Predictable Profits - Advanced Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs Mon, 25 Aug 2014 20:23:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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Market Basket: How Customers Instantly Brought A Billion Dollar Company To Its Knees Thu, 07 Aug 2014 15:29:26 +0000 Click to Read More]]> Market Basket, a New England grocery store chain, is making headlines, but not for the reasons they would hope for…

And no one expected what would happen next…

No one.

You see, the chain was the subject of a long, ugly, and greedy feud between family members…

…with both sides vying for control of the successful company through board meetings, court appearances… and even a fist fight!


Lately though, they’ve been all over the news because the board gave the company president Arthur T. Demoulas (and a few other key leaders) the boot…

And many people were NOT happy about it.


Because people loved Arthur T.

And to make matters worse, it was the board controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, that ousted him…

This is where it gets interesting…

When word got out that Arthur T. was fired, both the company employees and customers went on strike.

Workers refused to make deliveries, walked off the job, and even asked customers to boycott the stores…

Just look at the barren shelves in this photo:

With no food in stock and customers refusing to set foot in the store, Market Basket is losing millions.

But what’s the point of all this struggle? 

Why were employees and customers so upset about losing Arthur T.?

Arthur T. Demoulas has a reputation for being a “people’s leader.”

He’s commended for having a “personal touch,” and appears to genuinely care for the wellbeing of his employees and the customers they collectively serve…

Under his leadership, prices were low, people were paid well, their retirement funds looked good, and all of that good financial stuff…

But much more importantly, he was an icon of the company’s culture.

His influence spread to the employees, and those employees treated customers in kind.

The largest criticisms surrounding his removal from the president’s seat were about the company focusing more on profits than customers…

(A very key point)

…About losing the very heart of their company philosophy, who, according to a blog by protesters is, “truly a philanthropist who cares more about people than he does money.”

If you make your customers feel special, valued, and appreciated – you’ll earn their loyalty and their hearts.

A Boycott Based On Principle

Customers didn’t stop shopping at Market Basket because of empty shelves or disappointed employees – they stopped because they had respect for those employees…

And respect for the principles that they thought the company was built on.

They’d built a relationship with the workers at their local Market Basket, and when those workers felt betrayed… so did the customers.

Customers stopped going to Market Basket because something intangible changed…

Without their leader – and the principles he stood for – the business no longer seemed trustworthy.

Customers didn’t want to associate with the kind of company that would throw out a man like Arthur T.

The Big Lesson

While all of this is still unfolding, it’s hard to say what will become of Market Basket, of the thousands of protesting employees, or of Arthur T. Demoulas himself…

What’s absolutely clear, though, is the importance of “people focused” leadership.

The Market Basket board sent a clear message (intentional or not) when they ousted Arthur T., and drove it home when they ignored the outcry to reinstate him…

The message was that delivering satisfaction
to the customers wasn’t important…

And when customers don’t feel like they are
the top priority, the business will suffer.

On the other side of the coin, though, when customers do feel truly appreciated and a company actually improves their lives – those customers will go to bat for the companies they love…

Or, as Market Basket is quickly finding out, they’ll stand up for the people that provided value, even when the corporate higher ups abandon them.

A Market Basket customer, Raymond Santos, told

“Customers like me believe that you shouldn’t put profits over people. And quite frankly, I don’t think I could stand to watch one person lose their job fighting for what they believe in.”

He promises to spend at least $100 at a Market Basket competitor for each employee fired over the protests… (Source)

Some people are even offering to donate money to help Arthur T. buy the company!

When employees are treated well, they pass that sense of caring onto the customers… And when customers are treated right, they want to see the company succeed.

It doesn’t seem like that difficult of a concept, but Market Basket is learning the hard way…

What can you do to make sure your customers are at the top of your priority list?

In your corner,


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Failed Conversion – How B2B Marketers Are Leaving Money On The Table Thu, 31 Jul 2014 18:18:31 +0000 Click to Read More]]> Source:


I like to keep my ear close to the ground…

Scanning for new ideas and powerful strategies, learning from the people I interact with and the businesses I frequent, and always listening for chatter about what’s going on in the marketing world…

And like anything else, some of what I hear is good, some is bad, and some is just plain wrong…

I was just flabbergasted when I saw a recent report from Demand Metric and Showpad, in which 60% of the surveyed B2B marketers and sales professionals named price as the top reason qualified leads don’t convert…


I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus here, but a group of marketers and salespeople blaming price?!?

Gimme a break.

Kind of sounds like they’re trying to keep the heat off themselves.

The real reason B2B leads don’t convert is an imbalance of value, simple as that.

VALUE = Perceived Benefit / Price 

If the price is higher than the perceived benefit, it isn’t worth paying for, and… if there isn’t enough value to be had, most customers are willing do go without…

But that’s just the start of it. Let’s dig a little deeper…

Why Leads Don’t Convert

There’s an awful lot of data to suggest that the biggest point of failure for lead conversion isn’t price at all – it’s the lack of nurturing and proper qualifying.

According to MarketingSherpa, 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales

Can you believe it?

And if those numbers weren’t dismal sounding enough, what about reasons behind that lack of conversions?

  • Only 56% of B2B organizations verify business leads before passing them to sales
  • 61% of B2B marketers send all leads to sales, but only 27% of those leads will be qualified
  • 68% of B2B companies haven’t identified their funnel
  • 79% of B2B marketers haven’t established a method of lead scoring

Obviously these marketers aren’t doing everything they could (and should) be doing to qualify, nurture, and convert their leads.

In fact, some sources say that:

48% of sales people never follow up with prospects!

That’s just CRAZY to me!

Especially considering that 80% of sales are made during the fifth to twelfth contact.

The Power Of Nurturing Leads

In the Predictable Profits Playbook, we look at the marketing/sales cycle like the three stages of a relationship: Dating, Engagement, and Marriage.

Following up with a fresh lead is like calling someone back after a first date…

…And continuing to reach out to them to begin forging a meaningful relationship.

You simply can’t get to the next phase of the relationship (Engagement – or the prospect turning into a customer) if you don’t reach out to them and go on some more dates!

But it goes even further than this analogy…

There are cold, hard facts to back this idea up:

  • Companies with strong lead nurturing efforts generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads
  • Lead nurturing can increase email response rate by 4-10 times
  • Nurtured leads produce a 20% average increase in sales opportunities vs. non-nurtured leads

See, this stuff really works…

What To Qualify, What To Nurture

I can’t help but wonder if some marketers simply don’t know who to qualify, or how to nurture those leads once they’ve been qualified…

It’s going to be a little different for every industry, and even each individual business, but here’s a short checklist for lead qualifying – applicable to pretty much any sales scenario:

  1. Is this lead the decision maker?
  2. Does the lead have the money to buy a product or service?
  3. Is the lead experiencing the problem that your product/service can solve?

…By answering those basic questions, you’ll be well on your way to qualifying a lead as a viable customer likely to make a purchase.

But then what?

Nurturing leads will depend even more on your industry and your ideal customer, but again, there are some basics that will work for most companies and most industries:

  • Develop a rapport by getting to know a prospects unique problem and the ultimate result they are after
  • Provide immediate value (usually by way of free educational material like whitepapers, webinars, guides, free reports, etc.)
  • Create a relationship based on trust (show that you are more concerned with helping them solve their problem than making a sale)
  • Stay in touch!

Just taking the steps to qualify leads – and once they’re qualified, working on building a lasting relationship with those leads – will put you well ahead of many, many marketers who let these opportunities fall by the wayside.

By nurturing leads effectively, you increase the perceived benefits of your products and services – and when the perceived benefit is high enough, prospects will see value

…And price will hardly be an issue.

In your corner,


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