- How to Do Focused Marketing for a General Business 📹 (video)
- How to Create a Great Brand Name 📹 (video)
- This Is What Good Marketing Feels Like 🐶(kevin.me)
- Aim for the Bare Minimum 🏃(kevin.me)
A few years ago, I realized I had gained some weight. Not a lot, but enough that I noticed it happening.
I was in my late twenties and it became apparent that I could no longer eat literally anything I wanted and remain in decent shape.
As a kid, I was quite active, so remaining somewhat lean was not difficult.
As a young adult, however, my recreational sports went away and with that came the addition of beer and an increased budget for restaurant food.
For many people, variations of this story is a right of passage. There comes a time in most of our lives where we need to do something intentional about our health.
For me, it was exercising. I always had a hard time forcing myself to exercise. I’m not motivated by the dream of having a beach body (as you can see), so the idea of exercising for no personal benefit aside from “being healthy” was not inspiring enough for me to do it consistently. When you’re young, you think you’ll live forever.
I eventually realized that exercising did more than keep the extra pounds at bay. It helped me focus, gave me more energy throughout my day, and made me less stressed overall.
I started focusing on chasing that “runner’s high”. When I exercised, I always felt happier and more productive all day as a result. That was a benefit I could get behind.
The next step was to build a habit. Anyone who exercises infrequently knows that once you stop, it’s very hard to get going again. I actually found it easier to do it every day than once or twice a week.
But in order to do it every day, I needed to lower the bar for what qualifies as a successful day of exercise.
So, I set my bar low: all I needed to do was be in the gym or out running on the road for 20 minutes before I could call it quits at any time.
And, for the first several months (years?) I pretty much stuck to 20-25 minutes every time.
Did I see results? Yes. Did I get the productivity boost I wanted? Yes. Did I get a beach body? Well, no… but that was never my goal.
Today I exercise 4-5 weekdays per week for about 30 minutes each. And that works for me.
There are two points.
The first is that in order to do something consistently, it’s often easier to make a small daily effort to eliminate the “should I do this today or not” factor. It helps to schedule it at the same time each day as well, which systemizes getting it done.
The second point is that if you want to be consistent with something, especially a habit, it helps by setting the bar low. Like, really low.
Like – barely passably low. Then give yourself permission to stop once you reach that point. Small, daily, consistent action beats sporadic and inconsistent big actions all day long.
I’m not a self-help guru, so if you’re still reading, I’ll bring you back to my core expertise: doing great marketing.
The biggest hurdle to marketing your own business is finding the time to do it.
As business owners, we’re always busy working on “higher priority” things. Working IN the business seems like the more correct thing to do than working ON the business.
That is until we start struggling to make sales.
Every business owner is responsible for marketing in some shape or form.
What small thing can you do daily that contributes to marketing your business?
For me, it’s writing down a thought, insight, or story every day. Or working on a bigger article to help shape it further.
For you, it might be posting once to social media. Or doing something generous or remarkable for customers to give them a wow experience.
For others, it might be doing a short video and posting it on Twitter each day.
Setting aside even 20 minutes for your marketing each day will have huge effects in the long term. Of course, if that turns into 60 minutes, you’re even better off.
Not setting aside time will also have a significant impact on your business, but you’ll never know until it’s too late.
I hope this longwinded insight inspires you to take some daily action towards marketing your business (or getting healthier?).
What are you going to do to move the needle forward in your business? Leave a comment below.
At the time of this writing, I have an adorable 11-month old pup named Luna.
She’s learning every day about how to be more polite and to follow the rules we give her. And she’s getting better!
One thing we taught her was to lay down while we’re eating instead of begging us for food. Typical dog stuff. She used to whine and stand at our feet in the hopes that we’ll give her some scraps from the table.
Now, she’s much better. She knows to lie down when we eat and rarely makes a peep. But recently, she’s been trying a new tactic… and admittedly, it’s working on me.
Lately, she’s been very subtly placing her paw on my feet when I’m eating. Just the gentlest, cutest nudge. Sometimes, she even rests it ever-so-lightly on my foot, just to remind me that she’s there.
And you know what? It doesn’t bug me at all. In fact, it’s endearing.
It also keeps her top-of-mind should I wish to pass off a bite of my food. While I don’t like to feed her scraps from the table, she often gets a little treat here or there when she tries this trick. I didn’t even realize it happening until today.
Luna reminded me what good marketing should feel like to your customers and prospective customers.
Finding a way to gently nudge your customers, in a way that doesn’t annoy them, in a way that either adds value or builds a relationship, is how you should be thinking about your marketing.
Social media, email marketing, blog content, and even advertising should feel positive to your potential customers. It should get people’s attention while not being aggressive or overbearing. Just.. ever.. so.. subtle.
And what does that do? It makes people aware of you. It keeps you top of mind. It also doesn’t annoy them when you do it this way. In fact, they grow fonder of your business if you do it right.
As a result, they buy from you.
That’s how good marketing works. That’s how you should be thinking about engaging with your target market with your ongoing marketing efforts.
It’s not just the first impression that counts, it’s how you stay in people’s minds over time that leads to the sale.
Let’s talk about fear, shall we?
As entrepreneurs—no, as humans—we feel fear all the time. Whether we are conscious of it or not, it floats in and out of our minds and bodies, like breathing.
But as entrepreneurs, I think we feel it more than the average person. Or at least differently.
I’m talking about the fear of being wrong. The fear of failure. The fear of being called a fraud. The fear of confrontation. The fear of being embarrassed.
As a consultant, I experience fear regularly. I make all kinds of decisions for myself and my clients daily.
Some decisions are simple and some are a challenge.
Sometimes I need to defend those decisions. Sometimes I am wrong, and often I am right!
Other times altogether, fear is just a feeling that sits in the background like a damp fog. I’m sure you know what I mean.
It’s just there. It poses no imminent threat. It feels tangible, and yet it is not.
Lately, I have been actively acknowledging my fears. Simply noticing them; a hat tip to the fact that we live on the brink of chaos no matter how in control we believe we are.
I remember that fear is an indicator of progress.
Fear means I am trying things. I am learning. I am making decisions, taking action, and seeing results.
And after the fear is the reward. The euphoria. The results.
Pushing through fear is what gives me confidence.
Fear is something I will not avoid because nobody ever grew by avoiding their fears.
(NB: I felt fear in writing and publishing this post.)
When I was a kid, one of my household chores was to vacuum.
We had what I thought was an 80-lb vacuum, which I would lug around the house every other week.
Sure enough, when I was done, my dad would inspect my work and tell me whether he signed off or not.
Usually, I had packed away the vacuum already and was one foot out the door to play my friends when he comes back and tells me I missed a spot.
Not one spot, but a lot of spots.
Sure enough, I had to ramble back in, haul out the vacuum and redo the entire set of stairs that I so hastily did the first time.
Every time this happened, the chore took a long longer and was a lot more arduous than it could have been.
This taught me a lesson. I hold a belief now which I attribute to these moments which is that if you’re going to do a job, do it right the first time.
I recently purchased a car, and we visited all of 3 locations. We knew we wanted a Toyota because we heard they run forever.
The first place I went to was an independent dealership that mostly sold Toyotas.
We looked around and they had nothing within our budget and interests.
The salesman asked me if I’d like to leave my contact info in case anything comes up within my range.
Not more than a few days later, I get a call from an overseas call centre telling me I’ve been approved for auto financing.
I asked how they got my contact information and the person told me that I must have given my information at some car dealership.
I had written it on the back of a business card with an invitation to contact me should a vehicle fitting my needs become available.
I had not given them permission to resell my contact information to car financiers.
And even though I’ve asked to be removed from their list, I still get calls, and just yesterday, a text message.
This dealership broke the cardinal rule of business, which is to earn and keep trust.
The car salesman seemed fairly genuine. I had enough trust to leave him with my information. And now I’d never go back.
In fact, I’m not one to leave reviews on Google, but I have a good mind to start.
He broke my trust to make a quick buck. He sold my personal information to a company who keeps calling me, despite being asked to be removed from their contact list.
The second major issue here is a lack of permission. When contacting individuals, whether by phone, email or otherwise, without their permission, you aren’t doing marketing. You’re trying to take a shortcut. It’s spam, and it builds a bad reputation. It can also be illegal according to the CAN-SPAM Act (US) and CASL (Canada).
To make one thing clear, sales calls are fair game. If your company is listed in the phone book or has their telephone number online – you’re fair game according to the law and business expectations.
But spamming people without their permission is a shortcut. It may make you a quick buck today, but it doesn’t build a business.
There are no shortcuts in business (or in life).
It was a beautiful fall day. The sky was clear, the weather was mild, and the sun was out in full force; the birds were chirping and the grass was green; the leaves started changing, but only slightly.
In short, it was the best day of my life.
What happened that day? I got married to my extraordinary wife.
I never felt better. Leading up to it, however, was a different story.
Planning a wedding is hard. It’s easy to underestimate the sheer number of decisions needing to be made.
From the outside, yes it looks like a big ordeal. But from the inside, it’s even more involved than it looks.
At least that was my experience, and I have a background in event planning.
During the planning process, you start looking for all of the vendors and suppliers you’ll need for the wedding.
You have venues to consider, photographers, caterers, florists, bakers, suit and dress stores, restaurants, officiants, musicians, limo drivers, hair stylists, decorations, wedding invitations, bachelor/bachelorette planning, and the list goes on and on… endlessly.
I was reflecting on how many decisions we made. Some were easy, and some were not.
When it came to selecting a DJ for the evening festivities, we were given several recommendations from friends and did some additional searching to find the right person or company.
A wedding DJ is important. They set the tone for the entire evening. The proceedings are either under their control, or it’s out of control in general.
Friends of ours referred us to a DJ group they used for their wedding and gave glowing recommendations.
They couldn’t stop talking about how amazing this DJ and his wife were for their wedding reception. They told us that they wanted to literally throw money at them by the end of the night, they were that good.
“What did this DJ do that was so special?”, I wondered.
It turns out, it had very little to do with the music or performance, although that was great too.
“Wait, what?”, you might ask? Why would someone rave about a DJ service outside of their ability to play great music and keep things on schedule?
It turns out, the number one thing that came up during their raving review was the extras they provided. The differentiators.
This DJ group (a husband and wife duo) was not like any of the other DJs we encountered in our search. And we wouldn’t have known to even look for it, had someone not told us.
Their difference is that they take care of all those little things that could possibly (and often do) go wrong in an evening.
They make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be at the right times. They make sure the speeches run according to schedule. They even bring a Mary Poppins-style bag containing everything a bride and groom could possibly need in the course of the evening.
They think of it all so we don’t have to.
In short, they were our advocates. They filled all of the missing gaps and had years of experience behind them. They made sure almost nothing could go awry. If something did go wrong, they found a way to fix it.
The DJs’ differentiators were their willingness and ability to take control of issues either before they happened, or right as they happened, without intervention from the bride and groom.
Their difference they provided was offering relief for my bride and I from the stress of problem solving when unforeseen incidents cropped up.
Their ability to produce an amazing evening from a music perspective is table stakes in their industry. All DJs we spoke to seemed to have that.
But their willingness to go the extra mile on the day and their experience to help us to plan things properly in advance was not something anybody was willing (or able) to offer like they did.
In business, the best strategic advantage you can have is a differentiator.
When comparing apples to apples, it’s the ones with a valued difference that will win every time.
What makes you and your business so unique that you can’t be directly compared to someone else?
I don’t know of any others who offer the same kind of service that I do, which makes it easy to contrast against traditional consulting and agency service providers.
And that’s why I get referrals. That’s why companies stay with me.
What do you offer that is both valued by your clients or customers and can’t be found elsewhere? What do you do differently that your customers tell you they value?
It doesn’t need to cost you a single penny. All it takes is listening to your customer and watching for opportunities to give them a better experience.
If you have a key differentiator, I’d love to hear it in the comments below.
Be sure to subscribe on this page for more ideas like this in your inbox.
This article originally appeared in my Digital Strategy Digest emails. Subscribe on this page to get more content like this, as well as original articles on digital strategy, tools, resources and more.
Every so often, someone writes an article that hits the mark so perfectly that I no longer feel compelled to write about it. In this case, the writer was Ryan Holiday, author, and former Director of Marketing at American Apparel.
In this article, Ryan talks about one of the most important assets you can develop in your career: a platform.
Ryan describes a platform in a broader way than you might be expecting:
“In my definition, a platform is the combination of the tools, relationships, access, and audience that you have to bear on spreading your ideas—not just once, but over the course of a career.
So a platform is your social media and the stage you stand on, but it also includes your friends, your body of work, the community your work exists in, the media outlets and influencers who appreciate what you do, your e-mail list, the trust you’ve built, your sources of income, and countless other assets.”
Whether you’re an employee for a company or you run your own business, having a platform will help to mitigate career risks and generate opportunities for you.
Using many examples—from Winston Churchill to Michael Hyatt and James Altucher—Ryan makes this point in a clear and compelling fashion.
There are many strategic elements to creating your platform, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Give it a read and think about the potentials in your own career.
You will never see me publish marketing advice for “all companies” on this blog or anywhere else.
Every company is unique—that goes without saying.
The mix of tactics used are often very similar from one company to another, but how they are employed will vary dramatically. Especially in the details.
And rightly so.
As an example, a general digital marketing principle is to create the best content you can develop—and to do so often. But will that work for you?
What does good content look like in your business and industry? Are they lengthy e-books, 1-minute video tidbits, 3-hour podcasts, quick and easy blog posts, epic 5,000+ word articles, or some combination of each?
Furthermore, do you have the resources to create this content? Is it interesting to your customers? How will you promote it? Will it produce an ROI? If so, how?
And content marketing is just one of many tactics. There is an endless number of other tactics to consider.
We agree that every business is unique, but why do the digital strategies have to be so complicated? Can’t we make broad generalities about all businesses that have some level of inherent truth?
We can. We do. And it doesn’t need to be complicated. But broad generalities are not advice. When it comes to advice, the devil is in the details.
Do your clients want to hear from you twice per week? What do they expect from your content? How polished does it need to be? What tone are you communicating with?
Broad, one-size-fits-all strategies can sometimes work, but how you execute on the tactics and the ways in which you differentiate will determine your success.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after being fired, he had his work cut out for him.
During the final quarter of 1996, Apple’s sales had plummeted by 30%. They were in big trouble.
What did he do? Famously, he made cuts. He laid off over 3,000 people.
But more importantly, he cut back Apple’s hardware and software products by 70%, leaving just four products: one desktop and one portable device for each of the consumer and corporate markets.
Why did he do this? There are lots of reasons that I won’t get into nor do I have the expertise to comment on all of them.
But importantly—perhaps even philosophically, strategically, or practically, depending on who you ask—he did it to take back control. He needed to have only products on which he and the rest of Apple could focus to make them exceptional.
Many of us run complex businesses. We have long lists of products and services. A lot of moving parts. Operationally, it’s a lot to manage.
We have websites that grow into behemoths, and more marketing and communications channels than we can count.
While we can’t always pare back our businesses to the point where we are back in complete domination over it, we should always be thinking about (and moving towards) closing the gap.
While that doesn’t mean we need to micro-manage our business, it does mean constantly trying to simplify what we do in order to allow the business to be clear and focused on all fronts.
Domination is a strong word, and I use it for the sake of contrast.
I’m not talking about dominating your clients, staff, or suppliers. I’m talking about having firm control over how your business operates.
We lose this control as a business grows and our offerings become more complex, but the areas in which we no longer have a firm grasp deserves our attention.
The natural tendency is to add. Add new products, new people, new managers; always adding layers.
But if we’re not careful, our businesses will begin to run us.
This website is an example of being very “pared back”. It started with a blank slate and only the essentials are being added on as I go.
As it continues to grow, there will be more and more pages to manage. More information to keep up to date. More work involved to maintain it.
It’s purpose-built. I have complete control over it. Even though there are likely to be a number of small mistakes, typos, and errors (I work quickly and iterate out loud), it is manageable.
And that’s how I’m looking at my business and service offering as a whole.
Under this umbrella, I offer one service with two core components: digital strategy consulting and implementation management.
This is a service that doesn’t require many client and allows me to go deep with each one.
Operational complexity is low, which means I can focus on my client work and completely own how the service is delivered to continue to making my work the best it can be.
What are you doing to take back your dominance over your business? Leave a comment below and be sure to subscribe at the bottom of this page.
There comes a point in every business where we must stop and ask ourselves, what’s our strategy here?
When it comes to marketing, the natural progression for most businesses is to start with a few simple tactics, then build a “strategy” around them.
But that’s putting the cart before the horse. You might get some results, but this approach is inherently limiting because the business logic isn’t fully played out and the focus is too narrow.
Strategy is not just the “why” behind the tactics, it’s also the “how”. How are we going to use those tactics to a meaningful end, and how will it lead to a result we intend?
Let’s say you are aware that you need to start focusing on how all of these pieces fit together. You’re ready to create a strategy and start implementing.
The problem is, a static strategy won’t get you very far.
General Patton didn’t go to war with a pre-devised, unchanging strategy. He started with a hypothesis, which was only the first draft of the strategy, then he revised it along the way.
As with all strategies, it required ongoing attention and iteration, depending on the new situations and available resources.
Ideally, your initial strategy is a good one. It should get you momentum. But if you don’t revise it, you’re acting in accordance with yesterday’s world.
At the very least, a good strategy requires ongoing questioning about “why are we still doing this”, “is this still the best use of our time and resources?”, “how exactly is this going to lead to our intended business result?”.
That’s why I don’t offer one-time digital strategy projects at the moment. I’d be setting people up to fail unless I knew there was capable oversight.
Sure, I could create a strategy to get you started, and it might have some results, but it depends on the speed in which your business, the goals, and the market changes, and how you adapt to those things.
A baseball player may have a strategy every time she goes to the plate, but as soon as the first pitch comes out, the strategy begins to evolve according to the situation. The “how” becomes more important.
The only exception to this rule is for very small businesses who can use a standard approach to their marketing.
If you’re a very small business, it’s usually a bit easier. You need a website, as much content as you can muster, some social media, and if you’re really disciplined, some email communications with your customers.
As a company grows, however, the nuances become more crucial if the plan is to achieve business results.
Strategy is not a one-time action. That’s the first hypothesis.
Good strategy is constant questioning, analysis, scrutiny, and iteration over time.
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