|Are you in a crowded marketplace? Do you offer a ‘Commodity’ Product – a good or service that customers can get anywhere else? These two questions often go together, and create an ongoing problem for many businesses: How do you stand out from your competitors. Especially when you are the ‘Newbie’ on the block? The one that has just started and the history of your prospects’ community have a head start on you?
Firstly, you must differentiate yourself from everyone else, which takes some research. Type in a Google search for your future competition, find out where they are, how long they have been in business, and what they offer. This will take you some time if you are in a busy industry, but for all of the research you do, you will discover not only why these businesses are successful, but in which areas they overlap and offer the same service as everyone else.
Mostly, they will all be the same, which means you have an avenue to investigate: What don’t they offer? Which part of the marketplace do they ignore, or not serve at all. if you can’t make your business different, then make your clientele stand out. Find new ways to do your business. If everyone in a marketplace is the same, then their fees are the only differentiating factor, which can drive the overall prices down.
Find a way of adding something to your services that no-one else does. This means that you have the opportunity to charge more, but you are offering more, so the price and the value of what you offer do not get confused into the same thing – which they aren’t.
It is important to know about your clientele: Who they are, what they do, what they want, everything. When you find an overall pattern in whom you are serving, you will find another way that you can offer something that they need – you add to your value set, and continually spread your expertise over similar business interests that will appeal to your Ideal Customer.
Use the lessons you have learned, for instance, in marketing and online engagement to put your clientele in touch with each other: Become the centre of a hub of activity, rather than someone that offers a service when it is required. Make sure that your specialty is part of your client’s lives. Ensure that your clients bring you new business. They know people just like them, and as they are being served by you, their friends will like it to. Now, you are not only being unique, and filling your funnel with perfect prospects, they are evangelizing for you, and bringing you more and more business based on what you do so well.
It takes commitment to work this way. Commit to your research, your additional professional education, and your social engagement skills. Often you will wonder if anyone else goes to these lengths. They probably don’t, which is why they are part of the pack, and not a business that stands out in your marketplace. Look for your inspiration outside of your regular industry sources, to what market leaders in other industries do. Find out which of your competitors are reaching the end of their current practices: Moving, retiring, getting out of a certain line of business. What can you pick up from others? Can you start another business stream with this information?
We started discussing how to stand out, and next we will look at how to expand your business. It maybe scary, but you will stand out.
|When you blog on an ongoing basis, perhaps even daily, you soon fall into a routine that includes certain unwritten rules to make your copy as entertaining as possible. If you are new to blogging, or aren’t getting the feedback that you were expecting, you may be forgiven for thinking that these unknown laws are the stronghold of those that are in some secret circle, or those that have a set of outlines to refer to when editing. It really isn’t that much of an unearthed secret from some ancient tomb that has led those of us that write often that leads us to write great copy every single time. Unless you have gone through some kind of formal writing education, it’s really a case of trial and error, much the same thing that you are going through. Of course, the best posts are also the result of lots of work. While I can dash off a blog post every day, it takes another few hours of ‘fine-tuning’ to get it to say what I want.
Culling the net for Best Blogging Practices will soon lead you to a list of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ that will make your everyday blogging practices easier. In fact, there is a list of glaringly obvious outlines that most full-time, respected bloggers follow, and will give your writing more punch. Here are the top tips that I found over the last little while – things that I follow, but more unconsciously than anything else. I hope they can ignite your imagination.
1. Attention Grabbing Headline: You read blogs because their headline draws you in. Make a promise of benefit, make it short, and deliver what you promise.
2. The first 50 words: They should outline a situation, or a problem, that the reader shares and wants the answer to. Don’t make your points flowery, but describe them well. I always remember Mark Twain’s maxim: Don’t write that it’s raining, describe what it feels like to be rained upon.
3. Use Persuasive Words: There is power in a pen, words can persuade. There are trigger words, and adjectives that hit home. Read some fiction to find out what grabs you about a scene, a phrase, a sentence, and use the words you see that trigger something in you, that persuades you that this real.
4. Bullet points: You have seen this in many articles: List your ideas in easy to read and consume sentences, then follow up with another piece of information that describes it more fully. Don’t write anymore on a point, simply edit those two items down until they describe the point you are trying to make. Of course, you can always use numbers, too!
5. Hold reader’s attention: You know who you are writing for, and you know what they are looking for. Gently get to your punchline, your answer, or your point in a way that keeps them hanging in there with you. You want them to move on, not check out.
6. Close the deal: You have set up a situation, a premise, or a problem. At the end, solve it. Your final conclusion should ask questions, or make your reader reach for their own conclusion, but give them the answer they need.
Of course, editing is vitally important. Aim for 500 – 600 words for a total, but pad it out with scene setting, description, and adjectives, first. Then cut the article back to your desired length, leaving the most important components of the piece, with just the right amount of accompanying description. Learn to master the six points above (and have fun while you are doing it! It’s exciting!), and your blog posts will shine. If you re-read this post, you will see that these six points are covered completely. In fact, the hardest thing I had to do was winnow all of the ways that I think automatically when writing down to these six.
|It’s that time of year again! The end, when we all always promise to do more or better. For the blog writers among us, it’s one thing to say: “I’m going to do more/ better.” Wait a minute – didn’t we say that at the end of 2011? A disciplined work ethic isn’t beyond anyone, but it can be tough to implement. Here are a few ideas that helped me. Hopefully you will find them logically correct, easy to implement and won’t stifle your creativity. They are exercising, list-making and writing.
Don’t roll your eyes! I know you probably promised yourself a fitter 2017. Did it come about? If yes, then read further to see how you can apply the same rules to your writing. If not (you know who you are), then think of the parallels between these disciplines, and how applying a few rules to your life as a whole, makes your decision-making better and easier.
When you exercise, you make the decision to do it. Whether its laps, circuit training, weights, swimming, or simply walking, you make the decision to get dressed up, leave the house and do it. There, now. That wasn’t too bad was it? Don’t think that you must do this for a certain amount of time, or a certain numbers of days of the week, you are doing it now, because you want to. The same could be true for writing. That awful white screen is not a block to your creation, it’s a help. It’s welcoming, and says: “Let’s go, I am waiting for you.”
Don’t feel as if you have to write every day, over and over under some kind of restrictive regimen. If you are ‘too busy’ today, it means that there are too many things on your mind, crowding in on your creativity and internal discipline. Both exercise and writing helped me with this, because they are repetitive acts that channel my attention, and allow me the time to make lists. While you are working, if you have an idea, pause, write it down on a ‘to do’ list, and then carry on. Don’t get distracted, don’t ditch your current project (or stop walking), but organize your thoughts into what is important and, when you get back home, write a list.
Both practices mean that you are organizing your thoughts: A larger and more important ‘current job’ also allows your mind the time to make a list later. You can then get back to what is important; the current project.
Of course, now you have added another task, namely clearing the ‘to do’ list you have just created, but you have also added a layer of discipline to your day. You now know where your energies are: Completing the task at hand – either exercise, or writing – then devoting time to whittling that list down. The items at the top of the list are the ones that are most important, because they were on your mind first. Get them done, or make a first step, then write down the next task that is to be required, and move to the next task. Of course new tasks will be added, but those are for another day.
Strangely, both exercise and writing make for great companion tasks. Exercise when you get up, free your mind to think about the writing challenge to come that day. Then get rid of the sweat and muck, and start making that list. When you sit down to write, you will have a clearer mind and have at least a first line, or a premise, to start with.
Now, simply write; don’t procrastinate – write. Make your lists throughout the exercise. This includes answering those nagging thoughts in your negative mind: “This is an awful piece of writing, I should be writing about this.” That idea goes on your writing to-do list. Then, move on.
When your writing task is completed, start on the to-do lists, and get them completed. These lists will grow, but by daily application you will be clearing all of them, and adding to a fresh set of lists. You will find that by clearing your mind this way, you will prioritize better, and achieve more. As the first week progresses, you will find that you are feeling better, and are mentally sharper because of your exercise regimen. You will also be writing better, because your mind is clearer. Because your mind is clearer, you will achieve more in your non-writing tasks, and you will find some time on your hands. There will be a list of writing ideas waiting for you every morning, all around you is paid, up-to-date, cleaner, better.
More importantly, you will have followed through on multiple New Year’s Resolutions which makes you feel better all round. You will no longer have emergencies that come up and take you out of your routine, and must be addressed right then, they will have been taken care of by your list-keeping.
You will find out that the more you apply yourself to relaxation during exercise your mind will conjure up all kind of writing projects. Your clearer mind will help you to sleep better, and you will want to exercise. All go hand-in-hand, for a fitter, more organized, and creative New Year.
|In our last post on Big Business Branding for small companies, we asked you to research your UVP (Unique Value Proposal), your current and future audience, and how you can solve their problems. Matching the answers to these questions to your Marketing Content, you now need to find the best ways to reach your audience; both existing customers and prospects.
What channels do your prospects use, and how can you get to them? What is the use of creating an incredible content and not have it seen? By finding out if it’s local print, TV and Radio, online, or ‘billboards’ in public signage, how do they find you? Spend your budget getting to your prospects in the areas they will see you easiest.
Even if they prefer sourcing and buying via referral, listen to what people are saying and where they are saying it. You will have to streamline your content to be broadcast over the channels that consistently bring you new people. Above all, remember that it not just “You are there and you are done with it”; you have to live there, you have to contribute, monitor, respond, and build trust. You have to make sure are along with them always.
Online this will mean the right web content, optimized for the right Search Engines, updated often, and always tailored to your audience and prospects. You can add Blog posts, Video and audio, updates, breaking news, pictures, and honest company news. Social media is great for this – get to the people that will require you in the future, interest them, and keep in touch.
Offline, this means understanding your prospect community and being a part of it: Charity events, seminars, and workshops. Sponsor other events, get to your audience where they live and work. Keep in mind that you have to solve the problem or you are just empty vessel making noise.
How do you know if your branding campaigns are working? You need to monitor and measure your results. This isn’t so much setting goals, as understanding what analytics you are using, and growing them. If something isn’t working, find out why and move to others, or change your message.
Do your live events attract people? Has your website increased its traffic size? Do your social platforms show an increase in followers? Does your Newsletter or E-mail marketing show a larger and larger audience, or response rate?
So originate some rules for yourself to constantly monitor your Branding efforts: Look at your target audience. Is it right? Does your message match it? Have you found your Ideal Customer? Does your content excite these people? Does it change, and is it updated often enough? Does it match your marketing channels, and is it being received?
Your written material could be the greatest Ad Copy ever, but if it doesn’t match the channel you are using, it is useless. Look at the market leaders in your industry, and parse what they are saying, and where.
Finally, test out different messages on different platforms in different ways at different times of the year, to find out which ones work best, to whom, at what time, and through which avenue. It’s only when you find out the best possible match between Prospect pool, message and channel that you will truly discover the best message – and THAT is your brand.
|How can you become a trusted information source? Or, become one of those bloggers that appear to know trends before anyone else? How do they get their information? If you are trying to become a source of new information for online prospects, then you have to say something that no-one else knows – or hasn’t figured out yet. Try a neat trick called Keyword Listening.
Keyword Listening is a buzzword or phrase that suddenly becomes hot, and everyone wants to coat-tail onto its popularity. It could be predictable, like time of year, or a sudden pop-culture phenomenon (Remember Tebow-ing?), that turns into a trend.
If you think that something has legs, grab that keyword for your website before anyone else does and the stampede turns up its competition, and its cost. Adding these organically into your articles and blogs will rank your site higher because there is little or no competition, and when everyone catches up, you will remain on top because you have been there the longest
Predicting keyword interest is more than staring into a crystal ball. Make it part of your daily marketing background work to add such trends into a Word document or spreadsheet. If they have anything to do with your niche, you want to be on top of it. If you come up with an elegant way to harness a cultural point with or business, then save it. Right now, Hurricanes threaten the Caribbean and the US’s Southern coast. In turn, this has heightened interest in everyone’s safety from sudden, destructive natural phenomena. Is there a way that you can utilize your business messages into that? The key is to get your version of the keyword out in public as soon as you can.
See what I did, there? I already know the trend, and have added it into my blog post – and into my keywords when I post it.
However, don’t rely on anyone else to tell you what is trending, because if you can read it, others will, too. Try to get in when there is a dip (before a keyword is in demand) by using ‘Google Trends’ to gauge the ongoing popularity of a keyword over time: https://trends.google.com/trends/
Subscribe to a wide variety of news and social outlets, and follow your audience. Are they thinking about the economy, finance, etc., and will these subjects impact your niche? If your audience wants something (e.g., answers, solutions, products, services, etc.), someone is going to eventually deliver it. What is your audience asking? Check their questions for keywords and provide answers.
It’s all to do with listening and realising that if two people are talking about something, and it has been on TV, others are about to start, too.