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.
Community Marketing: Fact vs. Fiction April 12, 2013Posted by David Dirks in Community Marketing.
Tags: business marketing, business strategy, community advertising, community marketing, David E Dirks, dirks on strategy, marketing, marketing strategy
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One underutilized area of marketing is where a business supports one or a few local community events and/or organizations. I say it’s underutilized primarily because most businesses I know are often not quite sure how to relate support with business needs. Then there’s the issue of why it’s good business to support local organizations and what are the best ways to support them. Here’s my list of ‘fact vs. fiction’ when it comes to what I call community marketing:
- Community marketing can be strategically important to a small businesses. Sure, you can ignore the world around you but smart businesses who support community events and organizations reap the benefits of establishing additional good will and brand equity within the community. Helping non-profit organizations in a real and genuine way raises your stature and your businesses stature in your community.
- Focusing on the “giving” part means that the business benefits to you take care of themselves and accrue in different ways. Most people can see through a person and/or business that’s clearly providing community support in the interest of only getting more business for themselves. Be selfless in this case.
- You have to spend money to support community-based organizations. Yes but often they want your time as a volunteer to sit on a board or committee…they really could use your brainpower but the money helps too. Perhaps you support them by lending them some manpower from your business for an event. Whatever it is, it isn’t just about supporting with direct dollars.
- Buying ads in community-based events will drive business. No, it won’t. You have better chance of winning the Powerball. Why? First, ads in community-event flyers have a life expectancy of about 10 seconds. Don’t believe me? Where do you think these printed booklets often go? On someones coffee table? On their fridge? Taped onto a wall? In their purse? No, most are left on the floor or table on the night of the event. Secondly, it takes more than one ad impression to get people to respond to your ad. In fact, it takes at least 3 impressions to get anyone to notice you at all. So you think that one 5 x 5 ad in the community flyer is going to drive your business? Make the phones ring? Rookie mistake. The real reason you buy ads in community events is TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT AND PROVIDE THEM WITH A SOURCE OF FUNDING. That’s it.
- Advertising in community based publications is branding. No, it’s not – at least not like Nike. You’re not Nike and spending a few hundred dollars per year to maybe $2k or $3k won’t make you a household name either. Why? Again, because the life expectancy of most community publications is minute and the amount of people who actually bother to look at the ads is even less. If advertising is your focus for branding or business development, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. Instead, build your business brand by building strong and positive relationships as you network through the community.
- You should never expect any business resulting from your involvement in a community-based organization. Wrong. The difference is that you should never hold your support for any community-based organization hostage to your demand to drive business in your direction. People will see through your real motives and your reputation will be tainted as such.
Want to know how the real community players (I mean that as professional business people who are genuine in their support) get more business? They network. They development genuine professional relationships with other business people. People like to support other people who have like-minded interests. You can get more business by being a consistent and genuine supporter of community organizations if you focus on helping the organization and leveraging the relationships of the people you meet along the way.
Learning point: If you want to meet other successful business owners and other key community influencers, working to help better community-based organizations is where you will find them. Just look at the boards of some of your community organizations? Whose on them? Losers? I think not.
Supporting community-based organizations can be a very smart investment of both time and money if you are genuine and really committed to helping them.
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.
The Costs of Strategy March 6, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Strategy.
Tags: best practices, business growth, business strategy, David Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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It’s funny. Not a day goes by when someone tells me they need some “strategy” to help them in their business. Strategy? Today the word “strategy” is used like a cheap, $2 dollar bill. It must just sound good to say the work “strategy” in a sentence. So what’s so funny about that? Well, everybody wants a strategy until they find out that implementing it might actually cost them some money. Perhaps having a “strategy” might mean you have to upgrade a system or process to gain a clear competitive edge. Or it might mean investing in additional people resources to help you exploit a new marketing opportunity. As soon as the “strategy” requires an investment of some kind, the next stage is, “How can we do this on a shoe string budget?” Well, you can’t. So, business owners and managers will pick off the parts of the strategy that call for more investment than they are willing to make. That usually means that what’s left are one or two tactics that are weakened greatly because they were part of an overall “strategy” that now only has a few pieces of structure to hold it up.
The result: Strategy failure.
Couple of observations here:
- Strategy may require investment in resources whether it be money, people, and time or any combination thereof.
- “Strategy on the Cheap” is not a strategy. That’s hoping that you’ll find enough “cheap” or “free” ways to implement the strategy to make it work.
- Strategy is not a cure for a bad business model. If your business model is broke, no amount of strategy will help you unless you are willing to make great changes and most likely a reallocation of resources.
- Strategy is not designed to make you feel good. Strategy and the implementation of it may require you and great parts of you business to change.
- Strategy is not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it and doing with great competitive and business results. Everyone in business isn’t.
- Strategy without action is dead-on-arrival. Nice to have but useless unless implemented.
- Strategy changes the moment the bullets fly. When the competition and markets keep moving forward, change is inevitable. When the competitive battle begins, be ready to modify your strategy as conditions warrant.
- Strategy cannot fix things tomorrow. Impatience is the killer of many “strategies”.
- Strategy development must be shared. You cannot develop a strategy by sitting yourself in a room and hoping something comes out of your head. Or perhaps what comes out of your head is not that good. Share your ideas and challenges with others and let the vetting process begin.
You get the point.
Finding Winning Opportunities February 6, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Strategy.
Tags: best practices, business growth, business opportunities, business strategy, David Dirks, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy
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On the playing field in football or business, the winning team is the one who can find and create opportunities then convert them into a win. Easier said than done when you consider you have to dig to find those opportunities that your competition isn’t already onto. Knowing where to find opportunities on a continual basis is the road to business longevity.
So where do you look or hunt for those opportunities that offer potential for revenues and profitability? Here are a few thoughts on where you might find a few.
- Leverage your business assets for new markets, even if it’s outside your core business. When Amazon needed reliable data infrastructure for its growing web business, it decided to build it on its own. At some point, Amazon realized other companies who need the ability to build web-scale applications would want the same service. Amazon Web Services was born and now powers large chunks of the internet for customers like Netflix, NASA, Virgin Atlantic and many others.
- What about your business or industry that irritates your customers the most? Netflix was born when founder Reed Hastings was charged a late fee notice from a video he rented. A universal customer irritation founded a new business model for video distribution.
- Watch how customers adapt your product or service for new uses. Customers who used Avon’s popular “Skin So Soft” oil discovered that if you mixed it with a 50/50 solution of alcohol, it became a very effective bug repellant. It wasn’t long before Avon created an extension product with just that mix.
- Look for inspiration from other industries outside your own. It’s not uncommon to find clues for opportunities that can be transferred to your own business from a completely different industry. For example, a bank could find inspiration for its web-based services by comparing them to web-services from other industries. The common and easy approach is to compare yourself to those in your own industry. That’s a one-dimensional approach that limits your ability to spot opportunities that could be applied to your business. What are they doing that could give you a competitive advantage?
Creating a real difference in your market place takes hard work and well-tuned internal radar that is able to spot opportunities when they present themselves. Being able to observe in detail the world around you and look for patterns that lead to fresh ideas and opportunities.
Businesses that have a knack for finding opportunities and the exploiting them aren’t lucky. Remember, luck is where preparation meets opportunity. The number of opportunities you find that can be leveraged for your business will be in direct proportion to the number of overlooked things your discover.
Fields of Failure: Build it and They Will Come January 1, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Uncategorized.
Tags: business growth, business strategy, David Dirks, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy, promotion
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Local business owner decides it’s time to make a capital investment into their business and expand it one one fashion or another. The banker is called in and they evaluate the loan package. The banker’s first pass: will they be able to pay us back for the loan? Of course, this is a good question for any loan. All the ratio’s are calculated and analyzed in depth. Cash flow calculations are made and discussed throughly. The numbers are crunched and the loan is deemed approved by the higher powers at the bank. All’s good right?
In most cases the answer is no, things are not good. Why? I can’t tell you how many businesses have been loaned money only to see the expansion fail and the loan gone defunct. What could go wrong when all the right ratio’s where calculated and the cash flows necessary to pay the loan back deemed appropriate?
Plenty. First and foremost, how much of the loan was set aside for marketing and promotion for the new expansion? In too many cases that I’ve observed, there was little or no appropriation for marketing and promotional expenses.
Build it and they will come? Not.
You spend time, effort and money on expanding your capacity to conduct more business and no one will know about it. So focused and intense was the effort to make sure the expansion gets built right that marketing and promotion is pretty much an afterthought.
If your banker isn’t hounding you about what your marketing and promotional plan is for your great expansion, they aren’t doing their job. If you don’t dedicate a healthy amount of your loan proceeds for marketing, then you aren’t doing your job.
Here are two takeaways:
1. Every project, expansion or new build, takes longer to build and usually costs more than we plan for. We end up with a finished project but with little or no money for marketing and promoting it.
2. As a rule of thumb, look to allocate and reserve at least 15 to 20% of your capital investment for marketing and promotional expenses. If you end up spending that allocation because of cost overruns, you’d better figure out how to get the promotion done on a shoe string.
3. Develop your marketing and promotional plan before the project work for the expansion begins.
Congratulations. You’ve been promoted. December 20, 2011Posted by David Dirks in marketing, Strategy.
Tags: advertising, advertising strategy, dirks on strategy, marketing, marketing strategy, sales, sales strategy
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The title of my post today is not mine really. It’s from an ad that really caught my attention. As I go through my daily reading routine, I am intent on finding information that suits my interests, needs, or wants at the time. Of course, I scan the ads and am rarely stopped by them. However, this ad drew me in. Here’s the rest of the copy of this ad:
You’re now the boss of your own life. That’s right, today you officially become your own Chief Life Officer. At Lincoln Financial, we’re here to help all Chief Life Officers take charge no matter where you are in life. So here’s to long weekends and longer retirements, 14-year-olds and 401(k)s, and to passing on wisdom and opportunities. Of course, this job doesn’t require you to punch any clock, or fill out any time sheets, because life isn’t just about what you make, but what you make of it. And while your boardroom is more likely filled with family photos than mahogany, we’d be honored to join your inner circle to help you make important decisions with confidence. After all, the future success of any organization comes down to the one making decisions today. Let Lincoln Financial help you take charge.
Calling all Chief Life Officers.
I don’t know about you but that call to “all Chief Life Officers” really appealed to me. Born at the tail end of the baby boom generation, I can appreciate the appeal to my deeply rooted “need to achieve”.
I’m sure if I was in the room at the time this ad campaign was conceived, I’m sure they were aiming for baby boomers just like me. Chief Life Officer…yup…that’s me (and many of my fellow baby boomers too).
Great strategy. Great ad.
The App in Brick & Mortar Retail Warfare May 8, 2011Posted by David Dirks in Solving Business Problems, Strategy.
Tags: business strategy, David Dirks, dirks on strategy, marketing, marketing strategy, strategy
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While online sales continue to grow at a healthy pace each year, they still only account for a fraction of total retail sales. Is brick & mortar retail on a march to eventual oblivion? Is there something to be said for the in-store buying experience? Is there any hope for traditional brick & mortar retailers in an increasingly online world?
Smart retailers have long learned to integrate their online strategy with their brick & mortar strategy. They use the websites to drive traffic into their stores using the flexibility and the quick cycle times it takes to implement new sales program on the web.
However, the real ringer for brick & mortar retailers is the rise of mobile applications. Mall owners are just now focusing their digital efforts on creating apps that can steer shoppers to their tenant stores. They are basically welding a Groupon-like strategy to the fast moving mobile application world.
Mall owner Simon Properties is currently offering the mobile app Shopkick in many of its malls. Shopkick offers special deals in tenant retailers, some of which are exclusive to Shopkick members. Simon is also considering just buying an mobile application company just to insure they always have access to cutting edge technology. It seems to make sense on a lot of fronts.
It just seems that mall owners, like many others, were slow to grasp the value of mobile applications in their business model but better late then never.
While many associate mobile apps with gaming and clever utility tools, its real value is in providing a more level playing field for brick & mortar retailers who are looking for an edge that drives foot traffic to their stores.
One interesting note about apps is that they are not searchable using engines like Google or Bing. Apps are close-ended and only use the internet to move data around. Not surprising that Google has been investing heavily in the application market (Android anyone?) knowing that increased use of applications cuts into their traditional world wide web search business.
The strategy direction for retailers, large and small, is in mobile applications. Small retailers who are able to utilize apps like Shopkick or develop their own apps will have the advantage over those who continue to ignore the opportunities within mobile applications.