You win some, you lose some

This week I lost a client who has been with me for four years. I’m pretty sure she was surprised at the enthusiasm with which I accepted the termination of my services.

I work with very few large companies.  Most of my clients are solo entrepreneurs and they tend to fall into two categories.

solutionsThe first category are those who understand that the web is just another tool to put to use in building their business, whatever that business may be.  I just got a fan letter from one of those clients the same day.  She’s like a sponge, soaking up every bit of information and hungry for more.  I’m more than happy to oblige.

The second category is comprised of those who expect this whole web thing to work on autopilot for them.

In the termination letter from the client of four years, she informs me that she’s found a web developer who is going to create “a first class HTML web presence”… one that will have her at the top of the search engines for her ultra competitive terms with the only investment being a trade of services.  She’s thrilled that she’s finally going to get the autopilot web site of her dreams and she’s not going to pay a single penny out of pocket.

Oh, but there is a glitch. Could I change the DNS settings on her domain name for her?   (No settings provided…. it’s the hosting account that comes standard with her ISP.)

Anyone reading this who knows how basic changing DNS settings is to the whole “web development” process is rolling their eyes right now.  For those who aren’t familiar with how basic changing DNS settings is in the web development process…. it is like a race car driver not knowing how to buckle his safety restraints.  It is like the concert pianist you just hired to play for your reception asking for help in finding middle C.

I feel for my departing client.  I really do.  I too have to fight the urge… in my case it’s the desire to believe that I really can lose every spare pound of body fat without changing my diet, surgery or increasing my exercise.  However, I fight that urge and instead of pulling out my credit card and picking up the phone,  I lace up my walking shoes and head out the door.

I’ve said it before… there is no such thing as a set it and forget it successful web site.  Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you fat loss without diet, surgery or exercise.

Matters of marketing and ethics…

Rich Schefren has a post on his blog called “I don’t think we can be friends anymore.” In it, he describes his impressions of a recent “internet marketing seminar”

There were 16 speakers, many of whom were clients of mine. It was an impressive lineup of self made entrepreneurs who got to their current position by learning, thinking, working hard, and marketing even harder.

Yet table rush after table rush were for so-called “short-cuts” like Private Label Rights Products, Push Button Software, and you just sit at home and get rich while my company does all the hard work for you type products.

On the one hand… the “learn more, think fast, work hard, market harder and smarter” mantra is NOT great “bait” for attracting throngs of attendees to your internet marketing seminar. Typical human beings (of which I am one) would much rather “get rich quickly and easily” …. oh, and I’ll take e a set of “washboard abs” which come from taking a pill while you’re at it!

So most of these “marketing gurus” have a problem. They can honestly tell their audience what it takes to be successful.. WHAT THEY HAVE DONE TO BE SUCCESSFUL… (time… talent…plus working harder AND smarter) or they can sell a “secret shortcut”.

Like I said… great “bait” is essential to attracting attention. I created just such bait when I wrote and article titled “Why the best marketing tactics have failed you up until now.” The article was picked up by SEVERAL newsletters and my phone began ringing off the hook with “opportunity seekers”. I remember one call in particular from a gentleman late one Friday night. I have no idea what time zone he was in, but he began peppering me with questions from the start.

“How much should I be paying for hosting?” he asked.

“Um, that would depend upon what kind of web site you’re running.” I replied. “Asking me how much hosting SHOULD cost is like asking me how much a house SHOULD cost. A house with 11 rooms and an ocean view is going to cost more than a 1 room shack with a view of a landfill.”

That was obviously good enough for him. “Fine. I want you to host my web site.” he said. “What kind of products oo you offer for me to sell.”

That comment triggered a flash back to a conversation with a woman who came to me for help a few years ago. She had attended an internet marketing “get rich quick” seminar and had paid $8,000 up front for a fool proof “web marketing system”. To her surprise, it wasn’t working. People weren’t flocking to her site and they most certainly weren’t purchasing the products she had listed for sale (via affiliate links) on the site.

In her case, I began outlining the traditional “steps” of successful internet marketing: learn more, think fast, work hard, market harder and smarter. She almost broke into tears as I outlined a way for her to salvage her $8K web venture. It involved posting articles to the site three-five times a week, launching a newsletter and building an audience. She obviously wasn’t prepared to do that. She thought she had paid her life savings to obtain a short cut.

So when the gentleman on the phone began asking me what products I offered for him to sell on his web site, I politely explained to him that I specialize in working with business owners who already have a product or service. I didn’t think it was possible, but he sounded even more heartbroken than the woman I had disappointed years earlier with my dose of “reality”.

Neither of those people became clients, though I knew EXACTLY what it would have taken to get them to sign up and I wish I could say I’ve only had two people come to me wanting just such a “hands free… you do the work, I’ll collect the cash” kind of set up. However, one thing that’s nice is that when I delivered my “bad news” and the person on the other end of the phone says, “DUH! I knew I was going to have to work to make money,” well… then I know I have a TRUE potential client on the phone. They’re as rare as gemstones… and I treasure each and every one of them.

Is your business “Comcastic”?

I certainly hope not!  Bob Hill of the 2 Texans Down Under blog says:

But now something like that is happening. Just as “going postal” was born and then added to our language, the term “being comcastic” has been coined and launched. One day soon, dictionaries may list this entry: Comcastic – “adj., behaving with insensitivity to and disregard for the interests of customers.”

OUCH!!!  According to Bob’s blog, there are over 350,000 citations of the "Comcast vs the hammer lady" story.  There are also countless others citing "Comcast Customer Abuse".

One of the ways the web HAS changed marketing is that now, when a customer feels disrepected AND they have a blog… they can tell the world about their gripe.  Then, as a business owner, you have one of two options:

  1. Hire an attorney… sue (and lose!)
  2. Make it right with your customer

Part of being in business is customer service.  You can be VERY short sighted and provide "Comcastic" customer service….  or you can keep your eye on the long term goal… remembering that a satisfied customer tells 3 people and a dissatisfied customer (without a blog) will tell15-16.

As Bob says:

Maybe there’ll be a second definition for Comcastic — “willing to delay or deny services to which customers are entitled. (See also ‘imperialistic’)”

Marketing is harder these days thanks to the internet

There are times when I want to scream at the screen of my computer.  I am frequently faced with controlling this impulse, especially when I read a diatribe written by a 22 year old about how the web has made it so that marketing messages nobody cares about don’t work anymore.

My mind starts spinning, and I’m certain my head is following suite.  "The internet hasn’t changed how marketing works!  People have ALWAYS ignored slickly presented messages no one cares about."  What has changed is the fact that the internet HAS provided marketing professionals the opportunity to watch those bored and uninterested visitors leave in droves.

But then, a recent conversation with my 17 year old son has enlightened me.  Perhaps the internet HAS changed the way marketing works.  After all, it has changed DRASTICALLY the way music is marketed. 

Long ago, in the days before MP3 players…. in the days even before the internet… when the world was cold and we killed sabre toothed tigers for food and clothing…we were limited in the way we could obtain music for our own listening pleasure.  We could choose to listen to a radio station play our favorite songs or, we could take the leap and purchase the music so we could listen to what we wanted, when we wanted to listen.

Oh sure, it’s still BASICALLY the same today… except you have a LOT more choices.  Those additional choices have DRASTICALLY changed the way music is marketed. 

Back in the old days, if you were going to purchase a single song, you bought a 45 rpm vinyl record.  (45’s were smaller versions of albums and were played on a turntable…. you know, like the rappers use today.  I have actually HAD this conversation with my children by the way!)  When you purchased this 45, you got a BONUS song on the back.  If you wanted access to MORE than those two songs, you purchased the album. 

Albums were pieces of vinyl offering a dozen or more songs, including those songs offered as "singles".  However, true fans would always purchase the album so they would have access to songs not available to just everyone.  Back in those days, to demonstrate your love of a musician or group, you would reference a great song included on the album but never released on a 45. 

Then came the internet… and it wasn’t illegal file sharing that changed the face of marketing and music. 

CHOICE HAS DRAMATICALLY CHANGED THE FACE OF MARKETING MUSIC

In the old days, if you wanted access to a song that wasn’t available on a single, you had to purchase the entire album.  People would purchase albums just to own a single song… but that was the old days. 

Now, if you want to won a song, you can do so with a single download, and THAT is changing the face of music.

When a band was interviewed and asked why it had been so long between albums, they responded with the acknowledgement that in the music business today, every song on the album has to be great.  Otherwise people will simply download the "good" songs and not download the "bad" ones.  If, of the 12 songs on your album, only 2 "connect"… today’s music consumer is able to download those 2 "good" songs for as little as .89 each instead of popping for $13.48 for the entire album.

Ah, the days of releasing a single to act as "bait" to drive album sales is quickly coming to a close.

It’s not only affecting the music industry, but everyone else as well. 

In the end, people will ALWAYS, I repeat, ALWAYS yawn and turn away when you present a marketing message that doesn’t connect.  However, what the internet HAS done is to provide not only a way for advertisers to watch them yawn… it’s also given consumers more choice.   Not only do they have more choices, but consumers also have a voice.

So you claim you’re an expert….

If you’re an independent service professional, you had BETTTER be an expert, especially if you want to charge $100 an hour or more for your services.  Whether it’s the web, the law or real estate, if you’re a solo entrepreneur chances are you’re selling your expertise in a subject matter as the basis of your business.

So you’re an expert.  Congratulations.  Now what?

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Well, the next step is that you need to communicate this expertise.   After all, that will be the foundation of your marketing message. 

There are a lot of ways you can communicate your expertise.  You can:

  1. Declare your expertise on your logo/business cards/business letter head, etc
  2. Write a book on the subject area of your expertise
  3. Launch a blog on the subject area of your expertise.  Post frequently on the topics in the subject area of your expertise.
  4. Deliver speeches and talks on topics within your area of expertise.

If you’re smart, you’ll focus upon steps 2-4 and possibly skip step 1.

Step 1, declaring your expertise,  is probably the least effective way of communicating your expertise.  From your prospective client’s point of view, it’s "easy" for you to declare you’re an expert.  The next thought in your prospective client’s mind when they see or hear you declare that you’re an expert is usually, "Prove it!"  That’s what steps 2-4 are all about.

Steps 2-4 are all ways in which you’ll prove your expertise.  For example, when you write a book, you are instantly awarded a certain level of "expertise"…. a well written book that is well promoted and sells a lot of copies affords you even more "authority".  However, merely getting your book published no matter what the quality of the content is usually enough to get you points in the "expert" category.  Being able to say to a potential client, "Here, read my book" is a great tool to demonstrate your level of expertise.

Launching a blog where you post frequently on your subject matter area is another GREAT way to DEMONSTRATE your expertise.  Many authors actually pull their book content from their blog posts and vice versa.  Blogs are an expert’s best marketing tool.

Finally, speaking frequently on your topic is another way to demonstrate your expertise.  Do you speak better than you write?  Then video tape yourself and post those short videos to your blog! 

In any case, communication is key in demonstrating your expertise.  Potential clients must be ASSURED of your expertise before they’ll pick up the phone and call you.  That’s why blogs are GREAT marketing tools for indepdendent service professionals.  Your blog allows your potential clients to "test the waters" without taking a HUGE leap of faith and contacting you, whether by phone, mail or email.

That’s why I HIGHLY recommend blogs for clients who want to demonstrate their expertise.