Another “stupid” business idea that was anything but stupid

A while ago, I wrote about how defeating doubt is essential as you start a business.  The number one killer of business ideas isn’t lack of funding but rather nagging doubt.

Maybe that doubt is the result of some bad business advice!  Jason Cohen and I are totally grooving on the same wavelength these days.  In his most recent post, distinguishing constructive criticism from bad business advice he writes:

It’s easy to cut down ideas; it’s hard to create and execute them. Give me any idea and I can find someone who thinks it’s dumb. So what? “Constructive” criticism means constructing, not just blasting. Look for advice with a clear method for implementation and a clear path for results.

Maybe you’ve got an idea for a new business – but you think it sounds ‘stupid’ or “dumb”.   Take heart!  There are so many stories about “stupid”  business ideas that don’t sound “stupid” now that they are a success!

If you’re starting a new business, remember that many hugely successful businesses didn’t appear to be the work of “genius” in the beginning.  As a matter of fact, more often than not, these successful businesses appeared to be the work of pure madness in the early days. Keep that in mind as you’re starting a small business.

Recently,  I tuned into the biography channel’s piece on George Lucas and was absolutely glued to the television as the show recounted all the “counter intuitive”  (a.k.a. ‘stupid’) decisions made by Lucas during the making of the original Star Wars.

The making of Star Wars provides a GREAT blueprint for success for anyone who wants to start their own business.  There are lots of lessons aspiring business owners can learn from the making of the original Star Wars.

Stupid Business Idea Lesson #1:  You’d better be passionate about your idea.

One of  the most important lessons in business to be gleaned from the  making of Star Wars is that George Lucas wasn’t driven by a desire to create wealth.

In the first installment, Steps to Starting a Small Business: #1 – The Idea, I share that starting a small business with the idea that you’re going to make a LOT of money is a really poor reason to launch a business.  You’d better be passionate about your idea. It’s hard to imagine, but in 1976 it appeared that Star Wars was on it’s way to being an 8 Million dollar movie disaster instead of marking a new era in movie making.

As you learn about the obstacles George Lucas overcame to create his movie masterpiece, it’s obvious that making money wasn’t first and foremost on Lucas’ mind.  Instead,  he had a burning passion to tell a story and to make a movie in a “new” way.  It was that passion that provided the fuel necessary to overcome the hurdles inherent in the making of the movie.

Stupid Business Idea Lesson #2: Expect obstacles and lots of them on the path to success.

An essential step in starting a small business is failure and the making of the movie Star Wars is filled with many, many “failures”.   However, like every other success story – each failure was viewed as a temporary set back instead of being viewed as the death blow for the project.

For example, the struggle of getting the original movie made began with securing funding for the project.  The first few “rejections” could have easily been viewed as epic failure – instead they were viewed as temporary set backs.

If you’re trying to get people excited about YOUR vision, remember that at the time, the major studios (such as Universal and United Artists) didn’t think that movie audiences would be interested in seeing a science fiction fantasy.  Those older, “wiser” studio executives were not shy about sharing their learned opinion with Lucas at the time.

Stupid Business Idea Lesson #3:  Be careful when it comes to relying on “expert” advice.

If Lucas had listened to the “experts” at the large and established studios – Star Wars would never have been made. Fortunately, 20th Century Fox (the decided “underdog” studio at the time) decided to take the gamble and gave Lucas the green light to make his film.

However, the struggle of making the movie doesn’t end there.   The path to creating the movie was filled with one obstacle after another.  From the special effects to the score, Star Wars was a movie which at the time seemed to feature one “stupid” decision after another.

Stupid Business Idea Lesson #4:  Conventional wisdom frequently isn’t conventional OR wise!

Star Wars is a product of the 1970’s.   If you don’t remember the 70’s – then think of the music featured in such movies as “Saturday Night Fever” and “Smokey and the Bandit.”   Now , think about the musical score for Star Wars.

At the time, creating a science fiction movie using a traditional orchestra was an act of madness and not brilliance.  Conventional wisdom said “use popular music to score your movie” and Lucas turned a deaf ear to that advice.  Today – more than 30 years later, we can all be thankful that the original Star Wars wasn’t scored with the conventional “wisdom” of the time.  (Aren’t you glad the Bee Gees didn’t write the score for Star Wars?)

Stupid Business Idea Lesson #5: Marketing is still the key to making any business – stupid or not- work!

After a series of “stupid” business decisions regarding the production of the film, it came time to bring the product to market and release the film in theaters.

Fox studios had carefully promoted their upcoming movie to science fiction fans at the previous Comic Con convention- because studio executives knew that science fiction fans would be the primary market for the film.

However, despite laying the important ground work of marketing the film in advance to sci-fi buffs,  theater owners were definitely NOT on board with taking the risk of showing this highly counter intuitive piece of film making.

To get the film into theaters,  20th Century Fox issued an ultimatum.  Theater owners who wanted to show the highly anticipated film “The Other Side of Midnight” had to agree to show Star Wars.  It worked.  Theater owners agreed to show the “ugly duckling” film and  the rest is movie history.

Of course, today we look back on the tale of the making of Star Wars and chuckle warmly, thankful that George Lucas had the courage to persevere.  It’s easy to forget that the process of making the movie took such a tole on Lucas’s health that he reportedly had to be hospitalized due to hypertension!

Success isn’t easy – and the path to creating a successful business is anything but smooth.   When you’re in the trenches – it’s easy to get discouraged.   When the going gets rough – remember that many “celebrated” ideas started out as “stupid” business ideas in the beginning.  (Twitter anyone?)

Do you have a favorite “stupid” business idea that is now a success?

Small Business Marketing- The Yellow Page Directory’s Place in your Marketing Mix

The recent post “Does your small business need to invest in yellow page advertising?” a comment was left stating that “the internet is for browsing – the yellow pages are for buying. ”

I’m sure that comment was left by someone who makes his or her living selling yellow page advertising.  It’s a GREAT line – but it exposes an essential “truth” .    It acknowledges is that people – in general-  are going to the internet FIRST to research their purchasing decisions.   When they don’t find the answers online that’s when they pick up the yellow pages to buy.

With that in mind, yellow page advertising does have a place in the marketing mix for many businesses.  However, the printed yellow page directories are making the death march to extinction and if that is the sole way you advertise your business – you might want to start working on a new marketing strategy .

I got my start in a  “traditional” advertising agency in the mid 1980’s because there wasn’t any other KIND of advertising agency way back in the stone age.   In those days we wore primitive clothing fashioned from animal skins and chipped pithy marketing messages onto cave walls and onto stone tablets by firelight. Even as we battled sabre tooth tigers along the way to client meetings, we still recognized the need for our client’s business to be listed in directories.

In those days (as now) the yellow page advertising representative’s opinion was that our clients needed a full page, four color ad in the yellow pages.  As the appointed keepers of the advertising budget – we at the agency held a different point of view.  The result were many heated and lively exchanges and as a result, I have few friends in the yellow page advertising industry.  😉

It’s my belief that a business (big or small) that is engaged in a strategic marketing campaign created with the target customer in mind doesn’t NEED a huge display ad in the yellow pages.   Those dollars can be much more effective when spent in other media.

In my book,  Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results, I recommend business owners devote about 7% of their marketing budget to listings in directories.  That’s not a lot but it’s more than enough if you’re spending the other 93% wisely.

For example, if you are a brick and mortar business owner who is in the heating and air conditioning business – then I would NEVER recommend that you stop advertising your business in the yellow pages.  However, I would also not recommend you spend the majority of your advertising budget there either.

Remember – by the time someone is looking for your business in a directory – they’ve already made a decision to purchase.   That’s why I recommend that the other 93% of your marketing budget should be spent influencing people to choose your business BEFORE they decide to purchase.

Wouldn’t you rather be talking to prospective customers BEFORE they’ve decided to buy?

The yellow page advertising rep desperately wants you to believe that the prospective customer who is picking up the yellow pages is operating from a “clean slate”.   In this fantasy land, your yellow page advertising rep will provide LOTS of “documentation” which “proves” your prospective customer opens the yellow pages and INSTANTLY picks the largest, most colorful ad. However, that’s not how advertising works in the “real” world. The example I use to get people thinking about how the yellow pages really work is to choose something they don’t need every day -like  finding a roofer.

The exercise goes something like this- pick up a copy of the yellow pages and start looking for a roofer.  Pay attention to what’s going through your mind as you scan through the pages.  Chances are you’ll notice that you’re searching for is a name that is FAMILIAR!!!

See, the only way the largest most colorful ad in the yellow pages is going to “win” is if you have absolutely NO CLUE of what roofing company is reputable in your area.  Otherwise, the race is going to to go the business with the “best” reputation – the one that is MOST familiar!

For example, yesterday as I was driving to the grocery store, I heard an ad on the radio by a local roofing company.  Right now, I can’t tell you the name of the company – but if my roof started leaking tomorrow – that ad would be having an influence on me.  It would be working on my subconscious as I began my search for a roofing contractor.  That roofing contractor’s name is going to be familiar and I’m more likely to call him than anyone else in the directory.   If I hear his ad again today, that familiarity will be strengthened.   If I hear that ad another 120 times I’ll probably be able to recite the roofing company’s name off the top of my head.   (That is how advertising works.)

Here’s the rub: If I were to pick up the phone and call, if  the receptionist were to ask how I “found” their business – I’d say, “The Yellow Pages!”  While that would be true – but that wouldn’t be the WHOLE truth!   The roofing contractor’s radio ad would literally be the unsung hero of his marketing campaign.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS BUSINESS!!!!

Smart business owners will have a marketing strategy in place with the goal to build familiarity with their customers.  One way to breed “familiarity” is to create a website that reaches customers while they are searching for answers!  Grab customers at that point and they’ll rarely find their way to the yellow pages!

The problem is that most small business owners have websites that do NOT come up when people are searching for answers to their GDP – Goals, Desires and Problems.

As long as your competitors don’t have a website that provides answers to the GDP of the target audience, then it becomes a game of one upsmanship within the confines of the yellow pages.  However, if you discover how to reach customers BEFORE they head to the yellow pages – how to put your website in front of those prospective customers when they’re researching their decision – long BEFORE they’ve decided to buy – well – then suddenly  the size of the ad in the yellow pages really doesn’t matter at that point, does it?

Warning: Serious MSIE Security Risk Discovered – AGAIN!

If you’re using the web browser Microsoft Internet Explorer (which 7 out of 10 internet users are) then you are exposing yourself to a SERIOUS security risk – even if you’re using the most recent version!

The Guardian reports:

Users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer have been warned of a flaw that could let hackers gain access to their computers and steal personal data, and told them to swap to a rival browser.

The flaw was spotted last week when hackers started attacking users of IE 7. The flaw, however, has also been found in earlier versions of Microsoft’s browser, IE 5 and IE 6.

The Guardian reports that so far, the security hole has only been exploited to steal computer code from rival gamers – but a security hole is a security hole and once the dam has been breached – expects other data to “leak”.

Chris over at Monty’s Mega Marketing blog warns:

The flaw in IE allows criminals to gain control of computers that have visited a website infected with malicious code designed to exploit it. While restricting web surfing to trusted sites should reduce the risk of infection, the malicious code can be injected into any website. Users do not have to click or download anything to become infected, merely visiting an infected website is sufficient.

Obsessable.com reports:

Over 10,000 websites have been compromised since the threat was discovered and security experts are recommending that Internet Explorer users switch temporarily to another browser until Microsoft addresses this security hole.

P2Pnet News reports:

Usually, in attacks of this kind, victims have to actually click on something to set a process in motion

But not this time, says Heise. All they have to do is merely open an innocuous seeming page.

“It targets a particularly dangerous hole in all versions of the Microsoft browser,” it states,  warning there’s no patch and, “a Windows PC can become infected with malicious software through the simple act of opening a web page.

What can you do?

The answer is quite simple Download and start using Firefox.

While you’re at it – dump the other Microsoft product that is constantly under hacker attack that you’re probably using to manage your email – Outlook or Outlook Express – and pick up Thunderbird.

By the way, switching your browser to Firefox is one of the daily lessons covered in the 8 Week Power Blog Launch course.  If you’re still using Internet Explorer – this recent security alert (which was also issued for the last TWO versions of MSIE by the way – that’s why there’s the little “AGAIN” in the title) should be the final nail in the coffin.

Not only does Firefox offer some incredible plug ins to make your web surfing more efficient – using Firefox is also the best way to make sure the data on your computer STAYS on your computer and doesn’t “leak” out via a hole in your browser.

Disappointing customers without remorse – until the handouts begin

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ignore, abuse and ridicule your customers and still make money?  Usually, the ability to “ignore” the economic realities of doing business is limited to giant corporations who keep running in spite of themselves.  However, a recent phenomenon is for these giant corporations to come begging for taxpayer money because they’re just too important to our economy to allow them to “go under”.

Reuters reported yesterday that GM has issued a HUGE “mea culpa” to the “American People” in yet another effort to secure more money from the government.   In the article at Reuters, GM says it “disappointed” and “betrayed” consumers:

General Motors Corp on Monday unveiled an unusually frank advertisement acknowledging it had “disappointed” and sometimes even “betrayed” American consumers as it lobbies to clinch the federal aid it needs to stay afloat into next month.

The print advertisement marked a sharp break from GM’s public stance of just several weeks ago when it sought to justify its bid for a U.S. government on the grounds that the credit crisis had undermined its business in ways executives could never have foreseen.

It also came as Chief Executive Rick Wagoner, who has led the automaker since 2000, faces new pressure to step aside as GM seeks up to $18 billion in federal funding.

GM has been making repeated trips to the government hand out trough.  Briggs Armstrong in a post at the Ludwig von Mises Institute blog points out:

It should not be forgotten that in September of 2008, Congress gave the “big three” automakers a loan totaling $25 billion. Now they are back. This time they say that with a mere $50 billion they can turn things around and become profitable in the future.

I can’t remember a time when GM cared about their pleasing their customers.   In the words of just about every business analyst on the planet – the reason GM isn’t making any  money is they aren’t making cars anyone wants to buy!

I love working with small business owners and this is why – because small business owners “get it”.  If they don’t, they’re bankrupt and broke in no time.  Meanwhile, it is going to literally take an act of Congress for GM execs to get it through their collective thick corporate heads that they need to start building cars people WANT to buy.

Remember the blockbuster movie, Transformers – released way back in 2007?  Remember the ultra HOT Camaro featured in the movie?  Remember?  Gosh – I remember.  I haven’t been passionate about a car in DECADES, yet I really wanted to own a new Camaro when I walked out of that movie.  It’s a good thing I couldn’t walk out of the theater and buy one because there would be on sitting in my driveway right now if GM had played their cards right.

Instead 2009 is almost upon us and  you may be able to finally drive one next spring.  That’s right – spring of  2009.   Oh, and instead of featuring the 2010 Camaro in another blockbuster action movie (been there, done that) , the dolts in charge of marketing are giving you a sneak peak during a third rate network television show “My Own Worst Enemy”.  (Is that show still ON television?  Hasn’t it been cancelled yet?)

Can you imagine Naomi Dunford promoting her Online Business School and then waiting two YEARS to release it for sale?  If Naomi were to adopt such an idiotic marketing strategy, you’d seriously doubt her marketing acumen – yet that’s the rule rather than the exception over at GM.

Long live small business!  Long live the small business owners who “get it” and who product products and services that people want to buy!

Why this is a GREAT time to start your own small business!

Actually, anytime is a GREAT time to start your own business – but these days, with the media bleating about how “bad” the economy is – [insert PRIMAL SCREAM] their pessimism may be EXACTLY what you need to begin building your own dream of starting a business. There’s never been a better time to being offering your own solutions to the trials and tribulations other businesses – and the people who run them – are facing every day.

Jason Cohen in a guest post over at On Startups gives 6 Reasons Why This Economy Is Good For Startups. Tom Volkar also has a great post on Grounding your Business Vision. (For some really great tips on what NOT to do once you’ve made the leap, read Cath Lawson’s How Not To Promote Your Business On The Internet)

Why do I make a primal scream over the media’s bleating?    Because I believe  the media is trying their best to turn an “economic slow down” into the next Great Depression!    Consumer confidence plays a HUGE role in the current US economy and when traditional media outlets spend every second bleating about how “bad” the economy is – well, consumer confidence is destroyed and VIOLA!  A self fulfilling prophecy at work.

Scream “FIRE” long enough and when someone finally lights up a cigarette –  people are going to panic!

I’m not saying the US economy is in “high growth mode”.  (By the way, another name for “high growth  mode” is INFLATION!)  But I am saying that if you take your world view from the evening news, you’re doomed to viewing the glass as half full.   Look at the media reporting of Black Friday sales.  Remember – good news doesn’t sell newspapers which is the reason for the need to “spin” coverage.  For example , Reuters reports Music retailers report bleak sales on Black Friday. See the spin?   “Oh, doom and gloom!  Music retailers can’t sell music on CDs.”  (Maybe that has more to do with selling music via downloads than the economy.)   Meanwhile PC Mag reports ‘Black Friday’ Pretty Rosy for Retailers. Same day, different report, different spin.  See, PC Mag isn’t trying to sell papers – Reuters is!

Meanwhile,  on the web Carrie Hall reports that Search Advertising is Strong in this “Adverse Economy”. Gee – if this is the beginning of another Great Depression – why is spending increasing on search advertising?  Either business owners are idiots for spending money to attract business that doesn’t exist – or maybe things are not as bad as you’ve been lead to believe.

For why this gets under my skin, here’s a snippet from a post from my blog promoting my book (Beyond the Niche) on the subject of smart small business marketing strategies

I’ll NEVER forget a conversation I had with a client many years ago -during a previous “economic downturn”.  The day before our monthly meeting, my client had attended a networking function where EVERYONE was “bemoaning” how “terrible” business was for them.  (Of course, few of them were actively measuring their advertising effectiveness.)  My client joined in the bitch session like a good little networking master.

We met the following day and I was greeted with a glum, “I’m sorry – but I’m going to have to cut my advertising budget because of the bad economic conditions.”   I didn’t know what had happened in the networking meeting at the time and I was shocked.  The last I knew, sales were up because of our efforts.

Instead of accepting her decision, I challenged my client.  I asked her to pull out her books and check this year’s sales against last year’s sales.  She did and was STUNNED by what she saw.  Her sales in that month were running a full 20% AHEAD of the previous year.

Yes, that’s right.  My client’s perception was critically altered thanks to the networking event.  She accepted their fate as her own and instead of rejoicing about a 20% increase in sales, she was ready to cut her lifeline to the very key to keeping her business healthy and growing.

Perception is EVERYTHING – in life and in business.

Somehow, the two (life and business) are magically and mystically intertwined. 😉

If you think your business is about to collapse – believe me, even if it’s not – your perception of the “truth” will make it happen!

If you’ve been pink slipped – take this as your opportunity to do it RIGHT in the marketplace!!!

If you were recently fired, I’ll bet you could probably write a BOOK on all the things your previous employer was doing WRONG!  Do you really think you got fired because of the poor economy – or was it because your former employer ran his/her business badly?  (Sure, we should all try new things and do more things badly, but some businesses seem to have that as their business motto!)

If social media is killing traditional media, my response is “good riddance!  Don’t let the media bleating affect your destiny.  If you’re feeling the need to start your own business, now is the time to do so! However, if you think starting your own business means you can sit on your ass and rake in cash – well, that doesn’t happen often in “good” times but it’s even harder to make happen now.

Do you have a way to make something faster, easier, better?    GREAT!!!  Get on it!  Make it happen!

So if you already have a business, start focusing on getting the solutions you offer in front of the people who need and are able to BUY what is is you have to offer!  If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, make certain that  in the business you DO CREATE that what you’re offering something of VALUE to your prospective customers or clients. Then hit the ground running and make it happen!

The future is only as bright as you can envision it will be!

You can’t make money sitting on your ass

If you want to know the secrets to business success – it’s not really a secret.  One of the key factors to business success is follow through!

Follow through as in “you can’t make money just sitting on your ass.”

It’s been estimated that 75% of internet leads are lost because of lack of follow through.  If I had to point to  the single most common reason for marketing failure – it would have to be lack of follow through.

There’s an upcoming movie called Yes Man based on the Danny Wallace book of the same name.  In the book, Wallace describes how he spent six months “saying Yes where once would have said No”. He embarked on this experiment in an effort to make his life more interesting and positive.

It should be noted that when Wallace said, “Yes” in his experiment, he obviously followed through because simply saying yes  won’t change your life.

Saying “Yes” is one thing, PERFORMING the action of “Yes”  is another!

Jim Carey stars in the movie version and it’s being marketed as a “comedy”.  Obviously there are zany consequences to saying yes to everything that comes your way! If I were actively pimping the movie, I’d include a video trailer here.

When opportunity comes knocking – it’s one thing to say “YES” – it’s another to follow through and not only open the door, but walk through it!

There’s a saying that goes along the lines of, “If you want something done – give the task to a busy man.”  I frequently think of this quote when I ask for information from someone and they never get back to me because more often than not, it’s the people who aren’t DOING anything who don’t get back to me.

For example,  I remember when I was composing a newsletter and the natural “call to action for the article was to offer more information.  The problem was while the newsletter was VERY relevant to what was showing up in my practice at the time, I had neither the desire nor the resources to fill this need for my clients and/or newsletter subscribers.   Fortunately, I had recently been introduced to someone who claimed that this area WAS his area of expertise and it was somewhere he wanted to dedicate his time and energy.

So – I wanted to offer my readers access to a resource and I had recently been introduce to someone who wanted to offer these services.  (In case you didn’t know – this is one of my FAVORITE things in life.  I just ADORE introducing people who need each others services.)

So,  I contacted this fellow and asked if he had a free e book or white paper which I could offer my newsletter readers to close the issue.  He replied that he didn’t have anything prepared, but he’d get something to me in a few days.

At that moment, I was feeling REALLY good about my place in the universe.  Talk about “flow”.   I mean, not only am I about to connect my readers with someone who can really solve their problems, but I’ve also helped put a fledgling service provider on the right “marketing” track as well.  Since this guy was just starting out, I gave him some slack on not having this piece prepared.

If you’re going to be selling your services (a.ka. nothing but air), part of your marketing strategy must be to have some sort of “virtual brochure”.  There’s nothing better way than to start establishing trust with your potential clients  than a white paper on “10 Things you must know about [insert service provided here].”   Such a resource is literally a must have resource as part of your marketing strategy!

I made the request for that white paper over a year ago and I’m still waiting.  Don’t get me wrong,  I’m not upset.  On the contrary, I feel like I dodged a bullet.  I mean, the last thing I want to do is to introduce people to a flake who can’t or won’t follow through.

Unfortunately, this post wasn’t inspired by a year old event.  It was inspired by deja vu all over again kind of thing that just happened.  Maybe December is just a bad month to try to get anything DONE!

Follow through is one of the key factors in business success.

Follow through is more precious than gold.  Follow through is more precious than any gemstone.   Sometimes follow through is called by another name “persistence”.

I guess that’s yet another reason why a blog is a GREAT internet presence to judge someone’s”follow through” factor.  What better way to observe someone’s “follow through” and vision than through a blog.  I mean, it takes a certain level of dedication to commit to a blogging schedule and stick to it.   It’s one thing to have a business vision – it’s another to follow through and make it a reality.

If you want to know the secret to success – you should know it’s not a big secret -it’s follow through.

Thomas Edison is credited with saying, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

When opportunity knocks, get off your ass and answer the door.  Oh – and if opportunity isn’t knocking – get off your ass and start knocking on some doors!!!  Once someone answers – FOLLOW THROUGH!!!

Web Terms You Need to Know: Landing Pages

If you’re new to marketing via the web – or even if you’re not – you may not be familiar with the web marketing term of LANDING PAGES.  However, it’s a term you should know, love and even embrace because your landing page can make or break your web site management and marketing efforts.

A LANDING PAGE is simply a page specifically designed with a purpose in mind.  It’s the first page that a visitor will see when he/she arrives at your site.  As with most of the posts I do here, this post was inspired by a horribly misdirected effort which literally broke my heart.

My story begins as I was exchanging emails with a  publisher about the possibility of me writing a book.  I’m using my Gmail to correspond with him and as I’m logged in to Gmail, my eye is magnetically DRAWN to an ad which appears across the top of my screen.  It is truly a MAGNIFICENT example of a Google Adwords.  It was short, it was pithy and it was compelling – the only “problem” is it was tightly targeted towards MD’s.  So much for my growing suspicion that Google knows EVERYTHING about me- turns out they don’t know I didn’t go to medical school.

I wish I’d copied and saved the ad before I clicked because even though I’m not an MD who wants to hire a ghostwriter, I felt compelled to click.    Yeah, it was THAT GOOD

To say I was aghast when I got there would be an understatement.  The Google Adwords author was obviously not familar with the term “LANDING PAGE” as part of his web site management and marketing efforts.  While the ad I clicked was tightly targeted to medical doctors who want to hire a ghostwriter – the page I landed upon when I clicked the ad didn’t mention ghost writing for medical professionals in any way shape or form.  It was a generic one size fits all one page web site.

This my friends is a case of someone who needs an introduction to the concept of a Landing Page.

Seth Godin is constantly banging the Landing Page Drum.  As Brian over at SEO Moz points out, a well crafted landing page can make SEO easier as well.  Obviously, the gifted Adwords writer isn’t familiar with their work.

Landing Page Basics

Hit the links above for more in depth articles on Landing Page Basics.  (Seth’s is base line – Brian’s gets more in depth from an SEO perspective).

Creating an effective landing page hearkens back to the drum I frequently pound which is “Keep Your Visitor in Mind!”

Think of your web visitor.  Who is he/she?

Chances are that your visitors is searching the web for answers.  Whether it’s proper attire to wear for Wednesday night at the bowling alley or where they can score tickets to the  Britney Spears Circus Tour – web visitors often go web surfing with a purpose in mind.

A landing page is simply a page created with that specific visitor in mind.

For example, when I launched my 8 Week Power Blog Launch product, I ran a PPC campaign and targeted the the keyword term “How To Blog.”   I then created a Landing Page for that PPC campaign which leads with the copy,  “How to Blog!

The reason being, if someone is searching for “How to Blog” I don’t want them searching high and low for the answer to their question – which is “how to blog”.

Imagine if instead of sending a web surfer to a page that leads with the term they’re searching instead I sent them to the main page of THIS blog.  Sure, there’s a nice big ad for the product over in the right hand column – but that ad is competing with lots of OTHER content here.  The visitor might get distracted by my witty banter and dry wit.  Heck, I might start blogging about Hemp Bagels again and then the reader would be magically transported back to their college days. Before you know it, they’re out searching for their friendly neighborhood drug dealer rather than worrying about their original question which was – what was it again?  Oh yeah, they wanted to know “How to Blog.”

If you think ADD and ADHD are afflictions that only exist in the classroom -guess again.  Both these syndromes are alive and well on the web.  Easily distracted humans beings NEED landing pages to focus their attention on the task at hand.

Of course, the very most BASIC element of creating a landing page is to get inside the head of your visitor – the prospective customer or client you want to reach.  Need help with that?  Pick up a copy of my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results

Small Business Marketing Strategy & Tactics

Most of the posts Steps to Starting a Small Business series focus upon the marketing of your small business.  If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the focus on marketing as an essential part of starting a small business may come as a huge disappointment to you.  If you were hoping to start a small business without spending a majority of your time and effort on marketing your business – um, well consider this your wake up call.

Creating a strategic marketing strategy is perhaps the most ESSENTIAL step in starting a small business.   Creating a marketing strategy is different than chasing marketing tactics.  A marketing strategy is essentially knowing what you’re selling and to whom you’d like to sell it.  A marketing TACTIC is nothing more than a way in which you’re going to achieve your marketing strategy.

Your marketing strategy is knowing what you’re selling and to whom you’re selling it to.  I know this sounds “simplistic” but it’s really surprising how often this most basic of business building steps is overlooked. (For an amusing illustration of a BIG company who really missed the mark on this one – read Cath Lawson’s Does Your Business Really Understand People? )

Which brings me to this essential point:

A blog can be a GREAT marketing “tactic” but it’s a LOUSY marketing strategy!

It’s why so many small businesses create websites that do absolutely nothing!  A website, whether it’s a blog or any other style of website, must be a marketing tool which you put to use to achieve your marketing strategy.

When you know WHO you want to sell your products or services to, then you need to find a way to let the people you want to sell your products and services to know that you have what they want or need.    That’s where a blog or website comes in!

In creating a blog or website that works, begin by finding a keyword combination people are actually USING to find products and services you offer.

This is frequently where the wheels fall off for most small business owners.    If you don’t know WHO your target audience is, there’s no way of knowing WHAT WORDS they are using to find solutions on the internet.

Talk about trying to find a needle in the haystack – try finding keywords when you don’t have a target audience in mind!

That’s why choosing a target audience is an essential part of crafting your marketing strategy.  When you have a target audience in mind,  you can then set out to find the words those people are using to find information on the internet.

Now comes the “easy” part.  This is where you create posts for your blog with your target audience in mind where you talk about the problems they’re having and how YOU offer the solutions they need.

Yes, marketing a small business is REALLY that “simple” – but if you’ve tried it you know that while it’s simple, it’s anything but “easy”.

If you’re struggling with the task of marketing your small business, it’s probably because you don’t have a marketing strategy in place.   I know, I know – you didn’t start your [insert your business product or service] because you wanted to spend your time on “marketing”.   However, marketing is an essential step to starting a small business.

Shedding Light into the Darkest Corners of the Web

If you tell lies about a product, you will be found out – either by the Government, which will prosecute you, or by the consumer, who will punish you by not buying your product a second time.

David M Ogilvy

If there’s one HUGE disadvantage to doing business on the web it’s that it is REALLY easy for people to be – well, let’s say “less than authentic”.

Unfortunately, it’s very, very easy for those who are NOT “web savvy” to be taken in by someone who “baffles them with BS!”

A few weeks ago, I was “virtually introduced” to a small business web marketing consultant and SEO “expert”   During the initial introduction, this small business web marketing consultant and SEO expert shared that she wanted to talk to me because she would like to enter into the dazzling and exciting world of blogging.

This statement is causing red flags are going up ALL OVER the place for me.

A small business web marketing consultant and SEO expert needs MY SERVICES to set up a blog?!?!?!?

No, no, no.  My clients are people who use Hotmail and AOL because they can’t figure out how to set up Outlook Express.    My clients want an easy to use and effective internet presence because if it’s not easy, they can’t use it.   A few of my clients don’t know the difference between an email address and a URL -yet they’re successfully blogging – blogs rock! My clients are the reason I wrote my 8 Week Power Blog Launch course… because once they “mastered” the mechanics of blogging, they didn’t know what to do next.

One thing is certain, my clients usually do not proclaim that they are small business web marketing experts  OR experts in SEO!

One of the things I share in the course are the “secret authenticity discovery tools” available for free  which allow you to see exactly HOW much someone who claims to know SEO really knows.   I mean, if you claim to be a nutrition expert, then I don’t expect you to have a six digit or less Alexa ranking, but if you’ve written books on SEO and claim to be an expert, I really expect to see better than a 4.6 Million Alexa rank.

Yet again, another reason I LOVE blogs!!! 

Blogs can act as a great “authenticity” meter.

Since the small business web marketing consultant and SEO expert doesn’t have a blog, all you can do when you get to her website is to read the three articles on her website or buy a copy of her book.  Did she write the articles?  Who knows – she doesn’t write regularly enough to see if she wrote that copy or if she stole it from someone else.

Did she even  write a book?   (There’s no link to purchase it on her website – but she references it frequently in her email to me.)   Again,  I have no idea, but one has to wonder how “authentic” her expertise on SEO is with an Alexa ranking of 4.6 Million.

There are plenty of people who hire others to write for them.  There’s nothing wrong with this practice – unless you’re hiring someone to demonstrate expertise that you in fact do not possess.

As I was publishing my book I discovered someone was doing just that with articles I had written and published on my old static website.   Turns out a web development firm in New Zealand that had copied every single word of my old HTML static website and published it as their own work.  After I got over the shock, I had to laugh.  The secret spy tools told the whole story.  Let’s just say it was obvious that GOOGLE was giving me credit as the original author of the content.

Here’s the deal – you can hire the “published author, small business web marketing consultant and SEO expert” I recently met who has an Alexa ranking of 4.6 Million to act as your virtual mentor.  You can go to her website, read a few articles and if you want, call her to set up an appointment.  (Oh, good luck with that – you have to schedule an appointment with her VA to talk to her – her time is VERY valuable!)

OR you can have Naomi Dunford of the blog IttyBiz with an Alexa Ranking in the  100K range give you advice on building your online business and SEO.  I’ve never tried to call Naomi but she responds very quickly to email – unlike the “expert” above!

The kicker – you can access Naomi’s “wisdom” by picking up a copy of her SEO Ninja course OR you can pay 10 times that price to book an hour of the SEO pretender’s time.

TRUST -TRUST-TRUST-TRUST-TRUST!

If you get the feeling I don’t “trust” this new contact – you’d be correct!   Oh, and if you get the feeling that I do trust Naomi – well, you’d be right on the money again.

I trust Naomi because of MONTHS of reading her regular blog posts – post I miss now that she’s gone “big time”.

I’ll bet there are people you trust because you’re a regular reader of their blog as well.

Which is why, if you’re selling your expertise and you don’t have a blog – you need one.  There’s no better way to demonstrate your expertise.

When You Hear Hemp, Do you Think “Rope” or “Dope”?

A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet – or would it?

I’ve written before about how important choosing the right name is for your business, well here’s another example of how powerful the right name can be.

I made a visit to the health food store the other day.  As I was there, picking up my assortment of herbal remedies to bolster my immune system against the ravages of time and turmoil, the store owner came bounding up to me to share their newest product discovery : Hemp Bagels.

Right now, you’re probably imagining brownies laced with dried herbs of questionable medicinal value- at least, I know that’s what raced through MY mind as the tiny woman gleefully bounded towards the refrigerated section to share her latest discovery.   Why else would she be so excited?

In case you didn’t know, hemp – which has certain “medicinal” properties when dried –  was grown extensively back in WWII to make an extremely durable rope.

Allow me to share with you this ugly secret – when you think of hemp bagels – think of rope – not dope!

Trust me when I tell you that hemp bagels barely qualify as a food product.  However, with 19 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber, hemp bagels are a really HEALTHY way to start the day.  At more than $1.00 a piece, they’re also one of the most EXPENSIVE breakfast foods on the planet!

Hemp seeds are highly nutritious, and contain beneficial omega fatty acids, amino acids, and minerals.  Trust me – they may possibly be the seed version of the fountain of youth but I haven’t figured out if they really will make my live longer or if it will just SEEM like life is dragging endlessly on – a parade of day after day of rope-like bagels.

I would consider hemp bagels as an essential part of the “if it tastes good – spit it out” school of diet and nutrition.   Yet they are selling by the CASE LOADS out of this tiny little health food store.

As I look back over the whole sales pitch, I never remember once any mention of hemp bagels being a tasty treat.  Nope – the entire sales pitch was on how healthy they are for me.

Knowing WHY people are buying is important.  I don’t know WHY I thought that hemp bagels would be as tasty as “healthy” high fiber Pop-Tarts – because I know that the “healthy” high fiber Pop Tarts are NOT healthy.  It’s entirely possible that hemp bagels are the secret to long life, thin thighs and limitless energy.  They certainly taste like they are.

I think naming them “Hemp” bagels was a genius naming move.   Visions of smoke filled rooms with music from the 60’s playing filled my head instead of the more appropriate image of a bagle which shares many qualities with virtually indestructible rope.

This is why it’s ESSENTIAL to know WHY your customers are buying your product or service.  Despite the fact that they’re expensive AND taste like rope, people are buying those suckers like they’re going out of style.

“They’re SOOO good for you” – I should have known that was the nutritional equivalent of “He’s got a GREAT personality!”  I don’t know if I can bring myself to buy more – even though my pants are noticably looser as a result of adding them to my daily diet.   Let’s face facts, when you start your morning eating rope bagels, the day has no where to go but up!