Love the Hate: The Social Media Guide to Turning Adversaries Into Allies

What should you do about people online who want to discredit you and your ideas on the Internet?  You certainly have competitors with a vested interest in causing harm to you and your reputation online. You could also be the target of ignorant and bored individuals who think it is amusing to go online and disparage other people.

Either way, if you're trying to create an online presence using new media and social media tools to establish your authority as a subject matter expert on the Internet, then you'll need to know how to handle these individuals.

Of course, you may remove their negative comments or set up your account profiles to screen their comments before they get posted, but is that the best way to handle it?  The answer might be no.

At a conference in San Diego recently, I had the opportunity to visit with Paul Colligan, who is best known for his expertise in online video promotion, youtube marketing and video email marketing.  I told him about TestMyTeen.com, a company that sells home drug tests and home drug test kits online to parents.

As you can imagine, there are all sorts of people, drug users in particular, who don’t consider the similarities between a parent looking at a report card to MAKE SURE their kids are doing well in school and parents looking at the results of a drug test at home to MAKE SURE their kids are living a drug free lifestyle.  Comments directed at TestMyTeen.com’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and blogs are often less than complimentary.

Paul didn’t see this as an obstacle.  He saw it as an opportunity.

What better social proof could TestMyTeen.com possibly put on display than a bunch of critics arguing about why it’s no big deal for kids to experiment with drugs?  Let critics argue that a 12 year old’s “right to privacy” in their PARENTS’ home should outweigh things like the legal and health dangers of heroin use, cocaine use, or possession.

If parents had any doubt about how accessible drugs were to their kids or how little fear of consequences so many kids have regarding drugs, what better way to show them than to let them see it for themselves.  The more TestMyTeen.com’s opponents try to discredit their online website promotion and website marketing strategy, the more the critics demonstrate the nationwide need for their services.

Based on that discussion with Paul, there may be plenty of incidents where it is best to “love the hate” and resist the urge to silence your critics online. Turn your adversaries into allies.

Video Marketing: How to Turn Strangers Into Friends

How would you feel about meeting one of your favorite reality show TV stars?  With all the choices out there it’s hard to find at least one reality show that hasn’t caught your attention. Over the years, it’s likely that you’ve been able to enjoy watching a series like the Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump, The Ultimate Fighter series with Dana White, Real Housewives, or MTV’s classic, The Real World.

I admit to being a fan of the popular show Survivor.  I’ve loved it since the first season and I find it very interesting to watch the dynamics of social interaction. It’s my vice.

Within a few weeks of the conclusion of Season 18 of Survivor, I was outside having some dinner with a friend of mine in Springfield, Missouri.  Our table was outside, on the sidewalk, and we were at a little bar and grill downtown called Trolley’s.  Coincidentally, it was owned by another reality TV star, Aaron Buerge from the show The Bachelor.

I asked my friend, who also happened to be a Survivor fan, if he thought the guy coming toward us, walking down the sidewalk, looked like they guy from Survivor they called “Coach” and he said yes. It made sense because, his real job was being the soccer coach at Southwest Baptist University which was only about 30 miles away.

"Coach" and his friend stood there for a moment looking for a table, so we stood up, introduced ourselves and offered to share our table and buy the drinks if he was willing to share Survivor stories. He agreed and we hung out for about an hour. We talked about the other players, the living conditions, his real life, the editing, and all kinds of other things.  He was really cool, incredibly interesting and genuinely a very nice person.

I had never spoken a word to him before that evening, yet I REALLY felt like I knew him and had for a long time. Even though I was a complete stranger to him, he seemed like one of my best friends. If not, why else would I have offered to share a table and buy drinks?

Here’s the point.  When you see people on TV or web video, it is easy to get a feel for them and develop a level of comfort with who they are and what they’re about. It happens very easily and quickly.  There’s no doubt you have feelings for or about plenty of people you’ve never met, whether it’s politicians, athletes, actors, or musicians.

When it comes to building your professional credibility and getting followers, friends and fans both online and off, it’s hard to beat the power of using internet video.  If you haven’t already started, then let me encourage you to embrace the idea of using web video for more than just YouTube marketing.  Consider using online video marketing as part of your website marketing strategy, email marketing campaigns, mobile marketing campaigns, internet branding and social media marketing tools as well.

Give as many people as possible the opportunity to know you and find out what you’re about. Viral marketing becomes possible. Your ideas become accessible 24 hours a day all over the world to anyone with a computer or mobile device with Internet access. When you make good videos and do so often, prospects will want to become your customers. When people feel like they already know you, like you and respect your expertise, then growing your business can become much easier and happen much faster.

Hit Your Email Marketing Bull’s Eye

Satisfying customers is what successful marketing efforts are all about. But profit is your reason for being in business. How do you know if you're hitting your target? How do you connect the dots between customer demand, email marketing and your profits? Analysis is one piece of the puzzle.

Marketing intelligence tells you if you're hitting your target

Electronic marketing efforts offer the opportunity to gather intelligence and measure results. With that information you deliver what your customers want instead of wasting their time with stuff they don’t.

When your email campaigns deliver what’s useful, interesting or entertaining, it puts you in a favorable light. You probably won't get immediate results but it makes it more likely people will do business with you. The additional work is worth it. When you hit the bull's eye, you'll eventually be rewarded with more sales.

Get the bare-knuckle truth about your email efforts

Don't kid yourself by simply looking at open rates and call it a job well done. You don't want your accountant lying to you, so why would you want anything but the facts about your marketing efforts? Frankly, the truth about your email marketing campaigns can be a little humbling. But when you know the truth you can improve your efforts and make them pay off.

How do you measure their level of interest?

Your Email Service Provider (ESP) offers reports that show open rates. But that can be a little misleading. An "open" includes your mail being viewed in the preview pane of Outlook. So you know you showed up on someone's radar screen.But how do you find out if they actually read what you sent and their level of interest? Here are two steps to implement.

Start with dedicated web pages. If you are dealing with an article, first put it on a dedicated web page or blog post. Do the same if you're dealing with a product. Make sure the web pages have Google Analytics installed on the page.

I used to think I was giving my newsletter subscribers a bonus by giving them the first look at my articles. I then made them publicly available on my blog. It was a nice thought, but I've changed my method. I now post to my blog first and my newsletter only has a snippet of the article. To read the whole thing, people have to click on the link to the blog post.

Combine Google Analytics with ESP reports. Your Email Service Provider (ESP) will show how many people "clicked through" to your website, giving you a picture of where their interest is high. That, however, can also be deceiving.

Clicking the link indicates INITIAL interest, but looking at your Google Analytics report indicates if they liked what they saw when they arrived. You'll find out if they lingered or if they "bounced" out. That's valuable information helping you understand your audience better so you make strategic decisions about future content.

What do you do with the data?

Maintain a spreadsheet that shows the results of your email campaigns. Show the date, subject line and key elements of each email. Then show open rates, basic click-through rates and which elements were most popular.

As you create content plans for next year or next quarter, review that spreadsheet to get some clues about what people want and what people don't want. And if you tie your email results to buying behavior, you are well on your way to a successful email marketing effort.

The Biggest Problem with Most B2B Sales Efforts and What to do About it

As a business leader, you’ve been “sold to” many times.

Pitched, proposed, approached, and marketed to…whatever you want to call it.
Your guard is up, and it takes a special approach to get you to lay it down.
Yet, are you using these exact same tactics in your business?

Here's the problem that most B2B companies have with selling; it's largely viewed as a transactional effort where you are selling benefits, features, and value.

What Sales Looks Like For Most B2B Organizations

You’re out there canvasing the market, knocking on doors, making calls, sending emails and promoting your message.  These are all outbound marketing and direct sales efforts, and they have a definite place.  But they also will not work for a large percentage of your target market.
It takes a refined system of targeting, outreach, and persistent follow up to get maximum results from outbound sales efforts.  Most B2B companies struggle to do it well, consistently.  Thus, results are far less than optimal.

You don’t have a relationship with your prospects, and you rely solely on the quality of your marketing materials and message to get opportunities.

What Sales Looks Like For Advanced B2B Marketing Operations

The companies generating the greatest returns are building communities around their brands.
They don’t start with a cold call.  They don’t start with a direct mail piece.

The first thing these companies do is invite their prospects to join a branded community of industry thought leaders and resources.  They invest resources in establishing their brand as a leader, by developing engaging online and offline communities that offer true value to their prospects and key industry partners.

Over a number of months, prospects become so familiar with the generosity of the brand they feel like great friends with the people running these communities. Through numerous touch points over a short amount of time, the company establishes itself as one of the good guys and can build real relationships with targeted prospects.

What Are These Communities?

These communities can come in many forms, and depends on the strategic focus of your company.  More specifically, who are your prospects?  Build a community they will love.

The community could be a local networking group specific to their industry. It could be a career network for the kind of people you target.

Your community could take the form of a LinkedIn group, or a private Facebook group.  It could be a private online forum, on a branded website you develop.

There are many options.  For brands that invest first in building these relationships, the sales process changes dramatically.

What Does This Do to Sales?

When you establish yourself as a true resource and friend, business almost takes care of itself.

The need for direct mail is greatly reduced.  Cold calls are always warm, welcomed calls. You’re not pitching somebody, you’re helping a friend discover a valuable solution for their business.

You don't need to invest as much in sales resources because your marketing is increasing the effectiveness of your sales team.

It's a complete paradigm shift in the way you sell, because of the engagement your marketing activities generate.

Sales go up.  Cost goes down.  And client retention increases as you build real, valuable relationships with your prospects.

The Psyche of Cold Calling Prospects

Cold calling and telemarketing are one of the strong tools in the “marketing tool box” most owners and sales people need to address. Cold calling is ONE of the main mechanisms to the successful sales person. It is important to realize the phone is your best friend, not the enemy. Calling is a means to an end; to take you from point A to point M eating!

Strategic skill sets include; being disciplined, having persistence and topping that off with consistency equals the KEY to your BREAKTHROUGH every time.

What you do on a daily basis has a huge impact on your future sales. Your attitude determines your altitude. (How high you fly)

The decisions you make about cold calling, guide your direction, which determines your destiny.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.” Colin Powell.

Sales Rule of Thirds

As a sales person or business owner, make sure you comprehend the sales RULE OF THIRDS.
You get 1/3 of your sales, no matter what you do. And 1/3 of sales you are not going to get. It is the last 1/3 of the sales which are up for grabs, and where excellent sales people separate themselves from mediocre sales people.

Leveraging the last 1/3 of the sales process and knowing you are the person responsible for making things happen requires you take goal oriented action to increase your sales.

A Look at the Psyche of Cold Calling 

Sales people typically see cold calling as scary, unpleasant, boring, repetitive, pressurized, confrontational, getting rejections, and demoralizing.

Let’s look at how prospects see cold calling done poorly. They view it as a nuisance, unwanted, dishonest, tricky, shifty, contrived, unprepared, indiscriminate, insulting and patronizing.

Now adopt a new perspective and reverse your mindset. Let’s look at what successful cold calling really means. It should be straight forward, honest and open, interesting and helpful, thoughtful and reasoned, professional and business like, enthusiastic and upbeat, informative, thought provoking, along with credible and reliable.

Read the above psyche areas over and over, understand what YOU view cold calling as to your personality. Then realize what the prospect feels on the other end of the phone, and make cold calling the success side it needs to be to generate meetings that result in proposals, that pump up the sales that make you money. Be a winner on the phone and don’t let cold calling slow you down. Have an attitude of “I am the best caller on my sales team”, and be passionate about conversing on the phone, sharing your smile, happiness and confidence which plays through the phone, then the prospect respects your call and in return sets up that meeting!

“The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will, and I am. Losers, on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have or would have done, or what they can't do.” Dennis Waitley

Be the best at your sales craft, study the psyche of cold calling, focus on what the prospect will be excited to hear in your sales pitch, and GAIN that last 1/3 of the sales you are due, never looking back, only moving forward to the next phone call to repeat the winning process over and over and over again!

John Eyres, President of Business Connections Consulting, works with many sales people and business owners to sharpen their cold calling skills and better understand the process of telemarketing. John resides in St. Louis, MO and can be reached via phone at 314-495-2089 or email;johneyres@busconcon.com.

Do Customers Control Pricing?

“What consumer wouldn’t rail against that kind of arrangement?”

The CEO of a staffing firm asked what I did for a living. When I told him that I help companies get higher prices regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing he said “That’s great if you’re in an industry where you control your pricing. Our customers control our pricing.” A few weeks later I saw an article in stltoday.com entitled Could medical pricing transparency control runaway costs? The article cited the fact that healthcare consumers are bearing more of the cost of healthcare in the form of higher co-pays and deductibles. The article went on to suggest that United Healthcare’s new online cost estimator could allow healthcare consumers greater control over the prices they pay for healthcare.

Are these new trends in pricing? Has control shifted to consumers? These are the questions were going to explore today.

New trends?

There are movements afoot that are driving providers away from their traditional pricing models. In some instances the change is long overdue. In others buyers are completely unrealistic in their expectations.
The legal profession is being pushed to a fixed fee pricing model instead of the their hourly rate model. The only surprise here is that it has taken so long for consumers to press for this change.

In essence, the hourly rate model has basically said to the consumer “You have to take all the risk. We don’t know what the outcome will be, how long it will take or what the total cost will be, but here’s what you’ll be paying per hour.” What consumer wouldn’t rail against that kind of arrangement?

On the other end of the spectrum I know of one Fortune 500 company that has demanded to see its vendor’s costs so that they can assess whether or not they’re getting a fair price. The vendor is also a Fortune 500 company.

That’s over the top. Why would you want to penalize an efficient company for being efficient? That’s exactly what would happen if the customer knew the vendor’s costs. The customer would take the cost and add what they felt was a ‘fair’ margin to it which has the effect of penalizing their more efficient vendors. That’s crazy. We need to incentivize efficiency both for our own welfare and for competitive advantage in the world economy.

Has control shifted?

The short answer is ‘not really.’ In the case of the legal profession consumers are simply pushing for more transparency, more predictability in the pricing. There will still be buyers who will pay multiples over the lowest price alternatives to get the ‘name’ firms, the political connections they have or to create the image of success that comes from using the most expensive firms available.

Similarly, United Healthcare’s push is designed to help consumers become more aware of what their options are so they can make an informed decision. The consumer will still choose a higher priced alternative based on other factors like speed of access, care and concern of the physicians, nurses and staff, convenience of location and the provider’s reputation in the market place.

It’s no different than buyers choosing Walmart over Nordstrom or vice versa. Each buyer places a value on the products/services they’re buying. Some are very valuable to them and they’ll choose the top of the line because it is important. Others are necessities they’d just as soon avoid, consequently they’re going to choose the lowest-priced alternative.

I’m sure you’re wondering about the staffing company’s CEO’s claim that customers control his pricing. That’s absurd.

Without realizing it this CEO is, in essence, saying that he doesn’t see the difference between what he’s offering and what his competitors are offering. If he saw a difference he’d be able to communicate it in a way that would help buyers decide whether or not it was important to them.

Because he can’t see the difference, they can’t either. That simple reality explains why he feels he’s at his customers’ mercy when it comes to pricing. Indeed, it’s why any business, in any industry, feels trapped by industry pricing.

The seller doesn’t understand how his offering is different than his competitors or he doesn’t know how to convert that value to dollars and cents. Either way, the buyer doesn’t have the information he/she needs to make an informed decision. The result is the consumer pushes for lower prices.

Sellers can control pricing as long as they:

  1. Provide value that their competitors don’t.
  2. Communicate that value effectively in their marketing materials and sales scripts.
  3. Price in a way that reflects that value.
  4. Understand which buyers value what they offer and why they value it.
  5. Target only those buyers who value what they offer.

 

Consumers will make their decisions based on the information the seller provides and what’s important to them within the context of the lifestyle they’ve chosen. It’s their choice where they spend their money, the seller controls the price.

The first step in gaining control of your pricing is to make sure that prospective customers know what to expect from your products and services. To help you communicate that message more clearly I’ve created an ebook, Brand Promise: What Do YOUR Customers Expect?

Separate Prospects from Suspects to Sell More and Suffer Less

Bill succeeds because he separates prospects from suspects... He speaks to people who view him as a welcome guest, not an unwanted pest.

I once worked with a sadistic guy named Ken who loved to punish the door-to-door salespeople who visited our office. If he was in a good mood (not often), Ken would gently point to the "No Solicitations" sign on our door, and say, "I'm sorry. We don't allow door-to-door sales. Go peddle your stuff somewhere else." Even when sounding calm, Ken was mean. If Ken was in a bad mood (usually) or if the "peddler" did not leave immediately, watch out! I heard Ken verbally abuse a water cooler salesman in ways that would make the saltiest sailor blush. I once saw a copier salesman dash from our office after Ken threatened to "shove that toner cartridge..." You get the idea.

We eventually fired Ken because of how he treated vendors, coworkers and clients. While we did not condone his behavior, we also did not sympathize with those sales people who invited the wrath of Ken. Every time they fled from our office, I thought, "Why do they put themselves through this?" Cold calling every name on a list or knocking on every door on every floor is an uncomfortable, unproductive way to make a living.

Compare that to Bill, a copier salesperson who called me last month. I met Bill a few months earlier at a networking event where we exchanged cards. He asked whether he could add me to his mailing list (he did not assume my permission just because I handed him my card). I received one email a month after that.

When Bill called, he said, “We met a few months ago and you’re on my email list.” I remembered him, of course. I had received his most recent email just two days earlier. The conversation proceeded with ease and ended with a meeting scheduled.

When we met, I asked Bill why he chose to call me on the day he did. “Because you’ve been reading and clicking on my emails,” he said. Bill explained he no longer goes door to door or makes call telephone calls. Instead, he establishes relationships with people through networking, referrals, web site inquiries, and other methods – in all cases inviting his new contacts to join his email list. He sends regular emails that offer office automation tips and other useful content – not just product pitches. And he uses email software that tracks who opens and who clicks. Those engaged readers are the prospects he telephones or visits.

In a fraction of the time, he schedules more appointments and ultimately makes more sales. And he does not have to face sadists like Ken who love to abuse cold-callers.

Bill succeeds because he separates prospects from suspects. He schedules more meetings with fewer calls because he speaks to people who view him as a welcome guest, not an unwanted pest.

Had Bill been a stranger who appeared at my office uninvited, I probably would not have spoken to him. Had he simply collected my card at the networking event and then called me (without engaging me through his emails), I probably would have pushed him away. Had he called on me even if I never opened his emails, I might not have remembered him and I certainly would not have known how much value he could offer.

Instead, Bill called on me only after he knew I was engaged. I had opened his email. I had clicked the link. I knew him. I showed interest.

Your time is precious. When you call on people who don’t know you and view you as a pest, you usually waste that precious time. Rather than wasting time calling on the suspects, spend some time to identify and cultivate true prospects.

There are many ways to do this. As Bill demonstrated, delivering valuable, engaging content via an email newsletter is a very effective way to do it. But how do you start? How do you plan and deliver an email newsletter that people will open and click? I answer those questions in this article in the e4e Academy.

The Dangers of Cost+ Pricing

In the early years of my consulting work I picked up a client that had been losing money for two consecutive years and was experiencing severe cash flow problems. They were using cost plus pricing. What went wrong?

Defining Costs

They didn’t define their production costs well. They had included some of their production costs in the operating expense category, consequently when they added the traditional industry profit margin to their production costs their prices were too low to cover their costs.

Lest you think this an aberration, I’ve worked with hundreds of companies over the years and most don’t know what their costs are. Why? There are a variety of reasons, some:

Don’t have a clear understanding of how to categorize costs.
Allocate overhead costs to production using subjective, irrelevant bases for the allocation.
Use standard costs which typically include ‘cushions’ to protect the production group from being criticized for cost overruns.

Indeed, one VP of production had included a 60% cushion in his standard costs and no one in finance knew it.

Costing Myth

As if those weren’t enough reasons, Eliyahu Goldratt in his famous book, The Goal, shows that traditional cost accounting drives up operating costs rather than reducing them. His book, It’s Not Luck, demonstrated that the same is true for service organizations.

Finally, and most importantly, production costs have nothing to do with the value to the consumer. That’s true whether you’re selling B2B or B2C. Allow me to illustrate this point.

Cost/Value Not Related

Let’s say that I’m a milk producer. I buy milk from farmers, process it and distribute it through grocery stores. Let’s assume that it costs me $1.12 to produce a gallon of milk. Now, let’s look at the various markets available to me as a milk producer.

Young families will typically place great value on milk because it’s essential for the child’s development. The elderly also have a health issue, osteoporosis, that adds value to milk for them.

Many adults, whose children are grown and aren’t yet concerned about osteoporosis, value milk only if they enjoy it’s taste. For the others in this group, milk has little, if any, value.

For people who are lactose intolerant, milk has no value. Indeed, it’s a health risk for them.
As you can see, the fact that it costs me $1.12 to produce a gallon of milk has no relationship to the value customers place on it.

Hopefully this simple example along with the challenges in defining costs outlined above will be enough to dissuade you from cost plus pricing.

Want to move from cost+ pricing to value pricing? You’ll find the tools you need in Dale’s book, Pricing for Profit. Available online atAmazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com

The Wrong Hero

“There are only three things that any of us sells - image, innovation and time-savings.”

Marketing messages must be great stories... about the true hero.

I wish I could remember the source of the following elegant language. The person certainly deserves credit for this incredible bit of wisdom. After reading a marketing piece, he said ‘that’s a great story, but it’s the wrong hero’.

The marketing piece had discussed the company, not its customers. That’s why it was about “the wrong hero.”

If you want your marketing messages to translate into sales at premium prices, tell stories in which customers and prospects can experience the joy of your offerings - even if they haven’t tried them yet.

One of the fascinating aspects of the human mind is that we can experience emotions as vividly today as when we first experienced them. Tie your offerings to an experience that everyone has had that elicits joy.

Remember, there are only three things that any of us sells - image, innovation and time-savings. So when you’re selling image, help them experience the joy of having others admire and emulate them.

With innovation, make the story about the fun and excitement of playing with the latest, greatest toys or our childhood curiosity when everything was fascinating.

For time-savings, the story highlights the joy of spending more time with family and friends, traveling or just kicking back in a hammock on a beautiful spring day. If you’re selling business to business and the time savings translates into greater revenue-generating capabilities, make the story about the joy of growing a successful business - one that’s the envy of their competitors.

It’s counter-intuitive, but the less said about your company and what you do, the greater the likelihood that your marketing messages will bring buyers through the doors. More buyers, mores sales, at your price. Now that’s an experience that’ll bring a smile to your face.

Not sure whether you’re marketing messages are targeting the right hero? Take this free, confidential marketing self-assessment..

Entrepreneurs Should Speak!

One important component an entrepreneur’s marketing plan should include is giving great presentations!

Here’s why:

Delivering superb presentations has the potential to catapult a speaker to Expert status. We perceive really good speakers as experts. Perception is reality, and we like to work with Experts. (This makes sense, doesn’t it?)

Furthermore, the research shows:

Speaking Opportunities are Business Opportunities!”

Business owners who take and make those Speaking Opportunities grow their businesses.

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs don’t Speak. They don’t for several reasons:

  1. They have a Fear of Public Speaking.
  2. They don’t do a very good job of presenting, and they know it.

Let’s look at each of these reasons for not using speaking as a marketing tool and what can be done to change them.

Speaking Opportunities are Business Opportunities!

 

The Fear of Public Speaking

There are reasons for having a Fear of Public Speaking.

  1. If you don’t know what you’re talking about you should fear speaking!
    • Don’t have a passing knowledge of your subject; be an Expert!
    • Research and study your topic. You’ll never know everything, but your mastery should be better than most people have on the subject.
    • There is a “confidence in your competence” that lowers anxiety.
  2. If you don’t know the structure of a presentation, or how to professionally deliver it.
    • An award-winning, delicious cake has a very specific recipe. If accurately followed, the “baker” will have rave reviews bestowed upon them.
    • If they have little knowledge of baking and merely throw ingredients together and hope for the best, the results will likely be disappointing. Disappointing to the people who expected a delicious dessert, and disappointing to the “baker” who didn’t take time to learn and follow a proven recipe.
    • A professional presentation, like a great cake, has a specific structure. When constructed and delivered like a pro, the results can be spectacular. The audience learns something, and the presenter’s message is received as intended.
    • Structure and Delivery can be learned. The results are worth the commitment, and time needed.
  3. If you haven’t practiced!
    • Do you think any of the athletes who participated in the Olympics just “showed up” at their event? Of course not!
    • Will any of the players who put on helmet, pads, and a uniform in the fall to play professional football merely “show up” at game time? No!
    • How about the next showing of Les Misérables? Do actors, the orchestra, and stage hands notice what time the musical starts and “show up” a few minutes earlier. Absolutely not!
    • All the above require days and days of practice and rehearsal. Why would someone think they could “show up” for an important presentation and “wing it?”
    • Steve Jobs is my presentation hero. He was a master at this and set the standard for delivering exceptional presentations. As good as he was, he still practiced ad nauseam before taking the stage. If he had a new product or service to introduce at an Apple Event, he would practice for weeks! (Weeks is not a misprint.)
  4. You’re very Uncomfortable speaking with audiences.
    • Of course it’s uncomfortable! Think about this:
    • Most our talking is one-on-one.
    • Much of our communication is on the phone, and we don’t see the person we’re talking with.
    • Increasingly our ”conversation” is an email or text message. We don’t “speak” to or see people we are communicating with.
    • It’s understandable that getting in front of ten, twenty, or fifty sets of eyeballs we might feel uncomfortable because we are out of our comfort zone.
    • The uncomfortableness will lessen each time we speak in front of an audience.

You’re a Lousy Presenter

OK, I believe you.

There is something you can do about it!

Developing and delivering great presentations is a skill. Skills are learned.

We weren’t born knowing how to drive a car, use a computer, or any of the many other skills we use daily.

There are plenty of great books on the subject. There are courses that can be taken and clubs, like Toastmasters that can be joined. There are people whose expertise is coaching public speaking and presentation skills.

Important:

A Presentation has Two Components.

  • Content - Your message.
  • Delivery - Presenting your message.

Each of these components is essential for a presentation. Neither can stand on their own.

Take note that Delivery trumps Content.

You may have the most outstanding content on your topic, but if it can’t be presented in a manner that educates, entertains, and explains it well, your audience will never GET IT! GETTING IT! is the goal of all communication; verbal, written, and visual.

Delivery, Content, and the Parts and Elements of each will be the topics of future Posts.

Till then, I hope your next presentation is - NO SWEAT!

The changing and growing landscape of SEO

 

A few days ago I received a call from a local divorce attorney that wanted more information on my SEO services. After a few preliminary questions, I realized I was speaking with a receptionist who had been tasked to 'find out more' about SEO. This is definitely not the first time this has happened, and I'm sure it won't be the last.

So if you've been tasked by management to research SEO for your business, here's the full scoop.

SEO isn't a one-time thing. It's an ever growing and changing landscape that involves a lot of factors. If you are looking for a quick fix to get to the top of google, you might as well stop reading here because you won’t find it. There's no such thing, and if any marketing company tells you different, it is lying (and stealing your money).

In short, there are two main parts to SEO.

Onsite SEO

There are a lot of things you can do to your website that can influence the search engines to like you more. These include heading tags, page titles and a variety of other factors. Each one of these items needs to be addressed and fixed when necessary. A high level SEO audit can help you find many of these and, depending on your coding skill level, can be fixed without hiring an SEO guru.

While not a direct SEO factor, your websites usability should be taken into consideration at an early stage. If you can’t easily update your website, or it looks like it was built in the late 80s, it is probably time for a redesign. This can be costly, but if you are serious about SEO, it's not something you should dismiss quickly. I have turned down many good clients because they thought their website (usually one they built themselves) was the best thing since sliced bread. It's not.

Redesigning your website at an early stage in the SEO process is not only a smart investment, it makes your job a lot easier down the road when your SEO starts giving you tasks that need to be completed through the website. Using a user-friendly content management system (CMS) such as WordPress is a good way to go. You'll be glad you did.

A good onsite SEO evaluation should also include a conversation around calls to action. Since the ultimate goal of your SEO campaign is usually more leads (NOT more traffic), you should consider what sort of target audience you are hoping to attract and what sort of actions you want them to take once they visit your website. These are crucial to having a successful online marketing strategy.

Offsite SEO

Here's where SEO gets interesting. Believe it or not, there are a lot of things you can do on other people’s websites that affects your overall rankings. While it would be impossible for me to list them all, I'll try to hit the main ones.

Links

In short, the overall amount of positive links you have leading back to your website influences your overall rankings. I say positive, because there are a lot of easy ways to get links, but they aren't necessarily good links. Heck, I could get you a thousand links tomorrow if you'd like (and some SEO agencies still offer this service) but they'd be useless, if not hurtful for your overall goals.

So what is a good link?

A good link is a link from a similar industry website, blog or social profile. This means if you sell goggles, a link from a site like sears.com would be more desirable than a link from a site like wesellgogglespleasebuyonline.net. The authority and reputation Sears has far outweighs that of the latter.

Unfortunately, getting links from high authority sites isn't always easy. It takes time, it takes a process, and sometimes it just takes cash.

What then is a bad link?

A bad link is a link from a non-related website, a link directory or a site in a 'bad neighborhood' (porn, pharmaceuticals, etc).

Bad links are easy to get. You can use an automated submission tool, or just hire some company in India to do it for you. I wouldn't recommend it, though.

A Natural Link Profile

Up until recently, building links was always a process focused around keywords. Links based on words you use in your industry were worth more than links indicating 'click here' or 'check out this site'. However, a recent update from google called Penguin changed this line of thinking. Search engines are now looking for a good mix of both keyword, brand-related and generic links. When considering hiring an SEO person, make sure they understand the value of this mixture.

Citations

For businesses with real physical addresses, citations can play an important role in your overall search engine rankings. A citation is a mention of your business name, address and phone number on another website. It may or may not contain a link to your website, and that's ok.

Search engines use these mentions as indicators your business is real, so it is important every citation around the Internet has the exact same phone number, address, etc.

Getting started

If you are serious about getting started with SEO, please read my post on different options you have, what steps you need to take, and how to determine a good SEO from a bad one.

Two Files Every Website Should Have

When a search engine 'bot' visits your site for the first time, it looks for two files right off the bat: robots.txt and sitemap.xml. Search engines use these files to learn about your website and can make recommendations on optimizing, modifying, and even fixing your website.

The robots.txt file is like a stop light. It tells bots where they can crawl and where they cannot. Don't want your images included in Google index? This is where you tell them. Don't want them to crawl your admin section? I don't blame you. Block them.

The robots file goes in your root directory, and is a simple text file you can edit with notepad or any text editor. To see if you have one, just visit http://www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt. If nothing is found, you do not have a robots file or you put it in the wrong place.

There are two basic parts to the robots file: the bot specification and permissions for that bot. Only want to block your site from Yahoo!? You can (although I'm not sure why you would).

Lastly, you can add a line to tell search engines where to find your site map file. This is the full URL.

The other file, sitemap.xml, is just what it sounds like. It's a sitemap, or roadmap, of your entire website - complete with links to every page all bundled into one nice little file. To make this file, visit xml-sitemaps.com, put in your website address and it provides back to you a downloadable file for you to put on your website. The only downside to this process is you have to redo it every time your site changes.

If you're using WordPress, it's even simpler. Plugins like Yoast (is Yoast correct?) SEO (which I recommend) and Google XML Sitemaps will create and update your Sitemap file with every change you make.

Lastly, you can add a line to tell search engines where to find your site map file. This is the full URL path, so in most cases it will be

sitemap: http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml

Having these two files on your website makes it easier for search engines to know what your website is about and will decrease the time it takes to get your new site indexed.

How to Use LinkedIn Signal to Find Prospects Who Want What You Sell

LinkedIn Signal (http://www.linkedin.com/signal/) is one of the most powerful tools available on the internet.

If you know how to use it properly, you can literally find any conversation on LinkedIn. Conversations happening between people not even connected to you, including groups you don’t belong to.

It is literally one of the best customer intelligence tools out there, and it’s free.

Imagine you had a tool for discovering any time somebody talked about your products or services on LinkedIn. If you think this might be a great strategy to find new leads and build relationships with highly targeted prospects, you’re correct.

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Are You a Google Ostrich?

Don't bury your head in the sand, adapt to the new SEO reality.

Marketing would be easy if you could ignore the Google's disruptive algorithm changes. But doing so puts your business at risk.

We all want to make things fast and easy to get found online and sell more. The desire to minimize the resources to get the job done is simply part of human nature.

But fast and easy can come back to bite you. Here's a guiding principle that will help you be more successful in the new SEO reality: Get away from easy, manipulative SEO methods. Instead, create high quality content people want to link to.

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