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First, Best, or Different

Niche Marketing Matters
By John Bradley Jackson

Why You May Want to Blog

March 12th, 2007

When I wrote my book, First, Best, or Different, I included a chapter on the importance of blogging. Little did I know at the time that blogging would become the core of own book marketing effort. Indulge me as I tell you about my own blogging story.

Back in August of 2006 I wrote my first blog at the suggestion of my web designer Greg. He encouraged me by saying that it could help my website’s page ranking and that blogs were becoming very popular. So, I gave it try. I carefully proofread my first article and hit the “publish now” key. Off it went and nothing happened. I wrote a second blog and then a third. Same results. I told all my friends that I was now a blogger. They said, “That’s great,” and then they changed the subject. I encouraged them to read and subscribe to my blog. Almost no one did. I couldn’t get my own family to read it.

Call me stubborn, but I kept on writing and blogging. I wrote on topics that I thought my book readers would like and I made sure that I was blogging five times a week. It felt like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it out to sea. I wasn’t sure if anyone would ever read them.

In a few weeks (maybe five or six actually), I did a Google search for my website firstbestordifferent.com and I found it on the first page of the search results! Before the blog, my website was no where to be found since I had done no search engine optimization. I then did a search for John Bradley Jackson (I know this must sound vain) and I found myself! Hey, Mom, your son is an internet celebrity, or almost.

This was all the positive reinforcement that I needed. I kept on blogging. Now it is eight months later and the results are incredible. My little blog is now read by thousands of readers around the world and many are subscribers. I have created a brand for my book and for myself as a thought leader on the subjects of marketing, sales, and negotiation. My website, my name, and my articles are linked to hundreds of other websites. I have been asked to speak at numerous corporate events and my book’s first printing looks like a sell out. All this because I blogged.

Maybe you should consider a blog, too.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
My new book “First, Best, or Different” is now available at www.firstbestordifferent.com!
Please buy my book!

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Escalation: There is Never Enough

March 9th, 2007

Escalation is a dirty trick played when one party has leverage or when there is still money on the table. Essentially, escalation happens when a deal is almost done and one of the parties reopens the negotiation with a demand for one more concession.

This can be the behavior of an aggressive negotiator. Never satisfied and sensing that the other party is weak or vulnerable, the aggressive negotiator asks for more. The weaker party often concedes since they don’t want to lose the deal. This is just what the aggressive negotiator is counting on.

Sometimes money is left on the table. Essentially, a mistake was made and one of the parties realizes the error. In this case, it is may be reasonable to reopen the negotiation and risk the deal. They may feel that they have no choice but to attempt to fix the deal or start over. I have been there myself and I can blame it on a lack of preparation on my part. It takes some guts to say that you blew it; sometimes admitting your error may be enough to gracefully reopen the negotiation without offending the other party. The other party could get angry and walk on the deal. This is a risk that you will take if you attempt to fix or restart the agreement.

Here are a few ways to combat this tactic when it is an aggressive tactic by the other party:

1. The devil is in the details. Make sure that you have addressed all of the concerns and issues relating to the deal. Veteran sales people will tell you that all objections must be addressed before a deal can be made. The risk is, that if you don’t address them during the negotiation, they will come back and bite you later.
2. When confronted with an escalation, you can suggest that it is out of your hands and that you will have to hand it off to the boss. This may be enough to call their bluff or you may need to bring in the boss. If the other party feels sufficiently empowered, they won’t mind stepping over you to get what they want. They don’t care about you.
3. Alternatively, make them like you. Rapport is powerful and it can be harder to escalate a deal with a friend. Then there are the people that don’t care; in that case, this won’t work.
4. You can fight fire with fire. If they escalate, act like it is a new ballgame. Ask for something in return since they have reopened the negotiation. Fair is fair.
5. Be prepared to walk. You can bluff your way out the door or head to your next best alternative. It is up to you.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
My new book “First, Best, or Different” is now available at www.firstbestordifferent.com! Please buy my book!

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Put It in Writing

March 8th, 2007

If you put your proposal or idea in writing, people will find it to be more believable. A proposal or idea, when presented in a written document, demonstrates to the other party that you have carefully weighed the options and have come to a decision. They sense that you did your homework and they respect that.

Conversely, if your proposal or idea is only a verbal suggestion, people will value it less. It is less believable and is easily challenged. Think of the last time you negotiated with someone and they made you a verbal offer. I bet you weren’t 100% confident that they would come through until you saw it in writing. After you got the written confirmation, you gave a great sigh of relief. Whew!

You can use the power of the written word to your advantage in negotiation. When selling to a customer, always put your pricing and your terms in writing. When the details of your proposal are in writing, not only are they more believable, you will find that they are less likely to be challenged.

For example, have you ever seen an advertisement for a car that lists a price and then says the pricing is “firm” or “for serious buyers only?” By taking this stance, the seller states that they are not willing to negotiate and that they are confident about the fairness of the price. Although this may scare away some potential hagglers, the ones that step forward will be less likely to counter the price.

When you are not confident about your offer, putting it in writing may help you appear confident. The sheer appearance of confidence could preempt an aggressive negotiator from challenging you and your proposal.

You might want to consider using an objective criteria as a frame of reference. For example, you could compare your proposal to an industry standard or reference; this could help validate your offer. Testimonials or third party quotations can also add substance to your proposal.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
My new book “First, Best, or Different” is now available at www.firstbestordifferent.com! Please buy my book!

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Have You Heard About My Disruptive Technology?

March 7th, 2007

Have Heard About My Disruptive Technology?

With increasing frequency, the technology crowd has liberally branded new products as “disruptive technologies”. I think it fair to say that most of these new offerings are not disruptive, or even interesting for that matter. They are new products, plain and simple.

The term “disruptive technology” was first used by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen in his 1997 book “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. He actually divided new technologies (I.E. innovations) into two buckets: one called disruptive and the other called sustaining.

According to Christensen, a disruptive technology is unrefined and may not even have a practical use at the beginning. Or, ever. The invention of the innovation may be largely accidental and its value may not be recognized at first. In fact, these innovations are typically laughed at and tossed aside. He cites the example of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell which actually took decades before it was adopted for everyday use. Bell was considered an eccentric at best.

Sustaining technology is a different beast altogether. Christensen describes it as improvements to an existing technology or process that are made sequentially over time. You could say the Intel has made continued improvements to its microprocessor technology and, thus, is a maker of sustaining technologies. Intel is good example of the type of firm that is expert at sustaining technologies. Intel’s heritage encourages continuous improvement; additionally, this type of innovation is culturally consistent with Intel and its goals. On the other hand, innovation for innovation’s sake has little cachet at Intel since they hope to capitalize on all new research and development.

A true disruptive technology shocks the status quo and needs an evangelist who can withstand the laughter and ridicule. And, besides being tough skinned, this evangelist must be patient since disruptive technologies are embraced very slowly, if ever.

Beware the marketer that shouts disruptive technology, for it probably is just a pathetic cry for attention.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
My new book “First, Best, or Different” is now available at www.firstbestordifferent.com! Please buy my book!

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Pay-Per-Click Advertising Works

March 6th, 2007

Pay-per-click advertising has taken the web by storm and for good reason. You have seen thousands of these ads on the right side of a Google or Yahoo! search; the ads scream for you to click on them for more information. It may seem like you ignore them, but statistically they are one of the best and cheapest ways to advertise on the web.

These internet ads help you deliver a short promotional message to your target market. As the name says, they click on your ad and you pay. Sometimes you pay a lot. The key is setting up a good ad that drives the right traffic to your site. Here are a few thoughts on doing pay-per-click advertising the right way, which maximizes the hits and minimizes the expenses.

Write simple ads that attract the web surfer while telling them what you promoting. The big three (Google, Yahoo! and MSN) have different rules for the ad creation, but the mission is the same. Write clear simple copy that compels your reader to click for more information. Use of key words is critical, so be sure to include them in your ad copy. Remember that your ad readers are doing web searches and have keywords on the brain. Also, these keywords are what matches your ad with their search. Don’t try to trick the reader into clicking; likely they won’t buy what you are selling and all this does is cost you money.

When a web visitor clicks on your ad, they want to go where they can get more information, or they just want to buy. Your website may not be the best destination. If you sell many products or if your website is complex, you may want to consider a simple landing page that gives the visitor what they want. Visitors are very impatient and won’t waste time searching though your site for what they need. It is a two or three click world.

Not all ads work the first time, so be sure to test and tweak them. I recommend short duration ads to start, which is the beauty of the internet and pay-per-click advertising. Ads are easy to create. It can take just a few minutes to create them, if your ad copy is ready to go. Once the ad is approved, which is generally in three to four days with Google and Yahoo!, your ads will get immediate feedback.

The ads cost real money and it pays to have your ad in a prominent place at the top of the listed ads. A general rule of thumb is to stay in the top 25% of the listed ads since most clicks occur in this quartile. Below the top 25% is no man’s land and the ads are not worth the money. Note that the ad prices are set in an auction environment and are quite variable. Experiment with key words and descriptive phrases. Avoid lengthy or complex descriptions since they will just be overlooked.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
My new book “First, Best, or Different” is now available at www.firstbestordifferent.com! Please buy my book!

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More on Brand Strategy

March 5th, 2007

Companies have four basic options for an overall brand strategy: multi-product branding, sub-branding, multi-branding, and private branding. Each has its merits, so let’s review them.

Multi-product branding employs a branding strategy that allows for one name for all products; this may also be called family branding or corporate branding. IBM generally employs this approach because of the significant brand equity that the IBM name offers and the lower advertising and promotion costs that come with that built-in awareness. A disadvantage to this approach could include customer confusion about what products are actually provided by the corporate entity. In IBM’s case, they seem to make everything in the computer business; in reality, IBM has exited from a number of consumer product businesses such PCs and consumer printers. Yet, I still think of IBM as a consumer product maker. Also, another negative is the possible dilution of the brand if products don’t meet customer expectations.

A similar strategy is called sub-branding which utilizes the parent or corporate brand name with a unique product name. This is common in the automobile industry. For example, Ford Motors make the Mustang while Chevrolet offers the Corvette. Both products have been prestige product brands for both auto firms and have helped create brand equity for the parents. A downside to this approach might be the injury that an inferior product could have on the corporate brand. Ford is still trying to forget the Pinto and their exploding gas tanks.

Multi-branding is the domain of the giant consumer product firms with Procter and Gamble as the most famous example; in this case the product brands are uniquely marketed and have an identity all to their own. For example, most P&G products are seldom directly associated with the corporate brand. Scope, Crest, and Tide are P&G brands, but the average consumer does not know it. This obviously creates higher costs for advertising and promotion. Yet, if a product bombs, the P&G brand chugs along unharmed.

Private branding is a strategy for the manufacturer that has limited or no distribution channels. In this case, a firm makes the product, but sells it to another firm which gives it their own brand name. Many large retailers do this such as Sears and Wal-Mart; this allows the reseller to create a unique brand while receiving the branding rewards. The original manufacturer does what it does best: make the product.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
Please visit my website at www.firstbestordifferent.com

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Strategies for Brand Growth

March 2nd, 2007

Creating a successful brand in the marketplace is very hard work and costs a lot of money. This is particularly true for consumer products where it takes millions of contacts to sell thousands of products. This is also true for the crowded B2B space where building brand awareness is getting tougher with global competitors coming out of the woodwork.

Once the brand is established the obvious question is what now? How do you keep the brand growing? The answer is that marketers have five different strategies for brand growth.

The first is called “line extension” which is when you offer a new product with the same brand name to the same market. An example of this would be the recent announcement by McDonalds to offer a super-sized version of the Big Mac, which is 40 percent larger than the regular Big Mac. This new burger leverages the success of the Big Mac while sticking with the tried and true formula that has made McDonalds so successful.

A second brand growth strategy is called “brand extension” which is the use of an existing brand name in a completely different product class. Harley Davidson has a powerful brand, which describes the benefits of rebellion and machismo for weekend riders (who actually are accountants and attorneys during the week). Harley’s brand extension includes non-motorcycle items such as clothing and collectibles. (Note to self: I need some Harley Davidson leather chaps!)

A third growth strategy for a brand could include “co-branding” which is the use of two brands for one product. Ford Motors partnered with Eddie Bauer to create special edition trucks that utilized the rugged outdoors appeal of the Eddie Bauer clothing line. Another example is the ice cream retailer Baskin-Robbins which sells ice cream with Hershey’s Reese’s Pieces.

A fourth strategy is a “new brand” strategy which leverages the existing brand’s marketing clout. A classic example of a disastrous new brand strategy was Budweiser’s introduction of Eagle Brand snacks. The thinking was that beer drinkers who eat salty snacks will drink more beer. True as that may be, Budweiser did not understand how to market snacks and the effort failed miserably.

Finally, a defensive strategy for brand growth is called a “fighting brand” or “flanker” strategy. This typically is used by firms that have successful brands with large market share to protect. Coca-Cola has a commanding market share, but has had to release numerous flanker brands in response to movement by competitors and to increased segmentation within the cola drinker market. Recent flanker brands include Cherry Coke and Diet Cherry Coke. Of course, cannibalization of the Classic Coke market share is possible in this scenario, but the overall market share for Coca-Cola is protected and grown.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
Please visit my website at www.firstbestordifferent.com

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Effective PR: A Reporter’s Perspective

March 1st, 2007

PR is very hard work and publicity is very hard won. One way to approach your PR effort is to put your self in the editor’s or reporter’s shoes. They have really hard jobs, too. They are bombarded daily with press releases and phone calls from well meaning entrepreneurs who just want a little publicity. And, they are numb from it all.

My friend David Meerman Scott researched and wrote about this process in his blog “Web Ink Now” (http://www.webinknow.com). David interviewed veteran journalist Peter J. Howe, a business reporter for The Boston Globe who unloaded with the following tirade:

“The single most effective thing PR people do is read what I write and send me personalized, smart pitches for stories that I am actually likely to write,” says Howe, who has been at the Globe for twenty years and spent the last seven covering telecommunications, the Internet, energy, and most recently airline companies. Howe prefers to be pitched by e-mail, with a subject line that helps him to know it’s not spam. “‘PR pitch for Boston Globe Reporter Peter Howe’ is actually a very effective way to get my attention. If you’re getting literally 400 or 500 e-mails a day like I am, cute subject lines aren’t going to work and in fact will likely appear to be spam.”

Howe’s biggest beef with how PR people operate is that so many have no idea what he writes about before they send him a pitch. “If you simply put Boston Globe Peter Howe into a Google.com/news search and read the first ten things that pop up, you would have done more work than 98 percent of the PR people who pitch me,” he says. “It’s maddening how many people in PR have absolutely no sense of the difference between what The Boston Globe covers and what, say, Network World or RCR Wireless News or The Nitwitville Weekly News covers. And I don’t mean to sound like a whining diva; the bigger issue is that if you’re not figuring out what I cover and how before you pitch me, you are really wasting your own time.”

Howe also encourages people to try to think big. “If you have a small thing to pitch, pitch it. But try to also think of the bigger story that it can fit into, a page-one or a Sunday section front story,” he says. “That could even wind up meaning your company is mentioned alongside three or four of your competitors, but wouldn’t you rather be mentioned in a page one story than in a120-word news brief?”

There is no doubt that mainstream media are still vital as a channel for your buyers to learn about your products. Besides all the people who will see your company, product, or executive’s name, a mention in a major publication lends you legitimacy. Reporters have a job to do, and they need the help that PR people can provide to them. But the rules have changed. To get noticed, you need to be smart about how you tell your story on the Web. And about how you tell your story to journalists.

Thanks to David Meerman Scott and his reporter friend Peter Howe. I could not have said it better.

Please visit David’s blog at http://www.webinknow.com; it is terrific.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
Please visit my website at www.firstbestordifferent.com

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