Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business, Part 2

What if there was a proven way to generate a surge of leads and new customers for your small business any time you wanted to? Would you do it? Well, there is a way to do just that. All you have to do is:

Give something away for free.

One of my favorite methods to instantly add new customers to your small business is giving your prospective customers something for free. This is by far the fastest way to attract new customers to your business. Now, if the idea of giving something away for free concerns you, relax. You don’t have to give away the entire farm for free! Just give a free sample of your product, service, or expertise.

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

The owner of a new restaurant mailed 120 highly targeted letters to potential customers in the area announcing the opening of his new restaurant and offering the reader a free lunch. The results? 100 of the 120 people mailed accepted the offer and visited the restaurant to claim their free lunch. Half of those people were accompanied by one or more people who purchased lunch at the regular menu price. Most of the people who visited became regular customers.

As a result of using targeted direct mail to promote his business, the restaurant owner was able to build in six days what would have otherwise have taken him six months to accomplish with traditional print advertising. What about you? How much could you grow your business if you gave something away for free to attract new customers?

What can you give away for free?

The simple answer is whatever profitably entices your target audience. Your small business is unique, but here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing:

Professional service providers such as lawyers, accountants and health care professionals could offer a free consultation. Restaurants – a free appetizer with a main course. Pool services – a free pool chemical inspection. Cleaning companies – offer to clean one room for free. Golf courses – free golf cart rental. Brakes/muffler/A/C shops – a free inspection.

Case in point: a local auto parts store offers free battery testing and replacement. Through their offer to give something for free they get the sale of a new battery and a new customer. They also offer to diagnose the problem when the dreaded check engine light comes on. On the weekends, there can be a line of people waiting to receive this free service. Many of them purchase the replacement part that caused the problem. I could go on and on and ON, but you get my point: to get something, give something of value first.

Why does giving something away for free work?

Giving things away for free works because it takes away all the risk from the initial transaction and establishes a relationship between you and your ideal prospect. It also engages prospects in your product or service who were not involved with it previously. Once a prospect has become your customer they are far more likely to buy from you again and again.

In effect, giving something away for free can give you the ultimate double whammy – you get the initial free transaction which often leads to an immediate, profitable sale and you get to bank the lifetime value of the customer. Now, I have a quick a word of caution:

You must test your free offers on a small scale before ramping them up.

When making a free offer, the goal is to do so in a way that is profitable. After all, you’re running a business, not a charity. Ideally you will convert many of the prospects wanting to take advantage of your free offer into profitable sales and customers immediately. Some you will convert later as a result of collecting their contact information and following up with subsequent offers.

Once you have proven that your free offer is profitable on a small scale, you can crank it up a notch. If it remains profitable, crank it up again, and again. The point here is not to get ahead of yourself. By all means create free offers, but do so only to the extent that they add new customers, sales and profit to your business.

That’s all I have for you in this, the second article in the series, “Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business.” Join me in the next installment when we discuss how you can quickly get new customers by legally accessing the customer lists of other businesses.

Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business, Part 3

Joint venture arrangements are one of the fastest ways to get new customers. They work because you “borrow” the credibility, trust and customer base of another organization. Regardless of the business you are in or the products or services you offer, there already exists a number of organizations that have established relationships with your target market. The joint venture process enables you to leverage those existing relationships and, in the process, generate a flood of new customers.

There have been a number of $1,000+ courses written on this subject that include hundreds of pages and dozens of legal forms. But for most small businesses, these types of courses can be more intimidating than inspiring. I’m here to tell you that you can create lucrative joint venture relationships, easier and faster than you ever thought possible. The fact is, at its root, this method is so straightforward and so immediately effective you owe it to yourself to test it in your business.

The building blocks of this method are simple. First you must have a handle on who your target audience is. Then you create a list of potential joint venture partners. Next, you create the offer you wish to make to your target audience. Then you approach the organizations you identified as potential joint venture partners and present your case. Finally, you and your partner iron out the details of the joint venture agreement. Sound simple? It is! So let’s get to it!

Identify your target audience:

Do you know who you are marketing to? Have you already identified your target audience? This is a crucial step in the process because you must get your message into the hands of people who will respond to it. The best offer in the world will fall as flat as a pancake if you don’t get it into the hands of the right people.

One quick way to identify your target audience is to profile the top 20% of your existing customer base. A detailed customer profiling discussion is beyond the scope of this article but if you can identify the commonalities that your best customers share, you are well on the way to identifying the essential elements of your target audience. Once you have done so, it’s time to move on to the next step which is:

Identify potential joint venture partners:

In this step you first identify the types of organizations and businesses your target market already has a relationship with. For example, if your target market is golfers, your list might include golf courses, golf shops, athletic stores, golf cart manufacturers, and so on. Once you have listed the type of businesses your target prospect is likely to do business with, you can then list the organizations within each type of business.

In this phase, you develop a list of actual organizations who likely do business with your ideal prospect. By identifying the types or classes of business before the actual organizations you will find that you automatically broaden the scope of your potential joint venture partner list. Armed with your list of potential partners it is time to move on to the next step, where you:

Create the offer you want to communicate to your target audience:

As you will be making the offer through your joint venture partner(s), you will want to make your offer special. The phones won’t be ringing off the hook if all you offer is a 10% discount. You want the reader to perceive that they are getting something special as a result of their relationship with your joint venture partner. So give them something special!

Free always works (see Part 2 of this series) and so does buy one get one free. You could offer an extended guarantee or warranty, or a sizeable discount. You could offer a sneak preview of a sale or an invitation to a special event. Whatever you decide to offer, make it so special that your potential joint venture partner(s) will immediately see the value in your offer and your target market will feverishly respond to it.

Approach your potential joint venture partners with your offer:

Before approaching each partner, it’s a good idea to research a little about the way they do business. Do they endorse or promote other businesses? If so, how do they do so? What types of offers do they promote? You want to get a sense for joint venture projects they have already agreed to. Then, package your first project in a similar way.

You can approach your joint venture partners through any medium you wish. This is one area where email communications tend to be least effective. My favorite way of contacting potential joint venture partners is by phone. But some small business owners don’t have the time (or the inclination) to do a little cold calling so I also recommend that you mail your potential partners a letter highlighting the benefits of your joint venture proposition (as discussed below) for them and their customers.

About a week after mailing the letter you will receive a call from your potential partners. If not, you simply call them. By following up your letter with a phone call you can increase the effectiveness of your campaign three-fold! Best of all, there is no cold calling with this method!

Of course, if your potential partner is local and easily approachable in person, head on over and discuss your idea face to face. You’ll often leave a personal meeting with an agreement and plan securely in place.

If your potential joint venture partner has not participated in a joint venture before, be prepared to educate him or her on the process and how it creates a win-win-win result. Their customers win because they get a special deal because of their relationship with your joint venture partner, the joint venture partner wins because they benefit from the agreement (we’ll discuss this more in a moment) and you win because you get to extend your offer to more highly targeted, potential customers. This method truly creates a win-win-win result!

Ironing out the details of your agreement:

The specifics of your agreement with your potential joint venture partner will need to be defined and agreed upon. They could involve a share of the profit you receive from the sales related to their endorsement, or you could barter your product or service in exchange for their endorsement. It could be that you agree to endorse their offering to your customer base in an endorsement exchange scenario. Your options are limited only by your creativity.

You will also want to define your roles and expectations of each other. This includes any operational and financial arrangements you have made. For example, if you propose a mailing, it is best if the mailing appears to come from your joint venture partner, written on their letter head.

It may also be that your partner collects the funds from such a mailing and sends you an amount equal to the payment less their commission and you fulfill the order. The more complex the agreement, the more attention you will have to pay to operational and financial processes, roles and expectations. But this is true of any business agreement, right?

Here’s a BIG TIP when creating your proposal for your joint venture partner, make it as easy as possible for them to benefit from the project. The less they do, the better. The closer you can get to “money for nothing,” the more responsive your potential partner will be.

While I’m at it here’s another BIG TIP: make your first project a guaranteed success, pull out all the stops and make sure that everyone benefits. Put together a great offer for your target audience, reward you partner for their participation and make sure that everyone has a positive experience. Do this and your joint venture partner will be excited about the next opportunity to work with you. And as I’m sure you know, the real profit in your business comes not from the initial sale, but from repeatedly selling to your customer base. Are you with me?

What do you do now?

You get started! Schedule a 30 minute appointment with yourself (I’m serious – what gets scheduled gets done) and follow the outline I have shared with you in this article. At least get to the point where you have identified several joint venture partners. You can easily do this if you invest the time.

Remember, a joint venture doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as simple as agreeing to do a mutual exchange where you and your partner distribute each other’s business cards. Once you complete your first successful joint venture and see how effective they can be, you will be hooked! So schedule that appointment with yourself now!

Now you know the basic process for creating joint venture projects. The process is the same regardless of the scale of your project.

For those who pursue this method of marketing their small business the rewards can be great. You really can create an avalanche of new customers sales and profit in your small business with joint venture marketing. The question is will you?

Join me next time for the fourth and final installment in this series where we will discuss how you can generate thousands of dollars worth of publicity for your business, completely free of charge.

Why is Selling So Difficult For Small Business Owners? Use These 3 Sales Management Strategies

Why is selling so difficult for small business owners? The ability to sell is necessary for every business yet it is often a neglected activity. To simplify the selling process, you need to build a sales approach into your marketing mix program. (Your marketing mix includes product, price, promotion and place – the sales activities belong in the promotion category.)

First, it is important to understand the marketing mix promotion category. Marketing promotion includes personal selling (face to face), direct mail marketing (one-to-one and via email or mail), and use of telemarketing campaigns (one-to-one and via telephone). Additionally, marketing promotion includes the advertising (for example, radio, newspapers, internet, magazines, storefront, and more), promotions (for example, trade shows, coupons, contests, point of purchase displays and more), and public relations (for example, press releases, community involvement, and more) activities.

Second, it is important to build a sales plan targeted to each product or service category, and also focused on each type of customer. If you are entering new markets, use sales contact management and sales leads software to focus your efforts. This software will also provide good sales service maintenance and follow-up support. Business process management tools help you to focus your sales activities and provide you with valuable time saving tactics. You can track and manage your activity and results for leads, prospects, and customers. You can also integrate your sales leads software with your sales management software to develop reports on customer purchases, service or product launches, price change impacts, service or product change impacts, and more.

Third, develop strong negotiating and closing skills. Always look for a win/win solution both for you and your customer. Make sure you focus on the unique value and benefits of your products and/or services and how that value will benefit your customer (solving their needs or problems). To negotiate a sale and to close a sale effectively requires a specific skill set. You need to be a very good listener and really hear what your customer is saying. You also need to be sincere – how many times have you heard pre-rehearsed closes that just turn you off? You can practice your close but when you are in front of a potential customer make sure that you can close based on what your customer just told you, what you heard, and what you believe you can deliver – in effect, how will you fulfill your customer’s needs more effectively than other suppliers?

To be successful in business, you need to either be successful at selling or be able to hire a great sales person because no matter what you have to sell (product, service, idea or something else), you will have to sell it to someone. Learning how to sell effectively is possible but you need to enjoy it. If you dread the idea of selling, don’t do it (your customers can perceive your discomfort and you will find it even harder to make the sale). Hire someone who loves to sell to do it for you (you can hire an employee, or sales agent, or contract worker, or broker but it is likely that employees will be most committed to you and your business). Customers and potential customers will resist buying from someone who isn’t comfortable with the sales process, and while you might get some orders, hiring someone who is good at selling will free you up to do what you’re good at… a much more effective use of your time and resources.

Overcome the challenge of developing small business sales skills:

  • learn to focus on developing a marketing mix promotion that includes building service or product differentiation and positioning features and benefits that help you to increase sales successfully;
  • learn to build an effective sales plan and use software and business process tools to help you manage the plan;
  • make sure you develop strong negotiating and closing skills and
  • learn how to manage your own efforts, or the efforts of others.

Learning how to sell effectively is of critical importance to your small business sales growth; and just as important is recognizing when to hire someone to do the selling for you.

How to Use Small Business Web Solutions to Help Generate More Profits For Your Local Business

There are many small business web solutions available today to help a local business owner take massive action to generate more profits. Unfortunately, many small, local business owners are not taking advantage of the largely untapped local marketing source called the Internet.

Small business web solutions like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a fairly new, and unfamiliar, discipline for many local businesses. Think about it, SEO has really only been around for a decade or so and many businesses have not tapped in to this powerful marketing tool. Instead, they are stuck in their old habits of using the Yellow Pages, newspaper ads, or direct mail. While these methods still work, they are expensive and hard to track.

The Internet on the other hand offers small businesses the ability to use inexpensive, many times even free, advertising methods to generate traffic to their website, phone calls to their office, or more customers into their stores. Once a business owner welcomes this new advertising media with open arms, they will be able to take full advantage of the small business web solutions available to them.

As a business owner, your goals when advertising on the internet are some of the following:

  • Generate targeted leads to your sales staff
  • Generate phone calls to your office from potential customers
  • Generate direct sales from your website
  • Increase traffic to your store (or place of business)
  • To build an email list you can advertise to directly

You do not simply want to have a website brochure out there that is not generating targeted traffic and generating leads for your business. This is just one of the mistakes many small business make when spending valuable resources on website design.

Your website can be, and should be, a tool to generate unlimited leads and new paying customers for your business. Don’t make the mistake of getting a fancy, high-tech website created only to have it sit online never to be found by your potential clients.

Here are some of the free tools available for small business owners to increase their web presence:

1. Google Places – free business listing on Google. This tool integrates your website ranking and your Google Places listing to help “local” customers find your business.

2. Citation Listings – there are many local listing services out their just waiting to help your customers find your business. Some examples are Yelp.com, InsiderPages.com, and SuperPages.com. Simply register or verify your business listing and your chances of being found are increased greatly.

3. Local Directories – like the citation services, there are many local business directories that have high rankings in the search engines so when some searches for your type of business, you can be found.

There are many other services available to help small businesses get found online. Tap in to this market and you can expect a prosperous future.