The View from The Niagara Guide

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

A Truly Green Tea

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, May 13, 2010
I was in at LM Teas yesterday and picked up a tea to go. I didn't think about the cup it was served in until today when the cup finally made the trip from my car's beverage holder to the house. What a nice surprise.

The cup from LM Teas had a plastic lid and cardboard sleeve, both of which are recyclable. Most disposable cups aren't widely recyclable or compostable. This one was, and it made me go WOW!

LM Teas uses ecotainer cups™ which are coated using Polylactic Acid (PLA) from plants to make them waterproof. When composted, the PLA is broken down by microbes so the entire cup is quickly biodegradable. I do realize that EVERYTHING is biodegradable EVENTUALLY, but it's nice to see a local company making the greenest choice possible.

Hats off to Carmen and Jill at LM Teas for their great teas and green cups!

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.

If Everything's About Price, What Do You Do?

Mark Kawabe - Friday, February 05, 2010
What do you do if you're in an industry that focuses only on price? Your potential prospects focus on the lowest price and your competitors focus on price - even if it's to their detriment. If your prices are higher - and for good reason - what do you do?

I think this is the time to reinvent your brand around value.

As my business coach (Dennis O'Neill - The Business Growth Coach) says, there's a simple equation to define value.

VALUE = (Need + Trust)/Price

If your price is higher, then you have to built up the sense of need and the sense of trust.

I met a prospect who needed a website. He had been burned by another web developer who walked off with his deposit and did not trust web developers as a result. I worked on building trust by referring him to a collections specialist who got his deposit money back. As a result of this and other efforts I gained his trust and got the business. At the beginning the need was high but the trust was non-existent. At the end the need and trust were high and the perceived value of my services was high despite my price being close to twice what the previous developer had quoted.

Clearly identify and illustrate your prospects' needs. Demonstrate your trustworthiness. Do these things and price will become less of an issue as you will be seen as offering more value.


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