Vanilla is Awesome – unless you are a small business!

According to the International Ice Cream Association in Washington, D.C Vanilla is still the runaway most favored ice cream flavor in the United States with a 29% approval rating vs. number two, Chocolate, with 8.9%. Just to finish the thought – because I know you are dying to know – butter pecan ekes out a third place victory over Strawberry.

McDonald’s and Pepsi can serve vanilla. So can Charles Schwab, a Presidential candidate or General Motors – but can a small business? My short answer is “No” unless you have the type of money to market the “All-things-to-all-folks” message.

For us little guys, however, we can’t afford to be vanilla and be a break out success. We must be strikingly relevant in unique and contextual ways. If a business has competitors that do precisely the same thing – and we all have a bunch of them – then all of us fade into the background. Our quest, then, is to either out-spend them or out-market them. Since most of us will raise our hand for the latter strategy, this will force us to do a little homework.

Why do our loyal customers choose us?
What do they think makes us unique?
When they refer us – what are our qualities, or the things that we do, that they tell their friends about?
What are the most important benefits that they seek when they choose a vendor in our space?

Once we understand this – our marketing must scream this messaging – in our ads, our postcards, our invoices, our phone work, our networking and, of course, our websites.

Without uniqueness, we are just another scoop of vanilla in a 31 Vanilla Flavors display case. You know we are there – we are just hard to find! So as the customer strolls along the freezers with their nose up against the glass, they can’t see a difference between the vanilla offerings except for the price per scoop next to each tub. We are then subject to the only quality we have given the opportunity to compare against. Nobody wins in a price war.

Stand out or stand down!

To your success!

Why quit so quickly?

We have all heard the Woody Allen saying, “80% of success in life is just showing up.” I would like to append his quote so as to remove any ambiguity. “80% of success in life is just showing up, again and again and again!” I read the following statistics recently and felt compelled to share them with you,

48% of sales people don’t follow up
25% make two contacts with a prospect and stop
12% make only 3 contacts and stop
10% of sales people make more than 3 contacts

Now compare the above with the realities of sales:

2% of sales are made on the first contact
3% of sales are made on the second contact
5% of sales are made on the third contact
10% of sales are made on the forth contact
80% of sales are made on the 5-12th contact – depending on the many variables of a particular sale such as size and frequency of the transaction, geography, seasonality, etc.

Nevertheless, the data is staggering. Most outbound sales efforts are meaningless in the absence of a process that allows for sustained contact with a qualified prospect. The truth is that just because you are ready (because you have a quota to fill or payroll to meet) doesn’t mean that the prospect is quite there yet. Consider that most of the time you are typically talking to the 90% that aren’t ready. That doesn’t mean you drop them in the everlasting search for the 10% that are ready now. It means that you must engineer your sales process so that you can have a meaningful and value-steeped contact leading up to their preparedness. If you wait till they are ready – then you are coming into the process too late and will likely have to be competing on price.

Stay relevant and when they are ready – most of your work will have been done!

To your Success!

The New Networking

Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, the authors of “The Start-Up of You”, wrote an excellent treatment of networking and the value of connections. Hoffman is a partner at Greylock (a Leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm) and founder and Executive Chairman at LinkedIn. He was also a prophetic early investor in Facebook, Zynga and others. So, he might know a thing or two about this subject. He writes about the transactional nature of “old school” networkers who are in a relentless quest to pick-up business cards. He contrasts this style to the “new age” connectors that are more focused on the care and feeding of those relationships that they value most.

Their premise is that based on the limits of the human capacity, we can either have fewer high quality connections with pivotal leaders that can fundamentally improve the quality of our business or personal lives, or we can have infinitely more surface contacts, each with very little skin in the game. Think about your photography mindset when you set out to capture an important event on a memory card – if you desire truly high definition photos for later use and enjoyment, you know that fewer of them will fit on the card. Relationships, in essence are the same. However, to be truly successful, you must take a “pay-it-forward” approach. Relationship-builders try to help others first. They don’t keep score – they simply offer a “gift” before they ask for one. That “gift” can be an unsolicited idea or contact or even gratis work in a perceived area of need. The “gift” shouldn’t be an expensive offering from a high-end merchant – that looks like graft. Instead it is a meaningful gesture that sincerely helps that targeted individual in a way that demonstrates your potential value to them.

So look around. Who do you value? Who do you want to value you? Extend the hand of friendship before you extend your hand of need.

A Man is what he MAKES of Himself!

Alexander Graham Bell was quoted as saying that “A Man, as a General Rule – Owes very little to what he is born with – a Man is what he makes of himself. So the real opportunity for success in a business lies within the person and not the industry, the business, nor the job. It goes without saying then that success, and ultimately happiness, is not a matter of chance – but of choice.

People go through life thinking and doing. You mostly do what you think about. You are who you are, and you are where you are because of what goes into your mind. The path of our outcomes are mapped above: 

So this week think about what you are thinking about. It is said that what is most important is what someone says to themself when they are by themselves that really matters!

Own and direct your mindset and you will achieve the outcomes you seek!