Funeral Industry Entrepreneur?

I recently heard a definition of an entrepreneur as one that jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down… this has a ring of truth. We often see news about people that have been successful bringing their ideas not only to fruition, but made gazillions of dollars like Zuckerberg and Jobs. But as for the people that toil, try, fail, and start all over again, they rarely get much press.

I personally know some in the funeral industry that daily get up and “build the plane” with internet companies, products, processes, training modules and yes, new funeral home operating models. I am often fascinated with how these folks envisioned their respective ideas and their take on how to penetrate the huge market. The idea is not the hard part, it’s in the development, implementation and penetration of the market. What many of my entrepreneur friends don’t realize early on that their product or service generally must be presented/sold/offered by funeral directors. This particular part of the equation is frankly the most difficult to overcome and develop into a large scale.

I have a personal saying “a vision is only a dream without execution” meaning it’s not enough to dream, it’s all about making it happen. I was part of developing a new funeral home operating model based on Six Sigma and Lean practices that opened in 2010. The utilization of digitized arrangements for consistent messages to consumers, training of processes like home removals, all being done from computers which eliminated the need for office staff. The service focus is providing families with a positive funeral experience, not wasting their time or money with outdated funeral processes. Of course, the industry and competitive neigh sayers wanted to pigeon hole us that we don’t provide service, can’t this, don’t that, blah, blah. Interestingly and over 800 death calls later, our executed vision is growing with a great start to our fourth year in 2014.

The lessons learned as a funeral entrepreneur at the funeral home development level prepared me for other services and products. I found that it was most important to listen to the consumer, not to “industry norms” or funeral directors about “what our families don’t like or we’ve tried that before.” Funny thing when the consumer is provided with information, they make good funeral decisions. But left up to some in our industry, the consumer would never have known nor had opportunity for selections. The funeral consumer market is continually shifting and demand changes over time. For instance, the current economy is significantly different than just 10 years ago, but many firms are presenting the same services and products without refreshing to current conditions.

Armed with this experience, I am involved with bringing new products and services to the funeral market. Prior to launching with the general funeral home populace, we BETA tested. I spent most of the effort listening to consumers and their acceptance/demand. Along with feedback of best practices from the funeral directors that actually presented these services and products, I am certain of the success. I sat in on arrangements simply to observe and learn. Unfortunately, our industry does not take this same approach to new services and products. Rather, an idea is born, the product/service developed, and then the developers spend every effort trying to convince funeral directors of their particular success… without truly vetting both those that present and the end users; at need funeral consumers.

Knowing that consumers want and need a product or service, yet operating in an industry reluctant to offer anything new, the avenues of approach are significantly different than other industries. So, for my fellow funeral industry entrepreneurs, here is some advice:

Meet face to face with funeral home owners and directors or present using digital technology.
Don’t waste your time trying to convince the entire industry, just find a few that are progressive enough to understand and execute.
Use social media to promote your brand, services and products.
Spend time with a firm and staff training them to present your service/product.
Do the math… use realistic numbers for their revenue projections from sales of your service/products. Measure the results.
When funeral homes begin offering your service or product, support their efforts. Listen to their feedback of best practices and what their families have to say. Ask to sit in on arrangements to find out for yourself if your products or services are being presented correctly… listen to families.
Provide firms with tools to inform the public of the new service or products they are offering (press releases, articles, social media avenues, and marketing techniques/tools such as information seminars to hospice or other organizations)
There is plenty of opportunity in the funeral industry for entrepreneurs, but few that make the effort and even less that succeed. Keep building the plane… Cheers Y’all.

Four Aspects of Your Content Manager You Should Know About

There are several aspects of content manager you should look into right way. However, for those who are not familiar with what a content manger is, let’s explain the basics. Content manager is software that is used to organize content and facilitates content production. In other words it a type of file organizer that is designed to make producing content easier. Now, let’s explore those aspects. There are currently four aspects I would recommend you looking into; search content function, group shared folder, full text search, and visual search. All of these are excellent tools for you and your marketing team. First, let’s explore the search content function of your content manager.

Search Content

All good content managers have a search content function. This allows marketing teams to easily find and locate different files. The search content function has several different functions. First off, it can be used to easily find any file. This increases organizational agility by reducing the time spent looking for files. Second this allows you and your marketing team to find old documents.This save time because it allows them to reuse old content oppose to constantly producing new content. This is useful way to find old research, marketing schemes, and advertisement. In fact, the content manager will help you find any type of work you did before and you don’t want to do again. This feature is especially useful when used with a group shared folder.

Group Shared Folder

If your marketing team has a group shared folder they can easily access each other’s work. Thus, if anyone in the marketing team produced content on a certain topic your marketing team will be able to find it. The visual search function makes finding old documents especially easy. Your content manager also has visual search function. Most people find this to be an intuitive way to find and access the quality of content. This also greatly reduces the need to check and send emails. Instead of sending a team member your work, you can just save it. Then, your team member can find and access your work whenever they want. Another aspect of your content manager you should look into is full text search.

Full Text Search

Full text searches makes finding old content from co-workers easier. Let’s say you making an advertisement for a new brand of hamster wheels. You know that your company has sold hamster wheels in the past, so you might as well reuse some of their content. Rather than sorting through thousands of files you can simple search “hamster wheels.” Now you only have twenty or so documents to sort through. You don’t have to be a genius to know this is much easier number to manage. Thus, this small aspect of your content manager saved you hours of work. Who doesn’t want to save time?

Visual Search

In summary, your content manager can save you and your marketing team hours of time. The content function, group shared folder, full text search, and visual search are especially useful. Therefore, if you are not using any of these functions, you are wasting time.

What Will Digital Marketing Bray for in 2014?

Digital Marketing is the fastest changing media among all others. It takes just one minor change by a big fish like Google to send ripples of changes across the media. Thus, periodic analysis of such changes is necessary. At the dawn of 2014, this article discusses the popular trends that rule Digital Marketing so as to facilitate both advertisers and publishers in understanding the exact spots of the hot iron where the hammer is to be brought down. An informal study of the various branches reveals that Digital Marketing is bound to depend on content like never before.

The top three important parts of Digital Marketing according to advertisers and publishers are Content Marketing, Mobile Marketing, and Big Data. Around 29% of the respondents believed Content Marketing will define Digital Marketing in 2014, 15.1% opined Mobile Marketing will see another big leap, while 12.9% said that feeding Big Data into the internet will determine what the brand takes out of this media. Social CRM came fourth in the ranking with 9% rooting for it as the single most point of focus. Let us now analyze the top three trends that are likely to rule Digital Marketing in 2014.

Content Marketing for ORM

The content posted by, for, and about the brand shall be the biggest determining factor of the reputation which the brand creates for itself in the online world. Digital Marketing has become directly linked with Online Reputation Management (ORM) and the quality of the content has a direct effect on it. As the digital world is the modern method of communication, the online reputation which a brand develops is its image and is shared and communicated. Considering the speed at which information is passed around among the net users, keeping a close watch on the content is important. Content Marketing is no longer just about posting content. It also involves managing the reactions (to be fathomed from the comments) and ensuring that a good online reputation is built and maintained.

Mobile Marketing for Better Targeting

The rate at which Mobile Marketing is developing almost singlehandedly fuels the growth in the digital world. With more and more users shifting from desktops to handheld devices, it is imperative for a brand to invest in this medium. Some experts even go ahead to predict that Mobile Marketing will one day define the whole process of Digital Marketing. With the speed and capacities of the mobiles improving in leaps and bounds, the above prediction may very well be worth its salt. It lends teeth to the targeting capabilities of Digital Marketing. With Mobile Ads finding a way to even the apps of smartphones, it is necessary to stay in the constant view of the users.

Big Data for Public Relations

Big Data denotes the information on the functions of the business, both structured and unstructured. Such data has traditionally been used for analysis by the brand so that defects and shortcomings can be accurately found out and rectified. Releasing informative data on the net bestows the faith of the users and enhances brand image. For example, if an automobile company conducts a research on the various car segments in the industry and releases the findings on the net, it would affect the potential consumers in 3 definite ways. Firstly, it will help the consumers to determine the best vehicle as per their needs, secondly, it will create goodwill for the brand, and thirdly the trust on the brand will go up.

Along with the above, the Digital Marketing will continue to thrive on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SMO (Social Media Optimization). However, the predictions for 2014 make it worthwhile to associate with a Digital Advertising Agency in order to receive expert solutions.

Ways to Bring In Customers, Even If You Haven’t Two Pennies To Rub Together! – PART 1

There’s nothing better than getting prospects and clients knocking on your door and not having to pay a single penny to get them!

How does that sound to you? Unbelievable?

Well, stay with me in this article as it could be the most important one I’ve ever written and… the most important one you’ll ever read.

In fact, I’ll go even further and say that you’ll be getting more than a years worth of subscription value in this single article.

What I strongly suggest you do is to print this article out, paste it to your wall or pc and highlight the most highly probable idea that you can work into your business… THIS WEEK!

It’s that important, it’s that transformational.

Listen closely, many business owners feel you’ve got to spend a bomb in order to make a bomb. Not true. And I’ll prove it to you beyond any shadow of doubt.

Okay, let’s not waste time. Let’s get down to practicals that’ll make you money, instantly, without forking out a penny.

1: JUMP ONTO SOMEONE ELSE’S DATABASE OF CUSTOMERS, SIMILAR TO THE ONES YOU WANT TO REACH

People pain themselves at coming up with ‘new’ ways to get their ideal customer when all they have to do is to look around and see who’s already serving their perfect customer.

Say I’m a high end jeweller and I’m looking to expand my customer database. If I were to do a little research, I’d see that the clients who come to my outlet also drive cars at the upper end of the market. Also, I find that a lot of customers frequent the posh restaurants in the neighbourhood.

THE STRATEGY: Approach the vendors, business owners, whatever… and simply say to them something to the effect of “Dear business owner, I’ve found that a lot of people who visit my jewellery outlet, also buy your xxxxxxxxxxx. I was thinking that it may be profitable for both of us if we were to sit down and find a simple way to benefit from a business relationship. If you were to inform your customers about me and I do the same to my customers about you, then we could both add new customers to our lists, as well as making a lot more money, without paying some silly ad agency to come up with this”.

Now, if you’ve NO customer database to speak of to ‘return the favour’ you could approach those same people and say “as I’m starting an exciting new business venture, I thought that the products I sell would make wonderful complimentary purchases for your clients. If they purchase a car from you, you could say that they’ll automatically receive a ‘NEW CLIENT JEWELLERY OFFER’.”

2. SEND A SINGLE PAGE PRESS RELEASE

There’s no finer way to get INSTANT CREDIBILITY than by having someone in a position of authority, endorse and give you a rave review.

If you were to pay for such a review, disguised as an ad, you’re looking at a bill running into thousands.

Okay, let’s put this into practice:

Say you’re in the restaurant business and you’ve got a grand opening about to happen in the next few weeks, here’s an idea, the genesis of which has made fortunes for those who’ve used it.

Send a one-page fax to restaurant critics in the various media who are responsible for catering, eating out, entertainments etc. The way to generate BIG INTEREST is to lead the press release with a curiosity pulling opening that gets the reader to stop dead in their tracks. Here’s what I’d write on a fax as a press release to get the phone ringing off the hook, by those who matter.

“New Spanish Restaurant Has More Secret Recipes Than Colonel Sanders Could Ever Dream About”

Richmond-UK:

There’s a secret whisper that’s going around the Richmond area.

Owner Alberto Carlos has dared anyone to guess the ingredients in his 4 special dishes and if they do, he’ll gift them ONE YEAR of eating there… FREE!

In fact, this has taken the neighbourhood by such a surprise that two ‘local celebrities’ have mentioned that they’d take on the challenge!

You can contact Alberto Carlos on…
*************************************************************

Now, there’d be some people who’ll hammer me by saying “but in your article headline, it said that I didn’t have to have two pennies to rub together to make your ideas work”.

Hmm… they’re right. What to do? I’ve probably asked them to invest 5 pence a fax. But… AHA! Saved by Jeeves. I know, you can… BORROW THE MONEY!

There, felt better. Now let’s move on to the third way to get customers without (ahem!) even the need to rub two pennies together.

3. BARTER WHAT YOU HAVE FOR SOMETHING YOU WANT

Now some people will say “I don’t have anything to barter”. But, if they’ll take the time to trawl through every aspect of their business, they’ll find that they do indeed have something to barter with.

Okay, let me clear something up that a few people may have trouble with in reading this. And that is, BARTERING IS A MERE FORM OF EXCHANGE, nothing more, nothing less.

Now, let’s make this real.

Say you have just opened for business and you deal in selling picture frames. You’ve got all your stock, you’ve an outlet to retail them from, you’ve hired staff. But, the only thing you don’t have yet are… CUSTOMERS.

Okay, you know in order to get customers, you’ve got to advertise or promote in one way or another. Say you need to place an ad in the local press but you’re tightly strung for cash. What are you going to do?

Well, digging into your BUSINESS ASSET CHECKLIST you find that you’ve the knack of getting all fixtures and fittings for your business, at prices way way below the industry norm. Could you not trade that ‘process’ for ad space in the local paper?

You can approach the local paper and say that you’d like to write an article for them that’d show people wanting to get into the framing business certain ways to get more mileage for their pound.

You’ve got to know this: Most papers are STARVING for news input, for ways to keep their readers happy, interested and engaged.

Or, say that you’ve discovered a way to make a tidy sum of money from your old, unwanted picture frames. You could approach the trade journals for the industry and say something similar regarding helping other similar concerns to yours.

Now, before I get any hate mail from those irritated about the fact that they’d be HELPING THEIR COMPETITORS by doing this, what they’ll find is that most business owners in any industry or category, haven’t the smarts or energy to make these simple strategies happen.

What other aspects of business can one barter? Almost anything.

The staff recruiting process, the way you purchase web traffic, the way you write your ads or sales letters, the little time management system that saves you 5 hours a week, the certain winning phrases you use to get your customers to nod their heads and say yes.

What do you want? Office space, fixtures, a telemarketing arm to your marketing efforts, a bunch of envelopes, a new signage… whatever you want, you can trade for it. You just have to be a little more agile minded than all the others out there.!

Ready for a break? Well, OK… but look out for PART 2!

Copyright (c) 2014 InternetMarketingTrainingClub.com

Good Project Management Can Be Bad for Business, Sales Results Show

Business technology vendors and contractors assign project managers, but some standard project management methods can hurt client relationships. I have seen it first hand how traditional project management methods are counterproductive in technology sales. Project managers are taught to narrow the focus to a particular set of steps, while a technology client is always looking to leverage technology adoption and expand their scope.

It’s not the project manager’s fault. The common vendor practice of braking up a technology implementation into separate specialties of system design, budget estimating, and project management does not provide for a feedback loop from the client to modify projects as the client comes to understand the potential applications for the technology they are buying.

Most project managers are responsible for a particular project and not for maintaining an ongoing consultative relationship with the client. Clients must continually evaluate, modify, and expand their use of technology. Their current vendor is the logical resource for clients to turn to in planning future technology adoption. Those new technology applications are likely an outgrowth of the current technology plan, yet project managers forestall such ad-ons and expansions so they can close out the current project as originally planned, even if the client’s requirements have changed or become better informed than when the project was initially conceived.

Traditionally project managers are tasked with completing a project within the current budget estimate. The sales consultant will typically discuss the client’s needs. Those needs define a rough specification for the equipment or software to be used. Then an estimate is rendered by an estimation specialist who makes certain assumptions about manpower requirements and how systems will be integrated. Integration can include a wide range of tasks, from delivering and installing equipment, to programming and testing connections to the corporate servers. This visualization by the estimator is rarely shared to the project manager, but instead the system designer reduces the requirements to a specific equipment list. The project manager then focuses on the equipment list to get the project “signed off”.

Salespeople know that one of the best times to sell to their client is immediately after the client has just purchased something. In technology sales, that after-sale window of opportunity occurs before the initial sale is fully installed and operational. When project managers fear expanding the project scope, the client is left to seek those follow-on features from another vendor. The potentially lucrative long-term technology advisory relationship with the client does not materialize, no matter how efficiently the initial sale is closed out.

The principles of the Project Management Institute, which awards the PMP (Project Management Professional) certification, include many important principles for construction projects. Chief among them is communications with stakeholders and definition of scope. Without a clear, agreed definition of project scope the client’s expectations will be ambiguous and therefore you cannot definitively satisfy those expectations. Those PMI principles are taught to audiovisual professionals in the CTS curriculum (Certified Technology Specialist, certified by the AV industry trade association Infocomm).

How do you define scope without limiting the overall project? Creatively! At each step in the design process, as you are defining needs which leads to equipment selections and tasks lists, document it! Then, any changes or add-ons become new projects. As technology advances there should always be something new to provide the client, so don’t get trapped into defending an older system design or steering the client dialog back to the project at hand if the client wants to talk about adding more stuff.

On a recent project I was doing AV systems designs for a new headquarters building being built for a marketing firm. The project included a score of conference rooms, seminar rooms, and training classrooms, most with videoconferencing and IPTV, and a vague requirement for recording and streaming. I was provided a base design the client company had implemented in another office, but the client’s stated desires called for variations on the original designs, partly because some product models had changed in the year since the other office was designed. Whereas my inclination was to value-engineer for what the client desired, utilizing models that were newer and that were more specifically applicable for the new system requirements, the project managers insisted I defend the old plans requiring larger, more expensive matrix routing switchers that had features we would not be using.

Perhaps there was some logic in that the same menus and support procedures could be used at both locations, but in fact each location would be doing their own support and the control systems could be designed to be similar. Perhaps there was some politics involved if the original designers needed to save face having told the client their old designs would be applicable, but it was clear to the client the applications in the new office were different, and it was clear to me that rather than economize by reusing the old designs the client would actually be spending more. The project managers, adhering to the mindset that projects should not change once underway, were at odds with the client, undermining their relationship.

At one point the client asked for a blue-sky future forecast of where all their new AV, multimedia, and unified communications could lead. Between the IPTV, streaming, recording, and videoconferencing an elaborate future scenario would be an enterprise video system with asset management, cloud services, training-on-demand, digital signage, user authentication and such. A mere mention of this potential could have cemented a long term relationship with the client as their applications evolved in this direction. Instead the project managers dismissed the client’s desire to free associate about future technology, and made a presentation that refocused the dialog on the year-old designs, accepting a minimum of the requested modifications.

Did this approach help them move further towards closing out the project? Perhaps it did, by directing the project towards old, expensive systems, and postponing the desired modifications to be codified in a new project scope. Did it lock in the client to a long term relationship to realize those enterprise video aspirations? Definitely not! That client will be open to discuss those future applications with any other vendor, contractor, or consultant.

Had the project managers cataloged the requested changes and further created a plan to advise the client on new technology, they would have written two new deals, with many more to come. Sometimes trying to keep things simple, boiler-plate, and finite to close out a project will also close off future business opportunities. If the project manager is in charge of the client dialog, then besides the responsibility to render project status reports to the client, don’t miss the opportunity to listen to the client and make it a two way dialog. Keep the scope of each task finite, but the relationship with the client could be infinite.

March 24, 2014, New York City