February 16th, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
February 15th, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
Another point that must be made amid all this talk of online marketing is that your online efforts must be a reflection of your offline efforts.
For most companies, your offline model and strategies should dictate your online strategies. Building an online hub supplements and enhances your offline efforts, but cannot replace them.
It eliminates barriers to communicating with your base and giving them materials to communicate with outsiders. It can cut costs in your marketing budget. You can spread word faster.
For example, our client REIC offers free seminars to teach people their real estate system. They also provide a recording of their seminar online for website visitors to view.
Obviously, their results are much greater with their live sessions versus the online recording.
Another company we worked with, TJEd Marketplace, provides resources and support to homeschooling families.
Their most successful and profitable initiative—the core model that everything else revolves around—is an annual forum where families attend from all over the country.
They typically draw about 1,000 people to the multi-day event packed with relevant materials and speakers. They ran this highly-successful event for seven years before they ever had a website.
Among other things we helped them architect their website. We taught them how to blog and build and manage a database.
All of these online efforts have made their offline event run more smoothly, but they can never replace the actual event.
They are set up by a sponsor, who hosts them at her home. 6-20 women are invited and Beverly cuts all of their hair for free, while telling them about her hair products.
Not only does she cut their hair, but she gives each a consultation on how their hair style can complement their face shape, etc.
Karina spent $30 on products after getting her hair cut for “free.”
Examine all of the Hub Mentality elements involved in her process.
She gets permission to market, she works in an environment of trust and authenticity, she provides free “content” (hair cuts), her giveaway is built around a coherent strategy, she executes flawlessly, there’s a gradient approach, and she customizes her presentations.
It’s a brilliant approach, especially for women. The free hair cuts make the whole thing work.
Of course, it could be even more effective if she added online elements to the strategy. For example, she could collect names and email addresses of everyone who attends her parties, then use email marketing to keep them in the hub.
Again, the point is that Hub Mentality is a holistic mindset that applies to both your online and your offline marketing efforts. T
his is also a great opportunity to stress that you shouldn’t be afraid of giving away content for free. So many people have a hard time with this concept because they think that they’ll lose sales with giveaways. But when done properly, this actually boosts your sales.
For example, science fiction author Cory Doctorow has been giving away free e-book versions of his books for years. He explains:
Most people who download the book don’t end up buying it, but they wouldn’t have bought it in any event, so I haven’t lost any sales, I’ve just won an audience. A tiny minority of downloaders treat the free e-book as a substitute for the printed book — those are the lost sales. But a much larger minority treat the e-book as an enticement to buy the printed book. They’re gained sales. As long as gained sales outnumber lost sales, I’m ahead of the game. After all, distributing nearly a million copies of my book has cost me nothing.”
Two lessons: 1) Hub Mentality must permeate your entire business culture, both online and offline, and 2) don’t be afraid of giveaways.
Free content is especially critical in economic downturns. Just make sure that it supports a core strategy, as exemplified by Beverly D.
These ten elements together represent the New Gold. In fact, they comprise a formula for alchemy—they transform information into gold when wisely managed.
Make a hard sell and you’ve sold a customer one time. Give them free content and get them in your permission-based database and they’ll buy from you over and over again.
But, of course, this only works when you cultivate your database like an astute farmer, rather than attacking it like a blood-thirsty hunter. You can’t ever manipulate or push; you must always pull with authenticity.
The transactional mentality has been tarnished and overused. Consumers discarded it long ago. Hub Mentality is a treasure chest gleaming with gold and dripping with jewels.
Marketing and sales “hunting” has been killed; “farming” has been revived. Transactional business is out; relational business is in.
The only question is, will you make the shift?
February 14th, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
All of the above elements must be customized to your particular niche.
Who are your customers? Why did they originally contact you and how can you help them with the services you provide? Does your particular business lend itself to a blog? Social media? Other elements and technology platforms?
One company we’ve worked with has a business-to-business model. After exploring the model, we determined that blogging might help them with search engine optimization, but their customers would never read it because of their tight niche.
We recommended a series of stimulating collaterals that salesman could use as giveaways to contacts. As much as we promote blogging, it simply wasn’t appropriate for them.
Don’t get caught up in hype about social media and “new” marketing. It may or may not be appropriate for your model.
You need a well-conceived strategy, rather than blindly engaging in new technologies because you just feel like you “have” to and if you don’t, you’re missing the boat.
And let’s not forget that you must be profitable for all of this to work. You must be completely clear on what drives your economic engine.
How can you synchronize giving the customer what they need and pulling them into your profit centers? How many emails can you send them per month without them getting annoyed and unsubscribing? What is the right balance of value and sales?
All of these questions need to be answered as you transition your company to Hub Mentality.
February 11th, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
Remember that we’re drawing customers into our community instead of pushing them to buy. Gradient marketing means to entice customers through increasing levels of engagement and commitment.
You start by giving free content to catch their attention and establish trust. Then, you offer low-price, low-commitment products.
The more interaction you have, the higher the commitment, through money and time, from your customers. The content you give them throughout is designed to educate, rather than sell.
For example, Carl helped design and execute the lead system for one of our financial services clients.
The front end is a radio show hosted by the owner of the firm, which airs Saturday afternoons on about 50 radio shows across the nation. On the show he discusses relevant content to potential financial services clients—insurance, investing, the economy, etc.
During the show, he invites people to attend a free webinar to learn more. He gives away a free copy of his book to all webinar attendees.
At the end of the webinar, participants are invited to complete a survey asking them if they want to meet with the firm. About 35 percent say they do.
At this point, they meet with an advisor for a series of meetings to explore options and create a plan. The end goal is for this to culminate in the execution of a suitable plan.
Each step in the process builds on the previous. Each gives them more education and benefits. On the radio show, it was much less effective to simply ask to meet with the firm.
Potential clients needed to be pulled through a gradient approach.
Notice that time, not just money, counts as increased engagement. People never give you money if they haven’t first given you time.
February 10th, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
It’s critical that you execute on your promises and deliver what customers expect. If they expect something great and receive something mediocre, their perception of you plummets.
Systems must be in place to ensure perfect delivery. If you don’t execute and keep your promises, these customers will tell everyone about it, and they have the web to spread their bad experience.
We call this “front stage” versus “back stage.” It doesn’t matter how pretty and flashy your front stage is if your back stage doesn’t deliver.
Front stage is your high-profile executives and spokespersons, events, website, materials, and media. Back stage is your people and systems—the inner workings of your company that customers don’t see, but the results of which they experience.
Stephen once purchased a training course from a company with an excellent front stage. The speakers were persuasive. The events were flawless. The results seemed inevitable.
However, after engaging with them for about a month, it quickly became apparent that their back stage was a mess. They wouldn’t return phone calls. They never delivered on their promises.
What looked like a golden opportunity was quickly exposed as fool’s gold. Stephen wasn’t the only one with a bad experience. The company went out of business a couple years after opening.
Carl once had a conversation of the leader of the execution team for a major self-help author.
The author had written many books and had phenomenal success. He had the ability to speak magically to the hearts of the audiences to whom he regularly spoke. He put on his own events where he offered and sold a number of in-depth solutions for personal growth and financial success.
Unfortunately, he had the bad habit of biting off more than he could chew. In other words, he over-promised on stage and his staff had no other option than under-delivering.
They couldn’t create nearly as fast as he promised. In the end, customers felt slighted. His staff felt the pressure and ended up leaving.
The key to great businesses and a successful hub mentality is just the opposite: under-promising and over-delivering.
February 9th, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
It’s a delicate balance to strike between cultivating the database and making sales. Every business is different, but 75/25 is a good rule of thumb: 75% of your contact should be free, valuable content, and 25% should focus on selling.
Also, be strategic about what you send and how often you send it. Too little contact and community members lose interest; too often, they feel bothered.
Here are two principles to keep in mind when devising your contact strategy:
If you sell rare goldfish to people with insane and obsessive fetishes about that particular fish, you can contact them every day with information about that type of fish and they’ll still want more.
In real estate they say that the only three things that matter are “location, location, location.” With database marketing, the three things are “relevance, relevance, relevance.”
If your content is extremely relevant, your open and click through rates should stay high even with increased contact.
The tighter your niche, the greater your chance of being relevant to your audience.
Speaking of which, this is a great opportunity to hammer home the importance of permission. It’s redundant to say this, but it needs to be said in light of knucklehead marketers who don’t get this: Your content is guaranteed to be relevant to an audience who self-selects to receive it.
When people want what you have and they expect a certain amount and type of contacts from you, they’re more likely to open and read your emails.
For example, a high-quality monthly newsletter delivered on the first of every month will have higher open and click rates than random emails.
Scheduled, dependable emails speak of a coherent strategy to provide value to your base, as opposed to throwing out whatever you think will make you money at the moment.
Roy H. Williams, the founder of the non-traditional business school Wizard Academy and an advertising veteran, has produced his Monday Morning Memo, a newsletter primarily for entrepreneurs and marketers, every week for fifteen years.
Since his content is so valuable, people can’t wait to open their inbox every Monday morning.
As we mentioned earlier, our monthly newsletter from the Center for Social Leadership eclipses industry-standard open and forward rates because 1) the content is highly relevant to our audience, and 2) we deliver the newsletter on the first of every month like clockwork.
Our readers expect and anticipate the newsletter, and they look for our name in their inbox.
Another lesson to be learned from Roy’s Memo is the principle of selling artfully, rather than blatantly. We mentioned a 75/25 value to sales ratio, but the truth is that you can sell in every email if you do it artfully.
Roy’s newsletters are formatted with a sidebar that displays upcoming courses at Wizard Academy. After providing massive value in a newsletter, he’ll usually end with a sentence or two explaining how you can learn more about the subject by attending a seminar at the academy.
Value creation first, unobtrusive, artful sale follows.
February 8th, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
You can’t just throw free content against the wall and hope it sticks. All of your efforts must fit into a macro picture where each part supports the greater whole.
Some free content will be used to capture and build your database, some to deliver consistent value and keep them engaged, and some to communicate what you are learning and how you are changing based on feedback.
You must have a clear process in place that coordinates each piece of your marketing puzzle.
One step must build on the other and everything must lead toward increasing the quantity and quality of your database.
In this video, Phil uses a hidden camera to interview a banker.
He asks the banker various questions about credit, then picks apart the blatantly false answers given by the banker. It’s shocking, intriguing, and compelling.
At the bottom of the video you’ll find text directing you to download a free e-book at www.RaiseYourCreditToday.com.
The website is a basic landing page, but because you’ve been so well prepared by the great video, you’ll more than likely download the e-book.
And guess what? You have to provide your name and email address to get the e-book.
After you do so, the e-book is emailed to you, followed by a series of emails teaching you how to raise your credit score. The ultimate goal, obviously, is to get people into his paid program.
The strategy is integrated, coordinated. It pulls you, rather than pushes you. It has a clear goal and a clear funnel to get people to that goal.
And it all revolves around high-quality, valuable, and relevant content.
February 7th, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
Relevant information is the new power. You’re no longer trying to make one-time sales through hard closes. You’re trying to cultivate trust and friendship.
This is done by giving prospects massive amounts of free content in the form of blog articles, online videos, digital downloads such as e-books and podcasts, white papers, books, etc.
And this free content can’t be skimpy or salesy; it must be substantial and create genuine value. It must be educational in nature and keep them engaged with you as the hub.
One of our clients, Real Estate Investment Companies, does an excellent job of creating content. They produce tons of videos, which are featured on their YouTube channel, blog, and social media accounts.
Website visitors can join their mailing list to receive a series of videos revealing the “4 secrets to real estate wealth.”
The mailing list features high-quality, relevant, and valuable content on a regular basis. They post frequently on their blog. They produce a popular syndicated podcast on real estate investing and wealth creation.
We helped them set up a website for the book where visitors can download a free digital copy of the book, as well as read the entire book on the blog.
What’s more, REIC has investors in their program create content that also gets published on the web, specifically YouTube videos. These videos are raw, unscripted, and compelling.
It helps that founder Kris Krohn is a natural and excellent public speaker. He can create valuable content in his sleep.
If you don’t have such a talent on your team, your content creation strategy needs to be customized to cater to your strengths. In some cases, you may even need to outsource it.
For example, another of our clients, Max International, a multi-million-dollar network marketing company, has a great team and lots of potential content, but decided to leverage our expertise on persuasion and messaging.
We also helped them set up Max Living, a personal development program that delivers inspirational content to associates.
We interview executives and other key players to come up with articles, which we then post regularly on the website.
Whatever it takes, you need to produce as much relevant content as possible.
In addition to serving your community and giving them tools to spread your message, content generation creates the natural byproduct of improving your search engine rankings.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art and science of making your site appear on the first few pages of a Google or other search engine search, based on key words and phrases. The three primary components of SEO are:
Keyword-rich content refers to the words on your web pages. When a search engine explores your site, it’s looking for, among other things, specific terms to your business/industry/niche in order to determine how relevant your website is to searches by Internet users.
Search engines also like websites that are always being updated and added to. It tells them that it’s a happening site, that it’s being managed well, which means a greater likelihood of relevance to Internet browsers.
Backlinks refer to other websites that link to your website. The more links you have to your site, the more weight you have with search engines.
There many SEO strategies, but creating and publishing content online is the best ways to do it—especially when you don’t have the budget for technical SEO.
Publishing content, particularly through blogging, adds new, keyword-rich content to your site. It draws visitors and conversations and secures backlinks.
And it does all of this as a natural process, without you having to be technically savvy—all you have to do is create content on a regular basis.
February 4th, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
You know how when you’re eating in a restaurant and you don’t like the food, and the waiter asks you “How is everything?”
What do you say? “Oh, everything is fine, thanks.”
Your customers are doing the same to you — they’re not telling you what they don’t like about you to your face.
But with the rise of social media, they’re going home and sharing their negative (and positive) experiences with their online connections.
How could that improve your business? What would it highlight that you’re overlooking? How much power would that give you?
Yes, this is possible. It’s called social media monitoring.
Simply put, social media monitoring is using technology tools to identify what people are saying about your company online.
Here are a few free and simple ways to do this:
1. Twitter Search
Click here and enter keywords relevant to your business, particularly your company name.
2. Google Alerts
Click here and enter your relevant keywords. Google will email you any time in encounters those keywords online, based on your preferences. (You need a Google account to set this up.)
3. RSS Feeds
Set up a Google Reader (or other RSS reader), then set up RSS feeds from social media sites as generated by searches.
For example, when I search for “KGaps” on Twitter, you’ll notice the RSS icon on the top right. A specific RSS feed is generated for every search.
4. Facebook Page
Set up a Facebook Page for your business, then simply check the wall daily for comments.
Read this introduction to Facebook for business.
5. Free Monitoring Platforms
This social media monitoring solutions wiki lists every available tool.
Here are a few more great articles on the subject:
Knowing what your customers say about you is vital. It tells you what you’re doing wrong and right and how to improve.
February 3rd, 2011 → 4:00 am @ admin
When potential customers give you permission to market to them, you capture their information and guard it tenaciously.
Spamming or sharing/selling personal information is like torching the currency of your database with the flamethrower of stupidity.
People must feel absolutely secure that their personal information is safe with you before they’ll give it to you. Furthermore, they need to know that they’re dealing with the reality of your company and not hype, gimmicks, or cover-ups. They want authenticity.
“Let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses—for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it…” -Herman Melville
This is where social media can work wonders for you. As we said earlier, interactivity occurs in four ways: business to customer, customer to business, customer to customer, and customer to outsiders.
Social media allows all four. It has demolished virtually every barrier to communication. It is a venue where authenticity and transparency are the most valued currencies—and where anything less is promptly ridiculed and rejected.
Business is a conversation. No one’s asking you to decide if you want to run your business using the Web. It’s a done deal. The Internet has already set expectations for how connections ought to work. The gulf is there; a gulf caused, ironically, by the abundance of connection. The Web…is a broad, open place that lets everyone touch everyone else and touch every digit of information by twitching a wrist and tapping a single finger.” -David Weinberger in The Cluetrain Manifesto (affiliate link)
Our number one rule of social media is simple (though it’s astonishing how often it’s abused): Never do or say anything online that you wouldn’t offline.
Would you call someone an idiot to their face? Of course not. Then don’t do it online. Offline, do you build relationships by talking about yourself nonstop, or by being sincerely interested in other people? Then use social media to build legitimate relationships.
In an effort to drive traffic to their website, one of our clients began using existing but unused Facebook and Twitter profiles.
They would gain control of these profiles, start friending and following people, and then invite connections to events, post company advertisements on these essentially fake profiles, etc.
Stephen found out about it when he was “friended” by a certain “Heather.” After seeing a few of “her” posts, it was obvious that her profile was being controlled by our client. Stephen removed her from his friend list and we quickly advised them to change their strategy.
Nobody is interested in that kind of fake and manipulative relationship on social networks. We call this a “churn and burn” sales model, as we observe the carnage of consequences with ill advised sales tactics.
We want real relationships with real people who are actually interested in mutually beneficial conversations and interactions. We don’t want to be tricked by companies just trying to drive traffic to their sites, products, and events.
Ideally, social networks are the online version of a barbecue in your backyard. Suppose you’re at a barbecue, hanging out, guard down, feeling relaxed, having a great time with friends.
While you’re engaged in an intimate conversation, a stranger barges in and proclaims, “Hey guys! You really need to check out this business opportunity! The prices are low and the value is off the charts!”
See what we mean? Not very appealing, is it? In an age when consumers wield the power of information, their BS meter is hypersensitive. Don’t set it off by being “that guy.”
Be real, authentic, transparent—even vulnerable. Don’t try to hide behind glossy facades, slick sales pitches, or canned rhetoric. Just keep it real.
In marketplaces where a simple sale is no longer simple, building trust today, through establishing and cultivating relationships, is at the core of the experience. This isn’t ‘trust so you can make a sale.’ Rather, build trust and establish a relationship, period—for the sake of that trust and relationship alone. The sale is neither here nor there until the relationship is established.
“The problem when you’re faking that relationship—like, after you make the sale—is that the friendly emails suddenly stop. When the relationship is fake, the client detects that. In fact, we all do. But if the relationship is real, you will do the best for your client. When that happens, you’ll begin to see all those negative responses vanish. Why? You just became a friend, and friends look out for one another.”
-Chris Brogan & Julien Smith, Authors of Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, & Earn Trust