Are you ready to get extreme?

Base-Jumping

When I hear the word extreme my mind immediately goes to extreme sports — where people take extraordinary risks and do some crazy things. While I’m a risk taker by nature (I’m not sure you can own a business without being one) the word extreme gives me pause.

An extreme sports athlete takes incredible risks and has to be at the top of his or her game to even dare it. The exposure to potential failure, and in this example — physical injury is very real and very possible. Which is why most of us don’t do it.

But I’m sure for the brave that do — it’s an exhilaration like few can ever know. Because along with the risks comes equal rewards.

I think back to the incredible risk I took in 1995 when I started my agency. Honestly I was too young and ignorant (again perhaps a parallel to extreme athletes) to realize how risky my choice was — but I definitely knew it wasn’t the safest option. But professionally, nothing I’ve done can compare and many amazing rewards have come as a result.

I think the word extreme is probably a pretty accurate word. Not everyone is cut out to extreme surf or be airborne on a motorbike. Most are content to choose safer hobbies. And that’s okay.

So when best selling author (Radical Leap Re-Energized, Greater than Yourself, etc.) Steve Farber began talking to me about this event he wanted to bring to Des Moines called Extreme Leadership Intensive — I got curious in a hurry. His books teach extreme leadership — using concepts like love, audacity and oh shit! moments, which is why I’ve embraced them for years. Turns out my extreme sport is what I do professionally and how I do it.

Steve is bringing his day and a half workshop to Des Moines — and he’s calling for people who are ready to be extreme leaders to join him. This isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not for leaders who are content to just be okay. This is for the men and women who truly want to leave legacy — in whatever way that matters to them. It’s for people who aspire to inspire — starting with themselves.

It’s coming this month — July 18th and 19th and I can promise you this — it will be a thrill ride and you will come out a different person than you went in.  How many workshops can promise you that?

Interested? Check out Steve’s video below and read more/register about the event here.

http://vimeo.com/69053926

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Your marketing includes way too much you

Handsome man humor funny gesture in a mirrorOne of the most common mistakes marketers make is that they think their customers and prospects care about them, what they sell and how it works. The human truth is consumers really do think, feel and ask “what’s in it for me?”

They have something they want to accomplish – from getting a cereal that their kids will eat to finding the right de-greaser for their airplane engines. They know the result they’re after and their buying decision is going to be based on satisfying that need.

When it comes to buying decisions, those decisions are always:

  • Based on emotion (positive or negative ones)
  • Based on meeting our needs and wants (even implicit)

And the truth of it is, consumers usually don’t care about understanding the nitty gritty of how those needs and wants are met.

I’m not suggesting someone would turn a blind eye to dangers, laws or morals. But think of your own buying behaviors. Typically, we don’t care how something works, we just care that it does. Or we care about some very specific aspect of how it works that is tied to us getting the result that we want.

It might be speed, expense, reliability, safety etc. that is tied back to that emotional tug. It’s all about the end result, though. Contrast that “cut to the chase” hunger for a solution with the marketing or sales’ teams attempts to sell.

We often build elaborate cases for how and why our product/service is the absolutely right solution. We list benefits (with bullet points and visuals) that dig into the nuances of every aspect of how we get something accomplished. See the disconnect?

Worried that your marketing might be putting the spotlight on the wrong part of the equation? Here are some common trouble spots.

Headlines: Most headlines are feature headlines. They are about us, not the consumer. “From 0-60 in 5 seconds” is talking about an attribute of our product. “You’ll never be late for another soccer game” is about the buyer’s desires.

Try this instead: Make sure your headline is making a promise or pointing out the consequence of them not using your product. Use the buyer’s emotions to connect them to how your wares can solve their problem.

Tradeshow booths: Because space is at a premium in trades show signage, booth graphics and materials – we tend to use bullet points galore. We want to pack in the facts. Which means we’re telling our story, not the one the buyer wants to hear.

Try this instead: Think about what your prospects ask most. Use your booth to answer those frequently asked questions about end results, rather than talk features.

Sales presentations: If you pull out some old sales presentations, take this simple test. Grade each PowerPoint slide – about us or about them. In most cases, your slides are going to be 75% about you and about 25% about what the customer wants.

Try this instead: Use this recipe for putting together your next presentation. The first 2/3 of the slides should be about the client, client’s business, their challenge and what you can do it fix it. Then, take that final 1/3 of your slides and divide them into 2. The first half – you can give them some information about your company, working with you, etc. The final ½ should be re-focused on the prospect and solving their problem.

If you start looking at all of your marketing materials with this new perspective, you’ll quickly be able to spot which ones need to have their focus re-adjusted to be more about the customer and less about you.

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Are you ready for the attention?

TRAKDOT-DEVICE2-640x480Let me paint you a picture.

You have a new product that you’re bringing to market in the next 60 days. You have the opportunity to showcase this new product at the world’s largest and best attended trade show for your industry.

You showcase the product and within hours — you have over 45,000 stories on Google about your new product.  And those stories are on sites like cnet.com, LA Times.com, Cult of Mac.com, forbes.com, and gizmodo.com.  Each story sings your product’s praises — talking about how useful it will be, how affordable it is and how cool anyone who owns it will feel.

Each and every story includes a picture of your product and a link to the product’s URL.

This is a dream come true, isn’t it?  It’s the holy grail of product launches. I don’t know about you — but I am getting a little weepy at the thought.

But wait. You see, there’s a little problem.  When you go to any of the 45,000 stories online and you click on www.trakdot.com — you get a 404 page.  That’s right — they debut their product at the Consumer Electronics Show and their website isn’t live.

WHAT??  Someone needs to be fired.  Today.

Trakdot hit a home run only to find out they were playing at the wrong ballpark on the wrong day.  I get it — they’re not ready to ship.  But I can’t even imagine the traffic those 45K stories drove to that URL.  (The story on CNN.com alone was re tweeted 827 times as of Tuesday afternoon) Grab people’s email addresses and send them a $5 off coupon.  Or offer to let them buy a day early if they share their contact information.  But don’t invite them over and then lock the door so they can’t come in!

This example — extreme and painful as it may be — reminds me how often companies go to trade shows without doing their homework.  And it’s not just trade shows.  It’s sending out press releases, doing a mailing to prospects — it’s marketing in general.

Here are some things you can/should do so that you never get caught being this clueless:

Check every detail:  Dial every phone number, enter every URL, drive or mapquest every address.  If you are going to include contact info — be sure it’s accurate, the people on the other end of the number or address are ready/prepped and it’s exactly where someone reacting to the marketing piece would want to be sent.

Anticipate reactions: Ask yourself — when someone sees this (hears about this, reads this, etc.) what might they do?

  • They might share it with others (so we might get even more traffic)
  • They might try to contact us (see check details above)
  • They might want to buy it (make it easy to find/do)
  • They might want to read reviews (share links) or review it (again — share links)
  • They might write a blog post (have Google Alerts set up and know the plan in terms of responding)
  • They might want more information (make sure the website is live, you have fact sheets to download etc.)
  • They might want to inquire about a large/group order (have a directory if they need to reach different people for different types of interactions)

You get the idea… be ready.

Have back up plans in case things go big or go wrong: Sometimes you just can’t anticipate how a market will respond. So have a contingency plan just in case. And you need to have a contingency plan for the incredibly good or the incredibly bad.  What if the product reviews are horrible?  What if United Airlines decides to buy enough to give everyone in their Mileage Plus program one? You need to be ready for either end of the “oh my God” spectrum.

Don’t let any show/publication/holiday or other outside influence get you to pull the trigger if you are not ready:  We all know how big a deal CES is.  But no event is worth looking unprepared or stupid. If you aren’t ready — you aren’t ready.

All of these suggestions are true, whether you’re a 25 year old product or brand new. Marketing isn’t just about the sex appeal, flashy stuff.  At it’s core, it’s a discipline. It’s about getting the details right. And it’s about thinking something through before you jump.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression and once the media has “discovered” you, they aren’t going to discover you again.  Be ready or stay home until you are.

 

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One Page Business Plan Template

Most businesses don’t create a plan for the upcoming year because it’s too daunting a task.  Which is why I’m a big advocate of the one page business plan and why I am sharing our one page business plan template with all of you.

It’s based on a couple of assumptions.  First — no business can tackle dozens of goals in a single year.  It’s better to identify a small handful of goals and build a plan around accomplishing those.

Even if you only set a handful of goals, you can’t tackle them all at once.  You need to prioritize them and then tackle one or two of them at a time.

Second — most business owners and leaders are a little myopic.  They tend to focus on the area of the business that is either causing the most trouble or is the aspect of the business they enjoy the most.  But they rarely give equal weight to all the different facets of the organization.

This one page business plan template takes care of both of these issues.  First — it forces you to only set six goals.  Not five and not 65.  Then, it asks you to rank the goals in order of importance, so you can decide where to focus first.

But you don’t set any six goals.  You set one goal per aspect of your business. The one page business plan forces you to create a well-rounded plan that takes into account:

  • Leadership/Management
  • Staffing
  • Internal Systems
  • Financial
  • New Business
  • Marketing

If you grow all these different aspects of your business together, your business remains stable and strong.  The one page business plan template forces you to think about the organization holistically and allows you to lead its growth in a more balanced way.

Here’s what I like best about this template.  It’s simple enough that you’ll actually do it.  Download it (click here to download the one page business plan template) and get started!

 

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5 Marketing To Dos to get done before 2013

This is the time of year where work grinds to a halt.

We have another two weeks or so before the holiday frenzy, parties, hangovers and the general professional apathy creeps in and productivity becomes a dirty word.

But don’t give up hope yet.  I think there’s still a few things we can get done before we all sing Auld Lang Syne. Here are the five things I think you should focus on as the year winds down.

Your website: Take the time to look at every page, click on every link and make a list of what’s missing.  We spend a lot of time building our websites but once they’re done, they tend to be forgotten.  Fix all those broken links, correct any copy that’s wrong and update the pages that are out of date or are missing some of your more current offerings.  Look for simple things you can do to increase visitors and engagement.

Your five best customers: Take the time to actually think about those customers who help you keep the doors open.  Then, in this crazy rushed time — write them a handwritten thank you note/letter.  Be specific about why you love working with them — and send it so you end their year with a smile.

Call it quits: Look back over the past 12-24 months.  What’s the one marketing tactic that you have really dedicated yourself to but it just hasn’t caught on fire.  This has to be something that you feel you really implemented well, thoroughly and can’t imagine what you could have done better.  If you can say that and it’s not delivering results — it’s time to let it go.  Make December 2012 the last time you invest in it.

Identify your #1: If at the end of 2013, you could claim one accomplishment or goal’s achievement that would benefit the organization more than anything else — what would it to be? Spend some time identifying the barriers that are between you and that accomplishment and what you need to leap over them.  Build a one page business plan for getting to that goal as early in 2013 as you can.  Make it your priority.

Fix what’s broken: When you look back at your marketing efforts for 2012 — what’s the one marketing tactic that you know you did a lousy job of implementing?  You know it can and will work but you just let other things get in the way or you did it half-heartedly. It’s time to get serious.  Figure out what got in your way and figure a way around it.  Farm it out, get something else off your plate, make a bet that you can’t afford to lose — do whatever you need to do — to  make it happen and happen well.

There you have it — get those five things done and then you can drink that 3rd glass of spiked egg nog at the company party without any guilt.  And you’ll start 2013 with a storm of focus and energy.

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Persuasive storytelling is centuries old

Let me tell you a little story.  I promise — we’ll close the circle with some marketing insights but I need to set the stage.

Back when I launched my blog in ’06, I met Todd Andrlik about the time he was creating what would eventually become the AdAge Power 150 index of marketing blogs.  Todd participated in the first Age of Conversation book and was a part of the Blogger Social weekend in New York City where about 100 of us early adopters to marketing blogging gathered just to hang out.

As a thank you for being a part of the organizers for that weekend, Todd gave me a very special gift that told me a great deal about him.  It was a collectible version of a front page from a very old newspaper – the kind Todd had been collecting for years. Until then, I’d had no idea that Todd was an avid collector of old newspapers and in fact, he owns one of the most significant collections of American Revolution era newspapers in existence (Some of his collection is actually housed in the Library of Congress!).  He’s considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on 18th century newspapers.

Todd’s new book Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before it was History, it was News (click to buy*) was just released and it is stunning in both it’s eye-opening content and it’s eye pleasing presentation.  It has the appearance of a beautiful coffee table book — with remarkable photos of some of the most historic front pages in United State’s history.

But the book then combines these newspaper accounts with essays from 37 historians and American revolutionary experts to take us from the Boston Tea Party all the way to Independence, introducing us to incredible stories, characters and plot twists in the story of the US’ fight for freedom. What’s so cool about this book is that the experts talk about how the newspaper accounts impacted each stage of the revolution.

Todd has also built (as you might imagine) an online companion to the book at BeforeHistory.com, so interested readers, teachers and others can learn even more.

I will tell you — this is not the sort of book I normally read. But I couldn’t put it down.  The storytelling was that riveting.  That’s where you come in.  As i was reading the book, I realized it was an incredible primer on how to tell compelling stories.  Not only did I learn a lot about the Revolutionary War, but here were some takeaways for all marketers.

Bring your characters to life by making them three dimentional: One benefit of telling stories about real people is that they’re not flat.  They have dimensions, good and bad qualities, failings and virtues.  Stories are much more believable when the characters are genuine.  And today’s jaded audiences find “too good to be true” characters much less compelling.

Remind us of the greater good: Part of what made Todd’s book so exciting was that even though I knew how the fight ended, I found myself rooting for those who were truly fighting for the greater good. Many times in our marketing efforts — we get too granular and we forget to take a step back and talk about the bigger picture.  Be sure to remind your audience why what you sell matters and how you can help them in their quest to be significant.

Blending facts and emotions builds credibility:  Emotion is what triggers our hunger to buy but facts support the decision. The best storytelling marketing combines the two. Part of what made the content in Reporting the Revolutionary War so sticky was because the newspaper accounts and quotes from the stories documented that it wasn’t just fluff.

I don’t expect that most of us are creating marketing materials that would qualify as coffee table worthy but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a few lessons from a book that belongs on everyone’s coffee table.

A huge congrats to Todd on producing such a fantastic book and a reminder to all of you that despite all the hype around the word storytelling — it’s actually an ancient art that all of us can use to help connect the right people to the products and services we sell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Affiliate link

 

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