Transcript: Thanks Allan, our special guest today is Jill Brennan, the author of a brand new book. If you’re a small business, you need to step-up, turn up your earphones and grab a piece of paper and a pencil because this is going to be good stuff. The new book out is called Get Smarter Marketing: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Savvy Business. And Jill Brennan is talking with us from beautiful down under, how are you this morning there and this afternoon in Colorado?
Jill Brennan: Hi David, great to be with you.
David Brower: Jill is a marketing consultant and the founder of Harbor Marketing, she’s worked in, and with, and for small business for 20 years. Has taken many of her years of experience, channeled it into a guide that business owners can use to take the confusion out of marketing, get an understanding of what’s possible, and better communicate what problems they solve for their customers. Man that is a universal language right there that a lot of people don’t understand or don’t even know the questions to ask, right?
Jill Brennan: That’s right. I mean often people start a business because they have a great idea for a product or a service, and communicating what that’s all about is often really tricky. And of course marketing has changed so much in the last 10 years, you used to be able to just sort of put an ad in the local paper or take out a listing in the yellow pages, or business listings and then people would call you. It’s just not like that anymore.
David Brower: Absolutely not. What does your marketing involve then if it’s not touching on some of the old school stuff, for lack of a better term? Is it internet, computer, what is it?
Jill Brennan: Yeah. Usually I find that small businesses need a bit of a mixture of all offline and online marketing, it depends on the business. One of the clients that I work with put on conferences for software developers, so we do a lot of working with them in terms of email marketing, social media, doing some advertising on Facebook. But then the other way that they get their message out is through IT user groups, and by building sponsorships from different companies that want to send their teams to their events. Usually you do need a mix of all sort of avenues, I guess that’s why it can be so confusing.
David Brower: Well yeah, especially for us older marketers who remember back in the day a mix of media was radio, TV, newspaper, direct mail, and now it’s a whole different universe that you need to learn about.
Jill Brennan: It is, absolutely. I think the thing to remember is you don’t have to be a trailblazer when you’re a small business owner. You don’t have to be in terms of your marketing and what platforms you’re on. You don’t have to be on every new platform that comes along, you don’t have to be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat. You pick your platforms and go from there because otherwise your message gets diluted because you’re one voice amongst many, and not all those avenues are going to be best suited to who you’re trying to reach.
David Brower: If you pick, I mean how do you know what to pick? Is there a lesson there, is it arbitrary, I’m sure it’s different for each business, but how do you decide that?
Jill Brennan: It is different yeah, the best way is really to start with who you’re trying to target. Who are your customers, who’s your ideal customer and then where do they hang out? Where are they most likely to be receptive to your message? If you’ve for example, I just did a review of a company that produces shower caps for women. They advertise on Facebook, which has a lot of women obviously on Facebook and it’s a consumer product so it’s more suited to that. And then if it’s a business you might be more focused on LinkedIn and building contacts that way. It really does depend on who you’re trying to target, and also the frame of mind that they’re in.
David Brower: Oh there you go.
Jill Brennan: When people are on LinkedIn they tend to be more focused on business, Facebook is more entertainment, light relief, connection, people go on there for different reasons so you need to be mindful of that as well.
David Brower: Sure, absolutely. Mindful seems to be the buzz word of this decade, isn’t it? It’s mindful eating, it’s mindful marketing, it’s mindful everything. It’s something all of us, my wife and I have been trying to embrace that for the last year and we’re much better at it than we used to be but it’s certainly a spot to think about.
Jill Brennan: That’s right. To me the big key is empathy, I think it’s very easy when you’re in your own small business to just get sort of wrapped up in what you’re trying to do and often people aren’t putting themselves in the shoe of their customer and what is their customer looking for here? What do they expect, how will they be feeling about this? And really trying to get into their heads. And I think that if you can do that, then the way you community is usually better and also how you communicate it usually lands a lot better.
David Brower: What kind of resources are there for small businesses to learn about that kind of stuff? Back in the day it was focus groups, but I’m sure there’s different options. Obviously, they need to call you and get your expertise, but-
Jill Brennan: That’s right.
David Brower: A little plug there for you.
Jill Brennan: Thank you for that, that was one of the motivations in writing the book, Get Smarter Marking. It’s really not about turning small business owners into marketing managers, but just giving them the information they need so they can make better decisions. One of the challenges is that marketers can be quite good at marketing themselves and so small business owners don’t always know what they’re getting when they start working with someone, which can be a waste of time and money. But also it can just be very frustrating in that you feel like you’re sort of treading water or you’re going off in a direction that’s actually not really what you need right now. That can help, but I think in terms of connecting with your customers we’re so keen these days to automate and to go online and fill in a form. I know sometimes I’ve rung a small business and they’re very keen to get me off the phone and I’m like this is your chance to actually speak to a customer here. And often when you are talking to customers it’s the little things, it’s the hesitation, it’s the offhand comments that can be more revealing about what they’re actually looking for. Often I think of marketing as looking for clues and talking to customers and actually taking notice of those sort of things are really good clues for how you can go about marketing what you do.
David Brower: I mean at the end of the day it is a treasure hunt, you want to make a sale and the customer the last thing they want to do is answer your questions, so they’re trying to be defensive. Unless there’s some way, unless you have this magnet personality that exudes instant credibility, sometimes it can be tough.
Jill Brennan: That’s true, but I think it depends how you think of your customers. Mostly they’ve got some problem, and they’re looking for a solution. If you can be the solution their problem then usually they’re happy to talk to you or to spend money with you. But if you’re trying got sell then something that they don’t feel they need well then I guess that’s a different story. But the challenge with marketing is explaining how you can solve that problem in a way that connects with them. That’s where getting their language and really understand what they’re trying to get done is really crucial.
David Brower: And so the bottom line for a lot of us who think about marketing, or should be thinking about marketing, is really I mean that’s the simplest way to start is try to discover what their problem is and authentically help them try and figure out a solution.
Jill Brennan: That’s right. Ideally, you should know your customers problems better than they do and be able to articulate them in a way better than they can. I remember just going back to the shower cap example, I saw this ad on Facebook, and I look at the ads because I’m very curious about what people are selling and how they’re doing it. And they actually explained problems I didn’t even know I was looking for a new shower cap, but they explained my frustrations with my existing shower cap in a way that I just thought wow, they totally understand who I am and what I want. And it was a very click decision to click on the ad, go through, yes fantastic and I’ll buy. It was amazing, they were just so in-tune with who they were reaching out to and how they were helping.
David Brower: Do they get a sneak preview of your book or what?
Jill Brennan: No I wrote an article about it because I was so impressed with what they had done and how they really connected with their audience.
David Brower: Absolutely. I was director of marketing for an automotive group for a long time and we made the conscious decision to not do traditional marketing about 10 years ago and do most everything on the internet. And we did that far ahead of any of our competitors, and it sure paid off, and I learned a lot because I was an old school guy. It was just so much fun really to learn a new way of marketing and realize that it’s not really as scary as it sounds.
Jill Brennan: No, it’s not. One of the fantastic things about doing things online is that you can actually measure what’s happening a lot more easily than you can offline. Often you place an ad in the newspaper and then you wait for the phone to ring, but you don’t actually know did anyone see the ad? Did they look at it, did they read it, did they spend time on it? You can’t measure clicks, you can only measure an end action. Being able to do things online if you place an ad let’s say on Facebook you can then see how many people clicked on it, how many people engaged with it, how many people actually went through to your website, and then what did they do? You’ve got a lot more visibility.
David Brower: Absolutely.
Jill Brennan: Which I think can mean that you can be a lot more targeted if you know what you’re doing with your advertising spend, if it’s advertising that you’re looking at.
David Brower: The old cry used to be, and still is with some business people, but the old cry used to be I know 50% of my advertising works, I just don’t know what 50%.
Jill Brennan: Yes, that’s exactly right.
David Brower: What this does it allows you the opportunity to have some statistical information, you can look for unique visitors, you can get as deep or as shallow as you want to on the information. It’s unbelievable what’s out there.
Jill Brennan: That’s right, and it can help you pinpoint the problem areas. Let’s just take the advertising example, if a lot of people are clicking on your ad but then they’re not actually taking the next step once they get to your website, then you know that the problem’s your website. The ad works really well, but the website is not delivering on the promise. Or maybe they get to the checkout page and then they don’t order, well then the problem is perhaps your shipping or you’re not explaining it very well. It really helps you pinpoint what those sticking points are and then you can fix it, whereas often if you go old school you don’t know.
David Brower: You have no clue.
Jill Brennan: No that’s right, you’re just guessing.
David Brower: I remember one time, this was a long time ago, I was selling radio advertising and it was my first radio advertising sales job. I went into this shoe store and I tried to sell this guy, and he had this annual sale, huge, huge sale. He said “I don’t know,” and we went back and forth for a while. Long story short, he said “Okay I’m going to give you a shot. Here’s an ad, I’m only going to run it with you, we’ll see what kind of results we have.” I said “Okay, sounds good.” I went back, ran the ad for 10 days I think it was, and came back after the sale, checked in with him and he said “Man my sale was great.” “Really, that’s awesome,” he said “Yeah, everybody said they saw it in the newspaper.” I said “What seriously, I thought you didn’t advertise it in the newspaper at all.” That’s what’s so exciting for the new age of marketing to me is all of a sudden the crap chute is out of the game and you really have some real information to work with.
Jill Brennan: That’s right, exactly. And then it’s a case of sort of understanding how it all works and what to look out for. If you’re doing email marketing for example, you want to be looking at your open rates or how many times people click. It does take I guess a little bit more specialist knowledge, but once you dig into it, as you say it’s not as overwhelming as you first think it will be.
David Brower: Well and it’s probably a great job market for millennials.
Jill Brennan: Yes, that’s true. Although often using a lot of people small business owners they’ll go “Get a millennial because they know social media.” Which they do as users, not necessarily automatically great at marketing with it.
David Brower: Yeah, that makes sense. How do you do if you’ve been in business for a long time, you realize you have to make the change, you’re not sure where to go, you’re not sure what to do, you know you need to go there, you don’t know how to go there, how do you go there?
Jill Brennan: I think education is key because you need to be reasonably informed just about what your options are. It’s hard, the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know,” you sort of need to have a bit of an overview of what choices you can make as I say that was why I wrote my book. And then you can start to formulate a plan and work out what help to get. One of the resources I have available on my website is called marketing kick starter kit and it goes through the seven sort of mistakes that a lot of businesses make with their marketing. But at the back there’s also a section on help, on how to get marketing help based on perhaps your turnover, what your level of involvement is likely to be as a business owner, cost, and I think there’s 10 variables all together. It just sort of takes you through the pros and cons of each.
David Brower: What a great resource, oh my gosh.
Jill Brennan: Yeah, thank you. Just because it is confusing and just want to make it as easy as I can for business owners.
David Brower: Good for you, good for you. If folks go to harbren.com, that’s H-A-R-B-R-E-N.com, immediately will pop up that help link that you talked about as well as your book right?
Jill Brennan: Yes, you’ll see a link for the kickstart kit just below the main heading. And yeah, I think it’s really good resource and there’s also some emails that will sort of take you through it as well to help.
David Brower: Nice. If people do that, believe me I have my own business and I’m happy with what I’m doing, I know what I don’t know, whatever. But if I didn’t, if this was five, ten years ago I’d be going I want that kickstart thing and I want it now. That just sounds invaluable.
Jill Brennan: Yes.
David Brower: What a great way to start.
Jill Brennan: It’s sort of laying all your cards on the table really and then I think from there you can then make some decisions about what’s best.
David Brower: Yeah, and I think too, I think people are a lot more … I mean there’s so much people trying to sell people things thy don’t know, they don’t need, they don’t whatever. And so when you come out like that and you come out very genuine, very authentic, laying your cards on the table, giving people free resource to kind of shed maybe that first of second layer of scaredness off their back. Instantly they have a great free resource, you have potentially a new client, or a new customer, or somebody that’s going to refer somebody back to you.
Jill Brennan: Yeah, that’s the hope. But really it’s about providing something of value because I think often as a service business people can’t really experience you until they hire you. And I think that you need to be able to show that you understand, just what I was talking about before to demonstrate that I understand small business market, and therefore how to help.
David Brower: That’s great, you’re just being transparent from the get-go, and that’s a huge, huge commodity in this crazy world we live in right now. Good for you.
Jill Brennan: Thank you very much.
David Brower: The book again is Get Smarter Marketing: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Savvy Business, written by Jill Brennan. You can discover what you need to know to market your small business very effectively. Her book just came out last month, or no third of October?
Jill Brennan: Yes it did, that’s right. Very exciting.
David Brower: And it’s available on all the usual places, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon, and all that stuff right?
Jill Brennan: Yes, it is. All of those places.
David Brower: And of course it’s available right there on her website, H-A-R-B-R-E-N.com, harbren.com. You’ll get that free kick starter resource, you’ll get a chance to learn about her book and what she does. And by the way, I just noticed your book was a finalist for the top 50 great writers that people should be reading. How huge is that?
Jill Brennan: Yeah, it’s very good.
David Brower: Congratulations.
Jill Brennan: Thank you.
David Brower: That’s a nice sticker to have on your site.
Jill Brennan: That’s right.
David Brower: If people want to get ahold of you Jill, is your website the best way?
Jill Brennan: Yes, it is.
David Brower: Our guest again has been Jill Brennan from down under and what a treat this has been a very fast 20 minutes and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thank you for sharing your gifts and making a scary conversation not scary.
Jill Brennan: Thanks very much for your time, it’s been great.
Allan: Until next time, don’t forget to download your free audio book at audibletrial.com/your20minutepodcast. That’s audibletrial.com/your20minutepodcast for your free audio book. And thanks for listening to Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower.