Revolutionizing the way small businesses grow.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Can You and Your Business Deal With Change?

Can you believe it? We're ten years into the 21st century and some businesses are still operating as if it was the 1990's. Many still do not even have a web site.

If you're still doing business the way you always have done, you're probably falling way behind. To grow, businesses must move forward and that means embracing change. Change happens constantly and you must change with it.

In order to effect change in your business you must be a leader—if you're just following what everybody else does, you can't be a leader. You must set a goal and lead the way to achieving it.

As a leader, it's your job to motivate your employees to embrace the changes that you bring in. There will be resistance, not everyone will be happy about the changes you make—you might be unpopular with some employees for making change, but hey, leadership is not about popularity, "if you just want to be popular become a clown" says John C. Maxwell, an authority on leadership. As a leader, it's up to you to see that changes are made and the business grows. Leadership and change are solidly linked.

Look at your marketing. Are you just doing what every other business in your sector is doing? Or are you breaking new ground, finding new ways to connect with the prospects who are going to be the most profitable source of business? Are you exploiting the internet with a web site that works for you; that offers prospects valuable information and services and is not just an online brochure?

Are you utilizing social media to gain a reputation as an expert in your field? Are you blogging?

It has been said that "not all change represents progress but without change there can be no progress". The world is going to go on changing whether we like it or not. So get out in front and lead your enterprise forward with innovation. Don't be afraid of change.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What's on YOUR Mind?

I listen to recorded CD's, that I get with SUCCESS Magazine, in my car. They always have interesting stuff, usually interviews and snippets of talks made by some really interesting speakers. One of the most interesting guys I hear is the late Jim Rohn, who was known as "one of the world's greatest teachers and thought leaders of our time" Pretty impressive title eh? He had a great delivery style and an interesting voice, not to mention the things he talked about being pretty darned fascinating.

This month's CD, featured a classic excerpt with Jim talking about the mind. He said, "Our lives are mostly affected by the way we THINK things are."

This is nothing new, we're all familiar with "the power of positive thinking;" the concept of "attraction" as outlined in the film The Secret; the benefits of maintaining a positive mental attitude; and we might even have read Napoleon Hill's famous book, Think and Grow Rich. It's all about the same thing: better thinking habits. Positive thinking habits.

Rohn offered a quote from someone he admired, "Poor thinking habits keep most people poor." He said, "The mind is like a "mental factory and what ever you think about all day long pours ingredients into this factory." The thoughts you are entertaining all day determine what you'll be experiencing.

He even quoted the bible where it says, "As you think, so shall you become." So this is, as I said before, nothing new.

Jim told about how he used to get up in the morning, get a cup of coffee and read the newspaper and start the day having to think about wars, murders, crime, rapes, riots, killings, muggings, robberies and stabbings. It's just not a great way to start the day because it puts you in a pessimistic frame of mind when you should be starting the day with optimism!

What do you read? If you're just filling your mind with trash, what can your mental factory generate for you? Everything starts with thought, so you must be careful with your thoughts. If you're thinking negative, you'll probably experience negativity.

Another quote he used: "Every day stand guard at the door of your mind." Decide what goes in and keep the rest out. Stay away from negative influences. Don't let negativity, pessimism, failure and general trash creep in. Think about the possibilities — be thankful for what you have, not what you don't have. Move forward without looking back.

What has this got to do with marketing? Simple: as in all things, concentrate on what you do well, what your customers like best, and do more of it. Pursue your goals because you know you can achieve them and don't dwell on the negative possibilities. Don't be influenced by the bad news that's all around, find the opportunities and forge ahead.

Your mind controls it all. What do you think?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Buy a Fiesta? Yoiu've got to be kidding.

Is it just me or is the new TV spot for the "All-new" Ford Fiesta just the biggest, most expensive crock of a commercial around these days?

Have you seen it? ...or better yet, endured it? It's the one with the very loud, and constantly repeated rock music riff that goes on and on and on while a supposedly with-it couple appear in quick snippets of situations that are supposed to somehow match up as each cuts to the next e.g. they run up a sand dune to a house which turns out to be a small model house which then cuts to a matched scene of them at a real house that's exactly the same as the model. Wahoo.

The problem is, the scenes don't really match and even if they do, who cares? Some of them, upon reflection, do involve the car in minor ways but the poor, unsuspecting, virgin viewer doesn't know it's a car commercial until the last sequence when the happy couple is seen actually driving in a Fiesta. They then disappear and the car spins in a limbo background, all-the-while changing color like a chameleon.

I have to admit, I'm definitely not in the target group this commercial is aimed at but come on Ford, is anybody going to be tempted to purchase one of these little puddle jumpers because of the rock music and goofy matched up scene snippets?

The car looks OK at the end, and it is a cheap little econo-box for entry level car buyers but does this mean they base their car buying decisions on marketing messages with absolutely no reasons for buying other than it comes in snappy colors and it's dirt cheap?

This spot has the look of a "world" commercial, that is, I suspect the same spot runs in countries around the world - thus no dialogue. And I'll bet it cost a zillion to make. A big name commercial director was probably hired to make it and I'll also bet he charged a big buck (or is that Euro?) for his "creativity."

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, this is proof that a big budget doesn't necessarily produce good advertising.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How I was betrayed by Beatrice's advertising.

I have to confess, Ann Beatrice fooled me. I don't know how it happened, I can't explain it, I must have been in an altered state, but I was totally taken in.

It was well over twenty years ago, possibly more. Beatrice Foods was running commercials featuring, company owner, "Ann Beatrice" as spokesperson. There she was, a charming, attractive, well-coiffed woman in her early forties, standing in a very nicely appointed room in what must be a very nice house, thanking me for buying her products. Made me want to run right out and get more.

What a lovely woman, I thought, …and wealthy, the owner of a multi-national corporation yet! I was buying it! Totally fooled and perhaps a little smitten!

It seemed so real, it was not a cartoon, it was played straight — "Hi, I'm Ann Beatrice…"

It was only a few weeks later that I woke up and realized that this was not a real person, certainly not Ann Beatrice, this was a rich Hollywood star pretending to be somebody named Ann Beatrice. I was crushed, appalled at my naivete, ashamed of being so gullible. I've never trusted Beatrice's products since, thinking: if they tried to make an idiot out of me with their commercial, what the @&%$* are they doing with their products?

You may think that story is silly (unfortunately it's true), but my point is this: your marketing must always respect the intelligence of your prospect because if you treat them like fools and cretins they're going to resent it …and that's not going to be good for your brand.

Even now, when I see a Beatrice product, I think of that commercial and I frown—not quite the reaction Beatrice would like me to have because it has put their product at a disadvantage as far as my likelihood of buying it. I don't feel good—I don't buy.

You may think I'm being a bit silly after all these years but the fact remains, just as you trust your friends and associates, so do you come to trust the brands and the products you buy. Betrayal lingers. My advice: be totally truthful in all of your marketing. Provide your prospects with intelligent marketing messages that don't insult them. They'll be more inclined to like you … and that leads to trust …and that leads to sales.

Now, if I could only get Ann out of my mind.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Try a little harder, go a lot farther

I was watching a video this morning, one of Bob Proctor's one minute wonders. He was talking about the benefits that can be experienced by working just a little harder—just applying a little extra effort to what we do.

To illustrate this he told the story of a racehorse"Armed" who in 1947, was the first racehorse in US history to win over one million dollars in prize money. That year alone, Armed had won over $750,500. The horse that was second place in earnings, had won only $75,000. Armed had won over ten times the amount of the second place horse.

Did that mean Armed was ten times better? No way. When the results were examined, it was seen that Armed had won many of the races by a "nose" and was actually only about four percent faster than the other horse. Just a little bit more effort had resulted in a huge difference!

It shows how huge gains can be made if we just strive to do a bit better in all that we do. Go the distance!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Use Two-Step Direct Response Advertising and Stop Wasting Your Ad Money.

Many business owners say things like, “We seldom advertise because it doesn’t give us any results—it’s a waste of our money.” And you know what—for these people this is probably true. The ads they are running are not designed to produce tangible results.

Most advertising does nothing to motivate a prospect to act—it’s simply “image” or “awareness” advertising. If your marketing budget is on par with that of Coke or Nike that’s fine, but the rest of us expect a return on those ad dollars.

What you need to do is turn all of your ads into “direct response.” These are ads that are designed to generate a very specific response or action. You can apply this approach to any ad, in any kind of media, whether newspaper, magazine, TV or radio.

The purpose of these ads is not so much to “sell” but to generate a list of qualified leads— people who may be inclined to do business with you in future and, most importantly, have given you permission to market to them.

Step one is to create one or more valuable reports, workshops, evaluations, trial products, checklists, newsletters, courses or tip sheets. You know, something like, “How To Tell If Your Contractor Is Lying To You” or “What Every Senior Must Know About Pension Plans” or “101 More Things You Can Do With Your iPod.”

Now that you have your value packed written report, every bit of your advertising— whether Yellow Pages, direct mail, back of your business card, letterhead, email signature, web site—should focus on getting people to pick up, request or download that report. Don’t try to do anything else with your advertising, let the report sell you.

Step two is: Send the report or sample to all who respond and then begin marketing to them like crazy!

Why is this approach so much more effective? Now you can demonstrate your expertise in a non-threatening way, on the prospect’s own terms, even if all you can afford is a small ad. Nobody likes to be sold to, but if they take the time to read your report, understand that what you do that has value, and have an 8-10 page conversation with you, the relationship and trust have begun.

People who have requested your free information are officially a hot lead. They are identifying themselves as someone who is very interested in what you do. Half of your sales job is done!

And now you can measure the response to your advertising! If one offer falls short of your expectations, change something the next time you run the ad and see if the results improve—you are now in control.

Meanwhile you will be building a database of people who you can market to—so send them a newsletter. Invite them to sale events. Offer them incentives. Put your advertising dollars to work and check the results.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Astonishing Power of 3rd Party Endorsements

When looking for a product or service they’ve never used before, what do people most often do? Ask someone who has had experience with the product or service of course.

This would include taking the advice of an unbiased product review. By “unbiased” we mean reviews that are not paid for, or supported in some way, by the entity being reviewed, so the information is impartial—the reviewer has nothing to gain or lose by giving an honest opinion.

When taking the advice of others, you’re getting what’s called in the marketing industry a “third party endorsement” (TPE) and it’s one of the most powerful forces in the universe for anyone marketing a product.

It works because as humans, we typically are more inclined to believe what an uninvolved “third party”; a friend, neighbour, or unbiased reviewer; has to say than an advertisement or paid communication of any kind. This is not to say that advertisements don’t have credibility, all we're saying is TPE's have more.

So how do you put this tremendous force to work for your company? First of all, we’re assuming that your product is a good one so recommendations are a possibility—no one’s going to recommend you if you’re offering something of inferior quality or outright junk!

The starting point might be on your web site—do you have a list of client testimonials? People want to know what others have said, so start asking your happy customers if they’ll supply a testimonial you can use. Don’t use anything without their permission and don’t change what they’ve said to suit your purpose!

Make it a policy to always ask for these testimonials, not only will they be useful in your marketing, they will tell you what you’re doing right—so you can do more of that.

You can also slip a testimonial into your advertising. Now you’ve got that TPE right in the ads!

In many publications, there are columnists that write reviews for entertainment, automobiles, and housing developments and increasingly for consumer items and services. Make sure these people are aware of what you offer. Send them a letter asking to be reviewed and then stand back. Be prepared to accept what they write, after all, you asked!

Now, since the media is such a good vehicle for TPE there must be other ways to use it than just placing ads. Quite right, because people tend to believe what they read in quality publications. So harness the power of “media relations”—become an expert that the media will love to quote when writing on your field of expertise. Target the reporters that cover your market and keep them up to date on what’s happening in your industry. Don’t try to sell them your product or service, just stay available to answer questions they may have—guess who they’ll call and quote when they need answers.

Send out regular press releases on new developments and product improvements in your company. Make them factual and be sure they have an interesting story angle that will command attention—they should be newsworthy not fluff or sell.

Maybe your firm has a great story on how it was founded, or how the business evolved to its present state. Write it up and send it to a publication that may be interested in including it as editorial—be sure it’s a publication that’s sure to be read by your ideal kind of customer. People love stories so keep it interesting and be truthful!

These are just a few of the ways you can get the word out, you can probably think of many more, but keep one thing uppermost in your mind—a bad reputation gets around much faster than a good one. Always take care to do the best you can do and when others are pleased with you, tell the world!