10 Business Lessons from Carlos Slim

What are the secrets to Carlos Slim Success

As I write this, Carlos Slim Helú is the second richest man in the World, according to Forbes, following Bill Gates by a ‘mere’ $2 billion dollars. Carlos was number one in 2010 and 2011. Everyone knows how Bill made his fortune, as the founder of Microsoft, and much has been written about him. But what drives Carlos Slim’s success, and what are the strategies that make his companies so successful seem to be more of a mystery.

When companies struggle, they usually blame increased competition and unfavorable economic conditions. Carlos Slim seems to thrive on downturns and recessions.

Slim’s business portfolio, under the holding company Grupo Carso, is much more diversified: it includes real estate, retail, telecom, mining, financial services, tobacco, aluminum, tires, copper, insurance, restaurants, oil and gas, paper, hotels, and more.

People in Mexico say you can’t live a day of your life without somehow giving money to Slim’s empire. He has also made significant investments in the US. In 1997, Carlos purchased 3% of Apple for $17 a share. He has made significant investments in Saks and the New York Times and in business that have gone south like Prodigy and CompUSA.

Carlos is 75 but he has been very aware of technology advances and has positioned his companies to take most advantage of them: “Technology is going to transform people’s lives and society everywhere in the world. My main task is to understand what’s going on and try to see where we can fit in.Continue reading “10 Business Lessons from Carlos Slim”

The Top 5 Challenges Marketers Face Today

Marketing challenges

There are 5 key marketing challenges every marketer is facing today and must be ready to solve to be effective.

Marketing seems like an easy profession for most people. But marketers know there are many challenges marketers face. Marketing is getting broader but also harder every day. Every function within marketing has its own challenges, but these impact every marketer:


Marketing Challenge 1: How to break through the noise.

Ads are everywhere. Attention spans are shorter. Everyone is ignoring banner ads. There is too much noise on social media. Everyone is selling ‘solutions’ promising lower costs, more time. Everything is on sale.

All this makes it harder and harder for marketers to deliver their message to prospective buyers. How do I get my message across?
Continue reading “The Top 5 Challenges Marketers Face Today”

Product, Audience, and Solutions Marketing – Which One is Right for You?

What is Solutions Marketing Audience Marketing

Solutions Marketing is a buzzword used by marketers quite often. A buzzword not because it is not an important or a valuable concept, but because it has been both misunderstood and overused, like Big Data and Social Business.

Years ago I heard VP of Marketing at a large company explain solution marketing to his team as bundling two or more products. This is one of the worst, but also one of the most common definitions. When the concept is not understood it can result in very ineffective communications.

A very large technology company spent a significant amount of money to have a significant presence at a tradeshow where it introduced itself as offering “Enterprise Systems and Solutions”. Imagine an auto dealer introducing itself as a “personal transportation solutions company” instead of the much simpler and easier to understand “car dealer”.

What is Solutions Marketing?

Here is my definition: A solution is a complete offering what will solve a customer problem.

  • ‘A complete offering’ means it must include all the products, services, parts, training and any other element a customer needs to solve a problem. In many cases it will require including partner offerings.
  • ‘Will solve’ implies the company is standing behind the complete solution. It has tested it, and provides customer service and a guarantee for the solution as a whole and not only for its individual components.
  • ‘Customer’ in ‘customer problem’ implies solutions need to be defined by customers, independently of how the company is organized, how the products are defined or what are the company priorities.
  • Customer Problem‘ requires us to understand why customers buy our products, what is the intent, what are the complete requirements and the alternatives being considered.

Continue reading “Product, Audience, and Solutions Marketing – Which One is Right for You?”

Flip the Org Chart – 5 Qualities of Great Managers

What makes a great manager

In most organizations, high performance individuals are promoted to managers, ignoring the fact that a great individual contributor is not necessarily going to become a great manager. But if even if they could become one, it is rare for newly promoted managers to get people management training. In this post I share my management philosophy, which I have been perfecting over the last few decades.

Manager or Leader? It is not the same.

The terms management and leadership are incorrectly used interchangeably. In essence they are very different concepts that require different skills. In fact, few people excel at both.

Leadership is about having a vision and the ability to rally people and resources to create a better future. Management is about sincerely caring for a team of people, empowering them, and making them productive and successful.

In my experience, the main reason why people want to become a leaders or a manager is a desire for career advancement and a higher salary. This is unfortunate, not because there is anything wrong with being career oriented, but because they are not being driven by the right motivation. Promotions and salary increases should not be goals, but consequences of effective execution, leadership, and a good people management track record. Continue reading “Flip the Org Chart – 5 Qualities of Great Managers”

8 Cardinal Principles to use Personas Effectively in Marketing

Best practices to make personas an effective tool to guide marketing activities by increasing customer understanding and empathy

A version of this post was first published on the OpenView labs blog.

The recent focus on content marketing has brought increased attention to personas. They can be a very effective tool for guiding most marketing activities by increasing customer understanding and empathy. But, like with every tool, you must get the fundamentals right to get maximum value out of it.

Despite all the attention on personas, many marketers find the concept somewhat ambiguous or confuse it with segmentation. making effective use of personas in practice has been often ineffective. In this post you will learn 8 ideas or best practices, to help you make personas a key tool that increases the effectiveness of all your marketing activities.

The concept of personas is not new. It was developed in 1998 by Alan Cooper, who also invented Visual Basic, as a tool to help with software interaction design. In 2002, Tony Zambito developed the concept of buyer personas to focus on buyer behavior and to guide customer strategies. Continue reading “8 Cardinal Principles to use Personas Effectively in Marketing”

The 4 Super Powers of Today’s Marketing Leaders

A couple weeks back I contributed to a Forbes CMO network in an article about the traits of successful marketing leaders. It’s an important topic, so I decided to expand on it here.

The marketing function is becoming more complex, more strategic and more interesting. More complex because today marketers need to take advantage of more tools and technologies available to us: from marketing automation to big data to social media.

More strategic because companies are recognizing the deep relationship between marketing and business strategy and CEOs have a better understanding of the value of marketing and its potential as a source of competitive advantage. More interesting because all these tools and channels are opening many new possibilities as areas like psychology intersect with marketing creating behavioral economics – an area that is both fascinating and fundamental to every marketer.

In this broader context of marketing, how do we marketing leaders need to grow? What are the most important traits we need to develop? There are four at the top of the list:


1. Revenue ownership and accountability.

Yes, metrics are important, but modern marketers can no longer claim success measuring their contribution to the business based on ambiguous metrics like followers, brand value, impressions, or clicks. We need to show how marketing directly impacts the business, we need to connect marketing activities result in growth. And we need to make sure every member of the marketing team is focused on business value, and not only metrics, every single day. Continue reading “The 4 Super Powers of Today’s Marketing Leaders”

Why Minimum Wage Increases are Bad for American Workers

Minimum Wages bad for working people

The Minimum Wage Increase Shows Our Congress Does Not Understand Fundamental Economics

21 states raised the minimum wage on January 1st. Many are celebrating this a civil rights victory and a great step towards fixing inequality. They are wrong; it is a sad day for US workers.

The increase has the right intention: everyone would like to see hard working people make more money. I do not know how families get by on minimum wage and I surely hope every hard working American had more means to cover their basic needs, education and to enjoy life.

The problem is that this is not how a capitalist economy works. Economic prosperity does not come as a result of legislation. In a market economy, artificial adjustments can harm the economy and result counter-productive. Continue reading “Why Minimum Wage Increases are Bad for American Workers”

9 Marketing Un-Predictions for 2015

marketing predictions for 2015

By now we have all read a handful of posts on marketing predictions for the New Year. While some predictions reflect trends and areas where marketers definitely need to look into, some are potentially more distracting than useful.

The marketing job never ends: there is always something else we could be doing to grow the business. Marketing is getting more and more complex. These two factors drive, today more than ever, the importance of focus.

The essence of focus are the things you will not do. Focus is about understanding the distractions, the buzzwords, the nice-to-haves and even the good opportunities that we must pass on to allow us to work on those activities that will have the best results.

This is why I wanted to share my Marketing Un-Predictions for the year:

  1. Mobile first is wrong. I am not saying to ignore mobile. I am suggesting we should kill mobile projects in lieu of thinking cross-device always. Today, there is no “mobile”: the line between smartphones, tablets and portable computers is blurred. Marketers must think cross-device (responsive design, device-neutral, cross-browser) from the beginning for all important channels: Websites to marketing campaigns should be designed for mobile and tablet and desktop and everything in-between.

Continue reading “9 Marketing Un-Predictions for 2015”

The Mirage of Data

The Mirage of Data

Big Data and data-driven marketing are two of the most prominent business buzzwords.

New technologies are giving businesses access to larger amounts of data and tools that help us analyze data faster, in larger volumes than ever before. It feels empowering in our quest for the answers. We want data to illuminate the way for us.

Data enables us to make the right decisions and to bulletproof our plans – Or does it?

[quote]”It is possible to be drowning in data and still none the wiser” – Paul Laughlin[/quote]

A couple years ago, one of the World’s most innovative companies was about to launch a massive project. They invested in a research project as large as they come, hiring three of the top consulting companies at the time, and spending 8 figures to interview 200,000 people in 54 cities and 22,000 individuals at 3000 corporations. All this research and data should have guided the project and ensured success, right? Continue reading “The Mirage of Data”

The Best Marketing & Strategy Books

Best Marketing Strategy Books

These are the Top Marketing & Strategy Books of all time.

My favorites, the ones that shaped my thinking and taught me the most. A few leadership and management books thrown in as an extra. These are the books I would recommend to someone who wants to become an awesome marketer, strategist or leader – students, product marketers and CEOs.

I would love to hear what books you think I should add to the list, please add your suggestions in the comments.

I love reading. In addition to Kindle, I have listened to probably a hundred books on  Audible.com. I stopped listening to music on my commute, instead I have had the opportunity to learn a lot from dozens of authors. I really recommend it, try Audible here, you get two books free. Continue reading “The Best Marketing & Strategy Books”