There’s a big difference between describing what your business does… and what your business does for your customer. Anyone can sell steak… but the sizzle is what customers are buying.
On a recent episode of the sitcom Modern Family, Manny, the young stepson of Jay, was trying to raise money for his school. His door-to-door fundraising activities weren’t going well and he was very discouraged. When Manny complained about his lack of results, Jay asked Manny what he was selling. Manny responded, “Wrapping paper.” ”Wrong,” said Jay, “you’re selling Christmas — holidays, joy, celebration; the anticipation of giving…and receiving.. gifts.”
When someone asks you about your business, are you selling “what you do” or “what you can do” for your client?” Selling the sizzle means revealing the results your product or service can achieve.
A personal trainer doesn’t just show people how to exercise; he or she is helping to improve their client’s health, fitness and self-confidence. In addition to solving a legal problem, an attorney provides peace of mind. Financial advisors manage wealth to grow assets and minimize tax implications, but their long term goal may be a well-funded retirement or a lasting family legacy. A website developer builds a new site but is really helping to successfully brand, promote and generate leads for a business.
The 18 were accused of excessive use of force and obstruction of justice as part of a sprawling, yearslong investigation into allegations of misconduct and abuse of inmates in county jails.
June 4th, 2012 - Posted by Dr. Peter J. Meyers to White Hat / Black Hat
Every few months, some mainstream news outlet runs a piece on how SEOs are just a bunch of “snake oil” salesmen. The implication is clear – we’re the carnival barkers of marketing, promising you #1 on Google and bottling moonshine as magic potions. Cue outraged SEO industry posts until we’re out of breath, wait 6 months, then repeat.
Here’s the simple truth the angry back-and-forth arguments ignore – there would be no snake-oil salesmen if people weren’t lining up to buy it. I’m not here to excuse thieves and liars – they exist, and they should be called out. I’m here to tell you why you need to open your eyes and stop gleefully walking into the same trap over and over.
Why We’re All to Blame
This topic can get emotional fast, so let’s step back for a minute and consider another example in the technology industry. Lately, there’s been a lot of outrage about poor human rights conditions in consumer products’ factories, most notably Apple’s problems with workers at the Foxconn factory in China. One side is quick to defend Capitalism, while the other side rushes to blame corporate greed.
Both sides may be right, to some degree, and I’m not here to argue the veracity of the claims. The deeper, more interesting question is: what drives it all? Are corporations and shareholders looking to squeeze out profits? Sure, to some extent. What about us, though? We want a $600 computer that fits in the palm of our hand, plays movies in HD, takes video of our cats, and connects instantly to all of human knowledge. One month after we have it, we want it to be 10% lighter, 10% faster, make our cat look 10% fluffier, and cost $549. So, where did the greed really start?
Yes, “All” Includes You
Sorry, but you need to hear this. When you interview an SEO company, have wild expectations, only hear what you want to, demand results “by any means necessary,” and want it all for just $99.95, then what do you expect is going to happen? You’re going to attract thieves and liars, and you’re going to deserve it.
Ok, rant over. This isn’t about being holier-than-thou and I’m not just here to scold you. I sincerely want people to stop selling and buying snake oil. So, here are six tips to keep you from wasting your money on magic beans…
(1) Educate Yourself
I know what you’ll say – “I don’t have time, and SEO is complicated.” Guess what – that’s exactly what the snake-oil salesmen want you to believe. They may even say it out loud during your first meeting. Modern online marketing is complicated and covers a lot of ground, but you don’t have to know everything. Invest a couple of weeks in learning just enough of the basics so that you can ask the right questions. While I was writing this post, we re-launched The Beginner’s Guide to SEO – that’s a great place to start.
It’s not just about SEO, though – educate yourself about the company you’ll be working with. Is their reputation good? Do they even have a reputation? Do they have a website (I hope so, but you’d be surprised)? How long have they been around? It’s amazing how people will spend hours deciding whether or not to see a $10 movie or research where to get a donut but then will walk into a meeting and spend $10,000 with no information at all.
(2) Trust Your Instincts
We all feel pressure – time pressure, budget pressure, angry boss pressure, and just the pressure of fatigue and wanting to move things forward. When that pressure kicks in, we ignore our gut. We walk into a room and instantly have a bad feeling or just plain dislike the people we’re talking to after 5 minutes, but we shake it off because we want the ball to keep rolling. Don’t ignore your instincts – almost every time I’ve had a bad feeling about a prospective vendor or client and brushed it off, I’ve regretted it. There’s always another vendor, and the sunk cost of a couple of hours of meetings is nothing compared to what you’ll lose if you pay for 6 months of bad SEO.
(3) Roll to Disbelieve
Sorry, nerd joke. If it looks too good to be true and it sounds too good to be true, then it’s probably a duck. Look at all of the recent Ponzi schemes where people were getting a 178% return rate against a market that was at -3%, the creator of the scheme got busted, and then EVERY SINGLE INVESTOR acted completely shocked. Really?
We don’t believe most lies because of the skill of the liar. We believe most lies because the liar tells us what we want to hear. Ask the tough questions, even (or especially) if you like what you hear. Bare minimum, make sure you ask about the next two items…
(4) Ask About Tactics
We’re a very results-oriented business culture, and that’s great. You should ask about metrics and ROI and know what you’ll get for your money. Just don’t let empty promises of results gloss over the details of what specific tactics the vendor plans to use. It’s not just about whether they use “white-hat” or “black-hat” tactics – it’s about whether they have a plan at all. A qualified vendor should be able to map out what they’ll do, and they should be able to explain why they choose to do it that way. It’s also about accountability – if someone tells you what they’re going to do, you can check later to see if they did it.
(5) Find Out the Risks
All SEO carries risks, no matter how “white-hat” it is – most notably, the risk that you’ll spend your money on something that provides no benefit. Every vendor should be able to ballpark the risks in their approach – if they start saying things like “We only use Google-approved methods,” keep pushing. Rules change, and the best SEOs know how to adapt. The ones who think their methods will always work (just because they’ve worked so far) are the ones whose clients get slammed by algorithm updates.
(6) Plan Status Updates
The worst thing you can do is to set a vendor loose, check back in six months, and realize they’ve done something completely different than you expected. Actually, there’s something even worse – when you check back after six months and they can’t even tell you (or won’t tell you) what they’ve done. We see this all the time in link-building – someone hires an SEO firm, rankings drop months later, they suspect the vendor was to blame, but they have no record of what that vendor actually did. I’ve been involved in the kind of detective work that happens at this point, and it isn’t pretty.
Treat your vendor like they’re part of your in-house team – you don’t have to micro-manage, but you should demand accountability. It’s good for both of you – as a conscientious vendor, nothing’s worse than going in the wrong direction for months because of bad communication. I think an Agile approach (borrowed from the software development world) works well – do short, frequent check-ins, agree on some kind of documentation (like a shared document with link sources or tasks), and adjust as needed.
What About Black-hats?
Before I hear about it in the comments, let me be perfectly clear - when I say “thieves and liars”, I am not talking about “black-hat” SEOs. I’m talking about companies that literally steal their clients’ money and lie to them about risks and results. If you want to pursue black-hat tactics, in the sense of knowingly violating Google’s policies, that’s your business. Whether or not I agree with you, all of my advice in this post still applies. Skilled black-hats may not advertise their tactics openly, but once you’re face-to-face with them as a prospective client, they should still be honest about their methods and the risks.
Angel Bea Media
Why You Need a Business Relationship Banker
Maggie Harris has a $1M line of credit thanks to an ongoing banking relationship with Wells Fargo
by Carolyn M. Brown Posted: October 14, 2013
Maggie M. Harris has been in the government contracting business since graduating from college and working at the Unisys Corporation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and U.S. Department of Defense. In 1992, she joined Engineering Systems Consultant Inc., moving within the ranks from a program manager to chief technology officer to vice president of operations.
When ESC’s founder, Major General Calvin G. Franklin, passed away, his family offered Harris the Landover, Maryland-based firm (it has since relocated to Arlington, Virginia).
“My strategy was to acquire the company and use the many avenues, my prior background and achievements, to catapult the company to new heights and prosperity,” says Harris, ESC president and CEO.
Today, ESC is a woman-owned firm, certified under the US Small Business 8(a) development program that employs 75 full-time staff. ESC designs, implements, and maintains professional solutions for federal government and commercial clients, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, IBM, Hewlett Packard and General Dynamics. ESC was initially founded as a strategy and information technology company, but has expanded its footprint to cover information security, assurance, research information sharing, intelligence analysis, cyber security, enterprise architecture, and medical assistance.
Harris was able to acquire ESC in 2004 thanks to an ongoing banking relationship.
“Wells Fargo provided the timely delivery of service and personal attention needed to assist in my acquisition through an Asset Sale.” She was able to tap into a $113,000 line of credit from Wells Fargo to buy ESC.
Harris put into practice what many entrepreneurs often fail to do. That is to build a rapport with a banker long before needing to borrow money. This person isn’t the local teller who knows your name when you make deposits. This is a business relationship banker who understands your industry—a trusted financial adviser on par with your accountant or lawyer.
One way to get assigned a banker is to ask a branch manager. Once you have identified someone, you can tell that business relationship banker who you are, what you do, and ask how he or she can help grow your company.
Not only had Harris used Wells Fargo for her personal banking, but ESC had an extensive business banking history with Wells Fargo (Wachovia before the merger). Most importantly, as ESC successes mounted and the business continued to grow, so did the support received from the bank.
Initially, Wells Fargo provided ESC with a business line of credit in the amount of $113,000. In 2006, it was increased to $500,000. As ESC’s account receivables increased, so did the need to increase the line of credit. As such, ESC transitioned from a relationship managed through a branch store to a relationship managed through the Wells Fargo Business Banking Group. In 2010, Wells Fargo increased ESC’s line of credit to $750,000 and in 2011 it was increased and is currently at $1 million.
Angel Bea Media
“This was as a result of our ability to demonstrate that we know how to manage the business, cash flow and growth in the marketplace,” notes Harris.
In addition to a business line of credit, services and products provided by Wells Fargo include, checking, credit card, money market, CDs, stocks, bonds, merchant banking for credit card acceptance, and mobile banking.
“We see ourselves as being an advisor and community partner,” says Kimmey Doney, vice president, senior business relationship manager. He talks to Harris on a regular basis via telephone, email and onsite visits. “At least once a month we have an event providing opportunities for [business owners] to meet senior members of Wells Fargo and to hear from economists or product specialists,” he says.
“He constantly keeps me abreast of Wells Fargo new and innovative products and services, networking events and Wells Fargo Economics Group Training,” says Harris. “Just recently he invited me to attend a reception in Washington, D.C. to meet John G. Stumpf, Wells Fargo President and CEO, as well as the Wells Fargo Board of Directors.”
Every year, Wells Fargo conducts an annual review of ESC’s line of credit.
“I request financial statements year-to-date and previous years. I talk to operations and accounting,” says Doney. “One way you can tell if a company is growing is by the amount of invoicing they are doing. If they are invoicing a lot and they have a large amount of receivables,” he adds.
A line of credit was used in ESC’s case as working capital so as to meet contractual obligations.
“It is vital that we continue to update and provide quarterly and annual financial statements to Wells Fargo,” says Harris. “So that the recommended solutions we receive from our bank remain perfectly aligned with our emerging services and ever increasing market share.”
7 Top Social Media Sites For Business (and why you want to use them)
There is a lot of social media sites out there, but what are the differences between these platforms and why would businesses want to use each specific one? Depending on your industry some might work better for you than others, but I believe that all businesses should be using these top social networks as much as they can. Today, people are no longer turning to the yellow pages to find the services or products you offer, but instead they are doing a quick search online. Making sure you have a positive presence in the top social media sites is important.
These are my personal thoughts and opinions on the seven top social media networks (by user base) and an idea of what type of content you might see and want to use on each one.
1) Facebook – 903 million users – http://www.facebook.com Facebook is the largest social network and has successfully carved out a market for keeping in touch with people you already know. Family, high school friends and former co-workers are usually included in a person’s ‘friends list’ on Facebook. Updates are usually short and usually personal. “This is what I had for dinner” or “Here are pictures of the kids” and “I went to the Caribbean with Bob.” It’s a private social space and most people are not looking to be “sold to” while browsing pictures of their family members. Facebook Pages are used to communicate with your customers in this space. Facebook offers some analytics tools to help you track your efforts and how much traffic you are getting. Some businesses have spent a substantial amount of money convincing their fans to “like” their page there. Facebook has changed how the main user feed gets displayed and often times requires the business to purchase a sponsored post for a post to even appear in the user feed of your business page fans. I spend the least amount of my time on Facebook for business for this reason. When you get a “like” on Facebook, you are getting a “like” for Facebook first, THEN your brand. Maintain a presence, but I personally feel your time can be better spent.
2) Google Plus – 343 million users – http://plus.google.com The second largest social network and backed by the “#1 name in search”. Google Plus although regularly compared to Facebook, is nothing like it. This platform is great for connecting with people based on interests and topics outside of friends or family. If you are in a business this is mostly likely your target market – i.e. New customers, strangers or people you do not know already. Because of things like “Communities”, “Hashtags” and “Hangouts” you are able to target in on people who have expressed interest in learning about your business and industry. There is no write API for Google Plus, which means you can not ‘cheat’ or auto-post into this platform with a piece of software. This means that all the interactions on the site are real. This is a major part of the reason social ‘experts’ find this space harder since it does require some effort and take some work. You will need to spend time meeting others just like you would in any networking setting. 100% self-promotion doesn’t work in a real life networking setting, so don’t do it on this platform either. The people you attract in this space can become loyal brand followers. Every single public thing you do on Google plus is indexed by their search engine, helping boost your SEO or rankings in Google for your website. A plus one can help your search results. No other network offers these benefits and it is worth checking it out for this alone. I spend most of my time on this network.
3) Twitter – 288 million users –http://www.twitter.com Twitter allows you to network and connect with celebrities, brands and topics. Some of your “real life friends” might be here, but probably not too many. Many “celebrities” are also the one “tweeting” from their twitter account, so with some effort you can appear on a persons radar that you are trying to get the attention of. There are many automated programs that allow twitter to easily follow, Re-tweet and mention others. Twitter has a significant problem with fake accounts and “bots” that do nothing but automatically tweet Rss feeds and auto post pre-set tweets at certain times. Self-promotion is accepted on this platform and you can tweet about your company fairly regularly, which can draw traffic to your website. There are roughly four hundred million tweets sent per day, so your information can get lost in all the noise. Tweet often, with short, helpful, and targeted information to stay relevant and interesting.
4) Linked in – 175 million users –http://www.linkedin.com Linked in is your online resume. It lists your previous work history, skills that you have talent in and can also include recommendations from previous people you have worked with. Make sure you keep this up to date and accurate of your current business dealings. Many people who do business with you will often Google you and look for your Linked in profile. You can use the group feature to become a leader in your areas of interest and strengths. Answer questions as they are presented to get on the radar of colleagues and potential customers. Many people use Linked in as a Social CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) – You can see in real time what your possible customers are up to, which offers valuable insight into their behavior and preferences. There is also a status update you can once again use to drive traffic to your website.
5) Instagram – 100 million users –http://www.instagram.com Instagram is a picture sharing social platform. It eliminates the clutter of other social networks listed and highlights your products and services in a very visual way. Even if you don’t sell a product, sharing things like company culture, accomplishments your employees are achieving such as charity work, parties, travel. These events give an ‘inside’ view into what your company is up to and people will respond positively to this. Show a behind the scenes view of your company’s day to day life and you create a personal relationship with your customer base. User generated content is something that brands need to doing more of in this space. Do something fun and creative like; Create a contest and have your users submit photos via a hashtag, or a scavenger picture hunt for your products. Make sure though that you follow legal requirements for running contests online though. Many people use Instagram as the push tool to other platforms like Twitter or Facebook, which is done at the touch of a button.
6) Pinterest – 25 million users –http://www.pinterest.com Pinterst is another visual social sharing platform. You “Pin” images to your own personal virtual corkboard, broken up into any category you can imagine. People then are able to pin your pins onto their own boards. And will they ever. Pins are clickable back to the website that they were originally pinned from and this can mean traffic for your site. Pinterst offers a high shopping component, allowing you to include the price of items as part of the pin. Pinterest users are shown to buy more products and services than any other social website. You can verify your business website quite easily to help with your branding. Pinterest is similar to Instagram and many of the ideas that work there work here, including showing the behind the scenes views and contests. You can create unlimited boards to keep topics together and highlight all the unique parts of your company. Pins can also count as a link back to your website. 95% of the images on the pinterest website were pinned from somewhere on the web. Make sure your site has a “pin” button and your fans will generate traffic for you.
7) Foursquare – 25 million users –http://www.foursquare.com Foursquare is a location ‘check-in’ service that allows your customers to let the world know that they are at your place of business and share it with all their friends on social networks. Foursquare is all about local. If you have a physical store location, and you are not maintaining a foursquare presence take note! Clients who live or work near your business can make up the majority of your customer base. Coffee shops, hairdressers, restaurants are looking to attracted locals and well as those tourists passing through and Foursquare can help with both. There is a high level of “referral” or “word of mouth promotion” when someone checks into your business. You are able to promote deals, rewards and other offers to your best clients. Offering a discount on the meal when someone tells their fan base they love your food can be a very profitable (and cost effective) arrangement. If you are an end user, checking into places and writing reviews can keep you on top of where you have been and what you enjoyed. The discounts and freebies are always nice too.
Social media is becoming where more and more of your customers are turning to for information about brands in the marketplace. Your business needs to get involved in the conversation. There are many creative ways that you can use the seven top social media networks to get your message out, but make sure you are using them!
Which social network do you find best for your business? Where do you focus the most time? - See more at: http://angelbea1.blogspot.com
I. Establish the Strategic Direction of the Company … Mission Statement!
II. Build Loyal Employees
III. Hold Employees Accountable
IV. Continue Upgrading Management
V. Build Strong Relationships … vendors, customers, and advisors.
VI. Keep Margins and Markups as Low as Possible
VI. Always Produce and Provide Quality
VII. Strive to be the “Low Cost” Producer
VIII. Grow … but do so prudently and profitably.
IX. Create Excellence in Operations and Execution
X. Install a Management Process to Guide and Control the Company
XI. Thou shalt make a profit!!!