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Stop Trying to Make Your Customers Smarter!

Waiting for a flight home from Bangkok the other week, I found myself leaving the lounge at the same time as a lovely elderly woman from Chicago. She was headed home, after being part of a two-week group tour around Thailand.

Zombie LoyalistsWe struck up a conversation (of course we did, dear reader, do you not know me? I talk to EVERYONE!) – Anyhow, as I offered to carry her bag to the gate, we compared seats – She was sitting two seats in front of me, and she showed me her ticket. I told her that mine was on my phone, and she commented about how until she got to the airport, she was afraid that her ticket would be digital, but she didn’t have a phone that worked in Thailand, and there was a part of her that didn’t think she’d be able to get on the flight.

Fortunately, when she got to the airport, she checked in, and by showing her passport, was given paper tickets that would get her all the way home. That there was a strapping young gentleman like myself available to carry her bags was a bonus. ?

So why do I bring this up? Because sometimes, in our rush to embrace the latest and greatest in technology, we occasionally forget about some of our core customers – or at the very least, leave them worried.

Fortunately, United didn’t do that, and when my new friend checked in, her fears were immediately put to rest. But can you say the same thing about every one of your customers?

At the end of the day, we’re beholden to our customers – Not the other way around. It might be nice to adopt the latest mobile technology – But hey – If you have a customer who paid like, $11,000 for a round-trip ticket on your airline, you damn well better offer her the options that she wants. United did that. Does your company?

Want customers who will do your PR for you? Customers who will tell the world how great you are, and bring you future customers? Don’t forget customers like my new friend Rita – Who despite being eighty-one years old and traveling on her own, still prefers the paper ticket.

Want to learn how to get customers like that? Well, my new book on customer service, aptly named Zombie Loyalists, drops on January 27th, 2015. But buy it now by going to zombieloyalists.com, and you can get a whole bunch of cool gifts. Because that’s what Zombie Loyalists deserve.

An author, entrepreneur, speaker, and connector, Peter Shankman is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about customer service, social media, PR, marketing and advertising. He blogs at Shankman.com & tweets random hilarity at @petershankman

12 Simple Ways to Improve your Small Business Blog

 It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Steff Green – Enjoy!

angry man with computer

photo credit: Anton

As a business owner, you’re always keen to try new things. So when you heard that blogging was a great way to improve website traffic and brand awareness, you thought you’d give it a go.

Sadly your business blog hasn’t produced the results you wanted. Hardly anyone is visiting, no one is commenting, and you are losing the motivation to keep up with your regular posts. So what do you do if your blog is tired, stagnant, or you feel as if the content isn’t reaching the right audience?

Before you give up on your blog, here are 12 tips to kickstart your stagnant business blog and ensure all your hard work pays off:

  1. Have you gotten started on your blog? If you’ve been thinking about blogging for your business more than you’ve actually been blogging about your business, it’s time to get started. I love the free get started blogging guide at First Site Guide for simple, image-based direction for getting your blog up-and-running.
  2. Are you using social media to help grow your audience and promote your blog content? Perhaps it’s time you started. Don’t head straight for Facebook, though – think about where your audience is most likely to hang out and what they might be interested in. Pinterest and Instagram are growing social sites that love visual content and how-to tutorials.
  3. If you’re writing product tutorials (or any kind of tutorial), include images, videos, diagrams and other visual content. Not only is your piece more likely to be useful if it contains visual guides, but the images themselves will be shared on social media, expanding your reach.
  4. Ditch the “blog” moniker. Many people don’t actually read “blogs” and will assume your blog content is all company and product updates, even if you’re writing fun and useful articles. Call your blog tab “Articles” or “How-to guides” instead.
  5. With every Google update, guest blogging is becoming an obsolete form of generating backlinks. However, guest blogging is still a powerful way to grow your audience, as long as you aim for quality over quantity. Write a post on a lifestyle blog related to your industry; for example, if you’re a tourism company, create some content for a travel blog.
  6. Do you have an old blog post that still pulls in decent traffic? Update the post with new information and better images, tighten up the prose, and republish it with a strong call-to-action.
  7. Use an editorial calendar to plan your posts weeks and months in advance. This editorial calendar should be part of your company’s marketing calendar because you’ll need to plan content around your various campaigns.
  8. Create a top-ten list associated with your industry or product. For example, if you make and sell scented candles, compile a list of the top ten scents for getting rid of a bad mood.
  9. You don’t have to “create” all your content yourself – compile posts of “curated” images, quotes and videos related to a single subject. As long as you attribute all the creators, you can republish their content and create a picture resource for your readers. For example, if you’re an interior designer, you could compile a post of 25 beautiful rustic kitchen designs to help your clients dream up ideas for their kitchen.
  10. Create a playlist in Spotify for an occasion associated with your business. For example, if you’re a wedding planner, you could create a romantic wedding playlist. Publish this list on your blog and share it on other music websites.
  11. Create a list of popular books in your industry. Choose books by popular industry leaders, and focus on interesting titles that cover a range of abilities. For example, if you were a fashion designer, you might include books on sewing techniques, on the fashion industry, and biographies of famous designers. You could even use Amazon affiliate links to make a bit of extra money when someone clicks through to buy a book.
  12. Have fun! Blogging for your business is a lot better than researching keywords for search, or sending out hundreds of press releases in the hope of getting coverage. Embrace it!

Do you have a business blog that just isn’t working? How are you going to turn things around?

author pictureSteff is the author, blogger and heavy metal maiden behind steffmetal.com, a blog about loud music, alternative subcultures and her adventures living off-grid in rural New Zealand. Steff writes dark fantasy fiction for adults; her latest book, The Sunken, a dark steampunk fantasy set in Georgian London, is now available on Amazon. Sign up for her author newsletter and receive a FREE short story.

 

Why Your Proposals Aren’t Landing You Business

Do you know why so many consultants spin their wheels writing proposal after proposal without getting any results?

proposals

photo credit: legdog via photopin cc

It’s because most view a proposal as a sales tool when it should simply be a restatement of what the client already agreed they needed.

Most proposals are filled with big concepts and game changing language because the author of the proposal has no idea what the client is ready to buy.

For years I’ve used the sales process as a full-blown discovery process aimed at getting the client to tell me exactly what to put in a proposal. It’s for that reason that responding to traditional RFPs is such a waste of time.

Now I don’t mean I simply give them what they want to hear. But I do mean you must ask enough questions to know if they even understand why they think they need what they might be asking me to propose. If you don’t do this the proposal becomes more of a shield to ward off a sales person then to move business forward.

When I meet with a prospective client to discuss how I might help them I’ve not done my job unless I walk away knowing (or helping them know) exactly what their goals are, how they think we could measure progress towards achieving those goals and what it would mean in terms of overall value should we achieve those goals.

Armed with this information any proposal is as Alan Weiss, author of The Consulting Bible, calls it a summation of an already established objective.

When you come to that realization, your sales calls, discovery meeting and proposals will never be the same.

Ask the hard questions before

Before you ever write a proposal you must fully understand in great detail what a successful outcome looks like. How do you do that – simply ask something like – Why do you want to do this project? What would a successful outcome look like?

You’ll be surprised how often the answers to those kinds of questions are different than you might have assumed and can greatly impact what you might have proposed.

You also want to understand up front how they will measure success. What metrics will we use to measure progress? Or, even, how will we know we’ve achieved your goal?

Finally, get at what value a positive result will have. This is a great point when it comes to establishing why they might view what you do as an investment rather than a cost. Help them understand that by investing $50,000 in you they might realize $250,000 in value.

Spell out the agreement

When you focus your discussion on establishing agreement you can then use your proposals to restate goals, metrics and value in context of deliverables and methodology for getting there.

Now when you propose a specific approach or project you can tie it to achieving a goal in very specific terms.

You can also propose optional approaches that give flexibility in terms of pricing and timelines.

Nail down the terms

Use your proposal to also spell out exactly how you will work, what you expect of them – down to the amount of CEO or department time and resources you’ll need.

And, don’t forget to state very clearly how you expect to be paid!

When you start to look at proposals as a tool to simply document your already agreed upon objectives, you’ll start to close more of the right deals on your terms.

How and Why to Conduct a Meaningful Content Audit

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Liz O’Neil Dennison – Enjoy!

Content AuditYou’ve probably heard that a content audit is essential for driving engagement and revenue with content. But what is it, exactly? Why do you need one? And how do you do begin to tackle such a laborious task?

Read on.

What Is a Content Audit?

A content audit is a qualitative analysis of all the content your company has ever published online. It exposes where your content actually lives, how it’s performing, and where the thematic gaps are.

Before you can audit your content, you need to create a content inventory, a comprehensive list of the name, location, and description of each asset published by your brand.

Why Conduct a Content Audit?

If you don’t know what content you have, and how it’s performing, you can’t improve. The key to driving more leads, traffic and revenue through your content marketing is by identifying holes in your content deliverables.

With the content audit, you can understand which buyer personas and buying stages are poorly resourced, find and share content internally, access historical performance data, and identify what content should be archived or removed entirely.

Despite the clear values of the content audit, very few marketers actually conduct one. That’s because auditing content is a notoriously painful process. It can take weeks, or even months, to find, analyze, and document each asset your company has ever published online. But it doesn’t have to.

How to Conduct a Content Audit without Pulling Your Hair Out

Auditing your content isn’t rocket science. But there are critical steps all marketers must take to ensure their audit will be actually be useful. Here are the top five:

Step 1. Create Your Inventory

Before analyzing your content, you need a comprehensive list of it. Perform an inventory of all of your content across all of your brand domains, including social. If you’re going about this manually, document the name, URL, and description of each content asset in a spreadsheet.

If you have a significant body of content to manage, you’re better off just typing your brand URLs into a tool like The Content Auditor, which will automate this inventory process for you.

Step 2. Identify What Content Categories Matter Most

Get the most out of your audit by understanding what content categories are most important, both internally and externally. Your audit should provide a map of those attributes across your entire content library so you can see where the holes are.

For example, tagging content to buyer personas allows you to see what personas you’re ignoring. Tagging content to your buying cycle tells you if you need to dedicate more resources to building top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, or bottom-of-funnel content. Common content categories to tag include:

  • Author
  • Publish date
  • Persona
  • Buying Stage
  • Theme
  • Buyer-centric or product-centric
  • Product line
  • Blog category
  • Keywords
  • Content type
  • Competitor
  • Primary call to action
  • Content pillar
  • Social shares
  • Comments
  • Redundant, outdated, or trivial (ROT)

Include these categories in your excel spreadsheet and tag each asset appropriately or, if you’re using an automated tool, scroll through your online inventory to tag content.

Step 3. Map Your Content

When you’ve tagged all of your assets, you’ll end up with a pretty cool content map. You’ll be able to see which personas, buying stages, and themes you’re serving with content, and where you need to step up.

Sift through your content map and identify where the holes are. Then, brainstorm easy ways you can fill those gaps. Perhaps there’s a whitepaper or eBook you can repurpose to serve a different audience. Or you can plan to ramp up your social promotion to feed the top of your sales funnel.

Content Audit

photo creditcontentauditor.com

Step 4. Analyze the Performance of Your Content

What content is performing well, and what isn’t? Your audit should include key content KPIs so you can see what themes, content types, and messages are resonating with your target audience.

Track metrics like social shares, traffic, leads, and revenue. And align your findings around four key areas: production, engagement, performance, and content scoring. This way, you can make informed decisions about future content marketing efforts.

Step 5: Present Your Findings

Once you map your content through your audit, present your findings in a coherent way.

Don’t just include the data from your audit. Suggest what that data means for your company’s future marketing strategy.

Expose the content holes in your major themes, personas, and buying stages. Suggest how you’ll fill these gaps by repurposing existing content, archiving or removing irrelevant content, and producing more of the kinds of content that have proved successful. Propose new processes to support these changes.

Get Auditing

You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you are. And with tools like The Content Auditor, marketers no longer have an excuse for avoiding what Rebecca Lieb calls “the cornerstone of content strategy.” What you don’t know can kill you. Stop living in the dark, and get auditing.

Content Audit AuthorAbout Liz O’Neil Dennison – Liz is content marketing manager at Kapost, a software that allows marketers to develop, manage, distribute and analyze their content from one place. Prior to Kapost, she advised big brands like AT&T on their content strategy at Location3 Media, a digital marketing agency. And before that, she spearheaded global marketing campaigns for ONE, an anti-poverty advocacy organization co-founded by Bono. She loves beekeeping, running and exploring the mountains with her dog. Follow her at @lizkoneill

How to Build Your Marketing Hourglass

This post is one in a series of tips designed to guide small business owners through the challenges of today’s startup environment and is sponsored by Canon MAXIFY – the printer lineup designed to help small business owners increase productivity so that they can focus on everything else that matters. For more information about the Canon MAXIFY printer lineup visit here 

The Marketing HourglassMarketers have long held to the idea of the marketing and sales funnel – a notion that suggests you start with a large target group and somehow squeeze a few clients down through the small end of the funnel.

For years now I’ve been promoting something I call The Marketing HourglassTM, a much more holistic and increasingly effective approach in the “era of the customer” we live in today.

The marketing funnel suggests that the buyer’s journey is a straight one and the we as marketers are in charge of how they tread the path when in fact so much of the buyer’s journey today happens without our knowledge and participation.

Today we have to understand how the buyer wants to buy and put our businesses along that path – long before a prospect even knows they are looking for what we sell and long after we’ve transacted that sale.

A traditional marketing funnel might have stages such as Awareness, Consideration and Purchase, while our Marketing Hourglass consists of seven connected stages – Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat and Refer.

Here’s the thing that the marketing funnel neglects to address – when it comes to lead and referral generation a happy customer is your best tool.

By taking the marketing hourglass approach and giving equal attention to building trust and delivering a remarkable experience, you set your business up to create the kind of momentum that comes from an end to end customer journey.

In order to apply this framework to your business your must get a baseline on how your business interacts with prospects and clients currently, understand how your prospective customers make a buying decision and construct an hourglass journey that guides prospects through the logical stages of your marketing hourglass.

Audit your touchpoints

The first step is to take stock in the ways that your business comes into contact with customers and prospects.

Experience tells me that some of these ways are planned and scripted, while some are not. Some happen by accident, while some simply don’t happen at all.

For example, a very common gap in the businesses we work with exists in the transition from transaction to implementation. Marketing and sales got the order, but what happens next?

Another very common mistake is to believe that all you have to do is run ads and respond to requests when, in fact, many potential buyers want hand holding and nurturing and follow-up in order to know you’ll deliver on your promises.

Map the customer journey

One of the hardest things for many business owners to do is to put themselves in the shoes of prospective clients long before that client knows that you have the answer.

We often want to convince people we can solve problems they don’t even know they have.

In order to effectively build your Marketing Hourglass you must fully understand the questions your prospects are asking themselves before they are aware that you or you solutions exist.

For example, if you sell signage, you must start to build awareness through your marketing to prospects, not by explaining how great your signs are, but by addressing ways that businesses can build a stronger culture, attract more clients and make it easier for customers to find what they need – all great uses of signs by the way.

Construct your Marketing Hourglass

Now that you’re thinking touchpoints and journeys you can start to fill in the logical stages of your hourglass with the campaigns, process and touchpoints that will lead to a great experience.

Know – This is the awareness phase so articles that do well in search, advertising and even referrals need to start here.

Like – This is the stage where once you attracted them to your site you have give them reasons to come back, reasons to relate and even reasons to like your team.

Trust – In this stage, reviews, success stories and client testimonials are your currency.

Try – Now that they are wondering how your solution might work for them it’s time to shower them with eBooks, Webinars and very detailed how to information. You might also have an evaluation, trial version or low cost option to offer here.

Buy – For this stage the focus is on keeping the experience high. Think about how you orient a new customers, exceed their expectation and even surprise them.

Repeat – Perhaps the best way to get repeat business is to make sure your clients receive and understand the value of doing business with you. Here’s where you need to consider adding a results review process as well as additional upsell and cross sell touchpoints.

Refer – The Marketing Hourglass journey is ultimately about turning happy clients into referral clients. You do this first and foremost by creating a great experience, by being referral worthy, but you also have to build processes and campaigns that make it easy for your champion clients to introduce and refer your business.

A fully developed Marketing Hourglass is a thing of beauty, but it’s never really done and you can always go to work on adding to it and making it better. Monitor and measure the places where people don’t seem to move easily to the next step and make conversion of each step job #1.

Every time you enter a new market or develop new product or service you can use this framework as a way to make sure you create the perfect end to end customer journey for every offering.

Canon will be spotlighting several small business owners on its social media channels throughout the next several months, so be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post using the hashtag #MAXIFY in order to qualify. If you are a U.S.-based small business owner (1-9 employees) and have faced a unique business challenge in your first year on the job, let us know! We’d love to hear what line of work your small business falls within and what you feel is the most important takeaway from this post. We’ll also be rewarding select small business owners with a prize pack including the Canon MAXIFY MB5320 printer as well as other essentials to help you run your business more efficiently. So don’t forget to leave a link to your website or social media pages that way we can see how well you’re marketing your business and get in touch!

Be Everywhere: Connecting Social Media to the Real World

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jeremy Miller – Enjoy!

duct-tape-be-everywhere

photo credit: flickr

Social media is a powerful set of tools for marketers to connect with prospects and clients, but social media has its limitations.

Not all of your customers are active on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. And not all of your customers are allowing social media to affect their buying decisions.

Go beyond social media. Engage your customers on all fronts, and create the impression that your brand is everywhere.

Make your brand highly visible

Marketing sets the condition for the sale to happen.

As John Jantsch says, “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.” This is what he calls the Marketing Hourglass.

Moving a customer through the Marketing Hourglass is accelerated and enhanced with repeat exposure. An experience with your sales team can be heightened and reinforced with social media, and vice versa. Each interaction with your brand builds upon itself and moves the customer through the seven stages of the Hourglass.

Create the impression your brand is everywhere

Let’s move beyond theory and consider a company example from my upcoming book, Sticky Branding.

Brilliant is a rapidly growing staffing firm with offices in Chicago and Southern Florida. The company specializes in recruiting accounting, finance, and IT professionals for mid-sized companies.

The firm’s marketing strategy is to be everywhere. Jim Wong, CEO of Brilliant, says, “I want us to be everywhere, or I want people to think we’re everywhere.”

To create the impression the brand is everywhere, the firm employs three core programs to engage its customers:

  1. Sponsorship: Brilliant sponsors events and associations that serve small- and mid-sized companies in its geographic markets.
  2. Content Marketing: Brilliant publishes weekly email newsletters that are tailored for its audiences. The company has four business units, and each one has corresponding email programs.
  3. Social Media: Brilliant places the most emphasis on Facebook and LinkedIn, because these are the social networks that both employers and job seekers are actively involved in.

Sponsorship is Brilliant’s primary vehicle for participating and supporting its communities, while content marketing and social media are designed to reinforce and enhance that investment.

Jim says, “It builds confidence in our brand. It’s like, ‘I saw them online, and then I saw them sponsoring our conference last month. They’re everywhere.’ Popping up everywhere leads prospects back to us, and it sets the condition for a sale.”

Promote with purpose

To move customers through the seven stages of the Marketing Hourglass — know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, refer — requires marketing with purpose.

The question, or the challenge for your business, is what else can you do?

Where can you engage your customers with purpose? Facebook and LinkedIn are a great way to engage your clients online. What about in person?

Like Brilliant, develop three to five recurring programs that engage your customers over and over again to create the impression your brand is everywhere.

When your customers see your brand again and again they will think of it first when they have a need. And being considered first is a powerful position for your brand.

JeremyMiller_150x150Jeremy Miller is a Brand Builder, Keynote Speaker, and president of Sticky Branding — a brand building agency. After rebranding his family’s business, Jeremy embarked on a decade long study of how small- and mid-sized companies grow incredible brands. He knows what it takes to grow a Sticky Brand and how you can do it too. His upcoming book, Sticky Branding: 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers and Grow an Incredible Brand, will be published in January 2015.

How to Future-Proof your Company’s Social Media Strategy

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Reagan Cook – Enjoy!

Remember when Snapchat was simply known as that weird “sexting” app?

I do. I was the first person in my circle of friends to download the app. When I started inviting my friends to join me the primary reply I received was:

‘Isn’t this for sending naked pictures?’

snapchatFast-forward two years later, and now everyone’s on it. Even companies have joined the party.

McDonalds, Taco Bell, General Electric, they’ve all invested heavily to turn Snapchat into an effective marketing channel.

The lesson here?

When it comes to new social media channels, today’s punch line may soon be impacting your bottom line.

Before Snapchat, people made fun of Facebook and Twitter. Before that, SMS. As we’ve seen again and again, dismissing new communication platforms comes with an opportunity cost for brands, businesses, and consumers.

How do I keep up with Social Media as it evolves?

If you want to live long and prosper on social, the first thing you should know is: DO NOT BET THE HOUSE ON A SINGLE CHANNEL.

Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are just tools. If you’re serious about future-proofing your social media ecosystem, improve the organizational structure that surrounds it. Instead of buying another wrench, invest in a better toolbox.

The Multi-channel Marketing Arms Race

image2_wrenchesAccording to Gartner, 50% of tech spending outside of IT comes from marketing, and this number is expected to rise to 80% by 2017. Unfortunately, much of this money is being wasted.

Today’s brands are trapped in a competition to see who can build the biggest social presence.Thing is, when it comes to driving revenue and tracking ROI on social, it’s not the size of your presence that counts, its how you use it.

According to a CMO Council report only 15% of marketers believe their companies are doing a very good job of integrating disparate customer data sources and repositories.

It’s a lot like owning a dozen wrenches but never being able to find the right one when your sink is leaking.

Brands are spending tons of cash to establish a huge suite of channels, but they can’t really operationalize the social media process because they lack the ability to move between channels and keep track of each customer’s overall brand journey.

This channel fragmentation creates two big problems:

  1. If your channels are fragmented, personalization is difficult. Your biggest social media advocates are not going to feel like VIPs, and potential customers are less likely to convert. (According to Ovum/Datamonitor U.S. retailers lose nearly $100 billion dollars each year from poorly executed cross-channel marketing efforts.)
  2. When a social platform implodes (or just isn’t cool anymore) all your customer data and marketing assets go down with the ship.

The solution?

Limit the fragmentation of your social media channels by adopting a marketing strategy that accounts for cross-channel mobility.

A customer-centric omnichannel approach improves retention and maintains lifetime loyalty because it establishes a singular ‘record of engagement’ with each and every customer.

The Omnichannel Advantage.

Are you serious about being inducted into the social media marketing hall of fame? Well now’s a good time to start proving your awesomeness.

We’re in a transitional period. Success in social marketing is no longer about being the earliest adopter or the biggest spender. It’s about being the most customer-centric.

It’s about being omnichannel.

While your less organized competitors are waiting weeks for their social media data from each silo to be collected, analyzed and (hopefully) shared, your brand can initiate highly personalized conversations in real time, and have full confidence that the messaging fits with the customer’s overall journey.

This doesn’t just mean following up a positive tweet with a Facebook message – it means connecting all your marketing channels. Social activity can trigger a highly relevant email message that will only be sent when a customer walks into your store.

This combination of timeliness and authenticity will drive loyalty and deliver a more holistic brand experience to your customers. At the same time, it will decrease your dependency on any single marketing channel, and lay the groundwork for a healthy and wealthy marketing future.

profile_150pxReagan is the Head of Content Marketing at Bridg, an L.A. based start-up that helps retail brands make their marketing simpler and more efficient. Follow Reagan on Twitter at @Reagan_Charles and make sure to visit www.bridg.com/blog for more awesome data driven marketing hacks.

How to Make Your Competition Irrelevant

Competition

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

Lots of companies come to me for advice on ways to grow their businesses massively.

I start off by telling most that if you have big growth objectives you better have big marketing vision.

You can grow 10% by adding some features, doing a better job with SEO or mining social networks for potential leads, but 2X or 3X growth calls for something a little bolder.

In order to achieve incredible growth you must change the context of how the market sees what you offer and in doing so make your competition irrelevant.

To achieve this you can create a never imagined product or innovate an entire industry. These are generally accepted ways to achieve growth, but let’s face it, not everyone has that in them.

A far simpler way is to better understand the market you are trying to serve and move your business into the position of leadership.

You do this by understanding where your market is headed, even before your market knows it headed there.

Most businesses try to focus all of their attention on selling, servicing and talking about where their market is today. They create products and services to sell to people who are already demanding those products and services.

Nothing wrong with that, money to be made there, but that’s where everyone else is playing too.

If you want to make the competition irrelevant you have to start having conversations with the market about the things no one else is telling them they need to consider.

Now, having said that, it doesn’t mean drop everything and bet the farm on a future trend.

You need to break your market into three kinds of customers – I’ll call them Hunters, Catalysts and Trailblazers.

Hunters are probably your customers today. They had a quantifiable need and found you and your solution through some sort of search.

Catalysts offer the greatest near term growth as these are business and individuals that will have a need triggered soon by some type of life cycle change, calendar event, budget refresh, office relocation, etc. (Hint: focusing on identifying what these triggers are with your current hunter clients is the best way to immediately grow share of wallet.)

Lastly, Trailblazers are those odd freaks that are very, very passionate about all things related to where your industry is headed. They buy early, they evangelize, they go to great lengths to have things before others. It’s easy to call these folks early adopters, but it’s more than that – they have passion for anyone and anything that helps them validate their journey.

Okay, now that we have the labels, let me tell you how to use this information.

In simplest terms you need to practically give away what the hunters want in order to gain market share, understand and sell to the triggers that turn hunters into rabid catalyst buyers.

Then, move your content, brand, positioning and thought leadership towards helping the trailblazers flock to your community. It doesn’t matter that you’re not seen in this light currently. That’s the point really, you must move away from your competition by being and communicating the things they are not. The key lies in understanding how to move your brand where the trailblazers reside.

This is how you change the context of brand. It’s how you rise far above the commodity sellers fighting for profit in the hunter space and it just might allow you to attract opportunities for innovation and leadership that don’t currently seem available.

Nobody said this was going to be easy. What I’m suggesting is a business strategy as much as a marketing play, but bold growth only comes from equally bold thinking.