How soon ’till your niche becomes a commodity?

The blessing and curse of a great idea is it catches on. People duplicate it, put their own spin on it and improve it. If you originate a great idea you must work harder than everyone else to stay in the forefront – lest you become a commodity.

All commodities and ubiquitous products/services were once niches…until everyone else caught on.

Calling all interesting business websites

For my column in Smart Business Ideas Magazine I’m on the hunt for interesting websites business owners can use.

I am NOT interested in anything related to “make money now.” Instead, these are resources or new technology.

Examples I’ve already published:

Why Link Love is Bad for Your Blog

Fresh out of college I worked selling ad space for a regional lifestyle magazine. It was a tough sell because the magazine was about 80% advertising and 20% editorial – and people caught on. The lack of original content was ultimately what caused the magazine’s demise.

Similarly, I can predict the same fate for blogs who evangelize link love strategies. Simply creating a list of other blogs or writing a post to the effect of “Read this blog – it’s good” is an ineffective long term strategy for building a quality blog.

If you look at some of the best blogs out there – blogs like ProBlogger, Seth Godin, Copyblogger, or How to Change the World, you’ll notice they never re-hash other people’s ideas. If they do link to another blog it’s with a purpose. If they reference an article they state their opinion. If they use a “tactic” it’s subtle and buffered with mounds of original content.

Unsure you have what it takes to come up with original content on a regular basis? Maybe you shouldn’t be blogging in the first place.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Effective Marketing with Myspace.com

myspace-log.gifToday while checking my myspace.com account I found the following message from author Paco Ahlgren. On my profile, I list my interest in Taoism and quantum physics – so when I received this message I was glad because his book pertains to my interests.

The message is easy to read. It’s not salesy. It’s conversational style lets me make up my own mind.

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My first novel, Discipline, will be published July 2, 2007 by Greenleaf Book Group Press — a small independent house in Austin, Texas.

The book is a philosophical, psychological thriller exploring the connections between eastern philosophies and modern philosophies of science — focusing on Taoism and quantum physics.


“For two nights in a row, I stayed up past 3AM reading Discipline… In the hands of a lesser talent, the treatment of so many deep topics could easily turn superficial or stupefyingly dull. But throughout this exciting white-knuckle metaphysical adventure story, Ahlgren maintains a surprisingly light touch…expect to learn some edge physics, to peek into the details of exotic financial transactions, and perhaps to gain new insight about what it might really feel like to be an enlightened being.”– Nick Herbert, Ph.D., author of Quantum Reality, Faster Than Light, and Elemental Mind

Please add me to your friends list with the button below. I’m always looking for comments and criticism for all my work, and I would love to have your thoughts.

Pre-order your copy of the Discipline hardcover at Amazon.com now for $16.47 — 34% off the regular cover price.Pre-order your copy of the Discipline hardcover at Amazon.com now for $16.47 -- 34% off the regular cover price.
You can read the Discipline sample chapters at http://www.pacoahlgren.com.


“Science, politics, economics and spirituality fuse explosively in this visionary thriller. In some far future–or is it past?–Philip K. Dick nods with satisfaction.”–Jeffrey Satinover, physicist and psychiatrist, author of The Quantum Brain.

DISCIPLINE
Douglas Cole is being hunted—and protected—but he doesn’t know it. His life has been shattered by inexplicable tragedy, his mind haunted by ominous visions, and yet the more he questions the horrifying events plaguing him, the more elusive the answers become. Pushed to the brink of insanity, Douglas begins a desperate psychological battle with an enemy he can’t see and doesn’t understand, the outcome of which will determine the fate of humanity.Discipline dissects our assumptions about the limits of perception in a way that will terrify you as much as it enlightens you, weaving blunt, gritty realism with spectacular scope into an intricate thrill-ride that will drive you to turn each page as quickly as possible, while at once demanding that you slow down enough to absorb every critical detail.No matter how much you prepare yourself, the revelation at the end is going to blindside you, leaving you questioning reality in a way you never would have believed possible. And yet, once you recover, you’ll find yourself back on page one right away—looking for answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask the first time around.


“Ahlgren deftly melds the intimacy of one man’s personal journey of self-discovery with cosmic, mind-expanding concepts of quantum physics, time travel, and multiple universes. This stunning and skillfully constructed story is a page-turner that haunts you long after you’ve closed the book. Discipline is a masterful first novel that rivals the works of many more mature authors with dozens of books to their credit. I look forward with delicious anticipation to everything Ahlgren writes in the future.”– Marie D. Jones, author of PSIence: How New Discoveries in Quantum Physics and New Science May Explain the Existence of Paranormal Phenomena.

Everything I learned about sales I learned from working in a restaurant

waitress-cartoon.gifThanks to Jeffery who reminded me that everything I learned about sales I learned from working in a restaurant.

In order to put myself through college (and I can proudly say I graduated without taking out a dime in student loans) I waited tables and bartended. Here’s just a snippet of the lessons I learned:

  • Engaging in quality conversations with strangers is the key to being remembered.
  • Exceeding expectations is more important than simply meeting them.
  • Your income is directly proportionate to your effort and personality.
  • Upselling is an effective way to increase your bottom line.
  • Getting along with a mix of personalities is an inevitable part of life.
  • Put out fires with they are small – ignoring a bad situation only makes it worse.
  • Anticipate your client’s needs.
  • Thorough product knowledge is key.
  • Prepare for objections and have prepared responses.
  • Be able to think on your feet.
  • Learn to ask for help – your service will suffer if you are stubborn.
  • Be honest – if you lie, the customer will always find out.
  • Underpromise and overdeliver.
  • A smile goes a long way.
  • Learn to let go the things that you can’t control.
  • Consistently do your best – at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
  • You can’t please everyone – but you can at least try to.
  • Treat every client like they are the only one you are working with.
  • Be yourself.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

The Importance of Customer Complaints

glass-of-wine.gifI have a friend who bartends at a local restaurant. Sometimes I like to go and have a glass of wine while he’s working to catch up on life. Last week, while enjoying a nice Shiraz, I overheard the owner of the restaurant complaining to the manager about a customer.

“I can’t believe that woman! She came up and complained about how we use too much butter on the vegetables. It’s a restaurant – of course there’s butter. If she didn’t want so much on there, she should have told her server.”

This got me thinking. It’s easy for us, no matter which industry we serve, to complain about our customers who complain. Instead, I think we should be thanking them.

A customer who complains has the guts and the brand loyalty to tell you exactly what you need to do to meet their expectations. Think of it this way….

That same woman could have easily walked out of the restaurant, not saying a word to the owner. Then, since her expectations were not met, she would have most likely spread negative word of mouth, bashing the restaurant and their butter-happy ways to 10 of her friends.

What if this restaurant adopted the mindset of “complaints are just a form of feedback.” The decision to make a change still rests in the hands of the owner – only now he is equipped with the knowledge of what his customers really want.

Just food for thought.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Too Clever For Your Own Good?

ice-cream.jpgMrs. Mogul posts on the following stores that went out of business in what she thinks is due to their poor naming.

Candle Store – The Almost Edible Candle Gourmet Shop

Ice Cream Store – The Marble Slab

Pet Store – Doggy Style

Your business name is the most critical piece of your branding. How do you know if your clever name will be worthless or a winner?

Try test marketing with these short questions (with strangers for best results).

1. What images does this name make you think of?

2. What feeling does this name give you?

3. If you purchased something from this store, who would it be for?

4. What product/service do you think this company offers?

5. What if I told you this company sold _________? What do you think now?

An effective brand is congruent with the company purpose. If you find the answers to these questions out of whack, revise your name until it’s right. There’s a lot at stake – so it’s worth the investment.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

The History of “We’re Never Too Busy for Your Referrals”

Thanks to Rick Dassler who posted a comment about the history of the phrase “We’re never too busy for your referrals.”

Looks like he has dibbs on the phrase I came up with to replace it – glad it works for you. This idea’s on the house. ;-)

Online Newsletters – Are they worth it?

I was cleaning out my e-mail inbox the other day and realized just how many e-zines and newsletters I receive. Some of them I subscribe to (like AAF Smartbrief, Lorrie Morgan-Ferraro’s Red Hot Copy, and various blogs via Feedblitz) and read on a daily basis.

Some I’ve subscribed to and wish I had more hours in the day so I could read them.

Then there are the unsolicited ones. Businesses I’ve met at a networking event who take my info and add it to their mailing list in an attempt to generate some sort of brand awareness. But sadly, this tactic doesn’t work.

The problem? Unsolicited newsletters are annoying, and repetitive. Most are regurgitating some “market trend” that doesn’t even apply to me (ex: I had 18 real estate agents sending me their newsletters – most saying the exact same thing and I’m not even in the market for a house!!)

The question becomes – how much time does it take to compile these newsletters? And if people aren’t even reading them or your content is similar to your competition, are they worth the time you’ve invested?

What if you started a blog instead so people could read your thoughts when and how they wanted to. You could track which topics get the most respose via comments and page views. If you have original and interesting content, people will read it. Then, when it becomes a good investment of your time, start your newsletter knowing you have a subscription base.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Annoying Business Buzzwords and Phrases

annoyed-woman.jpgWhen I hear one of these phrases, a part of me cringes. Are people still talking like this? Are they listening to what they’re saying?

“We offer excellent customer service” – OK, what else do you do. Excellent customer service is standard nowadays. This phrase does NOTHING to set you apart. Plus, “excellent” is such a vague term with little metric value (see post on boastful superlatives).

“We are never too busy for your referrals.” - I would hope not – your chances of closing the deal on a referral are much higher than a cold-call. Who in their right mind would be “too busy?” Are you attempting to solicit your current clients to send you referrals with this message? If so, you might want to try mentioning how your service will be different. Maybe something like, “We treat your referrals like family.”

“This is a ‘turnkey’ solution.” - Enough of the buzzwords. They are fads. They get old. They do not make you seem smarter. Check out Scott Ginsberg’s blog for more annoying buzzwords .

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Catchy Store Names & Taglines

sitting-elf.jpgThere’s a restaurant in town called the Bilbo Baggin’s Cafe – their tagline? “Great Service is More Than Just a Hobbit”

Other store names that caught my eye…

  • A bakery called the Upper Crust
  • A bookstore called Books & Crannies
  • A hair salon called Bangs & Burns

I’ll keep my eye out for more and post as I see them. What are some wacky store names you’ve seen?

BTW, if you’re looking to create your own unique store name, Sam Horn wrote the book.

The Friendly DMV (no, really!)

smiley-sticker-004-thumbnail.jpgThis afternoon I stopped by the Alexandria, VA Department of Motor Vehicles expecting long lines, rude attendants and a big hassle.

I walked in and was politely greeted by a smiling woman at the information booth.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it? How can I help you today?”

At which point I mentioned that I needed to change my address since I just moved to the area.

“Don’t forget about your vehicle registration too. Here’s the form for that as well.”

“OK” I said to myself,  “maybe she’s just new here. I’ve never seen a DMV employee that happy.” I sat down, filled out my paperwork and waited for my number to be called.

After only 8 minutes I was speaking to the teller, a gentleman who was just as friendly as the lady at the information booth. At the end of the transaction he gave me a handshake and said, “Thanks, you’ll need to bring this form to the voter  registration station. It’s located just over there – have a great day.”

At this point I began to get a little suspicious. Aren’t these people supposed to hate their jobs? It feels so strange to get such excellent service at the DMV.

Still, the woman at the voter registration booth topped them all. After reviewing my paperwork, she placed an orange smiley sticker on my hand.

“What’s that for?”  I asked.

“You get a sticker because you completed your paperwork correctly.”

Really?! Cool. I know it seems elementary, but it was nice to be acknowledged. A smile, sunny disposition and a simple sticker was more effective (and way cheaper) than a marketing effort like direct mail or advertising claiming to have “great customer service.”

I walked away feeling like I needed to be pinched my experience was so satisfying. Maybe I moved to the Twilight Zone?