The Courage of Success

The Courage of Success

Setting goals to drive revenues and profits is part of doing business. We all strive to be successful in business and in life. When we are young, we look for careers that will make us successful to get the things we want such as a beautiful house, cars, and money. Most people define success as the ultimate goal.

However, there are other ways to look at success.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

Churchill defined success and failure as a journey instead of the end goal. How do you define success? If you look at success and failure as part of a journey instead of an end goal, life looks very different. Instead of always striving to seek the end, you are marking points along the pathway as measures of success and failure. None of these points is the ultimate goal, but rather, destinations that you can reach and surpass.

When you define success in this manner, it takes much of the stress away as you pursue your goals. While still working to create success, whether that is a monetary target or achieving other goals such as graduating from school, gaining particular skills, or training an employee successfully, you know that each point is not an end. In fact, each time you achieve success, it is a beginning of the next segment of your journey.

On the flip side, defining success as part of the path means that failure is also part of the path, and not a crushing blow. While no one likes to fail, you can take your failure as a learning opportunity to improve the next time you journey in the same direction. Breaking down the road to success into smaller, doable achievements can help you gain strength to pursue your goals and succeed multiple times.

Churchill said, “It is the courage to continue that counts.” Sometimes, we wake up in the morning and want to be anywhere except at work. However, a successful business person is the one who continues to work day after day whether they want to or not. It takes courage to persevere during the good times and bad, especially when you are not sure if you will be successful that day. When the economy is tough, and business is hard to find, it takes courage to keep looking for new customers.

It also takes courage to change with the times. No matter how long you have been in business, change is inevitable. These days it seems to come faster than ever. However, success means the courage to make the changes that will help you continue to grow in business. In fact, your successful business influences the world around you. As your business continues to flourish, you add to the economy and help bolster the lives of everyone that you touch.

Your courage to continue along a successful pathway creates a ripple effect. By setting an example for your employees, your customers, your vendors, and your family and friends, you show everyone the true meaning of success. You have the courage to continue moving forward.

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Pull Back the Curtain: Providing a Backstage Glimpse of Your Company

Pull Back the Curtain: Providing a Backstage Glimpse of Your Company

One of the primary objectives of any marketing campaign you run has nothing to do with selling your product or service. While these will always be important, equally necessary is your ability to sell yourself as a company. People want to know more about the people who work in your business and the values and ideals that you have. They want to be able to look at you as an authority. Pulling back the curtain and providing a “backstage” glimpse into your product or service is one of the single, best ways to accomplish both of these things at the same time.

The Benefits of the Backstage Approach

One of the major benefits of this type of “backstage” approach is that it helps position you as a true authority on a particular topic. It’s one thing for you to SAY that a product performs X, Y, and Z functions – it’s another thing entirely to prove it by providing an unprecedented look into the design and development process. You can shed insight on your decision-making process, for example, helping them to not only SEE what your product does but WHY.

Taking a “backstage” approach to marketing also helps to strengthen the intimate, organic connection you’re able to create with your target audience – thus helping to build brand loyalty. Think about it from the perspective of the entertainment industry, as celebrities, in particular, are masters at this. DVDs are filled with hours of special features outlining how a scene was shot, how a script was written, how a special effect was pulled off and more. This instantly makes something that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make seem smaller and more intimate, while letting audiences take their experience to a whole new level at the same time. Providing a similar look into your own operation will have the same effect for you, too.

Pulling Back the Curtain

Unless you’re launching a product that is shrouded in complete secrecy, you can start pulling back the curtain pretty much right away. Even if it’s something as simple as updating a weekly blog post with sketches, schematics, and other materials from the research and development phase, this will go a long way towards increasing transparency across the board. Have employees talk about the specific work they’re doing on a daily basis and how even though they’re all working separately, they’re all contributing to a larger whole.

This startlingly simple approach helps to close the gap in between business and customer, making a customer actually feel like they’re a natural part of the process. When you combine this with all of your other marketing techniques, you’re looking at a striking amount of loyalty built just from publicizing activities that were already going on behind closed doors anyway.

These are just a few of the many reasons why providing a “backstage” glimpse can help bring your product or service to life. Not only does it help provide a valuable context to the particular product or service that you’re trying to sell, but it also helps build a strong, positive impression of your company. People will stop seeing you as a faceless entity and will start looking at you more like the living, breathing, hardworking people that you really are. This will only deepen the connection that you have with your target audience and make interaction more meaningful in the future.

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Buyer Personas: What They Are, Why You Need Them, and What Should You Do About It

Buyer Personas: What They Are, Why You Need Them, and What Should You Do About It

In marketing, one of the most important terms that you need to keep in mind at all times is “focus.” In order to run a successfully executed campaign, you need to remove as much of the superfluous noise from your materials as possible and boil it down to the core essentials. You can’t appeal to all people all of the time, which is why focusing on creating the right message and using the right delivery channels is so important. Buyer personas are a concept that allow you to do just that in a host of different ways, all of which are beneficial to you and your team moving forward.

What is a Buyer Persona?

In marketing terminology, a buyer persona is essentially a person that doesn’t exist. They’re a fictional representation of the type of person who is most likely to buy your product or service after hearing your marketing message. Buyer personas are created using as much actionable information about your ideal customer as possible: How old are they? Where do they live? Do they have any children? How much money do they make? What types of products have they purchased in the past? What do they like? What do they hate?

If you knew all of the answers to those questions when talking about a real person, you’d already have a pretty vivid picture about how that person acts and what their personality is. You’d certainly have an easier time talking to that person and relating to him or her – which is what buyer personas are all about in the first place.

Why Are Buyer Personas Important?

By creating a fictional representation of the person who makes up your ideal customer, you always have something to refer to when crafting your marketing materials. Say your business’ buyer persona is Jane – she’s a 35-year-old mother of two with a combined household income of $150,000. Instead of “throwing everything and anything at the wall and seeing what sticks” in terms of your marketing campaigns, you have something to compare your techniques to. How does your product or service fit into Jane’s life? How does it solve a problem that she has? How does it align with past purchases she’s made? The answers to these questions will drive your marketing decisions moving forward.

Crafting Buyer Personas

Creating a buyer persona requires you to be two things at all times: detailed and accurate. After you’ve been in business for an extended period of time, you have access to huge volumes of data regarding things like market research and even your past customers that you can draw from. To a certain degree, all of this data should dictate the buyer personas you create, which in turn should dictate the direction of your marketing. Are a significantly large number of your past satisfied customers men between the ages of 18 and 34 who have no kids? Congratulations – you have the basic framework to begin building a buyer persona. Any marketing technique that isn’t directly appealing to that specific type of person is one that you now need to re-think.

It’s important to not go “too far” when creating buyer personas, however. If buyer personas are all about focus, going out of your way to have too many personas is a great way to instantly undo all of the benefits that you’ve just worked so hard to build for yourself. Focus on a few core types of customers and craft buyer personas for each, and then compare every marketing move that you make against the information you’ve compiled for guidance on what to do next.

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Is It Possible to Succeed in an Over-Saturated Industry?

Is It Possible to Succeed in an Over-Saturated Industry?

The Internet makes it easy to see just how many businesses are vying to compete in an increasingly competitive atmosphere. At times, it seems there’s a business or product for just about any want or need. So how do some people manage to successfully establish new companies and find their way to positions of leadership in this hyper-competitive marketplace? How is it possible to break in when it seems as though your industry is already saturated?

Determine what unique qualities you have to offer

Think back to why you got involved in your industry. Chances are there was something about this particular business that piqued your interest — some aspect about it that made you know you could succeed. Perhaps you saw some unique ability or talent in yourself that you knew others couldn’t match. Uncovering that ability and finding ways to market it are the first steps to building your niche.

As consumers, we’re increasingly aware of all the options available to us to buy products from just about any vendor anywhere. While this can make it daunting as a business owner to think about just how much competition we have online, it also makes it easier to find a specific niche to fill.

Your niche might consist of just a few thousand people around the world. Before the Internet, it would have been impossible to reach those people and have a productive business. With the Internet, however, you can now market to your specific niche and build a successful company.

Develop personal relationships online and in person

Personal relationships are more critical now than ever before. Customers expect to be able to speak with you, ask any questions they have, and receive specific answers quickly. While many companies have begun to realize this important truth, many are still lagging behind. Taking the time to develop this kind of relationship with customers can help you stand out against the competition. It can also help nurture customer loyalty, which will provide added stability as your company grows.

As you’re building relationships, make sure you’re also nurturing contacts within your community. Sponsor local groups, charities, and events. This is a great way to connect with people on a personal level and encourage them to try your company. Such connections help to build brand awareness and recognition in the community. That way, when people are ready to make a purchase, they’ll be more likely to turn to you because of your constant presence and overall standing in the community.

Use every tool at your disposal

You have a number of tools at your disposal for getting the word out about your company. When you’re competing in a tight industry, you need to take advantage of them all. As you’re designing your logo and marketing materials, use color psychology to create the best possible impression on potential customers.

You can also use the modern tools of website design to your advantage. Track your visitors and find out where they’re coming from and why they are or aren’t making purchases. The better you understand your customers’ actions, the more you can do to improve your marketing and services to reach them.

It’s not easy to find your way to success when it seems as though there’s already a business to address any problem out there. Take advantage of the above techniques, and it just might be possible to be successful in an already saturated industry. Contact us today if you’re interested in learning more about how our marketing techniques can help you get ahead.

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Turn You Competitors’ Customers into YOUR Customers

Turn You Competitors’ Customers into YOUR Customers

Here are a few creative ways to help turn your competitors’ customers into your own:

  • Offer a comparison chart that focuses on reasons why customers should choose your product over the competition. For example, you may offer a standard five-year warranty, while your competitors may only offer a three-year warranty. Or perhaps they offer an extended five-year warranty option, but at an additional price.
  • Stay informed of what your competitors are doing, but avoid copying their ideas. Instead, add value and make their ideas even better. For example, if a competitor offers free shipping on purchases of $100+, you could provide free shipping on all purchases and possibly even returns.
  • Create a unique tagline or slogan that focuses on your key selling points, such as: “Hassle-Free Returns” or “Receive your lunch order within 30 minutes or it’s free.”
  • Add value to a comparable product through added services, such as longer support hours, free training, and live phone operators (no automated phone service).
  • Create a customer survey. Ask your audience how you can improve, what new offerings they wish you provided, what they like best about your company, and what areas they may find lacking. Their answers could easily point to ideas that will help you gain a competitive advantage.
  • Provide a risk-free trial to test your products or services before committing to a change.
  • Compare your guarantee to your competition. If your competitors don’t offer a guarantee, this is an extra reason to promote your guarantee heavily.
  • Compete with low-price competitors in creative ways. Offer exclusive discounts when items are purchased together as a package, or offer free or discounted add-on bonuses.
  • Romance your competitors’ customers. Show them the affection they may be missing from their current vendor, and let them know you’re willing to go the extra mile to win their business.
  • Even if prospects are happy with their current provider, be sure to continue your marketing efforts. Create front-of-mind awareness so you’re at the top of their list if they ever change their mind.
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Understanding Authority: The Milgram Experiment

Understanding Authority: The Milgram Experiment

Back in the 1960s, Dr. Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment which was to become known as “The Milgram Experiment.”

Dr. Milgram wanted to find out why so many people in Nazi Germany followed the orders of Hitler’s regime with seemingly little questioning. He surmised that either the whole country was evil or that something else was at play. His experiment aimed at testing what that something else might be.

Dr. Milgram and his team devised a series of social psychology experiments. To get volunteers, they placed an ad looking for individuals who would be willing to administer a “learning test” to students.

When volunteers arrived at Dr. Milgram’s lab, they were greeted by what seemed to be an authority figure wearing an official-looking coat. Volunteers were instructed to sit at a table with a rather intimidating-looking shock-generating machine on it. The machine had switches labeled with terms like “slight shock,” “moderate shock,” “danger: severe shock,” and two others that simply read “XXX.”

Each volunteer was to take on the role of the “teacher” in the experiment. The teacher was to deliver a shock to the student each time a wrong answer was given. While volunteers believed they were delivering a real shock to students, the students were actually volunteer actors who were pretending to be shocked when the switch was pressed.

With each incorrect answer, the level of shock was to be increased correspondingly.

Results of the Milgram Experiment

Dr. Milgram used the experiment to measure the level of obedience among his volunteers. How far would the volunteer “teacher” be willing to go in obeying the shock application?

This question was posed to a group of Yale University students who predicted that no more than 3% of the participants would deliver the maximum shock.

In reality, 65% of the volunteers delivered the maximum shock. This study was replicated several times under different conditions, but each produced similar results.

So why would seemingly normal people be willing to subject another person to possible life-threatening harm? Is it because all people are evil? Dr. Milgram didn’t think so.

Appeal to Authority

The Milgram experiment seems to suggest that people place an immense amount of trust in authority figures. Even our own society seems to back up those claims.

A doctor tells us to take certain pills to cure an illness, and we obey without much questioning. A person steps on stage, appears on TV, or writes a book, and we immediately view them as an expert or authority, when in reality they may be far from it.

How This May Benefit You

The conclusion is clear. It’s wise to always think and question any command, even when it’s given by an authority. Yet, it’s easier to follow the crowd and obey rather than use our brain cells to think.

Most people prefer to follow rather than to lead. It’s uncomfortable to deviate from what everyone else is doing. It’s a part of human nature.

We can benefit from understanding this experiment in a different way. Knowing that the majority of people listen to authority figures, wouldn’t it be a benefit to be the authority figure in your field?

People like working with experts. They will often boast to their friends and colleagues that they have hired the leading firm to solve their problem.

Breaking from the pack and breaking the rules is not easy. It’s extremely hard to do the first time. But once you do it a few times and see the benefits, it becomes a much more natural process than following the crowd.

Be the authority figure for your field in your market, so you can set your own rules.

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Your Competition Wants Your Customers

Your Competition Wants Your Customers

Competition is a part of business life. Some would argue that competition forces businesses to strive to get better at what they do for the fear of losing customers to rivals. Losing a few customers periodically is inevitable. However, losing too many (especially your best customers) must be avoided at all costs.

For most businesses, the top 20% of their customers account for 80% (or more) of their profits. While much thought and strategy typically go into bringing in new customers, not enough is spent on retaining existing customers. That’s where the real gold lies.

It may be a little uncomfortable to think that some of your best customers might be looking at making a change, but it’s something you must consider if you want to avoid having it become a reality. Everyone talks about taking care of their customers, but in many instances that’s a phrase not truly backed up with action. To build a fence around your customers and keep them far away from the prying arms of your competitors, you mus truly care, protect, and guide them.

Gather customer feedback on an ongoing basis.

Most businesses put a lot of hard work into getting a new customer. But after they become a customer, little effort is put into nurturing that relationship. A customer should never be taken for granted.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day operation of your business and lose touch with what’s happening outside your doors in the marketplace. Phone calls and emails to customers can be a great way to communicate and stay connected. But to do it on a large scale can be unrealistic. Informative company newsletters and surveys can help keep your customers up-to-date and give them a way to express their needs and concerns. These efforts can provide an early warning system to catch a customer jumping ship before it happens.

Tell them what you do.

Your competitors will do anything to steal your customers, including promising the moon. You know that some of these are false claims or teasers to get their foot in the door. Some of your customers may not know that. Your job is not only to provide a great product and service but also to continually remind customers about the value you provide that your competitors can’t match. If you don’t tell them, no one else will either.

Informing your customers through educational marketing content is a powerful way to keep them engaged while differentiating your company as one that truly cares about their success (not just your own).

Where are the weaknesses?

To help plug the holes in your business, start thinking about things from your competitors’ point of view. After all, they’re always looking for any weaknesses they can exploit, so you should, too. That way, you can shore up your weak spots before they get out of hand and, in the process, strengthen your position in the marketplace.

To discover your weaknesses, talk with your customers. Ask them about the areas you could improve. Stay up-to-date with industry trends that could create a possible gap in your defenses, too. You can’t buy every bit of technology as soon as it hits the market, but you can stay informed so you can address concerns with your customers when they arise. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Be proactive in your customer communication.

“There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” ~ Sam Walton, Wal-Mart

Customer retention starts with providing great service and value. Getting to the top is hard work, but staying there requires just as much effort. Being aware of the competition while shoring up the weak areas in your business can go a long way in helping keep your customers coming back.

Monopolies and the lack of competition aren’t in anyone’s best interest. Keeping your best customers satisfied is. Use competition as a motivating factor to continually improve your services. Communicating with and showing appreciation for your customers will give you an invisible force field to keep the competition out of your backyard.

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Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage

What’s the ultimate competitive advantage in business and in life? It’s your ability to learn and (just as importantly) to quickly put what you have learned into action.

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” -Jim Rohn

The first key is to understand that education is a lifelong process. Formal education may be finite and time-based, but self-education is ongoing and perpetual.

“Hard work spotlights the character of people; some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” -Sam Ewing

The second key is to become a voracious student in your field. Mastering your field requires an investment of time in study and continual practice toward perfection. All the masters and top earners in any field have this attitude toward learning. Having this attitude allows you to thrive in situations where your knowledge gives you the competitive advantage over your competitors. You must be passionate enough about your profession that committing to mastery is a natural step.

“Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in.” -Abraham Lincoln

Mastery can come from attending conferences, reading books, or working with advisers, coaches, and mentors. There is no shortage of knowledge sources. Training, development, and continuous education are the highest return investments you and your business can make. Top businesses and top industry professionals make learning a priority. No matter how busy they are, they make time for it.

Brian Tracy, noted author and speaker, stated that the highest paid people in America read an average of 2-3 hours per day. Developing a habit of learning and an appetite for information, both within your field and also outside your area of expertise, are the keys to a life of passion, purpose, and profits.

Citing a recent study of successful companies, syndicated columnist Verne Harnish wrote that training and development “out-return[ed] any other investment a business could make — more than R&D, hard, or capital investment.” According to Harnish, such investments resulted in:

  • 24% higher profit margins
  • 218% higher income per employee
  • 86% higher company value
  • 21% increase in productivity
  • 300% reduction in employee turnover
  • A return per dollar invested of $6.72

(Source: The Growth Guy)

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” -John D. Rockefeller

Seek out the knowledge you need to be worthy of being a “trust agent” — someone who is viewed as a trusted adviser, rather than simply a supplier of services and goods. Make the investment and commit to continuous learning. You can’t win if you rely solely on keeping up with the status quo. Being a leader in your field means staying ahead by learning and becoming the known expert.

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