I had a college buddy that was wildly successful selling books during summer breaks. He and a few energetic friends would drive into a town on a Monday, sell books all week, leave on Sunday, drive to the next town and do it again. He made ten times what most of my other friends made during summer break.
There are two things I remember fondly about this.
First. He taught me a great, common sense business lesson in something I heard him say. He had just returned to school and was telling someone how much money he made during the Summer. The conversation went something like this:
“How was your Summer Brent?”
“Really good. I sold books.”
“Books huh? You worked in a bookstore?”
“No. I sold books in 14 cities across East Texas.”
“How exactly did you sell them?”
“We went door to door and sold them. I made $18,000.”
“You went DOOR TO DOOR????? Why in the world would you do that?”
And here’s the business lesson. It’s not rocket science….
“Yes. We went door to door. We find that’s where the people are.“
It’s where the people are”.
In 25 years of being in the business world, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve used the common sense wisdom I head in that conversation. The latest was during a chat with a colleague whose question was: “Should we be on Facebook and Twitter?” The answer: “Yes. It’s where the people are”.
845 million active users on Facebook may seem like a substantial number, but let’s clarify what it actually means; 100 times the population of New York City, and nearly triple the entire population of the United States. The average active Facebook user spends 20 minutes on Facebook every day.
Couple this with Twitter’s 465 million user accounts and 175 million individual tweets sent daily, it becomes clear that Facebook and Twitter have a unique value proposition for companies: We will place you on the doorstep of more consumers than has ever been possible.
Second. You can sell a lot more books if you can get inside the house. So they taught my friend a body language sales technique that goes like this:
1. Knock on the door.
2. As soon as the door begins to open, start wiping your feet. Rug or no rug, just wipe your feet.
3. Wait for “Would you like to come in?”
People have a natural inclination to invite you inside when they see you wiping your feet. In the world of Social Media, to get inside the door with potential customers, you must have content that makes your audience want to open their door and welcome you in.
Social media allows companies the unique opportunity to tell the story while walking in the door. Much like television ads, the ability to put forth inviting content at first contact with a brand has solidified social media as a high performance marketing channel. There are many means of doing so, but the primary goal is to get your existing audience to “Share” your content with their connections. This method produces the highest yield on conversion, and it instills the basic necessity for any sales process: Trust. Most people won’t let a stranger in the door, but many will let a stranger that is referred by a friend in the door, maybe sit on the couch — maybe even have a beer!
So what makes content “shareable”? This is quite a loaded question, but here are some basic rules:
1. Pictures and images work.
2. Humor bridges the personal connection gap.
3. Know your audience, and personalize content based on it.
4. Allow your brand to be personified; relate-ability will go far with all content.
5. Video content, if done well, will sell itself.
Until next time….don’t forget to wipe your feet!
Have you ever seen a web site that has a link to their SEO company’s site in the footer navigation of each page? I was speaking with someone today about this – SEO companies that discount their services (and attempt their own link building) by adding a link on their clients’ sites.
It reminds me of a lame music advertising fad from the 80′s.
Depending on your age, you may or may not remember this, but there was a brief pop music advertising fad in the 80′s to mention your band’s name somewhere during a potential hit song. The thinking seemed to be, if the song was a huge hit, then thousands of people every day would be singing the name of your band. Who could ask for more than that?
There’s a very good chance that you were an active participant in this ad fad. Perhaps the most blatant 80′s group to try this was Wang Chung, whose “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”, near the end, adds vainly “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight!” (come on, you know you belted that out a few times at karaoke night).
Soon after, the Swedish pop/rock band Roxette at the end of their hit “Joyride” boldy exclaim (you guessed it), “Roxette!”
Tacky? Oh yeah.
Short term fad? Absolutely.
The good news for our industry is that most SEOs are growing up and, like this brief time in the 80′s, are seeing in advance that what may work temporarily will not work in the long run.
Can you name Wang Chung’s next big hit after “Everybody Have Fun Tonight?”
I have never met someone who owns their own business that doesn’t have at least a few stories about their entrepreneurial skills showing themselves in the days of their youth.
Want to get an entrepreneur talking? Just ask them why and when they knew they’d have their own business. You’ll find most have stories that go beyond the paper route or lemonade stand (and yes, I had both).
This is my first entrepreneur story. A story about corn fields, golf balls and amazing little pizzas.
A Corn Hole In One
I guess in a way, I’m a child of the corn.
When I was in elementary school, we lived in North Canton, Ohio – a stone’s throw away from the local public golf course. Across the road from the golf course was acre after acre of Ohio corn fields. We’re talking endless corn fields. And my friends and I spent a lot of time in and out of them.
Growing up near the golf course, it didn’t take long for me to realize that lots of golfers couldn’t hit a ball straight if their life depended on it. So each Summer day, the corn field across the street would end up littered with golf balls. I learned quickly that, unlike me, most golfers didn’t find any comfort in the rows of corn. They’d just take a mulligan, tee up another brand new Titleist and whack it into the maize.
Hunting for and collecting golf balls was tremendous fun and became a bit of an obsession. At first, it was a contest to see who could find the most balls. My friends and I used to take a hacksaw and cut into them to see what was inside. I could explain to anyone, in great detail, the innards of the latest Top-Flite or Ping!
Now, you know a kid growing up in rural Ohio has expenses. The quality of the Summer experience was always enhanced with some extra walking around cash in the pocket. Most of my money went toward Mad Magazines, Wacky Packages and the ultimate treat which were the amazing little pizzas in the golf course clubhouse! Did I mention how AMAZING those little pizzas were?
I guess my switch was flipped and the entrepreneurial light bulb came on when I realized there may be something beyond the thrill of the golf ball hunt — that I could actually make money selling golf balls back to many of the same folks who shanked them.
With magic marker and paper (marketing collateral!), a boldness to open my mouth (sales!), a steady stream of golfers (target market!) and golf balls galore (self replenished inventory!), I quickly cornered the market and selling used golf balls became a residual profit machine. I was living high on the hog with a belly full of pizza!
I studied my target audience so I knew when most golfers arrived throughout the day. When I wasn’t selling, I was busy restocking my inventory. I came up with a grade for each ball based on its used markings. Prices were set based on the grade. The best “used” balls had markings invisible to the naked eye — clearly brand new and given their inaugural ride by a really poor golfer (my favorite kind)! I found golfers loved buying these “high grade” golf balls at half the price of a new one.
With the added goal of saving enough to buy my very own Stretch Armstrong, I found ways to work harder and smarter. It seemed the only foes to the business were old man Winter and the highly unlikely scenario that one day, a miracle cure would be found for the chronic slice.
The Challenges: Competitors, Location and Price
I believe that the true test of the entrepreneur is how they deal with the ups and downs of the business. Like with any business, I learned quickly that there would be challenges and was forced to create ways to evolve and keep the business moving forward.
What started as perhaps the first used golf ball monopoly, didn’t last very long. There were some other kids who quickly threw together a “me too” operation to compete with me. But the biggest competition actually came from the golf course itself. After they did some top secret competitive intelligence work (ok, not really), they caught on to my brilliant business idea (they stole an idea from a kid) and started selling used balls in the clubhouse right by the register.
I had two prime locations. The parking lot where the golfers parked their cars and the bag drop area which was really prime for quick transactions. This reminds me of the best answer to why people sell door-to-door … because that’s where the PEOPLE are! Once the clubhouse started selling used balls, my prime locations around the clubhouse were, let’s say, strongly discouraged. Didn’t they know I used most of my profits to buy their amazing little pizzas?
My used golf ball prices were priced to sell, but the clubhouse matched my already low prices.
So, in a nutshell, heres how I dealt with the business challenges.
When it came to the other kids who copied me, dealing with them was simple. I simply had to outwork them (which I did). The much bigger challenge was competing with the clubhouse. I had to get creative, a little sneaky, and be willing to take some risks in solving the challenge of this mega competitor. My little indie operation was hell bent on not letting the big conglomerate win. Not to mention I was addicted to those little pizzas.
I knew I could compete with the clubhouse on quantity and quality of inventory since I had the corn fields. So my big move was to add a few sales reps and take my location out onto the actual golf course! I found all the best places – the bunkers, the massive trees and the ditches. The golfers got used to seeing us everywhere. They knew we probably shouldn’t be there, but I think many bought from us simply because they appreciated our creativity and tenacity to stay in business.
And the pricing issue? I was able to solve that easily by dropping my prices just a little bit. It’s not like I had much overhead!
So, there you have it. My first entrepreneur story. What are the biggest challenges your business is facing?Are there creative solutions and are you willing to take some risks? Please share your comments with me below.
I have another tale to tell which happened about 6 years later. It’s a story about dumpsters, posters and lots and lots and lots of vinyl records.
Until next time!
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This week, we made a very special announcement here at Intrapromote.
Our friend and colleague Erik Dafforn became President of our agency.
Having been here since the beginning, I feel Erik is perfectly suited to be our first President. He knows our identity, our culture and what makes us a great digital agency because he helped us shape these things from scratch. During his twelve years with us, his influence has been felt in every part of our business.
Erik worked with John Lustina and I as a freelance humor columnist back in the late 90′s before we started Intrapromote. He was one of our first employees, joining the company in 2002 as our Corporate Communications Director. A superb writer, he was charged with developing the voice of our young company. One of his major duties was to serve as Editor of our two monthly ezines, Search Agency and Viral Marketing Monthly. Yes, I said ezine which was a very cool word in 1999!
It wasn’t long before Erik was learning SEO from fellow Intrapromote colleagues Derrick Wheeler and James Gunn, two pioneering SEO minds from Bend, OR. This was in late 2002 when a very young Google was just beginning to challenge Yahoo as the top search engine. Erik quickly became an SEO Campaign Director and in his tenure here has worked with many well known brands — Acura, Cleveland Clinic and Behr just to name a few.
He was our first Vice President and in a few short years also became our Director of Search. During this time, he’s written hundreds of articles for sites like ClickZ as well as Intrapromote’s blog. Erik is now considered a digital search thought leader and this year, co-authored the book “Search Engine Optimization Secrets.” Co-Founder John Lustina says, “Erik was excelling at Enterprise SEO before anyone even knew to call it Enterprise SEO. He transformed SEO in the early days into a legitimate channel for big brands at the same level Red Grange completely changed pro football from freak show to Big Show.”
When we announced this news internally last week, the entire staff was thrilled. All of us at Intrapromote look forward to Erik’s leadership in the years ahead. As Intrapromote’s President and leader of our Executive Management Team, his ability to visualize, plan and execute on behalf of the company and its clients will allow Intrapromote to confidently navigate its second decade as a leading search and social marketing firm.
Here is the official press release: http://news.yahoo.com/s/prweb/20110621/bs_prweb/prweb8580250_6
In 2007, one of our long term clients launched a Spanish version of their web site. Their site is very content rich and has approximately 1,000 pages. During the course of 2008, we’ve worked closely with them to optimize these new pages with the goal of significantly increasing search traffic.
Here’s a look at the results to date…
Prior to optimization of the Spanish pages, of all search engines, Google Spain was ranked #33 in bringing visits to the site. After optimization, Google Spain is #3 behind just Google and Yahoo.
To make this kind of jump, Google Spain brought just 53 visits per month to the site prior to optimization. Now the site is receiving over 10,000 visits a month from Google Spain. Google Spain now brings more visits than MSN and AOL.
Here’s a closer look at the visit numbers before and after optimization:
|Search Engine||Monthy Visits
|Google Puerto Rico||23||689|
We expect these monthly visit increases to bring a minimum of 350,000 additional new visits to the site in 2009.
A die-hard Cleveland Browns fan my entire life, I sat through yet another disappointing game Thursday night. Having watched hundreds of these games since my childhood, now I just laugh and turn off the TV.
So far, this season has been a season of watching Browns receivers drop balls. It’s so hard to watch a receiver have a ball go right through their hands or catch a ball and then drop it. I’m not sure who leads the league in dropped balls this season, but I would bet a dollar that it’s the Browns.
I have a hard time watching TV without my notebook computer in my lap. As I sat through the familiar misery of another Brown’s loss Thursday night, I found someone else dropping balls on Facebook – big time. In fact, let’s call this a dropped touchdown pass to win the game.
I have a tip for professional recruiters using Facebook to find job seeking candidates. If you really want to appear professional and find good talent, you should be careful what Groups you join on Facebook. Yes, your potential candidates can see them and I’m certain that most quality job seekers open to being contacted on Facebook by a professional recruiter would be turned off by a recruiter who’s a member of several groups that include the name “Whores”.
Now that’s a dropped ball.