Internet Marketing for Small Business

The Smart Way to Do Content Marketing

 
        Tom Treanor

        Tom Treanor

 

In this episode of the Small Business Marketing Show content marketing and SEO expert Tom Treanor shares:

  • Exactly how to get started in content marketing
  • What you SHOULD do and what to avoid
  • Why you'd better be thinking about your content strategy now
  • The importance of content for a local business

If you have a website, you need to listen to this interview. And be sure to listen all the way to the end...Tom's got something free for you!

[powerpress]

Connect with Tom at Right Mix Marketing

Underground New Zealand Web Expert Answers the Question "How to Promote My Website to Generate Leads?"

Late Sunday night I held a secret call with an underground web expert from New Zealand. On the call I got him to answer the question many of you have asked..."How to promote my website to generate leads?"

You can hear the complete interview on this episode of the Small Business Marketing Show.

[powerpress]

My guest is D. Bnonn Tennant. Bnonn is a clever copywriter and marketer...infact he brings together three essential skills (and few possess all three)...

  1. He's an expert web designer (and understands how to design a website to SELL).
  2. He's a skilled copywriter (I've got a few of his pieces in my own swipe file).
  3. He understands direct response marketing...that special form of marketing that designed to make you money (not just get your name out there).

On the call he shares his five part framework for analyzing the effectiveness of your website.

Your website wants you to listen to this interview!

Or, better yet...subscribe on iTunes.

Links mentioned on the call:

Bnonn's Free Course: attentionthievery.com

The Shirtsleeve Marketing Communique': shirtsleevesmarketing.com

 

How Inbound Marketing Can Revolutionize Your Local Business - Interview With Marcus Sheridan

small business marketing show

On this episode of the Small Business Marketing Show I talk with inbound marketing expert Marcus Sheridan...a/k/a The Sales Lion!

[powerpress]

Listen as Marcus describes how he used inbound marketing to grow his local pool construction company during a down economy.

  • Discover the Law of Compound Information
  • What it takes to be successful with content marketing
  • The simple "They ask, You answer" formula for creating great content
  • How the content marketing "CSI" affects your success

If you want to attract your ideal clients online you need to listen to this interview with Marcus!

Go here to learn more about Marcus Sheridan.

Episode Transcript

Steve: Welcome to the Small Business Marketing Show. This is Steve Gordon of Steve Gordon Marketing Systems. Today, I want to welcome you to a really special show. We’ve got a great guest today. I’m really pleased to introduce you all to Marcus Sheridan.

Marcus is going to tell us his story in a minute. I love the story he’s going to tell, because he comes from what I call the real world of business. He doesn’t come from a business that was built on internet marketing or built solely to marketing on the internet. He comes from what I consider real-world business and has done some amazing things. I think it will be a very informative call for everybody today. I want to thank you for being here.

Marcus, thank you for being here. I’m excited to talk to you. If you would, please give everybody a quick little background. I’d love for you to tell the story of how you got into internet marketing, because you’ve done some really neat things.

Marcus: Steve, thanks for the intro. Hello everyone out there in the podcast world. It’s a pleasure for me to be here, because I love talking about actionable stuff that works for businesses, especially having gone through this myself. You asked for a brief overview of my story, right? I’ll try to be as brief as I can.

In 2001, I opened a swimming pool company in Virginia. We started to grow that company. We installed inground pools. It’s called River Pools and Spas, by the way. Things were going okay until about November 2008 when the market crashed. The housing bubble burst. All of a sudden, people left and right were withdrawing the deposits they had put on inground pool installations. We were in big trouble, man. We were in big trouble. Our company had to install about 70 inground pools a year to meet our overhead and be successful, based on the amount of employees and such.

When the crash occurred, our big problem was that we didn’t have any money for marketing and advertising, as we had always done. We had to increase our reach, because there were so few people now that could actually afford to buy a pool, because so many people were in the water with their home values.

It was during this time that I started researching. I stumbled across the site HubSpot. For those that aren’t familiar with them, they’re the ones that have really become champions of the phrase “inbound marketing.” I started reading about inbound marketing—the process of becoming attractive to consumers because of the information that we have on our website. For me, as somebody with a degree in teaching, it made total sense to me.

So our approach was, okay, we see where the trend is going. People are doing all their research online. We don’t want to be left behind. We can’t afford all this shotgun marketing that we’ve always done: yellow pages, radio, tv, all that junk. We spend a couple hundred thousand dollars a year on advertising.

What we did, Steve, was a really simple strategy. I sat and I brainstormed every single question that I had ever received from a client, a prospect, a consumer. I wrote all those questions out. Then each question, I turned into a title of what would become a blog post. Then I answered it, just like I would answer it if I was talking to a homeowner sitting at their kitchen table, right?

So really, our golden rule for our marketing approach became they ask—the consumer asked—we answer. So they ask, we answer with our compass of what we should write about. I didn’t use any keyword tools, didn’t use Google, didn’t use any of that stuff. If somebody asked me a question, I think, “Okay Marcus, have you answered that yet on the website?” If I hadn’t, I would go and I would turn that question into a title of a blog post. I’d write out the answer.

A couple of things happened, man. First thing that happened was, Google quickly fell in love with our stuff, because there was somebody that was finally thinking like a consumer, talking like a consumer, acting like a consumer, and willing to address their questions. I was number one.

Number two. Consumers, pool shoppers, they fell in love with us too and started spending an incredible amount of time on the website, which changed our sales process, which changed of course traffic leads and sales, our brand.

Today, to make a long story really short, we have the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world. We are very successful. All of our advertising or marketing is essentially the internet. It’s really, really amazing. It’s changed my life.

Now, I talk about that experience on The Sales Lion, which is my marketing company and blog. I still have the swimming pool company, but I talk about all those experiences that I have with River Pools and the techniques that I used, and now the techniques that I’ve implemented with other companies. That’s found at www.thesaleslion.com. That’s our story, man. That’s it.

Steve: It’s a great story, because you’ve taken something that a lot of people talk about. You mentioned a term, inbound marketing. Some people call it content marketing. Can you kind of describe the process and how it works?
A lot of the folks who listen to this are probably getting hit up by the yellow pages rep and the tv rep and the newspaper rep who are coming around trying to sell them ads on a regular basis. For a lot of businesses, that’s the framework that they have for marketing.

This idea of publishing content I think scares a lot of people, because it sounds like an awful lot of work. You’re talking about writing blog posts and you’ve got to get a blog set up, and all these seemingly complicated things. Can you kind of just break it down a little bit in terms of what you did?

Marcus: Absolutely. Just so you know, when it comes to vernacular, we’re crazy about this, because we say the word inbound marketing, content marketing. To me really, I look to them as essentially, close to the same thing.
The bottom line is this. If we want to be great in the information age—which is the age we’re now in, in a digital world—we’ve got to be great communicators and great teachers. That just starts with great listening.

If you listen well, you hear what consumers are saying, you hear their problems, their concerns, their issues. When you hear that, you do something about it. So you teach them through producing content in the text or video format on your website or other website in a digital form, right? And you communicate that in a way that they can understand it.
In other words, the goal isn’t to sound intelligent. The goal of all marketing that we do—certainly content, inbound, digital, social—the goal is the person that reads it says, “Ha! I got it. I understand now. I know what I need to do. That answers my question.”

That’s the goal. The goal isn’t that we use our industry speak—if you will—and confuse people, because that’s what happens too often. You see all these crazy definitions of content marketing and blogging. Let’s just throw all that out for a minute.

Our goal is to listen well. If we listen well, we teach well. By teaching well, we’ve got to communicate well. If we communicate well, we’re going to get the reward. The reward goes back to those two parties I mentioned earlier: the search engines like Google and real consumers. When they read your stuff, they say, “Man, this guy, this gal thinks like me. He cares about my needs. He’s willing to answer and address my question.”

I think we make it way, way too difficult. I’ll tell you what, man. Those whole outbound marketing techniques, they’re so short-lived. In 2007, to achieve about $4 million in sales, I had to spend $250,000 on advertising. In 2012, to achieve almost $5 million in sales, we spent a little bit under $20,000 in advertising.

We’ve grown our business yet decreased advertising. We’ve grown in a time when most pool companies are still—to this day—down somewhere between 40% to 70% of what they were four years ago. Do you know what I mean? That’s all because we’ve decided to become the best teachers in the world at what we do.

When a company changes its mentality to that of teachers, everything changes. They see the world from the eyes of the student. Most never do that, man. They’re always like, I love using this phrase, “It’s called a blog, not a brag,” right? Because companies want to just talk about how awesome they are on their website. Well the fact is, nobody cares how awesome you are until you’ve taught them something they didn’t know, until you’ve addressed a problem that they have.

90% of my website is a teaching mechanism, where I’m teaching and teaching and teaching; helping them understand stuff. 10% is, “Hey, I’m awesome. Give us a call.”

Steve: As I work with a business, one of the things I try to get them to understand is that paid media can be good. It has its place. But you’ve got to understand that when you stop paying for it, they stop delivering leads.

What you’re really talking about is, over time, building up an asset that if you do it well, if you do it right… and I don’t think it’s all that hard to do it right, as long as you’re thinking about your customer. But now, you’ve got an asset that is likely to be shown in the search engines because they’ve got interest in connecting searchers with good content. If you produce good content that is customer focused, you’ve got it.

Now you’ve got that asset. You don’t have to pay for it over and over and over again, like you do if you’re running a tv commercial or a pay-per-click ad. I would imagine your investment will actually decrease over time. Initially, I’m sure you had a huge time investment. There are certainly costs to that, not necessarily hard cash out the door. There are costs to that. But that investment, I would imagine, even decreases over time.

Marcus: I look at it like this, Steve. Content--when done right--is a gift that keeps on giving. I always like to use the phrase “compound information,” because most people understand the law of compound interest. The law of compound interest is what allows us to be rich by the time we’re age 60. It’s really contingent upon two things: when we start investing and how often we make the investment.

The law of compound information is the exact same thing. If you want to be great, if you want to be rich as a company—I wouldn’t say rich; I’m just talking about being financially stable, generating leads continuously now and long-term—you’ve got to start producing content now. You can’t make up for time.

The person who starts investing at 30 versus the one at 20, even if they’re investing twice as much at age 30 to their account, they’re not going to be as wealthy by the time they’re age 60. It’s the same thing when it comes to the law of compound information. We’ve got to start investing now, not later. It’ll kill us if we wait five years. By that point, so many have jumped onboard this train.

The second component is how often we make the investment. If you have a blog—in other words, if you’re producing content—are you producing content and teaching people on your site once a week, once a month, once a year?

When I started this—like you said—I didn’t have a lot of hard cost. It was just me spending time. When people say to me, “Marcus, I don’t have the time.” I didn’t have the time either. I was working 55 to 65 hours a week like most other entrepreneurs. I would get home late at night—11:30 PM—and write blog posts on my kitchen table with a little lamp on, and nobody else in my house was awake. That’s what I did. I have produced content in crazy places. I’ve written blog articles in parking lots, in between appointments. You pretty much name it, I’ve done it. That’s what I had to do, because I was going to lose my business, Steve. I had no choice.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is, most people will not do this until they’re faced with financial hardship and they’re on the brink. It just doesn’t make sense.

There’s one single article I’ve talked so much about. I’ve briefly described this they ask, we answer mentality or they ask, you answer—which by the way, is going to be the title of my first book on hard back. I’m really excited about this whole principle of they ask, you answer.

For years, I had people ask, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” That’s always the first question a pool guy gets. How much does a concrete pool cost? In business, people always bring up cost within the first 5 to 10 minutes. I don’t care if it’s service, product, B2B, B2C, local, national. It doesn’t matter. It’s all the same. We all want to know about money.

Three and a half years ago—when I started this principle of following the golden rule—nobody, no website in the world, Steve, had addressed the singular question, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” No pool guy had done this, which is preposterous considering it’s always the first consumer question. We all know the reason why: they’re afraid of competition, they’re afraid to scare people, blah blah blah.

The fact is, in this day and age… let’s say you’re looking for how much something costs, Steve. When you go on a website and you can’t find it quickly, you bounce. You’re gone. Every single person listening to this podcast right now is the same way. We’ve all grown incredibly impatient online. We want answers fast and furious. We want them quick. If we can’t find them, we’re going to bounce and go to the next website. But if we do find the information jackpot—the site that’s willing to think like us and talk like us and answer our questions—man, now we’re more loyal than ever. We’ll stay there for a long, long time. That’s just the facts. It’s like that in every single industry.

So I wrote that article—how much a fiberglass will cost—because I was following the golden rule of they ask, you answer. Immediately, Google said, “My goodness, somebody finally answered this question.” It was the first page for almost every fiberglass pool cost-related keyword phrase you could type in.
Right now, if anybody types in “fiberglass pool cost” or, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” or, “What’s the average cost of a fiberglass pool?” or, “How much does an inground pool cost?” we’re going to be on the first page of Google, usually ranked number one every single time.

Because we can track the people that have come to our site from that article based on the analytics that we use—we use HubSpot—and if they fill out a form which says, “Hey, contact me,” I’m able to see how that particular lead came into the system.

In other words, what the keyword that they typed in was and what article they landed on. Eventually, I’m able to say, well, because these leads became customers and because these customers typed in these particular phrases and landed on these particular blog articles, I can give an actual return on investment (ROI) to a specific article. This is available to any company.

To make a long story short, Steve, that one article, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” has led so far to—at a minimum, what I can track—$1.2 million in sales. That is a huge amount for me as a pool guy. That’s a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. These are phrases that, had I not shown up in the search, they never would have found me, man. They just wouldn’t have found me.
The principle applies to everything. Literally, there are no exceptions. In some markets, I’ve been hearing that there are certain problems with fiberglass pools. So be honest, what are the problems with fiberglass pools? Again, that’s a question. That means I’ve got to answer it. I have an article titled “Top 5 Fiberglass Pool Problems and Solutions” on our website. It’s gets about 30,000 to 40,000 reads a year. So far, it’s made somewhere around $500,000 in sales.

The number one lead generating phrase that people type in to become a lead—other than River Pool and Spas, which is a direct one that doesn’t count—is fiberglass pool problems. Think about that. I’m actually talking about the problems of my own product. I am honest in that article. We say, “There are certain drawbacks to fiberglass pools. Here’s what they are.” So you see, that’s the beauty of being willing to answer.

I call it the antithesis of ostrich marketing. Most companies are like ostriches, possibly one of the dumbest animals on Earth. When they see a problem, they bury their head in the sand. They think it’ll go away and that by the time they come back out, it’ll be gone. It doesn’t work that way for the ostrich, and it certainly doesn’t work that way for businesses.

If somebody asked you a question like, “How much does your product cost?” you shouldn’t ignore the question and say, “Well, I’ll just wait until they get to the store,” or, “I’ll wait until I talk to them.” It doesn’t mean that you have to specifically give a cost. But you have to be able to address it. There is a big difference between addressing and answering questions.

For example, you can go read the, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” article. Never once did I say, “Your pool will cost you this much.” I said, “It’s like buying a car. It can range. It varies. Tons of options here, folks. But you might be anywhere between $20,000 and $80,000 on average. It could be higher than that depending on what you get.” But I did at least address the question.
Google views that as an answer. Consumers are satisfied that somebody’s taken the time to think like them and address their question. Now they’re in my house, a.k.a. my website. They’re going to start to read more content. The more content they read, every single article induces more trust. With more trust comes the fact that they’re closer and closer to filling out forms for or calling the source, “Hey Marcus,” or, “Hey River Pools, help me with this.”

Again, people think that what I’m talking about, their industry is the exception to this principle, Steve. It’s not the case. Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C, this golden rule applies. If you’re a great listener, you’ll never run out of blog content, content for your website. Search engines will love you and people will love you. You’ve just got to figure out how to apply it to your industry, because the principle of communication and listening is the same.

Steve: You mentioned a really important word there—trust. I think a lot of people and a lot of businesses want to walk away from the price question. It’s important to answer the price question because most of the time when people ask it, they just want a frame of reference. They’re not necessarily using it to price shop.

If you’re buying something that’s totally commoditized—something you could buy on amazon.com—yeah, maybe they’re doing that. But for most of us in business, we’re selling stuff that’s a little more complicated than that.

Really, the trust piece is more important than the price, as long as the price is somewhere within reason. They just want a frame of reference. By putting it out there while everyone else is hiding it, you’re building trust. You’re showing that, “Hey, we’re transparent. We’re going to give you an honest answer.”

I think it goes a long way especially in making a complicated sale, like a lot of the people listening to this deal with every day. Having that transparency, talking about the problems is important, because every product and every service has its weaknesses. People actually appreciate it when you let them know, “Hey, here are the pros and cons. Here are the pros and cons of maybe a competing thing. You figure out which one is best for you, but I’m going to lay it all out.” If you’re the one that lays it all out for them, who are they going to trust?

Marcus: That’s exactly right. It goes back to… you have a choice. You can be the ostrich or not. Also, every second somebody is on your website, they’re closer to buying your stuff.

When we talk about price, people raise their hand and say, “No, this won’t work. It’s a service-based business.” Again, that’s a bunch of hooey, because if somebody called up a service-based business and said, “Roughly, how much can I expect to spend?” eventually, they’re going to get some type of answer. It might not be a direct number, but like you said, you’re at least giving a range. Your answer might be, “It’s impossible, because our customers spend between $0 and $1 million, and here are the factors that dictate it.” But at least, hey, you addressed the question.

You can simplify this even further. What we’re talking about here is how the mind of today’s consumer has changed. Ten years ago, Steve, if you find a car that looks really cool on a car lot and you call in and say, “Hey, I saw you have this car. How much is it?” what’s the guy going to say back then? He’s going to say, “Oh Steve, yeah. That’s a good car. Why don’t you come on in? We’ll show it to you. Come on in. Have a look.” You didn’t ever answer the question.

Often times, people would still go to the lot and look. Today, we don’t have the patience for that and we don’t put up with it. Today, if you called the car guy and you said, “How much is this?” and he didn’t answer your question, what would you do? Everybody else, the same thing. We would get mad. We would maybe hang up. If we didn’t hang up, when we got off the phone, we’d never talk to that company again, because we’re in a different era.

This is the era of transparent marketing. It doesn’t mean that we show every single price in the world. But it means we’re willing to address every single question you ask.

Steve: If folks who are listening to this are saying, “Okay, this is great. I want to start blogging,” so they go to their web person and they get a blog set up. They start brainstorming all the questions that their prospects and customers ask and write the answers to that and put some posts up, that will get them moving forward.

But as I was reading your e-book—it’s over on thesaleslion.com—the thing that just jumped out at me was that you said you didn’t start networking quickly enough. I found this to be true as well. Why is networking with other folks that are also publishing online in your industry important?

Marcus: Networking is the answer to what I call CSI, which is the content saturation index of an industry. The higher the CSI or the more content is out there, the more you’re going to need to network in order to help your content get noticed and to develop followers, fans, readers—whatever you want to call it.

With River Pools, because the CSI was so low—in other words, people weren’t producing content in the pool industry, and they’re still not for the most part—I didn’t have to network at all, man. It was easy. I just had to answers questions. Because there were no answers out there, Google fell in love quick and so did the consumers.

When I got to the marketing realm and started teaching about marketing from The Sales Lion, immediately I was like, “Doggone, man. I’m not getting traction here.” That’s because every single marketing company, agency, consultant or whatever, had a blog. I had to network, and I had to get my name and my voice out there. They’re two different strategies.

Networking is important. It’s not as critical in certain industries, because if you’ve got nobody to network with—and sometimes it’s the case, believe it or not—well then, you just be your own little content renegade like I was in the pool industry. Produce the content and answer the question, you’re going to be successful. But if you’re writing about a niche like sales, marketing, personal development, politics or religion, there are a lot of content out there, there might be a lot to cover, and you might need to build your network. You might need to use social media.

For River Pools, I didn’t use social media. I didn’t use Facebook and Twitter to build that huge audience, because I didn’t need to. All I needed to do—because the CSI was so low—was answer the questions. Well again, I had to use social with The Sales Lion, because I was in the marketing, sales and business realm, where there were lots and lots of content.

Keep this in mind, Steve. You mentioned something that I don’t want to forget at this point. People get confused about this. A blog is simply a way of formatting information on your website. So your blog should not be a separate component of your website. It’s just more pages. Every blog article is a new page of your website. It shows differently though than your average page.

Sometimes people say, “Well, I have a blog and I have a website.” I’m like, that’s messed up. If somebody is reading your blog, they should feel like they’re on your website. They shouldn’t feel like they’ve gone somewhere else, to a different home. They should feel like they’re still there. Your blog articles—in fact, links to your blog articles—are sprinkled throughout your website. That’s very, very important. It’s amazing to me how many businesses screw that up.

Steve: That’s a good point. I guess I kind of take for granted that in this day and age, that most websites are being built on what I would call blogging platforms like WordPress and so many others that are out there. But I came across a client that hired a web designer. What they proposed originally was a static website. I said, “No, no, no. We can’t do that. There’s no way to grow that for the future.” So thank you for pointing that out, because I think that is an important distinction.

Marcus: Like I said, it’s critical. Most of the clients I had—especially when you get closer to mid-sized businesses—they’ve got custom junk that the website was built on. So at that point, they had to figure out a way to integrate a blog platform like WordPress.

We just can’t predict that, because to this day, there’s this misnomer about what blogging is. I think the definition has actually changed. Like I said, at present, a blog is a format of information on your website. That’s what a blog is.

Until people fully understand that, they’re still going to misconstrue, really, what we’re talking about. I don’t even like to call it blogging. I like to call it, in a sense, education-based marketing. We’re answering questions. Each question gets its own specific page on the website. It happens to be considered a blog article.

Steve: I think that’s real helpful. As folks get started on blogging… you’ve been through this, I’ve been through it. You get going, you’re writing articles left and right, you start out, and you’ve got all this energy that you’re just going to overtake the world with this blog.

Then maybe you make it a month into it, maybe you make it two months into it. You’re looking at your statistics, your analytics, and it doesn’t seem like you’re getting quite the traffic that you had expected. The world hasn’t rushed in.

I think all of us have kind of experienced this dip that you go through, where it gets a little bit tough to keep the momentum going. How long does it take and what was your experience with the dip, in getting through that? How did you kind of maintain momentum?

Marcus: That’s all industry-based, Steve. It’s all CSI based, depending on the content saturation index. When you start to have success is really going to be based on a couple of factors.

The number one factor is CSI. The number two factor is the way you title your blog posts, the pages of your website. People jack that up all the time. It is the number one screw up for new content marketers and bloggers. Number three is, how often you’re producing the content. You’ve got to be consistent. For the majority of businesses, produce at least two new pieces of content a week. Everybody wants to know how much. Well, at least two.

I’ve sat down with companies. We’ve brainstormed consumer questions. When we spent any bit of time on it, I’ve never come up with less than 100 in a brainstorming session with any company. Usually—if it’s say 5 to 10 employees—we can come up with 50 unique consumer questions within the first 5 to 10 minutes of brainstorming. In 30 minutes, we can come up with at least 100. That’s just the way it is.

Unfortunately, most don’t do that. They’re so attached to the numbers, but they’re not attached to doing it the right way. Doing it the right way is okay. So here is let’s say 100 blog posts. If you’ve got 100 blog posts, and if you do two blogs a week, that’s a year’s worth of content, right? You just need to write those questions out.

Now you have the titles. You know when you’re going to put them out there. It’s your editorial calendar. Then you just go. You just do. You don’t question. You don’t go, “Well, what if we don’t reach this number? What if that…” You just do it, because it’s who you are. It’s the culture. The culture is we’re teachers and we’re going to do this.

The other factor is, you have to implement that content into your sales process. So you shouldn’t write a blog article and die out. You should constantly be referring your customers, your clients, your prospects, to the content that you’ve written. If somebody comes to you and had a particular problem and you’ve written about it a couple of times on your blog, the next time you send them an e-mail, you should have links to those two blog articles. It’s amazing to me how many e-mails we send out that do not include content. It’s a huge mistake.

Can there be a dip? Yes, absolutely. But usually the dip comes with the fact that the person doesn’t truly see themselves as a teacher, has not disconnected as much with the sheer numbers as they are with, “This is who we are. This is what we do.” It’s like, “We do paychecks on Fridays. We blog Mondays and Wednesdays, because that’s what we do.” That’s the approach. That’s the mentality.

I’ve written at least two blog articles a week on The Sales Lion for three years. With River Pools—I don’t have to write as much now, but I still do—usually at least one a week. But for the first year, I did three a week. I’ve never hit a dip. The only reason why I’ve slowed down with River Pools is because I have so much traffic and I get so many leads, my company is not built to even build the number of pools that could be sold from the marketing that we do, which is a good problem to have.

I think people go through dips when they have unrealistic expectations, when they don’t understand the whole purpose of their content. For example, let’s say I never got another new visitor to my site because of my content. I would still produce content, because I use that content as part of my sales process.

Just like if somebody comes to me and says, “I want a pool,” they have to read the e-book that came from the blog articles that we wrote on River Pools. See? We’re refurbishing that content. We’re using that as part of our sales process. When they read that, they’re so much better as a lead—as a customer—than they ever would have been otherwise.

If somebody comes to me at The Sales Lion and says, “Hey Marcus, I want you to help us with our content marketing,” I’m going to say, “Have you read my e-book?” If they haven’t, I’m going to make sure they read the e-book first, because that is going to establish the relationship of expertise. They’re going to know how I roll. They’re going to know how I think. They’re going to know my essential content marketing doctrine, if you will. That’s very, very important. So now when we have a deep conversation, they’re more advanced. The foundation has already been laid out.

When people get caught up solely on more traffic, more traffic, more traffic, they’re missing the mark of really what content marketing is all about. Yes, that’s a huge deal. But the other deal thing is, are we using the content to push that person down the sales funnel so they pop out as a great client? If we’re not, we need to start doing it.

Steve: I think that’s absolutely great advice. Now, a couple of things I want to make sure we get to before we wrap up. One is HubSpot. You mentioned that. I know you have a lot of good things to say about HubSpot. I don’t know if you want to share anything now about that.

Marcus: I like HubSpot. I was their first customer that actually became a value-added reseller. With a lot of marketing clients, they use HubSpot.

The thing about it is this. HubSpot is a great all-in-one tool. It’s an e-mail marketing tool and it’s an SEO tool. It’s also a lead tracking tool. That’s a huge deal. In other words, let’s say Steve, you come to my website right now at River Pools. You fill out a form. I looked at your information. But now I can look and say, “Okay, Steve. Before you filled out the form, you looked at this page, this page, and this page. This is the time of day that you came onto this site.” I can see exactly what content that you have read, any content that you have read after you filled out the form.

I can essentially track you, right? That is a huge deal. If I’m going on a sales appointment and I know that you’ve gone and read 30 pages and I know what those 30 pages are, I know your hot buttons. I’m inside your head. The sales appointment is going to be way more productive.

At the same time, I know that if a lead comes into the system that has barely read any portion of my site. I use this on The Sales Lion as well. People come to me all the time and say, “I’ve been reading your site.” They fill out a form. They tell me how they’ve read the site, but they’re just pitching something. I can look and see how they went to one page and then went to my contact page. They’re lying to me, and I just trash it.

Or if somebody tells me, “I’ve been all over your site, Marcus. I’m really interested,” I can see if they’re being sincere or not. I can see that sincere person that really just dove into the content and sucked it all up, and is really trying hard. I can see that they’re going to be a great client.

That’s what HubSpot does. It does lead tracking. They’ll promote things too. I don’t find it very expensive it all. For most people, it’s a few hundred dollars a month. For mid-sized companies, it might be $1,000 a month or so.

It’s not for everybody, because unless you’re producing content regularly, unless you’re looking at your analytics, unless you’re trying to be great online, it’s going to be a waste of time. It’s just a tool. It’s only as good as the person that’s using the tool. That’s why there are a lot of folks I say not to use HubSpot, because they would just be wasting their money.

Steve: I think that’s wise advice there at the end. Tell us a little bit about The Sales Lion. I want to make sure we direct folks over to your e-book there, because if they’ve listened to this and they’re thinking about getting into content marketing or they’re doing it already, you’ve got to go get the e-book that Marcus has written. It’s outstanding. How do they get that?

Marcus: I appreciate that, Steve. The site is The Sales Lion, like the animal. So thesaleslion.com. You’ll see right away that there’s a free e-book there. It’s a couple of hundred pages. It’s called “Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy.” It’s literally been downloaded thousands of times all over the world. It’s changed businesses and lives all over the world. It is something that I’m incredibly proud of. It’s free. It’s my gift to everybody.

Content marketing, inbound marketing, changed my life so much. I was on the brink of financial ruin. It brought me out of that. I have so much passion to talk about it. That’s exactly why I give that e-book away for free.

Hopefully, your listeners will go there. If they read it and they apply it, they’re going to be on the top 1% of those that are in their particular niche and field. I’m telling you, they’ll be elite level and they’ll be there quickly. So thesaleslion.com.

Steve: It’s a phenomenal resource. I can’t believe you’re giving it away. Most people would get something that’s got that much meat in it and think, “God, this has got to be sold for a couple of hundred bucks.” But you’re giving it away. So everybody ought to go get it. It really is valuable.

Marcus, thanks so much for being with us today on the Small Business Marketing Show. This has been really informative. It’s been a lot of fun. I wish you luck.

Marcus: My pleasure, sir. Thanks everyone for listening today. Good luck to you and your business.

Inbound vs Outbound MarketingWho wins in a knife fight?

Lots of talk these days about inbound vs outbound marketing.

If you're part of the inbound marketing crowd, you peer over your latte with disdain for outbound marketers with their plaid jackets and offers of goods for sale.

If you're in the outbound tribe, you think…

"Those fools!"

"Relying on the all powerful Google to send you leads. Just wait until the next Purple Petunia update…your site will go from Page 1 to Page 342."

Here's the problem with this debate…

At the center is the word "OR."

This inbound vs. outbound choice is a false one.

The best inbound marketers are blogging and doing social media and generally getting themselves found.

Then they're using outbound emails and offline marketing to drive sales.

The top outbound marketers are driving web traffic and social media engagement using offline media--direct mail, TV, radio and print.

They work better together.

If I'm designing the ideal strategy for a company it's outbound marketing (probably direct mail or paid search) for quick results…

Combined with a strategically planned blog to begin building an inbound stream of leads (this takes time).

Studies show that inbound leads generally cost less to acquire.

That's great.

But you NEVER want to be reliant on one or just a few sources of leads.

ANY lead acquired at break even or at a profit is a good lead.

Happy hunting!

Steve Gordon

P.S. Looking for a clear path to generate leads consistently? Let's talk.

How to Future Proof Your Business by Building an Engaged Audience

In this episode of the Small Business Marketing Show, I sit down with Danny Iny, author of Engagement from Scratch! How super-community builders create a loyal audience, and how you can do the same! to talk about why you need to build an audience around your business and how to do it.

[powerpress]

In this episode of the Small Business Marketing Show...

  • Why having an audience "future-proof's" your business, so you'll never have to worry about where your next client will come from.
  • The commodity busting qualities of an engaged audience (this is the secret to breaking out of price competition).
  • How your audience will make you a better marketer...and make up for less than perfect marketing.

What do you think?

  • How would your business benefit from having an audience of fans?
  • What are you going to do to start building your audience?

Leave your answers in the comments below.

Links Mentioned on The Show

Engagement from Scratch (the book)

Transcript of How to Future Proof Your Small Business by Building an Engaged Audience

 

 

Automate Your Marketing...Dominate Your Market

Here's a special treat...I recently attended a day-long workshop with marketing guru Dan Kennedy. My friend, client and superstar sales pro, John Curry joined me. On the trip home we decided to turn on the recorder and recap the entire day, including our key takeaways from the day.

I hope you enjoy this special edition of the Small Business Marketing Clinic...I know you'll get valuable ideas.

Listen Online:

[powerpress]

Post a comment below with the idea that you think will have the most impact in your business...

Small Business Marketing Clinic - July 13, 2012 - The #1 Thing You Can Do to Turn Your Website Into a Sales Machine

Most websites stink at converting visitors into clients. On this Small Business Marketing Clinic call I cover the #1 thing you can do to make your website convert casual visitors into paying clients.

Listen Online:

[powerpress]

 

Got a marketing question? Join next week's Small Business Marketing Clinic call...click here to get the call-in details.

How To Use Video Marketing To Get More Clients

Online video marketing is the most effective tool to attract more of your ideal clients on the Internet. But it’s overlooked by too many small businesses when they think about social media marketing. Video marketing is cheap, easy to do and it’s great for search engine rankings AND for getting more clients. Here’s why…YouTube is the 3rd largest website in the world behind Facebook and Google (yes, Google’s now #2) in terms of number of visits per day. YouTube is also the #2 search engine behind Google. So there are a lot of eyeballs on YouTube that you’re missing if you focus all of your social media effort on Facebook and Twitter.

Video marketing is about attracting your IDEAL clients with relevant, high-value content that targets prospects early in the buying process, while they are still looking for information and options to solve their problem.

Video marketing is not a replacement for traditional commercials. No one watches them on TV, why would they choose to watch them online. Here are seven strategies to help you get the most from video marketing in your small business.

  1. Be authentic. Be yourself…don’t try to act or be anything you’re not. Seems obvious, but I see a lot of businesses create videos that clearly don’t represent them. If you’re small, own your smallness. Don’t try to fake being big. If you’re filming a customer testimonial, tape the ACTUAL customer in their words. Don’t script it. Just be authentic. Simple.
  2. Use video to answer common questions. We all get the same questions over and over from potential clients. There’s nothing wrong with that, and those questions make great content for your videos. Put them on a page on your website and send prospects to it to get questions answered. You’ll leverage your time and you’ll serve your prospects by giving them the answers they want.
  3. Educate, educate, educate! Video is the best way to attract your prospects at the very beginning of the buying cycle…when they’re looking for information. That’s the ideal time to attract them and capture them as a lead in your system. (Mainly because your competitors won’t do the work to grab them and follow-up this early in the process.) Once you’ve got them, you can send them emails with links to more educational videos. Each one builds relationship with the prospect AND allows you to set the buying criteria in their minds before there’s much competition.
  4. Pick your keywords to get ranked quickly. Video is absolutely amazing for getting you ranked on the first page of Google’s search results. I’ve seen it happen for clients in as little as 18 minutes. Typically within a week or two they are showing up in more than one spot on the first page…that’s what we call domination. Critical to getting results like that are the keywords you use to help the search engines find your video. If you pick a keyword with 1 or 2 million competing web pages you’ll have a tough time getting ranked. But if you pick a keyword with few competitors it might not have any traffic. Choosing keywords is an art…be patient it takes time to develop the skill.
  5. Distribute to YouTube and beyond. YouTube is great and your videos should go there first. But don’t stop there. You’ve invested time and money to create a video. Leverage your investment by putting it on the 10-15 top video sharing sites on the web. The search engines LOVE these video sites and will often find your video there and rank it high. Maximize your chances of being found.
  6. Use video as a shortcut to creating other forms of content. Every video I create is transcribed and turned into an article. For each 2.5 minutes of video you’ll get about 500 words typed. The article can be posted to your blog or to article marketing sites around the web for even more search engine juice. I also strip the audio portion out of every video and post it as a podcast to the top 4 podcast directories on the web. Again, 2.5 minutes of work is going to be sent to up to 30 places on the web…all pointing back to my website.
  7. Use video to get more clients to your other social media channels. Facebook is a fan of video too. Every video you create can be posted to your Facebook page and shared with your followers on Twitter and LinkedIn. Those three sites in particular are great distribution points to get your message out beyond your followers.

In the end, it’s your authentic message that gets clients. Your videos are the perfect place to communicate your message and give value to your prospects.

Your Homework

Step 1 is to understand how video marketing fits with your strategy to get more clients. From there you need to spend some time thinking through what types of information will attract your ideal clients and help them navigate the buying process. This can be very simple if you’re selling gifts for example…or very complex if you’re selling enterprise computer software.

Step 2 is to identify and acquire the tools you’ll need and build a system to make it easy to create, edit and distribute your videos. At a minimum you’ll need a camera, a lapel mic, editing software and distribution software (this saves hundreds of hours vs. uploading each video to every video sharing site). For a little more money you can get an inexpensive lighting kit and green screen to create your own studio.

Step 3 is to do the work. You’ll need to invest time and thought into the content you’ll deliver in your videos. You’ll also need to invest some time in shooting, editing and distributing the videos. Choose your keywords by asking “if I were a prospect how would I search for my solution?”. Think in terms of the problem you solve, not the product or service you offer.

If you’re antsy to get more clients online and build an authentic relationship with them, you’ll want to find out more about the “Local Domination Video Marketing System”, a system we created to give you the tools you need to launch your video marketing program and be successful. It guides you through the process of developing compelling content for your videos, teaches you how to shoot them and then takes care of the often complex editing, keyword selection and distribution tasks for you. To learn more about the system send an email to info@stevegordonmarketing.com to schedule a “Get Acquainted” telephone session.

The #1 Problem with Your Website...

If your website is like many of the ones I visit on a regular basis, it needs an update.  Just today I was on a website that had so many different directions I got a headache reading it.  Far too often as entrepreneurs we try to cover EVERY possible target customer, but end up with no focus and no customers (I know because 5 years ago that was me). When was the last time your website made the sale for you?  If your answer... wasn’t today, yesterday or the day before, you have some changes to make.  In the past, just having a website was enough to set us apart from the competition, but not in today's competitive environment.  Today, not only do we have to speak to our customers, we have to get them to believe in us and our ability to solve their problems.

The majority of Internet users are online to find answers to questions or problems, just look at the number of searches on Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines.  Companies spend large amounts of money to have their website "return" at the top of a specific search, but if your prospective customer clicks to your site and finds a confusing site...you have lost them…and wasted a TON of money.  So what can you do to keep your prospective customers engaged in your site?

First, scan your site and look for any reference to “I” or “we.”  Any  information that focuses on you or your company has to go.  Then, replace it with information that helps the customer identify the problem that you can solve.  As your customer reads your website, you want the customer to agree with the statements and begin to establish you as the expert.  People buy from companies with whom they feel are experts in their field (which is why having a website catered to everyone never works).

In my next post, I will talk about the importance of your website layout and how it can have an impact on your marketing.

My Customers are Not Online...

If I had a dollar for each time I heard this from one of my clients or students, I would be taking a nice long beach vacation!  The truth is everyone is online.  Each time someone has tried to convince me that their target market is not online, I usually find a reason the customer is online.  Heck, even my "behind-the-times" Father has an iPhone.  He can now find a restaurant or get directions on the go....what is the world coming to? The reason I bring up my Father is that he is a non-typical iPhone user.  Some people might say he is "older", I would NEVER say that.  His generation did not grow up with computers, nor did they use them in school.  His generation had to learn computers in the workplace and many people within his generation are still hesistant to go to the digital world.

So why are so many people hesitant about going online or marketing online?

More and more people are online...more than you probably think.  Just because you are not online, does not mean your customers are not online.  Remember, we are not exactly like our customers.  Just remember this simple little question my baby-boomer mother-in-law poised to me one evening...

Before Google, where did people go to have questions answered?

If that does not give you evidence that more and more people are online, maybe some of the numbers below will help

  • Facebook has over 250,000,000 users and is growing daily
  • LinkedIn has the largest collection of Business Owners
  • July 2009, Google had over 76.7 billion searches (Just Google)

So, don't be left in the dark.  Take advantage of the tools at your fingertips.

3 Things Disney Can Teach You About Content Marketing

I love Disney. There are few companies that deliver the total package of marketing and operations (which is really just fulfillment of the marketing promise) better. In my house we've been living on Planet Disney since our first daughter was born. With two girls in the house, we get more than the recommended daily dose of the Mouse...and that's just fine with me.

You see, Disney provides some of the best marketing education in the world for free. All you have to do is watch and learn.

I can hear your cries now..."but Steve I'm not in the entertainment/themepark/movie business"...that's where average business owners stop. But you're smarter than that. You're going to figure out how you can apply what Disney does to your business.

So here are the 3 things Disney can teach you about content marketing:

1. Create your own celebrity (that means you).

Disney is a master at selling the content they produce. The Disney Channel, which is essentially free (included in most cable TV packages) pumps out TV shows featuring a regular parade of tween and teen stars.

The shows build up the stars from unknown to celebrity status with factory-like regularity. Kids from age 2-15 (and beyond) go nuts for these stars because they're presented in sit-coms and Disney Channel Original Movies as cool, but approachable characters. They've copied and updated the successful formulas from sit-coms and movies from my childhood like the 'Facts of Life', 'Different Strokes' and 'Grease'.

Notice there's no innovation here, just a new twist on an old and proven idea. It's smart for two reasons:

1. It removes most of the risk of a new idea 2. It's easier and faster to implement

With a blog or YouTube channel you can have your own media outlet to turn yourself into a celebrity in your specialty.

2. Monetize, Monetize, Monetize

When one of Disney's home-grown celebrities reaches critical mass, Disney pops out a movie, DVD, licensed toys, clothing, books (every kind of licensed widget you can imagine), concert tours, celebrity cruises...and on and on.

Disney is the world's largest licensing company. They don't try to do it all themselves. They create the irresistible content and gather together the market.

They package and sell the content and let licensees create and sell the products. As a result they extract maximum revenue from the investment in content without having to produce and sell every item themselves.

They could never achieve the success they have without sharing the wealth and sharing the work.

What can you add to your core product or service (even if it's delivered by someone else) that will enhance your customers' lives? If you added just 10% to every customer transaction what would that mean to your profitability?

3. Cross-Sell, Cross-Sell and Cross-Sell Some More

Go to a Disney resort and turn on the TV. Every TV starts on a resort version of the Disney Channel with the latest batch of teen stars selling activities in the theme park.

Watch the Disney Channel (which doesn't show outside commercials) and you'll be inundated with inside interviews and 'behind the scenes' infomercials for the latest Disney feature film, theme park ride or Disney Cruise special (the latest is a cruise with cast members from some of the sit-coms).

The Hanna Montana craze over the last few years is probably the best example of the brilliance of this play. The character was introduced in a sit-com. Music CD's and licensed products followed.

Popularity among young girls exploded (I think I live at the epicenter of it) and a concert tour was launched (with the highest priced ticket scalping in history). Then a 3D concert movie, followed by a second movie and a mainstream music career for star Miley Cirus.

Each piece reinforced the others driving the popularity (and sales) higher and higher. It'll end at some point, but Disney's already bringing up a couple of successors.

So you don't have 10 businesses you can cross promote...so what. You know 2 or 3 or 10 other business owners who you can strike deals with to cross-sell to each other's customers.

Done right, you all help your customers by bringing them good products or services and all of the businesses involved benefit by growing the pie.

So take some time to digest these lessons from Disney and figure out how you can use the ideas in your business.

Tell me what you think of this article in the comments below. Your feedback really helps us know what content you find most helpful.

I'm Appalled...And You Should be Too

I'm about to piss off my web designer friends, but I owe it to you, dear reader, to share this...

In the last month I've met with three entrepreneurs that all killed their budding businesses the same dumb way--they spent all of their money on websites.
All three are in bootstrap mode, trying to get their businesses off the ground with a very small amount of cash. And they all fell prey to the notion that they need a "big company" website to be able to do business online.
In the worst case of the three, the entrepreneur spent nearly $20,000 on two different web design firms and had a clunky and crash prone site to show for it. And now, no money left to promote the business.
If You Have a Website, But No One Visits Does it Really Exist?
Answer: It doesn't matter. Nobody Cares.
The gigantic mistake made by these entrepreneurs was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time in the startup process. A fancy, image filled website is not important at the beginning. Frankly, it may not ever be important. But it's certainly not the FIRST place to spend your precious capital.
The place to spend is on marketing and sales. You want to prove that a market actually exists for your product or service. Invest your capital on this first. If you have a strong offering, your market will overlook a less than perfect website.
But, if you're offering is weak or doesn't fit your target audience even the prettiest website won't deliver the critical CASH you need to reach launch velocity.
Your mantra should be "Good enough today, is better than perfect next week..."
We've worked with entrepreneurs to get websites launched in less than a week and for less than $1000 (often less than $500). That leaves most of their money to be spent on marketing to actually get people to the site (what a concept).
Once you have cash coming in from sales, you can improve the website, if you need to.
If you're a do it yourselfer...you'll want to want to check out our favorite tools for getting a good website up super-quick:
We use Wordpress to run every site we create. Every web hosting company worth using has a 1-click automatic installer for the Wordpress software so anyone can get it setup.
Then we use the Thesis theme for Wordpress. While the out-of-the-box design looks basic, it is easily and inexpensively customized. It handles all of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for you. And, when you're ready to juice up your site Wordpress and Thesis are the perfect foundation, so you won't have to scrap what you've done.
I'd love to hear your website creation story. What did you do...how did it work? Share you're experience with the Black Belt community...post a comment below.

In the last month I've met with three entrepreneurs that all killed their budding businesses the same dumb way--they spent all of their money on websites.

All three are in bootstrap mode, trying to get their businesses off the ground with a very small amount of cash. And they all fell prey to the notion that they need a "big company" website to be able to do business online.

In the worst case of the three, the entrepreneur spent nearly $20,000 on two different web design firms and had a clunky and crash prone site to show for it. And now, no money left to promote the business.

If You Have a Website, But No One Visits Does it Really Exist?

Answer: It doesn't matter. Nobody Cares.

The gigantic mistake made by these entrepreneurs was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time in the startup process. A fancy, image filled website is not important at the beginning. Frankly, it may not ever be important. But it's certainly not the FIRST place to spend your precious capital.

The place to spend is on marketing and sales. You want to prove that a market actually exists for your product or service. Invest your capital on this first. If you have a strong offering, your market will overlook a less than perfect website.

But, if you're offering is weak or doesn't fit your target audience even the prettiest website won't deliver the critical CASH you need to reach launch velocity.

Your mantra should be "Good enough today, is better than perfect next week..."

We've worked with entrepreneurs to get websites launched in less than a week and for less than $1000 (often less than $500). That leaves most of their money to be spent on marketing to actually get people to the site (what a concept).

Once you have cash coming in from sales, you can improve the website, if you need to.

If you're a do it yourselfer...you'll want to want to check out our favorite tools for getting a good website up super-quick:

We use Wordpress to run every site we create. Every web hosting company worth using has a 1-click automatic installer for the Wordpress software so anyone can get it setup.

Then we use the Thesis theme for Wordpress. While the out-of-the-box design looks basic, it is easily and inexpensively customized. It handles all of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for you. And, when you're ready to juice up your site Wordpress and Thesis are the perfect foundation, so you won't have to scrap what you've done.

I'd love to hear your website creation story. What did you do...how did it work? Share you're experience with the Black Belt community...post a comment below.

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

Disclosure: The links to the Thesis theme are affiliate links, so if you click them and buy the theme, we'll make a small amount of money. I'm sharing this with you, because we want to be upfront with you. I also want you to know that we never recommend a product lightly. Frankly, our reputation and relationship with you is worth far more than any commission we might receive. We use Thesis to run this site, and know first hand how good it is AND how what great support you get from the creator Chris Pearson. And that's why we recommend it to you.

Getting Started with LinkedIn - Top 12 Strategies

If you are like most business people, you have probably been sent an invitation to a site called LinkedIn. Then, if you are like the majority of us, we delete the link thinking, "Oh no not another site that I have to sign-up on." So, you are probably reading this right now, going yep...that is me. Why should I register on the site, normally sites like that just send me junk and fill my inbox with worthless email? I can tell you from firsthand experience, there are plenty of sites out there that want you to register and then send you spam 50 times a week. LinkedIn is not one of them. LinkedIn is a powerful networking site, creeping up on popular social networks like MySpace and Facebook. The benefit about LinkedIn is that it is entirely business focused. So, are you interested yet?

What Can LinkedIn Do for Me?

I have been asked the above question more times than I can probably count. My answer to everyone is always, "LinkedIn is a great way to find people. We all go through life never really knowing everything about our work colleagues (sometimes even our friends). LinkedIn has allowed me to read someone's business history in a single screen. The site also helps me understand who they know and network with."

Some interesting facts you probably did not know about LinkedIn:

* The average number of LinkedIn connections for people who work at Google is forty-seven. * The average number for Harvard Business School grads is fifty-eight, so you could skip the MBA, work at Google, and probably get most of the connections you need. Later, you can hire Harvard MBAs to prepare your income taxes. * People with more than twenty connections are thirty-four times more likely to be approached with a job opportunity than people with less than five. * All 500 of the Fortune 500 are represented in LinkedIn. In fact, 499 of them are represented by director-level and above employees.(blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/01/ten_ways_to_use.html)

Top Reasons to Use LinkedIn

1. Building your Reputation. LinkedIn is a great tool for people to outline their experience, accomplishment, organizations and network. Too often I have seen incomplete profiles. A crucial element to get LinkedIn to work for you is to make sure your profile is 100% complete. Include all your previous employers, groups you belong to, your "advertisement", websites and other important information. LinkedIn is also becoming a place where employers find candidates, so if you are job hunting, this may be the place for you.

2. Find Qualified Candidates. Ever struggled looking for an employee? If you are like me, it is a love hate relationship. I want to find the best candidate because it will benefit the company, but weeding through all the applicants can be exhausting. Well, how about using your network to find employees? For my last two positions, I hired individuals that came recommended, yes I said recommended, from my network on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a great job posting board, which is also very inexpensive. Even if you don't want to field unknown candidates, you can send out an email to all your connections.

3. Find New Connections. Have you ever felt like sometimes you see the same people at the networking events? Would you like to meet new people? Use LinkedIn and do a search. For example, let's say I want to meet Architects. I just go to LinkedIn and type in Architects in the search box. LinkedIn will search my contact's contacts and return the results. The best part is it shows me how I am connected to the person, which can then be used for introductions. I ask Joe Smith to introduce me to his friend the Architect. LinkedIn also provides results of what they call 3rd degree friends. Essentially, your contact has a contact that knows the architect. It seems complicated, but it is a great way to expand your network and your friend's network. Try a search, see what happens. LinkedIn also has introductions, a tool they offer to give you an introduction to a person you want to meet.

4. Increase your Google Ranking. Ever wondered how people's names come up so high up on Google searches? I do not have the secret Google formula, but I can tell you a well written LinkedIn profile earns a high rank on the page. The not so lucky are the people with common names, like Joe Smith, but, the more you have information like LinkedIn (or Blog articles), the better your Google ranking.

5. Make your meeting go smoother. I was once introduced to a contact who knew all about me before I ever met him. He even went on to tell me who we knew in common....talk about ice breaker. All he did was search for me on LinkedIn and viola....all my history and information. I have to admit, from a bird's eye perspective it sounds a bit creepy, but sitting in the meeting it was not. I was actually relieved to have something in common with the person. He, of course, told me he had viewed my LinkedIn profile, which took all the creepiness away. I thought after that meeting, what a great way to learn about someone, search for them on LinkedIn.

6. Ask for or Give Advice. In the question and answer section of LinkedIn, users can post questions and answer questions. For example, if you are a computer hardware expert, you would scroll through and try to answer questions relating to your specialty. What does this do? Well, it builds your credibility as an expert in your field. On the other hand, have a question you want some peer advice on? Ask the LinkedIn users. I have scrolled through the Answers section many times and I am always pleased with the responses I have read, always very professional.

7. Scope out Competition, Customers, Partners. I, like most people, use Google or another search engine to see what information I can find out about my market. The market includes your customers, competitors and partners. LinkedIn is a great tool for research. I especially like it because you can usually see where a person worked previous to their current position. Knowing that information provides a much more in-depth picture about the person or company. Another key advantage is to see what groups your customers or potential customers belong to.

8. Groups. LinkedIn just added a new tool to search groups. The groups range from networking groups to Alumni groups to Company groups. Groups can be a great tool for networking. For instance, I am a member of the Alumni group where I went to college. The group is quite large, but I can search within the group for prospective clients, partners or competitors. I use the group as a common thread when trying to talk to or meet with people. For example, "Joe I see that you are a member of XYZ Alumni group, so am I, what did you study?" There are many different ways to use the groups and their members as leads into conversations. As a plus, when you join a group you can show the group on your profile. The benefit could be others see the group and find they have a common thread with you.

9. Recommendations. LinkedIn has created a system where your contacts can recommend you. I think it is a wonderful tool. Now, when I am searching for a product or service or even a new connection, I can read what other people have to say. I know and you know, we can talk about how great we are till we are blue in the face, but when someone else confirms it......you may have struck gold. Leverage the power of LinkedIn to get recommendations and be sure to give them as well.

10. Help Others. The saying is Give and You Shall Receive. Use LinkedIn to introduce people you think would be a good match. You can easily do introductions to the people with LinkedIn's inMail. The nice thing about giving a contact more connections on LinkedIn is that no one wants to be the person with the least contacts....so help out a friend and send them a contact or two that makes sense for them. Part of helping others can be helping them use LinkedIn. Most of the people I have met have done very little research on how to use LinkedIn to its full potential.

11. Use it on the go. LinkedIn is configured to be able to use it on your handheld device. While you waiting at the airport, doctor's office or another waiting area, log into LinkedIn and network from anywhere. Just go to linkedin.com.  Now you can just browse to the apps on your iPhone or Blackberry.

12. Setup a company page.  While this is still "technically" in beta, it is a good place to get more exposure online for your business.  Setup your company profile information and at the minimum, as people view your profile, they can get more company info if they choose.

I hope you start getting more from LinkedIn! And while you're at it, drop me a line at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimalbritton

Is Your Website a Lead Generation Machine?

Which phrase best describes your website: 1. Lean Mean Marketing Machine, Delivering Leads to the Business 24/7 2. A Pretty Brochure that Potential Clients Visit to learn more about you. If you picked number 2, you have some work to do. Why? Because you have invested money in a website, probably thousands of dollars, and all it does is sit there. Shouldn’t you see a return on your investment? The old approach was to build a website, because everyone else had one. If you did not have a website, you were behind the times and nobody could find you. Right? Today, a website should be a source of potential clients for you.

Now that you know the difference, let’s talk about how to make your website work for you.

First, make sure the language on your site is talking to your potential customers. Most websites are focused on what the company does, the qualifications of their employees and how to submit a resume. Potential customers are looking for a solution to a problem, so make sure your website is what your potential clients want to read.

Next, have a way to capture warm leads. Give away a report, coupon, or other item your prospects would want to have. In turn, they have to give you contact info, such as their name and email address. Now, you have a way to keep your company in front of the prospect.

Finally, use your website to filter leads from other online sources. You can use pay per click, search engine optimization, article websites, referral sites and so on. The possibilities are endless for sites that can refer potential prospects to your site.

One last note, a website should be continuously updated. If you go for more than a few weeks without adding new content to your site, you are slacking.

First, let’s talk a little about why it is important to update your site. I know you are probably thinking, that is going to be a lot of work…since the first site was an undertaking. I am here to tell you it does not have to be painful to stay updated.

You want to keep your clients coming back to your site, especially is you sell via your website. Having old/stale content does not make anyone want to come back to visit. Also, it makes new visitors wonder about the company.

Second, the more you add good relevant content to your site, the better your search rankings will become. Sites that are published and just sit there are not going to rank well within search engines.

Now that you know two good reasons to update your site, what can you change?

1. Stories/Blog: Yes, you need to have good content that people want to read. AND I AM NOT talking about your latest internal promotion. Most of your content should be focused on what interests your clients. Don’t be afraid to branch out, away from your industry for noteworthy news topics. People read more than one section of the paper, so your news should be equally diverse.

2. Links to your site: Most people say to get higher in search rankings you have to have LOTS of links to your site. While some of that is true, the important part is you want HIGH traffic sites pointing to your site. So, if you are not on LinkedIn, sign up and put your website on your profile. I get at least 2-3 hits per day from LinkedIn on our website.

3. Old Information: I know this may seem obvious, but I cannot count the number of times I went to a site and read old information. The company did not provide the service anymore, the contact was no longer there, the address was incorrect and so on. Make sure all your pages, that means your home page and any sub-pages (check you website directory) must be current. Black Belt Marketing Secret: Have a lower paid, tech savvy employee make the changes. They will enjoy it and probably complete it faster.

4. Have a way for potential clients to opt-in to marketing. It could be a newsletter or free report, but give them a way to stay in touch.

5. PLASTER your phone number on each page. So many times I have to hunt for a phone number…it should not be that hard. Make it so easy for someone to contact you they don’t even have to think about it. (same goes for email).

How To Use The Pyramid of Influence To Beat The Recession

Last week I was listening to a talk by marketing and PR guru Paul Hartunian. In his talk he reminded me of the Pyramid of Influence described by Dan Kennedy and others for decades. There are four levels to the pyramid:

1. The Generalist - My Business is a Commodity

The generalist is known for knowing a little bit about alot of things. Or, probably better stated, is not known for anything in particular. The generalist is the lowest level of the pyramid.

Here lives your family dentist, the local insurance agent or your business attorney. Most businesses large and small sit at this level.

They sit there, not because of some market force, but because they have not chosen to be "special." You can identify a generalist business anytime you here the owner bemoan the fact that what they sell is a commodity.

2. The Specialist - See me if you need the right answer

Moving up the pyramid, with much more influence than the generalists are the specialists. The obvious example of this is your doctor. If you break your leg, you don't want your general practice doctor...you want an orthopedic specialist.

If you have a termite problem at your house, you don't want any old bug man, you want the Termidor certified specialist.

By specializing in the solution of one specific problem for a specific type of client you reduce the number of people who are prospects for you. And, you increase the magnetism of your solution to that smaller group.

Because you're speaking right at them and their specific problem, you have greater influence. You're the expert after all.

3. The Celebrity - I don't know much, but I've got your attention

In our modern world of 12,617 TV channels, YouTube, blogs and Twitter, you don't have to look far to see the influence that celebrities enjoy in our society. They shape our decisions on fashion, hair styles, cell phones, music...the list goes on.

Celebrities have more influence than specialists. Our last election is a great education on that point. Regardless of your politics, recognize that Barack Obama, the celebrity, beat two of the most powerful political specialists of the last decade in John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

4. The Celebrity Specialist - I know my stuff and the media thinks I'm cool

At the top, the people with the most influence in our world are those people and companies who become celebrity specialists. This group combines the specialized knowledge of the specialist and the public presence of the celebrity.

Examples:

  • Dr. Phil (specialist - relationships, added celebrity with Oprah appearances)
  • Suze Orman (specialist - personal finance, appears on Today Show, CNBC, bestselling author)
  • Dr. Oz (specialist - all things health and medical, on Oprah, Larry King, best selling books)

So you're probably thinking...great, how am I going to get on Oprah so I get to the top of the pyramid. My answer: if you can get there...do it.

But you don't need to.

Let me tell you about my friend John Curry. John is a financial planner. Not very remarkable, right? But John specializes in helping state employees here in Florida plan for there retirement in the Florida Retirement System's pension program.

John wrote some articles on how to have a secure retirement if you're in the Florida Retirement System. He got the articles published which led to an appearance on a local Sunday morning news talk show.

The talk show appearance has now positioned him as the celebrity specialist for the Florida Retirement System. Lots of financial planners can help you, but only John is on TV talking to all of the soon to retire state employees in the state capital.

How can you become the celebrity specialist in your market? Do it and you won't have to worry about the economy.

Marketing Secret #1 – Divide & Conquer

black-belt-secret-bugDo you know what sets successful marketers apart from the vast majority of businesses? Truth is, there are lots of things that highly successful marketers do…that most businesses do not (and you thought I was going to tell you the ONE secret to marketing).

But underlying all of the many things that the most successful marketers do is one important principal. The principal of “divide and conquer”. This time tested method for segmenting your market into smaller and smaller “sub-markets” is the key foundational idea behind all successful marketing.

Most businesses market too big.

When asked who their target customer is they’ll tell you “everybody who needs XYZ”. This is never true. In fact the words “everybody”, “anybody” or “all” are red flags when I ask someone who they want to sell to. It’s obvious they haven’t done their homework.

So what do I mean by “divide and conquer”? It’s really simple, but requires some thought…not a lot, but some. Let’s take by way of example an engineering firm that sells design services. They can design any type of commercial building—offices, retails stores, restaurants, fast-food joints, strip malls, schools and fire stations. All of these building sites require essentially the same design services, done by the same people in the firm.

Logically, the firm creates a brochure, business cards and a website that talks about the design work they do, the qualifications of their engineers and the places they work. And, somewhere on each marketing piece (I often find it on the back cover of brochures) they list, in bullet form, the various types of building sites that they can design.

First Divide

All the money the firm spends on it’s pretty brochures, cards and website will be wasted because in trying to speak to ALL of the possible types of customers they want, they’re not speaking to any of them. Prospects are people. People who have a plate full of problems in their own world. If you’re not talking to them in their world, individually, you will be ignored.

So in the case of our engineering firm, they need to divide their prospects into categories like:

  • Office building owners/developers
  • Retail store owners
  • Restaurant (not fast food) owners
  • Fast food franchisees
  • Strip Mall Developers
  • School Districts
  • County & City Fire Departments

When you separate it out like this and think about each type of client and what problems they face every day, it’s pretty clear that you need to communicate with the office folks differently than the restaurant people and differently still from the school district’s facilities planner.

Then Conquer

Now that we’ve divided the firm’s universe of potential clients into logical groupings, we can devise a plan to conquer each sub-market. Instead of one brochure and website, I’d create 7, one to two page brochures and 7 sub-market focused websites. I’d even look for web addresses like retail-site-engineering.com or fast-food-engineering.com for each sub-market. With each marketing piece, we’re now able to focus the message on the specific individuals in each sub-market. We can speak their language and talk about the challenges they face without alienating prospects in the other groups.

So set aside an hour to think about who you’re marketing too. Divide them into groups and conquer each one.