The Real World

IMG_0244So let’s put all of these ideas into action! I have been writing for a little over a year on growing your business utilizing Internet Marketing, but it has all been somewhat theoretical until now. An opportunity came my way this past week that allows me to put all of these plans into action, so for Year Two, I shall concentrate on one project, and share with this blog all that goes on, on an ongoing basis. If you think that your business is tough to market for, then please check out ‘Walter’, and let me know if your problems can be helped.

I visited a local tailor last week. I have lost a fair bit of weight over the last couple of years, and decided to change my current wardrobe, rather than buy more. My wife was shocked, but I was serious: “By resizing all of the suits that I have, and donating what I don’t wear, I can gain wardrobe space, help someone out, and look good. Plus, I will never have to buy any more clothes ever again.” I have used Walter before, but it hasn’t been for a while, and while I don’t have the kind if money that he wants to do this job, I can pay him on an ongoing basis for two months, and build him a website, and try to get him more customers by getting him online as payment in kind.

Why? Because he is a talented artisan that will save me money. His work has been great for me before this. He needs more business, but doesn’t know how to get it. I can help someone, while he helps me. Perhaps this rings a bell with you, but he knows nothing about online business, doesn’t have a computer, still has a phone with a rotary dial, and depends on a sandwich board outside if his store – that is hidden away inside an inside mall. He’s like a great secret that I can help by spreading the word.

He also is in a sunset industry – one that has been taken over by quick fix stalls in the mall, and anonymous back room workers. No-one appears to appreciate his talents as a renewer, alterer, and tailor. My first suit is 20 years old, but hasn’t been worn very much over the last ten – you could say that it’s new. It was also expensive at the time, and wasn’t ‘off the rack’. In my first fitting, he has dropped it by 2 sizes, and I know have a waist, and pants that hang naturally on top of my shoes, not from my hips. I can find my waist, and I have a shape to me, now!

Today is my first sit down with him, where I explain about internet marketing, and how his business can grow. I’ll see how he reacts. Look out for the Walter the tailor website

Ring in the new, but not at the expense of the Old

Had enough of the never-ending ‘Hottest new ways to manage your Business’ advice that floods your inbox? While it’s true that the Internet, and the reach that it offers everyone, has been like a bomb under the desk of every business owner (no matter it’s size.), don’t fall into the trap of believing that everything that all businesses ever did to make their day-to-day work prior to 1985 no longer apply. If you have moved away from certain ‘old school’ management techniques, in favour of letting the ‘net do it, you may well be missing opportunities that your business rely on. After all, centuries of business practice won’t be completely swept away in less than a generation.

If the future of work depends on speed and nimbleness, there are certain paradigms that are required to help these systems work correctly. Keeping these paradigms in mind will oil the wheels of your business, keep it on the tracks, keep it steaming along, guided by its proactive marketing, taking the fuel it needs from its sales funnel, and everyone enjoying the trip of Customer Service.

  • If it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it? Let’s not reinvent the wheel

Take all you can from new media, better processes in warehousing and industrial practices, and the untimed working period, but don’t throw out everything you used to do in order to maximize your businesses’ future. After all, everything old becomes new again, and you may well be better served to use systems you already have in place, rather than blowing everything up in an attempt to be modern. Sometimes, things need to be overhauled, occasionally, they need to be helped along, but if your systems are working, then why change it?

  • You will get performance reviews once or twice a year

Reporting has gone the way of the Dodo in many companies. This is due to telecommuting, ever changing corporate roles, and other symptoms of the wired world. Just because many employees and contractors are working remotely, it is important for them, and you, to ascertain their goals, and how close they are to getting them. Even if – in the case of a remote sales force – you can access software that shows where they are, and what they are doing at any time you choose, the opportunity to talk to them on an ongoing basis – even if it’s only seasonally – to sit with them face-to-face and ask how business is will always impress on them that you are listening. If you have hired the right person to work for you, and you have given them goals, a fast, regular and ongoing conversation about how close everyone is will help you keep a tab on your businesses’ everyday operation, and teach you some new tricks that these talented people have found. It will also cut down on your workload.

  • Must create status reports

With everyone’s reliance on AI to complete tasks, how hard is it to e-mail you and let you know what is close to completion, only half-way there, or behind schedule. It doesn’t have to be every Friday afternoon, but if your business runs on a tight schedule, you have to have some way of knowing how that schedule is going. Talented employees can be entrepreneurial and excited by taking control over their area. This is a great way to expand the business, but it could also slow up projects that have a Critical Path-type of operating history. Keeping them on their own schedules, as well as encouraging them to do what they have to in order to move the project forward, allows for the best of both worlds.

By moulding your existing practices that work, and changing those that can be managed better, you can have the best of both worlds in your business, but don’t throw out the rules that have managed businesses for centuries, just because it’s not ‘modern’.

Use all of your company for Marketing

Many small business entrepreneurs don’t realise the tools they already have to hand to make their company full of salespeople. If the ‘boss’ is the main sales point in any small company, there are online tools available to add everyone’s voice in the company to the overall sales strategy. Although there will always be fads in online marketing, some perhaps a little grey hat, but a little research shows that there are some well-trusted platforms that anyone can use, and help to spread the word about your business that will be a great help.

You don’t need to worry about growing your brand. Today, your company is your brand. Perhaps you worry that your voice won’t be heard among the giants of your industries, but the difference in today’s business environment is only numbers.

Brands such as Dell, Coca-Cola, LEGO and Nokia have trained thousands of their employees to act as brand advocates, listening and engaging in social conversations and exchanging insights with customers to shape and drive their business forward. Your job, as a small business owner is the same, but scaled down to a manageable size. Your first question should be: How do I keep everyone aligned and on the same page?

In the past five or six years, we have gotten used to social platforms being used as a solid base for your marketing. As with other business plans and models, these platforms value has moved from a crude social lead digging to a much more elegant phase in which prospective clients can be discovered, scored and nurtured using social networks and everyday relationship building tools. Let’s call it Social Selling, or at least Social Lead Targeting.

As services such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter grow in importance so too have the tools that mine the rich set of sales data left in every interaction. Nowadays there are ways to assist these sites to talk to each other, and your five or six employees have completely separate online contacts that you can now meld into an ever growing circle of leads, and salespeople.

You don’t even need a full time IT or saes department. Just know what you want to promote, and put a plan in place when you will market that plan. Let’s look at Twitter as a channel an what to do to maximize the interest on it:

  • What are these people interesting in on other social networks?
  • Who are their connections and where is their contact information?
  • Can you compile a marketing document that shows who has shown what interest in what marketing?
  • Can you track their visits to your website, and what they found interest in?

First off, you can easily do all of this and more with little or no tech support for less than $100 a month.

Thus is only Twitter so far, you can do the same kind of discovery and targeting on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ as well with the right tool set up and integration.

By using all of your employees to access and grow their own network, targeted lists and a connected network of your customers and prospects, you can very quickly find what people like about you, and what to change to ensure your marketing is focussed and sharp.

This is called integration, and ‘Hootsuite’ and ‘Nimble’ can be used to do all of these tasks in  a streamlined and timed way.

I can easily build a list in Twitter based on search criteria and then with one click add selected list members to the Nimble CRM tool for a complete picture of the prospect along with unified messaging. So, now if I reach out to that prospect by way of a subtle connection tweet, Nimble captures our entire conversation, shows me the prospect’s social stream and their key connections in one screen.

Social is not so much a marketing channel as it is a behavior that allows for much richer listening, targeting, nurturing, learning and converting. The key is to bake social data and signals into your entire prospecting and sales process as a mindset using tools that put this vital set of data at your fingertips. Don’t forget to track , and continue contact with your prospects

The real skill then becomes using this information to add value!

How to tell your Company’s Story: Part 1

Image

Everyone loves a good story.  But how can you use this to your advantage when talking to your prospects and customers? While you should use every opportunity to tell your story, what do you say? Here are some points to keep in mind when you are offered the opportunity to talk about who you are:

1. What is unique about your business?

What do you offer that is different from anyone else? Is the product, the business’s history, its staff make-up? Look at the advertising and online posting you have been doing, and find out what you have been discussing. The sum of your articles comes to represent your industry expertise, the way you wish to portray it.

2. What is interesting about how your company was founded?

What did you find out before founding the company, and what false starts did you endure, before finding its current form and methods. This is your chance to show you are the same as others, but also offers you the opportunity to show how you found a ‘twist’ in the marketplace that no-one else did.

3. What problem are you trying to solve?

As a Marketer, I ask the same questions of my prospects every time we start a conversation. This gives me a real path to their pain, and how I can solve it. However, you can tell just as much through questions as you can through answers. Showing how you operate will interest others and show your uniqueness:

How can they gain visibility in the marketplace? 

How can they grow their relevant audience relevant to their business? 

Where can I establish my professional expertise by writing about my company online? 

Where can I tap into an international audience? 

Where can I have a discussion with people who relate to my profession to show my capabilities?

Where can I make meaningful professional connections, and help establish my brand? 

How do you do what you do differently than others to get to the result they want?

4. What inspired your business?

Was it a problem that you saw in other companies, over and over again? Was it something that you were interested in that you wanted to expand? Was there an obvious (or un-obvious.) reason for this that no-one else was seeing?

These points will get you started on a list of subjects. From it, a whole raft of memories will prompt further stories of your company’s growth, challenges faced, and problems solved. Each of these help to gradually complete the picture of ‘The Story of your Company’, and then you will be able to help others. Who wouldn’t want a business guru in their field of expertise, giving them advice? This is the point from which you should start in your efforts – to help others. It is only from there that you will be trusted, followed, and – as a by-product – you will expand your customer and prospect base.

“Why isn’t my Business working like that one?”

This is the question that we hear most of the time. Our previous posts show the avenues you need to pursue before you even start – like have a unique business proposal, rather than do it to make money. If you are ‘in the middle of it’, however, how do you turn the ship around? A recent set of studies in a huge marketplace for small and medium sized enterprise businesses (OK, it’s the USA), show why businesses fail. The answers are remarkably simple, along with why others have done well. Can you change what you are doing for the better? The answers may as well be simple, too.

Invest for the future: Why did you start doing this? What is your ling term plan? Are you ready for it? It’s not a cost, it’s an investment. If you don’t need it for this plan, and this plan alone, don’t do it.

Risk: You can’t avoid it. If you do, you will fail. Ensure that you are ready for it, and combat risk with information. There is always risk, but any negative effects can be reduced by planning.

Hiring: Get a trustworthy accountant, they can save you money. Your website needs to be better than anyone else’s out there, and only a professional can do it – not someone cheap, someone good. Include some copywriting skills to that, too. These words are going to be seen by everyone, prospects, customers, professional contacts, everyone. It is worth paying a lot for being seen as the best out there. Get a professional logo, too. Are they the same people? You are lucky. If not – pay someone to do it. Lawyer: Only the best can stop you doing the wrong thing, warn you of what is about to happen, and let you know how to fire-wall yourself from the future.

Purchasing: Get insurance from a trustworthy source. You need it.

Hardware and Software: get the best, pay more for it, and include all of the security features and future upgrades you possibly can. If your business is going to rely on the net, or on an interface between your communities and your business, this is a must.

This is not ‘spending money’, it is ‘investment’. Get this right, and you are already better placed than 80% of all start-ups, anywhere. If you are “saving Money and staying away from Risk” you are killing your business. The ones that are doing well are sure of their businesses’ basics, and know they have to pay for that base. In other words, if you spend well and wisely, and take the leap to new products, markets, and business decisions on an ongoing basis, your business will be better placed to weather all kinds of storms. Of course, your natural excitement and confident knowledge also goes a long way to making your business a success.

Be A Leader, not a Follower

Image

During the expansion of the USA to the West, the Wagon Train has become a cultural icon. A long line of trailblazers setting out as a group to discover something together, to put down roots as a community, to start a town from scratch. We comp[are this to the internet, today. A gigantic train of people following each other and doing exactly the same things for a common goal – something that can change with every ‘expedition’ heading to the badlands of Cyberspace. While it’s always good to be part of group by Plus-One-ing, Re-tweeting, or Liking, why not be at the head of the train? Every wagon train had its security force of scouts and gun hands that knew the terrain and agreed to lead the train, and protect it from malevolent outside forces. Why not become the scout, and invent – not just follow. It could mean a big difference in the way your company is perceived online. How can you become a trailblazer? Utilize Social Media as an unruly wagon train that needs a scout.

A ‘Keyword Event’ can be loosely described as a spike in a keyword search: Usually due to seasons, holidays, current events, or evolving trends. Predicting a keyword event means you choose the keywords before they become popular to get ahead of your competition and get a running start in search engine rankings.

Keep all of your posts, and online interaction for one year, and keep half an eye on what suddenly trends for no apparent reason, how long it lasts for, and why it wanes. This is almost ‘predicting keywords’, and allows you to prepare your online publications next year in advance. You know what worked well last Valentine’s Day, for instance, because you have posts and conversations from that time (Talking of which, this celebration is five weeks away – are you ready for it this week?). While you know what, therefore, will work again, you can get much lower bids on keywords weeks before they happen. Using what worked past year aslo works for blog posts, too. Your keywords are out before anyone else gets theirs ready. It looks like they are following you, not just posting ideas, phrases, and words on the net that accidentally appear after you. Us the following tricks to fill your saddlebags with the tools you need to be a true ‘Scout’.

  1. When predicting keywords, avoid keyword selection tools (like Google AdWords). If these keywords are being provided to you, they’re being provided to others as well. Try to get in when there is a dip (before a keyword is in demand) by using Google Trends to gauge popularity of a keyword over time.
     
  2. Subscribe to a wide variety of news outlets, and see what is likely to ge repeated year over year, or sudden trends that appear out of nowhere. Is your business affected by the economy, finance, or sports? Should your audience be concerned about trends in other countries? Ask questions, and you will find answers.
     
  3. If your audience wants something someone is going to eventually deliver it. Get there first by drilling into what your audience is asking, and pull keywords from their questions as well as provide answers.
     
  4. Buzzwords are important, because humans like to abbreviate their life (Really? ROFLMAO!), so words or phrases become trendy or fashionable can work in a specific niche. Spot buzzwords and use them before they’re hot, by either amplifying a buzzword, or creating a term that’s buzz-worthy, you’ll capitalize on the traffic wave as they start to become more widely used by others. Think of those “#” groups on Google+ You may have never heard of “#BaconNation” yet, but I think you will shortly.
     
  5. Finally target both long and short-tail keywords for a particular trend. As the trend begins, search users may not know exactly what they’re looking for yet and benefit from short-tail keywords. As the trend heats up, your audience will branch out to more specific queries and your long-tail keywords will garner more interest.

Ensure you have done your research and your keyword predictions and inventions will trend. Of course, trial and error will play a part, and this can be an exciting part of the process, but before long you will become a trailblazer. Wagons… Roll!!

Three Basics of today’s Business

fun office
Every day you need more clients. Every day you worry about how to get more people interested and aware in your goods or services. What has changed over the last few years that you can learn from? How has business changed, when every business can open a window on the world via the Internet? Now that the shingle over your door is open to every possible client you may ever need, how can you make sure they know it? Here are three ‘basics of business’ that today’s most successful are using to ensure that their message gets seen and understood. Three questions to ask yourself and answer.
1: Why you, and not one of your competitors?
There is only one correct answer to this. If you are in business, because it makes money you are in the wrong business. Customers don’t care about your financial state, unless it affects what they are doing. So, why are your competitors getting prospects, and selling to them, rather than you? When you start a new marketing campaign, this is the first question that you should be answering. Your competition is succeeding, because they are unique. They don’t just fill a need- they have found a way to show that they do it perfectly well. You cannot market just another business in a crowded marketplace, you need to find out what is unique about you. If you are a clone of an existing business, customers will make their choice on price, and this should be the final item they check off on their list, not the first.
Find out what you offer your marketplace that no-one else does, and make these reasons compelling. Everyone offers a great service, but what part of it is ‘great’? Everyone can offer testimonials, but what would your happy customers say that no-one else would?
This is the cornerstone of your business marketing. If you are accustomed to dealing with clientele that are price sensitive, or your word-of-mouth marketing isn’t filling your funnel, this is the one detail that will help you succeed. Oh, and you should check those two reasons, too – which your own ‘Value Proposal’ will help with, too.
2: How does your written, copy marketing ‘work’?
Now you have a sentence that you can use that shows who you are. Can it be written in a compelling fashion? Does it make the reader keep reading one? I hope that you are still here! Mistakes in effective marketing will be drowning a perfect idea in useless words. To offer any kind of reading material; Blog, E-Mail, or Brochure that isn’t a sales tool is just a waste of words. While it takes passion to write about your business, this is just the first step. It has to be a ‘page-turner’ for customers, but that takes some professional help. Prospects have to see your business through their eyes, and be motivated to buy from you. They have to be inspired, and to see how they will benefit from what you are offering. Look at the point of any written marketing. It has to make people want to pick up the phone, or e-mail you, so what can you do to make that easier for them to do that?
Your value proposition is the start – now find the way that makes prospects excited about it. Once again, look at how your competition is doing it, or how Companies that you admire anchor a new marketing campaign. How do people reach their customer? I always point to the example of a well-written chalk-board sign outside of a coffee shop. What would make you stop, and take a detour to that shop?
Marketing doesn’t only describe, it inspires. You can have that line!
3: What does your website look like to first-time visitors?
You have one sentence. It is your value proposition, and it forms a picture – that’s your marketing vehicle. Now, you can write your website around that: A site that visitors will click on because they want your service, and are in the market for it at this time. You will have a ‘contact us’ button somewhere on that landing page, so that they will be asking you for more details before they realise that they are doing it. In its basic form, this is what your website does. Again, look at someone else’s. How do they get prospects to call them, or send them an e-mail, or ask for more information?
How do websites turn someone from being passive, and reading, to being active and making an action based on your instructions? It should be a place where people feel at home, so that they will visit it to get information. This means that you have to be the expert in your field, and offer them a stream of new information. It has to fill in the gaps in their knowledge without giving away all of your secrets.
Your website should be a regular source of highly targeted business inquiries or sales. As mentioned above, it should be expertly written, so that when people find your website they are compelled to take action. It should inspire them to go from being a reader, (passive), to being someone who gets in touch with you, (active). This means that you need to know which pages of your site ‘work’, which one gets the most visitors, and which the least. You may have to re-arrange things, or tweak your message, but if your site isn’t bringing you a constant stream of prospects, it isn’t working: Whether it is your only marketing vehicle, or just one that supports others.
It has to be easily navigable for first time visitors, so that they move easily from page to page, following your instructions, and contacting you. It needs to be so much more powerful than the average marketing message. In fact, if it isn’t helping you with secure more sales, it’s almost certainly losing you business on a daily basis right now, as it stops people contacting you.
Three simple questions answered on how today’s web-dependant businesses are making more sales. Can you answer these with your businesses website?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 168 other followers