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.

Nov 052010
 

When the first generation of women entered the workforce in earnest in the 1970s, they succeeded in the only way they could – by imitating men.  Authoritarian leadership and tight control was the hallmark of business style back then, and women were not exactly welcomed into the ranks of management.  Well ladies, that was yesterday, and today is today!

Today’s CEO/entrepreneur can no longer tap his/her company’s full potential using a “command-and-control” style.  The 21st century business woman needs to be able to build a vision based on the awareness of economic transformation, then help her partners and staff fulfil that vision.  She must draw on a wide range of skills to get to the top and stay there.

Following are 7 Key Characteristics that are essential:

Sell the Vision:

A leader with a fresh, independent plan for her company’s growth and future has a distinct advantage in luring and keeping great talents and investors.  Vision is not some lofty ideal, but an obtainable concept that is easy to understand and will make the company grow to another level.

Reinvent the Rules:

While women have traditionally been socialized to please others, the 21st century leader knows that good girls rarely post great returns. The strong managers/owners today not only anticipate change, they create entirely new organizations that respond to shifts and search for innovation.

Achieve With A Laser Focus:

Take the path where others fear to tread!  Being aggressive and ambitious has long been considered male traits, but they are key qualities for new leaders.  Today’s business woman has the ability to home in on opportunities that others may simply not see, and then excel in that uncharted territory.

Use High-Touch in a High-Tech Era:

When a number of leaders are conducting business by e-mail, voice mail, passwords, and PINs, the female entrepreneur succeeds because she guides with a strong, personal, bed-side manner.  Today’s business woman is just as technologically savvy as her peers, but her skill with staff and customers is “high-touch” which gives her a critical edge and separation from the “pack”.

Challenge or Opportunity?

Women are great at turning a challenge into an opportunity instead of using the “slash-and-burn” approach.  They are able to make bold strokes, but they also win the cooperation of others in the organization in making any transformation a success.

A Customer Preference Obsession:

In this information age which makes it easier to shop around for the best “whatever”, businesses must work harder to give people what they want before their competitors do.  There is no substitute for spending time with clients to become expert at their businesses and learn their demands.  Female leaders are almost intuitively adept in doing just that, and without the client even suspecting.

Courage Under Fire:

Show me any career woman or female entrepreneur today that isn’t able to “stand-the-heat” in any tough-call situation.  Their decision-making skills are rooted in a high level of confidence, because they’ve had to weather and surpass any and all “corporate” storms they’ve encountered over time.

It takes a certain mindset for anyone to start their own business and succeed, but it’s even more difficult for a female entrepreneur.  Let’s face it, ladies!  We’ve always had to be twice-as-smart and twice-as-confident as any male counterpart in the corporate world.  After all, if we can bear and raise the future generation, how can running a successful business scare us?

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.

Jan 042010
 

“Green” or sustainable business is not a new concept as it has been discussed and drilled into us through various media day after day for years.  Large corporations and many SMEs, driven by pressures such as cost cutting, preventive measures, more environmentally-aware customers, etc, are actively looking for ways to making their operations more environmentally sustainable.

So, what is a green business?  It is an enterprise that have adopted the attitude to supply or use more of products, services and systems that have no or decreased negative impact on the global environment.  Operating a green business also means a healthier bottom line as conserving resources and cutting down wastes save money.  There are many simple things that you can start doing to make your business environmentally friendly.

Actions do not have to be large to have an impact.  Businesses can make a huge difference to the environment and their books by consistently reducing the use of energy, water and paper.  For instance, how much paper can you save in a year?  A business with around 50 staff will use at least 200,000 pieces of paper yearly, regardless its size.  This translates to 69 full-sized trees being cut down for paper manufacturing!  And that will cause 6,800 kilograms of CO2 emission into the air every year by the manufacturers!  Just imagine how much paper you can save if you always run double-sided copies.  Small thing – BIG RESULT!