Selling Nothing But Air

What are you selling?

Make the mistake of asking a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman that question and he’ll whip out his cleaning machine and be into his sales pitch faster than you can scream, “NO!”  If his sales pitch were a bullet, you’d be dead before you hit the floor.

Ask that same question of a doctor, or an attorney, or any other kind of “service professional” and you would probably be met with a blank stare followed by the response,  “I’m not SELLING anything.  I’m a [fill in the blank].”

Unfortunately, NOTHING and I mean NOTHING is further from the truth. If you’re in business, you’re selling something – PERIOD!

If you’re in business and you can’t pull out  a product to hand to a prospective customer for review, then chances are strong that you’re in the business of selling nothing but air.

  • Your education – nothing but air.
  • Your experience – nothing but air.
  • Your services – nothing but air.

Sometimes referred to as “knowledge professionals”, many of us who live and work on the web are selling nothing but air.  We are joined in the “real” world by dozens of service professionals whose services can not be wrapped and mailed.   The list of those selling nothing but air includes plumbers, dentists, attorneys, doctors, chiropractors, electricians, acupuncturists, realtors, writers, accountants – the list goes on and on.

If this were a paper for a professor in business school,  I’d be using the more “technical” term for selling “nothing but air” and I’d call it the intangible sale.  Then, I’d begin prattling on about the strong connection between MAJOR SALES and INTANGIBLE SALES.   I would point out that while not every Major Sale is an Intangible Sale, every Intangible Sale is by nature a Major Sale.

Thank goodness this isn’t a term paper on Web Marketing 101!

Just as a refresher, there are two types of “sales” your business can make.  There are Minor Sales which are sales that don’t warrant a lot of time or energy on the part of the buyer.   Almost anything offered for sale in a Wal-Mart would qualify as a minor sale.  Even the few items that are sold by Wal-Mart that would meet the criteria for a Major Sale are reduced to Minor Sale status thanks to Wal-Mart’s permissive return policies.

A Major Sale is one where the buyer’s financial and/or emotional investment is significant.  As a result, the purchase warrants significant time and research into alternatives. In the Major Sale, another key factor is that there is the potential for a long-term relationship between you and/or your business and the customer.

In other words, in the Major Sale – the consequences of making a purchasing mistake are high.

  • Choosing the wrong doctor can be a matter of life and death.
  • Choosing the wrong tax professional can mean the difference between business success and business failure.
  • Choosing the wrong divorce attorney can mean the difference between splitting your assets or turning them all over to your soon to be ex-spouse.
  • Choosing the wrong Realtor can mean the difference between buying a house the floods or buying one that is high and dry.

Our town of Port St. Lucie, Florida was making national news after Tropical Storm Fay rolled through.  We got  a lot of rain dumped on our fair city over the course of a few days, exposing to the world a critical flaw in our fair city.  Explosive growth combined with poor planning by city officials = exceptionally poor storm water drainage.  As a result, much of the city was shut down by extensive flooding.

I was getting a manicure last week and he conversation turned to Fay and the extensive flooding that resulted.  I asked my manicurist if she was affected by the flooding.  Her response, “We had a REALLY good realtor who told us when we began looking to buy a house up here about the problems the city has with drainage.  As a result, we purchased our house with the possibility of flooding in mind.  Our house sits high and dry thanks to our realtor’s advice.”

Attention: All Realtors – especially those of you who are “afraid” that the internet is going to replace you-  it won’t if you understand what it is you’re REALLY selling.

Three years later, a manicurist in a popular day spa is still singing the praises of her exceptional realtor – the one who guided them as they made a Major Sale Purchase and kept them from buying a home that was susceptible to flooding.

This is why when you’re in the business of selling nothing but air why it’s so important to build TRUST with prospective clients/customers.  We live in an age which can be defined as a “No Trust Zone“.  Building trust is an essential part of making the sale when you’re selling “nothing but air”.

Realtors – you are selling nothing but air  a.k.a.  – your expertise of your local housing market.

Attorneys – you are selling nothing but air  a.k.a.  – your expertise at negotiation and persuasion.

Doctors – you are selling nothing but air  a.k.a.  – your expertise of the human body.

Accountants, you are selling nothing but air a.k.a. – your expertise and knowledge of the tax code.

Once you recognize the fact that you’re selling nothing but air, it sets the stage for creating physical product you can put in someone’s hands.  Writing a book, an eBook or even a blog is a great way to “bridge” the trust gap and demonstrate your expertise.

This is How Web 2.0 Works…

According to the Chinese, today is the luckiest day of the year. (08-08-08)

In China, the number 8 is considered extremely lucky, as a matter of fact, it’s the luckiest of all numbers and the competition for identification with the number 8 (the more the better) is fierce. From license plates to phone numbers, the more 8’s the better and some Chinese citizens are willing to pay a small fortune to possess a lucky phone number or a lucky license plate.

No wonder the Chinese are ecstatic about landing the 2008 Olympics and why the Olympic Games started at 8:00 AM on 08-08-08.

Samuel Goldwyn is credited with the quote, “The harder I work, the luckier I get. ” No where is that more true than on Web 2.0.

I recently received an email from a client who has launched one of those “easy” website builder type sites. About six weeks ago, she canceled her blog and now she now has four pages of unreadable (one big blog of text – obviously the p tag wasn’t an option) and forgettable content, but it’s a website she is able to set and forget.

set it and forget it websiteI’m not surprised by this series of events. Six weeks after the launch of her blog, she emailed me wondering why her brand new blog wasn’t appearing on the front page of Google for her desired keywords.

Since the keywords weren’t appearing in the domain name, the only other chance she had to score was via her content. I went to check on her blog – expecting to run a Wordle and show her how to focus her content around desirable keywords. However, when I went to the blog I found the “Hello World” post was the only content on her WordPress blog.

When she canceled her hosting for the blog, she said she was “much” too “busy” to create content for her blog.

I know that business success isn’t determined by your Alexa ranking… but having a website that can be found when people are looking for the solutions you offer is a bonus to any business no matter how you look at it!

WordPress doesn’t have to act like a blog! WordPress can act like a GREAT CMS (content management system). It provides a search engine friendly foundation for your website and you can create static pages just like a “static” website. When you use WordPress as your CMS it means you can use it to EASILY and QUICKLY publish articles to highlight product features and benefits on a regular basis.

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

On the other hand, I have several clients who are fighting the good fight and doing everything they can in pursuit of success. I recently received an email from a client who is going to be featured on NPR in November. Another client’s story is going to appear on nationally televised show thanks to her blog. Yet another client is pursuing a $10,000 project lead thanks to her blog. These are people who have put forth the effort and as a result, they’re getting “lucky”. They have prepared for success and now that success is knocking, they’re ready to answer.

It’s not just my blogging clients who are reaping the rewards of blogging. Yvonne over at Lip-sticking gives her story of how she scored a coveted invitation to Ford’s 2009 Model Year Product Program. Seems Yvonne joined a new site called SavvyAuntie. Turns out that was a KEY factor in Yvonne getting “discovered”.

Ford went searching for women bloggers on the woman focused site and found Yvonne. Now Yvonne is getting VIP treatment by Ford.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Vyonne is another example of someone doing the leg work and then reaping the rewards. Is there an element of luck involved? Of course there is!

Web 2.0 is all about making connections and the more connections you make, the luckier you’ll get! What’s your tale of “getting lucky” thanks to hard work?

Business Success Isn’t Determined by Your Alexa Rank

web site trafficAs a web “professional”, I know the frailties that face Alexa. However, that darned tool bar is so easy to install and it’s literally become a habit for me to glance at the Alexa Ranking before the page has had time to load.

Over the  weekend, I learned that there are successful businesses who are NOT using the web as part of their success.

I know.

I was shocked.

It’s funny how short sighted those of us who live and work on the web can get sometimes- myself included at the TOP of that list!

This revelation started innocently enought. I got a phone call yesterday from a friend of mine who has a “real” job. She’s the training director for a large company… you know, the type of company that has “divisions” which each are assigned a “budget.”

She began her call with, “I’m at this conference to be a certified-blah blah and I met this amazing woman who’s launching her own business and needs your help.”

“Wait! Certified– to be what? Did you quit your job? Are you launching your own business?”

“No, my division has budget to burn so I’m becoming a certified “blah blah”. ”

I’m not being coy or trying to protect an identity- I really can’t remember the program name- it was THAT generic!  It was one of those made up words that people create so they are “guaranteed” top position in the search engines.

“What is a certified blah blah?” I asked.

“You know, I asked that before I left on Friday. No one at work knew either,” she said. “You’d think that someone would ask that question before plunking down $2500 for a 3 day seminar. But that’s how Corporate America works. By this time tomorrow, I’ll have another certification to my name.”

She then asked me to check out the website for the firm putting on the seminar. My friend is a business woman through and through and instead of paying attention to the presentation (which usually annoys her because she’s a real expert in training and sees the mistakes being made in the presentation instead of every absorbing the content), she’s counting heads and computing how much money this guy is bringing in.

She counted 300 heads in the room… and multiplied it by the $2500 her company paid for her seat there. She figured they made$750,000 in revenue from this seating alone and she knows there’s another seminar next month on the west coast.

I’m intrigued. I type in the website address and my attention goes first to the Alexa ranking. I’m STUNNED at what I see- I didn’t know Alexa numbers went above 24 million!

The Alexa ranking for the website is in the 24,500,000 range.

Talk about a billboard in the Alaskan Wilderness, this website is a wasteland. Oh, and it’s a mess both from a coding standpoint AND from a content standpoint.

The coding issue is obvious. I mean, you don’t reach the deepest darkest depths of 24 Million plus in Alexa without some serious coding issues at work. However, the content is what surprises me. I mean, it’s little more than a narcissistic rant tooting the horn of the seminar’s developer.

The site doesn’t follow ANY of the rules for website success!!!  Lousy domain name, poorly coded, narcissistic content… I can’t imagine anything he could do to make the site worse.

Despite all of that, he obviously has a thriving business.  I text my friend with a “you’ve GOT to find out how people found out about the seminar,” because one thing is certain, he’s not using the web to market it.

Turns out, he’s made connections with a national association and is offering this “course” at a substantial discount for members.  The association sent out the communication to it’s members and offered them a half price discount.

The whole experience has shaken me a bit.  It has forced me to admit a bad habit which I’ve developed –  I tend to look to Alexa rankings to judge how “successful” a website is and by extension, the business which owns the website. This particular website destroyed that belief system of mine.  It goes to show that you don’t need a great Alexa Ranking to have a successful business venture.

I should have known better.  I mean, I tell clients all the time that a blog can be used as a powerful tool for business communication.    Using your blog to communicate your marketing message is a GREAT use of a blog.  Using a blog in that manner is actually using your blog to target the non-blogging community.

Do I think a great web presence would help this guy’s business – definitely.  But the lack of one obviously hasn’t stopped him from achieving a level of success.

Small Business Success Secret: Defeating Doubt

business successs secretsIf you doubt you can accomplish something, then you can’t accomplish it. You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through. ~Rosalyn Carter

Self doubt will plague you (if you let it) every step of the way as you strive for business success.    Every path to success is filled with obstacles, the key is overcoming those obstacles.

One of the biggest “success killers” you’ll encounter when launching a new business (or a new product line) is self doubt. Yet overcoming this seemingly small hurdle is essential if you’re to achieve small business success!

Small Business Success Secret: Defeating Self Doubt

Monika Mundell writes brilliantly about the role of self doubt in her post Your Business Success Quotient and uses a simple “mathematical” formula to illustrate a powerful truth:

The greatest business idea in the world can be reduced to dust if self doubt is allowed to run rampant.

Let’s say you have a been inspired by a GREAT business idea. On a scale of 1-100, this one is truly a 100. However, if you don’t trust yourself… you may begin to procrastinate or worse yet, begin focus on your past “failures”.

Surround yourself with enough negative Nellies and naysayers, and that great idea for your business can quickly be ground into dust.   The fact that your idea can be ground into dust is in no way any reflection on the original idea. Even mountains can be ground into sand with enough time, pressure and precipitation.

One way to significantly increase the pressure on your “great idea”  is to begin “shopping” your idea to family and friends.

Let me be clear, if your family and friends are your greatest cheerleaders and/or potential customers for your new product – then seeking their input is a GREAT idea. Unfortunately, your family and friends may well become your worst enemies in the process.

I love watching shows where  successful entrepreneurs are interviewed about their humble beginnings.

Many times, when these successful entrepreneurial guests are asked about the support they got from family and friends when they were just starting out, the response is usually some version of, “Well, to be honest with you… they thought I was crazy at the time.”

It’s fun to hear them tell the tale years later, after that they’ve “made it.” It’s easy to forget that as they struggled to launch their dream these very successful entrepreneurs probably felt just like Noah did as he built a huge Ark on dry land under sunny skies.

If your family and friends aren’t part of your target market or aren’t serial entrepreneurs, then don’t put too much weight in their criticism. Instead of getting honest feedback, you may just get someone who is shooting holes in your great idea.

John Kanary once said:

If doubt is challenging you and you do not act, doubts will grow. Challenge the doubts with action and you will grow. Doubt and action are incompatible.

How do you challenge your doubts?  What’s your key to overcoming  self doubt and moving forward?

What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging

Every where you turn, you’ll find people raving about blogging, with good reason. Blogs are easy to use communication tools… and businesses NEED to communicate with potential customers. So if you’re a business and you need to communicate to customers WHY they need to be doing business with you… you need a blog.

However, while blogs make PERFECT sense as a business marketing tool… there are drawbacks to blogging.

What no one ever tells you about blogging

Blogging is not marketing magic.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it is true.

I’ve had several clients who paid to have the most popular and powerful blogging software on the planet set up on their own hosting account. I installed essential plug ins to make their WordPress blog even more attractive to the search engines.

More than once I have gotten emails from clients wondering why their blogs aren’t getting great search engine rankings on their highly desired keyword terms. When I load their blog, I’m greeted with the “Hello World” initial WordPress blog post. There are no other posts published. There are no categories set up. Nothing but “Hello World”.

Successful Blogging Takes Planning

Planning and research are both ESSENTIAL keys to blogging success.

Planning begins with knowing who your target audience is and why they are at your blog is the most critical element in your blog’s success.

(Here’s a poorly kept secret… it’s also the key to your BUSINESS SUCCESS!!! That’s why I wrote the book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results. In the book, I take business owners step by step through the process of identifying your ideal target market and then the keys to creating marketing messages which deliver results.)

Once you know who your audience is, then you need to figure out what keywords they are using to find your site. This is the “research” side of th equation.

Top A-list bloggers have shared that on average more than 50% of their traffic comes from the search engines. That means using the right keywords is a KEY element in your blogging success.

There are plenty of free tools you can use to find keywords. However, I got an email today which calls into question the accuracy of those free keyword tools. My client ran her favorite keyword through 3 separate free keyword tools and got the following:

Google: “Average”
Overture — 1211
Keyword Discovery — 600
Wordtracker — not listed

So, I ran her keywords using a new tool I recently discovered called Wordze.

Wordze gave the COMPLETE picture on what was happening with her keyword. It not only showed the standard info… it also showed her who her competitors are on that keyword as well.

PRICELESS!!!

Using the link above saves you $10 a month if you decide to subscribe.

Successful Blogging Takes Effort

The most successful blogs have posts published on a regular basis… at least once a week… more is better.

Many, many blogs begin with a flurry of posts… and then, the new blog owner loses interest and stops posting.  Defining your blog’s direction is essential to achieving blogging success.

Successful Blogging Takes Time

There is no such thing as an overnight success when it comes to blogging. The blogs that do “race” to the top usually find their stay at the top to be precarious at best.

You won’t launch your blog tomorrow and then cash a six figure adsense check within 30 days.  It just doesn’t work that way.

However, if you’re willing to invest the time and effort into this powerful business communication tool… then you’ll find that your blog can act as a powerful, versatile, easy to use marketing tool.