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Is Your Business Stuck on the Taxi-way?

Recently, there has been a flurry of activity with business owners approaching my partners and me about implementing various Internet marketing strategies for them to profitably grow their businesses. It’s a very welcomed flurry to say the least but just like everything else, there have been some eye opening inquiries, too.

The projects getting the most interest of late have ranged anywhere from simple website redesign all the way to perpetual product launches that include automated follow up sequences with integrated websites that specialize in continually launching a product or service. There have also been quite a few projects that involve “traditional” SEO work.

All good stuff that’s a lot of fun!

There have been some head scratchers tossed into the mix that I’ll attempt to transition into a learning experience through the use of a couple of metaphors that you should understand fairly well.

The Beacon that Lost Power in the Middle of the Night? Hardly!

One thing that always pokes through with business owners that DON’T take action is that they’re looking to nitpick everything to the point of indecision and paralysis by analysis. Most entrepreneurs and business owners got their businesses started by being decisive and taking calculated risks … being action takers!

Somewhere along the line, entrepreneurs lose sight of the “lighthouse” by becoming too self-important or believing they can do everything themselves (i.e. the “Superman Complex”) much more cost effectively than anyone else on the planet.

An easily recognizable set of symptoms when entrepreneurs and business owners allow themselves to get way off course include:

  • Typically requiring in depth explanations of every strategy & tactic
  • Line item pricing on everything
  • Multiple proposals for extremely similar projects
  • Overly detailed scopes of work … the rationale is that if there is enough detail in the SOW, they’ll be able to implement everything themselves without paying an outsider
  • Frequent conference calls to discuss the same items repeatedly

They are like a ship out at sea that was focused solely on getting to the lighthouse only to deviate off course to the point they rationalize the lighthouse “must have lost power” … not that they got so far off course the lighthouse became invisible.

The First Fork in the Road for Most Business Owners

There almost always comes a time where a business owner becomes downright confused and overwhelmed about how to best grow their business.

This is one of the first forks in the road many entrepreneurs experience.

I see it everyday … I have experienced it myself on several occasions because marketing isn’t as easy as most people perceive it to be. The more you want to accomplish, the more complicated it gets.  It’s not all about catchy slogans, combining nice colors together to create a flashy piece of creative, developing a funny video that becomes viral overnight, hosting fun events, etc.

Not to boast or brag, but it takes some serious mental horsepower to dig into your prospects’ brain, figure out what they’re thinking and why then determine what will get them to pull their wallets out of their pockets to spend money with you instead of your top competitors. That’s not something most business owners thought about when they started their businesses. A look at the number of business failures every year proves that, right?

Today’s Business Owners … Pilots?

Today’s business owners are a lot like pilots sitting on a taxi way waiting for the control tower to tell them which runway to proceed to in order to best reach their desired destination.

A monumental problem arises when the control tower instructs the business owner (pilot) to head to the proper runway to take off because the pilot chooses to argue with the control tower about the price for taking off and landing.

How ridiculous does that sound?

Now, other flights have to be delayed, re-routed, and inconvenienced all because one fussy pilot suddenly has a change of heart after boarding passengers onto the plane and getting clearance to take-off because of … pricing?

What just happened here?

The control tower simply gathered the information about where the pilot wanted to go then instructed him how to best get there within the flow of the other planes scheduled to takeoff and land.

The pilot wasn’t concerned with pricing when he requested clearance for the runway because he was solely interested in the destination and the best path to get there, right? Why did price become an issue when it was time to head to the runway?

The question begs are you like the pilot arguing with the control tower over things that matter very little in the grand scheme of things, or are you truly interested in the destination?

Which Marketing “Airline” Would You Choose?

When you’re looking to fly your business to prosperity, doesn’t it make sense to book a flight with someone that’s able to get you there safely and on time?

Just think … the more you argue and nitpick over pricing when it comes to profitably marketing your business, the further away you get from your desired “beachfront” destination.

PS–Just like Southwest, bags fly free on all our flights! ;)

This post is based on a couple of real world experiences along with conversations with others in the marketing industry and should serve as a warning to all marketers, web designers and programmers the globe over.

Since we’re all in tight times financially, scams are running rampant no matter what industry you’re in, and they happen in marketing just like any other industry.

Background

For the second time in about three years I’ve been exposed to a scam in the making that is camouflaged innocently for unsuspecting types. Luckily, my BS radar has gone off, and I have gotten some timely (sage) advice both times so the personal harm was relatively light.  For others, it hasn’t been so painless.

As you undoubtedly know, there’s a section of our population that will scam and scheme their way to riches no matter how many bridges they burn … that’s no surprise to anybody. What is a surprise is that there are entrepreneurs and business owners out there that pull worse crap on hard working people that are just trying to do a good job and earn an honest living.

I’m going to outline exactly how they try to scam hard working marketers like us in this article.

Innocent Beginnings

Typically, these scam artists operate a little like this:

Person A (we’ll call him Brad) has a good idea to create a website that’ll match a service provider (we’ll call them plumbers in this example) with a prospect seeking those services. Simple enough, right?

Brad wants to take data from plumbers such as their bio, city, state, zip code, services offered, and pricing to offer to visitors of his website to search for potential providers.

In order to make money, Brad may charge the service provider to be listed in their database or for access to the leads along with running ads on the site to generate revenue.

Nothing wrong with this scenario at all … it’s got the potential to be a very profitable business especially if Brad can attract enough traffic from relevant prospects.

The problems seep in shortly after the initial exploration phase however, and here’s how they go …

Find a Marketer or Web Designer with SOME of the Skills

What people like Brad will do at this stage is find an eager to please marketer or web designer to engage in a couple of “exploratory” talks about their project. Brad briefly discusses his project and hypes it as “this shouldn’t be that hard to pull of, right?”

Frequently, the unsuspecting marketer or web designer will agree that it shouldn’t be that hard provided there is someone that can help with the database and programming if it proves to be too complicated. Even if the marketer or web designer freely admits they don’t possess the complete expertise to complete the entire project by themselves, Brad won’t pay that any mind because he ultimately wants to jam somebody up.

Beginnings of an Outright Scam

The scam begins when Brad suggests “I’d like to see a prototype developed so I can check it out before moving forward. We have a ‘done deal’ if you can demonstrate a simple and functioning prototype.” Since the marketer aims to please, he starts working on the prototype.

The prototype will often be given an unrealistic (i.e. quick) deadline, and Brad will bitch, belly ache, and complain about anything shown to him because he’s looking to get over on you. It’s what guys like Brad do to keep their costs down while feeling more “in charge” and self-important.

Brad will also suggest “it would be great if we could get the search to stay within a certain radius of the zip code or city to make the results more relevant. That shouldn’t be too hard either because I saw the same thing on whatchamacallit.com, right?” That’s a good feature and a valid request, but that’s where things get more complex and will take more time to implement.

All the while, Brad will choose to focus on the fact that you agreed in the exploratory talks that it should be easy. He’s pitting your own words against you to plant the seed that maybe you shouldn’t charge fair market value for this project … it’s a common practice in every industry, but most people don’t realize it’s being done to them because they’re too deeply involved.

That’s What Contracts Are For, Right?

I can hear you saying, “that’s why you get a contract drawn up and outline a mutually agreed upon scope of work,” right? Even if a contract is drawn up, signed and an initial deposit is made, the scam is already on!

The web designer or marketer will design a rough prototype to show Brad, but he will always bitch, moan and complain about everything in an effort to drive down pricing because he knows the price tag to pull off everything will likely be in the tens of thousands when all is said and done if it’s to be done his “liking or to spec.”

This Doesn’t Meet My Specifications!

That’s the key phrase above … “done to his liking or spec” because nothing will ever be done to match the ever moving target even with a contract executed.

Brad believes that once work commences and there’s a deal in place, he can bitch his way into getting more and more done for the project as long as the demands don’t change the overall scope of work too much. More often than not, he’ll get his way because the marketer doesn’t want to lose his business especially now.

Then, if the project ever gets completed, the finished product won’t be remotely close enough to suit Brad or match the exact scope outlined in the contract. He’ll then threaten to sue because what was delivered wasn’t what he wanted and doesn’t match the scope in the contract so the designer will offer to find someone to complete the job on his dime to avoid the embarrassment and anguish of an upset client.

Once the designer finds someone that can complete the job, they end up taking a bath on the entire project. Brad wins, designer loses, but nobody is truly happy. Brad goes on to live happily ever after while the designer is left holding a very heavy bag of crap.

Let’s Stick Together!

I sincerely hope this hasn’t happened to you. Like I mentioned above, I’ve come across this exact scenario twice in the past three years yet I avoided getting involved in either project beyond the exploratory phase so I have no deep scars.  Others haven’t been so fortunate however.

As marketers, we need to stick together to help one another avoid the “Brads” of the world … they’re bad clients no matter how much they pay us. They typically present themselves as very knowledgeable overall, frequently boast about how wonderfully successful they are (that always seems to trigger my BS meter), will claim to be a “straight shooter” yet they act incredibly naive about their project. Don’t be fooled … they know it’s a much bigger project than they’re letting on. It’s all part of the scam.

Anybody who is looking to stick it to you from the outset is a bad seed, and they will gobble up your resources with their incessant demands and requests for “status updates” that usually involve useless conference calls or face-to-face meetings. At some point, you’ll find yourself having meetings about meetings that serve as nothing but hot air spewing from Brad to build himself up and try to make you feel guilty for not meeting his misguided expectations.

In many cases, rotten eggs like Brad get a lot of work done on the front end for free because they want to see the “prototype” developed before they agree to pay the first penny, and hard working web designers like you want to land projects like this because there’s hope for a bigger payday.  That’s where the trouble begins … don’t fall for this shell game!

What’s Your Take?

Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, I’d love to hear your story.  Drop me a line or leave a comment below.

About a month ago I attended a business networking group meeting for the first time.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting and left the event with a lot of new contacts that I hope to meet with again, there was one gentleman that seems to not understand proper email etiquette.

Every since that networking group meeting, which was the first time I’ve ever come across this dude, there has been an email every single day from him promoting his financial advisory business.

TWO OF THEM no less! He entered my name twice into his database and has been emailing every day like clockwork.

Costly Mistake #1A

I requested to be removed from the broadcast not realizing I was actually in there twice … so I’m at least down to one unrequested email per day instead of two.  I thought one request would remove both since they go to the same email address.  I guess not so lucky me! I get to send two removal requests for a series of emails I never wanted in the first place.

If you’re going to broadcast email every day, make the opt-out process simple and one time (preferably one simple click)! Don’t confirm the fact that someone opted-out while trying to make them feel guilty for doing so.  They’re asking you NOT to email again, and that’s part of the CAN SPAM regulations by the way.

Look, I truly admire this cat’s enthusiasm and persistence, but a networking group meeting is not a substitute opt-in for a broadcast list!

Introductory Promotions Are One Thing

If you know anything about me, you know I have no problem sending someone one (unsolicited) email that encourages opting into a list or promoting a free offer to someone that has never heard of you.

I’ve done it and will probably continue to do it when I believe I have a quality free offer that business owners can benefit greatly from.

That’s part of business these days, much like sending a letter in the mail, but I don’t encourage repeatedly emailing people that didn’t opt-in somewhere or specifically request more information (that’s spam).

Meeting in Person = Permission to Spam?

When you meet someone in person, you don’t magically obtain the right to add them to an auto-responder or broadcast list to hammer every single day to promote your stuff.

Sorry, that’s bad form regardless of how nice you may have been in person or how compelling you believe your offer/story to be.

You Know What They Say When You ASSUME!

The next time you’re at a networking group, don’t assume that because someone gives you their card that they’re asking for daily emails about you, your product or service, or your back story.  That’s what an opt-in form is all about … simply send a follow up email that lets people know you have an update service should they wish to get more information from you. Guide them to the form and be done with it!

Easy Rule of Thumb

Here’s a rule of thumb I tend to follow: would you pay the money necessary to type out whatever you plan to say in your daily email broadcast, print it out, stuff it into an envelope, pay for postage and mail it out?  That could get expensive quickly, right? Is your daily unrequested broadcast email THAT valuable?

Most of the time, these emails wouldn’t be worth the value of the ink on the paper, and the senders know it.

The Bottom Line

If you wouldn’t pay to put a stamp on it, you shouldn’t email it!

At least that’s how I look at introductory emails … just because email is free (for now) doesn’t mean you don’t weigh out the value of the communication as if it would cost the same as regular mail.

If you’re in the real estate industry, you’ll want to mark your calendar for Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 2 PM ET to join me for a free SEO webinar.  While the webinar is aimed more at real estate professionals, there will be plenty of information presented throughout the webinar to benefit most industries.

To get free access, simply visit: http://seNinja.com/seo-webinar

Be sure to tell your friends, too.  Since they know you, they’re invited!

Why I Hate Entrepreneurs

<rant>

I’m about to ruffle some feathers including my own because I’m guilty as charged … there I admitted it before the rant even begins. ;)

I hate entrepreneurs!

Why, you ask? Because WE are a pigheaded & illogical bunch of thinkers and business owners.  We have this deep seated belief that we can do things better, cheaper, or faster. A lot of the times, that’s what led us to starting our own business(es). We see things through a unique lens that centers around our own beliefs in our own abilities.  That’s not bad from a big picture perspective, but it’s idiotic when it comes to running a business.

We don’t see things like most people … most people tend to be a lot more logical in their decision making processes especially when it comes to business. Most people would say “I need a solution to this problem, and I need it as quickly as possible. My budget won’t exceed X.” Not the entrepreneur … we think, “I need a solution to this problem, but I don’t want to pay someone fair value to solve it for me because I know I can do it better if I put my mind to it.” It’s what drives us … we know we can do just about anything we put our minds to.  Why else would we sign up to run our own “show?” It’s not easy, but we cannot be deterred when the seed is planted in our minds, right?

If you’re an entrepreneur, you can relate totally to what I’m saying because you’ve been there … likely within the past week or two.

Here’s what I’m getting at … let’s say you’re looking to grow your business through better utilization of savvy advertising and marketing (no, there’s no pitch coming at the end of this). You evaluate several providers or partners and begin to reach out to the ones that seem like potentially good fits.

So far, so good, right?

You Can Do It Better, Right?

What typically happens after you talk with a few providers? You get that twinkle in your eyes and start to rationalize internally about how you can probably do this stuff yourself better, cheaper and faster! If you could just be shown the basics, you can take off from there. It happens more times than you’d like to admit.

How can I say this with such confidence? I’m an entrepreneur, too so I go through this every single time I’m evaluating potential solutions to any problem or obstacle. This is as much a “look in the mirror” exercise as anything. Luckily, I’ve realized that mowing my own grass, changing the oil on my car, or fixing a leaky pipe isn’t a good use of my time and others actually can do it more effectively and timely even though I could do the job. ;)

Where’s My “Friends & Family Discount?”

So after you’ve convinced yourself that you can do something better, cheaper or faster, what happens next? You back-track to beat down the providers you’ve already talked to on price.

You immediately discount their knowledge, experience and abilities to the point you now believe they should concede a hefty discount or better yet, show you how to do it for free because you’re a “good guy” or “swell gal.”

You want the best deal humanly possible even if it means your new found “friend” loses money in the deal because you have convinced yourself that you know enough about the subject to do a reasonable job so you’re “not going to pay what everybody else pays.” You want the “friends and family discount” even though you just met your new “best friend forever (BFF).”

To hell with them if they dare ask you “are you the low cost provider in your market?” You typically scoff at such a question and reply with something along the lines of “look, we’d be out of business if we tried to be the low cost provider in THIS industry.” Hello!!!

What’s the Solution?

The solution to this dilemma is simple, but we entrepreneurs don’t want to face reality often times. Simply calculate the value of each hour of your time or the value of your team’s time if you’re planning to off-load tasks to your people.

Don’t skimp on how much time it’ll take to learn AND implement the stuff yourself or for your staff to research and test everything they’ll need to know to become successful. It’s often 50% more time than you initially estimate, and you typically discount your time somewhat when you’re on the front end of this little exercise so add at least 25% to whatever number you came up with to start.

When others ask us what our time is worth, we’ll go high with the estimate.  When we ask ourselves, we’ll go lower because we’re trying to “save money.” You know I’m “preaching to the choir” because you’ve been there, right?

Bottom Line

The next time you call in a third party to help you overcome an obstacle with your business, be realistic about your expectations before you make that first contact. Be HONEST with yourself!!!

Remember to evaluate what your time is truly worth and whether it makes sense to even call someone or if you’re going to try to be he-man and attempt it yourself.

Stop trying to low-ball everyone to “save a nickel” here and there because you’re so smart and gifted. It’s great that you’re smart and gifted, but you can’t do everything yourself because there simply aren’t enough hours.

</rant>

PS–For the record, I don’t really “hate” entrepreneurs … I just have a supreme disliking for the trait we all share of believing we’re the best possible solution to our own problems. We wouldn’t have problems if we were already fully capable of providing the solutions, right?

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