The Problem with Infrequency

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How do you know the price of something?

Ultimately, it’s an agreement between the seller and buyer. You don’t have to pay the price. You could go elsewhere and get what you want cheaper. Or you could forego what you want if it’s not a need.

Buyers are at a disadvantage on infrequent items. If you only buy a home every seven years, are you calibrated to the pricing and all the fees along the way? Something you do once every seven years compared to sellers along the way that do dozens or hundreds of deals a month makes them an expert and you an amateur.

The same goes for the infrequency of buying a car, college tuition, health care, and a number of items that we run across in life’s journey and demands.

On frequent items like gas, cell phone service and eggs, it’s easy to dial into the price. You see it, touch it and interact with the pricing so much that there is less of a debate between the buyer and the seller.

It’s interesting to watch people get more excited about a 20 cent raise in gas prices and miss the upswing of university rates. We pay attention to things we frequent more easily.

Perhaps being scarce in attention can help you lever up as a seller. Your service could morph or integrate with other offerings. Or you could work in an innovative, infrequent purchase area to have more pull on pricing.

You could also be a price-focused hustler lowering your operational and delivery costs so that the language of price becomes collaborative with your buyers while you move the cost needle down.

Infrequency has its rewards for sellers and finding a game where you can assign pricing based on that value and advantage might be worth exploring in this vast, hyper-competitive marketplace.

There Is No Magic Pill

Looking for that perfect pill is elusive and deceptive.

If there were a magic pill for getting more business, someone would have found it, shared it and everyone would be taking it. The truth is that there is no magic pill. Getting new customers is hard work and a continual moving target. You might be tempted to enlist the gimmicks of SEO companies or social media spammers. It’s not worth it. Gimmicks have costs eventually.

Just recently, there was an outcry with the Google search engine algorithm change with Google Panda. The sites out there that were low in quality and merely focused on backlinking to artificially manipulate search rankings were filtered out. Those sites intent on providing value and substance rose in prominence. The gimmicks were completely sidelined.

Do The Real Work

The truth is that you do not create something and it just works to get found, convert leads and increase revenue. It is a continual process of refinement, management and hard work. To separate yourself in a world of noise and reach your audience, there is continual, relentless work that has to be done regularly. Here are some of the continuous activities:

  • Creating valuable content. Your content has to connect and become increasingly relevant. People are searching for answers. You must become that trusted and accessible resource to get found.
  • Implementing systems. Your process flow and systems for how a buyer experiences your brand and moves through an integrated experience has to be continually refined. The touchpoints, offers and timing need to be engineered with precision.
  • Analyzing data. Seeing what works and what does not has to come from specific, real-time metrics that reveal how you are found and what people do on your systems. There is a feedback loop that needs to manage your next campaigns. The work never ends.
  • Connecting with your audience. What happened a week ago becomes increasingly irrelevant. We live in a real-time world. Your audience’s attention is on the present. You have to continually connect with what matters to them and helps them to achieve continual success.

Process and continuous improvement is the focus of organizations that stand out and connect. If you are a mere static picture in today’s dynamic world, then the traffic and engagement your competitors who pay the true price of continual engagement will be costly.

Stop looking for a magic pill and do the work or hire a team that gets it done over the long term. There are no shortcuts.

 

Why Websites Fail To Convert Leads

Let’s start with this premise – people don’t want to be converted. It’s not why they visit your site. It is what you may have in mind, but noone wants to be sold or converted.

This is the conundrum. Most websites, while they may be well-designed, are focused on the Buy Now customer. It is the person with urgency and pain today. It is a rather small subset of potential buyers.

The greater majority are in the Buy Later, Learn Now category. Buying is a process. It happens when someone starts to focus on solving a problem. They get online and start researching and learning for themselves the very questions they should even be asking. If you are in a complex industry, the cycle is long as your potential buyers get comfortable and orient themselves to information they are alien to in their daily lives and work.

Typical websites fail to convert leads and here are some things you can focus on to avoid the pitfalls of missing your buyer:

  • Brochure design. Marketers got in the business of website design and it shows. They present the company, the products and the content in a brochure format. It’s static and hyped. Compare this with sites that engage you and lead you down a process of learning. We ignore the hype and are trying to learn something.
  • Vanity. Talking about yourself and how you great you are does little to build trust. Telling your story and helping people understand how you work and do business goes much further in building trust. Talk about the customers’ problems specifically and concretely. That builds your credibility and shows you care.
  • No growth. Your content in the form of knowledge sharing and resources should be continually and regularly growing. If it is not, then you become irrelevant. It’s a one and done visit, especially as someone is just learning. You have the opportunity to be an authority on your industry, product or marketplace. Be that hub and the connection increases. Your brand is no longer a stranger.
  • No follow-up. When someone is searching, they forget where they have been. If they were interested in your content and information, then what keeps them engaged or connected? Your site has to have marketing automation to nurture the relationship based on their preferences and behaviors. Otherwise, it is just a forgotten experience.

There is no shortage of badly designed or managed sites. Hopefully, your own systems can improve as you incorporate just these few strategies for your web presence. It is the art of turning a stranger into a friend by continually positioning and providing value in a one-to-one fashion.

How can you improve? Feel free to comment below.

Connecting With Your Inbound Audience

Photo from AURORA Norwich's Flickr stream

If you sweat and hustle, build a sales organization, interrupt people with traditional media, then you may get a few eyeballs to look your way and pay attention. You may make more enemies than friends in the process, as well. Interrupting people has the tendency of ruining a second chance. Your brand is on the line. That is the detriment of outbound marketing.

However, inbound marketing relies on one key differentiator – connection. As people are searching for what they want or tuned into the information, products and services that will help them grow their business, improve their health and better their relationships, there is opportunity to provide value.

Today, billions of searches happened. People spent enormous amounts of time on social media. If you email someone, they open it within a few minutes. Everyone is plugged in at work or on their mobile device. How can you connect? Here’s how we help our customers connect in this dizzying world of information:

  • Answers. There’s something our clients take for granted. They have answers which they know like the back of their hand. They have mastered their trade. We help them share their answers and make it part of the buying process with their audience.
  • Stories. We tune into stories. It is part of our inherent psyche. Telling the stories of success, the building processes and the history of who you are all connects. We do business with people and organizations we like and can identify with. Stories help to reflect your brand for those that resonate and want to connect.
  • Care. What do you do to make your customers feel special? All things being equal, the way you service and show care needs to come through in the personality and soul of your brand. Examples and testimonials help with this. Proof needs to be shown and shared to connect.

Look at the answer (comfortable shoes), stories (buy one give one) and care (customer service) that Toms is delivering and connecting with. They continue to grow their audience and their authenticity shines through and connects. Just one example of many that are out there connecting with their audiences.

How could you do better?

3 Inbound Marketing Customer Experience Strategies

We often think that the customer experience commences when we are servicing a person. How they are handled at the cash register, try our products out or serviced for needs tends to draw our focus to provide caring service. Much of the last decade emphasized this kind of personal attention.

With the accessibility of information far and wide on the internet via search engines and social media, the customer experience starts far before any up close contact with your company. How you talk, contribute and are talked about creates a persona that draws attraction or distaste for those looking for information to meet a real or felt need.

The customer experience you create with complete strangers sets the tone for how newcomers to your brand will feel about you. There are a few components that should be part of your inbound marketing strategy that can create a continuum as a stranger moves from indifference to intimacy:

  • Knowledge sharing. Buyers don’t spend as much time as you thinking about your industry. Start at a rudimentary level and provide knowledge that orients newcomers to what they should know. Frame what a new buyer should be thinking about to make an intelligible decision about what you offer. Be a resource and you earn further trust to being consulted.
  • Create conversation. Be a catalyst for thought and provoke conversations around topics. This can be done on various social media platforms, forums and on your corporate blog. Fostering thought and helping dialogue positions you as a leader in your space. Be sure you know what you are talking about and share it with the world.
  • Relevant connections. Ensure that a link, pay-per-click ad or comment on a site links to a relevant landing page. Generic pages break a thought process. Building congruent process is extra work but it is worthwhile. It creates a customer experience that is whole and connected. Connecting via links and calls to action in a logical path increases your opportunity to eventually engage.

We like to think about the customer experience up close and personal. With buyers able to check us out or discover us from far away and impersonally now, your brand needs to be aligned and managed.

What do you think? How can you make the customer experience broader and more strategic?

Before The Sales Process Begins

The sales process is visual and attractive to manage. It feels like a higher level of control. It is showtime. We are with the prospective customer and get to display our salesmanship. A process helps make this more predictable and fruitful. Otherwise it is random and opportunities are lost.

However, if there is overemphasis on wooing and winning customers based on a salesperson’s tactics, then your process starts with little or no trust. Trust is the lubricant which makes selling a formality for those that work hard before the sales process begins.

Inbound Marketing Starts The Buying Process

Before you ever engage in selling, your customer is buying. They are searching, scanning and learning. They want to feel educated, empowered and comfortable before having a sales discussion. It is the buying process. They are persuading themselves and figuring out what they want.

Here is where you can be of immense value, not necessarily personally, but by offering your expertise. You have what is known as the curse of knowledge. You spend so much time thinking about your product, service, industry and technicalities that you forget that it is foreign for a newcomer to your space. Yet, your knowledge is extremely valuable.

In the buying process, you can help your buyer get what they want:

  • Education. Packaging your knowledge in myriad forms of content – audio, video, written – should be easily found and easily accessed. Distribute this in a way that helps a person ask smart questions and feel like a peer when they do decide to engage in the sales process.
  • Empowerment. Your buyer needs a framework for making a decision and a way to evaluate what you offer. This helps them feel in control in their decision. Provide such empowerment by helping them ask the right questions and understand your market, competition and even jargon. It may feel awkward if you are not used to doing this, but it will build trust as you are transparent and broaden the discussion to helping them see how a choice is made in context rather than in a one-sided fashion.
  • Comfort. Helping your buyer feel competent and confident is important in a strange area. Think about how you feel when the mechanic is overwhelming you. It can cause you to shut down and withdraw. Invite the buyer into the discussion. Help them feel comfortable so that the sales discussion is a conversation rather than a lecture.

If your buying process is set up well in the inbound marketing system and process, then selling becomes much easier. You can tell because the buyer is ready and conversant with you. Trust is present.

Since information is democratized, why not be the leader in providing the right information at the right time before the selling begins?

What could such a process mean for your selling?

The Reality Of Inbound Marketing In 2012

It is a new year and old school sales may have a few holdouts in some slower industries. However, the concept of interrupting people and pushing unsolicited sales messages is fast fading. Look at the bookstores and note the literature. You will not find hit books on how to cold-call better or mass mail with advertising. Those were popular topics ten years ago. However, inbound marketing is the norm now. People do not want to be sold, but they love to buy.

Your marketing strategy will either evolve to keep in step with your industry, or you will become less relevant. As you are looking at the new year, get rid of the gimmicks. Commit to building something that will grow your brand. It is hard work and discipline if you are coming from old ways of doing things. But here is today’s reality:

  • Buyers know how to filter out spam. Your billboard, junk mail, cold call, email blast and social media blitz is disruptive and damages your brand. Don’t be known as a spammer.
  • Buying starts with value first. Before you get contacted, you are being researched. The internet has allowed for self-service around our value offerings. Be valuable and provide the answers to what a buyer is asking. Be the authority. Build trust. Watch your phone ring. It is about preparing for success.
  • Winning is a process of failure. You have to try things and see whether there is interest. Leads will develop from engagement with your content and value proposition. You have to test, analyze, refine and work harder than everyone else. Doing so increases your chances of success, not necessarily guaranteeing it.
  • Buying later is the norm. Unless there is high pain for the buyer, they are not going to buy now. They will find you when there is a need. Then they will study before they decide to connect with you. Nurture the relationship gently and keep providing relevant answers along the way and you may get a chance to engage. It is about being ready and helping someone become ready.

Every year, there are tectonic shifts in multiple industries. We all search for what we want. We initiate the buying process and we are looking for value along the way. Inbound marketing is about being there in step with your audience.

What are you going to do to build a true marketing strategy this year? Where do you need help?

Competing On Credibility And Substance

Keeping it Real
Flickr Photo By Georgette

I found Seth Godin’s article on bonus content and multimedia spot on (as usual). The experimentation with using multimedia inside a book has large possibilities. We are enamored with our mobile devices and tablets and their special effects. Seeing bigger budget special effects in movies continues to awe us. However, tampering with the medium of a book and seeking to monetize it with heavy embellishments lacks economic sensibility.

Books are about ideas that change us. At their core, this is what the value proposition is. The lure of using technology and media to augment the book is naturally appealing. However, these can also be toys and distractions without a true return on investment.

Just because we have access to amazing innovation does not mean that it makes our offering more special. It can be distracting, costly and damaging. If you blast the world with spam, post on trivial matters on your Twitter and Facebook and go overboard with Photoshop, you can create more noise than true value.

When I read a book, I want to engage deeply and read the content. I want to learn something.

When buyers engage your brand, they are looking for something beyond hype. They want to know if they can trust you and if you are for real. They want to mitigate risk. Your credibility is critical to establish trust. Substance with style is important. What if you connected by:

  • Saying it simply and plainly?
  • Making it easy to find out what you do?
  • Provide convenience at every touchpoint?
  • Emphasizing what you stand for?
  • Being real?

We are all buyers and we have seen a lot of embellished marketing. There’s a temptation to add on more bells and whistles as they become available. The social media bubble has created a craze for companies. So has email marketing, ghost blogging and YouTube video production. It may be social, but is it building a relationship and trust?

You are one of thousands of choices. Stand out by focusing on the content and substance of your message and value proposition. Let others pollute with the noise and chaos of the latest fad. It is a lasting and working strategy for success.

What are some areas you can focus and get more substantive on?

The Buying Season

It’s December and buying is a top priority on people’s minds. The emotion of buying far supercedes any forces from selling we might presuppose as marketers and salespeople. The natural cycle of our culture overtakes people’s behaviors during this time of year. If you are positioned well and can help people buy as they are intent on doing, then the opportunities for converting customers is extremely high. The key is understanding why people buy. Here are a few reasons:

  • Emotion. Culture, relationships and expectations are extremely high during the holiday season. Buying is an emotional process. Before a purchase is made, there is an emotional motivation. Tapping into and aligning with your buyer’s emotion is critical for connecting your product or service.
  • Timing. Certain offers are relevant when the timing is right. If you offer a 50% transmission discount when my car’s gears breakdown, you are extremely relevant. Before this, it is noise. Helping me have a relevant answer to gift giving, tax deductions or employee recognition is a timely offer.
  • Creativity. We are bored with the mundane. We buy this throughout the rest of the year. If you can position your offering in a new light that shows creativity and context, it catches attention. Tell a story. Sell the story. Help your buyer imagine a new context. Creativity and imagination can transform otherwise mundane offerings into desirable products.
  • Customization. Something that is specific for a business or a person is much more desirable than a product for the masses. It meets a specific need that feels personal. It’s why seeing your name on a mug or having a product that works specifically for your business is perceived as higher value than the generic version.

As buyers spike in their consumption, be positioned with your value proposition. There is a cyclic window which you can tune into that reaps great rewards for those that understand why people buy.

How can you reposition your offering to connect with buyers?

Beware Of The Marketer

megaphoneEveryone is a marketer today. As the ability to distribute your message has become much easier than in times past, there has been much more noise. Anyone can post, tweet or blog. Thus, everyone is marketing something, whether it is their goods or themselves.

While it may feel good to market because of the power and the tools available, is it really good overall? Aren’t buyers (like yourself) keen on what is marketing and what is substance? We know how to block out the noise.

If someone pitches you on vanity metrics such as:

  • How many likes you have
  • Retweets
  • Opens
  • List size

then think twice. Marketing is a feel good and the numbers are often about you, not your buyer. The sleight of hand of focusing on activities rather than results is the tool of the marketer.

Inbound Marketing Is Strategic

On the other hand, inbound marketing accounts for how the buyer moves through a systematic process that they like. You are making it convenient for them to get what they want. You present substance not noise.

Of course, this approach is hard work. You have to pay attention and truly understand who your fans are and what they really want. You block out the noise of the marketer and lead instead. Lead them with your value and conviction.

There is thinking around process and being helpful. If you get this kind of permission, then your process produces fans, sales and loyalty. Tuning in requires an intense focus to help people buy.

Just because you have a microphone with every social media system available, should you spam the world? I would say to leave that for the salesmen who don’t have a strategy. Beware of them and do the hard work of connecting, providing value and telling your story. That is what makes tools powerful.

What kind of marketing are you running?