Posts tagged ‘David Ducic’

SWOT your competition

dead_flyHow well do you know your competition? I’m not talking about whether you have a laundry list of your competitors, but rather if you have real insight into who they are and what they do well. I’ll bet your answer is, “I have a pretty good idea, but I’d like to know more.” Good answer.

There are a million different ways to conduct a competitive analysis, but instead of focusing on the nitty-gritty details I’d like to give you some advice from the 35,000 foot level…

  • SWOT your competitors – no, I’m not advocating violence. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Analyze them, and yourself. You’ll gain remarkable insight into how you match up. You may find that you aren’t focused in the right areas, or there’s an oversaturation in a market or, if you’re lucky, that there’s an untapped area of the market just waiting to be cultivated.
  • Focus on your strengths and differentiators – once you have an understanding of what you and your competitors do, you can more accurately refine your strategy to maximize your strengths while exploiting the other guy’s weaknesses.
  • Good understanding = short cycles – a solid competitive understanding is essential for moving quickly and staying ahead. When it comes to business, you’re either ahead or you’re behind. In the immortal words of Ricky Bobby, “if you ain’t first, you’re last.

You get the idea. A SWOT analysis is one of the big secrets to unlocking your company’s true potential. Like most marketing activities, they aren’t easy, but they are definitely worthwhile. If you need help, contact me and we can come up with a solid strategy.

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October 4, 2009 at 7:51 pm Leave a comment

Don’t choose potential customers over current customers (aka “Screw You” marketing)

Ok, I’m usually a pretty friendly, easy-going guy. But I gotta tell you… there’s a trend in some walks of life that really irks the hell out of me. Let me explain the nature of my consternation with a specific example…

My wife and I are in good shape, and like to exercise regularly. We’ve been members of various gyms over the years, but invariably return to our home gym after a while because of an incredibly annoying, insidious sales technique that most health clubs practice: the open house, followed by the trial membership. This usually takes place once a month, which means that for one week per month there are five times as many people in the gyms, and it’s virtually impossible to find an open exercise machine. What’s worse is that these trial members don’t know how to use the machines, so they take twice as long as they should. And to top it all off, they have no intention of joining the gym, but since it’s free they’ll cheerfully take advantage of the situation.

Bottom line: potential customers are provided the same privileges and accommodations as paying customers, but haven’t had to devote one dime. Conversely, current customers that are paying dues and keeping the doors open are not able to enjoy the services for which they have paid. I call this “screw you” marketing, for the obvious reason.

This is a very dangerous and inefficient practice for several reasons:

  1. You piss off your current customer base. Their experience is tarnished and they will most likely abandon the service sooner than they should. In the words of the marketer, this reduces the Lifetime Customer Value significantly. (Here’s one of Aximum’s success stories that focuses on Lifetime Customer Value.)
  2. You focus your energies in the wrong places. I imagine the conversion rate for open houses/trial memberships is very low, so it may behoove the gyms to concentrate on activities that collect customers with greater revenue potential and ROI. When you offer something free, you’ll get tons of action, but very little conversion. This is one of those undeniable truths of marketing.
  3. You don’t take advantage of repeat/renewed customers. These gyms spend a lot of time, energy, and money on developing the open houses. Curiously, not one ounce of thought or energy has been spent trying to get me to agree to a longer contract, sign up for other services, or anything else that would bring it additional revenue. This glaring deficiency in their marketing communication program shines out like a beacon in the night. If a company has proven, revenue-producing, long-term customers, it’s usually 3-5 times easier to gain additional revenue from them than it is to bleed it from the trick-or-treaters that sign up for the free stuff (sorry… I sounded a little bitter there).

When you’re seeking new customers, remember not to sacrifice your current customer base. If you abandon them, don’t be surprised if they abandon you.

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June 25, 2009 at 12:47 am Leave a comment

Boost your customer base by lowering, not raising, prices

This is a tough time for most business. Many companies are losing a lot of customers and having trouble meeting revenue commitments outlined in their 2009 budgets, which are usually created in the previous fall season. This is happening, of course, because most people did not realize that the economy would fall into recession in 2009. Executive management teams are meeting in their boardrooms every single day, trying to figure out what to do to stabilize customer retention. Chances are good that two prevailing schools of thought are being bandied about:

  • School Of Thought #1: Since we are currently losing customers very quickly, we need to make up for that shortfall by reducing costs (which has probably already been done), while at the same time increasing our prices in order to achieve more revenue per customer. If we have lost 10% of our customers, and raise our prices 10%, we could probably close the revenue gap.
  • School Of Thought #2: We’ve lost several customers during the first half of the year, and we need to focus on keeping those customers while obtaining a few new ones. Along with reducing our costs (which has probably already been done) we need to reduce our prices, providing an incentive for current customers to stay with us and encouraging prospects to become customers.

As a marketer and ardent capitalist, I believe in School Of Thought #2. It looks at the marketplace as a non-finite tub of potential revenue, even during recessionary times. It also views an increase in price as a form of taxation on current customers, which is a bad idea during good economic times and an even worse idea now. I’ve seen many struggling companies adopt School Of Thought #1, only to see them descend into a business death sprial. As customers balk at higher prices and bail out, this leaves an even smaller customer base to provide the revenue stream necessary to maintain operations. The cycle of higher prices and fewer customers seals a company’s fate and failure becomes inevitable.

From a marketing perspective, it’s an even tougher sell. We’re always looking for unique selling propositions (USPs) and differentiators, and I’ve found that raising prices kills off great marketing each and every time. It poisons the fragile relationship with the customer, leaving them bitter and resentful. Another aspect to consider is the fact that, nowadays, customers don’t go away quietly. They use social networking and forums to voice their displeasure, and most of the time it ain’t pretty.

Before you pull the pricing lever, be sure you’ve fully analyzed your pricing model and exhausted other options. After all, if you make the wrong decision, it may be you that ends up paying the price.

(If you need help with pricing, or you have other marketing needs, contact me at Aximum Marketing. I’ll be happy to help.)

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June 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm 2 comments

Promote your products with case studies and success stories

Quick… name your most effective salesperson. Nope, it’s not your high-performing outside rep who’s made quota for the past five years. Guess again…

It’s your customers.

Your sales and marketing teams can talk about your products and value propositions until they’re blue in the face, but a company’s spokespeople talking about themselves will always lack a certain amount of credibility. A customer, however, is an independent organization that has chosen you over your competitors, and carries genuine credibility and legitimacy. Their word-of-mouth endorsement can easily land a sale. How can you capitalize on this loyal group of enthusiastic supporters? By asking them to participate in a case study or success story. There are benefits for everyone:

  • For your company – you can promote big name customers and add instant recognition via case studies, success stories, YouTube videos, and press releases
  • For your customers – gives them a great opportunity to co-brand with your company. In addition, references and links to their website will help increase their organic search results.
  • For your salespeople – provides fantastic sales tools to further build your company’s customer base
  • For your future customers – takes the guesswork out of purchasing and enables them to confidently make a decision based on the results of current customers

But you don’t have to take my word for it… you can read my success stories and see what I mean. Don’t blow your own horn, let your customers do it for you. Toot toot.

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June 11, 2009 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

Secrets to a great webinar – Part 3

Here’s the third and final segment to running a successful webinar. In the first two parts, we discussed some helpful hints and best practices for preparing and presenting your webinar. Today we’ll discuss what you should do after your webinar to help you achieve your desired goals.

  1. Always have a post-webinar discussion. In Part 2, I discuss the fact that you always want to make your webinars one hour long. However, many times you’ll find several attendees that want to talk beyond the stopping time. No problem. Invite those folks to stay on the line for a post-webinar discussion, which can last as long as they want. You have a motivated, interested, and invested audience just sitting there, waiting for the next step, so take advantage of it.
  2. Have a demo, sample, download, and trial ready to go before the webinar starts. Assume that every attendee will want to take the next step (“Call To Action“) and be prepared to share/send your customary giveaway, whether it’s a demo, product sample, software download, online catalog, etc. Webinars are all about capitalizing on the buzz of the moment, so be sure to accommodate the needs of your attendees without making them work for it or making them wait.
  3. Measure. This goes all the way back to the first point I made in Part 1: Determine your goals. Keep track of attendees in your sales management system, and actively track their activity over time. Depending on your products and sales cycles, the realization of your goals may either be immediately known, or it may take some time to determine. Either way, be diligent and keep accurate records of interactions, activities, and purchases.

I hope you found this series to be helpful, interesting, and entertaining. If done correctly, webinars can be tremendously beneficial for lead & revenue generation, and can set you apart as an industry thought leader. With proper planning, goal-setting, and execution, you may find yourself taking your company to the next level faster than you thought possible. If you’d like more information, or would like to utilize a consulting firm to help you with your webinar needs, please contact me directly or though our web form.

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June 10, 2009 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

Leads and prospects and customers, oh my!

(Sung to “If I only had a brain” from the Wizard of Oz)
I’d could use my time much better, create a great newsletter
And plant some prospect seeds,
I could share our comp’ny vision
Help them make a ‘buy’ decision
If I only had some leads.

Yes, it’s another original adaption from yours truly. I’m willing to take full credit because, heck, nobody else wants to claim that crap as their own.

I’ve noticed a lot of people using the terms lead, prospect, and customer interchangeably, so I thought I’d take today to explain the differences between them. Once you speak the language, and understand the differences, it makes a lot more sense. It is also another way for me to build the kumbaya bridge between sales and marketing. Here we go:

  • Suspect – not a generally used term, but a suspect is defined as a person that may be in the market for the types of products and services your company (and your competition) produces. Is is essentially a superset of all your potential customers. You may not know who they are, and they may not know who you are, but they are out there, waiting to be discovered. You need to connect with suspects, or have them connect with you, in order to convert them into leads.
  • Lead – this is someone who is in the market for the types of products and services your company produces. They may specifically know about your company, you may know who they are, or both. They have expressed either a specific or general interest, and have provided contact information about themselves. Depending on their needs, budgets, and timelines, leads are traditionally classified as cold, warm, and hot.
  • Prospect – defined as a lead who has passed the initial qualification (in other words, they are a real person who exists) and is currently being engaged in some way, depending on their needs. In sales/CRM terms, if an ‘estimate’ or ‘opportunity’ is created for a lead, the lead becomes a prospect. The level of contact a prospect receives ranges from an occasional email or phone call to an in-person demo or pilot project.
  • Customer – occurs when a prospect makes a purchase decision. Once a company receives money (or, in sales/CRM terms, a ‘sales transaction’) from prospects for their products and services, those prospects are officially converted into customers. Bring the money, honey.

I’m taking some badly needed vacation time this week, so I won’t be writing any blog entries until next Monday. Until then, have a great week, thank you for your continued support and comments, and we’ll start fresh on Monday. Hasta luego.

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May 31, 2009 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

What are the characteristics of a great website?

Aximum Marketing's home page
We all have our favorite websites. But what actually makes a website great? Here are my criteria – I’d love to hear your ideas as well:

  1. Visual appeal. The web can act as the great equalizer. Small companies can look big and legitimate with a quality website. Conversely, large companies that have lousy websites can appear distracted and amateur. There’s no substitute for giving a good first impression.
  2. Powerful messages that speak to your customer’s needs. Nobody likes a long-winded talker. Unless you have an information-based website (like Amazon, which provides full reviews of products, etc.), resist the temptation of generating massive amounts of information, especially on the home page. Keep it short, sharp, and targeted, with a predefined objective (see “Lily pad” marketing for more information on objective-based marketing strategies).
  3. Success stories. Providing case studies of your accomplishments have several benefits. You can demonstrate how effectively your company works with customers, provide concrete examples of success using metrics, share experiences with prominent customers to gain legitimacy and credibility, and strengthen the persuasion process through the use of similar customers in similar industries.
  4. Social Networking. Whether it’s a blog (like this WordPress blog), Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, or social bookmarking, you cannot deny the impact of social networking on today’s marketing strategies. Customers now have an expectation of two-way communication, and social networking facilitates symbiotic connections between a company and its audience.
  5. Logical lead generation paths. It’s frustrating when you have to bounce all over a website to find what you want. A well-designed site understands its target audience and develops well-defined, clearly stated communication paths with the proper Calls To Action (CTA). Typical CTAs are filling out a form, downloading a white paper, signing up for a webinar, contacting a salesperson, and purchasing a product through your ecommerce function.
  6. Just the right amount of “wow” for your audience. Know they audience. If your products and services cater to accountants, don’t use bells and whistles that you’d use for, say, a teenage gamer audience. It’ll just turn them off and make them think you don’t understand them. I bet those accountants would love a virtual Dilbert experience, or a flash-based GAAP search tool.
  7. Web 2.0 look and feel. This means many things to many people. To me, Web 2.0 means dimensional or reflective graphics, modest use of Flash, “push button” navigation (like the simplicity of Redbox’s navigation), and the use of negative (white) space to add airiness.

What do you think? Are there other characteristics that are important for creating a great website?

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May 28, 2009 at 1:30 am Leave a comment

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