When I’m in London, I travel between meetings on the back of a motorbike taxi. I use them because the journey times are quicker and more predictable than my other options. I don’t choose them because “it’s a motorbike”.
Also, my company chose our IT service providers because they could free up our time; not because “we do IT”.
And we selected our accountant because he could help us grow our business; not because “he is an accountant”.
You see, when we buy things, we aren’t interested in the things. Instead, we’re interested in what they give us. Or, as I call it, the afters — why we’re better-off after buying.
Weirdly, we often don’t realise we want these afters. For example, I imagine you recently bought a newspaper, thinking you wanted a newspaper. You didn’t. You wanted the news. Glasses? Better sight. Toothpaste? Clean teeth.
Smart companies use afters to persuade us to buy. For instance, Kodak doesn’t sell by discussing their photographs; they talk about preserving our memories. Disney doesn’t sell by focusing on their cartoons. They talk about making our dreams come true.
So when you want people to buy-in to your messages, what do you focus on? Your ideas? Initiatives? Proposals? Research? Yourself?
Or, do you focus on why others will be better off afterwards? The time you save them. Or the costs. Or the hassle. The fact you reduce their stress, grow their business, help them look good to their boss… Now, those are great reasons to buy-in.
So, engage others instantly by beginning with their afters. This can be hard to do — after all, you are passionate about what you do. But I would never have chosen a motorbike taxi if some motorbike enthusiasts had spent ages telling me about their motorbikes.
People will never buy into your content unless their afters are crystal clear. So next time you’re looking for quick buy-in, start by explaining why the other person will be better off afterwards.
Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.
You can read more about Andy’s approach to sales here: No more fears — selling made easy
In these times of web 2.0 and online social networking, it’s all too easy to forget the value of meeting face-to-face.
Trade shows, conferences and seminars are all great networking opportunities — they can help you raise your profile, meet new customers, connect with suppliers and more.
Networking events are sometimes viewed as a bit of a skive, but as anyone who attends them knows, they can be hard work — and, used well, this time out of the office can be invaluable to your business.
Online tools have made face-to-face networking less stressful and more time efficient, and a little online research can bypass that awkward first stage of a meeting.
This research can include checking the website to see who’s exhibiting and taking time to read any pre-event emails and literature to devise a plan of attack.
You may have the chance to catch up with existing suppliers or meet new ones. Contacting them to arrange a time to talk can help you get the most out of your visit — alternatively, arrange a post-event follow-up if you need more time.
Try to find out who else will be attending the event. Perhaps there’s a prospect you’ve been trying to contact or an ex-colleague you’d like to share industry info with.
Here are a few ways you can find this information.
Though there’s no longer a dedicated application for events, there are still ways to spot who might be attending. Check status updates to see if anyone has mentioned the event. Update your own status and invite your connections to respond.
Many large events now have a dedicated LinkedIn group, where you can find people who share your interest. Identify group members who are existing connections, read the latest posts, start a discussion about meeting up (don’t make it too much of a sales pitch) or send individual messages to people.
Many event organisers use Eventbrite (embedded in their own website) as a registration tool and to take payment. You can also use it to search for events in your industry or those happening locally.
Look for a list of those who have registered, search for them on LinkedIn and make contact before the event.
As well as following event organisers on Twitter who may be tweeting in the run up to an event, many events have a hashtag you can follow to find out what exhibitors are up to and who else is planning to visit.
Again, this gives you the opportunity to check out profiles and connect before the event. Use the event hashtag to tweet that you’ll be attending, and ask if anyone wants to meet up. It’s that easy!
Use tools such as Foursquare or Facebook to check in to the event, so exhibitors and other delegates can find you. Tweet to say you’ve just enjoyed a particular presentation, or that you‘re about to take a coffee break and you’re looking forward to chatting to other delegates.
So, you did your preparation, made some valuable contacts and had a great time — remember to carry on networking and follow up everyone you met, as well as those you may have missed. Explore the event hashtag stream and check out the LinkedIn group. A quick “great to meet you/see you again” or “sorry I missed you” note will keep the door open for future conversation.
Listen to this cry of anguish. It came from someone commenting at the end of a blog post about Penguin 2.0, which (as I will explain) was an update that Google made to its search ranking algorithm.
To paraphrase: "For eight years I have been trying to follow the twists and turns of what Google wants websites to do. Every time I finish making changes, Google changes the rules again. I am trying to make my ecommerce site successful, but I cannot. I have lost my life savings on this business. I am not going to bother changing after this. If Google moves the goalposts again after Penguin 2.0 they can go **** themselves."
That was in May. Later in the summer Google released the Hummingbird update, a change to the algorithm that was an absolute whopper.
While I completely sympathise with the person whose savings had run out, there is a positive aspect to the changes that Google endlessly makes.
Consider these changes over the last ten years, each one given a name rather like the way hurricanes are named:
2003: Florida update penalised websites that were stuffed with spammy key words.
2004: Brandy update penalised too many synonyms (eg wealthy is a synonym of rich).
2005: Bourbon update hit duplicate content; Big Daddy update hit low quality reciprocal links.
2009: Vince update rewarded news authorities and recognised brands.
2010: Mayday update rewarded specialised niche websites.
2011: Panda update tackled “content farm” websites full of SEO-based content. And as well as algorithms, Google used human testers to identify low quality content.
2012: Penguin update further penalised spammy links.
2013: Penguin 2.0 hit spammy links and other SEO deception activities even harder.
Yes, put simply, Google is trying to penalise the tricksters and reward those of us that provide good, honest, high quality content.
Now Hummingbird moves beyond looking at the mere words in a search; it attempts to understand the full meaning of the query, so it can then deliver search results to match. So you can expect websites that answer lots of questions to do well.
The poor guy who spent eight years losing his life savings on an ecommerce website will have known all along that Google would gradually improve its search techniques, but meanwhile he had to compete using the techniques that were delivering the best results that month. Alas there was no easy option for him, even with the benefit of hindsight.
We are now getting to a point where all of us can focus on content that meets the needs of the website user. The Donut websites have done this all along — because our revenue is not advertising-based and so we do not rely on high traffic figures. So ironically we have ended up with better traffic than sites that may have invested huge sums in SEO.
Rory MccGwire is the chief executive of Atom Content Publishing, publishers of the Donut websites.
Marketing isn’t something that always comes easy to the average small business owner, and often ends up being overlooked in favour of the day-to-day “busy work” that invariably clogs up our to-do lists. It’s no wonder, then, that many of us — particularly small businesses whose focus is primarily local — get it wrong.
Here are five common mistakes many of us make with local marketing:
Far too often small business owners take the approach of just throwing as much stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks when it comes to their marketing. This often comes as a result of treating marketing as “just another thing” on the to-do list rather than as a crucial business function.
Without monitoring, measuring and analysing your marketing activity, there’s no way of identifying what’s working and what’s not, and by extension what’s a waste of time or money and what you should be investing more into.
A lot of local business owners will tell you that they get most of their new clients through word of mouth. There’s no denying that word of mouth referrals and recommendations are extremely important; but a huge mistake a lot of people make it having no strategy or system in place to both cultivate and manage word of mouth.
Too many people rely on dumb luck or take for granted that word of mouth will be a natural by-product of what they do. This simply isn’t the case and even if you are doing well from word of mouth, the chances are you could be leveraging it to even greater effect if you took an active approach to nurturing referrals and building a reputation.
It’s easy to be seduced by the opportunities social media and other such advancements afford us in terms of our ability to reach a global audience; however in doing so many small business owners overlook the wealth of potential in their immediate local area.
How many potential customers are there within ten miles of where you are right now? How many of them do you service?
Surely it would be easier to work on dominating your local market than trying to build a global behemoth of a business? You can build a highly successful business solely by focusing on local marketing on your home patch.
Having run a web design business for many years, I can safely say that while almost all small business owners know that they need a website, far fewer actually know why, or what to do with it.
It has become part of the startup business “checklist” these days — logo, check; business card, check; website, check!
Typically most businesses — except those for whom it’s necessary to transact online such as ecommerce stores or hotels, for example — opt for the standard “brochure” site — a page about the company and its mission statement, a page outlining its services, and possibly even a blog (that may be updated for the first few weeks then abandoned).
Savvy small businesses don’t use their website this way as they recognise that doing so is wasting an opportunity. At the very least, your website should be working as part of a lead generation system — even if that’s as simple as an appointment booking form, or a callback request form. However, I’m still amazed at how many people don’t even put a phone number or email address on their site.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking that a business whose marketing is focused on a local area doesn’t also need to be marketed online.
Business networking is something that can be key to an effective local marketing strategy, and with the right approach can reward you with far more than just new clients; however some networking organisations intentionally limit the network that you’re exposed to.
Often this is a characteristic of referral organisations and is a result of the “category lockout” these organisations employ. While this is something that is essential for the type of format and structure these groups have, many people fall into the trap of only sticking with those people “in the room” rather than continuing to develop their network outside of those meetings.
Limiting your business network to 15-20 people is counter-intuitive, so even if membership of an organisation is core to your local marketing strategy, then you should be complementing this will further networking activity.
The good news is that all of these five mistakes can easily be remedied. And by doing so, you can stop spinning your wheels wasting time and money, and start getting more from our local marketing efforts.
Global Entrepreneurship Week is an inspirational event for would-be entrepreneurs that need advice and guidance to get started and build their own businesses. And advertising and marketing are an important part of any start-up strategy. Here’s a nine-step plan to help you make the best use of your marketing budget — however modest.
Your other marketing and advertising options include:
Advice supplied by GEW partner, Barclays. Global Enterprise Week takes place until 24th November. You can find out more in our GEW Guide.
Do it! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition by David Newman is a refreshing new book filled with blood-on-the-wall, “fierce competitor”, no nonsense marketing tips. All 77 of them of them are practical and applicable to businesses like yours. And there’s a workbook at the end to help you go and do it.
This book has restored some of my faith in marketing.
Businesses are struggling with marketing. It has become incredibly complex. The marketing mix, the communication mix, the channels available, measurement, the pressure on budgets, delivering ROI, understanding social media and technology — these are all hot topics.
Marketing sometimes gets a bad press. It’s not accountable, it’s manipulative (“brandwashed”), it doesn’t understanding social media. The old rules don’t apply.
This books asks who are your clients and why? It encourages you to focus on the “what” after you have answered those two questions. What do you want to be known for, how can you speak the language of your clients, position properly, brand properly and sell?
Here are some of the highlights:
Your clients are not interested in your business. Apply the “so what test” and the “prove it” test. Your brochures, website and other collateral are most likely to be all about you — and that is boring.
Could you say what has been written out loud to someone in a conversation? Without them having a laugh? Use authentic client language from your conversations with your clients.
Are you visible and annoying, visible and insignificant or visible, credible and consistent? Are you, in other words, buyable? Is it a mistake not to buy from you?
There are only three problems you can solve. Process, people and profit. Which one is it? Ask the right questions and develop the right sales conversation.
Position your offering in more control and less chaos. Buyers will only remember one thing about you after one week. Clarity is key. Speak, write and use social media. It is called “expertising”. However, competency will not win you clients. That is a given. Be unique.
52-72% of B2B professional service buyers are willing to switch. So do not revert to self-promotion, self-solicitation, pathetic begging or self-commoditisation.
Always include a call to action. Establish a referral circle of trusted contacts. Sell like a girl — it is relational, not transactional. All leads are 999 calls — you have 15 minutes.
The “be serious” section is one of my favourites and it highlights some of the marketing crimes that some small businesses are still making: