Pick Your Niche and Target Your Message

It’s common wisdom that all any service professional or consultants needs to be successful is "passion". Let it be known here that passion alone can be overrated. When you’re building a practice, you need more than passion. You need more than a high level of dedication and energy to succeed. You need a plan. A marketing plan with a marketing budget to be exact.

We’ve all seen this scenario played out in some form in your hometown. Typically, it begins as some starry-eyed owner rents retail space. The newly minted entrepreneur then spends his capital on cash registers, inventory and store signage.

When it’s time to open the doors to the shop, the owner is tapped out. The new business, struggling along on the thread bare path of "word of mouth" waits impatiently as bills mount and customers trickle in at a painfully slow pace. Within a matter of months, the newly opened store is finally spending some money on marketing, only it’s being spent advertising a "Going Out Of Business" sale.

To avoid the same fat, you need a marketing plan (a part of your overall business plan).  Your marketing plan should begin with a thorough investigation into your target market.

* Who are your customers?
* Who is the competition?
* What problems do they have?
* What problems can you solve?
* Is someone willing and able to write a check to hire you to solve the above mentioned problems?

Once you’ve answered the questions above, you can successfully pick your "niche" market. The wonderful thing about niche markets is they are tightly targeted. That means your marketing dollars go further.

Marketing is merely a matter of bringing the solutions your target market is looking for to the attention of those who will benefit the most.

By defining those who will benefit most from your goods or services, you narrow your focus. Instead of "spraying and praying" with your marketing message, you’re speaking directly to your target audience. That cuts down considerably on your overall marketing expenses.

Finally, remember that marketing is not sales. Marketing is focused on the sales you’ll make next quarter and beyond. In sales, the focus is upon the sales to be made THIS quarter.

A tale of three blogs…

Over at Blog Grrll, she tells an amusing tale of three little blogs

Based on the tale of the three little pigs, the author has done a GREAT job of applying the moral of the original story to her new, modern "piglets". 

Basically, the moral to her cautionary tale is the same as the moral to the tale of the original three little pigs: "Hard work pays off later…. laziness pays off immediately!"

When I tell my clients that my blogs don’t reach "critical" mass until 100 posts…. it frightens many of them.  Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

Do you need SEO (Do It Yourself or Otherwise)?

Great post over at Search This on the myths surrounding Do It Yourself Search Engine Optimization.

In the post, the author points out how paying professionals to practice their craft is often the smartest investment of time and energy.  For example, I am certainly capable of cooking supper, but often I’ll pick up the phone and pay someone else to dirty THEIR kitchen to prepare food for me.  I save time not only in preparation but also in kitchen clean up, time I can spend in either leisure or working.

Yes, you probably COULD do your own Search Engine Optimization.  I have no doubt that you could purchase books, take e-courses and learn how to create a search engine friendly site, just as I could spend hours watching Food Network, take courses, buy cook books and learn how to cook.  

The question remains, "Should you invest your time and energy in that pursuit?"

Because, honestly…. if you really CARED about Search Engine Optimization…. you probably wouldn’t be reading this post.  (Just as, if I CARED about my lack of domestic abilities, I’d be at the Food Network site right now.)

It’s my guess that the only reason you CARE about SEO is that you’re under the impression that it may be the magic tool to increase your web site’s profitability.  That may or may not be true.

So while the post at Search This explores whether you possess the time/talent/inclination to pursue Do It Yourself Seach Engine Optimization, I’d like to challenge you to step back and ask yourself, "Is investing in Search Engine Optimization an efficient use of my marketing dollars?"

First, ask yourself if your customers are searching for answers to their problems on the internet. 

Begin by researching your keyword phrases. Research your absolute best, most descriptive keyword phrases…. and what do you see?  Do you see that less than 1000 people are searching for that phrase each and every month?  If so, you’ve GOT to ask yourself whether investing in SEO, either the Do It Yourself variety or the hire an expert kind, are a worthwhile investment.

I have a LOT of clients who are consulting professionals.  They have each possess a specialized skill set and are a valuable asset to their client.  However, their clients did NOT go searching for the answers to their problems via the internet.  Many of those clients are utilizing their blog as a way to SHOWCASE their skills and talents.  Don’t get me wrong, a web site that can be found by potential clients searching for your solution is ESSENTIAL to the success of your business.  However, creating a web site and engaging in Search Engine Optimization around a series of keywords that does not cause clients/customers to pick up the phone is fool hardy.

Next, ask yourself what kind of sales are you trying to make.  According to Neil Rackham…. there are two types of sales.  There are Minor Sales and there are Major Sales.  In the vast majority of cases, it’s the Minor Sale web site owner who needs to make an investment in SEO.  The Major Sale web site owner needs to focus his/her time and energies on building trust as part of laying the ground work for the sale. 

For more on this subject… pick up my book Beyond the Niche. In it, I help you see the differences between marketing and advertising the Minor Sale and the Major Sale.



The real key to creating marketing magic….

As a "legal bribe" I’ve created an ebook that takes you step by step through the process of creating marketing magic.  It’s a great resource (so I’ve been told) and one that has travelled far and wide.  I’ve recently learned that it’s being offered as a free resource on other sites promoting marketing "magic". 

In the ebook, I outline 10 steps to follow.  I also offer one on one consulting with business owners who need help with the process… and what I’ve discovered is there is a much needed disclaimer for the ebook…. it only works if you follow the steps.

Ron Popeil hawks his Showtime Rotisserie by telling viewers that they can cook great meals without the work.  All they have to do is "Set it and forget it!"

I’m here to tell you right here, right now….There isn’t any such thing as set it and forget it marketing. 

I know that small business owners have a LOT on their plate.  As a small business owner, you get to be CEO, CFO, CMO, and a whole host of other alphabet soup titles.  The hats you wear are the ones people who are employed in mega-corporations spend 10 hours a day doing…. yet as a small business owner, you’re lucky if you get to spend a full hour a day on any one of these roles.

If you’re going to create marketing magic, you’re going to HAVE to find a way to "connect" with your potential customers.  You’ve GOT to find a way to garner their ear (or their eye). 

Writing is an excellent way to connect.  Speaking is another.  Blogs are absolutely GREAT communication tools because no matter WHAT your preferred method of communication, your blog can be the way you deliver your message.

If you’re not comfortable writing, then pick up a web cam and start recording.  Upload your video and feature it in your blog.  Not ready for video?  Then record your voice and speak your message.  Hate how you sound on tape?  Then set your fingers to your keyboard and start writing.

If NONE of these works for you, then hire a ghost writer.  Advertising 2.0 is all about TWO WAY communication with your customers/clients.  If you’re not a great communicator… that’s ok.  But if you’re not, recognize it and then get someone on staff who IS a great communicator and put them in charge of …. communications! 



Is it time to replace your PC with a Mac?

Dell Warns Customers About Complications From Vista screams the title of a blog post over at Tech Dirt.

I’ve been warning MY clients and customers about the "dangers" of Vista before it was launched.  Bill G et. al. are FAMOUS for releasing software before it’s been properly "debugged" and quite honestly, my clients are NOT the debugging type. 

So, when Dell starts backpedaling and brings back systems which run XP, something’s up.  According to the article at Tech Dirt:

Dell must be fearful that it will suffer if their customers make a major investment into new machines running Vista that doesn’t pan out as planned.

There’s a commercial running lately whose tag line is "people are smart"…. and the message being delivered is basically, if you’re smart, you’ll get your loan from Ditech.  From their web site:

It’s true – people are smart. And it’s the customer’s smart that we respect and strive to live up to; because people know what they want in life. They know what’s best for them and their family. And they know that if we offer competitive home mortgages and smart financial solutions, together, we can make the most of our smart. That is, if we’re smart about it.

Microsoft has NEVER operated with this premise in mind.  It’s almost as if Microsoft’s theory is that people are DUMB.  The thing is, people, in general, have been through this OS upgrade before with Microsoft.  While most don’t remember Windows 3.1 or earlier…. with more and more people entering the market, you have more and more people getting gradually "smarter" about computers.  

Mac has been doing  a WONDERFUL job of defining the differences between Macs and PCs…… unfortunately, while people may be smart, many of us are overworked and overstressed.   Wonder how much of that stress would be relieved if I purchased a Mac. 

Now THAT is the sign of an EFFECTIVE advertising campaign.  Gotta love those Mac ads!!!