Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Try it, you’ll like it

leave a comment »

364543785_9f2275ebc5At the risk of sounding like a Successories poster, it’s against man’s nature to be complacent. There is an explorer’s spirit in all of us. Whether it’s sailing new routes and discovering America or devising a strategy for sending a person to Mars, we have a long history of trying and discovering new things.

So, how does that impact us personally?

I can’t argue that while being pressed to deliver more constantly in our professional lives, it’s easy to just keep our head down and to remain within our comfort zone by pumping out what we know has worked in the past. It’s easy to justify in your head that you just don’t have the time right now to be inventive. Just get through the project in front of you now and you’ll do something different when there’s more time.

Ever notice that there’s never more time?

Try this: when you’re starting your next project, put your foot down and say to yourself, “This is going to be the project where we try something new.” Find a boundary and push it. Set a new limit. Turn the project around in your head to look at it from a different angle.

You might think this is easier said than done, but consider this…how much off time do you have in your life? Morning and evening commutes? Time in the shower? There are good stretches of time when you can be devoting time to coming up with new angles on a project.

Advertisements

Written by Jeff York

May 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Invest in your people

with one comment

41T9YVNKTNLIn a past post, I suggested that it it always a good idea to invest in education and training for yourself. The best way to stay on top of new technologies, new processes, or just learning new tricks is from education.

The same also holds true if you are an employer. You’ve heard it time and time again. Your employees are your biggest asset. It’s true. They are committed to your organization and want to do anything they can to help it succeed. In fact, their success is dependent on your success. One of the best things you can do to help your employees to help you is to get them training.

Many sales professionals are given a formal training curriculum before they hit the streets. If they are new to the sales profession, then this training will help them develop their techniques. If they are experienced, then at a minimum the training will help with learn the company’s product/service and how to be effective quickly.

Why would you not offer the same to the rest of your staff? From support staff to senior management, everyone has something new they can learn.

Do you have a formal education or training program in place in your company? If so, what have you found to be effective for your people? If not, are you planning to develop one?

Written by Jeff York

May 10, 2009 at 1:03 am

The Peer Posse

with one comment

open_signYou’re a small business owner. Every day you wrestle with problems and challenges that impact your business. When a new situation arises, you call upon your background and muscle through the situation as best you can. You know you’re not the only small business. You have to think that you’re not the first person to deal with these particular problems.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find someone like you that’s been in this situation before? Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a like-minded individual that you could bounce ideas and thoughts off of?

You can.

Growing up, my parents owned a small business. It was a small store in a medium sized city in Connecticut. For the first decade, my parents rarely interacted with other store owners or even other business owners. They belonged to the chamber of commerce, but I don’t know why. They never took advantage of anything the chamber offered. Every time a new challenge presented itself, they struggled with it as if it was the first time this situation ever appeared in business. They had a brain trust of two, each other, in which to put towards a solution.

Then, they started talking with other business owners. And not just any business owners. They started talking with a few people that owned exactly the same kind of store they did. Something very interesting happened then. They stopped feeling isolated. They started working with the other stores as a collective group. If we were out of an item, the other stores would sell it to us at cost knowing that in the future, we will do the same. We started buying from distributors collectively driving the cost of goods down. Had I been a teenage marketing wizard, I would have been able to help them all with their advertising with solutions that no one store could have been able to afforded or executed on their own. But another interesting thing happened. My parents stopped feeling isolated. Their problem-solving brain-trust increased. There was a larger experience base to draw from.

By now, you have to be thinking that my parents got lucky. They did. After all, other businesses are called competitors for a reason. I’m not advocating that you start sleeping with the enemy. But I am hopeful that you will stop acting as if you’re on an island.

Want to know the easiest way to speak with other business owners and to find help in working through challenges that confront your business? Peer groups. Networking groups. These people have joined these groups for two reasons: to generate new business leads and to discuss small business topics with other people…people exactly like you.

I’ve found the best way to get started is to join your local chamber of commerce. Most chambers have meetings designed for just this purpose. Today, as a small business owner myself, I belong to exactly the same chamber group my parents did. However, I am much more active in the chamber’s events than they were. It helps me be more at ease with working crowds, it helps me generate new business leads, and just as importantly, it provides me access to other small business owners would are facing or have faced the same issues I do.

Your days of being alone in this are over.

Let’s talk about me

with one comment

wordofmouthLet’s say I’m your ad agency. You hire to me to create compelling messages that talk about how great you are, how you deliver more (service, value, expertise, whatever) than your competition. And then we channel that message into all the right places for you to reach new customers. Finally, we repeat that message enough to cut through the clutter and reach into the consciousness of the audience.

Success? Likely, yes. But then what? It’s one thing to toot your own horn. It’s quite another to have someone do that for you. When interviewing for a job, you get the chance to talk all about how great you are. If you’re then a serious candidate, then the employer’s going to want to talk to others that know you.

If you’re bidding on new work, your prospect will likely want to know what you’ve done in the past. Then they’re going to want to talk to people you’ve done work for.

Third party information about you carries a lot of weight and credibility. When conducting B2C business, why not put that power to work as well?

How? Testimonials. Get others to talk about you.

I’ve done it successfully in TV commercials, in radio spots, in print collateral, and even in my own personal online bio (check out my LinkedIn page).

In the past, you’ve heard me suggest that you should talk to your customers. It’s vital to know what they think of you. If you’re doing your job well, then it’s likely you will have no shortage of people wanting to sing your praises. Get them to write something. Ask them if they’d be willing to be on camera or in front of a microphone.

It’s the closest thing you can get to buying word-of-mouth advertising.

Written by Jeff York

April 25, 2009 at 10:17 am

You’ve got the whole world in your hands

leave a comment »

iphone_homeA recent post made on Twitter: New phone books arrived yesterday. I’ve already recycled them today. Have they not heard of the Internet?!?

Between my wife’s iPhone and my Blackberry, there is little that we can’t do from the road. Email, phone, data from the Internet, media consumption all are easy and convenient with one of these two devices.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying Pandora for Blackberry. Connecting the phone to my car’s audio system, I now have a music delivery system that I find superior to my XM radio. The business model for Pandora? On screen ads.

As one of the majority of drivers that has to endure morning and evening rush hour commutes, I signed up for a free email subscription to Traffic.com. Their business model? Embedded ads.

With both of these services, I find myself paying close attention to the ads that are placed. Typically, the products and services offered interest me. For example, recently Land Rover sponsored Traffic.com’s reports. I haven’t checked out Land Rover lately and I wondered what they were offering. Land Rover would have continued to have been out of sight/out of mind for me if not to reaching me where I use media today.

How about your business? Are you looking closely at handheld and portable devices as an avenue to reach new customers? Free apps offered to iPhone users or pushed data to handhelds are just a couple of the new routes that advertisers can take.

When is good enough not good enough?

with one comment

It’s a phase that many of us hear all the time. It’s a phase that sends shivers up my spine.

“Ah, that’s good enough.”

Almost sounds like quitting on a project. Almost sounds like someone could do better if they wanted to, but it’s just not worth the effort. Almost sounds like someone regards the task as beneath their best efforts.

So I have to ask, if that’s the case, why bother?

However, I have a tendency to go the other way. I want everything that I work on to be perfect. I need to learn that there is a time when you have to balance doing the best job possible with delivering on-time. I once heard a saying, “Audio engineers never finish an album. They just give up on it.”

But just the same, at what point is it acceptable to stop working on a project? When it is acceptable to walk away when there’s something that can be done to make it better?

More importantly, at what point is it acceptable to accept mediocrity in employees? When is it acceptable to keep someone around that just does enough to get by? When is it time to make room for someone with the interest and desire to learn more and do better.

You have to weigh both sides of the equation. When is the project do? What really needs to be delivered? Will there be the opportunity at a later date to revisit, rebuild, and/or improve?

I like to live by the motto “Try your best. Do your best. Be the best.” Because, in my opinion, at the end of the day, if you can look back and respond “yes” to the questions “does it fulfill the need/expectation of the client” and “are you proud of it,” then it’s good enough.

If not, it’s just not good enough.

Written by Jeff York

April 10, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Speaking to your audience

with 5 comments

home_page_image1It’s been my experience that business owners that are new to marketing often make the mistake of emulating messaging or techniques that they were exposed to in mass media. Maybe it was a commercial that they liked on TV or a catchy radio spot. So, it’s their business and their marketing dollar. That’s what they want to do.

As you may remember from your English classes, when writing you need to consider your audience. In this case, it’s the business owner’s core customer base. If the business owner fails to speak to that core base, they will not be effective in their marketing efforts.

This makes the first step obvious. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER. If you don’t really know your customer, then you have a fundamental issue within your business structure. If you think you know your customer, make sure you really do. Talk to them. Spend time at your store with some of them. Make sure that what you perceive about your customer is really true. Once you know that, then you can start to craft messaging that speaks to that group.

Just because you like the messaging doesn’t mean that it’s the correct message. Test it. Ask people about what you’re doing. Check the metrics. Make sure that what you’re doing is moving the needle in some way. You might not see an immediate increase in customers, but you might be moving the needle in other ways. For example, are your customers even more satisfied? If they are, you might not be seeing an immediate influx of new customers, but you might be seeing current customers buying more. That will eventually lead to exactly the type of advertising that you can’t buy directly: word-of-mouth.

What are you doing for marketing today? Did you throughly research your customer first? Do you know what they want or do you only think you know what they want? If you researched them, know them, are you speaking directly to them? Lastly, I hate to say it, but customers are fickle. What appeals to them today doesn’t necessarily work tomorrow. You have to keep taking their temperature.

If you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes since yesterday, it’s time.

Written by Jeff York

April 4, 2009 at 12:11 am