How to loose the sale….really.

747375_61856427I just had a very frustrating discussion from a “sales person” who walked into my client’s business unannounced and without an appointment requesting to meet with the owner.  He left materials  (later I learned he wasn’t sure what he left there) which the owner saved and gave to me at our last meeting.

This guy then emailed the client to follow-up, which they also forwarded to me.  This group, without naming names, provides direct mail to new homeowners in the area. According to the brochure, it was a three-pronged approach they were offering, a book mailed to new homeowners monthly, a follow-up postcard within a few months then a final envelope packet within 90 days.   I emailed the guy to ask him to send me their rate card so I can even see if our budget was in the ballpark.  You see as a marketing person (or a business owner if you can relate) we get a TON of sales people trying to sell us stuff.  We could spend hours listening to every pitch that comes our way, so IMO vetting out the offer before hand saves everyone some time.
Of course, he refused saying they “don’t have a rate card” and that he has “questions” first in order to provide any pricing.  Really?   How in this day and age can you not even give me a range and idea so as to not waste my time or his?   OK I’ll play, I emailed him asking what he needed to know.  Thinking if he has the info before our phone consult, maybe we can get to the point right away. So reluctantly I replied that I would do the 15-20 min meeting, the next morning 8:30am before my real work started for the day.  He replied that I better have the brochure he left in front of me because he normally only does in person meeting.  Again Really?
This morning he called, started in on how wonderful his company was and the 100 year history or something to that effect.  I stated that I was familiar with his company and that I read the material he left. Trying to give him the clue that I didn’t want to hear all about how awesome his company was.  I really don’t care, I care about what your company can do for my client, that’s about it.   Crazily, he said he didn’t know which material he left at my client’s and that he wasn’t sure what I was referring to.
I tried to cut to the chase, how much, where does the list come from, what part of the program was included etc.  Some answers he had, some he didn’t.  Wait?!  Didn’t he contact me?? Didn’t I email him what I wanted to know about?  So he proceeded to say how he can’t answer my questions because he normally meets in person.  Not sure how that is working.  He said it depends on how many areas we want to be in and what part of the program we wanted.  I said just send me a quote for one area and for two areas then, so we can decide.  He then said we have a special pricing in June “the best pricing I’ve ever seen”  he said.  With less than two weeks left in June, I said don’t bother sending the special pricing, there is no way we will be able to make a decision and move forward in that time frame.  Again, he said he couldn’t do that without his bosses approval.   What?!?  You can’t provide the pricing for your regular product.  Really?
Then he went on to say he would reluctantly put the price together but won’t include one of the pieces.  Something about how everyone else does their own mailings and that the postcard option usually isn’t included.  Again I say but isn’t that your  program, the three prong approach?  More replies of how he usually does this in person and he can’t do it and (my absolute favorite part!)  how I wouldn’t understand what he sends to me anyway.  Can I say Really?!? again!  I’m now frustrated, really frustrated.  It’s been 20 minutes and I STILL have no idea on the pricing.  The only item I really needed.  So he hears my ‘tone’ and tells me to calm down that there is no reason to get upset.  Really?  Cause I’m not getting any answers to a call I didn’t initiate.  I feel as if his job is to answer my questions, not for me to sit and listen to his pitch about how great his company is.   It went down hill from there.  I said ok, I’ve had enough, done listening if you can’t provide any info I need.  Then he hung up.
Moral of the story for a sales person.  Have some idea who your prospect is, what THEIR requirements are, and then tailor your pitch to THEM.  I can’t stand when sales people expect me to do their job the way they want it done.  If you as a salesperson, telling me I must meet with you in person to get a price, and that I’m incapable of understanding your proposal without sitting down with you in person,  then I guess you’ve lost the sale… really.

Online vs Offline Marketing Strategies

According to NAWBO ( the National Association of Women Business Owners), who conducted an online poll asking “Does your business have an online component?”
75.5% said they have a website but they also do business offline.

Do you do business offline too? Many sources say you ‘must’ have a website to be in business. Which I completely agree with, a website is a great way to “always be open” to your customers. A potential client can read about you, see your work with before and after photos, and learn a little bit about your training and experience. Your presence can be a multi-page website, or just a simple one page presence (depending on the image you wish to portray or the realism of a startup budget).

But what I think can be missing from your marketing plan is the coordination of online, as well as offline, marketing strategies. What is your strategy for gaining clients, other than having a web presence?

As you may have already realized, just because you build it, does not mean they will come. Sure there is always talk of Search Engine Optimization and picking appropriate keywords etc but in truth, those are still part of your online strategy.

Offline strategies could include
• Conducting presentations/seminars.
• Participating in Charity Auctions,
• Postcard mailing campaigns
• Developing partnerships with companies who also share your target market. (Target marketing, I think, is one of the best ways to market on a tight budget. It allows you to focus your limited budget in the most cost effective way. To learn more about target marketing, and other marketing issues facing small businesses, subscribe to my newsletter.)
• Direct Mail campaigns
• Word Of Mouth – join an organization!
• Advertising – though this can get expensive
• Business Basics – business cards, brochures, flyers

Knowing your target market, the goals you want to accomplish this year, and overall budget, along with your own creativity are essential to customizing these offline strategies for your particular business.

But the key to on and offline strategies, in general, is to make them work together. For example, all your printed materials must have your website address on them, at a minimum. (You will also want an email address, so people can contact you when ‘they’ are ready to.) In addition, your website should have a listing of all the seminars you may be giving or more information about the Charity Auction you’re participating in. You have the ability to get the most out of each strategy by using both together.

You see, professional service businesses are services which truly need an online AND offline strategy to succeed. In this case, the sum IS more than the parts.

Somebody was thinking….caulk singles

I have to say first off it was a fluke I even saw this product.  I was on HGTV.com looking at their decorating sections for a client of mine and it Flashed!   Those ads that used to be just one image are now videos.  Not those annoying “don’t forget to turn down your speakers” ads, but a silent one, but it was moving, which caught my eye.  THEN it showed me what it was – a single application of caulk.  For those of you that have what seems to be a million odd jobs around the house.  Just little fixes that need to be done.  You understand why this caulk single would be important/innovative. 

Someone in the caulk industry was paying attention.  Someone was paying attention that a single serving would be of value to me, the consumer, the people. The people who are your current and your potential customers.  When was the last time you paid attention.  Is there a product or service you could provide for them?  What about a new product or service they may like?  (Do you even know what they like?  )  What about repackaging your current product or service in a new way?  Such as a caulk single. 

Don’t you wish you had thought of it????

Something to think about:  As in life/business, sometimes things just need a little caulk.  No major fix, just a little caulk and things would be fine.  But if you ignore it or it’s been on the to do list but you ‘just haven’t gotten to it’  and put it off, time has a way of making the problem worse, in some cases much worse.  When all you needed was a little caulk…  

 So my sample is on the way.  I’ll let you know how it worked out..

Creative Income Streams

In these hard business times, we business owners need to be creative to keep our profit stream flowing.

Recently, I was searching for a hotel for a family vacation. I wasn’t familiar with the area so I was reading the online reviews. I have to give you a little background – I haven’t searched for hotels online before, so I was impressed when the hotel actually answered the comments people bothered to write about the hotels. Now this may be normal, but I was impressed. I was looking for a high-end hotel, so seeing the hotel’s comments, that they took the time to respond instantly gave me the impression they would take that kind of time for their guests.

But that is not the impressive part… As I was reading the comments and subsequent responses, one customer wrote how it was the ‘best night sleep he had in a long time’. He went on about the bed and the linens. How comfortable and lush it was. Well the response from the hotel said that sleep is so important and that if this was the best night sleep they had, then to call the hotel to order one of their beds, linens and all – delivered! Somebody was definitely ‘thinking’ on this exchange.

What a creative way to create an income stream. A hotel that has such great beds and linens that they sell them!

Back to Basics – the First Steps…. (Psst – it’s called a marketing plan.)

Things are different.  Most I talk to say that their business is down from the last few years, but surprisingly, most also say they are holding their own.  This doesn’t apply to all industries, but there is still hope out there to be sure. In this downturn in the economy, we are all looking for a way to increase sales.  What used to work to make the phone ring just isn’t anymore.   I always hear my clients say “But I need to do something right? I’m making less than last year. We’re ok but I need to ‘do’ something to get our sales going again.” They get hit, sometimes hourly, with promotion ideas and on/offline marketing pitches for the latest ‘increase your sales” pitch.  But how do you know which tactic is right for your business?   To answer that, we have to go Back to Basics….

The Planning
I’m not sure why business owners don’t “Do” a marketing plan.  I’m sure I can guess, but most business owners I see usually have an idea of a plan but just “have it in their head’.   Which is fine and a good place to start, but all that ‘planning’ in your head can also just give you a headache! 

So I try to be realistic with my clients and instead of insisting on a formal written marketing plan – (which honestly most business owners just put on a shelf and never reference again) – I say instead “Look at your business…is it doing/working the way you need it to be?”    If not, then ask yourself why not, and how do I fix it, then how do I sustain it?  (Psst: basically this is a marketing plan albeit quite simple.)  

You see, marketing is not rocket science; it’s an application of principles to transfer goods/services between two parties.  Not complicated stuff really.    The complicated part is the application – how and what marketing tools to use for your business.  Not every business is the same – even in the same industry.   That is why I say don’t just follow what your competition is doing, do what will work best for your business.

So HOW Do you DO That?…

  • First, Relax – you can’t be your “best business self” and work ON your business objectively when stressed.  If your business is doing ‘ok’ at the moment, then enjoy that fact.  Not everyone can say that…there will be casualties in these economic conditions.
  • Secondly,  Look at your business objectively
  • Financials – Call your accountant if you have one– they LOVE numbers.  Then just ask them a question.  For example, Can you chart my sales by month with line graphs for the last 5 years?  This chart will show you monthly trends for your business.  And what do you DO with this information, well, if you know you’re normally down in a certain month – plan on working ON your business during that time.  If you do your own ‘books’, look at all the report features of your software.  Chances are you can create your own charts and start to see trends in the data.
  • Current Products/Services
    • Ask – what does my business currently do well?  Be objective now, and ask “How can I leverage that into a new idea?”  For example, a new product line? Or a different pricing package?
    • Ask – what does my business NOT currently do well?  Is it customer service? Or product quality or something else?  Identifying what your company doesn’t do well can highlight an opportunity for your business to do better. For example, beef up customer service if your ratio of inquires to orders is low.
  • Also, Look at your industry or another industry objectively.
    • Is there something new?  Is something becoming obsolete?  Is another industry just waiting for my product/service?  For example, if you have a personal training company and normally sell to individuals, how about a package deal for an entire company’s employees?  Different target market to be sure but the same service.   
    • The key here is to think creatively how a product or service you offer – or COULD offer – would benefit your current target market or a completely new target market.

    These are just a few of the many different areas of a marketing plan to get you started.  The first step though really is to know where you’ve been, where you’re at now, and where you would like to go in the future with your business.  If you take an objective look at your business, you can determine who your target market is, and the best way to reach them.  You can also see the opportunities that can increase your sales.

    I say instead of lamenting over the business you may have lost, use this downtime to your advantage.  Plan your course for the future!  Take control of your business…How exciting it’s going to be…

    Surveys are becoming more popular

    For those of you familiar with Constant Contact, one of the many on-line email services, you know recently they’ve created a new service for surveys.  At the time I saw their first ads for the survey service, I thought hmmm that’s interesting.  I didn’t think surveys were popular enough to warrant a company such as Constant Contact to go to the expense of adding that service.  Obviously it is though.  

    Surveys have a long history in Marketing Research.  Much information, as well as college degrees, are available in this field.   We all know the large companies spend thousands and thousands for market research, whether it’s internal or external.  Internal Research is finding out about how your own business is doing.  External Research is where you find out about your target market, among other things.  

    Surveys can be tricky though.  Search the internet for ‘how to write a survey’ and you’ll find thousands, actually like 4 million, hits in google on the subject.  You see, the way the question is written, as well as the order of questions, and the method of delivery can skew the results.  Make no mistake, there is a skill and talent in writing and then analyzing a survey.   

    But before you become discouraged…take a lesson from shoebuy.com (my fav online shoe store) I recently received an email survey from.  It was two questions, 1. Would you recommend us to another – choose from a scale of 1 to 10.   and 2. what one thing could we do to make that number higher?  With open space to write an answer. 

    Hmmmm.. two questions, two minutes of their time, a statistical bench mark, and your target market tells you what they want.  All that for 2 minutes worth of work to send out the email. 

    Who says marketing research must cost thousands?

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