For most businesses I’ve encountered, the greatest improvement in marketing would simply be to start tracking your ROI. In other words, you need to know your cost/lead and cost/sale for each marketing project. I address this concept in detail in my blog on Scientific Advertising. Keep in mind that simply asking your customers “how did you hear about us?” can be somewhat futile (though it’s better than nothing). Michael Corbett suggests simply watching your sales to see if they go up with your current marketing or stay flat. To me that seems like a rather unscientific approach since that doesn’t tell you which marketing produced the results and there are more factors than marketing alone that can affect sales.
There are a handful of marketing books in my Recommended Reading section, in addition to My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, so I’m not going to directly address the difference between good and bad marketing. After all, no one knows exactly what will generate the best response until it’s tested and measured.
That being said, here are a few marketing pointers in addition to knowing your numbers:
- Have a Unique Selling Proposition that sets you apart from all of your competitors. In other words, create a niche only you can fill.
- Know and understand your target audience. You can have the best offer, and the best advertisement in the world, but if it’s directed to the wrong audience you’ll get zero results. Spend the most marketing time on getting your message to the right people!
- Keep a detailed customer database so you can cross-market constantly. If someone has bought from you once before, they are MUCH more likely to buy from you again. If you don’t have a database (or your not using the one you have) change that immediately!
- Offer a guarantee. If your products are either more expensive than most, or can’t be touched by the consumer prior to purchasing (such as with internet sales) you MUST have an iron-clad guarantee to assuage their fears. This must demonstrate that you’re the best and the customer has nothing to risk.
Since we’re looking for quick fixes, I’m going to stop the list there. If you do those things, you’ll notice results almost instantly.
On the sales side, you need to again, learn your numbers. Am I getting that point across fully yet? 🙂 Whether you realize it or not, in your sales cycle, there are many steps. Let’s take a retail clothing store for example. What are the steps a shopper takes?
- Window browsing – How do we get them to actually walk into the store? A lot of retailers put up blinds behind the window manequins so people have to actually walk in to see what else is available.
- Entering the store – How do we get them to spend time looking around? Depending on your clientelle, music can make a huge difference as to whether they hang around a while or not.
- Perusing certain racks or aisles – How do we get them to see the most we have to offer? Most retail stores put the clearance and discounted rack at the back so you have to walk all the way through to find the great deals.
- Trying clothes on – How do we get them to go to the dressing room? Keep in mind, people can only try on or buy as much as they can physically carry. Make it easy for customers to carry more with helpful sales associates and people will buy more. Paco Underhill addresses this in magnificent detail in Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.
- Buying – How do we get them to come back? Are we getting their name and email address for our database?
So why do we break that up into so many steps? Because if you don’t, you have no idea which steps you need to improve. I’ve heard of a retail store that learned that around 80% of people who try something on will buy it. So they didn’t work on directing people to the cash register, they worked on getting potential customers to the changing rooms.
Every business has a series of steps in their sales cycle. You need to learn and track each of those steps for your business and then systematically improve the conversion rate for each one.
That was a retail environment, so let’s consider a service based business. What possible steps do we have for them?
- Inquiry – via phone, web, or walk-in
- Service Pitch/Presentation – Are you skipping this step? If people call your plumbing business and ask what it costs to unclog a toilet, do you just tell them or do you first tell them why you are their best option with your guaranteed time, flat-rate billing, and professional staff?
- Price Quote/Estimate – Are you building value along with this quote (particularly if it’s in writing) to back up your pricing?
- Commitment to Purchase – If the commitment isn’t made immediately are you leaving them PLENTY of information to convince them you’re their best option? My business has a 24 page “leave-behind” packet for just such instances.
- Delivery of Service – Are you delivering exactly what you said? Particularly if you only get paid once your service is complete.
- Payment – Do you have simple payment options and are you asking for payment immediately upon completion so as not to tie up your office staff trying to collect money?
- Follow-up – Did you get their name, phone, address, and email for your database? Did you call or visit them again after completion to make sure they were completely satisfied? Did you ask for testimonials or referrals?
As you can see, there are a lot of steps in this process as well and at any step along the way you can lose potential clients. That’s obviously why tracking the number of customers who make it to each step is so important!
A couple of things you can do to help improve each step in the process:
- Have excellent training for each person involved in sales including detailed scripts, role-playing, and NLP training.
- Incentivize and develop some competition. People like to know someone else notices that they are the best at what they’re doing.
- Have an outside company shop your business and report back what they find.
- Record phone calls, conversations, and customer interactions (after checking with your lawyer of course) to look for opportunities for improvement.
- Provide on-hold and/or in-store marketing over the speaker system. I know the “blue-light” specials weren’t enough to save Kmart, but I’m not claiming that’s all you need to do for your business either. 😉
- Create your story portraying your commitment to customer service, quality, community involvement, and excellence. Make it available in your store, restaurant, business, and on your website. People love buying from places where they feel a part of something.
- Include testimonials everywhere! Put them in your store, on your website, in your marketing, on your thank you cards… heck, you can even put them on your receipts.
In my experience with over 100 small businesses, I don’t know of anyone, myself included, who is doing all of these things well. In my defense, I do know what I have to do and one-by-one I’m crossing them off of my list.
We’re on Part 4 right now so you should have quite a long To-Do list written down, right? If not, go get a piece of paper and a pen, review my last 4 blogs and start writing. After I post my last blog on this topice (Part 5) you’ll now have a complete list that you can prioritize and start addressing.
To your sales and marketing success, Bryan