4 Innovation Tools to Drive Your Business

Innovation is something we know we all need as part of our overall business plan to keep one step ahead of our competitors. We talk about it, we want it to happen, and we wish for it. But then reality creeps in with the fear of risks and failure and we often stay with the predictable known choice.

innovate2To help you create, develop, support and nurture a culture of innovation within your business here are 4 key Innovation Tools.

1. Think Like A Designer. Innovation involves creating new options. This is where designers excel. Design thinking is focused on a solution and is action-oriented. Start the process by asking what are the unmeet needs of the stakeholders so you can develop criteria for brainstorming ideas. Next, ask “What If?” turning your broad ideas into specific concepts. Select the concepts that have the “knock your socks off” factor, and give them a “reality check” to see if they will work in the real world.

2. Develop a Licensing Strategy. Test the waters by licensing your intellectual property to someone else that is already established in the area you want to explore. Employing a licensing strategy as an element of your innovation plan can not only shift the risk and cost of launching a new product, category or geographic region to the licensee, but it can also provide valuable insight into your brand’s elasticity and overall acceptance.   If the licensing is successful, you have the option of continuing to enjoy a stream of royalty income or bringing the program in-house at the end of the licensing term.

3. Use the Best Ideas, From Whatever Source. Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce, No. 1 on Forbes’ Most Innovative Companies list for the last 3 years, has said, “We’ll take innovation any way you can give it to us. … I don’t care if it’s my idea, an employee’s idea, a competitor’s idea, a partner’s idea or some other associate’s idea.” The most innovative companies don’t always build or develop new products themselves – they look outside, find what exists, and then go from there.

4. A View from the Outside. Knowing that insular thinking will quash the open-minded exploration needed to truly be innovative, utilize a “thought leader” panel comprised of respected outsiders to work with your team. These thought leaders can explore, speculate, and collaborate with your innovators to forward ideas, bring fresh perspectives and lend expertise. These sessions can deliver strategic and practical insights that might otherwise take months to gather.

Don’t be afraid to be the leader when it comes to innovation. Yes, there are risks and small failures are inevitable, but missing out on your next big opportunity could be HUGE.  Bottom line –  it’s how you respond to the losses and move on that will define your success.

Laurie Berkin

Laurie Berkin is the founder of Marathon Marketing. Originally from Alabama, she has called Atlanta home for over 25 years. Laurie is a corporate attorney, turned marketer, social media maven and consumer products licensing guru. She’s also a world traveler, would-be foodie and dog enthusiast.

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Be a Hero to Your Client: 3 Tips for Superior Customer Service

Nurturing the relationship with your clients is a crucial part of a successful business. To set your business apart in a crowded marketplace you need to offer your clients something they can’t get from your competitors.

Here are 3 Tips for Superior Customer Service.

Be Your Client's Hero

Be Your Client’s Hero

1. Be Their Problem Solver. We realized early on that people don’t want to buy what you do. They want to buy what will help them. They hire you because you have either demonstrated through your previous work or you’re proposing a newly developed strategy how you can help them solve a specific problem. By providing a solution to your client’s problem, you’ll be their hero, strengthening your relationship by providing superior service.

2. Listen to What the Client Is Asking. Many times we are too focused on telling others what we know instead of listening to what they have to say. Next time, listen to what your client is asking from you, and take the time to process what you’ve just heard. Make sure you completely understand the issues. Then, when you can repeat their words back to them and explain how you can help them.

3. Share Your Knowledge. You are the expert and your client is relying on your expertise. Sharing your knowledge with your client can be an opportunity to build trust and confidence. If your client doesn’t understand your area of expertise, they may feel a bit disconnected from the project. This is your opportunity to share information that will help the client understand what you do. Explaining to the client what you did, why you did it, and how you made your decisions will help them feel knowledgeable and in-the-loop.

Share Your Knowledge

Share Your Knowledge

Laurie Berkin

Laurie Berkin is the founder of Marathon Marketing. Originally from Alabama, she has called Atlanta home for over 25 years. Laurie is a corporate attorney, turned marketer, social media maven and consumer products licensing guru. She’s also a world traveler, would-be foodie and dog enthusiast.

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10 Lessons Learned: Marathon Marketing Celebrates 10 Years

April 6, 2014 marked a special anniversary – one that not many businesses get to celebrate.  Marathon Marketing turned ten years old! Only 34% of small businesses survive 10 years or more and I’m happy to be included in that statistic.  It amazes me that we are where we are and my first thoughts are how grateful I am and I want to say “Thanks” to my family and friends for their support and encouragement.

But I can’t help but pause, take stock, and as I think about the next ten years, I want to share my top 10 Lessons I’ve learned these past 10 years.

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Laurie Berkin

Laurie Berkin is the founder of Marathon Marketing. Originally from Alabama, she has called Atlanta home for over 25 years. Laurie is a corporate attorney, turned marketer, social media maven and consumer products licensing guru. She’s also a world traveler, would-be foodie and dog enthusiast.

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Twitter Anyone?

Gaining perspective often means taking a step back and seeing concepts from a different angle.  To gain a bit of social media perspective this week, I took a step back (a couple of decades) and asked the 20-something PR interns in our office for their thoughts on how social media affects their lives.

The question was generic and unstructured.  There were no guidelines involved in the inquiry.  I simply asked how they were interacting with social media on a personal level.

The responses were surprising.  In the past, I’ve walked past “Intern Row” and seen Facebook on most of the computer screens as a general rule of thumb.  But this time, the interns responded that Twitter was their overwhelming choice for social media interaction on a daily basis.

Brands that are using Twitter to build their fan bases are winning with the 20-somethings.  Here are a couple of responses from Jenny, Jahmir and Cassandra:

  • I use Twitter mainly for my source of news, deals, company information and products I am interested in.
  • The companies I follow are those that I am interested in or feel loyal to their brand.  T.J. Maxx generally uses their account for testimonies from “Maxinistas” about their designer purchases for less, but I think it is clever because now when I go to T.J. Maxx and buy something I’m really excited about, I’m going to tweet about it. The company also replies and retweets often as well as talks about gift cards which can help increase interest as well. The people who manage the account keep the conversation going with their followers by asking them what they purchased at the store and complimenting them on their purchases.
  • Many of my friends on Twitter are like me and follow companies, stores, restaurants, newspapers and celebrities because it is like having everything all in one place.  We are a generation of multi-taskers with short attention spans so Twitter is the perfect way to reach out to us in 140 characters or less.
  • I see companies that I have liked on Facebook on my mini-feed but I rarely go on their page or am interested in seeking out information about them. I find it more useful to look at company Facebook pages to see the company culture if I am interested in applying for them. The same goes for LinkedIn.
  • A recent example of great marketing via social media is the recent release of the movie Snow White and the Huntsman. If it weren’t for Twitter, I don’t think I’d be excited at all about seeing this movie. However, nearly a week before the movie was scheduled to premiere, I began to see retweets and became interested. Fans of the production company, actors/actresses and original fairy tale were expressing how excited they were via tweets. Snow White’s marketing department did a great job at accomplishing their goal: getting people like me, who could care less about the movie, to gain interest and possibly buy a ticket.

Thanks to the Hope-Beckham interns for sharing how social media impacts their daily lives: Jenny Rikelman, Auburn University; Cassandra Finney, Concordia University; and Jahmir Jones, The University of Alabama

We recently met with the CEO of a major employer who said that he has made social media, with an emphasis on Facebook and Twitter, a major focus of his company’s communications efforts.  But he added, “I don’t know what impact yet it will have on our bottom line, but I know it’s important.”

The bottom-line impact may simply be to remain relevant by establishing communication with the 20-something audience.  The bigger question to ask is how do we use Twitter and Facebook to engage younger buyers?

To sum it all up, Twitter is the way to go to reach the new generation.  As our intern Jahmir aptly stated, “Social media is a great way to reach who you want to meet through convenient and accessible means. Messages are conveyed, consumers purchase products/services, and everyone is happy.”

Garet Hayes

Garet Hayes, a senior vice president with Hope-Beckham in Atlanta, utilizes 20 years of public relations experience to build strong brand reputations through proactive public relations initiatives. She works with corporate and consumer clients to build relationships with key investor, media and customer audiences. Garet was president of Business Marketing Association of Atlanta (BMA) and also served as the Atlanta Addy Awards chair for the Atlanta Advertising Club. She graduated from Georgia Southern University with a degree in communication arts/public relations.

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Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist?

Look at the picture closely: Is the glass half full or half empty?

Lately I’ve been giving some thought to Optimism vs. Pessimism.  Basically both are just attitudes – but what a difference each one makes on the way we view our past, experience our present and envision our future.  Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist affects those around you and impacts your business and well as personal life.

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
…………Winston Churchill

I’m definitely an optimist.  Even over the last few years of economic hardship I still see the glass-half full.  I believe that being an optimist keeps you moving forward and helps you take needed risks.  It becomes self-fulfilling if you believe positive things will come of your circumstances, and then, more often than not, good things will happen. I even look forward to my failures because they will be stepping stones, and learning tools to be applied to my future success.

What if you’re a pessimist? Don’t panic. You can change. You can choose to have a new attitude.  Pessimism drains you, while optimism breathes new life into you each day. You can tell yourself to see the good side of each situation and not the negative.  Each time you do it, it helps create the habit of being an optimist.  Before you know it, your optimism will spread to those around you and soon everyone can reap the rewards of an optimistic attitude.

Be an optimist and see your world change before your eyes!

Laurie Berkin

Laurie Berkin is the founder of Marathon Marketing. Originally from Alabama, she has called Atlanta home for over 25 years. Laurie is a corporate attorney, turned marketer, social media maven and consumer products licensing guru. She’s also a world traveler, would-be foodie and dog enthusiast.

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Finding Focus

In a recent conversation, my colleague mentioned that she was feeling so distracted. Her ability to concentrate and stay focused which had served her so effectively during college and law school seemed to have almost disappeared. At the office, she was jumping from one task to another, (usually while in the middle of the task), and was easily distracted by her smartphone, iPad, television and computer.

Today’s high-tech, “need it this instant”, lifestyle definitely takes its toll on our ability to focus on the tasks in front us.  I found a post in Leo Babauta’s blog “Zen Habits” where he offered three habits to keep focused.  I shared them with my colleague and now I hope you find these helpful too.  I’d love to hear what you do to stay on task and stay focused.  Please send us a comment!

Three Little Habits to Find Focus  Post written by Leo Babauta on Zen Habits

“Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for miseries and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” Blaise Pascal

I’ll be the first to admit that I fall victim to the trap of the Internet — a wonderful empowering tool that can fill your day with distractions, a million little “productive” tasks that matter little, constant interruptions from messages and status updates.

Who doesn’t fall victim to this?

We are frittering our lives away.

So how do we beat this? How do we make best use of the awesomeness of the Internet (which has given me the power to do what I love) without succumbing to its powers of distraction? This is a question that obviously occupied the minds of the ancients, from Aristotle to Lao Tzu (who was particularly prone to Lolcats), without any good answer.

I have good news. There is a way. It’s not always easy, but I’ve done it, and if I can do it, anyone can.

It takes three little habits:

1. Set a time limit. Pick something important to do, and set a limited time to do it. That might be one hour, or 20 minutes, or even just 10 if you’re having a hard time getting into it. The time limit helps sharpen your focus. If you have limited time to do something, you’ll be forced to decide what’s important. It also means you’re not doing some unlimited task that could take hours, but a very specific one that will be over in X minutes. Setting a limit is good too for when you decide to process your email — only 20 minutes to get as many emails processed as you can, for example.

2. Close everything. This means everything possible on your computer that isn’t absolutely necessary for the task at hand. If you don’t need the Internet to write something, close it. Close email, all notifications and reminders, all programs not needed for your task. If you need your browser open, close all tabs — bookmark them, or save them to a read-later service like Instapaper. You can always open these sites when you’re done.

3. Pause before switching. So you’ve closed everything else, you’ve set a time limit for your task at hand, and you’re getting started … but then you get the urge to check email or Facebook or Twitter. You want to see what’s happening on Instagram or Pinterest or Youtube. Stop. Make yourself pause for 5-10 seconds. This is the key habit that makes the other two work. Take a deep breath. Think about whether you really want to fritter your life away doing those things all day, every day, or if you want to do something great. Choose great, most of the time.

These are little habits, and you can do them. When your time is up, you can give yourself a few minutes’ break to check your favorite sites, and then close them again. But when you’re trying to focus, practice these habits. They’re a small price to pay for a life not frittered away by distractions.

A Very Focused Border Collie

Laurie Berkin

Laurie Berkin is the founder of Marathon Marketing. Originally from Alabama, she has called Atlanta home for over 25 years. Laurie is a corporate attorney, turned marketer, social media maven and consumer products licensing guru. She’s also a world traveler, would-be foodie and dog enthusiast.

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Why Coaching?

You may have heard of a friend or work colleague talking about or receiving coaching.  Perhaps you have thought about reaching out to a coach but wonder, “What exactly IS coaching and how could it help me?”

Simply put, coaching is working in partnership with a trusted, qualified professional to help realize a desired change you want to make and/or a goal you want to reach in your work or personal life.

The process typically starts by the coach and client initially meeting to discuss the goals for coaching.  Before this initial meeting, the coach may forward a series of questions for the client to consider to organize their thoughts and provide background for the coach.

As I will explain in a future blog post, I believe this initial meeting is the most important.  Clear goal setting sets the stage for a successful outcome; the clearer and more focused the goal(s) for coaching, the more successful the coaching will be for the client.

Examples of potential reasons for hiring a professional coach might include:

  • Uncertainty about career performance or advance opportunities in current organization
  • Personnel issues with management and/or colleagues
  • Mid-life career assessment
  • Stress management
  • Work-Life Imbalance
  • Career Transition
  • Learning to better navigate an organizational culture

After the initial goal setting meeting, the coaching begins.  Typically, coach and client meet more frequently in the beginning to utilize the momentum of discovery to develop options to test outside the coaching sessions.  These initial meetings might occur every 1-2 weeks, on average.  As the coaching progresses, the frequency might stretch to every 4-6 weeks to allow the participant time to determine what is working and what needs they have to tweak the options they are developing.

On average, coaching assignments last approximately 6 months, although I have seen coaching assignments as brief as 3 months and as long as 1 year or more.  It ultimately is up to the client and what they feel they need to realize the change they want to make.

I believe successful coaching is a true partnership, with the coach and client working together to realize the change they are seeking.  The questions I ask are designed to help clients consider their current situation, what they want to change, and what options they have for realizing that change.  The great news is that everyone has the answers inside of them, but sometimes they need a trusted coach to help discover what the answers are that are right for them.

Coaching is a powerful tool that can truly change people’s lives.  There are so many exciting topics to consider in the world of coaching, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and hearing yours in the weeks and months ahead.

Until then, remember the power truly lies in you.

Melanie Polk

Melanie Polk, founder of Bright Housing Coaching, brings to her coaching practice over 20 years of senior-level management and leadership experience working with executives in diverse industries, most notably entertainment, toys, packaged goods, beverage, high-tech, publishing, and retail. Melanie’s unique combination of strong practical business experience and knowledge with coaching of senior and mid-level executives has helped individuals and internal teams make the shifts desired to realize their goals.

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Licensing Expos 2012: LIMA Award Winners

The Licensing Expo 2012 is underway in Las Vegas.  The exhibit floor has been filled with the buzzing sounds of deal making and networking.  Exhibitor’s booths seem more elaborate than in the past few years and Attendees appear to have more enthusiasm for the properties and brands being offered.  All in all a positive sign from both sides.

Last night LIMA honored the industry’s best at its annual award ceremony.  The winners included:

Best Art or Design Program: The Victoria and Albert Museum
Best Art or Design Licensee: Navigate Ltd. for the Very Hungry Catipillar children’s gardening tools
Best Character or Toy brand: Angry Birds
Beet Character or Toy brand Licensees: Commonwealth Toy & Novelty for Angry Birds and SGFootwear for Pillow Pets
Best Corporate Brand Program: Jelly Belly
Best Corporate Brand Licensees: Thermos for Under Armour hydration bottles and SGI Apparel for Harley Davidson
Best Film Television Celebrity or Entertainment Program: Props Pig
Best Film Television Celebrity or Entertainment Licensees: Texan Publishing for Props Pig and Jay Franco for Star Wars
Best Sports Program: NBA
Best Sports Licensees: Tops International for Indian Premier League. Cricket and Junk Food Clothing for NFL
Overall Best Licensed Program: Angry Birds

Contests to all the winners and to the industry for a good year!

Laurie Berkin

Laurie Berkin is the founder of Marathon Marketing. Originally from Alabama, she has called Atlanta home for over 25 years. Laurie is a corporate attorney, turned marketer, social media maven and consumer products licensing guru. She’s also a world traveler, would-be foodie and dog enthusiast.

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New York Tech Meetup Recap

NY Tech Meetup

I attended last night’s NY Tech Meetup. And, apparently, it’s a coveted ticket. I had an extra and I received more than 25 emails in less than 24 hours requesting the ticket!

The group that “met up” was comprised of people in various Tech positions across many industries, located in NYC. I have to say, the evening was pretty cool.

The event consists of 2 hours of presentations by start-ups in the city, and then an “after-party” which yours truly was way too tired to attend.

It opened up with a very moving video from Mike Lazerow of Buddy Media. They just got acquired by Salesforce (who also owns Radian6) for $400Million. Not bad.

Then NYTM premiered the latest of their #startupstories, a video series co-created with NASDAQ and produced by HD Made. The series features members of the NY technology community (like Fred Wilson of USV, David Tisch of TechStars, John Borthwick of Betaworks, the founders of Birchbox, Warby Parker, SideTour, OkCupid, Food52, Artsicle and others) talking about key topics for anyone building a startup: The Pitch, The Team, Failure, and The Money (just released last night).
Here’s the link to our latest release – The Money: http://vimeo.com/43404794


Here’s where you can find all the videos in one place: http://nytm.org/resources/startupstories

Now the lineup of presenters — all which are worth checking out:

RentHackr – Lets you see competitive rents in NYC. It’s in Beta and they’re expanding to other markets.
CompStak – A database of crowdsourced commercial rent comps in NYC
Lover.ly – A pinterest-like ecommerce wedding community
RapGenius - You must check them out! They explain lyrics to rap songs and even have the rappers themselves explaining them.
Loosecubes – Enables you to find shared office space globally
estimize - This is a site for analysts to pool information about the market. Supposedly it’s 64% accurate.
Fitocracy – For all you fitness peeps it’s a global app/community segmented by geography and discipline (weight training, running, swimming etc.)
Venmo – A public payment system between friends. Got $100 you can lend me?
NimbleTV – This was the best of all…you can login to your TV service from anywhere in the world and watch from any computer, tablet and mobile phone. I’m all over this one! Someone made a comment last night about Nimble needing a big legal budget. That was hilarious!

I definitely found the evening very inspiring in terms of new, creative ideas. I was impressed to see the amount of really inventive and useful technologies across a variety of industries (Finance, Real Estate, Health, E-commerce). I was surprised though that there weren’t any gaming technologies on the docket, nor the non-profit space.

And, I was thrilled to see Women entrepreneurs as leaders (Loosecubes and Lover.ly.) Kudos to them. However, I did see a decent number of young Women in the audience, which gives me hope that at some point in the future, Tech won’t always be a male dominated industry.

I highly recommend attending the next meetup (if you can get a ticket.) It’s a great networking opportunity, food for thought on technology solutions, and a nice community environment.

Want to see the twitter conversation from last night? Go to twitter.com and search for #nytm in the search bar. You’ll see a few tweets from yours truly.

If you do check these sites out, let me know what you think of them.

Sheryl Levy

Sheryl Victor Levy leads digital strategy for PHIL & Co and is a digital coach for media and ad execs. Sheryl has developed digital strategies for a variety of clients including Cablevision, Carnegie Corporation, David Lynch Foundation, DIRECTV, and the YWCA. Sheryl lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and daughter and is an avid cook.

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Celebrating Milestones: Marathon Marketing Celebrates its 8th Anniversary

This month Marathon Marketing is celebrating eight years in business. The realization of this anniversary caused me to do a a little reflecting.  Is there anything special about the number 8? What does 8 years in business mean?   

I was happy to discover that in some Asian cultures the number 8 is thought to be lucky.  Eight is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture because it sounds like the word meaning to generate wealth. The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing started at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm (local time) on 8 August 2008.  Eight is also considered a lucky number in Japanese culture. Eight gives an idea of growing prosperous, because the letter broadens gradually.

Often business milestones slip by quietly and unnoticed.  I’m making an effort to change this! If your business reaches its one year anniversary – Celebrate.  Eighty percent of all small businesses don’t make it past the first year.  Fifty percent of businesses fail in the first five years, if you have made it that far then, Celebrate Big!  We tend to think to celebrate in on years that end with -5 or -0, but why not mark the years in between? In this economy, celebrating milestones, even small ones, is good a way to keep your motivation up and encourage those around you.   It also gives you an opportunity to show your appreciation to those who helped you reach your milestones.

Marathon Marketing will celebrate reaching our “lucky” 8 year anniversary.  And, we send a special note of thanks to all our clients, vendors, mentors, supporters, business associates and friends who helped us reach this milestone.

How will you celebrate your business’ next milestone?


Laurie Berkin

Laurie Berkin is the founder of Marathon Marketing. Originally from Alabama, she has called Atlanta home for over 25 years. Laurie is a corporate attorney, turned marketer, social media maven and consumer products licensing guru. She’s also a world traveler, would-be foodie and dog enthusiast.

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