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Betterment…Is A Strategy July 12, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, marketing, Marketing Buzz, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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DirksProPhoto 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, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Community Marketing.
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David Dirks

David Dirks

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:

Facts:

  • 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.

Fiction:

  • 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.

Seth Godin Gets It September 27, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Strategy.
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As I write this post, I’m sitting in a classroom here at the Googleplex in NYC. Just heard Seth Godin (sethgodin.com) and as he was speaking, I wrote down several things (in paraphrase) that stuck with me. This is all in the context of how we become more successful in our business to help other businesses succeed:

What story are you telling?

Are you trusted?

The more you specialize, the more likely you are to solve problems.

What is your brand promise?

Shun non-believers

Are you selling scarcity or abundance?

———————————-

Get it? Think about it.

Where’s Your YouTube Channel? September 19, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in Becoming A Thought Leader, Digital Media Strategy, YouTube Channel Strategy.
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Do you have your own YouTube Channel for your business?  If yes, congrats to you as you are taking advantage of yet another great opportunity to expand you market presence and brand.  Oh, and you’ll be able to sell more products or services over time too.  If you answered that question with a no, then I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that your business doesn’t have its own YouTube Channel.

YouTube used to be the place were you could see cuddly little animals performing stupid tricks (or sometimes funny ones).  Or it was the place you’d find dumb pranks or really dumb tricks.  It still is but to a much lesser extent than before…especially when Google decided to purchase YouTube and make it part of its product family a few short years ago.  Since them, Google has really revved up the YouTube business engines.  The YouTube of today is moving in the direction of providing original programming, providing an expanded array of advertising options and now a vastly improved (and valuable) analytics package like its great Google Analytics does for websites today.

So, why consider building a YouTube Channel?  For one, YouTube represents a huge organic search engine with literally millions and millions of people scouring for information on just about any topic you can think of (that is legal and not pornagraphic of course).  Think of YouTube as you do with Google’s organic search engine.  Every day people are looking for information products, services, ideas on a wide variety of topics…including whatever it is your business does and how it does it.

I don’t care what business you are in, people are looking for real and valuable information that will in some way help them.  I can also tell you what they aren’t looking for: being sold a product or service…at least not directly like some carnival barker.

Want to see the emerging direction of YouTube?  Check out this channel:

http://www.youtube.com/howcast

Notice that Howcast has over 389,000 subscribers and over 650,000,000 views…something we marketers dream about.  Now, you might not have that many subscribers or views but you certainly can develop a large following in the context of your business model.

Here’s an example of a law firm that has developed a YouTube channel that drives between 30-40% of their new client flow.

http://www.youtube.com/sparandbernstein

Spar and Bernstein has 529 subscribers which is excellent but the telling number is the 742,000+ views the channel has had since it started in 2007.  The video on most of its 546 clips is not the best quality but that doesn’t stop people searching for information on immigration law from finding and watching it.  Brad Bernstein, who in my opinion is not only a top notch immigration attorney but also a marketing visionary.  In 2007, he decided to tape his daily radio show and then post the video clips of the show onto his YouTube channel.  The results over time have been spectacular in the context of driving real business to the firm.  And, if you watch the videos, they are educational as Bernstein is answer live questions from his radio show listener audience.

YouTube.  It’s not the old YouTube you used to know.
Watch for more upcoming posts on establishing a YouTube channel for your business.  You can do it!

Congratulations. You’ve been promoted. December 20, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in marketing, 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.

7 Steps to Social Media Marketing Success July 19, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Digital Media Strategy, Social Media Marketing.
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There was a time not long ago when ‘going digital’ meant that your business had to have a website.  However, having a website presence is no longer enough.  To reach more prospects and keep current clients from wandering away, creating and leveraging social media marketing tools like Facebook or Twitter can be critical.

Social media marketing (SMM) is simply the process of creating and engaging both prospective and current customers using social networks, online communities, blogs, and other digital platforms.  The ‘social’ aspect social media marketing means that there is a two-way dialogue between you and your customers.

According to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry report, businesses noted three essential benefits of social media marketing.  First, it provides a way to stand out in an increasingly distracted world.  Secondly, SMM can help improve your search engine rankings over time.  And last but not least, SMM can generate qualified leads for your business.

Small business owners are already taxed for time trying to attend to daily business matters.  Now they find themselves trying to figure out how to create and leverage SMM.

Here are 7 key steps that should be considered as you establish a social media marketing strategy for your business.

1.  Have a goal for your social media strategy.  Social media without goals is aimless.   If you create a Facebook Fan page, you need to be clear about the type conversations you want to engage prospects and clients in and the results you expect.

The Orange County Business Accelerator, (www.facebook.com/OCAcelerator), for example, uses its Facebook page primarily to promote its latest workshops and forums.  Filling seats for their workshops is the goal.

Local author Gene Ladd (http://tinyurl.com/GeneLadd) uses his Facebook page to engage his readers and followers in discussions related to topics covered in his nutrition and spirituality books.  His goal is to grow his following with like-minded people who are also potential buyers of his books.

2.  Social media choices: less is more.  Focus on a few key social media platforms and excel on them.  With literally hundreds of digital platforms to choose from, start with one, say a blog, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, or your own YouTube channel.  Once you establish a presence on that platform, then invest time in learning it inside and out before adding any other social media platforms.  The idea is to only take on what you have time to handle.

Stick with the basic and most popular social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Linkedin, Blogger, and BlogTalkRadio.  In most cases, I highly recommend starting with a simple blog or at most, a Facebook Fan page at first.  Neither costs anything to start other than your investment of time.

3.  Social media marketing is a content beast.  You should be prepared to feed the beast on a regular and consistent basis.  The basic types of content are written (i.e. blog or Fan Page post), video (i.e. YouTube.com), and audio (i.e. BlogTalkRadio.com).

Develop & produce fresh, relevant, and compelling content as often as you can.   To take some of the pressure off of yourself, encourage your partners and/or employees to also provide relevant business content whenever possible.

Create content that can be distributed across multiple social media platforms.  For example, Manhattan-based immigration attorney Brad Bernstein video records his daily radio show and then uploads it to his web radio channel (www.blogtalkradio.com/sparbernstein) and his YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/sparandbernstein).

Bernstein’s YouTube channel gets an average of 4,000 views each week.  Since he created it in 2007, his channel has garnered over 526,000 views and translates into booked consultations with prospective clients every week.
4.  Make your social media easy to find and link everything together.  What good is a blog or a YouTube channel if no one can find it?  If you have a website, make sure to link every social media property you have to it.

5.  Promote your social media sites constantly.  Promoting your social media marketing platforms is a 24/7 task.  Add your social media addresses to your email signature, on your business stationary, and your website of course.  Most social media sites allow you to add links so you can cross-promote on every site you have.

6.  Engage your audience.  Ask questions or discuss key issues in the context of your industry and business.  Create an open loop that encourages people to respond back.  Remember, social media means you have to be ‘social’.
7.  Social media marketing for the long haul.  All too often I see businesses that start a blog, Facebook page or some other social media presence and then flounder with little follow-up.  Eventually their social media efforts dwindle in direct proportion to their flagging investment of time creating and posting content.

Keep in mind that when you first engage in social media marketing, it will seem to take forever to build a following.  Like top athletes, you’ll ‘hit the wall’ on social media effort.  Keep pushing forward until you get your ‘second wind’ to keep up your social media efforts.

Most social media sites cost little to establish your business presence on.  The real cost is in creating and then sharing content that is relevant and engages your prospective and current customers.

If you can consistently create and share content with your social media audience of prospects and customers, you’ll be that much farther ahead of your competition.  Be assured that most are still asleep at the wheel of the social media opportunity but not for long.

The App in Brick & Mortar Retail Warfare May 8, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Solving Business Problems, 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.

Marketing & Positioning the “Second Look” September 30, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, marketing.
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Talk about making lemonade from lemons, this is just pure marketing genius.  Banks, under pressure to expand lending, especially to small businesses who’ve seen their lending resources just about dry up the recession, have created the ‘second look’ option.  The second look option allows either the bank or the borrower to ask for another review of their loan request after the first time it is turned down.

Ok, let me see if I get this straight.  I ask you for a business loan and you say ‘no’.  Then, if I want, I can say, ‘hey, look a this loan request again, I think you made a mistake’.  On the surface, it seems that this ‘second chance’ on a loan makes sense.  I mean people who work in banks can perhaps overlook something or calculate a ratio wrong, or interpret an underwriting policy wrong, and on and on.

Of course, what borrower, after getting their loan request rejected, wouldn’t want to take a chance on another look from the bank?  They might get lucky.

Of course, the banks are not stupid.  They see the political pressure they are under to lend more and so they realize they can market this ‘second look’ and look like champs.  Wait a minute.  The bank reviews a loan, says ‘no’ and we should be grateful for the ‘second look’?

It just begs the question:  Why didn’t you work to get my loan underwritten and reviewed right the first time?  Why don’t you build the ‘second look’ into the ‘first look’ as a process?

Is the ‘second look’ just a substitute process for trying to get it right the first time?  I believe so.

In the meantime, the banks have brilliantly positioned the ‘second look’ in print ads as the white knight to help turn ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.  It reminds me of the Champion lending ads of years ago:  “When Your Bank Says No, Champion Says Yes”.  Remember that gem?  It built quite a lending empire on the backs of a lot of bank ‘no’.

The marketing of the ‘second look’ is excellent marketing by any standard.  When you can take a broken lending process and thread it into gold, you’re one smart banker.

What Ronald Reagan & Lady Gaga have in common March 10, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in personal branding.
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Let me show you a series of photos:

First, Reagan 1:

Then, Reagan 2:

Gaga 1:

Gaga 2:
What do these two have in common?  They are both excellent examples of what we call today, personal branding.  Of course, in President Reagan’s day, it wasn’t called personal branding.  What’s significant about both Reagan and Gaga is what they were able to accomplish over a period of time in the context of how people perceived them.

Reagan was able to move from his branded position as ‘actor’ to his next phase of branding, Governor, and then of course to his last phase, President of the United States (much to his detractors shock and awe).  Think about it.  Reagan, as an example for the rest of us, demonstrated that it was within the realm of possibility to move from ‘Bedtime for Bonzo’ to the Oval Office.  Reagan was able to change his position from what most people thought at the time was absolutely impossible (except for Reagan himself).  Going from movies and TV to the most powerful man in the world an amazing example in personal branding.

In the same context, Lady Gaga started her singing career looking and acting much different than she looks now.  Most people wouldn’t be able to recognize her from her earlier days to her latest branding phase of today.  Whatever you think of Lady Gaga, she’s another excellent example of moving from one branding position to entirely another.  Is it working?  Well, she has real talent and I’m sure her bankers would attest to her marketing power in selling songs and concerts too.

A couple of my takeaways (you may certainly have your own too):

1.  Personal branding is a long term process.  It took both President Reagan and Lady Gaga many years to evolve their brands.  Too often today, we’re led to believe that personal branding is simply a process of repositioning yourself in a few areas using a few tools and…zappo…the new you is born.  Not so.

2. Both President Reagan and Lady Gaga prove that you can clearly move from what your personal brand means today to an entirely different personal brand.  Personal branding can often look like a daunting task to those of us who are not used to looking at ourselves as an evolving personal brand.

3.  Talent still counts.  Both Reagan and Gaga had or have real, tangible talents and skills.  There’s no substitute for mediocrity.  No amount of work on a personal brand can overcome a lack of ability, talent, and skill.  You have to have the goods to deliver the results.

Personal branding is not something new.  It used to be called your ‘reputation’…what you stood for.  It still does. But it’s not just a simple process snapping your finger and making it happen.  It takes time to evolve a personal brand.  The best news is that you can move your personal brand from wherever it is right now to another completely different but genuine brand position.  Just not in one day.

Strategy: So You Want To Be A Rock Star? December 3, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Dirks On Strategy: Episodes.
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DirksOnStrategy120209 <—-click here to for podcast

In business, there are many ways to gain valuable insights that can be applied to your business.  For instance, you can undertake a deep and regular study of your competition to gain insights.  You can also study trends within your area of expertise.  One way I like to gain insights that can apply to a business is to study an entirely different business or industry.  And that’s exactly what we’re going to do on today’s show.

Our topic today is the business of music.  The music industry is well-known for it’s glamour and shine, but at it’s core, it’s a business and one of the toughest at that.  Music trends come and go; musicians are here today and sometimes tomorrow’s forgotten hit.  I think they call those the ‘one hit wonders’.  How many bands do you know that were “hot” for a time and then never heard from again?

To help us understand and gain some insights on the music business, my guest for our show today is Professor Louie who is part owner of Woodstock Records.
In addition to being a record label executive, Professor Louie is also an active musician, his musical group Professor Louie & The Crowmatix on the Woodstock Records label, tour and perform songs from their eight CD’s playing at least 150 shows a year and are featured artists at premier Theatres, Clubs & Festivals in the US, Canada & Europe.