New Zealand Quake

Today, let’s pause and think about the citizens of New Zealand, contending with an earthquake that’s claimed far too many lives from among a small population.

New Zealand is the truest form of a US ally, every day and in every way. It’s home to many of our friends, colleagues and relatives. It’s the dream vacation spot for me.

Be alert to ways in which you can help out. Your business partners there are in need of all kinds of support — be it on-the-ground or virtual helping hands, supplies, or even lenience in delivery and payment terms. Reach out in any way you can.

Pay heed to their every day challenges, even after the last news headline fades.

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Is Bartering Right for Your Business?

This time-tested form of trading, aka reciprocal trade, is more nimble than ever, thanks to Web-based solutions. These trading sites enabling the connection between parties, and management of transaction credits on a broader scale than ever.

"I say, let's swap!"


Income tax rules apply; both parties must report the fair market value of goods and services exchanged. (IRS Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions. Barter exchange companies’ fees cover things like sending out IRS paperwork. Read a concise explanation at International Reciprocal Trade Association’s info site.

I see special value in the bartering model for community- and locally-based service companies and manufacturers. A friend of mine owns a marketing services company, and has relied upon bartering to build out his new work space. He’s also exchanged services for advertising for non-profits, too.

Sites:
International Monetary Systems at IMS Barter.com
BizXchange at bizx.com
American Commerce Exchange at acxbarter.com

Beemers Built by Boomers

Auto workers in Germany are aging, as the supply of younger, skilled workers drops. Fast Company reports on a trend in industrial design for aging industrial workers:

BMW’s New Plant Built With Aging Workforce in Mind.

I envision tool belts with cup holders, relaxed fit coveralls, tram rides to the break room, and plenty of upstart, go-fer robots to boss around.

Selling American Beer in Europe

I’ve been reading up on a local brewery and how they’re swingin’ for the fence, in classic West Coast, Can-Do attitude. Stone Brewing’s storming the castles of the beer-vana that is Europe, reminding me of the formidable challenge faced by new brand leaders when breaking into traditional distribution channels.

California wine makers hit it over the fence ages ago … why not beer?

"American Beer? Intruder! Intruder!"


Stone Brewing is taking the phrase ‘audacity of hope’ to new levels. A popular US brewer of craft beer, they’re searching for a location for their European brewing center… in Belgium. Or maybe Germany. As they expand into Europe, how can Stone Brewing vault past a formidable wholesale distribution channel, not to mention nationalistic pride?

Responding to a demand for West Coast craft brews, the Escondido, California company realizes that their brew’s unique, sharp tones and flavors take a hit as it’s transported from California to brasseries and tavernas throughout Europe. Hence, the decision to brew in the local markets. Makes sense. But how will the distribution machine take to the new foreign kid on the block?

Yes, Stone Brewing is focusing on Germany and Belgium… talk about moxy! But, armed with the brand cachet of a California pedigree, Stone Brewing can continue to win over fans among European craft beer lovers. These consumers congregate in the same drinking spots, making a concerted effort to “drink differently” despite traditional bias against American beers. There is such cross-border migration now among EU citizenry that fervent devotion to local brews is diminishing somewhat (barring the German and Belgian turf) This creates a Marketing Frontier opportunity.

Successful brand building for alternative products in a well-established industry takes place in such marketing frontiers, where word-of-mouth and sell-through both pick up momentum. As products win approval by the social mavens, these “buzzy” consumers pass endorsements quickly and earnestly throughout their social circle. It’s much the same as when makers of natural and organic consumer packaged goods attract health-conscious shoppers at natural foods retailers. Alternative retail is most often a less-expensive channel, too: cash-strapped startups welcome these retailers’ low or non-existent slotting fees.

So – Stone Brewing can get it right by finding the right mix of brave new customers, follow their social migration paths, keep an eye on the most tragically hip watering holes in each key EU city, and build a channel marketing plan of sponsorships and social marketing to pique interest. Keeping their brews pouring and the brand name relevant will create sustainable sell-through and enough groundswell demand by “retailers” to make the EU’s behemoth beverage distribution machine look their way.

Stone Brewing’s story is a great channel leadership challenge, and another really great story out of southern California. It’s about the basics in brand marketing, too: know your brand traits. Define your most-favored consumer class. Set up most direct channels to reach them… which in some cases, may mean non-traditional. Be audacious!

Expedition: Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Algalita Marine Research Foundation of Long Beach, California has a unique fund-raising idea underway. For $10,000, donors get to join in a 20-day cruise across the Pacific to look for garbage. Not just any trash, though… this cruise heads into the vortex of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to conduct field research to help understand, control and (we hope) eradicate this floating land o’ plenty… which we are told is twice the size of Texas.

An island nation emerges...


Sailing from Honolulu to GPGP and on to Vancouver, BC on a 72-foot racing sloop Sea Dragon. the lucky donors will partake in a working cruise. Besides the honor of supporting the foundation with a cash award, cruisers will be totin’ and haulin’, doing KP, and standing night watch. Hop on board this worthy cause at http://www.algalita.org

2010 US Census Data: Essential Business Planning Tools

More than ever, US census data is easier to use in business forecasting… whether deciding where to place a new retail outlet, or how many sales reps to hire in a given state. Its interactive, graphical format makes the 2010 Census the sales analyst’s best friend.

Click here to see what’s already online for use, at no cost, right now. I appreciate how they’re rolling out data summaries as they’re ready, vs. waiting for the big “mack-daddy-50-states-in-one” format.

The US Census: it’s not just for politics!

USA High Speed Rail On Its Way

Traveling for business in Germany, Japan and other countries is made easier through optional high-speed train travel. Based in Frankfurt, for example, I booked two days of meetings in three nearby cities and, using DB’s high-speed lines, got where I was going fast… and didn’t have to change hotels each night. Arriving in Japan, the Narita Express whisked me from that airport, through Tokyo and to my destination in Yokohama in 89 minutes (no, not 90… 89!). No street traffic hassles in cabs or buses… just quiet and clean transport for worn-out business travelers.

As the son of career railroad workers, I always opt for riding the rails when it makes sense for my itinerary… which is not so often here in the US, especially here in the western US. That’s why this week’s announcement from President Obama about the federal government’s intent to provide $53 billion for high speed rail infrastructure hit a positive note with me. It’s the first big step toward Americans having a choice on how to travel for work and leisure, in 31 states. It’s stimulus spending on many levels: employment during the research, design, and construction of the equipment, services and lines; improved infrastructure for metro areas; cleaner, faster transport; and efficient use of travel time and budgets for business travelers.

Is High Speed Rail Coming to Your Town?

Is High Speed Rail Coming to Your Town?


It’s a start!

Too Hot To Handle? Marketing New Kitchen Products

Got it Hot-n-Ready to Eat? Keep it Hot-n-Tidy on the Go!

Hanson Marketing was hired by an energetic and inspiring inventor named Dave Dunican, Senior whose great new idea on how to safely, cleanly transport pots of hot food shows all the signs of being the next “must-have” kitchen item. Dave needed guidance on defining the brand, shaping retail price strategies, positioning the product in a crowded, competitive market; approaching potential celebrity endorsers; and targeting class-of-trade reseller partners plus specialty markets such as the tailgater/sports enthusiast sub-culture (yes, straps are available with custom-logo imprint of your favorite team!) and the catering crowd.

After just four months, the product is online and for sale, while Dave is taking the show on the road, negotiating tie-ins with compatible manufacturers such as CorningWare.

We were fortunate in that Dave brought his experience gained in a career at Hasbro Toys to the table, so we breezed through the product certification, manufacturing, testing, and shipping cycles while securing very favorable pricing throughout.

Here’s the result of our work! Hot-n-Tidy’s website is here; hey, order some while you’re at it!

Cuba Exports Health Workers, Earns Petroleum Revenue

Over at Global Post, an article by reporter Nick Miroff reminds me why I like the news site so much. Here, I learned of a truly grassroots, innovative business venture, initiated by the Cuban government. And it’s ventures such as this one — exporting healthcare professionals in exchange for payment based upon current oil prices — that remind me to expect the unexpected, when it comes to global trade.

98 miles across the sea, Havana de la Cuba's waitin' for me...


It’s a clear sign that the island will come into clear, free market play within one generation from now. Miroff writes, “Through service agreements that send Cuban doctors, nurses and other skilled professionals to energy giants like Venezuela, Angola and Algeria, the Cuban government is compensated on a sliding scale pegged to the price of oil.”

Already, “…last year, the island accumulated a $3.9 billion trade surplus, and services — such as health care — accounted for $9.4 billion out of $13.6 billion in total export revenue.”

Granted, the money goes into government accounts. But, it’s this sort of publicly-administered project that will, so easily, move into a privatized venture, as Cuba emerges into 21st-century free markets. First up will be expansion of the island’s domestic oil production, followed eventually by support services and privatization of the power grid.

Check out this and other excellent Global Post articles here.

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