Sunday, August 27, 2006

Using Third Party Credibility

It's no secret that the best form of advertising is word of mouth. Always has been and always will be. Even in today’s information age, where it's nearly impossible to shield ourselves from the daily blaze of information coming at us through various media channels. Mass marketing communication has pervaded pretty much all areas of our lives, but still it lacks the power of good old word of mouth.

The direct selling and network marketing industries were built upon this foundation and both are thriving these days. One of the reasons for this is that as we are bombarded with mass communication messages, the value of a more personal message from a trusted source increases. Traditional companies are starting to pick up on this and are trying to implement programs to stimulate word of mouth by their existing customers. For many companies this transition proves to be slightly more difficult than they anticipated - hardly a surprise to those that have been successful in that area. The approach to using good word of mouth advertising differs very much from regular advertising.

Even though there are many differences between regular marketing and word of mouth, there are also some important similarities. One of them is the power of the use of a third party. Of course it's nice if you say how great your company is and how wonderful your products and services are. But that's kind of like your mother saying you're such a nice person. It's not that it's not true. It's just that the source isn't considered to be very objective. A third party is. It doesn't necessarily mean that the third party is completely objective but at least it's considered to be at least more objective than your mother, or your company, or you.

In everything we do, we seem to have a natural tendency to follow the people around us or people we look up to. Since the latter aren't always present we usually reside to the people around us. Another tendency most people have is to distrust the seller or at least question the truthfulness of what they're saying. These two tendencies combined lead to a situation where almost all our purchases are driven largely by what the people around us say and think about certain products and services. When the selling party advises you on a certain purchase he or she usually has an interest in making a sale and therefore may not be completely objective. When a neighbor gives you advice, you don't worry about this and therefore you find it easier to trust him. Your neighbor just served as a third party.

We generally tend to like testimonials better than commercials, probably because they don't involve hard selling, or at least not to the same extent. The impact of a good testimonial is a lot bigger than that of an advertisement. Especially when it is delivered by someone we know and respect. So the point is to find a third party that can endorse you or refer people to you - preferably someone that has credibility. This point is well understood by many network marketing companies. After decades of aggressive growth this industry still deals with something of a credibility issue. Of course to anyone that has done their due diligence, the validity and opportunity of network marketing should be crystal clear. Unfortunately for many individuals in the industry, most prospects haven't done their due diligence and wouldn't even know where to begin. That's where the importance of third party credibility comes in.

Some network marketing companies have earned endorsements from people that are widely recognized as successful and are using their influence to boost company growth. They know how people will react to an endorsement by a world famous millionaire or even billionaire; "If successful people like that say it's OK, it probably is...” This phenomenon can be seen in every business, in every country and in every city. The opinions of the movers and shakers in any area just seem to have more effect on people. The point is whether you're in network marketing or in a traditional business, using third party credibility can greatly improve your results. Unfortunately very few people seem to actively use this strategy.

If you are in business for yourself you can at least see if you can take advantage of this. Get some testimonials from your existing customers, especially from those customers that seem to have some influence in the community.

Try to find out what kind of person would be good match for your prospective customers. Determine some characteristics and then search your existing customer base to see if you can find any people meeting these criteria. If you do, simply contact them and ask them if they would help you out by sharing their story. In most cases you won't have to compensate them for this, but it wouldn't hurt if you did a little extra to make it worth their while. After all, you're asking them to help you out.

If you can't find a suitable candidate amongst your existing customers, try the rest of your network. Perhaps you can find some people there that aren't buying from you yet, but would be happy to become your customer and endorse you. In this case you would probably have to do a little more in the form of compensation to sway them.

Perhaps you could throw in a discount or provide a part or all of your service free of charge. Yes, this will cost you some money, but it's probably a lot cheaper than running an ad in the local newspaper. And it will probably generate a lot more business for you.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Success - Why Action Achieves Results!

Success in any entrepreneurial endeavor is contingent on a simple truth: Learning does not always require thinking.

Actually, thinking often hinders learning. Hinders learning? That flies in the face of most of what we know, doesn't it? As children we were often reproached when we made mistakes: "You just weren't thinking! Don't you ever think about what you're doing?"

Then there's the most successful personal development book of all time telling us to do what? ...That's right, "Think and Grow Rich". True it is a fantastic book and a must read for success minded people. But many of us get so tangled in thoughts that we can't get out of our "heads" and take the action required for success.

Socrates, one of the greatest "thinkers" of all time, said, "Action equals knowledge." Action, not thinking, is how we achieve results. Take playing the piano for instance. We could think about playing the piano but we will never become better until we start pecking away at the keys. If you were to ask an accomplished pianist to think about what they are playing in the middle of a rapturous concert, the music would probably fall apart into a series of painfully disconnected notes.

Same is true with typing. Ask a person who flawlessly types over 70 words a minute to think about the key strokes, and you could probably watch the mistakes pile up. Thinking hinders execution. Thinking can hinder success. The fact of the matter is we can intellectualize all we want, but until we take action we will never accomplish anything.

There is a mantra in the martial arts that says "Ready, Fire, Aim". Simply put, this means take action and correct that action as you go. It is quite probable that many businesses never get out of the starting gate because of over-thinking and over analyzing. Most people want all their ducks to be lined up in a row before they begin. This will never happen. The time will never be perfect. The key is to get started and then "keep on keeping on."

In the martial arts, students practice moves over and over and over again. They train their bodies to transcend thought and take action in the moment. Imagine a trained martial artist getting attacked on the street thinking, "Hmm, okay I'm being attacked. Should I turn my body this way or should it be the other way? Okay, now I have to trap the assailments arms, tighten my fists, pull back, and strike."

Of course this is not what happens in the martial arts. The key teaching in the martial arts is to ACT. NOW! ...In spite of the mind's tenancy to analyze the situation.

The worst kind of thinking is fear of failure. The "What if" disease. "What if I fail? What if people laugh at me? What if I lose all my money? What if, what if, what if?

Fear is paralyzing. It stops the movement necessary for success. Fear weakens our resolve, cripples our creativity, and ultimately stagnates our successes. Conversely, movement overcomes fear. When struck by fear, move. Do something!

So, don't wait to explore your entrepreneurial spirit; take action now. When those pesky thoughts creep up, and they will, scare them away with the mantra, "Don't think, don't think, don't think, don't think..." and watch your dreams and goals cascade toward you.

What is the bottom line? "Don't think and grow rich."