Claudia D. Newcorn has always been afraid of heights. About four years ago she decided to conquer these fears by taking a zipline near Moaning Caverns in the Murphys area. She says running a business is like riding a zipline and it can be scary.
That's why the Modesto-based president of Acorn Enterprises wrote "Zipline to Success: Fast-Track Marketing Strategies to Accelerate Your Sales and Profits." The 256-page book came out in November and is much more than a marketing textbook.
"My passion is wanting to help businesses succeed," Newcorn says. "It's not a marketing textbook but is full of practical information, tactics, creative ideas and strategies to help companies fast-track their success. It's written in conversational style, is easy to read and easy to use."
The reason 95 percent of all businesses fail in the first five years is they don't have the necessary knowledge to establish and grow their business, she believes. The entrepreneurs try to do it all themselves and have to learn to delegate and lean on the experience of others.
Most companies are started by people who have a passion and just want to work for themselves. Newcorn, 58, who has more than 20 years experience in the corporate world and business consulting, says she realized many of the bigger companies have marketing secrets that millions of smaller firms don't have.
"Some ideas are simple ones people don't realize," Newcorn says. "Company representatives told me they wish they could carry me around with them, so I thought why not write a book?"
The lead consultant for the Small Business Development Center that serves Stanislaus County, Newcorn says her advice to clients in some cases turned them around, saved their businesses and some clients grew their bottom line by millions of dollars.
Newcorn says her book took almost a year to the day to complete. She uses cartoons, case histories and "aha" ideas to help people connect with her ideas.
Back to the zipline business correlation: Newcorn points out riding one of the high-speed tethers is scary and exhilarating but if it is done right, the participants will enjoy the ride and avoid obstacles to success.
The whole goal of marketing, Newcorn explains, is to make your business different and unique. It's less about the price of the product and more about the benefits you bring to your consumers. Every company wants to offer great customer service and good products — that is just expected these days.
Newcorn says today's economic climate is cautiously hopeful. She says she is seeing a lot more companies starting business ventures and making investments than a couple years ago Many business people got burned bad in the recent recession and aren't spending money like mad as they did years ago. They are much more cautious.
"I have found the Central Valley area has tremendous creativity and energy. The passion here is a grassroots business approach and I want to help them take it to the next level. A lot of companies were founded by 'Baby Boomers' and they need to realize how the market is different for each generation. They don't realize what motivates the millennials, those between 18 and 36 years of age," Newcorn says.
Most businesses think competitors are their enemies. Not so. Smart marketing firms and big companies know competitors are their best friends if one knows how to use them. This thought seems counterintuitive but Newcorn says the more a business person knows about their competitors the better they are able to position themselves and set themselves apart from others.
She says pricing is not just about setting a price for a product. Pricing is a powerful marketing tool and more than 50 percent of clients set their price points where they lose money. If they don't research their competition or whether their products are priced too high or too low they are set up for failure.
"Nobody needs a $5,000 watch," Newcorn says. "What sells Rolex watches is their status and prestige. You are creating value-added pricing. That makes consumers want to try you and buy you."
Packaging also is covered in Newcorn's book. She covers ways business can present themselves better.
There are core do's and don'ts of packaging such as eye-catching letters, colors and fonts.
Another section is devoted to smart consumer research and the importance of giving the right data that sells a product. Online marketing is a key aspect and it's important to see if a company's website is effective for its audience. Most online search engines are more interested in phrases and not just keywords.
Another small tip in Newcorn's book: 90 percent of all business cards are on one side only and firms are missing a golden opportunity on the back side. She calls it "wasted real estate" on what should be considered a mini-billboard.
Newcorn worked at Gillette as a product manager for more than three years and then was recruited to California by E & J Gallo where she worked for about a year promoting Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers. She then joined Delicato Farms Vineyards as acting marketing director, staying with them for three years until they moved their marketing department to Novato. At that time she set up her own consulting business.
She launched Acorn Enterprises on her birthday 23 years ago. She has clients all over the country, many of whom she keeps in touch with by teleconferencing. She also conducts business workshops and speaks at annual functions for service clubs and business groups. The author of three non-fiction books, Newcorn says she has many more books in her, both fiction and non-fiction.
For more information about "Zipline to Success", call (209) 204-0502 orClaudia@ZiplineToSuccess.com
.— Doane Yawger of Merced is a semi-retired newspaper reporter and editor.