Monday, May 18, 2009

Do you know your Target Market? If you don't read this article 3 times!!!

Get Gonnected-Make It Happen Special article.

This article tells you very directly to realize what resources you have around you and market and promote to them early and often.

To be sure you are presenting the right offering to the right market, we began by taking a cold hard look at your market and where the opportunities are.
Possibly one opportunity is to narrow your service to better address the worries of your customers and the challenges in the marketplace. Focus on them - look at your existing customers as if they are the reason for your business. Talk to them about their concerns and worries and actually listen. Tell them you'll do what ever to help them with their worries. Engage some people in your company regarding how you can continue to make sure you treat your customers as being very special. Don't let customers get away because of indifference or your lack of attention. Out humanize your competitors.

You probably learned when you took a few actions that your company isn't as attentive as you thought you were, and how such simple things as being really interested in your customers work. You also learned some things about the marketplace. Now let's leverage these learnings.

Principle #3
Your existing customers will save you. Be clear about why a customer should deal with you - then maximize every interaction to increase your margins and make sure the customers see your difference.

Focus on knowing your clients, what they want and match your offering around their motivations to buy is tantamount to beginning to see your differentiator. Michael Porter of Harvard would say you have 3 choices of strategies. Differentiate, focus by a particular segment or overall cost leadership. These generic strategies are approaches to outperform your competitors so you can earn higher returns.

Differentiation: Be unique. One of our clients, Finning in Western Canada, provides Caterpillar tractors in the construction and oil sands industry. It is known for its great dealer network, availability of excellent spare parts, high quality durable products, which is crucial up North and where downtime is very expensive. For the last few years we've been helping them with customer service. They are difficult to compete with and they can increase margins due to their brand loyalty.

Low Cost: Our biggest worldwide customer is Walmart. It's very clear to all internal/external that cost reductions, tight costs, overhead control, cost minimization in service, sales, advertising and so on exist at Walmart. A great deal of managerial attention is necessary to yield above-average returns despite strong competitive forces. Competitors can't keep lowering their prices to compete. They usually go out of business while Walmart still earns returns despite low prices.

Focus: It's about serving a particular target very well and each functional policy is developed with this in mind. It is a form of differentiation. I have a client in Hamilton who devoted their entire existence to keeping Dofasco happy and profitable and built a very good business doing so. Other companies can focus on a narrow industry, not just one client but regardless, it works and is a great defense against competitors.

Most of us probably sell to a broad market and haven't invested in mechanisms to make us low cost at much, so differentiation is our ticket to compete. It requires that we have marketing abilities, a great compelling story, a creative flair, we listen to the market, have strong affiliates or cooperation from channels, close internal coordination between R&D, offer development, marketing and sales and we attract talent who match our offering.

The question is, "Why should I buy from you?" If you can't answer this, you aren't different and you better be a strategic low cost company for you'll be battling for price alone. If your story and marketing doesn't distinguish you, then even your best customers will flee when they get a better offer.

Get this right and you'll thrive in the recovery and the upswing that is coming - get ready.

We'll talk soon about the messaging, the story and the marketing necessary to grab market.

Let's talk about how to leverage every interaction with your existing clients. Now we're getting very tactical.

There is not a company that exists that fully maximizes the potential inherent in its customer base. In fact most feel they do and they don't, or stubbornly refuse to change their methods when it comes to marketing/ selling to their existing clients. Even in tougher times.

In the early nineties recession, my associate (now our President), Kathie Mather, told me to quit fretting over our overhead and declining sales and get out of my office and meet with some of our old clients to see if we could help them survive. Well I said, "Okay, if you'll do it too." And off we went!

After visiting many clients and listening to a lot of sad stories, we started to put together a way to support them. After all, we had a lot of competent people not as active as they usually were who could help. It resulted in the creation of 3 new services that helped our clients and us survive and thrive for many years. (Today those business services are continually used in 70 countries throughout the world of Dale Carnegie - from China to Brazil.)

The Point: Your best prospects are your existing customers.

I suggest before you put money into finding new customers, stop and divert some of your resources into reselling, up selling and cross-selling to your existing customers.

In every way possible:

Get in touch - whether by phone, mail, email or in person (all customers want to feel that they are special and that you take special interest in seeing to their needs).

Provide post-purchase reassurance each time a customer places an order with you. Call him/her a week after to see how it's going. This will put aside any post-purchase dissonance.

Give your customers the best deals and guarantees that you can possibly get away with. Don't be afraid to be compelling and stand out. Remember to match with what will motivate them to buy.

Listen for the situations they are in and the impact your products/services can help solve. You could come up with some creative ways to market and/or deliver that impact. Sometimes it's the littlest things that we miss that if we had listened, could be turned into a real new offering. We need to hear the impact our products/services could have and then package or bundle and sell it to them and others. Creativity is mainly about listening.

Build rapport and trust. After all, that's all that's missing most times from new customers buying from you. It's the same for existing customers in tough times. Be as honest as you can be with your customers. People do business with ethical people they can trust. Here is our 1990 not too slick, but honest offer after listening to our customers: "Looks like we have people sitting around and you are struggling so why don't we get our people to put their heads together and see if we can help you grow. Any cost is too much if what you buy doesn't help you grow."

Keep an accurate and timely customer list. Work this list. As boring as this principle sounds, I'm always amazed at how few times companies don't even have this. They have transactional buyers and they don't get the DNA for each customer. Many times they don't even know their target's names. Set up a preferred valuable customer campaign for this list now - throw all you have at your best customers.

Up sell or resell right at, or immediately after the initial sale and you can dramatically improve your profits. Offer a package of related items or services for a 20 to 30% discount if they buy now. Upgrade the sale by offering a $200 off for example, a superior version of what they are buying if they upgrade now.

Read the following sentence three times so you will let the right side of your brain hear it:
Customers are silently begging to be acknowledged, informed, given advanced opportunities and led to action.

Read it again. Did it sink in yet?

If you insert "your people" instead of customers into the sentence, you will realize an even greater importance of this principle.

Regardless of what business you are in, this concept works anywhere.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blogging Can Help- or Hurt-

Blogging Can Help – or Hurt –

Your Career Blogging has become an impulsive contemporary art for careerists. Should you develop your own blog or shouldn’t you? Will it help or hurt your career? Let me present this canvas to you as a primer of sorts to think about this issue. Much of my career practice and coaching involves an organizing thought: You own the business of your career. It’s your worklife mission, your vision. For years I coached and, some would say, admonished my clients to take ownership of their career paths as they work for someone else. When you do not own the business, one of the greatest ways you can help or hurt your career centers around your own online and offline reputation. With so many choices and so much information at the click of a computer key, we may feel information overload no matter what our career field might be. We may also feel empowered to create or destroy. What’s easy can be fun or dangerous. In a matter of minutes, you can set up your Blogger, WordPress, Typepad or related blog site. And the minute you post? Your words can be accessed by billions of people around the world. No Web designer needs to be hired. No technical guru at x dollars an hour has to listen to and potentially kill your ideas. You own this medium. You have freedom. You can say or cite anything. There’s no waste of time and no need to white-board everyone else’s ideas. It’s so easy but don’t let the impulsive ease of blogging let you forget about the eyes that watch your art, your views, your passions, protests, observations and objections.How might this medium help – or hurt – your career direction and path?How it can help:1. You have an audience. Keep it positive. Blogging may add to the company’s brand and your position as an authority or subject matter expert within your company or your field. Jane S. worked at a powerful, regional advertising company. She cleared her personal blog through her boss, her boss’ boss and her company human-resources department. They said she didn’t have to, but with my advice she did. During a recession, she has received two promotions, and her blog has since been incorporated into the main site of the corporation because of its business development prowess. She says, “Now 40 percent of my time is incorporating my personal brand or blog into the company’s brand with the complete blessing of the executive team.” 2. Paint the right picture. Drive customer confidence. As you cite critical sources and make intelligent, important observations, your personal blog augments your position within your company and promotes your company. You never bash your company. You can be yourself and be authentic. James P., a salesman, asked for permission from his company to comment on his business travels and business adventures as a technology sales consultant. Customers love the funny, idiosyncratic stories. James says, “My blog has been a business generator for the company and earned me four speaking engagements on behalf of the company and four speaking engagements locally that were sponsored by local sales networking organizations. I can’t believe it. It’s made me kind of recession-proof in my career!” His first book is being self-published, and his company uses him to teach and train all new sales personnel. 3. Get a raise and a promotion. Defend the faith. Blogging helps you document and publish your ideas while associating with great people. Again, Alice P. published her blog under a pseudonym two years ago. Today she has kept the quirky observations about life, travel, art and kids quite eclectic. Her blogging has incorporated funny observations about office life without offending anyone at work. It’s been serialized and referred to by the company. The CEO thought her site should be commented on, featured and linked to by the company to help with Esprit de corps. Alice states, “Now I have an in-house company editor who helps me promote and publish my blog. We’ve added videos and more fun stuff. The company pays me monthly.” She keeps her comments happy, funny and still personal. How blogs can hurt:1. One small step. Negative posts can be fatal. Blogging can open you up for many legal, liability and employment questions, problems or crises. Last year, Jim C. came to me after he had posted a rather nasty post on his Top Ten Worst Retailers in the World blog. His company did business with two of those retailers and as nosy or highly sensitive corporate personnel found out about his lambaste, it caused a rift at the company. According to Jim, “This year for other reasons I was let go. It was not the economy. I crossed the line.” 2. Pictures tell a thousand stories. Larry seemed to pipe up at work a lot about things that bothered him. So he decided to publish a seemingly anonymous blog. As a techy he posted hundreds of comments on political ideas, named people he thought should be impeached and railed against what he considered bad taste and fashion. He did this anonymously under a lot of different names. But when he decided to take pictures at the year-end Christmas party and publish captions that offended nearly everyone, he was, well, suspended without pay forever (fired).3. Beautiful art can be destroyed. Craig became disillusioned after an 18-year career. Nearing retirement, his company had promoted three people younger than him to the technology-director level. Years ago he had engineered their Web presence. Knowing that having no blog presence left his company vulnerable, he found it increasingly interesting and titillating when he created a blog presence; added negative comments to company products; and dumped a list of customer complaints onto the proverbial, anonymous, the site a former employee developed to stick it to the man. Under pressure, the author faced legal entanglements and gave up Craig’s name as a blogger. Now Craig is in litigation. It’s not looking good.Imagine you’re an artist like Michelangelo dipping brush into paint; a seemingly limitless creative well. You’re halfway done with your masterpiece, the signature of your worklife and rather spiritual mission. As you take your impossible position on the scaffold to paint more of the Sistine Chapel you have a thought. Imagine you could destroy your Sistine Chapel with one strike of the match. Like the great artist, blogging can help you take ownership of your career and worklife vision. Of course, it can also be just for fun, too. But let’s also realize you, like the great artist, have the power to create or destroy your career future with just a few strokes or decisions. Make sure you know your audience and you understand the potential impact of your newly minted blog posts. It could make a lasting impression and a permanently positive or negative impact on your career picture.Paint yours. Paint it well.