Friday, July 18, 2014

You're Never Too Big (or Small) to Innovate

The business world continues to adapt at an astonishing pace. Fifteen years ago, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and similar movie rental businesses dominated the market. Soon, however, Netflix arrived on the scene, and cable providers began offering on-demand movie options. The cost and inconvenience of having to stop at a store rather than just turning on the TV or computer meant that these once dominant businesses quickly began to lose ground. Now they're all but obsolete.

What these major corporations can teach businesses of all sizes

There are two ways you could look at the fate of Blockbuster and similar companies. You could either worry yourself sick about your own place within your industry -- or take action and learn from the mistakes these companies made. If you look closely at what happened to these corporations, it's easy to see the importance of market research, innovation, and finding ways to make life easier for your customers.

Some companies thrive at adapting to new situations. Nokia went from being a paper company to one of the largest cellphone makers. Companies like Amazon.com managed to turn entire industries upside down. These companies were able to innovate, capitalize on what appealed to their customers, and become successful.

Lessons to take away

There are two main lessons to be learned here. The first is to never neglect the importance of market research. You probably already know the importance of market research before launching a new product, but don't stop there. Market research is something you should do regularly throughout the year. Intelligent market research can help you get inside your customers' heads and determine exactly what they want that you can provide. The better you can predict the wants and needs of your customers, the more likely you are to successfully remain an industry leader.

The second lesson is the importance of serving clients. Make it a priority to determine exactly how you can serve customers in a unique way. Customers like convenience and affordability, which is why companies like Netflix and Amazon.com thrive. Determining new ways to make your products and services accessible for customers is a wonderful way to market products and attract a following among new customers.

Before you begin any new marketing campaign, sit down and discuss how you can make your products or services more accessible for customers. Determining your unique niche is a great starting point for any marketing campaign.

Over the years, numerous companies have risen and fallen as technology and the marketplace continue to change. The companies that survive are the ones that can innovate and remain ahead of the curve in determining customer desires. Combining a customer-first attitude with ongoing market research is a fantastic way to take a strong step in the right direction. If you're interested in learning more about how to make your marketing efforts successful, contact us today.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Taking an X-Ray of your Business

From the time the x-ray was invented around the turn of the 20th century, people have been fascinated by the capacity of these rays to capture what lies beneath the skin. When the technology is used by doctors, it can help determine if bones are broken, detect disorders or illnesses, or see how well a broken bone is healing.

As business leaders, we must sometimes look at our own businesses with x-ray eyes: uncovering and treating problems beneath the surface before they get out of hand or cause permanent damage.

Uncovering problems

Few businesses run perfectly. As any company grows, it will experience bumps, bruises, and hiccups along the way. Part of running the business involves being able to lead the company through these times, so you can come out the other side stronger and better prepared for the future. Many times, this involves easy fixes. Perhaps a new employee is needed to handle greater demand or a policy might need to be tweaked to adapt to an evolving workflow.

Sometimes, however, problems are not so easy to fix. Take, for example, customer service. We've all experienced times (as customers) when we've felt like we're being passed around from person to person, trying to find a simple answer to our question. By the time we get our answer, we're so frustrated with the process that we end up completely annoyed with the company. This damages the company reputation and may even cause us to stop doing business with them.

As a business leader, you need to realize that these kinds of deep, penetrating problems cannot be fixed with simple, one-size-fits-all solutions. Sometimes, you need to look deeper and see where the 'bone' is broken -- and how badly -- before you can begin to treat the symptoms and heal your company. Only after you have a clearer picture of what's really going on can you find the right way to fix the problem and make your company stronger for the long run.

Making the repair

If your company is facing a major problem that can't be fixed easily, don't be afraid to go back and start over in finding the solution. While it can certainly be intimidating to think about how long the process will take and how much potential revenue you might lose along the way, it's important to remember that taking the time to complete these repairs properly will make your company stronger over the long haul. This, in turn, will help to boost revenue and make up for lost time. Companies that neglect to make difficult but necessary changes often find themselves losing money (and customers).

So how can you go about fixing tough problems? Start with these steps.

  1. Sit down and plan out exactly what your end goal will be. Providing higher-quality customer service is one possible example.


  2. Work backwards to generate ideas about how this goal can be reached. This will typically involve doing industry research and learning more about what the competition does to accomplish a similar aim.


  3. Educate and retrain all members of the organization about the new methods and procedures, so everyone is on the same page, even those who aren't directly involved with the affected areas.


  4. Invite feedback from customers and employees to see how well the changes are working.



Growing a business sometimes means being willing to go back to the drawing board to see how a key part of the business can be changed and repaired to make it stronger in the future. Don't be afraid to 'x-ray' your business and find ways to help it grow in the years to come.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Are You Attracting Quality Leads or Meaningless Site Chatter?

When it comes to marketing, the million-dollar question is: "Have we been successful in our campaigns?" No company wants to pour money into a marketing effort and get nothing in return. It's common for marketing professionals to track numerous metrics in an effort to gauge the success of their campaigns. Unfortunately, many are monitoring the wrong thing, and that can be dangerous.

What metrics don't matter?

It doesn't matter how many people visit your website. Some people might argue with that and try to talk about brand exposure or sales funnels, but think about something. Say you do a massive overhaul of your website. You really focus on optimizing content, creating a clean and attractive layout, and improving your search engine ranking. Your site traffic jumps by a shocking 200 percent! Wow! Congratulations! What does that mean? Nothing.

The jump in traffic is only significant if the number of conversions jumps with it. If you received 10 quality leads per week on your old site and you receive 10 quality leads per week on the new site, your jump in traffic actually means your site is now performing worse. If you were only monitoring your site traffic, however, you might be tempted to say that the overhaul was a huge success. This can be detrimental to your business in the long run.

The same thinking applies to social media followers or even physical bodies in the store. What matters is quality leads and potential conversions. These are the metrics you should be tracking. Site traffic is only important for comparison purposes to see the percentage of visitors who convert.

Finding quality leads

The most important aspect of finding quality leads is developing content that offers value to your ideal customer. You should have a good idea of the type of customer you're looking to attract. This includes their interests, what matters professionally to them, and what they're looking for.

Build quality content, which will naturally incorporate keywords and help to answer your visitors' questions and concerns. More importantly, when visitors find your site, they'll become interested in what your company has to offer. This will lead to a higher percentage converting. Visitors will come to trust your company as an industry leader who can help them find what they're looking for.

Focus on building a conversion friendly website. Whether a customer arrives on the web page from a QR code or web address on a direct mail postcard or through a Google search, the site should have a clear sitemap, show obvious value for the customer, and make it easy for them to convert into customers.

Customers don't like having to hunt around for phone numbers, addresses, or the chance to sign up for products and services, so don't make them. Prominent, easy-to-use buttons are great additions. Neuromarketing also tells us little tips, such as offering customers choices (even if the choices are meaningless) will improve conversion rates. For example, customers are more likely to sign up for a newsletter that comes with a 'sign me up now' button next to a 'no thanks, I like wasting money' button, rather than a newsletter with just a sign up button.

There's no doubt getting chatter on your site is addicting and exciting. Everyone who's ever built a website knows how enticing it is to watch the number of visitors increase. When it comes to a successful marketing campaign, however, it's important to remember to measure the right things. Visitor counts don't matter unless conversion rates also rise. Spend your time attracting quality leads, and watch the important metrics increase for genuine success.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Carpe Diem: An Important Business Mantra

Recognizing and grasping the right opportunities is important in nearly every aspect of business. Taking bold action at just the right time can take a company from decent to extraordinary, from paying the bills to thriving. In some cases, success itself can hinge on a single connection or contract that opens the floodgates.

If you've been around the business world very long, you know that success is not completely predictable. Some companies with very talented leadership and great ideas never seem to get out of the starting gate, while other companies with lesser talent manage to make it all the way to the top of their industry. The difference often boils down to knowing how to recognize opportunities and then having the courage to take them.

Recognizing opportunity

So how can you ensure you're taking advantage of the right opportunities? The first priority is understanding your niche in the marketplace. Make sure you have a clear idea of how you're serving customers and what you're doing to stand out from the competition. This will help you recognize those unique chances when they come along.

Next, make sure you're always on alert. That doesn't mean you need to work perpetually and check email constantly, wherever you are. It does mean, however, that you must remain alert to opportunities in unexpected places. For example, if you're out at a restaurant and strike up a conversation with another patron, recognize and take advantage of any opportunity you find for a business contact. Similarly, if you're receiving goods or services from another company and notice some way that your company could help them improve, speak up and offer your suggestions. This is no time to be shy or second guess yourself. Strike while the iron's hot, as the saying goes.

Don't expect every opportunity to be perfect. Most won't be. But that doesn't mean they aren't worth your time. Being right and being perfect aren't one and the same. Those imperfect opportunities are often enough to help you grow your business.

Recognizing opportunities and having the courage to walk up and seize them can make an enormous difference in the success of your business. Playing it safe might allow you to pay the bills, but it will also limit your potential growth. Learn how to recognize the appropriate opportunities, take courage, and see just how high your company can go.