Archive for the ‘Small Business Consulting’ Category


Should You Outsource “Personal Touch”?

October 13, 2008

I came across a business inquiry on LinkedIn seeking to outsource “Personal Touch”. The requester wanted an outside company to send thank you letters to customers after they purchased a product because they don’t want to handle the follow ups internally.

This is a classic example of a transactional mindset about customers. In this day of instant communications via phone, email, blogs company websites, it’s amazing that companies feel they can’t handle building relationships with their customers. Folks, if the customer was important enough to you when they initially bought your product, then they should be important enough for someone in the company to follow-up.

Some companies allow their CEO’s to handle this function. Which company do you suppose would get more positive word of mouth, one whose CEO follows up a sale or one who follows up with a disinterested third party? You make the call.


Is Your Marketing Delivering Sale$?

July 22, 2008

Many small businesses and a number of larger ones have no clue if their marketing is bringing in any new customers or generating enough sales to justify the expense. Most don’t have a way to measure the effects of marketing.

Many small businesses have a hit-or-miss approach to marketing. There seems to be little rhyme or reason and no overall plan for the marketing. In fact, many small businesses conduct what I call “ego marketing”. They will put up a billboard on a well traveled highway with their picture on it, so every day when they drive by their ego gets inflated, the sign company gets rich and the small business owner gets zero sales from it.

Don’t get me wrong, outdoor advertising has its place, but in most cases it’s a waste of resources. In this highly competitive, high cost business environment, small business owners need to make smart investments in marketing. So what should a small business person do?

Well, before you spend another dime on a brochure, flyer, billboard or newspaper ad you need to just stop and take a careful look at what’s going on in seven (7) key areas of your business:

1. Customers- Who do you want to sell to and who are you really selling to?

2. Products- What’s your value proposition or why in the world would anyone spend money on what you’re selling?

3. Pricing – What’s your pricing strategy? ( Ah…yeah you should have a strategy for each of your targets and it shouldn’t be to make the most you can on everybody. A lot of businesses have gone out of business with predatory pricing. Subprime mortgages…nuff said)

4. Place – How are your customer’s gonna get your product? In the old days you needed to have a store to sell your wares. That cost a lot of money. Today, you could be selling to customers in Dubai and never leave Cleveland, or wherever you live, because of the Internet. Your distribution is part of your marketing (Betcha didn’t know that!!!!)

5. Promotion – This is what most people think marketing is all about. But if you don’t pay attention to the other Ps of marketing (there are 4), then you’ll end up with ego marketing or marketing that doesn’t do diddly squat to your bottom line. ( Yeah… I said it)

6. Competition – You gotta think outside of the box when it comes to your competition. Don’t think about just the other folks selling the same things you do. You got to consider everything your customer could be doing with their money and come up with a darn good reason for them to give it to you ( uh…that’s what your value proposition is all about, see how this all comes together?). Your value proposition is that compelling reason for a customer to select you and your product over all the other things they could do with their money, including the alternative of keeping it in their pocket and doing nothing. Sometimes customers doing nothing is your toughest competitor.

7. Branding -What do people think of when they think of your product? That’s what you brand is all about. For example when I think of Volvo, safety comes to mind, Walmart, low prices. Nordstroms, great service. They didn’t get this way by accident, but by consistently delivering on their brand promise over a long period of time. (Did ya notice I didn’t say anything about advertising or logos or any of that stuff when talking brand?)

So all you have to do is get your arms around these seven areas. The first step in doing so is to do an audit. Stay tuned to this blog for more information on how to do a “Small Business Marketing Audit: A Guide for Understanding & Managing the Marketing Mix” or better still “The Seven Secrets to Making Cent$ Out of Your Marketing”. Both of these sound like the titles to a book. Which do you prefer?? More soon.


WOM Is Not New In The B2B Space

July 15, 2008

Some years ago I worked in financial services. One of my colleagues was a woman,we’ll call her Betty B, whose job was competitive intelligence. At the time I thought, how cool is that, she’s kind of like a spy, going undercover to find out all the secrets about our competitors. Boy was I disappointed when I found out how she really got all of her “intelligence”. No covert operations, no disguises, no passing of envelopes in deserted parking lots. Instead, Betty would work the phones. You see over the years she developed a network of colleagues, all of whom had similar functions, who she would call and ask about a new product or service to get a sense of their experiences. These competitors would freely share information with each other. They would get together at conferences and seminars and share insights and experiences.

Corporate types tend to be risk averse. It’s highly unlikely that a middle manager in Corporate America is going to be the first to try any new product or service, recall the saying “nobody ever got fired for using IBM”.  He’s going to call around and find out how others in his industry have fared. So yes, word of mouth works in B2B. In fact it has worked for years, it’s nothing new.

You can influence WOM in the B2B space by attending the conferences your clients go to. Get involved in the discussions, develop relationships and most of all listen. Submit articles to the trade publications your clients read and establish yourself as a trusted resource and get in the game of spreading the word.


Think B2C2 for Effective WOMM in Urban Markets

June 21, 2008

A key requirement of successful word of mouth marketing campaigns is to identify advocates and evangelists. These are the centers of influence, people who are connected, respected and never neglected. If you’re a company that wants to implement a word of mouth marketing campaign in urban markets, specifically among the African American community, think B2C2 for influencers. Okay, so what is B2C2? I thought you’d never ask.

B2C2 are Barber Shops, Beauty Salons, Churches and Clubs. These are the best places to begin because it’s where many influential African Americans congregate, contemplate and celebrate.

The Prostate Net’s Barbershop Initiative demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach when they reached out to barber shops to raise awareness about prostate cancer among African American men.

Sharp Talk with Al Sharpton on TV One features this renowned civil rights activist holding court discussing issues of the day in a barber shop. The show illustrates the very type of interaction and discussion that takes place on many a Saturday all over the country.

Clubs are where companies can reach young urban professionals. There are many types of clubs that cater to this segment, not all of which are social clubs. Included in this category are the various professional associations and fraternities where key influentials come together.

The Church has been and continues to be an important institution in African American culture. Church pastors are some of the most influential figures in the African American community and church functions are also venues where people share ideas, thoughts and advice on a range of topics.

If you are a business or organization seeking to increase your presence and brand awareness within the African American community and you’re looking to do accomplish it through word of mouth marketing then be sure to think: B2C2


Five Steps to Planning a WOM Campaign

June 19, 2008

Small business owners often operate under the mistaken assumption that word of mouth is out of their control and that what ever will happen will happen. However, while it is impossible to control word of mouth, it is very possible to influence what people say about a company product or service.

Providing a superior product and/or world class customer service is one way to influence consumer conversations and it is an absolute must for businesses considering a word of mouth marketing campaign. It seems simple, yet so many businesses, small medium and large, provide mediocre products and less than stellar customer service.

I am certain that readers of this blog are not among the mediocre product and service bunch. So if you have the basics in place, great products and service we can talk about creating a campaign to promote, sustain and foster positive word of mouth. There are five steps in planning and developing a word of mouth marketing campaign:
• Identify Your A&E’s
• Develop the Right Stuff
• Facilitate The Conversation
• Get In The Game
• Measure

For more information how to plan a word of mouth campaign, e-mail us at for a copy of our latest white paper: Planning and Developing a Word of Mouth Campaign


How You Perceive Your Customers is Reflected in your WOM Campaign

June 4, 2008

A marketers customer view will dictate the word of mouth marketing approach they will use. Marketers that have a transactional view of customers tend to focus on building awareness versus building a relationship.

Far too many small businesses think of their interaction with customers as a transaction. In other words, we focus intently on making the sale, closing the deal. The deal becomes the focus. Just get that paper, the cash, the Benjamins. As a result,we do things that make it really difficult to establish a meaningful relationship.

In a transaction the focus is on completing the deal as quickly as possible so we can move on to the next prospect. We could care less how the customer feels once we’ve delivered the product or service and get paid. It’s “me” oriented and in some cases it’s very obvious to the customer.

Treat your customers like that on a consistent basis and the word on the street will be something like, “all XYZ company wants is your money, they really don’t care about you”

Now if on the other hand we view our interactions with customers as a relationship, our focus will have to be much different. In a good relationship, you can’t be focused on yourself. Instead you’ve got to take into consideration, what the other person’s needs and feelings are, especially if you’re trying to establish a long term relationship. It’s “we” focused, creating a win-win situation for both parties.

One of the best ways to generate positive word of mouth is your approach to customer relations. Focus on the “we” instead of the “me” and your customers will notice and tell others.


You Gotta Give To Get

May 12, 2008

My business mentor and coach Andrew Morrison tells me that sometimes in business “you gotta give to get”. Intuitively, I understood this to mean providing something of value to a colleague or prospect at no cost. This philosophy is consistent with the word of mouth tactic of giving people something to talk about.

I decided to put this philosophy into practice after I attended the Connecticut Minority Supplier Development Council (CMSDC) Annual Awards Banquet on Thursday May 1.

The CMSDC is the Connecticut affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Their mission is to significantly increase the procurement opportunities between corporate members and certified minority owned businesses. Dr. Fred Mckinney, President of CMSDC has all of the characteristics of the type of Advocate we have cited often on this blog. He is passionate, credible and connected. So when Dr. Fred talks about a business, people in the right places tend to listen. Among some of the heavy hitters in attendance at this year’s Annual Awards Banquet, Connecticut’s Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal and State Treasurer Denise Nappier.

Our company, gL market Research is a full service marketing consulting firm specializing in market research, brand management, public relations and word of mouth marketing. It is no surprise therefore that word of mouth is an important part of our marketing plan. And so we are always looking for the right stuff for our Advocates and Evangelists (A&Es) to use in spreading positive word of mouth about our company.

So I’m sitting there at the CMSDC Annual Awards Banquet, which by the way was arguably one of the best business awards event I have ever attended. It was truly a high energy, high quality, high tech experience. But anyway, I’m sitting there surrounded by corporate purchasers from some of Connecticut’s largest companies including, Pitney Bowes, Northeast Utilities, Aetna, The Hartford and Liberty Bank to name just a few. Also in attendance were some of the most successful Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) in the State including, among others, RCI Telecom, Light Speed and commVerge Marketing. Light Speed and commVerge Marketing are Connecticut based marketing companies that have impressive track records of achievement and A-List clients.

I morphed into consultant mode, some time before the surf and turf entree but after the cocktail reception and advised my client….me…to provide the CMSDC something of value at no cost at all, in other words “give to get”.

And so we created a web based program evaluation tool to assess attendee perceptions of CMSDC programs and/or events, in this case the Annual Banquet. We offered the tool, analysis and reporting of the findings, essentially a market research project at no cost. By doing this we were able to provide a tangible example of our services and hopefully have opened the door to the beginning of a productive relationship.

Now I could have stood in line at the end of the Banquet and given the standard elevator speech about our company to Dr. Fred along with my business card. But then that would have made for a boring post and I wouldn’t have this to talk about. Instead, I decided to give to get.

Well to my pleasant surprise Dr Fred responded. He liked the idea and in fact, posted the link to the survey and cited gL Market Research in his weekly newsletter that following Monday. So by following the give to get philosophy we were able to get our name in front of hundreds of potential clients. The value of this promotion far exceeded the cost for providing the tool.

The takeaway for small businesses: Identify an Advocate and give them something to talk about to create positive word of mouth