3 Ways to Separate Yourself

separate-yourselfEach summer I attend my sons’ youth soccer games. Little kids’ games are extremely entertaining. They play what I call “the huddled masses” soccer, where a herd of children swarms the ball tripping over each other in the process. It’s wildly fun to watch.

Parents shout at their child to “kick harder” and “run faster”, hoping their kid can separate the ball and themselves from the pack. Any time a kid accomplishes this feat he or she generally is seen racing toward an open net and for an easy GOOOOAAAALLLLLL!

Businesses face a similar frenzy, getting lost in the masses while attempting to claw, kick and scream to be recognized. Having a good product or quality service isn’t enough; you must find distinct ways to separate yourself from the pack.

Here are 3 ways to separate yourself:

Understand the Business You’re In

Years ago I worked for a minor-league sports team. We started with the misconception that we were in the football business. We were wrong. As a sports team, we competed against movie theaters, concerts, amusements parks, miniature golf and other sporting events. We were in the entertainment business.

We needed to convince customers to spend their money attending our games over other forms of entertainment. Once we understood the business we were in, our marketing improved, each game became an event, and eventually ticket sales increased.

Be Known for Something

What do you want to be known for? What makes people think of you first?

When I want sushi, I think of Simply Sushi in Salt Lake City. To me, they are the best value for good sushi. There are cheaper sushi restaurants. There are higher quality ones too. Simply Sushi decided they would be known as the best value. This definition often wins my lunch money.

McDonald’s is known for the Big Mac. Burger King is Home of the Whopper. They offer other menu options, but they’re known for one main thing.

Trying to be all things to all people may result in not being known at all.

Be Social

Many professionals and businesses still struggle to know what to do with Social Media. It’s okay to start simple and build your strategy from there. Social Media should be used to entertain, educate and engage.

Think of social media as another communication channel. Yes, it requires an investment in time, resources, and creativity. Your investment will be part of what separates you from your competition. Find ways to be different. Be interactive. Be memorable.


What other ways have you found to separate yourself?

– DJ


Is Hubspot’s Inbound Conference Worth It? Part 2

Inbound_2015 Worth It“Worth it” – is a relative term. For this article the question is, is it worth it for an employer to send marketing people to Inbound?

Here’s why it is worth it:

  • Shows an Invest in Your People
    • Employees want to know they’re working for more than just a paycheck. Companies that invest in their people find those people are more fully invested in the job. What a great opportunity to invest in your people while helping increase their value to the organization.
  • Gain Access to Top Marketing Leaders
    • Your company may not be able to hire a swarm of marketing pros, but Inbound gives your marketing people exposure to some of the best and brightest marketing minds. It’s a way to expand your marketing influencers with fairly limited investment.
  • Demonstrates You Value Marketing
    • No matter what your company does, marketing is important, maybe even crucial to your success. Sending your top marketers to Inbound shows a commitment to marketing and show you’re looking for new ways to market and promote your goods or services. This is beneficial to your employees and your customers.

Tip: Make the Decision Early to Save Money.

  • Early entrance fee starts at $600 and goes up to $1,500 as the conference draws closer. I paid $950 this year. Additionally, hotels fill up fast and that means prices go up. Request that your marketers book their hotel early to save money.

Are you a manager that sent marketing people to Inbound 2015? Let us know if you thought it was worth the investment.

From Where You’re Sitting

Hong Kong PaintingMy favorite piece of décor in my simple office at work is a painting I picked up in Hong Kong a couple years ago. My most cherished items are the pictures of my wife and four children. Adorning the walls are also a few leadership certificates, company awards, a sword (a story for another time), and a white board.

A couple years ago my operations manager sat in one of the two chairs in front of my desk and commented how one corner of my office was bare and quite drab. Spinning my chair around 180 degrees I saw that she was right. The small corner was plan with nothing on the walls. I turned back to her and replied “Yeah, but it doesn’t bother me, because I’m never looking in that direction.”

After a rather tiring day this week I walked down the hall with several work issues on my mind. I entered my office and instead of sitting in normal computer chair, dropped into a chair in front of my desk. As I lifted my eyes off the floor, the unadorned corner and remembrance of her words shook me from my thoughts. Wow! Almost two years later and I’d done nothing about it. The purpose for decorating in the first place was to make the space more inviting. For numerous co-workers who interact with me on a weekly basis, the main focal point of what they see has the exact opposite effect. And I’ve done nothing about it – because it didn’t bother me.

How aware are we of what everyone else is seeing and experiencing?

  • What things do we only view from our perspective not that of our clients, customers and co-workers?
  • How is our marketing being received and interpreted?
  • How do our customers perceive our brand? Customer service? Product offering?
  • How is our leadership style being received?

Reality is, as long as I only sat on my side of the desk – I would only see things from that point-of-view. I had to physically sit where my co-worker sat to gain a better understanding.

  • Marketers need to leave their computers and mingle with prospective customers and target audiences
  • Business owners need to get out from behind the counter – walk around to where customers are sitting, standing in line or shopping
  • Leaders need to walk away from their desk and see what’s going on in the trenches

There is a lot to be learned from seeing the world from the eyes of others!

 Hmm, the only question now is what should I do about the empty corner of my office? – Comments and suggestions welcome.

The plain drab corner

Marketing: Take What You Can Get

For the past 7 years my team and I have worked hard to build a cash rewards program for a Regional bank. This program encourages bank cardholders to shop at specific local businesses. We use print, email and online marketing to promote local participating businesses to the cardholders.

Last year we launched a mobile app to help cardholders quickly and conveniently find these businesses. Unbeknownst to us the bank created a video featuring the app. Wow! What a surprise this was to us.

The point, sometimes you get publicity, press or marketing exposure when you least expect it. Embrace it! Run with it! And capitalize on it where possible.


Virtual Loyalty

Virtual Loyalty

Recently I received a gift card from a client in Atlanta (a big thanks to Randy at Firethorn). The gift card wasn’t a piece of plastic, but an electronic gift card. The card I received can be redeemed simply by showing your Smartphone at point-of-sale, based on the business I select to redeem it at. Currently the app, call SWAGG™ (www.swagg.com), has several businesses to choose from. However, the app is only available on Apple and Android devices. This is one more occurrence making me question why I’m sticking with Blackberry. I’ve been a Blackberry user for years, first with the Curve and these past couple years with the Bold 9700, but more and more often I find myself thinking about switching to an Android phone.

Truth is, I have NOT been unhappy with my Blackberry; they’ve been great phones. I’ve virtually been loyal to BB for many years now. It just seems like I’m missing out on something even better!

Do you have tons of virtually loyal customers? People that think you do a good job, provide a good service or product? Tried and true is a solid concept, but only goes so far (ask the railroad companies of the early 1900’s). Are your customers secretly wondering about switching to another business? The question is what have you done lately to “WOW” your customers? Content customers quickly become complacent and consequently lost customers. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking of ways to turn virtual loyalty into true loyalty:

  • Customer appreciation day
    • Balloons and signs saying “Thanks!” go a long way
    • Cookies, candy and popcorn goes even further
  • Special customer loyalty coupon
    • Use your website, Facebook page or Twitter account to send out coupon
    • If you’re not using any of these social media tools, do so ASAP
  • Contests
    • Giveaways
    • Prizes
    • Raffles
  • Employee Recognition Awards
    • Encourage your employees to “make the customer’s day”

The competition is doing everything they can to steal your customers. It’s time to fight back! Give it a try and see what happens. As for me, sorry BB my virtual loyalty is fading; Android and Apple are throwing a party and inviting me to join them.

Your Daily Deals Rocked… Now What?

I get daily deal emails from more than half a dozen sources every day. For many restaurants and retailers this is a simply concept to execute to potentially drive a lot of traffic. That’s great; you got me in the door the first time with that juicy, aggressive offer. Now what?

First, customers using the daily deal better be impressive me with your service, quality, atmosphere, etc. If you deeply discounted to get me in the door you better make sure I have a worthwhile experience. No deal is good enough to overcome poor service or poor quality (or both).

Next, treat me like a full price customer. Be happy I’m redeeming the deal, don’t look down on it (and train employees to do the same). I redeemed a daily deal coupon at a sporting goods store recently. When I handed it to the guy behind the counter, he sighed loudly, then turned to his boss and said “Here’s another one,” followed by another sigh. I felt like responding “I’m sorry, did you not want me as a customer?” Again, poor employee attitude and poor customer service will lessen the likelihood of me returning.

Finally, what’s the plan to get me coming back? Daily deals should be a part of a larger marketing strategy if you expect me to come back anytime soon.

I’m interested to hear about business owners’ experiences from using daily deals as a marketing strategy, especially since there is some much buzz surrounding the concept.


Connect with Customers through Branding

Today’s consumers have more options for where to shop and what to buy than ever before. Creating customer loyalty is increasingly challenging. If you want to build repeat business you’ll need to find a way for customers to relate to your brand.

 Recently I asked my 10 year old son where he wanted to go for lunch. He responded “Subway” (sandwiches). I was surprised by this answer. I was expecting McDonald’s or some other fast food place with toys in kid’s meals. The he said “Dad, I’m a Subway kid now.” My son feels he’s grown out of happy meals and mini burgers and wants a bigger sandwich. Even at a young age, he relates to the Subway restaurants brand.

After this conversation I began to think more about the brands I “relate” to. Several months ago I purchased camping gear at REI. At the time I also purchased their lifetime membership. As a member I get rewarded so I look to REI first for outdoor recreational products; ever since I’ve considered myself an “REI guy.” I’ve found that I relate to that store’s brand. Consequently, REI is my favorite places to get camping gear. Another example is a local barbeque restaurant called Q4U. If someone recommends we go out for BBQ I immediately suggest going to Q4U. Q4U is branding their restaurant as the place I go for good BBQ.   

The immergence and success of social networking sites proves people want to feel like they belong to some sort of group, community or cause. Why not make your business something customers feel they belong to. It’s like owning a Harley Davidson motorcycle. It’s about more than the product; it’s about belonging to the community.   

What do you offer your customers? If you only think of the product or service you sell, you risk making a one-time sale and nothing more. Today’s business owners need to create a brand their customers can relate to and connect with. Make your customers a part of your business. They will stay loyal longer and will bring additional customers to your business.