Video: Marketing and Operations are Connected

Marketing expert Steve Smart turns chaos into order by helping business owners become profitable by focusing on what customers want and delivering it to them

Marketing expert Steve Smart is fired up when he can help turn chaos into order and help business owners become more profitable through creating structure around their content and processes. He opens this powerful program by stating that marketing and operations are strongly tied together. He asks the audience this rhetorical question, “What is marketing?” After offering several definitions, he suggests the following as useful to remember, “Marketing is everything involved in successfully taking your product to market.” It’s finding what people want and delivering it to them. He suggests a shift in perspective is needed.

Steve Smart reminds the audience that ideal marketing provides leads, then revenue and then profits. He says in order for this to happen it’s important to think of marketing holistically so that you attract leads, close sales, and make sure you are satisfying customers throughout the entire buying and service continuum.

Operations are inter-related to marketing because they intersect through:

  • Touch-points – these include every point of contact you have with your customers. Customers make choices based on how you impress them. You are always modifying, informing or reinforcing your impression on them. The related points of contact are important – they might include the product itself, the packaging, the billing process, and all phases od service. Ideally your touch-points help your clients feel a closer connection to you, making it more likely they will be loyal to you, refer you and make another purchase with you. In order to create operational touch-points effectively, you need to think of all the different ways you interact with customers, and then make one or more people responsible for each touch-point. You want to have consistent processes around this and be intentional for how you deliver on your brand promise.
  • Culture – this includes employees, customers and vendors. When you have a value-based culture where people understand the purpose for creating an experience at each touch-point, values customer satisfaction and embraces shared ideas, there will be greater creativity and collaboration on succeeding with your brand. Everyone shares, validates and executes on ideas, helping each your company to become productive and profitable.
  • Cross-functional teamwork – people outside your actual marketing department matter too. Together you communicate in word and deed a stronger vision, a better culture, and greater collaboration, enabling people to enjoy making contributions and creating buy-in. Other team members’ help you execute on new ideas and they have a fresh perspective to offer.

Steve Smart ends his presentation emphasizing the need to live your brand promise internally as well as externally. Intentionality helps everyone play a part of the process to deliver on the brand promise. You will be most successful if you put a structure in place to identify a list of all touch points and make sure everyone involved shares ideas, provides input and gets feedback afterwards to strengthen your values and service.

Steve Smart is helpful and believes in high customer satisfaction. He’s an expert at purpose and value-based marketing. Need help with your marketing efforts? Reach out to Steve Smart at srsmart@2qsolutions.net

Mobile Trends and Google

Google has just announced this month it will incorporate methods of measuring a websites’ user friendliness to mobile users. This update is supposedly going into effect on April 21st. Mobile friendliness is going to become a metric search engine use to determine organic rankings (a ‘ranking signal’). By making these changes, Google reported that its goals are to create:

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Tips to Improve Conversions with Improved Calls to Action

A lot of time and effort is used to attract a user to your website. Once they are there, the next challenge is to get them to spend time to hear your message and view your content. In the end, none of it matters if the users will not take action after the fact. This in and of itself can be a challenge, but creating a compelling call to action can have a persuasive effect on your audience. Follow these tips to strengthen the power of your calls to action (CTA).

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Video: Google Adwords

Do Google Adwords deserve a place in your marketing arsenal? With 6 billion internet searches per day, this powerful tool may provide you unparalleled reach.

With humor and distinction, marketing expert Adam Kreitman brings the topic of Adwords out from under the radar. In his presentation he provides eleven sound reasons for considering Adwords in your overall marketing strategic plan. The reasons include:

  1. You have unparalleled reach. With six billion internet searches per day, including fast-growing YouTube site and ability to purchase ads on display networks to collectively reach 90% of internet users worldwide
  2. You are virtually guaranteed a nearly instant page 1 ranking
  3. You reach highly motivated, target prospects
  4. You only pay for clicks and website visits
  5. You dominate search results. 97% of Google Ads are number 1
  6. You have tremendous control and flexibility. You are able to manage keywords, a budget, CPC, geo-targeting, time and dates, destination URL and what bidding strategy you use.
  7. You receive excellent data and reporting. You track the ROI
  8. You are forced to get your act together. You quickly understand the significance of your marketing and traffic, what’s working and what’s not.
  9. You have a highly effective keyword research and market research tool.
  10. You can still win no matter the size of your organization.
  11. You can afford to use Adwords, even as a small business.

Adam Kreitman makes a compelling case for exploring and using Adwords for your business. He says it’s not a solution for all businesses but for many, it can be a game-changer. The bottom line however, is that when you attract all the new attention and interest from this strategy, you must make sure to have robust conversion strategies to manage the next step in the sales cycle.

For help with all your online marketing needs and questions, contact Adam Kreitman at Words that Click at adam@wordsthatclick.com

Video: 7 things you need to know about SEO in 2015

In order to get the maximum coverage possible on the internet, a thorough understanding of the latest effective SEO practices in 2015 is essential

Website marketing and SEO expert Will Hanke follows the latest trends in marketing your business on the internet and how to avoid the pitfalls inherent in outdated SEO habits from the past. In this video presentation, he covers the following:

  • Why to stop using SEO shortcuts such as keyword stuffing, mass submissions on directories, and creating excessive and fluffy press releases
  • Provide frequent, quality written and video content
  • Make sure all your links are working correctly
  • Have a mobile friendly website
  • Learn how and implement a strategy to be social media friendly
  • Use trust symbols on your site to reassure prospects and clients your site is safe and credible
  • Get satisfied clients to do reviews on your business on your website and on other sites

Will Hanke offers tips for creating a robust website that is effective in attracting and converting customers. Will Hanke is Owner of Where Is My Business and can be reached at will@techlh.com

Video: How to Sell on LinkedIn

LinkedIn provides access to millions of affluent, executive and c-suite business owners. Learn how to leverage this powerful, rapidly growing social media outlet.

Sales and marketing expert Josh Turner specializes in the use of LinkedIn and webinars to further the growth of many businesses. In this video presentation, he covers the following concepts:

  • Why use LinkedIn for generating sales leads?
  • How NOT to generate leads on LinkedIn
  • How to warm up cold prospects using personalized communications and prospect profiling
  • Leveraging the features on LinkedIn such as specialized searches, status updates, and groups
  • How to follow-up with prospects by through webinars and nurture campaigns

Josh ends his presentation with a recap of fifteen LinkedIn selling tactics.

Josh Turner is the founder of LinkedSelling, a B2B marketing firm, helping companies systematically build relationships with prospects, turning them from cold into warm leads. Tools they use to achieve this include LinkedIn, webinars, content and email. Please visit LinkedSelling.com for more information.

Video: Preparing for a New Website

As a business owner, build a strong online presence so you can sell your products and be recognized as an expert in your industry

Marketing Communications Specialist and web designer Caren Libby understands the needs of business owners and supports them each step of the way as they build a website that attracts their ideal customers. In this video, Caren introduces the importance of:

  • Building effective strategies to respond effectively to needs and wants of your target market
  • Becoming a trusted advisor in the lives of customers through consistent support and information
  • Making the complex simple for your clients and hand-holding them through the process
  • Determining your identity and the many different, yet consistent faces of it you create and promote
  • Clarifying all connections with your audience and communicating why they matter
  • Defining and implementing email marketing processes to create ongoing sales touches
  • Identifying and positioning a consistent look, feel and message in not only your website but all your collaterals
  • Measuring and tracking your client responses so you can continually improve relationships you are nurturing and cultivating

As founder of Image Media LLC, Caren Libby has been creating a powerful online presence for corporate, non-profit and small businesses since 2008. She provides photography, web design and marketing services that align her clients' business goals with a professional and dynamic web presence - from strategy to launch and beyond. You can contact Caren at caren@carenlibby.com.

What marketing activity brings you the most customers?

Want to attract more customers? Check out these great ideas available from our varied team of seasoned experts.

Our panel of experts answers the question: What marketing activity do you use that brings you the most customers?

From our Experts:

Cathy Sexton

I take every opportunity to speak on my expertise, my most popular topics and my website. Speaking brings me the most business.

Bill Prenatt

Referrals, referrals, referrals. No doubt that on and off line marketing is critical to creating awareness.

When someone refers a potential customer to me it is likely the referral will become a customer if it’s my ideal customer.

Judy Ryan

I send out a link to one of several detailed surveys I have on my website. I do this when I have an interested prospect or when I’m asked to do a presentation at an event. I do this when people request to connect with me on LinkedIN and Facebook. People perusing my site also find these surveys. When they take them, this helps me to both educate the prospect on what I do overall and also to gather important information on them to learn about their struggles, challenges, areas they need support and many other ways I can engage in conversation when we meet and even prior to a meeting through additional questions that surface.

Fred Miller

"Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities!"

We perceive really good speakers as Experts, and people like to work with experts.

Take, make, and publicize those "Speaking Opportunities" and business will come your way.

Caren Libby

Most of my business comes from referrals from clients or friends and from participation in networking events, professional organizations, one-on-one meetings and Mastermind groups. Volunteer work has also been instrumental; although that isn't the reason I do it. All of these venues are a good way to get to know people and find out more about who they are and what they have to offer.

Because my work is so visual, my website portfolio is my #1 marketing tool. My potential clients typically visit it before or after we connect.

Following up with email helps to educate the recipients and adds a personal touch that helps build relationships and business. I've been active (off and on) in social media for several years, and that has also been helpful. Consistent communication is key to keeping the flow going in any channel.

For further support in growing, running and living well as a business professional, visit www.e4ecommunity.com

Video: The Exponential Power of Customer Satisfaction

Recent experiences got me thinking about marketing resources and the exponential power of customer satisfaction.

I want to share some thoughts about the importance of customer satisfaction and how it contributes to your business success. I’ll also tell you a story from my own experience as a customer. For that, you'll have to watch the video.

I want to start with a question. Why do you pay attention to customer satisfaction? Or do you pay attention to customer satisfaction at all? Here are two typical reasons.

  • To satisfy your own sense of goodwill, knowing you are doing the right thing.
  • To keep dissatisfied people from getting in your face.

I believe there is a more serious economic and business growth reason to pay attention to customer satisfaction.

Some things in life and business are important but not easy. Taxes are one of those things. They are important and I know I have to deal with them. Fortunately I can outsource the preparation of them to an expert.

Customer satisfaction is also important but not easy. And you know that's not something you can outsource. Unfortunately it's often fuzzy, hard to measure and hard to fix.

In life and business we tend to make decisions about what we're going to pay attention to, partly based on a pain vs. profit continuum. We easily prioritize things that are easy to deal with and have a clear benefit. If something is hard to deal with and the benefit is unclear, it's likely to be low on our priority list.

Because customer satisfaction is fuzzy it often gets ignored until someone complains. That's not what you want. Dissatisfied customers don't always complain.

I'd like to put the subject of customer satisfaction in a different light so it can be treated on a more proactive than reactive basis.

The Football Analogy

I’m more of a motorsports guy but I’m going to talk about football for a minute.

Making a sale, especially on higher ticket items, is exciting. It's like making a touchdown. You've planned your plays, executed well and crossed the goal line. It's time to celebrate! That's exactly what you're looking for.

What could be better than getting a touchdown? What about winning the game? A touchdown isn’t worth much if you don’t win. But when you strategize and maximize the power of your offense and defense and get more touchdowns than your competitor, you win and that rocks!

What could be better than winning the game? How about winning the CHAMPIONSHIP? Football players dream about having a winning season, playing in the Super Bowl and getting that game-winning ring.

How does this relate to customer satisfaction, and what does it have to do with marketing resources?

Getting The Exponential Benefit

There are three things you want people to do:

  • Buy from you
  • Buy repeatedly
  • Refer others to you who will buy repeatedly

When people make that first purchase from you it's like getting a touchdown. When people buy repeatedly it's like winning the game. When they refer others who buy repeatedly, that's like winning the championship.

What does all this have to do with marketing resources? You put time, effort and money into making that sale. If you only make one sale and the customer doesn't return, those marketing resources aren't terribly effective. If they do return several times, you get a much better return on your marketing resources. If, however, you satisfy customers to the degree that they refer others who repeatedly buy from you, that's when your marketing resources get an exponential return.

To hear my story on customer DISsatisfaction, watch the video. 

Need help with your marketing efforts? Contact Steve Smart at 2Q Solutions – 636-699-8772.

A Tale of Two Pricing Strategies

Imagine two companies. One touts results customers can expect and charges premium prices; the other touts low prices. Which one wins?

The two companies are Verizon and Sprint. Verizon’s premium prices allowed it to build one of the broadest, most reliable networks in telecommunications history. In addition to its customer-centric network, Verizon continues to show solid growth in revenues, profits, cash flow and shareholder value.

Contrast that with Sprint, which, despite rising revenues, has seen its net loss almost double in the past four years, its debt increased by 20% and its cash from operations dropped by 40%. Other than spikes in stock price associated with potential mergers, Sprint’s shareholders have seen little, if any, growth in the stock’s value.

Troubling times in the kingdom

What’s troubling to me is that:

  • Over the years I’ve offered countless examples of companies who enjoy great success with premium price strategies.
  • It takes me less than 5 minutes to identify and compare results of Verizon and Sprint or the myriad other companies I’ve cited in my blog posts.

Yet business ‘leaders’ continue to pursue low-price strategies.

Why?

Behaviors that fly in the face of evidence to the contrary beg the questions:

  • Are they simply not paying attention to what’s going on in the business world?
  • Are they so lost in the microcosm of their industry they can’t see what’s working for others?
  • Is their intellectual arrogance so great they won’t consider alternatives?
  • Is their fear so great they’re hobbled by it?
  • Do they perceive it to be easier to compete on price than to find new, exciting ways to serve their customers?
  • Do they view others’ success as something unavailable to them?

Result

Whatever the rationale, effects are devastating. Not just for the company itself, but for the economy as a whole. I’ve gone into greater detail about this in my white paper, Low Price Strategies Subvert Growth and Employment , but for now it’s sufficient to know low-price strategies being employed today are based more on cost shifting, than innovation.

When a large organization declares it is going to pay its vendors in 120 days, it shifted its financing costs to vendors who have a more difficult time obtaining financing and, consequently, will pay higher prices for that financing. This results in a less efficient use of resources in the economy and hampers economic growth, which limits employment.

Takeaway

Stop ignoring evidence. Reposition your offerings for premium prices and you too, can enjoy the success of companies like Verizon. If you’re not sure how to go about it, give me a call and, together, we’ll make it happen.

Dale Furtwengler is author of the internationally acclaimed book, Pricing for Profit. His company, Furtwengler & Associates, Inc., helps companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing. For more pricing/branding/marketing/sales tips visit his website, PricingForProfitBook.com.

Link Reclamation: The Most Important SEO Task You Aren’t Doing

Remember that guy from high school, the one you hung out with all the time until graduation? What ever happened to him? Remember thinking how cool it would be if you could reconnect?

Thanks to the power of social media, and Facebook in particular, reconnections like this are taking place every day. People are finding old friends, lovers and long lost relatives, reclaiming those lost connections. The link between those two people always existed, but it just wasn’t active until a tool came along to reenergize it.

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Seven SEO Steps to More Business This Year

Between the years 2007 and 2010, more small businesses jumped online with a new website than ever. The majority of these websites were poorly thought out; they simply came into existence as the result of competition. If your competitor had a website, then you had better get one, too.

These websites, known as brochure sites, have pretty much lain in waste ever since. Business owners rushed to get them out there, and paid a lot to do so, and when they didn't generate any new business, most business owners chalked it up as the cost of doing business. Boy, did they miss the boat.

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And They Think They Won

If you feel tempted to drive one of your competitors out of the market using low prices, you’ll quickly discover you’re the loser.

In a June 3, 2011 article in Booz & Co.’s strategy + business entitled A Sweet Victory, Reed Holden and Mark Burton highlight Hershey’s victory over Nestle in the Krackel vs. Crunch war.

Using an aggressive pricing strategy, “...a 30 percent trade discount on Krackel where other brands hovered in the 5 to 10 percent range,” Hershey drove Nestle from the vending machine market “...boosting the brand’s [Krackel’s] revenue by an incremental $25 million.”

Let me see if I have this right. Hershey is shifting production capacity to produce an additional $25 million dollars of candy bars at a margin that’s 20% to 25% lower than the industry average and they think they won. It’s 8:30 on a Friday morning and I feel like I need a drink already.

The thing that amazes me about strategies like this is they always focus on the additional revenues generated, not the profits. In other words, they’re looking at market share instead of profitability. I guess if that’s your measure of success, you did win.

But for those of us who measure success in terms of profits generated, Nestle is the hands down winner in this one. I’m sure Nestle didn’t sit around bemoaning this loss. It merely shifted its resources to markets and products that produce higher margins. The best and brightest simply don’t play the fool’s game of following a ‘competitor’ down a path of rapidly decreasing prices.

So what’s the message here? If you feel an inclination to drive one of your competitors out of the market using low prices, do the math and you’ll quickly discover who the loser will really be. And it won’t be your competitor.

Dale Furtwengler is the author of the internationally acclaimed book, Pricing for Profit. His company, Furtwengler & Associates, Inc., helps companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing. For more pricing/branding/marketing/sales tips visit his website, PricingForProfitBook.com.

Video: 12 Questions to Ask When Reviewing a Web Proposal

Choosing a web designer should be done with care. It is not uncommon for several web developers to be considered. Comparing proposals is painful, especially when they are all formatted differently. You have to do your due diligence and it takes time away from your core business activities. These twelve questions make it easier to compare web design proposals.

1. What are merits and weaknesses of each proposed platform?

There are three general platform categories. You choose between a static HTML site, an open source CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress or a proprietary CMS like Adobe's Business Catalyst. Ask good questions during the interview process and make notes that are useful for the proposal review.

2. How many web pages are covered in the proposal?

My clients do not like unexpected charges. When considering a web proposal, be sure to verify how many pages of content are included. One proposal might cover the entire content of your current site while another might only cover a home page and five inner pages.

3. Who writes my new content?

Even if your web person is highly capable, do not assume they are going to write new content for you. Clarify this point so you do not end up with an extra bill you did not expect or work you are not prepared to do.

4. Who optimizes my pages for SEO?

You might be buying a platform that is capable of being optimized. But that is not the same as the work actually being done. "On page optimization" is less important than it used to be. But there are some pieces that still matter to SEO professionals. Understand this distinction when reviewing a proposal.

5. What are my hosting costs?

This is easily compared between proposals. Do not, however, assume hosting costs will all be the same. Monthly charges can vary greatly. Don't forget to ask about redundancy and how your site will be hosted.

6. How many users are covered with my hosting package?

Building and launching a website is just the beginning. Managing and editing your site is an ongoing effort that may require several people. Many of my clients prefer to have someone else make simple updates. They want to stay focused on their core business activities.

There are several aspects to a website that frequently need to be managed with different levels of permission. Some people might need access to make simple page edits. However, it might not be appropriate for them to see or edit sensitive information. Consider also the consequences of human error. A few harmless typos are one thing. Blowing up your navigation or deleting entire sections is quite another. Consider the number of people who might need access and their appropriate permission levels when assessing your hosting needs.

7. What kind of support can I expect?

You might not be able to quantify this aspect. But get a general description of what can be expected before choosing your web developer.

8. How will my site display on different mobile devices?

Before asking this question you need to have an idea about how the mobile experience fits in your marketing plan. Modern websites now display better on smart phones, but you might need a more finely tuned mobile site. What do you want users to see on mobile, and with how much effort? What actions do you want them to easily take? When you have some degree of clarity about your objectives, you can then ask more meaningful questions.

9. What automation can be achieved with respect to collecting email addresses?

Most of my clients use email marketing on some level. One key function of their website is collecting email addresses. Life will be easier for you if your site automatically loads those addresses into a list connected with your ESP (email service provider). It is a bonus if you also get an alert when someone subscribes.

10. What happens if the web developer disappears or discontinues web support services?

You need to know that your website hosting package and support will not suffer if your web provider ceases to exist. Is a contingency plan required?

11. What pieces can be easily "bolted on?"

It may well be there are things you want your site to do that you simply cannot afford just yet. Make a prioritized list of things your site needs to be able to do in the future. Make sure each of those things can be added at a later date without a major overhaul.

12. What type of provider is best is best suited to me, my way of communicating and operating?

While the first eleven questions makes it easier for you to review and compare web development proposals, it is equally important to quantify the differences between prospective vendors. Once you have considered those differences and similarities, remember, price is not the only factor. The people you work with make a big difference. Pay attention to the chemistry and communication habits of each vendor you interview. There is a great deal of value in a quality relationship and it is a factor that contributes to your success. It is not just about the what, it is also about who is best to collaborate with and support you.

Steve Smart is Owner of 2QSolutions. Contact him today to benefit from his professional marketing support and learn how you can benefit from his extensive experience and knowledge. You can reach him at srsmart@2qsolutions.net.

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Video: From Connection to Conversion: Your Marketing and Business DNA

Marketing expert Steve Smart assists business owners in clearing away the fog caused by so many marketing options. He understands entrepreneurs wear too many hats and how easy it is for them to get pulled into tactical details instead of making sure to first be strategic in planning and defining business systems. He asserts that a sound strategy facilitates order and order brings clarity of thought, better planning and better execution.

In this video, viewers come to understand the specific systems, processes and methodologies to turn chaos into order, so growing your business is easy and successful. Steve Smart shares concepts that help business owners:

  1. Think strategically about your business in ways that are then applied tactically
  2. Your brand and how to communicate it thoroughly and consistently
  3. Finding the sweet spot in your business and how it relates to your marketing, including your website, web performance and maintenance

Steve introduces his powerful business DNA process as the intersection of your customer’s interest and what you have to offer. He’s defined a way of capturing the essence of your business and how to communicate it effectively to your prospects, focusing on their greatest needs. It helps you understand your customer’s problems, needs and wants and how to satisfy them with your greatest strengths and solutions. In this video, Steve Smart outlines the primary benefits of defining your business DNA, including how it:

  1. Makes your marketing easier
  2. Attracts more business to you
  3. Ensures you make higher profit margins

His theory behind DNA includes:

  1. When you are in your business sweet spot, you have clearly defined real client needs and are able to consistently provide the best possible services well to meet those needs without getting side-tracked or diverted outside of your core strengths.
  2. You are far more likely to attract the business you want and filter out the business you don’t want when your marketing communications reflect your business sweet spot and speak directly to your customer’s interests.
  3. Your margins and your bottom line improve when you learn to compete on value rather than on price.

He introduces four out of nine key components to his business DNA process, including identifying:

  1. Business Segments –dividing your business into logical parts such as products and services to enhance internal and marketing communication
  2. Customer Segments – defining different types of customers
  3. Customer Needs and Aspirations – identifying a variety of pain to be relieved and types of motivations customers have for buying
  4. Business Distinctions – values and features that make your prospects eager to choose you over others in your business segment

Steve Smart concludes this presentation by helping viewers to consider ways to implement the steps outlined for creating, documenting and applying key components through your marketing communications, and to better create your selling, marketing and website collaterals all based on your DNA. He presents the concepts of persona’s and how to determine SEO criteria by using your DNA as a guide for using both to further reach your ideal clients.

Steve Smart is Owner of 2QSolutions. Contact him today to benefit from his professional marketing support and learn how you can benefit from his extensive experience and knowledge. You can reach him at srsmart@2qsolutions.net.

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Revenue Growth is Greater Than Price Increases

Higher prices affirm customers’ beliefs in value and attract even more buyers. This approach works for any business, of any size, in any industry.

A November 2, 2011 Barron’s article reports that Kraft Foods’ third quarter net revenues grew 11.5% in part due to a 7% price increase.

That means Kraft’s revenues grew a whopping 64% more than the price increase. For many business leaders this seems impossible. After all, conventional wisdom says buyers tend to find alternatives when prices go up, right? In reality customers have greater confidence in a product or service when its price reflects the value they’ll receive.

What does this mean for you? That you too can enjoy the results Kraft experienced. Here are the keys:

  • A reputation for quality.
  • Knowing who values that quality.
  • Pricing that reflects high value.

Let’s continue with the Kraft example to see how these apply.

Reputation

Kraft has a reputation for quality that’s spanned more than a century. The good news is you don’t have to be around that long to develop a reputation for quality. But consistent delivery of quality, however you and your customers define it, is essential to having revenues that grow faster than your price increases.

Knowing Your Customer

Kraft knows its customers have discerning tastes and are willing to pay a premium to get that taste. Their customers also value consistency in the product. In addition, their customers have an intuitive sense Kraft has their best interests at heart - that Kraft wouldn’t take risks in the manufacturing of their products that might cause the consumer problems.

Pricing

Kraft’s premium pricing adds further assurance of the quality, consistency and concern for their customers. Higher prices affirm customers’ beliefs and attract even more buyers to Kraft’s products. That’s how Kraft can enjoy 11.5% revenue growth with a 7% price increase.

As you can see, there’s nothing magical about what Kraft has done. This approach works for any business, of any size, in any industry. It’s up to you to employ these keys so you too can enjoy a similar level of success.

Dale Furtwengler is the author of the internationally acclaimed book, Pricing for Profit. His company, Furtwengler & Associates, Inc., helps companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing. For more pricing/branding/marketing/sales tips visit his website, PricingForProfitBook.com

Generate Optimal Results When Networking

Tom Ruwitch asks the panel, “When attending a networking event, what is one strategy, tactic or rule that you always keep in mind to generate optimal results for you and your business?”

As a business owner, you understand more than most, your time is money. You also realize networking is key to growing your business, even though sometimes networking events seem to be less successful than you’d like. For many who attend networking events, outcomes can be frustrating if you are not prepared to meet new people, do not set and achieve your business goals for attending, or fail to have purposeful and fruitful conversations with qualified prospects.

Building trusting relationships that lead to satisfying business transactions takes time, genuine care and a balance between people skills and a focus on your business goals and aspirations. Respect for self and others and a consistent relaxed and abundant mindset allow for business to flow due to a genuine helpful intent.

Read what nine independent e4e business owners and recognized experts report on the strategies, tactics or rules they keep in mind to generate optimal results when at networking events. In this way, you draw on the real-time experience of our experts to quickly decide strategies to benefit you and your business.

Four of our Nine Panel Experts:

Bill Prenatt

Actually, there are three strategies I execute on consistently: 1) I set a goal for how many valid prospects I expect to meet and I plan to enter into my data base; 2) I communicate clearly what business I’m in and what kind of prospect I’m interested in meeting. This usually cuts the conversation short with people I’m not aligned with; 3) I make it a habit to connect at least three prospects with existing connections.

Judy Ryan

e4e partner Fred Miller offered a great strategy in one of our recent workshops. He said we should not allow our time to be monopolized during a networking event. He gave an example of a person handling this in a thoughtful manner by saying, “Please excuse me. I committed to myself I’d meet 10 new people before the main event starts and I have a few more to go. Great meeting you!” What a wonderful, respectful and direct way to be upfront about wanting to meet more than one or two people at an event.

Keith Vollmar

Here is what I do when attending a larger networking event. For each meeting:

1. Walk away with no less than 2 business cards of individuals I have not met before.
2. Make sure I say hello to 2 or 3 established business friends who are key potential referral sources for me.
3. Ensure one new person gets the most out of networking event.

This is my routine at MO Venture Forum or similar larger group. For smaller groups, it depends on the number of people attending.

Cathy Sexton

For starters I have made the decision to cut way back on networking events. I think the time spent on networking events can get way out of hand if we are not careful. So my current strategy is to only attend with two purposes. To continue to build already valuable relationships and to make sure the events have my ideal clients also in attendance.

These are just a few of the partner responses. 

Check out this article in the Academy to get all of them.

For further information, support and advice from thirty experts on this topic and many others, become a member of the e4e community by visiting our website at www.e4ecommunity.com

Video: What to Wear for a Video Shoot

Expert Steve Smart provides important clothing tips when preparing for a video shoot.

Avoid that weird effect

You know you want to look your best for your presentation. If you're being recorded on video there are several things you have to know. Some clothing patterns produce a strange effect in video. You may have noticed it before and wondered what it was. It's called the moire' effect or the moire' pattern. It's pretty distracting and prevents you from making your very best presentation.

It's usually caused by stripes or small, tight patterns in a shirt, sport coat or other article of clothing. You might get away with a larger pattern but I like to recommend a dark solid whenever possible.

Do I have to wear dark colors?

Not necessarily, but it's a safer bet. I'm getting away with lighter colored shirt shirts in this video, but the lighting was favorable for that. I've been on some shoots where the lighting could not be controlled as well. Lighter colors, (white, for example) washed out and created an undesirable effect.

Prepare for the microphone

Audio technicians sometimes get pretty creative. But it will help if you're prepared to keep things on the easy side. Choose clothing that easily allows a microphone to be attached. The ideal location is in the center, a few inches under your chin. There will also be a little black box that will be attached to your waistband or belt. It can also be placed in a pocket.

When getting you fitted with the microphone, your technician might want to hide the cord. That's often done by dropping the line down a shirt or wrapping it around the back underneath a sport coat. Be prepared for that.

Helpful hints for ladies

Remember that little box? It won't be terribly heavy, but make sure that wear a skirt that won't sag down. That's a distraction you certainly don't need.

Jewelry is another consideration. Your audience might not hear it, but the microphone can easily pick up distracting clicks and jangles. Be careful with your selection of earrings, bracelets and necklace.

I recently had a situation where my subject moved around to test for jewelry jangle. It seemed that all would be fine, but she moved during the presentation in ways we didn't anticipate. It created an audio problem we could only solve by pausing the presentation to remove her necklace. Keep that in mind as you dress for your shoot.

Clothing is just one element, but now you'll be a little better prepared for your video shoot.

Steve Smart works with busy entrepreneurs who want to improve their marketing efforts. He lives in St. Louis and can be reached atsrsmart@2Qsolutions.net or 636-699-8772.

Who does a good job pricing?

Pricing expert Dale Furtwengler offers insights and strategies based on real-world case studies, demonstrating pricing models that have bombed or show consistent benefit.

Some days, despite your best intentions, you fumble the ball. Such was the case at the Retail Customer Experience Executive Summit when I was asked, “Who [among retailers] does a good job of pricing?” My response was “most companies.” What I should have said was ‘most companies initially.’

Most companies have a pretty good sense where they fit on the spectrum versus competitors. Using the image spectrum:

  1. Walmart is the low-price provider.
  2. Target is viewed as more hip and can command higher prices to reflect that image.
  3. JCPenney used to be (who knows where they’re headed today) known for dependable, but not readily recognizable brands and their pricing was 3 to 5 times the Walmart alternative.
  4. Macy’s carried very recognizable brands, with strong image appeal and able to command prices 6 to 8 times the Walmart alternative.
  5. Nordstrom is the most upscale of these five companies and commands premiums of 12 to 14 times the Walmart alternative.

Using image as the focal point for each of these companies, their initial price positioning makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately it’s all down hill from there.

The first mistake they make is to price ‘competitively’. That typically means at, or below, industry pricing for their segment of the spectrum. They choose to price this way despite the fact they claim to offer ‘more’ or ‘better’ of whatever they deem their value to be.

The second mistake most retailers, indeed companies in every industry, make stems from the extremely poor job they do communicating value. You don’t have to trust me on this. All you have to do is look at the ads the companies cited above offer, then answer this question “Does the ad emphasize their position on the image scale?”

Of course not. With the possible exception of Nordstrom, most ads are about their latest sale. If their marketing messages did a better job of helping their customers experience their stores without being there, they’d be able to command higher prices than is typical for the area of the spectrum they occupy.

The third mistake is sales these retailers regularly offer. Fluctuating prices confuse consumers about the real image value of their offerings. These sales take many forms including discounts, rewards programs, coupons and loyalty programs, to name a few.

These sales muddy the water for customers. The concept of value, whether that value is image, innovation or time-savings get lost in the myriad of sales offered. In the process we train customers to wait until we offer a discount to buy.

That means the customer is postponing the satisfaction of owning your products/services. For you it means lower profit margins and additional marketing costs to acquire enough new customers to not only replace those lost profits, but to grow them.

Now back to the original question, “Who [among retailers] does a good job of pricing?” Companies I think do a good job are:

Panera
They repeatedly raised their prices throughout the recession and experienced sales growth in excess of the price increase.

The only criticism I have of Panera’s pricing is their rewards program. Reward programs are effectively discounts. Rewards programs do not increase my desire for their offerings. I’m not going to visit any more frequently or buy larger quantities because of the reward. That means that they’re offering me a discount to buy what I’d have bought at a higher price. Rewards programs increase retailers costs in two ways – establishing and maintaining the reward program and providing a discount to customers who are willing to pay higher prices. Ouch!

Apple
The key word with Apple is consistency. They consistently charge premium prices on all new offerings and tend to hold those premiums throughout the product life cycle.

The one faux pas I recall was reducing the price of the original iPhone by $100 within 60 days of its release. The hue and cry of the early adopters resulted in a refund of roughly $100 million to those early customers. That’s what happens when you move away from your value proposition in an attempt to garner market share which is what I believe the motivation was for the price reduction.

Apple may be on the verge of making another pricing mistake. Rumor has it that they’re coming out with a new tablet to compete with Google’s Nexus 7. If they do, it’ll be interesting to see how they launch that offering. If they offer a better product and price it accordingly, the market will continue to view them as an industry leader who is entitled to premium prices.

If, however, they price the new tablet to compete with the Nexus 7, they’ll appear to have relinquished their industry lead and be reduced to ‘commonplace’ in the eyes of the consumer.

Kraft Foods
I don’t recall Kraft having raised prices during the recession, but as soon as it appeared the recovery was under way they immediately began raising prices and continue to do so with some frequency. Like Panera, they’ve experienced sales growth in excess of their price increases. Indeed, their sales growth was 50% higher than their price increase in the 3rd quarter of 2011. The keys to these companies’ success in pricing are:

  1. Consistency in their customers’ experience.
  2. Charging prices that reflect that consistency and support their value claims.
  3. Raising prices in good times and bad, further reinforcing the perception of value in their customers’ minds.
  4. Continuously finding new ways to serve their customers in ways those customers want to be served.
  5. Initiating change in their markets instead of mimicking others changes.

The pricing mistakes that companies like these are most likely to make are:

  1. Focusing on market share growth instead of customers’ needs/interests.
  2. Discounting in any form (sales, rewards programs, loyalty programs) confuses the customer. It’s hard to tell what something is really worth when the price fluctuates for no apparent reason. Can anyone tell me what a gallon of gasoline is worth?
  3. Failing to raise prices in good times and bad.
  4. Losing sight of who its ideal customer is. Think JCPenney.

Basically, any company that:

  1. Charges a premium to the market.
  2. Continues to raise prices regardless of what the economy is doing.
  3. Stays focused on its ideal customer.
  4. Avoids the temptation to discount, reward their customers or create loyalty in ways other than providing superior experiences.

…is doing a good job of pricing.

For those at the summit, my apologies for the fumble. Hopefully I’ve recovered the ball with this post.

Do you have a clear brand promise? Find out by using my confidential Brand Promise Self-Assessment.

Are you getting compensated well for the value you provide? Use my confidential Pricing Self-Assessment to evaluate your company’s pricing.

Are your marketing messages attracting the right customers? If you’re getting primarily price buyers you may want to use my confidential Marketing Self-Assessment to discover why.

Is your sales force putting pressure on you to lower prices? Our confidential Sales Self-Assessment can show you why. Check out Dale’s latest ebook, Brand Promise: What Do YOUR Customers Expect? You have a brand. The question is “Is it the one you want?”

If you’d like to increase your prices, profits and customer base, call Dale at 314-707-3771.

Video: Four Great Reasons to Use Email Marketing

Expert Steve Smart talks about four of the top reasons to use email marketing and a few points on getting started.

Email marketing should be in your tool belt.

Many tools are available to help you build your sales funnel. Email marketing is a great way to help you grow your business. If you're not already using email marketing you'll find a few reasons here to get started.

Check Out These Four Great Reasons to Use Email Marketing

1. Email Marketing is Powerful

Tremendous reach can be achieved with email. Because nearly everyone has access to it, you have the potential to reach an audience of immense size. The proliferation of smart phones has only expanded the value of email marketing. The percentage of people reading mail on their phone has been increasing steadily. Currently it's at around 40% and climbing.

Email marketing is also powerful because it tells your story to a willing audience. Of course, that's assuming you use legitimate list-building methods. When people opt in, they're telling you they want to hear from you. Building a list in a professional manner sets you up to succeed.

Interactivity is a powerful aspect that makes email marketing so desirable. Recipients choose whether to open, where to click and how to complete your occasional surveys. An engaged audience builds warm leads.

2. Email Marketing Tools Are Robust

Using an email service provider gives you great capabilities. Deliverability is among the best features. There's no point in having a big mailing list if your audience is not being reached. An email service provider and proper list building practices are your one-two punch.

Reports give you valuable, detailed information about the interests of your recipients. The information you gain enables you to segment your audience, so you can deliver more relevant content.

Email surveys enable you to find out more about your customers' interests. That in turn helps you craft better messages, improve your content and possibly discover opportunities for new products and services.

Email is made attractive through color and images. But don't make the mistake of thinking it's all about being pretty. Top quality content offering value wins the day.

3. Email Marketing is Effective

You don't have a crystal ball to know exactly when people are ready to buy. And you know enough not to harass them with regular unwanted calls. Email marketing enables you to reach out regularly to offer value and maintain top-of-mind awareness. They'll think of you when they're ready to make a purchase.

4. Email Marketing is Cost Friendly

The cost of using an email service provider is very low. Content development, however, can be a bigger piece of the puzzle if your business offers services rather than goods. The good news is there are ways to introduce cost efficiencies into the process.

  • If your content is based on articles, for example, find ways to reduce the costs related to the development of those pieces. Have a whole series written at one time. Whenever possible, maximize the use of existing content. That content can also be the basis for video scripts.

Five Steps to Getting Started

Like anything else, using email for marketing purposes requires some effort and advance planning. Here are five things you need to do to get started.

  • Use Best Practices to build your list. One thing you DON’T want to do is to buy a list. What you DO want is to provide value and give people incentive to sign up.
  • Choose an ESP (email service provider) you can depend on. Pricing is not your only consideration. Examine their features and find out about their quality of support.
  • Plan your content. Don't wait until the last minute every month. Reduce your stress and increase your effectiveness by creating an editorial calendar.
  • Measure your results. Make a plan to measure the results of your campaigns for continual improvement. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Get the support you need. I have a saying: Trying to do everything yourself is a bad idea. A knowledgeable employee or an outsourced marketing professional will be greatly useful.

Need help with your marketing efforts? Contact Steve Smart – your outsourced marketing department 636-699-8772.

When Is a Reward NOT a Reward?

Sellers are giving discounts to customers who would have bought anyway - at full price. Unfortunately, this does not hit home until it’s too late.

A lesson from Panera Bread Co.

In my February 28, 2011 post, Buying Customer Loyalty, I railed against reward programs. One restaurant chain, Panera Bread, has proven my point via the type of rewards it offers. Yes, I have a Panera card. I’m not above taking discounts offered even though I don’t advocate discounting to my clients.

In the earlier post I stated the customers’ need/desire for offerings don’t increase just because they’re receiving a reward. What does that mean for sellers? They’re giving discounts to customers who would have bought anyway - at full price. Unfortunately this reality does not hit home until the reward program is already in place.

What I have noticed recently with the Panera program is the rewards offered are not what I typically purchase. Based on the rewards offered, Panera is encouraging me to try new things or to visit at times I don’t normally visit. That’s not a reward, that’s a marketing strategy.

While I don’t have a problem with marketing strategies that encourage buyers to try new things or to return more frequently, I resent a ‘reward’ program that tries to accomplish the same goal. Maybe I’m too stringent in my definition of reward, but to me it’s something that has value to the recipient. When that ‘reward’ places the welfare of the presenter over the recipient, it loses the right to be called a reward.

The question is “How do you offset the revenue losses your reward program created while maintaining credibility with your customers?” Keep your marketing efforts and reward programs separate. It’s all right to announce new offerings, encourage customers to visit at times they typically don’t, to explore alternative uses of your offerings in your marketing materials, in any media you choose, just not in the rewards program.

Converting a reward program to a marketing program is a violation of your customers’ trust. Losing their trust is one of the quickest ways to drive your customers to your competitors. If you have fallen victim to the temptation of reward programs, don’t compound the problem by converting it to a marketing program.

Dale Furtwengler is the author of the internationally acclaimed Pricing for Profit. His company, Furtwengler & Associates, Inc., helps companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing. For more pricing/branding/marketing/sales tips visit his website, PricingForProfitBook.com

Video: Connecting

Expert promoter and master at connecting, Karen Hoffman shares her tips for how to ensure the connections you make with others count.

Expert promoter and master at connecting, Karen Hoffman shares her tips for how to ensure the connections you make with others count. Her advice includes:

  • Focus conversations on how you will work together
  • Make your connections relational, not just transactional
  • Go deeper with fewer people vs. skim the surface with many
  • Stay open-minded, open-hearted and suspend judgments
  • Find and focus on people you know, like and trust

Karen Hoffman is founder of City of Experts and Gateway to Dreams, organizations designed to connect and promote people so they can live their dreams and provide their valuable services to the world. Call her today at 314.503.6376 or Karen@cityofexperts.com

How Guest Blogging Builds Your Online Credibility

Guest blogging is an easy way to increase the value of your own website.

Imagine every website on the Internet had a value from 1 to 100 dollars. The websites that had no updates, no social interaction, and no ease of use were only worth a few dollars, if that.

The sites consistently updated, with visitor interaction and easy to use, are worth more.

Now imagine the people (or company) that determines your value looked at more than just what you were doing on your website to come up with their evaluation. They also looked at other, similar sites sending them signals to your valuation - links, mentions (citations) and shares.

Those sites, then could determine a portion of the overall value of your site.

And if that were the case, wouldn't it be smart of you if you take advantage of any opportunity to positively influence your sites value? Of course it would.

Guest blogging is a great way to increase your website's value. And being picky about the value of the site you want to guest blog on is just as important.

In the analogy above, wouldn't you agree that a link from a $56 site be better than that of a $12 site? Again, of course you would. So make sure you not only guest blog on other sites, but make sure the ones you choose have established value.

Oh, and allow me to toss one more equation into the mix - the related value to your site. Guest blogging isn't just about finding high value sites and posting an article there - you should also consider the similarity of the two sites. A safety goggles article would be worth much more on Home Depot's website than it would on the equally valuable Bed Bath & Beyond site.

After reading this, you may surmise that getting 4 articles on 4 sites worth $14 each is easier than getting one article on a $56 site -and you'd probably be right. But is the risk worth the reward? Or as I heard this past week - is the juice worth the squeeze? Not usually. There's a reason why those sites are only worth $14 each, and if they aren't following the same process, your site value and your reputation will just be dragged down with theirs.

For more guest blogging and SEO tips, subscribe to my newsletter or check out my blog.

Are Market Share, Pricing and Profitability ‘Strategies’ Smart?

Companies whose primary goal is to pursue market share, often don’t fair well. Why? Their focus is on their goals, not their customers’ interests.

A September 11, 2013 Reuters article, iPhone 5c: Apple picks profit over market share yet again, provides an opportunity to make a distinction between market share, pricing and profit strategies.

In the Reuters article, we’re finally seeing the financial press acknowledge there is a trade-off between profit and market share. Generally the financial press is critical of companies that lose market share:

  1. Without defining the market.
  2. Without determining the bottom line impact of the ‘lost‘ market share.
  3. While implying that profits are going to decline due to that loss.

Yet, as we saw in my September 10, 2013 blog Market Share vs. Profitability, many companies experience greater profits when they shrink their revenues. Why? Because they’ve rid themselves of customers who don’t value what they offer. Consequently, they’ve eliminated low-margin, high cost business (price buyers are always demanding more without being willing to pay extra to get it).

With this background, let’s explore the distinctions between strategies that focus on market share, pricing and profitability.

Market share
Companies whose primary goal is to pursue market share, often don’t fair well. Why? Their focus is on their goals, not their customers’ interests. Indeed, my eldest nephew who is a certified financial analyst says, “Whenever I hear a company has decided to go after market share, I send a ‘sell’ recommendation because, within 18 to 24 months, that company will be in trouble.”

A clear example of that is Toyota. Without a doubt, Toyota had the premier reputation for quality in the mid-price automotive market. Shortly after announcing they intended to be the #1 automaker, they had a recall that cost them conservatively $1 billion dollars.

The reasons a market-share strategy fails are:

  1. The companies don’t define the market; they assume all buyers are potential customers.
  2. They often discount heavily to get customers who don’t value what they offer and lose margin on the customers who do.
  3. They significantly grow their infrastructures to accommodate the additional, albeit unsustainable, demand.
  4. They put their goals ahead of their customers’ interests antagonizing customers in the process.

Other than that, it’s a perfectly fine strategy.

Pricing
There are basically two pricing strategies - a low-price strategy and a value-based strategy. Which works better? Let’s look at actual results from well-known, well-respected companies.

From 2009-2012 Apple tallied an impressive 44.3% compound growth rate (CGR) in revenues and improved operating margins by 14.5%. During that same time, Walmart’s revenues grew by 3.5% (CGR) and lost .5% in margin and Amazon gained 26.3% (CGR) in revenues but gave up 33.3% of its operating margin to do so. Which of those experiences would you prefer?

Here’s your mental exercise for the day. Is a low-price strategy also a market-share strategy?

Not necessarily. Toyota decided to go after market share, but chose not to change its pricing to do so. When Walmart decided to go after Target’s customers, they knew they’d have to do something different to garner that market. The fact that their attempt wasn’t successful doesn’t alter the fact they had an awareness of the need to do something different.

Profitability
While many would say profits are the reason companies are in business, the reality is profits are a byproduct of enhancing customers’ lives. Any company focused on profits inevitably makes decisions placing the company’s interests ahead of its customers’ welfare and then lose those profits. In this regard market share and profit strategies are similar.

Lesson
So where does that leave us? What are we to take away from this discussion? The lesson is that none of the three - market share, pricing or profitability - are good ‘strategies’. Your strategy needs to be ‘enriching the lives of others.’

If your product or service makes someone’s life easier, or fun, exciting, safer or better in any way, you’ll enjoy great success when you build a value-based pricing approach into that strategy.

Adopt a market-share or low-price strategy and you’ll shift your focus from your customers to your company and suffer dire consequences. So when developing a strategy for your business:

  1. Focus on how you’re going to enrich the lives of your customers.
  2. Price to reflect that enrichment.
  3. Enjoy your well-deserved success.

Dale Furtwengler is the author of the internationally-acclaimed Pricing for Profit. His company, Furtwengler & Associates, Inc., helps companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing. For more pricing/branding/marketing/sales tips visit his website, PricingForProfitBook.com.

Is Strategic Pricing Dead?

Given the accessibility of information, is it possible to be strategic in your pricing? Or do the ever-shifting sands of your competitors’ prices trap you?

Given the accessibility of pricing information today, is it possible to be strategic in pricing your products and services? Or do the ever-shifting sands of our competitors’ pricing trap us all?
Here’s a quick way to tell whether or not you’re being strategic in your pricing:

  1. When you create a new offering do you establish one price or a series of prices?
  2. When you change your prices, is it typically your initiative or a reaction to your competitors’ pricing?
  3. Do you match your competitors’ pricing?
  4. Does your product’s/service’s life cycle influence your pricing decisions?

The answers to these questions tell you all you need to know about whether or not you’re using a price strategy or merely reacting to your competitors’ pricing.

One price or series of prices?
If you’re establishing a single price for new offerings, you’re not developing a pricing strategy. Effective price strategies must include a series of prices to reflect:

  1. Your product’s/service’s life cycle.
  2. Changing customer tastes.
  3. Competitor offerings - current and anticipated.
  4. Value (pricing) by market segment.
  5. Offerings to companies outside your industry who compete for your market’s dollars.

This is not an all-inclusive list, but it gives you a sense for what’s involved in establishing a pricing strategy. Each of the items on the list indicate why we don't live in a one price fits all world. Here are some examples to illustrate this point.

Early adopters of innovation willingly pay multiples of what the mass market pays. That’s why it’s important to know what price you’ll charge at each phase of your product’s/service’s life cycle as well as how you’ll know when it’s time to change your price.

Similarly, prices can be dramatically different for different market segments. Why? Because the value to each segment can be dramatically different, as can the willingness of each segment to embrace change (new offerings). Some markets are more progressive than others.

When a competitor comes out with a new offering, especially one that appears to be superior to yours, how do you respond? How does that influence your pricing? More importantly, should it?

Many companies ‘improve’ their offerings only to find their customers are unwilling to pay for the improvement. Do you have a mechanism in place to evaluate the value of a competitor's improvement? If not, you’re likely to follow them down the rabbit hole or you'll lower prices when there's no need to do so.

Hopefully these illustrations demonstrate the importance of having a pricing strategy, one that incorporates a series of prices and price change triggers.
Now, let’s contrast this approach to reactionary pricing.

Price matching
Regardless of whether or not you’ve promulgated a price-matching program, if you regularly raise or lower your prices to reflect your competitors’ price changes, you’re price matching. There's nothing strategic about price matching. You have relinquished control to your competitors.

Yes, I’ve heard business leaders' claims that they need to be competitive, that products eventually become commodities and that buyers are price conscious. Unfortunately the business ‘leaders’ making those claims aren’t defining their terms.

What does it mean to be competitive? When does a product become a commodity? Are buyers really price-conscious? Let's explore each of these questions in more detail.

Competitive
What does it mean to be competitive? Offering more for the same price as your competitors are getting, is not being competitive, it’s folly. It confuses your customer! Here’s what they’re thinking - “If your product/service is so much better, than why doesn’t it cost more?”

That’s right. Despite all the claims that customers are price-sensitive, this price/value comparison gets made, if not consciously, then subconsciously. It’s intrinsic to the human psyche. Here's a situation that many of us have experienced.

You stop at your favorite ice cream shop and order your usual dessert. The clerk says “That’ll be $3.75.” It’s $.25 more than you have been paying.

Do you hesitate, even if for only a few seconds, before completing the purchase? Of course you do. You’re mind did a quick price/value calculation. If this is really your favorite ice cream, you'll quickly decide you're worth it and treat yourself despite the higher price. We do this all the time.

Because this thought process occurs subconsciously we don't realize we're making these calculations. Nor do our customers.

The moral of the story is to stop listening to the white noise of public opinion and pay attention to what our human nature tells us - to get more, you have to pay more. Then tout your value and price accordingly.

Commodities
I can’t tell you how often business owners/leaders tell me their offerings have become commodities in the eyes of their buyers. My response is always the same “If that’s really true, if you can’t add any value to that product, why are you still selling it?”

Come on folks, if what you’re offering is so readily available, if it’s of so little value to the customer, if customers view it as a necessary evil instead of something they desire, then why devote time, energy and resources to selling it? Why aren't you shifting your resources to producing and selling what your customers really want?

Conversely, if you are able to add value to the product, then why don’t your customers see that value? Why aren’t they willing to pay more to get that value?

More often than not it’s because you’ve devoted your marketing dollars to touting your low prices instead of the value you’re adding. Shift the focus of your marketing messages and you’ll shift your customers’ focus as well.

Price conscious customers
I’m not going to belabor the point. The reason customers are price conscious is we’ve trained them to be so. The vast majority of our marketing messages focus our customers’ attention on price instead of the value we provide. We’ve trained them to be price conscious, now it’s time to train them to be value oriented.

Is strategic pricing dead?
Almost, though it needn’t be. We have it within our power to become more strategic in our pricing. The knowledge and tools already exist and are readily available; we simply need to employ them.

The choice is basic - either you take control of one of the greatest drivers of your company’s profitability, your pricing, or you allow your competitors to control it. To me, that’s a no-brainer.

Dale Furtwengler is the author of the internationally acclaimed Pricing for Profit. His company, Furtwengler & Associates, Inc., helps companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing. For more pricing/branding/marketing/sales tips visit his website, PricingForProfitBook.com.