Is Election Stress Affecting Your Business?

Posted by on Oct 24 2016

Whether it’s the USA election or Brexit, September 11 or Hurricane Katrina, the uncertainty that surrounds world events brings up anxiety in people and changes their behavior, which in turn affects your marketing and sales.

I’ve spoken with several colleagues who are having a difficult time filling autumn classes or getting clients to commit to a contract, where they never had a problem before. These are high-skilled people with long-term reputations for excellent sales and marketing skills.

So I started asking around to see how widespread it is: Are you seeing anything different in your business these past few months?

I’m hearing a chilling response from my colleagues, clients and members: Yes, things appear different over the past few months, with their own businesses and in discussions they’re having with their own colleagues.

One possible explanation is that Americans are feeling extremely anxious about the elections and people in Europe are feeling anxious about Brexit.

Anxiety makes people hesitate before making a big commitment. They second-guess themselves. Many people take a wait-and-see approach when anxiety is high.

What You Can Do

Talk with your customers. While the political events may be important, and so is the rest of their personal and professional life. Reach out to customers and remind them that their dreams and goals will not go away, and instead of freezing in place, they should consider where they can empower themselves to take action. What is one next step they can take that will propel them forward?

For your own business situation, know that these anxieties come and go, and you don’t always have control over them. You can plan for these swings by keeping your finger on the pulse of how your customers are feeling, whether you sell to the general public, or to other businesses. Pay attention to these trends so that you can get ahead of the curve with strategic planning and nimble marketing. (And pay attention to your own reaction to world events – are you freezing in place, too?)

Pay attention to world events through the lens of “How will this make my customers feel and react, and how long will this event affect them?” You don’t want to make pivotal and long-lasting changes in your business and marketing model if your customers will only be affected by an event for a short time.

Where to Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

There are several places you can pay attention to what’s happening with your customers’ feelings and actions.

  • You can find a monthly consumer confidence index here. Simply scroll down to the Countries menu and select one or more countries to compare their confidence numbers.
  • Here’s a list of business confidence for many different nations as well.
  • Here’s the most recent Stress in America results from the professional association for psychologists, the American Psychological Association. It talks about how adults are feeling about the stress related to the election (in a non-partisan way):
  • The Marketplace and Edison Research Economic Anxiety Index is here.
  • Several major publications regularly interview business leaders about their outlook for their business/industry, and your local Chamber of Commerce may do so as well. Just Google “business leader outlook” to find relevant survey results. (Note: because Google will show you a series of results, even historic ones, you might want to put the current year in your search terms so that you get current results.)

What Do You Think?

What’s happening in your business? Is it steady or have you seen changes? Share your thoughts on my blog.

   

2 comments for now

Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing

“Ground Truth” and the Importance of Market Research

Posted by on Oct 15 2016

I know.

I know you’re excited about your new business ideas.

I know you have a great idea and when you tell others about it, they think you have a great idea, too. A great idea is the birth of a new small business.

But as a self-employed small business owner, you can’t afford to take chances on ideas without getting more information about what your entire market audience wants and what they’re willing to pay for it. Talking to 10 or 20 other people isn’t enough. You’ve got to talk to hundreds.

In the military and in NASA, they use a term called “ground truth.” While they can observe things via satellite and other distant monitoring devices, nothing beats getting down on the ground and seeing what’s really happening in real life. Here’s NASA’s explanation of how they use Ground Truth when it comes to their space programs.

So, how can you get ground truth about the viability of your business idea? The answer is market research. Market research is a study of your consumer’s preferences and your competition. Sometimes you’ll hear it called a “feasibility study.”

Through in-person interviews and online surveys, literature research, internet research, and other information gathering techniques, you can learn the trends in your industry, as well as individual preferences of your potential customers. If you’re in a well-defined industry, like toy manufacturing or massage therapy, you might find that your national professional organization has already conducted research studies on behalf of the members of the organization.

Why is market research necessary?

Because we all have different tastes, different ideas about what’s important in our lives, and different ability (or willingness) to pay a particular price for what we want. Often the small business owner thinks they have a great idea for a new product or service, only to discover that people either don’t want that service or product, or they’re not willing to pay the price that the small business needs to set in order to be profitable.

Sometimes they discover, joyfully, that not only do people want this new product or service, but that these same people can suggest other new products and services that would work well with the new idea, allowing the small business owner to see future growth into new areas. Or maybe they discover through their market research that if they made a small change in their product or service, for instance, making a product with a red cover instead of a blue one, that people would buy it more often.

Another purpose of market research is to discover what your competition is doing. Say that you want to create a new type of office product and you think your idea is unique. Take a look at what’s on offer at the Staples, OfficeMax and Office Depot websites, and you might discover that your competitors have already created a product to solve the same problem as your product solves. Does that mean you should then give up the idea entirely? No, not necessarily. What it means is that you now have some ground truth about what you’re up against if you want to go head-to-head with these competitors.

You need to know the ground truth about your ideas before you spend countless hours and money taking a new product or service to market.

I know that it feels like it’s putting a damper on new business idea creation, but in fact, it’s just the opposite: I’m encouraging you to find out what your customers want, and what they will pay for it, so that you can ensure future success.

   

4 comments for now

Category: Marketing

Don’t Wait to Become an Expert

Posted by on Sep 24 2016

There’s really only three ways to get known as an expert in your field: teaching, speaking, writing. Let’s do it!

Do not wait for someone’s approval or permission.

Don’t wait until you know more — there’s always an audience who knows less about a topic than you do — and there’s always opportunity for you to learn more.

Don’t wait until you lose weight, or find the perfect clothing, or get Botox. Decide once and for all that other’s judgment of your physical features is their problem, not yours.

Don’t wait until you’ve crafted the “perfect” speech or the “perfect” lesson plan. Do the best you can, and tweak after each time you speak. Speaking and teaching are living arts; you get better each time you do them.

Don’t wait until you have enough money or time to put on a huge workshop or start a big mastermind group. Instead, gather a small group of people, and start where you stand. You’ll grow your participants along the way each time you offer your class or mastermind group.

Don’t wait until you’ve written the most elegant blog post or book. If you need another pair of eyes on your writing, there are thousands of people in the world who need the same thing. Find a writing buddy and get your writing out into the world.

And finally, don’t wait until the fear goes away. It won’t go away. Instead, decide that you’ll work through the fear, you’ll be bold and brave — because it’s far worse to have regrets.

   

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Creating, Marketing & Teaching Classes, Marketing

Do You Need to Write on a Consistent Basis, but Find it Hard to Do?

Posted by on Jul 07 2016

Recently I made a commitment to write a new book. Whether I’m writing a book or a blog post, the hardest part is getting into the habit of writing. After all, writing a 60,000 word book means blocking out huge chunks of time on a consistent basis – and actually writing during those appointed times!

Then I heard about an idea that sprang up from the academic community called Shut Up and Write. People who had to write their master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation would agree to get together on a regular basis, spend a few minutes getting settled, and then “shut up and write” for 25 minute sprints. Then they’d take a 5 minute break and do another 25 minute sprint.

This technique of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break is a proven method for working within your brain’s normal rhythms. Add that to the group support and accountability of working quietly together, it’s a real win-win.

Imagine having time set aside each month when you will definitely get some writing done towards your book, blog posts, or other writing projects. This isn’t a replacement for all the time you’ll need to get all your writing project done, but it can be a cornerstone to developing the writing habit.

I decided to create my own Shut Up and Write virtual accountability group, and you can join me for five Shut Up and Write virtual meetings, beginning July 29.

We will meet every 2 weeks:

  • July 29
  • August 12
  • August 26
  • September 9
  • September 23

We’ll meet via video conferencing (I’ll send you the Zoom link once you register for the group), and each meeting will be 90 minutes. That will allow us enough time to do THREE 25-minute sprints of writing, and still have time to share, support and motivate each other.

(If you don’t have a video camera, or you won’t be near your computer, you can dial-in on phone or Skype.)

Our 90-minute video meetings will be from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM eastern.

1:00 PM eastern (New York time zone)
12:00 PM central (Chicago time zone)
11:00 AM mountain (Denver time zone)
10:00 AM pacific (Los Angeles time zone)
6:00 PM London (England)
7:00 PM Berlin (Germany) or Paris (France)

Do you want to join me?

The cost is only $20. (NOT $20 per meeting — $20 for all 5 meetings)

If you’d like to join Shut Up and Write, register here

P.S. Once you register, please email me and tell me what writing project(s) you’ll be working on.

P.P.S I can’t wait to get writing together!

   

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Passion For Business News, Upcoming Classes

Lurker Alert: The Art of Audience, Student and Mastermind Group Engagement

Posted by on Jul 06 2016

Who are those people who attend your mastermind group or class but never talk (or who friend you on Facebook or Twitter, but never respond)? And how do you get them talking?

Back in the mid-90s when I first went online via CompuServe (remember those days??), we noticed that for every 1 person who was interacting in the message forum, another 10 were logging on and reading the message threads, but never interacting. Back then, we called them “lurkers” — people who didn’t participate actively in discussions.

Fast forward 20 years, and we find that Lurker Ratio of 10:1 still exists – in online message forums, in my video classes and webinars, in mastermind groups, and any other place where groups of people congregate offline and online.

In some places, especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online social media forums, the lurker ratio is closer to 100:1 — for every 1 person who participates, there are 100 people just reading and absorbing the conversation.

There are a number of reasons why people don’t comment on Facebook or blogs: too busy, nothing to add, feeling shy. That’s what the “Like” button is for on Facebook: if you don’t want to leave a comment but you want to still let the folks know that you’re interested, you click the Like button.

Jakob Nielsen calls it Participation Inequality. I see it most often with “virtual” groups of people who meet online or through teleconference or video conference meetings.

But here is what I think is most important:

We ALL have something to add to a conversation — our feelings, our experiences, our knowledge, our questions. What comes from within counts for a lot with me. I love when people leave comments on my blog and when they interact in my classes.

And let’s face it: the whole point of a mastermind group is to brainstorm together, right? Conversation brings value.

In your business, you want to build connections and relationships with your customers, students, group members, and your entire audience. Being aware of the lurker ratio when you’re using social media for marketing — as well as in your classes, groups and online message forums — will help you gauge the quality of your connections and relationships.

For all types of classes and mastermind groups, here are some guidelines:

  1. In live, in-person classes and mastermind groups, the lurker ratio is much better. There’s something about being face-to-face in a sharing environment (especially with a good teacher or mastermind group Facilitator) that brings people out of their shells and encourages them to participate. In my live classes and groups, I’d say that for every 100 people who attend, 30-40 will be lurkers.
  2. The larger the group, the larger the lurker ratio. Social psychologists call this phenomenon social loafing.
  3. The longer the event, class or program, the lower the lurker ratio. (Sometimes it takes while to get people warmed up.)
  4. If you want high participation in your classes and mastermind groups, you have to build in interaction into your plan. Don’t wing it: plan it. Design discussion-starter questions that get the group talking within the first five minutes of every meeting.
  5. Pay attention to those who don’t ask questions or make comments. Call on them by name, or say, “Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t commented yet.”
  6. If your class or mastermind group includes an online message forum, set some rules. For instance, in some of my classes I’ve set this rule: each week all students must post one new message and reply to two messages that someone else has posted.

For social media engagement:

  1. Studies show that you get 65% more engagement if you post before noon, as compared to afternoons and evenings. My experience confirms this with my audience: they’re much more active in the morning on social media.
  2. Don’t just post thoughts, ask questions, too. Instead of simply saying, “Hard work yields results,” consider adding a question to that statement, like, “Do you find this to be true for yourself?” Invite responses and comments.
  3. Comment on other people’s posts. It’s a two-way street. If all you do is post your own articles and thoughts, but never respond to someone else’s blog posts and Facebook posts, why should they communicate with you? It’s all about building relationships.
  4. Engagement isn’t just commenting. Make sure you put links in your blog posts to other blog posts that are related. When someone reads a blog post and clicks on a link, that’s engagement, too.
  5. Respond back. When someone responds to your blog post or social media post, respond back and acknowledge it. They need to know you heard them.
  6. Let them see you. Too many small business owners hide behind their content. They post links to articles on Facebook and Twitter, but they never share any of their own story. I don’t mean those “I used to live in a box but now I live in a mansion” stories…I mean everyday stories about what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, what you’re reading or watching, and even what you’re eating. Give them a window into your personal life. Yes, you can keep most of your personal life as private as you like — telling them you made Chickpea Burgers for lunch isn’t an invasion of privacy, it just plain fun! 🙂

If your lurker ratio is still 100:1, take heart — it still means that for every one person who responds to your post, 100 are reading what you write!

These are just a few of the tips to get people to join the discussion. I’m sure you have your favorite ways of getting your audience involved, yes? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts!

P.S. If you’re a lurker, I’d love to hear from you. C’mon, fess up. Just one comment and you’ll be an official EX-lurker!  🙂

 

   

41 comments for now

Category: Creating, Marketing & Teaching Classes, Internet & Social Media Marketing, Running a Strong & Efficient Business, Start and Run a Mastermind Group

Is the Problem Traffic or Copywriting?

Posted by on Jun 19 2016

I recently worked with a client who has a beautiful website. The graphics, layout and branding are perfect. So why wasn’t she getting more sales?

The first thing we needed to do was some detective work.

Why? Because we don’t know if her problem is that she’s not getting enough traffic to her website or if the problem is that the visitors aren’t converting because of poor copywriting, website design, etc.

Here’s How to be a Website Marketing Detective

First, you must have access to your website statistics. I always recommend that you have Google Analytics installed on your website. The statistics that come with your standard website hosting package are probably not strong enough to help you do the detective work.

Second, you have to know how to find, read and interpret those statistics.

This is just about the time that most people’s eyes glaze over, so let me short-cut the process for you and make it simple.

How Many Visitors Are You Getting Per Month?

In Google Analytics, look at the menu on the left side of the page. Find the section called “Audience” and open the menu, and then click on “Overview.”

How many visitors are you getting to your website? Is there an upward trend?

What I have discovered is that the concrete, exact numbers don’t matter as much as the direction they’re going.

Look at your visitor numbers over the course of several months. If the number of visitors is trending upwards, then you’re doing a good job with driving traffic to your site.

Also note that in some months, the visitor count may be down. Sometimes it’s because you’re not doing your marketing properly or consistently that month, and sometimes it’s because it’s a month when your audience traditionally is away from their computers or distracted with other things, like summertime months and big holidays months. So don’t make assumptions about your visitor traffic; get to know your audience and know when they’re most likely to be paying attention to your website and when they’re likely way on vacation or holidays.

Recent studies show that 79% of visitors who come to your website are not ready to buy. If you’re not getting enough traffic to your website, you won’t have enough people interested in buying from you.

Which Pages Are the Most Popular?

Now it’s time to figure out if your visitors are looking at the website pages you want them to look at.

Go back to the left-hand menu in Google Analytics and find the section called “Behavior.” Within that section, there is an area called “Site Content” which gives you information about how visitors are using your website. Go to the “All Pages” sub-area under “Site Content.”

Which pages are viewed most often? You can find this on the chart on the right-side of your screen once you select “All Pages.” (See example chart below.)

The two key statistics to review are:

How many Unique Page Views does each page get? You will see two numbers: Page Views and Unique Page Views. Why are there two numbers? Because Google Analytics counts every time the page if viewed, even if one visitor views the page two or three times. So in the example chart, you can see the What Is  a Mastermind Group page got viewed 9,015 times, but only 8,034 unique views. This means (roughly) that 981 people viewed the page twice. Unique Views gives you a more realistic guide to how many unique visitors viewed the page and is a more reliable number to watch.

How long are they staying on the page? In the same example, the average visitor viewed the What Is a Mastermind Group page for 3 minutes and 45 seconds. Why do we care? Because if it takes a visitor 3 minutes to read a page, and the average visitor is only on that page for 1 minute, it means they’re not reading your text! Here’s how you can tell how long it should take someone to read your page: Set a stop watch and read the page out loud to yourself, slowly. Because you’re used to seeing this text, you’re likely to skip over words and sentences. By reading it out loud, you are forcing your brain to re-see all the text.

What Results Are You Getting?

So now you know how many visitors are coming to your website, and which pages they’re viewing once they get there. Now look at your actual results.

  • How many sales are you making?
  • How many prospects are calling you to ask about your services?
  • Are they buying your products, classes and groups directly from your website?

Conversion Ratios

Let me give you a concrete example. In my client’s case, she got 113 people to visit her services page in the past month. She got three phone calls after people visited her website. Her conversion rate is 2.6% (3 divided by 113). Average website conversation rates are around 1%, so that means that her website copy is converting prospective clients into paying clients.

Because of this data we can conclude:

Her problem isn’t that she needs to re-write her website copy or design. Her problem is that she needs to drive more traffic to her website.

Conclusions for You

How can you know if you have a problem with driving traffic to your website, or if your problem is that your copywriting needs work? Do the math above.

  • If your conversion rate is less than 1%, then you need help with your copywriting or website design.
  • If people don’t stay on your pages long enough to read them, you need help with your copywriting or website design.
  • If the number of visitors you’re getting to your website is low, or if the trend is not on the rise, you need help with driving traffic to your website.

Note that if you’re driving traffic to your website through email marketing or social media marketing, and your audience is a devoted following, you conversation rates should be much higher than 1%.

Now that you know how to read these basic statistics on Google Analytics, you can take control of your marketing and make changes for the better!

Was This Helpful?

I know that statistics can be daunting. If this was helpful to you and you’d like me to show you more (simple) ways to get important data from Google Analytics and interpret it for your small business, please let me know in the comments section below. I love statistics because they let me play marketing detective and figure out what’s true in my business — and that’s how my business remains successful! I’m happy to write more blog posts like this if you want this type of information. 🙂

   

19 comments for now

Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Running a Strong & Efficient Business, Website Planning
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