Why Teaching Is Such a Sexy Way to Sell

Okay, I’ll admit it, I was trying to get your attention with the inclusion of the word sexy in the title of this post, but before you cry foul, sexy as an adjective simply means desirable, interesting, appealing – all good things when it comes to attracting clients.

Teaching Sells

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Everyone knows that today you must educate if you want to build trust. But, may I suggest that teaching what you know how to do is also a powerful way to go beyond trust to closing more deals.

I’m not simply suggesting that you demonstrate your expertise. I’m talking about going to the point where you show someone, anyone, precisely how you do what you do.

Now, some might propose that this is a sure way to put yourself out of business. I mean, if you show someone how you do your magic tricks, they won’t need you.

Here’s the deal. Some people may actually take the information you share and figure they can take the DIY path, but I’m guessing those folks aren’t your ideal prospect anyway.

What I know is that some other people will conclude that you actually do know what you’re talking about and further, what you just explained is a whole lot harder than they imagined and would you please now charge them a premium to do it for them.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is sexy!

I have a client who came to this brilliant conclusion in this manner.

She is a photographer that specializes in taking infant and child portraits and candids.

Her competition is every other photographer and every parent with an $800 camera. Let’s just say there’s some significant price pressure in this arena.

So what does she do?

She starts holding free classes to teach all of those parents with their new $800 cameras how to take better pictures of their babies.

What, you say, that makes no sense at all.

Turns out the demand for this type of teaching is huge and she fills up class after class.

But, what you might not have guessed is that about 30% of the participants also hire her to take photos of junior for her full studio price.

Also turns out people had no idea how hard it is to take really awesome pictures and now the only person they will trust to take really awesome pictures of their child is my photographer client.

Oh, and now she charges for the classes too and still generates significant business from students.

So, what can you teach that will make your business more desirable, interesting, and appealing.

See, it turns out teaching is a pretty sexy way to sell.

When Does a Customer Actually Become a Customer?

For most businesses a customer becomes a customer when they buy a product, sign a contract or agree to terms of a deal. But I wonder if that view of the journey to convert leads to sales misses the bigger reality.whencustomer

What if, just for conversation sake, you began to view someone looking into your services as a customer. Or, better still, someone  just beginning to talk about what they learned at your free workshop as a customer?

Now, it’s true, neither of the above “customers” has paid you a dime, but what if you began to run your entire business as though your job was not one of selling someone, but one of doing everything you could to build trust in those who expressed interest.

What if that group became customers in your mind at that point and you created tools and processes to start serving them right then and there?

What if instead of telling prospects how great you are, you demonstrated just what’s like to be a customer?

What if one of your primary marketing strategies was to make it very easy for people to try what you do?

What if you made your free content, workshops and evaluations more valuable than the paid offerings from most organizations?

Do you think that might create an environment where customers would sell themselves?

For example, my company sells marketing consulting services. By its very nature, it’s hard to explain, hard to buy and even harder at times to convince someone they need.

Due to that, we spend a great deal of time creating content and processes that simplify the service, package it in ways that are practical and explain exactly how to do everything we propose to do.

This focus on education is what builds community, enables sharing and initiates the process of trust building.

Once someone begins to consume the content to the point where they start asking if and how this might work for them, we focus on showing them.

Depending upon the need of the “customer” we offer an evaluation process guaranteed to provide them with solid, actionable steps, at no charge. Or, we offer to conduct a full fledged “Discovery” session with their entire Executive Team. We treat both of these offerings as though we are serving a customer and know that no matter the outcome, the customer will feel as though they received tremendous value.

This is an investment we are willing to make because it offers proof that we deliver and it keeps us focused on creating the most remarkable experience possible.

It’s worth noting that when we switched to providing a service over pitching a service our rate of conversion went from about 10% to 50%. While some of this can also be attributed to better education that led to more narrowly targeted prospects, a great deal is do to the significant mindset shift of when we view a customer a customer.

I’ve written often about this concept I call The Marketing Hourglass and the viewpoint described in this post is really just a manifestation of taking an end to end view of the customer journey that is the essence of the Hourglass concept. Obviously, the job is not over at this juncture, this is simply one of the stops on the path to creating a community of customer champions.

 

How to Get Sales and Marketing On the Same Page

The title of today’s post became one of the major sub themes of my upcoming book Duct Tape Selling. It didn’t start out that way, but in working with more and more sales departments it became clear that the move to inbound and social selling occurs much more effectively when there’s a culture of cooperation and integration within sales and marketing departments.

Sadly, this is rarely the case. In fact, I’ll be presenting my view of the sales and marketing divide – and what to do about it – in an upcoming MarketingProfs Pro Seminar.

My take is that for organizations to take full advantage of the dramatic shift in the way people and organizations buy today they must intentionally blend inbound marketing, outbound marketing and inbound selling a way that mirrors today’s customer journey.

And, it’s not enough to simply pass white papers to the sales team and say “go be social.”

inbound selling

Sales and marketing must come together at the point where awareness and messaging and the very definition of what an ideal client actually looks like initiates.

Below are five activities that I believe should be at the forefront of any attempt to more closely align sales and marketing.

Shared planning

Quite often marketing creates a plan and calls on others to deploy it. The challenge is that in most cases the marketing folks are isolated from the actual customer. Sales and marketing must come together to define the customer, create marketing strategy and map a customer journey that puts the customer first. Invite sales into the planning phase!

Shared editorial

Marketing is now in full content production mode. But I wonder if more is really better? I believe that even if sales people aren’t asked to write blog posts they can both inform the editorial make up and personalize what content is produced in ways that will make it more useful to individual prospects and clients. Marketing must take the access they generally have to data and filter content to help sales professionals spend less time researching.

Shared social

Here’s an idea that is causing loads of angst in marketing departments around the world – turns out that social media is more effective in the hands of some sales professionals than it is in the hands of some marketing professionals. While far too many marketing departments view social media as another broadcast channel, smart sales folks are finding better ways to connect, network, prospect and engage very small numbers of the right people via social media. This is a huge training opportunity.

Shared engagement

To me the item that would really bring a sales and marketing group together would be the act of jointly engaging a client or prospect. This could start with working on a proposal together, making calls together, blending lead nurturing activities and, with the inclusion of a service or account manager, might just round out the perfect way to engage today’s buyer.

Shared measurement

Here’s the real problem. Many marketing departments are measured by the number of leads they generate – no matter the relative quality. Sales is measured by the number of those leads they convert – no matter the relative quantity and quality. Suffice it to say neither is too happy.

If you want to get sales and marketing really working together set up a way to measure the true impact of effective inbound marketing and selling as a team and reward each for the vital role they play in actually creating a profitable customer.

5 Things You Know But Don’t Do Enough

I travel all around this world and speak to thousands and thousands of small business owners about the challenges of growing a business.

get more done

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If I had to sum all the problems and questions I hear into just two common threads I would say it is this – “I don’t make enough money” and “I don’t have enough time.”

Oh sure, stated other ways it might come out like, “how do I use social media?” or “what should I do about that pain in the rear customer?” but in the end, it’s mostly two things that business owners desire – more money and more control of their lives.

On a flight from Tampa to Tulsa (not really but I’m listening to a song from the Jayhawks by that title) I pondered the things that keep me from moving my business in the right direction, making more money and having more control and I was able to find a pattern that involved a handful of simple things that I know no one does enough.

Of course, none of the things on this list are going to shock you, but the reminder just might help you think about your own habits and routines and traps and, in doing so, rethink a few of the things you already know, but don’t do enough.

Say No enough

This is a tough one for me because I’m a people pleaser. Over the years, I’ve gotten talked into doing things I knew I shouldn’t or, worse still, couldn’t, because I feared saying no would shut off other opportunities. You know what shuts off future opportunities? – saying yes and doing a lousy or unfinished job.

People will respect you when you say no in the right way. Bob Burg’s latest work, Adversaries into Allies, has some great practical advice for this.

The key to saying no is to have a clear picture of what and why you do what you do. Understanding your true value and letting go of constantly considering what others think about you. I think that last point is why saying no causes so much stress for some. I read a great Wayne Dyer quote recently that is such a great reminder of this idea, “what others think about you is none of your business.

Say Yes enough

Okay, I know, I know, now I’m just being mean, but saying yes is not simply the flip side of saying no. Most of what we need to say yes to more often is the stuff that scares us.

In fact, think about that thing in your business right now that you don’t want to do, you fear could be too hard, too risky, too big – that’s what you need to say yes to. That resistance, as Stephen Pressfield calls it in the War of Art, is a big fat call to say yes and you need to charge in eyes wide open, like now!

Ask enough

This is something I struggled with early on as a business owner and I know it to be one of the greatest traps for most business owners – charging too little for what you do or remaining in the vise grip of hourly thinking.

Hourly thinking is rampant in pretty much any service business and it’s a bit like quicksand as it will suck you under faster than any other business dynamic. You can’t make more time, so you’re only option is to fill every minute and charge more by the hour.

As a business owner the value of what you are capable of delivering goes up with each passing day. As you build more experience, more audience, more wins and more results to draw from, your fifteen minutes of brilliance on behalf of a client is worth thousands – so why are you’re still giving it away like it’s oxygen?

Here are some of the things your mind is telling you – I’m not worth that much or if I don’t ask much, they won’t expect much or the worst, worst, worst of all – that’s all they will pay.

My friends at Freshbooks created a wonderful little free eBook on this topic called – Breaking the Time Barrier.

Here’s my advice – double your prices. Now, what would have to do, who would you have to become, what would you have to create and who would you need to start hanging out with to make that move work? That’s all there is to it.

Follow up enough

Back when I started my business, back before we officially had something we called social media, (yes, we somehow managed to have thriving businesses back then) I had a Friday habit that always paid off in a variety of ways.

Each Friday I would go through my Roledex (this is an 80’s reference) and pick out at least five people I had not spoken with or heard from in a few months. Then I would pick up the phone (when I still had one of those in my office) and try to connect. Even if I got voice mail I would leave a message stating I was just checking to see what was up. I continued this practice for years via email as well.

The thing that was always amazing was about 25% of those “reach outs” turned into a “I was just thinking about calling you, I need . . .” Now, I may have gotten that call sometime later, but I wonder.

Today I have a list of close relationships in Nimble CRM and settings that let me know when 30 days have passed since my last contact. We have to stay in touch with and nurture our networks with intention. It’s where the greatest opportunities lie.

Say thank you enough

I don’t think that it’s possible to say thank you enough, but it’s worth a try. (Click to Tweet)

My wife is such a great asset in my life (okay, for many, many reasons) as she holds me accountable for things like gratitude. It’s not that I ever mean to be ungrateful, but sometimes when you build things and do things that work in business you can fall into the trap of thinking you did it all yourself.

I know that I’ve worked my butt off the last few decades, but I owe whatever measure of success I’ve had to people who have both outwardly aided me and those many, many more whom I’ve never met that subscribe, share and promote my efforts.

You know this to be true as well, so make thank you a habit. Take gifts wherever you go. Publicly acknowledge the help you receive. And always remember what it felt like in the beginning before you were one of the cool kids.

Before Any of the Tactics Matter Answer These 3 Questions

Most business owners think marketing and immediately think email, copy, Facebook and promotions – you know, tactics. Heck, most marketers do the same thing.

strategy before tactics

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I’ve been working with business owners for over twenty five years now and I’m here today to once again affirm that none of the tactics matter until you are crystal clear about a handful of things. If you’ve heard me talk at a conference in the last ten years then you’ve heard me say repeatedly – strategy before tactics is the simple road to success.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about systematically and consistently rolling out tactics, but only those that support a strategy that you can commit to. Once you nail the strategy part you can confidently go to work on strategy with tactics, but you can’t have one before the other.

I will go as far as to say, however, a simple, maybe even common set of tactics in support of a powerful strategy beats a brilliant set of tactics with no real strategy at all most every time.

So, how do you make strategy simple? Answer these three questions and get everyone on your team aligned around the answers.

1) Why do we do what we do?

This is the age old mission question. Until you can get very clear about the one, overarching purpose for your business, things will always seem a bit muddy. When you can grab onto your “why” you have the basis for every decision you make and a thread that can define your brand and a magnet for building a vibrant community around your business.

Ponder this question for a moment as it might help bring some clarity: What is joyful to you about the result your business brings a client? There are many variations on this one, but it might help your get started.

Perhaps the greatest challenge with purpose and mission is that it can’t be faked. You can’t copy it, it simply is what you stand for – so dig deep on this one!

2) Who do we do it for?

The tricky part about this one is that the answer should be as narrow as possible. If you nailed the first answer above, know that some percentage of the world out there won’t be attracted to your why – and that’s okay. Now your job is to go even narrower and start really understanding who you can help, who gets the most value from your unique approach.

Here’s a tip: Look to your most profitable customers that already refer business to you. Find the commonality in this group and you should be able to develop a very narrow ideal customer profile that entails both physical description and ideal behavior.

A secondary element of this answer applies to your staff. Who fits your why, your culture? Who can come to your business with the mindset to serve the mission you’ve so eloquently laid out above?

3) What do we do that’s both unique and remarkable?

The last piece of the puzzle is about what you do. But, it’s not simply about defining what business you are in. That’s important to understand, but more important is to find and communicate how your business is unique in a way that your ideal client finds remarkable. In a way that allows you to stand apart from everyone else that says they are in the same business as you.

This isn’t as simple as it might sound. Most business owners don’t fully understand what their customers truly value. It’s not good service, fair pricing and broad selection. Those fall under the category of expectation and everyone can and usually does claim them. The difference is in the details, the little things you do, the way you do it, how you treat people, how you make your customers feel. It’s in the surprises, the things that exceed their expectations.

Of course, this assumes you provide something that actually is unique and remarkably done, but I’m guessing you do, you just don’t know how magnificent it is and how you should make it the message you lead with.

Here’s my advice: Go talk to your customers, they know what you do that’s unique. Listen carefully and don’t be afraid to embrace the little things you do, that’s where you are different in a way that matters.

Spend time with the process of answering these three questions, get your entire team involved and make it a game. This is the essence of strategy. It doesn’t have to be an academic process, but it is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your business and certainly something you should do before you even consider your next great idea for how to use Pinterest.

Now, say it with me, Strategy Before Tactics!

How to Make Content the Voice of Strategy

I talk about marketing strategy a lot. It is for me the most important element when it comes to building a long-term, sustainable marketing system.

content strategy

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Your strategy informs every marketing decision. It must be considered when you decide what products you will offer, how you will serve your customers, what your packaging looks like, what your followup entails and how you generate leads.

Today, the common thread in almost every element of delivering on strategy is content. Content is how you move people from know to like to trust. Content is how you give your marketing strategy a voice and, because of that, you must take a strategic and systematic approach to how your content is developed.

I know I’ve said this before and I know I’ll say it again: Waking up every morning and deciding what you are going to write on your blog does not scale.

Below is a refresher of my approach to developing and implementing a content plan with your overall business objectives and strategy in mind. I’ve updated the calendar element with my plan for 2014.

A Total Content SystemTM approach allows you to plan, delegate, curate, create, collaborate, repurpose and generally get far more out of every piece of content you produce. Once your system is in place it will build momentum with each passing month and begin to multiply in value to your organization.

The Total Content System goes like this:

  • Create a list of monthly Foundational Content Themes
  • Develop your Content Delivery Platform
  • Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Foundational Content Themes

Either through your own knowledge or by using a keyword tool like MOZ or Wordtracker, develop a list of core content topics and assign one to each month for the next 12 months.

Each theme should be a substantial topic related to your business or industry and represent an important keyword search term. It might be helpful to think about it like a book. Each month might represent a chapter in what will ultimately make up an important body of work by the end of this year.

You can also designate terms that you know you would like to rank higher for, but currently have little or no content that leads people online or off to you.

I’ll use my organization as an example to help illustrate this point. My business and model may be significantly different than yours, but examples always seem to help fill in the blanks for people.

My editorial themes for 2014:

  • January – Planning and organizational development
  • February – Offline marketing
  • March – Content marketing
  • April – Inbound selling
  • May – Outbound marketing
  • June – Marketing automation
  • July – Marketing strategy
  • August – Mobile marketing
  • September – Networking/Referrals
  • October – Community practices
  • November – Social media
  • December – Personal growth

These are all topics that I believe my community is interested in learning more about and that I personally have an interest in developing more content around. (I’m working on a sales book and will be heavy into daily writing on that project in March – all content has a purpose!)

Develop your Content Delivery Platform

Now that I have my list of foundational themes I can organize my Content Delivery Platform components accordingly. Again, this is my model, but many of these elements work for any kind of business and should be considered in your business.

  • Newsletter – I put out a weekly email newsletter. I will add themed content to each issue either through some of my own writing or by finding other people’s content related to the theme and highlighting it.
  • Blog posts – I write a daily blog post and may schedule a post related to the theme on a weekly basis. This still gives me lots of room on topics but helps me focus both from a content and SEO standpoint.
  • Guest posts – We currently run one guest post a week and use our monthly theme to suggest topics to potential guests. (If you would like to submit a guest post see the themes above for guidance and submit your idea here.)
  • Podcast guests – I produce a weekly audio podcast and the monthly theme really gives me guidance in lining up topic experts well in advance.
  • PR Pitches – We use our themes to promote stories and pitches to the media.
  • Sponsored pitches – We receive invitations to write sponsored content and conduct sponsored webinars and use our theme to guide these pitches. We also reach out to organizations that might have a special interest in a particular month’s theme with sponsor opportunities.
  • Webinars – Since we are creating all this rich, topic specific content we host monthly online seminars to deliver the content in a new form.
  • eBook – People really seem to love eBooks and they are an essential element in our list building efforts. Most themes lend themselves nicely to an eBook compilation.
  • Curate a Scoop.it topic – As we are doing the research and preparing all of the ideas for our own content, we bookmark tons of other people’s content, books, experts, tools and the like related to our theme and save the entire collection as a curated topic on Scoop.it. This allows us to attract even more readers and creates a nice library to draw from.
  • Create a content package – The final step is to take all of this content from each month and create a membership or community offering that would allow people interested in the monthly topic to access the entire package in one tidy resource. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that while so much content is free and available, people will pay for content that is packaged and delivered in the way they want it. Figure that piece out and you’ll really make your content efforts pay directly.

Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Okay, so now you’ve got your themes plotted out and you’ve got a plan for creating, filtering and aggregating all manner and form of content into your delivery system. It’s time map your content plan to your core business objectives.

This step allows you to better understand how to get return on your content investment and how much you should actually invest in creating a certain form or package of content.

For example, if one of your stated annual objectives is to dramatically increase the sale of information products, you would produce content with product creation in mind. Or, if one of your stated objectives for the year is to significantly increase your subscriber list, you would focus on producing, delivering and sharing content that attracts email capture, links and strategic partnering.

One of the most important aspects of a Total Content System plan is that it changes the lens you use to view all the information that comes at you all day long. When you know what your theme is this month and next month all of a sudden books, tools, articles and conversations take on new meaning and seem to somehow organize themselves for the benefit of your ongoing, long-term approach.

5 Most Popular Guest Posts of 2013

guest postIn 2013 we added a new weekly feature to Duct Tape Marketing – guest posts. Each Thursday we run a marketing small business related post here from content contributors around this globe. Writing and running guest posts is a form of networking that’s essential is this sharing and linking world we find ourselves marketing in.

When you run guest posts you encourage linking and promotion from your guests and when you write and submit guest posts you acquire links and find new audience for your content.

Using a combination of social data, links and traffic analytics I present our five most popular guest content from 2013.

1. Why Every Small Business Needs Great Content – It’s no longer enough for a small business to build a website, Facebook page or twitter profile and hope that people will flock to it, bringing new business. – Natalie Chan Outbrain.

2. X-rated – Surprising Coaching Lessons from the X-Men – How many times have you heard the question “If you could have any single superpower – what would it be?” It’s a tricky decision, but personally I’d go for telepathy. . . just imagine how lucrative that could be in business! – from James T Noble

3. Mobile Copywriting Tips and Four Apps to Assist – With 79 percent of Americans working remotely at least part of the time, it seems the days of copywriters chained to cubicles are far behind us. However, leaving the desk behind can take some getting used to. Read on to discover tips for copywriting in a mobile work environment, and 4 helpful apps to assist you in doing so. – from Teddy Hunt

4. The #1 Reason You Feel Like a Failure and What To Do About It Today – Naturally, every business owner wants their business to grow. When you’re trying to change anything about your business, or your life for that matter—whether you want to gain more customers, increase profits, improve your health, or whatever result you’re looking for—what you’re really trying to do is create a new reality for yourself. – from Noah St. John

5. 8 Tips for Writing White Papers (Hint: Don’t Call It a White Paper) – Ever seen a “white paper” on the web… and figured those are only for the big guys. Think again. A white paper is a 6- to 8-page marketing document that helps a prospective customer understand an issue or solve a problem. from Gordon Graham

Think you would like to write a guest post on Duct Tape Marketing? Reach out here and find out about our requirements and editorial calendar for 2014.

What If You Needed to Fire Yourself?

I had an interesting conversation with one of the most dynamic free agent entrepreneurs I know.

It all started when he wrote to tell me he had taken a job.

A what, a job?

How could that be, I mean, he was living the dream.

scott ginsbergMy friend is the author of over twenty books, speaks to groups all over the world and is a seeming non-stop fountain of ideas.

Oh, and he had built, in my view, one of the strongest personal brands I’ve encountered.

But, you know what else, he was burned out going it alone and had no desire to scale in order to burn out even more, so he a made a decision.

Actually, the first thing he did was take the summer off so he could think about what he wanted to do next.

I think that’s the world we live in going forward. You don’t necessarily need to have a job, a career or a business so much as you need to have a life full of things that keep you motivated.

For some that means a never ending stream of projects, while for others that means remaking themselves every few years in order to pursue something exciting and new.

As I think about my own journey over the last couple of decades, it may be true that I’ve not been employed in the traditional sense, but I’ve also not stayed still hacking away at building my business.

In fact, in the twenty-five or so years I’ve been on my own working as a small business entrepreneur, I’ve recreated my business in pretty significant ways at least four times.

My friend, mentioned above, is Scott Ginsberg, you may know him as “the nametag guy.” I shared Scott’s amazing story in my book The Referral Engine. Scott’s worn a name tag every day since some time in 2000 and built a loyal and rabid following around his constant theme of approachability.

A few months ago Scott went on sabbatical to figure out how to save himself from burnout. He’s still the nametag guy and he still writes and speaks, and by the way sings, but he’s also an idea guy for New York based Makeable creating something he calls thinkmaps.

Yep, in order to stay true to his entrepreneurial spirit, he took a job that lets him continue to expand his journey by day, while holding onto his own unique brand by night.

I think Scott’s approach to how he found the next stone on the path is equally revealing and instructional. Instead of heading over to a job board Scott researched and located a target list of companies that he felt represented the culture and innovative energy he craved.

Then he contacted the CEOs of these organizations and requested an interview – not a job interview, though. Scott is a publisher, like we all are today, and so he asked to interview the CEO as a journalist and consequently changed the dynamic of what essentially was his introduction to the organization.

From these interviews Scott was able to connect with and engage the organization that he eventually chose to go to work for.

I asked Scott if he ever felt as though he had failed his entrepreneurial dream somehow and his response was – “not at all, failure would have been to continue to do what I was doing without passion, failure would have been to lose my wife over that.”

I guess my main point for so many of my small business entrepreneur readers is that your option for how to create fulfilling work is only limited by your imagination’s ability to create scenarios that excite you.

The definition of work, of career, of what is and is not a business are forever altered and can be molded to fit anything that excites and feeds your soul if you choose to explore it intentionally.