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What Keeps You From Becoming A Commodity?

I saw a tiny red “20” over one of the apps on my phone this morning. So, to try to catch up just a little on channels I follow, I tapped the YouTube icon. I caught Gary (@garyvee) Vaynerchuk’s Daily Vee #356 today. (Yep, my phone took me to yesterday’s today. Thank you, phone.)

About 12 minutes in, he said, “There is ONE THING that will keep you from being a commodity: your brand. (Emphasis: his)

Commodity vs. Differentiation
…and it really got me thinking about my Gulf Coast Virtual Tours business. I realized that some of the things I do, brand-wise, push it toward “commodity” instead of toward distinction & differentiation. So let’s do an exercise today…

Take out a piece of paper, or create a note on your device. List 3 things you do that tilt you product or service toward becoming a commodity. Then, list 3 things you can do to “un-commoditize” it with your branding. THEN, circle the most important one, and get started on it before the end of the week. BONUS POINTS: share 1 thing on your un-commoditizing list in the comments below.

New Business Has Been THE Business

gulf coast virtual tours fan page
Hey, friends! I realize it’s been quiet over here in Marketing Mercenary land. Since February, I’ve been focusing (pun intended) on my new business adventure, Gulf Coast Virtual Tours. Numerous beautiful homes, beach houses, and condos have been captured by my lenses here in paradise. Now, I have been faithfully serving a handful of my old Marketing Mercenary clients all along, but learning my new surroundings and marketplace has taken priority.

The South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce has obtained my membership, which is a very active, supportive, and fun group of professionals. The Foley Lions Club activities are ramping up as well! Plus, I’m making exercise and health a bigger priority. I can’t stay a desk potato forever…

Just wanted to let you know that’s where the action is. I invite you to check out the website, as well as my Facebook fan page HERE, for Gulf Coast Virtual Tours.

New Business… New Business Card

gulf coast virtual tours business card

UPDATE: I’m still rocking on the Gulf Coast! It’s now December 2017, and I’ve changed my mailing address and phone:

Gulf Coast Virtual Tours
2651 S. Juniper Street, Suite #101,
Foley AL 36535

Phone: (251) 304-9228
(old phone number will remain active for family & friends)

Now, back to the original post…

Although it’s been rolled out on Facebook for a couple of weeks now, I’m posting here today to announce that my wife and I have moved to the Alabama Coast! We’ve been dying to move for years, and finally made the jump less than a month ago.

As my new independent business, I’ve started Gulf Coast Virtual Tours. The goal is to help increase the quality and effectiveness of local real estate marketing using my 10 years of experience in Real Estate photography and Virtual Tour production. And make a little cash doing it! (You know, to support my gadget addiction, after we buy the home of our dreams.)

As you can see from the pictured business card, I’m keeping the MM e-mail address and phone for now:
JR (at) marketingmercenary.net, and (765) 210-6893.

You may wonder if I’m planning to continue my small business marketing services. The answer is a definite YES, but I’m focusing 99.999% of my energy right now on building a customer base for Gulf Coast Virtual Tours. You can have complete confidence that I will attend to any MM projects still in progress. In fact, I’ll be finishing a website this month, and have a new video client just getting started.

I’m thankful to God for safety through a hectic and demanding move, and that the communities of Gulf Shores and Foley, Alabama have been very welcoming, as we knew they would be.

Any questions?

 

Facebook’s New “Save” Feature

Figure 1

Figure 1

When I began to surf the Facebook news feed this morning, I noticed a new item in post menu: “Save…” (See Figure 1)

So, I started looking around the screen for other changes, and found the “Saved” item in the left column, in the main section below my name.

The explanation screen you see when you first click on “Saved” in the left menu bar explains it like this (see Figure 2 below):

“Save links, places, music, and other things for later. Only you can see the things you save. You can choose if you wan to share them.”

Seems like perhaps life just got easier. I wanted to jump right in and see if it was true! (If you want to cut right to the chase, see THE GOOD NEWS & THE BAD NEWS below.)

GETTING STARTED

Right away, I saw that you can’t SAVE just any old post you want. The explanation screen (Figure 2) offers the following list across the top:

Links – Places – Music – Books – Movies – TV SHows – Events

Figure 2

Figure 2

But how does this really work? After perusing my entire news feed for about 30 minutes, I found that the “Save” option only occasionally appears in the post menu (that little downward arrow in the upper left corner of each post – see Figure 2 again).

Apparently, at this time, Facebook allows you to SAVE stories someone posted using a link from another site. You can also SAVE a “shared” post from a fan page.

I noticed that I could not SAVE:

  • Text posts from friends
  • Photos posted by friends
  • Photos shared from fan pages

This last item makes the new feature especially confusing. The confusion comes from the fact that almost every article or blog post on-line – especially from Facebook fan pages/business pages – features a photo. As you scan down through your news feed, these kinds of posts look almost identical:

  • Photo posted by your friends
  • Photo shared by your friends from another friend
  • Photo shared from a fan page or business page
  • Check-Ins at businesses or locations
  • POST shared by a friend from a fan page or business page (S)
  • POST liked by a friend from a fan page or business page (S)
  • POST submitted by a fan page or business page (Some can, some can’t – still working on this.)
  • POST from a blog shared on Facebook (S)
  • News article from any source outside of Facebook (S)

Even though these appear REALLY similar because they feature a photo, only the items marked with an (S) can be SAVED with this new feature.

I looked for “Save-able” items in a couple of the Facebook Groups in which I participate. It seems that “Save” is not available inside Groups, even if the posts match the kinds of Save-able posts listed above.

THE GOOD NEWS

So far, I am very interested in using this feature. Of course, I can utilize it for items that match my personal interests. I’m actually more excited to try it for organizing information that will help me continue my business growth (helpful articles, tips and tutorials). In addition, I’ll be able to easily retrieve posts and links that I can use for the several fan pages for which I gather content on a regular basis.

Even better – a “Share” button appears below many of the items I’ve SAVED (see Figure 3). I don’t have to click on a SAVED item, and find the “Share” button in the original post. I can directly and easily share it on my wall, send it to a friend, or share it to a group or fan page that might find it valuable.

facebook-save-share-feature

Figure 3

THE BAD NEWS

However, the challenge of remembering the kinds of things you can and cannot “SAVE” will build frustration, and cause many folks to just ignore it. I expect that Facebook will continue to evolve this feature to make it easier, but I hope they move quickly. Already, the info screen above declares you can “Tap the Save icon…”, but I found no such icon anywhere at this time.

Just like almost any topic, if you search Google, you can find a huge number of articles and videos that will go into great detail about how to use Facebook’s new SAVE feature for various purposes.

And, since this is a marketing blog, I would be remiss not to include a link to one detailed article that I found very informative. Here is Mike Gingerich’s post from yesterday on the Business 2 Community blog:

http://www.business2community.com/facebook/facebook-save-feature-use-content-curation-0969609#!bzUx1E

I hope you find Facebook’s new “Save” feature useful. The more folks that use it, the more likely Facebook will be to improve upon it, and integrate it better into our Facebook experience. Without a doubt, Facebook will use the items we SAVE to further personalize the content that appears in our news feeds, as well as the advertising it shows each of us.

Go the Extra Mile

I started thinking about this topic this morning when I received an e-mail from Bluehost.com, the hosting company where all of my websites live. They had sent an e-mail earlier in the week, telling me that they would be working on updating a particular Worpress plug-in that had been compromised by hackers. It could allow those hackers to do dastardly things to the site you are now reading.

I was unable to respond immediately, due to other commitments. Later, I checked on my Worpress dashboard for this site.  The kind folks at Bluehost had already completed the update.

I though that was mighty nice of them. I was also relieved that my site was protected. Thanks, Bluehost.com!

This morning, I received another message. A second plug-in had been hacked. This one adapts my website for mobile users, since the template is not “responsive” on it’s own. Yeah, that’s important, since about 50% of the traffic on my site comes via mobile devices.

I checked IMMEDIATELY to see if I could update the plug-in. Bluehost had already done it. This is very proactive work by a company that only receives about $120 a year from me. I appreciate it so much that I’m telling you about it today.

So…

What can you do for your clients today that might save them some work, preempt a major headache, or even save the day? What about their world has changed recently, that would be an opportunity for you to step in and make their life easier, safer, cheaper, or more productive?

Maybe you choose a single client, or a small group of clients, or perhaps even potential clients. Don’t charge them, and don’t make a big deal about how nice you are, and what a great company you work for, that would take care of them like you are.

Some people would call this “paying it forward”. Whatever you call it, great customer service can make you legendary among your customers and their networks. But don’t do it for fame or recognition. If it’s self-serving, maybe you should try something else.

I ask again – what can you do for someone today?

Lessons Learned from the County Fair Corn Roast

folks enjoying cornGreetings!

My Lions Club has a tent at the Howard County 4-H Fair (www.howardcofair.com) every year. Every year, we roast and sell corn on the cob to raise money for our scholarship fund. Our fire-roasted corn is, year after year, the best and most popular at the fair. Now, I could wear you out with stories about why we do it the way we do it. Instead, I’ve been thinking about how I could share some of the lessons that I’ve learned by helping as a worker since 1999, and leading the effort for the last few years. So far, I’ve come up with the following three main lessons. I think they can be applied in almost any business.

1) Be Consistent

In years past, when we’ve had to serve roasting ears that were less than great, word spread almost instantly! Our business would fall off the very next night, and some potential customers would come up to the counter and ask, “How’s the corn? We heard it wasn’t very good.” WORD GETS AROUND QUICKLY WHEN YOU DISAPPOINT SOMEONE. Take all necessary measures to deliver your product or service consistently.

2) Have Fun

The crew works better, and produces longer without a break, when the mood is light, and the members in charge are trying to keep a good rapport with the customers, rather than just filling orders. Silliness is OK, as long as it doesn’t keep you from serving.

3) Continue to Improve

Since 1973, the corn roast operation has evolved dramatically. But from one year to the next, the changes are usually more like “adjustments”. Baby steps. The last two years, we have increased the involvement of students and adult volunteers. They have to be trained and supervised a little more, but they become part of a very important group: potential permanent members of the club. They also tell their friends about it, and we get more customers. For you, your continuous improvements can similarly broaden your network and expand your influence in your community and your industry.

If you would like to hear more about what we’ve learned by roasting corn at the 4-H fair, drop me a note at jr (at) marketingmercenary.net. If you’d like to discuss how to better market your business or organization, use the same e-mail, please.

Failure to Launch – A Tale of Facebook Frustration

If you have started a Facebook Fan Page, congratulations! Fan Pages can be a great platforms for interacting with your audience. Fan Pages can be wonderful tools to find new fans and potential customers. A Fan Page can be an occasional activity for your marketing person, or a daily obsession for your entire staff and “tribe” of fans.

Fan Pages can be launched with a bare minimum of information and engaging content.

DO NOT DO THAT. Seriously, don’t.

I have received four invitations to “LIKE” new fan pages in the last three days. One of them had only started a few days ago, but the description fields in the “About” section were all filled out, and numerous updates about recent activities had been posted.

It was ready.

It had plenty of answers to my questions: What is this organization? How long have they been around? How would I get in touch with them?

The other three all looked very much like my example image, which was actually taken from a page to which I was invited. The names have been omitted to protect the offending parties.

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Open Now – Enrollment for FUELTANK(13)

My excitement in starting this program may only be matched by my gratitude for the people who have helped and are helping make this possible: my coaching program, called FUELTANK(13).

Rather than explaining it here, it would save us both time if you would just click over to the FUELTANK(13) page, read about it, GET EXCITED, and then enroll, of course! I understand, it may be the kind of excitement you feel when you finally get a deep splinter out of your hand, but that’s a WIN too, right?

When you sign up, you’ll get an e-mail soon, welcoming you to the program. It will include payment information and more complete details. You know, the ~real~ exciting stuff. Fasten your seatbelt – it will be a challenging but fun ride, I promise.

 

Focus (not the optical kind)

work interruptionThe busier I get, the more important focus becomes.

How do you achieve higher focus in your workday?

>> Do you need quiet, or do you crank up the music?

>> Do you prefer multitasking or single-tasking?

>> Do you need more breaks, or keep your nose to the grindstone?

>> Do you require or AVOID caffeine?

Off-the-wall comments and suggestions welcome. OK, not TOO off the wall…

(Want to get some of your marketing tasks off your plate? Drop me a line: jr@marketingmercenary.net.)

The Single Worst Habit in Business

We are continually bombarded with options.research

Don’t get me wrong… Many of those options are good. In fact, we often have so many good options from which to choose that we’re paralyzed, trying to narrow our choices down to two or three.

When we finally get down to two or three, we’re afraid of making the wrong decision, and we put it off until we know more.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of business, the economy, the Internet, and the rest of the world, “knowing more” is a constantly moving target. HOW WILL WE EVER DECIDE?

[Aside: If I’m describing any element of your efforts to market your business, just call or message me, and we’ll figure out a way to get you rolling.]

Now, by this point, you probably thought that I was going to say that the single worst habit in business is procrastination. You are close. In today’s business environment, the worst habit is RESEARCH.

“Wait! I have to know what I’m doing before I start something new…!”

Wrong.

You have to make progress, because the best among us are growing and learning by leaps and bounds, CREATING that “something new”. You’re going to have to start trying those new tools, new strategies, new products, etc.

Hang on a second. I don’t necessarily mean brand new to the marketplace. It could be something that’s been around for a while, but you just haven’t INVESTED the time or energy to get your feet wet. Yet.

So, here’s your new habit, starting NOW:

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