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>Substance beats style every time!

 12th September 2008 by gihan

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Sell Umbrellas When It’s Raining

 11th September 2008 by gihan

During my recent trip to Europe, I spent four days in Rome. Unfortunately it rained pretty much all four days I was there.

I noticed an interesting thing about the street vendors.

The centre of Rome is full of street vendors and hawkers. When the sun is shining, they sell handbags, jewellery, and religious artefacts. But as soon as it starts raining, out come the umbrellas.

Here’s the guy who sold me an umbrella (on the right). He was a bit surprised I asked him for a photo, but hey – there’s no accounting for some tourists!

Anyway, my point – and I do have one – is that I was impressed by the way they switched products so quickly, depending on the weather.

Hmmm … Selling umbrellas when it’s raining, and not selling them when it stops raining. Not exactly a marketing breakthrough, right? In fact, it might seem obvious to you.

But wait – not so fast!

I wonder whether you are as smart as these hawkers? Nothing personal, but I see a lot of people who don’t follow this simple marketing principle.

Let me point out five mistakes that many businesses make …

  1. Selling umbrellas when it’s not raining: Are you sure there’s a real demand for your product/service? Or are you so in love with it that you haven’t checked whether your clients need it?
  2. Selling handbags when it IS raining: Are you really solving their most important problems? Or are there more important things on your client’s mind than you, your products and services (If so, they just don’t have time to think about you).
  3. Selling umbrellas to people who already have them: Are you reaching the specific niche market who most needs your services? Or are you just taking a scatter-gun approach, marketing to everybody and hoping the right people just happen to notice you?
  4. Hoping wet and bedraggled customers will find you: Are you actively involved in marketing? Or are you just expecting customers to stumble across you?
  5. Thinking you’re the only umbrella salesperson in town: Those street vendors in Rome are assertive! And they have to be, of course, because they’re competing with five others on the same street corner. Are you watching your competition and continually staying ahead of them? Or are you hoping customers will pick you anyway?

Are you making any of these mistakes? If so, you’re probably losing business – fast. Follow the example from a street vendor in Rome, and learn to sell umbrellas when it’s raining!

>A Lesson from the Golden Age of Cinema

 9th September 2008 by gihan

>When I was travelling back from Auckland to Perth recently, I was watching the greatest movie of all time on my iPod. The movie, of course, is Casablanca:

It struck me that the last time I was watching this movie, it was at an outdoor cinema, under the stars on the big screen. And the previous time, it was at home, watching a DVD on TV.

So here is a movie made 65 years ago, created for the big screen only, and within the last 12 months, I had watched it three times in three completely different places: DVD, big screen and iPod.

Of course, nobody thought about this in 1942 when it was first shown in cinemas. But the beauty of digital information is that it’s so portable.

Are you doing the same with your content?

What material do you have that is currently published for only one medium? Your clients or customers now have new tools to consume material in different ways, at different times, and on their own terms. Are you making it easy to them, or are you getting in the way?

For example, if you publish a podcast regularly, are you also publishing that as an audio clip on your Web site? And are you adding the same audio clip to your blog? Different people will see it in those three different places.

Or, when you write an article in your newsletter, do you also publish it on your Web site? And add it to your blog?

You don’t have to change the content.

I’ve talked in the past about how to change the content of an article or a blog post to create new content. But here, you don’t even have to change the content. It’s just a matter of using the same content and publishing it in a different place. That makes it easier for people to find in the place that is most convenient to them.

Don’t worry about them complaining that you just duplicate all your material and you’ve got nothing new. On the contrary, they will probably only see it in the one place they like to read it, listen to it or watch it. They’ll thank you for making the effort to make it easy for them.

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>The Keynote: A Humorous Interlude

 4th September 2008 by gihan

>Let me tell you a true story …

I was walking along the beach one day, feeling lucky. My life was good. I had all my ducks lined up in a row. Whatever I had believed, I had conceived and achieved. And when the going had been tough, I’d got going.

As I walked, I saw a starfish lying in the sand. I picked it up and asked him, “What are you doing?” He replied, “I’m building a cathedral.” But he clearly wasn’t. So I threw him into the ocean.

Suddenly I felt a force in my back, and I was thrown face first into the sand. I turned to see a group of monkeys aiming a large hose of jet-cold water at me.

“What did you do that for?” I yelled. They stopped, and looked at each other, puzzled. “Err, there’s no ‘I’ in team,” one said haltingly, and then added, “Although, now that I think of it, there are two in ‘schizophrenia’.”

“Ummm … We were just shifting your paradigm”, said another.

“No, no”, said a third. “We moved your cheese.”

I just stared at them, until eventually one of them muttered, “Nobody ever asked us that before”, and they skulked away.

I turned away in disgust and looked out to the ocean. Suddenly, to my horror, I saw a battleship heading towards the beach, and – what’s more – right into the path of my starfish.

I cupped my hands to my mouth and yelled across the water, “Turn 10 degrees to port – now!” In reply, their loudhailer boomed back at me, “No, YOU turn 10 degrees to starboard – now!”

They were in trouble – BIG trouble. But I had a positive attitude, which was contagious – and I hoped it was worth catching by the men on that ship. I called back again, “I’m warning you – turn 10 degrees to port – NOW!” But the reply came back, even louder, “And I’m warning YOU – turn 10 degrees to starboard!”

What could I do? They were heading straight for shore. “Stop! Danger!” I yelled. But the reply came back, “I stop for nobody. I’m a battleship.”

Quickly, I thought outside the nine dots and yelled back, “I’m a lighthouse”. Unfortunately, it was daytime, and they could see I obviously wasn’t. So they ignored my warnings and headed straight for the shore.

I knew I had to lead, follow or get out of the way. I got out of the way. Unfortunately, the starfish wasn’t so lucky.

I tell you this story not to sadden you – because the sun is always shining even when you can’t see it – but to inspire you.

Nor to apologise – because love means never having to say you’re sorry – but to theorise.

And not to point a finger at the commander of that battleship – because whenever I do, there are two fingers pointing back at me (there used to be three, but I lost one in a freak accident when I lost concentration while sharpening an axe for six hours) – but to point YOU in a new direction.

You see, that was in the past, and the past is just a memory. All we have is the gift of now – that’s why we call it the “present” (Ummm … and the gift of tomorrow, I suppose – that’s why we call it, err, the future. But that’s another story).

I felt bad at the time, but it WAS in my past. Looking back now, I realise it didn’t make a difference to me. But it did to that starfish.

Make Your Message Spread Like Wildfire

 26th August 2008 by gihan

Every message has three components:

  1. An idea you want to convey;
  2. An audience you would like to reach;
  3. The delivery of that idea to that audience.

This is obvious, right? In marketing, you’d call this product / market / medium; in a presentation, you’d call this content / audience / delivery; and so on.

But it’s one thing to understand these things exist; it’s another to use them whenever you deliver a message.

How do you turn your message into something they listen to, act on, and remember long after you’ve gone?

In high school physics, I learned that the gravitational attraction between two planets depends on three things: the size of the first planet, the size of the second planet, and how close they are to each other. The bigger they are, the greater the gravitational force between them; and the closer they are, the greater the force.

The same applies to your messages. Your success depends on three things:

  1. The quality of your idea
  2. Your understanding of your audience
  3. How well you deliver that message to that audience.

How good is your message?

Think about an idea, product, service or concept you’d like to deliver – whether it’s in a one-to-one sales meeting, a group presentation, a marketing flyer, or your Web site.

How well are you doing these three things?

  1. How well have you developed the idea?
  2. How well do you know your audience?
  3. How good are you at connecting with your audience?

Use these specific questions to evaluate your message …

Your Idea:

  1. Solutions: How well do you provide solutions to your audience’s problems?
  2. Expertise: How much expertise do you already have?
  3. Packaging: What’s your experience with creating messages in this format?
  4. Margin: What’s your profit margin?
  5. Leverage: How can you use it in other ways?

Your Audience

  1. Niche: Are you aiming this message at a small, clearly defined, niche group?
  2. Problems: How well do you know the audience’s problems, questions, concerns, challenges, and worries?
  3. Demand: How well do you know the demand for your message?
  4. Price: If you’re selling a product, have you tested the price people are willing to pay?
  5. Relationship: What is your existing relationship with your target audience?

Your Delivery

  1. Strategy: Do you have a strategy for rolling out this message?
  2. Reach: How easily can you reach them?
  3. Tactics: Do you have experience already with the specific delivery techniques you’re planning to use?
  4. Interest: How interested are you about your audience?
  5. Commitment: Are you really committed to the process?

Use these 15 questions to evaluate every message before you deliver it.

>So What? Converting Features Into Benefits

 20th August 2008 by gihan

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Make sure that the words you use on your Web site are benefit-oriented rather than feature-oriented. Instead of telling your potential customers what your product can do (features), tell them what it can do for them (benefits). In other words, describe the product in terms of the result it offers rather than the product itself.

Here’s how to write benefits …

Here’s a simple way of writing benefits, which I’ve used very effectively for myself and for clients.

Whenever you write a benefit, you can test whether it’s a real benefit by imagining your reader asking the question, “So what?” If it’s a feature or a weak benefit, answering that question can give you a stronger benefit.

Here’s an example …

Suppose you’re selling a digital camera that has a resolution of 24 megapixels. That’s obviously a feature, not a benefit, but you’d be surprised how many camera Web sites advertise their products that way.

Imagine a conversation between you and a customer who has only ever used non-digital cameras in the past:

YOU: This camera has a resolution of 24 megapixels.

CUSTOMER: So what?

YOU: Well, that’s the highest resolution of any digital camera available today.

CUSTOMER: Yeah, but so what?

YOU: It means your pictures have very little loss of quality.

CUSTOMER: But what does that mean?

YOU: Your photos will be as bright and clear as if you were using ordinary film.

CUSTOMER: Ah, now I understand!

Can you see how that process of asking the “So what?” question leads to strong benefits? What we started with (“24 megapixels”) is vastly different from the result (“as bright and clear as ordinary film”).

Note that I framed the example in a particular way. You were talking to a customer who had a history of using traditional cameras, so the benefit was relevant to them. If your customer was, say, a professional photographer, then you might end up with a different benefit – e.g. “This is the only camera resolution that is accepted by National Geographic”.

Here’s a quick way to get the “So what?” answers …

Start by listing all the features of your product or service. Yes, that’s right – start with the FEATURES, which should be easy for you to do.

Then take each feature in turn, ask the “So what?” question, find an appropriate answer, and add it to the end of the feature with the words “… so that”.

An example will help …

In the example above, the feature:

  • It has a resolution of 24 megapixels becomes:
  • It has a resolution of 24 megapixels … so that your

photos are as clear and bright as with your old camera.

OK, now it’s your turn …

Look at the products and services you’re advertising on your Web site. Are you talking about benefits, or only features?

Go through the process I’ve just described to (a) list all your features, and (b) convert these features into benefits.

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>Talk Their Talk

 13th August 2008 by gihan

>One of my friends and colleagues, Jasbindar Singh, the CEO of SQ Consulting in Auckland, New Zealand, has just released her new book “Get Your Groove Back”. Here she is at the book launch:

It’s an excellent book, but in this article I’d like to focus only on the title.

You see, Jasbindar is a Thought Leader who talks about SQ, or “spiritual intelligence”.

Huh? Spiritual intelligence? What’s that? (I hear you cry!) And that’s the problem. If she had called her book “Spiritual Intelligence” or “SQ in the Workplace” or something like that, most people wouldn’t have given it a second glance.

But she was smart enough to choose a title that resonated with her readers. Nobody goes around thinking that they should get more spiritual intelligence; but many do think that they’ve “lost their groove”. So the title Get Your Groove Back is perfect for them.

Here’s the point …

Talk their talk. Many experts make the mistake of describing what they do in terms that they understand themselves. But that doesn’t have anything to do with what their clients are thinking. If instead you enter the conversation in their mind, you engage them instantly, create rapport, and open the door to further conversation.

I call this Gravity Marketing.

In high-school physics, we were taught that the gravitational attraction between two objects depends on three things:

  1. The size of the first object;
  2. The size of the second object; and
  3. How close they are to each other.

Apply this same principle to your business. The attraction between you and your clients depends on:

  1. Your expertise;
  2. Their problems and desires; and
  3. How well you connect your expertise with their desires.

If you don’t do the crucial third step, you’ll never fall within the gravitational field of your clients.

I’ll give you more examples …

My Web design company First Step builds Web sites for speakers. Easy to understand, right? I could have said “First Step creates online strategies for infopreneurs”. But that’s not anywhere near as clear as “We build Web sites for speakers”.

One of my friends is a mortgage broker. In technical terms, his job is equity financing for consumers. But does he say that to his clients??? No, he finds them the best home loan.

Do you say that you’re a Personal Peak Performance Catalyst? No, you’re not – you’re a life coach!

Get the point?

OK, I know that this simplified version probably doesn’t do you justice. First Step does more than just “Web design”; Damian does more than “finding a home loan”; and spiritual intelligence is about more than just “finding your groove”.

You know that, but your prospective clients don’t. If you don’t engage them first, they will never get the chance to find out.

How do you enter the conversation in their mind?

  1. Listen to their language. What are the common words and phrases they use? Use the same words and phrases in your marketing, even if they don’t fully describe what you do.
  2. Use inventory.overture.com, a no-cost tool to discover what words people use when searching on the Internet.
  3. Survey your e-mail newsletter readers, asking them to tell you their biggest challenges and problems. Look at the words they use in their responses.
  4. If you’d like to do this really well, learn how to buy Google advertising so you can display two ads with different wording to find out which one is more popular.

Whatever you do – whether it’s one of these methods or something else – it’s crucial that you learn to talk their talk. Only then will you start the conversation that leads you to deeper engagement and on-going success.

>What To Put In Your Membership Site

 4th August 2008 by gihan

>In another article, I talked about the three things you should have in place before you launch a membership site. To recap:

Value: Do you have proven valuable expertise that people are willing to pay for?

Products: Do you have a suite of high-value products you already bundle in with your services?

Database: Do you have a database of clients and prospects who might be interested in joining your membership site?

So let’s suppose you answered “Yes” to all three questions.

Now what? What sort of value should you provide to your members?

This will vary for each business. But broadly, I suggest you consider your offering in these three categories.

1. Resources
Create a collection of valuable resources for your members to download – things like e-books, audio programs, recommended Web sites, software tools, templates (Word, Excel), slide shows (PowerPoint), manuals, tip sheets, on-line courses, video clips, multimedia tutorials, and so on.
As an expert, there should be no shortage of material available!

Most of this material will be included in their membership fee. However, you might consider offering some as “premium” material, for an additional fee (Like a cable TV company that offers most programs as part of the monthly licence, but has some pay-per-view offerings).

2. Community
Give your members some way to interact with each other. You’ll still be the expert, but you’re also allowing your members to share ideas, questions, comments and suggestions with each other.

It’s easy to do this with an on-line forum, which your Webmaster can create for you. In fact, it’s now possible to get software that creates a Facebook-like on-line community.

3. Access to you
Don’t fall into the trap of only providing electronic resources. Your members are living, breathing human beings, who still value having access to you in person.

Actively participate in the on-line forums. Post regularly to a members-only blog, and invite comments. Conduct regular teleseminars. Offer member discounts to your live events.
Be approachable and active in the community, not distant and aloof.

Are you still willing to go ahead?

One of the biggest advantages of a membership site is the recurring stream of income it generates for you.

On the flip side, one of its biggest disadvantages is that it commits you to providing value regularly.

Are you willing to provide resources, foster an active community, and deliver greater access to you? If not, a membership site probably isn’t right for you. But if it is, it can bring you great rewards.

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