In marketing the constant is change

May 29, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So you want a career in advertising?

May 21, 2013

Fired businessman searching for a job isolated on white backgrouI was recently contacted by a college student who asked if he could interview me for one of this classes.  One of the questions he asked is one I get a lot, so I thought I’d share my answer with you here.

If you aspire to be in our business — I hope it helps.  If you’re already in the business — what did I miss?

What advice would you give to anyone who was aspiring to enter the field of advertising?

Yikes… there are lots of things to know but here are some of the biggies.

  • You cannot do it alone so surround yourself with really smart, good-hearted people who you can count on.
  • The day you stop learning is the day you begin to become irrelevant. There is always more to learn.
  • Before anyone will give you their business, they need to know you care about them/their company.
  • When you make a mistake (and you will make a ton) be very quick to call attention to it, own it and work like a dog to fix it. And never forget to say I’m sorry.
  • If you help other people whenever you can, when you need help – there will be someone there to offer it.
  • There’s nothing wrong with making money. Don’t be ashamed to charge what you are worth.
  • Owning your own business means that when times are tough, everyone gets paid but you. So be very smart about not overspending your money and build up a nest egg for those tough times.
  • The smartest person in the room is not the one who knows all the answers. It’s the person who asks the best questions.

When I hire, I don’t worry too much about the degree the person has or things like grade point averages. I can teach them about marketing but I can’t make them honest or hard working.

I look for people who have a passion for helping other people. I hire people who volunteer their time, have a passion for a cause and instead of whining about it – do something about it.

I definitely want good writers, no matter what position they might fill. In today’s business world, with email etc. – everyone needs to be able to communicate clearly and be well spoken, both in face-to-face encounters and in writing.

I also look for someone who gets that our business is not 9-5 and isn’t going to freak out if they have to work late or over a weekend. Our business is very demanding and depending on what’s going on with our clients, we can put in some incredibly long, grueling weeks.

I also want someone who is willing to do “grunt” work. In a small agency, everyone pitches in and does what it takes to get the job done. If I can stuff envelopes or whatever – so can they.

I want someone who is a self-starter, a lifelong learner, a reader, someone who is funny, ethical and someone who resonates with our company’s core beliefs, which are:

  • Passion cannot be ignored.
  • Breakthrough thinking breeds breakthrough creative.
  • The guys in the white hats do win.
  • We take our work seriously. Ourselves, not so much.
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What have you learned lately?

February 11, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 7.04.02 AMOne of the sure signs of a person who is going to be successful is that they wholeheartedly behave in lifelong learning. I didn’t say believe in life long learning because I’ve found just about everyone believes in it. But few actually act upon that belief.

If you are someone who gives lifelong learning more than lip service (waving to all the “believers” but not behaviors out there!) then I have a conference I want to tell you about.

I don’t know about you — but I learn best by doing.  Yes, I can read about something or hear a presentation — but I’m much more likely to retain the information if there’s some hands on aspect to the training.

BlogHOT (HOT = hands on training) is designed to be a very different kind of learning experience. Which you know it would be — since it is Mack Collier’s creation. Rather than two days of people talking at you — this is 2 days of people talking and doing WITH you.

Here’s how much I believe in this conference — I am speaking there on my own dime. I’m not getting paid and I am buying my own plane ticket. (I am getting a hotel room, which I greatly appreciate). You all know how busy I am. As much as I would like to, I just can’t afford to speak anywhere for free, except for college classrooms.

Mack has gathered an amazing group of people for you to learn with.  (scroll through the list here) Best of all — there not going to be there to talk at you and run.  They are there to teach/learn with you.  There will be tons of time to connect with these folks before and after their scheduled presentations and because this is a new event — the crowd will be manageable and you will score plenty of one on one time with everyone.

BlogH.O.T. (H.O.T. stands for Hands-On Training) is a conference for anyone that wants to improve their blogging efforts, especially if you are blogging for a business. The goal of BlogH.O.T. is to not only provide instruction on how to improve your blogging efforts but also show you how to be a better blogger.

Since I am speaking at this event, event management has enabled me to extend to you a special offer to attend BlogH.O.T. at a $100 discount if you register by February 15! To receive your discount, you must use this special registration link and enter the special Promotion Code BHS113. This is the only way to take advantage of this special offer. Your total savings will be $200 off the regular price – $100 savings plus $100 early-bird savings but only if you register by February 15!

I’d love to see you there!

 

P.S.  Nope — I am not making a dime on this conference and other than the fun of meeting you — I don’t get anything if you attend.  But YOU will get a lot.  So please consider it.

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One Page Business Plan Template

December 3, 2012

Most businesses don’t create a plan for the upcoming year because it’s too daunting a task.  Which is why I’m a big advocate of the one page business plan and why I am sharing our one page business plan template with all of you.

It’s based on a couple of assumptions.  First — no business can tackle dozens of goals in a single year.  It’s better to identify a small handful of goals and build a plan around accomplishing those.

Even if you only set a handful of goals, you can’t tackle them all at once.  You need to prioritize them and then tackle one or two of them at a time.

Second — most business owners and leaders are a little myopic.  They tend to focus on the area of the business that is either causing the most trouble or is the aspect of the business they enjoy the most.  But they rarely give equal weight to all the different facets of the organization.

This one page business plan template takes care of both of these issues.  First — it forces you to only set six goals.  Not five and not 65.  Then, it asks you to rank the goals in order of importance, so you can decide where to focus first.

But you don’t set any six goals.  You set one goal per aspect of your business. The one page business plan forces you to create a well-rounded plan that takes into account:

  • Leadership/Management
  • Staffing
  • Internal Systems
  • Financial
  • New Business
  • Marketing

If you grow all these different aspects of your business together, your business remains stable and strong.  The one page business plan template forces you to think about the organization holistically and allows you to lead its growth in a more balanced way.

Here’s what I like best about this template.  It’s simple enough that you’ll actually do it.  Download it (click here to download the one page business plan template) and get started!

 

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5 Marketing To Dos to get done before 2013

November 28, 2012

This is the time of year where work grinds to a halt.

We have another two weeks or so before the holiday frenzy, parties, hangovers and the general professional apathy creeps in and productivity becomes a dirty word.

But don’t give up hope yet.  I think there’s still a few things we can get done before we all sing Auld Lang Syne. Here are the five things I think you should focus on as the year winds down.

Your website: Take the time to look at every page, click on every link and make a list of what’s missing.  We spend a lot of time building our websites but once they’re done, they tend to be forgotten.  Fix all those broken links, correct any copy that’s wrong and update the pages that are out of date or are missing some of your more current offerings.  Look for simple things you can do to increase visitors and engagement.

Your five best customers: Take the time to actually think about those customers who help you keep the doors open.  Then, in this crazy rushed time — write them a handwritten thank you note/letter.  Be specific about why you love working with them — and send it so you end their year with a smile.

Call it quits: Look back over the past 12-24 months.  What’s the one marketing tactic that you have really dedicated yourself to but it just hasn’t caught on fire.  This has to be something that you feel you really implemented well, thoroughly and can’t imagine what you could have done better.  If you can say that and it’s not delivering results — it’s time to let it go.  Make December 2012 the last time you invest in it.

Identify your #1: If at the end of 2013, you could claim one accomplishment or goal’s achievement that would benefit the organization more than anything else — what would it to be? Spend some time identifying the barriers that are between you and that accomplishment and what you need to leap over them.  Build a one page business plan for getting to that goal as early in 2013 as you can.  Make it your priority.

Fix what’s broken: When you look back at your marketing efforts for 2012 — what’s the one marketing tactic that you know you did a lousy job of implementing?  You know it can and will work but you just let other things get in the way or you did it half-heartedly. It’s time to get serious.  Figure out what got in your way and figure a way around it.  Farm it out, get something else off your plate, make a bet that you can’t afford to lose — do whatever you need to do — to  make it happen and happen well.

There you have it — get those five things done and then you can drink that 3rd glass of spiked egg nog at the company party without any guilt.  And you’ll start 2013 with a storm of focus and energy.

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Desperate makes us both feel cheap (pricing strategy)

October 5, 2012

Your pricing strategy should never be accidental.  It’s a vital element in your marketing mix.

Let me give you an example:  We use an outside vendor to provide extranet services for our clients.  We’d been with them for over five years.

We recently discovered a better solution.  Not only is it better, but it’s also less expensive. It wasn’t so much the fact that it was cheaper that sold us.  It was the ease of use for our clients.

But cheaper doesn’t hurt.  And this was cheaper by a couple hundred dollars a month.

When I contacted the old vendor to cancel our service, guess what their immediate response was. “We can match their price.”

What?  So you’ve been overcharging me for years?  Or you magically just had a price reduction to the very dollar amount of my new vendor and you were about to call and tell me about it?

We’re still leaving but now, instead of feeling a little guilty about leaving our old vendor, I’m feeling a bit used. If they’d valued our business – why didn’t they offer us this new price while we were still their customer?

Talk about leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Dropping your price just to keep a customer is never a good strategy.  It makes everyone feel a little cheap. In the end, no one wins and you can kiss any sort of recommendation goodbye.

Your pricing strategy is one of the key components of your marketing message.

It speaks about things far beyond your cost.  It communicates value, customer attentiveness and how you view the relationship, both short and long term.  It’s not something you should just stumble into.  And it’s not something you should damage by mishandling a situation, like our old vendor did.

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50 top entrepreneurial blogs for your reader

May 27, 2012

Every year the team at Evan Carmichael round up some of the best blogs out there and put together a top 50 list.  This year’s list for the 50 best blogs for entrepreneurs is a doozy.

Here in the States, we have a long weekend for Memorial Day…so why not use a little of that extra time and load up your RSS feed reader with some of this great content?  I’m excited to be on the list again this year and discovered several new blogs that are now on my radar.

It’s quite a wide array of blog topics — from gift cards to marketing with some strategy and law stuff to boot.

You’ll be glad you checked these out…

TopRank

http://www.toprankblog.com  – TopRank Online Marketing is a digital marketing agency founded by Lee Odden and Susan Misukanis that helps companies increase sales, brand visibility online and develop better customer engagement. We specialize in content based customer acquisition and relationship programs that emphasize social media marketing, search engine optimization and email marketing.

Small Business Trends

http://smallbiztrends.com  – Small Business Trends was founded in 2003 by Anita Campbell, in Cleveland, Ohio. Small Business Trends is the premier source of information, news and advice covering issues of key importance to the small business market.  Small Business Trends appears repeatedly at the top of lists of small business websites.

The Small Business Newswire

http://www.sbwire.com  – SBWire is an online newswire specializing in the needs of small to medium-sized businesses. Thousands of businesses and organizations in over 150 different countries rely on SBWire for commercial news distribution, media contact management, online news room hosting and other public relations related tools and services.

KISSmetrics Marketing Blog

http://blog.kissmetrics.com  – KISSmetrics is different from other analytics platforms due to a combination of three key features. We focus on funnels and conversions and make them easy to track and interpret, use people as the basic unit of measure, and support custom tracking. KISSmetrics is run by a team of designers, developers and entrepreneurs that are passionate about helping online businesses measure, grow and monetize.

Thirty Six Months

http://www.thirtysixmonths.com  – Marissa – recent grad who has credit card debt. and student loans. Unfortunately, I learned my money lessons a bit later on in life.  Even though I worked all through university and grad school, I also spent a great deal of it, foolishly. This blog will document my efforts to have a positive networth and pay off my debt as soon as possible.  There might also be stories of my life and other goals in here as well.

I heard somewhere that it is advisable to be able to pay off all of your consumer debt within THIRTY SIX MONTHS, otherwise debt fatigue sets in. My goal to do it way before that.

The College Investor

http://thecollegeinvestor.com  – Robert – I’m a recent MBA graduate who has always had a passion for investing and personal finance. I’m not uber rich, I don’t run a hedge fund (yet!), and I’m not a millionaire. What I do have is a beautiful wife, a loving family, great friends, and a passion for helping others with their personal finance.

Brian Solis 

http://www.briansolis.com  – Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture.

Coyote Blog

http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/  – Coyote Blog is the work of Warren Meyer, a small business owner in Phoenix, Arizona. The name Coyote Blog came from two sources. First, it’s a reference to my adopted home of Arizona. Second, it’s a salute to my favorite all time cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, and, of course, that most famous of small businesses: ACME. The original mission was to cover some of the day-to-day travails and lessons learned in running a small business.

DollarVersity

http://www.dollarversity.com  – This blog is a service provided by GreenBridge Advisors, an accounting and consulting firm located in Coral Springs, Florida.  Taking that fact into consideration, you can expect to find articles on topics such as taxes, entrepreneurship, credit, debt management, personal and business finances, and a variety of other financial and business related issues.  More than that, the blog’s goal is to inform, teach, and hopefully entertain you as well.

Faith And Finance

http://www.faithandfinance.org  – Faith and Finance was founded by Tim in 2010.  Tim is a Christian, husband, MBA grad, and entrepreneur. After competing a full-time MBA in less than one year (crazy? yes) he and a fellow MBA grad started a marketing firm designed to help small businesses with their online presence. You’ll find his approach to personal finance to be straight forward and practical.  His love for learning and teaching others is what drives him to write such interesting articles and eBooks.

Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing

http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog  – John Jantsch has been called the World’s Most Practical Small Business Expert for consistently delivering real-world, proven small business marketing ideas and strategies.  John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, award winning social media publisher and best selling author Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine .

Caribbean Media Vision

http://cmvlive.com  – Caribbean Media Vision is a contemporary graphic & website design studio located in St. Kitts. We here at CMV Specializes in helping companies to make their presence online and in the media by utilizing technology. Encompassing services that are geared towards giving companies a solid and comprehensive Internet presence, as well as services aimed at making the presentation of information much more professional and insightful, allowing companies to leverage competitive advantage off of the end results.

Inkling Media

http://inklingmedia.net/  – Inkling Media is an inbound marketing shop based in Lancaster, PA with an emphasis on social media. We provide consultation on utilizing social media as part of an overall marketing strategy. In addition to Social Media, we work with you to help implement a strong blogging plan, as well as organic search engine optimization.

Accounting and Small Business /Beverly Shares

http://www.bjconquest.com  – Beverly J Conquest, Owner and CEO Accounting and Small Business, LLC — Knowledge + Expertise + Experience = Solutions. Over 20 years experience providing accounting solutions for established and startup businesses.

Living Locurto

http://www.livinglocurto.com/  – Living Locurto is published by Amy Locurto, a designer, stylist and mom of two from Dallas, Texas. What started in July 2008 as a blog about creative things I did at home with my children, Living Locurto has since turned into a top craft and party blog with great resource for moms.

CloudTweaks

http://www.cloudtweaks.com  – With a team of content creators from around the globe, including CTOs, CEOs, CIOs, cloud bloggers, engineers and technology enthusiasts, delivers in‐depth articles, the latest news, interviews and other valuable content on cloud computing to a growing audience of technology professionals, including representatives government agencies, financial institutions, technology firms and Fortune 500 organizations.

Litigation and Trial

http://www.litigationandtrial.com  – Maxwell S. Kennerly – I’m a trial lawyer for injured people and businesses at The Beasley Firm. Founded in 1958, we have recovered over $2 billion for our clients through hundreds of verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 million.

Sramana Mitra on Strategy

http://www.sramanamitra.com  – Sramana Mitra has been an entrepreneur and a strategy consultant in Silicon Valley since 1994. Her fields of experience span from hard core technology disciplines like semiconductors to sophisticated consumer marketing industries including fashion and education.

E-junkie Blog

http://www.e-junkie.info  – Since E-junkie’s inception, our mission has been to lower the barriers to online selling. As E-commerce has grown more diverse and competitive, it occurred to us that merely providing good technology, such as our copy-paste E-junkie shopping cart, along with good customer service and tech support aren’t by themselves sufficient to meet our mission fully. We started this blog to provide such information to anyone who is selling online or has ever considered doing so.

Intuit Small Business Blog

http://blog.intuit.com  – This blog is dedicated to a discussion of small business, including advice, resources, and insights we think will help you be more successful . We’ll talk about broad topics of lasting interest to small business owners, such as Money, Customers, and Employees. We’ll also share information on current Trends as well as stories about Local businesses. Authors include professional journalists, people who work at Intuit, our customers and research partners, and guest experts we invite to share their perspectives.

Marketing Trenches

http://www.marketingtrenches.com  – The Marketing Trenches Blog is designed to provide marketers and business executives concrete examples of successful marketing strategies and tactics.  The content is largely focused on internet marketing, but given that internet marketing should be integrated with traditional/offline marketing, the content is relevant for all marketers.

Inventor Spot

http://inventorspot.com  – InventorSpot.com is a fun and informative website focused on Inventions, Innovations and Interesting Ideas from around the world. We offer serious fun for the inventor in all of us. We believe we are the most popular and most referenced invention related website on the internet. We also support the largest community of independent inventors in the United States.

Jim’s Marketing Blog

http://jimsmarketingblog.com  – Jim Connolly – worked in marketing for 25 years, with my own successful marketing business since 1995.  I specialise in helping small and medium sized businesses to make massively more sales and boost their profits.  I achieve this by sharing my most effective marketing strategies with them and then coaching them on exactly what they need to do, to achieve ongoing, amazing results.

Smedio

http://smedio.com – Founded in January 2010, Smedio is the new media and social web guide for businesses and marketers. Our aim is to continuously define the business value of new media and the social web by equiping you with the needed insight and innovative ideas to help your business grow even more, using technology, new media, and the social web by bringing you useful breaking news, latest trends and techniques that you can use immediately.

Rewards Cards Canada

http://www.rewardscardscanada.com – Your complete source for finding and using the best rewards cards in Canada.  Rewards cards can be a great way to supplement your everyday spending and help you save for amazing products and experiences. Here you will find detailed reviews of every major rewards card in the country, including the major credit cards that offer rewards points.

Crafty Raffle

http://www.craftyraffle.net  – I started this site because I have serious craft envy.  I love handmade stuff.  Love it.  It is a minor joke in my family that half my gifts for anyone are bought on Etsy (it’s not untrue).  I used to make quilts as wedding presents before I was overrun by children, and I’m a photographer, so I am capable of pursuing creative outlets, but sometimes my efforts fall flat, and sometimes I don’t know where to start.  I also love entering giveaways.

Drew’s Marketing Minute

http://www.mclellanmarketing.com/  – Drew McLellan – a 25+ year marketing agency veteran who lives for creating “a ha” moments for his clients, clients’ customers, peers and audiences across the land. His blog is written in a pragmatic, “how to” focus.  He wants his readers to be able to learn, dicuss, challenge and implement the ideas they get from reading his content.

Recently he has appeared in the New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Week and Fortune’s Small Business. The Wall Street Journal calls him one of 10 bloggers that every entrepreneur should read.

Under30CEO

http://under30ceo.com  – Under30CEO is the leading media site covering news, advice, trends & events for the young entrepreneur. Under30CEO is dedicated to everything relevant to a young person starting a business or anyone looking to learn more about the space.  Now, nearly 1000 small business articles and over a million readers later, Under30CEO has developed into a thriving community for young entrepreneurs. Under30CEO is based in New York City.

Roundpeg

http://www.roundpeg.biz  – A full service marketing firm, serving the Indianapolis small business community, we create websites, press releases, newsletters and brochures to help you launch your ideas and most importantly, close sales!

Content Marketing Today

http://contentmarketingtoday.com  – By creating conversations with your customers we build your brand and your bottom-line. We bring more than 25 years of successful business experience to our content marketing strategist role.

Diversity

http://diversity.net.nz  – Ben Kepes is an analyst, an entrepreneur, a commentator and a business adviser. His business interests  include a diverse range of industries from manufacturing to property to technology. As a technology commentator he has a broad presence both in the traditional media and extensively online. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud.

I of the Consumer

http://www.zachhellermarketing.com  – Zach Heller – My goal is to create a place of open communication about marketing, advertising, small business, etc. I invite comments, emails, and connections of any kind.

Point Blank SEO

http://www.pointblankseo.com  – Jon Cooper – Here you’ll find all the information you need to start building high quality, white hat links in order to move up in the SERPs. This blog helps all link builders, both beginners and experts, in learning how to build quality links in a productive & time efficient manner.

Young Entrepreneur Blog

http://www.youngentrepreneur.com/blog  – YoungEntrepreneur.com was launched in 1999 and has grown to become one of the largest online forum communities for entrepreneurs worldwide. YoungEntrepreneur.com has become a “must visit” resource for start-up CEOs, founders, aspiring entrepreneurs, mentors and investors worldwide, reaching an audience that very few can match.

Indie Fixx

http://indiefixx.com  – Indie Fixx is a lifestyle blog with a very healthy mix of indie design love, crafting and diy, some gardening and cooking mixed in with plenty of commentary and a healthy dose of joie de vivre. Indie Fixx had its roots as just an indie design blog, but has morphed into more than just a review of independent art & design. Plenty of that still goes on, but man can’t live on design alone (although one can try) and so the focus has shifted to include more aspects of living a well-rounded life—cooking, eating, creating, gardening, playing, loving, discovering, learning, meeting, sharing & more.

Vandelay Design Blog

http://vandelaydesign.com/blog  – Vandelay Website Design exists to help businesses and organizations build a stronger presence online. By working directly with our clients to identify and address areas of need we are able to provide a customized experience and an end product that will produce results and lead to increased profitability.

ConverStations

http://www.converstations.com/  – Mike Sansone is an independent business consultant specializing in teaching professionals in various fields about using their voice (in-person or digitally) in ways to better reach their audiences. His experience in public speaking, sales and marketing, writing, and real-time online communication are strengths Mike relies upon in his role as a Conversation Conductor.

Rex Hammock’s RexBlog.com

http://www.rexblog.com  – The blog of Rex Hammock, founder/ceo of Hammock Inc., the content marketing, strategy and media company founded in 1991 in Nashville, Tenn. Rex is also founder/helper-in-chief of the wiki, SmallBusiness.com.

Jeff Korhan

http://www.jeffkorhan.com  – Jeff Korhan is an authentic, informative, and inspiring speaker who helps mainstream small businesses use social media and Internet marketing to increase their influence, enhance customer relationships, and accelerate growth. After 20 successful years he sold his business, and now applies three decades of marketing experience to helping clients develop sustainable marketing practices that capitalize on emerging business trends.

Business Pundit

http://BusinessPundit.com  – Drea Knufken – one of the writers at BusinessPundit.com. Before joining Business Pundit, I worked in a variety of business and content production positions. Most recently, I was a travel writer. My book, “The Backroads and Byways of Colorado,” covers the best road trips in the state, mile-by-mile. Before that, I helped create two major websites for the Los Angeles tourism bureau, worked for Google (specifically, AdWords and Blogger.com) for three years, and worked for several technology startups in Silicon Valley at the tail end of the .com boom.

Aweber Blog

http://www.aweber.com/blog  – Founded in 1998, we create email marketing software to help small businesses automate email follow up and email newsletter delivery. Our growing team shares a wealth of experience and knowledge about permission-based email marketing services with over 102,000+ current clients we work with daily.

Live and Love…Out Loud

http://liveandloveoutloud.com  – Kristin O’hea– Encouraging, empowering and celebrating the everyday woman is what this here blog is all about. I’m living it up, loving out loud and laughing it off as I navigate my way through the challenges and triumphs of motherhood. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll realize that you’re not alone.

Understanding Marketing

http://www.understandingmarketing.com – The majority of small businesses realize the importance of marketing and PR in today’s ultra-competitive environment. They know the key to success is driving awareness and engaging with their customers in a way that enhances their brand. But they also know that margins can be razor thin and they typically don’t have the budget to hire an expensive marketing/PR agency to create exciting campaigns that increase the bottom line

Ohio Environmental Law Blog

http://www.ohioenvironmentallawblog.com  – Joe Koncelik is an attorney with the law firm of Frantz Ward LLP which is based in Cleveland, Ohio. The focus of Joe’s practice is in all facets of environmental law as well providing counsel on issues relating to renewable energy and climate change. Joe has also fulfilled U.S. Green Builders Council’s requirements to qualify as a LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accredited Professional.

SeanDaniel.com

http://sbs.seandaniel.com  – Technology Tips, Tricks & News – featuring WHS, SBS and other Microsoft and Related Technology.

Simply Business

http://www.simplybusiness.co.uk/knowledge/ – The Simply Business team offers a range of business expertise which we are keen to share through articles, downloads, guides, news and more.
We can also answer questions about business insurance.

Small Business Mavericks

http://www.smallbusinessmavericks.com/internetmarketing – Founded by Caroline Melberg Steve Melberg. Small Business Mavericks offers Website Marketing and Social Media Strategy for small and mid-size businesses.

Business901

http://business901.com/  – Joe Dager is president of Business901, a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena.  He takes his process thinking of over thirty years in marketing within a wide variety of industries and applies it through Lean Marketing Concepts.

Apptivo

http://runapptivo.apptivo.com/small-business-university – Apptivo’s platform is a collection of 40+ cloud based Business Apps. All the generic Business Apps are free and have absolutely no limits on usage. All the Apps communicate with each other and share the data so Apptivo users never have to worry about syncing or duplicating the data manually.

Mind Your Business

http://blog.bizelo.us/  – Bizelo’s small business apps (“mini-apps”) are web-based applications that work simply, and simply work!

 

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What can you learn from a small town?

April 30, 2012

Turns out, quite a bit.

The whole concept of having a marketplace is blurry today.  It used to be — you sold stuff to your neighbors because they were the only ones close enough to buy from you.

But today the world is one “global small town” where all your customers can talk directly to each other and every one of them can buy from you or from the guy on the other side of the planet.

In their book Small Town Rules (click to buy it on Amazon*) authors Becky McCray and Barry Moltz take a look at what works in a small town and help us understand how those same rules apply to us, whether we are a big fish in a little pond or a tiny fish in a huge pond.

The truth is — size, scale, and resources are no guarantee of success anymore.  Who would have thought Tom’s could have created enough buzz and passion that they become the worldwide sensation that they are today?

Today more than ever before it’s about how you build relationships, trust and compelling word of mouth.  And no one knows how to do that better than a local shopkeep.

Barry and Becky tell great stories, offer up plenty of examples but best of all — give us seven rules to learn and follow, no matter how big or how local your business is.

1. Plan for zero. Planning for zero income requires building new sources of revenue and all kinds of different equity.

2. Spend creative brainpower before spending dollars. This protects you from doing something just because everyone else is… and let’s you introduce your customers to the real you.

3. Multiply lines of income to diversify your risk. That way if one stream runs dry, the others keep things flowing.

4. Work anywhere, anywhen through technology. We have new expectations and tolerance for how and when we get responses from companies.

5. Treat customers like community. Make them feel valued, special and like an insider.

6. Be proud of being small. Small and nimble is the new big.

7. Build your local connections. Making connections that count help you accomplish the first 6 rules because you quickly learn that you can’t do it alone.

This book is a great read for anyone who is running a business — anywhere.  Turns out we all have a lot we can learn from those small towns.

 

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Can packaging help you sell in a new way?

March 27, 2012

How we package our products and services often communicates more than we think.

Sometimes — a fresh look at packaging can introduce you to a new buyer, make you more attractive to prospects you’ve known for awhile or reinforce a buying decision for your current customers.

I was in Walgreens the other day and a end cap display caught my attention.  They were little boxes of pills but rather than being named/described as some generic brand — they were packaged according to why you might use them.

  • “Help, I have the sniffles.”
  • “Help, I have an achy body.”
  • “Help, I can’t sleep.”
  • “Help, I have a headache.”

I thought it was a brilliant strategy.  Rather than get into a brand war with the category leader, why not just re-define how the category is packaged and go right at the consumer’s need.  I’ll be curious to see how this new line sells.

We had a bit of the same problem at McLellan Marketing Group.  Everyone assumed that we could only work with large clients with really big annual budgets.  While we love those kinds of clients — we also love working with entrepreneurs and small businesses.

But how do we communicate that to the marketplace?   We repackaged ourselves.

We knew that this group of potential buyers had very unique concerns about working with an agency:

  • I won’t know how much it’s going to cost
  • I don’t have a big enough budget
  • I don’t know what I’d be buying

And we repackaged ourselves to eliminate those worries.  We literally created packages — with a pre-determined monthly fee.  Think of these packages as the garanimals of marketing.

The buyers can pick and choose from the menus and with our help, create a custom package that fits their business’ needs.

(You can download a PDF of the MMG packages for easier reading by clicking here)

But they have 100% control over the cost (because they decide which monthly fee they want to pay) and they can see all they get for their small budget and they know exactly what they’re going to get.

This packaging strategy has brought us a whole different category of clients — who are enjoying agency expertise at a price they can afford (and control!).

How could you re-package yourself or a particular product or service to either overcome buying hesitation, to introduce yourself to a whole new audience or to do an end run around the category leader?

 

 

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The 5 things that will derail your marketing in 2012

February 8, 2012

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but the truth is — most organizations’ marketing efforts stink.  And they stink for reasons well within the marketing department’s control.

If you’re worried that your own efforts might fall short — beware of these five danger zones that can derail you in a blink!

Inconsistency:  Does your monthly newsletter go out 5 times a year?  Does your copy tone/style fluctuate between somber and casual?  Are your weekly sales calls happening every week?

Inconsistency not only waters down your results but it also waters down your brand. If you can’t get your newsletter out on time — why in the world would I, a prospective customer, think you can deliver what you want to sell me on time?

Not having a plan:  One contributing factor to inconsistency is the wishy washiness that comes from winging it.  Without a document that maps out where you are going…in the rush of the day, you end up on detours you never intended.  Or worse, you end up on the sidelines trying to figure out your next move, rather than moving forward.

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be a leather bound edition, but it does need to be in writing and it needs to be something you reference at your weekly/regular marketing meetings.

Trying to do too much:  I want to hear a collective sigh of relief as you read this.  You simply cannot do it all.  So stop trying.  You are far better off to do a few things consistently and well, than try to manage too many marketing tactics.

The average sized organization can only successfully produce and monitor a handful of initiatives at once.  So plan it out carefully so you can deliver consistency and quality.  Every time.  That will be far more impressive than doing more every once in awhile.

Not matching your budget with your appetite:  I see this happen all the time.  A big company is stingy with their marketing dollars and does so little, they don’t even show up on the radar screen.  Or the flip side — a small company saves up all their pennies and launches a huge splash but can only sustain it for 60 days and then goes quiet.

Marketing is for the long haul.  You need to know you can sustain your efforts or their effect will be fleeting.

You.  Yup, I said it.  You’re actually the biggest risk to the marketing efforts.  Why? Because you know when you’re doing something that isn’t going to work.  You know what you can and can’t pull off.  You know that you talk about yourself too and don’t talk with the audience  about the stuff they care about enough. You know you should spend/do more and be more consistent.  Maybe you even know you can’t do it by yourself but you’re too cheap to hire some help (either staff or an agency).

So what are you going to do to get out of your own way?

What do you think?  Would you have a different set of obstacles?  Want to add any to my list?

Stock photograph courtesy of Big Stock Photo

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