Environmental Hypocrisy

Lately, I’ve found myself frustrated with how Alberta’s oil industry is being treated. As an environmentally conscious person, I never thought I would be defending the oil industry, but here I am.

I believe there’s a higher probability of two missiles spontaneously transforming into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias; than our federal government doing anything useful or pragmatic in support of the environment or industry.

Since I have zero faith in government motives or environmental leadership, I have always tried to do my part to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Environmentally speaking, I believe our current choices boil down to getting comfortable with global apocalypse scenarios, or stepping up and taking action as individuals and small business owners.

Protests Are Good, But Panic Is Unconstructive

As a person of conscience, I’m encouraged to see the swell of interest in protecting our planet from human ignorance and mismanagement.

However, while I’m encouraged to see people demanding change, I’m concerned about the vilification of Canada’s oil industry. We’re getting emotional versus focusing on practical solutions. The attacks appear to be politically motivated destabilisation tactics, rather than legitimate environmental leadership.

Rather than vilify an industry that’s vital to our national security and our day to day lives, we need to focus on actionable change. What can people act upon now? There are so many practical things we can do to reduce our carbon and ecological footprint, without letting our politically motivated so-called leaders mess things up further.

Don’t Buy Over Seas Oil

Let’s be honest. Not producing oil in Canada does not mean we’re going to stop using it any time soon. All it means is we buy it from other countries. The resistance to pipelines is entirely political, hypocritical as hell and economic stupidity.

The last thing I want to do is buy oil from or send money to the most corrupt and socially repressive regimes on the planet. I’d much rather buy ethical Canadian petroleum products, preferably that we refine here in Canada. Then at least the money stays here and supports our environmental and social change initiatives. We also need to make sure the risks and impacts are mitigated.

We’ll Get Off Oil By Curbing Consumption

I would love to see us transition off oil. I already own a Prius, and I can’t wait to buy an electric vehicle. But we need viable alternatives to be widely available before we can realistically ween ourselves off of oil.

We’ve barely got a functional electric charging network in place and we’re still mired in the politics of allowing micro generation on the grid. Rather than villify the only functional option, how about we champion regularoty reform that will allow the transition to occur? We need to get these change initiatives underway, before we have a hope of getting off oil. In the interim, buying oil from the most ethical suppliers (ourselves) only makes sense.

How To Make A Real Difference

Protesting and voting with your conscience are great places to start. However, if you want to make a real difference, right now; look to your own behaviours and make changes there first.

Once you start, you’ll find there are dozens of ways you can make a difference. After you’ve educated yourself and learned a few practical lessons, you can be a role model for others to follow. With billions of individuals on this planet, it’s up to each of us to be the change we seek.

Here’s A List Of Things To Consider

Start with small changes. Then expand your efforts to see how far you can go. Try on some of these progressively challenging ideas.

Very Easy Habit Changes

  1. Take an interest in conservation, learn about the environment, and how to protect it.
  2. Use your recycling and compost bins daily.
  3. Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  4. Bring a reusable water bottle with you.
  5. Carry a reusable mug to fill at fast food stores.
  6. Use reusable or compostable bags at the grocery store.
  7. Buy recycled paper and avoid products from virgin forests.
  8. Use natural pesticides like diatomaceous earth, garlic and pepper sprays in your yard.
  9. Capture rainwater to use in your garden.
  10. Find opportunities to work from home or telecommute.
  11. Ride a bike or take the train when possible.
  12. Buy locally produced products and foods, when available.
  13. Eat more foods that are lower down the food chain.
  14. Try to buy products in paper and glass containers, rather than plastic ones.
  15. Buy products with minimal and recyclable packaging.

Time Investments – Activism & Ethical Consumption 

  1. Lobby your provincial government to reform regulations in support of micro generation
  2. Lobby your city and provincial / state governments to sponsor incentive programs in support of energy efficiency, recycling and other green programs.
  3. Lobby for regional plastics recycling plants
  4. Get to know which brands are ethical producers and support them.
  5. Publically call out unethical brands online with negative reviews and posts.
  6. Stop buying products from countries with terrible social and environmental policies and encourage your social media followers to do the same.
  7. Voice your opposition to big pesticide companies before the birds and bees are gone.
  8. Stop spending your tourism dollars in countries with terrible environmental policies. Make sure to let them know why you’re boycotting them.
  9. Write posts and articles, exposing how your member of Parliament votes.
  10. Support environmental lobby groups and eco-trusts who buy and protect habitat.
  11. Lobby your city and provincial / state governments to sponsor incentive programs in support of energy efficiency, recycling and other green programs.
  12. Lobby your government and favourite brands to abandon single-use plastics.
  13. Vilify Quebec for dumping raw sewage into their waterways.
  14. Vilify BC for cutting old-growth forests and mismanaging Salmon stocks.

Longer-Term Financial Investments

  1. Install LED lights throughout your home.
  2. Switch to low flow toilets, showerheads and faucets.
  3. Install more or better insulation in your attic.
  4. Fix things, buy used and refurbished products vs always buying new.
  5. Plant a garden to support local pollinators.
  6. Plant trees and shrubs in your yard.
  7. Upgrade your old polluting lawnmower and yard equipment.
  8. Drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle or a hybrid / electric vehicle.
  9. Install high-efficiency windows with triple-pane glass.
  10. Install a high-efficiency furnace, hot water heater and major appliances.
  11. Look into whether solar, wind or hydro projects are financially and politically viable in your city and on your property. Then lobby the government to eliminate implementation barriers.

While each of these incremental changes might seem small on its own, the cumulative effect can be significant. You’ll also save money on your gas and utility bills. If you inspire others to follow your lead, you can magnify your efforts further.

Don’t Be An Environmental Hypocrite

Remember, shifts in consumer demand and consumption patterns drive real change. Producers and manufacturers have little incentive to change their practices until consumers demand them to.

I’m not suggesting you stop voting and protesting. Just don’t be an uninformed sheeple or a hypocrite. Educate yourself. Make sure you’re voting and protesting intelligently. Don’t become an unwitting pawn in a foreign destabilisation agenda.

Keep in mind that change is available right now. You can be the change you want to see in the world. It starts with you choosing to increase your environmental awareness and then acting consciously. It’s all about your everyday choices. Personally, I find making conscious choices much more empowering than complaining about government incompetence and corruption.

I know I’ve been working on my list of choices since I took environmental science classes in university. I’ve still not made it all the way down my environmental to-do list, but I keep working at it. I invite you to create your own list. Then start by making one environmentally conscious choice and turn it into a habit. You might find the possitive feeling addictive.

Many Small Changes Accrue Big Results

What I’ve found is consistent efforts to make thoughtful incremental changes over time, accrue big results. They can also save you money. This is as true for small business owners as it is for individuals.

You can make a difference with what may seem like insignificant changes like office recycling and composting, buying wooden stir sticks versus plastic ones, or compostable coffee pods versus non-biodegradable ones, and paper cups versus plastic ones.

Making a difference boils down to making a thousand little changes, versus geting bogged down on the seemingly impossible ones. We see the exact same thing with marketing performance optimisation. It’s a bunch of seemingly insignificant changes that make a large cumulative difference.

If you have some great ideas to share, post them. You can be part of the change that saves the planet, one choice at a time.

Sales & Marketing Analytics

As a small business owner, it’s challenging to get your sales and marketing program in place. But learning how to measure performance and optimise results may seem like a whole other hill to climb.

You likely already have access to Google Analytics, and maybe some other analytics tools, but are you using them?

The challenge is less about the software learning curve and more about knowing what to look for and how to analyse data. That’s what this article is about; how to think about your website analytics as a business owner.

Let’s Start With Your Objectives

There’s no point in measuring sales and marketing performance until you’re clear what you’re trying to accomplish.

The most common goals include:

  1. To get sales from new clients
  2. To generate repeat sales
  3. To develop client relationships or to develop existing accounts
  4. To attract new distribution partners
  5. To drive sales through distribution
  6. To attract talent to the business

Most of these can be summed up as ways to increase your rate of earnings growth. But each of these scenarios requires a different approach to marketing and measurement.

Let’s focus in on the first scenario: to get sales from new clients. Before you can understand how well you’re doing, you need to define what success looks like.

You have two basic ways to look at it:

  1. Profit on an average first sale
  2. Profit over the lifetime of a client (ideally in their first year)

Either way, to determine your profit, you need to select a maximum amount you can afford to invest in acquiring a new customer. For easy math, let’s assume you can afford to invest $200 to bring on a new client. Using this amount, you need to step through your sales funnel, to see if you are attracting new clients at a profit.

What’s A Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel includes the main steps a person must take to become your client. The funnel starts with some form of first impression and cascades down to a completed sale.

Here’s an online example:

  1. First Impression – Person comes into contact with your advertisement
  2. Click-Through – Person clicks on your advertisement or types in your web address
  3. Website Visit – Person arrives on your website
  4. Visitor Engagement – Person decides to stay on website, looks around, or bounces off
  5. Sales Inquiry – Person decides to reach out (via phone, email or in-person visit)
  6. Qualified Lead – You talk and determine if there is a real opportunity and fit
  7. Completed Sale – You complete a sale and acquire a new client

Each stage in the funnel represents a conversion from one stage to the next. The ratio of people moving from one stage to the next is your conversion rate. Conversion rates are expressed as percentages. Each conversion accumulates a cost to get a person to that stage in your funnel. After all the conversions are calculated, you end up with an average cost per sale or an average cost per new client.

For example:

  • Let’s say you paid $2.00 per click to get visitors to your website
  • If 50% of those people engage with your site, the unit cost per engaged visitor is $4.00
  • If 5% of engaged visitors contact you for sales assistance, the unit cost per inquiry is $80.00
  • If 70% of those inquiries are qualified, the unit cost per qualified lead is $114.29
  • If 70% of those opportunities became a sale, the unit cost per sale is $163.27

In this example, the cost of sale is under the $200 maximum you established as your goal. Well done. However, what happens if your average cost per click increases to $5.00?

It’s common for all of these conversion rates to be different for each traffic source, device, demographic segment, etc. The active refinement of your audience segments, traffic sources and the organisation of your sales process is how you optimise results and maximise your return on investment.

Without measuring conversion rates along the length of your sales funnel, you’re left to speculate and rely on hope as your strategy.

The Trouble With Web Analytics

One of the biggest challenges with web analytics is the overwhelming amount of data. There’s enough data to choke ten cabinet ministers. The challenge is looking past the noise to see what matters. There are so many different lenses to view web data through that you really need to know what you’re looking for.

What Data Matters To Business Owners?

Let’s look at the data as an active investor. Your goal is to generate a good return on your investment. The main way to do this is to drive down your average client acquisition costs. Every positive refinement you make improves your rate of return.

Think about each stage of the process. There are refinement opportunities all the way down the funnel.

Campaign Stage
  1. Optimise your choice of advertising channels in your marketing mix
  2. Review your choice of keywords and negative keywords
  3. Refine your target audience by gender, age, income, location, etc.
  4. Select the devices people are visiting you on
  5. Review the style, format and content of your advertising creative
Engagement Stage
  1. Confirm webpage people are directed to is relevant to the advertisement
  2. Refine content on webpage to ensure it will engage the user and invite them to continue
  3. Review rest of website to ensure it supports the visitor’s decision making, makes them feel safe and compels them to act
Conversion Stage
  1. This stage diverges depending on whether you’re focused on sales lead generation or e-commerce transactions. For Sales Lead Generation, ensure there is a clear call to action. A phone number to call, a form to complete, a download or similar – which is followed up upon by a person. For eCommerce, ensure the shopping cart and payment process are easy to use.
Follow-up Stage
  1. If you have their contact information, what are you going to do with it? How will you follow up to close the sale in lead generation? How will you support and re-engage a person to get them back for more in an e-commerce scenario?

Your data allows you to peer into each stage of the client’s experience to see how well your process is working. What you’re looking for are ways to refine every point in the process. In every stage, you have different data to dig into but you can start with the stages themselves. Which stage is the most problematic? Your data tells you where to look.

The Opportunity

What’s exciting about all this as a small business owner is how accessible this process is. The costs are very low, and the data is almost immediately accessible. You don’t need to be an expert in digital marketing or data analytics, you just need to ask better questions of your suppliers.

What Questions Should You Ask?

Key questions to ask include:

  1. What is the maximum you can invest in acquiring a customer?
  2.  What are your actual costs (min and max) to acquire a customer?
  3. Who’s the most responsive audience to your ads?
  4. Which audiences are the most engaged with your content?
  5. Who’s buying the most readily, for the least cost?
  6. How do you target ideal prospects with your promotions?
  7. What are the stages in your sales funnel and can you measure them all?
  8. What are the conversion rates and unit costs at each stage in the funnel?
  9. What’s a realistic conversion rate for each stage in the process?
  10. What would your rate of return look like if you hit those conversion targets?
  11. Which stages are most responsible for driving up your client acquisition costs?
  12. If you have issues, can you drill down and see what’s going on?
  13. What are your optimisation priorities?

If your marketing team can’t answer these questions, consider expanding your team or making a change. It’s not about you learning everything yourself. The greatest source of power is knowing what questions to ask and how to interpret the answers. After that, you need a team who can help you refine and optimise your marketing.

How To Start Measuring Your Marketing

Make sure you’re capable of tracking results all the way down your sales funnel. Depending on how your business works, you’ll use a mix of different technologies.

These tools include:

  • Webmaster accounts with Google and Bing
  • Online advertising control panels
  • Website analytics suites, such as Google Analytics
  • Heatmapping application
  • Call tracking application
  • Point of sale (POS) system
  • CRM (customer relationship management) software or an opportunity management system
  • Email marketing system
  • “Voice of the customer” measurement (online surveys, phone surveys, complaints and reviews)

Take an inventory of your systems and see what you have and what holes you need to plug in your sales and marketing feedback machinery.

Closing Thoughts

You don’t need to be an expert at business intelligence or data analysis. What you need are tools and suppliers to help you get your tracking infrastructure in place. Then you need reports that explain what’s going on. This stuff is not rocket science anymore. Analytics tools are getting to be as common as cappuccino machines. The low-cost and high availability of analytics and reporting tools have whittled down the excuses not to act, down to one.

What’s The Remaining Obstacle?

Here’s a hint. One Letter. Starts with U.

If you want your sales and marketing to generate a good return on investment, you’re the only one in your way. This is great news because you’re the person you have the most control over.

If you want your marketing investments to work, step-up and make it happen with all the affordable analytical tools and data. Once you get over your resistance, you’ll appreciate how much control you’ve gained. It’s really very exciting and not as daunting as it appears.

How To Move Forward

Start by asking better questions of your suppliers. Then look closely at their findings and ask them to explain your options. If you get in the habit of asking good questions and acting on the findings, you’ll be engaged in marketing and data analytics in no time.

To help you learn about marketing performance optimisation, we’ve prepared several Free Marketing eBooks. The ones most relevant to this conversation are Investing in Advertising, then Successful Websites and Increasing Conversion Rates.

What Is Performance Marketing

Performance Marketing was historically known as Direct Response Marketing. It’s been generally defined by its purpose, which is to elicit an immediate response and measurable results.

Performance Marketing is in sharp contrast to Brand Advertising. The purpose of Brand Advertising is to generate awareness and brand preference. The hope is to drive sales through third-party distribution.

Unfortunately, over the last 100 years the most widely experienced, most widely taught form of marketing is Consumer Brand Advertising. Why? Because the marketing and distribution of consumer goods is a product of the industrial revolution.

What’s The Difference?

Brand Advertising is what we see and hear all around us. It’s on TV, radio, billboards, and in the newspaper, online banner ads and sponsorships. It’s highly visual, fun, costly, discrete, ego-centric, sexy, and has mass market distribution.

Contrast this with Performance Marketing that tends to be much smaller in scale. It’s client centric and all about direct accountability, ongoing processes, databases, research and testing, measurement and statistics. That’s all fun, right? Isn’t it?

What? You Don’t Think Accountability is Fun?

Performance Marketing is an ongoing technical, by-the-number’s process with near immediate performance feedback. It can be scary as hell, because if your campaign does not work, you know it right away. It’s also an ongoing iterative process, rather than the get it perfect, launch it, and hope for the best approach of Brand Marketing. It’s a complete contradiction to the old promotional establishment.

It’s not that Performance Marketing hasn’t been around a long time. Think catalog sales, direct mail letters, fliers, telephone sales, coupon books and such. These pre-internet marketing tactics contributed to Direct Response Marketing being the ugly stepsister to Brand Marketing.

However, if you like analysing data and refining the heck out of things, it can be great fun. I absolutely love it. Especially now that the internet has sped the whole process up from taking months to minutes.

Performance Marketing Is Not A Tactic

Performance Marketing is an approach that can be applied to almost any promotional tactic. All that is required to make something Performance Marketing is a change in expectations. Add an offer, a call to action and a way to measure results and presto, it’s Performance Marketing.

You generally start by selecting a specific niche market. You add an offer and compelling calls to action. You measure response rates and return on investment (ROI) and you’re on your way, doing basic Direct Response / Performance Marketing.

Why Is This Relevant To Small Business Owners?

It’s relevant because you grew up thinking marketing was synonymous with Brand Advertising. This is a problem for many small businesses because they don’t need Brand Advertising. What they need is Direct Response or Performance Marketing.

Their target audience is simply too small for mass marketing. They don’t sell through a distribution channel. They need sales leads and sales more than they need awareness and brand preference. Plus they simply can’t justify the costs involved. Make sense so far?

The Components Of Performance Marketing

Here’s what you need to know to get your head in the game.

The Basics

  1. Start by establishing specific business objectives with performance constraints.
    You need to keep your cost of sale under x dollars to make it cost effective.
  2. Define your niche market.
    One of the primary ways to increase conversion rates is to carefully target an ideal customer via micro-segmentation.
  3. Develop an understanding of your prospect’s needs and purchase rationales.
    Relevance is the name of the game and the more you can anticipate and address the needs of your client, the higher your response and sales conversion rates.
  4. Develop an offer or an offer hierarchy.
    When your goal is to sell, you don’t want to present one option. You want to create a hierarchy of offers from free to paid to ensure you get a return on your marketing investment.
  5. Prepare engaging, compelling, trust and confidence building content.
    Relevance is largely created through copy, photography, videos and infographics. The more you create relevance and trust, the higher your conversion rates.
  6. Develop specific calls to action.
    Calls to action tell prospective clients what they need to do to get what they want. Ideally you build in urgency to help shift people into action now.

More Advanced Elements

  1. Work within a dynamic promotional environment.
    The promotional interface allows you to test different types and versions of your advertisements, to gauge their relative response rates.
    In addition, these environments allow for detailed micro-segmentation of the target audience. Generally, this includes things like geography, gender, age, device, keywords, the time of day, day of the week, and on and on.
  2. Use a testable sales mechanism.
    The sales mechanism is generally a sales landing page or a sales microsite. The ability to run different copy, images, forms and offers allows you to test several scenarios to see what converts best.
  3. Deploy advanced tracking technologies.
    In addition to tracking conversion rates, ideally you want to understand the source of the visitor and their behaviour on the landing page or website. Where did they go, what did they look at, what path did they follow, etc.
  4. Take advantage of programmatic advertising.
    This is where you use algorithms to buy, place and optimize your media inventory.

Hopefully you can see this approach is so much more powerful than running a single advertisement and hoping for the best. The downside is it takes a lot more work to setup and operate Performance Marketing campaigns.

The Impact Of Scale

The beauty of scale in performance marketing is what you can justify. If you have a massive promotional budget you can justify state-of-the-art technology, automated optimization, personalized daily attention and more.

If you’re have a tiny promotional budget, you can’t justify the same rigorous approach. You need to focus on the basics and work incrementally over time. Sometimes you need to wait weeks to accumulate enough data to complete a simple experiment.

What About Start-ups And Small Business Owners?

One of the best things about Performance Marketing is its scalability. It can and does allow solopreneurs and small business owners to participate, where mass media was never a viable option. The most effective places to start will vary by industry, however, the top channels for most small businesses are Google, Facebook, Bing and sometimes Instagram.

The Big Divides

In our experience, there are many different arenas in Performance Marketing and they all have their idiosyncrasies, different technologies and expectations. There really is no one-size-fits-all. These arenas include:

Classic Direct Marketers

This is the use of so-called old school techniques like direct mail, telemarketing, tradeshows and even niche advertising. Yes, all of these tactics are still relevant.

Content Promoters

These marketers use Performance Marketing to promote their digital content and to generate email signups and social follows. Their goal is to build a list or cultivate a following to drive sales via email marketing and social promotions.

Performance Advertisers

These are the new crop of high-performance brand advertisers. The focus is still awareness and brand preference, just in a more efficient and cost-effective medium. They tend to focus on reach and frequency and the unit cost for response rates, online engagement and downloads. They generally employ email and social marketing as part of their follow-up mix.

Simple e-Commerce Sales

These marketers generally have one or a small number of products. The intension is to drive trials, email signups and sales as cost-effectively as possible.

Complex eCommerce Sales

These marketers tend to have e-commerce stores with many products. The goal is generally split into 1) the acquisition of new clients or first sales and 2) email marketing to generate sales from existing clients.

Simple Sales Lead Generation

Sales lead generation sites are for businesses where the final sale needs to happen in-person. The goal is to generate qualified sales leads from advertising for a sales representative to follow-up with. A simple sale is generally low-cost or a commoditized service that clients already understand. Clients know what they want, they just need to find a vendor. Tracking the cost per lead and sale are the key performance measures.

Complex Sales Lead Generation

Complex sales lead generation is similar, but the offering is generally much higher-cost or intangible. The prospective clients often have a loose grasp of their needs. Frequently there is a complex multi-stakeholder decision process. The main goal is to minimize the unit cost per qualified lead while maximizing ROI.

Where do you fit into the mix? Did you recognize yourself among these options?

Where Do You Start?

Start with the basics. Performance Marketing is not a project, it is a continuous improvement process. You live it and breath it. It is fluid and dynamic with daily practices. Why? Because it never ends. There is always something else to test and improve. Sure, there are diminishing returns, so you need to keep things in perspective.

If you want to get started in Performance Marketing, start small. Get one complete campaign up and running, with tracking in place. Use it to learn the ropes. Refine that little campaign until the cows come home so you learn the process and develop your skills.

Once you’ve gained some mastery over the craft, you can take on more advanced tactics and scale up your budget.

Is Performance Marketing For You?

You may find you really love the logic, data and immediate feedback or you may find you absolutely hate it. It is not a process for everyone. An obsessive personality disorder is not a liability in this line of work.

You also need to be versatile with a mix of skills. You need to be somewhat technical, creative, and like to dig into details while having empathy for client needs. It helps to grasp systems thinking and be comfortable thinking laterally, all at the same time. If that sounds fun, maybe you too can be a performance marketer. If not, at least you understand it a little better, so you can hire someone who loves Performance Marketing.

To learn more, we offer several Free Marketing eBooks to help small business owners drive sales with Performance Marketing. More specifically consider reading Investing In Advertising as a next step.

Ways Of Being

Have you ever stepped back and asked yourself “who do I need to be right now to make the best of this situation”? If you have, it was likely a moment of some importance to you.

In times of importance, you may consciously choose a version of yourself to handle matters more effectively.

Imagine if you consciously chose your Ways of Being and Acting regularly, rather than just on special occasions. What if there were specific ways you actively worked at to help improve things in your life, your relationships or how your business performed?

That’s what this article is about; the active choosing of specific Ways of Being and Acting to bring about target outcomes.

What Are Ways of Being and Acting?

Ways of Being and Acting are connected like two sides of the same coin.  Your Ways of Being reflect what’s going on for you internally (your mental and emotional state, your thoughts and how you feel in your body). These ways of being generally give rise to your Ways of Acting. This means how you respond – what you think, say and do. To learn more about ways of being and acting, consider looking into the study of Phenomenology and Ontology. For readability sake, I’m collapsing Ways of Being and Ways of Acting down into “Ways of Being” or “Ways” for short.

In every moment, you get to either react instinctively, using your unconscious patterns of behaviour, or you can actively choose who you need to show up as in the situation.

Take for example, Being Kind.

There are hundreds of different behaviours you can use to express kindness. No individual act of kindness constitutes being a kind person. However, a regular pattern of kind behaviours becomes a practiced Way of Being.

We all have Ways of Being that people use to describe us. She is kind, he is honest, she is untrustworthy, etc. One incident does not represent a pattern. It’s the frequency and consistency of our behaviours that earn us our labels and results. No one is a particular Way all the time. We do however exhibit some ways with great regularity, and these patterns of behaviour are cummulatively responsible for our results and who people believe us to be.

Getting Started With Ways of Being

Years ago, my business coach helped me connect with my core values and purpose in life and work. Then we focused on uncovering who I needed to be, to live into my values in ways that supported my purpose.

I’ve spent almost 20 years learning to express those values and to make them who I showed up as. As I started to understand and adopt the practices, I wondered… “could I apply the same principles to sales and marketing?”.

I’ve now spent many years working on that question and developing a framework of Ways to help business owners design, build, operate and refine their sales and marketing systems. We call the marketing leadership framework The 20 Ways of Being. We believe this framework is core to the effective development and operation of sales and marketing systems that drive sustainable earnings growth.

Deer In The Headlights

After so many years of study and practice, I’ve become a fan of Ways of Being. However, when I mention the topic outside the coaching community, I tend to get blank stares from people. This deer in the headlights response reinforced my desire to bring the Ways conversation into the mainstream, in particular, to how it applies to sales and marketing leadership.

Ways We Value

In our culture, there is a general expectation that people will be certain ways. Not that we all do it, but there is a general expectation of baseline Ways, such as:

  • Being polite and helpful
  • Being respectful and tolerant
  • Being honest and trustworthy

In your business, you tend to recruit people who fit your culture and express Ways suited for particular job roles, for example:

  • Being friendly and empathetic in a customer service role
  • Being logical and innovative in a software development role
  • Being bold and creative in a design role
  • Being committed and forthcoming in a leadership role

You may not be consciously choosing your ways, but you will have a set of ways that you value and live into as a matter of your upbringing, training and work experience.

Which Ways Are Vital For You?

Do you know? Have you explored your Ways of Being and their role in your life? A good place to start is by completing a Kolbe A Assessment; a self-assessment tool to help you explore your inherent modus operandi. It brings to the surface your default ways on four different scales, but that’s a blog post for another day. For now, the assessment is a great tool for uncovering some of your default ways, how they shows up for you, and how they effect your interactions with others.

The long-term cumulative effects of your Ways will shape the experience others have of you. The results you create are, in many ways, are the sum of your Ways of Being.

Think of the difference between weather and climate. The weather is dynamic and always shifting (like who you are being in the moment), where as the climate is the sum of long-term weather patterns (your cumulative Ways of Being). If you can learn to manage your behavioural weather patterns in the moment, you will alter your average climate conditions.

The cumulative effect of your daily Ways as a company, result in the experience you create for others and how your reputation (your brand) is perceived.

Managing Ways Is An Ancient Practice

Choosing and practicing Ways of Being is far from a new idea. It’s a practice thousands of years old. Unfortunately, the practice tends to get buried within discipline-specific conversations like philosophy, religion, ethics, performance coaching, behavioral psychology, mindfulness and others.

How Does This Help You?

Learning to apply Ways of Being in business represents a tremendous opportunity for company leaders. Why? Because Ways of Being are free and completely within your control. There is no need for technology to practice them. They are fundamental to culture, productivity and brand development.

In simple terms, it works like this…You determine which ways are necessary to achieve a goal. You make living into those ways the expectation, the easiest to practice and the most rewarded option. The more you practice and make your target ways your chosen expression, the easier it gets and the more progress you make.

Ways of Marketing and Business Development

In 2006, we started developing our 20 Ways of Being for small business owners. Each way nests into three stages of program development (Design, Build and Grow). The ways all build upon each other to make target outcomes the natural result of your effort.

You practice this approach by selecting a way that is central to the outcome you need to create. You learn what the way is, why it is necessary and how to incorporate it. Then you build procedures, training, systems and compensation around it. You then take on another and another. Mastery over the set of ways and practices is what creates results. When you master the complete set of ways, you’ll have your entire business development program in place.

The Ways of Being approach is in stark contrast to the Random Acts of Marketing we so frequently encounter. We see people chasing new technologies because “everyone is doing it” and they don’t want to get left out, or something similar. It’s the tail wagging the dog.

Ways of Being shift the marketing conversation towards purpose and intent. For example: With the ways of being approach you would pose the question, “if we take on this new marketing tactic, how will it help us improve our practice of being a target way”?

We’re publishing a book on our 20 Ways in 2020. Until then, I hope this post serves as a “thin edge of the wedge” teaser on the topic.

Resources For Learning More

Other places to learn about Ways of Being include leadership development. Look into the Being A Leader course, read about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Mindfulness. One of the most ancient examples is the Noble Eightfold Paths in Buddhism. Martial arts training, elite fitness and athletic programs are often based on a similar practice of consciously choosing, rather than sliding into unconscious patterns. There are so many different resources available, you just need to find something you connect with that gets you over the mental hump.

Even Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People can be viewed from the perspective of Ways of Being and Acting.  For example if you’ve internalised his second habit of “Beginning with the end in mind” and made it part of who you are, it becomes part of your natural way of thinking and acting. You could call it “Being Intentional”.  I realize a level of abstration is required, but consider looking at a familiar book through a new lens. How might you turn an effective habit into a powerful Way of Being?

Got You Curious?

I hope so. Ways of Being are a very powerful mechanism with broad application. I’m always eager to share our experience using ways as a parent, in business leadership, in recruiting and in sales and marketing. It’s directly applicable to internet marketing too.

If you’d like to learn more, please reach out. I’m happy to refer you to resources and to practitioners who focus on Ways of Being in areas outside of sales and marketing.

Until you Contact Us, I invite you to be conscious and deliberate in choosing your Ways of Being and Acting. Consider taking a Kolbe A Assessment as a personal introduction. Once you’re engaged in the conversation, you’ll get a glimpse into the potential for improving your life, leadership and business effectiveness.

Marketing Leadership

Small Business marketing leadership is not about building websites or being an expert at marketing tactics. It’s about being clear on your purpose and being committed to achieving it through others.

Just like any leadership role, marketing leadership is about having a vision, a mission and a clear sense of purpose. It involves enrolling people into your vision, directing and course-correcting their efforts along the way.

The challenge for many small business owners is they lack a clear vision for sales and marketing. They often try to delegate their leadership role without providing a mandate or direction. The results are predictably dismal.

It’s not that you can’t delegate leadership, you can. The problem is you need to delegate leadership to another leader, not a technician. Abdicating your marketing leadership to a junior staff or a vendor rarely gets the job done. It’s often a recipe for disaster.

Since it’s challenging to delegate something you don’t understand, let’s start by clarifying the role.

Stages Of Marketing Leadership

There are three stages to marketing leadership. The first is The Design Stage. This is where you get clear on your mission, vision, values, branding, positioning, and define your value ladder, goals, constraints and more. You develop plans and forecast results to help make sound marketing investment decisions.

Next is The Build Stage. This is where you build a team and create your marketing content, develop business processes, procedures and implement the technology that enables you to market and sell at scale.

Finally, The Grow Stage is where you put your planning and marketing infrastructure to use. You promote your business through sales, search marketing, online advertising, events, shows or whatever you’ve planned for. This stage is a perpetual cycle of pre-campaign planning, running campaigns, post-campaign analysis and continuous performance improvements.

The skills involved and who you need to be as a leader in each stage of your marketing program, evolve with your business.

You need classic human leadership skills as well as an understanding of the requirements in each stage of your marketing program development.

Marketing leadership is not about selecting and implementing the next marketing tactic. It is about defining the customer-facing, profit-generating, front-end of your business.

What Normally Happens?

In the big-budget world of consumer products marketing, where companies invest millions, there’s an executive team directing the marketing program. There’s a Chief Marketing Officer, a VP Sales, a Creative Director, a Copy Director, a Technical Director and a Chief Information Officer. Not to mention a small army of creative and technical experts.

In the small business world, the reality is quite different. The business owner and leadership team do their best, often with junior staff and some contractors. They are often driven by urgency, focused on promotional tactics and spending as little as they can. The focus is putting out fires and controlling costs rather than investing strategically in earnings growth.

The Small Business Reality

Unfortunately, small businesses can rarely afford or attract a Chief Marketing Officer or any of the other marketing leaders to guide and direct investments.

Often the only viable alternative is to take on the role of marketing leadership yourself. This does not mean you do all the marketing. It means you create a vision, define your success criteria and become the sponsor and the champion of the cause. Most importantly, you need to articulate your vision to your team.

How Do You Create Your Vision?

There are several options available. You can become a student of marketing. You can engage a marketing coach or a fractional Chief Marketing Officer to guide you. You can engage a consulting firm, enroll a mentor or build an external board of directors. Whatever path you choose, know that it’s up to you to take the role on.

What Happens Without Marketing Leadership?

The most common scenario is what we refer to as Random Acts of Marketing. This is where there is no real plan and marketing is treated like a “to-do list” of independent tactics. It looks and feels like putting out fires or a game of Whack-a-Mole.

It often goes something like this: We need a website – Check. We need to be on Facebook – Check. We need a LinkedIn Profile – Check. Oh, there is a trade show up next and we need a display – Check. It’s one continuous stream of reacting to urgencies.

Who has time to measure results and learn from past campaigns when we don’t know how and we’re busy racing to implement the next “wish and a prayer” tactic or dousing the latest fire?

Without marketing leadership, marketing can become a series of painful lessons in what not to do. Eventually, people run out of money and their optimism turns to frustration and apathy.

Making The Shift

Taking on the leadership role in marketing is not as onerous as it sounds. It’s not far removed from the role of owner or executive director. What’s required is an understanding of the business and its mandate to customers, your competitive positioning, the value of a sale and the lifetime value of a customer relationship.

It requires a shift in focus onto your customer’s experience, as you choreograph their journey through your business. Each successful relationship developed is a new profit centre driving earnings growth.

Your biggest obstacle is not technical, it’s not knowing what customer experience you need to create.

What’s The Answer?

There are four things you need to take on:

  1. Recognize the three stages of development (Design, Build and Grow)
  2. Start viewing marketing as your system to reach, engage, and enroll people over time
  3. Develop a big-picture program view and champion the system development
  4. Get some guidance and direction on marketing leadership

Your system needs to work from first introduction, through completed transactions, all the way to repeat and loyal clients. The system needs to be reliable, scalable and deliver feedback on its effectiveness.

You can’t delegate this role to your vendors or to a junior manager. It takes a leader to bring your vision into being.

Marketing is not a series of one-off projects. Marketing is the development and management of the customer-facing half of your business.

Where To Start?

You begin by accepting the marketing leadership role. You’ll need to define your target customers and your competitive positioning in terms of the experience you seek to create for clients. You need to develop a vision for sales and marketing beyond your first sale and the latest marketing tactics.

Once you’ve defined your vision, you’ll need to build a team to help you bring your program to life and operate it over time.

Don’t think you need to be a big company or that all this needs to happen overnight. You can do this work as a solopreneur. Also realise that even large companies take years to design, implement and refine their programs.

What’s important is that you accept and take on the role. Once you do, you’ll find there’s help available along the way. You’ll also find your process accelerates once you get over the philosophical hurdles and your resistance to taking this work on.

To get you started and flatten your learning curve, we’ve prepared a series of Free Marketing Leadership eBooks. Once you’ve had a read and understand what’s involved, you’ll be ready to Make The Shift and take on the role of marketing leadership.

What Is Marketing?

When I started my first company, I started asking the question “What is marketing?” Why? Because I needed clients.

My approach to answering this question was to read dozens of books. I interviewed marketing consultants from agencies, engaged business coaches, hired an experienced salesperson, and I learned everything I could from mentors.

The more people I asked, the more confused I became. Everyone had a different answer.

Answers Referenced Tactics

I found people’s responses reflected the type of business they were in and the tactics they used. The tendency was to describe marketing as tactics like trade shows, social media, websites, networking or whatever.

The problem is, tactics don’t address the “What is marketing question?”. The tactics actually distract you from understanding marketing.

If the marketing insiders can’t agree on what marketing is, how is a small business owner supposed to figure it out?

Therein lies the problem. Most of us don’t figure it out. We either avoid it, or we fixate on tactics we hope will generate business, somehow. We end up searching for the proverbial magic bullet or simply chasing the next shiny thing. Then we engage in what amounts to “Random Acts of Marketing.”

So What Is Marketing?

The Oxford Dictionary defines marketing as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”

The Business Dictionary defines marketing as “the management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.” They go on to describe the classic 4 P’s of marketing being Product, Price, Place and Promotional Strategy.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as, “the activity, set of instructions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

The Wikipedia definition is not bad. They say “marketing is the study and management of exchange relationships. Marketing is the business process of creating relationships with and satisfying customers. With its focus on the customer, marketing is one of the premier components of business management.”

The range of definitions is vast. Heidi Cohen published an article where she compiled 72 different definitions of marketing; which speaks to the difficulty in defining it.

Operationally Defining Marketing

If the experts can’t agree, the next best thing is to operationally define what marketing means to your business.

Let’s start with some core ideas. The first is, marketing is not about you. It’s about facilitating the needs of your customers as they journey through your business.

Start with the old marketing maxim, “What’s in it for me?”. I would however, encourage you to take this idea and extend it beyond the first sale. Look at the “What’s in it for me?” idea over the lifetime of you and your client’s relationship, with the intent to maximize lifetime value.

The second idea is to look at marketing as a process and an investment strategy, rather than a series of independent “to do” activities. Think, “I’m building a relationship assembly line”. A machine that systematically produces and nurtures profitable customer relationships.

If you’re building a marketing machine, how will it work? What is the sequence of steps? How will each sub-process chain together to create the outcomes you need? Then determine how your system will earn a decent return on investment by defining performance criteria.

This systems-thinking, process-mapping, and focus on key performance indicators will guide how you approach marketing and keep you from falling into the “random acts of marketing” trap.

Making The Shift To Systems Thinking

When I first started to get my head around marketing, I visualized a manufacturing assembly line. Then an oil refinery. I live in Calgary, Alberta so I ran with what I knew. An oil refinery is where crude oil gets refined into useful products like diesel, gasoline, kerosene, naphthalene, etc. I asked myself, how would my marketing refinery work? Then I wondered, how does the oil and gas industry work?

The oil and gas industry gets split into upstream, midstream and downstream segments. Upstream is about the exploration and extraction of raw materials (mining for clients). The mid-stream is about refining the raw materials into usable products (qualifying and segmenting customers). The downstream is about bringing the product to market (maximizing customer lifetime value). It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s workable.

Your marketing system needs to take all three of these stages into account to realize its full potential. No single act of marketing has a chance of doing much good, outside of the system as a whole.

Defining Your Marketing System

Think of marketing as choreographing your customer’s experience as they move through your business. Your marketing system must reliably and cost-effectively reach, enroll, develop and retain clients at scale. The two key outcomes of your marketing system are client relationships and earnings growth.

This notion of experience choreography (to earn profitable short and long-term relationships) speaks to the full scope of marketing. It also helps explain why it’s so challenging to answer the “what is marketing?” question.

Think about how many different skills are involved in developing an oil refinery. Marketing is no different. Marketing requires systems thinking and leadership to design, develop and operate it effectively.

Breaking Down The Marketing Process

  1. Design: Develop your brand, positioning, purpose and process.
  2. Attention: An external process to make people aware of you.
  3. Engagement: Get people to interact with your content or information.
  4. Enrollment: Attempt to inspire people and incite action.
  5. Purchase: Facilitate a buyer’s purchase and support process.
  6. Reputation: The experience you design translates into customer satisfaction.
  7. Sharing: Delighted customers share their experience and offer referrals.
  8. Retention: Communicate with customers to entice them back.
  9. Recognition: Thank people to show appreciation and build relationships.
  10. Recovery: When mistakes happen, you work to restore trust in the relationship.

There’s more to it than this, but you get the idea. Marketing is a process that can span years.

Choreographing a long-term customer experience is a complex, transdisciplinary undertaking.

Marketing Is Not A Tactic

Hopefully, you’re starting to see that marketing is not any single activity. Marketing is the system you build to select and guide clients through your business, at a profit. When you put marketing in this context, you can relate everything you do in marketing to improving some segment of your customer’s journey.

My Answer To “What Is Marketing?”

Over the years, there’s one definition of marketing that I’ve adopted: “Marketing is everything you do to grow your business.” I like this definition because it’s broad, inclusive and outcome-oriented.

Where To From Here?

I fully acknowledge this systems view of marketing can seem too large to take on. It can seem intimidating like “eating an elephant”.

However, as the old saying goes, you eat an elephant one bite at a time, and so it is with marketing. People also say a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and so does marketing.

Don’t let the scope of marketing deter you from taking it on. All it takes is a little Pragmatic Planning.

A Marketer’s Lament

One of the most regretable things I see is 20, 30 or 100+-year-old companies that never moved past their random acts of marketing. Sure they developed goodwill and brand equity over time however, they’ve often developed few systems, processes, controls or intention behind their marketing. Their strategy often amounts to hoping for the best while controlling costs.

Despite whatever success they achieved, what if they had started their 1,000-mile journey and made consistent progress over the years? What could have been?

If you’re a start-up or a small business owner who’s willing to take small incremental steps towards a larger goal, you have a huge opportunity and the potential for a giant competitive advantage.

To start, envision your system and make sure that every small step aligns with your vision. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make in short order.

This argument might sound like advocating for the tortoise over the hare, but you don’t need to go slowly. The point is to have a system and to work your system.

Taking Constructive Action

If this explanation of marketing makes sense, we’ve prepared a series of 18 free marketing eBooks to help you get started. The eBooks are not how-to manuals on Facebook or some sales pitch in disguise. We are making these marketing eBooks available in the spirit of, “I wish I had this information when I first started”. Hopefully you’ll take advantage of them.

Making The Shift

If you’re anything like your peers, you’re engaged in Random Acts of Marketing and wasting a great deal of your marketing dollars. To invest wisely, you need to Make The Shift and start approaching marketing differently.

Read our Free PDF eBook and in 10 minutes, you’ll be re-thinking your marketing investment strategy. You wouldn’t be the first to share a few expletives under your breath either.

You’ll learn

  • A more effective approach
  • About six essential paradigm shifts
  • How the earnings growth process works

Where to start

The good news is the most important shift is in your thinking. The shifts are more philosophical than technical and even tiny companies can do it.

This eBook will help you appreciate the problem and the implications to your business. The eBook introduces a more systematic approach that gets results and puts you in control of your marketing investments.  To learn more Download this eBook or check out The Whole Series of eBooks here.

Want More Referrals?

If you’re spending time and money on networking there’s a good chance you’re wasting both.

In-person networking is time-consuming, so you had better have a plan to justify your investment. So what is your plan? Will you Join the Chamber of Commerce or a networking group like BNI and hope for the best? You know that hope is not a strategy.

What you need to realise about networking is it takes commitment. It’s about building relationships and earning the trust and confidence of others. Once people know, like and trust you, you have a chance of getting referrals.

You also have to realise that people are busy, distracted and self-interested. They’re not going to work very hard on your behalf. It’s up to you to make it so easy for them to refer you. How are you going to make it easy for people?

This eBook on networking starts you off at the very beginning and walks you through the thinking of how to approach networking and how to make yourself easy to refer to. Download this eBook or Download  The Whole Series of eBooks here.

 

Free Marketing eBook

If you’re a startup or a small business owner about to start marketing, download our Free Marketing eBook. 

The eBook is meant for people with little to no experience with marketing and for those who’d like their existing marketing to be more effective.

The eBook starts you off at the very beginning with the fundamental questions underlying your marketing program. If you can’t answer these questions, you’re not ready to market without taking on unnecessary risk.

If you’re contemplating a marketing investment of any sort, take the next few minutes and review this guide. You’ll come away from the effort thinking differently about your marketing and ready to engage in a meaningful discussion about next steps.

Don’t worry there’s no fluff.  This is the same conversation we have with people every day who are just getting started or revisiting their marketing program. We hope you find our eBook illuminating and instructive. Download This eBook or our Complete eBook Series here.

Unleash Your Superpowers

We’ve discovered a way to transform mild-mannered business owners into unstoppable entrepreneurs.

How Does That Work? 

We begin with bright and motivated business owners.  We help them get clear on their core purpose and that of their enterprises.  Then we help them take away all their excuses and reasons for not taking on their exciting possibilities.

It sounds simple, but it’s like climbing into a thrashing machine. If you survive, it changes your life. While climbing into a big scary machine sounds painful and stupid, it’s how you access your superpowers.

When you emerge, you feel this huge swell of energy. You move away from being tentative and hedging, to being purposeful and unstoppable.

How Does This Relate To Marketing?

Without clarity of purpose and a strong sense of commitment, marketing can become self-serving, gimmicky and irrelevant. There is often no driver beyond the “offer of the week” to propel it forward. As intriguing as Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem, they can ring hollow after awhile.

Making The Shift To Possibility

When your focus shifts from pitching your wares to painting a picture of an inspiring possibility, your marketing ceases to be about the latest gimmicks and tactics. It becomes about furthering your purpose and mission. When this happens, the conversation crackles with energy. There’s an increase in relevance to people, which increases their interest and engagement. Your marketing seeks “not to sell”, but to “reach, engage and enroll people” in your mandate (which leads to sales).

Consider Tesla’s mission and all the enthusiasm around it. It’s exciting to watch and see where they go; there’s a story you get to be part of. Some rendition of changing people’s lives for the better is always more inspiring than anything “at 20% off until Sunday”.

In our experience, any marketing not rooted in purpose and passion is going to be less than what it could be. Worse yet, it could digress into a meaningless string of to-do list items, or what we call your “Random Acts of Marketing Plan”.

Accessing Your Power

Coaching you to connect with your core purpose and to overcome your fear of commitment unleashes your superpowers.

Clarity and commitment are like gamma radiation to the Hulk or The Green Lantern’s ring. They’re the magic that propels you forward, leads your marketing program and inspires others.

If you’re wondering what you can do to improve your marketing performance, consider revisiting your core-purpose and commitment as your first steps.

Many people respond, by saying “but we’ve already done a mission, vision, values exercise, at some retreat”.

We respond by saying, “that’s great, dig it up and thrash it harder.” To get the best wheat from the chaff, you need to thrash the hell out of it. You keep thrashing until you’re beaming from your aha moment of discovery. Then you need to dig in further and figure out what’s holding you back from making a real commitment to being unstoppable in your pursuit.

Does that sound like what you did in your leadership retreat? We didn’t think so.

If you didn’t emerge with superpowers back then, jump back into the thrashing machine until your powers are revealed.

If you need help unleashing your superpowers, pick up the phone and call us, or send an email, a text message or put a really bright light on your roof, for after-hours service.