Friday, September 7, 2007

What's Your Square Plate? How Differentiation Can Save Your Business

On a road trip recently, my family stopped at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant. I don't have any particularly strong affiliation to the restaurant. To me, it's a lot like Chili's and Applebee's. A good place to get a hot meal.

I hadn't been in a Ruby Tuesday in a few years, but right away I noticed a difference. The plates were square. And the tables were clear of the "drink special" clutter. The menu was basically the same, but there was a slight air of sophistication that I took note of. And now, that is what separates Ruby Tuesday from other restaurants for me.

It doesn't take much to differentiate yourself. In this example, you see that by changing the accessories (a very affordable expense, I imagine), Ruby Tuesday is shifting its image from an all-American hamburger joint to something more upscale. It's subtleties that count.

Think about your business. Likely you're not the only one of your kind. How do you set yourself apart from the competition? What makes you special? What are your competitive advantages? If you don't have answers to these questions, you need to find them out.

  • Survey staff and clients to see what the image of your product is. Use these descriptions (fun, professional, useful) as a springboard for the creation of a brand identity.
  • Look at your competitors. What are their strong suits? What are their weaknesses? Find ways you can excel where they are weak.
  • Create a slogan or character that enhances the image you want to present.
Marketing is more about presentation than product. Most companies don't sell truly unique products (dog food, software, hamburgers). But if properly branded and marketed, even the most mundane can of dog food can create excitement in the purchase process.

Gas is pretty unexciting. But BP has a campaign going on that has cute, kitschy characters and collectible trading cards. Guess what? I made an effort on my trip to stop at BP for gas. Remember Morris the cat? Who wouldn't buy 9Lives cat food from a talking cat? Or the California Raisins. You get my point. An everyday product can be made exciting with proper branding and marketing.

Make your product stand out. And maybe the next time I encounter your brand and take note of its uniqueness, you'll get a free mention in my blog!

Susan Payton is Managing Partner of Egg Marketing & Public Relations. She assists small businesses with marketing strategy and corporate communications. She is also the author of 101 Entrepreneur Tips, a handy guide that helps entrepreneurs make repeat customers, close the sale, and delegate work.

For more information on Susan and Egg Marketing, visit or email her at

Get more free marketing advice on her blog at

Automated Forex Trading Greatly Increases Trade Volumes

Imagine the next time you join a discussion about automated forex trading. When you start sharing the fascinating automated forex trading facts below, your friends will be absolutely amazed.

The concept of automated forex trading is fast catching on. The first market to move to automated trading was exchange-traded futures. Following this, traders working in the Interbank spot FX market too moved on to this system.

The success of the system flows from its ability conduct trade in real time. This is difficult to achieve manually, especially if the trading is to be done in milliseconds. Also, there may be times when a trader may be away from the desk, or a trader who has incurred a series of losses may take time before placing a fresh order. These are dampers that automated foreign trading removes.

Another advantage that automated trading brings in is diversification. It is possible for a trader to trade in different markets, and in different time zones. The trader can also deploy multiple trading models.

The trader can also use the automated model to analyze short-term data, which is not possible otherwise. This gives the trader an advantage over others who are not using the automated trading system. The trader can use this short-term data to analyze how the market will move in the next 15 minutes or half an hour, and accordingly take decisions. Also, high frequency trading allows existing data to be used in different ways in different markets.

The information about automated forex trading presented here will do one of two things: either it will reinforce what you know about automated forex trading or it will teach you something new. Both are good outcomes.

Automated trading also improves liquidity. This is quite apparent from the way the number of trades shot up in futures exchanges following the adoption of automated trading.

However, one area that worries traders is the likely increase in the number of orders once all traders adopt this system. The fear is that there may not be sufficient bandwidth or engine capacity to execute all these orders in real time. Already, some quarters are employing controls to guard against unnecessary order messages.

Risk management is another area that worries forex traders. An automated trading environments risk management logic requires that before a new position is opened a check be made to ensure that there is no excessive correlation with already opened positions. For this check to be accurate, all systems need to be synchronised. But these are technical issues that the market feels will be resolved as the technology improves.

For the time being automated trading in forex is the buzzword.

Knowing enough about automated forex trading to make solid, informed choices cuts down on the fear factor. If you apply what you've just learned about automated forex trading, you should have nothing to worry about.

Matthew Bass writes frequently about Automated Forex Trading, which can be viewed in more detail at

Are You Trading to Your Strengths?

In your trading, are you playing to your strengths, or are you simply being an "opportunity seeker"?

There is a huge difference between the two and if you're just an opportunity seeker, then you are leaving yourself open to frustration and losses.

There are many parallels between trading, business and gambling, and your ultimate success long-term will be determined by how you approach any of the three. Playing to your strengths is critical in all three.

In any of the pursuits, there is competition and you always want to make sure that you're playing to your strengths and not your weaknesses.

The objective is winning, that is profiting, and you want every advantage that you can get.

Too often, the opportunity seeker will go after an opportunity just because they see that there's money to be made, and they figure that they can shore up their weaknesses (learn more) enough to go get that money.

Let's take a brief look at how this applies in each area, keeping in mind the parallels between them.

In business, the long term successes are built by those with an end goal in mind, a vision of what the business will look like when it's mature.

This is critical because the company must stay on a course that is consistent with its vision while it is growing. Distractions and deviations from the path only serve to slow it down or even take it backwards.

Successful business leaders know when to pursue an opportunity and when to say "no". Saying "no" is essential to keeping the company's activities (investments of time) focused where competitive advantages exist and avoiding those where the company is at a disadvantage.

In gambling, the poker player will stay at the BlackJack table and make his money there. He won't jump up and run to the Roulette table just because he heard somebody just won $50,000 over there. He knows what he's good at and will only venture over to other tables for entertainment, not to make money.

In Trading, let's say investing for the sake of argument, a good real estate investor that knows how to make $1 million a year isn't necessarily going to do well in trading. They are completely different games.

Just because a person knows how to buy properties right, increase their value through rehab or raising rents, does not mean that they will have the talents or skills to make money in the Futures or Forex markets.

Even an experienced trader should be hesitant to jump from one game to the next. A buy-and-hold position trader should exercise great caution before jumping into day-trading, and a spread better should hone his skills before thinking about buying (or selling) outright futures contracts.

Each strategy (or game let's say) has different skills associated with it, and different emotional requirements.

The other serious consideration is your proficiency level - period. This combined with your ability to devote time to trading.

If you are completely new to trading or you haven't yet become proficient at the necessary skills to trade, then you definitely should seek out help.

The learning curve can be very costly in trading, and if you don't have the time or a plan to become proficient, how do you ever expect to make regular profits from it?

If you don't have the proficiency, the strengths, needed to be a good trader, nor do you have the time and resources to become one, you may want to consider other choices available to you.

If you have neither the skills nor the time to develop them, but want to take advantage of the nice money to be made in trading, you may want to consider a managed account. Why settle for an amateur trading with your money (YOU), when you can have a pro do it for you?

Do your Due Diligence first though!!! Ask for the track record and the plan going forward.

Your next option if you're "starting from scratch" is to trade with the assistance of a seasoned broker.

That's what they are there for. Of course you can find very low commission brokers to deal with, but you may get just what you pay for. A good broker can be found for $50-$100 round turn commission, and they'll give you the best advice they can.

In the long run, you're likely to be way better off - if you'll follow their advice!

Again, ask for their track record, and check with the NFA to see if they have any complaints.

It wouldn't hurt to see if the broker you're considering is recognized within the trading community as being good.

Many very good brokers publish regular articles or advisory columns on respected websites and in established periodicals.

Generally, if you see that the person has been published for a period of years, then that is a good sign.

The wackos and charlatans bounce around too much and aren't allowed to stay in one place for long before their reputation catches up with them.

Until you have the strengths yourself, borrow them from someone who has them while you're developing.

When you have the proficiency, the skills, and the resources, only then should you venture out on your own. And that is only if you are so inclined to actually becoming a trader and doing it all yourself.

If your true objective is to make money, then play it smart. Make use of other people's knowledge and skills until you have developed your own.

Of course, if you really don't want to devote the time to being a full-time or highly active trader, but still want trading to be part of your income portfolio, consider your other choices.

Whatever you do, don't simply chase another "opportunity" to make money if it doesn't play to your strengths.

For Trading, those strengths need to be discipline, emotional control, coach-ability, ability to focus, follow-through, decisiveness, understanding of probabilities, dealing with uncertainty, and a slew of others.

There are activities for entertainment and others for making money.

Trading can be both, but if it is not taken seriously, with a sincere review of your own characteristics and desires, then it can wind up being neither. In any endeavor where money is the end result, get help from a trusted friend. Rememer, a good mentor is there to show you the right steps to take and those to avoid.

Copyright 2006 New Ireland Ventures, LLC

Brian McAboy, The Aspiring Trader's Best Friend