Predictable Profits - Advanced Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs Thu, 02 Oct 2014 01:41:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 Tips For Becoming A “Media Sweetheart” In Record Time Fri, 26 Sep 2014 16:27:11 +0000 Click to Read More]]> Meet the pressGetting in with the media can be a boon to any small business. It establishes you as an expert, local celebrity, or industry authority…

…and you benefit from potentially thousands of dollars in free publicity… without spending a single red penny.

But I’ve got to warn you: going about it the wrong way will keep you toiling in obscurity.

Journalists are notoriously about as cuddly as a desert cactus, they always have their BS detector on, and the more you tell them they *should* do something, the less likely they are to do anything at all.

Believe it or not, when working with journalists, the louder and more persistent you are, the higher your chances are of just becoming background noise…

The key: sell them on why you’re worthy of media attention right off the bat.

Getting noticed by the media is not as tough as it sounds. The trick is to follow a few simple rules:

1. You Have A Story In You

Newspapers have to fill a lot of space and TV stations have to fill a lot of time. Not every day is full of fires, mayhem, scandal, and skateboarding puppies.

  • Own a pawn shop? How about a pitch on what to watch for when buying and selling a used tablet?
  • Own a heating and cooling business? As the seasons change, pitch a story about making sure your furnace is clean or how to check that your air conditioner is ready for summer.
  • You’re the expert and you have a lot of knowledge to offer. Think of how you can help consumers (and assignment editors) while promoting your business at the same time.

2. Look A Little Closer

Sure, you’re familiar with the local newspaper everyone reads or the TV station everyone watches, but look a little closer at media outlets in your town.

  • Are there business magazines?
  • Maybe alternative newspapers?
  • How about a neighborhood newsletter?
  • Many places have online-only publications – do a little legwork beyond the obvious.
  • Try the free rack in your local grocery store to see what other publications are out there.
  • Do a quick Google search or ask your local newspaper if they also have niche publications where you would be a good fit.

3. Know The Audience

A little research can go a long way in finding out what kind of readers/viewers your local news organization has.

  • Traditionally, newspaper readers tend to be a little older, while online-only publications tend to draw a younger readership.
  • Moms of school-age children tend to watch morning news shows. Older people traditionally watch the noon news.
  • Think about what your business sells and who would be your prime customer. If you own a children’s clothing store, see about booking a spot on a morning news show featuring the latest fashions. If you run a home-health business, look at getting on a noon broadcast.
  • Knowing who’s consuming the media you’re looking to get in on goes a long way in making sure the right eyes are seeing you.

4. Craft A Press Release

Most of the things that get coverage come from press releases and tips… And who better to fill in your local scribe than you?

It doesn’t have to be fancy or a Pulitzer-Prize quality paragraph, but it does need to have the basics: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

5. Shun The Ad Talk

When you write your press release for the media, sell your business without selling.

A paragraph that reads like ad copy will get passed over by an assigning editor, or they’ll forward it on to their ad department…

Take a few minutes to read stories in a local newspaper to get a feel for the style.

If you can write your press release as close to that style as possible, it’ll have a better chance of getting published because the editor will have to do less work… And making it easy for the editor is always a good thing!

6. Keep It Simple

Your business is your baby, and you could likely write pages upon pages about it.

Unfortunately, your average reporter won’t have time (or interest) to read pages and pages… And if their eyes start glazing over – forget it, because all your hard work will be pushed aside. You’ve got to keep it simple to grab attention…

Keep your press release to about one page maximum, and stick to the basics (an award you’ve won, an event you’re having, a community service you’ve performed, etc.).

The person reading it will want to find the hook right off the bat.

7. Speaking Of Hooks

You don’t want to keep it too simple…

Here’s what won’t work: “I’ve opened a new restaurant. You need to do a story.”

Here’s what has a better chance of working: “I spent 25 years as a guitar tech for Metallica. Now I’m back in my hometown and I’ve opened a guitar store that’s designed for the expert player, as well as the beginner. I invite people to come in, have some coffee, play the guitars, and talk shop.”

Now we’re talking. You have a story.

You didn’t just open your business on a whim one day…

Did you reopen the bakery your parents closed 20 years ago? Did you bring in a custom wood-oven from Italy for making pizzas?

You and your business have something special going on, and here’s your chance to let the media know what that is.

8. Think Visual

When it comes to pitching to a television station, you have to be able to provide them with a visual…

TV stations are different than newspapers in the kind of stories they run because there needs to be a compelling video to go with the information.

If there’s something that can go with the story you’re pitching that would make great video, be sure to mention it – it will catch the eye of the assigning editor.

9. Email Is Your Friend

Email your press release, or fax it, or snail mail it, or have it delivered by a carrier pigeon, but for the love of Pete (you know – that guy) do not.

No, seriously… Even if it seems so easy, put down the phone…

Here’s why: You’re busy. You’re handling customers… Now the phone rings and you answer it, but you’re only half paying attention. Hey, it’s a pitch. You take down a number and tell him you’ll call back as soon as you take care of the other issues. When you are ready to call back, the tiny piece of paper with the phone number on it has ended up… who knows where. Now you have to hope he calls you back, and if he doesn’t, well – on to another company. That’s why having a pitch on paper is so important.

A journalist can get to email at a time that’s convenient. It’s a written reminder. Everything he needs to know is right there…

10. Be Available

Here’s a little known tidbit: any time a journalist wants to interview someone at a chain store, it’s a mess of red tape.

You have to get clearance from corporate, who then has to clear it with the store, then eventually get back to you.

It’s time-consuming and often not worth the trouble.

That’s why journalists love to talk to locally owned businesses. If you own a toy store, it’s possible that a news organization may just call you unsolicited around Christmas to talk about hot toys. Look, I know it’s a busy time for you, but be available…

A media interview does not have to be a three-ring circus.

A newspaper interview can take minutes over the phone. A television interview can take just a few minutes, and they’ll usually come to your store.

If you tell a media organization you’re too busy for an interview, one of your competitors won’t…

And when it comes time to do another story, they won’t even bother to call because you’ll be known as not being media friendly.


Following just a few simple rules can lead to success in getting in on media coverage.

Once you’ve proven you’re media savvy to a news organization, you’ll become their go-to every time they’re doing a story that relates to your business – and that’s some priceless publicity.

…It’s all part of establishing predictable profits and dominating your market!

In your corner,


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Decision Simplicity: Why You Need to Make Your Message Easy To Understand Fri, 05 Sep 2014 20:55:45 +0000 Click to Read More]]> Simpler isn’t necessarily better…keep it simple stupid symbol

But being too complicated is ALWAYS a bad thing.

Whether it’s your Unique Advantage Point, your guarantee, your terms of service…

Or any other part of the information you present to your prospects and customers, you’ve got to make your message easy to understand.

…And “easy to understand” isn’t just about simple and straightforward messaging. It’s also about sending the right messages at the right time.

Unfortunately, some marketers totally miss this point and overwhelm their prospects with emails packed with graphics and extraneous info… or websites loaded with features, colors, and images that distract the viewer from the call to action…

In 2012, Corporate Executive Board conducted a study to find the factors that lead to “sticky” customers – that is, customers who follow through with intended purchases, repeat business, recommendations to others, etc. – and found that the top factor was, of course, “decision simplicity.” (Source)

Prospects don’t want to be bombarded with technical information and jargon.

Sure, it’s a good idea to have all of those specs and details available somewhere on your website, but it won’t help convert people who are looking for a simple answer to the question:

“Will this product or service solve my problem?”

Other questions (seeking equally simple answers) might include:

  • Can I trust this company?
  • What makes this product a better and different than the competition?
  • What do other people like me have to say about it?

Your messaging should address these questions directly, without extra fluff and complication…

…And without overwhelming your prospects and customers with too much information either.

One website that makes this easy is Visual Website Optimizer. Go to their website and they quickly tell you what they do, how it works, and why they are different.­­


There’s a happy balance that marketers can find, where there’s enough communication to stay relevant, but not so much that recipients feel hassled.

After all, being bombarded by messages – no matter how easy they are to understand – will also cause people to shut down and tune out…

And if they do that, the messages aren’t even being absorbed, much less understood…

So many companies are far too concerned with pumping up engagement, and in an effort to interact with their customer base, they end up pushing them further away.

Most of the time, customers are only after solving their own problems and meeting their own needs – so if you’re not helping them do that, they’ll ignore your message…

If it’s not relevant and immediately understandable, it’ll just get pushed aside with the rest of the noise.

The data doesn’t lie…

That same CEB study mentioned above found that:

A 20% increase in decision simplicity translated to a 96% increase in customer loyalty… and a 115% increase in recommendations to others.

See? Simplicity really does go a long way…

What can you do to make your product or service the obvious choice?

…And maybe even more importantly, how can you present that information in a way that is easily – and immediately – understood by your ideal customer?

Keep these questions in mind whenever you’re creating your marketing material, and you’ll be closer to the kind of messages that resonate with prospects simply and effectively, and provide just the information they’re after.

In your corner,


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Niche, Community, And Customer Service – Lessons From The Drumming Industry Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:59:09 +0000 Click to Read More]]> iStock_000005233517_SmallCharlie likes to refer to me as his “rock star” assistant, and while I may not be selling out arena shows (yet), I am actually a musician… A drummer, to be precise.

Since I’ve been working with Charlie, I realize more and more just how much of a niche market the percussion industry is – and see all sorts of lessons that marketers and business owners could learn… from drum companies they’ve probably never heard of…

First, let me start with a little anecdote:

Just the other day, I ordered a t-shirt from Aquarian Drumheads. I liked the shirt, sure, but my real interest was the promotional program that offered a free snare drum head with any merchandise purchase…

See, this isn’t a company I’m very familiar with, and the prospect of getting a head to test out (instead of buying one – and maybe not liking it) helped me make a purchase decision. When I made it to checkout, though, there wasn’t any indication that the head was included in my order.

I sent a quick email, and to my surprise, I got a reply in under and hour… 

But this wasn’t just a reply from a customer service department; it was a reply from Chris Brady, an A&R rep for the company… Chris isn’t necessarily famous in the drumming industry, but I’ve heard his name mentioned by professional drummers I admire, and always in a positive light – he’s got a reputation for being helpful and creating solutions…

Now, I haven’t received the package yet, but I have no doubts that all will be right in the end, even if I have to reach back out to Chris (as he suggested I do)…



Word Spreads Fast

Just a small amount of name recognition, in a “hand-me-down” sort of way from other “experts,” was enough to put me totally at ease…

And that’s the thing about a niche industry (and every industry has its niches): people share stories, people are connected, and reputation spreads like wildfire…

Even though drummers have their different preferences about brands or what gear they use, we’re always discussing equipment, holding friendly debates about the pros and cons of the HUGE array of products available to us…

The point is this: people talk. No matter what the industry, when people use the same sets of tools, services, etc., word of mouth is unavoidable. Your niche is connected, and if you aren’t serving them genuinely, they’ll let each other know in an instant.

The same goes for the opposite, though…

If you treat your customers with dignity, offer them real solutions, and go above and beyond to provide solutions, they’ll sing your praises through the streets!

Information Creates Loyalty

A couple years ago, I bought a Gretsch snare drum on EBay… I love the drum, but the seller didn’t have much info about its year, model, or anything else. On a whim, I sent an email to Gretsch HQ with a photo of my new drum and a humble request for some background info…

The reply astounded me. Not only did they congratulate me for my purchase, they promised to dig up some information about the now-discontinued model. A day later, I had a PDF of the original spec sheet sitting in my inbox…

I didn’t even make a direct purchase from them, or provide a single cent to their bottom line…

But because the good folks at Gretsch understand that the more I know about their products, the more I appreciate them, they gladly provided the (difficult to find) information… And gave me yet another reason to love their company!

Community And Friendly Competition

Now, I’m not totally a brand loyalist when it comes to my gear (though some of my peers certainly are), but I do know that different products – and even brands – serve different musical purposes…

And it seems like most companies in this very specific niche understand that too…

They don’t need to bash each other, or even compare themselves – they just have to differentiate by focusing on own their unique look, sound, and features.

These companies understand that young drummers will see – and more importantly, hear – what their idols are playing…

They understand that more experienced drummers will compare, contrast, and diligently research products themselves…

The role of their marketers is to provide the means to do this through demo videos, factory tours, “in-progress” pictures, sponsoring clinics, and endorsements for the well-known drummers who stand behind their particular brand…

It’s not about determining who’s “better” – it’s about helping would-be customers make the choice that they’re going to be the most satisfied with.

In my experience, this has been universally true for the “big name” companies and the “boutique” companies alike. There’s a sense of community here: we’re all passionate about the same thing, and just want to buy and play gear we can truly appreciate.

These companies win customers by NOT emulating their competition, and striving to be the best version of themselves they can be – homing in on what makes them truly unique, and letting their prospects choose for themselves.

…Combine this kind of customer empowerment with the level of service I’ve experienced…

And it’s no wonder people form real, lasting relationships with the drum and cymbal companies they do business with.


I know this all pretty specific stuff, and sprinkled with brand names and jargon you might now know, but I’m willing to bet your industry is too…

So what can you do to instill trust in your prospects, even through a simple email response? How can you set your company apart from the competition so specifically that you don’t just gain customers, you gain the right customers?

…And maybe the most important question…

How can you help turn your niche into a community?

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How Referrals Built An Empire: The Story Of Dropbox Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:00:56 +0000 Click to Read More]]> Refer A Friend Key Shows Suggest To PersonMany of the most successful companies out there have found a way to deliver win/win advantages to their customers…

They figure out a way to improve the customer’s experience and value while also increasing their own profits and/or customer loyalty.

Some companies do this with awesome guarantees, others with loyalty programs or customer communities. Still others achieve this win/win through prestige, peace of mind, education, or reward programs…

There’s no shortage of ways to make a mutually beneficial relationship for your business and the customers you serve…

But what about a win/win/win? 

A triple win!

Dropbox has achieved exactly that with their method of referral rewards…

The online storage company figured out a way to provide a win/win/win for themselves, their current customers, AND incoming referrals – and it’s catapulted them to the forefront of their industry.

According to Drew Houston, the company’s CEO, implementing the referral program in 2010 increased users for 100,000 to 4,000,000 in just fifteen months, and increased signups by an ongoing 60%! (Source)

Now their numbers are in the range of 300 million users, with 100 million new users in the last six months!!!

Talk about a powerful strategy…

Here’s how:

Win #1 – Dropbox Wins A Customer

By giving current users a chance to refer their friends and colleagues, they’ve created a channel for attracting new customers that runs largely on word of mouth and company reputation.

They’re earning new customers without spending a ton of money on marketing, and because of the referral perks (I’ll get to that in a moment), these new customers are coming onboard already happy to be doing business with Dropbox!

Win #2 – Customer Perks And Becomes A Hero

When an existing customer makes a successful referral to Dropbox, they gain two very important advantages…

First, they get a free gigabyte of storage if their referral signs up.

This bonus storage can stack with multiple referrals, up to 32GB, and is a great reason for existing customers to invite their friends to join Dropbox – the more people they get to join, the more they get out of their accounts!

DB referral

But the even bigger advantage comes with the opportunity to be a hero…

When an existing customer refers a friend to Dropbox, they’ve giving their friend an “insider’s advantage” with an offer to get 500MB of bonus space that they otherwise would never receive by just visiting the website on their own.

By arming the customer with a preferred advantage they can take to their referrals, you are making them a hero.

People love to feel appreciated and helpful, and Dropbox has given its customers a great chance to do just that…

Win #3 – Referral Shares The Perks

As we just said, when your referral signs up for Dropbox, they automatically get an additional 500 megabytes in their account!

Making them happy and you a hero!

Because your referral enjoys more of an advantage coming in as a referral – versus just signing up for the service on their own…

And this positive experience will make new users even more likely to share Dropbox with others who could benefit (further increasing their own benefit as well!).

Heck, some 2.8 MILLION referral invites went out in April 2010 alone, and that’s when they were just getting started!


See, just asking for a referral is one thing – and is certainly useful for building leads and find new customers…

But when you can provide your customers with a method to both increase the value of the service they’re already using AND gain the satisfaction of helping others…

They will actively (and gladly) refer people to your business in droves.

How can you create a win/win/win for your business?

In your corner,


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New Starbucks Twist: Would You Like College With That? Tue, 12 Aug 2014 10:00:48 +0000 Click to Read More]]> iStock_000027797913_SmallStarbucks likes to do things a little differently…

Like offering to send its employees to college – for free.

All of Starbucks’s 135,000 employees (who work at least 20 hours a week) can now apply to have their entire college tuition paid.

The program is called the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, and partners the coffee company with Arizona State University.

It’s a move that is likely to prove popular with the company’s employees. According to Starbucks, 70% of its workers are either students or would like to study.

The payoff for Starbucks is a more skillful, more loyal, and more motivated workforce. It should also help reduce the amount of employee turnover – a serious cost and management headache for most businesses in the food service industry…

For most companies, offering free college tuition would be revolutionary…

At Starbucks, it is more like business as usual. Here are some other ways the company has thrived by pursuing its own unique path:

Treat Employees Like Partners

Fred Allen once noted that when you, “treat employees like the partners, they act like partners.”

It’s advice that Starbucks has taken to heart. Free college education isn’t the first time the company has provided a perk that’s unheard of in the food service industry.

Any employee that works more than 20 hours week is also eligible for health insurance. In 2009, this cost the company as estimated $250 million, but CEO Howard Schultz believed it was a price worth paying for a happier and healthier workforce.

Growing Through Word Of Mouth

Starbucks has proven to be exceptional at growing their business without spending a lot on traditional advertising. Instead, it has relied on word of mouth marketing and developing its brand…

This strategy worked well in the past, but it has worked even better in the social media savvy world we live in today.

Starbucks has its own highly active Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter social presence. They also maintain a blog to keep customers up to date with developments at the company.

On Starbucks Ideas, customers can share their own ideas for the company, and other customers can then choose to vote these ideas up or down…

Ideas range from the number of loyalty stars that should be earned per beverage, to requesting unsweetened almond milk… It’s not only a fantastic way for Starbucks to engage its customer base, but also an excellent source of free market research.

Make Necessary Changes – Even If They Are Uncomfortable

In 2007, Starbucks was faced with a crisis. Fierce competition from the likes McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts (and a tanking economy) meant that the company was in trouble…

Additionally, the company’s reputation as the premium choice for coffee drinking had been damaged. For a company that was charging above average prices, this was a serious problem…

To reinvigorate the brand, Schultz took bold action… He closed every single Starbucks cafe for three hours – worldwide – while all of the baristas were simultaneously retrained.

This was unprecedented for an operation the size of Starbucks, but Schultz believed it was necessary if Starbucks was to ensure consistency and restore its reputation.

In a presentation put on for the London Business Forum (shown below), he discusses the importance of a company “recapturing their entrepreneurial DNA.”

Putting The Customer First

The urban sociologist Ray Oldenberg defined the term “the third place” as somewhere that is not home, but is not work either…

It’s a place where community and public life is fostered, and Starbucks has worked hard to make sure that their cafes have become one of these third places.

From comfortable seating, to cool music, to free wifi – everything about Starbucks is designed to make sure that customers enjoy their time at the cafe.

Customers’ unique preferences are also taken very seriously… They can choose from 87,000 different drink combinations, and the well-trained baristas at Starbucks are able to make any one of them.

These innovative strategies have taken Starbucks from a single store to some 20,891 locations in 64 countries…

Along the way, they have created a blueprint for how a company can achieve exceptional growth… while sticking to their guns and doing things their own way.

What are you doing make your company stand out?

In your corner,


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Why FedEx Is Still Thriving – And What We Can Learn From Their Success Fri, 08 Aug 2014 18:03:23 +0000 Click to Read More]]> iStock_000021245668_SmallFedEx has built a massively successful business by consistently delivering on promises…

They recently lived up to that reputation once again by reporting higher fourth quarter earnings than expected…

But FedEx’s journey to entrepreneurial success story hasn’t always been easy…

On his way to building one of the most successful companies of the 20th century, founder and CEO Fred Smith had to overcome some serious obstacles.

It’s this struggle, and the determination to live up to the company motto of “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight…” that makes the FedEx story such a compelling entrepreneurial tale.

Here are some of the key lessons we can take from FedEx’s success:

1. Have Faith In Your Ideas (Even If Others Doubt Them)

When Fred Smith was a student at Yale University, he wrote a paper that outlined his idea for an overnight delivery system. Unfortunately, the paper was less than well received… and Smith got a C.

While the teachers may have not been able to grasp the significance of his vision, the up and coming entrepreneur wasn’t deterred….

He knew the value of his idea. When he had the opportunity, Smith pursued his dream with all the resources at his disposal.

2. Sell On Value, Not On Price

There’s a story told to new managers at Federal Express that typifies the way the company runs its business…

If a bear and an alligator are having a fight, the winner is likely to be determined by where the fight takes place… If the fight occurs in the swamp, the alligator will almost certainly win. Switch the terrain to open land and the bear has the upper hand…

Bill Razzouk, Vice President of U.S. Sales, describes how this applies to selling at the company:

“Salespeople can avoid swamps by
learning how to sell value, not price.”

Salespeople at FedEx are taught to understand their customers’ businesses – so they can offer a solution that enables them to achieve their ultimate result.

Federal Express doesn’t try to be the cheapest option – it aims to be the best option.

3. Be Willing To Overcome Obstacles

Throughout his career, Smith overcame obstacles when most others would have simply given up.

This resilient spirit was tested not long after graduating from college. Rather than go directly into business, Smith chose to join the U.S. Marine Corps and served 27 months in Vietnam…

He was involved in 200 ground support missions and become a decorated war hero…

Upon returning home, he took the lessons he learned about overcoming adversity and applied them to business, taking over his stepfather’s aircraft sales and services business.

His first big break came in 1971 when the Federal Reserve agreed to moving packages containing cash overnight.

Using part of his inheritance, he purchased two Falcon 20 jets and called his new business Federal Express.

Unfortunately for Smith, shortly after purchasing the jets the deal with the Federal Reserve collapsed and he needed to scramble to recover.

This pattern of hiccups and collapsed deals was repeated often during the early years of the company… In fact, Federal Express was on the verge of bankruptcy three separate times.

Each time, the company was saved at the last minute when Smith was able to obtain new financing.

4. Deliver Results Every Single Time

Federal Express understands that in order for the business to succeed, they HAVE to be consistent…

Their customers expect their package to arrive on time, every time. This commitment to consistency paid off when the company was (once again) on the verge of bankruptcy:

A woman called FedEx frantic with worry… It was her wedding the next day, but her dress was on the West Coast. The problem? She was on the East Coast. 

Every other delivery company she called said that delivering the dress on time would be impossible, but FedEx employees had been trained to deliver – even when no one else would.

At great expense, they hired a private jet and had the dress delivered to the woman.

But FedEx didn’t know that the woman was the daughter of Eastman Kodak (the founder of the Kodak Company). Attending her wedding were Fortune 500 CEOs and various other captains of industry…

When these guests heard the woman’s gushing praise for the company that had delivered when no one else could, they were naturally intrigued. The corporate clients FedEx won over as a result of this one delivery kept the company in business!

Achieving these exceptional results isn’t easy.

To achieve this type of consistency, FedEx has a relentless focus on quality and minimizing mistakes. Even small delays can upset other parts of the chain. To succeed in such a complex environment, Federal Express just can’t allow itself the luxury of making any errors…

FedEx’s entrepreneurial journey has seen the company grow from two jets to a global giant, delivering over 1.2 billion packages a year and employing more than 300,000 people.

They are a prime example of what can be achieved when you commit to excellence and follow up with perseverance and passion.

In your corner,


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