Posts

If You Aren’t Doing Content Marketing, You’re Missing The Boat

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

The Content Marketing Institute together with Marketing Profs and Curata released an essential study recently.

You need to read it.

Why? Because it found that 75% of companies are increasing their investment in content marketing, and 43% are increasing staff levels. Content marketing works, and I’ll show you how and why in the next 3 minutes.

Chief marketing officers have repeatedly recognized the need for a core content marketing team. And this team doesn’t need to be led by a CCO — chief content officer — a role which is being retired at many companies. Instead the successful content leader typically has a marketing operations manager or writer/editor title. Their job is to develop and orchestrate a content strategy across the company.

What’s Your Marketing Mix? Credit: Bluewire Media http://www.bluewiremedia.com.au/web-strategy-planning-template

Content Marketing Works

Content marketing is all about non-egocentric (i.e., end-user-focused rather than product- or company-focused) content that helps buyers with their jobs and careers. This content adds value—that’s why it works. Yes, you can include a smidge of product content woven in with the value-based message. Also be sure to publish via multiple content channels. As a result you will speed up the process of providing the necessary nine to twelve high value touches, which is a rough standard for B2B conversions for marketing efforts.

Four Keys To Successful Content

1. Use SBM (safety, belonging, mattering) in your messaging

2. Use meta-programs: when you have a blend of different meta-programs you need to use them all, since the brain deletes information not relevant to it. The good news is that this actually works!

4. Have three or more of the five curve elements:

C for Curiosity: does the content make the recipient curious?

U for Urgency: does the content make the recipient want to take action?

R for Relevance: is the content relevant to the recipient’s situation or context?

V for Value: does the content reflect the recipient’s values and/or is it valuable to the recipient?

E for Emotion: does the content evoke emotions in the recipient? Is it funny, fascinating, surprising…?

In addition to multiple channels you’ll also want to repurpose your content to ensure your reach is to the greatest potential relevant audience. As we know, if you only post one type of content in one specific way, you are only reaching a small percentage of your entire audience and potential prospective customer base. Let’s look at some examples of content marketing that worked.

Blogs

According to Content Marketing Institute, 80% of B2B marketers include blogging in their marketing and 53% of B2B practitioners say they are achieving greater success now than in previous years. They attribute that increase to spending more time on content marketing, which includes blogs. The trend from “snackable content” to “sumptuous feasts” is rising. Consumers want to trust their information sources and are expecting that content be researched, accurate and worthy of their time and attention.

After many years of blogging, I have found that posting value-added blogs, on a regular basis, continues to deeply resonate with my audience. Based on views and comments, I am able to determine which blog content resonates the most and repurpose this information so that it can be shared on different channels and in different ways (infographic, SlideShare etc.) to reach a larger audience. When you create content that works well, reuse it in at least six different ways (including webinar, podcast, guest blog, video, etc).

Infographics

One of my clients posted their first infographic on LinkedIn. It had 3,674 views in the first 72 hours, which resulted in 22 leads. Conversations are now in process and we’ll see how many of those convert. Next, they emailed the infographic out to their list and had open rates 83% higher than usual.

Emails

One of my company’s clients held a reception after a conference and had a goal of setting up meetings with those that attended. He sought my help in crafting an email that would compel the recipients to agree to a meeting. After we edited the message, using a blend of different meta-programs, this email received a 20% response rate—meaning 20% of the recipients agreed to the call to action (CTA), which was a meeting with our client. This was a new record for the company!

LinkedIn

We created a case study that celebrated the success of one of our clients. We used a combination of channels to distribute this information. First, we posted the case study to LinkedIn with a CTA that took the recipient to a LeadPage. The LeadPage had a CTA asking them to opt-in to our list to receive one of the resources that was mentioned in the successful case study of our client. The conversion of the LeadPage was 68.5%. The automated email that we sent out to those that opted in (which contained the value added resource promised) had a 92.9% open rate and 82.1% click rate. These numbers, combined with the feedback from those that received the resource, showed us that our content, which combined safety/belonging/mattering, meta-programs and high-value, resonated with our audience.

Slideshare

We started using SlideShare 90 days ago. We have posted two presentations that contained content that was repurposed from popular blog posts, and have had a total of 2,672 views. Our one presentation had over 300 views over the course of two days. We now know that SlideShare is a social media channel that resonates with our audience and will continue to post on a more frequent basis and test different CTAs to determine what resonates the most with our audience and what is compelling them to convert.

Customer-Centric Marketing Is Emotional: 5 Steps To Understand Emotions In The Sales Process

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I run across a tool that’s just too good not to share. This is one of them.

I have taken hundreds of my clients and their teams through an exercise called the “Customer Journey.” It’s a powerful process and clearly illuminates what’s missing in sales and marketing messages. Thanks goes to Paul Boag for the clear layout above.

Me-Centric Marketing

Here’s the essential difference. Often, when we think about marketing our focus is on ourselves. How much can we sell? What is our target market? Who is our ideal client? Even when we describe customer needs we are often seeing customers through our own eyes and filters.

The Customer Journey process walks us through our customers’ experience and asks questions that force us to see ourselves through a different lens. Through their lens.

And the structure of the process means you can’t “lead the witness” either.

Your first step is to determine your basic customer personas, for example: corporate executives, IT managers, purchasing managers. Then either cover a huge wall with paper, or project a template from a pc and type in the results together.

How you divide up the work depends on how large your group is. However, please don’t assign any chunk of the work to just one person. The point is to work collaboratively. So ideally you have diverse teams work through the entire grid for one customer profile or a section of a profile.

You-Centric Marketing

Across the top of your customer journey grid (the column headers of the grid) will be the stages a customer moves through as they select a new partnership/vendor:

  • Discovery: This is where your customer first becomes conscious that they have a problem/need. They are beginning to look both internally and externally for ways to achieve their vision. This is where they’ll “discover” you, so be sure you are visible! Some marketers call this the Awareness stage.
  • Research: Here the potential customer understands their problem/need and is seeking information about you, your competitors and possible solutions. You’ll want to make sure your info is easy to find.
  • Selection and Justification: At this stage the potential customer feels that your solution meets their need and the solution can be justified. They’re selecting you. Hooray!
  • Delivery and Partnership: Now you and your customer are in it together, you are partners. It’s time to deliver on your promises and work through any challenges together.
  • Post Sale: The courtship is over, how will the relationship grow and deepen over time?

On the left side of the grid (the rows of the grid) we have the info we want to understand at each stage. They are:

  • Tasks: What is the customer trying to achieve at this stage?
  • Questions: What does the customer want to know at this stage?
  • Touchpoints: How does the customer interact with our organization at this stage?
  • Emotions: What is the customer feeling at this stage?
  • Weaknesses: How does our organization let the customer down at this stage?

I also have my clients track at the bottom of the grid how long customers typically spend at each stage and compare it to what they would like to have happen. From here we can uncover where prospects get “stuck” and then create neuroscience-based marketing messages to help them regain/keep momentum.

Tricks Of The Trade

I have found that answers tend to move around a bit so if you’re putting things on a wall, you’ll want to fill in the grid with post-its so that you can move them.

Use a neutral third party to facilitate and maintain momentum. They will see things and ask questions that you can’t possibly think to ask. You’re too close.

Once the grid is filled in, it is crucially important to validate the findings. Again, use a neutral third party to have calls with your customer personas—these take about 30-45 minutes and you’ll want to send the completed Journey to them in advance. And be sure to reposition the “Weaknesses” section—we edit it to say “Opportunities” for how we can serve customers even better before we send to the customer for validation.

Make sure to schedule a follow-up meeting where your sales and marketing plan will be reviewed relative to the validated findings. Things will change for sure!

The Case Of The Tragic Sales Force

One of my clients brought me in because they just couldn’t understand what was happening. They had been working continuously on their culture and the team had become a true SmartTribe.

Yet sales continued to languish.

The team began by defining each profile clearly and applied Meta-programs to flesh out the profile definitions and deepen our understanding of the different customer types. They then walked through the “Customer Journey Grid,” discussing each profile at each stage and getting more and more honest about what the customer was experiencing and where they were letting them down.

After validating their findings by talking with their customers, they met and made several major changes to their marketing message and sales process. The findings even eventually affected how they deliver and how they follow up. And for the first time ever, sales and marketing are aligned with the customer’s true experience.

And the best news? Now sales are zooming due to deeply connecting with their customer. My client is now consistently hitting their Targets and sometimes even their Mind Blowers.

I’d love to see you achieve this too!

See the Customer Journey as a storytelling tool. The better we can understand the customer’s experience, the better we can serve them on their journey

*Interested in diving deep into the  brain-based tools you need to deeply connect with prospects and customers, forge trust quickly and expedite the sales process for producing phenomenal results? Join us on April 12-14 for our E-learning series. Double Your Sales & Crush Your Competition: Using Neuroscience to Sell Better, Market Better, Close Faster!

Why We Buy: The 3 Social Selling Factors That Make Or Break A Sale [Infographic]

Image Credit: Steve Mann

How are impressions formed? What motivates a person to buy?

We used to think the act of buying was a fairly logical process. A product engaged our attention, we gathered info about it, determined our interest level, and then bought or not. But now we know better…

What exactly creates a compelling customer experience? Via brainstorming with one of my favorite CMOs, Steve Mann of LexisNexis, we’ve uncovered the formula, thanks to our mutual love of neuromarketing.

Here are Steve’s top 3 strategies:

Strategy #1: Engage the Whole Brain

The experience a customer has with a brand is one of the most Illogical aspects of marketing. We engage with brands on three levels (1) rational, (2) emotional and (3) instinctual. The degree to which a brand satisfies these “three brains” is the degree to which we have an affinity for it—and want to consume its products and services.

Check out Steve’s experience with Banana Republic. “When I walk into the store, I admire the design and the efficiency of the store layout. It appeals to the rational and emotional sides of me. Then I try on a pair of jeans, and say ‘wow, I look great!’”

So–first an emotional appeal to buy the jeans, then an instinctual argument (the desire to look attractive to his mate), then he looks at the price and gets rational (“Can I afford these pants?”) then he considers all three aspects of the brand experience… the rational, emotional, instinctual and decides whether to purchase.

Strategy #2: Reinforce the Customer Experience

Our brains use habit, experience and emotional cues (all largely unconscious) to make decisions about both the quality of our interactions and buying decisions related to a brand. So we need to intentionally affect the brand experience and perceptions of that experience. And if we’re able to provide new brand information for the brain to process we can even change a consumer’s experience and buying behavior (switching Pepsi drinkers to Coke, for example).

We do this by associating positive themes with the brand experience in the buyer’s mind. When we first have an experience with a brand via mobile app, web site, product, or advertising we create a memory. If we have additional experiences with the brand, new memories are added and the experience is reshaped or reinforced–whether positive or negative. Emotional and instinctual marketing messages reinforce the brand experience more powerfully than rational messages.

“As marketers it’s our job to reinforce positive brand attitudes. We ‘train’ an attitude toward a brand by providing repetitive, positive cues about it… the quality of its online community, the ease of use of its products, the ‘thank you’ at the end of customer support call–they all add up. Think of it as ‘mental sailing’—competitive sailors constantly pull seaweed off the boat’s hull to reduce drag and increase speed. The same is true with neuromarketing. Every experience with a brand, large or small must reinforce the positive mental constructs the individual has with a brand.”

Strategy #3: Forge Compelling Brand Associations

To do this Steve recommends a 3-pronged approach:

1-Create a customer advisory team – Create a customer advisory team for design feedback.LexisNexis uses a private online community of 300 legal professionals. Their community members provide design, marketing and messaging feedback and product innovation ideas. They represent the market LexisNexis serves and have a vested interest in the enterprise’s success. Whether for product, email layout, branded communities, etc., Steve recommends leveraging industrial design firms likeIDEO or state of the art marketing and branding agencies like Liquid to take your User Experience to the next level.

2-Create a conversation calendar with “3 brain” messaging – A conversation calendar lays out what you’ll talk about through your organization’s social channels. This enables you to pace the cadence of positive associations with your brand.  For example, on Mondays you may take a “kindling” strategy where your social team asks questions to spark a conversation such as “tell us about something we did to make your life better this past week?” On Tuesdays & Thursdays you may take a curation approach where you post content of interest to your market. On the other days, create original content with evocative messaging to create positive memories and associations in the consumer’s mind about your brand.

The LexisNexis Real Law campaign uses a “Haiku” approach: these are 3 sentence display ads that focus on the brand’s emotional, rational and instinctual messages. The ads direct consumers to a content marketing hub where valuable free content is provided to clients and prospects. Here’s an example:

This is tackling controversial new legislation (instinctual and rational)

This is knowing how it will affect your client (rational)

This is why they trust you (emotional and instinctual)

3-Rinse and repeat – Reinforcing familiarity with your brand enables consumers to move from appreciating and liking it to becoming an advocate. Your conversation calendar helps drive repeat messaging. Be sure to refresh messaging to expand the network of positive brand associations. Steve recommends a refresh every three to six months. LexisNexis keeps expanding both the content and the Haikus in their Real Law campaign to encourage developing new associations with the brand. You should too!

What are some memorable customer experiences you’ve had? What has made them compelling?

 

Join Christine’s tribe for free webinars and resources by clicking here

Christine Comaford is a neuroscience-based leadership and culture coach supporting clients in remarkable growth. Her current NY Times Bestseller isSmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together (Portfolio/Penguin).

LexisNexis is a client of Christine’s firm, SmartTribes Institute.

Double Your Sales And Trump Your Competitors In 3 Easy Steps

Image Credit: thevarguy.com

Why do so many businesses struggle with ramping up sales?

It’s because they’re pitching, not educating. Seems obvious, right? Wrong.

Comparing notes with one of my sales guru pals, Chet Holmes, I knew I had to write this blog.

Let’s say you sell telephone systems, like Company X does. Company X practiced sales by cold calling prospective companies to ask if they were interested in talking about a new telephone system (yuck—this is a standard product pitch). They had four salespeople making hundreds of calls per day. The result? A whopping three appointments per week. Ack.

First of all, every company that has a phone system more than five years old could benefit from a new phone system. Heck, more than 15 of the major providers of phone systems from just 10 years ago are now out of the phone system business. But inertia is a powerful force–and the enemy of business building and good choices. If the phone system isn’t broke—why fix it?

Ready to double sales? Consider taking the following steps.

Step 1. The first thing Company X did after discovering the education-based marketing concept was target bigger companies. The bigger the company, the bigger the phone system. The bigger the phone system, the bigger the sales potential.

Step 2. The salespeople called the 2,000 largest companies in their market with two simple questions: “Hi, we’re doing our annual telephone system survey. I just need to know two things: What is the model of your phone system and how old is it?” In two days, the salespeople had a list of 508 companies with old and often obsolete phone systems.

Step 3. Now for the best part: Education-based marketing. The sales reps called on these larger companies with one offer: “We have a new educational program entitled The Nine Ways You’re Wasting Money on Your Voice and Data Spending.” They continued, saying: “We’ve been in the telephone business for 10 years now, and we’ve found that every company wastes money on voice and data spending in at least nine areas. We’ve put together a white paper to teach companies how to stop wasting—and start saving–money. If you ever need any help at all with your voice, data or telephone system needs, we want you to know about us. So we’re sending you our white paper.”

This approach increased their appointments ten fold, from three per week to 30 per week. This company’s revenue was $3 million the year prior to using the education-based marketing approach. After six months, Company X’s sales pipeline was $9 million strong. I’ve used these techniques for companies much larger—in the ten and hundreds of millions in revenue. They’re solid.

To drive my point home about the power of education-based marketing, let’s review a few ineffective education-based marketing approaches, alongside more effective ones.

Business: Realtor

Ineffective offer: “Let me teach you why you should list your house with me.”

Effective offer: “Let me teach you the five mistakes everyone makes when they sell their house. No matter who you list with, you’ll want to know these things.”

Business: Financial Planner

Ineffective offer: “I want to come and talk to you about how I can help you plan for a better financial future.”

Effective offer: “Even if you never do anything with me, I want to make sure you know that there are five critical mistakes everyone makes in trying to accumulate wealth.”

Business: Technology Services Firm

Ineffective offer: “Let me tell you how great we are at helping with your IT services.”

Effective offer: “As part of our effort to build better relationships in the business community, we offer a free white paper entitled ‘Six ways to dramatically increase productivity using your current technology.’”

Education-Based Marketing Net-Net

Sales is about building rapport, not breaking it. When you sell, or pitch, you’re often breaking rapport because the prospect may be skeptical–no one wants to be “sold.” When you educate, you build rapport. Your business building efforts AND credibility is increased significantly when you start with data that is of value to the prospect. Launch all your meetings by teaching your prospect something, or by offering data that establishes that you’ve done your homework.

If your local newspaper called and offered to teach you seven things that make all businesses succeed, you’d probably find that pretty tough to decline. Sure, they’d still have to talk you into the meeting, but it would be an easier sell than talking you into a meeting to pitch you on advertising in their publication.

If you embrace education-based marketing you’ll out-market your competitors every time. Education-based marketing attracts buyers before they think about buying. It casts a wider net, attracts more buyers, and closes a higher percentage of prospects if the education you give is of true value. This is the least expensive, most effective marketing concept you’ll ever use.

What kind of a free education could you offer that would make your prospects want to meet with you? Respond to your ad? Take an interest in your direct mail approach?

Follow me on Twitter: @comaford

How to Create a Killer Business Plan

Life is marketing.  Marketing ourselves personally and professionally, marketing our products, marketing our ideas.  Every day we are constantly marketing or being marketed to.

What constantly amazes me, is that knowing this, so few early stage entrepreneurs market their startup effectively.  The business plan, executive summary, and financing pitch are the ultimate marketing tools. Marketing your startup successfully results in getting optimal investors, more favorable financing terms, outstanding executives, committed customers, basically a shot at success in today’s extremely competitive market.

Let’s start with the love-hate relationship we have with business plans.  As a former entrepreneur, and a startup consultant today, I’ve certainly seen more business plans than I care to remember.  Of the 30,000+ high tech business plans submitted to venture capitalists last year, less than 3% were funded.  Why?  The plans were either for products or services no one truly needed, or the plans were for great ideas that were not presented well.  I see far too many of the latter.  What a shame to have a brilliant idea, and the right process of executing it only to communicate the idea without being concise, compelling, and complete.

Be Concise – A concise plan provides a simple explanation for why the business is a great idea, as well as how it will be executed.  The optimal length is 20 pages, but 30 is acceptable.  This includes the 3-5 pages for the executive summary, but does not include the appendices (only include relevant info here to support claims made in the plan).  Few of the investors will read the plan in its entirety.  The goal of the business plan is for the entrepreneur to explain  the company they want to build so they will a) be able to condense it and render an executive summary (that the investors will read) and b) have a basic execution plan for the company.

Be Compelling – A compelling opportunity is optimized by the right deal, with the right price, at the right time, with the right product/service and the right team.  Compelling deals always get financed with favorable terms.  The goal is to make your company appear to be deeply compelling.  More on this below.

Be Complete – You must have a trusted third party review your plan to ensure it addresses all possible issues an investor may have.  An incomplete plan, such as one that lacks three years worth of financials, or lacks a marketing or sales strategy, or a section describing the first few releases of a product and the high level technology strategy, makes it look like the entrepreneur hasn’t thoroughly thought out their business.  This makes them look either unprofessional, fly-by-night, or both.  Be complete – it will help you gain the trust of all who read your plan.

A Lesson – Here’s a sample paragraph from an executive summary I read a while ago.  “Freight trucks in America travel 30 billion miles empty each year.  This inefficiency costs distributors hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary freight handling costs, such as scheduling one way trips and paying for last minute loads.  Our browser-based software matches empty containers with loads that need to be moved nationwide.  By using our software, distributors and manufacturers can save millions of dollars in the first year of use alone.  The distributors and manufacturers are under extreme pressure from their executive management to reduce their inefficient freight costs by 10% annually for the next three years.  Our team of seasoned freight, distribution, and manufacturing executives think we can capture a minimum of 1% of the market over the next three years.  This would result in profitability six months into year two, growth of over 100% per year, and based on industry-standard P/E ratios, a valuation of over $200 million at the end of year three.

Wow!  Huge pain, customers empowered to remove it, the right team to make it happen, and the potential for a glorious exit.  Concise?  Yes!  Compelling? Yes! What’s not to like? The entrepreneurs missed the “complete” part. . The plan that backed up this fantastic opportunity, lacked execution detail and thus has yet to be funded… after 2 years of seeking capital.  I hate stories like this!

How To Do It – So, now you’re ready to create a killer business plan, which will yield a killer executive summary and a killer financing pitch.  You’ll want to leverage your plan by using the content later for sales presentations, marketing collateral and white papers, recruiting pitches and web site content.

Here’s how to do it.  Using the sample business plan outline, begin to fill in each section.  Do not use a business plan package.  These render “fill in the blanks” business plans that make the entrepreneur look inexperienced, unsavvy, and basically out to lunch.  Don’t let yourself be branded this way.  The key risks investors worry about are: people, technology, market, and financial.  Financial risk is hard to remove.  Focus on showing how solid your people are, how robust and extensible your technology is, and how huge the market you’re going after is.  You must explain the barriers to entry too, in honest, realistic terms.

You’ll also need a financial model.  Be sure to make it interactive, and not static.  An interactive model is formula-based and takes longer to create than a basic static model.  But trust me, you will definitely change your financial projections, so provide for flexibility from the get-go.  An interactive model will also enable “what if” scenarios. Chances are good potential investors will slash your first year revenue projections in half.  What repercussions will this have?  Run it through the model and find out.

Life is marketing.  Marketing your startup properly will result in a wild ride with life-enhancing results.  Go for it and let me know how I can help!

Increase Revenues with Education-Based Marketing

Increase Revenues with Education-Based Marketing In a recent conversation with one of my sales guru pals, we agonized over why so many small businesses have such a tough time business building and ramping up sales. It’s because they’re pitching, not educating. Seems obvious, right? Wrong. As we compared notes I knew I had to write this column.

Let’s say you sell telephone systems, like Company X does. Company X practiced sales by cold calling prospective companies to ask if they were interested in talking about a new telephone system (yuck—this is a standard product pitch). They had four salespeople making hundreds of calls per day. The result? A whopping three appointments per week. No surprises here.

First of all, every company that has a phone system more than five years old could benefit from a new phone system. Heck, more than 15 of the major providers of phone systems from just 10 years ago are now out of the phone system business. But inertia is a powerful force and the enemy of business building and good choices. If the phone system isn’t broke—why fix it?

Ready to double sales? Consider taking the following steps.

Step 1. The first thing Company X did after discovering the education-based marketing concept was target bigger companies. The bigger the company, the bigger the phone system. The bigger the phone system, the bigger the sales potential.

Step 2. The salespeople called the 2,000 largest companies in their market with two simple questions: “Hi, we’re doing our annual telephone system survey. I just need to know two things: What is the model of your phone system and how old is it?” In two days, the salespeople had a list of 508 companies with old, and often obsolete phone systems.

Step 3. Now for the real hook: Education-based marketing. The sales reps called on these larger companies with one offer: “We have a new educational program entitled The Nine Ways You’re Wasting Money on Your Voice and Data Spending.” They continued, saying: “We’ve been in the telephone business for 10 years now, and we’ve found that every company wastes money on voice and data spending in at least nine areas. We’ve put together a white paper to teach companies how to stop wasting—and start saving–money. If you ever need any help at all with your voice, data or telephone system needs, we want you to know about us. So we’re sending you our white paper.”

This approach increased their appointments ten fold, from three per week to 30 per week. This company’s revenue was $3 million the year prior to using the education-based marketing approach. After six months, Company X’s sales pipeline was $9 million strong.

To drive my point home about the power of education-based marketing, let’s review a few ineffective education-based marketing approaches, alongside more effective ones

Business: Realtor

Ineffective offer: “Let me teach you why you should list your house with me.” Effective offer: “Let me teach you the five mistakes every one makes when they sell their house. No matter who you list with, you’ll need to know these things.”

Business: Financial Planner

Ineffective offer: “I want to come and talk to you about how I can help you plan for a better financial future.” Effective offer: “Even if you never do anything with me, I want to make sure you know that there are five critical mistakes everyone makes in trying to accumulate wealth.”

Business: Technology Services Firm

Ineffective offer: “Let me tell you how great we are at helping with your IT services.” Effective offer: “As part of our effort to build better relationships in the business community, we offer a free white paper entitled ‘Six ways to dramatically increase productivity using your current technology.’”

Education-Based Marketing Net-Net

Sales is about building rapport, not breaking it. When you sell, or pitch, you’re often breaking rapport because the prospect may be skeptical–no one wants to be “sold.” When you educate, you build rapport. Your business building efforts AND credibility is increased significantly when you start with data that is of value to the prospect. Launch all your meetings by teaching your prospect something, or by offering data that establishes that you’ve done your homework.

If your local newspaper called and offered to teach you seven things that make all businesses succeed, you’d probably find that pretty tough to decline. Sure, they’d still have to talk you into the meeting, but it would be an easier sell than talking you into a meeting to pitch you on advertising in their publication.

If you embrace education-based marketing you’ll out-market your competitors every time. Education-based marketing attracts buyers before they think about buying. It casts a wider net, attracts more buyers, and closes a higher percentage of prospects if the education you give is of true value. This is the least expensive, most effective marketing concept you’ll ever use.

What kind of a free education could you offer that would make your prospects want to meet with you? Respond to your ad? Take an interest in your direct mail approach?