Betterment…Is A Strategy July 12, 2013Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, marketing, Marketing Buzz, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
Tags: business strategy, David Dirks, differentiation, market differentiation, market strategy, marketing, marketing strategy, sales strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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Why do people buy your products or services? Are they forced to buy them out of necessity? Do you have a monopoly? Probably not. But understanding why people buy – and it’s often not on price – is one key to business longevity.
If you sell products or services that can easily be obtained elsewhere, why should they buy from you? Think about yourself as a consumer for moment. When you make a purchase – are you making it to contribute to a life of mediocrity? No. We buy things because of one basic reason: betterment. I buy milk as a staple but the place I buy my milk is the place that offers me the best tasting milk at a fair price. I don’t buy my milk anywhere else because I feel the milk I buy there is better for me and my family.
Betterment. It’s a word…a noun to be exact. Websters defines it as “becoming better” and “an improvement that adds value to property…” Consider yourself “property” as a consumer.
As a business owner, your job is to convince the rest of the world (or at least your wedge of it) that your product or service offers someone a way to better themselves…their lives…their families. In a world where everything seems like a commodity, your edge is communicating how your company delivers on improving something in the life of your customer and, most importantly, your prospective customers. The success of your business model depends on it.
That said, if betterment was easy to define, everyone would be doing it but few are – just look around you. Most business owners are stuck on price or try to differentiate based on product or service features or benefits.
Apple has long been a master at parlaying great technology and wrapping it around betterment. Apple marketing and sales messaging is almost centrally focused on how Apple products enhance or better a life. And they are able to deliver on that promise to (if you are a pc head, you don’t get this but we’re ok with that).
If you follow a blog, perhaps this one – you have the expectation that spending time here will better your life or business in some way, shape or form. Otherwise, you wouldn’t spend you time on any blog that didn’t offer and deliver on that. The most popular blogs are followed because people get something out of them (entertainment value, economic value, etc.) that they can’t find easily elsewhere.
The first step on the path of a message of betterment is to translate what your product or service does to get a customer there. The destination is betterment. For example, a landscaper cuts the grass and makes the property look great each week. Where’s the betterment? How about the time it frees you from having to do it and spend more time on things you want to do instead – like spending more time with family. By making your property look like an estate, you feel that your property and the quality of your life are enhanced (as opposed to looking at tall grass and weeds).
In other words, a betterment message is thinking of your product beyond the standard features and benefits it offers. How does it translate – tangibly or intangibly – into a path to making some aspects of a customers life better?
The second step is making sure all of your marketing and sales messaging is zeroed in on the elements of betterment…clearly…concisely…and consistently. You have to be able to draw a picture in the mind of the customer so they don’t need an algorithm to figure out why your product is the one they should buy. They should “get” betterment.
Never easy to do but clearly worth the investment of time and effort to get there. Betterment – it’s a strategy.
The Experience is the Marketing April 12, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Marketing Buzz.
Tags: best practices, business growth, business strategy, buzz marketing, David Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, innovation, market differentiation, marketing strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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You want a great marketing strategy? Create an incredible customer experience and you’ll have the greatest contributor to new and recurring business you could have. Think about it. Most business owners and managers think of marketing and promoting their business in the context of spending money on advertising. While certainly advertising and other forms of marketing your business are key, creating a superior customer experience is the first worthy marketing investment you can make.
This is often a mistake made by new business start-ups who in the heat of battle forget that the experience they create for their customers is the most impressionable and lasting investments they can make.
And it doesn’t much matter that whether you provide a product or service either. We all know how much Apple pays attention to the user or customer experience. Every detail of the path their customer takes has been designed and engineered to provide a great and positive experience for the Apple customer. And yes, Apple spends plenty on traditional advertising and marketing. But I’m willing to bet that the experience of buying from Apple and then working with their products sells more product than the advertising does.
Do you know of a local business where they have created a customer experience that has the impact to keep you going back time and again?
So, for those businesses that compete on price as their primary “marketing” strategy, take note: price is your race to the bottom.
Here are a few things to consider in developing a “marketing experience” for your business:
- The customer experience begins at the point your prospect or returning customer enters your business – whether through your store or via your website.
- The first few moments of contact and connection to your business are the most critical. First impressions are important and immediate impressions are critical. If the initial impression is negative, you probably have less than a 50% chance of redeeming yourself in front of your customer or prospect.
- Customer experience has to be designed from end-to-end in order to ensure that the experience is engineered from the time they enter your online or offline store/office to the time they leave. End-to-end.
- Layout your customer experience on paper. You need to be able to describe what positive emotions & attributes you want the customer to get impacted by. You have to design a flow of experience that incorporates an impression that can be implanted into the customers brain.
- People within your business provide the most critical impact on a customer. Make sure that everyone is trained to provide the kind of customer experience that will delight. If you’ve been to a place like Disney World, you know what I mean.
- Be flexible and able to adjust your customer experience as you see/hear the reactions from customers. Be willing to test new ways to improve the customer experience. Look for examples of excellent customer experiences outside of your industry.
Creating an exceptional customer experience is not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it and it’s pretty clear most businesses don’t. A positive customer experience can create customers that stick with you and competitors who can’t follow you.
Your Own Web-based Radio Show July 28, 2009Posted 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.
Tags: radio, webcast, webcasting
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If 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.
How to Position Your Business in a Recession May 29, 2009Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, marketing, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!.
Tags: beating a recession, economic development, marketing, marketing strategy, michigan, texas
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If you want some great examples of marketing into the headwinds of a recession, look no further than the states of Michigan and Texas. Michigan, a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country because of a devastating hit in the car industry which is still unraveling as we speak, is marketing itself with gusto. Have you seen the TV ads touting Michigan as a place to expand your business? Or the full page ads in leading business publications like Inc. magazine? I have and I’m impressed.
Texas is undertaking the same type of marketing campaign to spur economic development in the state. So, while the world seems to be reeling from the brink of a complete economic meltdown (it isn’t over yet), these two states are spending some serious coin promoting their economic development opportunities. Are they crazy? Yes, crazy like a fox as the saying goes.
If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know that my strategy is to maintain a marketing investment in your business no matter what the economic times. What Michigan and Texas are doing is taking advantage of the fact that they are about the only two states that are investing in marketing at this time. This at at time when both states are facing major budget deficits. The investment that these two states are making is an investment into their future. Here’s what will happen. When the economy eventually returns to the positive, Michigan and Texas will be what we call ‘top of mind’ in the minds of businesses who are looking to expand their facilities and operations. They are literally planting seeds of future economic development in their states when everyone else is holding back.
Planting seeds of future business through a consistent marketing investment is much like a farmer planting seeds for his next crop. After planting the seed, nothing much seems to be happening on the surface. Days will go by and you won’t see anything coming up through the soil after the seeds have been planted. Does the farmer worry? Nope. The farmer knows that underneath, where the naked eye cannot see, the seeds are germinating and beginning to expand. Soon, when the time is right, the seeds transform into plants. In time, these plants produce the material which can be harvested.
The same goes for what Michigan and Texas are doing now with their marketing campaigns. They are planting the seeds of their own future success and, like the farmer, are doing so because they know that they know the seeds will eventually produce a fruitful harvest. In the meantime, most other states are holding back on the planting of any seed and not able to look beyond today’s dire budget crisis.
My own state if New York, with its own budget crisis, has taken the other road and has disappeared from the economic development map. They’ve even cut back on the amount of personnel focused on growing its business base in the state. On the surface, it looks like New York has no choice but to cut its own marketing investment in economic development because of a huge budget deficit. What will really happen is that yes, the state will save a few bucks today but pay a larger price in the future when the economy starts to roar back (I’m an eternal optimist!). New York state will be trying to play catch up but will find itself behind the curve and behind states like Michigan and Texas in terms of attracting businesses to their states.
Michigan and Texas do what the Big Dogz of top performing companies do as a routine: they invest in themselves regardless of what the economy is doing knowing they will reap a larger reward in the near future. It’s a lesson that all other states should heed.
PS: Another thing about Michigan and its current marketing campaign. They use actual success stories in their ads to validate their positioning that Michigan really gives businesses “the upper hand”. That’s another feather in their cap.
Webinars: The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good May 15, 2009Posted by David Dirks in marketing, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
Tags: marketing strategies, marketing webinars, sales strategies, seminars, webinars, workshops
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As a marketer, I just love the internet for the power that it allows us to harness and leverage. It allows us to conduct market research, design market strategies and tactics, create products & services, interact with our customers, check up on our competitors…and more. All this in a collaborative package that allows us to share and exchange ideas freely and across the world. The impact of the internet on marketing alone is just breathtaking.
One outgrowth of web marketing is the webinar. It comes in all kinds of flavors but after having sat through more webinars than I can count over the past two years, they only come in three basic flavors. The ugly, the bad, and the good. And yes, I reversed the old cliche!
The ugly webinar is ugly because it’s execution is ugly. The presentation is enough to make your eyes bleed. The facilitator sounds like they just pulled a stranger off the street and gave him the controls. Ugly webinars are ugly but I won’t necessarily hang up. Being the optimist that I am, I’m always hoping that I’ll be able to find enough kernals of insight and knowledge that it is worth sitting through this thing. It’s a risky proposition but sometimes I get lucky. Even if I attend a really ugly in-person seminar, I’ll work hard to find information I can put to good use.
That brings us to the bad webinar. These webinars are bad because they oversell the benefits of what you’ll ‘learn’ and package it in a very well design webinar. The only problem is that there’s no ‘meat’ in this webinar. It was put together by some marketing and sales people who said to themselves, “hey, we can take our sales brochure and turn it into a webinar.” These guys want to ride the wave of webinar popularity and get in on this thing too. For those of us listening and watching this webinar, we smell a rat. They’ll tell you there is meat in this webinar but all you’ll get is processed cheese. After about 30-60 seconds of the bad webinar, you can safely hang up. The bad webinar is bad not because it doesn’t look good or the facilitator isn’t professional, it’s because they created the Gordon Gecko of webinars. All grease, well-dressed, slick, and very thin on character.
I’ve saved the best for last. The good seminar is good because it delivers a meaty presentation that is full of excellent insights and information. Makes you think about things differently. The good webinar delivers on what they promised in their email pitch. I feel like they actually went above and beyond that. I could pay for the good webinar because it over-delivers and blows my expectations out of the water. The good webinar is well designed and presented in a concise and well facilitated manner. A really good webinar gives me a nicely designed workbook that I can keep as well. Although there is a timeframe for the good webinar, nobody seems too worried and they answer almost all the questions that we listeners have. Do they sell? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. If they do sell during the webinar, the % of information to sales pitch is about 90%/10%.
If I was to put a number on where I think all the webinars I’ve attended fall into it would look like this:
Ugly Webinars: 40%
Bad Webinars: 50%
Good Webinars: 10%
Yup. That’s about where they stand. As usual, there are only a few who really understand that we, the participants, are not as stupid as we look. We can smell when something is bad and we can see when something is ugly. That makes those who have good webinars stand out from the crowd. That’s called differentiation.
Promotion 101: Educate Your Customers March 18, 2009Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies.
Tags: buzz marketing, promotion, promotional strategies, retail promotion
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I 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.
Retailer Strategies: Beating the Big Boxes December 20, 2008Posted 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.
Tags: beating a recession, business strategy, increasing revenues, market differentiation, marketing, promotion, public relations, sales, sales strategy, Sales Tactics
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A 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!
Have a burning marketing and/or sales issue? Feel free to email me at email@example.com and see if together we can come up with some ways to solve it.
Driving Retail Sales: Groo’s Shoes October 22, 2008Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, Local Brand Development, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
Tags: cross promotion, driving sales traffic, marketing, marketing strategy, promotion, retail sales, sales, sales strategy
If you read this blog long enough, you’ll get the hint that creating a growing and profitable business comes down to creating a business that can differentiate itself from the competition. If I had one key word to describe the process of marketing and selling, ‘differentiate’ would be all the word I’d need. The Big Dogz know how imperative it is to keep creating and refining the ways you can differentiate your business from the crowd. The only crowd you want is the one that will beat a path to your door.
I make it a habit to scan my local paper, The Times Herald-Record (www.recordonline.com) to see what kinds of advertising creative and marketing campaigns are out there. Just today, I found a local shoe retailer who’s been in the business for many, many years with their latest ad. When I saw it, I immediately said to myself, “That’s the kind of event that helps to position a local store like Groo’s Shoes in a different light with its customers.” And create new ones.
Like many local hometown stores, Groo’s has to compete successfully against giants like Kohl’s and Target. Groo’s probably knows that it cannot compete soley on price against the giant chains. What the ad below shows is clearly an effort to create the kind of shopping experience that you can’t find in the big boxes.
So here is a local store that gets it. As I scanned the pages of the newspaper, this ad just naturally popped out. It was located in a sea of similar sized ads but stood out and looks to be a great event that might just create traffic to their store. The point is, they are making the right effort to create differentiation in a tough retail market.
While that is all good, there are a few things missing here. The website doesn’t promote the event! To get the most mileage from your advertising, you’ve got to integrate all of your marketing together. Your ads promote not only the event, but should push customers and prospects to the website for more information. Maybe a special offer only available on the website but connected to the “Girl’s Night Out” would have been a great way to leverage the marketing tools that Groo’s already has available.
Other than that, this is a classic example of creating unique events to drive store traffic. The enticement of free High School Musical 3 movie tickets is a great tie-in. If they keep on track and continue to create events like these (not like the usual ‘sales days’ crap you see most often), they will continue to build their local brand. Good stuff.
Developing a Local Brand – 1 September 30, 2008Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Local Brand Development, Marketing Buzz.
Tags: brand development, branding, brands, growing brands, local branding
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If you want to find a local business that has found the gold that lies in branding a business effectively, just look around you. Do you know of a business that has been around for a long time and is still very successful? I’ll bet you do. It could be your local deli or maybe a local tailor who’s been around for what seems like forever. Local businesses with a strong brand appeal are businesses who have seen all kinds of economic conditions and still keep going. The people who build these kinds of strong local brands have the ability to keep their eye on the branding ball.
The Big Dogz have long understood that building a lasting business requires laying a foundation of branding the endures because it endears customers to their products and/or services.
What are they doing that most businesses are not? Here are a few of my observations:
- They pay attention to the details. They take no customer for granted and extend themselves to the point that customers instantly recognize the value they get from purchasing their products or services. They not only know your name but they learn more about your likes and dislikes over time. If they make a mistake, they attend to it immediately and make the customer whole or better. They are not in the transaction business; they are in the relationship business.
- They provide an ‘buying experience’ that is well-above the norm. People don’t just go there to shop, they go there with the intent to ‘live’ through the experience of shopping. Have you ever been to Stew Leonards? Grocery shopping there is an ‘experience’ that reinforces their local brand. Started in 1969, it has revenues over $300mm with just four stores! Most importantly, they have done exceedingly well despite the growth of mega-grocery stores and severe competition from national chains. Why? Because customers value the ‘experience’ that Stew Leonard provides them each time they come. It’s a local brand that stands for more than just a place to buy groceries. Oh, and they aren’t the cheapest place in town either but they continue to thrive just the same. Want to learn more about Stew Leonards? Go to www.stewleonards.com
Local brand development is another way to create lasting market differentiation and beat your competition into the ground. Stay tuned for more on local brand development!