Selling Crap

You know what I hate? Crap. And more specifically, the people that knowingly sell crap to unsuspecting people, just because they can get away with it. Maybe I shouldn’t hate them. The jury’s still out.

Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I’m always interested in how people are making money these days. Millions of ideas out there, and you never know when you might see something that resonates.

A friend suggested selling ebooks on Kindle, so I thought I’d take a look at the idea. Most of the stigma is off of self-publishing (and thank goodness for that), and readers are snapping up Kindle ebooks at an astonishing rate. Maybe there’s an opportunity there for me or the people I help?

To find out more about selling ebooks on Kindle, I started nosing around the web. There’s a ton of stuff out there, most of it pretty basic. Eventually I found a course on Udemy.com and signed up. (If you don’t know Udemy, you’re missing out, but that’s a different subject for another day.)

Today I started the course. I was hoping for insight, revelation, an epiphany. Do you know what they suggested? Find a hot topic, pay someone $25 on elance.com to write your ebook (20 pages or so), pay someone $5 on fivver.com to design the cover, then publish. Voilà.

Ouch. Has it really come to this? Are we so desperate to make money that we don’t care who we hurt or whose money we take in the process? 

ebook

I started looking at Amazon through a different lens, the way this Udemy course instructor recommends, to see if people are actually doing this. They are. Lots of them.

As a physical therapist who specializes in working with seniors, I speak to a lot of community groups. Next month I’m leading a discussion on caregiving for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, so today I searched “Alzheimer’s caregivers” in the Kindle store. Turns out there are dozens of Kindle books about Alzheimer’s that seem to follow the 20 pages + a cover format. Here are some of my favorite authors’ descriptions of their books:

  • These are all typical a sign of Alzheimer’s since it causes a lot of mental confusion. It is important to get help as soon as you can!
  • This like all my books I cover the disease or problem so the reader has an understanding of the disease or problem!! So in this book you will learn about Alzheimer’s/Dementia, but Most Importantly you will learn how to care for Your parent or Loved one with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. This might be one of the hardest tests in a person’s life, to care for a Parent with Alzheimer’s. I always remember my Grandmother as a strong independent woman. That is how I think of her, but when she got this disease she was no longer that person that I remember, THAT in itself is hard, but caring for her was a mountainous problem…… I didn’t even know where to start!!
  • Have you ever forgotten something important ant then swore up and down you must have Alzheimer’s? Usually we’re laughing at the time, but it is not a laughing matter when symptoms start to appear. Alzheimer’s attacks the memory and can start as young as 30 years old!

Scintillating, I know! And a healthy use of exclamation points, too!!!!

Here are a couple reviews of these types of books:

  • This seemed like an outline for a high school term paper…just a few sentences about each of the seven types and stages of dementia. Can be read in less than five minutes. I could have gotten more information about dementia just by glancing at a Wikipedia page.
  • I’m disturbed. I was hoping for expert advice…. I’m saddened that there are people trying to make money from Kindle technology, for naught…

It may be the way of the world, but it still sucks. If you feel like it’s ok to sell crap to unsuspecting people, you need confess, repent and sin no more. It’s just wrong. It’s an affront to humanity.

Is there hope for humanity? Yes! Today I had a handyman out to my house to fix some drywall problems the previous handyman made worse (I know I should probably learn to do this sort of thing but I’m just not motivated). We were talking about his business and he told me about some of the ethical choices he has to make. He said contractors call him in to help with a job and they’ll ask him to cut corners and do things that are potentially unsafe. He told me, “My name is on my truck. My name is on my shirt. There’s no way in hell I’m going to risk my reputation to make a quick buck.”

That’s a guy I like. That’s a guy I want to do business with. He may never sell a crap book on Kindle, but he can sleep at night and doesn’t have to worry that his name is on his truck.

Rant over. Carry on.

Lean Canvas—How Will You Get to Your Customers?

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re almost done with your Lean Canvas. So far, you have a great idea about your customers, their problems, your solution, your unique value proposition, and your price. Guess what! If you can’t get your solution in front of enough customers, none of the work you’ve done might matter.

That’d be a shame.

So how do you get in front of your customers, or help your customers get in front of you? The answer is Channels, paths that will help you find your customers and your customers find you.

There are two types of channels, outbound and inbound. Both are important, so you need to get this right. Here’s a helpful infographic from Mashable, but the essential differences are:

Inbound Marketing:

  • Communication is interactive and two-way.
  • Customers come to you via search engines, referrals and social media.
  • Marketers provide relatively more value.

Outbound Marketing:

  • Communication is one-way.
  • Customers are sought out via print, TV, radio, advertising and cold calls.
  • Marketers provide relatively less value.

At first, you will probably need to focus on outbound channels. Even though they are harder in some ways, you can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t from your outbound marketing.

Here are some ways Maurya suggests you get in front of customers:

  • Make a list of people that you know. Ask them if they would be interested in your solution.
  • Ask those people to introduce you to others who may be interested in your solution.
  • Create a teaser page with an opt-in and, from that, create an email list. Then email them about your solution (more about how to do this in an upcoming blog post, but I like Aweber, LaunchRock and LeadPages).
  • Ask your blog readers if they are interested in your solution or know someone who might be.
  • Talk about your solution on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. (Be careful about being very salesy—remember that people don’t like to be “sold” but they love to buy.)
  • Buy Google Adwords and Facebook Ads.
  • Cold call people you think might benefit.
  • Sponsor groups or events where potential customers will see you and can get to know you.
  • Content marketing.
  • Hiring a sales force.

So which channels do you think might help our hypothetical employment assistance business find Bill Johnson or help Bill Johnson find us?

First question I would ask: where is Bill now? In real life, is he going to any networking meetings? Job seeker support groups? Is he part of the Kiwanis Club? Who do you know that Bill knows? Online, is he on Facebook? LinkedIn? Craigslist? Does he tweet? When he is looking for help with his job search, what words does he Google?

As you think about what’s going on in Bill’s life now, you’ll have a much better chance of picking the right channels, reaching him and being able to share your solution.

Dear Apple: I Love You Less When Your Quality Sucks

520157-apple_logo_dec07I just ordered a new MagSafe plug for my MacBook Pro. Because I had $80 burning a hole in my pocket? Nope. Because the one I got with my laptop (you know, the laptop I bought less than a year ago for $2500+), is already frayed.

Already frayed. Seriously? Even now, I’m wondering if I am going to finish this blog post before my computer surrenders itself to sleep.

I know I am hard on things. I wear out the tires on my car. Eventually, I will wear out my car. But that’s not today, or even this year. That’s tens of thousands of miles from now for the tires, hundreds of thousands of miles for the car. Can you imagine if you bought a car and had to replace the entire fuel system within the first year, just because the manufacturer didn’t care enough about quality? That’s sorta what it feels like Apple is doing to me.

I wasn’t expecting to have to replace my MagSafe cord in less than a year. It’s disappointing. And frustrating. And makes me love Apple less because their MagSafe cord quality sucks. And, if Apple can’t figure out how to do better, then maybe they shouldn’t charge me for the replacement like it’s made out of gold. Maybe they should say, “We can’t make a high quality one, but we don’t want to punish you, our loyal consumer, for our crappy ineptitude. When you buy the inevitable replacement we won’t gouge you quite as much as we normally do.” That sort of honesty would make me love you lots, Tim Cook. In the meanwhile…

Dear Apple: I Love You Less When Your Quality Sucks. Maybe, someday, I will love you less enough to love somebody more.

Upselling Without Apologizing

Del TacoMy youngest daughter has a favorite fast food restaurant—Del Taco. (I know. Feel free to praise/criticize Del Taco as you see fit in the comments below, but this post isn’t about the tastiness or nutritional content of their offerings—it’s about the upsell).

They have trained their staff to offer an upsell with every order. Every time we order Katie’s dinner, they ask, “Would you like a churro with that?” Every single time. And sometimes, just because, we say yes.

The other night we said yes to the churro and the order taker was enthusiastically, effusively appreciative. He was one happy guy.

Until we got up to the drive-through window—then he apologized. “Sorry about the upsell.” The funny thing was, we weren’t. The upsell never bothers us. Why?

  • It’s offered in a friendly way. No pressure. If he had tried to force the churro on us, or tried to shame us into ordering one, we wouldn’t have gone back.
  • It’s a logical offer. We are already buying their Tex Mex, and churros are a Tex Mex dessert. If he had tried to upsell us some sushi, it would have seemed odd.
  • It’s an offer that will benefit us, at least on some level. If not our waistlines, then our tastebuds.

Here’s my question for you: What is your upsell? Is it friendly, logical, and beneficial for your customer? If so, you don’t need to apologize. And if you don’t have one, you and your customers are both missing out.

Our Worst Possible…

american-airlines-us-airways-merger

Seth Godin describes American Airlines as, “our worst possible domestic airline.”

Ouch.

I read that on Seth’s blog more than a week ago, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It resonates more than all of the merger hoopla, all of the rebranding, the pretty plan painting, everything. “The new American” has flooded our television networks, magazines, websites with all their newspeak. And still, they are “our worst possible domestic airline.”

This got me thinking about smaller companies, local startups and companies like mine. If we don’t deliver on our promises of quality, no amount of marketing-speak will change the minds of those we disappoint. We can’t fake it with people that know us, that have taken us up on our promises. So we’d better get it right with them.

If we do get it right, then we can spend our marketing dollars on hoopla to attract new customers. Our current customers will already know us and, if we do it right, maybe even love us. And if they love us, there’s a good chance they’ll talk about us.

Are you keeping your promises? Are you doing it in a remarkable way?

Pharrell’s Hat is More Remarkable Than Your Business (Celebrating Awesomeness)

Pharrell’s Hat—Perhaps you’ve noticed it?

Pharrell's HatPeople talk about it. People talk about him.

Pharrell’s not afraid to be different.

Not a lot of people are that brave. Not a lot of people are willing to be that remarkable.

Are you? Are you willing to be different, to stand out? What would happen to you and your business if you became remarkable—as remarkable as Pharrell’s hat?

Exciting Things to Reveal (Everybody Wants to Know a Secret)

Exciting Things to Reveal

 

I love this sign. It’s not William Shakespeare or even Sigmund Freud, but the person that wrote it understands human nature. “Exciting things to reveal” indeed.

Here’s my question: How can you use this in your business? Will your customers show up to see what exciting things you have in store? Enquiring minds want to know.

I’ve already thought of a way I am going to take advantage of the innate curiosity we all have in my business. How? You’ll have to stay tuned for that.

Exciting things to reveal….

Girl Scouts Discover Marketing’s Other P—Pot?

Product, Place, Pricing and Promotion. If you’ve taken a marketing class or read a marketing textbook, you’ve no doubt across the 4P’s of marketing. What you may not have realized though, is that (at least in San Francisco) the Girl Scouts have come up with a fifth P—Pot.

Image courtesy of Paul/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Paul/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to Mashable, a young girl in San Francisco found a way to get her product into the perfect place, selling Girl Scout cookies in a Cannibis Clinic. What do people who smoke pot want? Girl Scout cookies!

What can we learn from this, and how can we apply these lessons to our businesses?

Be Creative. Where are the unexpected connections between you and your customers? Where could they be? Write down five new ways to reach potential customers you aren’t currently reaching. How would you do it?

Be Bold. It takes guts to do something so out of the ordinary. Sometimes, instead of doing the mundane or commonplace, you need to give yourself permission to try something daring. The Girl Scouts of Colorado have officially banned their scouts from selling cookies at pot shops, but at least some scouts had the courage to try. What will you give yourself permission to do? What audacious thing could you do to delight your customers?

Take Action. I bet there were Girl Scouts sitting at home thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to sell cookies in places besides the front of Wal-Mart?” They were trying to be creative. There were probably even Girl Scouts who thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to sell cookies to people who have the munchies?” They were thinking boldly. But then there were the Girl Scouts who took action, who got out there and did it. They were the newsmakers, the game changers, the ones who changed what we think is possible when it comes to selling cookies.

Once you’re done being creative and bold, take action—show us all what’s possible.

 

 

 

Sales Tip: Never Forget What Your Customers Want [WIIFM]

Your customers’ favorite radio station: WII-FM. What’s In It For ME? It’s the most obvious thing in the world, except when it’s not.

Time for Me!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When we forget to tell the customers what’s in it for them, it’s usually for one of two reasons: we’re either lazy, or we want to show off.

Lazy? Yesterday I was driving down Highway 380 between Denton and McKinney, and I saw a billboard for a car dealership that said, “Experience the difference new ownership makes.” Really? That’s all you got? You can’t tell me about how your dealership is going to give me a great deal on a used car or give me a loaner vehicle or give me the peace of mind that comes from free regularly scheduled maintenance? I don’t know what “the difference new ownership makes” means for me, so I don’t feel compelled to stop by.

Show off? We do it all the time, usually without thinking about what we are doing.

We want to make things pretty.

We want to make things clever.

We want to make things sophisticated.

Our customers want to know what’s in it for them. And if we won’t tell them, they probably won’t buy from us. They are busy—too busy for our cleverness, and we lose when we’d rather show off than make money.

Here’s my question to you: What is the reason you’re in business? To be clever or to create a sustainable, enjoyable, life-giving enterprise? To be sophisticated or to make money? It’s not always either/or, but if you have to pick one, pick the money. Then you can take that money and do something clever or sophisticated.

If you want to do something clever and/or sophisticated with your money, I recommend you give some away for a good cause. Here are a couple I like:

Charity Water: Provides clean, safe drinking water to people that need it but don’t have it.

St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital: Research and patient care for children.

Or you can pick your own.

What’s in it for you? Good feelings, mostly. Making a dent in the universe, sometimes.

Here’s your assignment: find a way to tell your customers TODAY what’s in it for them. Put it on Facebook, tweet it out to the world, but announce to the world what’s in it for your customers.