Naughty Networking

naughty-or-niceIt has happened to all of us. We meet someone at a networking event, we give them our card, and a week later we get their ezine in our inbox. When it comes to being naughty or nice when networking, one action stands out among the naughty: signing people up for your list just because they gave you their business card.

Now be honest, have you done this to people you have met? Maybe you rationalized it away by saying, “But they were interested!” Let’s look at this and come up with a better way.

It is easy to look at your list, see you need to grow it, then look at those business cards you collected at last night’s networking event and figure, hey, these people need to hear what we have to say! The problem is you didn’t ask for their permission. But EVERYONE says we must grow our list, so we add anyone that gives us a business card.

What we really need are interested and engaged people on our list. The person that politely listened to us at last night’s event (possibly partially anesthetized with alcohol) isn’t necessarily really interested in what we have to say.

So for the rest of the year, at the remaining holiday networking meetings you will be going to, try one of these methods (or both!)

  1. Ask for permission. Simply say, hey, if what I have been saying sounds good to you, can I add you to my newsletter list? If they say no, then don’t add them. If they say yes, add them before your next ezine or weekly tip goes out.
  2. Do this even if they gave you permission – consider it a bonus technique! Call them a few days after the event to tell them how much you enjoyed speaking with them, and that you would appreciate setting up a time for them to tell you more about themselves or their business. If you forgot to ask for permission before, now would be a good time.

It is all about relationships. Don’t try to start one by signing people up for your list without their permission. Would you want to begin a relationship with someone who starts off by violating your trust?

 

Avoiding Holiday Dead Time

Sparkly blue

I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it, “no one does business over the winter holidays.”

Yep, we know this for an absolute fact, that from Thanksgiving to New Years, things are dead.

Except that isn’t a “fact” it’s a business urban legend.

Sure, if your market is individuals and what you are selling isn’t exactly something that can be gifted, you might be up against the holiday budget – you know the one: I will only spend this much on presents this year, and of course they spend way more, leaving that much less for you. Of course that is assuming that everyone in the world is a serious spendthrift. Not everybody is. You won’t know unless you ask.

Businesses may be low on budget, but then again, if they have budget left, or they are trying to keep their tax burden down, they may be willing to invest in a small project or two. Maybe not the $10,000 6 month contract you were hoping for, but a quick and dirty $500 or $1,000 project that gets your foot in the door, and starts – or maintains, the trust relationship.

I can tell you this time of year is always my busiest. Sometimes I don’t even need to ask for more business, my clients just know I am available, and they jump on it.

The question is really do you want to do the work? Do you want to think of special offers to entice customers to buy – even if maybe they receive the product or service in January? Can you offer some quick short project that they can get immediate benefit from without making them double-check their wallet? Are you willing to do the work? That I am afraid is up to you!

How fast is your list spinning?

Spinning top with motion blur showing rotation

One metric about email that always gets mentioned is “open rate.” Simply defined, this is the percentage of your total list that opens any particular email. Open rates have a slight accuracy problem due to the ways people can review their email in the various email clients out there, but let’s go with them as they are.

Open rates are relatively useful to see the general popularity of your emails, and of course how any one email “performed.” However there is a simple metric that you can get from just about any email marketing system that will give you a sharper picture about audience behavior. I call that metric “List rotation.” What is it? Simple. List rotation is the percentage of your list that opened at least one email in some defined time period (3-6 months are pretty good periods.)  What this metric tells you is just how bad or well your list is performing overall (I know, the actual metric of performance is how much did you make off your list, but let’s play with this a bit.)

Let’s say that you find 50% of your list opened at least one email over 6 months. Yet you might only be averaging a 10-12% open rate. What is going on here?  Depending on the demographic makeup of your list, what content is interesting or engaging may vary from person to person, which causes the rotation: “That looks cool, I’ll open that one, but that one… ehh.” People get a ton of email, and it has become a chore picking and choosing which emails should be opened on any given day. The good news is they are interested in what you have to say, the bad news is they aren’t interested enough every time. You can never find content that appeals to everyone, and it is even harder when you have a diverse list built from many different sources and list build techniques. When you start noticing a lower open rate, before you panic, take a look at your rotation rate – it may not be as bad as you think!

 

Bad News About Online Ads

Seth Godin recently had an interesting post about ad blockers and advertising in general. Based on the timing, I think his post might have been in response to Apple’s announcement that with the release of IOS9 that they were going to allow ad blockers in the App store. Seth, as usual, had a rather philosophical view on things, discussing how advertisers had failed to change their ways in the way they communicated with their potential customers (at least through advertising,) making the use of ad blockers all but inevitable.

Seth’s post made me think about what all of this means to the smaller business – the smaller on-line advertiser, and what can be done. Regarding the latter, ads will be seen less and there isn’t much you can do to change that. Regarding the former, the medium to long-term effect will be that the price of a click will increase. Since ads will be seen less, you can pretty much bank on Google, Facebook, and everyone else that charges by the click will charge more, since there will be less clicks; making pay-per-click advertising a less desirable way to attract prospects. So do we as small business people give up on online advertising just as so many turned away from television, radio, and a host of other types of advertising because the return on investment simply isn’t there?

Perhaps. I have never been a fan of using Facebook or Google ads when you are just starting out or when you are still fairly small. While you can still get some pretty good pricing on some clicks, the actual conversion rate is pretty low, and you can rapidly eat up your budget. Wait, I hear the hue and cry of “social media will save us!” Well, not really. If ad revenues start to fall, companies like Facebook will make sure that all of that wonderful free traffic will dry up. Actually it is already starting to. Facebook deliberately keeps engagement rates low on posts to business pages.

So what to do? Returning to Seth’s post, we have to earn people’s trust, and their attention. Advertising will be harder and more expensive so we better make every ad count. We need to provide good content that our audiences actually want.

Recently I’ve heard that content marketing is dying as well. Certainly the age of advertising masquerading as content is starting to end. Or content promised to change your life, that consistently fails to live up to its hype. People want content they can use. That is relevant to their situation.

There is a fine line between giving away the farm and intriguing people sufficiently to get them to invest in your products and services. I’d start working on that line sooner rather than later.

If you’d like to see Seth Godin’s take on this, here is the URL: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/09/ad-blocking.html

A Simple Tweak When Posting Blogs And Ezines To Twitter

“What are your thoughts on Twitter, sir,” it having been a week where not a lot of thought had been given to various subjectshashtag, I decided to throw something out and see if I could get a reaction from The Effective Detective.

“I have relatively few thoughts on the subject Watson,” he initially replied. “However, I have found something that I am sure many of the Twitter fanatics have been acting on for years.”

“Really? I am all ears, sir,” I perked up at this news, wondering if this was going to be some long-winded explanation or perhaps if our conversation might be a little more direct today.

“Let me qualify that a bit. What I found was actually something related to our ezine activity. I am still unsure of the marketing efficacy of Twitter and other such social media platforms, but I do believe that getting your message out in multiple ways can do nothing but help – as long as you don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on the project,” The Detective paused, allowing me to jump in.

“The thing you found about Twitter sir?” I prompted, hoping not to get lost in a discussion on the failings of social media.

“Quite so, Watson. It involves the use of hashtags, Watson,” The Detective began again, and I could not help but interrupt.

“Hashtags are hardly anything new, sir,”

“Yes, Watson you are quite correct and if you will stop interrupting me,” The Detective shot back, then continued before I could apologize or argue further.

“As I was saying it involves the use of hashtags. I really don’t see that an enormous amount of information can be conveyed in a statement of 140 or so characters, and if you include hashtags that number is reduced. However, there is plenty of room for a link to a blog entry or the latest release of one’s ezine, along with multiple hashtags. The trick is what should those hashtags be? What I have often seen are hashtags that people make up, like #EmailMarketingIsWonderful which of course no one is following, and will most likely never will be followed. Are they trying to start something? Who knows.  Yet #EmailMarketing is flourishing, as are several other marketing or product related tags. The point is, I have seen multiple people who would have never heard of me or seen anything I have written, follow, retweet, and favorite my ezine tweets.  Simply by using a truly related hashtag rather than trying to be cute or start something. All it requires is logging on to Twitter and checking for some active, relevant hashtags,” The Detective finished and looked at me expectantly.

“I would imagine that if someone were very familiar with Twitter or already had scads of followers this is old news, but for the more casual Twitter user, you may have a point, sir,” I replied thoughtfully.

“‘May’ have a point, Watson? Hmmm, let us move on to other matters,” The Detective said, with a slight smile.

The Most Important Post… Ever

Crushed It

“Sir, do you think it wise to make such a bold claim?” I nervously asked The Effective Detective upon seeing the subject line he was considering.

“Eh? Watson, to what are you referring to?” he replied.

“This being the most important post ever, sir,” I began.

“What exactly makes you uncomfortable with it Watson?” The Detective interrupted.

“It seems to be a bit of hyperbole, sir,” I finished my thought.

“Precisely Watson! It is meant to be a tad hyperbolic. The better to cut through the clutter,” The Detective exclaimed.

“Sir?”

“Watson, don’t be so dense. The average person is bombarded with thousands of messages each day. You are assaulted via email, television, the phone, radio, magazines, and lets not even get started on the various types of social media. The point is the average person is drowning in noise. We as marketeers need to break through that noise. Using hyperbole is simply one method of doing that,” The Detective paused in his explanation and I chose to jump in and interrupt.

“But sir, everyone knows it is hyperbole, they have seen so much of it they are immune to it!” I exclaimed.

“Nonsense Watson. Hyperbole has been with us pretty much since humans started trying to impress each other. I assure you there was a Greek olive oil dealer back in ancient Greece telling all of the passerby that his olive oil would make the skin glow and hair glisten in ways that rivaled the gods! Why? Because it works. People buy hope. They want to think they can make their lives or businesses better by doing some set of things. We all say we hate hyperbole and aren’t fooled by it, and yet we still tune into the webinars that promise to teach a method that will have leads raining down upon our heads, and some of us buy the package being presented at the end of the webinar.” The Detective explained.

“But isn’t it dishonest to make such claims, using such language?” I asked, still a tad confused.

“Not really, Watson. No, you can’t spell out how much money someone will make using your techniques, and I would be wary of cancer cures, but in general, the people advertising these methods, programs, what have you, have either gotten those results for themselves, or know someone – probably one of their clients, that has. As for our own pronouncement, how do you know that someone won’t consider this the most important post ever? It certainly is important to me. It may give someone the inspiration they need to push their message up a few notches and start landing sales.

“With more specific tag or headlines, like “generate scads of leads in no time.” as long as you are not promising specific results – exactly how many is a “scad” after all?, and honestly explaining how people can achieve similar results – without giving the whole process away for free, then people can make their own buying decisions; of course their mileage will vary. The key is to not lie or be openly deceitful about what you are promoting.

“The alternative of course is to be low-key, boring, and purely informative. You will most likely get a few clients, but you will most certainly starve along the way,” The Detective concluded.

“So boast a little, paint a wonderful picture that will differentiate you and break through the noise, but never make claims you could not back up in good faith,” I offered.

“A bit poetic Watson, but I think that will do for today. You see – this truly was an important post for you!”, The Detective said with a smile.

“Just so, sir.”

 

 

They Just Don’t Work!

Businessmans hand drawing an empty flow chart

“They just don’t work sir!” I exclaimed as I burst into the study that I shared with The Effective Detective.

“Excuse me, Watson? Which “they” are you referring to?” calmly replied The Detective.

“Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to be so melodramatic. I’ve been inundated recently with complaints from people I talk to about how this marketing tactic, and that marketing tactic simply does not work,” I said, trying to get my voice a few levels of calmer.

“Ah, ” said The Detective, suddenly looking reflective. “I am afraid Watson, that you have been listening to the general excuse of the small business owner, who having done some simple test of a particular tactic, and not seeing the result they had hoped for or expected, decides that they have been lied to about the efficacy of said tactic.”

“But sir, I have been hearing the same lament from some rather experienced marketers,” I answered, starting to recover my wits.

“I’m sure you have Watson, and most likely they qualify it with something like – ‘at least it doesn’t work as well as I had hoped,” The Detective smiled his half-smile, and I knew something was coming.

“That is true, sir. I expect you have a retort to that as well?” I asked cautiously.

“I do indeed,” The Detective began, shooting me a quick look of amusement, recognizing that I sometimes was prepared for the game we play so often. “The issue Watson is not so much the tactic, although some tactics are inappropriate for some businesses or situations – but that is a conversation for another day. No the usual issue is that the tactic is not to blame, but rather the fault lies with the person using the tactic, using it in isolation.”

“Wait sir, I am not sure I understand,” I interrupted, feeling a tad confused.

“If you will allow me to continue Watson, I suspect you will,” The Detective replied sharply, and continued on without waiting for me to add-on to my statement. “To properly market one’s product or service, one needs to have a marketing system.”

“I’m not sure that such a general software product exists, sir,” I interrupted again.

“Watson, please be still, and allow me to finish,” The Detective implored, rolling his eyes. “You are correct, there is no such software system that will do one’s marketing, but I am not talking about software Watson,” The Detective continued on without his traditional pause, most likely due to my ill-timed interruptions. “no, I refer to a definition of system that seems to elude so many people because of its simplicity.

“A system in this context is merely the steps involved in taking a someone from our market, to being a prospect, then a customer, and of course a repeat customer. Simply put: Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, and within any step there could be alternatives that could lead to an entirely new set of steps.

“The point is that by taking a ‘system’ view of your marketing, different tactics can work together. An outcome at any step using a certain tactic, could result in bringing in another tactic, rather than just letting the prospect go.

“This is different from a marketing plan which is dictating when a particular tactic might be used,’ The Detective paused, and I realized I was being invited to comment.

“So like a flow chart for how you will attract and handle a prospect,” I said with appreciation at the simplicity but power of what had just been laid out for me.

“Well put Watson! A fine visual. Lets move on shall we?” The Detective answered, ending the day’s discussion.

What you need to “know” about “no”

NoXS“Sir, I have noticed something interesting about more successful entrepreneurs,” I began hoping to engage The Effective Detective on the topic.

“Indeed Watson, and what is that interesting something?” The Detective answered, opening the door for me to continue.

“They rarely take no for an answer. But they don’t do it in the annoying stereotypical used car salesman way that you would usually associate with that phrase – not allowing you to leave the office, throwing up another ‘tell you what I’m gonna do!’ line. Sometimes they will even walk away. What I can’t figure out is how they make the determination whether to walk away or continue,” I explained, watching The Detective for a reaction.

“Simply put Watson, you have observed someone or perhaps several someones who understands that there are three types of ‘no’s ,” The Detective replied.

“I’m intrigued sir. I can possibly think of two types of nos, but three?” I interjected.

The Detective gave me his half-smile, which sometimes meant he agreed with me, other times that I should stay quiet while he explained something to me. I decided I would stay quiet and let him continue.

“Yes, Watson, three types. The first is the one that we who are selling are the most familiar with. ‘No, you haven’t convinced me.’ In this case, you simply have not convinced the prospect of the value of your product or service to them. You may be certain that the value is there, but you haven’t illuminated them. This ‘no’ is actually an invitation to continue, but you may be wearing their patience a bit thin.

“The second type is ‘No, not yet’, or more correctly, ‘No, not today’. This is the one that a lot of people do not understand, and why some of the more aggressive closing techniques were developed. There may be very good reasons why a prospect will tell you ‘No, not today’. They may actually see the value in what you are presenting but understand that they are not ready, or simple do not have the resources or the bandwidth to take advantage of. This response is the heart of relationship marketing and the concept of staying top of mind with a prospect. The preferred way to handle this no – after you establish it is real – is to let the prospect go.The key is to not just let them go – which is what most salespeople ending up doing after badgering them for a while – also highly ineffective, but to start a relationship with the prospect, show them some respect, but don’t allow them to get out of your “sight”, get them on your list and send them useful content, you want to be their first choice when they decide “yes, today.” The Detective paused, and I assumed this was my invitation to jump in.

“I never considered it that way sir, but that means the third type of ‘no’ is…” I trailed off to allow The Detective to finish the conversation.

“I suspect you know the answer Watson, but the third type of no is ‘no, not ever.’ There are simply some people who aren’t going to do business with you for some reason – good or bad. Life is too short to waste time trying to get such clients. You may be able to browbeat them into a deal, but you will regret it. The percentage isn’t that high of this type of ‘no’, perhaps 30% of your market. Why waste time when there is 70% of your market out there ready to say yes  – after you convince them, or they are truly ready?” The Detective concluded.

“Well put sir, well put!” I exclaimed.

“Let us move on, Watson,” The Detective responded, ending today’s discussion.

Do you need SEO?

seo“I know that disgusted look, sir. I have seen it before. Perhaps we should hash out whatever is bothering you before moving on to other topics,” I said, seeing The Effective Detective not looking happy at all, barely after entering the room.

“Ah Watson, observant – if not always understanding, as always. I am merely expressing my disgust at the continued selling of what was once a useful technique to draw traffic to a site. Said technique having been surpassed by more cost-effective techniques.” The Detective replied, allowing for a slight smile to cross his face.

“Another one sir?” I sighed.

“Yes, Watson, another one. Keep your sad sighs to yourself if you please. It disturbs me to see people being presented with the paradoxical statement that by paying a Search Engine Optimization expert, you can get free traffic. If indeed one could expect quality – meaning traffic that generates revenue – traffic that vastly exceeded the cost of using said expert to “get on page one” of Google, then perhaps I would be a tad less caustic.

“The fact of the matter Watson, is that not all sites are natural search engine destinations. Those that are, well if you are in a niche that is competitive, and there are standard keywords people can use to find members of that niche – chances are that someone has pretty well situated themselves on the front page of Google.

“On the other hand, what makes you unique, by its very nature will probably not be found via standard keywords. If only a miniscule portion of the Internet community is actually searching on those keywords, your chances of gaining tons of business from being searched for just aren’t going to be that high,” The Detective paused for a second, giving me an opportunity to throw in my two cents.

“Are you suggesting that some industries shouldn’t bother having a website?” I asked with as much incredulity in my voice as I could muster without sounding too over the top.

“Now you are just being silly, Watson. Of course you should have a website. Just don’t confuse being on the first page of Google for some obscure search terms with having  a successful website,” The Detective shot back.

“Since really the only metric of a successful website is ‘does it make you money?'”

“Precisely Watson! And there are plenty of ways you can actively drive traffic instead of hoping that people will happen to look for you using some string of words, and of course what is on your site is equally important as people coming to it… but that is a discussion for another day. Shall we move on Watson?” The Detective finished.

“Indeed sir.”

The Facts Can Destroy Your Sales

factsI came into the study to find The Effective Detective lost in thought.

“Sir, is there a problem?” I asked, concerned

“What? Oh Watson, no not a problem. I am contemplating the merits of presenting a task that may not be terribly easy as quite simple,” he replied with his brow still furrowed in thought.

“An interesting play on words, sir. Yet it strikes me as dishonest. How can a hard task actually be simple?” I asked, hoping to move the conversation along, almost certainly making The Detective happier, since he was always happiest when pontificating.

“Watson, you disappoint. There is nothing dishonest about making a true statement. A simple task can be quite hard,” The Detective responded.

Intrigued, I prompted him to continue, “I must confess to being dense today, sir. I am not following you.”

“Come now Watson. Let me give you an example. Say I told you to pick up a box and carry it across the room. Would you agree that is a simple task?”

I nodded my agreement.

“If I then told you if the box was made of lead, and contained several more blocks of lead,  would you agree that the task was hard?”

I had to smile. Once again I had fallen into one of The Detective’s logical traps. “Yes, sir, I would have to agree. An interesting thought experiment, but what does it have to do with the issues we are typically confronted with?”

The Detective smiled almost warmly which took a little of the sting out of his next words. “You are as dense as the lead boxes we were just discussing Watson. Perhaps you did not sleep soundly enough last night? Allow me to explain,” The Detective breathed deeply, before beginning his latest pontification. “When marketing a product or service, the last thing we want to present our prospects with is something that they perceive will be hard to do, or involve an enormous amount of work. They may be willing to do the work once they see the possibilities but to lead with the perception of complexity or difficulty is a bad idea. Which would you rather choose Watson, ‘The 45 Step plan that will leave you feeling like you just ran a marathon, but will multiply your income!’ or ‘The simple 5 step plan that will propel your income to the next level!’

“The latter of course, sir.”

“Now once you get into it, you may discover that after completing that 5 step plan, you feel like you just ran a marathon, but if you truly have reached the next level of income that you desired, might you possibly be glad you weren’t scared away by the title?

“Truth is important Watson, but if one truly has something that can benefit people – I am of course giving one the benefit of the doubt that they are not a shyster –  then isn’t it more important not to scare them off before they can decide whether the effort is worth the return? Words matter. There was an old joke in the tech world, that back in the good old days, if Hewlett-Packard – a fine technical company started by and originally run by engineers, who have a reputation for being quite literal, was selling sushi they would market it as ‘cold dead fish’. Very true, but not very appetizing,”  The Detective paused briefly, and I, now convinced that I had seen the obvious, jumped in.

“So the cold hard facts are not always the best way to present something. If we have a simple five step system where each simple step of the system involves a lot of hard work, better to promote the simplicity rather than the effort involved!” I exclaimed.

“Watson, you have redeemed yourself,” The Detective interjected, gently clapping his hands. “I’m not sure I could have said that better myself! Now let us immerse ourselves in our own simple yet hard work,” The Detective said, ending our discussion for the day.