It seems that the internet boils services, and most business models, down to three simple areas of value (as described by Seth Godin’s recent blog post, The one who isn’t easily replaced): “...be better, be different or be cheaper. And the last is no fun.”
That last one will drive you out of business, so I would suggest avoiding it. The other two are where the largest opportunities are. Godin’s blog post was referring to the fact that with the internet, musicians, freelancers, solopreneurs and small businesses are better equipped, and connected, to be able to handle more of their own stunts--so to speak--to bring their products or services to market.
Thus, to stand out you, and/or your company, must be better than the competition. Perhaps you offer a better product, more efficient service, an easier-to-use service, maybe you save customers time, etc. Or, maybe you’re different. Maybe your product/service fulfills a common need in an uncommon way, or your product/service saves a business X amount of money compared to competition as proven by market research, etc. Now, if you do compete on price you’ll really want to justify offering a lower price than competitors. A lower price is not always equated to a quality product/service. Plus, if you compete by offering a lower price than competitors you’ll want to make certain you’re making up ground on volume or some additional revenue stream because that’s a difficult business model to maintain without being swallowed by a company willing to give away more for less (or free).
Probably the best advice is to be both better and different allowing you to justify higher prices than competitors, which will further the perception that you’re better. Hey, two out of three ain’t bad...besides the third option is likely to sink you before you get out of the gate...just a few thoughts to consider.
On my Resourceful Musician Blog I recently published a guest post.
What was great was that the content from the guest post came from someone reading and enjoying the blog, contacting me through the blog’s contact form, offering a personal note, an explanation and the guest post content for me to review.
What was nice about it, was that it was made easy for me to use the post as a guest post. Sure, if I didn’t think the content was fitting for my audience I could have kindly denied the guest posting request. However, my point is that the post was ready to go if I liked it and thought I could use it.
Guest blogging is a great way to build your own audience while often bringing your audience to a another blogger’s crowd.
If you’re interested in guest blogging as an audience growth strategy or if you would like others to be guest bloggers on your blog a nice community created to facilitate just that is MyBlogGuest.com. It’s a free online community where you can view guest blog posts that are ready to be published and introduce yourself to the author to ask permission to use the post, or you can write a post and offer it up for others to post on their blogs.
If you’re interested in blogging as a business strategy check out Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett’s book ProBlogger (amazon affiliate).
David Airey is a graphic designer based in Northern Ireland who is quite talented and well known for his work, his blog, and his book, Logo Design Love (affiliate link).
Airey, has specific thoughts in regard to speculative (spec) work. In the design world spec work basically entails a potential client requesting a project from a designer to be worked on and presented without pay to the designer unless the outcome presented is to the satisfaction of the potential client. Almost always, this situation gives the designer, who has the most skin in the game, the short end of the stick. This is because if the potential client does not like the presented outcome of the project they’ll simply request changes that will eat up more of the designer’s time, talent and energy (which they’re not yet paying for), or the potential client will simply walk away with nothing to lose wasting the designer’s time, talent and energy on a useless project. Meanwhile, the designer could have been spending that , now wasted, time working for a paying client.
Doing work on spec, for any creative entrepreneur or freelancer, is a very quick way to get frustrated and go out of business. You’ll end up working for free, or way below your worth, way too often. This will not only run you out of business, but it can give your brand a misunderstood reputation of being cheap, inexpensive, or sub-par--definitely not the route you want to go if you’re trying to make a go of your entrepreneurial pursuits.
In a recent blog Airey posted his reply to a request for spec work that essentially turned around the request for spec work back onto the requestor. It’s funny, and a bit pretentious, but then again so is any request for spec work.
You know that phrase, ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Well, marketing and brand communications often works like that. If you are out of sight from you prospect, you are likely out of their mind as well.
Often what happens is you come out strong with some great blog posts and as you get busy with other aspects of your business you just don’t make the time to post for a couple of weeks. You might lose some readers/subscribers because of it. Or you have a potential lead who signed up to download a valuable white paper you created almost two months ago and you still haven’t followed up with them. If they were interested when they opted-in they may no longer be interested--out of sight, out of mind.
The fact that you’re blogging regularly (at least once a week) means you should have content that you can use to keep in touch with prospects. As a way to nurture leads until they’re ready to buy, you can send them blog posts that you’ve written that may pertain to their interests/needs.
You may be thinking, “but they probably already read my blog post, why should I email it to them.” That’s not necessarily true. While you hope that everyone who ever has had any interest in a blog post you’ve written is reading every single post you publish, the truth is they may have only read the one post that was of interest to them. That means chances are they didn’t see the last post you published that you wrote with they’re specific needs in mind. However, even if they did read that post, sending it along again with a short personal note, like, ‘I had your company’s needs in mind when I wrote this post,’ is very effective in showing that you’re paying attention and that even if they weren’t thinking about you, you have them on your mind.
Building relationships take regular effort, put forth some effort today.
Not long ago where I live we had a massive hail storm that damaged the roofs and siding of just about every house in a 10 mile radius.
Not long after that storm I started receiving post cards from roofing companies in my mailbox. This was a fairly smart marketing move on the part of roofers knowing that those affected by the hail will likely be working with their insurance companies and hiring roofers to repair the damage.
What was interesting was that I was receiving between 2 and 4 of these post cards a day. Some were designed very nicely, quite professional looking and decently well written. Others were obviously home-made, which doesn’t bother me when you can tell some thought was put into it. However, I encountered plenty of post cards that looked like they were for roofers who were simply looking to capitalize on the recent influx of potential work (you know, some guy with a van who spent one summer as a roofer who now thinks he knows how to run and operate a roofing company, oh and thinks he knows how to do a nice professional roof job--yeah, that guy is not getting business from anyone).
Finally, there was one company that didn’t have any glossy brochures or fancy postcards. It was a locally owned family run exterior/interior contractor. What was different and appealing about them was they printed a black and white flier with a bit of brief info about their company and their capabilities. Then they were walking around my neighborhood going door to door with the flier and sticking it in the handles of folks’ front doors--different than everyone else.
The flier’s message of prompt and courteous service was underscored by a live, knowledgeable person who answered my phone call by the second ring and was legitimately happy to hear from me and helped me. After calling on a few other roofing companies this was a pleasant surprise.
Needless to say, Toubl Contracting, Inc. won my business. The moral of the story...do things a bit different. Simple resourcefulness and creative innovation can go a long way, but if you follow that up with good human sincerity and hardwork you will have likely stumbled onto a winning combination.
The Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing just posted a blog called, The Selling System Technology Toolkit.
The post offers links to various resources to help make running your business and selling your products and services easier.
The post segments the kind of resources it’s referring to by what they’re good for. For example, tools that help you get found, tools that help you present, nurture leads, manage various transactions and measure and review your progress.
I also would like to add to the list a couple of my own suggestions...
www.slideshare.com – It’s a social media platform for sharing PowerPoint-type presentations and slide decks.
www.camstudio.org – If you’re going to use something like SlideShare to distribute useful slide presentations you may want to take it a step further and actually add audio commentary as you walk through your slide presentations. Cam Studio is a free open-source screen capture software. So, you can essentially create a pre-recorded webinar and distribute it on your website or on SlideShare, or YouTube, etc.
Leave a comment and let readers know what helpful resources you use.
Duct Tape Marketing book (Amazon affiliate)
Every once in a while I come across blogs and writing worth sharing even though it’s not directly related to the normal subject here on Nick Venturella’s Brand Communications Blog. Consider it a public service announcement of sorts. However, if I think about it long enough I could tie it back to brand communications, perhaps for your personal brand...anyway, I digress...
Beyond this blog, I also write for Galaxy Technologies’ Time and Attendance Best Practices blog, which fits into the workforce management, HR and payroll industries. Anyway, through my writing for Galaxy and knowledge of that industry I know of Laurie Ruettimann who writes The Cynical Girl blog. Laurie was putting together a list of HR-related blogs, one blog on her list was the blog Campus to Career written by Kirk Baumann.
Probably because I have past professional experience in higher education, the title of Kirk’s blog caught my attention. I checked out the blog, and after reading through a few posts I was wishing I had access to such information when I was making the transition from college student to real-world professional.
Kirk’s blog speaks about college campus career centers as, an often, helpful resource for students to learn about the best ways to present themselves to be hired after graduation (see, personal branding--I knew I’d tie it in). The blog also identifies some of the shortcomings of some college campus career centers (this is definitely where Kirk’s blog can help students who feel their campus career center is less than useful).
Regardless of the blog’s obvious benefits to students in transition, Campus to Career is definitely a helpful resource I would encourage college career center professionals to utilize and refer to for ideas as they help advise students. Certainly, I would encourage career center professionals to also refer their students to the blog as well.
Unfortunately, and perhaps more so in these current economic times, students feel very uneasy about their job prospects after graduation--not because they lack the education and training, but because it’s a jungle out there. They, like everyone else need all the help they can get. Likewise, career center professionals are struggling to understand the employment woes of a new generation to offer the best advice they can--Campus to Career can help.