Is Your Marketing Too Cluttered?

Are you keeping things simple?

Is your marketing message too muddled? Do people really know what you do? How you serve your market? How you make a living helping people?

When people visit your website, is it perfectly clear what action you want them to take? To contact you? To buy from you?

Do people following you on the social web know who you are, and what your company does? Are you spread too thin…spending time on too many social networks?

Do you have your hand in too many business activities? Are you launching too many side projects? Are you confusing your potential buyers?

The reason I ask these questions is that I think many of us could use minimalist principles in our marketing: stripping away the clutter and distractions, in order to focus on what matters.

We need to simplify our message.

We need to remove the clutter from our website.

We need to be more intentional about the social networks that move the needle for our business.

Whether or not you ultimately conclude that you need to simplify your marketing, you at least should frequently ask yourself these questions.

Your basic marketing plan consists of seven key components:

1. Know your market. Is there someone who needs and is willing to buy what you sell? Sadly, too many small business people never get their head around this simple question, and thus end up meandering aimlessly, never knowing their simple, true marketing path.

2. Know your customer. Who are they? Where are they? How do they buy? Knowing who they are, where they are, and how they buy ultimately makes decision-making and tactical choices much simpler.

3. Determine your niche. You don’t fix cars. You only fix German automobiles. Much easier to target and focus on owners of German cars as opposed to everyone else (rest of the planet) who owns a vehicle. Simpler approach, simpler message, fewer tactics, less costly.

4. Your marketing message, your company story? How will you move your market to action? To buy? Problem is, most don’t know the simple answer to this question, so they throw too many noodles on the wall, hoping something sticks. And as a result, they are spreading a confusing message.

5. Your marketing tactics. How are you delivering your marketing message (social media, television ads, media buys, email marketing). Knowing precisely the tacticial options that work best for you to communicate to your niche target market, keeps things simple and easy to execute.

6. Your marketing goals. How many sales do you need to make your profit goal? Knowing this answer keeps steps one through five in better focus, knowing exactly where you are striving to go.

7. Your marketing budget. This funds your marketing program — what does it cost to execute steps one thru six… Keeping things simple on steps one through six is how you keep your marketing budgets affordable.

Is your marketing too cluttered? Are you asking the hard questions to understand this? Are you doing the necessary pruning to keep your marketing program simple? Are you subtracting the fluff from your marketing plan, so that you are focused only on what truly matters most?

This probably goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: There is too much noise in the marketplace. The more you can do to make things easier – and simpler – for your buyer to understand how you can help, and how they can buy…is a worthwhile process.

What do you think?

j j j

Your 2011 Marketing Plan: Have You Created Your Seven-Step Marketing Plan Yet?

Day 30 (of 31):

Question To Ask Yourself: Have you created your seven-step marketing plan yet?

So here we are on Day 30 of this marketing plan development post series. How is your progress coming along?

Your marketing plan should consist of basically seven components:

1. Understand market and competition – is there a need for what you sell?

2. Understand your customer – who are they, where are they, why will they buy, how do they buy?

3. Determine your precise target market / your niche. Where is your focus?

4. Develop your message. What’s your story?

5. How will you deliver the message? Networking? Direct mail? Paid advertising? Social media? Blogging? Others?

6. Goals – How many prospects do you need to touch? What is your close rate? How many sales do you need to meet your financial goals?

7. How will you pay for it? Setting your marketing budget high enough to reach enough viable prospects…

Pretty simple, yeah? Don’t over think your marketing plan. And the key to success? Process the plan in order from number one to seven. This is critical. One steps builds on the former…

What about you? Get started now.


Todd is planning his 2011 marketing attack. He is asking himself a series of hard questions, questions that will fine tune his go-to-market strategy. This December, Todd will share one question per day, hoping these questions help you too…

Click HERE to follow the entire series on what questions to ask as you draft your 2011 marketing plan!

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j j j

Your 2011 Marketing Plan: The Necessary Questions To Ask Yourself

Have you started thinking about 2011 yet, and how you will market your business in the new year?

Starting December 1st, I am going to post a daily question to this blog, one for each day during the month of December. It will be a series of posts listing the very questions I am asking myself as I prepare my marketing for 2011.

[you can follow this marketing planning series HERE]

I am in the midst of doing my 2011 marketing plan for me, my businesses, and of course, all my activities here at Intrepid.

I am taking a hard look at ALL of the things I am doing, and trying to understand if they are relevant, moving the needle, and still worth my time. I am asking these questions about every element of my businesses.

And some of my answers aren’t what I wanted to hear. And I am reevaluating a few things. I am identifying the things that need to be improved and strengthened, and I am identifying things I need to bail on. And, let me tell you, that’s a therapeutic exercise…removing the clutter that’s complicating your ability to run a successful business…

So, I am hopeful that these questions will be helpful to you, and help you unlock some fresh ideas, give you a reason to reevaluate everything you are doing in your marketing, and make some intrepid decisions to help make 2011 a banner year!

Do me a favor, and in the comments, let me know what your process is for preparing for the upcoming year. I am excited to learn what others might be doing!


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[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

j j j

Minimalist Marketing: How A Marketing Plan Keeps Things Simple And Increases Your Profits

In the last post on minimalist marketing, which talks about staying focused, I suggested that having a marketing plan is the best strategy you can employ to simplify your marketing, and keep things simple. Problem is, most people (if they have a marketing plan) make their plans way to complicated…

Keep things simple...

I structure my marketing plans in a simple, seven-step process. I will list them here, and then go through them one by one to help you understand how this works…

1. Understand Your Market and Competition - Does the market want what I sell? Can I capture enough market share to break even? Is there too much competition for what I want to offer?
Understanding this is very important when determining your marketing strategy. That’s why it is the first step. You are, in essence, answering the question of can my product even sell in my market.

If you don’t know your market, then you will never be able to focus on what you do. You will waste time and money trying things without really ever knowing it it will work. You are throwing darts blindly into space…

2. Understand Your Customer - Who they are, what they want, what motivates them to buy, how do they buy?
Knowing the answers to these enables you to make finite decisions on how to help your customer take action.

I stipulate that this is constantly evolving, and worthy of permanent monitoring, but “guessing” on these questions means you are waste time and money. This complicates your business life.

3. Pick A Niche - If “everyone who sleeps on a bed” is your target market, you will fail.
This is critical in minimalist marketing…if you are aiming for too broad a target with your marketing dollars and effort, you will miss most of your shots and waste lots of time and money.

4. Develop Your Marketing Message - Your story…what you do, how you persuade someone to let you help solve a problem or fulfill a need…
This is critical in that you must keep this message SIMPLE. A complicated message is harder to tell. And less effective.

5. Determine Your Message Delivery Vehicles - Social media, television ads, direct mail, billboards, face-to-face networking?
This is a key juncture…it is where you can clutter your program and stifle it recklessly. Choose ONLY the mediums that effectively reach your niche targets. Nothing more, nothing less.

6. Determine Your Sales and Marketing Goals - How many sales needed to turn a profit? How many prospects needed to make enough sales?
Nine times out of ten, most small businesses I talk to never really figure out this number…

If you need to reach 1,000 prospects to make enough sales to turn a profit, don’t waste time or money doing things that distract you from this goal. Your plan should be designed to do ONE THING: enable you to talk with 1,000 prospects. Nothing more, nothing less.

7. Understand Your Marketing Budget - Once you know your sales + marketing goals, you can figure out what it will cost…
What else do I need to say here? If you don’t have the budget to reach your prospects, or spending more than you need to, then what is the point?

Work your plan. Focus on simplifying it so that your plan does it’s job. Don’t add layers of complexity that put undue stress on your business, complicate your life, and sets you up to fail.

Your plan is designed to keep things simple. What do you think?

j j j

Minimalist Marketing: Make It Simple To Buy From You

cash registerWe’ve all experienced it.

You went to a website, but didn’t take action. You read a sales brochure, but tossed it aside when you finished reading. Or you said “Let me get back to you!” after a sales person pitched you.

Why didn’t you take any action? Why didn’t you buy?

Well, there could be dozens of reasons. But one common reason might be the message – and message delivery – was too complicated. And you didn’t know how to proceed.

This happens all the time…

1. The potential buyer can’t find the “Buy Now” button on the website. There was too much crap on the website.
2. There isn’t an easily identifiable “call to action” on the brochure. All the “Pulitzer” prize-winning copy and photos, and design elements look great. But it is all clutter.
3. The seller didn’t make the simple ask. Oh sure, the seller said a lot of cool stuff, used a lot of big words, but never actually asked for the sale…

My co-host Stone Payton and I had Theo Jamison on our High Velocity Radio Show recently. She was speaking about some simple, yet profound and meaningful, actions a business could take that would have a dramatic and positive impact on their customer experience. I mean, seriously, these were simple and inexpensive ideas…

Stone said something like “and I bet the business said it was too simple to work, right? Only complicated solutions could possibly work.”

He’s right. Why do we make things so complicated in business? Process can be simple. Design can be simple. Systems can be simple. Sales can be simple.

We have a tendency to think that fancy design, bells + whistles, and flowing flowery language are impressive and make potential customers say “ohhhhhhh.”

But most of the time it clutters and confuses.

You have something to sell. It is something that people need. It can make their life better, their business better. So why do we insist on making it harder – and more complicated – for people to buy?

Minimalists strip away the clutter to focus on what matters, on what is most important. So, strip away all the clutter so that your customer can buy from you. Without having to crawl through a complicated maze of words, pics, buttons, ads, graphics and platitudes to do what they really want to do – become your customer.

What do you think?

[my original Minimalist Marketing post]
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[pic from borderfilms on flickr]

j j j

Minimalist Marketing: A Good Lead For Me Is The Planet Earth…

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Have you ever attended a networking session, and encountered this scenario? Say a mechanic gets up to speak, and he says “A good lead for me today is anyone you know who owns a car or truck.”

What the?

Hearing this is like nails on a chalkboard for me. I have a feeling this guy is thinking this is good for him, in that he is casting a wide net to catch ALL fish.

But sadly, this is a sign of a completely LAZY marketer. Someone taking the easy way out. And my guess is his business is struggling. I mean, seriously. What does he think I am going to do, give him my entire rolodex?

In fact, this mechanic is doing the exact opposite of what he should do to grow his business, and find MORE customers. He needs to do what will feel quite counter-intuitive to him – laser focus on one specific niche.

What happens when you cast too wide a net? You find very few clients.  And what happens then? You take on TOO MANY of the wrong clients. And then you are overwhelmed with too much “bad” work, and probably for too small a fee.

Either way, applying some minimalist principles to your targeting process will pay big dividends to your marketing program.

Focus on ONE type of prospect. Just one. In the case of the mechanic? Don’t narrow your focus to Fords. Narrow your focus to Ford pick-ups.

[This doesn’t mean the mechanic can’t help fix a Chevy should it pull into the garage – it just means his marketing focus should be on Ford pick-ups…ONLY.]

But this only works under two conditions:

One, that you become the best in the market at fixing Ford pick-ups. You should become known as the go-to guy in the event anyone’s Ford pick-up needs servicing. I mean it…the best in your market.

And two, you are going to have to adjust your marketing program to target owners of Ford pick-ups. This is easier than casting a large net, I promise. But it does require some creative thinking, some strategy, and a sustained effort over time to reach out and build real relationships with owners of Ford pick-ups.

The other minimalist impact on your marketing as a result of narrowing your focus? You then also simplify your marketing message. What you say to Ford pick-up owners is different than if you had to speak to ALL car and truck owners. [And if you don't understand this me. We need to talk.] But if you are targeting too many people, you probably have too many marketing messages. As a result, your message is muddled, and your marketing suffers…

Narrowing your focus to a specific niche simplifies your marketing, and makes it less complicated. Selling is hard enough. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.

What do you think?

[See the original post that inspired the Minimalist Marketing series]
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j j j

Holy Crap! It Is Almost Christmas…

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

OK, so maybe it is not almost Christmas, but when in the hell did March suddenly pop up right around the corner?

It made me quickly realize I am a wee bit behind with some of my goals, projects, marathon training, etc. But the sudden and brutal realization about where we are on the calendar made me step back for a few minutes, take a snapshot of where things are, and reassess where to go next. It was a good wake-up call.

And actually, that’s a good thing.

Although apparently it was two months ago, it feels like only yesterday that I published this post, where I laid out my 2010 goals. I have made some progress on these, keyword on “some.”

But as I was doing this, I was thinking about this tendency we all have to only check progress at very well-defined points in time – the top of the hour, the close of each week, the end of each month.

Why do we do this? Why do we only make resolutions around January 1st? Sure, there is a sense of order around doing these tasks on well-defined points in time. But why do we do that to ourselves?

This recalls one of my favorite quotes, “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.”  [from the film Vanilla Sky.]

This quote speaks to me. It is profound in that it reminds me that you can make, affect, enforce, and do change – whenever you want to. You don’t have to wait for society-selected times.

As for my 2010 goals, I am not panicked. Yet. I am making progress, and new ideas and new projects have presented themselves since I wrote my goals post. I am not making excuses, I am stating fact. Life happens. Which is all the more reason to keep focused on your goals. And at any given moment, use the inspiration to make the adjustments/changes you need to get back on track.

Sure, the advice we receive to write down goals, and check on their progress at regular intervals is good advice. But you will get distracted. You will get off track. Just don’t decide to wait until March 1st to figure out how to get back on track. DECIDE and take action now.

Be Intrepid. When you want to make change happen, do it.

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j j j

99 Ways To Be An Intrepid Marketer

Intrepid-Logo-1So, what exactly is an intrepid marketer? And why have I built a business – and started this blog – around the idea of making people intrepid marketers?

The definition of intrepid from the Wiktionary is fearless, bold, and brave. It’s etymology is the Latin intrepidus, meaning “not nervous.” Here is a more detailed explanation for why I named the company HERE.

Fear is something that always holds us back. Fear of being rejected, so you never submit that project on time. Fear of never achieving a goal, so you never set out to do it. Fear of taking that leap to do something you love and are passionate about, so you stay in a job you hate. Fear of being truly innovative and taking your small business in an exciting new direction, so you just do the same old tired things…

I want to make intrepid marketers out of all of us. So, here is a partial list of attributes that make people intrepid marketers:

  1. Intrepid marketers take decisive action.
  2. They are bold.
  3. They are fearless.
  4. They do not fear making important decisions.
  5. They create a serious marketing plan…
  6. …but aren’t afraid to make mid-course corrections on their plan.
  7. They read voraciously.
  8. They have a blog.
  9. Their web presence engages. It is NOT static.
  10. They embrace the social web.
  11. The celebrate transparency.
  12. They give back to their community.
  13. They serve others…
  14. …and they even serve their competition.
  15. They don’t hide behind traditional media.
  16. They teach.
  17. They tell stories.
  18. They listen.
  19. They embrace new technology…
  20. …but only new technology that advances their goals.
  21. They don’t tear down others…
  22. …but they learn lessons from the mistakes of others.
  23. They love joint venturing.
  24. They love collaborating.
  25. They love learning. And never stop learning.
  26. They engage with others…
  27. …even with people they disagree with.
  28. They focus only on the customer experience.
  29. They recognize that every employee is in the marketing department. From the CEO to the cleaning crew.
  30. They see every conceivable customer interaction as something that can and should be continuously improved.
  31. They see that automation is a bad word, most of the time.
  32. They worry about communicating well.
  33. They welcome customer feedback…
  34. …especially negative customer feedback. It helps them improve.
  35. They thoughtfully comment on the blogs of others.
  36. They share. Freely.
  37. They only upsell if they are truly benefiting the customer.
  38. They ask a lot of questions…
  39. …but only to really hear and learn from the answers.
  40. They don’t gloat or show-off.
  41. They believe in quality over quantity.
  42. They admire courage.
  43. They know that marketing is a two-way conversation, not a one-way push.
  44. They sense that interruption marketing is evil, and should be mercilessly destroyed.
  45. They don’t compete on price…
  46. …and they won’t. Ever.
  47. They have no fear walking away from prospects who aren’t the right fit.
  48. They love what they do.
  49. They are minimalist marketers.
  50. They don’t “work.”
  51. They don’t take credit. For anything.
  52. They demonstrate value. With ease.
  53. They know you earn your brand. Not hire a consultant to “create” your brand.
  54. They test and measure. Everything.
  55. They are always improving. Everything.
  56. They understand the power of video, even if the medium isn’t right for them.
  57. They understand the power of podcasts, even if the medium isn’t right for them.
  58. They love networking…
  59. …by which I mean they love learning how to help others.
  60. The relish the chance to connect people.
  61. They know what they don’t know.
  62. They are trust agents.
  63. 2210598414_19ec1f32be_oThey understand the power of images.
  64. They respect differing opinions.
  65. They push themselves, even when there are obstacles.
  66. They aren’t afraid of improvisation.
  67. They know there is no such thing as an overnight success.
  68. When they identify a problem, they fix it. They don’t wait and let it fester.
  69. They don’t spam.
  70. They hustle.
  71. They are creative.
  72. They have patience…
  73. …but they don’t sit around and wait.
  74. They respect the A-listers…
  75. …but they help and push the little guys.
  76. They are innovative…
  77. …and actually know what innovation really means.
  78. They don’t have too many products or services. They focus only on what they do very well.
  79. They are continually trying to improve themselves in every way. Personal development never ends.
  80. They are good problem solvers.
  81. They are NOT afraid to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
  82. They see themselves as artists.
  83. They don’t multi-task. They focus.
  84. They are in the moment.
  85. They are deep thinkers. And they make time to do serious thinking.
  86. They sweat the small stuff.
  87. But spend time focusing on the big stuff.
  88. They know how to apply the 80/20 principle to their situation.
  89. They honor and celebrate referral partners.
  90. They are not conformists.
  91. They aren’t afraid of sharing what they know. They aren’t held back by this notion of “people need to pay me for my knowledge…”
  92. …but they charge a premium for their services.
  93. They embrace relationships.
  94. They live by “serving first, selling second.”
  95. They don’t have time management problems, because they are always focused on the important stuff.
  96. They have balance, and enjoy things outside of business that drive them.
  97. There is nothing fake about them. They are real.
  98. They apologize when they need to. And work hard to fix the problem.
  99. And they are honest. Always.

OK. So what else am I missing? Remember, this is a partial list. And it is always changing. What do you think?

[photo by ~jjjohn~]

j j j

Minimalist Marketing

quietudeI recently stumbled upon Leo Babauta’s Mnmlist blog, a blog about minimalism and simplifying your life. It has been a profound find, as I am in the process of trying to simplify things in my cluttered life (and I simply LOVE the blog’s design).

But as I was spending time thinking about these things in the context of my life, I got to wondering if there is anything to applying the same concepts to our marketing efforts. Just as it seems to be the case with my crazy life, I oftentimes wonder if most entrepreneurs have a marketing program that is far too complex.

So, here are some minimalist ideas to think about and some important questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is your message too complicated? Make it easy for people to remember why you are special.
  2. Is your website too cluttered? When people visit your website, make it easy to learn what you do and easier to contact you to do it.
  3. Is your strategy on the social web too complex? Your simple online mission is to engage and serve others. That’s it.
  4. Is your target audience too scatter shot? Be laser focused on a niche. Don’t try to help everybody.
  5. Are you focused on simple storytelling? Do NOT try to communicate one thousand different ideas/messages/concepts/fixes…
  6. Can your prospects look at your marketing collateral and easily understand the call to action?
  7. Is your diet of new learning focused on the things you need to improve? Don’t read thought leadership on shiny objects (as Seth says) that don’t really advance the goal.
  8. Do you have BOATLOADS of pointless busywork? Instead, be laser focused on the important work.
  9. Do you experiment with all kinds of new tactical options on a whim? Instead, execute only on new ideas that fall into the scope of your crystal clear marketing plan.
  10. Wait, do you even have a marketing plan? Oftentimes, the lack of a road map leads to confusion, complexity and disarray.
  11. Are you worried about too many details? Such as inventory, blogging, twitter, facebook, sales, promotions, employees, sick days, cubicles, vacations, graphic design, vendors, invoices, accounts receivable, etc? Instead, focus only on the customer. All the rest will fall into place…

So, minimalist marketing isn’t about cutting back on your marketing, or reducing your marketing budget, or even cutting the time spent on marketing. What I am talking about here is simplifying things so that your program is uncluttered – and can do it’s job.

What do you think? Agree or disagree with this concept? Got anything to add or subtract? Let me know if you have additional ideas to simplify your marketing…

[photo by marmota]

j j j

Just Take The First Step. However It May Be.

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few days.

I have a new client who is very methodically constructing a business plan to grow a new consulting practice. I am engaged with the project to think creatively on the marketing side, but I have been very impressed with is thoughtfulness in building his new company. Slowly, and carefully.

I have also been talking with a colleague over the last several weeks, and the two of us are strategizing over a potential new business idea. We aren’t in any hurry. But it has been fun to take our time with it and really think through every tiny element of what it might take to pull this little business together.

And then I look back to when I formed Intrepid, just about three years ago. And wow – what a difference. I slammed this thing together and dove head first into the water and never looked back. These days, citing the first two examples above, I would never go about forming, or helping form, a new business without careful thought, methodical planning, and taking things step-by-careful-step.

But that doesn’t mean I regret how I launched Intrepid.

The goals of my business then are so very different from where they are today. But that’s ok. That happens. In fact, if you are NOT going to spend time carefully planning your new business, I’d rather you jump right in and learn from mistakes – then never start to begin with. I hate seeing would-be entrepreneurs who never take the first step out of fear of the unknown.

So what are you going to do? How are you going to launch? Think it through and prepare carefully if you can. But if not, dive in anyway. Learn. Experiment. The water is fine…

j j j