Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ways to Recharge for Successful Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are a different lot. It takes a certain type of person to hang out there on the edge and take calculated (and sometimes not so calculated) risks. The rush of adrenaline that keeps tycoons in the sweet spot of success can wear a person out, though. The hard-charging, always-ready attitude is a unique quality that has its own set of rules when it comes to taking a little downtime without losing precious time and opportunities. The following are excellent strategies for how to recharge for moguls of business.

Contemplation
There is no "right" or "wrong" way to sit quietly for a few minutes a day. Taking the time to think and contemplate things is a real game changer. It teaches you to quiet your mind and gives that big brain of yours time to rest. That's all it is. Give it a try. Take 20 minutes and sit quietly. Let your thoughts come in and gently focus on them one at a time, allowing yourself to sit in silence. Over time, the effects build and offer a calmer mind and body, heightened focus, more patience, and greater productivity.

Movement
Your doctor and Jillian Michaels are right. Exercise is especially critical for entrepreneurs. You may feel like you are going 100 MPH on any given day and do not need "additional" activity, but get outside and take a brisk walk. You can even take the time to think at the same time. It's a twofer for the multi-tasking magnate in you.

Experience the Outdoors
Great Scott! Throw nature in the mix and it's a "three-fer" (it's a real word - scout's honor). The outdoors can spark relaxation, creativity, and help stave off burnout. Daily exposure to natural surroundings will give you the fuel to get back in the office and power through your day.

Schedule Your Time
Keep a single calendar that gives you mandated time each day to walk away from your desk, your phone, and your email. Maybe a couple of 10-15 minute breaks that give you time to stretch your legs, interact on a social level, grab a (healthy) snack or call a loved one. This single calendar will house business related obligations and personal outings and priorities. Seeing all of your obligations in one place helps eliminate the over-scheduled executive trap and gives you the opportunity to see, in black and white, how you are spending your time. In addition to your breaks, dedicate some time to your meal periods. Maybe you do not want to allocate an hour per day for lunch. At the very least, turn off your electronic world for 15-20 minutes and give your food your full attention. Think of it as "eating meditation."

Unplug
Unplugging from all electronics, while a little frightening at first, can help alleviate a ton of stress. Think about it; all of those dings and beeps and buzzes that are always pulling at every last ounce of concentration you have. There's only so much a person can take. Every tweet, poke, Instagram, Snapchat, email and reminder activates responses in you that eventually lead to mental and emotional breakdowns. It's a daunting prospect, but consider taking an hour away from all electronics and build from there. Who knows, maybe you could allocate an entire electronics-free day or evening. Your creativity and your soul will thank you.

These few tips can help avoid burnout and create the optimal environment for the successful entrepreneur in you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Anticipation is Your Friend: The Art of Teasing a Product or Service Before a Proper Launch

All of your print marketing materials should be designed to evoke an emotional response. Most of the time when you're marketing a product or service, your goal is to convince people to spend money on what it is that you have to offer AFTER the fact. This is time consuming and isn't always successful, especially in a crowded sea of competitors. But what if there was a way for you to start your print marketing momentum well in advance of the actual product or service's release? What if there was a way to build so much momentum leading up to that day that all of the hard work from a marketing perspective had already been done for you?

Luckily, there is a way to accomplish all of this and more. By spending your marketing dollars pre-emptively and teasing the launch of your product or service well in advance, you can build the type of hype that will continue to pay dividends for a lifetime.

The Most Efficient Marketing Engine on the Planet - Disney

Perhaps the most powerful marketing machine in existence belongs to The Walt Disney Company - and this isn't just because they seem to have unlimited financial resources at their disposal. Consider the masterful way that they built anticipation for "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens." Starting a full year out from the premiere of the movie, a teaser trailer was released to build anticipation. Since that opening salvo, we were bombarded with a steady stream of marketing content, from tie-in comic books to a toy launch event that was treated as a national holiday, and more. Anticipation for a new "Star Wars" film could not have been higher going into its release, but what did all of that marketing really tell us about the film itself?

The answer is "not much." People knew what it was called, knew who was in it, knew it had the words "Star Wars" in the title and very little else. So, why was the hype going into the release of the film so massive if people actually knew next to nothing about it, let alone whether or not it would be good? Because of the power of "anticipation" in action.

Little By Little

When building anticipation for a product or service ahead of its release, the key is to understand just how powerful saying very little can actually be. You don't want a print marketing material to literally say "this is what this does and this is why you want it." Doing so removes the air of mystery from the proceedings, which is one of the key ingredients when building anticipation. You need to focus on core images or small facts that only hint at a much larger whole. You want people to say to themselves "I NEED to know more about what this is," because at that point you've got their attention. Once you have their attention, the actual product or service itself can help make sure that you never let go.

Focus On the Problem, Not the Solution

Say you had a product or service that made it easier for stay-at-home moms to get the kids off to school in the morning. If you wanted to build anticipation in your print marketing materials, you might focus on that particular problem above all else. The different waves of your campaign would be devoted to essentially confirming what they already know - "kids tend to not be cooperative in the morning, if only you had more hours in a day, it's difficult to manage your own schedule and theirs at the same time, etc." Then, you might tease with a bold statement like, "We're about to change all that. Stay tuned for more information," and continue to hit them with additional marketing materials in the run-up to the actual launch.

Not only have you appealed to their sentiments and hinted at how you're about to change their lives in an emotional way, but you've also begun to build anticipation at the same time. The great thing about anticipation is that it tends to snowball - if you can get a customer excited today, your focus can then become on KEEPING them excited, which is significantly easier and less time consuming than getting their attention in the first place.

Anticipation is one of the single best assets that you have in your quest to connect with your target audience in new and meaningful ways. If you can play the "anticipation game" in the right way, you won't have to worry about convincing people to engage with your product or service when it launches. They'll come directly to you - they practically won't be able to help themselves.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Brand Awareness: Becoming Another Kleenex

In today's world of marketing, if you are not marketing online, you are missing a very big boat. Marketing is now a science with logistics and parameters that were largely unheard of just a few years ago. However, that is not the case with the notion of brand awareness. The auto industry was probably the biggest contributor to the idea that brand loyalty could be utilized to sell more products. That industry is over 120 years old, and brand awareness became a fashionable tool in marketing automobiles by the early 1900s.

Brand awareness, of course, is the extent to which a name, label, logo, catch phrase, jingle, or another identifier that is associated with a brand, a specific product, or a company is easily recognized by customers. Brand awareness may be old news, but the Internet has taken the concept to new heights, becoming far more measurable and quantifiable as part of an overall marketing strategy.

There are many examples of successful brand awareness implementation. It has always been primarily produced by effective advertising. The most dramatically successful advertising campaign is the one where your product becomes synonymous with the product category. For many years now, a facial tissue has been called a Kleenex regardless of what actual brand was used. This is the same result we see when some people refer to any sport-utility vehicle as a Jeep and any cola drink as a Coke.

The objective in advertising or any brand awareness marketing endeavor is not simply to get your product name or image in front of the consumer. It is to get the image into the mind of that consumer, so when the buying customer wants a product, he or she wants your product before that of any competitors. Repetitious advertising creates a memory trace that remains and is reinforced with every additional occurrence. Think of mayonnaise, hot dogs, ketchup, beer, and coffee. The odds are pretty good that in each case you thought of a specific brand. It is no coincidence that the biggest selling brands are also among those most heavily advertised in various media.

While a successful advertising campaign can create solid brand awareness, a limiting or cessation of advertising can erase the gains in a remarkably short time. Forty years ago, a steel wool soap pad was known as a Brillo Pad. Today, SOS brand is the big seller. Brillo sometimes doesn't even get any shelf space, and we must ask when was the last time you saw an ad for Brillo scouring pads? The manufacturer failed to maintain the brand awareness level they had established. A massive advertising campaign by the manufacturers of SOS soap pads was the driving force that changed the landscape.

Advertising remains key to this process, and today the most critical medium for reaching the customer is the Internet. No other medium offers such widespread advantages in both reach and monitoring capacity. With the Internet, you can track how many times your ad has been viewed and how many times it has been clicked on.

Furthermore, social media and blogging have opened up new avenues for tracking your brand's impact. Programs exist that can tell you how many times your brand has been searched for by a search engine. Others can reveal how many times it has been mentioned in a blog anywhere on the World Wide Web. These "mentions" can be even more critical to brand awareness than page views or clicks because each one may represent an impartial testimony to your product. Even negative discussion tends to reinforce brand awareness. The old saying applies: There is no such thing as bad publicity.

Establish it, reinforce it, and nurture it. Brand awareness can make the difference for you in becoming another brand like Kleenex.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Writing Thank You Cards and Keywords

Remember as a child, sitting at the kitchen table, writing thank you notes following the holidays or your birthday? The adults in your life likely had high standards for these notes as well. They wanted to see notes that expressed your gratitude and showed just how much you appreciated the gift. Those extra sentences about how you planned to use those gifts were always important as well.

Did you ever struggle to find the right words for those little notes? You wanted to find words the reader would understand that would communicate how much you liked the gift. You searched for vocabulary that would speak to the reader and resonate with them.

When you create content for your marketing efforts, you're doing the same thing. You want to find language and vocabulary that correctly expresses what your potential customers want to hear. When you learn to speak the language of your customers, you'll have far greater success in reaching them and convincing them to use your products and services.

The Importance of the Right Vocabulary

When drafting marketing materials, your customers want to know you understand their individual issues. They want to feel confident you understand their problems and have solutions. When you speak in language that doesn't resonate with these customers, you risk losing the connection with them. They won't be able to internalize your message as well or relate to your advertising campaigns. Choosing the right vocabulary helps to ensure a positive response and a stronger relationship with prospective customers.

Vocabulary in Digital Advertising

In the digital world, selecting the best words goes even further than your connection. It determines if your content will be seen at all. Search engines work to match queries to content based on keywords. Using the same vocabulary as your customers allows you to promote your content naturally. The closer your content matches your potential customers' queries, the higher it will rank and the easier it will be to find.

The key to using keywords correctly is to use them naturally and focus on producing high-quality content. When people click on your content, they want to find valuable information that answers their questions and helps them solve their problems. If you only produce low-quality, keyword-stuffed content, people will click off your page as soon as they open it. This will lower your click rate significantly because your page won't have any engagement.

Instead, focus on writing information people will want to read and will find helpful, while also naturally adding in keywords as they fit. This will help your content get found, while also engaging your audience. As more people are attracted to what you have to say, your content will continue to rise in the search engine results, attracting even more viewers.

When you wrote those countless thank you notes all those years ago, you probably had no idea you were preparing for your future in marketing. This was actually a valuable experience in finding the right vocabulary that resonated with your audience. Check your vocabulary to make sure you're using words your potential customers are most likely to respond to, and get started improving your marketing strategies today.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Understanding How Consumers' Brains Think

Interestingly, the part of the brain most responsible for making buying decisions isn't the part that thinks logically. We make the majority of our decisions using what is commonly referred to as the "reptilian brain." This part of the brain is programmed for survival. It's perpetually evaluating choices based on the least possible harm to itself. Even when it's deciding whether or not to buy a product from you, it's performing a cost/benefit analysis.

When you understand this truth about your customers (and the human brain), you can use it to guide your advertisements and how you frame your business to your audience.

How perceived 'costs' impact customer buying patterns

Let's say you've just built a landing page where people can sign up to download a free ebook. Even though you're not asking for money in exchange for your ebook, you want to keep the 'cost' as low as possible. If you ask for too much unnecessary information, your customers will regard this as a cost. Even if you mark most of the fields optional, a shocking number of people will just click off the page and ignore the offer.

To minimize this perceived cost, minimize the amount of information you ask in return for your offer. Remember that you can always learn more about potential leads in later interactions, so only ask for the bare minimum of information at this initial stage.

This same sort of thinking should also impact how you frame sales and deals. Use each interaction to demonstrate that doing business with you will provide maximum reward for minimum cost.

Framing the benefits

In addition to its desire to minimize costs, the reptilian brain also wants to maximize benefits. It responds best to images, emotion, and concrete examples of benefits.

When you set out to describe the benefits of working with your company, make sure your claims are completely clear. Articulate exactly how working with your company can benefit your customers and why your company is superior to the competition. This means providing evidence and proof you offer immediate satisfaction for your customers.

The brain is a fascinating structure. Although many people think of it as a single entity, there are actually different parts that respond best to different ideas. Despite the desire of most people to be logical shoppers, they actually make their choices largely based on cost/benefit analysis. Use this tendency in your marketing and witness firsthand the power of this part of the brain.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Keep Your Existing Customers Around By Improving Engagement

If you're like many business professionals, you know that half the battle of growing your business is getting existing customers to stick around. When you provide your customers with outstanding customer service, some incredible things happen:

  • Customers are willing to pay more, just for your service.

  • Customers are more likely to recommend you to others.

  • You end up spending less for each conversion (it costs less to retain customers than find new ones).

  • You build customer loyalty.

In our intensely competitive modern market, you can't afford to overlook these benefits.

The key to providing this outstanding level of service is taking the time to engage your existing customers. Too many organizations focus so much energy on attracting new customers that their existing customers feel neglected and overlooked. This can lead to feelings of resentment. Fortunately, with just a little bit of extra effort, you can keep your existing customers engaged and invested in your company. Here are a few ideas to get started.

Leverage the 'social' part of social media

Social media was designed to give you a platform to chat and get to know your customers on a personal level. Rather than advertising blindly to large populations, you can communicate directly to individual people and meet their needs personally. Encourage your existing customers to communicate with you on social media. You can do this in a number of different ways.

  • Invite them to ask questions about using your products or services.

  • Start fun contests that involve customers telling stories about using your products or services.

  • Respond to inquiries quickly and personally.

When you use social platforms to reach out and communicate with your customers, you show them how much you care about their experience, which resonates with both existing customers and those considering your company.

Run relevant promotions that existing customers can use

We've all experienced times when special promotions or discounts were made available only to new customers. Such deals often leave us feeling unappreciated and annoyed. Many customers facing such restrictions look for ways to get around them, such as switching back and forth between companies just to take advantage of the promotions. This leads to poor service and frustration for customers and does no good for the company's reputation.

Instead of rewarding only new customers, offer your longtime customers a "loyalty" discount based on their longevity with your company. Customers will feel more appreciated and more loyal to your brand. They'll see this simple 'thank you' as evidence that your company truly does value them, not just the bottom line.

Develop communications relevant to your existing customers

The more personal you can make your communications and correspondence, the more likely your customers are to respond. When people buy from your company, remember what they bought and why. Initiate messages, such as emails, asking customers about how well their needs have been met and if they have any questions about using your products or services. Ask customers for reviews and feedback, and make your requests using the name of a salesperson the customer dealt with personally.

Keeping customers engaged is an important step in encouraging them to stay with your company. When you do this successfully, you can grow your customer base and your bottom line.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Fix Your Call To Action

Your call to action, or CTA, is easily one of the most important parts of your website. It's where you find new leads and convince your audience you offer something worth exploring. Whether your CTA invites people to sign up for a newsletter or download your latest ebook, all CTAs are not created the same. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when developing this critical part of the website.

The words

The words on your CTA are critical. Most people will be skimming it, so it's important to make your offer's potential value obvious to everyone who sees it. Use precise, clear language that explains what customers are going to receive. Bullet points are fantastic because they're particularly easy to skim and tell the audience exactly what they're going to receive.

The words you use in your CTA should also line up with the text around it. For example, if you offer home cleaning services and are offering a free download on the safest cleaners to use around children, your CTA will probably best fit at the end of blog posts and articles that discuss the dangers of certain cleaners or how to safely secure cleaners away from children. Try to create a tangible link between the content and the CTA. This will help ensure your offer reaches those who are most likely to be interested in what you have to say.

The appearance

While what you say is certainly important, so is the overall appearance of your CTA. Choose contrasting colors to help the CTA pop from the page and attract viewers' attention. A CTA that just blends in at the bottom of a blog post will be overlooked and have a poor conversion rate. Similarly, make sure the CTA is big and bold, so no one can miss it. Don't hide the CTA in the corner, using the same font size as the rest of the page. It will be too easy to ignore.

In the same way, use images and other visuals to help consumers get a concrete look at what they'll be receiving. If that's an ebook, for example, use a picture of an actual book with the title of your ebook printed on the front. Using images helps people develop a strong association with the product you're offering and makes it look more appealing.

The importance of testing

When planning your campaign, develop more than one CTA, then test them to see which one resonates more with customers. You might be surprised how much difference a particular word choice or color can make on your conversion rates. Run basic A/B tests on the CTA, and get concrete answers about which offer is getting more conversions.

An A/B test is simple. Say you have one CTA and then develop an alternate page. The A/B test will randomly show some visitors the original and some the alternate page. It will then track how many people convert from each page. You can use this information to see which has a higher conversion rate, so you get the best page on your site.

Developing an efficient CTA will bring you leads and potential customers. Take the time to follow the steps above, and create a CTA that will maximize your potential.