Competitive Leverage

How to Crush the Competition by Leveraging Experts

Many of my initial meetings with clients include questions such as What is the best resource to learn to build a website? or How can I create a Facebook ad that will drive traffic to my website? While I encourage my clients to understand basic concepts, I always tell them to enlist the help of people in their personal network who have specialized skills rather than do the actual work themselves.

Successful entrepreneurs know that leverage is at the heart of business success. When your car has a problem, most people don’t spend 2 years to learn to become an auto mechanic so they can repair their own car. This is highly inefficient. Instead, they just take the car to a repair shop where an ASE certified mechanic fixes it for them.

The same can be said for many tasks in your business. Why would you learn to code a website when you can hire someone for a few bucks that knows how to not only build a website but is also versed in the best practices to do it for you?

What I tell new entrepreneurs is to take the tasks that they routinely perform and break them into their component steps. I then recommend that they outsource any steps that are of such a nature as they can be easily performed by someone else.

There any many websites that focus on connecting the business with specialized freelancers. Four of the most popular sites include:

As anyone who knows me knows, I am a flaming dyslexic and as such my writing is full of misspellings caused by transposition errors that spell checkers all too often do not find. Tools like Grammarly are helpful but I need the assistance of an editor to make sure my writing makes sense to someone other than me. Therefore, I employ an editor to proofread all my posts before I post them publicly.

Moreover, when it comes to some WordPress plugins like WooCommerce or NextScripts auto poster, there are many sophisticated features that require complex setup. However, rather than spending my time researching and reading forums in an attempt to set up the plugins myself, I simply hire an expert in that tool to do it for me.

I have hired virtual assistants, graphic designers, social media experts, programmers, researchers, PC experts, Network IT professionals, and so many more.

I personally use Upwork and occasionally Freelancer since I’m most familiar with their interface but they all share some common attributes.

Here is what I really like about them.

Cost

For one, I often hire offshore resources. Now I can hear a few of you say why not hire a local person. I have been called unpatriotic by some but here is how I see it.

First, the cost savings are quite compelling. I often save a significant amount depending on the skill.

For example, my WordPress programmer is $9.00/hr and lives in India. My incredibly talented IT guy is just $8.00/hr and my virtual assistant is $6.67/hr. They both live in the Philippines. My editor lives in Canada and is $10.96/hr.

Hourly rates for people with similar skill levels in the U.S. would be 5-10 times the price I pay when I go offshore. These cost savings allow me to reduce my expenses and therefore allow me to offer many of my services for free or at much lower prices.

Moreover, these savings allow me the additional income that I can spend at my local restaurant or local store.

Working Hours

Then there is the fact that many of my resources live on the other side of the planet. While some may see this a problem, I see this as an asset.

When I end my day, I send many of them instructions for things I need to be done. While it is the end of my workday, it is at the beginning of theirs. So when I get to work the next morning, they have completed the tasks assigned to them.

When I hire local resources, I normally have to wait an additional day for them the complete the tasks during the next workday.

Moreover, when the resource is offshore, they are fixing things when the bulk of my traffic is sleeping so performance is never compromised.

Better Hire

Then there is my ability to hire better. Rather than hiring a resource based my gut feeling after a single phone call or interview, these freelancing platforms take a page out of the eBay playbook in that after each transaction the buyer and the seller rate each other.

Before I hire someone, I can see what others have said about them. Each freelancer is rated on a 1 to 5 scale on such dimensions as: skills, availability, communications, quality, deadlines, and cooperation. There is also a narrative from most of the previous customers they worked for that describes their overall impressions and experience.

Since nobody wants to be trashed by the other party that will reduce the person’s opportunities for future work, it keeps everyone honest and doing the best job they can.

When I post a job, I often get about 50 or more responses in less than 3 days. I often eliminate all the responses from people that have less than several thousand dollars in projects on the platform so I can ensure they have several quality reviews.

Then I filter the list of applicants to those that have a 4.8 star or better rating. That often limits my list to about 10 or some qualified candidates.

For these finalists, I do much more thorough research by reading each review before I hire them. By the time I hire them, I have a good idea about the kind of work I can expect.

However, when I hire local resources, I have only what the vendor tells me as I can’t easily question their previous employers.

In conclusion, when I outsource tasks that are not core to my business, it often costs me significantly less than local resources. The work also gets done much faster because they are both specialists and because they do it when I sleep. Moreover, my hiring decisions are better because I can review all past performances. So what’s not to like about outsourcing?

How can you crush the competition by leverage expert resources through using a freelancer platform?

Note: this article originally appeared at www.SteveBizBlog.com.

 

 

Push vs Pull Marketing

PULL Marketing vs. PUSH Marketing – The Shifting Battleground

Even though I make my living as a marketer, I get as bothered as any other consumer by the constant intrusiveness of unwanted promotions. The abundance of unsolicited marketing pitches from TV, radio, Internet ads and other media exasperates me daily. Yet, as hard as we try to get away from it (using tools like DVR, Sirius Radio, cable, and voicemail), persistent marketers continue to find new ways to track us down and share their messages, regardless of our needs or receptivity.

Here are a few examples of irritating push marketing techniques:

  1. Anyone showing up uninvited. Whether at the office or home, this is particularly irritating. The exceptions are neighborhood scouts or sports teams.
  2. YouTube requires you to watch short commercials prior to viewing their content.
  3. Newspapers that contain ads that are wrapped around the editorial content, so you have to go through multiple gyrations to get to the news stories.
  4. Online, floating banner ads are becoming more intrusive and harder to ignore. They follow your cursor until you can find the “close” button.
  5. Unsolicited telephone calls are still an annoyance except they are now from so-called “market researchers” and charities, which are exempt from the privacy requirements. Who came up with that loophole?

Here’s the problem. Push marketing is intrusive and often ineffective because, at any given time, a majority of your audience, whether they are listeners, viewers, or readers, have no interest whatsoever in what you are promoting. They may be interested in the future, but if you come on too strong when they are not receptive, you may turn them off forever.

In some cases, you may have a lead requirement that can only be met with push marketing techniques. If so, by all means use the necessary techniques to meet your lead objectives. But often, you have a choice, and a more effective alternative is to practice pull marketing strategies. Pull marketing centers around the idea that you actively draw clients or customers to seek out your product or services. You do this by discovering where your prospects congregate, making your information available to them in educational and entertaining ways and giving them incentives to come to you when they have a need for what you offer. Instead of having a monologue (as evidenced in push marketing) with your clients or customers, you create a dialogue with pull marketing – a dialogue between you and the prospect.

Transitioning from push to pull marketing strategies is a subtle shift in thinking, but it is also quite powerful. Instead of asking: How many people can I sell to today?, the question becomes: How can I help people solve their problems? In the first scenario, you are a seller, almost an adversary. In the second, you are a helper whose expertise (and wise placement of messages) sells itself. Instead of just relying on ads pushing your value proposition, you produce valuable content (through social media and at your website) that solves problems. In other words, you become a trusted resource and thought leader who circulates a carefully crafted message that attracts the people who need you.

Nevertheless, there will always be an ongoing battle between consumers and push marketers. The latter will continue to try new and clever ways to force the former to pay attention and respond to their promotions. But I submit that a much more effective plan is to uncover a way to attract a larger share of the people who are already interested in what you offer and then convince them to do business with you. It is always easier and more pleasant when you can fulfill an existing need instead of trying to create a need.

In the push model, the marketer is seemingly in charge of everything – the timing, content and frequency of promotions. However, in reality, your consumer is the one in charge, because only he or she can decide whether or not to read or listen to your promotion and whether to respond.

When you are deciding how much of time and financial resources to allocate between push and pull marketing strategies, keep in mind that the battleground has shifted and the prospect is the one who holds the high ground. Rather than fight this reality, just accept who has the real control and find the best ways to help people buy in the way they want to buy, instead of the way you want to sell to them.

 

Note: this article originally appeared at www.GreatB2BMarketing.com

 

Marketing Leader

Watch the Leader and Profit by Capitalizing on Their Mistakes

As a culture, we glorify the winners. As business owners, we often think the best path to success is to try and emulate the achievements of business winners. Unfortunately, most of us will fail in our endeavors because it is nearly impossible to replicate the conditions of the front-runner or market leader. Often what we perceive as a quick and decisive victory, was in-fact the results of a long drawn out war.

Being the first to market a truly innovative new product means you have to educate your customer about your value proposition. You often risk being too far out in front of the market and having to wait for it to catch up.

Moreover, of the 5 categories of adopters, Innovators and Early Adopters collectively represent only 16% of the market and value technology and performance. In contrast, the Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards represent the vast majority of adopters and value solutions and convenience.

Therefore, marketing to the first group requires a very different message than the message you want to send to the adopters in the second group. Most front runners often struggle with transforming their marketing focus as they try to change gears to attract the majority of adopters.

Also, being the first to market means you will make lots of costly mistakes that your competitors can learn from and then capitalize on at your expense.

Therefore, it is often far better to see what the market leader is doing and just be a little different in your value proposition. For example, when Chester Carlson invented the photocopier, it never really took off until the Haloid Corporation licensed the technology. Rather than sell copiers, they leased them, which gave rise to Xerox. (See related post: New Product vs. New Economic Model)

In another example, Keurig (See related post: Keurig™s New Business and Economic Model) didn’t invent the coffee maker; it just changed its value proposition to essentially sell the coffee pot at cost and sell the coffee in the form of K-cups. This is a particularly effective strategy when your customer segment is not very price sensitive and is very value driven. This strategy works best when you sell premium products or services which no one else offers.

If your product or service is being compared to alternatives, it is likely that you are not different enough. All too often I hear that we are better than the alternative, but this plays directly into the hands of the consumer as it changes the narrative from value to price.

When I was an Invisible Fencing dealer, some customers (especially the electrical engineer types) would look at the product and ask me why it cost so much since the sum of the parts and the underlining technology were pretty simple. To that objection, I would often reply, It is not the sum of the parts or the revolutionary engineering that defines our product. I would then explain that the technology was based on a simple AM radio technology and would encourage them to build their own DIY version if they had the time and energy to do so. However, I reminded them that we owned the patent and they could not manufacture a competing product.

Our product was also often compared to chain link and cyclone fences. Whenever potential customers brought up these options during my sales calls, I refocused their attention on our value proposition. When the prospect tried to compare our product to one of the alternative products by saying something like with your product it will not keep other dogs out or a product does not provide privacy from our neighbors I’d redirect the discussion to our value and positioning and reply, Aren’t you looking for a product that will contain your dog that has no gates and requires no maintenance? As you can see, I’d drive them away from the comparison and toward the unique values we provided.

In the end, differentiating your product has its own challenges, but your goal is to help the customer to mentally experience your product or service to a point where price becomes a secondary issue.

Do try to be the first mover or simply provide a slightly different value proposition?

This article originally appeared at www.SteveBizBlog.com.

Brand Awareness

How to Achieve Powerful Brand Awareness for Free or Low Cost

Brand Awareness has two goals. The first is moving the knowledge of your product or service from the unknown or unconscious mind to the conscious mind. The second is making a positive association with the brand.

According to John Jantsch in his book “Duct Tape Marketing” a customer needs to Know, Like, and Trust you to make a purchase. Brand awareness helps with the “Know” part and may contribute to the “Like” part of your marketing effort.

A prospect’s awareness of your brand aids in the sales conversation, but does not necessarily produce a sale. Brand awareness helps to associate the company’s name with the brand’s message. The rule of seven applies to brand awareness. Therefore, brand awareness requires a constant effort and can not be done just a few times and abandoned because it has not produced sales.

Direct marketing, often confused with brand awareness, by contrast has one goal: to convert the prospect into a customer through direct means. Direct marketing accomplishes the “Like” and “Trust” part of the marketing effort. Direct marketing need not always be done face-to-face or on the phone, but can include direct email, interactive websites, etc.

If the prospect is aware of your product and thinks positively about it, it is infinitely more likely that that s/he will buy from the company when they are a viable buyer. When it comes to sales, direct marketing alone without any brand awareness is far more difficult.

Free Marketing Ideas to Create Brand Awareness

Brand awareness often is not directly responsible for making sales, but aids in the conversion rates of more direct marketing and sales efforts. The brand’s message has to be constantly repeated to cross the divide from residing in the unconscious mind to the conscious mind before it becomes effective. Therefore, brand awareness is a constant effort. It cannot be done just a few times and abandoned because it has produced no sales.

That being said, here are 5 ways to create brand awareness for free.

  1. Write a Press Release about a new product or newsworthy event and distribute it using the many free Press Release Services.
  2. Create a human interest message and contact your local news stations to see if they are interested in running a human interest piece on your business. Local news programs are always looking for stories to run on slow news days. When I started my Invisible Fencing business I got all three major networks at the time (ABC, NBC, and CBS) to come out and do a story on us.
  3. Market your human interest message to your local newspaper. I contacted the writer of the business section of our citywide and neighborhood newspapers, which like the news stations were looking for story ideas and were eager to help us get our message out.
  4. Find a complementary business and exchange advertising posters to cross-promote each other’s stores. For example, a sporting goods store and a golf course or a fabric store and sewing machine repair service could make good pairs.
  5. Take out an ad on Craigslist to promote your service business or to sell your products.

Marketing Ideas to Create Brand Awareness For Under $10

BUSINESS CARDS – If you have a business to consumer (B2C) business, you can use tools like Business Decisions (often available at public libraries) to identify the ideal market demographic and psychographics, known as a Landscape Segment in Business Decisions, for your product or service. Within the text of each Landscape Segment is a description of the demographic’s preferences, which includes where they shop and spend their leisure time.  A free copy of the Business Decisions Landscape Segmentation Resource Manual can be downloaded from the resource tab of www.SteveBizBlog.com.

Once you have identified where your customers frequently shop using the Business Decisions Landscape Segmentation Data, you can go to the parking lot where your prospect frequents and hand out your business cards.

Recently I was waiting for my wife while sitting in my car, when a fella came up to the window and said that he noticed my cracked windshield. He handed me a card for his windshield repair business. Years ago I placed business cards under cars’ wipers or under the rubber window seal by the door lock, with some marketing success. While it is technically not illegal to leave business cards on cars some people can get pretty annoyed, especially if you touch their new vehicle. 500 business cards can be purchased for under $10 through companies like Vista Print.

CORRUGATED PLASTIC YARD SIGN – We have all seen political yard signs all over neighborhoods as an election nears, or we have seen “open house” signs on houses for sale.

Placing a reusable sign with your company and contact information in the front yard of a customer’s home, either while you are working or for a few days after the job is complete, is a good way to promote your business to the neighborhood. This is particularly effective if the neighbors can see your work, such as with roofers and house painters.

You can also often place these low cost signs in vacant lots or near intersections for even greater exposure. At a cost often in the range of $10 per sign, this is a cheap way to create brand awareness.

PICKET SIGN – You have seen people protesting on the corner for higher wages or against unfair labor practices, but picket signs can also be used to create brand awareness.

You can simply attach poster-board to a stick to make a picket sign with your company’s information. Have idle employees walk up and down the street in front of your establishment to draw attention to your business.

Marketing Ideas to Create Brand Awareness For Under $75

BANNERS – The other day I went to the bank and passed a car parked in a dirt lot next to the roadway selling bonsai trees. He displayed a banner that ran the full length of his car, attached by bungee cords, to alert people to the fact that he had something to sell.

A reusable banner can be hung on fences, walls and even your vehicle parked on the roadside. These banners often cost less then $75 to design and make.

SPINNER/ARROW SIGN – You have seen these at intersections. Workers can be seen moving to their own beat, listening to music as they dance and twirl a sign promoting an income tax service or grand opening.

You can use an idle employee to stand on the roadside listening to his favorite music and spinning a sign to draw attention to your message. Signs can be had for about $75.

MAGNETIC VEHICLE DOOR SIGN – Magnetic vehicle door signs are very popular. A typical sign can be purchased for under $30 each, so your vehicle can become a rolling billboard for under $60.

The beauty of this solution is that the signs can be installed on your personal vehicle when used for business, then removed when you don’t want them.

A note of caution; you may want to check with your insurance agent whenever you place signs on your vehicle. Some auto insurance policies do not allow you to operate a vehicle for business without a separate business vehicle insurance policy. Each insurance company is different, so you should check your policy before using your personal vehicle for business.

VEHICLE DECALS – Add a logo or more permanent lettering to your business vehicle than is possible with simple magnetic signs. The price for modifying two doors can be under $75.

Marketing Ideas to Create Brand Awareness For Under $150

MAGNETIC CAR TOP SIGN – Pizza delivery vehicles often employ a magnetically mounted roof or window mounted sign. In most cases these signs include an internal light that plugs into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter, which draws even more attention to the sign after dark.

The signs are visible across a sea of cars and in large parking lots. Most cost about $150 and can be reused indefinably.

COSTUME – Dress idle employees in a costume and have them wave at passing traffic. Costumes (such as the popular chicken, lady liberty, or hotdog) can often be purchased for under $100 and be used over and over.

I am reminded of a variant on the costume idea when I travel to places like Sturgis, SD, during rally week. There you can often see businesses who hire shapely young women to wave at the traffic sporting nothing but bikinis to draw attention to their business.

SANDWICH BOARD – You see them on sidewalks, inside office buildings, and even at busy intersections. A sandwich board is a free standing A-frame sign where you can place your message on either side. These signs have the flexibility to set them up and/or move them to a new location in seconds. A deluxe A-Frame sandwich board can often be purchased for under $90.

WEARABLE SANDWICH BOARD – A variant to the traditional stationary sandwich board is a wearable version.

Have an idle employee walk along the street in front of your establishment or at an event to draw attention to your business.

Professionally created wearable sandwich boards, complete with straps, can be purchased for under $75 for a blank board. For another $75 the board can be printed with your logo and message. Of course, you can create your own wearable sandwich board by using two poster boards and some ribbon for next to nothing.

 CAR MOUNTED MEGAPHONE/PA SYSTEM – The classic image of a car driving slowly down main street with a political campaigner urging people to get out and vote for their candidate has been used for years.

Or the iconic ice cream truck, slowly driving down an urban neighborhood street playing music, which acts as the pied piper for kids. That same concept can bring brand awareness to your business in the same way.

Either project a live voice, a recorded message loop, or music while you drive your signage-affixed vehicle down a busy street, drawing attention to your business or special invitation.

A decent car-mounted megaphone can be had for under $150. Handheld units can be purchased for under $75.

Miscellaneous Low Cost Marketing Ideas to Create Brand Awareness

WALL PAINTING – Contact the owner of an old barn or blank-walled building to see if you can hang or paint your message. Or use a variant of wall painting, and utilize a projector to display your lighted message on a blank wall for even greater impact at night.

AIR DANCER – You have seen the inflatable tube man dancing in front of a business. You can often purchase an arm-waving inflatable tube man, also known as an air dancer, for under $200 to get folks to look your way as they pass your establishment.

PARADE FLOAT – Many parade organizers look for businesses to create floats. By re-purposing an old trailer and adding a few leftover items, most businesses can create an appealing float on the cheap.

THEATER AD – Contact your local movie theater, where you can often advertise for under $10 per day.

SEARCH LIGHT – Often used to draw attention to a new location, you can rent a search light that is visible for many miles and creates a curiosity factor, causing people to go out of their way to discover the light’s source. Prices start at $350.

Uncommon Advertising Locations for Brand Awareness

URINAL AD – Public restrooms for men have urinals affixed to the wall. When in use the man is forced to look straight ahead at a blank wall. With a captive audience for a minute or so, some establishments display advertisements positioned at eye level.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION – Many bus, light rail, and taxi companies derive additional revenue through advertising inside as well as outside the vehicle.

BENCH AD – Bus stops often have a simple bench or an enclosure to keep people out of the weather. These generally contain space for advertisements.

The Sequence Signs for Brand Awarness

Growing up in Boston, on the way to the airport you would pass a series of very simple signs on the side of the road. They encouraged you to relocate to Boston and read: “If You”, “Lived Here”, “You Would”, “Be Home Now”.

Burma-Shave became an outdoor advertising icon by delivering a catchy message with a punchline in the dawn of the car culture.

Sequencing signs are most effective on secondary roads, where traffic moves slower than on the interstates. A simple series of about six roadside signs like the corrugated plastic yards sign discussed above, placed only about 25-50 yards apart can create a unique marketing message.

Since traffic counts on these roads are often lower, they are not the domain of the big outdoor advertising agencies.

Permission to erect a series of corrugated plastic yard signs can often come from a single land owner and be far cheaper then standard outdoor advertising.

Bumper Stickers Promotion for Brand Awareness

Ever notice that on the trunk of most vehicles is a decal or emblem identifying the dealership where the vehicle was originally purchased? For the life of the vehicle the dealership’s brand is viewed by thousands and thousands of drivers as they wait at stop lights and stop signs or walk through parking lots.

Some time back I remember a radio station that gave away bumper stickers. Each day they sent out someone from the station to a undisclosed location, whose job it was to look for one of the bumper stickers. If they located your vehicle with the sticker you won a prize. Drivers were eager to secure one of the stickers so they might be the next winner.

I consider this one of the most brilliant marketing ideas I have ever seen, since it created a desire in a person to actually promote the radio station. Imagine you owned a tire store or oil change center and you offered vehicles with your bumper sticker promoting your brand a discount off their next purchase. You could create an army of potential marketers driving around town promoting your business every day.


This post was derived from a few excerpts from the book “Practical Marketing Concepts For Your Small Business”. Buy the compete book at Amazon.com.

Practical Marketing Concepts For Your Small Business is a wisdom packed book that was written for the budget conscious entrepreneur looking to better market their products or services.

The books is divided into 9 chapters that look at:

  1. How to identify and target viable customers
  2. Tactics to get noticed in an ocean of interruption marketing
  3. The attitude and behaviors of various target demographics
  4. The buyer psychology including behavior economics and emotional appeals
  5. Dozens of free and low cost ways to achieve greater brand awareness
  6. Tactics to make your message more memorable and sticky
  7. Common pricing mistakes that can kill a sale
  8. Ways to leverage economic gyrations and current events to improve sales
  9. General marketing and sales advice to help make better marketing decisions

As a serial entrepreneur and mentor to thousands of small businesses the author has distilled a lifetime of business marketing content that every entrepreneurs should consider applying to their business.

Practical Marketing Concepts For Your Small Business is a concise and easy to read guide packed with solid advice delivered in small bites that the reader can use to make incremental improvements to their marketing efforts. Be sure to get your copy today!

This article first appeared on LinkedIn, June 21, 2017.

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