The world of marketing both offline and online is changing at a rapid pace. For starters, they are melding, and it’s often difficult to tell if a business is truly an offline business or online business.
Regardless of the changes in technology, the abundance of information and advertising overload has placed a new dimension of skepticism in the market. People, more than ever, do not want to feel like they are being sold.
So how does a savvy marketer or small business owner overcome these new challenges to the market?
For years, marketers have used the FREE OFFER technique to entice their target market to fork over their precious information such as name, email, address, phone, etc. Let me assure you, this tactic is still alive and works very well. It is not be neglected.
Today’s consumer whether B2B or B2C is requiring far more than a simple free report. They require a deeper knowledge of the provider of such a report. They want to know you who you are and why you are worthy of their ear. The best strategy for marketers, sales professionals or business owners in these swirling times is to Be a Gift to Your Market. Don’t just offer a gift, be one. The knowledge and problem solving capabilities that you have within you is what your market is truly hungry for. It’s time you allow your market to see behind the curtain and see the wizard in action.
So, how do I Be a Gift to My Market?
Thanks for asking. I call it “Value First Marketing.” The only way to truly be a gift to your market is to continuously offer them helpful information that let’s them know you are on their side and fighting with them in their daily battles. To do this you must commit to a strategy of both development and delivery of the content. Here’s a basic strategy that will help:
1. Find out what you’re market is struggling with: There are many ways to do this but the simplest is to sit down and conduct an old fashioned focus group. These days, focus groups can be done on location, online or via teleconference. Social Media has provided grand opportunities to establish groups for this exact purpose. Industry forums are another great source to either participate or simply be voyeur to collect your data.
Either way, have a load of questions and gather information directly from your target market instead of assuming you know what they want & need.
2. Develop simple solutions to their problems: Most problems are not complicated and can easily be solved with some out of the box thinking and applying pressure in the right spots of a business. If you don’t have the answers, seek them out. Do the research that your market is unwilling or unable to perform. It’s not as if they could not figure it out, they are just steeped in the everyday grind of running their business. They won’t figure it out, but you can do it for them.
3. Deliver the information in easily managed ways: Several options are webinars, teleseminars, blog posts, video interview, audio interviews, downloadable files such as mp3, pdf, or spreadsheets depending on the topic.
Again, a great tactic is to find an expert in the field where their problem grows and do an interview. The expert gets exposure and props for their knowledge and you get a big thanks for being the provider of such great value.
Being a gift to your market is the best way of winning your target market’s trust and loyalty in these cynical times. Keep in mind, a one time free offer is still a great way to get noticed and earn at least one additional communication. Providing ongoing, value to your market will earn you the right to ask for the sale.
If you’ve ever watched American Idol, you’ll easily remember the many people who believe with all of their heart that they are great singers when in reality, they shouldn’t be singing in the shower.
At first, you think the little wannabe is just trying to get attention but after a few seconds of the post audition interview you realize – this guy is serious, he really thinks he can sing. As astounding as that is, what’s even more shocking is that many business owners do the same thing. They fool themselves into believing that they are great at running a business, simply because their friends and family tell them that they are great. The truth… Most business owners are great at their craft and bad at business. They are especially bad at marketing their business. Friends and family are not the best people to give you feedback on whether or not you are a good business person or even if you have a great business concept. There are a lot of great business ideas that seem strong up front but are fraught with too many hurdles to make any money.
The same is true in the negative. Friends and family can often give so much negative feedback that they discourage the entrepreneur from taking the risk at all. This is not good either. Family and friends can be very good for business.
When your family is willing to trumpet your business from door to door, phone to phone and wall to wall (subtle Facebook reference), include them in on the action. Let them know exactly what you do and what problems you solve and set them loose. This is where friends and family can be very important to the success of your business.
Of course friends and family are important. They provide personal support for you and most of us business owners would never make it through the storms of business without the love and kindness of our loved ones.
It’s an important role of the business owner to understand the power of those who are closest to them both for good and for bad. Make sure they play a proper part in your business and by all means…
don’t let your Mom kill your business by being blindly positive out of love – or harshly critical out of ignorance.
When it comes to business, there are basically three types of web sites to choose from. Each one is valuable in its own way and each one is worthless if not properly put to work. Let’s see which one you need…
A Sales Site
The purpose of a sales site is to sell. Not sell something later, not build a list, not show how great your company is. It’s designed to sell a product or products, on the spot, in the form of an actual transaction.
Sales sites employ a shopping cart at some point in the process. They ask the visitor to buy. Sales sites can be single page sales letters that cleverly pitch an individual product or they can be giant catalogs and categories of products. Amazon.com is a sales site.
The Lead Site
The purpose of the lead site is to simply generate leads. This type of site does not ask the visitor to buy anything; rather it usually offers something to the visitor in exchange for their personal information such as name, email address and maybe even a phone number.
The idea is that the free information offers value to the visitor who is usually seeking such information to solve a problem or advance an agenda.The lead site can be a site that is loaded with multiple pages or posts that are full of targeted information to the visitor. Another option is a simple landing page, also known as a squeeze page that gives a basic and enticing pitch to the visitor to opt in and receive some special information and offers no other content to compete.The basic concept of a squeeze page is to force the visitor to do one of two things: Give up their information to get a solution their problem or get off the page all together and move on.
The Credibility Site
The purpose of a credibility site is to demonstrate how credible your company is to the visitor – imagine that. It should not attempt to sell something, it typically is not very good at gathering leads. The credibility site is to bolster the quality of your companies image and stature in the mind of your visitor.
Many business owners struggle with which site they should choose so they attempt to incorporate all three purposes into one site. There are all sorts of problems that this creates but the most important problem is that it just doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work… don’t try it.
The simplest way to decide on which type of site you need first is to ask yourself: “What is the single goal of this site?” Choose either to sell, to gather leads, or to lend credibility.
Then call your designer and hold his or her feet to the fire to produce the best site to match your goal.
As a short caveat, there is one other type of site your company should consider but it’s not truly a site so I’ve not included it in the short 3 site list. Social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on. Most companies should make use of such web properties but for very different goals than the 3 listed above. There are also several hybrid models that attempt to meld two of the three site types into one but this author is unimpressed with the effectiveness of such dribble.
Most companies both offline and online will do well to have at least one of all three types of sites and spend the rest of their money driving targeted traffic to those sites.
Just remember, traffic is no different than a site itself. All traffic has purpose so make sure you drive the buyers to a sales site, the information seekers to your lead site, and your “almost closed but need a little nudge” people to your credibility site.
As always, I’d love your feedback. Please visit my blog, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter to let me know!
The Facebook fan page is an ever evolving weapon in the marketing arsenal of the small business. True to form, the great wizards behind the curtain have made what seems like a subtle change to the function of the fan page.
No more fans!
Well, the move may be subtle but I predict the results will not be. Let’s examine the difference between “a Fan” and “a Like.”
There is no question that a fan on Facebook was not the same as the rabid fan of a sports team or top selling recording artist – but the fan on Facebook was still willing to be called a fan.
What would you rather have, 10 people willing to be your fan
or 100 people willing to say that they like you? I know… I can’t quite decide either.
Although moving to a “like” definitely lowers the barrier of entry for a contact to admit some form of relationship, it’s much less powerful than the willingness to be called a fan.
On the other hand, if the purpose of the fan page is to attract followers and expose your business to the contacts of your followers then the “like” feature will be an easier point of entry and will allow your page to go more viral inside the Facebook community.
The possible absence of the passionate fan may result in an overall lack of passion for your company as well but the balance of this decision by the Facebook gods will soon reveal itself as a yellow brick road for business exposure or play the role of the Wicked Witch.
These days, many folks are carefully trying their hand at web 2.0 marketing strategies such as social – from Facebook and Twitter, all the way to the wonderful world of blogging.
This new world of marketing also brings a new world of terms and concepts that are not easily grasped by the average business owner or salesperson. Not because they are complicated, rather because they are new
One big term and concept that I get asked about is RSS.
=> What’s the bid deal with RSS anyway?
=> Well, it’s not a big deal. It’s HUGE!
RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication but don’t let the name fool ya, it’s not all that simple, even to most smart folks. Here’s the quick glimpse into the mighty power of RSS.
The blog has truly revolutionized the web. One of the main reasons is that blogs are updated so often with new content. The web loves new content so that’s part of what makes them so popular with surfers and search engines alike. Fresh content on the web is like fresh water to a thirsty farmer.
Because blogs are updated so often, it became necessary for viewers to visit these sites more often so as not to miss the great fresh content.
=> Enter RSS…
RSS is a tool that allows for visitors who enjoy your site to essentially bookmark your site.. only better. Instead of having to visit your site on a regular basis, RSS will send any updated content right to your subscribers – the moment it is posted.
The RSS feed as it’s called, sends the information to special RSS Reader that can neatly organize and display all of the subscribers chosen feeds (yours & others). The most popular of these (and my RSS Reader of choice) is Google Reader. It’s free and like everything Google, it integrates with other Google tools as well.
The big deal…
The golden ticket for all small businesses and sales pros is to gain the trust of our target market. This is why we blog, it builds massive trust fast. RSS allows for your content to be followed and read quickly, keeping you in front of your audience every time you post with no extra effort on their part. As long as you are delivering valuable content, this will translate to sales for your business.
Another big benefit…
As a blog owner you are constantly looking for fresh content that will dazzle your target market. Personally using RSS to bring the best content to you will offer a constant flow of great ideas. Now.. use these ideas to springboard fresh and useful content that will make your subscribers and viewers love you like a high school sweetheart.
RSS is a critical blogging tool, both for syndicating your voice to the world and aggregating ideas that inspire you and bring value to those you want to please the most.
The best place to start using RSS is to subscribe to this blog by clicking the RSS or Follow Me links.
When I survey small business owners or sales professionals, I always ask the question: “What makes you different from your competition?”
The answers will vary slightly but many come back the same:
“Customer service sets me apart!”
Although I appreciate the enthusiasm that comes with their answer I’m also annoyed by it. Outside the fact that the answer is a total wuss out, there’s a much bigger problem with it…
Customer service DOES NOT set you apart from anyone… ever!!!
Good or even great customer service is an expectation of your customer, not a perk. By providing excellent service you have merely fulfilled the minimum requirement as a servicer to your client.
Customer service is a transactional occurrence. You need to already be doing business with someone before they can experience the so called “benefit” of your service. What about those who have not done business with you yet?
Try to convince someone to choose you over your competition by telling them that they will get great customer service with you. Put yourself in your prospects shoes and imagine what you would think if someone were to say that to you.
People NEVER buy because they think or even believe that you’ll have great customer service. Why? Because it means they will have to buy first before they get proof of the value that you say you will provide. Nobody wants to take that kind of risk. They are much more likely going to wait until someone earns their trust by giving value first, prior to any transaction.
Customer service is everyone’s answer… so it doesn’t make you special – at all.
If you want to truly separate yourself from your competition and win the hearts of your prospect then you need to have a rock solid value proposition and you need to provide enough value up front – to earn trust before they ever buy.
Once you’ve earned their trust, fortify it with great customer service.
“Get your business online.” “Expose your business to world.” These were the common utterings of web designers everywhere.
Times have changed. It’s no longer good enough to simply have a web site. In fact – let’s face it, most web sites are boring and uninformative. They also speak a language that is rarely understood by the average visitor.
==> Enter… the BLOG!
There are vast reasons why blogs have taken their seat as the superior occupier of webdom. I will not delve into these reasons in this post… this is all about The Secrets of Great Blogging. So here are the secrets:
Secret #1 – Choose the right platform
There are several viable platforms to consider when blogging; Blogger, Posterous, Squidoo, Tumblr, and many more.
I’m partial to WordPress because it’s the choice of the most prolific bloggers out there and its very user friendly. WordPress also allows you to host the blog yourself vs. hosting in a mass multi-user environment. Finally, I like WordPress because it’s open source which allows for other creative folk to create all sorts of useful plugins, widgets and themes that can really make your blog sing.
Secret #2 – Register a customer domain
A huge mistake of many “bloggers” is that they simply use the given account address from the blogging service they choose to host their blog. They end up with something like: www.edsbigblog.blogger.com. Not something you’ll likely remember much less want to publish on your business card.
Better to simply have: www.EdsBigBlog.com which is fancy and memorable. This is an absolute must if you’re going to have a blog.
Secret #3 – Bring big value
One of the powers of blogging is the ability to give real valuable content to your core audience in a timely manner. No need to ask your webmaster to update your site with a new page or log in to your site account and go through 20 steps to add content. With WordPress, you can simply craft and email and send it to your post address and you’re done. Furthermore, if you have your post permalinks set properly, you’ll get some great SEO out of the deal too.
What questions does your target audience have? What problems are they facing that you can help them with? What tips or tricks can you deliver that will add value to their lives or their business?
Note: Bringing big value is not about pitching your product or services. You’ll do better to win their hearts first and soon you will win their loyalty and eventually, their pocketbooks.
Secret #4 – Be consistent
The cardinal sin of blogging is to be random in your posting. Blogging does little good for you or your target audience if you don’t post regularly. I recommend a minimum of once per week but more is even better.
If the idea of posting content a couple of times a week is daunting to you, I’ll create a post later this week on easy ways to create content for you blog.
Blogging is fast becoming vital to the success of most businesses and I’ve just given you the real secrets to doing it successfully. Happy blogging!
Throughout America there are thousands of board certified psychologists who bristle at the sound of his name: Dr. Phil. Fewer, but a great many still feel the same about Dr. Laura Schlessinger and her popular radio program. Then there is Simon Cowell and his love – hate relationship with the American public.
What these individuals all have in common …
Here’s what typically happens when someone engages these folks:
They get smacked with harsh, strong opinion with streams of logic and brutal questions that are very hard for the person with the problem to answer. Not because the answer if difficult but because the answer is difficult to admit.
Why on earth would people subject themselves to such an “in your face” confrontation and how is it possible that they don’t know what the saucy celebrity is going to tell them? They get pummeled and yet they keep coming back and they bring their friends with them.
So what can we learn about marketing from these people?
People don’t like milky, soft, moderate messages. Bold messages attract in mass and consumers are willing to embrace and give loyalty to a brand or person who is demonstrating some real guts.
First, we should ask ourselves: “Is my message floaty in an effort to not offend? Am I trying to appeal to the masses by not making waves?
Next, we should ask: How can I make my marketing message more focused and gutsy? What will scratch the sensibilities of my target market and make them choose sides? How to I encourage them to choose my side over my competition?
Simon Cowell tells the truth as he sees it. Let’s be honest, American Idol would not be what it is today had not he been there from the start. It was Cowell who was willing to deliver truth in a fantastically brutal way. It was his gruff and honest personality that caused the attraction. It was Cowell who launched Idol into a iconic state of entertainment media and subsequently made the careers of some pretty successful artists.
Dr. Phil has made millions of dollars calling stupid people stupid right to their face and then offering some help for them to become less stupid.
When Dr. Laura Schlessinger answers the question of a troubled caller, you can almost predict the words she is going to say but they still call and they never argue.
People in general know the truth, they are looking for someone to state it as if it is truth. If truth is really truth, it deserves some passion. It requires that we take a stand to defend it. This is so attractive to consumers that they flock to associate themselves with the brand that is finally able to deliver it.
What is the truth of your industry and how can you capitalize on it’s truth-ness?!
I meet business owners, entrepreneurs and sales folk every week. They all want to know how to market better, get more business and increase the bottom line.
So I ask – What are you doing to set yourself apart?
Blank stares, heads down, ums & ahs and disgruntled embarrassment ensue with no real answers and zero confidence that something great could happen with the right marketing strategy.
The truth… nearly every lost marketing soul I talk to is guilty of committing the cardinal sin of marketing, they are… BORING!
Here’s the worst part, the people I meet are not boring. They are full of energy and personality and they are all experts in their field. They laugh, tell jokes, have opinions and they are full of spit and vinegar.
So why do they choose to be boring in their marketing?
It’s not that they choose to be boring but they don’t choose not to be boring. Memorable marketing takes conscious effort while boring marketing comes naturally to most people. Most people don’t believe that they can capture their personal essence in the message and image that they convey.
So.. to avoid the cardinal sin of marketing you must make a conscious choice to let your true self come out. Whether you’re goofy, brash, bold, fun or aggressive – you are not and cannot be boring. Customers walk by boring stores, they walk in to something interesting. Be interesting.
Make a conscious effort to NOT be boring.
I saw an interview recently with Jeff Hayzlett, CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of Kodak. There was a comment in the interview that I cannot get out of my mind.
“What is Jeff’s job? #1… it’s to create tension, wherever he goes!”
I remember posing a tag line to a group of business owners once that was a little edgy. Not overly edgy but enough to slice a little. I can’t tell you the tag line because it’s still in the usable stage but I can tell you this… they loved it but could not use it.
How can you love something but not be able to use it in marketing?
Easy, be afraid to create tension.
If you want to push your business beyond the boring and mediocre, you have to actually push. Push through the fears of what some will not like and sharpen the blade of your marketing knife.
Marketing is about grabbing your audience and sending a powerful and compelling message that moves them to action. What type of message will move your audience to action? Well it’s not a boring and dull message… it’s a tense and sharp one.
Look… there’s a switch in every business owners mind. The switch, when flipped with change the way they see business and move them upward to greater heights. The problem with the switch is that most business owners or sales professionals will hide it from view so no one can flip it.
The switch is electric and it lights up a business in the minds of a prospect. No switch, no electricity, no lighting up… boring and dull.
Create tension! (Below is a video of the interview)