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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Is it time for a website re-design?

WebsiteDesignIn today’s marketplace, a company’s website is their first impression with prospects. It’s a rare purchase today that doesn’t begin with some sort of research or due diligence. And as consumers (both B2C and B2B) find themselves more time starved and more web savvy – the research tool of choice is often a Google search.

Long before they’ll set an appointment for a consultation or walk into your retail establishment – they’re scoping you out on the web. It makes sense then, that when it comes to your web presence you’d want to put your best foot forward, doesn’t it?

And yet, if you spend any time on the web – you run into a lot of stale, outdated websites. We just launched a new website for a client and his comment was “phew, now I can actually give people our web address again.” They’d ignored their website for so long – they literally weren’t giving people the URL to avoid embarrassment.

When asked, companies say that they don’t update their website because:

  • They don’t have the time to devote to it
  • They don’t have the budget
  • They don’t want to add interactive elements because they don’t have time to maintain them
  • The last redesign was such a painful process, they can’t think of going there again

But letting a stale or static website be your first “how do” to potential customers is more costly than you might imagine.

If you’ve got dated copy or information (many websites make it pretty obvious they haven’t been updated in years…their latest newsletter issue is from 2008 or the last bit of news in their newsroom is from three years ago) what you’re saying to visitors is that you aren’t so hot will follow up and attention to detail.

If your design is tough to navigate (you know…you just keep adding a page here or there, but there’s no organizational structure) you are going to frustrate that potential customer before they can figure out if you have what they want to buy.

Cheaping out by letting your cousin, neighbor or other amateur build your website says that you aren’t a successful business. You don’t have to build the Taj Mahal of websites but you do want something that speaks to your professionalism and functions the way you want it to.

Are you wondering if your website is working as hard for you as it should? See how your site matches up with these stats.

Websites with blogs get 55% more traffic (Are you sharing your expertise and taking advantage of the organic SEO value of that effort?)

Companies who blog get 79% more followers on Twitter (How does your stale website encourage me to connect with you on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and other interactive spots?)

The #1 attribute people want is a websites that is easy to navigate so they can quickly find the exact information they want. They don’t want to have to click 4 times or guess which heading the information is hiding behind.

People want contact information so they can call, write or drop by. This floors me but many companies do not include offline contact options to their web visitors.

Keep the distractions at a minimum. People want to be able to scan your page and figure out what’s there and where to go next. If you pack every bit of space with information, you actually get in their way. Remember, your goal is not to tell them everything so they don’t have to call. Your goal is to tell them enough to make them want to call.

Your website is your introduction to many of your potential customers Is it the way you want to be introduced or is it time to consider a re-do?

 

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Guilty of the frantic scramble in your marketing?

FranTarkentonI grew up in Minnesota in the 70s and I love football which meant that back when I was a kid, my world revolved around the Minnesota Vikings and our incredible quarterback, Fran Tarkenton.

At the time of his retirement, Fran owned EVERY major quarterback record out there. Fran was known as The Scrambler because he was famous for being able to pivot and run around in the backfield, dodging defensive players and giving his teammates time to elude a defender or get open for a pass.

He was something to behold. Off the field, he was articulate, intelligent and called a “thinking quarterback.”

I admired him on and off the field. He was a great role model. So no great surprise that when he retired, Fran successfully pursued other professional aspirations, including launching over 20 companies.

Being a scrambling quarterback was really the perfect training ground for Fran’s entrepreneurial efforts. Whether you run a huge corporation or a one man hot dog cart — owning a business is about scrambling for opportunities, dodging disasters and looking down the field, hoping you see the perfect play that will advance your efforts.

Sadly, marketing is never the biggest guy chasing you down. Which is why so many business owners let their marketing slack off or erratically cycle in and out.

Marketing is creating the game plan before the game and then executing it.  Sure, you call an audible now and then and change things up.  But, you mostly follow the plan.  When you plan/execute your marketing well, you can scramble after opportunities.  But you don’t wait until the need for marketing chases you.

Back in the 70s, during halftime and after every game (yes, even in the dead of MN winter), my neighborhood buddies and I would gather in our shared backyards to play a little football. So picture little Drew McLellan, out in the back yard, wearing his #10 Vikings jersey scrambling as I shouted that my teammate should go long. (Who doesn’t love that play?).

Fast forward to today — and I’m excited to tell you that a much older Drew McLellan got to be a guest on Fran Tarkenton’s radio show, aimed at entrepreneurs.  (listen to the segment by clicking here)

How cool is that? We talked about some of the challenges that business owners/leaders face when it comes to marketing, like:

  1. Marketing is not part of their daily routine — so they cycle. Go like crazy when things are slow and then do nothing when they’re flush. If the dry spell is too long, they go out of business.
  2. Chasing after new business and ignoring existing customers (spend time/money in the exact wrong way — it should be spent on employees, current customers and then prospects not the other way around).
  3. Marketing is too self centered/focused. Way too much me/we and not enough focus on the customers’ needs.
  4. Try to do too many different marketing tactics all at once and don’t do any of them for a long enough period of time or with enough depth. Better to do fewer but do them better.
  5. Business owners need an outside perspective. Why/how is their business different/unique? What is the value proposition that only they can offer? But they can’t figure it out on their own. It’s like trying to describe the outside of a bottle — if you are inside it. Can’t unknown what you know.

Are you suffering from any of those mistakes?  Are you so busy scrambling that you’re applying the same philosophy to your marketing?

Create a marketing game plan and follow it.  Leave the scrambling to other aspects of running your business.

Want to listen to Fran and I chatting about business?  You can listen to the live broadcast of the show this Saturday (June 8th) at 8-10 am CT or 3-5 pm CT on Sirius 104. Or you can listen on demand at siriousxm.com.  Get more details here on Fran’s radio show page.  Once I get the mp3 of the show, I’ll add it to this post as well.

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In marketing the constant is change

ChangeSwitchYou know, the annoying thing about clichés is that they’re based in truth, even though that truth may be a bit worn in places. And lately I’ve been very aware of the idiom “the only constant is change” as it relates to business and especially to marketing.

Maybe it’s always been this way and our parents and grandparents had to wrestle with constant change too, but it seems to me that the acceleration curve has gotten incredibly steep over the last 15 or 20 years.

For example, when I started my career, computers were certainly a part of the mix but we never showed a client a computer-generated layout. We’d take mock ups that were drawn in pencil and very rough. Today, we upload PDFs to our extranet and they look practically finished before we’ve even begun.

I get it…I’m the first one to espouse the convenience of our new way of doing business. I love that we can work with clients (and partners) from all over the world – digitally sharing files, ideas and collaborating.

So while I long for the showmanship of the old days, I do appreciate what we have today. But sometimes it also makes me a little tired to think about.

Here’s our reality as business people. It’s never done. No matter how successful your business is – it’s in transition. Every day.

There’s a new technology or a new consumer trend right around every corner. And to stay relevant and profitable, there’s no hiding from them.

Today and tomorrow, I am leading a marketing workshop and one of the things we’ll talk about is mobile and how quickly it became a key element in any marketing strategy. I know what I’ll see. While some of them were anticipating this tsunami of a trend, others were either not ready for it or aren’t looking forward to facing it.

So how do we keep up? How do we stay current and able to anticipate what the next change is going to be so we can get a running start?

Read. Do you know that most business leaders don’t read anything more than their local newspaper? Are you kidding me? Turn off the TV and read a book a month. Find the top ten blogs in your field and subscribe to them. Find the most controversial, far out there publication or blog in your industry an subscribe to that too. It’s better to anticipate too much than get blinded by something.

Attend. Trade show and professional development attendance has been dropping since the recession took a big bite out of everyone’s travel budgets. It’s time to put some money back on that line item. You need to go and listen to experts. You need to hang out with peers and share stories and resources.

Teach. One of the best ways to learn is to commit to teach others. Make sure your entire staff is ready for what’s coming. More important, teach them how to recognize the trends and track them, so you don’t have to be the only one doing it. If you know you have to conduct a class, even if it’s an informal one, you’re much more likely to keep sharp.

There are lots of ways to stay current but it all starts with the attitude of recognizing that it’s a part of your job and it’s one of the ways you keep your company relevant and profitable.

In our world…you either keep up or you quickly become irrelevant.  Don’t be the marketing pro who is still spouting off about the latest and greatest — from 5 years ago.  Find a way to stay current and keep your clients/business there too.

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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.

Marketing is getting the details right

Marketing is getting the details right.  And its always the simple things that companies mess up.  Lt me give you an example.

As you may know, I travel quite a bit. I’m a big believer in maximizing my travel by being a loyal brand consumer…which gains me status, points and makes my travel life easier and more convenient. I try to only fly United and whenever I can, I stay in a Marriott hotel.

That affords me sort of an insider’s view of both of these businesses but still interacting with them as one of their frequent consumers.

We’ve talked before about the value of seeing your business through your consumer’s eyes and I had an ah ha moment while staying in Nashville this past week.

Because I stay in a lot of hotels, I notice card keys. I’m fascinating at how different hotels use those card keys as marketing tools. Some sell it as advertising space to the local pizza joint while others use it as a brand platform, putting a beautiful visual on the card. I equate the quality of the hotel to the beauty of the card. When I stay at a Comfort Inn or Fairfield Inn — I get pizza coupons. When I stay at a Westin — their cards are a work of art they’re so beautiful.

platinumcardWhenever I check into a Marriott, I get a card that looks like this. The word elite indicates that I am a member of their Marriott Rewards program and have achieved their highest status level — platinum. As you can see, the card is pretty bland but it clearly is the platinum color…to signify my member rank.

Seems sort of dull, doesn’t it? It hardly says high end hotel to me. But this hotel is Gaylord‘s Grand Opry — a very high end hotel. By accident, they made me a “regular” key card too.

fancycardLook at how beautiful it is. (I was in their Magnolia wing) But Marriott assumes that the bland but “prestigious” card is what their most frequent customers would prefer.

I have often thought — “I wonder why Marriott has such ugly key cards compared to other higher end hotel chains” Turns out — they don’t. They just give the ugly cards to their best customers.

Here’s my ah ha moment — how often do we assume that we know what our best customers want? I’m sure Marriott thinks they’re stroking my ego by giving me the special platinum key card. But I assumed everyone got the ugly cards and I didn’t even notice that it was geared towards their elite members.

In my daughter’s college town, there are no Marriott properties so I just stay at either a Comfort Inn or something like that. Even their keys are more interesting than Marriott’s and every time I check in I think, “why can’t Marriott do better keys than these guys?”

Now I know. They do. They just don’t give them to their most frequent customers.

Is this a big deal? Absolutely not. But — that’s what marketing is. It’s the details. Most businesses get the big stuff right so how you differentiate yourself is in how well you handle the details. In my opinion, Marriott missed the boat on this one. Later this week I’ll show you a hotel that didn’t miss a single opportunity to build and highlight their brand.

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