Excited by Changes

If you’re subscribed to some of my newsletters you know that I’m working on making some changes. Why? Because I realized that I do a lot of writing, and wanted to give my newsletter subscribers something different than what I do on the blogs. Even if the newsletter writings tend to be shorter than the blogs, it’s still paragraph form writing. Don’t get me wrong, I still love writing and that’s not going to stop anytime soon, but I wanted to offer something different.

The interesting thing about this process of deciding what else I could share about, is that I realized I wanted to do something different too. That yes, the change is meant to benefit my subscribers most, but it’s good for my creative muscles to be doing some different things. It turns out I also look forward to doing the newsletters more, which means not only better insights, but also newsletters that take less time to put together in some cases because I’m more motivated and inspired.

So why am I sharing all this? Because sometimes changes can be good! It’s OK to admit you need a change as the business owner, to encourage your customers to choose the ways they want to work with you that work best for them, and to change the things you offer even if they’re not outdated (yet). It’s partly about being innovative, partly about staying ahead of the competition, and partly about keeping your customers engaged.

Sometimes change is necessary (Facebook data anyone?!) but other times change is just part of who we are and the growing process that each and every one of us go through personally and professionally. There’s nothing wrong with it and it can even be the motivation, inspiration and energizing. Is there change you’ve been debating in your business? If so I encourage you to take steps to make those changes before the end of the week.

Cost-Sensitive Sales

If you’re struggling to make sales, or aren’t making the sales you want, chances are good that you’ve thought of all kinds of things you can do to have more sales including adding more products to your inventory, doing paid ads, moving to a trendier location, adding more sales people to your sales team, or redoing something (like your store, your products, your packaging, your website etc.) Some of these things can get to be expensive, and you may not have a lot to spend right now. Unfortunately, you may have to spend at least a little to get in some more sales, but there are somethings you can do to bring in more sales without raising the overhead too much. Today’s post is a little longer than usual but there are lots of ideas in it to help you increase sales and be more profitable.

First and foremost is addressing something that too many companies aren’t addressing in their marketing, including on their website and social accounts: who are you, why you do what you do, and what makes you different. Maybe you really aren’t much different as far as the products or services you offer, but because you’re running the business, your business is different than any other one out there. How you approach business, the people you hire, the things you offer are all a little different because you’re behind the business, but people don’t know that unless you say so.

Another thing you could try is reusing existing supplies or technology in new ways. For example maybe you buy decorative boxes that you sell as the packaging for your gift box sets (spa day, wine inspired, new baby etc.), but some people may be interested in buying just the boxes for their own purposes, so you could offer them as a separate purchase. For technology, maybe you do embroidery on shirts that companies buy to resell from you, but you could use the same technology to embroider logos on shirts for companies, or embroider initials on towels for hotels or for newlyweds.

You can also look for products that you can resell, including digital products and items that you never touch. For example if you create dog leashes you could find some products on Amazon to sell (aka drop shipping), or a digital video course on training your dog you can sell as an affiliate.

Another way to increase sales with a physical location is to give your location a fresh coat of paint and do the deep cleaning you may have been putting off. Everyone prefers to shop in a neat and tidy space. Even when the atmosphere suggests that it’s a dark and mysterious type location that doesn’t mean that you need to have dirty floors, peeling paint or a kitchen (or back office) that hasn’t been cleaned since you moved in.

As for the people-cost concern, something I’ve always suggested are working with interns from high schools and colleges. Adding them to your team even for 1-6 months gives you the extra hands or bodies you need and gives them real world experience that they can apply to their future job, gives them the opportunity to try something out, or fulfills that school credit they have to get in the community. Especially when it comes to technology students are great to work with because they know the technology far better than many because they’ve been exposed to it for longer and understand it in ways that it may take some of us years to ever get, if we ever get it at all.

There are lots of free and low-cost marketing opportunities as well, from social media to guest blog posts, to media interviews. The only catch there may be that you have to do the work of finding blog post and media opportunities and letting them know why they should share you with their audience.

Now, the question you’ve got is cost. Yes, depending on how you’ve had your website done or you’ve done your website there may be some cost there (if you don’t have a website set one up now using any number of free services or contact an agency or tech expert for help). You may also have to buy more of something you already buy, but there could be a good chance for a (higher) discount then and you could take advantage of that and spread the cost around. And yes, you may have to pay a minimum wage for the interns (many programs require it), but it’s usually far cheaper than what a regular employee would cost you (and you may decide to hire them later which would save you future training costs). Most of these suggestions though require more of your time than your finances, but all of them require that you really commit to doing better and helping more people. These are just a few of the ways you could grow your business and reinvigorate sales, what will you do today to move your company forward?

Be Yourself Because You Matter

In the wake of large storms like those that have hit the southern US or natural disasters like the fires and drought on the west coast of the US it’s easy to think big picture. Sure millions are without power, millions are dealing with smoke or water issues, animals are struggling to deal with their homes being devastated, and companies have lost millions if not billions as a result. Those are some big numbers and indicate that a lot of people were affected by those events, or are still being affected. There’s nothing wrong with looking at those big numbers and sending mass aid to those locations. Those big numbers prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s an issue, and not just for one person but for millions.

But when it comes right down to it, it’s not millions of people having the exact same experience, every person’s experience is different. Every struggle is different, every challenge is different, and we’ll all make different choices when it comes to resolving them. Each of the people in Florida and the surrounding islands are united by their common hurricane experience, but each of them experienced something slightly different, and each will resolve their problems at a different speed or with a different solution.  And as part of that common experience, each and every one has the opportunity to rise from this situation stronger than they were before.

The same is true for us. We’re each living life together, but at the same time each of us have very different lives. As part of those lives we’ve got different opportunities and different challenges. You’re here reading my blog, and there are thousands of other blogs you could be reading, including thousands that also post on business, life, family, relationships and/or success topics, including some that I read on a regular basis.  Why do those thousands of people keep writing even though they’re one of many? Because if the writing we do helps just one person, makes a difference in the life of one person, encourages just one person that they’re not alone in their experience, it’s worth it.

Regardless of what you do in your life, the biggest responsibility you’ve been given is to be yourself and make a difference as yourself. Maybe you’re able and willing to put yourself in a plane in the path of a hurricane to get data that will be invaluable to saving lives and understanding climate change. Maybe you’re willing take a risk on an experimental drug for your illness so that tests can be done and learned from to better help others in the future. Maybe you’re happiest when you’re around kids and as a teacher you can help the next generation gain confidence in who they are and teach them the skills they’ll need to survive. Maybe you’re willing to listen to those who are struggling and help them find the path back to themselves and learn to live again. Whatever your gifts are, don’t be discouraged because you’re one of many, choose to be strong and brave in that path and be yourself.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”  Jane Goodall

The Path of Goals

This week I read a blog post that partly talked about the goals of having a blog. I love writing, it’s something I’ve done for many years (even before I started my blogs), but I know it’s not something that everyone likes. I do believe that having a blog and/or a newsletter that you send out on a weekly (or more frequent) basis can be a valuable part of your marketing strategy. It’s one of the best ways to consistently remind your clients and customers that you exist as a business and that you’re there any time they’re in need of what you offer. But what I really want to talk about today is the topic of goals.

We all have goals even if we don’t write them down or say them out loud. What the blog post reminded me was that there are about a dozen reasons why someone may start a blog or goals that they may have with it. Just because one of my reasons is because I like to write, and just because I have more of a goal of using the blogs to share my experience and expertise it doesn’t mean it has to be your reason or goal. It also means that we won’t all have the same purpose or goal in business, or in an aspect of business like social media for example. You may use social media to connect with others, while someone else may use it to look popular.

So what can we learn from all this? First that we’re not all in a line moving in the same direction. We didn’t all start our businesses at the same time, some have been around for hundreds of years while yours may be a few days old. Second, don’t be ashamed of your goals and dreams. It’s not bad to want different things from your businesses and for your customers, that’s part of what makes the world go ’round. Third, don’t let your excuses and what other people are doing stop you from achieving your goals. Make a plan for how you can accomplish your goals; do the research, figure out what actions are necessary, try things and don’t give up.

Demystifying Marketing

Today I thought I’d take some time to talk about something that many business owners today are confused with: marketing, marketing conversion, engaged marketing and content marking. It’s not easy to be in business in this crowded marketplace we have today, but there are people who are doing it and doing it well. Sometimes it’s about finding your niche and having the right price, other times it’s about who you are, but it always comes down to connecting with or presenting people with your offer to make the sale.

So let’s start with some definitions:
marketing: spreading the word about your product
marketing conversion: the percent of people who hear about/see your product and choose to buy
engaged marketing: “a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages consumers to participate in the evolution of a brand.”
content marketing: “a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Let’s talk next about the concept with the biggest difference depending on what you do or believe: conversion. It starts with difference between regular marketing wherein you’re trying to reach as many people as possible to get them to hear about your brand, and engaged marketing where you’re starting off not only qualifying people as possibly interested in what you’re selling, but having them get to know you. Regular marketing means you’ll have a higher number of people reached, but very possibly a lower number of conversions. Engaged marketing means that you’ll get in touch with fewer people but usually with better results.

Where does content marketing fit in? It’s part of the engaged marketing process. It’s one of the simplest, least expensive and fastest ways to get the word out about who you are, what you offer and what difference you make in people’s lives and why they would want to be part of what you’re doing.

Let’s now address the biggest questions most people have when it comes to marketing/content marketing/engaged marketing: the cost. Yes, in some ways it’s cheaper and easier to just simply market your business. You’re just throwing out a bunch of leads and hoping they get picked up. It’s not something you’re personally invested in, you’re just a numbers guy, and you like big ones. Yes, there is a lot of work that goes into engaged and content marketing, but it often gives you the chance to prove that you’re different from every other Tom, Dick and Harry out there in the same type of business, and connect with your ideal customers on a personal level which will mean more sales, more recommendations and more satisfaction for everyone.

Personally I believe in engaged marketing. I believe that each business should let their personal light shine and be unique. You can’t please everyone, so why would you want to market to everyone? No, market to those who will care, who will get invested in you and what you offer and will make all your hard work worth it.

Learning from Mistakes

Lately I’ve been running across some of the same issues in different businesses I’ve worked with so I thought I’d share them with you today so you can fix them if you’re guilty and be ready for the holiday sales that will start in just a few weeks.

1-You’re not letting go of what’s not working. If it’s not cost effective, if it’s not selling, if it’s not where you want the business to go, you have to get rid of it. But before you just close it down, stop selling it or throw it out ask if anyone wants to buy it from you, that way you win and so does someone else. If you’ve got a good product that just doesn’t line up with your business it should sell quickly and give someone else an opportunity they were looking for.

2-you’re not being strategic. Strategy usually has lots of moving parts, two key ones being time and money. Are you really being smart about how you’re spending your time and money? Or are you just wasting it on stuff that doesn’t work for your business, isn’t in your best interests to do personally or is just a wasted expense? One of those wasted expenses is buying “likes” for Facebook. I haven’t met one person yet who sells likes that can guarantee that you’re going to purchase likes from people who would actually care about your product or service. You can’t sell to fans from Japan if they’re never going to be in your town in Florida to buy your product from your local-only store and you can’t accurately track your marketing efforts because you’ve got all those fakes likes throwing off the numbers.

3-you’re sharing mixed messages. This is when one page says one thing and another page says another thing or your visitors have to take time to really figure out what you’re offering. When the message isn’t clear they won’t typically stick around to decipher what you tried to say. This is especially true if you’re in the scientific industries selling to mainstream clients, or if you’re trying to share a new concept within an established market. You can’t make the sale if people are confused, and they can’t get excited about the great thing you’re offering to share with their friends and family if they don’t understand it.

4-you have no message or are sharing the wrong message.  In line with the third issue sometimes you forget to communicate the message in the first place! I don’t know what you want me to buy if you don’t tell me what you’re selling.  And if your message offends me or sounds like it’s not appropriate for the type of business you are I won’t buy from you even if it actually would be a good fit for me.

So this week I encourage you to ask someone their perspective on what you’re putting out there (if you want an honest outside perspective you can ask me). Assuming it’s great because you did it or made it or love it is a big mistake. Find out from someone else if they would buy from you or why not.

Don’t Miss Out on Money this Fall 2

Last week I shared the first two of 4 things you can evaluate to make sure that you aren’t missing out on money in your business, your website and your email/newsletter. Today we’ll take a look at 2 others and talk about going forward.

3-social media.  People use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest on a daily basis. They’re great places for business owners to connect with regular, occasional and potential clients, as well as ways for them to stay in touch and learn about us. But there’s a lot of talk about what you should and shouldn’t do, and we’re only going to touch the very tip of the iceberg today.  If you’re not sharing a relevant update at least every week, but preferably daily, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities.  Make sure you’re sharing relevant content, the cute puppy videos and quotes are nice and all, but if they’re not relevant to your business your clients will just assume you’re a terrible marketer and that you don’t really know anything about them after all (and here they thought you cared!).

4-be human.  This is probably the hardest on the list as well as the most important.  Most of the others you can farm out (although I don’t always recommend it) but this one actually requires your participation.  I hinted at it with the last point when I shared that your customers think you care about them.  One of the things that’s quickly taking over in many industries are businesses who actually care about their customers. These businesses are finding success because they are addressing, meeting, appreciating and caring for their customer’s needs.  These are the businesses that are getting rave reviews on all the sites, are shared with friends and family far and wide and are consistently bringing in good money.  As I said last week Monday, people tend to know when all you see them as are dollar signs.  When they’re just another dollar to you, they’ll go somewhere else where they’ll actually feel respected and appreciated.

I leave you with the absolute truth: you can skip #1-3 but you can’t skip #4.  If you really make things that special for people, they’ll tell their friends and they’ll all be back because you were just that amazing.  It will take longer most likely because you’re not doing any outreach marketing, but it will get there.

Simple Marketing

Today, our “simple” topic is marketing.  Of course, there are lots of complexities to marketing, and everyone has a little different perspective on what it is and what’s important, and what is important may vary from company to company.  But there are a few things that are universal across the board for us to recognize in our marketing.

1-you’re marketing to people.  So many marketers and business owners forget that first and foremost they’re dealing with people.  I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it thousands more times, no matter what you sell, you’re selling to a person.  Don’t create ads that dogs would appreciate, don’t show your ads to fish, don’t plan for robots to buy your stuff.  You’ll waste your marketing dollars and time.

2-you must respect your audience.  Yes, there are some dumb people out there, I’ve met a bunch, and I’ve had the occasional dumb moment.  Regardless of how unintellectual you believe your audience is, treating them like they’re two won’t get you any sales, nor will ignoring them, screaming curses at them or bashing them over the head repeatedly with your offers. Be courteous and professional, and most of your customers will do the same.

3-if you don’t ask them, they won’t buy.  As silly as this seems, if you don’t tell your people what you’re marketing, how will they know to buy?  Also, there has to be an active request for a sale for people to do more than just click “like” or laugh at your TV ad.

4-most people need to be reminded of you.  Let’s face it: we’re all busier today in 2013 than we ever have been before.  There are more and more things each day competing for our attention.  As a result it’s important to establish ways to repeatedly connect with customers so they can be reminded of you, like through social media, a blog or a newsletter.

What other simple tips do you have about marketing?  Click the “comment” button below to share your tips.

Getting to Success

Last week a leader in the business industry, Seth Godin, celebrated a milestone: 5000 blog posts.  That’s a lot of writing.  Today I thought we’d take Mr. Godin as our inspiration and discuss how we too can be successful.

Consistency for the win.  You can’t get to 5000 blog posts if you don’t write a lot.  You also can’t become a multi-best selling author if you don’t keep writing.  You can’t become a much desired speaker if you don’t keep speaking.  You can’t make the best cupcakes in the world if you don’t keep practicing.  When people know you’re reliable and consistently good, they’ll come back for more.

Know your stuff.  Seth Godin doesn’t talk about aquariums, he talks about life and marketing, two topics he knows a lot about.  It’s evident when you read his writings he knows what he’s talking about, and he’s got the proof to back it up.  His successful companies are evidence enough that what Seth Godin knows works.

Win some, lose some.  When you’re as big as Seth Godin, you accept that you can’t please everyone, or even resonate with everyone all the time.  Nor should you.  You can’t be all things to all people.  Accept that the people you’re most supposed to help will find you at the time they need you.

Do what you love.  It’s evident after reading many of his writings that Seth Godin has a passion for what he does, and for sharing his insights and perspective with people.  It doesn’t come across like a chore for him to churn out all these blog posts and books, rather, he seems to enjoy it as much as the readers do.

There are few things in life these days, it seems, that last.  Not many TV shows make it to 100 episodes anymore, and it’s hard to find marriages that last 50+ too, let alone to stay in the same business or the same job for more than a few years.  It’s OK to passionately embrace all that life sends your way, but make sure that you give it your all, however you choose to live.  A life not well lived is not a life at all.

Marketing Content vs. Context

One thing I always find when I work on marketing with companies is the need to remind people about the importance of both their content and the context.  Let’s take a really simple example: a Facebook post.  If you see just a link in the post and nothing else, what is the likelihood you’re going to click on it?  Unless you’re really familiar with the person and know the type of stuff they usually post and that it’s usually stuff you’re interested in, you probably won’t click the link, right?  After all it could be spam.  With this example in mind let’s take these two concepts and examine how important they are in your marketing.

Content: this is what you’re sharing including what’s on your brochures, store (fronts), websites, newsletters, blog posts, Facebook page, Twitter profile, YouTube videos, pinterest posts, and anywhere else you’ve got stuff that people would see in direct relation to your business.  As a business, in your marketing first you’re usually answering the question “What’s in it for me?” that all potential customers want to know.  Once you’ve answered that question, hopefully telling them in enough detail to help them know why they can’t wait any longer for your help, then it’s up to you to reinforce that information with things that will reassure them that you know your stuff and build enough trust for them to reach out and work with you.  Content that you share with your clients and potential clients must be informative, relevant and interesting.  The most important of those 3 is relevant.  Unless you can prove to your viewers the relevance of that bit of information, it’s not relevant and you don’t need to share it.   A simple example would be a marketing company posting silly videos on their Facebook page that have absolutely nothing to do with their branding or services, interesting maybe, but totally not relevant.

Context is the next piece after you’ve established your relevant, informative and interesting content.  Context is the who, what, how, when of what you share.  Think back to the example first shared about Facebook, if you’re just sharing a link and not telling people what is important about that link, why you’re sharing it and why they should care, they probably won’t!  I’m not suggesting everything you share needs pages of information and explanation surrounding it, that would lead to some big brochures, long websites, boring posts and probably a mass exodus of customers.  Context helps people understand what’s relevant about what you’re sharing with respect for their intelligence and time.  It also helps you ensure your point gets across and connects with the people you want it to.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your marketing efforts.  Are they sharing good content within context that connects with people?  If you’re discovering that your marketing is lacking in both context and content, I’d love to help you get back on track.