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Occasionally, far too rarely actually, I come across a truly brilliant marketing campaign that benefits not only the marketer but everyone else involved.

Enter . . .  the Fourth Annual Holiday Feed It Forward™ campaign of Restaurant.com:

Here’s the Deal . . . 
Each year around the holidays, Restaurant.com enables anyone to ‘give away’ $10 Gift Certificates to anyone they like . . . as a gift . . . absolutely FREE!

How / Why It Works . . . 
Restaurant.com is a firm that helps roughly 18,000 restaurants generate customers. It does this by allowing people like you and me to buy its ‘gift certificates’ at a discount and these 18,000 restaurants honor the ‘face’ value of each certificate.  The restaurants get more traffic, consumers get a good value (and, hopefully a good meal) and Restaurant.com gets a nominal fee for each transaction

That’s smart.  Afterall, each participating restaurant only incurs a ‘cost’ of sales (the discount and fee) when this promotional tactic actually pays off.  I love anything that changes the ‘pay now and pray later’ marketing media into one you only need to pay for when it actually works!  That’s what Restaurant.com does — very nicely.

The 2012 Restaurant.com Holiday Gift-Away . . .
For the last four years, to help all the parties in the equation — restaurants and consumers — Cary Chessik, CEO of Restaurants.com has allowed anyone to give a ‘gift’ of $10 to people they know as a simple act of ‘feeding it forward’.

This is altruism and commercialism as it helps Cary’s restaurant clients by putting ‘butts in the seats’ for them.  At the same time, it provides people like you and me with an opportunity to say, “Thanks” to many people in our lives in what may find this is a time that’s more financially difficult for more people than we may ever know.

It’s 100% legit — I’ve used this myself already — and I hope you would use this opportunity to give a $10 Gift Card to up to 40 people each day between now and Christmas.

KEY POINT:
Marketing makes a difference in the lives of people by connecting us all.  Use this ‘Feed It Forward’ opportunity to do the same with people in your world . . . all you’ll feel is good . . . and appreciated! 

I get a daily email from HARO (Help A Reporter Out) — brainchild of Peter Shankman. HARO is a service that provides a venue for reporters and bloggers and sources of news and information to connect. It’s totally free and it’s made Shankman well-known and a hero to many of us who seek quality sources for our content.

Recently, he spoke at a blogging conference on how to build relationships online. He was a smashing success, holding the room spellbound for 90 minutes sharing his views on life as much as business. Here are 4 highlights from his talk:

Own It — whatever you do online with a project, share it.  Things won’t always go as you like.  It happens (or, something like that!).  Do your best to make things right.  To make things work.  And if you don’t or can’t . . . own it.  People will regard and respect you more than if you live in denial and seek to blame others for the situations you may find yourself in.

Be Relevant — building a base of fans requires that you offer what people want.  People don’t care about you.  They care about themselves.  If you honor that by offering what they want, they’ll give you what you seek — support and attention and loyalty.

Learn How To Communicate — people have all the time in the world as well as the attention span of a gnat!  If you want to attract and keep the attention of people, you must learn how to make your content not only relevant but rendered coherently as well.

Keep In Touch — it’s so easy to make connections online but it’s difficult to build them into relationships of substance.  Peter suggests making yourself uncomfortable.  “Call people and say, “Hi, how are you doing?”.  It’s going to be difficult.   But it’s also going to make you stand out.  In a good way.

Apologies if this graphic is ‘too big’, but the key point behind today’s post deserves it!

The 7 Steps Have Been Updated!
Yesterday, I mentioned that the book: Duct Tape Marketing (the worlds most practical small business marketing guide) has been changed to reflect the evolution of marketing as a ‘mission critical’ business function.

There’s been a shift away from marketing that interrupts and toward marketing that attracts.  Some refer to this as ‘inbound vs. outbound’ marketing or ‘prospect-initiated’ vs. ‘seller-initiated’ marketing.  Why?  In a word, “Google”.  As Wayne Gretsky once said, “I go to where the puck is going to be . . . not where is is now”.  Similarly, marketers want to be found by prospects when they (prospects) are ready to buy (or, are seriously looking for information to help them do so in the fairly near future).

STEP 1:  Strategy Before Tactics
The ‘old’ Step 1  was “Narrow Your Focus”.  The idea behind that is still sound — find your ‘ideal client / market / niche’ and go for it.  The idea was that by not seeking to be all things to all people, you’d stand out or differentiate yourself to the people you most want as clients.

The ‘new’ Step 1 is “Strategy Before Tactics’.  Now, in addition to defining your Ideal Client and market, you also want to be really clear about why your firm would be seen — by your Ideal Client — as a ‘preferred provider’ of your problem-solving expertise.  We call that ‘differentiation’ and part of that is clarifying your ‘Message’ so you’ll stand out to your Ideal Client.

As the above graphic shows, this combination of aligning both your Mission / Message with your Market is the basis of your Strategy.

Strategy is the FILTER for Your Possible Tactics
Once you have a laser-tight clarity about:

1.  WHO you want to attract / sell and
2.  WHY / HOW you can stand out to your Ideal Client

you have found your Strategy!

Tactics Without Strategy . . . Is a Problem . . . for You
Using any Tactic without the benefit of a coherent Strategy, is like trying to build a house without a blueprint.  Your workers may show up and they can hammer wood and nails all day long but . . . in the end, it may not look like what you want nor will it serve the purpose you had in mind.

It’s easy to just pick a(ny) tactic . . . and ‘go to town’ with it. Business people do it every day!  But without a strategy to help you decide if it will support your long-term business goals, you may be spending more time and money than you like and getting less ROI for that than you want.  (Ouch!)

Your Marketing Strategy . . . Helps You Decide What’s Relevant
. . . and, what is not.  Once you have your Strategy defined, USE IT — as a filter to see which marketing tactics will ALIGN with your goals and SUPPORT you in achieving the success in your business you desire.

If any tactic — and they’re all intrinsically good at some level — is going to support you and your success, then you should consider using it.  If it won’t, don’t. Simple.

KEY POINT:
Effective marketing reflects an ALIGNMENT of the DECISIONS you make (Strategy — WHO / WHY) and the ACTIONS you take (Tactics — WHAT / WHEN / WHERE / HOW) to market your services.  And THAT . . . is why we say, “Strategy BEFORE Tactics” at Duct Tape Marketing.  

Tomorrow, another change in the 7 Steps . . . and, why!

“What do I / we do BETTER than anyone else?”

This question is designed to help you learn what your Ideal Client considers your COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE or, as some like to say, your ‘Unique Value Proposition’ . . . the factor that makes you DISTINCTIVE and BETTER to work with than your alleged competitors.

This question belongs on every client survey!

So often the responses your clients give are rarely what you might cite as the factors that makes you distinctive and valuable to your clients.

It’s difficult to see yourself as others see you.  But knowing what makes you ‘stand out’ to the kind of client you seek to attract is marketing TNT!

The insight this question produces often reveals a significant key to your competitive edge . . . in terms that the people you want to attract would actually use to describe you.

KEY POINT:
Learn what makes you STAND OUT . . . as your Ideal Client understands it!

“Why do you see me / my firm as the BEST OPTION?”

The first question was focused on the factor/s that prompts a qualified prospect to understand why they need something you do or offer.

This question is designed to help you learn what it is about you that makes an Ideal Client perceive you as the best source of the solution they’re seeking.  In other words, why do Ideal Clients perceive you to be a Preferred Provider of the solution they’re seeking?

The first question dealt with a MACRO issue . . . what’s the problem or PAIN that makes your kind of service relevant or desired?

This question deals with a MICRO issue . . . what is it about you / your firm that, all things being equal, makes you appear (everything is perception, right?) to be the BEST OPTION to get the solution they want?

Again, knowing what makes you STAND OUT to the kind of people you want to attract (at your competitors’ expense, of course) will help you attract the attention of and response from people who can best understand, value and desire the beneficial difference you can provide with your problem-solving expertise and services.

This question . . . is all about you . . . it’s all about what tells an Ideal Client that YOU . . . are the best provider of the solution someone wants.

KEY POINT:
Learn what makes you BETTER than your competitors . . . as your Ideal Client sees it!

” __ __ __ __  Happens!!”
Yes, it does.  There’s even a bumper-sticker based on that truth! A colleague and I just lived through our own little ‘train wreck’.  We weren’t responsible for it.  But we were able to respond and recover from it.

In fact, there’s a good lesson here on how YOU can make the most of a difficult situation when the __ __ __ __  hits the fan!

Step 1:  Don’t Blame
It’s tempting.  But it won’t change the situation.  It usually makes it take longer to resolve.

Step 2: Take Ownership of The Recovery Process
A personal commitment to do ‘whatever’ it takes to correct the situation is vital.  It forces you to focus on the future (under your control) vs. the past (not under your control).  That’s positive.  And, productive.

Step 3:  Commit To Specific Individuals That You’ll Correct The Situation
Seek out the people who are most compromised by the situation and pledge your personal commitment to make them whole, again.  Write them a ‘check’ to fix it.  Then, ‘cash’ it.

Step 4:  Make a Plan of Action to Correct The Situation
Learn why the problem developed.  That helps you develop a set of actions that will correct the current situation . . . and prevent it from happening in the future.

Step 5:  Implement Your Plan
Once you know WHY the problem happened and WHAT you must to do to correct it . . . DO IT!  Nothing changes until your intentions become true actions.

KEY POINT:
Stuff happens.  After that, anything else that happens is really up to Y-O-U.

“I don’t know” isn’t the end of the world
When I was starting out in business, I was reluctant to tell a prospect, “I don’t know” when I was asked a question about how taxes, policy provisions or  business law would affect them.

As I ‘matured’ in my career, I learned to get real — real comfortable admitting, “I don’t know” to many of the questions I was being asked.

Be ‘OK’ being ‘Not-OK’
Social psychologists have proven over and over again that your ability to openly acknowledge that you are NOT perfect . . . that you don’t have all the answers . . . actually makes you more attractive to a prospective client.

Seek to demonstrate . . . “Credible Candor”
The fact is . . . your ‘trustworthiness’ factor goes up whenever you exhibit what I call, “Credible Candor”.  This means you say, when it’s true, “I don’t know”.  This makes you more ‘real’ (i.e. less ‘plastic’) and, therefore highly attractive to prospects.  Just be sure you add something like, “. . . but I’ll make sure I find out for you!”.

What you DO is more telling than anything you might SAY to a prospect or client.  Behavior that reveals you’re not perfect in every way – makes you seem  even more perfect to others.

KEY POINT:
Be Human . . . you’ll reveal your imperfections . . . and become more attractive 

 

A recent post on LinkedIn prompted me to reply.  The question was prompted by a company asking, “How can I compete with the ‘Big Boys’ in my business?”  The business in question is ‘home remodeling’ and yes, there are all kinds of players in that field — from newbies to seasoned pros who’ve been in ‘the biz’ since they were born (or, so it seems!)

ASK . . . And Ye Shall Receive (Great Marketing Insight!)
I suggested the person survey his clients and learn what his ‘ideal client’ wants from a remodeler and then use those insights to make sure he’s operating in such a way that he’s seen as ‘more’ attractive on those qualities than his competitors — big or small.

A Practical Example of Managing Impressions to Cement Perceptions
One of my clients, a siding and windows company learned (by surveying his clients) that ‘appearances’ affect which firm a prospect is likely to hire. As a result, he pays for his crews to have a clean uniform and a truck wash EVERY day! Why?

Because it’s what his target market members want from a firm they’ll hire to replace their siding and windows. When this firm does work in someone’s home, they also wear surgical booties over their shoes, too. Why? They are managing the IMPRESSIONS they make on a client. That helps the client form a PERCEPTION about the firm that, “All things being equal, THIS firm is ‘better”. Seems to be working as his market share has been growing . . . at the expense of other firms in the same geographical area and business.

KEY POINT:
Manage the EXPERIENCE . . . Cement the PERCEPTION . . . Beat the COMPETITION!

There’s a new business that sells some very cool, very fashionable items.  Online. It’s called “fab.com”.

It’s the brainchild of Jason Goldberg, Fab’s CEO.  Jason’s smart — with an MBA from Stanford University.  And well connected — he worked for President Bill Clinton for 6 years as one of Clinton’s White House staff.

Great Fashionable Items at Great Prices
So Jason gets this crazy idea to start-up the business called fab.com and in 115 days since launch, fab has over 650,000 members (it’s free but you must still apply and be accepted) and over 100,000 orders.  The press on this new venture is nothing short of phenomenal with coverage by anyone and any media that is worthy of note — Forbes, WSJ, CBS News, Fast Company, etc. — you get the idea.

The Power of Personal Touches
But look at what Jason Goldberg the founder and CEO of fab.com is doing.  The picture above is an actual, handwritten note sent along with one (of a number, I presume) of those 100,000 or so orders.  Yep. Jason Goldberg, CEO of this exponentially growing business (fab.com’s on track to do $10,000,000 in sales before the first year is over)  is sending random ‘love’ notes of appreciation to his new customers.  Way to go, Jason!

KEY POINT:
When company leaders engage in high-touch activities with customers, everyone benefits!

This year, we’ve had work done on our home.  A number of contractors have ‘graced’ the property.  Landscapers, irrigation specialists, hardwood floor experts, painters, etc.  My wife Joyce said, “We’ve seen more contractors this year than when the house was being built”.  I agree.  It does seem that way.

Candor is Attractive
On a scale of 1 – 10, where 10 is high, our contractors have, for the most part, fallen into the “6 – 8” range. They’ve been ‘above average’ in their expertise and the ‘experience’ we’ve had with them.  But three people have earned a ’10’ from us. Why?  “Candor”

“Pardon, Your Foundation is Showing . . . And You’ve Got Cracks!”
Each of our ‘Top 3’ people were completely transparent with us. What impressed us was their candor about work someone in their company had done . . . incorrectly.

Disclosure is Disarming and . . . Charming
As hard as it is to acknowledge a mistake, it reveals character and integrity when you do. Showing your imperfections makes you human and builds your credibility with clients. It’s also the first step in recovering and restoring the goodwill that’s ‘at risk’ if you don’t.

KEY POINT:
Admitting your mistakes . . . makes you more attractive . . . to prospects and clients