Archive for February, 2010

Self Employment: The Hardest Way to Make Easy Money

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I heard this comment at a National Speaker’s Association meeting last month: “Being your own boss is the hardest way to make easy money.” Boy, isn’t that the truth!

So many people I speak with dream of becoming self employed and starting their own small business. Don’t get me wrong: being self employed is the best lifestyle I know. It has a huge range of rewards, from flexibility to independence to self-responsibility. I’m completely in love with being self employed and wouldn’t exchange it for a corporate job for a million dollars! (Okay, truthfully, if you want to offer me a million dollars a year in salary, I’m willing to entertain a discussion.)

But it is hard work, plain and simple. After carefully studying and working with people who start their own businesses, my best estimate is that it takes at least a year to make a serious profit, and often it’s more like two years. I have yet to see a “quick fix” for small business marketing that will land a lot of cash in your pocket in 30 days. If your business structure and administrative process are not firmly in place, you’ll crash and burn eventually. If your business strategy and plan are not fine-tuned, you’ll spend an extraordinary amount of time running in circles trying to find the right customer and the right product or service to sell them.

So why do people look for (and purchase) products and services that promise a quick fix to their ailing small business? In the question lays the answer: they want a quick fix to the pain. Don’t we all?

Running your own small business is a marathon, not a sprint. Stop trying to sprint your way to your first million without a firm foundation under you. Remember, marathoners train all year long for just one marathon; they don’t wait until the month before to begin preparing.

Things to consider:

  1. Make sure you have the personality to be self employed (more on that here in my post “Are You Cut Out To Be Your Own Boss?”).
  2. Make sure you have enough money to finance your dreams, and a good financial plan that tells you when you’ll actually start making a profit.
  3. Invest money and time in sound, effective marketing strategies and do them every month, rain or shine.
  4. Have a written business plan and a business strategy, even if it’s only three pages long.
  5. Test your marketing ideas, your product ideas and your service ideas to make sure you’ve got everything on target.

And finally, have a marathoner’s attitude: the finish line does exist, just over the next hill. Believe that you will make it to the finish line, as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other and maintain a positive attitude.

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

If Consumers Can’t Trust Their Friends, Who Can They Trust?

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Consumer trust of the messages they see on TV, read in the newspapers, and even the product and service suggestions their friends make is down 50% in the past two years, according to a study described in an Advertising Age article, In Age of Friending, Consumers Trust Their Friends Less.

Yet we use testimonials, social media and word-of-mouth as viable marketing techniques, right? But Edelman’s 2010 “Trust Barometer” says that consumers just see the jumble of marketing messages scrolling across their Facebook News Feed and Twitter Stream as a bunch of noise, not to be trusted except if it comes from someone they really, truly know in real life. In our minds, we separate our social media “friends” from people we really know, like and trust so much, we now use the acronym IRL to mean “in real life” when talking about certain friends.  (Perhaps we should use IFL to mean In Facebook Life? :))

Now more than ever, it’s important for you to get out in the real world and let your face be seen and your message heard from your own lips. You can’t rely on social media word-of-mouth to do passive marketing for you if your prospective clients don’t trust marketing messages coming to them in that manner.

And it’s equally important, if you are using social media marketing, to make sure that most of your messages are not marketing messages. Never forget the importance of “social” in social media marketing. We can’t get to know you, like you or trust you if all you do is throw marketing messages at us without ever sharing tips, techniques, ideas, rants, and news about who you are IRL.

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Category: Marketing
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Hand-Milked by Amish Farmers

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In the grocery store last week, I had an epiphany of the effectiveness of marketing message and marketing differentiation.

My husband loves cheese — specifically cheddar cheese. He swoons over the decision about which cheese to purchase. He’ll stand in front of the display of cheeses in the market for ages and ages, reading each and every label, like he was choosing the next Nobel Prize winner.

I laughed so hard, my stomach hurt, when he rationalized his latest cheese-buying decision:

“Look. Right here on the label is says ‘Hand milked by Amish farmers.’ It must be great cheese.”

‘Nuff said.

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Category: Marketing
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The Problem with Niches

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finding your nicheMy client Mary called me and cried, “I need to find my niche!”

She had been told over and over again that she needed to find a narrow niche for her Life Coaching business so that she could be more noticeable among the pack of Life Coaches who market themselves to business professionals and managers.

But she had also been told that using words like “meaning” and “purpose” to describe what clients were looking for was over-used; all life coaches were using those terms and they had lost their power when it came to writing marketing text.

To find your niche, you need a tailor-made approach.

Here is my reply to Mary in regards to identifying her niche and writing her marketing text towards that niche:

Finding The Right Words

Remember, WITHIN the coaching industry, words like “soul,” “meaning,” and “fulfillment” are used constantly and we’re used to them and don’t think they’re special.

But, OUTSIDE the coaching industry, people are just awakening to these words. They love these words. And people ARE looking for meaning and fulfillment in their lives. (Just because you are used to seeing those words everyday doesn’t automatically make them powerless or boring.)

So you may be tired of hearing catch-words in YOUR industry, but that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t still searching for those very same ideas.

If you want to know if people are interested in these words, go to the Google Keyword Tool  and type them in. You’ll see for yourself how popular they really are.

As a life coach, saying you don’t want to market yourself using the words “fulfillment” and “meaning,” is like saying you’re a dentist, but you don’t want to have the niche of “filling cavities” because every dentist does that.

Sometimes your niche isn’t just what topics you talk about with clients; sometimes your niche is the combination of what topics you talk about AND the people/groups you talk to.

Finding The Right Niche

The whole purpose of choosing a niche is so you can find a central place that potential clients congregate — so that you can get in front of them to introduce your business via your marketing techniques. You can find “professionals” or “mid-level managers” or “upper level executives” in specific industry associations, magazines, websites, newspapers, peer groups, etc.

But say you want your niche to be “Hyper Ambitious Stress Coaching.” There is no industry association for Hyper Ambitious people…how will you locate them?

Do you really want to be known as the “Hyper Ambitious Stress Coach?” (Do people really type in “hyper ambitious stress coach” into Google when they’re looking for help?) It implies that you work with only people who are hyper-ambitious, and only stressed ones at that. There are plenty of “non-hyper-ambitious” professionals who are want to achieve great things and be successful (and are stressed), they just don’t go overboard into “hyper” behaviors that create unbalance.

One caveat: labeling yourself the “Hyper Ambitious Stress Coach” is great for PR. The news media loves a specialist. But clients may not be looking for a Hyper Ambitious Stress Coach; they’re just looking for help with stress, over-scheduling, high demands, etc. So unless you’re going to get all your prospective clients via news media interviews, you might want to re-think that narrow niche.

Choosing a niche is not an exercise in finding a place where you have no competition. It’s okay if you have competition in your niche: it shows there’s a thriving market there.

Differentiation vs. Niche

If you’re simply looking to differentiate yourself from your competition, then that’s not done by choosing a niche market. Differentiation and Niche are two separate marketing steps. You can differentiate (brand) yourself based on:

  • your personality
  • your processes
  • your techniques
  • your classes and products
  • your background
  • your experience
  • your skill set & knowledge
  • your availability
  • your fees
  • your style

Differentiation asks, “Why would they buy from ME versus my competition?”

Niche asks, “Where will I find THEM so I can introduce myself?”

This entry in Wikipedia may help:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niche_market

I’m not saying, “Don’t go in that niche direction.” What I am saying is this: if you define your niche too narrowly, you’ll have a hard time getting in front of them with your marketing techniques. And along the way, you might not be following your own purpose or meeting your goals.

So, how do you define your own niche? I’d love to hear about your target audience and how you help them!

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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