"If Your Goal Is Growth, Marketing Is All That Matters"

Answered: Your Most Burning Small Business Marketing Questions – July 2014

The last Friday of every month I like to take some of the questions I’ve been answering from small business owners and share them here on Indispensable Marketing.
These answers are originally ran on Quora.

No matter how many years (or days) you’ve been at this marketing game, the questions keep coming up.

In many ways, it’s a constantly shifting and evolving landscape.

In others, it’s the same as it ever was.

We’re wrapping up this last Friday of the month by taking our best shot at your best questions.

buringqa

Q: What are the most important things to consider when designing an appointment setting process?

A: The most important thing to consider when designing an appointment setting process is to make sure the prospect feels in control of the process and that you give them the opportunity to talk about what they want.

This is accomplished with one question. You must always ask the prospect, “is there anything else you would like to discuss during our time together?”

Q:  What are some social media etiquette rules?

A: My social media etiquette is to let generosity be your guide.  It’s called the giver-taker Rule or the 95% content 5% selling Rule or the 30-to-1 Rule. What matters is the number of deposits (shares, retweets, likes, pingbacks, reblogs) versus the withdrawals (promotional messages) you make from your audience. I don’t know if the verbiage,  the percentages, or the ratio is exactly right, but what I do know is that you must remarkably make more deposits.You have to add value before you start extracting value.

Q: What are the best SEO tips for a new startup?

A: The best SEO tip for a start-up is to understand SEO has traditionally been about optimizing web page copy by targeting keyword phrases in certain frequencies and densities. And yet search engine research shows that almost 85% of the total factors that determine how a web page is ranked in a search engine is based on things that happen off the page itself.

Modern SEO is all about crafting content so compelling that other people want to promote it by linking to it or sharing it, which increases your trust and authority and helps the pages you want to rank well for certain keywords.

Q:  How can you attract potential leads (target market) online using your content?

A: Today all consumers are information-empowered. In fact, consumers nowdevelop relationships with content. And to be successful with creating content that builds your business, companies need to be where their customers are and know how to engage them in a meaningful way.

Content marketing is about publishing content that focuses on the problems and desires of the prospect and customer. Healing prospects and customers true pain points with content (okay, a bit over the top, but true none the less).

How to Create Content that Builds Your Business

Q: Does chain marketing/network marketing really work for every one?

A: Of course not that would be like saying, ‘there is a one shoe fits all business.” One key to making MLMs work is to Choose your recruits carefully – make sure they are a “fit” for direct selling. 

Don’t compound the bad reputation of MLM companies by “recruiting” anyone who breathes.  Select people carefully who really are a good fit for that business model.  You will reduce your headaches by choosing people who are outgoing, self-starters, and have a track record of success.  Yes, you will have fewer numbers in your downline – but you’re looking for quality, not quantity.  You can rocket to success by having ten winners as opposed to thirty whiners and complainers.

About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Richmond, VA. We help small to midsize businesses get new or better results from their marketing efforts.

Small Business Marketing Objectives, Priorities and Goals: What’s the Difference?

Now that we know marketing objectives are one of the key elements to business growth, let’s make sure everyone is on the same page from a definitional standpoint. Common sources of confusion include priorities and goals.

While all three are closely related, it’s smart to understand the differences. The distinctions among Objectives, Priorities and Goals will also help to underscore why you may want to use one and not the other in certain situations.

Let’s take a look at definitions:

In my experience most small businesses can only focus on a handful of priorities or objectives at any given time and the key is leave more out of your plan for the year than you leave in.

An objective is a priority

Calling something one of your primary annual objectives makes it a priority and that status must be affirmed, communicated, acted upon and held up for all to view throughout the year.

Create themed communications, events and education that keep the focus on your stated objectives.

Every objective requires a goal

Once you establish your objectives for the year figure out how you plan to measure your progress. Set goals, no more than one or two, for each objective and make your act of measurement and reporting on your progress as transparent as possible.

Build internal dashboards, report in to all hands meetings and plan to adjust your goals and actions in real-time. Let’s face it, a goal, while meaningful, is often a guess. Feed the data often and analyze what it means when it’s real.

Goals require new habits and behavior

Once you have the objectives defined and goals attached the hard work starts. Here’s something that I know about goals. It’s fine to state a goal, but most of what we do in life is dictated by our habits.

If you want to make real and lasting change towards the attainment of a goal, particularly a goal that stretches your current reality, you must adopt a corresponding set of new habits.

Look at your goals and objectives and ask yourself what has to change.

  • Do you need to delegate more?
  • Do you need to hire someone?
  • Do you need to fire someone?
  • Do you need to create focus days?
  • Do you need to have more meetings?
  • Do you need to have fewer meetings?
  • Do you need to start working out?
  • Do you need to stop saying yes?
  • Do you need to start charging more?
  • Do you need to get up earlier?
  • Do you need to get home earlier?
  • Do you need to sit for a very long time while you reconnect with why you do what you do?

Once you can identify habits that are in the way you can start to address the organizational and personal behavior that must change in order to move in the direction of your goals and objectives. Don’t take this step lightly, it’s the key to success.

While planning like this often is seen as an annual event, and I don’t want to discourage that notion, it’s really an every day, every week, every month, every quarter kind of thing that must stay top of mind and inform every decision you make minute by minute.

The Undeniable Difference Between a Blog and a Social Media Platform

Every so often I get asked if the act of blogging still matters now that we have social media platforms (Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter.) That question used to greatly frustrate me until I started making this distinction.

own it

No, the act of blogging itself does not matter any more, but the act of consistently creating education-based content that is easy for search engines to find and index, easy to share, attracts links, creates a searchable and archivable body of work on a subject and will never be seen as inorganic by Google has never, ever been more important.

It just so happens that what I’ve described is easily accomplished through the use of a blog (not Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc.) that runs your entire site. Every aspect of this Indispensable Marketing site is built on WordPress – landing pages, contact pages, about us pages and this page. It puzzles me why people still fight this notion or why they would ever consider entrusting their brand and content assets to Facebook or some other social network.

And that is the undeniable difference between a blog and a social media platform. You’re building your business on a digital platform you don’t own or control (like MySpace, Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter).

Often I’m reminded of this story about a local bookstore that did everything right, and they always had plenty of customers. But they still closed their doors. They closed the store because they were leasing their big, comfortable building … and when that lease ran out, their landlord doubled the rent. Literally overnight, their business model quit working.

And this my friends is exactly what you risk every day when you make your business completely dependent on another company.

It might be MySpace. It might be Facebook. It might be eBay. It might be Google. It might be LinkedIn.

When ultimately it should be a digital property you own and control.

How Is Small Business Blogging Different From Regular Blogging?

In short, regular blogging is simply a hobby. Small business blogging  is a low-cost way to create opportunities to get your website found by ideal clients that you want to find it, so you can generate new leads and customers for your business.

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It’s also important to note that when you’re doing small business blogging, your blog posts are about a particular subject matter related to your business. For instance, Indispensable Marketing is a small business strategic marketing company, so our blog talks about small business marketing topics — taking a business and strategy-first approach to marketing your business, discovering your ideal client, lead generation, etc. Your business blog will talk about subject matters that are related to your business.

One key component to small business blogging is your visibility online. Visibility online is exactly what it sounds like — being able to be found and seen on the internet. This could mean your business pops up a lot in search engines, on social media, on other people’s blogs as a guest writer, etc. Business blogging for the small business is one way to help get your company out in front of people looking for your products or services on the internet.

A small business blog is a marketing channel (just like social media, direct mail, email marketing, etc.) that helps support business growth. It does that by driving traffic to your website and providing opportunities for that traffic to convert in some way. Traffic for various businesses might convert differently — some aim to turn traffic into leads to hand over to a sales team, others may aim to convert traffic into customers via an online transaction — but ultimately, small business blogging will initiate conversions that drive more business.

What’s the Difference Between Content and Content Marketing?

The difference between the two—content and content marketing— is significant.

WhoBenefits

Content by itself is just a tool. Plenty of companies have been using content to market their business for a long time, this isn’t anything new—whether it’s a proposal, ad, brochure, rack card, marketing kit, email, stationary, blog post or newsletter. Most of this content is entirely promotional, focused on the company: their products, services, accolades, features and benefits—not the customer or the information that they are most interested in and find valuable.

Content marketing is how you use the tool. It is the creation of free valuable content that has a marketing purpose. For indispensable marketing readers that purpose is awareness, educating and building know, like and trust, enough to do business with you.  The goal of content marketing is consumption, then behavior. 

For example, my company created an awesome eBook, “7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success” and we exchange it for your email address and your permission to educate you further about our services.

Why content marketing—not just content—is needed

Here is the simple truth: most prospects and customers aren’t interested in your company, your mission statement or your awards. So what do they care about? Naturally, they care about their needs, their interests and their businesses. Content marketing is about publishing content that focuses on the problems and desires of the prospect and customer. Healing prospects and customers true pain points with content (okay, a bit over the top, but true none the less).

Any company that wants to get found online, differentiate their business, attract prospects, convert leads, engage their customers and ultimately grow their business needs to get serious and strategic about content marketing. There is nothing novel about content itself. Every company creates content, but content marketing is using content for a distinct marketing purpose: to attract, engage and convert.

About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Richmond, VA. We help small to midsize businesses get new or better results from their marketing efforts.

The Indisputable Difference Between Marketing Strategy and Tactics

There are some things that are just indisputable in business. The difference between marketing strategy and tactics is one of them.

 

You can compare marketing strategy and tactics to the sun and moon. Both are completely different but provide a purpose of light for the transition of the day and need to cohesively work together to do so.

Marketing strategy and tactics must cohesively work together in order for a business to achieve a measure of true momentum, but an effective strategy must be in place before any set of tactics make sense.

And that my fellow marketers is the indisputable difference between marketing strategy and tactics especially for the small business.

Your strategy informs every marketing decision. It must be considered when you decide what products you will offer, how you will serve your customers, what your packaging looks like, what your followup entails and how you generate leads.

Strategy is not a set of goals, a mission statement, or an inventory of objectives.

A marketing strategy is nothing more than planning out how you intend to use marketing to achieve your business goals.

  • To dominate a market is not a strategy – it’s a objective.
  • To double our sales is not a strategy – it’s a goal.
  • To serve our customers with enthusiasm is not a strategy – it’s a mission.

Goals, missions and objectives are nice, but how you plan to achieve them – otherwise known as strategy paired with a logical set of tactics – is the surefire route to victory.

  • To dominate a market, you may find that an effective strategy is to serve a segment (niche) of the market and dominate it without apology.
  • To double sales, you may find that an effective marketing strategy is to build a professional network of strategic referral partners.
  • To serve your customers with enthusiasm you may find that an effective marketing strategy starts somewhere in your hiring process.

Now, each of these strategies will have a corresponding list of tactics and action steps, but the action plans and campaigns will all have your stated strategy as a filter for decision making and planning.

About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Richmond, VA. We help small to midsize businesses get new or better results from their marketing efforts.

The Difference Between Marketing and Branding for a Small Business

What is the difference between marketing and branding for a small business?

[Indispensable Marketing] BRANDINGvsMARKETING

Many business owners and professional service companies don’t realize that marketing and branding for the small business is a specialize thing. They assume it’s the same for every size organization. I’m here to tell you it’s not. I’ve had conversations with C-level executives of Fortune 500 companies and that type of marketing and branding is a different animal.

When I poll a room of small business owners I get lots of different answers, most, more or less, pointing to advertising, taglines, logos or tactical activities.

Here’s the Indispensable Marketing difference:

Small Business Marketing is everything you do or say that your ideal target customer sees and hears. Now, when you have a marketing process in place this expands to – getting ideal customers, who see and hear you, to know, like, trust, contact and refer you.

Awareness and trust are it for the real world small business and unless you’ve got tons of cash laying around to buy that through heart warming TV spots repetitiously, you better get down in the trenches and figure out how to educate, give and build trust.

Small Business Branding is the art of becoming knowable, likable and trustable.

Taken in that context it’s easy to see how the two are related, yet separate. Every small business has a brand – either by accident or (as we like) on purpose, because it’s a lot like a personality – everyone has one, like it or not. So, the question then becomes, what should you do to create a brand that enhances your marketing efforts and rings true for you?

With this definition in mind marketing then becomes the act of taking the elements of that personality and exposing them to the ideal target customer at the ideal time in the ideal setting. Elements like a:

  • company name,
  • logo,
  • images,
  • metaphors,
  • colors,
  • words,
  • look and feel,
  • dress,
  • attitude,
  • networks,
  • consistency and
  • vision.

If marketing is doing then branding is being. Often the two are so integrated strategically and tactically that it’s hard to say one comes before or is more important than the other.

A small business that understands the difference between marketing and branding will find that attracting and retaining customers is not really that hard.

So, do a small business owner a favor and share this simple definition with them. It just might make marketing and branding  a little easier.

About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Richmond, VA. We help small to midsize businesses get new or better results from their marketing efforts.

Small Business Marketing: It’s Good To Play Together

“It’s Good To Play Together”, was the marketing tagline for Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console, and was created to dispel the notion that video games are a solitary pursuit.

Today I would like to dispel the notion that small business marketing is a solitary activity.

Successful marketing embraces this concept of playing together and the beauty and advantage of cooperation. One of the most rewarding, inexpensive, underused, and effective methods of marketing is fusion marketing – combining your marketing efforts with the efforts of others.

In simple terms, fusion marketing is you saying, “Hey Patrick, if you enclose my business card and coupon in your next mailing, I’ll enclose your business card and coupon in mine.” or “Patrick, put up a sign for my store in your business; I’ll put up a sign for your business in my store.”

This marketing method expands your marketing exposure and reduces your marketing costs.

Last but not least. The purpose of a fusion marketing arrangement: mutual profitability.

Realize that almost everyone in your community is a potential fusion marketing partner. Reach new audiences and new wallets!

Lead Generation for the Modern Direct Sales Pro

Earlier this week I conducted a special teleseminar to some local direct sales professionals and covered the big picture approach to modern-day lead generation and how to attract their most profitable customers.

Below is the outline of the teleseminar for those modern direct sales pros inclined to dive in and learn more about this total picture approach.

modern direct sales pro

What is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the art of turning a “suspect,” a member of your target market you suspect needs what you offer, into a prospect – one you know needs and wants what you have to offer. It’s what makes the phone ring, sets the appointment and brings the prospect in the door.

How Modern Direct Sale Pros Can Define Their Target Market and Start Attracting More Profitable Customers

Step #1. Identify Profitability First

If you can, create a spreadsheet of your customers and focus on the amount and type of business you do with each. You might even rank them in order from most to least business over the last three years.

Now, carefully comb through the list with an eye on profit.

  • Which are your most profitable customers?
  • Are there entire types of products or types of customers that traditionally produce unprofitable sales?

I know it sounds crazy, but most direct sale pro’s chase suspects that, in the light of day, don’t have the money, interest or desire and end up wasting their time.

Step #2. Now Add Referrals

Now let’s divide that list again. From the profitable product, identify customers who are known referral sources. Here’s what I’ve found to be true: Only happy customers refer and happy customers are most often found because you or your approach is a good match for what they needed.

This narrow group of profitable customers, the ones that also refer, holds the key to discovering your ideal customer profile.

Step #3. Demographics are Outbound

From your group above, it’s time to start looking at the physical characteristics that are known about your ideal customer group. You’re looking for any common characteristics that are shared. Marketers call this ‘demographics’ and often stop here and go buy a demographic selected list to do some outbound marketing. While I think demographics, such as age, income and even zip code, can be important, they are only a part of the story and are useful in an outbound marketing kind of way.

Step #4. Behavior is Inbound

The secret to attracting, as opposed to hunting, your ideal customer is to understand what makes them tick, what triggers them to go looking for someone like you, and what behavior they typically exhibit that might act as another marker for you to focus on. This is the essence of attraction and how marketers create inbound marketing paths to their business. For example, if you know your narrow market enjoys fashion-related conferences, you might show up at a few of these or even work to get on the stage. If they are active in civic or non-profit causes you might look to create partnerships with these types of organizations.

Step #5. The Biographical Sketch

Finally, once you are able to pull together profit, propensity to refer, demographics and behavioral markers, you have the making of what I refer to as the ideal customer biographical sketch.

The idea here is that you create a picture of your ideal customer through the use of words and images that is so rich, just about anyone could conjure up a vision of such a customer. The key question to answer for yourself and then ultimately for your partners and referral sources is this – How would I spot your ideal customer?

You may have different profiles, and that’s OK too, just give them different attributes and name them – either Silver Fox and Night Life 50s or Classy and Adventurous. If you draw a picture to accompany the “how would I spot” question, and then hold that picture as the filter for every marketing decision – “Would this appeal to Silver Foxes?” – You’re on your way to building a network marketing business that every ideal customer will recognize is built just for them – and that’s something people will be attracted to and pay a premium for.

Lead Generation Journey

Lead generation, nurturing, and conversion is a game of trust and momentum building.

No matter the actual environment in which a customer is acquired, the path taken to getting them is usually lit with many other marketing related lights.

For example, while it’s true customers often make the decision to buy your product or service from an independent consultant when they attend a party or meeting; the decision process started perhaps, because the prospect had heard your name and company mentioned, read about the party or meeting through Facebook updates, had a friend host and invite them to a party or meeting, or read testimonials and reviews on YELP. So, in effect, the party or meeting was merely confirmation that you might be someone who could help.

This is why we often talk about the need for lead generation to be approached from many different angles.

3 Ways to Generate More Leads From Your Marketing:

  1. Lower Expectations. Make the objective of your networking, social media marketing, and advertising to move people from awareness to like and trust by having a small call to action that benefits them such as downloading a checklist or report or subscribing to your newsletter. The goal of most marketing should be to capture an email and start a relationship, not sell a product or service.
  2. Promote Content. The way to drive the greatest lead generation response is to give away something people want. Use your networking, social media marketing, advertising, email signature, etc. to promote free eBooks, how to checklists and events that will help them learn what they want to learn.
  3. Test Everything. Once you have a baseline you can start to work on improving your results by simply tweaking things like headlines, in-person 30-second commercials, calls to offer, visual elements, keywords, content, publications and lists. Once you know what’s working in one place you can expand to test it in other places.

About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Richmond, VA. We help small to midsize businesses improve or create a strong marketing foundation that will carry the company’s marketing efforts into the next decade and get new or better results.

Prospects Don’t Have Time For Strangers. For Strangers They Don’t Have No Time

Your product or service is great, but your prospect still has no time for you. You’re the expert, you know your industry, but your prospect still has no time for you. You know that selling is the transfer of enthusiasm, so you’re enthusiastic about your business, but your prospect still has no time for you.

No matter how strong you, your products or services are, prospects still have no time for you, until you fit one more piece into place.

Let’s take a look at what that might be …

People do business with people they know, like and trust. Not strangers. The reality is, your business won’t gain real momentum until you’ve mastered the “know, like, trust” factor in your marketing process.

Today I would like to outline how do you earn prospects trust, and allow them the opportunity to like you if they don’t yet know you and what these steps might actually look like from a tactical standpoint for a typical B2B service business.

Note: Marketing should always build trust and/or invite a purchase.

Know Phase

This is the act of creating awareness so while it sometimes starts with a referral received, it’s often the act of putting something out there that gets the attention of your prospect.

If you’re a small business, high-quality content and referrals are your most potent form of advertising.

You may be advertising to attract more clients to a service business. You may be advertising a product. You may be advertising an idea.

Know Tactics

  •  Podcasting/online radio, or Adwords ad promoting free eBook that is related to your service offering but doesn’t sell anything directly,
  • blog posts answering common client challenges amplified in social media,
  • Facebook promoted posts for free eBook,
  • LinkedIn groups discussions geared towards blog posts and free eBook content.

Like Phase

Imagine two people with an identical product and an identical price.

One person comes across as boring and impersonal. The other is charming, interesting, and makes you feel good. Which one would you rather continue talking to and do business with?

In this step you must move towards gaining permission to continue a conversation. The key here is your email capture activities.

Like Tactics

  • Create landing pages for specific networks,
  • create eBook landing page with autoresponder that delivers even more information related to eBook or other eBooks,
  • offer weekly newsletter to all who download eBook.

Trust Phase

While you’re developing “the Know” through articles, advertising, and referrals, “the Like”  through your website, reception, and newsletter, you’re still not selling. But you are paving the road to eventually selling a product or service that’s related to your marketing down the line.

When it comes to small businesses selling their products or services, know and like alone are rarely enough — you need to become truly trusted.

Trust is perhaps the most important step and yet it’s not one you can simply manufacture through one or two tactics – it’s comes together through a collection of things.

Trust Tactics

  • Consistently deliver your newsletter,
  • educate – don’t promote,
  • get backlinks from reputable websites,
  • participate on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter by sharing great information and helping others find what they want,
  • consistently write educational blog content,
  • stimulate reviews on sites like Google+, LinkedIn and Yelp,
  • submit press releases to online distribution sites such as PRWeb and
  • find industry or local publications that accept contributed content.

Marketing is essentially getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you.

While these tactics are nice, make sure you’re developing a strategy before you decide what to do. Determining a marketing strategy allows you to clearly demonstrate how you’re different, how you bring value and who, precisely, makes an ideal client for your business is the most important element of marketing.

Question: What do you think? Do you have a know, like and trust component in your marketing?

About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Richmond, VA. He helps small to midsize businesses improve or create a strong marketing foundation that produces significant results and will carry the company’s marketing efforts into the next decade.

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