May 272011
 

How many e-mail messages do you send everyday?  You’re probably missing out on a simple, inexpensive marketing tool.  Seize the opportunity to promote your business to a highly targeted market without spending a cent by utilizing your e-mail signature line. If your email signature line only contains your name and contact information, you’re missing out on advertising to e-mail recipients that have opted for communications from you.

These people are key members of your unofficial marketing network.  They are your prospects, clients, press contacts and colleagues and your signature line is the perfect, unobtrusive space for a unique promotional pitch. Try these tactics to turn your “sign-offs” into sales:

  • Highlight what your company offers.
  • Offer an incentive for recipients taken a specified action.
  • Use the associated web address for the incentive, if it’s also on your site.
  • Give better visual positioning to the promotion rather than contact info.
  • Play with eye-catching fonts and colors.
  • Use less than 64 characters/line so that words don’t wrap to a new line.
  • Write a “signature” for different categories of recipients.
  • Change your signature copy frequently.
  • Never miss a chance to get your product or company noticed.

Another thing that many entrepreneurs don’t think about is the letters they send out.  They are merely accepted as solving a problem or answering a need, when you can carry the e-mail idea over into every piece of mail you generate. On the company letterhead simply add a line at the bottom of page 1.  It could be a “tag line” of sorts made up of a slogan that “brands” your services or business.  Try to come up with something unique so that every time it’s heard the prospect thinks of you. Examples of this would be, “Good to the last drop” which of course is Maxwell House Coffee.  “Finger-lickin’ good” which is KFC chicken, and so on.

Play around with this until you come up with a pearl that is uniquely you. If your business/service does not lend itself to this idea, then focus on increasing your credibility by using a “membership” tag line.  For instance a funeral home would be less than tasteful using the line, “Our clients are dying to visit us;” but they could use the line “Members of Undertakers Assoc. of America” at the foot of their letterhead.  This establishes immediate credibility in the mind of the recipient, even if the letter they received was a direct mail advertising letter. When you’re an entrepreneur in today’s marketplace you have to be inventive and creative to buck the “big boys” on the block. It isn’t always the almighty dollar that gets the best advertising for our business; it’s the best IDEA that makes you STAND OUT IN THE CROWD.

Apr 022011
 

Ask yourself are you paddling or floating your canoe down the river of your business life?  If you’re floating then you’re on the defense, if you’re paddling then you’re on the offense – where do you want to be?

In today’s business climate, if you’re not on the offensive then you’re being whipped and buffeted from every side by the obstacles you encounter.  If something isn’t working in your advertising and you’re a floater, then you just wait until next week, or next month and see if it improves.  But if you’re paddling and guiding your business, then you’re busy working out how to fix what’s not working.

Take for instance that big boulder in the river known as “competitive intelligence”, which refers to the knowledge needed to implement successful competitive strategies. If you haven’t got a handle on this it can spell disaster to your business.  Let’s look at an example of what I mean.

Suppose you find out that a competitor has dropped the price on a product competing directly with your business’ highest gross margin item.  Before you drop your price to match, ask yourself whether this could affect your ability to compete.  If the answer is “yes”, you should do a bit of investigating to answer some key questions like:

  • Is the price cut an unequivocal comparison, or have certain features/services been modified?
  • Is the price drop sufficient to overcome customer inertia to change?
  • Does the competitor have the capacity to handle increased demand without damaging customer satisfaction?
  • Is the price change restricted to one territory or account, or is it across-the-board?

Effective strategy covers product design, branding, services, and a host of other variables that, in total, comprise your competitive edge.  Protecting your edge requires a real-time stream of knowledge about the changing competitive landscape.  The most significant fund of ongoing information, on an ongoing basis is your sales force.

Salespeople have the most direct contact with customers, and have customer feedback on the competition which is both real and perceived.  However, their job is to sell, so it’s important that you make them aware of their importance and involvement in gathering competitive intelligence.

For the successful collecting of information from the sales force, you must prove to them and their sales managers that the process is of value to them. This means you have some homework to do which is gathering information that is already available internally.  Look at and analyze call reports, won-lost reports, and sales records for red flags and trends.  A competitive move in one territory may seem insignificant until added to information from other territories, or as part of a global rollout strategy.

Augment these finding with public data from published sources and industry analysts, and you can offer your sales force tips on competing more successfully.  By initiating the information sharing process, you will encourage reciprocity on the part of sales once they see what’s in it for them.

In addition to the sales force, people from other functions in your firm are often repositories of useful competitor information.  Accounting, procurement, HR, and other functions attend professional meetings with competitor counterparts and may have bits and pieces of the competitive landscape puzzle.  Do they know how important this data is, and have you motivated them to share it?

This is but one little corner of your business life, but unless you’re on the offense – paddling instead of floating – you’ll lose your edge and be left in the dust by your competitors.  Personally, I’d rather be paddling my little heart out instead of being tossed by whatever winds blow my way.

Mar 062011
 

Your most important skill as a business owner is your salesmanship.  Having the best product or service means nothing if you can’t get anyone to buy it, so to ensure the success of your business you must develop the ability to generate revenue – “salesman-ship”.  The techniques that follow aren’t difficult to learn, but they require discipline and practice.

Here is a brief outline of 13 techniques for increasing sales:

USE THE PHONE

Absolutely the cheapest, most effective, and efficient way to find customers is by phone. Yes, “cold-calling”!   Write out a script for this before you call, so you don’t sound vague.  Introduce yourself, your company, the purpose of the call, and give a brief “benefit” of your product/service to the client – “What will you do for his/her business?”  Be brief, to the point, and have 10 possible objections you might get, answered in your script. This way you’re prepared for the customary “brush-off.”  Always try to get a firm commitment to a meeting.  This call is not to “sell” the client, it’s to get a face-to-face meeting to establish credibility – and then to sell him/her.  Would you buy from a voice on the phone?  No!   You want to see the vendor and listen to his offer.

SHOUT IT FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOP

You should always be looking for new customer, and giving seminars, teaching, guest speaking at trade shows and organizations, or writing an article for your trade magazine or business journal establishes you as an “expert” in your field.  People like to buy from experts because it reduces their fear of making a bad decision.  Everyone can overcome their fear of public speaking, so find the method that works best for you and do it. As a desperate step, join a Toastmaster’s group near you.

ASK QUESTIONS

Most salespeople think that the first meeting with the prospect is the only chance to make a sale. WRONG! Before you go into your “pitch” ask questions, take notes, what are your prospects goals, challenges, etc.  Helping a prospect solve a business problem creates a “win-win” relationship and closes more sales than you think.

AVOID “PRODUCT DUMPING”

Telling your prospect all about your product/service before you know their needs is a mistake made by 95% of salespeople.  This is an inefficient selling method and upon reflection, your client will lose faith in you.  I’ve met with clients on several occasions and left them with some advice and good feelings, but no sale and that’s alright.  Because in the future I’m likely to get “word of mouth” referrals from them, which will outweigh what I might have made if I had simply “sold” them a service that wasn’t an answer to their problem.  Remember – nothing adds more to your credibility than a referral from a satisfied prospect.

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS

Selling is a numbers game, and you need to learn your “selling ratios.”  How many prospecting calls do you need to get a meeting, and how many meetings to get a sale.  This allows you to manage your cash flow by forecasting your sales. It also tells you how many calls are needed to increase your sales revenue.

 

HAPPY SELLING!

Mar 022011
 

Strange as it may seem, our life is made up of a series of “sales presentations”.  Sales may not be your gig, but if you’re the boss you’re making presentations everyday.  Be it a pitch to your Board, announcing a policy change to employees, selling an idea to your spouse, or just trying to win others over to your point of view – you need to punch up your people skills for winning pitches.

Like it or not, we are all salesmen.  Our lives are made up of a series of “sales presentations”, otherwise known as presenting one’s self in the best light possible. Whether we’re out for a job interview, trying for a raise, or just convincing our employees that a job must be accomplished – you are making a presentation.

To become masterful at it can be summed up in the acronym I PRESENT!

ü  I – involve your audience

Human nature is such that people support solutions that they help create, so involve them by allowing your audience to participate with questions or ideas. It goes without saying that to not involve key people is risky, because messages can be misunderstood.  Your plans may be derailed before they begin if sufficient “buy-in” is lacking.  Use lots of open-ended questions in your presentation to draw out the silent type.

ü  P – prepare your audience

Preparation is the key to success.  Prepare your listeners to what’s coming during or before your presentation.  Try these pre-meeting tactics:

  • Assign task-related pre-work. This could be pre-reading or study of a problem, and the preparations of possible solutions.  An example could be, “go and visit three kinds of accounts before the meeting.”
  • Make pre-meeting contacts with those invited by email, phone, or in person.  You might want to try an informal survey to get people’s position on the issues at hand.

Remember support on key or controversial matters can be established ahead of time by lobbying, if you know where to lobby.

ü  R – research your arsenal

Do your research!  People who make it look easy are effective presenters who have a hidden arsenal.  This is an arsenal of up-to-date, organized material that can be accessed quickly in ready-to-use form when needed.  They have the stats to back up their ideas, and they have a mental arsenal of stories, examples, jokes, and ice-breakers to use when needed.

Your physical presentation could include tangible items relating to the issue such as recent articles clipped from newspapers or magazines, photographs, reports, and demonstration property.  To become masterful in this art learn to maintain resources you can access for just the right thing at the right time.

ü  E – explain “Why?”

The next thing you must do is to explain “why”.  The single most powerful thing you can do to convince your audience of something is to provide a convincing reason why they should do what you suggest or believe what you say.  People want and need a clear “WIIFM” – “what’s in it for me?” – to be able to react positively to what you want them to do.  It’s extremely important that you deliver a vision of benefits.  Hearing the “why” won’t automatically generate a “yes” to your proposition, but it’ll open the door for receptivity to your idea.

Knowing and accepting the “why” satisfies a basic need that we all have – to understand the purpose of our actions.  Use the words “because” or “so that” in your presentation and then finish the phrase.  When your subject matter is controversial or likely to generate emotions, it is essential that your “why’s” be tested in advance.  Ask some people you trust or that are on your “team” to play devil’s advocate to help you with your logic and arguments.

These are just four points for making successful presentations.  For now, let me leave you with this thought…..

Life is a sales presentation from beginning to end. From the moment that we discern how to get approval as children, winning friends at school, getting our first beau, getting our first (and subsequent) job, getting engaged and married, achieving our goals, and anything else you can think of in between – we’re selling ourselves or our ideas all along the way.  Who said you weren’t a salesperson?

Jan 132010
 

Most businesses do not realize that billboards are highly effective marketing tools.  They are conveying your marketing messages for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!  Most small business owners think that advertising on billboards are expensive.  In actual fact, it is less expensive than print ads and reaches a wider demographic.  To get most out of your billboard advertising, always keep in the mind the location and the type of billboard.

DESIGN

To make your point, use both words and pictures to capture attention of auto traffic.  Because of this, your billboard needs to get the message across in a simple yet effective way.  It not only intrigues customers but also lets them know how to get to you.

Use bright happy colour combinations that are not too distracting to evoke positive emotional reactions.  Blue and white, or yellow with black trim are good examples.  Also, use colours that can be seen at various times of the day since the billboard is up 24 hours a day.

THE MESSAGE

A catchy phrase may be enough.  Use a good tag line that does not get diluted by too many words or other elements in the picture.  Less is more and works best with an intriguing picture and simple sentence followed by the company logo or contact.  Your message should be within five lines.  Capture your company’s essence in a phrase, if possible.  Keep the font large and readable from a distance.  Make sure that your billboard does not split the design hence compartmentalizing different plausible interpretations.

TYPES OF BILLBOARDS

There are large billboards that show the next movie blockbuster to smaller ones on bus benches, building illuminations and cinema advertising.  Buses and taxis are interesting methods too.  Keep in mind there are various types to meet the marketing budgets of most companies.