When More Is Not Better

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I know a few business owners and sales people out there who seem to be addicted to the “expert” marketing or sales guru. They have made almost a religion out of following several different coaches or consultants through personal interaction and/or seminar attendance and/or reading of their books. While I applaud their enthusiasm, I have to wonder if they are getting any positive benefit out of this approach. It seems to me that this is another case of too many cooks spoil the broth syndrome.

I believe that having a mentor or someone whose opinion you respect and follow is a wonderful thing to have in your life, whether for business or personal enhancement. By the same token, I don’t believe that any one person should be following the advice of multiple people in the same arena, as it only leads to confusion and lack of clarity.

A mentor, whether it’s a personal relationship or an “I read your books, follow your blog and attend your seminars” type of relationship should be someone whose example you wish to emulate in some way. That being said, the way they got there should also be in sync with your thoughts, beliefs and ability to take action. If you wouldn’t be willing or able to follow their advice and, more importantly, their actual example (walk the talk, but also walk the walk), they should not be your chosen mentor.

For those who believe that anyone successful is a good mentor, remember that most of these people have different approaches. Assuming that they do, doesn’t that create conflict for you? Who do you follow? Under which circumstance do you apply one over the other? If you try to apply all the advice, aren’t you just going in circles or, worse, sending out very conflicting or unclear messages about who you are? And if you happen to find mentors who are all in sync, then why do you need them all? Lower your expenses and concentrate on one – it usually does cost money to meet with these people, buy their books and attend their seminars.

OK, at this point I have to admit that I do have more than one person whose opinions I respect and whose advice I take. I’m even willing to name names: Cliff Quicksell is the person I refer to when my creative inspiration for promotional marketing needs a jumpstart. David Blaise is my  guidepost for developing successful prospecting strategies for my company. Finally for sales advice (and humor), I purchase Jeffrey Gitomer’s books like they’re going out of print. Although all three cross over somewhat in their offerings, I choose which facets of each are most in line with my personal style and business model and use those to grow my business. There is no confusion and my clients know exactly what Lev Promotions is all about.

Can you say the same for your business?

What Is the Cost of Marketing, or Not Marketing?

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It seems to be a constant refrain from the micro to small business owner: “I just don’t have the money to market my business.”

My question to them is, “How do you expect to make sales if you don’t market your business?”

Yes, word-of-mouth is a wonderful, free marketing tool; the one most of these business owners cite as their marketing strategy. Lev Promotions’ growth over the ten years we’ve been in business has been strongly related to word-of-mouth referrals.

That being said, are these people seriously expecting their satisfied clients to make it their life’s mission to market someone else’s company? Let’s face it, people are much more likely to spontaneously erupt into a diatribe about an awful experience with a business rather than a positive one. Unless someone is specifically asking for a referral for, even your most satisfied clients are probably not going around shouting your contact information from the rooftops.

Every business should be putting at least 2% of revenues into marketing. Yes, I know it can be difficult, and if 2% is absolutely not doable, then do something – $100/month can get you an inexpensive direct mailing to at least 100 people, or it might buy you some time with a marketing consultant; put that $100/month aside for a few months and now you can invest in a table top show, promotional products, a targeted ad, a better sign, or some serious work with a marketing consultant and more.

You can chose to see marketing as an expense. If your marketing strategies don’t work, then that is exactly what they are. However, when they are carefully thought out and planned with the desired outcome and target market always top of mind, marketing can show absolute ROI/ROO and that’s an investment in business growth.

Politics – Good Marketing or Not?

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Without revealing my own political beliefs, I can honestly say that politics embodies one of the worst examples of marketing that I have ever seen. Really doesn’t matter if it’s for a person or for a ballot measure, political marketing is not about good marketing.

What makes me say this?

1) Marketing should be about why people should choose you. In political campaigns, the message always seems to be about why you shouldn’t choose the other guy or the other way to vote. Seems to me that message is less about making the “right” choice and more about “My way won’t make things worse.” I don’t want to make things worse – I want them to be better.

2) No clear target market defined. Ever notice how politicians skew their message (and sometimes their appearance) based on their audience at that moment. Now, that may be a good marketing tactic when you have a consistent product (thing Geico insurance), but different target markets. When, however, your message is about what your beliefs are and what you hope to accomplish, isn’t redefining yourself for every soundbite opportunity a bit more like prostituting yourself than about inspiring people to earn their vote?

3) Lack of morals and ethics. OK, this one is from the viewpoint of someone who works with politicians to provide promotional products for their campaigns. Rule #1 of working with a political campaign of any kind is “Get paid upfront for all goods and services provided.” Why? Losing campaigns generally don’t pay their as yet unpaid bills. Usually they’re out of money and the candidate who we were supposed to trust enough to vote for can’t be bothered to make good on the debts of his/her campaign. Of course, many of these losing politicians go on to run again while extolling the virtues that they will bring to office. Get paid upfront, my friends!

Am I a fan of politics – no! I believe that we need leaders, not people who are too busy marketing themselves and/or their political causes to actually do the job.

Maybe I’m naive, but I believe that a leader’s actions will market themselves. After all, word-of-mouth is the most powerful marketing tool in the world!

What Is a SWOT Analysis?

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‘Tis the season for developing marketing plans. Well, really that season was about four months ago, at the latest. That fact notwithstanding, I am still working with some of my procrastinating clients to put together their marketing plans for 2012. Because of this, I’ve been looking at a lot of SWOT analyses for the last few months.

For those of you who never took a Marketing 101 class, a SWOT analysis is a simple chart which explores four different areas of a business: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Strengths

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

 

Put simply, the top row reflects statements about your company; the bottom row reflects statements about the outside world and the competition. The left column reflects the positives; the right column reflects the challenges.

By taking into account those things that you do best (strengths), you will better be able to capitalize on them. Knowing your weaknesses will allow you to either work on strengthening them or eliminating them.

Understanding what the impact of the outside world (competitors, economic situation, status of your neighborhood/city/region/state/country/world) is on your business will also help you put together a strategic marketing plan that makes sense given these pluses and minuses.

Keep  in mind that some statements might show up in more than one column – usually kitty-corner to each other. For instance, your best strength might also be listed as a threat if your competition is working on something similar.

Once you’ve identified items in all four categories, you will be prepared to develop a marketing plan that maximizes the positives (strengths and opportunities) while minimizing the impact of the negatives (weaknesses and threats). You will also be able to work on improving some of the items you’ve recognized as weaknesses that should at least be neutralized, if not turned into strengths for next year.

All-in-all, you can develop a marketing plan, but it may not be as successful as it should be without a good basis of understanding of your SWOT’s.