The Cheapest Way Is Not Always the Best Way

Ask yourself this question: Would you be cheap when considering doctors to perform your open heart surgery? Never! And for exactly the same reason this is the thinking that should apply to small business growth.

Much like that failing heart, a small business will not survive if low cost is always the priority when it comes to decision making. Being cost-effective and being cheap are certainly not the same thing. Don’t ever confuse the two.

Consumers will always be looking for a way to pinch pennies and small businesses will need to match that demand. This is what we call simultaneously instigating growth and generating revenue. Whilst being economical should always be a priority, knowing how, where, and when to cut corners is really the key to longevity.

Always remember that in the consumer’s eyes, price is the validation of quality. The cost is a feature of the offered product or service and it will be an indicator of its own worth, in comparison to the competition.

When you compare a $4 cup of Starbucks coffee to the bottomless $1 cup offered by some, you cannot simply end at price alone. Sure, the price begs us to investigate further in order to draw conclusions such as, ‘the quality of the Starbucks’ beans must be better.’ We use these assumptions to justify the cost difference.

Remember that these conclusions speak volumes about your product and knowing how to determine their direction will bolster your marketing strategies. Do you want your product or service to be associated with ‘better quality’ right off the mark? Yes; you do! To do this, you will need to carefully consider your price points.

Have you ever tried a product only to think ‘well that was not worth the money’? We all have. This pretty much guarantees that the client will not return, and that could be a

huge loss for your business in the long run. This is what you want to avoid at all costs – no pun intended!

Author Steve McKee puts it frankly in an article for Bloomberg Business: “Sending a quality signal via higher pricing is an undervalued and often overlooked, tactic.”

You know that price is a feature and higher cost implies higher quality; this is obvious. So why is the cheapest route not always the best way to go?

Easy: When a startup begins to flourish, it will feel the demand at a much harder and faster rate which means the business will not be able to keep up with the production of the products/services it needs to supply. One of the smartest ways to manage an explosion of growth is to raise price points.

By doing so, your business will generate additional cash flow which you need to invest in more support staff, additional inventory or upgraded facilities. You may lose some clients but these bargain hunters were not likely to remain loyal in the long run.

Multi-Channel Marketing

According to data collected last year, 72% of consumers prefer businesses to employ a multi-channel marketing approach. So what does this mean, exactly?

Simply put, multi-channel marketing means sharing your message across a variety of outlets, both on and offline. Think radio, TV, social media, print and mobile.

As consumers themselves typically use a minimum of two channels, they expect businesses targeting their dollars at them to do the same.

The time of day, the target audience age and demographic heavily influence which channels pair best with which client. Based on these parameters, there are five most effective pairings:

1. Computer and Mobile Device

2. Mobile and Television

3. Computer and Television

4. Mobile Device and Radio

5. Computer and Radio

These one-two combos amplify your advertising reach while encouraging diversity in your market. When employed correctly, these pairings

also stretch marketing dollars, incentivize new campaigns and measure their effectiveness. Win-win-win!

These pairings should aim to encourage customer engagement, drive traffic to the website, draw in new clients, generate referrals and of course, boost revenue. It always leads back to the sale!

When navigating multi-channel marketing, remember to do your research and select the channels that make the most sense for your business, product, and audience. Always enter these markets with a purpose, and always maintain confidence knowing that you will be meeting the needs of the market.

You should always remember that multi-channel marketing aims to level the playing field between small business owners and the big guys. Previously the big guys had the upper hand, with the resources and ability to dominate the market.

However, times have changed. This layered approach offers a means to expanding reach.

Before entering multiple channels, ensure that your message is clear, intentional, and most importantly, consistent- a united front!

Groupon Globalization- helping or hurting small business?

With hyper-connectivity on the rise, the purchasing power of consumers is increasing swiftly. Our ability to discern on a deeper level is assisted by the same global connectivity that seemingly threatens small brick and mortar businesses. In reality, embracing this globalization is the smartest thing for these mom and pop shops to do. It may drive prices down, but it also works to allow small businesses to achieve ‘economies of scale’, lowering production costs by increasing the scale of the orders. This cannot be done alone. It calls for small business owners to work together; joining forces against those big box stores, and eventually creating more ‘perfect competition’.

Using Technology to Build a Great Loyalty Scheme

The key to loyalty is using digital technology to burrow into customers’ histories to ‘Surprise and Delight’ them

Hmm, are we encouraging stalking, you ask? YES! Stalk away! The more you know about your client, prospect, or audience, the more you can tailor your message, product or service to suit their needs. Isn’t that what these sales are about? Identifying the market need and filling it? They are, so why aren’t you stalking?

Budding technology is very well the catalyst in the shift of power from seller to buyer. It is imperative to realize the potential goldmine of information that lies at your fingertips and to use it to your best advantage. Technology is your best friend when it comes to a little background building, which can be used to boost loyalty.

Business analytics software is a great place to start; it removes the painstaking guesswork and provides accurate, simplified data.

These analytics can be used to determine what type of campaign

or strategy would best fit each niche, and therefore provide the most streamlined approach. When clients feel the message speaks directly to them, they are more likely to become return clients.

Engaging with new technologies can also provide simplicity. Clients desire a frictionless transaction. Your clients do not want to feel like they are taking a school exam when making a purchase; so make it easy for them and make the transaction process simple. You will see return business as a result.

Mobile apps and payment options are some of the best ways to bolster smooth transactions. Mobile transactions do more than simplify the transaction process; they do some ‘stalking’ for you. It’s true that mobile transactions are a superb gatherer of information. Merchants have access to what other products their clients are buying, how they are buying, where they are buying, etc.

Targeted, customized deals and offers are what will appeal to the most discerning of clients, which is why both historical and predictive data analysis will pay off here. Deals are often time sensitive; therefore, mobile and digital technologies play a major role in the ability to reach clients quickly and without hassle.

While you may have a loyalty program in place, if it is not digital, it is not enough. Digital-based loyalty programs, incorporated into your existing IT infrastructure, will continue to generate the necessary data collection which you need to remain on top of a constantly changing market.

Launching a loyalty initiative may end up requiring you to make a decent investment – but rest assured that the ROI will be well worth the money spent. Consider testing your program on a small elite group. This will allow you to keep costs down while gathering intelligent statistics.

4 Questions That Increase Your Sales

One thing every business owner needs to know is that rather than selling being about talking, it is actually about listening. If you can do that, you are off to a great start. You need to not only be an active listener but to know how you can utilize active listening to your best advantage.

Don’t worry; it is not as hard to do as you may think. In fact it’s pretty simple: you need to ask the right questions, making sure they are smart questions.

The line of questions below is aimed at the prospect and the strategy that follows is to help you close the most lucrative deal:

Do you want fries with that? While fries do accompany most hamburgers, this is not just a commonly heard fast food phrase. It is a surreptitious attempt at up-selling. You are offering what would be perceived as a perfect pairing – a product or service that works to

compliment the initial buy, without stating it is your marketing plan.

When you introduce the pairing you must entice and excite the prospect, ultimately leaving them feeling as if Product A just cannot be without Product B. After all, who doesn’t like fries with their burger?

Up-selling is an art form – never forget this. It should always:

• be related to and compliment the original offer;

• be viewed as invaluable to the customer;

• be (just about) impossible to turn down.

Employ the Rule of 25 – the up-sell product should not add more than 25% overall value to the proposed package. Consider using a “people who bought this also bought…” type of strategy.

How about now? You should always remember that in sales, timing is truly everything and getting the deal locked down at the table is what it’s all about. With competition continuing to grow, you can be certain that your prospect is going to shop around. One way to out manoeuver this process is to literally ask “why not now?”

The good news is when you have a positive sales closing the ball is pretty much in your court, not the prospect’s. The best way to gain this advantage is to place some pressure on timing.

Would you recommend me, this service, or this product? Recommendations and referrals don’t come automatically – you must earn them. Ask specifically – would you refer me? How about this product/service; would you refer it? Why? What would you say?

Get all of the details because you will need them to make positive changes that will lead to the referral, which could lead to a sale.

How about bundling it up?   Inherently, people believe that package deals – also known as bundles – are a better ‘bang for their buck’. Bundling also increases your market reach and opens your services or products up to a wider audience. Get creative and consider cross-promotional packages with other companies or even with your competition. Create custom made products that only compliment your existing inventory in order to offer something unique.

4 Steps to Writing a Great eBook

We are all coming to terms with the hype on in-depth content and the importance it holds in driving your business’ web reputation. A useful way of achieving this is by way of the eBook.

The perceived complications and expense of publishing hard copy has practically made this traditional medium obsolete. Today it has never been easier to wax philosophical on industry topics of your choice which allows you to share your opinions with the world (wide-web that is…).

Step 1: Brainstorming. Think of this as your old-fashioned word cloud based on your areas of expertise. Make a list of all the topics you feel confident enough to write about – this will help narrow down the options and determine where your most in-depth knowledge exists.

Struggling to come up with that long list? Ask yourself, what do others often ask you for advice on? What do people turn to you for? What do you spend time researching? Now choose the one that makes you the most excited, as passion will be a driving force in the completion of this task!

Step 2: Research the gaps. Now that you have identified your topic, search far and wide to see how this expertise may already be in play.

eBooks are a numbers game- identify a market niche in which your topic would be filling a gap. That niche should relate very closely to the target market you focus on with your marketing collateral. Purchase and read some of the similarly-themed books to get an idea of what works and what does not.

Step 3: That’s right- write! Begin with a detailed outline; this is the best way to determine your flow and pace of the book, as well as nailing down the essential content.

Some writers find it beneficial to begin by creating a list of titles for both inspiration and direction. Others find that firstly creating the table of contents provides structure.

Step 4: Edit, design a cover and get published! As your eBook will represent your brand, we suggest you hire a professional editor and designer to ensure the highest standard.

Once it is ready to go leverage all that hard work! Promote it on your website ensuring that prospects provide some of their details in order to download it for free. You can then add those details to your marketing list. Include a link to the eBook in your newsletters or included within any proposals that you email to prospects.

A well-researched and nicely presented eBook can really highlight your credibility, improving your chances of converting more prospects into clients.

Secrets to Keep Your Business Looking Good

Just as business health should never be neglected, it is equally important to present a tight, clean and stream-lined look to your customers.

We tend to be attracted to order and cleanliness, and will usually choose the business that seems to have it together on the outside, regardless of their internal situation. Presenting a well-cultivated persona, both online and in real life, is vital to a success small business.

There should be a common theme throughout your marketing materials; your website, business cards and other marketing materials should reflect the same feel. Seamlessly tie your company’s message into each channel and ensure that your clients can easily identify with your brand.

This can be down to the smallest details such as choosing a universal font and color to be used in all materials or on a higher level such as defining your company’s key marketing message.

Regularly update your website. Your website should be on a continual growth plan- it should never remain stagnant. It should constantly be in motion with regular updates.

A great website incorporates visually appealing graphics, content-driven text, user-friendly accessibility, and overall simplicity to promote your brand. Your website is a direct reflection of how you want your business to be perceived.

Take a look at the feel of your marketing materials and evaluate the attractiveness. A clean and elegant aesthetic exudes confidence and professionalism and can generate a feeling of comfort in potential clients.

Be consistent throughout. In presenting a front to your clients you want to both engage and be memorable.

Much as we may smell cologne and remember a person, the purpose of your branding is to evoke a positive sensory memory connected to your product or service.

WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK ABOUT!

Small businesses may never have the budgets that compete with the big guys but that does not mean there isn’t a wealth of resources readily available. Entrepreneurs are like-minded and tend to be generous with their advice – not sure how to handle a new challenge? Reach out to other business owners or join an industry group to bounce ideas off of each other.

Keeping Track of Your Business

While bringing in new clients, developing marketing strategies and managing accounts are all sound and necessary practices for a small business, they do not, in themselves, ensure the overall health of your business.

Monitoring progress throughout your business is like attaching a pace-maker. It aims to provide a steady and rhythmic pace for the business to follow in order to prevent flat-lining.

The first two areas that should constantly be monitored are cash flow and incoming sales leads. Without either of these, your business is on the fast track to failure. Improper cash flow management is the #1 killer of small businesses – and we don’t want you to become a statistic!

Keep track of money going in and out, as it is happening. A cash flow forecast is the best way to consistently reduce the chances of something going wrong.

Sales leads need to be managed. Every business manager needs to know how many leads their marketing activities are attracting, how many are converting into prospects (this gives you an idea if your marketing is attracting the attention of the right type of client) and how many of those prospects are being converted into clients.

Another important piece of the puzzle is measuring the extent to which you hold on to the clients you have worked so hard to acquire. We refer to this metric as your client retention rate.

Focusing on generating sales leads without having a strategy in place to increase the amount of time those customers stay with you is a bit like running a bath without first putting the plug-in!

Knowing all of these essential numbers can provide you with information on which part of your marketing and selling processes are working and, even more importantly, which ones aren’t.

That allows you to focus on the areas that are more likely to improve your Return on Investment.

Assign and assess key performance indicators (or KPI’s) which are necessary to achieve your most important objectives. Don’t introduce KPI’s just for the sake of having them. As in the dashboard of a car, the fewer the better and the more impact they will have in helping you reach your destination the more prominence they should have.

Implement monthly meetings dedicated to analyzing these KPI’s so that swift action can be taken to correct any part of your business that isn’t performing as it should.

Monitoring the overall health and success of your business can also be improved by benchmarking. Knowing the numbers and, more specifically, the ratios being achieved by comparable top performers can highlight areas in your business which can be improved.

We have found this is a great way of achieving your goals in the most efficient manner.

Using Webinars to Promote Your Business

No matter how quick the pace, it seems keeping up with technological changes is one of the greatest challenges we face! Just as we get comfortable with one form, a new slew comes to town.

It’s not essential to be an early adopter. The key is to select the tried and true methods that best fits with your business’s goals.

Utilizing webinars to market your business is certainly one such trend worth further examination.

Webi-what? Indeed. A webinar is simply a web-hosted seminar, hence it’s cutesy mashed up name.

Webinars are certainly not new to the small business scene, however, the technique of implementing them as a marketing strategy is.

Need ideas? Interview an expert, feature a customer or vendor, host a Q&A, preview a new or upgraded service/product or simply teach something.

The three major benefits of webinars over traditional marketing channels are:

1. They provide a level of engagement that content based articles cannot – they encourage a conversation and rapport.

2. They are more efficient in terms of time – no travel necessary, no wasted time in between meetings, etc.

3. They are customizable and without the limitations set by scale – hosting 1000 people is no problem when done online!

Webinars are usually instruction or education-based and are a great way to interact with customers, engage potential clientele and encourage users to try out a service or product you offer.

However, they can be used to equal effect as a post-sale tool. Hosting these kinds of webinars helps to establish your brand as helpful, encouraging and an expert in the field.

Drive traffic to your website by incorporating Search Engine Optimization into your webinar listings.

Describe the content of your webinar using key words. This can improve your search engine rankings. Hosting an archive of webinars supported by lots of juicy keywords can give you an additional boost.

Host a virtual web event, combining the benefits of the tradeshow with the convenience of the internet. Consider product briefings and demos or events that compliment current seminars or conferences in your industry.

Include lead-generating questions in the sign-up form to take advantage of the niche market users who are attending. Offer discounts or perks for becoming a subscriber or providing an email address to receive future news and event info.

Follow up the webinar with attendee feedback forms to best cater your next event to your audience.

Take Back Your Time by Building a Great Team

Embarking on the journey as a small business owner may often feel like a one-person job. By building the best team possible, you may start to alleviate that stress and free up some valuable time.

Building the team can feel a bit like a game of Tetris- the key is to find how they all fit together to build the most secure structure.

When building your team:

1. Identify the areas where you need the most support. This could be an area where you are overwhelmed or lack essential skills. Start filling these areas first. Feel good about product development but know nothing about accounting? Fill the void.

2. Clarify roles. Clearly identifying what needs to be done, defining what skills are necessary and determining where and how to look for the right pieces to the puzzle works best.

3. Hire only when you need to. It is tempting to add to your team as the business grows, but consider the investment in time, commitment and resources each additional hire requires.

4. Be prepared to sell your business vision to potential team members. Great teams are fueled by passion, and not necessarily the desire for a bigger paycheck.

5. During the hiring process, always trust your gut. Your team member should not be a clone – diversity works best – but they will ultimately need to be a good fit for your organization.

Once you have a team in place it is your responsibility to ensure that they remain committed and motivated. Team synergy is vital to ensure the best chances of success.

Consistently build your team based on a cultural fit, not just on qualification. Engage employees on a deeper level to learn about their personal and professional goals and work toward helping them achieve them.

There is nothing worse than getting stuck in the constant loop of hiring and firing – it’s exhausting and demoralizing.

If you want your team to be effective, set clear expectations. They want to succeed, but they need to clearly understand the goals.

With your team in place, it is time to start delegating. That was, after all, the whole point! As the business owner, delegation is not about passing the buck and it’s not about abandoning accountability.

Who is Influencing Your Customers? – How to Listen on Social Media

We’ve heard it before – listening and hearing are two very different things. If you are one of the growing number of businesses that are utilizing the advantages of social media, you should appreciate that it is vital to listen to your customers, actively hear what they are saying and then act upon it.

Without any one of these three steps, the benefits that come from social media engagement might be squandered.

Monitoring and information gathering is useful but it does not help you understand your customer. And that’s a key advantage of social media engagement.

Social care, or the practice of utilizing social media for customer care purposes, is how many of your customers look to interact with businesses.

How do you prove that you are listening? Speed – It’s that simple. The faster the response time, the more valuable the client feels and the more likely they are to remain a customer, refer your business or provide positive feedback.

Ready to start providing social care?

1. Identify your target market – this is tied directly to your ability to understand your clients and the ones that are best for your business.

2. Identify your influencers – pay close attention to the type of person who is interacting with your page, not the number of people who “like” or “follow” you. They are just meaningless numbers. It’s another case where quality rules over quantity.

3. Determine important key words, trends and SEO strategies that are relevant to your business.

4. Develop a social business strategy that stands on its own – managing your reputation and staying relevant are two key goals.

Social media has the power to increase or reduce your chances of success. When ignored, social care has the ability to transfer control of your business to a few vocal customers. Having a strategy in place can pay huge dividends.

NEED LOCAL INDUSTRY SUPPORT?

Building a great team and consulting with mentors are great starts to a successful long-term business plan, but at some point, you may crave the advice and opinion of an even more diverse group. Consider cultivating an advisory board. The board should aid in the decision making process, keep innovation flowing and encourage productivity, growth and profit. Professional colleagues, trusted business partners and experts in the industry should be part of your group.