Posts tagged ‘Marketing Consultant’

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.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

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.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

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.)

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

June 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm 2 comments

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.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

June 10, 2009 at 12:58 am 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?

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

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

Mr. Bean vs. Martha Stewart

mr_bean_martha_stewart

Mr. Bean vs. Martha Stewart
or Don’t Try Marketing Without A Net

I always admired how Michael Jordan made the game of basketball look so easy. No one could stop him, and he seemed to score at will. He’s only an inch taller than me (I’m 6’5”), so if he can do it, why can’t I? How hard can it be?

How dumb can I be?

Obviously, MJ lived life on a different plane of existence on the basketball court. Because he was so fundamentally sound, and so fully committed to being the best, he made a very difficult skill set look effortless. Similarly, marketing may look like it’s easy to do, but people who try it realize it’s a lot harder than they thought. Here’s a true story that nicely demonstrates this point.

I recently worked with a client who had launched a new software product and wanted to use an upcoming trade show to create a “wow” idea that would draw people into his booth. The software product is intended to automate and standardize classroom instruction for school teachers. His initial thought was to develop a creative concept highlighting how to do it wrong vs. how to do it right, then show how his product facilitates doing it the right way. Not a bad idea in theory, but following through on his idea would have been tantamount to career suicide for him. Here’s the concept in a nutshell:

  • The unorganized planner (the kind of person that did not use the new software) was like Mr. Bean, who is constantly scattered, manic, and ultimate ineffective.
  • The organized planner (presumably the kind of person that did use the company’s new software) was like Martha Stewart, who is considered highly organized, always in control, and extremely effective.
  • Drive home this concept by hiring a Martha Stewart impersonator and have her deliver the company’s presentation in full Stewart-esque persona.

Taking into consideration that 3/4 of the client’s audience is female, and that this very evolved audience would consider it an insult to equate their professional responsibilities with domestic matters like baking and crafts, my client was driving towards the end of the cliff and continuing to step on the gas pedal. He needed a dose of reality, and thankfully he was receptive enough to scrap his idea entirely and allowed me to develop a different concept. The idea we went with was a huge success, and helped the company exceed the pre-determined trade show ROI.

The lesson to learn with this story is that marketing is actually pretty hard, and it’s definitely in your best interests to utilize a marketing professional. We marketers can see things from the customer’s perspective, and our experiences help us to determine the differences between boring, interesting, and downright nutty. Just like Jordan, we can hit those clutch 3-pointers at the buzzer.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

May 27, 2009 at 1:25 am Leave a comment

Success is not defined as the absence of failure

Recessions can bring out the best in people. I know many successful entrepreneurs that started their businesses during recessions, and they said it’s the best decision they ever made. Some have developed companies that generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Admittedly, though, a lot of those people say their companies are surviving, but not thriving. Many will chalk it up to the economy, or changes in the marketplace, or the cost of raw materials, or increased competition. Some of these factors may be true, but after consulting for several of them I realize that there are reasons why they haven’t achieved the level of success they wanted. Here are some of those reasons:

  1. Not knowing your limitations. We cannot know everything, nor can we do everything. Realize that you have a well-honed set of core skills, and focus your efforts to take advantage of them. Here’s an analogy that all you baseball fans will instantly understand: have you ever seen a National League pitcher try to swing a bat? It’s one of the more painful sights you’ll ever see, because it’s beyond the pitcher’s limitations. Let your batters do the batting for you while you focus on your pitching.
  2. Not understanding the difference between market sizing and market segmentation. In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew. You can read all about this from my previous blog entry on the subject. Business is hard enough without trying to conquer the whole world all at once.
  3. Not seeking help from experts. Whether it’s a marketing company like Aximum Marketing, or a full-time employee, recognizing the need for a particular skill that your company doesn’t have is not a sign of weakness or ignorance. Not only can experts give great advice and a different point of view, but they can free you to do what you do best. Again, whether you buy a piece of equipment, or office space, or specialized experts, they will all maximize your return on investment.
  4. Not avoiding the temptation to act in haste. It’s easy to get ‘happy feet’ when you’re not achieving the results you want. However, it will be best to fully think it through before pulling the trigger. Having fellow experts (see #3 above) can act as sounding boards, enabling you to make better decisions.
  5. Not understanding that marketing is an investment, rather than a cost. “I can’t afford to spend money on marketing right now.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard this, I’d have a boatload of nickels. I’ve spoken to many clients who initially look at marketing as a cost, but after I help them focus on their goals and run some numbers with them, they soon realize that all quality marketing activities have an expected, measurable, positive ROI. If you could invest $100 on marketing activities, and receive $1,000 in revenue, how much would you be willing to invest? Every penny you can get your hands on? That’s the beauty of an investment.

Success is most assuredly not defined as the absence of failure. We all work hard, and we deserve to maximize the reward for the effort we put forth. If you avoid the five pitfalls listed above (and I’m sure there are many others you can think of), you’ll unleash your potential and take your business to new heights, whether it’s a startup, a small business, or a multinational corporation. Aximum has some great success stories that illustrate this point very well, and we’ll be happy to help you thrive, too.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

May 26, 2009 at 1:42 am Leave a comment

Older Posts


Recent blog posts

Tweets!

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

RSS Headlines

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Marketing Metrics

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Top Clicks

  • None
July 2017
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

%d bloggers like this: