Predictable Profits - Advanced Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:55:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Recipe For Success - 5 Things Zappos Does Differently Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:55:08 +0000 Click to Read More]]> “Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.”

- Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Empty asphalt road towards cloud and signs symbolizing success aZappos announced that it would no longer be posting jobs using traditional outlets.


Breaking the mold again, they decided to use their own social network to find new employees.

…Just another example of how Zappos does things a little bit differently from the competition.

The payoff?

In 2009, Amazon acquired the company for $1.2 billion, earning Zappos founder Tony Hsieh an estimated $246 million.

Not bad.

Equally important, Zappos is consistently voted one of the most popular places to work!

I thought I’d share five business secrets that have made Zappos such a success (while doing things their own way), so maybe you could find yourself earning a whopping hundred million dollar payday too.

1. Hire For Cultural Fit

Zappos takes hiring the right people very seriously.

As shown in this video, Tony Hsieh applies the principle of “hiring slowly, and firing quickly when it’s not the right fit.”

Zappos wants employees who mesh with the company’s culture.

…That means people who bring passion, have a sense of fun, and are committed to providing exceptional customer service.

Zappos employees are not discouraged from “being themselves.”

In fact, it is actively encouraged!

Personal development of the employees is considered key to success.

Each employee is provided with their own goals coach, who helps them get what they want – both inside and outside of their work at Zappos.

The end result is happier employees, which leads directly to satisfied customers.

2. Ensure The Customer Gets Results

Zappos offers a 365 day return policy – no exceptions and no catch.

All customers need to do is return the product in its original packaging and in the same condition.

Return shipping for the customer is provided for free.

You may be wondering whether such as generous return policy is actually profitable…

Craig Adkins, Vice President of Services and Operations at Zappos, offers a clue:

“Our best customers have the highest returns rates, but they are also the ones that spend the most money with us and are our most profitable customers. These best customers have a 50% return rate.”

3. Understand What Your Customer Really Wants

Tony Hsieh understands the difference between selling a product and giving a customer what they really want. As Hsieh has noted:

“We asked ourselves what we wanted this company to stand for. We didn’t want to just sell shoes. I wasn’t even into shoes – but I was passionate about customer service.”

Simply put, Zappos is about “delivering happiness,” not just selling shoes.

That translates to providing exceptional customer service every single time someone buys.

Stories abound of Zappos over delivering on customer service.

The “best man” story is typical:

Jay was best man at a wedding and ordered his shoes from Zappos (because they were the cheapest deal he could find). Unfortunately for Jay, the shoes were delivered to the wrong address. When Jay called Zappos with his problem, they went to work to solve it immediately. An overnight replacement of the shoes were sent to Jay at no additional cost. Jay was also upgraded to a VIP account and given a total refund of his purchase.

Jay’s impression of Zappos? They have “earned a customer for life”.

That commitment to customer service has paid off handsomely for Zappos:

75% of Zappos customers are repeat buyers.

4. Have A Long-Term Vision

Tony Hsieh has, at times, passed on short-term opportunities when it didn’t fit with his long-term vision for the company…

San Francisco may be the heart of the tech community, but the area didn’t have enough potential employees who would deliver the customer service Hsieh was looking for.


Hsieh made the somewhat controversial decision to move the company Las Vegas – a city hardly known for being a tech hub.

Hsieh’s commitment to the vision for his company was again tested when he was approached by Amazon to sell…

He was originally approached by Amazon in 2005, but felt that the chance of the company’s (at that point) fledgling culture being subsumed was too much of a danger…

Consequently, he rejected the offer.

Four years later, the recession drove Zappos to need fresh capital.

Hsieh was again reluctant to sell, and it was only after a personal conversation with Jeff Bezos, assuring him that the company’s culture would be preserved, that Hsieh finally agreed.

5. Be Persistent

“Persistence and resilience play a big role.
I think a lot of people give up way too early.”
- Tony Hsieh

The company’s persistence has been tested many times during their rise to the top.

It’s easy to look at the success they’ve enjoyed, and forget about the struggles that Tony and his team went through to get there.

When Hsieh invested $500,000 of his own money to start an online shoe store, it was almost universally called a bad idea…

That was further reinforced when the company almost ran out of money in 2000, and failed to receive backing by multiple VCs.

The company only survived because Tony decided to invest his own money yet again.

After the dot-com crash, half of the Zappos staff had to be laid off – and by 2002, Tony had to sell his San Francisco loft to purchase a vitally needed warehouse for the company.

The situation didn’t really turn around until the holiday buying season of December 2007, when Zappos finally turned a profit.

By 2009, annual sales had reached over $1 billion.

It may have required grit and determination, but in the end Hsieh’s vision of “delivering happiness” won the company a lot of business, and in turn, a lot of money.


Zappos built success from the ground up by sticking to their principles, even in the face of adversity, and going out of their way at every turn to deliver amazing customer service to every last one of their shoppers.

What are you committed to?

In your corner,


]]> 0
Making Money From New Leads - How To Improve Your Sales Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:31:43 +0000 Click to Read More]]> Old Leaky PipesDo you have a leak in your sales funnel?

If so, you might want to check around the front of the sales funnel…

Many entrepreneurs are great at attracting leads.

Pay per click, direct mail, print advertising, and content marketing all work great – but a lot of those leads are lost along the way to becoming buying customers…

In fact:

79% of marketing leads never convert into sales.

It’s true.

And one of the most common areas for this breakdown to occur is the moment right after they capture the lead.

How do you fix it? 

By improving the content that your prospects are exposed to…

Conversion-Based Content Builds The Momentum in the Sales Funnel

The beginning (or nurturing stage) of the sales funnel is where your prospect goes from being newly exposed to your company to trying to understand the value you deliver…

It starts by answering the questions:

  • What are the beliefs that prospects need to have in order to buy your products?
  • What do they need to believe about you?
  • About themselves?
  • About your product in order to buy?

(To give credit where credit is due… these 4 questions were inspired by the marketing genius of Todd Brown)

You should also answers the questions:

  • Why should I buy from you?
  • What makes you different?
  • How do I know this is going to work for me?

The content must move them through that progression and educate them on your value and your unique advantage.

…While also establishing your authority and building trust with your potential customer.

In The Predictable Profits Playbook, we call this phase of the funnel – the “dating phase.”

Types Of Content For “The Dating Phase”

Case Studies

People love stories…

And the only thing they love more than stories… are stories about people that are just like them.

Case studies tell a story about how your customers have used your products or services to solve their problems.

They are a great way of proving that you have a solution that actually delivers the results your prospects are looking for.

The more closely the prospect can relate with the problem featured in the case studies the better…

Case studies are often delivered as a downloadable report (aka white paper), but they can also be extended blog posts or videos…


Webinars deliver value for your prospect in an engaging and interactive format…

They can be presented live, as a pre-recorded event, or a hybrid of both…

The best webinars deliver awesome and valuable content that – if you weren’t already giving it away for free – your prospects would have been glad to pay for.

If it doesn’t pass the “would someone pay for this webinar?” test, you haven’t delivered enough value.

Webinars are more than just an opportunity for you to talk about your products and services – they are a chance to help your customers move a step (or two) closer to achieving their ultimate outcome.

If you’re unsure what topics you should be talking about in your webinars, survey your customers and ask them about problems they struggle with…

Then pick one of those problems, answer it by telling them what to do – and plug your product or service as the solution for “how” to get ‘er done.

Your webinars should provide standalone value, but also move your prospect toward making a purchasing decision.


Not all of your “mid-funnel” content needs to be delivered online…

Brochures are an example of how to add physical content to your sales funnel, allowing prospects to learn about your products and services – on their own time – while aiding them with the selection process.

Requests for brochures are also a clear indication that the prospect is serious about what you have to offer – so don’t neglect to follow up!

(Here’s a tip: When someone asks for a brochure, offer them a compelling reason to give you their contact information so you can follow up with them!)

In-Depth Video Content

Research by Google has shown that the ideal length for a video on YouTube is between 3 and 3 ½ minutes.

Sure, that’s great if you’re showing a dancing hamster – but for marketing, you may want to switch to longer, meatier video content…

Videos are a great opportunity for you to illustrate and demonstrate your product.

Take Billy Mays for example – the (late) master video salesman.

Or – for less of an infomercial feel – a simple product demo.

These videos explore, in detail, how your prospect can solve particular problems or achieve a certain outcome.

This is especially useful if you have a complex or difficult to explain product…

Unfortunately, nurturing leads through the sales funnel is decidedly under-practiced by most businesses…

65% of B2B marketers have not established lead nurturing in their sales and marketing processes. (Source)

Neglecting to nurture your leads is like running water through a leaking hose.

It may work to some degree, but it’s hardly the most effective approach.

Fix those holes and see more of your leads transform into buying customers.

In your corner,


]]> 0
Why Sears Is Dying - And How You Can Avoid The Same Fate Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:20:13 +0000 Click to Read More]]> iStock_000033178348_SmallIn April, Lands’ End was split off from the Sears Holdings Corporation…

This was the first time it had been an independent company in twelve years.

Was it a smart move?

Well… in the first quarter since the split, Lands’ End has increased its sales by 3.6% and seen profits rise by 48.1%.

Impressive results for Lands’ End…

But for the Sears department store… it’s just another sign that the once great brand is now in decline.

The spin-off was a result of increased operating loss and declining sales at Sears.

The department store, once an icon of middle class aspiration, has been struggling for a number of years.

Its share price is down over 76% since 2007…

But why does Sears appear to be dying a slow death?

What lessons can we learn to avoid making similar mistakes?

Let’s take a look:

Failure To Understand Their UAP

For a company to succeed in today’s market, it must have a Unique Advantage Point (UAP)…

For Sears, that was the experience of shopping at their stores and the quality of the products.

What Sears doesn’t do is compete for the cheapest prices – they left that to retailers like Wal-Mart.

Unfortunately, Sears does appear to have neglected their own value proposition by failing to reinvest back in the business…

And their lack of investment back in the company certainly showed.

Thanks to social media sites like Twitter, pictures of empty shelves and poor product selection spread quickly, strengthening the idea that Sears wasn’t a place that anyone would want to shop.

Not good.

Not Adapting To The Current Market

Sears has also been slow to adapt to the way that shopping has changed – in particular, the importance of ecommerce, a trend which is affecting everyone in the retail industry:

Business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce sales are expected to increase by 20.1% in 2014, hitting $1.5 trillion! (Source)

Interestingly, Lands’ End is doing a great job in that department…

A large part of the success as a spun-off company is Lands’ End’s online marketing savvy – they make 84% of revenue from internet and catalogue sales.

The brand has adapted to the age of “social selling” by using a curated blog, building a large Twitter following, and keeping a popular Tumblr account.

The Sears brand, however… just hasn’t kept up. 

Sears Doesn’t Compete On Price, But… Doesn’t Compete On Value Either!

In the “Predictable Profits Playbook,” I explain why competing on price is a losing strategy…

But simply charging your customers more for the same products isn’t a winning strategy either.

You need to support those higher prices by offering greater value too. Customers have more shopping options than ever before, and put simply, there just isn’t a compelling reason to shop at Sears.

In contrast, a brand like Nordstrom has been able to continually charge higher prices because they focus on delivering tremendous value:

  • An extremely generous “return anything” policy – and they mean anything
  • Employees that are willing to go the extra mile for their customers
  • An exclusive shopping experience that makes you want to buy

These are all things that Sears should be doing as well, but they won’t achieve them by under-investing in the business…

Hopefully, Sears will make some much-needed changes so that they can resume their place as one of the great American retailers…

But whether they succeed or not, the faltering company has provided some valuable lessons about building a thriving business in today’s market.

What else can we learn from their mistakes?

In your corner,


]]> 0
Stop Losing Customers! 6 Strategies To Convert More Visitors Into Buyers Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:57:57 +0000 Click to Read More]]> upwards going graph on the screen of notebookEvery visitor that comes to your website and doesn’t – at a bare minimum – provide you with their email address is a lost opportunity.

It makes me tear up when I see websites leaving money on the table.

That’s why I wrote this article for you…

You see, once a prospect leaves your website, you might as well wish them, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Hasta la vista, baby!”

Kiss them goodbye – they ain’t coming back.

So, what can we do to better monetize this traffic?

Glad you asked…

Here are six things you can do today to turn more of your website visitors into buyers:

1. Add Some Social Proof

63% of customers are more likely to buy if a website has customer reviews. (Source)

Credibility is key when selling anything online…

Adding social proof to your website is relatively easy, but it can make a big difference to your sales.

So how can you add that proof?

  • Have testimonials from customers and industry peers
  • Include “As Seen On” logos from media outlets where your business has been featured (i.e. Forbes, CNBC, local news networks, famous blogs, etc.)
  • Add reviews of your products and services from your previous customers
  • Use case studies to show that you can deliver results

My friend Chris Brisson, founder of CallLoop, said:

We stuck our clients’ logos on our site (with their permission), and have seen a huge boost in quality of leads and customers. Companies I could have never imagined have now come to us, without us doing anything different. It’s amazing that this ONE simple thing had such a dramatic effect on our business.”


2. Give Customers Multiple Opportunities To Sign Up

If you aren’t email marketing already, why not?

After all…

77% of customers prefer to receive marketing communications through permission-based email. (Source)

But to build an email list, you also need to give your site visitors opportunities to sign up for your newsletter. Make it easy for potential buyers to register for your email newsletter by providing opt-in forms:

  • At the end of your blog posts
  • At the top of the sidebar
  • On your “about us” page
  • In the header of your page
  • As a “pop up”

Create multiple chances to sign up, and prospects will see (and likely fill out) the forms no matter how they navigate through your site.

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers said using a feature box that spans across the top of his home page was one of the key factors behind his email list – comprised of tens of thousands of subscribers.

social triggers

3. Make Your Content Readable At A Glance

Only 16% of website visitors read content word-for-word (Source)

Big blocks of dense text can be turn off for visitors…

If you want to make your content easier to read – and increase conversions – you should make it easy to pick up on the message at a glance. Here’s how:

  • Use bullet points
  • Highlight keywords and add hypertext links
  • Use clear subheadings
  • Keep paragraphs short and to the point

According to Nielsen Group, content converted from “dense” text into easily digestible content can increase usability by as much as 124%.

Find pages on your website that are already attracting visitors, and use the tactics above to make them easier to read!

4. Understand Your Unique Advantage Point (UAP)

What is about your offering is truly unique?

Your Unique Advantage Point (UAP) is that “special something” that makes your customer want to buy from you – instead of your competitors.

Some examples of UAPs include:

  • Tom’s “One for One” pledge of giving a free pair of shoes to someone in need with every purchase
  • Zappos’ 365 day return policy and exceptional customer service
  • FedEx’s guaranteed overnight delivery

Understand what sets you apart… and make it perfectly clear to your prospects and customers.

5. Offer A Stronger Guarantee

Every customer knows what it is like to be burned…

They bought a product and it didn’t perform as promised – or it broke apart after a single use.

This kind of experience, as I’m sure you know, isn’t a whole lot of fun…

So when it’s time to decide whether or not to buy, people want to avoid regret almost as much as they want to solve their problems! When visitors come to your website, you need to prove to them that – if they choose to buy from you – they aren’t going to regret it. 

You do that by offering a strong guarantee.

Dominos Pizza is a company virtually built on a strong guarantee:

“You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free. “

Or how about the Nordstrom guarantee to take back any product you buy, in any condition, with no time limit at all!

These are the kind of trust-building guarantees that get people to buy with confidence.

6. Test Your Call To Action Buttons

Small changes in your call to action buttons can make a big difference for your conversion rates…

Test simple changes to these buttons to see what effect it has on your prospects.

Test variables such as:

  • Wording of your call to action – i.e. “Sign up” vs. “Register here”
  • Color used for your buttons
  • Position of the buttons on your website
  • Size of the buttons used

A/B testing is critical for discovering what changes are working, and determining what you should leave the same.

For example, red is often considered one of the best colors for a call to action button, but when marketing firm Crazy Egg tested red for their call to action, they saw their conversion rate drop by 10%!

The only way to know what works with your unique audience is to test, test, test!

Many of these changes cost very little to execute, but they can make an outsized difference to your sales…

Tweak and test thoroughly, and you can win far more sales conversions from your existing visitor traffic.

In your corner,


]]> 0
6 Strategies Netflix Can Teach Us For Dominating Our Market Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:34:35 +0000 Click to Read More]]> iStock_000038169176_SmallIn May, Netflix saw its stock price jump a massive 30%.

Pretty darn impressive…

One of the key drivers behind the rise was Netflix’s decision to increase its video subscription fee by $1.00.

One teeny-weenie little dollar.

When they surveyed their customers about the increase, 73% said that they were either “not at all” or only “slightly likely” to cancel. (Source)

Here’s why the Netflix business model is succeeding – even when competitors like Blockbuster have failed.

#1 – Fill the Gap

Netflix founder Reed Hastings explains the origins of Netflix in terms many of us can relate to…

Hastings had a large amount of videos overdue and was facing a big fat fine – a fine so large, he was embarrassed to tell his wife about it!

He couldn’t believe that this was the best way for people to borrow movies.

His solution was to come up with a business model that let people keep the videos as long as they liked – as long as they paid a flat fee every month.

Virtually every successful business is based on satisfying some currently unmet need in the market.

#2 – Think Strategic Partnerships

Strategic partnerships can be a win-win for both sides…

For Netflix, a partnership with Apple is one such example.

Netflix allowed the owners of the Apple TV set-top box to sign up for Netflix directly.

They could even pay for the service through their iTunes accounts.

For Netflix, it was an opportunity to access Apple’s large customer base.

For Apple, it was a chance to provide their customers with more content in a convenient way.

A win/win/win approach…

#3 – Be Prepared

Much has been made of Netflix’s decision to offer streaming.

What is less well known, however, is how long it has taken consumers to catch up with the company’s vision.

As Hastings notes:

“In 1997, we said that 50% of the business would be from streaming by 2002. It was zero. In 2002, we said that 50% of the business would be from streaming by 2007. It was zero… Now streaming has exploded… We were waiting for all these years. Then we were in the right place at the right time.”

As Netflix shows, being in the right place at the right time has as much to do with preparation as it does to do with luck.

#4 – Think Recurring Income

One of Reed’s inspirations for Netflix came from the gym he belonged to…

The gym only had to attract a customer once, but it could continue to charge customer’s every month.

As long as a business is giving the customer something they want, subscription-based buyers will stay on board.

The fruits of this business model were shown recently when Netflix was able to raise their prices by just a $1 a month, but have an outsized impact on their profits.

Because Netflix was offering a great product that customers wanted, people were willing to pay a little extra each month.

#5 – Learn From Others

One of the principles I live by is the idea of modeling the successes – and learning from the failures- of other business leaders.

Experience is a great teacher,butyou can shorten the learning curve by learning from other people’s failures.

Reed Hastings learned from AOL, who was slow to adapt to the development of broadband – and suffered as a result.

It was a mistake he was committed to not repeating with Netflix.

Learning from the mistakes of others, Netflix has always carefully observed changes in its industry and adapted as needed.

#6 – Add Value For The Customer

One of the reasons that Netflix has proven to be so popular is, well, they are so good at giving the customer exactly what they want!

Hastings has noted that the real secret to Netflix’s success is that it adapts to its user.

The Netflix recommendation engine is very good at predicting what types of movies people are likely to want to watch…

As a result, 60% of the movies that are added to subscribers’ queues come from recommendations!

Netflix is more than just a movie rental service… It’s a place where you can find the right movie for you to watch.

With hit shows “Orange Is The New Black” and “House Of Cards,” Netflix has even become an innovative creator of new content.

It’s a development that few would have predicted when Netflix was simply the “DVD by mail” service…

Netflix has long practiced the maxim of going where the ball is going to be, not where it has been… And it will be exciting to see where that adaptive mindset takes the company in the future.

How are you adapting to changes in your industry?

In your corner,


]]> 0
Two HUGE Secrets Behind A $3 Billion Payday – What We Can All Learn From Apple’s Purchase of Beats Tue, 08 Jul 2014 18:09:56 +0000 Click to Read More]]> iStock_000017260839_SmallApple’s purchase of Beats may have made Dr. Dre hip hop’s first billionaire (at least according to him)…

And Dre isn’t the only one who has done very well from of the Beats buyout…

Co-founder Jimmy Iovine is also rapidly closing in on the nine-figure mark.

The purchase of Beats for $3 billion, made up of $2.6 billion in cash and $400 in stock, is BIG news – but why was Apple willing to pay so much for a company that makes headphones?

Here are some of the reasons why Dre and Iovine were able to bag themselves a $3 billion payday: 

#1 – Giving Customers A Better Result

There are few products that are quite as ubiquitous as headphones. You can purchase a pair for as little as couple of bucks, and they all do pretty much the same thing.


So I thought…

Dre and Iovine’s key realization was that there was a segment of the headphone buying market that wanted a higher quality – and higher prestige – product.

This was born out of their frustrations of spending countless hours in the studio perfecting the sound of their music, which then went unappreciated because their fans were listening to their songs on cheap headphones…

By charging a higher price for their headphones, Beats was able to elevate the perception of their headphones as a premium product.

And Beats hasn’t been the only one to benefit – by raising the price for headphones, consumers have benefited as well.


“Is that a misprint?” you might wonder.


At this higher price, Beats is able to reinvest in their headphone technology and give their customers a better listening experience.

That’s very difficult to do if you’re trying to compete on price by selling your product for only a couple of bucks, and trying to compete with the likes of Kmart and Wal-Mart.

#2 – People Buy for Other Reasons Than the Product Itself

Beats headphones are about more than the product itself…

They have also become a way for people to identify themselves as true music aficionados.

A status symbol.

When people wear Beats headphones – which are very recognizable – it shows that they take their music seriously.

The high price tag simply confirms that commitment.

The idea of headphones to “self identify” oneself isn’t original to Beats. In fact, it was Apple’s own white earbuds that were the original marker of status!

By wearing white earbuds, the owner showed that they were using an upmarket iPod rather than a generic MP3 player.

But over time, white earbuds have lost their distinguishing position – Apple’s purchase of Beats is a chance to regain that prestige…

The impact of Beats has also gone beyond the company itself.

Simon Cowell, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and Ludacris now have their own branded headphones.

The idea of a “branded” headphone would have been unthinkable before Dre and Iovine.

The Lesson To Learn From Beats

The lesson is this:

When you can identify a core segment of your customer base that is passionate about the product you sell, you can charge premium prices – provided you give them the ultimate result they are looking for…

Focusing on the result (not the price) is how you grow a business that dominates your market.

In your corner,


]]> 0