Archive | February, 2012

Are You Focusing on the Decision Makers?

21 Feb

Women drive 80% of consumer spending in the United States

I recently read Why She Buys by Bridget Brennan. You might ask: Why in the world are you reading a book about women? Well, according to Mrs. Brennan, women are the engine of the global economy, driving 80 percent of consumer spending in the United States.

Women do the majority of the shopping for the household, from grocery shopping to shopping  for clothes for her kids and her husband. She also has the final say on any big ticket item the man wants to buy!  How many times have you heard a man say, “Let me think about it.” That’s code for, “I have to ask my wife.”

Remember, the target customer and decision maker are not always the same person!

Here are a few interesting insights from the book:

  • They love to tell others where they bought something. For example: Woman 1 says, “I love your outfit!” Woman 2 responds, “Thanks! I got it at Ann Taylor Loft.” 
  • She starts sizing up the product/service/salesperson from the second she comes across your business. She notices every detail, from the post-it note on your desk  to the color coordination of your outfit. 
  • Women like to know what others are buying (possibly tag your product/service with “Best Seller” or “Best Deal”). 
 If you’re serious about selling your products and services in the future, I strongly suggest you find ways to make your products and services attractive to the final decision makers……women! What can you do to appeal to the women driving 80% of consumer spending in the United States?
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Should You Compete on Price or Customer Experience?

16 Feb

Create the Ultimate Customer Experience

Let me keep this simple: If you compete on price, your business will die a slow, painful death.  Price is the easiest marketing strategy for competitors to imitate. We see companies everywhere competing solely on price–just look at the airline and pizza industry.  Competing on price has several negative effects on your business, including:

1) Attracts price shoppers who have absolutely ZERO loyalty to you and your business.  The only way you to get them to buy again is to slash your prices.

2) Squeezes your profit margins. You have to compete by selling more volume to make up for the loss in margin–bad idea, unless you’re Wal-Mart.

A low price strategy is often the death of small businesses. As a small business owner, you have a unique opportunity to provide an unmatched customer experience.  Although it’s natural to assume every consumer buys strictly on price, studies indicate only between 5 percent and 10 percent of customers shop based on price.

Your strategy should focus on creating an unmatched customer experience for prospects and customers that interact with your company. How can you create a systematic experience that leaves people raving about your company? If you create that WOW experience, you will have loyal, raving, repeat customers who are willing to pay a premium for your products and services. More profits for your business equals more resources for you to expand and squash your competition.

Good Luck!

Nurture Your Current Customers and Watch Sales SOAR!

13 Feb

Nurture Your Current Customers!!!!

Countless research studies confirm that it costs a small business 10X more money and resources to attract a new customer. So why do most small (and many large) businesses continue to focus solely on new customer acquisition? It’s like having a cow farm and not building a fence around the field to keep them from running away!  Small business owners should focus on three critical areas:

1. Creating marketing systems that  attract highly qualified prospects

2. Creating sales systems that convert those prospects to customers

3. Creating nurturing systems that WOW current customers so they not only buy again but also recommend your products and services (this is where the majority of businesses fail)

When a prospect becomes a customer, the following should automatically occur:

The prospect is updated to a client in your database>the customer is segmented based on profitability to your company (Gold, Silver, Bronze)>each segment (Gold, Silver, Bronze) receives nurturing from your company on a regular basis.

For example, Gold clients might receive the following from you: Monthly Newsletter (written by you), hand-written Thank You card every quarter, a phone call to “check-in” every few months, promotional items reserved specifically for them.

Each item is kept on a “Client Nurturing Calendar” so you and your staff know exactly when to send nurturing materials. For example: On February 29, 2012, every Gold and Silver client receives “Leaping  with Thanks” thank you card (Leap Year…get it?).  Corny, but people love it. The card could be a picture of you and your staff, simply thanking them for their business.

Find creative ways to show your current customers that you love them, and your business will benefit from repeat buyers and tons of referrals! Good luck!

 

Goal of Super Bowl Ads: Raise Awareness or Sell Product?

6 Feb

Can you name the product in these ads?

At times I struggle with whether Super Bowl television advertisements are worth the money. This year, the average cost of a Super Bowl ad was $3.5 million dollars–you need to sell a lot of cars or chips to see a return on that investment. So, what’s the purpose of the ad? Is it to get maximum exposure for the brand, or is it to sell products and services? I guess the big corporations see it as a way to promote their brand by getting as many eyeballs as possible on the product. But were you really paying attention to the product?

There were a few ads that I laughed at, but I completely forgot which product was being promoted. Isn’t the whole idea of advertising and marketing to sell more products and/or services?

The companies that elected to advertise during the Super Bowl, got tons of “free” publicity. Twitter went crazy after every commercial; consumers rushed to YouTube to re-watch their favorite commercials; countless major media publications offered critiques of every commercial. This is all great publicity for the major corporations. I guess I’m geared more towards wanting to know exactly where my sales are coming from, so I can track and tweak my marketing campaigns to ensure the greatest profitability and return on investment.  As a small business owner, testing, tracking, and tweaking should be at the heart of your marketing strategy. 

Although it’s hard for me to imagine shelling out $3.5 million for an ad, it’s still fun watching the wildly-creative ads during the Super Bowl. 

Want More Sales? Step 1: Referral Program

4 Feb

Encourage all your customers to spread the word

When I owned my first small business, I made the mistake of paying too much money for a yellow page advertisement–isn’t that what you’re supposed to do as a business owner? Advertise in the yellow pages….that’s what everyone does! Next, I made the mistake of advertising in the local newspaper: I really thought I was big time after I paid the paper $750 to place my business name and phone number in the sports section. I made lots of early marketing mistakes; however, I did something right: I tracked the source of every lead that contacted my office. My first question: How did you hear about us? The overwhelming response was “My friend told me I should give you a call.” 75% of my leads and new clients came from referrals.

So I pulled the yellow page ad when my contract expired. The yellow pages representative was shocked that I didn’t want to place an ad with him…his reasoning: “All your competitors are in the yellow pages.” That sealed the deal; not only would I not blend in with my competitors, but also I wouldn’t be wasting my hard earned money on an unsuccessful marketing channel. When I showed the yellow pages rep my “Source of Business” spreadsheet, he was speechless. I was armed with hard data, showing how ineffective the yellow page ad was for my business.

I immediately created a referral program for existing clients. The goal was to actively encourage my current clients to recommend my business.  If someone referred my business, the referrer received the following (regardless of whether I sold anything to the prospect):

1) $10.00 gift card to a local sandwich shop

2) Entered in monthly drawing for $25.00 Visa gift card

3) Entered in yearly drawing for 60″ flat screen TV

The message: The more people you refer, the better your chance of winning the TV. I printed the referral program on bright paper and included it in every piece of outgoing mail to my clients. I also attached the referral program on all outgoing emails. The results of my referral program were remarkable: My return on investment for the referral campaign was 4 to 1; meaning for every dollar I invested in the referral program, I got $4.00 back.

I learned two very important concepts:

1) Determine how people are finding your business, then actively promote that channel and eliminate the unprofitable marketing channels.

2) Create a reason for your clients to refer you. Reward them with small tokens of appreciation and make your business “top-of-mind” by promoting a fun referral program for your clients.

Create your own referral program TODAY, and watch your business grow!

Is Your Holiday Marketing Campaign Effective?

3 Feb

Is Your Holiday Ad Campaign Hitting the Mark?

It’s time for the onslaught of Valentine’s Day advertisements aimed at men. The message of these ads: you’re a bad boyfriend/husband/partner if you don’t buy jewelry for your special someone. So far, I’ve noticed five different companies-from local jewelers to national jewelers-trying to lure men to their respective store. But are these ads effective? I could focus on the content of the ad, or the lack of differentiation, or the lack of a reason to buy, but I want to focus on is the timing of the message. 

Almost every business focuses its marketing strategy and advertising dollars around certain holidays. Just think about how many stores have deals on Black Friday. Most large stores have holiday deals at the same time–Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Black Friday, Memorial Day, etc. So how in the world can your marketing stand out as a small business?

Simple. Why not connect with prospects and customers during holidays that don’t get as much recognition?  How many businesses actually market during National Boss Day? You could run a clever campaign aimed at the boss in your target markets’ life (wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, kids, pets etc.) promoting your products and services. I’m sure you can think of other holidays (St. Patrick’s Day, Columbus Day) to promote your products and services. Your campaign will have a better chance at success because it’s not competing against everyone else during the most popular holidays.  Stand out. Be different. Think creatively when determining how you’re going to spend YOUR money.

Building a Small Business is Like Building a Nest

1 Feb

One task at a time!

Today, as I was working on a consulting project for a client, I watched a bird fly back and forth from a tree outside of my window. I was curious as to what she was doing. It turns out the bird was building a nest, one stick at a time. That got me thinking about not only my own entrepreneurial experience but also the entrepreneurs I’ve consulted with over the past five years. Starting and building a small business is exactly like building a bird nest: one needs to focus his or her attention on one important task, making sure that task is successfully completed before adding a new task.  Failure to complete your initial task will undoubtedly affect all other aspects of the business.

For example, most small business owners want to start acquiring customers immediately. However, without creating the proper foundation to handle customers- automatic lead generation systems, database to track leads, sales process, payment policies, customer complaints, employee and hiring procedures, marketing strategy, vision/mission statement, unique selling proposition- the entrepreneur is already playing catch up. My advice to those of you contemplating starting you own business: spend time focusing on the foundation of your business (the sticks of the nest) before you create a place for customers to visit. Pay special attention to every part of the foundation and ensure it’s completed before adding the next piece. Failure to establish a solid foundation will eventually result in an empty nest (sorry, had to) of customers.

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