Wednesday, December 28

Small business marketing: persistence pays! 

Persistent people begin their success where others end in failure.
-- Edward Eggleston

I'm trying as hard as I can, and sometimes things don't go your way, and that's the way things go.
-- Tiger Woods

Be persistent and work hard.
Will this guarantee success?

Of course not. But it certainly will increase your chances!

Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up. Tom Peters believes that "success in business comes from surviving long enough to get lucky."

Wednesday, December 21

Small business marketing: learning into action 

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
-- John F. Kennedy

He who learns but does not think is lost.
-- Confucius

Never stop learning. Go back to school or read books. Get
training and acquire skills.

But never think of learning as learning for its own sake.
Take what you've learned and apply it, modify it, expand
it, develop it, share it, teach others, and boil it down to
its essence in real, concrete business terms that you can
use in your immediate environment.

In any learning situation, focus like a laser beam on
application, application, application! Learn from every
source, think, and then translate that learning into
appropriate, useful, meaningful action.

Tuesday, December 13

Small business marketing: How to be a better writer - FAST 

Writing compelling and results-producing copy requires two skills: You must learn how to break complex items into smaller (more digestible) parts and you must be able to convince your readers to take action.

Here are guidelines that have served me (and my clients) well. I hope they're equally helpful to you.

1) The first few paragraphs of any marketing document must tell your reader what's in it for him. We don't want our reader looking up after 30 seconds and wondering, "Why am I reading this?"

2) Each marketing document (sales letter, web page, brochure) should focus on a single purpose-it should be written to stimulate a specific response. This response could be an action (take the next step in the sales process) or it could be emotional (I want them to feel worried about a particular problem).

3) Density (not length) is important. Marketing materials that stimulate interest and curiosity have lots of new and good ideas. Ideally you should introduce a new fact, figure or idea every couple of paragraphs. This stimulates interest, builds credibility and goes a long way towards ensuring that your entire piece gets read.

4) Write only about what you know.

Keep these points in mind the next time you're developing a marketing document of any type.

Wednesday, December 7

Small business marketing: dreaming for 2011 

Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.
-- Anais Nin

Decide upon your true dreams and goals.

Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them. Then look at this list frequently, update it, and keep on course.

Jesse Owens said, "We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort."

Dreaming, and making dreams come true, is the hardest and highest form of business.

Thursday, October 13

10 Commandments of Small Business Marketing Success 

Here is a link to my radio interview last week with Elizabeth Potts Weinstein on VoiceAmerica Business:
Listen in through the web or download it for your iPod, and check out the special offer at the 30-minute mark for a free no-strings "Get Going" Marketing consultation!

Friday, October 7

Small business marketing: Passion + Patience 

This just in from my new friend Suzanne Gerety of http://www.dancestudioowner.com
Wine Library TV's Gary Vaynerchuck...


*Mature language - fyi if watching near kids or in an office.


So if you're a marketer... a professional speaker... an independent professional... or anyone who takes work seriously - you gotta watch this simply because Gary is talking to... YOU!!!

Tuesday, July 26

With Marketing Expert's New Walking Consultations, Business Dilemmas Take a Hike 

With Marketing Expert's New Walking Consultations, Business Dilemmas Take a Hike

Wednesday, June 15

Creating subject lines that pack punch 

Guest column by Karen J. Bannan
How long was the subject line in your most recent e-mail marketing campaign?
You may not realize it, but the number of characters you use can positively or negatively impact the success of your campaign, according to a new white paper released by direct marketing agency Epsilon.
The white paper, "Rethinking the Relationship Between Subject Line Length and Email Performance: A New Perspective on Subject Line Design," details some of the more important considerations that marketers should be thinking about, said Kevin Mabley, the company's senior VP-strategic services.
Here are four tips you can use to boost your subject line prowess.
1) Front-load your subject lines with the most important information.
It would seem like this tip is a given, but take a look at the messages in your inbox. As you'll soon see, it's a strategy that few marketers embrace. The biggest problem is with ordering information. If you've only got 38 to 47 characters—the average number of characters that show up in the subject line of 57% of all U.S. e-mail recipients' e-mail programs—you need to put the most important information all the way to the left.
Use urgency and relevance as your guide. Is your offer or newsletter timely? Put that right up front. Also, make sure your brand is in the first few words. However, if your company has multiple brands or categories underneath its umbrella, lead with what's most recognizable and important to your customer.
2) Keep the subject line as short as possible to convey the message.
Epsilon's research shows that shorter subject lines have higher click-through and open rates. Still, you don't want to go short for short's sake, Mabley said. Instead, you're looking to pack the most information you can into the smallest number of words.
And avoid words that have a sensationalist slant, such as "free" or "discount." "Don't just say '20% off your next purchase.' Your messages need to be rooted in your customers' expectations," Mabley said.
3) Don't forget to test.
This is another common suggestion, but one that still isn't heeded as it should be, Mabley said. "At the minimum, you should be performing an A/B test on every message that goes out," he said. "The general rule is you can test 10% of your list in order to figure out which option is a better one."
This is how you're going to figure out if your front-loaded data should be the brand name or the actual benefit to the recipient, and it's something that may change on a day-to-day and message-to-message basis, he said.
Your messages should also go through a spam filter so you know, on a scale of 1 to 100, how likely it is that an ISP will consider your message to be spam, Mabley said.
4) Dynamically personalize the subject line.
This is something that's simple to do, and shows that you know who you are e-mailing and what they are looking for. "Whether you use their first or last name or their company's name, it makes it more personal and provides better reception," Mabley said.

Monday, May 9

Small business marketing: do you have a fixed point of view? 

The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Life is growth and motion; a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.
-- Brooks Atkinson

Friday, April 15

Small business marketing: Battling the Email Bulge 

A slimmer email can lead to healthier results in 2009...
Many people enter into the new year with a personal goal of living a healthier lifestyle and shedding the unwanted pounds brought on by another season of holiday excess. The same commitment should also be applied to the messages being sent to your subscribers-messages that may have slowly packed on the pounds right under your nose without being noticed.
How It Happened
Emails tend to start off with very streamlined designs, making them easy to use and less likely to run into display errors in different email clients. However, as marketers reach a level of comfort with email marketing, and quality content continues to be developed, more and more of that content begins to find its way into their email communications.
It can start with something as simple as a sidebar, or additional space for images. As the months go on, additional content accumulates on your email template, and soon it hardly resembles the streamlined communication vehicle it once was.
Think this might be the case with your own email? Ask yourself a few questions:
What am I trying to communicate?
Trying to communicate more than two or three main ideas in an email is difficult in light of how quickly most email recipients sift through their inboxes. Identify the one idea, if you could only choose one, that you would want recipients to take away from your email-is it the first thing you notice on your test message? If not, consider moving or eliminating excess content.
Am I overloading?
Giving visitors to your website a variety of options is fine, but an excessive number of links and linked images on an email can make it difficult and frustrating to engage with. Many marketers rely on emails to drive traffic to their sites, but the amount of clicks an email receives has much less to do with the number of available links than the relevance of those links. Also, too many links on an email increases the chances of frustrating site visitors who wait for a page to load only to realize they clicked on the wrong link in your message-an easy mistake to make with several links in close proximity.
Where can I make changes?
Some content on your emails will be non-negotiable, but be mindful of including any non-essential elements. For example, a large graphic about an event could have a negative impact if it's the first thing a recipient sees. In this case, the recipient may believe the event is the focus of the message-even if that is not the case-and could abandon the message due to lack of interest in the event. Scaling the graphic down, or simply using stylized text to promote it, would slim down the message and make sure the recipients' focus is on your products, editorial, or whatever else you consider to be the key takeaway (see #1 above).
One common email element not likely to be eliminated by any marketer is advertising space, but there is no greater contributor to a bloated-looking email than a slew of rotating banner ads. At the very least make sure clearly defined borders separate advertising from your own content, and avoid using any unnecessary images of your own, which can contribute to the cramped appearance.
Less is more
The tendency of emails to become inflated stems from marketers' desire to communicate as much information as possible with their subscribers. While this desire is perfectly understandable, it does not always take into account the user-experience of those who will be receiving the messages.
It's a good thing to have more ideas than can fit onto one email-for your subscribers' sake, try not to overload your messages. One idea on an email can still get great results, but only if your recipients can find it.

Tuesday, April 5

20 Tips for a positive new year for small business marketers 

From positivity expert Jon Gordon...

1. Stay Positive. You can listen to the cynics and doubters and believe that success is impossible or you can know that with faith and an optimistic attitude all things are possible.

2. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement: My purpose is_______________________.

3. Take a morning walk of gratitude. It will create a fertile mind ready for success.

4. Instead of being disappointed about where you are think optimistically about where you are going.

5. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

6. Transform adversity into success by deciding that change is not your enemy but your friend. In the challenge discover the opportunity.

7. Make a difference in the lives of others.

8. Believe that everything happens for a reason and expect good things to come out of challenging experiences.

9. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

10. Mentor someone and be mentored by someone.

11. Live with the 3 E's. Energy, Enthusiasm, Empathy.

12. Remember there's no substitute for hard work.

13. Zoom Focus. Each day when you wake up in the morning ask: "What are the three most important things I need to do today that will help me create the success I desire?" Then tune out all the distractions and focus on these actions.

14. Instead of complaining focus on solutions. It's the key to innovation.

15. Read more books than you did in 2008.

16. Learn from mistakes and let them teach you to make positive changes.

17. Focus on "Get to" vs "Have to." Each day focus on what you get to do, not what you have to do. Life is a gift not an obligation.

18. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements:

I am thankful for __________.

Today I accomplished____________.

19. Smile and laugh more. They are natural anti-depressants.

20. Enjoy the ride. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy it.



Thursday, March 3

Optimist Creed 

Promise Yourself -
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best and expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Saturday, February 19

Brand vs. bland: The most cost-effective ways to market your company 

Guest column by Tom Marin, Orlando Business Journal

Brand marketing is facing a power-shift in today's marketplace.

Customers want to be part of a brand's direction and development. Listening to their expectations can determine your firm's level of success.

To take full advantage of today's market share, companies will need to "lose" control of their marketing strategy to ultimately gain it, by embracing this powerful dynamic of customer expectations.

Fifty years ago, there weren't the number of brands or media choices there are today. The market is filled with brands, sub-brands, cross-brands, and strategic-brand partnerships. Add to that list the ever-increasing media choices, including Internet marketing, and it's difficult to make a minor change to a brand that will affect top-line sales significantly.

Investing in cutting-edge, no-cost and low-cost promotional tools for branding ideas will allow you to market your company profitably. Consider these suggestions for energizing your brand in today's marketplace:

• Create uniqueness.

Uniqueness is a brand's No. 1 asset. The greater the brand uniqueness, the higher its score in market share. And those brands that create a unique brand category usually become the leaders.

What comes to mind when you consider: theme park, soft drink or overnight delivery? Most likely it is Disney, Coke and FedEx. They are the recognized leaders, though there are other brands in their categories.

Your brand's uniqueness can be determined by completing this sentence: Our (brand name) is the only (product category) that (does what).

• Replace repetition with interactive promotions.

A common branding strategy is repetition of the brand message to build awareness. This strategy is not as effective as interactive promotions.

For example, a 30-day trial use, a sample pack, an on-premise presentation or a portion of the service you offer are all effective interactive strategies. They allow customers to discover the benefits of your brand and move closer to making a purchase decision than the repetitious sales pitch provides.

• Replace outbound marketing with inbound branding.

Traditional methods of outbound marketing include telemarketing, voicemail campaigns, e-mails and direct marketing. These standard marketing strategies have become less effective because people use spam-ware, caller ID, firewall devices and the "circular file" to eliminate them.

Internet searches have become a primary source for obtaining product information. Popular Web sites such as Google and Yahoo are tapping the exploding volume of today's online buyer. To increase your potential customer base, consider using these methods:

1. Publish articles on Web sites that are relevant to your target audience.

2. Write book reviews on related topics for Web sites such as Amazon.com.

3. Publicize your brand on Web sites like prnewswire.com and prweb.com.

4. Increase your online identity with listings on LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, Ziggs, Naymz and others.

• Replace monolithic marketing with customer-centric branding.

Don't be a follower. If you're trying to overtake a brand leader, don't emulate their strategies. Create your own. And let your strategy strike at the heart of what your key customers want. Of course, knowing what they want will be paramount to your success, so ask them.

• Don't plan for overnight success.

If someone offered me $10 million to help them launch a successful brand tomorrow, I'd tell them instead to give me $1 million and five years to make their brand successful. Understanding this dynamic of time, I'll bring home the bacon based on what prospective customers want.

Accepting and using this branding power-shift between you and your customer will allow you to involve their needs in your strategy and, in time, will establish your brand successfully. Their involvement offers them new reasons for becoming a loyal customer.

Thursday, February 3

Cold Calling Works: You Just Do It Wrong 

Brrrr... I've just been cold calling and boy could I use some hot chicken soup!
Just those two words together — cold-calling — put many people far away from warm and happy. Given that it's so much fun for so many people, and that I have heard a number of times recently that the last nail has been banged into the cold calling coffin, why is cold calling still even on our radar screens?
Because it works.
"It doesn't work," you say? Well, in one sense I agree with you: there are a million ways to do it wrong and fail. Fail at something enough, and it's easy to dismiss the whole tactic. (No matter how many times I try, I just can't hit a Jonathan Papelbon fastball. Swinging a bat at a baseball must not work!)
Before we get into how to make cold calling work, let's first establish that it does work. Of 30 possible marketing tactics for services firms, one rose to the top as the most effective in the research report Increasing Marketing Effectiveness at Professional Firms conducted by Expertise Marketing and LawMarketing.com in 2006.
The top most effective tactic--the tactic above all other tactics--was "arranging business development appointments with clients and prospects." When I last checked, the best way to arrange a business development appointment was neither telegram nor skywriting.
Meanwhile, case study after case study confirms that cold calling can work. For example, I've seen cold calling work as a major part of a lead generation approach, yielding 6 clients in 6 months (a major acceleration of client additions), and increasing the pipeline by fivefold, for Deep Customer Connections, a management consulting firm in the insurance industry.
Making Ten Million Dollars
Many anti-cold-calling folks say, "There are so many powerful ways to build your client base, why even bother trying cold calling? You can give speeches. Publish articles and books. Work your network: it's more extensive than you probably think."
To paraphrase a famous business person (Comedian Steve Martin):
  • Question: What's the secret to making ten million dollars?
  • Answer: First, start with nine million dollars.
Well, some people don't write very well, they don't have extensive networks, and speaking isn't their bag. Some people can't wait a year for a lead to materialize out of their writing or their network! If you can employ these tactics, great. It's like starting with nine million. But regardless of whether you start with nine million or no million, cold calling still works.
What's In It For Me (WIIFM)
Let's assume you're a Chief Strategy Officer at an $800 million dollar manufacturing firm in Ohio. Someone calls you and says, "My name is John Smith and I'm a change management consultant. Do you need change? Let's meet." Even if you're headed to the vending machine, your immediate change needs probably won't include John Smith.
But let's say John calls and says, "My name is John Smith. The reason I'm calling is because my firm, the ABC Consulting Group, has just recently conducted a major benchmark study on how manufacturing businesses-including Competitor 1 and Competitor 2 of yours-in the Midwest are succeeding with their labor unions in the face of global outsourcing. There are 3 practices that are working across the board and a few that fail most everyplace. If you're interested, we'd be happy to come by and take you through the results."
If this topic is on your mind, you might risk a 1/2 hour to hear the results. Or you might have some questions right then and there. Either way, if I'm John, I've presented my cold "introduction" of myself and my firm to your company in a way that delivers value to you.
Will everyone take me up on this meeting? Of course not. But if my target list is well segmented and clean, a number of prospects will. When I get in front of them, the topic of conversation will be my recent research, work, and expertise-not a "get to know you and sell you" meeting.
A conversation about recent research is just one of many potential value propositions for the meeting. (For more about value propositions for meetings, read Making Lead Generation Work for Professional Services: Secret #2.) You might not want to present research because it might not be the best entry for you. But if you're worth your salt as a professional services provider, a conversation with you should be able to offer something of strong value. (If you can't figure out how you can deliver value in a conversation, find a new line of work.)
Regardless of the meeting premise, I have to handle the conversation well to get the best result from this meeting, but the ball is definitely in my court as to what happens from here on out.
How The Numbers Work
Answer the following question: If you get 10 meetings with 10 company leaders who have the right title, are in the right organization, and have the right criteria for being a good prospect for you, and you stay in touch with them fairly regularly in a meaningful way after the meeting, how many would become clients of yours in some capacity over the next year or two?
The most common answers I get for this question are "two or three" or "eight or nine". Let's assume you're more modest, and the answer is two.
Next question: What does a bread-and-butter client represent to you in terms of revenue over the course of a year? It could be $7k, $70k, $170k, $700k, or anything. Let's assume it's $70k.
So, for the cost of setting up 10 meetings with prospects, whatever that cost is, the immediate return on your investment is $140k. This, of course, doesn't take into account long term ROI factors such as repeat business and increased referrals.
The fallacy, in many cases, is that most service providers aren't as good at closing as they think they are, and they don't continue to stay in touch with the prospect regularly and meaningfully after they meet with them. But these factors don't have anything to do with cold calling. They have to do with your ongoing marketing, and the resources you devote to follow up. The cold calling part works fine for what it's supposed to do: make an introduction with a prospective client that can lead to a good relationship. How you choose to develop that relationship is a different matter.
Have Someone Else Call For You
Maybe your practice is busy and you just don't have time to call. Or maybe your practice isn't busy, and you need to invest in generating leads. Either way, you can have someone else make the calls for you.
Even the busiest of professionals have time to meet with a CEO of a company who could be a great client for them. So you go on the meetings. What you don't have to do is make the actual calls.
Reread the WIIFM section of this article above. In the beginning, you must work to craft the lead generation process. You must be involved in targeting the right prospects, providing the strongest value proposition, and working with your telephone business developers to represent you clearly, strongly, and fairly. Then, let them go to work. Cold calling itself is not something that you, personally, need to get good at.
I could make more points that demonstrate how cold calling can work for professional service businesses, and on how to make cold calling itself work better. But for some of you who doubt the process, it still wouldn't be enough, and that's fine.
It's been said that people make decisions with their hearts and justify them with their heads. People don't want to make cold calls, and some don't want to be associated with the method. So they figure out how to justify not employing cold calling, or why other things work better.
If you don't want to make cold calls, don't. But cold calling does work. Most people just do it wrong.
For more information on cold calling and lead generation, check out:
  • RainToday's guide How To Set Appointments Through Cold Calling
  • Wellesley Hills Group's white paper Making Lead Generation Work For Professional Services
  • Contributing Editor John Doerr's article From Cold To Gold: Getting The Most From Cold Call Set Meetings

Mike Schultz is the Publisher of RainToday.com and an advisor to service businesses worldwide as President of the Wellesley Hills Group. He also writes the Services Insider Blog and can be reached at mschultz@raintoday.com.

Thursday, January 20

Small business marketing plans: You might not want one... 

Guest column by Jimmy Vee and Travis Miller

If you are a small business owner or independent sales
professional and you are working on, thinking about or
reading about creating a marketing plan - STOP!!

So many so called "marketing experts" say you need a
marketing plan and puke out all this
"direct-from-the-textbook-junk" about how to create one
and what it contains. 

Traditional marketing text books and philosophies weren't
written for small businesses. They were written for big
corporations, so the irrelevant stuff between their covers
doesn't mean anything to you but wasted time, energy and

Most marketing experts only know what's in those college
text books - and I got to tell you for a small business
that's poison. I've read all the text books I have the
advertising degree hanging on the wall. I've got the
master's degree too. And you wanna know what? All that
standard education information is garbage.

See, academics aren't interested in the same things as
entrepreneurs. They don't think the same as us and they
definitely don't know anything about small business. They
know theory and principles that work for the masses. That's
why this is standard education stuff. But standard education
principles yield standard results and often times less when
applied to small businesses. 

I don't know about you but I'm not looking for standard
success. Standard success is $30,000 a year and a broken
home for your kids. I think we are all aiming a bit higher,
that's why you're reading this right now and seeking
something more.

In that standard marketing education they talk about the
"Four P's of Marketing" (some say five P's now). The
Five P's are product, price, placement, package, promotion.

For a small business the Five P's are procrastination,
procrastination, procrastination, procrastination,

You need rapid but smart growth - and that's not covered in
a marketing plan or in the "Five P's."

What you need to create is a "Rapid And Smart Growth Plan
Of Attack." 

This is a living and breathing one page document that
evolves as you take action and test results. 

And it's not just a plan. A plan gets filed away in your
drawer because it's too long and too complicated to do
anything else with. 

What I'm talking about is a plan of attack. If you want to
find success you need to ATTACK IT!

I like to use a large easel and a big post it flip chart
pad. I write in red marker so it's ultra obvious and always
carries a sense of urgency.

In this plan of attack you want to make a list of no more
than two or three narrowly defined targets to go after. You
need to solidify your Gravitational Proposition - a unique
offering statement that is irresistible to your target and
pulls them to you with a natural, powerful force.

Your Gravitational Proposition should answer these
1. What is it you are trying to sell?
2. What HUGE benefit does your customer get from the purchase?
3. How much does it cost?
4. Why proof do you offer/why should I believe you?

Your proposition doesn't have to contain all of these
things but a combination of the ones that puts your offering
in the best light possible.

The next thing on your action plan should be the steps you
will take to attack your prospects and the individual
actions you will take to accomplish those steps.

Cross each one off the list as you finish it and add new
ideas as you come up with them. Only add ideas when you can
add actionable steps to take to implement those ideas.

Create time deadlines for each set of steps to incentivize
yourself to get them done. Even create rewards for
accomplishing the projects. You must block out at least one
day per week where you do nothing but plan and act -
otherwise you are doomed to have slow growth and mediocre

You must change your mindset. You must realize your main job
is marketer not doer or seller or manager. Marketing is the
most important job you can master if you desire success in
large scale.

So forget the marketing plan, the four or five P's and
start creating rapid and smart growth by taking aggressive
action. Remember that you must test and measure all of your
efforts for effectiveness and act accordingly.

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