Thursday, July 28, 2005

"Provide Value, Be Unique, & Win Customer Loyalty"

Working with new inexperienced business owners, I find at times the expectation of their success rests all to high on the simple idea that if they can just get their doors open, and have products on their shelves, the customers will come. They believe that with a little advertising, they wont be able to keep the shelves stocked fast enough.

And unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

You can advertise all you want, but if the customer doesn't see a unique difference from where they're already shopping, you've wasted your time and money.

In today's consumer driven society, one must do something unique and provide value to the customer. Many stores sell the same types of products. All pet stores sell dog treats. All hardware stores sell hammers. All sporting goods stores sell fishing poles. Get my point?

To stand out from the competition, you must provide some sort of customer perceived value.

The easiest way to provide your customer with value is to be unique in some fashion. In fact - this is sometimes the ONLY way to become the leader in a commodity type business.

To give you an example, when I go to buy a bag of ice, I buy a bag of ice from whatever store is closest. Its very hard to perceive an extra amount of value from one bag of ice to another, worth driving out of the way for. If there is two brands of ice when I get there, I then go for the cheapest bag. After all, Ice is Ice. Right? This is the problem with commodities.

One way to add value to the commodity would be to offer a 10-20% larger bag of ice than the competition for the same price, and boldly state it on the bag's label. Another might be to set up a give-away for tickets to a ball game when you type in the UPC label on their website.

Those are just a few examples that would lead me to buy that bag of ice EVERY TIME over the other bag. You might even be able to charge a bit more (eliminating you from the price-wars) for your bag than your competitors if the label really draws in the customer. Who would you rather be, the business selling your bags of ice, or the business being passed up because you sell no extra perceived value?

Commodities aside, as I said before, all businesses now-days must provide something unique or some extra amount of value somehow.

We, at RMI, provide value in the following manor.

A) We offer an un-heard-of guarantee. "We guarantee we'll surpass your expectations or we will continue to work for free until we have. Period."

B) We provide person to person service, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

C) We never outsource production work like many other marketing firms. This way we aren't acting as "the middle man", and it helps keep our prices low and profit margins up.

D) We offer free services and counseling by speaking at non-profit organization run seminars (like those by SCORE), and by writing articles for columns and blogs like this one.

Find a way you can set yourself apart from the competition and tell everyone about it in your marketing materials. Remember it doesn't help a soul if no one knows about the unique value your company provides!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"If You've Never Done it Before, Find a Mentor!"

Have you ever noticed kids ask a lot of questions? It really has nothing to do with their age, but more to do with the fact that they know less than the average adult. They're curious. They want answers. They crave knowledge.

As we age in life, many people tend to ask less and less questions, because their independence has taught them "all they need to know." They begin teaching others, practicing their knowledge in their field, working hard, and get caught up in the day to day activities of life. The few things they do need to learn at times, they usually can find by researching on their own. This is fine if what you need to know is not very in depth, or you have the time to do a lot of research and / or the resources to make many mistakes in which you can learn from.

There is a short cut out there, but we all seem to forget it once we hit puberty. Just ask someone who's "been there, done that."

If you've never owned your own business, if you've never put together a marketing plan, if you've never put together a business plan, why not find someone who has and ask them?

Believe it or not, there are many FREE resources out there. You do not have to pay a consultant to come in and set your business up for you.

I'll be happy to answer any marketing questions I can via email or you can find another business owner / counselor in your area.

SCORE, a national based organization offers counseling services free of charge, and they have offices all over the country! Even if you don't live near their offices, or you don't feel like going in, they'll match you up with a counselor via email to answer any questions you might have.

Check them out on the web at:

Sunday, July 24, 2005

"50 Successful Selling Habits"

Marketing is supposed to do one thing, lead a prospect to a purchase. A basic understanding of sales is necessary then to produce good marketing results. It takes more than just bringing the customer in, you still have to make the sale.

Here are 50 selling habits that when practiced often will create win/win situations for your clients and your wallet.

1. Be Enthusiastic
2. Keep Records of your contacts, calls, presentations, and sales
3. See 4 to 5 people per day - Make the call!
4. Practice Public Speaking (Join a club or take a class)
5. Have an organization day and plan the week ahead
6. Join the 6 O'clock club, get up early, and get more done during the day
7. Find out what your customer wants and help them get it
8. Ask questions to lead the interview... then ask more questions... and later more questions
9. Put YOU in the interview
10. Set Appointments and work by them (it shows you value your customer's time)
11. Assume the close before the sale
12. Prepare and do your due diligence before the interview
13. Express your opinion with "Dont you think..." or "Don't you feel..." (so its their idea)
14. Find the Basic Need, or main point of interest and stick to the point
15. When coming across an objection - ASK WHY!
16. After their answer, ask is there anything in addition to that? (this might reveal the real objection)
17. Be an Active Listener
18. Stop Talking if no one is listening and wait out the silence (let them talk first)
19. Look into their eyes and deserve confidence if you want them to be confident in you
20. Keep Learning, read, listen to audio tapes, and go to seminars
21. Praise your Competitors
22. Tell the Truth
23. Call a Witness for a direct testimony
24. Look your Best
25. Convince them sincerely you are their friend
26. Get them to Confide their greatest ambition
27. Ask how they got started in their business
28. Use their Name
29. Smile!
30. Take an Impression of their face and name, Repeat the name, and Associate it with a picture so not to forget it
31. Don't talk to much - your ears learn about their needs, not your tongue
32. When you are scared or nervous admit it!
33. Take a Natural, Sincere, Honest Approach
34. Sell the Interview before you sell the product
35. Build Raport and talk about their hobbies
36. Develop a Questionnaire and keep them from each of your sales interviews
37. Love the Secretary - she is the key to your appointment
38. Write Out the Presentation and read it until you know it - welcome criticism
39. Have the customer do the math
40. Dramatize! and Demonstrate (better yet, let them demonstrate it for you)
41. Never Forget a customer and never let them forget you
42. Ask for Referrals
43. Appreciate any referrals by calling back the person who gave it to you regardless of the referral's outcome
44. Save Closing Points for the close
45. Summarize the Benefits before you close (better yet, let them summarize the benefits)
46. Make Sure you Follow the Sequence: Get Attention, Interest, Desire, then Close
47. Ask How they like it
48. Close: Sign Here X ___________________________
49. Get a Deposit - even a few dollars will instill ownership for the product
50. Get the Next Appointment or permission for the next appointment

I urge you to take a few from the list, your weakest points or something you've never tried before, and practice them one at a time. Every week rotate into a new initiative until you reach the beginning of your list and then repeat. If you're afraid always remember:

When someone has courage it doesn't mean that they're not afraid, it simply means they know how to conquer their fears.

Friday, July 22, 2005

"Define Advertising Objectives"

Every ad and every adverstising campaign should have clearly defined objectives. It isn't enough for the marketing manager to just say "promote the product," they must decide exactly what advertising should do. Advertising objectives must be more specific than personal selling; each ad must be effective for not just one, but thousands of customers.

Here are 7 specific advertising objectives:

1) Help position the company's brand or marketing mix by informing and persuading target customers or middlemen about its benefits.
2) Help introduce new products to specific target markets.
3) Help obtain desirable outlets and tell customers where they can buy a product.
4) Providing ongoing contact with target customers, even when a salesperson is not available.
5) Prepare the way for salespeople by presenting the company's name and it's merits.
6) Get immediate buy action.
7) Help maintain relationships with satisfied customers, confirm their purchase decisions, and encourage more purchases.

Think about the best way to accomplish these objectives when you are designing your next advertising campaign.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Free Trade Magazine Subscriptions

Here's a great site that provides tons of trade magazine subscriptions, for FREE. There are several on sales and marketing - and plenty of others in a variety of fields.

Monday, July 18, 2005

"A Very Cheap Way to Insure Future Profits"

As you probably already know, marketing extends from trying to attract new customers to your business, to keeping good relations with the old ones. In fact, most people realize that it costs far less to get an existing customer to spend more money with you than it does to acquire a new one. Yet even though most people realize this, they are constantly spending more and more marketing dollars on attracting new customers, while they neglect the old. Don't neglect your current customers.

Customers who have purchased something from you in the past, can be your most guaranteed source of future income.

They already know you do good work and you've already established credibility. Here are some ideas to help keep your business name in the mind of your current customers.

• Send them a thank you note with a special discount for their next purchase.
• Send Christmas cards.
• Send Birthday cards.
• Keep a mailing list and send out a newsletter every so often letting them know of your company's new products or updates.
• Send out copies of newspaper articles or other PR you were recognized for.

Of course, you must brand these things with your company's logo so that brand recognition is burned into your customer's head, but try to hand - sign the letters, add personal touches with post scripts, etc.

It will cost far less in postage to send out a few things to your existing clients than it will in advertising dollars to acquire new ones. As long as you never let them go, you will slowly build and build your business one customer at a time, until eventually it snowballs your profits.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"Specialize, Don't Generalize"

Many business owners make the mistake of taking on a large and diverse workload of anything that comes their way. While this may help you make profits in the short-term the long-term implications can be disastrous. You must understand that the world is not your target market. Too often do businesses not focus on a niche for fear of losing a sale and waste time trying to sell everything to everyone. This will result in one of two things, burnout or bankruptcy.

You don't want your business to be good in many services, you want it to be great in one. If a client is looking at perspective companies to do business with which do you think looks better, the one that does the job among others, or the one who does nothing but that job. Specialization portrays you as an expert in the field and that gives customers confidence in you. Specialists command a higher pay rate and tend to have less competition.

Find your niche and ask yourself these five questions to determine your target market:
1) Who is your customer?
2) What does this customer need and want?
3) Where will the customer expect to find you?
4) Why will the customer choose you?
5) When is the customer likely to have this need?

Answer these and you can take your business to the next level.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Embroidered Polo Shirts & T-Shirts Starting at $8.50

What better way to market the fact that your company is professional. Create a uniform for your store-front employees, or for that up coming trade show. I can testify that their shirts are quality. We (RMI) use them for all our embroidered products. The Queensboro Shirt Company even offers a 10 year guarantee. Get great deals on the shirts starting as low as $8.50 through the link below:

Custom Embroidered Company Logo Shirts and Apparel by Queensboro

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

New Business Blog Directory

Here's a fairly new directory for small business blogs. If you have a blog pertaining to small business advice of any sort, add your site!