Empower Your Community To Spread Your Word

Evangelism Marketing - Paul O'Flaherty

I was contacted by a fledgling religious oriented startup that wanted to get various celebrity ministers and church leaders to make a specific declaration during one of their sermons.

Their goal could not have been achieved given their budget and timeframe so I offered some free advice which also happens to apply to almost every business no matter it’s size:

Send forth your evangelists.

Every business, no matter what type, has its fans and believers – people who actually care about the business, its products or goals. These people, whether acolytes within or believers on the outside, are your best marketing tool.

Evangelism marketing is the next step up from Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM), but the goal is the same – to have passionate people talking about your product!

Evangelism marketing is … in which companies develop customers who believe so strongly in a particular product or service that they freely try to convince others to buy and use it. The customers become voluntary advocates, actively spreading the word on behalf of the company.

As they act independently, evangelist customers often become key influencers. The fact that evangelists are not paid or associated with any company make their beliefs perceived by others as credible and trustworthy.

It costs very little to enable customers to spread your message, but it will take time and effort to promote them from simple customers to passionate advocates for your business.

Listen to them. Share their stories and incentivize them to spread the word as your advocates. Enable them to share their experiences on social media and in real life.

Organize them into a community, and show them that you care about their opinion. Interact with them and let that interaction be part of a larger conversation.

In the case of the startup mentioned above, I recommended that they organize their friends and followers as volunteers. Explain their mission and what they want to achieve to their volunteers, and create fun community events around achieving that goal.

Have group events to make calls, tweet, share and send emails, while you provide food, snacks, fun distractions and the thrill of achieving a common goal. Get everyone t-shirts and share pictures and updates from these events on social media. Spread the word about what they are doing and not only give them something to talk about online, but give them the means to do it too.

Taking this approach the startup would get a lot more “bang for the buck” and a longer sustained campaign, while also building a community around their message.

How you empower your evangelists is up to you, but must do it and you must make them part of your community.

There are very few things that a passionate community cannot achieve.

Distraction Free Blogging? I’d Pay For That!

Distraction Free Blogging

While I applaud the efforts made by the WordPress team to include a distraction free editor, it unfortunately does little (and cannot for technical reasons) to stop the myriad of distractions that occur on my desktop or laptop. The only real way to stop the flood of email notifications, IM’s, phone calls is to disconnect from the internet completely, turn off my phone and write my posts in an offline editor – none of which have feature parity with the WordPress platform.

When I look at my kindle e-reader I see a device perfectly setup for distraction free reading – all you have to do is silence your phone and go into another room, and I find myself wishing for a simple tablet like device that only allowed me write and save drafts to my WordPress site.

I’m thinking a 7 – 8 inch, tablet-like device with a foldout keyboard, can have a cheap low-resolution screen because it serves one purpose only, to push blog posts to my CMS via an API.

I’d buy one in a heart-beat.

You’re Not Ready For Me

The Path To Success?

“You’re not ready”. It can single most difficult and hardest thing to say to someone who pitches me about marketing their product or idea, but sometimes it can also be the easiest.

Some of the pitches I receive are for products which have already been developed, others are for vague notions with no clear concept or even a value proposition, but everyone is sure that theirs is the next million dollar idea.

I’ve turned away potential clients for myriad reasons – your idea is crap (sorry, but it’s true), to people thinking that I’m going to drop everything and devote one hundred percent of my time to an idea which they haven’t even begun conceptualizing. Oh, and I’m going to do it for free.. but hey it’s going to make a million dollars, who cares if I can’t feed my family for the next 18 months while you “explore the concept”?

When I tell you that “you’re not ready” it’s because you’re really not – I’m not just some crazy masochist that likes to turn down money – I have kids to feed (which may mean that I am a masochist, just not a crazy one).

Sure you’ve reached out to me (and no-doubt a bunch of other marketers) but the chances are that you have not taken basic steps that show that you are committed to your idea:

  • Basic product / idea validation
  • Start a blog or website
  • Have a twitter account and Facebook page for your product or idea which you are actively growing
  • Start a newsletter
  • Make some YouTube videos (if the product can be demonstrated)
  • Put together a basic press kit.

The vast majority of this can be done for little more than elbow grease and a time commitment, with the only real financial investment being $14 for a domain if you use a free service to host your blog (tumblr, blogger or WordPress.com).

Not having these things in place raises serious red flags leading me to think that:

  • Your idea or product hasn’t been well thought through
  • You haven’t done your research before reaching out to marketers
  • You are too lazy to market your own product
  • You’re not really committed and won’t stick with it
  • You are flat ass broke and can’t afford me (c’mon – fourteen bucks for a domain?)

Nobody is going to talk about your product unless you start the conversation, and coming hat in hand, asking for other people to do the work that you could have already started is the quickest way to get turned away and discouraged.

Show that you believe in your concept or project. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but putting in the effort will show that you are willing to put your best foot forward and make a positive impression.

The Truth About New Year’s Resolutions… They Suck!

The Truth About New Years Resolutions

Most of us make New Year’s resolutions and most of us fail to keep them. It’s not because we didn’t have the intention to keep or achieve them, it’s simply because they were unrealistic to begin with.

Last year I had resolved to write a book in 2014. It didn’t happen because I over-estimated the amount of time I’d have available between family and work commitments. Actually I did worse than over-estimate, I knew I wouldn’t have time between work and family commitments, but deluded myself that I could write it anyway.

Don’t spend half next year feeling guilty for not achieving the resolutions you make while feeling nostalgic over the next few weeks.

Write an honest set of resolutions down and then aggressively trim them using honesty and reason. Rinse and repeat tomorrow, and the day after that…

It’s better to feel happy about achieving some well-thought-out resolutions than it is to feel guilty about not achieving ill-conceived ones.

I Botched My Email Newsletter

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So that you don’t have to…

There’s a hundred excuses I could make but the only truth that matters is that my lack of attention to my RSS driven email newsletter has resulted in the last few emails not being delivered – Oh the perils of automation!

Somewhere along the line some dodgy characters got introduced into a post (all hail copy & paste quoting) which failed to validate, so MailChimp failed to send and pretty much every RSS reader failed to pull my posts. Needless to say emails didn’t go out, I now feel like an ass, but at least I’ve learned a valuable lesson about trusting too much in automation – or at least about the merits of checking on said automation periodically to ensure that it’s working.

Every cock-up is an opportunity and this one is no different. Instead of sending you guys new posts every time they are published (although you can still get them that way if you want) I’m switching to a weekly format where I’ll not only send you links to what I’ve written in the past week but add some commentary about and highlight other cool marketing / podcasting / consulting / valuable content, tools and stuff from around the web. The point being to give as much value to my beloved newsletter subscribers (that would be you) as possible.

I want this newsletter to be a dialogue and not a megaphone, so feel free to hit the reply button  and tell me where you agree, disagree and just how awesome it all is…

Before I round out this post by asking you to subscribe to, let me just say a great big “Thank you” to everyone who is currently subscribing to the newsletter. I’m touched that you take a bit of time out of your week to read my stuff and I hope I continue to make it valuable and entertaining for you.

You guys are the best…

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Podcast Interview – Biology Of the Blog

Biology Of The BlogLast week I had the pleasure of being interview by Jess Goulart for the Biology of the Blog podcast on BreakThru Radio.

On the podcast we talk about a number of topics including how to improve computer science curricula at Universities so that we can turn out developers with real-world skills and ensure that people are studying the skills that they are most suited for.

We also talk about the differences and similarities between online and offline marketing, finding your marketing voice, being authentic, engaging your audience and building your network.

The podcast features musical tracks as well as the interview with yours truly. I’ve highlighted the sections where I appear on the playlist below if you want to skip straight to the interview.

Unfortunately the interview was cut short because I had to leave to deal with a client emergency and we weren’t able to take up the interview again, but Jess edited things so that the ending isn’t too abrupt.

00:00 Mic Break
00:21 Like a Lie – Copeland
04:42 A Real Hero – Electric Youth
09:03 Mic Break
09:47 Lay Your Wet Head Down – Emby Alexander
13:26 Interview w/ Paul pt. 1
25:40 POC – Filmstrip
28:29 MMS 1970s – Filmstrip
30:54 Interview w/ Paul pt. 2
41:21 Sun/Shadow – Holy Ghost Tent Revival
45:37 Mic Break
46:05 Windows Painted Shut – Jam Jars
50:16 Saplings – Jam Jars
54:24 Finish

Download “Biology of the Blog” mp3. 64.4 MB 54:24

Stop Over-Analyzing and Build Your Referral Network

Build Your Referral Network

Note: The alternative title for this post was “Getting Bogged Down In Data”.

If there’s one trap that everyone falls into at some point in their marketing career, it’s over-analyzing. We all know how important it is to track the right data when you’re launching a new campaign, or building out a referral network for your medical practice or small business – but over-thinking which data-points you need can actually lead to precrastination and a lot of wasted opportunities and delays.

To be fair these issues tend to be befall those relatively new to marketing more than anyone else, but even experienced marketers can fall into the same trap when faced with something they’ve never had to work with before.

These delays and wasted opportunities are not what our clients are paying us for. Our clients expect us to hit the ground running and create actual results, but how do we do it?

Let’s assume you’ve never built a referral network for a medical practice or small business before and you’re suddenly thrown in a the deep end and have to start building one at an established practice that previously handled all their own stuff. You’ve been handed a couple of spreadsheets that they’ve been using to track referrals, but they appear to have somewhat contradictory data. Where do you begin?

Talk to the client and set your goals:

Confer with your client and find out what is they wish to achieve. Obviously they all want to add to the bottom line, but for most medical practices it will be something like: “Renew relationships with past referrers who aren’t sending as much work, strengthen relations with existing referrals, and bring in new referral sources”.

Examine the existing data:

Use past data to figure out who you need to be courting to bring them back into the fold. Most practices and small businesses will have some form of referral tracking in place, and the very least they should be able to pull data from their CRM or practice management solution. If the don’t then you’ll have to do some extra leg-work with the client.

Discuss your observations with your client as some declines in referral sources may have “political” reasons and may be a waste of your energy. Very often your client will have a fairly good idea as to why someone stopped referring to them and this can give you very valuable insight into how to approach them.

Do your research and identify new referral sources:

Chances are that the sources referring to your client are not the only fish in the pond. Get online, hit up directories and find out what other potential referral sources are within your client’s catchment area.

Decide What Information You Need To Track to be effective:

The previous three steps were easy, now comes the part the holds most people up – deciding what information to track and how to track it. The more information you track the harder it can be to find a tool that will allow you easily manage the data, and frankly, the more work there is for you. After a certain point the tracking of unnecessary information becomes a burden and a time drain. Too much data can cloud your view. Lets keep it simple.

Get yourself a whiteboard.

Write down all of the data points you would like to be able to track (Name, contact info, NPI number, past referral numbers etc..)

Go have a cup of coffee and talk to someone about something completely different.

Come back to your whiteboard and start erasing all the data points that you don’t ACTUALLY need! Be aggressive. If it’s just a “that would be nice to track” but doesn’t actually help you beyond looking pretty on a spreadsheet, then kick it to the curb.

If at the end of your murderous erasing spree you’re tracking more than 6-8 data points you’re doing it wrong.

Track Your Information And Visits – Get A CRM

Finding a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution that fits your needs is considerably easier now they you’re only tracking a handful of data points, but there are somethings that you will want to consider.

  • It should allow you to easily import contacts from your email platform
  • It should integrate with your email platform so that you can tag emails and assign them to relationships and organizations
  • It needs to have strong note taking abilities
  • It should have a strong mobile app. You don’t want to be carrying a laptop around all day or filling in your notes when you get back to the office. If you can do it all on your phone, then YAY!
  • It should be scalable – someday you may grow your consulting activities beyond yourself

Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to enter all of your potential referrers information in straight away. Add them as you intend to visit them, and any competent CRM will start building relationships and tracking organizations as you tag emails and correspondence leading to organic population.

As an added bonus, a CRM will help you track your progress, projects and tasks, making reporting to your client considerably easier.

Prioritize your list

Based on your research and existing referral data you should now be able to easily prioritize the practices that you need to reach out to first. Talk to your client once your list is complete – explain your reasoning as they may have some insights into the meetings you’re about to setup.

Start making phone calls, sending emails and hit the streets.

Get out there. There’s nothing holding you back now except you and your willingness to make contacts. Send your emails, make your calls, visit offices, attend conferences and events, shake some hands! Track and analyze your results, rinse and repeat accordingly.

What’s Your Reputation Worth? Why It’s Okay To Say “I Can’t Do That”…

Know Your Limitations

When I started freelancing and consulting, back when I was young, good-looking, idealistic and proudly rode my Brontosaurus to work, I made the same mistakes as many budding freelancers and consultants –  I accepted work that I really shouldn’t have because I wanted to ensure that next paycheck. Hey, don’t judge me! Do you have any ideas how much it costs to feed a Brontosaurus?

While I certainly delivered on my end and my clients were always happy, it usually meant a steep learning curve for me as I tried to learn new technologies in order to be able to deliver on the promises I made – it also meant a lot of stress and working a lot more hours than needed – hours which came out of my my free time because you can’t charge the client for your lack of knowledge.

Looking back with more than a decades worth of hindsight I find myself wondering what damage would have been done to my reputation had I not been able to deliver, or if clients were unhappy with the finished project?

I find myself wishing that someone had told me (or that I was clever enough to figure out) that it was okay to turn down work that wasn’t within my area of expertise and to use the extra time to expand my skill set. A little extra hunting for contracts in my field, instead of taking every job that came for fear of not getting another one, would have led to a lot less sleepless nights.

Unfortunately for many freelancers and even firms, this habit stays with them long after they’ve graduated beyond Padawan Consultants. It’s a hard habit to break – that paycheck is very tempting when your health insurance is on the line.

We need to accept that doing what is best for the client is ultimately what is best for our business and our reputation. Reputation is all we have.

It’s okay for us to say that we can’t do a job. It’s okay for us admit to potential clients that we don’t know something (Pro-tip – it makes you look smart and confident to acknowledge your own short-comings), and if we refer clients to people who can deliver quality work, the client and those we referred them to are likely to send work our way in the future.

Yes, we’ll have to hustle a little harder to get that paycheck in the short-term, but long-term being honest with yourself and potential clients about our abilities is the best deal for everyone, and will do wonders for your reputation.

Farewell To Some Old Friends

If you’ve arrived at this blog post expecting to find a post on UrlyBits, Geek Is Awesome or Unfollowing Jesus, then I’m sorry to say that those sites have been discontinued.

Well actually I’m not sorry because all good things must come to an end. Building and maintaining these sites have been an amazing provider of entertainment, education and personal growth for me, but now it’s time to take things to the next level.

With my consulting business growing, wanting to spend time with my family, the birth of Malcolm and another baby on the way, now is the time to reassess priorities and jump on some new opportunities.

Every end is a new beginning and this one is no different. Scrw Media is being re-branded and we will soon roll out a new site that has an emphasis on the new direction we are taking (more on that when the site rolls out), and we also have plans to roll out one or two new sites as well.

Thank you to everybody who has been a fan of the sites over the past 6 years or more. Between our podcasts, blogs, future sites and new services, we hope to continue entertaining, informing and helping you for a very long time to come.