Archive | October, 2014

Finding Your Position on the Field

25 Oct

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The 2002 movie The Rookie focuses on Jim Morris, a high school science teacher who managed to play major league baseball long after what most athletes would consider their prime. It’s an entertaining feature and stays impressively close to the real-life story of Morris, who pitched in the major leagues from 1999 to 2000.

The audience learns at the opening of the movie that this father and high school science teacher had always loved the game of baseball. He had excelled at it during his youth, but due to various circumstances, he had to give it up before be was able to play in the big leagues.

While coaching his high school baseball team, Morris makes a bet with his team that if they can win their championship, he will try out once again for a professional team. During tryouts, he manages to amaze everyone with a fastball that falls just shy of 100 mph. This paves the way for his triumphs.

The Rookie is definitely a “feel good” movie. It’s the type of film that motivates viewers to go out and follow their own dreams, too. In addition to lifting the audience’s spirits, however, there’s a very poignant business lesson that every entrepreneur and growing business should pay attention to.

If you have the talent, there is a place for you at the table.

The digital era has made it possible for just about anyone to start a business. This has led to considerable saturation and heavy competition. It has also resulted in specialization and businesses that are able to target very specific niches.

For a new entrepreneur just beginning a new business, this can seem considerably intimidating. How does one succeed in business when there seem to be too many companies within the industry already? It’s entirely possible, provided you have the skills necessary and are ready to put in the work.

When Morris decided to pursue his dream of playing in the major leagues, he had enormous odds against him. For starters, he was significantly older than most of the other young men trying out. While they were coming to the game fresh out of high school or college, he had not played competitively himself in years. There were also numerous talented pitchers at the tryout and throughout the league. Despite these potential roadblocks, Morris had confidence that he deserved a position on the team, and he went out to earn that place. He was able to show the coaches that of all the talented pitchers available, he had something special to offer.

As a business professional, you must do the same thing. If you know you have the talent to run your business well, then focus on showing others what makes you so fantastic. There’s no industry so saturated that a talented and strategic business professional cannot become a leader. The key to success is working hard, showing determination, and having confidence in your ability. It might be hard to break into an industry that already has ample talent, but when you have the perseverance necessary, it is possible.

For those interested in starting their own business, the digital era has been a blessing. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of existing online companies can also seem intimidating. Take some inspiration from Jim Morris of The Rookie, and remember that talent and hard work can make it possible for anyone to become a leader in any industry. If you’re ready to start advertising your business, contact us today.

Keeping the Ship Afloat . . . In Business

18 Oct

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We’ve all heard the expression “keeping the ship afloat.” Anyone who has ever spent time on an actual ship knows that keeping a boat afloat and getting it to the intended destination is no easy task. Ships of all sizes require a considerable amount of work from everyone on board, and we in business can learn a great deal from these professionals when it comes to keeping our own companies running and moving in the right direction.

The importance of clear leadership

Ships are not democracies. A captain always leads the ship’s crew and directs activities on board. Captains have considerable experience sailing ships and know what needs to be done to make the trip a success. Their ability to see the larger picture lets them direct their subordinates. They don’t waffle in making decisions and have confidence in their abilities.

Like any good leader, however, a captain also willingly listen. Captains will take advice from their advisers in certain situations, and then balance the advice against their own experience. A good captain is able to take all of these sources of information and synthesize them to come up with the best possible solution.

As a business leader, you must be willing to do the same. Strong leaders unabashedly listen to those around them while also using their own experience and wisdom to make decisions for the benefit of the company. They don’t shy away from making firm decisions, nor are they so concerned for their own power that they neglect to listen to what others have to offer.

Dedicated workers

Ships have always required dedicated crews to keep them afloat. The ships of old required crews of men who would paddle the ship or control the sails to keep the boat moving. Crews today might man the sails or the engine rooms. No matter where the crew is working, however, they have to be prepared to give the boat 100 percent.

The employees you select for your business must also be fully dedicated to your company. You should be able to trust that their skills and experience will help them move the organization forward. Running an efficient business means not having to look over everyone’s shoulders, but instead establishing goals and having your employees work to meet you there.

Choosing a direction and sticking with it

When sailing a ship, the boat has a concrete destination. The captain and crew might have to adjust their route slightly if a storm comes up or another obstacle crosses their path, but they always know where they’re going and how they plan to get there.

Your business must have the same foresight. Successful organizations don’t set vague goals for success. Instead, they lay out concrete, measurable goals they want to achieve. When the goals of the organization are clearly laid out in front of everyone, it’s much easier for each person to know exactly what they’re supposed to do and how that fits in the broader picture.

Keeping a ship — or business — afloat requires strong leadership, a dedicated staff, and concrete goals. When you manage to keep these three ingredients in mind for your company, you’ll be well on your way to success.

How Does Email Fit Into a Modern Marketing Strategy?

18 Oct

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Given that most people despise spam email, it can be difficult to see how email can fit into a successful marketing strategy. Isn’t blasting potential customers with email part of the old, outdated marketing system that’s now viewed as ineffective?

Yes, and no.

Yes — when you send potential customers unsolicited emails, especially using email lists you purchase from a provider.

No — when your email messages are used purposefully as a means of initiating conversation with your leads and helping them along the sales process.

The truth is that more than 3/4 of your customers prefer to receive marketing communications by email compared to other methods. It’s also true that 95 percent of online customers use email, with the vast majority of them checking their email at least once a day. When used properly, email can be a fantastic way to stay in touch with your customers reliably and consistently. Here’s what you should keep in mind to make sure you’re getting the most from your emails.

Make sure everyone wants to be on the email list.

The first step to using email effectively is to ensure that everyone actually wants to be on your email list. This means no list purchasing and no generating email lists from random people. Your email lists should be comprised of people who have voluntarily given you their email address. You can use your landing pages, sign ups, and past customers to generate much more effective email lists. Such lists will have a much higher open rate than a randomly generated list. Your messages will be less likely to be marked as spam, and you’ll generate a higher conversion rate.

Use email to cultivate leads.

Email is a fantastic tool for taking people who have shown at least a passing interest in your brand and moving them further along the conversion process. Start by creating an e-newsletter comprised of helpful, relevant information designed to help people no matter where they are in the buyer’s journey. This will remind customers of the value you have to offer. As an added bonus, when you produce content that people like to share, you can generate even more leads. When people receive information about a company from a person they trust, they’re more likely to trust the company themselves.

Use email to stay in touch.

Email is also a great medium for staying in touch with people. Got any past customers you haven’t heard from in a while? Reach out to them with an email asking how you can help them reach their goals. How about people who have visited your pricing page but didn’t make a purchase? Email them to find out if they have any more questions about your products or services.

Email can even be helpful for taking an interested, sales-ready lead to the final step. After making your sales calls, follow up with emails. By opening multiple lines of communication, you’re making it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you.

Spam email has long passed its effectiveness as a marketing tool, much to the relief of everyone. But that doesn’t mean email itself is obsolete. Using email effectively in conjunction with the rest of your marketing efforts can be an excellent way to cultivate more leads and bring your company the growth you seek.

Business Lessons From the Wizard of Oz

12 Oct

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The Wizard of Oz is an exciting tale that has delighted people for several generations. When young Dorothy is magically transported from her home to the magical land of Oz, she and her companions must outsmart witches and other dangers in an effort to find the famed Wizard of Oz, who they believe can help her find her way home and grant her companions gifts of their own. Upon finally finding the wizard, however, they learn that he is not some great and powerful wizard after all. Instead, he’s just an ordinary man behind a curtain, projecting his voice and image to appear to be a magical being. Still, in the end, Dorothy does learn how to get back home.

The Wizard of Oz and Business

There are two key lessons we as business leaders can learn from the wizard. In one situation, he’s an excellent example of what we should do. In the other, he does the exact opposite of what would be appropriate in the business world.

What the wizard gets right

In Oz, the wizard regularly projects his voice and opinions for all the kingdom to see. He providers personalized information for each person who visits him.

In social media, we’re often asked to be like the man behind the curtain. We must project our voice and opinions in a variety of media, communicating a sense of authority and wisdom. With all the demands of the modern business world, it can be tempting to resort to automation. There are a number of ‘tricks and cheats’ available in the social media world. From programming social responses to buying followers to automating tweets, it’s very easy for those who desire it to completely remove themselves from the actual social media process.

If we’re to learn anything from the mysterious wizard, however, it’s important to remember to always have an actual person ‘behind the curtain.’ This will allow us to engage potential leads when they arise and avoid missing opportunities to bring in new customers, which can easily happen if all our responses happen automatically and we aren’t actually monitoring the conversation.

What the wizard gets wrong

Although it’s important to remain actually present behind all our social media campaigns, we also need to be authentic. The wizard made the devastating mistake of casting himself as something he wasn’t: a powerful wizard. When those who actually needed his help (like Dorothy and her companions) turned to him, he was virtually powerless to help. If we cast ourselves as something we’re not, nothing will destroy our reputation faster than our customers realizing it. We must always be realistic about our capabilities and strengths. Play up what you can do for customers and be confident in your abilities, but don’t ever let yourself get caught in a web of lies.

What to take away

Social marketing is an important part of branding and finding new customers. It requires authenticity. That means broadcasting a solid message based on what you can do for customers and always keeping a person involved with every stage of the campaign to communicate with customers. When you stick to these two rules, you’ll have a great chance of success.

Are you ready to get a new campaign started? Come talk to us! We’d be happy to help you get started.

Business Lessons From The Great Gatsby

5 Oct

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The Great Gatsby is considered an American classic. Its recent film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio has only increased its popularity. Few students in North America made it through high school without reading the book, and the film only helped to bring the images of decadence to life.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story takes place on Long Island during the 1920s. A mysterious millionaire named Jay Gatsby holds luxurious parties on a regular basis, all in the hopes of drawing his old lover, now married to another, to his home so he can rekindle the romance. Over the course of the novel, it becomes apparent that Gatsby has made his money participating in illegal activities, such as bootlegging, and has surrounded himself with an unsavory crowd of people who seem to care only about where the money for the next party will come from.

In the end, all the money in the world can’t save Gatsby from an untimely demise.

What we can learn from The Great Gatsby

Networking

Gatsby understood the importance of networking. He used his connections to build a reputation among the people of the fictional town of West Egg. His network even managed to bring him into contact with his old love, which was the ultimate goal of his parties and wealth.

Every business professional should leverage networking to build their company. It’s impossible to do business in a bubble. Networking will put you in touch with others in your industry who you might end up working with, as well as potential customers and clients.

Goals

Gatsby’s entire career was focused on reconnecting with his past love. He kept his eyes always focused on this prize and strategically worked to achieve it. From building his wealth to throwing his parties, his life was centered around this key goal.

Hopefully, your long-term goals are more business-oriented than Gatsby’s, but even so, it’s still important to keep your eyes focused on achieving them. Don’t get distracted or caught up in some new fad if it doesn’t help your company achieve its goals. Goals can change and adapt, but it’s important to always keep your eyes forward.

A strong foundation

Gatsby managed to build a wealthy empire for himself. However, this empire had a horrible foundation. He had built everything on an illegal enterprise and associations with people of questionable character. While he may have had good business sense, he still tried to take the easy way out — to build his wealth without having to develop an honest business.

When building your business, focus on establishing a strong foundation around a network of reputable business associates, strong products and services, and outstanding customer relations. Don’t take shortcuts. They’ll only come back to hurt you in the end.

The Great Gatsby is a classic novel that explores the world of the roaring twenties. It can be tempting to dismiss the moral lessons as products of a bygone era. For those of us in business, however, there are many things we can learn from Gatsby’s triumphs and failures. No professional should overlook them.

Building a Championship Team at Work

5 Oct

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Postseason baseball is in full swing. After six months and 162 games, only a handful of teams have earned a chance at becoming World Series champions.

Putting together a championship-quality roster is no easy task. Tryouts, trades, drafts, and injuries all play a part in the process. Teams must find the right mix of players who can bat, pitch, and field. Just as importantly, though, they must consider team chemistry, too. Is everyone playing together? Are internal rivalries or personality clashes going to get in the way of a cohesive unit? Can those clashes be overcome for the sake of success? In the end, it often takes experience to get it just right.

What businesses can learn from baseball

When you set out to select members for your own professional team — your business — you must give it as much thought as a baseball coach and general manager. Sure, you should carefully review resumes and interview candidates, but in doing so, try to avoid the temptation to simply fill a role, rather than building a team.

When you fail to evaluate a candidate for their ability to fit in with your company culture and ascribe to your company mission, it’s easy to lose your internal values. This can in turn damage employee morale and employee loyalty. When everyone is concerned with just completing a job, rather than working together as a team, people don’t feel as connected to their workplace.

Why this is dangerous

According to Bain & Company, it’s 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one. Building a successful business should be focused around delighting your customers, giving them reasons to return, and encouraging them to recommend you to others. Your employees are the ones who interact with these customers every day. They’re the face of the company. When you don’t take the time to develop a strong company culture that encourages employee satisfaction and a positive work environment, you end up putting up a huge roadblock for customer satisfaction.

Choosing your team

Work with your current team to develop lists of values and priorities that keep your workplace cohesive and productive. When you’re ready to make a new hire, carefully consider how the person will fit in with the rest of the organization. This will include asking them questions that relate to these specific values.

Consider having candidates speak with multiple people at the company or try performing some of the basic tasks they would do if they were hired. The better you can choose your employees, the better you’ll be at building an organization that works as a team and serves your customers with a united front. Have faith and trust in your organization, empowering your employees and making it an overall fantastic place to work and grow.

While many organizations realize their customer service will have an enormous impact on their success, they don’t realize that something as intrinsic as their hiring practices can have such a big impact. Give your company a leg up and complement your marketing efforts with a superior, service-oriented company. Get started by making sure each hire you make will be a great fit for your team. You may be surprised how much it pays off.

Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?

5 Oct

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When you sit down to develop marketing materials, you know you’re trying to reach potential customers. If you’re unclear who that might be, however, you could find yourself wasting time, energy, and money. Taking the time to develop your official ‘buyer persona’ can make the task of figuring out how to reach these potential customers significantly easier.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is basically your ideal customer. It’s a profile you develop based on the type of customer you’re trying to attract. This profile includes information about gender, lifestyle, income level, where your ideal customers work, and what jobs they perform. It also contains critical information about what types of problems they face at work and how your company can solve them. A buyer persona might look something like this:

Marketing Mike is working to lead his marketing team for his small business. He’s in his late 20s or early 30s and makes about $80,000 a year. Mike is struggling to make his superiors realize the importance of marketing because they’re threatening budget cuts to his department.

For a company that focuses on helping clients maximize their marketing efforts while minimizing costs, this buyer persona could provide the critical insight they need to reach Mike and help solve his problem.

How do you develop your buyer personas?

Buyer personas provide the basis for all your marketing efforts, so it’s critical to develop them on solid evidence and not just who you ‘think’ would be interested in your product or service. Begin by speaking with your existing customers. Get a feel for who they are and what has brought them to you. Complement this information with some research about the industry, the market, and who is typically using services like those you provide.

As you begin to compile these different sources of information, you should start to see some patterns develop. Use these patterns to begin grouping customers into a few different buyer personas. It’s critical that you always seek to learn the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ as you do your research. It’s not enough to know that Marketing Mike wants to find a more affordable way to market. Understanding the motivation behind his drive is what will help you effectively reach him.

How to use your buyer personas

Once you’ve established your buyer personas, they’ll run your marketing campaign. You’ll develop content that speaks to the questions and problems your personas are facing. You’ll create promotions and attention-grabbers oriented toward these specific people.

Buyer personas give you the additional edge of a targeted approach. No company can be everything for everyone. By developing buyer personas, you’ll know exactly who you’re trying to reach. You’ll have a clear goal and a much better chance of reaching the people who are most likely to buy from you.

A successful marketing campaign means reaching your potential customers and making your company’s value to them clear. That task becomes much easier when you know exactly who you’re talking to. Develop your buyer personas to refine your marketing strategy, and you’ll find your chances for a successful campaign improve drastically. If you’re ready to start refining your marketing strategy, contact us today.

Applying the Lessons You Learned During Your First Weeks of College

5 Oct

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Imagine it’s your first day of college. You enter campus, not knowing anyone. You find your way to your dorm room and review your class schedule and campus map to try and figure out where you need to go. You listen to the chatter of hundreds, if not thousands of new classmates outside your door. The whole process can feel more than a little overwhelming. You somehow need to find new friends in this home away from home, but when not a single face looks familiar, that can be easier said than done. How do you find people you like? How do you start forming relationships?

Chances are you begin by looking for people with common interests. If you’re into fitness, that might mean spending time at the gym on your free time. If you’re into a specific sport, you might try out for a team or get involved in a recreational league. If sports aren’t your thing, you might find clubs and groups that cater to your other interests. When you find people who share your interests, you start to build the relationships that will carry you through the rest of your academic career.

How you can apply the lessons you learned in college

The same principles apply to building your customer base. When you first begin building your company, you’re like that new kid on campus. You need to find people interested enough in you and what you have to offer that they’ll want to build a relationship with you. These relationships will be the key to finding new customers.

Where to go to find your niche

The key to successful marketing is finding your niche and building potential relationships. In school, you found those people by joining clubs, participating in sports teams, and taking part in activities where you would be likely to meet others with similar ideas and interests as you. When developing a marketing plan, you need to do the same thing.

Begin by determining the type of people you want to attract. Identify key characteristics of potential customers and use that information to find them. Learn what your potential customers are interested in, what concerns them, and where they like to hang out. Social media is a fantastic tool for finding potential customers and jumping into the community.

Social media offers access to groups, trending topics, and other useful insights you can use to pinpoint your desired audience while also finding meaningful dialogue that can help you better meet the needs of your customers. Use these resources to start building relationships. Just like that lonely freshman in college, you want to begin by starting the conversation. Become a familiar face to those in the crowd. Ask people about themselves and listen to what they have to say in response. Use that information to build your value. Show these new potential customers how you can help them solve their problems.

Finding a core audience and a niche to grow your business can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Think of how you handled your first weeks on campus. You focused on finding others with similar interests and started conversations to begin developing relationships with them. Many of these same tactics will also work in the business world. Focus on building relationships, and the rest will follow.

Make Magic Happen with Aligned Sales and Marketing Teams

5 Oct

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When your sales and marketing teams work together and are aligned in their goals and strategies, amazing things can happen for your organization. Studies have shown that companies with marketing teams and sales teams that work well together see as much as a 20 percent increase in annual revenue growth, and no one can afford to ignore that opportunity.

Unfortunately, obtaining that level of cooperation can be a challenge. With a few internal changes and a concentrated effort at aligning these two teams, however, it is possible to bring everyone together.

Begin by establishing definitions

Written, thought-out definitions can be your savior. They give everyone a concrete idea to look back upon and reduce the potential for miscommunication or misperceptions. Here are a few definitions that everyone in marketing and sales should agree upon.

  • What is a quality lead?
  • What will sales do when they receive a quality lead?
  • What level of communication will be expected between the teams?
  • What are the goals for each team?
  • What is the process of handing off a lead from one team to the other, and when should it happen?

Once you’ve established these definitions, it will be easier to see what each group is working toward and when they’re successful. You’ll then be able to determine common goals, such as the number of leads expected from the marketing team and how the sales team will handle each opportunity.

Enhance visibility and transparency

When each team can clearly see what the other is working on and whether or not they’re reaching their goals, they’ll gain a better appreciation for the role both teams play in growing revenue for the company.

To improve visibility and transparency, communication and data are key. Like definitions, data gives concrete facts that everyone can consult and reduces the risk of misunderstandings and resentment. There are several ways to produce quality data reports:

  • Analyze where leads are coming from and how each marketing source is performing.
  • Have marketing team members include highlights of their interactions with leads (such as what content was downloaded), so the sales team can better capitalize on those opportunities.
  • Have sales team members report their communication efforts with leads and results.

Another important measure of visibility is simply to meet together. Gather your two teams together for regular meetings to discuss goals, outcomes, shortcomings, and plans for improvement. These meetings will help to clear the air and get everyone on the same page.

If your marketing and sales teams are too big, consider having occasional meetings with everyone and regular meetings with just marketing and sales leaders. During these meetings, the data will provide you with plenty of conversation topics. Celebrate each other’s accomplishments, but if revenue goals are not being met, make sure both teams are transparent about their plans to make improvements.

Aligning your sales and marketing teams can have a wonderful impact on your bottom line, as well as the overall feelings of cooperation among your employees. With a potential 20 percent growth in revenue on the line, the effort is well worth it.