Marketing

Quality Products Don’t Matter – Marketing Does

Most people believe that it is the product or service that makes a business successful. To those people, I say they are wrong. From my prospective, it is marketing that makes a company a success. Consider this example – did Starbucks invent coffee? No. Are they the only company that says they have the best coffee? Again, no. The reason why Starbucks is successful when many other coffee shops never expand beyond their neighborhood is MARKETING.

Building a quality product takes a distant back seat to building a quality marketing campaign. Of course, if you deliver an inferior product or service, it will catch up with you at some point when word gets out. However, if you make a superior product and no one has any idea it exists, you’re out of business.

Today, especially in the long tail economy, marketing an average product or service to the right person at the right time trumps a quality product or service marketed to the wrong market at the wrong time. Therefore, I contend that entrepreneurs need to focus on a strategy to attract the right customers at the right time over engineering a truly unique product of service. The field of dreams line “build it and they will come” only happens in the movies. Today, you need to build the path to the customer first and foremost.

Do you value a quality product or quality marketing strategy more?

Note: this post originally appeared at www.stevebizblog.com

 

Market Research

Market Research – 8 Strategies for Getting it Right, Quickly

I had a really good conversation with a business colleague who is launching his products into a new channel, with fresh messaging, pricing, etc. We talked about all the various ways of validating the concept before formally announcing it to the world. Like all entrepreneurs, he wanted to know that his chances for revenue and profit were high before making a larger commitment. Specifically, he wanted to know the following before launching into the new channel:

  • Potential size of the market
  • Best target segments
  • Details of the offering
  • Most appropriate keywords
  • Pricing options

My friend’s first instinct was to do traditional market research activities like focus groups and telephone/online surveys, supplemented by tools like SIC code analysis. However, my caution was that these types of tools — while instructive in the qualitative sense — are not that precise when it comes to answering the real question: Will people/companies spend money on a particular offer, and if so, how much? The key problem is that market research is based on the theoretical (e.g. would you buy this) and not the practical (sign the contract).

After being involved with hundreds of product launches in my career — some backed by heavy market research and others thrown into the market based on little more than gut instinct – I can find no correlation between the amount of time and money spent on pre-launch research and the degree of success enjoyed by the product.

According to Product.com, about 85 percent of new consumer product launches fail, and these are some of the most researched types of products on the planet. One other notable point from Product.com is that products often fail because managers become too ego-involved with pet products and overestimate their chance of success. Best to get the ego out of the process. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when analysis showed that the Sony Walkman was going to flop in the marketplace. However, Sony Chairman Akio Morita overruled his lieutenants and created a massive revenue stream. Steve Jobs was another founder who relied on his gut more than market research.

Even when you do a lot of research, you can still get it wrong: the market shifts, a competitor outflanks you, the economy crashes, etc. All this is not to say that you shouldn’t try to validate your idea before launch – of course you should. But please do this in a way that minimizes your costs (time and money) and maximizes your speed to market.  Here are a few ideas on how to accomplish this:

  1. Ask people who are already selling something similar. Your direct competitors will probably not talk to you, but those with complementary products or who are in non-competing geographies may give you great information.
  2. Query people at community share sites like Quora.com or Reddit.com. These are open business forums where people answer questions and provide input on subjects of interest.
  3. Crowdfund your idea. This is more of a long shot, but there have been notable success stories of companies launching (and pre-selling) products before they were ready for market.
  4. Take advance orders. What a great way to validate your product – offer it for a discount for pre-ordering. This is definitely a confidence builder for both product manager and CFO.
  5. Run test ads (e.g. pay-per-click). More companies than you realize actually run ads before the product is available. There are ways to do this without offending potential customers.
  6. Talk with people who bought a competitive product or service. While you may not have a short-term sales opportunity with these people, their opinions are valid since they actually made a transaction.
  7. Check out which books people are buying on Amazon that are related to your business area. This will give you a good idea of what the current hot buttons are and perhaps provide you with some messaging strategies.
  8. Do online keyword analysis to determine what terms people search on to find a similar product or service. Look at your competitors’ — as well as your own — notions of the motivating benefits and/or pain points.

By the way, LinkedIn can be an extremely useful tool in target segment sizing as well as product validation and message testing. There is much more to say about this, so I will save it for a future blog post.

Note: this article first appeared at Great B2B Marketing.

Business Adopter Chasm

The 5 Categories of Adopters

According to professor Everett Rodgers in his book Diffusion of Innovation, there are five categories of adopters:

1. Innovators (Technology Enthusiasts) – These individuals represent about 2.5% of users and are willing to take risks on a new offering. Generally, they have a high social status and are often considered mavens. They have a high degree of financial liquidity to absorb failures and a high risk tolerance that allows them to adopt new technologies that may ultimately fail. They are connected socially to engineers and technology and they often interact with other innovators.

2. Early Adopters (Visionaries) – These individuals represent about 13.5% of users and are opinion leadership. Early adopters have a high degree of social status that allows them to influence others. They are more likely to spread the word than innovators with their followers. They are a bit more discerning in their adoption choices than innovators as a way to help them maintain the central communication position they enjoy.


Innovators and early adopters are primarily focused on technology and performance. A sort of chasm exists between innovators/early adopters and other adopters since the focus of other adopters is on solutions and convenience rather than technology and performance


3. Early Majority – These individuals represent about 34% of users and adopt an innovation long after innovators and early adopters since their focus is about solutions and convenience instead of technology and performance. A major pivot is necessary to refocus the marketing message to cross from early adopters to the early majority. While the early majority has above average social status and contact with early adopters, they seldom are opinion leaders.

4. Late Majority – These individuals represent about 34% of users and adopt an innovation much later in its maturity cycle. Late majority individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and adopt the innovation only after the majority of society has already accepted it. The late majority often has little financial liquidity and are not in a position to influence others.

5. Laggards – These individuals represent the final 16% of users, and they are dead last to adopt an innovation. Laggards typically have an aversion to change, tend to focus on “traditions,” and generally are only persuaded to adopt a technology by close friends and family.

To achieve success, a business must first run tests with innovators and early adopters to refine the product offering. Then they need to run additional tests with the early majority to find how best to enter the mainstream. Each of the five categories of users requires a different marketing approach to win them over.

Do you consider the unique attributes of the five categories of adopters as you market and grow your business?

Note: this post first appeared at http://www.stevebizblog.com.

Sales and Marketing Fix

12 Quick Sales and Marketing Fixes

I write a lot about curing the chronic conditions of sales and marketing, but today will address the acute condition — when you need leads and revenue quickly. Here are 12 tactics to get you started:

  1. Stop doing what doesn’t work. Forgive me if this sounds blindingly obvious, but the fact is, inertia is a powerful force. We sometimes get caught up in our routines – even when they don’t produce such great results.
  2. Rebrand or reposition. I am not talking about a total rebrand or reposition here (which addresses the chronic condition), but rather modifying the messaging to match the needs of a particular target segment.
  3. Remarket to past prospects. There may be gold in your opt-in contact list, but you need to get out your shovel and mine that gold.
  4. Borrow an idea from your competitor(s). You may have competitors with large budgets and lots of marketing people whose entire goal in life is to take business away from you. Why not pay them back by borrowing one or more of their best tactics and modifying to your unique needs?
  5. Make a new offer. If your old standard offers are not working, try something entirely different. Do a drawing. Conduct a survey. Buy prospects pizza if they attend your lunch event or a coffee gift card if they talk to you in the morning. Test new offers until you find one or more that work.
  6. Send out a press release (or two). Although they are more of an awareness tool than a lead gen tool, press releases are a fast and inexpensive way to get the word out. And no, “My product is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” is not a proper subject for your release.
  7. Do 20% more. There are two major ways to improve marketing and sales productivity – do what you do better or do more of it. Sometimes the quickest fix is to focus on quantity.
  8. Measure and refine. If you aren’t measuring actual vs. anticipated results, you are likely not going to get better performance. I will be covering this topic in my upcoming webinar, How to Eliminate the “Promise vs. Reality Gap” of Marketing Automation.
  9. Incentivize your sales force. Smart sales managers know about the power of selective incentives to drive short-term gains in revenue. As one of my favorite CSOs often reminds me, sales reps are coin-operated — they go where the money is!
  10. Get rejected. Sales is both a quality and quantity game. If you are not being rejected often enough, you are probably not talking to enough potential prospects. When your revenue numbers are anemic, make sure your reps increase their activity at every stage of the sales cycle (e.g. do 20% more as mentioned above).
  11. Ask your prospects questions and then act on what they tell you. Here are four of the best questions:
    • What are you doing that is working?
    • What are you doing that isn’t working?
    • What is the one improvement that would add most to your success?
    • What does your ideal situation look like?
  12. Hire professionals. This may be a bit self-serving since my company does outsourced B2B marketing, but the fact is, those of us who have practiced these tactics hundreds, even thousands, of times usually have a good track record when it comes to getting results.
Clone Business

Are You a Clone Business?

Every day, entrepreneurs invest huge amounts of time and money to build what they think is a better mousetrap. However, all too often entrepreneurs struggle to articulate how their value proposition is fundamentally different. While many businesses make minor tweaks, they are fundamentally what I call clone businesses.

While there is room in the market for these businesses, clone businesses are just another participant in a red ocean where margins are frequently squeezed to the breaking point for all but the best managed businesses. Clone businesses with little differentiation from their competitors (such as janitorial companies, drywall contractors, etc.) essentially hang their success on the belief that other business owners are incompetent. They are banking on everyone around them being “worse than them” rather than being “better” in some new way. When you are a clone business, you are a commodity, and when you are a commodity, the only real point of differentiation is your price. Price is a poor value proposition as there is always someone out there willing to undercut your price and drive themselves out of business faster than you.

Even a business that entirely transforms an industry and is truly disruptive often is not radically different. For instance, look at the business and economic model of a mini mill that uses recycled steel vs. iron ore. Another example is a cell phone company that uses wireless transmission vs. a landline phone company. In both of these examples, there is only a few degrees of difference from their mainstream competitors.

Other examples include Uber and Airbnb. Uber built a disruptive taxi business with the simple idea that the driver didn’t have to be a taxi driver. Airbnb built a powerful accommodation business on the premise that the room you stayed in didn’t have to be a hotel room. They took what had gone unquestioned and questioned it.

Sakichi ToyodaToyota Motor Corporation’s Sakichi Toyoda developed a technique he called “The 5 Why’s” during the evolution of the automakers manufacturing methodologies. Successful entrepreneurs dare to apply the 5 Why’s to various aspects of their business model to uncover the substantive few degrees of difference that will take them from the red ocean to their blue ocean.

Daniel Burris, the author of “Techno Trends,” says, “The future is already invented.” What he meant by this statement is that most successful businesses simply take a practice from one industry and apply it to their own.

A good example of this principle is Airbnb. Airbnb took the existing hotel and B&B reservation system and applied it to the private home rental market. Most of the core business is the same but just has a slight tweak.

What questions can you ask that will convert your clone business to the next Uber?

You Differential Castain

The “YOU Differential”

There are so many things  that could be considered a competitive edge, but unfortunately, they can also be duplicated.

We’ve seen this with technology, chains of stores that once dominated the market, and even companies that claimed to have the lowest price . . .

Until someone else came along and found a way to do it quicker, better and cheaper.

Here’s A Crazy Thought . . .

Are you offering YOU as a selling point?

I’m talking about your “know how” experience, creativity, awesomeness etc.

When you really think about it, unless your competitor has wicked cloning skills, nobody else can offer YOU?

4 Simple Ways To Do It

  1. You have to have the balls to say it. Most don’t!
  2. You have to say it in a way that resonates with your prospect! Don’t ever underestimate the “packaging” of your words and phrases.
  3. You need to get them to visualize it.

Why? Because you’re dealing with something that’s intangible and intangible things are easier to comprehend when you make them TANGIBLE.

One thing you could do, is include your bio (include your photo too) in with your proposals or price quote.

What else could you do to make YOU more tangible?

NAPA Auto Parts Rocks This!

Have you ever seen the NAPA Auto Parts commercial, where some dude is making a purchase, and the guy behind the counter says, “And with your order you also get this” and he places a can on the counter. The can says “NAPA Know How”.

He goes on to explain that the “Napa Know How”  is all the experience,  advice and tips that’s included with the purchase.

In that crazy moment, they gave us a visual of something that is otherwise intangible.

They also get a gold star for having the balls to say that to a customer;

Most sales reps feel that the statement is unnecessary, and that it is always implied, but that’s a huge mistake in my book!

Last, but not least, you really have to prove it, otherwise you really aren’t doing much, to move someone off the fence of indifference.

In fact, without the “evidence” it just sounds like you’re saying a bunch of cute sh*t you read on someone’s sales blog.

Let’s go back to that idea of including your bio.

One of the things I do with my bio, is I include several testimonials from my clients as a form of “evidence”. It sort of answers the question “Who says so besides you Castain?”

What can YOU do to prove your “know how” and sheer awesomeness?

I mean, if YOU are included with the purchase, how can you get your prospect to see the value in the “YOU Differential”?

Was This A Valuable Tip?

Then you should absolutely, positively, join us for our next webinar on August 17th

It’s called “How To Dominate In A Competitive Environment” and we’re going to be taking a much deeper dive into the tip I shared today.

Here’s What You’ll Gain By Joining Us . . .

15 Ways To IMMEDIATELY Set Yourself Apart and Position Yourself To Be The Front Runner!

What To Say/Do When Your Prospect Wants To Take 3 Bids.

5 Ways To Keep Your Prospect Engaged and Focused On YOU; Even Between Meetings and Phone Calls!

How To Maneuver Your Competitors Into A Defensive Position, Without Badmouthing or Getting Dicky!

How To Competitor-Proof Your Book Of Business

You will also learn how to create propinquity (go ahead and look up that word, I had to) so you can ACCELERATE the “courtship”!

Click HERE (or the banner below) to learn more, and to reserve your seat for this important online training session.

Author Bio: Paul Castain is founder of Castain Training Systems. Prior to this, Paul was the Vice President Of Business Development for Consolidated Graphics as well as the Director Of Corporate Solutions Sales for Dale Carnegie & Associates. Over the last 30 years, he has trained and mentored over 10,000 sales professionals, written sales training content for several Fortune 500 companies and is the author of Paul Castain’s Social Networking Playbook,  Castain’s Sales Playbook and The Sales Playbook Podcast on iTunes.

  

Business Rejection

If Einstein Can Take a Little Rejection, So Can You

Our subject today is rejection, that insidious killer of big dreams. All of us who have had any degree of success have no doubt had people tell us that our ideas were too different, too radical, too “out of the box,” too whatever! This is true if you are a business owner, marketer, salesperson, product manager or in virtually any other occupation. But lest you take such rejection too personally, I want you to know that you will be in very good company. No less a figure than Albert Einstein received a harsh rejection letter from the University of Bern when he applied to join the doctorate program.

I was as astonished as you probably are upon first reading this astonishing letter, which states that the Theory of Relativity is radical and artistic, and not actual physics. So why should your (probably) less-impactful ideas be taken any more seriously than Einstein’s?

Einstein Rejection Letter

Here are some of the other things you will hear if you take a stand and want to do something that is outside the norm:

That will never work.

That’s not the way we do it here.

We tried that already.

That idea is too radical.

The research doesn’t back you up.

We can’t take a chance on your idea.

As B2B marketers we face rejection on a fairly regular basis. Seldom does the CEO or CSO jump up and shout, “That’s the greatest idea I ever heard!” when we propose new branding, new offers, a new sales model, etc. Let’s face it; there are some people in the executive suite who would find a way to criticize sunshine.

I once worked for a tech CEO who would have tried to re-write Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. He seemed to thrive on knocking down anyone else’s ideas. I’ve also worked for great CEOs who are open-minded and let you test out-of-the-box ideas – and these have sometimes proven transformative, both to our marketing efforts and the company as a whole.

The point is, if you back off from your convictions and shy away from rejection, you will probably not accomplish very much, and this will not benefit you or your company. Better to keep in mind the words of Bo Bennett: “A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”

Lest you think that Albert Einstein was an isolated example, how about the likes of Walt Disney, Oprah, Robert Redford, Stephen King, Michael Jordan and Bill Gates. Yes, the richest man in the world had a business failure after dropping out of Harvard when a company he founded called Traf-O-Data failed. Good thing Gates and the others didn’t let a little rejection stop them. Many other examples of famous rejections are listed in this article.  As you and I take actions that cause us to face rejection on any scale, we should be pleased because we are joining very good company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Startup Growth

8 Growth Hacking Rules for Startups

Media loves covering stories of startups that utilized unique hacks to grow their users and business rapidly. It’s become part of the “Facebook” dream (as opposed to the “American” dream) that many millennials have chosen to aspire. Traditional business development rules are broken every day when sites like Uber and Airbnb take off with seemingly unexplainable success, while many online businesses flail around with misleading statistics and unrealistic growth projections in hopes of finding that magic pill that will take them to the top.

According to this article, you are ready to growth hack your business, because at least 40% of your users says that life would not be the same without your product. If you’ve yet to reach that milestone, this article is for you. The rules of growth hacking your startup start long before the startup hockey stick success curve.

Rule #1: Don’t Look For Hacks

Prepare for the long haul in building a successful business.  Many people search for growth hacks like looking for a magic diet pill – a quick fix for success without any hard work. As you’ll notice, there still aren’t any magic diet pills, and there aren’t any 100% guaranteed growth hacks. Looking for shortcuts to massive growth can take you down a path that may bring you some short-term wins, but in the end: value, service, and authentic buzz are the keys to creating a successful company.

Rule #2: Build A Great Product

If your product is really industry shaking, it will grow organically.  Many business owners and marketers try to generate press when the product’s still not quite ready for market. A common belief is early buzz or speed to market is the key to viral success, but if your product/software/service stands out as the best of it’s kind, or completely changes an industry and improves efficiency, that will be your best growth hacking strategy.

Rule #3: Don’t Purchase Social Shares

Arash AsliBlog Image 2There’re ways to pump up your stats by buying traffic, likes, video views, or application installs. This is a big no-no. These users don’t stick around, and Google and Facebook’s algorithms for finding false interactions are getting better and better. It has to be natural in the way someone finds your application and use it because they want to, not because they were paid to be there or tricked into it.

Rule #4: Nurture Your First Customers

Preferably paying customers. Not only can they become your raving reviewers and greatest ambassadors, but they also are your most valuable product testers. Listen to them carefully, watch their interactions with your product to know exactly how their experience is going and be available right away to help them out.

Rule #5: Find Partnerships With Bigger Players

Use strategic partnerships to overcome your business challenges by teaming with larger companies that share the same vision and target market. Or, expand your own target audience by tapping the audiences of your suppliers.

Rule #6: Create An Easy-To-Use Rewarding Referral Program

You need to be dialled into understanding your audience, and where referrals are coming in from. We want to try to make the conversion as easy and seamless as can be. Choose a great incentive structure.

Rule #7: Keep Overhead Low And Value High

When it comes right down to it, cash flow is king.  The more you can keep unnecessary expenses down and invest deeply in product development, customer care, and sales hustle, the better off.

Rule #8: Find A Successful Mentor

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Hack your startup by using the expertise and experience of a successful startup founder or investor. Their knowledge can be crucial in helping you bypass pitfalls and distractions.

Startup incubator programs have a great mentoring process in place if you already have a start-up with some traction and show you’re ready to hustle for success.  Alternatively, there is mentoring available at Clarity.fm and SoHelpful.me. Successful mentors are busy and have been successful for a reason. Don’t expect them to jump at the chance to give you their “spare” time to motivate and teach you. Read their blog posts, listen to any advice they have already shared before even initially asking for some mentoring. An excellent approach is to offer to intern or provide some value to them first.

The process of growth hacking is actually very simple and straightforward. Start by asking the traditional question “How do I get more customers for my product?”

Author Bio: Arash Asli is at the forefront of business growth. As Co-founder and CEO of Yocale, he has a unique blend of technology, business development, corporate, and finance experience. Arash is honored to have been named the Business in Vancouver’s Top Forty under 40 business executive. http://www.yocale.com

 

Why Business Startup

Why in the Heck Would You Start a Business?

Having been involved as a founder, investor or early-stage employee at over a dozen startup ventures, I have a few entrepreneurial chops to draw upon. One of the companies I helped start was eventually sold for $500 million and a few didn’t make it, with all the others falling somewhere in between. So why did I participate in these speculative ventures and why do so many of us put our time, energy, passion and finances into launching a new business. Here are a few of the motivating factors and my brief thoughts on each.

Flexibility. Most entrepreneurs crave freedom from the 9 to 5 routine. What they often end up with is a more demanding schedule than being a so-called wage slave, but the point is; they have more self-determination and flexibility, and these can be precious commodities.

Desire to be your own boss. How many times have you had a desire to fire your #$%& boss? In my career I’ve had some terrific bosses but also a couple that made my working life painful. I’m sure the same is true for you. One answer to this problem is to fire the boss and go to work for yourself. But consider this carefully because if you don’t have the right discipline, skillset and financial backing, you may prove to be a poor boss indeed.

Money. The desire to build wealth is a big driver of new businesses. There is a misconception among some that entrepreneurs are getting rich but this is not necessarily the case. According to Payscale, the average small business owner earns $71,600 per year. Many make more but a large number make less – sometimes far less.

Passion about a new idea.  Although I tell my entrepreneur students not to fall too much in love with their idea (since most businesses need to pivot) – many great ventures were started based on a dream about how a particular product or service could solve a large problem. Working on something that really matters to you can reap large dividends.

Lifestyle. Whether it is the freedom to work from home, or to take extra vacations, there are large lifestyle implications to being a business owner (good and bad). One of the best ways to transform your life is to combine a hobby or avocation with a marketplace need. As Harvey MacKay put it, “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life”.

Security. Like several of the other factors, security is a double edged sword. On the one hand, if your startup is successful, you can create an independent economic asset that provides you way more security than the average corporate job. Conversely, small businesses do have a high failure rate so the security is relative.

Learning. Entrepreneurs sometimes start ventures because they are fascinated by a particular subject and want to use the business to develop their skillsets. Of course you do need enough knowledge about your business to satisfy customers out of the gate.

Fun. Never underestimate fun as a driver of new business startups. Of course not all days in an entrepreneur’s life are blissful, but once the company is established, very few business owners want to go back to the paycheck lifestyle.

There are other factors motivating new venture creation – for example: an inability to find suitable employment, the need for part-time income, or simply for the opportunity to test oneself in the marketplace. Regardless of why you choose to take the entrepreneurial path, make sure you have a good blend of solid reasoning and strong motivation. And remember that the “why” you do something is often more important to success than what you actually do.

Sales Curiosity

Curiosity Killed the Cat (But It Made the Sale)

In my work with sales teams all over the world, I am often asked about what is the most critical trait for a successful salesperson. My answer is always the same: “Genuine curiosity.” Curiosity is like a Swiss Army knife with all the attachments. It gets the job done in nearly every situation and is easy to access once you’ve got it in your tool kit. Curiosity helps you:

  1. Build customer relationships. You will notice a different level of respect from your clients when you show an authentic level of interest in them as individuals and their company. Humans respond extremely well to this almost without exception.
  2. Increase your business acumen. Being curious about your own industry and the industries of your prospects drives you to learn more. As you satisfy your curiosity, you augment your ability to add value to your customer’s business. Clients want to know that you have invested in learning about their ecosystem: industry, customer set, products, services and impact trends.
  3. Be believable and sincere. You ask questions that uncover needs because you are genuinely curious, not because it’s in the training manual. People can tell from your demeanor that you’re being natural and not formulaic.
  4. Solve customer problems. Sales reps who aren’t curious about what makes people tick and why technology works (or doesn’t) don’t solve customer problems; they just sell “stuff.” Curiosity enables you to create unique solutions to their unique issues.
  5. Negotiate successful contracts. Your ability to understand the positions of the other party is directly dependent upon your ability to be truly curious about them. If you’re not curious, you’ll end up arguing about issues that aren’t important.
  6. Correct sales errors. When a customer buys from somebody else (or doesn’t buy from anyone), if you’re not curious about what happened, you won’t bother to find out why — and therefore can’t learn to turn your failures into future successes.
  7. In short, curiosity is at the core of truly successful business efforts. If you don’t have curiosity, you can’t expect to be successful as an entrepreneur, a salesperson or even as an engineer. Period.

Note: this post originally appeared at www.Negotiators.com May 27, 2016