Useful = today’s marketing secret

Youtility, how being useful is today's marketing secretLet’s look at the reality:

  • Fragmented media choices
  • Permission-based media on the rise
  • Ability to filter, skip, ignore irrelevant advertising
  • Nothing beats word of mouth
  • A jaded, cynical consumer
  • Consumers tuning out, taking over and talking loudly about brands

That mountain of challenges is what faces marketers every single day.  So how in the world do we earn their attention, their dollars and even tougher — their loyalty?

Author, consultant and tequila loving Jay Baer believes he has the answer and outlines it in his book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help Not Hype.*  (I have 9 copies to give away — read to the end to find out how you can win!)

Jay’s premise is simple enough. If brands focus on being helpful, consumers will be drawn to them and when they’re ready to buy, that brand will have already earned the consumer’s trust — so they’re more likely to also give you their money.

Jay calls this friend-of-mine awareness (as opposed to top of mind awareness) and argues that in a congested, time starved world – if you want to keep earning market share, you need this level of connection with both customers and prospects.

The book is packed with stories, examples and very pragmatic ideas that any business — big, small, consumer or business focused — can implement.  It’s one of my favorites for 2013 — and a book you should definitely read. (Click here to order it from Amazon*)

I asked Jay a few questions about the book.  Here’s what he had to say:

If you had to describe the content of your book in a single sentence (no run ons) what would it be?  

If you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you can create a customer for life. 

What one book that you’ve read do you wish you could claim as your own?

Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by YoungMe Moon, and anything by Bill Bryson.

In your opinion, what is the one trait that all uber successful business people possess?

A true understanding of customer needs.

What’s the biggest business mistake you’ve ever made and what did you learn from it?

I botched a 1031 real estate exchange eight years ago, costing myself a ton of money. I learned to trust experts that you hire, but always follow up.

Why did you have to write this book?  What truth or insight was missing from the human consciousness — that you’ve now answered?

2 reasons. I wrote their book as a reaction to the landslide of punditry that prescribes “make your company amazing” as a strategic approach. Also, I wanted to give people a thoughtful scaffolding for why and how they should be creating content.

After someone is done reading your book — what do you hope they do as a result?

First, begin to understand how your company can insert itself gracefully into the lives of customers and prospects by being useful. Second (or maybe first), tell 3 friends to buy the book! 

Okay — the book is awesome and you should read it.  And 9 of you will get to read it for free.  Winning a copy is simple.  Leave a comment on this post and I’ll use the randomizer at random.org to pick the lucky readers!

 

*affiliate link
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Why would I pick you?

brand_redmarble_optWe have to remember that every day, both our existing customers and potential customers are looking at us and wondering “why would I pick you?”

Marketing 101 is that you need to understand how you’re different from your competitors.  It is perfectly logical — if you cannot differentiate yourself in terms of what you sell, how you sell it or why you sell it — the only differentiator left is price.

Maybe it boils down to this.

Would you rather invest the time and brain equity into figuring out (from the consumer’s point of view) how you are different or would you rather just have to be the cheapest?

Either choice is a good one.  It’s really all about your business’ strategy.  After all, Walmart seems to be doing okay with the cheapest route.  But let’s say that you don’t want to commit yourself to a perpetual price war.  Then what?

Then you need to go back to really understanding how you’re different (for the love of all that is holy, please do not say — it’s our people or we care more) and what sub-set of potential customers is in perfect alignment with that distinction.

Did you twitch a little at the phrase “sub-set of potential customers?”  This is one of the main reasons why I think companies don’t discover and honor their brand better.  They want everyone’s money — not just the right people’s money.  I’ll dig into that later this week.  For now, let’s stay focused on the discovering how you’re different.

We have a branding process that we walk clients through and I’m proud to say that many of our clients will tell you that it completely changed the way they did business.  It’s one of our favorite things to do at McLellan Marketing Group.

But…for you do it yourselfers — start by really taking some time and answering these questions, but remember, the answer can never be the product or service you sell:

  • Beyond profitability, what is the mission of your company?
  • If your company were to leave a legacy, what would it be?
  • How does your organization make the world a better place?
  • If firm disappeared tomorrow, what would be missed most of all?
  • What is the single most-important aspect of your company?
  • With regard to your organization, what do you feel passionate about?
  • What business is your company in?
  • What business is your company not in?
  • Which three adjectives best describe your organization?
  • Who (customer) would love your company the most?
  • How do you prioritize your customers? If you had to allocate 100 points between the different customers segments or types (in terms of importance), how would you do so?
  • What customer need does your product/service fulfill? Why does your target customer need or want you sell?
  • What emotion(s) do you most closely associate with your product or service?
  • How will your organization change your industry?
  • How will your company change the world?

And some fun ones to twist your brain around:

  • If your company was a shape, what would it be?
  • If your organization was a texture, what would it be?
  • If your firm was a mood or feeling, what would it be?
  • If company was something from nature, what would it be?

If you’re really brave — pull together some of your best customers and see how they answer these questions.  Or, schedule a team retreat and walk through them with your employees.

If you actually take the time to really dig into each of these questions until you’ve come up with answers that resonate and aren’t the first or a trite response — I think you’ll be surprised at how it changes the way you look at your business, what potential customers you approach and how you describe yourself.

Are you brave enough to tackle these questions?

 

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Moving your prospects to the next step

BabyStepsWhen you’re creating any sort of communication aimed at a potential buyer, you want them to do what?

When I ask this question, I typically hear a range of answers like:

• Know more about our business
• Understand how we’re better than our competitors
• Wonder if we’re the right fit for them

And of course….

• Buy what we sell!

All of that is probably true. But it’s too complicated. No matter how or where we’re communicating with a prospect, what we should want them to do is… take the next step.

Your job is simply moving your prospect to the next step.

That next step might be downloading an ebook, filling out the bounce back postcard to get a no obligation quote, emailing us with questions, signing up for a workshop, clicking on the buy now button or picking up the phone to schedule a meeting.

The answer is…we want them to take the next step in the sales cycle, whatever that may be. You want the reader (or listener or viewer) to do something to escalate the conversation. At that moment – you are talking to them. You want them to talk back somehow. And your copy should tell them exactly what to do.

I can hear you now… “I don’t have to tell them to call me. They’re not stupid. They know it’s an ad.” Very true. They’re not stupid. But they are incredibly busy, fragmented and they’re probably doing three other things while they flip through that magazine that houses your ad or click to the page on your website that has your workshops on it.

A call to action isn’t a remedy for stupid; it’s a remedy for their attention deficit. Its purpose is to get them to step out of a passive role and take a more active one. Because you have about 2 seconds before they change the channel, turn the page or click on the clapping monkey animated GIF that will take them away from your offer.

How do you write copy that captures their attention for that millisecond so they’ll take action?

Be very specific and direct: You need to spell it out for them and it needs to be simple. Click here to sign up or call XXX-XXXX to schedule an appointment. This isn’t the place to be cute or vague. You don’t even have to be polite and add a “please: or “thank you.” Just give them simple instructions that leave no room for doubt.

Focus on the benefit: Remember, you are trying to stop a moving train. They’re halfway to that next click or page turn. To get them to stop that momentum and move in a different direction will take something pretty compelling. Remember that we’re all motivated by the “what’s in it for me” equation so don’t be shy about telling them how they will benefit.

Keep it simple: If what you ask them to do is complicated, requires multiple steps, has complex directions or asks for too much information, — they will just move on. How many times have you started to fill out a form and then looked at how many questions it asked and said, “forget it” as you stopped?

Make it immediate: Sometimes this isn’t possible but whenever you can, make the call to action something they can complete right now in the moment. Remember, they might discover your ad or marketing piece at 2 am or while they’re standing in line at an airport.

For most organizations, a sale is a multi-step, complicated process. So keep that in mind as you create your calls to action. You’ll have a lot more success getting people to take one baby step at a time. Just give them the steps.

What do consumers want from brands?

PromisesThat’s the age-old question, isn’t it?

When you think about everything we’ve experienced in the last decade and a half – from the Y2K scare to 9/11, Iraq and then the recession – no wonder that a certain level of insecurity about the future has become a permanent part of our psyche as we ease into 2013.

What today’s consumers want most today is security and contentment. No doubt these wants are being shared by people’s economic outlook and circumstance, which most categorized as uneasy.

Interestingly, here are some other key needs that our consumers expect brands to help them fulfill. If you can help make one or more of these needs a reality – you will earn their business and their loyalty.

Security: Food, shelter, keep my house, increase my savings, bolster my retirement plan, a corporate job, being part of a movement but not a sole anarchist

Control: Frugality, effective money management, black and white answers that come from scientific pursuits, own business/entrepreneurship, self reliance (especially younger Millennials)

Consistency: Stable employment, stay at college, complete college

Proving self-worth: Value through charity work, striving to get promoted, finding a way to leave a legacy (Baby Boomers), training/learning something new rather than leisure time, constant resume buffering (especially Millennials), aggressive pursuit of success (older Millennial males in the US)

Honoring my needs first: Protecting my health, making healthier friendship and relationship choices, spending more time with people who have my genuine interests at heart, valuing private information more (Millennials)

Respect for others (but only if they show respect for me first): Rejection of greed and self-serving society as demonstrated by governments and corporations, helping others through volunteer pursuits

Liberty: Personal independence, time for me (Baby Boomers), take control of my investments (Baby Boomers), not oppressed/restricted by others schedules or technology

Progress: Pursuit of scientific invention and learning, further education, choice of foundations, supportive of organizations who take society forward in some way

Both Millennials and Baby Boomers believe leadership brands that are sincere and transparent have the ability to encourage them to bring out the best of themselves and progress society. In the absence of strong government and other institutional leaders, people anticipate, and may even demand, that brands step in and play the role of cultural reformers.

Here’s my take on this. Our marketplace is asking us to be much more than a seller of stuff. They’re expecting us to step up and inspire our internal team and our customers to work together to take charge of the problems facing our world. Think of it as corporate social responsibility – but on steroids. It’s not enough to write a check anymore – we have to also be willing to give our ideas, our passion and our sweat equity.

Think about how this might change the way you communicate about your company and the work you do. Think about how you could build a community of raving fans who don’t just talk about what you sell but more important – talk about what you believe.

Interesting times ahead.

 

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Selling shouldn’t equal annoying

hand putting a penny in a money jar - charity donationThere’s a Walgreens a few blocks from my house. It’s a convenient place to get just about everything, so I’m there a few times a week.  It seems like every week they are collecting money for some charity.

They have the cause of the week prominently displayed.  I can buy a paper boot, heart, ribbon or balloon. And when I go to check out, there’s a jug there — inviting cash donations.  When I run my credit card through — as I approve the charge, I am given the opportunity to donate.

So — I have ample opportunity to give.  But then, if all those efforts have failed to get me to donate — the clerk asks me — do you want to make a donation to XYZ?

Now I’m feeling cornered.  The people in the line are listening. The clerk is looking at me like I’m a cheap jerk and while I should not care about what these strangers think — I sort of do.

That’s not a comfortable position and we shouldn’t be putting that sort of squeeze on our prospects or clients.

There’s a fine line in marketing and sales.  We’ve talked about it before.  You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If someone is not ready to part with their money, you can’t force or humiliate them into doing so.  And if you keep pushing — all you do is alienate them.

Sometimes this over the line behavior is overt, like my Walgreens friends.  Other times, it’s more subtle – like the passive aggressive voice mail messages or constant up selling or incessant follow up even when you’ve been told no.

Subtle or not — it’s not effective. It makes us question your motives (I am pretty sure Walgreens has some sort of contest among their stores…to see who can raise the most money) and it feels a little desperate.

I know this flies into the face of the sales motto — always be closing.  But the hard sell doesn’t work anymore (Did it ever?).

Instead — you have to find a way to know who your real audience is, capture their attention, market consistently and have something of value to share/teach often enough that you stay on their radar screen until they’re ready to buy.

If it was easy — everyone could do it.  Do you have the stamina to sell?

 

Photo courtesy of www.BigStockPhotos.com

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