Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Is it possible for your business to accurately track lead sources?

If someone sees my service truck while my radio ad is playing, and later sees my TV commercial, and then gets on their iPad and searches for my business, how can you possibly track the effects of each one?

By watching the “pulse” of your marketing through your online laboratory.

So let’s start with that heart rate…

When you fly over the red rock formations surrounding Moab, Utah you can’t help but be fascinated by the unique beauty of the area.

Park Avenue in Arches National Park near Moab, UT

The sun setting on Park Avenue in Arches National Park near Moab, UT

Arches National Park is truly one of the most beautifully mysterious corners of the planet.

It’s one thing to see it from the comfortable, encapsulation of a commercial jet at 30,000 feet.

However, sitting in the back of a small prop plane with the door removed for effortless mid-air exit and a man strapped to your back, the thoughts of the intense beauty fade into the background drowned out by the idea you’ll soon be hurtling toward those red rock formations at 120 mph.

For a fleeting moment, you consider the wisdom of this particular adrenaline rush…
Then, over the roar of the wind, you feel the “signal” from a wild-eyed, greying jump instructor looking for the “OK”.

You’re only option is to give the thumbs up and juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuump.

If you’re a data-junky like me, when you go skydiving, you wear your Garmin GPS watch with heart rate monitor.

Looking at the data, it wasn’t hard to tell when we stepped out of the plane.

My heart rate spiked!

Interestingly enough, when you have the monitoring tools in place, your marketing impact can actually be tracked the same way as your heart rate.

Just as your heart rate is an important measure of overall fitness, your online activity is the core of any marketing plan. When you launch marketing offline that generates interest in your market, you can see that spike in activity online.

Tracking your lead sources

Is marketing so complex that it’s become harder to track lead sources instead of easier?

If you understand the goal of each lead source, you can track the effect of each lead source more accurately than ever before.

All marketing is not independent of each other. If executed well, all marketing works together with the focal point being the internet.

Have you ever put a call-tracking number on a TV ad, radio ad, or billboard? Did you get many calls? Probably not.

But did you measure the effect that had on your online search volume?

Just because you didn’t receive calls doesn’t mean that marketing didn’t work because most people do not respond to TV commercials by immediately placing a phone call. Instead we get online and do some research.

The exciting part is, my heart rate monitor doesn’t care if I’m running, sky-diving, or car racing, it still measures the change in my heart rate.

Your online search volume can be tracked the same way when you have the right tools in place to measure the impact of all of your marketing.

The Optimized Marketer’s Funnel

Now you need to understand the GOAL of your marketing.

To address this you need to use the Optimized Marketing Funnel.
Optimized_smallGraphics
Unlike your normal “Sales Funnel” an Optimized Marketing Funnel is upside-down. The wide part is on the bottom instead of the top.

The problem with the traditional funnel is that it doesn’t really help us understand the marketing process because:

  1. Everything you put in the top of a funnel comes out the bottom.
  2. Everything you put in the top of a funnel naturally moves along thanks to gravity.

Unfortunately, in the real world neither of those 2 points are true, which is why an upside-down funnel is so much more useful.

Now that you have an upside down funnel, imagine all of your inquiries are being fed in the bottom and are climbing their way up the walls.

For anyone to come out the narrow top of the funnel we need a driving force to help them out. That force is a combination of your Value Proposition and Branding.

Without that force, people will just naturally fall out.

For example, if I see your TV ad and go online to search for your business but you don’t show up in the results, guess what happens? I fall out of the funnel. Naturally. With no effort on your part.

  • What if I see your Google Ad but I like one from a competitor more? Fall out…
  • What if I click on the Ad but your landing page doesn’t solve my problem? I’m falling…
  • What if I fill out a form on your website but you don’t call me back for an entire day? aaaaaaahhhhhhh…

That little image of an Optimized Funnel brings up a few crucial points.

  1. You will naturally lose people at every step in the process so you should measure every step.
  2. The goal of each marketing piece is not to generate a lead. The goal of marketing is to have the prospect go to the next step and move them further up the funnel.
  3. You can measure what works (and what doesn’t) at every step and use that information to improve the entire funnel.

Without defining and understanding that your goal is to get the prospect to take the next step, you’ll never be able to track the effectiveness of your marketing.

Here’s why…

If you run a TV ad, your prospects go online to search for you and they can’t find your website, you won’t get any inquiries and you may say, “See, that darn TV didn’t work!”

In reality, you can measure that TV did indeed work but your web presence is what failed.

Let’s take this one step further and define the goal of each marketing medium.

All of your marketing should be categorized as Interruption Marketing or Response Marketing.

Interruption marketing simply means that, as a consumer, you didn’t ask for me to market to you but I did anyway. Television, radio, direct mail, billboards and even online display advertising are all Interruption marketing.

The goal of Interruption marketing is to generate interest. Period. If you define its goal as generating a lead, you’ll have almost no way to track how well it works.

Google Changed Everything

Google did something amazing and a bit scary to the marketing world. For the first time in history, we, as marketers, are able to read the minds of our prospects and respond immediately.

Google is our therapist as we type all our problems into that magical little search box.

In Response, we can market to people with a problem for which we have the perfect solution. That is Response Marketing.

The defining characteristic of Response marketing is that the consumer is asking you to market to them. Yellow pages, email opt-in lists and remarketing campaigns can also be considered less precise forms of Response marketing.

The goal of Response marketing is to generate a contact or inquiry.

Measuring the Net Change

To determine the effectiveness of your marketing, you can only measure when something changes. An engineer or scientist conducting experiments might refer to this as “isolating each variable”.

With a heart rate monitor strapped to your chest, it’s very easy to see when something changes. You engage in some cardio and your heart rate goes up.

However, if you never measure your resting heart rate, it’s hard to tell just how much of an impact different workouts have on you.

In marketing, if you are running radio, TV, direct mail, branded delivery trucks and search marketing at the same time, and you ask my team to tell you which is working, it’s nearly impossible.

Why? Because nothing has changed. Your heart rate is never at “rest”. We haven’t isolated any variables.

Instead, if you are running radio, delivery trucks and search marketing, and then ask us to track the effect of an upcoming TV campaign, now you have a baseline and a change to measure.

Even when our customers don’t tell us about these changes ahead of time, we often notice the spikes in our data shortly after an effective offline change.

To your success in accurately tracking your marketing,
Bryan

P.S. To my knowledge, there’s no other company that offers this level of data analysis for small businesses with internet budgets as low as $800/month. Contact me if you’d like to increase your leads by only investing in marketing that you know is working.

Optimize Your Marketing Budget with 1 Simple Concept You’ve Never Heard

When Search Engine Marketing (SEM) was invented, the entire marketing world was instantly and forever changed.

For the first time, we could actually read the minds of potential customers as Google became our therapist to solve all our problems.

Psychographic and demographic information paled in comparison to responding in real-time to the thoughts of consumers. It created an entirely new type of marketing – Response Marketing.

Prior to that, we really only had Interruption Marketing.

The difference?

Response Marketing presents a message to a consumer in response to an action he or she has taken.

Interruption Marketing presents a message to a consumer without any input from the consumer.

Here are a few examples of both…

Response Marketing Examples:

  • Search based – Results shown in search engines like Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Amazon
  • Survey based – Whether on a website or in an email
  • Event/Action driven communication – You spent $100 at a business so they send you a 10% off coupon for your next purchase. You bought a pair of running shoes so they recommend some running socks.

Interruption Marketing Examples (everything else):

  • Display Advertising (Google Display, Facebook, LinkedIn)
  • Billboards
  • TV (though Google is working on changing this to response)
  • Radio
  • Newspaper
  • Direct Mail

As the founder of a company that specializes in Search Engine Marketing and Scientific Websites, obviously I’m going to tell you Response Marketing is the best way to spend your money…

However, that’s not true…

Yes, Response Marketing CAN be an amazing, cost-effective, and powerful form of marketing but it can only work if a few conditions are met.

  1. People must know they have a problem.
  2. It’s something people actually research. When was the last time you did a Google search for toilet paper?
  3. There are many people searching for it.

When you understand the difference between the 2 types of marketing you will better know when to invest in and how much to spend on Response and Interruption Marketing.

For now, forget about ONline vs. OFFline marketing since both can be Interruption or Response marketing.

Let’s look at a few examples starting with the extremes.

When should your entire marketing budget to be focused on Response Marketing?

When you have a consumer who knows he has a problem, researches the solution to that problem online, and there are a sufficient number of people searching online to meet your sales goals.

Most often this occurs in highly competitive industries in competitive markets because then it’s just a matter of being the BEST online.

Think of it this way, if you are the only one in your market selling your new widget inventions, very few people are searching for your widgets because they don’t know about them.

However, if you have 20 competitors selling a similar widget and at least a few of them are marketing, people in your area will be searching for your products. All you have to do is have the BEST online Response Marketing out of your competition.

When could your entire marketing budget to be focused on Interruption Marketing?

When people have no idea your amazing product or service exists and so won’t be searching for it. My business, Optimized Marketing, is this way since our scientific approach to online lead generation is completely unique and we only work with very specific industries.

With Interruption Marketing you have a very difficult task ahead of you. You need to generate enough interest in a very short amount of time (the time of a billboard, radio, TV or direct mail ad) to get someone to take an action.

Historically, that action was to contact you and sign up for services.

Unfortunately, that’s a large leap to ask someone to take. A much smaller leap is to generate enough interest through Interruption Marketing that she is curious enough to search for you online.

In other words, when looking at the entire Sales/Marketing Funnel for your business, at some point, all marketing can turn into Response Marketing.

If your web presence hasn’t been optimized to convert those searchers to contacts, that gives your competitors a great opportunity to steal the leads your Interruption Marketing is generating.

And vice-versa.

How much of your budget should be allocated to Response Marketing?

As much as gets a solid ROI. Then put the rest into Interruption.

There are 2 major factors in determining how much to invest in Response Marketing:

  1. How many people are searching for your products.
  2. How much you can spend and still get a great ROI.

If only 100 people each month are searching for what you provide, SEO and SEM are going to provide very little help for you. Your goal at this point is to get more people searching through Interruption Marketing.

However, if you spend $1000/month online and get 20 leads at a cost of $50/lead and your other marketing is generating leads for $75, keep increasing your Online Response Marketing budget (i.e. SEO, SEM and online testing) until your lead cost is higher than your other sources. A previous blog addressed how you can learn to balance out your online lead volume and cost.

Once your Response and Interruption lead costs match, invest more in Interruption knowing that your online Response system is already well-optimized to handle the increased searches.

Your 3-step summary to optimizing your marketing budget

  1. Implement a testing strategy to get a strong ROI from your Response Marketing.
  2. Keep increasing your Response Marketing budget until the ROI no longer makes sense.
  3. Invest in Interruption Marketing to increase the volume that your optimized web presence will be able to turn into contacts for you.

To better balance between Response and Interruption marketing,
Bryan

P.S. If your service-based business has at least a $1000/month online marketing budget and you would love to turn your online presence into an optimized Response Marketing machine, get in touch.

Easily give your Brand a Concrete definition and watch all of your Marketing explode

The Power of Branding Speedometer

To improve your marketing, define your Brand.

People seem to believe Direct Response marketers don’t like Brand marketing. That we’re somehow arch-enemies in the world of advertising.

That’s just not true.
We directs love great branding.

And there’s a simple reason for this.
It works.

Within a month or 2 of starting internet marketing for a new client, we can tell if a business has a strong local brand. The search volume relative to population, click-thru rates on those clicks, and even conversion rates of the website all give us clues to the strength of your business name in your local market.

Defining Branding

When you ask most people about branding they start thinking of broadcast media, logos, and slogans.

However…

Are your service trucks and the decals painted on them part of your branding?
Are your uniforms?
Is your website?
What about how you answer the phone?
Is the quality of your work?
Can your pricing be part of your brand?
How about your team culture?

Yes!
All of these are part of your brand.

So what is branding? Flint McLaughlin of MECLabs has the best definition around:

Brand is the aggregate experience of your value proposition.

I love branding because the data shows that it works. In other words, if you have a great business that delivers a truly unique product or service in a way that retains customers, then getting results from any form of advertising is a whole lot easier.

Recently a company came to my home to clean my carpets.

They cultivate their advertising by building up relationships with locally influential people, like my realtor friend who referred them to me. That’s great marketing.

They come to my home and about 45 minutes later I notice they are packing up so I go to check on things. They forgot about my area rugs that we discussed twice. They also never let me know they wouldn’t move anything. Not even the chair in my office (on wheels).

From my perspective as a marketer, their marketing DID work. I DID hire them, however their branding was very poor.

The worst part is, they did a great job, had a fair price and were very personable.

Just a few quick tweaks could transform this business…

Imagine how much more effective every dollar they spent on marketing would be if they:

  1. Introduce themselves and explain exactly what they are doing today and that they don’t want to move things that are valuable so if there is anything they need to clean under, please move those now.
  2. Double-check with you before wrapping up that everything is done to your satisfaction.
  3. Share a handout with their invoice that includes a list of all of their services. (I overheard them talking about a tile cleaning job, yet they never once offered to clean my tile.)

They did ask me how often I cleaned my carpets and then recommended I clean them every fall and spring.

Fat chance I’ll ever remember that.

Instead, they should have said, “You seem to be happy with your fresh, clean carpet and since you’re a new customer, in 6 months Bonnie in my office will give you a call, remind you it’s been 6 months and get you a 10% discount on your next cleaning. As long as we come out every 6 months you’ll always get your 10% discount.”

How many people get their carpets cleaned regularly every 6-months?

Imagine the impact on that business from offering this one service.

The lifetime value of each customer would sky-rocket which would allow the owner to spend more in marketing to acquire each new customer.

THAT is branding!

Branding is setting an expectation.
The strength of your brand is in how well you foster that expectation.

Branding cannot exist without a Value Proposition

Your Value Proposition

Great branding requires a unique value proposition.

If you want to improve your marketing and get better results, where do you start?

You could call me and I guarantee my team will get you better results online, however we will ask for your value proposition (also called a Unique Selling Proposition).

Most marketers will never ask you for this.
Most “brand experts” fail to understand that a brand cannot exist without a value proposition.

This is great news!

This means that 90% of your competitors are never going to define their value proposition and therefore will never be able to create a lasting brand.

MECLabs has developed a simple way to create your value proposition by answering 1 question:

If I’m your ideal customer, why I should do business with you rather than your competitors?

Can you answer that question?
If not, go to your calendar right now and schedule 2 hours this week to sit down, block out all interruptions, and figure that out.

Great Marketing Starts with a Great Brand

In the early 1900’s, legendary direct marketer and author of My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins, took on Schlitz Brewery as a client.

Here’s what Claude had to say after visiting the brewery:

I saw plate-glass rooms where beer was dripping over pipes, and I asked the reason for them. They told me those rooms were filled with filtered air, so the beer could be cooled in purity. I saw great filters filled with white-wood pulp. They explained how that filtered the beer. They showed how they cleaned every pump and pipe, twice daily, to avoid contamination. How every bottle was cleaned four times by machinery.

I came back to the office amazed. I said: ‘Why don’t you tell people these things? Why do you merely try to cry louder than others that your beer is pure? Why don’t you tell the reasons?’ ‘Why,’ they said, ‘the processes we use are just the same as others use. No one can make good beer without them.’ ‘But,’ I replied, ‘others have never told this story. It amazes everyone who goes through your brewery. It will startle everyone in print.

So he put their story of quality control and purity in print and as a result they jumped from 5th to tied for 1st in market share.

Often your Value Proposition isn’t something completely unique. It’s just something that you communicate more clearly than your competitors.

Clarity always beats persuasion!

Branding isn’t fuzzy

I’m an engineer so I don’t do wishy-washy and touchy-feely very well.
Which is why I love great branding.

It’s precise.
It’s direct.
It’s crystal clear.
It’s measurable.
It can be tested.

When you understand that your brand is the aggregate experience of your value proposition and you have a great value proposition, you understand there are plenty of ways to test and measure the power of your value proposition.

It’s easy to measure the power of a value proposition in Google Adwords Click-Thru-Rates, A/B Split-tests on websites, email headline experiments and even in conversations with customers.

That, however, is the easy part.

The hard part is for your entire business to deliver on the expectation created by your advertising by living your brand.

To your branding success,
Bryan

The cornerstone of your Marketing RoadMap – A solid Positioning Strategy

A positioning strategy is the position you occupy in the minds of your prospects and customers.

As a start-up, you have the awesome power to define that position from scratch. For an existing business you need to know your current position before you can plan how to change it.

First some background…

Thirteen months ago I started an internet marketing company.

My expertise and experience were in IT, mechanical engineering (BS from Kettering University), technology consulting, small business management (which I learned at the first business I acquired), and then a bit of business brokerage.

So starting an internet marketing business seemed like the best way to leverage all of those experiences, right? Right?

In fact it was…

First, I had to understand what would make my business and team unique.

Why would someone hire a computer-geek, mechanical engineer, entrepreneurial-junky to generate leads online instead of maybe someone with actual experience marketing?

In those words it actually sounds somewhat ridiculous. (Now that we’ve repeatedly proven our team can outperform anyone we’ve come across in internet marketing for service businesses, I’m finally fessing up.)

Here are the steps I took to position ourselves uniquely in the market as a start-up going up against multi-million dollar teams with more years of experience than I had years breathing.

  1. Study your competition – Know what they do, why they do it, and how they communicate.
  2. Study yourself – What does my team have that no one else does? What problems can we truly solve?
  3. Study your target market – If possible, survey them. What is important to them? What annoys them? What one thing would most help them?

Now take all of that information and formulate your Positioning Strategy. Your Positioning Strategy is the BIG PICTURE of what people will think of when they think of you.

It’s the stake you drive into the sand that separates you from everyone else. 

If you don’t know what makes you unique, your customer’s don’t know either.

Know Your Competition

Our competition fell into 2 primary segments… Web Developers and Ad Agencies.

By reading through their websites, reviewing their marketing, and talking with their customers, it was quite obvious that they both positioned themselves basically the same way.

They focused on:

  • Advertising Awards
  • Creativity
  • Uniqueness
  • Cleverness of phrases and headlines
  • Branding
  • Decades of Experience in the above
  • Measuring success objectively by the client’s appreciation of the design

It was obvious we could not possibly beat them at their own game. Instead, we defined our Position in the marketplace as:

  • Results Driven
  • Analytical (we use the scientific method not popular opinion)
  • Systems focused
  • Constantly testing to learn what works. (We openly admit we don’t have all the answers while pointing out that  no one does.)
  • Direct-Response
  • More experience where it mattered (in the industry and with a new marketing medium)
  • Success measured objectively by the number of increased leads

As engineers, we could present a completely new skillset that was perfectly aligned with the internet marketing world. For the first time in history, we can test and optimize ALMOST EVERYTHING. Headlines, pictures, offers, videos, buttons, and calls-to-action can all be tested.

None of our current competitors knew the power of testing, or they simply weren’t communicating that they did, so we positioned ourselves against them to highlight our unique skillset. 

Hence our (thoroughly tested) business name, Optimized-Marketing.com.

Know Thyself

Yeah. We’re geeks and we know it.

  • Engineer– This has numerous advantages in the world of internet marketing. We understand how to setup scientifically sound split-tests  for Google Ads, landing pages, and other online marketing.
    • We are trained to build systems to solve problems. The problem is you need more leads and the solution we built is Traffic, Conversion, and Follow-up. Notice I didn’t say it’s about websites or SEO or Social Media. All of those things can change… But the system to leverage all of them may only need slight adjustments to keep up.
    • We love numbers. Of course, you can’t measure absolutely everything, but we can measure a whole lot more than most marketers will ever tell you.
    • We focus on the outcome. Ever watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory? Engineers dislike fluffy, opinionated people. Until you show us the results, we don’t believe anything you say. That obsession with results, in the form of generating leads, makes us quite unique.
  • GM’s in the industry – I’m one of you! Amanda and I can identify with our target customer’s struggles because we’ve both been General Managers in the water treatment industry. Identifying with their struggles goes a long way in building trust.
  • Technology consultant – Experience doesn’t matter when the technology is brand new. Every time a new marketing medium like Adwords, Facebook, or YouTube comes out, we’re all back to square one. So, even though I had less marketing experience, I had a lot more experience using technology to improve businesses. Which is EXACTLY what we do.
  • Obsession with motorcycles – A lot of our target market, small business owners, are men with an appreciation for cars and motorcycles. I’m about 10 steps beyond fascination to full out obsession so I often use that connection to become more memorable. On a regular basis I hear things like, “Oh yeah, you’re the motorcycle guy.”

You have to keep in mind that, in a small business, building your “brand” is as much about your corporate positioning strategy as it is about how people perceive you personally.

Know Your Target Customer

Let me reveal one of the most under-utilized secrets in marketing.

If you actively do this, you are one in a hundred businesses… Maybe one in a thousand.

If you want to know your target customer, <drum roll pleasesimply ask them what’s important to them!

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Ask your customers AND prospects what’s important to them, including the prospects who don’t buy. Don’t forget to ask the ones who don’t even take the time to contact you why they didn’t contact you.
  2. Track ALL customer complaints to Fix, Review, and Follow-up with them. Only about 1 in 8 customers who have an issue will complain about it so treat those complaints like gold. There are few better ways to learn how you can make it easier for customers to do business with you.
  3. Use surveys to ask the same question the same way. In other words, hearing 10 customers say similar things 10 different ways is not the same as their quantitative response to the question on a 1-5 scale.

How did we learn about our target customer?

I joined the trade organization of our target market to get access to our target customers’ emails and, instead of sending out an email saying “buy from me,” I sent out a survey.

The survey was a free tool for businesses within the industry to benchmark their marketing plans against other businesses within the same industry. All for free. Whether they were interested in our help or not, it was a great value to the market.

That’s how I got my first 4 clients.

My first few emails never even told them what I did or how I could help. I simply asked them where they needed help and then built a business around those needs.

Eliminate Competition

The net result of a strong positioning strategy is that you become so unique, you literally don’t have any more competition. No one can compete with you because you don’t offer the same products or services as anyone else.

So, what is your Positioning Strategy ? If you don’t have one yet, when are you making the time (open your calendar and schedule it now) to create one?

To better positioning yourself for success, Bryan

Small Business Marketing – Strategy/Clarity

My last marketing blog discussed the importance of your company vision, mission, and culture on both your marketing and overall business. Now you need to separate your business according to your 3-5 primary revenue streams. More streams then that and you’re probably diluting yourself and not effectively controlling each. Reference Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins and Winning by Jack Welch for more reasons to keep focused on a few key revenue streams.

Separating revenue streams is relatively straight-forward, however developing your Strategy and Clarity for each stream is a bit more work. The reason for separating and developing a unique strategy for each is that, more often then not, each stream has a different type of customer. As quick and obvious proof of that fact, if your business caters to residential, commercial, and industrial clients, you’re well aware that the way you handle, communicate with, bill, and market is different for each one.

For each revenue stream, the Strategy/Clarity stage include 3 things:

  1. Target Customer – Who is your ideal client?
  2. Unique Selling Proposition – What separates you from all competition so you no longer can compete on price?
  3. Positioning Strategy – What position do you currently occupy in the consumer’s mind? How do they view your business?

Of the 3, defining your Target Customer is the easiest. To do this, go through your database, pick out your top 10, 20, or 40 best, most profitable clients, and figure out what they have in common. Even better yet, pay them (in goods and services or even cold hard cash) to answer a detailed survey to give you an excellent picture of who they are, what they do, and where else they spend their money. Once you have this information do 3 things:

  1. If a non-competitive business regularly pops up as a place where your top customers spend their money, approach that business owner and try to setup a partnership.
  2. Develop a simply, yet crystal clear “picture” of your perfect client similar to Trader Joe’s, “unemployed college professor who drives a very, very used Volvo.
  3. Empathize with and put yourself in that target person’s shoes before developing any marketing. Talk to him directly.

Once you have that picture of your target customer, gather information from all of your competitors via their websites, public marketing, and a mystery shopping service like teleXpertise. Gather all of that information and determine where the hole is… In other words, what do your perfect customer’s want that none of your competitors are offering? By now you see where this is going; this will be your Unique Selling Proposition. Simply put, your USP makes you so unique that you no longer have any businesses who can compete with you on price. You can often do this by offering additional services, warranties, products, guarantees, or features with your package that your competitors can’t match.

The final step is your Positioning Strategy and this one is the most challenging as we’re literally trying to read people’s minds. Right off the bat, you need to separate these (in addition to revenue stream) into people who are currently customers and people who are not. An existing customer should have a better picture of who you are and what you do and so have a more defined position in her mind than someone who has never purchased from you. In your customer survey of your top 10-40 customers, you need to ask questions about why they decided to work with your business and how they learned about it. Ask what they tell friends and family about your business. That’s the true picture of how they perceive you… Not by what they tell you, but by what they tell others. As for finding out what non-customers think about you, you have to ask them. That includes prospects and complete strangers you meet. When you meet someone new and they ask what you do for a living, once you tell them your business name, ask them what they’ve heard about it. Most people aren’t going to tell you anything negative so keep that in mind. To find the negative, search Twitter, Yelp, Ripoffreport.com, and Google for your business. Within the constraints of a small business marketing time and budget, we don’t really have the ability to get beyond those few pieces. However, if you’re interested in learning more about positioning check out Jack Trout and Al Ries’ book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

Now that you have an idea of what position you occupy in the minds of others, do 2 things:

  1. Determine if your Position Matches the needs of your target customer and your USP. In other words, if people see you as the low-cost solution and your USP is to be the best service provider, there’s a disconnect. Your options are to either revise your USP to match the position of your business (which is the far simpler and easier option and what I recommend) or start re-positioning yourself (which is complicated, costly, and takes a lot of time).
  2. Consider the position you occupy in your customer and potential customer’s mind when developing any new marketing. In other words, you know everything about your business and all of your competitors and you need to forget all of that. It’s called “the curse of knowledge” and you have it.

Here’s the bottom line… As a small business owner or leader, you don’t have a $100 million marketing budget or even a $1 million marketing budget so you need to make every dollar count. To get the most out of your marketing dollars, you first need to track everything, beyond that if you know and talk directly to your target customer, from the position you occupy in her mind, with a Unique Selling Proposition that will be important to her, you’ll be far ahead of your competitors.

To your Targeting, USP, and Positioning success, Bryan

Every small business needs a Marketing System… And how to create one

Michael Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited and Sam Carpenter in Work the System both talk about developing effective systems, processes, and scripts in your business to help create a consistent front for your customers and also to develop a business that works without you. Brad Sugars wrote an entire book dedicated to systems called, Instant Systems, because he believes so strongly in their value.

The front line system in your business is your system for generating leads through your marketing. You can argue this is your most important system since, without marketing there’s no way to get customers, however without a strong sales system, service system, or finance/accounting system you won’t have a business for very long even if you do have prospects contacting you. My definition of marketing is anything that gets a potential customer to contact you. Whether that’s by phone, walk-in, email, web-form, or even a direct online order. Once they contact you, it’s up to your sales system to take it from there because now they’re in your sales process.

My marketing system goes into the Marketing Manual… The big picture concept of the Marketing Manual is a resource to reference for all marketing you’ve ever tried along with results. It’s a resource for creative along with your entire marketing plan. Say what? You don’t have a marketing plan? Then let’s get to work.

Just like every aspect of your business, your Marketing Manual has to start with your company vision and mission.  The Marketing Manual Flowchart outlines the major pieces in your marketing manual to provide a quick, graphical guide.

  1. Vision/Mission/Culture – If your marketing doesn’t fit in-line with these, then don’t do it. Simple as that.
  2. Revenue Streams – What product lines or services does your company offer to generate revenue? My chart only has 5 revenue streams because, for most businesses, that’s all you can reasonably handle and become excellent at. It’s much better to have 5 strong revenue streams than 10 half-way streams.
  3. Strategy/Clarity – Before you write a sentence of copy, you need to know who your marketing is meant to talk to (target customer); what specifically is going to set you apart from everyone else (Unique Selling Proposition); and what position, if any, your business holds in the mind of the consumer (positioning strategy). Notice I didn’t say what position you want or what position you think you have; you need to know what position you actually occupy. Once you have a position it’s EXTREMELY difficult to change that position so it’s generally best to work with what you have.
  4. Lead-Generators – This is where most small business owners start. They hear the word marketing and think of where they can run ads or what they can do to generate leads. Don’t make that mistake. Start at the beginning and work your way down. Otherwise, when you get to this point, there’s no real way to know if your marketing is actually working.
  5. Implementation – Each lead source has several pieces to it including what it will cost, how long it will run, special offers, training of the sales staff, copy, and most importantly a method of tracking. If you’re in a small business and are thinking of doing some marketing that you can’t track, then don’t do it. Sure it might make you feel good to see your name on a billboard or hear yourself on the radio. But if you can’t actually track its performance, then pass on that marketing piece. Donations and charity work would be an exception since you’re not doing it to generate leads but just to be a good member of your community.

Instead of making this blog exceedingly long, I decided to break this concept up into a few pieces. Your homework for this week is to start thinking about your company’s vision and mission. If you already have those, define your top 3-5 revenue streams and start thinking about the Strategy/Clarity stage. I’ll give you more tips on how to create a Vision, Mission and Culture and then identify your Target Customer, Unique Selling Proposition, and Positioning Strategy in the next few blogs.

Keep in mind that when your Marketing Manual is finished, you can pass it off to someone else to take the reins, they can pick up where you left off, and keep growing the business.

To your marketing success, Bryan

How to fix your business FAST – Part 4 – Improve Marketing and Sales

For most businesses I’ve encountered, the greatest improvement in marketing would simply be to start tracking your ROI. In other words, you need to know your cost/lead and cost/sale for each marketing project. I address this concept in detail in my blog on Scientific Advertising.  Keep in mind that simply asking your customers “how did you hear about us?” can be somewhat futile (though it’s better than nothing). Michael Corbett suggests simply watching your sales to see if they go up with your current marketing or stay flat. To me that seems like a rather unscientific approach since that doesn’t tell you which marketing produced the results and there are  more factors than marketing alone that can affect sales.

There are a handful of marketing books in my Recommended Reading section, in addition to My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, so I’m not going to directly address the difference between good and bad marketing. After all, no one knows exactly what will generate the best response until it’s tested and measured.

That being said, here are a few marketing pointers in addition to knowing your numbers:

  1. Have a Unique Selling Proposition that sets you apart from all of your competitors. In other words, create a niche only you can fill.
  2. Know and understand your target audience. You can have the best offer, and the best advertisement in the world, but if it’s directed to the wrong audience you’ll get zero results. Spend the most marketing time on getting your message to the right people!
  3. Keep a detailed customer database so you can cross-market constantly. If someone has bought from you once before, they are MUCH more likely to buy from you again. If you don’t have a database (or your not using the one you have) change that immediately!
  4. Offer a guarantee. If your products are either more expensive than most, or can’t be touched by the consumer prior to purchasing (such as with internet sales) you MUST have an iron-clad guarantee to assuage their fears. This must demonstrate that you’re the best and the customer has nothing to risk.

Since we’re looking for quick fixes, I’m going to stop the list there. If you do those things, you’ll notice results almost instantly.

On the sales side, you need to again, learn your numbers. Am I getting that point across fully yet? 🙂 Whether you realize it or not, in your sales cycle, there are many steps. Let’s take a retail clothing store for example. What are the steps a shopper takes?

  1. Window browsing – How do we get them to actually walk into the store? A lot of retailers put up blinds behind the window manequins so people have to actually walk in to see what else is available.
  2. Entering the store – How do we get them to spend time looking around? Depending on your clientelle, music can make a huge difference as to whether they hang around a while or not.
  3. Perusing certain racks or aisles – How do we get them to see the most we have to offer? Most retail stores put the clearance and discounted rack at the back so you have to walk all the way through to find the great deals.
  4. Trying clothes on – How do we get them to go to the dressing room? Keep in mind, people can only try on or buy as much as they can physically carry. Make it easy for customers to carry more with helpful sales associates and people will buy more. Paco Underhill addresses this in magnificent detail in Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.
  5. Buying – How do we get them to come back? Are we getting their name and email address for our database?

So why do we break that up into so many steps? Because if you don’t, you have no idea which steps you need to improve. I’ve heard of a retail store that learned that around 80% of people who try something on will buy it. So they didn’t work on directing people to the cash register, they worked on getting potential customers to the changing rooms.

Every business has a series of steps in their sales cycle. You need to learn and track each of those steps for your business and then systematically improve the conversion rate for each one.

That was  a retail environment, so let’s consider a service based business. What possible steps do we have for them?

  1. Inquiry – via phone, web, or walk-in
  2. Service Pitch/Presentation – Are you skipping this step? If people call your plumbing business and ask what it costs to unclog a toilet, do you just tell them or do you first tell them why you are their best option with your guaranteed time, flat-rate billing, and professional staff?
  3. Price Quote/Estimate – Are you building value along with this quote (particularly if it’s in writing) to back up your pricing?
  4. Commitment to Purchase – If the commitment isn’t made immediately are you leaving them PLENTY of information to convince them you’re their best option? My business has a 24 page “leave-behind” packet for just such instances.
  5. Delivery of Service – Are you delivering exactly what you said? Particularly if you only get paid once your service is complete.
  6. Payment – Do you have simple payment options and are you asking for payment immediately upon completion so as not to tie up your office staff trying to collect money?
  7. Follow-up – Did you get their name, phone, address, and email for your database? Did you call or visit them again after completion to make sure they were completely satisfied? Did you ask for testimonials or referrals?

As you can see, there are a lot of steps in this process as well and at any step along the way you can lose potential clients. That’s obviously why tracking the number of customers who make it to each step is so important!

A couple of things you can do to help improve each step in the process:

  1. Have excellent training for each person involved in sales including detailed scripts, role-playing, and NLP training.
  2. Incentivize and develop some competition. People like to know someone else notices that they are the best at what they’re doing.
  3. Have an outside company shop your business and report back what they find.
  4. Record phone calls, conversations, and customer interactions (after checking with your lawyer of course) to look for opportunities for improvement.
  5. Provide on-hold and/or in-store marketing over the speaker system. I know the “blue-light” specials weren’t enough to save Kmart, but I’m not claiming that’s all you need to do for your business either. 😉
  6. Create your story portraying your commitment to customer service, quality, community involvement, and excellence. Make it available in your store, restaurant, business, and on your website. People love buying from places where they feel a part of something.
  7. Include testimonials everywhere! Put them in your store, on your website, in your marketing, on your thank you cards… heck, you can even put them on your receipts.

In my experience with over 100 small businesses, I don’t know of anyone, myself included, who is doing all of these things well. In my defense, I do know what I have to do and one-by-one I’m crossing them off of my list.

We’re on Part 4 right now so you should have quite a long To-Do list written down, right? If not, go get a piece of paper and a pen, review my last 4 blogs and start writing. After I post my last blog on this topice (Part 5) you’ll now have a complete list that you can prioritize and start addressing.

To your sales and marketing success, Bryan

The 5 simple steps to writing the perfect phone script…

This could be a script for anything. Sales, service, scheduling, answering questions, etc. etc. etc. Keep in mind that just about every script is doing some sort of selling and so we’ll use some basic sales and marketing techniques to effectively write.

Before we review how to write a script, let’s summarize why every business needs scripts for any question or process that occurs on a regular basis.

  1. It’s the only way to ensure consistent, quality responses to all of your customers every time.
  2. It’s the best way to quickly train a new teammate and bring him up to speed on your business.
  3. It’s the only way to be sure that you’re maximizing the chances of a sale, appointment, happy customer etc. with every interaction.
  4. It’s a great way to replicate all of the best, most powerful knowledge in the business and share it with the whole team and even with your other businesses.
  5. It’s required if you ever want to step away from your business because you’ve set it up to run by itself

There are probably a lot more reasons for scripts, however you get the idea. Scripts are a key to successfully growing your business.

So to create a script you need to follow the 4 Basic Rules of Marketing:

  1. Create a need or problem
  2. Provide a solution
  3. Convince them that you’re company is the best one to handle that solution
  4. Entice them into taking action right now

So let’s keep those in mind while we focus on the 5 steps to creating a great script:

  1. Determine your goal or desired outcome from the conversation
  2. List all the benefits the customer/prospect will receive by saying “yes” to your script
  3. Organize the script according to the “4 Basic Rules of Marketing”
  4. Paint a picture and/or sensationalize
  5. Translate into your own words and dialect

Let’s look at an example that we recently tackled at my business. We have a recurring service that we provide for our customers where we change the filters once per year in their drinking water system so that it functions optimally. Originally that script went something like this:

“Good morning, this is Sally from The Water Company. I’m just calling to let you know that your annual filter change is due. The filters should have been changed <date>. We’d really appreciate it if you can call us back at <phone number>.”

So let’s work through our process:

  1. Determine your goal. – Perform a filter change for our customer on or about 12 months after the last one.
  2. List the benefits. Great quality water, lower long-term cost by protecting the much more expensive membrane, the filters are designed to last 12 months to ensure the best water.
  3. Organize the script according to the marketing rules. –
    1. Problem – They haven’t changed filters yet and their water quality is deteriorating
    2. Solution – A low-cost, convenient, in-home filter change.
    3. Why us? – Well since they’re already using our equipment it’s not like they’re going to call a competitor however they may think it’s better if they do it themselves. Our initial script will assume they’re either going to not do a filter change or they are.
    4. Why should I call back to schedule now? – Because we’ll be in your area and you’re already on the schedule.
  4. Paint a picture – Filters take out impurities and over time they lose their effectiveness to do so therefore delivering lower quality water.
  5. Translate – This is done overall by the script-writer but individually by each person using the script

When we put that all together into a full script this was the result:

“Good morning, this is Sally from The Water Company. The filters in your drinking water system are designed to last 12 months and its been 14 months since your last filter change. As you probably know, every day those filters are taking the impurities out of your water so each day beyond 12 months more and more impurities are able to pass through. You are on the schedule for next week when we’ll be in your area so simply call 555.1234 to confirm and we’ll take care of everything for you. We appreciate you being a part of the Water Company team. Have a fantastic day!”

Since we haven’t reviewed NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) in this blog yet, I’ll just briefly point out some things that NLP would have us correct. First, notice in the revised script how “you” and “your” are used more frequently to put more emphasis and focus on the customer.
Secondly, that last sentence jumped out at me – “We’d really appreciate it if…” What message is that sending to the customer? To me that says “you, the customer, are doing us a service by changing your filters” when in reality its a great benefit to them. Again the proper thing to do is to turn the focus to the customer and how it’s a great benefit to them. Notice how we changed that in the revised script – “You are on the schedule next week when we’ll be in your area…” What does that say. Well it assumes that of course they want a filter change and it also gives them a reason to respond almost immediately. If they don’t we might not be in their area for a while or we might show up when they don’t want us to. Either way, it’s much more likely to illicit a response.

As for the problem and benefits, we decided to pick out the points that the filters are only designed to last 12 months and that regular filter changes require good quality water. We put more specific numbers of 12 months and “14 months”, or whatever the time has been since their last change, instead of just spitting out a date. By listing a date they have to do the math and most people either won’t or it just won’t sound as urgent based on the quick math that they do in their heads.

We tried to paint a picture with our words by talking about “impurities being taken out” and “impurities passing thru”. That’s something anyone can easily visualize and we’re hoping most will automatically picture that with their minds’ eye.

Keep in mind, a script is just a starting point. It needs to flow smoothly when its being used so that it doesn’t sound like you’re reading it. In other words, you need to rearrange, add, remove, change transitional words to make it sound like you’re just talking to the customer. Everyone in your business may have a slightly different “script” because of that, so just make sure they know not to change or alter the key points.

Lastly, as with every change in your business, you need to Test and Measure the results of the new script and again Test and Measure when you improve it next time.

A secondary benefit that I derived from working on this script is that it allowed me to spend some time teaching a team member more about NLP, scripting, marketing, and business in general. Obviously it would have been a lot quicker for me to just write it myself – however if I did that, then I’m just guaranteeing myself that I’ll have to write every script forever.

To your success, Bryan