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PR, marketing and the clean slate of a new year

By Leo Valiquetteclean-slate

Happy New Year.

The holidays are behind us and it’s time to get back to the grindstone. But while routines are a good thing, slipping back into poor habits, biases, and preconceptions that limit our professional success are not. Consider this a time to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start.

I personally don’t care to make resolutions. Instead, I look back and consider what lessons I learned over the past year and how I can apply these in a positive way to my life and work over the next 12 months.

So in the spirit of a new year, here are some thoughts to guide founders, executives, and managers of any growing concern as they work to bring their technology to market and earn their time in the spotlight.

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Becoming a more successful you in 2014

By Leo Valiquetteself-reflection

It’s that time of year again, when pundits and armchair quarterbacks of every stripe offer up their insights on the year past and their predictions for the year to come.

This isn’t one of those posts.

After the year I have had, it’s clear that knowing what’s coming often matters less than how you chose to deal with whatever comes.

My wife and I have an eight-year-old son who is a high-functioning autistic. He may also, as we have learned in the past month, have mild epilepsy and ADD.

We could have chosen to take these latest diagnoses as bad news, or we could rejoice in the fact that we may have finally fingered the culprits responsible for the challenges our son has been having in school that could not be explained by autism alone.

We have made a conscious choice to embrace the latter. Because now we feel we have something tangible, definable and actionable. The source of the problem, and there is no denying there has for some time been a problem, is no longer a mystery. Now we can deal with it.

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Lessons in customer service from Kijiji and Co.

By Leo Valiquetteonlineclassifiedads

Fish tanks, fishing boats and Fisher Price toys for the baby’s crib. Even jobs as sushi chefs. There’s no shortage to what you can find on Kijiji, Used Ottawa, Craigslist and the like.

Who needs old newsprint classifieds when you can self-publish, self-promote and engage directly with the marketplace for free? (Sorry, newspapers).

But, boy, does buying and selling through these sites teach you a lot about human nature.

We regularly comment, even rant, about customer service on this blog, out of the unwavering belief that superior customer service is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage available to most companies.

And of course, who among us doesn’t like to complain about the quality, or lack thereof, of the service we receive from a vendor of products and services? But the online classifieds prove that we often fail the customer service test ourselves when the shoe is on the other foot.

So here are my tips on how not to treat your customers, drawn from a variety of teeth-grinding experiences trying to secure a deal through the online classifieds:

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What can your business learn from the Toy Testing Council?

By Leo Valiquettecttc_logo-001

If you are not familiar with it, the Canadian Toy Testing Council is a 55-year-old non-profit that enlists the volunteer aid of families to subject toys to the most rigorous testing possible – at the hands of kids.

The council’s philosophy is to evaluate each toy from a child’s perspective and gain their input. Each toy is evaluated based on its design, function, safety, durability, battery consumption and play value.

My wife and her sisters were toy testers for many years. We were given toys based on the kids’ genders and ages, they would play with the toy for several weeks and the parents would submit written evaluations.

Each year, these efforts by the various testing families are distilled into a report, just in time for the holiday shopping season, with the council’s recommendations for the best toys.

This process falls into the category of exploratory qualitative research, something for which a client of ours, Macadamian, is a tireless proponent.

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What’s in a name?

By Leo Valiquettehello-my-name-is1

A company name that is a mashup of the founders’ initials. A company name drawn from the item the first business plan was sketched upon, or where the founder was enjoying a cocktail when they struck upon the idea. Even names arbitrarily plucked out of thin air without any intention of there being any kind of profound or clever meaning.

I’ve seen it all with over 13 years as a business journalist and marketing and PR consultant. A company’s name is not the company’s brand, but the two do enjoy a symbiotic relationship. A name is a point of reference, an introduction, which may or may not make a direct reference to what the company does.

But a name alone does not sell products, win customers or grow market share. These things are accomplished through the hustle of the team members, how they treat their customers, how they research the market to understand to whom, and in what form, their product or service delivers value, and how they execute on that intelligence.

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