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Is A Free Consultation A Good Marketing Tool

When I first start working with a client, I go through what I call a “Marketing Fundamentals” workshop, in which we develop their customer proposition. Your customer proposition is the overall package that you offer your customers and will determine whether your business is successful or not.

One element of the workshop is to work out what can be given away for free.

Why should you want to give something away for free?

Because it enables potential customers to trial your business, to put their toe in the water without any commitment or risk. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it now would you?

We need to trial something to check that it does what we hope it will do.

In consultancy or coaching businesses, offering a free 2 hour or half day consultancy session is a standard way to market the business.

I offer it myself.

If we’re being honest, the free consultation is just a sales meeting, dressed up to sound more valuable and less intimidating. The objective is to get in front of a prospect and then to be able to show your expertise and to start to build a relationship.

The great thing about it is that you can put a value on it – whatever the value of 2 or 3 hours of your time works out at.

The thing about the free consultation is that you have to deliver some real value. At the end of the consultation your prospect must feel that they have received some genuinely valuable and useful advice and information. But on the other hand you shouldn’t give away too much. The ideal is to give a taster of your expertise but without solving all their problems so that they are eager to receive more.

You Still Have To Sell

As I said the Free Consultation is a sales meeting dressed up, which means it can be too easy to just consult and not to actually sell. Unfortunately if you take this approach you will come away empty handed. The prospect is very unlikely to take the initiative and will wait for you to suggest the next step.  Having demonstrated your expertise you must still ask for the order in some way.

The Wrong Kind Of Prospects

When you offer something for free, there is always a danger that you will get people taking up the offer who have absolutely no intention of ever using your services.

To avoid this situation, you should build some qualifiers into the offer.

“This Free Consultation offer is open to all business owners who are serious about growing their business and are comfortable with the idea of working with an external marketing consultant.”

By putting in a qualifying statement of this kind you can qualify your respondents and if , in your opinion, they don’t fulfil these criteria , you have your justification for not giving them the free consultation.

So in answer to the question “Is a free consultation a good marketing tool” my answer is that for consultants, trainers and coaches they can be a very important and effective tool but you must bear in mind that you will still have to sell at some stage and you must be prepared to weed out the time wasters right at the start.

Business Development Advisors can help you grow  your business and take it on to the next level. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.

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The Need For Stand Out In Small Business Marketing

Unfortunately none of us operate in a vacuum.

We all have competition and lots of it.

This means when a prospective customer is looking to buy our services, there is lots of choice.

You only have to look through the Yellow Pages in any given sector to see

  1. How many companies there are operating in every sector
  2. How similar most businesses are.

The reason I mention the Yellow Pages is that being a traditional medium, a lot of the advertisers in it are traditional in their approach to their marketing and this is reflected in their advertisements.

If as a buyer you cannot discern any obvious differences between competing businesses, the only thing you have left to influence your decision is the price. So if you do not have any meaningful point of difference from your competitors, you may well find yourselves slogging it out on price and that is not a happy or a profitable battle field to fight on

So What’s The Answer?

The answer is of course that your business has got to stand out in some ways. It has got to be seen as the best and hopefully the obvious choice which offers more benefits to customers than the competitors.

So how are you going to make your business stand out?

There are of course any number of ways and the following list will hopefully give you some ideas.

  • Engineer your products to be superior to the competition
  • Produce your product in unique sizes and colours
  • Offer the widest product range
  • Give more for the money
  • Deliver faster
  • Offer a guarantee
  • Offer a free trial
  • Offer flexible payment terms
  • Accept the widest range of payment methods
  • Train your staff to be the most knowledgable and helpful
  • Give a fantastic after sales service
  • Make great special offers
  • Offer special VIP members benefits

You of course will create stand out relevant and appropriate to your business. Remember when your business stands out from the competition you can charge the price you deserve because price is no longer the primary motivator to buy from you.

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Cross Selling – The Easiest and Best Way To Grow Your Business

In the world of business development and small company marketing, the key question is how can I grow my business and what’s the fastest way to do it.

Cross selling is possibly the most valuable tool available to businesses.

When most people think about growing a business, they normally think about winning new customers. While new customers are really important, the fastest and easiest way to grow your business, is to leverage your existing customers and cross sell them into other products.

Just think about it. Your existing customers have already decided that they like you and your products enough to buy from you. So when you offer them something new, as long as it’s something they need, in all likelihood they will buy it from you.

How often do you hear the refrain “I never knew you sold that”.

So as a business owner your mission is obvious.  The best cross selling tip I can give is to say you must make sure that all your customers are aware of those products and services you provide that are relevant to them and that they don’t currently buy from you. You must give them every opportunity to buy everything they can from you.

Gap Analysis To Identify Cross Selling Opportunities

In order to identify where the cross selling opportunities lie, one of the first things I do with my clients is to carry out a gap analysis.

What we do is we list all the products or services the company sells along the horizontal axis of a spreadsheet and then all the customers down the vertical axis. We then put a tick in the cells to show all the products each customer is currently buying. Then by using the detailed knowledge the client has of his customers we put a cross against those products which they don’t currently buy but which they realistically might buy, that they are currently either getting from somewhere else or they’re not buying at all.

The next job is to communicate to your customers that you stock these products. You may want to give them some kind of promotional incentive to change from their existing supplier and start buying from you. Once they’ve moved their business to you, you have of course got to provide the highest level of customer service to reassure them that they’ve made the right decision moving to you.

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10 Key Tips For Writing Compelling Letters That Sell

Surely no one sends sales letters anymore I hear you think.

There’s no doubt that online marketing has replaced traditional marketing in a lot of people’s minds. And that is a key reason why sales letters or direct marketing is still a very powerful marketing channel.
You see there is so much less direct mail being sent these days that letters now have a very good chance of being read and as long as they are well written and persuasive, direct mail can be very effective and should definitely still be a part of your marketing arsenal.

But your direct mail has to be good. The following tips will give you all the  weaponry you need to write compelling and effective sales letters.

1.The Offer

Direct mail letters that contain a powerful special offer generate on average 400% better response than letters without offers.
A special offer grabs attention and forces the reader to read the headline and then the body copy to see what is being offered.
Hit your reader with your best stuff right at the start. Your task is to engage and interest the reader and your special offer at the start of the letter will do this.

2. Write Directly To Your Reader

The most important words in your letter will be “You” and “Your”.
Your letter mustn’t be about your company but about what you can do for the reader. You are talking directly to the reader and showing how you can solve his or her problems.

3. Benefits Not Features

I think these days we all know that customers buy benefits not features. No one buys a chair because it is ergonomically designed but because the ergonomic design supports your back and gives you a truly relaxing experience. So having listed your feature you then ask the question “which means that”…….. This forces you to articulate the benefit, which is what the prospect will buy.

4. The First Few Lines

Your first few lines must grab your prospect by the eyeballs. Each line has got to interest the reader enough that he goes to the next line. So your special offer starts the process and your benefits then take over. Once your reader is into your letter, with any luck they will read through to the end.

5. How to Get Readers to Turn The Page

If your letter is long enough to go onto a second or third page you must have a technique to ensure they continue reading. Never end your page with a full stop. Instead, try to break the page mid-sentence so that the reader is virtually forced to keep reading.

6. Credibility

If your reader doesn’t know you, you have to establish your credibility. The best way to do that is with social proof or testimonials. Featuring a couple of testimonials demonstrates that people just like your readers have benefited from your product. Give as much detail about the person giving the testimonial as possible to ensure the reader knows it’s genuine and not something you’ve made up.

7.  Your Close

Before closing, go back to your big benefit and major selling points again. As one old copywriter once said, “Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Then tell ‘em what you, told ‘em.”

8. Call To Action

The key point of your sales letter is to make the reader take action. That may be to call you, to visit your website, to download a report etc. Whatever action you want you must tell them very clearly at least once. If you can build in calls to action throughout the letter so much the better.

9. The “P.S.”

Don’t think that direct response copywriters are absent minded just because they always finish with a “P.S.”. It’s just another technique that always seems to work.

Most people read the P.S so even if you missed the reader with your opening statement, you can often pick them up again with a well thought out post script which stresses the key benefits, or the special offer.  In fact, some people read the P.S. before they read the letter.

10. Avoid Looking Corporate

If a letter looks obviously like direct mail, its chances of being opened are reduced. Franking a letter is a dead giveaway. If you put a stamp on a letter it looks much more like a personal communication and will increase the likelihood of it being opened. Taking that one stage further, if you can hand write the envelope, you are almost guaranteed that the letter will be opened, which means that you will have achieved the first objective of direct mail.

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Direct Mail – Still One of The Most Effective New Business GeneratingTechniques

It may have been around for ages but it is still one of the best ways to generate new business.

In recent years, thanks to the rise of digital marketing, direct mail has been almost forgotten about. But the fact is that it used to work and because so much less direct mail is sent these days, its effectiveness has actually increased over the last few years.

However direct mail is only effective if done well.

The purpose of this email is to give you some guidelines on how to ensure that your direct mail gets response and delivers loads of new business and a great ROI.

Set Your Objectives

Before you send out anything, you must be clear about what response you want.

  • To generate immediate sales
  • A visit to your website
  • A telephone call or email
  • A request for more information

To have any chance to getting a response, there are three separate issues you have to get right.

  1. You must identify and communicate with the right audience for what you’re selling. No matter how good your pitch, if you’re talking to the wrong audience, you will not get a response.
  2. Your communication must contain a compelling offer, strong enough and relevant enough to make the reader to take action
  3. The letter must be written in a persuasive manner,  highlighting  all the benefits of your product, giving the reader  no option but to respond.

Accurate Targeting Is Vital

The effectiveness of your direct mail campaign will be determined by the relevance of what you’re offering to the recipients of the letter.

So you must be absolutely clear on the profile of the users of your product.

Your next challenge is to get hold of a suitable list of prospects. This can come from a variety of sources.

  1. Your Own Database.
    Hopefully this will be segmented into existing customers, lapsed customers and leads you never converted. Each of these audiences will need to be addressed differently, but assuming you make the right offer, all should give you good response levels.
  2. Bought Lists
    The quality of these lists and therefore your response rates will depend on the accuracy of your buyer profile and the quality of your list broker. But assuming that both of those are good, your results should be perfectly respectable.
  3. Joint Venture Partners
    The trick here is to find a non competing partner who serves the same audience as you do but with a different product and who has a high quality database. You will need to either agree a cost for the usage of their database or maybe agree to pay them a percentage of all sales generated.

How To Make Sure Your Audience Open Your Letter

We all know how we react when we receive an envelope that is obviously “junk mail”. That’s right – we’re likely to throw it away unopened.

So what can you do to ensure that a high percentage of your audience actually open your letter?

  1. Don’t make your direct mail look like direct mail
    Make sure you don’t have corporate logos on the envelope or have anything pre-printed on it. The secret is to make your communication look like a private letter.
  2. Use an ordinary envelope and hand write the address
    Admittedly this is very time consuming but it does look like a personal letter and will be opened. If you don’t have time for this, see if you can find a student who’s looking to earn a few pounds.
  3. Don’t frank the letter
    Again this is a dead give away that it’s a corporate communication. The answer is to use stamps.
  4. Make the envelope bulky
    If you make the envelope bulky by enclosing something in the envelope, the recipient will be curious to know what’s inside. If the item included also links thematically to the subject of the letter, then the whole piece hangs together coherently.

Make Your Audience Take Action

Making your audience take action is the single most crucial aspect of your direct mail campaign. Of course you must adhere to the basic rules of direct mail copy writing ie you’ve personalised your letter to each recipient, you’ve told your audience what action to take now and you’ve repeated the key elements of your offer in the PS, but what else can you do to stimulate a response?

  1. Include a discount voucher
    If you include a voucher which actually feels like money, whether you offer a set financial amount or a percentage, you’ll give the offer a real sense of value.
  2. Time Limit The Offer
    If the offer is open ended, your readers will feel no sense of urgency. By giving a short closing date, you compel your readers to take action quickly.
  3. Limit The Offer To The First 100 Respondents
    By introducing an element of scarcity to the offer, you will immediately make it more attractive and increase the response rate.

So when you come to your next marketing campaign, don’t forget direct mail, as when it’s done well it will still give you exceptional results.

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10 Tips For Writing Sales Letters That Sell

How often have you received boring, badly written direct marketing letters or emails?

Pretty often I expect would be your answer.

This is nothing short of criminal.
The sender has invested the time and money in the copy writing and getting the letter or email to you. You’ve opened the communication and have at least started to read it. You are a prospect ready to be sold to. But the copy writing is not good enough to motivate you to read through to the end and certainly not good enough to compel you to take action.

So what are the mistakes that companies commonly make?

  1. No Headline Or A Boring Headline
    The headline has got to grab the reader’s attention and interest them enough to persuade them to read on into the body copy
  2. Confusing Offers
    People are often tempted to put multiple special offers into one communication. This can end up just confusing the reader. It is better to focus on one promotional offer and support that with the other benefits associated with dealing with your company.
  3. No Sub Heads
    As well as being packed with value, your communication must be easy on the eye. Large blocks of text are visually intimidating. Keep your paragraphs short and break up your letter with sub headings and spaces.
  4. Too Many Typefaces
    In an attempt to make the letter look interesting, people will often use lots of different type faces. This just makes the letter difficult to read and visually confusing. Two different type faces is plenty.
  5. Exaggerated Claims and Over Exuberant Copy
    Of course you have to sell your product and do it with enthusiasm but if you make exaggerated claims for your product, you risk losing credibility. Likewise if your copy goes over the top, your readers will turn off. Too many “spectaculars”, “fantastics” and “amazings” will alienate your audience.
  6. Slick, Corporate Feel
    While your communication must be professional, you must avoid it becoming too slick and having the feel of a large corporate communication. Readers respond to communications that feel genuine and personal.
  7. No PS
    After the headline, the PS is the most read part of a letter. The PS is a perfect opportunity to briefly repeat the promotional offer and the timescale involved.
  8. No Guarantee or Testimonials
    If you are hoping to generate sales from your communication, you need to remove any risk the reader might perceive, so offer him a guarantee of some sort. Additionally you need to include some social proof of the quality of your product. Testimonials from happy customers will help to achieve this.
  9. No Call To Action
    What do you want your reader to do? Do you want them to place an order there and then. Do you want them to pick up the phone or to visit your web site. Whatever action you want them to take, tell them to do it and give them all the contact information they need to do it.
  10. Teaser Copy On The Envelope
    Printed text on the envelope marks the communication out as direct mail. Plain envelopes are much more likely to be opened. If you can hand write the address this will also significantly increase the chances of your letter being opened
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How To Convert More Prospects Into Customers

Have you ever wondered why a prospect who you thought was just about to buy from you, ends up not doing so?

One common reason is that he perceives there to be some kind of risk involved.

  • Will he get the results from the purchase that he expects?
  • Is he paying too much for it?
  • Perhaps it might not be quite the right product for him.

There are any number of possible reasons. Your job is to find a way to remove any risk from the buyer so that there is no reason for him not to buy.

So how are you going to do that?

There are two classic ways to put your customer’s mind at rest.

1. Money Back Guarantee

If you offer a money back guarantee, you are demonstrating your total confidence in your product. From the customer’s point of view all the risk is removed. If for whatever reason they’re not totally happy with the product, they can get their money back. Suddenly the number one stumbling block has been removed.

The technique is often used when selling self help materials on line. How many times have you read about a product which you’re assured will deliver terrific business benefits. If you’re undecided what to do, the offer of a full refund if you’re not satisfied makes it the offer so much more compelling.

Many business owners worry that customers may try to rip them off. The fact is that one or two might but most people are fundamentally honest. So if you have to refund one or two unscrupulous customers, that may just be the price you pay for the scores of new customers you’ve generated.

2. Free Trial

We’re all familiar with the free trial concept. The customer can trial the product in their home or office for 30 days. If for some reason they’re not totally happy they can send it back and get a 100% refund. Immediately you have overcome so many of the standard objections.

The Hi Fi company Bose often offer a 30 trial on their music systems. This is perfect as different locations often have different acoustics. What sounds great in one location may not sound so good elsewhere. Not surprisingly this can lead customers to feel nervous about buying a system. The home trial gives them the opportunity to “road test” the system, with no obligation, so that they know definitively whether it is the right product for them.

The other great thing about this way of removing the risk is that inertia often steps in. Once customers have something on trial at home, they often forget about their initial reservations and are perfectly satisfied with their purchase.

So once you’ve decided which route is appropriate for you to offer to your customers, you now want to maximise its impact. To do this you should use it on all your marketing materials:

  • Highlight it on your web site
  • Feature it in any direct mail or email marketing you send out
  • Include it in any printed marketing materials
  • Mention it in any networking or presentations you do

The cost to you is likely to be minimal but the impact on your sales can be phenomenal

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Do You Dare To Be Different?

For your business to be successful in today’s market, you have to be different to the great mass of your competitors.

  • Different in what you offer
  • Different in how you position yourself
  • Different in your thinking
  • Different in the way you market your business

Most businesses operate within a straight jacket. They believe they need to market themselves in the same way that everyone else in their profession markets themselves. So all the plumbers advertise in the yellow pages, all the hairdressers advertise in the local paper, all the double glazing companies use direct marketing.

Increase the Ways You Market Your Business

If you are similar to most businesses, you probably use just one or two primary ways to market and grow your business. Perhaps it’s advertising. Perhaps it’s referrals, or direct mail. The fact is that using only one or two marketing approaches is seriously limiting the amount of business you generate.

What would happen if over the next few months you doubled that to say four primary ways of marketing? Then, over the next few months you were to double it again, so that you were using up to 8 different marketing channels?

I’ll tell you what would happen. You’ll see remarkable growth in your business. You could potentially grow by 25% or perhaps even more.

Those business owners who decide to make marketing their top priority are the ones who dramatically outperform their competitors.

Your marketing channels don’t need to be complicated or even expensive. There are lots of ways that you can get your messages in front of prospective customers simply and cheaply.

Have a look at this list of ten marketing channels. If you’re serious about growing your business, pick at least two that you’re either not doing and make a commitment  to add  them to your marketing mix in the coming months.

  • Direct Mail
  • Internet Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Telephone Marketing
  • Direct Sales
  • Strategic Alliances
  • Up-selling existing customers/clients
  • Referral Marketing
  • PR

Why Should You Use A Multi Channel Approach?

There are a number of reasons:

  1. Different people like to receive their information in different ways. Some might like to get emails, others to receive letters while someone else might like to read information from a newspaper.
    The thing is you don’t know who likes what.
  2. If you’re only using one channel and it stops working for you, it could leave you with no route for generating new business, which could have disastrous consequences for you.
  3. The different channels should work synergistically together so each channel backs up and reinforces the others, so the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.

So take a look at your marketing and the channels you use currently and then identify what other routes you could be using. The last piece of the jigsaw will then be to commit to action

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The World’s Most Powerful Business Generating Tool

So what is the world’s most powerful business generating tool?

The answer is pay per click advertising.

The real beauty of pay per click(PPC) is that it can dramatically improve your business’s performance in a remarkably short period of time.

What Is PPC?

PPC is simply a way to put an advertisement  for your website at, or near the top of the search engine listings.
Whatever your business – whether you’re a landscape gardener or a party caterer you can be at the top of the search engine results for anyone searching for your services within an hour!
But the great thing is you only pay when somebody clicks on your ad. Hence the name ‘pay per click.’
How much you pay for each click depends on how much competition there is for the search terms  that you want to use and how high up on the search engine you want to be. Either way, you choose how much you pay – and you can also specify a maximum daily budget.

The fact is that PPC is the most effective direct marketing tool in the world.


Because there is simply no easier and faster way to reach qualified potential customers.  They search you out and you only pay when they click on your ad and visit your web site. Can you imagine if you only paid a newspaper when someone actually read your ad?

Google Adwords

Google dominates the world of PPC.
Setting up an account is really simple. There is no minimum spend and best of all, your campaign can be up and running within minutes. In one hour from now, you could be sending a steady stream of qualified visitors to your website.

How Does It Work?

1.    You write your ad. It needs a catchy headline and a few words of compelling copy to get people to click on your ad.

2.    You select the keywords that you are going to bid on. These should be the words people will use to search for your services.

3.    Next, you need to decide how much you are willing to pay for each click. The more you  pay, the higher your ad will be placed.

A word of warning at this stage. You can spend loads of money and get little result. This could be down to selecting the wrong keywords or your web site not persuading visitors to buy. It is very important therefore that you monitor your results very closely and take rapid action if you’re not getting the results you want.

So now you’re up and running, here are a couple of tips to make sure Google works profitably for you.

Your Position On The Page

Adwords ads appear across the top of the page and down the right hand side. The closer you are to the top, the more clicks you will get..

Many people think that the only way to appear high on the page is to pay more per click. But this is only half the story.
The other 50% is determined by the number of people who click on your ad. This is known as your click through rate or CTR. Ads that get clicked on more often get a better position. And of course, that means they get clicked on even more often, and you end up in a virtuous circle.

What Determines The Number Of Clicks Your Ad Receives?

The answer’s simple. Apart from your position on the page, it’s the quality of your ad. In other words, people who write better ads get more people clicking on those ads and end up paying a lot less.

Test Your Ads Against Each Other

Our second tip is that Google lets you run two different ads at the same time for any of your keywords. This lets you test two different ads at the same time. You’ll find that one will almost certainly outperform the other.
Once it becomes clear which of your two ads is performing best, delete the underperforming one. Then write a new ad to try to outperform the better ad. Keep doing this and over time your click through rates will go up and up. You will soar above your competition, safe in the knowledge that not only are you getting more clicks, but you are paying less than them for each click to your website.

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How Attractive Is Your Business To Prospective Customers?

Winning new customers  is a vital part of the business development process.  But for your business to attract a constant stream of new customers, all aspects of your customer proposition have to be spot on.
Likewise you  must ensure that your marketing is delivering – getting  the right messages into  the right hands, at the right time, accompanied by the right incentives.
If at any stage of the process customers don’t like what you’re offering, they won’t buy. They’ll find someone else who ticks all the boxes.

So ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do we tell our prospects exactly what we do?
  • Do we tell them what benefits we will deliver to them?
  • Do we know what our customers really want?
  • Are our products and our marketing tailored to our customers’ specific needs?
  • Do our customers perceive us in the way we would like them to?
  • Does our business stand out from our competitors or are we just a “me too”?
  • Are there powerful reasons to choose us instead of a competitor?
  • Do we provide guarantees against all our products and services?
  • Do we remove any risk customers  might perceive in buying our products?

If you answer NO to any of these questions, then you’re selling both your business and your customers short. The result will be that you lose sales which you should be winning.

So what should you do about it?

At Business Development Advisors we run “Marketing Fundamentals” workshops to address precisely these questions.

These fun, fast paced, one day workshops will address all the key elements of your marketing proposition, positioning your business in the most attractive way, making your business totally relevant to your target audience and making it easy for prospective customers to buy from you.

The effect will be to turbo charge your marketing and your sales.  Whereas before your prospects may have had unanswered questions in their minds and any number of reasons not be buy from you, now all their concerns will be answered and your business will become the obvious choice.

For more details of our “Marketing Fundamentals” workshop, visit