Author Archives: Ray Silverstein

About Ray Silverstein

RAY SILVERSTEIN is an entrepreneur, author and speaker revered for his high business intellect and ability to communicate meaningful and practical concepts to those wishing to achieve success in business. As the President of Peer Advisory Training and President’s Resource Organization (PRO), he is instrumental in creating breakthrough moments for executives wrestling with an assortment of personal and organizational issues. Ray describes himself in metaphorical terms as both a corporate chiropractor, one who helps straighten out businesses and a corporate farmer, one who provides the corporate fertilizer that helps business grow. He currently presides over seven peer advisory groups in Chicago and Phoenix.

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now!

Getting older doesn’t always offer many benefits (we certainly get more aches and pains), but one big benefit is that we gain knowledge.

For example, I learned about the expense of NOT having Long Term Care Insurance when I watched my father wrestle with serious medical problems. Later, that lesson was reinforced when one of my key employees was diagnosed with a brain tumor, living severely disabled for two years.

At the time, I was not aware that Long Term Care Insurance even existed, let alone that it might be tax deductible. I didn’t know that LTCI is a benefit many employees would like and would even be willing to pay for themselves. And, I am embarrassed to say, I didn’t know that my employees could get a discount for their LTCI coverage through my efforts as an employer. But now I do.

We all like to think we will live forever in good health, but that’s not realistic. When the time of need does strike, LTCI is the one insurance you can’t afford not to afford, if you get my drift.

Because of my personal belief in the need for this protection, I have arranged for the people I’m associated with to receive it at a discounted premium. I have contacted an agency who writes ONLY LTCI, who’s been doing it for decades, and who knows all the ins and outs of coverage. This agency works with an A+ rated insurance carrier that is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar.

If you would like to explore the possibility of obtaining Long Term Care Insurance for yourself, your family members, or your employees, please contact me by phone at 800-818-0150 or email ray@propres.com. I will put you in touch with the experts.

One more thing I learned…only LTCI is designed to help safeguard your assets by providing important protection from the devastating costs of a long-term illness. Traditional health insurance and Medicare do not address this issue. Who knew?

As I get older, I am gaining knowledge that allows me to better protect myself and my family. How about you?

If you are not in the Chicago or Phoenix areas and would like to explore with me how you can position your business and benefit in The World To Come, visit http://propres.com/. People say life is an adventure…come and explore with me!

The World To Come

The World to ComeThe World to Come

reviewed by Ray Silverstein

I would like to introduce an extremely interesting book, “The World To Come,” by Dara Horn. This is not a business book, but it made me think more seriously about what is “the world to come” is for business. The book deals with the concept of our individual futures. The next event in your life… the next door you open to an unknown circumstance…even birth and death. Each of us of has our own World To Come.

In the business environment, not everything is unknown. But many business owners do not want to examine or think about the world that will be coming upon them. It is evident that customer communication methods are changing rapidly, in some ways not to our liking. But if we want to experience and be around for The World To Come, we must adapt and change our thinking.

When I first entered the business world (I don’t want to say how long ago), the primary method of communication was a personal letter, followed by a personal phone call. A long distance call was something special, unique and expensive. A telegram was a sure way to get someone’s attention.

These methods don’t really carry any weight today. Many people now favor email. It is easier to make an email connection than a telephone connection. Depending on the age and generation of the communicator, even an email may be out of date, with text messaging or tweeting your communication method of choice.

The world is becoming smaller. It is far easier to learn about customers, suppliers, competitors, and people in general with Internet sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter plus a host of others websites. When I talk to small business owners in the peer advisory boards I facilitate, some are moving forward into these new and interesting venues, but others are still living in the old world.

I believe we all have to move into The World To Come…even me. Nobody likes to change their habits, be forced to learn new skills, or be made to feel uncomfortable. I like to look upon moving forward as a new adventure. Think about the strategic concepts, the way these new technologies can enhance your business, life and experience. For example, my wife is even Skypeing with her grandchildren. What a treat! To be able to not only talk with but actually see friends, children, grandchildren, and business associates around the world. And the price is right…it’s free!

If you are not in the Chicago or Phoenix areas and would like to explore with me how you can position your business and benefit in The World To Come, visit PRO President’s Resource Organization  People say life is an adventure…come and explore with us!

How to Diffuse Workplace Conflict

I recently conducted a workshop on a highly emotional topic: humans in the workplace. After all, every human being—employees and bosses—shows up for work accompanied by their unique drives, triggers, and tendencies. All things considered, it’s a wonder we get any work done at all.

My message to the attendees may be of value to you, too. As your company leader, it’s your job to boost productivity, which means it’s also your job to diffuse workplace conflicts and create consensus, keeping your teamed focused on achieving your goals.

There are many theories on how to accomplish this. Based on what I’ve learned from my small business peer groups and my own experience as a CEO, I’ve identified up four main strategies for dealing with difficult people and creating an emotionally-healthy, productive workplace. I’ve summarized these briefly below, and you can download my complete PowerPoint presentation at http://propres.com/difficult-people-ppt/.

Understand Yourself

Do you know what makes you tick? Do you know what ticks you off? The best managers are those who are aware of their emotions but not enslaved by them.

Good managers typically have a high Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ)—that is, a high level of self-awareness regarding their emotional reactions and the emotions of others. Self-awareness is the first step toward self-management, the conscious management of one’s behavior.

To raise your EQ, check out Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

Understand Others

Good managers also have good social awareness. They not only pick up on other people’s emotions but know why they act the way they do. More and more employers are using personality assessment programs to better understand how their employees think.

One program I like is the DiSC® personality assessment system. DiSC is based on a four-part model of human behavior: the Dominant, Influencing, Steady, and Compliant traits. The DiSC test measures patterns of behavior, and then creates a personality profile that reflects an employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and drives.

Use Your Understanding to Manage Behavior

The whole point of understanding your emotions is that it will allow you to manage your behavior consciously and positively, as opposed to reacting emotionally in the moment.

The whole point of understanding the emotions of others is that it will allow you to behave in a manner that will get the desired response from others. In the workplace, this often comes down to diffusing conflict and creating consensus among employees.

Remember the old adage about counting to 10 when you’re angry? Turns out, it’s right on target.

For more about managing behavior, read Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at their Worst by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.

Use Your Understanding to Hire Wisely  

You can also apply these principals to make more successful hires. Instead of hiring new employees on the basis of a resume, look for people whose values and communication styles are harmonious with your own. Do they hold themselves accountable? Will they “get” your company culture?

If you’re seriously interested in a candidate, you can use a personality assessment to see if they’d make a good match for the position and your company. By choosing the right people, you can proactively diffuse conflict before it happens and create consensus from the get-go. Which means you’ll have to do a little less of the other three strategies further down the road.

Measuring Risk – Don’t Be A Seymour

Growing a business means taking risks and making changes. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. And for most people, the longer you are in business, the harder risk-taking gets.

When you first started your business, you were willing to take some big risks. You had to. But ironically, as you grow more successful, chances are, you’re becoming more risk-adverse.

It’s simple: back then, you had less to lose. Now, you have something worth protecting. Along with success comes a growing sense of caution. Now, you’re invested in the status quo.

But too much caution is deadly for entrepreneurs. That’s best left to the professionals, namely, your attorney and accountant. They’re professionally trained to eliminate risk. Once you start thinking the way they do, your entrepreneurial spirit—the driving force behind your business—starts to dries up.

If you want to stay successful, you need to keep your edge. That means taking risks. Carefully calculated risks. Risks with a high probability of success.

So yes, you need to evaluate prospective risks thoroughly. But sometimes, the evaluation process becomes a reason for stalling. It’s something I see all the time in my small business peer groups.

Realistically, we can’t expect to obtain all the data needed to make a 100% foolproof decision. It’s tempting to delay taking action because we continually want to “see more” facts and information. Don’t be a “Seymour”…when it’s time, take the plunge!

Or, in the words of iconic business expert Tom Peters: “Ready, fire, aim!”

Okay, maybe that’s a slight overstatement. The point is, what you don’t want to do is “get ready…aim…check your sites…check the wind…re-aim…check the elevation…and fire.”

If you do that, by the time you finally get around to squeezing the trigger, your target will have moved out of range. Or someone else will have bagged it first. Opportunities are transient things. You have to seize them when you see them.

If you have goals, you’ll have to take calculated risks to achieve them. So, are you weighing some risks now? What’s keeping you from moving forward? What will it take to move you toward achieving your goal?

If you’ve been stuck in place for a while, request my free Goal-Setting Worksheet, and take a first step toward taking action. Don’t be a Seymour. Email me at Ray@ProPres.com.

 

Generations in the Workforce

One of the advantages of running a small business is that you can manage your employees on an individualized basis. A savvy boss identifies each worker’s hot buttons and work style, and manages accordingly. And if you’re super-savvy, you’ll factor in the cultural generation your employees belong to as well.

Like it or not, the era we’re raised in shapes our attitudes and behaviors. While stereotyping is not a good thing, several recent workplace studies indicate that employees of the same generation often share common values and traits, which set them apart from other generations.

This is information you can use to keep your employees motivated and challenged. You can also use it to create a more harmonious, collaborative culture. Because when employees clash or fail to communicate, it may be generational differences at work.

We’ve been discussing this topic in my small business peer advisory groups. After measuring some of the research against our own managerial experiences, these are the profiles we agreed on regarding different workforce generations.

Generation Y (aka Millennial) Workers (born 1978-1997) – Chances are, the youngest members of your workforce are adept with technology and most comfortable when multi-tasking. They’re fluent in social media, but may need guidance setting boundaries. Many Gen Y’ers chaff under rigid management, so if you want to keep them happy, offer a flexible work environment. They enjoy working in teams, but prefer communicating via brief emails and voicemails rather than traditional meetings.

Generation X Workers (born 1965-1977) – Many Gen X workers tend to be independent minded. They may question established work processes and challenge the status quo, which can either be a healthy thing or a source of conflict with colleagues. Gen X’s gravitate toward flexibility and informality (they also tend to look at meetings as a waste of time), but do want feedback and recognition for a job well done.

Baby Boomer Workers (born 1946-1964) – Typically, Baby Boomer employees work hard in the conventional sense, and are proud of it. Boomers tend to measure dedication in terms of putting in long hours (after all, they were the inspiration for the term ‘workaholic’). Boomers often prefer communicating face-to-face or via meetings rather than electronically, and would rather be rewarded with a bonus than comp time.

One generational group isn’t better or harder working than the other; it’s more a matter of style. However, by recognizing what makes different generations tick, you can manage and motivate more effectively and get the best from all of your people.

One key thing to remember: you belong to one of these generations, too, and it undoubtedly impacts your managerial mindset to one degree or another. The more open you can be to work styles unlike your own, the more it can benefit your business.

Employee differences enrich your workforce, and generational diversity is a good thing. It’s your job to ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal, even if they’re getting there by different routes. (Speaking of goals: be a savvy boss and request my free Goal-Setting Worksheet! Email me at Ray@ProPres.com.)

Tracking Critical Numbers

How often do you review your critical numbers, those all-important figures that indicate how your business is doing? Do you wait until the end of the month, quarterly, or year to find out where you’ve been and how you’ve been doing? Or do you keep a constant eye on them?

And what numbers are you measuring and tracking? Because what’s truly ‘critical’ varies for every business, and sometimes it isn’t what you think.

Take profit and loss statements. They’re universally recognized as a key measurement tool, but they’re not without limitations. Because they’re historical snapshots in time, they don’t tell the whole story or reflect the here and now. They don’t tell you where you are going, until sometimes it’s too late.

As you know, I’m all about planning ahead. But you can’t do that effectively without knowing where you are and understanding your day-to-day progress.

So don’t wait for your financial statements to become available to assess the state of your business. Use other numbers closer at hand to keep a pulse on how it’s going. Like…

Cash on Hand – Cash is King. Do you know your cash, the cash you expect to collect in the short term, and the bills that you must pay?

Bookings – The orders you receive, and in some cases, the number of quotes you issue, reflect your success rate. If your bookings, quotes, or proposals are down, you can anticipate that you will have less business coming in and therefore less receivables and cash.

Order Backlog – Do you keep track of what’s in your pipeline?  Is your backlog made up of backorders or late shipments or fulfillment? While backlog becomes cash, remember that this is also a measure of service level. I often tell the story of a busy restaurant that only has four waiters, but really needs five. Pretty soon, they will only need three.

Inventory – If you have stock, how well do you know your actual inventory?  Wrong inventory estimates will throw off your profitability expectations. Inventory lower than your expectation means your cost of goods sold is higher than you expect or your selling prices too low, which results in a reduced gross profit percentage.

Open Purchase Order – Some people call this ‘open to buy.’ Are your open purchase orders in line with the business you are getting or expect to get?

Service Level – How do know or measure you are doing a good job? Keeping tabs on service levels is essential to continued success (see ‘Order Backlog’ above!).

Payroll vs. Revenue – Is your workforce becoming more less productive? Or is your business down? This is a quick and dirty test and that will ultimately show up your cash. Tracking payroll and revenue side by side tells you at a glance which way you’re headed.  If your revenue is up and payroll is down, life is good. If the opposite is true, you must find a way to change that!

In addition, some critical numbers may be meaningful only to you.

For example, one of my peer group members is a builder. He keeps a close eye on, of all things, his site managers’ monthly receipts from Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Why? Because if his crews keep running to local stores for supplies, they’re not properly planning ahead. It reflects their efficiency, which in turn impacts everything from customer satisfaction to profitability.

The same applies to forecasting future market conditions. One RV dealer I know keeps an eye on the fur industry. If fall and winter fur sales are high, he predicts a booming spring RV market. To him, it signals that consumers are confidently buying luxury items.

So ask yourself, what measurements are particularly meaningful to your business, both internally and externally? Make appointments with yourself to check these numbers on a regular basis. Don’t wait for P&L statements. The most critical numbers are right at your fingertips.

When it comes to numbers, are you on your game? Ask for my 10-question Financial Tracking Worksheet. Email Ray@propres.com for a copy.

Avoiding Growing Pains

How to Avoid Organizational Growing Pains

By Ray Silverstein

When it comes to growing a business, is it possible to experience too much of a good thing? Yes, it is. And while you might think this would be a good problem to have, think again. Many times this can put you out of business.

Too-rapid growth is actually more dangerous to a business than no growth at all. While we tend to envy ‘overnight successes,’ research shows that growth exceeding 25% per year puts a business at risk of failure.

Just consider all the demands that an unexpected growth spurt would place on the various facets of your business:

Financial – Suddenly, you have big orders to fill, but not enough inventory to do so (or people-power if you’re in a service industry). Nor do you have the cash on hand to purchase what you need (or to hire who you need). Plus, getting credit is trickier these days (especially for service businesses that don’t have hard assets to offer as collateral). Purchase order financing is a possibility, but it is almost impossible to obtain and very expensive.

Personnel – Regardless of what you sell, you’ll need more workers to push your products or services out the door. But you don’t yet have the dollars needed to meet a rapidly-expanding payroll, not to mention the acquisition costs of bringing on new employees. Speaking of which, you’ll be so busy, you won’t have the time to make wise hires or train your newbies properly.

Morale – Because you’re short-staffed, your employees are constantly under the gun. Even dedicated workers can only give so much for so long before they start to burn out.

Workflow – If you don’t have adequate technology and processes in place when business explodes, what you do have will short circuit your ability to service or produce. Now you have a new fire to put out, and even less will get done.

The end result is: orders will go unfilled, and service will suffer. Customers will lose patience and walk. And remember, business that’s lost due to service issues is very hard to win back.

Picture a tiny, start-up restaurant that unexpectedly receives a great review from a trendy food critic. Suddenly, it needs five or six servers to wait on the nightly crowds, but it only has four on staff. Service plummets; waiting time skyrockets…and unless management makes some quick fixes, soon it will only need three.

Manage Potential Growing Pains

You may think this will never happen to your business, but it may be sneaking up on you, on a smaller scale. My point: keep a pulse on your activity and plan ahead. Know Thy Business. Build on your strengths, shore up your weaknesses, and attend to these key areas now:

Financial – Lay the groundwork for acquiring credit in advance. Develop a relationship with your banker. Build a good credit history. Study your numbers and get them to a healthy place.

Personnel – Always know who your next hires may be. Think of your workforce as a major/minor league system. If you’re continuously scouting for talent, you’ll be halfway there when it’s time to hire. Your minor league is a list of people you believe have the right attitude and skills to do the necessary work.

Morale – Nurture it always. Build good communication habits with your employees. And remember, a little personal appreciation goes a long way.

Workflow – No one wants to incur the expenses of upgrades until they’re absolutely needed. But every new system has learning curves to master and bugs to work out, so who can afford to wait until crunch time arrives?

Finally, learn to recognize the symptoms of growing pains. An easy way to get started: use my Growing Pains Diagnostic Test to conduct a DIY five-minute checkup. Just email Ray@propres.com and request a copy. Do something easy and healthy for your business today.

 

About the Author: Ray Silverstein is President of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “

President's Resource Organization - Duct Tape Marketing

Duct Tape Marketing

Duct Tape Marketing

      John Jantsch, reviewed by Ray Silverstein

Michael Gerber states, “This book is just like its namesake–Duct Tape–it’s good, incredibly smart, amazingly practical, and immensely sticky stuff.”  I found the book to be a good basic outline of a marketing strategy and it had many useful hints.

Everyone thinks their plight is unique, “Why is it so hard to market my business?”  “But what if I told you, no matter what your business claims to do or provide, you’re actually in the marketing business.  That’s right–every business is actually a marketing business.”  “You simply can’t afford to be no good at marketing if you plan to stick around and grow your business.”

“Marketing is getting people who have a specific need or problem to know, like, and trust you.”

Many small businesses do copycat marketing.  Copycat Marketing is a surefire way to guarantee that your marketing will fail.  Copycat marketing simply reinforces that you are the same as everyone else.

Another practice by small business is Ostrich Marketing.  Ostrich marketing is practiced by owners who simply have no idea what to do with marketing, so they do nothing–they stick their head in the sand and hope.

The primary activity in Duct Tape Marketing is to narrow and focus.  The lead generation is a two step process.  What do you think it would mean to your marketing activity if you had just five hundred highly qualified prospects and your only job was to get them to know, like, trust, and contact you?

The following are the steps for Duct Tape Marketing:

Step #0.  State Your Primary Marketing Goals for the Year.  Until you can get very clear about what needs to happen in order for your marketing system to be successful, you will never get there. One year from today, what will your business look like?  How will it change?  How will it grow?

Step #1.  Describe Your Ideal Client.  Carve out a narrow target market or narrow market segment and find out everything you can about what people in that market segment want to buy and why they want to buy it.  Build a marketing strategy just for this market and make sure that the world hears that you are better at serving that market than any other business.  Describe the ideal client and market as though he or she is sitting across the table from you at this moment.

You can choose to attract clients that value what you offer, view working with you as a partnership, and want you to succeed, but only if you have a picture of what that ideal client looks like.  Identify, describe, and focus on a narrow target of clients or segments that are perfectly suited for your business.

One of the easiest ways to start to get this picture of who or what makes an ideal client is to take a close look at the customers your business has attracted to date.

Physical Characteristics:  Are, Employment Status, Gender, Occupation, Income, Education, Industry, Number of employees, Type of business, Geographic scope of business, Revenue levels.

Emotional Characteristics:  Discovering common emotional characteristics is more of an art than science.  What you are looking for are things like values, fears, desires, and goals.  What do they want out of life?  What are they not getting?  What do they need to know to feel comfortable?  What is holding them back?

One of the best way to accumulate this type of information is to retrace many of your sales calls, including the ones where you did not get the results you had hoped for.  Another clue is to understand lifestyle patterns of your Ideal Prospects.  Find out about their hobbies, interests, books and magazines they read, musical preferences, and travel tastes.  This can provide a deeper glimpse into what your Ideal Prospect really cares about.

Know, Like and Trust–It’s a fact that people often like people who have the same interests.  All things being equal or unequal, a buying decision will tip to the business or salesperson who the buyer likes the most–It’s called human nature.

Without a need or problem, you don’t really have a market.  So, what’s the problem?  What are your customers attempting to solve when they buy your products or retain your services?  You don’t sell goods and services, you sell solutions to problems.  What you really sell is peace of mind, status, pain relief, etc.  State this revelation as bluntly as possible, and your marketing business will benefit immediately.

A guiding principle of marketing is the ability to charge a premium for your products and services within a chosen target market.  You must determine if this market values what you have to offer enough to pay a premium for your expertise and understanding of this given market.

Factors to consider if it is a viable market:

  • Is the market large enough to support your business growth goals?
  • Can you easily promote your business to the decision makers in this market?
  • Does this market value what you do enough to pay a premium?

When you are searching for a target market that is hungry for a solution, there are three questions that must be considered:

  • Do they want what I have?  It does not matter if they desperately need what you have.  If they do not want it for one reason or another, then you are sunk.  People rarely act to their own benefit unless they want to.
  • Do they value what I do?  You must look for people who are already investing in the type, or at least the category of service you have.
  • Are they willing to pay a premium for what I do?

The Ideal Prospect Profile:  Using the information you have gathered about an ideal customer you create an Ideal Prospect Profile.  This is one or two paragraphs you write that describe a picture of your ideal client, almost as though you were describing someone sitting across a table from you.

Try this formula:  Physical description+What they want+Their problem+How they buy+Best way to communicate with them=Ideal Prospect.

Action Steps:

  1. Look for common characteristics such as age and gender among your best clients.
  2. Uncover a common frustration among your target market.
  3. Write a description of your ideal target market in terms that are easy to communicate.
  4. Determine whether your ideal target market is large enough to support your business.

Step#2.  Write Your Core Message Points.  Uncover three or four unique benefits that your business or product can provide to your ideal target market, and then make these points of difference your central marketing themes.  If need be, change your entire business model to take advantage of an opportunity to serve a narrow market.

Get  Out of the Commodity Business.  You’ve got to uncover and communicate a way in which your business is different from every other business that says they do what you  do.  You’ve got to find a way to stand out and stake your claim on a simple idea or position in the mind of your prospective clients.  This claim must be powerful and intentional.

Find something that separates you from your competition become it and speak it to everyone you meet.  Quality isn’t it, good service isn’t it, fair pricing isn’t it.  The difference needs to be in the way you do business, the way you package your product, the way you sell your service, the fact that you send cookies to your clients, the fact that you show people how to transform their lives–It’s in the experience you provide.

The Core Message Process:

  • Discover capture, and commit to a unique position.
  • Create a Marketing Purpose Statement.
  • Turn your purpose statement into a Talking Logo.
  • Craft a simple Core Message to use in all of your marketing.

It’s worth noting that being different for difference’s sake isn’t enough.  An identifiable target market must value the difference!  Example:  Trust With Your House Keys.”

These are some ways to communicate your core message:

Unique habit, Customer service, A way of doing business, A memorable personality.

The best way to get your positioning is to ask your clients.

  • Why did you hire us in the first place?
  • What do we do that others don’t?
  • What’s missing from our industry as a whole?
  • What could we do that would thrill you?
  • What do you find yourself simply putting up with in this industry?
  • What would you do if you owned a business like ours?

What you really sell is what the eventual buyer think they are going to get from your product or service.

Your Marketing Purpose Statement:  This statement is not meant to be communicated to your clients, but rather is meant to be the basis for your marketing and customer service activity.  Your Marketing Purpose Statement should become not just a goal but the overriding purpose for the business.  A powerful Marketing Purpose Statement should give you and your staff a vision for the future of the business.

Create a Talking Logo:  This is a short statement that quickly communicates your firm’s position and forces the listener to want to know more.  The Talking Logo is created in two distinct parts.  Part 1 addresses your target market, and Part 2 zeros in on a problem, frustration, or want that market has.

Example:  I show small service professionals how to triple what they charge.

Step one:  Create a compelling answer to “What do you do for a Living?” one that focuses on a benefit or solution and forces them to want to know more.

Step two:  Prepare a simple supplementary answer that tells them the unique way you get them that benefit or solution.

Your Core Marketing Message:  This is the message all of the activity you have performed to create. Now that you have discovered the marketing purpose for your firm and answered what you do for a living, it is time to fashion the creative marketing messages you will use to communicate your purpose in a way the clearly demonstrates the benefit of doing business with your firm. Example:   Electrical contractor: Marketing Purpose Statement:  We want to be known as the one electrical contractor who will show up when we say we will and do the work right the first time.

Talking Logo:  We help homebuilders eliminate callbacks.

Core Message:  Wired Right on Time.

Step #3.  Develop Educational Marketing Materials:  Create a list of the educational marketing materials your ideal client might find helpful in an attempt to understand the value that your firm has to offer.

Attempt to move your target prospects along a logical path toward a group of offerings geared to addressed the various stages of client development.  This gradual, trust building approach allows businesses to charge much more for their products and services while enjoying a much greater relationship with their clients.

Step #4.  Outline Your Lead Generation Strategy:  Create a list of every conceivable way you can reach your target market.  This is not limited to mail, public relations, referrals, e mail or advertising.

The Client Stages Defined:

  • Suspects–     The list of people who fit your target description.
  • Prospects–     The list of people who have responded to an offer for more information.
  • Clients–     The list of people who have tried your product or service.
  • Repeat Clients–     The list of people who have upgraded or purchased more.
  • Champions–     The list of people who tell others and sell for you.

Marketing Offer for Suspects:  Your suspect database responds to offers of complete information designed to help them solve a problem or answer a question.  These take the form of free reports, tips, white papers, workshops, demonstrations, evaluations, newsletters, books, guides and checklists.

Example:  10 Things You Must Know Before You Hire a Roofing Contractor.

Marketing Offer for Prospects:  Once your suspects raise their hands and request your fee report, they are giving you permission to market to them.  Your prospect list is now ready for an offer to become a client.  In many cases this requires a low cost or trial service offering to gain the ultimate trust needed to become a premium client.  You may need to create an introductory product or version of your service that can be priced low enough to offer a low barrier to becoming a client.

Your Clients Become Premium Clients:  Once your clients move to premium status, the focus is to also find specific ways to turn them into a referral source.

Premium Clients Become Champions:  Some amount of your clients will automatically become champions.  These are repeat clients who voluntarily look for way to promote your business.  In effect, this potent group can become your informal sales force.

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Understand the client stages.
  2. Develop marketing, products, and service offerings that address every aspect of the marketing funnel.
  3. Map every point of customer contact and look for holes in the funnel

Produce Marketing Materials That Educate:  Done well marketing can eliminate the need to sell.

Educate, Don’t Sell.

Create a Marketing Kit.  This should include your case statement, your difference summary, your ideal client/customer description, your marketing story, and your offerings.

Your Case Statement should address the following:

  • A statement of a challenge, frustration, or problem that your target market experiences.
  • An image of what life is like when the problem is solved.
  • How they got here in the first place.
  • A path for them to follow.
  • A directed call to action.

Your Difference Summary:

Don’t tell them what you do; focus on how you do it.  Tell them about your unique approach, your processes, and the little things you do.  If you have studied your competition and you know what your target market craves, make a point to summarize you solution.

Your Marketing Story:

Tell them your story in an open, honest, and entertaining way, and you will win their hearts as well as their heads.  The ability to connect by way of personal stories is one of the greatest advantages that small businesses possess over big businesses.  Most importantly—stories build trust.

Your Product/Service Offerings:

This page should outline the various services, products, and packages that you have available.  Clearly describe and detail the benefits of each.

Your Marketing Kit may also include Case Studies, Client experiences, Testimonials, FAQ, Processes and Checklists, Articles, and anything you believe would be of value to the prospect.

Marketing kits are not intended for mass, direct-mail campaigns.  They are much more effective once you have generated a lead and want to proceed to fully educating the prospects.

MARKETING IS MOSTLY YOUR JOB, BUT GET YOUR ENTIRE COMPANY INVOLVED.  EDUCATE THEM!

LEAD GENERATION PROGRAM:

Use a two step lead generation program whether it be advertising, direct mail public relations, web, etc.  This is simply to set into motion by advertising an offer, such as a free how to report, tip sheet, industry insider scoop, or survey results.  The goal is to have suspects request information and thus giving you permission to market to them.

Step #5.  Describe Your Sales/Education Process:  Write down the steps you will take when a prospect contacts your business by way of one of your lead generation strategies.

Have a process for Discovery, Presentation and Transaction.  Sales should not be off the cuff, but a planned process.  Create several questions you will ask prospects during the discovery phase that will allow you to get a feel for how ready they are to understand the need for your products or services.

The Discovery phase may be done over the phone.  The Presentation or Internal seminar is a planned approach.  When you take control of the meeting and present your points in a structured way, you will either connect or you won’t, but when you do it will be the right connection.

The Presentation consists of weaving the key elements into a concise message that includes:  The Problem, Your Solution, Your Core Difference, Your Story, A Real Client Example, How You Work and The Expected Results.

Market Research Benefits

Will Market Research Benefit Your Small Business?

By Ray Silverstein

Wouldn’t you love to get inside your customer’s head and take a good look around? To see his or her wants and needs revealed in stark clarity? To view your products through his or her eyes, unclouded by your assumptions?

As entrepreneurs, it’s our responsibility to understand and anticipate our customers’ mindsets. It’s what keeps us in business and allows us to grow.

That is the essence of market research. Over the last 60 years, market research has evolved into a powerful marketing tool. But while big companies embrace it, many entrepreneurs tend to steer clear. Yet there are aspects of market research of great value to small businesses, if we’re open to them.

For this reason, my company, PRO, recently sponsored a workshop, “The Guerilla Approach to Knowing Your Customers.” Our presenter was Bob Kaden, a long-time market research expert and author of the Guerilla Market Research books. Bob gave us a lot to think about, some of which I’m sharing here.

Market Research in a Nutshell

In short, the objective of market research is to get as close to the customer as possible, so you can understand and influence their buying behaviors, maximizing your opportunities for success.

There are two types of market research: primary, which focuses on your particular business, and secondary, which focuses on information available in the public domain.

Every time you read a business publication, visit a competitor’s website, or search an industry topic online, you’re engaging in informal secondary research. You can learn about your market, industry, and competition this way, while staying up to speed on consumer trends. We should all be engaging in some secondary research daily.

Primary research is a different animal. It’s personalized and proprietary. It may take the form of focus groups, interviews, or surveys, but however you conduct it, you do so with a specific goal in mind, targeted to a specific type of customer: yours.

When Do You Conduct Primary Research?

The time to conduct in primary research is when you want to learn something specific about your market. Maybe you need clarity setting your product development strategy. Maybe you’re about to rebrand your company. The bottom line is, you have to be ready to take action as a result of what you learn, or the research isn’t worth doing.

In addition, you have to be open to whatever the results reveal. We all have pet theories. If you’re not willing to let them go—which isn’t always easy for entrepreneurs–now is not the time to invest in research.

How Do You Conduct Market Research on a Budget?

Big companies use big market research firms, but that’s not the only alternative. If you want to have a pro do the work for you, look for a one-person firm or perhaps a local professor. They’re more affordable.

And more small businesses are engaging in DYI market research. If you have the temperament, you can conduct your own focus groups or interviews. Or, you can use Survey Monkey (SurveyMonkey.com), or ask simple questions via social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. But if you are going to do it yourself, take the time to learn how to do it right.

Maybe market research makes sense for you; maybe it doesn’t. The bottom line is, business is more competitive than ever, and we need to be open to new ideas. When you become aware of a tool that’s available, consider it objectively. Never say never, to market research or anything else.

Newsletter Subscription

 

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is 2 Small Biz Guys business radio show, specialized for emerging businesses, solopreneurs and those who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Thinking Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast And SloThinking Fastw
Daniel Kahneman

reviewed by Ray Silverstein

Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his pioneering work on how human judgment sometimes defies logic or probability—and how even supposedly scientific decisions are influenced by human bias and irrational assumptions. This was alarming news to economists.

Kahneman spend decades of research digging deeply into the human brain and the often-flowed way in which we make decisions and arrive at conclusions supported not by objective fact but by subjective assumption.

The brain thought process switches between automatic response or kneejerk reaction, System 1, and System 2, which involves concentration and deliberation. Although System 2 believes itself to be where the action is, the automatic System 1 is the hero of the book, according to Kahneman.

He argues that overreliance on System 2 can result essentially in tunnel vision. System 1, however has a bias to believe and confirm and neglects ambiguity and suppresses doubt.
He also shows that “hindsight is 20/20” is more than just a cliché’ in revisiting past beliefs and opinions. People tend to paint a much more flattering picture of themselves

Research in the areas of risk aversion and prospect theory to learn more about the ways in which humans make decisions and weight risk. Research suggested that the negative often trumped the positive; that is, if presented with data that a 50 percent positive and 50 percent negative, the general tendency is for out brains to come away with an impression of “negative.” Even though the positive/negative factors are equally divided.

Similarly, people tend to overestimate the probability of unlikely occurrences. In a business setting, that may mean failing to take a smart risk because of an unlikely hypothetical scenario. A gambler may refuse to cash out on a hot hand because he or she has a “feeling” that it will continue. The fear of regret is a factor in many of the decisions that people make.

There is also the relationship between the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self.” Taste and decisions are shaped by memories and memories can be wrong. We sometimes feel our preferences and beliefs so strongly that they can seem to be somehow rooted in fact; this however, is often not the case. This applies even to our choice of vacation. For many people, the value of a vacation is not the experience but the anticipation beforehand and the memory afterwards. Kahneman sums up, “I am my remembering self, and the experience self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.”

Key terms and concepts:

Anchors: are related to how people try to estimate an unknown quantity. An example, the amount of money you will offer to pay for a house is in large part influenced—or anchored—by the asking price.

The Certainty effect: describes a process where your chance for success escalates from very high to certain. An example, if you are bidding on eBay and knew you had a 90%^ chance to win an auction with a $20 bid, would you still be tempted to use the “Buy It Now” option for $25, thus paying five dollars more to offset the 10% of chance of losing your bid?

In his study of decision making related to gambling Kahneman found that people tended to overvalue small risk, again showing that people make calculations and conclusions that are not aligned with probability.

The Halo effect: can be seen whenever a person makes assumptions based on a factor. An example, a beautiful stranger at a dinner party may be automatically assumed to be successful and confident. The Halo effect impacts not just social situations, but economic decisions as well.

Loss aversion: is a term that reccurs repeatedly throughout the book. Case studies show how people tend to be more driven by fear of failure than by the promise of success. This is loss aversion.

Optimistic bias: explains the decisions that we make or the beliefs that we should in the face of ample evidence to the contrary.

The major theme of Thinking, Fast and Slow is that our brains are divided into System 1 and System 2. System 1 houses our emotion and intuition, and it processes information making decisions automatically. System 2 describes the part of the brain that gets wrapped up in rationalization and concentration and value based judgments. While System 2 saves us from many of the unchecked kneejerk idiocies of System1, its decision-making capacity is more limited than we often think.

WYSIATI—“what you see is all there is.” WYSIATI basically describes our minds jumping to conclusions, drawing simply on what is in front of us without looking for missing evidence or data.

Interesting observation: studies on the impact of money on happiness, Kahneman found that there was a predictable dramatic difference between people living in poverty and people making 69K a year. Beyond that, though, the studies offered some surprise: Millionaires didn’t show any greater emotional happiness than people around the 50K zone.

The general conclusion is “We have a very narrow view of what is going on. We don’t see very far in the future, we are very focused on one idea at a time, one problem at a time, and all these are incompatible with rationality as economic theory assumes it.”

Wall Street Journal: “One major effect of the work of Messrs, Kahneman and Tversky has been to overturn the assumption that human beings are rational decision-makers who weigh all the relevant factors logically before making choices.”….”What Messrs. Kahneman and Tversky argued that, even when we have all the information that we need to arrive at a correct decision, and even when the logic is simple, we often get it drastically wrong.