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Ask anyone in the business of selling a product and they’ll evangelise about the benefits of having their wares featured in a magazine. Not only does a feature in a magazine — be it in the “What’s new” section, part of an article or a specific feature to drive traffic to your site — it’ll give your business much-welcomed kudos to be endorsed by a magazine title your customers look up to. It’s also a sneaky ego-boost.
But gaining PR in printed titles isn’t easy. Nor is it as cheap as it first seems. You either need to be on very good terms with the magazine editors, which takes time to foster, or you need to have an incredibly hard-working and focused PR company working on your behalf, which, let’s face it, ain’t cheap.
What many e-tailers seem to be overlooking is that the rise in the uber-bloggers provides just as precious PR as traditional printed literature channels. These blogs can provide just as much influence as the glossies and better still, these blogs often link direct to your website! I’m not just talking about you using your own blog to build relationships and generate awareness, I’m talking about you getting your products featured on top blogging sites just as you would an aspirational magazine.
So how do you get your products featured on an uber-blog?
Start by doing your homework. Read the bloggers in your niche and suss out which ones resonate with your brand and your clients. Draw up a hit list of five or so that you’d like to be featured on and start to build relationships with the writers. Network with them on social media sites such as Twitter and comment on their blogs. Ideally you want to maintain a buzz of regular exposure, so build long-term relationships if you can, rather than one-hit wonders.
Bloggers love good content! Great photos, news their clients will love, scoops, sneak peeks and so on are great for the bloggers. It adds richness to their site as well as making their lives easier. I love the ethics of bloggers such as Design*Sponge who only feature on merit rather than due to backhanders! It definitely makes the reading experience more authentic.
I’ve seen too many blogs recently that have clearly just cut and pasted badly written press releases on blogs. It doesn’t work for the blogger or the product and it looks transparent. Blogging is different to the printed media. Just as you wouldn’t want a journalist to print your press release in full (including contact information for your PR), so you don’t want bloggers to publish that info either. And whereas traditional PR may follow a very fixed format, blogging is more free and easy. When we’re reading a blog we want the inside scoop – and that means the blogger giving their opinions and hopefully endorsing your product in some way – so don’t write your usual style press release.
Make sure you send in great images and ask the blog owner what they’re looking for. Oh, and just as with printed media don’t forget to be grateful – a little thank you (I mean literally just thank you – no need to bribe…) goes a long way!
Find out more on how to write blogs:
All business owners get busy — it comes with the territory and we all have to make choices on what we prioritise and what we don’t. Human nature tends to encourage us to prioritise the tasks that we like or are stronger at, and this, more often than not, does not include selling.
To achieve sustainable growth and drive a business forward it is essential that we have a consistent approach to sales. How do we ensure that we continue to sell effectively during the periods when we are flat out and crazy busy?
When we are busy it is vital that we don’t waste time chasing shadows or lost causes and the best way to achieve this is by qualifying targets properly and only chasing the targets that could close.
There is a real value in meeting potential clients face to face and I am a huge fan of ensuring that the personal touch is always given precedent over email and phone but we have to be careful we don’t over do it. When you factor in prep, travel and the actual face to face time, meetings cut heavily into your diary. Pause and think — do you really need to attend a meeting to move the deal forward? Would a call be more appropriate? Does the meeting even need an hour?
Networking is an essential part of the majority of small business sales strategies. It is important and it needs to be done properly, but plan it. Work out how much time you can designate to networking and work a plan around that. If you can only attend one group, attend it properly and make sure you get value from it. Don’t try and attend a lot of groups sporadically, it won’t work. You need continuity to get benefit from any networking and if not done right, it is just time wasted.
If we have properly set targets and work towards them, it becomes a lot easier to focus our selling and avoid wasting time on the wrong activities. Too often small businesses either don’t have targets or don’t work towards them effectively and this can result in a lot of wasted time. If you know you are close to achieving a target or you are miles away it helps you make the right decisions on which meetings to take and what other activity you need to make time for.
No matter how busy we get we cannot afford to let activity levels drop to zero! It is a lot easier to keep activity going than it is to restart it. Too many businesses only sell when they have very little or no business at all and then they find it difficult. No matter how busy you get, your selling must keep ticking over. Identify your key targets and work on them, whether you choose 40 or 200, it is up to you, make a call on the number and get to work on them.
Craig McKenna is a managing partner at The Growth Academy.
If you are not getting paid what YOU think you are worth then I suspect that there are a number of possible reasons.
The top two most obvious reasons are:
If the answer is “customers don’t think you are worth it” then this is because of one of the following reasons:
a) They don’t know you’re worth it (the obvious answer)
b) You’ve not proved that you are worth it
In either case, the answer is because of your lousy marketing.
More often than not (especially for professional service firms), the issue is not one of competitive price. Normally the customer is not comparing your service with another competitor on price. Often he is not comparing your service with another competitor at all.
A third possibility to answer why “customers don’t think you are worth it” would be:
c) You are not worth as much as you believe you should be.
And if the answer is the second response to my original question — “you are not asking for the right fee” — then you need to sort out the basic problem which was that “customers don’t think you are worth it”, and then ask for the right fee.
Many businesses have rigidly defined the respective roles and responsibilities of their customer service and marketing departments. This is often the source of frustrations as, on one hand, the marketing guys do not have the opportunity to interact with the customers and, on the other hand, the customer service team has only a limited opportunity to influence product design and communication.
Small businesses have much more room for manoeuvre, as they can chop and change, test and experiment without affecting a large volume of customers. Very frequently, small companies manage their customers through a single channel, handling social interactions, marketing efforts, customer service and many other activities in one place. They use mishaps as a marketing opportunity and dispatch little gifts and samples to “compensate” customers. Customer service is clearly being used as a marketing tool.
Whilst larger operators are busy leveraging their social media reach by pushing multitudes of promotions, special offers, coupons, vouchers and deals, small businesses can build a long-term advantage by establishing close-knit communities of customers. Positioning customer service at the heart of the marketing strategy contributes to the exchange of ideas and the resolution of problems whilst creating a platform for future recommendations.
All this contributes to the development of a very strong sense of loyalty.
The challenge comes when the business grows and someone makes the suggestion that life would be much easier if dedicated marketing and customer service teams were established…it will be hard but just make sure you resist the temptation.
Guest blog by Very Good Service.
Read more in our dedicated section about customer service.
Onwards with the mission to give you the heads-up and the low-down on baffling data jargon. In part two, I am focusing on spring cleaning and ensuring your data is spic and span and up-to-date. It is that time of year after all.
I will start off with an easy one. A data record that has been tele-verified has been called up and the details double-checked by a call centre agent. So you know that the telephone number, address details and contact name have had their t’s crossed and i’s dotted.
As the name suggests, data recency refers to how recently a record has been checked. So a data file that has 24-month recency was gathered or tele-verified two years ago. A file with 12-month recency was gathered or verified 12 months ago and so on. The shorter the recency, the more likely the contact details are to be accurate. Recency is especially important in business data, due to the regularity of staff changes – think about it; you are more likely to change your job than your house.
“What is a de-dupe?” It’s a very common question. A de-dupe deletes duplicate records. So if you have multiple records for one customer, a de-dupe will remove the duplicates. This makes sure that you are not mailing, emailing or telephoning the same company twice, which can be embarrassing and costly.
The other useful reason for a de-dupe is to make sure you are not buying data you already have. So when you are buying new data records, you should de-dupe against your existing customer and prospect data. That way you are only buying net data, i.e. data you don’t already have in your marketing database. Again saving you time and money.
A bit like a financial audit, a data audit will tell you what state of repair your marketing database is in. The audit identifies any dodgy records such as wrong contact names or wrong address details. It will flag any records that are on the suppression files such as TPS or MPS. It will highlight companies that have moved or that no longer exist. The audit report will also tell you what you need to do to get your data back into tiptop condition. And more importantly how much it will cost.
Once you have identified the problems with your data with an audit, a data cleanse will put it right. Think of a data cleanse as a spring clean. All the incorrect details will be updated and the dodgy records removed. Therefore you won’t be wasting time and effort trying to market to them. Happy days.
It’s a simple question really. Many of us are passionate about selling products and/or services that we wholeheartedly believe in. Because, let’s face it, if we aren’t passionate about our own product then we can’t expect our customers to be. But selling someone something they need but don’t particularly want can be incredibly difficult.
Selling someone a product or service they want is often just a matter of closing the deal. What many people fail to realise is that it’s incredibly difficult — perhaps nigh on impossible, to sell someone something they might need, but don’t think they want.
Occasionally, I’ll meet a business owner struggling to make their business model work. And often, the root cause lies in the fact that they’re on a crusade to change the world. They believe so passionately in their business, product or service that they are convinced everyone else should too.
They look to the branding and the marketing to solve the problem. They revisit their sales process. If they’re not careful they can embark on incredibly expensive campaigns that result in very little. Why? Because they’ve failed to grasp that their customers don’t want what they’re selling.
They might need it. But they don’t want it. Nightmare.