“Please help me”

It’s easy to ask for help. (Unless, of course, you’re trying to reach tech service at a mega corporation that wants your money but doesn’t want to talk to you.)

Yet people resist asking for help. Perhaps it’s because they want to figure things out on their own or they want to be totally independent.Information Desk 2

I believe many business owners – especially owners of smaller businesses – try to do things on their own to save money. They focus more on the upfront expense of doing something than on the potential return on investment.

Sometimes, we think we can do something on our own, but the outcome doesn’t live up to our expectation. It’s not as well thought out or professional as it should be.

I’ve never been shy about asking for help. I find that when I ask I save the time and money. If it’s a one-time task –– something I’ll probably never do again –– I never hesitate to ask for help for no other reason than it eliminates the learning curve. That saves me time, money, and hours of frustration.

Of course, when you’re asking for help, it helps to ask someone who knows how to help. Asking the wrong person rarely produces an exceptional outcome.

When we ask the right person for help, we wind up with a better solution and outcome. We’re able to move forward with greater confidence.

That’s what prompted me to develop My Marketing Handyman. Because business owners have lots of questions and they need professional help when it comes to marketing, promotion, advertising, and closing more business in less time, I wanted to be there for them… with good answers and professional help.

Whether they’re at their wits end or determined to increase the effectiveness of their marketing and their ability to close more business in less time, My Marketing Handyman is designed to give business owners competent, experienced, and authoritative help.

It never hurts to ask for help.

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Meet My Marketing Handyman

Growing up in a middle-class neighborhood, my buddies and I were in awe of Mr. Smith (his real name) and his garage workshop. He was a retired mechanical engineer with more tools than any of us had ever seen.

handyman_img_400From cars to appliances to broken windows, electrical shorts, and clogged drains, neighbors came to him with questions and for help. He always had the right tools and, most importantly, always had the knowledge and the right answers.

Think of me as a Mr. Smith. In my 35+ years as a marketing professional, I’ve accumulated vast knowledge, answers, tools, expertise, and knowhow to fix or solve or simplify just about every marketing challenge, problem, or conundrum there is. And I love to help.

Why “Marketing Handyman?”

As a marketing strategist and consultant, I spend most my time these days working with medium-sized businesses. They know they need experienced, professional help and, for the most part, they understand that help comes with a price.

Smaller businesses and startups need professional support, too. But too often, they don’t have deep pockets to get experienced, professional support. That’s especially true when it comes to marketing.

I grew up in and around small businesses. I admire the many business owners I met who overcame huge obstacles to start and build a profitable small business.

That’s why I created My Marketing Handyman… as a way of providing a range of marketing services to the owners of smaller businesses and startups who would appreciate the advice and knowledge I can bring to the table at a price they can afford.

Here’s how you can help.

First, follow My Marketing Handyman on your favorite social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.

And, of course, let an owner of a smaller business you know about My Marketing Handyman and how he can find me. www.MyMarketingHandyman.com.

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Writer’s block

I’ve been writing professionally my entire adult life — books, articles, reports, marketing copy, radio and television commercials, blog posts, you name it. I’ve always proudly proclaimed that I never get writer’s block.

Until today! Nothing came to mind as a topic for this week’s blog post. I had a terrible case of writer’s block and the vultures were circling overhead. Pressure as it was, I found my answer. writersblock

Most of my ideas come from my personal experiences and from what I see and hear in the world of business and marketing. So, I thought I’d write about my dilemma du jour –– writer’s block.

There are some rules I follow that make writing easier and more fluid and can help prevent writer’s block. These apply to most all writing.

Little stories make for great ideas. Like me, today, writing about writer’s block. It’s not earthshaking, but it will help someone. And it’ll be fun to read.

Write about what you know. This is perhaps the most important of all. You wouldn’t jump into a conversation with a group of medical technicians (unless you were one) and start pontificating. When you write about what you know, it’s effortless. Continue reading

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Who Killed the Family Business?

In 2015, Centre Club Business Connection Committee (the committee in which I currently serve as chair) needed an event: something theatrical. My recommendation was that to make it truly effective, it needed to be more than actors speaking to a passive audience. It needed to be totally interactive.

That led us to think mystery dinner theatre. Two other committee members joined me in attending a mystery dinner theatre production in St. Petersburg. At the conclusion of what we saw as an amateur program, we agreed we could do better. And we could make ours truly valuable to our audience by adding a business theme. That saw the creation of our first production, “Who Killed the Business?”

It was fun and it was educational. With so many thumbs up, we produced an entirely new mystery dinner theatre production in 2016 entitled “Who Killed the Customers?”

This year, we’re producing still another all new production entitled “Who Killed the Family Business?” If you know anything about family businesses (and even if you don’t) you’re in for a real treat.

Plan to join us on Friday, September 22, 2017.

By the way, the production isn’t scripted. The cast uses improv to work our way through the scenes. We never know exactly what will happen. One thing is for sure, If you pay attention, you’ll be able to determine who is pulling the rug out from underneath the family and the family business!

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Who writes these directions?

The man on the corner says, “Straight ahead for three blocks. Then turn left. You’ll drive about four blocks and the store will be on the right. Big red sign. You can’t miss it. But if you pass the Sunoco Station, you’ve gone too far.”

road mapWe’ve all been recipients of directions like that. It lays everything out in a very logical, foolproof sequence and then provides you with a landmark that you don’t really need – the one that tells you you’ve gone too far. While it’s useful to know you passed your destination, knowing doesn’t help you find it.

No, I’m not sitting here with too much time on my hands today. It’s just one of those days in which the quirks of how people communicate with each other (spoken or written) really bugs me.

Here’s another that drives me up a wall. I like to assemble things. So, let’s put assembly instructions into this same communication abyss. “Connect the two pieces with the bolt, washer, and nut provided.” Easy, right? I do that. Bolt, washer, nut… two pieces are connected. And I make sure they’re tight. I wouldn’t want them to come apart – ever!

Then comes the next instruction. “But before you tighten it all the way…” Grrrrr. It’s so illogical. Why not tell me ahead of time… or at least give me a warning.

I don’t know if the people who write directions or instructions are just so familiar with what they’re doing that they take for granted that I’ll understand it, too.

As a writer and author, it concerns me. As the world becomes more complicated, I wonder what needs to happen for people to become serious about better communicate. Perhaps I should write some instructions for how to write clear, easy-to-follow instruction.

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First impressions versus lasting impressions

At a chamber of commerce mixer recently, one of the other attendees and I found ourselves in a heated conversation about the importance of first impressions.

He was adamant making a good first impression is the single-most important thing a business should do. I responded by saying I thought first impressions were not nearly as important as lasting impressions.

I shared a story of walking into a restaurant in New York City with a group of friends, looking around at the incredible decor, taking in some incrediblewaiter4 aromas, and being greeted and seated courteously and efficiently by the maître d’.

It was a great first impression and we were off to a great start. None of us could have hoped for more. At that point, I absolutely would have raved about it.

I’m sympathetic that eight people at a table in a crowded restaurant doesn’t make life easy for any waiter or waitress. But she carefully took notes and disappeared.

When the food finally arrived, practically all the special requests had been ignored. Plus, many entrées were either overcooked or undercooked. Trying to get the situation corrected was no easy task.

The bottom line to this story is only one person at the table had a meal they felt was above standard. The rest of us were doing more complaining than smiling.

The point is what brings consumers back to a restaurant or to any other business establishment is not the first impression the restaurant or business makes. It’s the lasting impression –– the exceptional experience we take with us when we leave.

It’s the lasting impression that either encourages us to return and contribute more of our hard-earned money to the establishment or to cross it off our list of places to patronize again.

As you read How to Close More Business in Less Time and begin working through your ideal sales process, remember every extraordinary lasting impression begins with an equally extraordinary first impression.

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Is your website telling or selling?

Over all, many of the websites I come across do a great job at conveying good, solid information. They tell a great story.

The problem is, except for hobbyists, most people who create websites want to sell lecturer2something.

But their websites don’t sell!

In my bestselling book, How to Close More Business in Less Time, I speak about websites as a vital part of the sales process. I go on to say that a website is its own self-contained sales process –– moving readers through a series of steps that begin with addressing a problem and educating a prospective buyer to ultimately closing the sale… plus follow-up after the sale.

While video is becoming a more prevalent component in websites built for selling, most business websites and marketing communications continue to be driven almost entirely by the written word.

But writing copy that can effectively move a consumer through all the steps of a sales process and culminate in a better than average closing ratio isn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, it’s extremely difficult.

That’s why I condensed my many years of marketing and writing experience to create a Handbook for business owners and marketing professionals. It’s entitled If you want to WRITE like a marketing pro, you first need to THINK like a marketing pro. It explains the challenges businesses need to be overcome when it comes to using the written word to create websites and marketing materials that sell.

Effective writing for the web or any marketing activity begins with thinking like a marketing professional and understanding how to move a transaction from beginning to end (cash in the bank).

To learn more about this unique and valuable Handbook for business owners and marketing professionals entitled If you want to WRITE like a marketing pro, you first need to THINK like a marketing pro, CLICK HERE.

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People don’t start listening until they start talking

Prior to writing How to Close More Business in Less Time, I had an opportunity to coach a startup home remodeling company in Ohio. The two partners decided to focus on high-end kitchens and bathrooms. Not a customary place for a startup in their industry.

listening talkingTypically, in the home remodeling business, a salesman comes into the house, meets the homeowners,  rushes into the kitchen, takes a few measurements, pulls out some samples, and starts selling. He talks about his experienced and well-established company, and comes up with a price. He’s doing all the talking.

Not my client. Called Hallmark Home Remodeling in the book, were unknown in the market. They didn’t have a reputation good or bad. What they did have was experience from their previous jobs and they did great work.

Knowing that their competitors would rush to sell and not develop a relationship, I focused on one of the steps in my typical sales process called “rapport building.”

The first contact with the homeowner was totally choreographed. Before they walked into the house, they donned rubber booties so as not to track anything in. They introduced themselves and standing in the foyer identified an architectural feature in one of the rooms –– a fireplace or cove molding. They asked if they could take a closer look. The homeowner always said yes.

Next, they’d ask for a tour of the entire house. During the tour, they learned a tremendous amount about the family –– by watching and listening. They’d observe a bedroom that appeared to be rarely used because their youngest was away at college. They’d learn about downsizing plans the homeowners might have within the next few years.

By the time they got to the kitchen they were friends. The homeowners were open and sharing their feelings. And the two new entrepreneurs began closing more business and better business.

You can read the entire Hallmark story in How to Close More Business in Less Time. I take you step by step through Hallmark’s entire sales process. You’ll find it extremely helpful. There’s a lot of nuance. Best of all, it can be adapted to any business.

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No more surveys! You already know the answer…

While traveling last week I received three surveys from servers in three different restaurants – the kinds that ask us to go online, enter a number, receive a discount coupon for a next visit, and even win a prize. I also received email surveys from five hotels along the way.

That doesn’t include the several that popped up after I made online purchases prior to Survey13going on the trip. One survey asked about my experience visiting their website. Well, not only didn’t I buy, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I didn’t feel it was my responsibility to tell them what was wrong or how to fix it. So, I didn’t respond.

The way I see it, a business shouldn’t have to ask my opinion as to how they’re doing. If they’re alert… if they’re really paying attention… they know if I’m happy or if I’ve been disappointed.

One clue to my happiness is the size of the tip I leave following a meal in a restaurant. Another is how many times I return to the store or website to spend more money.

Always, the survey I like the best is when someone takes the time to look me straight in the eye, smile and, knowing quite well that they did perform masterfully, asks: “Was everything to your complete satisfaction?” And when I smile back and say, “Absolutely,” they know they received my highest score. So, as I see it, there’s only one question that ever needs to be asked.

And if they see anything less than a big happy smiley face and hear an enthusiastic “YES,” they need to probe and do whatever it takes… not only to get you to return… but to do it in such a way that you want to tell your friends and colleagues about how great they are to do business with.

The sad thing is that I sometimes wonder if businesses really want to know how well or poorly they did. After all, if you say you’re unhappy, they’re pretty much obligated to do something to fix it and make it right. These days, doing something could cost them more than losing you as a customer.

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Overcoming bumps, detours, and sudden stops

One of the things I like best about the “process” is that all processes have one thing in common. They can be studied, analyzed, measured, modified, changed, improved, and streamlined.vintage-1892146_1280

In How to Close More Business in Less Time, I talk about how Hallmark Construction Company experienced resistance whenever the issue of pricing surfaced in their sales presentations. These hurdles or brick walls either slowed the sales process or brought it to a dead halt.

Let’s give those brick walls and hurdles a better name and call them “points of constraint.”

In 1984, Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt published a book entitled The Goal in which he presented his “Theory of Constraints.” Goldratt explained that a constraint is anything that prevents the system or process from achieving “more of its goal.”

Goldratt explains the best way to optimize the entire process is to identify the one or two or three most difficult or challenging constraints within the process and to solve, resolve, or fix those first.

One way I explain constraints is by using an hourglass as an example. That skinny point or narrow orifice is the constraint. If you somehow could double the size of the orifice, the sand would fall more freely and quickly to the bottom.

Or think about a traffic jam on a highway with three lanes feeding into one. Two lanes of traffic closed due to construction can cause an unintended parking lot that goes on for miles. That’s a point of constraint.

In a sales process, there are typically one or two or three points of constraint that keep the sales process from moving forward without interruption or, sometimes, stopping it entirely.

The way you fix it –– the way you consistently increase your closing ratio –– is to study, analyze, and measure your sales process. That’s helps you identify and eliminate those nasty points of constraint while you close more business in less time.

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