Your Competitors – Friend or Foe? The Right Answer Can Help Your Business Grow

Your Competitors – Friend or Foe?

The Right Answer Can Help Your Business Grow

How do you view your competitors? For most people in business, whether they are running a company or simply working in one, the answer is easy. They view their competitors as the ones with whom they are in battle against in the fight to win customers, clients, and market share. And while they may not view them in terms as harsh as being a foe or an enemy, many would certainly not view them as “friends” either though. However, it may serve business people well to re-think how they view their competitors, and maybe think of them as friends. Friends who can be a major source of leads and friends who can actually help them grow their businesses.

Here’s why. Rarely do two or more businesses compete with one another in every specific facet and on every single level of their respective businesses. Within each business there are distinct nuances that make that business ever so slightly unique from any other that it competes with, whether it is something specifically about their product, how they deliver a particular service, or possibly where and when they are able to deliver that product or service. As marketers we know there is always something that makes a business one-of-a-kind in some small way, and of course it’s our job to identify that something and make it meaningful and compelling enough that people are willing to spend money to get it. But for the companies themselves, when that unique differentiator is identified, it opens a door through which referral opportunities between competing companies or business can truly exist – but only if only those companies recognize that opportunity and are savvy enough to also recognize the benefits that opportunity can provide.

It’s Summertime and many people are attending nice outdoor parties, events and get togethers. So let’s say, for example, there are two companies, Company A and Company B that are each in the catering business. Both have comparable prices, menu items, service areas, etc. And let’s say that catering company A gets the call to cater an event the 3rd Saturday in August, but is completely booked that day and cannot take on that order. If catering company A views their competitors as more as friends rather than foes, they will recognize the value of referring the people who are seeking a caterer to company B.

If these types or What happens

Of course, making these types of referrals are a 2-way street, but if these types of friendly competitor-relationships can be developed, it’s not a bad street to have your business “located” on. But when these types of relationships are developed, over time something interesting happens.

1. Company A will start to be on the receiving end of referrals from Company B.
2. The people the Company A refers will think very highly of company A. for making the referral, which can result in very good will being created at large.

Plus, any business that is referred back to Company A. will be more likely to land because the mindset will be “If their competitor recommends them, they must really be pretty good.” All of this coming as a result of viewing competitors as friends and not foes.

Although they may not think of themselves viewing their competition as “friends”, to be sure. there are many companies and businesses that routinely refer any business that they can’t service to a trusted competitor. The point here, is to maybe consider developing more of those relationships and start reaping and enjoying the benefits in greater measure.


Eat the frog

Eat the frog

"Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain

 

Twain has the right idea, and many successful entrepreneurs and business owners have adapted this concept into a philosophy that keeps them on track and focused. Personally, I have lived by this philosophy for several years and it has never failed me.

So how does it work?

Step 1: Create a list of to-dos. I’m a major list creator, so much so that I sometimes have lists of what lists I have. Each morning, as I set out to start my work day, I create an all-encompassing list of things to do. This list is primarily focused on the goals for that day, but often include larger projects that I can complete in stages. The key is to make your list as comprehensive as possible first.

Step 2: Prioritize your list. Once your list has been created, you want to take a few moments and prioritize it. I generally categorize my list into things I can complete today, those that are deadline focused ,those that are in stages and those that aren’t deadline focused but would be great to accomplish as soon as possible. Once you have a priority in mind, you know where you need to spend your time.

Step 3: Read your list. Read it, and as you do so, mark the items that make you groan vs the items that are relatively simple to complete and don’t bother you much.

Step 4: Biggest Groan = Frog. That one item on your list that you simply do not want to do. Perhaps when you were reading your list you were trying to imagine ways to procrastinate it. You will know what that one thing on your list is. For me, it’s often something to do with cash flow- I just simply hate reviewing accounting and financials- I’d much rather be spending my time on fun marketing projects, and writing.

Step 5: Eat the Frog. As Twain said, the key to having a positive day is to eat a frog first. That biggest groan on your list- do it first. Get it out of the way and the rest of your list will be no big deal.

It works. I do it every day and it keeps me on task, plus the feeling when you accomplish that thing you were dreading is a natural high that keeps you going all day. Mark Twain knew what he was talking about.


Shiny Penny Syndrome

Shiny Penny Syndrome

 

Distractions. We all have them. There are the regular distractions like cat videos on the internet ( or my personal obsession with how-to cake decorating videos) and then there are big picture, big idea type of distractions that can cause more heartache than they are worth. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can be known to suffer from shiny penny syndrome.- every idea we have is a new shiny penny- and we want to shift our focus to it.

The fact of the matter is we are idea people, and all of our ideas are shiny pennies that often distract us from our original, or bigger goals. You need to be careful otherwise you might inadvertently derail yourself. Take George for example.

George has a new product that is well thought out and designed for consumers who don’t want to use plastic grocery bags. His product is a specialized re-usable bag with unique imagery and branding that he is launching online, and in the geographic area of a city that has recently disposed of the use of plastic bags. Before launch, however, he has a new idea- what if we can customize the imagery on the bags?! What a great idea. George gets distracted by this new shiny penny and runs with it, offering custom orders online. The problem is that the amount of work and overhead it takes George for the custom bags is much higher than the standard ones, and his original idea. He switched gears too early with offering the custom bags that he never gave the standard ones a chance, and now he is underwater in both time and money.

This isn’t to say that George’s custom idea wasn’t a good one- it just maybe wasn’t the right time to switch gears so quickly before giving the original idea a chance to grow. Ultimately, George had to close up shop because he realized he didn’t have time and financing to cover the custom orders. He may relaunch and try to start again, but what’s to stop him from being distracted by the next shiny penny idea?

That’s why having a clear business growth plan is important. You will have new ideas, and that is a blessing, but knowing when to follow those ideas and when not to make a huge difference in your business. It’s not saying “no” to your shiny pennies, it’s being disciplined enough to say “not now” and take note and work it into your overall plan.

The moral of the story: keep and save your shiny pennies and use them wisely when it makes sense to do so.


Forbes.com: Diversity Inclusion: Be The Change

Forbes.com: Diversity Inclusion: Be The Change

You’ve heard it before: Being diversity-inclusive is important. "Diversity inclusion" has become a bit of a buzzword lately, but what does this term mean when it comes to a small business?

Many small businesses hear "diversity inclusion" and assume it's related to HR -- and it is. But it's much more than that. Aside from hiring a diverse population as part of your workforce, there are internal and external messages that represent your company -- and being inclusive in those messages is also highly important.

Diversity inclusion can be broken down into three buckets:

To read the full article visit Forbes.com


Two Problems: One Calls for a Fix, One Called for a Plan

Two Problems: One Calls for a Fix, One Called for a Plan

Unfortunately for airplane manufacturer Boeing, it has a problem right now. Correction:  Unfortunately for airplane manufacturer Boeing, it actually has two problems right now. One of those problems is one that nearly everyone around the world in developed countries, as well as in somewhat undeveloped countries is probably well aware of – the issue with Boeing's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software on its new 737 Max airplanes. This problem has been identified as the cause for two tragic crashes involving the 737 Max jet within five months, and resulted in the March 13, 2019 grounding of the aircraft by the FAA. This of course followed the grounding of that same particular aircraft by several other countries including China, India, Turkey and South Korea, to name a few. This is a problem Boeing must fix. They know it, and they are currently working on that fix.

The other problem that Boeing now faces is one that not as many people will readily identify. Although for those of us in the field of Marketing and PR, we know it is a glaring problem. It is the damage these tragic incidents have done, and will do, to Boeing's brand. This is a problem for which Boeing should have had an executable plan, (but appears may not to have had.) They know it...now, and they are currently working to execute one. Because as tragic as the two crashes are, any damage that has been done, or will be done to Boeing's brand, is not solely the result of these two unfortunate incidents alone. A major factor in furthering or limiting any damage to the brand will not only come from what Boeing does as company to address and quickly fix the MCAS issue, but will also come from how well and how soon they communicate those fixes to the flying public and its airline customers. Important also will be the scope of the message as well as the manner and tone in which that message is delivered. In short, they will have to work extremely hard to earn back the trust and belief that its airplanes are safe to fly, and fly on.

This is entirely possible however. One of the most famous cases of company overcoming what might have been long-term or even a permanently damaged brand as a result of a PR crisis, is the case of the tragic Tylenol murders that took place in the Chicagoland area in 1982. In that tragedy, 7 people who took Tylenol Extra Strength died shortly after ingesting the medication, due to the product having been tampered with and laced with Cyanide. The nationwide scare was on an unprecedented level, and as can be imagined, the consumer's trust in the safety of the product was nil. However, Johnson & Johnson the company that produced Tylenol received positive coverage for its handling of the crisis, and as was reported by the Washington post at that time, "Johnson & Johnson has effectively demonstrated how a major business ought to handle a disaster". The Washington Post article went on to say that "this is no Three Mile Island accident in which the company's response did more damage than the original incident", and ultimately applauded the company for being transparent with the public. Although Johnson & Johnson's market share collapsed from 35% to 8% during the scare, in less than a year's time it rebounded, an increase that was credited to the company's prompt and aggressive reaction. In November of 1982, the company reintroduced capsules, but did so in a new, triple-sealed package, coupled with heavy price promotions. And within just a few short years, Tylenol had the highest market share of any over-the-counter analgesic in the US, and still enjoys solid market-share to this day.

In contrast however, in the days immediately following the 2nd crash involving its 737 Max jet, and in light of the growing concern around the similarities between the two crashes and increasing evidence pointing towards a glitch in the MCAS software, Boeing unfortunately was slow to respond. And when it did, it took the tact of defending itself, going so far as Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg reportedly calling President Donald Trump personally in an attempt to delay the FAA's grounding of the jet. These missteps by Boeing, as well as many others that have been reported in the weeks following the 2nd crash have not served Boeing or its brand well. It has also underscored what appears to have been Boeing's lack of a plan that could be, and should have been, executed immediately in the event of such tragic occurrences. To be sure, this is not an indictment on Boeing or an attempt to “pile on” during a difficult and trying time, but rather an illustration of the impact a crisis, and how that crisis is handled, can have on a company's hard-earned brand reputation.

The final score of what ultimate impact all of this will have on Boeing and its brand going forward, remains yet to be seen. However, what companies can learn from this right now, is the importance of having and executing flawlessly, a crisis management strategy and plan, to protect the integrity of their company's brand.


Marketing Budgets for Businesses

Marketing Budgets for Businesses

MARCH 29, 2019

 

The big question when it comes to marketing is always, “how much is this going to cost?” Generally speaking, marketing services are perceived as an expensive project and many business owners are hesitant to spend valuable dollars on something that may or may not have the return they hope for.

There are some key things to consider when putting together your marketing budget and finding a marketing partner that will work for you.

Marketing & Advertising line items

Marketing & Advertising are not the same thing. Most business projections have a single category that accounts for both marketing and advertising. And, while they may be related, they are not the same. Simply put Advertising is the amount of money you need to pay to the media you place your campaign in while marketing is the planning, messaging and design behind that campaign. You need both to make a splash, but they really should be viewed as two separate expenses.

 

Average Budgets

For established businesses,The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of your gross revenue for businesses under $5 million, and closer to 10% for those over $5 million.For new businesses you should be spending somewhere between 12-20% of your revenue or expected revenue. This percentage of revenue should be split between Marketing and Advertising.

 

Marketing Only portion of budget

 

The marketing only piece of the budget is around 5% of your expected gross revenue. This 5% should be allocated towards things such as the ongoing marketing implementation of a solid foundational strategy. These are the day-to-day tactics that engage your audience, the advertisements you place with specific media and the tactics like email newsletters, video, content and so forth.  You should expect also to use more than 5% on big projects, such as website updates.

However, spending money on these day to day items will certainly be a waste of funds if you do not have a solid foundation.

 

Solid Foundation

In order for your day to day activities to perform well, you will need to invest in a solid marketing foundation, which, since it generally includes the necessary larger projects, will usually cost closer to the 10%.

The foundation includes items like Branding, Strategy, Website and Social Media. Working on these items to create a solid strategy that highlights your best target audience, the messaging and branding for those audiences and putting together a roadmap of strategy pieces paired with the big projects like a website will give you a healthy starting point. Once these things are completed, your day to day activities will have a much higher conversion rate.

 

Consider the cost of client acquisition

When making your marketing budget the most important thing to remember is what your potential ROI will be. Consider what a single new client means to your bottom line. For example: currently you have not built your foundation and you are relying on a sales person to convert customers. You probably see the direct correlation between what you pay that sales person to what the conversion of each customer is. Let’s say you currently spend $2,000 per new customer with your sales rep. and he or she can convert 1 new customer per month. Provided that each new customer is worth more than the $2,000 you spent, you are happy.

But consider this, you built your foundation and were able to add a highly converting website and social media channels in addition to your sales rep. Using the 5% rule, let’s say you spend $1,000 per month on digital media tactics, and can convert 2 additional customers per month. You’ve increased your customers by three times, while only spending a fraction of the cost, and in a shorter time period.

That’s where marketing becomes a savings vs. a spend.

The key is finding a marketing partner who can work with you on the foundational items, but also on a long-term implementation and execution process. This is where you will save the most.

 


Our Latest Forbes Article

Our Latest Forbes Article

FEBRUARY 6, 2019

Stress is part of all of our lives. But for entrepreneurs and managers, it can be even more overwhelming and carry higher consequences. A new study suggests that the way a leader handles stress could have serious consequences for employees and, ultimately, company culture and productivity.

Read more on Forbes.com


The Rule of 2/3

The Rule of 2/3

JANUARY 18, 2019| IN BUSINESS| BY ANDREA KEIRN

You’ve heard of this rule before. You’ve seen it before applied to various industries of service providers, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  For marketing professionals, we know this rule all too well. Getting our clients to understand, however, is a different matter.

The Rule: CHEAP. FAST. GOOD. You can only choose 2.

CHEAP: You are always looking for a deal. It is our human condition to try to find ways to save money, and retain the best value for the work we are paying for

FAST: You also want your projects done as quickly as possible.

GOOD: Not only do you want it done quickly and for less money, but you want it to be good. Good design, good strategy, good in every way.

Why can you only choose 2?

VALUE: the value of quality marketing work is not synonymous with the amount you pay necessarily. Value is provided when something is done well, with intention and provides both instant results and long-term outcomes.

CHEAP + FAST: When you’re choosing two, cheap and fast end up being a likely option, afterall, those are your two primary motivational factors, get it done now and get it done for the least amount possible. The problem with this strategy is that it forces your marketing team into a situation in which they have to cut corners, spend less time finding the best possibly solutions and instead finish a “quick and dirty” version of your project. That means the thing you have sacrificed is GOOD. Your project will still have a lot of positive attributes, but will it be everything you hoped, and be perfect without any missteps? No.

CHEAP + GOOD: Ok, so above it seems like the issue is one of time, by combining cheap and fast you lost quality which is what you need in the long run. Choosing cheap and good could be a better combination because you save money while getting a higher quality completed project which could ultimately mean higher value. The sacrifice here is time. In order to perform high quality services at a lower rate, your team will need to manage this project differently. And you may be one of many projects in process and in order to spend the time wisely on your project and make it beneficial to the team, they will need to take extra time.

FAST + GOOD: Yes, this is an option. Yes, we can do what you want in the quality that you want in the timeline you want, but that will mean our team will have to work double-time, triple time and that means it’s going to cost you more, because you will have to pay for that time and extra time spent.

Keep this in mind next time you are trying to hire a marketing company, or any other services company – you will have to sacrifice one of the three. Otherwise, you will not get the value you are actually looking for.

Which 2 would you choose?


Copywriting Vs. Content Writing

Copywriting Vs. Content Writing

DECEMBER 21, 2018| IN BUSINESS| BY LAURIE CARVER

I started in advertising when the internet didn’t exist. Everything was print, outdoor, radio, television, or video. So in the world of marketing, writers were all copywriters. If the firm handled highly technical or medically-related products they may have also had technical writers.

The technical writers wrote the heavy duty informational/educational stuff and instructional manuals. Facts. Lots of words.

The copywriters wrote in a way that exuded the spirit of a brand. Moved people to take action. Think Don Draper and Peggy Olson in Mad Men. Feelings. Few words.

There’s a new kind of writer now, and that’s the content writer. So there’s quite a bit of discussion and confusion about the distinction between the content writer and the copywriter.

From my point of view, the content writer is more akin to the technical writer, albeit they’re writing in a much broader array of media, to much broader audiences. But still, the goal of content writing is to educate and inform…and oftentimes entertain. The intent is to, over time, build trust, create interaction—possibly a relationship—with the reader, so as to move them to eventually connect with a company or acquire/recommend a product, or share the content in social media.

Content writing also has a goal of positively impacting search engine optimization (SEO). The writing needs to pay attention to key words. It is content that needs to market well on the internet.

Copywriting is meant for branding, grabbing attention, engaging, heightening an experience, creating curiosity. Making sure the reader gets why your brand matters, in such a way that they’re motivated to act. Now.

Basically, it comes down to telling vs selling. Optimally, the end result of both is to move people toward a product, company or service; but that’s the immediate goal of copywriting (selling) vs the long-term goal of content writing (telling).

As writer Bob Bly says “If you have a bullet in your text that says, ‘Eating apples reduces your risk of cancer,” that is content: you are giving the reader the information. If you write ‘Delicious fruit can reduce your risk of cancer.’ that is copy, designed to arouse curiosity and get the reader to order your book. Content tells, copy sells.”

A really talented writer can do both, but usually a writer is more skilled or talented at one vs the other. Most commonly (but of course not always) a copywriter can do content-writing, but content-writers have a tough time doing copywriting. It’s usually easier to write more words than get an idea down to a pithy handful of words.

In fact, content writing is often not even being done by a writer—it can be anyone who’s putting out a blog, white paper, instructional or educational article, news release, etc. Whereas copywriting is generally the person’s profession, one for which they’ve been schooled and trained. Obviously, the best content writer has good writing skills.

You really can’t have just one or the other. They both play a critical role in your marketing.


Is Amazon the new North Pole?

Is Amazon the new North Pole?

DECEMBER 14, 2018| IN BUSINESS| BY JEFF COTTEN

Let me just start off by saying this: I freaking LOVE Amazon. So I may come off a tad biased in this article. 

I have completed the entirety of my Christmas shopping at home, from my PHONE. So, what do I need Santa for anymore? He takes all year to get me what I want. That's a bad deal. All jokes aside, when it comes to the battle of in-person vs online shopping, online shopping seems to win the holiday season.

I'm not alone of course. My family and friends are also PRIME examples of pro-online shoppers. Some of them simply use Alexa to shop without ever even lifting a finger. There is no feeling quite like coming home to a brown package waiting just for you. I don't think it will ever get old for me.

Objectively speaking, being able to obtain exactly what you need/want without have to leave your toilet is better than going to multiple stores before settling for the best thing you can find. 

I wouldn't be surprised if the Amazon drones of Christmas future were to drop our packages right down our chimneys! But this is all to say that no matter how you acquire them, the holidays are not about giving gifts. The holidays are about getting gifts.

Have a Happy Holidays from Black Rhino!