Mastering social media one bite at a time the past few years was an effective strategy for me, as the needs of my small number of clients were modest enough.

That’s changing, as I’ve been engaged as social media and web strategist by the Gevril Group in Valley Cottage, NY, luxury watch distributor, a forward-thinking business with ambitious marketing goals.

A one-bite-at-a-time social media marketing approach for Gevril would be way too laid-back and totally unrealistic.

Gevril’s Social Media and Web Marketing Plan

Gevril Group Luxury WatchesI’ve crafted for Gevril a multi-faceted web marketing plan that matches the company’s far-reaching objectives.

All parts of my plan are to be managed and executed concurrently:

  • Community and List Building - Developing a community and building a subscriber base are impacted by nearly all social media and web marketing functions.
  • Content Creation - The story of each Gevril Group brand needs to be told, and articles, newsletters and press releases need to be written, as well.
  • Web Sites - Ivo Jackson and I are designing GevrilGroup.com. The Gevril Group website will be the hub of the Gevril web presence and a key resource for contact list building.
  • Blogging - Blogs will be used to post fresh content, such as news and product information. We’ve launched several Gevril Group blogs: Watch Brands and Luxury Watches and Men’s Watches.
  • Search Engine Optimization - SEO and social media complement each other very nicely. About 50% of my blog’s traffic comes from searches. Whenever new content is created, SEO needs to be applied. The free Google Keyword Tool is my favorite SEO resource.
  • Email Marketing - We’ll email press releases, and news about products and events to our email marketing lists.
  • Facebook - I’ve set up a facebook.com/GevrilGroup on Facebook, a social networking site I’m quite comfortable with. I hope to build an active community of watch enthusiasts around Gevril’s Facebook page.
  • Twitter - I’ve set up @GevrilGroup on Twitter and will use Tweet Adder to manage the Gevril account and build a targeted following.
  • LinkedIn - While still working on a strategy for LinkedIn, I’ve already joined many relevant LinkedIn groups. I will next create a Gevril company page.
  • Social Bookmarking Sites - I’ve lately received a lot of quality blog traffic from Business Exchange, so I created a Business Exchange topic for the watch industry. I’ll also use Digg, StumbleUpon and other social bookmarking sites.
  • Niche Social Networks - Social networking sites and forums catering to watches or luxury will help Gevril connect with watch enthusiasts.
  • Group Buying - I’ve ruled out Groupon and similar sites as potential marketing channels, but very much like GroupGain, a new website with a new group buying concept that has yet to launch.

Gevril Men's 5101 Rose Gold Avenue of Americas Automatic Date WatchThe ultimate goal of Gevril’s marketing initiatives is to increase sales by enlisting vendors and by creating more consumer demand.

Therefore, every aspect of Gevril’s social media and web marketing plan must contribute directly or indirectly to an increase in Gevril’s sales.

Please visit and follow the Gevril Group on Facebook and Twitter. I hope to see you there. ;-)

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Larry BraunerAs an entrepreneur or small business owner promoting your business on Facebook, you face a number of difficult challenges and tough marketing decisions.

Here are seven key issues to consider when networking and marketing your business on Facebook:

  1. Facebook profile pages are intended for networking with family and friends and not for business networking, and you can’t separate your personal and business networking on Facebook. Your family and personal friends are being irritated by business posts showing up in their News Feeds, while at the same time business connections are eavesdropping on your personal conversations.
  2. By connecting directly with business associates and total strangers on Facebook, you compromise the privacy of your family and friends, which is already much too limited. Your loved ones become “friends of friends” with your business connections and consequently more exposed to their scrutiny. If you’ll decline the invitations of family and personal friends to connect in order to protect them, you’ll surely have an enormous amount of explaining to do.
  3. You can’t legitimately set up a profile for personal use and one for business. Having multiple Facebook profiles is against Facebook’s Terms of Service. I haven’t done so, and I do not recommend that you do so either, unless you’re ready to risk deletion of both your Facebook profiles.
  4. Lack of privacy extends far beyond family and personal friends. Each of your business connections become “friends of friends” with all your other Facebook business connections and therefore more exposed and at-risk — something most Facebook users do not realize. This explains why Facebook business networking is suspect, and why Facebook demands that you connect only with people you know.
  5. If you aggressively grow your business network on Facebook, you risk having your Facebook account suspended. Proceed carefully.
  6. Facebook fan pages are more useful for marketing large businesses than small ones, since they won’t help to build your web presence unless, to some degree, you already have a web presence. Haven’t you noticed how many Facebook business pages barely have the 25 fans needed to claim their Facebook name? Business networking on Facebook is a way to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” but it’s also problematic and at best a slow process. A big businesses also has the marketing budget to create compelling Facebook applications.
  7. Twitter, Ning networks and search engine optimized blog sites are better for building your web presence than Facebook. Once you have a web presence, you can easily grow your Facebook page fan base with well-placed Facebook widgets and links. The main point is that you’ll need to reach far beyond Facebook to develop a following for your business, the kind of following that big brands already have.

FacebookIn the future, I’ll continue to explore ways in which businesses can build their web presences on and off Facebook, but for now, keep in mind that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Or in a week or in a month.

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Larry BraunerYou’ve created Ning networks or belong to Ning networks started by others. What next?

In 10 Ways to Brand and Market on Ning Networks, I examine a variety of Ning network features that are useful for promoting yourself or your business.

Ning Social NetworksHowever, what if you’re interested in promoting a Ning social network itself?

Here are 10 ideas for promoting the Ning networks to which you belong:

  1. Your Contacts - Send personalized emails to people you know. (Ning’s invite feature is not effective, since the emails Ning sends are impersonal and will be treated by many as spam.)
  2. Network Content - Share your Ning network, your network’s groups and all your network’s content on social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon. This approach is my personal favorite, since it promotes the Ning network and the network’s content at the same time.
  3. Articles and Blog Posts - Discuss your Ning network and your network’s content in blog posts and articles you write.
  4. Badges or Widgets - Place your Ning network badge on blogs and other websites. Even if badges attract few new members, they’ll help with SEO efforts by providing inbound links. A badge on the sidebar of a blog is in effect a link from every page and blog post on that blog.
  5. Links - Build inbound dofollow links to your Ning network and your network’s content.  Links, like Ning network badges, help with SEO, even if they don’t send much direct traffic. Use relevant anchor text in your links.
  6. SEO - Optimized keyword-rich blog posts on your Ning network will attract visitors who are looking for your content. Building links as previously mentioned will improve SEO results.
  7. Connectors and Influencers - Ask networking connectors and social media influencers to help by referring new members to your Ning network. These types of people love to help others.
  8. Comment on Blogs and Forums - Use insightful comments to pique interest and drive traffic to your Ning network. Avoid spamming!
  9. Classified Ads - Craigslist and other advertising sites can drive traffic to your Ning network. Experiment to learn what works best.
  10. Business Cards and Fliers - Experiment with offline marketing, as well. I suggest you keep it simple.

I encourage you to add your own ideas to this list.

Join my Small Business Network (promoting my Ning network ;-) ), and if you’re new to this blog, please subscribe.

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Larry BraunerBusiness networking sites enable you to make business connections, and through their networking and marketing tools, business networks also facilitate personal branding and online business marketing.

This article discusses features of Ning networks. However, many Ning features are also available on other business networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Ning Social NetworksThe following are 10 facilities of Ning networks that used in concert will help you build a powerful personal brand and effectively market your business:

  1. Your Ning Profile - Your profile is your mini web page on social and business networks. It ought to portray you in the best possible light as explained in How Important is Making a Good First Impression Online? Therefore, carefully complete your profile info and include a smart looking personal photo. It boggles my mind the number of networkers who barely fill in their network profiles. For an example of a simple complete profile, view mine at the Small Business Network.
  2. Business Networking - The single best way to network both offline and online is to check people out and ask them to tell you more about themselves. Never spam them! The Skinny on Networking by Jim Randel is a brief and excellent business networking guide.
  3. Blogs - Using blogs, you publicly express your views, stake claims to keywords and interact with readers via comments. When you blog on Ning networks, readers on-site don’t have far to go to find your posts, and because your content is aggregated by search engines with related content on the site, it’s easier for you and others to rank well on top keywords. To succeed blogging, post original search engine optimized articles that link to off-site and on-site sources. Don’t post snippets and don’t post articles that read like ads.
  4. Discussions - Discussion forums encourage people to share ideas in response to a simple question or statement. You can use discussions to get conversations going without writing whole articles. Be creative.
  5. Groups - Used correctly, groups are the most powerful branding and marketing tool on Ning networks. Group owners build communities and engage members through both discussions and newsletters — a bit like Facebook pages and Facebook groups combined. Before starting a Ning group, be ready to recruit off-site colleagues and use blogs and discussions to attract site members. I notice many starting groups and waiting for people to join with limited or no success.
  6. Events - Offline and online events are mini calls to action that can build and sustain momentum. Ning allows you to post events and members to respond. Share your events both on-site and off-site for optimal results.
  7. Comments - Your participation through commenting on others’ content and joining in conversations has a strong branding effect. People can get to know you through your comments. You have lots of time to compose your comments. Use that time wisely!
  8. Embedded Videos - Videos add a valuable dimension to your content on Ning and off Ning, as well. With a little practice you can quickly embed them in your blogs and discussions.
  9. Uploaded Photos - A picture is worth a thousand words. Upload pictures and label them so that people can appreciate them.
  10. Status Updates - Status updates are still a half-baked Ning feature, but use them anyway, since you never know who might be reading them.

I created and moderate the Small Business Network Ning site, Open Networking and Lifetime Learning for Small Business Owners and Their Clientele. Please join me there.

I also moderate a group at the My Linking Power Forum Ning network, It’s About Linking Power!

If you’re new to this blog, I invite you to subscribe. :-)

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Larry BraunerYou want to market on the web and take advantage of the vast potential of social media. You start your blog, create your Twitter account, launch your Facebook fan page, and you’re ready to go.

Or are you? Have you missed any crucial first steps?

Sandy Abrams, begins her new book, Your Idea, Inc., with words that have been attributed to Mark Twain:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking down your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

This quotation presents three problems, which I believe ought to have troubled Samuel Clemens:

  1. Isn’t “breaking down your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks” itself a step in the process?
  2. Aren’t understanding your needs and clearly defining your objectives vital preparatory steps as well?
  3. How do we determine the optimal sequence in which to execute all the small manageable tasks?

Neglected Stepchild of Social Media MarketingThese are three aspects of planning.

Planning is not popular, which explains the all too common lack of direction and focus in social media work.

Lack of direction and focus impedes progress and can cause frustration.

Your Social Media Plan

Before you jump into social media, devise your social media marketing and PR plan. Here are 16 key areas that might factor into your social media plan:

  1. Understand your business and objectives.
  2. Think about your products and services, what makes each special and their respective market segments.
  3. Develop positioning strategies for each market or program.
  4. Compile a list of your online competitors for each market.
  5. Identify suitable social media, such as social networking sites and social bookmarking sites, for both your vertical and horizontal campaigns.
  6. Identify desirable directories and other sites that might link to your content.
  7. Research and evaluate the extent and quality of industry-specific online content.
  8. Devise strategies and techniques for developing and promoting your content.
  9. Define a policy for governing your employees’ interactions with the public through social media.
  10. Study the online methodology of competitors and identify their search engine keywords.
  11. Analyze and critique your existing web presence.
  12. Gauge your competitors’ online success based upon their standing in search engines, the number and quality of links to their site, and estimated traffic.
  13. Identify opportunities to outmaneuver your competitors.
  14. Use a process called keyword discovery to develop a potentially useful vocabulary that will attract targeted search engine traffic to your content through SEO.
  15. Analyze keywords to determine which ones ought to be emphasized, based on the frequency of search and the amount of competition for each keyword phrase.
  16. Create a lexicon as an output of your keyword research and as an aid to your content development.

Action is Everything

You need not be concerned about every one of these areas. Use your judgment, since these are more suggestions than requirements. Certainly, do not use the length of my list as an excuse not to take action.

Action is everything. However, action begins with planning.

What are your thoughts?

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Larry BraunerAs the year and the decade draw to an end, success is a topic on most people’s minds.

In 1,000 True Fans, Kevin Kelly develops a marketing paradigm for artists of all types, including musicians.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version.

Focus on connecting with people. Convert 1,000 lesser fans into true fans, which is all you need to earn a living.

In First, organize 1,000, Seth Godin generalizes the model and applies it to politics and business, “1,000 people voting as a bloc can change local politics forever. 1,000 people willing to try a new restaurant you find for them gives you the ability to make an entrepreneur successful and change the landscape of your town.”

Again, the focus is on connecting with people, “You don’t find customers for your products. You find products for your customers.”

Connecting with People through Social Media

What I really love about social media, in particular, blogging and social networking sites such as Facebook, is the facility with which they enable me to connect with people.

I can write an article or post a link that sparks a public conversation. Some remarks can then lead to private discussions via direct messages, email or telephone. If I help somebody or solve a problem, I now have a true fan.

Why 1,000 True Fans?

Don’t attach importance to one thousand. 1,000 is a round number, chosen arbitrarily, to take the number of fans or customers needed to earn a good living — which is fairly abstract — and make it more concrete.

Unfortunately, the emphasis on 1,000 true fans might lead us to “see the forest for the trees” but to lose sight of each individual tree. However, each individual we touch is, somewhat paradoxically, as important as the overall group.

Impact the life of even one true fan, and you have achieved a measure of success.

Real Social Media Success

The changes made possible by technology and social media in the ways we communicate and conduct business have been phenomenal. How glorious it would be if we could witness corresponding improvements in the human condition.

Sadly, the opposite is true. Technology and social media are used for evil as well as good, and our world and its peoples continue to have little respite from their fear, pain and suffering.

Planet EarthOur world is made up of individuals. We, as individuals, must seek ways to bridge our differences, to heal our conflicts, and to ameliorate our Planet Earth. We, as individuals, must connect with other individuals, through our businesses and otherwise, and help them improve their lives.

It would be super if, in our businesses, we could look beyond the bottom line and use social media to make the globe not only smaller, but kinder, saner and safer as well.

That would be real social media success.

May we all achieve success in 2010. Have a happy new year!

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In the past week, social media hype and the competency of  social media consultants have been analyzed from different vantage points by prominent writers.

ClickZ published an article, Here Come the Social Media Carpetbaggers by Rebecca Lieb.

Social Media Carpetbaggers

Rebecca pointed out that a combination of the recession, the decline of traditional media, and the nearly zero cost and barrier-to-entry into social media has spawned 21st century “social media carpetbaggers, in all flavors and colors of the rainbow.”

Which carpetbaggers?

It’s reputable marketers who have built deservedly strong reputations in other digital disciplines: branding, creative, strategy, search, media, and a host of other specialties, who are suddenly labeling themselves “social.”

These carpetbaggers are anxious to get their piece of social media marketing, and their dog-and-pony shows and social media clichés substitute for real experience, competence and substance.

Social Media Snake Oil

Social Media Snake OilBusiness Week published Beware Social Media Snake Oil by Stephen Baker which portrayed social media consulting as sizzle more than steak.

Stephen criticized rigidity, conflicts of interest, reliance on soft metrics, and in the worst of cases, pure hype:

“It’s a bit of a Wild West scenario,” blogs David Armano, a consultant with the Dachis Group of Austin, Texas. Without naming names, he compares some consultants to “snake oil salesmen.”

Beyond Social Media Snake Oil

The David Armano just cited added to the discussion in a subsequent article on his blog, Life After Social Media Snake Oil. David made some astute comparisons between the social media “hype and fuzzy metrics” and the denial surrounding the dot com bubble.

David ended his article by connecting the past and the future:

The true believers who stuck with the Web even when the bubble burst became the people you wanted to work with. If there is a shakeout in the social space, the same will happen. The true believers will remain, while others flock to the next hot field.

Social Media in Perspective

Mark Evans also picked up on the Business Week piece. Mark concludes that we need more perspective:

All the hype surrounding social media and tools such as Twitter and Facebook overshadow the fact that effective marketing and communications will continue to include a variety of tools. To counter all the happy talk from social media consultants about what could be, the biggest thing needed right now is perspective.

My Comments on What I’ve Read

I have several comments to make on the articles I’ve read:

  • Not only social media, but web development, and website, social media and search engine optimization all have more than enough carpetbaggers and snake oil salesmen. In all these areas, service providers, and even their completed work, are difficult to evaluate. Licensing isn’t required either, so they can easily hang up shingles and start practices. Sadly, they’re practicing on your company.
  • In the case of Rebecca Lieb’s marketing firm turned social media carpetbagger, it’s unfortunate that they haven’t yet developed the strategic alliances they will need to compensate for a lack of experience that cannot be otherwise mitigated in the short run.
  • Measuring ROI and developing other hard metrics was a concern shared by several authors. I protested already in my article, The Social Media ROI Obsession, that much of social media marketing is really public relations, and that the use of softer metrics may be appropriate in such a case.
  • While the absence of clear financial justification may cause the social media marketing bubble to burst, I expect that public and customer relations, as well as B2B prospecting will continue to make good use of social media.

And now, it’s your turn to comment on another hot topic. :-)

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A shorter article than the past one.

Privacy and spam concerns continue to induce Facebook and Ning to make changes that hurt marketers. Facebook, for example, will end network affiliations, while Ning has already disabled the sharing of any content across participating sites.

Good-Bye Facebook Networks

Facebook members now use school, city of company network affiliations to control access to their personal content.

Since network affiliation is less relevant than it had been at the network’s conception, and since  the display of network affiliation can jeopardize members’ privacy and security, Facebook is replacing affiliation-based permissions with a friendship-based alternative.

This solution better protects Facebook members. :-)

However, it also takes away an important targeting mechanism from honest business users wishing to find people in the regions where they operate. :-(

Thanks Ning for Duplicate Messages

If you and I are friends at several Ning sites, I probably send you duplicate messages. Since I can no longer share content across sites, I send the same information from several sites, and you receive that information multiple times. I try to minimize duplication but haven’t yet eliminated it.

Ning has made it less convenient for spammers. :-)

However, if a spammer is motivated enough, you’ll now receive their spam several times instead of once. :-(

Good-News Bad-News

The good news is that social networking sites will continue their efforts to safeguard the privacy and security of members and to create an enjoyable networking experience… great when we have on our networking hats.

The bad news is that more safeguards can mean more limited access to members, and when we have on our marketing hats… not so great!

What are your thoughts on this hot topic?

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Larry Brauner
As a business community, are we obsessed with return on investment? Is our preoccupation with measuring social media ROI counterproductive?

In this article I look at social media from what might be a novel perspective. I hope to convince you that social media use need not impact the bottom line over the short term, and that our belief that it ought to is impeding our progress.

I expect to provide a few other takeaways as well.

Are Marketing and PR Merging?

I was speaking with Jeffrey Cole, the marketing PR expert behind JJC Communications LLC, an agency using both social media and traditional public relations to achieve clients’ goals. Jeff authors the blog PR 101.

I asked Jeff whether he agreed with me that marketing and public relations were converging. He said he agreed, and that he believed advertising was converging with them as well.

Can You Put a Value on Reputation?

I saw a video and article posted by Chris Boyer, creator of the Hospital Online Marketing Education site on Ning and online marketing consultant at Healthgrades. Chris was discussing social media and the importance of his four R’s:

  1. Reach
  2. Relationship
  3. Reputation
  4. Return on investment

Regarding return on investment, Chris pointed out that measuring the ROI of social media was like trying to measure the ROI of a friendship.

I agreed with Chris’ assessment of social media, but let me ask you this question: What about measuring the ROI of your reputation? Could you possibly place a value on your reputation? I say no. Your reputation is invaluable.

Public Relations

Defining PR, the Public Relations Society of America states that PR “helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

The PRSA definition of PR implies relationship, Chris Boyer’s 2nd R of social media. Even the term itself, public relations, suggests relationship. The key word is relations. According to the Council of Public Relations Firms, public relations also:

  • “Builds and protects reputations.” Reputation is Chris’ 3rd R.
  • “Extends reach, frequency and the message of an advertising campaign.” Reach is Chris’ 1st R.

Marketing tends to revolve around cost per acquisition and ROI.  However, public relations relies on softer metrics, and since reputation is invaluable, PR almost never requires ROI justification.

Public relations and social media are a perfect pairing according to Chris’ four R’s.

Marketing

According to the American Marketing Association, “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

The key word in this definition is offerings. Nothing is mentioned about reputation, although communicating and exchanging seem to correspond to reach and relationship.

Given marketing’s basic orientation toward advertising offerings, an activity in conflict with social media, and that it tends to revolve around cost per acquisition and return on investment, marketing and social media might be incompatible.

There are marketing-related activities that are obvious exceptions.

Customer Relationship Management

Although customer relationship management and customer service are marketing functions, they differ from marketing conceptually.

CRM and customer service focus on relationships more than offerings and are tracked using soft metrics such as time to answer call, call length, first call resolution, sales, saves, etc.

Many attempts to interact with customers on Twitter and to broadcast limited-time offers to them have been successful.

Selling

Selling, according to Wikipedia, is “persuading someone to buy one’s product or service,” i.e., to buy one’s offerings, and relationship is certainly essential for selling success. However, the key word here is persuading.

Social networking sites such as LinkedIn can support the sales process and replace much less convenient offline meetings.

Social media prospecting, if done well, can open doors which have been closed until now. Perhaps though, the persuading part of selling will go more smoothly if taken offline.

One-to-one selling using business networking sites to make connections is working for many people.

Image Advertising

As I said above, marketing almost always requires ROI justification.

There are some marketing efforts that don’t directly increase sales. Big companies can advertise their brands like Coke and Pepsi in order to maintain parity and to create economic barriers to entry into their markets.

These marketing campaigns are brand and reputation centric, and as such the public relations function could presumably conduct the very same campaigns just as effectively.

Social Media Marketing

If social media is largely a public relations tool, then what is social media marketing or social marketing?

Social marketing is web PR as practiced by marketing people who hope (pray?) that their social media outreach will eventually spill over into sales and justify their efforts.

We as marketers find it difficult to admit to ourselves and to others that we’re engaged in PR, but we are.

Do our companies really need more PR?

Marketers have long understood the importance of listening to customers. Today social media facilitates useful dialogue with and understanding of both customers and prospects.

The Long Tail of Social Media

The Long Tail of Social MediaSocial media is an investment with a very long tail. The content we create and the relationships we build can continue to bring a return far into the future. The revenue in the ROI equation is the present value of future dividends arising from our social media investment.

Social media used wisely ought to pay off. We can’t yet say exactly how-so nor how-much-so, but we’ll never find out unless we remove the impediment to progress, our obsession with social media ROI.

I found 35 social media KPIs to help measure engagement on the web and think that you’ll like it. I’m regularly researching and bookmarking new articles for you on my new Bookmarks page.

Keep the faith.. and leave me your comment. ;-)

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I spoke this morning with a very pleasant chap from the Westchester County Business Journal.

In the course of conversation I had occasion to mention that “nobody buys drills, they buy holes,” an aphorism attributed to Theodore Levitt, the late economist.

A drill is but a means to an end.

Similarly, few people care about social networking sites.

While I’m able to get excited about a minor Facebook tweak,  a juicy little Gwave tidbit, a new Twitter tool, or even the latest Wordpress release, most people using social media care only about friendship, love, wealth, power or fame.

A Drill, Not a HoleIf you’re selling a product or service, people care not about your product but what it can do for them. Your product or service is but a means to an end, a drill, not a hole.

In your marketing, think about the problems potential customers and clients want to solve. Address those problems. Offer to solve them, and let them pay you for your solutions.

Nobody buys drills, they buy holes. Sell them the holes.

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