Blog

Interested in marketing, writing, and business?

I post ideas from crazy to great, share the best stories that I find on the net, and work hard to provide great content to my readers. From the practical business uses of social media to information on direct mail, I’ve probably written a post on it.

Get involved! Leave a comment and challenge my thinking, or share your tips for success.

This is going to be fun.

Procedures vs Infrastructure

Posted by on Aug 20, 2017 in Ryan's Thoughts | 0 comments

Procedures vs Infrastructure

This is a topic that I’ve wanted to write about for some time, but its always been a slightly vague idea in my head, one where I really felt the lesson was important, but in which I needed a clear, simple example. I finally found the perfect example last week at Disney World.

Often when faced with a business challenge the first thing I’ll look at is whether I need some kind of procedure or checklist in place to prevent it from happening again. I’m a big fan of checklists – my computer wallpaper is even a checklist! (If you’d like to learn more about checklists, read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande). However,  a checklist or procedure isn’t always the right solution. Sometimes there is a fundamental infrastructure problem in what you are trying to do, or perhaps it would be much easier and more effective to make an infrastructure change rather than adding items onto a to-do list.

I was very fortunate to go to Disney World with my family recently. I read a lot about Disney: books on customer service, books on leadership, books on innovation – I even have a Disney podcast on my playlist. One of the oldest stories about Disney is that the parks are incredibly clean, that there is no garbage anywhere, and that they have staff walking around constantly picking up even the smallest bits of trash.

First of all, it’s true: Disney World is an incredibly clean and tidy place. It’s also true that I saw maintenance staff pushing carts from place to place and a lot of what I assume where managers walking the park with long grabbing sticks to pick up garbage. Here’s where the myth fell apart for me though – I didn’t actually see them picking up garbage very often. And that’s because there was rarely garbage on the ground.

See, one of the so-called ‘Secrets of Disney’ is that there are garbage cans placed no more than 30 steps away from any place in the park. It’s true – there are garbage cans EVERYWHERE. Because garbage cans are so easily accessible, people just naturally use them rather than litter. This means the park is kept clean without the staff having to do anything. Then, when you add in the efforts of the staff, they can pick up the loose bits of trash and take the park from clean to immaculate. This was punctuated by a day spent at Universal Studios, which was clean, but not immaculate. The obvious difference? Fewer trash cans and fewer staff walking around.

I love this on so many levels. First, it recognizes that people are all inherently lazy and want to do the minimum amount of work possible (visitors and staff). It’s also a neat bit of social engineering. Because there are so many garbage cans available, you see a lot of people using garbage cans. Because you see people using them, you are more likely to use them yourself! Finally, because the park is so clean, you also want to keep the park clean (check out Broken Window Theory for more on this topic).

Disney takes the ‘magic’ a step further by making sure that the cans themselves are spotless. I’m  a bit of a germophobe, and I hate touching the flapper doors on most garbage cans. But I saw so many maintenance people wiping and cleaning the cans at Disney World that I had no problem popping things into them!

Some managers, when faced with a garbage problem, might place signs asking people to throw out their trash. Others might demand that all staff members pick up at least 60 pieces of garbage an hour as a performance requirement of their job. They might create a log sheet where each employee must sign off that a can was checked/cleaned and when.

But how many would decide to add twice the number of garbage cans that are ‘necessary’ and place them closer to each other to avoid the problem in the first place?

Where can this idea fit into your business? Perhaps you have a sink that’s always full of dishes, and the cupboards a plastered with signs asking people not to leave their dishes there. What if you bought a rack to put beside the sink for people to put their dirty dishes in?

Maybe you have a more serious issue, such as expense reports not being handed in on a regular basis. Perhaps you could include an expense claim form in the envelope that has your employees pay stub at the end of each month. Or perhaps you could move the entire expense system over to one that scans and sends emails to the accounting department. Use the credit card, snap a photo of the receipt – and done! There might be a bit more work for the accountants to put everything together upfront, but perhaps they save time in the end because they no longer have to spend their days tracking down folks and begging them for receipts.

Here’s another take on the idea.

How to Sell a Tent

Posted by on Mar 7, 2017 in Ryan's Thoughts | 0 comments

How to Sell a Tent

You’ll never sell a tent by saying its waterproof.

You’ll rarely sell a tent by talking about the size.

Campfires sell tents.

Hot dogs sell tents.

Friends and families sell tents.

Shooting stars sell tents.

Wet swimsuits on a rope between two trees sells tents.

Adventure sells tents.

The fact that your tent is waterproof only plays into the equation when rain comes while someone is out doing all those other things. If your tent passes the test, your brand story will become “I was out at Buffalo Pound last August when a huge storm hit. It poured all night, but we were completely dry the next morning. I love this Cabela’s tent! It’s never let me down!”

Lessons Learned in Marketing: The Phoenix Group Podcast

Posted by on Feb 23, 2017 in Audio, Ryan's Thoughts | 0 comments

Lessons Learned in Marketing: The Phoenix Group Podcast

Recently, I was contacted by David Bellerive from the Phoenix Group, a large advertising agency that services some of the most notable brands in Saskatchewan and beyond. They had started a new podcast and wanted to have me on as a guest to talk about the Saskatchewan Science Centre and the work that I do there, along with my small but amazing team.

I was honoured to even be considered for the podcast. Some of the previous guests include Kip Simon of 22 Fresh, Great Western Brewing, and Mike Tennant, one of the people behind The Age of Persuasion, a long running CBC Radio show about advertising.

I really enjoyed the conversation I had with David before, during, and after the podcast, and I hope that you can find a few minutes to listen to it! We talk about some of the things I think are the most successful in marketing right now, and I even share one of my fails from last summer’s campaigns.

Really, you should subscribe to the podcast and listen to all of them (I believe they are published every two weeks), but to get you started, here’s the episode that I was a guest on.

Enjoy!

http://thephoenixgroup.ca/podcasts/llm-episode-13—ryan-holota-sask-science-centre