Breaking a Bad Biz Habit (in front of a LIVE audience)

Find yourself sporting an obnoxious habit? The pesky (or even downright rude) mannerism in others that drives you crazy jumps into utter abhorrence when you catch yourself doing it.

Unbearable habits may be a talking mouth (full of food), callous commands to waitstaff, or the maniacal clicking of a pen.

When you’re a business owner, the line between personal and professional is thin and I’m arguing there’s no room for unbearable habits.

As entrepreneurs observing and owning a rude habit in ourselves carries even more weight because the “what ifs” appear magnified. Flaws mess with our livelihood: causing us to lose leads, lose contracts, lose referrals. All the lifeblood of your organization’s success.

So what’s an entrepreneur to do when she realizes she’s got an Unbearable Habit in full effect?

BrokenChain

I decided to break it in front of a brand-new audience. Live.

Let me explain.

Three days ago I admitted to myself I’ve developed the nasty habit of cutting people off in conversation.

My not-listening has been chronic. I was ready to fully face it.

Where I used to go to the place of self-scolding and berating, I’ve finally learned that it’s okay to be embarrassed, but the important thing is how it gets fixed.

Like the other habits I mentioned above, my habit of interrupting is a result of impatience. It’s me. Putting myself ahead of someone else in the conversation line. Because why? Because I’m special? Because I’m smart?

Gag.

And egad.

Egads not just because of the personal implications of losing the privilege of people opening up and conversing with me. Egads because in my profession, as a marketer, I fundamentally must listen to everything in order to hear what’s really being said, and what’s not being said.

How I Broke the Unbearable Habit

In an effort to shock myself into stopping the unbearable habit of interrupting, I walked into a workshop I was supposed to facilitate with one goal in mind: I was not allowed to assume I knew what was going to come out of the mouths of participants.

No premonition. No predicting. My work was to be honest with what I did know (and what I was hired to cover), to show up, to ask questions and then to shut my trap. Listen for whatever miracles or messes that might emerge.

Unattaching from the Unbearable

Going in and un-wrapping myself from managing the conversation was about as comfortable as sitting in a nearby raft watching the Titanic sink.

I walked into a tense meeting room. I could absolutely tell that a lot had been unearthed seconds before I walked in the room and was still being processed by attendees. The facilitator reiterated my suspicions (kudos to her!).

My first (nearly uncontrollable) urge was to say something, anything, to fix the room. To use humor. Of the self-depricating variety, to distract or gloss over something I had no real understanding of.

But rather than give in, I simply introduced myself and took a seat. All placid and calm face-like.

Under the table, I was digging my thumbnail into my index finger, commanding myself to simply sit quietly and listen for the spoken and the unspoken.

My brain screamed “FIX THIS! THEY BROUGHT YOU IN TO FIX THIS!”.

And as much as I wanted to obey the order to fix, I was actually brought in to talk about marketing. Not fix anything else.
Plus if I’d followed the order, I wouldn’t be holding to my goal of not-assuming.

As the workshop lurched forward, the attendees spoke with honesty about marketing. Describing it with words like “coercion”, “manipulation” and “feeling bad”.

Boy did I want to stop them. I wanted to tell them how their perception should be changed, and why, and manufacture results right then and there. The way that I done in a hundred other presentations.

Holding Steady

During the course of the evening all I did was listen. To the bad, the good, and the ugly. My mind was like an Etch-a-Sketch that started to predict where an attendee was heading with her line of talk. And like an Etch-a-Sketch I simply shook it to clear it and to again open up to whatever was said next.

As hard as it was to not predict or manage or smooth over the conversation, I realized that because I was more present, each participant stayed present.

They used one another and the group for management, following the cues of the person before them, and adding their own language about the project’s mission, vision, and what they wanted their end-goal to be.

They also did a tremendous job when their target market came in to the meeting for an initial round of market research.

While many of the questions to the target were leading, the participants were receptive when instead of cutting off or predicting, I let the questions float out and down to the table, reframing them slightly for the target market (more translation than interpretation).

By the end of the workshop, it was apparent that the concept of marketing was something the group were open to re-exploring, with renewed enthusiasm. The same end-goal I usually strive for. But this time it just happened.

Benefits of breaking the habit in front of an audience:

  • I didn’t have to force or manipulate the room into reaching that a-ha. They found it organically, and let their own honest truth and thoughts into the room. And I got to witness it.
  • I talked about 60% less last night than normal. And the same outcome came out. Even better because I didn’t manufacture it.
  • I didn’t have to think it through, didn’t have to manage, and didn’t have to force. And coming home after the workshop I had enough energy to write the first draft of this blog post – something very unusual for me.

Breaking the unbearable habit is going to take ongoing practice, but by practicing bold breaking it in a very public environment is something I know gave me a strong head-start.

What’d you think? Are there any habits you’re breaking? Do you have any creative solutions? I’d love to know.
-RTB

Attentive Space – what is it (and are you giving it to your customers)?

If you stand at your local craft store, as I was doing last Sunday, you’ll witness the pull-down, put-back of product — reflective of people thinking about starting projects. Pot holders kits. Holiday wreaths. Candy molds.

Here they are, in a store (a store, mind you, is by definition a physical place to get sales) evaluating something new. Evaluating whether the new thing will fit into their current (or future) reality. Several people walked away empty-handed.

Does the person behind the counter panic when someone walks away without making a purchase? Do they loathe themselves?

Nope. They ask the customer if they need help, but oftentimes the customer is “just looking” — they’re gathering information around whether (or not) they’re ready to take on something new. It takes a ton of effort to start something new.

If the customer isn’t ready, they let the customer leave. Thanking them to come in.

When and How to Give (Attentive) Space

As you look at your customers coming to you, give them what I call Attentive Space: the freedom to “just look” around and ponder. Customers will do this whether or not you give them the space. They’re going through a complex decision making process of whether they want to start a project – projects that may involve you or your offering.

People likely “just look” by reading your website, your blog, or by looking (or picking up products) at your store or booth at a trade-show or table at a craft fair. All the while, they’re evaluating whether or not you’ll fit into their current reality, and their desired reality.

When and How to Inquire

It’s normal to provide the opportunity for interaction via a contact page.

But if you really want to know if you can help, make sure that your contact page truly reflects the fact that you care (and will get back to them!). There’s little more ridiculous than a contact page that’s neglected and boring… when all of the other parts of a site are well developed. It’s like asking “How can we help?” and walking away, directly, before the customer can form a sentence.

Process, Interrupted

During this time, they’re also being interrupted. At my local craft store, interruptions looked like tugging children, buzzing phones, and the obnoxious overhead PA announcements.

Your customers have emails, text messages, and calls arriving. They may be waiting for their turn in line at the DMV and you’re actually a distraction in someone else’s transaction.

Bottom Line
Your customer has a process and even when they show up a the place of conversion, they may still not be ready to buy. No one runs around with their credit card above their head, ready to swipe. They’re gathering information and we want to give them the Attentive Space to learn. They’ll thank you for it.

Easily fill your next workshop

Do you ever go to events? To get out of your rut? To learn something new? To meet like-minded people who pep you up and help you spiral upward?

It’s pretty common for entrepreneurs to see the benefits above, and it doesn’t take much time until they want to host an event or workshop to generate new leads. Business owners I meet often have workshops or events on their list of things “I should be doing” for their business.

And absolutely, they can be great avenues for exposure.

If you’ve never hosted a workshop before, or if it’s been a while since your last one, the surprising fact you may not know is that it’s way easier to come up with content than it is to fill the room.

No matter how interesting your topic, you can expect to get about one percent of people who see your free event in a general listing service (in San Diego that’s the SD Reader, the Union Tribune, Craigslist) to sign-up. And 2/3 of those who sign up for a free event don’t show up.

That’s the effectiveness of cold advertisements: .0033% chance you’ll get someone in the door. Or let’s put that another way: you need to guarantee that 10k people to see your event for 33 people to show up. For a FREE event that you’re trying to advertise yourself.

Don’t give up on this tactic, instead find creative ways to have someone else help you fill the room.

Partner with Someone who has a Mouthpiece

Invest in a local organization and after committing to volunteering and getting to know their operation, ask if they’d be comfortable co-creating and co-promoting a topic for you to teach.

Partner with Someone with a Space

Additionally, if there’s a location where your target congregates, consider partnering with them. Learn how you can help educate the bodies they already attract, adding value to their mission, along with gaining experience.

In each of these potential opportunities, you’ll want to make that their audience is has enough similarities to your target market.

To go to a bunch of effort to partner with a local library may not provide you with the audience who is likeliest to buy, as there is a fine line between making compromises with an organization with a qualified audience and talking for free to people who have no need or ability to buy.

Approach these events with a willingness to start at the beginning – we are drawn to restaurant moguls who started out as the dishwasher, right?  So know that sometimes being at an intro event is exactly where we have to start.

The cool thing is that opportunities unfold quickly once our presentation skills are tested and ready and we’re out there in front of people.

Before you EVER work with a marketer, make sure they ask you the RIGHT questions.

There are legions of business marketing companies perched to work with entrepreneurs.

You’ve probably felt it: for any business marketing need you have, a search on Google will provide you with a litany of marketing companies eager to provide a solution.

This is one of the beauties of capitalism. Variety.

As an entrepreneur, maybe you sought a marketing company out, received referrals, or maybe they found their way to your front door (or inbox).

And it’s my hope that you received a great match AND great results.

But sometimes (unfortunately, all too often), things don’t quite work out the way you’d hoped.

With three decades in the small business marketing arena, I think I figured it out.
The simple reason business marketing companies fall short for entrepreneurs is that
they don’t take the time to pre-qualify clients.

Why is Pre-Qualifying Important?

  • Pre-qualifying clients makes amazing business sense, as it’s the foundation of building a relationship (something proven to be the most profitable way to market).
  • Pre-qualifying gives both the marketing company and the entrepreneurs a moment of space to ask important questions, see the whole picture and agree on the best solution/next steps.
  • Pre-qualifying occurs in nearly every business.  Without pre-qualifying, a personal trainer would have you do push-ups without knowing about your back injury.  A contractor would bulldoze your home, not knowing you only wanted a room addition.  The person working behind the counter at your local sandwich shop would put mayo on your sandwich, unaware that you despise mayo.

Pre-qualifying is especially important when tailored solutions are needed.  And most challenges for small business aren’t solved by “set-it-and-forget-it” tools.

Pre-qualifying is about research, investigating, and most of all, listening.

These things take time, and in the rush-rush marketing world, many business marketing companies don’t have time.

They’ve built a business where it’s more efficient (i.e. less expensive) to run on assumptions.

How many times have you worked with someone who ran on assumptions?  How many times have you made assumptions, thinking it’d be easier than listening?  And in both scenarios, how many times have you had to go back and fix the errors?  (Example: this is the reason it’s taken 4 years to finish my backyard.)

You can see the perfect storm brewing: a marketing company running on overload (and assumptions), and an entrepreneur who doesn’t know what “right questions” they should be asked by the marketing company.

Maybe you were caught in the aftermath of a storm like that.

Feeling bewildered or confused, a little wary and off-course.

What Questions should a business marketing company be asking me?
(AKA How to know if I’m being appropriately pre-qualified)

Depending on what they offer, a marketing company should ask you some mix of the following things:

  • What are your goals?
  • What have you tried in the past that’s worked?  What have you tried in the past that hasn’t worked?
  • What else are you doing right now, and how is it working?
  • What kind of resources do you have (time, money, energy) to devote to your marketing?
  • What length of time do you have to devote to this facet marketing?  Do you anticipate a quick win, or will your goals take some time to reach?
  • When they ask you these questions, here’s what they should really be listening for:
  • What are your goals?

They should be listening to hear what you want to happen for your business’s marketing and sales.  They should piece together an idea if you’re on the same page philosophically.
What have you tried in the past that’s worked?  What have you tried in the past that hasn’t worked?

This question gives them a bit of your history.  They should be listening to hear about the lessons you’ve already learned, along with your experience with your target market.

What else are you doing right now, and how is it working?

This question is CRUCIAL.  If they don’t ask this, RUN (don’t walk) away.  They need to be respectful of what you’re currently doing and have a very clear understanding of the landscape they are walking towards.

What kind of resources do you have (time, money, energy) to devote to your marketing?

Sure, this might feel uncomfortable for everyone, but this is the only way to understand if you’re looking for a hands-off solution, a hands-on solution, or something in the middle.  This also makes sure that you’re not overlooking some strength you’re carrying in your back pocket that you could fully utilize yourself.

What length of time do you have to devote to this facet marketing?  Do you anticipate a quick win, or will your goals take some time to reach?

The basis of this question is are you looking for a one-time event or an ongoing relationship with the marketing company.
And as you start becoming more aware of this type of questioning, you’ll be inspired to bring your best questions to the table.
While sometimes some of the pre-qualifying is done online by the marketing company, in advance of your meeting.  Sometimes their sales pages will support this process.

But know that as a business owner, it’s in your best interest to ensure that a marketing company is asking you the right questions, listening to your answers and doing due diligence on their end to make sure their product or service really is the best fit for your business based on your goals, target market, history and resources.

Because it’s you’re responsibility to steer the course of your ship and not let anyone, now matter how smart they are or how polished their tools, take the helm.

Knowing you’re being intelligently interviewed and pre-qualified is a great beginning step to ensuring you’re on the path towards marketing success.

Want easier sales? Quit ‘giving it away’ in this one crucial part of your process.

I have a brilliant client who estimated she gave leads six times more attention than what was average in her industry.

SIX times.

When it came to converting leads into clients, she over-delivered in every way you could possibly imagine: from information-packed presentations to laser-targeted follow-up, and incredible, hand-curated research for potential clients.

Yet her phone was quiet. And try as she might, she was converting at an astonishingly low rate.

We operate under the myth that if we go the extra mile, we’ll win the contract, secure the client, make the sale.

Yet, there’s something fundamentally flawed with over-delivering your valuable knowledge in the pre-sale.

The pre-sale process should be about analyzing the needs of your potential client and seeing if you’re a fit. That’s right: it’s about you thinking on behalf of them and being decisive.

Its marketing’s job to convey your value so that you don’t feel the need to ‘prove’ anything during the interactions with the lead.

I suggested to my client to consider giving less in the pre-sale process.

She said it sounded stingy. Penny-pinching. Miserly.

I get it. She wanted to give leads her all, in order to set the stage with a spirit of generosity. But her dismal conversion rate was showing the all she was giving was too much of the wrong stuff.

Leads walk away over-whelmed and under-served. The business owner walks away tired and confused.

It’s inefficient to use your time with your lead proving your smarts. No one pays a professor.

Rather than striving to prove your value via a knowledge fest, save your over-delivery for when they hire you.

So we simply channeled her efforts.

Instead of proving credibility during the valuable sit-down time with a potential client, prove it via marketing.

Because your marketing can speak to many (while you’re doing your work, delighting your clients, and taking action on opportunities).

With this client, adding well-written testimonials and beefing up referral relationships were two solutions.

The sales process, then, became about identifying needs, helping her lead identify their challenges and then offering up tailored solutions.

Her conversion rates have since soared and she’s no longer running herself ragged with nothing to show for it.

What my client felt at first pass was stingy, she now understands is economical.  There’s only one of her (that’s not going to change) and we’ve re-distributed her delivery efforts efficiently.

She’s now delivering in a way that’s appropriate for her leads’ knowledge level and is palatable, meaning her lead identifies their need much more effectively (with my client at their side, naturally).

From agencies to interns, choose the RIGHT marketing for your small business

I recently got the following question in my inbox:

Q: How does a small business decide when to hire a marketing firm on a part time basis? Full time? Or hire an employee with a marketing degree?

A: When a small business starts to look for outside help, the possibilities seem limitless and the potential costs can appear both over-whelming and uncapped. You’re smart to take a few moments to weigh your options and get more information.

I’m a fan of keeping marketing in-house for as long as it makes sense because you can control, learn, and grow on your terms.

The question is, when does it stop making sense to keep your marketing in-house?

When a small business is looking at outside help, it’s usually for one of three pivot points:

marketing pivot points

  1. Whatever we’re currently doing isn’t working… maybe someone else knows better.
  2. Our marketing worked for where our business was in the past, the trouble is, we’ve outgrown it and need something to take us to the next level. But we’re not sure what.
  3. We are way too busy serving customers and being profitable and we know marketing is important – we just don’t have the bandwidth to stay ontop of it.

Marketing Pivot Point #1: Whatever we’re currently doing isn’t working… maybe someone else knows better.

If your company is in the “whatever they’re currently doing isn’t working… maybe someone else knows better” stage, then it’s time to get a new perspective.

If it’s an issue around a specific tactic, then you may find yourself working directly with a graphic designer, developer, or copywriter.

If you’re looking for tools to be created, you’re not happy with your current flier or business card, website, you’ll be working with a professional who specializes in that specifc tactic.

However if it’s more strategic – if your answer to “what isn’t working” is either “everything” or “I don’t know” then I recommend you meet with someone trusted who can help you untangle what really is the current situation from a strategic standpoint, not from a tactic standpoint.

I’m a strategist (so that’s what I do best) and there are many flavors marketing consultants can also help you decide where you are and what the real challenges are.

It’s important that whomever is helping you with perspective and strategy is asking the questions to help you determine whether what you have on your hands is a marketing challenge, sales challenge, or a process challenge.

A challenge with people not understanding what you do is different that someone not understanding how to buy from you or how to buy from you in the future.

Once you’re clear on the challenge, you’ll want to be smart in building a solution – the solution can likely come from in-house, if you have the talent, or from independent contractors who help you create the pieces. Sometimes your consultant can oversee this. Together you develop a few key systems or pieces to help solve the problem efficiently, getting you to the next level of business – a correlation between your marketing and sales.

Rarely would I recommend an agency at this stage because costs are high and control is low. At this point, you want low costs and high control so that you’re able to efficiently oversee your own process.

Marketing Pivot Point #2: Our marketing worked for where our business was in the past, the trouble is, we’ve outgrown it and need something to take us to the next level. But we’re not sure what.

First, congratulations on getting to this point! It’s not always ever easy.

If you’ve outgrown your marketing and need new pieces developed, you may want to return to who helped you get here before.They already know you and you save time in ramp-up.

If you weren’t happy with them, ask for referrals for a strategist or consultant who can help you outline what is next in your marketing. If you’re looking for a referral, you’re welcome to contact me directly and we’ll see what we can find for you.

If ongoing marketing support is needed – for instance, you’ve correlated that Google AdWords is an important part of your business (aka it works for you), then you will probably still find it less expensive to hire someone indepdent to oversee the process and report back to you.

However, if you have seven or eight of these independent people working for you, it may be time to start looking at bringing in a part-time person to oversee your marketing.

The challenge here is finding a someone who has the individual talents of the different providers at a price point you can manage. Usually, I find what can be taught to a part-time person and pay the provider to train them so that the skill set is now in-house.

I’ve trained in-house marketing coordinators to think strategically, so there’s no limit to what the right candidate can be taught.

Marketing Pivot Point  #3: We are way too busy serving customers and being profitable and we know marketing is important – we just don’t have the bandwidth to stay on top of it.

When this is your challenge, it may be time to get help with making your process become more efficient and the first step is often deciding whether to make your part time person into a full time person or to go with an agency.

Agencies are wonderful options for companies who have more important (and profitable) work to do than run their marketing.

The brilliant shift in today’s world is that there are different types of agencies for different budgets, usually that involves a flat-rate retainer fee for a certain number of service hours, with you paying for any analog (paper) or digital materials developed, or specific services outside of the scope of the retainer.

If you have questions on this process, or are looking for some help navigating, definitely reach out – you’re welcome to schedule a chat with me and we can outline what’s needed, what’s next, and what’s unnessciary for where you are today.

Have a marketing question? Send it to me straightaway on the website or send it to me Rebecca@Tri-LineMarketing.com

 

How I got my inner-12 year-old to stop sabotaging my marketing.

The first six years that I oversaw the marketing for the family business, my inner 12 year old was in charge.

Our marketing ‘strategy’ (if you could call it that) was absolutely guided by my insecurities.  I was afraid to put anything up. Afraid someone would disagree (and publicly air their disapproval).

Maybe, if I just bury my head in the sand, this will all pass. {via}

How Insecurities Take Charge

It all started with one guy on our newsletter list.  He would reply to every issue with edits, comments, and critical feedback.  My 12 year old self loathed him.

My 12 year-old self quickly learned to balk and put off ever triggering his replies: messages never went out.

In addition to procrastinating, I was so afraid of making mistakes, that I obsessively studied our competitors for better ways of doing things.  The trouble with that, though, was that their work seemed 1000% better than anything I could come up with.

Thus, began the downward spiral of avoiding creating anything.

The boss (my father) had no idea the extent of insecurity that was running the marketing: he was busy with the scores of other things he had to accomplish. Plus, as a 12 year old, it was easier to bear your dad’s frustration than it is to field responses from strangers.

It’s easier to put things off than it is to face the discomfort around exposure.

When Pops would ask me about deadlines or deliverables, I’d make up all kinds of stories that I knew he’d never follow up on: issues with printers or the website and challenges around getting things to look “just right”.  I began to believe those stories myself.  Getting caught up in details was easier than chancing my actions might actually stir things up.

And when I had no choice but to get the message out (like when we had time-sensitive offers or events), I procrastinated until the very last minute possible, scrambling to get things up.

Like Rushing over Hot Coals

My attempt to avoid discomfort by procrastinating was like rushing over marketing hot coals, leading to exactly what I was afraid of: making careless mistakes and typos (especially on dates and times!).  Quite the cycle.

Looking back, they weren’t careless mistakes. Because (boy, howdy!) did I care.

But like most 12 year olds, I cared way too much about the wrong things.

My uncertainty, doubt, and anxiousness crippled our ability to reach people.  It stunted our potential and effectiveness.  It caused confusion for customers and totally justified frustration from the boss man.

Worst of all, it set up the limiting behavior in me that there was something wrong with the way I did things. I gave away my autonomy (as 12 year-olds are known to do).  This was especially caustic because I was the only one available to do the marketing.  If I didn’t do it, it didn’t get done.

Four Things My Inner 12 Year-Old Needed to Know About Marketing

Ideally the marketing would have been sherpa’d by a less emotionally volatile person.   But since that wasn’t an option, here are four things I wish that my 12 year-old self could have realized:

1) One lone critic isn’t something to get overly concerned about.  Particularly if he’s got no experience in what you do and no platform.  People who criticize have nothing better to do. They guy with the newsletter? He’s retired and this is how he gets his shits and giggles. Take his spelling and grammar advice and defer the rest. If you heard this from three different people, then I’d worry about it. But one person? Notworthit.

2) You think that monitoring and berating yourself will keep you from making mistakes?  In truth, the pressure you put on yourself is stopping you from doing anything: making mistakes, yes, but it’s also stopping you from doing anything valuable. In trying (even though it sometimes feels like failing), you’re setting yourself apart.

3) Give yourself massive credit for trying because a) you deserve it, and b) giving yourself credit will make you want to do more.  One thing successful people know is that you have to DO in order to get better.  And getting better at anything marketing related requires doing and testing.

4) Have fun. There will never be another time just like now: you’ve got a whole world of industry knowledge at your fingertips, a boss who can’t fire you, and the title of student on your side.  Have fun. And remember that even though it seems inconceivable, the process is just as important as the outcome.

Now it’s your turn. Where have you seen your inner 12 year-old running your marketing? How have you helped him/her push past?

Is there room for your personal brand in your business brand?

A darling new client brought me a recent challenge.

He wants to personally brand himself in order to stand out in a crowded space. The personal brand is clever, catchy and strong. All good things.

Square Peg in a Round Hole

However, from where I sit, things are clear: the personal brand he’s shooting for – what it stands for, what it’s supposed to represent — is not parallel to what his business does. More importantly, it’s not going to help in the process of where he wants his business to grow.

This struggle isn’t unique to entrepreneurs. On the big stage, it plays out by companies like Burger King.

In blind taste tests, Burger King’s burgers win on taste every time. That’s people saying “you’re really great at what you do!”. Yet, they keep trying to add a layer of personal branding on – most famously with The King.

The King got attention (maybe not the most positive attention, but attention no less). Yet it did nothing for sales, loyalty, or consumer preference.

This “personal” brand agent didn’t support where Burger King wanted to take their business. A big, expensive attention-getting attempt that got eyeballs, but didn’t pay off.

You might reason that my client should just drop the schtick, right? Well, that’s difficult to do when you’re eager to (and need to) stand out in a highly competitive industry.

Together, we’re working on developing the personal brand into something that can work for him as a figurehead, and something that he can transition out of over time. Kind of like a reverse Richard Branson.

This adjusted personal brand helps him build a base of clients (and sales), and we’ll work to position it as a complement to his business and it’s ever-evolving goals.

Here are two ways to prepare a personal brand that will fit with your business brand:

  • Make sure the personal brand values are parallel to and an amplification of the business brand.

If the business values transparency, the personal brand can just take this a little bit further – a “tell all” approach to content strategy, or a “caught being honest” weekly column may work well.

  • Follow a few brand mentors who do a great job billing themselves as a “2.0″ human being – showcasing their ‘super power’ in their personal brand… and highlighting that same ‘super power’ in their company.

Watch how they shine their spotlight on like-minded individuals in their company (and beyond). They’re building their personal and company brands by the company they keep and talk about.
For example, Toms (the shoe company) does a great job highlighting the volunteer work of every employee, a key driver for founder Blake Mycoskie.

The Jig is Up: why does finding my “Ideal Customer” seem like believing in Santa Claus?

Did with a radio interview for The Possbilities Group (click here for recording). We had a few questions that didn’t get answered on-air, so here’s the full answer.

Q: I hear all of this stuff about my ‘target market’ and ‘ideal customer’, and heard it again today. Well, where do I FIND my them? It’s beginning to feel like Santa Claus and I’m beginning to think it isn’t real.

Sounds like you’re really in need of practical details. So here’s how I’d begin looking:

First: look back.

Where have you had interacted with folks who paid well and were a pleasure to deal with? If it was last month or last week or a year ago, great – start with them.

Now ask yourself: How did they find me? What had them buy from me?

If you don’t know, ask them those questions. Don’t assume you know if you haven’t asked!
Then commence light “stalking” (see below for details).

What if they aren’t a client but I interacted with them in a prior career?

That’s cool too. List what made them so appealing. Think about where they might be now (or people very similar to them), needing your service/product today. The commence the light “stalking” (see below).

What if I don’t have anyone?

If you don’t have anyone, then start making a list of the qualities of clients you’d like to have. Now look for those people in your life.

Ask them to join you for lunch or coffee and ask them for their feedback on what you’re trying to do.

Then zip up and listen. (And if you’re in San Diego, come to one of my Free Marketing 101 classes. Taught in conjunction with the San Diego Small Business Center, I’ve held this class since 2011 and we spend significant time figuring out WHO is right for you.)

Light “Stalking”: make like Jane Goodall and observe.

Then commence what I call “light stalking”: follow them on social media – check out their Facebook or LinkedIn Profile (if appropriate in the context of your relationship). Learn what they like, what they share, and where they spend their time (events they attend). You can also see if they’re active on Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. In most cases all you need is their email address.

Megawatt thanks to Debbie Seid of The Possibilies Group for making the hour fly by! What great fun!

The C-Word: Could

I sat down with a smart business owner.  He has an incredible scope of experience, deep skill set, and plenty of industry knowledge and connections.

He has a strong product that has been developed over several years. He has a team.

And yet, even he is susceptible to marketing hype.

Buzz, too early on, sucks

For him, hype shows up as an inability to commit to a strategy and instead, bouncing off the walls with tactics.

All the things we could do.

His creativity begins to stir when he things about what’s possible. Direct mailers with eye-catching bling. iPad giveaways! Hosting exclusive, invite-only meals.

He buzzes at the endless possibilities about how we *could* potentially build awareness among his target market.

Could Contributes to Hype

Could is potentiality.  And could feeds marketing hype, distracting decision makers from their goal of actually reaching people in an effective way.

Folks who get caught on the “coulds” have little experience with just how much thoughtful planning and effort it takes to successfully implement a marketing campaign, let alone several.

The client can absolutely send out a direct mailer.  He’s competent.  He can come up with the resources.

Here’s what he has to do: buy a list, get a designer to create the piece, figure out what you want it to say, decide what you want people to do, pay for postage and mail it.  At bare minimum, for 1,000 pieces he’s looking at spending at least $1,500 plus time and energy that cannot be devoted to other things.

I wanted him (and you) to know that most direct mail pieces have a 0.02% response rate.

That’s 2 people out of every 1,000 responding.  It doesn’t mean they make a purchase (because the appropriate “goal” for a piece like this is something along the lines of “click here to learn more” or “call us”) – it just means they read, acknowledge, and take an action (like typing in your URL).

Now if they don’t find exactly what they want on the web page (to compel them to buy), and if they’re not completely ready TO buy, or if they’re confused and don’t know what to do next, or if they have a gust of wind that knocks the postcard to the floor… well, you’ve  lost them.

That’s an expensive $1,500 lesson that doesn’t turn to leads.

The Bridge of Strategy

Marketing tactics, all the things you “could” only work to their highest potential (with least waste), when there’s a strong bridge of strategy.

MarketingBridge

Strategy is the bridge between today (where you are, what you offer) and where you want to get (who you want to work with, how many of them you want to serve, how you want to serve them).  Tactics are the vehicles to get from one side of the bridge to the other.

So the next time you’re feeling antsy and contemplating what you could do to make the phone ring (we’ve all been there, I assure you!), go ahead and brainstorm the whole list.  Have a festival of possibilities, corralling all of the things you “could” do.

Then re-visit your goal: actually reaching people in an effective way that has the highest chance of successfully getting them to DO what you (and they) want.

If you’re not sure what tactics are right for your market, it’s an appropriate time to bring in an outside person to get an idea of what’s going to work, and what all goes in to each tactic.

IMPORTANT: if you bring in someone who makes their living from graphic design, guess what they’ll likely advise you to do?  If you bring in someone who makes their living off of print, guess what they’ll advise you to do? Know your sources of influence, friends!

Stopping the hype and really evaluating how much time, money, and energy it will take to successfully implement just one of marketing tactic successfully is incredibly smart shopping behavior and the knowledge you gain about your market, the tactic, and your strategy will support your business growth for a lifetime.