7 Secrets my clients learned last year

As Director of Engagement at Excite Media I have one of the best roles in the world. Every week I have the privilege to sit down with hard working business owners, managers and entrepreneurs. Some have created their empire, others have bought into a great idea and the there are those brave souls who have taken a bad business or situation and because of their vision are building it back up through blood, sweat and tears.

What is clear in all these cases is that my clients are intelligent, creative and focused people. Sometimes I meet them at a stage where their focus is on the goal and other times I’ve caught them in the ‘dip’ where their eyes are on the problem. With focus can come the potential for tunnel vision. “I’m going to keep doing this till it works” or “This problem is the reason we’re going out of business”. This strength of focus can also be the reason that they are stalled or spinning their wheels on the way to success.

A great business operator knows the value of taking a step back, reviewing the scenario and looking outside of their circle of influence to find new ways of tackling the goal or the problem. Some refer to it as the “30,000ft view” or the “Helicopter view”.

Here I want to share with you seven secrets from last year that were shared in our strategy meetings with our clients. These were the light bulb moments where our clients were able to release themselves to do something fresh and innovative that can put them ahead of their competition or the moments where they again could see their potential.

1.   Try something new

Let’s start with an over-riding thought that should be on the wall of your office, stuck on your bathroom mirror or painted on the bedroom ceiling. “Try something new”. We know that the definition of insanity is to keep trying the same thing and expect a different result.

When a business comes in to an digital marketing agency like Excite Media, through initiative or desperation they are looking for direction. One of my regular complaints shared by clients is when they go to an agency who only is able to offer “What do you want us to do?”.  That’s not the reason they are in your meeting room. The business owner is wanting advice, direction and ideas to consider within the framework of their business.

On our side of the conversation we want to work with you to discover the ‘real issue’ and then present innovative solutions. The responsibility for you as a business operator is to be willing to keep ‘trying something new’. Never lose sight of innovation. The ability to keep your products, processes, marketing or work environment fresh, will instil morale in employees and excitement in customers.

Not to mention, it will help remind you of your first passion for why you are in business in the first place.

2.   Review your position

It’s too late to test the water depth when you can’t see the lifeboats! Put in place regular calendar items for frequent reviews of your business. Don’t be driven by the bank manager or accountant asking “how did we get here?”.

From websites and staff reviews to marketing results and assessments of the competition, we should have some form of review whether verbal or in writing to ensure we haven’t had our heads down for too long.

Speak to the people closest to the subject and set in place reviews that can give you the temperature of the situation quickly. If the review process is arduous it probably won’t get done so be considerate of the request for your or your staff’s time when compared to the value the review process will yield.

Better to have a five question staff review every quarter than a 30 question quiz each year that looks like a tax form. Look to have a live online marketing results dashboard available that you can check weekly rather than a monthly five page paper emailed to you that you haven’t read in years. And keep refining your measurement KPIs and reports to include only ‘what matters’.

3.   Look under your feet

One of the aspects of my job I enjoy the most is “mining for gold”. My clients will normally have a ‘symptom’ they want to address. It’s often problem related. They see the issue and think fixing it returns everything to status quo, normal!

What I like to do is show them is the pile of gold they are already sitting on. Many have lost track of existing customers as a house keeping headache that the admin and IT people should solve. What has been lost in the ‘busyness’ of ‘business’ is that they have accumulated hundreds or thousands of customer contacts that are now ignored. With even a conservative happiness satisfaction rating of 75% across past customers they have people they could be reselling to, upgrading or utilising as referral business with a little attention.

When it comes to digital marketing I very often find my clients don’t know how to measure the customer attraction of their business online. They may have the free Google Analytics installed but haven’t reviewed it in months or years.

Near the end of last year I dealt with a Brisbane based family business who didn’t have Google Analytics installed but through their web hosting account we were able to tell they had 2400 visits a month to their website. Not only was that good news but we also found 73% of the website traffic was directly to one of their top most profitable products on their website based on specific searches in Google for suppliers in their area. With only around 20 phone calls a month, they had lost vision on the fact their website had become a bottleneck or blockage to new business trying to open the door.

It’s time to put your helmet on and mine or uncover the gold your business is built on.

4.   Coordinate your strategy

Many of the people I meet are busy. And I mean all hours, no lunch or dinner busy. They are trying to get results from their business and they take seriously the responsibility for the lives and the employment of the people who work for them.

In the madness that ensues they often are trying anything that comes along but don’t have the time to evaluate if this a good idea or just ‘an idea’. And sadly these ‘ideas’ just keep building up. Now you may be thinking, “You just told us to try something new”. You’re right, but it has to still fit into an overall plan.

All marketing should be connected and interdependent. Some ideas develop attraction, others are designed to convert browsers to buyers and there are marketing strategies to nurture new customer leads as well as existing customer development programs.
Without a coordinated strategy your offline activity like billboards and radio cant be measured against the activity on your website to see how people responded. If your reception team aren’t taking notes on how new customers heard about you, then you don’t know if that door to door voucher program you paid for has acquired any meaningful results.

One of the common problems we help bring sanity to for new clients is the business that has marketing expense money going out every 6 or 12 months to papers, magazines, directories and local community sponsorship that has never been coordinated or measured.

They may or may not be great ideas for a particular business but you can’t be a leaky boat of marketing activity and expenses without a plan.

5.   Test the theory

One of the current topics flowing in a number of books on the top seller lists is habits. We have them and our customers definitely do. You probably remember the great shampoo instructions encourage us to wash, shampoo, soak, rinse and repeat. Not only does it get results but you use more shampoo and become consumer of the year. The trouble with habits is they can be good or bad and the answer is all in the testing.

When it comes to anything within your business from a new customer on-boarding process to your new email marketing program, we need to test the theory and the process. Some ideas are truly based on too much pizza the night before. Its something in the cheese.

As you embark on a new marketing program its important to sit down and plan the program, consider the actions and outcomes in order to see if you can catch any possible problem ahead of the game. Bottom line is you won’t, but you can minimise the fallout, particularly if you have assigned roles to your team for who is responsible whether an arising problem should be dealt with internally, for example an IT issue or is an external aspect like dealing with a confused customer.

The mantra should always come back to Do, Review, Adjust and Repeat. Even the best of results can be improved with time away from the process and coming back with fresh eyes.

Without the Review and Adjust stages you just have a habit.

6.   Discover the potential

Earlier we talked about mining for gold and our focus was on the potential right under your feet. Sometimes you think you’re just sitting on a hill watching the clouds go by. You need someone with a different set of eyes, or an expert who knows the ‘geology’ of your business to recognise that that ‘hill’ is actually an outcrop that has all the characteristics of a gold deposit.

Take that thought further and you can start to look for potential new customers from outside your business at your suburb, city or the community at large thanks to the online access we enjoy. Today we have more information and profile data on customers, markets, products and seasons than ever before.

You shouldn’t feel that it is your responsibility to know all aspects of how the weather forms or what is coming tomorrow or in a weeks time. That’s for the meteorologist to decipher and deliver. And while we joke about the weatherman getting it wrong, the reality is they get it right more often than not.

That’s why our clients are discovering the power we can bring to their marketing initiatives when we provide the research and data to show where new potential customer audiences can be found. We can show definitive volume of new clients as they search, while they engage in the community of social networks and as they go about their daily business absorbing content.

As our internet experience grows into voice based search and home automation, we will be able to answer the questions customers ask and provide the information they need at the time and place its relevant. Keeping in touch with your digital ‘weatherman’ will allow your business to be strategically in front of these potential new customers for your  business.

7.   Keep the balls in the air

Now this last secret may sound counter-intuitive to everything you’ve been told about running a business. “You’re too busy – take time out.”  “Don’t overwork yourself, it’ll be there when you get back.”

It’s true! If last year, you were near burn out, didn’t take time for yourself or family, then please slice out the days and weeks for the coming year that you will give back to you this year.

In fact if you recognise from the previous ideas in this discussion that you have run out of ‘new ideas’ or the steam coming from your nostrils was from frustration and not passion. Then stop now, book a holiday, an apartment by a lake or beach and go.

You need You!

The key to this closing secret isn’t about the ‘balancing plates’ on sticks metaphor. In that picture it all comes crashing down and that’s no fun unless you’re Greek.

What we want you to have as a focus is that keeping balls in the air can be fun. Dropping them hurts no one. Trying again will develop your skills and most of all its about always having a fresh approach to your business and marketing.

The website you develop for your business and don’t touch for 3, 4 or 6 years is worse than the cracked paint on the outside of your shop or the customer counter not cleaned for six months. It can be a reflection of you, your business and the business mindset you have in place at this time.

Don’t put the balls in a box. Keep the business live and your ideas moving!

Today, decide to be objective and adventurous.

The secrets we’ve talked about today aren’t that secret are they? But like the Wizard of OZ, who was hiding behind the curtain, there was a lot of truth and advice that you may have forgotten about or just needed a bit of ‘New Year’ objectivity to consider.

Take a step back to look at the bigger picture or ask someone who has the ability to see the potential in you and your business to come alongside you.

I would love to hear back from you on which of the 7 secrets had the most value or was an ‘AHA’ moment that will help you dive into this year with more optimism.