Thursday, July 27, 2006

Publisher finds Novel Way to Court Romance Novelists

What do you do when your audience is in danger of falling out of love with your product? Try to figure out what they want and find a new way of providing it for them.

That’s the strategy Harper Collins and its Avon Books imprint developed in the face of depressing market research compiled by Simba Information that revealed a dramatic drop in sales for the romance novel from $1.4 billion in 2005 to $1.34 billion in 2006. The reason? Supermarkets’ expansion of their women’s fiction offering to reflect an increased diversity in the genre.

Pushed for a way to find new talent, Harper Collins teamed up with consumer content generator, to develop an eight week contest for romance novel fans.

Avon Books also used the contest to promote its established authors. To generate revenue, Avon Books and Harper Collins sold advertising space for the website, <>.

In the contest, users voted for one of six story premises and then were asked to submit six chapters for the book. Each was voted on by a panel consisting of fans and established authors until the six chapters were published as an e-book.

The contest website will remain open for the long term part of the strategy – to provide new ways for advertisers to reach users by developing a two-way dialogue with companies and the legions of romance novel fans.

If you are losing customers, don’t let them go without fighting for them. Don’t be afraid to be creative with advertising and marketing ideas. If you remember what attracted customers to your business in the first place you’ll have a solid base for your campaign to woo them back and you’ll build a stronger business.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Resources for Combating Identity Theft

If you or someone you know has become an identity theft victim, the FTC recommends the following steps:
  1. Make a fraud alert. Contact the three major credit houses and place a fraud alert on your accounts.
    1. Equifax (800.525.6285;
    2. Experian (888.397.3742;
    3. TransUnion (800.680.7289;
  2. Close affected accounts. If you know of an account that has been fradulently opened in your name, close it. Use new PIN numbers when you open new accounts.
  3. File a police report. Send a copy of the report to your creditors to show proof of a crime. Be sure to keep a copy of the report for your files.
  4. File a complaint with the FTC. The FTC provides assistance to victims of identity theft and provides a free credit report. Contact the FTC Consumer Response Center at 877.438.4338.
Here are 3 additional links for finding out more about Identity Theft:

Monday, July 17, 2006

Should Mom’s Pay be $134,121?

Finally a price assessment on mother’s work. But is it inflated?

If being a mother were a full-time job, what would it pay? According to, quite a lot; it values mothers’ would-be salary at $134,121 per annum.

But according to Carl Bialik’s article from The Wall Street Journal, “Putting a Price Tag on Working Moms,” has come under fire from those who argue that it used questionable tactics to arrive at the figure.

The Waltham, Mass. company conducted a focus group of mothers to detail daily tasks. The company whittled the list down from 25 to 19. e-mailed 30,000 visitors to its website and asked them to detail how many hours they spent carrying out each mothering function each day. It should be noted that the website listed the job functions without definitions. Based on 400 respondents –mothers with children 18 years old and younger — it further narrowed down the mother task list to the 10 most popular: housekeeper, day-care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO, and psychologist. The number of hours for each task was multiplied by the salary for each job to arrive at the total salary.

The study revealed that stay-at-home moms worked a grueling 91.6 hours a week. After 40 hours the remaining time was clocked as overtime and time-and-a-half pay was added. Stay-at-home moms decided that 34% of their role amounted to CEO work, while working moms worked out that 50% of their time was spent as a household CEO.

One dilemma was that the CEO time was impossible to quantify. Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor, bristled that no one would pay a CEO anything if they headed a company that neither produced anything nor could quantify what they did on a daily basis.

Other shortcomings cited with the report include the fact that mothers aren’t usually professionally trained to be cooks or computer technicians so their work would be overvalued in the survey.

Bill Coleman, senior vice president of compensation, rejected the criticism and pointed out that the business pages of the press were full of stories of CEOs who are unproductive and yet are paid millions. If anything, Coleman added, the survey undervalued a mother’s work because it didn’t include time spent by mothers outsourcing work.

When you guestimate the value of a job, make sure your calculations are logical and you’ll build a stronger business.

Find Deals on New Wheels

If you are looking for a new car, The Wall Street Journal article “New Ways to Score Car Deals Online,” flags up some excellent websites to jumpstart your research.’s website provides users with a personal space where they can save information on cars that spark their interest. Users provide a valid e-mail and password to register and can save up to 10 searches and 25 cars at once. Users have reached the 165,000 mark since the website was launched

Capital One Financial’s website lets users create their dream car and get a guaranteed price at or below Kelly Blue Book’s New Car Blue Book Values’ starting price. However, the upfront pricing option is only available to limited markets has a social networking website called CarSpace, where gear heads can trade information. With almost 12,000 registered users, the website sends out automotive news feeds and other features. has started allowing users to write their own reviews of cars and has over 1,000 reviews to date. The consumer reviews tend to be used with more authority than the professional reviews.

By making the most of available research and reviews you can find the best match as you drive towards building a stronger business.

Resources: Cut Down on Catalog Influx

Here are a few resources for reducing the number of unsolicited catalogs that arrive in your snail mail box:

  1. Best solution: Contact the Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call Registry at: or by phone 1-888-382-1222.
  2. Use the letter templates on to request that your name be removed from catalog firms.
  3. Go to the Abacus Alliance web site and request to have your contact info removed from their database. Many mail order companies use their services. You can send a request to an e-mail address or send a snail mail request. Read specifics on their privacy page.
  4. The Direct Marketers Association also maintains a list. Ask to be removed from that one, as well. This site charges a $1 fee for the service.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fly Through The Internet One Travel Blog at a Time

The increasingly travel savvy public, combined with blogging, has resulted in some informative blogspots that give travel journalists a run for their money. Joe Sharkey’s article, “Blowing the Horn for Other People’s Blogs,” in The New York Times highlights blogs that give users access to price comparisons between hundreds of airlines as well as specialist news for the airline industry, for business travelers and frequent flyers. So well-informed are some of these websites that some travel journalists refer to them frequently for contacts and leads.

Here are some of the links:
  • : allows user to search hundreds of airlines instantaneously for the best deals
  • : a blog that sells itself as “a place to save money, travel more comfortably and make better travel choices”;
  • : frequent flyer mileage programs
  • informed guide for business travelers complete with acerbic commentary and links;
  • : a consultancy offering research, forecasting and independent research;
  •; is a travel portal with a smorgasbord of options with sections such as travel health, weather links, specialty travel links for traveling with pets, travel for singles, as well as links to travel guides, magazines, theatres and restaurants;
  • it’s pretty much what it sounds like – traveling on the cheap;
  • : a wealth of personal travel accounts from journeys all around the world organized by continent and by country. Travel diaries, photography and blogs abound;
  • : You’ve heard of web portals, but this is a blog portal with links to blogs arranged by country and topics such as “worst places to be poor”;
  • : provides news on airline route updates and links to the airlines.

Some of the best websites or blogs are by people who saw a gap in the market and responded to it. By looking for areas where people are underserved, you can respond by providing much needed products and build a stronger business.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Breakthroughs Require (Learning From) Failure

In an upcoming BW article, read about the approaches corporations take towards mistakes.
  • Corning involved prospective users in the design and development process early on to provide needed feedback for the Epic drug testing technology.
  • Gore-Tex rewards outside managers for seeing obstacles and problems that project team members might be biased to overlook, creating a culture of high risk and high accountability.
  • When Virgin Atlantic flubbed an opportunity to increase market share of business class travelers by being the first to introduce sleeper seats in this category, they lost out to British Airways and had to face a $67 million dollar mistake. BA's seats were introduced earlier and provided a better experience for passengers. However, chief of design Joe Ferry showed resilience (and Virgin showed a great deal of faith in him and his team) as he took on an even bigger and costlier challenge with the airlines' upper-class seats and it has paid off.
William Boulding, Duke Univeristy b-school professor, explains in the April Journal of Marketing quoted in the article that personal emotional investment by team members is onse of the hardest factors to cournteract in product development. Wanting to "save face" or show something in return for the sunk costs can steer a company to spending good money after the opportunity potential has evaporated.

Whatever size business you lead, it's important to examine why a particular initiative did not turn out the way you expected.

It could be the product/service lacked critical features that the market demanded. It could be quality issues. It could be the marketing, the timing, inability to deliver, or any of a hundred other reasons.

When your aim is to build a stronger business, you know both the reasons for your success and learn from your failures.

Job Growth Up in Philadelphia Region Continues

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Employment in region 1.2% more this May than last

May employment in the Philadelphia region was up 1.2 percent from a year earlier - less than the national job growth figure of 1.4 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Total nonfarm employment for the region was 2,825,000, an increase of 34,500 jobs. Sheila Watkins, regional commissioner for the bureau, said May was the 28th consecutive month of "over-the-year" growth in local payrolls. The region includes Philadelphia and its four suburban counties in Pennsylvania; Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem Counties in New Jersey; New Castle County in Delaware; and Cecil County in Maryland. - Reid Kanaley