The Secret to Winning Customers and Growing Your Business

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

I seriously doubt if any accomplished executive or business leader would disagree with that statement. I sure wouldn’t. And yet, with so much written on the subject of sales and marketing, it’s surprising how little of it will actually help you with the most important aspect of business: winning and keeping customers.

The reason for that is simple. The vast majority of you are in highly competitive markets, meaning every transaction has one winner and lots of losers. For that reason alone, you have got to be consistently better and smarter at creating customers than your competitors are.

That may seem like a daunting challenge, and perhaps it is, but it can be accomplished with smart strategy and consistent execution. For example, everyone knows they need to differentiate, but few are smart and disciplined enough to actually pull it off. Instead they opt for shortcuts that never work. So let me tell you what does work. Seriously.

Step 1: Focus on solving one problem
Every successful business starts the same way: solving one problem. The key is to find the right one. Just keep in mind that you won’t know how you did until after the fact so just go with your gut and, if it doesn’t work out, try pivoting to something else.

It’s the same whether you’re marketing a product, a service, or both.

Take Apple iPod and iTunes, for example. MP3 players had been around for a while. So had music-download services. But nobody had combined the two so seamlessly. That pivotal combination is what took Apple into the consumer electronics business. The rest is history.

Step 2: Determine your unique value proposition

I guarantee that most of your businesses are defined far too broadly to have a truly unique customer value proposition. That’s why they’ll probably fail. Granted, you’ll most likely run out of cash, but the underlying cause will be that you didn’t segment the market narrowly enough to come up with a unique niche.

I recently engaged with a Web development company called Engage Marketing Group. They used to build websites for companies big and small but found that was too broad. Now they focus only on publishers, authors, and bloggers. Since that’s all they do, they’re very good at it. Ironically, that niche approach allowed them to scale and flourish.

It’s one of the great paradoxes of business. As famed venture capitalist and former Intel executive Bill Davidow said in his seminal book Marketing High Technology, “Segmentation lets Davids slay Goliaths.” As with so many things in business, when it comes to market focus, less is more.

Step 3: Engage your core target customers
It’s sad the way entrepreneurs and small business owners are overly focused on building their own personal brands and trying to make a name for themselves on Twitter and Facebook when, in reality, the only thing they should be communicating is their unique competitive advantage.

Look, it doesn’t matter if you generate popular content that goes viral if it doesn’t get across the one and only reason why customers should engage with you. Instead of doing the same thing everyone else is doing, come up with the most effective way to engage your core target customers, put all your wood behind that arrow, and hit the bulls-eye.

Step 4: Deliver the goods
It sort of goes without saying that you can’t build credibility and develop an outstanding reputation unless you exceed the expectations you set in customers’ minds, but consider this: Nobody is born great at anything. We all have to start somewhere, and nobody learns to walk without flopping facedown a few times.

Remember that becoming the best at something takes a while. It takes a lot of practice. But also remember the big picture goal is to win and keep customers. So if you stumble along the way, just keep telling your customers you’ll do whatever it takes to earn their trust and keep their business and then do it.

You know, most successful companies, from Marvel Entertainment and Harley Davidson to FedEx and Apple, nearly folded somewhere along the way. But, as Steve Jobs once said, “Half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” Stick with it. And remember, when it comes to business, less is usually more.

Author: Steve Tobak 
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Why Self-Promotion Is a Terrible Idea

These days everyone with a LinkedIn account – which means pretty much everyone – is a self-proclaimed expert, thought leader, trendsetter, or influencer. It’s no secret that I find that sort of self-absorbed self-promotion to be self-serving, not to mention incredibly annoying and occasionally nauseating.

Enough about how I feel. Let me tell you why self-promoting actually does you far more harm than good. But first, let’s talk about why people with little or no proven redeeming qualities feel the need to make themselves sound like the second coming in the first place.

If you ask them, you’re likely to get one of these three stories, all of which are remarkably flawed:

Story #1: “Hi, I’m Pollyanna from Utopia”
I was told growing up that, if I worked hard at school and at my job, my efforts would be recognized and rewarded and I’d do well in my career. It didn’t take long to figure out that’s not how things work in the real world. If you don’t toot your own horn, you’ll never get ahead.  

My response: Not to be disrespectful, but was your mom named Pollyanna and did you grow up in a place called Utopia? No one who would tell you that should be allowed to have kids. Hard work is a given, but it’s not even close to what it takes to get ahead. One thing’s for sure. “Tooting your own horn” will not help.

Story #2: Self-promoters give self-promoting a bad name

There’s actually nothing wrong with self-promoting. It’s selfish people who are out to get something from others that give it a bad name. As long as you’re also benefitting the other side of the equation – whoever you’re selling yourself to – it’s all good.

My response: That’s just semantics. Self-promotion is, by definition, promoting yourself, as in “I’m a serial entrepreneur: CEO of me, myself, and” If, on the other hand, you’re selling a value proposition that benefits stakeholders, that is a good thing and so not the same thing.

Story #3: Doesn’t everyone “fake it ‘til you make it?”
Experience and self-confidence are Catch-22s. Without having it, you’ll never have the opportunity to get it. That’s why “fake it ‘til you make it” is the only way to be successful. Isn’t that what everyone does?

My response: Do you by any chance remember being dropped on your head as a child? No, they’re not Catch-22s. You start at the bottom, do your best, build credibility, and always reach for the next level up. That’s how you gain experience and confidence.

Now that we’re clear on what self-promotion is and isn’t, let me explain why it’s bad for your career and your business. The problem is that self-promotion is self-serving. It’s all about you and, in a business relationship, that’s the one side of the equation nobody cares about. I know that sounds harsh but, if I don’t tell you, who will?

Truth is, when it comes to business, nobody gives a crap about you. I don’t care if it’s your boss, a hiring manager, or a potential customer, if you spew a bunch of BS about why you’re so great and wonderful, you’re not going to get the promotion, the job, or the business. What they might be receptive to, however, is what you can do for them.

For example, if you tell your boss how you can benefit the company and then accomplish what you set out to do, that’s called proving yourself. If you do that consistently, maybe you’ll get promoted. If not, then find a better company and a better fit. That’s how you actively manage your career.

Likewise, hiring managers are first and foremost looking for a fit: a job fit and a cultural fit. They want to know details about you and your experience that make you a good fit for them. Too much information up-front, before you’ve figured out what they’re looking for, may very well self-promote you right out of a job.

If and when the blessed day comes that you get to run your own business, you’ll find the same is true with customers. They don’t want to know about you, they want to know how you can meet their needs. How you can benefit them. That’s called a value proposition. And trust me, that is all they really care about initially.

Don’t get me wrong. In time you’ll want to build solid, long-term relationships with all your stakeholders. And you know what? Nobody wants to work with a self-interested, self-absorbed, self-serving self-promoter. Nobody. If you think about it, neither would you.

Author: Steve Tobak (Author and Managing Partner, Invisor Consulting)
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6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Content

How many potential shares, would-be leads and short attention spans do you think your content has lost over the years? You know, all the visitors who slipped through the cracks — the ones who didn’t stick around or convert?

Even the best content can be be held back by a bad experience.

Consider that the average blog post can take up to five hours from ideation to publishing. Infographics and eBooks take even longer. With all the time and effort we invest in creating valuable content, we can’t afford not to maximize its potential to actually serve its purpose.

As hard is it can be to create the right content and get the right people to consume it,it’s the overall content experience that seizes the opportunities created by your content.

Here are the six key elements of a content experience that’s engineered to empower every piece you create.

1. Focus on long-term discoverability
Is your best content being buried by your most recent content? If your content seems to have a limited shelf-life, even your evergreen assets, you should focus onimproving discoverability across the board.

Your content should be organized in a way that’s meaningful to your buyers and target audience, catering to their interests from the top of the funnel to the bottom.

Know that visitors are all on different journeys and your menu structure is a good way to communicate what your business is all about and send them down the right path.

Enable search to accommodate individual search intent to help them find the specific content they’re looking for.

By accommodating both spontaneous and intentional discovery, you can resurface older content and put it back in front of your audience.

2. Recommend related content for further consumption
Generally, the more time a visitor spends within your content experience, the higher the chance of converting.

Recommending additional pieces at the post level helps to continue the visitor journey and keep them around a little longer. Recommending related content is even better.

3. Call them to act within the context to generate leads
One of the great things about the Internet as a medium — versus print and many offline channels — is that it empowers immediate action with just a click of your mouse. But you need to direct them to click with an explicit call to action that acknowledges the visitor’s context.

Static calls to action are a conversion killer.

Your content can generate demand for your product or at least more content. But without contextual CTAs or lead gen forms with messaging and offers that cater to that specific demand in the moment, you won’t be able to compel further action.

4. Make it social
It surprises me how many blogs don’t have easy-to-use social sharing buttons.

Why wouldn’t you let your visitors contribute to your content distribution efforts? Consider displaying social share counts as well to leverage your content’s social proof and create a snowball effect with engagement.

Imagine these two posts had the same level of engagement:

Which would you rather share?

Some will turn off the count for social shares and opt for buttons that hide engagement, but if you’re truly creating valuable content and distributing it effectively like you should, that’s a bad move.

Allowing comments on your blog via platforms like Disqus are another way to create conversations around your content and, when you take care to reply, you can encourage repeat visits to your content—another chance to convert.

Make it social if you want your content to build a community around your brand.

5. Ensure it looks good and works well on every screen
First, one of the biggest reasons for high bounce rates is a non-responsive experience. Notice how I said responsive experience and not responsive design?

With mobile content consumption on the rise, the entire experience has to scale for smartphones and tablets without sacrificing all the other elements I’ve mentioned above that contribute to your content’s performance.

CTAs still have to show, lead gen forms still have to work, and it should still be easy to find content.

6. Stop wasting your great content on a bad experience
Many of the results of your content marketing (lead gen, sharing, commenting, consumption) happen around your content, within the experience it’s served in. Unless you optimize the whole, the parts you put inside it — your articles, SlideShares, infographics, eBooks — aren’t going to produce the results they could.

Want better results from your content? First you need to make sure the experience is made for marketing.

Author: Braveen Kumar
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