It’s easy to focus on the sales process – converting potential customers into paying customers – but too much focus on pricing, salesmanship and negotiation can be distracting. Don’t neglect marketing – turning strangers into potential customers. If you get your marketing right, you’ll find it easier to grow your business, convert sales and protect your margins.
1. Reinvent yourself
Rebrand ‘You Inc’. Get a new image. Get a new logo. Sites like Elance can help you find cost-effective designers.
2. Change your customer
Analyse which customers are the most profitable and loyal; concentrate on selling to them and other clients like them. Apply the 80:20 rule to the rest. Four out of five customers are good but there are always a few customers that take a lot of work, demand low prices and then complain. Ditch them.
3. Reinvent the relationship
Could you be a trusted advisor? Can you join the experience economy?
4. Get inspired
Check out Oblique Marketing Strategies, the MarketingProfs website and Seth Godin’s blog for new marketing ideas.
5. Marketing every day
Carve out dedicated time for marketing.
6. Tell a story
Humans are story-telling creatures. If you can express your product or service’s benefits as a story, you can communicate it more clearly.
7. Customer evidence
Potential customers are far more likely to believe people like themselves than someone (like you) who has something to sell so use case studies, customer references, reviews and endorsements.
8. Use a picture
Good photography makes the difference between ‘me-too’ and ‘look at me’. Consider public domain images and low-cost online photo libraries such as iStockPhoto.
9. Write clearly
If you want to be understood, avoid using hype, clichés, passive sentences, jargon, acronyms, long words, long sentences and long paragraphs. Especially on the web.
10. Improve your presentations
Whether you run them in a shop window or use them to close multi-million pound deals, presentations are an important way to communicate. Check out 10 simple rules for awesome PowerPoint presentations.
11. Keep marketing when business is good
Fix the roof when the sun shines, not when it’s raining. Success breeds confidence, which makes it easier to sell yourself.
12. Manage customer relationships
It is much more expensive to win a new customer than it is to keep an existing one happy. Find ways to build stronger relationships with customers using customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as Microsoft Outlook with Business Contact Manager or Microsoft Dynamics CRM (for larger companies).
13. Try online advertising
Microsoft adCenter lets you put adverts in front of millions of UK customers right at the point when they are searching for products and services like yours. Check out my tips for advertising online with adCenter.
14. Ask for referrals
One of the best ways to get new customers is when an existing customer recommends you. Sometimes, you just have to ask but also consider ‘customer get customer’ incentives and other ways to get more referrals.
15. Manage customer relationships
Use customer relationship management software, such as Microsoft Outlook with Business Contact Manager, to keep track of all your leads, customers and opportunities. This kind of software can coordinate your whole team’s sales activities.
16. React fast
Get back to customers quickly with proposals or prices. Use your laptop and 3G Mobile Broadband to stay on top of your email.
17. Automate processes
Wherever possible, use checklists, templates and automated processes to speed up customer responses and reduce your workload. For example, you can use a proposal template in Microsoft Word and a checklist to make sure you have filled in all the relevant details.
18. Try social media
Explore social media marketing. Check out Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging.
19. Contact former customers
Go through your list of former customers and make contact with them all. If they left because they were unhappy, you get a chance to put things right and win them back or learn how to improve your business. If they haven’t ordered anything for a while, you can prompt them.
20. Do some PR
You don’t need an expensive PR agency to call up newspapers and magazines who might be interested in your story; especially if you have something new or interesting to say. Raise your profile online, learn how to give a good press interview and improve your press releases.
Would you like to supersize that? Look for ways to increase the size of each customer’s purchase; perhaps by offering a discount on additional products.
Would you like fries with that? Can you sell additional services or products alongside the customer’s basic order?