New Book – The IT Marketing Crash Course: How to Get Clients for Your Technology Business

I just released a new book, The IT Marketing Crash Course: How to Get Clients for Your Technology Business. If you provide any type of technology consulting services, this book will show you how to get more leads and close more sales. It’s filled with tips from technology company owners and executives who are generating hundreds of new, qualified leads.

IT Marketing Crash Course

It is available on Amazon in Kindle and print formats.  At the time of this writing, the book was ranked #1 on Amazon in 3 business categories and #16 overall for all business books on Kindle.

The 138-page book includes strategies, checklists, examples and action plans that lead to new customers. It is filled with stories from technology business owners and executives who describe how they are generating hundreds of qualified leads through clever marketing tactics. Topics include:

  • The best non-sales questions that lead to more sales
  • Honing your marketing message so it resonates with prospects
  • Pricing strategies that make it easy for clients to buy your services
  • The most powerful ways to build and leverage your network
  • What to put in your emails, blogs and website to hook new clients

Some sales strategies only talk about going after the lowest hanging fruit – the people who are ready to buy and are just trying to pick a vendor. But that leaves out a much larger block of the market – people  who could be your customers, but just need a little nurturing… so as you get them to be sales-ready, they think of you first.

Learn what you need to know and do to get prospects to find you, like you and buy from you.

You will grow your business.

Download it now!

Managing Too Many Ideas

Got an idea for a new product or business? At least 100 others have the exact same idea as you. Success boils down to execution. And execution can be very hard when you have too many ideas.

To really make an impact, you need to manage your ideas so that the ones that stand the best chance of success will bubble up to the top. Here are some tips on managing your time if you have too many ideas:too many ideas

  1. Get a voice recorder. Your cell phone probably already has this feature. It allows you to take verbal notes on the fly so you can capture your many ideas wherever you are.
  2. Elaborate on the details. If you have an idea for a new product, get into the nitty gritty. Draw how it will work, how people will interact with it and other details. Include size, color and other specs. The details require you to really think through every aspect of what you would build. I can recall many times when I dropped an idea after seeing that the implementation details were so complex that it wasn’t worth pursuing.
  3. Ask who needs to be involved to make your idea become reality. Rarely can your idea be executed without the help of others. You may need someone to make your product, create the  look, invest capital, acquire customers. Find out who you need to talk to. Start by identifying their role. Then, get onto LinkedIn, Twitter or other platform to get in touch.
  4. Determine the market size. The biggest mistake small business owners make when building new products and offering services is to target a market that doesn’t exist. If there aren’t enough buyers for what you will sell, don’t waste your time. The best way to find out is to identify a handful of prospects and talk to them about your idea. If they get excited, dig deeper on the specific features they want to see and how they would expect it to work. There is nothing better to build a product than an actual customer guiding you on what they would spend money on.
  5. Decide if the idea fits with your values. Your initial reaction might be “sure it does!” The reality is that not all ideas you have will be in harmony with your comfort level. When pushed, which of these ideas are more in line with who you are and what you believe in.
  6. Prioritize your idea list. Too many ideas for features, known as feature creep, has caused me numerous delays in getting products out of the door. There’s always one more bell or whistle that you want to put in. Resist the urge to do it or you’ll never meet your release deadlines. The most important thing you can do is to say “here’s the list of things we identified to be the most important based on customer feedback and this is all that will go into the next version.” If your idea is based on current trends, ask yourself whether the trend will still be in place when you launch and what kind of adjustments you need to account for as trends change.
  7. Put lower value ideas on the back burner. You don’t have to abandon your ideas. Put some on the back burner for review in 6 to 12 months. Things might have changed by then and there may be more reason to execute an old idea.

Face it: not every idea you come up with will be fantastic. And if you try to pursue every single idea that pops in your head, you will never get any one of them done. As you logically trim your ideas down to the ones that make the most business sense, you increase your chances of executing on the right idea at the right time.

The 4 Worst Investment Decisions I Made for My Company

When you build a company, you have to make investment decisions on where to put your money to achieve the highest growth. Here are the 4 worst investments I’ve made and my lessons learned:

  1. B and C quality staff members. An average performer costs twice as much as a top performer. A below average performer costs you many times that. This is hands down one of the worst investment decisions I have ever made. I used to think that some people were too expensive for me to hire and so I would hire a lesser qualified person whose salary was more within my self-allocated budget. Bad move. Hiring anything but an A player for your team spells trouble. A players may appear to cost more initially, but their productivity level far exceeds anything a B or C player can do. A players spot opportunities, B and C players just get by or look for the status quo. To infuse innovation in your company that will fuel your growth, invest in the top performers. A really good A player will do more for your company than hiring two B and C players.
  2. Products we built without sufficient market research. Ugh, the money I lost not thinking through our products and feature sets gives me a twitch. We built some of our products based on instinct thinking “of course people would love this, we’ll save them so much money and it’s faster, too.” Had we just asked potential clients whether they would buy such a product, we could have saved an immense amount of time, money and lost opportunity costs. The worst investment decisions ignore basic market research.
  3. Print advertising. I’ve had a lot of sales people from publications call on me and several of them were so polished that I succumbed to their pitch and bought print advertising. While this type of advertising might work for some companies, I have never seen it work for any of mine. Maybe it’s my price points which require a lower cost for customer acquisition. I just don’t think as many people respond to print advertising these days. It is certainly not an easy metric to measure compared to online advertising. Whatever the reason, I have found print advertising to be one of the worst investment decisions for my businesses. I should have put that money into public relations.
  4. Consultants hired without setting extremely concrete goals and expectations. Consultants are valuable. We finally got the hang of hiring them – after losing a lot of money to ones who were better at selling their services than doing the work. When we analyzed what went wrong with previous contracts, we found that we never really set extremely clear expectations. It was our fault. Had we outlined in detail what we wanted out of the project, we would have had a much better chance of success. We goofed up like this with technical consultants, marketing consultants and even business advisers. Lesson learned. We now list out specific goals with absolute clarity on the results we expect. If a consultant isn’t on track, we terminate the contract quickly to cut our losses.
In the end, each one of these so called investments turned into an expense and, in some cases, a burden. This list doesn’t include the investment opportunities I missed – there are plenty of those, too. In terms of allocating existing dollars with the intent of earning more dollars, these are by far the worst investment decisions I have ever made. What are some of yours?

The Fastest Way to Build Business Relationships

To succeed in your career, you have to build business relationships. There is one thing you can give your business acquaintances that they will value immediately, positioning you in their minds as a source to watch.

What your prospects and clients value most of all, more than your sage consulting advice, has to do with them, not you. It goes right to the heart of their success. You likely encounter this relationship-building element all the time, but since you are not tuned into it you may not notice.

Give Prospects What They Really Want

What is this magical element? Business leads.build business relationships

Every company needs new and repeat business to grow. Finding leads and converting them into sales is always the top thought of the CEO — always.

You might be thinking, “I’ve got enough trouble finding leads for myself, how am I going to find them for my prospects and clients, too?”  The reason you don’t see those “other” leads is because you are not looking for them. Yet sources of leads are all around you and you can use them to build business relationships quickly.

Example: I subscribe to a weekly email alert from my local government. They send out solicitation notices for projects set aside for local small businesses. They buy just about every type of product or service you can imagine: janitorial services, printing, paper clips, advertising, computer services, everything.

I saw an announcement for web design services. My company doesn’t provide this service so usually I would delete that message. But some of my target market does web design. So, I forwarded that announcement along with a simple note that read “Hi Steve, I thought you might be interested in this lead.”

Tune In To What They Need

The amount of goodwill I created from that simple message, one that I would have otherwise deleted, went a long way in building a business relationship. People might not reply to other messages you send to them, but they never ignore a business lead. They will always appreciate your gesture.

There are sources of leads all around you. The next time you are at a networking event and talk to someone who might be a good fit for another person in your network – or even someone else you just met – let them know. Build business relationships by connecting two people who may have synergies. You will create goodwill for everyone.

Every time I share a business lead, I receive a reply thanking me even if the lead isn’t a good fit. My message shows that I am looking out for them, not trying to sell my services. And that builds business relationships faster than anything else.

Passion and Work

I hear a lot of people say the old saying about passion and work: “love what you do and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

That’s hogwash.

The bottom line: if you have a passion and pursue it, that’s a wonderful thing to do in your life. You will be happier. But that doesn’t guarantee that you will make money from it, which means you may still have to “work.” To make a career out of your passion, you need customers. Otherwise, your passion is a hobby.

Passion by itself doesn’t make money

I know a lot of people who love to paint or write music. There is no question they should pursue their talents. It will make them happier and feel more satisfied.

When you have a stack of your paintings in the basement or a library of your own music on your computer, what’s next? If you want to monetize your passion, you must think like a business person.

You may have heard stories of famous actors losing all of their money because they were not financially savvy. They were remarkable at their art, their passion. Yet their lack of business awareness led to financial insecurity. Dancers, pottery makers and others start studios only to have their business of passion fail within a few years.

For passion and work to go hand in hand, you should not only learn how your industry operates, but also explore alternatives to traditional ways of earning a profit.

For example, if you love writing music, being a famous performer isn’t your only path to success. Many artists now license their work to stock music libraries where they earn a small royalty for each use. Some even give their music rights away for free to companies to use in their marketing because the exposure helps them leverage their other work. Got a friend who runs a company? Offer to write a jingle for them. Want to be a movie maker? Make a video for a company – if your video goes viral, you’ve got a promising way to make money from others who want the same results.

Separate passion and work

There is a myth that if you pursue what you love, then money will follow. That is largely untrue. To see money from your passion, you need to actively pursue it. And if you don’t enjoy the money-making part of selling your passion, then well you’re back to working, right?

If your passion doesn’t involve business or pursuing money in some way, a more liberating mindset is to separate passion and work. Acknowledge that you will have to work to earn money. A dancer has to promote her studio. This requires marketing and sales skills, plus bookkeeping and management to operate the business (the IRS doesn’t care about your passion, just that you paid your share of taxes).

Hire people to support the skills you don’t have, but don’t think for a minute that you can only focus on your passion and not your business. Someone will take you for an uncomfortable ride if you only pursue your passion.

The Follow Up

Try this test the next time you are looking for any type of service:

  1. Visit several companies’ web sites.
  2. Fill out their contact form explaining what you are looking for.
  3. Count how many of these companies reply.

According to AMR Research, you can expect only 30% to follow up. Why is follow up so rare?

Likely reasons:

  • Your request falls outside of the scope of the company’s services.
  • The size of your potential business is lower than their minimum threshold.
  • There was no way to determine your level of interest or ability to purchase.

Unlikely reasons:

  • You have a lazy sales rep.
  • The company doesn’t instantly forward leads to sales reps for follow up.

If the company’s online form did not collect enough information, it might be hard for a sales person to know whether you are ready to buy. Commission-based sales people look for a return on their time quickly so they filter out unqualified leads to focus on ones that can result in real business opportunities.

Unfortunately, a delayed or non-existent response can be frustrating from the buyer’s perspective. This can create ill will that affects the company’s reputation.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

You may not be a sales person, but all of us receive requests by people that require a response. How quickly do you follow up when a colleague or acquaintance contacts you about an opportunity or needs assistance?

When you respond fast in every case, even if the answer is “can you send me more information, it will help me to give you the right answer” or “sorry, I can’t help you” you solidify your reputation as a trustworthy person who can be relied upon for timely follow up and honest feedback.

It is a competitive world and creating a personal brand of integrity has the ripple effect of increasing your day-to-day luck because people will remember their experience with you.