Who Needs a Business Advisor?
The simple answer to the seemingly complex question of “Who needs a business advisor?” is everyone responsible for operating a business. That’s right, the Fortune 50 CEO to the one- person show needs an advisor.
The CEO of a public company has mentors as well as a board of directors to turn to. They often don’t have a choice of who their advisors are, but small business owners do. Unfortunately, with this choice of advisors comes another choice that is often made instead. That choice is to not get any help at all.
Not getting any help at all is very often the cause of the business failure statistics we hear so much about. The small business owner will often claim that they don’t have the time or money for an advisor. Think about that comment. How can you not have the money to get help from someone that can potentially save or make you more money since you obviously are not getting it done on your own? Or how about that time you are lacking? Maybe if that owner sat down for an hour with an advisor, they would be able to see why they don’t have time and do something about it with the help of someone who has already been in those shoes.
A coach or advisor gives to small business owners something most of them don’t have; a sounding board and a board of directors to turn to for advice. These are two great resources to use when trying to avoid trial and error decisions and processes.
I’m not knocking trial and error as the way to learn things. I’ve personally used that method and did well in many cases. But that is a case-by-case basis, not for on-going daily concerns. Don’t forget that this method is also very costly and time consuming. Why not ask someone who has probably already faced the problem?
What many business owners do not realize is that they rarely go through any trials and tribulations that someone else has never dealt with. Not to mention that about 70-75% of their business is the same as every other business including HR, finances, sales, marketing, and funding. The other 25-30% is industry specific.
Small to mid-sized business owners take away much more from an advisor than big businesses. This, if for no other reason, is the case because the smaller companies have owners that wear a lot of hats. Many of those hats take time away from the things the owner actually needs to make a priority to see their company succeed. Things they should be doing that they don’t have time to get to or things they are taking care of that they have no experience in doing. These situations take away from them doing what they do best. That’s a problem.
The question now is how to find an advisor. There are many types of business advisors out there. Some are purely coaches and others are true developers and implementers that will roll up their sleeves with you when asked to. It’s up to you to pick the type of person you want or need. Here are a few things to think about:
- Do they click with your personality? There are many good advisors out there but if they don’t click with you as a business friend, don’t bother with them because you will end up fighting them even when you agree on the advice.
- Have they owned a small business before? Gray hair does not equal business ownership knowledge. I promise you that the ex-CEO or Senior manager from a huge company knows very little about successfully operating a small business. These are two significantly different worlds.
- Don’t worry if a potential advisor doesn’t know your specific industry. Remember that a lot of your troubles have nothing to do with your industry. It would help though if the advisor had contacts/resources for you in your industry for when specific problems are addressed.
Once you made the very intelligent decision of getting help in making your business a success, keep a few things in mind. You should really commit to working with your advisor for a good 6 months. Nothing gets fixed overnight. Also, since you are paying for it, please do yourself a favor and be open to suggestions, bring important things to your advisor for help in deciding and make the use of your time with the advisor a priority. Don’t forget that an advisor or coach should never decide for you. It’s your company, they are there to make suggestions and guide you.
Working with an advisor can be a very enlightening experience. You will start to see the forest from the trees and not feel like you are the only person on the planet going through tough times as a business owner.
All business owners eventually need help. The successful ones put aside their pride and desire to be at the center of all aspects of the company and get the help. Do yourself and your company a favor and be one of the truly successful business owners. Get an advisor and get all you can out of them. If your advisor loves what he/she does for a living as such as you love what you do, you can’t go wrong.
Put it to Work!
In the last post we talked about how to conduct word of mouth research and then put that research to work. Today we’re going to give you some great tried and true ways to use word of mouth when building and executing your campaign.
We’ve done it in a list form, so you can go through and highlight the ones you want to put into action. These are offered by George Silverman which you can find in his amazing book The Secrets of Word of Mouth Marketing.
Here they are:
- Give them something worth talking about
- Cater to your initial customers shamelessly
- Give them incentives to engage in word of mouth
- Ask them to tell their friends
- The customer is always right
- Always tell the truth
- Surprise the customers by giving them a little more than they expected
- Give them a reason to buy, make them come back and refuse service from anyone else other than you
- Make eye contact, and smile, even through the telephone
- Find ways to make doing business with you a little better: a warmer greeting, a cleaner floor, nicer lighting, a better shopping bag, extra matches, faster service, free delivery, lower prices, more selection.
- Never be annoyed when a customer asks you to change a large bill even if he doesn’t buy anything.
- The customer is your reason for being. Never take her for granted. If you do, she will never come back, and will go straight to your competition.
- Always dust off items, but never let the customer see you doing it.
- Never embarrass a customer, especially by making him feel ignorant.
- Never answer a question coming from a desire to show how smart you are. Answer with a desire to help the customer make the best decision.
- Never shout across the store, “How much are these condoms?” or anything about the personal items a customer is buying.
- When you don’t know, say so. Do whatever you can to find out the answer.
- Every customer is special. Try to remember their names.
- Don’t allow known shoplifters into the store.
- Don’t ever let two sales staff talk when a customer is waiting. The worst thing you can do is count your cash while a customer is waiting.
- If you can suggest something better, they will be grateful. Always respect their choice.
- Never pressure anyone into buying anything.
- Never knowingly give bad advice. Just help people come to the right decision.
- Personally visit the store of the competition or assign people to visit and report back to you.
- Hire a shopping service to prepare periodic reports on how your people are treating your customers.
- If you hear of a store where the management is insulting the customers, buy it, then put up the sign “Under New Management” outside. Then sell it later based on the increased sales.
- One expert (in the drugstore’s case, a nurse or physician) who is convinced you are better brings hundreds of customers and their friends through word of mouth.
- Always look for ways to make a stranger a customer.
- People will walk several blocks to save a dollar, or see a smile, or be treated right.
- Always run a sale promotion or an offbeat event. Make them come back to see what you are cooking up next.
- Use the best sign-maker you can find and pay him more than anybody else.
- If someone is mad at you, they will tell everyone who will listen for as long as they are angry, maybe even longer. So correct any dissatisfaction, and ask customers to send their friends.
- Treat your employees and salespeople who sell to you the same way you treat your customers.
- Have a zero error system. There may be terrible consequences for example, if a mistake is made filling a prescription. Have people check each other’s work for safety.
- Occasionally make intentional mistakes to see if people are checking.
- Always measure your performance.
- Always ask a customer to “come back soon”
- If customers say they are moving away, offer to send them their favorite items by mail.
- Tell jokes.
I know this is a lot of information to digest, so I we’re going to wrap up this lesson and leave you with the homework of going through and taking a look at the tips and tricks you like best. Also, look for tips that fit your company, products, services and target customers for the most effectiveness.
If you need help with this process, try our GUIDED TOUR and get all the help you need from our experience business coaches.
Search & Implement
People only remember the extraordinary, strange, wild, surprising, and unusual. You need to make sure your ideas and marketing reflect these reactions. This doesn’t mean you have to have a product or service that is completely out of the norm, in fact, this could easily drive customers away. You need to have a product or service that is high quality and easily marketable, then you need to market it as extraordinary and new.
As you research word of mouth, there are some questions you need to ask along the way:
- What are the users willing to tell the non-users?
- Exactly how do your customers describe your product?
- What are the non-users willing to ask the users?
- What are the things they need to know, but are unwilling to ask?
- What happens when these issues are raised?
- Exactly what do your prospects have to know in order to trigger purchase?
- Exactly how do your customers answer the objections, concerns, and qualms of your prospects?
- How do your customers persuade their friends to use your product?
- How do your customers suggest they initially get to know or try your product?
- What warnings, safeguards, tips, and suggestions do your customers suggest to your prospects?
- Are your sales messages, positioning, and important facts about your product getting through and surviving word of mouth?
- What messages do you need to inject into the marketplace in order to turn the tide in your favor and how will you deliver them?
There are two main reasons why word of mouth research is so important:
- To get the real impression and feedback from customers
- To define word of mouth itself and the concept it creates
There is a simple formula that can help you conduct your word of mouth research. It’s called the “2-2-2” model. What this breaks down to is:
- 2 groups of customers
- 2 focus groups of prospects
- 2 mixed groups (enthusiasts & skeptics)
In these groups you need to ask the following questions:
- What would you tell a friend?
- How would you persuade a skeptic?
- What questions would you anticipate from a skeptic?
- How would you answer their objections?
The best way to conduct these groups is by teleconference. This ensures you’ll get a good variety of demographics for your customers and potential customers. It also allows people to feel safe and more able to express their true feelings. These teleconferences should not be conducted by you, but an independent party to avoid adding pressure to the situation.
We’re going to transition a bit and talk about how to construct a word-of-mouth campaign. First, we’ll talk a look at the essential ingredients you need to put together a campaign. These ingredients are:
- A superior product.
- A way of reaching key influencers in your marketplace.
- A cadre of experts willing to bat for you.
- A large number of enthusiastic consumers.
- A way of reaching the right prospects.
- One or more compelling stories that people will want to tell to illustrate your product’s superiority.
- A way to substantiate, prove, or back up your claims and how the product will work in the real world.
- A way for people to have direct, low-risk experience, a demo, sample, or free trial.
- A way of reducing overall risk, an ironclad guarantee.
Once you have those ingredients ready to use, you should consider the situations in which your company can benefit from a strong word of mouth programs. Some of these situations are:
- When there are credibility problems.
- When there are breakthroughs.
- When there are marginal improvements.
- Where the product has to be tried in large numbers or over time
- Where there is high risk in trying the product.
- With older or mature products that have a new story that people tend to ignore
- With unfair competitive practices such as spreading rumors or telling lies about your product.
- When there are governmental or other restrictions on what you may say or claim directly.
While, most of the word of mouth tactics are positive for your word of mouth program, there are a few products to avoid using in this program. They are:
- Products where a seminar would not provide meaningful added value.
- Products that can’t be tried and where there is no consensus among experts.
- Products that are clearly inferior, without having a compensating superiority for similar products.
- Products that are so personal or emotion that rational discussion is irrelevant to the decision.
- Products where the decision value is so small (low price/low volume) the medium will not be cost-effective.
This wraps up this post on word-of-mouth research and how that research can be used when putting together your word-of-mouth campaign. If you need help with the research and a plan to use the results of that research, try our GUIDED TOUR to get all the help you need with our top-notch resources and tools.
Science of the Memes
Today I’d like to discuss the science of the memes and how spreading ideas around and through society is ingrained in humans.
This refers to types of ideas that spread the fastest through society, why they spread fast and how that affects consumerism. You can use this same information to create a lasting positive impression about your company, products and services. People are more likely to try a new product or services when they feel protected and reassured by the masses.
It’s been determined that spreading ideas is essential to the survival of a society. There are 5 main situations where this occurs. They are:
Think of evangelism. This is prime example of people not only spreading the word, but convincing people to jump on board and start to spread the word themselves. To do this effectively, you need to incorporate a few key things that always catch people’s eye:
- Unique Results
- The Unusual
- Helping Others
Next we are going to switch gears a little and talk about viral marketing. While, traditional marketing can be used to your advantage, the reality is viral and online marketing is the king of the castle. You can spread the word online like the plague, if you know what to do. Here are some simple steps to do this:
- Find an interesting idea
- Make it easy for people to experience or trial
- Spread the idea while people who are in close contact with others
- Take advantage of existing communication methods
- Develop the way of trying your product in such a way that it automatically draws more try-ers
Some great places to use viral marketing are:
- Roger Wilco
- AOL Instant Messenger
- MSN Instant Messenger
- “Tell A Friend” Buttons
- E-Greeting Cards
There are six things everyone should be doing to benefit from word of mouth on the Internet:
- Put WOM components on your website.
- Assign people to monitor your viral marketing.
- Place testimonials in different places on your website to walk a customer through the purchasing cycle.
- Set up an email marketing campaign.
- Stay up to date on what products and services the experts in your industry are recommending.
- Use your website to demonstrate the great ways people are using or finding success with your products and services.
Here are other non-viral Internet opportunities to explore:
- Handheld PC’s
- And other well connected electronic devices
This wraps up the lesson on traditional and viral marketing. If you need help putting together any of the plans or successes in this lesson, try our GUIDED TOUR to get all the help you need to put these plans into action.
Decoding WOM Messages
Today’s lesson will talk about how word of mouth messages are delivered and how you can influence those messages.
There are essentially 3 methods of word of mouth:
- Expert to Expert
- Expert to Peer
- Peer to Peer
When experts are talking about your products or service you will usually receive an amazing rush of sales and new customers, so obviously this is one of the best things that can happen. You can also help to facilitate this by offering free products to experts for them to review.
Expert opinion can also bring about new ideas that help to fuel new products, services and operating systems within your company. If you take the time to change or develop the opinions of even a small group of experts, you will have the opportunity to help your market explode.
There is a standard word of mouth delivery system that, in most cases, takes a few years. But, you can speed this up into only a few weeks. The standard system is:
- First impressions from an expert
- Organized trial of your products or services
- Pooling peer experiences
It’s important to know exactly who is advocating for your products and service. Take the time to find out who they are and reward them. While, you may already have a customer service system for filing complaints, do you have one for compiling praise? Most likely not. If you take the time to show these people appreciation, they will help take your products and services to the top.
- Some of the ways you can show them appreciation are:
- Invite them to a customer appreciation dinner
- Offer to video tape their testimonials
- Ask to interview them for feedback to improve with
- Offer them a premier customer membership
- Ask them to join a referral incentive program
There are lots of things you can offer your biggest fans to help spread the word about your products and services.
Conventional media has been around forever and while it can still be effective, it’s lost a little of its luster over the last few years. There are a few reasons for this:
- Expensive and doesn’t necessarily return results
- Boring, lacking something fresh and new
- Too short of a time slot to offer enough information
While these are all true, there are ways you can make conventional media work for you. For the information to be effective it needs to be presented in the right sequence, come from the right sources, be relevant to the target customer, be credible and be delivered at the right time in the medium.
We’re going to switch gears a little and talk about the two phases of the product adoption cycle. Traditional media is great for taking you through the information stage where you can offer the information you need to your potential customers, but it’s not so great for measuring the results of those efforts.
Without these results you can’t fine tune your marketing and therefore can easily miss the boat and lose potential customers and waste a whole lot of money. Once a consumer has the information they need, they’ll go through a verification process as they analyze whether or not the purchase was a good one. They generally get their information through:
- Direct experience with the product
- Interaction with peers using the same product
- Experts’ experience
- Scientific journals and other resources
- Independent reviews and opinions
- You can accelerate this process by:
- Providing your own demo’s and free trials
- Offer them indirect experience through the experience of others
- Offer a good true story that can be passed around
Once you have the ability and are able to work through these concepts, you will be able to target your customers much better. If you need help with any of this along the way, try our GUIDED TOUR to gain access to our experienced business coaches.