Technology: the new marketing tool

Whether you are a tech-head or a technophobe, it’s time to tap into technology to boost your brand.

No matter whether you are a tech head or a technophobe it’s time to tap into technology to boost your image and brand.  Whether you like it or not how you use technology says heaps about your business.  Just like the way you dress and the car you drive, technology sends a subtle message about where you sit in the marketplace.  Over the years I have found that as a business consultant my clients expect me to be ahead of the pack, not just with marketing stuff but in everything I do.

A few years back I started emailing invoices to clients and soon had an inbox full of replies from clients asking me how I did it!  Interestingly, the novelty factor was so high that clients opened their invoice email and then, went straight to their banking site and paid by direct deposit …

How good is that for cash flow!  Around the same time I discovered a great site called sendomatic.com which sends out animated invitations.  I hold an annual Christmas Party for clients and contacts so that year instead of the hand printed, handmade invite that used to take days to prepare I emailed a personalised sendomatic.  The response was great and the cost of invitations went from $200 to $25.  Think about what technology says about you and your business.  If you are one of those people who boast that you barely know how to turn the computer on, think again.

The message to your clients is probably that you are a stick in the mud, old fashioned and out of touch.  No matter how old you are it’s never too late to learn.  Sign up for an evening course, join a college or there is a great site called http://www.lynda.com which has great on line learning tools.   In fact, check it out it’s a great example of a traditional publishing business embracing technology. If you have a database make sure it is electronic, emails offer cheaper, more effective and message delivery can be timed accurately for maximum impact.  Snail mail can mean your message doesn’t even make it past the bin outside the post office.

The only exception to this is if you have a target market that doesn’t use computers.  If you are sending marketing emails understand the basic rules.  On an email BCC stands for Blind carbon copy.  If you don’t know how to use it you can distribute your entire mailing list to all and sundry.  Definitely not a cool thing to do and totally against the spirit of privacy legislation.  Same goes for unsolicited email campaigns, they are no longer acceptable and show potential clients that you have little respect for them or their time.  And while I am on my technology hobby horse.

What about your phones?  If you are using answering machines with the standard “Sorry I am not available” message don’t be surprised if potential clients don’t leave messages and move on to the next supplier on their list.  In this day and age we are into instant gratification.  If I call you I want to know where you are and when you will be back.  Bite the bullet and pay for a call diversion to your mobile phone.  Then get really innovative and record a message that says where you are and when you will be available.  Go crazy and change that message several times a day.  Clients and potential clients will feel like you are always available.  If you need a more professional first impression, sign up at a virtual office for professional phone answering.  There are lots of these operations around who take your call and SMS you a message so your clients think you have a receptionist or PA.

Mind you, if you use this type of service you must keep them informed.  Send them an email or text every day with you schedule so they can help you maintain a professional image.  And while you are at it review your software.  If it is more than four years old it could be slowing you down and affecting your interaction with clients and suppliers.  Content management software for updating your website, acrobat reader and writer should be compatible with the latest versions; customer relationship marketing packages have improved by leaps and bounds and now have facilities for direct dialling clients.  Don’t be stingy when it comes to upgrading software a few hundred dollars spent here can have a major impact on your bottom line.Tap into technology and watch your business image and profit grow!

 

 

Are Sales People Born?

So how do you get the next superstar into your sales driven organisation?

Do you think Tiger Woods was born to play golf? Did he have a burning desire to be successful? Has he taken hundreds of lessons and spent countless hours on the practice range? Does he still consistently seek the advice of a trusted coach and study his game to increase his chances of success and help him stay at the top of his profession?

Are there people at your local club who seem to come by it naturally?  Did they at some stage desire to be proficient and take lessons or seek outside advice? Do they do practice drills at home, keep their equipment updated and scrutinise the swings of other good players to keep them sharp?

How many people get to and stay at the top without help? The truth is, very few!  Everyone needs help. It’s one of the critical element of success and it’s important to recognise when you need to ask for help to keep you performing at a consistently high level.

So how do you help your salespeople? Some people believe that salespeople are born. A few years ago I asked a friend of mine why his daughter wanted to enter sales. “She has the gift of the gab and can sell ice to Eskimos,” he said proudly.Many people think that to be successful in sales you need to be able to monopolise a conversation, have natural charm and charisma and be persistent to the point of not taking “no” for an answer! This perception is derived from a lack of understanding of the real causes of consistent sales success.

Today, business is more competitive than ever. Many traditional and unscrupulous selling practices are forbidden by law. Buyers are better educated and have access to a vast array of information. They make informed decisions and look for a salesperson to help them make these decisions. Moreover, buyers have their own system they use to make purchases and are no longer easily swayed by persistence and charm. For the business owner, finding great salespeople is tough. The good ones are likely to be happy where they are and don’t want to move.

So how do you get the next superstar into your sales driven organisation? Start by finding someone who has the basics. The “basics” means they have the right attitude, ie. they have the desire, commitment and the courage to fail.  Selling behaviour and techniques can be enhanced with training but the right attitude is internal. What’s under the umbrella of attitude? It’s got a lot to do with how they see themselves. It’s important that their self-esteem and confidence are strong (but not obnoxious) because selling is a high-rejection business. If they are reluctant to hear a ‘no’ or get depressed because the sale didn’t happen, chances are the world’s best training won’t change that. The right attitude also includes internal motivation. Are they a self-starter or do they need someone else setting the pace?

It’s important that their attitude includes being success driven and money motivated. This means that during “pay-time” they are committed to doing what it takes. Start with individuals who want success and are willing to do what it takes to get there. You need the budding Tiger Woods of sales who want to get better and will build on their natural ability. Then you need to work with your people to make them better at their job by helping them further develop the right attitude, behaviour and techniques

Avoid becoming an unpaid consultant

In Rugby, a key statistic is time in possession of the ball…hold on to the ball and you can control the game. In the sales “contest” amateurs often try to control the sales call by “convincing” the prospect. They unwittingly equate “time of possession” with “time of talking” (usually about their key features or benefits).In reality, success in sales is counterintuitive. The way to maintain possession of the “ball” (i.e. control) is to ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers. Time spent talking about your product or service is a great way to provide free consulting, but it usually does little to encourage your prospect to buy.

People are encouraged to buy when they are coaxed to open up and discuss their true buying motives. To do this you have to get past their natural resistance so that they feel comfortable talking about their needs. There is a fundamental principle in psychology…”the problem the patient brings you is never the real problem” (if they knew the real problem they wouldn’t need the practitioner’s help).

The sales corollary to this is “the intention behind the prospect’s question is far more important than the actual question itself”.Therefore, to understand the buyer’s true intention, a sales professional answers a question with a question to determine the true intention. It often takes three or more reverses (answering a question with a question) to get to the real intention. The first two answers are likely to be intellectual in nature but the third response is likely to be emotional and reflect the real intention. Amateur salespeople are often afraid that reversing may antagonise the prospect. Interestingly, prospects when reversed, usually assume the salesperson did not understand the question and is requesting clarity. If you don’t reverse here’s what frequently happens:

Prospect – Is this software the latest version?

Salesperson – That’s right, it’s the latest there is.

Prospect – How old is it?

Salesperson – It’s been out for just over a year.

Prospect – A year is a long time in our business, this might not do the job.

Here the salesperson failed to uncover vital information that could have helped clinch the sale.

 

Let’s see what should have happened…

Prospect – Is this software the latest version? (intellectual probe).

Salesperson – Good question. What exactly do you mean by “latest version”?

Prospect – It needs to be compatible with our existing software  (Intellectual response).

Salesperson – What version do you have installed now?

Prospect – We have 2.1 and recently wasted money and time on an older version that didn’t work well  (The emotional response).For reversing to be effective make sure you proceed your questions with a softening statement i.e. soften the blow that you will not be answering the question. For example:

Prospect: Does this come with a service agreement?

Salesperson: That must be important to you, have you had a problem with service in the past?

Or;Prospect: How soon can you deliver this?

Salesperson: That’s a good question, how soon do you need it?

In sales information is the football. Your success is determined more by the information you gather than by the information you give.

Giving away too much information too early in the sales process is tantamount to fumbling the ball, resulting in lost control. The underlying rule when asked a question that you are not sure of the reason it was asked or the intention or the importance….. is to ask. Remember you get paid for selling not telling. Avoid unpaid consulting by learning to ask questions and listen.

Think big when branding

It’s time for small business to think big when it comes to image and branding. You know, five years ago you never used to hear the words image, brand and small business in the same sentence.  That was because it was assumed that to have a brand you had to be a multi national and branding was driven by mega amounts of advertising. We now know that is not true, in fact every small business has a brand whether they want it or not!  Now let me explain what a brand is because no one ever tells you.  Forget all the technical definitions, a brand is simply the values that your clients or customers attach to you image.  This means when they see your logo, pass your shop or receive an email from you they get a “gut response”.

For instance I have a wonderful fruit and vegetable shop near me owned by a young Italian couple called Angelo and Maria.  Angelo is passionate about fresh produce; he can talk for hours about the first of the white asparagus or a supplier of back figs.  When I was in there the other day I took some tomatoes up to the counter and he asked me what they were for. When I said a pasta sauce he shook his head and disappeared (with the tomatoes) out the back of the shop, returning with over ripe roma tomatoes  which were perfect for a pasta sauce.  He also has two young sons who often help out in the shop after school. When I was there the other day they were taking the outlet leaves off cabbages and learning the difference between the smell of basil and coriander.  And Maria, she makes the best Tiramisu on the planet. They can’t keep stocks of it in the chiller cabinet.

So what values have I attached to their image, product knowledge, passion and family? In fact, I am always a little surprised when I don’t get the continental kiss on each cheek when I go there.  So think about what “brand” your clients have given you.  Be careful it’s not “that grumpy guy who never smiles” or the hairdresser who’s always running late.  Think about what values you would like to have associated with your business and then start to build them into your marketing and customer service activities.

It’s also a good idea to do a simple image audit on your business.  This isn’t as difficult as it sounds and can be very enlightening. Collect everything that carries your logo or business image.  Letterhead, business cards, promotional flyers, photos of signage, snapshots of web pages, emails etc.

Lay them out on a table or flat surface, step back and look at them through slightly unfocused eyes imagining you’d never seen this stuff before. Then ask yourself …How many businesses are represented there?  If the answer is more than one you have an image problem.  And the cause of most image problems is business owners.  We tend to fiddle with our image and logos because we are bored but the end result is mixed messages for the client.  You may have started your business with a conservative, corporate image using navy and cream as the colours, and then things got a bit tight so you produced a lot of sales flyers in fluoro colours and then you had a new website designed by a hip young designer who created a great palette of green and purple.  Imagine what all that is saying to your customer…..confusion reigns supreme!

Some of the things to look for include:

• How many businesses are represented?

• Am I presenting more than one image?

• Am I giving mixed messages?

• What values have I attached to my brand?

• Does my image reflect where I have been or where I am heading?

• Logos used in non- standard ways

• Inconsistent paper colours/quality

• Different names on different material

• A radically different website

• Inconsistent use of fonts

• Style of language and phrases

• Positioning statements, USP’s and benefits Look at all the material on the table and decide what needs to change to boost your brand values.

Remember that image and branding is all about perception.  What people see is what they think they are going to get!

 

 

What Do You Say After “Hello”?

The telephone can be one of your most valuable assets in drumming up new business, but you need to know what to say. Here’s some sage advice from a super experienced pro in the know…

If your target market is small, medium or large size businesses, whether you are selling consulting services or computers, the telephone can be one of your most valuable assets – or a dreaded device.

That’s because the phone is often your first contact with a decision making “C” level executive (CEO, CFO, CIO etc) and that initial contact will determine whether or not you set an appointment to meet, and possibly begin, a mutually rewarding business relationship.

Many salespeople fall into a submissive role on the phone to a “C” level prospect. They use phrases like, “I know you’re busy”, “I’m sorry to bother you” and “This won’t take long”. To start this way doesn’t create an immediate impression of worth and importance.

If you do get permission to continue, you might proceed by rattling off who you are, what you do and what you can do for the prospect without taking a moment to breathe, let alone ask any questions.

You assume, and hope, that something you say will trigger a need to see you so that you can ultimately supply your product or service.

In the vast majority of cases, what this approach only achieves is to put the prospect on the defensive and will typically evoke the programmed “please send some literature” response which is designed to get rid of you….quickly, painlessly and for good.

In reality, “C” level executives are often the easiest people to talk to – if you approach the call in the right way. That’s because they are typically “big picture” thinkers who are concerned with the entire company or a large portion of it.

That’s very different from those several levels down, whose only concerns are their particular area. If you offer a potential solution to a “C” level prospect, he or she is usually apt to listen, and will usually point you in the right direction within the organisation…..possibly with a personal introduction and an invitation to make contact at a later stage.

It is important before placing the call that you consider the purpose of the call. Begin the conversation something like, “I appreciate you taking my call. I’m Didier Tish and my company technology Today has helped companies similar to yours increase revenues.

I’m not assuming you need our help and we may not be a fit for you but the purpose of my call is to have a brief conversation to exchange information so we can determine whether or not we can be a resource for you. Is that fair?”

Nine out of ten prospects will agree that it is fair, which lowers the defensive shield and gives you permission to begin the most critical part of the sales process……asking the right questions that will establish your credibility and uncover the prospects potential “pains” and challenges.

By asking the right questions you communicate that you understand their world. These questions might have to do with reaching sales targets, high staff turnover rates, the cost to the business of equipment downtime or the cost of sticking with outdated systems etc.

The essential goal is to communicate that you are more concerned with them and their potential business problems than you are with just making a sale.

Through your questions and your attitude, you must express that you are OK if you and the prospect are not a fit, an attitude that will help you be seen, even at this early stage of the selling cycle, as a potential valued advisor.

You’ll find you will soon make more sales and have more control over the selling process.

Five Signs You Need A Digital Marketing Strategy Now

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A digital strategy is important for the same reason that any other type of strategy is. If an army was planning to invade a country they would have to create a battle map and plan of action in order to achieve that goal.

Numerous studies prove that successful people and successful companies share something in common: they are those that strategically cast a vision for where they would like to be and create micro steps towards making that dream a reality. This is the basis of SMART goals.

A digital strategy may encompass the following areas: digital products and services, content marketing, e-commerce, social media marketing, online customer service, SEO, online advertising and analytics.

You can either create a digital strategy as a stand-alone document or as part of your overall marketing strategy for the year. Here are five signs it’s time to get started now:

  1. You don’t have a clear online unique selling proposition

A clear online marketing strategy should help you identify what your business offers online that the competition doesn’t and help you engage with potential customers and turn them into loyal clients/consumers.

  1. You don’t know your online audience

Before you can market anything successfully you need to understand your customers. Who are they? What are their likes and dislikes? Where do they live? How old are they?

  1. You’re not taking an integrated approach or are duplicating efforts

The trouble with lots of businesses is they delegate their online marketing to external agencies. There’s nothing wrong with this but often this creates an inconsistency in branding and messages between your online and traditional channels.

It also might mean that you waste resources, either time or money, by doubling up on systems and content.

  1. You’re stagnant, directionless or losing market share to competitors

Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the digital technology so you implement a few things but largely leave this area to chance. Or perhaps your sales and conversions have stalled for a few years and you’re not seeing the growth you had hoped for.

Time to get a plan and fresh ideas and trial new approaches.

  1. You’re not tracking results or optimising

Every website has the ability to track views, and other types of data. Plus there are services like Google Analytics which can give you much more detail on click through rates, conversions and bounce rates etc. Many businesses don’t take advantage of this rich data look for patterns and take time to act based on the information.

Analytics let you know what you need to improve on, and then help you measure the results of the changes.

Why is digital strategy important?

There are many reasons but let me give you the most important one: People. People now spend more time on digital media than any other form of media e.g. magazines and TV.

More and more demographics are getting digital-savvy. Devices now have more digital capability including higher bandwidth and more applications including social media.

The reason you are in business is to make money, yes, but it’s also to serve people. Without a human demand for your product or service your business is dead, so keeping up to date with how people interact with technology, and adapting to meet them on these platforms is critical.

How to get started

Firstly, figure out what you want your strategy to do. Do you want to use it to increase brand awareness, drive sales or figure out how to interact with your customers better? All of these are quite distinct and separate and will push your digital marketing strategy in a vastly different direction than the other goals.

Secondly, figure out what tools you might need to help you achieve that goal. Do you need to invest in a mobile-friendly website, do you need to purchase software, improve your understanding of SEO, start a Twitter account, build an app, or hire a content writer?

Next, know your audience or invest in research so you can understand your consumers.

Lastly, track everything. How will you measure your success? Does success look like 2,000 new social media followers, a four per cent increase in market share, or beating last year’s sales figures? Use analytics to track your advertising, social media and website, and adjust regularly until you see the desired results.

Sponsorship as part of your marketing plan

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Sponsorships need to be carefully planned to maximise every possible opportunity.

Can businesses use sponsorship as part of their marketing?

Whether you’re local or multi-national, making sponsorship an effective marketing tool is more difficult than many business people realise.  They assume that having their name or their brand associated with a feel-good activity like a sporting event is a natural winner, since the association ought to be universally positive.  But a nice warm feeling for you does not necessarily translate into new customers or to more sales to current customers.  Worse, there is abundant evidence that recall of sports and events sponsorships can be notoriously low, even for the biggest business names.

Many business people get into sponsorships of events because they like the sport or the activity, and that’s a very poor reason on its own.  Sponsorships should be part of the total marketing plan with the aim of generating synergies from the linkages between your advertising, your brand building and the association with an event or activity. Before you commit to sponsoring an activity or an event, you need to ask some basic questions:

  • Is this association right for my product or my brand?
  • Is it relevant and likely to be of interest to my customers and, more importantly, to my prospects?
  • Apart from the mention and recognition of my business or my brand, how else can I gain exposure and positive associations from it?
  • How can I link this with my other marketing communications?
  • What could I do spending the same amount of money on above-the-line marketing such as straight advertising?

Making sponsorships and events work for you : There are two marketing objectives that can be addressed with sponsorships: raising awareness of your business and your products in your target markets and actually building sales volume.

Most sponsorships achieve only the first at best.  Assuming your sponsorship ‘reaches’ your potential customers, have you worked hard to ensure maximum exposure of your brand or your business name?  Take sports sponsorship.  Outdoor advertising at the sports ground, logos on players’ uniforms, your brand on entry tickets, perhaps even naming rights for the team you support should all be considered.  Then there’s hospitality before or after the game for key customers; product samples for sports patrons, if your product is not a high cost one, or perhaps prize draws at the game if your product is higher cost; links to the sponsorship in your products or your business; indeed a whole raft of other initiatives you need to consider before you sign that sponsorship cheque. Like any other marketing activity, sponsorships need to be carefully planned to maximise every possible opportunity to leverage the initial investment.  As well as outlining the tasks and activities directly associated with the sponsorship, your plan will outline the links to your overall marketing plan.

Apart from bringing the sponsorship into your advertising and other marketing communications, there may be opportunities in other elements of the marketing mix.  Take pricing as an example.  You might offer discounts or premiums for the members of the sporting club you sponsor, at once providing benefits to the club and at the same time developing your customer base.