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~Marketing Insights to Help You Grow Your Business~
In a small office, a marketing manager had an idea. Why not use gas pumps as an advertising network? Put TV screens on each pump, turn up the volume and sell ad space.
Think of all the loud, ten second TV ads companies would buy who sell goods at the gas station. It would put their marketing message on the pump where the customer was standing and couldn’t look away. There would be no control by the customer to turn it off or turn down the volume.
The marketing manager never considered how annoying this would be for consumers. His only interest was revenue, not experience. He didn’t care if the messages were an interruption to the customer who just wanted to fill his tank not his head with annoying, uninvited ads. The manager’s task wasn’t to enhance his customer’s visits; he was told to find a way to make more money.
Marketing at its best doesn’t interrupt or interfere with your daily routine. It is empathetic to the human being.
It doesn’t yell and screams at you when you need to fill up your car. It doesn’t blare a message to come inside and buy SNICKERS, SLIM JIMS or SALTED PEANUTS.
Intrusive messages make you turn your head away, and seek out a different experience next time.
I no longer buy gas at the most convenient location because of the annoying, commercial-filled pump. Instead, I buy gas at a station that just sells gas at the pump.
Are you pumping out your message and driving away customers?
Is your message based on permission or intrusive? Are you providing fuel for your customers to solve their problems? If not, you might need to fill up on some marketing ideas. Call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org No extra charge for premium.
Photo credit: Jeffrey Slater’s iPhone
A few months ago, I had an inquiry to do some coaching with a woman who was struggling to decide if she should start a business or accept a job. She reached out to me because she was a regular reader of my blog and thought that I’d have a helpful perspective. She knew I had owned a business and had several jobs during my career.
We talked for a few hours. The following is a summary of seven pieces of advice. Maybe it will be of help to you or someone you know.
Seven Pieces of Advice: Job versus Starting a Business
- JOBS ARE EASIER. You don’t have to worry about every, single detail when you accept a position. You work hard, but you often get to work somewhere with an infrastructure in place and with others who are working together toward a common goal. You don’t have to get the work and then do the work. Usually, you just do one of them, not both. As an entrepreneur, you must do it all. If you are at the stage in your life where you have dependents relying on you, a job can provide benefits and some security. Most people get addicted to the W2.
- STARTING A BUSINESS IS ALL CONSUMING. A business needs a product or service, a target audience, demand, structure, and value. You begin with a blank piece of paper and try to articulate what you can offer someone that customers There isn’t anyone else to lean on, at least in the first few years unless you have the capital to hire staff or if you partner with someone else. Typically, it can be quite lonely. It is difficult not to be working every free minute you have because there is so much to do.
- IT TAKES TIME TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS. Sometimes you think you are selling stuff, but over time you realize the emotional benefit and value you are creating. Going slowly and learning from each sale helps you create a clear vision for growth and a deeper understanding of how you want your business to develop. Many people take years to truly understand what business they are in.
- HOW WILL YOU DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF? Almost every business has competition. How will you position your product or service so it feels as if customers can only buy from you? What will be that remarkable part of how you do business? Why will your customers be willing to share your story? The difference is vital to be to get full value for what you offer. Competition creates a demand for discounts and pressure to give things away. How will you overcome that challenge?
- FREQUENT REMINDERS OF WHAT YOU DO MATTERS. How will you stay in front of your target audience often enough, so you remind them of you, without being an annoyance? How can you do that in a meaningful way? I call this drip marketing – and I believe you need a plan upfront so you can stay relevant and in the consciousness of your potential market.
- ALWAYS NETWORKING. Your business will depend on word of mouth. How can you leverage connections, relationships, and acquaintances to help you meet potential clients? It takes the time to network, but you must schedule and plan for it every single day. You can’t expect the world to show up at your front door (or homepage). What is your plan for getting the phone to ring from a friend of a friend? (I recently got a new client after having lunch with someone I worked with ten years ago but hadn’t seen in a few years. He passed along a lead, and that lunch became valuable to me and my consulting work).
- YOU GET TO DRIVE. One of the joys of being the owner of the business is that you get to control your fate. You sit in the driver’s seat and determine where you are heading. You have no one to blame. Of course, you can find people to help give you direction along the way, like a good accountant who can help you set up your bookkeeping system. Having two hands on the wheel and steering in the direction you want to go is both scary and exhilarating at the same time.
Getting a job is easier and a safer bet for most people. You have to want total control and be willing to make the commitment in time, energy and money. During my career when I had my own business, I always worked more hours each week than I did as an employee.
That isn’t to say I didn’t work hard in the jobs I had, but being self-employed is a different type of commitment. If your family depends on you, being self-employed is a different psychological burden. Jobs are fraught with layoffs, moves, and lots of challenges. But being self-employed means EVERYTHING falls on your shoulders until you start adding a team. And even then, it is still on you.
There is no off switch for the self-employeed.
I’m glad I got to have a mix of both worlds in my career. I learned valuable lessons from both experiences.
Are you going to get a job or build a business?
Could you use a career coach? Want advice about starting a business? Interested in learning how to roast a chicken that will make you dance for joy? I can do all these things. Call me. 919 720 0995 or email@example.com
Ellen Bennett was a nineteen-year-old cook working in Mexico and attending culinary school. She got an inspiration to create amazing apparel for chefs. Today her LA based business focuses on creating high-end durable aprons, chef gear, and other kitchen fashion. And she does it with panache which isn’t French for breakfast.
Each product is handcrafted from start to finish using top grade American canvas, raw Japanese selvage denim, and European linens. Made in LA, these unique pieces are built to last — each fabrication detail carefully considered and tested to handle the rigorous hustle and bustle of a professional kitchen. She believes when you look the part, you feel the part and thus perform the part like a boss.
Aprons in 4,000 kitchens.
After working at LA based Providence restaurant, she felt the traditional white apron was too uniform and dull. No one ever thought about making custom aprons that people would be happy to wear and would give them confidence in their daily hustle.
Check Out The Apron Squad
It takes twelve people to make one of her beautiful aprons. Each one has structure, stitching, and beautiful design aesthetic. She uses Instagram to celebrate her loyal fans who she refers to as the apron squad. She encourages her raving fans to celebrate their hard work and passion for food. Apron squad members include Mario Batali and Martha Stewart just to name a few celebrities.
Every package she ships to customers always comes with a little, extra gift to support the community she serves. Sometimes she promotes products of others like any loyal member of a tribe would do.
Her apron factory is a place for an immersive brand experience. Filled with slides, swings and a fun work environment – it is an ideal setting for clients to promote her business on Instagram. She hosts events at her factory to get publicity and celebrate companies like Shake Shack when they came out to LA. Ellen has a head for marketing and PR.
Three Lessons from The self-proclaimed badass Apron Lady
- Serves a community (the kitchen squad). She is providing products for a small niche – people who work in professional kitchens. But that niche has helped her create a profitable, multi-million dollar business.
- Creates a distinctive, high-end product in an uncrowded market. Being part of that community, she had a good sense of what was missing and what she would enjoy.
- Brings your emotions, joy, and happiness to your work every day. From press reports and interviews, Ellen brings her human being to work, not some corporate bureaucrat. She merges work and fun and the product is a success.
There is nothing uniform about her marketing.
Need sage marketing advice? You have come to the right place. 919 720 0995 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Hedley & Bennett, all rights reserved
I’m looking at using software from a company called Lead Forensics for some clients interested in business development. Recently, they recognized that 98% of the traffic to their website wasn’t identifying themselves. If you are focusing on generating leads, that is a lot of interested visitors being ignored because they don’t self-identify.
If you think of your website like a tradeshow booth, imagine one hundred people coming by your booth and standing and looking at your company for 2 minutes, but only 2 percent (2 people) ever strike up a conversation. The rest keep moving along. Who are those 98 people? Where did they come from? Are some of them showing signs of interest to buy?
Lead Forensic and Website Visitors
Lead Forensics provides you with a small code that you paste into your WordPress site. It gives you the opportunity to know what businesses have come to your site and their location. You can’t tell which individual has visited, just that a company has stopped by to poke around.
I tested the software on my website to get a first-hand understanding of how it works. The cost is considerable for most small businesses, but if you could identify just a handful of leads who seem unusually interested in individual pages on your website, that data could be quite valuable to enhance lead generation.
For a business to business firms, this information can be useful to business development professionals. Knowing that individual companies have found their way to your site means that there is some degree of interest in what you do. What if you could get to that company and talk to a few of the key people who you typically work within growing sales?
The company gives you access to individuals contact information by location, by title with emails and street addresses. So, if you typically speak to the head of quality control or the chief financial officer, you can find potential leads. Since you can identify the physical location (a plant in Pittsburgh versus Peoria), you can identify people who work at this place.
Over the coming months, I’ll report back on the value I see in the software, but I am intrigued by the concept. It may not be right for every business, but in B2B, it often doesn’t take much to turn one interested lead into a buying customer.
Maybe you know what’s in your wallet but do you know who is coming to your website?
Need help with generating more quality leads for your business? I can help with a range of inbound and outbound marketing services. Text me at 919 720 0995, email me at email@example.com or just come to my website. I’ll know you are visiting.
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Thomas Hawk
One of the most frequent question from startups is about the importance of logo design. I often hear people say; I don’t want to invest that much in a logo because it isn’t that relevant to my business. I need to invest in all kinds of things and spending a lot of money on a logo seems dumb.
A logo is like the shorthand narrative of your brand. Instead of a sentence, it is often a visual depiction of the story you want to tell. It serves as a reminder that of all the companies that are in a category, you are the one that is special and different. Symbols, colors and short supporting taglines all work together to communicate that message.
But logos don’t need to cost a lot of money to create, and if you follow a few basic steps, I think you can achieve your goals for a reasonable fee.
- Your Name Matters. If you are starting a business, the name of that company should telegraph your story. Whole Foods is a great example when you want to convey an authentic message. Amazon is a great name to tell the story of the world’s largest river and everything from A to Z. It is a metaphor for what you offer. A made-up word or foreign word can also help like Uber or Google. You can’t get a logo created without having a name. There are companies (and consultants like me) who do naming work if you need help figuring out a clever name for your business or brand. Think about the benefit or job your business will do for someone. Terminix is a company that will terminate your bug problem.
- Write a paragraph about your business that explains who you are, what you do and why you are different from others in your field. Don’t worry about the words and grammar, focus on an accurate description that avoids platitudes like we offer the best quality and service. Go deeper and express why someone would buy from you versus others. Maybe you deliver in half the time of your competitors. Maybe your workforce is made up of immigrants from Syria. Maybe your technology solves a very frustrating problem for a select audience. Be specific.
- Now, write a sentence that expresses what you have said in that paragraph. Reduce it down to just the most essential words. Make sure you use the phrase or idea of Only We. (Only we deliver pizzas in thirty minutes, or it’s free). Let the sentence be the shorthand version of the real value you bring to your customers. It can be ethereal – We bring good things to life. Or it can be functional – guaranteed overnight delivery or your money back.
- Now write a phrase. See if you can articulate the idea in just a few words. Don’t worry if it sounds awkward or odd; you can refine it later. Just look for a few powerful words that help express the core power of what you offer. If you are a restaurant that takes regular and traditional dishes and makes them special, maybe your short phrase that we turn ordinary into the extraordinary.
- Now find your word. Pick just one word that describes your value proposition and essence. Maybe that word is speed or accuracy or relentless or safe. This one-word matters as it will help a graphic designer figure out how to depict your story. It can be a smart play on a word. For one of my clients Nomaco makes engineered foam, we took the word transformation and turned it into transFOAMation™ since they transfoam foam into innovative solutions. Clever, right? We even trademarked the phrase.
- Create a list of images that conjure up the essence of what you do. Maybe you run a networking group and offer connectivity. A braid or image of things intertwined might come to mind. Maybe you make the world’s strongest coffee, so a skull and crossbones are part of your brand persona. If you are a window cleaning company, perhaps an image has to do with bringing clarity and focus to the outdoor. So your image could be a cloudy, hazy window where the center has become clear, and you can see outside. Or, if you are an eye doctor, maybe the traditional eye chart is a starting point for what you do, but since you serve a particular population (Spanish-speaking customers), the chart spells out a message in Spanish.
- Pick colors that communicate how you want people to feel. If you are marketing a rose wine, pick pink. If you are selling an environmentally friendly cleaning product, maybe blue and green are key. If you are in the business of stopping crime, perhaps red (like a stop sign) makes sense. Owning a color that supports and reinforces your story is very valuable.
- Find a graphic artist. Now that you have thought through the paragraph, sentence, phrases, word, image, and color, sit down with a designer and talk through this with them. Give them as much of this in writing as possible. In the world of marketing, this is called a brief, that gives the designer a lot of relevant information to help you tell this story. The designer can give you several concepts that articulate the name of the business, a font that fits the feeling you want to convey, images that might serve to tell your story and a color to evoke a feeling.
My friend Jeff Lawson is a great person to reach out to if you want someone who can create logos for very reasonable prices. You’ll save money if you come prepared so he can visually interpret your story. Connect with Jeff at Cowan Designs. We have created dozens of original logos and brand marks together over the last decade, and the cost was always reasonable for the quality of his work.
The goal is to have a logo that communicates the story you want to convey. Since it will be the shorthand for your company, it is a vital step in launching a brand.
Does your brand tell your story?
Need seasoned advice from a marketing sage? I can help with creating a name, brand or logo and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Call me at 919 720 0995 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Gizmodo
An old-fashioned radio had a round dial that you would turn to find a signal. If you went just too far, the sound wouldn’t be clear. When you connected with that signal, like music to your ears, the message is crystal clear.
Marketing is just like that big, fat radio dial. It is a lever we can turn and adjust to tune into a message that a particular audience is open to receiving. A radio station sends a signal in hopes that an audience will find them on the dial.
An entrepreneur with some spectacular homemade salad dressings approached me to help her market her island-inspired products. Born in Jamaica, Eralia was selling her herb-infused dressings in a few specialty food stores but didn’t know where to go from here.
Over a homemade salad dressed with mango, guava and allspice seasoning, we discussed this idea of marketing and a radio dial. I told her that she has some lovely products that people who care about the Caribbean Islands would love and that to reach them, she must find a way for them to tune into her message.
Also, what she is selling isn’t salad dressings but a taste of the islands. There is a visceral connection that is part of her story that evokes the sights, sounds, and the smell of that region. Why not market that, not her dressings?
Tuning In on Facebook
Selling in retail stores is very tedious. You have to do sampling and demos to try and find people who are willing to tune into your message. Instead, Facebook is like a radio and you can tune into a particular channel and send a message to a very particular audience.
For example, there are more than one-million people on Facebook in the U.S. who have a love of all things from the Caribbean. You can find them through targeted message. If Eralia sends a signal through sponsored ads, she can put her message in front of an audience that will resonate with her products.
And there are millions of people who visit the islands each year, and they too can be found based on their travel habits, behaviors and other signals they send out too.
I urged Eralia to think of her salad dressing bottles like little island ambassadors who share the taste of relaxation.
Salads, Signals, and Seasoning
If you are selling products and want the right people to tune into your message, you need them to be turning the dial to find your station. You need to be broadcasting your message to reach this community with the goal that your products will resonate with them.
Facebook ads allow you to show up along the dial (newsfeed) on Facebook and to connect with the right audience. Of course, you need to get the message and offer right, but being in front of the right audience is step number one.
When you send out a signal to those who love the Caribbean, your signal will be found.
Toss that idea around.
I help small to mid-sized business market themselves to the right audience. Need help finding your signal, dial this number and I can help. 919 720 0995 or email me at email@example.com
Photo credit: felipe-belluco-127793 Unsplash
Imagine a company that takes surplus goods like military tents and parachutes, employs veterans and sells stylized handbags, tote bags, travel bags, messenger bags, duffels and gives back 10% of their profits to this community. Let’s salute Sword & Plough and the two sisters behind their army of veterans.
Stand Up and Salute Sword & Plough
In 2012, through a Kickstarter campaign, two sisters, Emily and Betsy Nunez tested an idea. What if they could help a community they cared deeply about, employed some of them and could give back a share of the profits? Having grown up in a military family, they witnessed many of the struggles of veterans.
Emily began to think ‘What in my life is often discarded and could be turned into something beautiful with a purposeful mission?”
Sword & Plough is a socially conscious brand that works with veterans to create repurposed goods. The company recycles military surplus, incorporates that fabric into stylish bag designs and donates 10% of profits back to veteran organizations.
The sisters imagined how they could take surplus military materials and goods, hire veterans to reimagine them into new products. When the lightbulb went off, they took the leap.
Through its branding and outreach, Sword & Plough could help bridge the civil-military divide. The repurposed bags could be used as conversation pieces and the company could become a platform to strengthen understanding between civilians and the veteran community. Inspired to give back to the veteran community through sustainable fashion, Sword & Plough was born.
Five Marketing Insights from Emily and Betsy’s Journey
- They were inspired to serve a community. The products and business model followed their motivation.
- They borrowed from other businesses like Tom’s to build a socially conscious benefit into what they were doing so they give back a percentage of revenue to help veterans.
- They created a shareable story because they help bridge conversations between military veterans and civilians. This shared story and connection is critical to being talked about in person, in the media and online.
- They are environmentally focused by taking existing materials and repurposing the materials into second life opportunities. 35,000 pounds of military surplus has been kept out of landfills.
- Empowering the community. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that 453,000 unemployed veterans. Emily and Betsy have hired 65 veterans to work in their business and they are just getting started.
When a business starts with a community in mind, marketing to those who care about them is the same as serving them. What can you do to share your empathy for your tribe and provide value, benefits, and opportunity?
I salute you, Sword & Plough.
Is there an idea you have been considering but don’t know how to put it into action? I can help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call at 919 720 0995. Let’s grow your business idea together.
Photo credit: Sword & Plough, all rights reserved.
Blue Apron is a company that appeared out of nowhere and is valued at more than two billion dollars. They started in 2014 selling meal kits directly to consumers.
CEO Matt Salzberg told Quartz, an online publication in February 2016.
“We’re helping people learn new ingredients, new techniques, new recipes. We’re helping them spend time in the kitchen with their families rather than eating things like Domino’s Pizza or Chinese food in front of their TVs at night in an antisocial way.”
But they have a problem. A big problem. A bucket problem. But the bucket is leaking…customers.
Their recent IPO reveals that customers aren’t sticking with them. The company spent $144 million dollars on marketing and customer retention is an issue. Despite steady growth, customers don’t stay in their franchise. So, they must keep filling their leaky bucket with new customers.
Are Your Customers Dripping Away?
In many of the mergers and acquisitions I have been involved in, one of the key details I like to look at is the retention of customers. If I have 100 customers and lose 20% every year, I have to find 20 new customers just to stand still. What does this churn indicate about service, quality, price, value and other issues?
A Critical KPI
- Are you in a churning business environment where customers buy once and leave? That’s a concern.
- Are you in a more stable business that isn’t growing because you are constantly losing customers and have to find new ones? That is a problem?
- Are your customers sticking around and repurchasing from you over and over again? If so, that’s the sweet spot of success.
Measuring customer churn each quarter is the job of top management. Watching growth quarter by quarter of both the number of customers and the dollar value of each customer is mission critical to seeing the arc of your business prosperity.
I don’t know enough about Blue Apron’s problem, but instead of acquiring more customers with that big pot of money, maybe they’d be better served investing in understanding the churn and finding solutions to fix that problem.
If they did a root cause analysis and deeply understand why customers leave, maybe they could spend money to plug the holes in their value proposition before refocusing on growth. You can’t grow your way out of this problem.
There is only so much water you can pour into a leaky bucket.
Does your company struggle from having too many one-time customers? How are you fixing that problem? Maybe I can help? I’ll bring some putty to fix the leak. Call or text me at 919 720 0995 or email me at email@example.com
Photo: Mandy Klein https://pixabay.com/en/users/igrow-335413/
When I got my first job sometime after graduate school, I had an office where I sold advertising space for a magazine called House Plants & Porch Gardens. I think I lasted about six months, but it was an eye-opening experience.
They put me in an office with a window, a telephone, a desk and chair and a bunch of house plants. Not only didn’t I have a green thumb, by I didn’t know a ficus from a fern. It was an incredibly boring experience for many reasons, but I did like the idea of having my office.
The energy in that office space felt like corporate hell.
Then, when I joined my wife with her growing brownie business, we eventually had a little. shared closet at the bakery that we used. With growth came a bigger bakery and larger office. All the office personnel had an office with a door. We didn’t think about the workspace – we just assumed everyone needed a private office to get their work done.
Thirteen years later, when we sold the company, I went to work for GoodMark Foods and once again, got an office to call my own. We were all in rooms with doors – which were mostly kept closed. It didn’t breed a lot of collaboration in the workspace. But one day we asked management if we could turn a conference room into a “Starbucks-like” work environment with sofas, comfy chairs, and a big screen TV so we could have more creative and collaborative meetings. Difficult to believe this was 1999.
WeWork – A Better Way to Work
But in 2000, companies started to look at other ways to put people together to collaborate by sharing common workspaces or allowing employees to work from home or a coffee shop. The idea of what an office is started to change. And Google, Facebook, and all the other Silicon Valley startups led the way for how people worked.
How WeWork was born
Miguel McKelvey and Adam Neumann founded WeWork in 2010. After meeting, they both worked in the same office building in NY that wasn’t full. McKelvey was an architect and Neumann at the time owned a baby clothing business. You couldn’t have two more unlikely partners. McKelvey grew up on a commune in Oregon and Neumann was born and raised in Israel.
All they had in common was height (both very tall) and a curiosity about work environments.
They started Green Desk in 2008, a precursor to WeWork. They created a more flexible work environment for startups and those in the emerging gig economy. They wanted to have a focus on sustainability, so they used recycled materials, furniture, and desks wherever possible but with a hip, relaxed vibe. Even their electricity was wind-powered.
The business took off and eventually sold Green Desk to their landlord. But Neumann and McKelvey knew they had a big idea and wanted to expand faster and knew that their landlord wasn’t the right partner.
WeWork – Marketing Experiences
What interests me about WeWork is that the owners saw a way to take vacant space and add immense value to thousands of companies who wanted to rent a small amount of space but with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
Today they have almost 60 locations in 15 countries where startups can go to work in a wide-open, well-lit environment with like-minded colleagues. They saw value not as landlords but in providing aspirational work environments. The business has a value of a whopping $17 billion dollars, but they continue to have a driving passion for what they do every day.
Is your work environment designed to help your teams collaborate, partner and build something exciting together? What does the layout and design of your workspace say about the organizational hierarchy and how your company gets things done?
I know how WeWorks – How do you work?
Could you use the help of an experienced marketing professional to help you grow your business? Let’s talk. Come to my office in Starbucks. 919 720 0995 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of WeWork. All rights reserved.