Friday, 12 October 2001

Newsletter Issue 33, October 2001

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 33, October 2001
Hi guys,
This time we have part two in our series Fancy Yourself as a Rupert Murdoch? below. We are looking at  content, consistency and professionalism.
We take a look at why we should focus on the customer in What is "Customer-centric
 TLAs for SMEs        Short & Hot Keys        Hot Linx
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Fancy Yourself as Rupert Murdoch? Part 2

Last time in this series on electronic newsletters we looked at why you would want to add "journalist" to your list of duties, customer service, clean, sharp design and injecting personality into your newsletter.
This time we are looking at content and how you get it, creating consistency and professionalism.
The most important thing for a useful customer ezine is to have high quality content that is useful to your clients. 
Beware of turning your ezine into a giant advertisement. Limit the number of ads - or don't have them at all - leaving more room for resources and information that does provide a customer service. 
Content to include in your ezine: 
  • Informative articles on your business topics
  • Product or service reviews 
  • Tips and hints 
  • Freeware, shareware or other freebie resources 
  • Fun or useful links 
Remember copyright and don't rip off anyone else's articles. Read widely and adapt other's ideas, summarise and create your own original material from your research. 
There are a whole heap of places to get content ideas; and needless to say, the web is the best place to check things out. Google is probably the best place to go to run a search. 
Another great source of information and resources are discussion lists and other newsletters. Join ones that are related to your field, and the articles in them will give you ideas for your own. Don't forget hardcopy professional magazines as well. Use your professional development time to really further your business!
Write articles or run an editorial in each issue. If you end up with enough materials via your research, you can theme your newsletter each time with related articles. Show your personality through your unique passions and skills in business. 
I use FrontPage for my newsletter, but you can use Word and save it as html. Set up a template and whenever you find a content idea, put it into your "working" ezine doc straight away. 
I also have a "newsletter" folder that I save ideas to. I cut and paste bits of articles out of the other newsletters that I get, scan hardcopy articles and save weblinks for later reading and consideration. If something has come in on a newsletter that I keep, not only does it get saved to my newsletter archive for that publication, it also gets saved to "newsletter". Things are only dumped from this folder once they have gone into my newsletter. That way good ideas are never wasted!
You have some choices on how you demonstrate your consistency; probably the best way of demonstrating this is through regularity of publication, longevity and reliability, combined with quality content. 
You can set a publication schedule, notifying your clients that you publish on - say - the first of the month. Just remember "under-promise & over-deliver" and consistently deliver on time. You can keep things slightly more loose, and publish every four weeks-ish or so when you have the articles / time. Just let your clients know.
The big thing to remember is that once you start, you don't dwindle off into nothing. Be reliable and ensure that you demonstrate that once you start something, you carry it through, confirming your readers trust in you. 
However, sometimes there are circumstances outside our control (take this week for the most extreme example). Be professional by sending an apology and explanation and resume your original schedule with the smallest blip possible. 
Make sure there are no careless mistakes in your ezine such as spelling or grammar (my favourite thing to miss... I looked at last time's newsletter and found I was missing a plural!). We all make mistakes, but set up systems (a proof reader, a waiting period before sending then rereading) so that you avoid the silly ones.
An ezine can have heaps of good content, but if it looks shoddy and careless it implies that your business is the same. 
Ensure professional - and indeed expected - standards are maintained alongside your personal touch and you will be a success. 
Being reliable doesn't mean that your newsletter can't evolve into something else: you can merge with another publication if yours gets too hard to do: you can contract it out; if you find that your customers don't read it or want it, you can discontinue; a discussion board may be what your customers want; an internal newsletter may be more appropriate; you may find a newsletter better than yours that you add your client list to...
Catch you next time when we look at creating a newsletter in html and what programmes you can use, at writing articles, getting and using submissions, advertising options, and ways of promoting your ezine to increase your readership.

What is "Customer-centric"?

Customer-centric. How many have heard of the relatively new buzzword in CRM? That's Customer Relationship Management to those of you who don't know the OLD buzzword! 
Being customer-centric is all about making the customer the focal point of the business.
And why would you organise your business to focus on the customer? Because it increases your company value long-term.
Customer service, as always, requires determination and care; it still involves hiring the right people, and training and motivating them. But the difference with CRM is in going back to corner store principles: you treat individual customers individually. 
Knowing each customer is crucial. The CRM  arsenal contains some pretty big guns via software and the net; including development of personalized responses, being able to focus on the most profitable transactions, extending life spans, identifying and responding to behavioural change in your customers and being able to see big trends early.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, says that Amazon is the "Earth's most customer-centric company." But even they couldn't make that claim without one whacking great software programme that swallows all their data, chews it up and spits it out in prices that they can use for analysis, definition, profiling and updating customer information. If they don't have good systems, the rest of the CRM arsenal could not be used.
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young has just released a new survey of 250 senior marketing, sales and customer service executives, that reveals most companies must deliver more satisfaction to customers. By increasing your ability to identify, attract and retain more profitable customers, being customer-centric can help your business increase revenues, profitability and competitive advantage. 
The survey also concluded that few companies track investments made in customers and, therefore, have no real sense of ROI (return on investment) in CRM. 
Financial business accounting used to be all about stewardship of assets and overall ROI. So anything that increased the bottom line - cost price negotiation, discount deals, retro supplier payments, and so on - were VERY important. 
However, ROI and asset stewardship do nothing to grow customer earnings long-term. The transaction was the be all and end all because money moved; the relationship was nothing. Customers were disposable (replaceable); whereas suppliers who gave good discounts were not. 
So which is more valuable, a supplier dollar or a customer dollar? 
A supplier dollar comes once, and it probably gets worked into the cost price; whereas a customer dollar should be the first of many, if we manage the relationship properly. 
So we have probably been focusing on the wrong end of the spectrum when it comes to profitability. 
With the advent of the Internet, web-hubs, EDI etc, transaction costs are falling rapidly... and there are the three laws to factor in:
  • Coates's law that "business raison d'etre lies in the ability to reduce each transaction cost to an economically-efficient level". BUT this only works in a high transaction cost environment; as it is easy to maintain lower- than-average costs when the average is high... and the internet has killed transaction costs dead, and
  • Moore's Law the oft quoted goodie of "Processing speeds and capacities double every year" and 
  • Metcalfe's Law "The value of a network is the square of the number of nodes". 
So all this means that economies of scale are harder to realise. And will get harder. We have to sweat our tangible assets so hard now that it makes asset ownership less of an advantage. 
I think that we have got stuck with an outdated view of assets and how to measure performance. 
If businesses move away from "asset ownership" towards more intangible and fluffy ideas, we move towards organisations where we can't use old value measurements. Scary stuff, really.
One of our major intangible assets is our customer relationships. Profitability is not really measured in this area; but it could be, via putting a value on the lifetime relationship value (or relationship number growth rates). Damn hard to measure, though.
How on earth can you value a customer that may not provide you any true loyalty? Or who may stick with you through thick and thin and constantly bring you in new business? It would certainly make a lot of organisations look far more positively at their customer base if they had an asset value on their balance sheet. 
But hard to do. We would need to build financial models that support the idea (perhaps by looking at some companies who use these measures now and succeeding with them.. Ben & Jerry-type organisations). Then we need to figure out what the performance measures and accounting models should be.
And then, because our measures are focused on customer-centric values, we would actually focus on our customers. And increase our company value long-term. 
Fingers X-ed, eh?!

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you;
  • ASP, Application Software Protocol. Application rental deals for software; the new great thing that Bill Gates is heading for...
  • ROI, Return on Investment. Calc for working out whether you have achieved value from your business investment (owners equity) 

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Short+Hot Keys... and now tips
Another Function key for you - this time it's all you can do in MS programmes with a straight F5
Access "To switch to Form view from form Design view" or "To refresh the Database window" or "Move to the record number/page number/subdatasheet box; then type the record/page/data number and press ENTER" 
Excel, Publisher & Word "Display the Go To dialog box"
Frontpage "Refresh"
IE "Refresh the current Web page only if the time stamp for the Web version and your locally stored version are different " 
Outlook "Check for new mail" or "Refresh" or "Update the files visible in the Save As dialog box (on the File menu, click Save As)." 
PowerPoint "Run a ppt presentation slideshow" or "Update the files visible in the Open or Save As dialog box (File menu)" 
Windows "Refresh the Save As or Open dialog box or the contents of a window"

Hot Linx
Need a bit of typing assistance? R U a hunt & peck person? Then check out Andy Huang's freeware typing tutor at
Want to know something about anything and you can't find it on Google? Then check out DMOZ. This is the Open Web Directory Project; the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast global community of volunteer editors. Check it out at 
For any of you with an interest in all things nautical, check out Te Ohu Kai Moana. This is the site of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission at 
Avoid passing on any misinformation - or check the b/s level in items you get in the mail - at 

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here