Archive for September 2013

27 September, 2013 13:48

September 27, 2013

Every business would like to grow sales and profits. The future of the business and the livelihood of its employees depend on it. So, as business owners, we go to networking events, make phone calls, send out mailers, and even spend time on social media. Yet growing the business is never as easy or simple as that.

Making prospects aware of your products and services is important. If you don’t do it, no one else will. But that’s only one part of the equation. There’s something far more important that needs to be done first.

When a doctor goes into surgery, steps must be taken beforehand to prepare the patient. No patient would want the doctor to arrive on the day of surgery and begin poking holes and cutting skin at random to find the issue causing the problem. Yet many businesses go about prospecting and looking for new customers in the haphazard way of the unprepared surgeon.

To win more business, first you must isolate the pain points. What’s the problem your business can solve for your prospect? The more descriptive and specific you can describe the pain, the better. Yes, it takes a little effort to find specific problems for each type of potential customer, but you should notice trends and common traits you can use to attract a wider group of prospects.

After you’ve identified the major pain points, you can present the solution your business provides to solve the problem. Now it’s time to communicate this message.

Having a focused message before you market helps attract and retain the types of customers you want in the first place. The tighter the message, the better return you’ll get on your marketing spend.

Not many prospects care how many years you’ve been in business, how pretty the customer lobby is, or how incredibly innovative and cool your brochure or website look. Your prospects care about themselves. They worry about their problems. Outline what those issues are, and then tell them how you will make their problems disappear.

Oftentimes, your prospect may not even be aware of the problem. It’s your job to show them. Maybe you can save them time or money solving a problem they didn’t even know about. This is how you can make your print communication and all your other marketing messages more powerful. Identify the pain and show them how you can make their lives better by engaging your business.

It’s your knowledge and awareness of specific problems that will earn the trust of your prospect. Customers are attracted to businesses that best educate, communicate, and present expertise in the problems they want to solve. The best way you can do that is to not just represent your business but BE your business.

Being your business essentially means focusing on your brand and what it communicates to your marketplace. Your brand is more about your message than your logo. It’s more about content than design. Once you have your message finely tuned to what your audience is seeking from your business, only then will prospecting and growing your business feel like swimming with the current rather than against it.

24 September, 2013 14:30

September 24, 2013

In an increasingly noisy world, people are looking for businesses to believe in. The business world is filled with hype, over-commercialization, and marketing nobody can believe. Fortunately, there’s one simple, yet overlooked way your business can stand apart from the muddled masses: by having a strong company vision statement.

A strong vision statement isn’t just for putting on the walls of the company lobby or the back of business cards. It clearly communicates that this business lives what it preaches.

Why having a clear business vision is important

Vision starts with a belief… specifically the belief that your business exists to make a difference in the world. The specifics of that belief could be simple or more complex, but whatever your vision, it must clearly state the core values and purpose of why your business exists and what it wants to accomplish.

A vision is an ideal your company strives to achieve. There are many benefits to creating a company vision. But first and foremost, a clearly written and communicated vision helps define your company’s values and guide the behavior of all employees.

A vision statement acts as the guide and cornerstone for everything you do. It needs to be specific enough to say what you will do but can also state what you will not do.

Without a clear vision, a business can drift aimlessly from task to task without understanding the purpose of the organization and the destination it wants to reach.

Here are three guidelines for creating a vision or evaluating your current one:

  1. Your vision must be clear, concise, easily understood, and give a sense of purpose for your business.
  1. It should motivate everyone in the business toward achieving a common goal. It should be ambitious and challenge everyone to embrace the ideals stated in the vision.
  1. A great vision helps link actions to the company’s strategic goals. Actions will come from a clear understanding of the value created by following the vision.

A strong vision identifies the core values of the business, understands the purpose of the business, and envisions the future of the business. Often you can immediately identify a company that has a clear sense of purpose and vision from ones that don’t. A motivated team working together creates a positive energy not seen in aimless businesses. A clear, memorable, and effective vision points everyone toward a common goal of making a difference in the lives of those being served.

A stimulating vision compels everyone to act, to change, and to become something that stands out in a skeptical world of me-too imitators. You can attract customers by hiring a guy in a clown costume to hold a sale sign in front of your building, or you can gain customers by providing out-of-this-world service from motivated employees driven by a worthy vision. One brings you customers for a day. The other brings you customers for a lifetime.

20 September, 2013 14:18

September 20, 2013

The secret to increasing sales is simply to increase the marketing of your products and services. Or is it? There’s one other critical part of the puzzle that needs to be addressed in order to grow a business. Without this, all the marketing in the world won’t help.

Marketing done correctly with channels like direct mail (using postcards as an example) can equal more leads and prospects.

However, all the leads in the world won’t necessarily equate to hefty sales and profit increases without the ability to sell. Therefore, the ability to sell yourself, your services, and your products becomes the second important piece of the puzzle.

Some have attached a stigma to selling with the image of a pushy used car salesman, but there’s no need for slime or hype if you have a great product and service to sell.

There’s a five-step business life-cycle and ecosystem you need to adhere to in order to have a truly successful, growing company.

Step 1. Marketing to bring in leads and prospects.

Step 2. Selling by making the case why your solution is the best option for the prospect.

Step 3. Systems and processes to consistently deliver an excellent product and service.

Step 4. Delivering great results to encourage referrals.

Step 5. Delivering great customer experience with your business to build client retention and repeat business.

Failure at any step will result in stagnation or decline in your business.

Marketing must be done in order to bring in a consistent flow of qualified leads and prospects. However, step two (making the sale) can’t be overlooked. Being enthusiastic and showing passion for what you do and what you provide can go a long way in covering up any shortcomings.

A sale is made when a prospect gets to know you, likes you, and trusts you. There are four factors that can help you go beyond enthusiasm and passion in making your case toward a successful selling situation.

Factor 1: You need to establish rapport. Establishing rapport requires genuinely caring about your prospect. The more you learn about the prospect, the greater the likelihood you’ll be able to find a common area to create a bond.

Factor 2: Find out what your prospect really wants from what you provide. This requires knowing what questions to ask in order to learn their reason for wanting your service. Top salespeople know that sometimes what a prospect wants isn’t what they really need. Don’t just tell them, but show them how your solution delivers what they really want and need.

Factor 3: Prove to them the value you provide. To do this, you must know what differentiates you and your company from the competition. Every prospect wants the least expensive solution, when all things are equal. Differentiation by showing massive value tilts the playing field in your favor because all things will not be equal when you’re the one showing the most value. Prospects find a way to pay when they see the value clearly.

Factor 4: Ask for the sale. Most salespeople and even business owners either forget to ask for the sale or are simply too frightened to do so. If you deliver results and believe in what you provide, it’s your obligation to ask for the sale. Don’t assume the prospect will buy if you don’t ask for the sale.

Marketing and sales go hand in hand. One without the other makes growing a business difficult if not impossible. These two are like the oxygen and air that your business needs to thrive. Remember this business ecosystem and work on continually improving on the four selling factors in order to always have a growing, healthy business.

17 September, 2013 17:20

September 17, 2013

If you’re a small business, you have a noise problem. There are so many ads out there that your potential customers just block them all out. This means that most marketing campaigns are just a visual form of white noise that people instinctively ignore. So your have to find a way to stand out and seize the attention of a jaded audience. Unconventional marketing is not a choice; you have to be different if you want to beat your competitors.

Larger corporations have massive advertising budgets that allow them to flood the media and Internet. You don’t have that luxury, but you do have another advantage. You may have a smaller target customer base, but you also have a closer connection to them. You know what your customers want and what is important to them. That knowledge is something larger corporation spend thousands of dollars trying to get.

Your familiarity with your community must be the basis of any marketing push you do. The purpose of an unconventional marketing strategy is to seize the attention of your potential customers through surprise. But if your campaign annoys instead of pleasantly surprises, it will drive potential customers away. That’s why using your knowledge of your community is so vital when building your campaign.

Another thing you should avoid is letting the ad overwhelm your brand. It’s really easy to come up with a memorable ad, execute it well, and then have customers remember the ad but not the company that created it. Advertising works best when there’s a clear connection between the content of the ad and the product you’re trying to sell. This way, the content of the ad increases your brand’s value.

With those warnings in mind, you should know that there are no standard unconventional marketing strategies; if something is standard, it’s not unconventional. But there are some strategies that are a good starting point toward building an unconventional marketing plan.

For example, take advantage of local landmarks. Local landmarks are a great place to advertise because people see them every day. One way to really stand out is to use these natural focal points to get your brand’s message out. A great example of this is Alteco Super Glue. On a large bridge that had 155,000 cars pass over it daily, Alteco attached a large replica of one of its super glue tubes to one of the steel cable supports. This emphasized the strength of the glue, and the display received a lot of positive attention from the local media. The key to doing this right is to ensure that the ad doesn’t offend your potential customers. As a result, it may be wise to avoid landmarks that have significant cultural or local meaning.

Going against convention is good. But it’s not enough to be unique; you must always remember to build a relationship with potential customers with every ad you create.

Five Words that can Change Your Business

September 13, 2013

Behind the scenes of your business, you make products or deliver services. But on the front lines, where interactions with customers occur, you have to deliver more than that in order to have a dynamically growing company. You must deliver a promise and hope.

The promise revolves around the benefits your actual products and services deliver. The hope is what can set your business apart from all the other companies that promise to deliver the same things you do.

People want to believe in your company and what you can deliver, but many have become jaded due to the culture of over-promising and under-delivering that is all too common in the marketplace. To get past this wall of skepticism, you have to deliver more.

Companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, Starbucks, and Disney World took off when they figured out they were selling much more than a soft drink, computer, coffee, and theme park rides. These businesses understood that in order to stand apart from their competitors, they had to tell their brand stories in a way that resonates with customers.

Coca-Cola sells refreshment, happiness, and harmony. Apple sells a delightful user experience to consumers in a hip, cool way. Starbucks sells the "third place experience" — a place to get away outside our home and business. Disney World sells memories that last a lifetime.

The common theme among the great brands of the world is that they have found a way to transcend beyond their products by asking this simple, yet powerful five-word question:

What are we really selling?

People aren’t really interested in what you sell, but they may be very interested in the benefits you can deliver. These benefits in turn must be told in a way that attracts and connects with your target audience.

How You Can Apply This in Your Business?

You’re probably thinking to yourself that this may do wonders for big brands, but how does it apply to my small business?

  • Take a step back from the day-to-day operations of the business, and think about what you’re really selling. Railroad companies thought they were in the rail business, when they were really in the transportation business. Think about the larger implications around the results you deliver to your customers.
  • Next think about this question: What do my customers really want from our products and services? Ask your best customers why they really do business with you. Look for common themes in the answers.
  • The final step is to take the concepts you’ve arrived at and focus on what would move your best prospects to buy what you sell. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask some friends and associates if your idea would move them to act. Then test your ideas by presenting them in your ad copy in print, on the web, and in all your other marketing channels. Test until you find the winners. The sales result will show which one is the winner.

Take these five words: "What are we really selling?" Print them out and put them in a prominent place you can see every day. Your answer to the question will form the core around which your business and your marketing should revolve. Answer this five-word question in a way that exceeds the experiences your target market is seeking, and you’ll see your business grow like magic.

How Success Breeds Confidence

September 12, 2013

From: jgreen@pinnaclegfx.com [mailto:jgreen@pinnaclegfx.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:52 AM
Subject: How Success Breeds Confidence

Elon Musk is an entrepreneur who has been in the news recently but someone you may not know much about. He started his entrepreneurial career at the ripe old age of 12 by creating a simple video game and selling it for a profit.

Since that early success, he has gone on to found Paypal (the popular online payment system), Tesla Motors (the first viable production electric car), SpaceX (one of the largest space exploration companies in the world), and Solar City (one of the largest solar panel companies in the world).

So what was the key to his success? Early success.

The victory Elon had with his video game was a small but important step for his success. Success changes your beliefs about what is possible. This belief creates a connection in the brain that helps you realize success really is possible.

Not everyone can be an Elon Musk, but we can all learn from him. His story teaches the importance of momentum. Momentum feeds off confidence. And confidence comes from actually accomplishing a goal. Confidence is the belief in your own ability to succeed at something.

Some claim that confidence comes from a mental state or a feeling inside, but it is actually a belief. Fake confidence can come from visualization, standing in front of the mirror and repeating over and over again how confident you are. But that kind of confidence has a tendency to dissipate quickly at the first sign of a roadblock or resistance.

True inner confidence, on the other hand, comes from knowing you can succeed. That can only come from having past successful experiences — like the 12-year-old Elon Musk and his video game.

Why is this important?

Because confidence (or lack thereof) affects many parts of your life including:

  • Your Focus
  • Your Persistence
  • Your Motivation
  • Your Performance
  • The Goals You Set For Your Life
  • How Willing Other People Are to Buy From You

The list can go on and on. Confidence has a big role in life.

So where does confidence come from, and where can you get more of it?

Confidence can come from being around supportive people who are successful. It can be as contagious as lethargy and negativity.

Confidence can be learned from a teacher or authority figure who has been where you want to go. It can be earned through mastering a skill or trade.

But the most important source of confidence comes from your past experiences. Ironically, confidence can even come from failures if those failures didn’t stop the momentum of moving forward.

If you want to develop confidence in any area of your life, business or personal, your first objective should be to get your first success as quickly as possible. That first success will build confidence, motivation, and (most importantly) momentum for further success.

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” -Thomas A. Edison

No one can know for certain what would have happened with Elon Musk if his early experiences in entrepreneurship had been failures, but one thing is certain. Elon took action and gained experiences that gave him momentum to build upon. That, in turn, earned him true confidence that anything is possible.

Ask yourself: What steps do I need to take to gain quick successes toward my goal? Achieve one quick goal, and build momentum. Then let the successes begin piling up on top of one another to give you a store of strength you can always pull from. Be bold. Take action.

Do You Have a Foot-In-The-Door Strategy?

September 5, 2013

There’s an extremely powerful strategy to grow your business called the foot-in-the-door (FITD) strategy. FITD plays on psychology to get to the sale. This strategy works well because it gets past the prospect’s natural resistance to being sold.

The process starts with getting a person to agree to a small request that doesn’t take them outside their comfort zone. From there, you build up to larger requests and bigger yeses.

Savvy business owners, marketers, and salespeople have used FITD in one form or another for years, whether they have knowingly defined it that way or not. Some may refer to this strategy as a “loss leader.” The difference is that a loss leader typically involves selling something, often at a very low price or below cost. Retail businesses have used loss leaders successfully for many years. FITD works best when the first offer is for something free.

Examples of FITD
If you’ve ever been to the mall food court around lunch or dinnertime, you’ll often see savvy restaurant owners assign an employee to offer a small sample tasting of some of the food items on their menu. When passersby accept the sample and taste it, they’ve taken the first tiny step toward a possible yes.

One interesting side note with this example: Notice that the employees handing out the samples aren’t going all around the mall or outside in the parking lot at various hours of the day. They pass out the samples to people walking through the food court at lunch or dinnertime. The marketing takeaway: offer your services to people who are most likely to need what you sell when they need it the most.

FITD has been used for many years by door-to-door salespeople in many industries, from the person offering to clean a dirty spot on the carpet to the days of the encyclopedia salesperson (remember those?) who would offer a free three book starter set.

Perhaps the most notorious example is from the timeshare industry. In exchange for 90 minutes of your time, the FITD offer is a free resort stay or perhaps Disney World tickets. Does it work? Billions of dollars in timeshares sold would seem to indicate a big yes. These techniques are meant to persuade and work extremely well. The danger comes from unscrupulous sellers who abuse the power.

FITD has been used in the pharmaceutical industry with enormous success. Pharmaceutical sales representatives leave samples of the drugs their companies sell with the appropriate doctors. The physicians in turn give their patients a free sample along with a prescription that will lead them to become a customer of the pharmaceutical industry.

What kind of FITD should you offer?
Your best FITD strategy should probably be not to “sell” anything at all. Only 2% of prospects are ready to buy at any time and less than 1% will typically buy anything on the first contact. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and ask yourself: What would I need (if I were a customer) to choose this company over the competition? What service or product can you use to let prospects ‘test’ you out that will put your best foot forward and help you make the best first impression?

Conclusion
The FITD strategy is an extremely powerful technique. If you’re not currently using it or have used it in the past and forgotten about it, it’s time to visit it again. Put together a plan to utilize FITD in your favor.

Selling successfully for the long term requires building trust with your prospects and even existing customers. The FITD strategy allows you to begin building that trust. But be careful. If it’s done incorrectly or not done at all, then you may experience the door-in-the-face result which is what you want to avoid.