Categories
Getting new customers Marketing

Looking for work?

I recently had conversations with a few different people about their need to find additional work and / or find additional clients. Some are software people, but others are in less well defined areas (soft skills, in at least one case). There seems to be no shortage of folks who are tense about where their next client is coming from, or their next gig. You might be in that situation or know someone who is. Let’s discuss a few topics that will help people know you’re taking on new clients, and also to help them point the right work in your direction.

Looking for *what* work?

When people mention that they’re looking for new clients or additional work, they often assume that everyone knows exactly what they do and for whom. This often isn’t the case. In many situations, the work and the money are substantially different for work that seems (to most) like “the same work”.

Take concrete work. You might specialize in concrete finish work, foundations, and footings. If so, it might be safe for people who know you to keep their eyes open for gigs that require concrete work, specifically involving new construction.

On the other hand, if you do “mudjacking“, you’re still likely working with concrete, but the skills and equipment needed to do your work are different from that of more mainstream concrete work. You’d be in demand from a different group of people (existing building owners vs. owners / general contractors doing new construction and additions). Seems obvious to you, but keep in mind that few people know and understand your business like you do. Be sure not to leave assumptions open.

We do concrete floors, foundations, slabs, and footings” is much different than “we help people whose foundations have major damage from cracks, shifting, and settling“, even though both involve concrete. You want to make it easier for people to notice and refer you for opportunities that fit the work you want to do.

What’s your ideal work?

Let’s refine that last thought a bit more. It’ll help people notice an opportunity for you if they know what you do. It could make a big difference if they know the kind of situation where your work shines. “I know a guy who does concrete” starts a different conversation than “I know someone who specializes in fixing that“.

The second answer is only likely to come up in conversation if you consistently make it clear what your superpower is. The fact that you have this superpower doesn’t mean you’re the only one with it. Nor does it mean that you’re the best in the world at it. It simply means that someone who needs the kind of work we’re talking about will be getting one of the best if they find you. It’s the kind of work you prefer, the kind you’re one of the best at, and the kind that you’d choose if and when you have a choice.

How do you make that clear? Be explicit about it in your advertising, in your email signature, on your truck, and in any mention of your business. I mention email signature because they’re present every time you email, regardless of the reason. I like is Dean Jackson’s “When you’re ready” technique.

Dean uses a short blurb at the end of his emails after his name, sometimes as a PS. It’s so simple that anyone can use it. “Whenever you’re ready, here are three or four ways I can help:” followed by simple statements of those ways. Not everyone is ready when they see an email from him, but every email is a low-pressure reminder that leaves no doubt how he can help when they are ready.

Who’s your ideal client?

It helps to get specific about your ideal client & the ideal situation for your help. It isn’t difficult to find companies struggling with team / manager issues, but “I work with companies who managers and teams who need help” doesn’t help us help you. Do you “fix” management teams? Do you help owners whose staff is unmotivated? Clarity is essential.

Everyone knows a company or family that needs some help, or has a problem to solve. People love to refer work, so make it as easy as possible to refer you – particularly when you’re the ideal match.

Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash

Categories
Direct Marketing Internet marketing Marketing Sales Word of mouth marketing

No one needs salespeople anymore

Last week, a digital marketer on LinkedIn proposed that he didn’t see a need for companies to have a sales function anymore.

Their comment: I am not sure why you need a ‘Sales’ function anymore. What purpose does it serve in the near future and beyond? The only function of a Sales person is to build a relationship to tip the odds on your side by way of finding customers, building a pipeline, anticipating, building trust, cajoling, impressing and negotiating a favorable transaction. Except for the cajoling part, all the others can and are bring enabled through automated, intelligent systems. And if your product is really good… you really don’t need to cajole anyone. I for one believe the ‘Sales’ function will soon become a vanity function. From car sales to home sales to software sales. There is absolutely no need for a dedicated ‘sales’ person. Unless you feel insecure about what you offer to the market.

I showed this to a friend, who responded, “They’ve never worked in enterprise software before, I’d guess.” – which was my first thought as well. It goes deeper than that, however.

Cajoling?

Regarding “Is sales becoming a vanity function?“, let’s examine that. That’s an odd question. Does anyone you know fluff up their ego by hiring “extra” salespeople? I’d guess not. I suppose that it’s possible that someone somewhere brags about their massive sales team (as opposed to their team’s performance?). It’s possible the idea is that having a sales team raises the cachet of the firm. To me, they exist for a reason: not all products & services sell themselves.

You probably remember a time when you dealt with an ineffective or poorly focused salesperson. I suspect most people have also worked with outstanding salespeople. Their experience & ability to analyze a prospect’s situation add significant value to a relationship. That’s really the difference.

A website can easily provide features & benefits. A series of appropriately timed, in-context emails, surveys, video and other digital content can address objections, guide a prospect through a “funnel” and change context depending on the prospect’s reaction. Automation can discern when a person is ready to buy based solely on things like the use of singular vs. plural responses. You can digitally create something between the company & their prospect that feels like it might be a relationship.

But it isn’t really a relationship.

Some products and services can be sold with little more than a digital storefront and inbound marketing. Not all products and services fit that mold. Some are too complex for most customers to select & configure on their own. Sometimes there’s a highly detailed process to making that happen. Not every business works that way – but many do.

“My product is good enough…”

My product is good enough that I shouldn’t need salespeople. It’s so good, should sell itself.” A naive statement. You might also hear it as “My product is good enough that I shouldn’t need to market it.

How many times have you suggested to someone that they go to this restaurant or that – and the person you’re talking to has never heard of it? The same goes for a contractor, a movie, a band… it doesn’t matter.

Has every person you’ve ever made a recommendation to responded with something like “Already tried them, they’re great.” If not, why would you expect that the same reaction would occur when someone recommends what you do?

What happens in the meantime when no one is referring your work? Maybe the customers who refer you the most have been discouraged lately. Maybe they’ve gone hunting, fishing, or skiing. Are they overseas for a month? Does it make sense to sit around & let sales and marketing “take care of itself” while waiting for the typical volume of referrals you get when those customers return? Is that what your competitors are doing to get new business?

Some businesses are better than others at generating referrals & create a process that makes it easy. Certain types of work is easier to refer. There are other kinds of work that few are likely to crow about because of the reflection it makes on the referrer.

It’s great that you have a product that’s so good that it sells itself or markets itself (whatever that means to you). That doesn’t mean you should sit on your hands & wait for business to waltz in the door.

Good salespeople make it rain.

Photo by Max Rovensky on Unsplash

Categories
Direct Marketing Email marketing Internet marketing

Moving the needle

I recently received an email from someone who creates marketing materials. They’re trying to expand their business and having some trouble. They’ve been approaching the top 100 companies in a particular niche after reviewing their website. The approach involves sending them an email specific to a perceived marketing-related need based on their website review. Unfortunately, the effort isn’t getting much traction. That’s why they approached me – to get some help guiding their efforts. They shared an example of the work they might create for someone. Bottom line: They’re trying to move their own needle by moving someone else’s. I have a few suggestions. Maybe they’ll help you too.

Who has the problem you can solve?

The top 100 companies in any broad national market are going to need a very compelling reason to give you any attention for any reason.

A company of this stature has a marketing team, a plan (hopefully), goals / desires, a budget (probably), and they think they know where they are going marketing-wise. Is there an experienced marketing VP or similar at the helm? Probably. Does their marketing team have a (presumably) well-thought out, strategic plan for “hitting their numbers”. I’m referring not just to achieving the lead and closed sale numbers they want.

Companies at this level worry (sometimes legitimately) about mind share, buzz, PR and other metrics that don’t necessarily reflect the quality of their ability to find a lead and convert them to a customer. They’re a top 100 nationwide company.

Is is possible their marketing team is working with a national media / advertising / marketing firm? Do you have experience working with teams like theirs? Do you have a track record of working with companies of their size and stature? You’re going to need to show them that you can play their game on their field.

This group can be difficult to win over. It’s likely that you’ve approached them about something that, while legitimate, may not be on their radar. This group is typically worrying about much bigger things than a tactical omission on their website, for example.

Suggestion: Rather than going after the top 100 companies nationally, identify a few of the best local companies that you’d like to work with. Perhaps they’re in the national market you’ve chosen. It’s much easier to find local companies that need marketing help. Start by focusing on a market you know best. If your skills help one “blow up” (in a good way), you’ll be in demand – and not just there. It will help you decide exactly who you want to be a hero to (and how). From there, it’ll be easier to head into national markets.

Are they mortally wounded?

What you’re missing in the top 100 market approach is identifying what they see to be a profusely bleeding neck wound. You need to identify something so bad that they’re almost embarrassed to talk about it.

What fatal mistakes are they committing? What about their process is so bad that they’re avoiding conversations about it with the owner or EVP? What are they having hand-wringing discussions about at the local watering hole after work? What marketing problems will senior management be grumbling about over dinner, at the golf course, or on the ski lift with other senior management types? Their perception is this: Problems of this nature aren’t going to be easily solved by someone who emails the marketing team about a tactical issue.

Identifying what’s perceived as a missing tactical item on their website is unlikely to generate any interest. Even if you’ve identified what you feel is a fatal mistake on their website, getting their attention will be difficult. These folks receive pitches regularly. Most of them are lazy, fill in the blank style pitches that do nothing but talk about the company doing the pitching. “We can be YOUR (whatever). We’re experts in this, we’re experienced at that” and so on. There’s no conversation about the desired client, their business, or their problem. There’s certainly nothing about the solution that would make them say “These people totally get what we’re struggling with. CALL THEM NOW!”

I realize these aren’t the problems you proposed to solve, but they’re the problems that team is focused on. The profusely bleeding neck wound demands attention.

Suggestion: Choose people whose “marketing wounds” are severe and life-threatening. Show up with exactly the cure they need.

Go deep

Once you’ve identified a prospect, a generic B2B message won’t do. While many in your desired market have similar pains that seem ideal for a fairly generic message, such messages rarely get anyone’s attention. Each of these businesses think their business is totally, completely unique. Hint: They almost never are, even if what they do or sell is unique. That doesn’t mean your message can treat them generically. The message that communicates your proposed solution has to be targeted carefully so that it doesn’t even remotely resemble the random pitches they’ve getting.

If you’re looking for more specific work, you need to dig a bit deeper. The more specific your proposed solution is to their problem, the better your chances. The better you’re able to demonstrate that you understand them, their market, and their struggle – the more likely they’ll be able to realize you’re the right one to help them. From your perspective, the work may be the same work for 10 or 100 of them. From theirs, that isn’t the case.

If you’re looking to help with their website – dig deep on their site. Sign up for whatever freebies and newsletters they have. Are they delivered as promised? Do they provide the information they promised? Do they communicate the message effectively? Do they compel action? Is the information in a format that’s ideal for the desired audience? Does it include options for people who consume visuals or audio better than text? Are those differences important for this audience? What’s missing? Is there a “bleeding wound”? Is there a “What’s next?” Is there a call to action? Is there a head-scratching disconnect? Do the various parts of their site, their emails and other opportunities to engage seem to fit together? If not, what would tie them together and make them work together to get the prospect what they need, make it easy for prospects to determine that whatever they sell is right (or isn’t) for them?

Ultimately, you have to look to them like the only person who really understands them and their problem. If you work hard enough to make them feel that way, you probably are.

Photo by Doruk Yemenici on Unsplash

Categories
Recurring Revenue Sales

Where subscribers hide: Pt 2

We talked last week about the benefit of being a little flexible with subscription offerings. The payoff is adding subscribers who might otherwise fall into the gaps between your offers. A key to increasing your subscribers are making it easy to buy. 

You want to make it super easy to buy. I mean E-A-S-Y. An example would help. Let’s talk about the wine store I mentioned last week. 

When resubscribing to the monthly wine selection, we had to re-enter every bit of personal info and card info. It’s tedious. It’s annoying when you know that info is already in their system. It isn’t E-A-S-Y.

How would you improve the process? Examine each step.

Re-entering the email address should have given us the opportunity to restart the subscription, or at least avoid re-entering a bunch of info. It’s possible the system was capable of this, but the salesperson pressed us to fill out the whole thing again. Thanks to a prompt on the screen, my wife asked about logging into an existing account in their system. She was told to ignore the prompt. Unfortunately, the CRM allowed her to create a new account with the same email address – without any warning like “we found an account for this email”.

Sidebar: Credit card data is very rarely stored locally in small retail these days, so re-entering that info isn’t terribly surprising. It should have been swiped or inserted into a chip reader – but that wasn’t an option. That there are still businesses taking cards without chip readers is disappointing – particularly given that this business has a reasonably new CRM / POS system. Security is important. Think about how you feel every time you hear of another credit card data breach. Now think about how you’d feel if the next breach happened at your business. Finally, consider how your customers would feel about you and your business after that event. 

The pause that refreshes 

One key to retaining subscribers is making it easy to resume. Resume? You can’t resume without the ability to pause. Few subscription plans have a pause button. 

A limited number of subscription plans provide the ability to pause your subscription. In plans where there is a consumable and/or deliverable product, like wine plans or subscription boxes, having a pause button can prevent losing a subscriber. Once you lose one, getting them back is real work. 

As an example, Audible (the audio book division of Amazon) allows you to pause your subscription. Sometimes, life doesn’t let you consume all the audio that your subscription provides each month (sounds like wine, eh?). Even before Amazon bought them, Audible recognized this and allowed you to temporarily pause your account. They understand that life happens or that their plans may not fit every person’s consumption model all the time.  

Don’t sell junk subscriptions

While not every business can be focused on subscriptions as their primary revenue source / sales mechanism – quite a few can be. Even if you sell something that doesn’t lend itself to a subscription model, it’s pretty likely that there is some component of the business that is ideal for subscriptions.

Subscriptions are great for businesses for a number of reasons. One of the best reasons is that they fill in the dips caused by things like seasonal markets & unexpected dips in sales. They add a certainty component to cash flow that many businesses have never had.

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like the idea of stable / consistent /  dependable / predictable cash flow. Most folks are keen to the idea of subscriptions when discussed in that context.

The thing is, they have to mean something to your customer. Watch a few commercials over the weekend and you’ll be inundated with offers for frivolous “monthly boxes of stuff”. Most of it is, quite frankly, crap no one needs. 

That’s what I mean by “don’t sell junk subscriptions”.  Sure, many of these companies are making big money selling them right now. Will they be around in five or ten years? Doubtful. Are they essential to their subscribers? No, they’re frivolous luxury purchases. They have many thousands of subscribers but their subscription base is fragile because of the nature of the product.

Make it meaningful & simplifying

Create your subscriptions from something your customers already need or want from you. A subscription should simplify their life, whether you sell to consumers or businesses. Sell them something they don’t want to forget, or that they should keep up with – but it’s tedious or a hassle to do so. It may not make sense for yours to be weekly, monthly, etc – but it may. Figure out what works and make becoming a subscriber a no-brainer purchase. 

Categories
Marketing Positioning

Compelling reasons to buy

One of the vendors I’ve used for the last 20 years or so recently shipped a new release. With that comes a close-to-$1000 invoice. As always, the discussion in the community of users of this tool is “Should I upgrade?” Some will upgrade because they think their failure to buy will somehow cause the company go out of business. Others buy because there’s something important in the new release that they need. The bottom line to me is: “What’s the compelling reason to buy?” I mention this because YOU need to give your buyers a compelling reason to buy. 

Whether you sell software, cars, gaskets, chainsaws, yachts, bow ties, or meat & meat by-products. Your chances of success are better when you meet someone’s needs and/or wants with a compelling offer. If you don’t, they’re as likely to do nothing as they are to buy what you sell. 

I tend to talk about software – or at least use it for context. Don’t let that throw you. Think about your product / market when I mention software.

What does compelling mean?

When trying to figure out what’s compelling about your product or service, try these angles:

  • What improvement will repeatedly save money / pay for itself?
  • What will save a substantial amount of time? An hour a week? 15 minutes a day? 5 minutes a day?
  • Does this new thing protect my work, make it harder for me to make mistakes, or streamline a process? 
  • Will it transform a particular outcome in a way that makes it faster, more dependable, or otherwise “better”? 
  • Is it smaller, bigger, faster, slower, or more efficient?
  • Has a long-standing flaw been fixed?
  • On a 38 degree evening in the middle of a blustery rainstorm, will it get you off the couch & into the car to go buy “the thing”, despite the fact that you’re watching the last 10 minutes of a close ballgame or your favorite movie?

If you aren’t sure what your customers find compelling about your product, ask. Even if you think you’re sure, ask. Every conversation you have with your customers about where they see the value is golden. They’ll tell you what others like them need & want. Best of all, they’ll use language that’ll resonate with those people.

What isn’t compelling? Guilt.

I don’t want them to go out of business.” or “I haven’t sent them any money in a while.

Did you ever make a sale because one of your customers worried that you’d close without them buying something? Has one of your customers sent you a check because they hadn’t sent you money in a few months or years?

Look, I get it. I find it hard to walk past the older Eastern European grandmas selling veggies at the Farmer’s Market without buying something. Call me a sucker for grandmas. Guilty as charged. Of course, then it’s back to the car to get the bag. Then you have to fill the bag… but I digress.

And sure, I’ll buy popcorn, candy, or coffee from a kid who comes to the door and musters up more nerve than many adult salespeople have in the last year – mostly because they’ll explain WHY they’re selling. Otherwise, buying out of obligation or guilt doesn’t resonate with me.

You might wonder why I feel that way in the context of all the things I write here about creating a community of your customers, building a relationship with them, if not a co-dependency, etc.

Easy.

Long-term customer success

Those things are focused on creating a better long-term experience for the customer. ALL of it is about serving the customer. Making things easy for the customer. Helping them find others like them so that together they can do more than they could individually.

While such things make life better for the company once they get momentum / critical mass, there’s a dichotomy. Until the customers get more value, meaning, fulfillment, productivity, etc – the company creating those relationships, community, etc gets little or nothing. Loving your customers and their success is an important part of such efforts. The long term benefits to your company come from curating that success of your customers. 

It isn’t that you’re making your customers become successful. You’re simply creating an environment where the ones doing the right things can find the people and tools they need to get more from their efforts. 

Categories
Automation Direct Marketing Marketing Uncategorized

Marketing automation won’t save you

We’ve talked about marketing automation on and off over the years. On any number of occasions, I’ve suggested that you use these tools because they can help you get things done that most businesses simply can’t (or won’t) get done any other way. That’s still true. Even so, it’s important to understand that buying and deploying marketing automation isn’t a cure-all. 

Adjusting expectations

Marketing automation firm ads like to imply that their tools are the reason that a company’s revenue, lead volume, etc are growing like crazy. One look at these lofty figures tempts you to dive right in, assuming that the automation is going to save your bacon. It won’t.

Some assert that their clients’ revenue has grown by xx percent and try to leave the impression that this happened simply because they turned on their software. Not quite. 

You need to understand why I say “It won’t” and “Not quite”, so let’s talk about what marketing automation can do, and what it won’t do. Having proper expectations is crucial. 

Marketing automation can and won’t…

Marketing automation is a great thing – particularly when used well. In my mind, the two best reasons to automate your marketing are to improve the consistency of delivery of your marketing message, and to learn what’s working.

It’s easy for a business owner to forget to send a sales email,  newsletter, postcard, or follow up email. If you use any sort of customer service software, you know exactly what I mean. Customer service software helps you stay on top of service requests. Result: customers and their needs don’t get forgotten in the chaos of a busy day. Ever gotten sidetracked and forgotten to email a particular group about an upcoming event or sale? The wrong time to figure out that you forgot to send email invites is when you see a small turnout at an event. Improved consistency of delivery makes a big difference.

If a vending machine takes your money and gives you nothing, you wouldn’t put another dollar in it. When you start receiving data proving that certain advertising gives you nothing in return… your decision is similar. You fix it, or you stop using it. Learning what works changes everything. It tells you where to spend and where not to spend. Marketing automation software is pretty good at making that easier.

Marketing automation won’t write emails for you. It won’t make your emails better (sort of – more on that later). It won’t put your marketing on autopilot. Autopilot implies “push one button, take a nap until it’s time to land the plane“. You DO have to set it up and regularly attend to it. However, it won’t make you manually sort through user lists, or deal with a number of manual tasks that none of us have time for. While it can automatically take action based on an event, you have to set that up. 

Do something. 

One of the benefits of marketing automation software is that it requires you to DO SOMETHING. When you spend money on something that can send emails at just the right moment, you have to have written and queued these emails. That’s not the same as looking at a fast approaching payroll date and semi-randomly rushing out a marketing email or calling someone to buy an ad (yes, it happens).

Likewise, while these tools can post to social media for you on a day when you’re too busy to do it, you have to have already written and queued that post.

In the presence of automation something interesting happens: we have to be better prepared. The power these tools provide “obligates” you to develop some marketing discipline. That’s what I meant earlier when I said marketing automation tools won’t improve your emails “sort of”. With advance prep and consideration, your email and other messages are certain to become more effective.

Circling back to the “credit” that marketing automation firms claim, well, some of that goes to you. “Accidental” marketing rarely works well, so a portion of the gains from automated marketing are due to better preparation.

Marketing automation won’t save you by itself, yet it’s quite likely to improve results if you prepare well, use the tools, & take action on the data produced. Combined with what’s in your head, these tools will help you find more of the people who need the solutions you offer.

Categories
Getting new customers Marketing to women Small Business Uncategorized

What’s important when getting started?

A young man I know is getting started in business. He provides handyman services for homeowners. In a display of wisdom beyond his years, he asked his Facebook connections for things to read and people to talk to re: business advice.

Getting started means wearing several hats

Running a business on your own means you get to do all the jobs, including:

  1. Getting organized.
  2. Deciding who you are best suited to work with.
  3. Deciding who you shouldn’t work for even if they’re throwing $1000 bills at you. Almost everyone does this at least once because we start out under the illusion that everyone can be our customer.
  4. Letting people know that you’re available to help them. This includes discussing what you’re really good at and staying away from everything else (ie: learning to say no).
  5. Pricing your work.
  6. Selling / reaching an agreement to perform work.
  7. Doing the work.
  8. Following up.

The hard work

When getting started in your own business, there’s some “hard work” that has nothing to do with your service. I say “hard work” because they’re often things you don’t want to do, don’t have the time or money for, or don’t see the purpose of.

This includes “Getting organized”, which include making sure your bookkeeping is under control, getting all the permits and licenses that you need, doing whatever is necessary to make sure you are operating legally wherever you live, and getting the proper bonding (if needed) and (definitely needed) insurance to protect you and your customers so that if and when you make a mistake, it doesn’t cost you everything you own now and ever will own.

These things will seem like a pain, but the reality is that the pain they cause is much smaller than the pain created by not taking care of them.

Marketing and sales

Items two through five may generate an “OMG, seriously?”

A few thoughts about them…

If your typical happy customer is married, lives in 59912, works outside the home, and has a spouse who travels, then you’ll want to focus on identifying and attracting those specific people to your services. Don’t waste time advertising to 100,000 people who don’t “fit the profile”.

Come up with a one page (both sides) piece of paper that tells EXACTLY what you are great at (and what you actually want to do). Include your contact info.

Get a box of your business cards made into fridge magnets. Old school, but people will leave them on the fridge forever once they trust you. Even if you’re in their phone contacts, that fridge magnet is in their face every day. Make sure the visible side has your name, phone number, name and what you do. It’s OK to make a special card for magnets.

Figure out what you need to make from each job, including the expenses you might not be thinking of, like insurance, fuel, uniforms, marketing, downtime, taxes, etc. If you do everything else right and mess up your pricing, you won’t be happy.

Be humble, but don’t be shy. If you’re great at something, simply tell people you love to do that work.

As you prepare to leave the customer’s home, ask for more work. Say “Is there anything else that you’ve been meaning to get fixed?“, then let them think long enough so they’re the next one to speak. If they say no, say “OK, I’ll be happy to come back if you something comes up.

Ask your mom, your grandma, and the moms of a few of your friends these questions:

  • “What frustrates you about repair guys that you’ve had in the house?”
  • “Who is your favorite repair company?”
  • “Why are they your favorite? What makes them so special?”

I can predict the answers, but I want you to ask anyway. YOU need to hear these words coming from folks who resemble your customers. These conversations will help you prepare to sell to the customers you want. It isn’t about convincing them to do the work. It’s about showing them you’re the right guy for them.

Do the work, follow up

I’m not going to tell you how to do the work, but I will suggest how things work while you’re at the customer’s home.

Show up in a clean truck.

In Montana, this isn’t always easy, but do the best you can. Your rig sets a first impression when you arrive. It doesn’t have to be a $60,000 diesel rig. It just needs to be clean.

Park on the street.

You don’t want to park in the customer’s driveway and drop a bunch of mud, gravel and whatever else you’ve been driving through that day. You also don’t want to be in the way when someone gets home, someone needs to leave, etc.

Show up in a clean shirt that tucks in.

This means buying at least 3-4 uniform shirts. Get your company name, your name, and your logo sewn onto them (if you have a logo). If you want to go a little crazy, put a big logo, phone number and website address on the back. No matter what, make sure your company’s name is visible through the window of someone’s front door. You want the shirt to tuck in because repeat customers don’t call you because they like seeing your rear hanging out under an untucked shirt. Enough said.

If a job trashes a shirt for the day, change into a clean shirt before arriving at your next job. Yep, you might have to carry several clean shirts with you. Pro athletes don’t take the field in dirty uniforms and neither should you. Show up looking like a pro every time. Meanwhile, you’re a walking billboard.

Buy a box of those silly little shoe booties.

If you walk into someone’s home leaving a trail of muddy, snowy footprints, I guarantee you won’t be asked to come back. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to pull them on and pull them off repeatedly, but it beats losing a customer you worked hard to get. You want to be the service they choose first. When some other handyman asks for their business, you want them thinking “Nope, never using anyone but (that guy).

Make it like you were never there.

After you’ve left a customer’s home, you don’t want them to find any evidence you were there except for the repaired item, a receipt, and a business card. If you made a mess, clean it up. If you tracked something in or the job generate a mess, be sure you have the stuff needed to clean it up. If someone has to clean up after you, they’ll never ask you to come back.

Sign up for Square

… or a similar service that lets you get paid via card using your phone. Many competitors will take credit / debit cards. Yes, it will cost you a few percent of your sales, but it will get you sales as well. Be sure to put the card logos on your business card and one page brochure.

Find customers that can help you during lean times

One of the frustrating aspects of managing rentals is dealing with maintenance. Become the dependable guy for people who own rentals, or rental management firms and you’ll have business that keeps feeding you when you aren’t sure where your next gig will come from. Think about other opportunities similar to this.

Follow up

Call or text the customer the next day and ask them if everything is ok. Leave a voice mail if they don’t answer. Almost NO ONE does this. You will stand out by doing so. 1000 handyman services might read this and STILL, few of them that don’t already do it will start doing it habitually. If things went well, it’s a natural time to thank them and remind them that your business depends on referrals from satisfied customers. If they didn’t go well, it’s a chance to save that customer. Sure, you have to hustle a little, but people refer vendors who took great care of them.

Get some help with Facebook marketing

Your business is ideal for marketing to people on Facebook. Despite all the noise about Facebook data in the news, it’s important to know two things:

  • Most data was given with implicit permission that was granted when someone took a poll on Facebook.
  • This data has been collected for 100 years. Facebook’s is a bit easier to use.

For example, you can ask Facebook to put your ad in front of homeowners who live in the 59912 zip code who have a household income of $xx,xxx. You can optionally have them echo the ads to Instagram. You can have them eliminate homeowners who aren’t married and otherwise filter out people who don’t fit your ideal customer profile.

Few other advertising mechanisms can put your smiling face in front of *exactly* the right people, much less charge you only for the ones who click on your ad.

 Photo by Wonderlane

Categories
Email marketing Getting new customers Lead generation Small Business

Repercussions for the things we won’t do

If you register a new website address these days, you’ll receive plenty of unsolicited email & cold calls from people dying to create your website. While I appreciate the hustle, these messages & calls are the same for everyone (register two domains if you need proof). Is lazy hustle possible? If so, this is it.

What’s missing is a lack of effort to find the information that could get you the business. These are the things they either don’t know how to do, or won’t do. Standing on a street corner screaming “I’d like to build your website” is nothing but noise and is ineffective at best. Face-to-face, email, LinkedIn, & phone calls all exhibit this problem when lazy seeps in.

Objections. Always objections

Many of these emails come from firms in countries with an economy that allows them to offer aggressive pricing that’s far less than local firms charge. When their email arrives, your initial objection might be “I don’t want to work with firms from (wherever)“. Your objection might be tempered when see the super-cheap price.

Most out-of-town firms have the expertise to do the work at that tempting price but their emails/calls (even the US-based ones) never address the real problem: How many people have outsourced a project as important as a website to a firm from out of town, much less from another country? Few.

Most small business owners haven’t experienced the joy of managing an outsourced project of *any* kind, much less a website project. We’re not talking about buying parts from a vendor a few states away. We’re talking about custom work that takes weeks/months.

Now you’ve gone from “I don’t want to work with someone from (wherever)” to “I’m not sure how to manage a website development project with so-and-so down the street even though she’ll visit my office. How much harder this will be with someone two states away, much less with someone in another country?

Set the right context

Whether you’re in Pune or Columbia Falls, you have the same problem: Getting over the prospect’s natural desire to avoid working with someone from out of town.

Their out-of-town vendor fears are the same ones they’ll have with someone in town, with some extra concerns sprinkled on top.

For in-town folks wondering why I’m discussing how to make it easier for your out-of-town competition, bear in mind that YOU are the out-of-town competition for every vendor who doesn’t live where you do. In some places, you’re the company from out of town despite being only six miles away.

Of all the “Hey, we can do your website” emails I received in the last year, NOT ONE positioned the conversation in a way other than “we do this, we’re cheap, etc”.

Improving your chances

Someone in Pune might send 30,000 emails daily. They can afford to play a numbers game. You might be reaching out to anyone who registers a domain in your five county corner of the state, or those who leased business space in your county. You can’t afford to waste leads.

In addition to changing the context of how you start the conversation, give yourself a second chance. Remember that the moment someone registers a domain, leases business property, or does what makes you aware of their possible need is not necessarily the moment they need you.

Rather than contacting them to suggest that you are alive, available & cheap, try a different approach. Reach out, make it clear you’re aware of their possible need & offer a legitimate resource to help them in the early going.

Follow up 30 days later, but not simply to repeat that you’re cheap & available. You might even have three buttons in your email: “Check back in 30 days, not ready yet”, “Doing it ourselves”, “Already have a vendor”.

Clicks on those buttons provide info so you can respond intelligently. Maybe in 30 days you ask the “not ready” folks “Figured out a timeline yet?”. For those indicating “DIY” or “have a vendor”, you might wait 60-90 days to ask “Is your project going as planned?

I’m OK with repercussions, lazy, etc.

Send out half of the emails exactly as you do now. Send the others with a context change. See which works best.

Do more of what works.

Categories
Positioning Product management Setting Expectations

Selling someone else’s products

Have you ever thought about selling someone else’s products? When you sell someone else’s products,  parts of that vendor’s business obviously become a part of yours: their products and services. However, the reality is a good bit more complicated.

Be sure what business you’re in

When you consider selling someone else’s products, it’s critical to assess whether the product is germane to what you do.

For example, it isn’t hard to find stores selling fidget spinners. They’re an impulse buy that could add a small bump to daily sales, so grocery stores, convenience stores and the like could justify selling them back when they were hot.

However, it makes little sense to see these gadgets advertised on outdoor signage at pawn shops and musical instrument stores – which I’ve seen lately. The logic behind advertising out-of-context impulse items on a specialty retail store’s limited outdoor signage escapes me – particularly on high traffic streets.

Will it confuse their market? Will they lose their focus by selling a few $2.99 items? Doubtful. While they’re trying something to increase revenue, the emphasis on an out-of-context, low-priced impulse buy product is the reason I bring it up. It makes no sense for a specialty retailer.

When you start selling someone else’s product, there are questions you don’t want your clients and prospects asking. They include “Have their lost their focus?” and “What business is my vendor really in?”  These questions can make your clientele wonder if another vendor would serve them better.

Should you sell out of market?

I had this “Is it in context?” discussion with some software business owners this week.

One of the owners (not the tool vendor) is asking the group to sell the development tools they use to their customers & other markets. Ordinarily, this would be a head scratcher, since most software development tools generate their own momentum, and/or are marketed and sold with a reasonable amount of expertise. That isn’t the case with this tool vendor.

However, the discussion really isn’t about that tool vendor, even though they’re at the center of the discussion being had by these business owners. The important thing for you is the “Should we sell this product?” analysis.

Start the conversation by bluntly asking yourself if makes sense for your business to sell this product.

Adjacent space or different planet?

If your company sells to businesses that develop software internally or for sale to others, then you might consider selling a vendor’s software development tools to your customers. It might make sense if you sell into enterprise IT.

However, if you sell software to family-owned, local businesses like auto parts stores and bakeries, it makes no sense at all. You’re going to appear to be from another planet going to these customers to sell software development tools.

If you try to sell these tools in an unfamiliar market, then you’re starting fresh in a market your team probably isn’t used to selling and marketing into. The chance of losing focus is significant unless you’re leading your current market by a sizable margin and have plenty of extra resources.

Ideally, a new product line feels congruent to your team, clients and prospects. Even when it’s a good match, the work’s barely started as selling and supporting a ready-to-sell product requires a pile of prep work.

Your sales team needs training to sell the product and know how/when to integrate it into multi-product solutions. You need to include the product in your marketing and training mix. Your support team needs training to provide the level of support that your customers expect. Your infrastructure team needs to incorporate it into your CRM, accounting, website, and service management systems. Your deployment team may need training as well.

What if the new product’s vendor has problems?

Reputation damage is one of the biggest risks when selling someone else’s products, particularly if you have to depend on the other company to service and interact with your customers.

Does the product vendor provide support as good as yours? Do they communicate in a timely & appropriate manner? Do they service things promptly? Are they a good citizen in the developer community? These things are important in the software tools market. In your market, they may not matter.

The actions of the product’s creator reflect on you, since YOU sold the product to YOUR client. Carefully consider the risk/reward. Your entire clientele will be watching.

Categories
Advertising customer retention Lead generation Marketing

Personas – Like building Mr. Potato Head

The process of analyzing & building customer personas is not too much different from the process of selecting & placing body parts while creating your newest version of Mr. Potato Head. You must identify each persona, then build it out by figuring out what “parts” make each one unique. Of course, there will be aspects of some personas that are shared.

Who are your personas?

The first step to working on your personas is to identify them. For me, a mental walk-through of the business processes of a business tends to produce a fairly complete list.

Once I’ve worked through that process, I’ll assign them role-based names (such as junior astronaut, senior astronaut, or launch manager). Next, I’ll discuss the roles with someone intimate to dealing with the clientele in question. Sometimes you can talk to one person and get a good assessment of your persona list.

Discuss your persona list with front office / sales people, service / field techs / deployment teams, admins and managers at each level. When creating a list of personas, don’t assume that you know them all simply because you run the place.

Getting feedback from staffers who talk to / email with these folks on a daily basis is critical to proper identification of each persona. Your front line people in each area work with these folks every day. Their familiarity will help you accurately describe, critique, and reflect on the qualities / properties of the personas you’ve built. Multiple viewpoints across your staff will fine tune the mental sculpture of them that you’re creating.

Putting the lips on each persona

Selecting the lips to stick onto your Mr. Potato Head is fairly simple. The work to break down the different traits, habits, wants, needs, communication requirements and other aspects of each persona your business works with isn’t.

It’ll pay off when you write emails, phone scripts, letters, forms, ads and other communications intended to optimize your interaction with each persona. Optimization is really about achieving a “message to market match”.

I should clarify the “… to market” part of this. Normally when I mention message to market match, I’m referring to the market of people who buy what you sell. From that high level perspective, your market could be “people who want to buy or sell a home“. Personas drill down on that.

When producing a list of personas from your market, we focus on market subgroups. A persona like “empty nester couples between 50 and 62 who are downsizing” is a good example – and is a good bit narrower than “people who want to buy or sell a home”.

The group of people on the list of folks who want to buy or sell a home include:

  • the aforementioned empty nesters
  • millennials
  • newlywed couples
  • 25-35 couples with kids looking for room to grow
  • single folks who want an ownership experience at a waterfront property without the need to deal with yard work
  • aging couples who want a single story place that will be suitable for keeping them out of a retirement home for 10 more years
  • vacation home buyers
  • rental real estate investors

… and so on. If real estate is your thing, you can probably add to that list without much effort.

Why are personas necessary?

You want to break your customer / prospect base down to this level of detail soso that you don’t communicate with each group using the same message. A real estate ad with a couple of 50+ aged people in the photo might not attract a couple with young kids who are looking for their first home. Likewise, the reverse could also be true. The imagery *and* the words matter. It’s tough to attract anyone when you use a message they doesn’t concern them.

When you do the work to identify what is unique to each of these personas, then you can more easily decide how to communicate with them (Instagram, Facebook ad, postcard, etc) AND what to say when you do.

Winning at this almost never looks like “I created one ad and it attracted everyone.” Creating the right conversation with the right group is more work. The reward is that conversations with better context produce better results. Further, fine tuning your message will reduce the amount of time you waste on people your business / products / services aren’t a good match for.

Finally, don’t forget to use your personas to refine messaging to existing clients.

Photo by beeep