Category Archives for "Marketing"

Walking the tightrope: always be testing

Some Reasons to Always Be Testing

The key to successful marketing is imperfect action.  I subscribe to slow marketing but not so slow you never make any changes.  The key is to slow down thinking but act quickly and decisively.  So, you must always be testing; trying new things.

What Does Testing Mean?

Online marketing is full of opportunities to measure and test.  There are many testing tools available, eg Google Analytics.  Used properly these are helpful tools but not everything benefits from this approach.

The term “always be testing” applies to a more general approach.  Whenever you try something new, you should understand it is something you are testing.  Whatever action you take to get your offers into the world is a test.

This is a positive mindset.  The results of a test has value.  The fact something did not work, you lost money or looked a bit foolish, is all experience you use to improve your next offer.

Marketing methods are iterative, trial and error.  The alternative is to wait until you have a perfect offer and marketing campaign.  You will wait for a long time.   Trial and error is always faster.

Practical Risk Taking

  1. Think about your life experience. When have you moved quickly with success?  Was it the success you expected or something new?
  2. Think of all the reasons it is a good idea not to take the initiative. Look at them and ask: are these good enough reasons to not take action?
  3. Is there anything in your life more important than your fear of taking action?

You and Your Fear

Perhaps the biggest fear coaches have is they are not good enough.  It is a big responsibility, helping someone overcome their fear.  Your fear could reinforce theirs and result in a terrible catastrophe.

Yeah.  So, you think you may be worse than you think you are?  Isn’t it possible you are better than you think you are?  Consider the possibility your problem is not fear so much as selfishness.

You are brilliant and want to keep your brilliance to yourself!  There may be people out there who suffer because you do not offer your services to them.  How can I possibly know that?  There is only one way to find out.

Following this seventh 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.

Positioning yourself on a axis, what we desire and avoid.

Something to Remember when Positioning Yourself

Positioning yourself in the wrong way is easy.  Your focus needs to be on your market and their needs.  Forget your market and you position yourself according to what you enjoy doing or to distinguish yourself from your competitors.

Your Identity

The big challenge is not so much finding a position as maintaining a consistent identity once you take up the position.  Your market will not necessarily hear or understand you the first time.  Or the second!

This does not mean you have to say exactly the same thing every time but you need to deliver a coherent message over time.  Your offers evolve as your understanding of your market and its desires increases.  But your overall message to your market must remain consistent over time.

So, today is as good as any other to start delivering a consistent message to your market.

Questions about Your Position

  1. How successful have you been in delivering a message that is both distinctive and consistent?
  2. How does your message show empathy for your market?
  3. Where you have a clear position, what are the opportunities for collaboration with competitors?

How to Focus on Your Market

Nothing beats knowing your market.  Make a list of their needs or desires.  Remember you are listing the needs of a particular market, not the needs of people in general.  Choose two of those needs and draw them as axes on a graph.

See if you can place yourself on these axes.  Where do your competitors fall on the graph?  Do you have a degree of separation?  Note your competitors aren’t really competing, they serve a different group of people.  If there is little or no separation, change one or both axes.

Find a couple of needs that give you separation from the rest of the marketplace.  Position yourself so that you stand out from the rest for a particular market.  Aim to get your message across to those people so they know you are addressing them and like what they hear.

 

Following this 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.  Most weeks you receive an email with helpful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

Positioning? The happy ball swings away from the sad ones!

Use Positioning to Target Your Offer

A couple of weeks ago, I invited you to answer questions about your promise.  Last week we looked at empathy with people with different and similar worldviews.  This post is about positioning and relates to your niche.  Even if you are one of many making a similar promise, you can position yourself to distinguish your offer from all the others.

From the Old Things to the New

The aim of positioning is not to sell something new but to encourage your prospects to think about their problem in a new way.  This is not selling a new cure-all solution, so much as suggesting your prospects benefit from thinking about their problem in a different way.

For example, I provide coaching in local marketing.  Many marketers offer technical support, so their clients can learn and apply a new approach to their marketing.  I have opened a new position by arguing new technical methods are not always the answer.

So, does it help to think about marketing as self-expression, getting my unique message across, as opposed to competing directly with everyone else who shares the same offer, message and technique?

Seeing Things Differently

  1. What is distinctive about your offer? What makes you stand out in the marketplace?
  2. Complete this sentence about you and your competition: “The one thing that separates me from my competitors is …”
  3. Think about your best clients. Why do they stick with you?  What could you change so that they stick with you?

Doing Things Differently

Consider making one change to your business that will position you in the marketplace.  Remember, if you open up a new position, there will always be people who prefer the old.  This is not a problem; so long as you have enough people who prefer your position, you have a business.

Following this 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.  Most weeks you receive an email with helpful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

two gifts wrapped

Your Business Thrives on Empathy

This post sequence encourages you to explore relational marketing in-depth.  It builds into a questionnaire to help coaches, consultants and freelancers prepare their relational marketing strategy.  This focus here is empathy in marketing.

Relational Marketing.

In the last three posts, I asked questions of your business about vision, market and promise.  If your vision includes genuine help for others (and why are you coaching if it doesn’t?) then you must understand your market so you make a promise that really helps.

Empathy is where you stand in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective.  It is not easy.  For example, you may need wealthy clients who can pay for your high-end services.  How do they see the world and understand money?  But your next prospect may not be so affluent and may need the same service.  How can you help both?  Or do you aim to help only one?

In some ways the prospects furthest from you may be easiest to understand.  Their difference, forces you to build a world different from the one you know.  Someone who’s worldview is close to yours can be more difficult because you may overlook their differences.

Empathy in Your Business

  1. Think of a real person, maybe a client or prospect, whose worldview is like yours. Where do your worldviews differ?
  2. How many reasons can you think of why understanding affluent people helps your business?
  3. Consider people who would benefit from your promise, occupy your niche but do not share your worldview? Would you find it difficult to work with them?  Why?  Which worldviews do you find particularly difficult?

Bridging the Gap

Are worldviews important?  There will always be major differences beneath the surface.  None of us are immune to this.  We may not and should not change our views for a contract but we can keep track of our own behaviour.

When you listen to clients and prospects, keep an eye on your response to what they are saying.  Is it awakening strong feelings and if so, how do you deal with them?  You can’t avoid these issues coming up but you can learn a more empathic stance.

This is the fourth post in this sequence. Sign up below to make sure you don’t miss any.  You get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how to make sure you charge what your business is worth.  Most weeks you receive an email with helpful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

Two hands, little fingers interlocked.

The Power of Your Implicit Promise

This post sequence aims to encourage  in-depth relational marketing for coaches, consultants and freelancers.  It builds into a questionnaire to help them prepare their relational marketing strategy.  This third post builds on the first, about your vision or business purpose and second, about your market.  Elements of your promise are explicit but an implicit promise can be powerful.

Your Explicit and Implicit Promises

Your promise is at the very heart of marketing.  Whatever you say or do to promote your business or cause, it comes back to your promise.

Your explicit promise is sometimes called the benefit.  It is essential you understand the distinction between features and benefits and you must make sure your market understands your benefits.

Your implicit promise is not something you allude to directly.  It relates to your Vision and the psychographics of your market.  They see something in your vision and so trust you will deliver it.

Your implicit promise is: you will see it through and meet the unvoiced expectations of your customer.  This is why it is important coaches choose their customers carefully and listen to them.  Together you are weavers of dreams.

Your Promise

  1. Consider one of your products or services. What is its explicit promise?
  2. What is its implicit promise? Consider both emotional and intellectual aspects.
  3. Does your promise need to be bigger, more specific, less specific?

Making Your Promise

Taken together, your vision, market and promise make up your identity as a business-owner.  Review your answers to the questions in this and the last two posts.  Decide on changes when you consider them together.

One valuable insight from the implicit promise is, it allows you space to over-deliver.  You may find you need to support your customer over periods of upset when their business does not go in the anticipated direction.  Consider: how far are you prepared to go?  Remember as you take on more customers, you have less time to devote to each of them.

Are there bonuses you can deliver, once they have signed up, that will begin to deliver your implicit promise with minimal effort from you?

This is the third in a post sequence to encourage coaches to reflect on relational marketing.  Sign up below to 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 will receive an email with useful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

avatar cartoon character

Use of Psychographics to Understand Your Prospects

This sequence encourages you to explore relational marketing in-depth.  The first post was about your vision or business purpose.  These posts build into a questionnaire to help coaches, consultants and freelancers prepare their relational marketing strategy.  If you want to understand your prospects, you need to understand your use of psychographics.

What are Psychographics?

We often think markets in terms of demographics, things like sex, age, race, location – all things most people are unable to do much about.  Perhaps these are more accurately described as your niche.  So, you may offer solutions to the problem of stress at work.  Your market is naturally those who experience stress but you can choose your niche based on sex or location, etc.

Psychographics are a better way to describe your market, it’s desires, frustrations and personalities.  There is a closer tie into your market through psychographics than demographics.  (When you follow the second link, please note I did not use the word psychographics, using demographics to cover both demographics and psychographics.  This is fairly common usage.)

Your Market

  1. Describe your market in terms of their psychographics. Consider their desires, frustrations, hopes, personalities, dreams, interests, career, culture, education.
  2. Do you use demographics, eg age, sex, location, etc to further niche your market? If so, why do this?  Remember this is not necessarily wrong but it should be intentional.
  3. Prepare an avatar for your market. Focus on what they believe and why they believe it.

Finding Your Market

Be aware, often the best market is the one that finds you!  You can anticipate the kind of people likely to be interested in your offer.  You might decide to target business owners.  As you find customers, work out what they have in common.  Why have they chosen you?

Markets are in constant flux and people who choose you today may lose interest tomorrow.  However, if you find people who know like and trust you, they are likely to listen to what you say.  Be alert to changes among your followers and respond to them.

Never forget markets are communities.  Consider how you can encourage conversations between your followers.

This is the second in a post sequence to help businesses reflect on their relational marketing.  Sign up below to get a weekly round-up of posts and a pdf about how you can make sure you charge what your business is worth.  Most weeks you will receive an email with useful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

Cartoon girl up ladder, reaching for stars

What Will Your Coaching Business Change?

In this new sequence, I explore relational marketing in-depth.  The challenge is to build a new questionnaire to help coaches, consultants and freelancers work with their relational marketing strategy.  Today’s focus is: what will your coaching business change?

Each post is in three short sections.  A thought for the day, a few questions and a call to action.  Feel free to share thoughts and actions in the comments.

If You Act, You Change Things

Marketing leads to change.  If nothing changes as a result of marketing then you are not marketing and you do not have a business.

Change can be accidental and unintended.  Even with great planning, prepare for unintended consequences from your actions.  These can be positive or negative.

Good marketers look beyond their customers to the change they want to see in the wider world.  Their invitation to their customers is to join them in making that change.

Your Vision

  1. What change are you seeking? This is your vision or business purpose.
  2. What are the existing and likely outcomes of your current marketing campaign?
  3. What could you change to align your vision with your marketing?

Finding Your Vision

Your vision does not necessarily come solely from your head.  It is better if you can build your vision from observations of the changes your business is making already.  This may be hard if you have a new business but take stock of the changes you see and build on them.

The word Vision implies things you see.  Even a ladder to the stars has to be secured to the ground.

This is the first post in a sequence to help businesses plan their relational marketing.  Sign up below to get a weekly round-up of my posts and a pdf about how you can make sure you are charging what your business is worth.  Most weeks you will receive an email with useful news or pointers to how you can tackle these questions.

Old wooden ladder

How to Find Opportunities for Joint Ventures

Joint Ventures are among the most challenging business approaches.  There are other possibilities for marketing together.  Opportunities for Joint Ventures are not always high-end.

I shall use the Awareness Ladder (follow the link to remind yourself of the steps) to demonstrate collaboration throughout the marketing cycle.  Keep your eyes and ears open for other possibilities!

Assume collaboration between businesses with shared interests.  They could be competitors but competition is likely to obscure opportunities for collaboration.

Remember, the further down the Awareness Ladder, the more people there will be and the harder it is to move them up the ladder.  But if they move up the ladder there are more prospects for all the businesses involved.

Research into Potential Markets

Rung 0 is where prospects are unaware of their problem.  The aim is to get them to Rung 1, where they are aware.

Businesses need to campaign to increase awareness of the problem.  You need to know who your markets are, where they are found and the arguments or incentives they need to become aware of their problem.

Even with much competition, there is likely to be scope for collaboration.  Moving people to Rung 1 is most difficult and so pooled resources by businesses addressing the same problem, makes a lot of sense.

There will be more people aware of the problem and so more opportunities for all the partners.  Remember partners have a variety of offers and so the next challenge is to help prospects work out which offer suits them best.

Finding Pros and Cons

The move from Rung 1, awareness of the problem, to Rung 2, awareness of solutions, needs continued collaboration.  The aim is to promote the options available to people aware of the problem.

If people are unaware of solutions they will not take action.  Many people live with a problem for years because they believe there is no solution and so do not seek it.

Help them make a good first choice.  An outline of the pros and cons of each solution helps.  The temptation is to debunk your competitors; you could list all the solutions on the market and why they don’t work, apart from your own.  The problem is this is not true.

A better approach is to describe the best customer for each approach.  “Use this approach if you are … , don’t use it if you are …”.

This acts as a guide to the offers on the market and helps prospects make a good first choice.  When you meet them, you can ask why they chose your offer and so assess whether you are in fact best placed to help them.

Referrals

Now we move from Rung 2, a general awareness of solutions to Rung 3, awareness of one particular solution.  For the coach or consultant, this stage is where you arrange an enrolment meeting, an opportunity to work out whether there is a good fit between your offer and the prospect’s problem and context.

It may become clear there is no match on closer inspection; to make a deal would be a big mistake for one or both parties.

The ability to make a good referral is crucial.  If you have collaborated with competitors, making a good referral can strengthen relationships.  If it goes well, you will have a grateful competitor and their new client will be grateful too.  Ask how you can use this to your advantage.

Endorsements

Moving from awareness of your offer, Rung 3 to Rung 4, full understanding of and trust in your offer, should be easier so long as you have evidence in place.  You can show your prospect evidence, depending on what interests them, eg past projects, qualifications, testimonials, etc.  One powerful source of evidence is endorsements.

Usually, we think of celebrity endorsements and these can help some businesses.  But why not endorsements from competitors?  These could increase trust between partners as well as between you and your prospects.

If an endorsement can be backed with a promise that competing businesses will collaborate to support their partner businesses, when they are working with a client, this can strengthen the case you make to your prospect.

This collaboration falls short of a full Joint Venture but includes anything from offering you advice through to subcontracting elements of the deal to other businesses.

Joint Ventures

The final step from full understanding at Rung 4 to making a purchase, Rung 5, could be a Joint Venture.

You might share a high-end offer with another business.  If either business encounters someone who might benefit, they offer the JV offer.  You need to agree whether both need to be present.  The prospect may want to meet the other party before they commit.

There’s no reason this has to be a high-end offer.  You could experiment with low-end offers but income from them, divided between at least 2 parties, may mean there is a point where it is not worthwhile.

Conclusion

There is potential for collaboration between competitors at all stages of your marketing.

The attitude that competitors are the enemy is prevalent and may be hard to dislodge but the truth is they have shared interests and with collaboration there is potential for increased business for all.  Businesses with similar interests can collaborate for mutual benefit.

There are possibilities for collaboration between businesses, where they are not competing, so this post explores only one approach to collaboration.

Collaboration between competitors is likely to be fruitful if they agree a strategy.  Use the Awareness Ladder as a guide and agree at which rungs you wish to collaborate and how far you want to go.  As trust builds, you can do more together.  Whatever you agree, get it in writing so you can settle disputes and then focus on building trust.

In my email to subscribers this week, I shall write about building support with prospects.  To make sure you see everything, complete the form below to go on my mailing list.  You’ll get notice of future blog posts and receive my Thursday emails.

In these posts and emails I am forging a new approach to marketing.  Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

Industrial skyline with smoke pollution

Why You Must Aim to Transform Your Business Environment

Your purpose is to transform your business environment and you need to be clear transformation always takes place in wider society when we work with clients and collaborate with other businesses.

The Inevitability of Transformation

Business causes transformation whatever the business owner’s intention.  Some don’t think about transformation or care what happens.  Businesses have unintended consequences, even though the business owner plans for transformation.  And sometimes businesses get it right!

Some people see profit as the purpose of business.  They may not appreciate the consequences of their actions on the world around them.  Not only will their business have direct consequences for their immediate environment but it contributes to the general attitude transformation is not the purpose of business.

We cannot afford that attitude today.  This is not only about asking businesses to take their responsibilities seriously but to go further and expect business owners to take a lead transforming things for the better.

An Invisible Hand?

It is interesting how Adam Smith’s concept of an invisible hand justifies neoliberalism today.  Smith uses the term “invisible hand” very few times and in his Wealth of Nations, he uses it to critique the approach we call neo-liberalism.  He argues self-interested business people will not trade abroad because their loyalty to the country draws them to business practices that benefit all, as if by an invisible hand.

The term is memorable and so over the years, everyone uses it to justify their economic beliefs.  The original idea was the rich, acting selfishly, benefit all because to produce their wealth and spend it, eg on servants, they redistribute their money to the benefit of all; a dubious idea, sometimes called “trickle down”.  At least, Smith intended money to stay in circulation.

Neo-liberalism uses the idea of a free market to justify practices that constrain the market.  Arguably, a market is free where money flows freely.  If the wealthy hoard money, then they are not contributing to a free market.  This is why regulation of free markets is crucial.

This problem stems from an old debate about whether businesses should aim for transformation.  Perhaps the most convincing argument against transformation through business is from externalities.

Externalities are the unintended consequences attendant upon any business activity, eg pollution.  The argument goes these will undermine any positive aim the business has and so an invisible hand is more effective than intention.

It Takes Time to Change Things

Transformation is an indirect result of actions taken by people.  In other words we cannot predict the outcomes of our actions because we don’t know how others will respond.  You can promise to deliver 100 widgets on time for a price and mostly you will deliver.  You cannot accurately predict the environmental impact of manufacturing the widgets or the impact their use will have.

Furthermore, the transformation we witness today may be completely different in 3 months, 6 months or 6 years.

Regulation mitigates the negative consequences of business activity but we must grow more confident understanding and owning the consequences of the actions we take.

For coaches, a business purpose helps their marketing because it is communicates values and shared values are important to the coaching relationship; working with people, trying things together, to find the most effective way forward.  Transformation is iterative, moves forward slowly, using trial and error.  This way businesses learn together.

The dilemma we face comes from those who deprive businesses of the means to effect change through withholding money from the economy.  Somehow the truth is twisted round to favour those who seek power through hoarding finance.

Businesses committed to a place, to enhancing lives in that place, are the heirs to the vision: a  vibrant marketplace at the heart of every community.

In my email to subscribers this week, I shall write about practical approaches to transformation.  To make sure you see everything, complete the form below to go on my mailing list.  You’ll get notice of future blog posts and receive my Thursday emails.

In these posts and emails, experience a new approach to marketing.  Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

Open laptop, city and world map, binary flying from screen

How to Engage In-Person and Online Marketing

For years, I’ve said in my one minute elevator pitch : I help people engage their in-person and online marketing.  Few people have asked me about this.  It is a radical stance but many don’t see it that way.  Most people don’t appreciate the massive change the business world has experienced over the last few years.

Broadcast versus Intimacy

For most of my life, I’ve experienced broadcast marketing: advertising hoardings, newspaper and magazine adverts, television and radio commercials.  These were pretty much the all there was until the Internet.

Broadcast media is expensive.  You needed sales skills far more than marketing skills because unless you were good at sales, you did not have the resources to invest in marketing.

With the Internet you can get your message out to people at far lower costs.  You can do some marketing for free and the costs where there are charges are modest.  Broadcast marketing is still important for national or global markets but local marketing is particularly enhanced because we can combine in-person and online marketing.

Intimacy is another difference between broadcast and online marketing.  Modern marketing allows us to build relationships with people we never meet in person.  With mobile phones we link directly with people as they go about their daily business.  But it is also intimate in the sense, local marketing communicates both in-person and online.

Web Design is Dead

Allow me to use website design as an example.  In its early days, website design was difficult.  You needed to design a graphic image, slice it into bits and assemble it on the webpage, using tables.  You did this using html.

CSS simplified web design. It was still an acquired skill. If you wanted a website, it was usually more economic to hire a designer than to go on a course and learn to do it yourself.

Today, with platforms such as WordPress with hundreds of themes and plug-ins, you can do almost anything yourself.  There will be times when you need professional assistance.  You may hire someone because you don’t wish to devote your time to building a website.  But that is your choice.

The real issue is not graphic design or the layout of your site, it is the content.  What do you want your site to do?  It’s not the latest technology that matters so much as knowing what you need from your site.  If you don’t know what you need, no-one can honestly say to you: “we have the latest thing that exactly fits what you need to do.”

For someone to do that for you, you must open up about your vision, trust they keep it confidential and know enough to help you get what you need.

Systemic Marketing

Systemic marketing means marketing that takes into account the entirety of your business.  This means you are ill-advised to approach marketing by picking at bits of it.  “I need a website.”  How do you know that?  It isn’t good enough to say you need a website because your competitors have one.  You need to understand its purpose in your marketing plan and how to manage it so it achieves that purpose during your marketing campaign.

If you invest time and money in a website or anything else, how do you assess the return on your investment?  You could spend a lot on something that brings no return whatsoever.

One thing I learned early in my career as a community development worker, was copying ideas does not work.  Something may work brilliantly in one time and place.  It will not work in yours.  It worked the first time because someone got the measure of a place and tried the right thing.

Co-operatives and Franchises

By all means look at what others do for inspiration.  The retail co-operative movement is an example where copying worked well; it offered a model that worked pretty much all over the country.  I’ve never seen any figures showing how many co-ops failed.  Their approach worked in most places but we do not see records of false starts.  The co-ops were in effect an early franchise and in the business world we see many such enterprises.

Franchises are replicable businesses, not noted for innovation.  That criticism could be made of the retail co-ops.  There were many proposals for other forms of co-ops, primarily worker co-ops.  These never really worked in the UK, although successful worker co-op movements can be found in Southern Europe.

If you want a franchise, you get a lot of support including a decision whether the franchise will work in your place.  This does not encourage innovation and so this is where small businesses come into play.

Most businesses fail within a few years.  There are many reasons for this including poor management and marketing.  But where businesses are well-managed, many still fail because they are not viable.  They are in the wrong place and time.

Identify Viability Before You Invest

A systemic approach to marketing helps you find what is viable before you invest in something that will not work.  A successful franchise begins with a local trial, refining the approach until there is something replicable.  Few businesses set out to become franchises; they become possible depending on how a local business develops.

That’s the point.  As a business develops, new opportunities appear.  Your task is to see and take advantage of opportunities and for that you need to be familiar with your business, not just one aspect of it.

Next time I shall look at the transformations businesses are responsible for in wider society.

In these posts and emails I am forging a new approach to marketing.  Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

To make sure you see everything, complete the form below to go on my mailing list.  You’ll get notice of future blog posts and receive my Thursday emails.

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