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>The Proof is in the Sale

 5th October 2008 by gihan

>I recently listened to serial entrepreneur Steve Blank talk to Stanford students about entrepreneurship.

He makes the crucial point that most start-ups don’t fail because of a bad product; they fail because they don’t understand their market. He makes the excellent suggestion that one of the first things you should do in the product development cycle is to sell the products to real live customers. In other words, go out and sell something! That will tell you more about the likely success of your product than anything else you do.

>Don’t Sell Too Soon

 3rd October 2008 by gihan

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When people search the Web, most of them are asking the question “How can I do X?”, not “Where can I buy X?” If you treat your site visitor by answering their question rather than promoting your service, you’re serving them better. You’ll also be way ahead of practically everybody else in your market! While they’re pushing products, you’ll be building high-value relationships.

To do this, you must position yourself as an expert. Because people tend to buy experts for their expertise, not for their price, it’s far easier for you to later sell your products and services. If you require a heart transplant, you don’t say “Get me the cheapest heart surgeon!”

Here are four simple ways to demonstrate your expertise on the Internet.

1. Publish a Newsletter

Follow these three rules:

  1. Get permission before adding anybody to your mailing list.
  2. Deliver value (not just advertising) in every issue.
  3. Write shorter newsletters, more often.

2. Write Articles

The best articles address problems your clients face in their lives. So forget about the features of the services you offer, and go right back to the problems they solve. If you get stuck, ask your clients!

Then write an article that describes the problem and its solution.

I can give you a couple of formulas for writing your articles, but really this isn’t rocket science! Just write about the problem and give a simple solution for the reader.

3. Write a Blog

A Web log (blog) is like an online journal. When used correctly, your blog can be a powerful marketing tool for your business.

One easy way to write a blog is to answer the most common questions that people ask. Again, you’re tapping into their problems first, and showing your expertise in solving them.

4. Write a Free E-Book

E-books are a great way to promote your expertise, your business, and yourself – for a very low cost. You can sell your e-books, of course (and I do). But I recommend the very first e-book you write is one you give away on your Web site.

Again, focus on your clients’ problems, and write an e-book that solves them. In fact, if you’ve written articles about these problems, just bundle them together into an e-book!

Remember – You’re An Expert First!

If you’re just the same as everybody else, you’ll be compared with everybody else – on price, quality, speed of delivery, client service, and so on. On the other hand, when you establish yourself as an expert, your expertise will count for more than any of these other factors.

Find out more about low-cost promotion techniques.

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>Why Seth Godin is Wrong About Podcasting

 2nd October 2008 by gihan

>I love Seth Godin’s work. But I think he’s wrong about podcasting. Find out why – and how you can make podcasting work for your business.

Find out more about podcasting here.

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>It’s The Community, Stupid!

 1st October 2008 by gihan

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Today’s world – more than ever – is about community.

As an expert – as somebody with ideas to share with the world – you can no longer rely on authority alone. Certainly not positional authority. You’re no longer an expert because you say you’re an expert. You’re an expert because we say you’re an expert.

You’re not respected as a conductor because you’ve got a baton. You’ve got the baton because you’re respected as a conductor.

So how do you prove your authority through community?

Use the principle of “social proof”: People are influenced by others just like them.

One of the simplest – but most powerful – applications of this principle is through testimonials. Testimonials from clients. Testimonials from meeting planners. Testimonials from audiences. Get them. And use them.

For example …

Here are a few examples of how some of our clients are using testimonials on their Web sites.

  • Max Hitchins, The Hospitality Doctor, puts a changing testimonial right up at the very top of every Web page.

  • Penny Burke, Essence Communications, puts a random testimonial just below the menu bar on the left-hand side of each page.

  • Bill Carson, Perform Solutions, does something similar, except he’s positioned it at the top of the main text of each page.

  • Anne Riches, keynote speaker, drops in relevant testimonials on the Web pages promoting her services.

Visit their Web sites here:


And finally, my own …

I’ve been experimenting for years with doing testimonials in different ways. Here is my latest idea – which I created by scanning written testimonials from a presentation and stringing them together into this animated sequence:

There’s a lot more to the world of social proof, but at least get started with using testimonials more effectively.

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>Who are the People in Your Neighbourhood?

 29th September 2008 by gihan

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Understand the relationship that you have with people who interact with your business.

Broadly, they fall into three categories:

The top group, which I call “friends”, are your customers – that is, people who have paid you in the past for your products and services.

At the bottom are “strangers” – those who have never heard of you before. They may have found you through an advertisement, by a referral from somebody else, from the Internet, or by some other means.

The “neighbours” are those who have heard about you but are yet to become customers. They might be, for example, the people on your e-mail newsletter mailing list.

Market differently to each group

Of these three groups, which is the largest? Well it’s most likely to be strangers, of course. And that’s why many businesses spend all their efforts marketing to them.

However, the catch is that they are also the most difficult market to convert into customers. They don’t know you, like you or trust you – yet. So it takes a much more concerted sales effort to convince them to buy from you.

On the other hand, the easiest to convince are your existing customers – your “friends”. People who have bought from you in the past are much more likely to buy from you again. Even if it’s the smallest of the three groups, it might be far more responsive.

To get the greatest leverage from your marketing efforts, make sure you know whether you’re directing it at friends, neighbours or strangers.

You MUST market to each group differently.

For example, most direct mail experts start by writing to strangers, and are happy with a 3% response rate. The other 97% just ignore the marketing – and can even be turned off by it. But that’s OK for “stranger marketing”. However, that sort of marketing is less appropriate when marketing to “friends” – and you certainly can’t afford to upset 97% of that group!

So how do you market to “friends”? Nice and easy! If you’ve built up a relationship, you really don’t have to try hard at all. It might be enough to just tell them about new products and services, and they will jump at the chance to buy them. On the other hand, if you try this sort of “no frills” marketing to strangers, they won’t buy at all.

If you get this wrong, your WILL fail.

I’ve seen many businesses make this mistake – especially on the Internet.

For example, most businesses try to get more “traffic” (that is, strangers) to their Web site, but the Web site doesn’t do enough to “sell”.

I’ve also seen some marketers who do sell to strangers fall flat on their face because they’ve tried to use the same marketing techniques to sell more to their customers (friends). Instead of sending a simple announcement about a new product, they write a long, hyped-up marketing letter that upsets their existing customers.

It’s true that occasionally a stranger will buy from you despite your weak marketing, or a friend will buy again despite your heavy-handed sales letters. But that’s the exception! You’ll get far greater leverage by matching your marketing to the type of person.

So keep in mind whether you’re dealing with friends, neighbours or strangers – and adapt your marketing accordingly.

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Momentum Moves Mountains

 29th September 2008 by gihan

I recently listened to an interview with Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook and supposedly the world’s youngest billionaire.

What made this interview interesting for me was not that it’s an interview with a billionaire. It’s not. It’s an interview from October 2005, when Facebook was just taking off as a directory for Harvard undergraduates, but before it became one of the world’s most popular Web sites.

It’s always nice to see things in hindsight. And I was amused to hear Zuckerberg talk about what he thought was the next step for Facebook.

Remember, at the time it was very popular in Harvard, and was just expanding to support other universities. Somebody in the audience asked whether it would then expand across the world (which, in fact, it eventually did). But Zuckerberg said, No. His next big idea was to roll it out to high school students!

He got it totally wrong.

But I come to praise Zuckerberg, not to bury him.

I’m not going to criticise him here for lack of vision. After all, he does have a billion dollars, which is – coincidentally – a billion more than I do.

Instead, I’ll point out that, even though he didn’t get that idea right, he did still did get on the right track eventually. And he did it because Facebook was already an active, growing, thriving Web site.

Here’s the point: Momentum moves mountains.

He didn’t sit on his hands for years, analysing, contemplating, planning, strategising, projecting and cogitating. No, he got started with something, and then figured out how to steer it in the right direction. And even if it sometimes wasn’t quite right, he was still better off than somebody who hadn’t started at all.

So don’t wait until you know how everything is going to turn out. You don’t. And you won’t. Get started now.

This is particularly important on the Internet.

On the Internet, there are some things you just need to experience before you’ll understand how they will work for you. If you’ve never published an e-mail newsletter, put a video clip on YouTube, written an e-book that you distribute through viral marketing, posted to your blog, or recorded a regular podcast, it’s difficult to imagine how they work. You must experience them.

More importantly, starting these things makes it easier to continue doing them.

When you’ve got a blog, you’ll start noticing things to blog about.
When you’ve got an e-mail newsletter due tomorrow, you’ll create the time to write an article.
When you’ve written your e-book, you’ll constantly find new ways to promote it.

So get started! Momentum moves mountains.

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>Skeptoid, by Brian Dunning

 28th September 2008 by gihan

>Brian Dunning is one of the fairest and most reasonable people who speak publicly about rational thinking.

Skeptoid is a written compilation of the first 50 episodes of his podcast of the same name, from the Web site skeptoid.com. It’s almost a word-for-word transcript of those programs (in fact, I’m guessing he wrote the material first and then reads it out on the podcast), but it’s still engaging even for those who’ve heard the podcast.

Each of the 50 chapters is only about 3-4 pages long, but he still manages to squeeze in a fairly rigorous reasoning process each time. The short chapters make it handy if you have friends who believe in homeopathy, pond magnets, the supposed benefits of organic food, the dangers of mercury filings or haunted houses. If they are open-minded, simply open the book to that chapter and discuss the facts and reasoning presented there. Because Dunning takes a reasoned view, it is possible to have a civilised discussion about the topics!

This is also an excellent example of somebody leveraging their expertise between different formats, so it suits different learning styles.

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>Gurus Don’t Need Business Cards

 27th September 2008 by gihan

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As an expert, your most powerful marketing tool is not your business card. It’s not your glossy brochure. It’s not your Web site. It’s not your client testimonials. It’s not any of your collateral material.

As an expert, your most powerful marketing tool is your expertise. It’s your knowledge, your ideas, your intellectual property – and the way you apply it to your clients’ lives and businesses to make a difference.

So the next time you’re doing any marketing, think about how you can demonstrate your expertise, not just advertise your products and services.

For example:

  • At a networking function, instead of just exchanging business cards, offer to send a special report to the people you meet.

  • At networking functions, offer to enrol people you meet in your e-mail newsletter.

  • When you create a new program, training course, or other presentation, first write an article about the problem that it solves.

  • To keep in touch with clients, send a tip sheet of ways to improve (in some way related to your area of expertise).

  • Write a book on your topic area, and use that instead of brochures and flyers.

  • Record some of your ideas, and create an audio CD that you send to your best clients as a gift.

  • Get a video recording of one of your presentations, find five minutes of high-content material, and create a video clip on your Web site.

  • Give your top clients a complimentary half-hour telephone consultation with you.

  • Instead of advertising in an industry magazine, write a regular column for that magazine.

  • Find a colleague who deals with the same market that you do, and write an article for her e-mail newsletter (and vice versa).

  • Conduct an information seminar to educate people about your area of expertise.

  • Make your Web site a resource centre, not a promotional brochure.

Get the idea?

As an expert, you can do much more than just advertising. OK, you might still choose to print business cards. But use them only to give people your contact details. Do your real “marketing” by demonstrating your expertise.

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