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– Eric Hardenbrook

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There Are No Shortcuts To Growing Up

Whether your name is Jesus and you’re a teenage carpenter learning to be submitted to the authority of someone who is neither as knowledgeable, connected or spiritual as yourself (Oh, Hi Dad. Yes, I’m almost done building the Bernstein’s table) or your name is Kimberly and you’ve been tasked with improving customer relations for your company, one truth remains the same:

There are no shortcuts to growing up

Stright roadAs consumers increasingly tune out advertising, it is becoming more difficult for companies to expect marketing to take the place of a program of ongoing self improvement as a strategy for business growth. Increasingly, the need to innovate, overcome problems and adjust to changes in the marketplace is the defining factor in a businesses success story. Instead of deploying the latest “buzz strategy” a more lasting investment can be made by focusing on providing better products and services, self improvement for your staff and seeking to improve your customers lives when you interact with them. Connecting more effectively with your clientele when and where they are, on their terms and with their needs in mind will deliver more dramatic and lasting service and positively impact your bottom line as a result.

Perhaps I am just a bit jaded from constantly speaking with entrepreneurs (“expert” self-diagnosticians, by the way) who are requesting a specific marketing service to treat the symptoms of a systemic problem with their business. These conversations remind me that taking over the counter cold remedies to alleviate your symptoms can actually prolong your recovery from that nasty little bug, and that the same principle is true for your business. Band aids are not a cure, they are a patch, and are not meant to be a long term approach to solving a problem or relied upon as an integral part of your marketing plan. Similarly, simply increasing your PPC spend is not always the solution to what may be a broader problem, although it will produce results in the short term.

With this in mind, here is a collection of thoughts for growing your business in 2013. I hope they impart a fresh perspective and trigger lasting improvements; both for your clients and for your bottom line. They are for me.

Don’t waste your time or energy

If you own or run a business you can’t afford to have inefficient systems in place or to work without purpose. Write down your vision and goals for your business. Refine them, cut the fluff and develop them into a short business plan (no more than two pages). View each part of the plan through the lens of your corporate vision and, if they pass the vision test, incorporate them into your mini-marketing plan (Yep, one you’ll use, short and to the point.)

We all have blind spotsPeople have blind spots, right?

Guess what, you’re a people too! :) Paying a consultant for a couple of hours of their time or having a trusted friend give you their honest and unbiased perspective of your website or business can keep you from the trap of allowing the features and services of your business that are precious to become commonplace. You’re telling your customers that you’re special, right? Ever see a painters house that needed painting more than any house on the block? A Pastors kids that were the worst behaved? A restaurant that looked and smelled as though the owner/manager/janitor/cook lived there with their five dogs? If you nodded your head to any of these examples then you know they exist. Trust me, you can unknowingly allow your business to fall into this state and you won’t market your way out of it. You have to change your perspective.

Get more traffic!

If you’ve decided that simply getting more traffic to your website will solve all of your problems then refer to item #2. Please ask a professional their opinion, don’t just hire a technician to implement your idea on the hope that you’re correct. If your website isn’t up to date or addressing your clients needs, then pushing more traffic to it is not going to do anything but spend your marketing budget.

Audit your website

Recognize that web developers (nuts and bolts coders that make your site operate well) and web designers (artists that make your site appealing to the eye and navigate well) are hard to bundle into the same body. Get an opinion of your site from one of each before spending more money driving traffic to your site. A few minor improvements could improve the conversion ration of your existing traffic, improving the ROI of your marketing budget.

key to successCheck your online presence

Perform a search online for your core products or services, the ones you want your brand to be known for providing to each community you serve. Are you dominating the top 8 or 10 pages of search results? This is a fact; if you’re not dominating your market, someone else will. There are many factors involved and the process takes time to do well but, the cure is not expensive and lasts much longer than traditional SEO. For more ideas and information on the topic read this: Managing your reputation and getting found in local search

Check customer reviews

Since you have those search results up in front of you, check the review sites you see and find out what your customers are saying about you. If you don’t have a system in place for checking customer reviews regularly and are not soliciting reviews from those customers then you’re not managing your reputation well. You’re putting a lot of effort into building that reputation, right? Ignoring it online is not a good plan.

Dominate your market

Road sign to the solutionWhen you’re searching for something on-line, how often do you go to the second or third page of your search results? If you depend on the population surrounding your business for the bulk of your sales the you need to be easily found on the front page of Local Search results. Multiple listings there (4 or 5) would be even better, right? You can tell if you’re getting local results because a map will pop up with local businesses pinned on it. If your pin is not on that map, you’re missing another reputation building opportunity. Only about 14% of businesses have claimed their Google Business page at the time I’m writing this, making it easier for you to stand out from the crowd by getting it done for your business!

Video is a rising star

Do you have a Youtube channel? If a picture is worth a thousand words then I’d say that a video is worth a thousand pictures. Youtube (owned by Google) receives about the same number of search requests each day as the big G. You want a piece of that pie, it’s not a search number you can afford to ignore!

Re-evaluate your price points

Don’t try to compete with Walmart this year. If your products or services are not attractive to buyers unless you offer deep discounts then admit to yourself that you need to innovate and refresh your offerings. Add more value to what you provide, make yourself more attractive and impress your customers so much that they can’t stop talking about you. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to compensate for cheap products or bad service with your marketing budget so, don’t try to. Innovate! Improve! Re-design yourself and solve your customers problems. They won’t forget you if you do.

Bent arrow signAdjust your perspective

Make the time to read at least one good business book every month, two is better. A few suggestions that can help your perspective are:

The Compound Effect” Darren Hardy
Book Yourself Solid” Michael Port
Raving Fans” Ken Blanchard
Work the System” Sam Carpenter
The Slight Edge” Jeff Olson
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” John Maxwell
Entreleadership” Dave Ramsey
Integrity Service” Ron Willingham

In Closing…. My hope is that I’ve helped you in some small way, triggered at least one thought you can use to improve your business and services and help you to establish yourself as a leader in your industry. The team at Hardenbrook Marketing Solutions is here to help you with perspectives, strategies, plans and implementation services that will ensure that 2013 becomes your best year ever!

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