jump to navigation

Betterment…Is A Strategy July 12, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, marketing, Marketing Buzz, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

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.

Service Failure: Samsung June 19, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Building trust, Customer Service.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

DirksProPhotoI own a great Samsung DLP TV and have had it for about five years.  Just recently the color started faltering so I went online and sent a request on the Samsung service site for some…service.  A few days later I received an email from someone from the CA offices of Samsung.  Their email stated in part that they would make three attempts to contact us to arrange service.  He noted in his email that this was their first attempt.  So…I emailed him back the same day – thinking time was everything.

The next day – after only the first attempt – Samsung sent me an email to let me know they cancelled my request for service.  No reason.  Just canceled.  So, I emailed the nice fellow (had no phone number or otherwise I would have just called him).  I let him know that I had just rec’d a note from Samsung stating they cancelled my service request and that I in fact WANTED service – a paying customer!

Result:  Nothing.  No email response.  No nothing.  And of course, no service.  Well, that was the end of my efforts to work directly with Samsung and their dedicated service provider.

Ok.  So the next day I go online and find a local TV repair service.  I fill out the service request form and send it via  their website.  Result: No call since and it’s been three days.  I guess they are just too busy for a PAYING CUSTOMER like myself.  What business are these people in?

What to do?  I turn to Sears.  I go online and within a few minutes am able to schedule a service appointment.  Done.  Now let’s see if they show up.  I’ll let you know how this saga plays out in a subsequent blog post.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE 070213: So Sears won the day.  Not only was I easily able to set up an appointment for a repair person to come out to my house they also called to confirm the appointment (on top of the email confirmation).  The repair person was professional, clean and knew his stuff.  Problem solved for only $99.00 (which is credited to any repairs too).

Those other guys who never called me?  I found out later that they are just about out of business.  No wonder.

“Impossible” Is Just An Opinion December 6, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Solving Business Problems.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment
David Dirks

David Dirks

Impossible.  The word that has closed more minds, doors and opportunities than any other I can think of.  “Impossible” is often a frame of mind and an easy, convenient door stop for shutting just about any challenge, idea, project or thought down.  Cold.

Of course, it was impossible for us to think of anything replacing the horse and buggy.  It was impossible that candles or whale oil could be replaced.  Impossible it was to think that man or woman could fly from one point to another.  Impossible that much medicine could actually fix a bad heart. Impossible that a man could compete in the Olympics with mechanical legs.  Just lot’s of impossibilities out there.

Did you know that Margaret Mitchell was turned down 38 times before a publisher said yes to her manuscript for Gone with the Wind? Or the more recent Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 140 times before getting a publisher?  Steven King was turned down 30 times when he was trying to publish a manuscript titled as Carrie?  The great artist, Monet, had his artwork ridiculed in his day.

At what point do you think that any of these people thought it was going to be “impossible” to get that book published?  The first rejection or the 140th?  The answer is clear.  They didn’t see impossible at the first or last point of rejection.  What they saw in their minds was this:

What the mind can conceive, man can achieve.

Earl Nightingale

We can be thankful that there a few people in every organization that see beyond what many of us see as great, impenetrable walls of impossibility.  Next time you hear someone use the word “impossible”, just remember that what they really told you was that it is possible.

Where’s Your YouTube Channel? September 19, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in Becoming A Thought Leader, Digital Media Strategy, YouTube Channel Strategy.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

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!

Pivoting as a Business Strategy July 5, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Strategy.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

A Wall Street Journal article (‘Pivoting’ Pays Off for Tech Entrepreneurs, April 26, 2011) caught my attention.  What used to be called a “failed business idea” is now known as pivoting.  That’s when you have a business model and learn that it does not provide the revenues and profits you need to sustain it (or the venture capitalists who might back you).  Pivoting is the art of then taking the pieces of the business model that work and creating a new business model…even if that means going 180 degrees in another direction.

Pivoting as a business strategy is not new.  It just didn’t happen with much frequency until the advent of the web, apps and other such fluid technologies.  Now, if it doesn’t work, just pivot quickly to something else.  To me, pivoting makes sense.  If you start with a business plan and model that you learn has faults, you just pivot to another business plan and model.

Of course, pivoting is not easy and full of risk.  First, pivoting is an admission that your original business model is either failing or has already failed.  In the “old days” businesses that failed or were on the path to failing…just plain went out of business.  Secondly, you can’t pivot slowly.  If you pivot you have to do so with all speed.  Yes, pivoting is like changing the tire on a car that is still moving at highway speed.  You don’t have time to extend the debate on what in your business model stays and what parts get junked and replaced.  Third, pivoting doesn’t guarantee anything.  It just means you get to live and learn another day.

Pivoting isn’t new.  Thomas Edison pivoted more than 1,000 times before perfecting the light bulb.  Sir James Dyson created 5,127 prototypes before he perfected his bagless vacuum. Pivot if you dare.

The Experience is the Marketing April 12, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Marketing Buzz.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

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, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Strategy.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

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.

7 Steps to Social Media Marketing Success July 19, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Digital Media Strategy, Social Media Marketing.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

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.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

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.

Just How Much Variety Do We Need? March 26, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

The February 23, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal had an article entitled, “Whitens, Brightens and Confuses” and it noted the following:

In the toothpaste product world:

  • There were 69 new toothpaste varieties introduced in 2010
  • There are 352 distinct types of toothpaste sold today

That was enough to stop me right there.  The context the WSJ story was this:  Can brands confuse consumers?  If you look at the above data, you’d have to say ‘probably’.  But interestingly enough, brand loyalty to toothpaste is fierce.  I buy only Colgate toothpaste with baking soda (of one flavor or another) whenever I shop.  If I don’t find it, I find it somewhere else.  And that’s why many retailers are reluctant to winnow out the ones that don’t sell as well and focus on keeping the shelves stocked with those that do.

Both Colgate and Crest have long known how inelastic consumers are when it comes to trying another brand of toothpaste.  So, they merrily create the latest version of their branded toothpastes and keep them coming through product development and onto the shelves of retailers.

How much variety do we need?  As much as it takes to keep us brand-loyal.  In the meantime, retailers have little choice but to stock up on as many brands and sub-brands of toothpaste in the market as they can afford.  Confusing for us consumers?  Yes but a necessary evil.