Attract New Customers

Analyzing an Industry’s Trends

To plan the future of your business you need to be aware of where your industry is going and track the trends that are taking place. Industry trends can change quickly and require intensive and ongoing analysis to determine just what’s happening. For instance, a sudden drop in an industry’s sales commission rates combined with a reduction in minimum order size and a big increase in outstanding debtors would indicate a shift of power to consumers and a consequent weakening in prices. All very important if you are in that industry and trying to work out your new price list or produce a catalogue of merchandise for the next season. Trend analysis is conducted on many levels – global, national and local. In today’s business world you need to have an understanding of all three types of trends to position your business for greatest advantage. It’s beyond the ability of most SMEs to conduct their own research for a comprehensive analysis of their industry. Fortunately there are many sources of statistics and data on most industries that are available to tap for the information you need. This article is a brief introduction to the methodologies of DIY industry trend analysis. Define your industry Start by defining your industry in as much detail as possible. Now the research can begin. Trade Journals Every industry has its own trade publications. These can be produced by industry associations or by publishers targeting members of a particular industry. This type of publication is often very restricted in its geographic coverage. There could well be a separate publication for each state or region, and it’s a good idea to get as many different journals as you can to obtain the widest possible picture. Your local library will often be a good place to start searching for a list of available titles. Even the advertisements in a trade journal can be a good guide to an industry’s trends. “New” or “Just Released” can indicate a hot new product or service that will have an industry-wide impact in the near future. Editorials and other ‘comment’ types of content are also likely to give indications of major trends that are just now or will soon be affecting an industry. The Financial World People who invest large sums of money in the financial markets are very big on monitoring industry trends. Analysts pore over data on every industry segment to see what’s successful and what’s on the decline, often to a very high degree of detail. Much of this information is available free or at very low cost in business journals and financial newspapers and is a good source of knowledge about national and international trends. If you’re an active investor and have a stockbroker you can always go to them for industry advice; they have access to analytical reports that often don’t go into print. The Internet Log on to the internet and go to your favorite search engine. Key in the name of your industry and wait for thousands of websites to show up. You will soon find that too much information is the problem. This is why you have to refine the definition of your industry and get down to specifics. Google’s ‘Advanced Search’ lets you stipulate additional words or terms to search for as well as those words you want to leave out of the search. Be sure you only visit sites with information that’s up-to-date. Too many older documents are still alive long past the time they became irrelevant. If a date isn’t there don’t accept it as being current information. Also, be...

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Tapping into Testimonials

Positive, believable comments from real life clients with real names who live in real places about their experience with your firm and your services are proof positive to potential clients that you can be trusted. And with that foundation in place to overcome their natural skepticism, selling to them becomes so much easier. Here are 5 tips to help you get persuasive testimonials and use them to convert prospects into clients. 1. Go after testimonials Unsolicited casual comments from clients in conversation or over the phone, or comments in correspondence with them are good, but you should have no hesitation in coming right out and asking for a testimonial when you know you have a happy client. You can actively stimulate clients to give you testimonials. For example, send a postcard or email message to recent clients asking them what they liked best about your services or offer a free consultation to a select group of your clients in exchange for their thoughts on your services. Customer focus groups are another great opportunity to get clients talking about your services and what they appreciate most about them. One easy way to collect testimonials is to include a link on your website with a form that allows your clients to give you their vote of confidence. 2. Get them for all your services and advisory solutions and their different benefits All of your prospects and clients are not exactly the same. They don’t buy the same services and may even come to you for different reasons. Different aspects of your services are likely to appeal to different prospects just as they do to different clients. Try to get testimonials that mention a variety of different benefits your clients derive from using your services and get them for services across your entire range. 3. Use only testimonials with the right characteristics • The message should mention benefits rather than features – that’s what people really buy. “This service doubled our profits in a month!” rather than “This consultation will only take a few hours of your time”. • It must substantiate your marketing claims – if you say your services can make a difference in some way, your testimonials should back up your claim, complete with actual facts and figures. • It must sound credible – accompany each testimonial with the first name, last name and hometown of each testimonial-giver. You should get their permission first of course. 4. Don’t fudge it Don’t edit or rewrite your testimonials to exclude a negative comment or to elaborate on what is there. If you can’t use the testimonial pretty much as the person offered it then either ask them, if you can, to rephrase it themselves or don’t use it. 5.If you’ve got it, flaunt it Where do you use testimonials? Where don’t you! • On all marketing – your website, ads, newsletter, brochures, on your product packaging, etc. • In your store, especially in product displays • In your office / waiting area • On the back of your business cards Testimonials are a great persuader. Start applying them now in your firm and you will quickly start converting more prospects into...

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5 Tips on Lead Management

A lead is really just raw material waiting to be turned into something of value – a customer. Achieving this requires careful management, from the moment the lead is acquired until the sale is made and a new customer joins the database. Modern lead management should be a combination of people, software and processes that work together to acquire, manage and convert leads into sales. Lead management isn’t just having a team of salespeople that prospects and sells, it’s about having a systematic process for ensuring leads are dealt with in the best way to turn them into customers. 1. Qualify leads: to avoid wasting time on tire kickers or missing out on a hot lead you need a system to qualify the leads that come in. It might be as simple as a checklist of the ideal customer or the ‘feel’ of the person who took the inquiry, but it needs to be made so that response priorities and the amount of time and effort to invest in nurturing the lead can be assigned. 2. Ensure good leads are responded to in a timely manner. Like fruit left too long, leads spoil. Surveys show a surprisingly high number of SMEs either are very slow in responding to a lead or even fail to respond at all. That can before a variety of reasons (don’t check their email frequently, have no one responsible for dealing with them and so on), all of them resulting in lost opportunity and bad reputation. Have a back-up plan that kicks in when the primary individual responsible for contacting leads is not available. 3. Respond to leads appropriately: if you have qualified a lead as ‘hot’ you can move to the sale quickly. If the lead is just ‘warm’ then more time is required to supply information and build their confidence in your ability to supply just what is wanted. Too much pressure could cool the opportunity. 4. Develop a system to get leads to the right sales channel: a particular leadmay stand the best chance of turning into a sale depending on whether it goes to an individual sales person, the territory manager, a reseller, or a distributor. Don’t risk it getting passed around and going stale. 5. Make each person who has contact with a lead responsible for updating the customer database: it should be possible to call up the lead’s record any time and have an up-to-date snapshot of where things are up to. This is critical since it’s the only way you can accurately measure the quality of leads and decide your next move with them. In the longer term this data will allow you to assess the effectiveness of marketing programs and the ROI you...

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Networking for Beginners

Every time we attend a business function such as a training course, a trade show or an annual conference we have the opportunity to network. In fact, most of us network frequently, although we may not think of it exactly that way. Networking is the social part of doing business, and it can really help both you and your business if you do it right. One of the most important things to remember is that networking is social in nature. It’s the difference between a speech and a conversation, or between an advertising poster and a work of art. It’s something shared between two or more people and good manners are important. These are some of the ‘little rules’ that can make your networking really pay off. This doesn’t always mean a payoff in the financial sense, although that’s likely to happen from successful networking, but also will ensure that you get more enjoyment from the networking events you attend: 1. Don’t make the mistake of being pushy or forcing yourself on others. This is bad networking behavior. Keep it informal and think of it as a way of meeting people and making friends. Networking is still at its core an unstructured person-to-person activity. 2. Be memorable. Although the tone is informal it doesn’t mean that you can’t be remembered for what you say and do during networking. This takes preparation and some strategic planning, and if you do it well both you and those you network with will get more from the event. Be a source of knowledge or even just have a couple of short jokes ready to contribute. 3. Be yourself professionally! Anything to do with business is always about image, even in informal surroundings like a networking cocktail party or golfing event. Dress well, look good, and remember that you’re not just there as yourself but you’re also representing your business. The impressions you give others will carry over into their mental picture of your organization. 4. Do some preparation. There’s always a period of introduction in every networking event, so have a brief statement ready for who you are and what you do. If you say “I publish books,” be prepared to answer a question about what kind of books you publish. 5. Remember their names. People’s names are extremely important, especially to their owners. Whenever you’re introduced to someone be sure to get their name right; listen closely and repeat the name so you won’t forget it. Use their name in your conversation and they’ll be more likely to remember your name too. 6. Be a cheerful person whenever you’re networking. Even if you find yourself talking with somebody who’s got a sad story to relate, do everything you can to cheer them up and make their day a bit brighter. People remember others that make them feel good and tend to not bother remembering those who depress them. 7. Be helpful to others. While you’re talking with somebody try to think of a way you can help them. It can be a business-related matter or even just something personal, such as recommending a book to read or movie to see. The more you help others the greater your value in their eyes. 8. Be receptive to others. Networking’s a two-way street and while you’re thinking of ways to help somebody else they might well be thinking of ways to help you. If you’re offered something, perhaps advice or a business contact, be appreciative and thank the other person for their help. 9. Keep track of the contacts you make. This can be...

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Metrics and Marketing

Metrics are an essential element of modern marketing. The numbers related to the processes of a business can be useful in a variety of ways, and one of their most important uses is measuring the success or otherwise of a marketing plan. Even small businesses can now compile and analyze statistics that just a few years ago weren’t even able to be captured from their manually-kept records. For example, the ROI of a marketing campaign is now routinely calculated by many SMEs so they have a better idea of how effective their marketing expenditure has been and can adjust their mix accordingly for the next campaign. Management has to decide which metrics are to be monitored and avoid the problems created by having too much data to sift through when making strategic decisions. Some numbers are more important than others and nominating exactly which ones are right for a particular organization requires careful consideration. Let’s say a business determines that there are three primary functions for its marketing activities to fulfil: – To acquire new customers – To retain existing customers – To provide a high level of customer satisfaction The next task is to decide which metrics will be the best to use for evaluating the success or otherwise of the business processes related to these functions. To acquire new customers Customer acquisition sounds simple enough, and certainly the basic measurement of new customers added to the database is important. But to get a fuller understanding of how successful the business is at acquiring new customers there are other metrics that can be useful to monitor. Share of market – tells management how effective the marketing has been at influencing new customers away from competitors Rate of acquisition – should correlate with marketing activity Cost of acquisition – can be used to compare the effectiveness of one marketing campaign with another To retain existing customers Again there’s a basic source of measurement – customers that subtract themselves from the database of active purchasers. There are also some less obvious metrics about individual customers that have a bearing on how well the business is doing at retaining its customer base. Value of purchases – measures increase/decrease in customer lifetime value Frequency of purchase – tells management if retention efforts are increasing the attraction of the business to existing customers To provide a high level of customer satisfaction Every business, regardless of size should conduct regular customer satisfaction surveys to measure and monitor the metrics that apply to this important area. This doesn’t have to be a massive research effort but it does have to be so well thought-out that the questions carry over from one survey to the next for monitoring purposes. Some typical questions that lead to useful answers are: 1. On a scale from 1 to 5 where ‘1’ is poor and ‘5’ is outstanding, how do you rate the service you received? 2. Did our product perform as well as you expected? 3. Do you intend to purchase from us again? 4. If you have made a warranty claim was everything resolved to your satisfaction? There are some basic requirements that every metric selected for measuring and monitoring need to meet: – It should relate to a driver of business profitability – It should lead to findings that are actionable – It should be capable of being accurately measured – It should be measured in the same way every time Marketing metrics show management how effective their marketing strategies and programs are at building the business. They can highlight deficiencies as well as identify marketing elements...

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Be media-friendly and get in print

Public relations is an important part of every business. You might place an advertisement and have an offer of free editorial space, or perhaps you want to write a press release about a new product or team member in hopes of getting some publicity. Whatever the reason, rather than incur the costs of a firm of public relations professionals, most SME owners prefer to do their own PR work. As with most other industries the media are running leaner than ever before. There are fewer reporters, higher overheads and greater demands for coverage. If you can help the overworked media personnel do their jobs you’ll have a much greater chance of success with your publicity efforts. Start by thinking of what the media want from you rather than what you want to put in the media. They look for content that will be appealing to their audiences. They need an angle that makes it newsworthy or interesting. They want it in a form that makes it easy to receive and manipulate. They also want to have a selection of high-quality illustrations for consideration. This sounds as if you have to be a combination of trained journalist, photographer and editor, but it’s really not so hard. We’ll start with the story you’re going to put together. Get to know the media in your area. Is their primary audience young or old? Is it male or female? Do they run ‘hard’ news stories or human interest material? Learn the names of the staff reporters and columnists and the types of stories they write about. This will help you target your material to the right people at each media outlet you contact. Prepare your media information in a style that’s as close as possible to that used by each publication you’re sending it to. One might want interviews with your clients, another might want to start with a problem and write about a solution. The old principles of writing about ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Where’, ‘When’ and ‘Why’ still make a good outline of how the facts in a story can be presented. Keep in mind the differences between the media. Information sent to a newspaper can be a page or so of double-spaced text with as many of the facts as you can fit in. Radio will only need a ‘teaser’ that has enough facts to make them call you for an interview. Television wants the full story and if you can put in suggestions for how it could be handled on-air so much the better. Whatever else you do, don’t send the same thing to everybody. Spend some time to ‘customize’ each release or media information kit and you’ll get much better results. You’ll also be showing editors that you’ve given them some thought and respect their specific needs. They’ll appreciate it. Most news releases these days are distributed electronically. That’s fine but it’s not enough. The telephone is still the best way to introduce yourself and your story to the various media outlets. Once you’re talking to someone in the news area, ask them how they’d like to receive your information. Be sure that your contact details are included on all your publicity materials – email address, daytime and night time telephone numbers, cellphone number and business address. You never know when a reporter might decide to cover your story and need to get in touch with you before their next deadline. If you have a website you can have a ‘media information’ section with news stories and visuals that can be accessed by the media as required. Post your material...

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