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Peanut Butter Cups and Contrary Marketing

Traditional marketing teaches you to take an intimate inward look at your business, your product, your service, your ideas, or you, to determine specifically how you are better than your competition. This new understanding of your “market value” will provide you with the ammo you need to promote your offering effectively and profitably.

How is that approach working for you? Not so great, I bet. Why is that? Your competition is looking inward and coming to similar conclusions, which are then voiced, or printed identically to yours.

If what you are saying, if how you’re perceived by your marketplace, is the same as your competition, then the only thing remaining upon which you can compete, is price. It is this flaw in the traditional approach to marketing that consistently causes your individual marketing efforts to cost you money rather than making money.

Your marketplace needs a reason to call you instead of your competition. You don’t really need to be different, or do anything differently than your competition, but you do need to be perceived differently than your competition.

“Being better is one thing. Being different is everything.” That slogan describes Contrary Marketing in a nutshell. To succeed in your marketing efforts, your sales efforts, and more recently, in your social media efforts you must have a unique differentiation strategy in place.

So, what is it that makes you different from your competition? In what way are you perceived by your marketplace that answers the question, “Why should we choose you over your competition?”

I haven’t lived in Cleveland for over 30 years, however, I am still a dyed in the wool fan of the Cleveland Browns football team. During the commercial break in a recent game between the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals there was a commercial for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

I don’t know about you, but I love Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I could tell you all the reasons, including the way the chocolate tastes and that little bit of grittiness in each bite that makes this treat one of my favorites of all time. But honestly, marketing a candy based on the positive attributes of its taste and texture does not set the product apart from its competition. Other candies can say with confidence, “our candy has a great taste, and great texture.”

What struck me about the campaign was the new strategic slogan employed by the company. This new slogan answers the question, “in a world filled with great candy, why should a buyer choose a Peanut Butter Cup?” The answer that this commercial gave is, “The Perfect Mix.”

That’s right. Separate from all other candies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups provides you with the perfect mix. What does that mean? Is it the perfect mix? To be candid, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the perception.

When you invest in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup the “perfect mix” is what you get. That perception alone sets this treat apart from its competitors, who by the way, cannot now refer to their candy product as the “perfect mix.”

Why not? Because… the perception of the “perfect mix” is now taken by Reese’s in the candy marketplace. That perception is no longer available as a unique differentiation strategy.

This is the type of perception you need to create for your business. If there is one thing certain to boost your business in the year 2011 and beyond, it is developing and promoting a customized differentiation strategy for your business.

I will leave you with a story.

It’s difficult, if not downright impossible to attend a business networking meeting these days where you don’t find at least one representative of a company that provides quick and professional framing. In some of our more populated cities, it is not unusual to find more than one of these companies in attendance. When it’s time for the elevator pitch, some say, “We’re fast.” Others say, “We’re rapid.” And others say, “We’re quick.” And, they are.

I know a man who owns such a company. Our agency suggested that his business would be more profitable if he had a differentiation strategy that gave his marketplace a reason to do business with him instead of the competition.

He countered by saying that what made him different already was his commitment to service. However his competition talked about their commitment to service also, so that’s not really a differentiator.

He’s in the “Baby Boomer” age range, and speaks with an Eastern European accent. It was suggested that he capitalize on those facts, and put his service out as, “Old World Picture Framing” with the slogan, “We Take Longer, and It Shows.” That’s a differentiator.

In a world filled with picture framing competition that is fast, rapid, and quick, where would you rather take that fine piece of art or priceless photograph? You would do business with a shop that you felt would give your piece the attention it deserved.

Does the shop have to do anything differently than their speedy counterparts? I don’t think so. Can the shop charge more than their competition for doing basically the same job? I do think so. Why? Because of perception. If the market believes that what you provide is what they really need, they will choose you.

Your differentiation strategy may come to you in a moment, or your search may continue for months. In many cases, you are too close to your business and may need a fresh pair of eyes to come up with an effective strategy. I get e-mails all the time from business owners asking me to assess their strategy. If you are interested in such an assessment, you can contact me by e-mail at info@SMPerception.com.

Remember, being better is one thing. Being different is everything.

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Business Networking and Sex

No politics, no religion, and no sex. That’s a networking rule I was taught early on. This is a rule to live by if you want your business networking to be effective, productive, and profitable.

Just before the recent 2010 mid-term election there was an awful lot of politicking being done on the old Facebook. There was a series of posts from a supposedly neutral “civic leader” badmouthing the current President, day after day, without offering anything constructive or enlightening as an alternative. Then there’s the flip side… with certain people finding nothing nice to say (day after day) about a certain former Alaskan governor.

Imagine being asked to listen to political ravings from someone each time you showed up at a traditional 3-D networking event. Even if you liked the person, you would probably run and hide when you saw him coming. You’d want him detained, restrained, or at least given a talking to by the Networking Police.

Now, as a fellow business networker and your Facebook friend, I do care about and respect your beliefs and your right to express them. But, that doesn’t mean I want or need to know the details… especially when it comes to politics, religion, and sex.

Just last week one of my friends on Facebook, someone I’m also friends with on a personal level, decided to go ballistic in one of his posts. It was a real rant and, bottom line, really unsuitable. He wins a dubious honor by managing to violate two of the components of appropriate networking at one time.

I was blown away. First, because he said what he said. Second, he said it on Facebook.

You have to remember that what you say on Facebook, as well as most other social networking sites, stays in cyberspace forever, a kind of ghost, following you around. Someday it could come back to haunt you.

As rules go… the idea of no political, religious, or sex conversations in a networking environment seems fitting. Or, maybe I’m just getting old?

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Be My Friend on Facebook. Now Buy from Me.

I was just looking through my Facebook invitations and noticed that the first communication I get from many of my “friends” is an invitation urging me to buy something, or listen to something that will end up in me buying, or buying into something.

I tried to find prior Facebook posts from each of these friends that had a message that I might find valuable on a personal level. Nope. None to be found. All I could find were posts trumpeting the product in question or no additional posts at all.

I wish I could command you to remember that nobody likes to be sold to (not even you). Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in Facebook for Business, but please, unless I ask directly, can we do business a little later down the road?

Networking online or offline flourishes when there is at least an attempt at creating some type of personal relationship before you start selling. Facebook is a great way to initiate and maintain those relationships, and you have to work at it.

Sending out mass invites certainly works for some and I know sales can be looked at as a numbers game, but I don’t want to be looked at as a number. Especially not from someone who claims to be my friend.

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Here’s to Social Media, Tin Cans, and Turkey on Thanksgiving

Growing up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, there was a period of my life when I was an avid user of tin cans and string to communicate with Bruce Schaeffer across the driveway separating our houses. We both lived on the second floor of our respective two family homes. Until we pulled the string tightly at both ends, we weren’t really “online.” But once the string was pulled taut and I could recognize the muffled, “Hey, can you hear me?” that sounded like Bruce, I was in heaven.

The fact that I could hear my friend’s voice coming from this rudimentary device represented a technological breakthrough of the first order. Although I didn’t know it at the time,  I was experiencing my first personal and private communications device. The only thing in the world that could have been better was the new, but way too pricey, walkie-talkies for kids.

Dick Tracy, the famous cartoon police detective, actually relied on a two-way wrist radio/tv. We all dreamed of the day when gadgets like picture-phones might give us the opportunity to see the people we called. I was a realistic kid though, and knew that contraptions that would revolutionize my ability to communicate with others just weren’t possible in my lifetime. (Transistors were just making their debut.)

But then, buttons replaced the dial on the telephone and we could call someone in half the time. Next came computers, box sized cell phones, the internet, and the iPhone. My goodness! The new iPhone IS a Dick Tracy two-way radio/tv… with a mini computer and entertainment center thrown in for good measure.

And then, there’s Social Media. As I see it, Social Media is the innoivative art of setting up cans and a series of strings in cyberspace so you can have a meaningful dialogue with others. For your business, Social Media provides a great tool for stretching a string to your prospects. Social Media can thank predecessors like the personal computer and the internet for the scope of its power. Who would’ve imagined how far we would come in so short a time?

In fewer than 50 years we have shot right by a technological reality I could only dream of in 1960. And you know what? I’m grateful.

Even though it’s the wonders of  technology we’re discussing I don’t want that to sound materialistic,  Even though I love and want all the new “toys,” I really am grateful.

As those of us in the United States prepare for a holiday based on gratitude I fully realize that this new world of communication opportunities has made our lives better, and has helped revitalize my marketing agency. Yet, when I look at where these five decades of communications progress has left us… I laugh. I laugh because in today’s world, after all is said and done, what we’re all really doing when we communicate with each other is nothing more than a space age application of a string and two cans.

So, pick up your can, tighten the string, and hear me say, “Happy Holidays.”

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Identify a Successful Brand Strategy with a Perceptual Map

Backwards Marketing” and “Backwards Selling” are the two main principles of Contrary Marketing™.

“Backwards Marketing” is when your tactics are put into place before you identify your brand strategy. This usually creates the need for you to compete on price.

Your brand strategy is designed to create a perception of your business that answers the question, “Why should people buy from me, and not my competition?”

This video* provides you with a tool that you can use to help identify your brand strategy. Enjoy!

*This is one of dozens of 5 minute business consulting videos I produced with Andrew Sokol.

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The Best Way to Use Famous Quotes in Your Social Networking Posts

You’ve just posted one of your favorite quotes. Your effort lets me know that you consider the specific quote to be of value.

This video reminds you to share your feelings about the quote and the person your quoting that led you to post it in the first place.

(Here’s a link for mobile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4hNzYElGGg )

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Five Steps for Success In Social Networking and 3-D Networking

access to your marketI recently saw the movie about Facebook. I was inspired. 

In an effort to make myself seem more technological I’ve come up with the term “3-D Networking.” What in the heck is 3-D networking? Well, it’s good, old-fashioned, face-to-face networking, and since it’s live it qualifies as 3-D.

When you compare 3-D networking to social networking the similarities are more pronounced than you might think. As a matter of fact, when you look at the list of steps to success in one of these forms of networking… it’s nearly identical to the other.

Why is it important to pay attention to this list? Because people like to do business with people they know, like, and trust, and this list is a blueprint to create these types of relationships.

When it comes to networking, both on and offline, your goal is to create an environment that incubates a “know you, like you, trust you” business relationship. 

Follow these five steps and you’ll most likely reach that goal as you shape authentic and profitable associations with your fellow networkers.

1.       Establish and clarify your networking strategy.

First, let’s examine what your strategy shouldn’t be.

-Getting known as the company that tries to make sales while networking.-

Remember this: Nobody likes to be sold to.

Making sales is not a networking strategy. This is the hardest concept for most networkers to grasp. However, if you practice the five steps on this list… sales will result.

What’s your networking strategy?

We are talking about networking as a business activity that leads to referrals. What networking plan that leads to these referrals do you have in place?

Nearly every successful business activity is based on a plan. Nearly all successful plans are based on a strategy. What is your networking Strategy?

2.       Establish your presence, communicate your strategy, and be consistent.

An effective networking strategy lasts more than one meeting or social media post. If you’re starting a 3-D, or a Social Media marketing campaign with an expectation for immediate success, prepare for disappointment.

You must be consistent and you must show show-up.

Comedian and writer, Woody Allen made this observation, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Networking is a communications exercise in which to be effective… you must communicate. Remember that effective listening is also a part of communication.

Here’s a tip to make consistency easier. “Be interested rather than interesting.” Ask questions and listen

3.       Connect your connections

In networking, one of the greatest gifts you can give is access to your market.

Connect problem solvers with solution seekers. Identify and connect with centers of influence and then connect your connections. Think of yourself a resource broker. Be generous and be selective.

You can’t cause business, but you can be the cause of business.

4.       Nurture relationships

This calls for you to learn about others and be willing to refer.  When your business networking isn’t working as expected it’s probably because you didn’t focus on this step. You didn’t nurture the relationships.

I’m not suggesting you make everyone your best friend; in networking, however, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. An occasional phone call, e-mail, or a birthday greeting is a part of nearly all authentic relationships.

Business networking as a profitable marketing activity relies on your willingness to create authentic relationships. If you’re reluctant to create authentic relationships with a predetermined number of circles of influence, or other resources as a part of your plan, you may want to consider marketing opportunities other than networking, 3-D. or otherwise.

5.       Maintain communication with your network.

You’ve earned the trust of your fellow networkers. You contribute to them. They contribute to you. They listen to you. They are open to your ideas. You have an effective differentiation strategy in place. Your message is clear to your market.

Your job is to communicate that message and continue to contribute so you are perceived as a thought leader and a problem solver in your field. Keep in mind that others will come along that want to hold that 3-D, or social media perception as much or more than you do. The need for consistency is greater in social media where  the competitive marketplace is larger than ever due to the sheer number of participants and the lack of geographical boundaries.

You’ve probably noticed that each of these five steps is a good idea on its own. But, your success is dependent on using all five steps. Think of the process like a formula that won’t work unless all five ingredients are present.

And, the next time you attend a 3-D networking event, just be grateful you don’t have to wear those special glasses.

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Sure… I Want You to Hire Me!

One of my friends on Facebook, Gina, commented on an article I shared on my business page. The article, written by Brian Solis, gives a detailed account of steps needed to convert attention into action with your social media marketing.

Gina wrote, “Every time I read one of these articles, I get lost in the lingo and apply none of it. Maybe that’s the point: they want me to hire…them!”

I sent a reply that attempted to clarify the article, which as I look back, may not have addressed Gina’s reason for writing at all. I then turned my attention to the final part of her comment, which in hindsight is actually the bigger issue of the two. 

Initially I figured it would be a good idea to avoid addressing the “they want me to hire…them” comment, but it occurred to me that Gina was absolutely correct. The goal of the information I share, whether authored by me or someone else is to help you succeed in your business. If you think the information is valuable but can’t, don’t know how to, or don’t want implement the tips, tools, and ideas on your own… then YES! I’d like you to hire me.

My wife likes to remind me… my business is not a hobby. I have a marketing agency specializing in Social Media, and just like all of us who go into business I want to make a profit. But, the first goal of my business is to help you solve your problems.

That’s the reason Ike Krieger, Brian Solis, and others write articles like the one in question. We want to share our expertise, become a trusted resource, and when the time is right… do some business.

 I actually define business as the ability to solve other people’s problem and make a profit. Using that definition clears the way for me to focus on solving your problem instead of mine. If business is the ability to solve other people’s problem and make a profit… and I solve your problem… what happens to my problems? They are solved also.

This kinder and gentler marketing and sales mindset is contrary to the one most of us are used to. As soon as those in your market believe that you’re in business to solve their problem rather than your own… your business will have a much better chance to grow and prosper.

I have learned that before any communication involving a prospect or existing client I should ask myself the following questions:

  1. What problem am I trying to solve?
  2. Whose problem am I trying to solve?

Here’s the tip:

Before any communication involving a prospect or existing client learn to consistently ask yourself those same questions.

So Gina… thanks for your comment. It reminded me just how valuable those two questions really are and the reason I ask them.

There’s so much marketing and sales information available on the internet. Some is very helpful, some not so much. Some is available at little or no cost; other sources require payment. Bottom line… if you don’t have the time, desire, or know how to address a critical business issue … seek out and hire a trusted business resource to help make your life easier and your business more profitable.  I look forward to being on that short list.

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Do You Sell Too Soon?

When it comes to business… social networking and face to face networking aren’t that different.

You’ve probably seen others interact with new contacts, open a channel of communication, and then start selling their butt off.  

Now don’t get me wrong. Selling is good. Nothing happens until something gets sold. However, there’s a time and place for everything and starting to sell too early in the networking process rarely produces the result you’d hoped for. Do you begin to sell too soon?

Whether you’re communicating on the internet or in person… avoid selling too soon.

If you start to sell too soon… YOU become one of the main causes of objections.

Do you start the sales process by presenting information that you believe will lead to a sale? In Contrary Marketing™ this is referred to as “Backwards Selling”™.

Your prospects are listening and digesting your information trying to figure out how your ideas and solutions will impact their business… and their wallet. Your prospect is in essence qualifying you.

If the way you communicate makes them think about their wallet, you’ve created a speed-bump in the decision making process.  If they’re not ready to buy… what you say functions like an ignition switch that activates your prospects’ concerns and questions.  These concerns and questions show up in the form of objections and stalls.

Issues and concerns that might keep your prospect from buying must be addressed before you begin to sell. You must diagnose before you prescribe. Your willingness and ability to address your prospect’s issues and concerns before you start to sell… by asking the right questions… is THE vital stage of a successful sales process.

Here’s the tip:

In social media, on the phone, or in person you should enter into an authentic conversation with your prospect before you begin to sell. Ask questions that provide both of you with enough information to clear a pathway to “yes”… or uncover a “no” that was going to happen anyway. You must do this before you start pitching, presenting, or proposing. This step will make your online and off line sales efforts more profitable, guaranteed.

The uncertainty of the today’s economy coupled with a highly competitive marketplace makes this information gathering step more important than ever. “Think like a Doctor” is one of the main principles of Contrary Marketing. Just like a Doctor you must diagnose before you prescribe. This tip alone will help you make more sales, more easily, and more often.

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Social Media and a Flat Screen TV

It was the early 1960’s. Uberstein’s Drug Store in Cleveland Heights, Ohio had a vacuum tube testing machine. Vacuum tubes are what made electronics of the day actually work.

Whenever there was a problem with a radio or a television in the house we’d learned that a quick way to save money on repairs was to test the tubes, replace the bad ones, and voila… once again the radio would play or the TV would work.

When a simple tube replacement didn’t produce the desired results we would call the TV repairman, or we could “take it in.” Within days we would once again be enjoying our TV, Radio, or those new Stereos.

The writers at FlinFlonFive.com describe the vacuum tube this way. “It is the most important single piece of equipment introduced into electrical engineering during the twentieth century. Its development has produced a new engineering art called electronics, which has given us radio, long distance telephones, sound motion pictures, public address systems, television, radar, electronic computers, and industrial automation.”

I realize that the days of analog vacuum tubes are gone and the world of digital technology is upon us.This was never so clearly defined as this past weekend when my patience ran out with my 40” flat screen TV (which I cherish).

Ever since I got the TV last Christmas the screen kept getting darker than it should when watching a scene that was dark to begin with. At times this “glitch” made my beloved TV nearly unwatchable. But this past Friday I discovered a solution and the problem no longer “darkens” my door.

My oldest son, James, visiting from Boston, suggested I check for a “fix” on Google. Hadn’t thought of that. I discovered that others had experienced the same frustration with this model and resolved the problem with a free software download from the manufacturer.

Wait a minute. A software download to a TV set? That’s crazy. That’s like trying to make a telephone call on your computer. Oh, wait a minute. That is the way it works today.

I downloaded the software update to my computer and transferred the files to a flash drive.  (Something else I never would have dreamed of a few short years ago) I plugged the flash drive into the back of the TV. Waited for the software to load and in fewer than five minutes a ten month problem had vanished.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know about employing a remote software fix… I didn’t know I didn’t know about it.

Not knowing… is the challenge business owners are facing when it comes to another technological reality, and I’m talking about social media marketing. You don’t know what you don’t know about social media and it’s probably going to take time and additional knowledge to get to the point where you do.

The TV repairman is a thing of the past. Maybe you can find one in the Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages is the perfect example of a once vibrant but now outdated 20th century marketing tool.Today the Yellow Pages is nothing more than a novelty, or a bridge to the past for those who find change unbearable. It is a 20th century solution.

If you’re in business you should stop looking for a 20th century solution to a 21st century challenge. Who knows? One hundred years from now Social Media Marketing may have gone the way of the vacuum tube. But until then this novel and profitable way to interact with your marketplace provides you the best opportunity to leverage your marketing dollars and level the competitive playing field. 

If you’ll excuse me… I have to go back and look at my TV. It’s working wonderfully.

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