March 31, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
While Business Planning may be a difficult task, especially to do it well, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. Its benefits far outweigh its challenges. However, if you have a good Business Planning Process, then the difficulty of the planning task is mitigated and often minimized.
Business Planning is the Hard Part…
If the Business Planning Process is Comprehensive and well executed, then the Planning Process itself will often be much harder than the actual running of the business. Wouldn’t you like to get the hard part of running the Business out of the way upfront? Wouldn’t you want to ensure the absolute best chance to succeed with your business? Wouldn’t you want to be highly profitable verses marginally profitable? Of course you would. But to do so takes a lot of hard work, making the intangible (i.e. an idea, a new project, a new business venture), tangible.
Borrowing from the success of others in creating and expanding successful companies, can really give you a leg up in the difficult Process of converting the unknown into an executable, successful venture. This is why I wrote a Business Plan Workbook as it takes a lot of that guesswork out of the Business Planning Process, giving you years of experience in not just building successful plans but actually implementing those plans into successful companies. A good business plan workbook simplifies the complicated Business Planning and Building Process into simple, doable steps which build on one another into the building blocks of a successful business.
Knowledge and Know-How…
Good Business Planning comes from lots of hands on experience. Overcome that experience factor by utilizing a proven Business Planning Process.
Define the Unknown…
Without an effective business plan in place, you are just throwing darts at a board with your eyes closed. A good Business Planning Process defines the unknown into an executable plan. Otherwise, you are simply guessing. Business is hard enough- take the mystery out of it. It is exceedingly hard to define the unknown without a system in place to work toward known opportunities, threats, competitors, market changes, market variables, business models and so on. An effective Planning Process embraces the unknown and creates the future- a future of probable success.
Inexactitude is a guarantee in Business…
Not everything can be predicted. However, by having a system in place to deal with this inexactness allows you to more effectively address challenges that come up. Inexactitude costs your business money. An effective Business Plan puts systems in place within your Company to quickly deal with the unexpected occurrences, minimizing your “learning curve” expenditures. Additionally, a Business Plan can test the merit of a Strategic Tactic or Program to deal with a potential problem before implementation, again, minimizing your learning curve resource allocation. A good business plan process or business plan workbook will help you effectively deal with the unpredictability of a business and the inexactness inherent in business development.
Posted in Business Planning.
March 29, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Once you have developed, integrated and implemented your Comprehensive Business Plan for the success of your business into your Company’s Operations, you can go about creating ancillary Business Plans for various audiences. Remember to write these specialized plans from the viewpoint of the person(s) reading the plan. It is a snap to pull out certain sections of your Comprehensive Plan and create these targeted plans. Some examples:
1) Investor Plan: Investors and Venture Capital Groups often advertise what they are looking for in an investment. This should be the template for your plan. They are interested in your Experience, Track Record, Integrity, Competitive Advantage, Growth, Uniqueness, Gaps and Threats, Integrated Marketing, Strategic and Financial Plans and so on. A good Investor Plan consists of highly targeted information to a specific investor’s or venture capitalist’s requirements.
2) Lender Plan: This Plan is combined with a Loan Package to directly target a specific Lender’s funding parameters and requirements. Things like Experience, Track Record, Cash Flow, Loan to Value or Cost, Debt Service, Debt to Equity Ratio, Financial Statements and so forth are key elements of a Lender Plan. Each Lender has different things they look for when considering funding a loan so tailor your Plan around those parameters.
3) Joint Venture / Strategic Alliance Plan: Achieving a common objective through shared resources at a lower cost and lower risk can be highly lucrative, limiting your dependence on outside funding sources. Important sections of this plan could address Objectives, Anti-Trust Issues, Resources, Geographic Variables, Corporate Culture Fit, Type of Relationship, Control Mechanisms, Exit Strategies, Termination, Liquidation, Buy-Sell Agreements and so on.
4) Supplier Plan: Cementing your supplier relationships can be essential to your Company’s success. Ask yourself: What can a specific supplier do to help your business?
5) Customer Plan: You can utilize this Plan to make your customers true partners in the growth and future of your Company. Find out specifically what your customers want and need (not what you think they need) and present them a Product/Service, Marketing and Strategic Plan to meet those needs.
6) Marketing Plan: A good Marketing Plan will help your Marketing Team develop, expand and create new markets. A very effective tool to link your Sales Division with your Marketing Team so development and communications are two way and intertwined. Disjointed Marketing and Sales Teams are often disastrous.
7) Strategic Plan: This plan forces all your departments and divisions to work together to produce a synergistic plan that addresses all levels of your Company and their contributions to the Company’s goals and success. The Strategic Plan actually translates your Business Plan into an effective and believable Financial Plan.
Remember: You write a specific plan for a specific purpose to a specific audience. This list is not all inclusive. The point is to develop your Comprehensive Plan first; then forming ancillary Plans is a snap and very effective.
Posted in Business Planning.
March 25, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
A Business Plan is the most important and often overlooked part of running or starting a business, expanding an existing business or obtaining finance for a business. If a Business Plan is developed effectively, the success rate for the purpose of the plan rises exponentially, whether it is to start, expand or run a business, and / or obtain finance for the business.
A well developed Business Plan leaves less room for errors and failure. While you cannot predict everything that happens in a company’s future, a good Business Plan helps you to avoid certain pitfalls, overcome obstacles and anticipate and create business opportunities. When you do encounter obstacles and problems, having a Business Plan in place, integrated into the business, provides you with a system and mechanism to effectively deal with challenges, often turning these challenges into manageable situations or even future opportunities.
Let’s start with the fundamental questions: Why have a Business Plan? What can a Business Plan do for my company?
First, a Business Plan helps you run a Business and is the roadmap to business success. This is the primary reason for a Business Plan, and the plan should be initially written from this standpoint. However, there are many other beneficial reasons for developing and implementing a business plan. A Business Plan forces the various departments in your company to work together to implement a synergistic Strategic Plan. A well developed plan helps your Sales Team close more deals and provides them effective tools to use in the field with your customers. A Business Plan helps your customers understand the direction your Company is taking, encouraging them to become “partners” in your business’ success. Your Business Plan can help you solidify relationships with necessary suppliers, helping them to more effectively understand how to contribute to your Company’s growth. A Business Plan can also effectively assist in obtaining the necessary finance to start or grow your Company.
Business Plan Uses
There are different Business Plan formats and purposes for various circumstances and situations. It is recommended to first develop a Comprehensive Business Plan to effectively and successfully run your Business, Venture or Projects. Once the Comprehensive Business Plan is completed, you can take certain parts of the Plan to form other Business Plans for various purposes and situations, such as a Funding Business Plan for a Bank or Venture Capital Firm. A good Business Plan Workbook will take you step by step in developing a Comprehensive Business Plan, which you will be able to “adjust” for various purposes and uses beyond the effective management of your company.
Internal Uses of a Business Plan
1) Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a company’s operation and potential problem areas.
2) Improved company performance results from developing and implementing Strategies which simultaneously builds on a Company’s strengths and correcting its weaknesses.
3) Communicate effectively to Management and Employees clear expectations of a Company’s performance and priorities to ensure a coordinated execution of a Company’s Strategic Plan.
4) An Effective, Comprehensive Business Plan coordinates and assures consistency between a Company’s various divisions and departments to bring about the successful operation of the Company’s various units.
5) A Business Plan provides a mechanism to measure a firm’s and individual’s performance. It establishes a clear standard for determining whether actual performance is good, bad or neutral.
6) A Business Plan establishes a system for making key decisions in the Management process of a Company. As new developments, opportunities and difficulties arise, the Business Plan provides a solid structure to evaluate the impact of developments and opportunities on the operations and performance of the Company as a whole and in its individual departments and units.
7) A Business Plan’s development process will educate and motivate a Company’s employees. Management, Executives and Key People learn more about a Company’s Operation and the direct relationship of their areas of responsibility toward the achievement of a Company’s goals. This is achieved through analyzing variables like past performance or the impact of trends and developments, while developing Action Plans for the future success of the Company. The process solidifies your people’s commitment and motivation toward achieving the Company’s Strategic Plan.
External Uses of a Business Plan
1) A Business Plan can update and educate outside parties (i.e. investors, shareholders, suppliers, customers, regulators, legislators, etc.) regarding the structure, organization, objectives, goals and performance of your Company.
2) A Business Plan can secure finance and investment to fund your Company.
3) A well executed Business Plan can preempt your competition, making barriers to entry apparent.
4) Solidify your customer relationships making them true partners in your Company’s products and service offerings, innovation, research and development, and most importantly, your growth.
5) A Business Plan provides your important suppliers insight into your Company so they can help you manage costs and promote growth. A slight change in a supplier’s offering or terms can have a dramatic effect on your Company’s profitability.
6) A Business Plan is a sales tool, assisting your Sales Team to promote understanding throughout your customer base of your Company’s direction, competitiveness and uniqueness. An integrated Business Plan enables your Marketing Team and Sales Team to open new markets and opportunities and close more deals.
7) The Plan demonstrates to third parties your Company’s core accountability, beliefs and integrity.
Posted in Business Planning.
March 22, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
This is the final blog post in a 6 part series on Cost Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies. In the previous blog post, I discussed Marketing Tactics and Key Elements. In this post, I will discuss Important Marketing Plan Elements and Successful Marketing Attitudes.
Pulling it All Together: Important Marketing Plan Elements
My article on Writing a Winning Marketing Plan provides you a successful structure to work with toward achieving a well balanced plan. In this section I will discuss the important concepts and elements of a successful Marketing Plan.
Ø Develop a Good Meme: A meme is a simple way to communicate a main idea or theme or benefit of your business. It is an instantly recognizable transmission of what a company is all about. It is more than a Logo. A Meme is representation of the Company Identity (i.e. Logo) and its Key Benefit or Advantage. It can be a Symbol or Words. Something that not only helps brand a Company’s Identity but helps the audience translate it instantly into the Company’s Chief Benefit or Advantage. Memes are highly effective when used on Websites, Company letterhead, the back of a Biz Card, brochures, circulars – in other words, it needs to be in all Your Marketing materials.
Ø Theme: You need a good Theme to go with a Meme, such as “ABC Biz Success Solutions”. I use “Biz Success” the main theme for ABC Business Consulting because ultimately that is why clients hire us. I use this theme in other areas of the business as well, such as: “ABC Biz Success Guide” or “ABC Biz Success Articles”. Both the Meme and Theme working together effectively identify and brand your business. They help you standout in a mass of competitors. Memes and Themes are only effective when they are used prolifically.
Note: Another reason we chose “ABC” Business Consulting as the company name is the company will be listed close to first in alphabetical listings and directories. Choose your Company Name carefully – think it through. It should say what you do as a business and be easily remembered. We also chose this name as it would be a good domain name for the website to effectively compete in one of the most competitive keyword areas. Think your Company Name, Domain Name, Meme and Theme through carefully – it can be your most effective marketing element!
Ø Branding: An accepted Brand Name = Credibility. It builds confidence and word of mouth sales. Credibility and confidence set you apart from the competitive pack. A good Company Name, Theme and Meme are essential components of successful Branding. Branding builds familiarity through repetition. A Brand most importantly builds customer trust. It keeps the customer and prospect thinking about your company; consistent and constant awareness of the business and what you stand for. Consistent Marketing creates and sustains a Brand, especially if done through many layers and platforms of media.
Ø Positioning: This is the goal of every Marketing Plan, finding that Niche. To come up with your Niche, you need a good Market Plan Process. As part of that process, you will analyze your strengths, weaknesses, the competition and the different Market Trends. The goal is to differentiate yourself enough so your offering is unique to a niche market with little competition. Your Market Positioning is the process of differentiating yourself through location, price, quality, product offering, services, selection, convenience, promotion and a host of other market positioning (differentiation) factors. Can you achieve a Niche that has little or no competition? Probably not but you sure can differentiate yourself. See how important Positioning is? All of your Marketing Materials & Promotions should highlight your differentiation. Give your target niche a reason to see you differently compared to the competition. Your Market Positioning is the major key in your Company’s success. By success, I mean high profit margins. Differentiation = Profits.
Note: Before putting a Marketing Plan into Action, it needs to go through the Strategic Planning Process to determine what risks are associated with the Marketing Plan and if those risks have been adequately minimized through the Positioning Strategy. Strategic Analysis helps you determine if your Marketing Plan can effectively compete in its Positioning Strategy, as well as, the other components of a Marketing Plan. Moreover, a Strategic Plan maps out the Marketing Plan and puts it into Action with Milestones and checkpoints along the way. Please see my Article on Strategic Planning for more information on developing a successful Strategic & Sales Plan.
Ø Quality: I have talked a lot about Quality in this article. Remember, after Confidence, Quality is the second most reason a prospect considers a particular business. Quality is what the Customer gets out of the product or service experience with your Company. Quality is what will separate you from your competition; it will enhance your viral, word-of-mouth advertising; and it helps define your positioning niche. Quality and service really work hand in hand – it’s the quality of service which keeps customers coming back and prospects interested. Your Marketing should reflect this! Fast service, Cheap Prices and a Wide Selection will not matter, nor make up for, Poor Quality.
Ø Location: Depending on the type of business you have, Location can be a must and be well advertised and marketed. Physical location is becoming less important with the reliance of the internet. Either way, whether you have a location dependent business or not, it is important to have a strong presence on the Web. All your Marketing Materials and Programs should be built around a Web Strategy, and prospects should be able to easily find your business through the internet. Your website should further instill confidence in the prospect to visit your business.
Ø Referrals: Ask for them before, during and after the sale, as well as, bi-annually thereafter. Referrals are your best prospects and are exponential in numbers when a Referral System is effectively merged with your Marketing Strategy. Have a Referral Program throughout your company so your Employees will be incentivized to provide them.
Ø Testimonials: One Word, Powerful! Your Marketing Materials should include testimonials with a picture if possible. Your website should have video and audio testimonials. Testimonials will close sales for you. Use them!
Ø Credibility: This should come across all your Marketing Materials. The reason a prospect buys is because a bond of trust has been built, and credibility goes a long way toward building that trust. So what makes you credible? Publicity, Articles, Newsletters, Testimonials, Referrals, Magazine Ads. Quality, good Service and Consistency go a long way too! Word of mouth or viral advertising builds bukoo Credibility as well. Being involved in your Community is an excellent means of building a solid, credible reputation. The biggest one? Honesty. Be honest with your customers and your credibility (and sales) will soar!
ü Reputation: Very closely linked to Credibility. A good reputation comes over time through consistent credibility. One bad experience can increase twenty fold or more so be sure to have a good Customer Service Program in place to support your reputation building Marketing Plan. You earn a good reputation by doing the right things over a long period of time. A good reputation instills Confidence in the prospect – the number one reason a prospect turns into a customer. Doing everything right earns you a good reputation. Not that you have to be perfect – mistakes will always happen. It is what you do after a mistake happens that really determines your reputation. The nice thing about Reputation is it doesn’t cost you a dime – just Effort! Effort which needs to be built company wide, from the Company President down through all the employees.
Ø Payment Plans: Payment Plans should be built into your Marketing Strategy as it removes risk, adds credibility and builds confidence. Use it and advertise it!
Ø Understanding your Competitors: This is a really crucial component of a Good Marketing Strategy. Knowing what your Competitors offer; who they target; what their customer experience is like; and how they operate are really important in segmenting Your Niche. Learn what they are doing right and differentiate yourself on where they are failing or lacking. Marketing Segmentation cannot be well established without knowing your Competitors. The end result of good Competitive Analysis is establishing Competitive Advantage and carving out a Market Niche through that advantage. Your profitability hinges on how well you know your Competitors.
Ø Be a Green Company: Being an environmentally friendly company can buy you earth conscious customers and support a great cause at the same time. Customers will pay nearly 40% more to patronize an environment friendly company. However, it is important to practice what you preach – don’t support a cause if you aren’t 100% sold or committed to it.
Successful Marketing Attitudes
Marketing is the transposition of an attitude which you hope customers want to jump on and join. Some successful attitude elements to include in your Marketing efforts:
ü Passion: Passion and belief in yourself, your business and your products attracts customers. It should be reflected in all your Marketing materials.
ü Give it Away: Be generous with your knowledge by giving prospects free information and expert advice. It will come back to you threefold in publicity and referrals.
ü Be Fast: We are a highly competitive, instantaneous society. You better be fast in responding to prospects and customers alike because your competitors sure will be!
ü Clean Company Image: Keep your company looking good; have an updated website and run a Professional, orderly organization. Attract instead of detract!
ü Telephone Skills: You and your employees should be happy to hear from prospects and customers. Be friendly, happy and engaged. They should feel important.
ü Value Keys:
§ Value is more important than Price.
§ Enhance your perceived value. It is the value that your customer thinks he or she is getting.
§ Offset a prospect’s anticipated price with your value offering: i.e. benefits, quality, presentation, reputation, experience, credibility, the green factor, etc.
ü Be in Tune with your Customers: Be engaged and sensitive to your customer’s needs as they change over time. Listen to your customers! They are telling you what your Marketing Strategy should be moving toward. Be proactive and fix issues before they become major. Be easy to conduct business with.
ü Be Flexible: Work with your customers and the changing trends. Meet your customers more than halfway. Understand that flexibility relates directly to Service, Quality, Price, Value, Selection, Payment Plans, and Location – all those important Marketing components. Be flexible to your customers’ needs.
And Finally, Understand that Marketing is Psychology
Understand some customers are Logical and other Emotional. Based on their psychology, you tailor your presentation and communications. Make it easy for a prospect to unconsciously buy into your offering. Some like images, a painted picture. Others like numbers and proof. Some like a little of both. I like to sell positive benefits that make a prospect feel good, no matter if he or she is left or right brain dominate. Remember, passion and belief sells – fill your prospects with confidence. The confident unconscious state sells the conscious mind way before the sale occurs. You master this psychological transference in your Marketing and Sales Program, you will be profitable. Bone up on your Psychology skills!
I hope this six part series on Cost Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies has been helpful and will lead to your continued success in your business pursuits…
Posted in Business Marketing Strategies.
March 19, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
In my last blog post on Cost Effective Marketing Strategies for small businesses I discussed how you can use Mass Media on a small budget very effectively. In this Part 5 blog post I will concentrate on Marketing Tactics, Customer Based Marketing and Important Marketing Elements.
Great Marketing Tactics
Ø Free Consultations: Provide a free half hour or hour long consultation to prospects giving them advice and information. Follow up in two days and ask for the sale. This tactic establishes you as an expert and even if the prospect doesn’t use your services, you will have a fantastic referral source (make sure you ask for referrals!).
ü Power your Consultation with visual aids and demonstrations.
ü Turn your Free Consults into testimonials.
Ø Writing Articles: Being published as an Expert will bring you targeted, continuous business. Be sure to submit your articles online and back link to your Website. Your web traffic will increase exponentially. Then offer Free E-books on your Website to solidify the relationship. When prospects understand your expert status, they will give you business, as well as, refer you to others.
Ø Seminars: Depending on your business having a FREE or Paid Seminar can be a great way to mine prospects. Again, this strategy works well as the Expert strategy and piggybacks well with Free Consultations, Articles and E-books. Free Seminars can be unpredictable, but a nominal fee Seminar can be enough to guarantee success. A nominal fee ensures the attendee will show, while providing a ton of value for the information provided. Be sure to video all your seminars and sell them on your website.
ü Lecture / instruct for half an hour to forty five minutes, then open it up for questions. Wrap up the seminar at the hour mark. Have an area with coffee and sweets set up so you can network before and after the seminar.
ü The goal is to get as many business cards and contact information as you can from the prospects. Follow with a mailed hand written note or a personal email within 24 hours. Then call the prospect a day later. Have the Seminar on a Tuesday and follow up Thursday or Friday via phone to set appointments for the next two weeks.
ü Have two Seminars a month. Make them a little different so you can attract the same prospects again! Give your previous attendees a VIP Pass. If you don’t sell them the first round you’ll have a much better chance after the second seminar.
ü Write a Book and your Seminar attendance will increase three fold. The more you can foster the Expert Status, the better your results will be.
Ø Free Demonstrations: I love Free Demonstrations! I cut my teeth in Sales in my youth selling Electrolux Cleaning Systems (ok, so they were vacuums and dry cleaners). Selling a premium product which had a ton of value built in required a Free Demonstration. If I couldn’t sell the prospect in 45 minutes then I would leave the Cleaning System with them for two days and return at a prearranged time to pick it up. With a good financing package backing me up, I closed 8 out of 10!
ü A Free Demonstration can also be short in front of a crowd and take orders afterward. Depends on the product you are selling.
Note: At Seminars and Mass Demonstrations, make sure you have plenty order takers and appointment setters on hand. You can’t be signing up prospects and talking to them at the same time!
Ø Open House Events: Opening up your business to existing customers and prospects for a day every three months is an awesome way to solidify relationships and drum up more business. Have refreshments and employees staged in different areas explaining how the business works. You, the owner, mix and mingle and mine! Make sure each employee is schooled prior, to get business cards and contact information. Be sure to teach the employee to make notes on the prospects’ biz card or contact info so you have personalized means of future contact. Make sure you have a demonstration room for the serious prospects! Make sure you are fully staffed fro an Open House. All hands on deck event!
ü Send Press Releases to local / regional publications and look for creative ways to advertise your Open House. There are loads of Free Online and Offline Event Directories. Use Social Networking!
ü Social Online Networks such as Linked In, Facebook and Twitter can be excellent forums to getting out information about your Open House or other Company Events and News. See my Article on Internet Marketing for more details.
Ø Trade Shows: I am not a huge fan of Trade Shows because many shows will have absolutely no merit for the money and time you spend. However, many businesses have been successful with Trade Shows because they figure out through research which ones really have qualified buyers and know little success secrets. Some Trade Show Keys to keep in mind:
ü Always attend and research a show prior to your participation.
ü Determine ways shows let you contact prospects before and after the show.
ü Partner with a good Strategic Partner and share a large 20 foot booth together. This attracts attention and offers prospects the best solutions.
ü Have “roamers” walking the show continuously handing out circulars and flyers, which pictorially show prospects where your booth is. Offer a Freebee or discount for the prospect to come to your booth. Require the prospect to register to receive the Freebee or Discount.
ü Have Brochures available at your booth for the motivated prospects.
ü Be sure to mine each prospect’s information and product / service interests. Don’t rely on them to contact you after the show.
ü Visually demonstrate your product or service. Let prospects see the final solution.
ü Have plenty of staff on hand to sell, take information and greet prospects.
ü Big Signs, Big Graphics, Large Font, Video, Audio – these are all key in helping the prospect visualize / own your solution.
ü Take lots of pictures and video so you can post to the web during the show to create a viral buzz.
ü Always get a prospects email address so you can send them an Opt In for your Newsletter, Company Alerts, RSS, etc.
ü Make sure all of your Staff is instructed to take notes on the prospects’ business card so you can jog your memory on the prospects’ relevance and importance.
ü Direct Mail response rates to Tradeshow Participants can be as high as 20%, as compared to the average 2% response rate for a first mailing.
ü Trade Shows can be a good way to kick off your penetration into a new market.
ü If you are going to the expense of going to a Trade Show, be sure to run some advertising prior (with an incentive to come see you).
Ø Newsletters: I think Newsletters (both offline and online) are an excellent information and sales tool. This goes hand in hand with the Expert Role, providing interested prospects valuable information, while having information on how to contact you or a web page to visit. Newsletters should be sent once per month with an expert article as the main focus. I like to have the article in the center of the Newsletter with a narrow column to either side with supporting information and resources. These side columns are great areas to partner with other businesses to offer more expert information and help. Be sure to feature your FREE half hour or hour consultation service on the Newsletter and any seminars, webinars or such coming up. The more you get into and use your Newsletter, the more exponential the results. And, please, write your own content! You are the Expert!
Ø Write a Book: I’m not saying get in the book business. A book sets you apart as a bonafide Expert and gives you instant credibility. It is one of the best sales generator tools you can use! Two books that I have written, The Business Success Guide and The Comprehensive Business Plan Workbook – A Guide to Effective Business Planning, lend instant credibility to my experience as a Business Planner and Consultant. You can use Print on Demand Publishing to print books and drop ship to customers as they are ordered individually for a price of $10 – $14 per book. Get writing!
Ø Speaking at Club Events: Being a featured speaker at a private club event can drive great business for you. Make sure to have a brochure and make sure to feature an easy to remember website address. Feature a special promotion for just the club attendees. Again, being a Club Speaker sets you up as the Expert and a fantastic way to advertise your articles, newsletters and books.
Your Best Marketing Source = Your Customer
Having excellent relationships with your Customers is the absolute best way to get a steady flow of qualified prospects. Moreover, it gives you the opportunity for repeat, highly profitable business. Ask for referrals before, during and after a sale to build an excellent pipeline of business.
Ø A Mentor Group
ü Select a group of 4 – 6 business people you respect and have a mentorship meeting with them once per quarter. They will not only help you with the direction and success of your company, but also they will be an excellent source of highly qualified referrals. This type of referral gives you instant credibility.
Ø Networking Clubs
ü Join one that doesn’t have too many competitors and can send you your “ideal” client. You can spend all day needlessly and unproductively going to networking events. Choose a couple and go consistently. Bring valuable information and advice with you!
Ø Who is Your Best Customer?
ü Simple Answer: Your Customers! Understand that a satisfied customer is your best repeat customer, as well as, referral source. One satisfied customer can exponentially bring you increased sales. 60-79% of your Marketing Budget, or Emphasis, should be directed toward your existing customers. I said “or emphasis” since marketing to an existing customer can be quite cost effective. It costs 80% less to keep an existing customer as it is to land a new customer. Remember two things: Repeat Sales and Referrals. Between the two, your marketing plan is 70% covered, which minimizes the necessary cash out lay for the remaining 30% of your Marketing Budget.
I absolutely love Online Marketing, and it should be a major component of any Marketing Plan. A good, well optimized Website is also necessary. Please see my Articles on these areas for more details:
Ø Cost Effective Online Marketing Strategies
Ø Search Engine Optimization Strategies
Some Essential Marketing Elements
Not all Marketing is about running an Ad Campaign or sending out a newsletter; rather, good marketing is also about running an effective business and doing things to strengthen your Marketing Plan. These elements will help you successfully pull together a cohesive, effective Marketing Plan.
Ø Service: Service should always be #1. Service is not what you offer the customer but really more what the customer wants and wishes for. If you define your Service Policy around what your Customers’’ want, then your Marketing success will be exponential! Listen closely to what your customers want and provide the services to fill the gaps.
Ø Why do Customers patronize a business? The five top reasons are:
Address all five elements in a Cohesive Marketing Plan, you will be successful. Remember that each builds on the other in the indicated order, so Price becomes less of a high or low question, and more of how it relates to the preceding four elements. You can also put Referrals on top of the list, as that instills Confidence and an expectation of Quality. Referral Business is the best business.
Ø Public Relations
Cost you little or nothing but can brand your business very effectively, giving you a well known Identity in your Market place. Free PR stories, articles and news clips can be extremely effective in establishing your Identity. You Marketing Programs will be much more effective when you have a well established Brand and Identity. Good publicity gives you credibility, stature and authority. However, bad publicity can quite harmful so it is very important to honestly and forth rightly address any bad publicity or dissatisfied customers. When submitting company news to the media, always send a story that is worth publicizing. Give them a reason to give you free publicity.
Put together a good Press Kit (hire a PR Pro if needed) and take the media person to lunch. Relate your Company story and hand over the Press Kit. You are 80% of the way there! Cultivate your media relations so get great broad exposure when you submit your news. Always give the media an angle – a reason to run your story. Become a Media Resource by giving your media contacts important information about industry changes or consumer tips or free business advice. It will come back to you three fold!
Remember, PR is all about creating a Buzz. Word of mouth, viral marketing can be extremely successful for your business if it is positive publicity. Social Networking (covered in my Online Marketing Strategy article) can be a powerful way to spread publicity about a business. Remember to have a system and forum in place to address any bad publicity because viral marketing can really accentuate the negatives, very quickly!
Ø Follow Up: Most businesses lose customers and momentum when they stop following up and being in contact with Customers. Marketing really begins after the sale; Marketing is a continuous cycle. Stay in front of customers with handwritten notes, newsletters, email tips, phone calls, specials, discounts and most importantly, asking them for referrals. Provide your customers news about your business as it occurs to keep them connected to you. Form and keep that bond – it is the future of your Company!
Ø Word of Mouth: Word of Mouth advertising can be very effective if you figure out where else your clients conduct business. Then partner with those businesses to effectively self-promote and spread the word. It is a win-win for both companies as you are more effectively satisfying your customers’ needs.
Ø Competitive Edge: All the Marketing in the world will be ineffective if you don’t have an Edge or Advantage to offer your prospects compared to the Competition. Remember, it isn’t solely about price. It is matching benefits, advantages, service quality and value with a fair price that helps you beat out the competition. Your Marketing should stress your Competitive Advantages – don’t wait to express them during your sales presentation. Competitive Edge should be the center point of any Marketing Plan.
Ø 20-30 Seconds: This is normally how long you have to interest a prospect. So it is vitally important to be able to clearly communicate your offering and advantage very quickly and succinctly whether it is through a Marketing piece or when in person with a prospect. The first 10-15 seconds is critical. This is when you peek enough interest to listen to why doing business with you is a must. Always keep the presentation (whether through Marketing or in person) personal to the prospect and personal to you. There should be a common sales presentation theme throughout all your Marketing Programs, Advertising Pieces, Personal Contacts, Telephone Calls, Emails – any and all contact with prospects.
Ø Guarantee / Warranty: Both are see through, hollow promises unless you have something credible and real backing them up. This says to your prospects that you believe 100% in your product and service. Don’t use it unless it is genuine! Show what your customer satisfaction will be or look like, make it real to the prospect.
Ø Branding: Develop your Brand through strong Identity Marketing. Good branding can only be achieved with consistent, widespread Marketing through a cross section of related advertising mediums. Commonality of Marketing Themes throughout all your Marketing Platforms goes a long way toward establishing your business identity and brand. With that platform in place, use Viral Social Networking to spread your brand globally.
In the next blog, I will discuss Essential Marketing Plan Elements and Successful Marketing Attitudes.
Posted in Business Marketing Strategies.
March 11, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
In my Part 3 blog on Marketing Strategies for your Business, I discussed Marketing Research and Targeted Marketing and how the two work together. In this blog, I will show how the Mass Media can be effectively used, even on a tight budget. Let’s get to it!
Using the Power of Mass Media
Why use Mass Media? Well, it gives you a wide spread identity and recognition, which in turn, makes your Targeted Marketing more effective. It helps you establish and maintain a brand. Mass Media is far less expensive now, and it now targets small businesses.
Mass Media Outlets
ü Newspapers: While Online Marketing is really giving newspaper advertising a run for its money, you will find that newspaper ads are getting cheaper and cheaper as a result. Moreover, a newspaper can add flexibility and can be quite targeted if necessary. Always test your ads by including codes so you know which ones are most effective. Narrow your ads to the most effective papers by contrasting ads and gauging the differences.
· Send in good artwork and confirm with the production department that your Ad will print well.
· I like to run smaller ads in different sections with tracking codes to determine your best as placement.
· I like the Classified Section Ads because this is where serious buyers go.
· Always point to a specific Sales Page on your website which is designed around the Ad you place.
· Always ask about volume discounts and reduced ad rates when testing the paper’s effectiveness. Everything in Advertising is negotiable!
· Offer something for FREE (Bold it & Capitalize it).
· Use a Graphic or Logo to increase the effectiveness of your ad by 30%.
· Repeat your message three times in a small area by using a Logo, Headline and Copy that relate.
· If you advertise on the TV, using one frame from the TV ad can increase the print ad’s effectiveness by 40%.
· A good ad can make good circulars and help brand your name / product.
· Newspaper advertising requires consistency to get any traction or ROI but make sure it is working for you before committing to a long run.
ü Magazines: I like Magazine advertising as it is Regional and National in scope and you can target your audience effectively. I like to test classified ads in different Magazines to see what works then I consider Display ads (and keep the classified ad).
· Magazines lend credibility
· You can use your Ad effectively in a Circular or other company medium. Always say, “As Seen in Entrepreneur Magazine (insert the magazine the ad appeared in).” This gives you instant familiarity, credence and credibility with the reader.
· Consider running a low cost classified Ad in a multitude of Magazines which target your prospect verses running a Display as in a couple. Your ROI for dollars spent will typically be much better.
· A prospect reading a classified as will think you are cheaper than the advertiser with the expensive Display Ad. If you aren’t selling a luxury product, this can be a great start to communicate with a price conscious prospect. They think money is being saved even before they call you and discuss price. What a win-win for both the prospect and the business owner!
· Multiple Ads run through a Ad Media Company in several magazines can get some great discounts. If your credit is decent, you can be extended payment terms which correspond with your Ad ROI. Therefore, no money out of pocket until revenue is generated from the Ads (if timed correctly). Powerful!
· Take advantage of Split Runs with Magazines to see what Ad works best, in what section of the magazine. Great way to test a Headline or Copy.
· Magazines are more targeted for the type of reader verses a newspaper. A newspaper is more geographically targeted. Using the two in conjunction can be powerful!
· If your product or service is business oriented, consider advertising in a Trade Magazine.
§ MediaFinder.com is a great way to find the Trade Magazines to advertise in.
· Magazines lend themselves to color. Use it!
· Magazines life cycle or longer. People go back to them over and over, as well as, hang on to them. Your Ad has a chance of being read multiple times.
· Organize your Magazine Display Ad with Boldface sub-heads. These will be read first, should grab attention and get the reader to either read more or act. No more than 50% of a Display Ad should be text.
· Consider blowing up your Magazine Ads into posters and mount them strategically around and outside your business, with the Headline: “As Seen in Entrepreneur Magazine….”
· Ask the Ad Space Rep to call you when remnant space is available. You will save big bucks!
ü Radio: I like Radio when it’s a Question & Answer type scenario; ask an expert show; something which sets you up as an Expert. You can negotiate the price as it provides the public valuable information, which is the mandate of Radio. It’s an Ad disguised as a Resource! A Win-Win for you and the radio station. Make sure to give out a short website address and phone number. Make both easily memorable. Track the results!
· Another strategy is to run cheap, short ads on less popular stations, bundled for maximum savings but make sure you test and track them to ensure a good ROI. Cheap isn’t good unless you get viable, profitable results.
· Be sure to personalize your Ads and you do the talking. This is a great opportunity to connect with your prospects.
· Partner up with other strategic businesses to offer complete solution radio talk shows, like a panel of experts to give out advice. This is important: Have the moderator give out one website address and one phone number and the prospect can choose the company (or better yet companies) to follow up with. You can offer discounts for combined services and meet the customer as a dual solution. A marketing fulfillment company can help you set up and maintain a coop partnership. For instance, a Landscaper can partner with a Landscape Designer, which are two services that can be combined for a total solution for the customer. You can coop the cost with your Strategic Partners. You can kill the competition with this strategy! Make sure you choose your partner(s) carefully.
· Put your Ads on the website for people to listen to, especially your Q & A Expert Sessions.
· Interviewing the President of the company can be a great way to start, giving you plenty of material to draw on to make a variety of Radio and Online Ads. This is a very effective use of your Ad dollars.
· Consider the afternoon for peoples drive home for your radio ads, you’ll have their attention.
· Always mention your website and an easy to remember number. 9 times out of 10, if the website is easy to remember, the listener will find it.
ü TV: You can cost effectively target your audience. The average U.S. Household watches an average of 8 hours TV per day, with the average viewer watching 4 hours per day. With Cable, you can cost effectively target an audience.
· TV is a great set up for your Sales Page on your Website.
· Avoid prime time and take advantage of fringe time. Consider a media buying service to really save on your ad times; they often buy unsold TV time for pennies on the dollar.
· Consider hiring an inbound telemarketing cal center to take the calls off your ads, no matter the hour of the day. If you use a different phone number from channel to channel or ad to ad, you can easily track them.
· Direct Response TV can offer your prospects the entire sales process. This is a powerful system! Some direct Response advertising can be bought on a per inquiry or sales basis, taking a lot of risk out of your capital outlay.
· The TV station can provide all the Production services, saving you thousands. However, with a good marketing consultant, you should write the script. I like a Storyboard because it helps you visualize the Ad. Save money by having a pre-production meeting to ensure things run quickly and smoothly on production day. The less the editing, the more economical your ads will be – plan ahead! You normally can create three good ads in one production day – good planning can help you achieve this great use of time and money, which brings your production cost per ad to about $300. Shoot in digital so you can replay it immediately and quickly make any fixes.
· Concentrate on 30 second spots. Direct Response sales ads should be about 2 minutes and keep the phone number visible during the entire ad.
· Show your product or service in Action. This is the real advantage to TV ads.
· Don’t make the Ad more interesting than your product.
· Remember a TV’s volume may be muted so tell your story visually!
ü Outdoor Ads: I really don’t like Outdoor Ads because most aren’t visual enough or have an ad conducive to someone driving by it at 55 mph. If your Ad tells someone to Exit Now; has a big arrow; something very Visual, and your Ad is in a good location, then maybe it might be worthwhile. Things like Next Exit or Two Miles Ahead work, while being a constant reminder to commuters. An Outdoor Ad can establish an Identity for your business. However, these ads can be very expensive depending on the location.
· Use no more than Five Words; use one large Graphic; make sure it is well illuminated.
· If it is a Digital Board, make sure your Ad stays up long enough for passer bys to visually take it in and act on it.
· Consider sharing the Billboard with another business in your Office Park or Retail Center and / or have your Office Park or Retail Center mentioned for even greater cost savings!
· Consider other less costly alternatives like bus, taxi or bus stop Advertising if it serves your market well.
· Remember, an Outdoor Ad should be clear from afar as prospects will be viewing typically from a moving vehicle.
· Be careful to design your sign with the character and taste of your community in mind.
ü Direct Mail: Generates leads that can lead to a sale. Direct Mail sets up your leads.
§ Measure results immediately
§ Can target your audience
§ Can be personalized
§ Receives some of the highest response rates of all media
§ Great for repeat sales
· Important Elements of a Successful Campaign:
§ Ask the reader to take Action§ Find recipients who have bought via mail before
§ Include a testimonial in your letter
§ Ask for the business in your first headline
§ Use Black and Red color types. Red for important words or headlines
§ Have a good logo or graphic
§ For success, repeat your mailings with different content
· The Numbers:
§ 90% chance of reaching your targeted audience
§ 60% read the letter
§ 50% make it to the decision maker at a business
§ 60-30-10 Rule: 60% of your Direct Mail success depends on the right list; 30% of it depends on the offer; and 10% depends on the Creative.
§ Oversize the Addressee’s Name
§ Consider putting no return address on it to increase curiosity
§ Use mail as a follow up for:
o Sales Call
o Appointment Confirmation
o Bad Customer Experienceo Recognize Achievement
o Introduce a new team membero Holidays
o A Thank You for a demo, presentation, sale, no sale, referral
Note: If possible, I prefer Direct Email over Direct Mail because it is instant, automated, easily tracked and cost effective. However, obtaining good email lists without violating Spam Laws can be a challenge. Always consider using Direct Mail with Email or Point to a Website with Direct Chat to enhance the dialogue and personalize your campaign.
Resource: Consider getting the Magazine Direct Marketing to learn as much as possible about the art of Direct Mail.
· Tips (continued):
§ Keep a detailed database and manage your mailings with a Customer Contact System.
§ Repeat important items / benefits
§ Photos are good and increase response rates
§ Best individual Direct Mail months are January, February and October. Best business Direct Mail months are January, February and March.
§ Offer a Free Trial or Free Product
§ Bundle your Product and Service Offerings
§ Offer payment terms, discounts and a guarantee
§ Address the reader / audience directly and personally
§ Keep your wording short and concise
§ Provide a list or Problems, Benefits and the corresponding solutions
§ Test Mail until you have all the kinks out
§ Repeat mailings combined with email and phone really increase your odds of success
§ When marketing to Business Owners or Executives do not use labels. And follow the mailing with a handwritten note.
§ Consider putting a Teaser on the envelope and don’t forget that a great Teaser location is the back of an envelope
§ A handwritten P.S. gets people’s attention – use it wisely. I.e. Call to Action, an Added Benefit, a Bonus, Discount, etc.
§ Toll Free Phone Numbers can triple your response rate.
§ Treat every Direct Mail order as a Rush Order.
§ Test, Test, Test to ensure your Direct Mail will work. Your goal is to break even during the testing period.
§ Include publicity about your Company on your mailings
§ Test many different lists to find the best ones
§ Check out Direct Mail News
· Post Cards: I like Post Cards over a letter. Why? No decision whether to open or not. Costs 1/3 less. Easy and quick to print yourself. Post Cards force you to be concise, which can be the main reason they are so effective.§ Consider using Email Audio Post Cards
· Combine Direct Mail with Email: The combination of mail and email can double your response rate. You can send out mass emails and then mail a postcard to the ones who actually opened the emails. You can alternatively send a post card introducing your company and benefits, then follow with a more detailed email that calls for action and points the prospect to a web sales page (by the way, a phone number and web sales page should be included with the postcards for Your “hot” prospects).
· Catalogs: You need 25,000 customers for this to make sense. 32 pages is the optimum length. 40% of prospects save their catalogs – this is the primary benefit.§ Needs to be well organized, indexed and have categories.§ Too cost prohibitive for you now? No problem: put it up on the web and grow your catalog customer organically.
In the next Blog I will discuss Marketing Tactics, The Customer and Essential Marketing Elements. Stay tuned…
Posted in Business Marketing Strategies.
March 8, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
In this Part 3 blog post on Small Business Marketing, I am going to explore Marketing Research and Target Marketing. Both are very important in marketing your small business, and the quality of the market research process will define your targeted marketing. See my previous blog post for information on Marketing Methods and Strategies.
Ø Questions to Ask:
ü Is a combination of goods and services a better, more competitive offering for the market than just a product or service?
ü What is your advantage? Price? Superior Product or Service? Timing? Barriers to entry?
ü What should you emphasize? Quality, Selection, Location, Service, Your Expert Status or the History of the business?
ü Can you effectively compete?
ü Define your Competition. What’s their Edge?
ü Who are your best customers? Why?
· What are their Demographics? Psychographics?
· Why do they buy?
· What media do they interact with?
· What is their spouse doing for a living?
· What is their purchasing outlook for the next year?
ü What are the best aspects of your business in the customer’s view?
· What improvements do customers want?
· Do they want more free interaction like a Newsletter, E-book, Articles, Forums, etc?
Ø Customers, whether current or prospective, offer the very best marketing info. Prepare a questionnaire for them! Put surveys on your website. These are excellent ways to fully define your “best” customer, and what makes them decide to buy.
ü Gives invaluable information on your competition and how you stack up.
Ø Marketing Research Bonanza is the Wide World Web!
ü Use multiple Search Engines.
ü Use Chat Rooms and Forums. They can search as Focus Groups and provide invaluable Marketing Research.
Ø Determine your Marketing Appeals or your customers’ hot buttons.
Ø At the conclusion of your initial Marketing Research, ask yourself:
ü What customer needs, wants and niches translate into “x” amount of profitability?
ü What improvements are needed for your biz?
ü How can your competitors hinder your growth?
ü How can you lose current customers?
ü What measures need to be taken to ensure your Products and Services don’t become obsolete?
ü What changing Trends affect your business?
ü Who do you need to advise you about running your business? Spark new ideas?
Ø Remember: The Quality and Source of your Marketing Information define the efficacy of your Research. You need High Quality and Reliable Information, and these two variables are the key to your future success.
Targeted Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, rather, it is the focused and personalized nature of inexpensive Targeted Marketing which make it worth considering. Some examples include:
ü Email: Opt In
ü Online Boards and Groups
ü Free Offline & Online Ads
ü Increase response rates with Toll Free Numbers
ü 900 Numbers
ü Inexpensive Regional Magazine Editions: great credibility builder!
ü Newspapers offer low-cost targeted geographic zones and neighborhoods.
ü TV Ads are much cheaper and targeted now.
ü Home Shopping Networks can be highly targeted and great to advertise around.
ü Cell phone text messaging: Opt In only!
ü Video Brochure: the paper brochure is a harder sell now days. Bring your Business, Products and Services alive with Video and/or Audio.
ü Look at targeted media like airplanes, airports, taxis, buses, checkout counters, restrooms, banks, etc.
ü Marketing messages on a Telephone “Hold” Session.
ü Use low cost special effects to appear to have a bigger look on TV advertising.
Ø Targeted Marketing Methods
ü Canvassing / Cold Calling: I am not a huge fan of Canvassing or Cold Calling but it can be effective / required in the early stages of your business, especially when money is tight. You can enhance your method by:
· Putting out flyers / mailings prior to initiating contact
· Go to Networking Events (i.e. Chamber of Commerce or a Professional Network Group) as a Guest of a member for free and make it count.
· Be direct; look people in the eye; and most importantly, offer value. Never hesitate to respectfully ask for the sale.
· Free Demonstration, a Sample or leaving a Product behind for free use can be very effective, if your product is highly effective and can sell itself.
· Try to quickly qualify the prospect and always ask for a Referral regardless if a sale was made.
· Look for ways to reference another mutual relationship to warm up a cold prospect
· Make the prospective customer feel important
· Educate your prospects; empower them and they will buy from you
· Identify your unique benefits and advantages, giving the prospect a great reason to buy
· Do your homework prior to contact and tailor your presentation for a particular prospect
· Mention your current customers, show testimonials and talk about your past successes.
· Show pride in your product / service offering
· Know the prospect will buy from you and always try to close at different points in your presentation
· If the sale isn’t consummated, ask why. Use the answers to tailor your presentation, rework your product / service offering or alter your pricing / credit structure
· The presentation should be brief and engage the prospect along the wayIf you follow the above pointers, Canvassing can be very effective and inexpensive. However, it demands a lot of time, discipline and consistency.
ü Biz Cards: Use both sides of your card, and it should sell something, offer something and point to your website for a special offer. It is a Sales Tool – use it as such!
ü Letters: Personalized letters are a thing of the past, but an art form which is worth using today. Why? Simple: no one else is and you will appear unique. The letter should solve a prospective customer’s problem or point to a website presentation that does. Use online or offline questionnaires to capture valuable information which you can use to sell the prospect – it sets up your sale. Some tips:
· Follow up the first letter with a second letter and then a phone call. All this should be done in 10 days time. Follow up letters and calls should offer new information.
· Always ask for the sale! Often, the third time is the charm.
· Include personal references, people you know in common and testimonials in your letters.
· Combine a letter with a Questionnaire, which asks a prospect to provide an Opt In Email address. Send all further communications via email for cost effectiveness and immediate yet convenient to the prospect contact. Remember, an email can be a Newsletter, Audio or Video Recording, a Power Point Presentation – the sky is the limit!
· Remember: Confidence, Quality, Selection and Price. Address all four in your contact; a sale is eminent, provided the prospect is qualified.
· Letters are an easy, cost-effective way to stay in contact with customers whether you make a sale or not.
· Personalize it: Address to a particular person, hand sign it and write a personal P.S. by hand. You can even follow a sales letter with a hand written note in a second mailing before or after a follow up phone call. This can be very effective!
· Your letters should not ask the prospect to respond. Rather, it will tell the prospect when you will call to set up an appointment and/or answer questions leading to a sale. Either way, on the phone call, Always ask for the sale.
· Stick with just a short letter. No other enclosures. You have a better chance to be read. You can always email (save postage) a brochure once you have retained the interest.
· If the prospect cannot wait for your follow up phone call, have a website address with an exclusive offer that points to a well crafted Sales Web Page (see my Online Marketing Article for more details).
· Sign your name in Blue color, along with the P.S. The Reader will read the P.S. first so put some thought into it.
· State your offering’s benefits to the specific prospect without really saying what it is. This will drive the prospect to check out your Sales web page.
· Include a short Customer Testimonial with the Customer’s contact info. Let your current Customers do the selling for you!
· The numbers: Mass Mailings are deemed successful with a 1-2% Response Rate. If a personal letter is done right, a 10-20% sales rate (not Response Rate!) can be achieved!
§ If you do Mass Mailings, a Personal Letter as stage 2 to your responses can be highly effective as well!
· On your Online Sales Page always give the prospect the opportunity to Opt In their email address so you can automatically send them Newsletters, Articles, Special Offers, Bonafides and the such.
· How to get a sale? Simple: Eliminate all risks of doing business with you and make sure the prospect understands the benefits and value of your offering. Pair that with passion and straight forward ethics and you will close again and again. You will have to ask for the sale at a minimum of three times on average; so ask!
· Partner up with other ethically sound business people to pair your offering and make a truly unique offering and/or tap the partner’s customer base. An experienced partner can add a lot of credibility to your offering.
· Ask for Referrals from the beginning, whether or not the prospect buys from you. If they don’t, make sure you offer them an Opt In so you can continue to stay in front of them with Specials, Newsletter, Company News and Events, Articles and the such.
· If targeting businesses, ALWAYS send you letter to the President and then follow up with a phone call after you sent a hand written note two days later. Two things will happen, you have his/her attention, and your initial call will be routed to the right decision maker in the company.
· Remember, letters are all about psychology so keep the emotional sale in mind when preparing the letter.Note: A lot of these methods and strategies described under “Letters” can be applied to many different marketing tools – use them!
ü Telemarketing: I am not a huge fan of cold calls (and this coming from someone who built initial sales and companies on cold calling). Now, a professional telephone campaign linked to a mailing of some sort (letter, brochure, marketing piece) can be quite effective. In-bound telemarketing can be profitable if done properly. The bottom line: 51% listen to telemarketers when called, so it can be a worthwhile strategy. Here are some keys toward running a successful telemarketing campaign:
· Research the prospect: know the important things about your prospect and how they relate to your business.
· Link your telemarketing with a personalized letter so your call is a follow up from an expected source, verses a pure cold call.
· I hate scripts. Your telemarketing should come naturally and lead to pre-planned destinations and decisions (i.e. more info, website link, a free analysis, newsletter or article, or a sale).
· Know your hot-button words, such as, “profitability, increase profits, lower costs and expenses, increase cash flow, money and time savings, competitive advantage and edge, market share” and so forth.
· Remember, an Objection is a faster way to a yes. Address an Objection adequately; you are one objection closer to the sale (typically 3 objection average per sale).
· Keep it simple: Contact, Warm Up, Present, Answer Questions / Address Objections and Close (try to close twice before your final close).
· Ask the prospect questions and clearly understand his or her issues / problems so you can provide a solution.
· When you close and ask for the sale, always state the benefits prior.
· A close doesn’t have to be a sale. It could be you ask for the sale and the prospect isn’t convinced. Do not destroy your sales opportunity by trying over and over for a final close. Rather, set up an Appointment and send follow up information and a Sales Webpage link. Stay in front of the prospect (I am assuming this is a well qualified prospect).
· Keep a Special Offer in your back pocket and only use it if you think the prospect is more motivated by price than your value added benefits.
· The hard numbers:o 100 calls to close a saleo 5 minutes average per call = @ 8 hours for a saleo 5 sales = @ 40 hours of timeo The average call transaction when one business telemarkets to another is @ $550, which means telemarketing can be quite profitable
· You can certainly increase the before mentioned odds / percentages to the better by developing and implementing a warm-up campaign that involves a personal letter, other type of mailing, email, etc. Warming up the prospect really pays off for the follow on Telemarketing.
ü Fliers / Circulars / Brochures: Fliers and Circulars are a short, concentrated, single message, specialty piece while a brochure is more detailed and longer. I am not a big fan of any of these business promotion mediums, unless they are used in a well thought out, targeted system. Here are some tips to draw clarity on what I mean:
· Fliers & Circulars:
o If you need to distribute a large volume, in conjunction (as a follow on) with a Mass Mailing, use Circulars.
o Gets Instant action if implemented correctly.
§ Clear Offer
§ Straight to the Point
§ Instruct Prospect what to do Next
§ Clearly Ties in to a Previously Established Identity
o Content is very important, as well as, Process.
§ Factual / Explain
o Help a Prospect visualize your Content with a Pictureo Use Headlines & Bullet Points
§ List the greatest benefits for the particular audience
o Test out your Brochure with a Circular / Flier for cost effective Test Marketing
o Use Action Wordso Learn Desktop publishing and produce your own materials at a fraction of the price. Get a Graphic Design Student intern to create your Artwork for a small fee.
o Color and Gloss are expensive. If you aren’t selling a luxury, premium product, consider colored ink and colored stock to bring your piece to life. However, if you self produce, I prefer Gloss and Colored Pictures – it is worth the added cost but mitigated when self produced.
o ROI: One Sale / one job should handily pay for your entire creation and distribution costs, otherwise, reconsider your campaign.
More expensive, more detailed, larger pieces which instill confidence and credibility. Moreover, it provides a more finesse, elaborate sales process. As a mailing, I prefer a Circular. For customer location placement, I like a Flier. Brochures are great for in-house advertising; give to existing clients with a referral section; perfect to use online in combination with Website Marketing. I like all my referral sources to have a replenishable stack of brochures that contain a referral section. Also if you don’t make a sale, send a few brochures and ask the prospect to give out for a referral fee (and to stay in front of the prospect).
· The best use of brochures in my opinion is online and as a PDF product, as well as, a Video and/or Power Point product.
· Color is good. It increases your retention rate by over 50% and affects the buying attitude by 40%.
· A brochure that costs a $1 to produce can have 8 pages, so use them wisely. Tell a story, build credibility, make it personal and keep a professional, clean look.
· If you have products that change rapidly, consider using a pocket brochure for product update inserts. Great for price lists too!
· Customer testimonials are a must.
· Have the brochure point to specific web sales pages for more information.
· Call for Action in your brochure. Direct the prospect.
· A low cost way of producing a brochure is having a magazine, which you advertise in or publish in, produce the ads / story as a brochure for you.
· A great combination if money is a premium (it always is with a small business, isn’t it?) is to run small print ads in many publications which point to a FREE Brochure, which could be an Online Brochure. Give people a reason to request the FREE Brochure.
· You can personalize a Brochure Request by including a handwritten sticky note on it (this can be done digitally as well).
· Be sure to follow up with the Brochure Requester within five days.
· Brochures should only go to interested prospects. Circulars can be more mass market. Brochures should bring you a closing rate of about 30%.
· An Online Brochure can have links to Video, Power Point and Audio Presentations. These really increase your chances to make a sale.
ü Classified Ads:
These types of ads can be low cost, cover a specific region or even neighborhood or take you national and international. For a targeted audience, concentrate on Magazines. An important stat: 60% of Americans read a magazine entirely but from back to front. So, your ad has a good chance of being read.
· Consider Classified Network for targeted, multimedia ads at a great price.
· Use a short Headline in all CAPS.
· Only use abbreviations people will understand.
· Personalize it
· Direct the reader to a Web Sales Page
· Consider putting your phone number
· Read the other ads in your advertising section and write an ad that contrasts
· A great way to sell a Book, offer a FREE E-book or Article
· Use Facts in the AD
· Create momentum and call the reader to Action. Accentuate benefits
· Classified Ads are short and sweet but you need quality of message. Start with a bigger AD and cut it down to the lines you need for the small Ad. You need very tight copy. Study competitors Ads to spark ideas and angles.
· I am not a fan of online classifieds. I think they get lost on the websites which they are displayed. For this reason, I recommend Print. If you find a Classified Online Forum or Service or Directory you like, the downside is you have to resubmit the Ad daily to keep visibility.
· Offer something FREE!
ü Gift Certificates: This can be an overlooked area for many businesses. Promote your Gift Certificates on the Home Page of your website. Do not have an expiration date. Specialize for Holidays. Put a link in your email address highlighting your certificate offerings. It is a great way to Brand your name.
ü Signs: Signage can be quite expensive so pick a business location which requires minimum outdoor signage exposure. Indoor or Sidewalk Signage is much less expensive and can be quite effective. Be sure to keep your signs consistent with your logo, meme, advertising message and branding. Consistency in identity and image across the board in all the media types you are employing is paramount to converting a Prospect to a Customer.
· Keep the sign short, concise and use persuasive, action words. Have a visible, identifiable logo.
· Sidewalk signs should be designed to stop the pedestrian, for that person to pause. Then a sign and/or merchandise in the window has a chance of pulling that prospect in to your business. Better yet, put your best priced merchandise outside your door. It can cause an impulse buy and/or create an invitation to visit your business.
· Promote Cross Selling Opportunities
· Use Brochures, Biz Cards, Gift Certificate and Coupon Displays with your signage. At the very least, a non-buying prospect can leave with something, if not a Gift Certificate. This creates great viral based, inexpensive advertising.
· Remember, Ads can become a sign – just blow it up!
· Use point of purchase signs to get the instant gratification sale.
· Check out your competition and see what they successfully use.
ü Free Bulletin Boards: Depends on your type of business. For instance, if you deliver pizza to a college, then Bulletin Boards can be your best advertising. Bulletin Boards are very time consuming as you need to check the board and refresh your offering at least twice per week. Hire a part time student to manage your Bulletin Boards.
· Everywhere has a Bulletin Board. Try to choose those that are well maintained (so you remain visible) and have the right prospect traffic.
· You can use your Circulars to post on the Bulletin Boards. Always have precut strips or peel offs for prospects to take your information with them. ards so you can spend your time more wisely.
ü Yellow Pages: One question: Why? Print Yellow Pages are expensive, and in the Internet world, hold much less influence and utility. If you feel that you must advertise in the Yellow Pages, put tracking devices on the Ad so you can measure its effectiveness. Moreover, one Ad may not do it as people may search in more than one category to find you.
· Is the answer online Yellow Pages? No! Consider Google Local with Google Maps verses using the online Yellow Pages.
· The largest Ad wins in Print Advertising. So, instead of paying the extra bucks for one large Ad on a page put two smaller ones to prevent being overshadowed by a large ad
· Color pays. Spend the extra bucks for it.
· Offer something for FREE
· Make your AD personal – address that person looking at your Ad
ü Use the Power of Desktop Publishing: Learn to use graphic design software and design your own logo, brochures, circulars, ads, business cards for a fraction of the cost. Take a class on the software you will be using so you can create professional looking materials. Then you can always hire a pro to clean up your designs. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars on your designs using a graphic designer – you can use a pro when you are successful and the cash flow is there.
In my next blog post I will discuss the Power of Mass Media. Stay tuned!
Posted in Business Marketing Strategies.
March 3, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
In my previous blog, I discussed Marketing Keys, Marketing Plan Components and Creative Marketing. Now I will get into specific, cost effective marketing methods and strategies you can use today to increase your company’s exposure and profits.
ü Highly targeted and extremely economical
ü Extremely Interactive
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ü Targets your niche
ü Creates credibility
ü Establishes Identity & Brand
ü Can be very cost effective
ü Great for demonstrations
Ø Direct Mail
ü Highly targeted
ü Medium that allows you to go through the entire sales process.
ü Augmented with Follow-up Mailing and Telemarketing is very effective
ü Provides personal contact, which can be the most effective
ü Backed by targeted mailings and TV advertising increases its conversion ratio
Ø Outdoor Billboards
ü Constant Reminder
ü Especially good for “Next Exit” Location traffic targeting
Ø Indoor Signs
ü Capitalizing on your marketing’s momentum
ü Can be the most important sign – even more crucial than outdoor signage
ü Signs don’t have to be static: i.e. Video Message, Slide Show, etc.
Ø Online Marketing
ü Absolutely the best medium which economically blends high interactivity with action
ü Examples: Email, video & audio postcards, forums, blogs, websites, texting
ü Very effective when content based
ü Prospective customers are not constrained by time
ü Good, targeted, updated content means repeat customer visits
ü Great Follow up, Resale, Cross-sale and Up sell medium
ü Exponential results when augmented by offline marketing
Ø Classified Ads
ü Very cost effective for a broad customer base
ü Targets the very hottest prospects
ü Confronts your competition head on
ü Only effective if combined with online and offline marketing
ü Always a good after sale piece to keep the customer thinking of you
ü Code the brochure, ask the customer to pass it out and provide discounts or referral fees back
ü Telemarketing only effective if part of an Opt In Marketing Campaign, whether online or offline or both.
Ø Reminder Tools
ü Refrigerator magnet is the most effective
ü Double sided or folded business card which provides mini-brochure capabilities
Ø Trade Shows
ü Targeted and motivated prospects
ü Consider online versions
ü Public Relations driven marketing can be cost effective. Establish reputation and credibility
Ø Community Relations & Sponsorship
ü Establish powerful contacts and connections
ü Great for image
ü Great constant reminder
ü Create an edge over the competition
ü Needs to be sincere
Combine Marketing Tools & Methods
Creative Strategic Marketing is based on developing multiple Marketing Tools in concert to achieve an out-of-the box, competitively advantaged Creative Strategy. Marketing Methods should be integrated together for each cohesive Marketing Strategy, and then adjusted as the campaign proceeds and develops. Personally, I believe one of the most lethal combinations of Marketing Platforms are:
ü Developing a Content Rich Internet Presence
ü Online Marketing through Opt In
ü Advertise free Articles, Newsletter, Guides, Webinar, etc. in a targeted Magazine Ad
This combination of print and online marketing is very cost effective, yet lucrative. Explore the possibilities.
Resource: Be sure to consult my Article on Online Marketing Strategies.
The important thing to keep in mind when executing multiple Marketing Tools, Forums and Methods in a synergetic strategy is to carefully track and monitor the results, making Key changes as the initiative develops. This is where an online / internet marketing platform is so valuable because it can adeptly track results (i.e. conversion rate, response rate) in real time.
Online Marketing Calendar
A good Marketing Calendar is based on a 52 week year and helps considerably in planning and budgeting a Marketing Strategy. At any point in time, you can determine the best ads to run, what needs to be in inventory for the anticipated sales, the project costs and projected sales. The calendar should be an online platform for maximum interactivity, utility, access, flexibility and integration. The Marketing Calendar should be fully integrated with the Marketing Strategy, Strategic Plan and Budgeting Process for maximum utility. The calendar should be in an expandable spreadsheet format to reveal all necessary details for each marketing method within an overall strategy.
Cost Effective Marketing Strategies
Profitable Marketing does not have to be expensive! Some cost saving tips:
Ø Cooperative Advertising
ü Can save upwards of 50%. Partner up with a larger company, mention their name and get paid for the promotion. Spread the ad cost among fellow advertisers.
Ø Per Order or Inquiry Payment Method
ü Advertising costs subtracted after a sale or defined event.
Ø Survey your Current Customers
ü Costs pennies to do, yet gives you the most up to the minute market trends. Plus gives you an opportunity to Cross or Up Sell the customer at the same time.
Ø Backend Products & Services
ü Bundle your offerings to minimize your marketing cost per sale.
Ø Code your Ads
ü Codes allow you to track and measure your marketing strategy’s results. By keeping ahead of the campaign roll out you can adjust for maximum cost effectiveness.
ü Online tracking is the most beneficial and cost effective means of keeping your marketing costs in line with your budget, while providing you where the most profits can be made per marketing dollar spent.
Ø Don’t Use a Rate Card
ü Make an offer for all your advertising – rates are always negotiable.
ü A 30 second TV spot can be as effective as the more expensive 60 second one.
Ø Tap into Remnant Magazine Space
ü Extra, unused ad space sells at substantial discounts.
Ø TV Ad Tips
ü Tight scripts and excellent prior planning cuts down the time costs.
ü Do your Ad in 3-4 renditions move session.
ü Use a production studio during off-peak times.
Ø Concentrate Efforts on Established Customers
ü Customers are 85% cheaper to market; Keep a good balance between Customer and Prospect marketing efforts.
ü Exponentially expand your sales, cost effectively, through a Customer Referral Program.
ü Up sell, Cross Sell, Cross Promote
Ø Combination Marketing
ü A very cost-effective and successful combination is pairing a Magazine Ad with a Website. Offer a FREE Newsletter, Guide, E-book, etc and set yourself up as an Expert; mine the prospects data in a permission based, Opt In; Follow up free offering with product and service offerings.
ü All your marketing efforts, mediums, tools and campaigns should be done in concert and combination as the results are exponential and the means cost-effective.
Ø Website Design
ü Web Design, Development and Optimization is very important, crucial in fact, but can be very expensive. To cut costs:
· Create our own content
· Write articles on areas you have Expert status or Knowledge
· Look at the web and decide what you want your site to look like and sketch it out, as well as, organize the link structure.
· Then have a designer lay out the website in a user friendly Content Management System, and you input all the content. Have the designer / developer review the site after your inputs for Search Engine Optimization tips.
Tip: Consider hiring a Web Designer / Developer overseas, such as from China or India, etc. They charge about $30 per hour (or less) verses $75 – 100 per hour. Make sure to carefully review a Designer / Developer’s credentials, referrals and past projects, to ensure credibility and reliability.
Stay tuned…the next blog will be on Marketing Research and Targeted Marketing.
Posted in Business Marketing Strategies.
March 1, 2010 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
There are so many great ways to market a small business and they don’t have to be expensive. Over the next few blogs, I will provide Cost Effective Marketing Strategies that you can implement today for your company’s success. I will start at the conceptual level, building a good foundation. Then in later blogs, I will explore specific strategies. Let’s get to it!
Ø Committed to a well developed Marketing Plan
Ø Your Company is Customer-Centric and involved with your customers. Understand your target customer base.
Ø Consistent Customer Follow Up
Ø Consent based marketing leads to sales.
Ø Sell Value & Benefits, not sizzle. Sell Substance.
Ø Follow on Marketing or Subsequent to the Sale Marketing is highly economical, yet, exponentially grows profits.
Ø Have accurate Measurement and Tracking systems for all your Marketing Campaigns, Actions and Strategies.
Important Marketing Plan Components
Ø Positioning: What specific niche needs will be filled by your product and service offering?
ü Strengths & Weaknesses
ü Target Markets Defined
ü Target Market Needs
ü Market Trends
Tips: Home-based small businesses are exploding. Could this be a good Target for your products and services? 50 percent of small business start ups are from women. Could this target benefit from your offering or a variation of your offering?
Ø Define your Market Position
ü Does your position provide customer driven benefits?
ü How specifically does the customer benefit?
ü Does your position define a competitive edge?
ü How Unique is your market position?
Ø The Simple Ten Step Marketing Strategy Process
ü Step One: Define your Business Identity
ü Step Two: Determine the exact Purpose of the Marketing Plan
ü Step Three: Establish Customer Benefits and your Competitive Edge
ü Step Four: Determine the Target Markets
ü Step Five: Exact Marketing Tools that will be used
ü Step Six: Narrow your Market Niche
ü Step Seven: Develop your Marketing Positioning
ü Step Eight: Establish your Marketing Budget
ü Step Nine: Apply the Marketing Strategy Budget to your Strategic Planning Process. Does it produce a cost effective and profit laden Sales Forecast?
ü Step Ten: Re-work as necessary & Take ACTION!
Tips: Your Marketing Strategy Process should build into the plan certain flexibility and ability to adapt – include contingency based planning.
Ø Important Objectives of the Marketing Plan
ü Flexible Plan to change and adapt with the changing market.
ü Competitive Advantage
ü Strengthen your Company’s Positive Identity
ü Keep, resell and up sell your current customers
Creative Marketing is effective Strategic Marketing, which simply means the Marketing translates into profits through specific, well planned tools, strategies and plans, which are out-of-the-box and highly targeted.
Ø A Creative Marketing Strategy has Three Parts
ü A Purpose
ü The Benefits Offered
ü The Brand
Ø Implementing the Creative Marketing Strategy
ü Offering must be interesting
ü Translate the interesting features to concrete benefits
ü Benefits must be Believable
ü Get and Hold Attention
ü Motivate Action
ü Very clear Communication
ü Measure, Track & Adjust against the strategy
Ø Creativity Comes from Knowledge of:
ü Products & Services
ü Target Market Audience
ü Marketing Area
ü Marketing Trends
ü Economic Trends
ü World & News Events
Ø Creative Marketing Starts at the End Point
ü Understand what the customer thinks, wants and needs at the purchase decision event.
ü Work backwards from the purchase decision back through your Marketing Strategy to its genesis.
Ø Creative Marketing is Forward Thinking
ü Help the customer clearly see and feel the end results, benefits and value received after the purchase.
In the next Blog I will get into specific marketing strategies…stayed tuned!
Posted in Business Marketing Strategies.