February 20, 2017
In Search of Excellence – the best management book ever written.
By Maureen McCabe
How did we stick to our knitting? Or better yet, what does the phrase mean?(*)
This is the second of a 12-part series where each month a Success Secret is revealed. We are celebrating our 10th anniversary with heartfelt gratitude to our clients and cheerleaders who made it possible.
In December 2006, I thought small and planned for small.
Step 1 – Define the Target Market
We work exclusively with owners of privately held small businesses and start-ups.
NOTE: I used the word “we” as I envisioned the future. No one calls themselves a “small business owner,” but rather a business owner. I used the term to define small business as less than 100 employees and target the keywords for organic search.
McCabe Marketing launched in January 2007.
In March 2007, I recall updating the first business SMART goal:
When in doubt, re-read Step 1.
Refer to blog #1 for details about SMART goals and my top positive affirmation.
In August 2007, which I later learned is consistently the slowest month of the year, in a bit of a panic I added:
Step 1B – Laser-focus on the Target Audience
Even when times are tough, and it may be tempting to reach beyond our target market, stick with the knitting!
Although we continue to be contacted by many not-for-profit organizations and a few small governmental agencies, we are happily wedded to our target audience.
(But truth be told, in March 2014 I gave a free marketing consultation by phone and then agreed to meet with him and one of his association colleagues. It was a good mistake, as within minutes of ending the phone conversation, it reminded me that sticking to the knitting also means politely explaining that I only offer complimentary consultations to business owners. A woman of my word, I met both of them for one hour.
Could we expand our target market? Yes. Do we want to? No. Why? We are sticking to our knitting and don’t need or want to change. (I have done the corporate shtick at both IBM and Gallup Consulting.)
Plus, we are on page 1 of Google for “small business marketing Toronto” and other variations. Above all, we love the type of clients that we work with: savvy, established business owners who are decision makers, i.e., aren’t bogged down by corporate bureaucracy.
Stick to Your Knitting: doesn’t mean – knit one, pearl two!
Within weeks of joining IBM in July 1984, a director in marketing headquarters recommended that I read In Search of Excellence as he had just returned from a seminar led by its authors. He actually whispered to me:
Maureen, don’t just read it – study it! (I was keen, he loaned me his second copy.)
IBM US (corporate HQ) tends to take a “rifle shooting” approach to marketing and new product development such as the PCjr and foray into the PC marketplace. We’re damned good at selling to corporate. It will be a challenge to turn a profit and penetrate the other target market: consumers. The US isn’t even thinking about these folks!
In the long term we’ll only be successful if we have an effective consumer marketing strategy and plan, and cost-effective infrastructure, which includes supporting the home user.
We will sell the division – mark my words!
IBM sold the PC division to Lenovo. I also learned that attitude is everything. At IBM Canada we didn’t have problems, only challenges and opportunities!
(*) The reward for those who have read thus far: the explanation of the red asterisk.
There are eight themes that authors Tom Peters and Bob Williams defined as common to excellent companies. In my favourite chapter, Stick to the Knitting, the message is to stay with the business that you know. McCabe Marketing was founded based on the concept of “do what you know” and leverage my knowledge gained by:
A) Working in IBM’s Canadian and U.S. small business divisions for three years and then the internet division, which targeted small and mid-size customers (SMB) for 18 months.
B) Shadowing an IBM client for three days, Michael Soper. (**)
C) Owning and operating a bricks-and-mortar business for two years, Positive Changes Wellness Centre.
D) Learning from others of “what to” and “not do.”
(**) I learned firsthand that running a small business is fundamentally different than working for IBM where we thought we understood SMB. In hindsight, I would say that we had a great appreciation.
My journey started by flying to Midway, Utah, to shadow Michael Soper. I quickly got a dose of what I shared with my colleagues as small business reality. I expected to learn from him, but anyone who knows me is aware that when I have an idea, I feel compelled to share it. I recommended that he rebrand from an individual consultant to a team: Team Soper. He was keen and we planned the strategy writing it on his whiteboard; he teased that I should open my own marketing consultancy business. How prophetic, as seven years later I did.
In the past few years, the McCabe Marketing team began focusing on identifying our “ideal client,” which included analyzing our best client relationships, services provided and more. Need help to define your ideal client? Ask us for details.
Check out Part 1 of the 10th Anniversary blog series: My favourite childhood book was The Little Engine That Could. The small train told herself, “I think I can. I think I can.” Learn why she was my first business role model and why I set SMART goals.
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