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3 Powerful Tools for Working On Your Business

photo credit: tool box via photopin (license)

photo credit: tool box via photopin (license)

As a business owner, it is really easy to be tempted to wear all the hats, to micromanage, to have a fear of letting go.  That fear then turns into nights and weekends away from the family, never feeling like you can come up for air, and living in a constant state of being stretched too thin.

Doesn’t sound like a very fun situation to be in does it?  Working ON your business instead of simply IN your business is a necessary focus that every business owner needs to fit into their monthly routine.

The first step in the process is hiring the right people.  People that fit in with your culture, your vision, your direction and people that you can trust.  We are a fairly small team at Duct Tape Marketing but rely on a number of virtual designers, assistants, and bookkeepers who are absolutely key pieces to our puzzle.

Equally important as having the right team, is having a plan in place and actually sticking to it.  Without the direction, you are simply climbing peaks with no end in sight, not purpose.

A few weeks ago, Mark Winters co-author of the book Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business, was on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.  John and Mark discussed the one thing every entrepreneur must have.  Today, I want to introduce a different section in the book and one that I found to be very powerful, the “Icing on the Cake” section.

As Mark and co-author Gino Wickman state in the book, “These five simple tools have the highest impact and require the least amount of time, so we encourage you to learn and master them.”  I won’t go over all the tools, as that is what the book is for, however, here are a few that are already helping our productivity level and focus increase each week.

Core Questions

Tool #2 in the book is called Core Questions.  Out of these questions, the four that really stood out to me include: What is your 10-year focus, what is your three-year picture, and what is your one-year plan?  Very simple questions but actually sitting down and taking the time to make your big 10-year goal and then break it down into smaller manageable chunks provides a clear direction for the company.

The 90-Day World

Tool #3 in the book is called The 90-Day World.  You now get to make your plan even more manageable. Here is how we put the 90-day world into place:  We set our 90 days goals while at the same time keeping our 10-year plan in mind of course. Next we assigned each goal to a staff member.  Taking it one step further, we broke the 90 days into weekly steps towards each goal and created a scorecard to track the progress and hold people accountable for their tasks.

Weekly Level 10 Meetings

Finally, Tool #4 in the book is Weekly Level 10 Meetings.  I am guessing you have sat through meetings before where you walked away thinking “was that really the best use of my time?”  The Weekly 10 Meeting outline helps keep the entire leadership team focused on the goals that were set in the planning meeting.  It is an opportunity to review the scorecard, the 90 day priorities, share customer and employee headlines, talk about the weekly t0-do list, and discuss any important issues, all while following a set process and agenda.  It is a systematic way to reach your goals.

Nothing here is earth shattering, it is however extremely powerful if actually put into place.  It is easy to fill your days with client work, chasing leads, and creating content.  If you don’t first take a step back and figure out the “why” and “how” for your plan, you will simply be doing just that.  Filling up your days versus working towards a bigger goal.

Sara JantschSara Jantsch is the Vice President of Operations at Duct Tape Marketing.  She oversees day-to-day operations to support the growth of Duct Tape Marketing and the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  She focuses on strategic planning, goal setting and directing the operations of the company in support of its goals.  Sara is also a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and has a very strong passion for working with small business owners that started back at the dinner table as a child. Connect with Sara on twitter.

1 The Easiest Way to Ask for Referrals

Closeup of a business handshake

We have a great opportunity in the small business world these days that can be simply defined by one word: collaboration.  Coming together and focusing on a common goal, contributing what resources you have, and working towards something bigger that just yourself is the idea here.  I have the opportunity to work in collaboration with some of the world’s greatest marketing consultants on a daily basis with the common goal of helping as many small businesses as possible.  So what does this have to do with asking for referrals?

The easiest way to ask for referrals is to think about your best possible strategic partnerships and create a game plan for how you can add value to their audience and in return gain exposure (Hint, hint: Coming back to the idea of collaboration here).  What types of content would their audiences be interested in reading?  What live events would their audience spare time in their busy day to attend?  Below are four easy steps to creating your strategic partner referral plan.

Create list of possible strategic partners

It is time to start brainstorming.  Sit down with your team members and create a list of potential strategic partners using the B2B or B2C checklists.  Is there a local bank with a small business audience?  What about a Real Estate agent out there networking with your potential clients on a daily basis?  Or a graphic designer working in your niche?  Simply creating this list is the first step, coming up with how to target these possible partners is next.

Co-brand educational content

Now that you have your giant list of possible partners, it is time to narrow it down a bit to your best possible opportunities.  I would recommend starting with a list of your top five partners to target and then expand from there if needed. Once you have your top 5, audit your current and future content plans with your focused list in mind.  What eBooks, workshops, videos would the other businesses want to share with their audience and therefore introduce you?  Once you have “X company” and “X content” in mind, it is time to reach out and see if the potential partner would be interested in sharing the valuable content with their audience with the idea that they could co-brand the content.  The gift to their audience is valuable education, the gift to you is exposure.

Get in front of a live audience

Speaking for leads is one of the most effective ways to get your message out there.  One example of how a Duct Tape Marketing consultant speaks for leads is holding a 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success Workshop for an audience of small business owners.  A great opportunity here would be partnering with a local bank, lawyer, and insurance agent and having them invite their client base to an educational workshop.  The consultant then provides value to their client’s while also establishing themselves as an expert at a live event.  Another win-win in the books.

Come up with a follow-up plan

You have created your list, produced co-branded content, and spoken in front of a strategic partner audience – your job is done right?  Nope – it’s just getting started.  The main goal here is to add value. However, the 2nd goal is to gain exposure for your business.  Before you partner with a company, make sure to have set guidelines for follow-up in place.  Will you get the names and emails of the people that downloaded your ebook to target them directly?  Will you get to add a sales pitch at the end of your presentation?  After you agree on the process, think of the follow-up as another opportunity to add value.  Don’t simply send off an email asking if they are ready to sign up for your services.  Instead, follow up with an eBook or checklist where they can learn even more about your topic and by they way introduce the ways you could help them implement.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Referrals.

Sara JantschSara Jantsch is the Vice President of Operations at Duct Tape Marketing.  She oversees day-to-day operations to support the growth of Duct Tape Marketing and the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  She focuses on strategic planning, goal setting and directing the operations of the company in support of its goals.  Sara is also a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and has a very strong passion for working with small business owners that started back at the dinner table as a child. Connect with Sara on twitter.

2 How to Build a Newsletter People Will Actually Read

Duct Tape Marketing Newsletter - Created with Placeit

Duct Tape Marketing Newsletter – Created with PlaceIt

Think about the last newsletter you received in your inbox.  Was it a newsletter you looked forward to receiving or just another piece to add to the daily content clutter?

If it was a piece of clutter, I am guessing the information included in the newsletter did not provide you with value.  Many people view newsletters as an opportunity to sell versus an opportunity to build trust.  I am not saying you can never sell to your list, however, that trust factor is the most important element that needs to be built up first.

What does this mean for you?  As marketers and small business owners, we have the chance to stand out from the daily content dump.  To actually provide value and build trust with our audiences.  To offer something they look forward to receiving each week or month.

Below are four easy steps to build a newsletter people will actually read.

Focus on the subject line

This is your chance at a first impression.  You know the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, well, I am pretty sure that doesn’t apply here.  The subject line is the first glance, the first opportunity to grab someone’s attention and to get them to click through to read more.  Here are some tips on best practices for writing subject lines:

  • Keep it interesting. Change the subject line for each newsletter you send
  • Get to the point. Keep the subject line to 50 characters or less
  • Add personalization.  Use either name or localization in subject line
  • Keep it honest.  Make the subject line relevant to the actual information in the newsletter
  • Encourage action.  Add some urgency to your subject line such as “24 hours only”

Share the best content

When creating a newsletter, one of the best (and easiest) practices is content curation.  Monitoring industry related blogs over the week and collecting the most relevant and value-packed posts to share with your audience is a great way to add value for a number of reasons.  Here are a few of them: establishing relationships with other experts by sharing their content, providing your audience with the best information available to save them time and research, and saving yourself endless hours each week having to write all the content on your own.  A win-win-win!

Keep it mobile

According to emailmonday, 45% of email opens occurred on mobile, 36% on desktop and 19% in a webmail client.  If on average, 45% of you audience is viewing your newsletter on their mobile device, don’t you think it is worth paying attention to?  I sure do.  Here are some best practices for mobile friendly newsletters:

  • Learn to love larger font sizes – 16px as the smallest option
  • Move away from text-heavy newsletters.  Sometimes less is more!
  • Use dividers or different color backgrounds to break up the newsletter into sections
  • Use large, clickable buttons for calls to action

Keep a schedule

If you take the steps above to add value to your newsletters, people will actually start to look forward to hearing from you.  Keeping a schedule to send the newsletter each week or month allows your audience to start to know when to expect it to come through.  Who doesn’t love becoming part of their client’s routine?

I would love to hear from you!  Do you have an example of a newsletter you look forward to receiving?

Sara JantschSara Jantsch is the Vice President of Operations at Duct Tape Marketing.  She oversees day-to-day operations to support the growth of Duct Tape Marketing and the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  She focuses on strategic planning, goal setting and directing the operations of the company in support of its goals.  Sara is also a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and has a very strong passion for working with small business owners that started back at the dinner table as a child. Connect with Sara on twitter.

6 How to Avoid Competing on Price Alone

Competition

photo credit: Small Town Snails via photopin (license)

Without understanding and defining your true core message, people are going to compare you to your competition on price alone.  This is a tricky situation to be in.  Sure people want the best deal possible, but they also want to be taken care of.  They want to buy from companies they can get behind.  They want to understand the purpose.

Here are two important elements to focus on while developing your core message:

  • A true core difference – do the research and make sure none of your competitors are preaching the same thing
  • An idea that resonates with your clients – take the time to understand what your clients love about you and develop your core message from there

Doesn’t sound too difficult right?  Below are 4 easy steps to break down the important elements and how to avoid competing on price alone.

Learn what your competitors are preaching

Time to kick off the research!  Visit your top 5 competitor’s sites and read through their “About Us” pages.  Copy and paste the overview from the about page and put them all in one document.  Do the same for your site.  Go through and read the descriptions and highlight some of the common themes you see throughout each.   I am guessing “great customer service” and “years of experience” might be mentioned in a few of them.  Take it one step further and delete any mention of the companies names in your document.  Pass it around to members of your team and see if anyone can correctly identify your description and each of your competitors.  This alone might be an eye opening experience.

Give your competition props

It’s now time to spy on your competition.  Set up a listening station to keep tabs on what you competitors are doing.  Everything from monitoring social media to signing up for their newsletter to tracking keywords.  Understanding what your competition is doing, what works for them, will provide you with a bit of direction.  I am not saying copy your competitors marketing efforts, simply suggesting you might be able to learn from what they are succeeding at.  They wouldn’t be focusing on gaining 1000s of Twitter followers if it wasn’t paying off on some level.

Listen to the people that matter the most

Your clients are the most important people to your business.  Take the time to listen to them, show them you care, and learn from them.  Sit down with 10-15 of your best clients (most profitable and refer you the most) and interview them.  Ask them about their experience with your company and how you can make it even better for them.  Take their feedback and continue to improve but also use it to develop your core message using words that actually resonate with the people you serve.

Here are a few of my favorite questions:

  1. Why did you choose us in the first place?
  2. Why do you stay with us?
  3. What do we do that others don’t?
  4. What could we/our products/services do for you that we don’t?

Communicate your difference

You have taken the time to do the research.  It’s now time to create your core message –  this message should be a short statement that becomes your marketing message workhorse.  Commit to it, stick to it, and resist the desire to change.  It may develop over time, however, the core statement should be something you are proud to preach over the years.

I would love to hear from you.  What is the core message you are ready to commit to – one that will help your clients understand your purpose?

Sara HeadshotSara Jantsch is the Director of Community at Duct Tape Marketing.  It is Sara’s job to see to all the little things that make our community members feel appreciated, informed, special and looked after.  She is also a Marketing Consultant and has a strong passion for working with small business owners.  Connect with Sara on twitter.

 

3 How to Repurpose Content in a Clearly Useful Way

You have read 100 times by now how important content is.  You have spent some time doing a bit of research on keywords and have a list of different content formats you know you need to create (blog, newsletter, podcast, email campaigns, advertising, the list goes on….) but the problem is:

This is a full-time job and you do not have the resources or time to sit at your computer and produce content all day, every day.

Sound familiar?  This is a dilemma that many small businesses go through.  They understand the need to be producing content, but are stuck on how to get it all done.

How can you get people to know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer you using content in the most efficient way possible?

Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.  This is one of my favorite words when it comes to content production.

To repurpose content is to give it a new life, gain exposure to new audiences and to save you time (which we all know is money).

Below are some examples on how to Repurpose Content:

Foundational Topic

  • Write a blog post on your core topic.  For example, 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success
  • Create an image for each of the 7 Steps and share one tip per day on social channels
  • Expand the blog post into 7 separate blog posts – one on each topic
  • Combine the posts and add an introduction.  Send off to a designer and have it turned into an eBook
  • Take the eBook and translate it to slides.  You know have your hour presentation.
  • Go even deeper and turn the hour presentation into a 1/2 workshop by adding action steps and worksheets to support your presentation.

You now have 8 blog posts, 7 social media posts, an eBook, an hour presentation and a 1/2 day workshop – from one core piece of content.

Podcast

  • Conduct a regular podcast with as many industry leaders as possible following monthly themes
  • Write a blog post on each interview
  • Send out the best tips on social media channels
  • Share the best interviews via a monthly newsletter
  • Combine the interviews and blog posts into a valuable online course or package them together to give out as a bonus for a different product purchase

You now have podcasts, blog posts, social media updates, newsletter content and an online course or package.

Client Questions

  • Have your support team monitor their inboxes for questions that come through
  • Compile the questions for an FAQ page
  • Pull out the best questions and turn them into individual blog posts
  • Expand the blog posts into an eBook – Best Questions from our Favorite Clients

You now have an FAQ page, blog posts, and an eBook – but most importantly somewhere for your support team to point customers towards when they need help answering those common questions.

Client Competition

  • Have your clients submit photos or videos using your product or implementing your services (in exchange for an incentive they would actually care about of course)
  • Retweet, repost, share the content they submit on all of your social channels
  • Request permission and use the content on your website – all the fun/exciting ways people are using what you offer
  • Develop sales material for your team to use that includes these testimonials/action shots

You now have momentum on social media, online referrals from your customers, content to share on your channels, content for your website, and sales materials.   Not to mention a fun way to get your clients involved in the promotional efforts.

The main thing to keep in mind here is every single time you create a piece of content, come up with a game plan on how you could get the most value possible.  To repurpose is to give you time back in your day – time to focus on the things you love such as running your business or hanging with your kids on the weekend.

Sara HeadshotSara Jantsch is the Director of Community at Duct Tape Marketing.  It is Sara’s job to see to all the little things that make our community members feel appreciated, informed, special and looked after.  She is also a Marketing Consultant and has a strong passion for working with small business owners.

 

 

3 How to Create the Ultimate New Customer Experience

5216909292_0c9b8121ef_mTell me about your “buy” process.

This simple question causes confusion for many of our small business clients.

In response they might say: “Once a new customer signs on, we send them a contract and maybe even an invoice and start working with them.”

While that does describe the basic process and in some ways is correct, it’s not really the complete answer.

What I am actually looking for is what is your new customer experience?  How do you thank a customer, orient them for the work, make them feel welcome, set them up for success, and turn them into raving fans is the question I am actually asking here.

One of the most powerful tools to accomplish this right off the bat is the new customer kit.

This tool can be used in just about every industry, however, the contents will vary based on a number of factors. Type of sale, price, upsell potential, client life span, and other pieces of information should be considered when creating a new customer kit.

What should be included in every Marketing Kit?

Welcome and/or thank you note
I am sure you have heard it by now: A handwritten note goes a long way these days.  If a handwritten note is not possible, include a printed letter with an actual signature from the CEO. Sure it might not be the most fun signing 100 letters but think of each signature as a new closed sale and the process gets a little more exciting.

A branded invoice
This is where people fall off the map from time to time.  Anything to do with financial transactions should be taken seriously, don’t forget the invoice and fail at one of your first impressions.  Some pieces to include besides basic elements of an invoice: branding (colors, fonts, logos), contact information, URL to website and links to social media profiles.

Contact information for members of the team
More than just a link to a “contact us” page here.  Include actual pictures, actual email addresses, actual phone numbers.  Customers love to have a connect with the people they are purchasing from vs feeling like the are giving their money to a team of robots.

Additional items to include in the Ultimate New Customer Kit:

Introduction to success
Overview on how to get the most out of your products or services.   This could include best practices, FAQs, and “how to” content.

What to expect next
Will you be contacting the client to schedule a demo? Will they receive login details soon? Taking out the wonder and make the process as simple as possible is the goal here.

Pledge to clients
What is your plan to make sure the client is taken care of? What is your Mission? What are your company values? An overview of why you do what you do – how you make the world a better place for your clients.

We appreciate you
A “surprise and delight.” Some kind of gift that the client is not expecting. This could be something related to your products or services or something completely unrelated. Every time I order from Photojojo, I look forward to receiving my little free dinosaur they include with the invoice. Do I need a toy dino? Of course not, but I appreciate the unexpected little bonus and it makes me smile.

Free stuff
Do you have any samples? Could you provide a “try” opportunity to upsell a client to a different product or service? The main focus here is providing something else free to the client with the goal to sell.

Introduction to your Referral Program
Do you have a referral program in place? A client may not be 100% ready to suggest a referral at this stage, however, informing them of the program will help them keep the opportunity in mind as you continue to make them the happiest customer possible.

As you can see, the new customer kit not only provides your customer with the best possible onboarding experience, it also gives you the chance to upsell and ask for referrals making it a very important element in the overall marketing plan.

Now it’s your turn! What do you include in your new customer kit?

Sara HeadshotSara Jantsch is the Director of Community at Duct Tape Marketing.  It is Sara’s job to see to all the little things that make our community members feel appreciated, informed, special and looked after.  She is also a Marketing Consultant and has a strong passion for working with small business owners.

4 How to Create the Perfect Customer Journey

photo credit: Reloj.cp via photopin (license)

photo credit: Reloj.cp via photopin (license)

The Marketing Hourglass is a powerful tool to map out your marketing efforts in a way that makes sense to everyone in your organization. Most marketers view the customer experience as a funnel, but we at Duct Tape Marketing know that the customer experience ideally goes beyond the point of sale.

Mapping it out in this way has helped many small businesses think about and improve upon their method of guiding customers. Having a game plan for your customers to know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer you is necessary to ensure your customers are taken care of across all levels of the customer journey.

Keeping tabs on how your brand is represented within the Hourglass mindset is equally important.   Follow the steps below to conduct your own Marketing Hourglass Brand Audit: 

Before you get started on the Marketing Hourglass:

Step 1: Define and sketch the makeup and personality of your ideal clients

Step 2: Discover your perfect value proposition

Step 3: Brainstorm and document your vision and goals

Step 4: Create your brand personality that represents your culture statement

Step 5: Outline branding guidelines – ie colors, fonts, images, etc.

Step 6: Create a brand positioning statement including all the elements above

Once you complete the brand positioning statement, run through the following questions of the Hourglass to ensure your brand is consistent across all stages.  These questions are meant to get you started thinking through each stage. You may want to add more questions in as you go through the process.

Know

–       Do your ads communicate the brand positioning statement? Do they target and connect with your ideal clients?

–       Do your social media accounts have consistent images and messages?  Are they promoted on your website?

–       Are your guest post contributions targeted towards your ideal clients audience base?

–       Are your keywords consistent and focused on monthly themes?

–       Are your local directories complete with your core difference and branding guidelines?

–       Do you have a systemized plan to handle all referrals that come in?

Like

–       Do your print assets include your core message and brand personality?

–       Is your website consistent to your brand positioning statement and your writing style guide?

–       Do your logo and company name represent your brand positioning?

–       Do your business cards include your core difference?

–       Are your email signatures and tag lines consistent across your entire team?

–       Is your vision documented on your website for your ideal clients to relate to?

–       Is your website mobile responsive?

Trust

–       Are your newsletters consistent with your website branding?  Does the newsletter go out on a regular basis and include valuable content for your audience?  Is there an opt-in incentive for your newsletter?

–       Are your email campaigns consistent with you branding guidelines?

–       Do you follow monthly themes on your blog to establish your company as an expert on focused topics?

–       Do you regularly promote and monitor review sites?

Try

–       What is your free or trial offering?  How do you encourage people to sign up for the free trial?

–       Is your follow up for the free trial consistent with your brand positioning?

–       Do your PowerPoint presentations match your website branding?

Buy

–       What is your starter offering?

–       What is your core offering?

–       What is your members-only offering?

–       Do your contracts and invoices match your brand positioning statement?

–       Do you have a detailed new customer kit once someone signs on as a customer?  If so, does this follow your brand positioning?

Repeat

–       What are your add-ons to increase value?

–       What is your “make it easy to switch” offering?

–       What is your surprise gift to encourage repeat customers?

–       Do you have a targeted process to upsell to your current clients?

Refer

–       What are our strategic partner pairings?

–       How do you encourage your current customers to refer?  Do you share your ideal client personas?

–       Does your incentive for referrals tie in your branding and/or culture in some way?

The point of the hourglass metaphor is to get you thinking not only about how to generate and close deals but how to create the best possible experience as part of the plan.

Sara HeadshotSara Jantsch is the Director of Community at Duct Tape Marketing.  She is also a Marketing Consultant and has a strong passion for working with small business owners.  Interested in developing your own Marketing Hourglass with the Duct Tape team?  Click here to learn why a Duct Tape Marketing plan my be perfect for your business.