Small business owners tend to look at marketing purely as a way to grow. While this is the purpose of promoting, advertising and marketing your business, it’s important not to leave people out of the equation. Effective marketing techniques help you connect with consumers and build relationships with them. It’s these relationships that have the potential to help you take your business to the next level.
Get to know your customers
Whether you own a brick and mortar or an online business, it’s important to get to know your customers. Communicate with them, always being mindful to maintain a friendly, professional demeanour no matter what mode of communication you’re using. Surveys are an effective way to learn about your customers. To encourage survey completion, offer a discount to anyone who returns to your store or site with a completed survey.
Listen to feedback
In many large business settings, customer service gets lost in the corporate shuffle. As a small business owner, you can and should place emphasis on your customers and clients. Ask for and listen to feedback, using compliments and complaints to engage customers in conversation. Use what you learn to improve your business. Small business owners who follow through on customer feedback gain the advantage of earning customer loyalty.
If blog posts, email newsletters or social media updates are part of your marketing plan, use them in a way that offers value to your customers and followers. Today’s consumers are savvy and intelligent, and they’ll quickly determine if the information you’re providing is fresh or redundant; useful or full of spam. Before you send out the next newsletter or publish your company’s latest blog post, make sure it’s something you’d be interesting in reading about.
Everyone loves a deal, and they also like to feel special. Build your mailing list or Facebook fan base by offering exclusive specials to those followers. Customers will spread the word about these exclusive offers to their families and friends, increasing your potential customer base in the process.
Building and expanding your small business is a life-long process. Investing the time needed to get to know your clients and customers is one of the most beneficial things you can do. Since a customer focus can naturally be incorporated into your marketing plan, it makes sense to make it a priority.
Incorporating these considerations into your marketing efforts will ensure you connect with potential customers and provide them with value, while building a strong foundation for your small business.
Mary Ylisela writes for Touchpoint Digital, a full service internet marketing company.
Most of us hate cold calling, and this job has became more difficult with the advent of voicemail. Nowadays, it is almost impossible to speak to anyone directly. Instead, I recommend sending carefully targeted and well-constructed e-mails.
It is important to research your prospects carefully, identifying the right person in the company that theoretically should be interested in your products and services. If you do not have the skill or time to find these e-mail addresses, a reputable telemarketing company can do this task for you, without their attempting to do any selling on your behalf at this stage.
Then, the skill is in composing a very short initial e-mail. Most people think that the more features that are crowded into this first-e-mail, the better; in fact, the exact opposite is true. I always recommend a four-line e-mail, which is designed specifically to raise some interest for an initial fifteen-minute meeting.
The first line is the most important and should be specifically tailored for each individual client. It should suggest the specific problem that you can solve, such as improving their revenues or reducing costs.
The next line should be a simple premise of what you do; how you have acknowledged expertise in helping customers solve that problem. People are generally sceptical about sales pitches, so your third line should feature some proof, such as a similar customer you have worked with, who could potentially provide a reference.
The final line should suggest a short meeting at a specific time and date. Ideally, they will be able to agree immediately; if they are interested but cannot make that specific date, they might suggest another.
This type of “Magic E-mail” (as I call it) is inexpensive and unobtrusive. If they are not interested at that particular time, they will delete the e-mail and swiftly forget you. People who have used this approach tell me the response rate is much higher than for more traditional methods.
It has the added advantage of significantly reducing your unanswered voicemail messages and the curt, dismissive customer replies that are often endemic to cold calling.
Copyright ©Mike Southon 2012. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.
Friday 5th October marked one year since the death of Steve Jobs, but his legacy as an entrepreneur lives on. In particular, there are important sales lessons that we can learn from Steve Jobs.
In particular I admired his ability to release new products that people didn’t even realise they needed until he released them! At which point they became must-buys for a lot of people — and that’s coming from the owner of an iPod, iPhone, Macbook Pro and iPad 2.
So what sales lessons can we learn from him?
1. Don’t be afraid of being different
Steve Jobs was never afraid to stand out from the crowd and to pursue things that other people thought were stupid. Until he did them and the people stood back and applauded. In a sales context, what aren’t you doing right now because other people think it’s stupid?
2. Love what you do
One of Steve’s favourite sayings was “love what you do”. My question to you is “do you love what you do?” The answer for most salespeople, and most people in general, is “yes, when things are going well”. I’ve always said that in my opinion, sales can be the best job in the world when things are going well…. And the worst job in the world when things are going badly! So for those of you that don’t currently love what you do, you need a more compelling reason for doing what you do.
3. Turn your TV off!
I remember Steve saying: “We think you watch television to switch your brain OFF, and work on your computer when you want to turn your brain ON”. I’ve always loved that saying. When I ask most salespeople “how much time do you spend on trying to improve your sales or your sales career against how much time do you spend watching TV?” guess which one is normally most popular? Most salespeople I meet rarely work on their sales career outside of work and even inside of work they rarely work on improving it — they just end up doing it.
4. Create a buying experience
Steve Jobs and Apple were fantastic at creating a “buying experience” every time you bought one of their products. Anyone who has bought from Apple will confirm this! Whether it’s an iPod, iPhone, iPad, iMac or anything else in their product line, if you’ve bought one you’ll know that it’s a bit different from the usual buying experience.
An Apple store experience is just that — an experience. The majority of people on the shop floor know exactly how to answer your query, or find someone who does in a minute. Does that have any impact on how many people buy more products from Apple? Of course it does!
5. Don’t fear failure
The majority of people I speak to, at some point, have to deal with failure. So therefore most people also have to deal with a fear of failure. Something that happens in advance of an event that they think will mean failure for them. So one of the things that I do when I work with an individual or sales team is to look at what failures they’re afraid of. Number one on this list is usually cold calling, or in some cases, any kind of sales calls at all! How many of you or your team are putting off calling a prospect that could be a really good source of income for you, because you feel like you’re not ready?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about marketing over the years it is this. As proud as you may be of your company, your product and/or your service, you should know that your customers or clients are definitely not as interested as you are. Their only concern is how well you can help them to meet their challenges and needs. If you want more of them to buy from you, your focus has to be on them, not on you.
Obsessive self-orientation is a mistake that many businesses make with their websites. They are convinced that the purpose of their site and their marketing is to talk continuously about how fantastic their company is. This is the belief that the louder you shout, the better the image you put across and the more sales you will get — otherwise known as megaphone marketing.
“Don’t be egotistical. Nobody cares about your products and services (except you). What people care about are themselves and solving their problems.”
David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR
Yes of course the purpose of marketing is help to you to win more business, but if you want your messages to be welcomed rather than seen as an irritation then shift your focus. Make every marketing communication primarily of benefit to the people who receive it and secondarily of benefit to you and your business. It’s not rocket science; it’s a simple awareness of human nature. And it will make all the difference to your marketing.
Putting your customers first
Practice management consultant Mel Lester demonstrates this customer-focused attitude perfectly. His desire is to create content that serves his clients and he leads his website with a strong promise:
“Mel Lester is pleased to offer this website as a valuable source of ‘how-to-get-things-done’ information and tools. I set out with an ambitious goal: to create the best Internet resource for helping managers of architectural, engineering, and environmental consulting firms succeed, both corporately and personally.”
Taken from the home page of www.thebizedge.biz
Mel’s statement demonstrates all the valuable attributes to aspire to. His content is helpful and focused (more magnet then megaphone), his goal clear and compelling. He has committed to content excellence and is evidently sincere in his desire to help. He focuses on the customer first and it gets results: by not selling so hard he elicits more sales.
If you are going to succeed with your marketing put your customer first, like Mel.
Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and owner of Valuable Content Ltd. A new book — Valuable Content Marketing — by Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton is published in January 2013.
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Ecommerce businesses come in all shapes and sizes and unless you know, with clarity, which type you are, you’ll find your business struggling to succeed.
Some have shops as well as websites, some sell on Amazon or eBay, others send out catalogues. The type of ecommerce business you are in affects everything you do with that business — from stock control to finance to marketing.
Once you know your type, you can more easily work out what to do next. Every single ecommerce business fits into one of these seven types. Understanding the nature of your own business will fundamentally change the way you run and market it.
What are the seven types of ecommerce business?
1. Online only
2. Mail order
3. Big bricks and clicks
4. Boutique bricks and clicks
5. Mainstream piggyback
6. Niche piggyback
Where sellers of similar products come together to market more easily, usually retaining their own blog or ecommerce site elsewhere too. Examples include: the craft world (Etsy, Folksy), hotels (hotels.com, laterooms.com), jewellery (Boticca), and Books (abebooks.co.uk).
7. Full multichannel
Mail order is very different to online only because a catalogue exists for a long time which puts restrictions on your merchandising — you’ve got to keep products in stock for longer, and you are very likely to have to deal with backorders.
Bricks and clicks are different to other types because you’ve got all the overheads of stores to deal with, but also the opportunity to use those stores to drive traffic to your website — and you can create a pick-up-in-store delivery option.
The piggyback types are a whole new way to do business online — no more struggling to get your website right, just use someone else’s and let them bring you business. Then there’s full multichannel — encompassing it all, and the most heavily reliant on good integrated systems.
How the different models work
Your ecommerce business structure influences everything you do in your business, from your USP to your team structure, to your finances. But in particular it has a big impact on how you market your business; if you’re a piggyback then the person you piggy back on is driving your traffic, so you don’t need to worry so much about marketing, you need to focus on product and price. Whereas if you’re an online only you have to drive your own traffic — so you’ve got be busy with your marketing.
Certain marketing methods suit certain types of ecommerce business and this is just one reason why it’s important to know what you are!
For example a full multi-channel business should have social media low on its priority list, and will seriously miss out if it ignores email. A mail order ecommerce business must focus on email, offline promotions, search engine optimisation and remarketing.
By working out what type of ecommerce business you are, you can determine where your effort should be focused in order to get the best return on investment and ensure your business is a success.
Chloe Thomas is an eCommerce expert and the author of eCommerce Masterplan.
Selling has changed over the years although much remains as it always was. Many of the attitudes of a successful salesperson have remained consistent but to be successful, salespeople also need new types of behaviour, skill sets and knowledge.
A useful model is BASK (Behaviour, Attitude, Skills and Knowledge)— getting all four right is essential for successful selling. Attitudes tend to be constant within a person. And while we can choose our behaviours, they naturally align with attitudes. Meanwhile, both skills and knowledge can be learned.
There has been a big shift in recent times. Our customers are more discerning and knowledgeable than ever. Sometimes they may have picked up the wrong information, or only have partial knowledge but it’s our job to use our knowledge and sensitivity so the customer doesn’t feel they have it wrong.
Don’t be pushy
We know that customers go through a buying process, no matter what they are purchasing. Salespeople have to guide customers rather than “push product” at them. Our approach needs to reflect that buying process rather than solely focus on a sales process. A successful sales process is structured and yet flexible and it helps the customer through their buying process.
It’s all about finding “congruence” — the point where the offering meets the customer’s needs and aspirations and the salesperson and the buyer are agreed on a course of action. And that is when the sale is made.
Understanding the personality of the customer is a vital part of the process. Some customers may find a particular approach patronising or even annoying.
Being congruent is not about imitating the customer, but it is about making our approach more acceptable to them and engaging with them more readily. Some may call this rapport — although we believe true rapport takes longer to form — but at its simplest, it is about establishing a connection with the customer.