No one wants to be sold

no one wants to be soldHere’s a truth we seem to want to ignore — no one wants to be sold. Ever.

Think about some of your favorite stores.  Beyond the merchandise they have – what do you love about going there?  Odds are your favorite stores became your favorites because of the experience you had.  So you go back time and time again.

Now – forget about your favorite stores for a minute.  If I asked you to describe the ideal encounter with a salesperson, what would you envision?  Is it the salesperson that follows you around on the floor, repeatedly asking you if you need help or interjecting their opinion on every item you look at?

Or would it be walking in the store and having someone introduce themselves and ask how they can help you?  If you say “I’m just looking” which is universal code for leave me alone – do they?  Are they around to answer any questions you might have but otherwise, let you explore?

Let’s translate that to when you call a business looking for information.  Does the operator read from a script, barely letting you get a word in edgewise because he has two specials you need to know about?  Or are you immediately connected to someone who can either answer your questions or get you to the right source for the answers you need?

The truth is – no one wants to be sold.  When you hear the word salesman, what images pop into your mind?  The stereotypical used car salesman with the “you can drive it off the lot today” sort of sales pressure?  I don’t care who you are or what you’re in the market for, no one welcomes that sort of salesperson.  Why do we react so badly?

A bad sales person is someone who:

  • Wants you to buy today
  • Relentless
  • Talks to much about themselves and their product/service
  • Doesn’t listen
  • Makes us feel as they though they only care about the sale

When you look at that list, no wonder we run for cover.  If your favorite store had that sort of sales force, I suspect it would no longer be your favorite store.

Now – go grab your brochure, pull up your website and eavesdrop on some of your sales calls.  See any similarities?  All too often marketing materials and messages bear an uncomfortable resemblance to that pushy sales guy.  We’re so anxious to make sure the prospect knows how amazing our stuff is – we over sell and the reality is, no one wants to be sold.  Ever.

What you love about your favorite stores and your favorite brands is that they’re helpful.  Depending on your needs and the type of purchase, helpful come in the form of convenience or providing you a lot of information.

Helpful might be that you can try as many styles and sizes as you’d like and return the ones you don’t want for free (like Zappos) or it might be a robust website that really allows the consumer to educate themselves long before they speak to a salesperson like River Pools and Spas that has over 800 pages of content and offers it all for free.

You will sell more if you sell less.

Be helpful, be someone I can trust, be approachable without putting your hand in my pocket looking for my wallet and I will come to rely on you.  When I am actually ready to buy – who do you think I’m going to by from?

You.

Dollar cost averaging equals marketing

dollar cost averaging equals marketing

dollar cost averaging equals marketing

If we’ve learned anything over the last decade it’s that the stock market is volatile and difficult to predict with precision. Even Warren Buffet can’t tell you exactly when a stock will go hot or drop like a rock.

Which is how the whole concept of dollar cost averaging came to be.

According to Investopedia.com, it’s a technique of buying a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment on a regular schedule, regardless of the share price. More shares are purchased when prices are low, and fewer shares are bought when prices are high.

Dollar-cost averaging lessens the risk of investing a large amount in a single investment at the wrong time.

That’s how you need to think about your marketing efforts as well. Rather than trying to guess when a potential buyer might be ready to buy – you need to be marketing every day, so that when they’re ready, you’re right there.

Even if you sell a season-specific product or service, that doesn’t let you off the hook. It may dictate that you ebb and flow your marketing – but it doesn’t mean you stop or restrict your presence. With social media and SEO/content marketing – there’s no off-season. An article that’s posted on your website in March may be the search result that drives a sale in November.

Think of your marketing efforts as constant lead nurturing. It’s all about building solid relationships through consistent conversations with your target audience, acknowledging that while you don’t know when they will buy, you know some of them will buy sooner or later.

Here’s a quick overview of how you can build up a lead nurturing program.

Generate leads: You can’t market if you don’t have anyone to talk to. You’re going to want to generate leads on a macro and micro level. Some tactics, like social media and offering something for free on your website, tend to draw big numbers and many of those leads aren’t really quite the right fit. But that’s okay, because you haven’t expending a lot of money or time to attract them.

You’ll also want to generate some more targeted leads. To do this, first you need to define your sweet spot customer. Then create a lead scoring tool, which will let you objectively assess leads and sort them accordingly.

Create a drip campaign: Lead nurturing is all about regular contact. Now that you know who your sweet spot customer is – what kinds of information would be helpful to them? Note – I did not say what kinds of things could you sell them. This is about you offering value over and over again. Make me smarter, more efficient or better at my job and I will be indebted to you. Try to sell me something all the time and I will disconnect.

You don’t have to offer them a twenty-page white paper each time. It can literally be a nugget – a single idea or suggestion. In fact, they’re more likely to keep reading what you send if you do keep it bite-sized.

Test, track and tweak: The beautiful thing about most drip campaigns is that they’re so trackable.   You will be able to test headlines, the types of content you’re sharing, day of the week and a host of other variables.

Let the data help you fine tune your program and keep in mind, even if it needs a lot of tweaking – you’re still ahead of 95% of your competitors who are still trying to time the market!

Don’t expend energy trying to figure out when to market. The answer is now.

 

Fundraising is marketing

fundraising-is-marketingLet’s face it — fundraising is marketing. I love the stories of the good old days in my community.  You’ve probably already heard the same sorts of stories in your community too.  How the “founding fathers” would gather over coffee and when the community had a need, they’d each pull out their checkbook and invest in the solution.

Many of those men and women have streets or foundations (or both) named after them and their mark will forever be a part of most of the cities in our country.

There are quite a few charities that owe their start or a portion of their success to those visionary leaders.  As great as they were – those days are long gone.  I’ve received a few solicitations lately that make me wonder if there are still some area non-profits that are living back in the old glory days and haven’t fast forwarded to today.

Whether the target is a business or an individual, the game has changed and if nonprofits want to keep serving their mission, they’re going to need to make some shifts in their efforts.  They need to recognize that fundraising is marketing.  There’s no separation today and the organizations who embrace this idea will win the day and the dollars.

Here’s what non profits need to remember:

Why you? It’s a rare charity that doesn’t have a competitor who also serves the same people/cause or at least a portion of them.   If you want a donor’s dollars or even their attention, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate how you do it differently or better and you need to do that on a consistent, steady stream of communication basis.

I don’t know you so get your hand out of my pocket: The “send everyone we can think of” a solicitation letter (especially at the end of the year) is just a waste of money.   If we don’t have a relationship and your work isn’t meaningful to me, I’m not going to send you a dollar.  Don’t waste your stamps.

Slow going: The days of walking out of your first meeting with a check are gone.  Sure, it might happen once in a blue moon but in general, you’re going to have to work hard for your money.  Think marathon, not sprint.

Fewer but deeper: One of the amazing truths about Des Moines is that we’re blessed with a huge number of committed charities.  But the flip side of that truth is that no business can possibly support them all. Which means, choices have to be made.  Businesses don’t want to be one of ten logos on the back of yet another t-shirt.

Donors are opting to spend their money on fewer nonprofits but to give more to those few.  And once they’re locked in with a specific charity, it’s going to be much tougher to pry them loose.

Going, going, so gone! Our community is golf tournament and auctioned to death.  If you don’t already hold one of these, don’t start one.  And if you already have one – be ready for declining attendance or revenue unless you can make it unique.  Bravo to Des Moines based charities like YESS (Duck Derby), Childserve (Bubble Ball) and others who have taken the risk and created something one of a kind.

The Obama election fund reality:  One of the ways Obama defeated McCain back in ’08 was to race more money from more people.  The dollar amounts were smaller but the impact was bigger.  The same 20 companies (every charity has the same list) in Des Moines cannot be the title sponsor for everything.  Find ways to make it valuable for smaller companies who don’t get into the limelight every day to be your benefactors.

No one is arguing with the amazing work you do.  In fact, we want to make sure you keep doing it.  But, like the for-profit businesses have… you have to adapt to today’s economy and reality.  And soon.

Pinpoint your sweet spot customers

bullseyeWe’ve talked quite a bit about the importance of understanding who you can delight when it comes to looking for new customers — finding those sweet spot customers and turn them into your best marketing tool.

Rather than trying to be something for everyone — the smartest businesses understand that they’re the perfect solution for a certain subset of potential customers — and those are the prospects they should target and pursue with a vengeance.

To help you get your arms around this idea and put together a game plan — we’ve created this list of questions. Walk your team through each one — and at the end, you’ll have a pretty good picture of who you should be targeting and how you can earn/keep their interest throughout your buying cycle,

How many new clients would it take for you to have a killer year?

Who are your favorite clients? What about them puts them on that list?

If you could replicate one client – and have a bunch of them – who would you replicate?

What traits/characteristics would all of those cloned clients have?

What kinds of information, help, tools etc. would those clones most value?

If you were on a scavenger hunt and I said you needed to find 10 people who closely resembled your sweet spot client – where would you look?

How would you get their attention? What do they need?

How would you stay under their nose/in touch in a valuable/helpful way? List 10 ways.

How could you help them today in a way other than giving them financial counsel?

If you couldn’t talk to them directly – who is your Kevin Bacon and could connect you?

And don’t forget your existing customers, who are your best source of new revenue:

What can you do to re-connect with your existing clients 2 – 4 times a year that has nothing to do with the work you do together?

If they don’t care, are you even there?

Two pieces of white paper with the word invisible turned into visible

Two pieces of white paper with the word invisible turned into visible

Your creative needs to be creative.  No doubt about that.  But sadly, many people think that’s enough.

I received an email from a college student, asking if he could interview me. Two of his questions in particular caught my attention because they put the spotlight on a dangerous mistake that many seasoned marketers make.

It all revolves around the idea that marketing needs to be wacky or groundbreaking with the end goal being that it’s memorable. I can think of a lot of crazy, funny and touching marketing tactics that I’ve remembered for years that never prompted me to buy the product.

Should your creative be fresh, interesting and different from what everyone else in your category is doing? Sure.

But you can’t stop there. And you can’t start there.

You start with understanding your own product or service as objectively as you can (how does it rock, where is it weak, etc.) and who the ideal consumer for that product or service happens to be.

And you end by telling those ideal customers enough about your product or service that they understand why it’s the perfect fit for them.

You have to match your sweet spot customer with the benefits that make them the right buyer for what you sell.

I thought at it might be useful to you to see what he asked and my replies.

Q: When developing a concept do you try to go with something new and groundbreaking or do you have a more straightforward, proven approach to getting the message out to the target audience.

The truth is – what sells is the truth. We begin by understanding our audience and what they care about. We learn as much about them as possible. Every product/service has a “perfect fit” customer. It’s our job to figure out who that is and then craft our message to appeal to that person.

What is new today will be old hat tomorrow. So gimmicks and shock value and crazy aren’t good marketing strategies. Look at the Kmart “Ship My Pants” ads. Are they funny? Are they memorable? The answer to both those questions is yes.

But will it sell more stuff? I don’t think so. And THAT is our job. We help clients sell stuff. If we don’t do that – no matter how funny or memorable our work is – we got it wrong.

So the creative approach depends on the audience and what will connect with them and help them see why what we sell is what they need or want most.

Q: I believe that promoting brand recall is the most important objective in a message strategy. What is your favorite way to do this?

First – I respectfully disagree.   I believe the most important objective in a message strategy is to help the audience understand how this product or service is uniquely positioned to benefit THEM. The most important objective is brand relevance. Again, it doesn’t matter if you are memorable if you aren’t relevant.

The best way to develop brand relevance is to understand your sweet spot customer and why they would care and then figure out how to deliver value towards that for them. A brand’s job is to be important to the consumer. Harley does this brilliantly. For Harley riders and prospects – no other bike will do. Anything else is a poor substitute. Harley is about living the dream of a biker – freedom, independence, camaraderie etc. No brand captures and sells that like Harley. Harley could run a bunch of ads that promote the name so we’d never forget it. But instead they promote the dream/fantasy of owning a motorcycle and tie their name to delivering on that dream.

I’d much rather have 100 sweet spot customers reach for their wallet than 10,000 people remember the ad. Remember that and you’ll enjoy a long career in this crazy business that I love. Good luck!

No one likes you

Facebook-logo6Like millions of businesses around the world, at some point in time, you decided to hop on the Facebook train.  You created a presence with either enthusiasm or distain (seems everyone starts at one end of the spectrum or the other) and posted your first update.

Since then, things have been a little stagnant.  The fans didn’t come pouring in the way you hoped (or expected) and as a result, your enthusiasm and activity level have waned.

Ready to fire back up?  First, let’s diagnose why your Facebook fans have been a bit lackadaisical.  Or worse.

You set up the wrong kind of presence:  Many businesses mistakenly create an account rather than a page.  An account is owned by an individual and has friends.  A page is created by an account holder and has likes.

No only is it the wrong kind of presence but if Facebook realizes you’ve given a business entity a personal account, they can force you to shut it down.  Which means you’d lose all your friends/fans and have to start over.  Be sure you have the right set up.

You infrequently and inconsistently post:  It’s a little like knowing someone who rarely speaks to you.  Or speaks to you a ton for one hour and then ignores you for the next five days.  Pretty soon, you find someone else to talk to.

You can’t expect people to pay attention if they can’t count on you.  Hopefully your plan is to use your Facebook presence to create a relationship with people who either are already fans of your work or could be. Silence is not a great relationship enhancer.

You’re all about you:  This is one of the biggest marketing mistakes that most organizations consistently make.  All they do is talk about themselves.  This usually comes from one of two places.  First, you don’t have a good idea of who you are talking to, so you aren’t sure how to talk about what they’d care about.   So you default to talking about yourself.

Or, you aren’t thinking about your Facebook presence as a relationship conduit in the same way you’d think about a face-to-face conversation.   If you were sitting across from someone, you wouldn’t be rude enough to blather on about yourself non-stop.  Don’t do it on Facebook either.

You use Facebook as a sales tool:  It’s okay to share a great deal or special pricing now and then on your Facebook page.  But, it’s not a sales flier – it’s a place to connect.  The Facebook pages that I spend time on are the ones that make me smarter, make my life easier/better, make me laugh, connect me to a memory or to a community of people with whom I share a common interest.

I never mind when they occasionally pitch me, because the rest of the time they give me so much value, I’m grateful.  Would your Facebook fans say the same thing?

You never use Facebook as a sales tool:  I know, people are fickle.  Especially if you are a retail location or sell a product, one of the reasons people are willing to like your page is because they think it will get them something special or at a discount.  Don’t disappoint them.  Just do it sparingly.

You tell and sell: One of the best and easiest ways to generate activity on your Facebook page (which will generate new likes) is to ask questions.   By getting your fans involved, you can actually have a conversation and even better, their friends will see the interaction and hopefully decide to join in as well.

Remember that like all social media, Facebook is permission based.  Your audience can disconnect from you any time they want.  So provide value every day and watch your likes spike.