"The early bird gets the worm,
But the second mouse gets the cheese!"
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
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Monday, April 25, 2011
I hope everyone managed to find some quiet time this weekend to spend with their family – whether Easter is an occasion you personally celebrate or not, the long weekends are always a great excuse to step away from our businesses and put in a little concentrated family time to rejuvenate. Personally I find that a break away from directly thinking about my business and my clients’ businesses often gives my brain some subconscious power to ponder the vast amount information I absorb each day. Tonight I find myself reflecting on the many challenges small business owners face with their marketing, which has of course been the focus behind these articles since I started them. What is the answer? What can fix the constant struggle to obtain your piece of market share? I wish there was a magic solution, the “here’s the one thing you need to do to fix it all”. But as I’ve said before, it really isn’t quite that simple. However, I do think that many business owners make it far more difficult than it needs to be. There are some proven strategies that when applied consistently and with thought and planning really will make a notable difference that, to many, will seem like magic.
- Know where your customers hang out when it comes to media – I really can’t stress this enough. It’s human nature that if an ad isn’t working for a business they automatically blame the media of choice. If you’re ad isn’t working, then you probably need to fix your ad… “media hopping” won’t make a bad ad better.
- Make sure your ads contain the key ingredients:
a. An outstanding headline that grabs attention and evokes an emotion.
b. Imagery that tells a story.
c. Less is more – cut back on the words and get to the point, generally speaking, people won’t read a cluttered ad.
d. IF your headline and imagery gets their attention then they will stay with your ad and continue reading.
e. Make an offer that’s worth your customer’s time.
f. With the right headline, imagery and offer in place, now you can consider the “body” of your ad copy – the information/detail. But remember, interest them first, without the interest, the body won’t even get read.
- Make sure you give your ads enough time to actually work. Every form of media has it’s “tricks” to optimize usage of that media and the representatives of each media will (or should) know what those tricks are – so ask for guidance and then figure out how to adjust your planning and budget to work within that guidance.
- Don’t forget that all marketing is a building block process. There is no “fast food” recipe for effective marketing and as any good chef will tell you, good food takes time to prepare – the same holds true for your marketing. Be consistent, be repetitive, be patient – it’s worth it in the long run.
- Track it – test, measure, repeat. Be cautious and don’t do your marketing blindly without tracking, measuring and following up. But don’t forget, simply asking your customers “where did you hear about us” is not effective tracking – put simply, the answers to that question cannot be trusted.
- Remember the purpose behind marketing. Your ad – regardless of the media you choose – is not a “sales person”. An ad is not intended to “close” a sale. An ad is a “lead generator”. The only purpose behind an ad is to generate traffic, to generate interest, to solicit a response. If one person contacts you because they saw your ad – your ad is working. It’s up to you to build on it from there, to tweak and improve it to encourage more people to contact you. Then it’s up to you (or your staff) to turn that contact into a sale and hopefully a repeat customer.
At the end of the day, creating effective ads is a profession within itself. There are people who are very good at creating effective ads that will work. Unfortunately, many small business owners make the assumption that the people who work for a particular media (radio, TV, print, online) are the people who should know how to do this. 99.9% of the time that is not the case. The staff of most media are trained to offer a vehicle for your ad, a place for your ad to be seen or heard publically. Even in-house “designers” or “creators” are often simply people who are capable of operating the programs required to achieve a desired concept envisioned by someone else. Coming up with the right combination of words, images and/or sounds that are built to really “sell” should be done by the professionals trained to do this. If you don’t possess the necessary skills to develop your own effective marketing then you’re going to have to be prepared to pay for the service - developing a marketing plan and strategy that will actually work for your business and then developing effective ads to implement with those plans takes a great deal of time and research. So think of it like this, your fridge breaks down so you call a repairman, you don’t expect him to fix your fridge for free, so don’t expect someone to fix your marketing for free.
But it’s a difficult expense for many small business owners to justify. They simply don’t put enough emphasis on their marketing to understand the importance of paying that bill. But at the end of the day it’s an investment, not an expense item, which should take a higher priority than payroll and rent. You need to market to generate leads, without leads you can’t have conversions, without conversions you won’t have sales, without sales you can’t pay the rent or payroll.
Don’t underestimate the power of your marketing – it’s the front line of your sales and it’s the most effective means of fixing your bottom-line.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
There really is no question that print media absolutely MUST take its place in your marketing plans. To overlook print media as one of your marketing mediums would be like trying to operate as a “we accept cash only” business in today’s world of plastic and credit. It’s simply not realistic if you want to grow your business.
If your market reach happens to be the south end of Calgary and the rural communities south of Calgary down to Claresholm, then you are fortunate to have access to one of the upcoming leaders in the New Print Multi-Media era – the Gateway Gazette Grande. If this does not happen to be your target area, then you’ll have some homework to do and you may have to become a little bit persuasive with the print media providers in your area.
Some of the things that you’ll want to consider when choosing your print media are:
- Nature of content (you want positive things, if the print media available to you doesn’t include much in the positive arena, see if they will accept submissions)
- Circulation versus price (the price per unit of space is not nearly as important as the price per thousand distributed on your size of choice)
- Online presence (do they offer free access to an e-Edition that displays in original print format which includes your ad…. Better yet, does their online e-Edition instantly link your ad to your website with a single click?)
Once you have chosen your print media, you need an ad to place. This is probably one of the biggest questions I get asked – What should my ad say? Or, How do I make my ad work? At the end of the day, most people don’t mind paying for advertising, but it sure is a hard bill to swallow if you’re not seeing any results from the ads. For the sake of space and time, I am simply going to outline some key points here, however, if this is an area that interests you please note that I have linked a fair number of articles under the Business Resource section of our website that will go into much more detail on this topic for you: http://resources.gatewaygazette.ca.
So without further adieu:
With printed advertisements, people will normally read the headline and look at the graphics first. If they are interested, they will read the subheads, captions, and any pricing information, and only then will they go back and read your sales copy.
Remember, people read for information. They expect you to educate them and to help solve a problem.
The number one most important element of your ad is your Headline. Period. Bad headline = no customers. It really is that simple. Your headline should do one of the following or a combination of the following:
- Appeal to the readers self-interest
- Announce something as a news headline
- Offer to give people information
Some other thoughts to consider:
- Don’t make people “guess” at the meaning in your headline
- Target your headlines at your best prospects – don’t try to appeal to everyone all at once
- Be specific – it makes your ad believable
- Suggest that your product or service makes life easier
- Clearly capture your entire message in your headline – a longer headline that clearly defines your message will sell better than a short message that doesn’t get the point across
- Your headline is the most important part of your ad!
Your headline is what will get your customers attention, draw them in and keep them reading. Only when you have achieved this can you think about where you want to lead them to next. And only then will you be able to move on to your objective of getting people to respond.
At the end of the day “how” you say something isn’t nearly as important as “what” you say. So take the time to figure out what the absolute best, most appealing offer to your customers is and use that. It will make all the difference in the world on the effectiveness of your advertising.
How do you know “what” to say? You want to tap into the emotions of your prospects through the benefits to them – not the features of your product or service. The stronger the emotional reaction, the stronger the response. It’s a science and the formula is to use facts to prove the benefits that will trigger an emotional reaction. But you don’t have much time, so start with the climax and then build on it – this is not a fictional piece of work that you need to set the stage for. The idea is to build trust with your facts, but create warmth with your ideas. Let them picture themselves enjoying a perfect life and don’t let go.
If this is completely out of your realm, you may want to seriously consider outsourcing the creation of your ads to the professionals that are equipped to handle this - but recognize the expertise, training and talent that is required to do this for you and accept that it is a service you will have to pay for if you truly want a good job done with effective ads being the result. Even getting a professional copywriter to review your ad copy is an investment worth making. Thirty minutes worth of editing could double the effectiveness of your ad. Nothing is more important than the words you use.
Copywriting: Successful Writing for Design, Advertising and Marketing
Copywriting: Successful Writing for Design, Advertising and Marketing
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Are you REALLY in the export business? Hoping to draw customers from all around the globe? If you’re like most small, local businesses – no you’re not. So that leads to the question “Is SEO (search engine optimization) really the thing that should be the larger focus of your marketing budget and/or time?”
Roughly 77.7% of Canadians are tapped in “online”, 81.7% of Albertans! Wow! Do you fully understand what exactly this means?
These days “multi-media” is primarily used as a term to reference the inclusion of video and audio with computer text – that’s because the people writing the definitions are all techies. In reality “multi” means many – “multi-media” means “Using more than one medium of expression or communication”….
Does a search engine really know better than you do what you are looking for? Google seems to think so….
Evolution has a long-term effect that no amount of razzle and dazzle can argue with….
This white paper breaks down the reach of your website, explores the manipulability of statistics that wow you and offers some advice on what you should be doing to maximize the effectiveness of your website and your marketing in general.
It also introduces the NEW print multi-media era….
Click Here to read this insightful white paper.
The early bird gets the worm and the second mouse gets the cheese…. There are times when you’ll want to be the bird and times when you’ll want to be the mouse. This is definitely a time for the birds!
Monday, April 4, 2011
As a business owner myself, I am more than aware of how precious time is, but there are certain things that you simply MUST make time for.
The obvious are yourself and your family. This is a point that is driven into everyone day in and day out. We see it on TV, in magazines, in newspapers, hear it on radios…. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be in any position to take care of ANYTHING else!” “Your family is the central core of your existence – whether you’re in the midst of good times or bad times – family will massively impact the productivity of your day one way or another.” “Take time to smell the roses!” For this article, I’m going to assume that you’ve gotten that particular message loud and clear because it is extremely important to understand, believe and take action on this advice. But once you at least understand the importance and concept of balance between personal and business duties, you need to turn your attention to the balance within each of these realms. For this article I am focusing on the really important stuff in your business realm.
You may (or may not) have heard reference to the concept of “working ON your business rather than IN your business”. Either way it is a concept that is well worth visiting and revisiting over and over again. If you’ve ever been to a business building or motivational seminar of any kind you know the feeling you get from all the great ideas and advice you are exposed to. You are pumped, excited and energized to take your business to the next level or even to just get a new business started. In the days that follow your brain is teaming with ideas. But as time goes on and the reality of daily business, schedules, responsibilities and priorities constantly interrupt your creative mind that energy and excitement starts to dissipate, stress and worry start to kick in again and before you know it you’ve got a drawer full of great ideas partially thought through, partially researched, partially planned and partially forgotten. Know that you are not the only one that goes through this cycle – it is one of the most common characteristics of business owners / entrepreneurs around the globe. The trick is that you need to find a way to constantly revitalize that energy and excitement. You need to find a way to get yourself on a schedule, to get organized, to make a plan and then stick to it!
Trust me, I KNOW how much easier that is to say and even think than it is to actually DO – but if you want to keep your business moving forward, to keep it growing and to really turn it into a BUSINESS rather than just a JOB, then this is critical. With entrepreneurial blood running through my veins from every possible ancestor, I have been reading about and researching business in general since I was in my teens. One particular book that has always stuck with me (and that I do in fact re-read regularly) is The E-Myth Revisited – if you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. This book does a phenomenal job of expressing the difference between working “ON” your business rather than “IN” your business. It also very clearly explains how many “business owners” aren’t in fact running a “business” – really what they have done is little more than create a “job” for themselves. If you’re not spending regular, consistent time working “ON” your business, then you are not running a “business”. Sorry, that may sound harsh, but it’s reality. Just because you are capable of doing the necessary work “IN” your business does not necessarily mean that being a “business owner” is the right choice for you. In fact, if you are not willing to learn what needs to be learned and take the necessary action to work “ON” your business, chances are you are going to cause much more grief in your life by trying to “own your own business” than if you were to just suck it up and deal with bosses you may not particularly like.
Many small businesses that are launched are done so because Mr. (or Mrs.) Technician have a talent or skill in a particular area, they become tired and frustrated of working “for someone else”, of making money “for someone else”, they may not agree with the way a particular boss runs their business, so one day they get a brilliant idea….. “I don’t need this company, I can do this on my own!” Perhaps in theory this is true…. when it comes to their “JOB” absolutely, they may be the best of the best in their industry. So off they go. But as time goes by some key realities start to kick in – they start having difficulties in different areas, areas that they were never trained in, areas where they are NOT the “best of the best”. This will be different for every individual, but it could be in bookkeeping / account; or advertising and marketing; or sales; or customer relations; or worse it could be in several of these areas all at once. This is also a large turning point for many small businesses and becomes a major contributing factor to the failure of many small businesses.
At this point, I’m going to assume that you are not Mr. (or Mrs.) Technician simply trying to create a “job” for yourself. I am going to assume that you really do WANT to own your own BUSINESS and that you want it to succeed. Defining “success” is often different for each individual, but overall, a pretty good indicator is the less and less you are NEEDED to work IN your business the more successful it likely is. That doesn’t mean that you AREN’T working IN your business – because frankly, you may simply enjoy doing so, but the difference is that you don’t NEED to. The only way to get to that stage is to put the hours in – when you have the least amount of time available to do so – to work ON your business. It’s frustrating, but it seems to be the pattern of life from every angle: you need money to make money; you need time to make time; you need experience to gain experience…. it’s all quite backwards if you ask me – but it’s also life, so rather than fight it, work with it. So take the time you need to take to work ON your business and I guarantee that in the long run it WILL pay off.