Insight for Independent Consultants

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    You missed the *real* message, Philip!

    List member Fuad totally skooled me on something I completely missed in one of my recent examples RE: positioning.Last week I sent an email with the following picture and I told you it was an example of lacking the courage to have a sharp focus:ImageFuad told me what’s actually going on with that picture:—In the case of the Halal grocery store, they are also targeting a very specialized niche market.  The english text on the sign is actually totally irrelevant and will be ignored completely by the target audience.  Think of it as cultural backlog, i.e. the innate cultural need to put some english words so they can look cool in front of their peers who also barely have a decent handle on English.The real message is the arabic & english in the circle in the middle that both say “Halal”.  This is a halal grocery market and everyone who they are targeting instantly knows what they sell inside – basically everything from “back home” plus probably a halal butcher shop in the back.  Their customers also expect to go there and stand in a long line waiting to get their meat or another long line waiting to get through the checkout process. 😛—There are several really interesting things that emerge in light of Fuad’s clarification.Market Specialization vs. Problem SpecializationThis picture has turned from an example of poor focus on solving a problem to an example of good market specialization.Narrowing your focus to a single target market is what I, in the newly updated Positioning Manual for Technical Firms, refer to as the Narrow Focus strategy.It’s the first step I recommend that generalist take because it combines many of the benefits of a narrow market position with easier implementation and lower risk.Coded MessageFuad points out that the real message in this sign is essentially a coded message. I sorta understood that “Halal” meant “Arabic food”, but that was the extent of my understanding until I got Fuad’s email.Now I understand that the single word “Halal” carries a lot of meaning for the intended audience.Your target market will be the same. There will be certain key words that resonate with additional levels of meaning beyond what the general public will understand.If you know these words, you should use them in your marketing. They’ll position you as an insider, which will increase your credibility and trust with your target market.If you don’t know those words, you should learn more about your target market. Research is an excellent way to do that.The Complete Bundle of the newly updated Positioning Manual for Technical Firms contains a thorough guide on how to research your target market: http://thepositioningmanual.comTalk to you soon,-P

    Scheduling your heartburn

    When I was younger, I could easily digest a wooden chair leg if you gave me enough hot sauce to go with it.Nowdays… I have to carefully schedule eating even medium spicy Indian food so I have enough time to digest it before I hit the sack. If I don’t, it’s HEARTBURN CITY and a very cranky Philip the next day!This makes me think about the whole idea of predictability.The following is probably true of your business, even if you’d rather not admit it:

    1. If you let yourself get 100% busy with client work and stop marketing your services, you will be facing a pretty severe revenue shortage in 3 to 9 months.
    2. You know that over the next year you’ll probably say yes to a client you’ll later wish you hadn’t, but you’ll need the money or need to keep your team utilized during a gap in your schedule, so you’ll say yes anyway (see #1 above).
    3. You don’t have one or two “levers” you can pull to improve your pipeline.

    Not only are these things probably true (and congrats if they’re not! You’re in the top 5%!), but they’re predictable.Just like I know exactly what’s going to happen if I eat a bowl of Saag Paneer at 7pm, you know exactly what’s going to happen if you don’t market your business effectively. The result is no surprise at all.I can help you with identifying, validating, and dominating a profitable market position in my book: I’ve just completed a significant update and you can snag the new version at the old price. Don’t wait until I update the pricing to reflect the increased value: http://thepositioningmanual.comBurnin,-P

    Curve ball

    I love it when the host of a podcast I’m guesting on throws me a curve ball.In fact, I kind of wish it would happen more.(Probably some famous last words there.)Anyway, I was recently a guest on The Startup Success Podcast with Bob Walsh and Patrick Foley. They threw me a curve ball.They asked for some “live”, on-air advice about how I’d advise Bob to tweak his positioning.Check out that conversation here: to you soon,-P

    What’s your “single”?

    A couple of days ago I wrote:Is it easy to forgo mentioning other compelling attributes of your product or service in order to focus on just one? You bet it isn’t. 🙂 It’s brutally hard.This is somewhat like being a musician who has recorded an amazing album with 12 great songs on it and then having to choose one as the album’s single.That choice is not easy! But if you don’t make that choice, your marketing efforts don’t have a sharp “spear tip” to garner attention, word of mouth, and excitement.Imagine applying 5 lbs of pressure over the area covered by an 8×10″ sheet of paper. Now imagine the same amount of pressure applied to a sewing needle.That’s the difference that “choosing a single” makes. :)I wrote a book that can help you choose a hit single: http://thepositioningmanual.comTalk to you soon,-P

    Don’t underestimate how lazy your clients are

    I just spent $50 to buy a bombilla (a straw used to drink tea made with loose leaf Yerba Mate). Here it is:ImageIf you know anything about bombillas, you know this is the equivalent of spending $20 for a cup of coffee. It’s a premium price.In a lot of ways, I’m rather thrifty (I’m mostly a value shopper). So why did I spend $50 on a stainless steel straw to drink my hippie tea?It was a perfect storm of three things:ImageI was frustrated with my current bombilla. It clogs all the time and makes it very un-fun to consume Yerba Mate.I was feeling lazy. Summer’s here and I just didn’t feel like doing a ton of research on the perfect replacement bombilla–one that wouldn’t clog up.And that’s where familiarity comes in.Some time ago, I got on the email list of a company called Circle of Drink. They’re fellow Drip users, and perhaps what’s what drew me to join their list. I’ve probably been on their list now for 6 months.I don’t even really read their emails anymore. But when I’m skimming through my inbox, there they are, every few days.ImageYeah, I read the first few emails they sent. But after that, I tuned them out and let SaneBox do its thing.Until today. Until I was fed up with my current bombilla and ready to freaking solve this (admittedly First World) problem once and for all.That’s when I went to Gmail, searched for Yerba Mate, scanned the search results for an email from a familiar name, went to Circle of Drink’s site,found the most clog-proof-looking bombilla they offered (also their most expensive one, which is probably no pricing accident), and bought it.Do you think your clients are less lazy than I was in this situation? I’d bet money they’re not.Do you think they value familiarity less than I did in this situation? Again, my money is on them being just as influenced by familiarity as I was.That familiarity was created through email marketing and positioning.With a slow, steady drip of emails about one single thing (Yerba Mate-related products), Circle of Drink dominated a “money search” in my inbox. By money search, I mean one that happened right at the moment I was ready to spend cash to make a problem go away.I didn’t even remember the company’s name. My thought process went exactly like this:“Gaaaaah! I want to melt this bombilla down into molten metal, cast a sculpture of a middle finger with it, and FedEx the signed middle finger sculpture to the person who designed it!!! Now where’s that company that’s always emailing me about Yerba Mate products…?”Tell me again why you aren’t building even a tiny email list of buyers and emailing them something of value regularly? :)If it’s because your positioning isn’t dialed in, I can help with that:

    Bring the PARTY to your next event!

    I saw this awesome sign while running an errand in Santa Rosa, CA recently:ImageIt very simply says, “Bring the PARTY to your next event. Call 1-800-TORTILLA”.Notice what the sign is not saying:

    • We make the complex problem of preparing delicious Mexican food simple
    • You bring your appetite, we bring the technical details of food prep
    • Most experienced Mexican cuisine chefs in the world
    • Lovingly curated ingredients based on the best that food production technology has to offer
    • Boutique tortilla restaurant
    • Great team culture at our restaurant where we invest more in our people than the competition

    Instead, the sign focuses on the customer’s needs (festive food for an event) and offers a simple, memorable combination call to action that also serves as a label for the restaurant (Call 1-800-TORTILLA).Their focus on one singular customer desire is so fierce that they don’t even tell you the restaurant’s name.Is it easy to forgo mentioning other compelling attributes of your product or service in order to focus on just one? You bet it’s not. 🙂 It’s brutally hard.But when you don’t muster the courage to have a sharp focus, you get something much more like this:Image(Thanks to awesome list member Tom Kerwin for finding this photo made by Nikolas Lloyd (LindyBeige) and forwarding it to me)The sign says “SPECIALIST IN ALL KINDS OF CONTINENTAL FOODS”.When I hear the word “specialist” used in that way, my reaction is the same every time:ImageIf you were diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and went to see a “specialist” who told you they “specialize” in cancer, brain surgery, reconstructive plastic surgery, chiropractic work, and dentistry, you would stand up and run out of the room so fast you’d knock over some furniture on your way out.The more sophisticated buyers at your clients will have the same reaction when they see a 5-person shop claim a “specialty” in front end, back end, UI/UX, database, dev ops, and e-commerce work.I’m not saying that you can’t talk about your full range of attributes in your marketing. But when you decide you are going to capture a desirable, profitable market position by narrowing your focus, you have to make difficult choices along the way about how you’re going to shape your clients’ perceptions of your specialty.Get the most comprehensive, step-by-step guidance available to help you make that decision right here:

    Why buy a cow when you can get the milk for free?

    That’s the old saying isn’t it?”Why buy a cow when you can get the milk for free?”Or applied to marketing your services, why would clients hire you when they can get information from you for free (perhaps via your content marketing or detailed proposals)?Have you heard those horror stories about prospective clients getting a proposal from Supplier A and then having much cheaper Supplier Z implement the ideas contained in that proposal?Those stories seem to pop up from time to time, and I hear ya’ on the fear that they evoke. It almost seems like if you make the transition from “selling your hands” (tell me what to do and I’ll do it very skillfully or quickly or reliably for you) to “selling your brain” (I’ll advise you on what to do to reduce risk or increase impact), you become more vulnerable to this kind of thing because your primary deliverable becomes ideas, which are the easiest of all things to steal.On a recent episode of The Freelancers’ Show, Chuck, Jonathan, Reuven, and I discussed this topic of giving away ideas and information for free.Is there some hidden downside to freely sharing ideas? Is there some specific situation when it could harm your business? Isn’t there real power to having a proprietary methodology or “secret sauce” that your competition doesn’t know?Check out the full conversation here:

    Mutt Lange is my spirit animal

    I believe I may have a few things in common with the multi-Grammy winning producer Mutt Lange.And of course, we have a few differences too.He, for example, has written songs and produced albums for AC/DC, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Michael Bolton, The Cars, Bryan Adams, Huey Lewis and the News, Billy Ocean, Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, Nickelback, and Muse.I have not written any songs for those groups, nor have I produced any albums that have gone on to be the second-best selling album of all time.Mutt Lange married country musician Shania Twain, apparently had an affair with her best friend Marie-Anne Thiebaud, and broke up Thiebaud’s marriage (along with his own) allowing Twain to marry Thiebaud’s former husband several years later.I have not broken up anybody’s marriage.However, I get the sense that Mutt Lange is an introvert. He now lives in semi-seclusion somewhere in Switzerland and hasn’t given an interview in decades. And he’s a strict vegetarian.And that’s where we start to look a lot more alike.I don’t think I have any Billboard-charting albums up my sleeve, but I do know exactly what it’s like to be an introvert (and I’m a vegetarian too).And in fact I’ll just shoot straight with you here:I believe that when it comes to marketing, introverts have several compelling advantages that allow them to market with world-class power and depth, accomplishing things that extraverts would have to struggle to match.No, I’m not saying introvert >> extravert. I’m just saying if you’re an introvert, you probably have some advantages you might not be hip to.Thusly… if you’ve ever felt like being an introvert is somehow a disadvantage when it comes to marketing your services, I think you’re going to want to check out a free webinar I’m doing together with Janelle Allen, an expert in online courses. It’s this Wednesday at 7:30am Pacific time, and here’s the agenda:

    • Why marketing probably feels to you like stealing candy from a baby
    • How introverts can adopt a more comfortable and productive marketing mindset
    • The 3 must-haves and 1 nice-to-have for your marketing needs
    • Actionable, non-sleazy marketing strategies that get results
    • 5 introvert-friendly ways to market your online course and other digital products

    Sign yoself up here:

    Sorry, this link is not authorized

    I’ve got a sore throat that tells me I’ve been working too hard as of late, so I’ll keep this short.When it comes to a 404 page for your website, you can do better than something like this:ImageGenerally I try to avoid doing unsolicited “teardowns” because there’s all kinds of context that–as an outsider–I’m not privy to and that reduces the value of that kind of teardown. But I recently came across this example of a 404 page that points out a missed opportunity you can learn from.What about putting a listing of your most helpful content marketing assets there instead of the default WordPress or other CMS-provided 404 page? Or what about an opt-in form for an email course?It’s pretty easy to do this. On my site I just copied my /resources page and tweaked some copy. You can see what I’m talking about at any invalid URL like;fdjlsk;fadThere are several WordPress plugins that let you easily replace the default 404 page with another page of your choosing. I use this one:’s maybe 15 minutes of work to make your website better. Why not, right?

    What about The Olds?

    During my recent uGurus presentation on lead generation, I got an interesting question:Webinars seem great in terms of Trust Velocity, but will they work for members of the Baby Boomer generation?BTW, Baby Boomers are between 52 and 70 years old.TL;DR: yes, they will if you don’t put too many obstacles in the way and your content has value for them.But you know what? That’s true of any method you use to demonstrate your expertise and build trust with prospects!With webinars, there are three potential obstacles to participation.1) Opt-in/registrationWhat’s your opt-in or registration process like for your webinars? If it’s more than a single step, why? Does that additional step or two add any value to your webinar participants, or is it there for your convenience?Remove every single form of friction from your opt-in process. If your webinar platform makes this impossible, find a different platform. There are approximately three million of them to choose between. 😉2) TechnologyIs your webinar platform easy to use for you and especially for your audience? Does it encourage audience participation in the form of questions?I’m seeing a lot of activity in the webinar tech space. I suspect that’s because it’s a sort of “blue ocean” space with lots of opportunity for differentiation from the (sleeping) giant incumbents and there’s no real commodity downward pricing pressure (yet), which is a nice opportunity for building a SaaS.Crowdcast ticks a lot of the right boxes for me in terms of easy usage and good design for engagement. While it’s not perfect, they’re iterating rapidly and working to address their platform’s shortcomings.I’ve also heard more good than bad about Zoom, particularly when it comes to high quality video across diverse bandwidth situations, and my own usage of their meetings product bears this out. I’m actively investigating Zoom for online executive briefings where a more peer-to-peer interaction model is needed (vs. the one to many model that webinars tend to follow).3) Gross pitchingHow good are you at smoothly transitioning from an educational presentation to a pitch for a paid product or service? Be honest…Probably not very good.ImageSo don’t ruin a webinar by moving from strength (your expertise) to your weakness by adding an awkward pitch at the end.Do any selling via followup emails sent to webinar registrants or attendees.—Webinars are one very good lead generation technique.But there are others too: