Archive for November, 2007
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- Narrow Your Marketing Focus
- Find and Communicate a Core Difference
- Package Your Business
- Create Marketing Materials That Educate
- Establish Your Lead Generation Trio
- Automate and Dominate
- Live By the Calendar
1. Narrow Your Focus
What I’m really saying by that from a marketing standpoint is don’t try to be all things to all people. You really must find a target market. That may not sound like new news or new information, but it is amazing how easy it is for small business owners.
The phone rings, they pick it up and somebody on the other side asks if you can you do “x.” Typically, you say you’ve never done it before, but how hard can it be? The next thing you know, you end up being scattered so thoroughly that no matter what you started out to do in your business, you end up off target.
In many cases, when I ask small business owners to describe their target market, it comes down to anybody they think will pay them. Unfortunately, the problem with that is that it becomes so difficult to distinguish your business from another.
Prospects want to believe that somebody can truly fill their needs.
A good example is a financial planner who works with family owned businesses or maybe a financial planner who bills himself as a specialist in working with recently divorced individuals. If I’m a recently divorced individual or I own a family-owned business, whether his claim is true or not, I will be predetermined to believe that his business is more suited to fill my needs.
It doesn’t matter if it’s true. It doesn’t necessarily matter if that person who works with family-owned businesses has any more special knowledge or experience than I do. If you say you work with just anybody, a lot of times your prospects will look at that and say they want to work with the other person who says they work more specifically toward their needs.
The problem really comes down to trust. One of your biggest challenges as a small business is to overcome this lack of trust. They’ve never heard of you. Why should they trust what you have to say? For many people, if they believe you understand them, you serve their needs or if you’ve served somebody just like them, you are more suited to meet their needs.
What I’m really asking you is to take a look at your ideal client. For those of you who have been in business for any amount of time, I want you to think in terms of what makes up your ideal client.
For many people, it’s as simple as taking a really good hard look at their current clientele and looking for common characteristics among you’re their best clients. For a lot of people that may not be the clients you do the most amount of business with, perhaps. Sometimes it is. It’s great when it is.
I want you to really take a good hard look at your existing clients and find some common characteristics of your best clients. For me, the best clients are those who really trust what you do, who really value what you do, who really look to your specific expertise in order to bring them the results they want.
Sometimes the case may be you’re just starting or thinking about just starting and don’t have any clients. If you don’t have any clients, one of the tips I’ll give you is to think in terms of going to some complementary businesses, ones you admire perhaps, ones that wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves competitors but probably serve the same target market as you, and ask them to describe their ideal client.
For those of you who have been in business or have owned your own businesses, I think you’ll find people are very willing to help. People love to be asked their opinions.
In many cases, that can be a great way for you to go out and find common characteristics.
When I’m talking about common characteristics, I am talking about types of businesses, sizes of businesses or number of employees. For individuals, if you’re dealing with homeowners, look at what the neighbourhood’s like. Does the level of income of that neighbourhood dictate where you might find your ideal clients?
One of the things I have found is when people will go as far as doing this and then look for ways to rank their clients that they end up finding what makes up their ideal clients. It rises to the top in many cases.
Then again, what I want you to do if you go through that exercise, would be to then sit down and really describe your ideal client, business or person. Write it down on a piece of paper as though they were literally sitting across the table from you.
This exercise is very important for several reasons. I think it helps the business get a firmer grasp on who makes up the ideal client and who to go after. It can be as simple as asking where more people who look and act like that or have this problem are.
It’s also a great tool. I find very few businesses that actually explain to their employees or other associates who they’re looking for. In some cases, their salespeople don’t really even know what to look for in an ideal client.
Once you describe that, you can go out and tell the world. You really stop talking to people and stop taking work from clients who don’t fit your profile. In some cases, it’s just as important to know who is not a client, as who is.
There are many times that I have taken work from clients who don’t really fit my profile of the ideal client. If I go back to the idea of valuing what I do, what happens is those become the biggest headaches. You can really save yourself, in many cases, some of those headaches by really having this firm description and narrowing your focus. You can say “no” every now and then when you know something won’t fit your profile.
2. Find and Communicate a Core Difference
Obviously, you can see how that may relate to the first step. In many cases, something to differentiate your business can be as simple as serving a very tight niche market. It also can be the way in which you package your services. It can be in the way you price your services. It can be in an image that is related to your service.
It could be your reputation for a special process. The problem in small businesses is that your prospects really can’t tell the difference. One accountant looks like another. One electrician looks like another. It may not be true, but unless you’re spending millions of dollars in advertising to tell your story, in many cases they can’t tell the difference.
What happens is they pick up the phone and ask how much. That’s the way in which they determine one from another. They base their decision on price.
If you can find a way, something that really makes you the obvious choice in your industry or in your market, and then you can tell the world that, you will very quickly rise to the top of your market. Price really is not going to be the same issue for you at all.
Here’s what I want you to do. A lot of times people say they provide quality work and fair pricing. Unfortunately, those aren’t differences. Those are expectations.
Your prospects believe that if you’re in business, if you’ve got a business card or a sign out in front of your store, that you meet those expectations.
This can be done by an outside firm if you want, but I think you can do this very effectively yourself. I want you to go out and set up a time to go interview a handful of your clients. I want you to ask them specifically why they buy from you, how they found you, what makes them stay with you, why they refer business to you.
What I have found in many cases is that somebody who buys from you or somebody who uses your services is more prepared to tell what you do that is different or unique than you will ever be. For many of us small business owners, we’re just doing it how we think it should be done or how our parents taught us to treat people.
Very often, you will find that there are little touches you provide that really are a big deal to your market or your specific clients. Those can be the things you want to tap into and communicate how you’re different.
Another great place to look is with your competitors. What do they claim to do that is special? What don’t they claim? Where is your industry not served? These can always be great places for you to go out and recognize nobody is doing something, promising something, putting themselves out as an expert in a particular area. Maybe that’s a place that you can grab on to and have that as your point of difference.
Once you’ve gone out and done your interviews, the hard creative work begins. What you want to be able to do is to let people know how you’re different and unique. You can put it into a powerful short phrase.
I always like to tell people to try to answer a question with your marketing phrase, your core message. The question is “What do you do for a living?” Imagine you’re sitting at a party or on an airplane and somebody asks what you do for a living.
Instead of saying I’m a marketing consultant or an electrician or an accountant or a lawyer, which are essentially just titles but they don’t tell them anything, I could say I teach small business owners how to double what they charge. You could say you show homeowners how to get the most from their thermostat.
Again, you’ll be tapping into your target market. You’ll be tapping into something that you provide that’s maybe different. It almost forces the person beside you to ask how you do that.
Capture a phrase that really gets at the heart of what your market is missing or at a frustration or something you do that is exceptional in eight or ten words. That can become not only the way to differentiate your business, but also become the real seed of all of your marketing messages. Everything will grow from that statement.
When you go back to your staff and associates, teach everyone in your organization how to answer the question of what you do for a living. You create this memorable phrase based on what you know your ideal target market wants and that you can deliver. Teach everyone in your organization some variation of it and then expand upon it in all of your marketing messages.
3. Package Your Business
Again, this is related back to points one and two. Everyone has heard the phrase “image is everything.” To some extent that’s what I’m talking about. In some ways, people really can relate and attach themselves and be more memorable if they can connect to an image.
By that I mean it can be a photo. It can be the colour of your trucks. It can be the way you package your products. Those are all great ways in which you can differentiate your business.
I also want you to think in terms of packaging, say the name of your service or all of your services. How about creating products from your services? I essentially provide marketing consulting services and marketing coaching services, but this call is a perfect example of something that can be turned into a product.
What about adding a service feature? Let’s say you sell a product to a retail store.
What about adding service features in ways to enhance those products you sell and then naming them?
The whole idea is to create something much bigger than just, say, providing accounting. What if you provided platinum-level small business accounting? You could then have other levels of services you offer. You could even call your payroll service something.
Some of it is just packaging. But how often have you purchased a product because you felt it was somehow bigger than just the product itself. You may have thought this because of the way it was named or because of the people who were endorsing it.
I’ve had many people tell me this is true with just the name Duct Tape Marketing.
This particular introductory course to the ultimate small business marketing system is a great example of ways to differentiate your business, to get people to connect to some sort of an image that is just bigger than the product.
I don’t always want to use myself as an example, but the Duct Tape Marketing name is sometimes too good to pass up. Frankly, I fell upon it accidentally, but not a day goes by where a small business owner doesn’t say they can relate to just that name.
It tells them something about me.
If you can find that image, that thing, that photo, that something that people can really connect to, it gives them one more step in the experience of finding out how you’re different.
We’re going to transition now into a little more practical production of things that are going to generate leads in Step Four. We’ve moved beyond foundation.
4. Create Marketing Materials that Educate
Some of you probably have a box or two or five of those glossy tri-fold brochures that you wrote a bunch of marketing sales copy for and said you are this or that. Not to pick on anybody, but that’s just what a lot of small business owners believe they need to create. They think they need a brochure.
What I believe and what I teach all of my clients is to create something that I call a marketing kit. It’s a series of documents that can be very flexible, can be personalized easily; you don’t go down to the print shop and print 10,000 of unless you have 10,000 people you want to send it to that day. It’s something you can actually look at specific industries and personalize it for a lead or a prospect.
It can come in many forms. I like to use a pocket folder or file folder that I get custom printed, but it can come in many forms. Then I like to create just a series of sheets.
The first one I like to create is something I call “The Difference.” By that I mean whatever your business is, you create a one-page document. Start by sitting down and picking out the three absolute biggest benefits of doing business with your firm or the three absolute ways in which you know you are so different than anybody else
Take one whole page and explain how you’re different.
Rather than talking about how great you are or how long you’ve been in business, spend an entire page getting into a benefit and a difference, at least three. That page alone will be so different than what most people are producing.
This can come directly from your interviews you do in Step Two. Use the actual words and examples that your clients are telling you as to how you’re different. In many cases, it’s little things. It’s not some of the grandiose things we all want to put out there about our years of experience or years of education.
In many cases, it has to do with how you treat people, how you follow up, how you clean up, how you actually do the work. It’s something different than anything they’ve experienced.
At some point, you obviously need to have a page that talks about your products or services. Just give the basics. I love case studies. We can go back and reuse the interviews with your clients. Actually take existing examples and use them. A case study is proof. You’re showing them somebody that got the result you’re telling them they’ll get.
Many times people can look at that and relate to the problem or recognize that it’s the same business. This is proof that you have actually been able to help somebody who had that some problem or is in the same business.
Every marketing kit should have some story, either about how you got started, how you overcame adversity, how your business came to get into the specific niche that it’s in.
People love stories. People relate to stories. Stories build trust. It goes back to all of our childhoods having a parent or sibling reading stories to us. Everybody loves stories. With all of my clients, I force them to create some document that is in story form that really gets at the heart of what their business is about.
For many people, they can read all the marketing materials and web sites and different things you would want to produce, but for many people reading a story about how you overcame adversity or how since you were 5 years old you knew this was the business or industry you wanted to be in, is so much more powerful. It’s so much more valuable than any kind of selling you might do.
People are, more than ever with this information age, trying to find businesses that they can relate to and connect with. Let your guard down and tell a personal story, even if it’s not the most flattering or doesn’t make you sound as big or as important as you think you should sound. In many ways, that kind of honesty is what people are craving.
Testimonials and client lists are great things to have in the marketing kit, as well as process descriptions. In many cases, people talk about what they do. What if you created a checklist or a description of your system for guaranteeing that they get on time delivery or they’ll receive the service you provide or guaranteeing they won’t have to go before the IRS if you do their accounting?
Again, the idea is that many people talk about what they’ll deliver. If you’re somebody who can literally present this list or these documents that show and prove how you’re going to deliver, in many cases that alone can be enough to differentiate your business.
If you do case studies for different industries, you can personalize your kit by inserting those case studies. Your kit your kit could be even 20 or 30 pages. One of the great things about producing this entire concept and having it in a kit is that this is actually great web content as well.
Many people look at their web sites as a brochure. They approached it the same way using things like “About Us.” How many people have seen that navigation link?
Use this content of showing examples, showing processes, having checklists, showing a story, showing your difference, as your home page instead of “Home Page” or “Welcome to our Web Site.” What if on the first page you hit somebody over the head with the three or four things that are different about your business? This can be repurposed in many cases to be great web content.
5. Establish Your Lead Generation Trio
It’s really not fair to call it a step, because it’s three steps. It’s probably the three biggest steps for some people. I put it in one step because I believe that, whether you do it today or whether it takes you three months to get it done, your lead generation system needs to involve all three of these components.
The three components are advertising, a referral system and public relations. Again, you will build or plan to build some component that routinely generates leads using all three of these strategies.
A lot of small business owners tell me they’ve tried to advertise, it doesn’t work and it’s a waste of money. For most small businesses, it is a waste. Not because it doesn’t work, but because of the way they are trying to work it.
Imagine how many people buy an ad that’s business, card sized, in a magazine or the Yellow Pages. In that ad they’re basically trying to say, “Call us” and “Buy from us.”
That’s essentially what most ads say. Maybe they’ll throw in that they’ve been in business for 10 years, trusted technicians or all of the silly stuff that people put in there. Then the Yellow Pages rep tells them to put their phone number real big.
What I want you to think of is that all your advertising, any advertising you place, be it Yellow Pages, classifieds, any direct mail, that the whole purpose of that advertising was just get them to give you permission to start marketing to them and start educating them.
Instead of getting somebody to call you to buy from you or to have an appointment with you, you want them to raise their hand and give you permission to do that.
What I mean by that is something you’ve all heard the term by now called two-step advertising. All that type of advertising is and all it tries to do is tell them to come to you to get the information. You’re not going to sell them anything or try to make an appointment with you. You’re telling them you just want them to start the process by giving you permission to start marketing to them.
This call is a perfect example of that. Imagine if I would have sent you an email or postcard that told you to come enrol in my class for thousands of dollars. Would that be as interesting as telling you to come to this free session? I’ll give you lots of great information. You’ll get to know me. You’ll get to know what I’m about. It will be on your terms and won’t cost you a dime. Maybe some of you will buy.
Five hundred people sign up to show up for this call today, so there’s some indication to me that this part of the process works. Obviously, you get a very targeted group, a very focused group, a group that has a desire for the information you have.
All your advertising can and should be this two-step variety. You need to think in terms of creating. It can be a teleseminar like this, but it certainly can also be something like “Ten things you must know before you hire an accountant.” It can be a simple one-page checklist. It can be a report. It can be a review of new tools and resources that people in your industry use, such as how to build a dream home for less than they think.
It can be recorded material. It can be written material. It can be the form of a PDF document on a website. It could be in the form of something you might mail them.
What it allows you to do is to clearly demonstrate a willingness to give or start to build a relationship before you would ever take the step of asking them to buy from you. Your advertising needs to do that.
The next part of the step in your lead generation is that you need to build a system that involves systematically generating referrals.
I have a whole program on referrals, so we could certainly spend more than an hour talking about just that one step.
I’m going to give you the one or two titbits that I want you to really think hard about.
Some of the best people at generating referrals do nothing more than make it an expectation of doing business with your firm.
In other words, when you sign up a new client or when a new client retains you or when somebody decides they want to buy a product from you, part of your sales presentation will involve something letting them know what you’ll do for them.
You tell them that you know they’ll be so thrilled with “xyz” service, product or application that at the end of 90 days, part of their responsibility will be to show you three more people who they know need that result as well.
Some variation of that kind of phrase is incredibly simple, but incredibly powerful. I think there are a couple of things that make it so powerful. One thing is that you’re sending a very positive marketing message.
You’re telling them you know they’ll be thrilled. You’re guaranteeing that they’re going to be thrilled. You’re basically putting your performance on the line. In almost all cases, people will agree.
The biggest thing it does is that it sets up that expectation. Not 100% of them will follow through, but a much greater percentage will than people who you go back to just six months later and ask if they know of anybody who needs what you do. It sets the tone and message of your marketing.
A lot of people look to their client base to generate referrals. Obviously, that’s not a bad place to look. Who better than somebody who has experienced your brilliance to be able to talk about it? But in a lot of cases, your clients can’t really be properly motivated to generate referrals or maybe they really don’t know that many people who need what you do.
The other thing I want you to think pretty hard about in terms of generating referrals is to think in terms of targeting a whole other ideal client, which are strategic partners.
These are business who serve your same market or, even better, businesses that maybe have a service or product that complements what you do. Think in terms of educating them by going to those folks and proposing some joint ventures or a referral structure.
Be very clear about whom your ideal market is and what it is that you do of value.
You may even go as far as creating tools for them. I have a lot of clients where we will create the co-branded marketing materials. Are there tools like the report, that white paper, that ten-step checklist I talked about that you could create that your strategic partners would like to give out to their clients?
Jointly, you can start marketing it. They can start offering it to their clients and you produce it for them. Put your logo and their logo on it. I have some clients who serve the homeowner market. Everybody’s seen the door hanger type of thing that people do. What about producing something of that nature and getting together with three or four providers who go into the homes or serve that same market?
You’re actually handing out materials for each other. It’s another great way to generate referrals and business. In a lot of cases what you’re doing is borrowing on the trust of those marketing partners, but in many cases they make terrific referral partners or sources or markets, because they know maybe four or five hundred people who need what you do.
They can see the benefit of building their business vice versa. Consequently, they can be very properly motivated to do so.
The third head of this lead generation trio is public relations.
A lot of people are mixed on public relations, because they look at it as some kind of strange science. It really isn’t.
I will tell you that it is a very powerful lead generation tool. The reason is because a lot of people will look at advertising or anything you put out as sales material. They think you’re just saying things trying to get the order. But if somebody else says you’re great, a third party that seemingly has no reason or motivation to do so, all of the sudden it becomes so much more believable for people.
One of the things I want you to really look at doing, particularly if you serve a local target market, is build a local media list. All I mean by that is for you to look at the people who write about what you do. Look at the publications you know your target reads.
Think in terms of sending those folks something at least once a month. Some of it can just be that you have a new product or have moved your office, but a lot of those things aren’t really very newsworthy. Occasionally, the press will write about those, dependent upon the publication and that can be of value, but again, those aren’t stories.
Remember when you’re trying to approach the media is that it’s not about you. It’s not about your company. They don’t really care to promote your business. What they care about is, first off, themselves, their publication, and they care about their readers.
What do their readers want to know? Their readers don’t really want to know that it’s your five-year anniversary, but they might want to know that your business painted the local senior centre for your five-year anniversary.
You’ve got to think in terms of presenting, or what we call pitching, stories to the media that you know will be of interest to their readers. They don’t always need to be about you or about your business or about building your business.
Marketing to the media is much like marketing to new prospects. You’ve got to take the time to build relationships. The way in which you do that is to be active and send them stuff on a monthly basis. Be willing to give.
Send information or industry trends. You probably all get publications from your trade or associations that you may belong to. In many cases writers who may cover that beat don’t get those publications. A lot of times you can just take some information, survey results or things of that nature, and forward them.
Just to be looked at as a source of information can be a great way for when the story comes up that meets a trend or something happens on a national level where you can become the local source. You really need to target the media and market to them, much in the same way you would to any target market.
I’ll tell you another little tip, in terms of what media to target. I have found this quite eye-opening when I’ve done this. Go to your ideal clients or to your clientele and ask them what they read or where they get their information.
It is amazing how often you will, first, determine that one publication you thought was a big deal, nobody reads or really cares about. Unfortunately you can’t take the advertising rep’s word on who it is that reads their magazine. Find out what your people really do read.
The other things I’ve found is an industry newsletter or trade publication that I didn’t really think was that big of a deal that people are just nuts about. It’s amazing to find out where you might want to advertise and certainly where you may really want to target to get your name in.
6. Automate and Dominate
One of the great things about technology and the web and web sites and all of the things that are out there now is that it really allows you to market to prospects over time.
I talked about the free reporter or white paper and where you’re able to have a web site that delivers that. You may have an e-zine that people can subscribe to or unsubscribe to automatically. It keeps you in front of that prospect, because you’re pumping out this publication on a weekly basis or a monthly basis.
First, you need to have a web site. Then you should build into your website some manner of capturing email address of people who visit your website. Many times they’ll come there and if you don’t capture that information, you’ve lost the opportunity to market to them over time.
That’s where the free report, the free e-zine and the different things of value that they might actually trade their email address to you for need to be present. Many of you know I’m a huge fan of blogs.
Blogs are a great way to build trust, spread your expertise, and get PR opportunities.
I’ve had more than one publication interview me just for the fact that I had a blog.
There are still some industries where that is a very unique tool all by itself. It’s a great search engine tool, in terms of the search engines finding you and indexing content.
For those of you who really want to do business on a local basis, make sure that, if you have a web site, you’re using local terms in your content and links. I have a remodelling contract that, instead of kitchens, baths and those types of links, they say Kansas City kitchens and Kansas City baths.
It’s amazing how those little touches will help you get found. Frankly, that’s how people search. If they’re looking for somebody locally, they will many times utilize local terms in their search.
The other thing I will tell you to make sure you do is to get listed with all of the search engines in their local directories, Google, Yahoo and AOL. All of them are now building these local directories, so that if somebody searches “Marketing Coach Kansas City,” the first couple of results coming up are basically like phone book listings now.
The good news is that they are still free, so I recommend that you go out there today, if you have not, to each search engine. Google, Yahoo and AOL all have a form you fill out. Last time I checked, it was free. You can put in your information all the way down to hours, payment methods and everything.
It can really be a great source of local traffic. For many people, the web is the phone book. I must admit that I’m in that group. You should be investigating and finding out about pay-per-click local advertising, where you actually only pay for clicks for people who live in a certain geographic area.
Pay-per-call is another thing that’s coming and growing. That’s where you only pay for leads of people that literally pick up the phone. They go to your website and there’s a system now that will allow them to pick up the phone and call you. You’re only charged for the ones who do that.
There are some tremendous automation tools out there that can really work for you 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, and really make what may be a small business, a small marketing effort, seem much larger.
7. Live by the Calendar
This last step is really in some ways more of a housekeeping step, but it’s amazing how important it is. There really is too much to do in your business.
You didn’t start your business because you wanted to be a marketing expert. I suspect most of you started your businesses because you wanted to do whatever it is that your business does. What you probably found very quickly is that what that business does consumes most of your day.
Unfortunately, marketing, which is an extremely important aspect of the survival of a business, is very easy to shove aside by the shipping it, making it, fixing it, that you end up having to do.
One of my favourite books on writing is called “Bird by Bird” by a woman named Ann Lamont. It’s been out for a number of years. The title of that book came from an essay she claims she had to write in high school. She had waited until the very last evening before it was due.
She sat there completely confounded. There was so much to do in this essay she was supposed to write about the 50 bird’s native to some country or something. There was so much to do that she just didn’t know where to get started. Her father said to take it just bird by bird.
Really, I think that’s true of marketing. Some of you will get off of the call today and look at your notes from today’s call and just be overwhelmed by how much there is to do in the category in marketing.
What I tell people to do is to get a giant calendar or at least something that will stare you in the face that you can hang on the wall and that everybody in your organization can see. At the very least, map out one thing you intend to do and what steps it will take to do that, then schedule them.
Even if it takes you six months of scheduling, in six months from now you’ll have it done. In other words, make marketing appointments with yourself. I suspect that any of you who are on this call who are owners of the business and your card says “CEO” or “Owner” or “Principle,” probably one of your most important functions that you have in your business is the Chief Marketing Officer, although you never play that role.
Carve out a portion of every day, if that’s what it takes, and make an appointment to do marketing. Just take it bird by bird or piece by piece. It is such an essential aspect or element of the long-term, not only success, but just survival of your business that you have to treat it as such.
I like having that calendar reminder, knowing you can’t do it all today, but you’re going to start the lead generation process this month. In fact, I have some clients who just kind of a do a theme each month that they work on, because it’s tempting to want to do it all at one time, but all that generally leads to is “overwhelm.”
Source: Jantsch Communications