Archives for June 2013

If it Works for Selling Cereal, It Works for Selling a House

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A couple of Buying Principles:  Consumer Behavior, in the consumer goods market:

1)  Having the PRICE clearly marked on the box of cereal (or any product) is a key enabler to sell your product.  

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling $5 cereal or $20 steaks, people want to know how much an item costs.

2)  There is a saying in retail:  “Out of Stock means out of business!”  When the product is not on the shelf, consumer can’t buy it from the retailer.  Game over.  

Some call it Distribution, as part of the outdated 4p’s of marketing mix model.

Now to the star of this post, real estate….

What is wrong with this picture?

The real estate market, competitive and critical to the economy

Each sign has the basic information:

  • The Real Estate Company, agent name, basic contact info.
  • A box to load the specifics of the property, the listing “brochure”….

But what is painfully missing?  The brochure box is empty.

My Experiment:  Over the past 4 weeks, I biked around 15 different subdivisions and about a 5 mile radius from my home.  Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Approximately 100 houses with For Sale signs.
  • AT LEAST 80 of these homes had EMPTY brochure boxes.  These were not new construction homes; these are subdivisions with re-sales.
  • Nothing that stood among realtors:  In other words, well-known local realtors had empty boxes at the same rate as agents I’ve never heard of.  And the boxes that were empty are not “1 timers”, they are always empty….

If I was taking notes while sweating the % of boxes that are empty would probably be HIGHER than 80%.  Take your own poll on your next Sunday drive around the neighborhood; you’ll be surprised how many boxes are empty.

What’s the big deal?  Can’t people go on line to check the price & specs, or call the realtor listed on the sign?  ABSOLUTELY!  That’s not the point.  Here is the point:

  • IF price matters for a $5 box of cereal, wouldn’t it matter for a $300k house?  
  • Why gamble on a prospect and make them hunt for a key variable in selling your house?  

Ironically, I have yet to meet a realtor who was NOT quick to pull the “drop the price” trigger when marketing my home after it’s been sitting for 90+ days.   Doesn’t matter that I’ve had only 3 showings in 90 days (market is dead), the price is the answer so says the experts you are paying 5% of your biggest asset……..take a look at this 3 minute video from the author of Freakonomics, a best-selling study of how humans respond to incentives, in particular how realtors and homeowners may NOT have their interests aligned.

This all sounds critical of realtors, and that is not the intent.  I know a ton of great realtors……they are all great people-people, involved in their communities and genuinely concerned for the well being of their clients.  I am lucky to call most of them friends.

However, while a realtor only gets paid when a house closes, I suspect that a fair number put more energy into “getting the listing” vs. moving the listing.  I’ve seen many creative pitches for listing my house with them vs. their competitor.  Great power point, reference lists, statistics, etc.  Then when they get the listing and it does not magically move?  DROP THE PRICE.  

How about we start with the basics?
Keep the brochure box full if the homeowner is out of state.  If you can’t personally fill them, fine.  Pay their neighbors with a creative gift to fill their box; a falling price won’t help them either.

Sounds like nitty-gritty work keeping these boxes full?  ABSOLUTELY.  Hustle cuts across every profession.  Not always sexy, but always needed.

In real estate, in a 5 mile radius around my house, I can tell you that a degree of Hustle is missing from a tiny aspect of House sales process.  It may not be a big deal in the process.  

Maybe the rules of cereal do not apply to a $300k house sale.  It certainly doesn’t seem to concern all of these homeowners and their agents.

Marketing is about being different, and standing out.  It applies to cereal, and it applies to service professions like Realtors.

I never heard a realtor make a guarantee on something so simple.  Maybe that’s not needed, or not possible.

For me, the Realtor that says it (and demonstrates it) would certainly stand out, and earn MY listing.

The one’s with empty boxes, I won’t be inviting them in.  And unfortunately for them, they won’t even know it.  It’s an unfortunate truth in Marketing.

The Realtor has established their brand in my mind.  “Branding” is what happens in the minds of consumers, not the marketing material.

It is hard to read minds, but you can certainly earn positive (or negative) mind share.  You do that by showing up.  Working hard.  And not leaving your boxes empty.

The good news for realtors?

Many potential home sellers do not sell $3 items for a living……

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The Cocktail Napkin: A Game-Changer From The Old School

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My love of the Old School stems from it’s simplicity.  Things moved at a slower pace back in the day, but that didn’t mean it was LESS focused on generating big outcomes.  I-phones and all their apps did not exist in the ’80s.  But guess what did?

Cocktail napkins.

They worked.  Some of the world’s greatest businesses were launched on cocktail napkins.

Usually, 2 people are having coffee, or of course….a “cocktail” and the conversation moves to something game-changing.

  • An idea…..

  • A Problem

  • A Solution

  • A radical concept

The people both agree that it’s worthy of pen and paper and needs to be captured.  Only none are within arm’s reach… the cocktail napkin enters the scene.

So what’s the big deal about something so old school and simple?

  • Something magical happens when ideas go from brain to paper.

  • They become tangible.  They become refined.  They start to evolve.

  • Pen and paper, or napkins are powerful, if you use them.

It is simply amazing how many people have plenty of great ideas, or problems that stay stuck in their head, never to enter a piece of paper.  Sometimes the difference between SOME results and none are simple the difference between getting it out the head, and onto something tangible.  Think of it as step #1.

Next time your at Starbucks and something hits your brain, reach for the napkin.

Write it down.  You will be one step closer to something better than letting it linger in the ‘noggin.

Brains are like filing cabinets, at some point they over-flow.

over-flowing cabinet

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Five Businesses Born at a Bar


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The Lessons of Bull Durham

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Finding unique and interesting ways to keep learning and staying on-top of critical areas that are changing around us is  certainly a HustleorBust theme.  Sometimes it takes out of the box methods to do this.

Movies are one way to not just unwind, but learn a thing or two.

They also provide great “set ups” for training or team meeting sessions.  Borrow at will, and I would love to hear if the reactions and stories around their use.

Bull Durham is one of (if not THE) greatest baseball movies ever made.

Below are the quick clips and 7 lessons.

  • Wake-up calls are mandatory at times.

  • Talent is important, but HUSTLE is  mandatory and controllable.  When you don’t give 100% you should be called on it.

  • Break down success to it’s most basic, core simple elements


  • Listening is mandatory, make sure your doing it.  Doubly mandatory when you have a mentor that’s been to the show already.  


  • Get on the same page as your team mates.  If you don’t, consequences could be detrimental and cost you the game.  


  • There’s value in being unpredictable and keeping your competition guessing.  


  • The margins between success and mediocrity are slim.  


“Success is not owned; it’s rented — and the rent is due every day.”

Rory Vaden, on the EntreLeadership podcast

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Frustration: A Precursor To A Decision Point

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Frustration in Business & Decision points

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A trusted friend called the other day.  “Fired up” would put it mildly.  She was annoyed at a You Tube video posted on her new product that was not only amateurish, but also cast the product in a negative light.  What annoyed her was not so much the unflattering comments but the medium of Youtube and how it lent a “false credibility” to an obvious amateur.  Her disgust over a teenager posting almost a reckless opinion for anybody to see was palpable.  The nerve!!!  Ridiculous!

Make no mistake, this happened in the good old days as well.  The difference?  The water cooler/coffee shop was the medium for Sally consumer to voice her opinions and let word of mouth travel, or not.  This was not a learning moment for Social however, that train has left the station and is yesterday’s news.

This was a learning moment in one of life’s great & pervasive emotions:  FRUSTRATION.

Frustration is a reality in business.  It is usually a sign that people care.  I welcome frustration, especially when it becomes a catalyst for positive outcomes.

The evil cousin of frustration?  INDIFFERENCE.

Indifference keeps me up at night, thinking about its presence in business.  Indifference is a sign of lack of caring, possibly Hustle, and rarely translates to the breakthrough performance needed in hyper competitive markets.  Indifference = warning sign.
Frustration is an indicator that your reality is changing or something is in conflict with your view of the world.  It is an “action alert” that often brings us to a cross-roads type decision.
Decision Cross Road Point

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Think through your highest points of frustration, and I will bet a cross road was clearly soon there-after.

Frustration often circles around Old School crashing into New School.  2 schools of thought collide, creating the conflict.

Your reality is challenged and frustration ensues.  This can be uncomfortable.  Some people don’t even know that their frustration is propelling them to a decision, they just stay frustrated.  Not dealing with frustration leads to…. more frustration.

Sometimes a bad decision is better than none, so with that….

When a New School vs Old School Frustration Occurs….. here are your options:

1)  Jump in – Embrace it.  Bet that it’s a new normal.  Learn like hell.  Propel yourself to action.  See if the New School is the right school.
2) Jump out – Deny it.  Call it a fad.  Find smart counterpoints.  Stick with the tried and true.
3) Stay on the sidelines, neutral – Try and stay under the radar.  Don’t confirm or deny.  Play it safe (on the surface).

There are no right or wrong answers for the best options to maximize business results and personal outcomes.  Every situation is different.  However, I’m never one NOT to present a personal bias.

I would be willing to bet that the % of people following options 1-3  “skews” towards the brutal reality of a bell curve:[Continue Reading…]

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Remembering Simple Things on Father’s Day

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Everyone has role models in life.  I have many that I look to learn from and appreciate life with.  Life has plenty of challenges and rolling through them with a good group of trusted allies is certainly easier and more enjoyable.

For me, My Dad has always been my mentor.  Actually, Mentor is not an appropriate title.

I think of my dad as My Best Man.

Although he is always on my mind, Father’s day I think about some of the simple ways he’s shaped my life.  There are a ton.

Any time somebody calls me “Old School,” I can’t help but smile and think of my dad.  It seems to happen more and more each day.

The Simple Things I Credit To My Best Man

Business Philosophy & Mantra’s
  • Just Get it Done!  No BS, no excuses.  Focus on what’s important.
  • Make Money!  Performance is about the bottom line.  What are you doing to add to it?
  • It’s all about the people.  They are human, quirky.  Understand that.
  • Don’t wait until the end of the month to understand your business.  That’s what everyone else does.   It’s a daily grind.  Do it daily.  No exceptions.
  • Hard work gets you in the game.  Performance keeps you there.
Routines Matter
  • Hustle Mandatory.  Hard work does not take weeks off.  Saturday “catch – up” won’t kill you.
Staying Fit
  • Run every week.  6 miles.  Flat out sprint the last 50 yards.  Every time.  Same Route.
  • Weight lifting.  Curls & bench presses (but skip the bad form/excessive weight).
  • Finish your weight lifting with the heavy bag.  7 jabs, then a combination.  7 jabs combo.
  • Pull-ups, every night until failure.  No set number, just failure.
Other Quirky little things
  • Shine the shoes on Sunday Nights.  It sets the tone for a week ahead.
  • Check competitor’s prices every Sunday.  Only need 15 items to gauge if you are in line or not.  Write it down on a flash card.  Grab a loaf of Italian bread while you’re at it.  Because Sunday is family pasta day.
  • Playing Baseball with me – Dad throwing batting practice with me was always challenging.  I wouldn’t call it fun.  He had an odd habit.  He thought he was a knuckleball pitcher.  It was a pretty good one.  When it wouldn’t hit my ankles, which was 75% of the time.  He laughed every time.  I didn’t, but do now.
  • Don’t take yourself or others too seriously.  Be a ball breaker.  It keeps things light.  This gets me in trouble down South.
Maybe most important?

My Dad worked in the cut-throat/ultra-competitive Food Retailing scene of the NY/NJ market place, as a merchandising executive.  The food business has little margin for error, days are long, and he was accountable for the results of a very large business.  To say this could be stressful is an understatement.  I went to the office with on many occasions and got to witness the flow of people in his office, the energy and vibe.  It was nothing sort of exciting.

I still marvel at his career and how humble and classy he carried himself.

The Simplest & Most Important?

When I was far from home, living in Boston while attending Northeastern University I had frequent bouts of homesickness.  Every time I was home sick I’d call my dad in his office.  I would always hesitate, knowing how hectic his world was.  But when he answered the phone, the excitement in his voice and energy level always picked me up.  We’d chat, whether 5 minutes or a half hour and every single time, home sickness turned into energy.  Every time.

If you have a go too person in life that you can talk too when you’re feeling down, and 100% of the time feel better when you are done, consider yourself lucky.  I sure do.

Happy Father’s Day!

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The Geeks: They Will Rule The Marketing World

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Would never happen in the Old School.  The Old School of Marketing was about those that could play in the sexy image world.

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The Old School Marketing world was about:
  • The ad, with the buzz or shock value
  • The Agency.  The Focus group.  The Third party research house.
  • The slick, innovative new product.  Or more likely, the extensions.  The 37th variety of Italian Salad dressing.  
  • The Market Share Leader.  Because he who has the Power, has the Gold.  And he who has the Gold, made the rules.
    • Translation?  The dollars to out-shout your competitor.  In a one way communication world, traditional media.

The MBA…..the pedigree.  If you worked in an elite Consumer Products Company, a top 5 MBA program was your golden ticket.  If you received your MBA in the ’00’s, ’90’s or dare I say ’80’s, CONGRATS!  Higher education should never be snubbed, and lately that seems to be fashionable.  That’s unfortunate, because it’s still a hell of a credential.

Having said that, I’ve seen many MBA’s come through business that I often scratch my head at in wonder what the curriculum concentrated on.  What do I see?

  • The 4 P’s of Marketing, the foundation of the discipline that has been in-complete at best for 25 years.
  • A heavier concentration on research (focus groups, surveys) and light on the income statement, balance sheet and real relationship building, communication skills that are team-focused.
  • If you received it in the earlier decades, Social Media did not even exist, which is a “game-over” argument.
The New School of Marketing

The New School of Marketing presents a world where the Geek is well positioned to rule the world, much to the displeasure of the Jock, or the Schoolyard Bully, who preyed on the Geek.

Moneyball portrayed a Geek as good as any movie.  The jock (Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt) was astute and saw the potential in a different method and embraced it.  The cut-throat reality of the sport and lack of resources demanded it.  For more on the Lessons of Moneyball….

Moneyball, geek & jock

In Moneyball, Brad Pitt, left, plays Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. Jonah Hill plays Peter Brand, the numbers geek Beane hires to help rebuild the team.
Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures

Who’s the Geek?  Characteristics that come to my mind….

  • They count.  They Measure.  
    • Measures first, reacts later.  They count when it’s possible to count.  If it’s not possible to count, they will figure out a way.  
    • They know what they get for what they invest.  
    • They know where they are starting from and where they want to go, and how long it will take.  “X to Y by when.”
  • They have a plan on how to get there, the cause and affect factors, so if they don’t get there they know why.  Then they adjust.  There’s a number by every assumption to get from X to Y by when.
  • They may not be time obsessed, but they value life’s most precious commodity
    • They are not afraid to lay out a timeline of bring anything to a conclusion, even when most of the activity is beyond their control.  Their favorite tool is a Gantt chart.
  • They wear what’s important on their sleeves.  Their goals, timelines, their plans and results.  It’s visible.
  • They are inclusive.  They pull people in.  They lead by example.
    • They have tendencies to be a team’s GLUE.
  • They like a P&L as much as an Attitude and Usage Study.  They know the score at all times.
  • They understand that speed of change is not something that can be dealt with passively.
    • Their company won’t solve this problem for them, because they are struggling with it too, so they get off their heels themselves and figure it out.

The Geek is not just a quant jock.  They are RESULTS-oriented first and foremost.  They obsess over results first, then figure out the best method to deliver.

The point is this.[Continue Reading…]

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The Inspirational Story of Team Hoyt

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Attitude is a controllable difference maker in the pursuit of EXCELLENCE.  It is a deliberate CHOICE.

The more great role models you surround yourself with, the more your attitude will “stay up” to accomplish what you are striving for.

Role models come from the people you know, and the people you don’t know.  Here’s one for you.

Dick & Rick Hoyt.  Their story is nothing short of inspiring.  How can you have a bad day or disposition after you watch this story?

The Story of a Father's Love for his son


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Business Lessons from Goodfellas

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I am a sucker for a great Mob movie, and Goodfellas is tops of the list in my opinion.  The modern day Godfather.  Great soundtrack, food scenes and some of the best performances from De Niro, Pesci, Liotta and Sorvino.

Some of the greatest scenes are lessons in business.


There is nothing sexy about the Mob, although Hollywood portrays it that way.  Nonetheless, it exists and has survived for many years because it is run very similar to a business……below clips provide entertainment & learning value.  Hustle is not just about hard work; it’s about finding learning value in odd places.  This certainly qualifies as an odd learning moment!  Enjoy!


The Lessons of Goodfellas


It all starts with your Market, the Customer.  Understand their expectations and look to over-deliver at every moment.

” Never Rat on your friends…..and always keep your mouth shut.”

Keeping confidences in business is one of the most important things for establishing trusting, productive working relationships.  Want to ruin relationships, do the opposite.  This isn’t about just keeping a high school secret; it’s about knowing when and how to communicate sensitive information.  Lack of discretion usually feeds office politics & gossip that which rarely translates to positive RESULTS.  Results are what matters, not chatter.


Effective teamwork, even in the most challenging circumstances not only improves results, it improves one’s quality of life.


Specialists matter, understand people’s true talent.  How often do companies make the mistake of promoting the best sales person to be a sales manager?


Branding:  Who you associate with matters and says as much about you as your own actions.  



The great Siskel & Ebert on reviewing Goodfellas

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