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Your customer is always right. Are you?

You might think that your product or service is the best in the world, but you might also need your head read. Market research is one of the best ways to get into the minds of customers. And it's no longer the expensive and exclusive domain of big corporates. Hell, you don't even need a clipboard! Jodie O'Keeffe reports.

Perfect pitch: Getting it together

Your strategy is your objective for the pitch and the tactics and specific actions you employ to achieve that objective. A great way to get the objective clear is to imagine the pitch is over and you have won. If, at the company's next board meeting, the selection committee were asked to succinctly explain why they selected you, what would they say? We call this The "Board Room" Statement. For example, your Boardroom Statement might be: "We selected them because they had good ideas and enough experience to do the job, but more so, a level of enthusiasm and desire to work with us that none of their competitors could match."

Marketing: directly target your marketing efforts

Direct marketing is a form of advertising that requires a direct response from the consumer. This includes mail, catalogues, advertising, telemarketing, direct selling and email initiatives that are delivered directly to the individual.

Strategy: Customer feedback loops

Being the first to react to changing customer needs and preferences is often the difference between business success and failure. Witness, for example, how quickly Sony lost its early dominance of the portable music device market to Apple, which responded faster and more innovatively to demand for digital audio devices.

Cory Doctorow’s big tent

It was an outrage. In March, celebrity US blogger Arrianna Huffington caused a squall of controversy when she cobbled together quotes criticising the Iraq war from various articles and interviews with George Clooney, gained approval from Clooney's publicist and ran the post on thehuffingtonpost.com under Clooney's name, with a few of her own words tossed in for good measure. It was perceived as an assault on the central tenets of journalistic professionalism and drew fire from many quarters (leading to her qualified apology when the great man arced up). But The Huffington Post is a blog, not a newspaper of record, and Ms Huffington had as many defenders as accusers during the affair.

Cory Doctorow's big tent

It was an outrage. In March, celebrity US blogger Arrianna Huffington caused a squall of controversy when she cobbled together quotes criticising the Iraq war from various articles and interviews with George Clooney, gained approval from Clooney's publicist and ran the post on thehuffingtonpost.com under Clooney's name, with a few of her own words tossed in for good measure. It was perceived as an assault on the central tenets of journalistic professionalism and drew fire from many quarters (leading to her qualified apology when the great man arced up). But The Huffington Post is a blog, not a newspaper of record, and Ms Huffington had as many defenders as accusers during the affair.

Life-expectancy timepiece

BI-GOODNESS is a bi-monthly column dedicated to the quirky, generally funny and often dangerously impractical inventions and business concepts that occasionally come our way. It is a tribute to the one-eyed entrepreneur, the nutty professor and dotcom jockey in each of us.

Ant Bytes — AA16

Reminiscent of the Simpsons episode where Homer has a $1 billion note until it is stolen by Fidel Castro, US Federal authorities have seized 250 bogus $1 billion notes in a Los Angeles raid. The notes, which bore the portrait of President Grover Cleveland, were believed to be modelled on actual $1,000 notes from the 1930s. Rumour has it that the notes will be used to relaunch the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Pete Thomond – Disruptive innovator

Pete Thomond spent the past four and a half years working out the secrets of successful innovation. The British academic and business consultant was co-manager of the "Disrupt-it" project, a €3 million European Commission co-sponsored programme of research and business tool development. Now he's spreading the word downunder, as a Research Fellow and innovation consultant at the Brisbane Graduate School of Business. At 29, he's young, but how many people do you know with a PhD in disruptive innovation?

Why John Howard and I agree

Supervillains come in many guises. For Superman it was Lex Luthor. Batman's enemy was the waddling Penguin. But to any civilised reader or writer the greatest nemesis, the most galling of the supervillains, is the Phantom Apostropher!

Just the medicine, man

You've seen all the ads that promise everything from tighter abs to fab calves. Then there are the ones that will help you find inner-peace, outer-serenity and even how to lose weight while stuffing your mush with plank-sized chips and endless vats of fried chicken and gravy.

Innovation and globalisation: perfect bedfellows

Globalisation is really about direct international investment. Investment will flow to where the innovators are, so innovation must be focused on global impact.

Copy to China

There is a time-honoured business model in China known as "Copy To China" - find a product or service or business model that works in the US or elsewhere and replicate it in China. In the technology industry this is exemplified by ChinaHR.com Holdings Ltd building a Monster look-alike and then selling 40 percent off to Monster Worldwide, Inc. for US$50m or Joyo.com Ltd replicating Amazon and then selling it to Amazon for US$75m. The same model is popular in many other markets, particularly Australia. Seek has had great success emulating Monster.

Content is still king

Mobile companies across the globe have spent billions of dollars creating networks that essentially all offer the same services. It's been a huge investment just to get to the starting line. But the real challenge is in providing something that is different from the competition.

Aussie expats

  According to DFAT, approximately one million Australians live overseas. That’s one in 20. With so many of us having a red hot go “over...

Top marks: Business plan competition

There's a new reason for creating that great business plan... prize money! If the possibility of commercial success (or failure) isn't inspiration enough to do your basic business homework, perhaps you should consider the financial incentives offered to budding business planners. Scores of Australian organisations now hold annual business plan competitions, where entrants compete for cold hard cash... and the honour of being named 'most likely'. By Pi James.

Q&A: Nigel Poole

As the person responsible for commercialising all new technologies emanating from the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, Nigel Poole knows all about transforming ideas into companies. From where he sits, Australia's so-called "commercialisation gap" is receding, with seed investment culture and managerial experience the keys. He's a busy man with busy ideas and a penetrating vision for Australia's future as a knowledge nation.

Q&A: Nigel Poole

As the person responsible for commercialising all new technologies emanating from the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, Nigel Poole knows all about transforming ideas into companies. From where he sits, Australia's so-called "commercialisation gap" is receding, with seed investment culture and managerial experience the keys. He's a busy man with busy ideas and a penetrating vision for Australia's future as a knowledge nation.

Regional tech

For the most part, we Australians huddle in and around our eastern seaboard cities, with healthy respect for the harsh realities inland. But there's more to Australia's tech sector than MBA-educated entrepreneurs and wealthy investors in Sydney and Melbourne. As globalisation levels the international playing field, so the performance gap between urban elites and regional innovators narrows.

China: The Two Shanghais (part IV)

London, New York and . . . Shanghai. When global citizens call to mind the world's mega-cities in 2010, Shanghai's Government wants to rank in the very top echelon. Becoming an "international city" by 2010 might sound like a strange goal for a municipality, but foreign entrepreneurs need only look as far as the incentives Shanghai's government is offering to understand that this is an opportune moment to set up shop in this sprawling metropolis. In the final instalment of his four part series, returning Australian expat Paul Waide delves into the city that is commonly acknowledged as being a window on China's future.

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