Competition Marketing The Slight Edge

Why are you here?

When I saw Joel last night at The System, he asked me what brought me here.

Why would I come to an internet marketing conference?

Several reasons.

1) Not all of my clients understand why they need to keep on top of internet marketing trends, new techniques, and such. They’re doing more important things and letting me handle their site. Those who do understand and have some knowledge in these areas prefer to pay me to (among other things) stay on top of these things so they don’t have to.

2) I have my own sites to keep ahead of the game. doesn’t have 82 keywords at #1 in the search engines this week because I’m not paying attention to what’s new, what’s working and what isn’t. These things take time, study and investment.

3) There are faculty members and others here that know things I don’t know. Likewise, those with proven success in areas I want to get better at. The best way to find out what I need to know is to get closer to the people who know the things I want to learn more about.

4) The slight edge. What am I willing to do and learn that my competition is too myopic or lazy to do?

Being here is one of those things.

Politics The Slight Edge

Elected Official Exceeds Expectations. What’s next?

Yesterday, I sent an email to Montana’s US Representative (Denny Rehberg) and our 2 Senators (Max Baucus and Jon Tester).

My email was a little snappy in parts, partly because my appreciation for elected officials has been mostly non-existent for some time, and partly because the last time I wrote one of them (Rehberg), it took SEVEN months to get a reply and the reply was so vague that after 7 months, I had no idea what I had even asked.

Nothing like setting an expectation of great customer service, eh?

Of course, I mentioned the 7 month thing in my email in hopes that it would provoke a more prompt reply. Never expected it to work. I mean, we are talking “public servants” here, right?

To my surprise, I got a reply from Senator Tester this afternoon. Not a form letter, in fact, most of it was in “real English” as opposed to homogenized politico-speak. Maybe it was from a staffer, maybe not. Regardless, it was 6 months and 30 days faster than the last one and actually spoke to the issue. Worthy of note.

Were I not quite so cynical (governmentally speaking), I’d have heightened expectations for a prompt response the next time I email them…but I don’t. On the other hand, if I was dealing with a change like this from a business, my expectations would most definitely be higher the next time.

Whose expectations are you exceeding? Whose expectations are gone? You need to be working on both, steadily, ALL the time.

Thats what the slight edge is all about. It’s the thing so few businesses do. Do it, and one day your competition is going to wake up and wonder where they were while you doubled the size of your biz, your fleet of trucks, your number of locations, or number of customers.

One little thing, daily or at least, weekly, that makes you one step better. Better than your competition, better than you were. Drip, drip, drip just like water on granite.

Next thing you know, you’re the Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan of your industry, or of your industry in your area.

Automation The Slight Edge

Tinkering around with Glyphius, a scientific copywriting analyzer

A while back, I bought a scientific copywriting analysis tool called Glyphius, written by James Brausch.

The short story on Glyphius is that James has taken a huge pile of copy, imported it into his software, performed analysis on the nature of the copy vs the actual results of that copy, and created a method for scoring new copy based on the results that previously analyzed copy has produced.

Based on what his software learned from analyzing other people’s sales copy and the associated results, it can then score YOUR copy. The higher the score, the better Glyphius feels about your copy.

In order to get comfortable with the software and verify that the scoring works as claimed, I’m testing it on a few Adwords campaigns. I already have traffic and results for these ads and will report back when I see how the click through and conversion numbers go. Obviously, I hope it improves the click through and conversion for these ads and their sales pages.

Will it work? I have no idea, but there are a number of folks whose testing shows that it does. My engineering and programming background tells me that the concept makes sense. After all, you are bouncing your copy off of the findings of James’ testing with other copy that he has results for.

After my initial use of the software, a few suggestions come to mind as well as what appears to be a minor bug.

1) Consider an “AdWords mode” where the entry boxes for the copy are setup exactly like the AdWords entry form in Google’s system. Not a big deal, just something to make the process smoother for Adwords users. Little things like this tend to improve usability, especially for less-technical software users (an untapped market for products of this nature.)

2) To that end, if my copy has a limit on characters (like AdWords does), it would be nice to have a setting that tells Glyphius to beep, limit character entry or otherwise annoy me when I’ve exceeded the maximum # of characters allowed for an ad I’m scoring. This might be an alternative to suggestion 1, but life isn’t just about Adwords. Sorry Google.

3) Add a button to capitalize each word in the ad (or toggle the caps off). From what I’ve seen so far, Glyphius doesn’t change the score when copy moves from cap’d to regular formatting, but it would be a convenient time saver for those who test the results of both formats.

4) Based on the intelligence built into the software’s prior analysis, I’m wondering if its possible to use what it knows and offer suggestions to copy that you have in the window at the time. I realize this takes it to a whole different level, but it crossed my mind, so I figured I’d mention it:)

5) When the Clear button is pressed, it would save time if the cursor was placed in the “Enter text to score here” field.

6) When I use a word like “free” that has a negative score in Glyphius, show me a list of synonyms for “free” from the Glyphius database that DON’T have negative scores.

The bug that I found is minor. It looks like the character count displayed for the number of characters entered the copy entry box reports 1 more character than actually exists. Further research showed that it occurred on lines that did NOT wrap around. For example, if you use “discover this amazing complimentary copywriting course that can increase sales dramatically… guaranteed!” as the text to score, and display it on 1 line – you see a count of 107. If you then increase the font size to force the line to wrap, the count goes down to 106. A minor thing, but it can be critical to media where the character length of the copy is limited.

I’ll post more here as I get more ideas about it. So far, it’s simple, functional and I’m finding that it forces me to think hard about each word in my copy – and there’s a lot of good in that.

Competition Marketing The Slight Edge

How do wireless internet and screaming kids help a brake store get business?

Time. It’s the one thing none of us can change. Whether we’re sleeping, viewing/making Paris Hilton videos, working or climbing Mt Everest – we all get what we get and when the register’s empty, all your family gets is a receipt.

No, this isn’t the April doom and gloom issue. I’m just setting you up for the rest of this post. Its about TIME 🙂

I’m sitting in the McDonald’s Playplace in west Kalispell.

Why? Several reasons.

First, my car is across the street at Midas getting some brake repairs. Now, when you take your car in, something like this can take 10 minutes or 10 hours. Not because Midas doesn’t know what they are doing, but because fixing cars can be a lot like fixing a bug in a computer program. There’s some skill and some science, but there’s also some black magic or kismet or just plain good (or bad) luck.

Ok, so I’m stranded at the car place and I have work to do this afternoon, so I choose my repair shop on 4 criteria:

  1. Do they know what they’re doing?
  2. Can they do it now?
  3. Can I find a place close enough to walk so that I can get to the net and do the work I need to do?
  4. Is there a warranty?

You’ll note that I didn’t mention price. Because these places foolishly position themselves as a commodity service, price isn’t even a consideration. Call around if you wish, but I can tell you that a brake job all over town is within 10 bucks of what I’m paying. There’s a lesson there. Like whatever you do, brake work doesn’t have to be a commodity item, but we’ll talk about that some other time.

So, I call Midas to see if they can get me in because I know MickeyD’s has wireless across the street. Yeah, it’s 2.95 for 2 hours, but if I can’t justify that tiny fee, I need to find a new line of work:) Besides, I get a bottomless Diet Coke for a buck 30.

Midas gets me in at the time I want, right after Rotary plus driving time across town. Truth be told, now that I got a look at their calendar for the next 2 days, I had my choice of all but 4 appointment slots today and 2 tomorrow. They’re not doing too hot at marketing. They have one of the easiest things in the world to sell, yet they aren’t busy. I shouldn’t have been able to get in today, unless they decided to stay late to help me out of a jam.
Yes, I might normally consider getting the work done at a friend’s business, but I don’t have any friends in the auto biz.

Back to why I’m in the Playplace.

Second reason: It’s the location of the only publicly available electric outlet in the building. I know. I look for things like that. Isn’t it odd that the only electricity I can get to is in a place where little kids play? 🙂

Finally, I’m in the Playplace because it smells about 300 times better than the rest of the store. It’s sealed off because of the noise from the kids, but that also keeps the fryer smell out of this area (yes, McD’s needs to invest in better air moving equipment).

Parents seeing me sit here look at me like I’m nuts. How could he work with all these kids running around?

Easy. I have kids. It’s easy to tune out YOUR kids when they cry, squeal, etc – but I can’t tune out mine. Mine, thankfully, are 14 and 18, so they don’t do much of that anymore.
So how does all this relate to why wireless is important to your business?

This Midas store has gained a customer and several grand over the last 8 years simply because they have the things I mentioned earlier (A warranty, the ability to do the work, the time to do the work NOW, and wireless within a block). I can assure you that someone else would have gotten this work if they had those same qualifications and they were closer to my home or office. Your criteria may be different. Those are mine.
If you get my free email newsletter, you know why this is a big deal, because I sign off this way in every issue: “Do at least 1 thing today to get, or keep, a client.”

PS: To get the newsletter, go to, and fill in the form on the left side of the page.

Book Reviews Competition The Slight Edge


I find it a little hard to believe that I hadn’t included this in my must-read list, but sure enough, it wasn’t there.

Michael Gerber’s E-Myth describes the benefits and process of getting those mindless trivial tasks in your business under control. You know, the ones that suck up the hours and have you doing things that someone else should be doing? Yeah, those.

The ones that you just know you can perform better than anyone else. As if its important that you load the packing tape gun jusssssst right.

In a few respects, it takes a McDonald’s-esque look at your business. Identify and document every process so that a new employee could do immediately (or at least…soon). If the task involves a computer, go click by click. If the task involves manual labor, document every step. No assumptions. Leave nothing out.

Make sure every staffer has a copy. Keep it up to date. Set the expectation that the processes will be used as documented, and if they aren’t, fix the documentation or fix the process.

Give a copy to every new employee. Set the expectation to learn and use it.

Why go to all this trouble?

So you can get some real work done. So your people can get their work done without bugging the crud out of you.

So you can leave town for a week and not get 27 cell calls each day asking inane questions like “where is the mailbox key”, “how do I turn on the alarm before I leave” and “how do I backup our critical data?” (as if anyone knows you even do this…and you DO do this, right?)

And most importantly, so you can focus on what’s important in your business.

Think about how easy it would be to train a new employee and get them moving in the right direction (ie: positive ROI) if you had their job processes documented, step by step.

There are a few things that you don’t want to do after reading the E-Myth:

1) Assume that the book will run the place. It wont. What gets measured, gets managed. The book simply tells how things should be done, it doesnt get up and kick people into gear.

2) Turn your business into a McDonald’s. Gerber uses McD’s as the example, not as the be-all, end-all of small businesses. The key to his McD example is that the steps are documented and used. Not that you want to turn your business into an faceless (and smelly) automaton run by 16 year olds.

3) Pick apart every little conflict in the book like some of the reviewers at Amazon do. Wonder how many of them actually USE what they read? Take what works and use it and move on. This process works, but only if you use it.

4) Read the book every time you perform a task. It teaches the process and provides a reference to new employees, temp employees and those of us who might have a brain fart when we need to do something that we havent done in a month or two.

Automation The Slight Edge Uncategorized Wal-Mart

Is your business, or some part of it, on autopilot?

As you read this, or at least, as WordPress posted it on Saturday morning, I’m out in the woods on a campout with my Scout troop.

I’m not bragging, but I am trying to make a point: Have you taken steps to automate the parts of your business that shouldn’t require manual attention? The parts that should happen when you aren’t there.

No, its not a big deal that I can set the publish date for a blog post – its a big deal that you can do it for weeks at a time. You can write your posts when you get in the zone, schedule them (in most blog software) and they will show up on your blog when you indicate.

Now, think a little bigger.

How many things in your business should (or could) happen automatically?
Some examples:

  • Leads entered on your web site automatically end up in your back office systems and become a part of the marketing funnel that all other leads are in.
  • Sales entered on your website by internet clients end up in the same database as the sales by your local retail store.
  • Inventory changes affected by online sales are automatically reflected in local retail store or warehouse inventory.
  • Online inventory counts in your web store are automatically updated when a local retail store sale occurs.

Or you can do all of that stuff by hand. There are lots of examples. These are the kinds of edges that Wal-Mart has over most retailers. There’s no reason why your business cant do the same – on a lot simpler scale than Wal-Mart has to deal with.

Marketing Politics The Slight Edge

Statistics don’t lie, can they point out which politicians do?

Ok, maybe “statistically accurate” statistics don’t lie 🙂 No irony there, right?

I was talking with a friend today about a certain very wealthy 2008 Presidential candidate, the size of his home (quite large), what his reality is, how that relates to his voting record and most importantly, his ability to relate to “our” reality.

For example, it might make an interesting study to correlate the size of the primary residence of each president vs his voting record. I’m not sure it would be all that meaningful, but it’s no worse than American Idol in that department.

Perhaps more importantly, correlate the size of the primary home (in square feet) for each member of Congress against that person’s voting record.

Or perhaps against their earned income (vs 1099-DIV or -B income).

Or the size of the town where they grew up.

Or the size of the town where they live (in-session DC residences don’t count).

Lots of numbers out there. It’s going to be an interesting 18 months or so.

Is there a set of numbers in your business that you can correlate that seemingly don’t make sense? Might be worthwhile, but you won’t know until you look.

The Slight Edge

Do you lick the marshmallow, or just gobble it down?

Recently, I was reading about a study done years ago regarding the effects of instant gratification.

Edited excerpt from Wikipedia ( ):
Mischel’s famous research study, “The Marshmallow Test,” showed the importance of impulse control and delayed gratification for academic, emotional and social success.

In the 1960s at the preschool on the Stanford University campus, Mischel put marshmallows in front of a room full of 4-year-olds. He told them they could have one marshmallow now, but if they could wait several minutes, they could have two. Some children eagerly grabbed a marshmallow and ate it. Others waited, some having to cover their eyes in order not to see the tempting treat and one child even licked the table around the marshmallow.

Mischel followed the group and found that, 14 years later, the “grabbers” suffered low self-esteem and were viewed by others as stubborn, prone to envy and easily frustrated. The “waiters” were better copers, more socially competent and self-assertive, trustworthy, dependable and more academically successful. This group even scored about 210 points higher on their SATs.

Fascinating study…So what’s this got to do with you?

Jim Rohn could see it a mile away. He talks about the harvest.

It’s about planning, focus and execution (and later…harvesting) vs. chasing the fad of the week, getting distracted and wasting time you can’t ever get back.

How many “get rich yesterday guru” emails did YOU get today? How much time do they waste? How many rabbits can you chase at one time?

Plan, focus, execute and harvest.

Be ruthless about your time. Don’t let the guru of the week waste it by trying to convince you that there’s a golden goose and only they know where it is. Kennedy, McCarthy, Rohn and guys like that produce results for themselves AND help thousands of others do the same. The guru of the week produces results for the guru of the week and his insider buddies. Don’t bite.

Go get something done.

The Slight Edge

Finding a personal assistant

Way after it’s clearly necessary (better late than never), I’ve decided to seek out a personal assistant. My primary reason for this is simply to leverage my time more effectively. I’ve been carefully re-doing the list of all the processes in my businesses and found a lot of stuff that I need to get fired from. So, I’m in the hunt for an assistant.

If you’re in this boat, let me advise you of one thing not to do: DON’T Google “personal assistant” in your quest for a roadmap to finding a personal assistant. Why? The first hit is an article at Associated Content that says “The best way to find a personal assistant is to put an ad in the paper”. Yeah, that’s where all the best ones hang out – in the classified section, just like all the best jobs, right? 🙂

To paraphrase a few other marketers – fish where the fish are, and with the right bait.

I’m taking a different tack, and will let you know how it works out. For a number of reasons, I really need someone local to me (Western Montana), otherwise I’d already have chased down a virtual assistant that a couple of friends use and like and I’d be done with it.

James Brausch has an interesting way of dealing with this. He has interns that work for him 3 hours a day, for free. They do this in order to get exposure to how he has created a successful internet business. A pretty good idea for all involved, assuming they have the time to help him out. I’ll bet he gets tremendous leverage out of the deal, and his interns get a nice long peek behind the curtain. Smart.

Marketing The Slight Edge

12 things to blog about if you own an outdoor power equipment store

Yep, a place that sells and services mowers, weed whackers (heee-ya! take that!), chain saws, snow blowers and the like.

1 – A very complete and detailed how-to video section.

For example, how to remove (if necessary) and sharpen the blade on a push mower, how to do the same on a rider, how to change the oil on a mower, blower, and so on (1 video for each), how to change the belts on a rider, a snowblower and anything else with a belt. How to change the line on a weed whacker (heeee-ya! take that!). Winterizing equipment, or “summerizing it” in the case of snowblowers etc.

Bonus points if you have video for every make you sell, and every model whose maintenance procedures are unique from the other videos you’ve created.

Bonus points if you offer some sort of Do-It-Yourself-er Club for clients who use the videos to service their own equipment and buy the parts from you. Royalty Rewards (a loyalty program that puts others to shame) would be a great way to make this happen with very little effort – and get a positive ROI from it.

Bonus points for you if you figured out that people are more likely to bring their equipment to you for servicing once they see what’s really involved in doing the work – and you help plant that thought make pointing out that the technician is factory trained and certified and has been doing this work for 13 years 🙂

2 – A “Smart Consumer” how to choose a dealer / how to choose equipment section

This area will provide a checklist for selecting the right outdoor power equipment dealer for your needs, how to choose the right mower, snowblower, and so on. Ideally, accompanied by video, showing specifics to look for. This is where you would address the “Why you should buy power equipment here and not at Wal-Mart” question.

3 – New trends in outdoor power equipment

There are always new things coming in this area, I suspect it wont be long before mowers have cup holders. Showing that you are on top of the trends – and stating your opinion about them – sends the right message to your clients.

4 – Common mistakes that will cost you money

This area would show common mistakes people make when caring for their power equipment and how to prevent them. Could include video or still images showing the aftermath of these mistakes and the costs involved. Goes back to the “How to” section, but narrows down a bit more on things that cost you money and keep your equipment out of the repair shop.

5 – Be Safe, Not Sorry.

Speaking as someone who whacked up a toe really bad on a mower with no blade when I was a kid, it seems to me that a series of safety videos and posts would prove helpful. I am not sure of the legal conundrum this might create. Let the lawyers argue about that.

6 – Professional Equipment

There are many topics open for discussion that will be relevant for the yard care professional, logger (remember, we carry chain saws), landscaper, tree surgeon, and so on. Again, this is a place to differentiate yourself from the competition, so don’t forget to make the necessary points about why the professional simply has to trust your shop vs all others. This is a good place to discuss industry trends that are of no interest to the consumer, but will be important to the professional who makes a living with the tools you sell and service.

7 – Professional Equipment Service and Maintenance

Like the how to section, this would be focused on similar topics but for professional grade equipment. Videos, still photos, checklists, how to for every piece of pro equipment you sell, and so on. This will showcase the techniques you use to take extra special care of the equipment they make a living from.

8 – Promotions

A place to find out what promotions you are running, grab a coupon, etc. Easy to find.

9 – Services

Describe everything you offer in detail that only Disney could appreciate. Why its different and BETTER than what the other guys do. What it costs (refer to a central pricing page so you aren’t constantly chasing all over your blog correcting prices).

10 – Upcoming Events

Surely you have events at your store that are thinly (or not) veiled marketing opportunities – but are still of value to your clientele.

11 – Manuals for everything

If you’ve ever tried to find the PDF manual for a 3 year old snowblower on the internet, you know what a nightmare it is. The manufacturer web sites change regularly and are geared primarily towards sales, not toward keeping clients happy. Include every PDF you can get your hands on, as soon as you can, ie: before it disappears from the manufacturer’s website. Include your own maintenance checklists for the homeowner and the professional.

12 – About the shop
Who owns it. How you got into the business. What your experience is. Trainings, certifications, etc. Profiles of the staff, their experience and so on. Could include video or still pictures of the staff. Awards from your industry (or anywhere), new training your staff received, any other news you can think of that fits this category.

That’ll keep you busy for a few days. Its just like a big watermelon. Gotta eat it one bite at a time.