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Customer Loyalty Is Mostly About Choosing the Right Customers

I know the title of this post might raise some eyebrows, but it’s true – most businesses have the exact clients they’ve chosen.

photo credit: LexnGer via photopin cc

photo credit: LexnGer via photopin cc

Now, you may not exactly love the clients you’ve attracted, but that’s because you don’t realize the power you wield when it comes to “choosing” your clients. Far too many business owners feel powerless in this regard and subject themselves to serving “anyone with money” or worse “anyone they hope will pay.”

I recently asked a group of business owners to tell me some of the attributes of their ideal clients. After we got through the requisite “they have money” and “they aren’t a pain to work with,” we wandered into some much deeper and meaningful territory.

This was a group of dance and music studio owners and for many the most important attributes had to do with mindset and behavior – “They ask lots of detailed questions” and “they see art, music and dance as ways to support healthy children.”

Wow, all of a sudden we had stumbled upon something extremely valuable. See, while all agreed that the real benefits of their service were self-esteem, wellness and better study habits, few did anything to promote and amplify those messages.

Eventually, they discovered that in their ideal clients, this was the common thread and yet, they feared that if they led primarily with the mantra of “healthy children through art,” they would turn away the “let’s put Sally in every possible competition” people.

And, of course, I had to remind them, that’s precisely the point.

While the “let’s put Sally in every possible competition” people did indeed have the money, they were hard on the staff, frequently disruptive and gone as fast as they came.

The real message here is that in order to build a business that truly can thrive you must understand who you are equipped to serve best and you must do everything in your power to attract, serve and choose them over all else.

5 Things You Know But Don’t Do Enough

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

get more done

photo credit: magro_kr via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

Say No enough

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

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

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

Say Yes enough

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

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

Ask enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow up enough

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

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

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

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

Say thank you enough

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

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

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

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

Before Any of the Tactics Matter Answer These 3 Questions

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

strategy before tactics

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

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

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

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

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

1) Why do we do what we do?

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

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

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

2) Who do we do it for?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, say it with me, Strategy Before Tactics!

Two Things Owners Must Delegate In Order to Be Free

There are many things that business owners must do. Certainly there’s the doing of the thing that the business does and, perhaps more importantly, the selling of the thing the business does.

delegate

photo credit: bradleypjohnson via photopin cc

But, business owners also routinely get bogged down in all the other stuff – creating web pages, collecting and paying bills, writing emails, tweeting, meeting, troubleshooting the network and, my favorite, taking out the trash.

Common sense suggests that in order to survive and grow you must delegate all the other stuff. That is indeed true, until you delegate all that other stuff, you can’t focus on the highest payoff activities.

Here’s the thing though – while getting all that other stuff off your plate might free up your mind, it won’t actually set your business free. It will allow you to expand the capacity of your business to that which you can keep your arms around, but it won’t actually allow you to grow.

In order to truly get free of your business in a way that will allow you to grow you must work to replace yourself in two key jobs – the doing of the actual work that makes money and the selling of the work that makes money.

If you’re a consulting company you must be able to find people who can do the consulting and you must be able to find people who can make it rain new consulting contracts. If  you’re a plumbing company you must be able to find people who can do the plumbing and you must be able to find people who can sell the plumbing.

If the business relies on you to do either of those functions you don’t really have a business, you have a job!

How to Make Your Plan Their Plan: 7 Tips for Motivating Your Employees

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Amy Daniels – Enjoy!

motivation-postThe most effective managers recognize the importance of motivating their employees. As you head into what will hopefully be your most successful year yet, consider the following advice to get your employees truly on board with your plans.

1. Treat motivation as a complex topic.

Don’t fall into the trap of assigning a predetermined motivation to your employees. If your newest member to the team seems to focus on financial stability, don’t label him as an individual motivated by money. Dig deeper than that. Perhaps he wants to provide a better life for his kids than his parents did for him, or maybe he wants to get out of his comfort zone and travel to new countries. No article can predict what really brings out the ambition in your people. Treat motivation as a complex topic with deep roots, and take the time to slowly unravel what gets your employees into gear.

2. Encourage working smarter, not harder.

You have the ability to impart invaluable experience on your employees. If you find yourself regularly uttering something along the lines of, “Let’s work harder,” you may need to re-evaluate your strategy. Give your employees an environment with resources, support, and stimulating challenges – all while emphasizing community and purpose along the way.

3. Hire wisely.

Surely you already scrutinize for a motivated individual during the interview process. If you really want to get a feel for your potential hire’s outlook, try shifting away from the typical job interview questions. Job candidates are getting better at rehearsing the perfect things to say. You may find a benefit in asking questions like, “What personal accomplishments have you achieved in the past year?” Or you could try, “Describe how you dealt with one of the most difficult times of your life.”

4. Take care of your people.

While I won’t tell you that incentives are always the best way to go, it’s important to remember that employees can lose motivation if basic needs are neglected. Pay your people well, listen to their concerns, ask them to evaluate you, let them know they have a certain level of job security, and treat them kindly. See the potential in them and nurture it until they begin to see it for themselves.

5. Become a genuine friend.

Of course, you may not relate to your employees the same way you’d interact with your buddies on the weekends. But when you make a sincere effort to understand your employees and treat them like more than a dispensable resource, they’ll begin to take ownership as a valuable asset. You can’t make every second of the job a thrill ride for your employees, but you can and should challenge them, explain your thought process, learn about their personalities, make yourself available, and ask them questions beyond the small talk you save for awkward social gatherings.

6. Introduce – rather than enforce – your plans.

January is all about planning and organizational development at Duct Tape Marketing. As you draft out your quarterly goals and analyze where your strategies could use tweaking, try letting your employees be a part of the process. Recognize their creativity and intelligence and allow their input to morph your original agenda. You won’t always be able to follow this process. If the topic isn’t something that they can alter, present it in a way that encourages thorough questions and feedback.

7. Push yourself to become a better boss.

If you showcase your own motivated approach to work, your employees will likely follow suit. Recognize that somebody saw something in you that landed you the opportunity to manage others. It’s important not to lose sight of those qualities within yourself. Take the honor seriously and remember that the purpose of your management role, according to Glenn Llopis of Forbes, is to “protect your team and get them recognized in new ways.”

Ultimately, look for opportunities to improve a day in the life of your employees. Keep their aspirations at the forefront of your mind and consistently watch for ways to strengthen their skills.

Amy Daniels DTMAmy Daniels is the content writing manager at web marketing company StorageAhead. She oversees a team that creates and amplifies compelling online content. She will do almost anything to shy away from a boring workday and believes that her team deserves the same challenge.

Your New Competitive Advantage (It’s Not What You Think)

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

perspectiveWhat’s your competitive advantage?  When we hear competitive advantage we often think of what we can see: brand identity, marketing strategy, etc.  But with increasingly commoditized products and services, shrinking margins, and copycat competitors we need to look deeper.

According to Wikipedia:

“Competitive advantage occurs when an organization acquires or develops an attribute or combination of attributes that allows it to outperform its competitors.”

So, how you run your business can also be a competitive advantage.  It’s an advantage your competitors can’t see and is therefore difficult to copy.  But to find these opportunities, we have to think differently.

A Matter Of Perspective

Have you ever seen someone get used to doing something inefficiently?  Maybe it’s your mechanic still using paper invoices or your uncle getting up to change the channel on the TV instead of using the remote.  For me it’s seeing my father-in-law use a 25ft. phone cord in the kitchen so he could move around and still talk on the phone.  I didn’t even know they made phone cords that long.  The next day, cordless phones had mysteriously replaced every phone in the house.  I’m not sure how they got there, but I can tell you that I bought them at Best Buy…

These are harmless examples of status quo, but this same kind of blindness happens to businesses and even entire industries.  We think we’re doing it right by following best practices and doing what everyone else is doing, but unfortunately ‘status quo’ and ‘best practice’ are often synonyms.  When we blindly follow best practices, we risk forfeiting any competitive advantage.

Thinking Differently

Let’s talk about the easiest way for small businesses to gain a competitive advantage in their industry today.  Best practices tell small businesses to be more active on their website, blog more, use social media, etc.   This advice is great (and works when done right), but the execution is often flawed because we’re just adding more things to an already overflowing to-do list.  We end up unfocused and unproductive.

How many tips on improving your business do you read every week?  How many do you actually end up using successfully?  We’re so busy looking for ways to do more that we miss opportunities to do less, and thus be more efficient.  Businesses that figure this out will develop a significant competitive advantage in their market.  Here’s how to get started.

Your Most Underutilized Employee

In our rush to embrace the latest trends, we’ve missed the quiet revolution that turned our trusty old website into a powerful source of leverage.  Your website is now your most underutilized employee.

The emergence of cloud applications like FreshBooks, Constant Contact, and Salesforce are changing the way we work by bringing enterprise power to small businesses at a fraction of the cost.  They’re simplifying accounting, invoicing, project management, CRM, and more with no software to install, maintenance, or personnel costs.

But to take full advantage of these apps we have to leverage our newest, most underutilized employee: our website.  It’s already available 24/7 and interacts with customers, so we can use our website as a business hub to integrate cloud apps directly into our workflow.

An Example

What would this look like?  Imagine a consultant uses cloud apps to manage invoicing, scheduling, CRM, etc.  Suppose she’s tired of doing repetitive data entry tasks for each new client and decides to automate by integrating these apps with the website’s intake forms.  Now when a client submits a form through her website this happens automatically:

  • A draft estimate/invoice is created (FreshBooks, QuickBooks, Xero, etc.)
  • Client details are added to the CRM (Highrise, Salesforce, Infusionsoft, Zoho, etc.)
  • A project is created in her project management app (Basecamp, Trello, Podio, Asana)
  • Attached files (images, documents, etc.) are uploaded and stored (Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive, etc.)
  • The client is added to the email newsletter (MailChimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, etc.)
  • An intake meeting is added to the calendar
  • A text message summary is sent to the consultant (SMS/instant text notification)

This is just an example, but what would your perfect workflow look like?  What apps would you use?   If you’re not using cloud apps in your business yet, try a few out to see which work best for you.  Most have free trials and some even have free plans.  When you’re ready, you can integrate them with your website.  How you integrate the apps depends on how your website is built and which apps you’re using, but you can do it for under $100.

Your new competitive advantage is a better engine under the hood.  It’s better processes, smarter workflows, lower costs, and higher margins.  The power of cloud apps will help you do this, and your website will help you automate it all.

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”

- Jack Welch, grew General Electric 4,000% as CEO 1981 – 2001

gabe-150x150Gabriel Mays is the Founder and CEO of Just Add Content, which makes affordable, easy to use small business websites.  Just Add Content specializes in making cloud app integration accessible to small businesses.  Previously Gabe served as a Captain in the Marine Corps for 8 years, spending 2 years between Iraq and Afghanistan operating on small, embedded advisor teams.  Visit Just Add Content to get a free email crash course on building a smarter business website!

Show Me Your Calendar and Your Checkbook, and I’ll Show You What’s Really Important in Your Life

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is John Rydell – Enjoy!

ID-100120377

photo credit: Panpote

My brother and I run a family of software companies, each with their own unique products. Over the past year, we’ve been lucky enough to experience a pretty big spike in growth. Suddenly, our simple time-tracking methods just weren’t enough to capture how all our resources were allocated between our different products.  After some discussion about how it might affect the culture of the company, we decided to have our team start tracking their time.

As you might expect, we learned a lot from a business perspective, and it also got me thinking about a quotation I heard about 15 years ago: “Show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I’ll show you what’s really important in your life.”  Times have changed (“show me your Outlook and Mint.com account”?), but the message is as relevant as ever. No matter what you claim to be important to you, your calendar and checkbook will tell you the truth.

2014 is upon us, and now is as good a time as any to take stock of how you’re spending your time and money.

What is most important to you?

Before you continue reading, please take a few minutes to jot down what is important in your life.

You might have a hobby that’s important, or perhaps religion. Whatever your list is, keep it handy so you can refer back to it later.

How do you actually spend your time?

Now that you have created your list, I challenge you to truly look at your calendar for the past day, week, month, and year. Where has your time actually gone?

Are you taking the time to give back to your community and your church? Do you take the time to exercise and spend time with your friends and family?

Consider the following question: “How would I spend my day if time and money didn’t matter?” That usually gives you some clues about what is most important to you.

How do you actually spend your money?

Next, let’s look at your money. Go back through your expenses for the year and be honest about where your money went. It doesn’t have to be precise, but you can quickly get a good sense about your spending.

I know it is easy to think that this exercise would be a lot simpler and more fun if you were rich. But the truth is that if you are reading this blog, it is likely that you are in the top 1% of all earners on the planet. In fact, you may even be in the top 10% of all earners in the United States. No matter what you think, you do have choices about how you spend your money.

What financial goals are important to you? You need to ensure that you have a real plan for funding all of these things in a manner that you can be proud of.

In my case, my wife and I have worked hard to get to the point where we set aside 15% for savings and 10% for charity. That isn’t easy to do and it didn’t happen overnight.  We started with smaller percentages and built up. Another thing that helps us is that we automatically put money into separate accounts for things like charity, taxes, and savings to ensure that the money is set aside.

Decide what is important to you strategically and stick with it. Don’t keep spending money on something just because it is what you’re used to doing.

So what can you do about this in 2014?

Find one area in your life where you can make a small change in your time and money. Perhaps you need to commit to spending 2 extra hours per week on your health and nutrition. Or you need to save an extra 1% of your money for retirement. Make one small change and commit to it in 2014.

2014 is around the corner. Now is the time to take a careful look at your time and money and make sure you are spending it in the right places next year. Your health, your family, your business, your charitable community, and the world will all be better if you do.

JohnJohn Rydell is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience starting and growing technology and telecom companies. John currently spends his time as president of Networx Online, a CRM-in-the-cloud business that provides online marketing solutions for network marketers. John is also president and co-founder of the sales automation tool PhoneBurner.com as well as the popular free online meeting provider MeetingBurner.com.

7 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2013

Like a lot of content producers I’m using the end of the year to look back and reflect on the body of work produced throughout the year.

chucksI’ve intentionally chosen to focus on the most “popular” posts as a way of illustrating a bit of what makes a piece of content popular.

Now, mind you, that’s not the same as saying the “best” posts of the year. Well, it might be, but it might not. In the world we live in today popular content is made so by your audience’s willingness to share it, comment on it, and otherwise voluntarily talk about it.

Factors such as a provocative headline, the tried and true list format and the particular and somewhat unpredictable nature of the crowd on a given day have a lot to do with making content spread.

The following seven posts were judged most popular through an analysis of Google Analytics, social and link data. It’s also worth noting that the more popular a post the better chance it stands to rank higher in subsequent related searches, which only serves to make it more popular.

1. 8 Alternatives to Google Keyword Tool – Keyword research is vital. It’s an essential tactic for developing a powerful content strategy, targeting pay per click advertising campaigns and improving search engine optimization. For many years Google offered what was undoubtedly the most used free tool . .

My most popular post of the year benefited greatly from search traffic over the last few months of the year.

2. The Best Books in the World on Writing – It’s entirely possible that the title of this post is completely off. I mean, what I’ve really compiled is a list of the books on writing that I love the best. But isn’t that the thing about great writing – it allows us, compels us perhaps . . .

This post benefited from a Listly list that took off in content networks and embeds on other sites.

3. 5 New Realities of SEO – Back in the day, SEO was more technical and less, well, semantic. Now I realize that for most a term like semantic query relevancy might as well be the name of computer programming language, but the fact is Google’s customers, the searcher . . .

A list, with the word new and about SEO – all ingredients for social sharing!

4. How to Create a Total Content System – As content becomes increasingly important in the marketing mix, it must take on an elevated place in your strategy and planning. The use of high quality, education based content . . .

Posts about content marketing were very popular in 2013 and this one benefited from the fact that it offered a “how to” system and had an audio explanation. (It was also one of my top podcasts of the year.)

5. How to Be Quiet and Why You Must – Business is noisy. A typical day might involve dozens of conversations, meetings, decisions, tasks and insights. Every thought, conscious or otherwise, roars through our heads like the intersection . . .

This may have been my favorite post of the year and I believe it benefited from a bit of a curiosity factor as well as the universal longing we all have for a little more peace.

6. 12 Month Total Online Presence Blueprint – I’ve been taking business owners through the beta of my Total Online Presence Program of late and the comprehensive nature of this mindset is certainly reinforcing the overwhelming amount of stuff there is to do online if you are to tap the full potential of building a Total Online Presence. . .

This post benefited from a Facebook ad campaign that drove people to a very popular webinar, which sold an online training program. This is a great example of using social to create awareness for content to create sign up for email to create customers!

7. 7 Marketing Metrics Worth Obsessing Over – Marketers need to measure a lot of things in order to get better. Not everyone does and those that do sometimes measure the wrong things. The obvious things like leads and sales revenue are important, but they’re quite often just a measure of what is and not . . .

This final post was about numbers and that usually spells boring, but this was a list with the word obsessing in the title that came during the first week of the year – my guess is people were finally obsessing over planning for the year. Most shared LinkedIn post of the year.