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When Are Your Prospects Ready To Buy?

Sales people are very fond of the line “A no doesn’t necessarily mean no – it  may mean not now”.

This is very true.

Be there when your customers are ready to buy

As a marketer you don’t know what stage in the buying process your prospect is at. If they don’t respond to your approach, it may mean they won’t be interested ever or it may mean that they’re not interested right now.

The point is everyone is at different places in the buying cycle.

Understanding that buyers are continually at different stages reinforces the need you have to build relationships with your list of prospects because the better the relationship you have with your database the more likely they are to do business with you when they are ready to buy.

Here are five things you can do to continually introduce people to your business, establish a relationship with them and be ready when they are ready to buy.

Always have something to invite people to

This can be a webinar, a tele-seminar, a live event etc. Pick a topic or idea that relates to your product or service and get started. This helps you connect with many potential clients all at one time.

Build a community

Communities are powerful because they give people a sense of belonging to something. From a business standpoint, communities build credibility by establishing that other people like you and trust you.  Holding an event , creating a forum or getting them to “like” your Facebook page allows people to connect and engage with you.

Keep your name in front of your prospects by providing valuable content.

Once a lead is in your system, your objective is to create content that will keep your products, services and brand in front of them.  The key here is to give away something that your prospects perceive as having value–something that will benefit them or solve their problems.

Have multiple points of entry

Create multiple ways to introduce people to your products and services. One point of entry might be through your website.  You can also use free reports, books, events, referral strategies, speaking engagements, articles written for publications in your niche or industry as points of entry.

Use a variety of media channels

Once you have figured out different points of entry, send content in a variety of formats so that you are sure to hit your customers’ communication preference.

Different people like to be communicated with in different ways. Make sure you communicate in ways that will appeal to as many people as possible.

Remember to get more clients and make more sales, you need to have a lead generation system in place that will continually supply you with potential buyers in different stages of the buying process. Create a system that starts the conversation and makes a connection, and when it’s time for them to buy, you will be the only logical choice.

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7 Top Tips For Blogging Heaven

These days blogging has come to be seen as an essential part of a business’s communication and marketing arsenal.

However it only becomes a powerful tool if people read it, become loyal to it and act as a result of it.

Make your blog work hard

The following tips are designed to make your blog a more useful and powerful weapon.

1. Make your posts useful and relevant

Business people read blogs in order to learn – new viewpoints, new skills and information that will benefit their business.

So make sure your blogs contain useful information that your readers can take away and use.

2. Focus on your readers

If you  want your readers to engage with your posts, you need to focus on issues which are important to them. It’s like any business – you need to be customer focused and give them what they want.

Where you can add real value is when you personalise your posts – when you include your own experiences and your own view points. This is what can make your posts unique. Without these inputs the same information can probably be found elsewhere online – it’s the personal experience and views which can make your posts so valuable.

The trick is to give your audience the information they want but with your own personal spin.

3. You need to blog frequently and consistently

One of the key elements if you want to build a loyal readership is the frequency with which you blog. Whether you blog every day, twice a week or only once a week, you need to be putting up new content on a regular basis. You also ideally will commit to a set regularity so that your readers know when they can expect to find something new. If your readers visit your site a few times and find nothing new, you can’t be very surprised if they lose interest. When you publish posts infrequently, it’s almost like starting from zero each time. There’s little if any momentum and momentum is essential if you want to grow your readership.

4. Write as you speak

In my opinion this point doesn’t just relate to blogs but is relevant to most copy writing – whether that be for websites, brochures and flyers or direct mail. Conversational writing is much easier to read than formalised language.

Have you ever noticed that when you read good copy, it almost feels like you can hear the writer speaking to you? That’s because these writers have discovered, that when you write similarly to the way you speak, you make it easier for people to connect with the person behind your posts.

5. Add personality to your posts

If you add nothing new, no individual perspectives, you give people nothing to connect with.  Always look for a way to add something of your own, something that shows your readers what you think and what you feel about the topic. In this way you can position yourself as a leader in your field, with whom readers are much more likely to want to do business.

6. Don’t sell too much

Of course we all write business blogs with the objective of building our businesses. Personally I overtly sell very little. I try to demonstrate my knowledge and expertise in my blog so that readers perceive me as an expert so when they need marketing services they think of me.

People read blogs to gain information and opinions – not to be sold to. So if you do plan to sell directly from your blog, be careful to get the balance right. Make sure the reader still gets plenty of informational value between the sales messages.

7. Use your blog to build relationships

The best blogs are the ones that receive lots of comments. If you receive comments this gives you the opportunity to interact with the commenter. In this way you can start to build rapport and  a relationship.

So one of the basic rules of blogging is that you should reply to all serious comments. Now of course you may not agree with the comments, but you should reply respectfully. They’ve taken the trouble to make a comment, you owe them the politeness to respond. In this way you can start a dialogue and who knows where that dialogue may take you.

I hope you find these tips useful and they help to make your blog a useful and hard working part of your communication and marketing strategy.

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Five Rules on How Not to Use Social Media

I recently read this blog from Marketing Profs and agreed with all the points. So much so that I thought I would reproduce it word for word.

So with full acknowledgment to Marketing Profs………………

Social media is a very powerful thing, but like any powerful thing it can wreak havoc if misused or misdirected. First of all, always remember that social media is built around being social.

Being personable, honest, and entertaining is the best way to get users to interact with and about a business. You want users to trust and be entertained by your company, product, slogan, or marketing campaign, so then they turn around and do the rest of the buzz work for you.

The five rules that follow are fundamental to building users’ trust, interesting them in your business, and getting them to talk among themselves about it.

Rule No. 1: Don’t be dishonest

Most of us have been taken in by a false post a time or two. Discovering our credulity, we felt embarrassed and disappointed, and in response developed an acute awareness of duplicity: We are on the lookout for it, and we hate it when we see it. Overtly dishonest posts, comments, and reviews that are thinly disguised promotions… we don’t like them and our customers don’t either, so just don’t go there.

The flipside of this distaste for fakery is that Internet users appreciate straightforwardness and honesty. So rather than respond to a negative review with fake positive reviews, publicly respond to the reviewer. Offer her discounts or a way to fix the problem, and you might win over a vocal customer who can potentially do far better work for you than any PR department or reputation manager.

Rule No. 2: Don’t be annoying

Remember the chain emails of the early 2000s? Sure, those things went viral quickly, but nobody appreciated them. In the same way that you don’t lob useless information or advertisements at your customers’ inboxes, don’t spam their Twitters with less-than-brilliant blog posts or promotions. If you focus on making your promotional content engaging, Internet users will do most of the promoting for you.

Look around to see what promotional techniques other companies are using to get users talking. A popular tactic these days, for instance, is to give away a free service. What service could your business give away that would likely interest those who subscribe to your Twitter feed or who have “Liked” you on Facebook? A generous promotion builds trust and loyalty with users, and can be a great way to get them talking about your site with friends.

Rule No. 3: Don’t fight the nature of the Internet

Promoting a product or a service online is a tricky business, as piracy, theft, and sharing are rife. If your product or service is threatened by the openness of the Internet, then try a different approach.

Look at how the music industry has responded to the widespread availability of free music. Musicians have shifted their emphasis to live shows and even give their recorded music away for free, in an effort to gain a following and get their name and their sound out in the world. They depend on their fans to talk them up on social media and get people to their live shows.

Think about it: Many of the biggest companies online—including names like Facebook, Yahoo, Google, YouTube, and Pandora—offer their services for free. Is there a way you can make money by offering a free service? See where you can adapt your business to fit to this new model.

Rule No. 4: Don’t think social media will solve all your problems

Social media is merely one tool for a business. A great one, to be sure: it can be used for advertising, for gathering customer feedback, for getting your brand out there, and more.

But it works best in concert with other efforts. Consumers will get tired of your products and services if you simply keep promoting the same ones. So encourage creativity in all parts of your business—product enhancements, new products, new ways to provide a service, new markets—then use social media to promote all that is fresh and exciting about your offerings.

Rule No. 5: Don’t treat each new social media sensation as the Holy Grail

Of course, it’s great to have as many promotional outlets as you can, but the risk is that you grab more than you can really handle and let one or two fall by the wayside, doing damage to your image as an active, living, customer-focused company.

The other danger is running after each social media fad of the moment. Focus on what works and then pick up new channels deliberatively, after you figure out how best to use each new one.

Remember that users of social media want to interact with people, and they all have their own motives and goals (whether that’s to impress their friends or find a job). If business professionals and marketers can remember those two fundamentals, plus the social media Golden Rule—to treat their users as they themselves would like to be treated–they will be well on their way to making social media work for them.

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Email – A Key Element Of Your Small Business Marketing

If as a small business, you’re not using email, you’re ignoring one of the cheapest and most effective marketing channels.

One of the cheapest and most effective marketing channels

Here are three ways you can use email to increase your profits

1. Set up auto responder campaigns to improve response.

Email can dramatically improve your conversion rates.

Set up an auto responder campaign that automatically sends emails to welcome new subscribers, follows up on important events or campaigns or as part of a sequential campaign, that sends prospects a tailored email dependent on how they have already responded to your marketing activity.

For example, let’s say you send a postcard to your customers driving them to a landing page advertising an upcoming event. A portion of your customers won’t sign up on that first visit to your landing page. That means you need a way to drive them back to that landing page.

Setting up an auto responder campaign that has a sequence of messages that address different objections your prospect might have and then drives them back to your event landing page in the right frame of mind can significantly increase your response to that event.

In fact, using this type of follow-up email sequence has been shown to double, triple and even quadruple your initial response.

2. Use email to get valuable information.

These days everybody is crunching numbers to ensure they are being effective and efficient with their marketing spend.

Some of the most valuable statistics are the response numbers that roll in after an email campaign is sent out.

Reviewing your numbers will help you spot effective offers, stand out content or subscribers who’d respond well to follow up.

Use this information to see what messages are working and incorporate them into your other marketing.

3. Use email to build brand loyalty.

In today’s tough economy, it’s more important than ever to keep your customers happy and engaged.  Consistent emails with interesting and relevant content give you an easy, friendly way to remind your subscribers why they love you.

Plus you can use your email to highlight your company’s strengths, reward your most loyal customers, convert leads into customers and turn your one-time buyers into repeat customers.

But remember, every email you send has got to add value to your database. You must be giving them useful information or a special offer or a tip to help their business. If you start taking your list for granted and start sending them stuff that has no value to them or that isn’t consistent with your brand, you can start to damage your reputation and potentially lose your customers, even loyal ones, forever.

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American Politicians Still Rely On Direct Mail

I’ve just read an article about how the American Presidential hopefuls are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to convince the voters that they are the man to lead the US to a shinier and brighter future.

I wasn’t at all surprised to see the eye watering figures they’re spending on the TV – bombarding the viewers with their messages.

What did come as a bit of a surprise was the amount they are spending on direct mail. We all know how Barak Obama uses social media extensively as do the Republicans this time around so I imagined that digital media was where they are focusing, but the fact is that traditional direct mail is being used extensively.

People actively enjoy receiving mail

According to Borrell Associates, spending on political direct-mail in 2012 will top $288 million, an increase of 11.6%  from 2008.

More than in past elections, political direct-mail is integrating online and off  line communications.  Activities include sending QR codes with  links to a video with a special message from the candidate or sending a postcard that drives voters to a website that focuses on an issue they care about.

This all runs contrary to the perceived wisdom that tells us that direct mail is dying on its feet.

However, what the media fails to tell us is that direct-mail for commercial purposes is up 3% year on year.(Target Marketing 12/11)

During this tough economic time spending on direct-mail is rising. When you consider that lots of companies have moved to online marketing, this must mean that the remaining users of direct mail have dramatically increased their usage.

Nothing is as consistent as direct mail although these days it integrates with other media especially online media.

The following facts prove the enduring effectiveness of direct mail. While this data relates to the US, what happens there is invariably reflected here.

  • 50% of consumers say they pay more attention to postal mail than e-mail.

That means if you communicate entirely or mostly by email and ignore direct mail, you may very well miss HALF the sales opportunities of any given campaign.

  • 61% of Consumers say they enjoy receiving mail

Letters through the post fulfil some kind of emotional need in people. These recipients went on to say that the opening of “fresh” mail and receiving interesting information and offers is an activity they positively look forward to!

Against this, consider that 65% say they receive too many e-mails everyday to open them all.

A growing percentage of people express frustration and resentment at e-mail marketing, even from sources they have a good relationship with.

So while many businesses are cutting direct-mail, Google is using direct-mail to sell its pay per click and Google Places advertising and Amazon is using it to promote its e-tailing business.

If even the world’s largest on line businesses recognise the importance of direct mail within their marketing mix, surely small businesses such as yours and mine should embrace it again.

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You Must Show Your Prospects That You Can Solve Their Problems

Show them you can solve their problems

You may have what appears to be a great small business marketing programme but is it giving you the results you want?

For your marketing to have real traction and to generate the levels of response you want, you have to answer the questions your prospects are asking and show them how you are the correct solution for them.

Remember, it’s not about you.
Spend most of your time talking about what your prospect cares about.  When you create marketing materials, you must remember that your prospect isn’t interested in you, your product or service. What they really want to know is what’s in it for them.

The rule of thumb is to spend a very small amount of time (only about 10% of your sales piece) talking about yourself.  You do this to establish your credibility and trustworthiness. Spend the rest of the time talking about what your prospects care about—which is their problems and challenges. Once you’ve discussed these, tell them how your product or service is the solution they are looking for.

Make a valuable offer.
Lead generation is an important component of your small business marketing. In these pieces you often see lines like “For a free information package” or “for more information.”

However, using the words “more information”  makes it sound like what you are concerned about—making the sale—instead of what your prospect cares about.

Instead try offering a free report or a free e-book which addresses their problem. This will still contain many of the same items as your “more information” would, such as samples and information about your product, but is more appealing for a prospect to respond to.

To discover what to put into your introductory kit or report, try getting on forums, social media sites and other places where you can survey people about what questions they want answered.

Use a headline, not your logo, at the top of the page.
A common mistake is to put your logo and branding at the top of a sales letter or to use letterhead when contacting prospects. Again, this says the focus is on you instead of on your prospect.

The most valuable real estate is at the top of your letter. Use it to put a headline that will have a powerful impact and determine whether or not your prospect continues reading.

Here’s something else – and it’s extremely important. Don’t use “wish washy language” at the end of your letter.  Don’t say things like, “If you are interested in finding out about ten ways you can ensure you will be prepared for retirement, call us 01483 200387.

Instead, use authoritative language in your call to action. Tell your reader what to do.  For example, say, “Complete the enclosed reply card and post it today to receive your free report on The Financial Planner’s Ten Secrets to Retiring Early.”

Follow these three tips in your lead generation promotions and more people will take you up on your offer.

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You’ve Gotta Hang In There

There are many qualities associated with being a top salesman.

Some of them you may be born with. Some you may have to learn. But the most important of all is probably the simplest.

Persistence.

You gotta hang in there

To be successful in business, you have to be persistent, you’ve  got to  hang in there.

Most small business marketers are never as successful as they should be because they don’t hang in there, giving up too quickly.

Following the initial appointment when you don’t make a sale there is still gold to be mined, over weeks, months, and even years for those people who understand the psychology of buying.

Because when a prospect first raises their hand indicating they want whatever it is you’re  selling but don’t buy, what they are really saying is that they aren’t ready to buy right now.

According to research 80% of new sales are made on or after the 5th contact whereas only 2% of sales are made after the first contact.

Now it might be that they want your solution or a different solution from someone else but they are looking for a solution. Give up too soon and you can bet it won’t be yours.

Too Many People Give Up Too Quickly
Too often marketers give up too quickly. They think, “I just gave them my best offer, my best pitch… If they didn’t buy then, they’ll never buy.”

This isn’t true. What you should do is to keep marketing to them until the time is right or your particular approach hits the spot.

Provide your solution in different ways to help them find just the right answer they’re looking for.

Vary the channel you use.

Send  letters, emails, postcards, CDs, connect with them on social networks, put stuff through their front doors.

You don’t know what any one specific individual will respond to.

Never assume “no” until you know the answer is “no.”

Mix up your messages and the way you deliver your message.

This is how you mine for the gold in your list.

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Making Money From Hangovers, Zombies & Surprises

I was reading a blog article the other day by a guy called Dave Dee who is an associate of Dan Kennedy. If you haven’t heard of him, Dan Kennedy is one of the few marketers who genuinely deserves the title of guru.

Dave was writing about three very quirky and individual businesses.

  1. Hangover Heaven – this is a business, based in Las Vegas which supplies a concoction of vitamins to hangover sufferers to help them recover.
  2. This second one is fantastically wacky. Run For Your Lives is a business where customers pay a considerable amount to be chased over an obstacle course by zombies or to be the zombie chasing the runners.
  3. The third one, Not Another Bill, is a company that sends you or a loved one a random surprise package in the post each month with tailored variants depending on whether the recipient is a man or a woman.

There are a number of important small business marketing lessons which we can all learn from these three unusual businesses:

Have Fun.
Each of these businesses has an element of fun and entertainment.  A big part of success in business is for both you and your customers to enjoy what you do.

Be Different, Be Unusual.
Business is all about differentiation. We all need to have elements of our business which differentiate us from our competitors, that stop us from just being “me too” businesses.

If  you create something that appeals to a specialist market, chances are your product will have little or no competition—which means your product will be much more valuable than if you market more of a commodity to the mass market.

Identify your gap in the market and test it out on a small level to check that there is a demand for your novel idea.

You never know what might be a huge money maker.

Target A Specific Niche Market

Identifying a very specific target market is the best approach because you can make your communications and products totally relevant to that audience.

Depending on your product you don’t necessarily need to limit yourself to just one niche but your marketing will be most effective if it is directed to just that one niche.

Identify additional niches but market to each one individually.

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PPC or SEO?

We all want our websites to feature on the first page of Google but with a limited small business marketing budget how do you go about making it happen?

Basically there are two ways to achieve it.

1.Search engine optimisation

2. Pay per click advertising

So how do you know which to focus on and where to spend your money?

Search Engine Optimisation

There are two aspects to SEO – on page and off page.

On page focuses on the things you need to do on your webpage to enable Google to find you when the appropriate search terms are entered. These on page elements include issues such as keywords  and meta tags.

The off page elements are the things you do elsewhere on the web to prove to Google that you are an authoritative site to which searchers should be directed. The most important of these is the external links coming into your site.

SEO is a complicated and expert process which will usually need to be outsourced to an SEO expert.

Pay Per Click

PPC advertising however is something which with a little bit of practice you can probably handle yourself.

PPC ads or sponsored links are the ones that appear on the right hand side of the page and at the top and which appear in blue.

Basically PPC is a bidding process in which you decide how much you are prepared to pay for a click. PPC is a skilled process and although there are lots of other criteria involved, as a generalisation the more you bid the greater your chance of appearing high up on the page.

While SEO is a long term strategy, PPC allows you to appear on the first page within hours of setting up your campaign..

An important thing to point out is the trust issue. People trust the organic listing more than the paid for. Research consistently shows that users are far more likely to choose the organic results rather than the paid advertising links.

On the other hand, PPC is an effective and really the only realistic short term way of driving traffic to your site.

But a word of warning. It is very easy to burn a load of money for little result if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The first thing you should do when you start out is to set a conservative daily budget – say £5 or £10 per day. When this amount has been spent you ads will stop being displayed. This allows you to assess the impact your campaign is having without risking too much money. If it’s working well, you can increase your budget.

The next thing you will want to limit is the geographical area your ads are shown in. If you operate in a limited area, you only want your ads to show within that area.

Equally important are the keywords you select. You must make sure that someone searching against those keywords is actually looking for the services or products that you sell.

Having said all these things when used as part of an effective small business marketing strategy, PPC can give your business a rapid boost.

To sum up – long term, SEO is the most sustainable and ultimately most effective way of getting onto that first page and it’s also much more satisfying to know that your website is ranked by Google to be worthy of its first page positioning as opposed to simply buying your way there.

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It’s Not Interesting If They’re Not Interested

When making sales calls, too many salespeople launch straight into their sales presentation whether on the phone or in person, before they have any idea what is important, relevant and of interest to their prospects.

This is the result of the salesperson being too focused on their own personal needs and agendas and not being 100% committed to understanding their prospect’s agenda.

Start with Questions

The best way to sell effectively and in less time is to start the “sales conversation” with questions.

“When it comes to selecting a supplier, what is most important to you?”  The way they answer will totally dictate the content of your conversation. One of the standard complaints  about salespeople is “they weren’t interested in my situation, they just wanted to sell to me.”

There are two reasons to ask questions:

  1. To get information
  2. To create rapport.

One of the strongest human needs is to be heard.  I’ve met very few people who don’t appreciate the opportunity to talk about their world, if approached correctly – sincerely. Like they say, you can’t fake sincerity.

The Right Kind of Questions

The questions I’m talking about aren’t small talk, far from it. I’m talking about probing for information that will help you understand the challenges and frustrations that the prospect faces so you can speak to those issues in the context of what you’re selling. In the process of asking questions and paying close attention to the spoken and unspoken replies, you are building rapport. It’s a critical element.

So to quote a founding father of the personal development business, Zig Ziglar, “You can get everything in life you want, if you help others get what they want”.  Start your sales calls by asking more and better questions about what’s interesting to your prospects. Their replies will show you how to manage your sales pitch.