Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?

Laptop with overloaded DVD Drive. Isolated on whiteA wave of relief washed over me as I saw The Effective Detective was not carrying some kind of ridiculous prop, and did not have a look on his face indicating that he was about to drop a bombshell. Perhaps, I thought, today may be more of our usual type discussions.

“Ah Watson, so good to see you, we have an interesting quandary to consider today,” The Detective smiled his half-smile, which actually sort of worried me.

I replied, well aware I was going down a path that had been determined for me. “A quandary sir? What might that be pray tell?”

“Watson, is that suspicion I hear in your voice?” The Detective asked. When I didn’t answer immediately, he continued, “relax your mind, Watson, there are no big announcements today, merely a point of interest I have picked up on while developing some software to solve a few of the problems we encounter in marketing,” The Effective almost, but not quite, admonished me.

“I’m relieved to hear that sir, so what is the topic today?” I exhaled with a noticeable sigh.

“Information overload, or rather self-imposed information overload, my dear Watson. I find it amusing that while we all bemoan how much information is being thrown at us on a daily basis, we then turn around and accumulate vast information stores most of which are of dubious value towards meeting our goals, and we clamor to figure out how to gain even more. We complain bitterly that we are drowning in data – when it is being sent to us by others, then we go and place the burden on ourselves. Most curious as well as amusing,” The Detective took his characteristic pause, waiting for a rejoinder from me. Since we were playing our usual game, I decided to jump in whole heartedly.

“Sir, I can’t imagine what you are talking about. I see a general narrowing of information requests. I see very few people who ask for more than a name and an email address on their sign up forms. It would seem that a large percentage of other marketers have picked up on this,” I continued, interrupting The Detective who smiled that half-smile and I realized I had been set up. Again.

“True Watson, but there is one place where it seems retrieving a glut of information is still considered a best practice – a term I despise by the way, but that is a discussion for another day. Look no further than Customer Relation Management or CRM – an overblown term for Contact Management as it relates to the vast majority, where it seems a good review is dependent on how much data you can cram into their databases, and the number of useless features added on for good measure.

“The average small business person generally will have a manageable number of direct relationships, and thus needs to collect and record less information. The fact of the matter is Watson that the primary pieces of information you require when you are chasing after a prospect are their name, their company, phone and email, some notes, and most importantly: what is your next step with them and when it is to be taken? I know this for a fact, since I used to sell – quite successfully I might add, using a box of index cards organized by date with names and phone numbers and handwritten notes,” The Detective finished, slightly out of breath.

“So trying to collect and store all those tiny bits of trivia and probabilities of closing, and classifications of prospects which requires a relatively complex and cumbersome system might actually be detracting from the average person’s sales productivity!” I exclaimed, getting the point.

“Exactly Watson! A lot of us forget to make a phone call or what we said the last time we spoke to someone. That hardly requires a product that fills the screen with slots for useless information, making it that much harder to use – and thus less likely to be used. If one insists on using one of those monstrosities, they should do themselves a favor and focus on those few pieces of critical information and ignore the rest of the screen,” The Detective added.

“Something to truly think about, sir,” was the only rejoinder I could come up with.

“Quite so Watson. Quite so.”

 

 

 

Why I left Infusionsoft

Why???I realized my jaw was hanging open in a most unbecoming way, so I shut it momentarily – long enough to gather my words together to verify what I thought I had just heard.

“Sir? Perhaps I misheard you. Can you repeat yourself?”

“Of course Watson, and for heaven’s sake shut your mouth, you look like a fish gasping for air,” The Effective Detective initially answered my question with his typical sarcasm before continuing on. “You did not mishear me Watson, I have dropped Infusionsoft in favor of one of the so-called lesser alternatives,” The Detective concluded, and waited patiently for my reply.

“I don’t understand sir, haven’t you yourself said that Infusionsoft is one of the most powerful tools available for the types of processes we design and implement?” I asked, hoping that my mouth had ceased opening and closing spasmodically.

“I have indeed Watson. And I stand by that. Don’t misunderstand Watson, I am not leading a rebellion against high-powered software that admittedly costs a pretty penny. If someone is using Infusionsoft to its potential, and truly benefitting from it, by all means stay with it!” The Detective answered.

“Then why would we switch, sir? I admit I am finding this quite confusing,” I mumbled.

“Watson, while I must admit it was a hard decision, when I analyzed our own lead attraction and sales funnel system, I felt that Infusionsoft could be a bit of overkill. I will also confess to some consternation over them working towards becoming “Swiss Army Knife software” – doing lots of things, all of them competently, but none of them excellently.  But lastly and most importantly, our clients, Watson. Are many of them best served by that particular software package? I think not,” once again The Detective paused to allow me to interject a comment.

“But aren’t there features that are critical to implementing our system sir?” I asked, finally regaining my composure.

“There are, but features can be duplicated either by human processes, or outside intervention via our own software solutions. We can tie into these supposed lesser systems, and I think that most of them hardly deserve that title. It is simply a matter of working out the processes and designing both a manual solution, and then a software solution. The result will be a cost-effective way to implement the proper processes in one’s business without driving one crazy,” The Detective concluded.

“We will be discussing these processes in this space of course?” I queried.

“Watson, do you have even a shadow of a doubt that we will be discussing this extensively?” The Detective asked, looking incredulous.

“Of course not sir, but you have already dropped one bomb on me today…”

“Hush Watson, we have work to do and word to spread,” The Detective smiled, ending our conversation for the day.

We don’t need no stinking autoresponders

Public Relations Meaning News Media Press Communication“Sir, are you up for a little Q and A today?” I enquired of The Effective Detective to launch this episode of our weekly talks.

“What? Eh Watson? I suppose so… not as much chance to lecture of course,” replied The Detective with a slight smile on his face.

“Perhaps the answer to every question does not require a lecture sir,” I answered, then continuing on before The Detective could offer a rejoinder, “the question is simple sir, what is an autoresponder, and why do you make them sound so important?”

“Watson, the direct answer is quite simple: an autoresponder is simply a process where a set of emails are sent out to a member of your list that the autoresponder is assigned to. The timing of the emails can be set by you so that there are certain intervals of time before the next email is sent out. The emails are the same for each member of your list who receives the autoresponder emails. That much is fairly simple. Where it gets interesting, is why they are so important,” The Detective paused in his characteristic way. Sometimes I believe he is just winding up in those pauses.

“Please continue sir,” I provided an opening without opening a can of worms by making a comment or perhaps sending the conversation in another direction.

“Quite, Watson. As I was saying, autoresponders are important, although you can work a list without them. They are important in that they give you a chance to respond consistently to every single prospect that comes into your funnel. Their introduction to you can be your best stuff. If they are simply thrust into the world of your e-zines or other content, they may hit something that doesn’t immediately interest them. Or perhaps, perish the thought, you might have a bad day, and simply not be on the top of your game with your content. Whatever the reason, you could start out on the wrong foot with a new potential client. Autoresponder content can be tailored to the promised message. Perhaps it is a multiple part video course. The page that attracted your prospect enticed them with that content. They get what they expect to get, and you gain credibility,” The Detective stopped again. This time, looking at me like he expected more than a perfunctory response.

“It would seem to me sir that is also less work for you. Once the content is done, it is done – well perhaps except for some tweaking here and there. Freeing you up for both your other business responsibilities and more content.”

“I think you have the concept Watson. There are some email services out there that offer you a free version or level. Unfortunately, if autoresponders are one of the features they deny you for free, you are better off spending a little money with them to get the autoresponders. Those first few weeks after they subscribe are critical in getting your prospects to follow you. Best to bring your A game and start the relationship off right,” The Detective concluded.

“You sound like you speak from experience, sir” I said, raising an eyebrow.

“A story for another day Watson.”

Process Makes Perfect

flowchart“Sir, I wonder if you might expand a bit on the topic you discussed this past Friday,” I requested, kicking off another Monday talk.

“You mean picking software, Watson?” The Effective Detective asked.

“Actually, I was more intrigued by the passing comment about process, sir,” I replied.

The Detective gave me one of his sidelong glances indicating slight annoyance, but he answered. “Passing comment, Watson? That was actually the most important point of the whole bloody discussion!”

“Exactly, sir,” I recovered, ” which is why I am asking about it today.”

The Detective looked at me briefly, then, evidently deciding he would rather lecture me than chastise me, he started in.

“Defining a process before selecting software can be the only thing that ensures you don’t make a bloody mess out of the whole thing, Watson. However, the word process can sometimes elicit visions of massive flow diagrams and tables showing decision points and critical path, and other mumbo jumbo that project managers are sometimes so in love with.

“In fact defining a process can be no more than writing a list of a tasks on a piece of paper. The real trick is that it is on the piece of paper, or extremely well thought out in your head. A process is merely a set of steps that you follow to accomplish something.”

“But what if you are unfamiliar with the object of the process. Say, like email marketing?” I objected.

“Well Watson, the obvious thing would be to contract out or hire someone who does understand how to develop and implement a process, but failing that you can still develop a process using concepts that you do know,” The Detective answered, then immediately continued, giving me no chance to interrupt again.

“Let us take your email marketing example. Imagine if you meet someone at a networking event. Next imagine you are holding, oh,  say an interesting photograph. The person you are talking to shows an interest in photography and comments on the photograph you are holding. You offer it to him, if he will give you his address. He agrees, hands you his card, you thank him and shake his hand, hand him the picture and you both go off to meet someone else. When you get home, you pull out this person’s card, along with other cards you collected that night, send them all thank you notes, and let them know you will be sending out regular updates on photography and  other opportunities to get interesting photographs from you.

“You have just designed a process for staying in touch with prospects, providing them information, and the occasional offer. Just replace physical addresses with email addresses and hard copy letters with emails, and suddenly you have an email marketing campaign designed. You simply need to find the features in a software system that matches each part of your process. If the software doesn’t do all of them, then you either need to redefine your process, or find a different software product,” The Detective concluded and looked at me expectantly.

“That simple sir?” I asked raising one eyebrow.

“That simple, Watson. Of course there may be more steps involved, even some decision points that need to be inserted, but in the end, it all comes down to steps on paper. Once you have that, the rest is easy, or you can hand it off to someone else for implementation. Let us move on Watson,” The Detective finished, signalling it was time to take on a new subject.

“As you wish, sir. As you wish.”

More Than Just a Piece of the Pie

pie_chart“Sir, why is it that you don’t sign up as an affiliate for some of the software we discuss?” I launched our discussion quickly, feeling rushed since we had not met on yesterday’s holiday.

“By affiliate, I assume you mean promoting and selling someone else’s product for some percentage of the sales price as compensation, Watson,” The Detective replied.

“”Quite so, sir. It strikes me that it could be quite profitable.”

“You might be correct in your impressions Watson, and I must admit it is sometimes tempting. In fact, I would say in general if someone believes in the product, and has the marketing wherewithal to properly promote and sell such a product, affiliate marketing does have distinct advantages over trying to write your own product,” The Detective replied.

“I am confused sir. If there are advantages for these arrangements, then why are we not pursuing them?” I asked.

“Ah Watson, an excellent question. Let’s look at some of those advantages,” The Detective began, indicating he was warming up to the subject, and I should probably just sit back and go for the ride.

“The big advantage of course is that you do not need specific domain knowledge, you can utilize the knowledge of the author of the product. This also means (often) that you do not need to be concerned about support. Of course the big thing is you don’t have to create the product. That can be a ton of work.

“That said, you still need to be pretty skillful at copy-writing, since you need to interest people, and you need to know as many traffic drawing tricks as possible. However, if you have the skill, there can be a decent source of income in affiliate programs.

“But, the copy and the traffic aren’t the things that concern me,” The Detective paused, and gave me his customary look to ensure I was paying attention.

“So what does concern you sir?” I asked, reassuring him that I was indeed paying attention.

“Elementary my dear Watson. There is an appearance and a commodity that I must always be aware of: lack of bias, and time.

“Bias is something that most likely few others need to worry about. However when you are in the business of coming up with solutions  that sometimes involve using software, having a profit bias to one software package or another could be, let us say, a  limiting factor in your ability to propose the most effective solution for a particular problem. You know what they say Watson, when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

“I could look past that issue, since often the feature sets of various software packages are quite similar, and with proper procedures most operational glitches can be worked around.

“There is an issue I cannot ignore though, and that is time. Any decent marketing campaign must be conceived, written, tested, measured, and tweaked. I cannot afford to take time away from the work I perform for my clients, and my own marketing, to do the requisite work to make an affiliate program truly successful. It is difficult to just dip your toe into a marketing campaign. Either you are looking to win, or you are just dabbling.

“Being an affiliate marketer can be quite lucrative, and if your joy is in the marketing of things rather than the creation of said things, then by all means, take that challenge on. But as one of my mentors once said to me you cannot be both fish and fowl. Are you an affiliate marketer, or are you a life coach, a personal trainer, a marketing detective, or whatever your passion is?”

“So we keep the options open for our clients, so they can choose what best suits their needs.” I offered.

“And the same for ourselves. Quite so Watson, quite so.”

A Matter of Context

firstplaceI began today’s discussion with a simple, direct question to The Effective Detective.

“Sir, what is the best software to manage your list?”

The Detective studied me for a moment, and gave a simple, direct response.

“You are asking the wrong question, Watson.”

“What could be wrong about such a question, sir? It is a simple inquiry as to what to use to solve a problem,” I replied, perhaps a tad indignantly.

“Elementary my dear Watson. The question you ask lacks context, which makes it impossible to answer, hence it must be the wrong question,” The Detective replied; cryptically, in my estimation.

“Begging your pardon sir, but where is this lack of context? The question is quite specific,” I tried again.

“Yes, Watson, the question is quite specific, and it is the type of question that most people would ask when making an inquiry regarding software. In fact, it is the type of question that most people ask regarding any product or service – what is the best?

“Specificity aside, the question still lacks context,” the Detective stopped for his normal pause here. Unable to help myself, I gave him his opening.

“Just what would this missing context be, sir?:

“Now you are asking the correct type of question Watson!” The Detective exclaimed with a smile.

“The missing context is the answer to a simple question: What are you trying to accomplish?” The Detective stated, warming to the subject.

“You see Watson, without an answer to the ‘what are you trying to accomplish’ question, you could go chasing down any number of rabbit holes in an attempt to answer the original question. In a sales situation, it could result in buying something that simply does not answer your needs, or getting confused and not buying anything at all. Without context, an answer to the ‘what is the best’ question is just a random guess at your intentions.

“This is why I ignore software reviews. ‘The Best’ for one person is not necessarily the best and may even be the worst, for another. Reviews reward comprehensive feature lists that in the opinion of the review author match the needs of some mythical group called ‘most users’. How the membership of that group is determined is beyond me. Now if you knew that certain features were actually relevant to your usage of the product, then knowing whether the software implements those features effectively might be useful,” The Detective paused again, looking at me expectantly, perhaps hoping for an interjection. I decided to oblige.

“So the question isn’t really what is the best, but rather what fits my needs the best.”

“Precisely Watson!”

“But what if you are not sure what you need?” I asked.

“That Watson, is the trick, and is a discussion for another time,” The Detective said, closing out this discussion.

Removing a Screw with a Hammer

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Image courtesy of thanunkorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I have been giving some thought to our discussion of tools the other day Watson,” said The Effective Detective.

“Oh? What other insights have you found?” I replied, hoping he would realize I was being serious.

If The Detective had felt there was sarcasm in my tone, he didn’t show it, but rather launched into his explanation, “I believe the problem goes beyond merely using an overly complicated tool, and extends far beyond the use of software, or at least what we think of as software.

“The problem is recognizing the correct tool to perform a job.  So often there is no thought given to the process, just a decision to use a tool, often because of popular opinion, “peer” pressure to some degree, and of course convenience and cost,” The Detective paused, gathering his thoughts.

“Cost, sir? Are you going to be attacking open source, and freeware now?” I asked, truly concerned at the alarming direction I felt the discussion was going.

“No Watson, I am talking more about the blind faith in Social Media and other purported sources of free traffic and leads.”

“Oh sir, not another Facebook rant! Please?” I begged, with true urgency in my voice.

The Detective cast a baleful eye, but responded. “Watson, you miss the point. A tool by itself is neither good nor bad. I am sure if you queried a multitude of consumer companies, they have had enormous success with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any number of other sites like them.

“My complaint is not with the tool but how people are being told to use the tool, no matter what the application. ‘Want to build a big list? Start a Facebook page and start inviting people to come and like it!’ ‘Need to get everyone to recognize you are an expert? Blog, or tweet, or both’. These type of suggestions are made without any regard for the target audience, whether the people who are attracted are buyers, the time frame the business person is dealing with to develop business, nothing!” The Detective stopped, obviously agitated. While he was  taking a deep relaxing breath, I jumped in.

“But sir, aren’t there any number of fairly successful people who are participating in Social Media and related vehicles?” I quickly got out.

“Thank you Watson, the evidence you just offered proves my point. Who are some of these successful people and what are they offering?” The Detective was smiling now, and I felt like I had just stepped into a bear trap.

“Any number of Internet marketers offering… uh… consumer products, or advice to other Internet marketers,” I started, understanding starting to dawn. “Successful consultants offering coaching and other advice to, well, to other consultants and coaches.”

“Exactly Watson! They target the exact kind of people who peruse the Internet looking for those kind of things. Success with the tool requires your tribe to be looking for you in the environment of the tool – Facebook, Twitter, whatever, versus you finding them elsewhere and drawing them to the environment so you can continue the conversation.” The Detective finished calmly, knowing he had made his point.

“So how do you know what tool to use, sir?” I asked, my curiosity aroused.

“Another time, Watson. I prefer you cogitate on this concept for a bit.”

“As you wish, sir.”

Weapons of Mass Distraction

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Image courtesy of thaikrit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Tools, Watson.”

“Tools, sir?” When The Effective Detective started a conversation with a declarative statement like that, it was always best to merely repeat the statement as a question and prepare for a lecture.

“Yes Watson, tools,” The Detective repeated, with a look that indicated he knew the purpose of my reply.

“I have been reflecting on the use of the vast collection of sales and marketing tools available to even the smallest marketer. Unfortunately, too many of our marketing brethren buy into the software mantra of ‘more features are better'”, The Detective said, with an almost wistful tone.

“What is the fault in that mantra, sir?” asking the question that I know would get the most, shall we say, enthusiastic response.

“The fault is obvious Watson!” The Detective responded vigorously, “Instead of choosing a piece of software based on what they are trying to accomplish, they go for the software with the most features that they can afford. The result would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.”

“And that result would be?” I asked, jumping into the breach.

“Why nothing of course, Watson! They end up doing nothing because they get utterly confused when assaulted by the process of using said features. At that time of course, we hear that this software or that doesn’t work, or that the process they are trying to automate is useless to their business, etcetera, etcetera. This is the cycle, almost without fail,” The Detective finished.

“Is there an alternative sir?” I asked, genuinely interested by now.

“Of course there is Watson, it isn’t as sexy and certainly not as easy as buying the most feature packed latest  and greatest version of software. It involves figuring out what exactly you are trying to do, rather than allowing yourself to be distracted by the shiny new thing. It involves thinking through things, to write the process flow down on a piece of paper so you can see exactly what is needed,rather than what a software manufacturer wants to sell you.

“In a nutshell Watson, if you can’t do it or at least flow it out by hand, then you certainly cannot automate it,” The Detective completed his thought.

“An interesting viewpoint from someone who has been involved in software for most of his life, sir,” I responded, egging him on for some reason. Luckily, The Detective’s reaction was more restrained that I expected.

“Not really Watson. I have spent a chunk of my life designing and writing software. I have seen projects succeed and I have seen many fail. I have watched innumerable users  do what I have just described. It is simply the obvious deduction of years of observations.”

“Ah. Well played sir,” I congratulated him.

“Quite so Watson.”