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Why Your Email Marketing Needs an Editorial Calendar

Lots of marketers have given in to the need to produce lots of content. This need has become so prevalent that many have actually begun to adopt a publishing mindset.

Email editorial calendar

photo credit: sogrady via photo pin cc

With this mindset comes the need to schedule, plan and strategize about relevant content needs, formats and purposes. Otherwise you end up with content chaos and, inevitably, so do your customers and prospects.

We use a Google Calendar system in our office and have a brief editorial meeting each week with the entire staff to make sure we are both meeting our editorial obligations and producing the right kind of content.

Recently, we added email to the editorial calendar and this seemingly simple integration has made a significant impact in our content focus.

We now have a better picture of what we are putting out in all channels and have a better view of who is receiving what, why and when.

This better picture of content is a great tool whether you are the only one producing content or need to collaborate with a team and outside producers.

By using an editorial calendar approach to email we:

  • Keep much better track of who is getting what
  • Segment our lists with more precision
  • Plug gaps in important core topics
  • Uncover new ways to use existing content
  • Better monitor how much email we are sending
  • Create more opportunities to use content to build our list

Getting a handle on your total content platform is an essential aspect of your total online presence and employing simple tools such as a Google content calendar shared to the staff or more fully featured tools such as DivvyHQ or Gather Content and including every content opportunity, including your email outreach, will give your content plan the focus it needs to generate the greatest return on time invested.

Make Any Business Extraordinary Using EST

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Mike Michalowicz – Enjoy!

The London Olympics were nothing short of amazing.  Top athlete after top athlete trying to outdo each other.  Just like to business going to head, there is only going to be one gold medalist at the end of the day.

Arguably, Michael Phelps is one of the most impressive athletes of all time. His collection of gold medals speaks to it.  What is interesting is that every swimmer that lost to Michael Phelps was trying to be the ER swimmer.  “What is ER?” you ask.  It is when a competitor (business, athlete or otherwise) tries to be better than other competitor.  They try to be faster or stronger or smarter or funnier or louder or quicker or slower or anything better.

The thing is, if you aren’t the EST you go unnoticed.  If you came in second or third to Michael Phelps, you may have been better than the other swimmers, but you were not the best. You are forgotten. Michael Phelps got millions in endorsements.  Number two – the better then almost everyone else guy – got nothing.

At the end of the day, only the EST wins.  The fastest or the slowest or the strongest or the weakest or the funniest or the loudest or anything that is the most, the best.

Ironically, any swimmer could “beat” Michael Phelps by doing a cannonball into the pool when everyone else dives.  That is the craziest thing, and would be covered all over the news.  That swimmer would win the worlds attention, by simply being an EST.

Enter The EST

The EST is the superlative that is going to make your business more successful. For those of you who are not grammarians – the superlative is that which is added to the end of a word to show that it features a degree that is unsurpassed. The unsurpassed area is where you want to be!

The edge of the competition bell curve is awareness, as that is where customers see you. The center is just filled with noise; if you fall in that area of the curve, you won’t be heard. To succeed, it is essential that you work to become the EST. Applications of the EST can vary widely, so the field is wide open. You aren’t limited to aiming to be the greatest – there is also the fastest, cheapest, quickest, and even the not-so-obvious choices of being the slowest, strangest, funniest, and weirdest. Now you are getting the idea…

What if you had a restaurant that had the fastest meals – everything was served in under 30 seconds? That would be the talk of the town (and would blow away even McDonald’s)! You could also be the slowest by, say, inviting guests to spend three to four hours, slowing dining on a steady stream of tasty treats. That too, would be the talk of the town.

Being the Oddest

You may not see, quite yet, how standing out in an odd way could actually help you. But I am a college football fan, and even if you are a fanatic, too, I bet you would struggle to identify all of the Number One teams of the last 10 years. But you can probably immediately identify the only team in college football with a blue field! That is because that team’s field is the strangest!

The Boise State Broncos have the blue football field, of course. And everyone knows about them because of it. That little school has become an annual Top 10 contender in college football. Year in and year out, they get amazing recruits and they win.

Perhaps, just perhaps, by having the EST field in the country, they stood out from the noise. Perhaps like every college football fan, every college football recruit knows of the blue field. And maybe that has brought great athletes to a school that might not have otherwise been noticed. There is one thing for sure, they got a blue field and have been winning ever since!

Finding Your EST

Still not sure how you could apply the EST to your business? What about the coolest (you can only get in the store if you know the password of the day), loudest (think of speakers that are louder than jet engines), quietest (a silence room where you can actually hear your own heart beat), smelliest, sweetest, sourest…you get the idea.

The great thing about using the EST strategy to put your business on the road to success is that the sky is the limit concerning what yours will be! You get to decide what EST you want your business to be. Then put it out there in the biggest way, get out of the way, and watch what happens! You may just find that you have the craziest idea — one that turns your company into the neatest thing people have ever seen, which in turn will create one of the happiest entrepreneurs around.

Remember, the EST is the superlative that will show the degree to which your business is unique. So ask yourself, to what degree is your business set apart from others? If you don’t know the answer to that question, neither do others. There is no limit to what that can be, and once you can identify it and make people aware of it, you will be on your way to business success!

Image Credit: Jon Curnow

MikeMichalowicz is the author of ThePumpkinPlan and TheToiletPaperEntrepreneur. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurial topics and is the CEO of ProvendusGroup, a consultancy that ignites explosive growth in companies that have plateaued.

 

5 Key Ingredients to Charging What You’re Worth

I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from Sarah Petty.

Sarah is a highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca-Cola Enterprises and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. It was at this ad agency where she taught small businesses the value of a strong foundation and how they would grow with a strong brand. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand.

Regardless of what industry you are in, you probably struggle with having a competitor that is willing to do what you do (or claim they do) for cheaper. But how do you make sure price isn’t a sticking point with your clients?  It starts with having these five key ingredients right in your business and following the boutique business model. It’s a model that works in nearly every industry from insurance and retail to fitness and real estate.

Ingredient 1 – Protect Your Brand

Most small businesses fall down here. They have something wrong with their brand that attracts price sensitive buyers from the start.

Your brand is more than a logo. It’s how your ideal client feels about you. Your ideal client conjures up these feelings when someone mentions your business name. YOU are an integral part of your brand thanks to the enthusiasm, personal flair and individual attention you present to each of your clients. From your identity (how your clients recognize you) to your consistency, your niche, your reputation and your gush-worthiness, having a positive brand goes a long way to charging what you’re worth.

Ingredient 2 – Understand Your Numbers

There are a lot of ways to price your offerings, but most just don’t work if you want to charge what you’re worth. Copying your competitors is not the answer. Start by understanding the cost of each sale you make: this includes any packaging, merchandise and labor. An accountant can help you with this. You then mark up your costs based on industry standards. Once you understand these numbers, you have your bare minimum price. Then you can look at setting a price based on demand. The key is to create demand the right ways to attract clients who love what you do, not by attracting the wrong price-sensitive buyers with discounts.

?Ingredient 3 – Make Marketing Decisions That Thrill

To charge what you’re worth you must have offerings that are not easy to imitate. Marketing starts with products and services that your customers can’t easily get elsewhere. Your clients should go gaga over you if you want them to pay more for you. To do that, you need to have offerings that are extra special, custom, unmatched, interesting or even shocking. They need to be special enough to make someone want to talk about them, and not just because of the price. Instead of searching for ways to raise prices, slash costs or become faster instead find the empty place for your ideal client where you can add a thrill for them. The more customized your offerings are, the more difficult it will be for anyone to copy you and your perceived value will continue to rise.

Ingredient 4 – Promote Differently

Promotion is what you do to tell people about your offerings – and it goes beyond paid advertising. For the most part, boutique businesses should steer clear of traditional advertising and focus not on reaching the masses, but instead reaching the right people who may be drawn to what you do. Boutique ideas for promotion include giving a presentation or educational session that highlights your expert status, partnering with other businesses who also reach your target audience to host an event or create a unique product, working with charities to help elevate their cause while attracting new clients to your business and developing a promotional piece that makes your ideal client gush about you to their friends.

Ingredient 5 – Sell Better

Boutique selling isn’t about schmoozing, high pressure or manipulation so if that’s what you’re doing this may be where you’re going wrong. In boutique selling there is high engagement between you and your client. You need to build rapport, get to know your customer and spend time educating them. Your first thought should be ‘What problem do they have?’ ‘How can I help them?’ The sales process should be relationship based and the service and experience should continue after the transaction. Instead of giving them a smooth talking sales pitch, you’re searching for solutions that will absolutely, positively satisfy their needs and bring them joy.

Image Credit: dougbelshaw

How to Discover Your Perfect Target Customer in 5 Steps

One of the most important elements of a marketing strategy is the development of an ideal target customer profile. Effectively understand who makes an ideal customer allows you to build your entire business, message, product, services, sales and support around attracting and serving this narrowly defined customer group.

Image See-ming Lee SML via Flickr CC

When working with businesses that have an established customer base I can generally identify their ideal customer by finding the common characteristics found in their most profitable clients that also refer them to others. I’ve written about this kind of ideal client discovery here.

Today, however, I want to address the needs of the start-up or business with very little customer experience. Finding and serving an ideal customer is equally important for a business just getting started and establishing a focus on discovering a narrowly defined ideal client from the very beginning will save months of wandering in the dark trying to be all things to all people.

The 5 steps below can put you the path to discovering your ideal target customer.

1) Start with the Smallest Market Possible – This may feel counterintuitive to many just starting a business, but you have to find a group of customers that think what you have to offer is special. When you’re just getting started you may have very little to offer and in many cases very few resources with which to make sufficient noise in a market for generic solutions.

Your key is to find a very narrow group, with very specific demographics or a very specific problem or need and create raving fans out of this group. You can always expand your reach after you gain traction, but you can also become a big player in this smaller market as you grow.

2) Create an Initial Value Hypothesis – In the step above I mentioned the idea of finding a narrow group that finds what you have to offer special. Of course, this implies that you do indeed have something to offer that is special.

You must create a “why us” value proposition and use that as you hypothesis for why us. If this is starting to sound a little like science that’s because it is. You must always stay in test and refine mode in order to move forward.

Many people get caught up in trying to execute their business plan when the fact of the matter is the market doesn’t care about your business plan. The only thing that matters is what you discover and apply out there in the lab beyond your office.

3) Get reality in Discovery Test Sessions – Established, thriving businesses have the ability to learn a great deal every day from customer interaction. Since start-ups don’t have any customer interaction they have to create ways to test their theories initially and on the fly.

The key to both making and affirming your initial assumptions is to set-up what I call Discovery Test Sessions with prospects that might easily fit into your initial smallest market group. These are essentially staged one on one meetings.

This can be a little tricky since you have no relationship with said prospect. I often find that there are industry or trade groups that may contain your initial target market and by joining these you may have an easier time gaining access to this group.

Another possible option is to offer free sample products or beta test relationships to those willing to provide you with agreed upon feedback.

The main thing is that you start talking to prospects about what they need, what they think, what works, what doesn’t and what don’t have now. This is how you evolve your business, your features and your assumptions based on serving a narrowly defined target.

4) Draw an Ideal Customer Sketch – Once you’ve trotted out your hypothesis and tested it with your narrow group, you’ve got to go to work on discovering and defining everything you can about your ideal target group.

Some of this information will be commonly understood, such as demographics, but much of it will be discovered in your test sessions and though some additional research in more behavioral oriented places such as social media.

This is a great time to start your CRM thinking by building custom profiles that include much richer information than most people capture. I wrote about the new breed of CRM that is making this easier to do than ever.

5) Add Strategy Model Components – the final step is to apply this new ideal customer approach to other elements of your strategy.

The thing is, when you discover your initial ideal client it should impact the thinking about your basic business model and overall business strategy. All great business models are customer focused and now that you have a picture of this customer it’s time to consider how this alters the other aspects of your business.

Consider now how this discovery might impact your offerings, your revenue streams, distribution channels and even pricing.

Consider how you can reach this market, who you can partner with and what resources you either have or need to have in order to make an impact in this market.

I can tell you that my experience suggests that you’re never really done with this exercise. As your business evolves, as you learn and grow, this model will evolve as well, but perhaps the continual process of discovery is just as important as what you discover.

How and Why I Use Dropbox

I’ve been covering a number of tools I depend on in this “how and why” format and people seem to be enjoying this so I’ll do it as a regular feature for a bit.

File storage with Dropbox

Image: redjar via Flickr

Today’s subject is the tool Dropbox. Dropbox is not a new kid on the block and lots of folks speak lovingly about this online file storage service. There’s a free version that may be robust and large enough for most, but I’ve chosen the full meal deal because I use Dropbox so completely.

There are other tools that can do all of what I’m going to describe, but from a file handling standpoint, ease of use, and set-up the way I work, Dropbox is killer.

Here’s why

  • I have a small staff and Dropbox is our internal server. We store everything and exchange and collaborate on files just like you would in any server environment. The main difference, of course, is that our Dropbox server is in the cloud and we can easily access all files (even those being worked on by folks back at the ranch) when I travel or someone works from home. (If you elect to Kick Out a team member they will no longer have access to the folders and the files will be permanently deleted from their hard drives.)
  • Dropbox uses a technology that only needs to upload changes so you can make tiny edit to a huge file and it syncs in seconds.
  • I have business partners in other countries and I can share and collaborate on specific files and folders and know that we are all working from and using the right document.
  • I speak to groups in seminars and workshops almost weekly at times and Dropbox allows me to work on a PPT presentation save it and then share a public branded link with groups that need to approve my presentations or as a way for me to share my slides without have to transfer or upload anything – I just save the file as I work and then share the public link on my last slide (I wrote about setting up my own branded link shortener here and I love to create custom links to my presentations like ducttape.me/sxsw for example)
  • All of our files are automatically backed up and synced in multiple places at all times.
  • I have iPhone and iPad Dropbox apps that allow me access all files on these devices as well. I’ve made more than one presentation on my iPad and I love the remarkable intimacy of that tool.

How I use it

As I said in the beginning of this post, there are free and low cost options that most people can use and get tremendous value. Because I depend on this tool so much I’ve opted for the Team Version and we pay an annual fee that may seem pretty steep, but the no hassle factor is worth it.

With Team we get to share the giant storage quota, Rewind to any version of a file, and encrypted transfer and storage.

  • We create and organize folders just like you would on any server for all of our most important work categories and then everyone works from those folders and saves the work directly to them. The feature that makes this work so well is that the Dropbox app loads on all of our staff’s hard drives and then all files show up on their computer just like they would on a hard drive. There’s no need to go to the web, the files are just there.
  • We also create personal folders for each team member to act like their MyDocuments folder for work in progress.
  • I backup all my websites and blog databases routinely to Dropbox.
  • I store a portable version of Firefox on Dropbox so that if I get stuck and need to use a loner computer I have all my extensions and bookmarks
  • I back up my entire music library to Dropbox and can access it from any computer

So, have you found any other great uses for Dropbox that I may not have considered?

Make It Your Year of Getting More Done

Let’s face it, if you own a small business, there’s probably more to do than time in the day, week or month, right?

Smart Time AppThe key is to get good at doing the high payoff items and planning for what needs to be done when. Prioritizing is how you make decision making easy and help everyone stay focused on the tasks that produce wins.

One of the foundational elements of the Duct Tape Marketing System is the idea of living by the marketing calendar. If you take the time to identify what it is you think you want to do with your marketing and then commit it to an annual calendar, it’s more likely that you will actually get to it on a consistent basis.

There’s something very powerful about the visual reminder that you’ve committed to producing a press release every month for example.

While many people are familiar with the idea of a marketing calendar, few actually live by it.

Over the years I’ve also trained business owners to use the marketing calendar in another very powerful way. Quite often there are projects that are identified during the planning process that simply can’t be accomplished with the resources available today.

One of the most powerful things you can add to your calendar routine is monthly themes around foundational marketing projects so you break them up and spread them out over the course of a year. So, February becomes “start a blog month” and March is “start an enewsletter” and so on. This way you don’t get overwhelmed and at the end of six months you look up and you’ve accomplished a great deal.

Here’s how the marketing calendar process works:

Step 1 – Create a monthly calendar in Excel or Google Docs. Break the columns into weeks so you can plan in that space. Down the left side add categories for all of the major chunks of your marketing. At the very least this would include Advertising, Public Relations, Referrals, Social Media, SEO, Content, Events and Your Monthly Theme.

Step 2 – Choose a monthly theme and put that across the top near the name of the month.

Step 3 – Fill in all of the planned activities that you can by either describing them or putting an X in for routine activity like a weekly blog post or Facebook update.

This is an example of how to set you calendar up

Download the Spreadsheet

Once you lay it all out on the calendar you’ve also got to break it down into weekly and daily action steps and assign tasks accordingly.

Sometimes that means assigning yourself a bunch of tasks. You can do this by creating different daily calendars in Outlook or Google Calendar and creating color coding that allows you to focus on assigning tasks for different topics and then having a visual display of your day’s focus on multiple areas of marketing.

Another innovate calendar tool for the iPhone and iPad actually looks at your day and helps you schedule activities as it learns what you need to do. – Smart Time

5 Ways To Reward Your Community

Christmas gifts

Image grabadonut via flickr

This time of year, in particular, people turn their thoughts towards saying thanks to their most important personal and business relationships. Traditional gifts such as gourmet food baskets, flowers and iPads go a long way towards this goal, but their as a few other significant ways to reward your community that may just last a little longer than that bar of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark.

Now the word community gets bantered around a lot these days, but for the small business I consider the collaboration universe of your prospects, customers, suppliers, staff, advisors, partners and, in some cases, competitors to make up the community.

Below are five ways to reward that community.

Appreciation

I can’t tell you how far saying thanks goes. Many people do things, such as refer your business, because they know you can help, but it’s sure nice to know that you appreciate the gesture. This is a great place for me to, once again, promote the idea of hand written notes. Don’t reserve this for external folks either, tell your staff, your internal team, thank you and don’t save those words for the annual company Holiday lunch, tell them when they’ve done something well. Pick up the phone and leave messages of appreciation on routine basis.

Education

I think one of the best things you can do for folks is share your knowledge and help them gain a new skills and tool sets. This can certainly come in the form of hosting or presenting training, but it can also be in form of books or a subscription to a tutorial service like Lynda.com. We bought the entire Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network a copy of Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology because I think it’s a great book for anyone that needs to create presentations. If you have a special expertise, even if it’s not strictly related to your core business, share it with others as a way to say we care.

Information

One of the ways to show your community that they matter to you is to make sure they have information that others may not. Sure, you can take this as far as creating closed door membership portals or you can simply tell your newsletter list or customer list something that’s coming up before you announce it to the world. Bring your community members into your product development, strategic planning and marketing meetings by some process that allows them to weigh in and give you feedback and insight. These types of gestures help your community feel much more connected and often turn them into some of your biggest evangelists.

Recognition

Recognizing the achievements of others is a great thing to do in the big picture of life. Doing so in business returns rewards that keep the cycle of giving and receiving primed and working. This certainly includes your staff, but keeping tabs on you clients, partners and advisors via Google Alerts or some other form of social network monitoring and making a point of recognizing accomplishments is a powerful thing. This can be a simple as a birthday card, retweet, or clipping a newspaper article and sending it along with note.

Introduction

One of the biggest thrills I get these days is when I can make something happen for someone in my community. This past year I’ve been able to refer business to people, introduce a budding author to my publisher, and connect several bloggers and speakers with clients that could engage their services. Opening doors to opportunities and creating introductions for a team of strategic partners is one of the greatest ways I know to reward your community and build your business. The fact that this works to benefit both parties in the introduction is a tremendous benefit.

The beauty of everything I’ve mentioned in this post is that if it’s done out of trust, mutual respect and the knowledge that your rewarding behavior is the best way for you to help your clients then you’ll never fear you’re giving is too much or that it’s not reciprocated in some manner – and that’s the best gift you can give to yourself.

7 Little Words That Sum Up the Entire Marketing Machine

Marketing is essentially getting someone that has a need to know, like and trust you. Of course then you must turn that know, like, and trust into try, buy, repeat and refer.

That my friends is the entire practice of marketing summed up in seven little words that make up what I call The Marketing Hourglass.TM

The idea behind the hourglass is that you look at each of the seven stages and intentionally plan products, services, processes and touches that logically move prospects along to the point where they become customers and then receive such a remarkable customer experience they become repeat customers and referral advocates. I talk a great deal about building your hourglass in my book The Referral Engine.

If you do nothing but spend the time to fill in the blanks in each of the stages in the infographic below you will be miles ahead in your thinking about a simple, yet powerful approach to your marketing. Feel free to print, share and use the graphic to help build your marketing hourglass

Click on the image to enlarge and get a bird’s eye view of your entire marketing machine.