Nurturing Your Business with Promotion

Nurturing Your Business with Promotion

Last week we talked about leadership, impact, and influence, today we are going back to discussing the importance of having a plan to promote your business and executing that plan consistently. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that many people feel uncomfortable about promoting their business. The smaller the business and the more necessary the need for promotion, the more likely this is to be true. Many small business owners see their business as an extension of themselves and often see promotion as a form of “bragging.” I’ll tell you a story that illustrates this. My undergraduate degree is in marketing and advertising management, but I recently completed a masters degree in apologetics. It was quite a different change in track. There were people from all different industries and backgrounds. A few, such as myself with a business background, attorneys, engineers, and even a former NFL player, but a large percentage of the students were pastors, teachers, and writers. People who work in ideas, not necessarily the nuts and bolts of production or sales.  One of the classes was on communication and one unit in that class was specifically on promotion. One of the books assigned was Platform by Michael Hyatt. If you don’t know who Michael Hyatt is, he is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. His business was not only about finding good writers but about getting those books sold. Platform is about building your personal distribution channel. The subtitle is “Get Noticed in a Noisy World.” It is about building a base of people who like and follow what you have to say or offer, or as I mentioned before, expanding your reach and developing those customer conversations. The book is specifically written for authors, and Hyatt explains the publishing industry, but the principles he covers are good for anyone in business. He tells aspiring authors that it is absolutely necessary that they create their own “platform” or distribution channel if they want to be published. The publishing industry has changed quite a bit. Traditional book deals where the publisher gives the author an advance and invests in the development, production, and promotion of the book are not as common as they used to be, but authors that have their own developed platform are more likely to receive this. I know this to be true. I have a friend who is a food blogger who has published online since 1995. She was offered a deal for a cookbook from a publisher because she already has a site that gets a million views a month, a mailing list, and robust social media profiles. Offering a deal to someone like her is a much safer bet for a publisher who is fronting an advance and investing in the development and promotion of the book versus an unknown. I’ve created marketing pieces for other authors and they have told me the same thing. Even with traditional publishing, they are primarily responsible for promoting their work.

Hyatt explains why this platform building is necessary and then lays out a step-by-step blueprint for building one. It is an overview, an entire book could be written on each specific element of building a platform, but Platform does a very good job of painting the big picture. Platform was published in 2012 and I took the class in which it was assigned in 2016. There were a few things in the book that I thought were a little dated, after all, online marketing changes rapidly; but overall, all I thought it did a very good job of explaining what and the why of what needed to be done. When I read it, I thought, “This is an awesome book.” I was the only person in my class that thought so. Everyone else absolutely hated it. They hated it so much that some wanted to petition to have it removed from the reading list for the class. They didn’t like Hyatt’s recommendations, even though he had decades of experience in the publishing industry and is a published author himself. So, fast forward a couple of years and some friends and I decided to start a journal. The first issue launched in April of this year, and just a couple of weeks ago we released the fourth issue titled, Celebrating Planet Narnia. It is in honor of one of the professors of our program, Dr. Michael Ward, who published Planet Narnia ten years ago. The main idea of his book is that the influence of the seven planets in the medieval model of the solar system are the unifying factor among C.S. Lewis’s seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia. If you’ve read, or watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and wondered what Father Christmas was doing in Narnia, Ward explains the continuity in his book. Included in Celebrating Planet Narnia is an interview with Dr. Ward about the journey the publication of his book launched.  This is what he says about publishing a book:

I also feel a responsibility to Planet Narnia itself, if that doesn’t sound like a strange thing to say. But I say it because of something the Inklings scholar, Diana Glyer, once remarked to me about her own (excellent) book, The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community. It’s not enough just to write a book and get it published, any more than it would be enough just to conceive a child and give birth to it. You then have a responsibility to give your work ‘a good start’ in the world (by giving talks, recording interviews and podcasts, signing copies, responding to readers), and to do what you can to tend its mid-term development in appropriate ways. . . You get to shepherd your own work for a while, which hopefully increases the chance it will gain a wide and fair hearing and accordingly be able to stand more and more on its own feet. So that has taught me a lot about the job of being a writer; it involves much more than just writing![1]
It sounds like Dr. Ward is saying pretty much the same thing that Michael Hyatt does in Platform doesn’t it? The point is, whatever type of endeavor that you have, whether it is a business, a book, an event, or a nonprofit, it is important to nurture and promote it. So make a plan for that promotion and execute it consistently.

Want to Get Started?

Would you like to start developing your own customer conversations?  Schedule a time to discuss content marketing and promotion options for your business


[1] Michael Ward. “Seven Questions: AUJ with Michael Ward.” An Unexpected Journal 1, no. 4. (Advent 2018): 10.

Influence and Impact: What Type of Legacy will You Leave?

Influence and Impact: What Type of Legacy will You Leave?

The past couple of weeks we have talked about marketing and promoting your business, we are going to take a different track today and talk about purpose, impact, and influence.

Last week, we watched the funeral of George Bush, Sr. , he was remembered not so much for political wins or losses, but for a life well-lived and for the family that he loved. 

My favorite part of George W.’S eulogy to his father was when he said:

In his inaugural address, the 41st president of the United States said this, “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car or a bigger bank account, we must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood, and his town better than he found it. 

What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there. That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us, or that we stop to ask if a sick child had gotten better and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship.

The pastor of my Bible study said this yesterday, “Each one of us leaves a legacy, whether we want to or not.  We decide what that legacy will be.”

That is true, we don’t have to be an elected official or a captain of industry to make a difference.  Every person has an impact on those around them.  As a business owner or manager, you especially play a vital role in the lives of your employees, their families, and your community.

In business, it’s important to pay attention to the net, but the income statement is not your company mission, and it is definitely not your life’s purpose.[1] 

Jack Welch, the former chairman of GE, talked about that.  He took GE through a tremendous period of growth; however, his focus was first on people.  His view was that if the company did good by their employees, and the employees did well by their customers and communities, that an increase in “stakeholder value” was a natural result of that focus. This is what he said about it:

. . . And I was asked, what do you think of shareholder value as a strategy? I said it’s the dumbest idea possible. It isn’t a strategy; it’s an outcome. A strategy is something like, an innovative new product; globalization, taking your products around the world; be the low-cost producer. A strategy is something you can touch; you can motivate people with; be number one and number two in every business. You can energize people around the message. They come to work every day. It’s tangible. It’s something they can feel and be proud of.

Shareholder value? What the hell is that Larry? It’s the result of you doing a great job, watching your share price go up, your shareholders win, and dividends increasing. What happens when you have increasing shareholder value? You’re delivering better employees to their communities and they can give back. Communities are winning because employees are involved in mentoring and all these other things. Customers are winning because you’re providing them new products, value propositions.

It’s people first.  How does your business, and the way you do business, enrich the life of the people you work with, the people you do business with, and the community you are in?

Bob McNair, another big name here in Houston, passed away a few weeks ago.[2]  A few days before that, another local business owner died.  He owned a yogurt shop here in Kingwood, one that was inundated after the San Jacinto River Authority made its catastrophic release after Hurricane Harvey. 

The owner worked hard and brought his shop back into business, but he was fighting another battle with cancer that he didn’t win. 

An immigrant from Vietnam, his yogurt shop, was the culmination of his American Dream.  His daughter said:

“Running The Berry Bar made him so happy because he always got to meet new people and make friends out of the regular customers,” she said. “He really did love his customers.[3]

Business owners that give back to and invest in their community are what makes a community a special place to be.


[1] Jack Welch and Larry Kudlow. “Money & Politics with Larry Kudlow: An Interview with Jack Welch.” CNBC. Published March 17, 2009. Accessed December 10, 2018.

[2] David Bryan. “Texans owner Bob McNair, who brought the NFL back to Houston, dies at 81.” Houston Chronicle. Published November 23, 2018. Accessed December 10, 2018.

[3] Nguyen Le. “Community mourns passing of beloved Kingwood business owner.” Houston Chronicle. Published November 30, 2018.  Accessed December 10, 2018.

How to Position Yourself as an Expert with Content Marketing

How to Position Yourself as an Expert with Content Marketing

Today I’m going to talk about the need to include education when promoting your business. I’ve met a number of people who think that if they do a good job and treat their customer and clients well, that it is enough. They shouldn’t really need to advertise or market their business.

Doing a good job and treating people well is necessary, but it isn’t enough. For one thing, people have short memories. That’s just a fact. There will be a percentage of your clients that will keep you in mind and not only come back, but refer you . . . But for the majority, if a competitor puts themselves in front of them at the right moment . . . They most likely get that sale or contract.

The second reason is that very often while your customer may be happy about their interaction with you, they don’t know exactly why or how you served them well.

I’ll use pool building as an example. It’s hot and humid in Houston and pools are a very big deal. They are also a major investment for a homeowner. Not always, but usually a good chunk of presales time for a pool builder is educating the customer on why certain aspects of construction are important and why they really don’t want to skimp in those areas.

I know several very good local pool builders and we have had very long conversations about their frustration when they spend hours with a customer, only to have someone undercut their bid, and even worse is when they use the design engineered by the builder they didn’t go with.

I feel their pain, I do. Anyone with a business that provides any sort of consulting or strategy has experienced this. It is not just the execution, the plan, design or strategy, is part of the service.

If the service provider can’t be trusted to create the plan, they might not be the best to oversee its execution either. Each element contributes to building the big picture. If that vision isn’t there, the outcome might not be what you think.

Going back to the swimming pool example, we had a house when we first moved to the Houston area with a swimming pool. Coming from a state with much cooler weather, I had no idea what questions to ask or things to examine.

Pools are great . . . When you can keep them clean. In order to do that, sanitation and filtration are the number one priority. Forget the water features, make sure you have a good filter. We did not. We had a sand filter system that hadn’t had the sand changed out in years, but we didn’t know that until we fought a green pool for two years. My friend told me that you just can’t get ideal filtration with those old sand filters anyway.

To add to that, it was a fairly large pool but it only had one skimmer and one drain. Even a good filtration system would have had a hard time keeping it clean. The people who put the pool in obviously were sold on price, they put a big cheap hole in the ground, one that ended up being very expensive and frustrating to maintain.

If the original owners had known the consequences of going with the cheap builder up front, would they have made a different decision? I don’t know, but I do know that if I had known what I know now about pools when we bought the house . . . I think we would have made a different decision about which house to buy.

Your potential customers and clients are not experts in your field. You are. If you are in a business where experience and execution are important, then you, as the expert, need to be able to communicate that.

Before I moved to Texas, I used to be in real estate and I remember spending so much time educating clients one-on-one. Looking at houses was just a fraction of the time I spent with clients. Buying a home is a huge investment, for most people, it is the largest investment they will ever make, so it is important that buyers make an informed decision.

This was before Youtube, social media, and before blogging was a thing. I created home buyer and seller guides to give to people. Today, I would use content marketing: blog posts with tips, an email series for client development, and videos for home promotion and personal marketing.
If you’ve researched promoting your business online, I’m sure you’ve come across the term “content marketing.” I call it developing customer conversations. This type of educational information and explaining how your business best fits your customer’s need is what content marketing does best.

How are you communicating your professional expertise to potential clients? Last week, I talked about developing a marketing plan. How does that communication, that content marketing, fit into the plan?

Want to Get Started?

Would you like to start developing your own customer conversations?  Schedule a time to discuss content marketing and promotion options for your business

Getting Started with a Marketing Plan

Getting Started with a Marketing Plan

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. It’s Cyber Monday. How did your weekend sales go? Did you implement some sort of customer building effort like we talked about last week? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Today, we are going to talk about planning, and specifically how to plan out a marketing campaign. My undergraduate degree is in business with a double option in marketing and advertising. My education covered general marketing principles, but in terms of advertising and application, it was focused on working in an advertising agency where you would research and develop a plan over a period of months.

What I’ve found in working with small businesses “out in the wild,” so to speak, is that the majority of them don’t operate that way. They know they need to market their business, but for most of them, that usually means they by an ad or a service if a salesperson happens to hit them at the right time.

That is the extreme end, of course, there are businesses who have more of a plan, but even then I’ve noticed that most of the time, all the pieces such as their website, their social media, their print, and their in-store promotions, don’t all tie together. There is not a single message.

Want to Get Started?

Would you like to start developing your own customer conversations?  Schedule a time to discuss content marketing and promotion options for your business

Because this is so common, the very first seminar I gave was on “how to develop a marketing plan” specifically for small businesses. I want to ask you a question. If something happened to the person who normally makes your marketing decisions, whether that is the owner or a specific employee, would you know the plan for the coming year? Could someone else step in and carry out that plan? If the answer is yes, “Yes, we do have a written plan,” then my next question is, does everyone on your team have an understanding of the activities and goals of that plan? When you play any sort of sport, there is a specific goal . . . An end in mind. Does every person on your team understand the goal they are working towards? If the answer to either of those questions (do you have a plan and is it communicated to employees) is no, some adjustment is necessary. I know one of the things about entrepreneurs is that very often they resist being nailed down to a specific plan or structure. That is part of why they are entrepreneurs, they want to do their own thing and a “plan” can seem so rigid, they like the excitement of uncertainty. What I would say to that is this. Even with the best-laid plans, life will bring enough uncertainty as it is. If you plan and prepare the best you can, you will be ready to deal with the “surprises” that pop up. The other thing I would say is that freewheeling attitude that energizes you as an entrepreneur stresses out your employees. If they were entrepreneurs, they wouldn’t be working for you, they would have their own business. Leaders point to a destination or goal. If you can’t communicate direction, you won’t have the full support of your team. Plans are important, in every area.

Make It Simple

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate report that an agency would create. It just has to be a plan. When I gave the seminar on developing a marketing plan, we talked about things to consider in the plan, but as for the actual plan itself, my recommendation was to keep it simple. Especially if you haven’t done this before, just get a year-at-a-glance calendar and think about the seasons of your business. When are the busy times of your year? What type of event or promotion will you run for that? Write it down. Think about the holidays, what will you do during those times? What are the slow times during your year? This might be a good time to hold a customer appreciation event or spend some one-on-one time with your best clients. When I work with clients, we usually look at the year in quarters and what we will be focusing on during that time. Not always, sometimes themes or focuses need to be shorter, but that is where we begin. Let’s say you have four major promotions or focuses planned for the coming year, those are your pillars. Everything else that you do will either build up to or follow up on those events: your advertising, your on-site promotions, your content marketing, your email newsletters, your social media postings. Do you see how the rest of your marketing and promotion become much easier once you have the sketches of a plan?

Marketing Tips for the Holiday Weekend

Marketing Tips for the Holiday Weekend

Thanksgiving is in a few days and then the big sales weekend is upon us: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday.  If you have any sort of retail business, I’m sure you have your sales and promotions in place.

But one thing I would like you to think about is “what happens next?” You’ve put a lot of effort and most likely a lot of money advertising those sales. Hopefully, this weekend will see a good return, but do you have anything in place to bring those customers into your broader customer base.

Once they come into your store, do you have a way to connect with them to encourage them to come back?

When you buy an ad in a magazine, or a newspaper, or run a promotion on social media, you are paying that publication for access to the distribution channel they have created. They have the eyes, or ears, you are trying to reach.
But what you want to do is to build your own distribution channel, your own customer base so that you aren’t solely reliant on paying outside advertisers.

What do I mean by this?

Let’s say you are running a sale this weekend. You’ve paid for mailers to go out, ads in several papers, and are running a Facebook promo . . . along with everyone else.

Someone comes into your store, buys a few things, and leaves. They may come back, they may not. But in order for them to know about sales you are running in the future, you will have to keep running the same sort of ads you did this time.
You will keep paying for the same customer over and over.

You might say, “well we have a Facebook page, we can post our sales there.” Good, you should.

But here’s the thing about Facebook, that page you are posting on and working so hard to build is actually Facebook’s page about your business, it is not your page.

When you post an update, only a small percentage of your followers will see that update unless one of two things happen, the first is if it gets a lot of engagement through likes and shares, and the second is if you pay for exposure. Otherwise, that update is throttled.
I wrote about this several years ago, natural engagement has only gotten worse. The same is true for Instagram, engagement of regular posts has dropped dramatically in the last year.

I am not saying not to participate on these platforms. They are a good way to participate in the conversations going on about your industry or service. But recognize it for what it is, it is Facebook’s game, they call the shots. You don’t.

So what is the answer? I’m going to cover three ways to grow your customer base from people walking through your doors, make the most of those ad spends.

#1 Build Your Email List

The one thing that you control is your list. You want to know who your customers are and continually expand that list. Some businesses send mailers to their list. Some do text marketing. But the easiest and most cost effective way to market to your customers is through email marketing.

If you go into a large nationwide business, what do they ask you at the register? Have you joined our rewards program and would you like to receive email notifications of sales?

They are building their customer base. Once that customer is on their list, they don’t have to rely as heavily on outside ad spends. They can do flash sales, they can clear out inventory with special closeouts and send it to their customer list.

But maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have a rewards program with my point of sale system.”

It doesn’t have to be complicated. One of my clients had a really archaic register system, but they still built their list. The cashier just said, “Are you on our email list?” If the answer was no, they said, “Would you like to be?” Then they just wrote their name and email address down on a sheet by the register and those were later added to their list. It can be that simple.

#2 Build Customer Reviews

The second way to grow your business from existing customers is by building up your reviews on review sites like Google, Angie’s List, and Yelp.

When you are looking for a company to do business with, what do you do? You might ask around, and then you also look at online reviews, don’t you? This is especially true for service businesses and restaurants.

I’m going to tell you a story of a local business who does a really good job of gaining favorable reviews.

I have three girls, and all of their mouths are a mess. One had a crossbite, one an overbite, and the third an underbite. Two of them had to have two sets of braces. We are an orthodontists dream.

When we started going to this orthodontist, I noticed that they had a lot of good reviews and I was wondering if they had a service that helped them with that. I also paid attention to the other ways they cultivated their relationships with their clients: they have a little welcome to the family gift when you start with them, their staff is very friendly, they have good communication, their office is pleasant with movies, games, refreshments, and wifi.

But actually, a lot of other dentists and orthodonists do the same, without getting the same number of reviews.

So one of my daughters got her braces off a few weeks ago. It was a big day. After the braces were removed, the doctor showed me how they looked along with the before pictures.

He asked me if I thought they looked good, and of course, I did.

And then he asked if I was happy with the service we have received. I said yes, and he asked again if there was anything they could do to improve because they were always looking for improvement.

He was following up to make sure there weren’t any issues outstanding.

After that, he handed me several cards and said, “If you refer anyone, be sure to put your name on the back of the card so we can send you a thank you card.”

And then he said, “would you mind taking a few minutes to write a review about us on Yelp or Google?”

When I said I would, he asked which one I would prefer to write on and then handed me a paper that had step by step instructions on how to leave the review.

It was brilliant. It wasn’t some complicated service. He just asked.

So just to recap what he did.

  • He highlighted the value and quality of the service.
  • He asked if we were happy
  • He asked for feedback.
  • He asked for referrals.
  • And he asked for a review, right then, and made sure the steps were clear.

That is how you get reviews. Make sure your customer is happy, and then ask for them.

#3 Build Social Media Profiles

So the last way you can build your business with customers that you have is through social media.

If you have a retail store, I hope you have some sort of photo opp set up for kids. Get some candy or some cookies and juice, set up a station, and have an employee standing there ready to take pictures.

I would recommend having some sort of drawing or contest. If they post the photo tagging your business and location with a unique hashtag, they are entered.

This is a really easy way to grow your social media following.

Have a Plan to Expand Your Customer Base

So to recap, I covered three ways you can grow your customer footprint, and I would prioritize them in this order

  1. The first is your email list. I would do this before you do anything else. If you collect those emails and then say, I don’t know what to do next. Don’t worry, call us, that is what we do.
  2. The second would be to focus on building your online reviews. Now, if you are a retail business, you obviously need to come up with a different strategy than the one that I mentioned, but there are many ways to do this.
  3. The third is to build your social media platform.

Pick one of these goals to focus on. Don’t try to do all three. Just one.  But look at not just this weekend’s sales, but on how well you grow your customer base.

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New Marketing Podcast

New Marketing Podcast

Announcing our new marketing podcast, “Coffee Tips with Carla.”

A little bit about Coffee Tips.  Small business owners wear many hats and one of those usually includes that of “Chief Marketing Officer.” It used to be that a small business put up a sign, put an ad in the Yellow Pages, and ran a few promotions.

Things have changed.

Each Monday morning I will be sharing a few tips to help you promote and grow your business. It won’t be a lecture, just something you can listen to as you sit down to your first cup of coffee on Monday morning.

I hope you’ll join us.