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Lone Ranger Fails – Why A Community Is Necessary For Success

If you’re the kind of person that thinks they have to do everything themselves - either because you’re a perfectionist or are just too proud to ask for help you need to listen to today’s show.

Learning to delegate, ask for help or rely on a strategic partner can shorten your time to success and often mean the difference between ultimate success or failure.

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things and expect different results.  Bounce your ideas off some other successful folks and allow them to expand your options and ideas and do some things differently.

I was invited to join an online community several months ago and the friends and advice I’ve received there have moved my entire business model ahead several years.

If you’d like to take a look check out Earn 1k A Day. Use the trial period to look around and you’ll soon find all the free products and resources to be well worth becoming a full member.

What do you think?  Are you a lone ranger or have you found other resources to tap into and help you succeed?

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You Have To Hit Bottom Before You Can Bounce Back

You Have To Hit Bottom Before You Can Bounce Back

We’ve all heard this phrase and it’s usually someone trying to justify their poor decision making, riding a stock as the price drops to zero or recognizing their inability to make drastic changes until they have no choice.

I visited two different businesses today in the same market niche and within 10 miles of each other.  Their industry was hit hard during the financial crunch two years ago.  Both were in about the same shape financially in the Fall of 2008.  Today, one is lean, mean and growing market share while the other is still facing dropping revenue and zero or negative growth.  What’s the difference?

Three months into the financial system failure, one company recognized that doing business the same way they had done for the last 15 years was just not going to work when everything was turned upside down.  Instead of laying anyone off they cut payroll across the board 10% along with all extra expenses.  They asked their employees to look at every part of their policies and procedures to see if there were areas they could streamline, improve the customer experience or just remove completely if it was ineffective.  With the pay cut their employees knew things were serious and everyone is still committed to continuous improvement.

The other company kept payrolls the same, made no changes in their business model and basically hunkered down and hoped for the best.  They made lip service to seeing where they could cut costs and improve the customer experience to increase market share but there was no incentive to make those improvements.  With revenue falling the morale company wide is poor and instead of working as a team there is constant friction between employees about who’s working harder or who’s taking more vacation time.  At this point it’s going to take a huge housecleaning or a serious jolt to get their attention.

What about you?

Do you see the huge changes that online marketing and sales is bringing to the marketplace, yet you keep doing what you’re familiar with and hope for the best?

Do changing government regulations threaten to destroy your entire business model (think health care), yet you haven’t even begun to develop other products or diversify your market offerings?

Do you recognize the rising expectations that customers have in the sales experience, yet you still treat them as if they are ancillary to your entire business process?  Make them navigate a horrible phone menu system, wait forever to talk to a real person and leave them wishing they were dealing with someone else?

Don’t wait to hit bottom before you are willing to make wholesale changes to make your company better.  Whether it’s new product offerings, better processes and procedures and especially the quality of interaction you have with your clients.

Your customers will drive further, pay more and tell their friends about a company that treats them like royalty and provides a product or service that fills a felt need or solves their problem.

Start today and make it happen.

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The Power Of Facebook – Leverage The 500 Million Pound Gorilla

Every now and then in this fast paced, ever changing technology world along comes a complete game changer – someone or something that completely changes the way the system works. In just six years time (and the real explosion began just 2 – 3 years ago) the giant that is Facebook has topped 500 Million users – a number previously unheard of in the world of web site memberships. Even if you could figure out a way to get each member to pay you a penny a year that’s 5 million dollars a year. That’s almost enough to allow most people to quit their day job.

It seems like everyone is trying to find a way to harness the power of this new 500 pound (or is that 500 million pound) gorilla. I see two or three new $100-200 courses a month advertising the latest and greatest secret to instant wealth using Facebook. From paid ads to super fan page secrets and anything in between.

The problem remains that people come to facebook to socialize and not to purchase. That’s not to say that monetizing can’t be done but you’re going to have to think outside the box. Creating a facebook page called ‘Bob’s Hardware’ will probably get you a few fans – maybe a couple regular customers who have been buying your secret birdseed for years and your employees if they like you. Unfortunately, that’s a long way from the huge potential fan base available. So, let’s think outside the box a bit.

People love causes, or should I say they like to be part of something that is popular with their particular group of friends. We claim to be individuals but don’t really stray too far from the worldview and mindset of our peers. So, if all your customers are conservative you could start a fan page around a conservative cause that a large group of people would ‘like’. Or, if you support a cause that is identifiable to your community you could name a page “Facebook Fans Fighting To Cure Cancer”. On your fan page have a script that only shows a coupon to users who choose to ‘like’ your page. Your coupon would be for every purchase of $100 or more the customer get’s $10 off and Bob’s Hardware donates $10 to the local Cancer research foundation. The customer puts their facebook user name on the coupon when they turn it in and every time you have one redeemed you post the news on your fan page, which in turn is posted on each of your fan’s facebook page.

Oh, and because you chose such a great name for your page, when someone clicks the like button it shows up in their profile as “John Miller” likes “Facebook Fans Fighting To Cure Cancer”

That idea’s worth at least a grand – send an email to info@YouveGotFiveMinutes.com and I’ll get you my paypal address. Now get to work…

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The Power Of Local Search Listings

If you’ve done any searching in Google lately (the Godzilla of the internet) you’ve noticed they are placing a much greater value on the local search listings.  They’ve integrated Google maps and placed a small map at the top of the page with pins and along the side the businesses are listed in that geographic area.  If your business is not taking advantage of these listings you’re missing out on a huge traffic source for suspects, prospects and customers.

One of the services we provide to our marketing clients is to optimize these listings – if you have money to spend and very little time send us and email and we’ll talk J.  If you have little money and time to do it yourself I’ll share some of the secrets to getting the most from these listings.  I’m not going to tell you everything of course but I’ll get you ahead of 95% of your competition.

  1. Claim Your Listing – You’ll need a Google account for this (it’s free) and it’s a simple step of finding your listing however far you are down in the ranking and then claiming it as the owner.  You’ll then be asked to verify yourself by getting a pin number sent to either your business physical address or phone number.
  2. Verify of Correct Your Information – Take a few minutes to make sure that your address, phone number, web site and all other pertinent information is correct in your listing.  Interestingly enough, I had a client last week that although their location was near the center of the city the Google map showed them being 15 miles out of town along with several of their competitors.  In doing some detective work I found that Google actually had their street name spelled wrong in their system and could not place them properly on the map.  We couldn’t get Google to correct the street name but were able to force the association to the correct geographic location.  They went from 30th place, several pages deep to #1 on page 1 the next day.  Local search traffic has been off the hook ever since and two competitors on the same street are still out in the woods.  I love it when a plan comes together!
  3. Get Some Reviews & Ratings – Find a couple of your customers who are internet savvy (and like you) and have them rate your business and write a short review.  Except for restaurants I’ve noticed that few other businesses have reviews.  I get reviews for my clients and watch their local listing rank increase.

Those three things should keep you busy for a couple days and if you use your imagination you will be able to find a couple other ways to optimize your local listings (think photos, videos, coupons, etc.)

Oh, and if you’re an internet business that doesn’t post an address on your site because you’re trying to market to a worldwide audience?  I’d recommend posting an address or buying a separate domain name to market locally – example: atlantawebhosting.com – even if you don’t have a local office you could contact a computer consultant in that city and form a simple joint venture.  Then use their physical address, you provide them with local consulting leads and they pass on hosting client leads to you.

If you have any comments or questions about today’s show information be sure to post them on you’ve got five minutes (dot) com.  Also, we’re just putting the finishing touches on our free ebook ‘The Five Things Your Business Must Do To Survive in 2010’.  Sign up for our email list to get a free copy in the next week or two.

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The Power of Positive Customer Testimonials

I’m not sure where I heard it, but several years ago a business consultant told me that money spent on great tools and on marketing are the best investments you can make as a business owner.  So, I’m constantly looking for great tools to either automate my business processes or find new marketing avenues.

With that being said, I was looking for a certain tool this week and did some online research only to find what seemed to perfectly fill the need.  I read the sales pitch and as I got to the bottom I saw four or five great reviews of the product explaining how it overdelivered on all the promises made.  My credit card was almost immediately out of my wallet and information entered into the order form.

Several days later I received the software package only to find that it filled only the basic requirements and in fact did not work as well as some of the other tools I already had.  At first, I felt a bit foolish for falling for the sales hype but realized there were a few lessons to be learned.

1.        When you have a customer in buyer mode, a testimonial or two immediately removes the remaining buyer objections.  One of our basic needs as humans is social acceptance and not being the only one to do something.  A testimonial removes that fear of being the only one to do something and helps the buyer to feel part of the group.  The closer your testimonial givers are to that persons ‘in crowd’ or the socioeconomic group they wish to be part of  the better it is.  Take the phenomena of Facebook as a prime example.  If you can find a hook that works in that genre you can basically print money.

2.       If you want a customer for life you need to provide actual value.  Because of the broken promise in the purchase of this product I’ll never buy from this vendor again.  I know for certain that this vendor is only interested in sales hype and the testimonials had to be faked or bought.  When you compromise your integrity you have a business model that is unsustainable.  In today’s connected world you can go from success to failure in just a matter of months by not delivering what you promised.  I’ve literally seen it happen and will share the story at a later date.

The question is – do you have a process in place to systematically ask for testimonials from your customers?  First of all, make sure your product or service overdelivers and provides so much value that it is worthy of raving fans.  Second, develop a way to kindly ask for testimonials from your customers – the best time to do this is just after the sale.  A side benefit is that it solidifies the great buying decision they just made and removes any tinge of buyers remorse that may be lingering in their mind.

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How Much Do You Really Care? i.e. – You Were Always On My Mind – Show #10

There’s an old song made popular by Elvis and more recently by Willie Nelson titled “You Were Always On My Mind” – the lyrics go “Maybe I didn’t love you quite as good as I should have, Maybe I didn’t hold you quite as often as I could have, Little things I should have said and done, I just never took the time.

You were always on my mind…”

Which is certainly a cute little sentiment if you’re Elvis, Willie or a rock star coming in off the road to the wife and kids who’ve been holding down the fort.  However, tell me how that goes for you as a husband or boyfriend when you forget valentines day, birthdays or anniversaries…  Just sing the little ditty ‘you were always on my mind’ and everything will be all better?   NOT.

We show those around us that we care by spending time together, by listening and truly hearing what they say, by trying to understand their needs and wants and by doing what we can to meet those needs and wants.  All the empty words in the world can’t overcome the non-caring actions that reveal our true nature.

And so it is with our businesses – everyone says that they care about the customer and that customer service is one of their core values.  Very few businesses really take the time to ask for and then really listen to their client’s feedback.  I know this is true because it is such an outstanding and memorable experience when you run into a company that actually does listen and shows by their actions (not just their words) that they care.

Some examples:

  • A customer service rep that stays late to make sure all the voice messages left on the support line have been returned.
  • The auto service company that not only puts mats down to protect your carpet – but clean the car inside and out as an added value.
  • Any company that answers an email request immediately instead of the autoresponder that thanks you and says someone will respond within 24-48 hours.
  • The companies that take the time to put procedures into place to have a backup employee answer phone and email requests when one of their people are out of the office.
  • The electrician, plumber or HVAC company that makes sure their employees wear spotless uniforms, name badges, put white booties on over their shoes and leave their work area cleaner than when they started.

Spend less time talking about yourself and running fancy branding ad campaigns and more time developing a corporate culture that encourages the kind of actions that prove you actually care about your customers.

Interacting with you, your business and employees will be such a unique and memorable experience the word will spread quickly.  Viral marketing and referral programs are all the rage today but you don’t need a fancy program to teach you how to do this stuff – it really is as simple as old fashioned caring for the customer.

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Success Is About Relationship – Show #9

My grandmother just had her 90th birthday – in fact, we had a private family party for her yesterday and a huge open house today.  As a tribute to her I scanned in hundreds of photos, interviewed her on video and did enough genealogical research to figure out what the story of her life entailed – the same process I did several years ago for my other grandmother.

If you ever go through this process it’s fascinating to see how certain individuals in your personal history rise to the forefront when you shine a light back through your family tree.  One thing that seems to stand out – whether you find someone who was successful financially, in their family life, built an incredible social institution or just a legacy of being a game changer in a segment of society – they were always people who found ways to serve others and bring out the best in them.

Want to be a leader in your organization?  You won’t do it by being a lone ranger and doing everything yourself.  You’ll soon run out of time in your schedule and the people around you will be jealous and undermine your success.  Instead, find the gifts in people around you, find ways to empower them so they successful in their own area and then give them every tool necessary to build on that success.

My grandmother was a great cook – but where she really made her mark was as food services director for a nursing home – not really a place where culinary experts go to hone their skills and make a name for themselves.  Not one to settle for the status quo, she instead trained a staff of people under her to produce great meals.  Not only did she empower hundreds of staff during her years there but the thousands of residents and their families who visited them knew that she cared because of the quality of the meals.  As such, there aren’t many people in our 50,000 population community that don’t recognize her name.

I have a couple hundred affiliate marketing web sites that I’ve built over 15+ years on the internet.  In many ways I’ve tried to do my own thing behind the scenes and make a comfortable living for myself and my clients.  However, I’ve watched a couple guys come from nowhere and in a couple years time build a small empire.  How’d they do it?  Look for a key player, find a way to provide a service to them and in turn learn what they are doing – then come to them with a proposal to use the key player’s influence and promote their new idea.  Suddenly they are catapulted into the 6 figure a month income category.

Are you building relationships with your clients, community leaders, key players in your business niche (or any other niche for that matter) or are you such a lone wolf or caustic personality that destroys the relationships around you that could make you successful?

Success is about relationship – not only nurturing and caring for your own client base but also those key players and community leaders you can learn from and may just have the influence or idea that can be a game changer for you.

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Steal From The Very Best! – Show #8

In your industry there are some key players – the big dog so to speak, the business that everyone else is gunning for or trying to emulate.  This can be either in your local market or maybe nationally.  For business software it’s Microsoft.  I don’t know who it is for your business niche but you do.  It’s the business name that comes to mind when you analyze your results each year and need something to compare.

I can guarantee when you go to trade shows, user group meetings, marketing seminars, etc.  they always bring in someone from one of those key players or maybe a consultant inside your industry that is working with a key player.  It makes it easy for them to relate to business owners in your niche and you get a few ideas you can copy and implement without too much creativity or innovative thought.

Here’s the problem – the ideas you get from them are at best hand me downs.  Probably ones they used over the last couple years that are past their prime.  Even if they are current – by the time you implement them in your business the key players have moved on and are implementing their next innovation.

If you’re like me you don’t really want to always settle for being second or third place behind the key player – you want to leapfrog past them and BE the key player.  The only way to do that is to find inspiration and ideas from the absolute best.  Study innovators throughout history both recent and not-so-recent.  I’m a firm believer in the phrase ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’ in that you can learn something from any time period and any business niche and implement it in your own business.  The internet has opened avenues for us that were never before possible.  You can join a discussion forum or community in any market niche and pull ideas from anywhere on the globe.

I talked to a couple large local clients recently who see the huge popularity of youtube and facebook and want to find a way to capitalize.  We looked at a couple of key players in their market to see what they were doing – found some videos with a couple thousand views and facebook pages with several hundred fans.  That’s nice, but not where these guys wanted to be.

Instead, we studied facebook pages with hundreds of thousands of fans and youtube videos with hundreds of thousands of views.

Transfer those ideas into your marketplace and YOU can be the key player.

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Shotgun vs Rifle Marketing (without a target you’re dead) – Show #7

I was working at a client location today and they showed me a marketing piece they were thinking about mailing.  It had a lot of pretty colors and a catchy graphic but the message was the same tired list of features I’d seen a hundred times before…  Worse yet, it was a standard flier from one of their suppliers w/their name added to the bottom – the same thing that a hundred other agents would be sending out.

Yes, it was cheap because of co-op dollars but to be honest the benefit wasn’t going to even be worth the cost of postage.  I tried to gently explain to them the error of using that piece but it fell on deaf ears – they had no concept about or were unwilling to entertain any other marketing model.

Is this what your marketing effort looks like? Just a shotgun approach throwing anything you have at a broad market hoping something will stick?  If so, you’re wasting a lot of time and resources.

If you really want to be effective, pick a market that you know you’re good at – then drill down to a subgroup of that market and figure out one felt need they have that you can provide and nobody else can (or is currently doing).  Design a marketing piece around that need – make yourself the expert (as you’ve done the research, know and can identify with their pain) and focus on that one area.  Make yourself the King of that particular niche, when you make the sale ask for a referral or two along with a testimonial.  Before long you will be the ‘go-to’ person in that particular niche and when someone asks “where can I find a solution for this?” – your name is the only one people will remember.

An example?  There are hundreds of auto auctions in each state that sell cars each week.  The emphasis is on cheap (lowest common denominator) and you can get a good deal there – if you’re looking for junk.

Want a one-off classic or resto-mod muscle car?  There’s only one name that comes to mind…  Barrett-Jackson.  They own that niche – all the big dollar car collectors and celebrities are there – in fact, they charge $45 a ticket just to let you in and look around – $500 and up to actually get in the auction area and bid on a vehicle.  These guys are having fun as you can tell when you see them on TV.  Yes, it’s hard work but instead of an auction every week they only have to have a couple each year and make millions more than your neighborhood auto auction busting their tail each and every week.

Plus, they only attract the very best clients – both buyers and sellers.  Wouldn’t you like that to be your story – only entertain the best clients?

Pick a niche, become the expert and own it – it’s much more fun than groveling around with every other average schmuck who thinks they can compete against you…

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Become The Expert In Your Niche – Show#6

What is the most limiting resource in your universe?  Your time…

If you are ever going to be successful (in whatever measure you use for success) you need to be able to leverage this – the most valuable resource.  I’m not going to talk today about outsourcing, delegating, goal setting or prioritizing your daily activities – although these are all very important – instead, I want to talk about focus.  Taking one area of your life or business, narrow it down to the smallest niche and become an expert at it.

We’ve all seen people who meander about in life from one project to another – one job to another – or maybe even one wife and family to another.  They never really figure out how to be really great at anything.  In so doing, they never really fulfill any of their personal, social, spiritual or financial goals or fine tune the skills necessary to reach those goals.

By contrast, you often see athletes, community or business leaders who are laser targeted on becoming the absolute best at one thing and after they achieve that are also able to move that focus into other areas of their life and realize success there also.  The reason this works is because our minds have an incredible capacity to expand and take the disciplines learned in becoming great in one area and transfer that into other areas of life.  It also works because the confidence and sense of achievement built by success in one area is immediately transferable to other areas in our life.

You can’t be all things to all people – you can’t even be all things to one person.  Instead of trying, just stop completely (maybe for five minutes?) and drill down to one thing or area that you can become an expert.

Let’s start with a personal area – say you want to be a better spouse.  You can try the haphazard approach of a card or flowers every now and then along with a word of appreciation from time to time when you think about it – or – knowing that everyone has a basic human need to feel appreciated you can decide that every single day you are going to find a new way to show your spouse how much you appreciate them.  Just the creative process itself to figure this out will expand your mind in ways that will stave off Alzheimers for another 50 years.

For a business example – there’s no use trying to be another Wal-Mart.  You can’t beat them on selection or price.  Instead, pick a niche (cooking is hot right now).  There are a million items in the cooking niche so drill down to a single item – kitchen knives.  Learn everything you can about balance, handles, types of steel, blade angles, safety, etc.  Publish articles, write a newspaper column, start a blog, write a book – anything to get your name out there and be the one person that if someone wants to know about knives they know your name.  Either sell the perfect knives or become an affiliate and make a referral commission on every customer you send to the perfect knife manufacturer.  Once you own one area start to expand into complementary products (sharpeners, cutting boards, etc.)  Customers already trust your opinion, know you’re the expert and will follow you with credit card in hand.

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