Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "The great thing in life is not where we stand, but what direction we are moving." No matter what business you work in, a "business as usual" mindset will insure your competitors are making more money than you are. If you don't stand out from the competition you may find yourself stood up by your customers. Now more than ever you have to focus, improve, and possibly even change what you do to attain, retain, and maintain customers.
Strategy 1. Think big and audit your time. No matter the size of your business, place a mental image in your mind as if you are the largest and most successful person in your industry. How much time is consumed by routine office work someone else should be doing? Spend more time with more important tasks such as marketing strategies, improving customer relations, and implementing new strategies to expand your services.
Strategy 2. Be different and stand out from the competition. Jordan Furniture sells more furniture per square foot than any other furniture store in the nation. They transformed their family-owned business into a multi-million dollar corporation by following a principle called "shoppertainment." To surprise employees and customers, Barry and Eliot Tatleman dressed up like the Lone Ranger and Tonto and rode horses in their parking lot. They built an IMax theater inside one store to entertain children while their parents shopped. When you drive around the back to pick up your furniture they provide you free hotdogs and wash your car windows. Jordan's Furniture website.
Strategy 3. Build relationships with your customers. For each month that goes by, customers lose 10% of their buying power. Create a customer database and contact them on a regular basis. Mail them a postcard, birthday card, sales flyer, newsletter etc. to keep your name, phone number, and service on their mind.
Strategy 4. Collect E-Mail Addresses. Get permission from your customers to use their E-mail address. Periodically send updates and notices to your client list. As long as you have their permission and avoid overuse, E-mail can be a powerful and inexpensive marketing tool.
Strategy 5. Hire top sales people. Successful businesses realize the quality of their sales staff is critical to sustaining their growth in the marketplace. A top salesperson can outsell an average person 4 to 1. Sales people must understand their strengths and have a well-defined plan to reach their potential. Many companies can provide you sales assessments to both identify top candidates and develop currently employed sales people. For more information click here.
Strategy 6. Put a shopping cart on your website. Online sales are still growing at a dramatic pace. This is coming from people who want to save time, avoid crowded stores, convenience, and the ability to shop outside of store hours. Just consider E-Bay for example, which generates millions of dollars of sales each year. It does not cost anything to set up an account on E-Bay, and you pay a proportion based on the cost of the item you are trying to sell. If you don't want to use E-bay, consider using your own shopping cart system on your website. By using a shopping cart system, I have increased my on-line sales by 300%. Click here to see the one I use.
Strategy 7. Pay-per-click advertising. Many business owners are finding classified advertising is not an effective use of their marketing dollars. Others are finding pay-per-click advertising is an easier and cheaper way to reach a larger market. Pay-per-click will insure you receive top visibility on websites driving more customers to your door. Advertisers bid on keywords and the more popular the keyword, the more expensive each click is. Prices vary between ten cents to many dollars depending on the popularity of the word. The most popular pay-per-click advertisers are Google, Business.com, and Yahoo.
Strategy 8. Use customer service commandments to create good habits. Bates Ace Hardware store located in Atlanta created “Twenty Customer Service Commandments” modeled after the Ritz-Carlton hotels outlining specific behaviors employees are to demonstrate when dealing with customers and fellow employees. For example, "Accompany a customer to the correct aisle instead of pointing to another area of the store." They print the commandments on a small card and employees carry it with them at work. Furthermore, supervisors reinforce good customer service by quizzing employees on one commandment each day.
Strategy 9. Take your message to the media. Local newspapers and television are always looking for stories and topics of interest. Learn to write a press release or call your local media outlet about a special aspect of your business. The Varsity restaurant in Atlanta featured an employee who had worked there for 50 years. This resulted in a two-page spread about the employee and the restaurant.
About the Author
Greg Smith is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and business performance consultant. He has written numerous books including his latest, Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High Turnover to High Retention. Greg has been featured on television programs such as Bloomberg News, PBS television, and in publications including Business Week, USA Today, Kiplinger's, President and CEO, and the Christian Science Monitor. He is the President and "Captain of the Ship" of a management-consulting firm, Chart Your Course International, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Phone him at 770-860-9464. More articles available: http://www.chartcourse.com
What makes the ones you read interesting or valuable to you? What kind of information does the author provide? Do catchy headings and photos attract your attention? Does fancy HTML attract your attention in the newsletter or do you become frustrated because of the long download time or drain on the space on your email? How much of this is important to your target audience? Remember, do not base your decisions solely on what you like or do.
Before you begin creating a newsletter for your business, determine who will be on your mailing list (e.g. current and/or past clients, friends, associates, other contacts). Next, it is important to figure out how many people are on your mailing list. This will help you determine if you should email vs. mail the newsletters to avoid printing and mailing costs. However, you will want to send your newsletter in the format that your audience will most likely read. For example, if they are homeowners or elderly then printed may be a better option. However, if they are business people and professionals then an emailed format might be preferred.
Next, consider what your audience would like to see included in the newsletter. You might consider surveying your audience so you can determine what their 'hot buttons' are in relation to your business.
I do not normally recommend cold calling with your newsletter (e.g. buying email address lists) because typically, with a few exceptions in certain industries, you should send newsletters to people you already know and/or do business with. The newsletter should serve as a reminder to continue to purchase your products, use your services, and/or refer business to you.
The most important component in your newsletter is the content. If you are not telling people something new and exciting, teaching them something they do not know, educating them about something they would want to know, or giving them free resources or solutions, they will probably just throw away or delete the newsletter. It is vital to give them information in your newsletter. Do not worry about not being paid for the information you are sharing with them. Just trust that it will come back to you.
The following are 9 things that you will want to consider including in your email newsletters:
1. An attention getting headline
2. Important information, article or tip that your readers will be interested in
3. Bullets or links rather than long paragraphs
4. Testimonials of satisfied clients
5. A clear call to action. Remember to make them do something!
6. Form or link to sign up to receive your ezine
7. A return address, email, contact name and/or phone number
8. An opt out message
9. A forward button or link so they can easily pass the newsletter to colleagues and/or friends
There are many Web sites that you can go to that will allow you to create your email newsletter, facilitate the sending, manage your list of recipients and track your bounce backs and follow through. Some are much more expensive than others are and some are more user friendly than others are. However, I recommend trying the free trial that most companies have made available.
Below is a short list of a few resources that I am familiar with. I am sure there are many more out there. Be sure to check with your favorite Web site designer too, just in case they can provide this sort of service for you. Most of these services do not require any programming knowledge. However, they could take time to set up and learn to use, in which case, you can always contract out with K. Sawa Marketing to help you with this each month for you.
Be sure to heed all the spam laws out there for your email newsletters. Visit www.spamlaws.com for more information. Here are 5 pointers from Corey Rudl, president and founder of the Internet Marketing Center, for planning successful e-mail promotions that will not get you accused of sending spam:
1. Send e-mail to people who have consented to receive the emails from you. For example, this would include your customers and e-newsletter. The owners of e-mail addresses you have purchased on a CD do not.
2. If you must buy or rent lists, find out how the addresses were collected. If the people on the list have not agreed to receive e-mail promotions, you are the one who could end up violating spam laws and/or fined for doing so.
3. Use a subject line that accurately reflects the content of your e-mail.
4. Include a real return address and a working "unsubscribe" link in every mail you send. If you have a large list, you will need software or an ASP to manage opt-ins and "unsubscribe" requests.
5. If you are sending commercial e-mail (such as promotions), include your company's physical mailing address in the body of the e-mail. This requirement applies to newsletters as well, if their primary purpose is to advertise or promote a product or service.
Finally, when you are designing your promotions, remember that people buy products and services from companies they trust. A single e-mail or mailed promotion cannot establish that kind of relationship between you and your potential customers, but it can be a first step.
Think of your promotions as part of an ongoing dialog between you and your potential customers and you will be on the right track. What kind of company would you be more likely to buy from -- one chasing a fast buck, or one that takes the time to earn your trust before it tries to sell you something?
If you can stay informed and tread lightly, your newsletters should be recognized for what they are -- responsible .
About the Author:
(c) Copyright 2008 K.Sawa Marketing. Katrina Sawa is an Award-Winning Relationship Marketing Coach who's helped hundreds of small business owners take dramatic steps in their businesses to get them to the next level in business, revenues and life. She offers one-on-one coaching, group coaching and do-it-yourself marketing planning products. Go online now to get started with her Free Report and Free Audio at Jump Start Your Marketing
One successful young man I interviewed at a financial planners' meeting told me, "I used to be in another industry. I went into financial planning when I was thirty-three years old, joining my father's small firm. He'd been in the business for years, but I had to go out and get my own customers."
He drew up a list of twenty movers-and-shakers in his community, twenty affluent people with large spheres of influence who were eagerly pursued by everyone in the investment community. This young man had very little experience. He hadn't yet "earned their business."
He called on each of these people and said, "I am new to this business. I know you know about my father, but you don't know me. I am not trying to sell you. I know I haven't earned the right yet. However, could I please have a ten-minute interview? Would you, as a leader in the community, tell me what I should do to earn the right to do business with people like you?"
See what he did? He made it safe. He told them up front that he wasn't going to try to sell them anything. He only wanted ten minutes.
Frankly, I think you have to be very lucky to get ten minutes of an important person's time. But he presented it in such an appealing way that no one turned him down. And he kept his side of the bargain. After ten minutes, he left unless they invited him to stay longer.
At the end of his first year, three of those people actually gave him a small portion of their portfolio to manage to see how he would do. At the end of three years, seven out of the original twenty people had placed a portion of their investments with his firm. He'd earned the right.
I used to say that there are two kinds of people to market to: those who know and love us and those who never heard of us. You can advertise traditionally and on the Internet, network and join organizations, send out direct mail, and do a combination of activities to get new business. But please don't think these methods substitute for keeping in touch with the people who now know you and love you. These are people who've inquired, whom you've met at a meeting, who've done some business with you in the past. Keep in touch with these valuable resources!
When Homer Dunn was an up-and-coming salesperson at IBM, he told me there are actually three kinds of people that he calls on. "First, there are the people I've already made a sale to." (This was in the mainframe days, so it was a big sale.) "I keep calling on these customers, making sure they are satisfied with the product and the service." That's maintaining a sale.
"Then there are the people I'm calling on, those that are in the sales cycle which can be a long-term process." (And, with really high-ticket items, this can be a really long-term process!)
"Finally, there are the people I want to do business with. I have not earned the right yet to do business with these people, but I am maintaining a relationship, letting them know of my progress and success. So when I have finally earned the right to the sale, they are all mine."
1. What are you doing this week to earn the right to people's business? Write it down.
2. What more could or should you do? Devise a strategy and timetable.
3. Who have you targeted in your community? Who else should you cultivate? Make a list.
Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE is a San Francisco-based executive speech coach, sales trainer, and award-winning professional speaker on Change, Customer Service, Promoting Business, and Communication Skills. She is the author of Get What You Want!, Make It, So You Don't Have to Fake It!, and Past-President of the National Speakers Association. She can be reached at: PFripp@Fripp.com, 1-800 634-3035, http://www.fripp.com