Do You Suffer From Marketing Overwhelm?

I bet I can guess one of the top reasons why you’re not doing the marketing you know you should be: you simply feel overwhelmed.

How do I know?

It’s a common theme when I am speaking with small business owners who are building their businesses online.

When they learn about websites, blogging, lead magnets, email funnels, Google, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook ads, etc etc… they know the power of all of these to attract their ideal clients and build their business.

But adding each of these activities to a todo list doesn’t make them happen. In fact, the opposite is often true: when the todo list becomes too long it causes them to feel overwhelmed and in the end nothing gets done.

These people look at the list of options and know they can’t do everything – and in fact the truth is that they don’t have to.

Yes there are a lot of great options, and most of them would work if you put the effort into building them. But you don’t need to

It’s like filling your petrol tank for a journey. To get from here to there you only need a certain amount of fuel. Putting more marketing activities in your tank and attracting more clients than you need doesn’t have any advantage if your destination is only an hour’s drive away.

The value is in knowing which marketing activities will get you to your goal most efficiently, so that you are spending less time and energy getting there.

So what will be the most beneficial for you?

The secret is to follow your clients.

Look at where they are, and what they are responding to. Jump in and look around, engage with people and see what replies you get.

It will take experimentation but the more you try, the more easily you can find the straightest path.

Then all you need to do is take small steps, one after the other, and you’ll arrive at your destination. It doesn’t matter what road you take (or what other roads exist that others are taking) if you reach your goals in the end.


Marketing first

I only took one unit of marketing at formal university; it was an elective I chose back when I did my journalism degree.

But that one unit taught me what I still think is one of the most important lessons for any of us in business: marketing comes first.

Or at least, it should.

True marketing starts with knowing your ideal clients. With research, with listening to their stories, with seeing deeply into who they are.

Understanding your clients provides the direction of how and where to grow. The stories you hear reveal the opportunities to serve.

This stands in contrast to the person who creates a new product or has a fabulous idea for an app, then builds it, then wants to create an amazingly special marketing campaigns that will sell it. They need eye candy, want attention, and often find themselves pushing uphill. The cart is before the horse: using your marketing agency as the last step in the chain makes it difficult to get anywhere.

So, keep marketing first.

Hear a client’s story. Then create the solutions to their questions.

Rookie Success

As she was telling me about her new business, her eyes lit up. She had seen an early success gaining a large client and it had propelled her forward with enthusiasm, proving to her that the business world was exciting and success possible.

But as she’s built up her experience, knowledge, and skills it seems that business itself is getting harder.

It’s like, the more she knows about marketing and sales, the more difficult it becomes.

And she has not had another client like that first one in the 18 months since.

Can you relate? I certainly can. Sometimes it seems like our experience and increasing competence can actually hold us back.

So what is this about?

I attribute the “Rookie Effect” to the way we learn and act.

Once we have gained experience in any one direction, it becomes easier to do things that way again and again. In this way our minds learn to think of that as being the most valuable path. Even if it’s not. Even if there are others we haven’t even tried.

Before we have experience, when we are still rookies, all the options seem possible. We decide on the way forward using the data available to us and what seems most appealing. With a healthy helping of “gut instinct” thrown in.

As a rookie, we know that we don’t know. We are actively seeking, looking and learning.

Innovation requires that we regularly re-evaluate the best options, to make sure they still are the best. Put yourself in a rookie’s shoes again.

The evils of no-reply email

Imagine you’re in a department store. As you walk down the shoe aisle looking for the brown suedes you saw in the catalogue, a staff member catches your eye and speaks to you.

“Apologies, the catalogue shoe range is not in this area.”

Useful information, but not enough. So you say, “Thanks. Where can I find them?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t answer questions. I’m just here to tell you this one piece of information. You’ll need to go to the reception desk at the other end of the store to ask that.”


This is intuitively wrong. If a person gives you important news you expect to be able to ask them for clarification. Or ask them for details in related fields.

Providing critical info for your audience in one place but telling them they must get more details in a separate place at a different time, is awkward and unintuitive.

So why do some of our largest service providers do it?

I had a notice of works from my ISP recently – from a “No Reply” email address. I want to know more details so I can understand the impact of their changes. But I can’t just hit “reply” to ask them. Why not? They just told me about this by email. It doesn’t make sense.

You can imagine the conversation that happened internally:

“This is big. When we tell our customers, we’ll get a bunch of questions.”

“Well, we have basically two options: we could prepare support to answer their questions. Or we could make it harder to ask us those questions in the first place.”

[Sideways glances.]

Using a no-reply email address is like using your voice to talk to someone but closing your own ears – and accepting their response only in semaphore.

Instead, make it as easy as possible for your clients to get into conversations with you and your team. Effective communication goes both ways.

How many perfect niches do you need?

There are 6 billion people in the world. Each one of us is unique, with our own experiences, friends, families, lives, struggles, desires.

Our own desires.

Each of us wants something, making each of us a unique niche, the most micro of niches possible.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, the difficulty is that each of us is also capable of creating a service that would satisfy at least one of our fellow humans.

Finding your niche in business is one of the most important and difficult tasks on the entrepreneur’s journey.

So how do you decide what niche to focus on?

The perfect niche is a combination of several things.

  1. Small enough for you to gain a reputation
  2. Large enough to provide you an income
  3. Consistent enough to target precisely
  4. Unique enough that they’re not already being served
  5. In need enough that you can solve a valuable problem for them

Think of your niche not just in demographic terms, but focus instead on their need being the common factor.

What group of people do you serve? How can you describe that group as tightly as possible?

Trusting Pareto

We hear it all the time: less is more.

Lighter interfaces have been made sexy by Apple. People who think about only one task at a time get more done. Eating less is healthier for our bodies. We even hear “less is more” being used to excuse wearing ever-smaller bathers at the beach.

Pareto was considering a similar wisdom when we spoke about what we now call the Pareto Principle: that 80% of our outcomes are due to 20% of our activity.

If only we knew which 20% of our activity was going to produce the most outcomes, all of us would be on board with Pareto. The problem is that’s not always obvious.

Which is one reason why, when it comes to marketing, I find many people still create a list for themselves that includes every activity they have ever heard that might be beneficial.

We all know that we should be doing less, and putting our energy into what is going to be most valuable. Yet it’s hard to cut out activity that you know might produce some results.

It’s difficult to have faith in Pareto.

Luckily, practicality is on our side when it comes to digital marketing. We can test our campaigns easily and quickly. Advertisements, for example, can give us valid feedback after only a few days, and show us whether they will work or not. Whether they are part of the 20% or the 80%.

So it’s not just about trust. Prove to yourself what will work and what will not.

And then do more of the less that produces the more.


Last touch gets the glory

Recently, while I signed up for a relatively pricey software package, the sales person insisted that I sign up with an email address I hadn’t used before when dealing with them.

It seemed like a funny request, but I gave him one of my nickname emails and went ahead with the purchase.

It wasn’t until afterward that I realised the truth about why he had asked this.

By using a unique email, he was able to claim the referral fee for my sale – rather than have it count to one of the previous salespeople I’d dealt with in my winding journey of demonstrations and questions before getting to this point.

It didn’t annoy me, rather I found it a little amusing.

But it made me think about something we don’t talk about much with statistics online: we’re not very good at tracking the pathway that leads to a sale.

Our Google Analytics referral tracking only show us the place a visitor has been to immediately prior to clicking through to our page. It doesn’t show what history they’ve had with us before, or how often they interact, or whether they’re a current client, or social media follower, or not.

This can distort our understanding of what is working for us, as the action immediately prior to someone hitting our website and getting in touch, is the one most prominently shown to us in the stats.

Earlier steps in a campaign, if they are tracked at all, are often aggregated statistically.

How can we stop the last touch getting all the glory?

The answer is two-fold.

Yes, there is software that helps. CRM and marketing automation software like Infusionsoft can help you track individual people who respond to your messages in different places.

But a better way to understand your audience is through getting to know them personally.

If you talk with enough members of your audience, often enough, you’ll hear them tell you about what they do and why they are seeing you.

Pay attention to who interacts with you in different places, and find the similarities. Watch how they talk and what they are looking for.

Above all, ask. Then listen for the story of the entire journey.


How to create a sense of “Reveal”

Reality TV is ripe with programs that build a story around their characters as the season progresses.

Whether it’s home renovators, singers or amateur chefs, these shows all have two things in common when telling a story that keeps us watching.

Firstly, they set up tension between characters as they put people into unlikely scenarios of competition or team companionship. Stakes are high and pressure is on, and this provides drama that keeps the audience entertained.

Emotion is powerful.

I’m not suggesting you have a cook-off with your competitors. But you can show that you fight for a worthy cause, report progress, and build a team of people that believe in a common vision.

Creating drama in your brand story is a powerful way of connecting with your audience.

The second thing reality tv does is build a sense of “Reveal”.

The nights that get the highest viewer numbers, and are by far the most intense to watch, are the nights where we finally see the results of the previous episodes.

The story unfolds, the relationships simmer. The suspense is undeniably drawn out, with commentary and adverts – until, finally, the new room, or the last challenge, or the best meal, is finally revealed.

Why is this so compelling?

And, importantly, how can we create the same experience for our clients?

If you run events, then a “launch sequence” is a contrived way of building suspense and revealing your offer.

This works as a tactic, but I’m talking about something deeper and more important than that.

How can you make your clients yearn to hear more from you, to find the final piece of the puzzle, to hear the end of the story?

Create a story arc with your brand messages. Tell people where you have come from. Show them the results they will achieve. Guide them through the terrain they’ll see on their journey.

Use real humans as examples, complete with names and faces and experiences.

Your brand story can be as large or small as you need, and the more you think of it as a “story”, the more compelling you will be able to make it.

And you, and your clients, will live happily ever after.

Are you ready to serve?

The power of the digital marketing revolution is that it brings you in touch with so many people, so easily.

If you get it right, your message can be seen by thousands, even millions of people.

And if they feel a connection with your unique voice – well, that’s gold. You could end up with more enquiries than you know what to do with.

Actually, I mean that semi-seriously.

Some people get too many enquiries.

It’s a problem that the rest of the business world looks at with envy, but it is a problem nonetheless.

If you were to see your clients double, could you keep up? What about triple? Or grow by 10x?

Growing your client base comes with the responsibility of giving them all your best service.

Without a clear plan of how to grow the delivery side of your business, all those new enquiries will end up underserviced and unhappy.

This is why a marketing strategy that suits you and your business is required – so that you can set targets and plan accordingly. Your systems and capabilities need to grow along with your client base. Your marketing strategy must be integrated within a complete business growth plan.

At the end of the day, it’s not how many people have heard of your brand that matters. It’s how many people have experienced the great services you provide.

You are who Google says you are

When I was young*, it used to be that if you wanted to know something about that new girl in class, you had to ask her close friends. They would pass your questions through and return with answers only if they thought it suited the girl in question.

It was hard to get information about someone who you didn’t have direct contact with.

Nowadays, information is at our fingertips – about everyone, everywhere, and especially if you’re in business and growing your reputation.

Nowadays, your prospective clients will Google you before they get in touch.

Even if they’ve been referred to you by someone they trust, they will search you out online and click around the internet to learn more about you.

The results of that search determine whether or not they will call you.

In one sense, this is a call to action to ensure your website and social media are up to scratch, appearing well in search results, and representing you as well as possible.

You must publish content online so that you have your ideas presented in the messages that your clients see.

But it’s not just about what you say, it’s about what others say about you.

We need to recognise that we can’t control the flow of information about us as tightly as we might like. In addition to our own websites and profiles, any number of other sites and people might mention us.

Client satisfaction is more important than ever.

*This wasn’t actually that long ago

Originally published in LinkedIn.

Everywhere and Nowhere

There comes a point in most projects where we talk about promoting through social media. It’s a great platform to connect with your audience.

Often at this point a client will list off five or six of the most popular platforms that they want to use. “We want to be omnipresent.”

I then ask the tough questions: “How much time do you have for this? Do you have a dedicated staff member to manage all these channels?”

Being omnipresent takes time and resources.

And often the investment is not worth the return.

To reach more people it can be tempting to get onto more social media channels. After all, that’s logical. And you saw that young woman speak at that conference and she had some excellent case studies showing how beneficial they can be.

But each channel needs to be planned and executed well. Doing a poor job across a wide number of channels is simply a way to become ineffective in more places.

If you have limited time or resources, concentrate on the one channel where the best opportunities for you are.

Put more time and effort into less places.

The quality and energy in your interactions will be higher. You will be present and memorable to smaller circle. The impact you make will be deeper and long-lasting.

Objectives drive tactics

I follow a friend of a friend on Facebook who runs a personal health business that is more like a hobby.

She seems to change what she offers every few months, focussing on something new and raving about how good it is.

She’s also inconsistent with where she promotes her services: sometimes she’s very active on Facebook, sometimes Twitter, sometimes LinkedIn.

The result is that it’s hard to get a grasp on exactly what she does, why I would seek her out, and where I should connect.

To take her business from a hobby to something more professional (or even just to be more successful with her hobby business, if that’s what she prefers) she must be consistent.

Choose the places that are right for your message and your audience, and stick with them. If you want to experiment with something new, do that around the edges once you’ve built a reputation for your core offering.

Your base channels are defined by your business objectives, not by “next shiny object” syndrome.

For example, a bed and breakfast can use Facebook for engagement and customer service, TripAdvisor for reputation management and promotion, and a website for bookings.

These become the core pillars of their marketing funnel.

Then down the track they could add in Pinterest or Instagram to show their fabulous photos, or an advertising campaign to drive traffic to the website. These build on the base channels that they’ve already built up, meaning customer experience is consistent and staff know the right way to interact.

In this way they can take advantage of new opportunities while maintaining a comfortingly solid base.

What do the most important pieces of your marketing funnel look like?

99 Dollars

97, 99 or 100

“I’ll tell you what brilliance in advertising is: 99 cents. Somebody thought of that.”
– Roger Sterling, Mad Men

How often do you see a product ending in 99 cents?

It seems so silly when you think about it logically. Like one cent will make you think differently.

But it’s common because it works.

It plays on our surprisingly gullible human psychology and sends a message to our subconscious about pricing.

However, I heard someone speaking recently, saying that 99 has lost its effect. Our subconscious minds are becoming more used to it.

Apparently, ending a price with 97 or another odd number works better now, because it breaks the state of the reader and makes them look twice. (Whole dollars, they were talking about in this case, not cents.)

If it’s true, and it probably is, then go ahead and end all your pricing with 7s or 9s or 3.5s, or whatever else will help.

But while it may apply some slight percentage of difference to sales, a mind trick like this isn’t creating more value.

A better way to sell exponentially more is to give your clients more value, to solve their problems for them and enrich their lives.

If you get that right you’ll gain at least 97 times the benefit, I promise.

Concierge Sales

Concierge sales

Picture this: it’s my wedding anniversary, and my wife and I are at a nice restaurant. We had the oysters as an entree and a superb main course. A good bottle of red between us.

It’s warm, the conversation is flowing, and we’re enjoying the experience (the kids are with a capable babysitter).

A waiter comes to offer us the dessert menu and some more drink options.

We want to stay for as long as we can, so end up with something decadently chocolate and a couple of cocktails. And then coffee after that.

That waiter – the waiter who gave us the opportunity to extend our experience – that waiter.

He’s doing sales.

But I love him more than any “salesperson” I’ve ever met.

Think about it.

He’s offering us products, and we buy them. And we love him for it.

So why is it that so many people are afraid of sales?

If a client has a good experience with you, and if you’re giving them a service that they need and value, then buying from you should be a similar experience as with my waiter friend. It should be something they want to do.

An important part of your client’s journey is her experience of you before she actually meets you. Your marketing, your social media persona, the gossip she hears about you from your other clients.

This experience primes her to like and trust you.

Then when you talk or meet in person, this feeling must be reinforced and authenticated – she needs to be confident her trust is well-placed. When she experiences your services and their benefits, the value she receives must be tangible.

Aim to line up all these steps along the path, and your client will be happy to engage you, and pay for it. The sales conversation changes totally, from needing to convince a client, to being their concierge and simply showing them what is on offer.

In fact, just like a waiter at the end of a great meal, it would actually be bad service not to offer her more.

Not as important

Your logo: not as important as you think

The golden arches – everyone knows them, they’re a worldwide phenomenon and one of the most recognisable symbols of our time. As I drive down the highway with my kids, every time we see a McDonald’s sign I’m reminded of the love this logo inspires.

Why do we have such a reaction to a curved yellow “M”?

A bunch of other shapes immediately spring to mind when we think of famous logos, like the Nike “swoosh” and the Mercedes star.

What do these logos mean?

(And why didn’t McDonald’s choose a picture of a hamburger to represent them?)

Logos of big brands are given meaning in our minds by the communication and marketing around them, by the experiences and memories we have of their the products and services they represent.

The teams of marketers who work on these brands craft their communication so that the logo is associated with a particular feeling or message, over and over again. Eventually, like Pavlov’s dogs, we see the logo and experience with the feeling.

The task for these marketers can actually be easier if the logo they’re using doesn’t have a prior meaning in your mind. It gives them a unique space to start their work.

So important factors in any logo they work with are being unique, simple and memorable.

But here’s the sting: you probably don’t have the budget of McDonald’s, and you need to see a more immediate return from your promotions.

The logo you use is far less important for you than you think.

Yes, your logo represents who you are. Yes, it needs to be professional. Yes, you need it to make a good first impression.

Your logo needs to support your goals and align visually with your values.

But don’t let logo design stop you from doing real work. Clients are going to be affected far more by their experience with you and your product, than by your logo.

For small business owners promotion is less about long-term branding and more about the connection you make, the offer you give, and the response you get.

Spend less time vacillating on your logo and focus on what you can do for your clients to give them a truly fulfilling experience.