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A Unique Proposition – Messages that chase buyers away

February 9th, 2010 ::

First let me kill something. Unique cannot be modified. Something is or is not unique – there is no such thing as more unique.

Anthropologists and Behavior Scientists know something. They know that only a very small part of the population likes something that is unique. The question is “Why”? Because we are a) creatures of habit and b) we learn by attaching new experiences to something we already understand. On any adoption curve the best customers are majority buyers. The myth of early adopters is a myth unless you are selling a pure tech play in which case your chances of courting the early majority hitch on building a product that the masses can comprehend and put to use solving a problem with little or no difficulty (see b), yet it appeals to the tech crowd. Now that we have a framework lets move on to messages.

What makes a message work – It connects to something the buyer understands and includes a call to action that can be acted on when read. Let’s say two very capable people open bike shops. Both of these people have solid business skills, understand their product and know how to handle customers. Let’s see which one gets your business…

You are walking down a street on a sunny afternoon. You are not on your cell phone and there are no distractions. Life is good and you are contemplating the purchase of a new bike. A moment later two vans drive by only a few seconds apart. Each has a name a logo and a tag line. The first van is from Marathon Cycle Store – Get out and ride 1-800-pedal now. The side of the van shows a couple riding mountain bikes. The second van is from Wheelmen – We Give You Wings 717-215-2572. The side of the second van has a logo that looks like it might be a modern stick figure on something the resembles a bike.

If you are like most of the buying public, you were drawn to the first van because it connected to something you already knew and didn’t make you think. The message was right there. For all the creative energy companies put into names, tag lines and logos, the mistake they make most often is go for the curious concept first (Curiosity is a tool of creation, desire and need are the tools of a sale). They strive to be unique in everything they do. Good for them. Are they unique to the point that a prospect ignores them – most likely. The problem is two fold – creative agencies don’t think like consumers or talk to prospects like sales people do. Companies often spend so much time concerned about a unique image that they forget why the prospect wants to buy in the first place.

Connect your name, tag line, logo, product name or pitch to your prospect’s burning desire and you will do better than your competitor. Why? Because while you are introducing the prospect to a great shopping experience, your competitor is still trying to explain what it is his company does.

To the point – At 360 Sales Focus we have an entire integrated sales and marketing company at your disposal. How can we help you generate more business? Let’s talk about making something happen for your company.

How Your Hosting Company Can Impact Revenue

February 2nd, 2010 ::

For years hosting many hosting companies have offered to host websites for as little as $3.95 a month. A small number of our clients used such hosts as a cheap way of creating communities of interest that point back to their corporate website. This worked well because mote search engines were somewhat forgiving about page load speed or the time it takes for an entire page to appear on the screen. That is about to change. Google’s next technology update “Caffeine” designed to make searching faster adds a new wrinkle page rank – slow loading sites will now hurt your ranking and therefore your organic position in search results. Drop in position and revenue may drop as well.

Below are the questions to ask your web guy or prospective hosting company before you buy inexpensive hosting (less than $10 per month):

  • How many other sites are hosted on the box where my site will be hosted?
  • Do you have a cap on the number of sites you will allow on a single box?
  • Do you actively monitor the load on your servers?
  • When was the last time and under what conditions did you move a site off o of your production boxes? What lead you to the need to move them?
  • What is my committed band-width rate? This is important because some hosts will sell you on the idea that there is no ceiling – that is not true, bandwidth is limited by the number of sites hosted and the total capacity coming into the hosting facility.
  • Shared databases – The best question to ask here is “Am I getting my own Virtual Private Server”? a VPS gives your business a great deal of flexibility when it comes to managing the hosting space.
  • There are other architecture questions you might ask, but as a business person it is best to leave those up to a tech person.

Full disclosure – Our clients use a number of hosting companies including Network Solutions, the sponsor of Grow Smart Business.

We have an entire organization at your disposal, let 360 Sales Focus help you achieve better sales results with inbound lead generation. Drop by the site today. We are here to help.

Your Customers May Be About To Move – Are You Ready?

January 26th, 2010 ::

I read a short article by Steve Rubel over at Advertising Age about the future of Internet access that made me stop what I was doing and author this post. He thinks that facebook will enter the cell phone market. Why not? Google did right after releasing Wave.  This move has less to do with Google than the size and potential of the mobile market.  Let’s explore this and other data points -

Market Size – From the Ad Age Article sighted above “According to Morgan Stanley, more people will connect to the internet via mobile devices than PCs in five years. Meanwhile, Forrester reports that 17% of U.S. consumers have smartphones. This means that 83% currently don’t.”

Cost of Devices – According to, Moore’s Law the power of electronic devices will increase, the size will decrease and the price will fall so we will see a sub $150 carrier independent smartphone in just a couple of years.

User Behavior – Yesterday The New York Times ran an article that pointed to research showing children 8 to 18 years old now spend 7 1/2 hours with media devices on a daily basis absorbing 11 1/2 hours of information by multitasking. The majority of the devices they use are portable in nature.

Conclusion – At the confluence of demand and the affordable device lies your customer. In five or fewer years, you company will need to be fully engaged with a mobile site that fits on a screen roughly 2″ x 3″ and supports bi-directional connections to several communities.

Get the jump on your largest competitors – Large companies are still struggling to figure out social media. The inertia of complacency in these firms will cause them to show up at the party late and under dressed. There are some very good research papers on the internal issues these firms struggle with such as this Master Thesis pointing out the three reasons why large companies fail at incorporating community driven innovation into their plans.

So be nimble and start figuring out your strategy now. Chances are good you will get the jump on the big guys.

We have an entire organization at your disposal Stop by our site or give us a call. We understand sales, marketing and media.

Sales are Down. Now What?

January 12th, 2010 ::

I hear this question from non-tech companies more these days. They start by telling me about high turnover in sales and continue on to tell me about how the product is a perfect fit and people love it. The company worked hard to develop the product and it brings value to buyer’s life – So why are sales stalled? So far, this problem is framed as a sales issue and the answer as to why sales are down has yet to emerge. It is time to ask “What changed in the market?”. Consumers faced with huge changes in their income and buying power are rethinking what is important at all levels. This is not the first time we have seen this happen but this time the drop occurred to a crucial group of buyers – People with kids – the engine that drives a large part of the economy (and perhaps your sales). This group has seen their retirement evaporate and have kids to put through college. According to recent study teens pulled back on spending less than a year after there parents did. Coupled with the media pedaling fear, your customers are rethinking everything. Tomorrow is no longer a thing of certainty (in their minds) and a change of this magnitude in world view is something we in sales can’t alter or control.

Throughout history things outside of our control have caused upheaval and change. Today, the consumer is asking “What can I live without”? In other words, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is at play. A force larger than anything they have faced and one that is outside their control has been thrust upon them. Forced to look hard at their way of life and take into consideration the situations of others like themselves, consumers are cutting back on buying, but the subtext is that they are changing the way they live. Top sales performers know something about a person’s mindset that businesses need to hear – You cannot force a person or market to change their/it’s  mind. The harder you try, the more their current belief is reinforced. So what is a company to do? The best thing to do is take a good look the Ideal Client Profile and then look at the sales approach. Sales occur when a motivated buyer hears a message that they can act on. That message needs to offer a product or service the buyer values and one they can afford. Your business needs to look at the market and ask, what can we build, supply and deliver that our market can act on? That may seem like a huge task right now, but the market has changed and your business needs to change with it.

It is time to think outside the box – here are just a couple of suggestions…

Create a list of the characteristics that influence your buyer’s decisions both in your market and in adjacent markets where you might launch a product or service. Can you modify your product or service to meet any of the criteria? Can you create a new offering that does?

Contact your most loyal customers who have stopped buying and ask them what you can do for them – really, I have an entire business at your disposal – what can we do to help you? Call this a form of crowd sourcing but on a controlled level. You might just get your next great idea. Make sure you give the person on the other end of the call permission to be honest and tell you anything. Assure them what they say will not change the way you perceive them. Tell them you value their opinion. Most importantly – Ask for their help!

Ask your repeat customers why they are buying. Are their insights here that might be used to modify the current sales message? Open new markets? Ask that powerful question again – I have an entire company at your disposal right now, is there a problem I can help you solve?

For more help and insight, drop by our site. We are here to help – We have an entire organization at your disposal. How can we help you today?

Is Your Business Sales Ready?

January 4th, 2010 ::

There is a parallel between top performing sales people and top performing businesses and has less to do with taking orders and ringing bells than you might think. But first a metaphor. Outside of a good defense, you can win a football game in the air or on the ground. Statistically, the more you go for the long pass, the more it will get picked off. The best teams have a well-balanced playbook. The outstanding teams can win a game by moving the chains ten yards at a time. The best sales people like the best businesses have a strategy and a playbook.

The best sales people understand that it is all about the customer or prospect, their needs/pains and helping them solve problems. The best sales people listen, take notes and sometimes provide assistance that will not directly result in a sale. They are always thinking about the next thing they can do to advance the sale. They have a strategy for each opportunity. What does this have to do with your business? Well, if you are listening to your customers and adjusting your game plan, you already know.  If not, or if you think your business can improve, take the quiz below.

Score your business on a scale of one (1) to ten (10) where one means that your business does not know how to perform the task and ten means that your business could demonstrate the results and teach another business how to perform the task.

Our business:

  • has clearly defined the markets we serve and we have an intimate understanding of each
  • has a clear definition of each person who buys or influences (Targets) a purchase within each market
  • has created a buyer’s journey for each Target
  • has a sales playbook that includes ways to address objections
  • understands what communication channel each market or Target uses to gather information before buying
  • has developed tools or provides information to Targets that help them solve business problems that don’t involve selling them something
  • actively works with those who influence a sale giving them the tools that need to look better in front of others
  • spends time looking at why it lost sales on a monthly basis
  • has an incubation plan to warm lost opportunities that did not go to a competitor
  • uses materials that promote problem solving and focus on the prospect
  • has collateral that does not us Us, We, or the company name more than a few times
  • has an online presence that includes a blog
  • uses social media where it makes sense
  • reviews all inbound lead generation systems on a monthly basis

Scoring:

70 or fewer points - Reassess the business as soon as possible.

71 to 95 points – The business is doing a lot of things right. Take the next steps and improve in the areas where the scores were lowest.

95 or more points – The business is doing almost everything right. Each month focus on solving three problems for your Target and three internal issues that are interfering with sales and marketing. Measure the results.

In our next post, we will address ways to improve scores for each of the bullet points listed above. In the meantime if you need help don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop by the site.

Tobias

Social Message Control – Is It Possible?

December 9th, 2009 ::

For many businesses, social media has become an indispensable tool. With its low cost of implementation and ability to drive prospects into the sales funnel, businesses continue to turn to it as a means of more effectively managing and measuring marketing dollar spend. For all it is, it remains somewhat untested in the legal system. It begs the question “What liability if any does a business take on when employees create blog entries, post on Facebook, tweet or use geolocation apps”?

Many businesses are required by law to review external communications before they are made public while others believe a review of external communications is prudent. There are a number of reasons for review and in this article we will address employee / contributor based blog entries. Twitter and facebook are a different matter and we will address them in a future post. Note: Those in the financial & insurance professions should consult FINRA guidelines before venturing into any social communication platform as messages conveyed may be construed as or considered advertising or advice.

Setting up a simple blogging process is easy and we have outlined the ix best practice steps below. While there are other questions the business might ask when it comes to blogging, the steps that follow focus on controlling the risks of publishing.

  1. Establish an editorial policy – What information or topics can and can not be published.
  2. Appoint at least two editors who have the final word – In some cases one of them may be your legal team.
  3. Map out the work flow – On a single sheet of paper trace the steps a blog entry must take in order to get published.
  4. Install a work flow plug-in – If you are serious about managing content and want to reduce publishing costs, a plug-in forces review and controls who has access to the publish button.
  5. Create an editorial schedule across the business. Let everyone know what is happening and when so they can plan to create entries that augment activities.
  6. Invite anyone to publish (now that you have controls in place).

With the first four steps in place, a well-meaning employee will not hit the publish button by accident and unleash a post that creates tension in the ranks or exposes the business to risk and liability.

In our next post we will talk about what steps your buiness can take to increase the success rate of marketing and sales efforts.

Social Media is a Two Way Street for Business

November 24th, 2009 ::

I like social media and use it on a daily basis. However, there is one facet of  this channel that looks remarkably old school. If you study marketing, you know that Baby Boomers like to shout messages at a target using a megaphone. You might also know that younger customers and prospects tend to not to follow or friend compaines that see a channel as a pure sales play and here is why…

We are creatures of habit and environment. We also carry certain assumptions with us that influence the way we interact with technology. Let’s say I meet someone at a networking event and we exchange cards. In that exchange there is an implied agreement that one of us might contact the other. When a business decides to move into the social media the same axiom applies and it has less to do with the company’s intent and more to do with its customer’s view of social media.

Your customers and prospects use social media everyday to interact with friends, They carry on conversations, they let people know what they are doing, they look for comments & reactions. This is the habit that influences how the world of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and blog users view your company. By entering into the social media spectrum, your business has extended its hand and said, call me anytime, I’m listening. Here are a few things to consider as you move your business into soical media.

1. Know Your Targets
The social media fire hose makes it easy to forget who is listening and why they started following your company in the first place. If you target a particular group, learn their behaviors and personalities before you start communicating with them. This will go along way to getting them to encourage others to follow you business.

2. Don’t Fall in Love With The Sound of Your Own Voice
Do we need to say anything more here? Have you ever attended a party and listened to someone talk about themselves for an hour? So enough about me. Let’s hear you talk about me for a while. Social media is 10% your business and 90% your customer’s world view.

3. Make it About Your Target
Do your best to convey information that is valuable to your target. When a customer or prospect follows you, they are doing it for a reason and that reason may not be to hear “I just bought a double pump latte – have a great day”. What can your target do with this information other than processes it or see it as an interruption? Depending on the age and technical ability of your target, they may not have a client that can filter out the dribble. Which leads to the fourth point.

4. Respect Your Target
I just mentioned processing a message. If your average target follows 500 people and each one of them tweets 30 times a day. In just eight hours, your target has spent 90 minutes processing those tweets. Respect your target’s time.

5. Plan Your Message
If your message is an offer, time the delivery of the message to be in sync with your target’s behavior. A Happy hour message at 6 am will most likely be ignored. Repeating it all day to the same group will cause people to stop following you. You only need to send something a few times. If it is important enough it will get noticed.

6. Most Social Media is For Short Messages
A few nights ago I watched as a stream of messages came across Tweetdeck rapid fire. A person I follow and might have partnered with decided to tell a story using Twitter for the third time in under a week – 23 tweets later, I stopped following him. Twitter is not a Blog. If it is that important, figure our how to say it in 140 characters and point your reader to a blog.

7. Solution or Commodity
Multi-million dollar solution sales are not transactions, they require time, effort and typically begin with a relationship. Short message type services are transactional and are better at driving commodity type sales. Look at the stats, follow the numbers. Decision makers with signature authority have more important things to do than follow 500 people who are tweeting 30 times a day. In eight hours that is 1,500+ tweets per hour. What is an executive’s time worth an hour? High value targets buy on relationships and typically use value added networks of people they know. Most of social media is a transaction based network.

8. Corporate Voices are Mostly Ignored
Social media is about relationships between like minded people and while corporate voices may have a lot to say, they don’t spend their days on the front line with customers and prospects. A genuine message crafted by your front line will will have far better reach then a missive from marketing simply because the front line spends more time with the customer. They get it. They talk the language. They have names that customers remember. The front line is your relationship.

Social marketing is a valuable tool that works well when the target is defined and the business understands that the front line is the key to the customer

In our next posting, we will talk about how to engage the front line in a way that provides the controls large companies require yet keeps the conversation organic.