Please Don’t Buy!

30 04 2013

One of the most important steps you have to take in order to attract ideal customers and grow your business is to actually know who those ideal customers are. That’s the first step that many understand. But there’s another, less understood and talked about step you should also consider, and it begins with a question:

What kind of customer should you repel?

That’s right. You need to figure out what types of customers you don’t want to attract and do business with. As counterintuitive as that sounds, it can be just as important as knowing who you want to attract.

The 80/20 rule tells us that in most businesses, 20% of the customers provide 80% of the profits. Knowing who you want to attract can help you greatly improve the odds of increasing the ratio.

At the same time, most businesses also have to deal with a percentage of customers who create the most headaches while providing little profit for the business. Knowing who you want to repel should help reduce the impact this group will have on you.

Knowing the types of customers you want to repel will have many side benefits besides simply increasing the bottom line. It will improve employee morale since coworkers will not have to deal with as many problem-causing customers each day. It will also allow you to spend more energy and resources on the customers who actually provide the most value and profits for your company.

Go through your existing customer list. Pick out the customers that provide the most headaches and the least profit for your company. Figuring out how to repel this type of customer could be as simple as raising prices enough to either make them not want to do business with you or, at the very least, make the pain of dealing with them more profitable and bearable.

The benefits of knowing what types of customers you don’t want can prove to be nearly as important as knowing who you would like as a client.





You Have to Be Easy

26 04 2013

Making it as easy as possible to do business with your company seems like a logical and simple concept, yet many businesses unwittingly create hurdle after hurdle for their customers to jump just for the privilege of doing business with them.

Customers are already overburdened with complexities, rules, and regulations. Companies that deliver with the least hassle win more business than others.

To be sure, there are some necessary steps and processes for each business transaction, but the task for every business should be to do away with as many of the unnecessary ones as possible.

Let’s take Apple computers and their packaging as just one example. An Apple product comes in a package that combines elegance, simplicity, and art. When you hold the typical Apple product package, you realize before even opening the box that this is a different kind of product. Everything has a place and reason. Much thought has gone into what is usually an afterthought with most companies.

Steve Jobs was known as an obsessive person. A big reason for his success was his obsession with removing complexity and simplifying. He knew that the company which removed the most confusion actually ended up gaining the most customers. Jobs wanted his products to be so simple and intuitive that they didn’t need an owner’s manual.

If you want to grow your business and for your clients to actually enjoy the buying process, you must obsessively work to continually remove as many obstacles as possible, while at the same time simplifying how customers buy from you.

Start by regularly asking yourself: “How can we make ordering from us even easier?”

It’s a process. You’ll know you’ve arrived when your customers actually have pleasant thoughts and smile when ordering instead of the typical angst most experience. Being the easiest to do business with will bring many long-term rewards.





Give Prospective Customers a Plan of Action

23 04 2013

One of the greatest mistakes marketers make is to assume that interested prospects will automatically know which steps to take next when they receive a marketing piece in the mail, via email, or from a salesperson. Without a clear plan of action, many of your prospects will simply discard your marketing piece and move on to a different company…most likely your competitor.

Too many people assume that once a prospect shows interest, the next step is to close the sale. But rather than rushing to that conclusion, perhaps the best thing to do is to field any questions the prospect might have. Once your prospects are more informed, they will be able to make an educated decision about pursuing your products and services.

With that in mind, here are some phrases (and related information) you should include in your marketing materials to let prospects know you are there to help, not just make a buck:

  • Stop in and see our products! Include an address, business hours, and directions for reaching your building. Make sure you include a Google map on your website or landing page, as well.
  • Call and ask for more information! Include a phone number, contact name, extension number (where applicable), and hours. If you have an after-hours phone number, include that, too.
  • Call to set up an appointment! Again, provide all of the pertinent details, including the best time to reach you.
  • Send us an email to request more information! For email and web-based communications, provide a link to a simple contact form where prospects can enter their details and receive confirmation that their request went through. On print pieces, include an email address, and consider adding a QR code that links directly to a contact form on your website.
  • Visit our website for more information! Make sure you provide your full website address. Again, consider a QR code that links to your homepage or (better yet) to a landing page designed specifically for the promotion you’re running, with additional details about your products, services, and any current specials you have available. An FAQ page is also helpful here, and don’t forget to include full contact details so the prospect can easily reach you with questions.

Making yourself available to answer questions and provide your prospects with more information will make a positive impression and help boost sales.





An Unconventional Way to Add Value for Your Customers

19 04 2013

While no business wants to lose its customers to the competition, you may be surprised how the opposite can occur when you focus less on keeping your customers away from your competition and focus more instead on adding value and truly helping your customers find what they want.

Strange as it sounds, there may be times when referring a customer to your competition might be warranted. Here are four examples:

  • If you’re out of stock on an item that your customer wants immediately, suggest alternative places where they can find it. You may consider enticing customers to wait for your business by offering an exclusive discount when the item is back in stock, but allow them to make their own choices.
  • Refer customers to another business if you believe that company is better suited to serve the customer’s specific needs. It’s important to ask questions to ensure you understand customer expectations and decide if your business is the best fit for your customer.
  • For comparison shoppers, offer a chart that highlights the differences between your products and competing products. Be sure to include your strengths, as well as your competitor’s strengths. This is a great opportunity to promote higher-quality components or value-added services, such as a longer warranty, locally owned roots, lifetime tech support, or even bundled services at a discounted price. Informed customers make faster choices and are happier with their decisions.
  • Lastly, if you have a very difficult customer that proves to be more of a burden to your business than an asset, it may be time to let your competitor swoop them up.

By referring a customer in need to a competing business, you not only show confidence in your product and your business, but you also show honesty, integrity, and a willingness to put the customer’s needs ahead of your own. Customers will appreciate your effort and seek out your valued opinion on other issues as well.





Are You Building Your Business Like a House of Cards?

16 04 2013

You know the game.

You start with a deck of playing cards and slowly begin to stack them together, carefully leaning one card against another at just the right angle, until you’ve created a solid wall of cards. You build the house higher and higher, one card and one row at a time, all the while moving around carefully so the whole thing doesn’t come crashing down.

Building and growing a business can sometimes feel like building a house of cards. If you have one or two clients providing the bulk of your revenue, your business can begin to feel as precariously unstable as that playing card wall.

Wal-mart is a giant corporation. Stories abound of how they’ve made and also broken some of their vendors. But you don’t have to be a Wal-mart vendor to find your company in this tricky situation. No matter how safe you think your relationship with a large account might be, life tends to throw you curveballs. There are no guarantees. If that one large account leaves for any reason and you face ruin, then you have built a house of cards.

After the initial start-up phase is over, running a successful business becomes a matter of managing risks. Having a few clients account for the bulk of revenue can happen slowly over time, or it can come about in a flash. The role of the owner and directors is to recognize the inherent risks, then go about managing them.

The obvious solution is to find more clients in order to broaden the customer base. The trick is to do this while managing larger customer expectations and not failing in product and service delivery.

No one said being a company owner is an easy thing to do.

In financial circles, astute financial planners recommend owning a predefined percentage mix of stock and bond funds based on your age and risk tolerance. As you add more funds, the percentages can get out of balance in one part of the portfolio. A periodic review shows which part is out of balance. The solution is to sell the overloaded part and buy more of the other in order to bring the portfolio back into balance.

Owning and running a business correctly is similar to having a financial portfolio. You must understand and realize what your goals are at the beginning and review them regularly. Successful owners realize when one metric has gone out of balance and take immediate action to bring it back in line.

A business built like a house of cards will have no choice but to crash back down to earth no matter how high the stack has grown. Broadening your customer base while providing excellent customer service and product delivery will ensure that no wind of change will affect your business.

When you do that, you will have the added bonus of sleeping much easier at night.





What’s Your Call to Action?

12 04 2013

Every marketing piece should have a call to action that helps direct the reader to the next step. Whether you want them to click a link, download a file, or contact your business, here are a few tips to ensure your call to action gets noticed and utilized:

  • Keep it short and simple using action verbs, such as call, buy, register, donate, or subscribe.
  • Be specific about what you want readers to do. For example, if you want customers to contact you to set up an appointment, don’t just say “contact us.”
  • Make it easy for readers by using a direct shortcut link to your sign-up page or order form, versus sending them on a wild goose chase through your website.
  • Create urgency with a deadline such as “offer expires May 31” or “order now and get a free gift!”
  • Include a benefit for contacting you. Instead of saying “Download our whitepaper,” say “Expand your customer base with these 10 tips.”
  • Popularity sells. If your information is high demand, consider including the number of times a document has been downloaded.
  • Build trust by including customer logos or relevant testimonials near your call to action.
  • Provide your call to action multiple times throughout your website or marketing materials.
  • Size and location matter. Make sure your call to action is easily visible and prominently located so readers don’t miss it.

We’d love to help you create marketing materials that get noticed and increase sales. Check us out online for more creative ideas or to request a printing quote today!





Are You Doing Too Much?

9 04 2013

Once a business is established, it’s common practice to add products and services in the name of diversification and the desire for more profits. It’s a wise business move to choose products and services that will appeal to customers you’re already doing business with.

But what’s the point of diminishing returns? When does adding more products become less profitable or even start losing you money?

Lego is known for its beloved interlocking toy bricks. The company has been around since 1949. You and your children have probably built many fun projects using their colorful, iconic blocks.

As with many other successful brands, Lego decided to diversify. The Denmark-based company added games, movies, clothing lines, and six themed amusement parks (Legoland). Lego added many new colors to the primary colored bricks originally available. Costs were added at a much higher rate than new profits to pay for all this diversification.

The once very profitable company began bleeding red ink. A new CEO (Jorgen Vig Knudstrorp) was brought in to fix the problem. One of the first questions he asked was this: “What do we need to stop doing?”

Beginning in 2005, Lego sold the theme parks and whittled down half of the brick colors. They became more efficient and creative at doing what they were good at by concentrating on less rather than more. By the end of the same year, Lego was profitable again.

Sometimes the answer to doing more is to actually do less. Doing less frees up time and resources to concentrate on the key products and customers that bring you the bulk of your profits. If you have too many services or products, start considering what things you should stop doing, so you can focus instead on what really matters.