Archives for June 2008

Is your competition luring you off-track?

Have you ever had the experience of driving along, paying attention to something off in the horizon and next thing you know, you’ve driven to that spot? And it wasn’t where you meant to go?

The same phenomenon can happen in your business. Most business owners I met pay a lot of attention to what their competition is doing. We definitely need to keep an eye on the competitive landscape. But there’s a very fine line.

The danger in keeping track of the other guys is that you lose track of your own path. We tend to move towards what we pay attention to. And you don’t want to let your competitors determine your marketing strategy. That’s a quick way to:

  • Deplete your resources
  • Look like you’re playing the “us too” game
  • Lose the momentum of your key messages

You want to be the leader in your industry, not follow someone else. The best way to beat your competition isn’t watching what they do. It’s doing what you should be doing.

If you have and follow a marketing plan — you can enjoy the best of both worlds. The marketing plan keeps you on your course. Heading in the direction you have determined. When you know where you’re headed and keep checking the map to see that you’re on course, you can afford to peek at what the competitors are doing.

Just make sure you’re following your course, not theirs.

Networking: It’s Not Rocket Science

Even if you’re a friendly individual who has good relationships with people, you might still be an introvert who has trouble networking. In today’s business world, communicating and making contacts is everything, and just about everybody has to do it. Below are five tips on how to get connected to the right people:

Networking Tip #1: Make a List of Everybody You Know
Everyone you know who is relevant to your professional life, that is. Keep an alphabetical record of their names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails. Every few weeks, randomly select one of these names and make contact with that individual over the phone or over lunch. YouÕll be surprised at how these informal meetings will open the door to new possibilities.

Networking Tip #2: Don’t wait
Too often, people wait until they are looking for a new job to start networking. DonÕt fall into this trap Ð you should be networking on a daily basis, creating contacts and opportunities for yourself while youÕre still employed.

Networking Tip #3: Have Long-Term Relationships with your Contacts
Don’t use your contacts and then leave them when you’ve got everything you need. Send thank-you notes and follow up with your contacts if they’ve recommended your name to someone or given you advice. Keep your contacts in the loop if they’ve helped you out, because they’ll be more likely to provide assistance in the future.

Networking Tip #4: Be a Resource for Others
Increase your visibility by becoming known as someone who is a powerful resource. This way, people will come to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. In turn, they will remember your name and mention it to others.

Networking Tip #5: Set Goals
Many people fear networking because it often involves approaching a stranger and forming a face-to-face professional relationship. For a lucky few, this is a natural talent. For most, however, creating these new relationships is a skill that takes a lot of practice. Set networking goals for yourself: You might try committing yourself to meeting 3 new people and reconnecting with 3 people at the next function you attend. Instead of being a wallflower, take a risk and spend some energy getting to know someone new.

You have to give before you get. Many people think networking consists of collecting contacts and then only calling them when you need a favor. No, it doesn’t work that way. For networking to work and be fair, you must develop you contacts over time and find ways to help these contacts well before you need their help.

Put Your Wrench On The Branding Team

So you’ve decided to to start taking a serious look at your corporate brand and you are left with the task of assembling your branding team. Your branding team is a group of individuals pulled from your brand’s stakeholders. They would be gleamed from the three essential groups: employees, suppliers and customers.

One of the issues you will have at the end of your branding process is buy-in among employees. Stand back and take a visual on your employee group. Most are your garden-variety employee, but a few, while good workers are out-spoken and quick to judge. Other employees look to them for direction. They typically see initiatives coming down from the corner office as “just more work”. They do their best to put a negative spin on the initiatives and are a drag to getting things done. We call these folks, “wrenches” because they throw a monkey wrench into everything you do.

The trick is to include the Wrenches in the branding process. The theory is simple and basic – you want the wrenches to become advocates for the brand initiatives. If they are part of the solution, then they will use their energies to push it through to the employees stakeholders. Just imagine how empowered they will feel being included in the high-level branding sessions with the leaders of the company in attendance – actually wanting their valuable input.

Now, when the brand process is complete and ready to roll roll out to the employees, you have their key mouthpiece on your team. That monkey wrench is now a brand hero – everybody wins.

Be Like Tiger at the US Open

This guest post today is by Tom Marquardt, The Profit Repairman.
Stop The “What Ifs” For Your Small Business Today!

Start taking responsibility for your own actions in all situations, even the ones that you cannot totally control. Do you think Tiger at the US Open blamed anybody for his mistakes (missed swings) to win on Sunday? No, he took responsibility about his business of playing Golf and became a winner today in a Sudden Death Playoff Challenge. You need to take this level of action thinking when it comes down to your small business today!

If it happened to you, your actions, no matter how small a part that they played in the outcome, are still a part of the outcome; so take that portion of the responsibility without hesitation. There are many factors as to why things happen the way they do. Some of your own actions account for it; some do not. No matter the “what ifs,” remember that sitting around and wondering about them will only displace your time and stop you from changing your situation. Stand out of the crowd, accept your situation, and stop questioning, “Why me?” and, “What if?” after you commit to an action of change to resolve the situation. Only then can you execute a plan to change within.

No matter what, you and you alone have the ability to change your situation. It may not be immediate, but change will happen with an executed plan from a person who has first accepted the reality that it is only his actions that can improve this situation. Taking responsibility for actions in your life is a big step to turn your situation at your small business into a success.

You are your own change element!

About the Author: A graduate of Indiana University, Tom resides in the greater Fort Myers, Florida area. He is a dynamic, professional, career-driven leader focusing on daily operations while continuing to be productive in a fast-paced sales environment. Tom has built a career that has given him extensive knowledge and execution of new business openings, troubleshooting, program and technology implementation, business turn-around, complete management, and sales of many different industries in positions as an owner, president, consultant, and regional director over multi-state business units. He is known as “The Profit Repairman®.”

Make Sure The Pluses Exceed The Pain

Radio

I can remember being a little kid and going with my mom as she changed from one bank to another. There was a display table in the lobby covered with stadium blankets, an AM/FM radio/alarm clock, an umbrella, a camping flashlight and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Free gifts or incentives for changing banks.

Back in the early 70’s, banking was pretty simple. Conveniences like payroll direct deposits, ACH auto payments, recurring payments and online banking hadn’t even been conceived.

So, it was pretty easy to lure a customer to your bank. Offer to deposit $5 to a new account or toss in a free stadium blanket. But times have changed.

The pain of changing bank accounts is significantly higher today. You have to call the phone company, the utilities, switch your direct deposit, re-create your entire online bill pay set-up, and cancel all your auto payments. Ugh. We often stay with a bank we don’t even like, rather than go through the hassle of making a change.

Today, I received a postcard offering me a personal coffee maker if I’d change banks. Are you kidding me? Go through all that pain for a $10 coffee maker? No thanks.

The moral of this story? Make sure the incentive you are offering is commiserate with the pain of becoming your customer. Otherwise, the message you are sending is that you’re out of touch and don’t understand where your potential customer is coming from.

5 Tips To Branding A Powerful Presence

ConsistencyConsistency

If there is one thing that many small businesses love to mess with, it is their brand image. Perhaps it is their chance to get creative, in an otherwise numbers oriented existence. It is also the one area that gets the greatest abuse in regard to the “holy Grail” of brand – CONSISTENCY. One area I’d like to address is your web presence.

Does your website reflect your brand accurately? Let’s take a look at 5 cyber-consistency challenges:

ONE: Over-all brand image of your website.

If I met you at a networking event and you passed your card on to me – when I got back to my office and went directly to your website – would I see something familiar when the opening page appears?
Your business card is my initial exposure to your brand image. I begins my journey down Brand You. If upon opening your web page, I am faced with an entirely different esthetic, then you are doing your company/brand a HUGE disservice. Your visitor now has to adjust their interpretation of your brand from another perspective. Ideally, you want their brand experience to reinforced from their initial exposure to Brand You. Don’t get tempted with the urge to get overly creative if it means moving away from what was already established on your business cards.

TWO: If your brand is information oriented, your website should reflect this.

Let’s say Brand You, has established itself as an expert, then your site should be focused on delivering information on your category. It should give the visitor the distinct impression that Brand You is indeed that expert. It should show that you are there to help them. Outside of the web, your collateral material should also portray this.

THREE: Your promise should be the same on AND off-line.

Whether your customer meets you at an event or on-line they should hear only ONE brand promise. The power of consistency goes a long way to getting the trust of a potential customer when the promise they hear is repeated at every point of contact. Also be sure that the promise is acted on, not just a hollow statement.

FOUR: There is more to a domain name than you think.

Your URL. Is it specific to your brand. Ideally it is the same name as your brand name. So if your company is called – The Acme Company then ideally the URL would be The AcmeCompany.com. If that isn’t available don’t be tempted with acronyms like TAC.com, while representational, it does nothing to make them think of Acme. If I called your office, you now answer the telephone with. “good morning Acme”, not good morning TAC. A good alternative would be something descriptive of Acme. Maybe something like, “TheAcmeAdvantage.com”. Now we’re thinking something positive about Acme.

FIVE: Is your website presence passive or pro-active?

Determine how your website can be an asset to your brand. If it is strictly informational, then it is a passive tool. Get the information out and make it easy for the customer to contact you. If it is to be pro-active, then you want your customer to stay around your site longer. Give them tools and information that they can use. Become a valuable resource for them. Which ever of the two strategies you follow, be sure that it is in sync with your brand.

CONSISTENCY – there is no more powerful word regarding your brand experience. With it, each element builds on the next. It leaves confusion in the dust. Without it, it is a harder, more expensive route to take. Never compromise. Take a hard look at your brand as it exists right now. Are there any loose ends that could use a tweak or two to assure that everything you do is consistent?

ECO-SAFE Blogging

Have you ever come across a website or business blog and have wanted to print out an article or blog post but find that there is no print icon on the web page or blog site?

I always think that we need to make it as easy as possible for people to access our content from our websites so one of the things I did some time ago on my main blog was to add some plugins so that people could then print a blog article or email articles to others.

However I recently came across a service that enables us to guide people to alternatives to print pages but still makes your content accessible to readers and enables you to virally market your blog to others with a tell a friend functon – and it’s free!

Eco Safe Blogging

The ECO-SAFE Merit Badge can be added to your website and offers the opportunity to website and blog visitors to:

  • send themselves or other an email of the article or page
  • send themselves or others a PDF of the article or page
  • download a PDF of the article or page.

Why not add the ECO-SAFE Merit Badge to your blog, website or ecommerce site.

Oh I almost forgot to let you know, you can also register for free iTunes music of your choice when you add the ECO-SAFE Merit Badge to you blog or website.

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