The “BIG IDEA” Whose Time Has Come

vsu-logo1Impossibility only defines a task’s degree of difficulty. Do you  believe in that premise? I know I do …

The truth is, I only look for strategic alliance partners who believe that difficult tasks can be done immediately and seemingly impossible tasks take a little longer ;-)

The VSU Story: In the Spring of 2008, a strategic alliance partner of mine, who also shares the impossiblity premise above, chose me to help her execute a BIG IDEA.  It was truly an idea “whose time had come” and one we had both independently thought about many years earlier.

The BIG IDEA was to find and secure a new and sustainable distance learning channel to teach micro- entrepreneurs (0 – 10 employees) how to boost their productivity and profits with practical, duplicable and low-cost tactics that are easy-to-implement regardless of economic conditions.

Deb Shaw is that strategic alliance partner and co-founder of VSU.  For her, the BIG IDEA meant to democratize business intelligence and make marketing  best practices available to all entrepreneurs … without having any bias to their ethnicity, creed or socio-economic status.

For me, the BIG IDEA meant to give convenient, virtual access of marketing and execution intelligence to these same micro-entrepreneurs who typically couldn’t attend seminars, teleseminars or continuing educations events.

As marketers, we both knew it was a simple idea.  But as entrepreneurs, we knew it wouldn’t be easy to execute.  (This blog post reveals the true story of how our BIG IDEA has come to fruition, and how YOU can participate).

The result of our BIG IDEA took the form of Virtual Seminar University – a virtual, distance learning platform with faculty in difference areas of expertise such as marketing, business development, negotiation, conflict management, cashflow management, website optimization and hiring, to name a few.

Our strategic plan was to target micro-entrepreneurs and small business owners who frequented B2B retail stores such as wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club, and teach them practical, no-nonsense tactics to grow their “top-line” revenue.

Typically, these B2B chains save their members money and thus help micro-entrepreneurs lower costs to fatten their “bottom-line” or profits.  But what if they also became mini-universities that could teach their members how to boost their “top-line” or gross sales and have more discretionary income to come back to the store more often?

It doesn’t take much deep thinking to realize the “win-win” of the BIG IDEA.  Micro-entrepreneurs win by getting access to new skills and tools to grow their businesses.  B2B retailers win by creating massive value for their members.

Fast-Forward to Fall, 2008: The roots of the BIG IDEA that Deb and I had began to bear fruits as soon as she introduced it to the upper management of Sam’s Club.

Within a month, we found ourselves on a conference call with the CEO.  Deb was in Bentonville, AR at the Wal-Mart headquarters and I was in my home office where I conduct all of my Teleseminars.

In less than 20 minutes on a conference call, the CEO and his Sam’s Club management team decided to give our idea a fair try, thanks mostly to the long-standing relationship Deb had built with Wal-Mart and its top vendors.

Our 3-Phase Marketing Plan: Like all of my other strategic plans this 3-phase plan has a high possibility of working because it is based on the time-honored, Socratic premise that  “people support what they help to create.” 

By first asking them what they want (Phase 1),  and then giving them what they want (Phase 2), the “repurposed” content (Phase 3) becomes a perfect “message-to-market” match. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, “When the true leader’s job is done, all the people say, ‘We did it ourselves’.”

If you’re a “Thought Leader” or “Content Provider” on a topic you feel will appeal to Sam’s Club Members, then please keep reading because you may be eligible to become part of our VSU Faculty.

Here’s a brief overview of the 3-Phase Strategic Plan I designed for Sam’s Club and VirtualSeminarU:

Phase 1: Survey Sam’s Club members and “ask” them choose the seminar topics (multiple choice) is most important to them.

Click here to see a sample of Phase 1 in action.

Phase 2: After the “Ask” campaign survey results are evaluated, the next phase is to warm-up the acquired new list of students with weekly tips, which we’ve named, “The Tuesday Tip.”

Click here to see a sample of Phase 2 in action.

Phase 3: After the list is “warmed-up” for about 4-6 weeks, the Phase 3 of the BIG idea is to deliver semi-monthly Tele-Webcasts on the most requested topics.

At the time of writing this blog post, Phase 3 has not launched yet, but we are looking for new VSU Faculty Members who have content-rich presentations and agree to the following criteria:

  1. B2B tips that are practical, low-cost and duplicable
  2. No self-promotion or personal branding allowed
  3. Use of “plain language” without imbedded sales offers
  4. Pre-recorded, 40-minute TeleWebcast format
  5. Each lesson must go through Sam’s legal department

The target audience is Sam’s Club member who is a micro-entrepreneurs with 0 – 10 employees.  The topics they have most requested from Phase 1 so far are:  marketing, Internet, cash-flow and finance challenges.

What To Do Now: If you feel you meet VSU’s criteria and want to conduct a brief fact-finding interview, then please leave your Full Name, Contact Info and Topic in the Reply section of this post.

If you prefer a more private route, then visit www.AlexHelpDesk.com and submit a ticket with the General Questions radio button.  Submit your Full Name, Contact Info and Topic and you’ll be contacted by one of VSU’s team members from the Faculty Development division.

Summary: Victor Hugo once remarked: “Not even all the armies of the world can prevent an idea whose time has come.”  Virtual Seminar University (VSU) is such an idea because it provides distance learning for small business people, independent professionals and micro-entrepreneurs.

The triumph of this distance learning premise is driven by the profound technological change that started at the turn of the 21st century and has been accelerated by the Social Media Revoution.

I hope you submit your profile to become a VSU Faculty candidate and because you’ve read this far, my sense is you have the vigilence to do what it takes to be accepted.   If you feel I’m speaking to you, then our paths will cross again on one of our forthcoming VSU Tele-Webcasts.

Please leave your Reply on this post.


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