Traditional marketing simply does not work anymore. I really believe that.
Let’s examine the realities we have to endure every single day. When was the last time you responded to a TV advert by going out and spending money with the company advertising? Many people talk of not even watching live TV these days and watch everything on a Sky Plus/Freeview hard drive box type arrangement, which obviously gives you the magnificent and intensly satisfying power of fast-forwarding through the adverts. Now an hour’s TV can be swept aside in a mere 48-minutes.
How much time do you spend appraising direct mail? Have you recently seen a poster on a bus or billboard, or perhaps read a newspaper advert, and acted in response to the sales message? Radio advertising is seen as an interruption to the programming and can you recall in the depths of your mind the last time you looked in Yellow Pages? It might have been around the time Britsh Leyland proudly displayed their new can, sorry caR, the Mini Metro on top of the white cliffs of Dover. Perhaps it was an ‘in-joke’ with the marketing agency hinting that the cars should be pushed over the egde? In hindsight they would have been 100% correct. Anyway, you may well have only been looking in Yellow Pages purely to see if anyone still actually paid for an insertion and to ensure it wasn’t full of self-published adverts saying ‘You Co. Name Here!’ Taking a quarter column in your local directory today could be compared to paying for a mega-sized fully illuminated billboard in the most uninhabited part of the Sahara Desert.
The inevitable self-preservation walls have gone up and we’re closing ourselves off to uninvited external influences. We have had quite enough thank you very much. If we need to know anything we have smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs. We have the power of the fingertip and 26 alphabet letters, different combinations of which can tell us untold truths and unleash a never ending avalanche of words and data.
The route to a buying decision has altered dramatically in the last ten years.
Clearly, we have the largest and most bewildering assortment of how, where and when we receive our information than at any other time in history. If you’re not drowning trying to keep up, you probably just don’t care. And if you do care [and you probably wish you didn’t] are you feeling a sense of being left behind as we live through this modern day tapestry of hypersonic events? The pressure can be immense.
Even the hardware we operate to access this information is on trial. I was chastised for using an iPhone 4S recently. “It’s ancient!” I was told. I am not succombing to an upgrade just for the sake of it. Google do not even make a working version of Chrome for my Macbook operating system [10.5.8]. Maybe I could upgrade it but I’m relatively new to Macs and haven’t needed to, until now. I.T. consultants say the solution for most PC problems is to replace the machine. “It’s old, it’s crap, get a new one!” Or is it just the chap I’m using [hey Andy?]. I’m not replacing anything if it still works the same as it did when I bought it, and the only possible benefit is a 5% faster, 10% lighter, smoother exterior and better looking version. Ooooh wow! [I’m not married so can’t joke about my wife here.]
How many website logo-type-icons do you keep noticing for months, years even, without the slightest idea of the website’s intentions? Eventually, if you’re anything like me, curiosity will get the better of you and you will track it down and explore. Vine, for example – a website that only plays short video clips on a loop. Pinterest – it’s like keeping your photos on Facebook in organised albums, but a more public and dynamic way.
Social Media is taking over.
We are all splashing about in this digital sea, which is on a rising tide, trying to grab lifejackets. What can we glean, how can we understand it hastily and how can we promote our businesses whilst simultaneously fending off the sales messages of others?
In a world where we now sell to ourselves by researching online before making a purchase, is the salesman dead as well as traditional marketing? They both go hand in hand after all. The time-honoured promotional method of advertising – leads – selling must be struggling to justify its own existence today. Do they sound so 80’s to you as well as me? The film Glengarry Glen Ross  springs to mind and Alec Baldwin ripping hell out of Jack Lemon and Ed Harris.
We, as consumers, feel we know it all these days.
Doctors with the required ten years of medical training and subsequent 20 years of experience are repeatedly diagnosing and arguing with part-time medical students [i.e. anyone who can get online]. These NHS time-wasters have spent a colossal five whole minutes investigating and speculating over what could be wrong with them, and have come to the well thought through conclusion it must be cancer, not just a pulled muscle. We can look up anything, more or less, in a few seconds now. The entire history of The World’s knowledge is at our fingertips.
Social Media websites have exploded; Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Youtube, Xing,Vimeo, MySpace, YourSpace, ThierSpace, Instagram, DeviantArt, LiveJournal, Tagged, Ning, MeetUp, MyLife, SunZu, Bebo, Flixster, Formspring, Habbo, MyHeritage, Orkut, Qzone, BobblyBook, Sweepsters and RaceFace, to name a mere few. This surely means more and more of us are now screaming out for some tenable and convincing sanity? Remember when the only messaging device to check was an answerphone? Not all of the above are relevant for business but act as a barometer to the bigger picture which is – CHOICE. If you are operating a small business and know you should be getting involved in social media, but haven’t yet started, the choice must make you not wish to start at all!
“Ok Tim, but what about the good old website?” I hear you ask.
Yes, we can call it old now, it certainly feels it. A professional looking all singing all dancing website can be an initial investment of £5,000 – £15,000. Even when completed and launched it remains invisible to your ideal target buyers. Driving significant amounts of traffic is both time consuming and costly. You need months of expensive SEO before you reach page 1 of the Holy Grail of search engines. In the meantime, some serious spending on Adwords [Google’s main revenue stream] to kick start your sales enquiries will also be necessary. £40,000 or so later, the high and mighty digital plantation owners from Mountain View in California [Googleplex] decide to change the search result algorithms yet again, and now you find yourself back on page 21. Does walking up a Teflon coated hill with lots of oil being poured down at you sound familiar?
Even if that doesn’t put you off consider that websites are as important as they used to be. Every company has to be seen to have one and each firm will place varying degrees of importance on its online shop window, but the majority of us merely scan them and don’t have the luxury of time to read a whole page, let alone, the About, Blog, FAQs, What We Do, Videos, Services, Pricing, Case Studies and Testimonials pages etc. With a website you are still relying on someone taking their own steps down your seductive ‘content path’ and finding their way to knocking on your door without any human interaction whatsoever. Some may accept it whilst others may feel it’s all got a little too clinical and distanced. I’d like to get a lot more hands-on and proactive. Aren’t you missing the human touch?
So what is the answer to selling your company’s goods and services today?
If traditional marketing is dead and contemporary online solutions are like throwing your businesses card into the Atlantic Ocean and hoping for Peter Plankton to find it, just what are you supposed to do? How can you ensure your future customers find, like, trust, engage, buy and refer you and not your competitors? Well, I know it doesn’t start with www.
I believe we all like to interact, converse and have dealings with others. We more often than not freely give our help, if asked, to those seeking out a solution, regardless of how well we know them. We take advice from those we trust and act on the recommendations from professionals we pay to explain things we don’t understand. However, walk down any High Street and look around the many pubs in the UK and you see all and sundry [aged 6 – 60] absorbed by their smartphones. I hate to see it. It’s reeks of self-obsession but I am just as guilty as everyone else. Walking along a pavement quickly and texting isn’t easy, but walking and using Siri makes you look a complete jerk! Again… guilty.
Are we losing touch with each other here?
Are we descending into our own personal micro-bubbles and trying to conduct business along the same withdrawn lines? I believe so. When I think about marketing I now picture a keyboard and screen. I think Impressions, Analytics, Likes and Followers. PPC, CPR, CPA and CPC. How Sticky is your site, how big is your Tribe and God help you if you have a Cyber Squatter!
Apart from creating stand-out, and occasionally amusing, social media images I am disappointed with what I have to face up to in order to supposedly market my company effectively in 2013. It’s far too nerdy and nowhere near enough, ummm, ‘peopley’. You have to be everywhere and ‘everywhere’ is expanding on a daily basis. I can’t stop it of course, no one can. But one idea might be to stop, stand back and survey the situation.
I believe the foundation of all marketing starts with a blank sheet of paper [quite literally]
Prior to thinking about any type of marketing, or any sort of promotional message for that matter, you must establish why you’re in business, what you’re offering that others are not and how you can wow your audience. You require an Utterly Seductive Proposal [USP]. This is the time for the birth of a well thought out and powerful USP.
Without unique core differentiators you’re simply making it harder for your prospects to say YES to you…and why would you do that? Why would you not go all-out to transmit your brilliance? Whatever marketing you wish to engage in, a USP [an Utterly Seductive Proposal in my book but Unique Selling Proposition/Point to many others across the world] is the most important business decision you may ever make. Without one you’re joining the ranks of the ‘Me Too’ brigade churning out forgettable one-liners as headlines, or subject lines in your emails [the most vital part of your email], with no attention paid to the end message that should be overflowing with customer-considerate-love. It should also address solving your buyer’s problem.
Acres of diamonds
Have you heard the Acres of Diamonds tale? I first heard it from the brilliant Brian Tracy. A man sold his farm in Africa in order to prospect for diamonds all over Africa. After years of disappointment he threw himself over Victoria Falls and was killed. The man who had bought his farm discovered one of the largest diamond mines in all of Africa, purely by chance, whilst crossing a stream one day. The farm literally contained acres of diamonds.
I use this story to demonstrate a point. If you have existing clients there’s often no need to go off spending your money in an attempt to attract new paying customers. Can anyone tell me why barely anyone seems to have a system in place to utilise the easiest and cheapest form of new sales enquiries? Why are the only endorsements being made chance and occasional ones? “We get a lot of business through word of mouth,” I often hear. Do you really? Well, what did you put in place to pro-actively make that happen? Nothing I suspect. It’s all pure chance and natural recommendation in the main. If you take referrals seriously you can virtually run your business marketing just from that. You can increase the referrals ten, twenty, fifty, even 100+ times. There really is no limit if you keep on acquiring new clients and continually ask them for referrals.
If you plan a proper reward scheme for referrers, regardless of the success of the outcome of that referral [vital point], you will receive new sales enquiries guaranteed. You must ensure you continually ask for introductions whilst making it easy for your existing clients to refer you on. I recommend a proper postcard sized referral card, not a small and impersonal business card. Do something that stands out.
Let’s take this concept of asking others to find customers one stage further.
Who else can we ask to find us potential buyers? What about joint ventures with other businesses who have the same category of customers as you? You offer each others services to you client list e.g. a door company and a lock company. A wedding dress shop and a wedding cake maker. You can only offer one firm’s service to your contacts in return for the company promoting you to their customers, so the second partnership onwards will have to work with you on a paid basis. You can’t bombard your clients with everyone’s goods that you work with.
You must go out and find some partners who deal with the very same customers you are looking for then make it worth their while [financially] to make an introduction when they are already in discussions with these people. They are not going out of their way, just making a friendly recommendation to a buyer with a problem that requires solving to a trusted supplier.
You’ll need to convince your new ‘business partners’ first of all that you can be trusted with their contacts, but once achieved you’ll have a additional and secondary sales team working for you and sending you fresh enquiries. These new partners can make suggestions to their clients, or new clients whilst in existing discussions, and be paid for each and every successful deal you do. It’s important not to be stingy with the level of fees. If you make it a 5-10% type of fee is that really going to motivate the introducer to talk enthusiatically about how brilliant you are? I used to pay 25%. I’d much rather have 75% of a fee than nothing at all. The 25% was often over £1,000 and sometimes over £3,000, so a great incentive.
If you want to make the best impression you’ll need to have a brochure/booklet outlining what is in it for them, a website to back that up, an Introducer Agreement, maybe a further website/CRM for them to track introductions, the progress of the sale and pipeline fees etc.
This may all sound quite involved. It can be but doesn’t have to be either. What I’m talking about is a rock solid system to produce hot sales leads for your business. As I said before, if you get this right you do not need to irresponsibly throw your money away on a press advert without any idea of what percentage of the readership is your ideal client.
Win win win for everyone and upping your game.
The above methods are tried and tested ways for you to develop your existing contacts and clients to the max, but not to the extent of annoying them of course. Making new contacts, in terms of strategic alliances, where you win, your new introducing partners win and most importantly, your new found customers win, must surely be a more tangible, real and long-term way to boost your bottom line?
It gets better still. By basing your whole customer experience on the fact that at some point in the future you are going to ask them if they’d be happy to recommend you, it forces you to make certain every touch-point they have with you is impressive, considerate and respectful. If you want your customers to talk about you enthusiastically nothing can be left to chance. This raises your game no-end and, before too long, if you keep on impriving aspects of your service, will throw up your own individuality which you can build into your USP. Drilling down further you can even form a no-risk, no lose, undeniably superb offer for your intended market and go on to create a compelling Value Proposition.
Once you stop and think about this type of ‘word marketing’ you can utilise a lot of slightly different tools. A USP, taglines, slogans, a mission staement and a value proposition. Please don’t ask me how a motto fits into all of this.
It’s all here.
A customer reward for referrals system combined with a formal paid introducer programme will bring you a constant supply of new faces to speak to. If your clients are not referring you then you’re in big trouble so making a highly referable business should be your goal.
Add in a few other touches of brilliance in your everyday communications like a stand-out HTML email signature, colourful fun and engaging slideshows with bright head-turning social media postings, and you have attention grabbing promotional tools to assist you converting these new enquiries and developing your contacts still further. This, I believe, should be pretty much all anyone needs to bring in enough sales enquiries for growth if carried out accurately and enthusiastically.
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