5 Keys to SMB Marketing Success

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Catholic Business Network and gave a presentation on 5 keys to marketing success.  For small business owners, marketing is a risk taking adventure, and they focus on what could go wrong.  It’s hard to visualize how the investment will pay dividends.  I explained that marketing success starts with an attitude of believing in your product and realizing that your goal is to present your product in it’s best light.  This is a process, not an all-or-nothing gamble.  So, if you want your business to grow, here are the 5 biggest keys to success that I see in working with our small business clients.

Goals – your business plan must include a marketing plan.  If you don’t know where you are going you can’t get there.  Set some specific objectives for new clients, new business, business from repeat clients, and some specific activities, such as “blog weekly”, or “1500 facebook” followers.  Break those objectives down by month and by day.  Plan campaigns to make them happen.  Measure the results.

Personal Branding – you, as the owner, or as a sales rep, are the face of the company and your attitude and behavior are your #1 marketing tools.  Understand your values, and exhibit those values in everything you do.  Today’s consumer will evaluate you at their own pace on the internet and can instantly figure out if you are being authentic, in other words, if your stated values and your actual values are not in alignment.   The good news is that they also reward authenticity and will gravitate to companies that stake out a position and stay with it.

Message – The single biggest mistake made in marketing is trying to be everything to everyone.  What is the one thing you do better than everyone, for your best clients.  Why, on a personal, emotional level do those clients buy from you?  I guarantee it is not because of your product, or your breadth of product, its because of how safe they feel that you will deliver a positive experience for the one thing they want right now. Concentrate all your marketing on one unique value and get more of those clients, and write your message around their needs.  Constantly evaluate how your clients define what a “positive” experience is.

Platform/Content –  It doesn’t do any good to have 1500 Facebook likes if your clients aren’t on Facebook.  The right platform is the one where your customers are, not the one that costs the least but won’t be seen by your prospects.  Write compelling stories that engage, and market with the goal of building a relationship with your customers.  Today’s consumer wants to feel like they have joined your family, not just made a purchase.  It is better to create a relationship with a few unique clients than hundreds who will rarely buy from you.

Customer Service – don’t just create customers, create raving fans who can refer you and evangelize for you.  Make it easy for customers to give you feedback so they don’t badmouth you on social media.  Respond in 24 hours.  Service is about doing for others selflessly and the more you can do that, with less regard for your gain, the more you will develop customers for life.

Marketing is hard, don’t make it any harder than it has to be.  Stick with these five core principles and your business will grow more than you imagined it could.


Work Harder, Retire or Move!

If you’ve been beating your head against the wall in 2013 and you’ve run good campaigns without any appreciable uptick, is it time to quit?  Of course not, but now is a good time to re-evaluate.  I’m not talking about throwing out the whole idea for your business, just finding the right balance between your product, your price, your place, and your promotions.  Consider these options for 2014: Work, Get Different Customers, Retire, and Move!

1) Start with what’s working.

What do your customers tell you about what they like?  Who are your customers?  What price points seemed to get all the action?  What channels got the best measurable results? Work harder at getting more of those in 2014 and you’ll be more profitable.

2) Think about extending.

What are some logical extensions you can make to your existing product line that would increase sales with existing customers and pull in some similar customers.  Consider how you could repackage at a different price point.  This doesn’t just go for products, but services too.  For example, could you offer a a 4-month program, instead of a 6 month program?

We’ve helped several businesses this year re-position their product line from being solely a consumer facing brand to one that includes a corporate offering.  In this way they have taken what they do well and provided corporate packages which are more lucrative and take less effort per sale.

3) It might be time to retire.

While you’re at it, what didn’t work?  If you have product lines that didn’t sell, or didn’t make money, or didn’t bring in customers with lifetime value, it would probably be wise to “retire” those products.   In your 2014 marketing plan, consider what you could offer those customers to keep them in the mix but to make them more profitable.  Consider bundling with other new products.

4) Maybe you should move?

If you sell from a storefront then moving might not be an option, but otherwise, analyze where your customers are doing their shopping. Is e-commerce an option?  I am constantly amazed at what can be sold and serviced using a database and on-line chat.  Is E-bay an option? People will sell anything on ebay now, including consulting services.  How can you make it work for you.  Can you sell at events, or in kiosks or anywhere else that your customers might be?  Customers will buy where it is easiest and you need to go there.

As we approach the end of the year it really is a good idea to step out of the box and revisit the basic assumptions of last year’s plan.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!





Need better results from your campaigns – market to segments!

You can’t serve everyone!

Just because you can do lots of things, and do them as well as your competitors, doesn’t mean you should.  You can’t serve everyone and you can’t market to everyone.  If you want better results, focus on specifics.  Specific audiences, specific products, specific problems you can solve.

I see this all the time.  Roofing ads that include windows, and fencing, and painting. Lawyers that list everything from corporate law to personal injury.  That’s fine, but when it comes to your advertising and marketing, pick the one you do extremely well and where you have your unique selling proposition and leave the rest out.

Segment your audience.

For your marketing, take a hard look at who your best customers are.  What is their profile?  Are they homeowners, accountants, or parents.  Do they have 50 employees or just two?  Where did you make the majority of your money last year?  Chances are your business is built for those customers.  Don’t reinvent the wheel, just find more of those customers.

Note, I’m not telling you not to sell the service, just don’t waste your money marketing it. Even as a throw away line on your website.  All you do is dilute your message.  Don’t be afraid that you’ll miss someone or think it can’t hurt “as long as I’m paying for the ad space.”  Trust me, the odds of you getting another customer from that throwaway line in 7 pt. type are nil.  People buy from the perfect match, not just someone who is average on lots of services.  So target your marketing.  This is the fastest way to increase your profits, work less, and grow your business.



Nurture your Personal Brand with a Great 30 second Elevator Speech

A brand is a promise to deliver an expected positive experience. You know what you are going to get from Apple Computer products, or Coca Cola, or even Lady Gaga. But what about you? What do people say about you when you are not in the room? If you own a small business, you are the company brand. Any time you are visible, you are either building or taking away from your brand.

Working on your “Elevator Speech” or “30 second resume” is a great way to identify your personal brand. You should be prepared to describe yourself quickly and include:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • What someone would find interesting about you

Here’s how to construct the necessary three sentences:

Using at least one adjective – “I am a _______________________.” For example: “corporate graphic designer” or “certified financial planner.”

State your expertise and be specific “I specialize in _______________________” For example: “long-term planning for 20-somethings.”

Set yourself apart – “I have a real knack for ___________________________.” For example, “making complex financial instruments simple to understand.”

Follow this formula and you’ll have a 30-second elevator speech that gets anyone interested.  Then be prepared to make it a 5 minute speech.  Bonus tip – to make it 5 minutes, add “Here are the top 1-3-5 mistakes/struggles my clients have.”



Is it time to give up on Facebook?

facebook_unlikeWe’ve created a monster.   I, and others like me, have told countless numbers of small business people that they have to be on Facebook.  And we’ve told them they have to post regularly.  As we sew, so shall we reap.

I “liked” a friend’s site who is a Social Media Consultant and now I get at least a dozen posts a day to my Newsfeed about Social Media.  She doesn’t write any of them, they are just repostings of links with a comment.  I doubt she even reads the original articles.  I friended someone I met at a seminar the other day.  Nice person.  Only problem is that her idea of a Facebook post is a half dozen Christian inspirational messages a day.  They usually have nice backgrounds of sunsets or puppy dogs, but really, one a day will do.  I’d much rather hear about you and what you are  up to.

Why is it that people feel they can post anything they want to Facebook?

Here’s my rule.  Imagine you are sitting with 5-6 of your friends and their friends at lunch.  What would be something you’d bring up at the table?  If you wouldn’t be comfortable bringing it up in person, then don’t post it on Facebook!

This is a great rule for a variety of other reasons.  First, it keeps you from talking politics and religion in general company.  Second, it keeps you interesting.  Lastly, it keeps you authentic.  When, in polite conversation, would you say to someone, I read an article yesterday about “Five Secrets to Using LinkedIn.”  If your friends couldn’t care less, why is it OK to post it?  No, you might say “I had to take my dog to the vet…..” Post that, it’s more interesting and it’s authentic.

I can hear some of you now, why not just “unlike” the offenders?  Truth is, I like them, and when they follow the rules and are authentic, then I’m OK with having them in my news feed.  They can add variety and knowledge that my fans are interested in.  Now, does FB give me decent tools to “moderate” the conversation – Arggh.   That’s going to be my next topic.  What do you think?

Grow your Business With Public Speaking

I just returned from a fabulous Public Speaking program with Caterina Rando . Caterina is a Master Coach and accomplished public speaker who offers several programs for entrepreneurs.  If you are struggling to expand your business reach, speaking might be an option to explore.

Writing a speech will get you very focused on your value proposition.  Imagine standing in front of 100 people and trying to think of something interesting to say.  If you are going to capture their attention and keep it for 20 minutes to an hour you are going to require some compelling content pulled from your deepest experiences.  We all have interesting stories to tell , it’s a matter of pulling them out and making them relevant.

From a marketing perspective Speaking can be a real boost to your brand.

  • Establishes credibility
  • Creates leads and motivated prospects
  • Dovetails well with Social Media marketing
  • Has its own revenue stream

With a little practice, and some time spent on developing an organized speech, speaking doesn’t have to be a frightening prospect.  What I didn’t realize would be an added benefit of speaking is that you meet all kinds of interesting people and there’s nothing more fun than being around people who can tell a great story!



The Basics of Banners and Displays

While once limited to Trade Shows and Retailers, Banners and Displays are now everywhere you turn. They are lightweight, inexpensive, easy to setup, and can be made to fit any environment. If you find people in an organized group you are going to find a banner or color poster. Why? Because display advertising is a great way to present your message visually while providing needed information. Maybe it’s just what you need to bring everything together for your next event or campaign!

So, when should you use display advertising?  Anytime you want to:

Banners are everywhere!

  • promote a product or idea
      • provide directions to a location
      • share information
      • display but only for a short term project
      • present an idea visually and in large format

Banners and displays are ubiquitous at the bank, fast food restaurants, and at the car dealership, so you might be thinking they are a little too commercial for your needs. However, if you design with your message in mind, instead of the product, you can use displays to add power in just about any marketing situation. We especially like them for:

  • Fundraising Events
  • Open Houses
  • Building Lobbies
  • Seminars
  • Networking Meetings
  • Local Sports Games

Used creatively, banners are very versatile without being expensive. Consider combining multiple display items to provide a complete message. For example, one series of outdoor sail signs might say “price” while the next says “service” and the next says “quality” and the last one would say “C’mon In!.”

How should you choose which banner or display is for you? Here are the questions you should ask yourself:

  • How long do I want to keep the display up?
  • Will I want to change out the graphics without changing the hardware?
  • What conditions will the display be set up in?
  • What are the shipping requirements?
  • What kind of warranty should I get?

One of the keys to display advertising is selecting the correct display and hardware. So what are some options?

  • Vinyl banners using grommets
  • Retractable banner stands
  • Pop up booths for events
  • Fabric Wind Signs and other outdoor signs
  • Mounted Posters that can be put on easels
  • Window Displays using suction cups

Finally, when considering the expense, calculate your ROI by how many impressions you can get vs. the upfront cost of the hardware. Basically, hardware + graphics cost per event/# of attendees or visitors per event. Avoid letting the upfront cost be your only determining factor. As an example, we have a client that invested in display mounting for their public meeting room. The group is advised of the sizes of the displays and they can bring their graphic panels and quickly insert them without having to worry about the hardware. With dozens of meetings per year the hardware was quickly paid for and the meeting planners were happy.

So, as you are considering how to make the best impression at your next event, consider adding display graphics. They are really a wonderful way to draw your audience in to your message, excite them about being there, and create a cohesive energy to your promotion.

Create Beauty, not Stuff!

I had the pleasure last night of attending the AMA-DC 80th gala and awards celebration. The keynote speaker was Andy Stefanovich.  His book is on Innovation, titled Look at More, and is an Inc. best seller.  I loved his perspective on Marketing, and while I can’t do justice to his storytelling, here are my takeaways that you might want to keep in mind as you look at how you are branding your company:

Don’t be a Speaker, be a Conversationalist – In a conversation you are talking about what is going on in your mind, not presenting.  You should approach your Marketing the same way.  What is interesting to you? Who are you?

Create Purposeful Disruptions – Marketing is about changing people’s perspectives – a child looks at the world from a completely different frame of reference than you do, or your parents or friends do.  Find a way to change the way people look at your product.

Get Personal – people don’t want to know what you do, they want to know who you are.

It’s just life! – Every day things happen, good things, bad things, have some fun.  Read the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.  He makes all his clients read them to understand how you can have different perspectives on the same thing.

Don’t create “stuff,” create beauty! What do you deeply believe in?  This is powerful.  Figure out what you believe in to the core and then invite the world to participate.  Your job as a marketer is to capture the moment and give it to other people.

Marketers have a very important job – lots of people make things, handle money, marketers create the environment on how the world is viewed.

That’s it – I’ve got to go now, I’ve got some reading to catch up on!



For B2B – Is Social Media worth it? 7 Hidden Benefits

You hear that Social Media is the answer to all your marketing problems, but your boss says it only works B2C and you’re a B2B business.  He/she and won’t spend the money unless you can demonstrate ROI.

A recent article in DMA  suggests 9 out of 10 B2B companies are using Social Media.  While that may be true, most of my clients, who are B2B or nonprofit, don’t seem to have embraced the concept yet.  They tend to think that social media = a website, a newsletter, and a Facebook page.  In B2B, with anemic click-throughs and analytics  its hard to get any more in your budget.

I can attest that even B2B’s do attract new customers from their Social Media efforts.  Here’s a list of the pros that you might not have considered.  I think they are compelling.

  1. Top-of-Mind – If you were the last company they heard from then you will be the company your customers think of first.
  2. Credibility – When you provide valuable information to help your customers, without any request for payback, it is inferred that your products and services will also have value.
  3. Relationship – Social media is a personal medium.  You build a relationship with your customer, even if he or she works within a corporate structure.
  4. Call to Action – Social media encourages people to go to your website, participate in your events, and moves them closer to becoming your customer.
  5. Shareablity – It’s easy for one person to share with someone else that you might be the solution to their problem.
  6. Understanding your customers –  “Following” your customers helps you learn about their needs and concerns.  To follow them you have to participate in both directions.
  7. Bridging the generational gap – If you’re only working with Boomers then your customers are fading away.  Your potential new customers in Gen Y are using Social media to do business and wouldn’t think of buying from someone that isn’t in the space.

One of my colleagues in the promotional products business – which is a B2B industry – hasn’t made a sales call in years, yet she has grown her business exponentially through Facebook and Twitter.  What she understood is that social media is a participatory process.   All too often, I see B2B companies that start down the road, can’t justify the expense within a quarter or two, and move their resources to something else.  Then they complain that “social media doesn’t work for us.”  Well, its working for others and they are passing you by.



Please read my latest blog post!

There, you’re reading!  And all I had to do was ask.  This blog is about “calls to action” and if you continue reading I’ll give you a great list of “calls to action” and a test to see if your copy is being as effective as it can be.

I think most people are really afraid of sounding as if they are selling a vacuum cleaner on late night TV.  Once they tell me how great their product and service is, they assume I won’t be able to resist the call, click, or order.  Sorry, at best, 10% of the people who read your copy will take the next step.  If you want to get better results, you have to issue a call to action.

Here’s the test.  Take a look at your website, your ad copy, your direct mail and your marketing materials.  Count the number of “calls to action”.  (Hint:  look for verbs).  To help, here’s a list of some of the more successful ones by category.

 #1 – For all the reasons I just outlined:

  • Reply today.
  • Sign up online at.
  • Register and for further information.
  • Send in your application today!
  • For more details call.
  • Call to schedule an appointment.
  • Respond promptly.
  • Get it now!
  • See it in action!
  • I invite you to…

#2 – Free stuff

  • Request your free quote today.
  • Learn more at.
  • Download (send for) our free brochure.
  • Try it free!
  • Order now and receive a free gift.
  • Get more information.
  • Call our experts for a free consultation.
  • Send for our free catalog.
  • Call (order) now and receive free shipping.
  • This offer comes with a Money Back Guarantee, call today.
  • Use this coupon today!

#3 – Scarcity

  • Limited Availability.
  • Order now, while supplies last.
  • First 100 callers receive.
  • Special introductory offer.

#4 – Time parameters

  • Expires this month.
  • Act quickly.
  • Reserve your spot now.
  • Sign up now, while you still can.
  • Join now.
  • Start now.
  • I urge you to act at once.
  • For a short time only.
  • In a hurry? Call.

How did you do?  Did you realize that “click here” and “add to shopping cart” are calls to action!  Every page should have at least one, 2-3 is average, and 4-5 is probably ideal when you count the really subtle ones (eg. expires 12/31/2012).    

Your product information will get your prospects interested.  Still most people who are inclined toward your product like and want direction on what to do next.  That moment doesn’t last very long.  If they can’t figure it out, they’ll leave your page, or put away your literature.  You have to make the next step obvious and easy.

Good news is that now, with so much customer interaction taking place through websites, measurement tools such as Google Analytics can track your hits.  You can see what works and what doesn’t.   With Analytics you can really see and track the effectiveness of your calls to action on your websites. 

What fits for your business is your decision, there is a line you want to avoid crossing if you don’t want to sound like a huckster.   In general, avoid the “buy now” hard sell. 

Would you like some help in analyzing your current program? Call me today for a free consultation and review of your marketing materials! Act now, I still have a few slots left in September but they are going fast.