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Six "Honest Serving-Men"
| - You Can Employ For Nothing To Galvanise Your Business
I keep six honest serving-men
They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
(RudyardKipling, from "The Elephant's Child" in Just So Stories).
Kipling's words may no longer be politically correct but they still provide the basis of my business philosophy today.
i.e. If you don't know, ask.
So I got to thinking. Is there a modern business equivalent to Kipling's six honest serving-men?
Kipling Updated: Six Acronyms That Can Transform Any Business
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats - the most famous business acronym of all time. SWOT provides a great framework for brainstorming sessions.
Done honestly and openly your SWOT analysis holds a mirror up to your business that highlights just what you do well and can exploit, and what you don't do well and which your competitors can exploit.
To get started take each term in turn and answer the following questions:
- What are your businesses core strengths?
- What are you really good at?
- What makes you stand out from your competitors?
- What proprietary tools, technology or
- What do our competitors see as our strengths?
- What do our customers see as our strengths?
- What dont you do well?
- What do you want to improve?
- Where do you lose out to your competitors?
- What dont your customers like about you?
What changes are taking place in your business environment Social, Technological, Economic, Political, Legal, Environmental (STEPLE - another acronym snuck in there)?
- What do customers want that you could deliver?
- What are your competitors weaknesses?
- How else could you exploit your strengths?
- What is your competition doing?
- Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?
- Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business?
- Could any of those STEPLE factors threaten your business?
Use these questions to get started. Remember, you are meant to be brainstorming - anything goes.
Your SWOT is only the starting point. Your real challenge is to use your SWOT to develop a strategy and plans that you can pursue to turn your weaknesses into strengths, your threats into opportunities, and to maximise on the opportunities that are presented.
If there is one key to turning busy, ineffectual organisations into models of streamlined efficiency then this is it. Probably as well known as SWOT, SMART turns goals, objectives and tasks into concrete deliverables.
More accurately SMART ought to be SMARRRT. There are at least three equally valid definitions for the R.
OK, the 10 second introduction to working smarter:
- SPECIFIC: Be completely clear on the outcome expected of the goal, objective or task.
- MEASURABLE: Phrase the statement of what is to be achieved so that the achievemen of that outcome can be clearly measured.
- ACHIEVABLE: The idea is to clarify and motivate. There is nothing more demoralising than carefully constructed, but utterly impossible, goals.
- REALISTIC: Given your current situation: is your goal realistic?
- RELEVANT: Is this specific task, or goal relevant to the overall aims of the company or plan?
- RESOURCED: Are the relevant time, people, facilities and equipment available to deliver the desired outcome?
- TIME BOUND: Make sure there is a claim time limit on the completion of the activity.
Properly applied, SMART transforms your business.
"Whats In It For Me?" WIIFM should be at the top of your thoughts whenever you think about your prospects or customers. But is has nothing to do with you at all.
To get to the me you must put yourself in your ideal customers position. Think like that customer. Try to walk a mile (or several) in their shoes.
Ask yourself :
- What problems plague their lives?
- What are they afraid of?
- What are they angry about?
- Who are they angry with?
Stay in your customers shoes.
Imagine someone is trying to sell you your own product or service. Ask yourself (repeatedly) - Whats In It For Me? How does it solve my problems? How does it make my life better? These are the benefits your product or service must deliver to your customer.
You should apply this simple principle to every piece of sales and marketing material you use. Does it call out to what your customers really want? Is it written in terms of your customers viewpoint? Does it promote the benefits?
In short does it tell me your customer - Whats In It For Them?
No, not the Opera. Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
AIDA has been in use in advertising for over 100 years. It is just as valid today for use on the web as it is for crafting sales letters, brochures, radio broadcasts, your elevator pitch....
In fact, just about any marketing pitch.
ATTENTION: If you are to sell anything you have first got to get peoples attention. The normal way of doing this is to use a benefit Driven Headline. Some famous, proven headlines include:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People
- 101 Ways to Quit Smoking Now
- Are You Too Busy To Make Any Money?
Eye movement studies show that 95% of the time people don't read advertisements. Even worse for marketers, of the 5% of readers who might read your advertisement - 95% never read beyond the headline.
You do use headlines in all your advertisements and marketing materials don't you?
INTEREST: You've got your readers attention. Now you must make them interested.
This is where all that work thinking like a customer comes into play.
Dont mess around. In the first sentence fire your biggest gun. Hit your readers with the biggest benefit that your product or service brings to them. Explain how you deliver that benefit and then hit them again with the next biggest gun you have. And keep on doing it.
Got more benefits? Good, keep them coming. Marketing copy cannot be too long only too boring. Keep it interesting, keep firing your benefits and your message will get read.
DESIRE: You've aroused interest. Now create desire. Make it impossible for your prospects not to buy. Make them an irresistible offer. Add some urgency:
- Call now - offer applies to the first 100 customers.
- We can only keep this price until the end of the month.
- Add a no quibbles, iron cast guarantee.
Add free bonuses (Free is the second most powerful word in the English language).
Use your imagination. Give people a great reason to want to buy now.
ACTION: You've done the hard work. Your customer is ready to buy. So make it really easy for them. Tell them exactly what they need to do right now to make an order:
- Call 01636 605 707 now, ask to speak to Keith and quote ad001.
- Click this button to place your order now.
- Register for our newsletter by filling in this box now.
Keep it simple. Make it clear and quick to do. The easier it is to do business with you the more sales you will make.
SWAT is not actually an acronym. It is a compaction of the question so what? I first came across it in Make Your Words Sell which was written by Joe Robson for Ken Evoy.
You see, one of the biggest problems that even experienced copywriters and marketers fall into is being clear on what benefits their product or service actually delivers to their customers.
SWAT provides the solution.
Here is how it works:
Take a piece of paper. Divide it into columns one headed features and one headed benefits.
Under the features column list all the features you can think of.
Under the benefits column list all the benefits you can think of. (Dont worry about neatness there will not be a one-to-one correspondence between features and benefits)
Now, get yourself back in your customers mindset. Take each feature in turn and ask yourself SO WHAT?
e.g. I wear a cheap divers watch (ever since my younger son lost my much more expensive model). Some of the features of this watch are: waterproof to 50m, shockproof, tells the time in 2 different time zones and has dual analogue and digital displays.
Now I'll just take the first of there features (there are many more that I have not listed) and apply the SWAT approach.
First I have to think like a customer.
I don't dive but I am an active sort of guy. I want a watch that tells me the time and that I dont have to worry about looking after. So…
Waterproof to 50m
- Dont have to worry about it getting wet
- Wear it while swimming
- Wear it while bathing the kids
- Wear it while doing the gardening
- Wear it in the shower
- Dont need to take the watch off for any of my usual sort of activities
- No matter what I do water is not going to damage this watch
- Put it on and do anything you like you won't damage this watch
As a potential customer some great benefits are already pretty clear: “Put it on and forget it, this watch will continue to tell you the time no matter what punishment you put it through”
But we have not finished yet.
Do the same for every other feature in your list.
And then for every benefit.
And then do it again for every answer you have produced.
Keep asking 'So What' until the question no longer makes sense. When you reach that point you know you have reached the real benefits.
Typically you start off with maybe 20 features and benefits. Using SWAT you can easily end up with a list of 200 or more.
As you apply the technique you will inevitably start repeating yourself. This is just what you are looking for. The most often repeated answers to your SWAT are going to be the biggest benefits to your customers or prospects. These are the big guns to fire first.
SWAT is amazingly powerful. It works brilliantly in a brainstorming environment. But be warned, it is also quite threatening. Use with care.
KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid needs little introduction. In all business environments there is a tendency to over elaborate. In marketing the problem is particularly acute. Marketing is populated by creative wanabees. There is always another idea to try. A more eye-catching and creative design. Don't fall into this trap.
It's more fun that way.
About the author:
Keith Longmire helps small businesses grow rapidly through online marketing. His website, Breakthrough Business Growth is packed with ideas and solutions to make any business grow.
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