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.
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?
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!
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…).
“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:
Video is EVERYWHERE!
Unless you’re completely disconnected
, you have watched a video of some kind over the internet…even if it was just a cat
. More likely you not only watch them every time you’re online, but also have some kind of streaming service like Netflix
that you subscribe to so you can watch when you want. The absolute access of video on the internet to our population is staggering.
Now flip that around. As a small-to-medium business owner and entrepreneur, a big pillar of growing your business is, of course, marketing. Digital marketing (which includes social media) is a growing portion of business focus and will only get bigger. It goes without saying that any business that needs to get found by customers (is there a business that DOESN’T need to be found by customers?) has a web site. A significant subset of these businesses have a social media presence of some sort.
How well that aspect of their marketing is working becomes the question to answer…
Quality content drives much of digital marketing success, but without a strategy to reach those markets and customers that want to buy from you, the content may not even seem to exist. These subjects make up a lot of my previous articles, and comprise a large part of what I work with my clients to create and implement.
The One Thing!
I have written previously about the obsession with THE ONE THING
. In the case of my earlier article, it was the THING
that you, as a business owner, feel could turn around your business or make a big splash, if you could only get it Just Right
. My point in that article is that you need to step back and consider what you’re trying to accomplish, to see if that THING will actually move the needle, or if it is more of a “shiny thing” that you’re chasing, in hopes it will fulfill its perceived promise.
There’s another kind of ONE THING that can have an enormous impact on your business: Clarity of Communication. This breeds and establishes Understanding, which is not the same thing as simply communicating…
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!
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 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.
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.
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
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!
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 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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Time And Truth
Time is Truth.
What that means is you invest time in the things that you feel are important. Work, play, rest, whatever…..time is a consumable and limited resource. Each of us gets 24 hours a day, and none of us knows EXACTLY how much of it we get in total. It’s limited. It’s also a most unpredictable predictable commodity, because there’s no telling, at any one time, when “life will intervene” and you will lose out on how you planned to use the time.
There’s a lot here about life and values, but let’s focus on business and profession.
Whether you go into an office of some kind or are working in some kind of structure for your work that doesn’t include an office, you likely spend more time in that work than almost anything else you do. This is particularly true of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Tack on all the “thinking / worrying about work” time to that, and it’s even more all-consuming.