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Sales & Marketing

9 Posts authored by: Chris Brogan

Break Email Marketing Rules.jpgThere are so many rules for email marketing. Send email on this specific day at this specific time (great if everyone you mail lives in the exact same time zone and industry). Email must be this length and not any longer (or shorter).

 

Rules, rules, and all of them very much based on “someone else said.”

 

I propose you break a lot of rules to make your email marketing work better. At every step of the way, ask the same question: does this make sense to me? I promise it all will - unlike a lot of the “rules” you are told.

 

Get More Personal

 

First, change your “from” address in your email marketing to something like “yourfriends@yourdomain.com.” So many people send their email from pleasedontemailmebackever@noneofuswanttotalktoyou.com and that starts the inbox relationship on the wrong foot. I never advocate that it come from the same address as your primary inbox, but something reasonable.

 

Mine comes from nl@owner.media and people know that the “nl” stands for newsletter. And let me explain why this type of thing matters.

 

Encourage People to Reply

 

I send out a letter every Sunday to about 24,000 people. We cull the list often (removing people who haven’t opened or clicked on anything in a few months), so that list is highly focused and responsive. I frequently encourage people to hit “reply”, and often, they do. A few hundred every week.

 

Eek, you say. Let people reply? Won’t that fill my inbox? YES! With prospective customers and existing ones. Companies pay tons of money for just this: access to their customers. And you get it for free sent to your inbox.

 

Get Naked When It Comes to Formatting

 

I send out the plainest email I can possibly send and still be technically html. It’s black letters on white background. It looks just like an email your mom or best friend would send. Because that’s the plan.

 

When you send very formatted and “pretty” html letters with big banners and lots of graphics, our minds see that in the preview pane and think: Oh, I can ignore this until I get some time later. (Later never comes. You know this.)

 

If you send something that looks like it came from a human, oddly humans will check it out before deciding whether or not to ignore it. That extra few seconds is worth a potential open and click.

 

Be Brief

 

I write my newsletters to be fewer than 500 words. When I’m feeling even more clever, I shoot for around 250. Everyone is overwhelmed. Why bury them with more to read?

 

Use Segmentation/Labels/Tags

 

Every email service provider software offers a variation of this, most of it automated and super simple to use. I’ll use the term “tags” but it might be something different on your platform.

 

Use tags to separate out different clumps of email recipients and then get even more specific and personal to those groupings. This means you can send mail to one group saying: “Hey, I know you haven’t yet purchased an event ticket, so I wanted to see if I could answer any questions.” To another, you can say: “How to prepare for your trip to our event.”

 

More and more, if you can be very specific as to who you reach with what content, the world will get better for you.

 

One Subject Per Mail

 

If you really want to wow people, get very specific when you send out a newsletter. Make it a single-serving message with just one specific idea to cover and one specific call to action involved.

 

This laser focus sometimes shakes a distracted “Netflix-scroller” out of their malaise and makes them sit up and take notice.

 

Sample: “If we offered a spring cleaning, would that be interesting to you?”

 

Send Out “Ask” Emails

 

This is a favorite magic trick of mine. We think of newsletters as content to consume.

 

Instead, flip this. Send out an email asking a question to get actual feedback. “What should we focus on?” “Do you need more help with installing our systems yourself?”

 

Ask something you genuinely want to know about and try to keep it as open-ended as possible. Sure, there’s work in reading and responding, but it’s couched in a conversational email tone and people will respond in a very different way than your “just take this very brief survey.” (They’re never brief.)

 

Try Any and All of These

 

All of these ideas are simple and modular. You can do any one of them and see what works and what doesn’t. None of these are deal breakers, but all have an opportunity to make a difference.

 

And like I said at the beginning, just keep asking yourself whether these make sense.

 

I can’t wait to hear how it turns out.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-chris Brogan headshot.pngsized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Humor in Marketing.jpgDarth Vader, a Rabbi, and a talking bag of potato chips walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What is this? A joke?”

 

I love this humor for two reasons: 1.) You can replace all 3 characters in the first part and have endless possibilities. 2.) It’s pretty much a dad joke, and I have a soft spot for them.

 

We love to laugh. Nearly every human will tell you this. Both Alexa and Google Home (give this thing a human name, already!) respond to “tell me a joke.” Siri does too, but I have it on good authority that hers aren’t all that funny.

Why was the cheetah so bad at hide and seek? No matter where she hid, she was always spotted. (Google Home just told me that groaner.)

 

Should you - can you? - use humor in your marketing? Well, maybe.

 

Humor in Marketing is Complicated

 

More accurately, humor itself is complicated. If you’ve not yet watched the incredible Mike Birbiglia’s “Thank God for Jokes” on Netflix, you’re missing a master class in storytelling as well as an entertaining way of explaining the good and bad of humor.

 

The benefit of jokes is that we all generally love them. One problem with jokes is that some people are great at telling jokes, and others are so bad that it causes massive problems. We’ve seen multitudes of companies apologize for their attempts. So, I get it. It’s scary.

 

Another problem revolves around jokes and currency. If you make a joke about Fortnight right now, you’re about a year and a half past the zeitgeist (as of February 2020 - this could even be worse). If you tell a joke about something that was current a month ago, it might not even work. There’s a tightrope to walk between a joke feeling ancient versus a joke feeling like it’s past its expiration date.

 

The Good News: Humor is Powerful

 

I make a certain joke in a lot of my speeches. I talk about how we all keep our mobile devices very close to our heads, as if we are superheroes or brain surgeons eagerly awaiting a very important call or text that might come in around 2:30 a.m. I stroke my phone while telling this joke, calling it “My precious!” in my best Golem voice. People laugh. They get it because they can identify with it.

 

Jokes, in the language of my StoryLeader training, are called “belonging stories.” Simply put: a joke can make you feel like you belong to a certain group of people because you get the joke.

 

In his January 2020 comedy special “For India” (also on Netflix), Vir Das tells a bunch of jokes switching context between jokes that Indian people will totally get but might not make sense to people from other cultures, and then he’ll go on to tell a joke shedding humorous light on Indian culture from the eyes of people outside the culture. Both encourage a kind of belonging, plus his ideas invite a bridging of the two groups. Double bonus.

 

Should We Be Funny? Yes

 

People’s attention is fleeting. We also feel more and more every day like a number, as if everything’s just punched out. Like we’re on a conveyer belt.

 

Humor in marketing is a way to remind people they’re alive. That’s one benefit.

 

Another benefit: only wise and smart people (companies) can make fun of themselves and feel good about it. Topics that might even be sore spots within the organization might already be in the public eye, and the company has chosen to ignore it. I’ll give you an example.

 

Have you ever ordered a soft drink? (Don’t say no, you alien.)

 

“I’ll have a Coke, please.”

 

“Is Pepsi okay?”

 

You’ve heard it. Well, if you’re Pepsi, it’s likely that you hate this. It’s a poke in the eye about being the No. 2 soft drink brand. So, you ignore it for years. You do taste tests. You shoot tons of commercials.

 

Until 2019, when at the Super Bowl, you launch a bit “Is Pepsi OK?” commercial blitz with Cardi B and Steve Carrell and Lil John (the last of which only exists in these because his song “Turn Down for What” has a big loud “OK” in it).

 

The ad got a lot of press. It was responded to favorably by most accounts. People who loved one of the soft drinks over the other didn’t change their point of view, and I’m sure Pepsi still feels a bit annoyed when people mention them as a secondary choice.

 

But what it did do is signal to the world that Pepsi gets it. That they’re one of us. That they know what people say and can accept it. And so what? They like what they produce. THAT is the gold earned by Pepsi by using humor in this way.

 

Recipe Time

 

If you’re going to do humor as part of your marketing, here’s some advice:

 

  • Try ALL humor out internally before it reaches an external audience.

 

  • Run it by people who belong to multiple cultures and genders. You might miss a very significant cultural marker because it’s in your blind spot.

 

  • If it’s about a specific culture that isn’t yours, definitely find people representative of that culture to run it by.

 

  • Stay current. Make sure the joke is about something relevant right now. All your best Peter Falk jokes no longer fly. Sorry. (And if you say “who?”, that’s my point!)

 

  • Have a point of view but be clear that it represents the brand.

 

Remember that humor isn’t entirely built around telling a solid joke. Sometimes, it’s about bringing characters to life. Saturday Night Live is a series of sketches that bring out absurd takes on cultural and current event news. Shows like The Office and Brooklyn 99 and Insecure give us this by putting characters into funny situations or through dialogue.

 

It’s worth looking at ways to bring humor to your marketing. Just know that there’s a reason I gave you 75% caution and 25% encouragement.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little chris-brogan-headshot.jpgbit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Customers Want to Hear From You.jpgQuick. You need to change something about how you communicate with your customers (and probably with your employees, as well).

 

The thing is this: everyone’s overwhelmed with material vying for their attention. Think about this for a moment through the lens of your phone, let alone your computer:

 

  • Text messages
  • Netflix (new shows added!)
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube (people upload 500 new hours of content per minute)
  • Facebook/Instagram/Whatsapp/Messenger (oh - all the same company)
  • Email
  • Phone calls? (Hahahaha)
  • Do you still get newspapers or magazines?
  • Radio?

 

I could keep going, but you get the point. That’s you and your customer.

 

There are now “teaser” ads for ads. The 2020 Super Bowl advertising season showed a record number of 16-second spots teasing longer ads during the actual event. (Which you didn’t even have to watch because YouTube AdBlitz let you see it all before the game.)

 

This Changes Communication and Business Immensely

 

Here’s how: “Now” is the new “new.” We need communication now. And often. And then even more.

 

The gap between stimulus and response must shorten, and we now require more contact more often to feel better connected to the companies we use to serve our needs.

 

Let me explain.

 

The old days: your customer places an order. You tell them upon ordering that the product will arrive in two weeks.

 

The new way: A customer orders. You give them a tracking number. The package will arrive the next business day. You message them two or three more times anyway.

 

Customers (B2B or B2C) want their products now. They want communication even now-er. And more of it. And brief. And simple. And fast. And now.

 

I Know What You’re Thinking

 

My customers don’t need that. I know you’re thinking this. Or maybe you’re thinking “Oh, but not in my industry.” You’d be silly to think that way.

 

Doctors in the U.S. could never have anticipated that their businesses would come under attack from the speedy and simple delivery of services such as the CVS Minute Clinic and similar products.

 

Restaurants never anticipated being forced to use a variety of delivery app technologies to compete with what used to bring them revenue: their dining room.

 

Taxis figured “when we get there” was as appealing as “your driver is 3 minutes away” of rideshare apps.

 

And B2B companies are thinking, “Oh, well it’s different for me.” No, it really isn’t. Ask a customer if they want their products delivered slower and with less communication. I dare you.

 

People need to hear from you now. And often. And again.

 

Now What?

 

You see what I did there.

 

Look back at the writing in this piece. Did you notice anything about it? The paragraphs are brief and easily scannable. The sentences are small. Some aren’t even sentences. It’s very easy to read this on your phone.

 

Here’s your recipe for communicating now:

 

  1. Review the customer experience that’s in place currently, especially with an eye on communication and interaction. Where are the places where you stay silent right now.
  2. Decide on adding a few more interaction points. “Your HVAC system is at the loading dock” and so on. You don’t even have to automate these at first. Just make it a practice of order fulfillment.
  3. Can you say it faster? Review all interactions with customers for ways to make the message useful but briefer. What would a customer most need at any given point in the journey?
  4. Build in exception/error handling. When something goes wrong, you still have to use “now” communications methods, but the resolution might take longer. What can you do to keep up the interaction but not upset the customer?
  5. Explain more but still keep it brief. What ways can you equip the customer to feel part of the experience loop? Something as seemingly dumb as “your contract documents will be reviewed today by 4 pm” might keep the phone from ringing.
  6. Follow up. Most every business in the world fails here. Once the product/service is in hand, you go radio silent except to try and sell. Follow up. Get everything you want? Need anything? You might even make some add-on sales this way.

 

Review what I just gave you. Nothing there is especially difficult. None of it requires much in the way of intense technological purchase. Ask yourself whether your customers, who live in the now age, would feel better knowing more and knowing it faster.

 

I suspect you’ll want to implement this.

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. chris+brogan.pngThe age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

YouTube for Small Buseiness.jpgIt’s easy to overlook YouTube as a business tool. Most people think of it as a place for unruly teenagers, cat videos and clips from Saturday Night Live so you never have to stay up late to see it again. But that’s not the only value it holds.

 

First, realize that YouTube serves over a billion hours of video every day while  500 hours of video are uploaded each minute. Also, over 70 percent of YouTube views are on mobile, and that people streaming YouTube onto their TV instead of watching cable has jumped up to 250 million hours a day.

 

My point: Many people watch YouTube every day and if you’re not one of them, it’s more that you’re behind the curve and not that “only kids use YouTube.”

 

Second, remember that YouTube is the world’s No. 2 search engine in and it’s owned by the No. 1 search engine in the world.

 

So, what should you be doing to put a little more YouTube in your life?

 

Get a Lot More Out of YouTube

 

First, log in so that you have the option to subscribe. YouTube works hard at trying to guess what else you might want to look at.

 

Second, start by looking for things you want to watch yourself. Not for work. Just for you. Love pizza? Check out what it’s like to eat a $2,000 pizza. Want to watch people get their necks and backs cracked? It’s the oddities that make us start to get into YouTube.

 

Third is where we steer this a bit towards your business. Whatever you sell, search YouTube to see who else is talking about it. Let’s say you sell HVAC systems. I searched for “replace your hvac system” and got this. Now you can see how one group did it and decide whether you could make a better and more informative video.

 

Fourth, start thinking of YouTube when you’re looking for information of any kind. I have a Macbook laptop and wanted to swap out the hard drive for a bigger one. I used this video to do it, easy peasy. There’s an amazing amount of useful how-to information on the site.

 

To sum up this section: learn how to consume and use YouTube first.

 

Make Your Own Videos

 

Starting a YouTube channel is easy enough. If you have a Gmail account, you have a YouTube channel waiting for content. (You can search for “How to Start a YouTube Channel” videos, naturally.)

 

Your smartphone or the built-in camera on your laptop will get you started. If you want more, I wrote an article called Start Videoblogging on my website that can walk you through it quickly enough.

 

The content can be anything from interviews, reviews, installation guides, ideas on how to get more out of the product’s use, and any number of other pieces of media. That’s the beauty. Because you’re not a broadcast TV channel, you can use this opportunity however you want. If you look at my YouTube channel, it’s a bit of a potpourri. That’s because I’m not obligated to make a specific kind of a show.

 

By contrast, however, Good Mythical Morning is a YouTube channel that works hard to build themes, branding, and content consistency and that goes a long way towards earning them a rabidly passionate fan base.

 

Don’t Ignore YouTube

 

When I recommend that people start and run a YouTube channel, they almost always nod politely and then ignore the information. They worry. “I’m too fat, too skinny, too old, too something. I have a weird accent.” Join the club, people. There are few “perfect” people in the universe. And yet, plenty of people tune in and love what they see.

 

Tommy Edison is blind. Owen has some physical challenges. Samuel J Comroe has Tourettes. Shirley Curry is an 84-year-old gaming grandma (with about 750,000 subscribers by the way). Daym Drops is a food review channel by a pleasantly larger guy (you’ll love his energy). Your excuses are just that.

 

Remember that people want the information. Sure, they’d love to be entertained. But more than that, they need what you know. Make some videos and see if it earns you more business. It’s amazing when it happens, and there are opportunities waiting there. Remember what I said at the beginning of the article:

 

  • 1 billion hours a day
  • 250 million hours on set top boxes instead of regular TV
  • 300+ million hours on mobile devices
  • And it’s free to have a channel there

 

It’s yours to make happen.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better chris-brogan-headshot.jpgsupport modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Very few people take a formal class in how to send and receive emails. And that means that you essentially “wing it” with one of your primary forms of business communication.

business-communication-computer-connection-261706.jpg

 

So, let’s talk about some tune-ups to get more of your email answered, and to improve the experience all the way around.

 

Get Your Email Answered

 

Everyone is busy. No one gives you their full attention. Think about you. Are you only reading this article, or do you have several browser tabs open? Are you answering texts in between paragraphs? Let’s start there: everyone is busy and attention is fragmented, and to that end, it means you must do the following:

 

  • Make your subject line solid - The first two lines are everything - Right after your salutation (Dear Chris), the line or lines that follow are the most important. “I need your decision on two very important points.” Or “Will you sponsor our next ‘Concert in the Park’ event for $5000?” For the love of Buddha, skip anything like “How are you?” or “I hope you are well.” We all hope the other person is well. It’s wasted. And worse, when our brains see what we expect, we turn off some amount of our attention automatically.
  • Be as brief as possible - People write as if they’re composing an essay for a college professor. Be crisp and to the point. “Hi Deb! Richard’s performance is down for the third quarter in a row so I’m going to promote Aiesha instead. Any reservations?” Brevity is vital in today’s world. Our gut tells us to write out the entire backstory, but in most cases, it’s not necessary.
  • Seek a next action - Once you’ve said what needs saying, be clear about what you want the recipient of the email to do. “Please let me know when you receive this message. I’ll follow up a few days after I hear that you have.” Or “No action necessary. Just keeping you posted.” Or whatever it is.
  • Short circuit the back-and-forth - The absolute second worst kind of email is a back-and-forth. “What do you want for lunch?” “I dunno. What about you?” “Oh, I don’t know. Anything come to mind?” (You probably just felt your anxiety raise just reading that.) The best way to do this is by making a suggestion, right or wrong and never ever sending an open-ended message to someone. “Want to get Thai for lunch?” “I think 3% is too little for the annual raise.” And if the message comes back to you more than twice, get on the phone.

 

Email signatures aren’t movie credits - Shorten your email signature. Somewhere back in the late 90s, it became cool to sign your email as if you’re a general on an aircraft carrier, with seven to ten lines of information, including 45 ways to reply back. Make your signature your name, your title, an email address, and a phone number. For the most part, that’s all anyone wants.

 

And before I let you go, I have a little drilling down to do.

 

Subject Lines are Your Secret Weapon

 

I’ve already told you that everyone is busy, everyone is skimming their email inbox and attention is minimal. Think about your own inbox. Look at the subjects there. Do some make you want to open? Do others make you want to delete without reading? Which ones get that worst distinction of being opened but not read, and not responded to forever until you guiltily delete it?

 

Your subject lines matter immensely. I want to give you a few samples to steal and adapt for your own uses:

 

  • I need 8 minutes of your time to get your perspective - one trick of this subject line is that I chose “8” instead of 5 or 10. Everyone says 5 or 10. The other benefit is that it’s clear what I’m asking for: someone’s opinion, not a sale.
  • Want to get Italian on Thursday? - This is obviously a lunch offer, a specific cuisine, and a day on the calendar. It gives the recipient three response options: no, not that cuisine, or not that date. (Or some combo.) This kind of concise email is a godsend. You can do it with work issues, too.
  • I want to sell you something, but I’m 87% sure you want to buy it. - Here I go picking a weird number again. In this case, the straightforward honesty is the “gimmick.” People hate feeling “tricked” by emails. This one is right across the plate.
  • This might make a better phone call - Here’s a play. You *know* what you want to cover can’t be handled briefly in an email, but you want to give the other person the right to refuse the call. Here’s a way to throw one extra “stop” in the way, in case the information is sensitive, or you’re not as certain about the outcome.
  • How would you solve this conflict? - This subject line is great because it gets right to the point of what you need to cover. It has a lot of variants if you think of it.

 

Turn This into a Checklist

 

If I were telling you what to do, I’d take a sticky note and put the details of this on it:

 

  • Solid subject line
  • Tight first two lines
  • Be brief
  • Seek a next action
  • Prevent back-and-forth exchanges
  • Simple email signature

 

There. All in one tight little package for you. What do you think? If you want to practice on someone, send me an email: chris@chrisbrogan.com. I’m always open to hearing what you think of what I write!

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

In marketing and business, we get quite caught up in all that’s come before, where we are, all our history.  Yet there’s no greater enemy to small business than “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

 

blur-brainstorming-chatting-1881333.jpg

Sometimes, it’s important to reset, to tear it all down. If we were starting today, then what? If we lost everything, what would this look like? How did we get here in the first place?

 

Start at Zero

 

I’m a big fan of comic books. I started reading them when I was five and my grandfather bought them for me on his candy sales route. They helped me learn to read, and they gave me a bigger perspective on the world than I otherwise would’ve had. In that comics industry, there’s a kind of necessary cliché that’s said when a new team takes over a title, especially something like Spider-Man or Batman.

 

“We’re going back to the basics.”

 

And that means they strip away all the weird stories currently running in the comics, like Spider-Man having clones or Batman with a team of other people pretending to be him, and so on.

 

This is something we can do with our businesses, only without capes and tights.

 

What Does Zero Look Like?

 

If you launched your company today, what would be the cleanest, simplest representation of it? What is the bare bones version of what you sell? How do you talk about it? How do you sell? Who is your best customer?

 

Volkswagen recently showed off its “new” logo. It pretty much looks like the old one, only now it’s “flat” so that it can be used in lots more ways, like on applications or charging units, and so on. If you’re not a designer, you’ll look at it and say, “Looks pretty much the same.” But it’s new. And that “new” is a zero from where they can race towards an intentional path forward.

 

But anything can be a zero point for your business.

 

    1. Logo. Pricing. Offering. Customer base. Locations. Hours. Any aspect of the business can and should be reconsidered.

 

Dunkin Donuts rebranded as Dunkin. Why? Because people like the coffee and there’s a mixed feeling about their donuts when it comes to health. Ditto KFC instead of Kentucky FriedChicken. Both restaurants still have bloated menus and could really get even closer to zero, but there’s a caution.

 

Less Than Zero

 

There’s one catch, one warning. You canaccidentally throw away the wrong part.

 

    • Kodak had digital camera technology patents and prototypes long before that market came and crushed the company.
    • Coca-Cola fumbled by launching New Coke in the 80s.
    • When the Internet came around, many print media companies gave away content online  and it took them years to reclaim even a fraction of the revenue lost.

 

You can throw away the wrong part of your business. Will Dunkin be wrong for dialing back donuts? I can’t see it, but we’ll all know if that happens.

 

Can It Fit on an Index Card?

 

One easy way to know if you’ve brought your company back to zero in one way or another is by answering the question, “Can it fit on an index card?” If you can explain the entire concept with one 3” x 5” card, chances are, it’s a really simple business.

 

This is one area where small businesses have a chance to thrive. Something big like Disney can’t ever do the index card test. They might be able to sum up various divisions that way, but not the entire enterprise.

 

Your company, however? The answer had best be yes.

 

Try It

 

You don’t have to take my word for it. Try it. Start with an index card and write/draw out what your business looks like at zero. What’s the smallest “menu” of offerings you could make? What’s the simplest way to describe your business? What’s the easiest way to handle the customer experience journey? And so on.

 

It’s okay if you need a few cards to get started. Crumple up all you want until you find the right zero for your business.

 

It’s an exciting exercise every time

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

As I wrote this, the “chicken sandwich wars” were raging. Let me quickly catch you up:

 

Fast food restaurant Popeyes released a chicken sandwich (they didn’t have one already?) and rival Chick-Fil-A got a bit lippy about it on social media (and then Wendy’s chimed in because that’s what they do) and it all kind of backfired. Everyone (and this is nuts) suddenly wanted to try this chicken sandwich at Popeyes, a place few folks ate at before this all started. Long lines. Traffic jams. Employees quitting because overtime has become insane.

adult-businessman-buy-327540.jpg

 

This is about a chicken sandwich. And while I’ve not yet put one in my belly, everyone seems to say the same thing: it’s okay. Not “it’s amazing.” But just “okay.”

 

McDonalds sells one or two different types of chicken sandwiches. KFC has one. Wendys. Chick-Fil-A. Sonic. I haven’t checked with too many more fast food chains, but they probably sell chicken sandwiches.

 

What Happens When We Can Buy from Everybody

 

My point: What you sell isn’t all that unique. Very few businesses sell anything unique. I write articles like this but so do several thousand other people. Everyone really wants to point out what makes them different, but they all say the same things: we treat you like a person, or we value you, or we take your business seriously. Yada, yada, yada.

 

In a world where people can buy from anyone, why should they buy from you?

 

I’ve posed this question several times to many corporations over the years. It’s my go-to starter for companies that feel threatened by a competitor. A large auto parts company brought me in because they were feeling the pressure of their customers suddenly being able to Google something, go on Amazon, and buy it themselves.

 

My advice was: get amazing at in-store service. Make people feel well tended and cared about in your stores. Treat everyone who walks in as if they own the business and you want nothing more than to please them.

 

Let me ask you three questions:

 

      • What can you do at your business that would separate you from the competition?
      • What value can you bring to your customer differently than anyone else?
      • How can you deliver something that goes beyond the borders of a buyer’s expectations?

 

These questions apply to any kind of business. No matter if you run a chiropractic practice, a pizza shop, a bridal store, or an accounting group, you can craft a better experience for your customers.

 

True story: my plumber is the best in town because he calls you back within a few hours of you leaving him a message. This beats out the five other competitors (in my small town) because they don’t get back to me in a timely fashion. That’s it. Returning calls. That’s his massive advantage.

 

Make that Advantage Clear

 

The worst kind of marketing small business owners do is generic or vague. “Our difference is that we care.” That’s the worst possible thing to say. Everyone cares, and most customers don’t believe it when they see something like that.

 

But if you say, “We work on your schedule, not ours,” now that’s something very specific.

 

Sometimes, you don’t even have to sayanything. Maybe it’s clear from your very simple menu that you sell two types of burgers, fries, shakes, and that’s about it. Maybe you run the most pet-friendly tax preparation business in town. Or maybe it’s that you prompt your customers when it’s time to repurchase so that they don’t have to remember. That idea alone could really separate you from the competition.

 

We Can Buy from Anyone. Now What?

 

I used to work part-time at a little bookstore in northern Massachusetts. The place was very small, independent, and in a quaint little tourist town. When Carolyn ran the store, her big advantage over buying from Amazon or driving another 20 minutes to Barnes and Noble wasn’t that she had every book you could ever want on the shelves. It was that she always had great recommendations for what to read next. That and the ability to remember everyone’s name – so that she greeted you personally when you walked into the shop – was what kept her business alive.

 

There are so many ways to stay important to your customers, if you want to sustain a strong business relationship. It’s up to you to treat that part of your business as if it matters, and to align your efforts accordingly. So, how do you answer this? 

 

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

People only read an average of 19 minutes a day, including texts, emails, social media posts, and books. As important as written communications are, other mediums are on the rise in terms of capturing attention from potential customers. Today I want to talk about video. YouTube serves over 1 billion hours of video a day and climbing. Most of the world consumes more video. So, are you using video to earn more small business customers?

 

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One detail about your business that I see entrepreneurs underestimate is that what you do is often more interesting than you think. Okay, it’s true: Some of you have boring businesses. No one would ever want to watch a video of someone filling out an insurance form. But that doesn’t mean the information you know can’t be made interesting. There are tons of videos like this that prove the point.

 

Often times, what you sell can be interesting. I saw this swell video about coffee making. Or if you prefer beer, here’s my pal Sam Calagione walking you through one of Dogfish Head’s beers being made.

 

Video Isn’t SUPER Hard Once You Break It Down

 

To make video, you need only a few tools and a little bit of creativity. For instance, you don’t need a lot of tech. Your smartphone and the camera built into your laptop is a decent start. Let’s talk tech first and then production.

 

Tech

 

    • Something to shoot with - use your smartphone and laptop camera to start
    • Lighting - you can use something as tiny as this Lume Cube Air or get a little more fancy with a ring light kit
    • Editing - use iMovie on a Mac or Microsoft Photos on a PC
    • Music - if you want to get a little more fancy, get a subscription to epidemicsound.com and throw that into the mix.

 

Production

 

Video needs to serve your buyer. If you want to do a behind-the-scenes video on how your shop bakes wedding cakes, people will love it. If you want to interview your air conditioner installers to show what separates you from the competition is service, that’s great.

 

Start with a story. “I’m going to interview the president and a couple employees about a typical day here at the fish market.” From this, you can start to figure out what you’ll need. Obviously, you’ll need the interview video footage. You’ll also want some clips of the market, some of the workers doing their jobs, and so on. But what should you shoot?

 

My favorite secret to teaching people how to make videos for work is to look at and break down other videos to get a sense for what reallywent into making it. Scroll back up to the coffee making video above. Count how many clips of video show up in the first five seconds. I got 6 or 7. (That’s a little more than one clip per second.)

 

Your first recording/production tip is this: shoot lots and lots of tiny clipsof video to go with the longer ones. Get lots of angles, zoomed in and out, and use them to enhance the story. Notice in the coffee video, the clips showed loose grounds, then a menu sign (I’d have put that in somewhere else), then tamped down grounds, then coffee poured in, then steam coming out of the espresso machine.

 

Editing is Where It’s At

 

Once you shoot all the video clips you need, toss them into iMovie or Microsoft Photos (open a new project and you’ll see where to drag everything). This is the editing phase. (You can ask YouTube for a few tutorials on either software. There are literally thousands of videos to help you.)

 

Trim the clips to grab only the action you need. Phil DeFranco explains why jump cuts are important in this video. It’s what separates out useful video from “just a bit too long” video.

 

If you decide to add some music underneath clips, you might do two things: 1.) lower the music clips when people are speaking and 2.) lower the sound on your video clips if it doesn’t add to the experience. (That’s the very basics of sound editing in a few sentences.)

 

How Long Should Your Videos Be?

 

There are a few “magical” lengths of video to consider.

 

    • 30 seconds - 1 minute - this will get the most views.
    • 1 - 3 minutes - most people want nothing more than this.
    • 10 minutes plus - now you have a “show” length. People love shows, if they already have a video consumption habit. 

 

Notice what’s missing? The middle. Between 3 and 10. That’s the weird “people don’t watch these as often” times. Why that is the case is still up for debate.

 

Upload and Share

 

I post my videos to a few different places. I post to YouTube because it is, by far, the most used video service in the world. I add my videos to LinkedIn because they’re investing heavily in showing off video right now. I sometimes post to Facebook. I link to my YouTube account via Twitter, and I post some of my videos on my business website.

 

People’s number one protest to me about making and posting video is that THEY don’t watch videos online.

 

1.  Usually, people under-report how much video they actually watch, forgetting everything they scroll through on Facebook.

2.   Even if YOU don’t watch a lot of video, people of Earth do.

3.   Maybe you should watch more video.

 

There’s gold in here. It takes practice, but not as much as you’d think. Peek at some of my videos. They’re simple as anything. Often just talking head videos. But they serve my business well. You can do the same for yours!

 

Related Links

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

If I ask you if you’re using LinkedIn for your business, chances are you’ll make an awkward face. I can read your mind at this very moment: “Not really but I have a profile on there. Not sure why. Uh, market my small business?”

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I get it. You maybe haven’t heard much about whatto do on LinkedIn and I’m here to help. Here are some best practices for using LinkedIn for small business marketing.

 

Profile vs Group?

 

I’m asked whether companies should market on individual profile pages or create a special group instead. While some groups end up thriving, this requires a lot of maintenance. I don’t recommend groups unless whatever you sell really lends itself to a very active group-based interactive experience.

 

The challenge with marketing from only one profile is that it’s somewhat required that the profile you use be easily available to everyone who might want to contribute, and/or it changes the “feel” of the profile from being one person’s perspective to a corporate communications entity.

 

Instead, my recommendation is to have more than one LinkedIn profile of real people in the company post content and promote interactions in support of the company.

 

My old boss and friend Debbie Millin works at Globalization Partners, where she’s the COO. Her posts are a blend of personal business perspective (which is great because she’s the smartest boss I ever had), as well as pieces directly about the company including “We’re Hiring” reposts from the HR team and articles about the industry where her company interacts. There are several other individual profile pages from key team members at Debbie’s company and they all post their own content as well as share important company material.

 

 

What on Earth Should We Post?

 

Smile! First, I have to say it (and you’re reading it everywhere and trying to ignore it): video is hot. People are watching videos and posting a video is a surefire way to earn more engagement, even if the video is only the quality level of you holding your smartphone at arm’s length and talking into the camera. Video.

 

Give them knowledge. Second, thoughtful articles written on LinkedIn tend to do well if the topic is universal enough. Unless you have raving fans, no one cares about “Wanda’s Top 7 favorite pencil sharpeners.” But if you write about “The Ultimate School Supply Checklist for Fall,” you’re on to something. The more “evergreen” the article, the better. (Meaning it’s okay to write topically about current events, but it’s delightful to write posts that can still be useful a year or two later.)

 

Links are In. Post a few links here and there to articles you find interesting. People like to know what else is on your mind.

 

Shine the light. Here’s an easy and well-appreciated marketing tip: post thoughtful recommendations for other businesses and people in your local community. Maybe you sell tile and bath supplies. Do your “plumber of the month” or “interior designer of the month” profile. Write enough to praise the other person and promote their business without talking much about your company. People love the heck out of this. 

 

Share Educational Webinars. Invite people to a live webinar and/or take advantage of LinkedIn’s ownership of Lynda.com and Slideshare to create interactive learning products. That sounds fancy, but give people something they can do, step by step, using your product and post it on your profile.

 

Invite People to Live Events. Post invites to events in your offices or local community appearances. Tastings. Whatever you can manage. There’s nothing like a face-to-face engagement to make the digital world look even better.

 

Okay, so how often should you post?

 

A Simple LinkedIn Posting Calendar

 

You can edit this to match the needs of your business, but here’s my recommendation:

 

    • Post links to other people’s articles daily
    • Post a video once a week minimum. Better if you can post 3 videos a week
    • Post an article monthly (or more if you can muster it)
    • Do a profile of someone else monthly (unless you can manage weekly)
    • Share event invites whenever it makes sense. You can post reminders to the event 2 to 3 times as well
    • Avoid Monday morning posts - worst time ever
    • Avoid Friday afternoon posts - tied for the worst time ever
    • If you sell to a very specific time zone, 11am and 2pm are my magical posting times for businesses. Earlier and later for self-owned and customer experiences

 

Content Guidelines to Follow

 

The videos you post should be brief – no more than 12 minutes, no fewer than 2.

 

The articles you post can be brief or longer (200 words up to 1500 words).

 

With links, write about 30 words explaining why you’re sharing it or what to look for.

 

And with profiles, make them between 200 to 500 words with ample links to the person you’re writing about and any relevant links to their materials.

 

Add a call to action where it makes sense. Realize that if someone sees this content in their stream and they like it, they will click your LinkedIn profile icon to take a next step.

 

That’s my advice. Tailor content to fit your business, but don’t skimp on the parts you feel weird about. They’re maybe new to you but it doesn’t mean they’re not what people want.

 

Give it a try. What do you have to lose?

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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