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What If How You Sold Was as Important as What You Sold?

So, for starters, the title to this post poses a bit of a trick question because significant research suggests it is in fact a fact.

photo credit: dragonanswers via photopin cc

photo credit: dragonanswers via photopin cc

Buyers have become so adept at doing initial purchase research that they no longer need or have the patience for a sales presentation on the benefits of your widget. Ironically, this applies doubly for B2B, big ticket items where you might think a little face time would be a good thing.

A CEB study of more than 1,400 B2B customers across industries revealed that 57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier.

So, what does this spell for the typical sales and marketing professional? You better find a way to make your marketing as useful as your products. That’s right, sales and marketing is no longer about being found and providing educational information – those are still important, but today you better have prospects looking to you as an adviser, teacher, time saver, problem solver and guide on life’s journey or what’s the point.

I repeat – it’s not just your product or service that must perform – it’s your actual sales and marketing process that must provide these things as well.

This same CEB study also found that 53% of those surveyed claimed that the sales experience itself was one of the greatest contributing factors in continued loyalty to the brand.

The feeling is that most products, services, brands and even pricing are about the same, but the sales experience, or value, ease and insight delivered during the actual process of buying, was what tipped the scale.

Two recent books hit this theme pretty hard. Mitch Joel’s CTRL+ALT+DEL (Check out interview with Mitch Joel here) and Jay Baer’s Youtility (Ships June 27th – look for an upcoming interview Jay.) And of course CEB’s book derived from the extensive sales research cited in this post called The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. (Check out interview with Matthew Dixon here)

So, how do you make your sales process more useful?

Let’s say you were shopping for some running shoes. You search around and find a few sites that seem to specialize in the selection you are looking for and a couple even provide lots of information and reviews from other runners. But, you’re not sure which $150 pair of shoes are right and that’s enough money that you want to get it right.

So, you fire off a couple questions to sites that seem the most informational. One sends you back some specs from the manufacture and then Patton Gleason from sends you a personal video showing you all 3 shoes you were considering and telling you why, based on your needs, which one he suggests.

Now, you tell me – is that sales process useful?

And, the beauty of this kind of sales process is that it actually favors the little guy.

Here’s what some of his customers had to say – sounds like they found his sales process useful!

“It was amazing and so helpful and kind: I finally felt like someone was actually listening to me instead of just trying to rush me into making a purchase.”

“You’re too great – this is awesome that you answer with a personal video.”

“Thanks again so much for your help, it especially helps to be able to see the shoes other than just in photos.”

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the bar today. Creating marketing and sales insight that’s so useful people would be willing to pay to receive it.

So, what can you to create a much better buying experience in your business? What have you seen others do that you would like to share?

Solving the Most Frustrating Part of Marketing

I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 years telling any small business owner that would listen that marketing isn’t really that complicated.

What’s complicated and frustrating about marketing perhaps is how small business owners and those that work in the field of marketing think about it.

The Marketing HourglassMarketing is just a system and, operated as such, it isn’t any different from many of the other systems needed to run a business. A system creates control, a system guides priorities, a system creates process, a system generates accountability and a way to measure and win the game.

I developed my own view of “marketing as a system” after discovering that working with small business owners in the way I wanted wasn’t possible unless I was willing to change my view of marketing.

What I quickly discovered was it’s a two-way street. Marketing consultants are often frustrated because they have no system or methodology they can apply over and over again and small business owners are frustrated because there’s no logical way to buy marketing services from people pitching the idea of the week.

I had a large ad agency professional approach me recently and tell me about trying to help several of his family members find some marketing help for their startup. Because he had spent most of his life in six and seven digit budget land he was appalled at how hard it was to find help that made sense for this startup.

And that’s precisely the work I’ve been engaged in for over a decade – putting an end to marketing frustration – both on the part of marketing consultants and coaches and on the part of the tens of thousands of small business owners that have adopted some version of this systems approach to marketing.

For some the concept of a system for marketing seems so still and uncreative, but for me a system is how you Save YourSelf Time Energy and Money – corny, I know, but something we all need a little more of!

I’ve built a marketing system that gives relief to frustrated marketing consultants by way of the Duct Tape Marketing Network and provides real results for small business owners through the Duct Tape Marketing System.

Below is a very brief description of the elements of a marketing system

1) Strategy before tactics – create a narrowly defined strategy first

This is without a doubt the most crucial step. Strategy must come before any tactics. Until you can narrowly define your ideal client and uncover or create some way your business is both unique and remarkable you’ll compete on price and struggle to build any sense of momentum. More on this . . .

2) Build your Marketing Hourglass – A marketing focused business model

The next step involves what I call The Marketing Hourglass. This simple process asks you to view your business and discover how you will move your ideal prospects down the path of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer. The beauty of this thinking is that it puts the focus on the end – a happy customer, willing to buy more and tell others. Get that part right and you’ll never need to worry about lead generation in the same way again. More on this . . .

3) Become a publishing engine – Your content become the voice of strategy

Almost every element of the Marketing Hourglass relies on some form of intentional content to operate properly. In this step business owners create their content plan with some very specific objectives in mind. More content is not the answer. The right content, delivered to the right person, at the right time is the answer. More on this . . .

4) Build a total online and offline presence – Integration is the key to success

Integration is what makes social media work. It’s what makes email marketing work and it’s what drives effective advertising. Until you view your online and offline presence as one integrated whole you’ll continue to fall prey to the idea of the week. Any decision on what to do on Facebook comes with content, SEO, email and advertising implications as well. View it that way and you’ll never wonder about ROI again. More on this . . .

5) Build a lead generation machine – Lead momentum comes from multiple streams of lead generation

Lead generation is a game of trust, context and repetition. Advertising, public relations and referral generation built around an effective marketing strategy is the secret to creating the right awareness with the right prospects. More on this . . .

6) Lead conversion is a system – Lead conversion as a repeatable sales process and customer experience

The thing about an effective marketing system, such as the one described above, is that it eliminates the need to sell – at least in the traditional sense of the word. When you educate, build trust and create engagement all that’s left to do is show prospects how they can get the result you’ve shown them. More on this . . .

7) Live by the calendar – You’re never done, simply operate the system over and over again

Once you build the various elements of your marketing system you must map it out on a calendar, test, analyze, tweak and improve it continuously. For some, simply carving out the time to create new processes and putting in the effort to develop new marketing behaviors must become a habit before any progress can be made. It’s a long-term game, you’re never done, just deal with it every day. More on this . . .

I’ve taken every element of this system and turned it into an online course that any business can apply to build a marketing system. Each element is presented in step-by-step lessons that include video, workbooks, worksheets, examples and resources. We continue to work on it and improve it and add to it as new tools and tactics arise.

Once you gain access to the Duct Tape Marketing System you’ll be able to visit each lesson over and over again as you perfect your system and even use our materials to train and guide your marketing staff.

You can find complete details here.

7 Ways to Attract Lots of High Quality Links in the Age of Authority

Links back to your site from other sites give Google a potentially important signal – “Hey, I’m a human being and I think this is good stuff.” – that’s something Google can’t do with a spider and even better if the site in question is already known to Google as a trusted source.


photo credit: dolescum via photopin cc

Links have always been important, but in the past it was just about getting lots of them. The “more is more” approach led to gaming and buying and other unnatural types of acts.

There was a time when SEO folks and site owners seemed more concerned about getting links than producing anything worth actually linking to and visiting.

Recent changes in the Google algorithm addressed this aspect of their ranking system in dramatic fashion.

Links still matter, but the emphasis has been placed squarely on the quality and authority of links and not on numbers of links. You could see this coming with every new tweak and pronouncement from Google folks like Matt Cutts.

Link building in the age of authority has more in common with effective networking than some sort of magic SEO art.

Below are eight tactics I’ve employed to effectively build and continue to build high quality, relevant links.

One word of caution – none of these tactics supplant the need to be link worthy and none involve tricks of any kind. You draw high quality, relevant links the same way you develop networking relationships – by focusing on the needs of your link partners and your readers.

1) Snack size influence

One of the best ways to get some very high authority links (and this includes RT’s +1s and Likes from high authority folks as deemed by Google) is to publish quotes, advice and answers from influencers in your industry.

The above statement is pretty obvious of course, but the key to getting said content from influencers is to make it as easy as possible for them to provide it. Ask one question, for example, of a dozen people, publish the answers in a thought-provoking and link to each participant’s site.

Many times this approach can produce a very high quality, or at least interesting, piece of content that others, including your influential guests, may think worthy of linking to and socializing.


Here’s an example of this approach that produced multiple high quality links – How I Write and How I Decide What To Write

2) Guest content

I know you’ve heard lots of people talking about guest blogging and with reason – one of the highest quality links you can get is a link back to some page on your site from the body of a blog post on an influential blog. So, get over to Topsy and do a search on your key terms + guest and find yourself some great opportunities to draw links from your guest content

But, don’t forget two other potent variations on this theme – a) Ask others to write a post on your site. You can get some tremendous content and likely as not they will link to that content once it’s published. Here’s a guest post written by my friend Chris Brogan. He linked to this post from his various profiles.


b) Interview guests for a podcast – Authors love to do this around new book launches and many influential folks in your industry may want to do the same. Not always, but more often than not, your guest will link to this content. Last week my friend Lee Odden linked to the podcast interview he recently gave for the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.

3) Promote an event

Events are another great way to draw links. If you host an in person workshop or even online seminar you can likely attract links by listing your event on local event pages, MeetUp and Eventful.

In some cases you can get some pretty terrific links from the event space – I hosted a free talk at the public library in my community and got some terrific high domain authority links from local media calendars and the library .org link

4) Repackage across mediums

I write lots of blog posts and speak frequently for organizations. Just about every word I write or speak is fair game to be repackaged into eBooks, turned into videos and pitched to media outlets in one form or another.

The net effect is that one piece of content might be a source of link generation in many ways. For example, here’s my library talk from above posted to YouTube.

Organizations love to share free eBooks. Here’s a very high influence link from to one of my free eBooks.

5) Your partners

Yet another reason to work hard at establishing a formal strategic partner network. Last week I wrote about ways to use content for referrals and many of these ways involved linking opportunities.

In a way this is the updated version of the linking networks that were in vogue before Google slapped them down. The big difference is these should be, by virtue of how you build them, far more natural.

Over the years I’ve acquired links from HP, Dell, Microsoft and Sage Software through partnering efforts.

6) Build something useful

Want to know the easiest, fastest, more productive way to draw tons of links? Create a highly useful free tool and tell people about it. People love to find and share stuff that’s useful and, of course, even better if it’s free.

One of the most linked to pages on my site is for a free press release generator called Instant Press Release that I created years ago. The tool also generates hundreds of newsletter sign up each month even though I never do anything to promote it and you can’t even find it without searching for it.

And I wonder how many millions of people have shared tools like Hubspot’s Marketing Grader?

I know this one might be easier said than done, but this is so powerful it is worth investing in having something built.

7) Real world networks

What organizations do you belong to? What alumni directories publish links? What business groups? What non-profit committees?

These may not seem like great places to get high traffic links, but they can often be terribly industry relevant and carry high authority signals for Google. They still like .org and .edu domains.

Most of the options above require real work, I realize that, but Google has said loud and clear that the days of buying links in farms are over. Keep creating great content, sharing great content, working on building your own authority and networking and links, the kind that won’t ever go out of fashion, will come.

How to Turn Your Best Customers Into a Growth Engine

I’ve said repeatedly that building a vibrant community is the most important objective of any business these days.

photo credit: Mourner via photopin cc

photo credit: Mourner via photopin cc

While this may sound like some social media laced feel good sentiment it’s actually quite practical.

Making your business customers, prospects, suppliers and partners feel like important members of a bigger community simply makes long-term business sense and is the key to long-term growth in ways that you not have even considered.

Many businesses get the idea treating customers in ways that make them want to return and refer, but you should also look at your best customers as collaboration partners able to help you formulate plans for growth.

Creating new products and services and making plans for growth is tricky adventures. Why not systematically involve your customers in every decision you make? Why not create new products and services with your customers? Why not include them in content creation and marketing campaigns?

Why not get your best customers to tell you what they need and then help you create, iterate and perfect it?

Below are five steps that can help you build systematic community involvement into your growth plans

Champion personas

The first step is to segment your business customers into personality types. Not every customer group is right for this approach and you may likely have completely different segments, such as B2B and B2C, and may need to build entirely different approaches for different segments.

Additionally, you’ll want to identify customers groups or types that are more open to this level of involvement. One of the best places to look is for customers that already refer or evangelize what you do. Can you identify them specifically or can you at least come up with a description of common characteristics?

These are what I refer to as you community champions. This is the first group to focus on as you try to expand your community reach.

Ongoing mining

Next you’ll want to dig in and figure out what this group might be lacking. This is sometimes a little tricky as if they really knew they probably would have told you by now, but I find that posing a series of questions around what they wish they had, what they can’t find or what doesn’t seem to work, even about your current offerings, is a good place to start.

After you do this you’ll want to audit your content, touchpoints and revenue streams in an effort to identify a handful of potential growth and involvement opportunities.

Many times you can find ways to involve your customers by simply creating content opportunities such as guest blogging, case studies and video testimonials.

Consider events you might create where your customers can do some of the education. Host peer-to-peer roundtables and let your customers facilitate discussions among prospects.

Consider additional revenue extensions where your champion customers could moderate other customer groups and help add ongoing value.

Innovation circles

Once you’ve established some working rapport with your community champions get them involved in helping you build, test and refine new offerings.

Create what I like to call innovation circles to use to build with your customers. Take rough product, service, packaging and pricing ideas to your circles and get feedback. Then with this feedback create a beta test group that agrees to help you get it right. Then use these testers as case studies and early evangelists for your now much improved offering.

You don’t have to stop here either. You can use this same approach for all of your marketing initiatives, copy and positioning.

Accountability tracking

The final piece is the glue that holds this entire approach together and keeps your community champions coming back for more.

You must create a way to religiously track the results your champions are getting from their relationship with your organization as well as their greater involvement in the community.

This just makes good business sense, but it will also help reinforce the value you bring to the table over and above the somewhat empty claims of good service and low pricing used by your competitors.

One of the best ways to build this into your community is through game mechanics. Create ways for your community champions to participate in contests. Get them to compete with each other. Teach them how to help each other through tangible acts such as linking swapping, sharing and guest posting.

Make the use of your progress and services something they must report and even incentivize them by creating awards for people who come up with new uses and best documented results.

Partner platform

One way to take this notion up a notch is to teach a group of strategic partners how to do the same and then start cross-pollinating your communities.

When you create a common language and process, such as “innovation circles,” you make it easier to teach the methodology and create even greater participation as you and your partners are promoting the same approach.

Imagine how much more value you can bring to your community by building this kind of best of class partner platform, Further imagine how interested potential partners will be to learn how you plan to shine the light on them throughout your vibrant customer community.

Your customer champions want to help you grow and, while making referrals is one powerful way to involve them, when you take a formal approach like the one described above you’ll not only make it easier for them to refer you, you’ll create a team of business partners eager to help you plan and grow.

A Ridiculously Awesome Opportunity for 8 Business Owners

What if you could spend 3 entire days working on your business with only seven other business owners under my guidance. Oh, and what if it was free.

I am conducting and filming a live 3 day workshop in San Francisco June 26-28 and eight lucky business owners get to join me for free as my in-studio business case studies. (Well, you do have to pay your travel, but the workshop is free)

Seven other business owners, you and me working for 3 days on your business while the world looks on. The event will be streamed live to thousands of viewers and recorded in a professional studio. So, in addition to getting to build a complete marketing system with me you just might get famous too!

If this sounds a bit like the chance of a lifetime then I have a task for you.

Visit this form and tell me why your business should be considered for this exclusive group. There’s a place on the form where you can upload a link to a :60 YouTube video and I highly recommend you share your story via video as we will have lots of submissions. (Think – How do I stand out?)

If you want to check out the course promo page you can do so here.

This is not a gimmick, I need a very small group of eager business owners to act as my case subjects in the studio for the live event and for that you get 3 days of consulting – simple as that.

So, go shoot your video and I hope to see you in San Fran. (Deadline to submit your application is May 30th)

Digital Marketplaces Becoming a Viable Small Business Channel

Marketplaces have been with us for centuries. Around the time people started trading inside and outside of their village two models developed.


photo credit: Bert Kaufmann via photopin cc

You either took your stuff on the road and sold it door to door or you showed up somewhere near the center of town and rented a stall in the market or bazaar.

Even today’s shopping center is based on the marketplace concept – lots of people go to one place where they can go to lots of stores at one time.

You could make a case for the fact that the Internet in general is little more than a really, really big marketplace – containing everything that has ever been made along with everything that’s ever been said.

Unfiltered as it is though, the Internet is a bit like going down to market and finding that if you walk through the stalls for about fifteen years you wouldn’t even make a dent in what’s there.

eBay was one of the first to crack the marketplace code online. eBay aggregated buyers and sellers of stuff, mostly stuff in the attic and garage, and took a fee on the sale.

In recent years others have entered the digital marketplace business and the model, including eBay’s model, has evolved to the point where it represents a significant distribution channel for businesses large and small, B2B and B2C and is no longer limited to physical products.

Today sellers can find viable marketplace distribution in places like Amazon,, Newegg, Ariba as well as eBay. Even traditional retailers like Sears and BestBuy are getting into the marketplace game. And, it’s pretty obvious that Facebook has plans to fall into this category as well.

Marketplaces are not limited to sellers either. Marketplaces like Alibaba are making it easier than ever for business to find and source suppliers and manufactures of products from around the globe.

As small businesses consider digital marketplaces for additional distribution, they must weigh the advantages and disadvantages, learn best practices and specifications and tricks of the trade in order to stand out.

Advantages of digital marketplaces

  • Pre-built market – some marketplaces have millions of customers visiting on a daily basis.
  • Shoppers with intent – people often come to a marketplace ready to buy something if not a very specific item.
  • Convenience – Shoppers love the convenience and one stop shopping approach with one login.
  • Niche markets – Some marketplaces build communities interested in very specific types of items.
  • Fulfillment – Marketplaces can become a fulfillment center. Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon program is a huge boost for some companies.
  • Credibility – Smaller, lesser known brands can benefit from the trust built by a marketplace.

Disadvantages of digital marketplaces

  • Competitive proximity – Sure there are lots of shoppers, but your competitor might be in the next stall, so to speak, offering a lower price or better options.
  • Commoditization – Some marketplace shoppers are simply looking for the best price on a comparable product.
  • Loss of brand – What makes someone want to do business with you based on an awesome experience can be lost in the matching specs of a marketplace.
  • Listing idiosyncrasies – Every marketplace has it’s own way of getting your stuff listed, priced and highlighted.
  • Order management – Some small businesses don’t have the IT infrastructure to handle order management systems required to play at a high level.
  • Hard to stand out – Winning the digital marketplace game takes a lot of work – uploading your products via a data feed and calling it a day is not going to cut it.

Best practices

If you decide to test a marketplace there are a handful of musts in order to make a go of it.

  • Start slow and build – Unless you’ve got a full time IT staff it’s best to pick a marketplace and try to build your chops one at a time rather than jumping in and distributing your resources in ways that will dilute your time and attention.
  • Go for Gold seller status – Every marketplace has some algorithm that rewards the best sellers. Some of this is sheer volume, but things like ratings and response times play a huge role. Gold status usually affords better placement. (Yet another argument for starting slow and working out the kinks)
  • Need for speed – One of the quickest ways to rise and fall in the ratings game is quickness. Get your products in the customer’s hands as fast as possible.
  • Provide tracking (Holidays!) – Provide lots of communication. Let people know if they can get something by a looming Holiday date. Exceed expectations.
  • Grow with automation – Once you hit any level of volume in one or more markets you’ll need to find and employ tools that help you list, track, manage and reprice your listings based on the real-time activity going in a market. Some suppliers move the price of items up and down multiple times during a day making it tough to stay on top with a spreadsheet as your only tool.

Digital marketplaces can open up a world of opportunities or they can become a fast way to discount your products. The key is to establish your distribution in other places, refine your processes and then look for additional opportunities in the growing world of online maketplaces.

How to Choose the Right Business Model for Your Start-up


business model

photo credit: guilhembertholet via photopin cc

Lots of people talk about business models these days, but what does it really mean? When it comes to starting or planning for business success your model is essentially your decision about how you intend to add value – which is another way of saying – how you intend to make money.

Business is a pretty simple thing really, but I think people planning to start one or even those engaged in running one can over think it.

Every business does basically four things:

  • Make stuff – This might mean an actual product, but it also includes making a determination about what markets to enter and how to innovate.
  • Market stuff – Whatever the business is meant to do it can’t survive long unless people know about, understand it and are motivated to buy from it.
  • Deliver stuff – This is where the real value exchange happens. No matter if this is a product or a result, the business must exchange what has been promised.
  • Count stuff – This is what most would call finance, but to me it also includes measuring and analyzing all manner of data, both tangible and intangible.

The basic business models to consider:

Product/service – A business can make and sell its own products and services. This is probably the most common approach. Evernote makes a great software product and distributes it through a free to upgrade approach. A marketing consultant sells a consulting engagement for a monthly retainer fee.

Products and services can be packaged and distributed through a multitude of channels and delivered in physical form, digital form and as one time purchases or ongoing subscriptions.

Reseller – Resellers don’t necessarily make or even warehouse what they sell. They find products or represent brands and generally make profit based on the difference between the price they sell a product for and the price they must pay to acquire or sell the product.

Affiliate marketers fall into this category as do what are commonly referred to as value added resellers (VARs). Microsoft partners, for example, sell and install Microsoft products and add services, such as customization and training, to enhance the basic product.

Many straight up eCommerce companies, such as, fall into this category as do many eBay and Amazon sellers. Most retail establishments also fit this model.

Broker – The broker essentially brings buyer and seller together and takes a transaction fee. They may also provided services that make a transaction happen more smoothly, such as the case of a real estate agent.

This category has exploded with the growth of online platforms that make bringing buyers and sellers together from anywhere in the world much easier. In many cases this business model includes the creation of a marketplace, handling transactions and ensuring security. is a great example of the new breed of broker as they bring experts and those seeking advice together.

PayPal is another example of brokering services between a buyer and seller. In this case, it’s the actual exchange of money.

Aggregator – An aggregator builds a community and then charges for access to the community. In many ways publications and news sites fit this model as they build a subscriber base and then charge advertisers a fee to gain access, by way of a positioned ad, to their community.

Comparison shopping sites, like Shopzilla, and daily deal sites, like Woot are prime examples of how the Internet has grown this category.

So, how does an entrepreneur decide what business model to adopt?

If you have an idea for a business then you should consider the following elements to help determine your best approach

  • Market Potential – It’s probably a good idea to determine how big the market could be for your idea. There’s nothing wrong with going into a very narrow niche, but you might build a different business than if there is a greater potential.
  • Competitive Landscape – You must understand who else is already doing what you want to do and get a real feel for what their value proposition is. Having competitors who forge and prove demand for your idea is not a bad thing.
  • Ideal Customer – In startup mode this may be a hypothesis, but you need to narrowly define the characteristics and qualities of the customer you intend to serve. From here you can begin to get a better view of the size of the market and how to best access it.
  • Value Proposition – There’s one question you must be able answer in a compelling way – why you? Every entrepreneur falls in love with their concept, but it you can’t very simply explain why a market is going to choose your idea over another you’re destined to wobble around trying to grow.
  • Distribution Channels – There are many, many ways to get your product, service or idea to market. Direct sales force, distributors, eCommerce site, retail store, sales reps, and marketplaces like Newegg. In some cases you might even choose a combination of several. This is a crucial decision as profit and expenses can very greatly depending upon the model that fits.
  • Revenue Streams – Your business should have a core way to make money. But, a strong business model should also consider additional ways to add value and make money. This can be through the sale of related products – Map My Fitness sells a premium upgrade for their core app but also creates a marketplace for 3rd party addons such as heart rate monitors and bike computers. It can also come from the convergence of several assets – a consultant creates blog traffic and notoriety for their point of view and adds advertising, speaking and books as revenue streams while enhancing their core consulting business.
  • Strategic Relationships – Many business models hinge on developing partnerships with companies that have products or services that are central to the model – a software company may need relationships with key software makers in order to build a business. This might also include key competencies – an electrical contractor may find that they must find technicians or partners with low voltage expertise in order to service the growing demand for data and entertainment related installations.

So, the process for determining a business model is really an exercise in understanding the classic models and determining the best fit for your idea through a process of elimination.

3 Books for startups – each of these books come at this idea from different angles and make great reading for startups and season owners alike.


5 Ways to Make Your Advertising Extraordinarily Effective

Advertising is an important part of the lead generation puzzle. Some marketers suggest that you can do without the cost and low returns they attribute to advertising, but done right, advertising is a tremendous tool.


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I advocate an approach that calls for a mix of lead generation tactics that includes advertising, public relations and a systematic approach to referral generation.

The biggest thing that advertising has going for it over most other forms of lead generation is control. You can control who sees your ad to some degree and you can control when your ad is run or sent. (I’m including direct mail in this statement)

So, if you have a new product launch or sales promotion planned, you may have lots of activities planned but your advertising is the one element that ties your launch to a date.

The key to effective use of advertising lies in how you think about it, what your objectives are and how you adjust your approach in real time.

Below are five elements that you should consider to make any form of advertising more effective.

1. Lower your expectations

I don’t mean you simply need to expect less in general, but you should probably be realistic about what an ad can do. If you are running a small online ad it might be unrealistic to believe you can sell a multi-thousand dollar consulting engagement from 15 words and a link.

The objective of your ads should be to move people from awareness to like and trust by having a small call to action that benefits them such as downloading a checklist or audio. The goal of most advertising should be to capture an email and start a relationship, not sell a product or service.

2. Cast narrowly

Most advertising, online and offline can be targeted at a narrowly defined viewer and this is a must. A radio station that tells you that 75% of its listeners are 18-55 isn’t narrow enough.

If you sell dog collars, select dog owners on Facebook. Group your Google AdWords in very tightly crafted keyword groups to target people looking for very specific things. Find geo targeted mailing lists and then cross them with lists of people that buy a similar product.

3. Promote content

The way to drive the greatest advertising response is to give away something people want. Use your ads to promote free eBooks, how to checklists and events that will help them learn what they want to learn.

Make content your call to action, deliver awesome stuff, capture leads and gently move them on to even more awesome stuff as you introduce everything they need to know about why your products and services cost more than the rest of the market.

4. Measure everything

The most successful marketers I know can tell you exactly how every element of their marketing is performing and why. It takes a great deal of work to get serious about things analytics and tracking, but you won’t really succeed until you do. You’ll either waste a great deal of money and fail or you’ll waste a great deal of money and limit your success (possibly a worse fate.)

By taking the time to create a process that allows you to measure every aspect of your advertising you stop losses, make good better and perfect the best all the while staying tuned in to what your market wants more of.

5. Test everything

This last element goes hand in hand with measurement, but takes it a step further. Once you have a baseline you can start to work on improving your results by simply tweaking things like headlines, calls to offer, visual elements, keywords, content, publications and lists.

Once you know what’s working in one place you can expand to test it in other places. I often recommend using inexpensive Google AdWords campaigns to test out headlines and landing pages before broadcasting more widely.

The online advertising space, particularly in social networks, is changing so rapidly that I believe you also should test out every new social network ad unit as they come online to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t in this evolving space.

As you can see, advertising is for more complex if done well than renting some space and putting up a pretty face.