Be the Expert Your Customers Need

Many businesses thrive on the expertise of their owners, operators, or managers. This is particularly true of small businesses, especially service businesses. A great way to increase your business volume and increase the perceived value of your products and services is to communicate your expertise within your community.

What Is Content Marketing?
A lot of people think content marketing is a new, revolutionary theory. Really, though, it’s based on the age-old principles of customer service. As you know, your customers lack your expertise. Traditionally, customers would come to you for advice, just like you would go to your printer for advice. You would then give them the information they needed to buy the right products and services to solve their problems. As the provider of that information, you would also get the sale.

The Internet changed that. Fewer people are willing to go into a store to get the information they need. They’re more likely to go online and seek out the answers to their questions. The information they want is available in the form of content. Content may be written or presented in an audiovisual form. That content is branded with the business identity of whoever created the content.

This is content marketing. If you’re providing the content in your business area, then you’ll be the person customers come to when they’re ready to act on the information you provide. The key is branding your content and distributing it to your local audience.

How Does Content Marketing Help Your Business?
Your customers probably take your expertise for granted. Whether you style their hair or repair their appliances, the quality you provide to your customers is dependent on your expertise. Yet customers don’t tend to notice unless the job is done poorly.

Imagine for a moment what could happen if these same customers understood the level of expertise you provide and actually valued your input. Imagine if you used your expertise to reveal product and service options your customers didn’t realize were possible. Imagine who they’d come to in order to get what they wanted.

That’s how content marketing helps your business. You not only have the opportunity to establish your expertise in the minds of your customers, but you also have the opportunity to establish new needs and wants in their minds. It’s better than advertising or sales, because your customers don’t feel pressured. Yet, from your perspective, the effect is the same, because you’re the one they’ll want to come to in order to get the expert service only you can provide.

How Do You Provide Content?
In order to use content marketing to establish your expertise, you need to create and brand content that will add value for your customers. Consider what you think your customers should know and then create the content that provides them with that information in an attractive and engaging way.

You don’t even have to create the content yourself! There are businesses that specialize in creating content. You can find them pretty easily using the Internet. The key isn’t who creates the content, but how it is branded and how it reflects your expertise.

Once your content is created, you have to distribute it to your customers. You can create a blog or a YouTube account and post your content online. You can use social media and e-mail to draw attention to your content. You could also create your own newsletter and mail or e-mail it directly to your customers. If you’d prefer to stick to print, you can use your content to create brochures, flyers, and booklets. Then, simply include your content when you mail invoices or other items.

The important thing is to get your content in the hands of your customers.

Why You Need Rituals in Your Business

If you’ve been in your business for any length of time, you’ve probably fallen into a routine set of habits that take up parts of every day.

The dictionary defines a habit as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” Sound familiar?

You probably arrive at your office a certain time every day, maybe turn off the alarm, turn on the lights, make coffee, power up the computer, check emails, and so on. Some of these habits are positive, and some are negatives you’re trying to overcome.

These habits are often random and don’t require much thought or deliberate action. They blend into the day-to-day fabric of life.

A ritual is something quite different than a habit. A ritual is deliberate (not random) and carries with it a deeper meaning. A ritual is an act carried out on purpose with full consciousness that has a real reason behind it.

A parent reading to a child every night is a deliberate ritual that has meaning. The child will always remember it, and the act will help develop a love for books that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

In our business world, we fall into habits. Some of the habits are unavoidable. To make a positive impact and institute real change, we need to add some rituals to our daily lives.

In the business world, there are two places where rituals can have a major impact: customers and employee relationships. Developing positive rituals for addressing both camps is crucial to success.

Harvey MacKay, the author of Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, owned an envelope printing company. Mr. MacKay grew a bankrupt company into a $100 million enterprise by developing a ritual of learning more about his prospects, customers, and employees than any of his competitors did.

He eventually developed a ritual that was the key to his success. This ritual involved compiling highly detailed customer profiles consisting of 66 questions covering every aspect of their lives — from business to personal, family to social, and everything in-between. He made it a mission to learn as much as he could about the people who did business with his company.

“Knowing something about your customer is just as importantas knowing everything about your product.”

~ Harvey MacKay

One of the common characteristics of successful people in many walks of life is their keen observational skills. They study the people around them, noticing qualities and human nature. Some of us, unfortunately, walk around with our eyes half closed while performing mindless habits.

Three Elements of a Ritual

When – What time are you going to act?
Where – Where will this happen?
How – In what manner will this occur?

Meaningful rituals can have a real and positive effect in our lives. The kind of ritual you need will depend on the type of impact and change you hope to make. Success depends on action. Select one meaningful ritual you will institute now. That one ritual could be the difference between dreading another day of mindless habits versus looking forward to a day of making a difference in the world.

Increase Sales Through Holiday Promotions

One of the toughest parts of marketing and advertising is discovering creative, new ways to promote your business. It can be hard and frustrating work.

One way to tackle this problem is to look for reasons to run a promotional campaign. Holiday promotions are a great example of this strategy at work.

Holidays are a perfect excuse to promote your business. There are the popular holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday. There are even some not-so-popular holidays. Whatever the occasion, here are some ideas to start taking advantage of this powerful marketing opportunity.

Create a Holiday Marketing Calendar

We’re all busy running our companies. Planning and creating a holiday theme promotion takes time. It’s easy to put it aside for later, but we all know “later” may never come. One of the best ways to remind yourself and not let a holiday pass without promoting your business is to create a calendar specifically for holiday marketing.

Purchase a wall calendar that shows all 12 months. Take a few minutes and mark the holidays you may want to promote. Place the calendar in a prominent spot, so it will serve as a constant reminder of upcoming holiday promotional opportunities.

Thinking Cap and Promotion Time

Once you decide which holidays to promote, it’s time to plan and implement. Start the process early enough so you don’t have to rush and send out something not well thought out. Creative promos and copy, graphic design elements, and the offer itself are the seeds for the holiday campaign.

 

Ideas to hit it out of the park with your holiday promotion

Make it Relevant — Remember that your prospects and customers see many promotional offers every day. Make your offer stand out by tying into the holiday theme, while at the same time making a strong case why the recipient should take action on your promotion.

Personalize — Many holiday promotions are generic, which lowers the chance for success. One way of adding a personal touch to your campaign is through variable data printing. Everyone likes to feel as though you’ve made an extra effort on their behalf. Personalization can help show that you care.

Smart Design — Let your visuals do the talking. Use a clean and clear design to tell the story. Choose what you want to promote, and let it stand apart by not cluttering or overcrowding the graphic layout.

Make your call-to-action a strong one — Tell your prospects exactly what you want them to do next. Should they call you? Visit your store? Go to your website? Be clear and spell it out to make it easy for them.

Now it’s time to let the world know about your promotion. Direct mail postcards, print and email newsletters, signs, and social media posts are just some of the ways you can publicize your campaign.

The holidays are already in your prospects’ minds, so a holiday-themed promotion has a much better chance of getting noticed. You can leverage fun, creative themes associated with each holiday.

Holidays also give you a reason to offer a temporary discount or special offer with a logical end date.

Holidays are typically a fun and festive time. They can be even more fun when customers spend their money buying what you sell! So put your thinking caps on, and don’t let another holiday go by without capitalizing on the opportunity for some creative holiday promotions to grow your business.

Connecting Your Brand With Your Customers

No business starts with the mission of becoming run of the mill and ordinary. But somewhere along the way, after the excitement wears off and the daily routines take over, some businesses seem to lose their way.

Running and managing a business isn’t for the faint of heart.

The daily tasks of keeping the operation flowing smoothly and bringing in enough revenue to keep the lights on while managing customer demands has a way of making one forget about the dream of creating an extraordinary business.

But the reality is that the customers of today want more than just a product or service. They want an experience. Simple delivery of goods and services may bring a customer in, but it takes more effort to turn that buyer into a steady client who will come back often.

Businesses that provide a way for the customer to feel like they’re part of something special (and maybe even a little extraordinary) attract the kind of clients who not only return themselves but also refer others to enjoy the same level of service they loved.

People have a way of flocking to businesses that give them this type of unexpected experience.

Who wants to go somewhere ordinary when they can experience a business that makes them feel wanted and special? Most people expect average, so when they find a business that goes above and beyond, they don’t need prompting to refer others.

Being different and offering an experience in addition to products and services doesn’t have to be difficult. It only requires that you stand apart from your competitors. Sometimes all that takes are some simple tweaks.

Going above and beyond might be as simple as the presentation you make when you deliver your products and services. The Apple iPhone is just a smartphone. However, from the product announcement down to the packaging, the stage is set that you’re about to experience something extraordinary.

How can you package what you sell in a way that sets you apart?

When you give your customers the expectation that they’re part of something special (a fun company that makes them feel exclusive), then you’ve gone from an ordinary company with a logo to a brand that connects with its clients.

Customers connect with brands that make them feel special. The revenue and profits flow naturally when you can achieve that level of branding.

The One Important Lesson From Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling is the British author of the popular Harry Potter fantasy book series. A net worth of more than a billion dollars makes her one of the richest women in Great Britain (richer than the Queen!).

In a recent interview, Rowling revealed an interesting fact about the series. She was rejected 12 times by publishers before finally getting her book accepted. Yet, even though her first book had not been accepted, she still did something that many never do: She knew exactly what the ending of the series would be.

Rowling wrote the final chapter of the final book in her series, so she knew how the series and the story would end. That helped lead her to logically fill in all the plot lines and action sequences to get to the conclusion.

“Start with the end in mind.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

In our business and personal lives, we rarely know what the end game should be or what it would look like, as clearly as J.K. Rowling did with her Harry Potter story. As a result, it’s not surprising that businesses struggle and projects go sideways.

The lack of goals or the desire to get things done are typically not to blame. Instead, the culprit and missing ingredient is most likely a clear vision of what the ending will be.

In a business ownership example, that might mean knowing the exit plan of selling the business. In managing a project, it might mean knowing exactly what the finished product will look like. In a weight loss example, it might mean knowing what you want the new you to look and feel like.

Human Nature

Human nature is the common quality of all human beings. People behave according to certain specific principles of human nature. Whether leading a company, a group, or even ourselves, we need to understand what motivates and moves us to the end goal.

Every January, every week, and every day, goals are set by wonderful people with the best of intentions. Yet only a dismal percentage of these lofty (or even mundane) goals are ever accomplished. This often leads to abandonment of dreams and higher aspirations.

The desire to do what it takes is not something that’s easily manufactured. Great leaders know how to lead movements, nations, and countries by tapping into human psychology in ways that others don’t. These leaders know that real action, progress, and momentum only come when a highly desired end result is clearly laid out.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy presented a historic challenge to the people of the United States. He set a goal of putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth before the decade was over. His dramatic speech galvanized a whole nation and resulted in Neil Armstrong touching the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.

Steve Jobs had a clear vision for Apple and each of the products the company would roll out to revolutionize entrenched and established industries. There are numerous examples of other great leaders of companies, nations, and movements who made a big impact on society. The one common theme: they knew how to clearly articulate the vision and end result in ways that resonated.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

J.K. Rowling sat in the coffee shops of England as a struggling single mother writing her Harry Potter stories. There were many things she could not have known about what the future would hold for her. But there was one thing she did know that drove her forward despite all the negativity and obstacles: how her story would end. Not everyone can write Harry Potter books, but we all can get much clearer about how our own stories should end. If we can do that, maybe there will be rewards much greater than the billion dollars J.K. Rowling has earned.

How Success Breeds Confidence

Elon Musk is an entrepreneur who has been in the news recently but someone you may not know much about. He started his entrepreneurial career at the ripe old age of 12 by creating a simple video game and selling it for a profit.

Since that early success, he has gone on to found Paypal (the popular online payment system), Tesla Motors (the first viable production electric car), SpaceX (one of the largest space exploration companies in the world), and Solar City (one of the largest solar panel companies in the world).

So what was the key to his success? Early success.

The victory Elon had with his video game was a small but important step for his success. Success changes your beliefs about what is possible. This belief creates a connection in the brain that helps you realize success really is possible.

Not everyone can be an Elon Musk, but we can all learn from him. His story teaches the importance of momentum. Momentum feeds off confidence. And confidence comes from actually accomplishing a goal. Confidence is the belief in your own ability to succeed at something.

Some claim that confidence comes from a mental state or a feeling inside, but it is actually a belief. Fake confidence can come from visualization, standing in front of the mirror and repeating over and over again how confident you are. But that kind of confidence has a tendency to dissipate quickly at the first sign of a roadblock or resistance.

True inner confidence, on the other hand, comes from knowing you can succeed. That can only come from having past successful experiences — like the 12-year-old Elon Musk and his video game.

Why is this important?

Because confidence (or lack thereof) affects many parts of your life including:

  • Your Focus
  • Your Persistence
  • Your Motivation
  • Your Performance
  • The Goals You Set For Your Life
  • How Willing Other People Are to Buy From You

The list can go on and on. Confidence has a big role in life.

So where does confidence come from, and where can you get more of it?

Confidence can come from being around supportive people who are successful. It can be as contagious as lethargy and negativity.

Confidence can be learned from a teacher or authority figure who has been where you want to go. It can be earned through mastering a skill or trade.

But the most important source of confidence comes from your past experiences. Ironically, confidence can even come from failures if those failures didn’t stop the momentum of moving forward.

If you want to develop confidence in any area of your life, business or personal, your first objective should be to get your first success as quickly as possible. That first success will build confidence, motivation, and (most importantly) momentum for further success.

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” -Thomas A. Edison

No one can know for certain what would have happened with Elon Musk if his early experiences in entrepreneurship had been failures, but one thing is certain. Elon took action and gained experiences that gave him momentum to build upon. That, in turn, earned him true confidence that anything is possible.

Ask yourself: What steps do I need to take to gain quick successes toward my goal? Achieve one quick goal, and build momentum. Then let the successes begin piling up on top of one another to give you a store of strength you can always pull from. Be bold. Take action.

5 Words That Can Change Your Business

Behind the scenes of your business, you make products or deliver services. But on the front lines, where interactions with customers occur, you have to deliver more than that in order to have a dynamically growing company. You must deliver a promise and hope.

The promise revolves around the benefits your actual products and services deliver. The hope is what can set your business apart from all the other companies that promise to deliver the same things you do.

People want to believe in your company and what you can deliver, but many have become jaded due to the culture of over-promising and under-delivering that is all too common in the marketplace. To get past this wall of skepticism, you have to deliver more.

Companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, Starbucks, and Disney World took off when they figured out they were selling much more than a soft drink, computer, coffee, and theme park rides. These businesses understood that in order to stand apart from their competitors, they had to tell their brand stories in a way that resonates with customers.

Coca-Cola sells refreshment, happiness, and harmony. Apple sells a delightful user experience to consumers in a hip, cool way. Starbucks sells the “third place experience” — a place to get away outside our home and business. Disney World sells memories that last a lifetime.

The common theme among the great brands of the world is that they have found a way to transcend beyond their products by asking this simple, yet powerful five-word question:

What Are We Really Selling?

People aren’t really interested in what you sell, but they may be very interested in the benefits you can deliver. These benefits in turn must be told in a way that attracts and connects with your target audience.

How You Can Apply This in Your Business?

You’re probably thinking to yourself that this may do wonders for big brands, but how does it apply to my small business?

  • Take a step back from the day-to-day operations of the business, and think about what you’re really selling. Railroad companies thought they were in the rail business, when they were really in the transportation business. Think about the larger implications around the results you deliver to your customers.
  • Next think about this question: What do my customers really want from our products and services? Ask your best customers why they really do business with you. Look for common themes in the answers.
  • The final step is to take the concepts you’ve arrived at and focus on what would move your best prospects to buy what you sell. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask some friends and associates if your idea would move them to act. Then test your ideas by presenting them in your ad copy in print, on the web, and in all your other marketing channels. Test until you find the winners. The sales result will show which one is the winner.

Take these five words: “What are we really selling?” Print them out and put them in a prominent place you can see every day. Your answer to the question will form the core around which your business and your marketing should revolve. Answer this five-word question in a way that exceeds the experiences your target market is seeking, and you’ll see your business grow like magic.