Keep Your Business Nimble

Jack is Nimble - Jack is quick!
Jack is Nimble – Jack is quick!

One of the biggest benefits that we, as micro business owners, have over large businesses is the ability to be flexible and to change quickly.  We can respond to market changes and trends.

We can change something, test it to see if it works, and if it doesn’t, change it again.

If you’re an online business, as I am, you can make changes daily on your webpages.  If you get a great price on something or a new item comes in, you can tell your customers about it immediately on your website or by sending out an email message.

Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth tells us that “the difference between great people and everyone else is that great people create their lives actively, while everyone else is created by their lives, passively waiting to see where life takes them next.  The difference between the two is the difference between living fully and just existing.”

The same statement can be applied to our businesses.  We can wait as the economy and our customers determine where we’ll go next or we can get off our duff and take charge.  We can exist or grow our business to its maximum capacity.

Regardless of what kind of business you’re in, there are only four ways to grow that business:

  1. Get new customers
  2. Increase the dollar amount per transaction
  3. Increase the number of transactions per customer
  4. Increase the length of time your customer stays loyal to you.

One of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make is focusing their entire energy on getting new customers.  Not only does this cost more than keeping existing customers, but it takes more effort because you have to be constantly looking for new ones to replace the ones you lose.

The other three options depend on your staying in touch with your customers on a regular basis and ALSO on continuing to think of reasons for that customer to buy from you either more often or spend more when they do buy.  Creating systems (something I’ll discuss in a later post) makes it much easier to stay on top of this and make it work effectively for you.

For example, you sell a baby gift.  Contact the sender 11 months later and suggest sending a one-year-birthday gift.  Your Realtor customer orders a closing gift.  Suggest that they stay in touch with their customers (and get those listings and referrals) by sending a six-months gift and a one-year-anniversary gift.

Add-on gifts can increase the dollar amount for a transaction.  Think outside the box and look for new and different products that they “simply can’t resist.”  Or how about creating a Costumed Delivery for an extra charge.  A jolly leprecon could deliver a St. Patty’s gift.  Santa or one of his elves could make those Christmas deliveries.  Or, if you’re one of the fortunate few who can carry a tune (and that’s not me!), provide a singing delivery service.

Being a micro-business is what enables us to be Creative Gift Entrepreneurs.  So put on your creative thinking cap and think of some ideas that would enable you to be nimble and test some new and different marketing ideas.  And while you’re at it, share some of those ideas with us.  Just click on “comment” below and share.

Concerned about your customer’s budget?

llbeancatalogOne of the most valuable things that I have learned through the years is to study what other industries are doing and see how their successes can be applied to my industry.  Today’s tip isn’t from the gift basket industry.  It’s from L.L. Bean.  Now, just in case you are one of the few that aren’t familiar with this company, it is one of the leading catalog companies that sell outdoor clothing and gifts.

Now most of us, as small micro businesses, don’t have the funds to print full-color slick catalogs of the L.L. Bean quality but we can perhaps swipe an idea that the company used in a letter from the company’s President/CEO to its customers.

The letter begins “Today while many familes are looking for ways to stretch their budget, they’re often challenged to make the difficult decision between quality and price.  At L.L. Bean, we’ve never offered a choice — we’ve always insisted on both.”  He then refers to what he calls “Bean Value” items — many of which are customer favorites–whose prices haven’t gone up in price in years.  In some cases, the prices have actually gone down.  “We’ve never played games with prices — in good times or bad,” he continues.

I’m not suggesting that you copy this letter but to use the basic idea to reassure your own customers that you are concerned about their budget and to tell them what you are doing about it.

Add your comment telling us what you are doing to reassure your own customers.

Expression Web Giveaway – A marketing idea to copy

Sometimes we stumble upon marketing ideas in unexpected places.  Even if they are in no way involved in our own industry, they can be molded and used within our business.  I get lots of marketing emails from lots of people trying to sell me something, but my email yesterday contained one that caught my attention enough to read rather than to just hit the delete key.

Many of us create our own websites using either FrontPage, Dreamweaver, or Expression Web.  Pat Geary and Tina Clarke, owners of the website www.frontpage-to-expression.com , provide a wealth of information for FrontPage users who want to migrate to Expression Web.  If you have any interest in learning how to use Expression Web to create a website, this site is one that you should visit.

But back to this marketing idea. . . the two ladies have created a giveaway with prizes that any user (or potential user) of Expression Web would love to win.  All you have to do is write about the giveaway on Facebook, a blog, etc. and let them know about it.  Some lucky writers will be the lucky winners of the great prizes. 

This is my entry because I would love to win any of the awards but also because I think they provide outstanding information to anyone interested in the program.  I’ve made it a practice to never recommend something that I wouldn’t use myself and this is not an exception.

Now that I’ve encouraged you to enter that giveaway, let me also suggest how you might use a similar idea to market your own business.  People love FREE.  They love the opportunity to win something.  And they rarely hesitate to enter their name in a contest that is giving away something they want.  But what makes this marketing technique different is that you have to tell others about their product if you want to win it.  In other words, you give to receive. 

Some gift basket companies have a monthly drawing for a free gift basket in order to collect email addresses.  Why not make those entering your contest work a little bit for it?  Enter their names in your drawing if they mention your business on Facebook or write something about you in an ezine or newsletter or blog.  That giveaway gift basket (and you could make it even more enticing by adding a few other simple prizes) then provides a return on your investment.  And isn’t this what marketing is all about?

So go check out their giveaway at Expression Web Giveaway and create your own marketing campaign.

Is Your Marketing as Effective as Santas?

One of my favorite blogs is written by New Zealand blogger Sean D’Souza and this particular blog entry is a  perfect reminder for all of us at this time of year.  By the way, his blog and website is a wealth of marketing information. You’ll find a link to it at the end of this article.

Why Santa’s Marketing Works Better Than Yours!

santa8 santa13santa14

Santa Claus Inc. is well and profitable, right through recessions, depressions and just about any economic scenario. The reason why his marketing strategies work better than yours, is because he uses solid, dyed-in-the-wool psychology. He knows he doesn’t have to use new fangled techniques, when his simple marketing has stood the test of time.

If you don’t believe in Santa, you’d better change your mind, because the fat man from the north pole rocks on and you too can do the same if you stick to the basics. Find out if your product or service matches up by reading the article below.

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All the Way…
If you go to the heart of Santa’s marketing, the one word you come away with is ‘consistency’. Generation after generation have been exposed to one brand, one message, and the same powerful imagery.

Just like Mercedes own the term ‘luxury’ and Volvo owns the term ’safety’, Santa owns the word ‘hope’. Every kid worth his Nintendo, hopes he’s got enough points on the goodness scale to justify a mountain of gifts.

Yet, most companies get tired of their own brand. They chop, change and pour thousands (if not millions) of dollars into a bottomless pit of mindless change. Take a look at McDonald’s advertising, for instance. McDonald’s own the word family outing yet their ads have been straying down the teenager path.

Does It Make Sense To Consistently Occupy One Niche?

You bet it does! Families go out with their kids to McDonalds. These kids sprout into budget-conscious teenagers that hang out at McDonalds. They have kids and grandkids and guess where they all end up. At the big yellow ‘M’, that’s where!

Santa doesn’t waver. His customers are kids. Like several marketers, he might have been sorely tempted to enter the gift market. With bad advice, he would have tried to get to teenagers, adults and everyone. Can you see the magic still working? Even the tiniest of niches is huge and niches have a way of expanding by themselves.

At the end of the day, it’s the consistency that takes the jingle all the way to the bank. Too many companies lose focus and give you seven reasons why you should buy from them. Santa sticks to one: Be a ‘good’ kid or you can keep hoping!

You Can Spot Him in the Middle of a Crowded Sky

Do you know anyone who comes to visit on a sleigh in the middle of the night? With reindeer and gifts? The reason why Santa stands out so vividly in our memories is because he’s different. The postman does the same thing, but leaves without the flourish.

It’s Really Important To Work Out How Your Marketing Message Differs
Santa’s core marketing term is not built solely on consistent branding but also on a very hard-nosed differentiation. Too much communication out there fits in with what’s safe. Customers have just one slot in their mind. You have to enter that slot at such an obtuse angle that they remember you for life.

Rose Richards runs Office Doctor. What sets her apart from all the rest of the administration crowd is the term, Small business pain relief. Can you imagine your reaction when you hear something like that?

The human mind is intensely curious and a marketing statement like that is pure bait. You want to know what pain relief she brings and how she goes about it-specially if you’re the one in pain. That’s only half the story. The construction of the message elevates her from simple number crunching to brain surgery and makes her unique.

If you want differentiation you need look no further than the guiding light of Santa’s sleigh– Rudolph, with his shiny nose. Can you even remember the names of the rest of the eight reindeer?

One very important point, however, is that the marketing message isn’t just different, but also customer-oriented. Rose takes the clutter out of administration and Rudolph provides a beacon for clearer navigation.

If you don’t have a benefit for the customer, just being different is going to get you nowhere.


Give and You Shall Receive

How many of you are out there networking like crazy? Trying desperately to fill in your steadily depleting bank reserves? You want, want, want! Take a look at Santa’s style.

He’s into giving first. If you probe deep into your mind, you’ll find the people you like best are those who have given you their time, their money or their knowledge. You trust them, and it’s very hard to say no when they ask you for a favour in return.

The deepest core of human emotions is fear. Every single product or service, without exception, is sold on the basis of a problem. The only known antidote to fear is TRUST. When trusts struts upwards, fear banishes itself to penguin land. The more you pile up the trust, the more you can do business.

Wouldn’t Santa be able to sell you just about anything? Would he be able to cross-sell and up-sell product? Santa could knock on your door next summer and you’d be more than happy to have him join your barbeque.

It’s up to you to build up the trust one Lego block at a time. Identify your clients and see what you can give them. It could be information, time or even a chocolate covered scrumptious cookie. It’s the old ‘What’s in it for me?’ theory. If you can’t find something calorie-ridden for their minds or bodies, they won’t want to see you.

Play Santa. It works.
He Knows if You’ve Been Bad or Good…

Heck Santa knows his customers. He even knows when you are sleeping, or awake.

Then, there’s you. Look at your biggest customer. What’s her name? When is her birthday? Does she like Indian curries or sushi? In curries can she handle hot or medium? What does she think about you? What doesn’t she like?

You’re guessing for sure. You can’t be dead certain because you’ve been so busy looking at dollar signs that you’ve missed the plot completely.

The reason why Santa’s marketing works is because he intimately knows your individual needs. If you want a drum kit, you get one. If you want a Barbie, you don’t end up sulking with a xylophone.

Santa knows because he’s interested in giving. To give, you have to know exactly what the receiver wants or your gift is not worth the packaging it’s wrapped in.

Some people worry about invading personal privacy. Hogwash! When was the last time you got upset because a supplier turned up with a big chocolate cake (your favourite) for your birthday? or with rare stamps for your son (because he loves collecting stamps)?

Santa’s invades our privacy gently and uses it to give, not to take. That’s why we don’t mind it. The tax department on the other hand, uses our information to take and therein lies the principal difference.

Once a Customer, Always a Customer.

Santa Doesn’t Lose Customers. Period.
One of the primary reasons why he’s able to achieve this amazing feat is because he thinks of his customer’s customer. His customer is the kid, who in a few years gets a little wiser about Santa and his customer’s customer is the parent who has the amazing power to get their children to be nice not naughty, if only for a short while.

Since the concept works in their favour, they do all the advertising. Without TV, radio or the internet, Santa’s message gets a grip on millions of kids around the planet. These kids grow up and the marvel of Santa is handed down through the generations.

While It’s OK For Santa, How Would This Work In The Real World? Say, If You Sold Jeans.

Jeans West, a jean retailer, has several of the answers. I needed one pair, but Stephanie (the sales girl) sold me two–not by hassling me, but by gently reminding me I would get $20 off the second pair.

Then, with my purchase, she gave me a gift voucher of $10, for my use or to pass on. They, also signed me up for a loyalty program that offered to give me a 10% discount if I purchased over $250 worth of product in the next 6 months.

This Is Effectively What Jeans West Did to Make Me a Permanent Customer.

Step 1: The sales person asked the right questions to find out my need.
Step 2: She up-sold the product giving me good value for money.
Step 3: A gift voucher with a validity date, ensured an additional purchase. Or even better, the chance for me to pass it on to another person thus ‘creating a customer’ for Jeans West.
Step 4: Tying my fickle consumer head into a loyalty scheme. They wanted me to stay with them forever.

Santa’s steps may vary, but in essence he ties you into a solid loyalty program that is near impossible to get off. It’s ‘customer get customer’, rather than ‘advertising get customer.’ It’s cheaper and it works!

In conclusion here are the main points why Santa’s customers keeps coming back. These concepts may sound old, even trite, but have been proven time after time to work well. Test them against your company and brand to see where you can learn from the man from the North Pole.

1) Solid branding: We’re not talking lease here. Consistency is the key. This applies everywhere from networking meetings, advertising to any sort of communication that goes out. Keep hammering home the same unique message and put it up front. The weather changes all the time which is why we can’t trust it.

If you must change, it’s because your old message isn’t doing a complete job. I changed our first baseline from ‘Recession proof business principles’ to ‘Reactivating dormant business clients.’
The proposition was the same but the second line got 10 times the response.

2) Differentiation: Santa knows he can be a courier with a difference. You, too, can create your own legend. Nike used Just Do It. Coke threw in the concept, Rum and Coke, indelibly burning the word classic into our consciousness. Sameness is in your mind. No matter how many brands exist on the market, your product has a fingerprint of its own. You just have to dig deep to find out.

3) Build trust by giving first. Life is all about sowing, then reaping-but sowing comes first. If you don’t give first, you will only get limited results. The more you stop thinking of yourself and focus on what the customer needs instead, the more you are trusted. Business is all about trust. If you don’t have it, you’re yesterday’s soup.

4) Know your customer… Like you know the hair on your head. Data collection and its optimum usage will get you right into their minds and keep you permanently rooted in. Every time they see you, they should think you are Santa coming to town.

5) Reactivate dormant clients.  They are all volcanoes. Sitting there with the power to erupt mightily. Figure out who they are and how you can work in tandem with them. Forget your product or service. That’s a given– It has to be good. Find out the ‘everything else’ factor and you will keep them for life.

Like Santa does…

 

©2001-2009 Psychotactics Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Article written by Sean D’Souza.
Wouldn’t you love to stumble upon a secret library of small business ideas. Find simple, yet electrifying ideas,on website strategy, marketing strategies, copywriting, public speaking, article marketing, sales conversion, psychological tactics and branding. Head down to http://www.psychotactics.com today and judge for yourself.

Marketing and Promotion — Do you have an idea file?

A question to ask yourself each night is:

 What have you done to promote your business today?

Other valuable questions are: 

  • What did you learn today?
  • What new promotion did you hear about this week that you could adopt or adapt for your business?
  • What technique did you read about that could make your business more efficient?
  • What new website did you hear about that can help your business?

Rick Siegel, a master at retail selling, suggests creating an idea book.  This is something I have been doing for years but I have called it a swipe file.

You can use a file on your computer, buy a notebook just for the “idea file” purpose, or set up a folder in your filing system or even use all three methods.  Each and every time you read or hear something that you could use and adapt, add it to your “idea file”.

 I collect ads, from every kind of publication ranging from the daily newspaper, the Wall Street Journal and even AARP magazine, that trigger an ah-ha moment.  Looking through this file, ideas are generated for headlines, graphics, and even descriptions.  It’s like having more brains than my own working together to create effective marketing materials.

For example, an ad that I cut out of the Wall Street Journal several years ago was something about an investment company not being a cookie-cutter company.  I took the idea from my “swipe file” and created an ad with a graphic of a gingerbread man and the headline “Creative Gifts To Go is not a cookie-cutter gift business.”

Try an “idea file” for yourself.  I think you’ll be surprised at how helpful it can be