My name is Bryan Clark and I am a professional writer and blog editor in the tech, entrepreneurship, finance and digital lifestyle fields. I have written before for Entrepreneurs Journey in 2007 and I’m happy to say I am back with a new column starting today.
In this article I will talk about what is needed to produce a quality product, which includes four main elements:
- customer service
I’m never sure what the appeal is, but every time the falafel truck pulls up outside my office I’m inexplicably drawn to it. This isn’t a bad thing when I’m hungry, but the falafel truck holds its spell on me even after I’ve put down my lunch for the day. Well, two lunches is better than one, right?
Maybe it’s the television coverage, or the shift in thinking that local is better. Whatever the reason, food trucks have become a powerhouse. Busy urban meccas such as New York and Los Angeles have long known the value of food trucks and street vendors, but others are catching on quickly.
St. Louis – where I live – has never had much of a street food scene until the last two years. Now there are trucks everywhere, even though our local ordinances ban street food or food trucks. The mayor agrees the ordinance is dated, so it has selective enforcement at best. This blogger may or may not have pulled out the ole’ Android phone and snapped a photo of the mayor with a Chicago-style hot dog in his mouth. Oh, the humanity. Doesn’t he know that St. Louisans can’t be messing with Chicago-style anything?
But I digress.
Food trucks are a hit, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
A successful food truck can teach you a lot about how you run your business both online and offline. Notice that I use business and blog interchangeably. Most of Entrepreneurs-Journey’s readers fit one of the two categories: bloggers or marketers. The tips aren’t mutually exclusive and the two heavily rely on each other. Hence, the interchangeable use.
For offline business that caters to the public, or requires a great deal of walk-in traffic, location is everything. For others, such as the venture capital group I work for, location isn’t nearly as important, as most of our dealings happen online. That’s not to say we work in a bad location, we just so happen to be in one of the best locations in the city. Bonus!
Most would say that location isn’t as important for the online marketer, and it isn’t; at least in a traditional sense. If you map out the internet like a street map though, you’ll begin to see that location is just as important. Think of blogs as territories, and each territory has certain roads leading from one site to the next site. This is the power of alignment. Who you align yourself with – or – who you keep your roads open to can bring you a great deal of success in your online ventures.
Branding is huge in the food truck business. These trucks, or the carts you see on every corner rely on brand recognition whether they realize it or not. The trucks, and their fancy paint jobs, realize the power of marketing.
The street vendor with the plain hot dog cart and a list of prices might not realize it on the same level, but he is marketing every time he leaves the house and opens the cart. People start to recognize the vendor, and they’ll go out of their way to return to them if they deliver a quality product. So, even though the guy with the hot dog cart doesn’t have the fancy paint job, he has still created a brand, or at least an impression on people that frequent his spot.
The same is true of bloggers and marketers. Whether we’re attempting to brand ourselves and our product – or blog – or not, we’re doing it every day. Those who have success are the ones that are better at branding and put more effort into it than those who think that one day their content will just bring in thousands of pageviews.
Look at all of the top blogs and you’ll notice something amazing. Most of these guys aren’t writers. About 90+% of the content you find at these top blogs are at a high school level at best. What makes them different from you? They brand themselves well and they excel in their marketing efforts. This is something I learned from the other Brian Clark, over at Copyblogger.
The same is true of your online products. The same marketers are on every blogger’s tongue once a year or more when they launch the next great product. Why is this? Because they’ve branded themselves as authorities, and you trust them. Yaro is a great example of this. Anything Yaro says is a great product, becomes a great product. Why? Because Yaro said it was, and Yaro knows what he’s talking about. This is the power of branding.
Not only can you sell products – or hot dogs – your recommendation becomes just as important. If the local falafel truck runs out of pita bread, and they tell me I can get a great falafel down the road, you better believe I’m listening.
Food trucks have the edge on this one, as they produce intoxicating smells and draw people to them. Your blog or product doesn’t have the same appeal. Instead, we substitute the smell for something tangible, like a name.
Your goal – and this coincides with branding – is to put your name in the air. You want to produce the same intoxicating aroma as the food truck and draw people to you.
This is generally done by doing what you’ve been taught since you started your blog. Comment, guest post, network, link up, attend conferences, and just generally get to know those around you. Internet marketing is “rubbing elbows” with those around you.
The more you circulate your name in the online world, the more people will begin to remember it. This one tip worked wonders for me. I began doing all I could to get my name on the tips of every blogger or internet marketer’s tongue I could. This led to paid speaking gigs, info products, bigger blog revenue, and ultimately bigger pay days when I’d sell off the blog after I was burnt out.
If content is king, marketing is his crown.
4. Customer Service
Let me tell you another story about Yaro.
As a young blogger just starting out, I just so happened to run into Yaro. I had read his blog, and was a big fan. When he launched Blog Mastermind, I knew that I had to be a member, yet I didn’t have the money to join.
He launched with an intro price that was about half of what the normal membership would be. Not knowing Yaro, I figured this was marketing talk, and I’d just sign up at this rate when I had the money. About two weeks later I was ready to sign up, and was mortified when he had raised the price; just as he’d warned. I obviously didn’t know Yaro.
Being the outside-the-box thinker that I am, I decided to try and track down one of the many landing pages that had been floating around online. I wanted to find the discount price. After quite a bit of searching, I had found what I was looking for.
I emailed Yaro and told him of my discovery, and asked if I could be included at the discount price. He agreed, and even complimented me on my diligence. Good customer service is honoring your coupons, and giving the customer what they want. Lesson learned.
About two months later, I had lost my job, and I wasn’t making enough money to afford Blog Mastermind anymore. I emailed Yaro and told him that I’d regrettably have to cancel my membership. He sent me his Skype name, and we talked about the reasons why I’d have to leave. Yaro agreed to cancel the membership, but told me that my blog had a great deal of promise. He let me stay on, even though I wasn’t paying anymore. This is going above and beyond for your customer. That day, Yaro created a customer for life.
A few days later, he emailed me and asked if I could jump on Skype and talk to him for a minute. I obliged. I was thrilled to learn that after canceling the membership to his product, not only was he still a friend, but he wanted me to come write for EJ, and he even paid me quite well to do it. Solving your customers’ problems leads to loyalty. To this day, I’ll always appreciate all that Yaro has done for me. Working with him, and having the ability to chat with him a few times a week really made me a better blogger, marketer, and businessman.
Customer service is about retaining customers as well as acquiring new ones. Some do it better than others.
Provide A Quality Product
No matter how much the smell from the falafel truck makes me want to quit working and take an impromptu trip to the sidewalk; I wouldn’t do it if the food was bad.
No matter how good a product smells, the taste doesn’t always satisfy. The same is true in a world where every product is marketed to our sense of ambition. We’re told that a product will help us solve a problem – like making more money, acquiring more customers, building a bigger list, launching a product better and faster, or building links – but in reality the taste doesn’t always fit the smell.
Building a quality product gives you the freedom to relax a little, which will allow you to focus on other aspects of business rather than dealing with angry customers and refunds. A quality product allows you to promote it on little more than word-of-mouth and watch as it grows organically right in front of your eyes.
The same goes for the food truck. I can get a falafel at any number of places in St. Louis. This just happens to be the one that I remain loyal to. It has earned my business through location (it parks in front of my office) branding (it has distinctive colors and markings), they market themselves well (handing out coupons, or punch cards), providing great customer service (service with a smile), and delivering a quality product (it’s the best, I assure you).
Maybe it’s time to treat your business more like a food truck.