Avoid Enemies of Change

Companies that spot trends early on and get transform their business focus at the right time are in the minority.  Why do some companies have blinders on when accessing trends?  A company’s very success is often what holds them back from seizing opportunities.  The mindset of leaders is crucial to combating this enemy of change.

We tend to be creatures of our past; our experience shapes what we believe and our perception of reality.  In sum, everyone is biased.  Our history and success are strong sources of our bias.  What often sets good leaders apart from leaders who miss opportunities is colored vision.  Good leaders see beyond their bias and spot trends that may be disparate from their past experience.

Automatically assuming something based on bias can handcuff you from changing direction to capitalize on a fruitful opportunity.  To combat bias and gain clarity, I recommend organizations use numbers and metrics to quantify trends and dispel bias that doesn’t mesh with the trends.

Avoid the enemies of change. Put your history and success in your back pocket while assessing your reality.  Use an unbiased view to ensure you can see trends as they really are and find opportunities that you may have missed before.

Five Nuggets from the Internet Summit

The Internet Summit was last week in Raleigh, NC and I want to share with you five nuggets I took away from the panel sessions I attended.

1) Blogging is Not Dead
Didn’t really think blogging was dead, but I guess with a few bloggers ditching blogging for micro-blogging some were wondering where the blog fits in.  The take-away is that blogs should be a hub for your online marketing initiatives.  For B2B folks, they’re great for thought-leadership positioning too.

2) Search Marketers Start with Google
Google AdWords is easy to use and on the platform where more than 60% of search traffic resides.  Unless you know your audience is on Yahoo/Bing, or your budget is significantly lacking, Google is where you want to start. One other theme around search marketing is that it can also be used effectively for branding purposes.

3) Analytics are Increasingly Important
Think measurement first. Tie your business goals with analytics (read: reverse engineer the goal to the measurement).  Include KPIs as part of budget discussion.

4) Email Marketers use Best Practices
Be relevant (know your audience)
Think holistically (where does email fit into your overall marketing campaign)
Segment and personalize emails (this ties back into relevance)

5) Twitter is Versatile
Great for monitoring brand (customer service) and as a content distribution medium. Expectations are that niche providers like Yammer and the like will start gaining popularity in 2010.

What do you think?  Did the Internet Summit 09 get it right?

Market Sizing

Accurately estimating the market size of your product or service is crucial to determine whether the business or specific industry is worth pursuing.  And if you want financing, investors will want to know what the potential return of their investment could be.  Fortunately, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips to help you determine the market size of your business.

I prefer take the wide view when quantifying markets. This can reveal unexpected relationships between types of people or businesses within a market and can also help identify the most suitable market niche to pursue once the business has achieved success in an ancillary niche.

With this in mind, I recommend sizing up three types of markets: the total available market, the served available market, and the target market.

Take the Wide View
Take the wide view by estimating the total available market size (anyone who could potentially use your product or service) first.  After this, narrow your wide view of the market by determining the served available market size (the portion of the total available market your sales channel can reach, which often includes geographic limitations) and identify the further segmented target market size (the segmented piece or niche of the market to whom your company will be marketing your product or service first).

Quantify the Market with Numbers
To quantify these markets, you need numbers. If you’re pursuing an existing market, check out industry and market research reports (e.g. – Frost & Sullivan, Gartner, Forrester, etc.). These reports are often expensive, so you may need to look elsewhere.  Sometimes you can find other articles referencing an industry report, so do a quick search of articles referencing the report and check the Google cached view to easily identify where the information you want is referenced (this can save a lot of time if its a big report).

Still no luck?  Look in the researcher’s news archives, which often includes useful data in press releases about their reports. Research industry trade groups can also be very helpful, and often publish market statistics about the industry they cover.

If all this fails, visiting your competitors websites may provide you with the numbers you seek.  Estimate the market size by looking at competitors’ annual report and dividing their sales revenue by their market share.

Bring It All Together
Remember, one report won’t tell you everything and there are many ways to get an approximate market size for your business.  You may need to take a multiple data points from various sources and assemble it into a tailored market size report that quantifies the total market size, served available market size, and the target market size.

Researching data from various sources will help you see a more complete picture of your industry.  With these numbers, you’ll better understand the potential for your business and which segments of the industry are most attractive.

Happy market sizing!

How have you determined the market size for your company?  Share your experience.

Twitterfeed Rocks

twitterfeed_faviconThere are a slew of Twitter applications out there, but I must proclaim that Twitterfeed is my favorite one so far. I’ve been using it for some marketing engagements recently and have found it to be a very useful tool – one of the few Twitter applications I’ve found with the right mix of simplicity and richness in its feature set.

Twitterfeed is primarily intended for bloggers who want to automate tweets with links to their new blog posts, but I’ve been using it to post relevant links from feeds across the web to interested twitterlings.  As a huge advocate of content marketing, using a tool that can automatically share useful content with prospects is extremely powerful.

From their usability perspective, Twitterfeed has done one of the most important things a successful Twitter application-maker needs to do; they’ve made it incredibly simple to use.  From allowing you to get started by signing into the app with OpenID, which allows you to sign in with your account credentials sites like Yahoo! and Google, to the automatic connection with your Twitter account when setting up your RSS feeds makes Twitterfeed very easy to use.

If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend giving it a whirl.  TwitterFeed Rocks!

Why Customers Buy

Unsuccessful startups often think customers will come if they build them a solution they should want.  This is backwards.

Startup success can often be boiled down to one thing.  Successful startups know why their customers will buy their product and develop their offering and marketing plans armed with this knowledge.

Once you know why people buy, you are able to accomplish three things.

1. You can build your product to meet your customers true needs
By developing the right product and proper pricing that accounts for the total cost of ownership of your product, your business can be profitable sooner.

2. You can describe and sell your product in a way that resonates with your prospects
It’s a beautiful thing when the positioning of your product matches what your prospects want to hear.

3. You can identify the best channels to sell your products
If you know why customers buy,  you should know enough about them to create a customer mind map and know what the day in their life holds to better target marketing channels in which they will buy your product.

These three things set startups up for success.  The customer is always right, so companies need to be vigilant about getting their team out there to listen to them.  Get out there, get to know your customers and understand why they buy.

Social Media Step One – Go Where Your Customers Are

As more companies are embracing social media, instead of hearing “Should we participate in social media,” I’ve been hearing “How do we get started in social media.”

In regards to which platforms to participate on, I advise companies to be on the same platforms as their target audience.

For B2B companies, this usually means you’ll want to use LinkedIn and  Twitter.  Here you should be able to find and monitor your target audience.  If they are on these networks, you can use them as new channels for communicating with them.  For consumer-oriented companies, options to build your social media presence are expanded.  In particular, Facebook can be a good place to set up a page for your company or product.

Different networks reach different audiences and require different etiquette and dedications of time, so plan accordingly.  If your prospects and customers are using social media, you should too.

The first step of getting started is finding out where your audience hangs out.  Once you identify these networks, you can craft a social media plan of attack with maximum impact – one that reaches and interacts with and delivers value to your customers.  First things first, go where your customers are.

Where are your customers using social media?  Leave a comment with your experience.

Marketing Sync

Marketing messages and branding efforts for your products and services need to be in sync with your business.

If you promote the sizzle without serving the steak, no amount of marketing will overcome the negative perception your brand will engender in the minds of customers who’ve experienced a reality without any red meat. Be honest with your brand; find and promote what you do best and if your target market values this, promote it.

Walmart should never market itself as a retailer with exceptional customer service.  This doesn’t mesh with their business model.  But a message that promotes how they save shoppers money meets our expectations and works for those who want to save money more than they want exceptional service.

When you develop messaging, make sure your message actually resonates with what your customers experience.  Advertising can help lead your brand perception where you want it to go, but ultimately your business must deliver what you promise for it to be effective. It needs to be in sync with reality.

Advertising without proper marketing research is a waste of money.  Knowing the pulse of your customer’s needs and their perception of your brand is way more useful than crossing your fingers and hoping your hunch on what you do well and what your customers want pans out.

Match what you do well with what your customer’s want and the message you promote will not only resonate with your customers, but also build up the value of your brand and carve your business niche in your market.

Did you like this post?  Subscribe to the RSS Feed

Five Ways to Recycle Marketing

In these economic times, marketing can and should be recycled when possible. There are many way to “recycle” marketing.  Here are five ways to recycle marketing:

  1. Copy proven marketing techniques
    When you see effective marketing methods being used in comparable marketplaces, why not try them within your marketplace?  For example, if your business receives a last minute cancellation for service, use a targeted email or Twitter to fill your unexpected vacancy. This gives your customers the opportunity to fill the vacancy, possibly at a reduced price, so they get a good deal and your slot doesn’t go wasted. Everybody wins!
  2. Share marketing resources
    Reach out to your network.  Team up with other companies in your community to pool resources for marketing purposes.  At the very least you’ll benefit from getting another (potentially more objective) perspective on your marketing ideas. It can be very helpful to share ideas.
  3. Barter your product for marketing services
    If your product or service is something a local marketing company could use in their business, try bartering your product for their marketing services.  I’ve bartered my services for many service providers, such as accountants and consultants.
  4. Re-use graphics or marketing elements
    Hopefully your marketing efforts are targeted.  If so, there could be opportunities to use parts of your marketing campaign for new target prospects/customers.  There’s no law against reusing graphics, images, or templates from previous campaigns, just make sure you change enough of your collateral so your marketing effort is distinguishable from past promotions.
  5. Re-distribute your content
    One of the most effective marketing tactics is providing relevant and useful content.  When writing content, you never know if that content will be a viral hit.  Redistribute popular content through other channels (e.g. – website, mail, email, syndication, speaking engagements) or package content in a new way (e.g. – offer a Top Ten Blog Posts for signing up to your e-newsletter or link back to past content as I did in this bullet).

There are numerous ways to recycle your marketing.  Use these suggestions to lower costs while increasing sales.  Hopefully, this post will help get you jump-started in finding your ways to do just that!

How have you recycled your marketing?  Please share your experience or send me a message.

Creating Buzz

The best way to get your company and product to grow is having evangelistic users spreading the word on your behalf.  However, don’t underestimate the effort it takes to get an influential person to find your product, use it, and endorse it to their followers.

Assuming your product is as great as you think it is, to create buzz, you’ll need to actively identify users who’ll share why your product is the next great thing.  If influencers don’t find your product, it might as well not exist.  Getting found by influencers is crucial to creating buzz.

Influencers may find your product through other means (e.g. – press release, product reviews, etc.), but to make things happen for your business you must, I repeat you MUST, actively reach out to influencers in your market and get your name out there. For more information on how to identify and reach out to influencers read this post on influencer marketing.

Learn what influencers think, continually improve your product, and make it buzz-worthy.  These conversations are key to planting the seeds that bloom into conversations that sell your product through word-of-mouth marketing.

If your product is great and you can identify/introduce/evangelize your product to influential people, not only will these influential voices help spread the word, those who listen and agree will continue the conversation.  Hooray!

What product or service are you buzzing about?

Dream Big, Narrow Your Focus

I dream big.  I also know that focusing on the key customer-driven components of my business solution and aligning my company’s processes around those elements is the best way to turn my big dreams into a successful business.

In a small business, it’s all too easy to get distracted by potential development opportunities that add breadth to your product or service line.  Don’t fall prey to this lure.  Ensure your success by selling a viable product or service before taking misguided steps that steer your attention away from your company’s mission.

Focus on one specific solution and deliver it better than anyone else.  This will lay the ground work to pursue more intricate business opportunities down the line.  Take a cue from 37Signals build a simple focused product like BaseCamp and parlay that success into other complimentary products that add additional value to your enthusiastic client base.

For entrepreneurs, it’s critical you define and stay focused on what your customer needs are and deliver your solution that is so focused on those needs that your customer’s alternative options become substandard in comparison.

Customer prospecting and marketing research upfront is key to accurately determine whether your solution meets your target market’s needs.  Once these needs are defined and you have your product mission statement, you can focus on developing your core product or service.

For example, let’s say I’m a window washer that’s discovered my customers want eco-friendly washing detergents and fast service. That’s great, but are they actually going to pay money for these proclamations? Be sure your prospect wants, is willing to pay for, and has the ability to purchase your product or solution.

As a window washer, If I find my prospects are more willing to pay for fast service then you better believe every decision I make will be guided by this need for speed, and my marketing efforts will position my services as the speediest window washer in town!

The takeaway from all this is when your starting out, narrow your focus, deliver a solution that meet your paying customers needs and parlay your success into developing complimentary solutions.  Dream big, but stay focused.  Your success awaits!

Enjoy this post?  Subscribe to Scott’s Marketing Blog RSS feed.