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Sage Economic Advice for Desperate Times

by Eugene Loj

First Published: January 14, 2009
Last updated: January 30, 2014

Drayton_bird A few days ago, I stumbled upon some YouTube videos of Drayton Bird.  A quick search on YouTube will pull up some of his videos. I encourage you to take a look. Drayton is a world renowned direct marketing expert from the UK ... Thirty years ago he was completely broke and in massive debt. He owed so much money that he was living under a false name.  At the time Drayton decided to start a direct marketing firm with two other partners, who were also broke. 

Three years after launching, Drayton’s firm was the largest direct marketing agency in Britain. Five years later his firm was bought out by the juggernaut Ogilvy & Mather for millions of dollars.

Some Sage Economic Advice
I understand that not everyone will be able to live Drayton's rags to riches story. But, there is always a lesson to be learned. Last year, Drayton was addressing a group of marketers at the Baltic Direct Marketing conference.  During his presentation Drayton shared some enlightening words on how one should view the economy and the current economic conditions (or any times of economic dispair).

There is no such thing as the Economy. There is only your economy. The only economy that matters is your economy. Let everyone else worry about thee economy. All you need is a great idea, it doesn't matter what the economy is doing.

– Drayton Bird

I understand that a number of people are facing tough times in a bad economy. But there is one of two ways to face a bad economic situation ...

  • You can either do something about your economy or let the economy do things to you or your business - what are you doing right now?




Your Event & The Economy
I've stated this previously but it warrants repeating. In the last six months, I know event organizers in various industries that have SOLD OUT their events in spite of the economy. Most people would say "They shouldn't have been able to do that!" The different events focused on leisure activities, not furthering education or knowledge based event. People still want to have fun, regardless of economics. Are you giving people a very compelling reason to open their wallet and spend their hard earned money with you?

Direct Response Advice
You can get more sound direct marketing advice from Drayton by visiting his web site or his blog. There are plenty of direct marketing tidbits to be found on his web site. Below I've included some direct marketing features on the late-great David Ogilvy.

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How to Create Your Own Luck

One of my favorite activities is sharing success stories with friends and associates. I’ve always been inspired by people who turn a giving situation into extraordinary success.  For the longest time I thought that sharing success stories would inspire others to try something new or do something different.  To my surprise most people whom I share a success story with use the comeback “They got lucky!” or “They cheated.” Rarely is the response, “Hey, that’s awesome” or “How did they do that? Tell me more.” I believe that anyone can manufacture their own luck.  The equation is so simple that it is overlooked and discounted by most people. It goes like this . . .

  • The More Opportunities You Pursue the More “Luck” You Enjoy.

The concept is so simple that most people never make use of it. You can’t lock yourself in your room, do absolutely nothing, and hope to be lucky. One of my all time favorites, Thomas Edison, created his own luck. Edison was lucky because he tried more often. Most people don't remember Thomas Edison by how many times he tried, but what he accomplished. Try to be more Edisonian in your pursuits. The luckiest people put themselves in more favorable situations by trying more often. Consider the following . . .

"Babe Ruth is famous for his past home run record, but for decades he also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career (about which he said, "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.").

Source: http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/efficacynotgiveup.html

Improving Your Luck
You can further improve your luck by refining how you target a challenge or situation.  Let’s consider advertising for a moment. If you are trying to market a product or service narrow your scope. Consider how many companies make use of advertising and try to cast the widest net possible.  I believe that you’ll have better luck approaching ten thousand people who have a vested interest in what you provide versus a million people who might be interested. It pays to narrow the scope of your opportunities. Just be careful not to be too limiting.

Ask an Important Question

If you really want to get the most out of a “good luck” story ask yourself, “How did they do that?” Most people discount other people’s success. The smartest people learn from the success of others and integrate that success into their own approach.  Maybe there is a successful technique you can incorporate that someone else has already discovered.  You would be surprised at how many successful people are willing to give a few minutes of their personal time to share their stories.

It isn’t that difficult to get lucky if you are consistently aligning opportunities in front of you. Most people never take the time to explore the endless opportunities in this world. It isn't a matter of no risk, no reward.  It's no risk, no opportunity. Without opportunity you'll never get any reward.

Additional Article Resources:

 



Referrals and Setting the Bar High

Yesterday I had an interesting discussion with the partner of a very high end graphic design firm.  During the course of our brief conversation I asked her about how they generate business. The really interesting part about the graphic design firm's clients is their list of predominately high end clients. The person I was interviewing indicated they generate a good portion of new business as a result of referrals. This simple notion was a catalyst for my own insight into the referral process.

"What others say about you and your product, service, or business is at least 1,000 times more convincing than what you say, even if you are 2,000 times more eloquent."
- Dan Kennedy

You Need to Ask Before You Can Receive
The best way to get a referral is by asking for one. Yet, it's very common for business owners to be hesitant about asking for referrals. For all my years of business, I can't think of one client who referred me business without asking for a referral.  Don't be afraid to ask. My father always told me, "The worst they can do is say, No." Nobody will every think any less of you.

Go for the Cream of the Crop
All referrals are not created equal. I believe that any referrals you have an opportunity to approach have value. At the same time, I would argue that the more prestigious the client the better the referral.  If you have a product or service that you're confident works well, why not position try to position it as high as possible?  Some of my biggest business breaks came as a result of aligning my best services with very reputable clients. Look back a few years, I cannot think of a particularly good reason why any business should look to set the client bar as high as possible from the start.  If you have high end clients, chances are you are going to get high end referrals.
   
Eliminating Client Problems with High End Referrals
An important part of the business process is choosing the right clients.  Many businesses fall into the trap of taking on new business for financial gain.  At the same time, don't forget to consider all aspects of taking on a new client. It is very tempting to take a job that will pay nicely. Focus on the relationship aspects first, then the money part afterward.  Aaron Wall of SeoBook.com gave me some great advice during a telephone interview a few months ago.  You can eliminate 95% of your client problems by selecting the right clients.  Only do business with the people who are going to be a good fit for your product or services. The right clients shouldn't squabble about your price or second guess your methodology. The best thing you can do for your business is find clients that are a good fit.

Next time you think about a new client, take a few moments to consider the type of referrals they might be able to provide. Referrals are one of the best ways to generate new business. If you can get any referrals from your clients, at least get a testimonial.

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"Can Your Computer or the Internet Kill You?"

"There I was . . ." rolling out after landing in a Canadian Harvard (AT-6 Texan).  I had landed the airplane on the runway and began rolling out.  During the landing there was a steady breeze from the right. Because of my lack of correcting for the wind the airplane's right wing started to rise, creating a very dangerous predicament. I was but a few seconds from wrecking a beautiful vintage World War II airplane. The stick abruptly moved on it's own to the right to correct the extremely dangerous situation. 

A second later a very stern voice came into my headset, "I just saved your ass! NEVER let that happen again!"  The quick control correction and stern voice was my Instructor Pilot, "Holiday," from the back seat.  In flying it's really easy to make a simple mistake that leads to a life threatening situation.  In retrospect, too many people approach their personal use of computers and the Internet as though they were piloting an airplane on their own for the first time. I don't know of anyone who has ever been injured or killed using a computer, trying to create a web page, or accessing the Internet from their home or office.  The biggest challenge to getting computer phobics to use a computer is their fear of "breaking it." There are things in this world we all do that can easily hurt us, using a computer isn't one of them.

Why Fear of Something That Can't Hurt You?
One of the best ways to overcome the fear of computers or the Internet is by immersing yourself in the experience. "I'm afraid that I'll mess something up" is a statement repeated by novice computer users on a regular basis. The irony is that in today's world computers have never been easier to operate.  It's perfectly fine to make simple mistakes on the computer. Gone are the days of DOS when all you had to do was delete a critical file sending the whole computer into a tizzy. Thomas Edison would agree that the more mistakes we make the more we learn.  The great Babe Ruth had 1,330 strike outs on his way to 741 home runs. Is he remembered for his strike outs (mistakes) or home runs?

Good SA Makes for An Easy Recovery
After years of wrecking my own computers and crashing perfectly good web sites, there is one technique that has assisted me in correcting more issues than any other technique: having good SA.  In the piloting world it's called SA (Situational Awareness).  The best pilots know exactly what is going on around them at all times.  If good pilot gets into a dicey situation, he or she quickly corrects the action based on knowing what just happened. You can apply good SA to dealing with computer problems. It is very important to be conscious of what you are doing at all times. Don't forget the standards like frequently saving the file(s) you are working on and having good anti-virus software. 

If your computer, or a web site your working on breaks, try to retrace your steps. The biggest challenge and frustration to anyone who's trying to troubleshoot a problem web page or problematic computer is figuring out what caused the problem in the first place.  "I don't know what I did!" Those words create more frustration for computer repair techs or your guardian angel computer geek trying to help solve a problem. The easiest solutions are those where the problem is easily identified and quickly retraced to the source. If the cause of the problem isn't known it could take hours to correct.

Provided the problem with your computer or web site isn't so bad as to knock out your Internet, you can find a solution on your own.  Go to Google and type in the problem in the search box.  In almost every instance you will be able to quickly find a solution. Goto a resident computer geek if you don't feel comfortable trying to solve the solution on your own.

Fear Not!
Computers can open up an amazing world of information and communication for anyone who is willing to try something new. There is no need to fear something that can't really hurt you. There are plenty of geeks around to help you out.

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Money Saving Advertising Question

Last week I had an interesting business experience.  Someone tried selling me advertising in a local print publication.  As part of their sales pitch they gave me a number compelling reasons to consider in an attempt to get me to advertise with them. After they finished their presentation I asked a very fair question which quickly resulted in the salesperson getting upset with me and abandoning me as a prospect.  Over the years I found the question to be a simple yet effective way for staying clear of advertising that might not fit your product or service.

Guaranteed Success?

To be fair, no form of advertising can provide you with guaranteed ROI.  One of the most difficult tasks is being able to effectively track the ROI performance of traditional advertising.  The percentage of “keyed” ads for traditional marketing like radio or print is fairly low.  The ultimate responsibility of effective advertising falls on the company or person actually producing the ad.  If an ad doesn’t contain critical elements including a well thought out USP and call to action it is going to be difficult to be successful. It doesn’t matter how many impressions a media channel can guarantee. You need to demand results with your advertising!

The Question To Ask . . .
You can ask the question for almost any type of advertising: television, radio, print, billboards, online, etc. Direct the question to the person trying to sell you advertising.  Ask them “Can you give me a few references of companies who advertise (or have advertised) with you selling similar products or services to my own?  I would like to ask them some questions related to their ROI.” It’s a fair and honest question.  If a company can’t provide you with a few advertising references why buy advertising from them?  The question isn't meant to discourage businesses from advertising.  It's to discourage people from getting into the wrong advertising.

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"Why Isn't the Web Site Updated Yet?"

Yesterday I received a concerning email from a client.  They expressed concern over a web page that hadn’t been updated in a few weeks.

About 30 minutes after receiving the original email someone further up the chain of command called me expressing their concern regarding web site updating.  They told me, “People are checking the web site and things aren’t up to date.  That’s creating problems for us.” More frustration was expressed.

Here is the funny part.  The web site had been updated almost two weeks prior.  Because of an undetermined reason the client’s computer had a cached copy of the site showing up that didn’t reflect the changes.  This simple problem probably wasted about an hour of time for everyone involved and created far too much unnecessary frustration.

The above example is experienced by web developers on a regular basis.  For whatever reason their browser wasn’t refreshing and displaying the most up to date web page.  Usually this is a result of a user browser caching problem or proxy cache issue.

Pick Up The Phone and Call

The above problem could have been resolved without frustration via a quick telephone call. In my humble opinion, too many people rely on email to conduct business. Emails don’t always get the point across effectively. Encourage your clients or customers to pick up the phone and call with problems.  I’m a big proponent of encouraging clients to call if they have questions and concerns.  If you can resolve an issue or question over the phone in 2 minutes versus multiple emails, go with the telephone route.

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Business Problems and Customer Service

Everyone can recall examples of good and bad customer service.  Recently I witnessed the demise of a promising business. There were numerous factors that lead closing the business. Customer service was one of the largest issues.  In this case customer service took the form of a lack of communication with patrons.  Last Friday, I went to visit a business I kept a membership with for the last five year.  The doors were locked and a sign posted indicating they’re out of business.  I knew that the business had been having difficulty and that it would possibly be sold or closed down shortly.  Yet, the closing came with no advanced notice to most of their other patrons.  If you are experiencing an unusual challenge with your business let your clients or patrons know about the challenge. 

Regardless of the business situation, good or bad, keep the customers informed.  There are a number of instances when things are going bad and businesses aren’t forthright with their clients.  Most businesses won’t acknowledge problem until it is too late.  If you’re in a sticky business situation, let your customers know about the situation immediately.  You don’t have to divulge minute details. But at least acknowledge that there is a problem and a resolution is being implemented or planned.  It is always in your best interest to keep customers informed.

When customers start to speculate or become uncertain about a product or service they’ll start to look elsewhere for their needs.  This is exactly what happened in the situation I witnessed.  When people heard rumors about the business possibly shutting down they started to look elsewhere.  The customer’s loyalty became strained and they started to lose faith in the company.  Without customer support overcoming challenges can become significantly more difficult.

I’ll point back to an important statistic from a previous post: “95% of unhappy customers will do business again with you if their issue is resolved immediately.” (Source: Technical Assistance Research Programs) The problem was never acknowledged or resolved immediately. 

It is in your best interest to always keep your customers informed.

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Who Else Wants Great Clients?

Aaron Wall of SEOBook.com was good enough to give me a few minutes of his time today.  I called him up to ask about some of the challenges associated with Internet consulting, specifically as it relates to selecting the right clients. There are a number of people I know who have been on roller coaster rides with clients, myself included.  The advice Aaron passes along is a fresh take on things and helps refocus on the possibilities the Internet has to offer.

Here is a summary of some of the helpful advice he passed along with some of my interjected anecdotes:

Be Highly Selective of Your Clients
Finding_clients You can solve 90% of you client frustration problems by being highly selective of clients.  Match yourself and your services with companies who are a good fit.  Your interaction with another company or client is two way street.  Too many people focus on money they might get as opposed to the opportunity.  If you end up with a difficult client it can take the wind right out of your sails and you work will likely suffer. Aaron said he has been fortunate enough to work with some really good clients by virtue of being very selective.  The better the client the more you can accomplish together.

Brain Tracy has a great quote when it comes to selecting the right clients “Fish for Whales, not minnows. Remember that if you catch 1,000 minnows, all you have is a bucketful of fish. But if you catch a single whale, you will pay for the whole voyage.”

Develop Passive Revenue Streams
Aaron points out that it is easier to be more selective of clients if you aren’t worrying about money.  The Internet is full of opportunity, but you need to act upon it. Aaron has created a great ebook that you pay for and can instantly download.  It contains a plethora of helpful information on Search Engine Optimization and is being constantly being updated.  His book establishes him as an expert and generates leads every day.

Abundance Mentality
The Abundance Mentality goes beyond just being positive in everything thing you do. You need to realize that there is more than enough of anything to go around.  Focus on the infinite possibilities the Internet has to offer.  Stay focused on your goals, but don’t be greedy.  You can’t get anywhere online without the help and support of others.   

Provide People with Value
Give away great information with everything you do.  In his SEOBook, Aaron mentions the impact of his Blog in helping him sell his ebook "there is probably about a 99% chance you would have never bought this e-book if I did not write the associated blog.” Years ago one of my business mentors gave me the advice to give away as much free information as possible.  At the time I really didn’t think this was the best course of action.  Today I’ve changed my mentality.  The more you give away the more you get back.

To find out more about Aaron Wall and Search Engine Optimization, visit his web site at SEOBook.com.

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Idea Generation Using Books

Are you stuck trying to come up with a new idea or solution? 

The methodology below outlines another simple system I use to come up with new ideas. The example below is based on using another source to trigger new ideas.  I found whenever I do research and start reading material my brain starts to come up with new ideas. Use this natural distraction to your advantage. 

I don’t know exactly why it works or how it works, but it works.  My educated guess is it has to do with your subconscious mind and synoptic learning.  When you view different sources of material you’ll naturally build relationships based on the various viewpoints on a given topic.  There are numerous good ideas hiding in your head and sometimes they need a little coaxing out. 

Where to Start
Write your challenge in question form on top of a blank sheet of paper: “What are important SEO factors?”  Try to keep the question specific, but keep your ideas open ended.  Your question needs to have purpose and act as a motivating factor.

Find Books Related to Your Question
Pay a visit to your library or local book store.  Find a few books related to the topic area of the question you listed.  Sit down with the books, a pen, and your headlined paper. Take 5 minutes to scan each book.  Resist the urge to read more than a few words. Scan through headlines and the index.  It is important to set a 5 minute limit or else you’ll start reading the book.  Save the reading part for a later time.  The objective is to quickly scan for ideas and set your own thinking process in motion.  Write down any ideas that jump into your mind.   After about 10 or 15 minutes you should have a full sheet of ideas. 

Mentally Play With Your Ideas
After you are done writing down ideas mentally play around with them. Try grouping your ideas or rearranging them.  Don't force yourself to come up with ideas or relationships. You might be able to come up with additional ideas or a different way of looking at your challenge. Good luck and have fun with it.

Additional Resources:



Don't Quit Your Day Job Just Yet

In my experience I've seen a number of people quit their day jobs in hopes of success and riches in the entrepreneurial world.  In my professional opinion too many of these people were lured by the fantasy of quickly getting rich.  The cold hard truth is very few, if any, people get rich quickly in the entrepreneur world.  This also includes the Internet.  Wealth and success are built over time.  In addition most people who venture into their own business never make it past their first five years.  Ultimately those people give up being an entrepreneur and despondently return to the "real world." Before you make the jump into the entrepreneurial world consider some of the following thoughts.

I Have to Get Out of My Job
So many people I know complain about their work environment.  Either their boss is tyrannical or coworkers incompetent.  There was a strong quote by Michael Wade from his Career Manifesto.  He refers to the perceived hardships people face in the workplace: "Unless you're working in a coal mine, an emergency ward, or their equivalent, spare us the sad stories about your tough job. The biggest risk most of us face in the course of a day is a paper cut."  Too many people I know confuse their job for real high pressure occupations. This is a big reason why many are lured to make the jump into the small business world.  They think they can escape some of the workplace challenges and have an easier work environment.  That simply isn't the case.

Test Drive Being An Entrepreneur
Being an entrepreneur can put a tremendous financial strain on you. I challenge anyone to this little experiment.  Put 6 weeks of your salary into the bank.  You can't use it to pay bills or living expenses.  Leave only $500 accessible for your monthly budget.  Why would anyone do that ?!?! You need to give yourself a realistic taste of the small business world.  There are plenty of small business owners, including myself, who have gone more than a month without a paycheck.  For the people who say you planned poorly, guess what?  Not all clients pay on time, even the reputable companies.  You need to become accustomed with that fact.  Going to work for a month without getting paid a dime is a very sobering experience. You are forced to come up with ways to pay your bills.  You might not be able to go out with friends and you will face some real entrepreneurial challenges.

Work on Your Side Job During the Work Day

Here is a good place to start if you want to be an entrepreneur.  People say they don't have time during the day to work on their personal business projects.  I believe that whatever job you are working at allows you a certain amount of free time every day.  Almost everyone I know has a lunch break of 45 to 60 minutes.  Pack a lunch and work on your side projects during your lunch break.  Yes, you are going to have to make sacrifices.  But if you are serious about creating additional revenue streams you need to make sacrifices.

Be more Efficient with your Time
Take a time management course to show you how to maximize the time you have available.  One of my biggest pet peeves is people who complain "I don't have enough time!"  Hogwash! I'd argue most people aren't maximizing their time.  It's amazing how much free time we can get in the course of the week just by making some small sacrifices, e.g. Tivo your favorite TV programs.  You can cut out 20 minutes of commercials this way. Learn while you drive. If you really sit down and think about it there are all sorts of ways to maximize your time.

For all the considerations I have one simple recommendation.  When you make 2x as much net profit from your side business as you do in salary, quit your day job. Be wary the lure of the entrepreneurial world.  Make sure you are financially and mentally prepared to make the jump.

Additional Resource:

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