Archives for August 2008

Lights, Camera…Sales?

There are many ways to deliver a marketing message. One that is often overlooked or erroneously dismissed as being too expensive is producing a video. YouTube has changed some perceptions in that arena but not so much in the marketing field.

In reality, the return on the investment can be significant, even if you get a top notch professional to shoot your video. Some of the advantages are:

~ Delivers the intimacy of extended one-to-one communication.

~ Compared to TV ads, non-interruptive.

~ Allows three-dimensional views of products, show a product in use or a service provider in action.

~ With music, action and color, generates emotional impact.

~ Can bring your employees and their passion for your business to life.

~ Can be combined with CD, DVD, or streaming video technology to translate to an easy direct mail piece or web page content.

~ Is a powerful storytelling medium.

Wondering where you can use your video? Your lobby. Your website. Your e-mail campaign. Your annual meeting. Staff recruitment. New business pitches. And that’s just the beginning.

How To Power Position Your Brand!

Positioning your brand is probably one of the most important aspects of branding. It is the unique strategy that will introduce your target audience to exactly what it is that differentiates your product or service from your competitors. I am working with a number of companies right now developing exactly this.

It is absolutely fascinating what gems come out of discussions on positioning. At the outset, many companies are hard pressed to recognize a difference. All they see is the obvious. My strength is that I want to understand how the product or service is delivered, how is it made, what is the experience that surrounds the product or service? Several times the difference is not in the actual product but the delivery of the product or the follow-up. You have to look at the entire product cycle from conception to happy customer and beyond. There is an opportunity in there. You can count on it.

Compliances offer up positioning opportunities. Training offers up positioning opportunities. Frankly there is much to learn from every angle and nuance. For example, I worked with a consumer food product customer. They felt that their fruit product was much like all their competitors across the world. All were grown exactly the same way, with the same ingredients, under similar conditions using the same technologies and marketing and shipping conditions. I refused to believe that there was no opportunity and so I dug deeper into the industry standards. I wanted to know how one product is rated over another. What was intriguing was that the very standards for grading our produce was the opportunity for a very BIG aha moment. Here is the skinny on fruit standards. They are judged on 3 criteria – size, appearance and firmness.

Consider these criteria again: size – appearance – firmness. Is anything missing? I suggested there was and it was huge.

Taste.

You see, taste isn’t a criteria. That is left up to the individual. I suggested that there must be at least a minimum standard that a good sample must taste like. With watermelon, it’s the sweetness – a lemon, its tarty characteristic. Everyone agreed that we were on to something.

Once this particular fruit standard for taste was established, we then contracted the two leading agricultural universities in Canada and the United States to independently develop processes that tested for taste based on the bar we set. While other competing fruit have may won taste competitions judged by consumers, we now have established a definitive test for taste not unlike the the test for size, appearance and firmness. The processes were legally protected and are now proprietary to us.

We were now the ONLY fruit tested for taste!

Our fruit’s taste was now a guaranteed standard of quality NOT based on differing opinions, but on quantitative data. The bar had been raised.

A very compelling difference. This my friends is positioning. In this case the customer had to change how it did business and in doing so, introduced a new standard to their industry. This is not the work of a follower, but a leader.

Positioning can be very powerful if you are savvy enough to recognize the opportunity and bold enough to implement it. The real gems are far beyond the obvious. Look all around the edges of your product or service.

One other small example I will tantilize you with involves a current customer who has a software product. He is in a saturated market where all developers (including them) use one simple digital tool as the basis for determining solutions inherent to the software. If they carry out one small alteration I am suggesting to this simple tool they will instantly make that common tool the achiles heel for every competitor they have – over night.

This is no small boast. When I suggested it, the customer saw the potential immediately. So simple.

Currently the tool has no real value to the software only to say that it has to be there. Much like a car has to have tires to move smoothly over a road – they are important, but they are a given in every model and simply not seen as important or influential enough to warrant a mention in the marketing of a car. This simple tool is such a animal. We are not complete on this yet, so I can’t mention specifics.

My tease is to inspire you look deep into the soul of your product or service and develop a positioning strategy that goes way beyond fancy advertising slogans and resonates with target audiences, by eliminating pain points (defined in a previous article) and making customers want to work with you. A great positioning strategy will excite you, your company and ultimately lead customers to love you.

Are you up to the challenge?

Help Tech Support, The Sky Has Fallen

It is inevitable. No matter what your business, online or off, technical problems are bound to happen. They will happen without (apparent) rhyme or reason, they will strike at any time – often at most inappropriate times. Yet, many small businesses fail to work out some kind of emergency support.

Here’s what I’m talking about. You are launching a product, tested everything. The first few orders come in without problems but suddenly, all hell breaks lose. Your web site goes down or your order system quits. Irate emails start pouring in. You try to fix it but realize you have no clue what to do.

You call on your trusted developer. Bad news. Since they’ve heard nothing from you nor have you requested to be on their schedule, they’ve booked out their time to other clients who are working on a time sensitive job. She replies she can probably squeeze in an hour to look at the problem end of tomorrow but that’s not a promise of a fix at the end of tomorrow. It’ll all depend on what she finds. On top of that, she’ll have to work around the other clients’ jobs.

One whole day of doing nothing. That’s pure agony. Marketing wise, you may never recover the momentum. You say OK to her but try look for another developer who can look at the problem right now. Maybe ask if your friends on Twitter may know someone. They do and the stand in is hired. But because they themselves are not familiar with your set up, they take more time trying to understand the system, poking around.

Finally, the first developer comes in the next day, fixes the problem in 2 minutes flat. You end up with lots of down time, a ton of stress, lost momentum and 2 bills.

This scenario can so easily be avoided if you had simply negotiated an emergency support option with your existing programmer. And of course, better planning helps.

Most developers know that technical problems to not discriminate nor do they take holidays. Many will help you as soon as they can break free because we know it is frustrating. But a client who always expects you to be there at the drop of the hat during all hours and days of the week is also one who’ll soon be fired.

So what do you do? If you haven’t yet discussed an emergency support plan with your resident techie, do so. Offer to pay a little bit more for being available to you on short notice. You may be paying more per hour for emergencies, but it’ll still be worth it because you have less stress, the problem is taken care of quickly and you don’t look like a poor planner to ‘friends’ on social networks.

Once you have that emergency net set, it’s time to work on the planning. Here are some things you can do to reduce the need to call for emergency tech support.

  • When launching anything, always inform tech support ahead of time. If it’s a particularly new item or big launch, something that makes you nervous, consider paying them to be on standby.
  • If your web host is upgrading, moving or doing anything. Let your tech team know.
  • Keep tech support in the loop. The more they know about what you are working on the easier for them to trace problems.
  • Don’t implement anything big during Friday, weekends or holidays if you can help it. If something must be launched for the weekend, makes sure you do a couple of dry runs.

Are you selling FOR them or TO them?

First, let’s establish this truth. We are all sales people.

I don’t care if you are an engineer, a 3rd grade teacher, a social worker or a copier saleswoman. You are in sales.

Every single one of us needs to sell someone on something. It might be getting your boss to agree to closing the shop early on Fridays or getting your students to study over a week’s time rather than cramming the night before. Or it could be getting a prospect to give your copier a spin for 30 days.

So how do you sell? Where do you start? What questions do you ask yourself?

Whose bottom line do you worry about first? Yours or the customer’s?

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, wrote an excellent article on this point. She suggests that most sales people typically ask questions like:

“What do I need to convince them that we’re the best?”

She goes on to say that questions that are about selling TO a prospect won’t get you there. The real trick to successful sales is actually selling FOR your prospect. Ask yourself questions like:

“What can I (my company’s product) do to contribute to my customer’s success?”

When you worry about your prospect’s bottom line…it will take care of yours.

BONUS: Are you a smart, savvy woman who sells? Check out the Sales Shebang Conference. Just a quick drive to Minneapolis on September 23-24 and you can enjoy presenters like Konrath and many more.

How To Sell The Pain

There are aspects of our business life that are challenges. When I blog or when I design or consult, I often come across challenges that only research can address. I am currently investigating podcasts. I want the production to be more than me in front of a microphone discussing branding tips. What about production values? Background music? The intro? All of these concerns are what is known as pain points. In the course of accomplishing something, these are the little irritants along the journey.

When you develop your marketing materials, recognizing your target audience’s pain points and exploiting them, will resonate with that audience. Don’t bore them with simply a list of what you do and how well you do it, but answer the age old question from the mouth of your consumer: “What’s in it for me?” or “How can I profit from dealing with you?”

Let’s say that you’re a bright young management consultant. Your target audience’s pain points might be:

• Industry compliances
• Retaining quality employees
• Training sale staff
• Keeping a tight reign on payroll
• Cross-border issues
…just to name a few.

If you want to get their attention, address what you know to be the biggest pain point of them all. Use the pain point that feels as though you’re hitting their sore tooth with a small metal hammer. Their pain is your gain.

To go back to my pain, (podcasting) – whenever I came across information that addressed one of my pain points, it resonated with me and I investigated that service further. I ignored all others who tried to sell their services with brag notes or fancy slogans, I don’t have the time to figure them out. You might even use your own target’s pain points as the basis of your brand differentiator.

Look at pain point solutions that exist all around you: If you perspire, you use Ban roll-on – if your feet hurt, you use a Dr. Scholl gel insole – if your mortgage is to complicated, ING has the unmortgage. The wonderful thing is, your customer wants you to address their pain points. We all want relief.

In many ways if you don’t use pain points to sell, many customers probably wonder why you exist. Understand their pain and sell them the relief.

They’ll love you for it.

How Does Your Business Hold Up When You’re Not There?

Recently my daughter was admitted to the hospital for a serious eye infection.

If you’re not familiar with our story last November she was diagnosed with hodgkins lymphoma, and thank the Lord she was shown to be completely free of all disease half way into her treatment.

But in the meantime she developed pnemonia, along with most recently an eye infection and was admitted into the Children’s Hospital last week. Thankfully we only had to spend 5 days there and she was able to come home.

Since December of last year I started learning how to plan better for the future and outsourcing work. And all the while during her chemotherapy treatments back and forth to the hospital I was able to purchase this blog last February and literally triple my income. I also continue to build my business in the scrapbook industry, I must admit I did have an income drop over there due to my efforts here, so I’ll need to evaluate that some more. It’s a hobby that I love, and I’d even say it’s a duty for me to record down my thoughts for my children.

If you were to ask me if I was a planner before I would have said, Yep I can plan. But now I plan 1-2 months in advance, and by the end of this year I will plan out my entire year of 2009. While in the hospital I was also able to lay the foundation for the remainder of this year. And all the while I was tending to my beautiful daughter (who turns Sweet Sixteen next month), I had my team working on every aspect of my business while I was gone.

Now there are two things I know in my gut that I am still not outsourcing here at Small Business Branding.

1) My email

2) Advertisers

These 2 things alone take up so much of my time, effort, and are a complete brain drain.

So I have a new assistant coming on board to handle these two things for me. I will be starting by getting her to handle the advertisers since it’s alot more straight forward than the email inbox.

I must admit that it’s hard to let go of the email, I do enjoy reading my email and replying back to people. At the same time, I know she’ll be able to handle things on a much quicker pace than me which will leave me to move forward with everything else that I’m doing.

I’d like to share with you some tips on outsourcing that I find help me tremendously in my business in the coming months, in the meantime I’d love to ask you….

How does your business run when you’re not there?

Are You Gettin’ Any? I Can Help.

The above headline is a hook based on sexual innuendo coupled with no intention to deliver. It is also something that I find despicable on the web and that is the classic practice of “Bait and Switch”. In its classic scenario, you picked up your weekend edition of the newspaper, went through the advertising flyers and low and behold you locked on to some incredible offer with a time limitation such as, limited quantities – sale ends 5:00 sharp!

– you don’t have to tell me twice, I’m there when the store has shortly opened. Ad in hand you approach the salesperson, inform them of your mission only to be told -“I’m sorry we are sold out of that item, but perhaps you’d be interested in this other offer on something similar?”

BAIT AND SWITCH.

Today, bait and switch is all over the web. The inspiration for this article was at a business blog the other night – the writer’s headline- “How to differentiate your company in lean times”. Fair enough I figured – its right up the ole’ branding alley, let’s give it a read.

The article told us all about the the ‘importance’ of differentiating but nothing about the ‘how to’  they promised in the headline.

BAIT AND SWITCH.

To give the author of that post the benefit of a doubt, when I fist started blogging, a seasoned blogger told me that most articles that start with a “how to” or other solution based phrases get better readership. Sage words but the advice should have also carried with it the concept that you must follow through on the promise and deliver. I was miffed and then irritated when there was no comment opportunity.

The web being such a relatively new sales medium is riddled with bait and switch, which has all the honesty of a used car classified ad.

Your integrity is a major part of your brand. Why do people feel they have to trick their audience into buying their products? Perhaps they know their products are not of the high quality they brag about. Myself, I like to think that it is naiveté, in that they have discovered the techniques of the old snake oil salesmen and don’t mind employing them on a buying public. They are not in many cases considering long-term sales relationships but are only concentrating on the one purchase mentality. Given the breadth of the web – one purchase each doesn’t sound so bad, so I guess the temptation is there, so no harm done.  They would be wrong of course. They harm their brand . Your brand values have trump temptation if you are to truly be successful.

I wonder if these people understand the sales wisdom that a happy customer is your best and cheapest opportunity for future sales – directly and indirectly, by becoming an advocate for you. You are your brand and your corporate brand is you. Remember we are all only stupid once, as they say “Burn me once, stupid you – burn me twice, stupid me”. I abide by the ethical value system.  I work very hard to offer straight forward information that any serious entrepreneur will find useful in their quest to grow their business. Myself and my peers agonize over our products and opinion to be sure we are not delivering less that what is expected.

All I suggest is that we all refrain from unethical marketing just to make a dollar. Money’s nice but it’s not worth tarnishing your brand over.

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