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Posts Tagged ‘Business Concepts’

I have met with many business owners over the years, and one of the most important questions I’ve asked them is: Who is your target audience? Unfortunately, the answer I have most often received is: “Whoever will buy my stuff!” This response is both insufficient and dangerous.

Targeting is a crucial element to any advertising, marketing, PR or HR campaign…especially in difficult economic times, when resources are limited. If they are to survive, companies need to focus expenditures on the right prospects in the right areas. They must identify need, “pain” and price points. They must analyze margins on specific goods and services and gear their communications toward attracting the customers to these profitable items. In short, they must do their homework.

Targeting is both art and science, and effective targeting requires research and effort. It’s not enough to hang a shingle and hope people will come to the shop. It’s not enough to build a web site and wait for orders. Well before the “grand opening” (preferably), businesses must KNOW who their ideal customers are, why these individuals need their products or services, why they are different or better than the competition and how they plan to reach and influence key prospects over time.

Targeting, repetition and exposure are the keys to great communications and recruiting campaigns. If a business fails to perform its due diligence on the targeting component, the entire equation is skewed–this will lead to wasted time, energy and resources…and eventually to another vacant storefront or unvisited web site!

Most start-ups fail. Data varies, but the numbers generally exceed 80% within the first three to five years of operation. Why does this pattern hold true in good times and bad? Business owners tend to know their own product or service, but generally have NO MARKETING EXPERTISE. And when they find out what business consultants or agencies charge, they balk immediately and choose to skip the most important meetings they will ever have.

Strategy must precede tactics. Do your homework. Get some help from experts if you know how to make a pizza but have never written a business plan. Identify your real target audience and have a well researched, cost effective strategy to reach them in a way that is consistent, memorable and persuasive.

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Many business clients want to “try things out” in an attempt to grow their companies. I hear things like:

“Let’s run an ad for a month and see what happens.”
“What if I did a video–would that be a good idea?”
“What do you think of  ‘Constant Contact’?”
“Should I join BNI?”
“I need better web site content–can you write something up for me?”
“Should I pay for search engine optimization?”
“How about Facebook–could I get some business there?”

While I certainly can help with specific tactics, and will charge for my time, I prefer to give my clients a chance to succeed so they will recommend me to their friends! That’s why I provide a complimentary initial consultation and a strategic analysis of current communications. I then formalize this “back to basics” approach with a framework called “B.R.AC.E.”, which stands for Budgeting, Research, Action Plan, Communication and Evaluation. Absent this type of exercise, clients tend to waste money on poorly targeted initiatives that are difficult to quantify.

How much money have you budgeted for external communications?

What about staff?

Are you reaching and engaging the right people (and how do you know)?

Do you make a compelling argument for using your business?

What are your short and long term goals and objectives?

What’s your plan and how will you decide if it is working?

A cost effective communications plan is well researched, repeatable, flexible and measurable. And, particularly in difficult times, it is absolutely essential.

Using “B.R.A.C.E.” as a foundation will simultaneously reduce your costs and increase your market share.

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Several months ago, Susan Boyle’s entire social life and public exposure consisted of singing at her local karaoke bar in a tiny Scottish town. Now, she’s an international media sensation with scores of YouTube hits, Facebook fans and A-list admirers. Oprah can’t book her fast enough. Everyone wants a piece of this lady. It’s really amazing. One performance has changed her life forever.

Everyone knows about the power of television. Most people are catching on to the value and impact of social media. But what message does the Susan Boyle story tell us about business? There are many, but I want to focus on just one: differentiation.

Like most business consultants, I am a huge proponent of pseudo-academic concepts like value propositions, elevator speeches and corporate positioning. What makes your business unique? Why are you special? What do you have that others do not? What needs do you satisfy for your prospects and clients? Susan Boyle’s story is a great case study because it animates and contextualizes these rather dull concepts.

Susan has a great voice…but so do a lot of people we’ll never know. We welcome Susan into our lives because she is clearly “different”. Let’s be honest, she has the proverbial “face for radio”, which is why Simon Cowell and the rest of the world were shocked by her wonderful performance. But beyond the obvious superficial distinctions, her entire story resonates. A poor, middle-aged woman from a remote village nobody’s ever heard of. Never been kissed, let alone had a boyfriend. One shot on the big stage and she NAILS IT!………….. WOW!

Susan Boyle is indeed different. She is definitely unique. Susan is the “Rocky” of the music industry. Her story fits perfectly with the underdog/”don’t judge a book by its cover” formula. She fills a need by making us feel good about ourselves for accepting her on pure merit rather than rejecting her on first glance. She also made us feel that anything is possible, both on a personal and cultural level. She gave us hope for a kinder, more open, less judgmental society. In one night, Susan Boyle became a “BRAND”!

You may think have a great product or service… but is it just another karaoke tune or something very special that is ready for “prime time”? What’s your company’s story? Why should anyone listen? Will you be the next Susan Boyle in your industry? What’s your “WOW”?

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