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Today’s post is dedicated to a lady named Kate Barber who founded a business (Big Steps Little Feet) that is truly amazing and wonderful.

Kate graduated university with a degree in Dance and became the director of a dance school in Sydney, Australia. While there, she discovered that learning to dance is not the same thing as dancing to learn.  To Kate, creative movement and dance is but a means to the end of a child’s self-discovery and joyful expression of creativty and not an end in and of itself.

Follow Your Passion, Kate!
Kate obviously loves children and the creative aspect of teaching children to experience the world through creative and contemporary movement i.e. dance. So she continued to study early childhood development and how creative movement plays a key role in the way young children engage with their environment, stimulate their creativity and develop their cognitive and physical abilities.

Passions Fuel Dreams and Make Them Real
In 2004, Kate started her own ‘brand’ of creative movement for young children that she called, aptly, “Big Steps Little Feet“.  It’s so much more than a dance school!  Kate uses creative dance for babies, waddlers and toddlers as a way to promote healthy development (physically, mentally and emotionally) while fostering strong bonds between parent and child.

Successful Results (700% Growth in Year 1) Reflects Market Alignment 
In her first year of operation as Big Steps Little Feet, Kate’s enrollment grew 700%.  Why? Because what she does resonates beautifully with her target audience — “Mums, age 35 – 45, who are well educated, have discretionary income and appreciate a quality experience for their children”.

Postscript
You might wonder how I ‘met’ Kate Barber and her lovely business Big Steps Little Feet — given that it’s in Sydney, Australia.  Actually, I was alerted to a question she posed on a marketing site (MarketingProfs.com) and I replied.  I then Googled the company and found her profile on facebook.  From there, I found a link to her website.

Several lessons here:

1.  Do what you love . . .
(life’s too short to squander who you are on what you don’t love to do)

2.  When you’re clear about what you offer . . . the right people will respond to you
(alignment / target market)

3.  The world is very connected if you’re ‘online’
Walt Disney was right . . . it IS a ‘small World’ afterall

Is there value in targeting a ‘niche’ instead of ‘anyone and everyone’?

Well, if a 2008 college drop-out can start a firm that caters to ‘moms’ who want / need financial advice and last month raised $19 million to help it launch a round of new products, then . . . YES!  Yes, finding a niche seems like a damned good if not a great idea.

Started by Alexa von Tobel, LearnVest is an online site that caters to the unique needs of women to learn and practice financial principles for the good of their family and themselves.

Alexa’s choice of a well-defined, geographically-diverse and significantly-sized market segment is brilliant.  The fact that many companies and financial planners are not already targeting this rather significant group of household decision-makers is rather surprising!

Providing an easily accessed, women-centric version of financial education through a variety of highly interactive tutorials, checklists and other tools in a ‘cozy yet professional’ website seems to have been a smart way to differentiate LearnVest from the myriad groups of planners who all seem rather vanilla to most of us.

KEY POINT:
Finding a niche that needs what you offer and others aren’t = Ka-Ching!

I don’t usually tout some company or person.  The implications are often misunderstood or taken to be an endorsement beyond what was intended.  But today, my first day back online and with power since early Sunday morning, I had a great experience with a Matthew Smith over at BigContacts.com.

I’m publishing my note to Bob Walton, Founder of the company because I hope it helps him and BigContacts.com.  But I really hope it enlightens you, my readers, about what ‘good service’ looks like and what it does for all the parties involved — the consumer, the company and the brand.  Enjoy:

To:  Bob Walton, Founder / BigContacts.com

I just had a great call with a Matthew Smith of your organization.  I had to recognize him as a super ‘Brand Ambassador’ for your company.  You’re very fortunate to have him making contact with people like me . . . a prospect for your organization.

Matthew’s responses to my questions were forthright, accurate and helpful.  But mostly, his attitude was most definitely customer-centric.  In a world where service is a lost art and a forgotten element of differentiation . . . Matthew Smith did you really, really proud today.  

I will be working more diligently to ‘test’ your system (kudos on your thoughtful website and design — most impressive, too!) and intend to reach a decision this week.  Not that it should make a difference, but if the other system I’m considering is ‘as good’ as your system, I will go with BigContacts because they don’t have Matthew Smith working for them.  

I may not have the good fortune to reconnect with Matthew again, but the fact that your management was smart enough to have him working for you in the first place tells me that you make ‘good decisions’ and that . . . is what makes all the difference in the world to a consumer like me.

Thank you . . . after surviving a couple of days without electricity, running water and limited ability to move around after our encounter with Hurricane Irene, speaking with Matthew was a true pleasure and a most thankful experience in the wake of a couple of really not-so-fun days of bad weather and no power.

Cordially,

Bill

I don’t often tout a product.  Today’s an exception. 

I found a really cool little online service this week.  ContactMe. This cloud-based service makes it easy for people who find you online to contact you and it helps you manage your follow-up with them, as well.  Very nice little app — Check it out on the right side of the page!

I also found another service called “Notebook“.

This little app organizes all kinds of information that I find on websites, in emails, Word documents, etc. in a way that’s very intuitive and extremely easy to use.

Where’s The WOW Factor?
These apps exist because they solve problems. Period. And these apps are . . . FUN!

“Easy and Fun” Beats “Difficult and Complicated”
I’ve given up far more sophisticated CRM software because ‘hard-to-learn’ or ‘difficult to use’ is going to LOSE . . . every time.

Form and Function (Should!) Go Together 
Both these apps are GOOD LOOKING,  INTUITIVE and SIMPLE.  That’s not easy!   It takes a lot of thought to create something you can use easily and effectively without thinking about it.

Attitude
In the ContactMe blog there’s a post where they introduced an innovative change in their service.  They wrote, “You Asked.  We Listened.  We Delivered”.  That reflects their attitude of CARING for the relationships that make their business successful.  Do that for your business.  It is a beautiful thing to see.

KEY POINT:
Demonstrating you CARE about what matters to your client . . . is a competitive edge 

Peter Montoya is the author of a book called, The Brand Called YOU.  Peter’s a very insightful person who understands that, as a service provider, what people buy before anything else is . . . your brand.

Makes sense.  Afterall, it’s the first thing a prospective client learns about you — often even before they meet you in-person.

Prospects, clients and centers-of-influence use the brand called ‘YOU’ to help them identify you and your business from your competitors.  How?  By triggering an association of ideas, thoughts and feelings that your brand represents or suggests.  Your challenge is to ensure those associations reflect what you want and not . . . something else.

Your Personal Brand:

  • triggers . . . an association of thoughts and feelings people have about you
  • reflects . . . the cumulative effect of all the contacts people have with you over time
  • prepares . . . people about what to expect / not expect about working with you
  • occurs . . . by design or by accident and that . . . is always YOUR choice

KEY POINT:
Your brand . . . is a key factor in shaping expectations of key people for your business

From time to time we all benefit from a little bit of ‘wisdom’ from people who know what they’re talking about . . . if you agree, this might just be your lucky day!

“Thanks” to our friends at Hubspot for this beautiful slideshow of marketing wisdom!

Many people don’t think of management as a marketing strategy or as a key to growing revenues  But it is.

I recently changed a banking relationship from one bank to another.  The new manager, Bill McDougall was a big factor in my switching.  But it wasn’t until today that I realized why I’m glad I’m now with Farmington Bank.

While in the bank I casually mentioned in front of a teller that my ‘transition’ to their bank was not as smooth as I had hoped or expected.  Not a deal-breaker.  I wasn’t a ‘flight risk’.  And I probably shouldn’t have said anything in front of the bank teller.  But I did.

Later that day, I got an email from Bill who said, “I heard you had some challenges.  Let’s talk.  We’re committed to making sure our customers are happy”.  No defensiveness.  Just regard for my experience and for the experience the bank could use to improve their performance with other customers.  WOW!

I reflected on this. The more I did, the better Bill and Farmington Bank looked.  Here’s why . . . Bill’s email reflected a sincere regard and CARING for me as his customer.  The fact that his tellers LISTENED to what I’d said (another form of caring!) and then SHARED that information with Bill (a reflection of TRUST in Bill and of their RESPONSE-ABILITY to act in a proactive manner on behalf of the customer and the bank) are all good signs.

OK, Farmington Bank isn’t perfect.  Neither am I.  Who is?  But a bank with a culture that:

  • has and honors a commitment to its customers,
  • recruits people who can demonstrate that commitment with their actions
  • encourages people to create a WOW! experience
  • has managers whose leadership encourages trust in their staff

Is pretty darned amazing!  You may not be near Farmington Bank.  But you can learn some great lessons in marketing by seeing how they manage their customer’s experience.  Now THAT . . . is a great basis for differentiating any business — including yours — from its competitors.

KEY POINT:
Caring is the unconditional regard for your customers that manifests in action on their behalf

This is the logo of a unique organization that’s found a good cause to support and a way to do so that leaves everyone a winner.

Thanks A Bunch is a website where you make a $10 contribution and a member of the US Armed Forces (or, their family in the states) will receive a gift card worth $50 that can be redeemed at over 14,000 restaurants in the US and around the world.

They’ve teamed up with restaurants seeking to increase traffic by offering a discount to diners.  Their deal for the military and their families:

1) gives donors a tax-deductible 500% ROI (your broker and banker can’t do that!),
2) boosts traffic for participating restaurants at cost or near-cost, and
3) makes a special ‘night out’ possible for a a military family whose father, mother, son or daughter is serving our country overseas.  Man, that’s a win-win-win for all!

How YOU Can Use This Same Idea In Your Business

1. Identify a worthy cause — US military, homeless animals, etc.
2. Identify a product or service or ‘credit’ you can offer (“at cost”)
3. Know your ‘hard cost’ of your offer (so you don’t lose money)
4. Approach an organization or business that serves the worthy cause
5. Make a deal — you offer a ‘killer deal’ and they ‘promote it’ to their people
6. Enjoy the increased, zero-cost traffic
7. Plan to give your new customers a reason to return soon (to buy again!)
8. Create a ‘club’ with ‘free membership’ for everyone you attract
9. Cultivate your ‘members’ to stay top-of-mind over time
10. Keep your competitors guessing how you did it!

KEY POINT:
In challenging times, get creative . . . and you’ll get more business, too!

Sooner or later, it’s going to happen.  A disaster.  You didn’t plan on it (DUH!).  You certainly didn’t want it.  But you have to deal with it or your business is in serious doo-doo.

Experience and commonsense suggest that quickly and openly acknowledging an experience your customer or client or patient found compromising and then doing something positive in response is not only likely to retain their business but make yours even more attractive.  It’s called response-ability — your ability to respond to the need of your client for a ‘warm fuzzy’ about your business or practice is . . . huge.

Airbnb . . . screwed up but . . . recovered nicely!
Airbnb is an online service that allows people to offer their home to others, for a fee.  It’s a cool idea, actually.  Say you’re traveling to Paris, France.  You check available accommodations and Voila! you have a not-so-commercial way to be ‘in country’ that most travelers will never know.

Unfortunately, risking a great experience exposes you to a not-so-good one, too.  That happened to a lady in San Francisco, CA who used the online service and had her home trashed by her ‘guests’.  Not good.  Airbnb’s initial response was to blame the client and protect itself.  Evenutally, due to public outcry, it owned the problem and went to great lengths to remedy the lady’s situation.  As a result, Airbnb turned ‘lemons into lemonade’.

KEY POINT:
______ happens.  When it does, learn to recover quickly, decisively and effectively!

“Don’t Hide Your Light Under a Bushel”
I loved this book.  No, I didn’t read it.  I just read the cover!  It’s ‘over-the-top’.  But that’s why I’m writing about it and not something else.

My friend, THIS . . . is great copy!  “Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!).  Telling like it is (or, you hope it will be) is very, very attractive, isn’t it?

Skinny Bitch and The Elevator Pitch
Nice rhyme.  But I digress . . . My point of this post is that, like a book cover, your ‘introductory comments’ AKA elevator pitch need to rise above the hum-drum and capture the attention of people you’re talking with.  If it’s benign and ‘vanilla-esque’ then you’ll likely not be noticed and that, in business, can be verrrry deadly!

So ‘Go For It’ . . . take a chance . . . on change.  Tell the world WHO you are by sharing WHAT you do and FOR WHOM.  And when you think you’ve got it . . . throw in 20% more ‘edginess’ . . . just to be sure your words will work.

KEY POINT:
Tell it like it is . . . Go BIG or Go Home