The Skinny on Online Marketing in 2017

online marketing for business

Old fashioned marketing principles in the digital world

online marketing for business

How to build your business with social media

I wrote an article titled “Talking to your neighbours in the days of Facebook” a year and a half ago about how to engage with your target market and why static websites don’t cut it anymore.

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

online marketing for business 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

online marketing for business

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

online marketing for business 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.

For more resources, and reading on strategies for growing your business follow this link to the first of The 7 Big Questions that all small business owners want answered

#OnlineMarketing, #SocialMediaMarketing, #SmallBusinessMarketing, #FacebookMarketing, #DigitalMarketing, #FunInBusiness


Join the Small Business Masterminds Facebook group!

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!

Small Business Masterminds Group

The Market: Finding Your Niche

we love customers

What, who and where is my market?

register for webinar

What does it take to make a success of your small business… how can you avoid adding to those frightening statistics about failure rates of small business. 

In this series of articles and associated webinars and workshops, by Roland Hanekroot you will learn the basic concepts and get the knowledge you need to become a successful ‘Business-Owner’, as opposed to a struggling ‘Business-Doer’.

Format

The format of each episode in the “First Steps” series is to explain the basics of the topic and then in line with the principles of New Perspectives business development programs, to suggest some small simple “First Steps” you can take straight away to put the knowledge into action.

 3 Questions

marketIn the second of these articles we’ll look at Your Market and ask:

What, who and where is my market?

Most of us business owners find ourselves in a market by accident. Not many of us start from scratch in a new market. We’ve either taken an existing business over from a previous owner or we’ve started our business doing something that we happen to be particularly good at and hence we’ve already had a couple of clients and a market from day 1.

Consequently we roll along doing more of what we’ve always done. Our recipe for success is our belief in ourselves and a vague notion that we’ll be able to do it better than the other guys, somehow.

The things that don’t set us apart

we love customersThis situation is equally applicable to someone with a carpentry business, as it is for a mortgage broker, a café or a fashion store. When asked what sets them apart, most business owners will say 3 things:

1)   We give great customer service

2)   For a great product

3)   At a great price.

And I have no doubt that they do, believe that they do, or at least strive to.

There are two problems with these statements though:

1)   The three statements are not special enough, they don’t offer enough value (Customers expect good service, good quality and good price from everyone… as a minimum)

2)   And most importantly, all your competitors say exactly the same thing.

Who is the cheapest?

If you and your competitors make the same promise, the customer will make a decision on price because it is the easy factor to compare on.

In small business, there is nothing worse than being forced to compete on price, because there is always someone who is prepared to do it cheaper. You cannot build a long-term sustainable small business based around being the cheapest.

Find a tight niche

One of the most effective solutions to this problem is to find a tightly defined niche market that is either not serviced at all or is underserviced.

If you can find a niche market for your product or service that has few or no other business operating in, you can set out to own that niche and dominate it. Dominating a niche is a recipe for building a long-term sustainable business, like no other.

3 Niche questions

There are 3 questions you can ask to help you find such a niche:

1)   Who does not currently use my product or service but might?

2)   What are all the factors that we and all our competitors already compete on with each other?

3)   On which factors are none of us competing?

I am going to work through a couple of examples to demonstrate how to go about finding a niche and stepping into it.

The carpet cleaners

Re question 1: ‘Who does not currently use my product or service, but might?

carpet cleaner Assume you own a carpet cleaning business and your town has heaps of carpet cleaners and they all offer more or less the same thing so that 75% of the inquiries you get from prospective new clients revolves around the question: How much do you charge per room? The question drives you mad, because you are only just making ends meet as it is and having to be the cheapest all the time just isn’t viable.

One day you decide something has to change and together with your wife you start to have a look through your database of clients and jobs from the last 3 years. You are not sure exactly what you are looking for yet, but you hope to find a specific category of client or job that is either more profitable than the rest, or more fun to do, or is easier, or all of the above.

After an exhaustive search over many evenings, your wife mentions that she’s come across a few big 21st birthday party cleanups and an idea starts to form.

21st birthday parties

You decide to create a special offering and expertise in preparation and cleanup before and after big parties. Especially 18ths and 21sts can be massive messy affairs and a lot of anxiety goes along with them. How about offering a package that includes preparing the carpets for a big party with a protective spray application and then coming back the day after the party to do a thorough clean to make the house smell like new again?

A special package like this is actually not offered by anyone in your city and addresses a great need.

John and Mary’s Party Cleaning is born… a unique product and offering at a price level that you can make good profits on and best of all, prospective customers cannot compare on price.

Your business and your life will never be the same again… I guarantee it.

Kelvin’s bike shop

bike shop Now lets have a look at the other “niche questions”. This is a story about a different set of circumstances as experienced by Kelvin who owns a bike shop.

This story relates to questions 2 and 3: What factors are you and your competitors already competing on and what factors are you not competing on:

Selling bicycles is not easy because there is a lot of competition from many different sources. There are other bike shops all around the city; there is the ever increasing number of ‘Big Box retailers’ such as Big W and Kmart and the internet is increasingly impacting traditional retail models as well.

Kelvins shop was still doing just ok but the trends were not looking good at all, and pressure on his margins was constant.

Just at this time Kelvin came across a quote from a bikeshop owner in America, Chris Zane: “The only difference between our competitors and ourselves is the service we provide”

The fish pond

fishpondKelvin realised the obvious truth of this statement. There is effectively no difference between the bikes sold by Kelvin or any of his competitors or the pumps or the bike-shoes. Kelvin and his competitors were all fishing in the same pool trying catch exactly the same fish and the number of fish in that pond was diminishing. The only way forward was to create a new pond and attract enough of the fish away from the old pond to be able to enjoy the fishing again.

So Kelvin set about changing his approach to business completely. First Kelvin looked at all the factors he and his competitors fought over (price, range, convenience, friendly service, speed of delivery, connection with major sporting heroes etc)

Then Kelvin looked at what other factors there were that nobody competed on yet.

The insight that Kelvin had was that the greatest opportunity for his business, lay in creating long term customer loyalty through delivering truly extraordinary service, and absolute peace of mind.

Lifetime free stuff

For example, Kelvin implemented a life time free flat tire repair; Kelvin offered ‘no questions asked’ replacement guarantees for any bikes and products sold if you were dissatisfied with the product for whatever reason. Kelvin taught his staff that from now on the word NO was out of bounds and no request was to be rejected.

A couple of years later, Kelvin moved his store to a new location with three times as much space.

Kelvin created his own fishing pond and he was able to dominate it, year after year.

This is the topic we will be talking about at the March Small Business Masterminds ‘live’ workshop as well as the Masterminds online webinar, both on 10 April. If you would like to attend either the webinar or the workshop, go to http://smallbusinessmasterminds.com.au 

Take the first steps:

As mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this article, I will suggest some “First Steps” actions you can take right away, that will get you started on implementing the topics and principles we discuss: The resources page is here: http://tiny.cc/marketlpage

Download the article from the resources page: Blue Oceans and Empty Swimming Pools”, by Roland Hanekroot.

In a notebook ask yourself the first of the 3 niche questions above.

In your notebook ask yourself the remaining 2 niche questions above.

Download and print the “find your niche” worksheet here, and complete the worksheet.

Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne is the Bible on this topic of finding a niche. It is a great read, link on the resources page http://tiny.cc/marketlpage

About the author and the Mastermind sessions

Roland Hanekroot Roland Hanekroot is a business coach who works with Small business owners to help them have more Fun in their businesses and build businesses that sustain them for years to come. Roland is also the author of “The Ten Truths books for Business owners” (more about the books here: http://thetentruths.com.au)

Every month Roland Hanekroot runs a business development workshop as well as a webinar called “The Small Business Masterminds” more information here and to register for the next webinar or workshop, follow this link: http://smallbusinessmasterminds.com.au/ The first time is free.

 

SBMM market

How to find your perfect Niche

Small Business Masterminds webinar on Your Market

Marketing: How to find your “True Love(s)” and make Sweet Music with them (on your own)

Make your marketing Niche an “Inch Wide and a Mile Deep”

Do you know how to differentiate yourself from everyone else out there? Do you know what it means to establish a really tight niche and make it your own? Would you like to have your customers all to yourself, and Make Sweet Music with them without any of the other buggers getting in your way?

We’re going to answer those questions at the next Masterminds Webinar

Webinar recording below

Special Offer… Clarity, Direction and Next Steps… Scroll down

Resources from the Masterminds about your market niche

The last recording of this webinar (special offer below):

The recording in podcast (also on Itunes, click here):

Clarity, Direction and Next Steps special offer: 

wayside

  1. Make a Donation to the Wayside Chapel of $100 or more click here the ten truths
  2. Let me know you’ve done it and I will send you a link to carry out my online Business Health Check survey, for FREE
  3. Once you’ve completed the business health check I will prepare a report from the results, for FREE.
  4. You will get a copy of one of my “The Ten Truths books for business owners” in hardcopy, for FREE
  5. We will have a 1 hr Clarity and next steps” coaching session via video-link or face-to-face in my office in Elizabeth Bay, for FREE

Here’s why you’d want to take up this offer now:

At the end of this session you will have gained great clarity and insight into:

  • Where your business is right now
  • Where you want your business to be in 3-5 years
  • What your greatest challenges are to getting there
  • The simple steps you can take in the weeks after the session to start to take your business to the next level
  • How working with me will help you take those steps and build a Fun business that sustains you for years to come…

And … as if that weren’t enough… you will also have supported a really fantastic charity.

The value of this offer is $625 inc GST (excluding the donation).

To take up the offer, simply make the donation now click here and email me at Roland@newperspectives.com.au when you’ve done so. Obviously feel free to email me with any questions as well.

Speak soon,

Roland Hanekroot

First Steps to Establishing Your Market


the simple steps cogs First Steps to establishing a market for your business

©by Roland Hanekroot, New Perspectives Coaching 2013

What does it take to make a success of your small business… how can you avoid adding to those frightening statistics about failure rates of small business.

In this series of articles and associated webinars by the authors of “The Simple Steps for Business Program” you will be introduced to the basic concepts and knowledge that will set you up to become a successful ‘Business-Owner’, as opposed to a struggling ‘Business-Doer’.

Format

The format of each episode in the “First Steps” series is to explain the basics of the topic and then in line with the principles of “The Simple Steps for Business” program, to suggest some “First Steps” you can take straight away to put the knowledge into action.

market3 Questions

In the second of these articles we’ll look at Your Market and ask:

What, who and where is my market?

Most of us business owners find ourselves in a market by accident. Not many of us start from scratch in a new market. We’ve either taken an existing business over from a previous owner or we’ve started our business doing something that we happen to be particularly good at and hence we’ve already had a couple of clients and a market from day 1.

Consequently we roll along doing more of what we’ve always done. Our recipe for success is our belief in ourselves and a vague notion that we’ll be able to do it better than the other guys, somehow.

The things that don’t set us apart

This situation is equally applicable to someone with a carpentry business, as it is for a mortgage broker, a café or a fashion store. When asked what sets them apart, most business owners will say 3 things:

we love customers 1)   We give great customer service

2)   For a great product

3)   At a great price.

And I have no doubt that they do, believe that they do, or at least strive to.

There are two problems with these statements though:

1)   The three statements are not special enough, they don’t offer enough value (Customers expect good service, good quality and good price from everyone… as a minimum)

2)   And most importantly, all your competitors say exactly the same thing.

Who is the cheapest?

If you and your competitors make the same promise, the customer will make a decision on price because it is the easy factor to compare on.

In small business, there is nothing worse than being forced to compete on price, because there is always someone who is prepared to do it cheaper. You cannot build a long-term sustainable small business based around being the cheapest.

Find a tight niche

One of the most effective solutions to this problem is to find a tightly defined niche market that is either not serviced at all or is underserviced.

If you can find a niche market for your product or service that has few or no other business operating in, you can set out to own that niche and dominate it. Dominating a niche is a recipe for building a long-term sustainable business, like no other.

3 Niche questions

There are 3 questions you can ask to help you find such a niche:

1)   Who does not currently use my product or service but might?

2)   What are all the factors that we and all our competitors already compete on with each other?

3)   On which factors are none of us competing?

I am going to work through a couple of examples to demonstrate how to go about finding a niche and stepping into it.

The carpet cleaners

Re question 1: ‘Who does not currently use my product or service, but might?

carpet cleaner Assume you own a carpet cleaning business and your town has heaps of carpet cleaners and they all offer more or less the same thing so that 75% of the inquiries you get from prospective new clients revolves around the question: How much do you charge per room? The question drives you mad, because you are only just making ends meet as it is and having to be the cheapest all the time just isn’t viable.

One day you decide something has to change and together with your wife you start to have a look through your database of clients and jobs from the last 3 years. You are not sure exactly what you are looking for yet, but you hope to find a specific category of client or job that is either more profitable than the rest, or more fun to do, or is easier, or all of the above.

After an exhaustive search over many evenings, your wife mentions that she’s come across a few big 21st birthday party cleanups and an idea starts to form.

cleaning the mess 21st birthday parties

You decide to create a special offering and expertise in preparation and cleanup before and after big parties. Especially 18ths and 21sts can be massive messy affairs and a lot of anxiety goes along with them. How about offering a package that includes preparing the carpets for a big party with a protective spray application and then coming back the day after the party to do a thorough clean to make the house smell like new again?

A special package like this is actually not offered by anyone in your city and addresses a great need.

John and Mary’s Party Cleaning is born… a unique product and offering at a price level that you can make good profits on and best of all, prospective customers cannot compare on price.

Your business and your life will never be the same again… I guarantee it.

The Simple Steps for Business … First steps:

As mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this article, here are some “First Steps” actions you can take right away, that will get you started on implementing the topics and principles we discuss:

1)   Read the article Blue Oceans and Empty Swimming Pools”, by Roland Hanekroot. Follow the link to the resources page

2)   In a notebook ask yourself the first of the 3 niche questions above.

Kelvin’s bike shop

bike shop Now lets have a look at the other “niche questions”. This is a story about a different set of circumstances as experienced by Kelvin who owns a bike shop.

This story relates to questions 2 and 3: What factors are you and your competitors already competing on and what factors are you not competing on:

Selling bicycles is not easy because there is a lot of competition from many different sources. There are other bike shops all around the city; there are the ever increasing number of ‘Big Box retailers’ such as Big W and Kmart and then internet is increasingly impacting traditional retail models as well.

Kelvins shop was still doing just ok but the trends were not looking good at all, and pressure on his margins was constant.

Just at this time Kelvin came across a quote from a bikeshop owner in America, Chris Zane: “The only difference between our competitors and ourselves is the service we provide”

The fish pond

fishpond Kelvin realised the obvious truth of this statement. There is effectively no difference between the bikes sold by Kelvin or any of his competitors or the pumps or the bike-shoes. Kelvin and his competitors were all fishing in the same pool trying catch exactly the same fish and the number of fish in that pond was diminishing. The only way forward was to create a new pond and attract enough of the fish away from the old pond to be able to enjoy the fishing again.

So Kelvin set about changing his approach to business completely. First Kelvin looked at all the factors he and his competitors fought over (price, range, convenience, friendly service, speed of delivery, connection with major sporting heroes etc)

Then Kelvin looked at what other factors there were that nobody competed on yet.

The insight that Kelvin had was that the greatest opportunity for his business, lay in creating long term customer loyalty through delivering truly extraordinary service, and absolute peace of mind.

Lifetime free stuff

For example, Kelvin implemented a life time free flat tire repair; Kelvin offered no questions asked replacement guarantees for any bikes and products sold if you were dissatisfied with the product for whatever reason. Kelvin taught his staff that from now on the word NO was out of bounds and no request was to be rejected.

A couple of years later, Kelvin moved his store to a new location with three times as much space.

Kelvin created his own fishing pond and he was able to dominate it, year after year.

The Simple Steps for Business … First steps:

As mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this article, here are some “First Steps” actions you can take right away, that will get you started on implementing the topics and principles we discuss:

1)   In your notebook ask yourself the remaining 2 niche questions above.

2)   Printout the “find your niche” worksheet here, and complete the worksheet. Follow the link to the resources page

3)   Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne is the Bible on this topic of finding a niche. It is a great read. Follow the link to the resources page

 

Your customers and Sabre-tooth tigers.

Your customers and Sabre-tooth tigers.

There is a small almond shaped region in our brains, called the “Amygdala”. It is one of the most primitive regions deep in the base of our brains. As business owners we need to get intimately acquainted with this lump of cells in your clients’ brains, and how it affects their decision making processes. It is your clients’ Amygdala, more than anything else that decides if they are going to become your customer.

One of the functions of the Amygdala is to scan everyone and everything it comes into contact with for threats and danger; it is constantly on the lookout for who can be trusted and who can’t. It is often referred to as part of our reptile brain and dates back to the times when survival depended on being able to assess in an instant if the figure coming towards you was about to kill you, take your food or your family.

And ever since the days of the dinosaurs, and sabre tooth tigers, when men were apes, (and just as dense as they still are), rocks were used as tools and women were dragged around by their hair, it has been performing this function for us.

The Amygdala knows that threats are constant and all around us, and so it makes instant gut level decisions, and then goes on to scan for the next threat.

How does the Amygdala connect to your business?

The Amygdala is very powerful; it has the power to override pretty much all other functions of the brain, instantaneously.

So when a potential customer has an interaction with you, his or her Amygdala does its thing, and comes back with a very quick decision: friend or foe. Once it has made this decision it sends signals out to the rest of the brain to become more or less guarded.

If the signal is positive, other parts of the brain, slightly higher up are activated to start looking for more positives. And here is the thing: this whole process takes place entirely at an unconscious level. The client has no idea that all of this turmoil is taking place deep inside his/her brain. He/She won’t even start to become conscious in some way of this process for somewhere between 15 to 30 seconds. But one thing is clear: The essential decision to buy from you or not is made in that timeframe (except that client doesn’t know it yet).

Pain and pleasure

When I say that the client has made the unconscious decision to become your customer, I am not talking about a decision in the way that we normally think of a decision. The word “decision” implies a conscious process. What it really means is that the client in his/her whole being has decided that you are safe, and a friend, and that either a pleasure will be gained from being with you or a pain will be relieved.

This is a very good feeling for the client. When he/she gets this feeling he/she starts looking for ways and reasons (or excuses) to prolong it. And the most obvious way to prolong this feeling is to do business with you. (Remember, we are still very much at the mercy of our primitive emotions, it is a scary world outside the cave, we crave this feeling of safety constantly and we are social beings, safety in numbers)

Confusion

But keep in mind that the client doesn’t actually know that this is what he/she is doing and what his/her primitive brain is leading him to, and hence it is very easy to confuse the client at this stage. As soon as he/she receives a message that doesn’t fit with his/her first primitive assessment of you, his/her brain will start to go around in circles, a bit like a computer that responds to some input with an error message “Does not compute”.

We don’t have to be neuroscientists to understand that a client in this confused state is not going to buy anything. A confused client will focus on getting “un-confused” instead. Being confused puts the Amygdala back in a heightened state of arousal, and while that goes on, buying decisions simply won’t be made.

That is the story of:
The customer,
The Amygdala and
The Sabre-tooth tiger

Awareness of this principle has many consequences for how we as business owners should approach our marketing. I believe the following 5 steps are the first ones to focus on:

Be absolutely clear in your own mind what pain it is that you relieve or what pleasure you give your customers.

Be clear in your own mind what the promise is that you make to your customers

Decide what basic emotions you want to evoke in the depths of your clients brain (safety, confidence, relief etc.)

Live and breathe the qualities that are most likely to evoke those emotions – the first 30 seconds – (what you say, what you ask, how you look, your handshake, your confidence, your passion and clarity has to shine through)

Explain your promise to the client and confirm the emotions you evoked in the first 30 seconds (this is about all the subsequent messages you send, your email, your website, your documents, the graphics, your logo, your voicemail message, every bit of information you give to the client will all be evaluated against his/her need to confirm her initial emotional assessment of you)

These steps will lead to clients becoming customers over and over.

Customers become advocates

From here of course the real work of your business starts. Now it is all about delivering on the promise you made to the client in the first place. If your business delivers on the promises you make, time after time, without fail, new customers will continue to do business with you for a very long time. Better yet, by delivering on your promise without fail, customers will become your advocates to everyone they know and meet. And when that happens, those first 30 seconds are largely taken care of before you even come in contact with clients. Your customer/advocate will already have put the clients’ Amygdalas at ease and they will be looking to confirm their decision right from the first moment they shake your hand.

Further reading:

Blue Oceans and clear pools

Blue Oceans and

Clear Swimming Pools

Or the business lessons I learnt in an Italian “Piscina”

By Roland Hanekroot, New Perspectives Business Coaching

A few years ago I spent 4 months in Italy looking for the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Sitting on piazza’s, sipping espresso, licking gelato and letting the Universe speak to me without distraction felt like a good idea. (By the way, it was a good idea and She did speak to me, but that is another story!)

One of the many exciting experiences I had while in Italy was going for a swim in a local swimming pool.  I had taken up swimming as a serious strategy on the way to everlasting life a few years previous and was keen to continue the regime while waiting for the universe to send Her messages.

Most of us have some knowledge of Italian traffic; we take great delight to relate crazy traffic stories on our return from Rome or Naples. Italian traffic does indeed seem to operate along different rules than traffic in Australia, but the truly crazy traffic of Italy is to be found elsewhere, namely in the local swimming pools on any afternoon of the week. My first introduction to the council swimming pool in Florence was a heart stopping experience.

Bloodbath

There must have been 500 people in the pool, swimming in 500 different directions and all trying to find clear water. My pursuit of life everlasting took a backseat to my pursuit of life right then. I crawled out of the pool 10 minutes later with a bleeding nose, bruises and scratches all over my body, as if I had been in a pub fight.

I realised that I needed to change my approach to keeping my hard-won level of fitness during this summer of Chianti and Pizza. The competition was simply too fierce, there was only so much water to be found and everyone had to battle it out in the bloodbath that is the Florence Piscina

“How to make the Competition irrelevant”

I was reminded of this experience recently when reading a great book called “Blue Ocean Strategy; How to make the competition irrelevant”. In order to continue my swimming and fitness regime I had to find a pool where I could swim my laps, and zone-out without fearing for my life. I did; It turns out that Italians hate early morning exercise, it doesn’t fit with their life style at all, especially in summer, and so even though the pools open at 7.00 am, nobody comes near a swimming pool until about 10.30.

The other buggers

The authors of Blue Ocean Strategy make a similar point about business and competition. Most of us business owners look at our competition and ask: How can we stand out from the crowd, how can we be better, quicker, cheaper than the other bastards? In other words, we go to battle with our competition for the same dollar, the same customer. But what might we see if we step outside that battle for a minute? What might we see about the market and our business in it? What other opportunities are there? And how can we access those opportunities? What can we do to find clear water in the pool, so we can focus on doing what we do best instead of spending all that energy trying to beat the competition?

It is tempting to engage with the battle right in front of us and become absorbed by it. But is it really the best place to direct our energy? Maybe we can find a different field to play in all by ourselves?

My own example

Let me give you a business example from my own experience. I normally refer to myself as a “Business Coach”. There is no accepted definition of what business coaching actually is, but there is a successful franchise company that also describes its services as “Business Coaching”.  Because I also refer to myself as a business coach, I am by default in competition with this company and swim in the same pool with them even though my approach and services are very different from theirs.

For a while I was tempted to compete head-on with this crowd, to develop marketing materials and products, services and packages that were better, cheaper, quicker, faster than theirs. In other words I felt compelled to try to compete with them for space in the same swimming pool.

At some point I realised the stupidity of this strategy. To do so I would have to change my personal values, my philosophy and my approach to my clients. That is not a tenable proposition obviously, and it became clear to me that what I had to do instead, was to find my own swimming pool. Being able to settle into my favorite stroke without concerning myself what stroke everybody else was swimming and if I was about to be run over. It took me some time, but I have found that pool and I am so much happier for it.

Find your own pool

So this is your mission, should you choose to accept it: Go out and find your empty swimming pool, where you can swim powerfully on your own, being able to focus on your own stroke as opposed to everybody else’s.

To find this empty swimming pool you need to ask yourself a few simple questions:

1) Who are the potential customers of my services?

2) Which group(s) of potential customers don’t buy (or virtually don’t) from my company or from my competitors?

3) What are all the factors that we and all our competitors already compete on with each other?

4) On which factors are none of us competing?

3 Case studies:
  • Financial planning for gen Y:

A Financial Planning company I worked with some years ago went through a strategy planning process with me in which we asked questions like those above. The process turned up that all financial planners were trying to out-compete each other on the same factors and all aimed at the same clients.

The owner of the company saw a trend in society that indicated that young generation Y’ers were holding off buying their first bit of real estate and electing to continue to pay rent in the trendy inner city areas of Sydney. He suspected that when Gen Y’ers turn 35 they too start to think about having families and homes in the suburbs and that they would need a substantial nest egg to put down as a deposit. The other thing he noticed was that Gen Y’ers as a rule want nothing to do with financial planners, and vice versa.

He put these observations together and developed a really funky and smart offering aimed at helping Gen Y’ers prepare for the day that they do want to buy a home to raise their family in. Initially the fees they earned from these services were minimal but over time it has become a golden business, and essentially without competition. My client swims in his own pool and practices his own stroke.

  • Smart video productions:

Another client of mine produces video productions. To create his own swimming pool he has found a way to produce a professionally edited and cut 3 camera coverage of an event for the price of single camera operator. The difference this makes in quality is enormous. He is now swimming in a pool all by himself. For particular types of events (awards nights, school events, weddings etc) and a particular type of client, his competition is irrelevant.

  • Renovating Sydney’s terrace houses:

Finally I have another example from my own days as a builder in the crowded Sydney renovations market. We came to a realisation that 80% of Terrace houses fit in one of 5 design templates. At the same time most terrace house owners want to open up the back of the house to the light, bring the bathroom into the middle of the house and update the kitchen etc. Putting these two realisations together meant that we were able to offer a standardised design-and-construct service that nobody else was able to match. Very soon clients were knocking down the door and we stopped worrying about the competition.

Do your thing

If you would like to create your own swimming pool, your own golf course or your own private trout stream for your business, why don’t you come and have a chat with me. I can assure you there is nothing more fun and rewarding in business than swimming in your own pool.

The book I referred to is:
  • “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

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