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Sales & Marketing

4 Posts authored by: Chris Brogan

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.”

 

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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.

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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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