Standing Out in a Cluttered World

I want to share an amazing and a somewhat disturbing statistic with you today.  At first, I didn’t believe what I had read so I dug a bit deeper and confirmed it was true.

According to estimates, the average person is exposed to approximately 5,000 marketing messages every day; from radio ads, to television ads, billboard ads, signs, e-mails to tweets, to Facebook ads, and everything in between.

The number of messages received daily is up tenfold from approximately 500 messages a day in the late 1970’s.

That’s 35,000 messages a week or almost 2 million messages in the course of a year.

Now, how’s that for big-time marketing clutter?

But here’s where it really gets a bit depressing if you’re a business owner that understands the importance of “being heard”.   Most consumers tune out many of these 5,000 daily messages in order to reduce the “marketing noise”, protect themselves psychologically and to avoid a nervous breakdown.

People have a tendency to only “tune in” to those messages that resonate with them in some way, interrupt their thinking, have meaning for them or are different and beneficial to something they may be in the market to purchase.

Because of this, now more than ever, it is critical for you as a business owner or sales person to have a message that differentiates you from your competitors; gets people to understand how you can help them solve their problems and have them view you or your company as the logical choice when they are looking for the product or service you sell.

But here’s the problem most business owners face when trying to communicate their message to their world; there is a big disconnect between their Inside Realty and the Outside Perception.

Let me explain.

Your Inside Realty is all the great things you do as a company …. It could be your outstanding service, your sales process, the quality of your product or service, your follow- through, the way your respond to customer problems.  In short, it is the sum of all the great things you do as a company.

The Outside Perception on the other hand, is the way your target market sees your business.  This is determined mainly by your marketing communications.  If you don’t do a very good job of communicating what makes you better, valuable and unique to your target market then your target market either gets the wrong impression about you or they don’t “hear you” resulting in a huge disconnect between your Inside Realty and Outside Perception.

So, what happens when you aren’t able to effectively communicate your value to your target market?

If you don’t communicate what makes you unique and beneficial to your target audience then you risk ending up in a sea of sameness.  You become the same as everyone else that does what you do, saying the same stuff that means absolutely nothing to anybody and your messages get lost in a cluttered world.

When this happens, your target market views and compares you with a giant calculator in their hand ….. strictly on price.

Think about this for a minute ….. If you’re not clear on the value you bring to the market, then how can your prospects or customers be clear?

Most poor results with marketing communications can be traced to the lack of a compelling message that clearly demonstrates the value and benefits you bring to customers and prospects.  If you get the message right and you are speaking to the right audience at the right time, most marketing tactics will be effective to some degree.

Think differently,

Joe

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Connect Marketing and Sales to Build a Successful Business

I hear a ton of confusion out there from business owners about the differences between marketing and sales; what comes first, do you need both to build a successful business and so on. I believe that if you spend more than a couple of minutes wringing your hands over the distinction between the two, then you’ve wasted time you can’t get back and you fail to focus on what is really important.

In fact, I would suggest that you adopt the attitude espoused by Lefty (Al Pacino) in the movie Donnie Brasco . . . . “Forget About It”.

Understand that both marketing and sales systems are critical to the growth of your business, they are connected and they should actually come under the category of Business Development.

So, what is Business Development?

“Google” the term and you won’t get one consistent answer. What you will find is a myriad of answers that, in my mind, don’t adequately answer the question of what business development really encompasses.

So before we go much further, I would like to provide you with my definition of business development and one that I truly believe will help make this idea much easier to understand:

Business Development is the system that connects marketing and sales. It allows you to communicate your unique value and difference to your prospects and customers so that you can generate revenue and growth for your business.

Let’s explore the components of this definition a bit further to really bring this idea to life.

System - Everything you do in your business should be a step-by-step systematic process so that nothing is left to chance, your consistent in your interactions with prospects, customers, and referral partners. Some of the key systems you should develop in your business include lead generation, lead conversion, and referral programs.

Connects Sales and Marketing - They are both critical to your business and connected to fully grow your company. Stop worrying about the definitions of marketing and sales and what comes first.

Communicate your unique value and difference to your prospects and customers – One of the greatest mistakes that I see business owners consistently make, is their lack of a compelling, unique and useful brand and positioning strategy.   This results in marketing communications that are weak and do absolutely nothing to show their prospects and customers why they should choose them as the best choice in the marketplace.  If you can’t express your unique value and difference, then how in the world are you prospects and customers going to know and understand what you bring to the table.

Generate revenue and growth
Now this one is easy. The purpose of your business is to generate revenue, profit and growth. I do understand and acknowledge that, for most of you, your ‘why’ was to make a difference and help people at some level.

But, unless your generating revenue, profit and growing, you want be around long enough in business to help anyone.

I hope this helps you understand that BOTH marketing and sales are connected, and critical to building and growing a successful business.  Define all your marketing and sales efforts as BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT and ‘forget about the rest’.

Think differently to achieve amazing results.

Joe
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The Real Issue to Address With Inbound and Outbound Marketing

I believe that in order to have a fully-functioning business development strategy, you need a combination of inbound and outbound strategies.  Companies selling inbound services will try to convince you that outbound marketing tactics don’t work anymore, while the the outbound tactic people will tell you that inbound tactics aren’t as effective as the inbound people claim.

I think the key issue that seems to be lost in the discussion about Inbound vs. Outbound marketing conversations and is not addressed adequately by the gurus on both sides of the fence is the fact that what you say, how you say it and who you say it to in your communications is the key element that really brings either one of these strategies to life.

Does it matter what tactical approach you employ, whether you are the hunter (outbound tactics) or the hunted (inbound tactics), if you don’t have a compelling message of differentiation of why someone (customer or client) should choose your company over your competitors in the first place?

A business owner can develop a ton of leads from both inbound and outbound tactics, but if you don’t have a clear process for your prospect to know you, find you credible and ultimately trust that you are the logical choice in the marketplace to provide the product or service you sell, then it doesn’t make any difference what method you choose.

The biggest problem most business owners have when it comes to marketing and business development efforts is not about choosing inbound vs. outbound tactics as many would have you believe.  It is about first building your brand, your positioning in the marketplace. It is about powerfully communicating what makes you the better, the obvious choice for the product of service you sell over your competitors.  It is about getting more people to raise their hands and say, “I want to know more about this company”.

Folks, until you get this right, your marketing tactical approach, whether inbound, outbound, a combination of both will never be as effective.

An example may help to illustrate the point.  One of the greatest tools a business owner has at their disposal to clearly make their case, to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and to be perceived as an expert for the product or service they sell is their company website.  Very few would argue this point.  This is the hub of all your marketing activities.  If this is true, and it is, how come so many business owners use this valuable tool as a static billboard that doesn’t say much of anything expect, “here we are world, buy from us!”

Let’s cut to the chase.  Both inbound and outbound marketing initiatives should be included as part of an overall  marketing strategy.  But, you shouldn’t do either inbound or outbound marketing until you develop your brand and positioning in the marketplace.

Think differently to achieve amazing results,

Joe

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Develop a Sales System to Get Better Clients

A very common problem that coaches, consultants and independent professionals have is how to connect with and convert more of their ideal prospects into paying clients. When I work with a business owner, this is usually one of the most under- leveraged areas in their business and one of the first things I examine.  The reason why  coaches, consultants and independent professionals are not able to attract and get better clients is a direct result of not having an organized, step-by-step, leave nothing to chance, process to engage with prospects.

Because of this challenge, I have developed a process called the Get Better Clients Sales System which provides a step-by-step process to engage with more of the clients that value what you are selling and those that are already convinced they need what your selling.  The ultimate objective of this system is only to convince the prospect that you are the logical choice to help them solve their problems or challenges.  This is completely different than most sales methods that espouse engaging with as many suspects as possible, trying to convince them that they need your product or service and then hope that some of them will turn to prospects and then eventually customers.  This shotgun sales approach isn’t effective and quite frankly wastes a ton of time chasing down people who will never want what you sell.

I learned in the school of practical experience that it is so much easier to have a productive conversation about your product or service with someone who already ‘gets it’, or someone who is already having this conversation with themselves.

Consider the following question to illustrate this point a bit better.  Who do you think a personal trainer would have greater success trying to ‘sell’ their services to; someone that has never been to a gym or someone that regularly goes to the gym and understands the value of exercise?  The answer is pretty obvious.  The person who already goes to the gym is a better prospect and will be a better client because you don’t have to convince them that fitness is important.  The only remaining challenge for the personal trainer in the situation described is to convince the prospect that THEY are the personal trainer who can help them meet their fitness goals.

Most coaches and consultants don’t get paid on the time they spend talking to people.  They get paid based upon enrolling clients into their programs or by providing them with the products that can help their clients achieve the result they are looking for.  It is critical to leverage your time, spending it only on people that “get it” to some degree.

So how do you engage with and get better clients …. those that get it?

With an organized process or system for doing so … in this case the Get Better Clients Sales System.

There are three parts to Get Better Clients Sales System:

  1. Assessment or Evaluation
  2. Strategy Session
  3. Proposal

Each part of this system is critical to the overall success of the process.  Imagine what your practice would be like if you were able to convert more of what I call the ‘right’ prospects into paying clients.  Let’s examine each component of the system in more detail.

Assessment or Evaluation

Enrolling new clients is a two-way street; it needs to be a good fit for both of you.  Make it a policy to have your prospect complete a written assessment or evaluation tool of some type prior to spending a ton of time with them is the perfect way to determine:

  • How committed the prospect is to improving their situation
  • The challenges and problems the prospect is trying to resolve
  • If the prospect would be an ideal client for your practice
  • If they have the necessary resources to work with you

Strategy Session

The strategy session is where the ‘rubber meets the road’ so to speak.  This session can be done in person or over the phone.  There are five objectives for your strategy session:

  1. Creating credibility, trust and rapport
  2. Understanding the prospect on a deeper level
  3. Communicating your solution
  4. Answering questions
  5. Guiding the prospect to hiring you

Proposal

Quite frankly this is the easy part.  If the prospect has filled out an evaluation or assessment; you have then conducted a strategy session to demonstrate that you are the logical choice to help them solve their problem or improve their life or business, then the proposal is only the formal document that outlines responsibilities, deliverables and payment terms.

Follow the Get Better Clients Sales System to convert more prospects into not just clients, but better clients.

Think differently and achieve amazing results.

Joe

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Think differently to achieve success in 2012!

This year I am going to write quite a bit about the importance of thinking differently.  I will write about the amazing success you will achieve once you begin thinking about your life and your business in a different way.

I recently went to see the film Moneyball which is based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis that provides an account of the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s 2002 season and their general manager Billy Beane’s attempts to assemble a competitive team.

In the film, Beane played by Brad Pitt, opens the movie by suggesting to a room of Oakland scouts that, given the team’s unfavorable financial situation, that the organization needs to “think differently” in their approach toward scouting and analyzing players if they were going to have a chance to compete with the other teams in the division; those with much higher payrolls.  By thinking differently about his approach to building his team, Beane was able to outmaneuver his opponents to a championship season.

I was again reminded of this phrase and its meaning at the passing of Steve Jobs.  Jobs was the poster boy for thinking differently.  Jobs brought a different thinking to Apple and because of this the tools he introduced to in the marketplace have improved millions of lives around the world.

My favorite quote by Jobs was delivered at the 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.  Here it is . .  .

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.   Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition . . . they somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

I believe one of the greatest ways coaches, consultants and independent professionals can achieve amazing results for their businesses and their lives is by making a commitment in 2012 to think differently and have the courage to follow their hearts and intuition about how they approach their lives and operate their practice.

Unfortunately, most coaches and consultants aren’t achieving the kind of success they envisioned when they first went into business for four main reasons:

  1. They aren’t able to effectively position and communicate what makes them different from their competitors so they end up in a sea of sameness.
  2. They spend too much time and effort attracting the wrong prospects.
  3. They don’t have efficient systems in place to build their practices.
  4. They don’t leverage their most important asset…their present client base.

The key to building a successful practice is to attract and engage with more ideal prospects; turn more of these prospects into paying clients; retain these clients longer so that you can provide them with additional services or products; then set up a referral process so these clients bring you to more people just like them.

If you want to experience something different than you’ve ever experienced, then you’ll have to do something different than you’ve ever done.  In a nutshell, to grow and thrive in this environment, you need to change your thinking and use a different approach…a more long-term systematic method to engage with your ideal prospects and clients.

If you want to achieve different results, then now is the perfect time to start thinking and acting differently.

Think differently and achieve amazing results,

Joe

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What is the Future of E-Mail?

Like most business people, e-mail is my primary means of everyday communication with my clients and prospects.  It has replaced the telephone as the main tool for communicating.

But, what is the future of e-mail marketing?

My 19 year old son, doesn’t believe e-mail is long for this world.  He has an e-mail account, but rarely uses it.  Texting is the new contact system in my son’s world.

AWeber Communications recently published an article titled, What do Teens Really Think of E-Mail?

AWeber offered a scholarship to a high school student or an undergraduate student who best described in essay format what they think the future of e-mail marketing was along with some of the other communication technologies that are out there at the present time.

Here’s what they asked specifically:  “E-mail is the primary means of communications for over on billion people around the world.   However, it has been suggested that younger generations my eschew e-mail in favor of other messaging technologies.  Do you agree with that suggestion?”

They received 167 responses and here’s what they said:

  • 44% believe e-mail will live on
  • 15% think e-mail is dead or dying
  • 41% are unsure of e-mails future
  • 21% believe they will use e-mail more in the future
  • 14% compare e-mail to postal; and feel postal is dead

So, what are my thoughts on this?

First, I believe the sample size is too small to draw any definitive conclusions.

My eyes tell me that most young people – - – my kids and their  friends do not use e-mail on a frequent basis.  But, I do believe that until a better technology comes on the scene, e-mail will live on as the primary means of communication for business people.  With the advent of smart phones, e-mail is more convenient and accessible than ever before.

But, like all technologies, e-mail needs to be managed by the business owner so that the tool doesn’t become a monster.  We are very accessible.  In the pre-e-mail days, when the phone was the primary method for communication, if you returned a phone message as some point during the day it was received or the next day, you were considered responsive.  If you do that in today’s world with e-mail, you may be thought of as not being responsive enough.

I have a standing policy that all phone calls and e-mails will be returned within a 24-hour time frame.  (exclusive of spam)

This policy allows me to control the technology and be responsive at the same time.

Now, go take action and get results.

Joe

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How to Use Direct Mail to Successfully Grow Your Business

Direct mail is still a very powerful method to grow your business when implemented correctly.  But, just like every other tactic on the planet, the success of your direct mail campaign(s) is largely determined by the work or the strategy you develop before the very first piece is delivered.

First, let me address all the marketing gurus and other naysayers that don’t promote this tactic and worse claim it isn’t effective anymore . . . . . you’re wrong!  I was going to write this in a different, much softer, more diplomatic way, but decided against it.  I have used direct mail marketing to acquire new customers, promote seminars, fill group coaching programs and build businesses for over 20 years.  And I still use direct mail as one of my marketing strategies and guess what?  It still works!

But like every tactic, there is a right and a wrong way to approach direct mail campaigns.  But, be aware at the outset that it takes commitment, action and persistence for direct mail campaigns to succeed.

5 Steps To A Successful Direct Mail Campaign

If you have read this far, here are the five critical things you need to do right at the outset to ensure your direct mail campaigns will be a success:

  1. Develop a strategy -your strategy should include at the minimum
    • What are you trying to accomplish with your campaigns.  This can be very simple . . . . to acquire new customers, build awareness, invite to an event, etc.  But, you do need to be very clear on this point.
    • Budget – the amount of money you will devote to your campaign over a given period of time
    • Frequency – the number of times you will mail to the same group of prospects over a given period.  I suggest mailing to the same group at least four times in a one year time frame.
  2. Use only direct response direct mail campaigns – Direct response refers to what the name implies; all mailings should have a ‘call to action’ or request a direct response.  There is nothing that sabotages a direct mail campaign more than to not give the recipient a ‘call to action’.  Tell them what to do next . . . . call, write, pick up the phone, etc.
  3. Refine and narrow your list - One of the greatest benefits of using direct response mail as a tactic is your ability to narrow your target list to the degree you choose.  Whether it is by geography, industry, income level, gender, the success of your direct mail campaigns depends upon you limiting your mailings to those most likely to use your product or service.
  4. Follow a formula when writing copy - there are a number of formulas that you can use to produce effective copy, but the easiest one out there and probably the simplest to use is the tried and true AIDA formula.  AIDA is an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. If you follow this formula when writing your copy, you will produce better copy.
  5. Test your copy – always test your mailings with a small number of mailings before sending out “the” campaign.  A simple method to accomplishing a test is the A/B split test.  This is where you have a small sample size of say 200.  You mail 100 hundred of your target market a mailing with one headline; and the other 100 a mailing with a different headline to see which mailing will get a better response.  An important note for you to remember.  If you use the A/B split testing method, you can only change one element of your direct mail piece at a time so that you can determine what factor made one piece more effective than the other.  The three parts of your mailing you may want to test include the headline, the call to action or the P.S.

The benefits of using direct mail include:

  • Less competition -because direct mail is not the new shiny object that is promoted these days, there is less competition and a great opportunity for you to stand out from the pack by using this vehicle.
  • Precise target - you can precisely target you messages to a very specific audience unlike other tactics.
  • Control of the message – you have total control of the message you would like to communicate to your target.
  • Control of the timing – you can time your mailings to coincide with the purchasing timing triggers of your target audience.

The most difficult part of developing a direct mail campaign is getting started.

So commit to start your campaign today!

To your marketing success,

Joe

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The Best Referral Strategy is Getting Results For Your Clients

The best way for coaches, consultants, trainers and professional service providers to build their practices and fully develop their businesses is by getting the people that they are working with or have worked with to refer them to other people that may benefit from the same type of services that they offer.

And the best way to get referrals is by getting results for your clients.  Not only getting results, but then documenting these results for the ‘world’ to see.

You get hired as a consultant, coach, trainer or professional service provider to achieve a result for your client.  The better you are at delivering that result will go a long way in determining how many and the quality of the referrals you receive from your clients.

There are a couple of very specific ways to get the results for your clients that will lead to quality referrals.  I would like to share with you a couple of things I do in my practice that work very well.

First, I always have my clients sign a formal written agreement prior to working with me. No exceptions . . .  ever.  My experience has shown me that when results are not achieved or not achieved as fully as desired, it usually is the result of not having clear expectations in the beginning of the engagement.

A formal agreement helps set the proper expectations for both parties. I keep my agreements relatively simple, but there are always provisions to address the following:

  • An overview of  the objectives we will accomplish
  • The time frame in which we will accomplish these objectives
  • My responsibilities to my client
  • My client’s responsibilities to me
  • Investment for the program
  • Payments schedule
  • Confidentiality provisions

Secondly, I make sure that everyone is crystal clear on what the result we are seeking is and I actually have my new client talk through this a bit with me.  For example, here is one of the first questions I ask at our opening meeting.

“In six months, (or whatever the specified time frame of your engagement is) what is the result that will make you delighted in your decision to hire me?”  Describe for me in words what that is, what it feels like, etc.”

I actually record my client describing this, type it out, print it and keep it in the front of my client’s file, so that I never forget exactly what I was hired to do and what a delighted result is for my client when working with me.  This step should be done above and beyond any type of formal agreement you have the client sign prior to working with them.

Once you have achieved results, what are the best ways to document these so that referrals will follow?

Here are the ones I use and seem to work the best for coaches, consultants and professional service providers:

  • Testimonials – Testimonials, when done right, are a very effective way to build your referrals.  Testimonials should be on all your marketing material including websites, marketing kits, direct mail, e-mail, etc.  They can be in written form, audio, or video.
  • Case Studies – Case studies are an effective method for you to demonstrate challenges your clients may have experienced and how you were able to resolve some or all of these challenges by your program, system or advice.  Case studies should also be communicated in all of your marketing communications.
  • Ambassadors – Ambassadors take the notion of a delighted client to the next level.  These are the people that want to share with the world how much you have helped them, changed their business or lives and they are very happy to promote you in a more formal way.   You only need a handful of these folks to drive your business to new heights.  You should nurture these people by educating them on the best ways to refer you or your business to others.

If you deliver results for your clients, then document these results in a formal way, the quantity and quality of your referrals will increase dramatically.

To your success,

Joe

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How to Improve Your Business With Small Changes

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step”

Lao Tzu

Sometimes business owners can mistakenly fall into a trap by believing that when business gets challenging, you need to make drastic changes to improve, grow and ‘right the ship’.

I just completed a book called Small Changes, by Susan and Larry Terkel.  This easy-to-read book, provided me with a timely reminder and a fresh perspective on the fact the some of the most effective and long-lasting positive changes people make in their lives is done on a very small scale or with baby steps.

I thought the book did a fantastic job of recognizing and outlining that any change is better than no change at all.

In fact, the strategy espoused by the authors in the book was the view that the secret to success is to focus on making small or incremental changes, rather than these major changes that rarely if ever stick for very long.

I think the point here is valid.  when I work with coaches, consultants and professional service providers, most of the time they are doing many of the ‘right’ things to grow their business.  They just might not be doing these things consistently enough or haven’t taken the necessary time to develop a systematic process for successfully positioning themselves and their company in the marketplace.

Small changes, while not always easy, are easier than big changes or massive makeovers.  And here is the great thing . . .  .

Small change adds ups.

I have found it is difficult for business owners to make big changes, so there is a tendency to do nothing.  We all learned in our high school science class with the law of inertia that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

Small changes are simple and easy to implement.  I have learned if it’s not easy, people will not do it.

What are the takeaway here?

  1. Look closely at what you do in your business everyday. Develop good work habits.  List the 10 most important things you need to accomplish for each day, and then do these first.
  2. Make only one change at a time.  Make one small change at a time, before going on to the next change.
  3. Make small change a constant in your life. Repetition creates mastery in life.  My father-in-law was a professional accordion player.  He practiced everyday until his death.  Everyday!
  4. Trust the power of mall change, and remember, it will add up.
  5. Enjoy making small changes – Reward yourself for making positive changes in your business/life.

Now, go change your life and business one small step at a time.

Joe

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Again, What is The Purpose of Marketing?

You’re doing all the things your supposed to do to position your company in the marketplace . . . . e-mail marketing, direct response marketing, engaging in social media, publishing your newsletter and on it goes.

But, have you ever asked yourself what all these marketing initiatives or tactics are supposed to do for your company?  Or better yet, what is the real purpose of your marketing?

Oh sure, to get customers, make more money and live happily ever after.  Yes, we all know that.  But, acquiring more customers is a process, and the process requires certain steps in order to engage with more of the people who will value the product or service that you sell and ultimately stay loyal to your business.

Ask ten business owners what is the purpose of their marketing and you will get ten different answers.  How do I know?  Because I always ask this question at every seminar or workshop I conduct . . . . always.  And I always get ten different answers.

Why do I ask this question?  Because the answer to this question gets at the the root of the problem most business owners have when marketing their businesses.  And that is the lack of understanding of what marketing should really be accomplishing for their business.

Here, in my opinion, are the three major objectives that any of your marketing initiatives should accomplish:

  1. Build awareness, credibility and trust with your preferred prospect or customer
  2. Facilitate the decision making process of your preferred prospect or customer
  3. Lower the risk for your preferred prospect or customer to take the next step in the buying process

In order to get more of your preferred customer or client, keep that customer loyal to your business and referring you to other preferred prospects, your ability to effectively implement the three steps above will determine the effectiveness of your marketing and ultimately the loyalty of your new customers once they experience your process.

The process of building awareness, credibility and trust is one of the most important areas to help you improve your marketing efforts. This is accomplished by being ‘out there’, networking, writing articles that educate your preferred prospects, being active in social media circles, getting recommendations, testimonials and referrals, delivering what you promised, going above and beyond for your clients.

The process of facilitating the decision-making process of your preferred prospect is accomplished by providing valuable educational content so that your prospects have all the information they require to make a good decision when buying the service or product you sell.

Finally, you need to lower the risk for the prospect to take the next step in the decision-making or buying process. We are all risk adverse to some degree.  We have been burnt before and we want the ability to take baby steps before making the purchase.  Your marketing should provide low-risk methods, such as a free trial, free sample, etc. for your prospects to take the next step.

If your marketing efforts are not passing the ‘purpose’ test, then begin today to make the necessary changes required to engage with more of your preferred prospects.

To your marketing success,

Joe

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