, today's missive picks up on a thread of conversation I had yesterday with a friend about this particular event, The Golf Channel's Viewers' Cup. He told me that the scheduled tee times had shifted a bit from the original plan, falling victim to a few last-minute cancellations from several of their RSVP'd guests.

"How do you cancel this late?" I asked, somewhat incredulous. "We've known about this for months."

"They just do," he said. "Happens all the time."

Got me thinking about manners, common courtesy and those kinds of things.

Apparently many people put into action a different set of courtesy standards according to the situation they're in. Some who think nothing of showing up late for an appointment with a sales rep wouldn't dream of doing the same for their Saturday morning tee time. Others write thank-you notes to business customers, but it never crosses their minds to express gratitude for a birthday bottle of wine from a sister.

The most genuine and considerate people I've ever met have unwavering standards for their own behavior, and those standards seem to be based on general principles of courtesy. Hold a door for someone, wait behind to make sure a colleague's car starts, stand up when someone reaches out a hand to shake, take off your hat when entering a room. Don't call after 9:00 PM, make eye contact when saying "Hello," say "thank you" whenever anyone does something for you, let a customer know you appreciate his business.

It's too confusing to have different courtesy standards for business, friends and family. Why not treat them all the same?

It seems to me that the person who will cheat in golf will cheat his customer, maybe not every time, but it's there - you know it is - waiting to come out. And the person who cancels her appearance at a business function she has committed to will also fail to show for the kid's baseball game or recital.

The same friend who told me about his customers cancelling for this week once said to me that I should write a book about a certain business philosophy I once espoused. The key to treating a customer well, I said, is to treat him the same way you treat your mother. And vice versa.

My advice (to myself, mostly): Be the same person everywhere.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Marketing metrics

Those who know me well - and those who have labored through my correspondence since way back in the BURRIS Newsletter days - know I've ranted time and again about measuring marketing effectiveness. I've written about "marketing return on investment" (MROI), cost per inquiry (CPI), and much more over the years, but I can name only a few actual cases where we helped a customer implement and monitor an effectiveness measurement program.

It's part of the three-link chain I talk about when describing "what we do." I talk about (a) brand identity (or "brand clarity" where necessary), (b) implementing marketing communincations, and (c) marketing metrics. "C" gets the most interest early on, but rarely do we actually find a customer with the discipline and commitment to implement a full-bodied program for measuring return on advertising investment.

It is a discipline, and it's not easy. A solid metrics program includes setting clear, measureable objectives, benchmarking, research - before, during and after - reporting, fine tuning and's a lot of work. You need thick skin on top of confidence.

Stuart Elliott reported in yesterday's (July 20) New York Times that a new study will be released this week that measures how uncomfortable marketers are with the gap between the desire to measure and the actual data they receive. See that story here, or click on the title of this post.

Today business measures practically everything except marketing return. It's time to change that, but there's no simple formula. It has to be done one initiative at a time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How to make a meeting

I've worked with some companies who meet a lot. Some people say, for instance, "I didn't get anything done today. One meeting after another." Others actually believe they get most of their work done in meetings.

What makes the difference?

Does any of this sound familiar?

No agenda is sent around before the meeting.
Or, no one reads the agenda prior to the meeting.

No briefing documents are prepared and distributed.
Or, no one reads the briefing docs prior to the meeting.

There's no clear objective for the meeting.
There's no one leading the meeting.
One or more of the participants contributes nothing to the discussion.

At our little company we rely on meetings to move something from one point to the next. Sometimes a BURRIS meeting takes place online, sometimes on the phone, and sometimes, of course, face-to-face in a traditional conference setting. (These are usually the most productive, but also the longest.)

After one particularly unproductive meeting the other day, I made some notes to myself in hopes of trying to understand what went wrong. (Seems every few years - out of frustration - I do this very thing.)

Here are my latest thoughts about meetings:

1. Meetings should be scheduled in time for everyone you need to be able to attend. Coming into the office today thinking you can have 100% attendance at the time you wish later on the same probably won't happen.

2. Meetings, of course, need a start time, but they also need an end time. How else can you plan around it?

3. There should always be an agenda, and it needs to be distributed in plenty of time for meeting members to review it, think about it, even make suggestions or ask questions, add to it or suggest something be eliminated.

4. Everyone invited to the meeting should know why he or she is there...and what his or her role is during and after the meeting. If you're in a meeting and you don't play a part, it's your own fault. If you don't know why you're there, ask the person who called the meeting.

5. Don't ever assume someone else is taking the notes you'll want or need later. He or she may be assuming the same thing.

6. It's okay to allow yourself to be distracted, okay to read email or do other things when you're not needed. (Seems there are always tangents one or more get off on.) But keep up with the action well enough to know when things are getting back on path.

7. Speaking of distractions, if you're going to bring your laptop, your digital camera, your voice recorder - all the little tools we love to carry about - make sure there's at least a possibility that your tools help add value and/or benefit the group. Visit a website relevant to the discussion. Take a digital photo of a white board before it's erased. (You get the idea.)

8. It's always good to summarize not only what's been decided, but also what needs to be done next. If it appears everyone might slip away before this happens, STOP THEM! Maybe it's not really your job to do the summary, but be prepared to do it if no one else steps up. And before the meeting closes, make sure you've actually finished. If items on the agenda haven't been discussed, decide what to do about them.

(This won't surprise those who know me:)
9. Start on time, and, if at all possible, end early. (Some of us have other meetings to get to.) It's more than courteous (but it is that too); it's more productive for all involved.

10. Finally, don't allow meetings to become one- or two-way conversations. The best meetings are opportunities for collaboration, festivals for expression. Not an expert on the luxury market yourself? That's okay, as long as you have a few thoughts you can share, maybe as a consumer, maybe an observation about friends or relatives.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Marketing professional golf

I came across a timely piece in an email newsletter I receive about how easy the LPGA Tour is to work with for sponsors. (Click on the title of this post for the actual article.)

"Timely" because Neil MacKenzie and I have been talking lately about the PGA Tour and Greensboro's own Chrysler Classic. Many of you may know that the Tour is making a lot of noise lately about cutting back the number of events per year in the future. Some of the players feel the season is too long, and some of the sponsors, writers and others complain that a second or third tier field is too often the case at tournaments that aren't one of the four majors or A-listers like Bay Hill or the Memorial.

Greensboro's Tour event would be a possible candidate for being dropped or for reassignment; few would argue that. Despite its 68-year history, the fall dates, the end of season feeling - these are the things that could likely spell doom for the tournament. So what should Greensboro's movers and shakers be doing?

One idea Neil and I discussed: Court the LPGA, before possibly being spurned by the PGA Tour. Jockey to be a top 10 event on the LPGA schedule by (a) getting a large, local sponsor involved (VF, Furnitureland South, Jefferson Pilot, et al.), and (b) aggressively promoting the "new" professional golf event as a way of revitalizing the community overall.

I think the LPGA Tour is on the verge of being a very hot property. If we're going to do it, now is the time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Working from home

Most days now, when I'm not traveling to visit with a customer, I work from home. I'm typing this post from my desk.

When we built the house, we set up a kind of quasi-guest room, but the only bed in here is a sofa bed, so it's a rare occasion we have an overnight guest. That's good, because I work at odd hours.

There's a DSL with a wireless modem, two Macs, both running Tiger, a small bookcase holding reference materials and supplies, one of those HP All-in-One printer/scanner/copier/fax machines, and a long, custom desktop outfitted for two.

We have two phone systems. Our local, BellSouth phone is a two-line rig with our local number, digits we've had since the late '80's. On my end of the desk, I use an internet phone, Vonage, VoIP they call it, a hands-free set with a 336 area code. And the mobile is somewhere, probably under some papers.

working from home
Here's what it looks like.

The desktop Mac I use for IM sessions, for Skype communications, for access to my online calendar - it's kind of running in the background...while most of the correspondence and other work are done on my laptop. The two are connected wirelessly by AirPort, and there's a multi-connection port for printer access.

All in all it's a pretty good set-up, and I am convinced I'm at least 50% more productive here than in our office in Greensboro. Don't get me wrong: I love to be in the office in GSO. You can't replace the value of face-to-face interaction, especially when you're interacting with the bright and good people at BURRIS. But here there's just better opportunities to concentrate, the phone isn't as intrusive, and as long as I set the appropriate status messages on iChat (our Instant Message service) and Skype, I can rock along pretty well.

Typically I listen to music in the deep background. Radio Paradise (, also on the iTunes Radio button under "Eclectic") usually. (Roxy Music's "More than This" is playing as I type this.) Plus, most mornings, also in the background is CNBC's "Squawk Box." Neither really has the chance to distract. But if too much gets to be going on, I'll switch 'em off.

For most of the weekend and into today, I'm also burning cd's, "ripping," as the new age parlance refers to it. I'm trying to get our cd collection into iTunes. Takes a lot less space, and gives me freedom to put together mix cd's for driving. (I'm ripping Ella Fitzgerald's "Best of Song Book" as I type this.)

So, amidst all these apparent, potential distractions, I'm still productive? Yes, I think so. Outside the window the birds are feeding, the tide is coming in, the sun is about to hit the window (forcing me to pull the shade a bit), and I'm in here, wrapping up this post and heading into cyberspace with a few questions for active customers.

Hope you're having a great day too.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Happy 4th of July

I'm reading Thomas Friedman's collection of columns just before and for the months after September 11, 2001, "Longitudes and Attitudes." A Friedman newspaper column of 740 words is like a Robert L. Parker (Spenser series of novels) chapter: it's short, but a lot is happening.

These columns, almost four years removed from the event that inspired them, serve to remind me of the special meaning the July 4 holiday should have. We are so fortunate to have the freedoms we enjoy. Tomorrow, to celebrate, I think I'll go here Floater dock - view from the top, read a few hundred pages of something stimulating, and enjoy not thinking about outstanding proposals or project challenges ... in short, take a holiday.

Happy Independence Day to all.