This is the tenth post in the series of The Ten Priorities: Laying the Foundations for a Great Business and Life. The tenth Priority is about Managing the marketing. The introduction to this series on The Ten Priorities is here.
The second rule of Seth Godin is to make sure lots of people know about your great product or service.
It may seem obvious. No matter how great your products, your people, your systems, your visions and your plans are, if nobody knows how great they, there will be no business.
Many business owners will go out of their way to build a great product, but forget the second Rule. (BTW, the inverse is also true, more about the two different types of entrepreneurs here)
But both rules are equally important.
A business owner who wants to build a great business must learn that in business:
Marketing is everything, and everything is marketing.
A great business owner asks himself about the marketing dimension of every aspect of the business. Marketing is as much about the way the business goes about collecting its debts, or about the way people answer the telephones, or about its product warranty, as it is about the Facebook advertising campaign it’s running.
In fact, it can be said, that any activity in the business that does not have a marketing dimension to it, is a waste and should be stopped immediately. (more about the basics of marketing here)
When you learn to ask yourself about the marketing aspect to every decision you make, every system you develop and every action you take, every day, your business will flourish… I promise you.
Now that you’ve finished Ten Priorities, find out more about yourself and take “The Entrepreneur Type Survey”
How to avoid the Spray-and-Pray approach to your marketing strategy
I had a interesting experience at a networking and business building event a few days ago. We met over breakfast and there were various activities designed to get to know each other and to support each other in the development of our businesses.
One of the exercises we did was a group hot seat, where one of our fellow business owners presented himself and his business to the group and asked for help with his greatest challenges.
The business owner in question, let’s call him Adam, told us about all the amazing projects he’s been involved in and how smart the solutions were that he implemented for his clients.
But Adam also shared that he sometimes found it difficult to find new clients.
So we asked him who his ideal clients are, how we would recognise them if we tripped over them and how we could introduce him to them effectively.
Designing solutions for the challenges
In response, Adam, told us he’s worked with government departments, global machinery manufacturers as well as dog kennels and everything in between. He told us how he sits down with business owners and gets to really understand their businesses and challenges, designs solutions to resolve those challenges and implements the solutions for them.
All very well of course, but it didn’t help us much in our quest to support Adam. Most service based businesses do exactly that, they find out about the challenges a client has and then they offer a solution. But we never really got any further with Adam. Every time we asked him to get more specific he gave us more details of the wide range and varied types of clients he’d worked with. Although Adam left us impressed with his experience, his knowledge, and his expertise, at the end of the 15 minute hotseat, the group was no closer to understanding how we could help him find more new clients.
How can we help you?
In the end we left Adam to ponder the following question:
“Let’s say someone wanted to help you, really help you, and they were prepared to set an hour aside today, to do exactly that. Further more, let’s say that person had database of 6000 direct connections in LinkedIn. All business owners, largely in Australia and most of them in Sydney. Amongst such a database, it seems likely for there to be 5 or 10 people who are actual prospects for Adam.
Obviously, it’s not possible for such a person, to send a direct email to all 6000 people in a kind of “spray and pray” marketing outreach. So the question we left Adam to ponder was: How can such a person go about identifying those 5 to 10 perfect introductions for you from amongst the database of 6000?
Because you see, Adam really struggled to answer that question. Adam couldn’t tell us how to filter out 5 or 10 people in such a database of LinkedIn connections.
And I think most of us have that challenge. We don’t actually know how to identify our prospects.
Who are my prospects?
I find it difficult in my own business as well sometimes. I’ve thought about it a lot and often, and the best I can do is this:
I’m looking to connect with business owners
That are in design (Architecture, Interior design, Graphic design) technical services (IT, Communications, Software and Web development) or trades (Building trades, Motor trades, Hospitality trades)
With between 3 and 20 employees
And that have operated the business for 2+ years
Confronted with the same question we left Adam to ponder, using the above criteria I could narrow the search down a little and have a slightly more focused list, but there’s probably still a lot more than a 100 people in that database of 6000 that meet all the criteria.
A direct introduction strategy is very powerful but it can only work with a very limited number of people.
So why does it matter?
Well, I do want to help Adam, he’s a good guy and very good at what he does, and as it happens I do have a database of 6000 direct connections, but I simply don’t know how to help him.
And what’s more, because Adam isn’t clear on who his clients are, he can’t craft a clear marketing message himself either and he can’t focus his own messages on the right people.
If Adam isn’t clear, his prospects won’t be either.
Most of us face that dilemma.
For me, it’s clear that small building and trades contractors, builders, electricians, plumbers, painters, carpenters, architects and engineers are absolutely the people I should to be talking to. Those kinds of people are right in my sweet spot. So if you know any of those, I’d love you to make an introduction, and I’ll send them my weekly tips.
But how would you answer the question we asked Adam to ponder?
This is a guest post about micro influence marketing by Philip Piletic, more about Phillip at the end of this article
Why you (and I) may be more influential than the Kardashians
Hiring actors and actresses, singers and dancers, and everyone in-between is nothing new to the world of marketing. Since the advent of modern day marketing, advertisers have long seen the potential in using human billboards as a way to peddle their merchandise. Though times and technology have changed, using influencers as a method for pushing brands has not.
In an article published by Forbes, Tim Ward, a successful entrepreneur, and author, wrote that the influence trend is not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon – we are just getting started, as a matter of fact. So what has changed since the good old days when cigarette brand Kodas began introducing baseball cards of famous players with their pack of smokes.
Generally, consumers are becoming far savvier than they used to be. Most people of adult age (and most likely a few teenagers) are beginning to understand how they are being influenced by ad placements in cinema and other entertainment venues. Similar holds true with Instagram and other social media spaces – people can tell when someone is being paid to promote a product.Thus, they are becoming more skeptical of these ploys to buy into brands. This has given birth to the increased use of micro-influencers.
What is a micro-influencer?
There seems to be a general set of specifications that win someone the title of “micro-influencer.” Turns out that the number of followers an influencer has seriously affected their power of influence over the masses writes Yuyu Chen of DIGIDAY. Those with 1,000 followers or less seem to have the highest rate of likes at eight percent. At the top of the scale, those who boast 1 million to 10 million followers only receive 1.7 percent likes. Nevertheless, that is a huge number: 17,000 people influenced.
The article goes on to explain that when Sarah Ware, co-founder, and CEO of Markerly, joined with Jenner and Kardashian sisters on Instagram in order to market a weight loss tea brand, they were able to win hundreds of conversions. Yet, when she analyzed and compared what Jenner and Kardashian were able to do versus about 40 micro-influencers, the dietary tea brand was able to convert a far larger number.
Note: For those who want to read the negative press the Kardashians and other stars received over this “detox-tea” sponsorship, read this article. It’s kind of funny.
If you read the article in the link you will find that using famous people to “influence” your brand can have dangerous consequences (and this can be true for both sides). Though the Kardashians have a huge social media following, that following doesn’t mean anything. The Kardashians have been known throughout their history to be controversial at the very least. Therefore, using such high-profile and sometimes risque endorsements for a brand could be a bad strategy.
Micro-influencer or celebrity influencer?
Social media ad platform Gnack has strictly defined micro-influencers as those people who have 10,000 followers or less. Anything more than that is pointless. They love to use people whose following is primarily made up of friends and family and a small group of fans. These influencers are usually more down to earth and genuine when they present a product that they endorse.
In an interview with DIGIDAY, Chico Tirado stated, “More than 55 percent of our agency partners have incorporated ‘micro-influencers’ as a part of their [current] strategy,”
“We’ve seen some ‘micro-influencers’ on certain campaigns get up to 25 percent engagement,” Tirado continues.
In March of 2016, following the Google and other search engine models, Instagram has moved to using an algorithm to control content quality. This means what used to work by some influencers won’t work so well now. Social media and search engines make their money from people using their services. These companies know that if their venues become playgrounds for spam and nonsense marketing strategies, they will soon find themselves in hot water. This has made it more important than ever for companies to show integrity when choosing a marketing strategy and who they choose to market them. But I guess that’s the purpose, isn’t it?
So what is the verdict?
The statistics are plain as day: if you want people to respect your brand, it is better, in the long run, to build up a network of micro-influencers that have a following of fewer than 10,000 people. The more grassroots these followers are the better.
Guest article by Philip Piletic: Philip’s primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business and marketing. Freelancer and writer, in love with startups, traveling and helping others get their ideas off the ground. Unwinds with a glass of scotch and some indie rock on vinyl. You can read more of Phllip’s work on his Linkedin profile here: https://au.linkedin.com/in/philippiletic
This is a guest post by Philip Piletic, more about Phillip at the end of this article
Successful promotional campaigns might seem random, but here’s 6 key factors that you should consider
Here’s one: Have pens made up with your company logo and information on them, and hand them out everywhere!
“Wait – what’s creative about that?”
Nothing! But pens are effective largely because they are useful. That is a huge asset to any promotional product. Nearly one hundred percent of Fortune 500 companies and the fastest-growing startups give away promotional pens. So, before we start getting creative, we are reminded that “effective” is the goal.
Creativity is often a dynamic component of a successful promotional product or campaign; it can also make it quirky in a bad way, forced or disjointed and ultimately unsuccessful. Watch some of the lowest-rated commercials for visual proof of this concept. By the way, going for the “so bad it’s great” angle is risky.
Studying these success stories will get your creativity flowing.
Useful & Effective
Logo Cups that Change Colors
Add something cold to these cups, and they change colors. Made in about a dozen warm/cold color combinations, the cups can be printed with the logo, message and information you want to share. These cups work best at outdoor events like festivals, concerts and fairs when there’s enough light to see them change.
Reason it works: It’s a novelty. The recipient will find it interesting and then play “show and tell” with it, “Hey, Jason, look at this…Serena, watch what this cup does.” You’ve produced enthusiasts who will demo the cup, holding up your branding information for others to see. The novelty is key. People don’t go round saying, “Will, see this ordinary pen I just got!” We’ve made the case for pens, but if the item can be exceptional, it will get a wider audience.
Silly Bobblehead Pens
OK, then, here’s an extraordinary pen – the pen with a suction cup cap at one end and a ridiculous bobblehead at the other. Highlighters with the same scheme are produced too. You can take this idea to the next level of fun (and expense) with the bobblehead pen that talks! The one we came across says, “Hey, don’t forget to smile, laugh and have a great day” when its button is pushed.
Reason it works: The items are useful, puts a smile on peoples’ faces and makes them want to show them off, right along with your company information.
Erasers that Save Memories
Erasers get rid of stuff…like Alzheimer’s Disease erases memories. Alzheimer’s New Zealand enjoyed a successful campaign by fitting real erasers around USB drives, and printed, “Alzheimer’s Erases Your Memories. Save Them.” On one side of the eraser. The other side featured the organisation’s logo and contact info.
Reason it works: It’s useful, so will be kept, but it has become a widely used example because there is an immediately grasped connection between the effects of the disease and an eraser.
Bendable Yoga Straws
The Y+ Yoga Center in Shanghai, China had straws printed with a woman in yoga gear positioned right on the straw’s bendable region. You get the picture. Every time the straw bends, the yogoist shows off her flexibility in a new position.
Reason it works: Like the Alzheimer’s campaign, the “get it” factor is immediate. Take time to think about, and brainstorm with your team, commonly used items that could be used to produce an immediate connection with your products or services. Thinking is hard work, but it is free and can yield amazingly creative, fun and successful promotional product and campaign ideas.
Ketchup Splatter Detergent Packs
Vantage Detergent, a brand produced in Brazil, was marketed using small packs of detergent in the color and stylized shape of a ketchup spill. The packs, about 100,000 of them, were divided among restaurants in São Paulo, and were snatched up by customers in three days.
Reason it works: The colorful packets encapsulated a standard marketing strategy – identify a problem, and provide the solution.
Putting it All Together
Let’s compile our list of keywords, principles really, that give tremendous guidance for choosing or designing promotional products and using them successfully as part of your marketing mix:
Connection [between the item and your product or service]
Build as many of these into your marketing efforts, including the use of promotional products, and you will enjoy far more hits than misses. This is especially true when you tailor your product, product design and campaign strategy to your target demographics. Take an hour today by yourself or with your team, and think, think, think your way to creative promotional products and campaigns that will be effective. That’s the first principle and the one that will most affect your bottom line.
Guest article by Philip Piletic: Philip’s primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business and marketing. Freelancer and writer, in love with startups, traveling and helping others get their ideas off the ground. Unwinds with a glass of scotch and some indie rock on vinyl. You can read more of Phllip’s work on his Linkedin profile here: https://au.linkedin.com/in/philippiletic
Education is the first step if you’re competing against the Do-It-Yourselver
In August last year everything suddenly came together for me. In a period of 6 weeks I signed up 7 new clients. I was very excited. Finally, after all the years of pushing and pulling, trying every approach under the sun to market myself to my target clients, it suddenly all fell into place. I even found myself starting to get concerned how I might handle things if the deluge continued.
But I needn’t have worried. Since then it’s gone back to drought. I’ve had virtually no serious inquiries in the 7 months or so since then.
And the thing is, I do do great work (my clients tell me so frequently and I have lots of glowing testimonials here for example) and increasingly, lots of people do know about me. And yet, after 12 years I continue to have these lengthy drought periods.
Honestly, It’s doing my head in every now and then.
I’m reminded, that sometimes, things aren’t quite as simple as those two time honoured rules imply. If you have a blocked toilet, or you want to go to a restaurant, or buy a fridge, a car or a home, those two rules apply without exception. All that the marketing and sales strategies of the plumbing company have to achieve, is that the client is convinced that this plumbing company will fix the blocked toilet quicker, better, cleaner, friendlier or cheaper than any of the other plumbing companies out there.
But there’s a third secret
But things get a little trickier if you are an architect who designs and manages renovations for home owners, or an HR consultant who helps small business owners manage staffing and recruitment, or a PR agent who helps small business owners gain publicity, or an SEO consultant who helps small business get found on Google, or a wedding planner who helps people have a great wedding. If you are a professional like that you have a third thing you must do.
Not only do lots of people have to know about you, you also have to convince your prospects that hiring a professional is much better than, doing it themselves, DIY. Your services cost money over and above the actual thing they want doing. Recruitment services for example can easily cost an additional 10% on top of the wage of the new employee. The PR agent might cost you $3000 per month or more. The architect might charge upwards of $25,000 on top of the build-cost of the project.
Your client is your competitor
You’re not competing with other professionals, rather the first competitor you have to face is the actual client. The client needs to be convinced that they really shouldn’t go DIY. They shouldn’t try and manage their own renovations, run their Facebook advertising campaigns, organise their own wedding, or find and hire a new employee.
I strike a similar issue with some of my potential clients. Most small business owners think they ought to be able to do it themselves. To go looking for help from someone like me, can be a significant investment and can feel like admitting that they’re not upto the job of being a business owner.
Nothing is further from the truth of course, my most successful clients have always been the ones who have no hesitation in asking for help, but it’s often a hurdle I have to overcome with small business owners.
The recent drought has reminded me, that the first marketing step for people like the architect, the PR agent, the wedding planner and myself, is to educate the clients.
The PR agent has to educate his clients that having a PR agent (not necessarily him personally) take charge of gaining publicity for the client is vastly more effective than DIY. The architect has to educate her clients that engaging an architect leads to much better renovations than DIY. The wedding planner has to educate her clients that the wedding is going to be so much more fun when a wedding planner is running the show than DIY. And I have to educate my clients about how a business coach can help transform your business, rather than DIY.
I’ve actually known about this issue for a long time, but forgot over the past few years. It’s time to focus on education again. In the next months I am going to create a bunch of case studies and stories in article and video form to help small business owners understand that engaging someone like me (not me specifically) can transform their business and their lives.
I suggest that you think about the question as well: Who is your greatest competitor? If it’s actually the clients themselves, you should change your marketing strategies to focus on education first… I promise you.
Your business needs a marketing strategy and a marketing plan to implement the strategy. But that’s you might call: “stating the bleedin obvious”, you knew that already but the problem is that you just don’t know where to start.
So let me help you.
First: Let me give you your marketing strategy:
Second: Here’s your marketing plan:
Get them to love you.
Done, there’s your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.
One of my favourite customers, let’s call him Eric has always done exactly that. Ever since I’ve known him and worked with him, he’s asked himself at every turn: “What else would my customers love”. Eric has stores, 8 of them by now, and these days, whenever he opens a new store, the neighbourhood comes and brings him flowers. That’s how happy people are to have one of his stores nearby. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. Two months prior to the opening of his latest new store in a suburb of Sydney, whenever Eric was in the store supervising the fitout, people would wave him over, excitedly asking.
All Eric has to do as far as marketing is concerned is hang a sign on the door announcing the imminent opening and hundreds of people will turn up on the first day.
You may say: My customers are very happy too, but they don’t come busting down my door.
The big disconnect
I read a really interesting statistic the other day:
80% of business owners believe they offer superior customer service, and 8% of customers believe the same thing.
There’s an enormous disconnect between how good we think we are and how good our customers think we are.
Eric, actually offers superior service while his competition merely think they do. Eric’s customers are Raving Fans in the true sense of the word, while most of his competitors merely have satisfied customers. Satisfied customers are simply not the kind of people who do your marketing for you. They’re merely satisfied… until something else, cheaper, more convenient or simply different comes along. Raving Fans on the other hand will go out of their way to do business with you, they look forward to buying from you, they drag their friends and family to your door, defend your honour against the competition and proclaim at dinner parties how wonderful you are.
On a scale from 0 to 10 how likely is it that you’ll refer your friends and family to us?
If your customers answer anything less than 9 on that scale, they’re not Raving Fans and if they answer less than 7, they’re not even satisfied customers. (read more about the Net Promoter System here)
How would most of your customers answers the NPS question? Are your customers merely satisfied, or are they Raving Fans… Are they really?
I suggest you go and find out… it’s the most important marketing work you’ll ever do… I promise you.
On the one hand is attending some kind of dedicated networking event, standing around making small talk with strangers in the vain hope they’ll buy something from you. And on the other hand is networking with strategy and focus. It took me some years to work out the difference, but once I did, networking actually started to work.
The first lesson about networking, I actually learned from an acting and singing teacher, who I took some lessons from in 2005. Marriette Rups-Donnelly owns Powerhouse Presentations and one of the things she taught me is to own the room. Owning the room starts by getting there early. Being one of the first at the event allows you to greet people as they walk in, help them over their nerves and introduce them around to others. It is great strategy for them and it’s great for you as well. Being early means you are less likely to have to rudely cut in to small groups of people talking.
Successful networking starts even earlier though. Before you get to the event, owning the room means preparing your mindset before you even walk in the door. I remember Marriette teaching me to imagine I wore a big cape. She got me to visualise wearing a big swishing suave shiny red cape and to imagine sweeping into a room with it, taking up a lot more space than my physical body.
Imagining myself as a dashing Imperial Russian prince from the 1870s, making an entrance with my cape, was not something that came naturally. But around about the same time I was also studying NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). NLP talks a lot about taking control of your mental state (see Anthony Robbins and other NLP practitioners). With the help of NLP and Marriette I did start to get more comfortable with walking in and owning the room and I am here to tell you those two “tricks” combined, started having an enormous impact on my networking exploits.
Next time you go to a networking event… Get there early, take a deep breath before you walk into the room and imagine yourself a latter day Count Vronsky with a big cape sweeping behind you before you walk in, it’s actually a lot of fun, trust me.
2) A coffee is better than 20 cards
Have you ever been accosted at a networking event by someone who just hands you his card and says: “If you ever need a web developer, call me” and walks off to spray his cards over everyone else at the meeting. It’s annoying right? How much business do you think that leads to for the webdeveloper?
David Jones from David Jones Electricians in Sydney has always understood the wisdom of the old saying: “People do business with people they know like and trust”. In other words, business comes about as a consequence of genuine personal connections. David attends networking and other events and he looks for people he can make a genuine connection with. He’d rather spend the whole evening talking with one person he connects with than hand out 20 cards to anyone. Afterwards, he always invites people he meets like that to something else, another event, a coffee or something he thinks this person might be interested in, not necessarily business related. And David has built one of the biggest and most engaged networks I know.
Giving someone a business card is worse than useless if you annoy them in the process and they throw your card in the bin on the way out.
Next time, when attending an event, set yourself an intention to meet just one person you’d enjoy having a coffee or going for a walk on the beach with, and invite them to do just that.
3) Action speaks louder than words
Wendy Lloyd Curley is a networking genius. Wendy owns “Wendy the Candle Lady” an incredibly successful business in an MLM system (Multi Level Marketing, also known as Network Marketing) selling candles, fragrances and home decorations. Wendy’s business is all about building relationships, networks and meeting new people. The thing I learnt from Wendy is her statement: If you leave a one-on-one coffee/ networking meeting without at least one committed action, the meeting has been a waste of everyone’s time. Wendy has lots and lots of coffee meetings with people and she always walks away committed to go and actually do one thing for the other person. She also encourages this person to commit to at least one single action on Wendy’s behalf. Actions like: “I am going to write one email tomorrow to this accountant I know and introduce you to him”. Single committed actions such as those are much more likely to have an impact than a generic: “Ok, Great I’ll certainly keep that in mind and be on the lookout for you”.
In your next coffee meeting with someone you meet at a networking event, make sure you find one small simple action that might be useful to the other person and go and do it.
4) The hostess gets the mostess
Martin Paul owns More Strategic. More Strategic is a management consultancy that focuses on supporting Not for Profits and Charities to improve their fundraising.
Not long ago Martin spoke at a fundraising conference and at the end of his talk he invited all attendants to drinks and nibbles in a private room at the venue that evening to talk in greater depth about the implications of his talk. Some 25 executives from some of the major charities showed up. In the following year, several new contracts flowed from this initiative.
Being the host of an event bestows enormous benefits on you.
What event can you host?
5) Focus beats Spray and Pray
Geoff Anderson from Sonic Sight produces videos for organisations in Sydney. Some time ago Geoff decided that a great target market for his video production work is the private school system in the big cities of Australia. Investigating marketing options to this market, he found an annual conference in Australia that was well attended by many of the marketing directors in the private school system. Geoff decided to sponsor the conference and offer the conference organiser assistance in video production on the day. Geoff was the only video producer at the conference and connected meaningfully with some 50 of his prime clients. The project cost him some money and time, but it would have taken him years of attending random networking events, fruitlessly knocking on doors and being turned away by gatekeepers to achieve the same result.
The name of the game is focus.
How can you get to talk to a bunch of your clients all in the same room?
There are other tips I can give you to make networking more effective, such as:
Always follow up.
Dress appropriately and a little different than everyone else.
Experiment with different opening lines, and practice them.
But if you take the big 5 above to heart and practice them, networking will start to work for your business… I promise you.
It’s a private group of small business owners that tackles challenges and problems together. Members lean on each other, give advice, network, share connections and do business with each other when appropriate. It’s very much peer-to-peer mentoring and if your request to join is lucky enough to get approved, you will most likely see a marked change in yourself and your business!
What I wrote then is just as true today, but more so… Much more so.
Because no longer is it just about your website and how good it looks, it’s all about online engagement and integration with the social media outlets. The old saying holds just as true today as it did 50 years ago: “People do business with people they Know, Like and Trust”. If there is no Trust, there will be no business. The quickest way we build trust is through word-of-mouth (that’s when someone I trust, a friend or family member, assures me that I can trust you). And these days, social media is where word-of-mouth happens. Social media is where people get to Know, Like and Trust you.
Sure Google searches to your website are still important. You do have to be able to be found on Google and you’ve got to have an active and well laid out website, but your clients are going to be looking for you on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn and Tripadvisor and Yelp and any number of other social channels. They want to see that your star rating is way up there, they want to see that others have done business with you, they want to see that you are solid, credible and experienced.
My clients know what I had for dinner
For years I was a member of a business networking and referral group. We got together for the purpose of referring business to each other every week. Most of my new clients came to me through this group for 7 or 8 years. But in the last couple of years, that started changing. 3 years ago, more than half of new business came to me via my business referral group and the rest came to me via Google searches for the keyword: “Business Coach”. But now, nearly all my enquiries come to me online and I’ve noticed that even if people find me on Google rather than social media, they read my reviews and my Facebook and Linkedin interactions and check out my testimonials before they even contact me. By the time they actually send me an email or pick up the phone, they know what I had for dinner last night, and by then, they’re ready to buy.
In the old days (the dim distant past before 2014) it sometimes took several years between meeting people for the first time, getting to “Know, Like and Trust” and being engaged. Now, my last 6 new clients all signed up within six weeks from our first contact.
Bricks and mortar is so last year
I got serious about the internet as a marketing channel around the end of the nineties. (We were still mostly using dial up modems). In those days, people were happy to find your details online, but you had to have a bricks and mortar presence to be taken seriously. Unless your business had walls, a roof and a door, you were not to be trusted. In 2017 it’s the other way round. People want to know that you’re all over the digital world. If you don’t have lots of reviews and star ratings and videos, eBooks, white-papers, blog posts and every other damn thing, you’re obviously flaky.
At the same time, the social media companies are looking for opportunities to generate more money. Increasingly organisations like Facebook are making it difficult for your business to be found unless you pay them. So far I’ve managed to avoid paying Facebook, Linkedin, Google and Twitter, but I know it won’t last. I predict I’ll start having to pay for the privilege of being found this year or certainly next. The thought annoys me intensely, and I’ll resist it as long as I can, but Mark Zuckerberg is going to end up with some of my hard-earned dollars in his pocket, as sure as night follows day.
Don’t get left behind in 2017
So I think 2017 is the year we, the small business owners of the world, must come to terms with online marketing, properly. Soon you’ll simply be left behind unless you start to take online marketing for your business seriously. And I think you should consider engaging an online marketing assistant. It’s starting to become too complicated to do it all yourself and it’s arguably not your best use of time anyway.
The hard part of online marketing for business, is working out how best to engage with your audience, so that they get to “Know, Like and Trust” you as quickly as possible. How do you start the conversations? What can you offer your audience that is useful for them and that engages them?
I’ve experimented with every kind of content you can imagine (Have a look at my website and you’ll see what I mean) and I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
One-Minute Business Tips
One experiment that looks to be working well, is a weekly email I send out called the “One-Minute-Business-Tips”. (You can sign up to receive my weekly tips yourself on my website here). They’re super short emails that take no more than a minute to read with a tip for a small simple action that will make a difference to your business, if you go and carry it out. The whole of each weekly tip can be read and acted upon there and then. Clicking through to a website or a blog is not required.
It’s too early to know if it’s going to work for me over time, but for now I am getting feedback that tells me the tips are hitting the right note.
Another online marketing experiment
As of the beginning of 2017 I have also started another experiment. I’ve created a group in Facebook called Small Business Masterminds (Come and join us here). The idea is to encourage discussions and questions and build a supportive community of small business owners in Australia especially. The theory being that by being in the middle of this community, being the hub of the community as it were, I demonstrate my bona fides and credibility, increase my visibility and ultimately gain some of the people in the community as new clients. Again, it’s an experiment and far too early to tell if or how it’s going to work.
The reason I am telling you about these two recent experiments of mine, is not to impress you with my brilliance, but rather to illustrate that online marketing for business is all about experimenting, and change. What worked last year may not work so well anymore this year, and what works for one business won’t necessarily work for another. But these are the facts:
Your clients are time poor and overwhelmed with information every day.
Your clients are online and on various social media outlets, every day if not all day.
Your clients want to get to Know, Like and Trust you and your business before they’ll spend any money with you.
They want to do so online.
In 2017 and beyond, your most important marketing job is to make that last one as easy as possible for them… I Promise you.
We’re a private group of small business owners that tackles challenges and problems together. We lean on each other, give advice, share connections and do business with each other when appropriate. It’s very much peer-to-peer mentoring and if your request to join is lucky enough to get approved, you will most likely see a marked change in yourself and your business!
But there is an old saying in the advertising industry that is still just as true now as when it when coined in the sixties by a famous CEO, that half of all money spent on advertising is wasted, if only we knew which half.
The big temptation that gets us as small business owners to spend more money on advertising than we should from time to time, is how easy it seems. It’s the easiest, least time consuming and quickest way to get more customers. It’s the reason the Yellow Pages phone books became so big and profitable all round the world. If you wanted more business there was a simple equation for the Yellow Pages: spend more money on bigger ads and the phone will ring more often… a direct correlation. Advertising sales people all over the world are trained to say: “Look, Mr business owner, you only have to make 2 extra sales this month, and the ad pays for itself, so what do you think?”
Good looking sales people
A perfect example of the temptation comes from a client of mine, John, who owns a gym. John was recently convinced to purchase a 3 month contract to have a couple of good looking young people hand out flyers about his gym with a special promotion offer on a couple of busy street corners. The sales person convinced John to invest the money because he only needed to get 10 people per month to take up the special offer in the flyer to pay for the promotion contract. The deal looked too good to be true.
3 months later we looked at the numbers when assessing whether or not to continue the promotion. It turned out that John’s Gym had indeed had some 60 people come in and take up the offer from the flyers, twice as many as the minimum needed to break even. However, nearly 50 of those people had cancelled their contract at the end of the special promotion period.
Luckily I’d insisted that John implement a system to be able to track the promotion and it became an easy decision for John, not to proceed with the contract.
The Golden Rule of marketing
The whole experience perfectly demonstrates two things you need to consider when deciding on any form of paid marketing, be that advertisement or some other kind of promotion.
Firstly there is a Golden Rule to consider:
If you can’t measure your return of investment, there is none.
Secondly is that when spending money on getting more prospects for your business, you better make damn sure you are going to convert a healthy percentage of those prospects to customers. There was nothing wrong with the offer that John made in the promotion, but there were all kinds of things wrong in his “onboarding” and “induction” processes in the gym. People came to the end of their promotion period and generally didn’t feel inclined to continue onto his full membership program.
I’ve seen this issue come back time and again. Business owners get convinced to spend thousands of dollars per month on Pay Per Click advertising in Facebook or Google for example. Lots and lots of visitors come to their websites as a result, but when they get there, they get lost, because there is no solid marketing conversion process in place on the site.
I’ve never sold anything at any business networking event
So let’s go out and do some more right now, ok?
Doing the business card shuffle
I have been going to business networking meetings at Chambers of Commerce and gallery openings and industry specific events and conferences and seminars and dinner parties and everything in between for the past 11 years. I network with anyone from start ups and solo entrepreneurs, to owners of SME’s and everyone in between, some of my activities are really social networking, and I often refer to myself as a business networking trollop. As they say: “I’ll turn up at the opening of an envelope”. I can’t get enough of it, it seems, yet I don’t think I have ever sold anything at any event I have ever attended.
For the past 8.5 years I’ve been a member of a business networking group. You might have heard about it, it’s called BNI, which stands for Business Network International (There are many BNI groups around the world have a look at www.bni.com )
When you are a member of a BNI group, you take networking to another level altogether, and we meet every week for breakfast at 6.30 am, week in week out, about 48 weeks of the year.
Why ever would I do such a thing?
Strange behaviour if I’ve never actually sold anything at a networking event, right? Maybe I and my weekly breakfast partners are we masochists? I suppose some of us might be, I wouldn’t like to speculate… But I’m certainly not. I get up week after week, rain hail or shine for one reason only, and that’s because it’s worth it.
I get up every week because it is the most effective form of local small business marketing i know. I meet with my fellow members for the purpose of referring qualified business opportunities to each other, real honest to goodness paying clients. I and most of the members of my BNI group, rely for a significant percentage of our new business on the group. About 50% in my case. That’s worth getting out of bed for, don’t you think? Now I can hear you thinking: “Oh spare me, I’ve been to so many networking events and nothing ever comes of it. There is nothing more boring I can think of doing … watching paint dry is more fun… no one’s ever bought anything from me, networking, chamber of commerce gatherings, you name it, they’re all an enormous waste of time.”
Fair enough, I hear you, they usually are… That’s to say, if you go to a networking event with the aim of selling stuff, they will just about always be a complete waste of your time.
I heard someone give an address to a networking event some time ago and he said: “Hands up everyone who’s here to sell something?” and most people raised their hand. Then he asked: “Hands up everyone who is here to buy something?” This time no one raised their hand, demonstrating once and for all that going networking to sell stuff is a waste of time.
So why does my business group work for me and for most of the members of the group? The difference is a mindset. In BNI and in some other business networking organisations we support each other by focusing on one thing only, and that is: Word of mouth referrals.
What that means is this: We don’t set out to sell stuff to each other, because we know that mostly the others in the room don’t necessarily want to buy stuff. Instead we ask our fellow members to introduce us to their friends and clients and their network.
Here’s how that works: the other day I had a conversation with one of my fellow members who is an event manager. I don’t run events, none of my friends are about to get married and none of my clients are planning a conference, so on the face of it there was little I could do to assist her. But we spent some time getting clear about her perfect clients and then she and I went digging around in my existing networks. We found 4 people in Linkedin, as it happens, who met her criteria and I sent all 4 of them an email mentioning that I have a good friend who is an event strategist and would it be ok for me to introduce the two of them to each other. Within half an hour I had a reply from one of those contacts saying: Yes please we are just about to start looking for someone and it would be great to talk to your friend because we’ve had some terrible experiences with event managers in the past.
Just last week my friend signed a contract with this company for a small user conference to be held in a few months.
Sabre Tooth Tigers
Great outcome all round, it made me feel great to have made the introduction and I’m sure that my friend will do a great job for this client because she always does.
And that is the point of this whole article. The best, easiest, cheapest, most profitable new business you can get for your business comes from word of mouth referrals.
If I need a plumber, I am 10 times more likely to ring a friend and ask him for the name of his favorite plumber than to go to the local paper or search on Google for a plumber.
We are wired that way as human beings. It’s actually a leftover from prehistory, the days of the Sabre Tooth Tiger (I wrote about the principle in an article some years ago here) Of course there is a place for all kinds of marketing (and even advertising), but if you can get a referral from someone who trusts you, you are so much more likely to get the business and it costs you nothing.
As so often, Seth Godin said it best: “If you want to be successful in business you only have to do two things:
Do great work
Make sure lots of people know about it”
And that is how simple it is. Make sure you deliver a great product or service and then make sure that people know that they can trust you to do great work.
The quickest way for people to trust you is by having someone they trust tell them they can trust you. Focus on having others spread the word for you and you will indeed build a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come… I promise you.