Category Archives for "Marketing"

Hats on sale

Epidemiology and the Spread of Ideas

Last time, I wrote about the spread of ideas and especially how your customers talk about your offers.  This post explores the spread of ideas at a deeper level. How do insights from epidemiology help?

If you want to get ahead …

Way back, the most successful UK advertising campaign took the country by storm.    Everyone quoted a slogan produced by the Hat Council: “if you want to get ahead, get a hat”.  The slogan appeared in printed media from the 1930s, into the 1940s.  Everyone was familiar with it and if you quoted the start everyone else would chorus the final phrase.  Over the lifetime of this slogan, hat sales declined.

This story illustrates the power of a well-turned phrase and that such a phrase does not necessarily increase sales!  Today with the Internet ideas, phrases, videos, etc go viral and as such their originators cannot control them.

If you succeed in getting something passed onto millions, you cannot predict how they will use it.  Certainly, such a phrase could raise several boats, possibly not including your own.

It is more helpful if you get your message circulating among your market.  Satisfied customers  may be willing to spread a good idea, which effectively communicated might go beyond your customers so that you build a tribe of supporters.

Spreading the Word

  1. What is it about your idea that gets people to tell others about it?
  2. Who is likely to spread it and in what context?
  3. What changes could you make to your idea or context that will make people more likely to pass it on?

Insights from Epidemiology

How do parasites, viruses and bacteria spread from host to host?  This study is known as epidemiology and it offers some insights into the spread of ideas.  The parallels are not absolute because the organisms spread tend to remain the same.  The organism that changes as it spreads runs the risk of changing to such an extent it becomes less effective at spreading.

Ideas are more malleable and subject to interpretation.   Arguably, it is playing with ideas that makes us human.  Online, a video may pass unscathed but even so the further it travels the more likely it is to be interpreted in new ways.

In epidemiology, R0 measures the spread of disease.  R0=1 means everyone who catches the disease passes it on to one other person.  R0>1 means the disease will on average spread to more than one person.  R0<1 means the disease passes to fewer than 1 person; it will soon die out.

Most ideas including your offers, have R0=0.  This is the fundamental problem we all face in marketing.  Remember this is not about whether the idea is a good one.  It is about how successful you are at spreading it.

Ideas must be remarkable to spread, how can you make it happen?

Following this twenty-eighth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

Woman with finger to her lips

Don’t Talk About Your Business!

Is that right?   If you don’t talk about your business, how is it possible to market it?

Getting People to Talk About Your Business

No-one likes a sales person; someone who goes on about their business and tries to sell to people who are not interested.

The challenge is to use marketing to get people talking about your business.  When others speak on your behalf, it lends credibility to your business.  Mostly, this happens in slow motion, through testimonials.  But imagine people so excited about your offer, they freely discuss it with their friends.  This is hard to achieve but good marketing aims to do this, eg through networking or email lists.

Talking about your business may be out-of-bounds but you can talk about other things.  And other things can be your strategy to get others talking about your business.  Aim to get others talking and you are unlikely to come across as salesy.

Aim to get people excited about something.  Make sure your talking is considered and clear about what you want from people.  Maybe something visual will stick in peoples’ minds.

Perhaps the most effective way is to deliver something of such high quality, people naturally tell their friends about it.  These customers are satisfied.  It is harder to impress people who have not experienced your services.  But not impossible.

Talking About Your Business

  1. What do you do that gets people to naturally talk about your business?
  2. How do your customers benefit from talking about your business?
  3. How do people who are not customers understand your business? Why should they talk about it?

Dig Deeper into Why People Talk

Some businesses and organisations naturally open up into conversations.  Someone who has a new hairstyle is much more likely to talk about it than someone who has had a massage.  Here the topic of conversation is integral to the product or service.  When people see something they are likely to ask about it.

Paying it Forward

The real challenge is getting conversations started when there is nothing to see.  Perhaps some businesses find it hard to get people talking.  For example, someone counselled for alcoholism is unlikely to talk about it.  But then again Alcoholics Anonymous is good at getting clients to talk about it – paying it forward is part of their internal discipline.

Social Pressure

This last example, illustrates another reason people talk, through social pressure.  The AA does this through generosity, its culture encourages members to be generous and spread the word.  Other examples include network marketing and some religions encourage evangelism.  Personally, I find this approach difficult but I know people in network marketing who thrive on it.


A third reason people talk about you is because it furthers their goals, at least in the short-term.  You might offer an incentive.  Other reasons might include it is something they believe in and want to promote, it helps them meet a goal or contribute to something they support or it might help them make money.  There are many more such incentives. Listen to customers and prospects carefully to work out what might get them talking about your business.

Following this twenty-seventh post to encourage coaches to think about relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

Open match box. One match upright and ignited.

Tribes Are Not What You Think They Are

Tribes are about connection and meaning; nothing to do with demographics.

Connection and Meaning

One thing your tribe has in common is their attraction to your offer.  However, this does not mean your tribe belongs to you.  They are going somewhere and need a leader.  Perhaps you can fill that role for a period.

Worldview unites a tribe.  They don’t have to like each other but they must share a liking for something.  Sometimes they have no incentive to meet but find, if they meet they do like each other.

Your task is to discern what they like and provide it.  An opportunity to meet others who share an interest or a problem may be an incentive.

People Like Us …

  1. Why this group of people and why now? What is it brings them to a common interest?
  2. Who exactly are they and how will you bring them together? Online or in-person?  Do they want to be brought together?
  3. What do you need to bring them together? Think about things like activities, policies, procedures, written materials, values and vision.

… Like Things Like This

You offer leadership to build a group of people who know, like and trust you and so pay for your services.  Your products and services are crucial.  You must either create things and seek out those who buy them or get to know a tribe and give them what they want (or both).

So, it is important to think about front-end and back-end activities.  Front-end activities draw the right people into your tribe.  They are things like lead-magnets online or loss-leader activities in-person.

Back-end activities take place once people sign up.  Customers pay for some and you can include bonus activities.  These help build that sense of belonging to a group that confers status.

Other activities such as blogging connect those outside to those on the inside.  Indeed, several layers of membership allows people to relate to you in a way that best suits them.

Following this twenty-sixth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

traffic lights

Does Permission Marketing Work for You?

When I started as a local marketing coach, I signed up to several email lists from online marketing and business gurus.  This means I wade through numerous emails everyday and don’t read most.  A few have my attention but most do not get a second glance.  Permission marketing is where people appreciate your material.

Understanding Permission Marketing

Permission marketing demonstrates the difference between technical and adaptive marketing solutions.  Email marketing is a technical solution.  You learn how to create, maintain and use email lists and they are a great marketing tool.

Go further and learn how to write great emails with captivating subject lines.  If you can get to emails that recipients find a pleasure to read, you are almost there.

The challenge is to find people who appreciate your efforts and look forward to seeing your emails in their inbox.  This means you are interesting and engaging to them.  You have their attention and so their permission.

Generating Loyalty

  1. How do people feel when they sign up for your e-newsletter, blog or lead magnet?  How do you know?
  2. What do they believe about your ability to deliver on your promises?
  3. How are your messages to them different from junk mail?

How to Win Permission

This is a long game.  It takes time to win attention.  You must turn up day after day with a consistent and engaging message.  People must understand what you stand for and those who find it attractive will reach out to you.

The model most often promoted could be described as give give give take!  You give a lot away in the hope that somehow out of gratitude, your people will in time buy from you.  This can and does work but does not in and of itself build loyalty.

The reason is marketing is often about what the business owner wants.  They lack empathy with their market.  They are not tuned into the lives of their followers.

This is not an either or situation.  I suspect many of the most successful online gurus have a mixture of loyal readers and others who were initially interested.  It is complicated and success is likely to find a range of people with different needs and so different degrees of loyalty.

What makes the difference?

It is the models we use to think about business.  The most common models are confrontational.  Competition between businesses is one example but this easily spills over into relationships with customers. Attempts to motivate customers to buy more, are likely to generate a confrontational market.  But this is how we make sales, isn’t it?

Any business has to sell.  The issue here is the model we use as a context for sales.  We can use unexamined sales models based on confrontation.  Alternatively we can seek non-confrontational models.

For example, the journey or pilgrimage.  You as a business are on a journey and invite others to join in.  Everyone brings something to the journey and is responsible for their part in it.  Some aspects are held in common while others are unique to each person.  The aim is to meet both the goals held in common and those of each person.

Following this twenty-fifth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

Folded newspapers on doorstep

Why Public Relations and Publicity Don’t Sell

Public relations and publicity don’t sell because they have more to do with your ego than your business.

Brand and Direct Marketing Redux

During the 1980s, I wrote articles about unemployment projects for the Teesside Advertiser.  This was voluntary and I did it for a local church-based organisation committed to supporting the long-term unemployed.

Mostly I wrote about woodwork shops.  They were in vogue at the time with a smattering of car mechanics, food preparation and needlecrafts.  There were a few stand out projects and I remember  foremost, a course put on by a few church leaders called “Dark Holy Ground”.  A course for long-term unemployed and of all the projects I visited, with the most profound impact on their lives.  Why?  Because they based it on listening to stories.

Inspired, I wrote one of my best articles, the only one the Advertiser refused to publish!  Why?  My best guess is that it was religious.  But most of the woodwork shops were religious too.  Going deeper it was edgy.  It was not the sort of thing the Advertiser published.

When you enter the world of Public Relations and publicity, you in effect hand your marketing to someone else.  Someone who cares about their bottom line and has no time for or interest in your message.  Win an award and they’ll be on your doorstep.  That’s safe.  Tell them what the award was for and tread on dangerous ground.

It feels good to be featured in established media but it is brand marketing and many businesses that win such publicity find it does little if anything for sales.  You can spend a lot of time and money chasing publicity but it rarely generates the results you need as a business.

Publicity Tactics

  1. Can you list publications that would write about your business?
  2. Which ones would write about you in a way you can share with others?
  3. What is it about your business that would cause a reporter to take an interest?

Making Publicity Work for You

Some businesses are born publicised, some businesses achieve publicity and some businesses have publicity thrust upon them.  Assuming you have received publicity by some means (and it is good), what is the next step?

Remember this is brand marketing and so the costs in time and money have no relation to the benefit you receive.  An article in a publication will disappear from view in a matter of days.  So, the question is how you can give it a longer lifetime.

There are two dimensions to this.

First, you may be able to give an original or one-off article a greater lifetime.  If it is online, you can link to it on social media and your website.  If it is not online, you can still reference it: “As featured in …”.  You may be able to display the article somewhere, eg restaurants feature reviews in their windows.  Sometimes you see them in offices or some public space.

The other possibility is other media may take an interest once you break through.  Once you are a story, it is easier for other media to take up the story.  You may need to fan the flames.  If they are actively seeking you out, you may need to manage their interest.  Not every story is bound to be positive.

Remember when you hand over your story to others, they make it less edgy.  If you want people to talk about you, consider other forms of marketing.  Perhaps publicity ultimately results in trust and not so much in interest.

Following this twenty-fourth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

Finding a Remarkable Offer

Leaving aside the dubious theology, this song says it all.  You make your mark when you stand out from the crowd, when you are market a remarkable offer.

No-one Cares About Your Vision

Face it, no-one cares about your vision or your business.  So, what do they care about?  Well, first status.  We’re all seeking something to enhance our status; that inspires, sustains, rewards us.

Vision is important; it keeps you going and you seek those willing to work with you on your vision.  But make no mistake, the reason they work with you is to develop their own thing.  It is not your vision per se that inspires, it is your vision’s compatibility with theirs.

This is why being remarkable is so important.  You need to be heard by those seeking what you offer.  And the key to this is being remarkable, they will talk about you; when you make an impact, you are heard by those who need to hear you.

Are You on the Edge?

  1. How can you push what you offer right to edge? How can it become truly remarkable?
  2. Do you offer something that might not work? Knowing this, what would make people try it?
  3. What story do you have that does justice to your remarkable offer?

Don’t Go for Mister In-Between

If you have a market, the chances are you compete with others.  Not everyone looks for the edge that makes their offer worth talking about.  Those who seek a compelling story and dream an offer that gives them win an edge over others in the market.

What works is to offer an experience people want to talk about.  You need to work out how to get a conversation started that generates new insights.  If people reflect on your marketing and receive new insights from it, they become interested in learning more.

Furthermore, the ones who do find new insights from your marketing are likely to be the best clients for you.  The chances are you are on the same wavelength.

Following this twenty-third post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.

desk top with various media including typewriter and camera

Understanding Story Telling

Story-telling is a recurring theme in this blog (search for “story”). Twice a month I run a story-telling session for business owners.  However, I still find understanding story-telling in marketing challenging.  The challenge is to tell a story that connects you and your prospects.

From Me to You

Mostly, stories used in marketing are personal.  Why?  Well, they are easier to tell!  You know what happened, how you felt, what you did and the outcome.  The problem with many such stories is they do not reach out to your prospects.

Some people argue you need a story that shows you understand your prospects’ problem.  There is a lot of truth in this.  The challenge is to make your prospects feel the connection.  I may have experienced the problem first hand but can I show I know how my prospects feel?

The key is to tell their story too.  Show you have empathy and really understand what they are going through.

Your Business Story

  1. How do you think your prospects perceive your story?
  2. What difference does your story make to theirs?  Do you know and tell their story?
  3. What changes when your stories interact?

Stories that Transform

If your story makes an impact and brings about the transformation you seek, there are some  things to remember.

Consider who is the star of your story.  If it is a personal story, can you make your prospects centre stage?  There is tension here.  Your story is unique, while a story about prospects in general will be less personal.  Even if you find a story about a particular prospect, why should that story be any more effective than yours?

Help your prospects understand and avoid their problem.  Start focused on them and then show you understand the problem too because of your experience.  Later you can offer more examples, to show how the problem manifests.

Then show how your story leads to solutions to their problem.  Show them how to achieve what they want, make the connections they want and ultimately realise their dreams.

A Journey

Take the listener on a journey.  Show how you thought and experienced the world in a particular way.  Then show how something happened, a turning point led to seeing the world in a different way, to new experiences, new skills and success in some field.

There are other story structures but the main point is to tell a story listeners apply to their situation.  It is about how you faced the problem they faced, what you tried and results that resonate with what they want.

Following this twenty-second post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.  Sometimes you receive an email with helpful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

Statue of woman diver and dolphin dancing together

How to Understand Reciprocity

Reciprocity underlies any transaction in the marketplace.  It helps us understand the basics of what it is that makes an exchange fair.

The Exchange

Let’s start by thinking about an exchange.  Let’s say I have £100.  I will generally be willing to exchange the £100 for something that is worth more than £100 to me.  If you have the thing I want, we will have a deal so long as the thing is worth less to you than £100.

If that happens, both parties benefit from the exchange.  Buyer’s remorse is where the customer has regrets because they are not convinced of the value of their purchase.  The vendor can do a lot to counter remorse but that’s another story.

Note though, fair exchange is something we can do a lot to realise.   But let’s focus on what upsets the balance, eg someone who gives so much the recipient gives up trying to reciprocate.  As a vendor you should aim to deliver what is possible for you given the price you’re charging.

Alternatively, you may find customers who spoil the balance by making unreasonable demands.

So, it is important to describe your offer in writing so you can agree what is in it and what is not available or available at a higher price.

How do You Serve Others?

  1. Have you designed packages for different prices? How do you present them to prospects?
  2. What do you do to reassure your clients so they do not suffer buyer’s remorse?
  3. In what ways do your packages enhance the status of those who buy them?

Reciprocity and Status Roles

The issue at stake is: who is in charge?  There are three options: you are as the vendor, your customer is or else the deal is mutual.  A lot of this is about how it feels but there are things you can do arrive at the deal you want.

Usually, we want a mutual relationship.  To get there you need to remember personal status and ask whether this deal will enhance or maintain it.  You can ask similar questions of your prospect.  Both of you benefit mutually if you see your status enhanced.  Obviously this is a delicate matter for the British (and maybe everyone).  To mention status is likely to stop a deal.  But it is possible to convey status advantages without being blatant.

The big advantage in a mutual relationship, where client and coach enhance each other’s status, is trust grows between them and possibly leads to several exchanges.

Following this twenty-first post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.  Most weeks you receive an email with helpful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

outline business people with empty speech bubbles

Using Testimonials: Getting Others to Communicate Your Value

There are several ways to approach getting support from other people.   Far and away the most common is using testimonials.

Using Testimonials and Other Ways to Win Support

One reason testimonials are common is they are easiest to find.  They are supportive words from people the reader has not heard of.   They are an opportunity for people who have used your service and benefited from it to share their experience with your next generation of clients.

Other forms of support are celebrity focused.  You ask someone with an established reputation to risk it to support you.  Normally, you would seek this support for a substantial piece of work, eg a book.

Blurbs are the celebrity quotes you see on the back or inside front cover from.  They are like testimonials because celebrities give them voluntarily on request.  Also, like testimonials, few people actually read them.  The names are what counts.

You pay for endorsements and so their impact can be reduced, although they may have a greater impact subconsciously.  A further approach is a license, where you use your contact’s brand to aid your sales, possibly with a return based on revenue for the external brand.

These three are specialist and for many businesses rarely encountered.  It is worth bearing them in mind should you be in a position to benefit from them.  They need to be approached in a different way to testimonials.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. Is your offer worth a testimonial? What do you need to change to make it worthy?
  2. What would your ideal testimonials say? This may vary if you have several offers.
  3. How do you use testimonials to help tell your story?

Questions to Ask Others

Broadly two types of testimonial work.  Remember your client may have difficulty knowing what to say or write and so may appreciate guidelines.

The first type is to describe a change.  Before I did this I was … and now I am able to …

The second type provides detail of what the client has learned from your business.

You are the curator of your testimonials.  Make sure they are helpful and work out how to make them available in a way that helps your business.

Following this twentieth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.  Most weeks you receive an email with helpful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

Bowls of olives with price tags

How to Use Pricing to Market Your Business

Marketing Through Pricing

Prices are integral to marketing because they represent the value you attach to your offers.  If you under-price your offers, what does that say to your market?  Even you don’t rate your own offer.

Having said that, there are many reasons people do not buy.  They may genuinely not have the money or they don’t trust you or your offer.

For these reasons, it is worth having a range of offers so that people can try you at a lower price first.  If you offer two high-end options and they decline them both, you can try one of your low-end offers.

Or you can market your low-end offers and then offer an upgrade.

What About Your Prices?

  1. What do your prices say about how much you rate your own offers?
  2. Do you have a range of high-end and low-end offers?
  3. How do you manage your selling, so that you get a sale as often as possible?

Pricing Your Market

Never cut prices.  Take every opportunity to increase prices.  If you sell at higher prices, you need fewer customers and so you have more time to deliver better service.

You get feedback from marketing that helps you decide when it is a good time to increase prices.  Increasing demand is one good indicator.  Increase prices and some prospects fall away, leaving you with those who can afford it and believe your prices are worth it.

But don’t forget prices show the degree to which you value your own offer.  Is it possible, your low prices are deterring new customers?  It’s counter-intuitive but a possibility.

Following this nineteenth post to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing, take this opportunity to sign up below.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you are charging what your business is worth.  Most weeks you receive an email with helpful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

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