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Your Own Web-based Radio Show July 28, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Local Brand Development, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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David DirksIf you follow this blog, you know that I’m a big fan of leveraging web-based resources like blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, and social/business networks (like Linkedin and Facebook).  I also want to introduce your business to web-based radio.

Imagine if you will, that you could host your own daily or weekly radio show and do it LIVE each time?  You can even do it for free.  If you understand that one of the keys to business growth and success is to continually find ways to give your business a ‘voice’ that allow you to find new customers (and add-value to those that are already your customers), then radio webcasting is for you.

BlogTalkRadio.com is a great example of this kind of service.  Within about 10 minutes, you can start hosting your own radio show on the web in live format.  Sharing your expertise and that of others in a weekly show is in addition to using a blog and your website to do the same.

Another great thing is that you don’t need any special equipment.  You can conduct your show from the comfort of your own computer.  All you need is high-speed access to the web from any location of your choosing.  Talk about portability!

The BlogTalkRadio format is also easy to set up and use.  It also has a revenue sharing component that allows you to split the revenues from ads placed on your radio site with BlogTalkRadio (you need an active PayPayl account to do so).

Like anything else, if you decided to host your own show, remember these things:

1.  Promote, promote, promote.  It will do you little good to host a show and then not promote it well.  Let everyone you know spread the word about your show.

2.  Keep to a regular schedule of shows.  It will serve you well if you pick a day & time to broadcast your show.

3.  Spend a little time planning your show.  Pick a topic within your business realm that is newsworthy, valuable, timely, and interesting to potential listeners.  You don’t have to sound like a professional broadcaster but it helps to sound like you spend more than a minute on planning your show format.

4.  Keep it short.  A 30 to 60 minute show is a fine.  Anything longer is a bore.  Remember, most people have the attention span of a gnat these days.

5.  Promote yourself on the show.  While your show shouldn’t sound like an infomercial, you should carefully plan to promote your business.  Have a blog?  Website?  Podcast?  Special event?  Promote it…it’s your show!

Radio webcasting in a live format is just another excellent way to differentiate your business from your competitors.  Like Nike says, just do it.

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Promotion 101: Educate Your Customers March 18, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies.
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David DirksI always like to review my local paper to see how businesses are handling their display advertising.  I almost all cases, most ads are of the plain vanilla type that your eyes just gloss over.  However, there was one ad that caught my attention.  It caught my attention because it was offering to do something more than sell me something.

What was this ad?  It was from a local paint store called Gervic Paints (www.gervicpaints.com).  They were promoting a seminar called “2009 Colors for Your Home”.   They were promoting something other than the ‘sale of the week’.  They offered door prizes and refreshments.  I later found out that my wife and one of her friends had already signed up for this event.

I’m willing to bet that there will be many interested customers (and potential customers) there and many will walk away with some great insights and ideas for painting their homes.  That’s the idea.  We’ve been telling this story in this blog for a while now.  Sell your expertise in a way that is meaningful and valuable and people will buy your product.

It’s refreshing to see a local business actually promoting itself by promoting it’s expertise.

Beating a Recession -11 February 18, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Public Relations Strategies, Recession: How to Beat It!, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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David DirksWhat if you could develop a product that could create excitement in your business and elevate your status as an expert in your field?  What if that product could be profitable and help you to get into the door for new business?  And, what if I told you that most of your competition, bar none, might think about it but never really execute on it.  Would you be interested in that?

You should be.  I don’t care if you’re a retailer or service-based provider, you can do more with that stuff that’s in your head.

Are you ready for the product?  Here it is:  write and publish a book. I can’t think of a better way to promote your and your business than by sharing it with customers and future customers.  I know and you know plenty of people who have a great body of knowledge but it’s all locked up in their heads.  In 99.9 percent of the time, it will never see the light of day in a book.  That’s completely your advantage if you commit  and invest the time to write and publish one.

“But I don’t know how or have the time to write a book”, someone might say.  From my perspective, you can’t afford NOT to do it.  In most cases, you can self-publish your book without spending a fortune on it.  As a matter of fact, with print-on-demand publishing capabilities today, almost anyone can publish a book.  I suggest you look at POD publishers like BookSurge (www.booksurge.com).

Let’s get one thing clear here: writing a book is not easy at all.  It takes a commitment of time and intellectual capital from you.  I know because I’ve already written three books and have more on the way.  It takes time and effort to produce a product you’ll be proud to showcase.

The rewards for the effort you make to publish your expertise are excellent.  First, I can almost guarantee that most business owners will never publish a book.  Might talk a good game but won’t do it.  A few might even atttempt it but never finish it.

A book that shares your expertise is a market differentiator.  If you’re looking for a way to survive in the long run and create some separation from you and your competition, write and publish a book.

I have a good friend of mine who is in the herbal business.  He’s already written two books that he sells at an amazing profit margin and he has created for himself a recognition for his expertise.  He promotes his business and his expertise everywhere he goes.  It clearly separates him from the crowd.

I don’t care what business you are in…you can do this.  Landscaping business?  Write a book about tips for keeping your yard looking like a million dollars.  CPA advisory firm?  If you haven’t written a book on a multiple number of topics to help your customers already, shame on you.  Own a resturant?  Share your favorite recipes and tricks/tips for making meals at home that are “5 Star Quality” but economical.  Own a heating business?  Graphic artist?  Whatever business, you need to consider writing and publishing a book.

“But I don’t know how to write”.  Then find someone who can write and help you develop an outline and draft.  If you want to do it bad enough, you’ll find someone who will help.  There are too many tools available out there to help you publish a book (and most are free).

Differentiate yourself from the crowd by sharing and selling your expertise.  I know it won’t solve your immediate problem of dealing with a slowdown in business but the investment of time will pay off in the long run.  Trust me on this, your competition isn’t going to do it.

Beating the Recession Webinar Now Available! January 2, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in A New Webinar!, business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Increasing Your Profitability, Innovation: Not Just for the Big Dogz, Public Relations Strategies, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
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David DirksYou’ve asked for it and now we’re offering it…

If there was one webinar that you could attend and spend a few bucks on, this is the one.  With business conditions as they are, you can either choose to ignore it or do something about it.  This 5-hour webinar is designed to help you impact those marketing and sales issues that you can control…and there’s a lot you can control!

We’ve designed this webinar to be jam-packed with actionable marketing and sales strategies that are designed to move your business forward and keep it moving in any economy!!

For registration information, go to:

www.regonline.com/CBP1250

Note:  There is a significant discount for those who sign up before 1/23/09…don’t miss out on that.

Dave

Retailer Strategies: Beating the Big Boxes December 20, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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David DirksA regular reader of our blog, a marketing director of a two-store retail operation, recently sent me this note:

“I have stumbled across your site via Google, and have found many useful tips, and ideas to use in our day to day operations with my previous employer in the retail industry.

I am now in the retail world, and although similar in the “customer focused industry”.   I am finding it harder to come up with ideas to draw in foot traffic for our unique, upscale home & garden boutique.  We capture e-mails & information, send out mass e-mails with flyers, intimate wine & cheese events that have a store wide sale during that event.  I’m in the process of creating a newsletter for launch Jan 1, and our owners are constantly running a sale of some sort (which I think devalues the product if there is a 15-25% off sale every day).

Do you think you can help? I need something that will create a buzz quickly, our owners want fast results…”
I called her and we had a nice chat.  For the most part, she is doing many things already that will pay bigger dividends as time goes on.  She’s new to the retailer she works for now and has some excellent marketing skills.  After our conversation, I sent her an email recapping some of my thoughts.

I thought you might find them helpful, so I’ve added my summary to her below:

Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today.  We’re glad that you’ve found the “Running with the Big Dogz” blog helpful to you.

I thought it would be good just to quickly recap a few items we discussed:

  • It seems that you are already creating additional customer value by developing your newsletter and adding other ‘event’s’ to your store schedule.
  • Increasing the number customers that are added weekly to the customer database will become more critical as time goes on.  I would recommend capturing all customers, even those who are from out of town.  You can still send them an electronic version of your newsletter if the newsletter is packed with tips & advice on gardening, basic skills, etc. The out-of-town customers will be your internet customers of the future.
  • Your strategic advantage against the big box competitors in your market is your ability to drill down to the customer level. The big boxes have no customer level tracking whatsoever.  If you capture POS data for every customer, you’ll soon have a treasure trove of demographic and buying data that will help you refine your product/service set as well as target very customized offers to your customers based on their historical buying habits.
  • Web-based sales should be a high priority and acceleration of for expanding sales/service via the internet is key.  You indicated that they had already begun some minor commercial expansion of the website but I would make it a much higher priority than it is.  Internet sales may or may not overtake your in-store sales but the goal is to add incrementally profitable revenue streams.
  • Your ‘girls night out’ program sounds excellent and we discussed creating a similar package for the men too.
  • I highly recommend reducing or cutting completely any marketing spend on flyers or ads in free distribution periodicals.  As I noted, it might be better to spend that money on more ‘one-to-one’ marketing programs like your demographically target events, targeted direct mail offers, and more investment in commercializing your website.
  • We also discussed the alternative of possibly empowering your sales team to offer an instant X% discount for buyers who need just a slight push to make the sale that day.  It may be a much more constructive way to offer a discount ONLY IF NECESSARY to keep a customer from walking out.  It might be more effective than the constant “gotta sell everything today at a discount” mentality.  The caveat is that if the “deep” discounting works and your profit margins remain stable, then it may make sense to keep doing it.
  • To get more mileage from your PR marketing efforts, especially for your special events, I’d call and develop a relationship with the business editors at the major paid circulation newspapers and other periodicals.
  • One of the best ways to help ‘sell’ a marketing proposal is focusing on the benefits (not the features of the program) and use real examples from other high performing businesses to demonstrate that the concept has a track record of success.

Based on what I heard today, you are on the right track and are doing the things that will provide you with the recession-resistent flow of business.  It will take time but it will come.  Keep up the great work!

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Have a burning marketing and/or sales issue?  Feel free to email me at dirksmarketing@gmail.com and see if together we can come up with some ways to solve it.

Small Business Misses New Media Opportunities February 6, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Blogging for Business, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff.
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dirksphoto.jpgStaples (www.investor.staples.com), the office supply people, conduct their annual Staples National Small-Business Survey. Of the many interesting results, one stuck out like a sore thumb to me. In their research, they found that “more than 84 percent said they have not yet incorporated ‘new media’ (blogs, podcasts, virtual meeting software or services) into their business activities.”

What? You mean they’re not taking advantage of creating marketing buzz with a business blog? They haven’t figured out just how valuable a podcast series that is down loaded from their website (if they have one) is to gaining a new customer? What?

I was a bit stunned but I shouldn’t have. Less than two years ago, no one knew what a blog or, even better, a podcast was. Even now, with all the buzz on blogs and podcasts, many people I talk to are in the dark. No lights on at all.

Let’s go small business! The Big Dogz have figured this thing called ‘new media’ out already and are running with it. You need to do the same. Don’t know where to begin? For starters, Google something like “creating a business blog” and “creating a business podcast”. You can do this. New media means that you get a chance to interact and/or give valuable, usable information to your current and future clients.

You need to get it in gear and find out what this ‘new media’ can do for you. There’s more there than you think. Like I said, the Big Dogz are already there.

How to Sell Your Expertise & Build Your Business! January 31, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Recession: How to Beat It!.
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dirksphoto.jpgHow can I expand my business locally and beyond? How can I tap into regional, statewide or even national business? How can I reach the world? Sound too far fetched for your business? It’s not. Not in this day and age of digital media. Now you too can create some buzz around you and your business. All you have to do is you’re your knowledge. You know, that stuff in your head you’ve been accumulating and perfecting for years now. That stuff.

This is a Big Dogz strategy that you’ll find few businesses taking advantage of. It’s both a shame and a waste of intellectual capital or expertise…whatever you want to call it.

In between completing the blog series that I’ve already started on account sales management, sales metrics, and beating a recession, I’m going to throw in ways you can leverage your expertise to create more business opportunities and more marketing buzz. Remember, marketing ‘buzz’ are those viral types of marketing that don’t cost a lot of money but can pay direct and indirect business dividends.

1. YouTube Yourself

There’s nothing but good news here. First, YouTube, now wholly owned by Google, is commonly known as the place to see all kinds of short videos on an amazing amount of subjects. Yes, there are many stupid ones but a whole lot of really good or fun ones too.

Increasingly, business owners are finding out that a short, 10-minute or less video posted on YouTube can open the world to them and their expertise. It’s a completely inexpensive way to display some of your expertise to the world. What could you talk about or show in a short YouTube video? I thought about that and came up with a few ideas for all kinds of businesses:

Accountant: Ten-Year End Tax Tips!

Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_210yr0ryQ

Chef: How to Make Chicken Marsala

Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgaeuC4OsGQ

Author/Publisher: How to Write a Book

Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXMghQTGNLs

Fishing Tackle dealer: How to Use a Flasher to Improve Your Fishing!

Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRk-RnZStyI

To make your posting effective, you’ll have to promote the location of your YouTube videos in all of your sales, marketing, and networking efforts. Make sure you reference them in your emails, flyers, brochures, and even your business card. Do you part to be sure locals can find your video postings. Make sure you direct YouTube visitors back to your website. YouTube is a free way to get additional exposure for you and your expertise. Oh, and you might just do more business along the way!

Delivering Superior Customer Service: The Grand Hyatt of Tampa December 14, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Increasing Your Profitability, Keeping Your Customers, Uncategorized.
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dirksphoto.jpgI’ve just witnessed/experienced a text book example of delivering on superior customer service. At the moment, I’m in Tampa awaiting a flight back home, wrapping up a three day business trip. I’ve been staying at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa during this time. The hotel is a living & working model of creating and delivering consistent superior customer service. By the way, ‘superior’ customer service is defined in my book as that level of customer service that is so obvious that you’d have to be dead to miss it. It’s a level of customer service that you recognize the moment you’re picked up at the airport to the hotel until the time you check out.

Any business, large or small, intent on delivering superior customer service quickly recognizes that it’s your ability to pay attention to the ‘small things’ that makes the difference. It’s the ability to continuously aggregate small but significant ‘moments of truth’ that build on one another during a customers experience with you.

Here are a few examples of the Grand Hyatt in Tampa delivering on superior customer service:

1. Every, repeat, every interaction with any level of Hyatt employees in this hotel was delivered in a consistent fashion. The always friendly smiles, personal & friendly banter, and the constant scanning for opportunities to serve are just a few examples of superior customer service. On the last point of scanning for opportunities to serve, everyone on the staff is trained to find ways to help hotel guests enjoy their moments there. Hotel employee’s are not hiding from guests. Some are even strategically posted around the common areas of the hotel and are constantly scanning the area for opportunities to help customers.

2. The Grand Hyatt has figured out how to insure that all employees are trained effectively to deliver customers service when they are in the line of duty. That’s not an easy thing to do but the Big Dogz do it all the time and invest in it deeply. You can’t create a superior customer service experience by skimping on constant training.

3. It’s clear to me, as a guest of the Grand Hyatt, that they have figured out how to monitor customer service levels constantly. They have to be great at spotting team members who could become the weak link in the customer service chain. Their response to less than superior customer service performance is probably two things: a) retraining the team member and/or b) showing them the door.

4. There were no lulls in the delivery of superior customer service. I noted that no matter what the time of day, early morning or late at night. They, like many of the Big Dogz who are best at this game, have built into their people, culture and business processes, the ability to deliver superior customer service CONSTANTLY, 24/7.

We have choices in our business models:

– deliver awful customer service all the time

– deliver mediocre customer service all the time

– deliver inconsistent customer service all the time

– deliver superior customer service inconsistently

– deliver superior customer service all the time

I could go on and on but you get the idea. There are no ‘secrets’ to consistently superior customer service. It takes a coordinated, dedicated, and well invested focus on the part of everyone in your business, no matter how big or small. By the way, superior customer service has many advantages. Here are a few:

– Creates a ‘buzz’ around your business. The Big Dogz who execute on this are able to create such a high level of service that their customers are a key part of their marketing and sales process. Built in. No extra cost other than your investment of time, money, and intellectual capital on keeping your customer service ‘superior’.

– Allows you to keep your pricing at higher levels. Your customers will come back again and again for the experience. They won’t generally take the next lowest cost provider. They value the customer service experience they get. It’s a loss to them when they can’t get it, for any price.

– Attracts the best and the brightest. No one wants to work with a second rate provider of customer service. Who wants to work for a business who doesn’t care about providing superior customers service? Answer: People who don’t get hired by places like the Grand Hyatt in Tampa.

Is it easy to create superior customer service? No. However, if you want to build a business that will stand the test of time and profitability, you have no choice. Do it.

Missing the Public Relations Prize October 27, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Public Relations Strategies.
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In addition to writing to this blog, I also am a freelance outdoor writer.  I have a weekly outdoor column (www.recordonline.com) and have published in other outdoor magazines.  But that’s not why I’m writing this particular post.  This post is about illustrating what a lost opportunity to get free publicity really looks like.

As an outdoor columnist, I have to write 52 columns a year, at a minimum.  The need for new and fresh material is constant…well, weekly.  In the seven years I’ve been writing that column, I can count on my hand the number of outdoor guides (people whose incomes and livelihoods depends on taking people out on fishing or hunting guided trips) who have approached me with a column idea that I could pursue.

Or take the couple who emailed me only recently to tell me that they opened a tour service for guided hikes, mountain bike rides, and kayaking adventures…last June!

So, here I am, a local outdoor writer who publishes an outdoor-oriented column every week in a newspaper that has one of the largest circulations in the area (+300k).

If you’re an outdoor guide who depends on getting the word out about his/her services and you can’t afford to advertise…what do you do?  You contact the local outdoor writer with some column ideas!!!  If you own an outdoor tour guide business that is located smack dab in the circulation area of the newspaper…what do you do?  You contact the local outdoor writer before you open your business with a press release announcing your new business (for starters).  Then how about some story ideas?

How sad.  There are people who are in business and don’t recognize an opportunity to share their knowledge and skills with readers of a large circulation newspaper…and get some needed publicity to boot?

How hard is that?  Apparently very, very hard.  As a marketer and freelance outdoor writer, I’m just amazed by the lack of interest, follow-up…call it what you will.

Yes, there have been a few that recognized the opportunity to get some press.  Those are the very few who have the ability to step forward and make things happen.

What about you?  What public relations opportunities are your creating for your business?  What local writers or columnists would be interested in hearing some of your story ideas?  What are you waiting for?

Bring Your Expertise to Expert Village September 12, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Sales Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
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How can I expand my business brand and showcase my expertise to the world for little expense?

A great question which deserves a solid answer. ExpertVillage (www.expertvillage.com) is one way you might consider doing it if you have a little time and some filmmaking ability (or know someone who does!). With the cost of higher quality video cameras coming down rapidly and software like Apple’s Final Cut Express, you can do this.

First, let’s talk about ExpertVillage. If you go onto the site, you’ll immediately see what it’s all about: an online warehouse full of ‘how-to’ video footage on almost any topic you can think of (with some notable exceptions like no ‘adult’ stuff or that distasteful slapstick you find on YouTube). They provide you with a written package of production guidelines that will keep you on track.

expertvillage.jpgAnyone with a decent video camera, basic sound equipment, and some inexpensive and easy to use software (like Final Cut Express) can record, edit and showcase their talent via ExpertVillage.

Did I mention that ExpertVillage pays you for your efforts too? Yes, it’s true. After you shoot and edit your ‘how-to’ project for them, and if they accept it (they do have basic standards you know), ExpertVillage posts your footage on their site. They own the footage and you get to share with the world your knowledge.

If you don’t see a topic that covers your expertise, you can suggest the topic to them and they might just offer it.

When you sign up, take the site tutorial to learn how this all works. ExpertVillage makes it’s money when it matches up your topic with potential advertisers. It’s a great idea.

The key point is that you can get additional (and very valuable) online media exposure and get paid for it at the same time. They post your bio on the site and will list your business website as well. After you completed one, you could send out a press release to all of your local media, noting that ExpertVillage has now made your expertise available for all to see online. It’s a great thing.

Just take a minute and find a topic and you’ll see some very astute small business folks who understand how to make this work for them. And they pay YOU for the effort! Only in America.