Unlike Last Season, Early Schedule Will Challenge Cubs In 2017

The celebration has ended, the 108 year drought is over, and baseball on Chicago’s North Side should return to normal. In other words, fans of the Cubs can go back to worrying.

Several big concerns face them as they look toward the 2017 season, in addition to the nearly impossible task of topping the World Series Championship they earned in October. No team has won the Fall Classic back to back in this century, although a much shorter span than the Cubs endured between titles.

That trip to the World Series was made easier by the early schedule, an arrangement the Cubs will not enjoy next April. Chicago did not play a winning team until April 18 against the Cardinals, which was their fifth series of the season. The Cubs did not play another winning team until May 2, when they played the Pirates. Spending the first month against the likes of Cincinnati, Arizona, Atlanta, and Milwaukee would provide nearly any team with the confidence needed to carry them through the most important stretch of the season. To emphasize just how important a hot start is, examine the National League from last season.

All four of the teams who reached the Division Series posted winning percentages over.700 during the first week of 2016, led by the Cubs and Nationals winning eight of their first nine games. The Giants were victorious in six of their first eight, and the Dodgers won seven of their first ten.

The advantage of opening against non-contenders will not be available to the Cubs in 2017, when the early part of their schedule features matchups against the only two teams that had winning records against Chicago last year. They open in St. Louis on April 2nd, a Sunday night game between the two rivals that will be broadcast on national television.

What could make that initial series even more troubling for the Cubs is the strong possibility that one of their most exciting players from last year will be playing for the opposing team. Center fielder Dexter Fowler, Chicago’s spark plug at the top of the batting order, is a free agent. Many baseball writers have projected St. Louis as the most likely team to sign Fowler. After the series in St. Louis, the Cubs must play the team that nearly eliminated them in the NLCS. The Dodgers, who won both of their regular season series against the Cubs in 2016, have the opportunity to avenge their playoff loss on the opening weekend in April.

The hot start Chicago used to build momentum for their World Series run last year is far less likely to befall them in 2017, simply because of the competition. Instead of opening against last place clubs like San Diego and Cincinnati, the Cubs will be tested right out of the chute by teams expecting to be contenders.

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Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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Sailboat And Yacht Detailers Companies Need To Think About Sail Cleaning Services

Sailing is the fun part, cleaning, well not so much. Still, if you don’t take care of your equipment, Murphy will take care of you. Luckily, for those of us in the sailboat and yacht cleaning business we can make money taking care of the challenges that go along with boat maintenance and keep repairs to a minimum by helping owners keep their vessels in ship-shape. I’d like to explain one aspect of boat cleaning that many boat detailers fail to take advantage of, and that is sail cleaning.

Why clean sails? Well, of course you want them to look good when you hoist them up, free from black mold and ugly salt marks. But that’s not the only reason, healthy sails will not chafe as easily, nor will their stitches come apart as much. Doubt what I am saying? Well, then let me recommend some required reading. In the January 2017 Issue of Sail Magazine there was a relevant article titled; “Sail Care – Look After Your Sails And They Will Look After You,” by Peter Nielsen. The article talked about the fact that if you don’t clean the dirt or salt off the sails, then you will have abrasions from the dirt and rats will smell the salt and be attracted to it, then make their nests there and eat away at the sail. Cleaning the sails is not hard to do, but many sailors and yacht owners do not have the time or are too tired after a day of sailing to clean them properly.

The article and most professional boat cleaners recommend soaking the sails in warm water and detergent, something mild and approved by the manufacturer – always remember that sails have different amounts of material and stitches in them and the manufacturer knows what’s best to use to prevent deterioration. After soaking the sails you want to thoroughly rinse them, I recommend soft or RO water. The article stated to rinse until you could no longer smell any detergent and I’d suggest you don’t smell any salt either and if you’ve rinsed them properly you won’t. It might take a couple of rinses to be sure. Charging $100 per sail is not unreasonable, but be careful if they haven’t been clean in a while, you’ll need to charge more for neglected sails or sails that are dirty or starting to come apart as you have to use a little elbow grease (lightly) and it will take you a lot longer to clean. However, if you regularly clean the sailboat for your customer, $80 to $100 for average sized sails turns out to be a nice add-on to your boat cleaning services, larger sails go up in price try $150 to $300. Think on this.

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How Does the Ford GT Stack Up?

How will it compare to the competition?

The GT is by no means a Shelby GT 350 R, not even close. Besides the over $350,000 jump in price and the additional 100 or more horsepower. The new GT is even more track-focused then the previous ones. And the mid-engine layout, combined with the GT’s carbon-fiber construction it much more than a muscle car and more of a Super car.

Even though Ford has not decided on a specific horse power, the new GT with 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 will produce more than 600 horsepower. Standing up well to the Corvette Z 06 and its’ 650 horses. Now Ford says it is working on the power-to-weight ratios to be the best of any production car. Even if they can’t hit the ratio of the Koenigsegg One with its 2.2 lbs / hp and make it to the range of the McLauren P1 with its 3.5 lbs / hp. Even with its aerodynamics the approx. 3500-lb Corvette Z06 may be a little overweight to held ground with the new GT Priced like a Lamborghini Aventador

Knowing it’s expected price range points to the real competition of the new 2017 GT. Granted the Lamborghini Aventador is packing 691 horse power, but outweighing the Corvette Z06 in curb weight by another 500 pounds, it may have a hard time keeping up with the new GT on the track. When you consider the Aventador holds twice the cylinders as the GT’s twin-turbo V6, and the fact that the Aventador is a naturally aspirated V12 all wheel drive, you can expect it to be faster off the line.

It will be interesting to see how the GT compares to the McLaren 657LT the car that feels like a competition vehicle. Weighing in at less than 3000 lbs, the 657 is pretty light, but the GT will probably weigh less. The Mc Laren 675LT is also a limited-production car, with only 500 units slated to built and cost about $50,000 less than the Lamborghini.

Then there is the Ferrari F12tdf with a price point just under $500,000 with a substantial increase in power. Touting a 6.3-liter V12 with 770 horsepower hitting 0 to 60 in under 3 seconds. The Ferrari will be a head over the GT by more than 100 horsepower, but the based on Fords claims the GT should be much more light weight. With Ford skipping a hybrid-electric system, it will be something to pit the new and severely less expensive Acura NSX with its hybrid tech and all-wheel drive against the new GT and its focus on light weight. With the NSX and its 573 horsepower will it be enough to hold its own against the GT? Time will tell.

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4 Content Marketing Trends for Business Owners

As we approach 2017, it’s interesting to think about where we’re headed in the coming year when it comes to marketing our business.

All business owners want to stay on top of their game by being prepared for what’s ahead but in today’s fast-changing world, what does that look like?

Below are some content marketing trends you’ll want to prepare for when marketing your business in the coming year:

1) Incorporate More Social Media Graphics, Infographics, Visuals and Videos. Since your followers are 80 percent more likely to read your content if you use coloured visuals, this area needs to be built up more across your social media channels.

The popularity of visual content will only increase, so you must be prepared. Using Facebook live is still a hot commodity so be sure to dive into that opportunity too!

2) Build a Team. 60 percent of marketers in one survey said content creation was their biggest challenge last year.

To overcome this obstacle, get a team of people to help make content development and publishing easy. This includes having a good writer and social media specialist.
3) Tap Into Influencers. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations where only 33% trust ads.

Consumers have begun to tune out traditional ads and increasingly connect to their social networks to guide their buying decisions. That’s why connecting with influencers is so important.

What is an influencer? “Influencers are people with significant networks (followers, readers, etc.) who can speak to a broad range of products and services with the ability to sway opinions in their favor.” – Jess Estrada.

Identify influencers to reach out to in your industry. Follow them on social media and see where you can strike up a conversation.

4) Drive Content Marketing Leads into a Funnel. High value content is one thing, but if you don’t build in a strategy that continues building rapport with prospects in the right way, you are leaving money on the table.

Content Marketing is a highly effective way to segment your audience and send them targeted follow-ups and offers, instead of adding them to your main email list.

Creating an Effective Content Marketing Plan for 2017

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen businesses make is they jump into content marketing without a strategy. While trying to appeal to their target market, they slap together a couple of eBooks and free offerings and hope it will be enough to drive sales.

The first step to making content marketing really work for you is to have a solid, smart content marketing plan in place.

Make sure you outline the following essentials in your content marketing plan:

Understand Who You Are Marketing to. Before starting any kind of marketing strategy, it’s vital you understand who your ideal target market is. There’s no point in investing your time and money into marketing when you don’t have a clear understanding of who you want to buy from you.

A Comprehensive Review of Past Efforts. Review your past content marketing efforts and results from 2016. This helps you to see what was most effective, what wasn’t, and develop a plan to improve for next year.

Set Goals and Benchmarks to Determine Future Campaign Success. Having a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish and what that will look like is important.

Develop Content Ideas that Align with Sales Goals. Here’s some example sales goals:

o Boost sales of Mega Fit Bootcamp by 25%.

o Get 50 new leads a month into our sales funnel.

o Create an eBook on Sales Tips for People Who Hate to Sell to drive leads to the funnel.

Plan a Content Marketing Calendar with Dates and Deadlines. Create an editorial calendar that clearly lays out your dates and deadlines so you can easily prioritize your efforts. This eliminates the “what do I write” problem.

It also makes it much easier to work ahead on content and delegate to team members.

I hope you’d enjoyed these highlights, stats, and facts to help you prepare for content marketing in the coming year.

I’m curious: What changes do you plan to make to your social media strategy in 2017?

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