Friday, September 3, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Just a quick post announcing there’s a short presentation* available now for any small or micro business owners/executives asking:
- Why should my company be concerned with process?
- How should we develop processes for our business?
*A version of this can also be presented to your organization’s leadership upon request.
Comments, questions, and feedback welcomed here!
Friday, April 9, 2010
To some, it might be utterly shameful to have someone call your writing boring. It happened to me twice in the last six months. Am I completely ashamed to admit it? Not really. (Warning: I can be feisty as evidenced by #tracysfeistytweets and this previous post. Not scared? Read on about why I wrote boring content.)
Scenario #1: “I want to do an e-newsletter article on X,” says the Entrepreneur.
Even the best writers have been there. Whether an independent contractor for an agency, a solo practitioner, or a freelance writer, the client (in this case an entrepreneur) uses the two dreaded words, emphatically, “I want.” The decision has been made. The idea has been handed to you to make real. There’s little you—as the grunt writer—can do to influence the topic decision. You are not paid or contracted to advise, guide, educate, or instruct. Maybe you tried before and it fell on deaf ears. Maybe you have not been brought on as a trusted advisor. Someone else in the organization might be expressing concern about the topic as dangerously close to becoming a technical dissertation. (But isn’t heard.) In this scenario, you are paid to put words together that make sense under the buyer’s (Mr. Entrepreneur’s) direction.
[So I mumble to myself, and blog about it later] Against my better judgment to ask your readers (aka target market) what interests them, I will write your topic. While normally I would advise that we at least brainstorm to develop content topics according to your audience (based on where they fall on the continuum Unaware>Aware>Understand>Believe>Act), I will write your topic. Although I think your staff has valid concerns, I will ignore them and write your topic.
The Comment: “It’s not very exciting (translation: it’s boring) and it’s not going to win any Pulitzers.”
The Downfall: It’s an educational e-newsletter article based on a particular topic that the audience probably does not care about in the first place. Sure, it positions the company as an expert on technical execution concerning X. But there is little marketing value in that if prospects don’t value having an understanding of X. In fact, they may opt-out and therefore cease to be part of your reachable target market.
The Saving Grace: Some readers might find it endearing that YOU are interested in and passionate enough about your field’s technical details enough to want to share them. You probably won’t lose a sale for lack of passion for what you do. Even if they opt out, they may remember your name because of your expertise.
The Take-Away: Approach your writing project (whether marketing or any kind of communications) as a means to deliver value and quality as defined by your market, not you, based on research and input.
Scenario #2: Web Page Content for a Small Business
I’m working with the ideal small business client. She has the basics—a logo, a sparse but professionally built website, business cards, and a brochure. She also has a combination of factors I admire—past technical expertise in her field, curiosity, a willingness to understand marketing options, open to a variety of solutions, good decision-making skills, and an appreciation for the value of marketing and her hired marketing professional, whom she treats as a trusted advisor.
We agreed developing web page content for a specific service she’d like to promote was a top priority for the first phase of our work. Three things are in short supply, however: time, money, and general awareness about the importance of the service. Whereas PR and other efforts might help with the latter, more well-rounded communications efforts are hindered by the former. The result was a more educational web page vs. a sales-y web page. A call to action and rationale for choosing her small business as the service provider were included, of course, but much of the content was value justification.
The Comment: “It might be just me, but is it, er, kinda boring?”
The Downfall: It’s true that with a small budget and a lot of ground to cover, our communications sometimes have to do “double-duty”—informative and persuasive—at first.
The Saving Grace: Once we have a better sense of key metrics (e.g., impressions, bounce rates, referring sites, keywords used, SERPs, etc.) and we expand content development across media and touchpoints (e.g., published online articles, stories produced and covered by appropriate media, press releases, etc.), we can refine the content for a sales focus and off-load the “educational” stuff to more suitable venues. In the meantime, the page serves as an awareness-generator about the problem you solve—which is not a bad thing!
The Take-Away: Having the means to produce and distribute multiple content types is ideal. Get together with your marketing person to plan a communications strategy with the right messaging, collateral, and media and put a good budget behind it. Reserve some investment for public relations, especially if awareness-building and community involvement are needed.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
(NOTE: This is a series of occasional posts clarifying the things I don’t do, business-wise, marketing-wise, or social-media-wise. Same format each time.)
What: After approving a recommendation from someone, LinkedIn prompts you to “return the favor” by recommending the sender. I don’t make it standard practice to automatically recommend everyone back—especially clients—but am happy to do so if asked.
Why I Don’t Do It: When I see profiles with too many reciprocal recommendations, it makes me question the intent of both parties and the validity of their statements. Did one person proactively recommend another for the purpose of receiving a rec in return? Regardless of how the recommendation came to be, is there a sense of required reciprocity at work? If so, how does this affect the content, veracity, or quality of the recommendation? (In other words, does this “return the favor” message prompt a generic-sounding quid pro quo response, devoid of any real specific value?) I don’t automatically recommend someone right back because I’d rather know that the other party values a recommendation from me (i.e., will ask for one directly). The reverse is true: I don’t want someone to recommend me back automatically. I’d prefer for my profile (and those of my networked professionals!) to reflect authentic recommendations from various sources.
Stuff I Do Instead: I enjoy recommending people without expecting or requiring a recommendation back. If I’m asked to provide a recommendation, I will do so if I have significant direct and positive work experience with the requester. Luckily, I’ve had positive experiences with and I really like everyone in my network who has asked for a rec from me, but I shy away from writing one if I know others have had more significant and direct interactions with them and have more meaningful, specific evidence of success to report. If I wrote a generic recommendation saying something nice about them but without the aforementioned evidence, I wouldn’t be adding value to their profile, IMHO. And as a marketer I am all about adding value and providing meaningful messages! Instead, if I am in a conversation (such as networking or social) where it’s appropriate to put in a good word about someone, I try to do so. The advantage to this kind of word-of-mouth promotion is that it’s contextual (and arguably more powerful due to nonverbals, etc.) than the written recommendation.
Additional Comments: There are so many different approaches to social networking with tools such as LinkedIn and I’ve noticed we all have varying “rules” and criteria for using them. It’s interesting to have open dialogue and really understand the boundaries and expectations we have of our networked colleagues. I invite you to explore and/or share your thoughts on the subject here.
Friday, March 5, 2010
(NOTE: This is a series of occasional posts clarifying the things I don’t do, business-wise, marketing-wise, or social-media-wise. Same format each time.)
What: Follow Friday or #FF on Twitter (or other microblogging platform). Essentially, someone tweets a list of Twitter handles/names (I’m @tracydiziere for example) as a blanket recommendation of people to follow.
Why I Don’t Do It: Recommending people to follow, while a nice gesture, makes the assumption that all of your followers will value the tweets (consisting of news, opinions, personal updates, etc.) of these people. It’s just too generic. There’s no way in marketing I would recommend every product or every service to everyone. There are market segments, ideal clients, target markets, etc. I apply the same logic to microblogging. Unless I can ensure that I’m delivering a meaningful message to a specific, interested group, it’s not worth it. However, if I could segment my updates and/or customize recommendations for following based on an industry or interest, FF would be appealing to me. Without this ability, I’m not providing value to followers with respect to their specific variety of shared interests with me—from jewelry/retail sales, to marketing/PR, food/wine, small business, instigating (you know who you are), and all things Arizona. I never want to treat these followers (or clients!) as an indistinct mass of an audience. For tweeps with a lot of influence, however, I realize it makes sense. It’s like they are referring people they trust, which is cool. I just prefer to do that on a smaller more personal scale.
What I Do Instead:
(1) Re-Tweet. When someone I follow has a tweet that is relevant (Relevance is key!) or that I believe will be interesting to a segment of followers, I will re-tweet (RT) it. I don’t limit the number of RTs from any one person—it’s a matter of relevance and those who are more relevant are RT’ed more. I typically don’t RT quotes (nor do I tweet quotes from famous people often). This is because I do value information that is specifically directed at and appropriate to my followers.
(2) Reply. Another way I indicate someone is worth following (and why they are—the component missing from the generic list and hashtag) is by Replying to them, or starting a conversation. Replying using @ lets me tell that person (and my followers) that I’m interested in what they have to say with respect to a certain topic or communication instance. Followers who see that we’re communicating about wine, for example, and like wine themselves (or sell it, make it, write about it, teach others about it, etc.) can follow that person. It’s a slower process, but for me, it’s more genuine and thoughtful than the “This-is-who-I-think-is-important-for-everyone-to-listen-to-regardless-of-who-you-are” message I get from #FF. Maybe that works if you’re already a social media guru with thousands of followers. That’s not who I am or aspire to be. I also will reply using a bunch of people if I think they have something in common. That way I’m recommending (or referring) people within a certain context, subject, or niche. And I’ve pre-selected that group to ensure they have interests in common.
Additional Comments: I noticed recently #FF isn’t as big as deal as it used to be (thankfully!). Is this your sense as well? Is this because others feel as I do or something else? I’d like to think Twitter users on the whole are getting smarter and more considerate of audiences/markets and really wanting to tailor communications (e.g., tweets) to them. Also, if you think I’m really missing out by not participating or want to share your reasons for doing it, chime in! If you’d like to connect, follow me: @tracydiziere.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Would You Live in an Abandoned Mental Hospital?
You’d have to be crazy not to open that email. Of course, I expected the article to be about micro-businesses or small businesses who allow their “houses” to run amuck—from a lack of process, leadership, time management, or strategic planning.
Not so! (Although I will have to add that to the list of future blog topics because the metaphor is too pertinent to ignore.) The article really is about the renovation of these old mental institutions into modern living quarters. Check it out . . .
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
In my earlier post Firing Customers: Why and How, I referenced Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails. This is a book by Scott McKain and although I haven’t read it yet, he has published an informative article on MarketingProfs.com: Why You Should Fire (Some of) Your Customers. Herein, he recommends who to keep and who to discard by category (very helpful!) and smartly states: “We spend more time than we really have to give pleasing a customer we never should have solicited in the first place.” (Emphasis mine.)
This last bit by Mr. McKain leads me to the crux of this post: Better screening. I admit that I have fallen victim to a big name, a glowing referral from a colleague, and a market underdog with potential (if only they’d been open to change), but I am trying—and encouraging my marketing strategy clients to try—to do a better job of what I call “selective engagement.”
With a little process development and strategic thinking, small businesses can establish criteria for selectively engaging clients who are well-suited to their business models and financial goals. This includes ideal client persona development as well as the means to attract them and the process of identifying them. With this type of planning and supporting processes in place, you can prevent the firing mentality or “culling phase” and instead be more exclusive with building your client base upfront. Yes, this takes great effort, bravery, and budget, but given the alternative—having to gracefully back out of an engagement—it might just be worth it.
Today I came across an excellent example from a marketing person I respect, Allan Starr. In his Marketing Monthly newsletter, he states his criteria, including this specific requirement, “If a client doesn't at least believe they are better than their competitors, we don't take them on (we are opportunity agents, not turnaround artists).” Starr makes a bold statement about what his company does and what they need from potential clients, which will allow prospects to identify or walk away. (Bravo Marketing Partners, and feel free to refer those who need more confidence to Tracy Diziere & Associates.)
As many marketing colleagues acknowledge, it can be hard to walk away from prospective business, especially when you know you can help them and see how much they need help—and given this economy. But you will SPEND more money in terms of time and energy trying to please them than you will MAKE.
Not only should small businesses have a defined process in place (as well as the means to communicate that to the market), they should also seek to improve upon it. I have a process for lead qualification, but it is constantly being refined based on experience. Practicing continuous improvement is key, not only in manufacturing but also in your sales cycle. I advise clients to create and refine their lead generation and client acquisition strategies (as well as client education efforts). In my experience, it is easier to do this for others than to do it for one’s self—due to perspective-taking abilities, the need for thick skin, and the ever-illusive time for working on the business as opposed to delivering client results.
Here’s another supporting tidbit from the 1to1 Media Blog which asks the question “When Is It OK to Fire Your Customers?” Ginger Conlon notes, “Others say: Don't acquire potentially unprofitable customers in the first place.” That’s what TDA helps micro and small service businesses do—with the process and tools to support such a customer acquisition strategy.