Conquering the Unconquerable | Hunting Grizzlies in the Marketplace

Originally posted at Pro/Vision Coaching.

I have never personally met a grizzly bear, and I doubt it would work out well for me if I did. They tend to have big teeth and sharp claws, not to mention being the size of a mid-size sedan. Yet, there is an awe that surrounds even the discussion of their existence. Raw power; rarity; above-average intelligence – these are all characteristics of this seemingly un-tame-able creature with a penchant for salmon. Other than making a series of odd, pop-culture jokes, where is the point in writing about Winnie the Pooh’s nastier cousin? Simple: everyone is afraid of them, yet everyone wants to catch at least one.

Many Native American tribes viewed the grizzly as a god; Timothy Treadwell looked on them as brothers (ultimately a Cain and Able type brotherhood). Despite all the mystique and wonder surrounding the bear and our North American heritage, one thing is for sure: they were at one point the final hurdle in man’s climb atop the food chain. No matter how large, dangerous, fast, or angry a grizzly could be, man still saw them as a prize to be subdued and conquered. Historically, hunted grizzlies were used for many reasons such as food, clothing, jewelry and even dance rituals. Today hunting a grizzly is really only for a show of manhood (similar to the guy who tries to show off in his outlandishly expensive sports car). Overcompensate much?

We can’t stop though. There is just something captivating about conquering the unconquerable. There are very few Grizzly Adams left in the world—most of them have transformed into Gordon Gekko. Business has become the new frontier, and the frontiersmen of this new world are entrepreneurs. With each new business that opens its doors, it paves a way for countless others to live up to their ancestors and hunt the grizzly. What, though, is the grizzly in today’s world?

Since I’ve never seen anyone in a business suit fully armed and tracking a bear in the forest, I’m proposing that the perfect customer for your business is the grizzly bear. The grizzly is that one customer, who, if you could replicate them, would keep you fat and happy until the end of time replicating and upselling themselves automatically. The problem is, though, that they are not easy to find or to conquer. It may take a lot of effort, or a lot of marketing and sales strength to get the job done. You may have to go the extra mile and “walk a mile in their shoes” while giving them your cloak as well.

Have you conquered that frontier? Can you picture that perfect customer in your head, or do you even know what they look like? While it is technically possible to wander around in a forest and accidentally run into a grizzly, chances are you stand little chance of success in your hunt unless you do a little background work. For example, don’t go looking for grizzlies in Ocala National Forest (if you don’t know where that is, that’s why you need to do some research). And how many grizzlies do you want/need? Hunting the grizzly can be a dangerous, but rewarding (and very profitable) experience.

Why Knowing Your Target Audience Truly is the Bull’s-Eye

Originally posted at Pro/Vision Coaching.

I got into the sport of archery in high school. Led by a friend of mine, I found the sport fascinating, and I followed with stars in my eyes all the way to the store. The place I purchased it at had a full size shooting range in the back and tools to help their customers pick the right bow and accessories while trying them out. In the process of setting myself up with the perfect bow, I got into the challenge of archery, and learned that I actually had a bit of talent.

It has been a while since I regularly made it to the target range, but my love for the sport has never waned. The photo below was taken after a few recent practice rounds, and shows my grouping, and though overall it is nothing to be excited about, it was nice to see a few arrows right on top of each other.

The reason I tell you my background with archery is because of how much it has to do with successful marketing. Here are a few key lessons I have learned about marketing from my time in archery.

1. Practice is Mandatory | During my senior year of high school, all of those arrows would have been touching. The more I practice at hitting the center of the target, the more often I would succeed, and that success would come in groupings (consistently hitting the bulls-eye with each arrow). If you don’t keep at it, the ability you once had will fade away over time.

2. You Must Aim at the Center | If you only try to hit the target, your arrows will be scattered all over the target, with many missing it completely. The only way to consistently hit the bulls-eye is to “aim small, miss small” (The Patriot movie). In other words, the tighter your focus, the better your hit.

3. Know the Target and its Environment | In order for complete success, you need to know everything about your target. How big is it? Are you outside? What’s the wind going to do? How far away are you standing? Is there a vertical change between you and the target? The more you know about your target and its environment, the easier it will be to hit the center. Knowing your target also means that you know how to speak to that target, or in other words, craft that perfect message.

In the language of the business world, I am referring to your target audience. So that you can succeed with your marketing plan, you will have your best success when you treat your target audience like the bulls-eye. Who is your perfect target? What is that person’s environment? And so on…

You will find that if you follow these three rules in marketing, you will see significant growth in the number of prospects knocking down your door. You will find an engaged audience and have the right tools with which to get them interested in your product or service. Happy hunting!

Business Networking | A Huge Waste of Time, or Humanity’s Greatest Hero?

Originally posted at Pro/Vision Coaching.

A lot of people blog for their businesses simply to get better SEO (search engine optimization) for their website, thus leading to a higher search engine ranking and more clicks to their site. This is not a bad practice, whether you are in Omaha, Nebraska; Seattle, Washington; or anywhere else in the world. It is obvious (and truthfully, good practice) to make sure your business is known publicly and easily assessable. And as a business coaching firm, we would advise you to do just that. The world of the internet is a great way to make that happen (and also to sneak in wonderful keywords in THIS blog entry), but not the only way to get known and make your business successful.

Sometimes you just have to stick your face out there and be seen. Or do you? History has been faithful in teaching us that if you stick your face in front of a fan it might get cut off, or if you step out on a road you may get run over. Is growing your business really worth that risk? In the online game of Second Life—one of the fastest crazes to die in the last 10 years—you create a personal avatar (that can be you, or anyone you want to be) and go through “life” in the digital world. You are even able to buy products for your Second Life home, such as a TV from the Best Buy store in the game (which costs REAL money, by the way), or you could commit a crime inside the game and do hard time.

–Funny YouTube Clip on SecondLife–

If you are not like the 2 current members of the worldwide Second Life community, you prefer to live your life in the real world – and take note – that’s a good thing! But even so, many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of face-to-face business networking, and some of you may not even know what it is. Here are some questions I am often asked about the subject:

Q: Is it true that if you try to sell at a networking event, you will be captured and tossed into a dark cave beneath the Chamber of Commerce with a lonely, starved tiger? A: No. Ever since the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal, all the underground Chamber tigers have been released into the wild. Last I heard all but three tigers were accounted for at local area zoos.

Q: Ok, so they may not throw you to your death, but is it a bad idea to try and sell at a networking event? A: Yes. Even though your life should NEVER be at risk during networking, the goal is for you to build relationships with other networkers, thus building a community. People who come in and try to sell their wares right off the bat often miss out opportunities for future business growth.

Q: If I am allergic to shellfish and go to a networking event that serves it, should I eat it anyway and hope for the best? A: Do you always carry an EpiPen with you? Q: No. A: No. Allow me to say again that your life should NEVER be at risk during an event.

Q: Really? Last week I walked past a booth at a trade and they were literally shoving fried shrimp down my throat. Though I was able to run away, I lost my bag of goodies from the show. I think they were a rogue group of ___________________. (Mad Libs: Name an Industry of Your Choice) A: Seriously? That’s pretty crazy.

After all is said and done, if you go to a networking event with a sincere desire to meet people, learn about their businesses (first!) and then, when given the opportunity, share about how yours can be a benefit to people, you will do well. You may not end up being the hero networker, but it certainly won’t be a waste of time. Just keep an eye out for wandering tigers if you live in ___________________, __________________, or ____________________ (Mad Libs: Names of Cities).

Marketing 101 | Reach Your Customers through Their PAIN

*Originally posted on March 15, 2011 by PhilStalnaker at Pro/Vision Coaching.

Recently, I was delayed (when I say “delayed” it was more like an effort on the airline’s part to force me to move to Chicago permanently) and hunkered down at an outlet near a credit card kiosk. As I charged my phone, I couldn’t help but watch the two sales people try relentlessly to capture the attention of the hurried passers-by. The incentive they offered was actually a good deal—a free flight after the first swipe—but no one was interested. Why not? If we were to put their success rate into numbers, it would have to be less and a half percent success rate.

Let’s break it down: at Midway airport, there are 6 gates at the end of the concourse set in a semi-circle. The kiosk was perfectly located at the entrance to the semi-circle, where at least 10 flights per hour were shuffled through (coming AND going). At the average of 135 passengers per flight (according to the airline), over the course of 8 hours, that puts the foot traffic at around 21,600 people during their 8 hour stretch. FYI, I started watching during the last 30 minutes of these particular salespeople’s shift. I inquired how many credit card apps they had sold, which they embarrassedly answered “2”. That means, they literally succeeded at a rate of .000093%.

What was so wrong? Who would not be willing to take a free flight that literally took nothing from them? I say that, because I had already taken advantage of that deal and had acquired the free flight myself. Despite how friendly the salespeople were, no one cared. Curious to find out why, I interrupted a conversation between one of the salespeople and a lady who was overly against this deal. As an objective third party, I asked her why she was so against the deal. Her answer was blunt and honest, “I hate this credit card company”, she said. “They worked me over before and I won’t forgive them.”

“Makes sense to me,” I said, but quickly responded with another question. “Why not sign up, use your swipe to buy a gallon of milk, get your free flight, and then discontinue the card? You would be out nothing, but would have successfully enacted revenge on the company you are angry towards, and you are taking the flight from them.” Without hesitation she turned, filled out the application with a smile, then walked over to me after and thanked me for my help.

5 minutes later that exact same situation repeated itself with a married couple. Again I interrupted the conversation (I also had to include some advice on where to find the pizza that everyone else had while walking around), and again the result was exactly the same. These salespeople, in the last 5 minutes of their shift signed 2 credit card applications from people who were audibly NOT fans of their company. All they had to do was speak to their pain. I’ve already typed over 500 words at this point, so hopefully the lesson is evident, as I doubt I can make the next 500 interesting enough for you to read. Of course, this could never have happened if my flight wasn’t delayed for over 5 hours…

By the way, the credit card companies have no problem with giving people easy ways to opt out after getting the incentive, because statistics show that less than 5% of people will actually go to the effort of discontinuing the card. Laziness, and the credit card companies, win out in the end.

I’m also posting a picture of the shirt that the sales people gave me as a thank-you for getting them those sales.

So What? I Enjoy Hitting Myself on the Head with a Hammer! | Why Do It Yourself Websites Don’t Work

Originally posted at JM Web Designs.

As much as I would enjoy writing another column focused on undergarments, there is only so much material I can cover. Underwear, as one might say, is only part of the outfit. The question is, do you dress yourself, or does someone else pick out your clothes for you?

Actually, that is not the question at all. Today’s question is directed at those “so-called” home improvement experts that believe you can hang your own drywall, even though the only help you have is your wife who is just over five feet tall trying to hold the drywall against the ceiling while standing on a swivel chair. Don’t worry, mine had only six weeks of rehabilitation after the accident.

What exactly is the point? There is a reason people go to school and train to be good builders – THEY ENJOY THE WORK. I don’t and yet I do it anyway. If we are honest, how many of us figure that if we do certain tasks ourselves, we can save money by not hiring a professional? Allow me to tell you a story.

I thought it would be a great idea to renovate my basement. 1970s paneling was still a few years away from coming back into style and I wanted to make sure I was trendy, so I decided one day to pull off the paneling and re-finish my basement. That was ten weeks ago and I have not had a good Saturday since. Smashed thumbs, dust filling up my lungs, the gentle aroma of the landfill – all things I could have lived without ever experiencing are now my normal weekend routine. Why? Because I was greedy and wanted to save cash. Thankfully, the only people that are forced to look at my basement are my wife, myself, and the friends that I tricked into helping me paint.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZxh8rZ3rWA&feature=player_embedded

This analogy holds true when building a website. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between home and website construction. For example, do you want one person building an entire home? [No one is allowed to answer, “Yes! Bob Vila!”] There are lots of different specialties that go into building a house – architectural designing, framing, plumbing, electrical engineering, etc… A properly built website requires designers (graphic artists), coders, developers, researchers, marketers, and programmers (guys who sit in the dark and chug Code Red Mountain Dew all day long).

Now, there are people who are better at working with their hands and for most projects a little “imperfection” is acceptable, but not always. When publicly presenting your company do you want to put your best foot forward or allow your potential customers to see the cracks in your drywall? A poorly constructed website can actually cause more damage to your company image than not having one at all. Are the few dollars you might save by constructing a website yourself worth the headaches, frustrations, and eventual throwing of the keyboard?

As my television mentor (Homer Simpson) once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, stop trying.”

What’s the Difference Between Underwear and a Website?

Update: This article was originally written in 2010, but most still applies (including the unfortunate truth that Courtney Love is still making headlines and “The View” is still on the air). Since I have recently relocated and started work at another high-level web design firm, I thought it appropriate to reshare an old memory. The original link to this article post is here. I hope you all can enjoy this (and maybe even learn a deeper lesson) with me. Thanks!

With such an obviously sensationalistic title as that, I better quickly give you a reason not to hate me and send threatening letters to my boss. Though it may not seem like it, there is definitely a method to my madness. In my ever creative mind – which is a place that would make Stephen King an author for children’s books – I wanted to parley the importance of a website to your company’s credibility while at the same time not boring you to the point of squirting the toothpaste sitting in your medicine cabinet all over your face in an attempt to go blind. That’s where I came up with the question of the week, which is “What’s the difference between underwear and a website?” My answer – none at all. Allow me to explain why before reporting me to the FCC. There are four reasons that make a very easy comparison to what underwear does for you as opposed to a website.

1. Ratty or torn underwear can undermine your best outfit. Ok, so this actually happened to me within the last few weeks. I went to visit the doctor and needed an x-ray, which meant that I had to go into a private room, strip down to only my boxers, and put on a gown. The problem was that I had been wearing an old pair of torn up boxers and was embarrassed for someone to see me. When the technician came to get me, I had that gown tied as tightly as I could to make sure no one saw anything. Fear is never a fun way to live. The comparison to this is simple: if you look bad on your website, do you really think anyone is going to want to do business with you?

2. The right underwear provides foundation support that hides your flaws. If you have ever watched “The View” then we might need to have a different conversation, but they talk about ways for women to make themselves look as good as possible. This means, for most humans anyway, that we have to hide our flaws. If you have a big belly, what better way to hide it than a girdle? Although “Lethal Weapon 3” is the only example of a man wearing a girdle that I can think of, the theory holds true for both genders. One of the wonderful things a website can do for your company is make you appear bigger, stronger, and more capable by presenting yourself as well as possible. This of course can go too far – but those instances will be brought to light if your website shows you in a suit and tie and you are still in your robe when customers walk into your place of business.

3. The right underwear can provide the spark needed to capture your target’s interest. Alright guys, let’s be honest here – a girl who knows how to dress properly and “wear her clothes right” is usually going to win the battle of the sexes. The flash of a bra strap or stockings coyly shown goes a long way in winning a man’s attention. The creativity in the design of your website can accomplish the same thing – get people interested in you. Once they are interested, all you have to do is close the deal. Just make sure not to look your best and then forget to use mouthwash once they start talking to you.

4. The style of your underwear determines the style of your clothes. According to the fashion stylists of the world (motto: pain = style), a person’s choice of undergarments has a great deal to do with the outfit on top. Infomercial after infomercial discusses ways to “hide panty lines”, and no one except for Courtney Love would wear a normal bra with a backless dress. Thus, if you want to present yourself in a certain way, then you need to plan accordingly the underwear of the day. I saw an advertisement for a company that sells social media marketing options on the internet last month – and they didn’t have a website! It makes sense that if you want your customers to find you, you should probably have the right system set up for that to happen – don’t be caught reaching an audience that likes the internet with a phone book ad. I would definitely consider that a “web faux pas”. So, what’s the point? At least that was what my friends asked me when previewing this article. My answer – delayed slightly by a few glugs of Red Bull – was simple. Medicine tastes better when mixed with a spoonful of sugar. If a business wants to splash their information on the internet, all the power to them – but if they want to sell, then they better make it hot.

by Phil Stalnaker