Do You Have a Foot-In-The-Door Strategy?

30 08 2013

There’s an extremely powerful strategy to grow your business called the foot-in-the-door (FITD) strategy. FITD plays on psychology to get to the sale. This strategy works well because it gets past the prospect’s natural resistance to being sold.

The process starts with getting a person to agree to a small request that doesn’t take them outside their comfort zone. From there, you build up to larger requests and bigger yeses.

Savvy business owners, marketers, and salespeople have used FITD in one form or another for years, whether they have knowingly defined it that way or not. Some may refer to this strategy as a “loss leader.” The difference is that a loss leader typically involves selling something, often at a very low price or below cost. Retail businesses have used loss leaders successfully for many years. FITD works best when the first offer is for something free.

Examples of FITD
If you’ve ever been to the mall food court around lunch or dinnertime, you’ll often see savvy restaurant owners assign an employee to offer a small sample tasting of some of the food items on their menu. When passersby accept the sample and taste it, they’ve taken the first tiny step toward a possible yes.

One interesting side note with this example: Notice that the employees handing out the samples aren’t going all around the mall or outside in the parking lot at various hours of the day. They pass out the samples to people walking through the food court at lunch or dinnertime. The marketing takeaway: offer your services to people who are most likely to need what you sell when they need it the most.

FITD has been used for many years by door-to-door salespeople in many industries, from the person offering to clean a dirty spot on the carpet to the days of the encyclopedia salesperson (remember those?) who would offer a free three book starter set.

Perhaps the most notorious example is from the timeshare industry. In exchange for 90 minutes of your time, the FITD offer is a free resort stay or perhaps Disney World tickets. Does it work? Billions of dollars in timeshares sold would seem to indicate a big yes. These techniques are meant to persuade and work extremely well. The danger comes from unscrupulous sellers who abuse the power.

FITD has been used in the pharmaceutical industry with enormous success. Pharmaceutical sales representatives leave samples of the drugs their companies sell with the appropriate doctors. The physicians in turn give their patients a free sample along with a prescription that will lead them to become a customer of the pharmaceutical industry.

What kind of FITD should you offer?
Your best FITD strategy should probably be not to “sell” anything at all. Only 2% of prospects are ready to buy at any time and less than 1% will typically buy anything on the first contact. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and ask yourself: What would I need (if I were a customer) to choose this company over the competition? What service or product can you use to let prospects ‘test’ you out that will put your best foot forward and help you make the best first impression?

Conclusion
The FITD strategy is an extremely powerful technique. If you’re not currently using it or have used it in the past and forgotten about it, it’s time to visit it again. Put together a plan to utilize FITD in your favor.

Selling successfully for the long term requires building trust with your prospects and even existing customers. The FITD strategy allows you to begin building that trust. But be careful. If it’s done incorrectly or not done at all, then you may experience the door-in-the-face result which is what you want to avoid.

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Online and Print: Like Peanut Butter and Jelly?

27 08 2013

Some self-appointed experts proclaim there’s a vast difference between the brave new digital world and more traditional media like print. Although there are obvious differences in the way messages are delivered, fundamentally there are more similarities than it may seem.

At the core, it all revolves around communication. We are still trying to communicate the same things:

  • Persuading recipients to open our communication
  • Encouraging people to read our relevant messages
  • Convincing our target market to believe the point we are trying to get across
  • Driving people to take action on our message

There’s no denying that the Internet has changed how we communicate. However, it would be a mistake to believe that digital should completely replace message delivery methods like print. As studies have shown, most people trust print more than email and social media. Anyone can send out a tweet, blast an email, or publish a Facebook post, but only legitimate businesses will invest the time and necessary resources to create a print campaign.

It’s interesting to note a recent trend with many online retailers and other Internet-based businesses using print advertising to drive visitors and sales to their websites. Even Google uses direct mail. Online and print work well together when there’s a solid strategy in place.

One of the unfortunate side effects of the digital age has been the exponential increase of spam and junk aimed at businesses and consumers. The low cost barrier to entry has encouraged irrelevant messages to fill in-boxes and clog the Internet with useless information. It turns out there is a cost to free.

The other negative side effect of digital delivery and the Internet has been to give equal footing to the useless and the idiotic. This makes the job of having your messages stand out even more difficult.

Whether you’re writing an email, a web page, or social media posts, it’s a struggle to be seen and heard above the massive onslaught of junk and spam in the digital wasteland of today. Ironically, the new additional marketing mediums of today have made it much harder, not easier to get your message across.

Despite the issues, digital is here to stay. But print is not going away either. There are strengths for both mediums. Smart businesses and marketers know that for any campaign to work as well as it can, there must be a combination of print and digital.

Using print and digital together is a lot like having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sure, you can have one without the other, but it tastes a lot better when you combine the two.





Connecting Your Brand With Your Customers

23 08 2013

No business starts with the mission of becoming run of the mill and ordinary. But somewhere along the way, after the excitement wears off and the daily routines take over, some businesses seem to lose their way.

Running and managing a business isn’t for the faint of heart.

The daily tasks of keeping the operation flowing smoothly and bringing in enough revenue to keep the lights on while managing customer demands has a way of making one forget about the dream of creating an extraordinary business.

But the reality is that the customers of today want more than just a product or service. They want an experience. Simple delivery of goods and services may bring a customer in, but it takes more effort to turn that buyer into a steady client who will come back often.

Businesses that provide a way for the customer to feel like they’re part of something special (and maybe even a little extraordinary) attract the kind of clients who not only return themselves but also refer others to enjoy the same level of service they loved.

People have a way of flocking to businesses that give them this type of unexpected experience.

Who wants to go somewhere ordinary when they can experience a business that makes them feel wanted and special? Most people expect average, so when they find a business that goes above and beyond, they don’t need prompting to refer others.

Being different and offering an experience in addition to products and services doesn’t have to be difficult. It only requires that you stand apart from your competitors. Sometimes all that takes are some simple tweaks.

Going above and beyond might be as simple as the presentation you make when you deliver your products and services. The Apple iPhone is just a smartphone. However, from the product announcement down to the packaging, the stage is set that you’re about to experience something extraordinary.

How can you package what you sell in a way that sets you apart?

When you give your customers the expectation that they’re part of something special (a fun company that makes them feel exclusive), then you’ve gone from an ordinary company with a logo to a brand that connects with its clients.

Customers connect with brands that make them feel special. The revenue and profits flow naturally when you can achieve that level of branding.





6 Ways to Ramp Up Your Referral Marketing

20 08 2013

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to grow a business is through strong referrals. Whether these referrals come to you through a system you have in place or because of the solid reputation your business has built over the years, each referral is a precious gift. You have one chance to turn this opportunity into a client who will in turn refer others to your business.

If you drop the ball in some way, not only will you lose this chance for new business, but you could also discourage others from referring business to you. Therefore, you must handle these warm leads with extreme care. Here are six key steps to consider as you guide a referral into becoming a real customer.

  1. Respond quickly. Nothing will stop a referral process faster than slow response and showing a lack of urgency in communication. Lead360 conducted a study of 25 million data points which showed that successful conversion rates are 391% higher when a lead is called back within a minute, 120% within two minutes, 98% within three minutes, 62% in under thirty minutes, and 36% in under an hour. Clearly calling back and following up with referrals quickly is the first and most important part of the process.
  2. Gather information and qualify. Once contact has been made, it’s time to gather any necessary information to make sure there’s a good fit between what the referral is looking for and what you can provide. Having relevant, open-ended questions to ask will help you find what you’re looking for while at the same time establishing your expertise in helping solve client problems. This is the time to develop insight into the scope of the opportunity and key factors.
  3. Be the expert. Once you’ve established that the referral is a good fit for your business, it’s time to do your homework. You must spend a little time to learn about the referral’s business. The more you learn about what your prospect is looking to solve, the better you can prepare a solution. This in turn will position you as the expert who took the time to present a customized solution when your competitors offered a generic, cookie-cutter bid.
  4. Make your offer stand out. The best way to make your offer stand out is by adding value. People like to buy, but they don’t like to be sold to. You can add value and help your offer stand apart by helping a referral evaluate your capability and see their problem clearer. Relevant, simple, and insightful information that helps your prospect will lead them to buy much more readily than if they feel they are being sold to.
  5. Create a powerful experience. Turning a referral into a client can be as simple as contacting them quickly with information they’re seeking. However, the real secret to make them truly want to do business with you on a consistent basis is to create a “wow” experience. Your “wow” experience doesn’t have to be complex. Building it can be as simple as:
    • Responding to inquiries within 30 minutes
    • Offering a small gift or thank you note for contacting you
    • Sending a small gift or thank you to the person who made the referral
    • Delivering a professionally prepared, customized solution with clear information
    • Following up after the sale to answer any questions
    • Being persistent without being a pest
  6. Use technology. As great as your memory may be, relying on the old pen-and-paper system is just asking for trouble. The way to truly systematize the referral process is by using a CRM system that can help you track your referrals. Determine if the software will help you give the prospects the experience you set in your action plan. But remember that technology can only go so far. Sure, it can help you manage the referrals, but converting those leads into customers takes the human touch that only you can provide.

Turning referrals into customers is not an act of magic or accomplished through luck. It’s done by developing an action plan and by implementing the plan. Keep track, stay organized, and monitor the process. Referral marketing can be a gift that keeps on giving, but only if it’s treated with the care and respect it deserves.





6 Steps to a Referral Strategy

13 08 2013

Referrals are one of the best ways for growing a small business, yet most companies have no formal process in place to make sure this great source for quality leads continues.

Waiting for leads to fall in your lap is not a systematic referral-generation strategy! Some people feel guilty about asking for referrals because they falsely believe they are simply asking for favors. The truth is, if you believe that the products and services you provide deliver real value to people and will benefit those who use them, you’re the one who’s doing the favor in asking for referrals… not the other way around. Achieving that mentality is the first step toward building a solid foundation for your lead-generating referral system.

Here are six steps to turn up your referral-generation machine.

  1. Define your most ideal referral. Your chances of finding referrals increases if you know who you’re looking for. The tighter you can articulate the demographic characteristics of your most ideal referral, the better. What are their business needs? What problems do they have that you can solve?
  2. Team up with matching referral partners. After defining your ideal referral, identify who would be ideal referral partners for you. Who’s already doing business and in contact with people that fit your most ideal referral profile? Find ways to provide value for them and make it easy for them to refer you.
  3. Build a database. Create a contact list of potential referral sources and contacts. This can help you focus your referral-generating campaigns on people who can help you the most. Great communication starts with a focused list of ideal referral partners.
  4. Create an incentive. Most people want to help others. You can encourage them to do what they already want to do by giving them an incentive to refer you. Incentives can be something tangible like gift cards, discounts, commissions, and other perks. A simple thank you card and other positive reinforcement goes a long way to building the goodwill generated from helping others.
  5. Have a referral script. It’s comforting to know what you’re going to say ahead of time in asking for a referral. Your script should be adapted for face-to-face networking, email communication, phone conversations, and mailed letters. Practice until it becomes natural and not forced.
  6. Set goals. An effective system includes a way to measure it. Setting referral goals and tracking results weekly is a great way to build and sustain continual momentum. Tracking your referrals also allows you to see how many referrals it takes to get one new client.

No system works without action. Start your referral-generating system by implementing and tracking the results. Ask your current network for referrals. This will give you something to build on. As you practice and gain confidence, refine your tactics and branch out to get referrals from other sources. It’s easier than you think.





Educating Your Way to a Sale

9 08 2013

Your target audience is being bombarded by sales and marketing messages every day. Some estimates state that a person is exposed to more than 3,500 messages on average every single day! No wonder we develop strategies to filter out the hype and all the noise so we can get our work done. Otherwise our days would be consumed with sales presentations and various pitches to buy something.

This constant barrage of marketing has taken a toll on salespeople, too. Traditional sales methods that once worked well have been losing traction and are not effective anymore. But you still need to sell — and you need to get your message across to your prospects. How can you do that without alienating them at the same time? One way to do that is to educate and help your prospects instead of simply selling them.

Educating your audience with relevant and useful information that will help them make a more informed buying decision allows you to establish yourself and your company as an expert who provides value before ever asking for a sale.

Establishing trust in this manner brings respect. Trust and respect open the way for your prospects to listen. Listening gives you access to valuable time your prospects reserve for those they believe will not waste it with hype and useless pitches.

To decide what kind of information your prospects find useful, you need to put yourself in their shoes. Developing a buyer persona on your most ideal prospects lets you get insight into the information, ideas, and advice that could make a positive difference in their lives and actually help in their decision-making process.

Selling is not a bad thing. Short-term thinking while selling, however, is not sustainable selling. Long-term selling is about nurturing, gaining trust, and establishing rapport. Doing this will lead not only to a first sale but also to a relationship that will garner repeat sales and referrals.

Establishing a strategic sales funnel allows you to introduce your products and services as a solution to a prospect’s problem at the appropriate time. Nurturing relationships will lead to sales more naturally and organically, instead of taking a straight, forced path with a low chance of making a quick close.

One great example of this can be seen by walking into any Apple retail store. From the moment you walk in, the Apple employees are trained to educate you about the products in the store. No pushy salespeople. They actually want you to touch and test all the products on display.

In the back of the store, the “Genius Bar” provides technical help and in-depth training to encourage users to use Apple products. This in turn leads to more sales. Over 50,000 people visit the “Genius Bar” every day, and the majority who have used the services state that they are more likely to buy another Apple product as a result.

Educating your prospects and your customers is a long-term business sales strategy. It requires some time and resources. But if it is done well, the results will far outweigh the costs.





Where are the budding stars at your company?

6 08 2013

The answer is simple: They’re everywhere. And it’s up to you to find them.

In his biography of Bill Russell, author Murry R. Nelson writes about the NBA legend’s athletic struggles in high school and about one teacher/coach who helped to bring out the best in the young man others had overlooked and taken for granted.

After failing to make the school’s football team, Russell decided to try out for basketball instead. There were 15 spots available on the junior varsity team, and Russell, who had never played organized basketball before, was number 16 on the depth chart. But his coach “saw something in him as a person” and allowed him to split time with another player in order to make the team. He also helped Russell join the local Boys Club, where he could “practice his game on an indoor court.”

“In return for the faith and ‘investment’ [the coach] made in him,” Nelson writes, Russell “provided a constant drive and energy on the basketball court.” What’s more, he began practicing hard throughout the year and was able to make the varsity team his senior season.

Bill Russell would go on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, where he led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles over the course of 13 years.

Just as faith from a coach helped to mold a young Bill Russell’s career path, guidance and mentoring are valuable training tools in business, too. Providing team members with the resources and skills training needed to succeed at their jobs can make a difference not only for the individuals you’re helping but also for the company (and team) as a whole. After all, who knows what potential “all-stars” might be waiting to be discovered on your team. All they need is a chance to shine.