Whenever I’m talking to business owners, a question I’m often asked is, how can I ensure I stay ahead of my competitors? So here are seven things that you can do to ensure you stay ahead of your competition for 2014 and beyond.
The first thing you need to do is ring-fence your existing clients. More and more businesses are looking to replace lost revenue and profitability through acquiring new clients — and some of the new business your competitors are targeting will include your existing regular clients.
As a lot of businesses have got complacent. They’ve tended to neglect existing accounts — and those are now the ones that have been taken by their competitors, or the ones most at risk.
What are your relationships like with your existing accounts? What about the ones you haven’t spoken to for a while? The ones you don’t get on as well with? Would they tell you if they had been using a competitor’s services? And if they did, would you keep the business at the same price or would you have to price match to keep it?
The quality of your prospecting will be one of the biggest factors in how successful you are (or not) in 2014. As the individual salesperson is asked to do more and more, it’s vital that the time you spend prospecting is time well spent.
That means knowing who is a good prospect for you. Most people think they know. But often they don’t. There will be certain specific criteria that make certain prospects more ideal than others. If you don’t know what they are, you need to find out — and fast. Take a look at your existing client base. What was it that made them stay with you at the moment they did?
The next thing you need to do is crank up the volume. I’m a big fan of a high level of activity — as long as that activity is good quality and is done with the right mindset.
The more deals you have in your pipeline, the more you can afford to lose. If you only have just enough in your pipeline (or close to), then you’re always going to be struggling as you’ll be counting on every deal converting, and it’s devastating when any of them drop out.
Just by increasing your activity, you increase your chances of success — and therefore increase the amount of money you can earn. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Some of the best salespeople I know are a valued resource for their clients. They’re someone whose opinion their clients respect and who they turn to first to get information about purchasing decisions. They’re someone that has a high level of credibility and clients trust their advice.
Not all salespeople are in this position however. A lot of salespeople complain that their clients ignore their advice; that they don’t listen; that they don’t take their calls or see them when they pop in. What bigger signs do you want that clients don’t see you as a valued resource?
In order to be seen as a valued resource, you have to earn it. You have to give value first. You have to get updated on industry trends, technological advancements and understand the impact that these could have on your client’s business. You have to be able to hold a business conversation with the level of decision makers you’re meeting. Invest the time to do things like this, and it will pay you back tenfold.
One of the best ways to get ahead of the competition in 2014 is to win some customers from them. This is a great way of distracting them from their own new business efforts, plus it’s a great motivational factor for you and your team.
If you’re in field sales, why not map out competitors’ accounts in your territory? Then create a call plan for getting to see them and focus on winning their business.
If you’re in internal sales, make notes on the prospects that are currently using your competition, then filter the data by competitors name. Then you can create a phone campaign designed specifically to convert their customers to your customers instead. Dedicated and focused approaches have a far better chance of success — and they put a big dent in your competitor’s confidence.
We all know that motivation is important for a salesperson. But it’s the salesperson’s ability to be consistently motivated that will help them stand out from the rest.
In order to be motivated on a consistent basis, the salesperson has to take charge of their own motivation, rather than waiting for other people (or things) to motivate or de-motivate them. They need to have compelling reasons for doing what they do, especially the tougher jobs such as cold calling.
If you really want to stay ahead of your competition in 2014, you’ll need to sharpen your sales skills. This means getting up-to-date, relevant sales tips and advice from trusted sources.
Internal training at your company is great and hiring an external trainer or motivator is even better. However, you don’t have to spend money to keep your sales skills updated — there are articles, videos and podcasts that are free to access and there are plenty of seminars you can attend.
Just make sure you put into practice what you learn.
If you run your own business you need to juggle many balls — the financials, stock, display (online and offline), networking, social media management, staff… the list goes on.
But one thing that all entrepreneurs must try to keep on top of is brand awareness — so that new customers can discover you easily and so that your existing customers feel good about seeing your company getting mentioned in the press. This kind of visibility will encourage customers to pick up the phone and order your product or services again.
Press coverage is free editorial — not paid-for advertising. If you haven’t tried to get press coverage to date, here are 12 essential steps that will help you get your company some valuable media coverage in 2014.
You will need to roll your sleeves and go for it, because if you don’t employ a PR agent (either in-house or on a contractual basis), then no one is going to do it for you. The fact that you are passionate about your product or services is a great start.
So let’s dive straight in and get some press for 2014.
1. Have a thick skin and be persistent: you could get plenty of push backs, but keep on trying, don’t be put off by rejections from journalists, the next journalist you call may love your product.
2. Be creative: try and think outside of the box to come up with interesting angles for your media approaches.
3. Have confidence: pick up the phone. If you believe in your product and are passionate about it, that’s half the battle.
4. Good images, both high and low resolution, are essential.
5. Strong copy: make your words punchy and to the point in order to catch attention.
6. Prepare your website: add a new page with links to your images and the news you are promoting.
7. Buy the target magazines or newspapers or read them online to find out more about their approach and to get the key contacts details.
8. Follow journalists on Twitter: You will see up to date information on what they are covering. You can also check out these two hashtags: #journorequest #PRrequest.
9. Identify your story: Is it a product launch? Profile piece? Case study?
10. Come up with a grabbing headline and use this in your email subject box and as the title for the press release.
11. Use statistics where possible, this gives credibility to your story. Provide a quote and if possible get one from a satisfied customer as well.
12. Always say thank you to the journalists when they publish your story.
Good luck and go for it!
Amanda Ruiz is the founder of www.amandaruiz.co.uk, a marketing and PR agency.
The past year has seen the rapid rise of personalisation in marketing, with brands using data in increasingly sophisticated ways to develop tailored content and target customers based on their preferences and online behaviour.
The amount of data available to marketers and retailers will reach critical mass in 2014, so insights from new technology and previous campaigns will give businesses the insights they need to make new decision based on true ROI.
Brands will need to create the perfect marketing mix to reach customers at the right time, and across every device with relevant content. In light of this, here are five trends marketers should be aware of for the coming year:
Nowadays, shoppers take time before deciding to buy; they visit various brand touch points both online and offline — in fact, 40% of people in the UK have admitted to ‘showrooming’. To reflect this changing purchase journey, there will be a shift in industry-standard attribution in affiliate marketing. We will see a move away from “last click wins” models to more dynamic models so that all parties in the shopping journey are rewarded. This means that each publisher contributing to a phase of the purchase journey will profit from a sale.
Despite changes in online shopping, most metrics for display advertising are still based on click-throughs and impressions. Modern measurement techniques are now emerging, particularly because not all shoppers click through on ads. By delivering ads with relevant, dynamic and website-like capabilities, brands can foster high engagement. Consumers are much more likely to interact with an ad when it doesn’t take them away from the page they’re browsing. According to AdKeeper, 61% of shoppers say this is the main reason why they don’t click. Measuring this engagement is much more reliable as brands know when and what part of their ad has generated a reaction.
We expect to see the rise of content-led publishers as brands seek to differentiate themselves with premium, visual and dynamic content. Shoppable content can be editorial, video and even scrollable images. Video will play a huge role in this as online video users are expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2016. Market research shows that users who watch a video of a product are 85% more likely to buy it. The ability to shop anywhere on the web is likely to become a reality and as a result, premium content will become a “walled garden” for prestigious publishers and brands.
While targeting customers over multiple channels, brands need a complete picture of their shopper. Many retailers are now trying to take a single customer view, ensuring that the pieces of their marketing campaign are working more efficiently together. The use of first and third party data to “super” target the customer base will grow in the coming year so that brands can change the way they engage with customers as individuals. Everything from acquiring new customers, to re-engagement with dormant customers and existing active customers will mean that brands can market to individuals based on real insight.
Recent data from OC&C Strategy Consultants and Google, found that international sales growth is set to dramatically outpace domestic activity to make up 40% of total online sales by 2020. Breaking into new markets is challenging for unknown brands but by focusing on the market you want to reach and those customers’ preferences, you can find the right publishers and networks to work with. By partnering with a well-known and trusted Australian style blog for example, a UK fashion brand can widen its reach to a huge new audience of local fashionistas. The outlook of brands will become more global, with many looking to strategic partners across the world to help them expand in the coming year.
Mark Haviland is the managing director of Rakuten Marketing.
Read our article on the future of the high street — packed with tips on how to survive and thrive, whether you sell offline, online or both.
One key rule when playing competitive sport: do what your opponent least wants you to do.
So, when Andy Murray plays someone with a weak backhand, he makes them play lots of backhands. It’s the obvious thing to do if you want a win, yes?
With communication, it’s the opposite: do what your audience most wants you to do.
So, if they like to be involved, ensure your communications are interactive by asking lots of questions. It’s the obvious thing to do if you want a win-win.
Here are a few simple ideas, to make sure you’re doing what others want you to. Some of this list might sound obvious. But how many do you actually do? And more importantly, how many do others think you do?
Unlike sport, with communication, your aim is to get a mutually acceptable outcome as quickly as possible.
Identify one or two things others would most like you to change; then, think of easy ways to do so.
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.
Okay — maybe rubbish is a little harsh. But if you’re not getting the results you need from your inbound marketing strategy, then you could be making some common errors. Do any of these apply to you?
Sending the same sort of marketing to your entire customer base may well give you a few leads every time, but will more often than not end up annoying people for whom it has no relevance. Segment your customer base as far as you’re able, so marketing materials can be strategically targeted — the number of leads should increase and the quality of them certainly will.
Instead of hanging around and waiting for people to find you either through a search engine or your social media profiles, go and seek them out. Find out where your customers meet online and develop a presence there. Let people know who you are, what you do and how you can solve their problems.
Do your competitors tend to blitz the market at certain times of the week/month/year? If you’re a smaller company with less marketing resources then it can be difficult to get noticed in the tumult. Break the mould, and focus your inbound marketing at times when your competitors are quieter and you can be heard.
There could be all kinds of reasons for this — are you writing in a style unattractive to your target market? Is your content unimaginative or disconnected from what the company actually does? Are you failing to adequately explain to people how your product can help them?
Good tips include: looking for new content angles; encouraging colleagues from across the business to provide content; Inviting external guest bloggers to contribute; brainstorming ideas; and planning in advance.
Where is all this content you produce being placed? On your company blog? Or as downloadable white papers that are rarely opened? You need to ensure you have a well-developed social media presence. When you blog, you need to post or Tweet a link; when you announce news, aim for as many Likes, Shares and Retweets as you can.
Inbound marketing can only be successful, when everyone in the business is on board. It requires a company-wide culture change that can be unsettling for the old guard. But a willingness to open up about your company’s operations is now expected by consumers searching for authenticity in brands.
If you don’t embrace change, it could look like you’ve got something to hide.
Sophie Gradon is search marketing executive at Silverbean.
Customer retention is incredibly important for growing a sustainable business. The relationship you have with your consumers shouldn’t end once the initial deal has been done and an essential component of any customer strategy should be developing repeat custom.
Get it right, and your loyal customers can become key brand ambassadors, helping to bring in new customers from among their friends, family and acquaintances.
Using loyalty or reward schemes is one way to attract and retain customers. Here are some top tips for small businesses on how to make the most of them in order to establish a long-term relationship:
If your customers are entitled to be part of your reward scheme, then make sure they are clear why they are being given the reward and what value it holds for them. Remind them frequently that they have the benefit and relate it to their current requirements.
The reward on offer must be relevant to your consumers’ requirements, interests and aspirations and it must compliment your brand. In recent years, with many consumers having had to tighten their purse strings, those brands that have been successful in building loyalty are those offering rewards and discounts that are relevant in terms of product, brand and timing.
Don’t overcomplicate the rewards programme as your customers may not understand it and will not engage with it. Present consistent offers that offer the greatest level of flexibility and are not limited in number or by timescale, rather than one-off deals that are only available for a fixed period of time. This helps to establish a long-term relationship.
Keep the reward programme interesting by offering new opportunities. This ensures customers stay interested and shows your commitment to great customer service. This can increase repeat purchase and build loyalty and also gives you a reason to communicate more. This in turn enables the collection of valuable data, so you can develop more targeted communication going forward and have a real impact on the bottom line.
To achieve stand out from other loyalty schemes, reward your customers with something that is not readily available elsewhere. If you can deliver better value than those offers and discounts that are freely available on group discount and other websites, then your consumers will take notice.
Remaining in constant two-way communication with your consumers is key. If they feel they have a voice they will be far more engaged. Allowing them to feel they are shaping their reward package through feedback and suggestions will tell you exactly what they like and don’t like about the current offering.
Giveaways and welcome bonuses work very well for customer attraction. However, after the initial reward has been offered, a secondary element is required to aid retention. A programme that can do two jobs in one can save a great deal of time and money and have fantastic results. Impressive acquisition results can be achieved through promoting the benefits of the scheme. Then, through successful engagement and repeated usage, you can add a strong retention element. If your customer’s daily life is enhanced by a rewards package, they will be reluctant to sacrifice this through moving to another brand.
The right reward scheme can turn a customer’s first purchase into a lucrative, long-term relationship.
Daniel Nugent is head of Entice.