Guess what? Your customers are quicker than you.
It’s a frightening thought, but once you embrace the concept of the “restless consumer”, the more chance you have of keeping up with them. Who knows you may even be able to predict what they want, which is almost like being ahead of them.
But let’s not run away with ourselves. They’re the ones in front, they move faster, they’re agile, hungry and they never sleep.
So how do you keep up? Your time is already pushed and this is just one of the many races you’re in.
Solid strategy and planning will guarantee you a head start, as well as a full and rounded view of how your audience behaves online.
Once you’re out of the blocks, ideas based on insights connected to an irrefutable product or service truth will keep you up to speed. Playing the guessing game is not the best strategy here; hard empirical data puts you on solid ground.
It also helps you work out if you’re adopting emerging technologies fast enough, or investing time and budgets in the right places.
If your brand is tracking trends, researching and acknowledging, you can quickly earn the enviable reputation of being a collaborative and pro-active organisation. And, as it turns out, people get behind businesses and brands that are like that.
It’s not impossible. Time and time again, we’ve seen consumers develop a strong emotional attachment and a sense of shared ownership with a particular brand, product or service.
Imagine that — your users with a vested interest in what your brand is up to online.
Before you know it, you can be right alongside them and even, dare we say it, setting the pace.
Steve Peters is digital business director at Manchester digital agency, Code Computer Love.
Are you confident that your company is able to capture your customer’s needs? And more importantly, are you using them to create a viable sales process?
Far too often the traditional structure of a sales process talks about opportunity rather than customer needs or requirements — the focus is very much from the seller’s point of view.
In order to help your potential customer make a decision you need to approach the process through their eyes. It’s essential to think about their needs, not yours.
So how do you create a successful sales process that is designed around your customer’s needs? Here are some tips that we have used successfully and which are integrated into the processes that we design for our clients’ sales teams.
Recognise the customer as an individual person and create a process that adapts to them — don’t expect them to adapt to it. At the forefront of your mind should be customer satisfaction, not sales.
A salesperson’s ultimate role is to present a solution to a problem, or a perfect fit for a desire. The end result is ultimately the same — the customer chooses you and you make that sale.
People want to be served in a way that fits their situation and their buying habits. Whatever direction the sales process takes, it needs to have listening as the first step.
Customer feedback is a big part of this and can be both the end and the beginning stage of your selling process. Feedback provides you with the knowledge to refine your sales technique and/or product. It’s also a marketing tool to show new customers that you are a) actively engaging with buyers and b) providing the solutions they are looking for.
The responsibility of researching the customer is not restricted to the sales team. As social media and ecommerce increasingly dominate Internet and mobile usage, customers are looking to other channels to get the information and, ultimately, the service that they require.
This is why you need a focus on internal collaboration. Your online marketing, social media and customer service teams need to know where to look and what to look out for in order to ensure you are visible to potential buyers.
Restructuring your sales process to suit customer needs can really improve your business. Not only can you create more harmonious relationships with your customers and your staff, a revamped sales process can produce tangible results.
A sales process designed around you customer really does lead to happier customers, more collaborative teams and a measurable increase in business. What more could you ask for?
Richard Edwards is director at Quatreus.
Getting noticed is often a matter of showing up when somebody is looking for what you’re selling.
To do this, you need to master what I’ve taken to calling Three S Timing:
You’ll often find that a customer reports that winning their business was a result of lucky timing. That is, you happened to show up when they were looking for what you sell. Luck has very little to do with this.
What’s actually going on here is selectivity. And, it’s where marketing frequency is absolutely essential.
Have you ever noticed how when you learn a new word, it seems to crop up on the news, in the book you’re reading, or in conversation with a friend? It was always there… you just didn’t notice it.
The same is true when you’re on the look out for a new car, you’ll suddenly see the model you have in mind passing you at every turn or parked next to you at the supermarket. This is a trick of the mind. To enjoy the fruits of lucky timing, your company needs to crop up when a person happens to be thinking about what you’re buying. Which, effectively, means being there all the time.
To do this, you need to commit to a number of regular marketing activities rather than one-offs, or big bang campaigns. The frequency of these will depend on buying cycles in your industry. What you’re aiming for is to act a little like a lighthouse, with a beacon flashing regularly enough to be seen at the right moment.
Tip: Commit to a small number of regular marketing activities such as a weekly blog, a monthly newsletter or quarterly direct mail.
How this works: When Comet Global Consulting, customer technology specialists, were looking for some strategic marketing support, one of their directors recommended my consulting business. I had worked with him for about six months when I was in corporate marketing some three years earlier, and we had connected on LinkedIn. He had never signed up for a newsletter, or clicked on a blog. However, every week (without fail) I update my LinkedIn status with my latest blog post so my blog was popping up in this buyer’s newsfeed regularly. When it came to needing what I offer, he finally clicked on a link. But, without the previous 150-odd updates, he may not have noticed this one.
With a commitment to a steady stream of ongoing activities, you can further increase your chances of showing up at the right time by understanding and matching your buyers’ work and life patterns and scheduling your communications to match.
Mapping a typical day, week and year for your buyers will help you to work out when to get in touch. For example, Mondays and Fridays probably aren’t the best days to send direct mail and calling a consumer at home during working hours is pretty futile.
Tip: Use scheduling tools to maintain a presence outside normal office hours. If you need to respond in these times, think about using a call-handling service.
There’s also seasonality to consider. Even if you’re not an ice-cream vendor, there will be seasonality in your market. Financial year-ends, school holidays, industry events, funding cycles and the like, can all lead to seasonal changes in demand. Map things that happen over the course of a year that you could talk about or help with.
There will be events that happen every year, like getting your tax return in on time, and there will be one-offs in that year specifically, like a big sporting event.
The former should be worked into your ongoing marketing plan; the latter should form part of your specific 12-month plan. There may also be dated triggers that relate to an individual or specific company, like renewal dates, that would allow you to time your communications perfectly.
Tip: If you collect key data, like year-end or birthdays, when people sign up for your email newsletter, you can set up automated emails to go to them at these times.
Bryony Thomas is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a marketing consultant, speaker, and author. This post has been adapted from Bryony’s 5-star business book, Watertight Marketing and it originally appeared on her own website.
We were delighted to receive a sample Makro hamper recently, aimed at small businesses that want to treat their favourite customers at Christmas.
So we thought we could spread some Christmas spirit of our own by offering it as a prize in a little just-for-fun competition.
Then we started looking at the rules…
These are just some of the things we learned:
In short, our lovely hamper has begun to look more like a hot potato.
So, we’re going to run a non-competitive competition, in the spirit of the age, and publish tweets that make us think or make us laugh, but won’t be giving any prizes (details below).
As for the hamper, we’re going to do what it was designed for in the first place, and simply give it away. We think that a not-for profit organisation that works hard to help get small businesses off the ground ticks all the boxes. So we hope that Brave, a Bristol-based enterprise organisation, can sample at first hand what it feels like to receive a gift with no strings attached.
Liz Dawe is the Donut Community Manager at Atom Content Marketing
What's the best/worst thing about being your own boss? We’ll publish those that make us think...Or laugh #DonutBoss
There is a good example of some “giveaway” rules in detail on the Tech Nutty website. You can also read Sarah Orchard’s great article on how to run a competition on Facebook without breaking the rules.
If, like me and many other startups, you don’t have a dedicated sales person then it will be you and you alone who has to find clients, win the work, do the work, and invoice for it. That’s not one, not two but three hats for you to wear.
If that’s the case, you need cost effective, quick and easy ways to reach out to possible clients and right now, the quickest and easiest option is almost certainly email.
Why? Because you can send an email right now without needing any other input from anyone. There’s no receptionist to halt it at the gate, no engaged tone, it can’t be diverted to voicemail, there’s no door to shut in its face, and it won’t be dismissed as an ad unless you make it sound like one. In short, it gets through. It will go to an inbox and be opened by someone and read — and that’s your opening to make your pitch.
What need can you meet? What problem can you solve? How can you say that as a tweet — in under 140 characters? You won’t send it as a tweet but if you start with that in mind you’ll cut out the waffle. You can use that faux tweet as part of your subject line because when someone is scanning down their list of emails, seeing a solution to their problem will jump out.
Then, in your email proper, tell them a very short story: start by describing the situation your customer is in and the problem they face. Then describe the consequences of their not solving the problem followed by a solution. Start your story with “If…”.
Starting with “if” leads to an automatic question in the reader’s mind: am I in this situation? Yes or no? If they say yes then they’re a potential customer and they are likely to read on.
Do not, whatever you do, start your email by saying things like: “I just wanted to tell you…” or “I’d like to introduce our services…”.
The best time to send a prospective email is at a time when you think the other person will be most likely to open it. If you use a programme like Mailchimp you will see when people opened your emails so you’ll be able to adapt your send out time to get better results.
To start with though, you won’t know when a good time is, so you have to take a best guess. For many of us the first email of the day we read is the one at the top of our inbox, which means it was probably sent after midnight. Avoid Monday and Friday because people are often busy catching up on tasks before or after the weekend so they won’t be paying much attention to emails from strangers.
If you didn’t get a reply, send a follow up asking if they got your first email and if they’ve had a chance to consider it — but always state you appreciate they are busy and may not have seen it.
The quality of the lead is important. You need to find out exactly who you should be emailing, look them up on their website, on LinkedIn or on industry news websites. You could even call the company and ask the receptionist: say that you need their help because you’d like to make sure your email gets to the right person.
Whatever strategy you use, you always need to make sure your email service is safe and secure. Your email system and the emails themselves are part of your sales pipeline so you need to make sure your emails aren’t being blocked because your recipient’s firewall thinks they look like spam or contain a virus or a phishing attack.
Making sure your email system is secure is part of keeping your wider IT system and your business healthy. The last thing you need is your email system going down or the content of your emails stopping you from using it to make contact with potential customers.
Lee Carnihan is a digital entrepreneur writing about small business IT security
You can read more about email best practice in our extensive resources.
When I’m in London, I travel between meetings on the back of a motorbike taxi. I use them because the journey times are quicker and more predictable than my other options. I don’t choose them because “it’s a motorbike”.
Also, my company chose our IT service providers because they could free up our time; not because “we do IT”.
And we selected our accountant because he could help us grow our business; not because “he is an accountant”.
You see, when we buy things, we aren’t interested in the things. Instead, we’re interested in what they give us. Or, as I call it, the afters — why we’re better-off after buying.
Weirdly, we often don’t realise we want these afters. For example, I imagine you recently bought a newspaper, thinking you wanted a newspaper. You didn’t. You wanted the news. Glasses? Better sight. Toothpaste? Clean teeth.
Smart companies use afters to persuade us to buy. For instance, Kodak doesn’t sell by discussing their photographs; they talk about preserving our memories. Disney doesn’t sell by focusing on their cartoons. They talk about making our dreams come true.
So when you want people to buy-in to your messages, what do you focus on? Your ideas? Initiatives? Proposals? Research? Yourself?
Or, do you focus on why others will be better off afterwards? The time you save them. Or the costs. Or the hassle. The fact you reduce their stress, grow their business, help them look good to their boss… Now, those are great reasons to buy-in.
So, engage others instantly by beginning with their afters. This can be hard to do — after all, you are passionate about what you do. But I would never have chosen a motorbike taxi if some motorbike enthusiasts had spent ages telling me about their motorbikes.
People will never buy into your content unless their afters are crystal clear. So next time you’re looking for quick buy-in, start by explaining why the other person will be better off afterwards.
Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.
You can read more about Andy’s approach to sales here: No more fears — selling made easy