Business & Economy
Do Businesses Know What Their Customers Want? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 12:33
Research Shows 90% Do Not

What customers value most changes constantly, and the pace of change has increased exponentially with the economic recession, says marketing/management expert and best-selling author Jaynie L. Smith.

“The businesses who become relevant by addressing what customers really value at any given time will be the first ones out of the recession,” says Smith, whose newest book, Relevant Selling (, is now available.

“One year ago, people were looking for financial stability in companies they were purchasing from because of all of the business closings,” she says, citing surveys conducted by her company, Smart Advantage, Inc. “Now, on-time delivery outranks that because so many businesses cut back their inventory during the worst of the recession. With demand increasing, customers have more difficulty getting what they want on time.”

Smith’s company analyzed more than 150 customer surveys to learn why customers buy particular products or services from particular companies. It’s an essential practice for any business owner during any economic cycle, Smith says, but most don’t do it. Her analysis of 10 years of double-blind customer market research for more than 100 businesses revealed that, 90 percent of the time, most businesses do not know their customers’ top values. They are often shocked to learn what is at the top of the customers’ value list.

Smith offers these tips for getting to know your customers – and potential customers – so you can deliver what they want and adjust your sales and marketing message to become more relevant.

• Customers are usually looking for “how” things are sold, not “what.” For most products, there are any number of suppliers. If someone wants to buy a camera, a doorknob, a car, they can drive to the nearest store or order from the first company that pops up on Google. But they don’t. Why? Because there’s something else they value more than the product itself. It may be product durability, the company’s reputation for customer service, or safety features. “If you don’t value what you bring to the customer, they won’t value it either,” is Smith’s mantra.  Very few companies know how to effectively articulate what differentiates them, so price often becomes the tiebreaker.

• Understand that existing customers and prospects usually have different values. Smith’s company research analysis shows that 70 percent of the time, customers and prospective customers differ in what they most value. When that happens, your message to customers should be different than your message to prospects.  Very few companies make this distinction in sales and marketing messaging. Existing customers may have come to depend on your top-notch help desk. It’s what they’ve grown to value most about your company. Prospective customers haven’t yet used your help desk so they don’t know how essential this benefit is yet.

• Use what you learn. If you find customers most value speedy responses when they have a problem, and your customer service department is slow, then fix customer service. Make sure to tell the customer service employees that customers have rated fast response time as their top priority. When you’ve got stats you can brag about – brag away: “98 percent of customer calls are returned within 30 minutes; 2 percent within 1 hour.” Now you’ve used that information in two valuable ways: to make your company more relevant to customers, and to let customers know you’ve got what they want.

• Invest in disciplined customer research. Research data collection costs have gone down 30 to 35 percent in the past few years and can now be affordable to smaller companies.  Double-blind customer market research is the gold standard and well worth the expense, but it’s not feasible for all companies. However, even a small investment in research can reap huge returns. Some less expensive and free alternatives to find out what your customers want include sharing the expense with an industry association; partnering with an organization that needs the same information or a peer that doesn’t compete with you; hiring a college intern; or creating an online survey using a free basic service, such as Survey Monkey.

About Jaynie L. Smith

Jaynie L. Smith is CEO of Smart Advantage, Inc., a marketing/management consultancy whose clients range from mid-sized to Fortune 500 companies. She consults nationally and internationally with CEOs and executives to help them define their companies’ competitive advantages.  Her first book, “Creating Competitive Advantage” (Doubleday Currency; 2006), is in its 11th printing and is consistently ranked in the top 1-2 percent on for marketing and management books. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from the New York Institute of Technology.

Tell Sen. Chuck Grassley: Raise the minimum wage to jump start the American economy. PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Richard Martin   
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 12:11

Tell Sen. Chuck Grassley: Raise the minimum wage to jump start the American economy.

"It is time to raise the minimum wage to jump start our economy. Support Senator Tom Harkin's bill that calls for raising the minimum wage from the current level of $7.25 to $9.80 — a 35 percent increase."

Imagine having to feed your family, pay rent and basic services at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

There is not a single state in America where a worker living on current federal minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom unit working a standard 40-hour work week.1 What's more, in 2011 a minimum-wage worker after working 40 hours per week for a full year would have just one hour's worth of wages left over to spend on rent and other basic services, after paying for family health-insurance coverage.2

Tell Sen. Chuck Grassley: Co-sponsor Senator Tom Harkin's bill to raise the minimum wage. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

American families deserve better than this as our economy slowly inches out of its worst downturn since the Great Depression. We need to increase the minimum wage now, which will help millions of American families by putting them on a solid economic track. Fortunately, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has introduced the "Rebuild America Act," which calls for raising the minimum wage from the current level of $7.25/hour to $9.80/hour — a 35 percent increase — over the course of two and a half years and then index it so it rises automatically in the future with the cost of living.3

We need to generate support for Senator Harkin's legislation because increasing the minimum wage would increase spending power for working class Americans and boost consumer confidence, revving up the nation's economic engine. Along with our friends at AFL-CIO, we believe raising the minimum wage of our workers is a "proven and effective way" to jump start our economy.4 Senator Harkin's legislation is an effective vehicle to provide that jump start.

Tell Sen. Chuck Grassley: Co-sponsor Senator Tom Harkin's bill to raise the minimum wage. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

The high unemployment rates that were a legacy of the Bush administration have put enormous downward pressure on wages, as employers have not felt the need to offer competitive wages to hold on to workers. The resulting low wages have increased "child and family poverty" and continue to drive up the gulf of inequality between the 1% and the 99% in America.5

Raising the minimum wage is critical for our economy, as the current rate of $7.25 has not kept pace with inflation and is well below its peak value in 1968. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would currently be at $10.52.6

We need Congress to raise the minimum wage now to ensure that America's working class income earners are not falling behind in our current economic climate.

Tell Sen. Chuck Grassley: Co-sponsor Senator Tom Harkin's bill to raise the minimum wage. Click below to automatically sign the petition:

The more Senators we can convince to get behind Senator Harkin's legislation, the greater leverage he will have to push Senate leadership to move his bill to the Senate Floor for a vote.

Thank you for speaking out in support of working class Americans.

Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. National Low Income House Coalition, REPORT: Out of Reach 2012: America's Forgotten Housing Crisis, March 14, 2012
2. John Schmitt and Marie-Eve Augier, "Affording Health Care and Education on the Minimum Wage," Center for Economic and Policy Research, March 2012.
3. Dave Jamieson, "Raise Minimum Wage By 35 Percent, Peg It To Inflation: Senate Dem,", March 29, 2012.
4. AFL-CIO, Minimum wage issue page.
5. Doug Hall, "Increasing the minimum wage is smart for families and the economy," Econonomic Policy Institute, May 19, 2011.
6. David Madland, "Harkin Bill a Big Step Forward for Our Middle Class," Center for American Progress, March 29, 2012.




Loebsack Statement on Equal Pay Day PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 09:03

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack, a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, released the following statement on Equal Pay Day, which is intended to bring attention to the inequality in pay between genders and marks how much longer a woman must work into 2012 to earn as much as a man earned in 2011. According to Census data, in 2011 women earned just 77 percent of what was earned by their male counterparts.


“Equal Pay is not a women’s issue or a man’s issue, it is a family issue.  In today’s tough economy, Iowa’s working families are pinching every penny just to make ends meet and in most families with children, both parents work.  It is now more critical than ever that our mothers, daughter, sisters and aunts receive the same pay for the same work as their male counterparts so our families do not have to sacrifice basic necessities.


“In the 49 years since the Equal Pay Act was first signed into law, substantial steps have been made in addressing the wage gap between men and women, but more must be done.  I was proud to help introduce the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored a women’s right to challenge unfair pay. This legislation was signed into law by the President in January 2009.  I am also a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act that would not only give a much needed update to the Equal Pay Act, but it would also help working families by eliminating the wage gap.


“Standing up for equal pay benefits everyone – men, women and children. It also strengthens families across Iowa.  It is time we pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and eliminate the wage gap.”



Schilling Tax Day Statement In Support of Pro-Growth Reform PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Andie Pivarunas   
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 09:01

Washington, DC – Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17) released the following statement today – Tax Day – in advance of the House of Representatives’ Thursday vote on H.R. 9, the Small Business Tax Cut Act:

“As we file our tax returns, Illinoisans feel the pinch of the tax increases imposed on them last year by state lawmakers in Springfield.  We were told these taxes would be used to pay Illinois’ debts and prevent budget deficits down the line, but the truth, as many of us feared, is that these tax hikes have done nothing to help our state.  Illinois’ unemployment has remained above nine percent since March of 2009, and our state currently has the lowest credit rating of all 50 states.  

“Thanks to the Illinois tax hikes and rising gas prices, our small businesses are cash-strapped and can currently face federal tax rates as high as 35 percent.  As a small business owner myself, I know that pain all too well.  Further, Americans spend more than $160 billion and over six billion hours a year filing their taxes, mostly when trying to figure out the various deductions and credits that are available.   

“There’s broad, bipartisan support for pro-growth tax reform that simplifies the tax code, brings down rates, broadens the base, and closes loopholes.  Rather than advancing partisan and unserious show votes – votes on policies that don’t lower gas prices, don’t encourage economic and job growth, and don’t impact our deficit – we in the House want to ensure more opportunities for job seekers and job creators, and make our tax code fairer, flatter, and simpler.  We want to cut wasteful spending and debt, and help small business owners grow both jobs and paychecks by providing them with tax relief.  I truly believe we can and must work together to get this done.  Illinoisans deserve policies that promote growth and opportunity, not more taxes, borrowing, and spending.”

# # #

Governor Quinn Announces Lafarge Moving U.S. Headquarters to Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 08:54

Company to Relocate from Virginia and Create 90+ Illinois Jobs


CHICAGO – April 17, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced that Lafarge North America is investing approximately $10 million to relocate its U.S. headquarters from Virginia to Illinois. Lafarge, one of the largest cement, aggregate and concrete manufacturers in the world, will create more than 90 jobs in Illinois in the first two years and likely more than 100 jobs over three to four years. By moving its U.S. headquarters to Illinois, Lafarge will gain access to Illinois’ pool of highly-skilled workers, world-class transportation infrastructure and central location. Governor Quinn personally recruited Lafarge and met with its senior leadership during a recent economic trade mission to Europe.


“Illinois is one of the best places to do business in the world,” Governor Quinn said. “Our message to large and small business-owners is simple: We want you in Illinois and we have everything you need to grow your business in our state. Today we welcome Lafarge and tomorrow we look forward to more global corporations choosing Illinois.”


Prior to selecting Illinois for its new U.S. headquarters, Governor Quinn hosted Lafarge at a business investment luncheon with several other European-based companies during his recent economic development trip to Europe in March. The Governor also met one-on-one with senior leadership at Lafarge to pitch Illinois as the best location for its headquarters by highlighting Illinois' world-class transportation infrastructure and highly skilled workforce. The state is also providing a targeted business investment package worth about $6.3 million over 10 years to leverage the company’s private investment. The package will support job training for workers and economic development, and is contingent on the company meeting its investment and jobs numbers.


In 1983, Lafarge North America became a subsidiary of Lafarge SA, one of the world’s largest suppliers of construction materials, and has operated, directly and indirectly, in the United States and Canada. Lafarge  North America has grown to become one of the largest cement manufacturers in the United States, and a significant producer of aggregates (including crushed stone, sand and gravel), as well as gypsum wallboard. Since 1987, Lafarge North America's headquarters has been in the Herndon/Reston area of Virginia. The company is investing approximately $10 million to relocate its headquarters to the Chicagoland and is expected to open the headquarters this fall. Lafarge CEO John Stull attended today’s announcement.


“As a leader in the building materials industry, it is important to us to be close to our operations and to our customers to help provide them with sustainable construction solutions. The location around O’Hare and along the I-294 corridor is an ideal area for us because it is central to our U.S. footprint. We also appreciate Illinois’ commitment to other sustainable infrastructure projects, which will bring long-lasting value to your citizens,” said John Stull, CEO for Lafarge North America's U.S. Cement and Aggregate & Concrete operations. “We thank Governor Quinn and the state of Illinois for welcoming us and we look forward to becoming part of the dynamic Chicago business community,” continued Stull.


Lafarge North America in the United States employs approximately 4,500 people, with approximately 300 employed in Illinois. Lafarge is eligible for an Employer Training Investment Program grant to help increase the skills of its workforce and Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax credits, which are based on job credits. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will administer the state’s targeted investment package.


“Lafarge North America’s relocation to Illinois shows that our state has what companies need to grow,” said Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Acting Director David Vaught. “Illinois has one of the largest economies in the world and with companies like Lafarge, we’re going to advance our global competitiveness.”


Under Governor Quinn's leadership, DCEO has worked diligently to identify and aggressively court companies like Lafarge that are looking to relocate and/or expand their North American presence. Illinois ranks first in the Midwest as a destination for foreign investment and has already attracted 1,597 foreign firms with 6,416 locations, which employ 323,362 Illinois residents. The governor will continue to build on this success by playing a key role in marketing Illinois' world-class attributes abroad and personally meeting with companies to recruit them to Illinois.


For more information on why Illinois is the right place for any business, visit




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