Small Business Marketing – When Are You Giving Too Much Away Free?

Small Business Marketing - When Are You Giving Too Much Away Free?Oh what a great day for small business! Today’s reader question is about how to figure out when you are giving too much away free.

Question: So as I’m creating my own business, a lot of things are new to me including, where is the line drawn where you are a resource and when it’s a potential client if that makes sense? Like…how much do you tell for free? – Theresa (name changed to protect the innocent)

I actually love this one because I do think that this is a fuzzy line for some people but it is super clear to me!

How Long Does It Take?

Reader QuestionsFirst off, I think it depends on how long it takes you to accomplish the task. I will pretty much do anything for free that takes me less than a minute.

Here I am particularly thinking about reader questions that are sort of the lifeblood of my business. I get questions emailed and Facebook messaged me every day that tell me what the marketplace needs and gives me an idea of what I should talk about (hence this blog post from a reader question! – you can click the picture to get to me on Facebook…friend or follow me) Answering most of those questions with resources or a quick response is easy so I fire them off all day long.

So what takes you no time that you can do quickly? Yours may be answering phone calls or text messages. It might be popping over to their blog post and leaving a comment.

I was so proud when one of the people on the stream said, “Love that we can always count on you!” It is building that kind of open door for tiny things which leads to giant doors opening for everything else!

Note: I model this after Seth Godin and Chris Brogan who are best selling authors and who take the time to answer all their reader question emails. I have gotten some amazing one word answers from Seth over the years and Chris is always there to answer my quick questions.

How Long Does It Take YOU? And do you like it?

That said, I do sometimes do things for free for my friends or people who refer me out frequently. I have made logos and websites, written sales copy and set up Facebook pages.

But I like doing those things (for my friends) and it keeps me at the top of my game. I am getting ready to make one of my friends an amazing website because I want to test something. Yes it will benefit her, but it is also to help me.

I often give talks for free and this blog is full of great free stuff. I do those things because I like doing them and have found ways to provide free that make me happy and serve everyone, not just one person at a time.

Note: Once you are a client I tend to do anything reasonable you ask without charging more! This is because I only work with a handful of people who have actually become friends as we have worked together over time.

Overselling On A Sales Call

One place I notice that I fall apart with my free model was back when I did face-to-face selling of our social media services product.

I would hit the door, start to tell them everything that we could do and answer every question they had about their social media. They would act all excited, tell me they would call me with a credit card and fade away. Well for heaven’s sake, I sat there and gave them the roadmap for them to follow. I should have told them WHAT to do instead of HOW we are going to do it!

Shut Up And Listen

In the previous section I forgot the first rule of selling, “Shut up and listen!”

I was so busy talking that I didn’t have a chance to hear what they really wanted so that I could set out to provide the answers to their real questions. Rarely does someone want just a Facebook page. They want to sell more products or services. They want to connect with their tribe. They want to be big shots. What they don’t need is someone sitting in front of them telling them all about how to set up a Facebook page!

Note: I rarely do in-person selling anymore as that is not my best thing. I also am re-arranging my offerings to include less one-on-one services and more “in it for everyone” stuff because that is what I like and am good at!

Should You Go To Coffee? Or Let Someone “Pick Your Brain”?

I cannot possibly say this better than Marie does!

Note: I don’t go out to coffee very often. It takes too much time to drive there, spend the time and then drive home. I always give away the farm and then they don’t need to pay me so that really doesn’t work for me!

Should You “Pay It Forward”?

There is a school of thought that says you should do something for free to show a prospect how great your product or service will be. This could be a free sample, making them something or just doing a little work before they hire you.

For a prospect I rarely will do anything free. I think it devalues your paid work and you have to give so many samples or free items away before one of your prospects will pull out a credit card that you could be hurting your paid clients or buyers by using your time for sales.


I totally loved this question! It is a problem that lots of us struggle with and few know how to handle with grace (I still flail around when talking to a humans about why I won’t “grab a cup of coffee” with them!)

That said, one of the most important things I have heard lately is from Suzanne Evans… the thing that you are best as the thing that you value the least and which is your greatest asset (or something like that!)

Knowing that, it is super important to remember that your products, time, your knowledge and your experience are not things to be given away, they are meant to be packaged up and sold to amazing clients or customers who NEED you!

The Last Marketing Strategy Workbook You Will Need EVER!

Keyword Marketing and SEO Update – How To Track Your Keyword Rankings

Today’s post is about how to obsessively track your keyword marketing and SEO rankings. We are going to focus on three main tools including Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics and Pro Rank Tracker (a third party site).

Google Webmaster Tools

Now that the keyword data is missing from Google Analytics, the Google Webmaster Tools are my new best friend. There I can find data showing:

  • How many times my site appeared in search (impressions)
  • The number of clicks that my received (clicks)
  • How many times my site was view compared to how many clicks I received (CTR – Click Through Rate)
  • Average position (shows all the keywords that I rank for and which position I am in)

Back when I had easy peasy results in Google Analytics I didn’t pay this site much mind but now I am a whole hearted supper and pretty much stalking my results in the Google Webmaster Tools.

Google Analytics

Keyword Marketing and SEO Update - How To Track Your Keyword RankingsAhh my old friend Google Analytics. You fickle bastard you, no more keyword data but some really good information about which pages are ranking and the sources of traffic that are working the best.

Pro Rank Tracker

Probably my favorite site right now on the internet. First off, they give you 50 free keywords to track and their prices really aren’t that horrendous if you get a jones for more. They send a daily email showing whether you have gone up or down which is super cool for figuring what to write about to keep your rankings up. LOVE THEM!

However you choose to track your keyword marketing efforts and SEO rankings, make sure you know what you are trying to rank for and the best practices for increasing your rankings without being a spammer (no sense in hosing up your life by doing bad SEO practices now that Google has declared war on spamming!)

How To Create A Kick Ass, Take No Prisoners Marketing Plan

There are marketing plans and then there is a MARKETING PLAN. Today we are going to talk about all the steps that you need to take to create a kick ass, take no prisoners marketing plan that will get you more customers and make you more money than you ever dreamed possible!

Warning: Just a word of caution, this post will make you very successful at whatever you choose to promote. Please don’t just skim over the first parts. This is totally the, “I got to the top of the ladder and found out it was against the wrong wall” if you are not completely sure about what you are trying to accomplish.

How To Create A Kick Ass, Take No Prisoners Marketing PlanHaving cruised the internet to find out what the “marketing plan template” competition is offering I was pleasantly surprised to find that they stink. While their process and format might work in business school or be the bomb in corporate America with 12 levels of management, this type of marketing plan is for business owners who will be implementing it themselves or perhaps working with someone on staff or outsourced to get it done. It is also for someone who is less concerned with “process” and more concerned with making money, getting leads and making sales.

How To Do Your Marketing Plan

Okay, we are ready to get going! First off, if you are really going to do this, please put down your phone, stop checking emails and get out a tablet of paper to write on. OF COURSE you will not wind up with a complete marketing plan in 30 minutes like some people promise, but you should be able to get a good start and a plan or path for which way to go.

What Are You Selling

The very first thing you need to do is is to know EXACTLY what you are selling. I have talked with almost a thousand small business owners and very few knew exactly what they were selling. There are two ways to think about this:

  • Selling an exact product or service that people are looking for like jewelry, business coaching, homes for sale or any other number of things that people are actively buying.
  • Selling the answer to a problem like “how to get the man of your dreams” or “becoming a better salesman”.

Sometimes you are better off to sell the factually correct product or service and sometimes you are better off to sell the solution to problem. The one thing never to do is to sell a concept like “security” if you are selling insurance or “beauty” if you are selling makeup. That is too cute and obscure to be a good marketing goal.

So the first thing you need to figure out is 3 Things You Are Selling. Write them down in pencil for now.

Selling online.

If you are reading my blog on the internet or a phone then you are aware that much of marketing is done via the internet these days. You probably did not just type in the whole long url to get here, you might have come from a Google search, seeing a social media post or even being subscribed to my blog feed. All of these ways of finding someone require words, more specifically keywords.

The reason I said to pencil in your three things you are selling is that you need to figure three relevant keywords that will show up in searches on the internet when someone is looking for your product or service. There are two ways to think about picking your keywords:

  • Tiny niche, big fish. If you want to have very fast results, pick a “long tail keyword” that is very specific and has little competition. This will allow you to rank highly for a term quickly and get eyeballs on your marketing fast.
  • Big niche, lots of opportunity. The other way to do this is to pick a big hairy audacious keyword and then work for a while to rank highly for that on Google and share it frequently on social media to get backlinks and gain authority about that term.

Whichever way you pick, you want to take your three products or services you are selling and make sure to research each to know what keywords you should actually target for those terms.

Who Are You Selling To

This is the most important thing to consider when doing your marketing plan. If you don’t know who you are selling to you cannot effectively plan how to market to them. Gone are the days when you could head out to social media, make friends and sell “stuff”. Today you need to be laser focused on who you are trying to reach and where they are going to be spending their time, online or off. Because of all the competing marketing messages (think email, online, texting, billboards, postcards, networking), you have to make sure that all of your efforts are concentrated on reaching your exact customer, exactly where they are.

We have written whole books on how to figure out who your perfect customer might be, but to get you started check out, Customer Demographics Versus The Perfect Customer Profile. This will help you find your current customer demographics as well as the “perfect customer” who will buy and buy.

What Is Your Budget

The next thing to consider is how much do you have to spend. I have a goal to spend about $1,000 a month in marketing across all of the channels, your budget may be higher or lower than that. In this number I include the cost of buying training programs or getting coaching on how to do some specific kind of marketing.

Here are a few top level ideas for different budgets:

$0-$500 A Month Marketing Budget

If you are working with a very small (or non-existent) budget, you are going to have to put in some sweat time. Most of the marketing that is done on the internet can be done for very limited resources so that is going to be our go-to marketing spot for you! Some things that you can do with a limited budget include:

  • Blogging
  • Social media
  • Guest article writing
  • Networking
  • Making videos
  • Attending local industry events
  • Learning SEO
  • Writing Ebooks

for a comprehensive list of free marketing ideas check out our

$500-$1,000 A Month Marketing Budget

If you have a little more money and want to outsource some of your marketing tasks, you can definitely find help. A decent amount of online exposure can be had for around $500/month. Conversely if you like doing marketing, you could take those funds and buy marketing training, using your money to increase your knowledge and expertise. Some things that you can do with this budget include:

  • Paid ads on Google or Facebook (LinkedIn has a minimum of $500 so we wouldn’t recommend putting all your eggs in one basket)
  • Sending postcards or direct mail
  • Start a podcast
  • Buying marketing training
  • Traveling to industry events
  • Paid ads in local papers or magazines
  • Flyers or brochures
  • Having videos professionally done

for a comprehensive overview of free and paid options, check out our ebook, 100 Marketing Ideas: Our Top Marketing Tips For The Web, Social, Video and More


Now you are in the “get a professional or in house person to do your marketing” range. If you are spending more than a few hundred dollars a month on paid advertising it is well worth your money to pay for someone who is knowledgable in that area to manage it for you. Additionally, you should be outsourcing your social media or blogging (you can still write the content but have them post and SEO them professionally).

What Are Your Assets

While budget is definitely a consideration when figuring out your marketing plan, more-so is taking a look at what your assets are. I like to write which includes books, blog posts, and articles for local magazines. I also don’t mind making videos if I can do screen captures instead of them being with me in them. When you are getting your marketing plan together, it is vital that you play to your (or your team’s) strengths and weaknesses. If you set a goal to make 7 videos a week and hate doing them, it will not work out as planned!

Here are some character traits and what you could do with those talents!

  • Great at building relationships – focus on Facebook, in person networking and your email newsletter (you can love up on your people!)
  • A total ham and show-off – become a speaker, make videos with you in them, start a podcast, attend industry events where you can make key connections
  • Methodical and precise – LinkedIn would be a great place to make industry connections, do how-to videos without you in them, schedule your social media precisely

The key to an effective marketing campaign is playing to your strengths, even if you are outsourcing parts of it. For example, we do social media marketing for clients, but it works most effectively for the people who are willing to make videos which we then turn into blog posts, sharing on social media and spreading across the internet. Several of our clients have said they would like to make videos but that is just not in their wheelhouse so they never got done.

Setting Targets

You need to know what your goal is for all this marketing. A mistake that I see frequently is that a business owner will say that they want “a sale” from their marketing. Now this is great if they have an ecommerce site and are direct selling on the internet. But even for those people, sales often come after a number of different exposures to the product or service.

For example, I wrote this blog post which will have a data collection link so that people can sign up to learn more about my marketing plan template product once it is developed (right now I am just trying to rank for my main keyword, “marketing plan” in anticipation of completing that product). I will probably start with something free and then work my way up to a higher priced item.

Marketing Plan Sales FunnelThis process is called a sales funnel and you should have one too! To the right is what I am doing with mine.

As you can see, I don’t just jump into selling a several thousand dollar consulting program. There are steps along the way that work someone from the top (this blog post) to the bottom, charging progressively higher prices along the way. Rarely will someone do a search, find you on the internet or social and call to say sign me up (although it does happen from time to time). Instead they will do a search, see you have great information and then be looking for the next step in the process. Some next steps could be:

  • Make an inquiry phone call
  • Send in an internet lead or quote request
  • Signup for your email newsletter
  • Request a one-on-one meeting
  • Sign up for a lower priced course or offering

All of these results are part of the sales process. Of the people who sign up for my newsletter, a percentage will buy a marketing plan template. Some of the people who buy a marketing plan template will want to learn more in an online class. Some of them will figure out that they would rather have some help-help and call me for a consultation.

Activities based

Now, marketing is a sexy past time when done at high levels. Getting all dolled up for a photo shoot or buying the latest video camera are fun and festive. Going to networking or speaking at an event is a rush. But now comes the hard part.

None of those marketing efforts work without having a plan for each. For networking your plan could be to add them to your database, send a video email to say high, follow that up with a phone call and then send a personal note. Each an every person that you meet should be run through that process.

You should have a plan for every bit of your marketing process. Doing social? You should know how often you posting to each site each day, when you are going to check your messages, how many people you are going to follow and more. For bloggers you should have an editorial calendar and a rock solid plan for what content you are going to be writing and then what you are going to do to share that content socially, numerous times over the following weeks and months.

To do: Make a plan for each day of the week listing the marketing tasks you have to do each day!

Marketing Plan Accountability and Ridiculous Goals

So, now you know what to do. You have an idea of what you are selling, some thoughts about what your marketing plans are going to be and an activities based plan for what you are going to do every day.

Failure is not an option. First off, don’t give yourself permission to fail. Laid out the way we do, it is easy to see that taking 20-60 minutes a day to do your marketing efforts is extremely possible and profitable. But that old saying is true, what is easy to do is also easy not to do. It is easy to think, “I am busy so I will just skip following today” or “so I missed a blog post this week, that is not the end of the world”. That kind of “slipping” will lead to your marketing being a lackluster, half assed effort that is just annoying, not effective. Don’t do that.

Ridiculous Goals. Right now I am on a quest to do a video (or two) every day of the week until the end of the year. That will mean that I have well over 100 additional videos (some of which are included in blog posts and some that are shared on social). The thought of making 100 videos is overwhelming, but if you just think of making one video a day, that effort seems easy and do-able. Set huge goals for yourself but break them down into daily tasks that are doable.

Thank you so much for reading about how to create a kick ass, take no prisoners marketing plan! If you would like to find out more about our products or services give me a call today (727) 415-9165

How To Create A Kick Ass Marketing Plan

Niche Marketing – Real Estate Farming

Niche Marketing - Real Estate FarmingHow to do real estate farming in a niche marketing way. Learn the internet marketing way to increase your farming leads and dominate your area.

In a previous post, Real Estate Marketing To A Farm Area, I talked about how to pick a real estate farm area, some marketing tips and what not to do. Today we are going to get more in depth and less “realtory” about it all focusing on the internet marketing aspect of real estate farming!

Too often we treat realtor marketing like it is in a class all to itself. That is just not true. Real estate marketing is just like every other marketing on the planet and is in some ways much easier than other types of marketing.

Local Marketing

Let’s start with what real estate farming is. It is picking a geographic location that you are going to market to. This includes an area like a city or town, a neighborhood or even a subdivision.

The smaller the area that you pick, the easier it is to dominate it in the search engines and the more “real” leads you will get. Think about it, someone who is searching for “Denver real estate” is casting a pretty wide net, someone looking for the “Cherry Creek real estate area” is getting more refined and if they are searching for a subdivision in that area they are probably pretty close to buying or selling sometime soon!

Picking A Real Estate Niche

Niche marketing in the internet world is about choosing a small-ish target and then focusing all of your energies on that target. One of mine is “realtor marketing” so I write posts like this that will rank well in the search engines AND be helpful to Realtors. That distinction is super important. If you are just picking a niche and then not producing great content that people doing those searches will want to actually consume, you are wasting their time.

So how should you pick your niche? There are a couple of ways that work well:

  1. Pick an area that you like. This one seems random but might be the most brilliant way. Niche marketing means that you will be spending a lot of time making videos, doing open houses and focusing on an area and if you LOVE being there it will feel like play instead of working.
  2. Pick a high turnover area. The highest turnover areas tend to be the ones that are in the median price ranges that are attractive to move up or first time buyers. Only you will know these “hot” areas where the homes sell often and you can generate a lot of sales and buyers.
  3. Pick a high cost area. Farming for luxury homes is a fun and profitable prospect. You don’t have to sell hundreds of these homes to make a high income and once you have dominated these kinds of keywords and social sites, you are in the drivers seat for generating high cost, high quality leads.
  4. Other. There are a million ways to choose your niche. You could pick working with only sellers in a geographic area, only first time homebuyers, just veterans, commercial or a million other criteria. Whatever you choose, you have to make sure you do enough local marketing to dominate that market.

Keyword Selection

In our post 100 Great SEO Keywords for Realtors, we break down the keywords that people use for searching real estate terms, but that is just half of the equation. The other half is knowing what the local terms are that people are using for searching.

For example, here in Denver a lot of the agents are using “Front Range” in their marketing which is a term that describes all of the cities along the Eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. It is a local term and seems like it would be great for covering a wide area. Unfortunately there are only 30 searches per month for “front range real estate” which is definitely not enough to target as a niche. “Denver Real Estate” has over 8,000 and “Cherry Creek Real Estate” has 320 (still not great but 10 times more than front range real estate!)

Dominating A Real Estate Keyword Or Ten

I am a firm believer in picking three keywords to target at the start. You should definitely have a big one would be a stretch to reach (like Denver Real Estate), then a couple like “Cherry Creek Realtors” or “Wash Park Homes For Sale”. But real estate is super cool in that you can target tens or even hundreds of keywords easily just by taking videos and pictures as you drive around on your listing appointments or buyer showings.

This video about “Stratford Lakes” Real Estate has had over 400 views. While it is a pretty basic attempt, it has resulted in closed buyer business and has established Tena as a keyword holder for that subdivision.

This video has given Deb a foothold in the St. Petersburg, FL area and has resulted in at least two closed deals that we know about.

As you can see, these are just 41 and 33 seconds each. I think anyone has to agree that taking 33 seconds to make something that could earn thousands of dollars of commissions is a high quality use of time!

Keyword Tracking

Once you pick a keyword or three, you will want to start tracking your rankings for that keyword and see how you are are fairing in the search engines. We recommend a couple of different ways to do this:

Google Webmaster Tools – This is a great way to find out what you already rank for and can target how to rank even better for key terms.
– A really neat site for seeing your current rankings for targeted keywords. They will send a daily email about how your keywords are ranking.

Social Media Marketing

So we have hit on keywords for your website (which you can use for your videos also). Now let’s take a quick peek at social media and the similar and different ways that you can target your keywords to maximize your efforts.

Google+ – Some of the results that appear in the “real” Google Search Engine come from posts on Google+. You can use your same keywords in those posts that you are using in your website.

Hashtags – Start checking out Google+, Twitter and Pinterest to see which keywords match your real estate marketing niche. To give you an idea, there is a #denver #realestate and #cherrycreek hashtag. Now, this will probably work less effectively for subdivisions but is still well worth figuring out. I love using for finding new and relevant hashtags.

Top Realtors – If you would like a customized real estate farming strategy for your team to implement, give me a call today to find out more! 727-415-9165

We Wrote The Book On Marketing To A Farm!

Real Estate Marketing To A Farm EbookHow To Find, Grow & Reap The Benefits of a Geographic Farm…Find out tips and strategies to cultivate a successful real estate farm area. While researching for this title, we were surprised to discover how little real information there is out there about how to farm a neighborhood.

Included Topics:

  • What Is A Farm, Choosing a Farm & Farming For Sellers
  • Newsletters, Postcards, & Brochure Boxes
  • Website, Video, Email, & Social Media
  • Open Houses & Door Knocking
  • Creative Farming Ideas

Looking to take your real estate marketing to the next level? Start here

Manufacturing Marketing: How To Give Your Company A Personality

Manufacturing Marketing: How To Give Your Company A PersonalityToday we are going to talk about manufacturing marketing and how you can give your company a personality!

For most manufacturing companies marketing is a pretty dry thing. They produce products, make sure to get collateral and flyers to their distributors, maybe throw up a website page and hope that they can be found by someone who wants to buy whatever they are selling.

It is a very passive process that is not exactly sexy or sales generating.

Now we do know some more aggressive companies that attend trade shows and get belly-to-belly with their customers and tell how their product or service will help them either work smarter or make more money.

These companies tend to do a great job person-to-person selling, but maybe not so much on the online world.

Ranger Ink and Innovative Craft Products

One company that we see doing an amazing job at bringing their products to market is Ranger Ink and Innovative Craft Products. Ranger has taken a consumer goods product (scrapbooking ink) that they sell through craft stores and are promoting it directly to their customers using brand spokesmen.

Tim Holtz

I first found out about Ranger because there was a really neat guy (Tim Holtz) who was great at demo-ing his new products at the CHA (Craft and Hobby Association) Shows. Functionally, as a consumer, I had started doing journalling and wanted to see some how-to demos.

Well Tim was cool and seeing some of the products displayed, I did trot out to buy them when they hit the stores!

Dyan Reaveley

So the next thing that happened was this really amazing chick named Dyan Reaveley showed up and started selling for Ranger. She was not model skinny and wore glasses (I am not model skinny and I wear glasses…we are soul sisters!)

Dyan Reaveley Promoting Tim HoltzThe cool thing about Dyan is that she owns a craft store too in England. I am actually signed up for her email mailing list and get her updates where she is cross promoting…wait for it…Tim Holtz’s products.

So this goes on for a couple of years. As a consumer I wait anxiously for the Summer and Winter CHA shows so I can get a dose of “how tos” from my “friends” and then go buy the new “stuff” they are selling.

Dina Wakley

So I was just getting to know Tim and Dyan and what happened, they invited a new gal, Dina Wakley, to join them. Now, it looks like they are all friends and having fun so I was happy to “meet” Dina and add her to my list of “must watch” videos when the CHA show happens.

Selling To End Users

As a manufacturer I am sure you are thinking, yeah but….yeah but scrapbooking is cool. Yeah but no one in our space is as charismatic. Yeah but…

There are a million reasons to say you can’t do it, but there are amazingly dull topics who have passionate supporters and we are sure you can find someone who would be a good fit for your company to be the “face” that is out there for the public to know and love.

Some of the huge benefits that Ranger is gaining from using this style of marketing include:

  • Drive from their end users for craft shops and retailers to stock the products that the spokespeople talk about
  • Increased exposure through the spokespeople doing projects with products
  • Endorsements from people already respected in their field
  • Free content creation and sharing as fans of these three artists share their projects and suggestions
  • Product development of different creative product lines based on the expertise of each artist

No matter your industry, it is worth seeing if you can find some way to humanize or put a face on your products.

If you would like to learn more about our Manufacturing Marketing services, please click here.

We are not in any way related to Ranger Ink, just fans of their manufacturing marketing methods and all the cool designers they are using!