Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Keeping Leads Alive and Healthy

No business can thrive without leads to drive sales. While finding quality leads is challenging enough, maintaining and converting those leads can be even more difficult. As you think about your sales strategy for the new year, consider these ideas for keeping prospective buyers interested and active.

Take Your Time
Nobody wants to feel as though they're being overtly sold a particular product or pressured into making a buying decision that might not be right for them. Yet many sales reps are very quick to launch right into a sales pitch or offer quick-fix solutions without fully understanding a prospect's needs. This approach tends to turn off a lot of prospects and quickly kill leads.

Instead of launching right into your sales speech, start the conversation without broaching the subject of sales at all. For example, if the lead came from a list of customers who are using an outdated software system, begin by asking how the current system is working for them. Some companies may not even realize that they should consider updating. Approaching the subject from this perspective can seem less pushy and help the prospective customer feel more comfortable talking with you. From there, you can gradually ease into a more sales-oriented conversation.

Build Rapport
Get to know your prospect and their particular needs before discussing budgets and product specifications. Then tailor your approach accordingly. Establish rapport and let your customer see that you have a genuine interest in solving their problem, not just making a sale. Even if you don't make an immediate sale, your prospect will leave the meeting with a more positive impression of your company and will be more likely to turn to you when they're ready to make a purchase in the future.

Follow Up
Don't make your first meeting with a prospect your last contact with that person. Follow up to remind them what you talked about and to keep your name top of mind. A poll conducted by B2B Marketing Magazine found that 69 percent of buyers preferred to have companies follow up with them through e-mail. Telephone follow-up finished a distant second, at 17 percent. SCi Sales Group found that 52 percent of buyers expected a call back from companies within one day, and another 36 percent said they expected to hear back from a company within five days. Failure to meet buyers' expectations on these issues can result in a variety of missed opportunities.

Resurrecting Dead Leads
Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, leads die. Some, however, can still be resurrected. Successfully generating sales from a dead lead requires tact and the right tools.

Once a lead has gone cold, it can be difficult to determine if the prospect still has a need for your product. Your first step should be to determine this potential. Remember again that prospects don't appreciate pushy sales tactics. Instead, try sending a brief, one or two line email to determine if they're still interested in your product. If the response is positive, follow up right away with a phone call, asking for a time to sit down and meet. In your meeting, steer the conversation toward the prospect's needs and solving their problems, rather than focusing on your product or pushing for a sale.

Keeping leads alive and healthy is an important part of doing business. In the rush to get as many leads as possible, it's easy to let some leads die. These leads, however, can be a major source of revenue for your company. Learning how to keep leads alive or save those that have gone cold is an important skill... and one that can improve your company's bottom line.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Increase Awareness About Your Products

One of the biggest reasons many people don't buy quality products from businesses is because they simply aren't aware of what products are offered. Here are a few ways to increase awareness about your products and services:

  • Consider creative marketing avenues you haven't tried before. These may include table tents, lumpy direct mailers, door hangers, event flyers, bag inserts, statement stuffers, social media posts, chat forums, industry publications, tradeshows, and more. Test your marketing results via coupon codes and targeted promotions.

  • Create a regular product spotlight postcard campaign that highlights various products or services you offer.

  • Create a customer referral program that encourages loyal customers to spread the word about your business and do the selling for you.

  • Showcase happy customers who are using your product. Consider testimonial stories or brief customer quotes.

  • Team your marketing efforts with an established business that complements your offerings. Offer discounted promotions when purchasing both.

  • Create a goodwill marketing plan to increase name recognition and drive business while also giving back to your community. For example, you might sponsor a local charity event or donate a portion of your profits to a charity (e.g., "10 percent of all sales in June will be donated to XYZ charity").

  • Provide a risk-free trial offer and satisfaction guarantee to take the worry out of trying a new product.

  • Utilize social media by creating a company LinkedIn and Facebook page, and build your audience through employee connections.

  • Differentiate yourself from the competition by offering value add-ons, educating customers about industry trends, providing helpful tips, or simply having a live person answer your phones instead of a confusing, automated system.

  • Build your customer base by offering exclusive first-time customer promotions.

  • Learn from others. Collect examples of marketing materials or creative ideas that caught your attention, and combine some of your favorite features into customized ideas for your business.

If you need help creating the perfect marketing materials that are sure to get noticed and remembered, give us a call today!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Skating Towards Success

The winter Olympics are quickly approaching, and people around the world are preparing to tune in and watch their nations' athletes compete on the international level. The athletes are an amazing testimony to what the human body is capable of, and they often leave the rest of us breathless as we watch them complete complex maneuvers seemingly effortlessly.

One event that helps to truly capture both the strength and coordination of an athlete with flawless beauty is figure skating. Those competing are able to keep themselves perfectly balanced on thin blades while racing around the ice dancing and spinning. The performances are often inspirational, and the process these skaters take to reach this level is nothing short of incredible.

The training process

Often from a very young age, figure skaters who have begun to compete on increasingly higher skill levels will wake up before dawn, just to get a few hours of practice in before they attend school. Once school lets out, they're back on the ice, rehearsing and training for several hours before homework and bed.

As with many other elite athletes, homeschooling is not unheard of -- to give these hopefuls more time to train. Olympic dreams are what propel these athletes forward, and when we see them step out on the ice this winter, those years of preparation will come to fruition in that one moment in time.

One of the most important people in the lives of these young athletes is always the coach. Parents, friends, and family members can all offer support along with help getting the skater to their practices and competitions, but no one can compare to the coach when it comes to the potential success of the athlete. There are as many coaching styles and theories as there are people, and no one athlete is guaranteed to work well with a particular coach. The right coach and athlete relationship, however, has the potential to maximize the athlete's career.

What we can learn from Olympic figure skaters

For many business professionals, tasks that don't produce an immediately tangible result (such as marketing or networking) are the hardest to invest their time. Many of us would much rather focus on the business in front of us, even though solid marketing and networking offer us genuine room to grow.

We need to think like figure skaters. When they're getting up at 3:30 or 4:00 am to go train, they don't know for sure they're ever going to see the international stage. It might be years before they have the skills to travel and compete. This doesn't stop them or discourage them. Even when they don't see results right away, they keep trying until they succeed.

Similarly, success in business is never a one-person job. No one person is going to bring a company to the top, and no athlete can will themselves to the gold. In the same way, success in business means being careful and selective about who we choose as partners and allies. Solid partners can make an enormous difference in a company's growth and success, as we're able to trust these allies to have our best interest in mind.

As we all settle on our couches this winter to watch these amazing athletes from around the world, we should remember the work they enthusiastically did to get there, and it should inspire us. We can use that same work ethic to help bring our companies forward until we also obtain the gold.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Words Your Customers Love to Hear

Next time you're creating a marketing promotion, you may want to include one of these "magic" words that customers most love to hear:

  • Guarantee. Not only does a guarantee show confidence in your products, but it also removes the risk of trying your product, giving potential customers the added persuasion to purchase your product over another.

  • Instantly, immediately, or fast. We all love fast results or solutions, so it's no surprise that people love instant gratification.

  • New. Today's society is always on the lookout for the latest and greatest products available. However, be aware that the novelty of "new" can wear off. After a while, customers often fall back to their familiar, tried-and-true products again.

  • Save. Saving money is something that everyone wants to do. Whether you offer an exclusive savings promotion, a discounted package deal, or even a money-saving coupon, your customers will be listening.

  • Results. The word "results" also means success. It's a powerful word because of its inherent promise of a better outcome.

  • Discover. The word "discover" offers a promise of something more to come. Like unwrapping a gift on your birthday, discoveries always bring a sense of excitement and adventure.

  • Easy. People love to purchase things that are easy to figure out, easy to assemble, easy to manage, and so on. The less effort required by the customer, the better.

  • Free. Although the word "free" is often overused, it continues to be the number-one attention-getting word. Use it sparingly and only when you truly have something free to offer with no strings attached, such as a free sample, free trial, free shipping, or buy-one-get-one-free deal.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Benefits of Bringing in the Experts

As business owners, we count on experts to save us time and money. On any given day, we might consult a financial advisor to help us with a major purchase or investment strategy. Or we might hire a sales trainer to oversee the development of our sales team or the implementation of a new sales strategy. Or perhaps we might engage a management consultant to look for ways to run our companies more effectively.

Whatever the need, it seems, an expert is there, ready to help.

One area where expert advice can be especially helpful is your company's marketing. Consulting an expert early in the planning process can not only save you time but also help you hone your campaign so it reaches just the right audience with a message they're ready to hear.

Unfortunately, trends in advertising and marketing can change at the drop of a hat. To make matters worse, what works well for one company or industry might not be right for another. Working with an expert who studies trends, yet also knows how to use more traditional means effectively, will help you decide which trends are worth your time and which to avoid. Their guidance can save you the time and effort involved in chasing bad opportunities.

So where can you find experts to help you grow your business? Start with your key suppliers. After all, helping you become successful is in their best interest, too. The stronger your company gets, the more opportunity your suppliers will have for future revenue growth. So tap their expertise whenever you can.

But how do you know who to turn to and who to avoid? First and foremost, look for experts who understand your goals and business requirements. Stick with those whose advice you trust based on previous experience. And make sure the expert is someone you feel comfortable working with on the project.

When you augment your own staff with a group of trusted experts from other fields, you strengthen your business in the most cost-efficient way. You get expert advice without adding to your payroll or ongoing business expenses. And that's a win for everyone.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Alaska: Not for a Woman

Last month my husband Mike and I went to America's last frontier--North to Alaska.

During the 10 days, we traveled 7,000+ miles (via plane, ship, train, motor coach, school bus, and 900-passenger paddle boat) and who knows how many miles by our own feet. This was a retirement gift to my husband from himself. Always been on his bucket list. Me, never!

We were told (by anyone who had visited) that the mountains were high (19 over 14,000 feet), the parks enormous, and the glaciers (100,000) and lakes (3 million) were aplenty. And there would be all kinds of wildlife (39 species of mammals) in that untamed wilderness. Supposedly there are  more caribou than people in Alaska.  A bus driver said about the wildlife, if you see them, you can view them.

Largest, highest and "only one" were often adjectives used to describe what we visited.
Mt. McKinley (Denali) is the highest mountain in North America--20,320 feet.
Tongass National Forest is the nation's largest national forest--17 million acres.
Denali National Park is 6 million acres.
Glacier Bay, 3.3 million acres, is one of  USA's 10 United Nation's World Heritage Sites because it is the largest non-polar ice field and the largest temperate rain forest in North America.
College Fjord (named for colleges) has 8 tide water glaciers.
Largest Begonias I have ever seen
Whittier is home of North America’s longest vehicle tunnel. 
You get the picture.

But what did I enjoy? The people and the educational aspects such as talks by historians, park rangers, and naturalists. The new words and definitions I added to my vocabulary. Fjord, calving (of glaciers), permafrost, taiga, cheechako (newcomers), isostatic rebound, cache, inside passage, sourdough, maitre d'hotel, and braided river, were just a few. Mike's favorite was the scenery.

Dog sled training
Hearing Libby Riddles, the first female Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race winner, talk about the 1,049-mile trip to Nome by 60 mushers and 800 dogs. Being inspired by the story of Susan Butcher, a 4-time Iditarod race winner.

Seeing the terminal in Fairbanks for Ice Road Truckers and learning that the train tour guide's son was on Deadliest Catch. Touring an Alaskan print shop.

All the history: 1964 earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2 when the ground dropped as much as 12 feet, WWII, the Gold Rush, Trans-Atlantic pipeline (helicopter constantly flies the whole 800-mile line to monitor the line), natives such as Athabascan.

The culinary demonstration by the ship's chef and maitre d'hotel and the galley tour where 382 crew prepare food for 2,000+ people. 975 pounds of beef and and 1,200 pounds of vegetables are prepared daily.

Ship food presentation (left)
and best meal of trip on right--
Seafood macaroni and cheese

Favorite meals: Salmon bake (complete with blueberry cake and marshmallows around the campfire) in Juneau where a Bravo's Top Chefs show featuring Emeril Lagasse was taped and Mike panned for gold. No gold! The best seafood macaroni and cheese and Caesar salad at a Denali restaurant. Rest of food was okay--nothing memorable.

Mendenhall Glacier

Favorite sites: Mendenhall Glacier (After you've seen that one, do you really have to view dozens more?) and vintage train to White Pass Summit on a rail constructed in 26 months against all odds (design challenges, granite mountains, step grade, cliff hanging tunnels and unimaginable weather) and that goes from sea level to 3,000 feet in 20 miles.

Least favorite: THOUSANDS of glaciers (I know that they might be melted in my lifetime) and a 7-hour tundra wilderness trip on a school bus in Denali National Park.
You be the judge. Do they all look alike?
Most disappointing: Lack of wildlife, especially moose. Saw one dead along railroad tracks--guess that might count for 1/2 a moose. (400 are killed yearly by the train so I was sure I'd see a moose.) So, I was forced to have my picture taken with bronze and stuffed moose. Similar to being on a snipe hunt. I'm lobbying to get my money refunded. Did see--but not plentiful--bald eagles, whales, seals, sea lions, otters, caribou, grizzlies and Dall sheep only with binoculars.
Only moose in Alaska?
 Amazed by:  Juneau is only accessible by air or water.

Non-existent: Cell phone and internet service; real TV programming. I did catch an episode of The Love Boat featuring Ricky Nelson. Remember him?

Trivia: Alaska has one mile of road for every 43 sq. miles of land, compared to the US average of one to one. Yearly Alaskans receive 25% of oil profit money. Individual payouts have ranged from $330 to $2,000.

Humor: (Hey, I did not make this up): What is the difference between reindeer and caribou? Reindeer are in training to fly.
What are grizzlie bears who have no teeth called? Gummie bears

Weather: On ship--55 to 62 degrees, partly cloudy and rain one day. Unseasonably warm--like 80 degrees-- in Denali with I swear humidity at 90 degrees +.  No air conditioning in lodges.

Sea sickness: Had none because of patches, bracelet and Bionne. Don't know which worked or if I truly needed any.

Ship: Room was slightly bigger than broom closet--217 sq. ft. including balcony. 2000+ passengers (including 41 kids) and 900+ crew. 16 decks. A mile was 2.8 times around the ship. Amazing features were the library and coin-operated laundromat (I lost a pair of socks here--yep, a pair!).

Inquiring minds want to know: Why would anyone love cruises enough to spend more than 365 days on them (That's about 1 year!)? Our dinner table mates held that record. Someone on the boat has spent 1,300+ days on cruises.

Trip started by spending a night in an Indianapolis hotel (always wanted to try a sleep number bed but unfortunately ours were broken--hint of what was to come) and up very early (many nights I'd barely be in bed at that time) to catch a flight to Minneapolis and then onto Vancouver, where we boarded our cruise. Nice balcony room but bed was warn--could see dents where people laid and sat on edge to watch TV. Pillows were nothing but plain flat. Just waiting to get cruise survey.

For you diehards who wonder just where did we travel, here is the itinerary:

Ketchikan (lumberjack show and salmon capitol of the world) in Tongass National Forest,
Juneau (the most isolated capital in US and Mendenall Glacier where we saw a porcupine),
Skagway (gold rush town),
Glacier Bay National Park,
College Fjord,
Whittier (home of a 2.5-mile vehicle tunnel that once was a World War II train tunnel and where practically everyone--all 225+--lives in one huge hotel looking building),  
Wasilla (Duct Tape Capital of the WORLD because Wasilla Wal-Mart sold the equivalent of 325 miles of duct tape or 314 feet of duct tape per person in Wasilla) and saw Sarah Palin's current and previous homes,
Talkeetna: Mayor (clockwise from top left), sample of food,
views from restaurant table--rested arm on pool table and
scenic view of technology in front of me,  and
homemade ice cream  with the help of John Deere.
Talkeetna (mountaineering gateway to the Alaska Range with a cat as mayor--seriously!),
Denali National Park (estimated to be home to 1,900 moose and 300 grizzly bears), and
Fairbanks (where they don't have 4th of July fireworks because it is never dark enough--only twilight for 2+ hours in the middle of the night--but they do have parking meters with plugs for car engine block heaters).

And why the title for this blog?  It's the name of a book written by homesteader and pioneer Mary Carey  (I am reading this book). Quite a colorful character, she was responsible for getting the Parks Road built. Connecting Fairbanks and Anchorage, the 358-mile road has 40 bridges. Ironically, there is a good possibility that we had met each other. In 1974 we both received national press awards from the National Federation of Press Women and I remember being impressed by an Alaskan woman at that North Dakota awards ceremony.

Oh yea, did I mention? I did not see Russia!