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.