“Adrienne gave me wonderfully fresh ideas for marketing my business at a big conference last Fall. They worked! I got two big clients from it!”

Janell Osborn White Space Graphics,LLC

  

Marketing Magician

Helping executives and business owners sell more in less time by revealing tips and suggestions on how to make the most of your marketing dollars.

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Adrienne Zoble

Adrienne Zoble

Adrienne was a New Jersey public speaker and business expert for over THIRTY years. Now she’s a marketing and referral consultant. Denver and Northern Colorado have depended on her since her arrival here over 12 years ago.


Consulting and speaking to business owners and executives of growing businesses throughout the United States since 1977, Adrienne Zoble has guided companies toward marketing strategies that help them work smart, not hard.

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All too often I hear people say, “I really don’t know that many people.”

That’s a crock.  

At last count we’ve identified 103 categories of people who move through your personal and business lives.  How well do you know these myriad people?  And, better yet, how well do they know you and what you do?

This is not just about acquiring referrals (please go to the end of this piece to read more about that).  This is about leveraging all the people you know, because there are far more than you give yourself credit for.

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Author’s Note:

This Blog is very similar to one that ran a year ago.  It’s not being repeated because I’m lazy, but because the message is important and timely.  No matter how many times I present this topic, I suspect that legions of business owners don’t take the advice to heart.  Please pay attention. This Blog might have a major influence on your end-of-year revenue.

 

Conventional wisdom is risky business, because more often than not, it’s less than accurate.  Frequently, it’s downright wrong.

Take the holiday season.  

Now that November is upon us, you’re going to hear a lot of the following.  You might even be uttering these gems yourself:

We don’t market after November 10th.  Everyone’s distracted by Thanksgiving.

We don’t market after the first week in December, because everyone’s too busy with the holidays.

We close down between Christmas and New Year’s.  Nobody’s in their 

offices then; they’re all in the Caribbean.  

Now think about it.  Work is work.  

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All around us there are sales pitches telling us how we can reach our potential.  

It might be about weight, fashion, make-up, self-esteem, finding a job. You get the idea.

And it’s difficult to miss the thousands of websites that address marketing.  

I’ve viewed many of them, and the misinformation just saddens me.  You know the old saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  Well, when people take the marketing advice they get for free on the Internet and then wonder why the suggestions didn’t work, I just have to shake my head.

Allow me to boast a bit, though.

It’s no secret I’m a Udemy.com instructor with four courses on their website.  Getting people to take my courses is like pulling teeth.  One colleague I know, however, signed up a few months ago for “Easy Market Planning” and “Summertime Marketing.”  I saw her in late September at an event for an organization to which we both belong.

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Several weeks ago I met with the wife of a client.

We had had a few meetings with the husband and the office manager, but the wife hadn’t attended, which was fine, because she intimidated me.  I sensed she resented my having been hired by her husband, believing they were doing fine with their marketing without me, thank you very much.

On this day, however, the husband couldn’t attend, so his wife joined the office manager and me.  As she sat down, she said, “I’ll only be able to stay for a half-hour; I’ve got a lot on my plate today.”

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It wasn’t that long ago that I could state in my seminars and consultations that price is not the most important issue in the marketing of goods and services.

While price still isn’t the most important, it’s sure moved up a few notches since the advent of the Internet.

Actually, I believe that price became an ever-cheapening issue during the recession that began in 2008.  Then, people were suffering and truly needed some breaks on pricing.  And, of course, technology allows delivery at little to no cost.  Yet it’s gone too far.

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Yesterday on a whim I Googled “questions employers should ask during interviews,”

or something to that effect.   Naturally a ton of domains came up within split seconds, just waiting to offer help.

So why is there so much inferior hiring going on?  And please don’t tell me there’s a scarcity of good people.

Oh sure, when it comes to engineering and technology, there is indeed a dearth of candidates; but there are plenty of other job openings.

Recently two of my clients have gotten into QuickBook nightmares, with bookkeepers who proved to be incompetent.  This shouldn’t be.  There are plenty of bookkeeping services out there, not to mention the free-lance soloists.  The point is that business owners are in such a rush to find someone, they don’t ask the right questions.

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Too often I hear business owners of small and growing businesses say something along the lines of “When our income holds steady at “X” per month for the next three months, we’ll have the cash flow to hire (an assistant, a marketing director, a project manager – you fill in the position appropriate to your needs).

Unfortunately that’s too late.

Here’s the issue: once you reach that milestone, you’re so slammed you can’t think straight.  How are you going to find the time and have a head that’s clear enough to compose a series of tantalizing recruitment ads?  Who’s going to write the job description?  Who will interview the respondents?  What questions will you or a trusted employee (perhaps you have an HR Department) ask, to ensure you’re selecting the right person for your company?  Who will train the new hire through the learning curve?

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I wanted to repost some of my more popular blogs. This is one I feel passionate about.  

Yesterday I attended the second part of a four-part workshop on Social Media.  It was quite eye-opening, and I was pleased to note that far more of what the instructor said yesterday was understandable to me, compared to two weeks ago.

While I’m not exactly a technophobe, I’m also not the most technologically-savvy individual on the planet.  When I can’t figure something out, or the computer doesn’t do what I want it to do, I automatically blame myself; worse, I stress out.

I’m awed by the patience of those really comfortable with technology.  When they hit a snag, they very calmly try something else.  Then something else, until it works.  No swearing.  No yelling.  Wow!  I tip my hat off to them. 

Of all the statistics that were tossed out yesterday, one stands out.  Unfortunately neither my assistant nor I noted the actual numbers; but I sure got the meaning and reveled in it.

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One of my most prevalent ambitions is to help people understand the difference between marketing and selling, because there’s rampant confusion about these two disciplines; and marketing gets the bad rap.

Here are the seven formal marketing components.  Originally, there were only five (the old four Ps and a D); two were added, about 25 years ago.

Price – not the most important, but the component that gets mentioned first.  What’s the chance your pricing is in line with the perceived market value?  How well are you justifying your prices 

(“this includes . . .”)?

Place – not geographical place, but marketplace.  Here’s where you keep reading my words, “The more narrowly you define your markets, the more effectively you can target those markets.”  This is the trickiest of all the components.

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For 37 years I’ve spoken and consulted nationally, occasionally outside the US.  I’ve had the repeated thrill of receiving off-the-chart evaluations after conferences and the amazing honor of being invited back time and time again.

The people in my seminars and workshops are marvelous.  They ask questions, participate, become motivated.  

The challenge is with their partners, fellow executives and employees back at the office, who haven’t become engaged in the excitement of marketing.  They claim they’re too busy.  

Well, when the current rush of work ends, what will be in the pipeline?  Admit it.  Your people are intimidated by a lack of familiarity with marketing.  They’re comfortable with their daily routines and resistant of change.  

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Lots of years ago, before I opened my own firm, I was a Media Director, first for two advertising agencies in New York City and then for the largest one in New Jersey.

The print advertising pattern was always the same, and I had no power to change it:  stay out of the January and February issues, while the clients finalized their media budgets for the year; advertise in March, April, May and part of June: stay out of the latter part of June, plus July and August when everyone was on vacation; advertise in September, October and the first part of November, before everyone was distracted by the holidays; then stay away from late November and December, unless you were a retailer.  Year after year this nonsense went on.  

In 1981 Al Ries and Jack Trout published a landmark book, Positioning – The Battle for your Mind.  The book had a profound impact on me.  In fact I consider it one of the three best business books of the 20th century and have yet to hear a critical word about it.  Audience members often report that the book changed the way they thought about their businesses.  

Having invented the word “positioning,” Pies and Trout proceeded to explain it.  (No, the term “niche marketing,” which soon followed, was not the same thing.)

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Yeah!  It’s summer!   

One of the reasons that summer is such a marketing success story is that the pace lets up a bit.  We have time to think, and we can be more productive.

If you tend to work with a messy desk as I do, you suddenly get the urge to clean it up.  Once you can see the surface, what do you do?  Why, you make a resolution that you’ll keep your desk neat from now on.  After all, it’s so much easier to find things and accomplish more . . . at an accelerated pace.

Usually the resolution about keeping a desk clean lasts no more than a few weeks, but here’s what happens in those weeks:  you go through snail mail more quickly; you respond to voice mails faster, since it’s less painful to sit at your desk; you even answer emails sooner than usual.

So, direct marketers, please note:  direct mail receives better attention in the summer.  This is not just because of a desire to go through mail a.s.a.p. to keep the desk clean; it’s also because there’s less of it.

And the reason why?  It’s obvious.  

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Had an interesting meeting with a new client this morning.  

He’s very computer savvy, and he wants to put his expertise to use by training others.

He told me he believes he has two ways to go.  

The first is to develop an online business, with brief, how-to videos for sale at very reasonable prices; the other possibility is to get out in the field and train people face-to-face.

I could tell he was somewhat conflicted.  As a computer guy, he was already counting his money from high-volume sales of inexpensive products.

Yet, when he described his experiences to date in helping people either face-to-face or through an online website that allowed both parties to participate, he was smiling.  It was clear he reveled in compliments and being able to see instant results of his expertise.

My client has an outgoing personality and an easy smile.  He’s a people person, unlike so many of the computer geniuses we encounter today, who just want to work at their computers and create interesting stuff.  He relishes the idea of speaking to groups of people.  Fortunately he’s not desperate for cash. 

Well, you can guess which fork in the road he’s going to take.  

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In the past couple of months, I’ve watched three clients struggle with internalization.  

What is it?  

Well, as best I can explain it, internalization is the act of creating all kinds of scenarios– usually negative – in one’s mind and becoming paralyzed into inaction, without ever considering seeking help.  Medically, that might not be totally correct; but that’s what happened in these three instances.

The three client situations were all centered around family.   And, without seeking advice from others as to how they could begin to address these challenges, they allowed their businesses to be badly ignored.

Once you ignore your business, it doesn’t take long to see a decline in clients, leads, referrals and prospects.  Then, as the business heads south, you begin to feel like a failure.

Perhaps you want to seek another business or field, or maybe you have delusions of all the other things you might like to do.  Usually the ideas are rather impractical, or they might involve venturing into something with which you have little to no experience.  Instead of solving the challenges, you look for an escape, which solves nothing.

It just gets worse.  

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Peoples’ attitudes towards summertime marketing never cease to amaze me.  There’s still far too much of “We don’t market during the summer.  Everyone’s on vacation.”

Well sure, people do vacation in the summer.  That’s true.  

Dig a bit deeper, however, and you’ll realize that people go away for an average of just one week.  So?  There are 13 weeks to summer, and not everyone vacations in the same week.  Duh!

People are more relaxed during warm weather.  They’re more likely to respond to voice or emails more promptly.  And yes, they’re under less deadline pressure.  These are just a few considerations that make summer, in my book, the most effective season of the year to market.  (Of course there are those for whom summertime is high season, but those who are too busy to market pay a steep price in the fall, facing an empty pipeline.)

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A couple of years ago, I was working with a couple on the East Coast in the remodeling business.  

The husband generated a fair amount of business with several sub-contractors, and the wife was in charge of the marketing.

Everything was fine for a year or so, but then the wife started to become distracted by myriad family situations that required her attention.

When we spoke, she complained that she really didn’t like working for or with her husband.  The job was uninspiring, and there were other things she’d much rather do.  She would agree to handle the assignments we discussed and then cancel several appointments, because she “hadn’t done her homework.”  In the meantime, the husband was working his head off, trying to satisfy his clients and compensate for what she was ignoring.

Finally, after several attempts at scheduling yet another meeting, she simply didn’t respond either to my phone calls or emails; and that was the end of that.

As a marketing consultant and speaker to small and growing businesses for more than 38 years, I’ve seen a fair amount of unhappy couples.  The husband is disappointed, because he depends upon his wife for the marketing or bookkeeping; the wife is resentful, because she wants to be free to do something else.  In many of these cases, the wife has been expected to work for no salary, because “the business benefits the entire family.”

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A few of those in my client base have timing issues.

Here’s what I mean.  

A client or prospect calls about getting remodeling work done.  Or it could be research, a survey, a website, market planning, public relations, social media assistance, whatever.

The caller asks when they can meet, and my client, afraid to keep this person waiting,  sets a time the next day.

Of course, this upsets all of the plans my client had for the following day.  Then my clients stress themselves out and lose sleep over all the work they have to do.  How will they ever get it done?

I ask them, “Who says you have to meet within 24 hours?” and that stops them in their tracks.  I question, “Do you really believe that people are so impatient and inconsiderate that they can’t wait an extra day or two?  All of us are on crazy schedules.  People have become increasingly understanding.”

Moreover, the person who actually demands an almost immediate meeting is showing the marks very early on of a potential client from you-know-where.

Just as important as knowing who your clients are is knowing who they aren’t.  At the first signs of impatience or lack of respect for what you do and how long your processes take, you should be backing out gently and quickly.

Of course, people who are desperate take anyone on and fervently pray that the attitude will change, but it doesn’t work that way.  Early signs are significant in revealing what the business relationship portends.

So, let’s try to change that mindset that makes you jump at anyone’s show of interest.  

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Have you ever considered that prospecting and servicing clients are very similar to a courtship and honeymoon?

During the “courtship,” everything is hunky-dory.  Lots of smiles, returned phone calls, emails and texts.

There’s something else, however: there’s the rose-colored assumption that you’ll be able to change a few undesirable qualities of the prospect, once he or she becomes a client.

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You get off the phone and remark to the people around you, “If I could only lose this client by attrition, I’d be a happy camper.  He’s driving me crazy.”

The next day you get off the phone and remark to the same people, “If I had ten more clients like her, I’d be in seventh heaven.”

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Yesterday I met with a prospect who’s starting a new business.  He’d done some serious thinking about what he wanted to do, but there were some flaws.

He told me that he’d been attending seminars and reading every business book he could get his hands on.  The more he spoke, the clearer it became that he was the recipient of too much information.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Research is commendable, and I applaud those conscientious enough to learn as much as they can before embarking on a new venture.

That said, it’s possible to hear and read so much wisdom that you don’t know where to  begin.  And that’s where this gentleman was in his start-up.

He had a demographic market in mind, but it was far too broad.  He really needed to define and prioritize his markets.  Moreover, the more narrowly he defined his markets, the more effectively he would be able to target those markets.

Let me explain.  

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Years ago I consulted for a company in Colorado that had made the INC. 500 Fastest Growing Companies list that year.  The owner had heard me speak at one of several of these conferences where I spoke.  (At the time I was still in NJ and had no idea I would be relocating to Fort Collins only a couple of years later.)

I met with the Marketing Director and his team.  The owner traveled a great deal, negotiating sales for his company far and wide.  He was a great salesman, but his ego was so oversized he had no idea how clueless he was about the other aspects of his business.  He hired professionals to cover the other areas of expertise, then refused to meet with them.

The week I consulted for the company “Joe” made sure he was in town.  I heard him say to his CPA who wanted to discuss a disturbing issue, “You take care of it; that’s why I’m paying you the big bucks.”  

In our marketing meeting, we were discussing the firm’s trade show budget.  They were spending $120,000. per year and had no idea which shows were better than others.  At this meeting, the Marketing Director and his team were agonizing over whether or not to participate in an upcoming, expensive show that until that point seemed to have delivered nothing.

I asked, “What do the salespeople who work the shows tell you?”  Answer, “Oh, they always return and say the shows were great.”

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Last week I met with a client in Wyoming who is a medical professional.  His biggest sticking point is writing reports about his patients.

You might ask how this is related to marketing.  

The answer is simple.  If he’s been referred by another doctor, the referring doctor expects to know what my client did for her patient and how her patient is progressing.

If these reports are not forthcoming promptly, referrals decline as the word gets around that the doctor is consistently tardy with patient information.

It works both ways, of course.  If my client refers to another doctor and his reports are incomplete, the other doctor may grow impatient at his inability to begin to help the patient.

On-time reporting was the agenda for our last consultation.  I asked my client how many reports he could complete per week, being totally aware of how many interruptions he has to absorb in the course of each day.  Moreover, his work is draining; he has to put on a good face for his patients, regardless of what he’s going through in his own personal life.

Obviously it’s not that simple to go from meeting with a patient to sitting down and writing a report.  Catching one’s breath before the next appointment is essential.  If it’s a day with a heavy patient load, you can imagine how exhausted he is at the end of the day.

Back to the subject at hand, however.  

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What makes so many business owners resist marketing to such an extent?  

I’ve written about this frequently, but it still isn’t penetrating enough business owner brains.

Overwhelmingly, people equate marketing with advertising, believing advertising costs are way beyond their budget.  Well, advertising is part of marketing; but marketing isn’t just advertising.  Moreover, you’ve heard me warn repeatedly about marketing Unknown to Unknown; and that’s what advertising is.  You don’t know them, and they don’t know you.  Advertising requires a commitment of months, and I’m not about to espouse this as your primary marketing strategy when I say constantly, in marketing it’s not what you spend, but how you spend it.

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Recently I celebrated my 38th anniversary in business.  It was on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I’m still thanking people for their good wishes.

Anniversaries are special, so how well do you leverage those that occur in your business?

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I’ll be the first to admit that this is an area that has frustrated me for years, partly because I don’t pay enough attention to it, partly because I get lazy.

Testimonials, also known as Reviews, are valuable on websites and the various social media; but they’re not always easy to obtain.  (By the way, I’ve heard increasing numbers of people saying “testimonies,” and that isn’t correct; it’s “testimonials,” please.)

You receive a compliment, and you ask for a written testimonial (or review) from the person who’s offered some kind, positive words.  And here’s where the fun begins.  The individual agrees to write one, but you never receive it.

How come?  

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Just today I was at a meeting, where I heard something interesting about a fellow member: she wasn’t going to renew.  She claimed she got nothing out of her membership.

Now this is a woman who I haven’t set eyes on in well over a year.  Does she attend any of our meetings or social events?  Of course you know the answer.

So here’s the big whopping secret to business success from organizations to which you pay dues:  

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Thanks to email and the Internet, a good deal of direct mail has fallen on hard times.  Just ask the U.S. Post Office.

That said, direct mail has been and still is a proven marketing strategy.  Trouble is, too many people don’t know how to utilize it.

Here is some conventional thinking about direct mail and how to turn it around.

1.  “Let’s do a mailing and see what happens.”

Huh-uh.  That’s as inefficient as “let’s run an ad and see what happens.”

Commit to four mailings and then evaluate.  Quarterly or bimonthly will do.

2. “We have to mail at least 5,000 pieces to get a decent return.”  No, you don’t.  

Even a mailing to 100,000 unknown people might deliver next to no results.  Concentrate on your own list, Known to Known; and don’t worry about the numbers.  Several years ago a client with a scientific company sent out a mailing to its 100 clients.  Within three months, he had heard from everyone.

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The other day I was on a phone consultation with a client who wasn’t very happy.  He was watching a potential piece of business go down the drain, because nepotism seemed to be determining who was going to be awarded the account.

“I thought I’d just keep sending them mailings about how good we are, to try to convince them that the brother-in-law’s firm doesn’t have the experience we have in this area.”

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No, the Hit List you’re thinking of is not what I have in mind.

I’m writing about a “Business Hit List.”  Do you have one?  You should.

A Hit List is a list of six – twelve people or companies with whom you wish to do business.

The people on your list may be Program Chairs of organizations where you would like to speak.  They may be key contacts within the firms you have your eye on.  They may be influential within your community.  They may be your professional advisors (lawyer, CPA, financial planner, marketing or management consultant, architect or engineer).  Those in the professions know lots of people.  What’s the chance they know someone to whom you’d like an introduction?

Creating this Hit List will help your schmoozing schedule (www.azobleassoc.com for our 2015 e-Schmoozing Calendar).  This list will give you focus: whom should you meet with, for what purpose and when?

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What a minefield this is, exacerbated by people not knowing how to handle the situation.

You have a seasoned salesperson who’s been calling on a client for three years.  You bring in a new salesperson and turn this seasoned client over to him or her.  The new salesperson calls the client to introduce him or herself, perhaps even sets an appointment.

And, of course this new person blabs that he or she is new, because you didn’t warn, “don’t go there.”  (There’s absolutely no reason to burden people with information they don’t need to know.  The length of time an individual has been with a company is a very poor second to their experience and expertise.)

Within a few weeks you receive a call from this client, who says he’s gotten a better deal elsewhere.  What’s going on here?  Pure emotion (remember: marketing isn’t logical; it’s emotional); but he’s definitely not going to give you the real reason, which is he’s ticked off at being handed over to the newest kid on the block.

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How many companies have a Marketing Team?  Too few, in my estimation.

Staff meetings are important, but they get a bad rap because they’re usually meaningless.  Most of the time, they’re concerned only with sales comparisons, whether or not a grumbling client/customer has been mollified or when a particular order is being shipped.

With SmartPhones and people paying more attention to the cell phone hidden in their lap, meetings have become even more laborious and less participatory.

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On the heels of our previous blog, here are some questions to ask a prospective marketing consultant or marketing firm, plus one question not to ask.

  • What kind of marketing do you do?
  • What size companies do you prefer to work with?
  • What results have you achieved for some of your clients?
  • How many Marketing Plans have you written?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rank yourself or your firm in the implementation of your clients’ Marketing Plans?  What were the strong and weak points?
  • What are your favorite marketing strategies?
  • What do you look for in a client?
  • What can we expect from you?
  • How do you feel about providing two references?

You might be interested to know that, as I approach my 38th anniversary in business, I’ve only been asked for references three times!  Of course many clients have already heard me speak, so they have a good idea of my marketing philosophy. When they agree, they contact me.

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When I first moved to Fort Collins, CO over 13 years ago, I joined a women’s business networking group.  Standing on the luncheon buffet line, I turned to the woman in back of me and introduced myself.

“What do you do?” I asked.  She replied, “I’m a marketing consultant.”  

“Oh, so am I,” I returned.  For whom do you market?  She said, “I work with small businesses and help them with their Marketing Plans.”  “Wow,” said I; “we do pretty much the same thing.  So tell me more about your clientele and how you help them.”

Then she began to flounder a bit.  After a couple of sentences, the truth surfaced.

When she finished, I countered with, “So you’re really a sales representative for an advertising specialties company, who writes proposals for companies to benefit from your specialty products.  You’re not a marketing consultant; you’re a sales rep.”

She was not happy with me, and I could have cared less.  That brief exchange made me wary; and, sure enough, the woman turned out to be the first of many people I’ve encountered over the years, who go around masquerading as marketing consultants and really are anything but.

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It’s time to start thinking about trade shows and home shows.  Only a few years ago,  home shows didn’t start until late March or early April.  Now they’re beginning in January and February.

Exhibiting at trade or home shows consists of four components.  Most companies focus on no more than two, usually one.

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Over the years I’ve spoken and written about this numerous times.  It’s the issue of priorities, particularly as they pertain to marketing.

It’s so easy to say, “We (I) don’t have the time to market.”  It’s equally easy to say, “We (I) don’t have the money to market.”

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My Mother, who’s been gone for many years now, always used to proclaim, “Don’t give me any ‘luft’ invitations!”  “Luft” is Yiddish for “air” or “hot air.”  What Mother railed against was, “You’ll have to come over some time.”  Or, “We’ve got to get together.”

You get the idea.  

She wanted an invitation with a specific time and place, not some vague mention of a gathering that was destined not to occur.

Something similar happens in business, and it’s really annoying.  Often people don’t know how to end a phone call or an email, so they close with “I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”

They haven’t made any notation of this promise, because they have no intention of keeping it.  Yet they’ve been pretty clear.  They said “tomorrow.”

Poor marketing.  

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You’ve heard me ask on myriad occasions, “Do your clients or customers know everything you do?”   I’ve implored business owners, marketing and sales executives to educate their clientele over a period of time, so they’re not ever at the receiving end of missed business opportunities due to “I didn’t know you did that.”

Well, the operative words here are “over a period of time.”  Educating gradually is very different from telling everything you do at a networking introduction or in a cover letter.  People can absorb just so much at a time.  Their eyes will glaze over, if you try to tell them too much too soon.

Yet business owners, marketing and sales executives repeatedly jam in far too much information far too early in the game.  Unfortunately, this plethora of information gets lost almost immediately.

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I’m constantly invited to be connected, befriended and followed on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter respectively.  While it’s pretty clear some people just look for others to invite, I’m pleased to say I know the vast majority of people who communicate with me; if I don’t know them, at least they’re related to marketing and/or sales in some way.

How many contacts do you have?  How many of them are worth a breakfast, lunch or coffee in the New Year?  What do you know about these people?  What do they know about you?  What do you have in common?

Business opportunities surface when you least expect them.  (Of course, when you’re desperate, they seem to be nowhere in sight.)  The more you schmooze, the more you gain.

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It’s no secret that I relocated to Colorado from New Jersey 13 years ago.  Yes, that’s right: I’m from the state whose people enjoy the reputation of being in your face.

Now this isn’t a bad thing, unless you’re speaking to someone who is so painfully shy, that he or she can’t pronounce their name without stumbling.

It was, however, something of a culture shock to encounter the passivity here; and I still have trouble with it.

When I was here for one year, people asked me how much I liked northern Colorado; and I replied that I loved it.  “No road rage.   If I was caught daydreaming at a traffic light (“stop light” out here), no one honked.”  It’s heaven.  Yet a woman took me by surprise when I mentioned the lack of horns honking.  “Well, what good would it do?” she asked.  That stopped me.

Very carefully, I replied, and I’ve used this in seminars for the past 12 years to howls of laughter, “You know, I don’t come from a land of savages; and I’ll admit honking one’s horn isn’t the most polite way to get people to move, but IT WORKS!”

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What’s the difference between features and benefits?  They’re pretty different, actually.  Unfortunately, too many business owners and copywriters get caught up in the former, when they should be concentrating on the latter.

Features are facts.  This is easy to remember, since “features” and “facts” begin with the same letter.  These are logical statements:

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One of my most prevalent ambitions is to help people understand the difference between marketing and selling, because there’s rampant confusion about these two disciplines; and marketing gets the bad rap.

Here are the seven formal marketing components.  Originally, there were only five (the old four Ps and a D); two were added, about 25 years ago.

Price – not the most important, but the component that gets mentioned first.  What’s the chance your pricing is in line with the perceived market value?  How well are you justifying your prices 

(“this includes . . .”)?

Place – not geographical place, but marketplace.  Here’s where you keep reading my words, “The more narrowly you define your markets, the more effectively you can target those markets.”  This is the trickiest of all the components.

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How do you feel about your clients?  Here’s how you can tell:

You’re on the phone with a client (or customer, if more appropriate).  When the call ends, you announce to no one in particular, “If I could only lose that client!  What a pain-in-the-butt!”

Now let’s change the scenario:  when a call from one of your clients is over, you sigh and remark to those around you, “If I only had ten more like him!”

What are the characteristics of the former, and what are the characteristics of the latter?  If you think about this when you’re driving, you just might be able to define more clearly who your clients are and who they aren’t.

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There are three types of networking:

1. networking with your client/customer and/or supplier;

2. networking with your colleagues;

3. networking with fellow members of organizations to which you belong.

Overwhelmingly, people concentrate on #3.

Yet there’s a good deal of marketing to be accomplished with the other two types.  For example, when is the last time you invited someone who’s referred you several times (that would be one of your “advocates”) to lunch?  If this person is out-of-town or out-of-state, what’s the chance you went online to get the name of a good, local restaurant and sent a gift card (“Sorry we can’t dine together, but I hope you’ll enjoy your meal on me; thank you so much for your referral.”)?

And then there are your clients and suppliers (you might call them “vendors”).  I’m tired of hearing about how often you see clients onsite.  Sure you do.  You’re engaged in work.  When, however, did you sit down with your client one-on-one and develop a relationship, both to get to know each other better and to promote client loyalty?  Who knows?  You might even acquire

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For years, even decades, I’ve stated that what a consultant brings to the table is outside objectivity.  That’s true of marketing and other consultants.

You’ve heard the expression, “I can’t see the forest for the trees.”  Well, inside-out thinking is often what happens when people in companies try to do their own marketing.

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When considering your marketing activities, how often do you procrastinate?  Whether you’re in a growing business or a large company, the answer probably is “A lot. 

Two of my clients continually promise they will make some check-in calls to raving fan clients.  There is an overriding rationale as to why I ask clients to buy into the concept of making these calls :  the #1 reason why people or companies change vendors is Lack of Attention.  Year after year, decade after decade.

Sure, pricing comes into play, but you’ve probably stated (or heard) many times, “I made a big mistake, going for the lowest rate I could find.  Whoever said ‘You get what you pay for’ knew what he was talking about.” 

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In our last blog, we homed in on three common marketing resolutions and the reason they somehow don’t get to the implementation stage.  Here are three more:

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As the year begins to wind down, it’s natural to start thinking about how we’re going to do things so much better next year.  The challenge is to make our New Year’s Resolutions definitive, with timelines, so they actually happen.  We all know what usually occurs with most of our Resolutions.  Well, let’s resolve that next year will be different: we’ll actually implement a few of them!

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Conventional wisdom is risky business, because more often than not, it’s less than accurate.  Frequently, it’s downright wrong.

Take the holiday season.  Now that November is upon us, you’re going to hear a lot of the following.  You might even be uttering these gems yourself: 

           We don’t market after November 10th.  Everyone’s distracted by Thanksgiving.

           We don’t market after the first week in December, because everyone’s too busy with the holidays.

           We close down between Christmas and New Year’s.  Nobody’s in their offices then; they’re all in the Caribbean. 

Now think about it.  Work is work.  Whatever preparations you might be making for the holidays, including shopping, gift-wrapping, cooking and housecleaning, aren’t usually done on company time.  Oh, you might take a day or two; but most people are still working, until the officially designated company time off.

Even preparations for a holiday party don’t take the participation of everyone in a firm.

Here’s the corker:

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Marketing all too often gets a bad rap.  The reason is that there is an overwhelming marketplace perception that anything to do with marketing takes “a long, uninterrupted block of time.”

Utilizing social media?  ALUBOT. 

Revamping a website?  ALUBOT.

Updating a database?  ALUBOT.

You get the idea.  And, by the way, these three examples are merely the tip of the iceberg.

So how do you get around these perceptions and intimidations? 

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Yesterday I attended the second part of a four-part workshop on Social Media.  It was quite eye-opening, and I was pleased to note that far more of what the instructor said yesterday was understandable to me, compared to two weeks ago.

While I’m not exactly a technophobe, I’m also not the most technologically-savvy individual on the planet.  When I can’t figure something out, or the computer doesn’t do what I want it to do, I automatically blame myself; worse, I stress out.

I’m awed by the patience of those really comfortable with technology.  When they hit a snag, they very calmly try something else.  Then something else, until it works.  No swearing.  No yelling.  Wow!  I tip my hat off to them. 

Of all the statistics that were tossed out yesterday, one stands out.  Unfortunately neither my assistant nor I noted the actual numbers; but I sure got the meaning and reveled in it.

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Marketing isn’t logical; it’s emotional. 

A fairly frequent  reaction when people ask, “How’s business?” is to try to impress.  “We’re so slammed I can’t see straight.  I’ve been at work until 8:00 p.m. every night this week, attempting to catch up on paperwork.”

Wrong response.

All this does is make people afraid to refer or work with you, since you just virtually announced that you can’t handle any more business.  Why should they put their credibility on the line or suffer your lack of attention?

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That got your attention, didn’t it?  That’s not the kind of Hit List I’m talking about, however.  The List I’m referring to would be a list of 12-18 people or companies with whom you wish to do business.  The people on your list may be key contacts within those companies.  Or they may be key contacts where you’d like to speak, join, sponsor or purchase a vendor table/booth.

Then again, they may simply be major players in your community, whom you’d like to get to know better.

How strategically are you leveraging the business you already have? 

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We’re into the fourth quarter, which gets business owners and executives thinking about the year ahead.

This is what I’ve heard for decades at this time of year:  “Next year we have to become more serious about marketing.”  Or, “We really should consider doing a Marketing Plan.”  Of course there are many variations, but you get the idea.

The point is that these and similar comments are noticeably vague.  They’re mere empty words, designed for inaction.  

So . . . let’s eliminate the mystique of Market Planning.

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After almost 38 years in my own marketing business as a speaker and consultant, I can lay claim to having heard some pretty poor introductions.

“I’m so-and-so, and we’re the cheapest in the county.”

“I have a tiny business in my home.”

“I changed careers six months ago, after 25 years as a teacher, and I hope you’ll buy from me.”

I have a consulting business, and I also do (fill in the MLM company).” 

All of these introductions are burdening people with information they don’t need to know.

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Among my various clients, I have two who are terrible at returning telephone calls.  Now you might say phoning people, rather than texting or emailing them, is old hat.  Boy, do I disagree!

Face-to-face and voice-to-voice marketing are the two most effective forms of marketing that exist.

You see, people buy from you based on three criteria:

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Right now it feels as if the business community is divided into two camps: those who are resisting social media and those who are their raving fans.  The former group is declining bit by bit.

While I admit to being not nearly so proficient as I could be, I’m trying and learning as much as I can; moreover, while I still see them as potentially great gobblers of our precious time, I can’t deny social media’s effectiveness. 

Clearly, in just a few years, the social media have turned conventional marketing strategies on their ears. 

You’ve heard me say many times that it’s not no money; and it’s not no time.  It’s no priority.  When one doesn’t know the benefits of doing something, any excuse will do.

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You bet they aren’t!  A wise man (whose identity I do not know) once said, “There’s nothing so constant as change.”

Unfortunately it’s come so quickly that many aren’t ready for it.

Not too many years ago there were three major television networks.  Now there are myriad specialized cable networks, and the three majors are floundering.  Where channel numbers used to end at thirteen, they now go into the high hundreds.

Not that long ago, there were both morning and evening newspapers in virtually every major city.  How many dailies have closed down in the past decade?

How many more newspapers are switching to digital editions only?

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Often at seminars I ask attendees what they think is the single most important aspect of running a business.  People start to call out, “quality, range of products and services, good employees, expertise, price.”

As they call out these and other issues, I have an answer for each; “won’t be important, doesn’t matter” and so on.  After they’re through I state very simply, “The most critical part of running your business is keeping your name out there.  If you don’t do that, nothing else matters.”

That sobers them quickly enough.  How are you going to generate business, if nobody knows about you?  And how will prospects learn about you, if marketing is always the last thing you pay attention to in your business?

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On the phone with a client last week, I received yet another reinforcing lesson in how companies don’t communicate.

Only in the past few weeks has this company assigned an individual to call clients regarding installations and repairs of the week before.  They’re just beginning to realize that there could be some business in service contracts and soon-to-expire warranties!  Imagine how the client feels, being told their warranty ran out six months ago; and they’ll now have to pay full rate for repairs.  I made it clear that I would be livid!

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All around me, people are proving that they haven’t a clue what marketing is.  This comes out when they tell me, “I have no money to market.”  Actually, they’re talking about advertising.  Advertising is a part of marketing, but marketing isn’t just advertising.

It also hits home, when I hear about people in marketing positions being laid off.  Unquestionably, marketing can appear ephemeral; and employers have difficulty measuring the results that marketing brings.  It’s even more difficult, when one doesn’t set quantifiable goals with timelines!

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I’m really tired of hearing, “our salespeople are complaining that we’re not giving them enough support.  They want us to advertise in the media, place coupons in household mailers, update our website; we’re talking big money here.”

That’s b.s.

They want you to spend your money?  I don’t think so!  While an updated website might certainly prove to be worthwhile, you’d be starting out on the wrong foot if your first question had to be, “How cheaply can we get away with doing this?”

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For 37 years I’ve spoken and consulted nationally, occasionally outside the US.  I’ve had the repeated thrill of receiving off-the-chart evaluations after conferences and the amazing honor of being invited back time and time again.

The people in my seminars and workshops are marvelous.  They ask questions, participate, become motivated.  

The challenge is with their partners, fellow executives and employees back at the office, who haven’t become engaged in the excitement of marketing.  They claim they’re too busy.  

Well, when the current rush of work ends, what will be in the pipeline?  Admit it.  Your people are intimidated by a lack of familiarity with marketing.  They’re comfortable with their daily routines and resistant of change.  

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How do people have so much common sense in their personal lives and so little, when it comes to their businesses?

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Several years ago we sent out a one-question survey: “what are the marketing issues that frustrate you the most?”  We then provided roughly one dozen possibilities and invited respondents to select as many as they wished.  Amazingly we received almost a 10% return to the survey.

Far and away the greatest issue, with 53.7%, was “good ideas, poor implementation.”  Number Two, with 42.3%, was “not enough hours in the day.”  All of the other issues received far lower scores.

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It’s no secret that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find responsible, skilled employees.

Perhaps that’s why many business owners are so desperate to rationalize the value of poor, inappropriate  resumes.

For starters most of us unschooled in Human Resources have trouble looking for resume characteristics that HR people routinely seek: what’s not said in resumes. 

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How do people have so much common sense in their personal lives and so little, when it comes to their businesses?

Take marketing, for example.  Billions (that’s with a “b”) of dollars are wasted each year by small and growing companies, because people either don’t know what they’re doing; or they rely on the advice of their colleagues, who may or may not be equally less than savvy when it comes to marketing.

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