When I was in college, I took ONE, count it ONE, philosophy class at the University of San Francisco because it was a graduation requirement. Catholic Jesuit education prides itself on producing well-rounded students. I certainly enjoyed the breadth of my education… just not philosophy.
It’s really, really hard to grasp something I found so nebulous and confounding. Go look up metaphysical, ontological, epistemology and coherentism. You’ll be ready to pull your hair out like I was. Somehow religious faith is easier for me to grasp than philosophy though I admire its philosophy hitmakers like Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes, and Aquinas.
Which brings me to branding. I find it in the same category. I often get asked by local Bay Area business owners if I do branding. My pat answer is no. I can help you create a logo, a website, find the right thing to say and help capture and promote the uniqueness of your business. But, I don’t do branding.
Why? Because branding isn’t a formula or a puzzle. Branding isn’t a THING, it’s a way of being. Basically, it’s your business’ personality and essence. It often results in feelings from your customers, the best one being loyalty. See! I’m starting to wander off into philosophy.
One key element of branding is customer service. That’s out of my hands. That’s up to you, Mr. and Miss Business Owner. Then, there’s your values, your philosophy, your mission, your approach. So, the relationship of local business owner and marketer is to get your brand identity created and then, promoted to get you customers. Marketers can only help your local small business marketing so much. The rest is up to you.
Staeven Frey of QCMG Agency in Nashville, TN does such a good job describing Branding 101, I’m sharing it here and bowing down to his great description.
The entire article, Brand Messaging 101: How Do I Do That? is available at this link. From Staeven Frey:
First, before I can share with you what brand messaging, I want to share what its not.
Brand Messaging is not a formula
Brand messaging is not some formula you can put together to execute seamless communication tactics…blah blah blah…those fancy words don’t mean anything. And while this is a “1-2-3″ kind of post, we’re talking about principles and big ideas–what I would call variables, but not prescription items that go into a formula. A better term altogether is “equation,” since everyone’s equation is different–and one size does not fit all.
Brand messaging is the voice you use
Its the combination of tone, message, verbals, non-verbals. Its the complete verbal + visual equation of how you express yourself. Most people use their voice in person, but when you’re an organization, you use other things too. Brand messaging is the full range of “stuff” that you use. Its business cards to print to your building–everything that shares yourself with the world.
I write this to dissuade you from believing that if you just get the right logo or the perfect business card, your branding woes will be over. Do do those things and, then, just be really great at your job. Help get the word around and create the brand that you are proud to own.
Genius Local Marketing
This is Danielle Lei. Ms. Lei may be a future genius marketer. Danielle, with her parents’ blessing, and her dad in tow, set up her table outside The Green Cross Medical Marijuana dispensary in San Francisco and sold 177 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies in TWO hours on Presidents’ Day. Her mother contact the dispensary prior to setting up and many of the Green Cross’ employees made purchases.
From my perspective, Danielle nailed the 4P’s of an excellent marketing mix.
Product – Ms. Lei recognized that she had an excellent product with a stellar reputation, prized by many.
Price – While the prices rose in the Bay Area this year from $3.50 to $5.00, most consumers are willing to pay a premium for Girl Scout cookies, knowing that the proceeds help so many and they make delicious flavors.
Placement – Putting your product directly in front of your potential customers makes it extremely easy to buy your product.
Promotion – Certainly, the strategic location combined with attractive packaging and an engaging young lady made it very easy for her to sell her cookies.
A basic understanding of your customers, their behaviors, likes and dislikes led to many successful sales. Congratulations, Danielle!
A Loving Review of Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith
A Field Guide to Modern Marketing
An empty box. That’s what most of us sell. A service is like an empty box. Financial planning, insurance, marketing consulting, legal advice, medical services are examples of pure service where there’s nothing to touch, taste or smell. The buyer is relying on you delivering a service that’s mostly out of your imagination. So an empty box contains air and that’s what many of us sell.
With that in mind, I can’t possibly tell you how invaluable the book Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith is to me and how it’s an essential for your local small business marketing education.
Can I ashamedly say that I saw this book for years, ignored it and, then, purchased it two years ago? Going through my bookshelf the other day, I decided to revisit it and share some of the brilliance of Mr. Beckwith with you.
Published in 1997, this is an incredibly quick read with short, short chapters and approachable examples outline the unique challenges of selling a service (the invisible) as opposed to a product that you can touch or see. Many of the companies and examples he cites are no longer the way they were 15 years ago. I find it funny when I comparing what he says then to how it is now. Yet, it doesn’t diminish it’s impactful ideas uniquely associated with selling services.
3 Invaluable Insights From Selling The Invisible
1) Service Marketing Is About Great Service and Not Much Else
Great service is defined differently from profession to profession. Investors want profits returned on their investments. Massage therapy clients want to feel better than when they arrived. Insurance clients want to feel proud that they paid for something they may never use or never benefit from. And, great service carries you a long way, if you can’t get it right the first time. Nordstrom’s legendary service is vastly different than 20 years ago. But, it’s an impression that sticks and sticks, making them every profitable, even in hard times.
From the Getting Started chapter section entitled The Greatest Misconception About Service Marketing
In a free-association test, most people – including most people in business- will equate the word “marketing” with selling and advertising: pushing the goods.
In this popular view, marketing means taking what you have and shoving it down buyers’ throats. ” We need better marketing” invariably means “we need to get our name out”-with ads, publicity, and maybe some direct mail.
Unfortunately, this focus on getting the word outside distracts companies from the inside , and from the first rule of service marketing: The core of service marketing is the service itself.
2) Eliminate Your Clients Fear of Hiring You
Since you’re selling air, your client is worried you’ll have his money and he’ll have nothing but air. You have to change the perception. You have develop trust. Most of all, you don’t have to the very best choice, just the one that comforts your client.
From the Anchors, Warts and American Express chapter section entitled How Prospects Decide: Choosing “Good Enough”
Looking for Good Enough happens repeatedly in business, too. So whenever you make your pitch, ask yourself, “What risks might a prospect see in hiring us?” Then, without reminding the prospects of those risks-which will only remind your prospects of their fears-eliminate the prospect’s fears, one by one.
In my case, I needed to eliminate two fears. Because I was an expert, they feared I would be prohibitively expensive and compromising. And because I had worked for larger clients on larger projects, they feared I would not consider their project important.
But I never addressed those fears (in my proposal). I got so carried away telling them I was a superior choice that I forgot to assure them I would be a good choice.
Forget looking like the superior choice. Make yourself an excellent choice. Then eliminate anything that might make you a bad choice.
3) Make The Invisible Visible
When a prospect can’t see your product, you have to make it come alive. Use vivid stories and compelling pictures on your website and your marketing materials to woo your customers.
Mr. Beckwith relates how Richard Melman, co-founder of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants that includes Maggiano’s Little Italy chain, Scoozi’s, Ed Debevics and about 70 other restaurants, understands he’s in the entertainment not the food business. Most of understand how critics evaluate food. But, we are more likely to eat in restaurants that are an experience and NOT the height of culinary achievement.
When we go out, it’s more than just the food that we experience. Starting with word of mouth or a review, we want to go to a restaurant. Then, it’s the outside parking lot and building exterior that start to lure us. Once inside, the atmosphere, the hostess, the server and the menu combine to give us an experience.
For me, I like BJ’s Brewery because it’s energetic, the food’s satisfactory, everyone can get what they want, they have great home-brewed root beer and it’s easy with kids. My mom kinda hates it. But, when we want a casual family dinner, I think it’s perfect.
Most of the impression we have of our experience is visual. Restaurants are a tad more visual than insurance or investments. But, what makes you want to come again is how you felt. And, that’s NOT visible. Your visible clues are your website, your appearance, your marketing materials, your actions, your words. They all add up to the “experience” clients have with you.
From the Communicating and Selling chapter section entitled Our Eyes Have It: The Lessons of Chicago’s Restaurants
Like good restaurateurs, service marketers must create the visual surroundings – from the parking lot to the last page of the proposal-that will enhance the client’s perception of quality. Offer quality without creating that perception quality and you have failed the client, and yourself.
Everything visual associated with your service sends a powerful clue about your service. The influence of these visual clues is not superficial; they go the very heart of your “product” and your relationship with the client.
Watch- and perfect -the visual clues you send.
I can’t possibly relate every delicious tidbit from this book. Go buy it. See for yourself.
I’m on the cover of Forbes? Oh, someday, I hope. Nope, if you need a cool, fun headshot check out Pho.to and then, the Funny section. There are so many sections to easily retouch, enhance or create fun composed headshots for your local small business marketing.
So many great choices for changing up your headshot. Have fun!
Message Is Not The Media
A Great Local Marketing Messaging Cuts Across All Media Channels
It’s tempting with all the new marketing channels created by the Internet to get caught up in the hype of the latest and greatest toy. Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Reddit, Instagram, SnapChat seem like huge engines to get your local business notices. No doubt, your social media toy is shiny and cool. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is talking about Facebook and Twitter. You cannot turn anywhere and miss the conversation about them. But, those are the media channel from which you communicate. The media is the means to get your message out, the way to interact. Your MESSAGE is why they engage with you.
Without your strong relevant message and/or noteworthy activities like client successes or new products, it will not matter what media you choose for your marketing. Think of it like the news. While the news can be crazily sensational, it constantly piques your interest. You can pique prospects’ interest if you have a great, interesting, compelling message.
In ancient times, storytellers told tales and lessons from ancestors. The town crier delivered news of the day and messages from the leaders. In some cultures, there were drums delivering information. Stone tablets were another favorite from the Bible. Then, we evolved to pen and paper. That guy, Guttenberg, changed the whole world with a printing press, creating mass media nearly overnight.
Throughout the evolution of communication from the stone tablets, printing press to Internet-driven citizen journalists and content publishers, it’s the story, the substance, the essence that have mattered most to the recipient of the message. The method (AKA as the media) of message delivery is not doubt a big deal. While television networks, radio stations and networks, newspapers (until recently), printers and Internet companies are HUGE businesses, they only deliver news and messages created by others.
The Truth of Messaging
Your local business marketing message has to pique a prospect’s interest. They are not robots. They want to be excited. They are curious. They want to feel safe. Message matters because however a prospect encounters you, they want to know what you do, what you think and how your business can help them.
It is ESSENTIAL for a service-based companies to have a strong message. You have no product that your prospect can hold and they really, really have to trust you to buy from you
Think about your own experience. What’s the last thing you bought? How did it catch your eye? Why that product? Why not something else? Why are you spending your money there? Use that experience to think about what message “they” sold you on and use it to influence your message
Worried about scaring them with a “negative” message? Study after study shows that humans respond to problems better than goals. You won’t be negative or scary if you come from a genuine place of help.
3 Ways To Develop A Strong Message
Answer one of these questions. Write out your story. Cut it down to a few lines or just one. Tell that story to everyone.
- What problems do you solve for your clients?
- List them out
- See if you can consolidate them into several major themes
- Keep in mind that clients will pay for results. So what results can you deliver?
- What successes have your clients had from working with you?
- Along the lines of results, what numbers or statistics did you clients achieve.
- Think of what happened when they came to you, what you did and what happened from working with you.
- You can deliver that story in about 3-5 lines.
- What is the most passionate, core idea of your business? What motivates you?
- You probably give free advice. That’s your passion.
- Your passion drives the free advice – a belief that everyone deserves….(fill in the blank)
- What would you stand on a soap box and tell anyone who’ll listen about your profession.
With a strong message, you’ll find others responding to you and trying to help you because they understand you. After all, isn’t that what we all want? A little understanding.
This is my sister’s dog who I walk twice a week. All boy and purebred Beagle. Here’s his horoscope for today. Yesterday, he played on the “Big Dog” side of the dog park. He gets rolled…a lot by the big boys but he doesn’t mind. Those you ignore him get barked at, incessantly. He refuses to not be the object of desire. He really doesn’t bark at home but in public, a bit obnoxious. Goodness. He’s fun. Did I tell you how he cries and howls in the car on the way to the park? Makes me laugh every time.
Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
You have no sheep to organize, only your friends. They might not take to being herded around, but they’re your only real option. The humans are out, it goes without saying. Make sure they know it’s not about power or prestige, but simply about following your instincts every now and again.
Want to find out your dog’s horoscope? Check out Yahoo!Shine.
Given the explosion of blogs and bloggers, you probably think you’re going to get lost in a churning sea of information. That’s entirely possible. But, there are some things you can to do pull your blog into the boat and save yourself from drowning or getting lost at sea.
Why should you blog? For local businesses it’s a surprisingly good way of adding “juice” to your website. Google’s algorithm (the formula for delivering results) is constantly on the hunt for three things: 1) relevance, 2) freshness, and 3) connection. When you blog, you do all of those, making it far more likely that your business will turn up in the highly coveted organic results. Remember, Google wants be the go-to search engine so they give you results that really match your query. Then, the look for websites that are tended to. A blog shows that you tend your website without you constantly having to update your other pages. As far as connections go, the algorithm looks for social media connections and links. Comments go along ways to. See if you can solicit comments from some of your fans and remember to post your blog to your Facebook Fan Page.
In this infographic, that’s intended for new local business blogs, there’s great advice for both new and experienced bloggers to get discovered by Google. Of course, Google isn’t the only search engine but it’s used by 70% – 80% of all users. So it’s the 800-lb gorilla in the room. It cannot be ignored. Appealing to Google is the best way to juice up your blog.
Infographic by Digital Philippines
I’m as much a diehard practitioner of perfection as anyone. I’ve got undone projects galore. I’m always on the lookout for salvation, the perfect to-do list, a faster way to do organize papers, the most perfect, perfect marketing method, etc. It’s EXHAUSTING.
Then, I read this from Mike Brooks’ article on Yahoo!Small Business’ website and I was freed.
Money loves speed
I love this statement. Coined by a long time friend of mine, I use it often.
What this means is that procrastination due to a desire for perfection is the enemy of action. And action is what breeds results.
Most people are so hung up on wanting to make whatever they are doing – a website, a blog post, a marketing piece – perfect that they never launch anything. Or it takes 10 times as long.
Mr. Brooks is right on. Frequently, I tell my clients to just start marketing. I will meet you where you are. It’s time to do that for myself. And, it’s time to take your local business’ marketing and just start executing.
If you have some things in place: products and/or services, know who your target or ideal clients are, a vivid vision of your business and what you want to do. You will also need to know what the results of your marketing might look like.
Then, get going. Choose 3-5 marketing methods and attack them.
- Offline Advertising
- Online Marketing
- Social Media
- Relationship marketing
- Structured networking groups
- Community marketing
- Public Relations
- Passive marketing
- Direct mail
Treat your marketing like a lab. Experiment. Review. Retool. Implement changes. Start getting sales.
Well, the idea of an elevator pitch does seem cheesy these days. I guess you would say they’re networking introductions and conversation starters. An elevator pitch may seem even out dated. But, it doesn’t remove the overwhelming need for you to have something to say about your business when asked.
Introductions and conversations starters require a couple of sassy statements about your business that you can use when you introduce your business orally at a networking event or on the phone or for in writing everywhere else, can help turn heads, pique interest and get a conversation rolling.
After all, the most important thing you have to do with your marketing is arouse curiosity. It’s unlikely a sale is going to come from it straight away when you are selling a service product. Service products require more time for trust building and customer education. So, just be interesting enough to start building trust.
Bad Intros Made Good
Here are statements about products that have been made to me by people introducing their business.
If you know anyone buying or selling a home, I can help them.
I work with people on their health.
I show people how to get X% return on their investments.
My client’s have investment portfolios that I help manage.
I practice law. I’m a real estate attorney. I am an estate planning attorney.
Before you wonder if it’s you I’m calling out, the answer is yes. But, I’m being a little generic to protect the innocent.
Let me pick these apart as a group. Most of these are statements about what they do as a technician and not the benefit to their clients. These professions are also practiced by millions of people nationwide. These folks often wonder why “no one” wants their business card or approaches them at a meeting.
What I propose is that instead of being generic, clever or trying to hide your true profession, introduce yourself in a way that provokes a statement akin to “tell me more.”
Here’s my idea for these intros:
I work with first time home buyers who have less than 10% down. I hold their hand through the pre-qualification process and work as hard as I can to get them in their home in 90 days or less.
Wellness/Weight Loss/Nutrition Network Marketers -
My clients have reached an age or a point in their lives where their worried about the next 20, 30, 40 years. In a 60-minute sessions with them, we quickly identify their most pressing health concerns and I help match them with the right resources whether it’s my products or not.
Investment Professionals -
Most of my clients want to have freedom to make choices about ditching their roommates, traveling or getting out of a crappy job. I show 20 and 30 year-olds how to make money for themselves for as little as $25 a week.
OR – Most of the folks I work with have neglected their 401K from their last job and they don’t even know that they don’t have to roll it into stocks and bonds to make it pay a return. A lot of my clients are nervous about the volatility of the stock market. I show them alternatives.
Law Professionals -
In a perfect world, everyone would call a lawyer before there’s a disagreement. The reality is that by the time most folks need me, it’s an unhappy time for them. So, I work with them on the legal problem their having and determine the least traumatic course to resolve it.
How To Construct A Good Intro For Yourself
- What problems do you solve? Be specific in mentioning your profession.
- When someone comes to you with a problem, what’s their state of mind?
- What’s unique about your approach or your product or how you deliver your service or your viewpoint of your profession?
- What can you help them do smarter, faster, easier, newer, seamlessly, ahead of the competition?
Three Formats for Introductions:
Before and After Story: Before the worked with me, they were_______________. Together we did__________________. As a result (this happened)___________________.
Typical Problem: Typically, I work with target market (young professionals, married homeowners, small business owners) who are (having this problem) and
Reconsider how you are presenting yourself. Be confident. Invoke curiosity. And, lastly, think of others. It takes the pressure off of you. When you are focused on other people’s problems, you can’t help but succeed.
I’ve been trying to plot out my blogging plan for ages. I have articles and ebooks on 100 Ways to Create Blog Content, Guest Posting for Success, etc. Blah, blah, blah. Once again, I’m always drinking from the firehose and stumbling around looking for direction. It’s pretty maddening sometimes.
Then, today, the heavens opened and I found the BEAUTIFUL infographic below. Aaah, the angels sang and the sky wept. Maybe it was me, shedding a tear of joy! It’s a really, really cool plan/formula to create a blogging calendar. And, it leaves no mystery to how to do it. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with this amazing system from LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions Blog.
Marketing planning, no matter the size of your business, just gets tedious sometimes. Creating plans with seemingly far away goals can overwhelm you. Instead, if you are a local business owner, challenged with getting clients from the internet, see if this works for you. Based on the idea of a well-balanced diet, LinkedIn neatly breaks down the steps to creating a small business blogging plan.
No longer be overwhelmed with tips and tricks on blogging. Go tackle it. I know I’m gonna give it a whirl!