Marketing Handbook

MarketingHandbookFollowing up from last week’s post Moments several of you have asked about the book I mentioned. The book is called the Marketing Handbook and it is a multi-author book on marketing professional services published by BNI Building News. I wrote the section of the book on Client Relationship Management and lead tracking. If you are working in the design and construction industry let me encourage you to pick-up a copy.

Over the past several weeks I have enjoyed reading several great articles in the blogosphere, so this week I wanted to share some of my favorites with you:

Not Everybody has to Like You
Valerie Conyngham from The Cecil Group writes a great post about what it takes to win work in a down economy. My favorite part of the article is a discussion on the problems that can occur when a firms’ mantra changes from “from niche, niche, niche to diversify, diversify, diversify.” 

How important is it to be first on Google?
Mark Buckshon of Construction News and Report shares a great chart that denotes the percentage of clicks that you will receive based on your location in Google search results. I’ll tell you here that the first position gets clicked on 56.36% of the time. Do you know what your chances are of being clicked on if you are in the third position?

Networking for Success
Mel Lester of the Business Edge discusses key principals of networking that everyone should know. I especially agree with his belief that networking shouldn’t be all about selling, rather about building relationships.

The Dull Edge of Experience
How do our clients define experience? Bruce of PSMJ Resources considers how you would feel about selecting a physician if they had “performed the operation you needed 27 years ago.” He then uses this as an analogy for how to win work based on your individual or firm experience. 

Hermanisms: Writings of a Failure Expert

hermanismsI was speaking at AIA Design DC this past week when I meet John Herman. After our brief conversation he handed me a copy of his latest book: Hermanisms: Axioms for Business & Life. Now most of you know that I am not the least bit cynical, but when someone gives you a free copy of their book it usually means that it is a really lousy book. So I stuffed it in my bag with the intent of scanning through it before sharing it with the recycling bin. Sitting in traffic on the way home I picked it up and started flipping through the pages only to find it difficult to put down. Two days later I finished the 285 page book and would easily describe it as one the best business books I have read in years!

The Failure Expert

John is a self described failure expert, and rightfully so. Many of the stories in his book come from the lessons he learned while he was the owner of a consulting firm that worked with over 1,000 failing businesses (think bankruptcy, not just having a bad year). His “Hermanisms” recount many of the stories and lessons that he learned while cleaning up the mess these firms were in, and provide a unique look at the causes and effects that the decisions we make have on our businesses.

Knowledge learned through stories

One thing I enjoyed about Hermanisms was the use of stories to make a point. John is clearly not just a great story teller, but someone that knows how to help you understand more about yourself and business through the telling of a story. The stories in his book are crisp and to the point, yet ring true to life as they make his points come alive through humor and as you see the pain others have gone through.

Hermanism #60

When it comes to business, I especially enjoyed Hermanism #60: “A great idea, talent, hard work, good timing, help from others, immense publicity, and luck are sometimes all you need to make it.” How often have you had a great idea only to realize that in order for it to succeed you needed so much more?

Enough said, let me encourage you to just buy the book (You can’t beat the used price at Amazon.com). Just be forewarned: you also might not be able to put it down.

Return the Favor

Has someone ever helped you to the point that you sat at your desk and tried to think up ways to return the favor?

One such time happened for me in 2006 when a friend worked to get me on a team for a major project that resulted in an $800,000 contract from my company.  What took her 15 minutes (time spent selling someone else on using my firms services) would have cost me 40 hours of phone calls, multiple lunches, and numerous meetings, and even still I wouldn’t have been guaranteed a spot on the team.  Needless to say, I was not only thankful to my friend for her work, but I literally sat at my desk working up ways to return the favor.

 The key to this story wasn’t how she helped to get me on the team; it is how your actions can motivate other people to help you.  Those 15 minutes of work have resulted in dozens of referrals and project leads as I have worked to return the favor.  As my friend focused on helping me, she was developing a mutually beneficial relationship that resulted in me working hard to help her.

If you are looking to increase your effectiveness, start by helping other people in your network.  What can you do today that will leave someone else pondering what they can do to return the favor?

The Best Unknown Websites – PART 2

It was great to have several thousand people stop by the other week to check out the first part of this series, The Best Unknown Websites. As I noted in the previous post, it seems that every week I am telling someone else about one of my favorite little known websites, so this week I wanted to add to my list and share a few more of my favorites.

As a reminder, you are always welcome to sign-up to receive these weekly posts via e-mail using Google FeedBurner. I hope that you find a website that you will use for the next several years in this list: my favorite websites that not everyone knows about.

Part 2 has been combined with the original post The Best Unknown Websites:

http://www.cofebuz.com/2009/06/15/the-best-unknown-websites/

Twitter’s Fundamental Flaw

twitter_birdsThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the Design and Construction Report, a publication for members of the Design and Construction Network.

A recent Sprint Nextel commercial included a brief glimpse into the world of Twitter. It depicted hundreds of little blue “Twitter birds” with small cell phone shaped text boxes above their heads. Looking at the group you could see that each bird was speaking a message towards their fellow blue friends. As the birds chirped they were creating a flurry of messages, yet each message was the same: “Me!”

This funny and quick snippet speaks volumes about the fundamental issue most people face when trying to leverage Twitter for business. That is the Twitter culture to focus on sharing about oneself.

How businesses fail with Twitter

To properly see the Twitter flaw we must first start with the basics of Web 2.0. At first the internet was primarily about online shopping sites and providing information. Even today you can see this in many corporate websites that are set-up as online brochures. Within a couple of years, however, things began to change. People began to realize that the fastest way to succeed online was to provide value, drawing a crowd from people that were looking for information and resources. This new interactive online environment became known as Web 2.0 and included web forms, blogs, social networking communities, and information resources. 

In the midst of these changes Twitter was started as a platform for individuals to share short updates of 140 characters or less to anyone that was interested in reading them. As Twitter became successful in strengthening relationships companies began to look for ways to leverage the growing platform to expand their businesses.

Unfortunately, many of the companies and individuals that have set out to leverage Twitter have failed. Most have missed the fundamental requirement of the new web, that in order to succeed you must provide value. Today many individuals and companies that try to use Twitter for business are “Me!” users rather than focusing on others. Those that have failed to embrace helping others in the community are ignored and filtered from Twitter updates by users.

How to succeed with Twitter

With the knowledge that providing value is the key to success on the web, it is easy to begin to see how you can become successful at turning Twitter into a true business tool. Instead of thinking about what you can gain from Twitter you must first start by thinking about how you can help people that follow you. Take these two questions: 

  1. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they informed you when they were stuck in traffic, what they had for dinner, and what they were doing this weekend?
  2. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they regularly contained leads for new work, great articles regarding your industry, links to requests for proposals, and information on local networking events they were attending?

The interesting thing about the second person is that not only would most people follow an individual that was providing those resources; they would also probably try to meet them at an upcoming event. Notably, they would be interested in building a relationship outside of the online environment. This new relationship development then becomes the basis for success through Twitter.

Building success online

Remember that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, and other Web 2.0 sites are only tools that can help build a foundation for mutually beneficial relationships. You must personally evaluate what tools are best to help you reach your personal objectives, noting that some of these tools take much more time than others. Personally, I have chosen not to focus on Twitter but rather on providing value to others through blogging (cofebuz.com), LinkedIn, and the Design and Construction Network (mydcn.com).

Your turn

As you look at your goals for your online presence, evaluate what tools will work best for you. It will most probably be any number of online tools of which one might be Twitter. Regardless of the tools you choose, remember that success is found online when you provide value to others.

The Best Unknown Websites

It seems that every week I am telling someone else about one of my favorite little known websites, so this week I wanted to help make them well-known websites (ok, so one or two of these are fairly well known, but I always find someone that has never heard of them). I hope that you find a website that you will use for the next several years in this list: my favorite websites that not everyone knows about.

Google Alerts – Know immediately when someone writes something about you or your company online. A friend turned me onto Google Alerts when I started blogging several years ago. It is a very simple tool that e-mails you whenever a Googlebot finds something new written about you on the web.

Website Grader – Take the guesswork out of SEO (search engine optimization). Website Grader evaluates your website, gives you a grade compared to other websites, and then tells you how to improve your score. Of course it isn’t perfect, but it certainly provides a great big picture perspective for free in 60 seconds, and they don’t even try to sell you something.

Elance – Outsource websites, logos, marketing, programming, etc.. to others in the US, India, China, Pakistan, etc.. without worrying about getting what you paid for. Special thanks to Mark Buckshon for telling me about this great website where designers from round the world compete for your business. I have personally seen incredible websites designed in other countries by English writing consultants for less than $200.

LogMeIn – Forget expensive hosting software, server, and VPN to access your work computer at home or your home computer at work. LogMeIn is free software that gives you easy access to your computer when you are away. Better yet, after you login your computer will look and act as if you were sitting at the other computer!

Yudu – Read and publish online for free. Many of you are members of the Design and Construction Network and have seen the incredible Design and Construction Report. Yudu is the online reading software that was used to publish the report. Don’t worry, your publication doesn’t have to be as intensive as the report; if you just want an amazing brochure or newsletter check out Yudu.

Eventbrite – Eventbrite is one of my favorite websites on this list (and yes, I regularly use every website on this list). Eventbrite is a website for event management and promotion similar to evite.com, only for professional events. I am always skeptical when a website makes a statement about selling out events, but I have seen several events managed by Eventbrite do just that!

Dropbox
– Dropbox solves the problem of keeping track of your files on multiple computers once and for all by enabling selected folders to sync online and across multiple computers for free (up to 2gb). It is great for files that you want to use both at home and in the office, or for sharing files with other people. One extra amazing feature of Dropbox is that you can un-delete files and retrieve older versions of a file.

CCB Buzz – Everything else you wish you knew about the web. John Sedivy and Amy Stevens Adams have revamped CCB Buzz and continue to be a great resource on a variety of topics. That said, some of my favorite posts can be found in there archives from around January 2009 when they were peeling back the tools of viral SEO.

iStockPhoto – Never worry about photo copyright again. We use iStockPhoto for almost all of our graphics at work because it is inexpensive (almost every image is available in low resolution for $1) and gives professional and amateur photographers around the world the opportunity to make money from of their photos.

Google Local – Help customers find you on Google for free. Here is one website that you need to take action on immediately. Google Local manages data about your company for Google search, Google Maps, etc… If you want to be easy to find take 10 minutes to update your company profile using the link above.

Pandora – Free customizable radio stations from a company whose single mission is to “play only music you will love.”

Stop associating Networking with Sales

tree-in-desertI believe that introverts and extroverts alike have the ability to network. I also believe that many people have never learned how to be successful at networking because they have been taught to incorrectly associate networking with sales. More than ever, the articles and seminars on networking are full of information regarding elevator pitches, how to work a room, and closing the sale. The problem is that all of these items miss the mark on the primary focus of networking: relationship development.

I was honored to reconnect with Rob Comet and Ambur Willis of BCWH Architects over the past several weeks in preparation for a private webinar on Networking that I presented to their firm on Friday. During our many conversations I was impressed with BCWH’s dedication to the relationships that their employees have with each other, clients, and others in the industry. Preparing his company for the road ahead, Ron clearly told his staff prior to the start of the program that BCWH was more interested in people than immediate sales, a philosophy that I wholly agree with.

Not everyone can sell, but everyone can Network

Over your career you have probably met dozens of people that can really sell. They are generally extroverts that have learned the art of understanding the only two things that people buy: Solutions to Problems and Good Feelings. While these people are amazing at what they do, I would argue that the vast majority of corporate revenue in the world comes from something far more powerful, relationships. This is especially true in the services industry where our primary product is the knowledge and capability of people.

Your Relationships

What about you, are you focusing on the sale or the relationships? If you are focusing on the former let me encourage you to evaluate relationships as a better approach to long-term success.

Creating a Marketing Culture

creatingamarketingculture_coverThe following article by Tim Klabunde was published in the April edition of Marketer.

Building a corporate culture that embraces marketing can be one of the most effective ways to achieve your company’s growth objectives. Companies that are successful in developing a marketing culture reap the benefits of strong work capture collaboration, cross-selling among departments, and active participation in the marketing process. By contrast, firms that do not have this culture often find that marketing is compartmentalized among departments and are missing uniformity in their message in the local marketplace. The most effective way to succeed at changing a corporate culture towards that of marketing is to purposefully engage a cultural change process.

The Cultural Change Process

As simple as this philosophy sounds, the reality is that most firms are not successful at changing their corporate culture because they do not follow a structured process of cultural change. The result is that most corporate cultural changes do not happen by predetermined paths, but instead occur by accident.

It is important to remember that just as your culture was not built overnight, corporate culture doesn’t change overnight. It is not an easy process, but by looking at the thousands of firms that have gone before us we can identify a systematic process that yields successful cultural change. That systematic process can be broken down into four easy-to-understand steps that will allow you to take control of your cultural change. 

Step 1 – Educate and Encourage

Education and encouragement are the foundational step of any cultural change.  Without the knowledge of how to succeed in a new culture it will be impossible for employees to move towards that new culture.  In the case of changing corporate culture toward a culture that embraces marketing the first thing people need to know is how marketing works and how they can participate in the marketing program.  This often requires training in areas such as basic business marketing, networking, and business development. During and after training it is important to encourage employees to try out their newly acquired skills.  Through this process you will begin an ongoing process of training and raising up a company that embraces the new culture. 

Step 2 – Define Expectations

The second step in changing a corporate culture is defining expectations. Employees need to have a clear understanding of company expectations for them as individuals as well as collectively. Changing corporate culture depends on changing one person at a time. Because each person is unique and has different responsibilities, this also means that what is expected of individuals should vary.  For example, a project manager may be responsible to achieve specific business development goals whereas a receptionist may be responsible to learn people’s voices on the phone and address key clients by name.  Expectations should also be tailored to the strengths of individuals so that their contributions can be maximized.

Step 3 – Acknowledge & Celebrate Success

Acknowledging and celebrating success is the single most important step in changing corporate culture.  Firms often begin the process of change by bringing in outside training and defining new expectations, but the culture change never takes root.  The reason is that culture change depends on acknowledging success at the highest level. In the case of building a marketing culture this can be accomplished by the CEO taking the time to walk into individual’s offices just to say “thank you” to an employee for bringing work in the door.  That brief moment of acknowledgement will ensure that the individual knows what they did was important and appreciated, not just by their manager, but also by upper management. 

In addition to acknowledging success you should strive to celebrate success. Ways to celebrate success include popping a cork on a bottle of champagne when a new client signs up, or with bagels the next morning for the department with a note of thanks. The key differentiator between acknowledging success and celebrating success is that a senior individual should acknowledge the success, but celebration of success should be inclusive of others that were directly or indirectly a part of the success.

Step 4 – Reward Success

The final step in changing a corporate culture is rewarding success.  Title changes, bonuses, parking spaces, raises, and office locations linked to culture change successes ensure the longevity of your cultural change.  This final stage should only be implemented after the other three steps because it can backfire without the proper foundation. Rewarding success is important because it aligns the objectives of the cultural change with long-term rewards that then become evident to others throughout the company. The goal is to build the cultural shift based on people that are working to build a better company for themselves and others.   

Individuals Are Your Culture

It is important to measure your success in changing your corporate culture one person at a time. Your culture did not instantly become what it is today, and it will not instantly become what you want it to be.  The first two steps should include everyone in the company, although recognizing that not everyone will immediately embrace the new culture. Instead, focus your attention on individuals that begin to implement and show the successes of your cultural change. By doing this you will see a wave of optimism unfold as these individuals begin to build your new corporate culture.

Why Network

Social NetworkI am often asked “Why should I network” during training sessions on Networking.  It is a simple question with an answer that can change the way you interact with others and the way you live your life.  Below is a summary of my answer, the powerful truth of why you should network…

“Networking is about you, not about a company.  If you are a project manger, the projects you work on will stay here when you leave. If you are an engineer, the designs you work on will stay here when you leave. If you are an accountant, the money you work with better stay here when you leave.  However, one of the few things that you will take with you (and that your company will loose) is your relationships, also known as your network.  Due to this, your network will be and is one of your most powerful tools.  Let’s look at two extremes as an example of how networking plays a role in everyone’s career:

Last Laid-off

Time and time again strong networkers are spared during layoffs, not because they are top performers, but because they have something many top performers don’t have.  Take this example:

An executive in the midst of an economic downturn was faced with a problem: he had to lay off one of two people:  The first was an incredible performer with a knack for completing projects on time and without errors.  The second was a good performer with a network of relationships that was bringing in over $1 million dollars of work into the company.  Who was laid-off?  Time and time again we see that most executives will protect the welfare of the company by keeping a good performer that can bring work in the door over an incredible performer that isn’t bringing in work. 

Think about it, who would you lay-off?

First Promoted

Your network not only protects you, it also reminds management who they want to keep around.  Because of this top networkers are also regularly the first promoted.  Take my story:

I have been in the construction industry for less than a decade.  I am honored to work with great friends (that’s right, most everyone in my network I consider a true friend) that I am blessed to be able to help.  Because I help them to be successful my friends take my calls and regularly work to help me in return.  As a result, my network of friends have helped me win hundreds of large projects for my company (Thank you very much!) and opportunities have opened that resulted in several major lateral moves during my career.

If you want to advance your career, do everything in your power to bring work, solutions, and answers into your company.  The most effective way to do this is through Networking: Continually helping others and building a close group of friends to whom you purposefully focus your help.  I know that my company would survive without me, but I have the satisfaction that I am doing everything in my power to make our company succeed.  When you try to live your life to help others and your company, you are learning how to build a successful life!”

The Washington Post vs. Bisnow

capitol-with-treesIn an effort to reduce cost, the Washington Post recently made the decision to eliminate its business section. I must admit that I didn’t think this was a big deal until I received a note from Bisnow.com, a free Washington DC digital (e-mail) publication. The note stated that Bisnow is going to begin providing Business Section coverage through a new digital publication: Daily Bisnow! Did you catch that, a three year old digital publication is beating out an industry leader (the Washington Post)!

What Happened

Bisnow is part of the future, where information is free and value is created by giving away what you know. Who wants to pay for a newspaper when the information can be accessed instantly and deciphered whenever and however you want it? This business model allows companies to thrive by giving information away rather than charging for it. In turn the captive audience becomes a magnet for companies that can benefit from advertising. (If you don’t believe me think about how much you didn’t pay to search Google this past month.)

Are you ready?

What about your business? Most probably you can’t go to the extreme of giving away everything, but what about helping others and by doing so building strong relationships. You can choose to hold your contacts, information, and resources close, or you can choose to open your resources as a path to help others succeed. In doing so, you likewise will find yourself achieving your personal goals.

Here is the note I received from Bisnow:

We are saddened by the demise of the separate Washington Post business section. It’s a great newspaper, and many of us continue to subscribe.

But we think business news is too important, especially today, to relegate to inside pages. 

We want to try to do something about it.

Starting this week, we’re launching a Daily Bisnow (Washington). Although we’re excited to have become the best read local business publication, this new e-mail will be about both national and local business.  

Of course, we’ll do it in our style:

  • Free
  • Fun
  • All-electronic
  • Lots of pictures
  • Lots of personalities
  • Mercifully short

So that your Inbox is not clogged, we’re going to pull back on the frequency of our other publications. Also, we’ll publish Daily Bisnow in the morning, and reserve the afternoon for our more specialized publications: Legal, Tech, Trade Association, Medical, Commercial Real Estate, and The Scene.

We are now 16 employees, but still small enough to care about each reader. If you have comments about our new publication, pro or con, write our publisher directly: Mark@Bisnow.com. He doesn’t have an unlisted number, at least yet.

Or come visit our office on Connecticut Ave. and play ping pong with us.