Saturday, December 30, 2006

Week 19 - Who Goes There?

OK so you are doing direct response but you need an offer. Before you decide how you are going to describe this offer, you have to be crystal clear on whom you are talking to:

1) You must know who your prospects are and where they are
2) You must know what they want, need or desire

You can find this information by asking your customers or by measuring and testing your various marketing initiatives. Don’t skip the step or you’ll be communicating with the wrong audience. Crafting the words which you use to describe your product or offer is similar to crafting your headline. You must promise the reader benefits and ask them to act. Broadly speaking, the body of your advertisement should:

1. Reinforce your headline in your opening remarks
2. Specifically state your offer
3. Develop and support your offer, offer reasons why the prospect should believe you and take action. Tell the reader why you are offering the special price, bulk rate etc.
4. Most importantly, tell the prospect how to act.

The words you use to elaborate in these areas are up to you. Run small tests to see what is working and what is not. Never assume that you have found the perfect combination of words or that your wording could not get any better. Keep refining the ad, especially if your response rates start to decline. Most importantly, try not to use the “technical language” which is thrown around in your industry. Remember that the offer should be directed towards your readers in words they can understand. And finally, don’t use the ad to tell them how great your business is.

P.S. – Speaking of headlines, here are my four golden rules for making them as effective as possible:

1. Pick out only the people you can interest. Focus your headline on the intended recipient only, for example: “Calling all nurses who find car parking difficult in the city!” versus “Great deal on parking near to the hospital/city.”

2. People don’t read ads for amusement. Offer some valuable information and a reason to read on.

3. Be specific. Don’t try to be funny or witty – state the offer or the reason to read on (example, “Rid your house of termites today and stop them returning forever – guaranteed” versus “The Bug Stops Here”).

4. An oldy but a goody - promise the reader a benefit! (Example “Do you want to stop hair loss and restart growth within 90 days – guaranteed?” versus “Is your hair falling out?”)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Week 18 - Direct Response Only!

The most important aspect of any advertisement is that you call the reader to action. Tell them what you sell, why you are selling it, how it will benefit them and then ask them to take action!

Now that sounds simple enough, but how many advertisements do you see (in fact stop now and have a look around you) that are simply offering no information? We see them all the time - companies run quarter page newspaper advertisements and leave most of the available space blank - a small headline in the corner might read “buy only the best”. Worse, it might not say anything…just the name of the company, as if we should be impressed, as if we should leap out of our seat and make a purchase.

One of the greatest business building minds of all time, Jay Abraham, calls this type of advertising “institutional advertising”. He believes it is conducted because the owner of the business is more interested in creating a masterpiece than they are in generating sales!

David Ogilvy, millionaire advertising executive and founder of Ogilvy and Mather, asks:

“What is a good advertisement… An advertisement that pleases you because of its style or an advertisement that sells the most?

Look at all the advertising you have done over the past few years – did it ask for a direct response or did it simply tell the readers how great your company is? This is not an attack on designers or other creative folks – they have usually spent years studying exactly what we humans find visually appealing. So don’t rule them out. Just don’t let them rule your advertisement! You control the headline, the wording and the call to action. They can control how they present this in a visually appealing way.

Some Direct Response examples:

1. Call now!
2. Return this coupon by mail for your free brochure
3. Come into our store with this advertisement
4. Visit our website and enter your unique code
5. Mention this ad for a free sample of our product

Week 17 - The Only Purpose of Advertising is to Make Sales

The success of Google over the last 5 years comes largely down to one thing – business owners are willing to pay handsomely for leads which result in actual sales. What was lacking prior to the Internet was this ability to scientifically track just how you ad was performing. Whilst the Internet and these methods are new, the concept of advertising to create sales opportunities is certainly not. There is a classic book by Claude Hopkins called Scientific Marketing which was written in 1923!. Don’t be put off by the title, you should easily be able to read it in a weekend. Hopkins declares that:

“The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.”

Regardless of what you have heard or seen in the past, for most small to medium sized businesses the only focus should be the number of qualified leads that are generated from your advertising. Qualified means that when people do call or visit, they are seriously looking for the solution that you provide. With a few cute graphics or a joke, just about anyone can get the phone to ring but will the caller actually want your service at the price and terms you offer it?

Let’s look at 6 golden rules you should follow for all of the advertising you do, on or offline.

1. Firstly be consistent. All of your marketing messages must project the same message.
2. Always incorporate your USP.
3. Always ensure you are using a direct response method (such as a discount coupon). You must call your prospect to action.
4. Always create an effective headline.
5. Always write effective copy (the words we use to describe the offer).
6. Ensure you are applying the Broadest Possible Appeal rule.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Week 16 - Hate to Sell, Then Don't - Educate!

Without a doubt, the most successful salespeople don’t seem to push anything on you. These people sell without selling and by educating you on purchasing a product or service they are in effect helping you to set “decision criteria” in your mind. In other words, you end up asking yourself “On what basis am I evaluating this purchase?” The education you have been given be it brief or a 3 hour presentation helps this process, so in effect the teacher can be a leader.

Information and education empower the purchaser. Have you been in a liquor store and seen the little pictures of food beside the name of the wine? You know, BBQ Steak for the Syrah, shrimp for the Sauvignon Blanc? How do these make you feel? Empowered I bet and as a bonus, it completely leads you away from making a decision on price alone.

Decision criteria are real – whether you know it or not you have decision criteria for coffee. Starbucks have set it as a warm, clean inviting atmosphere with jazz music and helpful knowledgeable staff. They mix this with a consistent coffee experience – notice I did not say superior, in fact many smaller chains and independents have amazing coffee, but lack the “new world” criteria.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Week 15 - Changing The Purchase Rules Whilst Contributing to Society

You may be familiar with Dyson vacuum cleaners. James Dyson first brought the Dual Cyclone Vacuum Cleaner to market in 1992 after his technology had been ignored by the almost the entire electrical goods community around the world.

What was the decision criteria for a vacuum prior to the Dyson being launched? Features? Power? Power was probably the big one as we often see the manufacturers upping the number of “watts” posted across the packaging. Now each time one of the major competitors unveils more power in their machines, the others simply follow suit. Adding extra power could certainly not be patent protected and the consumer simply remained fixated on the idea that more watts must be better. Price probably came in second place on the decision criteria list.

What is the new decision criteria for a vacuum cleaner?

Power still gets a mention, but questions on “style (amazingly), suction performance and air filtration” have moved Dyson’s business to the top of the pile. Dyson products cannot be compared with the 1700 watt model sitting next to it, nor can they be compared on price. In fact forget price. Dyson vacuum cleaners can be 7 times more expensive than their competition, but they have what the market now perceives as the best solution to their problem and are prepared to pay for it!

The Dyson story demonstrates that marketing is not about playing with words or adding trivial services to our core business to trick consumers. Price driven retailers told Dyson that he stood little chance of sales success – Dyson are now the market leader!

It is important that your marketing programs are consistent and the quality as good as it can be, but it is just as important that you believe in what you are doing and today more than ever, how it fits into and helps society.

In her book, Fences and Windows, Naomi Klein discusses those big multi-national companies who, with the help of a PR agency, decide that they “want to be your friend”. She describes those businesses which spend so much time and money trying to convince consumers that they really care about them while at the same time, behaving in a manner anything but! To use Klein’s words, do you have a “communications problem” or a “reality problem?” Innovation, service and marketing are not about spin, they are about a genuine commitment to turning your business into a productive part of society.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Week 14 - Banging Your Customers Over The Head With Benefits

I talked in Week 11 about your USP, that statement which conveys why you exist and how what you offer is the best possible solution to your prospect’s problems. Before we dig deeper let’s be clear that marketing is not a substitute for product or service performance. As they say in America, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig! Ensure you have the systems in place to live up to your USP; you don’t want all that effort expended getting people through the door only to leave them dissatisfied.

As you think more about what your USP should, be consider the following:

Ask yourself what you provide that is unique, bigger, faster, more creative? Also ask your trusted suppliers and customers what they think about your business in these areas. Combine the feedback.

Once you have this bedded down, your USP should be strong enough to impress strangers. Test this on a few – ask them if they faced a choice in your industry whether or not your USP would lead them to call you. Test and Refine.

Your USP conveys everything that is unique about your business but you need to lead your customers to understand how this translates into actual benefits. A “decision criteria” can be used to eliminate your competition from every piece of business that is available - if deployed correctly.

Creating decision criteria is a straight forward value added service you can provide to any prospect that phones, writes or physically enters your premises. The basic idea of the decision criteria is that regardless of whether or not the prospect chooses your business, there are a number of things they should look out for when actually purchasing. In other words, provide a list of criteria and suggest they use it as a guide to purchasing the product or service.

As an example let’s look at selling your home…

Imagine that a young couple wants to sell their home in a trendy suburb. The sales agent can say “choose me, we have the lowest commission and we guarantee we will get you a great price for your property”. A second agent might say to the couple, “many agents will tell you the same thing and at times, our services can seem very similar. To help guide you through the jargon jungle, won’t you take this sheet that explains the best way to sell your home for the highest possible price and least amount of anguish. There is certainly no obligation, we just want to be sure you are fully informed about all the potential pitfalls associated with selling your home.”

The decision criteria that the agent hands to the vendor might read something like this:

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Peppermint Grove Realty – Eight points to look for in any agent who offers to sell your home.

1. Always deal through an agent who is a member of the Real Estate Institute which will give you a level of professional protection (Intent - probably not unique, but sets the tone for the following points)

2. Ensure your appointed agent knows the area well. Ask your agent how many homes have sold in the suburb in the last 12 months and what the average price has been? (Intent - Obviously you wouldn’t ask this question unless you were experienced and had a great track record in the area. The object is to highlight that expertise and eliminate your competition who may not posses the same experience.)

3. Most house sale prices are set by following the trend of the street or surrounding suburb. Ask your agent if they will provide you with a complimentary copy of all sales prices in your suburb over the past 12 months. This will help to guide you on the price you should be getting for your property. (Intent - A small value add you might provide to vendors will also eliminate the agents who try to set an unrealistically high or low selling figure).

4. The more people who see your home for sale, the more chance you have of selling it. Ask your appointed agent what journals and newspapers they intend to advertise in and ask them if they pass on discounted rates to keep your advertising costs low? (Intent - You advertise heavily and you receive discounts for that. You may or may not want to pass that onto the vendor. The point is you can once again differentiate yourself from your competition if you wish.)

5. Obviously it pays to present your property well on inspection days. Ask your appointed agent if they provide a free one hour home and garden refresh service prior to the open house. (Intent - Another value add to get your competition on the back foot).

6. Further, if you house is vacant, prospective purchasers may have a hard time visualizing how they would fit into the house. Ask your appointed agent whether they have access to temporary furniture at discounted rates. (Intent - Once again, a point of value for the vendor to consider, but you also have a great deal lined up should they wish to take advantage.)

7. Your time is valuable. Ask your agent if they will turn up to open houses and other agreed appointments on-time, every time. (Intent - Try to weed out those non-performers in the industry but getting the vendor to ask if they are reliable. Of course all will answer yes, but should they fail to appear on time, it becomes a lie. By the way, not everyone can be on time, every time, but a simple phone call can solve the problem. It is all about being considerate of the prospect’s time).

8. The nerves on auction day can get to anyone. Rather than drop your price, ask your agent if they will agree to stick by your reserve price no matter how the auction goes. (Intent - Once again, trying to weed out those agents who will promise a high selling price to get the business, only to put pressure on the vendor to accept a lower offer on auction day.)

If you have any further questions regarding the sale of your home, feel free to call one of our professional advisers 24 hours a day ……

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If you have ever gone through the process of selling your home, I think you would agree that you would find this list at least somewhat interesting. The key is to add value. Anyone can write out a list stating all of the reasons why they should be chosen, but presenting them in this way creates questions in the prospect’s mind and then goes on to answer these questions straight away. You don’t see any mention of the estate agency in the points themselves, but the agency will have a fantastic and unique answer to every one of them.

When was the last time you were handed a list of these helpful hints by anyone? Was it at a bedding shop? A motor mechanic? You may have never seen them in use so you can understand what an immense impact it could have in your business, not to mention what you could do to your competition..

Week 13 - Would You Wait?

Being unique is tough these days so some business owners feel that if the phone rings and they don’t drop everything, they can lose a sale. This plays havoc with your schedule and really gets back to a reactive versus a proactive approach to running your business.

But let’s take a scenario; if you have a urgent job to be done and you use Google or the Yellow Pages to find a solution, you are likely to keep calling until someone says they can attend straight away. The numbers you call will probably only be determined by location of the business, “is it nearby?”

But consider this; if one of your friends or family had referred you to a particular business because they always turn up on time, charge wholesale rates for spare parts, always leave the house clean and would guarantee their work for six months, would you wait until the next day to get your problem fixed? Unless your toilet is spilling out into the living room the answer is almost always “yes”. So the business owner who has set up systems and operates proactively can say “Not today”, without losing the opportunity. That is something for you to look forward to.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Week 12 - What Do Your Customers Expect From You?

Take a moment now and look through the Yellow Pages or do a generic search on Google for your product. Go ahead and look under electrical contractors or exhaust systems or gardening services. How many companies are telling you about extra services they provide and how they are unique, special or different? Perhaps not surprisingly, there are only one or two. Everyone else is just screaming ME TOO. Me too takes many forms such as “24 hours”, “all services”, “guaranteed” and “all models”.

Customers have expectations, that is, there are certain things they just expect when making a purchase of anything.

They expect to be treated with dignity. They expect that the sheets in a hotel will be clean. They expect that a hot dish in a restaurant will in fact be hot. The point here is that many business owners offer services they consider special, but the market simply considers that they are part of the normal service.

Expected:

Friendly Service
Competitive Prices
Home Delivery
All areas
Frequent Flyer Miles

Unexpected:

Free carpet cleaning
Theatre tickets with hotel stay
Genuine discount at leading restaurant (not just a free dessert with a $75 main course!)
A free birthday cake delivered on your special day
A call from a restaurant to see how your meal was

You have to keep on top of what’s expected and what’s not. As I said earlier if your competitors are any good they will start doing the same things so you need to constantly look at ways to surprise and delight your customers.

How many of your current extras are just “expected” by the market?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Random Quote - Priceless

Authors Diana LaSalle and Terry Britton observe in their book Priceless: “…when someone is asked why he uses whitening toothpaste, he might say to have whiter teeth. If probed further to find out why this is important, the consumer may say it makes him look better, a typical feature/benefit response. When asked again, he might finally reveal that looking better gives him greater confidence and self esteem. You can’t really put a price on feeling better about yourself can you? So these then are the priceless attributes of the product.”

Week 11 - Why Should I Buy From You?


Earlier we discussed the importance of being strategic, or proactive in your approach to building your business and remaining competitive. Your Unique Strategic Position (USP) is the key ingredient for achieving this. David Ogilvy, the famous advertising executive and founder of Ogilvy and Mather defines the “position” in USP as “what the product does, and who it is for.” I would take that one step forward and say “what the product does, who it is for and how it is different.”

Asking you to differentiate yourself as soon as possible is simplistic. A competitive advantage can be fleeting, we all know that. The guy across the street who offers “two for one” is soon copied by all of the local retailers. Therefore your goal should be to make your business the only choice through a totally outstanding offer, putting you out of the reach of your competitors.

Choose your niche carefully. No business can be all things to all people. Perhaps you should revisit “Week 1” to ensure your chosen USP is in alignment with where YOU want to go as a person.

If your USP has not been clearly defined, it is most likely not being communicated by your employees. That is one big problem but even worse is how we run our business in this mode: WE REACT, we lower our prices, we scream ME TOO and try to win the prospect over by promising things that we cannot deliver (ever had a contractor turn up late?).

Finally a good USP will set expectations about your product or service and position your business in the mind of your prospect.

What are some questions you can ask yourself when devising your USP?

1. What problem or problems do you solve for your customers?

2. What are the top 5 reasons your current customers buy from you
?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Week 10 - The Power of Lifetime Value

Once you are measuring, testing and marketing as effectively as possible, you will start to see how you can attract more people into your business without spending additional money.

You also know who is coming into your business and why, so now we need to work out what each of them is worth to your bottom line. There are two reasons for this, the first is so we can tailor our marketing program to the amount of money each customer is worth and secondly so we can convey this figure to all employees. It doesn’t matter whether you sell do-it-yourself will kits and see your customers only once or if you sell seafood and see them every second day. The principle that it costs real money to attract each customer still applies. Given this cost, what is each prospect worth to your business over a year, or a lifetime?

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Lifetime value = average number of purchases x average value of sale x average number of years as a customer

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You really need to spend the time to work out this figure “on average”. Don’t get too tied up in it being exact, you need a number to guide you and you need it now. The lifetime value number will be used time and time again in the future to justify marketing programs or to help you sell your business system so put in the work and review it regularly.

Sometimes a simple testing and measurement program can reveal that you are actually paying more to attract new customers than they are even worth if you manage to sell them! It is often difficult to gauge as the phone is ringing and the workplace appears busy, but it is like the old story about the boiling frog.

If you have heard this a million times, bear with me because many have not and it is a great illustration of how we fail to address problems because everything seems “all right.” The story goes that if you throw a frog into a pan of boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out of the water rather than sit tight and be scolded to death. But what if the frog is put into a cold pan of water and the temperature is gently raised to boiling point? Well because everything “seems all right”, the frog stays where it is until of course it is too late, eventually the water is boiling and the frog is dead.

“All right” should be a warning sign to every business owner. You need the real data to make these important business decisions, not rely on feelings about how everything is going in the business.
Your staff need to know!

Another important reason to measure the value of each customer is so you can train your staff to see each customer as their annual or lifetime value, not a single transaction. For example, rather than the cash register clerk at a shoe store seeing the customer as a $129.95 once off sale, they would see them as $129.95 x two pairs per year x the number of years you can keep them as a customer! If your employees can buy in to the fact that this person is worth over $2000 to the business over the coming years, you can really instill a sense of importance into each and every transaction. This kind of thinking can and should be applied across the business and procedures put in place so that the sales clerk has no other option but to treat the customer as worth $2000 in sales.

How many times over the years have you been treated in a “once off” manner?

Week 9 - Testing Critical to Success

Testing is simply learning what works best when you attempt to market your business. You test early, gather feedback and draw conclusions long BEFORE embarking on expensive city or country wide marketing programs.

Day to day, you need to track the quality of leads (those calling or emailing your business) but more than that, you need to start with the materials that motivated the prospect to make contact in the first place. These include testing different headlines, colors, texts, offers, pricing and just about anything else until you are confident you have the best combination of factors to attract the most qualified customers.

Testing can not only pinpoint the most effective way to get your message across, it also offers huge leverage - remember, an advertisement might pull 3 or 3000 responses but still costs the same to run.

Testing doesn’t end with the style or appearance of a marketing piece. You can also test the most effective medium, the page number if it is a newspaper, the size of the advertisement, the most effective page within a Blog to run your banner, the call to action or the timeslot when a radio ad runs.

These days Internet clicks are easy to track and many small business owners are using the data to alter their marketing programs, some on the fly. Although more traditional advertising mediums are not as flexible, why not apply the Internet logic when analyzing the effectiveness of your offline marketing? It’s your money, don’t waste it. Test, measure and test again and you can sleep each night knowing your marketing dollars are deployed in the most effective manner.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Week 8 - Measurement Key to Success

Last week we saw how making small, incremental gains in a range of areas can have a massive impact on your bottom line. But take a step back; the only way to surely know whether you have improved is to start measuring everything you do.

What you don’t measure, you cannot possibly manage!

Most businesses simply do not measure. How can you get additional leverage if you do not know where you are starting from? You might have heard a business owner say “television does not work for me, but sponsorship does”. Next time you hear that, dig a little deeper, why did they say that television didn’t work for them? What did they test? What was the call to action for the people watching the commercial? How was that call measured? How do they know that sponsorship worked better? More customers? How many more and what was the cost of getting each of those customers?

Think of the last call you made to get help at home. How many of the companies that you called asked where you heard about them? None, 1%? This is the most basic form of measurement but very few businesses are using it.

Look back over your last 12 months of marketing programs. Ask yourself some hard questions:

1. What did each initiative produce in terms of leads?
2. What was the quality of those leads?
3. How many resulted in an actual sale?
4. What was the cost of the initiative and therefore what did each of the leads and sales cost you?


Unless you can answer each of those individual questions, you have room to improve your measurement systems.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Week 7 - Incremental Gains

Growing your revenue and profitability can actually be easy if you focus on exponential rather than linear gains. What this means is that you focus on multiple avenues of growth which combine to produce a much greater result than single, isolated campaign you might run from time to time. For example, a business owner I know just declared that he is going to double the number of customers coming to his business over the next year. Naturally I feel that he faces a big challenge; the business is already running at or near capacity with the staff and resources he has, so creating and then coping with twice the work will be a daunting task indeed.

Rather than focussing on simply doubling the number of customers, why not look for a small gain in a few key areas? As every business is different in some way, you can probably think of many things that could be improved. For the purposes of this exercise, I will focus on five areas which apply to nearly every business.

1. Number of Leads – The number of phone calls or visits generated each year by your marketing

2. Conversion Rate – the rate at which you convert prospects into actual customers

3. Average Value of Sale – the average amount that customers spend with you each year

4. Number of Visits per Customer – the average number of times per year your customer purchases your service or product.

5. Your Margins – the gross profit you make on the service or product you provide

At this point, don’t worry how you would achieve these gains. You should focus on the impact of increasing each of these areas 15% during your next year of business. If last year you repaired 200 cars, can you see yourself repairing 230 this year? If you filed 600 tax returns for your clients last year can you increase that to 690 this year and increase your fee by 15%? Take a look at the following table and the effect that these gains can have on your bottom line:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Week 6 - Educating your employees and introducing systems

In the best businesses, everyone understands their role and they act in a way which is consistent with that role and finally, in union with the other employees. Most employees have an inner desire to develop or grow, to have a life that they can be proud to tell people about. So this is the critical point, employees must understand how doing their job will have an effect on their personal growth.

The first step in getting this process underway is to create an organizational chart with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Stay with me, it is not as boring as it sounds! The important thing is that the role is documented and that the person in the role understands what they must deliver.

Having clearly defined roles is always the starting point for both owners and employees of any business. But what about the way in which they carry out the tasks to achieve the results?

Systems are all about figuring out why something (good or bad) happened in your business and making sure it then becomes part of your business operation (good) or is never repeated again (bad). This unique system that develops over time is the most important aspect of any business. Of course when something goes wrong you need to stop the bleeding as soon as you can.

They are a set of rules to stop employees using discretion at the operating level of a business.

What choice do they have? They do each job as they see fit and according to their mood in that moment.

Regardless of how you plan to acknowledge your employees there is one thing you simply must ensure is happening – you must compensate your people for results, not for just showing up to work each day

Does each of your employees treat their job as if your business belonged to them?

This point is frequently cited by the worlds most successful entrepreneurs. They manage to develop their culture so not only does each employee know exactly what their role is and what they are expected to deliver, but they also understand the roles of their fellow employees and how collectively they influence the business overall.


Two critical points regarding employees:

1) They must understand how their role directly affects the business and the bottom line.


2) They must be able to feel a connection between their work and their personal development - or plan to lose them.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Week 5 - The Total Experience, Unique and Clear

If you train your customers to buy from you because you have the lowest price and best service, your business will see (at best) mediocre results. Why? Because everyone else is saying exactly the same thing. Every time the customer needs your product or service, they will once again look for the lowest price and best service, which may or may not be yours at that point. WalMart can pull this off because they have massive scale – small businesses cannot, at least not long term.

Competing on price and service is a very hard way to run your business therefore you need to convey to the public how your business provides the best overall solution. A unique selling proposition (USP) is an old concept for describing this. When I say an old concept I mean that today, it is not just about a different price or product or service, it is about the total experience delivered to your customers. That doesn’t mean that having a somewhat unique offering is no longer important, just that it alone cannot guarantee your long term success.

When developing this statement, always think about that customer’s experience. What are people looking for? What are the trends telling you?

Encapsulating your total offer in a simple sentence, or group of words is critical – not just for the sake of it, but because you will use it in all of the marketing you do to build your business. As you develop this, test the concept with hard questions – include your employees:

What would you do to put us out of business? If you were to launch a competing offering, what would you do differently, how would it look and what would the extra benefits be?

Does it stack up? Is your USP really that different and does it address gaps in my market? This is a recurring process as in most cases your competitors will follow with “me too” services.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Week 4 - Strategy vs Tactics

Business owners that proactively guide their business forward have embraced the concept of strategy versus tactics. The opposite of this is the businesses that react to everything that is going on around them. If you are not strategic, it means you do not have a big overriding game plan, you do not have a vision of where you want to be in 5, 10 or 20 years. Strategy is just careful and thoughtful planning – a on-goign question of yourself: where am I taking this business?

Let’s use a nightclub to illustrate the key distinction:

Typically nightclubs go through many peaks and troughs as the in-crowd moves from district to district, club to club. If you are the owner of a nightclub in any of these areas, there are two ways you can run your business. The first is tactically, which means you react to the moving crowd, you panic when sales drop, you run promotions because of the crowd behavior and try to keep your sales a reasonable level regardless of where the crowd is.

The second way to run the business is strategically. You sit down for as long as it takes and think about your business from the ground up. Who does your nightclub currently cater to? Who are your patrons and what are they looking for today? What about in 12 months, in 24 months? Does your d├ęcor, music and location appeal the people you are trying to attract and how much money do these people typically spend when they come into your club?

Once you have thought about the answers to these types of questions, you are in a position to plan how you will operate in the future, what type of clientele you will be seeking, how you will reach them effectively and most importantly, what you offer that is unique, special or different that will help you to attract these people.

Call your strategy a game plan, a business or marketing plan, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you run your business this way going forward. Tactical maneuvers are a drain on your time and efforts so stop working this way.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Week 3- Total Solutions and Trends

Total Solutions

All good businesses recognize that they are providing a solution to a clients problem - not just a product or service. Having a desire to solve peoples problems by providing a genuine solution is powerful and your success is linked to your belief in this concept, period. The days of doing “just enough” are behind us and you can’t hope to climb out of the pile of competitors unless you address this. There is a clear way to test – ask yourself, “Do I constantly strive to be the best at what I do or are am I happy to simply avoid failure day to day?


What is the cost of ignorance? It could be your entire business.

Trends are the external forces at work day in and day out, regardless of how well you are running your business

“What are the short and long term trends in my industry and what are they telling me? “

As the business owner, you must be aware of these trends. Not only aware, but ready and able act on your instinct to ensure your long term survival. Think about the effect the ageing population will have on providers of health care facilities, or the effect that round the clock grocery chains continue to have on small, corner retailers. Or how about the effect that computers have on traditional auto mechanics?

In everything we do, everyday, we are exposed to thousands of little “happenings” around us. I am talking about the way the person opposite you on the bus is reading the paper, the advertisements we see and the way everybody looks at their cell phone when one is ringing in public. Make an effort to “see” more of what is happening around you. You will start to experience the golden “ah hah” moments which occur when you spot a window of opportunity surrounding a product or service.

The author Brian Tracy believes that many business owners “…fill their mind with candy rather than with protein….reading the sports pages and watching television rather than reading the financial pages and reading business magazines.”

As a business owner on a quest for choice, you have the responsibility to go for protein over candy.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Week 2 - Where are you spending your time?

Until you go to work on reinventing your business, you are unlikely to get a sense what your business could be in the future.

This is a tricky area, after all, you are already stressed out of your head, how can you possibly spend more time contemplating expansion let alone making sure your employees are feeling loved?

But here is the thing, you have to get started and only then will you begin to see how these techniques will impact your business. The critical point is that you need to establish the best use of your own time. Rolling up your sleeves and serving your clients keeps the business on track short term but doesn’t really help you long term. It is this day to day work that is all consuming. It blocks any sense of vision of what could be. Write out everything you did today and then highlight the items according to the following three categories:

RED – all back office tasks such as filing, administration, chasing debts, office related duties etc.

ORANGE – the time you spend doing what you do – in other words, the carpenter building things, or the attorney working on client cases.

GREEN – the time you spend working on your business (where it is going and how you are going to get there).

I won’t complicate this; let’s just say if you are spending all of your time chasing outstanding debts or making the widgets, who is looking after the long term health of your business? You, the owner, need to be spending most of your time doing GREEN activities. This is certainly not an original concept but it is critical I reinforce this point early; if you don’t buy in, you won’t listen to anything else I have to say. You will get stuck in the “I don’t have time” whirlpool…

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Random Quote

There are three kinds of companies: those that make things happen; those that watch things happen; and those who wonder what’s happened. – Anonymous

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Week 1 - What do you want for your business?

It is easy and hard at the same time. Build up the number of customers your business serves through innovative marketing and attention to detail. Then just put in place systems which ensure that your initial successes become lasting. Net result: Choices, through a business which serves you rather than the other way around.

Regardless of how you arrived in your corner of the world, I need you to stop and ask three questions:

1. What business am I really in? Your product or service is not your business and if you believe it is, we have to change that.

2. What do you I want for my business? Are you operating in a way which simply brings in enough cash to allow you to get up and do it again next week?

3. Depending on your answer above, do I even want to be in this business?

CHOICE is one thing many business owners lack. You have to turn up everyday; you have to fix mistakes your employees made; only you can serve customers because nobody else understands them like you do. Sound familiar? If you could break out of this pattern, what might you like to do with your business assuming for a moment that anything is possible?

Do you want to spend less time in your business and more with your family?

Do you want to expand your business to increase your income, but don’t have the energy or drive?

Do you want to just sell your business for a respectable sum of money?

Achieving any of these objectives is often over complicated. We think of business plans and finance and cash flow – all of which are obviously important. But far more important initially is willingness to pursue your objective and a broad understanding of how it is all going to unfold. Whatever your end goal, you need more customers through the door and you need to operate in a systematic way – in other words, you not only need to be good, you need to be consistently good. Whether you take more time out, expand or sell out completely, you need to get things humming without you even being present.