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Strictly Business: Asking Yourself the Right Questions
Posted Mar 29, 2008 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Mmmmmm, pizza! Late night staple of video editors everywhere! I’m certain many of you will remember when Pizza Hut was the undisputed king of retail pizza. Its restaurants were everywhere. Competing with them was difficult at best, suicidal at worst. They had good food, fancy stores, and good service. And they had the lock on retail’s three most prized commodities—location, location, location. In fact, it seemed Pizza Hut had everything you could ask of a pizzeria—well, minus a pool table and a good jukebox.

Enter one small pizza company that wanted to get into the franchise business. It decided to find out if Pizza Hut was everything one could ask of a pizzeria. What it discovered was that Pizza Hut was missing something that was extremely important to a large segment of the market: home delivery.

Home delivery was so widely in demand that the small pizza company developed an entire business plan around that one concept. The rest, as they say, is history. Domino’s grew from a little operation in Ann Arbor to a national market powerhouse faster than you can say "Hot and fresh in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free." And it achieved this based on a simple change in perspective: Domino’s looked at the customer’s definition of the most desirable location, rather than the industry’s definition.

The thing that allowed Domino’s to make a sound decision was one of the simplest and most useful tools in existence: asking one smart question. "What do pizza consumers want that they can’t reliably get right now?"

Amazing all by itself. Domino’s did something else that was amazingly powerful—something for which I’ve never seen them credited for in any analysis of their success: Domino’s took the answer and changed the game on the competition. They created a new set of expectations within the market, and cast them in such a way that only Domino’’s could fulfill those expectations.

Domino’s asked a question of its consumers that helped it to discover its Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and better serve its market. The following questions can help you do the same. Take time to answer them thoughtfully.

Who is my REAL prospect?
Who makes the buying decision for your video services or your products? In the case of wedding videography, is it the bride? Or her mother? Or her father? Or the groom? And who else is an influence in that decision? How about live event video? What about corporate video production? How about local commercial production? Who really makes the decisions?

What would it take for a competitor to roll over me?
What would have to happen for a competitor to flatten your sales like a tipsy Zamboni driver rolling over a wayward hockey puck? Make a list. How many of those things could you use to increase your market share and crush your competition if you implement them first?

Who can I help who, in the process, will help me in return?
Who does your product or service affect, even peripherally? Is there a way you can make their lives easier that would be enough to motivate them to make you their preferred/recommended vendor? Who’s in the same supply circle? What do they want? Can you help them get it by changing the way you deliver your product or service?

Can I turn this expense into a revenue stream?
How can you take a given process and turn it into a profit center? For example, would charging a fee for some of the information and advice you give away help you to sort your prospects into the serious and nonserious categories, while providing some additional income?

What would happen if I ignored this?
Make a list of the things that worry you. Ask this question about each one of those worrisome things. Answer the question honestly, and see if you don’t free up a lot of time to concern yourself with the things that really count.

What could I do to expand on this?
If something is working, how can you get more mileage out of it? What can you do more of that’s working now?

Who do I know that ... ?
"Had the same problem and solved it?" "Bombed badly at what I’m considering?"

Once you start asking these "Who do I know" questions, answers often begin popping up faster than you can write them down. The follow-up is simply to call those people and ask (or offer to pay) for help. One of the best is "Who do I know that could brainstorm with me on this?" The last question is one of my favorites.

What would make my business take off like a rocket?
Yes, it’s an obvious question. But when was the last time you asked it? Let your imagination run on this one. Play with it. Having fun often releases levels of creativity that you never knew you had. Go ahead and give it a try!

Steve Yankee (syankee at opinmarketing.com) has more than 35 years of video production and marketing experience and is the founder of The Video Business Advisor in East Lansing, Mich.

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