Category Archives: Sales

Grow Your Business With Proven Word of Mouth Marketing Strategies

Word of Mouth Marketing, the oldest form of marketing is gaining ground again. How can business owners beat the current recession with Word of Mouth Marketing?

Educate and Nurture Your Current Customers

Don’t put all emphasis on new customer acquisition, but affirm your current customers,
find ways to develop loyalty programs that increase the lifetime value of your customers. Reward
clients with your time, attention and little extras – they will become enthusiastic promoters for your products and services.

Get Known as an Expert in a Niche Community

Are you creating compelling stories (ideas, articles, informative presentations or videos) that are picked up and shared person-to-person via social networking sites or within niche communities? If not, observe successful entrepreneurs in your niche and find out how they have become experts and what has contributed to their success. Participate in discussions, create conversations and relationships that help you become an expert and share your ideas.

Offer Pleasant Surprises to Create Viral Marketing

Surprising your clients is worth your time, since it gives you an opportunity to exceed their expectations and satisfied customers will be back. It is not hard to come up with a special offer or free complimentary service, you can always add something remarkable to your product. The level of expectations changes fast these days, you have to be creative and continuously find new ways to “over deliver” so that your customers keep having new reasons to talk about you. Get to know your customers, their habits and buying patterns, develop a system to pleasantly surprise them.

Become and Stay Referable

Never stop learning how to be better and more efficient at what you do. Give your customers every reason to drum up more business for you and find out why or why not people refer you. Always welcome opportunities to meet and help other small business owners. Be interested in their business and volunteer activities. You will learn from them, also share your expertise and they will refer you as they get to know, like and trust you. You and your business will be on their mind as people in their network need products or services that you offer. Find time in your busy day to send thank you cards and notes to people who have made a difference in your life. Make it effortless for your loyal clients to provide information about you, your products and services (make sure they have your business cards and promotional materials, etc.) If you become and stay referable, you don’t have to try to sell your business to others, it will come to you.

Top 10 Challenges Professional Service Providers Must Overcome to Generate New Clients and Revenues

I would like to share my fellow Duct Tape Marketing Coach Bill Doerr’s advice:

Challenge 1
“Not seeing enough people”

Probable Cause/s:

* insufficient level of marketing-related activities

Corrective Strategy:
Be sure you’re engaging in appropriate activities at an adequate level for the client acquisition and revenue-generation goals you have. Seems obvious and may correct any deficiency right there. As one respondent said, “Get of your office and go see some people!”. Sage advice.

Challenge 2

Dealing with ‘high maintenance’ prospects and clients

Probable Cause/s:

* not clear about who is ‘right’ for the business or practice (i.e. who is ‘qualified’ to work you?)
* not using that profile at the ‘moment of truth’ with a prospective client or referral source

Corrective Strategy:
Define your ‘ideal client’ and don’t compromise your own standards. A number of people lamented that their willingness to take ‘anyone with an open checkbook’ often led to a client engagement that, in the end, proved frustrating for all parties. Just don’t do it! Identify specific ‘knockout’ factors and, if present, avoid engaging with those people.

Challenge 3
Prospects (and, some clients!) are asking us for ‘lower fees’ or ‘better pricing’

Probable Cause/s:

* not focusing on the value you provide vs. the fee you are charging

Corrective Strategy:

Charge a ‘fixed’ fee for your services rather than billing by the hour. Why? Understand that an hourly rate is something you need to know to be sure your pricing is profitable for your business or practice. It is NOT something your clients need to know. In fact, most don’t like hourly billing (survey your clients and you’ll confirm that one!).

What they do need to know is the answer to this question: “What’s it going to cost me . . . if I use you or, if I don’t?” Once framed that way, any ‘price’ you’ll ask for will be positioned around the VALUE you represent, not the time you have to invest in a project that will provide the client what they want. In my own experience, ‘package’ pricing invariably causes more services to be sold and better margins to be maintained than providers who bill ‘by the hour’.

Challenge 4

Losing bids to other firms (who are arguably less qualified, too!)

Probable Cause/s:

* No system for helping clients to make a decision is present
* Not skilled at using a system for helping clients to make a decision
* Not seen as a preferred provider of your services

Corrective Strategy:
The first two causes will be addressed by a systematic approach to helping someone make a decision . . . in short, ‘selling’. Seen as an essential aspect of your professional advocacy role, it’s an incumbent responsibility of every professional to help clients make decisions about their services – including the decision NOT to use them. But it must be a deliberate decision, not a decision by default because it wasn’t made deliberately.

If prospects fail to perceive you as a preferred provider you are not differentiating yourself to your marketplace. To differentiate yourself, you must be both beneficial and unique. Being yourself is about as unique as it gets. So you need to learn how to demonstrate the beneficial ‘edge’ you offer that will cause you to stand out to your prospective clients.

For service providers the ‘secret’ is to learn how to manage the experience your prospects have with you during the courtship phase of your relationship so they will feel, all things being equal, that you and your firm are definitely the preferred providers of your problem-solving expertise.

Challenge 5

Finding it distasteful to have to ‘sell’ and/or ‘market’ our services

Probable Cause/s:

* An attitude of advocacy . . . as a fiduciary of your client’s interests is missing

Corrective Strategy:
Reframe ‘selling’ as a ‘moral responsibility’ that your professionalism demands. Selling is simply ‘client-centered advocacy’. Think of a physician who ‘advocates’ a course of therapy for a patient not because they want a fee as much as they want their patient to be healthy. So too, you must see that such client-centered advocacy is a high calling and not something much lower . . . in your humble opinion. More than one respondent offered the admonition to “just get over yourself”. I hope this perspective will help you do just that.

Challenge 6
No sense that EVERYONE is responsible for marketing in the firm

Probable Cause/s:

* leadership has not communicated that marketing IS everyone’s responsibility
* There is no consequence for not bringing in clients (or, doing things that would!)

Corrective Strategy:

If you / your firm hasn’t made this expectation public . . . do so! Rewrite everyone’s position description (yes, even the receptionists’) to include behaviors that support ‘marketing’. Unless and until marketing behavior is expected and inspected, it’s likely not to happen. Better yet, post this expectation in locations where you will be re-minded of it frequently.

Challenge 7

Not having time to devote to marketing my services

Probable Cause/s:

* No need to market (see Challenge #6)
* No plan – so no marketing activities have been identified to do in the first place
* No skills – you know what to do and why but you still don’t allocate time for it

Corrective Strategy:
Create and use a ‘Marketing Activity Plan’ to ensure you’re allocating your time to what some call the ‘mission critical’ activities so the ‘mission’ of your planning will be accomplished. And brushing up on your time management skills might be a good idea, too!

Challenge 8
Not leveraging our relationships with existing clients to find new ones

Probable Cause/s:

* Not asking for help from existing clients
* Asking but ineffectively

Corrective Strategy:

Learn to use an effective referral system with existing clients and centers-of-influence. Two possibilities to consider might be: “Referral Flood” by Duct Tape Marketing or The Preferral Prospecting System®

Challenge 9

Not developing long-term relationships for the referrals and revenues they offer

Probable Cause/s:

* No system for following-up
* No system for keeping-in-touch
* Not using such systems even if present

Corrective Strategy:
Get – and use – a system for

1. following-up, and
2. keeping-in-touch

in a manner that is as professional as you are.

While no one will argue these two functions aren’t important, many cite they either don’t know how or feel they’ll come off a ‘less than professional’. The key is not to ignore the need to do these things but to find a way to do so that won’t be offensive – to you or your marketplace.

Challenge 10
Focusing on client acquisition activities at the expense of client retention activities

Probable Cause/s:

* myopic mindset . . . “Need MORE Revenues? Get NEW Clients!”
* inability to appreciate that not all revenues are equally profitable to your firm

Corrective Strategy:

Consider that the cost of acquiring a project from a new client is much more costly (cost of sales) than generating a project from an existing client. In his book, “The Loyalty Effect” Theodore Reicheld explains that many firms don’t see a profit until an account has been with them for some time. Implication: “equal revenues with high turnover is less profitable than equal revenues with lower turnover”. Point: Keep-in-touch and stay-in-mind with your existing clients so whenever a need arises . . . you’ll be there and . . . seen as the preferred provider that you are.

BONUS!!
Doing more than expected . . . without being asked – (so here’s my little ‘extra’ for you!)

Challenge 11
Not getting people to buy or refer us when there’s no apparent reason not to do so

Probable Cause/s:

* Trust (or, a significant lack of it!)

Corrective Strategy:

For any professional or business service provider, trust is an essential element to the formation and maintenance of a productive client relationship. If trust is an issue, getting and keeping clients will be highly problematic if not impossible.

From The National Networker

12 Rules for Being a Great Marketer

 I found a great post by Steve Tobak on the BNET site.  Here’s what he tells us:

 12 Rules for Being a Great Marketer (Part I, Rules 1 – 6)

  • Sales is your friend. The whole “natural tension between sales and marketing” thing is a dysfunctional crock. Sales owns the customer relationship. As a marketer, one of your key functions is to facilitate sales’ ability to sell your products. You need each other and your goals can and should be aligned.
  • Be patient with your boss and peers. Not coincidentally, strong leaders and managers often tend to be controlling individuals. That means they can become easily frustrated with things they don’t understand, i.e. marketing. Be patient and pay attention to their feedback.
  • Remember, you have way more customers than you think. The executive staff, your peers, product development, manufacturing, sales, finance, HR, employee communications, they’re all stakeholders in the marketing function. Treat them as such. 
  • Bond with the development and product people. This goes way beyond educating and teaching. These are very smart people with a strong, vested interest in what you plan to do with their product. Bond with them, listen to them, understand their issues and concerns, make them partners in your “process;” it’ll pay off big-time.
  • Teach, teach, teach. Successful marketers are strong communicators and educators. Spend as much time teaching and educating internally as you do networking and meeting with customers externally. Again, it’ll pay off.
  • Measure and communicate results. The biggest slam on marketing is that it’s an expense black hole with no metrics to measure results. Be disciplined. Spend 10 percent of your budget on metrics for key programs and take the time to communicate results – both good and bad – to stakeholders. Do it.

Small Business Lessons Learned in 2008

1.    Not very profitable, but time – consuming demanding customers tend to refer prospects and customers who reflect their style and values.

2.    Customers who value you and what you do are the best referral sources.

3.    Set boundaries for your customers from the outset, tell them “This is how we work…”, otherwise they will create their own boundaries.

4.    Pay attention when your prospect complains about being treated badly by the rest of the world including partners, vendors, consultants and former customers – you may become the next entrepreneur they will complain about.      

 5.    If you are a coach or consultant, try to avoid customers who have never worked with a consultant, unless they show sure signs of their willingness to learn and implement new things.      

6.    Social networking is important, but prioritize – plan your activities and their frequency, otherwise social networking becomes a burden.       

7.    Get to know your associates, subcontractors and business partners before you commit to long-term projects – mavericks may be crucial to changing this world, but they may not always contribute to helping you achieve your goals.      

8.    Become a frequently improving, always up-to-date resource for other small business owners and your customers.      

9.    Reward your best customers, subcontractors and business partners.     

10.    If you are very driven, results oriented, nimble and forward looking – don’t take on customers who are not.I am sure that 2009 will be a year of re-evaluation, reinvention, recycling and repurposing as we all try to find smarter cost-effective ways of living and conducting business.  Will small business owners see a light in the end of a tunnel in 2009? 

Should You Buy a Laptop or a Netbook for Your Small Business?

minicomputer.jpg

Netbooks (mini laptops) usually aren’t as capable, but are smaller and cheaper than a PC. The small netbooks are lightweight, less expensive than a PC, and can easily fit into a handbag or a briefcase. More than 11 million consumers bought one for as little as $269 in 2008, and prices may continue to fall. PC makers say notebook computer prices could be affected by the trend, possibly with a 20 percent drop from early 2008 prices by the end of 2009.

The $269 netbook is made by Asus ‘Eee PCs (Eee stands for “Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play.”). They are designed for basic tasks of Web surfing, email and word processing. They can do Wi-Fi but have a limited storage drive capacity. To keep costs down, some Asus models ship with the Linux operating system rather than Microsoft Windows.

The keyboards are small, which could be a problem for some people, but the size is perfect for children and high school students.

Dell’s $349 – $399 Inspiron Mini 9 has an 8.9-inch LED screen. It has 512 MB of system memory and Intel’s Atom 1.6-Ghz processor.

You can order it with Windows XP operating system instead of Linux. Dell has three netbooks, all of which have USB ports, other features and four hours of battery life, depending on the applications being used.

The $309 Acer Aspire One has a bright 8.9-inch screen, a 120-gigabyte hard disk and one gigabyte of memory. It’s about an inch thick. The keys are large and separated in order to make typing comfortable for limited work.

For $50 extra, you can double your battery power.

Improve Your Sales and Marketing Skills

In tough economic times, customers may be feeling more pain than you know. They want to feel better, and you can help. Show how your product or service can solve a problem or improve their bottom line.

* Making more money for yourself should not be your goal. Making yourself the best you can be is a better choice.

* Be happy even when you can’t get an appointment or close the sale. Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, consultant to 50 of the top Fortune 100 companies, says rejection allows the game to continue. Send a gift to the one who turned you down and you will be remembered.

* Prepare. Know what your prospect will say and what your response will be. Study your prospects and their operation so you know the answers.

* Speak in a natural conversational way. If you memorize a script, you may come across as dull. Be prepared, and you will be able to improvise on the spot.

* Make a connection if there is an opportunity. Master small talk.

* Know that sales are not entirely based on the logic and intelligence of the prospect.

* Believe in the benefits your product or service will provide. Think of what the product or service will do and love it.

Best salespeople I know are all good communicators, they love people and know how to handle rejection.