Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Month: October 2011 (page 1 of 3)

Word of Mouth: Why your business needs a story

Word of mouth is all about story telling.  If people are not talking about you in the marketplace, it’s because you have not given them a story, which is worth sharing.  Today, I am going to recommend you change that!

With hundreds of millions of people connected on social networking sites, it has never been easier for your clients or customers to share how great you are with their friends.

All YOU need to do is give them a story worth sharing and make it easy to share.

Winning stories

When someone has spent a week or 2 being wowed at a Disney resort, they have a story to share, which they tell to anyone who will listen.  When someone has bought a product from the Apple Store, the people serving them are tasked with the job of ensuring the buying experience is worth talking about.

The companies with the best stories get the most word of mouth publicity, because people love to share their experiences.

Losing stories

So, the stories that spread, are the ones worth repeating.  This is true of negative stories too.  If a service provider in your town has a habit of under delivering on their promises, the story spreads.  Disgruntled former clients or customers will often feel the need to share their disappointment with their friends.  This is especially the case, if their experience of a provider is so poor, that they believe it will stop others from using that provider and suffering the same experience.

Fake stories

A Chinese restaurant close to where I live was the victim of a fake story and now faces going out of business.  Someone decided to start a rumour, which spread on Facebook and resulted in the restaurant losing a lot of money.  The story was short and had a twist at the end, which caused it to spread into the national press in the UK.

The fact it was fake didn’t stop it spreading, because people tend not to fact check, before sharing stories.  Even one as unlikely as a lady going to the restaurant, who gets taken to hospital because of pain in her throat, which was caused by a microchip lodged in her throat that had been in the Chinese food she had eaten.  The twist in the story, is that the microchip gets scanned and turns out to belong to… a missing greyhound dog!  According to this report in the national press, the restaurant is now facing bankruptcy.

Your stories

So, what stories do you have, which your clients or customers can share?  What have you done for your clients, which is so jaw-dropping awesome that they feel compelled to tell everyone they know?

You see, it’s not enough to “just” provide a great service.  People expect great service.  Offering a great service may be enough to retain their custom, but it takes something extra, to get them talking about you.

Photo: NickPiggott

5 Great questions to massively improve your results

Here are 5 great questions to help your business thrive in any economy:

  1. How many leads am I generating each day from my website / blog?  Our sites should be a constant source of highly targeted sales leads.  If your site is not currently generating as many leads as you can handle, you need to fix that immediately.  I’m constantly amazed how many business owners pester people for leads at networking events, when their website or blog could be generating high quality leads for them every day.
  2. How easy would it be, for someone to write a manual, which explained how to do my job?  Whilst every human being is of equal value, those in business with the highest commercial value do work that matters, which can’t be neatly explained in a manual.
  3. What am I doing, to ensure that the next 12 months will be better than the last 12 months?  If business hasn’t been good over the past year, we need to change our direction.  It’s way too easy to mistake movement for progress and end up working hard, doing the wrong things.  If hard work alone were the secret to success, our grandparents would have been millionaires.
  4. If my business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?  Write your answer down in as much detail as possible.  Include everything, from; the type of projects you would be working on, your profit figure and the length of your working day, to the number of hours you would work each week and the location of your business.  The clearer a picture you can build of your ideal business, the easier it becomes to direct your current business into that image.
  5. If my business were to stop trading on Monday, how easy would it be for my clients or customers to replace me?  This is similar to question 2, but is focused on the unique value of your business.  The easier it is for people to replace us as providers, the more volatile our client list will be and the harder we will find it to attract new clients.

Photo: Wagsome Dog

Success, failure and feedback

We can learn from both success and failure.  In fact, I have probably learned as much from studying the failures of others and my own failings, as I have from studying what works.

Success, failure and feedback

Success and failure are simply feedback.  As soon as I figured that out, it changed everything for me.  I became a lot more prepared to fail.  I knew that if I studied the feedback from a failure, there would be a lesson and if I learned from that lesson, it would be a win for me.  This understanding is a foundational element of business success, because if you are afraid to fail, you will stick with what you are comfortable with; those things within your comfort zones. Then, once the best ideas from within your comfort zones have been used, there’s no more room for growth.

The reality is that there is massive value, in learning from failure:

  • If you try an email marketing exercise and it fails, you now have feedback, which you can use to make the next one more effective. #win.
  • If you give a presentation to a prospective client and they decline, ask them if they would be kind enough to tell you why.  This is a super effective way to rapidly improve your presentations or the attractiveness of your products. #win
  • If you start writing a business blog and find that (like most business blogs) it’s attracting readers and shares, but few if any business leads, study the data.  By looking at your analytics and determining what happens when people reach your site, you can make the changes necessary to transform it into a lead generating machine. #win
  • If you exhibit at a trade show and people walk past your booth, rather than stopping at it, observe the booths where they do stop and see what you can learn. #win
  • If you add a new service to your business and find clients are not signing up for it, ask them why.  Learn what it is that’s causing the disconnect between the value YOU see and the value (or lack of value) THEY see. #win

You get the picture: So-called failures, like those above, are required in order to get the feedback we need, to succeed.

Steve Jobs and joining the dots

In his Stanford commencement address, Steve Jobs spoke about what he called joining the dots.  It was a term he used, to describe the way he viewed the value of failure.  He said that when he looked back over his life at his many failures, like being fired from Apple or dropping out of college, he was able to join the dots and see how each failure, led to lessons, which allowed him to succeed.  He believed that so long as we are driven and prepared to learn, that we too would be able to look back and join the dots, to see how each failure led us to success.

It’s time to learn to embrace failure.

How to achieve your best results ever, starting now!

What are you waiting for right now?

Patience is indeed a virtue and a valuable business asset.  The thing is, we need to draw a distinction, between waiting for our plans to come together and waiting for things to “just get better.”  One of the great lessons in business is that things never, just get better.  Things only get better, when we take wiser actions.  Our results today reflect our past actions, so if we want a better future, we need to take the initiative and take better actions today.

Initiative is in short supply

The world is full of people who complain, but stay the same.  They want things to improve, but they are unwilling to take the initiative.  Instead, they wait and hope.  The reason so few people show initiative, is that it’s something we have to do for ourselves.  We take the initiative, we are not given the initiative.  In other words, if you are currently waiting for something amazing to happen, you will almost certainly do better if you make it happen instead.

For example:

  • You can wait until that person asks you for a date or you can ask them yourself, today.
  • You can wait until a disgruntled or ecstatic client sends you their opinion of your service or you can survey your entire customer base and find out what everyone is thinking, today.
  • You can wait until “some day” before you relocate to a house in the country or you can get things moving, today.
  • You can wait until the New Year to make your resolutions or you can make them, today.
  • You can blame the economy for your lack of sales inquiries or you can do something to increase them, today.
  • You can wait until your business is going broke before you get expert help you need or you can get that help, today.

The bottom line: We can either shape our future or we can hang around and hope things just get better.  Hope is not an effective business strategy.

Photo: Return the sun

How to find the hidden assets in your business

I have some great news for you!

It’s entirely possible that you already have all the assets you need, in order to achieve the commercial success you want (and more.)  The challenge, is that small business owners are often unable to see these game-changing assets, especially when they really need them!

The reason I am writing this post, is to make you aware that they do exist and to encourage you to look for them.

Gold dust in your inbox

Here’s a common example of what I mean:  Right now, there are emails in your inbox, which you opened because the subject line of the email compelled you to open it.  Could that subject line be adapted and applied to your own email marketing?  If you did that and it increased your open rate by 15%-20%, what impact might that have on your sales figures over the coming 12 months?  There are usually dozens of other hidden assets, which small business owners are sitting on, unaware of their value.

I was prompted to write this post, after speaking with a guy on Saturday, (I’ll call him Bob) who had an amazing story.

Bob has worked hard all his life in blue collar jobs, and has always been short of money.  He told me how, when he was around 20 years old, he was given a painting by a friend; after his friend moved home and couldn’t find anywhere suitable for it.  Around 40 years later, Bob gave the painting to a friend, as he had never liked it.  His friend decided to have the painting re-framed, and the framer immediately spotted that it was valuable.  Bob assumed the “ugly” painting was just a worthless print.  The reality was that it was a highly collectable, original painting, which sold for £150,000.

Bob explained that there were countless occasions during his life (he’s in his seventies now), where he was desperately short of money.  As he worried about paying the rent, he was walking past a painting in his hallway, so valuable that it would have paid off his bills and still given him a 6 figure sum to invest.

Finding your hidden assets

Take a long, detailed look at your business, for valuable, hidden assets.  The best tip I can give you, is that they seldom look like valuable assets.

Just as opportunities usually come disguised as hard work, valuable assets are often disguised as ugly paintings or deleted emails and they are usually hidden right under your nose!

Photo: Mykl Roventine

Marketing success: Where to begin?

There are so many things you can learn or invest in, which could improve your business results.  This blog alone has thousands of ideas you can try.  So, with all that choice out there, where is the best place for you to begin?

Where to begin?

I think I have an answer, which will be correct for 99% of the people reading this.  The place to begin is with the areas, which set you apart from your competitors.

The marketplace doesn’t really care if Bob is a little better, faster or cheaper than his competitors.  That stuff is marginal.  It’s nothing to get excited about.  It isn’t memorable.  It’s unlikely to attract much word of mouth publicity or motivate people to switch from their current provider, to Bob.

Here’s an idea

Think of the service providers, who have inspired you to switch from your old provider to them.  Think about the last business, who compelled you to praise them to your friends.  Now, ask yourself this question and write down as many answers as you can:

What was it that prompted you to switch to them (and or) shout about them from the rooftops?

Be especially on the lookout for answers from industries, which are different from your own.  In my experience, that’s where some of the best ideas come from.

What everyone ought to know about word of mouth

I’m a very happy customer of your outstanding business.

  • You consistently exceed my expectations.
  • You never fail to deliver on time.
  • You always seem genuinely interested in helping me.
  • I want to tell the world how great you are.

So, how easy do you make it for me to recommend you to all my friends and contacts?

Even when you offer exceptional service and your clients or customers love you, you need to make it super easy for them to spread the word.  Yes, it’s nice for them to “like” your Facebook page or send you a great testimonial, but you need a way for them to amplify their endorsement to their friends and not just your existing clients.  They know how great you are already!

Word of mouth and your business

I suggest incorporating a word-of-mouth facility into your service.  No, I’m not going to do the thinking for you here – If I did and everyone started doing it, it wouldn’t work so well.  It also wouldn’t be based on your business, your relationship with your clients or even your industry.  One example which works beautifully, is simply offering your advocates a bonus, which they can share with their friends.

The key thing is to match your word-of-mouth amplification, to the spirit of your business.  Then, watch them start shouting about you from the rooftops!

Photo: coolio-claire

Who are you?

As one of your prospective clients,  I may or may not agree with your point of view, however, when you let me know your opinion, 2 important things happen.

  1. You show me you have an opinion, a view of your own that makes you, you.
  2. You show me you have the courage to express your opinion.

In my experience, very, very few business owners express their opinions in their online marketing efforts.  As I wrote recently, many business owners choose to have no voice. They opt for the anonymity of amplifying the other person’s view.  Not only do they tell me nothing about them or what they think, they show me nothing that separates them, from every other provider in their profession.

Perhaps more importantly, they give me nothing to connect with.

Connecting with the right people

The people you work best with, are those who get what you are about.  These are the clients who pay you what you are worth and who are a real pleasure to work with.  If you want to attract them, they need to know what you are about, your unique approach to your craft.  When they see this, they have something tangible to connect with and a valid reason to hire you.

Here’s the thing:  You don’t need to be all things to all people.  Some people will NOT get you or your approach.  That’s fine.  You need outsiders in order to have insiders.  The insiders who resonate with your opinions and ideas will love you and be excited about working with you.

I tell you, get this right and it’s a game changer for you and your business.

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