Marketing insights question: What do you really sell?

November 29, 2011

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What do you really sell?

Over the next few weeks, as we head towards 2012, I’m going to write a series of posts that are designed to get you thinking about your business in a new/fresh way.  I’m going to ask a single question in each post — but I’m warning you, these aren’t slam dunk questions.

I’m hopeful that as you ponder my question — it will give you some ideas for making 2012 a break out year for your organization.  If nothing else — this exercise should fine tune some of your marketing efforts.

What do you really sell? Do you understand what your customers are really buying?  Odds are, it’s much more than the “thing” you sell, whether that be a pair of glasses or accounting services.  Look beyond the tangible or what you list on an invoice.

Do you really sell peace of mind?  Or a competitive edge?  Are your customers’ buying the reassurance of your years of experience or your ability to nudge them out of their comfort zone?

Before you can effectively help someone buy – you need to actually understand what you’re selling.

If your honest answer is “I’m not sure” then it’s time to break out the trusty telephone and invite some of your best clients (the ones you’d like to replicate all day long) to lunch.  Ask them why they buy from you.  What is the ultimate value you provide to them?  Why would they tell your competitor “no thanks” even if they offered a bargain basement price?

You will be amazed at what you hear.  We’ve done this over the years at MMG and heard things like:

  • “Because I know you won’t have your hand in my pocket all of the time.”
  • “You don’t just preach social media, you guys actually do it.”
  • “I don’t think they’d care as much about our business as your team does.  You all act like you own the joint.”
  • And one of my favorites was “Because I don’t just need an agency, I need a thinking partner.”

Can you see how those answers would alter the way we market our agency?  Do you recognize some client worries/fears in those responses?

You’ll find your clients’ answers to be even more insightful because you’ll get to have the follow up conversation as well.  Listen so hard it hurts.  The learning will be huge!

And in the end, you will know exactly what you sell!


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The smaller you are, the better Facebook is

September 26, 2011


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Facebook lets you actually talk to people!

A comment made on my blog post about Facebook’s dominance which basically said… “Facebook is only for people who care about social media and media types” had me shaking my head.

He’s not alone in his opinion. Check out this recent study that looked at why many small firms don’t utilize it.

I am not suggesting that every single business on the planet needs to have a presence on Facebook, but especially for many small businesses — it can be a game changer.  In fact, I think it’s much more potent for the little guys than it can be for the Cokes, Mini Coopers and Disneys of the world.


The human element.  If I tweet Disney or post something on Coke‘s wall — I may or may not get a response but it’s certainly not going to be a very personal one.  But if I write something on the Des Moines Playhouse’s page…a real person is going to give me a real response.  And we might even get into a conversation. (see the screen capture to the right)

Isn’t that what we’re all hungry for — more conversations with customers or potential customers?

Here are some of the perks of Facebook for small businesses:

  • Built for local and hyper local.  It allows you to spend your time talking to people who can actually become customers or already are your customers.
  • Supports and encourages word of mouth with the share and like buttons.  Odds are most of your page’s fans have a high percentage of friends who are also local.
  • It’s a great way to gather testimonials, get customer feedback/input and answer customer questions.
  • With their hyper targeted ads, you can very cost effectively deliver your message to exactly and only the people who might care.
  • Your audience shows up every day.  Facebook is part of their social experience.  What better place to connect with them?
  • You can use Facebook’s different message vehicles — your business page, ads, events, groups etc. to share different types of news, events, tips etc.
  • You can share your work in other media (TV spots, radio commercials, blog posts, enewsletters) to bring in your multimedia campaign elements.

Again…not going to say it’s for everyone.  But I am hardpressed to think of a small business that wouldn’t benefit from a well strategied Facebook presence.

I’m curious — what small/local businesses do you think use Facebook well?  I’d love to find some examples.


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You need a smaller net

August 15, 2011


…are you fishing with too big a net?

Fear can make us take our eye off the ball and lose focus on what really matters.  In marketing, that often translates to these sorts of mistakes:

  • I’m afraid this is the only ad/website/sales letter they’ll ever see so I need to cram everything I can into it.
  • I’m afraid they’ll choose someone else so I’ll lower our price, even though my price is fair.
  • I’m afraid we won’t have enough customers, so I’ll chase everyone that breathes.

I must admit, I get on my soapbox about this one.  One of the best things about smart branding is that it repels the wrong customers.  People who are not a good fit.

Every business has a “right fit” customer and those are the only people you should be actively pursuing.  Why would you want to win a new customer only to deliver at a so so level.

You can rock the socks off the “right fit” customers.  They’ll brag about you to their friends.  And you’ll love working with them.  Stop being content with anything you can catch in that big net of yours.  Go get a smaller net and chase after just the right fits.

Need more convincing?  I got this note on Facebook the other day from Sherry Borzo, a business woman I know here in Des Moines.

“Must tell you, because I’m pretty sure you were the one who said it so often in my presence a few years ago, but I truly GET the idea of working only with your ideal customer. It makes for a much happier environment for both business person and customer. It is like you’re building your own little community. So important. Always think of you saying that when I’m working with a customer that fits well with what I do.”

Amen to that!  Toss that big old net in the garbage and begin catching your right fit customers.

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Radio show on book crowdsourcing

July 5, 2011


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…media coverage for Age #1

One of the best benefits of being a part of the Age of Conversation series is that I’ve met a lot of really smart, generous people who do good work and celebrate others’ good work.

That’s how I had the good fortune of being a guest on the US Media Radio show with Deborah Chaddock Brown (her co-host Candace Benson was called to the White House…so hard to fault her absence!) to talk about crowdsourcing and the Age series.

It was fun to tell stories of how Gavin and I kicked off the first book and all the crazy, surprising relationship/business building outcomes that have come as a result of the series.

If you’d like to listen to the conversation Deborah and I had — all you have to do is click here.


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Promote your community via crowdsourcing

July 3, 2011

As many of you know, Gavin Heaton and I co-edited the Age of Conversation series of books — each one crowdsourced with help from marketing and social media practitioners from all over the globe.  Each book is as unique as the contributors but they all three had some things in common:

  • The authors formed a community among themselves and I know for a fact that new business and personal relationships formed as a result.
  • The book benefits from the many authors all promoting it to their own networks and spheres of influence.
  • There is a healthy sense of competition among the authors — everyone wants their contribution to be deemed worthy when compared to the others.

We did it mostly as an experiment and a vehicle to raise money for some charities.  But I think we were all astonished at the lasting value the books created far beyond the monies raised.

My agency, McLellan Marketing Group, took the same model and brought it to our community of Central Iowa (through our client BIZ-CI).  Our goal in this case was to:

  • Crowdsource a book that would spotlight all of the professional expertise that existed in our area
  • Help fledgling businesses/entrepreneurs who couldn’t afford to buy the expertise have access to it
  • Promote some of our community’s business leaders by name/firm
  • Introduce our business community to companies that were considering a move to Central Iowa
  • Create connections among the business leader/authors

So we invited local business leaders to each write a chapter related to their area of expertise for the book How Business Gets Done: Words of Wisdom by Central Iowa Experts.

38 experts in some aspect of starting/running a small business all offering best practice counsel as well as pointing to some of their favorite resources.

You can get a Kindle copy by clicking here*.

Peter Korchnak, out in Portland, Oregon put together a very similar book called Portland’s Bottom Line.  But they added a very interesting twist.


Korchnak and his co-editor  Megan Strand organized the book into 12 sections along the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Prosperity.  The book explores how small businesses can effectively and efficiently shift toward sustainability and thrive. 51 small-business people from the City of Roses shared their experiences with sustainability in their companies. “The Portland Bottom Line” demonstrates how small businesses can innovate to put people before profit, help restore the ecosystem, and prosper.

The book is also a community benefit project. Contributors collectively chose, by vote, the local community organization Mercy Corps Northwest, which supports the launch and growth of sustainable ventures, to receive 100% of profit from the book’s sales.

To check it out, click here*.

In all three examples, the authors are held up as professionals who have something relevant to share.  It adds to their credibility and who doesn’t like to say they’re an author of a published book?

What I’d love for you to do is take a look at these examples and then apply the thinking you the communities you serve/participate in.  It wouldn’t have to be a city type of community.  It could be a community that shares a passion/vocation like the Age of Conversation books did.  The book could center around a common theme, skill, cause, interest or even something  aspirational.

How could you use this crowdsourcing model in your business?

*Yup, an affiliate link.  Peter sent me an advanced copy of their book to review.  So did a bunch of other authors.  But this book is worth sharing with you.

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Know. Like. Trust.

May 12, 2011



Too many organizations go hot and cold with their marketing.  They’re aggressive or at least active one month or one quarter and then are dormant for months at a time.  Or other companies market like crazy when sales are down but when they get busy, marketing falls off the radar.

Or maybe your particular version is that you only deliver the first half of the one/two punch.  You drop the direct mail piece but you never follow up with the phone call.

Regardless of how or why — the inconsistency of your marketing hurts you.  It turns a warm prospect into a cold one, by the time you get back around to marketing again.

This is one of the most common marketing mistakes that companies big and small make over and over.  They try to time their marketing.  Much like a day trader who believes you can time the market, knowing exactly when to jump in and out – some business owners and marketing types believe they can guestimate exactly when their marketing message needs to be in front of their consumers.


I’m not saying it’s impossible.  I’m saying it’s not necessary. And I would contend, it’s actually detrimental to your long-term success.

Here’s the kernel of truth we don’t like to acknowledge.  We can’t know (unless you sell Christmas trees or some other very seasonal product) when our prospects are going to begin their buying process. I’m not talking about when they’re going to buy.  The reality is – we need to get to them way before they make that decision.

To be one of the considered choices – you have to on the list to begin with.  Marketing is all about getting a prospect to know who you are, like who you are and trust who you are.

Just like in our personal relationships – that doesn’t happen in an instant.

Getting them to know you: We get to know others gradually, through either an extended contact or many quick hits.  Marketing works the same way.  In most cases, a prospect isn’t going to give you their time and attention for more than a few minutes…so you have to go with the “be present all the time, so when they need/want you – you’re there” model.  We call this drip marketing.  There are lots of ways to do this and I’ll dig into them next week.

Getting them to like you: This is about being authentic.  Will everyone like you?  Nope…but you don’t need everyone.  You just need enough of the right someones.  Here’s the tough part about this phase.  They have to like more than what you sell.  They also have to like the people selling it.  Let them get to know your organization and your people.

Getting them to trust you: The bigger your price tag, the deeper the trust needs to be.  But no matter what you sell, trust is the cornerstone of actually making the sale.  How do you get a buyer to trust you?  In marketing terms, it’s actually pretty straightforward.  You are honest (see getting them to like you), you are consistent and you actually follow up when you say you’re going to.

While all of that sounds simple, most businesses fail miserably at it.



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Need some one-on-one direction?

April 19, 2011

An Eight Week Jumpstart To Exploding Your Business

Note: In almost five years of blogging, I’ve never done anything like this before.  And I probably won’t do it again for quite awhile after today.  But I keep getting requests and thought this was the best way to serve the need.

……. Is this your opportunity?

Every single week I get dozens of emails from people asking questions about marketing, building their brand and motivating their employees.

I would love to answer them all.  But, that’s all I’d do every day.

So in broad terms, I try to answer some of them on the blog – thinking others may be wondering the same thing.  No, I can’t get specific about someone’s business or precise problem, but it feels like I am helping a little.

As you know, I have a day job – running my agency, traveling to speaking gigs and spending time with my daughter before she heads off to college in August.

Those priorities don’t leave much time to answer all the questions I get via email.  Which is frustrating because I don’t want to say no when someone asks for help. And I love watching that light bulb go on in someone’s eyes.  It’s awesome to be a small part of helping grow someone’s business.

So I’ve got an experiment I’m calling Direction… from Drew.

I want to spend eight weeks intensely mentoring, coaching and consulting with three people who need direction and advice in their business.

These three people will get complete access to me and I’ll support you in every way possible.  We’ll spend time setting goals for your business and working backwards to create a plan that guarantees you’ll reach them.

Every other week for eight weeks we will spend an hour together on Skype discussing the unique aspects of your business and reviewing the work we’ve been doing/discussing via e-mail in between calls. At the end, you will have an action plan customized specifically for you to market your business, build your brand and motivate your employees.

You won’t even have to think.  All you have to do is take action on the ideas we discuss together.  And because we’re doing this over the next 8 weeks – we’ll have time to try some things and test some waters, to see what’s going to get you the biggest bang for your buck.

I’m looking for three people who are committed and willing to invest in themselves to make massive amounts of change in their businesses quickly.

I’ll be there watching over your shoulder and guiding you as long as you’re willing to take action.

Interested? Click on this link and I’ll tell you how to apply.

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