Friday, January 26, 2007

Week 23 - Become an Advisor – It’s Your Responsibility!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, (or it that a corrupt MP3 these days?!?!) are you measuring how many prospects you turn into paying customers? This is a crucial measurement because it will highlight to you where you may be losing revenue and help work out what to do about it. Lots of business owners go on “feelings” – it “feels” a bit slower this month. These days are finished! Google can give you every thinkable metric for your on-line marketing so there is no excuse for you not to be trying to replicate this in the physical world be that your website, showroom or offices.

Every time a prospect walks into your store or calls you on the telephone there is an opportunity for you to lead the conversation. Some people may know all about your product or service and therefore need little help from you but the vast majority are looking for information and answers to their questions. People in general don’t want to sound “stupid” so they probably won’t ask you anything. If you ask if you can help them many simply reply that “they are just looking” or alternatively, “where are your x products kept?”

Everyday, people buy products and services that may not meet their needs entirely, sometimes not at all! It is up to you to not let people drift, not to be “rudderless” in the way they purchase from you. Control the conversation to ensure your customer obtains everything they need.

You will appreciate the benefit if you can recall how you felt when you bought something you had no clue about. How did you feel when you were at cash register and the employee tells you what you have purchased won’t work without some other part? You feel glad that they told you, glad that you don’t have to come back.

So this is not a selfish initiative – sure, it may well increase the average dollar sale, but as we have already said, providing the best solution to the customer will pay you back many times more. This can be as simple as having “no batteries” on Christmas Day. How does that make you feel? Or the fact that laser printers never come with the cable to attach them to your computer?

In practice, finding out what you prospect needs is easy. For example, a parent who is buying a computer games console may know nothing about it so what if you asked them:

Who are you purchasing this for?
What is your budget?
How old are your kids?
What types of games do your kids like the best?
What type of television will you be connecting this to?
Do you want the ability to connect to the internet or other kids?

Use their answers to guide them and watch your business prosper.

“Customers attach value to a product in proportion to its perceived ability to help solve their problems or meet their needs. All else is derivative.”
Theodore Levitt, father of the “What business are you really in?” concept through his Harvard Business Review article, Marketing Myopia.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Random Musings - The "Ad" World Collision

Sorry, this one is not part of the program, but I had to say it!

It’s an exciting and interesting time right now in advertising. Clearly contextual and search based Internet advertising have changed the landscape forever. But with Google (and others) looking to apply their scientific tools to other mediums like radio, print and TV, what will advertising look like in 2015?

At the end of the day, the old advertising model was to interrupt you, get your attention and perhaps get you to buy some things you didn’t know you wanted until you were interrupted! Companies have interrupted us using humor, color, noise and shock value to name just a few. Some of these we enjoy so rather than an interruption, we see it as entertainment. Is that the point of advertising? Probably not, but hey, it makes life interesting. Text links certainly do not, but there is a much higher chance that the link you are looking at is actually relevant to you.

I wonder out loud how things will look. You have the scientific, pay per lead based technology crowd screaming in a bus towards the old school creative crowd in a similar vehicle. One thing is for sure, there will be nowhere for the old schoolers to hide if their advertising campaigns are not producing leads.

Ultimately for business owners, these highly qualified prospects should be better for their bottom line and theoretically cost them less to attract. I just hope we don’t "throw out the baby with the bathwater" to use the old cliche - the world would be a pretty bland place if algorithms decide everything we should and should not see.

Week 22 - Word of Mouth is Critical

Word of mouth advertising overlaps some other areas such as endorsements and referrals. For example, a referral or endorsement might come from a friend in the street who is essentially spreading your message through word of mouth advertising. Ultimately word of mouth will be driven by the overall experience you provide to customers. I cannot stress this enough. It is no good having a nice referral card for your customer to hand around if you disappointed them during their last visit.

To me, an amazing experience is always based on a genuine desire to educate customers and further, help them find the best solution to their problem (even if it is not yours!)

Think about the types of questions you ask when you are buying a product or service you know little about. Guess what? We all ask simple questions we think we already know the answers to! That’s right, if we are buying a car, we might ask how many kW’s the car has or what the engine size is, without really understanding how this will affect our driving experience. We ask these questions because we don’t want to sound stupid, the exact same reason that people used to ask a vacuum cleaner salesman “how many watts does this model have?” So this is a critical point, if you educate the customer, they won’t feel stupid any more. More importantly they will ask the RIGHT questions. When people asked a vacuum salesperson about “watts”, what they really should have been asking was “which vacuum will most effectively clean my house, year in, year out?”

When prospects start to throw questions at you regarding one or two features of your product, you need to find out what the client is actually asking. What problem is this person trying to solve?

Above all, both you and your employees need to be conscientious about developing word of mouth networks. The goal? Every person who walks though your door ends up being a salesperson or ambassador for your company, always willing to spread a clear and concise message.

“…devote 75% of your marketing dollars and energy to establishing and maintaining word of mouth networks” Tom Peters, “Thriving On Chaos”

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Week 21 - What is PR and How Can it Help Me?

For something to be newsworthy, you don’t have to wait until something amazing happens in your business. Consider the following example of Stonyfield Farm, a US based producer of yoghurt and other dairy products. They had a huge Public Relations (PR) success based on nothing other than an innovative approach to building a connection with their consumers:

In the early 1990s Stonyfield Farm announced a "Have a Cow" program which encouraged frequent purchases and which also educated young customers about where the company gets its milk. Consumers who bought five cartons of Stonyfield Farm Yogurt, or 10 servings of its newest frozen yogurt (note this effort was also aimed at selling more product up front!), received a free photo and biography of a cow that produced milk for the company, an adoption certificate, plus a free subscription to the newsletter. Demand far exceeded the number of cows, so many consumers shared their adoptees.

The result of the program was increased sales, but more importantly, the company received publicity from local area newspapers and magazines. The press coverage helped Stonyfield Farm get exclusive frozen yogurt accounts, such as the University of Connecticut and Au Bon Pain, a bakery with more than 120 shops nationwide at the time. The bottom line? "Word of mouth builds better loyalty than advertising," says Gary Hirshberg, President and CEO, Stonyfield Farm.

The burning PR question: What is it about this new customer or event or service that could be interesting to the media?


“How can I create interest in my product or service and ultimately attract the attention of the media?

Anyone who has seen Richard Branson parachute into a product launch or cover the British Airways Concord with a Virgin banner will know what I mean!

Before leaving PR, let’s talk about the number one thing you can do to generate free publicity. Simply become a genuine expert in your field. By studying all aspects of your business or industry and then mixing it with the necessary networking, you could find yourself being quoted whenever the broader issue comes up in the press. Get involved in your local industry group, make yourself heard, write letters to newspaper editors – and anything to build your credibility. Before long you will get enquiries from reporters asking for your opinion. The plan then becomes self fulfilling. The more you are quoted, the more you are seen as the expert, the more people will trust your business which should translate into more sales.

Random Quote - What is Your Advertising Objective?

Famous author Jim Rohn once said about advertising:

"You can feed your ego or feed your family!"

Keep that one in mind when you develop your next ad program. :-)

Week 20 - Ask Them to Buy From You!

It is simply amazing how many advertisements fail to ask the prospect to act. They talk price, they talk shape, they talk color, they talk location, they talk features and benefits, but they fail to ask the prospect to act. Tell your prospect to pick up the phone now, tell them to write to you immediately, tell them to visit your webpage to register – make it clear and make it strong. Using a strong headline and convincing copy in your advertisement will do most of the work, but always finish by telling the prospect exactly how they can take action – immediately.

Example: Call us right now on 800 xxx xxx and ask for the no obligation appraisal of your property!

Each time you produce a new advertisement, run it through this checklist and just make sure you have not forgotten anything.

1. Is my advertisement designed to generate a direct response?
2. Can I measure the effectiveness of this advertisement?
3. Is my headline clear and does it promise a benefit?
4. Does it have the “Broadest Possible Appeal” for the market I am trying to reach?
5. Does the body copy of my advertisement discuss benefits backed up by facts and not features of the product or service?
6. Have I incorporated my USP at every opportunity?
7. Have I asked the prospect to act now?