Are You Asking the Right Question?

This is a short tale of two focus groups. This tale is meant to show you how changing one word when asking a question can get you exactly what you’re looking for.

ABC Corporation sells laundry detergent. Sales were flat so they wanted to find out what was going on with their customers. Specifically, how could ABC improve their laundry detergent? So, they conducted a focus group with customers who used their product. The focus group moderator was selected from the company’s marketing department. This person had never conducted a focus group before.

This moderator asked the twelve people sitting around the conference table, 
“What do you need in terms of laundry detergent?” Blank stares filled
 the room. The participants were speechless. One participant asked, “I don’t know what I need”. Another said, “I need my clothes to be clean”. After going in circles, the group was unable to articulate any concrete need. The leader got frustrated and terminated the group after thirty minutes, without any suggestions. What a bust.

Another company, XYZ Corporation also sold laundry detergent and conducted a focus group with customers to find out how the corporation could improve its product. Same goal as ABC Corporation. This time the corporation hired a trained and experienced focus group facilitator. This facilitator asked the right question to group members.

“What problems are you having with your current laundry detergent?”

The answers came rolling off everyone’s tongues.

  • “I hate it when the liquid drips down the side of the bottle.”
  • “I can’t seem to figure out how to use the scoop.”
  • 
“The directions are written too small”. 

  • “The bottle is too heavy.”
  • “The handle is too small.”
  • “I don’t know if I’m getting my money’s worth.”


The marketing department was impressed with the useful information provided by just twelve people. The facilitator presented her report to XYZ’s Product Development team. They conducted more groups and got more useful information about customer problems.

People can easily articulate their problem but struggle to express their needs. The more you know about your customers’ problems, the more successful you’ll be.

Taken from Critical Connections – The Step-By-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

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Overcome Your Fear of Selling

Taking the Fear Out of Public Speaking

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Preventing Marketing Paralysis

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Source material has been taken from my book Critical Connections – The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Do You Suffer From Brochure Inertia?

You all know a small business owner who has stacks of unused brochures lying around his or her office. If you asked why the brochures are here, that business owner might say:

  • I printed too many.” or
  • “The content is out-of-date.” or
  • “Now that I’ve had them for a while, I don’t like the color.” or
  • “I found a typographical error after the brochures were printed.”

Each of these excuses are symptoms of Brochure Inertia. Brochure Inertia can be prevented if you consider the following:

  1. Narrow your list, so your mailing tasks will be manageable.
  2. Where will you get the proper mailing list? How much will the mailing list cost?
  3. How many brochures and cover letters should you print? Always mail a brochure along with a cover letter unless you are printing a self-mailer.
  4. Who will write, design and print the brochure?
  5. How much will it cost for design, printing, and postage?

 If you need help with writing and design, go online and search for ‘direct marketing’. You’ll find tips on how to write brochures. You’ll get a feeling of the range of fees and costs involved in printing and mailing a brochure.

My favorite adaptation of the brochure is what I call a capabilities sheet (some refer to it as a pitch sheet). These are printed on one side of a piece of paper only – I print mine on my color laser printer. I like them because I can change the copy to fit the specific needs of a customer or referrer.

For example, I met with a lawyer in a mid-sized law firm to discuss conducting a client retention program. I had previously written a one-page capability sheet for another type of client. This particular client owned a company that provided continuing education programs for healthcare professionals. I wrote a capabilities sheet for this company to deliver a customer service training program for his twelve employees. It was easy for me to modify the existing capabilities sheet for the lawyers.

Three tips to think about when you sit down to write a capabilities sheet:

  • Use bullets in the middle of the sheet and limit the number of bullets (I suggest maximum of seven).
  • Don’t squeeze your phone number, email address, and website on the 
very bottom of the sheet.
  • Next time you check your snail mail, see if there are any postcard styles that would work for your customers or referrers.

I once heard a marketing professional say the purpose of a brochure was to be put in a filing cabinet or desk drawer.

This pessimistic statement does have some merit. But let’s face it, you have to have something tangible to mail and give customers.

 

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

What’s The Difference Between Transactional and Relationship Marketing?

What’s The Difference Between Transactional and Relational Marketing?

Let’s say you’re creating a marketing plan to sell garden hoses. Your marketing strategies and sales tactics are straightforward transactions. When you sell a product, your customer shops for price and options- length, thickness, type of material, etc.

There is little or no emotional involvement in the sale. The sale is a direct transaction using traditional sales techniques.

However, if you provide personal or professional services such as financial planning, tutoring, or any type of consulting, your marketing and sales tactics are relational, not transactional. Relational selling requires you to make a connection with potential clients or customer prior to making the sale. Relational selling is value driven, not price driven. You must assure potential clients or customers they are receiving a high-quality service delivered by a knowledgeable professional. In a relational model, there is emotional involvement in the sales process. Chances are that when you consider buying a  garden hose is sales process is not an emotionally-charged experience,

Think about the following:

  1. Do my marketing and sales efforts require transactional or relational strategies?
  2. If I’m marketing a professional service, what is the one key message I want my potential client to know?
  3. If I’m selling a product, what are the one or two most important features and benefits of my product?

Keep in mind that marketing professional services is all about building and maintaining relationships with your clients and customers.

 

For more information about relationship and referral-based marketing, click HERE.

How to Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Final Chapter

Help Is On The Way

If you’ve been suffering from the pain and anguish of marketing paralysis, don’t worry. You can get immediate and long-term relief by doing the following:

Phone a Friend. It’s a good idea to talk things over with a friend and get some advice. You might want to discuss a new idea, clarify a stumbling block, or just plain talk about your business. When you’re considering starting a solo business, it gets lonely quickly in the early stages of planning your business strategies.

Phone a friend who is not employed in your industry or profession. You want fresh eyes on your situation. You want the other person’s perspective. When you initially talk with your friends, do not ask them to solve your problem for you. However, most of the time, when someone gives you advice, the advice is more about what the other person needs rather than what you need.

Do not let them give you advice (easier said than done). Ask them to listen and act as a sounding board. Sometimes, just saying aloud what your situation is can be helpful. Now, you can brainstorm ideas or solutions.

Write It Down. Now it’s time to get back to basics. In order to jump-start your marketing efforts and prevent yourself from getting paralyzed, do the following:

In one or two sentences, write your answers to the following questions.

  • What are the unique characteristics of my target market?
  • What is my compelling message I want to communicate to my target market?
  • What is the number one most effective promotional vehicle to get my message out?

Use your answers to the above questions as a reminder to keep yourself on track and help you focus on where your business is going and what will be driving your marketing decisions. If you feel yourself becoming paralyzed, refer back to your answers.

What are your strengths and challenges?

Why are we talking about personal strengths and challenges? If we understand some of the more personal thoughts we have about marketing your business, we can get a better handle on how to overcome marketing paralysis.

A strength is a trait, characteristic, or skill that comes effortlessly to you. Sometimes others recognize your strengths while you minimize them. We usually take our strengths for granted. If something comes naturally to you, it’s a strength. Most likely you enjoy using your strengths. You’ve always valued your strengths. In a more ethereal sense, you can’t be great at doing something unless it’s a strength.

A challenge (intrinsic or extrinsic) is some activity that takes you out of your emotional and intellectual comfort zone and could cause paralysis. When you face a challenge, you’ll need to harness your internal strengths to overcome the challenge. My psychotherapist friends like to say that dealing with a challenge can be an area of personal growth.

There are two different approaches to working with your strengths and challenges. In the first approach, you identify your strengths and use them to their fullest advantage. In the second approach, you recognize your challenges and work to overcome them. Your strengths are not necessarily related to your challenges, but they can be.

If you identify your strengths and challenges, you’ll be able to build on them and meet any challenge that might pop up along the way.

Try this: Name two strengths you bring to building your business. Now, name two challenges you face. If you want to avoid marketing paralysis, go with your strengths.

Review

In Chapters 1 and 2, you learned about the causes of marketing paralysis. In Chapters 3, 4, and 5 learned the signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis. And, in Chapter 6 you learned about your strengths and challenges as related to marketing.

Now, you’re armed with all the weapons you need to overcome marketing paralysis. Go for it.

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

How to Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 4

Last time we discussed one symptom of marketing paralysis: the glazed over look. Now, we’ll discuss two more symptoms: going down the rabbit hole and second-guessing/overthinking.

 According to the English Oxford Dictionary, ‘going down the rabbit hole’ refers to “a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.”

This is an irresistible and uncontrollable urge to dive into the nitty-gritty and, unwittingly get stuck in the weeds of your situation. Rather than taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, you focus on the minute details of your marketing campaign: the colors for your promotional information, key words to be used in your website, which social media platform to use, etc. Details, details, details.

There’s a time and place for the details. Don’t get me wrong, details can be complicated and can cause problems. But, don’t let the minutia drag you down in the early stages of creating a marketing campaign.

Think of a time when going down the rabbit hole hindered or halted your progress on a project. Now, think of a time when going down the rabbit hole helped you.

Now you know the three causes of marketing paralysis (using the wrong model of marketing, getting unhelpful or misguided advice, and information overload). You can identify two of the three signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis (the glaze and going down the rabbit hole).

We now focus on the third symptom: Second-guessing and overthinking.

Second-guessing and overthinking occurs when you question and doubt every decision you make, large or small. You think too much about your next move or think for too long. You expend emotional energy anticipating or predicting what negative thing might happen. Your thinking gets cloudy and your anxiety hits the roof. You wind up in the world of negativity. The result can be total shut down of your thinking and marketing efforts. Not good.

I’ve heard the following statements more than once from people starting out in business. “I’m always second guessing myself about my ability to start a business. I question whether I’m able to sell and whether I’m good enough to compete in the market.”

How can your prevent overthinking and second-guessing?

  1. Stay clear of others who ‘want to help you solve your problem’
  2. Go to the gym and sweat off your negativity (a symptom of over-thinking)
  3. Go for the ‘quick win’. Find a small project that’s easy to do and that gives you some payoff
  4. It takes about 20 minutes to calm down after experiencing an upsetting situation. Take 20 minutes to collect your thoughts.

 

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 3

Signs and Symptoms

Now you are familiar with the three causes of marketing paralysis (using the wrong model of marketing, getting unhelpful or misguided advice, and information overload). We now move from causes of marketing paralysis to a discussion of the signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis.

One debilitating symptom is the glazed-over look in your eyes. The glazed over look is caused by information overload. It’s the look you get when trying to take your marketing ideas from concept to implementation. What happens to you? You lose clear vision and assume a dull, bored appearance. This is noticeable to those who look at you. You can’t seem to concentrate on your work and look like you have not slept in days. When your eyes glaze over, they become fixed and shiny, as if you are not seeing anything.

Some people, when working, get so spaced out that their computer screen looks blurry. It’s especially hard to avoid getting that glazed-over look when you’re using your tablet. The symptom tends to get worse if you’re trying to work at Starbucks. It’s been reported that some sufferers drift off to an alien galaxy. This is not good.

Have you experienced a glazed-over look when the dreaded word “marketing” is mentioned or when you’re trying to create your marketing campaign? Can you tell if you’re beginning to feel your eyes glaze over? If so, what do you experience?

Just being aware of what’s happening to you is the first step to recovery.

 

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

How To Prevent Marketing Paralysis – Chapter 1

This is a six-part series called Preventing Marketing Paralysis. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a start-up or are already in business, the practical tools and tactics you’ll learn will be of value to you. We’ll discuss the causes, signs and symptoms of marketing paralysis. And, most important, you’ll be given practical tips and suggestions to prevent you from becoming a victim of marketing paralysis. Be sure to read all six chapters, you’ll be glad you did.

What is Marketing Paralysis?

Marketing paralysis is a syndrome commonly seen in small business owners and providers of personal and professional services, who have little or no knowledge of marketing.

Marketing paralysis is similar to analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is over-analyzing a situation or idea to the point that nothing ever gets done. Those individuals or groups who suffer from analysis paralysis usually say something like, “We need more data. Let’s start from the beginning again. We need to get the right people to work on this.” Consequently, the project or idea stagnates and in many cases, no decision is made. Marketing paralysis occurs when, in the process of creating a marketing campaign, you stop dead in your tracks, unable to move forward.

Marketing Paralysis – Cause I

Using the wrong model of marketing. Most marketing models are based on strategies and tactics aimed at selling products, not services. Selling products entails a completely different strategic approach. For example, if you are building a marketing plan to sell gardening supplies, your marketing and sales tactics are based on straightforward transactions. When you sell a product such as a garden hose, your customer shops for a certain brand, price, or specific features (length and thickness, type of material, etc.). There is more than one option to buy. It’s easy to sell value. There is little or no emotional involvement in the sale. The sale is a simple transaction and uses traditional sales techniques.

On the other hand, if you provide personal or professional services such as financial planning, tutoring, or any type of consulting, your marketing and sales tactics are consultative, not transactional. It’s hard to sell a single option service (accounting). Consultative selling requires you to build a relationship with potential clients or customers. There is high emotional involvement in the relationship. When promoting services, word-of-mouth and referral-based strategies are used.

Have you applied the wrong marketing model’s strategies and tactics in your business? What happened?

In the next chapter, you’ll learn two more causes of marketing paralysis.

Stay tuned.

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

 

Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse

Here’s a story that demonstrates how to avoid putting the cart before the horse, in a marketing sense.

I was hired by a professional membership association to create a marketing plan. I’d be working under the auspices of the association’s newly formed Marketing Committee. The members of the committee had input into all aspects of the project. At the first meeting, I asked the committee members what they thought the scope of the project should be. Immediately, one of the members suggested they produce an informational booklet describing all the good things the association does. She said this would be a great way to ‘market the association.’

I tried, to no avail to direct the conversation back to defining the scope of the project. By this time, the committee was fixated on the idea of producing a booklet and what the booklet should contain. Then, the conversation shifted from the idea of writing a booklet to a discussion of what political ramifications might occur, if the booklet was published. One member was concerned that the booklet should not, in any way, offend any member of the association, or any special interest group. After this discussion went nowhere, the committee moved on.

Then, I bluntly asked, “What’s the purpose of this booklet?” The committee members said that the booklet should be used to:

  • Recruit new members
  • Update active members on the association’s accomplishments
  • Educate the public
  • Influence and educate local, state, and national policy makers on issues important to the association’s membership.

In other words, the booklet would serve the needs of everyone. I said to myself, “ this ain’t gonna work.” If the booklet was written, it would have to address the unique needs of:

  • Prospective members
  • Current members
  • The public
  • Lawmakers 
(local, state, national)
  • Members of the Marketing Committee
  • The leadership of the association (after all, the leadership has to approve the budget for the production, distribution, and promotion of the booklet).

We’re getting nowhere, fast. Towards the end of the meeting, I suggested we break down the committee and form a small working group. They liked this idea. So, here’s what we did:

  1. I asked the work group, Who’s your most important target group? If the committee had selected, ‘the public’ as a target group, which they didn’t, they’d be shooting themselves in the foot (the public is 324 million people). The public has to be broken down by age, sex, geographic area, income, educational level, special interests, buying patterns, etc. They selected prospective members as their most important target group.
  1. Why is this group important? The association has many stakeholders, from the rank and file member to corporations that support the association. Why are prospective members more important than other groups? Because, prospective members will join and provide badly needed dues and non-dues revenue to ensure the financial stability of the association.
  1. What message do you want to convey to this group? Once the target group was identified, the message can be posited. In this case, the message is to inform prospective members of the benefits of joining such as having a venue to connect with other members and develop contacts encourage them to support their profession.
  1. And, last but not least, What’s the best way to communicate your message to this group? Once you know who your target is and what the message is, then select the best vehicle to communicate that message. Here’s where it gets tricky.

In order to select the most effective vehicle to communicate the message, we need to understand the purchasing habits of the prospective members. These prospects range in age from 26 – 35. For example, they prefer to receive most communication electronically. They are skeptical of traditional sales approaches.

Based on this and other demographic and psychographic data, the committee agreed to:

  • Update their current prospect list (including non-members who have previously purchased books and journals)
  • Request lists of graduate students from graduate schools
  • Update the association’s website to include a section devoted to prospective members
  • Capture email addresses of those visiting the website and those who request to receive the association’s newsletter
  • Send email newsletters to prospects
  • Use website and email to promote a special discount on membership

As of this writing, the Marketing Committee submitted a budget to the Finance Committee for approval. Let’s wait and see if the budget gets approved.

Now you can plan your marketing campaigns this order:

  1. Who’s your most important target group?
  2. Why is this group important?
  3. What message you want to convey to this group?
  4. What’s the best way to communicate your message to this group

If you follow the above four steps, you’ll be putting the horse before the cart.

Marketing – It’s Not What You Think

Ask ten people what their definition of marketing is and you’ll probably get eleven different answers. Ask your brother-in-law, the one with the MBA from Wharton, and you’ll most likely hear him define marketing using lots of professional jargon.

I found a website listing 72 different definitions of marketing. When I read some of these definitions, I thought about my clients trying to make sense of these definitions and struggling to create and implement a marketing campaign. If I’m dazed by these definitions, I could imagine what my clients might be feeling.

Before I present my definition of marketing (I hope mine can be added as #73 on the list), here’s what marketing isn’t:

  • Producing flyers, brochures, or any printed promotional material
  • Building a website
  • Tweeting, blogging, or posting on Facebook
  • Using public relations
  • Going to the grocery store

The promotional/communication tactics listed above are implemented after defining marketing goals, objectives, and strategies.

Most definitions of marketing focus on creating strategies and tactics to build a marketing plan to sell products. These marketing models are transactional.

To demonstrate key points of the transactional model, we’ll use selling a garden hose.

      • Customers have more than one purchasing option. They can buy a 6-foot hose or 10-foot hose.
      • It’s easy to sell value. The hose has a lifetime guaranty and comes with two types of nozzles, etc. What a deal
      • There’s little emotional involvement when considering buying a garden hose.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t get worked up or emotionally engaged when considering purchasing a garden hose.
      • Whether you’re online or visiting a retail store, traditional sales techniques are used to persuade you to purchase the hose. The salesperson and online product descriptions tout the features and benefits of the hose.

My marketing model is relational not transactional.  It focuses on building and maintaining vital business relationships before the sale.

Let’s use the example of a financial planner to demonstrate key points about the relational model.

The sale is consultative. Potential clients need to be educated on what a financial planner does and what benefit the client will receive from the planner’s services. Consequently, the consultative sales process takes time. Also, potential clients go online and do their homework prior to purchasing the services. They check out the financial planner’s credentials and any reviews. They also comparative shop, looking at other financial planners. Clearly, hiring a financial planner is not an impulse purchase.

  The financial planner provides one service. Of course, the delivery of the service is tailored to the unique needs of the client.

•  It’s a challenge to sell perceived value. Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the buyer of the financial planner’s service and ability to satisfy client needs. You pay for the financial planner’s knowledge, experience, insights, and skills, not just for the time spent working with you.

  • There is a high level of emotional involvement in a client’s decision to hire a financial planner. Potential clients might get ‘sticker shock’ when it comes time to discuss fees. Once again, the potential client needs time to make the decision to engage the services of the financial planner.
  • For the most part, financial planners depend on referral sources and word-of-mouth from current and former clients for business.

Let’s dive into my model of marketing. Plain and simple: marketing is about creating a care and feeding program to develop and sustain connections and relationships with those in a position to refer business to you and those who will directly purchase your services.

Strategic Relationships

There are two types of strategic relationships:

  1. Prospective and existing customers or clients
  2. Individuals who are in a position to refer customers or clients (referral sources) to you.

What do I mean by managing strategic relationships? First, let’s break down this definition.

Management. I use the term management to describe any activity you do to keep your marketing engine running. Whether you’re self-employed or own a small business, there are certain planning activities you have to do prior to initiating and maintaining relationships. This includes everything from compiling names for a newsletter to putting together timelines for the distribution of promotional information (online or in print).

Your job is to create, implement, and manage a plan that takes care of and feeds your strategic relationships.

Strategic. The word strategic describes something important and vital.  Certain relationships are vital and others are not. For example, you might have identified primary, secondary, and tertiary target groups or market segments. You might consider your primary target group as your vital group-the group who is most likely to refer customers or most likely to be your primary customer. This would be your primary strategic relationship.

Relationships. There are two goals involved in building and maintaining relationships. In my relational model, your first job is to build a relationship using methods such as sharing content via social media or your blog or attending events where you’re most likely to meet customer or referrers. Your second job is to delight customers or clients so much that they will return.

If you want to start a web-based business, don’t fool yourself into thinking that all you have to do is build a website, post content on Facebook (or other social media platforms), collect lots of followers on Twitter, blog your brains out, or send blast emails.  How can you develop meaningful strategic relationships this way?

Marketing is the management of strategic relationships. It’s a care and feeding program you create for those in a position to refer business to you and those customers who want to purchase your product or service.

In the next installment of Marketing – It’s Not What You Think, I’ll give you a real-life example of how I used marketing as the management of strategic relationships to sell a service.    

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing