We’re learning marketing insights from all the wrong places

oreos (borrowed from Wikipedia)Trying to imitate the digital giants is an exercise in futility and frustration.

I remember sitting in front of a television with a bunch of people about ten months ago utterly confused about what was going on. It was Super Bowl XLVII and the lights in the stadium had simply turned off right after the halftime show. Little did anyone know that this disturbance would provide one of the most famous viral marketing stunts in recent history: Oreo’s “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark.”

As if talk about Super Bowl advertising isn’t already frustrating enough for those of us managing marketing budgets of less than half a dozen digits, for the next month we had to be bombarded with hundreds of ‘What we can learn from Oreo’s brilliant ad’ blog posts.

Oreo’s ploy was dubbed “the benchmark for breakthrough marketing.” After all, the ad from one of America’s most famous cookies accumulated more than 21,000 likes on Facebook and nearly 16,000 retweets on Twitter.

So there’s a lot to be learned from this ‘case study,’ right? Wrong. Learning from the top-down simply doesn’t work.

Unless your brand has thousands upon thousands of social media followers, you probably could have posted an even cleverer and more relevant ad, and without an insane amount of luck, it would’ve gone nowhere. And this is the essential problem with where we take marketing insights from.

We need to stop learning exclusively from established brands. Most of us simply do not have the resources or social capital to truly imitate any of these ‘marketing deities.’ We will simply burn the far limited resources we have only to find out that we should have just saved our time and money in the first place.

Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to learn from the bottom-up? If we look at the stories of successful marketers from companies you’ve never heard of and stunts that required few to no resources or reputation, we can derive insights that are tangible and applicable.

This isn’t all to say that Oreo’s ad wasn’t brilliant. It was. But to pretend that SMB’s can ‘tap into the moment’ in any similar fashion is ludicrous. We’re outsiders and we need to accept that. Let’s instead learn from the ‘fringe’ cases – from those who were resourceful and innovative, and we may just begin to understand marketing on a new level.

Entrepreneurial marketers have been called ‘growth hackers’ because of their ability to find innovative ways to extend their brand despite overwhelming barriers. They’re able to grow because they are of a different mindset – they follow a different set of rules.

In my webinar on October 31, I will delve into the techniques ‘growth hackers’ use to market and evangelize their brands. I will tell the story of two marketers who succeeded without emptying their bank accounts. You may just find that being resourceful is better than having resources.

 [success]Sign up for Nis’ FREE live webinar with Social Buzz U – Thurs Oct 31, 11am Pacific. CLICK HERE to register now! [/success]

is is a full-stack marketer with an obsession for UI/UX and growth hacking. He is an award-winning web and app developer, and is the co-organizer of both Natural User Interface Central and the Rutgers Mobile App Development club. Nis is currently the COO of Hublished, a content marketing channel he co-founded as a junior at Rutgers University.

Strategic Guidelines For Pricing Professional Services

Seriously… How Do You Set Your Value?

7470922When we first discussed pricing as a subject for this guest post, Laura Rubinstein said most folks want to know what people are REALLY charging.

She asked first: “Is there is resource you can point to on how to research the fees?” And, she added: “Could you point to case studies in your industry and what they charge?” She’s really good at getting answers to the daily questions Social Buzz Club readers are facing.

So, to the first point, I added a few links at the end of the post and suggest that everyone do in-depth homework in addition to what I suggest here. Unfortunately, I am convinced that even if I could answer the second question, it would suggest that there is a rule to follow and I believe very strongly that there is no rule – even by industry.

Every situation is unique, each provider works in different ways and at different speeds. And the “art” of pricing requires careful assessment of the intended results, the situation at hand, and the context at the moment. My hope is that what I’ve written will serve as a guide to the answer that is best for you.

1. Focus

Whatever else you take away from this post, at the very least please understand that it’s not in any way about you – it’s about the client! You may be offering the equivalent of a Rolls-Royce and therefore what seems like a totally justifiable high dollar amount just may not be necessary if all your client needs is a way to get to and from the commuter train station twice a day. Compare what you are offering to the receiver’s perception of value in terms of benefits – not features. Create Win-Win …you are not in this by yourself (See “Business Negotiation: The value of creating win-win”)

2. Pricing Products vs. Services:

  • Products are easy to define, to measure, and to price by quantitative elements.

  • Services are, by their very nature, intangible, thus requiring a strong relationship-based communication so buyers are comfortable they’re not buying a pig in a poke

3. Some issues to consider:

Ego, competition, and, oh, yes, paying the rent

  • Ego: It’s hard to set aside one’s ego when personal assumptions are invested about value, though it’s necessary to be objective (here’s a good time to think about advice from a peer, a good friend, a client, or another consultant.)

  • Competition: Whatever your ultimate price, always knowing what the competition is offering and what they are charging for it is just good business. If you think you can justify a higher price than available elsewhere then you will have a stronger need to clearly define what makes your offer different. For example, if your hourly rate is among the highest in the market, be certain to point out (and offer proof if it’s verifiable) that you work much faster than the others.

  • Paying the rent: How badly you need money will often be a serious factor. In the real world needing cash may justify significantly lowering your price, however, it’s always a good thing to remain as objective as possible and knowing what you’re worth on all fronts should always precede offering a deep discount.

  • The bottom line: It’s a subtle exercise that will improve over time as you tweak your pricing based on reactions from customers as to what works, when.

4. The proof is in the pudding:

In the end, a service is ultimately worth what people are willing to pay for it and the best way to move people to pay what you ask is to show them how using you and your service will return more in value than they are paying in cash.

5. Retainer, Value Pricing and Hourly Rates:

These are three examples of big buckets allowing you to assess whether to bill for your time or for a specific deliverable.

  • Time – Most advice in this arena starts with how much you want to make, the factors in predicted expenses, and how many hours you can do billable work in a year (as opposed time spent promoting yourself, keeping records, updating your skills, and vacationing). After the arithmetic is complete, if you work the predicted number of hours at the calculated rate you should be able to make however much money you originally targeted. (For example see a legal pricing formula and methodology here.)

  • Deliverables – If you have considerable experience upon which to estimate both the time it will take you, and any support you might have to purchase from others, then you should give serious thought to pricing based on a defined deliverable. “Deliverable” could be a document/report, an event like a meeting, handing over a quantified research result, writing up study or evaluation, etc.

  • Retainer – Where the retainer fee provides you to be available to offer your expertise based on anticipated needs, and the fee is paid whether you are used or not. The fee and relationship to the value delivered should be adjusted quarterly as a result of a joint review, to make sure both you and your client are satisfied with its fairness.

6. Context is very important:

  • Is it just you or part of a larger whole? (Are you delivering an extended team or a truly unique expertise? Or maybe both?)

  • Timing is everything (What’s worth one dollar today may be  worth 50 cents or 2 dollars tomorrow or to a different client or in a different situation)

  • Consider the purpose – both yours and the client’s. What is the intention, and are you both aligned?

  • Just because you can negotiate a high price doesn’t mean you should accept the assignment (or pitch to win it). See To Pitch or Not To Pitch: 10 Questions to Qualify the Opportunity

7. Making Money while you sleep:

AH HA! The holy grail. It is true that productizing your service could have people ordering from your website while you sleep or go to the ball game with your kids. This is the magic-wand solution and although it sounds wonderful it is not easy to do and requires a different attention and commitment. (And a different blog post too, which I have not yet written.)

8. Be a Trusted Advisor:

Establish open and honest communication. Be willing to say no – even if it would be easy to get paid for something – when the best advice might be to send the client elsewhere. Get to a place where you are both experiencing partnership and are comfortable having a frank discussion about money. See: “Asking The Client About The Budget: When & How

9. Be Intentional:

Think of pricing as a strategic tool – it’s not just about money but it’s about how you will be evaluated and recommended in the marketplace. Underprice or overprice your services at your peril. And don’t be afraid to give some away… Yes, you must focus on profit, however, satisfying a client without an emphasis on money could be your most effective (and overall, your cheapest) marketing tool. See: “Business Development: Are You Giving 100%? – Part 2

Conclusion: Pricing services is an art, not a complex, scientific exercise.

There is no one formula that works all the time for all people in all circumstances – even if the service is the same. In fact you must be very flexible because (depending once again on the context) there may be different times and circumstances where you will price the same service for the same customer at different rates.

Additional research references on pricing that you might find valuable:

  • Increased Consulting Fees Through Self-Confidence” A Youtube audio with transcript printed below  the frame
  • Elizabeth Wasserman, Nov 1, 2009 in Inc Magazine: “How to Price Business Services
  • Do a Google or Bing search for “determining _____ fees” where you insert your service in the blank space. For example, insert “consulting” or “architect” or “coaching” or “web design” or “professional services” or a better descriptor of what you are selling. (Don’t forget to refine the search limiting to the narrowest field and/or most recent posts.)
  • Career Coaching Fees – Working the Numbers http://bit.ly/ZWCDrA

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Please respond by sharing your personal experience – add a comment and share tips and tricks along with challenges you have faced in pricing your services

Joseph Olewitz, a Coach, Mentor, Trainer, Guide, Speaker and Implementer of relationship-based results in Business Development & Sales of Professional Services. Joseph spent 14 years charting growth direction and implementing business development plans at two major, multi-national digital agencies. Over the past four years he has been delivering that expertise as a consultant and executive coach to agencies large and small as well as to individual professional services Practitioners from multiple industries. Read his blog at www.intentionalgrowth.com, see his service offerings at www.22ndstorystrategies.com, connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, and on many other social platforms.

A Personal SEO Case Study

gearsaAs an Obsessed SEO Engineer I feverishly worked to get my first business’s sites up on Google.

I did it quickly and quite easily with just a little bit of study. My AmericanWedlock.com ranked number one for the search term “unique wedding invitations” which was a coveted key term for every invitation site. AmericanWedlock got over 25,000 unique visitors a month and resulted in one or two sales a month while my BeachWedlockInvitations.com site brought in only 1,500 unique visitors a month but it resulted in at least 30 sales a month.

For years, I struggled with AmericanWedlock.com as I put up every invitation imaginable by every wholesaler imaginable and by adding my own line, do it yourself kits and more. Why was nobody buying?

I changed graphics, sales, wording and more. I made changes on a monthly bases so I could convert those browsers into buyers. As a test, I even lowered my prices to the point of breaking my wallet. They still weren’t buying.

I finally found my answer from one of my own BeachWedlock customers. She said she found this specific invitation on AmericanWedlock.com and as soon as she found the one she wanted, she searched the title of the product to find the best priced one online. Then she found the same product on my Beach site and decided to buy there even though the price was the same.

Have you ever done that before? I do it every day!

This is why long tail keywords generate more sales than generic key terms. People in general have a search pattern they follow before they buy.

This knowledge can be gold as you try to get your sites to the top of Google for your coveted key phrase. First, do the proper research and see if you’re trying to rank for a long tail keyword. Then, make sure you put that keyword on your page enough that Google recognizes that page as an authority on the subject.

Just make sure you don’t keyword stuff your page or Google will see red flags and might even penalize your site.

My favorite tool for keyword research is free and can be found here: tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/seobook/

Subscribe to my site for more SEO tips ==> richmombusiness.com

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Renae

 

renaeAbout Renae Christine
With kids in tow, Renae has created dozens of successful businesses for herself and others. Each of these businesses have successfully climbed Google and to date she has never paid a dime of her own money for advertising. She has assistants run those businesses and uses her time to fulfill her dream of making funny videos on You Tube. You can see her funny videos at http://RichMomBusiness.com

With kids in tow, Renae has created dozens of successful businesses for herself and others. Each of these businesses have successfully climbed Google and to date she has never paid a dime of her own money for advertising. She has assistants run those businesses and uses her time to fulfill her dream of making funny videos on You Tube. You can see her funny videos at http://RichMomBusiness.com

6 Social Mistakes That Will Cost You!

6 Social Mistakes That Will Cost You!

Depending on who you talk to, social media is either the greatest thing since sliced bread or it’s the biggest waste of time imaginable! So why isn’t it working for everyone? Why do some people seem to hold the key to success while others are still struggling? The answer may surprise you!

Although there are many reasons why some people aren’t seeing results for their social media efforts, we’ve identified 6 common social mistakes that brands don’t even realize they are making. These will cost you BIG TIME!

1. Leaving Out a Key Piece

Have you ever worked a puzzle and found that the last piece wasn’t in the box? The end result is never as pretty as if you’d had the entire series of pieces working together to form a lovely image. Social media works in much the same way.

Very often businesses find once piece of their strategy distasteful or unfamiliar and so they decide not to do it. They are willing to do Facebook, but they won’t let people comment on their wall. They will open a Twitter account but they won’t share anyone else’s content. They want to ‘do social media’ but they aren’t willing to share anything of themselves online. These are all missing pieces to a very intricate and profitable puzzle.

Imagine trying to drive a car without oil. It might run for a bit but it won’t run well and it won’t run for long. Imagine baking a cake and refusing to use any type of sweetener. It might bake and your guests might take a bite but no one is going to ask for seconds!

Does this sound like what you’ve been experiencing with your social media strategy?

2. Trying to Do Too Much

There’s a very common phrase businesses use when they come to us to manage their social media strategies. Very often we hear, “I want to dominate the space!” Becoming the expert in your industry is an excellent goal! Becoming the only person to have a profile on every social site in existence is not!

Every social site doesn’t necessarily fit with the goals of every business. Some simply don’t support overall objectives and offer no real benefit for that individual client. If you’ve been spending time on sites that aren’t producing results for you then it’s time to reevaluate your strategy. Are your social sites getting you in front of your target audience? Are they offering you quality visibility? Are they helping you to be found in the search engines?

If your web traffic doesn’t reflect your efforts then you are throwing away valuable time and effort you could be using on more productive activities!

3. Thinking Too Small

Recently I received a call from someone who was interested in hiring my team. During the course of the conversation we followed each other on Twitter, friended each other on Facebook and connected on LinkedIn. We had a lovely conversation but ultimately we decided that they wanted a solution that we just couldn’t provide.

I had found some of the services they provided fairly intriguing so later that evening I was reviewing their website again. I decided to re-connect with them and inquire about retaining their services. Just a few hours after the call I found that I had been unfollowed and unfriended.

I decided to reach out online anyway and ask about one service in particular that they offered. They never responded. I imagine they decided that since they didn’t need one type of relationship with me that I could be of no further benefit to them. They ignored my communication. They lost a potential client. They lost someone who would have shared their content. They lost someone who may have referred further business to them. All because they were thinking too small. They didn’t consider the future benefit of a full scale business relationship with another entrepreneur.  They didn’t get what they initially wanted from me and so they moved on.  So did I.

4. Not Engaging In Conversations

Networking is all about building quality relationships with potential clients, partners and alliances and identifying mutually beneficial opportunities. Social networking is a two way street.

Using sites like Twitter and Facebook to blast your message to the masses is NOT an effective strategy. Identify people on each site that you would like to interact with. Reach out and say hello. Share their content. Engage them in conversation. See where this path of relationship building leads you!

If you own a business then chances are you already know how to network. Simply consider sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ tools that will allow you to network with far more people than you ever could at a physical event! Get out there and talk to someone! Listen to them too! Act on what you’ve learned and you might be surprised by what happens!

5. Ignoring Balance

Most entrepreneurs these days have had at least one social media class, attended one free social media webinar or read one or two free articles about social media strategies. They typically end up taking away one really good idea to implement.

The problem here is that one really good idea by itself is just that. It’s one really good idea. It isn’t a strategy. It isn’t a carefully crafted plan that is intended to produce the exact results you are looking for! The end result is a business that blogs three times a week but doesn’t promote their content effectively. It often also results in a business owner who chats endlessly online but doesn’t create content for their own business. In addition brands can end up using automation tools in a way that do more harm than good, using sites that don’t support their goals and connecting with large numbers of people who will never buy from them.

Too much of a good thing is never a good thing! Moderation and balance along with a complete understanding of how it all works together, go a long way towards producing quality results in a reasonable timeframe.

6. Believing You Already Know What Will Work

Of all the social mistakes you can make, this one can prove to be the worst.

  • Do you think you already know how to implement a successful social media marketing strategy?
  • Do you think you understand content marketing?
  • Do you believe that you already know where you need to be online?
  • Are you confident that you are already communicating in the right way with your target audience?
  • Then why aren’t you more successful?

No matter how far along you are in your marketing efforts, there is always more you can learn. Sometimes only a nugget of new information that you implement can make you thousands of dollars. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of doing something old in a new way.

There is an old quote that says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Are you open to new ideas? Are you willing to admit that there could be a new way of doing things that could catapult your business to the next level? Are you willing to change your preconceived notions and let go of what you’ve been doing in return for bigger and better results? If you want to see changes then you’d better be ready to make changes!

By now you may have realized there are some holes in your social media marketing plan. If you haven’t been getting the desired results, consider the items above. Are you making any of these social mistakes? Is your strategy well rounded? Does it include content creation as well as promotion? Does your strategy involve actually meeting new people online and having conversations? Do you have a strategy at all or are you just moving through the tasks?

Once you’ve identified the areas where you are challenged, the picture becomes much more clear and you can begin to identify ways to make your social media strategy complete. Results are sure to follow and soon you’ll have an endless supply of new contacts, new partnerships and new business!

Janice Clark is the owner & CEO of BizMSolutions. BizMSolutions is a a full service virtual solutions provider & social strategy firm. They specialize in assisting the small to medium sized business owner who needs virtual solutions for their business. Her team of experienced virtual assistants include marketing VAs, copywriters, graphic designers, web designers, Public Relations professionals & more. Together they help businesses across the globe leverage their social media efforts in order to increase their social and financial net worth. Click here for more information about the services provided by Janice and her team – http://www.bizmsolutions.com

Time Management Strategies: Expert Tips for Managing Workflow

…So Your Business Moves Forward Successfully

Plan your marketing RIGHT to use your time bestI recently read material from both Payson Cooper and Bryn Johnson’s websites and wanted to share some of what I’ve learned.

Between working each day for clients and my own blogs, and managing all that comes with that, it’s not easy anymore to fit everything in, and I need better time management strategies, as I’m sure you do!

I will say this: We all have missions and causes that we care deeply about, but if they don’t generate revenue, they take a back seat to the work we must do to earn a living. I know that seems harsh, and I say it knowing how much I love the causes and missions I’m on, but I have to be realistic as well. If I don’t take the time to do the work I must, I won’t have the extra time to do the other things I want to.  Continue reading

Susan Newman Design Inc is a brand identity design and marketing studio with expertise in Web. Building sites, blogs, implementing SEO and Social Media. Her brand interview series promotes others freely and she creates video tutorials to help businesses build their platforms right.