Networking: Being The Familiar Face

October 30, 2014

“Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for…”

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People are reluctant to consider networking as one of the main marketing practices purely because you’ll not walk away from that meeting with more money in your pocket. But you’re not perusing a sale here, or anything related to money (in the short term, of course). You’re perusing a relationship. That’s the fundamental of networking, and it’s so   important to remember this. It’s what the relationship may develop into that’s most important. It may develop into a sale or a new job, or a joint venture project or a referral, or even give you the inspiration or the information you needed at that point to progress. It doesn’t really matter which. An unorthodox marketer knows this.

Throughout history people have had to network to achieve virtually anything and everything. How else were things going to happen without the technology we boast today? Civilizations, breakthrough products, marriages, you name it, all have been built through some form of networking. It’s been essential to our survival for so long, and yet at the critical moment we’re forgetting to do something we as a species did so well in the past. It seems strange to report on it like this, though this is what has become of our social and business behaviours. And it needs to change.

We now need to claw back, and re-develop those essential business (and life) skills that have been the life-blood of all economic activity over the centuries. The time to make
networking an everyday part of life is now, because the internet is taking away the ‘need’ to have to meet in person. Even the art of physically talking to one another is affected by Social Media, Instant Messaging, Email and the likes. That said of course, never ignore these digital channels as they are your means to keep in touch after the initial face-to-face meet. Though nowadays, I have personally experienced that from time to time people love to speak to you in person, and engage.

So, what needs to be done? Well, you have to work yourself up to be the ‘familiar face’, because that’s the person who gets the most opportunities. Whether it’s more customers, leads, clients, partners, mentors or friends it doesn’t matter. With more contacts, in your time of need, you’ll find yourself with more options to turn to as people always gravitate towards the people they already know and trust. That’s you!

The amazing thing about networking is not that you’ll build up a much better and more responsive list of stakeholders, but you’ll actually become much more knowledgeable
because of it. You’ll have many more interesting stories to tell, and not only will you be able to inspire people with these stories, but you’ll be able to position yourself as the
go-to-guy that has all the contacts in the industry. This is your social proof, and this association and community membership can always be leveraged.

Stepping out of your comfort zone cannot be any easier when it comes to networking. It’s a natural human trait to want to socialise, to exchange stories and to share company
(just that it’s a little more strategic when it comes to business). Think of it as trying to find a partner through dating; be brave, show your commitment to the cause and be a
little patient, but never forget to leave the meeting without getting closer to your goal. That’s asking what you wanted to ask or requesting what you wanted to request. Remember, you’re doing this for a reason. This reason is to surround yourself with the right people who want you to succeed, but more than anything, would be happy to help you succeed when the time comes. And I can assure you that that time will come…

Get out there amongst the opportunities. It’s always ‘who you know’ in business. That’s the same in every business, in every industry. So, go out and grab a coffee, dinner or a
casual Skype call with at least one person from your industry every week – and never forget to follow up. If you’re already doing this, then seek to meet up with even more people per week. It will bring you more customers in the long run.

The Secret to Selling Your Product… And Sell it Well

17 October, 2014 — 4 Comments

Product creators begin on the right path building their products, but lose their way actually trying to sell those products. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

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Is there a secret? Well, I think there is.

When you first create, develop or research a new product idea, down the next alley is the question (in bold capital letters): “How do I best market and sell this product?” That’s the next step for any business which also happens to be a very critical one.

And right there, down that cold, dark and misty alleyway, is the crucial mistake that’ll hinder your product for the rest of its days.

You’ve created a product, and have gone to sit inside of that product, looking out into the outside world at everything external to your tiny existence. You’re looking to market from within. You’re selling a product as its current form and thinking inside of the box.

What’s happening is that your main selling angle is the product’s benefits and the product’s features. Because that’s really what the product has to offer. That’s how you think that you can give this product its best chance of becoming a huge success. And by all means, you may well be successful selling this way. If so, then count yourself amongst the lucky.

But there’s a much more effective way to do this in the first place. To sell your product much better than the way you think it’s done by conveying its perceived strengths. It’s a way that will not only bring the best out of you, but will also bring the best out of your potential customers. To better sell!

And it involves stepping back outside of the product that you’ve spent days and months and years creating, and going back to the start. To the very start. Back to the time when you got that initial idea for the product – which was all you had back then. Just an idea. But that idea is so much more powerful than any marketing material you can ever think of. The product’s strength is the idea you had behind it in the first place.

Because it’s that passion that you felt when you first set out on this exciting new journey as a product creator (and now marketer) that’ll sell your product. It’s that desire to change the world as it currently is.

You once had imagination. A vision of what your product could do to people’s lives and how those same people would feel from using your product. It was a good feeling.

That’s what this is about, an emotional idea. An emotional appeal will always outweigh a rational argument in business. That’s the way you’re going to connect with your prospect, and that the way your prospect will understand you.

That is your secret.

Your journey will still go on, but keep away from those dark alleyways and keep your eyes on the bigger picture as you go. The people you come to contact with will want to buy your product because of XYZ that brought you to life and made you dream big and change the world, not because XYZ will last twice as long as the next product.

It’s difficult to really market your own product any other way in today’s competitive environment.

After all, that product is you. You’ve developed the idea, and turned that idea into the crown jewel that it is today based on that vision and emotional idea you once had before it all became ‘real’. So do yourself a favour. Don’t sell your product, sell your idea of the product. Think outside of the box, and not inside. Open up.

That’s the secret to selling your product, and to sell it well.

Gamification Is A Way of Life

10 October, 2014

Game thinking in a non-gaming context is a great way to keep your current customers engaged, and is also a great way to generate new customers.

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This is something I believe in very strongly. That is, that we’re all built to want to perform in competitions and contests, feel the need in want to solve a problem and compete against other people to achieve a particular goal, and to be then rewarded for successfully completing that challenge.

Just like when playing a game on your video games console or taking part in a sporting event.

Enter “Gamification.” Basically, this is the introduction of game mechanics and psychology to drive a specific behaviour; in our case, it’s to improve user engagement and drive action. So when it comes to business – more specifically marketing and sales – I’m talking about transforming the buying experience into something fun, and something that, as humans, we’re wired to do… taking part in a game!

You see it all the time within businesses where managers are looking to motivate their employees by placing them directly in competition with other colleagues in one way or another to get the most out of them. Whatever goes on internally within organisations, though, is besides the point here. What goes on externally is what is important because only here will you be able to attract and get new customers. Without customers, the business isn’t even there to hold these internal competitions.

So what can be done to gamify your customers’ buying experience?

Well, in all honesty, there is no secret formula. It’s still a reasonably new principle when it comes to marketing your business. Your business is a unique, unorthodox and creative individual and only you can find out where you can introduce game mechanics.

But what is certain that there are certainly areas where you CAN introduce these mechanics. Here is a blueprint that you can follow to best set up a simple gamification strategy that will work, and will increase engagement, and in the long term will increase sales.

  1. Get your customers motivated by offering a reward for taking part in a competition or challenge with your business, and offer an outright benefit for using your product or service in the first place.
  2. Make sure it’s easy for users to get engaged, but not too easy to gain the rewards, this keeps it competitive. So design the gamification process that your customers win always ‘win’ but not winning without effort.
  3. Give the entire process meaning with a clear purpose and a sense of achievement through your website or blog that your customers can see, but can also share and get other people involved.
  4. Track and measure results and tweak the competition as you go on. You will know how well it’s gone just by looking at your customers’ behaviour.

Keep it simple. Keep it creative. But more than anything; keep your company’s stuff fun. This is a process that can be done to attract new customers, or to maintain relationships with your current customers that will potentially buy from you again. It’s completely dependent on your business – because no business is the same. Therefore if you know your business (and your market), then you will know the areas where the customer needs motivating to take the desired action.

Because that’s what Gamification is there to do within business, it’s to motivate and wake up a natural human characteristic in wanting to take part in a competition, to TAKE ACTION, and then to be rewarded for that action to safeguard a positive experience and a sense achievement.

Didn’t you used to love being rewarded by getting a sticker from the dentist for sitting through an examination when you were younger? Didn’t you love to eat your way through a cereal box to get your hands on that free toy? Didn’t you just love to get medals and certificates when you completed certain sports events? YES! Yes you did.

That’s because games and rewards are a way of life.

And the principles can be the same here when it comes to business. Just like businesses get the most out of their employees internally, gamification will help you on the external front and get the most out of your customers and potential customers. Because that’s what all businesses want, right?

Why You Need a YouTube Channel

03 October, 2014  8 Comments

This post is all about Video Marketing, and more importantly how to make it work for you in a time where everyone is obsessed with it.

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If I were to say that online videos increase understanding of a product or service by a whopping 74%, would you believe me?

Well, it’s true. So now’s the time to rethink your video marketing strategy.

Okay, many people will prefer to digest information through reading, and sometimes I am actually one of those people. But the fact of the matter is that without video, you’re missing out on a wheelbarrow full of benefits. This is certainly the case as customers are developing limited attention spans whilst browsing online.

And if you’re looking to increase brand awareness, boost your lead generation figures or better engage with these customers (or even all three), then you need to start using videos and start right away.

Video marketing really kicked in a few years ago, and has somewhat lost its effectiveness a little as time has gone by. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing any, because there’s one key area that videos can really boost the three benefits mentioned above without really knowing about it. And that’s through SEO.

Search engine algorithms change dramatically. But one algorithm change that won’t happen any time soon (as Google owns YouTube) is its social triggers with videos. You can take literally months to rank a website on the first pages on Google, where by contrast you can rank a YouTube video in 24 hours. That’s a fact.

That aside, there are two places that you absolutely need to be creating videos regardless of the ranking factors, and that’s on your YouTube channel and on your business’ website. These are absolutely the only places where I would be putting my videos because the viewers will always be targeted and your time will be spent much more effectively than, say for example, posting videos solely for Twitter or Facebook where everybody is dropping their videos. I’m not saying that you don’t share your videos here; I’m saying do not solely create them for social purposes.

So if you’re going to be creating videos, be prepared to spend time and money creating them as nobody likes a poorly created video. Go on YouTube and you’ll find tons of poor videos that receive next to nothing views. That’s because the creators do not possess the ability to create unique and original content and therefore did not invest the money in building that video. You do not want to be one of them… A complete waste of time for everyone.

And ask yourself the question, if website conversions with videos are at an average 4.8% compared to that of websites without at 2.9% (figures from Aberdeen), is it then a waste of time to get making videos? Absolutely not. This is why you NEED a YouTube channel.

But it’s a tricky situation.

Once again marketers and business owners have realised the potential that video marketing holds. “People love watching videos so why don’t we start creating them for our customers.” But what was originally unique is becoming saturated and very soon videos will become less and less effective. Just look at the current popularity of Vine and how it’s the most watched form of video currently making the rounds online – and this is purely down to the very short nature of the videos. These videos are killing the traditional sales video.

People do not have the time to watch your videos like they used to. Therefore you need to be smart and a little more unorthodox.

Start a YouTube channel and start creating videos that are focused solely on informative and uniquely created videos, and don’t be afraid to spend a little on these because if people are to see your videos, they don’t want to be put off your business. Then create one for your website that’s created around the same theme as your channel, keeping everything consistent. Keeping them short, engaging, to-the-point and most importantly unique.

Remember to link them together, so then you’re not only increasing engagement between sites, boosting conversions and increasing your leads, but you’re also contributing a lot to your SEO strategy that you probably didn’t think possible.

FIFA 15: Celebrity Footballers, Giveaways and Twitter

25 September, 2014

Celebrity endorsements have received much criticism in the past. But once you analyse what’s going on with EA Sports’ newest product launch, you’ll soon realise what’s the real driving force behind the buzz.  

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In the last post I touched upon a few unorthodox marketing principles by looking at the guerrilla fighter. One of those principles was the element of ambush – and perhaps the best example of this recently was when newly found “Beats by Dr Dre” ambushed the Olympic Games in London by handing out their headphones to celebrity athletes.

But it’s not the ambushing principle I want to pick up on, though. Because what was significant here was the fact that these headphones were given out for FREE knowing too well that during such a competition they would be used regularly, and more importantly, would be picked up by hundreds of news reporters and social media commentators worldwide.

And that’s what happened, in a move that was to firmly place the company within the audio, sound and music industry.

It was all about giveaways to celebrities at the crucial moment.

Take a look at Twitter right now, and you’ll see exactly the same happening to video games maker EA Sports’ flagship product FIFA 15 which launches tomorrow. (#FIFA15Friday is trending as I write this post.)

Celebrities are tweeting photos of themselves holding the game and publicly thanking EA Sports, and are building massive anticipation within the football and video games community in the process. These celebrities – namely professional footballers who are actually featured within the FIFA 15 game itself – have been sent copies up to a week before it hits the market are now doing wonders to the pre-selling of the video game.

And given all of these sports stars have a combined Twitter following of somewhere in the hundreds of millions, which would also include their Facebook following, you’re looking at a worldwide event. If football fans didn’t know what FIFA 15 was about, then there’s no doubt that they do after this week.

These footballers have naturally anticipated the game themselves as it is those that the user control’s within the game. Essentially, they are the product. Which again makes this strategy so clever because it’s those who are the ones that would become very active in promoting it to their fans and followers. Everyone is excited, just like Arsenal Football Club’s Theo Walcott, and his followers.

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EA Sports have identified the method that they are going to create massive anticipation (Giveaways); identified the channel from which they are to utilize to create the most buzz (Twitter and other Social Media channels); and chosen who their main ‘sales people’ were going to be (the celebrity footballers themselves).

Okay, there may be other sponsorship deals or financial incentives going on behind the scenes that we won’t really know about for a while. Sure, celebrities get around $100,000 of free stuff annually too.

But what is certain is that the strategy of offering giveaways and freebies will always be a successful strategy if the product, timing and recipient is right. Being smart, keeping it simple, knowing your product and your market won’t cost a lot also.

Even weeks before the launch of FIFA 15 video gamers have been playing a free demo of the game to get a feel of what’s to come… that’ll also leave them gasping for more.

This is pre-selling through giveaways at its finest x2!

My guess is that this will be one of the biggest video game launches in video game history. And we’ll soon find out why…

Start thinking seriously about giveaways because you will take back much more than what you gave. Human psychology dictates this despite what your initial remarks may be.

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For more on Giveaways, and how you and your small businesses can benefit from adding them into your marketing plan, check out my FREE eBook Unorthodox Marketing.

The Way Of The Guerrilla

17 September, 2014

To be truly unorthodox in the way that you conduct your marketing requires the lessons and strategies adopted by the guerrilla fighter. The right mindset will always produce the results…

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Image: @Reuters

A guerrilla fighter knows that the enemy is stronger in numbers and resources, and must adapt his strategies to overcome this challenge. Much like within the business world, the chances of you and your business operating within a monopoly, or being a market leader in any niche, is probably slim. Your marketing budget, sales force size and experience won’t match those of your bigger competitors. So like the guerrilla fighter, you must also think differently and adopt unorthodox strategies to take down your rivals.

Business is war. And to win the war, sometimes you have to push the boundaries of conventional business and marketing principles.

Here are 4 basic strategies that guerrilla military strategists such as Sun Tzu, Che Guevara, Mao Zedong and Lawrence of Arabia pioneered when either going into attack against a bigger force, or defending against that same force. All of which can be added to YOUR marketing mix.

1. Intelligence A few weeks back I wrote a post on Digital Competitor Reconnaissance that’s as relevant as ever when it comes to researching and knowing your competitors and customers. The Guerrilla fighter will have detailed reports of enemy positions, supplies, numbers and resources amongst many other things that can be used against them. Know your enemy, then you know how to best attack/defend against that enemy in that industry. To be able to fully take advantage you’ll also need to know your terrain (or your market) and to be flexible within this terrain to capture more customers.

2. Surprise Attacks & Ambush One of the best positions you could ever hold within battle is the position where you can choose when to attack on your own terms – which is best done via surprise if you’re the lesser force. Attacking transportation routes, food supplies and other structures through ambush can really catch an enemy off guard – which is exactly why the guerrilla fighter will most probably always emerge victorious with the least casualties. Knowing When To Attack The Enemy can really push things in your favour in business, as marketing is all about timing.

3. Relationship With The Population This is something I very strongly believe in, because if you surround yourself with the people that want you to succeed, then that battle becomes ten times easier. The guerrilla fighter will know that a friendly population can provide shelter, food, allied fighters and a whole lot of other resources to fight the same enemy. If the population – or in our case any given industry or niche – are against us being in there then we won’t last very long above water. This is why networking is so important no matter what your business is doing.

4. Propaganda & Terror Moral is a huge factor in hostile environments and we won’t really know the true meaning of it in war situations unless we actually go into war ourselves. Luckily, the chances of it happening now are slim, though we all know how the use of propaganda can severely hurt the enemy’s morale and have done for years. Advertising through Propaganda is something that you should always consider within your marketing plan because a business that is unsettled will always make more mistakes than others. This is then your chance to attack, because a demoralized enemy is an already defeated enemy. Think about the options you have with this in your marketplace…

If your business is a smaller and less experienced force than your rivals chances are that you’re more committed, mobile, and better equipped to take advantage of guerrilla tactics to battle these competitors. More importantly though, you’d battle in a way that they would least expect and would need more time to react to you, your marketing and your sales strategies. You’d also be marketing in a way that your potential customers haven’t seen before and won’t be ready to shut the door in your face like traditional marketing that the larger businesses tend to adopt.

Your intelligence will tell you what your competitors are already doing so that you can market differently; you’ll be able to do so using the element of surprise in your marketing; your relationship building skills will make you much more desirable to do business with; and your unorthodox and propaganda style marketing will set you out from everyone else. You are deadly serious about succeeding, and will do so at all costs.

Whilst your competitors will be marketing in events and conferences, you’ll be marketing in the streets. They’ll be continuously hurling mass marketing out of the door, whilst you’ll be getting close and personal with each of your potential customers. Whilst your competitors will take things for granted, you won’t sit still and will always look to innovate and evolve.

To be truly unorthodox, you must consider the way of the guerrilla.

A Private Blog Network Strategy That Will Actually Work With Google

10 September, 2014 — 9 Comments

Why Private Blog Networks aren’t all that they seem, plus an effective linking strategy that will get you traffic without hurting your website.

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You’ve probably heard all the hype around Private Blog Networks. The idea has been around for some time but more recently everybody has decided to jump on it to launch their businesses into outer space. We’ve heard it all before: “It’s the latest hot thing, therefore I must embrace it.” But hold on a second…

If you didn’t know, Private Blog Networks are all about links you can buy to help out with your search rankings. Historically, “old” blog networks have had a bad reputation with Google and anyone that connected their websites to them would have been penalised. A few years back blog networks would have worked brilliantly, but Google found out and didn’t like the linking method which meant they penalised everyone on the playing field. Basically, you’d be doing your SEO strategy and your business huge harm if you did something similar again.

And yes, Private Blog Networks are similar as they follow the same linking principle, yet are also different because they’re not connected to each other (are private) in the same manner and rely on purchased expired URL’s that already have a good history with Google. So, there’s a little to play with here.

But never forget what happened to the first blog network craze because it may well happen again. Screw it, I’m going to say that it WILL happen again.

This is where you always have to think about Google if you’re looking to improve your rankings, because SEO is Google. SEO is a competition run by Google and they will always call the shots. More importantly (and this is where online businesses need to look out) is that Google are always on the lookout for somebody scamming their ranking systems or cheating within their competitions. You’ll probably know of the continuous algorithm changes they regularly introduce to catch these kinds of people out. And, when they get caught out, their websites will only ever have darkness ahead.

But not you. You won’t be at risk because you’re not going to risk your website with these networks. You’re going to be smart and play Google at their own game.

Here’s the solution. This solution is in all reality, it’s a real simple one: Indirect Linking. That is to build links back to your links, and then link those to your Private Blog Networks. This way you’re not putting your main website at risk. Think about creating your 2nd tier links that are there to feed your 1st tier webpages – if they get punished then so be it because they’re not hurting your actual main website. Your website would lose the traffic coming from those 1st tier sites, but your business wouldn’t get hurt overall.  That’s precisely where I’d be using a Private Blog Networks – because the risk is so low. Your 1st tier links are at risk but all they are are your second in line behind your main website.

Of course, SEO is all about spreading links over the internet to boost them search rankings. So if you can do so without spamming then great! There are many ways to do this, and the hottest method of doing so is through Private Blog Networks.

Though the people that don’t know enough about blog networks – and SEO for that matter – won’t know that Google will be keeping a close eye on you. Eventually, they’ll be coming after you and your websites… and they will get you.

But this solution is a great way to help with your rankings even though I’m not entirely convinced by the idea of blog networks a sustainable SEO strategy. There probably will never be an out and out “long-term” SEO strategy either because things change so quickly online.

So, take the safe option and protect your core website and think about “indirect linking” through 2nd tier links, because the smart digital marketer will know too well that bad or spammy links will always hurt your rankings, and therefore your traffic, and your revenue. And if you’re not using 2nd tier link building yet, then you probably shouldn’t go anywhere near Private Blog Networks for the time being.

I’m still not recommending Private Blog Networks, but if you choose to go down this route, then then way you’ll get more traffic is if you (1) know your niche and your keywords, (2) can identify the right sort of URL’s to purchase that are carefully analysed, (3) get the right sort of hosting.