Compete At Your Peril?

I just started reading “Zero To One” by Silicon Valley innovator, entrepreneur and prominent venture capitalist, Peter Thiel. He presents a unique way of thinking as a key ingredient for startup success. Startups have to generate new ideas and act on them rapidly to grow and expand their operations. That’s really the only way they can survive. They have to think out of the box and react quickly to take advantage of perceived market trends. Because of their small size, they can be nimble and test/document/respond to their ideas and deliver them in market with tight turnaround timeframes.

Courtesy of www.forbes.com

Courtesy of www.forbes.com

But that’s not an easy feat when you have to deal with that pesky little problem called competition. Yes, it fuels the creative flame but sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the rat race. As a small business owner, you need to make sure your brand stands out from the rest in a positive way otherwise you’ll never get the recognition you need to prosper.

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Competition is healthy to a point. It drives us to excel but it can divert our attention from developing new ways of becoming even better. Think of it this way. You make giglets and compete with three other giglet manufacturers. It’s all-out war between your companies because you are all struggling to be the number one giglet manufacturer in the world, all focused on being more attractive to prospective buyers, using new colors, shapes and sizes to differentiate your offerings from those of your foes, tearing down the competition at every turn, thinking, hoping and praying these methods will advance your sales goals.

But you’re all missing the critical element of innovation. Changing small facets of your product to make it look a little nicer isn’t transformational. It’s imitative and largely ineffective in the grand scheme of things. Focusing all your efforts on competing with others in your space is a waste of time, effort and resources and will only get you marginal results until another giglet manufacturer comes along and figures out how to take the show to the next level. Then POOF! Your giglets are history.

Instead, figure out what your brand brings to the table, what your value proposition is and how you can make your offering more relevant to the lives of your targeted customers. Do something BRAND NEW and go from ZERO to ONE. That type of thinking and execution results in positive impacts to your bottom line. Get out of the way of your competition. Let them spend their precious time battling for that top spot. You focus energy, time and effort on what makes your offering inherently great or how you can GET TO GREAT.

Your path to the top will then be within reach.

Launch Day For Author Navigation Is Finally Here!!!!!

I used to think writing a book was the hard part…

But then I did it…once, twice, a third time…until my precious manuscript was finally finished. That’s when the real work began.

Endless amounts of research, trying to find the right editor, formatter, cover artist, promotion company, and on and on. Ugh, not my favorite part of the process at all. I really wanted to keep writing but I had to plow through pages and pages of search results because there just wasn’t a one-stop shop for all the resources I needed to evaluate. Until now… =)

My dear friend and fellow author Ryan Ringbloom and I identified a gap in the market, one which if filled, would enable authors to spend more time honing their craft instead of Googling.  I’m a writer; I want to spend my time messing up the lives of my characters and then figuring out how to fix them while weaving in a few scorching love scenes along the way. =)

The literary world is absolutely saturated now so authors need their work to stand out as much as possible and finding the right “team” is challenging, to say the least. Hence, the birth of Author Navigation, the online directory of vendors who can help authors prep, polish and perfect their manuscripts for the masses.

For a small fee, vendors can submit a request to have their company represented in our brand-new directory, available to the rapidly increasing number of authors who need to assemble their own teams.

A unique promotional opportunity for vendors hoping to score more clients, a greatway to maximize efficiencies for authors seeking experts who can help take their book from good to great…

Author Navigation…Navigate Your Way To Success!!

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Obsessing About Mr. Wonderful

I’m giggling because I’m mildly obsessed with Mr. Wonderful these days. Anyone who’s read my blog recently can attest to that.

Could it be because he kinda reminds me of Paul Emerson, ruthless and calculating CEO of Blue Coat Capital?

Check out my novel Unlikely Venture if you’re curious!!!

I found this video on YouTube…first of a four-part series…The Best of Kevin O’Leary. It’s kind of spot-on…I can totally hear Paul saying some of this stuff.

How Do You Keep The Music Playing? How Do You Make It Last??

So you’re sitting in front of your laptop a couple of months post-launch scratching your head, thinking “What the heck should I do NOW?”

Courtesy of www.alwaysinfo.us

Courtesy of www.alwaysinfo.us

Very good question. It’s one that I’m pretty sure most small business owners have.

Launch week ROCKED!!! We sold a TON!!! But now? Two months later? CRICKETS.

You’re still a ways off from releasing 2.0 so what are you supposed to do in the interim? Twiddle your thumbs while you obsessively refresh your sales numbers? How long can you publicize your initial offering while you prep for the new one?

It’s not easy, especially if you don’t have a ton of discretionary capital to toss at promotional services. When our Krina handbags debuted in InStyle magazine and OK! Weekly, sales skyrocketed. But the problem was maintaining that momentum when those issues were off the newsstands. Sure, we tried to capitalize on the wins but it only got us so far. Everyone wanted to see what was coming next…and we were still trying to figure out how to find the funds to produce what would come next.

instyle

Building momentum takes time. So instead of panicking that sales are dropping off, consider different ways of reaching customers. Your primary goal is to keep your brand name top of mind. So get it out there to the masses and establish yourself as a source of knowledge in your industry. All of your efforts will indirectly help raise awareness of your brand. It may take time for your sales numbers to rebound but if you reach people on another level, they just may be interested enough to find out about your offerings. Don’t shove the buy links down their throats…try some new ways to build your customer base.

Consider these ideas:

  • Create a website and BLOG – Figure out what your audience wants to read and create a content niche for yourself.
  • Submit guest posts on websites where your target market congregates – This will help associate your name to a particular type of content. Say you run a handbag design company and you love fashion. Find blogs that cater to fellow fashionistas and inquire about submitting articles about topics in fashion and style. When you include your social media contact information in the post, readers will be able to see that you are also a designer/entrepreneur and maybe they’ll be interested enough to buy one of your handbags!
  • Post in forums that focus on your product and market – This is a networking opportunity, a chance for you to find fellow fashionistas who love handbags! Tell them about your faves and begin nurturing relationships (and hopefully, future fans)
  • Identify channels for cross promotion – Research owners of complimentary businesses and ask about cross-promotional opportunities. Offer to promote their brands if they do the same for you. Share the love and see how it positively impacts your business.

In the early stages of a business, the most important thing is to raise awareness of your brand. The more people that know about your products/services, the more of a chance you have to convert them to customers.

Celebrate The Lifestyle, Not The Product

As a small business owner I was always challenged with finding new ways of reaching fellow handbag junkies who would buy my designs. In retrospect, I tried to boil the ocean and I didn’t reach my target at the right level. The primary goal was always to move units and recoup costs so I’d have funds to pump back into the business. At the end of the day, a lot of one-and-done customers didn’t do much to sustain my rapidly shrinking market share.

After some research, I determined my target audience consisted of fashion-forward females, aged 25 – 50 with discretionary income to spend. That is a pretty wide net to cast. As it happened, I was targeting a lot of different customer groups in that audience and there wasn’t much tying them together – moms, students, professionals, and even grandmothers. I didn’t connect with them on a deep enough level.

I sold a good number of units but I didn’t make the experience personal enough where the purchaser was really invested in the brand. Without that hook, it’s hard to get repeat sales. And let’s face it, that’s how you really sustain a business.

Getting a bunch of people to buy a handbag isn’t going to butter your bread forever. You need to build a customer fan base, a loyal following of people who will want to buy your latest and greatest and will tout your brand to anyone who’ll listen.

Here is where lifestyle marketing comes into play. Make it less about the product and more about the lifestyle qualities, shared activities and behaviors. Focus on the EXPERIENCE.

Courtesy of www.targetmarketsegmentation.com

Courtesy of www.targetmarketsegmentation.com

Maybe I could have reached my audience on a completely new level if I’d appealed to their OTHER interests – what kind of music they like, whether they love heels or flats, the type of cocktail they crave on a Friday night after a long week, their dream car, favorite book, hobby or actor, what color nail polish they prefer, if they like to wear false eyelashes. In creating a buyer “persona,” potential customers have more to relate to than just a pretty handbag. A focus on content that builds upon an experience will always carry more weight because the customer can see how the product will fit into their lives.

Courtesy of www.macalawright.com

Courtesy of www.macalawright.com

These are ways to connect, to really get to know your consumers on a more personal level. Because if you know your customer, you can create products more specific to their tastes and that’s how you convert a one-time buyer into a lifetime fan.

I’m GLOWING For The Bargain Price of $4,000!

If you’re lucky enough to find the absolute PERFECT dress, how many of you will wear it until it can probably walk around by itself? Yeah, I know. Me too. =)

But how cool would it be to BUY that fabulous dress and be able to customize the color and pattern through an app, constantly reinventing the look?

Flipping AWESOME concept, right???

The Coolest Fashion Innovations of 2014

CuteCircuit is a super-innovative fashion brand creating amazing technology-inspired and interactive Haute Couture and Ready to Wear designs. You can transition from day-to-night and seriously maximize your closet space…to leave room for more shoes, of course! <wink, wink=””>

Celebs Love CuteCircuit Too!

Nicole Scherzinger and Katy Perry are devoted fans…probably because they’re among the elite who can actually afford the hi-tech couture. The K dress, for example, is priced at about $4,000. But it’s so HAUTE!!!!!!!

Courtesy of www.cutecircuit.com

Courtesy of www.cutecircuit.com

How Does The Technology Work??

After the great success of the K-dress, inspired by the gorgeous CuteCircuit couture dress that Katy Perry worn at MET Gala in New York in 2010, CuteCircuit presents a new version with even more LEDs.

Slightly longer than its predecessor, the hand-pleated silk chiffon dress with hundreds of LED lights embedded in the fabric comes in a variety of colors.

The LED lights glow and sparkle in whatever color and pattern you choose. The K Dress has a small snap-in controller that recharges via USB. Just plug it into your computer USB port and charge. The long-life battery is fully charged in about 2 hours and you will be dress to impress all night long.

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Likes, Shares and GIVEAWAYS!!!

I just spent two days in Atlantic City at a leadership offsite where one of the resounding themes was COMMUNICATION. There were a couple of other themes floating around as well….like gambling and drinking but for purposes of this article, I’ll focus on the former. =)

Courtesy of www.cafepress.com

Courtesy of www.cafepress.com

So, to put it very bluntly, communication can make or break your success as an organization. If you publicize effectively, people feel informed, engaged, and empowered. Impactful internal messaging boost employee morale and incent them to drive toward set business goals.

If you communicate poorly and without an executable plan, you’ll experience the opposite effect. Employees become detached, disenchanted and siloed – all leading to a heck of a lot of angst on the part of management.

So what can you do to improve receptiveness?

 

  • Tell people what they did well and how their efforts contributed to a specific goal.
  • Make them feel like they are valued and solicit their ideas for improving planning and delivery of initiatives.
  • Reward them for being active contributors.
  • Target the messages so they are most impactful and relevant to each specific group.

Turning A Prospect Into A Sale

Communication is key…no matter how large or small the company.

This concept applies to startups as much as it does to mature companies.

Furthermore, identifying and resolving gaps in external communications is critical to the growth of your business.

Just as successes can drive employees to achieve, they can also incent prospective customers to BUY.  Forget guerrilla marketing tactics…use accomplishments to your advantage. Celebrate them, ask for feedback, shower them with freebies or discounts, run giveaways for prospects who “like” or “share” something you’ve put out there. Anything to keep their attention focused on your company and what you are selling.

All of the efforts boil down to this objective…getting your name out to the masses. Highlighting awareness enhances credibility and if you are consistent and calculated with the types of communications you disseminate, people will be more likely to take a test drive. That’s your big opportunity to convert them into customers for life.

So don’t mess it up. =)

Courtesy of brendandunne.wordpress.com

Courtesy of brendandunne.wordpress.com

To Boost Or Not To Boost

I’m not a Facebook guru, by any stretch.

My fan page confuses the heck out of me, specifically why some posts get minimal reach whereas others get tremendous engagement…we’re talking mind-blowing numbers. From little old me. =)

I still have yet to figure out how these posts are evaluated by the elusive Facebook algorithms but here is what I suspect…they pick up on certain words and if there is anything remotely related to a contest or giveaway or solicitation of business, they hide those posts (or at least bury them in the News Feed).  This may not be a revelation to everyone but I’ve tested this on my own page and believe it to be true.

Courtesy of http://www.envisageinternational.com

Courtesy of http://www.envisageinternational.com

Here’s a simple example…yesterday’s post asking for erotic novel character names received engagement of over 500 folks to date, whereas a post that announced a giveaway with a $25 Amazon gift card mention got a pathetic reach of 13!!!!!!!

Facebook clearly holds the cards here.  =)

So, I decided to take the leap and BOOST.  I’m testing this over a non-consecutive two-day period.  I only went with friends and friends of friends and I paid $10 for the initial boost. I’ve heard negatives and positives associated with boosting but I figured, for $10, it wasn’t a really huge financial risk. Lord knows, I’ve spent much more on much less. =)

So we boost…today and again on Monday.  And let’s see what kind of activity my $20 can buy!!!

Stop Hounding Me With Buy Links!!!!

People want to buy but they don’t WANT TO BE SOLD!

I love that quote. It’s so true. How many times do you go into a store, greeted by eager-beaver salespeople asking if they can help you find something to buy?

I could never be in sales…

But alas, I AM.

I’m an indie author. Not only do I write, but I also market and SELL.

Like with most businesses, the market is pretty much saturated with books. You name it, there’s a genre out there. And about a trillion books within each, with more and more being self-published on a DAILY.

Courtesy of 365til30.com

Courtesy of 365til30.com

As an entrepreneurial author, you may find success in publishing a book that embodies a brand-new concept, something new, different and alluring because it is outside the norm.

But that’s risky because people like what they like and most are creatures of habit. So unless you come up with something cutting edge that an influencer finds appealing, you may be SOL with that plan.

But fear not…there are other ways to gain an audience.

The world of indie publishing is very different now than it was a year ago. Isn’t that insane? I Google articles and if they are pre-2013, I rarely bother reading them because they are THAT outdated.

Social media takes the front seat with indie publishing. You need a presence and you need a ridiculously large network to get your name out there. But that’s not even enough…

The challenge is building a network where you form meaningful relationships, not just hey, post my link and I’ll post yours kind of stuff. That doesn’t do anything. It’s all white noise. And like I said, people get annoyed at the constant buy links. They aren’t helping authors move units.

The ideal is to build relationships online that translate to relationships OFFLINE. Grassroots efforts ultimately result in more widespread awareness, although they take time to gain traction. I’ve given plenty of books away…why? Because if you read “Unlikely Venture” and tell ten friends that you loved it, maybe they will buy and love it…and leave a review on Amazon. =)

And when “Nothing Ventured” comes out, they’ll be anxious to get their hands on that story and tell even more people if they enjoy it. By the time “Venture Forward” is released, I will have established a fan base (hopefully) for the rest of my author career.

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Here’s the key takeaway – Always keep focus on PEOPLE. Create for them, market for them, make them happy and excited because they are the ones who can make or break any of your entrepreneurial endeavors.

Think I Found My Solemate

I love wearing ridiculously high heels.  You know, the kind that make you cringe in anguish with each step taken after a short while of wear.  Regrettably, as I age, my threshold because shorter and shorter.

The pain is never a deterrent for me.  Nope, I suffer willingly. I ignore the toe-crushing sensations and the scorching agony that begins in the balls of my feet and shoots up my calves. I suck it up. At barely 5’3, I NEED the shoes. They give me a commanding presence.  LOL.

They’re also super sexy.  =)

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Mmm…so delish, right???

Anyway, the holiday season inspired this brilliant idea. There are a lot of OCD homeowners out there (like yours truly) who don’t let shoes touch their carpets. So I get all dressed up for a holiday party, killer outfit complimented by equally outrageous stems, only to find a foyer full of discarded shoes…none as fabulous as my own.

Are you thinking of that episode of Sex and the City? Where someone walks off with Carrie’s treasured Louboutins???

Courtesy of www.the-carrie-diaries.wikia.com

Courtesy of www.the-carrie-diaries.wikia.com

Well, worry not!

My product is called Solemate, a thin textured plastic film that adheres to the bottom of your shoe. The texture makes it non-slip and the carpets in your host’s home are protected from the elements that grace the sole of your shoes.  You can be large and in charge throughout the party and when you’re ready to leave, simply peel off your Solemates.

Oh, and they will come in packs of three so you have plenty of backups to fill your busy holiday schedule. =)

 

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