Doing the Right Thing, Wrong

oops“Watson, I have a wonderful example of doing the right thing wrong,” The Detective began with an uncharacteristically indirect and confusing statement for our weekly discussion.

“Sir?” I asked, not sure how else to respond.

“Come, come Watson, we all know that we should, as part of any well-managed and useable list, have included our customers or clients, however you choose to refer to them. We also know that one of the reasons we segment a list is to ensure that appropriate information is sent out,” The Detective paused, waiting for me to confirm that I understood. I obliged.

“Yes, sir, of course.”

“So I have a wonderful example of a business doing the right thing: labeling me as a customer and engaging me, but doing it wrong by sending me an offer that I cannot use. Worse, it was actually quite an interesting offer,” The Detective said almost wistfully.

“Can you provide me with details sir?” I asked, now that my curiosity had been piqued.

“What? Oh, of course Watson. I have purchased several cars from a local dealership in the last two years. I am very satisfied with the purchases. Now, what do you think would be an appropriate communication from the dealership Watson?”

“Ah, perhaps an offer for some maintenance sir?”

“Precisely! An offer that I would appreciate, that I can choose not to avail myself of, but definitely something I could use if I was so inclined. That, however is not the offer I received. Received three times in fact. No, what I received was an offer for a discount on activation of a feature that is not available on either of the cars I have purchased from this dealership. Worse, it wasn’t until I had clicked through several pages before I realized there was no way I could use this offer. Not only was I frustrated that I couldn’t use the offer, I was irritated that I had wasted my time clicking through multiple pages before I learned this was something I could not take advantage of.

“So, what do you think the lesson learned here is, Watson?”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep?” I asked, feeling a bit mischievous, and seeing if I could provoke a reaction.

“Bah! Watson, you are playing! The lesson is to ensure that your segmentation includes critical information. There is a delicate balance between over-segmentation and not segmenting enough. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish and who you are dealing with.  The dealership knew what models and years I had purchased from them. They also knew that the option they were promoting was not available on either of those cars. Any one of those pieces of information included in their list could have allowed appropriate segmentation,” The Detective responded, with an irritated tone – exactly the reaction I had hoped to elicit.

“Simply put Watson, the missing key here was not utilizing information readily available to target a message only to those who would be interested; in this case those who could take advantage of it,” The Detective finished succinctly.

“Simple, but not always easy, sir.”

“That is why it works Watson, that is why it works.”

Squirrels

too_much_data“Watson, do you remember our discussion regarding too much segmentation?” The Effective Detective started today’s discussion.

“Of course, sir. It is hard to forget any of our discussions,” I replied.

The Detective cast a sidelong glance my way, briefly trying to decide if I was being sarcastic, then deciding  he didn’t care, and continued.

“I have realized there is a similar issue that requires some examination,” The Detective began.

“Which would be?” I asked, encouraging him to continue.

“We all know we are all deluged with data on a daily basis, Watson. What we often don’t realize is that even when we narrow down the data points, we may not be, how shall I say this? narrowing it down correctly.”

“You mean we are looking at the wrong data, sir?” I asked, concerned.

“Not actually wrong as in incorrect, Watson, I would describe it more as data points that are distractions versus ones that take us closer to our destination,” The Detective assured me.

“I am afraid you have lost me, sir. Distractions? If the data is correct how could it be a distraction?” Now feeling a tad confused by the direction the conversation was taking.

“Elementary my dear Watson, even the simplest data analysis – is this good, is this bad? requires time. If you are looking at data that, while quite correct and accurate does not advance you toward your goal, it is a distraction. For example, obsessing over the number of hits your website gets, and ignoring if any of those hits sign up for your list  or buy products that you had for sale. Wondering how you can increase your Social Media Klout without checking to see if all of that Klout is resulting in sales,” The Detective took his characteristic pause, and I, seeing a chance, jumped in.

“Weapons of Mass Distraction, sir?”

The Detective rolled his eyes, but couldn’t hide the smile from turning up the corners of his mouth. “A bit of a cliché, but still accurate, Watson. There is actually nothing wrong with looking for hits, likes, or whatever, the issue becomes when you become distracted by them and lose sight of what the real goal is. You must look at any data in concert with your goals, for example,’ my hit rate is up but my sign ups are flat’, then you can consider issues with the copy, or perhaps you are simply getting hits from sources that are not in your market. The data only informs you when looked at together. By itself, some of this data truly is just a distraction,” The Detective finished and gave me that look that told me it was time to move on.

“Something we should all consider, sir.”

“Quite so, Watson, Quite so.”

To Double Opt or Not, That is the Question

checkout“I find this discussion about single opt-in versus double opt-in a challenge, sir,” I began my weekly discussion with The Effective Detective.

“A challenge, Watson? Pray, in what way?” The Detective responded with genuine curiosity.

“I see the point in using double opt-in as a way to ensure that people are truly interested in joining your list, but with the vagaries of email these days, isn’t it possible that you will lose some people’s interest? Haven’ t they already shown their interest by filling out the form or asking you to be put on their list?” I explained.

“Ah, that is a problem, Watson. The rise of spam has meant people are all the more cautious. Which is exactly why double opt-in is so valuable, especially when you are giving away valuable content. Let us not kid ourselves, we give away content to educate and entice. We want people to understand that we have something to offer them. Something that can help them, whether it is in their business or life,” The Detective paused, allowing me to, once again, jump in.

“Then why not utilize single opt-in, in fact, why not just take their general interest as a sign that we can begin to communicate with them?” I interjected.

The Detective gave me one of his sidelong glances, indicating he was about to school me in something. I sat back and waited to be schooled.

“Watson, this is what makes our weekly discussions so much fun. You invariably take a ‘devil’s advocate’ side. It is refreshing,” The Detective smiled.

“I try, sir,” getting one last word in edgewise.

“However, with possibly a few exceptions, double opt-in is the superior device. Tell me Watson, do you really want a list full of people who really aren’t paying attention after they have that initial give-away? Or would you rather have a list where at least the majority of members are reading at least some portion of your emails?” The Detective started. I sensed this was a rhetorical question and held my tongue to allow him to continue.

“The answer should be that you aim for quality. Single opt-in is more convenient for the user. However, single opt-ins are more likely to  opt-out of your list. They are more likely to forget that they gave you permission. They are less likely to open anything further from you. The reality is that if some of these huge lists that were built with minimal permission were required to re-opt-in the drop-out rate would be substantial.

“You should want to feed your pocket-book, not your ego. It really is as simple as that,” The Detective settled back into his chair.

“You said there were a few exceptions, sir,” I gingerly brought up.

“That discussion is for another time, Watson.”

“Of course, sir.”

Too Much Of a Good Thing

pie_chart“Do you know how to destroy the usefulness of a technique, Watson?” This time it was The Effective Detective who began our weekly discussion.

“By misusing it, sir?” I replied.

“Close, Watson. You are still, on occasion, quite vague. There are many ways to ‘misuse’ a technique. I am looking for one way in particular,” The Detective’s response came back with a barely disguised tone of irritation.

“Over use perhaps?” I ventured.

“Perfect Watson! Even if it was a guess,” The Detective shot me a sideways glance. “It is possible to fall into the trap of thinking that if a little of something gives me great results, than a lot of it will give me fantastic results,” The Detective paused briefly.

“Was there a particular technique you were thinking of sir?” I encouraged.

“Yes, Watson, thank you for asking. There is one technique that is often used to a point where the data it provides becomes meaningless. That one technique is segmentation,” The Detective paused uncharacteristically here; usually expounding a bit more on the subject before giving me an opening.  However, even with the limited amount of exposition from him, I had formed a question or perhaps a challenge.

“But sir, isn’t it important, in fact, critical, to have as much information as possible?” I asked.

“An excellent point Watson. That said, there are two dangers in overuse of segmentation.

“The first should be rather obvious. It is possible to segment your audience to such a point that the segments shrink down to a size that renders them unusable. Unless you have a high ticket item that you are marketing to a group that you intend to try to reach at a premium price, who you have a high confidence level of engaging with,  segmenting down to less than fifteen or twenty individuals is most likely not going to produce results equal to or greater than the labor and cost  involved in producing those results.

“The second, and perhaps less obvious, but still deadly, danger is segmenting into sections that will have no effect on your message. If the appropriate age for use if your product or service is anyone older than sixteen years old, dividing your audience into a standard set of age segments like 18-24, 25-34, 35-54, 55-64, 65+ will largely be a waste of time in terms of getting that information, and a colossal waste of time and energy in crafting multiple messages for the different groups,” The Detective took his more characteristic pause here, and my mind raced to come up with an observation or question.

“So one only needs to segment down to the level where the message will resonate most strongly!” I exclaimed in a sudden moment of clarity.

“Precisely, Watson! Well done.  A more specific age example would be  if your product or service is aimed at adults aged 35-64, then you shouldn’t care if they are 35-54 or, 55-64, that breakdown isn’t needed. A tad simplistic I admit, and age is certainly not the only demographic you could over-think,  but you see the point.”

“Indeed I do, sir. So the trick then is finding that balance between too little segmentation, and too much.” I responded.

“Quite, so. That however, is a discussion for another day.”

Baby Steps

CB101959“Sir, I know we should always keep our focus on the positive, but we see so much failure, I find myself drawn to it,” I started my conversation with The Effective Detective on a down note, reflecting my mood.

The Detective stared at me for a moment before answering. “I understand your pain, Watson, but I feel your concern is misdirected.

“Failure, Watson, implies action. You cannot fail at something unless you actually attempt it. What we tend to see is inaction.”

It was my turn to stare for a moment, then give my response. “Perhaps, sir. But wouldn’t it be the fear of failure that causes the inaction?”

The Detective smiled. “A fair supposition Watson. That plays a part,  but not in the way you might think it does. Someone that takes the risks involved in going into business will generally understand they are going to fail along the way. The nature of an entrepreneur is such that failure, while still biting, is not always a sufficient deterrent from proceeding. No, there is a different problem at work here,” The Detective paused as he usually does at this point in our conversations and smiled at me expectantly. I decided, again, to not disappoint.

“You have my attention, sir. What would the problem be?” I said, giving The Detective his opening.

“Tell me Watson, does a toddler learn to walk by suddenly standing up and running a marathon?”

“Sir?” I asked, a bit confused.

“It is a simple question Watson, is that how a toddler learns to walk?” The Detective asked again, with just a trace of irritation.

“No, of course not sir,” I recovered, preparing for the full explanation.

“Correct Watson. The toddler begins with a step. Then two steps, three. In no time they are strolling around the house wreaking havoc. The toddler doesn’t worry about running a marathon. The toddler worries about taking the next step. But for some reason as adults we feel we should be immune from this cycle. We should be able to go from crawling to running the marathon.

“So, as adults we spend our time looking for that silver bullet, that magic elixir which will allow us to instantaneously reach everyone in our market and turn them into faithful customers. However, as adults we have acquired something toddlers have yet to learn – caution. So we hesitate, debating over whether this method or that will make the magic happen, and we end up doing nothing.

“The funniest part of this Watson is that we miss the most important aspect of the toddler’s baby steps,” here The Detective paused, waiting for me to interject and invite him to make his final point.

“Which would be, sir?”

“Elementary my dear Watson, the most important aspect is that by taking baby steps, the toddler ensures success. They take a step and then pause to gain their balance. If need be they fall gently, if not gracefully, on their bum.  They make small adjustments all the while making steady progress. With each attempt, they learn something new, incorporate that knowledge and move closer to their goal.

“We adults on the other hand, think we should be able to bypass the process and go straight to success.  Our impatience betrays us. But because we fear going all in, with good reason, we do nothing,” The Detective stopped with a look that told me the discussion was over for today. But I couldn’t resist getting one last observation in.

“Wisdom from the mouths of babes, sir?”

“Quite so Watson, quite so.”

What is Content Anyway?

contentI must have sighed a tad too deeply whilst reviewing my email, because I suddenly felt The Effective Detective’s gaze focused upon me.

“Come, come Watson, please explain your plaintive sighs,” The Detective finally demanded.

“Sorry sir, I must be showing my disappointment with today’s crop of emails from various lists we recently subscribed to,” I answered truthfully.

“Interesting Watson, and what is the root of your disappointment?” The Detective asked.

“Well sir, there seems to be a preponderance of advertisements. If I wanted to be sold, I would watch network television or stroll out to get today’s mail. I was hoping for something better in email” I explained dejectedly.

“I see Watson. Perchance are the majority of these advertisements coming from more product based companies versus service?” asked The Detective.

“Quite so, sir! Construction, photography, fine art,” I agreed with The Detective’s analysis. “I was hoping for something different.”

“Understandable Watson. Many of these companies feel they have nothing in the way of information to offer you. They aren’t like one of the many types of coaches that can offer free insights and tips from their expertise that you can apply. Their feelings are of course poppy-cock, but they have them nonetheless,” the Detective paused to see if I would encourage him or try to change the subject. I opted for encouragement.

“Poppy-cock sir? True, I would prefer something other than an ad, but aren’t some of these companies limited by the product they sell?”

“Perhaps in some cases Watson, but I suspect it is more often a combination of not thinking about their audience and a simple lack of imagination,” said The Detective, warming to his subject. “I sometimes feel that we in the marketing field confuse the issue. We constantly refer to ‘content’, which I think many assume to mean ‘useful’ information or tips.

“‘Content’ can be defined as virtually anything that is not an ad. If you are selling art of any kind, isn’t possible that people who buy art might be interested in the creation process?  If you own a restaurant, mix in some stories about how a dish is developed along with your typical offers. Whenever there is a process involved in the creation of a product there is the potential for interesting stories.

“The purpose of regular communication with your tribe is to make a connection, develop a relationship. In our personal lives we regularly make a connection with conversations that span diverse subjects that have nothing to do with what we do for a living. Why should this type of connection be all that different?” The Detective finished.

“Surely you are not suggesting that a plumber should be sending out messages about travel to Europe?” I asked in mock terror.

The Detective smiled, “Elementary, my dear Watson, an article about how plumbing facilities differ between Europe and the United States could be quite an interesting piece! You see, all it requires is a little imagination and thought.”

“I see sir. The issue isn’t so much what you are communicating, but whether it might be of interest to your audience, which allows you to make a connection with them,” I restated the point to ensure I had it right.

“Exactly Watson! Just use a little imagination to discover a connection to your business and you can find an infinite amount of interesting and even fun information to pass on to your tribe. Now, let’s get back to work,” The Detective finished, closing discussion until the next time.

Spending versus Investigating

test“Watson, I have been pondering something that seems to come up quite frequently with small businesses in relation to their marketing,” The Detective began.

“And that would be?” I interjected.

“Patience Watson, patience,” The Detective smiled. “What I have been pondering is the seeming reluctance of many small businesses to engage in active marketing,” The Detective paused only briefly here, seeing the puzzled look on my face. “Active marketing or interruption marketing as Seth Godin calls it, advertising, direct response mail, and lets throw pay-per-click in there. Instead too often, we go after what can be perceived as easy: passive marketing – Social Media, referrals, blogging, you know the variety of ways that you can, shall we say, ‘get the word out’.

“The issue is not that passive marketing is bad, but that it typically relies on you already having a tribe. What good is a blog in the short-term if you only have a few readers? Of course you hope they pass you on to others, but only a small percentage will do so, and if  the tribe is small, we are talking a small pass along as well,” The Detective stopped here for his characteristic pause for effect.

“An astute observation sir, but isn’t there a distinct disadvantage to active marketing?” I inserted into the pause, knowing mild praise and a question will always get The Detective moving again.

“Of course, Watson,” he said with a smile, accepting the praise and warming to the question. “Active marketing can carry a relatively hefty price tag and that is where I believe we will find the root of the average small business person’s hesitation.

“What we all fear is that we will spend vast amounts of money without results, and thus, that money will have been ‘wasted’.  Yet we believe we must cast a ‘wide net’. Our hope is that by reaching thousands we will find the proverbial needle in the haystack – our prospect. Sometimes, if the product and the market are appropriate, it can work. However, this requires a leap of faith; one not always justified and of course an outlay of cash, which we fear to waste, and a circle of doubt begins.

“Yet, there is another way, one which leads us to doubt conventional wisdom about ‘wide nets’.

“The answer of course is to test; but we must review the information from the test carefully. I myself ran such a test just in the past week. I ran a pay-per-click ad to a very narrow audience for a very niched product. I received a small number of views, and a very small number of clicks. So I expanded the audience ten-fold, received a phenomenal number of views, and a decent supply of clicks – which of course resulted in a further investment on my part, albeit a small one. Now what would be your initial reaction to this Watson?” The Detective asked at the end of his story.

“Why that the broader market was the better one, sir,” I quickly replied.

“Now what if I told you that I received nothing from any of those clicks? Even with copy that had resulted in positive results before,” The Detective smiled, springing his trademark “trap”.

“I’m not sure, sir,” I answered truthfully.

“Let me give you another clue, Watson. Analytics showed me that the people who clicked on the ad spent virtually no time on the page the click led to, even though the copy was directly related to the ad,” The Detective teased.

“I would have to say they were the wrong people sir, they had no real need, maybe they were curious, or even clicked accidentally,” I hesitantly ventured.

“Precisely Watson! Rather than supposing that pay-per-click is a useless marketing vehicle; which may yet be the conclusion – at least the pay-per-click sources being tested, instead, we can arrive at another conclusion – that the ad itself was faulty. Perhaps a bad headline, or imprecise text, which resulted in fewer clicks from our true audience.  Theories arrived at with minimal cost, and which can be tested with minimal additional cost,” The Detective summed up.

“And then if more positive results appear, we can decide to invest more money in the ad. I must say I like the sound of that sir!” I exclaimed.

“Elementary, my dear Watson, it is all in the data,” The Detective replied, turning back to his work.

 

 

What’s in a Word?

list“Sir?” I prodded, interrupting The Effective Detective’s reverie.

“What?!” the startled detective exclaimed, “Oh Watson, what can I help you with,” regaining his composure after almost jumping out of his chair.

“I don’t require assistance at this moment sir, but I am puzzled about something. I guess you could say I consider it a mystery,” I said, so absorbed in my own thoughts, I didn’t even notice The Detective’s reaction.

“Well Watson, you have started today’s discussion, pray continue with details of your ‘mystery’,” The Detective answered, warming to the challenge.

“Ah, yes sir. You see what puzzles me is what seems to be a misunderstanding of the use of the word ‘list’. I have noticed often in your and others’ presentations that when that word is used, confusion seems to set in. It is as if the word has no meaning, or at least no meaning in the marketing sense,” I explained.

“Ah Watson, you have picked up on an interesting situation. One where the same word can have two different meanings depending on the audience. If you mention that word to an Internet marketer, there is no confusion, they know and understand of what you are speaking. However, I too have noticed the confusion in the eyes of brick-and-mortar product business owners, and professional service providers – even the ones that consider themselves virtual, at least in terms of their office location.

“To the Internet marketer, their list is the heart of their business. It is the thing that allows them to exist, and it is to be nurtured and developed above almost everything else. Unfortunately, too often, to lets call them ‘real-world’ businesses, the ones that see their customers, interact with them directly, their ‘list’ is much more akin to an accounting device. It allows them to calculate profit and loss on an individual basis. It allows them to claim a following in their marketing,” The Detective stopped here for his characteristic pause, designed to give me a chance to interject something that would spur the conversation on. Of course I obliged him.

“So they claim a following in their marketing, instead of marketing to their following?”

“Bravo Watson! An excellent line indeed. You’ve hit the nail on the head! What most non-Internet businesses do is constantly market to the universe of people who aren’t really aware of them, hoping that the message will strike someone’s fancy who is also in the market for the product or service at the precise moment it is being advertised to them. Whereas the Internet marketer will market their wares consistently to the universe of people who are aware of them – the list, knowing that even if now is not the time, next week, next month or perhaps even next year might be, and through consistent contact they will be there to serve,” The Detective responded.

“And to the universe of people not aware of them? Are they ignored?” I asked.

“Elementary dear Watson, they are marketed to as well, how else will you build the list? If, by chance they are ready to buy today, wonderful! But, if not, that is okay as well. They are invited to become part of the community, and will be given many other chances to purchase something,” The Detective answered patiently.

“So it is a constant series of sales pitches?” I asked, imagining a never ending barrage of advertisements to a helpless list armed only with a wastebasket and the delete button on their computer.

“Bah! Watson, that would be suicide for the business. However, that discussion is for another day,” the Detective responded forcefully.

“As you wish, sir.”

The Cart Before The Horse

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

“So tell me Watson, what are your views on branding?” said The Effective Detective, beginning a new discussion. I am always wary when a conversation starts out with such a wide open question.

“Branding, sir? I am unsure of my views on the subject. Perhaps you would care to guide me with yours,” I replied, deciding that cowardice was the better part of valor.

The Detective raised an eyebrow, but I also noticed that he couldn’t suppress the slightest of grins; he knew that I knew the game. “Ah Watson, well-played. I’ll start then on what I have found to be yet another topic so often discussed at the wrong time, for lack of a better way to describe it, by some of our marketing brethren.”

“Sir, is there ever a wrong time to discuss marketing?” I exclaimed, worried that perhaps now marketing had become a taboo subject like religion and politics.

“Hmm, let me be a little more specific here Watson to relieve your concerns. By wrong time, I am referring to the order of a discussion of marketing strategies and tactics, rather than a particular time or meeting place. The question is when does branding become a critical part of your marketing strategy? The answer, I fear, is not when many are told, or think.

“You see Watson, a brand, at least the way it seems to be generally thought of, is more of a place-marker. It is a way for people to associate a particular mark, phrase, or even just a name, with you or your product or service,” The Effective Detective said, pausing slightly, which allowed me to jump in with a concern.

“But isn’t that a good thing sir? Giving people an easy way to identify you? I would think that is the heart of marketing.”

“A fair point, Watson,” The Detective conceded, “but, it misses a far broader point,” he finished, prompting a swift reaction from me.

“So branding is bad?” I asked.

“Elementary my dear Watson,” The Detective replied, again with that slight smile telling me he was springing his rhetorical trap.  “I never said that it was a bad thing, merely often misplaced in the order of things that are important to building a business through strong marketing. Yes, a brand will help identify you, however, it does nothing to show people why it is important to pay attention to you, and what the results of working with you or your product are. It does nothing to bring people into your tribe. It is a sign-post indicating that something is available through you, but why should they care? What will happen by engaging you?

“Yet, I see people worrying over their logo, whether they have just the right tag line, and are the colors right on their website, when often they don’t even have a way to capture email addresses on that site! The text of their site talks about them, essentially identifying them rather than what the result of working with them will be. This obsession with trying to get people to associate you with something  is detrimental to the far more important task of getting them to raise their hand. To show an interest in what you are offering.

“The one thing that I do see obsessing over establishing a brand early does for you is that you present a consistent face to the market. However, I think that can be done in the early phases simply by focusing on your niche.

“Once you have an established presence, spending some time on branding makes sense. Ensure that your clients have a consistent way to refer to you when they are referring you. To be able to give them a way to identify that they are part of your tribe, which can catch the attention of others who might raise their hand. But, the single most important thing initially is just to get out there, and give people a reason to raise your hand. Worry about your “brand” later,” The Detective concluded, and waited for anything I might have to add.

“The marketing process can be fraught with twists and turns, sir,” I  concluded.

“Quite, Watson.”

Just What is Unique?

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

“Sir, how does a business handle competition?”  I asked The Effective Detective, launching today’s discussion.

“An interesting query Watson, but unfortunately a tad vague. Can you perhaps make it a little more specific?” returned The Detective.

“Well, I guess the question is more how does one distinguish oneself from the competition when one is in a very similar business that provides similar results?” I re-asked the question, narrowing the focus as The Detective requested.

“Ah, a much better query Watson. I would surmise you ask because the conventional wisdom today is that you need a USP or Unique Selling Proposition to succeed,” The Detective began, pausing for me to confirm or deny the basis for the question.

“You surmise correctly sir.” I answered.

“Excellent Watson, I have been pondering that very question myself!” responded The Detective heartily.

“And, sir?” I prompted.

“Ah, elementary my dear Watson. There are actually two responses. One direct, one a little more indirect.

“The direct response is that there is some confusion as to what it is that actually must be unique.  From what I have observed, the most common belief is that your uniqueness is tied to your process. This is especially true in the service professions,  consulting/coaching in particular.

“The conventional wisdom is that you need some new and creative breakthrough to get the results your prospects desire. Maybe you have a new, never before done way to generate leads, or motivate people. If you have such a thing, congratulations, but my observations are that such unique breakthroughs are fleeting as people will rapidly reverse engineer and copy them. You can try and delay the inevitable with lawsuits and such; something that larger companies seem to take delight in doing, but that is horribly expensive and inefficient.

“The reality is that what makes your business unique is most likely you. I recently read that a large percentage of Tony Robbins franchisees don’t do all that well. That actually makes sense. They aren’t presenting anything unique, and in particular, they aren’t Tony Robbins! However, I suspect if you looked more deeply you would see that some of Tony Robbins’ disciples do quite well. Why? Because they take what he has given them to teach and made it their own. They have injected their own personalities into the material. They have their own presentation style. They may change the emphasis from one point to one they feel is more key to success for their particular client. The specifics don’t matter. What is unique is the service provider themselves; that is where the connection with the customer will be.

“Which leads us straight into the more indirect point. Simply put, if you can out-market the other providers in your space, you will win far more than you will lose. You will develop the relationship with the prospect, you will prove to them that you can solve their problem, and you will show yourself as a trusted partner. If you can do a better job of marketing than your competitors, if you can be in front of your prospects more often and with relevant content, then it is possible your USP could be simply that you were there for them when they needed you,” The Detective took a long breath as he concluded.

“You do need to deliver on your promises though, sir,” I added.

The Effective Detective raised an eyebrow. “I can always count on you to state the obvious, Watson.”

“Thank you, sir.”