The View from The Niagara Guide

General observations and musings on how we can make Niagara a better place.

"KNOW it ALL" Niagara New Linkers & Events

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, March 07, 2012

"KNOW it ALL" Niagara is on the grow!

This is one of the networking groups I belong to. It's run by Carrie Matthews and it's not your average networking group. Carrie does her utmost to refer and recommend members of "KNOW it ALL" Niagara (known as "Linkers) whenever possible. She's another voice to help you market when perhaps you don't have time to do so.

"KNOW it ALL" Niagara is pleased to welcome the following companies as Linkers:

  • Kool Katts - Caribbean Restaurant & Juice Bar, Niagara Falls
  • Roma Zotzman - Independent Mary Kay Beauty Consultant
  • Passion Parties by Ryan
  • Note for Note Professional Music Productions Inc.
  • Jon Radick - Niagara Health & Home Expo
  • Gasline Pines - trees
  • Organo Gold - coffee

You can find out more about these Linkers at

Also, check out the event calendar for other networking events held by "KNOW it ALL" Niagara.

Why "KNOW it ALL" Niagara?

Mark Kawabe - Friday, September 24, 2010

So "KNOW it ALL" Niagara was voted the Best Networking Organization of 2010 by Canadian Networker magazine.

My question is "Why?"

After all, there's BNI - who's founder "wrote the book" on Word of Mouth marketing.

There are countless Chambers of Commerce that qualify.

The Small Business Club Niagara and others like it are well-established groups that offer networking.

What makes "KNOW it ALL" Niagara so special?

Well, in a nutshell, it's the vision of the founder Carrie Matthews that makes "KNOW it ALL" Niagara the networking dynamo it is.

The quality of networking events is pretty good. Groups are generally small so you get to meet everyone and spend more 1-on-1 time with them. I have personally found that the relationships built through "KNOW it ALL" Niagara have been stronger and have led to quality referrals from the linkers.

In addition to the events, there's Carrie herself, who worked at the West Lincoln Chamber of Commerce for years before embarking on the "KNOW it ALL" Niagara journey. From the outset she planned to make KIAN a better type of organization for business owners by providing a variety of marketing vehicles for her linkers. Little things like "Linker Minutes" - allowing you to send two marketing messages to the rest of the group EVERY MONTH at no additional cost. The local chambers charge for this service as does the Small Business Club.

There are many things that make "KNOW it ALL" Niagara stand above the networking organization crowd. It's fun, personable and effective networking - when you use the system provided. Just as with any group, if you can't work the system, it won't work for you. For example, I can't make the Business After 5s provided by the various Chambers. Consequently being a Chamber member doesn't really provide much networking benefit for me. If you don't use the Linker Minutes or attend meetings or provide Carrie flyers so she can market your business for you then her system won't work and you won't benefit.

However, the fact that "KNOW it ALL" Niagara keeps growing - even counting the Niagara Falls Chamber as a Linker - is a testament to its effectiveness. That's why it was voted the Best Networking Organization in 2010. Here's looking to the future successes of Carrie and "KNOW it ALL" Niagara!

5Linx Event with Andre Maronian

Mark Kawabe - Monday, August 23, 2010

Here's a guy who's made his money with 5Linx and he's coming to town to show you how to do the same.

Here are the details:


  • He has already accomplished the goal of complete financial freedom thanks to 5linx.
  • He will offer insight into the lifestyle that ONLY residual income can offer people.
  • He will demonstrate the Globalinx application on the new Ipad.

If Bill Gates wanted to demonstrate the power of Micro-Soft, or Wayne Gretzky offered to teach you hockey, would you hesitate? 

Success is yours, if you want it.  Take advantage of this opportunity.

Thursday August 26th, 7pm, 754 Barton Street East, Hamilton Ontario

You can also visit 5Linx in The Niagara Guide for more information on your local representatives Donna and Frank Mous.

Selling Wheatgrass via Billboards?

Mark Kawabe - Monday, July 05, 2010

This was a beauty this morning...

At the corner of Niagara and Welland in St. Catharines (heading southbound on Niagara), you can see a billboard selling Wheatgrass. It touts the benefits of Wheatgrass and gives a toll-free number you can call to order. Wow.

I mean really - wow.

I'd love to know how well that billboard's working.

There was nothing about how superb you'd feel about drinking wheatgrass. Nothing that spoke to the "What's In It For Me" part of my brain. Just how wonderful wheatgrass is and how to order it.

I suppose the billboard's doing a job of educating people that wheatgrass exists. Surely a large segment of the population doesn't know what wheatgrass is. I just wonder how many sales the wheatgrass company (which I didn't even see a name of) will be able to attribute to that billboard.

Don't get me wrong - I like billboards. I enjoy how creative companies get with them. They're really good for building brand awareness. I just wonder how many people are going to make an impulse decision and buy wheatgrass from this company based on their billboard.

If any of you reading are in the billboard industry please feel free to comment on this. Thanks!

So you've got tools - now what?

Mark Kawabe - Monday, March 15, 2010

Entrepreneurs are always looking for new ways to promote themselves. I like new. Facebook and the social media tools that have sprung up in the last decade are "new". YouTube was new. There will always be something new for us to use to promote ourselves and our businesses. That's exciting.

What's not so exciting is the eventual realization that you actually have to DO something with these new tools for them to have any effect. A client of mine was pondering starting a blog until he noted that he would have to "feed the monster" new content regularly over a long period of time for the blog to have an effect. Yep. That's how it works - with any promotional tool we have in our toolboxes.

It doesn't matter whether you're talking about social media, networking or good ol' word-of-mouth marketing. YOU have to do something for those methods to work. Any program that says it will do it all for you with no input whatsoever from you is lying. If you're not participating, your results will be pathetic.

Unfortunately, in our "take-no-responsibility-for-anything" society, many business people do just that when it comes to something "not working" for them. This is true whether they're spending money on a newspaper, radio or TV ad campaign, joining a networking group like the Chamber of Commerce, BNI or other groups (locally KNOW it ALL Niagara and the Small Business Club Niagara come to mind) or things they control like their flyers, coupons or websites. If these methods don't "work" for the business, the tool is often the thing blamed.

I think there are two underlying causes of failure for any marketing endeavour.

1) Understanding HOW the "tool" works.

2) Committing to use the "tool".

These points illustrated:

Business owner A buys a single ad in a newspaper.

Business owner B buys a series of ads in the same newspaper.

Business owner A gets no response from his single ad.

Business owner B gets increased brand awareness and eventually some customers he can track came from the newspaper from his coupons and asking how people learned about him.

Business owner A didn't understand how newspaper advertising works. His experience suggests newspaper advertising doesn't work and as a result he blames the newspaper for taking his money.

Shared responsibilityYou can see this happening over and over again with any marketing tool. If you don't understand HOW to use a method to promote your business, learn all about it first. Then make the committment to using that method properly for a set period of time and set measurable and reasonable short and longer-term performance targets. Consistently test your approach and try different things to see if the method can work better for you. Only then can you accurately determine whether any given method was effective.

Most of the time there are two parties responsible for your marketing success or failure. The first is YOU. The second is the representatives of the marketing vehicle you've chosen to use. This could be your sales rep at the newspaper, phone directory or radio station, or the customer service representative of your networking group, Chamber of Commerce or the marketing company you've hired. You BOTH have a responsibility to ensure YOU know how to use the system effectively so you can make informed decisions about your marketing activities.

Of course, if you're talking about some self-directed activity like social media marketing, then it's just you who's to blame. At least the pain of failure on Facebook doesn't cost you anything. When you're paying for something, you expect it to work. Just make sure you know what you're getting into or take the time to learn. Good marketing organizations will take the time to educate you on what you should be doing to use their tools effectively. Others will assume you know what you're doing.

To paraphrase Tom Lehrer: "Marketing is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends what you put into it."

Choose well.

Take Your Head Out of Your Ass

Mark Kawabe - Friday, March 05, 2010
You are so the same as everyone else that nobody cares.

"But wait - I'M DIFFERENT!!!"

So, how exactly are you different enough that people SHOULD care?

I'm waiting...

...still waiting...

...and waiting.

The truth is most of us are lousy at communicating our differences which is a shame, because it's the only thing that's really important. We let potential customers assume we fit the "standards" of our industry and since we've co-operated by colouring inside the lines like everyone else, there's nothing special about us to make people go WOW!!! Yep. Guilty as charged. Me too. Been there, done that. Perhaps I'm still doing it.

But today I'm taking a friend's advice and taking my head OUT of my ass, giving it a shake and looking at myself and my business with a more critical eye. Change is happening all around me anyway, whether I want it to or not. If things are going to be different and better, change had better begin with me.

Or in your case, you. I hope you're enjoying the view and the fresh air. Now get to work on making things better.

And, for those of you who are seeing this on a Friday afternoon and thinking change can wait until Monday, the good news is you're right. It CAN wait. The better time to start is now.

Make it a great weekend!

Objectivity Consultants

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I know lots of "consultants". I'm sure you do too. What does that actually mean?

From Wikipedia:

"A consultant (from the Latin consultare means "to discuss" from which we also derive words such as consul and counsel) is a professional who provides advice in a particular area of expertise such as management, accountancy, the environment, entertainment, technology, law (tax law, in particular), human resources, marketing, food production, medicine, finance, life management, economics, public affairs, communication, engineering, sound system design, graphic design, or waste management."

Some people call me to ask me for advice about their online marketing efforts or their website development. Since I provide both services (and more), can I really be called a consultant? I suppose I can be, because I take it upon myself to provide an objective view of the client's needs. If a client may be better served by another company, I'll tell them so.

The line between consulting and sales has been blurred in the past couple of decades as providers of solutions are now "consultants". Are those consultants giving their clients objective advice about what is available in the marketplace when they provide a possible solution to their client's needs? One hopes so, but that's a tough call, and it may not even be important in some ways. If you call IBM Business Consulting, are you really expecting your consultant to tell you that Dell has the best products and services to meet your needs? I think you're calling IBM to have them consult you on what the best IBM solution is to your problems.

Independent consultants are getting harder and harder to find, in my opinion. These are people who don't have a vested interest in products or services they may suggest as solutions to your problem. Dennis O'Neill comes to mind when I think of an independent consultant. He will help you work on a marketing or sales program and tell you new flyers are necessary. He doesn't tell you which printer to get them from - he makes no money off the solution, but he consults on what the solution should be.

So if consulting in the modern sense is really sales, then why don't people just say they sell? Probably because the sales industry realized long ago that people don't like to be "sold" something - they prefer a more consultative approach. Now sales people are often given titles similar to "Sales Consultant" to take the edge off "sales", as if it's a dirty word.

My suggestion: if your "consultant" also provides the source of products for the solutions they present, they're salespeople. Yes, they're consulting you - on which of the products and services they offer as part of their solution are the best fit for you. It's no different than walking into an office furniture store and buying a desk. The "Sales Consultant" will work with you to see if the products they have fit your requirements. If you really wanted a consultant, you would have hired an interior designer or "space consultant" to find out what kind of desk would be best for you before going shopping.

I think the next decade will see "consulting" become as dirty a word as "sales". Just my $0.02 for you.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Smarten Up Niagara!

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Are you the tallest nail in your industry? The one that gets hit for standing out while everyone else is comfortable keeping their heads down?

This article's for you.


Would you sell your business for less that what you thought it was worth ???

Would you give all your expert knowledge to a competitor for free!?

Would you sell your best selling product at a loss ? or your most expensive product at a loss?

When you buy a product at a national chain store don't you expect to pay the same price at all the stores?

Would you tell a client – “no problem I won’t charge you for the work I’ve done or the service I’ve provided” even when there were no problems ! ?

In the past 10 years I have been watching exactly this type of “business suicide” go on all over the Niagara region!

In my capacity as a consultant for both the hospitality trade and the special event rental industry, I have contacted literally thousands of business from Fort Erie to Hamilton, I have spoken with staff and owners of all types of operations; and in that conversation, two things have stunned me!

We devalue our services & goods and we have so little customer training for ourselves and our staff that neither seems to value the goods or services their companies supply or the customers to whom they sell those goods and services.

What do I mean by these statements:

Devaluation - everything a company does has a value – those companies that take the time to research the value of the things a company has and does; from the staff to managers, to COO’s; from office décor to light bulb purchase has a value!

Where do you put that value? Into the “goods and services bank” – a supply and demand account, that should determine you should both buy and sell your supplies and products at a competitive pricing.

This account is the same whether you are in Niagara or in Oakville, Stevensville or Hamilton. If your selling “widgets” or information on how to build a “basic Widget” here or there, in most cases you pay the same for the parts – the production and the labor/wage the hydro and water the gas the repairs and maintenance for your building/ office supplies etc.

With this in mind you should be valuing your product the same as all other suppliers no mater where they are in the region - but this is not the case!

If you go past the boundary of Stoney Creek you can see it in the costs to consumers; but it is never more evident than when you are selling a specialty service.

No one in Niagara seems to value their product and services the same as those in areas to the north.

Competition is the essence of commerce, but if you give away your product in the false assumption that a lower price will get more business, when others charge fair and reasonable prices, you DEVALUE the good and service and as a result you can not maintain your growth potential and a high level of service. The money just is not there! Yes you can struggle month over month to met the obligations and try to meet customer service needs – but you just won’t do it !

Niagara and the area has struggled with this concept for decades. With the expanding market place from Toronto and beyond, and the change in the “destination” value of our region we have to be prepared to meet the demands for better products, more variety, more services, at a Toronto market price.

This is the profit margin it will take to provide the service at a level that we presently only instill in the graduates of our college and University. Our business and service providers need to see the value in this type of action if we are to stop being a “bedroom” community and a “has been” factory area. Owners of business need to step up their game and provide exceptional training to staff, not only in customer service but “up-selling” techniques. Many need to reach the level of service that patrons and businesses (outside of our area ) who are seeking opportunity to do business or to enjoy our goods and service receive in their own areas.

They expect it and they will pay for it!

It is time to become an area not know for devaluing our goods, services and supplies, but one that is up to the times and the style of every major area surrounding a provincial capital.

Why should we be a follower when we can lead? Why should Toronto style take two or more years to come to our area? if we don’t devalue, we don’t have to wait, and neither do our customers.

P.J. Hicks
P.J. Consulting, Niagara


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