Friday, December 31, 2010

The Secret of "Atomic" Marketing

Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866)
Remember high school geometry?

You may have hated it, like me, but you have to admit -- those proofs were elegant.

The basic facts of geometry were unchanged in the 2,300+ years since Pythagoras and Euclid first drew triangles in the sand with a stick.

For example, nothing is more obvious than this fact about two parallel lines: they can never meet. Like train tracks, two lines running side by side will never touch each other. Right?


In the book, "Further Along The Road Less Traveled," M. Scott Peck writes:
... Bernhard Riemann was a German mathematician who, back in the middle of the nineteenth century, asked himself, "What if two parallel lines do meet?" And on the assumption that two parallel lines do meet, and a couple of other alterations he made to Euclid's theorems, he developed a totally different geometry. [And] much of Albert Einstein's work, including that which led to the development of the atomic bomb (via the theory of relativity) ... was based not on Euclidean geometry but on Riemannian geometry.
All because one obscure math whiz questioned one obvious "fact" that all the experts believed was true.

So ... what does geometry have to do with marketing your business?


Marketing is full of obvious "facts" that everyone assumes are true.

But what would happen if you questioned a few of the marketing facts that apply to your business or industry?

You could create a breakthrough that turns your market on its head, that's what.

Try questioning these "facts" for a start ...
  • "Fact:" Selling is hard! 
    • Questions: What if selling were easy? How much more enthusiastically would you tell others about your service or product if you knew it would transform their lives? How would you sell if you KNEW a sale was inevitable?
  • "Fact:" My customers don't have any money! 
    • Questions: What if you sold to wealthier customers? Or offered payment options to current customers?
  • "Fact:" Nobody reads email newsletters anymore! 
    • Questions: Who said you had to use email? What if mailed your messages to prospects? Or delivered it in person over coffee?
  • "Fact:" Customer service is a cost that I need to hold down!
    • Questions: What if you saw customer service as customer retention or referral generation -- or both? What would you do differently?
Here's the bottom line: You won't stand out in your market if you think like everyone else. How can you?

Many marketing "facts" that you and your competitors take for granted are nothing more than assumptions. Why not take a moment to question a few of those assumptions today? It could lead you to breakthroughs that hit your market like an atomic bomb.

(More ideas like these in the Free Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How to Beat the 800-lb. Gorillas in Your Market

How can you compete against the 800-lb. gorillas in your marketplace?

Don't play their game, by cutting your prices or trying to offer a bigger selection.

Instead, serve your customers in ways the big guys can't or won't match.

That's the marketing lesson in a New York Times interview with Joe Runyan, owner of a small dry cleaning store in Kansas City, Mo.

When Procter & Gamble opened a Tide-branded dry-cleaning facility 1.5 miles from the his Hangers Cleaners in 2008, "... Runyan feared Tide would undercut his prices and outspend him on promotional material to gain market share."

Turns out, those fears were overblown:
... Runyan said he was “thrilled” by his company’s performance this year. He said he had kept costs fixed but still expected revenue to increase 10 percent over 2009 as a result of both new customers and more business from existing patrons.
How did he do it? By doing 3 things that a behemoth like Procter & Gamble can't match:

1) offering pick-up and delivery service
2) offering a quirky corporate personality
3) reaching out to customers regularly via social media

Here's more from The New York Times story ...
Q. What advice do you give other dry cleaners trying to survive where Tide opens franchised stores?

Mr. Runyan: The entrance of Tide into our market forced us to consider how we’re different, what we can do that someone else won’t be able to replicate. So I tell them to perform a S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis like we did. Figure out how to accentuate your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. Forcing business owners to do that is a healthy thing, and hopefully they’re doing it before Tide or any competitor shows up.

Q. What’s your greatest weapon against a global brand like Tide?

Mr. Runyan: We’ve created a unique brand. We’re funny and edgy, and now that’s how our business is known. People like doing business with people they like.

It’s reinforced by our use of social media. Whether through Facebook or Twitter or our regular e-mails, I’m always getting feedback from customers who say they love hearing from us because our messaging is hilarious, whether or not they use the coupon attached.

Q. Such as?

Mr. Runyan: My personal favorite: a Mother’s Day promotion with a picture from the movie “Mommie Dearest” and my face superimposed on Joan Crawford’s daughter’s body. The slogan says, “Keep Mommie Dearest from ironing your shirts this Mother’s Day …” It still gives me the creeps

Or an e-mail with a picture of George Hamilton with the slogan: “After another year of braving the elements, is your favorite leather coat beginning to look like this?”

We still have people asking for our presidential T-shirts. We made one with a picture of Bill Clinton that says, “I wish Monica and I knew about Hangers,” and another one with George W. Bush that says, “After going to Hangers, spots are harder to find than weapons of mass destruction.” I’m trying to come up with an idea for Obama.
You can do this, too.

In baseball, you win when you "hit 'em where they ain't." And you don't have to be 6' 3" and 220 lbs. to do it.

In marketing, you win when you offer what competitors don't. And you don't have to be a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate to do it.

(More ideas like these in the Free Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

5 Questions with Peter Drucker

I'm a big Peter Drucker fan.

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization ranks among my favorite business books, along with The Effective Executive in Action: A Journal for Getting the Right Things Done.

Here's a brief synopsis of "The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization," followed by 5 takeaways for you as you plan the year ahead ...

If management demi-god Peter Drucker were alive today, he would advise you ask 5 simple, yet profound questions. Answering them lets you analyze and transform your business for the better.

Peter Drucker's 5 questions are:

    * What is our Mission?
    * Who is our Customer?
    * What does the Customer Value?
    * What are our Results?
    * What is our Plan? 

Now, here are Druckers' 5 questions, with possible answers for you ...

1) What is your Mission?
It cannot be impersonal corporate-speak. Your mission must be personal, something you and everyone on your team knows is right. To be effective, it should be short and focused enough to fit on a T-shirt (there's an idea!).

Example: a hospital ER came up with this mission: To give assurance to the afflicted. It should inspire you to say, "Yes, this is something I want to be remembered for."
2) Who is your Customer?
Your business does not exist to please everyone -- only to please your target customers. Remember Drucker's statement from 40+ years ago? "The purpose of a company is to create a customer." Today, Drucker would say, "The best companies don't create customers. They create fans." Do you have fans?

3) What does your Customer Value?

Don't even try to guess. Ask your customers systematically what it is they truly value. Ask questions like: What one thing we do better? What could we do more of? Less of? Faster? The answers are a goldmine of future profits. Keep asking your customers until you get those answers.

4) What are your Results?
Goals for sales, profits, and market share should be set and met. Key: know what to STOP doing -- before you can do more of what works, you must do less of what doesn't. Your aim is to invest your time, money, and energy where you can achieve success.

5) What is your Plan? 
After answering questions 1-4, sum up the actions to take to reach your goals. The hard part is determining how to marshal limited time and resources; if there were no limits, you would need no plan.

Limit your long-term goals to 5 at most -- any more and you will be spread too thin. The end result of your plan should be a written vision of the future in which your goals are achieved and your mission completed.

Anything by Peter Drucker is worth your time. This book is highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kaizen Marketing Explained

Last week, I introduced the concept of Kaizen Marketing.

Today, let's take it further -- all the way to the bank -- by examining how you market, then finding ways to improve, one small step at a time.

First, your marketing: What is the #1 way you find, get, and keep clients for your business?

Is it a web page that sells your service online? Answering the phone from prospects who see your ad or your web site and call for more information? Is it networking, attending trade shows, or public speaking? What is the most effective thing you do to find, get, and keep clients?

You can't improve what you don't measure, so describe your #1 marketing activity in detail. Answer these three questions:

1. How many phone calls/emails/web page visits do you get per week?
2. What EXACTLY do you say or write in response to these inquiries?
3. How many sales result?

When you know these 3 things about your #1 marketing activity -- number of inquiries; your sales message; number of sales ...

... you can ask yourself this second question: What are you doing to get better? (That's the kaizen part of Kaizen Marketing.)

Here are small, simple ways to improve your #1 marketing activity ...

To get more inquiries, you could add more keywords to your Bing or Google Adwords account, or bid higher on clicks; you could give a lunch-time talk to the local Chamber of Commerce; or you could mail a prospecting letter to a list of targeted prospects.

To improve your sales message, you could test different headlines, prices, and offers using Google Website Optimizer; you could read a book on sales from someone like Dan Kennedy or Tom Hopkins; or you could create a sales script based on proven versions from experts like Donald Moines.

Now. Before you think or say, "I'm already doing this!" ask yourself: "How well am I doing this?"

Unless you're getting as many prospects as you can possibly handle AND you're converting 100% of sales opportunities, congratulations! You can do it better. And you can start improving today, one small step at a time.

I say small because tiny, continuous improvements are at the heart of kaizen.

Rather than bet everything on one huge promotion that might flop, you're better off making small, sure improvements every day. Do that and you'll add 250 improvements to your marketing efforts every year, if you take weekends off and 2 weeks of vacation.

Again, you may think, "I don't have time for small steps. I want more sales and profits NOW!" Fine. But ask yourself: "How many improvements to my marketing did I make last year?" In all likelihood, it was far less than 250. You probably made only about 25 or 50 improvements to your marketing last year -- at most.

If you didn't make 250 positive changes to your marketing by "swinging for the fences," why not try a simpler, surer way?

Why not do one small thing every day to find, get, and keep more clients for your business? Do it for just one month and you'll make 20 improvements -- a nice leap forward.

Keep at it for 12 months and you will ratchet your marketing to a higher level 250 times.

What would that mean for your business, your income, and your goals?

Bio: Kevin Donlin can help you grow your business and enjoy the breakthrough results your hard work deserves. If you're interested in boosting your revenues and profits, please click here

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! Advertising That Sells

My Christmas gift to you: a short course in advertising from David Ogilvy.

If you've never been exposed to Ogilvy, you're in for a treat! Especially if you have to feed your family with the ads you run for your business.

Ogilvy was the world's most-articulate proponent of direct-response advertising -- ads that ask directly for a response, in the form of an order or inquiry.

Yes, this video is probably older than you. But so is the Gettysburg Address.

If he were speaking today, Ogilvy would cajole you into tracking your web page ads, using free technology like Google Website Optimizer.

He would urge you to track your promotions on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media using coupon codes (a tactic dating back to Claude Hopkins in the early 1900s).

And Ogilvy would tell you to stop being "original" in your ads and start imitating what sells for other people. Heresy, you say? Take it to the bank, I say.

Watch, enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 39,900% ROI of a Simple "Thank You" - MPR Story

A client tipped me off to a story on MPR about a "new" marketing strategy to build your business.

First, read an interview with a small business owner ...
Brett Brohl: I've written, at least 2,000 thank yous just in the last 12 months.

Brett Brohl owns He sells medical scrubs. You know, those pastel-colored outfits, doctors and nurses wear. Brohl says he hand writes a thank you note for every single customer. Scrubadoo is a new company, and Brohl says there are a lot of websites out there selling the exact same products he does.

Brett Brohl: If you Google the word "scrubs," we're not on the front page, we're not on the second page. And just like every other industry right now, competition's tough and with less people buying, it's even tougher.

Brohl says, a new company like his can't afford major marketing like TV commercials. Instead, he says, he's counting on thank you notes to help Scrubadoo stand out.

Heh. Did you get that?

Google may rank your competitors higher than you, but one thing Google can't control is the personal touch. You can give out as much of that as you'd like. Free. Or, you can send a personal touch by mail, for the price of a stamp, in the form of a thank-you note.

You may know that I write regularly about the power of "thank you" in business. And with good reason ...

While writing and mailing thank-you notes is "no-tech" and slower than email, the ROI can be incredible. When I say incredible, how does a 39,900% ROI grab you? 

Read on to learn how ...
Sarah Siewert is 24, she lives in Chicago. A couple of months ago, she hit up a department store with her mom and her sister. They were shopping for purses.

Sarah Siewert: And as soon as we got there, into the purse section, one of the saleswomen immediately approached us and was really attentive, she pulled purses from the back, she went through different options, different colors

Typical shopping experience, right? As long as you get an attentive sales person, like Sarah did. She and her mom ended up buying a purse apiece. Then, a couple weeks later they both got letters in the mail from the saleswoman who'd helped them. They were thank you notes.

Siewert: It was a fully hand written note, referencing the exact bag we purchased. And on my note, she even had a nice reference to our alma mater.

Turns out they'd gone to the same school. And, I'll admit the purse Sarah bought wasn't exactly cheap. It was Marc Jacobs, about $400. [And] it worked. Siewert says she just bought another bag.
Let's do the math.

After getting a thank-you note in the mail, which cost about $1 to send -- including postage -- Siewer returned to buy another purse. If she spent another $400 on a similar bag, that's a return on investment of 39,900%.

You can thank me later. Right now, you've got some thank-you notes to mail ...

One more thing: I just created a new Cheat Sheet that reveals 4 ways to "force" Amazon to build your business, at NO cost. Click To Download Now

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kaizen Marketing

Last time, I wrote about innovation as being the first half of what you could call Drucker's Prime Directive: "The function of a business is to innovate and then market that innovation."

Simply keeping your eyes open for new ideas -- however small -- and putting those ideas into practice is innovation made simple.

To illustrate, we looked at business breakthroughs that ran the gamut from brandy and the Slinky to Post-It Notes and Viagra. All began as odd, little incidents that were nurtured into huge successes.

And that nurturing -- continuous, goal-driven action -- is an essential element in innovation.

As Harvard economist Theodore Levitt wrote, "Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things."

Doing is everything. Because the best idea in the world won’t earn you a penny until you nurture and bring it to market.

Which leads to the second half of Drucker's Prime Directive: marketing.

First, here are a few thoughts to get your brain humming on marketing ...
  1. "Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large" - American Marketing Association's definition of marketing

  2. "Marketing is finding, getting, and keeping customers" - Kevin Donlin

  3. "The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous." - Peter Drucker

  4. "A bad system will defeat a good person every time." - W. Edwards Deming
I love those last two insights from the "Killer Ds," Drucker and Deming.

You already know Peter Drucker as the father of modern management.

And you should know W. Edwards Deming as the father of modern quality.

A lot has been written about Drucker in business. So I won't add any more.

But what if you took the insights on systematic, continuous improvement from Deming -- insights which revolutionized Japanese industry -- and applied them to your marketing?

What would it mean for your business if your marketing not only made selling superfluous, but did so systematically?

Hint: It could mean everything.

Now. Continuous improvement is a polysyllabic mouthful. So let's use the shorter Japanese term for continuous improvement: Kaizen.

(Actually, the literal translation for "kaizen" is "change good" but forget that for now.)

This concept of "systematic, continuously improved marketing" -- or "Kaizen Marketing" -- is one I will develop and blog about extensively in the coming weeks.

For now, here's a preview of the principles underlying Kaizen Marketing ...
  1. Big change is hard and rarely lasts (think: yo-yo dieting). Small change is easier and lasts longer (think: walking 30 seconds more per day for 30 days).

  2. No marketing problem is too small to solve. Solving anything points you in the right direction. It gives you a push. And you may not stop at one problem ....

  3. You can make 250 improvements to your marketing every year if you make just one per day, Mon.-Fri., over 50 weeks. More if you add Saturday mornings.
Does any of this sound trivial?


One of the main attractions of kaizen is that it uses small, trivial steps to produce big gains.

Besides, how many improvements did you make in your marketing last year? 25? 50? 250? And how do you know? Kaizen Marketing will give you a written record of your improvements. Because you can't improve what you don't measure.

Again, this is a sample of the principles behind "Kaizen Marketing." It's a flexible framework that pulls the best ideas from manufacturing, sales, leadership -- even sports -- into a powerful philosophy that drives your business forward, one small, inexorable step at a time.

Speaking of sports, I will close with a thought from one of America's greatest coaches, John Wooden:

When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don't look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That's the only way it happens -- and when it happens, it lasts.
Bio: Kevin Donlin can help you grow your business and enjoy the breakthrough results your hard work deserves. If you're interested in boosting your revenues and profits, please click here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Continuous Innovation and Drucker's Prime Directive

You’ve probably read this quote from Peter Drucker: "The function of a business is to innovate and then market that innovation."

I call it Drucker's Prime Directive.

It means that, if you’re in business, you essentially have two functions:

1. create new products and services
2. sell them

Because this blog is about marketing, I don’t usually devote too much space to topics like innovation.

Except for today ... to say that innovation can be about as complex or simple as you make it.

Innovation can be complex if you think of it as great leaps forward … the next big, BIG idea … or "Eureka!" moments that land you on the cover of Wired.

But, innovation can be simple. Accidental, even.

For example:
  • Spencer Silver, a researcher at 3M, worked -- and failed -- to develop a strong adhesive in 1970. Four years later, Arthur Fry, another 3M employee, was annoyed by the bookmarks he placed in his church hymnal kept falling out. Recalling the work of his colleague Silver, he applied some of the weak adhesive to his bookmarks. The little "sticky notes" worked perfectly. In 1977, Post-It Notes were brought to market, quickly becoming as indispensable as staples and Scotch tape.

  • Roy J Plunkett, a DuPont research chemist, was experimenting with a coolant called TRE (tetrafluoroethylene) to establish its use for refrigeration in 1938. A cylinder of the gas failed to discharge. Instead of throwing it out, Plunkett and his assistant cut it open to investigate. They found the gas had solidified into a slippery white powder. Tests showed it to be the slipperiest substance in existence! It was also inert, with an extremely high melting point. DuPont began marketing products coated with the miracle lubricant in 1946. Millions of frying pans later, Teflon is another innovation we can't live without.

  • Richard James, an engineer, was intrigued by the spring that fell off his desk in 1940 -- it seemed to walk across the floor before coming to rest. After a few modifications and some creative selling to toy executives, the Slinky was introduced in 1948. More than 250 million have been sold worldwide.
What’s the common factor in these “accidental” innovations? They were fully exploited and brought to market by people who were paying attention.

Lesson: To innovate in business, you need an open mind AND open eyes.

Start by looking at every “Hmm, that’s odd!” moment as a potential innovation. One that you could profit enormously from.

Examples of small, odd moments that can lead to big breakthroughs for your business:
  • The customer who uses your product in a unplanned way -- and gets unexpectedly pleasant results. (Like the sailor who drank boiled down, “condensed” wine before it could be reconstituted with added water. Thus was born brandy.)

  • The product that failed but has parts worth salvaging. (Like the online game that failed to take off, but included a tool that enabled photo sharing. The developers scrapped the game and relaunched the web site as Flickr.)

  • The customers who want faster, slower, cheaper, more expensive, bigger, or smaller versions of your product. (Like the little girl who pestered her father, Edwin Land, for an instant copy of the picture he had just snapped of her in 1944. Land went on to develop the instant camera.)

  • The product that produces an unplanned result that's worth selling. (Like the drug that was initially used to treat high blood pressure and angina, but unexpectedly caused other results to pop up. The developers re-purposed the drug as Viagra.)

This -- keeping your eyes open for new ideas, however small or odd -- is innovation made simple.

It's the first half of Drucker's Prime Directive: "The function of a business is to innovate and then market that innovation."

Next time, I’ll discuss the second half: How to continuously improve your marketing of those products or services you innovate.

(More ideas like these in my Free Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

How to Plan Your Next Event Using Social Media -- Notes from #SMBMSP 32

Just returned to the office after attending this morning's Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis/Saint Paul (SMBMSP) seminar, "Events: Management, Planning & More."

It was billed as "a roundtable discussion with folks responsible for events of all sizes to talk with us about how they use social media, the tips and pitfalls they’ve found, and how it may relate to YOUR business."

If you missed it, you missed out.

Or did you?

I took notes furiously throughout the two-hour event, so you might benefit from my unedited observations, below. Or not ...

Overview: Three Twin Cities social media experts shared their best practices and ideas on event planning and promotion, in a panel discussion that included questions from the 100 or so attendees.

  • Jennifer Kane, social media marketing and PR strategist, consultant, trainer, and writer for Kane Consulting
  • Mykl Roventine a designer of web sites, WordPress blogs and social media strategies.
  • Brienna Schuette, Marketing & Communications Manager for the Minnesota State Fair.

Here's a quick collection of ideas that I took away ...

  • Key: Think of your attendees as a virtual programming committee. Get their input ahead of time via social media. They will be more likely to attend an event they helped design, tell their friends about it, and stay with you for the long term.

  • Your ability to collect real-time information from attendees via Twitter can head off problems during your event! Example: when numerous people tweeted that it was cold, Jen Kane showed their comments to on-site staff, who QUICKLY turned up the heat.

  • Which social media tools work best for which uses? Twitter is best for crowdsourcing (gaining feedback pre-event); Facebook can get large numbers of signups for your event (but actual attendance will be lower); Linkedin generates fewer signups than Facebook, but they are more likely to attend.

  • Be proactive on Twitter -- create a clever hashtag for your event and promote it ahead of time, so you can corral tweets and have ownership over them.

  • When promoting your event, the earlier you start, the better. You need to give promotions time to filter through all social media channels.

  • Old School Tip: Don't forget email! Not only can you target your audience with timely promotions, but people still forward emails to others, which generates more attendance.

  • Older School Tip: Don't forget snail mail! A clever postcard or well-written sales letter has more heft than an ephemeral email or tweet.

  • Eventbrite is an excellent tool for backend logistics -- ticket sales, social media promotions, generating name tags, etc. (My own addition: as a direct-response copywriter, I track customer response religiously to know what works. Eventbrite lets you use Coupon Codes so you can track where attendees found you online. Example: Use code "FACE" in your Facebook ad, "LINK" in your Linkedin Group announcements, etc. Very cool.)

  • Never abandon attendees after the event. Treat them as members of your community. Stay in touch with them and give them another reason to connect with you. The cycle can and should last a lifetime.

If you were there and have more notes or ideas to add, please comment below.

For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How to Get More Callbacks from Your Prospects

If you own or market a business, you have to sell to survive.

That often means chasing prospects, by email and voicemail, to schedule a sales call.

And how fun is that? Not very.

But what if you could reduce the number of contacts it took to schedule sales calls? You could sell to more prospects in less time. You could make more sales. Fun.

After seeing sales expert Jill Konrath speak on Monday and reading her book, SNAP Selling, I made a few changes to my follow-up emails that paid off quickly -- a sales call with a prospect I had been chasing for days.

The solution can be summed up in two words: Piquing curiosity.

Normally, I can do this pretty well. You've read this far, haven't you? You can thank the headline of this blog post for reeling you in -- "How to" is a curiosity "piquer-upper."

But, for some reason, I couldn't get one prospect to schedule a call with me, following his initial inquiry about my copywriting services.

So, after reviewing my notes of Konrath's talk and reading pages 96-97 of her book, I sent the following email to Mr. Hard-to-Reach Prospect:

Thanks again for your copywriting inquiry yesterday; did you get my voicemail?

My schedule is now full today, but if you have 20-30 minutes tomorrow, Wed., I can call you between 3:00 and 4:30 pm ET to discuss your needs.

Please reply to let me know the best time/number to call.

Be sure to ask about the 50% off makeover that would apply to your project before Dec. 31. Also, Sam Smith said something on your Linkedin profile that could be very helpful to you.

His email response came within the hour:

Wednesday @ 3:00 would be best.  I have a 1/2 hour window.

Check out the last sentence of my email: "Also, Sam Smith said something on your Linkedin profile that could be very helpful to you." 

His curiosity was piqued. And he scheduled a call with me to find out what the heck I was talking about.

As Konrath suggests in her book:
After reviewing what you know about your targeted company and what's important to your prospective customer, determine what would pique their curiosity the most.
Try it and see. As David Ogilvy said, "You can't bore your customers into buying."

Bio: Kevin Donlin can help you grow your business and enjoy the breakthrough results your hard work deserves. If you're interested in boosting your revenues and profits, please click here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

If You Sell a Service, You Don't Sell a Service

"If you're selling a service, you're selling a relationship," wrote Harry Beckwith in Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing.

He's right, of course:
Most companies in expert services -- such as lawyers, doctors, and accountants -- think that their clients are buying expertise. But most prospects for these complex services cannot evaluate expertise; they cannot tell a really good tax return, a clever motion, or a perceptive diagnosis. But they can tell if the relationship is good and if phone calls are returned. Clients are experts at knowing if they feel valued.
 In most professional services, you are not really selling expertise -- because your expertise is assumed .... Instead, you are selling a relationship. And in most cases, that is where you need the most work.
Where do you need the most work in selling your relationship -- to prospects and clients?

Would it help you to:
  • Change your voicemail greeting to something warm and personal, instead of cold and corporate?
  • Return phone calls within 90 minutes ... and even say so on your voicemail greeting? (I did it for years and won at least one new sale every year from someone who actually timed my callbacks.)
  • Learn one interesting, personal fact about your prospect and bring it up on your next call? The answers are out there. (I always try to remark about a person's college degree, hobbies, associations or other data on their LinkedIn profiles. It breaks the ice -- every time.)
  • Make your intangible service tangible ... by meeting for coffee this week, mailing a thank-you note, or introducing your client to a prospect (or vice-versa)?

Friday, December 10, 2010

How Year-End Planning Can Help You Year-Round

For the last two days, I've shared ideas from speaker and author Mark LeBlanc, on how to grow your service business with a "defining statement" and by using his "Target 25" concept.

Today, here's part three of my three-part interview with LeBlanc, on year-end planning that can help you year-round ...

Kevin Donlin: Final question. We’re nearing the end of one year and heading into another. In your experience, how do effective business owners plan for the year ahead?

Mark LeBlanc: Overall I come at planning a little bit differently. I think we are best to throw away the concept of the calendar year and the annual goal.

I operate on a rolling 12-month period so December just happens to be the 12th month of a rolling 12-month period, but I’m always looking at my numbers for the last 30 days and the last 12 month rolling period. Then I compare the rolling 12-month period, not simply the calendar year.

Accountants and bookkeepers are notorious for giving you year-to-date numbers. That makes sense now in December, but if you’re looking at year-to-date numbers after January and then two months, January and February, the year-to-date numbers really don’t mean anything until you get to December.

So if you’re comparing 12-month rolling periods every 30 days you have a better set of numbers in which to make better decisions with, and I believe the secret to your success lies in the phrase “every 30 days.”

A lot of people are spending December getting ready to get ready for next year. Meanwhile, I’m out making sales.

We fall into the trap of, “If I’m off track for the calendar year, I’m going to get ready to get ready for 2011," when I believe that I can market and sell to hit my target number every 30 days.

Kevin: Mark, thanks. That gives people new insights -- they’re not going to slack off and spend December getting ready to get ready, as you said. Excellent advice.

Mark: You’re very welcome. I think, especially at this time of the year, we look forward to January 1st, of course, but why have one New Year’s celebration a year when you can have 12!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How to Grow Your Sales: The Target 25

Yesterday, I interviewed speaker and author Mark LeBlanc, on how to grow your service business with a "defining statement."

Today, here's part two of my three-part interview ...

Kevin Donlin: Let's look at your Target 25 concept -- talking on a regular basis to 25 people who can make a difference in your business. Could you expand on that idea?

Mark LeBlanc: It is my advocate strategy, and every one of us has a group of people who believe in us and our work. I call them our advocates. A couple of other terms are cheerleaders and champions. Who believes in you and your work?

I call it the Target 25 Strategy and it’s really very simple. You just identify the 25 advocates in your life and work who are in a position to impact your business, and then you create an every 30-day connection with them simply to maintain “top of mind presence.” Not to ask them for referrals but just simply to create “top of mind presence.”

If these are the people who believe in you and your work and are most likely to go out of their way, or make a positive connection, or open a door on your behalf, they're more likely to do it with “top of mind presence.”

Time goes by so fast that all of a sudden 10 months or three years goes by and you think, “Where are those people who used to give me referrals?”

Kevin: That's a tremendous idea because repeated contacts are what increase sales. It may not be today that I can refer someone to you but in six months, Bam! I may hit you on the right day. It can’t happen if you’re just spinning your Rolodex and picking out names at random. It has to be systematic.

You mentioned that 25 is a good number of contacts. Well, 50 might be better, 100 would be best. Why do you limit it to 25?

Mark: I think once you start going beyond 25 it gets harder to manage these people on a regular basis, and then it just becomes diluted with what I call “supporters.”

I’m very blessed to have hundreds of supporters in my work but that group of advocates is a little bit smaller, and I would rather stay connected with them every 30 days.

Now, the sort of graduate school level of the advocate strategy is that you begin to put together a different advocate group if you have different profit centers.

For example, I have a coaching Target 25 group, and I also have a speaking Target 25 group of advocates. They’re two different groups of advocates that refer me or believe in me for different ways in which I deliver my work.

Kevin: Good, that gives people an "out" if they are just compelled to get in touch with more than 25. Breaking them down by profit centers is an excellent way to keep everything straight in your mind.

Come back tomorrow for LeBlanc’s tips on year-end planning that can help you year-round ...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Grow Your Service Business with Mark LeBlanc

I interviewed speaker and author Mark LeBlanc, on the topic of growing your business.

Mark is an authority on small business success and his book Growing Your Business, should be in your library.

Today’s posting is part one of three ...

Kevin Donlin: My audience is mainly service business owners. What one bit of advice would you give to people who are selling a service and want to grow their business?

Mark LeBlanc: I would suggest that they step back and really think differently about how they position themselves in the marketplace. Service providers or service professionals are usually very good at their area of expertise but often shoot themselves in the foot by positioning themselves by their particular title or their service.

For example, an accountant on accounting, or financial planner on investing. Pick any service and when a professional articulates their service first versus positioning themselves by the outcomes of their work.

I certainly am a speaker and author and coach on business planning and business development, but at the end of the day what I really do is help people grow their business or their practice.

The more that I can connect with the outcome of growing your business, the more likely I am to get the ear of a prospect and then move on to having some kind of a meaningful conversation.

Kevin: I think you call it a “defining statement” in your book.

Mark: I do. I refer to it as having a one-sentence answer to the question, “What do you do?” and creating a single or dual outcome defining statement.

My defining statement is, “I work with people who want to start a business and small business owners who want to grow their business.”

Kevin: That’s excellent. So if I’m an accountant I wouldn’t say … I’m an accountant, or that I provide accounting services. I might say, “I take away the hassle of bookkeeping so you can focus on doing what you love and growing your revenue,” or something like that.

Mark: You’re right on the money. Another example for an accountant might be, “I work with small business owners who want to grow their revenues and put more money in their pocket.”

Kevin: My unofficial defining statement from my accountant, by the way, is “She takes away the soul crushing labor that makes me want to hang myself in a closet so that I can talk to people that I can help.” She doesn’t know it but that’s what she does for me.

Come back tomorrow to learn how LeBlanc’s “Target 25” concept can grow your business.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to Market a Service Business? Get Real

Here's a real marketing tip for you if you own or operate a service business.

By real, I mean tangible. And by tangible, I mean you can hold it in your hand.

What is it? A humble thank-you note.

You know, I’m a huge fan of handwriting and mailing thank you notes after every important business transaction, whether it’s a referral you’ve been given, a new prospect you’ve met, or a sale you’ve just made.

And, actually, a thank-you note just helped me close a sale today -- a copywriting project I’ll be doing for a local business.

You see, I spoke by phone with a prospective client on Friday and after I hung up, while the conversation was still fresh in my mind, I wrote him a thank-you note and mailed it … with a stamp. He got it yesterday and today, Tuesday, when I called to follow up, he said, “Thanks for the note in the mail Kevin. I’m really impressed. You sure are a smart marketer.”

Now, ask any teacher I had in high school or college. They will tell you -- I am not smart.

But I do try to be thorough, I do try to treat other people the way I’d like to be treated. And I do try to do something real, something tangible, for people at every opportunity, because I sell a service -- copywriting -- which is intangible.

As a result of this tangible thank-you note, I’ll be getting a nice tangible check in a few days.

You see, it works like this: The more tangible things you do for prospects, clients, and people in your network, the more tangible, the more likable, and the more trustworthy you make yourself and your service business.

And, as we all learned in Sales 101, people prefer to buy from people they like and trust.

Simply by doing tangible things for your prospects and clients, you will stand out from the hordes of other businesses who try to get by using only email and the phone to sell their intangible services.

So, if you own or manage a service business, try getting real. 

After every intangible activity, whether it’s an introduction to a prospective client, an online sale, or an important phone call, try doing something tangible -- something real -- for the people who matter. It can be as simple as meeting them for coffee or mailing them a thank-you note.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jeffrey Gitomer in Minneapolis -- Tweeted, Then Blogged

Speaker, author, and sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer was in the Twin Cities on December 1-3 to give three seminars.

Not only is he an outstanding speaker, but this tips on selling, branding, and achievement work right out of the box.

Example: I made a sale using one of his networking ideas less than two hours after getting back to my office and trying it.

How's that for shovel ready?

I attended two of his seminars last week, at a cost of $50 and six hours. But you’re in luck ...

Because you get the best of his ideas here, in the form of my collected Tweets from the events.

Pick one sales idea. Try it today. Thank Gitomer (and me) tomorrow ...
  • Discover why people buy & you never have to sell 
  • Your PowerPoint sucks. Too much text, too small. Gitomer uses Impact font, 36-46 pt size, 300+ slides in 2 hours. Try it
  • Jeffrey Gitomer's corporate mission statement: "Sell Jeffrey. Kiss ass." Seems to work for him
    1 testimonial = 100 sales pitches. Best: video client testimonials
  • Best cold call voicemail: "This is NAME, PHONE #. I was talking to 3 of your competitors today. They said ..." CLICK 
  • If a prospect stalls and says, "Come back next month," ask: "What's going to be different then?" 
  • Secret to better listening: Take notes. It forces you to listen, flatters prospect, avoids blown promises 
  • I don't want to talk about business until I first see the other person smile 
  • Sell more to existing clients. Increase wallet-share before you worry about market-share 
  • To serve is to rule. Serve your customers 
  • Earn referrals from existing clients. Referrals are a report card -- if you get them, good; if not, bad 
  • Don't add value. Give value first
  • Keep clients loyal. Forget client satisfaction. Do you want your spouse to be satisfied or loyal? 
  • Love what you sell! (I love to sell assets for pennies on the dollar. That's what a good sales letter is -- an asset).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jeffrey Gitomer at The MainStreetChamber

Best-selling author and legendary speaker Jeffrey Gitomer spoke last night at a mixer hosted by The MainStreetChamber - Minnesota.

I wasn't quick enough on the draw to get a photo with Jeffrey, but I did get one next to him ...

Jeffrey delivered a flood lot of provocative ideas on marketing, selling, and success in the 30 or so minutes he spoke. Here's a sampling ...

  • Work from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Spend every breakfast and lunch with a prospect or client.
  • He created his own breaks in business by networking 50 hours a week after he moved to Charlotte, NC in 1988. He followed his own "50-Butt Rule" -- if there was a room with 50 or more butts in it, he put his butt there, too.
  • He did not network the standard, schmoozing way. Instead, he served as a valuable resource to others, connecting sellers and buyers in the business community. By becoming known as a "connector" he was sought out and able to sell more of his own products/services.
  • Take on a leadership position in your local Chamber of Commerce. Do an outstanding job. Demonstrate your expertise. You will get business without even trying.
  • Above all else, be memorable. Take a look at your business card right now. It's probably a piece of crap. Not memorable. (Kevin's tip: Here are some creative business cards for ideas.)
  • Your most valuable asset in business is your list -- the names and addresses (email and postal) of prospects and clients. Build it and guard it with your life.

Great stuff. I've already scheduled two coffee meetings for next week, to name just one good tip from above.

If you were there and I missed something Jeffrey said, please comment below!

For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Marketing Secret for Speakers -- Free Research That Rocks

On November 16, I gave a talk on copywriting to the National Speakers Association - Minnesota Chapter. The title: "5 Ways to Transform Your Sales Letters and Emails -- Even if You Hate to Write!"

Photo by Wendy Blomseth -
Judging from the comments afterwards, folks found the information very helpful.

While I don't have a video from the event to upload, I can share one of the most valuable tips here ...

It's this: In any sales letter, print ad, or web page you write, always speak the language of your ideal client.

In other words, every market has words and phrases all its own. It's your job to find and use them.

Example: Professional speakers use the term "one-sheet" to describe the one-page promotional piece they send to meeting planners. A "bureau" is short for "speaker's bureau." And so on.


How can you find out what language your market is speaking, so you can improve your sales copy?

A simple, effective way is to read the blogs your prospects read, and pay attention to the comments sections. That's where people let their guard down and talk naturally.

Below is an example of what prospects in the public speaking world are saying. I found them on a high-traffic blog devoted to ... public speaking. (This is not rocket surgery.)

Comments like these are rich in the language of this particular market.

In about 30 minutes of research, I could uncover a dozen or so problems facing my prospects. And I could define those problems in the language those people are using. Free.

It's a sure-fire way to improve any sales letter, print ad, or web page. Did I mention it costs $0?

When you do this, your prospects will say, "You're speaking my language." And your sales will surge.

For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Simple 30-Day Marketing Plan

Today's guest post is by Dan Janal, from PR Leads.

Every Saturday I go to my Spanish class. It isn’t easy and it isn’t necessarily fun. But I go anyway. Learning a language is difficult. I find that the only way I retain info is by speaking it, writing it and hearing it. Many times. After a while, it sinks in. No one ever said it would be easy.

So why do people think that marketing and sales should be easy? I meet so many people who expect instant results and success but they don’t want to do the work. Do you see a disconnect here?

Marketing doesn’t have to be hard. It just needs to be consistent. That’s what my business coach Mark LeBlanc says.

Decide on the activities you think will help your business and repeat them every 30 days. Track your numbers. Do more of what works. Less of what doesn't.

Here are 5 things you might do every 30 days to market your business:

1) Write one article a week

2) Post the article to your blog and to

3) Send out one press release via a service like Guaranteed Press Releases, to improve your rankings on Google and brag that you were covered in more than 40 media websites

4) Do one free teleseminar or webinar to build rapport with your list. Or do a webinar/teleseminar with another person to grow your list

5) Do one free speech -- a showcase -- in front of the right prospects to get more business and referrals.

Easy? No. Simple? YES!

Meanwhile ... if you want to put an end to "feast-or-famine" syndrome in your business, a free Client Cloning Kit can help. Grab your copy here

Monday, November 29, 2010

Customer Delight on a Plate

Last week, my family and I stayed at the Wingate by Wyndham Hotel, in Schaumburg, IL.

I chose it on Expedia because of its high customer-service ratings -- more important than low prices when my family is involved.

During check-in, Patrick, the manager on duty, was friendly and accommodating. That was expected.

As I signed my name, he offered us a batch of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. That was unexpected.

Bummer: I had to turn him down because we were headed out for dinner at a nearby restaurant -- cookies would spoil my daughter's appetite (not to mention mine).

What did Patrick do? He offered to save us some cookies for later, after we came back.

Sure enough, when we returned from dinner, there was Patrick with a half-plate of cookies -- still warm and covered with a napkin -- just for us. Oh, and did I mention the glass of milk for my daughter?

That was REALLY unexpected. Remarkable, even.

Think of it. In a world of race-to-the bottom prices -- with customer "service" to match -- here was a guy who delivered customer delight on a plate ... of warm cookies.

You can bet we'll stay there again next year on our way to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving.

So: What does all this say about service these days?

It is STILL easy to stand out and be remarkable, that's what. All you need do is one small, unexpected favor.

I travel all the time. I check into and out of hotels all the time. And I can't remember the last time I enjoyed the process.

Patrick didn't delight me at check-in with a whiz-bang computer system or a fake smile. He won my loyalty and widespread praise with a plate of cookies.

Now. What small, unexpected favor could you do for your clients?

How about giving them a non-selling phone call? An article in the mail? A thank-you note? An introduction to a prospective new client?

Don't hire a focus group or kill yourself trying to be creative. Just show real appreciation for your clients by doing them a small, good turn -- one they didn't pay for or expect. The results may delight you.

For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Mail Thank-You Notes? This is Why

Yesterday, I mailed a thank-you note to a very nice meeting planner who booked me to speak two nights ago. And today I got the following email from her:

RE: Your card made my day
Hey Kevin,

I’ve been dealing with some crises for people all day and your cheerful card raised me up. Bless you and thank you! And I’m very excited to have you be at the December meeting.


Can an email "thank you," dashed off on your Blackberry, do that?

Your mother was right. Write and mail a thank-you note to every person who does you a good turn.

First and foremost, it's good manners.

But, as a side benefit, good manners often equal good marketing.

UPDATE: Here's another take on thank-you notes from business author, Shep Hyken:

Don’t ever forget to say THANKS! It can be face to face, over the phone or via written thank you notes. Customers like to feel appreciated. Recently I bought some clothes from a local retail store. Just a few days later I opened my mail and found a thank you note from my salesman. Was I impressed? You bet. Will I go back? You bet. And, when I do, I will be looking for my salesman.

Bio: Kevin Donlin can help you grow your business and enjoy the breakthrough results your hard work deserves. If you're interested in boosting your revenues and profits, please click here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Marketing Test: Would You Do It Again?

One test of any marketing is this: Would you do it again?

Was it profitable enough to merit repeating? If not, you have two options:

1) change it
2) stop doing it

I got that idea walking through the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, where there's almost always someone playing piano or harp, selling their CDs.

I realized two things:

1) I have never seen anyone buy a CD from an airport musician

2) I have never seen the same musician twice

Caveat: This observation is NOT scientific. Maybe I'm somehow blind to a revolution in airport marketing that's rocking the music world.

Still, it makes you wonder: Could these musicians be spending their marketing dollars better elsewhere?

Bottom line: Be on the lookout for marketing that repeats. Because, if you see something more than once, it's probably profitable.

Examples of marketing to watch for and learn from:

* any sales letter you get more than once
* any infomercial you see on TV for more than 30 days
* any direct-response ad that runs in Parade Magazine or other major periodical for more than 30 days (by direct-response, I mean the ad asks for the order and gives you a phone number to call or web site to visit)

If you see marketing that repeats, study it. Then emulate it in your business.

Meanwhile ... if you want to put an end to "feast-or-famine" syndrome in your business, my free Client Cloning Kit can help you. Grab your copy here, while they last

Monday, November 15, 2010

Productivity Tip: Hanging, Nekkid Body Scanners, TSA Crotch Patdowns

Samuel Johnson said, "...when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

Today, with the new TSA Nekkid X-Rays and Crotch Patdowns in place, you could easily replace hanging with flying.

Because, as much as we hate the hassle of business travel, it does concentrate the mind wonderfully.

Case in point: In a few hours, I'm flying to Philadelphia to give a speech tomorrow morning on careers. Then, I fly to Minneapolis to give another speech tomorrow night, on copywriting.

And you know what?

I've done more work in two hours this morning than I typically do in 4 or 5. Because I didn't have time to read the newspaper for 30 minutes over breakfast, or check out my favorite blogs, or otherwise goof off.

With a hard deadline looming -- leaving for the airport at 1:30 -- I have to work all the time I'm working this morning. What a rare experience. And how sad.

But you've had the same experience. Think of your last business trip -- didn't you get more done in the hours before you had to leave? Sure you did. You had no choice.

Now. Wouldn't it be nice if every day were as productive as a travel day?

Well, there's nothing stopping you (or me) from setting deadlines -- even little ones, like meeting the spouse for lunch or calling a client -- to concentrate the mind and get more done.

Best part: No TSA body searches or X-rays required ... and you can keep your shoes on.

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Small Questions, Small Steps, Big Profits

"The next time you're worried about something, ask yourself, 'What small thing can I do right now?' Then do it. Remember not to ask, 'What could I possibly do to make this whole thing go away?' That question does not get you into action at all."

So says Steve Chandler, author of "100 Ways to Motivate Yourself."

This has two important implications:

1. One small action is more productive than any amount of worry, and
2. Trying to solve a big problem at once can paralyze you with confusion.

Whatever you're doing to build your business today, you can't do it all. But you can do something.

Here's a simple way to do something small today that adds up to big revenue tomorrow. Ask yourself this question:  
What small, trivial thing could I do to grow my business? 
The results may shock you.

Want an example?

About 12 years ago, I ran a business called Guaranteed Resumes. It was successful -- I was usually booked with resume-writing clients 5-10 days in advance.

Problem: I lost out on prospects in a hurry. Whenever somebody called asking if I could write their resume the same day, I had to politely decline. I was booked, you see.

After a few months of turning down business (and losing money), I asked myself a simple question: What could I do to stop losing these prospects?

The answer didn't come right away. I quickly got -- and rejected -- the idea of hiring employees. Later, I set up a joint venture with a local writer that failed.

But I kept asking myself the question: What could I do to stop losing these prospects?

Then, I got an answer.

I created a simple Web site and "staffed it" by arranging to send prospects to other resume writers across America. These writers were fast and could write resumes the same day. I processed the credit card orders, in exchange for a commission.

I named the site 1 Day Resumes (now offline) and linked to it from the main page of my Guaranteed Resumes site. Now, people in a hurry were directed to that new web site. I didn't even have to answer the phone.

The results?

An extra $21,000 in sales in one year, from almost no effort on my part -- about two hours a week managing the site and customer service.

The extra profits didn't come overnight, but they did come -- after I persisted in asking a simple question to build my business.

There's big power in small questions.

And it's worth repeating: What small, trivial thing could you do to grow your business?

You can't receive if you don't ask.

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Never Shower Alone

Want more good ideas for your business?

Here's how to get an endless supply, by "reading" an extra 10-30 books every year --

-- just listen to audiobooks in the shower. That's my trusty (waterproof) Sony CD Player above.

This morning, I "studied" 3 tracks from the audiobook, "One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way to Success," by Dr. Robert Maurer.

Brian Tracy says that, if you listen to audiobooks while driving, you can create a "university on wheels" by learning new information during the hundreds of hours you spend in the car each year.

And if you believe, as I do, that we often make poor use of the 168 hours in every week, your shower is another place to turn down time into learning time.

Yes, of course, you do need some down time that's really down time -- no deep thinking about business or marketing. But that's what sleep, family meals, and weekends are for.

Now. If you think listening to audiobooks in the shower is a tad bit eccentric, you are wrong. Eccentric is writing notes to yourself in the shower.

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pareto's 80/20 Principle in Marketing

I'm a huge fan of the Pareto principle, aka the 80/20 Rule.

Briefly defined, it's this: a minority of causes usually leads to a majority of results.

There are exceptions, of course, which is why I inserted "usually" into the definition.

Still, the 80/20 Rule works often enough that you can achieve huge breakthroughs by applying it to your business.

Example: I used the 80/20 Rule to build an entire business on one Google Adwords ad and one keyword. Let me explain ...

A few years back, I was running a range of pay-per-click ads on Google, driving traffic to merchant's web sites and earning a commission on each lead that I provided them.

Each week, I analyzed my profits. One Saturday morning, I found that one ad and one keyword, part of hundreds I was running Google, was especially profitable.

So, I focused my efforts on testing and improving that ad and keyword. Profits went up.

Then, I replicated that winning ad, using other keywords. Profits went up again.

Then, I restructured my working days, dropping almost everything to focus on that one money-making activity -- improving my Google Adwords in that one area. Profits skyrocketed.

Within 6 months, I was bringing in more than $450,000 a year in net profits. And this went on for nearly three years.

Success came for me, as it can come for you, when I took three steps in my marketing:

1) identify the small number of activities producing a large percentage of profits;
2) spend more time on those high-profit activities;
3) spend less time on other low-value activities.

That's it.

The book to read on this subject is The 80/20 Principle, by Richard Koch.

It's so good, I've read it three times.

And, yes, there's a lesson in that, too: Probably 80% of the books in your library are so-so. It's far better to read a few excellent books several times, than to read many crappy books once, IMHO.

To finish this rant, here are excerpts I wrote out by hand after my second reading of The 80/20 Principle ...
  • To engage in 80/20 Thinking, continually ask: What is the 20% that is leading to the 80%?
  • Whatever you're doing 80% of the time is probably a waste of time. If you make most of your money from a small part of your activity, you should turn your business upside down and concentrate your efforts on multiplying that small part.
  • If an activity succeeds beyond expectations, it's likely a 20% activity.
  • The vital few give success to you. A few things are always much more important than most things.
  • The biggest wins all start small. Something big always comes from something that was small to start with. Look for the "invisible" 20% of small, key causes. They are there -- find them. Unexpected successes are one clue.
  • Exploit 80/20 arbitrage. Ruthlessly prune 80% activities, such as checking email, to free up time and money for 20% activities. The profit is enormous because it is highly leveraged arbitrage.
(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Seth Godin and Tom Peters Want You to Blog

Should you start a blog? Or blog more often?

Watch Seth Godin and Tom Peters, then decide for yourself ...

People over-think blogging to the point that they never start. That's sad.

If your goal is to create the world's #1 blog, like Seth Godin's, you won't. So don't try.

But if your goal is to clarify your thinking about your business, while attracting new clients and helping existing ones, a blog can do that for you.

I've been a published writer/copywriter since 1994. And here's the best advice on overcoming writer's block I ever got: The best way to write, is to start.

By that I mean, don't sit down and try to write the perfect blog post. Just sit down and start writing. Write anything.

Set a small goal that's not scary, like writing for 10 minutes. If you find that 10 minutes is enough for a killer blog post, yay. More likely, you will have to come back later for another 10 minutes. Or you will find yourself so energized that you power through for 30 minutes and write something worthy of posting.

Either way, by starting to write, you are write. By agonizing over topics in your head, you write nothing.

Here are 3 more ways to overcome writer's block, and either start blogging or do it more often ...

1) Do you send emails to clients or prospects? Collect 2-3 of them and you have a blog post.

2) Do you write comments on other blogs? Collect 2-3 of them and you have another blog post.

3) Have you ever written a white paper, how-to article, or letter to the editor? That's enough material for still another blog post.

Tip: Don't blog to earn $1 million when you're acquired by VCs or because it might get you on page one of Google's search results. Those outcomes are beyond your control.

Instead, blog because every time you think for 10-30 minutes while writing, it changes you for the better.

Blogging is a form of mental kaizen. The posts you write are often small, trivial. You won't see results today, next week, or even 3 months from now.

But you will see positive results. Always.

And blogging can lead to unexpected breakthroughs, like ...
  • ranking on page one of Google's search results;
  • landing a new client; or
  • getting a call from a reporter at U.S. News & World Report
... each of which has happened to me this year.

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Irresistible Sales Letters from David Ogilvy and Perry Marshall

David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy & Mather, was a pioneer in direct-response advertising. And direct mail was his secret weapon.

He was so good, he even sold jets by mail.

Jets? Yes.

Here's how, from his book, Ogilvy on Advertising ...

Prospects for a new Cessna Citation business jet were sent carrier pigeons with an invitation to take a free ride in the jet. The recipients were asked to release the birds with their address tied to its leg. Some of the recipients ate the pigeons, but several returned alive, and at least one Citation was sold -- for $600,000.

Ogilvy's "homing pigeon sales letter" succeeded for several reasons.

Here are two: The recipients were qualified prospects (wealthy industrialists) and the letters (small boxes, actually, with birds inside) were too intriguing to ignore.

You can use these same two principles to improve any sales letter you send for your business.

Like Perry Marshall did ...

I just got the letter above -- with a clock included -- in the mail from Perry. 

In addition to an excellent set of headlines, Perry did exactly what David Ogilvy did: he targeted his prospects carefully (I'm a former client) and his letter is too intriguing to ignore.

What? You can't afford to mail clocks?

Sure you can. If your offer and audience are a match, as Perry's are.

This letter sells a coaching program for $3,888. I'd wager the clock and sales letter costs about $4 to mail, including postage. (You can buy clocks and other attention grabbers in bulk for pennies.)

List rental? $0 -- he's mailing to his house list of current/past clients and, probably, qualified prospects.

At $4 per letter, Perry needs only 1 sale per 972 letters to break even -- a conversions rate of less than .1%. Judging from the strength of his sales copy, however, he will likely convert at least 2% -- about 20 times his break-even amount, for a very nice return on investment.

How can you emulate Ogilvy and Marshall in your business?

Start by carefully selecting who gets your sales message -- current and past clients are best. Then mail a letter too intriguing to ignore.

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Marketing for Busy People

Yesterday, I wrote about marketing as a systematic process.

If I had had more time, I would have included this quote:

"If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process then you don’t know what you’re doing." – W. Edwards Deming

To recap, I suggested that your marketing system is everything you do with a person who comes into contact with your business, from their first email or phone call until the day exit the marketplace forever.

The essential elements of any marketing system include the following:

1) Lead capture. You record the name, email address, and other needed information from prospects in a database -- with your prospects' permission, of course.

2) Follow-up. You contact prospects who do not buy the first time, answering their questions and offering them information to move them along in the buying process.

3) Sales scripts. You deliver the same sales pitch to every prospect, tailored to their unique questions and objections, but as uniform as possible, to eliminate variation from tested "selling words" that have worked before.

4) Customer care. You have policies and procedures in place to maximize client satisfaction while minimizing frustration.

5) Referrals. You take the same steps with every customer to encourage and reward referrals.

Now. Here's the problem you probably face, in the words of one of my readers who owns a computer repair service:
I want VERY much to try and do something with these other resources of yours ... but I have to try and find the time.

I've had your earlier email flagged and on my "to-do" list for what seems months now (I'm sure it's only been a month, but it's been too long all the same) and there are just too many other things that are taking priority.
And there it is. We know that we need to work on our marketing. But we don't have the time. Other things "take priority."

What's the marketing solution for busy people? Here's one possibility: "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one." - Mark Twain

And here's another way to attack a big problem like your marketing:
When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day's work is all I can permit myself to contemplate. - John Steinbeck
That's the business solution to being too busy to market: Just get started.

Don't worry about overhauling your entire marketing system or trying to make 21 improvements this week.

Just ask yourself small, non-threatening questions, like: What one thing could I do to improve my marketing in the next 30 minutes?

You'd be surprised at how much good you can do today, in only 30 minutes. You can:
  • add a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or a special "coupon code" to your voicemail greeting
  • write and mail one thank-you note to a recent client
  • add one email to your follow-up autoresponder series (I use and recommend Aweber)
  • pick up the phone and call one potential joint-venture partner
  • email one happy client and ask if you can use their comments as a testimonial on your web site
Do these steps seem trivial? Too small to make a difference?

Heh. Keep reading ...

Let's pick just one item from the list above. Let's say that, by mailing one thank-you note per day to 30 clients this month, it produces just $1 per day in new profit -- $365 more profit per year.

Yes, that's trivial.

But what if, tomorrow, you add just one email to the follow-up emails that go out to prospects who opt into your autoresponder series. That one email produces another "trivial" $1/day in profit -- $365 more per year.

What if you keep finding one more way to add $1 a day in profit to your business. And you do it for just 30 working days. What is the cumulative result?

It's $10,950 over 12 months.

Again, that figure may seem trivial. But $10,950 is enough to:
  • fully fund your IRA;
  • take your family to the ocean for 5 days; and
  • buy a Stratocaster on Ebay
You can make big leaps in small steps, in only 30 minutes a day for 30 days.

Try it and see.

Note: Here's a resource I created on the power of systematic follow-up marketing.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What's Your Marketing System?

Being from the Detroit area, I'm a big fan of statistician and management guru W. Edwards Deming, who basically shamed the Big 3 automakers into improving the quality of their products by first helping the Japanese to do so after World War II.

His philosophy has been summarized as follows, by Wikipedia:

Dr. W. Edwards Deming taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing customer loyalty). The key is to practice continual improvement and think of manufacturing as a system, not as bits and pieces.

So ... what's your system for marketing?

Your marketing system can be defined as everything you do with a person who comes into contact with your business, from their first email or phone call until the day exit the marketplace forever.

Here are essential elements of marketing system:

1) Lead capture. You record the name, email address, and other needed information from prospects in a database -- with your prospects' permission, of course.

2) Follow-up. You contact prospects who do not buy the first time, answering their questions and offering them information to move them along in the buying process.

3) Sales scripts. You deliver the same sales pitch to every prospect, tailored to their unique questions and objections, but as uniform as possible, to eliminate variation from tested "selling words" that have worked before.

4) Customer care. You have policies and procedures in place to maximize client satisfaction while minimizing frustration.

5) Referrals. You take the same steps with every customer to encourage and reward referrals.

Get the idea?

Unless you have a marketing system, you don't have a business. You have a hobby.

If you're unhappy with the results your marketing is producing so far this year, it may be tempting to blame the economy. Or Washington. Or penny-pinching customers who don't appreciate your brilliance.

But blaming outside forces leaves you powerless to make improvements where it counts, on the inside of your business.

Instead, the cause of low sales and miniscule profits more likely lies in your marketing system.

So blame the system. But only for about 10 seconds, because beating yourself up won't bring your sales up.

Instead, get busy improving your system, one small step at a time. That's how systematic, continual improvement in your profits happens.

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Way to Solve Problems: Get Physical

Got a problem? Want new insights on how to solve it?

Then keep reading ...

In April of this year, I spoke at a career seminar in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Among the presenters was Dr. Norman E. Amundson, a professor of Counseling Psychology at the University of British Columbia, who gave an outstanding talk on problem solving.

I took a lot of notes while he spoke; one page is pictured below.

We've all been stuck on a problem before. You rack your brains for a solution. You turn it over in your mind. You sit and stew. And all you get is a headache.

Why not try a physical approach instead? Dr. Amundson referred to it as "walking the problem."

He asked the audience to picture a problem we were trying to solve as located on the other side of the room. Then, he said ...

"Instead of walking toward the solution from the problem as a starting point, we should walk toward the problem from the solution.

"How did we get there? Thinking this way creates new patterns and gets you unstuck.

"Looking back at your problem while standing 'in the solution,' you might 1) not see a problem at all; and 2) take a different route to the problem or move at a different rate -- there are many ways to solve a problem.

"By starting from the position of 'problem solved,' you start from a position of strength, with a broader perspective. As a result, you will work with more energy and excitement."

Try this physical method for solving problems today. I've used it before with remarkable results.

Example: I don't get writer's block. Ever. Why? Because, any time I get stuck for more than 5 minutes on what to write, I get up from the keyboard and walk away. I imagine the ideal sentence will be sitting on my chair, waiting for me, when I get back. It may take 30 seconds of walking before I find the sentence sitting there ... or 20 minutes. But I always get a solution of some sort after I finish walking.

Kooky? Quirky? Who cares. It works.

Now. Would you like even more expert ideas to solve problems and grow your business?

If so, I'd like to give you my speaker notes from a three-day, $5,000 marketing seminar, put on by Jay Abraham in Los Angeles.

The speakers were phenomenal: Seth Godin, Stephen R. Covey, Stephen M.R. Covey, Marshall Thurber, John Assaraf, Donald Moine, Andy Miller, and others. If you can't find at least a dozen money-making ideas from these 25 pages of notes, you ought to move to Cuba ...

You can download my $5,000 seminar notes here.