Marketing Tip – Small Business Owners Need a System to Keep in Touch With Contacts and Build Sales

Many small business owners know keeping in touch with their contacts is an important part of their marketing plan. However, all too often, keeping in touch is a sporadic effort. Sending birthday cards or an e-mail newsletter is something that can be done “later.” The problem is “later” never comes. 

Small business owners need to build a marketing calendar that includes when and how each person (or group of people) is going to be contacted.  The best way small business owners can keep on top of their contact efforts is to have some type of system in place.  The system should be as easy and as automatic as possible.
  
There are many software tools you can use to organize your contacts.  Microsoft Outlook and Excel are great programs.  With either of these, you can merge with Microsoft Word to create phone lists, mailing labels and personalized letters. More sophisticated contact management programs you can purchase include ACT! and Goldmine.  
 
Marketing Tools for Keeping in Touch
 
There are a variety of different marketing tools small business owners can use to keep in touch. Here are just a few ideas.
 
E-mail newsletters are a great way to communicate with a large group of people. There are a number of great on-line resources available for e-mail newsletter creation and management. Use e-mail newsletters to provide product information, announce sales, and promote special events. 
 
Real greeting cards (the kind that come in an envelope with a stamp) are great marketing tools to use at Christmas, birthdays and other times of the year.  In fact, the best time a small business owner can send a greeting card is when there is no real reason to send a card! A card sent in August will be remembered much more than one sent in December.

Savvy business owners know that phone calls, personal visits and lunches are always appreciated. The key there is to remember the marketing message when scheduling those calls or visits. Yes, having coffee with a long-term client is great. But be sure to let the client know that you have a great new product that can dramatically help him or her. Too often business owners get wrapped up in the social aspect of personal visits and forget to ask for more business!

The most important part of any system is using it regularly.  If you are very busy, or have a hard time working with schedules, you are better off delegating or outsourcing.  If you have an assistant, that person can print letters, write e-mails, even sign Christmas cards for you.  That leaves you free to work on other areas of your business.

If you don’t have any help in your office, outsourcing is the answer. There are a number of local and on-line services that help business owners with their marketing. Or, try using a virtual assistant.  The marketing money you spend to outsource these routine tasks will be repaid many time over with the new business you get.

Remember — the key to a successful system is to have it automated as much as possible. The less work you have to do, the more likely it is to be done on time, and the more likely you are to get referrals!

Free Small Business Marketing Tips – 3 Ideas for Fast Results

In this article, I have 3 free small business marketing tips for you, because marketing shouldn’t have to set you back a bundle. And any one of them may make you a serious sum of money when you put them to work for you.

That’s a considerable promise, I know, but it’s one I stand behind and mean to keep.

But there is one warning: simply skimming through this article and “learning about” these tips won’t do a thing for you. You actually have to roll your sleeves up and put them to work for you.

Free Small Marketing Tips No 1: Bump up your fees

There are probably three people in the whole world who commonly buy on price only (and you really don’t want them as clients anyway). The rest of us have better things to bother with, like suitability, trustworthiness, delivery time, excellence, service, back up and all the rest. In one analysis only 14% of participants said price was the most important factor for them; that means 86% of them had different, more weighty concerns.

If you tack on 10% to your prices from this moment on, I would be shocked if you experienced any decrease in sales at all. What you WILL see, though, is a significant increase in your profits (because that 10 % boost is all profit). Yeah, it’s conceivable the odd client or two will moan and put on the weeps about it and perhaps even go somewhere else… but if that happens, then they’ve done you a kindness. Price buyers are sheer murder to deal with and will in the end drive you to an early grave.

Free Small Marketing Tips No. 2: Become the media darling

Read the newspapers, both national and local, switch on the Television or tune in to the radio stations and you’ll see ‘expert’ after ‘expert’ wheeled on to give his or her thoughts on everything from daycare and chilblains, to party ideas and pork pies. But what gives these folks this ‘ace’ status and why are they in the news? Well, their authority status comes from the fact they’re simply in the news. That’s it. That’s the only difference between them and you.

Precisely how do they get there? Exactly how does this come about? By their contacting the local media and saying, essentially, “I’m an expert on thingamajigs, and I’ve got strategies and information on whatchamacallits your audience would definitely like and benefit from”.

This is all a hell of a lot easier than it seems and a lot less scary, too. Some years ago I had a regular monthly piece in the local monthly rag. It added up to possibly 30 minutes’ work a month to create, and yielded thousands of Euro in business.

Free Small Marketing Tips No. 3: Ask for referrals

Referred business is the most profitable business to get, and the easiest to close the sale on — because all the hard work of nurturing trust has been done for you by whomever referred the business to you. In my own business, I don’t take on private clients from anything BUT referrals, because the business is such top quality.

Alas, while we all love ’em… we don’t tend to do much to ensure we get lots of them.

Although we can change all this simply by asking our present customers and clients this simple question: “whom else do you know whom I may be able to help in the same way I’ve helped you?”. You could send that email or letter now and be getting more business within minutes.

You can also take this one step further and set the scene for recommendations at the beginning of your relationship with a new customer: “I grow my business with referrals. So if I do a great job for you I hope and expect you will recommend at least 3 people to me whom I may be able to help”. The majority of business owners are too intimidated to make this a stipulation of doing business with clients… although that’s their affair.

See? Three free small business marketing tips that could be making you money by the end of today.

But the onus is on YOU to pull your finger out and make them work for you — they won’t do it by themselves.

Leadership Tips – Small Business Requires Faster Decisions

Introduction

This leadership tip has something in it for managers everywhere, but it’s particularly targeted at those of you with large company backgrounds who have made career moves to smaller businesses that you own and/or manage.

My background is primarily in large scale management of IT organizations. The companies where I’ve worked were places where changing a process or behavior took some time. I always thought I was quicker than most, and action oriented. As a small business owner, I found I had to be much quicker.

I’ll offer this leadership tip in the form of a story. It’s a story of how taking your eye of the ball can cost you money, and worse than that can cost you customers.

My First Small Business

I opened a small personal services business. It was located about an hour from my home office, and with all my other commitments I knew how important hiring the right manager would be for this shop. It took a few tries, but I found one with a good background and references, and she seemed to quickly develop loyalty to the business and to me.

For the first six months we grew slowly but steadily. We were behind plan in terms of customers and revenue, but the trend was up. There were a few staff issues, but overall turnover was okay. I decided to invest a little more in marketing to try and get more new faces in the door.

Over the next three months, customer counts were mostly flat, and average sale was actually down a little. Concerned, I visited the shop a few times more than usual. The people were not as upbeat as they had been. When asked about that, they attributed their moods to less business and less enjoyment of the job. I wondered about seasonality, the economy, and whether I needed even more marketing investment.

Want to know what was really going on? My trusted manager had some personal problems that I had not been aware of before, and was exhibiting some totally unacceptable behaviors:

  • Criticizing staff in front of customers
  • Intimidating staff, letting them know they were at risk of being fired, and telling them I was out to get them.
  • Stealing money by voiding transactions and other means

The Damages

I’m still figuring out how much money all this cost me, but the money is only today’s problem. The customers I’ve lost are a more serious longer term issue, because many of them won’t be coming back.

When I figured out what was going on, I moved quickly to fire the manager. There were only two problems:

  1. I was too late, and there had been several months of damage done;
  2. There was collateral damage. I had to fire two other employees who had adopted the attitude and behaviors of the manager.

Today, I’m working on putting together data to see if I can assemble a case for prosecuting the employees and the manager. An even higher priority, though, is the work I’m doing to recruit and orient new staff and develop a recovery plan for our customer service reputation.
This leadership tip was a painful lesson that I hope never to repeat.

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