Free Competitive Analysis Tools

Frank Ross, who writes the Home-Based Entrepreneur blog, posted an excellent article on competitive analysis. You can apply his tips to individual products or market segments.

I added my $0.02:

“If you’re in a highly competitive market (and can’t get out), there are things you can do to set yourself from the crowd. For example, think about how your product is different because it comes from you. What do you do that’s “different” (think Apple ad campaign here)? Do you ship faster? Do you offer extra goodies (extra training, education, etc.)? Are you known for spotting the next trends? Think about differentiators, and figure out how you connect with your particular audience… then figure out what keywords these people are searching. Figure out how they want to be engaged. Understand what their real motivators are. These are the keys to the castle.”

The book “The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing” shows you how to use eBay itself to perform market analysis and competitive analysis. I’ll address this topic further in future posts.

Google AdWords: Writing Clearly and Succinctly

If you want to get your mind around how important it is to write clearly and succinctly, take a spin through the following article:

http://jimbursch.typepad.com/cadcoop/2005/06/searchrelated_a.html

It talks about how Google employs writers to help companies develop those three line ads in Google AdWords. It’s a type of Haiku for commerce — a highly sought after talent these days, apparently.

Great article, fascinating subject, the wave of the future. Hemingway would have loved the whole concept (maybe).

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Harry Truman on Advertising

“Advertising has induced progress in the use by manufacturers of new materials, new tools, and new processes of manufacture by calling their attention to economies which could be achieved and to the new uses to which they could be put. Without such advertising, information of this kind would take years to reach all of those who might benefit by it and progress would be delayed.” — Harry S. Truman

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Authority, Scarcity and Closing Hard – Part II

9 Marketing Lessons from the Swim Instructor

Here’s a short list of things the swimming instructor does right. See the last post for background on this discussion.

1. He develops scarcity around his product. It’s tough to sign up. You have to go through a scheduler who says he’s booked through 2006, and then you have to “weasel” your way in through those you know in the program already.

2. His advertising is word of mouth. When coupled with the scarcity angle, it makes him highly sought after. If you can sustain a business with word of mouth (or word of link) advertising, then you know your product or service is good.

3. He delivers on a guarantee. We didn’t pay until we saw results.

4. He’s a self-promoter. Tom wasn’t afraid to tell those in attendance that he’s good at what he does and is highly experienced.

5. He brags, but he backs it up. You can say you’re the best if you are.

6. He meets needs and makes it clear to the buyer that he’s doing just that.

7. He drops names and numbers as testimonials (75,000 taught; Columbia University)

8. He constantly works new leads and encourages customers to “refer” new business to him. It doesn’t seem like he’s doing it, but he is. It’s somewhat subtle.

9. He makes it seem like he’s doing you a favor by letting you into his program. (UC Berkeley, USC, Stanford, Harvard and the other Ivy Leagues are experts at this.)

If you emulate Tom and deliver on your promises, promote your product aggressively, and close new business hard, you’ll rack up profits quickly.

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BEATING THE 10-SECOND INTERVIEW

How to market yourself when applying for jobs

You’re résumé is beautiful! You’ve spent countless hours perfecting both its content and appearance and now you’re ready to send it out to fulfill its primary duty–landing you an interview. Or several. And fast.

What you may not realize, however, is that the first interview is about to begin–the 10-second interview (also referred to as the “10-second glance” or the “email in-box review”). Unlike a traditional interview, the 10-second interview, often conducted by overworked, unimaginative appointees, doesn’t offer you the chance to respond to initial questions, biases, and concerns; it’s just them, your résumé, and that dreaded ‘delete’ key.

Here are some tips to help you make the right first impression:
1. GIVE IT A NAME. Hiring managers receive anywhere from 10 to 1,000 résumés a day by email so it’s understandable why they may get a little agitated after opening a dozen résumé files in a row entitled ‘resume1.doc’. Use a more specific naming convention for your attachments, incorporating your full name and the position to which you’re applying. Uniquely labeled files are easy to remember and (more importantly) easy to retrieve later on amongst a sea of ‘MyEngineeringRez.doc’ files.
2. REMEMBER WHERE YOU’RE FROM. Using your personal email account is fine, as long as your user name and domain are palatable in the professional world. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they’re sending from ‘coolsherry@yahoo’ or ‘porsche_man@hotmail.com’. Consider investing in a website, especially if you’re in the IT industry. That way you can use your own name as a domain, create user names specific to your field and position, *and* store your résumé online for easy reference.
3. MORE IS NOT NECESSARILY MERRIER. Keep your correspondence limited to the contact specified in the job description. Human Resources personnel, administrative assistants and other “screeners” may be offended if you try to go over their head. That said, if you’ve identified an employee with decision-making power through your own personal network, you should contact them directly. Just be sure to introduce yourself (in-person, on the phone, or by email) *before* you forward your résumé. Then ask for the proper application procedure (i.e. should anyone be copied on this email?).
4. TO ATTACH OR NOT TO ATTACH. Unless otherwise specified, you should always send an ASCII (text-only) résumé embedded in the body of your email along with an MS Word or Adobe Acrobat attachment. This way, the recipient will have the option to begin scanning your plain text résumé immediately or to open up the “reader-friendly” version. If you’re unclear as to what an ASCII résumé is, find out soon; they’re quickly becoming the standard for online résumé submission.
5. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Computer crashes can ruin anyone’s day, including the hiring manager who’s having trouble opening your gargantuan Photoshop file. Keep the size of your collective attachments down to 50Kb. This means no pictures (of yourself or anyone else), graphics, writing samples, or lengthy résumé addendums. Save these items for the interview or send them upon request only.
6. AN INTRODUCTION IS IN ORDER Always, without exception, include a cover letter embedded in the body of the email. This is your opportunity to introduce your résumé. Don’t pass it up. If you’ve written a cover letter that warrants more than a passing glance, attach it as a Word or Acrobat file alongside your résumé, and make sure it’s clearly labeled as a cover letter.
7. FOLLOW THEIR LEAD. All companies have a preferred way they like to process résumés, just as you have a preferred way you like to receive, open, and organize your mail. Keep their life simple and follow directions even if it means pasting that cumbersome 16-digit job code in the subject line *and* the body of your email. One last note: If their requests contradict any advice you’ve read or heard (including this article), go with what they say. Even if it makes absolutely no sense, you’ll get points for following along.
8. THE FINAL FIVE. Proofread, proofread, proofread. As is true with any marketing document, it’s essential that your email, cover letter, and résumé are flawless. Spend a final five minutes (at least!) reviewing your work, preferably after a short break from your computer to give your eyes a much needed rest.

Remember, you’re being interviewed from the minute you push that ‘send’ button on your email program. Your résumé–a faithful ally in your job search–and your other application materials should be answering the hiring managers’ questions *before* they ask them.
Good luck! May your phone ring and your in-box swell!

*Cliff Flamer, a former Silicon Valley recruiter, is the President of BrightSide Résumés, a certified résumé writing and consulting agency. Visit http://www.brightsideresumes.com for more help with revitalizing your job search, including an article on ASCII résumés and a free 12-point assessment of your existing résumé.

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