• Steps We’ve Taken To Survive 3 Years In Business

    Each April is a critical anniversary for Divining Point. This year we join the ranks of businesses who made it past the three-year mark. It’s a dubious distinction born from a grim reality. 30% of businesses fail in the first year.

    Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t much better for the second, third, or fifth years. In most cases, the demise of a company is directly related to management and leadership failures that lead to poor decisions. Funny thing is…

    We’re Actually 6 Years Old

    Divining Point started in 2013 as a consultancy. Like many startups, we had something we wanted to share with the world. After 3 years of hustling in this gig we call marketing, we formally launched as an LLC in April of 2016. For us, that’s the birth date of our agency, even if we act a little older.

    We reached the important one year mark in 2017 and shared a story about the lessons of being a nimble little shop. One year later, we felt pretty sure of ourselves and revealed a formula that seemed to work for us. A series of missteps in the summer of 2018 left us nursing our wounds and brushing dirt off our chins. Through it all, we can confidently say that staying true to our values is what keeps us in business today.

    There are lessons worth learning from anyone still in operation after three years. We certainly don’t corner the market on business wisdom. Our simple goal here is to continue the tradition of sharing what we do so that others may find success.

    Don’t Have All the Answers

    Our clients come to us because they need a solution to a problem. Since each case is unique, we come to the table as a partner in search of the answers. In that regard, there’s no merit in being a “know it all”. Biases, assumptions, and preconceptions are completely unproductive.

    At Divining Point – both internally and externally – we acknowledge we don’t have all the answers. If you’re looking for a marketing agency with “silver bullets”, we’re not your team. For starters, silver bullets don’t even work that well. Secondly, a silver bullet really only works for one problem (werewolves and monsters) and isn’t helpful for those of us in the real world.

    It may be frustrating to work with a person who happily says “I don’t know” or “maybe” when asked tough questions about pernicious marketing challenges. It’s even more disappointing to put your faith in a team who fails to deliver on the promises they made during the sales phase of an engagement.

    If you want to stay in business, our advice is don’t sell a bag of goods just to close a deal. There’s no quicker way to lose a precious client and earn a bad reputation. You can’t afford to do either. You’re better off taking a different approach.

    In our case, we’re convinced that the best way to deliver value is to employ the scientific method to marketing. In fact, our process is broadly summarized like this:

    • We ask questions.
    • We do research.
    • We develop a plan.
    • We test the plan.
    • We document performance.
    • We analyze the results.
    • We optimize.
    • Repeat.

    Along the way we discover all the answers. In most cases we let the data tell us what works and what should change. In some cases, we depend on research, intuition and experience to guide our decisions. It’s not as quick or easy as the claims made by people with a “proven process” and “guaranteed results”. However, in the end you can rest assured that we’ll find a solution that works reliably for you.

    Professionalism Is Not an Option

    Austin is known as a fairly casual city. “Keep Austin Weird” is not just a catchy slogan. It’s a mantra to do things on our own terms in the spirit of individualism. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find shorts and sandals sitting at the same conference table with suits and ties. That’s quite alright with us.

    Dress codes and corporate protocols are up to each business owner. What works for you could be a disaster in another industry. We recommend ignoring the universal standards of “professionalism” in all ways but one: your actions.

    Acting professionally is not an option. It’s a mandate.

    It’s become quite common for companies to take a lax attitude with the treatment of their clients. Some days it seems like the rules of decorum were scrapped in favor of “what’s natural”, “what feels good”, “what’s convenient” or “what’s in my best interest”.

    The result is a broken dynamic of relationships that were once built on respect, trust and integrity. We’ve seen this first-hand with vendors and customers who’ve been burned too many times in the past by marketing agencies that ignored and disrespected them at every turn.

    The rules of professionalism vary depending on the source. In some cases, there is an emphasis on professional attire. But as Austin illustrates, great business can occur regardless of the clothes. Professionalism is an intangible set of behaviors that looks something like this:

    • Treat your customers with respect, even when they behave poorly.
    • Follow through on your commitments.
    • Address people properly.
    • Practice quick, responsive communication.
    • Avoid drama.
    • Be competent.
    • Practice empathy.

    Even if you have a casual business model, a reputation for professionalism will always win you more fans and referrals. People want to be heard and supported. Acting like a professional will build faith in you and contribute to the long term success of your business.

    DO Take No for An Answer

    We take issue with the old saying “Don’t take no for an answer”. It’s an audacious way of making people yield to your will. This tired motivational phrase is especially common in sales, where inexperienced salespeople waste time and energy trying to force a “no” into a “yes”. Why even bother? There are hundreds of other customers who are ready, willing and able to move forward.

    Let’s analyze what happens when you indiscriminately overcome all objections.

    What if a person isn’t qualified or capable of doing what you want them to? You force them to act. They fail. They blame you. You’re left with the decision to continue supporting them or, even worse, walking away in shame.

    What if you’re actually making a bad recommendation? They put their faith in you, despite their better judgment. Your plan fails. You’ve lost the trust and respect of the other person, and you’ve most likely created some costly consequences for you and them.

    What if you’re forcing a deal with a difficult customer and they accept? Congratulations, you’ve got the sale. Guess what? You’re stuck with them now. You have no one to blame but yourself.

    What if your plan is good but an even better one exists? You’ve lost an opportunity to demonstrate competency and deliver outstanding value to the customer. Businesses with a reputation for mediocrity don’t last long.

    There are plenty of hypotheticals you can explore here, but ultimately you run the risk of jeopardizing your relationships, your business and your long-term success when you “don’t take no for an answer”.

    Here’s a better alternative: be objective, be humble, and be open to the possibility that you may be wrong. Don’t be a fool. Sometimes “no” is a good thing. It may not serve your immediate goals or stroke your ego, but your needs matter less when it comes to doing great work for a good client in a healthy business relationship.

    Beware of Fire Ants

    Every business has to decide who they want to serve. Our advice is to be cautious of the “low value / high needs” client that doesn’t appreciate your time, your quality, or your worth. We call them “Fire Ants”.

    For those of you outside of the South, fire ants (also known as the Red Imported Fire Ant) are an invasive species known for their aggression and destructiveness. They’re little. They’re unpleasant. They bite like hell. Sound familiar?

    Fire Ant clients typically have a large amount of needs with very little budget. They scrutinize every single expense in an attempt to get you to lower your price. Conversely, they expect you to give them a higher level of service that doesn’t correlate with your negotiated agreement.

    With Fire Ants, communication is poor, sometimes non-existent. Many of them micromanage your project or, even worse, are completely uninvolved until after you’ve performed your service – at which point they want changes. Every request is urgent. Every revision should be free. Every project turns into a spiraling cycle of scope creep that leaves you and your business in disarray.

    To be fair, these clients have genuine needs. They should work with a team that can fulfill them. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be you. The perceived opportunities associated with Fire Ants are not worth the cost and headaches they bring. The best way to avoid being bitten is to prevent them from getting close in the first place.

    Don’t take offense if you’re a Fire Ant. From what we can tell, most clients don’t recognize how destructive their behaviors can be. They just want the service or product “they thought” they were going to get. Therein lies the rub. Despite the best efforts of many businesses to clearly define the terms of engagement, Fire Ant clients have unrealistic expectations and an unwillingness to accept anything less than their demands. They don’t take no for an answer.

    Bigger Things To Come

    On this anniversary we’re blessed to work with terrific clients throughout the United States, including Alaska. Our footprint has expanded along with our team size and service offerings. We practice all of the learning lessons we espoused in our previous blogs, and it continues to serve us well. We’re optimistic that our best days are ahead of us.

    While we work with businesses of just about any size, we look for the characteristics we think will bring about success and a long-term partnership. Our clients appreciate the power of a good brand. They value quality service, and they conduct business in a way that inspires loyalty with their clients. Are you a business like that? Contact us today. We’re here to help.

  • The Artistic Puppy Joins Divining Point

    We are excited to announce that Jon Taylor, the “Artistic Puppy”, has joined Divining Point as Creative Director. Jon brings his creative eye and visual storytelling talents to our full service agency, thereby giving our clients more options for engaging design, photography and videography.

    Prior to joining Divining Point, Jon was the CEO of Artistic Puppy, a photography and marketing agency based in the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. For 11 years, Jon and his team provided world class creative and marketing strategy for businesses across multiple industries. His clients included companies in fashion, outdoor apparel, tourism, hospitality, oil and gas, and public sector agencies. Artistic Puppy has a reputation for great service and dramatic media, and we are thrilled to incorporate his high standards into our firm.

    Prior to running Artistic Puppy, Jon held positions as the Director of Marketing and Development for Alaska Christian College, the co-founder of the comedy series “The Doug and Jon Show”, and Director of Creative Development for RHM Inc. He earned his chops in various other creative roles that challenged him to capture stunning photography and video in harsh environments. Over time he broadened his skills to include graphic design, ad copy, and front-end web design.

    His philosophy for marketing fits firmly into Divining Point’s core values. The power of brand and a mandate for excellence are the foundations for a successful business that generates loyal clients. He approaches every creative project with the goal to evoke emotion in the heart of the observer. To Jon, it’s not enough to create a “good design”. He seeks to motivate people to respond with passion, which in turn produces results.

    Jon currently divides his time between Austin, TX and back home in Kenai, Alaska, which extends the reach of Divining Point’s services. When he’s not behind the camera or editing video, he can be found playing the drums, exploring new travel adventures, and cracking corny jokes.

    Need a full-service team to take your business to the next level? Contact us today. We’re here to help.

  • Divining Point Recognized as Industry Leader

    The marketing world is constantly changing with new innovations and companies on the move. At Diving Point, we act as a guide for your business to help pinpoint areas of your strategy that need improvement to quickly move your business to the top. We specialize in brand identity, digital marketing, content marketing, visual storytelling and social media. In essence, we are a full service team of problem solvers dedicated to your marketing and strategy.

    Clutch, a platform that publishes verified client reviews, spoke to our past clients to get feedback about our process and deliverables. Along with client interviews, Clutch Analysts conducted market research to see how we stack up against our competitors.  We are so excited to announce that we were featured as one of the Top Digital Marketing Agencies in Austin on Clutch!

    Some of our favorite reviews from our Clutch profile are listed below:

    “They have decades of experience in marketing, so they were incredibly detailed, timely, and concise.”

    We were extremely impressed with the value we received and with the thorough and timely delivery of services. We are looking forward to working on bigger projects with them in 2019.”

    “The content strategy and supporting content development work they provided dramatically improved our market visibility and our bottom line”

    “Above all else, I appreciate their ability to listen. I’ve been around this business for 10 years and have worked with firms that don’t always pay attention to their client’s needs. Divining Point internalizes the challenges we communicate to provide creative solutions.”

    Digital Marketing is something that every company needs to embrace. Forbes published an article, which was titled Why Everyone Needs A Digital Marketing Strategythat drives the point home. Essentially, digital marketing gives you insights into your customers and your business which were completely unavailable with traditional marketing mediums.

    That’s not to suggest that traditional methods are outdated or unnecessary. However, digital marketing is now a necessary plank to build the foundation for your entire marketing strategy.

    We are happy that our Clutch reviews reflect the satisfaction of our clients. At Diving Point, we take immense pride in the personal service we provide for our clients, and we do our very best to give them the results they expect.

    Ready to take your business to next level? Give us a call. We’re here to help.

  • 5 Things I’ve Learned From Being In Business

    The Internet is full of articles from seemingly successful entrepreneurs dispensing valuable lessons from their first year in business. I recommend that you read them. Leaving the security of a job to start your own business requires confidence, determination, and all the free advice you can get. Hopefully what follows here are more useful kernels of wisdom to get you past the hard times as an entrepreneur.

    A little backstory is in order. Divining Point is not my first rodeo. My first business was an unfocused mess of a company that helped me pay my way through college, taught me invaluable life lessons, and pushed me into a career path that inevitably brought me here today. In that regard, the first business was a success. But truthfully it resulted in me having to get a job and reconsidering whether I had the mettle to be an independent business owner.

    Fast-forward to four years ago, Divining Point started off as a consultancy, like so many other companies do. I juggled roles. I took full time contracts and after hours freelance projects in order to keep pushing forward with the vision of doing my own thing. I delivered as much value as possible within each 24-hour day, and I did my best to do right by my clients. In April of 2016 I decided to refocus 100% of my efforts on the company and formally give it a name. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way that might be useful to you.

    Be Brave

    Nearly four years ago I left the stability of a good-paying job working with a team of professionals who challenged me, made me laugh, and treated me as an integral part of the organization. To complicate matters, just months before I left my job, I learned that my wife and I were expecting a child. Two weeks later my wife was laid off from a position as a chemical engineer that she’d held for 16 years. I had very little capital and almost no financial safety net. Most people in my shoes would have immediately postponed their plans. And yet, I still left.

    Having been in sales and marketing for over 20 years, I knew I could hustle. I also knew I could help clients get on track with their companies and provide them with valuable strategies for sales and marketing. All I needed to do was push forward and get over the fear of failure. Really, the worst thing that could happen would be having to get another job.

    Embrace the possibility of failure. Accept the risk of financial setbacks. Stay organized and don’t get distracted by the worries in your stomach. Running your own business is an exercise in taming your fear while continuing to work nonstop at peak performance. If you’re not brave and if you’re not focused you’ll get off course and your business will die.

    Redefine Yourself… Often

    If you’re like most people your business will change frequently over many years. The opportunities to service clients and deliver useful products will inevitably evolve. Your company will pivot. Your focus will shift. Technology will change. You will suddenly find yourself making money in ways that didn’t seem possible before. That’s a good thing. In fact, we believe transformation and growth are critical components of success.

    While this change is healthy, what is absolutely disastrous is the failure to redefine your company IN CONJUNCTION with the shifts in your operations. You may identify new opportunities and develop a plan to capitalize on new revenue, but your long-term success will be capped without a roadmap that guides your decision-making.

    To use a more personal analogy, the person you are today is uniquely different than who you were ten years ago. Your core values may be constant, but the way you manifest and embody those values isn’t. What you do, who you speak to, who you service, these are all fluid. As your company grows you should redefine your brand strategy, identity, messaging, and positioning… even your website. Do it often and stay ahead of the changes in the market.

    Be Passionate About Your Business

    Love what you do and whom you do it for. It seems simple enough, but it’s much harder in practice. New entrepreneurs do things they really don’t want to do in order to make money in the early stages of their company. These mistakes are easy to shrug off if you see them for what they are: short term sacrifices.

    The trap comes from repeating these “mistakes” over and over in the pursuit of consistent revenue. You take on too many projects that don’t fall in line with your core competencies. You work with difficult clients in segments outside of your area of expertise. You work long hours in pursuit of poorly fitted “money makers”, and before long the once bright vision of your company is now cloudy and grim. You may as well be working for someone else.

    Don’t take the bait. At some point you need to say No. Do it as a commitment to your company. Be crazy in love with your business in ways that prevent you from cheating on yourself. Find those things you enjoy doing the most that bring the greatest value to your ideal clients – and then stick with it. Be faithful to this vision.

    Don’t Pretend To Have All The Answers

    One of the best lessons I ever learned happened on accident. About 12 years ago I met with a GM of a local auto dealership, and he stumped me with a question I couldn’t answer. I froze for a moment and then gave him the truth: “I don’t know”.

    He nodded and said, “I respect a man who isn’t afraid to say he doesn’t have all the answers.”

    Truth of the matter is no one has all the answers. Having the humility to accept this fact can actually lead a person to greater success. In most cases it’s better to ask questions in pursuit of the truth[nbsp_tc]instead of coming to the table with a ton of preconceived ideas or solutions.

    To extend this even further, not having all the answers can lead to greater collaboration within your organization, better connections with your clients, and more meaningful discoveries. Surround yourself with smart employees, contractors, partners, and clients. Be the conduit that guides all of these energies towards great things instead of being a controller that eventually burns out and turns everyone off.

    Build Bridges

    A very wise friend by the name of Steve Reilly once told me, “Every new opportunity is a bridge to the next stage in your business. Early in your business the bridges will be small, but they’ll become bigger and bigger over time.”

    As I mentioned above, short-term sacrifices make sense early in your company’s genesis. They are bridges to take you to your next destination, but eventually you’ll need to build bigger bridges in order to go further and reach the places you want to take your company.  That means saying No to bad deals and saying Yes to deals that challenge you to stretch outside of your comfort zone – but still within the industries, services, and client types you’ve identified as ideal fits for your company.

    Building bridges also means partnering and networking with people and companies who share your ideals and visions for success. These personal bridges become channel partnerships, referral sources, and cool collaborations that bring about wonderful case studies. Be generous in sharing opportunities with these key allies… and pretty much with everyone you meet. Life rewards people who operate from a position of abundance.

    Building bridges includes managing client engagements with the intention of establishing long-term relationships instead of short transactions. No matter if you sell a commodity or a complex solution, the customer experience should always increase brand loyalty. The client’s needs should always be in mind as you conduct with your daily business.

    Don’t Delay

    If you think you have what it takes to start your own business, do it. Get out, get hustling, and start building those bridges that will take you to where you want to go. The upside is huge. You work for yourself. You work with great employees and contractors. You establish good relationships with clients, and you make money. The worst thing that can happen is you have to go get a job. As a person on his second go round as an entrepreneur I can tell you that’s a perfectly okay outcome, too.

     

    Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.

  • Divining Rods, Compasses, and Maps

    Marketing. Advertising. Sales. Skullduggery.

    To many people these terms are interchangeable. Little distinction is made between blatant manipulation and ethically guiding buyers to make informed decisions.

    Fairly or not, this is largely driven by the perception that many marketers, advertisers, and salespeople use unscrupulous tactics to fulfill their needs instead of the needs of the buyer. As a result, people recoil at the notion of being pressured to buy something they don’t want by someone they don’t know using techniques that make them feel mislead.

    This largely explains the evasive maneuvers buyers use to avoid being sold. Ad blockers are widely used to shut down online ads, and spam filters are a ubiquitous part of everyday email usage. Online shopping allows buyers to conveniently search for better prices and greater variety without ever having to speak to a salesperson.

    As online consumption has shifted to mobile, ad blockers have followed. Even as mobile carriers and marketers shift to adapt to these new filters, ad-averse innovators are quickly testing new technology to block as much sales messaging as possible.

    But Wait, There’s More

    The demographics are not very encouraging. Millennials and higher income populations are most likely to shop online.

    They’re also more likely to use ad blockers.

    Sadly, older generations and lower income segments are following in suit as the process has become more convenient. Across the board more people are shunning unsolicited advances and opting to use other methods to make informed buying decisions. People like to find their own way to the brands and services they want.

    The desire for discovery is universal for both buyers and businesses.

    Whereas buyers seek to make purchases without the marketing thrust of an untrusted company, companies seek to connect with buyers in meaningful ways that provide value and benefit to the customer. This explains the rise of content marketing, search, and data to drive decisions and increase online conversions. But despite what some professionals may say, there is no silver bullet.

    All Businesses Are Different.

    Vision, strategy, and reach are critical for companies seeking growth and transformation. They need a unique process that leads them to buyers and to achieve progress.

    At Divining Point, we guide our clients to greater realization of their goals by uncovering the fundamental aspects of their business, their unique values, and the important traits that define their buyers. Through analysis, exploration, and careful testing, we take the guesswork out of each business initiative.

    Whether we serve as your exclusive agency or we only provide a single service in conjunction with a larger team, our mission is to tear down the walls that separate you and your buyers and prevent your business from finding greater success.

     

    Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.