Posts tagged ‘success’

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

Your business’ secret to success: do one thing and do it right

Colonel Sanders was a master of business. He took a product that virtually everyone in the south made for themselves — fried chicken — and decided to sell his own version. The Kentucky Colonel outfit, the secret recipe, the bucket, and his self-promotion all contributed to his uniqueness and aura. However, his true secret to success was a simple philosophy: do one thing and do it right. He made better fried chicken than anyone else, and he focused all his efforts on building the business around his flagship product. His plan was to start small, gain a reputation, and establish a toehold in his local Kentucky community. From there, he wanted to conquer the fried chicken world, and use his market dominance as a springboard for other complementary products. Of course, we all know the rest of the story; his plan worked to perfection and the chicken industry has never been the same.

What’s the lesson that other companies can learn from the Colonel? Determine what your biggest strength is and focus your efforts on that. Perfect your product/service, establish a great reputation, use your revenues to invest in the company, and build your empire. Many companies try to become jacks-of-all-trades, but instead become masters-of-none. This mistake goes back to a previous discussion about market sizing vs. market segementation. It’s better to dominate a small market and branch out into other markets in time, rather than become a bit player in a larger, more competitive market. This approach will focus your internal resources in the places that maximize your profit potential, put your marketing communications plan on a path towards great success, and send a message to competitors that you have your priorities straight.

Don’t let the goatee fool you… Colonel Sanders was a brilliant businessman and a master marketer. Now go out there, focus on the one thing at which you’re best, and fry the competition!

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June 22, 2009 at 12:23 am 1 comment

Get the most out of your trade shows

If your company participates in trade shows, you know there are many differing opinions about whether or not you should be there. There are probably even more opinions about how to define “success” when you are there. I’ve managed, attended, and participated in more trade shows than I care to mention, and I’ve discovered there are some undeniable truths when it comes right down to it:

  1. If your upper management is either undecided or split regarding whether to attend, you have no chance of making your participation as successful as it should be.
  2. Anything less that complete support from your senior management team spells doom. If their heart isn’t in it, if they’re just going through the motions because “that’s what we’ve always done,” others in the organization will recognize this lack of enthusiasm and follow suit. Given the fact that you’re probably spending a good chunk of change, it’s in the best interests of upper management to buy in and embrace it.

  3. If you have not created a specific set of goals that are clearly identified, communicated, and understood, you can guarantee yourself a below-average experience.
  4. What do you hope to accomplish by attending the trade show? Why are you going to this particular show rather than another one? Is success measured in revenue, leads, news articles, brand awareness, internal perception, or something else? You can’t provide an answer without first knowing the question, so lay this all out beforehand, solicit feedback, engage all groups within your organization, and use all means at your disposal to promote your attendance.

  5. If the management and participation of your trade shows is solely in the hands of your marketing team, whether by autocracy or by disinclination from other teams, you will not achieve the buy-in or participation required to succeed.
  6. Marketing people are great… heck, I’m one of them. But I also know they are single-minded when it comes to execution. Without participation by other teams, marketing will invariably defer to marketing-specific goals, which most of the time are functions of larger goals. Consequently, they may not achieve everything that other teams, like sales or product management, would have hoped for. If you are one of these other teams, I suggest that you get involved early and often so that you’re not disappointed.

  7. If you focus more on number of leads, rather than quality of leads, you are destined to waste massive amounts of time chasing people that will never generate a dime of revenue.
  8. In an earlier blog entry I discuss how to identify and focus on hot leads instead of sheer quantity. Just remember that all leads are not created equal. The best rule of thumb is to focus on your target audience, develop good incentives to encourage continued conversations, use best practices to qualify your leads, and create programs that will fill, but not overwhelm, your sales pipeline.

  9. If you do not have a strong events manager firmly in charge, your salespeople will spend more time on their Blackberries than on the trade show floor.
  10. I love salespeople. I really do. But I know they have a tendency to be a bit, um, ornery. Let’s be honest… without a strong personality keeping them on a short leash, most salespeople will walk into the trade show booth, zoom over to the first empty chair, and start answering emails on their Blackberries. They tend to view trade shows as a waste of time that’s cutting into their ‘face time’ with customers. The truth is that they can engage more customers spending 3 hours in a trade show booth than they can if they spent a week on the road. A strong-willed events manager can help them remember this and keep them on-task. Remember, the booth is there for the benefit of sales more than any other team, so they should learn to take advantage of it.

  11. If you do not reserve a meeting room, you will lose out on many important opportunities.
  12. The noise of the show and the buzz in the booth can make it difficult to engage in deeper conversations, the kind that close deals. Your solution is to reserve a meeting room when you purchase your booth location. The meeting room can be used for prospects, interviews, PR functions, and a variety of other high-quality activities. The booth brings ’em in, but the quiet meeting room helps to keep ’em.

  13. If you don’t choose your booth location carefully, you might as well not even be there.
  14. Whenever possible, do an on-location reconnaissance as early as possible to determine the best location for your booth. If you can’t do this, or if you don’t have enough budget to get into the highest traffic areas, don’t worry. The next best places are: near the meeting rooms, next to the bathrooms, near the concession stands, and close to the sitting areas. Another trick… if your booth has a place to sit down and/or offers food & drink, you will probably double your traffic.

You’ve spend a lot of money on registrations, booth design, marketing, and T&E, so follow these tips to maximize your ROI. Happy hunting!

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June 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

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 2

Part 1 gave helpful pointers about what you should do before your upcoming webinar. Part 2 of this three-part series explores some tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of your webinar during the presentation. You’ve done your homework, you’ve worked hard on your delivery, and you have your audience captive. Here’s how to make the most of this opportunity.

  1. Utilize a solid, industry-standard, universally accepted technology. Under no circumstances can you half-ass this. Your image and perception will be defined just as much by the production of your presentation as the presentation itself. No matter how pure your intentions are, it won’t mean Jack Squat if the technology fails. Do yourself a favor and invest a couple bucks in a known, proven commercial product. Here are my recommendations:
    • DimDim. This is a fairly new open source technology that works great and is gaining a large following. Free for up to 20 people, which is perfect for small or one-on-one webinars. If you need something a little larger, you can present to 50 people for just $25 for a month. These are the month-to-month, no commitment prices; the longer-term commitment prices are even lower.
    • WebEx: The whole world knows and uses WebEx, so you can’t go wrong if you choose them. They’re a bit pricier, but still dirt cheap in the grand scheme. They are also your technology of choice if you have a really large webinar. For $69 for a month (again, this is the month-to-month price) you can present to as many as 1,000 people. Frankly, if you’ve managed to assemble 1,000 people to attend your webinar, you can’t afford not to get WebEx.
  2. Always make your webinars exactly one hour long. This is a standard length of time. Any shorter and it may feel rushed. Any longer and it starts to feel like a Fidel Castro speech to your attendees.
  3. Never, ever be late. Be respectful of people’s schedules, so never start late, and never end late. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Make it an open forum, not a closed sales pitch. After all, the purpose of the webinar is to develop leads, build your pipeline, and increase sales opportunities. Give your attendees the chance to ask questions and participate, which will make them more engaged and desirous to learn more. Do what you would naturally do if you were giving an in-person sales presentation.
  5. Survey. This is a step that many webinar hosts forget to do. Before you finish, ask your attendees to complete a short survey regarding what they liked/disliked, whether they found the information to be worthwhile, if they’d recommend this to a friend, and whether they have additional questions. And make sure you capture their contact information. If they’ve stuck with you for the entire hour, chances are very good they’re hot leads, so you’ll get a very high survey completion rate. If they’ve asked to be contacted, follow up with them as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours.

Tomorrow – Part 3, which will focus on what to do after your webinar has concluded. Stay tuned!

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June 9, 2009 at 12:16 am 1 comment

Secrets to a great webinar – Part 1

Several of you have asked me about webinars: what they are, how to conduct them, how to attract an audience, and how to generate revenue from them. Every industry is a bit different, which means there’s no magic answer, but there are some fundamentals you should follow to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts. There are plenty of places to go online that explain the nuts and bolts of webinars, so I’d like to focus on best practices and tricks of the trade I’ve obtained through years of experience.

This is a pretty lengthy topic, so I’m going to break it up into three parts: what to do before, during, and after your webinar. Today we’re going to focus on what to do before.

  1. Determine your goals and define “success. The importance of this activity cannot be overemphasized. Without goals, there’s no way to determine whether you’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing. Goals can be as concrete as website visits and revenue, or as abstract as brand awareness, lead generation, and industry leadership. Either way, predetermine your goals and define “success” as the attainment of those goals.
  2. Give attendees a month to get it in their calendars. Everybody’s busy, so the longer lead time you give people, the more likely they’ll attend. Let me put it another way… if you want to guarantee your failure, send out an invitation three days before the webinar.
  3. Invite a friend. Whichever webinar technology you use, be sure that it has a “invite a friend” function. You can expect 1/3 to 1/2 of your attendees to be invited friends, who will in turn invite their own friends. Set the viral marketing beast loose.
  4. Utilize Webinar Central or another webinar aggregator / directory to help promote your event. Let the web do the work for you. Along with inviting your colleagues, prospects, and customers, open the webinar to anyone that wants to attend (unless, of course, you’re presenting proprietary information). After all, the name of the game is ‘butts in the seats,’ so do everything you can to ensure this.
  5. If at all possible, use someone with a good radio voice. Monotone and mushmouth presenters can make an hour feel like an eternity, and all value in your message can be lost. You don’t need to hire Ryan Seacrest, but your presenter should have the ability to change tone, alter pitch, understand the value of pauses, and be engaging and conversational.
  6. Practice. I know that practice takes time and it’s no fun. But listening to a presentation that’s never been rehearsed beforehand is one of the more painful experiences one can endure. It gives attendees the impression that you’re unprofessional, unprepared, even uncaring. On the other hand, a well-rehearsed presentation sounds great, looks great, and puts the presenter and his/her company in the very best light. The question you have to ask yourself: if I were a potential customer listening to me, what would be my impression, and would I feel confident to buy from this person?

Tomorrow, Part 2: What you should do during your webinar.

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June 7, 2009 at 10:43 pm 1 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.

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


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