Posts Tagged ‘market’

In last week’s installment of my Author’s Journey, I described the importance of creating an incentive to encourage visitors to your blog to sign-up for your e-mail marketing program.

This week, I’m going to describe tip sheets, the simplest, easiest way to create an incentive to build your list and attract new prospects to your marketing funnel.

Tip sheets are powerful and effective because they don’t have to be elaborate, as the two examples, at below left, show; each is printed on one side of a single sheet of paper. They’re judged by the value of their information, not by the number of words or pages they contain.

Why tip sheets make great incentives

Tip sheets distill your expertise into 8 to 12 easy-to-implement actionable ideas. They are judged not by the length, but by the quality of the information you share.

Tip sheets save you money because they are usually distributed as downloadable PDF files, although they are multi-functional; you can easily print-out copies of your tip sheets to carry with you and to distribute at networking functions and speaking engagements.

Not only do the tip sheets save you money, they also save time, for both you and your market. Why? Because they are short and to the point – they are easily written and easily read.

  • Tip sheets save you time. Tip sheets leverage your existing knowledge into chunks of information with high-perceived value. In an hour, or so, you can write and format an effective tip sheet. The above examples contain fewer than 500 words.
  • Tip sheets save your clients and prospects time. The brevity and concisely-presented information that saves you time also saves time for your clients and prospects. They can easily judge your expertise and appreciate the value of the information you provide.

Tip sheets, of course, don’t have to be limited to one side of a single sheet of paper, and they can benefit from professional design assistance. As the example on the right shows, two-sided tip sheets provide extra space for graphics and more information to further enhance your image and communicate your expertise.

The better-looking your tip sheet, the more likely that prospects will save it and refer to it in the future.

Tips for creating and formatting tip sheets

Here are some tips for creating tip sheets.

  • Title. Choose a title for your tip sheet that engages your market by making a promise that’s relevant to your prospects.
  • Introduction. Provide a one-paragraph introduction that “sells” the relevance of the ideas that follow. The shorter, the better.
  • Content. Base your tips on the questions that clients and prospects ask you every day in person and via e-mail. Organize your tip sheet in a question and answer format, or use a short phrase to introduce each tip.
  • Call to action. End with a call to action, which can be as simple as an offer to obtain answer questions submitted by phone or e-mail.
  • Links. Use links to your website to make it easy for recipients to take the next step. Make sure that your links are spelled out (for those who may be reading a printed version of your tip sheet) and make sure the links are activated in your PDF.
  • Graphics. Personalize your tip sheets with a photograph, accompanied by a one-sentence background or positioning statement.
  • Design. Use contrasting typeface, type size, and formatting options like bold or italics to visually set the questions, or phrase introducing each tip, apart from the body copy that follows.
  • Color. Use color with restraint; less is always more. Avoid choosing light colors, i.e., yellow, for text. As always, the colors you use in your tip sheets should reflect the colors associated with your website and your personal brand.
  • Layout. Use a 2-column layout to keep lines short and easy to read. Add extra line spacing to enhance readability.

Leveraging your tip sheets

Here are some tips for leveraging your tip sheets:

  • Print and carry. Print copies of your tip sheet on your desktop printer, or have color copies made at office supply stores like Staples. Always carry copies with you wherever you go. You never know when you’ll meet your next valuable prospect!
  • Promotion. Use the back of your business card to promote your tip sheet. Show a thumbnail of your business card, and the specific page of your website where prospects can sign up to receive it.

Most important, create new tip sheets on a regular basis. Add interest to your tip sheets, and a reason for visitors to return to your site, by creating a new tip sheet on a different topic each quarter.

But, limit access to your previous tip sheets to those who sign up for your latest tip sheet! Place links to previous tip sheets on a special landing page, with a URL that you share in the confirmation e-mail prospects receive when they sign-up for your tip sheet.

Limiting access to previous tip sheets adds strength to your offering, making it more and more important for prospects sign up for your tip sheet and e-mail newsletter.

Note: for one week only, you’re invited to download (no registration required) PDF samples of the tip sheet examples shown above; visit a special page I created for my Active Garage friends.

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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One of your most important marketing and promoting decisions is choosing the right incentive to offer as a bonus to visitors who sign up for your e-mail newsletter or weekly tips.

It’s not enough to offer great information delivered at consistent intervals via e-mail; you have to go further and sweeten the pot with a sign-up bonus if you want to grow your list as quickly as possible.

Why you must offer an incentive

You have to strike while the iron is hot! One of the reasons to offer an incentive that is immediately delivered via an e-mail autoresponder is to immediately contact visitors who have signed up for your newsletter or weekly tips.

Visitors have short memories; if you’re midway between monthly newsletters or a weekly tip sheet mailing, by the time the next issue rolls around, visitors may have forgotten that they signed-up for it. This won’t happen, however, if they immediately receive your incentive and a thank-you for signing up.

Characteristics of successful incentives

Your sign-up incentive should reflect the quality of information you share on a consistent basis with your clients, customers, prospects, and readers. Key characteristics include:

  • Engaging. Pay as much attention to the title of your incentive as you pay to the title of your book. Your incentive must immediately communicate a benefit that will help visitors solve a problem or achieve a goal. For help choosing the title of your incentive, use the same techniques used to choose article, book, & event titles.
  • Helpful & relevance. The success of a sign-up incentive is based not on how well it “sells” your services, but on the quality of the information you share in it. Let your information be your salesperson; don’t hold anything back- -share your expertise and leave your visitor looking forward to learning more.
  • Actionable. Avoid incentives that are long on theory, but short on information. Instead, focus on concise and simply-stated ideas that your market can immediately put to work.
  • Perceived value. Pay attention to the quality of your incentive; let the packaging, or the design and layout, of your incentive add value to your words and ideas. The design of your incentive should project an appropriate image, one that tells a story and differentiates you and your firm from the competition.
  • Low-cost or no-cost. Electronic incentives, like Adobe PDF’s, downloadable audios, or streaming videos are best because there are few out-of-pocket costs involved in creating them and no costs (other than the low monthly fees for an auto-responder) involved in distributing them.
  • Trackable. In order to test, and, thereby, continue to improve, the desirability of your incentives, it’s important that you carefully track the number of incentives you distribute and the conversions- -or sales- – that result. A simple spreadsheet will help you correlate newsletter or tip-sheet sign-ups to specific blog posts or pay-per-click advertising.

Types of incentives

As mentioned above, sign-up incentive can take many forms. Format options include Acrobat PDF files, audios, videos, and- -even- -templates to be used with popular software programs. The following is a rundown of the types of content options you can choose from:

  • Assessments. An assessment can be as simple as a questionnaire, or as sophisticated as a self-grading interactive form. Assessments help visitors determine their needs and identify areas where improvement is possible.
  • Best-of compendiums. Your hard-drive may contain hundreds of previously-written articles, case studies, ideas, strategies, and tips, that you can assemble into a “Best of” incentive. Another source of information may be as close as your blog posts, which can be easily harvested for your incentive.
  • Checklists. Another popular incentive category idea includes checklists. Checklists help visitors evaluate their performance as they complete a task or work towards a goal.
  • E-courses. An e-course is simply an incentive sent by autoresponders at timed intervals. Typically, the first “lesson” is sent immediately, with follow-up lessons sent every few days or at weekly intervals. Each follow-up mailing reinforces your brand and your message, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
  • Glossaries. Every field has its own professional terms and jargon. Newcomers to your field are likely to appreciate a list of important terms and their definitions.
  • Resource compilations. What are the recommended books and online resources in your field? Who are the big players in your field? You can enhance your reputation as the knowledgeable “go to” individual in your field by positioning yourself as an expert “filter” who helps visitors save time locating and evaluating resources they’ll find useful…and you’ll get the credit for introducing them.
  • Software templates. Software templates, prepared for use with the popular programs like Microsoft Excel or Word, Adobe In-Design, or Mindjet’s MindManager, help prospects get a head start on their projects. Spreadsheet templates can help prospects make better decisions, and newsletter templates provide a ready-to-use framework for creating a one-page newsletter with Microsoft Publisher.
  • Speeches. Be sure your next speech is recorded, so you can offer it as a downloadable audio or a streaming video.
  • Survey results. After creating a survey of your clients, customers, prospects, and blog readers, compile a report summarizing the major trends. Survey incentives become more valuable each year, if you update the results and include comparisons with survey results from previous years.
  • Tip sheets. Tip sheets are one of the most powerful tools available. A tip sheet can be as simple as 10 tips printed on one side of a single sheet of paper, or they can become as elaborate as you desire.

Your sign-up incentives are going to be judged by their appearance as well as their contents. Ideally, the appearance of your incentives should reflect the brand associated with you and your book.

  • White papers. White papers which are educationally-oriented reports focusing on current challenges and new developments in your field are an excellent lead generation and list-building tool. The ideal length is 12 pages, or less. The key to a successful white paper is to avoid overt marketing or promotion until the very end, where you can stress your firm’s role in developing and delivering the latest advances.

Content and format options

Here are some things to bear in mind when harvesting previously written content from your hard drive and previous blog posts:

  • Clients and prospects have a short memory. Blog content quickly ages, no matter how carefully you have organized your blog posts by category. By drawing attention to valuable content 6 months, or so, older, you’re performing a valuable service for your market.
  • Different prospects prefer different formats. Just because you addressed a topic in a previous newsletter, and you have it archived on your website, doesn’t mean every prospect is aware of it. Thus, repurposing previous newsletters and blog posts into audios and videos exposes them to prospects who may welcome the information because it’s new to them.

Takeaway

Don’t make the mistake of focusing on writing the perfect book, but fail to offer a helpful, relevant, and actionable incentive. In many ways, the title and content of your sign-up incentive is as important as the title and content of your book. Successful incentives lead to successful books!


rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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Your book proposal for your first book is among the most important documents you’ll ever prepare. It often represents the formal beginning of your journey to a published book.

Book proposals serve two primary, and several secondary, purposes:

  1. Sales piece. If you’re hoping to have a conventional publisher sell your book through online and through bricks-and-mortar retail bookstores, your book proposal functions as a direct-response sales letter intended to them to invest time and money into your project. It has to spell-out the inevitability of your book’s success to skeptical readers.
  2. Marketing plan. Regardless whether you are looking at trade publishers, or intend to publish your book yourself, your book proposal must describe how you are going to market and promote your book before and after it’s publication. Your proposal has to describe the market your book addresses, the benefits it offers, how it differs from existing books on the topic, and the specific steps you’re going to take to sell it to its intended readers.

Secondary purposes include providing a sample of your ability to communicate in print. In many ways, the style and detail of your proposal are as important as the contents of the proposal. A professionally written and presented proposal communicates to literary agents and acquisition editors that you’re an author worth paying attention to. Even if the proposed book doesn’t meet their current publishing needs, a proposal can open doors to other opportunities.

But, a rambling proposal that hasn’t been thoroughly edited and proofread can close the door to future possibilities.

Elements included in book proposals

A book proposal includes seven sections. These provide the structure needed to communicate the details of your project. The sections include:

  1. Engagement. The proposed title and the first paragraph of your book must immediately engage the interest of your agent or publisher in the first paragraph, or two. The title and opening paragraph must communicate at a glance, describing what your book is about, how it differs from the competition, why it will sell, and how you’re going to market and promote it. The first sentence and paragraph of your proposal must “hook” your prospective agent or editor’s interest and “sell” the importance of reading on. Each sentence and paragraph must continue selling, providing details that support the premise, or big idea, behind your book. If the initial sentence and paragraph fail to convince, the remainder of your proposal probably doesn’t have a chance, either.
  2. Description. The second section, sometimes called an overview, provides an opportunity to step back and provide the details necessary to support the promise offered by your book title and first paragraph. Think of this section as the 30,000 foot view of your project, your qualifications, and how you came to propose the book.
  3. Market. Next, you have to prove that a market exists for your book. You have to describe the characteristics of the market you’re writing for and their goals and objectives. You have to prove that you know how to reach your prospective readers and tap into their urgent need for assistance solving a problem or achieving goals. In addition, this section must include a review of existing books, so you can show how your book provides a fresh, needed perspective that goes beyond any currently available book.
  4. Contents. After you have proven the existence of a market and the need for your book, you have to prove how your book will live up to the promise expressed in its title and the premise described in the opening paragraphs. It’s not necessary to completely write your book, but it is necessary to show that you have put a lot of work into organizing your book into sections and chapters. Each chapter should be described in a couple of sentences, followed by 7-10 bullet points corresponding to the main ideas you plan to include in each chapter.
  5. Author platform and promotion. This section begins with an overview of your current online presence, and goes on to describe how you are going to market and promote your book before and after its publication. Limit your marketing plan to the print, broadcast, public relations, and social media that you realistically expect to employ for marketing and promoting your book, and list the marketing affiliates and professional services you intend to work with. Remember that your marketing plan will be judged on both its detail and its creditability. Avoid unrealistic promises or a laundry list of media alternatives, but do emphasize your network of professional connections in your field.
  6. Qualifications. Why should a publisher trust you with their money? How do they know you will deliver. Rather than list your academic credentials, family situation, or employment background, place the emphasis on your accomplishments and achievements. It’s not important that you “love to write” or have “great passion for your topic.” It’s more important to communicate that you are driven to succeed and do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals. (Note: you don’t have to say you’re a good writer, because the writing in your proposal should speak for itself!)
  7. Details. This section, like the previous, can be relatively short. In this section, describe the anticipated size of your book and the number of pages you’d like to see in the printed book. Describe the number of colors and illustrations, or photographs, you intend to include. And briefly mention topics for follow-up topics that will expand the book into a series. Finally, provide a realistic date for completing the manuscript, following receipt of a publishing contract.

Your proposal is an investment

If the above sounds like a lot of work, it can be!

However, your book proposal is an investment that doesn’t have to be repeated! Once you have your proposal, you have done the hard part—you’ve identified a book that needs to be written, and you have identified the information needed, and you have organized that into a logical order.

You’ve also created a marketing and promotion plan for selling your book.

Many authors find it harder to prepare a book proposal than it is to complete a book!

Writing is easy when you know what you’re going to write, and marketing becomes easier when you know what you want to happen, and when.

Writing a book proposal can be a lonely proposition, unless you’re working with an experienced book coach. But, when you’re actually writing your book, you typically have access to editors and proofreaders who will provide the feedback and support necessary to create a successful book.

Prepare your book proposal as carefully as you’d prepare a marketing plan for your career. Your book proposal can be the catalyst that transforms your career and, with it, your life!


rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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strageic acquisition just askIn a recent post, we discussed the significant difference between the financial acquisition value and the strategic acquisition value of a privately held company.  Obviously, before you can convert your company into an attractive strategic acquisition candidate, you have to learn just what that means in your industry.  But, how can you do that?  You certainly can’t just walk up to a key acquisition executive and ask, can you?

Actually, with a few important modifications, that’s precisely what you can, and should, do!  Well, not you personally, because it will be important to keep your company unidentified.  Just have a trusted advisor conduct these interviews on your behalf.

Once you and your team have developed a list of likely buyers, design a questionnaire that will take no more than 15 minutes to complete on the telephone.  The questions you ask will largely depend on your industry and the data you want to gather on where these executives think the industry is headed.  However, two questions will be common to all questionnaires, irrespective of the size of your company or its industry.

  1. If you were to acquire a company in this industry today, which strategic assets would be most valuable to you?
  2. How are these preferences like to change over the next few years?

If your interviewer talks to enough acquisition executives (15-25 should do it) and compiles the responses, s/he will have put together the profile of the attractive strategic acquisition candidate from the perspective of the marketplace.  Next, conduct a “gap analysis” that compares this profile with the strategic profile of your company.  In other words, how does your company stack up on each strategic asset regarded by a number of interviewees as important?  In most cases, your individual strategic asset ratings will fall roughly into three categories.

  1. We are in very good shape, and need only fine tuning.
  2. We have made significant strides, but we have a long way to go.
  3. We are pretty close to the starting blocks.

Once you have made these judgments, you can decide which strategic assets to acquire and/or enhance in order to move your company’s strategic profile closer to what the marketplace has specified.  Consider these possible scenarios.

  1. Many interviewees indicate that they would be very interested in acquiring a leading regional company in your industry, but not a local one.  This would suggest that acquiring one or more companies in your industry or, perhaps, merging with a larger competitor elsewhere in your region, would make the equity in your company much more valuable.
  1. A number of executives indicate that some important product development opportunities are stalled because the components currently available in the market are technically inadequate.  One or more of these components is within your company’s technical expertise.  This information could affect your strategic product development effort in a very positive and targeted way.
  1. You have been planning to expand into a new market niche, and have narrowed the choices to three that appear to be roughly equally promising.  The interviews yield the information that one of these three would be considered very valuable to many prospective buyers.  Case closed.

Once you have made these decisions, you need only incorporate them into an effective strategic plan, complete with areas of individual responsibility, deadlines and standards of performance.  Good luck!

PhotoPopell This article has been contributed by Steven D. Popell. Steve has been a general management consultant since 1970. Steve is a Certified Management Consultant, business valuation expert, and inventor of ExiTrak®– a process designed to assist the privately-held company owner/manager to build an attractive strategic acquisition candidate

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Branding – What’s your brand promise?

by Laura Lowell on October 2, 2009

brand promiseIn research conducted for my upcoming book ’42 Rules to build Your Brand and Your Business’ respondents clearly indicated that what affected their perception of a brand were visibility, authenticity and honesty of the brand.  Ok, great…what does this mean to someone trying to build a business and establish their brand? Or what does it mean to a company with an established brand trying to break into a new market with little brand recognition?  You may be surprised to hear me say (or type) that it means the same thing in both situations.

Ultimately, the key is to have a defined brand promise – what is it that your brand stands for?  Based on this you can then begin to prioritize your strategies and define your tactics accordingly.  I have seen, over and over again, where companies jump into the tactics with out understanding how they fit, or don’t fit, into the bigger picture.  For example, I once worked on a brand re-design project with a major high-tech computer manufacturer.  We had a well established brand and were trying to reposition it within the confines of the overall product portfolio.  Plus, we wanted to target a new demographic audience.  Off we went to the branding agency who created several different graphic treatments.  We reviewed them and made changes and came up with what we thought was a brilliant idea – very “off the wall”, especially for this company – but the new demographic “would be drawn to it” we explained to senior management who were having heart palpitations at the very thought of it.  Picture this…a gorilla sitting on top of a PC. Something was definitely “off”, and it turned out… it was us!

This project never saw the light of day…why?  We completely forgot the established brand promise we had been making, and continued to make, to the market.  This design had nothing to do with the real world – it was graphically outstanding and visually compelling, but who cares?  It didn’t relate at all to our brand promise.

So how do you start defining your brand promise? Here’s a list of questions to ask:

  • What does the company stands for? 
  • What is the single most important thing that the organization promises to deliver to its customers?
  • How do you want customers to feel about your organization after interacting with you?
  • What is it that the organization wants its brand to be known for?
  • What unique value to you deliver to customers?

Make sure you have agreement across the company – whether it is large or small.  People should be excited about this.  They should be able to rally around this promise and use it to make appropriate business decisions.  If not, then you still have some work to do.  But, I guarantee you, it’s well worth it.

Laura Lowell PicThis article is contributed by Laura Lowell, Author of the Amazon bestseller ’42 Rules of Marketing’ and the upcoming ‘42 Rules to Build Your Brand and Your Business’. You can follow her on twitter at @42_rules.
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Where the Rubber meets the Road…

by Himanshu Jhamb on June 1, 2009

rubber_meets_the_road
There are numerous concerns an entrepreneur has to take care of, when starting a new business. To list a few:

The idea: This is about what concern(s) in the marketplace the business will take care of.

Organizing: This is about organizing around specific concerns the business will take care of.

Business Planning: This deals with answering the Why, When, What and How for the business.

Establishing a Structure: This is where entrepreneurs putt the ‘real’ parameters in place based on what resources are available and organizing them in the best possible way so that they produce effective results, in a low-cost manner.

The Investment: This answers the questions – how much is needed? How much do we have? Where will the rest come from? (assuming there is a gap in available funding)

The technology: Assuming the entrepreneurial venture needs to deal with technology, entrepreneurs need to choose the best technology available within the limitations imposed by investment, demographics and other factors that might affect the availability, procurement and usability of technology.

The market: This pertains to studying the market for the product or the service the business is coming up with.

… and then there are more that I will not list here, in the interest of keeping this post readable in the limited time you have.

The question is: During what stage of this journey do entrepreneurs feel totally committed to the cause… is it at the idea stage… or is it after they are done with a business plan… or is it once they assess the technology or the marketplace… or is it at some other point in the execution of the project?

By observing a few entrepreneurs in action, what I have discovered is that the answer to this question lies wherever entrepreneurs put their ‘skin-in-the-game‘! Once entrepreneurs invest something that they consider valuable to part with, they become committed to the cause ‘for real’. This ‘something’ can be anything and in most cases it is their investment because that is the most limited commodity entrepreneurs work with and that is what they need the most while building the business.

This investment is the ‘real’ cost they incur. This is the point where they ‘stop’ entertaining the thought of quitting. This is the point where they start holding themselves and others around them accountable for the execution of the venture, this is where…

The rubber meets the road!
——-
Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of Active Garage. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.

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