Unique is an over used word!

In this increasingly competitive and crowded global market place it is tempting to claim our product or service is unique in order to stand out from the crowd, but is it true? The definition of ‘unique’ is ‘the only one of its kind’, ‘unlike anything else’, use the word to describe anything that doesn’t meet this definition and you are lying. Maybe lying is a harsh word but it could well be the way your audience perceives your claim and if they think you have lied with one word they may think that none of your claims are true.

There's not much to set this builder apart from the competition.

There’s not much to set this builder apart from the competition.

The trouble with the overuse of unique is that nobody really believes it any more so, to add credibility, the word has to be justified with an explanation.

Is Rosser Reeves to blame?

I believe that many business owners get hung up on the idea of the unique selling proposition (USP) invented by Rosser Reeves in the 1940s. Reeves applied the concept to advertising rather than to business as a whole. He believed that advertisements should sell and that to do so an advert needed to:

  • make a proposition to the reader: Buy this product for this benefit
  • the proposition should be distinguishable from competitors by being something that a competitor does not, or cannot, offer so therefore a unique offer
  • the offer needs to be strong enough to get people to take the action you want them to take i.e. buy, so should therefore sell

You can see therefore that it is the offer that has to be unique. This is a very different concept to thinking that your whole business or even one product or service has to be unique. Your product maybe very popular in the USA but you may be the only distributor in the UK which means that, whilst the product is not unique, you do have a unique selling proposition. You may not be the only pharmacist in town but you may be the only one open 24/7, therefore you have a unique offer.

The trick is to sell your unique offer without using the word

At least this builder is trying to find an angle.

At least this builder is trying to find an angle.

So try and find another way to describe what makes you, your product or service different. You could try an alternative word or phrase such as:

  • bespoke
  • original
  • rare
  • distinctive
  • exclusive
  • one-off
  • purpose built
  • personal
  • tailor made

Alternatively you could try to sum up your point of difference in a sentence or two of persuasive marketing copy. John Lewis sum up their offer in ‘Never knowingly undersold’, it’s immediately clear what is different about their business. Another good example would be Fedex’s ‘when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight’, or Bose’s ‘better sound through research’. An old Timex slogan, ‘it takes a licking but still keeps on ticking’ describes the robustness of the watch in a few, well chosen words. Apple has built it’s business on the principle of ‘Think Different’ Another good old one was Opal Fruit’s ‘Made to make your mouth water’. None of these are incapable of imitation but they are so owned by the brands that any attempt to copy is likely to result in legal action.

How can you develop an offer which you can ‘own’; an offer that sets you apart from your competitors; an offer which appeals to your target market? How can you communicate this offer without using the word ‘unique’? This is a topic we’ll be developing in my Plan for Results programme which launches soon. Find out more here.

Glenda Shawley helps owners of small businesses understand what matters to their customers and then communicate this in a way that turns suspects into prospects, prospects into customers and customers into fans.


Join my conversation

I wish I had £1 for every time someone has told me that ‘marketing doesn’t work’, ‘fliers don’t work’, ‘advertising doesn’t work’, my profits would show a significant increase! What we’re talking about here falls into the category of ‘marketing communications’. The key word is ‘communication’. When marketing doesn’t work it is often because the content doesn’t communicate.

Features don’t sell.

A typical flier lists features but does not join a conversation.

A typical flier lists features but does not join a conversation.

Take a look at the fliers that come through your door, many of them will just list the features of a product or service, usually as bullet points. So a cleaner might list, vacuuming, dusting, ironing; a printer will list leaflets, business cards, letterheads; or a cafe could list breakfast, coffee, sandwiches. These might work if they land on the mat of a person who is looking for that precise service at that particular time but that rarely happens. Fliers like these don’t get the conversation in my head going.

Speak to me.

If you want your marketing to get a response from your prospect it needs to engage them in a kind of conversation, initially one they have with themselves. You need to spell out what your prospect has to gain from using your services. So the cleaner, rather than listing all the features of his service, might encourage me by talking about ‘come home to a sparkling clean house and enjoy your time off’; the printer might say, ‘give your prospects a business card that conveys the quality service that you provide’ and the cafe might describe, ‘fresh, healthy sandwiches to set you up for a productive afternoon’. Whilst none of these is perfect they will at least make me think how having a cleaner might enhance my life, or whether or not my business cards are making the right impression or how hungry I am!

Ask yourself why.

Before you start developing your marketing communication ask yourself why your prospect might want your product or service. So I might want a cleaner so I can have time for my family or my hobbies; I might want the ironing done because I’d rather be in the garden; I might want some fliers to convert prospects into customers; I might want breakfast to give me the energy to tackle my to do list or I might want to enjoy a coffee with a friend.

Make a list of as many reasons why your prospect might want each of your products or services as you can think of. Somewhere in that list will be the message that will resonate with your target. Once you know the message then you just have to find the words to communicate it. Easy! Well maybe not but that’s the topic for another post…

Glenda Shawley helps owners of small businesses understand what matters to their customers and then communicate this in a way that turns suspects into prospects, prospects into customers and customers into fans.

People can’t buy what they don’t know about.

I’ve been watching Alex Polizzi – the Fixer again! (Don’t groan, it’s packed with good lessons in business.) In this episode Alex was helping a struggling pet shop in Wimbledon. There were all sorts of problems: uninviting windows and shopfront, illogical displays which bore no relation to sales, clutter, staffing issues and a  lack of management. However the one I want to talk about is a lack of marketing. If people don’t know about your business or all of its products and services they can’t buy them.

‘Marketing doesn’t work.’

In the programme we see an exchange between the owner and his partner in which the owner is defending his lack of marketing. In the ensuing argument he says, ‘I’m the one with the degree in marketing.’ Pardon? Did I hear that right? He has a degree in marketing but isn’t marketing his business! He thinks marketing doesn’t work. What did they teach him on that degree? I digress.

Marketing does work! It’s not easy. Not everything we do brings about the returns we want but that’s why we try and test and tweak.

Making your marketing work.

Marketing: getting attention

This postcard has been quite successful because the target market and her problem are clear at a glance.

Your marketing needs to resonate with your target customer. No-one else matters! So here are some questions you need to ask yourself before you start:

  • Who is my target customer?
  • What problem do they have that I can solve?
  • What impact does that problem have on them? What have they got to gain from solving that problem?
  • How do I solve that problem for them? Think of the benefits not just the features
  • How can I convince them that my solution is the right one? Think guarantees, testimonials,evidence etc.
  • What one action do I want them to take? For example, book an appointment, call for more information, download a checklist etc.

Do a sanity check!

When the owner of Creature Company finally got round to producing a flier we see an interested prospect asking for his phone number. It wasn’t on the flier! (No wonder his marketing doesn’t work).

Yesterday, at a networking event, a business owner gave out her flier, someone had to ask her when the event she was promoting would be taking place!

It’s easy to get things wrong. So when you’ve drafted your marketing material put it to one side for a period of time to give yourself the distance which will allow you to spot some mistakes. Then check:

  • You have answered the above questions
  • You have thought of the questions your prospect needs the answer to and have provided the answer or signposted where they can be found (e.g. visit our website)
  • That crucial information is there e.g. date, time and place for an event.
  • That your contact details are obvious. (You will be more trusted if you have a physical address and perhaps a landline number).
  • You have one clear, unambiguous call to action which is appropriate to your target market and their problem.

When you think you’ve got it right show someone else. Ask them if it is clear. Would they know what to do? Do they have any questions you haven’t answered?

Free offer 

Until March 31st 2015 I am offering a free check of one piece of marketing material. Just send it to blog@thetrainingpack.co.uk, no explanations, no questions, just your contact details. I’ll check it out and get back to you within 7 days.

How an email can disappoint!

Do you ever feel you’re fighting a constant battle managing your inbox? Having spent hours trying to get mine down to zero I was a little annoyed by an email I got today. It came with the headline, ‘Our biggest news ever!’ so I was expecting a big announcement.

Here's the teaser

Here’s the teaser

So now I’m expecting to click through to some big announcement. This what I got,

Where's the announcement?

Where’s the announcement?

This email comes from a guy whose current product is about managing time. The product is supplemented by training in managing time and having focus. This email has wasted my time and I’m tempted to unsubscribe.

Teasers can be good

I don’t think there is anything wrong with teasers as a marketing ploy but I don’t think they should masquerade as a big announcement. Teasers should build excitement in your target audience. I think they should give us just a little hint about why we should be interested and I think they should indicate how long we have to wait to get to know more.

Teasers that help the target market identify a problem they would like to solve are good. If the teaser rubs a bit of salt into the wound and promises a solution then the anticipation builds. We might be tempted to join a special mailing list to become the ‘first to know’ when the new product or service launches but we won’t do that if there’s no hint about the benefits to us.

Perhaps when the big announcement is eventually made I might be blown away, that is if I open the email. This headline enticed me in, I am intrigued to see what the subject line will be when the announcement is eventually made.

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable?

Networking works!

Over the years I’ve encountered a number of people who say networking doesn’t work. Rubbish! Today I’m going to prove that networking works on a number of different levels.

Selling my services

Press coverage

Gaining media coverage can be helped when the editor is in your network!

My diary is currently full of exciting projects. I have just completed a marketing campaign for a baker celebrating a centenary in business. The news release I sent out was picked up within the hour by one journalist who knows me through networking.

I’m working on marketing plans for a variety of businesses from business support organisations to restaurants, coaches and health and well being consultants. I’m about to launch a campaign for a client’s new coaching academy and am working with another organisation to offer some training of my own. I have completed a number of speaking engagements and have more in the pipeline, All of this work has come through my network.

Are these people I met yesterday? No most of them are not! Most are people I have built a relationship with over a number of years. Those whom I have met recently were recommended to me by clients or people who have known me for a number of years. That’s the point. Networking is rarely a quick win. It takes time to build relationships, to earn peoples’ trust and for them to need our services. The people who say networking doesn’t work usually expect to go to an event and sell their services instantly.

Helping my clients

I have a lovely new client who is looking to open a shop and online retail business. Retail is my first love so this is a really exciting project but in retail location is everything and she is planning to open in an area I know very little about. However, I do know a man who is an expert in her area. I asked him for help and I have just come back from an incredibly useful meeting with him and my client.

My clients frequently ask if I can recommend an accountant, a graphic designer, a printer and various other services. I almost always can because of my network. I may never become a client of some of these businesses but that doesn’t mean I can’t put work their way. My network can help me to deliver a better service to my clients.

Finding service providers

After almost 23 years living in our home we have a number of renovations that we want to do including replacing a shower room. My network has provided me with recommendations for four plumbers capable of doing the work. One of those plumbers has recommended a plasterer and an electrician for some of the other work we need doing. Those people will do a good job because they will want to work with the plumber on other projects.

I am a bit achy today because my personal trainer who I met at a networking event found some under used muscles in my workout yesterday! By working with him and my diet coach who I also met networking I am slowly getting into the shape I want to be and fit and ready for my holiday.

I am close to being ready to book another holiday through a travel expert in my network. I no longer buy named brands of skincare because I have suppliers in my network who have better products that are great value. Yet another contact will be repairing and redesigning some jewellery for me.

So if you thought networking doesn’t work please think again. If you work at it, give before you expect to receive and allow the time it takes for relationships to develop I’m sure you will find it works for you too.

Avoid the perils of the scatter gun!

The scattergun hits anything but the target!

The scattergun hits anything but the target!

A scattergun sprays bullets everywhere with very few hitting the target, this is how some businesses approach their marketing! They distribute a few flyers get no response so think flyers don’t work. They attend a few networking events don’t win any business so write off networking. They place a random advertisement don’t get any enquiries so that too is condemned to the scrapheap! The scattergun rarely hits the bulls eye and neither does haphazard marketing.

Marketing has to be highly targeted and repeated.

Have you ever been invited to participate in an advertising awareness survey? How many of the adverts could you recall with any degree of certainty? I suspect that the only campaigns you could remember  were the ones that coincided with a purchasing need or that bombarded you every time your turned on the TV or radio, visited the cinema, opened a newspaper or magazine and surfed the Internet. We are bombarded with marketing messages all day every day, unless they are very clever or very appropriate to our needs at that precise moment we will instantly forget them.

Your customers are just like you. Unless they are looking for your product or service at the particular time and in the particular place you are marketing they will forget all about you. Even your happy customers will forget about you unless you stay in touch!

Making your marketing work

If you want your marketing to work here are some helpful hints:

  • Be really clear what you want to achieve. Set SMART objectives for your campaign.
  • Ensure that your target is obvious. You don’t have to appeal to everyone, only those who may have a need for your product or service.
  • Don’t try to be too clever. Keep your message straightforward, explain the problem you solve and how your offer solves that problem.
  • Don’t try and sell more than one thing at a time.
  • Make it safe for people to buy, offer guarantees, publish testimonials etc.
  • Tell people what action you want them to take.
  • Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Tests show that it can take 5 or more viewings of a message before your target even recollects seeing it. One business measured how many touch points they needed to make a sale and it was 28!

So forget the scattergun a laser will serve you better! If you need help in laser focusing your marketing book your free no obligation, 30 minute consultation here.

3 questions you need to answer before signing up to a Groupon (or similar) deal

As small business owners we need new customers and advertising sales people can be very persuasive but hold your horses before you fall for their arguments, things may not be as rosy as they seem. I know of a number of business owners who have bitterly regretted signing a Groupon or similar deal.

On the face of it these deals seem brilliant. The company has a huge database of customers just waiting to do business with you and they can quote some impressive statistics about customer profile, repeat business, retention etc. But before you rush to sign up there are three questions you need to answer to your own satisfaction.

Think carefully!

Think carefully!

What will this discount cost me?

Typically Groupon will want you to discount your price by 50% and you will probably have to pay the company 50% of the discounted sales price for every sale redeemed.

Let’s see how that works. Let’s say I sell a training course at £150 per head. Groupon will want me to reduce that to £75, and will then charge me £37.50 for advertising the deal. So out of my share of £37.50 I have to pay the hotel a daily delegate rate of £55 per head and the learning materials cost me £2.50 per head so before I have even paid myself I have made a loss of £20 per head.

Perhaps my starting price isn’t high enough so let’s make my course £300 per head. At 50% discount I’m now charging a deal price of £150 which means I pay the company £75. So when I’ve paid the hotel and the learning materials I’m left with a profit £17.50 a head. Now if I’m going to give participants individual attention I probably don’t want more than 15 on the course so my maximum earnings are £262.50 and the hotel will probably want £55 of that for my daily delegate rate!

Without the deal I might struggle to sell all the places on the course but if I only sold 7 places I would make £647.50 at £150 per place or £1697.50 at £300 per place so suddenly it seems more worthwhile

Will this deal bring me new customers who will return to pay full price?

One of the problems with discount deals is that they tend to attract bargain seekers and often these people are more demanding than those who pay full price for a product or service. So you get paid less and have more hassle serving the customers. I know I’m generalising and may be being unfair to some customers but think about your own experiences. Have you ever had customers who have struck a hard bargain? Have those customers lowered their expectations because they have got a great deal? Unlikely!

Now if you have the sort of product or service that people will come back again and again for it may be worth selling the first purchase below cost price because of the value of future purchases. However it’s important to calculate how much repeat business you will need to generate before you have started to make a profit from this customer. Remember that you will need to capture the customer’s contact details and incur additional costs in marketing for their repeat business.

What will the impact on my existing customers be?

Have you ever chatted to someone on holiday or at an event and found out that they have paid half the price that you paid? How did you feel? Aggrieved I should think. That’s just how your regulars are going to feel when they find out that they could have got 50% off on a discount deal!

Perhaps your existing customers will see the deal and use it for their next purchase so the customer who was prepared to pay 100% of your asking price is now getting the same service for half the money. Not good business is it?

Making a deal work

I’m not saying a Groupon or similar deal can never work but you really do need to be careful before you sign up.

  • Negotiate hard to get the best possible terms.
  • Set a budget and limit the duration and volume of the offer to stick within that budget.
  • Capture the contact details of those who redeem the deals and add them to your database and then mail them often.
  • Find a way to reward your existing customers for their loyalty.
  • Be really clear on your numbers and be sure that a deal will bring you sufficient extra business in the longer term to make you a profit.

If you  would like to find other, less costly, ways to win new customers book a free 30 minute no obligation consultation here.