Are You Letting Your Competitors Decide Your Marketing?

competitionNothing in the world gets me as fired up as small businesses doing something to market their business because they’ve seen their competitors doing it. It happens so often that it’s like some deeply buried, embarrassing secret of all entrepreneurs.

Why A Copy Cat?

The major reason why I see this happening is because small business owners don’t really HAVE a business strategy or a plan that goes along with it. They not only don’t have it, they don’t really even know HOW to get one. They guess at their own target client profile. They rarely have a focus on what 1 thing they’re an expert in. They are unsure about where to go out and find clients. They are simply coasting by while doing what I sarcastically call the-trial-and-error marketing.

When you don’t know how to market your business, the best resource is to do what someone else is doing. Isn’t it? Wrong!

Competition Who?

In my world, if you are very focused on an ideal target group of clients and have a crystal clear expertise to offer to them. You don’t truly have competition. In addition, if you’ve differentiated your brand by virtue of using your own personality to put a stamp on your marketing and your business, there is simply no other business exactly like you.

When you have done the work to get the right strategy and plan in place, you are in a class of your own. That’s when you can stop looking at others for your own plan of action and blaze your own trail so others who don’t know what they’re doing can follow.

Be An Original

The number one way I know to be successful in this sea of competitors is to be different. You don’t have to be a creative genius to decide how to do that. Just be yourself and reject the tried and true way. Do it your way instead. Put some thought, get some help, ask your customers HOW to be different and how to continually generate customer centric marketing. What you focus on grows. When all you think about is being An Original, there is nothing that can stop you.

What About Tried And True Wisdom?

I want to point out that until you figure out your own way to do things, by all means adopt the commonly established rules of marketing. For example, offer an irresistible download on your homepage to collect lead information, blog often, public speak. You can do all those things but do them in line with your own niche, your own plan and in fitting with your own brand. That STILL doesn’t mean you should let your competitors dictate your web design, your ad copy or your marketing plan.

Need more chicken soup for your biz? Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, watch me on YouTube or connect with me on LinkedIn –and let’s talk

The Internet Is Not Going To Save Your Business

funny-superheroes-3There are so many of us out there, so called marketing experts. I dare you to ask any one of us WHY we’re doing something and if they say ‘it’s expected in this industry’ or ‘it’s the latest and greatest technology’, then I say they can’t help you. However, if they have a great, customer driven reason for every single thing they are doing to help your business, then you should save that person’s card.

Here are some of the things that I see my clients expecting to save their business:

The Internet Is Not Your Saviour

I once had a client who built a whole marketing plan by doing great market research and refused to implement it because it was too hard to go to targeted networking events, and too hard to get speaking engagements at targeted venues and associations. She then upped and unbeknownst to me, hired an SEO specialist without even giving him the benefit of our target market, our research around keywords or any of the work we’d done to date. Half a year later, she’s still waiting for clients to come begging from her website to throw money at her to help them.

The internet isn’t going to save your business. Garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t know your strategy or do the research around keywords, you might as well not bother hiring an expert for anything online.

Social Media Isn’t The Next Best Thing To Sliced Bread

When I meet businesses spending a fortune on social media without doing the strategic work first to figure out who they should be connected to, what topics they need to blog about and how to actually drive sales from their social media streams, I get frustrated. After spending more than a few bucks on these ventures, so do these businesses. Social media is only one small piece of the puzzle. Unless you’ve got a solid direction for your business and a good idea of who exactly is your ideal golden target client, you will continue to waste time and money on this newfangled marketing tool.

Advertising Online or Off Won’t Flood You With Clients

Similar to clients who spend their brains out on SEO and social media and their website design, I see clients who dump all their funds into ads. The refrain I often hear is ‘I have no time to do face to face marketing so this does send a few people my way’. When you do the math, you are investing in a losing proposition. The reason most business owners don’t have or make the time for marketing is because they sorely need plans, systems and processes in place to get them to spend their hours more productively. Advertising rarely if ever is able to make up for those things that are missing in a business.

So please please please heed my advice and don’t skip actually investing in your strategy with someone who actually knows why you’re doing every piece of your plan and why you spend each dime to grow your business. “Just because” simply isn’t good enough anymore.

Need more chicken soup for your biz? Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, watch me on YouTube or connect with me on LinkedIn –and let’s talk

Love What People Criticize You Most For

self love dogAfter years of going to the I Can Do It! conference, I walked away from this year’s with this amazing insight. Ready for it?

Think about what people most often criticize you for. Most likely it’s what you beat yourself up the most for. Maybe it’s perfectionism, maybe it’s being too passive, maybe it’s giving too much, or talking too much. I learned at this weekend’s conference that that’s the exact thing that you’re supposed to embrace and love about yourself the most.

Here’s why…

Dying To Discover The Truth

I’ve been a fan of Anita Moorjani of the dying from cancer and coming back and writing a book fame. In her talk at the conference, she talked about the lessons that she learned while she was floating out there. The main thing that she learned was that we are exactly the way we’re supposed to be. No more, no less. It’s our reason for being here. Otherwise everyone would be the same. She said that people are miserable, living someone else’s expectations. And finally she said that we have to love that very trait that people criticize the most because it is the essence of who we are.

Why Do It

When Anita talked about how her lemon sized tumors along her lymphatic system spontaneously healed after her near death experience, she did it by simply loving who she was and recognizing the beauty in her own person. She said that nobody else’s opinion, expertise or thoughts about her or even her health mattered. Doctors doubted her healing so they kept dripping poisonous chemo into her even though the tumors had shrunk 70% within days. Didn’t matter what the doctors said or did to her, she knew she’d be ok. She just knew it.

Not loving who you are at your core robs you of the ability to heal, to cope and ultimately it inhibits your life. It even stops you from being able to fully love and accept others. Think about a world where you start to praise your spouse’s faults. How would your life change? How would theirs?

How To Do It

In the 2 years since I’ve had my coaching practice, I’ve often been accused of being too aggressive, too direct and too forward. I had come to terms with most of this but hearing Anita’s message really clinched it for me. I have been telling everyone I meet, all my clients and the audiences I speak to about this “new” thing. I catch myself slipping into self-criticism and I replace it with loving thoughts about why it’s so cool to be those very things that I used to hate about myself. I feel so relived. I can’t even describe the freedom. Even if I do change those so-called undesirable traits about myself, I’ll be changed because of loving my imperfections. As another amazing speaker Robert Holden put it, criticism doesn’t help. Love helps.

Need more chicken soup for your biz? Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, watch me on YouTube or connect with me on LinkedIn –and let’s talk

When Somebody Pooped in The Waterslide

waterslide

What happens when (hopefully) a baby poops in a giant indoor water slide? Well, we had the misfortune of finding out this past weekend when we took our 4-year-old to one. While waiting in an insanely long line up of other freezing parents and hyped up children, all of a sudden red lights started flashing and sirens went off. Sure enough, somebody had violated the ‘no-pooping in the water slide’ rule and everyone was escorted off the structure.

What ensued gave me great fodder for this blog and taught me a few things about what to do when someone took a proverbial dump in my business and what I could do to prepare better for it.

Anticipate The Poop

We all have different kinds of Poop in our businesses. Times when clients don’t agree with you, times when you have slower sales periods, times when you can’t get supply. Poopy times when things are tough.

For example, when my client Ann (not her real name) told me about her dispute with a client, I asked her if she had a process for handling this. Had she made notes of their conversations, had she kept records of her recommendations? Ann’s answer was a nervous ‘no’. If that client had turned around and tried to sue her or demand a refund claiming dissatisfaction, Ann would’ve been ill prepared for that eventuality. Think of the possible sources of weakness for your business and anticipate them as possible outcomes of your every day life. I guarantee when poo hits your fan, you’ll feel better.

Have a Plan To Get Through The Poop

When somebody pooped on the water slides, we had to wait a good 40 minutes for the water to be drained out and fresh (freezing) water to be pumped back in. This was not a good plan to get through the Poop. We were wet, shivering and my 4 year old was most definitely not impressed. What kind of plan do you have to get through your Poop? What’s your contingency when resources dwindle? Does your cash flow allow for a sales slow down? Do you have plans and processes in place with your clients if your delivery is interrupted? If you have no plan, then your clients and customers might be left shivering in their bathing suits (not really, just giving you a visual there to make a point)..

Turn the Poop into Poopular

If the water slide had given us a voucher for a free pop (haha) at their nearby restaurant or coupons for a discount for the next day or brought in extra towels or had instigated a new form of playtime using existing staff who was just standing around, I guarantee we would’ve congratulated the pooping toddler. Instead, we were resentful and left soon thereafter. We don’t have any recent plans to return there.

What can you do in your business to turn the situation around and become even more popular (you won’t believe that autocorrect just corrected what I really meant to write there!) with your clients? If you screw up, can you over deliver on your contract? If supplies run out, can you extend their payment terms? If you disappoint your clients in any way, can you give a value added bonus? You can’t control the pooping but you can control how you react to it!

Need more chicken soup for your biz? Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, watch me on YouTube or connect with me on LinkedIn –and let’s talk

Why I Hate Advertising

hateadsAs a former marketing manager for major consumer brands who, 2 years ago became a solopreneur  consultant, I can safely and honestly say I hate advertising. For small fish like me, it just doesn’t work and I’m happy to tell you why. If you don’t fit the service based small business description, you can stop reading here but if you’re just like me and my clients, then you can thank your lucky stars for this article. I am going to save you lots and lots of money right now.

Why Ads Don’t Work

Of course I’m not talking about all ads and I’m not talking about for every business model. If they didn’t ever work, they wouldn’t exist. Ads don’t work for small service based businesses who depend on selling an expertise which garners a deep level of trust.  For example, when biz owner sisters Jenny and Janice came to me after having spent $5K on a local community paper with 0 returns, they were literally in despair. They were at the end of their marketing budget for the WHOLE year and hadn’t a single client to show for having blown their entire wad on this one vehicle. If you sell your brain power in any way, think twice about spending money on a mass machine that isn’t laser niched, that doesn’t give you the opportunity to showcase your expertise or personality.

When Does It Make Sense

I’m a huge proponent of getting in front of your ideal clients as a mass audience to intercept them to get leads. I would rather you spend your money at targeted trade shows, speaking in front of your target leads and networking with them frequently instead of spending ad dollars. However, the only time advertising for small businesses makes sense to me is if there are 3 critical elements present:

1. Close to 100% of the consumers of the ad are your ideal client targets. If the readers are not your ideal target clients, you might as well just put the money you’re spending down the garbage disposal grinder.

2. You talk about your clients’ pain and use stats about why it’s such a huge problem for everyone and how you can help

3. You tell your ‘why’, a story that is deeply personal and meaningful about why you do what you do.

Adding a compelling visual of human emotion and a catchy title doesn’t hurt either.

So now that you’re on board with why you need to be positioning yourself as an expert by blogging, speaking and meeting other humans one handshake at a time, you no longer ever need to spend a single dime hoping a mere ad will do the heavy lifting for you.

Need more chicken soup for your biz? Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, watch me on YouTube or connect with me on LinkedIn –and let’s talk