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27 7 Signs Your Marketing May Need to Evolve

evolveA lot of marketers get both confused and fed up with all the talk about things like new media, social media, inbound marketing, user generated content, and the age of conversation. I mean, how is a person suppose to apply all these somewhat vague and hard to pin down terms and trends. Well, there’s no denying that the world and certainly the world of marketing has changed. If you’re trying to wrap your head around what that might mean for you, here are seven very concrete ways to start viewing the evolution of your marketing strategies and practices.

1) Your marketing strategy is a sales strategy – far too many small business folks view marketing as selling. I’ve got nothing against sales, you must have them, but what you must have, before a sales presentation is ever made, is a crystal clear, very easy to understand difference. You must claim and communicate at every turn the way that your products, services, and processes are uniquely here to make some narrowly defined target market’s life better. Oh, and it can’t be boring, there must be something remarkable enough about your business or strategy that people go out of their way to tell others about it. Do that and selling not only gets easier, it gets somewhat superfluous.

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4 Further Thoughts on Merging Highly Engaged and Highly Networked

mergeEarlier this week I wrote a post about what I think is a new and essential way of thinking about marketing strategy and tactics. The post, titled When Highly Engaged Meets Highly Networked, drew some immediate aha reactions of recognition from readers. (It might make some sense to read that post first if you haven’t yet.)

The primary thesis was the when highly engaged companies, ones the focus on networking, partnering, and relationship building merge those skills with highly networked tactics, such as constant content production, automation and social media participation the convergence produces a highly preferred company. Of course the opposite approach nets the same.

Some readers saw this as the answer to what they had been feeling, but couldn’t put a finger on, some saw it as a challenge that identified what was holding their organizations back. Some organization are definitely good at engaged and need help getting more networked, some are highly networked, but need more emphasis on engaging customers and prospects. The industry your business resides in may both dictate a natural way of doing business and an opportunity for growth.

I believe that while this convergence of models thinking may be hard for some firms to adopt and adapt to this at a completely strategic level, I do think that it presents a filter to start looking at how you do everything at a tactical level.

Here’s a prime example.

A highly networked business may naturally produce webinar content opportunities to educate prospects

A highly engaged business may naturally reach out to key partners to form formal alliance relationships for referral opportunities

Merged – a highly preferred business would create a series of webinars featuring it’s strategic network partners and further create a blog co-authored by each of the network partners as a hub for mutual support and search engine traffic for all partners.

So, while I believe this is a business strategy that can have overarching implications for everything from hiring to product development, you can apply its power by simply looking at individual marketing tactics and asking your self how to add convergence.

Photo credit: TheTruthAbout

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18 When Highly Networked Meets Highly Engaged

networkedengaged

The graphics above represent the two dominate marketing business models that I am starting to see more and more of these days (click on each to get a better view)

The one on the left I like to call the Highly Networked Business – In this model the business takes full advantage of the use of multi-media, education based content as a driving marketing strategy, taps online automation and search for leads, and utilizes the full suite of social networking and bookmarking tools to create the greatest web presence possible. This is certainly a newer model and one that has been fostered by the tremendous growth of the Internet. This is a powerful business building strategy for Internet based services as well as offline, brick and mortar local businesses.

The graphic on the right represents another kind of business, something I call the Highly Engaged Business. The Highly Engaged Business represents the use of some of the more traditional business building skill sets such as relationship building, strategic partnering, viewing staff as customers, and generally engaging prospects and customers alike in ways that foster deeper connection, context, and community.

A lot of successful businesses are very good at one of these models or that other. In fact, every business should adopt the tools, tactics and habits of one of these models or the other in order to succeed in today’s business environment. However, as I’ve been interviewing dozens of successful companies as part of the research for my new book on referrals, I’ve discovered that companies that generate a significant portion of their business by way of referral have something in common with regard to these two models.

Companies that generate lots of referrals tap the convergence of the Highly Networked Business and the Highly Engaged Business to create something I’ve begun to call the Highly Preferred Business.

The Highly Preferred Business uses every advance in technology combined with what one of my referral success stories calls hugs and handshakes to build trust, generate inbound leads, create fulfilling customer experiences, increase customer loyalty, shorten sales cycles, charge premium pricing, create a culture of buzz, and grow to expect referrals from every single customer relationship. These businesses have developed habits the make them both preferred and referred.

I believe these habits of preferral can be learned, instilled and installed in any business, online or off.

I would love to hear your take on the theory of preferral.

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18 7 Time-tested Ways to Dig Out from a Recession

Scan the headlines each day and you won’t have to get very far to stumble upon the word recession or its more palatable cousin “economic downturn.”

It’s times like these that send many small business owners on a quest for the magic recession fighting marketing tip. Today I would like to share my top seven quick fix marketing strategies with the caveat that you understand nothing beats building a marketing system based on a narrowly defined ideal customer and core message of differentiation.

Being the practical guy I am though, I also know that sometimes you need to hear about ways to start getting out of a hole before you can really listen to the message of long term fix. The good news is that these seven strategies, applied effectively, can help you make your business recession proof and unswayed by the various and inevitable cycles in the economy.

Take these seven tips and re-energize your marketing today!

1) Partner with other businesses – Proactively creating strategic partnerships is a great way to generate new leads and build long-term momentum. The trick is to do it ways that are win-win and simple for all parties. Number one rule, only seek marketing partnerships with organizations that you would have no problem referring your best customer too. Adhering to that logical rule alone will make this strategy more effective. Creating motivated strategic partners is simple if you can find a way to tap their self-interest. Take them an effective white paper or seminar idea and let them co-brand and co-sponsor it. That way they have a ready made and logical way to partner with you and you’ve done all the work.

2) Reactivate past customers – Where did I put that customer anyway, I know they are around here somewhere. Sad but true, sometimes we don’t bother to communicate with current customers unless they call with an order. By the time they have decided someone else appreciates their business more, it’s too late. Reach out to lapsed customers and make them an apology, promise to never ignore them again, and make them a smoking hot deal to come back.

3) Get out from behind the computer – Building personal relationships is always in style. It’s very tempting to sit and write blog posts and participate on social networking sites, and while these aren’t always bad things – sometimes you need to go out and shake some hands. Make it a point to go to several industry conferences every year. Join an industry or chamber type group and go to events where you can make connections with prospects and partners. Join a referral group such as BNI and participate. Go visit your customers and ask for referrals.

4) Speak at events, hold workshops – Marketing is essentially a trust building game. Few things build trust more efficiently than getting in front of a group of potential customers and sharing your expertise in an educational setting. Go propose to conduct a hot sounding workshop for your bank, accounting firm, law firm and insurance firm. Check local libraries, chambers, and associations for opportunities. Look in your local business papers and see what groups have speakers listed in calendars of events. Get two of your best customers to help conduct peer2peer webinars to discuss best practices and issues with peers you invite.

5) Fix your follow-up – lead generation and conversion is not a one shot deal. By automating your multiple follow-up messages, scheduling routine marketing touches and sending the occasional thank you, hand written note, you can stay top of mind when the buying and referral decisions are made. The longer the sales cycle for your industry or service the better your follow-up needs to be. There is so much that technology can do for you here, let it!

6) Repackage your products and services with offers to act – This goes along with differentiating really, but sometimes you’ve got to give that tired old dog a new look. Find simple ways to relaunch yourself, your people, your products, your services, your packaging, to give yourself a new start in your market. You don’t need to start from scratch, look for innovative ways to repackage, reprice, redeliver, reguarantee and recommunicate about what you do. Make them an offer they can’t refuse, make it so bold they must rehear you.

7) Fix the marketing gaps – In every way, shape, and form that your business comes into contact with your prospects and customers it is performing a marketing function – good or bad. You must look at all of your customer touchpoints and turn them into positive, brand-building opportunities. Tear down the lead generations touches, sales touches, service touches, delivery touches, follow-up touches, transaction touches, and billing touches and make sure that every single one of them is a performing a killer marketing function for your business.

Maybe by now you’ve surmised that all of the items above are good for business, no matter the economy, it’s just that sometimes you need a fix or two to get restarted.

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21 Do You Hold Your Customers Accountable?

I’m in training meetings this week with Duct Tape Marketing Coaches and every time I conduct these sessions interesting ideas bubble up.

Service providers often offer to provide accountability to the customers they serve – at least that’s the promise of the relationship going in. Your customers often hire you to come in and help, or maybe force, them to do the things they know they should. In fact, in some cases they may actually know how to do what they are asking of you, but they need that shove provided by the fact that you are there working with them.

So the question I would like to explore is this – at what point are there consequences if customers don’t live up to their part of the bargain? At what point do you stop inspiring, cajoling and yelling and just start backing off or disengaging all together? What about building monetary penalties into service agreements that kick in when a customer does not complete assignments they agreed to?

I know this may run counter to the “customer is always right” line of thinking, but I wonder if a customer who won’t allow you to do what you were hired to do contributes to devaluing your service? At some point they will disengage anyway and conclude that your service didn’t really help them. Is that any way to build a business?

I was once asked in an interview on this subject about the biggest mistake service providers could make and I answered – “caring more about results than our customers do.” Again, perhaps a bit cold sounding, but few things will drag you down faster than tethering yourself to a ship this is either sinking or permanently moored.

The point is, if you are putting yourself out there as a resource to help hold your customers accountable for reaching their goals, achieving a certain level of growth, or reaching a stated objective, then I think you must set very clear expectations that you are going to kick them in butt or kick them to the curb.

Their success and your reputation may both be at stake if you don’t.

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