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What Internet Marketers Know That You Don’t

I use the term “Internet Marketer” in the title here in a less than flattering way. There are certainly those who make a living selling products and services via the Internet that deliver real value, but many “info and Internet” marketers also prey on people’s fears, hopes and irrational dreams to pedal worthless junk over and over again.

photo credit: Jungle Jim’s

However, what these folks know that you don’t is that you don’t necessarily need the best product, you don’t have to create a revolutionary innovation, you don’t have pile on more and more services and features and you certainly don’t have to slash prices to compete.

No, what Internet marketers know that you don’t is that all you really need is better marketing.

I’m not suggesting that you aim for inferior and worthless products and services, but I am suggesting that focusing on better marketing from top to bottom is more important than trying to improve or enhance your products and services right now.

In fact, if you were to find a way to sell more of what you’ve got you could confidently raise your prices and invest in making the best product known to mankind, but not until your fix your marketing.

I’ll go as far as to suggest that you might not even want to create a product or service until you’ve figured out how to effectively market it.

What Internet marketers know that you don’t is that:

  • You have to focus on the narrowest market possible
  • You have to get personal
  • You have to slay your prospect’s demons
  • You have to get them emotionally involved in a solution
  • You have to draw them in with a story of hope
  • You have to focus on building and segmenting better lists
  • You have to write better headlines
  • You have to write better bullet points
  • You have to write better calls to action
  • You have to offer better social and tangible proof
  • You have to offer free that is better than most paid
  • You have to engage your prospect through multiple forms of content
  • You have to move your prospect with little steps
  • You have to give them reasons to act today
  • You have to create scarcity and exclusivity around your offers
  • You have to introduce increasing levels of engagement
  • You have to create opportunities to involve your community in sharing
  • You have to build a team of partners and make it easy for them to promote your offers
  • You have to follow-up consistently, predictably and repeatedly
  • You have to monitor, measure, analyze, test and refine everything you do

Now, you can use these steps to manipulate and do evil things in support of false promises, hopes for riches and worthless products.

Or, you can use these steps to create awareness, build trust and move people to investing in products and services that deliver immense value, but either way, what you really need is better marketing.

The 3 Essential Elements of Successful Content Marketing

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 Sonia Simone.

Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Copyblogger Media. Come find her on the Copyblogger blog, where she writes extensively about content marketing for small business.

I don’t care how big or how small your business is.

If you’ve been thinking about content marketing, one issue probably keeps cropping up.

Let’s face it … this would all be a whole lot easier if it wasn’t for that pesky content.

What makes content “good”? What’s the difference between content marketing and just writing an entertaining blog? And can content really be the backbone of a serious marketing plan?

Let’s get very clear … not all content serves a marketing purpose. If you want to build a strong business around content, you need three key elements.

Here are my choices for the three key components of effective content marketing:

#1: Make it entertaining

The biggest mistake businesses make with content is the assumption that the audience actually finds their business interesting.

No one owes you their attention. You have to earn it.

That means your content (and all the rest of your marketing) needs to become relentlessly focused on the desires and needs of your customers.

That means you write content that’s entertaining and interesting. Content that benefits the reader — often by solving a problem she might have, or possibly by giving her a good laugh.

You make sure your formatting is audience-friendly. No one wants to read long, unbroken paragraphs, even if the writing is top-notch. Use plenty of subheads, white space, and a clear, legible font that’s large enough to be read by someone over the age of 12.

And if headlines aren’t your strong suit … fix that. You don’t have to be clever — clarity is much more effective. Be sure the headline communicates how the reader will benefit from reading that piece of content.

#2: Make it strategic

Not all entertaining, readable content will move a prospect closer to becoming a customer.

It doesn’t matter how many Facebook “Likes” you have, if you’re not communicating the benefits of doing business with you.

This is where your copywriting skills will pay off. You don’t actually have to be able to put the words together yourself — but you need to understand the underlying strategic elements of copywriting.

That means you know the difference between benefits and features — and your content focuses on the benefits of your product or service.

It means you know how to overcome your most common objections.

It means you understand social proof, calls to action, your unique selling proposition … and you use these elements in your content.

You don’t need to cram every copywriting element into a single piece of content, and you probably shouldn’t. Content should look like content, not advertising.

But it still serves a strategic purpose.

To borrow a phrase from classic sales training, your content exists to get prospects to know, like, and trust you. (Duct Tape readers know this is the top half of the marketing hourglass.)

That high-quality experience is what paves the path to a sale.

#3: Make it shareable

Did you get sucked into the “social media marketing” buzzfest over the last few years?

Well, social media marketing (when it’s effective) is content marketing. Banner ads and promoted tweets can’t hold a candle to strong content. And social media is typically the most cost-effective way to carry content right to the prospects you’re looking for.

Take a look at what Oreo did last weekend by posting a single piece of visual content to Facebook. It’s generated publicity (overwhelmingly positive, despite some rumblings for a boycott) that even Kraft/Nabisco couldn’t buy.

Social media is a terrific venue for getting your entertaining, strategic content shared. The specifics change somewhat year to year — this year’s hot spots are Facebook and Twitter, next year we may be looking at different platforms.

But the essential strategy remains the same. Look at how your prospects and customers share the type of content you’re creating … then make it easy and enjoyable for them to actually share it.

How about you?

Is content marketing an important part of your business? What elements do you consider essential to a successful program?

Let us know in the comments …

Image credit: npmeijer

Author of Word of Mouth Marketing Visits Referral Week

This post is a special Make a Referral Week guest post featuring education on the subject of referrals and word of mouth marketing and making 1000 referrals to 1000 small businesses – check it out at Make a Referral Week 2010

Marketing podcast with Andy Sernovitz (Click to listen, right click and Save As to download – subscribe now via iTunes

Andy SernovitzAndy Sernovitz, founder of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and author of Word of Mouth Marketing chatted with me for this special episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.

    We covered a wide range of topics related to Word of Mouth Marketing such as:

  • The difference between referrals and word of mouth
  • How word of mouth happens
  • How to create word of mouth campaigns
  • Simple examples of small businesses word of mouth success

The Easiest Way To Explain the Marketing Process

Many marketers have been taught the concept of the marketing funnel. The idea being that you bring leads into the top of the large opening in a funnel and push the ones that become customers through the small end. The problem I’ve always had with that is all the focus is on the chase. I happen to think that real payoff in marketing comes from expanding and focusing your thinking on how to turn a lead into an advocate for your business.

Long ago I started using the concept of The Marketing Hourglasssm. The top half indeed resembles the funnel concept, but the expanding bottom half, to my way of thinking, adds the necessary focus on the total customer experience that ultimately leads to referrals and marketing momentum.

I use the diagram below in workshops to explain the logical path a lead should follow to participate in your fully developed Marketing Hourglass. This concept is one of the key elements of the overall Duct Tape Marketing system, but I could conduct entire workshops around this one slide as it seems to be the easiest way to explain the marketing process in simple and practical terms. At a recent workshop an attendee came up to me and said about this diagram, “I’m an engineer by trade and this marketing stuff never made sense to me, now it finally does.” – I guess that’s the ultimate test.

hourglass

The Marketing Hourglass – (click to enlarge)

When you overlay my definition of marketing – “getting someone who has a need to know, like, and trust you” with the intentional act of turning know, like and trust into try, buy, repeat, and refer you get the entire logical path for moving someone from initial awareness to advocate.

The key is to systematically develop touchpoints, processes and product/service offerings for each of the 7 phases of the hourglass.

1. Know – Your ads, article, and referred leads
2. Like – Your web site, reception, and email newsletter
3. Trust – Your marketing kit, white papers, and sales presentations
4. Try – Webinars, evaluations, and nurturing activities
5. Buy – Fulfillment, new customer kit, delivery, and financial arrangements
6. Repeat – Post customer survey, cross sell presentations, and quarterly events
7. Refer – Results reviews, partner introductions, peer 2 peer webinars, and community building

Far too many businesses attempt to go from Know to Buy and wonder why it’s so hard. By creating ways to gently move someone to trust, and perhaps even creating low cost offerings as trials, the ultimate conversion to buy gets so much easier.

In order to start your thinking about the hourglass concept and gaps you may have ponder these questions:

  • What is your free or trial offering?
  • What is your starter offering?
  • What is your “make it easy to switch” offering?
  • What is your core offering?
  • What are your add-ons to increase value?
  • What is your members only offering?
  • What are your strategic partner pairings?

7 Steps to Creating a Winning Coaching, Consulting or Service Business

WinningLots of folks are joining the ranks of “business owner” as a career path these days. Some by design and some, unfortunately, because they have little choice. Many of these business owners are choosing to open up coaching, consulting and service businesses in part because it’s so darn easy to do. The barrier to entry is sometimes little more than printing up some business cards.

Now, I’m not suggesting that people who start these kinds of business don’t have incredible experience and expertise to offer, far from it. But, because it is so easy to start a business offering consulting, it’s more important than ever that you find a way to differentiate your coaching and consulting business so prospects can understand your unique experience and expertise.

The following seven steps offer a road map for creating a winning practice.

1) Turn your service into a product - selling services is a little like selling air. By making your offerings more productlike you can create something tangible while your competitors continue to offer solutions driven, customer centric services. Give your services a name – install your solution – offer a set deliverable, with set outcomes at a set price and watch how easy it becomes to explain and sell. The other advantage of a packaged program offering with a set price is that it allows you to rise above the hourly wage. When you sell your time you are capped and compared, when you sell a product or program, you are free to sell the value of the program without regard for the cost that goes into making it. As you become more effective at delivering your program you create the greatest path for getting paid on value delivered rather than hours input.

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Sometimes the Secret to Marketing is Just Being There

newsletterEvery time I speak to groups of small business owners I tell them that, when it comes to marketing, I would just as soon see them do something ordinary, day in and day out, than something that seems spectacularly great every once in a blue moon.

I believe one of the absolute truths about marketing is those who stick with it get results, even if they could do every thing they are doing better. Now, don’t immediately interpret this as an invitation to do crappy marketing. Obviously, the best combo is spectacularly great marketing done day in and day out, but, short of that, I lean towards showing up and staying top of mind in ways that you can do routinely.

The main thrust of this post is to suggest that if the need for perfection or even clear direction is causing you to hold back on any marketing then I would like to urge you to find what you can do, will do, and do it.

Maybe you remember the Peter Sellers role as Chance the gardner in the fabulous movie Being There. The movie is actually a very deep portrayal of how, even when simply being authentic, people can interpret what you do and say in ways that they need to meet their wants and desires (there’s certainly a marketing message in that), but from a story standpoint Chance, later Chauncey, falls into much of his elevated status by just showing up, or Being There, when someone had a need.

I think marketing of a small business can be a little like that. One of the tasks of your marketing is to devise ways that your messages can be the one that is there when a prospect decides to finally scratch an itch. In this vein systematic consistency usually trumps the every so often wow.

Build your being there machine with

  • a monthly newsletter featuring great finds from around the web
  • a monthly planned customer and network contact of varied type – article one month, customer success story one month, holiday theme one month, etc.
  • drip marketing via autoresponder offering advanced product application tips
  • a monthly press release announcement – offer organizational news via a press release format and send to network
  • quarterly survey data sharing sessions
  • quarterly trend topic webinars
  • annual success summits and user conferences

By planning and executing an ongoing number of annual contacts you will find that not only will you be first in line when your customers have a need, you’ll also be first in line when they stumble upon a referral.

Image credit: PUBLISYST Communicaciones

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The 5 Things People Really Buy

selling No matter how many shiny, cool features and benefits you cram into your marketing messages, brochures and presentations, you better find ways to help the prospect get what they really want. And, no matter if you sell heating and cooling services, legal services, hand painted greeting cards, or consulting, at the end of the day, your customers all buy some variation of the same five things.

So you better make sure you show them how you and your products and solutions are going to:
1) Make them more money
2) Save them more time
3) Allow them to avoid the frustration of doing stuff they don’t like (like wasting time and money)
4) Help them save or not lose money today and in future
5) Help them feel better about themselves

Copy these five points and refer to them often as you develop your marketing and sales pitches.

Now, you can focus all of your energy around selling one of these points or you can come up with ways to mix and match. Some lead to getting another, for example people want more of #1 to get them more of #5. Understand though that just because you tell a prospect they will save money or look and feel better doesn’t mean they will buy – they’ve also got to believe your solution will work for them and sometimes the hurdle is they don’t trust themselves – in fact, this is often the most frustrating “no” for a salesperson.

I know this can seem like an awfully simple and somewhat cynical approach to marketing, but I’m not suggesting you understand this concept so that you can paint your products and services in ways they are not, and I don’t really even mean that you should change your core marketing messages to address one of these five points.

What I am saying is that at some point this is how a decision about you, your products and solutions will be made, so you must answer one or all of these questions along the path to yes.

Image credit: Tanel Teemusk

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Teaching Business Behavior

business teachingThere is a well-worn truth that goes something like – if you want to learn something teach it. I think this certainly applies to many aspects of business. If you want to learn something at a much deeper level then write about it, speak about it, and create and conduct workshops and trainings on the subject. You can and should be doing all of these things as a routine part of your business growth.

However, I want to suggest that you take this concept to another level. I believe that there is a powerful layer to this teaching notion that is rarely accessed by small business. If you want your customers and partners to behave in certain ways then teach them how to do it. Now, I’m not simply talking about teaching them how or what to buy – I mean teach them a behavior that clearly has a benefit to them, but ultimately may benefit your cause.

Here’s what I mean.

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