All posts in "Open Source Marketing"

The Elephant in the Room

Published a few months ago - 0 Comments

Thirteen people have already signed up for the Intensive Group for my new Marketing Strategy Course.

(To those 13, thank you so much, you’ll be hearing from me soon with details.)

If you haven’t decided yet, I’d like you to consider whether marketing strategy could play an important part in your professional business over the next few years.

Because I really believe it’s the missing element.

In Internet Marketing circles it’s the elephant in the room that nobody talks about. Why?

The first is, you can’t bottle it. You see, information marketing is easy money, and the way it works is that you take strategies and tactics that have been shown to work, document them, and then sell the how-to information to buyers, usually at a high price.

Ah, but there’s a problem…. You see, when you take one thing that works in certain contexts and you apply it in other contexts… it may not work.

What would you think if someone said, “Hey, this chat-up line worked for me, look at my beautiful wife! I’ll sell YOU my chat-up line for $1000!”

You’d tell them to stick their chat-up line where the sun don’t shine. Quite right.

But info marketing is very close to that. The info marketers say, “Hey, look at how well Strategy X worked for my launch! I made a gasquillion dollars!! I’ll sell it to YOU for only $4997!”

You see the problem. You can’t take A STRATEGY, transplant it to a different context, and expect it to work.

So you CANNOT say that the product launch strategy always works (at least not with integrity). I found that out only recently, when a team I’ve been advising followed Jeff Walker’s PLF and managed to reduce their sales from double figures to ZERO.

You CANNOT say that funnels always work! Yes, that model and methods will definitely work for some products in some markets some of the time, just like a cheesy chat-up line will work on some people in some bars in a certain state of inebriation, some of the time.

And you CANNOT take copy from a weight loss pill campaign, change a few words, and expect it to be effective selling

But there is NO STRATEGY that you can apply profitably in any situation. None.

That’s the big problem the info marketers don’t want you to know. That is the darkness they dare not face.

Because the truth is, the right STRATEGY is different in each scenario. It depends on a number of factors (but it’s a finite number). It depends on analyzing those factors with truth, integrity, and sensitivity. It requires creativity, sideways thinking, big thinking, analysis, imagination, courage… All stuff you can’t bottle.

The right strategy for you has not been created yet. The right strategy for each of your clients has not been created yet.

That’s why I believe you can’t sell STRATEGIES with integrity. But you can sell strategy as a service. Because there is a way to work it through, there IS a method. That’s what I’ve been working on for the past few years. That’s what Open Source Marketing is all about.

How would you feel about working it out together?

If you take one of the last places on my Intensive Group, I will personally help you master the marketing strategy process by applying it to your own real-world scenarios.

Whether it’s for your own business, or for clients, I’ll do what I can to apply my marketing strategy process so that you come out with a clear plan and you can proceed with more confidence than you’ve ever known.

Interested in a Course in Marketing Strategy?

Published a few months ago - 58 Comments

The Marketing Strategy Course is now live here.

I am considering running a short course in Marketing Strategy, and would like to get your views on it.

In brief, here’s the plan I have in mind.

  • One recorded video presentation per week for eight weeks (probably).
  • All the recorded sessions will be FREE for everyone to access (based on the views I made clear here)
  • In addition, and if there is enough interest, I may also run one or more premium live workshop sessions each week over the 8 weeks.
    • Here you get to explore the material in greater depth, and get direct support to apply it to your own situation.
    • The live workshops would be ideal for those who want to take marketing strategy further, whether to go in depth for your own business’s strategy, or to develop your skills for client service.
    • There would be a fee for these sessions, say $25 per week ($200 total).
    • These sessions would be recorded and shared only with the premium group.
    • Numbers will probably be limited to 50.

Why Marketing Strategy?

The importance of marketing strategy is explained pretty well in “Web Design is Dead”. If you haven’t read that, make sure you’re on my email list. But here’s a quick summary.

  1. Marketing strategy is about knowing where a business, brand, or organization wants to get, and why. It is absolutely central to business strategy, and ultimately, success. It answers the questions: “What does it mean for us to succeed, and how will we get there?”
  2. Any campaign that is based on a well-thought-out and articulated strategy knows exactly what it needs to do and what needs to happen to achieve that. As a result, the campaign will be far more effective and less wasteful.
  3. Marketing today is more complex than ever before, because we have far more options, channels, tactics, and advice. (And much of the advice is misleading!) That makes it confusing to know how the heck to proceed with any certainty.
  4. Many of the options open to us today make it far easier to burn through a pile of money without seeing a return on your investment. This is true for education programs, consulting and other professional services, as well as marketing channels like pay-per-click.
  5. All these factors mean we could be getting to a crisis point for business owners. They will cry out for help to know how to move forwards, but have been burned enough by service providers and so-called experts who peddle “cure-all” solutions that their trust and confidence are at an all-time-low.
  6. That’s where a new profession of Marketing Strategist comes in! A Marketing Strategist is an independent consultant who has the skills to interview a client about what they want to achieve, then help put together a plan for getting there before they think about investing in platforms or creative and technical services. A professional Marketing Strategist can advise on how to roll out a strategy, and even help manage the project, but will (importantly) remain independent from specific service providers.

People, the world is ready for talented and committed professionals to step up as Marketing Strategists. It is very early days, and if you’ve been around online marketing for long enough, you’ll know that’s exactly the best time to get involved.

I want to help launch this new profession, and to do that I need good people. You don’t need to know it all, because nobody CAN know it all. There’s simply too much to know.

Is This For YOU?

  • Do you genuinely enjoy working with clients to help turn their visions into reality?
  • Are you a high-level thinker, who prefers the big picture to day-to-day details?
  • Do you prefer planning and communication over technical delivery?
  • Is it in your nature to explore, to ask questions, to think bigger, or think differently?

If you answer “Yes” to these questions, the next question is: “How do you feel about being one of the first of this new breed?” If you answer “excited” or “inspired”, read on.

Marketing strategy has been one of my main roles for a few years now, and I love it! Why? Because it suits me! It’s the perfect match for the kind of person I am, the way I think, the way I communicate, and the way I want to serve clients. It challenges me in the way I love to be challenged, and it allows me to avoid the tasks that I don’t enjoy so much (and therefore don’t do so well).

And that all means I can deliver more value to more clients more of the time.

I know that now is the time to formalize the role into a well defined professional service. That’s why I have been working on turning my strategy development process into a step-by-step system that others can follow and help develop.

This is only the first phase in a significant strategy that I’m rolling out (with a few partners) over the coming months. (It’s too early to share details now, but this could be BIG. I’m talking about developing this into a recognized profession, complete with on-going professional development, certification, marketing and lead-generation, etc.)

All I need to know is, are you interested enough to know more? I don’t need a commitment yet, but please comment below, including your email address, and letting me know…

  1. If you’re just interested in following developments
  2. If you’d like to take the free course.
  3. Or if you’re also interested in the live training program.

Thanks,
Ben

Also see

Why Marketing Strategy is the Future

Published last year - 7 Comments

If you’ve read “Web Design is Dead” you will already understand why the old generalist web designer/developer/webmaster role is facing imminent extinction, and why I believe that “marketing strategy” is a viable evolution for web professionals who are both smart and multi-talented.

In this post, I’d like to dive a little deeper into that idea of Marketing Strategy as a discipline: why we’ll benefit, how it may work, and what kind of future we could build around it.

What is Marketing Strategy?

It’s the answers to questions like these…

  1. What is my exact brand, and my position in the market? (i.e. Why will people care, and why will they trust me?)
  2. Who exactly is my target market, and what problem do they want to solve?
  3. What exactly am I offering, and why is it so special?
  4. How do I think I’m going to reach my target market cost-effectively?
  5. How will I engage them, earn their trust, and communicate the benefits of my offer?
  6. What assumptions am I making about all this, where could I be wrong, and how will I find out without going broke?

To sum up,

How are we going maximize our chance of success when we go to market?

My position is: if you go to market without having very good answers to these questions, you will waste time and money. (You’ll waste some time and money anyway, that comes with the territory, but having a clear, flexible strategy will help you to minimize the amount you waste, often making the difference between success and failure.)

Why Marketing Strategy?

sensoryAs publishing technology has matured and the technology benefitted from increasing investment, the barrier to entry has dropped like a stone. Practically anyone can publish a great bare-bones website now, with zero technical skills.

That means the web is rapidly getting busier. There is more competition for customers’ attention. Even though most of the competition is poor, the place sure is getting noisier!

A by-product of more noise is more customer apathy. We have tuned our bullshit meter to a hair-trigger.

We don’t want more content or information… we want more intelligence, editorial guidance, trustworthy brands that can help us to navigate daily life more easily.

So publishing online is no longer enough to differentiate. Winning is not about publishing more, or publishing faster, or even reaching more eyeballs. It’s about reaching the right people, with a compelling message, earning their trust, turning them into customers, and then nurturing them through a long-term, mutually-empowering relationship.

We can sum up that strategy as qualitative. We need intense research, deep understanding, focus, and commitment. Scatter-gun, “Chuck it at the wall and see what sticks” approaches won’t work, only add to the noise.

I guess I’m saying that what’s most crucial is having a strategy that’s clear, good, and responsive. If you don’t know in exactly what direction you want to go, how will you know if you’re heading there? And how will you know if the next webinar that’s offered, or the next cool piece of software, or the next coaching programme will help you?

Know exactly who you are. Know intimately what group of people you choose to serve. Know what their problems are. Know what questions they’re asking. Know where they’re asking those questions. Know how to reach them. Know why what you’re offering will help them in a way nothing else can at the price.

Don’t guess. Know!

You (or your clients) can’t try everything. You will break the bank in the attempt. And there are more potential marketing channels today than there have ever been, with more coming online every week.

Whereas a few years ago, you could count the viable channels on two hands (TV, radio, outdoor, point of sale, print ads, direct mail…), today there are literally hundreds of channels.

Plus, success depends on applying focused force. If you spend a day trying AdWords, another day trying email marketing, and the next trying blogging, you will undoubtedly fail at them all.

It may be that there are one or two great channels among the hundreds, where the majority will drain your resources. Or it may be one PR story, one relationship, or one subtle message that outperforms everything else.

The point is, you cannot figure out your path to greatest success by trying everything. Paradoxically, you also can’t figure it out on paper before you start. Sure, research is essential, but sooner or later you also have to try stuff in order to test your assumptions and actually find out.

So strategy is not about figuring it all out up-front. It’s about figuring out how we’re going to find out. That requires discarding a bunch of options early-on, based on logic alone, and then coming up with a plan for cyclically testing and learning using a reduced set. (This is the area where we can learn a lot from the Lean Startup movement.)

Here are a few questions that the Marketing Strategy process should be able to answer…

  • Should my campaign try PPC, social media, PR, organic SEO, content marketing, webinars, books, etc.?
  • Should we try to get prospects’ contact information? If so, what ways shall we try?
  • What other products, cross-sells, or up-sells should we offer, and when?
  • How will we enrich our relationships with our customers over time, delivering and getting maximum value?

I believe that it should be possible not only to answer all those tough questions, but also to do so using a system. We have some handles on some of the logic already (for example, don’t even consider SEO for a short-term campaign, and Facebook organic marketing is unlikely to be profitable for a B2B proposition).

Summary: Why marketing strategy?

  1. Businesses need it, and deserve it. It is disgusting that so many companies have wasted so many resources on websites and campaigns that need not have failed.
  2. Web designers and online marketers need it. The market for delivering websites has lost most of its value, and it will never come back. So web professionals need a more solid way to deliver real value to our clients.

When I look at my work over the past few years, I can tell that the problem of systemizing marketing strategy has permeated most of what I have done. That really is the big problem that I would like to crack.

The Circuit Questionnaire took a few months to develop, and now gives us a great foundation for what questions we should ask. The next challenge is the logic, and I think that’s a much bigger one. The Stack model is also proving to be very useful.

When I started Open Source Marketing, my vision was to create an automated wizard that would take your answers to the Circuit Questionnaire and print out the bones of an effective marketing campaign. I would like to believe that’s still a possibility.

It may well require some human intelligence, or to ask a bunch more questions, to reach final conclusions, but if this decision-making process can be simplified in any way (even as simple as, “Should I use AdWords Yes/No?”) we should try!

How Can We Make it Work?

The Stack teaches us that, whatever the market, there are potential customers at every level, from the free DIY user, through the “self-serve” paid DIY, coaching, mentoring, and consulting models.

Of course this holds true for the “market” for marketing strategy. There are small business owners who want to know how to invest $100 per month in marketing, who have time and desire to learn. At the other end of the scale, there are large businesses who invest $100M per month in marketing, and who want to hire the best person or team they can to do the heavy lifting for them. Both (and everyone in between) deserve access to the right kind of marketing strategy intelligence for their needs.

  • DIY market: They can invest time, but little or no money. Books, free or low-cost self-study courses, group support (like forums) and automated wizards are common solutions.
  • Done-With-You market: These are businesses who have some talent in-house, and who need (and can afford) more guidance than the DIY users. They want more direction, to maximize their chances of rapid success. Typical DWY solutions include group coaching programs and time-based, directed courses, often with some “hot seat” or 1-1 element.
  • Done-For-You market: At the top end, we’re playing with bigger stakes, so buyers want the best expertise money can buy. This is where we get into consulting, and also where profit-sharing models become more attractive (as explored in my WebPro2 concept).

One of the things I like to do when considering a Stack model is to ask how we can take learning from the point of the stack (the DFY, hands-on consulting end) and let that knowledge filter down to the other levels.

(You can apply this thinking to many service businesses. Even, for example, a vacuum cleaner repair guy! Now, you might think you can’t get more of a hands-on business than vacuum cleaner repair. But even there it might be possible to generate DWY or DIY streams. If the repair man diagnoses a particular fault that’s common to a certain model of vacuum cleaner, he could make a video of the repair job and sell that online for a few dollars. Or he might create a self-study course in vacuum cleaner repair, including all the training videos plus some centralized marketing support. The principles are: there are always people who need your skills, and they always want those skills packaged in different ways.)

So let’s start to put some flesh on the bones. If I’m serious about creating a real marketing strategist discipline, what would that look like, and what would it require?

My Vision for the Future

The first thing is a personal step for me, which would require stepping into the “Mr. Marketing Strategy” shoes. I teach a lot about the importance of finding your genius, choosing your niche, and putting your roots down in that space, so that you become the most intimately-connected brand. Essentially, you become equivalent to your niche.

(Personally, I have struggled for years with how to brand myself. The main reason is because I have enjoyed some success at a range of different things. Each of us needs to find the environment that complements our unique capabilities, desires, and interests. What appeals to me about marketing strategy is that it allows me to indulge my interest in everything!)

Marketing Strategy Agency

brain-powerAt the top end of the Stack, we need a model for a new kind of marketing agency: i.e. a marketing strategy agency. I think this is a very interesting idea indeed.

By focusing entirely on one area (in this case, strategy), one can increase one’s knowledge and expertise faster than by being a generalist.

One of the cool things about hiring someone only to do your strategy is that it can increase trust by removing the conflict of interest. If you go to a marketer who specializes in SEO, they’ll offer to help you with your SEO (for a fee), and the same goes for most other professionals in most other disciplines.

But when you go to your marketing strategy person, if they’re paid on your success (say a percentage of turnover), and if they do not actually deliver your marketing campaigns themselves, it is not in their interests to sell you an idea that won’t benefit you. If I’m paid when you succeed, why would I propose you hire a PPC person, unless I’m confident that PPC will be profitable? It is really interesting how aligning the service provider’s success to the client’s success changes the decision-making process.

Clearly, we would need more than one agency, so a model for an agency is required. How does a marketing strategy function efficiently? What business models should we use? How do we write up contracts, manage compensation, and resolve disputes? WebPro2 could expand to fill this space, i.e. an open-source pattern that anyone can use to set up their own strategy agency.

I am already on this path, as I am now choosing to work with clients more on strategy (including keyword research and high-level copywriting) and less on “lower-level” delivery tasks.

Marketing Strategy DIY

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 18.03.42There is always a range of possible DIY products, both paid and free, including courses, ebooks, and online content in various formats.

My thinking is that the Open Source Marketing project is already the natural home for the “how-to” of marketing strategy. There is a big space there that remains unfilled: the exact steps for designing a marketing campaign that has maximum chance of success.

So, as the agency does its stuff, what we learn should be turned into useful DIY materials, useful both for DIY clients who want to do their own marketing, and also for people who want to develop their marketing strategy skills to market to clients.

Marketing Strategy “Done With You”

That leaves the middle band, the “done with you” section of the market. There are a few possibilities here, among which a coached course, which combines live and pre-recorded material, for prospective strategists is likely to be the most appealing.

However, first I still need to make progress on developing the discipline. Right now, the process of strategy has very little shape (beyond the Circuit and Stack models, which prove to be helpful in practically every instance).

Another interesting option could be to have a working group of end-users (i.e. businesses, not marketing professionals). I ran a program called Breakthrough in 2015 along these lines, which was very effective.

What’s Next?

I’m giving serious thought to how a marketing strategy agency might work, and am enjoying developing ideas using my existing clients. To launch a dedicated agency would massively accelerate this learning.

If you know that the marketing strategy discipline is for you, or if you would love to be part of an early working group, feel free to reach out to me and perhaps we can set up a working group.

I plan to continue to develop Web Design from Scratch Premium, and to open it up to more providers, so we can keep a good flow of web design best practice, always anchored to “the right way.”

All feedback welcome. Please leave a comment.