The implications are not tiny

January 31, 2018

tinyUnless you’ve been under a rock for the past couple years, you are aware of the tiny house movement that is taking the country by craze.

In case you’re one of the folks who is not familiar with this concept, tiny houses are exactly what they sound like: super small houses, usually under 300 square feet, that are designed in such a way to maximize space, while using virtually no space at all. They can be stationary on the ground but in many cases, they’re built on a trailer so they’re mobile.

The movement began way back at the beginning of the century but lately, it has exploded thanks to this new generation of consumers and the media. There are all kinds of TV shows focusing on tiny homes like Tiny House Hunters on HGTV. If you Google tiny house you’ll find a very vibrant community where owners exchange information and offer advice on living in small space.

Here’s a look at the typical tiny housebuyer:

  • They have an average income of $42,038 ($478 higher than the average American)
  • 89% of tiny house owners have less credit card debt than the average American
  • 65% of tiny house owners have no credit card debt
  • 55% of tiny house owners have more savings than the average American
  • 68% of tiny house owners have no mortgage (compared to 29.3% of all US homeowners)
  • 2 out of 5 tiny house owners are over 50 years of age

While all of this is fascinating just on the surface, when we dig deeper – I think this movement is a huge wake-up call to marketers. There are some pretty significant clues in this phenomenon as to where consumers are heading and that’s going to impact us all.

Here are some of the trends I see buried in the tiny house movement:

Independence as a core theme: Imagine all the levels of freedom you’d have if your house could be moved anywhere you wanted it to be, you didn’t have a mortgage and your housing costs were power, water, Internet, and insurance.

A return to a simpler life: Tiny home buyers want to owe less, so they have more choices in terms of spending time with their family, work less and have a lot less to maintain. By default – if you live in 350 square feet, you can’t have a lot of stuff. Simpler by default.

A different definition of success: For these consumers, success isn’t a big house with a big screen TV and a beautifully manicured lawn. It’s no debt and no strings. This frees the homeowners up to spend more time traveling and being out and about.

Mobility: By default, if your house is on wheels – you don’t plan on setting down permanent roots. Even if you stay in the same community, you’re not tied down.

Eco-friendly: These homes are very eco-friendly with composting toilets, very little energy usage, solar panels and multi-use furniture. The footprint created by one of these homes is minuscule compared to a traditional home.

A new relationship with money: These consumers are not willing to owe anyone anything. They want the economic freedom to do what they want when they want. But that doesn’t mean they don’t like nice things. Many tiny homes have very high-end appliances and finishes like cherry-wood floors and stained glass windows. When you’ve got less than 500 square feet, those kinds of upgrades are very affordable.

This consumer group is growing at an amazing rate. Even if someone doesn’t opt for a tiny home, it’s safe to assume these consumer attitudes are emerging among the more traditional homeowner as well.

These attitudes and buying patterns are going to trickle into every category. I think it’s important that you begin to think about how this is going to translate to your business. Because if it hasn’t already – it’s coming.



Your enewsletter is missing the point

January 24, 2018

enewsletterDespite all of the talk about digital tools like programmatic media buying and social media, the old newsletter, or nowadays, the enewsletter is still a staple of many organization’s marketing efforts. Rightly so, when done right, they’re incredibly effective and a great way to stay in front of a prospect until they’re ready to buy.

Unfortunately, the ones that are done right are few and far between. Let’s dissect how to create an enewsletter that your prospects will welcome in their inbox.

Intent: This is the first place companies screw up. They think the enewsletter is there to sell stuff. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The purpose of your enewsletter is to be so helpful/useful that the recipients will allow you to keep showing up in their inbox, sometimes for years, before they’re ready to buy.

Your content should be constructed to be of value each and every time you send it. Think about your audience. What do they care about that you can help them improve, protect, or grow? It should be bigger than you and what you sell. Depending on your sales cycle, you may be sending that enewsletter for years before they’re ready to buy. So you have to be helpful for all that time. No small or easy task. But if you stay focused and resist the urge to sell, by the time they’re ready to buy, they’ll know, like and trust you enough to give you an opportunity.

Layout: Be mindful of how your content will be accessed. Today, over 68% of emails are opened on a mobile device of some kind. You need to be using software that is mobile friendly. You need to keep the masthead, color scheme, and style very clean and simple.

Avoid complicated backgrounds, reversing your text out in white or funky fonts that may not translate on all devices. Be sure you test your layout on several different mobile phones, tablets and desktops as well as different browsers and email tools.

Tone: For some reason when people write marketing content, they stiffen up, and their words become more formal and forced. You want your enewsletter to help the prospects get to know and like you. It’s tough to get to know someone who isn’t being themselves. Instead of writing your enewsletter word for word, try outlining it and then record yourself talking about the content. Transcribe what you said and voila – odds are it will be in your voice.

If you’re not sure if your enewsletter’s tone is aligned with who you are, read it out loud. Does it sound like how you’d say it in an actual conversation? If not, either sharpen your pencil or try my transcription trick.

Length: Remember – 68% of your audience is probably reading your missive on their smartphone. Those devices are not made for lengthy reading. There is no universal rule in terms of word count, but keep the reader’s tolerance in mind.

If any section is more than a couple paragraphs long, be mindful to use eye breaks like bullet points, subheads, and plenty of white space.

Email marketing is still one of the most effective and reliable marketing tactics available. For businesses with a longer sales cycle, it’s a critical component in staying top of mind until the prospect has an immediate need. But they’re in control and can kick you out of their inbox any time they want.

An enewsletter that is packed with useful information and is designed to be easy to digest is one that will never get the boot. Make sure it sounds and feels like you so that when they’re ready to buy, you’re exactly who they expect.



Business development by the numbers

January 10, 2018

business developmentLast week we started to identify some key financial metrics that you need to have a handle on as you plan your business development for the upcoming year in a smart way. If you did the math I outlined last week, you now know:

  • How much of every earned dollar you actually get to keep to spend on your business (salaries, overhead, and profit)
  • How much you can expect to produce per employee
  • If you have capacity with your current staff or if you get new clients you’d need more help to support them
  • If your business is profitable and if so, by how much

Those are the facts you need to make the following decisions:

  • Are you content with your business being the size it is now?
  • Are you happy with your current net profit (amount and percentage)?

If you decide you’re good where you’re at, it’s just a matter of trying to increase efficiencies to be even more profitable or trading up to better-fit customers who will also be more profitable.

But if you think there’s some room for growth, then let’s talk about what you really need.

I want to provide a caveat here. I am really simplifying this process. There is lots of averaging and rounding going on. I want you to understand the concepts and have some ballpark estimates of where you want to take your business and what it will take to get you there. My goal is not to make you a CPA. My goal is to give you some simple tools and metrics to use so that your business development planning isn’t just a shot in the dark.

When businesses set annual growth goals, they usually just pick a number based on historical trends or an impressive milestone they’re trying to reach. “Hmm, we grossed $3 million last year, so how about $3.5 million this year?” Have you already set growth goals for 2018? How much was it? 10% growth? 25% growth? More important than the number – the goal was based on what?

The truth is that most businesses set a growth goal but they rarely know what that actually means or what it’s going to cost them to get there.

This year, I’m going to suggest you do it differently. Let’s use the numbers we discussed last week to put together a projection and a plan that actually has a financial foundation under it.

You’ve now got a significant advantage. You know how much in gross revenue you need to generate to earn (approximately) whatever profit increase you’d like to have. You also know how many additional people, if any, it’s going to take to support that new opportunity.

Let’s assume you have decided you want to grow your profits by 10%. Do the math to determine what that means in gross revenue. If that means you need to have another $250,000 in client work to make that happen, we now know your 2018 gross revenue goal, right?

Will you need to add staff to support the new revenue goal? If so, don’t wait until you’re stretched too thin. Start looking for the right additions now.

Usually, when a business goes through this exercise, they discover that they don’t need as much new business as they feared. It puts the effort into perspective and allows them to build a business development program that’s tailored to their actual need without throwing them into an unnecessary panic.

I’m not suggesting that these are the only financial metrics you need to monitor. But in terms of understanding how to set realistic growth goals, even these basics will give you a factual foundation to put you on the right path.



How many customers do you need?

January 3, 2018

customersBy now, it’s occurred to you that the holidays are not coming back, it isn’t getting warmer any time soon and you’d better get at it. It’s about this time every year that businesses really get serious about attracting and winning new customers.

What happens next is as predictable as the gyms being packed in January. Businesses put together these elaborate, grandiose plans that come with Gantt charts, calendars, and color-coding.

But even with all that planning, two key questions are rarely asked or answered.

How much do we need? And of course the follow-up question should be: and how much could we even handle?

Most business development plans fail because first we get all excited about them but we behave as if we’re trying to create the Mona Lisa and second because we have no idea how much is enough. The truth is most businesses create plans that, if they actually executed on them consistently, would bring too much opportunity their way. They bite off more than they could possibly chew and then they choke on it.

Why are the gyms empty again by February? Two reasons. First – the New Year’s newbies tried to tackle too much and couldn’t sustain it. Second – they didn’t have realistic goals. If they did, they would have been able to scale back their plan to better bring them what they actually needed.

That’s true of the business development patterns of most organizations. We try to do too much because we don’t know the answer to the “how much” questions.

To get to those answers, you need to make some decisions and gather some data. It’s not difficult but it will take a little bit of time and requires us to do some simple math. But if you hang in there with me, I promise it will be worth the effort.

Gather up the following facts from your 2017 financial data.

  1. Total gross billings (Everything you billed/charged your customers)
  2. Cost of goods (All the hard costs you incurred on behalf of your clients. This does not include any costs related to your employees or your overhead. COGS are hard costs like raw materials, what you paid a wholesaler for what you sell retail or if you act as an agent for your clients – buying printing or some other service on their behalf and then charging them for it.)
  3. Your net profit (What’s left over after you pay out all your expenses, including your staff and overhead.)

When you subtract your COGS from your gross billings, you get your net income or adjusted gross income. That’s the number we’re going to focus on. You’ll want to know what percentage of your gross billings turns into net income. Let’s say you bill $1 million dollars and $500,000 is COGS. That means your net income is 50%.

Now, figure out how many FTEs (full-time equivalents) you have on staff. Divide your net income by the number of FTEs you have. That tells you how much net income you earn per employee.

If you’re happy with your net profit number, then your employees are producing approximately as much net income per person as you need them to. If you’re not profitable or the profit number is too low, then you need to increase that per person average by helping your people be more efficient or by re-thinking your pricing model (or one of a million other things).

Next week, I’ll show you what to do with these numbers (I figure you need the week to gather them up) and what decisions you need as you define just how much business development you should be doing.

Gather the facts and next week we’ll use them to get realistic. I think you’ll be both relieved and surprised.



Silence Kills

December 6, 2017

silenceI had to call United’s 800-number the other day to change an existing ticket. At each step of modifying my ticket, the customer service rep would have to key in some data and then there would be this long silence. I couldn’t hear him typing or even a single breath. I assumed he was still there because I wasn’t served up any on hold music or messaging. But, several times in the process, I’d actually say something just to make him respond because I was convinced we’d been disconnected.

As the call dragged on, I imagined that something had gone wrong. The silence was not only deafening but it made me fill in the blanks. This is not the first time I’ve had to alter a plane ticket. I know the drill and I know it takes several steps and more time than you think it would. But in the past, if there was a long delay as the computer was thinking or the rep was verifying something – they’d say something like “oh, my computer is slow today” or “this will take a few minutes, sorry for the wait.”

My imagination worked overtime as the United rep continued in silence and I wondered what disaster must be befalling my travel plans. As I sat there fretting, it occurred to me that businesses do this to their customers all the time. I’m sure, from the United guy’s point of view, he was doing exactly what he was paid to do – change my ticket in the most efficient and effective manner possible. So he was probably concentrating on the work at hand. He was focusing on the facts of the transaction, not how I might be reacting to his methodology.

Silence breeds worry and uncertainty. Neither is a healthy ingredient for any relationship. The only place silence does even more damage than what it does in our client relationships is the impact it has on our relationships with our employees and teammates. I believe it’s all about vulnerability.

Here’s my “how much should I communicate” barometer. The more the power has shifted in my direction, the more I must communicate. So if you’re the boss or a customer is particularly beholden to you or at risk if you drop the ball – you must overcommunicate to keep them secure.

This isn’t just about being benevolent. When your employees and teammates feel completely in the loop and know what’s going on – they can help you get to the finish line faster and more profitably. They don’t accidentally derail your efforts nor do they make up things in their head that encourages them to intentionally get in your way.

We’ve all done it. We misread clues like a closed-door meeting or someone’s absence and before you know it, we’ve spun a doozy of a tale. That’s not just silly. It costs you money, productivity and in some cases, it might cost you the employee. All because they didn’t understand. It’s your job to over communicate so they do understand.

The same is true for customers. This isn’t just about giving them peace of mind because you’re a kind human being, although I’m going to assume that is part of the motivation. A client who knows what is going on, is given forewarning if there’s about to be a problem and is kept apprised of the status of your work together will stop micromanaging. They’ll stop constantly asking for updates or altering the details.

When in doubt – tell them again. Have you ever had a customer or an employee tell you that you’re going overboard in terms of keeping them in the loop? I honestly don’t think it’s possible. Whatever you’re doing – double it and it’s probably about right.



The review is in

November 8, 2017

reviewLast week we explored how customers have taken to the web, social networks and review sites when they have something to say about a company or any customer service need – good or bad.

This isn’t just a retail problem. B-to-B customers can complain about you on Twitter or Facebook and there are new review sites cropping up every day for professionals ranging from physicians to contractors and everyone in between.

I believe we need to add a whole new capacity to our marketing departments. We cannot afford not to monitor and respond to our consumers – no matter where they speak out. So how do you create this capacity in your company?

Conduct an audit: Do an extensive search and identify all of the places where your customers already post commentary, customer service issues or reviews. Then identify additional places that it’s likely they might post something in the future.

Monitor the sites/do searches to find additional mentions: You need to actively and regularly monitor all the sites you identified in your audit. For most of you, this doesn’t need to be an hourly or even daily occurrence. But at the very least you should be monitoring the sites weekly.

Respond. Every time: This is the tough part for many businesses. It’s easy to say thank you to the good reviews but what do you say to the one star or negative reviews?

You always start with “I’m sorry.” Saying I’m sorry doesn’t mean you are accepting blame or agreeing with them. It means that you are sorry they had, from their perspective, a bad experience. So you can say something like “I’m sorry you were disappointed” or “I’m sorry we didn’t live up to your expectations.” But the words I’m sorry need to be there. Up front and before you offer any explanation.

From there, you have a couple options. If you can’t really address their complaint or don’t know enough of the circumstances, you can continue with something like “We’re always disappointed when we don’t wow our guests, so we will definitely try to do better next time.” If you can address the situation, do so. “You’re absolutely right, we were not at our best Saturday night. We had several people call in sick and we were woefully understaffed. I’m so sorry your experience was tainted by our internal scheduling issues.”

Offer to take the conversation offline: You don’t want to carry on a lengthy discussion of the issue online. So offer to continue by phone or in person. “I’d love to get some more details about your experience, if you’d be willing to tell me about it. Would you call me at the office at XXX-XXXX or email me at”

Make amends if it makes sense: If you really messed up, why not ask them to give you another shot on you? “I feel terrible that you didn’t have a good stay. We’d like to remedy that. Please contact me at XXX-XXXX so I can arrange for you to come back on us.” And before you ask – no, this is not going to create an avalanche of bad reviews just so you give away free stuff.

Sign your response: Put your name and your title at the end of your response. You don’t want to be some anonymous employee. You want them to connect with you as a real person.

Why respond? You need to recognize that responding is both a customer service issue and a marketing function. You may or may not be able to change the reviewer’s opinion of you. But how you handle it (or if you ignore it) speaks volumes to everyone else reading the review.

Respond with authenticity, with grace and humility. But respond. Every single time.



They’re talking about you on social media

November 1, 2017

social mediaI think it’s probably the understatement of our generation to say that the troika of the computer, Internet, and social media has completely changed the way everyone does business. Even if you own a single location, Mom and Pop shop – the Internet and social media touch your business. Whether you engage there or not.

That’s the key sentence of this column. Whether you engage there or not.

In the good old days (translation – before the late ’80s) if a customer had a complaint, they only had a few choices:

  • They could keep it to themselves
  • They could call your local or 800 number to complain
  • They could write you a letter
  • They could complain at their bridge game, kid’s little league outing or during their night out with friends

Even if they did the last three in tandem – odds are, only a handful of people would hear about their issue. If you ignored their complaint (or never heard about it because they only shared it with their social circle) the damage was pretty localized. It was hardly a smart business strategy but it’s a mistake you could survive.

Fast forward to today. According to research cited in Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters (a great read – put it on your list!), people are complaining in record numbers but they’re not doing it the old-fashioned way. They’re taking it to the people.

No one is calling or writing to the offending company anymore. They’re turning to social media and firing off an email right before they head to the review sites. Today’s tools are so much louder and have an incredible reach. And yet, most businesses choose to ignore these complainers – leaving their diatribes and harsh words out there, undefended.

If you’re lucky, they are leaving reviews on sites you control or see on a regular basis, like your Facebook page, your Twitter feed or your Google reviews. Unfortunately, for you – odds are there are a few websites out there, like Yelp (it’s not just for restaurants – check out their professional services section) or Rate my Professor or that also allow disgruntled customers to vent their feelings for the world to see.

Depending on the study, between 68 – 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations by friends or colleagues. Despite the fact that people are much more likely to place a bad review versus make the time to praise a business, not all reviews are bad reviews. When consumers read a positive review, 72% of them say it increases the trust they have in that business. Really, when was the last time you spent a significant amount of money that the Internet was not a source of information as you made that buying decision?

So, tell the truth, have you been like most business owners and leaders and opted to ignore what’s being said about you online or have you taken a look? Like it or not, our world today dictates that you must care about online reviews. You need to figure out where your prospects go to read reviews when they’re trying to decide whom to do business with and you need to pay special attention to what’s being said there.

Think your customers would never complain because you deliver every time? One of the most eye-opening stats in Baer’s book is that 80% of businesses believe they deliver superior customer service. 8% of their customers agree. Clearly, there’s a disconnect that needs fixing.

Next week, we’re going to describe how to find those reviews and how to respond to them in a way that serves your business well.



Every dollar is not a good dollar

September 13, 2017

DollarIf every dollar looks the same, how do you know which dollars are “good” dollars for your business? The reality is – every dollar is not created equal and doesn’t serve your business in the same way. In fact, some dollars actually cost you money.

Let’s say prospect #1 wants to buy something you don’t do very often and so you’re not as efficient at it as you are in other areas. On top of that, they’re in an industry that you don’t know very well. Earning that dollar is going to be slow and painful with a longer, larger ramp up time.

Even if you see that they have a big pile of dollars waiting to be spent – you might very well never get a chance to earn those extra dollars because you’re probably not going to delight them right out of the gate.

On the flip side, prospect #2 is in an industry that you know like the back of your hand. You know their jargon and quirks. On top of that, they want to buy the product or service that you sell day in and day out. You know exactly how to deliver on their need and you know they’re going to be elated at the results.

Each prospect has the same dollar. But the path you’re going to take to earn each dollar is very different, in terms of your enjoyment, their satisfaction and your potential profitability.

Logic tells us that we should:

  • Specialize in terms of whom we serve and what we offer, based on what we’re best at. We can’t know whom to serve until we know who we are.
  • We should have a clear picture of who our sweet spot clients are, based on who we are and only go after those prospects
  • We should discriminate – rewarding our sweet spot prospects for coming a little closer and making if more difficult for the not so right fit prospects to find/hire us
  • We should identify what we do best and not try to be everything to everybody. Saying no is a good thing. Having strategic partners is even better.

Logic may tell us all of that and yet – for many business leaders, sales team leaders and business owners – we can’t get past the fact that there’s a dollar on the table. We want the dollar.

Here’s the truth of the matter. I’m betting that right now you have a customer or two that you are literally paying for the privilege of doing work for them. That’s right — they are so unprofitable, because they’re the wrong fit, that you are losing money every day that you keep them as a client.

Their fees or purchases help with cash flow. It’s money in the door every month. That reality can often mask the truth underneath. You are losing money on that work. Many business owners are surprised when they crunch the numbers and realize one of their largest clients is actually one of their most unprofitable clients.

Before you go out and start pursuing new clients – I want you to evaluate the ones you already have. Crunch the numbers to see if you’re actually making money and rank your clients in terms of profitability. I bet there’s a surprise or two waiting for you.

Once you know which dollars are good dollars for your organization, it will help you target who your next customers should and should not be. Then pursue the right ones with a vengeance, knowing that each one you catch will make your business stronger and in a better position to say no to the bad dollars.


Gratitude magnified

September 6, 2017

gratitude magnifiedLast week we explored the idea of how smart businesses recognize that gratitude isn’t just a worthy emotion – it’s smart marketing. Everyone wants to be appreciated and today, when businesses must compete for both customers and employees, it’s an important retention tool. We covered how to create a spirit of gratitude inside your organization last week. But how do you expand that out to your vendors and customers as well? Gratitude magnified.

The sad fact is this. You don’t have to do much to get noticed. Your vendors and customers are so used to not being appreciated, you’ll completely catch them off guard by showing a little appreciation. Much like with your internal team, this isn’t about how expensive it is, it’s about how genuine it is.

Let’s start with your vendors. Here are a few ways to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.

Put the spotlight on them. All too often, our vendors remain in the shadows – quietly helping us serve our clients. But a memorable way to say thank you is to shine the spotlight on them. Of course, they should be asking you for a written testimonial but like most businesses, they’re too busy and it never rises to the top of the To-Do list. Proactively write a letter that specifically states why you value working with them and how they help you and your business.

Put it on letterhead and send them a hard copy for their own use. But don’t stop there. Take snippets of your glowing praise and post it on their Facebook page or tweet about their efforts.

Another way to get them some well-deserved attention is to actively connect them to other potential customers or referral sources. No doubt you know and work with other people they should meet. You can introduce them informally, make LinkedIn connections or better yet – why not throw a referral party and invite all of your vendors to come and meet each other. Odds are – they’re going to make some great connections and remember just who made it happen. That’s gratitude magnified.

For your customers, a more personal touch might be in order. Sure – you can do the holiday card or gift or even hold a client appreciation event. But I believe the more personal you make it, the more meaningful it is.

I’ve written about it before, but there’s something magical about a handwritten note. Think of it as your love letter to your customer. Let them know why you value their loyalty and trust. Share with them how they make your job easier, more fun or more exciting. Don’t type it – no matter how awful your handwriting is. It doesn’t have to be super long but it should be very specific. A generic thank you feels like you sent everyone the same note.

A variation on this would be to help your client experience something important to them at a whole new level. Maybe they’ve always wanted to learn how to bake or they love live theatre or professional hockey. Use your connections to get them behind the scenes at a local bakery for a one-on-one lesson or see if you can score them backstage access after a play or game. The key to this strategy is to go beyond just buying them something. It’s the extra effort that really says thank you. That’s gratitude magnified.

Just a final warning – all of your efforts get drastically watered down if you attach any sort of ask or payback to your act of gratitude. This isn’t the time to ask for more business or a referral. Just be grateful and then be quiet.

I think you’ll be surprised at what you hear in return.


Be helpful or be gone

August 2, 2017

helpfulLast week, we explored the idea that email marketing is about earning the audience’s permission to keep talking. I suggested that there were two equally important elements – intent and content – that had to be in sync if you want to stick around in someone’s in-box. Now it’s time to talk about being helpful.

As I said last week, “Intent is really about respect and a genuine desire to help. When we prepare an email campaign, we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly being respectful of the receiver’s time and attention. Yes, of course we want them to become a customer or if they’re already a customer, we want them to buy more. But we have to trade them something of value in exchange for that consideration.”

The something of value is all about the content.

The concept of content is not new. Smart businesses have long understood the idea that if they were helpful before they asked for a dollar, they could earn the trust of the prospect.

What is new is the wide array of places and ways we have to distribute content. Back in the day, we might have a printed newsletter, an 800 number for customer service or demos in our stores.

Today we have websites, email newsletters, eblasts, podcasts, infographics, forums, guest posts, blogs, digital magazines, and that’s just scratching the surface. Suffice it to say – we have lots of ways to be helpful.

Odds are you’re being inundated with “helpful” content every day and odds are, you ignore most of it. Guess what? Your prospects are behaving in exactly the same way. So how do you break through that clutter and actually help?

Don’t just tell. Lead as well: Content that not only informs but also tells your audience what to do with their new knowledge is incredibly valuable. Most content producers fall short here. We tend to spew facts but rarely offer direction, insights or warnings. Use your knowledge to guide.

Be available if they need to know more: When you create great content, sometimes it leaves your audience wanting more. Their natural inclination is to turn to the original source – you. Be available. Include your email address or phone number and invite comments and further questions.

Eliminate fluff: Time is everyone’s most scarce resource so do not waste it. Tell them what they need to know. I’m not saying eliminate context. Context adds value. But filler and fluff just gets in the way. Be a tough editor of any content you create.

Discriminate: The worst content is content that is intended for everyone. The more you can hone in on your most important audience and only that audience – the better your content will serve them. Your goal is to be irrelevant to the masses and indispensable to the few that you actually want to attract and build a relationship with.

Connect the dots: Odds are that what you sell is complicated and it’s not as simple as walking up to a shelf and selecting the exact right choice. But for content to be effective, it has to be served up in bite-sized pieces with an occasional full meal tossed into the mix.

That means it’s difficult to tell the whole story with any one piece of content. To truly be helpful, you need to help your audience connect the dots between bits of information. With links, “if you enjoyed this” guides and organizing your content in a way that allows people to follow the bigger picture.

I know you care about your customers and prospects. Show them how much by creating content with both the right intentions and genuinely helpful information. It’s the least you can do and they’ll reward you with their attention for a very long time.