April 11, 2013 by Christina Hamlett
A Conversation with Diane Conklin
In spite of evidence to the contrary, many aspiring entrepreneurs tend to ascribe to the Field of Dreams Syndrome; specifically, that customers will enthusiastically flock to the door just because something new has been built in their neighborhood. Building – and growing – a new business, though, takes more than wishful thinking and movie magic. It takes a strategic and comprehensive marketing plan in order to not only get results but also to stay viable in an uncertain economy.
Diane Conklin, president and founder of Complete Marketing Systems, is an author, entrepreneur, coach, consultant, event planner and dynamic speaker whose expertise in direct response marketing is showing small business owners across the country how to take a proactive role in distinguishing their products and services from the competition.
Q: What was your inspiration for launching Complete Marketing Systems?
A: I had been helping other marketers grow their businesses for a long time and it struck me that I could be doing the same things for myself and keeping a bigger piece of the profits. I could tell you all the typical things people say…money, freedom, etc.
The real reason I started Complete Marketing Systems is that I wanted to help people. And, I wanted to help them in a way that meant something – really help people…make a real difference in their lives.
The great thing about doing this in a business format is the Ripple effect you can have in the world. In other words, when I help one person who goes out and helps 10 people, or 100 people, and they go do the same, pretty soon, my one pebble in the ocean becomes literally hundreds and thousands of ripples and stones and effecting hundreds of thousands of people.
Q: What do you feel distinguishes your approach in training clients to not only start a new business but also keep it sustainable, especially during challenging economic times?
A: What makes me different is my broad range of experiences and the fact that I have worked with so many different business owners and types of businesses over the years. One set model doesn’t work anymore and when you have the ability to pull from years of experiences with so many different industries and types of businesses, you have an endless supply of strategies to pull from.
I think the other thing that sets me apart from many others is that I’m willing to talk about the things that we all need but nobody really wants to hear about – the stuff that isn’t necessarily the “sexy” stuff. I just know how to keep it real and give people what they need (not always what they want).
Using leverage in your business, having a plan, taking action, using systems and strategies for success are all necessary but very few people want to go there or even have a plan or have given any thought to what their strategy for doing something is.
Q: Social media has taken the world by storm and many an entrepreneur and small business owner are using it as a free and easy replacement for traditional marketing strategies. In your view, does this mindset enhance or jeopardize a company’s position in the marketplace and its reputation with its target demographic?
A: First, social media isn’t free, because you have your time involved in doing it, and that’s worth a certain amount of money. There really isn’t a free marketing strategy – you always invest something to get a new client and to do business. There are no real replacements for the tried and true methods of marketing – only additional ones that you should be adding to what you’re already doing – this is true for social media.
One is always the worst number in marketing and in business so you never want to depend solely on one media or source for your leads or your business.
Being online is important in today’s marketplace as that’s where people go to check you out and inquire when they are looking to do business with you. It’s still important to market offline as well because, depending on who your clients are, they may or may not be online and whether online or offline, you have to know where they are so you can go there to communicate with them.
Being omnipresent (or having the appearance of being everywhere) is important in today’s market – for all entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Q: What is something about direct mail marketing that most people aren’t aware of?
A: That it works…it has always worked and it will always work. So many business owners think of this as old school marketing but it’s not.
One of the myths about direct mail is that it’s expensive – it’s not expensive – you always have to pay to get a client. When you know what a new client costs, you then you can determine if a particular media is more expensive than another. It’s been my experience that most small business owners have no idea what their numbers are – they don’t know what the cost is for them to acquire a new client, but they assume mailing is expensive. These tend to be the same folks who think of the internet as a free tool (it’s not).
Another thing is that direct mail is not about mass mailings – it’s about mailing the right, targeted thing to smaller segments of your list who are already pre-disposed to buy. Then, you roll your campaigns out a little more at a time – that’s how to use direct mail effectively.
It has been said that the only way to have stability and sustainability in your business is to have a direct mail campaign that works.
Q: How has technology and other automated systems impacted consumer trust and loyalty that was previously built on “the personal touch”?
A: Technology has certainly made things easier for us as business owners as so many things can now be automated and leveraged. The bad news about a lot of that is that it has also taken some of the human touch element away from what we’re doing. The good news about that is for those of us who are still willing to take time out and pick up the phone and reach out in a more personal way, there are really big payoffs for us.
Technology is great but we still have to remember people do business with other people – not with companies. We want and need to interact, to feel important and to build “know, like and trust” – computers and systems can’t do that as well as people can.
Never rely too heavily on technology and automation alone – mix in the personal touches and your business will thrive.
Q: What are some of the biggest marketing and strategic mistakes that companies make?
A: The biggest mistake most companies and small businesses make is they don’t do enough marketing. They might think about it a lot but actually implementing and doing marketing is an area of underperformance for most.
My rule of thumb is always do one more thing than you planned on doing in your marketing and you’ll still be okay.
Another big area where a lot of mistakes are made is that so many companies aren’t using direct response marketing – they’re using image advertising, or “me too” advertising. The disadvantage to this is that they have no way to measure the marketing they are doing by using this kind of advertising so they have no way of knowing what is really working and what isn’t working.
Finally the other big mistake I see a lot is there is just a lot of throwing mud on the wall and no strategy or plan being used in the business. This creates a lot of waste of both time and resources. Thinking about the why behind what you’re doing leads to different decisions many times and gives you a foundation for your business and your marketing – so many times, small business owners just don’t take the time to think about or develop a strategy behind what they’re doing and it creates and leads to a lot of other problems in their business.
Q: You talk about a concept you call “integrated marketing.” Can you explain what that is and why businesses should be using it?
A: Integrated marketing is really just a matter of utilizing multiple marketing media and then talking about what you’re doing in all the different media. In other words, talking about your direct mail piece in the email you send, or discussing your webinar on social media or in your electronic newsletter – those are examples of integrating your marketing.
If you think about this as a stool with each leg of the stool representing one of the media or marketing areas you’re using – each leg is independent and stands alone. When you add cross bars to the stool and connect the legs, the stool is much more stable – same with your business or your marketing – when you integrate and start to talk about it between each media it strengthens your message and allows you to touch more people and it increases the chance of your message being seen or heard by more people as well.
Q: Tell us about the online classes you offer and their takeaway value for participants.
A: We offer a variety of programs, products and services. I don’t teach anything I don’t do, so when you attend a program with us, you’re not getting Ivory Tower professor information, you’re getting real-life experiences, on the ground, what’s working now useful strategies you can apply to your business immediately.
We have programs in Information Marketing, Direct Mail, Social Media, Event Planning & Marketing, as well as Marketing, and a variety of others.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
A: One of the areas I talk about a lot is what I call P.L.A.N.S., which stands for Plan & Prepare, Leverage, Action, Next & Now and Strategy & Systems. If you use this as the foundation for your business, and then use it again to grow your business, you will succeed beyond anything you thought possible.
In addition to having home study systems and coaching programs, at Complete Marketing Systems, we also provide “done for you” services where we will do your marketing for you. You can learn more about us at www.CompleteMarketingSystems.com