Are You a Lottery Marketing Victim?

Lottery marketing, like its gaming counterpart, is easy to identify and can be just as addicting.

Put simply, lottery marketing is putting a few dollars and lots of time into every marketing related activity you can think of and hoping, fingers crossed, that one of these activities will work. And they do, just often enough to keep you chasing the next marketing guru idea or content marketing fad.

The rise of social media has decreased the odds that your lottery marketing strategy will work. You may not be spending the kind of money you did with old-school advertising, but your time-sink factor has risen by 1000% because social media outreach is a hungry beast that needs to be constantly and consistently fed to provide even a small return on your investment.

Lottery marketing does not have to be fatal. Here are the top five traps of Lottery Marketing that you need to avoid:

Produce. Produce. Produce. Content and more content: A never ending torrent of content and social media postings. That kind of fire, ready, aim philosophy is the premise of lottery marketing. It will cause you to latch onto the latest hot marketing idea or gimmick without asking important, fundamental business questions like: What is the focus of our content? Is this really the best distribution channel for us? How does this help us reach our goals?

Over Amplification. A second cousin to overproduction, over amplification sends your content out through every possible distribution channel or customer touchpoint in a frantic effort to “get some results” in likes, shares, tweets, etc. Imagine the gambler racing from Mega Millions to Scratchers to Super Lotto Plus to get the winning ticket and, well, you get the idea. The trouble with lottery marketing is that it works just well enough to keep you hooked on the frantic activity.

No Target Audience. That’s lottery marketing in its truest form. This philosophy believes that content marketing is really just a “numbers game.” So, your team sends out thousands of emails, populates your social communities with tons of content, crosses its collective fingers and hopes your number comes up.

Wrong Target Audience. Targeting the wrong audience can be even more expensive than having no target because you are courting people who don’t need or want your services. If you can’t clearly state who your audience is, what your value is, and why they will buy from you rather than someone else­ (in 25 words or less) you’ve got a targeting problem.

Spending Without Tracking. Gamblers never want to look at their losses because the next one will score big. A content marketing lottery player will “double down” on the production engine, spend big on systems, tools and techniques without ever checking their metrics or investing in an analytics dashboard. Don’t let that be your team. Track your results so you can measure your ROI with confidence.

The best way to avoid the trap of Lottery Marketing is to have a content marketing strategy, process and implementation plan in place and stick with it. It’s easier than you might think, and it will save you time and money in the long run.

What’s your story? Are you a Lottery Marketing victim? Or have you got a solid content marketing strategy to share? Please comment and let us know.

Goal Setting is Futile

It’s the fourth quarter of the year. 2020 just around the corner. That’s goal setting time for many businesses. So here’s the question: Has your annual goal setting exercise begun to look like those New Year’s resolutions? You know the ones where you resolve to exercise three times a week or stop eating meat?

Resolved one day and forgotten in a month or two. A typical goal setting scenario is the vision/planning stage; the enthusiasm stage and the slowdown stage as the demands of daily business take over. Goals and initiatives get partially implemented or forgotten.

That’s when goal setting becomes an exercise in futility.

Why does this happen so often?

  1. Goals aren’t SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based. Making sure your goals meet these five criteria is a key component of successful goal setting.
  2. The team, especially leadership, isn’t fully committed. How your team chooses to set its goals can have a big impact on success. Goals set by the team and agreed to by the team will get more energy behind them than goals that are imposed by management or policy.
  3. The day to day supersedes the desired goal. This is the biggest reason most goals are never realized. The intention and the desire are there, but too many other priorities or distractions prevent them from happening.

But that’s not all. Another big reason that goals are never achieved is because there is a gap between goal setting strategy and tactical execution. Yes, the targets are set. Everyone agrees and wants to get going. And then everyone starts going. Great, right? We are taking action!


The good news is the action. The not so good news is that all too often the action is divorced from the strategy. It’s trial and error decision making that ends up treating your precious resources  (people, capital, time) like the lottery. Sometimes you hit the jackpot. Most of the time you don’t.


There is a better way. It’s called Strategic Execution. Strategic Execution bridges the gap between strategy and tactics by developing a well-defined, blueprint and roadmap between the planning and the doing. This roadmap eliminates expensive, time consuming trial and error guesswork so your vision and goals are executed for profitable outcomes and best ROI.

With Strategic Execution you map out the execution plan as carefully as you do your goal setting or business/strategic plans. Here’s a quick overview of the process.

  1. You consider/list all the courses of actions you could take.
  2. You prioritize each action based on how far it will take you toward your goals and what you’ll have to spend to get there (time, money, people, tools) to determine expected ROI.
  3. You make an informed decision, lay out the action steps, and start executing.

Want your 2020 goal setting to go from futile to finished and achieved? Consider Strategic Execution.





Dreading 2020 Planning? You’re Not Alone

Are we ready for 2020? That’s the question many business owners are asking today as we start the planning process for next year. And with that question comes the gut churning, palms sweating reality that — oh no! We have to put together a 2020 plan!

For many, the first challenge is finding the time. How do you fit this planning and prep into a business week already overloaded with meetings, customer visits, production schedules and all the other daily tasks?

Do you break out a few hours on a Friday? Schedule a two-day offsite? Hire a facilitator for a team session? Pay a consultant for a business or strategic plan?

If the very idea of having to stop your momentum to plan for 2020 gets your stomach churning, you are not alone. In fact, for many business owners the business disruption of planning is more painful than the value they get in return. That may be because prior plans were never or only partially implemented.

How often have you taken the time to create a business or strategic plan with every good intension only to have it languish on the shelf while you continue to manage the business by gut instinct?

The cost of doing nothing is expensive

What’s the cost of doing nothing or continuing to manage by gut? Invariably, it’s reactive, crisis management that leads to trial and error decision making. That always costs time and money as you have to keep pivoting to put out the next fire. And how about your team? Reactive management always handcuffs your talented team because they have to wait for you to decide or they crisis manage on their own, compounding the time and money wasted.

Which plan is best for you?

The two most common yearly plans are business plans and strategic plans. A financially driven business plan that details how you will make money is best for companies seeking capital through investment or loan. It lay outs a general operational overview and detailed financial projections. Strategic plans define the businesses’ overall strategy or direction, and determine the resources needed to pursue this strategy. They are best for growing companies that need to scale or take the business to the next level.

Done for you or DIY?

The Done for You option, hiring a coach or consultant to put the plan together, means you have an expert to guide you. Be prepared to spend between $5,000 to $15,000 for the plan depending on the size and complexity of your business. And start now. A consultant-developed plan will take 4 to 12 weeks, depending on your business size and complexity as well as how often you can meet with your consultant or coach.

If you choose to Do It Yourself, you can find lots of resources on the Internet. One of the best known and widely used is the Business Model Canvas. With that option you have to find the time, the knowledge and the tools to plan and then deal with the business disruption that probably caused you to avoid planning in the first place.

Feel your palms getting sweaty again?

Planning for the Speed of Business

At Octain we offer our clients the best of both worlds ¾ a fast, simple approach to planning that gives you a direction and a process you can actually enjoy. Here are three simple steps.

  1. Set three goals: a profit goal; a revenue goal, and a customer growth goal.
  2. Set milestones to chart your progress. These can be monthly or quarterly. We recommend monthly.
  3. Choose your actions. Hold a two-three hour brainstorming session with your team to decide what you will do to achieve your goals. Choose one activity, action or program for each of your three goals.

While not a complete strategy, these simple steps will get your business on the right track – with a defined direction for your team.

That’s fast and simple planning that will eliminate at least half your reactive trial and error decision making.

Want some tools to help get you started? Download our growth plan templates at


Your Customers are Leaving – Why?

Losing customers, especially a big customer, is the nightmare of every business owner. Customers leave for a variety of reasons. Sometimes despite your best efforts. And the number one reason is: something has changed. But what?

In today’s economic environment, everything is always in flux. When customers leave it is often due to one or more of these five factors.

Needs Change. The customer’s needs have changed. A startup business needs to build its inventory, systems and foundation. It requires many new services. A new office, IT support, accounting services. As the business matures, the need may change from accounting to a CPA, from an office suite to buying a commercial building. Needs change through the growth cycle.

Markets change. When the market changes, your product or service which might have been innovative becomes more of a commodity. Price advantages disappear with a new discount plan by a competitor. Or a new product offering raises the feature/benefit bar and your product no longer solves the customer’s problem as well as it once did.

Your product or service changes (or doesn’t change fast enough). In attempt to increase margins you change suppliers creating a product difference that customers don’t like so they look for a new supplier. Or your product doesn’t innovative fast enough to meet customer demand.

Your company has changed. The culture shifts. You and your team start doing things differently. Maybe it’s not so much fun anymore. Maybe you are doing it by the book instead with passion. In a service business this can have a real impact when customers who thought they had a relationship with your company now feel they are simply a transaction.

Poor service experience. This is number one reason customers leave. More than price or product quality or competitive offers. Customers leave because they don’t enjoy doing business with you now. You take too long to respond. They feel unheard, unloved, most of all unwanted.

Keep Them Happy

Keeping your customers and clients with you means keeping them happy. Here are three ways to keep a smile on their face and their dollars in your account.

Manage your internal growing pains. Notice how three of these five factors are linked to your company’s internal operations rather than your customers behavior. How you handle common growing plans like development, delivery and customer service response as you grow are critical to customer retention.

Your systems must not only handle today’s customer needs, they must be robust enough to manage the next wave of growth. Don’t wait until your delivery, production or account services team is maxed out before you add capacity or people. If you are forecasting growth, start adding when you are at 80%.

Anticipate customer shifts. Know what is going on and more importantly, what’s happening next. Staying on top of changes in your market, industry, competitive space is as important as making that next sale if you want to be prepared to serve your customers’ changing needs and wants. Without that outward focus, you risk being blindsided by a key impact change that you did not see coming.

Beyond just knowing what is happening, learn to anticipate change so you can predict what your best customers are likely to do next.

Start with your own sales records. Review these monthly or more if you are in a fast-growing industry. Consider: volume changes; order intervals, buying pattern changes, and more that lets you take a pulse of your customers’ behavior.

Know the Competition. The fastest and easiest way to get blindsided in the market is to miss what the competition is doing. Your competition is not just your direct business competitors, it is anyone or anything that your customers compare you to.

A quick start way to keep an eye on the competition is to list the other options customers and clients have. Include companies and other market options. Then set up Google Alerts to track them. Go beyond tracking company mentions and track specific product names or product/market categories. I recommend setting up a separate @gmail address for these alerts so you can check them as desired and avoid needless distractions.

Want help with any of these strategies? Contact



Photo by from Pexels

Six Growth Maximizers for Scaling Your Business

Gaining traction. Scaling up. Maximizing business value. Whatever your definition of business growth is, investing in these six proven business accelerators is bound to make a difference.

We call them Market Fuel Strategies because they are designed to bring new energy to your business operations and increased profit to your bottom-line.

In hundreds of client engagements across the past 15 years, I have found that these six factors, when planned for, can have a dramatic impact on company, product and customer success.

As you consider these six accelerators, ask yourself:
1) How well are we doing today in this area?
2) Where do we want to be this time next year?
3) What is it going to take to get us there?

There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s look at each in detail. Today, we take a deep dive into product/service fuel. Over the next few weeks we will examine the rest of these six business accelerators and offer ideas on how to make them work better for your business.

Product Fuel

Your product fuel is driven by these three attributes:
• Product Strength: the marketability of your product/service based on the benefits and features that you offer to your customers.
• Competitive Strength: capabilities which enable you to take advantage of new market potential in competitive situations.
• Customer Strength: the match between your product results and your customer’s needs and wants. This drives market penetration.

Think of these as the lens from which to evaluate your product/service success.

Here’s a tool to help you determine the competitive and market strengths of your products and services. The key question is listed across the top. Examples are product strength features to consider. Add your own!

First, list the product or service’s top three strengths. You can determine that by answering a simple question: Why do customers choose your product over the alternative? The top three reasons are, from a market perspective, your top strengths.

Second, consider your competitive strength from two angles: 1) List your competitive advantages (product features, service practices, pricing, delivery, etc.); 2) consider your market opportunity: how many customers who could buy this product or service are actually buying it?

State as a percentage from 1% to 100%. The difference between your number and 100% is your market penetration opportunity.

Third, consider your customer strength by your ability to sell more of your product or service to additional customers (upsell) and new customer or market types you might be able to reach.

Once you have completed this snapshot, you should have a pretty good answer to the first and second accelerator questions: How well are we doing today in this area? Where do we want to be this time next year?

The third question – what is going to take to get us there? That’s all about resources: time, money, tool and talent. What resources do you have in your company to address the challenge and what do you need to get?

What’s the next step? Consider these:

• Where you are strong but not well known in the market, the accelerator step is most likely a new marketing or sales program.

• Where you are weak, especially competitively, the accelerator step is most likely product improvements or new product development.

Are You Too Busy To Grow?

Your business is moving full speed ahead and there aren’t enough hours in the day to meet all your customer, product and sales obligations. You’re slammed, so of course your business or practice is growing! How could it not be? We are serving customers, moving product, increasing sales.

Well, not so fast. Your business can be sprinting along but not necessarily growing. What’s the difference?

Speed is rapidly moving, traveling, speeding or performing. Speed is an activity.

Growth is a business, industry or equity that is expected to increase in value over a period of time. Growth is a process and an outcome.

Growth can be fast. If so, it brings the noted advantages of success and recognition as well as the disadvantages of over extension and profit killing curve balls. Growth can also be slow, measured, intentional and sustainable.

Ask yourself these five questions to see if your speed is truly yielding the long-term sustainable growth your business needs to thrive.

1. Are you so focused on getting things done today that you may be setting yourself up for a dry spell tomorrow? We all know the adage, working in your business instead of working on your business. It creates the kind of boom-bust cycle that too many business owners fall into.

2. What about fulfillment? Are you so busy booking orders that you fall behind in providing exceptional customer service? Are you stretching or missing production deadlines? Your booking speed is breaking your production capability and maybe your people as well.

3. How well are you nurturing long term relationships? Is the customer to come more enticing than the one who has been with you for months or years? Speed to growth often comes at the expense of loyal customers. That reduces your customer life time value, a key sustainable growth metric.

4. How about speed versus productivity? Does the push to do more, more, more create the opportunity for error? If so, do-overs to correct mistakes cost time, money and (see #3) customer and employee relationships.
5. Income versus profit? Speed can produce dramatic revenue increases but if the structures, processes, people and production are not there to support those sales, the speedy rise can forecast a speedy fall.

If any of these sound like you, your team or your day to day business operations, it’s time for a change. Here are two key steps you can take to move your mindset and business practices from speed to growth.

1. Take stock. Take a long look at each of the five areas outlined above. The Key Question: In each area, are my current activities and practices improving my long-term business viability and value or undermining it?

2. List the areas that need improvement from most needed to least needed. The Key Question: If you could only change one thing, what change would have the most positive and long-lasting change on your business growth?

Focus on changing that one thing first. Experience the difference one growth step can make.

What are your thoughts? Let’s talk about it, reach out. Contact or 530-363-2043.

Turn Competitive Info into Cash


There’s information gold in knowing what your competitors are doing and how they’re doing it. The trick is finding it and then knowing what to do with it.

Most of us know in general who our competitors are and what products and services they offer. But too often we don’t know much more than that or if we do know we may not be using the information as effectively as we could to improve sales, marketing and customer service operations.

This is where a new focus on competitors, called Competitive Marketing can help. When you focus more specifically and directly on what your competitors are doing and how well they are doing it, you gain the competitive advantage.

Done well, Competitive Marketing means you can almost predict what your competitors are going to do next and convert that information into cash.

Know Them

A strong Competitive Marketing plan includes these ten elements.

  1. Competitor name and general background information
  2. Corporate Team Background
  3. Products and Services
  4. Market Strength and Presence
  5. Branding/Message/Customer Focus
  6. Customer Loyalty Index
  7. Pricing
  8. Product Trends and Directions
  9. Lead Sources/Win-Loss Analysis
  10. SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

Beat Them

If this sounds a lot like competitive research or analysis, you’re right. The difference between competitive analysis and Competitive Marketing is what you do with what you know.

Competitive research gathers the data, competitive analysis draws conclusions and provides recommendations, Competitive Marketing turns that information into better, more effective sales and marketing tools. Tools that result in your company’s ability to:

  • Win more sales deals
  • Arm internal customer champions with competitive facts
  • Give customer confidence in their choice of product/service
  • Train new sales reps
  • Provided a better customer experience
  • Improve strategic planning
  • Accelerate new product development

Competitive Marketing is an emerging new area of marketing that entrepreneurs, marketers and business owners can use to create tools to leverage their company strengths and protect against their weaknesses. To know your competitors is to beat them at their own game.







What’s Your Social Business Personality?

How you show up in your social communities matters. It matters a lot. Your personality probably shows up naturally in your personal social media interactions. But what about your business?

Global corporations spend millions creating “personalities” to represent their businesses. Personalities like “Flo” from Progressive Insurance or the AFLAC duck or even good ole “Tony the Tiger” from yester-year.

Your business has a personality too. Especially when it comes to social business. Your personality is more than just a way of connecting, it has an impact on the kind of content you deliver, the kind of connections you make, and how people will do business with you and refer you.

It’s that important.

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Is Your Content a Little Tyrant?

We all know that content is king but what do you do when your “content king” turns into a little tyrant? What happens to your marketing campaigns when content becomes an end in itself instead of a means to the end of connecting you to your customers?

Content becomes a tyrant when it drives the message instead of amplifying the message, the vision or the story. It becomes a tyrannical beast when the end goal of your content production is meeting a content quantity goal or due date instead of providing valuable educational, inspirational or practical insights.

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