Reinvent Yourself Before You’re Forced To

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“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ~ Robert Greene

Things work … until they don’t.

We bought stories previously that made sense. Advertising works because people pay attention. A horse and buggy is the way to travel. Everyone should meet for lunch to do business. Conglomerates are responsible for the news.

There were entire industries and armies of workers ready to fulfill what scaled and worked. And there was reward for a time with cash flow and stability that all the participating players enjoyed.

However, we don’t have the luxury of a static world that simply allows us to drink forever from a wellspring of opportunity. Too often, we have to get slapped hard out of our delusion and heed Baltasar Gracian’s words,

“Fortune soon tires of carrying anyone long on her shoulders.”

We did not have a world where everyone carried a supercomputer in their pocket, 24/7 news continually streamed and anyone could put their opinion out in the endless information stream of social platforms. The story people tell themselves continually changes and consumers are able to make choices for themselves on their time, attention and buying based on convenience and innovation.

I can remember too many times where work was hard. Building systems, sales engines and collaboration processes were hard. It’s much easier. We don’t have to code anymore or lay out inflexible, expensive requirements to test our ideas. We don’t even have to be perfect from the start. We can try what we conceive and tear it down and rebuild technologies and platforms to see if they work in reality or not.

Innovation is sweet and relentless.

We don’t even have to sweat the underlying mechanics or even hope for infrastructure.

However, the flip side of innovation is that it threatens the current position you find yourself in. Things will be different. They have to be. The collective is forcing and demanding better, faster, cheaper and entertaining.

Whether you align and reinvent yourself today or are forced to change when the world ignores your value is not something you control.

IT will be different. So will education, medicine, law, marketing, and every other industry out there that has enjoyed some form of stasis.

Sure, there’s a latency for Luddites that can ride the down wave. However, they can’t control the forces at play and the demand side that is creating this ridiculous pace of innovation we are all riding and insisting on.

The strategy for the value provider that wants to get paid has to move towards continual relevance. You have to stay in tune with what works, but you don’t need to get so far ahead that consumer demand lags.

Reinvent yourself by:

  1. Having a parallel path of selling/doing that ramps up while your current cash flow ramps down.
  2. Experimenting with and integrating new technology that makes things more convenient for your customers.
  3. Creating new use cases for your competencies.
  4. Selling something new and test for traction.

The last thing you want to experience as a businessperson is irrelevance. Fear and comfort can blindside you. The great news is that you can always get ahead of the inevitable changes to your position by keeping your own innovation habits in play.

What’s next for you and how can you keep reinvention continuously going?

Growth Hacking with Testing in These 6 Sales Channels

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Selling your products or services today in an overcrowded, inattentive marketplace has a high degree of difficulty for sure. You may have the best offering, but what does that mean if you can’t connect and get people to pay attention?

If you break down sales into channels and testing, you can create a growth hacking strategy which helps you pick the best option for going to market.

You have a limited set of ways to sell:

  1. Direct selling. You may need to build a sales team, manage them, pay them and get them to use a CRM to track what is going on. Very difficult but may be worth it for control and engagement.
  2. Social media selling. Consistency is the key here. You don’t just show up and simply sell. You have to get people to tune in by subscribing or liking. Your posts and tweets have a half life so being continuous and consistent is critical.
  3. Affiliate networks. Sharing commissions and incentivizing using the carrot are your tools. You have to spread your net wide knowing most people are good for a deal here or there because of the lack of control and commitment.
  4. Paid advertising. You can immediately post ads on Facebook, Twitter and Google Adwords. But you have to set up process, analyze conversions and refine the sales funnel continuously to find the optimum points.
  5. Networking. Business is people and developing relationships works. But it takes time and attention. It doesn’t fit with all products but it does fit with a large amount. People are so busy they don’t want to stop and meet for lunch, coffee or networking events. Time is precious. Networking in a way that respects time is what works today.
  6. Organic sales conversion.  Knowing your numbers, getting found and converting on each step in a sales funnel to create predictability is a long game but has payoff. You have to use predictive analytics and understand behaviors.

If you break your business model down to these six options for selling, assess how people could buy your product and service naturally, then you can start testing a model on a small scale and take it to its logical end.

Your growth hacking strategy is to design a good test for the selling strategy you think applies to come to a conclusion on where to go big in your selling approach.

What sales strategy can you test on a small scale to find out what to commit to?

Use Growth Hacking To Test Your Ideas

Can you imagine simply starting 5 different entrepreneurial ideas at once? With the simple constraint of time, you would naturally minimize your risks and attention and use growth hacking strategies that would help you figure out what is worth investing further attention towards.

That’s the beauty of a world where we have digitized our positioning and products. Entrepreneurship becomes creative. Of course, you can use horsepower and money to go to market, but it’s much more risky in comparison. It’s difficult to predict what will engage and scale without seeing whether your idea will even gain the attention you imagine.

Here are a few growth hacking strategies which you can apply with little effort to see if your idea is worth further investment of your time, energy and money:

  1. Push sharing. Keep a measure on your idea in an article or Ebook and see how many shares get logged. Watch the daily metric and see if it accelerates or decelerates. Use the metric as a way to gauge whether to tweak your presentation, or to see if the idea even has legs.
  2. Get hired to perform. You may be selling a product or platform. How about seeing if you can build success via using the tool yourself. Start with consulting gigs where you use your tools to prove their value. Noone can argue with success. And you gain insights for refining your product from real-world use.
  3. Give points. Think about the things that matter to you. Everyone using your invention or getting widespread buzz. Incentivize with a simple point system around the behaviors you desire and bake it into your distribution model. Make the tiers for rewards easy and publicize the wins to create a viral effect.
  4. Bake in invitations. Designing an easy way to invite friends to engage or look at something with an easy interface to put in email addresses or pull from a Google Contacts list makes each user a node to many others. Present the invitation in a natural part of the flow. You can even build and track invitations as referrals that give cash or free months of use.

These strategies can be used virtually or adapted to hard goods. Making the product delivery a carrier of the marketing takes a bit of creativity and work, but it saves you the hard work of tactical selling. You get your fans to sell for you.

What kind of growth hacking strategies are you employing around your ideas?

Think Big But Work Small

There’s no shortage of opportunities today. In fact, it’s cheaper and more convenient than ever to envision and put an idea you may have into play.

Imagine trying to make your idea happen in the 1960’s. It would be both extremely expensive and difficult to get it out for others to even take notice.

That’s not the problem anymore. You can get your idea started and put out into the world. However, it’s that easy for everyone else these days as well. You are inevitably playing in a crowded field. The hard part is getting enough attention to even matter. Everyone is a producer and everyone is a brand.

The dichotomy we face is how to go big in our ideas and keep that ever before us while we test in small steps. All of your assumptions have to be tested. You might assume a certain group will like your idea. If they react with little enthusiasm, it’s time to reevaluate immediately. And you can know this by putting a small test out there that represents the big idea. You can keep the idea big with small steps in the implementation to gauge how things will work in reality.

When you see positive feedback, you can enhance your idea and invest more time, money and energy.

The hard part is getting creative to solicit the reaction you are looking for before going big.

The temptation to go big early may come from our love for the idea vs. something that actually works to make people happy. That becomes more about you rather than those that will benefit.

We live in a crowded world. And people have access at their fingertips to whatever might appeal to their curiosities, pleasures or productivity.

Thinking big and working small is a strategy that can help you avoid risks out of the gate with good intentions.

How can you simplify and test your assumptions?

Don’t Hide Behind Spending Money

It is so fascinating to see how exponential growth from lower cost in technology is flattening the world. There is unprecedented democratization around bringing our ideas to market. And it starts with an idea.

Many people that are trying entrepreneurship start out with money. Dumping money into building something perfect is an easy way to hide. It’s the Field of Dreams mentality of “Build it and they will come.”

The reality is that spending money on an untested idea is more like “Build it and you will likely miss.”

There is plenty of technology and platforms to see if your idea even has legs. The concept has to be first put out there to see if you can get people to try it out.

Here’s a simple example. If you have some annoying problem working, cooking or fixing, try putting your idea on Quirky. See if your starting concept gets some other influencers. It was extremely hard to make your idea get to some kind of physical product because of the design, engineering, prototyping, manufacturing, and many other steps in a go-to-market process.

Now, you can use a platform, connect your idea with the world and see how a simple ember of an idea can turn into a bonfire of a product that changes the world.

Don’t start selling your idea. Prove your idea first. Use platforms that are near zero cost. Work hard at seeing if people will even buy in. If you can see if people like and will buy something at a small scale, with imperfection, then scaling with perfection is the second step. Doing the second step first often kills otherwise good ideas and it’s not a great entrepreneurial strategy when you have the resources to help you be a prototyper. No need to be an idealist.

What can you test first?

Communicating Is The Product

The philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” begs the question of how we experience our personal realities. Does it matter if a tree falls if we are not there to experience it?

If you are providing services to others, there are the deliverables that you have committed to that must be tracked and completed. You may work hard at your task lists and project management to ensure you have all the things you need to stay organized and deliver.

However, along the way, just as important, is the illumination you put on the progress and work. It keeps the customer in the loop as you are doing your work and moving towards delivery.

You can look at the updates and communications as an extra step or a burden.

However, what if you saw your updates and communication as the product?

Delivering what you committed to is expected. Expecting kudos for a job well done may be misplaced.

However, we are all starved for surprise, personal care and love. And in a connected world of infinite options, what if you carefully look at how you manage the customer experience the entire way?

At minimum, when something gets done of significance or meaning, send a note with a thought so you can frame expectations and help the customer see what is happening. This keeps them engaged and on your side of the table.

If you find that you have to explain your work later and answer skeptical questions, it means you did not deliver a whole product, a wholesome experience, per se. You only did the work, the commodity, the expectation. You are lagging, not leading, and that is a much harder position to come back from.

Better to stay ahead and paint the picture and keep anticipation and celebration part of your project management and customer service.

How can you communicate more frequently and with leadership in addition to delivering?

Inbound Marketing Metrics

Use metrics to drive the refinements of your inbound marketing system.

Much of what drives inbound marketing happens in the rigor of analytics and metrics. There is a process and cadence to driving results which we use with our clients.

As inbound marketing systems take root and the valuable content created for clients is getting found, the hard, continuous work of figuring out how to connect with a buyer, segmenting various buyer profiles and nurturing each segment has to be refined.

We work to keep our clients aware of how the systems are performing and here are some key components which help to drive towards success:

  • Key search results. Monitoring what phrases and keywords are being used helps to develop future content. This is critical for building the authority of a site for further search.
  • Social media effectiveness. The posts and interactions with people on social media is a key channel for visitors and leads. Looking for what posts create clicks as backlinks is a feedback loop for the ongoing management of how to position and what is valuable.
  • Conversion points. Watching what causes conversions and what is not working helps to see if the “breadcrumb” trail has flaws or works predictably. Reducing a bounce rate on landing pages requires relevant calls to action.
  • Subscriber engagement. As people want to keep up with the valuable content being offered, they need to be further nurtured and metrics on loyalty need to be identified. This requires driving further value at various timeframes to take advantage of the opt-ins from your subscriber lists.

These are a few of the metrics that an inbound marketing system requires. There are many more that require review daily, weekly or monthly depending on the change required. The key is to integrate a discipline into your sales and marketing processes that drives towards optimized buying processes.

What are some key metrics you review?

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.

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?