marketing

The Rush Limbaugh Secret School of Marketing

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Ok, Ok…Rush Limbaugh…you either love him or hate him.

I don't really care either way, this isn't about politics.

It is about the RUSH LIMBAUGH MARKETING MACHINE…

See Rush is far more concerned with selling then politics. Politics simply provides the context…the bait for ATTRACTING a particular audience.

And, once the audience is corralled, Rush systematically performs daily cashectomies from audience to advertiser. For that reason, it's worth studying.

Here are the keys to Rush's machine:

1. Stand for something! Get this point and get it good. You, your business, your service, your product (dare I say your "brand")…must STAND FOR SOMETHING. What you stand for is not nearly as important as standing for something.

Stop trying to be everything to everyone and, as my friend John Kraft says be everything for the demanding [and profitable] few.

Having an opinion turns your business into a high-powered magnet, strongly ATTRACTING IDEAL CLIENTS and repelling poor prospects with equal strength.

2. Talk to your audience frequently (daily is preferred). There's a reason talk radio is a fabulous platform for sales…the hosts of these show, Rush included, build intimate relationships in the minds of their audience. You can't build a relationship deep relationship with another human being if you only speak with them 2-3 times a year.

3. Offer value for free…and offer something for money regularly (again, daily preferred). Biggest business mistake I've made in the last year, is stopping my daily email bulletins. Give value in your communications and don't be afraid to make an offer.

Honestly, if you're communicating with someone that has a problem you can solve, you're doing them a disservice by not offering your solution.

4. Have a long-term game plan. Look, I'll be shot at the next marketing consultant's union meeting, but in most cases marketing won't turn sales around overnight. But in about 99.999999% of the cases it will turn things around in 6-12 months.

Don't fall into the "I sent a direct mail piece once two years ago and it didn't work so I gave up" group. It takes some work, but not as much as you think.

5. Understand your audience. OK…this is the big one! Do all the others right and screw this one up and it's game over. Lack of clarity about who you're selling to and what big hairy problem they have is the #1 business killer in the world. Bar none.

But I have a solution…

Each month, I give away 4 or 5 "Marketing Intensive" strategy sessions geared to helping you get clear on where you want to be, where you are today, what's standing in your way…and most importantly, what NEXT STEP you should take to get closer to your goal.

Apply at:

http://stevegordonmarketing.com/strategysession

Steve Gordon

SBMS 08 | How To Put Yourself In The Path of Opportunity

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In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show I talk about the importance of being in front of your prospects and customers...everywhere they are. And, I share 13 ways you can make it happen.

Download the MP3

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

  • Why you need to show up where your prospects and customers hang out.
  • How to multiply yourself to be everywhere at once (at least as far as your prospects are concerned).
  • 13 places you can show up for your prospects

Take Action

  • List 3 places you will start "showing-up" for your prospects (that you're not already doing).
  • Decide when and how you will accomplish your three "show-up" goals.

What Do You Think?

  • How important has it been to your business to "show-up"?
  • What methods are you using to "show-up" successfully?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

SBMS 02 | Market Your Way Out of The Recession - Fortune Follows The Brave

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In this episode of The Small Business Marketing Show I share important research I discovered that will make you think twice about slashing your marketing budget in this recession.

Download the MP3

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

  • Findings from 40 years of research on the link between marketing efforts during recessions and business results during and after the downturn.
  • Why this is the Golden Age of Small Business Marketing.
  • How you can beat the big boys more easily than ever before.

Take Action

  • Decide what you will invest, in terms of time, money or both, to increase your marketing activity.
  • List three things that make you and your business unique in your industry.

What Do You Think?

  • How have you creatively expanded your marketing efforts during the recession? What were your results?
  • Have you seen other businesses expand during the downturn? What did they do to make it happen?

A Quick, Easy Small Business Marketing Plan For 2010

The New Year is just around the corner and if you're not already thinking about it, you should be outlining your marketing plan for 2010. If you're like a lot of small businesses, you're coming off of a rough 2009 without a lot of free cash to dump into new marketing. I hear you loud and clear...so here's a plan to boost your marketing and go easy on your wallet.

How to Keep Facebook From Sucking the Life Out of You

We've now taught hundreds of business owners how to grow their businesses with Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the other social media tools. With total confidence I can tell you that the #1 gripe we hear from these entrepreneurs is "But I don't have time..." And, frankly, they're right. (You thought I was going to say..."but you can't afford not to be on Facebook, etc.) They don't have time and you don't have time to use these tools the way "normal", low-achieving people use them.

So let's talk about smart strategies for automating, delegating and putting boundaries around social media.

First, all of the tools--Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog, Plaxo, FriendFeed (and 1000 others)--can be linked to the big boys: Facebook, Twitter and your blog. So instead of updating all of the services you're on, you should really only be actively updating 2 or 3 sites.

Second, Most "normal" people decide what to post when they sit down in front of the computer with Facebook's piercing question "Steve is ________________" staring them in the face. Smart social media marketers approach social media as they do all other forms of media. They plan campaigns.

To do this, block off 30-minutes to 1-hour per week to plan your social media marketing messages for the week.

If you're really cool, you'll include your assistant, the teenager you're paying $10 per hour or some bright, young, hip person on your staff. You tell them what the messages will be and THEY are responsible for making it happen throughout the week.

You can use tools like SocialOomph.com to schedule Twitter posts in advance or Ping.fm to update all of your sites at once (or even better use them together).

Finally, depending on the type of personality your company has, you may want have direct contact with your social media followers. We encourage it.

But you don't need to do all of the posting. Automate you're marketing messages like we've described, and then pop-in to Twitter or Facebook to answer questions and join conversations. This is great filler for that 2-minutes when your between meetings.

Social media should not suck all of your time. It's just one of many forms of media that you should be using in your business. Give it the time it deserves, and no more.

What Highly Successful Entrepreneurs Do That You Don't, And What to Do About It

I spend a lot of time studying and interacting with highly successful entrepreneurs from a variety of industries. If you were to come along with me and meet these "superstars" of business you'd have a hard time figuring out what they have in common. Sure they're all driven to succeed...that's a given. Some are educated. Others are not. They are a mix of men and women from every ethnic background. Most come from modest means, but a few come from money. Some look the part of the "dot-com" ultra-hip entrepreneur...most look like regular guys and gals.

But they all share one behavior that I know is the secret to their success...

They implement FAST!!!

The time between when they have an idea and when they act on it is very short and they're always trying to make it shorter. This is THE one success secret for a very simple reason. My entrepreneur friends make and IMPLEMENT more decisions then their less successful colleagues.

So in a year's time they have implemented 200 ideas, while "normal" business owners might analyze and agonize and only implement 20 ideas. Let's assume that in both groups the hit rate for ideas is the same...say 10%. So normal business owners might have 2 hits during the year, but the entrepreneur will have 20. The entrepreneur is more successful just by virtue of the numbers.

So let me give you a few examples of what I mean by fast implementation from my own recent experience.

• Driving back from South Florida earlier this week I was on the phone with a friend discussing his marketing. We had the idea to host a teleseminar to generate leads for this business. Within 5 minutes of birthing the idea, we chose a date (two weeks out) and a topic.

Today, we'll be reviewing his rough draft of the presentation and approving the postcard that will be mailed to promote it. It's been 34 hours since we decided to do the teleseminar. That's what I mean by speed.

• Last month I attended my CEO mastermind group (I meet with 12 other CEOs for one day a month to discuss opportunities and issues in our businesses...a very valuable exercise that I'll write about in a future article). I presented my opportunity and one of the members gave me the name of someone that could help me with our idea. On the next break (not when I got to the office, not the next day...the next potty break), I was on the phone with our local Economic Development official asking for an introduction to this person. Not only did I get the introduction, but I got a meeting set before the end of the day.

• Last month an entrepreneur friend got an email from the editor of his local business journal publication asking if he'd write an article for the upcoming issue. He responded with a phone call within 60 seconds...the editor said "I've never had anyone respond so quickly before." My friend turned that quick response into a monthly column in the journal which positions him as the expert in his field and is driving leads to him as a result.

Here's the real magic...successful entrepreneurs who implement fast have a HIGHER hit rate than slow implementing business owners. Why? Because opportunity is fleeting. By the time the slow business owner finally does something, he's often missed his chance.

Now for the good news. Fast implementation is a BEHAVIOR you can install in your life. Write down the following on a 3 x 5 index card and carry it with you for the next 21 days (it takes 21 days to create a new habit): "I will implement ideas FAST."

Read it in the morning when you wake up and several times during the day to remind yourself to speed up. When presented with a decision, idea or opportunity, do something about it immediately. Do anything...taking a first small step will start the ball rolling and you will gain momentum with each small step.

Going back to my teleseminar example. We had the idea and immediately said "let's set a date". We gave ourselves two weeks. If we had not set the date for the event right then it would have taken us a month or more to do the teleseminar. We took one very small step, picking a date, and it set the whole thing in motion.

What idea did you get while reading this article? Post a comment to tell us what first small step you're going to take...then go do it. Now!

Marketing Secret #7 - The Customer/Advertiser Disconnect...in Plain English

You spent money to create a great website, run an ad in the industry magazine and you were on the radio, but how many customers did you get from those efforts?  More often than not, most business owners complain about the poor results of their advertising or marketing campaign. Why the poor results? Watch this....then continue below:

The problem with most advertising is that it is too general.  Everything from websites to magazine ads to radio advertisements are written and designed to appeal to a large crowd....not the select few who are customers.  What does your website say?  Is it truly focuced on the customer?  TEST YOUR SITE: go to your website and count the number of "we", "i" or me" variations you have on the website.

How many did you have?  If you have more than zero, you have too many!

Most of the advertising/marketing focuses on telling customers about us, but it should focus on solving the customer's problems.  People buy from us because we can solve a problem they have, not because we have been in business for 15 years for have a certain license, those are just confirming qualities.  Meaning, once the customers believe we can solve the problem, they want to verify we can do what we say (that is where the qualifications will be needed).

What does your marketing material say to your customers?

Oops....They Flushed How Much $$$ Down the Toilet?

Do you know what your customer service is like? Are you sure you REALLY know? Because if you don't it could be costing you customers...just like flushing money down the toilet. Try it, take a $20 bill...or if you are adventurous a $100 bill. Now go and flush it down the toilet, maybe flush a few more to signify all the lost future sales. The problem is you don't get to see how your employees are dealing with your most valuable asset - your customers. Go online, google any company (maybe your own) and take a look at what people are posting.  For every one ticked-off customer, he/she tells 50 friends, but the satisfied customer tells 3 people. Horrible odds right?

Unfortunately it happens all the time. Customers are frustrated by the service they receive and have no recourse to solve the problem. Take for instance my experience with a certain satellite TV company. I simply wanted them to ship me a new receiver, one of mine died. I knew that is what they needed to do, I had already went through the troubleshooting once. So what do you think happened?

After what should have been a five minute phone call, 45 minutes later I have a new receiver on the way, but not before I had to threaten to change service (and almost did) hung up on one representative and had to be transferred away from another. I was told everything from I cannot wait on hold for you to check your receiver to I can't ship you a new one, and finally to go to Best Buy to buy a new one. WHAT? Why is this guy sending me to Best Buy.

In the end, the "supervisor" tells me the entire conversation I had with the second person was wrong and he gave me entirely incorrect information. WHY? I kept asking her why, who was the person, could they be reprimanded, given the correct information? The kicker...SHE HAD NO IDEA WHO I SPOKE TO.

What if that happened to one of your customers? You work to hard and spend too much money to recruit your customers...why would you let an mis-informed employee (who probably could care less about the company) ruin your reputation with the customer?

I challenge all of you to have someone "mystery shop" your business. See how they are treated from the moment they walk in, to the moment they leave. Also, send out feedback forms to current customers, pick up the phone and call clients. Do not be afraid to check in with your clients to make sure your staff is fulfilling their needs. The last thing you want is your customers to go to the competition....you might as well just take the marketing money and flush it down the toilet. At least that way your reputation will not be ruined.

What are some of your horrible customer service stories?

Friday Feature: How to Lead Your Tribe

Marketing is about gathering together people who want what you have. You, the marketer are the leader of this group...and people are dying to be lead. There are too many choices and too little time to analyze every decision, every purchase. So we all rely on leaders to filter the choices for us. Your job as a smart marketer is to become the leader in your market. The expert who's opinion is valued, who's concerned with the well being of your 'tribe' as Seth Godin describes in this Friday Feature video.

Do you agree with Seth? Do you think he's full of #$@%&. Post your opinion in the comments below.

One of the best tools for gathering together your tribe and communicating with them is social media. We've put together a 24-page guide to using social media in your business. Download it free.

Happy Friday!

Why You'll Never Succeed at Social Media Marketing

Dear Business Owner, I write to you today with great sadness. I've come to see that you will never achieve the success that you, frankly, deserve. You've looked at all of the 'new media' and 'social networking' tools as fad. It's not your fault. In the beginning you were right to be skeptical.

As you sit back, continuing to promote your business using the old 'tried and true' methods you've used for years, your business is slowly disappearing from the world.

Your yellow pages ad that worked so well doesn't pull anymore. The 15 second TV spots you've been running for years, aren't working. In a few months new telemarketing rules will render the phone useless as a sales tool. Your print ads look good and make you feel proud, but you silently wonder are they still sending out those magazines...because your phone isn't ringing.

Hey, like I said, it's not your fault. Your customers just decided to spend their time using this new thing called the Internet. They decided that it's better to TiVO their favorite shows...and hit the fast forward button when your commercial comes on...that's not your fault.

Those crazy customers decided to join Facebook and Twitter and spend more time having a virtual party with their friends instead of reading the newspaper with your ad in it.

So you decided to get a Facebook account (I know, you're not sure about Twitter yet, after all, what self respecting business person 'tweets'). You've connected with an old high school flame or two...but you're not sure how to turn that into the millions you've heard you'll make with social media.

You read that every business needs a blog, but damn, you've got enough to do. And who the hell wants to read what you'd write anyway.

So you'll never be successful at social media marketing. And your business is slowly disappearing. I can't find you in Google and my Twitter followers referred me to your competitor. I love his YouTube videos...

But it's just a fad. And you don't have time this week anyway.

With Regrets,

steve-web-sig

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.

Marketing Secret #6 – 3 M’s of Marketing – Your Message

Our last marketing secrets post discussed media to deliver your message. This week we will discuss your message.

What will you say to your prospects? How will you define your company, services, expertise? YOU WON’T! Do not send anything out listing your services, how long you have been in business or how great you are. Nobody cares! Yes, I know that sounds mean, but I am about to save you a TON of money.

When you’re send your marketing message to your prospects and clients, make it all about them. Yes, they are dialed into “What’s In It For Me.” Your message to the prospects and clients should be focused around how you are solving their problems.

The next most important aspect of your message is the “call to action.” Ingrain that into your brain – Call To Action. We want our prospects and clients to read our message and take an action.

The action could be to request a free consultation, free report, attend a webinar and so on. Even if they are not ready to buy today, we want to capture their information. In your business, what can you “give away” to your customers in return for getting their name, phone number and email address?

If you can’t think of anything, think about what knowledge you can share with your prospects. What can you teach them? For example, if you are in the Architecture business, you could teach your prospects about green building, what it might cost and how it would benefit them. You want to give away information that corresponds to the services you offer. The free report is not a sales pitch, but a learning tool for your prospects.

The message also has to take into account the characteristics of the market. One very important aspect to the message is using the prospects’ “vocabulary.” If you are marketing to an industry with their own terms, make sure you use the same terms in your message so your prospects know you are one of them.

All that’s left now is to draft your message and send to your prospects!

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.

Why You Should Look Outside Your Industry For Marketing Inspiration

When is the last time you looked at a completely different industry as a model for your marketing? If you are like most firms, you probably have not. Why is that? Most people rationalize that their industry is different and marketing has to be done a certain way. My response....B.S.!!!

If you are not looking outside your industry for examples of what works (and what doesn't) you are missing the boat. The example I am going to use is American Idol. Just stay with me for a few minutes....

I am not a fan of the show, but the marketing is genius. I am not talking about the advertisements you see on TV to advertise the show itself, but the "behind the scenes" marketing that is happening. I am not sure if you realize how much time and money it takes to put a new "Star" out there, but it can be expensive. So, someone came up with a plan to launch their stars on TV.

The creators of American Idol used an idea that has been around....think star search and transitioned it into their own creation. Not only does American Idol profit from the ad revenue for the TV show, but their "talent" is instantly famous...even if they can't sing. (You know who I am talking about....) So now, instead of having to find talent, market the talent and hope for a winner....the work is done for them.

So how can this idea work for your business? Simple, you have to look outside the box. How can you create a buzz around your product or service that is so different, no one will see it coming? I once saw an example about a guy who removed old septic tanks....talk about a stinky job. I am sure it is not easy to advertise or find customers, so what this guy did was talk about what could happen if a small child fell in the old septic tank. He used a real story and became the expert on septic tanks...just by thinking differently about his service. The best part of the entire story, he had a fantastic story the local news covered. Who do you think was swamped with work after that story aired.

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).

Ten Rules of Networking from The [non]Billable Hour

Matthew Homann has a great post on the Ten Rules of Networking over on "the [non]billable hour]" blog. My favorites...

#6. Never enter a conversation at networking event with more than half a drink in your hand. Needing a refill is great excuse to leave.

#8. When you meet someone for the first time, make certain they don't hear you complain. About anything.

#9. The most underrated skill to possess at networking events is ability to end conversations, not start them.

#10. Never "network" to meet people. Network to help people.

Small business owners need to heed these rules for the sake of all of us at the next Chamber of Commerce function.

For more on networking to grow both personally and professionally read my article the 12 Essential Techniques of Power Networkers.

Marketing Secret # 5 – 3 M’s of Marketing: Media

Last week we discussed the importance of defining your market. This week, we will talk about using Media. What is media? Media is how you get your message out to your prospects. Media can be email, letters, postcards, fax, magazine ads, yellow pages ads, bus stop ads, etc. Many different forms of media exist, but you have to determine what is best for your target market. How do you determine what media will work best? Ideally, you will use various forms of media to get your message out. For example, you could send sales letters via regular mail, emails to current clients, have a direct response ad in the yellow pages and fax offers to your list. You will begin to identify which method works best for your target audience by testing each method against the others.

The saying goes, “don’t have all your eggs in one basket.” This saying is true for your marketing media as well. Do not rely on one type of media to get your message out, if it fails, you have no other resources to turn to. Some business did nothing but fax broadcast to market themselves, now that sending unsolicited faxes is illegal and comes with hefty fines their business is gone...overnight. The same is true for telemarketers and the do not call list, email marketers and CAN-SPAM and I'll bet you $100 that a direct mail "do not send" list will be here soon.

Media is constantly changing with old methods becoming less effective or banned and new methods like social media moving in. As a business owner and marketer, you need to keep moving, experimenting and refining the media you use. One of my marketing mentors, Bill Glazer, says 'Diversity = Stability' and he's right!

Going back to Part 1 - Understanding Your Market use the media that the market will respond to. If you are selling high-end watches, a bus stop ad is probably not going to yield the results you are looking for (if any). If most of your customers are in Generation X or Y, yellow page advertising will probably not work. Most of them do not even own a phone book. Now, if you advertise in the online version of the yellow pages (yes it is different) you are hitting your target market.

In the third and final part of the 3 M's of Marketing series we'll focus on your Message.

Marketing Secret # 4 – 3 M’s of Marketing

Market, Media and Message are three keys to making your marketing efforts more successful. In this week’s Marketing Secret, we are going to talk about Market. The market you are selling your services to is the most important piece of the puzzle. You have to know your market inside and out, understand what the market is looking for and how you can deliver to the market.

You also have to define your market. The worst thing you can do is say, “we provide widgets for everyone/anyone.” If your provide something to everyone, you sell to no one. So, get specific about who you are selling to. For example, if you are an architecture firm, you could specialize in schools. Now, that does not necessarily mean you only sell to the county school boards. You could sell to church schools, military schools, universities/higher education, pre-schools and so on.

When you start to define the characteristics of your customers, you start to create an ideal client mold. Knowing what your ideal client looks like will save you THOUSANDS of dollars in wasted marketing money, not to mention save you time.

A good example of a target market description is: land developers who have less than 20 employees, work in Texas, have annual revenues over $2 million dollars and specialize in commercial buildings. If you cannot get your description of who you want to sell to down to specific characteristics, you will be hard pressed to find what you are looking for.

Stay tuned! In next week’s Marketing Secret, we will discuss Media – how to reach your prospects.

The 12 Essential Techniques of Power Networkers

1. Don't try to sell. For most people it all ends tragically here. They mistakenly stroll into the industry conference or chamber of commerce meeting with the idea that they need to find someone to sell to. Don't do it. It gives people the creeps. And it kills your real opportunity at these events--finding strategic partners.

2. Give before you get. Don't go with your hand out empty to your network. Not until you've made some deposits in your good will account. Build up your account first, by giving referrals.

3. Understand that it's net WORK. I hate to say it (and I'll probably lose half of you reading this now) but power networkers WORK at it.

They cut up the newspaper and magazines to send articles of interest to the people in their network. They set aside time to think about who they know and how people in their network can help each other.

The bad news is that it takes work. The good news is that a small amount of work will yield big results.

4. Be interesting. Everyone says you need an elevator pitch to use when you meet someone at a networking event. But the way MOST people do it is, frankly boring.

It usually goes like this "Hi, I'm Bob, I'm an accountant..." or "Hi, I'm Bob with Enormicon, we specialize in scaleable solutions to strategic problems by finding synergy with customers, suppliers and partners"...Yuck! If you're doing this, you're boring and forgettable.

For our real estate services and surveying business, my partner has used "I give good land..." and "I measure the Earth..." She always gets a laugh and a follow-up question from the person she's talking with. It starts the conversation and people remember.

5. Set goals. Never attend a networking event without deciding how many strategic partners you're going to meet. If you're just starting, commit to two. As you get better, increase the number. When you hit the number go home, knowing you succeeded.

6. Throw a rolodex party. Networking and sales guru Greta Schulz throws "rolodex parties" with key contacts every few months. Agree with your key contacts that you'll meet for lunch and everyone will bring their contact list. You share lists, looking for people you can be introduced to.

7. Be interesting. This one's important enough to mention twice.

8. Make it easy to refer to you. So you've succeeded and you found a strategic partner who wants to refer people to you. She asks you "Who's a good prospect for you?" And you say "Anyone who does ____________." You've just killed your opportunity for a referral.

Instead, make a "Top 10 People I'd Like to Meet List" and give it to your strategic partners. On the list put specific people or specific positions within specific companies such as "Chief Software Architect, Microsoft."

By focusing your partner, you'll get exponentially better results and you'll get them faster.

9. Play matchmaker. Your job in networking is to match up people who can do business with each other or who can refer business to one another. Spend some time each week (put it on your calendar) to think about who you can match up within your network. Then make the introductions. I suggest a minimum of two each week.

10. Say thank you. If you get a referral or introduction from someone, say thanks. Send a personal note ( you get bonus points for cookies or Starbucks cards).

11. Test alliances quickly. Don't waste time on people who don't understand that networking is reciprocal. If you're giving and giving and getting nothing in return cut the relationship.

Often you can determine how the relationship will go during your first conversation. If you're asking all the questions and the potential partner doesn't show interest in what you do...politely move on.

12. Have a system. Make your life easy and have a system for starting conversations, for meeting with partners the first time, for following up and for making introductions.

Having a system does not mean you have to be rigid, just that you follow a defined set of steps. You'll be more effective if you're not reinventing the mechanics of networking at every event you attend.

What techniques work well for you?

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.