Category: Small Business

Generating more and better leads by creating strategic alliances

A key strategy for generating more and better quality leads is the development of strategic alliances.

As you look “upstream” and “downstream” from your business, you can identify other businesses who provide products and services to the same target clients you serve.

Consider the wedding industry for example. Once a lucky young woman receives a marriage proposal and a ring (that happens to be one of my daughter’s in the image), there is a chain of events that will typically take place… finding a wedding dress, securing a venue, identifying a printer, discussing options with a florist, etc.

Strategic referrals using an event chain
Develop strategic referrals using the event chain of your industry

Each of these business types has an opportunity to create strategic alliances with the others in order to refer work to each other.

Consider the florist, for example. If the florist makes the effort to identify “upstream” businesses that also service couples planning a wedding, then those “upstream” businesses can refer engaged couples to the florist. The florist would reciprocate with a referral commission.

Similarly, the florist can refer engaged couples to “downstream” businesses that will also reciprocate to the florist with a referral commission.

Considering how much wedding flowers can cost, think about the additional monthly revenue the florist could receive with even one referral from an “upstream” alliance and one referral to a “downstream” alliance in the month!

What’s the “event chain” in your industry?

The principle of “marginal gains” and a leadership mistake

I first heard about the principle of “marginal gains” several years ago in (of all places) a church setting in Sunday School!  To teach the principle, the teacher introduced us to a compelling story about the British Olympic track cycling team.

We learned about the team’s amazing application of the marginal gains principle through a ~6 year journey that took the team from a losing 76-year history (during which the team won only a single Olympic gold medal) and positioned the cyclists as winners of 7 out of 10 available gold medals in track cycling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  For the interested reader who wants to learn more, I’ll post a link in the comments to a wonderful 2015 HBR interview with Sir Dave Brailsford (head of British Cycling during this time period).

The Sunday School teacher’s intent in sharing the story was to help us focus on making steady, incremental progress in our personal worship and discipleship.

As a small business owner, I was also genuinely excited about the principle and could see the value of introducing it to our team and making it part of our culture!

I drafted a handout to share the cycling team’s story with all of our team members, and I met with the whole team to introduce it and to talk about how we could apply this principle of careful, continuous improvement in our operations, both individually and collectively.  We even designed and printed up “What’s your 1%?” graphics to put on the walls in strategic areas to keep the principle at top of mind.

I sincerely believe that some on the team took the principle to heart, but the idea never really seemed to gain traction. In hindsight, however, I failed the team overall as a leader in these efforts.  How so?

From one team leader’s perspective that was shared with me later, some on the team felt that they were already giving 100%, and my “rah-rah” cheer for incremental 1% gains came across to them as a disrespectful misjudgment of their past efforts.  Among other things I could have done more effectively, I should have started by sharing the marginal gains principle with my leadership team before doing the all-hands presentation. This would have helped me to understand the leadership team’s thoughts and concerns as well as their recommendations about how to best introduce the principle and to apply it in our processes.

I believe that with the leadership team’s support, we could have established this as a key element of our culture to reinforce and live by going forward.

This was an important lesson learned for me personally and an opportunity lost for my business – but I hope that even one person reading this will have the opportunity to reconsider how they approach introducing such important ideas and changes to their company or team!

Marginal gains applied to business
British cycling team at the Bejing 2008 Olympics (Image courtesy of

What’s YOUR answer to the question “So, what do you do?”

“So, [insert your name], what do you do?”

How you answer this question will determine whether you succeed or fail in business, because most people don’t really care what you do!

They subconsciously want to know…
1. What can you do for me?
2. What do I have to do to get it?
3. How long will it take?
4. How much does it cost?

The Key to Successful Marketing
When you think about how to answer the “What do you do?” question, you MUST enter the conversation that’s taking place in the head of your prospects.

The conversation that’s taking place in EVERY prospect’s mind (their number one question) revolves around two major points…
1. There’s a problem they have and don’t want
2. There’s a result they want but don’t have

Your response to the “What do you do?” question should, in its simplest form, have a format similar to this:

I help 1. ______________ to 2. ______________ without 3. ______________.

1 = Your ideal customer/client
2 = What you can do for them
3 = Pain they want to avoid while getting it

For example, instead of replying “I’m an insurance broker,” an effective response could be “I help the people of metro Denver sleep well knowing that their family, their home, and their cars are totally protected from natural disasters and accidents.”

The key in responding to the “What do you do?” question is to highlight the favorable emotional response a consumer will achieve by using your product or service and the pain you’ll help them avoid by using it!

Vendor relationships: a key to business referrals!

It’s extremely important to build strong and productive relationships with your vendors; they can frequently be a source for referral work for new customers/clients and can play a valuable part in increasing awareness of your company branding.  Some of these relationships can become so strong and such an important part of your business that you will likely think of them as partners rather than as vendors!

The vendors/partners who work directly with you on your products and services are really the ones with the most to gain when you find success. By taking the time to get to know them, you’ll find a whole host of opportunities you didn’t realize were there.

Although they might sell their products and services to your competitors, making the sincere effort to strengthen your relationship with them will undoubtedly lead to referral work when other businesses ask them who they would recommend.

Also look for great ways to offer your vendors/partners rewards for helping grow your business – everyone wins with that approach to constructive relationships. One of ways you can do this is by offering performance based incentives that encourage them to want to ensure you succeed.

Here’s the step-by-step process to putting together a partnership with a vendor:

  1. Approach all the vendors you work with and offer an incentive based on performance.
  2. Put a generous incentive plan together from their perspective, even take suggestions.
  3. Develop a clear, concise and easy to track incentive plan – this will increase competition between vendors and therefore could produce higher performance levels.
  4. Encourage subsequent sales in a long-term relationship instead of focusing only on the initial sale. By doing this you can give away more of the profit from the initial sale to your vendors and make higher profits off the back end products.

Consider creating an incentive plan that’s irresistible to your vendors by offering generous, exclusive compensation.

Think of all the vendors you work with and the creative ways you can put together an incentive plan that entices them to be part of your business. Use their talents, capabilities and connections and you’ll both be winners!

Turning Prospects into Customers with Unique Offers!

Today I’d like to share concepts regarding how to use unique offers to turn prospects into customers and retain them for future marketing activities.  Including prospects and customers in your future marketing communications will help keep your business at “top of mind” for their next purchase decisions.  The right approach to your marketing and the right offers will turn those prospects into engaged customers.

There are number of unique offers you can use to help a prospect make progress through the “buyer’s journey” into becoming a customer:

  1. Offer a special price as an opportunity for them to try your product and/or service.
  2. Offer a lower price with the reason of pushing inventory to pay a tax bill, for your kid’s’ braces, or another tangible reason. Customers love that this makes you feel so much more human.
  3. Offer a referral incentive.
  4. Offer a smaller, more inexpensive product first to build trust.
  5. Offer package deals.
  6. Offer to charge less for their first purchase if they become a repeat customer.
  7. Offer extra incentives-longer warranties, free bonuses if ordered by a set date.
  8. Offer financing options, if applicable.
  9. Offer a bonus if they pay in full.
  10. Offer special packaging or delivery.
  11. Offer “name your own price” incentives.
  12. Offer comparative data or other comparison tools.
  13. Offer a trade-up or upgrade to something they already have.
  14. Offer additional, educational information to help them make the decision.
  15. Offer “idea guides” demonstrating your product and/or services in use.

The options really are as limitless as you make it. You can use these or other ideas to find what works the best for your business, products/service and target market. Remember this…

“By making it inviting, easy, informative, non-threatening, educational, inspiring and fun to do business with you, you’ll loft your company above the competition.” Jay Abraham

Need help with figuring out the best strategy for converting prospects into customers? Our FREE test drive gives you exclusive access to a mountain of resources and tools.  I’d be happy to give you a personal “tour” of our E-Learning Marketing System for you to try out!

Direct Response or Bust!

Direct response marketing is marketing that demands – did you guess it? – a direct response from your potential customers. This type of marketing is used to answer questions, present your branding, products and the reason you do what you do. Customers love this, as they are offered the opportunity to respond, whether that be in the way of signing up for a newsletter, posting a comment on your site or blog, or purchasing a product from you.

Direct response marketing is designed to encourage an immediate response by inviting prospects to take a specific action. The goal of direct response marketing is to generate leads quickly. In contrast, traditional marketing’s objectives including raising brand awareness and taking a long-term approach to promoting a brand’s image. Direct response, however, is focused on showing a return on investment immediately.

An effective direct response campaign will have a specific goal — to get prospects to sign up, share with contacts, register, etc.— and, in exchange for taking that action, the campaign will provide prospects with a compelling and irresistible offer.

So, what does direct response marketing look like? Well, it comes in many forms, including:

  • Direct mail
  • Print ads
  • Radio and TV ads
  • Coupons or other incentives
  • Telemarketing

Some of the advantages of direct marketing are:

  • A great way to use free time during lulls in business
  • Productive way to communicate and empower you to create more relationships
  • Great way to up- and cross-sell to current customers
  • Low cost way to rustle up new business
  • Used as leverage to turn small sales into large sales
  • Supplement your current marketing program
  • Cost-effective way to reach target markets
  • Offers measurable results
  • Reach outside your local area for new business
  • Increase the effectiveness of your sales force

These are all great things that can come from just taking a few simple steps to putting together a direct response marketing plan and executing it.

“I honestly don’t think you’ll ever find a safer, lower-risk, higher-profit method of increasing your business or profession than direct-response marketing.”  – Jay Abraham

Direct response marketing is one of the best ways to launch your business on a large scale and reach out to everyone in your target market whether they are in your local area or not. Take a FREE test drive of our E-Learning Marketing System – loads of awesome content that can help you put together a great direct response marketing plan and get you on your way to heightened success!

Kick Start Your Marketing

Today I’d like to teach you about the three most important start up marketing tools you need to get and keep new customers.

  1. In person: It’s essential you meet with customers/clients in person whenever possible. This shows you respect them and take the time to work with your clients to give personal attention to each of them.
  2. Follow up letter: Always take a moment to send a follow up letter about what you talked about, new agreements or partnerships made and to thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Likewise, you should always send thank you letters or small gifts to partners you find success with.
  3. Phone call: Use a telephone call to follow up with them to talk again about the matters you talked about in your meeting and offer any assistance you can to help their business run smoothly and more successfully.

None of these will work if you don’t have a quality product/service to back you up!

Here are the key steps for putting together your start-up marketing tools:

  1. Research potential customers, buyers, competitors and their preferred methods of distribution.
  2. Talk to potential customers. Take a hard look at your product from a customer’s perspective and see what it needs to be successful.
  3. Follow up with your 3-step process from above.
  4. Develop systems for contact follow through, quality control standards and customer service.
  5. Develop post-sale follow up system to keep lines of communication open is customers and build on your current relationship which increases future purchases.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs” Peter Drucker, management consultant

Here’s another one I love from an icon:

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company

This lesson has offered you the tools to put together a start-up marketing plan that can be used over and over again to help your customer base and business grow in a manageable way.

Stop Wasting Your Resources!

Today you’re going to learn how to find a target market of potential customers so you aren’t wasting precious resources on blitz marketing. So, the two questions you have to ask yourself are:
  • What do people really want to buy from me?
  • What related products are they already buying?
Once you figure this out you will know who is more predisposed to purchase your products/services. Then, you find other businesses with the same customer base who you can customer share with. Come up with an incentive and great arrangement to encourage both of your customer bases to shop at both of your stores. The basic concept is this: You want to find existing businesses who have the customer profile that you are looking for to market your products/services to. Then strike up a relationship with those business owners to work out an incentive for customers to purchase from both businesses. As a result, you have an audience to market to and they generate an added value from their current base. So, how do you figure this out? There is a great formula from Jay Abraham you can follow with great success. LV = (P x F) x N – MC Here’s what it all means:
  • LV is the life time value of a customer
  • P is the average profit margin from each sale
  • F is the number of times a customer buys each year
  • N is the number of years customers stay with you
  • MC is the marketing cost per customer (total costs/number of customers)
Once you know how much you need to spend to attract a new customer, you will know how much of an incentive you can offer to a business to help attract new customers. So, here’s your step-by-step process:
  1. Find companies who already have the customer base you are looking for.
  2. Negotiate an incentive for them to share that customer base with you.
  3. Focus your marketing resources to this group of predisposed customers.
If you need help working through this process, please contact us and we’ll set you up with the most comprehensive system of marketing tools and resources.

Educate Your Customers

Educate them about what, you may be thinking. Well, consider this, many businesses focus solely on attracting new customers, but you NEED to spend a good chunk of your time retaining current and former customers. These are people you already know to be a good sales potential…they’ve already bought from you!

Take the time to market and sell new products to your old customers and less time trying to sell old products to new customers and you will see a drastic change in your sales, customer quality and branding position.

Here are a couple of key elements to use to retain your current customers:

  1. Stay in contact: This means by phone, email, e-newsletter, in person-by pigeon if you have too!
  2. Post-Purchase Assurance: This means you need to follow up with customers. Your customers need to feel like they are being supported for their purchase and with the item they purchased. How many times have you purchased a product, then felt completely abandoned? Something as simple as a Thank You note with your contact or customer service information can go along way in retaining a great customer.
  3. Deals & Guarantees: Always offer your current customers the best deals and guarantees you have. Show them you appreciate their business or even come up with a club specifically to reward loyal customers. You can also do this with a preferred pricing option.
  4. Integrity: Using good business practices and simply upholding integrity, dignity and honesty go along way with customers. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of swindling and crap out there and the safer and more confident you make your customers feel, the more they will trust you and that makes for an amazingly supportive and loyal customer.

There are three cornerstone ideas to a successful business:

  • Quality product/service
  • Offering useful products/services that solve a problem for or enhance the life of a customer
  • Offer subjects your customers find interesting

Use this approach of educating your customers and offering them real information and insight and you will be rewarded with loyalty and success.

Stop wasting all your time on new prospects while your current customers fall by the wayside!

As Jay Abraham says, “Your best prospects are your existing customers. If you’ve been putting all your marketing efforts into acquiring new customers, stop and diverts some of your resources into reselling, upselling, cross-selling to those same customers. In every ways possible – through package inserts, regular mailings, special offers – stay in touch with those customers and get them used to buying from you.”

So, there it is! Remember, we can help you put together the resources and tools to do exactly that. We can help you educate your customers and you can watch the benefits pay offer many-fold.

Lessons I Learned from Paris Hilton

Today we’ll talk about shameless self-promotion. That’s right, I said it! Shameless! After all, we are learning from Paris Hilton here.

It’s all about self-promotion! Self-promotion comes in many forms and you can use different tactics to get your name out there. Look at politicians! Talk about self-promotion and in some not so discreet ways, at that. But, seriously, consider some of the major superstars we all know. Madonna, Donald Trump, Howard Stern and Bill Clinton, just to name a few.

We all self promote. Did you raise your hand in class to show the teacher you knew the answer? Of course! That’s self-promotion. This is the kind of self-promotion we are talking about. With dignity, class and the knowledge to back it up. If you self-promote only to prove you don’t really know what you’re talking about, you’re going to lose business.

Natural self-promoters are the former and I want to tell you about the three major traits they have and use to build themselves and their businesses.

  1. The first is position. You need to position yourself around people who can make a difference in your life. You need to do this frequently. You need to wake up every morning and ask yourself “Who can I meet today who will make a difference in my success?” In fact, go a step further, write it in big, bold letters and tape it on your bathroom mirror.

Also consider:

Who can help me meet my goals?

Is it a prospective customer/client? A colleague with contacts? An association with key members who may become prospects?

Don’t settle into interacting with the people who are the easiest to access. You need to reach outside your comfort zone and there you will find a wealth of new connections that will bring you great success.

  1. Now, let’s talk about Style. No, this doesn’t mean you need an Armani suit to bring in more business (though, let’s be honest-it wouldn’t hurt) ☺ What this really means is how are you different from your competitors and others in your industry. What makes you memorable with customers?

If you are meeting a lot of people and they don’t remember you once you leave the room, you have a serious problem! This means you have an opportunity to present yourself in a more memorable way.

There are lots of little subtle changes you can make. Reassess your:

  • Business cards
  • Company message
  • Your picture
  • Your wording

Maybe even, your hairstyle (of course, now we’re back to the expensive suit, but it really works!)

You get the idea. There are lots of little ways you can work on making your image and business more successful. Also, consider how you sound on the phone and how you great people at meetings or other events. Think about your 30-sec elevator speech.

  1. The third trait of natural promoters is repetition. You can’t say it once and leave it at that. Successful self-promoters say it as many times as they need until they get a response. Would you remember a commercial for Coca-Cola if you only saw it once, no! You see it over and over and eventually you head out to the store.

You, also, have to make multiple impressions on those you are networking with in order to build brand awareness. Repetition is in direct connection with positioning. Once you find people to network with, reach out and find hundreds more who can help in your success as well.