Here's a bit from my LinkedIn profile summary:
'All human interactions--in business, or otherwise--boil down to communication and relationships. I have spent my professional career building on that philosophy because I believe it is one that continually invites success.
I am always interested in meeting new people and embarking on new opportunities that challenge me to learn and grow. I'm a creative thinker and doer who is resourceful and innovative. I believe, all that we create communicates something distinct and builds specific relationships.'
I truly believe that everything can be boiled down to communication and relationships. Communication is the tool or vehicle that can get you from point A to point B with another person. Communication is a way to create mutual understanding--getting on the same page, if you will. When that connection begins to take place relationships form. From there bigger things can be achieved by both parties together than either can achieve individually, and so on.
Your brand is similar. It's a communication vehicle to drive relationships with your prospects, customers, vendors, industry colleagues, etc.
Is your brand a communication vehicle driving your company toward the ideal relationships you'd like to build?
Posted by: Nick Venturella
So, I’ve been working on what Nick Venturella Media (NVM) will look like and try to achieve in 2011. Based on experiences this past year, and how I’ve been evolving my business endeavors NVM will be changing, slightly.
You may not notice the change too much, but I certainly will. Ultimately, the end result is to be able to help you more, and provide you with value that you can use to help your own endeavors grow and flourish.
In fact, the word grow is one of three words that will become my mantra for 2011 (I took this idea from Chris Brogan--he may have gotten it from somewhere else, but I got it from him).
The three words on which I’ve chosen to base my 2011 goals and activities: Grow, Create, Community.
I want to grow NVM, as well as all my endeavors--Nick Venturella Music and The Local Music Journey--in directions that can help you be better equipped to make your own business/endeavors successful, thus adding to my own success.
(I just launched a Facebook Page, Nick Venturella Endeavors, as a one-stop landing page for all things Nick Venturella. Feel free to check it out, but I’ll be fleshing this out more in the coming days before Christmas).
Create: I’m truly an artist. I craft ideas into innovative pieces of art, music and writing. Some of it can benefit others’ businesses, some of it can benefit others’ emotions and state of mind, and some of it can inspire motivation within oneself to create something of their own that can benefit others.
One way I’m going to achieve this is that I’m scheduling time to create, even if it’s to create something small. I’m also taking guitar lessons again (thanks to my wife who surprised me with this early Christmas gift). I’ve been playing professionally since 1994. I probably haven’t had a guitar lesson in more than 12 years. However, there are always things I want to learn about that instrument and my musical craft, and having some instruction can promote expedient progress, not to mention the fact that such activities always seem to motivate my inspiration helping me create more. That bit about having some instruction, or a mentor, leads right into my last goal...
Community: For me, I’m a solopreneur, well, for the most part--not everything I do is on my own. However, a goal I have is to team up more with others on projects as well as simply expanding my sphere of colleagues in a similar boat. One area I feel that I’ve lacked often is having the benefit of an ideal mentor. I've been influenced an helped out by many and am grateful for such help, but I continually seek a mentor, or mentors, who have been, at least in relative terms, where I’m going, or have ventured on a similar journey to where we could share ideas, best practices, etc.
I know that I have a lot that I would like to share, which is why I pursue the endeavors I do--I want to be the mentor for others that I myself am constantly seeking. So one of my goals this year is to expand my community of friends and colleagues to build a support network of folks who genuinely want to see each other succeed, and are willing to offer thoughts and ideas across the board about how to do that.
I plan to offer more specifics about my 2011 goals and how they relate to each of my endeavors, and how those endeavors can benefit you in forthcoming posts, on this site, Nick Venturella Music and The Local Music Journey's Resourceful Musician Blog. Stay tuned.
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If you’ve ever read the book Made to Stick (amazon affiliate) you know that one of the elements of “sticky messages”--that is messages that end up being memorable and easy to recall--is being concrete.
What the authors of Made to Stick were talking about was using commonly recognized imagery and ideas in the language used to communicate your message. In the book they give the example of Aesop’s fable about The Fox and the Grapes, which is where the term, “sour grapes,” comes from.
The fox story is concrete in that it talks about how the fox couldn’t eat the grapes hanging on the vine above him, just out of his reach. In the fox’s defeat the fox proclaims the grapes were likely sour anyway. The lesson learned was that it’s easy to despise that which we cannot obtain.
My point (really the point of the authors of Made to Stick), is to the extent you’re able try to be concrete in the way you talk about your company’s brand, in the way you display imagery regarding your company’s brand (logo, identity design, etc), in every way you outline the benefits of your products/services, etc.
Give folks clear imagery that is common enough for them to wrap their imagination around. This is extremely important in service companies that don’t necessarily have a tangible product to sell.
This video from HubSpot is humorous, but useful in that it displays the difference between inbound and outbound (or pull vs. push) marketing efforts.
By utilizing a company blog, social media, email marketing and other such efforts to distribute valuable content to a targeted audience (your ideal customers) you will be better positioned to be found online and create online conversions whereby you're capturing valuable prospect information in return for offering valuable content to that prospect. Thus, you're building a pipeline of prospects that you can continue to nurture with valuable content until they're ready to buy.
For the purposes of our video, let me ask, when was the last time you looked something up in the phone book vs. Googling it?
Essentially, that's how inbound marketing works--create content, boosting SEO, get found online, create conversions, nurture prospects until they buy, improve the process and start again.
So I was at the grocery store the other day buying a bag of potato chips (I know, a healthy snack). I was looking for potato chips with ridges or waves, whatever you want to call--wrinkles.
I found two brands Ruffles Potato Chips and Lays Wavy Potato Chips. To me, they’re the same chip--the quality is the same, the flavor is the same--for all intense and purposes they might as well be the exact same chip. So, because, in my mind, the product is the same and either will adequately satisfy my potato chip craving I look less at which brand I choose and focus on price--which one is cheaper?
In this case the Ruffles were about $0.40 more than the Lays, so I went with the Lays. The idea of differentiating on price alone for a product that is in demand is essentially a commodity.
Perception is often reality, to the customer
My potato chip story illustrates the consumer mindset when purchasing a product or service--the consumer perception of your product is the only perception that really matters, not yours. But, what’s interesting is with the way you communicate your brand messaging and position your brand, products and services you can help guide customers toward the perception you would like them to have. The way you communicate your brand and educate consumers about your products and services can have the effect of justifying the pricing you set, even if it’s higher than your competitor’s. This is possible when your customers no longer see your products or services as a commodity that they could get elsewhere with the same amount of satisfaction for less.
In the potato chip story, had Ruffles provided more compelling messaging that raised its value in my perception of their brand and product, I may have shelled out the extra $0.40 for their chips.
Think about your own business
Do you offer products/services that can adequately satisfy a customer’s needs just as easily as your competition? Is price really the only difference between your product and your competitor’s in the eyes of your target customer? If so, you need to think about building more value into your offering and communicate that value to your potential customers so you can line up what you want their perception to be with what their actual perception is.
How do build more value?
One way, is to write out a list of features and benefits of your product/service compared to the features and benefits of your top competitor’s. From there, look for similarities and differences. Highlight the differences. If the differences are positive, giving you an advantage over your competition, find a way to emphasize that in your marketing messages. It’s also a good idea to cross reference your list with a poll from your current customers asking them why they chose to do business with you over the competition. By completing those two exercises you should be able to uncover a few differences that can be competitive advantages for you/your business.it.
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.