Earnings Growth For Entrepreneurs

Helping entrepreneurs Design Build Grow market leading companies.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Don't Make An Ass Of Yourself, With Marketing

No matter how advanced or innovative your offer, your dreams of growth may go unrealized by way of assumption.

Why? As entrepreneurs we're often so eager to start selling our innovations, we jump right to promotion and advertising with a set of killer assumptions. Our marketing often flounders or fails as a result.

We Assume Consumer Relevance

We make the mistake that potential clients understand the value we represent and how they will benefit from our products and services. As a result, we start our marketing conversations with descriptions and explanations rather than with stories that show benefits. The result is irrelevance, disinterest and financial loss.

We Assume Profitable Sales
We make the mistake of assuming profits when we default to using forms of marketing that have little hope of ever generating a profit, even in a best case scenario. The results are unprofitable sales at best and more likely we experience mounting losses.

We Assume Blue Skies
We make the mistake of assuming that fortune will favor the bold. We believe our untested creative concepts, messaging and design will engage and inspire people on its debut performance. The results are unnecessary risk taking and unrealistic expectations.

We Assume Staff / Supplier Leadership
We make the mistake that marketing leadership can be delegated to others without any meaningful terms of reference. We simply hope our suppliers know what they are doing and then we pay the penalty in poor performance. We end up redoing our marketing over and over as we move closer to our undocumented objectives.

The Sad Truth About Marketing
The results of our assumptions are flashy designs and flowery product descriptions held together with hopes, prayers and our discretionary income. What's missing are the fundamentals that shape and give meaning and direction to our writing, design and sales forecasts. Missing is our customers' perspectives and the stories that engage and enroll hearts, minds and wallets.

Why Do We Assume, When Our Risks Are So High?
Impatience and inexperience are the usual culprits, but there is also a gap in the marketing knowledge base at work. The majority of books and articles on sales and marketing offer only bits of insights, out of context with an overall process. Most books seem to assume you are a consumer products marketer, as well. If you're not (like many of us), what you learn may be inappropriate.

The Bottom Line
If you want your marketing done right, you need to direct the process yourself. This does not mean "do it yourself".
Directing means:
  • defining your core values and value proposition
  • defining your audience and building personas
  • establishing your core purpose and competitive positioning
  • detailing constraints and setting targets
  • committing to a strategic direction and plan
  • defining reporting requirements
  • creating budgets and time lines
These are the foundation stones that you build on and grow into.

Where Can Entrepreneurs Learn Marketing Leadership?
The leading institution appears to be The School Of Hard Knocks. However, if you look hard enough you can find mentors, a marketing coach or a Fractional Director of Marketing, ideally with a program to follow. Otherwise your options are limited to market accelerators that typically focus on high-tech consumer product companies. If you don't fit the consumer products mold, your options are limited.

Ready To Step Up And Lead?
Don't get caught in the assumption trap with most of your peers. Don't assume your consultants and staff took care of everything for you; they can't do it without your leadership. Now is the time, to step up and lead your own charge. It's time to build your "platform for earnings growth" instead of just designing cool graphics and websites.

About The Author
John Watson is the president of Accrue Performance Marketing Inc. and is the author of Being Profitable™: the earnings growth program. John is a marketing coach and an internet marketing consultant. He plays the roll of Fractional Director of Marketing for several emerging companies. John helps entrepreneurs Design Build Grow™ market leading companies with strategic planning, internet marketing, social media and sales lead generation programs.


Friday, October 1, 2010

The Top 15 Most Influential Books on Internet Marketing

Every week for the past 8 weeks I have been in a conversation with a writer, a designer or a small business owner about what books to read to get up to speed on Internet Marketing. That is a tall order for sure. There are far too many topics to do justice to the entirety of Internet Marketing. However, having a grasp of the fundamentals across the core disciplines is all that most people need to shape their understanding, to direct their efforts and to help them make better decisions within their own discipline.

In the interest of not wanting to answer this question over and over again, I offer this outline. Here are the top 15 most influential books I've read on internet sales and marketing over the past 12 years. I have organized these books into what I believe to be a logical sequence. These books address a comprehensive view of the basics. I can assure you that I needed to read 10 times this many books in order to find these 15 gems, so no complaining.

Your total cost to purchase these 15 books is about $500 and I wager it will take you 50+ hours to read them. This is the equivalent of an hour a week of reading for a year, or 10 days worth of TV time for the average person. At $100 / hr for each hour of reading, plus the cost of books this constitutes a $5,500 investment in training. However, I invite you to consider the impact this learning will have on your business or professional career over the next decade or more.

Here it goes.

1. Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs by Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah

This is my current favorite introductory overview of the whole process of internet marketing. I must have recommended this book 20 times this year and I have colleagues who are on their 3rd reading of it.
Read our full review

2. The New Rule of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott

This is my second favorite introduction, that is focused more on the current paradigm shifts occurring in public relations and marketing.

3. Scientific Advertising by Claude C Hopkins

Written in 1923, a ground breaking work that is still relevant and contrary thinking today. The book highlights the need for measurement in marketing. It is also available as a free PDF download online if you poke around a bit.

4. Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

I recommend this book because it drives home the point about what marketing really has to do for businesses that do not sell commodities. This book highlights the problems I spend my life trying to solve.

5. Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch

For similar reasons I recommend this book to writers, designers and small business people because it highlights our job as marketers more clearly and pragmatically than Moore's book. It focuses on sales lead generation and bridges between traditional and internet marketing.
Read our full review

6. SPIN Selling by Neil Rakham

SPIN Selling is my all time favorite sales book. It doesn't seem to matter how effective the marketing is, the sales leads ultimately end-up in the hands of a person who needs to make a sale. SPIN selling is another paradigm-busting book that is still relevant after over 22 years.
Read our full review

7. Made To Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Likely the most challenging aspect of marketing is figuring out how to make our ideas relevant, impactful and sticky. This book will challenge your thinking as it invites you to take your communication from boring to extraordinary. It offers principles to follow and loads of examples to consider.

8. Net Words by Nick Usborne

This is one of the first books to contrast writing for the web from writing in general. It is simple, relevant and challenging. This is an excellent place to start looking at your writing differently.

9. Web Copy That Sells by Maria Veloso

This book will challenge you to go beyond writing for the web, into writing to make a sale. It is the most comprehensive book I have found on the subject. What I like about this book is the emphasis it places on measurement.

10. Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

This book on web design and usability is aptly named and what is more impressive is the book follows its own advice. I challenge you to find a more accessible and better designed book anywhere. It will also challenge you to think about websites differently.

11. Save The Pixel by Ben Hunt

Now in its second edition, I was pleased to recently upgrade my first edition. This book is also focused on usability. It provides dozens of before and after examples of original and improved web designs. It also breaks the whole design process down into key principles to follow.

12.The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization by Enge, Spencer, Fishkin and Stricchiola

You don't need to become an SEO expert, but you do need to understand how it works. This is true for writers in particular, but also designers, coders and business owners. This is a hefty book and you need to spend some time wading through it to grasp how your decisions can make or break your website from an organic search perspective.

13. Landing Page Optimization by Tim Ash

Where the rubber meets the road is with landing page conversion effectiveness. How do you take an average run-of-the-mill landing page and transform it into a high performance selling machine, is the topic of discussion. This is one of the first books on the subject worth reading.

14. Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics by Brian Clifton

If you are not already familiar with Google Analytics and its capabilities to increase your marketing effectiveness, then you need to read this book. It takes you beyond the basics available from weblogs into what is possible with Google Analytics.

15. Always Be Testing by Eisenburg, Quarto-von Tivadar

Split testing and multi-variant analysis of a landing page's performance may be an advanced topic, but why would you bother to read all these books if you are going to stop short of the finishing line? This is the ultimate goal, where you have your marketing system up and running and you get to focus on squeezing every ounce of performance out of it. This book will give you a glimpse into where you and the rest of the competition are headed.

There You Have It

These are the top 15 most influential internet and marketing books that I am aware of after 12 years of scouring Amazon, Chapters and Google. I sincerely hope that this list saves you some time, streamlines your learning process and has a positive impact on your business and career.

If you have any questions about these books or if you would like to recommend better alternatives, please comment on this post or contact me to share your ideas.

John Watson is the president of Accrue Performance Marketing Inc. and is the author of Being Profitable™ : the earnings growth program. John has been consulting since 1993. He helps entrepreneurs Design Build  Grow™ market leading companies with strategic internet marketing, social media and sales lead generation programs.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Biggest Leadership Mistakes Or Greatest Opportunities?

As a marketing consultant who works with entrepreneurs on start-ups and business growth initiatives, I see the same core problems repeatedly.

The problems are not technical or related to specific products or services. The problems are more fundamental, being based in leadership and planning. The problems are linear and cumulative too, meaning their implications compound or are amplified throughout our companies. Since marketing tends to be the biggest amplifier, I often get to highlight the problems, lucky me.

What Are These Problems?
The First Problem Is Ambiguity (a lack of clarity)
Many companies suffer from the absence of clear and specific definitions for who they are, whom they serve, what problems they solve, how they create value for clients and how their positioning differs from competitors. Clarity on these points is the bedrock of any company and their subsequent sales and marketing efforts. The absence of clarity here reverberates through everything that follows.

The Second Problem Is A Lack Of Commitment
Without clarity on the first set of questions, it is very difficult to commit to a business or marketing initiative. The two most common responses are to waffle and not commit or to over commit with limited justification. In both cases, hope is the strategy. Fortunately, an appropriate degree of research, planning, budgeting and forecasting is the answer.

The Third Problem Might Be Called Narcissism (a fixation on ourselves)
As entrepreneurs, we often spend too much time thinking about our product or solution. We spending an inordinate amount of time describing what we do, what we sell and how it works. While these descriptions are important and have their place, the vital questions of why a client would want the offer and how they would benefit gets lost somewhere along the way.

The Fourth Problem Is Abdication of Leadership.
Many entrepreneurs are unfamiliar with one or more key areas like sales, marketing, technology or accounting, and they would rather have someone else handle them. Rather than delegate the roles effectively, they often abdicate to consultants. This unspoken assumption leaves the consultants unaware they have become the leaders in the client's mind rather than the contractor who they perceive themselves to be. The unfortunate result is that no one ends up leading. The results are very predictable.

Why Are These Issues Such A Problem?
While these issues are not fundamentally difficult to solve, the problem is recognizing them in the first place. Since we do not know what we do not know, we focus on what we think we need, rather than what would really help.

What Are The Implications?
Because these problems are so foundational, their implications affect nearly every aspect of a business moving forward. The bottom line is these problems affect your bottom line. They encourage doubt and hedging, confuse staff and clients, extend timelines, make everything cost more and limit success in nearly every negative way imaginable.

What Are The Solutions?
The first solution is to hire a leadership or business coach to help you see what you can't see on your own. It is nearly impossible to see the outside of a box from inside the box, so get some outside perspective.

The second solution is to get clear and committed with respect to the fundamentals of your business. Get everything simplified, refined and written down on paper and in spreadsheets before you jump into action. Reaching agreement and committing to a plan of action is the end goal.

What If The Business Is Already Running, Is It Too Late?
It's never too late. The only problem with getting clear and committed after the fact is undoing the work you've already completed. It is frustrating, but the silver lining is your experience will give you greater clarity and more confidence in the answers and plans you generate.

What Do I Do Next?
If you relate to these stories, we're not surprised. Every entrepreneur deals with these issues at some point. The real question is when and how much back peddling you are prepared to deal with in the interest of moving forward?

If your desire for progress is strong, go back to the core questions and clarify them once-and-for-all.

The core questions are:
1. Who are we, and what do we a stand for?
2. How do we define our core target clients?
3. What significant problem do we solve, or opportunity do we create?
4. How do we positioning ourselves as different from competitors?
5. How do we profit from these efforts?

When your answers are clear and you commit to a specific course of action, you'll feel a renewed sense of commitment to what got you started in the first place. You will show up as more of a leader that people will choose to follow. The net result is usually a burst of acceleration in your chosen direction.

John Watson is the president of Accrue Performance Marketing Inc. and is the author of Being Profitable™ : the earnings growth program. John has been consulting since 1993. He helps entrepreneurs Design Build  Grow™ market leading companies with strategic internet marketing, social media and sales lead generation programs.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Hiring Better With Kolbe Assessments

Accrue Performance Marketing is hiring. While sharing my goals and challenges in hiring key people with a colleague, he told me "he would not even consider hiring anyone without first completing a Kolbe Assessment". I had never heard of Kolbe but I have a lot of confidence in my friend so I looked into it.

I began by completed the Kolbe A survey on myself. Over the years I have completed many self-assessments and have usually learned something about myself in the process. It was not expensive so I thought, "what do I have to lose"? I figured if nothing else I'd be able to compare and contrast Kolbe to my past evaluations.

Turns out the Kolbe Assessment is quite unique. Rather than classifying my personality, motivations, values and communication styles like DISC or Myers Briggs, it described how I do things. The tool categorizes people based on a "Conative" framework . How we approach getting things done is another way of saying it.

The Kolbe A Index accurately pegged my way of working into four categories - Fact Finder, Follow Through, Quick Start and Implementor, each of which are scored on a 1 to 10 scale. Turns out my Modus Operandi is Specifying, Adapting, Improvising and Restoring which they claim makes me an ideal fit for Entrepreneurship. Their results are hard to dispute since that is how I work and what I do.

The main premise of the index is that by understanding my natural tendencies and working in positions that take advantage of my natural traits, I will be happier, less conflicted and more productive. This premise is similar to that posed in the Strength Finder 2.0 book I like and reviewed previously.

The next step in the process was to complete a Kolbe C Index which is a tool to help define an ideal pattern of doing for the job I was hiring for. I completed a 20 minute survey and received a report defining what I was looking for in a candidate for the job in question. The report was surprisingly accurate in detailing who I was looking for in behavioral terms. Now I was intrigued. I had already been interviewing and had a short-list of candidates for the position. I had the leading candidates complete a Kolbe A index as well.

Kolbe compared the candidate's A Index, with job fit (the C Index) as well as fit with me and my management style (using my A index) and delivered a report showing overall fit. One candidate was a close match and the other much less so. In my interviews, I had an inclination of fit but nothing but my gut reaction to go on. The assessment helped put into words what my intuition was trying to tell me. That was useful.

Next we developed C-indexes for each of our job descriptions and A indexes for each of our staff. The results were very interesting. The reports accurately pegged our team and highlighted the reasons for some existing communication challenges. When all the results were shared we could see where we needed to spend more time structuring our communication and where team members had different styles and needs.

After less than a week the Kolbe system helped us resolve two significant communication issues, supported a successful hire, and defined our position requirements for the next year in a set of hiring profiles. As a team we had developed a better understanding and appreciation for each other and had a framework for working together more proactively. Our total investment was under $1,000.

Given the inherent cost and risks associated with hiring people the Kolbe A and C indexes provided us with real value. I now have a tool to help me accurately define what I am looking for in a person and a means of evaluating fit quickly, consistently and affordably. Of course it is still up to me to assess competence, and experience but Kolbe provided us with a new way to make hiring and working with people easier.

John Watson is the president of Accrue Performance Marketing Inc. and is the author of Being Profitable™ : the earnings growth program. John has been consulting since 1993. He helps entrepreneurs Design Build  Grow™ market leading companies with strategic internet marketing, social media and sales lead generation programs.


Friday, February 19, 2010

A Modern Sales Classic Spin Selling

I first read Spin Selling by Neil Rackham in 1999. Why blog about it now? Because SPIN Selling continues to be the book I recommend most often for professionals looking to increase their sales effectiveness.

SPIN SellingAlthough this book may not be the newest book on sales (it was first published in 1988) it continues to be the most relevant. I find it the most relevant because it addresses the most common sales problem. The problem I am referring to is our collective tendency to pitch what we do to clients rather than helping to facilitate solutions. This latter approach is also known as consultative selling.

In my experience there are not many people who like being pitched, but most people appreciate when you are legitimately trying to help them solve real problems. When you become skilled at leading people through a discovery process that encourages them to take on tough core problems it can result in a steady stream of new business. It’s all about fostering win/win scenarios and SPIN offers a very simple, effective framework for consistently doing this.

Spin Selling is the outcome of Neil and his team going out on roughly 35,000 sales calls over a 12 year period. His team documented the sales processes followed and distilled what worked down into the SPIN approach. The types of sales they followed were medium and large corporate clients with complex, multi-stakeholder and high value solutions. They found that success boiled down to a four step discovery process abbreviated into SPIN (situation, problem, implications, needs / pay off.)

The beauty of the SPIN framework is in breaking down a complicated consultative sales process into four simple, logical and repeatable steps. The goal of this process is to uncover the fundamental limiting issues beneath a client’s current situation. The SPIN process helps to systematically lead a client from;

  • seeing where they are now, to
  • understanding what problems are holding them back, to
  • appreciating what these issues are costing them, to
  • knowing what benefits will accrue if they invest in a solution.
I have personally followed the SPIN method since 1999 and believe in it whole heartedly. I find that this method is a highly effective way to structure consultative conversations and I follow the approach consistently. I also find that the SPIN model translates well onto campaign landing pages used in on-line sales lead generation programs.

The main limitation of the SPIN approach is that it is not a complete system for selling. It only addresses one vital portion of the sales process. It does not address sales planning, prospecting or the post meeting process for converting a successful conversation into a closed sale. For insights into these areas you need to supplement SPIN with other materials.

For a complete and integrated sales process that aligns well with SPIN I recommend the Sandler Sales Institute Sandler International who offer an excellent over all process to follow. I must have listened to their CD’s a dozen times when I was first starting out.

I also recommend the 10 Steps to Sales Success by Tim Breithaupt of Spectrain from Calgary, Alberta. Tim’s book is excellent, offering a simple and easy overall process to follow. It aligns very nicely with both SPIN and the Sandler models.

As your ultimate success in sales comes down to your ability to engage your clients in meaningful conversations; I always go back to SPIN Selling as my number one recommendation.

John Watson is the president of Accrue Performance Marketing Inc. and is the author of Being Profitable™ : the earnings growth program. John has been consulting since 1993. He helps entrepreneurs Design Build  Grow™ market leading companies with strategic internet marketing, social media and sales lead generation programs.



In the design stage we get you crystal clear about who you are, whom you serve, what problem you solve, what your competitive positioning is and how you intend to grow sales profitably. The Being Profitable Program is the centre post of this stage.


The build stage is about putting the sales and marketing infrastructure in place. Websites, videos, displays, CRM, e-commerce, web analytics and social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Blogs and Stumble Upon are key structural components.


In the grow stage, we shift our focus to growing sales and developing website traffic. Search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), social media and public relations play key roles in this stage along with web analytics and sales performance optimization.
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