marketing elements to build relationships

What Marketing Elements Are Missing?

The term marketing conjures up a variety of things. To many, it means advertising, publicity or maybe lead generation.  But promotion is only one marketing mix element. Since the key objective of your company’s marketing efforts is to develop satisfying relationships with customers, it involves every aspect of your company, not just communication.  So what ingredients are you missing?

The 7 P’s of Marketing

While product, place, promotion and price (the 4 P’s) are certainly key ingredients in your marketing mix, I would argue that there are three more:  people, processes, and physical evidence.  Focusing on a few and ignoring the others can cost you sales and profit, especially in service companies.

Since 80% of small or medium companies are SERVICE businesses, you likely need all seven ingredients working together to create a pipeline of quality prospects and build a base of loyal, profitable customers.  Here’s how you can fill the gaps in your marketing.

Products

The products (or services) you offer must solve a need or pain for your target customers. That’s obvious. The right features, ease of use, packaging, and other benefits also matter.  But what makes them different or unique? How can you and your ideal customers benefit from product diversification?  These two areas are often overlooked but are a great way to maximize profit and revenue, reduce risk and better meet the needs of your target customers.

Place

In your marketing mix, place refers to distribution, providing a convenient way for customers to access your products or services.  For some, this may be local retail or commercial space.  It can also include online delivery through your website or another third party site like Amazon.  Wholesalers and distributors, resellers, other retailers and strategic partners also provide a channel to reach more customers.  And of course, franchising is yet another option. There are a lot of ways to get your products and services to customers. Look beyond the most obvious.

Promotion

This includes all the ways you communicate information about your products or services to prospects, customers, channel partners, and alliances.  Promotion comprises elements such as advertising, public relations, sales promotion,  digital marketing and your sales organization! The purpose is to (a) deliver the message or promise to others, (b) get them to take action and (c) build relationships that eventually turn into sales and repeat business!

Most businesses recognize the need and value of promotion. But it starts with a budget and marketing plan to support all the important relationships that impact sales, not just new prospects. The plan includes what you will do, when you will do it and what it will cost.  Since you don’t have an unlimited budget, here are two suggestions to get the most from your marketing.  First, choose the tactics that put you in front of your target, not necessarily what everyone else does.  Second, focus on profitable and unique products and services, not all of them.

Price

When pricing your products or services, you certainly want to know and understand your costs, what competitors charge, standard industry mark-up and the value to the customer.  But often overlooked is the relationship of price, value and product positioning (such as quality, convenience or low cost).  Keep them aligned to avoid confusion. For more on this topic, check out my article, 6 Common Pricing Mistakes

People

The employees or sub-contractors who sell your products or execute your service impact the success of your marketing.  Do they have the skills necessary to do their job well?  Can they solve problems and perform quality work each and every time?   They are a direct reflection on you and your business. So choose wisely, invest the time to train and develop them and keep them in the communication loop.

Physical Evidence

Your promotion activities communicate the promise, what customers can expect.  Physical evidence is a way to demonstrate how you do this. It reinforces or supports your claims for service, quality, convenience and more. It reduces the perceived risk for customers.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  Online reviews, testimonials, guarantees, customer satisfaction scores, quality assurance programs, certifications and post-sale surveys are just a few common ones.  Look to support your claims and your messages will be far more compelling.

Process

The systems and procedures that impact the execution of your sales and service delivery are often overlooked. But they impact both new and repeat business.  From initial contact to delivery and billing, each step in the process is an opportunity to create a positive or negative buying experience. Don’t ignore this area and the effect it has on your marketing results.

The Bonus P

Profit.  It’s your reward for excellence in marketing that comes from mixing the ingredients just right.

Remember, marketing is more than just a website, ads, mailers or social media posts. So start asking the right questions and take action to fill the gaps before you invest more money in promotion activities.  By building a stronger foundation, you really will get more from your marketing budget.

Experience the Power of Business Coaching

Why do so many successful business owners choose to work with a business coach to build a better business? Because it works. They get results!  Now you can experience the power of business coaching with a complimentary session. Click here to learn more.

Follow Up System- Boost Sales

Follow-Up System: Easy Way To Boost Sales Results

No surprise that a lot of sales are lost because the business did not follow-up or gave up too soon. A good follow-up system can often boost your sales conversion rate by 10% or more!  But a one-size fits all approach isn’t the answer.  You need to build your follow-up system to support your business.

When it comes to follow-up, there are plenty of excuses floating around. I don’t have time, I don’t want to appear pushy, the customer will call when they are ready,  I knew they weren’t interested, I know they don’t have it in their budget so why bother!

It’s true that a customer must be ready, willing and able to buy in order to close a sale.  But a good system will certainly nurture your leads and help you close more sales now and set up future sales opportunities.

Sales Follow-Up | What To Consider

What’s the Risk?  Buying decisions take longer as the cost goes up or when the purchase has long-term impact or higher perceived risk.  Buying a new home or car, doing a major renovation, investing in business equipment or replacing a heating system are big investments, not impulse buys! The decision can take many months depending on where your prospect is in the buying process.

How long is the sales or buying cycle for your products and services?  You need to know this.  Then build the follow-up system to match it.  A six-month sales cycle often requires at least six months of ongoing communication.

Think Contacts. Follow-up is not a series of phone calls asking “have you decided yet”?  Nor is it a series of reshuffled sales pitches.  A good follow-up system is a combination of education and communication.  It’s a way to share information, build trust and keep your name in front of the prospect – to move them closer to YES.

Remember, buying decisions often require seven or more contacts or touches.  Giving up after a few tries will leave sales on the table.  Berating prospects with a stream of sales pitches will simply annoy them. Find the frequency and communication that works for your business – then do it consistently for each prospect.

Mix Up Connections.  While phone is certainly a great follow-up tool, it is not the only method available to you. I find a little variety goes a long way.  Based on your customers preferences and type of business, why not use a combination of phone, email, direct mail, text and social media to follow up and stay connected.

Now here’s a real benefit for all the “I am too busy” people out there.  Many of these methods can be systematized, automated, delegated or even outsourced. So supplement the personal phone calls with other communication.  You’ll save time and convert more sales.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

Consistency Matters.  Leads come from a variety of sources such as networking, referrals, website, search engines, direct mail and social media.  While it’s helpful to know the source, don’t take shortcuts based on that information or other assumptions.  Apply your process consistently to all prospects – because you just never know.

fix sales performance

How To Fix Poor Sales Performance

We all know that sales growth is critical to sustained profitability and income. But often we attribute our poor sales performance to things outside of our control – like the economy or competition. Maybe it’s time to look internally.

The reasons for less than stellar sales results in many small businesses is often linked to focus, systems, collaboration and time management. Fix these areas and you and your team will achieve better sales results.

Lack of Focus. You won’t sell anything if you don’t make it the focal point of every day, week and month. The best and easiest way to turn this around is with written goals – tied to both results or outcomes and activities, the stuff you must do to create the results. Here’s a few my clients find helpful:

  • How much revenue or sales do you need to generate or produce each month to achieve your annual goal?
  • Based on your average sale or transaction, how many customers do you need to achieve that revenue each month?
  • Using your conversion rates (and you should know these), how many calls, events, meetings or proposals do you need to make, attend or generate?

While this may seem obvious, it is not often done. What we measure and track, we can and often do improve. In fact, I’ve seen clients achieve double-digit sales growth simply by using this technique. Focus on the results, do the activities and watch your sales improve.

Inconsistent System. Prospects don’t become customers overnight. And it rarely happens by chance. It requires a step-by-step approach which often includes a variety of touch points and methods to uncover needs, build a relationship, earn their trust — and ultimately the sale. A good nurturing system often includes a variety of methods from calls and emails to social media and print. What is your system to nurture prospects into sales — and do you do it consistently each and every time?

Not sure or don’t have one? Then think back to the last few ‘ideal’ customers you acquired.

  • How did you connect after your initial discussion?
  • How did you follow up? At what frequency or how often?
  • What critical events need to happen to move to the next step?
  • What questions did you ask to uncover their needs?
  • What messages (benefits) resonated well – and how did you reinforce it?

Write it down. Now define your system, step-by-step, based on what you learned and start doing it consistently for every lead. Tweak if needed – then do that consistently. Test alternative options – and implement them if you find they are successful. A quality system is developed over time. But it pays big dividends – makes selling easier, more effective and productive!

Lack of Collaboration. Did you ever notice that selling an idea to someone is much easier when he/she is engaged in the process? Well, the same is true when it comes to selling your products or services. If clients help you ‘build’ the best solution, they feel a sense of ownership and the confidence to invest. So how do you collaborate better with your prospects? Ask more and better questions. Seek to truly understand the problem, then ask questions that help the customer come up with the best solution – yours!

Poor Time Management. Building relationships and creating sales requires a big investment of time, so you must plan your activities and execute efficiently. Goals for focus and a system for consistent conversion will help improve your time management. However, you also need a system to prioritize tasks and schedule the work, then do it. Take advantage of technology such as video conferencing, smartphones, online presentations to minimize travel time, make meetings more productive, schedule your appointments and related tasks. An earlier post, Why To-Do Lists Aren’t Enough, may also help.

Now It’s Your Turn.  Little improvements in each of these areas can make a huge difference in your results.  If it feels overwhelming, then pick one to start – then another and another until you’ve conquered them all.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

Keep Valued Customers

7 Ways to Keep Valued Customers

It is often said, “Customers go where they are wanted and stay where they are appreciated”. When businesses lose valued customers, they often assume it was related to price, competition or even the brother-in-law who now does what you do. But research shows that over 65% leave because of perceived indifference — they just don’t think you care. So what are you doing to keep valued customers coming back and feeling important?

So how much time and money do you invest in retaining and building relationships with your current customers? Now compare this to the resources you spend attracting new ones. Are you surprised?

New customers are the lifeblood of most businesses and yes, they are important. But if your new customers simply replace those you lose, it’s costing you a lot! Losing customers can drastically affect your reputation, credibility, referrals, sales and profits.

How to Keep Valued Customers

Never assume you know what customers want – ask them! Customer needs change. So does competition. Customer surveys are a great tool for understanding what customers want and need, evaluating your performance and uncovering innovative ways to solve their problems or exceed their expectations. One of the best questions you can ask is “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how would you rate our service? Anything less than a 10 (and most are), should be followed with “What do we need to do to be a 10?”. The answers may surprise or maybe even inspire you.

Measure and reward customer satisfaction and retention. If customer satisfaction and retention is really a priority in your business, demonstrate this to your team. Develop a method to measure it, set goals for improvement and reward the team when the goal is accomplished. This approach works for any improvement you wish to make because when you measure something, it becomes the focus. And with focus, comes improvement.

Select the right people. When you hire employees or select subcontractors to interact with your customers, make sure they value customers and possess the skills to deliver to your standards. Are they empathetic and trustworthy? Can they communicate well and listen to learn? Each customer contact with you, your team or other partners is an opportunity to build your reputation or destroy it. Make the selection of people a priority.

Say Thank You. Sounds obvious but consider this. When was the last time you received a thank-you note from a company you do business with? This simple strategy can really make an impact and says a lot about your company and the value you place on customers.

Stay connected with your customers. Whether you do it by phone, mail or email, make sure your customers know you are thinking of them. Too often, we only connect when we’re trying to sell something. A simple thank you, a request for feedback, or a holiday greeting card can all do the trick. If you want to add a special offer, just for them, even better! While the frequency may vary based on your business or industry, quarterly contacts should be your minimum goal!

Make customers feel like VIP’s. Your current customers need to feel more appreciated than non-customers or prospects. While new customers are important to growth, make sure current customers get some VIP treatment. Programs, offers or specials that are exclusively available to current, loyal customers (VIP’s) work well – so build some into your marketing efforts.

Make customer service everyone’s responsibility. Does everyone in your company understand the value of customers and are they ready to help them regardless of whose job it really is? Train your team on customer service and give them the tools and ability to take care of your customers. From the receptionist to the delivery driver, your team will make an impression. The kind they make is up to you!

Make Service and Retention a Priority

When you plan for the coming year, sprinkle in a few strategies to improve service and retain your valuable customers. They are a great source of referrals and word-of-mouth advertising. Here’s the best part. These strategies cost a lot less than generating leads for new customers. For more ideas, download my 155+ Profit Building Ideas.

Monthly Articles & Business Tips

Looking for additional ideas to improve your small business? Then subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter for articles, tips and great insights on business and entrepreneurship. Click here to subscribe.

marketing small business

7 Attitudes That Hurt Small Business Marketing

When it comes to growth, there are hundreds of marketing and sales tactics you can use – from direct mail and networking to social media, email and cold calling. These techniques are easy to learn and implement if you avoid some beliefs that hurt your small business marketing efforts.

What’s Holding You Back?

It Needs to Be Perfect.  Your marketing is a reflection of you and your company, so you want it to look professional. But waiting for everything to be just right before you act causes you to do nothing.  The perfect marketing piece, script, commercial, fan page, website or post won’t help you grow if it remains ‘in the works’.

Something that is 80% perfect and implemented now will do a lot more to help you grow.  You’ll also learn from doing and can perfect it along the way.

I’m Not Creative.  Some of the best small business marketing, the kind that gets sales, comes from the heart.  It’s conversational and often grass-roots – non-traditional. As a small business, you actually know your customers.  You see them, speak with them and most of all understand them.

An agency, copy writer or designer can certainly polish things up, but you are the expert on your customers. Use that knowledge and create meaningful conversations. It’s a form of creativity that every small business can conquer.

Fear of Rejection.  What is the absolute worst thing that can happen if you pick up the phone, stop by a business, mail a printed piece or post something on social media?  Prospects can say NO, throw it away or not share it with others.

It’s not personal and it’s not the end of the world. But it is a numbers game – so keep plugging away and learn from your successes and failures.  Don’t let your fears hold you back.

I Don’t Have Time.  Sure you are busy.  Have you ever met an entrepreneur who wasn’t? But when things are important, we learn to make the time for them.  We make time for our families, customers and employees because they are important to our business and life.

If you want your business to grow, marketing and sales are very important, so make the time to work on them – even if it’s only 15 minutes a day. What can you possibly do in just 15 minutes?  Click here to check out the list I included in my article, #1 Rule to Drive Business Growth.

I Don’t Want to Look Pushy.  Okay nobody likes to be perceived as pushy – but persistence is a key to success.  It would be great if every prospect purchased at that first connection – online or in person.  But that rarely happens. Building awareness and trust takes time – typically seven or more contacts! If you give up after one or two tries to avoid looking pushy, you miss out on a lot of opportunities.

Don’t hound prospects, but a consistent follow-up system, variety of methods and a little persistence can go a long way.  A well-thought-out system for follow-up makes you and your company look professional, not pushy and can help you convert a lot more prospects to paying customers.

Fear Putting Myself Out There.  Small businesses are people businesses and most are started by someone with a technical skill that they learned.  The confidence to ‘get out there’ – to tell your story and connect with others – comes from learning and doing too!

Like anything new, you may initially feel uncomfortable. Preparation can go a long way here.  Script out and practice commercials ahead of time. Research what others are saying and doing on social media and at events. Just be your ‘passionate’ self. If this continues to be a struggle, seek training or assistance. Don’t let what others might think stop you!

I Need a Big Budget. While marketing requires an investment of both time and money, it does not require a big budget. It does require the right combination of tactics – those that actually work to create sales, not just leads – and a commitment to consistently implement them.

A lot of grass-roots or guerrilla marketing efforts are low-cost and very effective for small businesses.  They produce a good return on investment — and isn’t that what you want from your marketing? You need marketing to keep your business growing and you can afford it!

Now it’s time to get to work. Get over the need for perfection or fears that you might look silly or pushy. Be sincere. Have a plan based on your resources – time and money. Follow-up.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

web-results

How to Convert More Online Leads to Paying Customers

My website is giving me too many online leads! Not a problem if you have an e-commerce business where customers buy direct and fulfillment happens with no interaction. But what if you have a service business that requires phone calls or quotes to build relationships or close the sale?

This is the problem recently raised by a local business owner after upgrading his website. Within a few months, the number of calls and emails exploded. That’s the good news. But they were not responding to them in a timely manner. That’s the bad news. In the short-term, this hurts your sales conversion rate.  In the long-term, it may damage your reputation for dependability and responsiveness.

How To Avoid Disappointing Customers

First, remember that your business systems need to change as your business grows. If you expect growth from a new or improved strategy (and you should), keep this in mind and prepare for it. In his case, the procedure for handling online leads worked when they trickled in, but did not when the volume more than quadrupled.

Next, use technology, anticipate issues and simplify what you do. Here’ are a few things we did to demonstrate this point:

Avoid vague contact forms. You need their name, phone number, and email address.  Most website contact forms use a comment box to gather more information. They often leave you wondering what action the prospect wants you to take. Do they want you to call or email the information? Add a ‘How can we help you’ section and list the specific options.

Screen leads. Add one or two specific questions to your contact form to help you screen and prioritize. Make them simple and don’t over-do it. Those that are truly seeking your service will typically take the time to answer them; tire kickers may not.

Make quote process efficient. If someone wants a quote, take them to a separate form and gather most (or all) of the relevant information. Having information before you call makes it more productive. So you can spend time asking great questions – the kind that can help you convert prospects to customers down the road!

Make auto-responders count. Most websites have a default confirmation message that goes out when people send a contact form email. Customize yours to begin educating customers on the benefits you provide, why you are unique, and expectations on return calls. Remember, this is the first direct communication from you.  Make it count.

Use templates. What are the top 5-7 requests, questions or issues you receive via your contact forms? Develop email responses that address them and use them consistently. Whether you use an auto-responder software program or manually cut and paste, they will save you time and customers will receive consistent concise information.

Publish FAQ on your website. These provide a simple, easy way to answer common questions prospects have about your products or services in a well-thought-out way. They can help reduce non-essential emails or calls leaving you more time to focus on the important ones. Most businesses have some of these for customer service reps or receptionists to use. Clean them up and put them on your website.

Bonus From Publishing FAQ’s

Here is a bonus you get when you publish frequently asked questions.  It gives you the chance to include questions you WISH customers would ask, but often don’t because they don’t know they should. I’m sure you have a few in mind! Use them to reinforce your uniqueness, value, and benefits. In a question and answer format, they sound less promotional! Take advantage of it.

If you are struggling to convert online leads – whether you get a lot or a little – take a look at the entire process. Is it efficient and effective? Does it save you time and money? Is it convenient and responsive to prospects? Then get to work and make some changes.

New Monthly Article & Business Tools

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.

get more sales

How to Get More Sales While Spending Less

When sales and profit decline, business owners react in various ways. Some look to cut expenses while others look to get more sales and customers by investing in advertising and other lead generation strategies.

Controlling expenses is important whether profit is up or down. But cost cutting is typically a short-term fix.  You can only cut so much and still have a business. While a business requires a steady flow of leads to sustain growth and replace lost customers, lead generation strategies are typically the most costly methods to grow revenue.

So what should you do? Before you invest time and money generating new leads, know and understand the other factors that drive your revenue: sales conversion rate, the number of transactions and average dollar sale.

For many small businesses, these are untapped profit opportunities. They offer a lot of room for improvement at substantially lower costs!

Sales Conversion – Your Efficiency Measure

Sales conversion rate is simply how many leads you or your sales team convert to paying customers. Think of it as an efficiency measure for sales. What is your sales conversion rate? If you don’t know, track it. After all, leads that are not converted to sales are a waste of time and money!

Tips to Improve Your Sales Conversion Rates
  • Define your ideal customers and understand what is important to them. Without clear targets, every lead looks like a great opportunity.
  • Recognize your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself. What do you do well from the customers’ perspective and profitably? If you are not sure, ask your ideal customers. Then focus on prospects that NEED what you do well and be willing to let go of the others.
  • Differentiate yourself with a guarantee. If you consistently deliver critical benefits for your target customers, a guarantee is a great way to reduce the buyer’s perceived risk, overcome obstacles and convert sales. The key to an effective guarantee – make sure your delivery is consistent and make sure it is relevant or important to your target market.
  • Create a sales management system – a consistent approach you use for every lead. Know the key points of contacts and where prospects are in your sales funnel.
  • Know why customers buy. What benefits do your customers get when purchasing your products or services? Ensure sales messages and discussions communicate this. Prospects may ask about features, but they buy benefits.
  • Set sales and milestone goals and track them. Key events in the sales cycle, such as face-to-face meetings or requests for quotes, are indicators of progress. Tracking tells you where prospects fall off so you can improve your sales system. Remember, what you measure, you can manage and improve.
How Much & How Often Measures

The number of transactions relates to frequency – how many times your customers purchase from you over a specific time period, typically one year. The average dollar sale represents how much customers spend each time they do purchase. What would your bottom line look like if your customers made one additional purchase each year or bought one more product or service when they purchased from you?

For most owners, the answer is ‘substantially better than it does right now’. Small improvements in these areas can increase revenue or sales without acquiring new customers. Tap into your existing customer base and watch your profits grow.

Ways to Increase Transactions and Average Dollar Sale
  • Develop or maintain your customer database so you can keep in touch or quickly respond to sales opportunities. Think email, mail and phone so you capture the relevant information.
  • Stay connected with your customers by phone, mail, email or through social media. While the frequency may vary based on the type of business, every customer should receive a ‘touch’ at least once per quarter.
  • Make valuable customers feel more appreciated than non-customers or prospects. While new customers are critical to growth, make sure current customers get some VIP treatment. Programs, offers or specials just for current customers work well.
  • Look for opportunities to sell multiple products or services. Educate customers on the range of services you offer, create checklists of typical add-on offerings for key products or services, bundle or package products and services, implement sales scripts, free trials, or special offers on additional services with their primary purchase.
  • Train your team in sales and service. Wow your customers with consistent delivery so you create raving fans who spend more and buy more often!

On a final note, know the numbers! If you want to improve sales conversion, the number of transactions or your average dollar sale then track it, set goals, implement a strategy and celebrate your teams’ success. Your bottom line will thank you!

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

Lead Generation, Closing Deal

Is Your Lead Generation Delivering Results?

Are your marketing efforts providing you with lots of quality sales opportunities or are you spending money attracting the wrong people? While the number of leads created through marketing is important, the quality of your lead generation is the key to sales conversion and better results!

Effective Marketing Can Pre-Sell You

When done well, marketing makes sales easier, less expensive and more enjoyable. Think about the last few times you got a call from a prospect who was referred from a customer or power partner. Was it an easier conversation and did it turn into a quote or sale? For most businesses, the answer is yes because the prospect was pre-sold. He / she already understood the benefits and value you provide before they spoke with you.

Imagine your marketing doing the same thing – pre-selling people so they raise their hand and say tell me more. So how do you create effective, affordable ways to pull people in? Go back to the basics.

Often when I talk with business owners about marketing, they jump right into a discussion on what they are doing, the tactics, such as direct mail, print, networking, social media, etc. Some of which works, much of it does not. More often than not, they place the blame on the medium, ‘I tried direct mail, it doesn’t work’.

The problem here is that it ignores two of the three elements in any successful marketing. If you want marketing to pull prospects to you (so you can stop chasing them), then you must create synergy. Without it, your marketing is destined to fail.

3 Magical Elements for Great Marketing

Your Market. Who are your ideal targets for the products or services you offer? Yes, you may have a few different groups (or niches) – but ultimately not the universe. You can’t solve problems and provide solutions for everyone. Who are the people you can best serve with your products and services? Think smaller to grow bigger!

Your Message. Once you know who you are talking to (target market), your ability to create a message that is compelling is far greater. Your message is what communicates what you offer, the problems you solve, the hopes you fulfill and the reasons people should care – what’s in it for me, the customer. You may have a great message but if it doesn’t resonate with YOUR target market, your marketing will fail.

Your Medium (Method). This refers to the vehicles or tactics you plan to use to deliver your message to your target market. The methods you choose, and there should be more than one, will depend on your target and what your message contains.

So what is the biggest challenge for small businesses? For many, it’s clearly defining their targets. It’s a fear that serving smaller, niche markets would eliminate sales opportunities. Ironically, the opposite is true.

A niche allows you to build a reputation as an expert in your field so prospects view you or your company as someone who really understands THEM. Experts easily attract new customers who pay more and gladly tell others. In marketing, it is better to be a big fish in a small niche market than a small fish to the masses.

Here’s a simple approach to get clarity around YOUR targets and create small niches:

Start with a list of customers for your current products or services. Focus on the top 15-20 ideal customers and write them down. Jot down what you know about them – including demographics such as industry type, business revenue, the number of employees, net worth, and household income.

Next, add some other ‘characteristics’ – Consider how they work with you, what is important to them, what do they purchase (one or more services), how do they pay, what values are important to them? Just put down what comes to mind.

Next, find out what problems they are having, difficulties they face, what they really want. The key – do not assume – ask.

Next, look for common characteristics, data, and problems and create ‘sub-groups’. If you are like many of my clients, you will start to see some patterns evolve. You may end up with 3-4 different clusters; that’s OK as long as they are clearly defined.

Finally, take a look at each sub-group and articulate who they are. Think about how you would describe them to others – your team, referral partners or even your children – and be specific.

Once you have clarity on your ideal targets, creating compelling messages and identifying the best method to reach them is so much easier. Give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at what you learn and how it helps you attract the customers you really want.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

networking2

Networking: 10 Do’s & Don’ts To Make Your Efforts Pay Off

If you are a real people person, networking is likely something you enjoy. But for many owners and professionals, networking is hard work because it takes them out of their comfort zone. The good news is that effective networking requires skills that can be learned and mastered, even if you are not naturally outgoing.

If networking is one of your strategies for developing new relationships and potential business, then here are some do’s and don’ts to make yours pay off. Do’s and Don’ts to make yours more effective.

10 Ways To Get More From Networking

Have a Plan. There are a variety of ways to network. You can join business associations, chambers or groups, get involved with community organizations or your local rotary, attend social or business events, participate in workshops or classes, or go to trade shows.

All of these provide access to new people and a way to stay connected.  But they are only beneficial if they provide access to the people you want or need to meet. Be clear on what you want then take the time to research options, talk to like-minded business owners and ask questions. Then plan your networking and work your plan.

Set Goals. Specific, measurable networking goals help you monitor results, modify your approach, and keep you focused on priorities. Include goals around both activities (how much you will do) and results (outcomes you expect). Here are a few questions to consider as you establish your networking goals. How many events or seminars will you attend each month? How many groups will you formally join and participate in this year? How many new prospects do you want to meet each month or at each event? How many new alliance relationships do you want to build?

Prepare. Before you attend, take a few minutes to prepare. If you need a commercial, prepare one.  Check who else is attending and identify anyone you want to connect with. Also, remember to take business cards or other materials that are appropriate.

Take Notes & Get Contact Information. Business cards are an easy way to get contact information. Use the reverse side to make notes about the contact and any follow-up actions you commit to doing. Keep a small notebook or use your smart phone to jot down notes or contact information for times when business cards aren’t available.  As you gather contacts, think quality, not quantity.

Listen. Listening is one of the key skills for building relationships in business and in life. If you go to events ready to talk, you miss the chance to learn, help, give back, uncover opportunities and build relationships. Do you listen to hear and understand? Do you remain in the moment or think about the next person you want to meet? Master this skill and you will shine at networking.

Don’t Sell. While most people like to buy, nobody wants to be sold. Not on the phone, not at your business, and especially not at an event. Use your networking to build a foundation for future opportunities. Be patient.

Take Initiative. Most of the people in the room are there for the same purpose you are – to meet new people, reconnect or learn something new. So don’t hang out in the corner or sit down at a table. Mingle! Be willing to approach people, introduce yourself and simply break the ice by asking a question or comment. If you struggle with this, consider preparing a few relevant questions ahead of time.

Do Create Win-Wins. Networking is not about collecting business cards, but rather about creating mutually beneficial relationships. In other words, helping others and getting help in return. While help may be in the form of customer referrals, it may also be new connections, resources, information or ideas. Networking should never be one-sided. Don’t go in with a ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude or people will peg you as a user. On the other hand, abundant giving without receiving will cause resentment. It’s all about balance – and creating win-win relationships. Seek out the right people so you can give with abundance and receive with abundance.

Get Involved. Did you ever notice how well you get to know people when you work together on a project or committee? It’s a natural. So don’t just show up at events. Join a committee, serve on the board, or contribute your services to the organization to help them grow. It’s a great way to give back to the community, build your reputation, get to know like-minded people and develop some friendships along the way.

Have a Follow-Up System. A brief conversation at an event rarely produces an immediate customer or power partner. It is merely the starting point for building the relationship. Too often these opportunities are lost simply because there is no follow-up. A good networking system should provide a method to capture contact info, initiate meetings or calls, send relevant information, etc.

Networking, like other marketing strategies, needs to generate a return. Make sure your time and money investment pays off on the bottom line.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

USP, Unique Selling Proposition

Is Your USP Compelling to Those Who Matter?

As business owners, we all recognize the need for uniqueness, something that makes us stand out from the crowd so we don’t simply compete on price.  While not always easy, it is important because your unique selling proposition dramatically improves your marketing results by accomplishing three things:

Unique – sets you apart from competition, makes you the logical choice

Selling – persuades someone to exchange money for your products or services

Proposition – offer or promise for acceptance by others

It should answer the question, Why customers choose us?  When I ask this of business owners, they typically start listing things like great service, open good hours, a range of choices, quality people, etc. Then I hit them with the following: Is this list based on your beliefs or a real understanding of your customers?

So before you start brainstorming ideas for a better value proposition, do a little research.

Think Like Your Customers

Many small business owners assume their customers are just like them – with the same values, beliefs, needs, problems, and motivators. Even when it is obvious that your ideal customers are different. It’s easy to fall back into the trap and apply your own beliefs.

You need to know what they think and why, so ask! What makes them come back? Is it service, convenience or reliability to name a few. What is it about your service that they love? Is it friendliness, knowledge, or maybe your willingness to help. Now for the million dollar question: Why is this important to them?

What Motivates Customer Buying Decisions. One of the biggest myths is that customers buy based on needs alone. If this were true, why would people buy a Mercedes when a Hyundai would fill the same need for transportation?

People may have a need before they consider buying, but actual buying decisions are emotional, based on desires and other motivators. Image, safety, savings, convenience are just a few that drive people to open their wallets or sign on the dotted line. So what motivates your customers to go beyond consideration and actually buy? Get your arms around this and your messages will attract more customers to your business.

Weigh the Competition

What options do your customers have when it comes to buying the products and services you sell. Why do they choose you? Sounds simple, but the answer to this question may shed a lot of light on your business that you can capitalize on, in marketing, sales and service delivery.

Today customers have far more choice. Technology has removed geographic boundaries, developed new distribution channels, made customization (or the appearance of it) more accessible, and created leverage opportunities for many small businesses.

But if you want to capitalize on the opportunities and create a compelling reason to get customers flocking to you, start by improving your customer knowledge.

There are a variety of ways to get information about your customers. The most obvious and effective way is to ASK them. Depending on your business, you can do this with face-to-face interviews, phone discussions, online surveys or small, informal focus groups (aka lunch). When customers know you ‘get it’ and really understand them, they gladly reward you with more business.

Bring Your USP To Life

Figuring out what makes you distinctive or better is certainly important. But the real power of your USP comes from the positive emotions it can arouse. To do so, you need to bring it to life and make it memorable. In other words, how do you capture the emotional gratification promised by your products or services – in a short phrase or a few words.

Think tagline. A tagline, often used with your logo, is a word or phrase that identifies and explains a company’s benefit to the customer in a meaningful way. An effective one will have a personality all its own and connect with the customer in some sort of emotional way that makes it memorable.

  • Keeping it short is a key – but here are a few other factors you should consider:
  • Focus on the promise (result or benefit) not the feature or work you offer
  • Keep it vague enough to leave room for imagination
  • Convey a positive feeling
  • Give it impact, emotion or passion
  • Be consistent with your customers’ perception of your business – your strengths
  • Avoid sounding like a commodity!

Now don’t get paralyzed as you work through this. Your USP may change over time as your business evolves and you gain an understanding of customer motivators. So what are you selling and how does your USP convey this?

More Ideas to Grow Your Business

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.