What’s in a Leaf?

What’s in a Leaf?

If you enjoy watching the leaves float down during the fall season, you probably already know that just like snowflakes, each tree’s leaves are individual and unique. Unlike snowflakes, though, leaves can tell you from which tree they came, and fortunately, there are many resources available to you for identifying trees by their leaves.

Knowing more about your surroundings is important, and it can apply well in a work situation.

Discovery

An excellent resource for identifying trees will take you on a journey of discovery: from the color and shape of the leaf to how many points it has, all to learn more about the tree it came from. It might go on to identify the type of bark, the size of the tree, and more to help you determine which tree you are looking at.

There are many ways you can apply this strategy of discovery with your customers, especially if they are repeat customers. If you think about each customer as if they were an onion with many layers to uncover, you can view each contact with them as an opportunity to peel away one more layer.

Learning

Your customers are individuals with unique personalities, family issues, work challenges, and styles of doing business. You can work on strategies to uncover more information about your customers to help cement a relationship with them. Customers who like you and enjoy your relationship are more willing to continue to do business with you and become loyal repeat customers.

Depth

Depending on how you maintain your customer records, there are different methods of collecting and retaining information about your clients. In an article, “7 Ways to (Really) Know Your Customers” (http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4890-customer-engagement-tips.html), it offers several suggestions for small businesses to get to know their customers better including gleaning social data from sites such as Facebook.

By getting to know your customers better, you can anticipate when they will be spending, what triggers a purchase, and how you can be proactive in contacting them for their triggers. As you learn more about your customer, you can apply your knowledge to help them better manage their relationship with you, potentially saving them money in the long run. For instance, if they are buying their products when needed, but you see a pattern, you can sell them a larger bulk amount on a periodic basis saving them money and securing the purchase for your account.

Knowledge

Knowing your customers will allow you to separate the A and B level of customers from the one-time business customers. As you develop your relationships with your clients, you can grow your business in depth. Then, using similar methods, seek out new business and begin the process again.

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The Art of the Pivot

The Art of the Pivot

No matter what business you’re talking about, most companies usually begin life in the same way: with an idea. You wake up one morning, have an idea for a product or service that you’re sure will be the “next big thing,” and you get to work. You fully commit yourself to building an infrastructure, developing and expanding on your idea, and eventually, you bring your product or service to market.

And then things have a habit of sometimes not going necessarily how you’d planned them.

Maybe people are using your product, but they’re not using it in the exact way that you intended. Certainly not in the way you built your strategy around. Maybe your product or service isn’t popular at all, but the underlying idea is still a solid one. In these situations, you have two options: you can pack up your ball and go home, or you could do what some of the most successful companies in the history of planet Earth have done: you pivot.

The Art of the Pivot in Action

A few years ago, an online role-playing game was founded called “Game Neverending” – you’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of it. The premise was simple – users would travel around a digital map and find other people to buy, sell, and build items with. Included inside the game was a photo-sharing tool, which quickly became one of the most popular parts of the experience. Though the developers loved their idea, users weren’t quite so kind. People were spending less and less time on the “buying, selling, and building items” part and more on the “photo-sharing” part, causing significant problems for the company’s long-term goals.

While you’ve probably never heard of “Game Neverending,” you ARE no doubt aware of a service called Flickr – one of the most popular and widely used photo-sharing tools of the digital age. The developers behind “Game Neverending” realized that they were never going to get people to love their RPG the way they did, so they did what any entrepreneurs would do: they pivoted. They threw out everything except the proven-successful photo-sharing technology and started from scratch. One acquisition by Yahoo! later, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Let the Market Be Your Guide

The key takeaway from this is that you need to be willing to listen to the market and allow it to guide you through execution, even if that execution is at odds with your original intent. Remember that the market is telling you “We like this, but it would be better if it had X, Y, and Z features” is different from pivoting. If users enjoyed the RPG experience of “Game Neverending” and the developers just kept adding game-related features, we might not have Flickr today.

Instead, the market communicated loud and clear: “We don’t like this game, but we do enjoy this one thing that the game lets us do.” These are the types of moments you have to be not only willing to listen to, but also to allow them to change your idea of what your product or service could become.

Listening to the market and being willing to pivot, even if that was the furthest thing from your mind at the time, is not a bad thing. Indeed, history has proven that great things have been born out of it time and again. Because if you release a product or service and are unwilling to change based on the ideals of your users, you’ll wind up hemorrhaging users pretty quickly.

And without those users, what are you left with? Little more than a good idea in search of a purpose, which isn’t anything at all.

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Know When to Hold ’em and When to Fold ’em

Know When to Hold ’em and When to Fold ’em

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” This iconic hook from the song “The Gambler” is about more than just playing cards. It’s also a metaphor for many circumstances that we encounter in life and business. Knowing when to end a dead-end job or a toxic relationship is critical to maintaining a happy life.

Likewise, understanding when it’s time to quit a product you love, but that is not providing you with the gains you want, can mean the difference between success and failure, or even fulfillment and frustration.

In 1976, 23-year-old Don Schlitz wrote “The Gambler.” After pushing it around for a few years, eventually, it was picked up by Bobby Bare and later, Johnny Cash. Despite the talent behind the lyrics and performers, the song never really took off. That is until Kenny Rogers picked it up and launched it to the top of the charts. Schlitz knew he had a song worth pushing and didn’t give up. That perseverance paid off in spades (pun intended).

Knowing when to keep going with a product or service is not always so straight-forward, though. It’s a difficult decision to give up on your “business baby” that you created and nurtured, especially when revenues are “ok.” Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to give up an “ok” thing to make room for an extraordinary thing. So, hear from some of the top founders in the country about how they know when to hold em’ and when to fold em’.

Is It Profitable?
This question is probably the easiest to answer when you take into account: (1) revenue, (2) time and money investment, (3) emotional investment and (4) company goals. For Elisa Doucett, Founder of CraftYourContent, it’s a no-brainer – “if it costs more fiscally and mentally to maintain than it makes, then it is no bueno.”

For Matthew Newton, Founder of TourismTiger, his approach is similar – “if the return on time or money invested isn’t worth it and you can’t find a clear solution, it’s time to kill the product.”

Is It Providing Value?
Just creating a product because you want to make money or achieve a personal goal may not be the best for your product’s success. Likewise, if your product is too similar to your competition or doesn’t add more value than a competing product, it’s time to move on to something else.

Micheal Ericsson, Founder of Search Scientists, looks to the founder’s mindset in determining when to kill a product: “Everyone I know with a truly successful product…[is] not creating a product to create a product, they’re moving forward with the goal to change a piece of the world.”

Is It Feeding Your Passion?
While passion may not be the best reason for creating a product, it certainly should be a factor in keeping it going. According to Brandon King, Founder of SmartInternChina, “You should kill a product when it is killing you. If you go through an extended period of time working on a product you hate…that drains your energy, that is a good sign that it is time to move on.”

Continually working on a product that you hate will erode your ability to put your best efforts into it. Nobody wants to put their name on a mediocre product.

Phil Ivey, (a.k.a. Gambler) always quits for the night when he’s no longer at his best. The same holds true for running a business.

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5 Psychological Triggers To Convert Prospects To Clients

5 Psychological Triggers To Convert Prospects To Clients

Any marketer worth anything will tell you that the key to increasing sales is to use A/B testing to determine which sales tactic is more successful than another. If you’re not familiar with it, A/B testing (sometimes called split testing) is comparing two versions of something to see which one performs better. With that in mind, have you ever wondered why some tactics are more successful than others?

Logically, we think that if we appeal to the rational brain, we will convince people that our product is the best possible product for their needs. However, if that were the case, would anyone ever buy Croc Accessories or Pet Rocks? Nope.

Unless you’re selling to Mr. Spock, there’s a much simpler way of convincing people to buy what you’re selling. The key to turning prospects into clients is tapping into the deeply embedded emotions inside each one of them.

By identifying these emotions and learning how to trigger them, you can increase your revenue faster than you can say “Chia Pet.” Here are the top 5 psychological triggers you can start using immediately to boost your bottom line.

1. Increasing Pleasure and Avoiding Pain

Avoiding pain and increasing pleasure are the driving forces of all human activity. This idea is the most fundamental reason we have a nervous system. If something hurts, we find a way to stop it. If something feels pleasurable, we do it more.

Translating this into your marketing strategy, you must first identify what your clients associate with pain and pleasure. Once you’ve figured that out, the rest is easy. Draft your marketing message in a way that shows your customers how your product or service will get them as close as possible to their pleasure trigger and away from their pain trigger.

2. Simplifying Life

For most of us, life is complicated. Too complicated. It takes 47 steps to get us from the comfort of our beds and out the door prepared to work. We don’t need another product or service that will add more steps (obstacles) to our day.

Take a good, hard look at what you’re selling. Does it add or remove barriers from people’s lives? If it’s not easy and fast to use, consider making a few tweaks that will take all of the “no’s” out of the equation.

3. Creating Novelty

New and shiny are what we love. In fact, it has been scientifically shown that exposure to something novel increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, that chemical that makes us all tingly and excited.

If you’ve ever heard someone complaining about the lack of significant changes in the latest iPhone, but still stand in line for hours to get one in their hot, little hands on release day, you’ve witnessed the power of novelty.

You can easily create innovation with your products by making a few simple changes and give your prospects that shot of dopamine they’ve been craving. Think googly-eyes on the pet rock.

4. Telling a Story

Humans have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years by telling stories. It’s how we share our experiences. The best storytellers invoke all of the senses to put their audience directly into the action.

You can infuse even the most mundane products with the magic of a good story. Try updating your copy to tell a story about your product that transports your prospects to a happier, more memorable place. They’ll buy just to keep the story alive.

5. Building Anticipation

We’ve all turned 16 at some point in our lives. Remember the anticipation we felt as the day drew nearer and the prospect of being able to drive around without an adult sat winking at us in the distance? It made life a little more sparkly, didn’t it?

If you’ve got a new product or service in the works, don’t just plunk it down on the counter when it’s all done. Start building some buzz while you’re still working on it. Send out emails to your current customers and prospects. Create a series of videos giving out little bits of information at a time. Get people in that “I can’t wait” mode and your launch day will be more profitable than you can imagine.

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Judging a Book by its’ Cover – How People Choose Products Based on Packaging

Judging a Book by its’ Cover – How People Choose Products Based on Packaging

Kids and cats seem to have this well figured out. We’ve all seen or experienced first-hand the joy that kids and cats take in taking an “ordinary box” and making that product packaging into the most exciting plaything of all time. What they are instinctively telling us, without truly understanding for themselves, is this: if the packaging sparks the imagination, it almost doesn’t matter what’s inside.

While they may be appreciating the packaging more after the fact, this axiom still holds true when we are making our purchasing decisions. No, we’re not likely looking for packaging we can turn into a rocket ship, but we are looking for something that reflects our values and distinguishes itself from the rest of the products out there. So, what does that mean for those of us who are trying desperately to gain the attention and love of consumers? Well, it means you need to know a few key things about who your consumer is and what they value. Let’s break it down.

People want to buy things that reflect and confirm how they see themselves in the world. How do you as a producer know what that means? Well, you might do a lot of research, or you might already know who your demographic is because they are you! For this example, let’s assume the latter. You are a 32-year-old, college-educated female living in Northern California who is passionate about organic farming, conservation, and veganism. You’ve designed a line of shoes using recycled materials that are vegan-friendly.

Are you going to shove these walking works of art into a plain brown cardboard box with a line drawing of the shoes and a white label showing the color and size like every other shoe out there? No, of course not!

You’ll likely package the shoes in an attractive, reusable bag with your logo and an image of someone wearing your shoes prominently displayed in colors of greens and browns to evoke feelings of calm and earthiness. You’ll tell a story right on the bag about how you came upon your idea for these shoes and your vision for your company and the world. You’ll let people know that the shoes and the bag are handmade in a certified Fair Labor facility powered solely by the wind and the sun, using sustainable methods and responsibly-sourced materials that are animal-friendly. You’ll even tell them that the ink used to print the bag and tags is made from vegetable products and not fossil fuels. Basically, you’ll appeal to the sensibilities of your ideal buyer who shares your values.

When that person chooses your product, it’s because it confirms their beliefs in themselves, that they are passionate about protecting the environment and they despise oppressive and exploitative labor. Not only will the shoes become a part of their identity, but so will the bag that they will use every day to carry their groceries and other items. They will take pride in knowing that they did not place another shoebox and extraneous paper products into the great landfills of the world.

This bag among the sea of sameness will be what gets your customers’ attention. The story you tell on that packaging will make them love your product. Don’t let your packaging be an afterthought, make it an integral part of your product.

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Guest Blogging: Fully Understanding This Marketing Best Practice

Guest Blogging: Fully Understanding This Marketing Best Practice

Running a marketing blog as a part of a marketing campaign is practically a requirement in today’s modern world – particularly as Google changes the very foundation of what SEO stands for on a regular basis. One of the many things that Google looks for when ranking sites is how frequently they’re updated. A steady stream of fresh, trustworthy and high quality content will always rank higher than a page updated once a year. This describes a blog pretty efficiently. However, you may not always have time to pen every single entry on a blog yourself. For those situations, guest blogging can certainly come in very handy for a number of reasons.

What is Guest Blogging in Marketing?

As its name suggests, guest blogging involves “making a meal” out of the fact that you are not the one writing a particular blog entry. Not only do you get the benefit of being able to take a day (or week) off to catch up on your backlog, but you also get a huge amount of new attention to your blog thanks to the presence of your guest.

How Does Guest Blogging Help You in Marketing?

For starters, perhaps the biggest benefit of guest blogging is that it can help generate a whole new level of traffic for a site. This is especially true if this guest blogger already has his or her own following, so they’ll be bringing their own audience to your site for the first time. While most of those new visitors will likely leave again to follow the guest blogger across the Internet, many will stay.

Another one of the major benefits of guest blogging is that it helps you build your authority in more ways than one. If the person that you’re having guest blog for your site is well-respected, the very fact that they’re contributing a piece to you at all only serves to lend some much-needed credibility to your enterprise. This is particularly true if you’re just starting out.

Another one of the reasons why guest blogging is so beneficial, particularly in terms of marketing, is because it helps build authority where it matters most – search engines. Gone are the days where you can just stuff a site with keywords and instantly fly to the top of Google results. Google emphasizes pages that are trustworthy over all others now and guest blogging is one of the single most efficient ways to get in on some of that action for yourself. By showing that your site is not only regularly updated with high quality content but also pieces from different authentic, trustworthy voices, the general rank of your entire enterprise will only rise as a result. This means that there will naturally be more eyes on your marketing blogs, which only means increased revenue as a result.

These are just a few of the reasons why guest blogging is, and will remain, a marketing best practice moving forward. Leveraging the power of search engines is all about authority and high quality content – guest blogging is able to deliver this to you in spades. If you’re the type of person who could use a little extra time to keep that steady stream of content flowing, guest blogging also makes perfect sense from the standpoint of your own productivity and efficiency at the same time. There really is no reason why you shouldn’t be exploring this with your marketing materials.

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Learning True Humility

Learning True Humility

True humility comes from a rejection of its opposites (pridefulness and arrogance), along with nurturing of acceptance, listening instead of speaking, and focusing more on another person than on yourself. That meaning was expressed beautifully by the ancient philosopher Confucius, with:

“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.”

One of the most popular films of all time is “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray. As the pre-humility Phil Connors, he is the perfect caricature of a self-absorbed personality. This film is a wonderful depiction of the learning of this life lesson about the importance of humility.

As you recall, the plot is basically his journey toward humility and service to others. He is rescued from a perpetual loop when he learns the lesson, and can then get on with his life as a more mature and complete person.

A favorite character interaction in the movie is that between the well-practiced jerk, Phil Connors, and the well-intentioned, but mentally limited, bed-and-breakfast operator who makes an innocent comment about the weather. The TV weatherman, Connors, having probably practiced this before on other victims, launches into a full blown 65-word weather report ending with the snarky question, “Did you want to talk about the weather, or were you just making chit-chat?”

He intentionally embarrasses her just for the personal enjoyment of it. The exchange becomes the perfect definition of his character, or lack thereof, before learning the lesson of humility.

Equipped with his newfound humility, the later Phil Connors is everyone’s friend. He has not only demonstrated to others his appreciation for their presence in his life, but has contributed in many ways to their satisfaction, happiness, and well-being.

Everyone has witnessed someone who they’ve thought could benefit from a healthy dose of humility. The kind of people who always have a verbal come-back after someone remarks on having done something or been somewhere. No opportunity passes without them commenting on their own experiences. Only it usually is not just an, “I did that, too.” Typically, this person has done it bigger and better than you did it.

If you went up in a balloon, they went to a higher altitude. If you have a favorite pastime, they have already done that long ago. They have an, “I did it better,” for every subject you bring up.

They practice this without really realizing how obnoxious it is. In reality, they truly believe they are just being conversational. It all too quickly begins to reflect their own weak self-image. They fail to realize how they have turned the art of simple conversation into a contest–one they feel compelled to “win.” This, of corse, is the complete opposite to humility.

Winning this contest is rather nicely exemplified in an old joke. The story goes that a fellow goes off to college and returns after graduation only to be completely surprised at how much his parents have learned in the four years he has been away. He knows he has learned a lot, but lacks the humility to recognize that his parents may have already known much of what he has just learned.

Life is not about how much you have personally accomplished, as seen in the attitude of an immature Phil Connors. It is about how much you have contributed to the lives of others along the way. Only after you learn humility can you do this to the fullest extent.

Personal growth is a natural byproduct of service to others. As the immature Phil Connors eventually learned, in the face of your inherent drive for achievement and success, the best guardian of your self image, the best vehicle for promoting your own growth, is not a resume full of accomplishments. It is the humility to recognize your own limitations and the contributions that others have made to make your life better. Humility truly is the foundation of all other virtues.

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We Guarantee It!

We Guarantee It!

What benefit is a guarantee if nobody knows about it? Not only does a guarantee show confidence in your products and offer peace of mind to customers, but it may also give potential customers added incentive to purchase your product over another. A guarantee can be printed as a standalone certificate, added to a label, or included on all types of business signage, flyers, business stationery, receipts, marketing materials, website, email signatures, product packaging, yellow pages ad, and more.

Here are a few tips when promoting a guarantee:

  • Compare your guarantee to your competition. If your competitors don’t offer a guarantee, this is an extra reason to promote your guarantee heavily.
  • Create a unique tagline or slogan that focuses on your company’s strengths, such as: “Hassle-Free Returns” or “Receive your lunch order within 30 minutes or it’s free.”
  • Clearly explain your guarantee terms. For example: “We provide a hassle-free, money-back guarantee within 30 days of purchase.”
  • Test your guarantee with a small target audience. If you’re nervous about implementing it, test the results again.

If you’d like creative ideas on how to spread the word about your guarantee, we’d love to help. Give us a call today!

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Hot Summer Marketing Ideas to Think About This Spring

Hot Summer Marketing Ideas to Think About This Spring

For many businesses, the weather may heat up, but sales cool off in the summer. While summer may be a few months away, it’s never too early to start thinking about a summer marketing plan. Here are a few creative ways to stay on the minds of your customers this summer:

  • Plan a customer appreciation lunch or ice cream social to stay in touch with customers and prospects during your slow season. Fire up the grill, set up some tents, and get ready to greet some new and familiar faces.
  • Encourage customers to sign up to win something related to summer fun (ranging from something as simple as a large cooler filled with goodies for a picnic to something as extravagant as a boat or paid getaway to a fun summer destination).
  • Offer value add-ons to summer purchases, such as “Receive XYZ free with a $40+ purchase!”
  • Surprise loyal customers with a summer-related lumpy mailer campaign that includes a promotional gift such as a sleeve of branded golf balls, a reusable water bottle, a frisbee, sunscreen, lip balm, or a can coolie with a creative note.
  • Plan a sidewalk sale to draw attention to your storefront and encourage people to check out your sales.
  • Keep in touch with social media. Offer prizes and discounts for customers who provide input, participate in quizzes, or sign up for contests.
  • Organize a community-driven goodwill event, such as hosting a toy drive, a blood drive, etc.
  • Create a forum for customers to share their favorite summer recipes or grilling tips.
  • Offer free lemonade and cookies daily during the month of July to those who visit your store.
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