HomeAbout UsBusiness DevelopmentCommunity OutreachDiversity & InclusionCoachingBasic TipsContact Us



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Unexpected Customer

When I was invited to do a presentation for the organization Downtown South Bend (DTSB), it was by mistake… a miscommunication. 

I was having a conversation with the folks with DTSB and noted that I had not heard about some of their events until after the fact.  I spoke about the fact that often times our marketing efforts miss large segments of potential customers and this was an example of one of those cases.  So I was asked if I’d be willing to talk about this as part of an upcoming lecture series and I said sure.   I was down in Florida on vacation when I had this conversation with them.  So, when we later connect on this, it was some weeks later and I have to admit; this had not been high on my priority lists.  Preparation and planning for the lecture series had moved ahead and the proposed title selected for the talk was “The unexpected customer… how to reach the market you have ignored”.

My reaction was “that sounds kind of harsh”.  I didn’t think I said I felt I was being intentionally ignored by marketers.  I didn’t think I had expressed any anger or outrage.  In fact, I was enjoying a stroll along the beach with my beautiful bride of 38 years and was in a very, very good mood.   So, I started to ask that we title it something different, but then I thought about it.  This was exactly the point.  It’s not what I said that is important… it’s what was heard.  It’s not what I intended to communicate… but what I actually did communicate.  And that’s what we must consider when we encounter the “Unexpected Customer”.

Because of the type of work that I do, I get asked quite a bit to help groups and businesses get in front of potential customers… usually African Americans.  But isn’t this just the basic targeted marketing… marketing 101?  Isn't the question just "How do I get more people to buy more of my stuff?What’s the problem.

No one needs me to look up the various diverse media outlets in the area and advertise with them… or they shouldn’t.  MediaOutlets.jpg

Local media outlets always provide a very affordable way to connect with a broader base.  It varies with every community, but here are some of the ones I’m sure you connect with here.  The great thing is the sales people and owners of media like these are generally very immersed in their communities.  When you get to know them and support their efforts, they generally respond in kind.  After all, they’re small businesses too.  As they get to know you and what your business or organization really stand for, they share more information, create avenues to influencers and spread the word that your organization, your business or your initiative are ones that deserve their trust. 

But as I said, I get asked all the time is will YOU get me in front of them?  I’m always glad to help, but who’s the relationship with, them or me?  And what’s the message?  Is it what they want to know and need?  Or is it what you believe they want or need?

And that brings me back to my opening comment.  I intended to communicate one thing… and unintentionally communicated something very different.

Somehow I either unconsciously stated, or somehow implied that I had been excluded from the marketing being done.  I don’t think that’s the case.  I have access to all of the media outlets that are used.  I was probably exposed to the programs and events just like everyone else.  But, I didn’t see them.  They didn’t speak to me.

And it’s just back to marketing 101…

I’m always telling my clients that nothing happens until someone sells something…. And no one sells anything until there’s a relationship.

I’m frequently asked

James… you’re a member of the NAACP… can you get me in to present to them?

James… you’re a member of the 100 Black Men… can you get me in to talk to them?

The answer is always yes.  I’m glad to help.  But, my question is what are you going to tell them?  Usually it’s the same old song about how my product or service is ideal for you.  How I have a solution to all of your problems.  But once again, why am I forgetting the basics?

I was asked by a university to help them get more minorities to their business development and entrepreneurship seminars.  I was glad to help, but the question for them was “what’s the goal?”  Their intentions were good, noble, etc.  But what they said was their goal was not what they really wanted to accomplish.  You can always tell, if you’re not achieving the goal, what you’re rewarding isn’t consistent with what you said the goal was. 

They said the goal was to help more women and minority businesses grow.  But how they actually measured success was how many people showed up at the event and filled out surveys saying it was a good event.  They rewarded attendance, not business creation and development.  What the community needed was support to continue working with the businesses and help them grow. 

But isn’t it the basics?  Isn’t it common sense?  Unfortunately, like they say, common sense just isn’t that common.

What’s the old line?  No one cares how much you know until they… what?  Know how much you care.

For the NAACP and the Michiana African American Chamber of Commerce, I’m pushing and encouraging us all to be intentionally inclusive.  I’m pushing for my minority business owners to get more connected with DTSB and groups like Green Drinks, 3 Degrees, Ignite and others.  And I’m encouraging all of my clients to tap into resources like Make a Difference Michiana to get more information about what organizations are doing what things, who are members and how can they develop some relationships.  When the groups know you care and that you listen, they’re more inclined to be open and want to work with you. 

We can truly accomplish much, much, more when we all choose to work together.


7:07 pm edt          Comments

Monday, June 24, 2013

Intentional Inclusion in Michiana (Part 1)

When you hear the name “The Michiana African American Chamber of Commerce” you don’t necessarily think of inclusiveness.  In fact, because of the name, you probably think exclusiveness.  But, that’s not the case.  The Michiana African American Chamber, MAACC, was formed with the intent of addressing specific needs of businesses in the African American community. It focuses on barriers to success that still exist and focuses on strategies to overcome those barriers.  Those strategies include assessment, training and connection to opportunities using a structured, proven and effective process. 

But, one of the most effective tools in the MAACC toolbox is something called “Intentional Inclusion”. It’s a process that does just what its name implies.  The MAACC business development team helps their businesses connect with opportunities, programs and other entrepreneurs that they don’t usually connect with. These connections are intentionally created to encourage synergies that lead to new ideas and opportunities. 

These connections range from unlikely collaborations infusing technology into traditionally low tech services, to never-imagined partnerships to jointly seek grant funding. Over the last year, MAACC has helped 22 different businesses across 19 different industries.  Key to that support has been connecting the business owners and their teams to business development organizations, entrepreneur meetups and investment groups. 

Intentional inclusion recognizes that while most opportunities are open to all, they are not always effectively communicated to everyone.  It also calls for an understanding that it takes some untraditional thinking to see new opportunities.  By making the connections and then working to help those connections develop MAACC is encouraging innovation. 

For more information about the business development support provided by
MAACC visit them on facebook

3:49 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Black buying power in Michiana - Managing our own economic empowerment by saying Thank You

According to a 2012 study, the nation’s Black buying power continues to rise dramatically. In fact, it reached over $1 Trillion in 2012. As a measure of comparison, according to the CIA World Factbook, that is an amount greater than the buying power of Iran, a nation that ranked 18th in the world.

Black spending in the US increased 73% from 2000 – 2012 compared to 60% of Whites and 67% of all US consumers. While Blacks need to be concerned about saving and creating wealth, for the purpose of this article, we want to focus on what this means regarding economic empowerment.

This increase in buying power does not come only from population growth and inflation. The 2007 Survey of Business Owners published by the US Census Bureau in 2011 shows a dramatic increase in Black owned businesses and receipts generated by those businesses. Another factor shows rising education levels opening the doors to occupations with higher and higher average salaries. These trends are favorable, but only to the extent to which they are built upon.

Knowing that Black consumers continue to spend a disproportionately large percentage of their incomes on consumer goods is not the message. Understanding that it is possible to strategically turn those personal buying habits into personal economic power is.

Michiana makes up a 15 county region in the Midwest with a population of 1.6 million people. According to the last census, 226,000 of that population is Black. That’s 14% of the population. The key here is buying POWER… and the conscious choice to use it.

When businesses believe consumers will purchase from them no matter what the quality of service; the incentive to incur the added expense of providing exceptional service declines. When consumers demonstrate a conscious decision to purchase with selected businesses, exceptional efforts are made to compete for that business. In 2009 the combined annual buying power of Black people in Indiana and Michigan was reported to be $54 million. You would think that consumers with that kind of buying power deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. But if consumers do not show that they understand the extent of their purchasing power, that respect will not come.

Those businesses that respect black buying power and show it by reaching out to the black community, investing in the community, supporting the community… deserve the community’s thanks. They earn the community’s business and should be rewarded. But how does the individual consumer make a difference? How does the individual consumer exert any real power? The answer is with a simple Thank you.

By publicly saying Thank You to those businesses that treat the Black community with dignity and respect consumers give businesses free advertising. By saying Thank you loudly and publicly Indiana and Michigan businesses see that some portion of that $54 million is more likely to be spent with them. That simple Thank you will encourage those businesses to compete for what they refer to as a larger share of wallet.

This month, let’s acknowledge those companies that show they care about the Black community. Send us the names of those businesses and why you feel they care about the Black community. Do they provide exceptional service? Do they support your church or school? Do they invest in your families? Do they buy services from small community based businesses? The Michiana Dignity and Respect Campaign will publicize those businesses and spread the good word about them. And as they do more the campaign will say more. Tell us when you encourage others to support those businesses. We’ll make sure they know their efforts are being rewarded with your business.

Economic empowerment begins by knowing that every consumer’s voice counts. When consumers reward businesses that support the community … businesses compete to provide even more. It’s the basic tenant of buying power. The power you the consumer control. POWER TO THE PEOPLE. POWER TO THE CONSUMER.

6:40 am est          Comments

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Novel Time making Michiana smarter
Michiana is becoming a hot bed of innovative new businesses.  One of the hottest segments for new business is education.  A Novel Time, LLC is an exciting new business that taps into what INC magazine noted as one of the best industries for starting a new business … education technology.   

A Novel Time, LLC helps students become more critical readers, writers and thinkers, while engaging in online creative writing and text-based discussions with peers, creating empowered 21st century learners.

Reading is understood by many to literally restructure the brain, causing development that directly impacts our thoughts, our lives, our impact on our world.  It is our growing understanding of brain development that has made reading education a hotly desired service parents seek.   A Novel Time, LLC fulfills that need well. 

Designed by Joanna Azar, an educator with a BS and MS in elementary education from Indiana University, A Novel Time, LLC incorporates the most current techniques to encourage a love and passion for reading and stimulates the brain development benefits. 

Summer of Suspicion is the theme of this summer's classes. Each grade level (4/5 and 6/7) will be delving into books with a mystery theme. The website www.anoveltime.com gives further details about the book selections for each grade level.

Joanna is a South Bend native who worked with Michiana SCORE for help on starting her business.  For more information on A Novel Time, LLC please visit
www.anoveltime.com.  For more information on helping your business visit Michiana SCORE online at www.michiana.score.org .


For more information on Inc’s hottest new startups visit http://www.inc.com/ss/best-industries-for-starting-a-business#17


For more information on why reading matters visit http://youtu.be/QdwFFFBCPzw

3:51 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Michiana Dignity and Respect Campaign

Thank you for the introduction I am James Summers. I’ve been a member of this club since July 2011. I run a small business development consulting firm. What sticks in most folks minds is that I do Diversity consulting, and while that’s true and has been our primary source of income for the business for the last 8 years, what I really do is business development that’s centered on teaching inclusive behaviors and building relationships.

I’m telling you this because, I’m here to talk to you about a community program we’re promoting called the Dignity and Respect Campaign. When people hear about it, they think, “that’s nice, yeah wouldn’t it be wonderful if that’s the way people treated each other… the only folks who’ll pay attention to this are the folks who already believe it’s the way we should be and you’re preaching to the choir.” Folks who don’t really know me very well think I’m this Polly Anna, eternal optimist trying to get everyone to get along and sing Kumbaya.

People who really know me know I’m a sales and marketing, process improvement capitalist who understands that nothing happens until you sell something and most sales happen as a result of relationships. So as I tell you about the Dignity and Respect Campaign, I want you to recognize that yes, if we can encourage these behaviors we’ll have a nicer world to live in, more of us might actually go to heaven, but we might also have specific outcomes we can point to that help attract smart people and good businesses to a community that actually works well together. Read more

4:48 pm est          Comments

2013.08.01 | 2013.06.01 | 2013.02.01 | 2013.01.01 | 2012.12.01 | 2012.11.01 | 2012.10.01 | 2012.08.01 | 2012.06.01

Link to web log's RSS file

The Summers Group, llc · 12980 State Rd. 23 Suite F · Granger, IN  45650 · 574-247-9280

©2013 The Summers Group, llc