Keeping Up With The Fire Hose

The Fire Hose

The Fire Hose

Keeping up with the “fire hose” of the things I’m interested in is enough of a challenge. Add to that the, shall we say, “Dynamic” nature of my business of consulting in digital marketing, and it’s easy to see how specialization takes place. Being a generalist in any area, while of some value, limits your effectiveness with your customers….especially if your customers have wildly divergent businesses.

Granted, there’s a lot I bring to the table for them. As a rule, the business owners and entrepreneurs I work with are totally focused on their business passions and a number ore still working on become viable. They are all aware of the need for marketing, but having constrained resources (the usual 3: time, money, and personnel….many are solo-preneurs…) they try to start by doing it by themselves. A few searches on Google for resources or tips, a Facebook page, maybe a web site, and some even have a customer list they turn into an email list. By and large, they quickly realize that it’s possible to spend a LOT of resources and not seem to make much, if any, headway…

So, a couple more Google searches, maybe try to read a book on it, and, if they are part of a decent local business network, maybe asking a couple of colleagues what they are doing. They try tweaking a few things and wait a week (most of us are pretty impatient…..). Nothing seems to happen, or, maybe they get a “blip” in business….HOORAY!!!!

“So, ummmm…..what exactly did I do that caused that blip? Can I do it again, only better? How can I grow this into something that will drive my business?”

All good questions….

However, what I want to look at in this article is the work you do to “keep up” on your business. I will share with you a few things I do regularly to make sure I can be of the highest value to my existing and future clients.

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Surveys: Tell Me What You REALLY Think!

Survey Results

Survey Results

Surveys are notorious, from both sides of the subject… 

As someone who gets at least a survey per week in my mail, I respond to very few of them. Sometimes it’s because I’m just plain busy when I first see it, and it feels like a drag on my time (the DELETE key is so very tempting…). Other times it comes from a source I almost never hear from, so I wonder why (s)he wants me to give them input now, when I’ve gotten so little from them of value to date. However, when I do respond, it is usually to a person or organization from whom I’ve gotten some kind of value over time, it is tightly proscribed (that is, won’t take longer than a couple of minutes to complete….), and concerns topics that I care about.

As a business owner and blogger, I take these motivations and concerns into account when creating surveys. During the month of November I ran a survey for those who subscribe to my newsletter and regularly read my blog. The single question was:

What are the topics you wish to learn more about to help you in your business? 

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Loyalty, Customer Experience, and the Death of Your Business

Customer Experience

Customer Experience

The deeper I get into the research concerning customer loyalty and engagement, the more it is pounded into me that it centers on Customer Experience (CX for short). The kicker about CX is that, while there are certain common factors and processes that carry across most customers and audiences, it really is an individual experience with you and your business. What does this mean?

First let’s look at the percentage of Loyal customers / audience you already have. Recent studies propose that you may have between 8%-15% customers that can be considered Loyal (your mileage may vary, especially given the differences in businesses: e.g. a coffee shop may have a greater opportunity for “regular” loyalty than a real estate office…). Let’s posit that your customers (a) DO have the opportunity, given your product / service, to purchase from you again within 12 months (and can certainly REFER you at any time!), and (b) this product /service is of value to them and at a fair price. The end-to-end CX for them has been better-than-just-positive overall, hence their loyalty. Their post-purchase experience has also been “positive+” (better than just OK…).

As it turns out, that bit is very important! 

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What Do Your Customers Think?

Happy Customers

Happy Customers!

Got customers?

Then you are interested in what they think of you, since that will drive not only whether they purchase your product or service, but other things, too. Like:
  • What do think of your product  / service?
  • Will they buy again?
  • How will you know what they think unless they tell you?
  • What kind of review will they give you (on-line or off-line)?
  • What kind of influence will their experience have on how others think of you?

The basic ideas behind Customer Experience (or CX as it has come to be known) have been around for awhile. Think about when you walk into an office or a store of some kind. The initial impression of location, attractiveness, and the employees’ attitude towards you all contribute to the CX. It could be all over the place as to your experience, but that was, and is, a huge part of it In Real Life (IRL, for those of you who like acronyms…).

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“Help Me Fix It!”

Help Me

Help Me!

“Can you help me fix it?”

Almost all my initial conversations with customers are summed up in this one heart-felt plea. The long answer is usually, “Yes!”

That’s the long answer…the one that gets backed up by varying degrees of, “But first we need to….” Sometimes that slows down the enthusiasm a bit. They are happy to know that it can be fixed, but put off by the amount of work it will take, the time until the results they are looking for show up, the part of the process and collaboration in which they will need to invest, and the cost, whether it is time, hours of work, or money.

If it was simple and easy, not only would everyone else have done it (“I just want to be able to sell my products and make a really good living.“), but it would likely result in a pretty mediocre solution (“Well, we kind of fixed that problem, but I didn’t realize all the other inter-connected parts to the business and what we’re trying to do…so really, I’m not so sure we fixed much.“) that might actually harm the business.

Here’s an example:

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JUNE’S BEST – LinkedIn, Trust, and Making The Most of Your Content

July - Celebrate!

July – Celebrate!

July is upon us, and we here in the States are getting ready for our annual tribute to patriotism, fireworks and barbecues!
June was a bumper crop month for quality content across the digital marketing industry, and I’m only too happy to share the top articles I’ve read:

LinkedIn Ninja Tricks!

LinkedIn Ninja Tricks!

 

 
Facebook seems to get the attention from online sources (granted, cracking the 2 billion users mark is noteworthy…), but many of the businesses I speak with are still kind of scratching their head when it comes to LinkedIn. This top list of tips and tricks from Melonie Dodaro will get you to that next level of skill in using this great professional channel.

Sincerity

Sincerity

 

 
Sincerity and Trust have been the key components for strong customer and business relationships since forever. Building them online isn’t impossible, but it is different. This article introduces some areas of consideration about communication and how you do this. The line between communication and action is pretty clear.

Credibility

Credibility

 

 
Beyond getting found, your website needs to build and maintain your professional credibility. If you’re wondering how a website can do that, then you will find this article Laura Forer of MarketingProfs very, very valuable.

My Community

My Community

 

 
When I speak about online relationships, I refer to the mental model I call VACC (Visitors / Audience / Customers / Community). In this insightful article, Irfan Ahmad digs into how a business can approach this with Facebook Groups, an underutilized resource for most businesses. If you take this on, you’re ALREADY in the lead, since chances are your competition ISN’T doing it!

Social Media Posts

Social Media Posts

 
 
So, that post from last Tuesday blew the doors off in Shares and Comments! WOO-HOO!!!!! Now, how can you leverage what was obviously a Great Piece of Content again and take advantage of it’s quality and virality? Here are 5 ways to look at….

 

Reuse That Content!

Reuse That Content!

As a follow-on to the previous article, how do you take that premier article you’ve written and reuse (or “slice & dice”…) it in such a way that you can make the most of it. Here are nine ways you could repurpose it and reach oven more of an interested audience. Remember, everyone has a preferred way of communicating, and by doing this you are making practical use of that fact!

The Integrity and Priorities of Place

The Priority of Place

The Priority of Place

I recently wrote about how the things you actually spend time on uncover your priorities. A colleague of mine noted that what you spend money on does the same thing, which is partially true. There are a number of things you spend money on that are not discretionary, like food (if you are fortunate enough to have the money for food…).

Other interesting indicators of priority are your decisions made in the midst of radical change.

I recently read an article in the Guardian by a professor at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. I should say ‘former professor’, as the college just closed after operating since 1889. Rensselaer, IN has a population of just under 6,000 souls and is definitely NOT a place you might expect a college to be.  Ranked as a “Best Midwestern College” by the Princeton Review and U.S  News, it nonetheless announced on February 3, 2017 that it will temporarily suspend operations at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. The article’s author, Jon Nichols, rightly interprets that to mean “Students: transfer now; Faculty & employees: you will need a new job soon.”

Mr. Nichols doesn’t want to move.

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White Knuckle Deadlines

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Deadlines

Deadlines

Deadlines for your business are driven by different things.

Sometimes they’re built-in, more or less. That is, the In-Real-Life (IRL) aspect of making a delivery date, or cranking out a report, or arriving at a service appointment on-time make a deadline almost immaterial.

There are a lot of times when it’s a bit squishier than that. Think of all the business and planning work you need to do to stay ahead of your competition, the industry, your profession and just “regular business” (think updating your CRM, or doing your books, or building out a marketing campaign…). You may create deadlines for yourself, and even set aside time periodically to get them done, but so often you are sabotaged by life. You get an emergency call from a customer, or a big order comes in that you HAVE to fill, or you get sick (or someone in your family does…). These all keep you from doing what needs to be done.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that you’re usually a lot more enthusiastically engaged in doing what you love to do (the part of the business that drove you to start a small business in the first place!) rather than the dull, gray “business grind” that you KNOW needs to be done, but is pretty uninspiring and, frankly, easy to put off until tomorrow….or later.

There’s a great quote by Leonard Bernstein:

“Two things are necessary for Great Achievement: a Plan and Not Quite Enough Time.”

Taking these thoughts together, what does this mean for you and your business?

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Keeping Up With The Raging Stream of Content

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Raging Stream of Content

A Raging Stream….of Content!

How can you possibly keep up with the constant stream of content you need to publish so you can attract new visitors and satiate the the existing ones? Oh, and it has to be really valuable, interesting, entertaining, and, you hope, draws them to you in a way that leads them to hire you or buy your stuff eventually.

First, have a strategy and plan.

How much content do you actually require to meet your business and marketing goals? That depends…..typical answer, but it’s true. Here are some sample goals you might have:

  • Raise awareness for your business
  • Increase sales or leads
  • Establish and maintain professional credibility with your audience
  • Provide helpful “How-To” content to your audience

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What Are You Really All About?

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blind men and elephant

The blind men and the elephant

Remember the old fable about the blind men and the elephant? Each one of them touched a different part of the animal and conjured up a description of it that was wildly different from the others’, based on their personal experience.

Stay with me….

I have had an experience like this with my business recently. Instead of being blind, though, it’s more like I was up-close-and-personal with my section of the elephant. All I could see clearly was the bit right in front of me. In my desire to really get a good look at where I am and where I’m going, I tried stepping back a bit, but really only got a wider view of the broadside of the elephant, though. I needed to back WAAAAAAAY up to really see it as an elephant….er, as my business.

I am fortunate. I just got back from almost two weeks’ worth of vacation on a lovely tropical island. Lots of beach time, lots of “spare room” for my mind to unwind, and little to no “screen time” to distract me (THAT was nice!). It took most of the vacation for my mind, at all levels, to unwind and back-off enough to not only see the elephant, but discern if this was the elephant I wanted and have been working for / toward for years.

This is humbling, and an eye-opener…

One consideration I confronted was “What do I consider success?” This is a tougher-than-you’d-think question. It is beyond revenue, recognition, client-lists, board and committee memberships, or mission statements. It is “What am I about?” and “Why do I do this…..really?

This requires me to go deeper into my reason for being. If I truly believe the importance of mindfulness and the present moment, this must be reflected by my business. As a consultant (which holds for any small business owner…), I really AM my business. So, again, what am I about?

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