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Archive for the ‘10 Minute Actions’ Category

A few weeks ago, I attended Idaho Startup Weekend. Startup weekend is a 54-hour adventure where teams of technical and non-technical people get together to concept and build new businesses. These weekends are held in over 100 cities throughout the world. Although most of the business concepts are web and technology-focused, it occurred to me, many existing small businesses could benefit from a similar exercise. 

Two key Startup Weekend “learnings” for already-formed small businesses:  

1)      You can do a LOT in 54 hours (or even 24 hours). Take one weekend, gather the best and brightest people you know from various fields, and focus on your business and business growth.  When a smart group of people focus on one problem/challenge (food and beverages add to the fun) for a defined set of time, amazing things can be accomplished.

2)      Don’t be afraid to QUICKLY reach out (and I mean “real time” quickly) to more experts. For our start-up weekend team, we needed a mobile application developer and a graphic artist. We sent out requests via twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, plus made a few phone calls. Within minutes (no exaggeration) we had resources available. If you get to a point in your weekend work session where you have a legal, financial, technical, marketing, or other question…have everyone tap their networks. Resources are out there, and they are actually quite willing to help. There is a camaraderie and community built within these types of exercises. 

Lastly, this is somewhat obvious, but worth stating– remember to end your weekend session with an action plan or at a minimum “next steps.” It’s easy to be excited and motivated after a focused period of planning and teamwork; it’s harder to maintain the momentum when everyone goes back to their day-to-day routines. 

10 minute action

Obviously, a weekend session (dare I call it a retreat?) requires more than 10 minutes. But, take 10 minutes to think if this type of exercise would help you in growing your business or overcoming a current business challenge.

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Large companies spend a considerable amount of time and resources developing their strategic positioning and the corresponding “positioning statement.” The process includes competitive analysis, long-term vision development, audience segmentation…and so on.

For most small companies, a simple positioning statement is a good starting point, and sometimes it is all that is needed to stay on track and keep your marketing moving in the right direction. The positioning statement is a concise sentence (or two sentences, at most) describing what your company/product does and what distinguishes you from your competition.

Here is the formula for a simple positioning statement (this is a fill in the blank exercise):

Company/Product: _________
Provides/Offers/Delivers: (explain what the company/product is or does)
To: (target customer)
Uniquely: (competitive differentiation/customer benefit)

I performed this exercise for rootbeermarketing.com in about 10 minutes. Below are the steps I used to get to the simple positioning statement. This is an iterative process…in 10 minutes, you should be able to get to a usable statement. But, after using it awhile, reflect on if it is on-target. If not, spend a little more time with it. Also, run it by a few of your customers; see if it resonates with them. You also want to evaluate your positioning statement on a regular basis, especially as your company adds new products and/or expands in to new markets or customers segments.

Step 1: Quickly fill in the blanks…don’t spend too much time thinking about it. I will use my rootbeermarketing.com exercise as the example.

Company Product: Rootbeermarketing.com
Provides/Offers/Delivers: big company marketing ideas
To: small businesses
Uniquely: In a way that is easy and quick to use

Step 2: Use it in your 30 second introduction.  A 30 second introduction is how you quickly explain verbally what your company/product does. It’s also how you introduce yourself at networking functions or answer the infamous “what do you do?” question.

“Hi. I’m Susan Tormollen. I host rootbeermarketing.com, providing small businesses with easy-to-use and quick-to-execute marketing actions based on big company marketing concepts.

Step 3: Evaluate if this is the best way to present your company/product. Does it clearly and concisely explain the company, name the target customer, and communicate your unique attribute as a benefit to your customer? In the rootbeermarketing example, I pondered…

Is rootbeermarketing.com a company, a blog, a website, a resource?
Do I offer “smart” marketing concepts (like my blog states)? Is that what the customer wants? Is it really unique?
Am I providing marketing insights to small businesses or to small business owners? What type of small business owners?
Are the “10 minute actions” the “product” I am providing, or the unique differentiator?

Step 4: Tighten the positioning statement.
Here, I try it again, and admittedly, this takes a couple attempts before I get to the version I feel is most accurate.

Company/Product: rootbeermarketing.com, a blog
Provides: actionable marketing ideas based on big company marketing concepts
To: busy, small business owners
Uniquely: in easy-to-use and quick-to-execute “10 minute actions”

“Hi. I’m Susan Tormollen. I host rootbeermarketing.com, a blog providing busy, small business owners with actionable, easy-to-use and quick-to-execute “10 minute marketing actions” based on big company marketing concepts.

Step 5: Practice your 30 second introduction. Make sure  it rolls off your tongue every time you introduce your company and what you do. Feel free to add a benefit-oriented sentence, or elaborate a little more to in order to provide a  personalized message.

“Hi. I’m Susan Tormollen. I host rootbeermarketing.com, a blog providing busy, small business owners with easy-to-use and quick-to-execute “10 minutes marketing actions” based on big company marketing concepts. The 10 minute actions help busy business owners, like yourself, do smart marketing quickly.

Step 6: Run in by your customers, get feedback. So, for the rootbeermarketing.com example…let me know what you think.

10 minute action x 2:

    First 10 minutes: Fill in the simple positioning statement. (Steps 1-4)
    Second 10 minutes: Practice your 30 second introduction (Step 5).
    Lastly, run it by a few customers. Sidenote…as I worked on this exercise, I realized I have been inconsistent in how I refer to the blog/company. I’ll need to decide (quickly) on a consistent name and capital letter structure. Do I refer to this “business” as rootbeermarketing.com, rootbeermarketing.com blog, or Root Beer Marketing? I’ll keep you posted, as this actually opens up a small can of worms, and a lot of thinking…

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The first step for promoting your small business blog and website is self-promotion/cross-promotion. These steps are simple and quick, and it’s a great way to keep you top-of-mind for all the people who already know you and your business.

1)      Put your URLs on all your social media pages.

  • If you have a Facebook page, list your URLs and do an entry talking about your newest post, web update, or even a quick “If you know someone who needs X, make sure to send them to my website http://www.yourcompanyhere.com
  • If you use LinkedIn, add it to your profile under the blog and websites section, and talk about it in your “post an update” area.

2)      If you have a blog independent of your website, link to it from your website, and vice versa.

3)      Include your website and blog URL on your business cards, brochures and promotional materials (and while we are at it, consider putting your BUSINESS phone number on all your online promotional spaces—of course, be careful about including home, personal or combination phone numbers online).

Here’s a little case study: I did #1 above and put my blog on both my Facebook page and my LinkedIn page. Within 24 hours, over 10% of my Facebook and LinkedIn contacts had clicked on my blog.

Simple and efficient–that’s smart marketing!

10 minute action:

  • Do the first 2 actions listed above. It will take 10-20 minutes depending on how familiar you are with content updates on your social media sites and website.
  • Next time you reprint your printed marketing materials, add your website and blog URLs
  • Let me know what type of spike you see in clicks following your self-promotion/cross-promotion.

 

 

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Last night, I saw the movie, “The Joneses”, and it reminded me how powerful a strong brand can be and how persuasive the users of products/brands are. (and if you see the movie, it will also make you think about the positives and negatives of commercialism in our society, but that’s another topic for another day…)

There are 3 marketing components to a brand:

1)      Brand Strategy: The definition of the brand’s audience and the objectives that the brand needs to achieve (I came upon a good article on brand strategy by Laura Lake at about.com )

2)      Brand Positioning: The identification of what the brand does and where it competes

3)      Brand Personality: The impression and value customers have of the brand

Did you know that your brand personality is ultimately determined by your CUSTOMERS, not by you?  For example, you can claim to be the “healthiest Mexican food in town,” but do your customers believe it? When your customers want healthy food, do they think of you?  Are they even willing to pay a little extra for your food because they know it is healthy? Ultimately a strong, well-defined brand adds value to your company by building awareness and recognition, securing new and repeat business, and potentially even enabling you to charge a premium for your products and services.

Let’s get back to the healthy Mexican restaurant example…you can say “healthy” on all your promotional and communication materials, like store signage, radio ads, coupons, in interviews and articles, but there is far more to demonstrating the brand personality than TELLING customers (although you do need to do that consistently)…your customers have to experience and believe your brand personality. Everything your company says and does needs to reflect it.

There are some simply ways to ensure your customers experience and believe your brand:

  • Educate your employees and make sure they understand and believe in the brand– educate them on why healthy food matters, why the company thinks healthy food is important, how your company makes the food healthy (local growers, healthy oils, healthy preparation), and how the customer benefits from the healthy food and why they do or should care. Can the person who answers the phone, clearly articulate to a customer why the food is healthy? Does the person responsible for developing new menu items believe in the importance of healthy food? Can your wait staff answer questions?
  • Integrate your brand personality in all areas of your business. For example, do you sponsor the local beer fest or the 10K run? One of these is more consistent with a “healthy” brand personality than the other. However, if your restaurant was “the most fun Mexican restaurant in town”, your sponsorship choice might be entirely different!
  • Communicate the brand and its importance to all your partners: your suppliers, your partners, your marketing firm, even your accountant!
  •  And, as discussed in the last post, provide your customers with ways to share their experience…you can do this through customer testimonials, a Facebook page for your company, a blog on your website, even a “word-of-mouth” promotion. One of my favorite restaurants is Flying Pie Pizza  in Boise, Idaho. They have customer comment cards on every table. Flying Pie Pizza makes it fun and easy for customers to say great things about them—and they promote the heck out of it. (and if you click on their website you’ll notice it is a little eclectic, just like their company and their delicious pizza)
  •   Above all else, remain consistent in everything you do!

10 minute action:

  1. Identify if you have a brand personality (if not, please let me know and we will discuss branding in more detail on this blog)
  2. List the ways your brand personality is demonstrated
  3. Write down 3 additional ways to demonstrate  your brand

 

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Yes, I did. 

In a recent ClickZ article by Sage Lewis, Sage shares the message he heard David Meerman Scott deliver during the Incisive Media’s SES NY keynote address. Read the article if you get a chance, it has a great example that brings this message to life. 

And the message is: customers don’t care about your product; they care about what other customers think of your product. Think about your own recent purchases. Did you check an online review, read customer comments or ask a trusted friend or colleague for a recommendation? In the past couple weeks (beyond the basics of groceries and gas) about 80% of my professional and personal purchases have been influenced by some type of online review or personal reference. When you consider the amount of information available at our fingertips, it makes sense that we are regularly incorporating other people’s opinions in to the decision making process. 

An interesting example of this happened to me last week. I was investigating companies who offer pet health insurance. In Google, I searched for reviews on each company and this was the first thing that came up: 

This is the second time I have reviewed this company. I am excited to say that I have been pleased with some of the changes they have implemented. Initially I gave them a low score of 2. This was heavily influenced by claims processing time exceeding what was listed on their site. I also thought that I would not be doing business with them even a year later. So, what’s changed my mind? These things …If they continue on like this, I have every confidence I will be a happy customer for the life of my pets”

Wow. From this one review, I now have an impression of the company–a company that listens to their customers and makes improvements accordingly. This is a lot more powerful that if I had gone on the company’s website and read “We listen to our customers.”

There are steps you can take to ensure your customers’ find validation for choosing you and your products/services. 

1) Identify happy customers and ask them to be a published and/or personal reference for your company and your products. Get a quote/customer case study you can publish on your website and use in other marketing assets, like brochures and public relations. Consider obtaining approval for prospects to contact this happy customer for recommendations (usually you only do this if you have a higher priced offering like a client/agency relationship, business software solution, plastic surgery, etc). And of course, never publish someone’s recommendation or contact information without their permission.
2) Build an area on your website for conversation/reviews. It will help close business. I just purchased a dog house kit online (yes, we have an animal thing going on in my household this month). The “official” product description said it required 20 minutes to assemble, but in the “review this product” section, reviewers said it “took 45 minutes to assemble and the product quality was great.” I purchased the product because I felt I had an honest evaluation of the product–what the company said PLUS what actual customers had to say.
3) Develop a process for listening to your customers on a regular basis. You want to know what customers are saying about your company, both on your website and on the internet. In the online social media course I have been taking, John Jansch refers to this as a “listening station.” This will be the topic of my next blog post.
4) Most importantly, respond to feedback, both good and bad. A customer says something good about you, thank them. A customer has constructive feedback, or is just plain upset, listen and correct as much as possible. And, if a customer has a new need or challenge, seek to understand it and see if you can help—it just might be your next product extension, or up-sell opportunity. 

10 minute action:

1. Identify the current ways you are listening to your customers
2. Identify a new way to listen to your customers, then do it (or email me if you need suggestions on how to do it)
3. Call a happy customer, see how they are doing, ask for a recommendation/quote/story

 

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I’ve been doing some networking in my local community.  At the second half of this post, I’ll share my experience, but first let’s talk about you.

WHY NETWORK?

You will meet interesting people who can help you meet your personal and professional goals, you will help other people meet their professional and personal goals, and you might make a new social contact.

How do you start networking? (or how should you start networking again?):

First, decide what your goal is. Do you want to grow your business, learn something new, change industries, build awareness for a cause, connect with new people in a similar profession/industry?

Second, call or email a couple of people who might have suggestions for new people you can meet. Don’t forget to catch up with the people you contact. They are probably glad to hear from you, and you may be able to help them with their own networking.

Third, consider attending a meeting or event that is of interest to you. Don’t force yourself to go to a function that is not of interest. Your time is valuable, and networking should not be a horrible chore, but rather something where you enjoy yourself, learn something new and hopefully move a step further to meeting your goal.

So, regarding my personal networking…

Over the past 6 weeks, I have sent a couple dozen, short emails, arranged 5 coffee meetings, and attended one industry meeting. Over the course of these interactions, I have

1) Learned about 6 community organizations that might be helpful to me professionally and personally. And, I have received personal invitations to attend 4 of these organization’s events.
2) I have introduced 2 colleagues to 2 of my new contacts. Networking works both ways which makes it all the more interesting.
3) I have learned about 8 new, cool technologies and marketing tools (which is my business;  you will learn about things related to your industry when you network)
4) I’ve added 15 people to my Linked In network
5) I’ve already run in to some of my new professional contacts in my personal, social circle. Small world.

The past 6 weeks has reminded me how important networking is for both personal and professional growth (not to mention, it might add a couple new business opportunities!) 

10 minute action:

1. Determine your objective for networking.
2. Take action. Make a call, invite someone to coffee, attend an industry meeting or event.

 

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In my last blog post, I said I was going to write about the Top 10 things I learned while building this blog. But, after 4 months of not posting anything, I realize the biggest learning of all is that YOU MUST POST TO YOUR BLOG on a regular basis.

I knew I had to post, I had a list of topics I would write about, and I had plans for how all the blog posts would tell a great story. I had great intentions, but I didn’t post. Why? Because I got all mentally tangled up in my own thoughts…and even with all the excuses, like I’m too busy to write, for me, the real issue was that I felt “exposed.”

The way I have chosen to work through this fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD…which is a marketing communication strategy which I will cover in some other blog entry) is to just WRITE, and not worry if this all adds up to anything, or if it has a typo, or if it’s the very best I can do. Maybe it will just be the best I can do today.

The good news is I think there is a story/challenge/lesson here for anyone trying to run a business…..

10 Minute Action:

  1. Is there something you should be doing for your business that you aren’t?  If yes, are you

    1)      Willing to think about it and identify WHY you aren’t doing it—the real why, not the “I’m too busy” why

    2)      Make a plan for doing whatever it is you need to do.

    (Here are some examples I gathered this week from some of my small business associates: call that unhappy customer, update your business plan, pull those receipts together for taxes, schedule a few new appointments to replace the cancelled ones)

     

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