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First, Best, or Different

Niche Marketing Matters
By John Bradley Jackson

Slow Down Grasshopper

June 23rd, 2009

The best advice I ever received was to slow down.

Like many rookie sales people, I was anxious for success—so I worked harder and faster than everyone else. While I hit my numbers easily, I also ran out of people and companies to call. Also, I was exhausted.

Watching me with amusement was an older, battle scarred salesman named John Randall. In contrast to my frantic pace was his peaceful approach to selling—nothing seemed to phase him and he was never in a hurry. Yes, he hit his numbers year after year.

One day when he saw that wild-eyed look on my face, he pulled me aside for cup of coffee. “Slow down or you might miss something”. Then he walked away.

Not sure of exactly what he meant, I went back to work and tried to slow down. I found that by slowing down I was making few errors in my proposals. When I slowed down, I listened more and talked less. When I did things slower I felt more in control. By slowing down I sold more.

As Master Kan said in the TV series Kung Fu, “Slow down Grasshopper”.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Globalization Shmobilization

June 15th, 2009

“It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to have to paint it.” – Stephen Wright

Yes, the world makes for a big pond to fish in but for most of us it is just too big of a market. Marketing dollars will be quickly wasted in a global market.

Instead, entrepreneurs need to think small or locally by focusing on the underserved or overlooked customers. Abandoned by the giant mass marketers, these lonely customers go begging for offerings that cater to their special needs. They are left to buy poor substitutes which leave them unsatisfied and unhappy.

Yet, when the courageous niche marketer listens and creates specialized products for them, the reward for the provider is customer loyalty. More than satisfied, these happy customers recommend the offering to others like themselves, which is the true measure of loyalty.

Thus, the more customer specificity built into a product or service the greater likelihood of success. Localization enables the entrepreneur to more easily defend his or her position in the market since the big competitors don’t care about the smaller market segments.

Globalization Shmobilization—think localization.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Is Your Hair on Fire?

June 11th, 2009

It seems that many employers in the new economy expect you to work like “your hair is on fire”. This most applies to sales people.

In the era of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, activity is king. Activities include telephone calls, emails, proposals, face-to-face meetings, product demonstrations, etc. The thinking is that if many sales activities are good, then more activities are even better. The message chanted to sales people is to work faster, harder, and longer.

While I am a proponent of activity being the enabler of sales results, I feel strongly the quality of the activity far outweighs the quantity of the activity. Regretfully, many sales managers driven by the need to increase revenue can put too much emphasis on the number of activities and the documentation of these activities.

A few years ago, FedEx had such a mindset about sales activities for their B2B field sales force. Their sales force was put under tremendous pressure to create activities and log them all in the CRM system so that management could track the trends and forecast better. In practice, the CRM system was so cumbersome and time consuming that the average sales rep was spending about 8-10 hours a week entering their activities in the CRM. Ironically, sales were going down instead of up.

While it took a few months to figure it out, FedEx management ultimately determined that their number one sales activity was entering sales activities in the CRM. How brilliant is that? Needless to say, CRM data expectations were later streamlined. Yes, sales increased when the sales force devoted more time to selling.

A better message to send your sales team is to slow down. Make the most of your customer contact by listening carefully and focusing on the customers’ wants and needs. Trust and respect the sales process and you will be rewarded.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Adrift in the New Economy

June 6th, 2009

Are you feeling adrift in the “new right-sized economy”? Are you tired of hearing that all decisions are frozen and that all new projects are on hold?

It is easy to get caught up in the dark abyss of the current negativity trumpeted by the print and online media, radio, and TV. So, what do you about it?

First, let’s acknowledge that this economic downturn is real at the macroeconomic level. Yes, nationwide unemployment is up, real estate prices are sinking, and stock portfolios are down.

Still, macroeconomic theory has little to do with you and me. I had a boss who used to tell me that averages are meaningless to the individual. He would say, “Your head can be in the oven and your feet can be in the freezer and on average you are just fine”. What this means is that you either have a job or you don’t—a national unemployment statistic means little to you and me.

Here are a few tips to better cope with our new economy and the “trash talking” that comes with it:

1. Carefully plan each day. Start the day with your calendar and your “to do” list. Decide what is important and focus on the important things first.
2. Schedule time for joyful activities and rest. You deserve it.
3. Call an old friend everyday. Reconnecting will be stimulating and you might find an opportunity just because you reached out. LinkedIn and Facebook are great, but nothing beats a live conversation with a human being.
4. Focus on the future and the life you want to live. Write it down. Tell others about your dreams.
5. Turn off CNN, talk radio, and other sources of negativity. Instead, listen to inspirational music. Or, read a good book.
6. Hang out with positive people. Pass on social engagements with people that bring you down.
7. If you are feeling down, take a break. This is not a good time to make decisions. Instead, go for a walk or ride your bike. Break the negative cycle.
8. Give freely to others. Your gift of your time will help others and they will remember you for it. The other rewards will come later—trust me on that one.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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Staying Friends

June 4th, 2009

Do you have a stable network up of close friends with which you can go to for advice or for conversation? Is this network made of friends of convenience or are they handpicked? Are your friends from childhood or from last week?

Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University in the Netherlands was interested in finding out exactly how much our networks are shaped by social context or by personal preference. His conclusion was that the average person will replace half of their friends every seven years and that much of this is driven by circumstances, along with personal choice.

Work is a major factor for some. While working at a company you can develop a social network that is built on the commonality of work related issues. When you leave that employer, you have less in common. Often these relationships atrophy or just discontinue.

The same applies to friends that we made at school, church, or clubs. As we age and make new choices, the bonds weaken with many of our older friends. We have less and less in common. We lose touch with them by choice or maybe we are just negligent in our communication.

Also, there may no substitute for frequency of contact. Staying in touch and being available for others enables friendships to grow and flourish. Conversely, lack of communication can kill a friendship.

A new twist to retaining friendships is the advent of social networks like Facebook and Linkedin. These tools make staying a snap. It may be that retaining older friendships may have just gotten easier to do.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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