Business Building Strategy: What will you do to get their money?

steps to building your businessI’ve been doing a lot of individual work with clients and a phrase I’ve been using a LOT lately is…. “What are you willing to do to get their money?”

It’s easy to blame those idiot customers for not being smart enough or willing to work hard enough to do business with you.

You know – the idiot customers who aren’t SMART enough to properly spell your Eastern European last name which you use as your domain name.

The idiot customers who aren’t SMART enough to search for your business by name – and instead they’re searching for a solution to their problems.

The idiot customers who still call and ask the VERY questions answered on the FAQ page of your web site.

The idiot customers who call and ask for directions when there’s a map right there on the web site under “more information”.

What are you willing to do to earn their business?

One of the key elements I bring to my clients is an objective “outside eye”.  Often, my input will ruffle some feathers – because in the end – I can’t make your customers “smarter” or “prettier”.  Often – I find myself delivering this nugget of wisdom:

Your customers are NOT idiots – really. (Check out “Business Building Secret:  People are pretty smart” for more on this.)

We can spend shit loads of money trying to influence customer behavior  or we can go the  quicker, easier and more profitable route which is to change how YOU ARE doing things rather than trying to change how YOUR CUSTOMERS are doing things.

If you’re waiting for your customers to make it easy on YOU to take their money- well – good luck with that.  The worm doesn’t find it’s way to the early bird – it’s the other way around.

Something triggers the call…. maybe the “problem” has been niggling at you for weeks or months.  Perhaps it’s visited you in your dreams.  Something isn’t RIGHT and it needs to GET RIGHT – the sooner the better.

“Our web site is getting lots of hits – but no one is buying” – is just one sign that SOMETHING isn’t right.

That’s why you call in outside help – an objective eye – to see what you can’t see.  Just don’t expect the answer to be, “You’re doing EVERYTHING right – you just need better and smarter customers.”

So assuming that you KNOW something’s wrong – and that what needs to change is on your end – where do you begin?

It would be easy to see the forest if you just weren’t surrounded by all these damned trees!

Begin with this – you don’t know what you don’t know.

If you did know – you wouldn’t need outside help.

Here’s the catch 22 – when you don’t know what you don’t know – how can you tell the difference between someone who really DOES know – and someone who just knows a little bit more than you do?

There was a time when finding out how much an “expert” knew  meant sitting down – either in person or on the phone – and talking to them.  You ask questions, the expert answers and you try to discern whether this “expert” can solve your problem.

However, and this is where “experts get frustrated, often as a potential client -it’s hard to get “up to speed” in a single 30-60 minute conversation.   So – the prospective client meets with SEVERAL “experts” – asking questions and comparing answers.   It’s all part of the process of educating themselves to the point of being able to MAKE a decision but from the experts point of view – these people are wasting time and time is what most experts are selling.

However – there is a way for experts to circumvent the time consuming client education process.  Instead of sitting down with individuals – answering the same questions over and over – the expert can begin blogging.

About a year ago – I began to notice something about my “new client” conversations – the people who were calling had read my blog.  Because of this, they were calling me at a later point in the “decision making process”.  Instead of getting tire kickers – I was getting people ready to sign up to work with me.

I recently had a tire kicker conversation – from someone who hadn’t read my blog.  I found myself – in the conversation – directing these people to various blog posts to answer their questions.   That conversation reminded me of the “old days” before my blog – the days when I spent a LOT of time with “tire kickers”… trying to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible.

What are you willing to do get their money?  Are you willing to make the investment of time and effort to educate your prospective customers with your blog?

This is how social media works to build your business…

transparency in social mediaHere’s another real life story on “How Social Media” works.  I hope it helps to illustrate WHY it’s so hard to put an ROI value on your social media participation.

“Suzy” is a client of mine and she has a problem.  Actually, she has more than one problem.  She has MANY problems because that’s just part of building and running a business.  However, for right now – she has one problem which is obscuring all the other problems she’s facing in her business.

Many years  ago,  Suzy had another problem – she needed a web site.  She shared this problem with people she knew and eventually spoke with another client for whom I’d created a web site.  That person was happy with my work and recommended that Suzy contact me.  In the conversation that followed, she decided that she could TRUST me to solve her problem and she hired me to create a web site for her business.

Once the “thrill” of having her business online had passed – Suzy discovered that her web site wasn’t the solution she thought it would be.  See, she thought that her website was some kind of “magical, mystical” money printing – client generating machine. The problem didn’t lie in the web site though – the problem lay with Suzy.   Suzy didn’t know what problems her business was solving for her clients.  Because she didn’t know  what she didn’t know  – her web site couldn’t begin to solve her REAL problem.

Suzy’s REAL problem was  she wanted clients for her business.  However, when she asked for a web site – what she got was a tool.  How she used the tool determined whether or not it would solve her problem.

Frequently, when it comes to solving problems – often what you need are PEOPLE not TOOLS.

Over the next few years, Suzy struggled.  Fortunately, Suzy picked up a copy of  my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results which helped her to discover exactly what problems she was solving for her clients.   Once she knew what problems she was solving, it literally changed the way she viewed her business.

As a result,  she decided that she needed a NEW web site. This time she knew exactly what she wanted her web site to do – and  we relaunched her web site as a blog. Now – Suzy writes regularly about the solutions she provides.  As a result, she’s stunned at how effective her web site (a.k.a. her blog) is at bringing new clients into her practice.

The other day, Suzy discovered she has another problem.  Unlike her previous problems,  this is a problem I can’t help her solve but one that I’ve also faced in my business. So when she fired off an email asking me if I had ever experienced this problem – I was able to offer the name of another business owner who does provide a solution.

At this point, you may think, “She’s going to tell about how she’s connected with the solution service provider on [insert name of social networking site here] and her client then found her solution provider who is also on [insert name of social networking site here] and because they’re both connected to her profile.  Viola!  Social media marketing at work. ”

THAT IS NOT HOW SOCIAL MEDIA WORKS... at least, not in this case.  (If/when it does work like that – it’s the exception and not the rule.)

While it’s true that I am connected with both this client AND the solution provider on several social networking sites and in THEORY – she should be able to “sift” through my connections and “discover” the provider of the solution on her own- that’s not what happened.

She didn’t know what she didn’t know – which included not knowing the REAL problem or the REAL solution she was seeking.  Often – that’s the case.  She didn’t KNOW she needed a drill – she just knew she needed a hole.

I started this blog post with a promise to illustrate how social media works to build your business.  However, there’s a catch: Social Media Marketing can’t build your business if you don’t know what problems you’re solving or what  goals you’re helping your clients/customers achieve.

In a perfect world, everyone who solves problems for business owners would have a blog and they would use their blog just like  like Tom Volkar does over at Delightful Work.  (I “pick” on Tom a lot here because Tom is doing a SUPERB job of using social media CORRECTLY in my humble opinion.)

However, in reality – my source doesn’t have even a basic web site – and he does very little with his social networking profiles.  As a matter of fact, he’s only recently began checking his email regularly.  However, he’s not a tool – he’s a solution so he’s worth the extra effort to connect with him.

When I passed along his email address – I did so hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t make it impossible for her to connect with him.  It’s times like this that I wish I could instead send my client to the solution provider’s blog.

If he had a  blog – she could read the tales of how this gentleman has helped OTHER business people solve their problems – similar problems to the one she’s experiencing.   If she wasn’t ready to take action yet – she could subscribe to his blog  or his email newsletter and “stay in touch”.  She’s MUCH more likely to do so because I recommended she connect with him.

Eventually, when her problem got big enough – got hairy enough – got ugly enough – (a.k.a. big enough to warrant writing a check) she could contact him directly for a solution.

Isn’t that better than just passing along an email address and hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t get in the way of making a connection?

This is how social media works to build your business.  It’s word of mouth advertising made better – made stronger – and most importantly-made  more effective.

You can’t judge social media marketing’s “effectiveness” by followers -or RSS subscribers – or blog comments – or even an Alexa ranking.  In reality, social media is just a communication tool – and it’s only as effective as the message you’re communicating.  The fact that – unlike other marketing tools – social media marketing DOES allow you track and measure – visitors, followers or subscribers – it give the ILLUSION of being “measurable” and “trackable”.

Long ago – I did a web site redesign.  The site in question had GREAT content wrapped in lousy graphics and poor navigation.  After the redesign – sales increase 450% in the following quarter.

Unfortunately – in order to “measure” the ROI of social media marketing – you need those kids of “before” and “after”studies.  There are still people who will argue that a professional “face” on your web site isn’t necessary – and all I can say is “It depends upon what goal you have set for your web site.”

If you’re wanting to use your web site to make tons of money using Adsense – then an ugly web site can definitely be an advantage.  When you’re running Adsense – you WANT people to click on the ads and leave your site.  A high bounce rate is DESIREABLE in those cases.  However, if you’re wanting to sell people something at YOUR site – well, why encourage buyers to go elsewhere – whether it be with Adsense or an ugly site?

Business owners are discovering that the REAL value in social media is the unsolicited feedback social media provides for their business.  How can you put an ROI figure on learning that the “free” sample you offered is simply pissing off potential customers?

It reminds me of the Mastercard ads –

Setting up a web site for your business:  $X

Launching your free sample promostion to grow your email marketing newsletter: $X

“Discovering your “free” sample is pissing people off  – PRICELESS!”

Hiring Help and – if you can – avoid hiring the VA from hell

social media strategyI recently wrote about how your Your Two Most Important Business Assets are time and money. When you’re starting a small business, it’s almost a given that you’re going to be short on money and often, you’ll find you’re short on time as well.

In the course of building a business – every business owner is faced with the dilemma of trading time for money and money for time.

In her post, Delegation: How Do You Scale Up and Still Do Your Best Work? Liz Strauss writes:

When we pass on the tasks that we don’t like, don’t do well, and don’t need to do, we can put the best of our time where it makes the most difference — doing what only we can do.

For many business owners, the tasks they don’t like are web related.

Unfortunately, it’s common for people who don’t know much about computers to think that “computers” is an all encompassing term. They think that someone who knows hardware also knows software. They see a computer “expert” as someone who can install a hard drive, write code AND manage an Adwords campaign – all with equal ease. After all- those tasks all have to do with “computers”.

In Business Success Formula – Recognizing Nonsense I wrote that

Unfortunately, when you don’t know what you don’t know – finding someone who does know [what you don’t know] can be difficult.

No where is that more true than on the web.

Recently, my emails have been dealing with this very subject. A recent email  from a client began with this…

Briefly, I have just escaped from a virtual assistant from hell. I swear, she was paranoid, borderline personality, and /or chemically dependent.

I wish this was the first time I had a “I just escaped the VA from hell” email – but it’s not.

My first VA from Hell story is almost 10 years old… when a client of mine had hired a virtual assistant to make updates to a site I had created for her.  My client couldn’t reach her VA to find out why her website was down so she contacted me.

When I logged in via FTP – I found the web hosting account was empty! The VA had deleted every single file from the server. She was never heard from again. (Fortunately, I had the original files and we restored her site quickly.)

Another – and more recent- virtual assistant horror story was when a client contacted me for help with his Google Adwords campaign. Turns out he had asked his virtual assistant to handle this “simple” task and was horrified when his first monthly Adwords invoice came in at over $2,000. (He had a monthly budget along the lines of $200 in mind.)  It was only after the fact that his virtual assistant shared that she had never managed a Google Adwords campaign before.  She thought, “Hey!  How hard can it be?”

Unfortunately, there are a LOT of freelancers – not just virtual assistants – out there who don’t know what they don’t know… and that makes them positively dangerous to turn lose in your small business.

However, my experience of dealing with VA’s from hell doesn’t just come from my client’s mouths – I have my own stories as well.  The worst was the VA recommended to me by one of my own clients. This woman required that I sign a 3 month contract and pay her $700 per month for 20 hours of her time per month.   I was swamped and desperately needed the help. Since my client had been signing her praises – I signed the contract.

Unfortunately, at the end of the three month contract, she hadn’t completed the first project I assigned her.  I hadn’t expected to have to “manage” her  as I would a college intern.  She claimed she knew what she was doing and I assumed she was telling the truth.

As I was terminating her services, this woman confessed that she had purchased the software she claimed mastery over a mere two weeks before it was time to renew our contract.   She promised to do better if I’d renew my contract with her.  I pointed out that I had paid $2100 for less than 10 hours of her time.  I said that I’d consider renewing her contract once she had provided me with the 50 hours of her time I had already purchased.

I never heard from her again.

It turned out, my client who had given her a glowing recommendation was also discovering that this woman wasn’t capable of managing her time and had fired her as well.  The last I heard, she had abandoned her VA business and she was becoming a real estate agent.

So I’ll open this topic to discussion …  If you have a great VA – how did you find him/her?    Share your tips and tricks below….

Your Two Most Important Business Assets

time“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”

Harvey MacKay

No matter what business you’re in, never forget that time and money are your two most important business assets.

It’s called a “paradigm shift“… a radical change in your view of the world.  It’s roots are in the scientific community – where radical discoveries lead to paradigm shifts.  An example of a paradigm shift…the world is flat – OH NO!-  now it’s round!  To quote Weird Al,  suddenly “everything you know is wrong.”

I had my own paradigm shift several years ago and it was the result of a message on an old style online bulletin board.  The words were amazingly simple – yet they rocked my world….

You can always get more money – you can never get more time.

Prior to reading that statement – I’d been running my business in reverse so to speak.  I’d been operating like I had all the time in the world.  I’d spend hours performing a task instead of buying software to automate said task.  There was virtually no limit to the amount of time I would invest to save a little bit of money.

I’ve since learned that this mode of thinking is also referred to as a “poverty mindset”.

When I began operating my business like my time was more precious than money – a surprising thing happened – I began making more money!

I had been fooled by the fact that time is free.

I had failed to realize that while time may be free, it’s also priceless.

Often, in the course of building a business – we’re faced with the dilemma of trading time for money and money for time.

  • Should I hire a lawyer or should I try to create my own articles of incorporation?
  • Should I hire a CPA or do I handle my own taxes?
  • Should I design my own logo or should I hire a graphic artist?

In the early days of your business – it’s a given that you’re going to have more time than money.  However, don’t make the critical mistake of not understanding the importance and value of your time.

Time may be free – but it’s also priceless.

Which brings up yet another “gem” saying I’ve come across in my internet travels …

“You’ve either got plenty of time or plenty of money.  If you’re lacking both – then you haven’t spent either wisely.

I’ve got to admit – I didn’t LOVE that saying when I first read it.  To be honest, reading those words for the first time almost made my eyes water- that’s how badly they stung!  However, over time I’ve grown to love those words and the accountability inherent in them.

How effectively are you using your two most imporant business assets?

If you don’t like your answer to the question above – check out Tom Volkar’s post on getting on “right track.”

Is this a scam? Technically no… it’s great marketing.

There’s a new email scam hitting the streets this morning.  I’ve gotten TWO emails in the past hour about this particular email scam, so I’ll share this here as well.

I’ll begin with this:  TECHNICALLY this is not an ” email scam”.

Technically, this is a masterful marketing campaign.

However, I would tend to classify it as definitely “scammy” because it’s success depends upon on a lack of knowledge on the part of the “mark” in order for you to take them up on the offer.

It’s my personal goal to increase your level of knowledge about the internet and using it to market your business so when these email scams come to my attention, I vet them with gusto!  [Be sure to subscribe to my feed so you’ll never miss one of these “important” educational announcements!”]

The target of this “marketing campaign” is business owners who are not technically savvy. Of course, there’s no way to segment this market so if you ARE technically savvy and you’ve gotten one of these – you probably just ignored it.  (Mine hasn’t arrived yet – so I’ll be using one of the ones forwarded to me by a technically savvy colleague who noted the creativity behind the campaign.)

Because I’m all about transparency and authenticity – and because the perpetrators of this campaign would not recognize either if it hit them in the face – from here on out, I’m going to refer to this “marketing campaign” as a “scam”.  The reason it’s not technically a “scam” is that if you read carefully – and if you’ve got years of internet experience – you’ll know that this offer isn’t worth the price of the paper it’s NOT printed upon.

The email will arrive with an ominous subject: This is your Final Notice of Domain Notification

Your first clue that this is not on the level is the wording – DOMAIN NOTIFICATION is not the same as DOMAIN EXPIRATION.

However, if you’re like most business owners – there aren’t enough hours in the day and you tend to scan most of the stuff that comes in through email anyhow.

If you click on the email, you’ll see something similar to this:

scam

This is where scanning will cost you a LOT of money.  IF YOU READ CAREFULLY – you’ll see that this is a solicitation – a.k.a. marketing piece.  They say right there in the main copy “this is not a bill or an invoice”.

However, if you’re SCANNING the email – your eye will be drawn to the underlined portion of the email…

Failure to complete your Domain name search engine registration by the expiration date may result in cancellation of this offer making it difficult for your customers to locate you on the web.

“OMG!!  I really, really WANT my customers to find me on the web.  Tell me more!!!”

You might even think you’ll lose your domain name if you don’t take action.   (They didn’t SAY that- but they definitely IMPLIED it.)

The “offer” is simple – it appears that you can register the domain name in question with this company for the low- low price of $75 per year.

What?  You say you paid less than that with your current registrar? Well hey – your registrar didn’t offer you “search submissions” with your registration.

What exactly are “search submissions”, you may ask…. and you may.

I have no idea.   However, I’d be willing to guess that it’s about as effective as the SEO software I talked about in Business Success Formula Recognizing Nonsense.  At $75 per year – it costs less up front but goes on for MUCH longer.

The email ends with the typical small print:

scambottom

Did you see it? Right after the “By accepting this offer, you agree not to hold XX liable for any part.” it says as plain as day in 4 point font: “Note that THIS IS NOT A BILL. This is a solicitation.”

That – ladies and gentlemen – officially makes this NOT a scam but instead just a brilliantly crafted direct marketing sales letter.

It reminds me of the domain name registration service who sends snail mail notifications of domain name expiration to trick you into transferring your domain name to them.   Unfortunately, I’ve worked with a couple of people who did just that.  Let me tell you – getting the domain name transferred OUT of these people’s hands is difficult.

If memory serves me, when one client accepted their “generous” offer – the adminsitrative contact email was changed to their email address which made transferring the domain name to a new registrar nearly impossible.

Oh – but wait.  There – in the 4 point font…. accepting this offer does NOT affect your domain name registration:

This notice is not in any part associated with a continuation of services for domain registration.

Oh – so I still get to pay to register my domain name through my ICANN approved registrar.  Ok.. so what am I paying for here?

Obviously the $75 per year is for for the “search submissions” service.

By digging through the 4 point font, I find a hint to what the offer for”search submissions” service entails:

Search engine submission is an optional service that you can use as a part of your website optimization and alone may not increase the traffic to your site.

The individual words make sense and are arranged according to proper grammar, yet the result is still nonsense.

Treat this “offer” like drugs – just say no.