This book is for the startup founder or small business owner who just wants to bring in customers, nurture them, and increase sales. It is for people who want to get back to their main work and not spend countless hours fiddling with marketing ideas. It’s for those who don’t have the time, resources or inclination to hire a marketing agency or a marketing expert.
You will be able to start using the ideas right away. In fact, you can implement an idea today and have customers coming in from it by tomorrow.
The content here is based on evergreen principles of effective marketing and sales. It will not become stale. There is limited technical jargon talk.
Are You Getting All You Can For Your Business?
The world of sales & marketing is more messy and crowded than ever before. There are new tools, publications, platforms, gimmicks, and formats coming out everyday, and it’s hard to figure out what works and what doesn’t. There are many marketing experts that are all re-selling and re-packaging some hot new technique to make you money fast. It is easy to get fooled, distracted, and lose track of what works vs. what doesn’t.
There are many books and online courses that teach you the flavor of the month marketing tactic that supposedly made some person a millionaire overnight. This is not that type of book. It also assumes that marketing is an natural extension of your business, something that supports your unique products and services.
I’ve seen startups up close who raise a bunch of money and waste it in missionary work to cold call and get customers, or in developing products, services, and features that didn’t need to be made. A waste of money, time, and energy.
I’ve seen small business owners struggling to get their businesses established, to really find their own distinct position in the market, get customers, and keep them. Everywhere you look, there is more competition, more push to become the same–become a commodity like everyone else. I’ve seen up close these small business owners who think that to stand out takes too much work, is too dangerous, too risky. At the same time, their revenues stagnate if not decline, and things get tougher as customers never get to appreciate the knowledge, insights, and ideas that they have.
I’ve seen engineers, doctors, lawyers try to be someone they are not, or (equally worse) copy what everyone else is doing. This is a sure way to either burn out or become a commodity in the eyes of your customers.
The business owners and founders I’ve worked with have been good honest hardworking people who just wanted to build a business that served others, provided for their family, and feel good about it. When they struggled, I saw many people come in and snatch money with big dreams of overnight success, broad reach, or some other magical formula that will bring in a whole lot more business. But without skin in the game, they would come in, do some work, get paid, and leave whether the ideas worked or not.
Entrepreneurs and business owners don’t need more vague advice telling you how you need to become a purple elephant to stand out. Nor do you need more things like “16 step process to grow your business by 328% in 27 days” or other such clickbait articles you might have seen on the Internet. This ends up being too specific to adapt to your business.
What’s needed are ideas that work. You want a general understanding of Principles to guide your decisions, and specific Tactics on how to implement them. That’s the approach this book takes.
I didn’t appreciate these struggles until I had to compete in the marketplace myself.
I had taken the safe path. I grew up in an immigrant family, first in Canada, and after my marriage, in the USA (I live now in California). I pursued all the traditional markers of success: prestigious schools, jobs, career track, etc. I even got an MBA (don’t hold that against me).
Friends and family would come to me for advice and help in marketing. Except nothing I had learned with all the fancy degrees and big corporate experience seemed to work that well. The highly academic and corporate forms of marketing might work for Kraft Foods, P&G, or Unilever, but it didn’t work for these small businesses or startups.
I had to radically retrain myself to think and act differently. I started to invest a lot of time and money in studying what it takes to practically build a business — how to get the sale at the lowest price possible, develop a distinct voice to get a customer, keep this customer, and grow. I started to see these entrepreneurs as heroes who stand up and against all odds try to succeed, and how they become the backbone of the economy and their communities.
As I learned more about this world, I grew dissatisfied with my journey in the big business world. I liked to be closer to the customer, closer to the marketplace itself where my work’s impact can be seen and measured immediately. It’s a real thrill. I enjoyed selling and I enjoyed educating customers (this, as you will soon learn, is what the heart of real marketing is all about).
The results were astounding. I learned more from this self-guided education than in all the years of university. Work became a lot more refreshing, fun, and exciting. And what’s more is that it started to have big results.
I want to share these principles with you. You don’t have to slog it out for a lifetime to make a decent living. For startups, you can grow quickly not necessarily with more technology tools, but sound principles of marketing that have stood the test of time. For small business owners, it means spending your marketing dollars efficiently instead of throwing them into a black hole “hoping” a customer comes through the door.
I now spend my time working with startups and small businesses to help them setup a sales and marketing engine so that they can grow.
I’ve taken the best ideas from Claude Hopkins, Jay Abraham, Dan Kennedy, Perry Marshall, John Carlton, Brian Kurtz, etc. These people have collectively brought in billions of dollars of new sales through great marketing systems. If you haven’t heard these names, that’s deliberate by the marketing “experts” who choose instead to push to you ineffective branding experts that teach vague statements about “branding” or “frameworks” that might work in business school, but don’t survive contact with the real world. Other marketers offer thousand dollar courses that go into endless complexities. I believe that most startups and small businesses do not need those levels of complexity. 80% of the impact can be had by 20% of ideas. I wish that you spend the least amount of time necessary to be up and running. I spend all my time learning and implementing the best ideas I can find.
I wrote this book for you: the business owner or startup founder. You can start implementing its ideas in 2-3 hours after that. It’s simple and it works. The simplest ideas in this book can be implemented within an hour, but even more complex ones might take no more than a few hours to initiate.
And if you’re willing to not wait any longer and want to get started working with me right away, contact me now to get started. We can setup an initial call where we can discover further the work that needs to be done. No cost for that. You can do it here.
What to Expect
We will first look at a few principles behind marketing and then we will go through the strategies and tactics that can bring in money for you today itself. Finally, there will be a short discussion on tools you can use to execute on all this.
For the purpose of this book, marketing is simply a message delivered to the right person who interacts with it to buy/solicit/express interest in your product or service. It is often a means of getting someone to raise their hand to express their interest in your business. The best type of marketing often does the job of the salesperson, but at scale. So it’s significantly more economical for you.
If you have some background in corporate marketing, please note that we will not incorporate parts of 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, placement, and promotion. You do not need this framework, and it can hinder your thinking in many ways to think about marketing in this way. Please set aside this theoretical framework for the rest of this book.
This also means that marketing is doable for everyone — not just for the creative types or people who’ve gone to business school. In fact, good and great marketing is less about being creative, and more about being in tune with your marketplace.
In the next section, we will be talking about the principles of great marketing that can put you ahead of 90% of small businesses out there with less sophistication!
Principle #1: Defeat Sales and Marketing Resistance!
Selling or marketing to someone is one of the most important things you can do for your business. But far too many people are hesitant to do that. It seems sleazy or manipulative. However, as a business owner, you must overcome this hesitancy. Not only is this one of the most important activities you need to perform, but you must also love it! This mindset is easier to cultivate than you might think.
If you had somehow found the cure to cancer sitting in your office (and let’s pretend that it has also passed all FDA tests and gotten regulatory approval), would you hesitate to promote it? Of course not! Similarly, find the importance of what your product does in the lives of your customers! What you have to sell is important. It changes lives of people (even if it is in a very small way). If a friend, co-worker or family member was suffering with cancer, you would talk about it. If you met a stranger, or had to market and sell to doctors and hospitals to tell them about this cure, you’d do it wholeheartedly. You’d realize the value of what you’re selling and wouldn’t hesitate to talk about it. You’d promote yourself with passion and enthusiasm.
You must develop this same passion and enthusiasm for marketing and selling your business’s products and services.
Principle #2: Be Valuable to Your Customers
Developing this drive to promote your business will come if you think deeply not about you, your products and services, but about the customers you serve. Think about who they are, what their life challenges are. Picture what they dream about and what they struggle with. Understand their goals, their aspirations, and what keeps them up at night. You might serve many different types of customers, so your goal here is to make a composite, or maybe develop 2 or 3 buckets of types of customers you serve (also called personas). Spend your time getting in the head of your customer.
Then, try to find how your business and its products and services can help them. For example, dentists face stiff competition in cities where every block has a practice. However, by thinking about your patient as more than just a biological system that needs fixing, you can speak their language and communicate about what matters to them. Instead of marketing yourself as yet another dentist who’ll give you the “perfect smile” (whatever that means), you can talk about something deeper.
Instead of talking about the perfect smile generically, a dentist I worked with targeted all the office workers and executives in her area (we’ll talk about how to do this later on) and sent them a letter telling them how a great smile can make or break a deal in their job, help them appear more appealing for promotions at work, and included a story of a patient whose career took off after they got their teeth whitened, straightened, and got the right fillings because they felt more confident, in charge, etc. You better believe a message like this will have a greater appeal than a generic “get a great smile” message that we’re so used to seeing every dentist. This is because we spent the time thinking about the higher needs, wants, and values of the “executive” customer type.
What if you’re in a B2B marketing environment and you sell something industrial, devoid of such personal meaning? Ultimately, the buyer is just a human, and so getting into his or her higher needs and values will change the quality of marketing you do.
Instead of marketing great shipping products to his clients, a logistics B2B marketer in Canada created a campaign for widget manufacturers that a new free trade agreement with South Korea had opened up a new market for manufacturers of these widgets. He demonstrated that this market really needed widgets, so if they want to get started, then please contact the him to learn how to find clients to sell to and arrange for the logistics of the sale. This more specific targeting and message changed the quality of marketing responsiveness completely!
Even if you’re a charity trying to get business sponsors, it makes sense to appeal to just their sense of giving. Instead, find ways to give them higher value. For businesses, giving them a chance to promote their products and services to an audience that they care about reaching is the most important. Tell them that story! Even include a few case studies of businesses that have benefited in the bottom line by sponsoring a charity event.
Once you start seeing your business from the eyes of your customer, you will start to see the necessity of what you do and a deep opportunity to serve the market with your products and services. And if you are faced with a daunting realization that you a lot like everyone else in the marketplace — worry not! We will discuss what to do about it in the coming sections.
Think about different types of customers you serve and develop them into different buckets if appropriate. Think through their needs, wants, and values at a deep and personal level. Use your imagination if you need to, or actually ask them.
Next, ask yourself: does your current marketing reflect the values, needs, wants of your customers? Take a look at your marketing to see if it does.
This one activity alone can help you stop thinking of yourself as a commodity, develop greater self-confidence in marketing & selling your business services/products, drive more sales, get customers to stick with you, and make them happier. I want you to really get the incredible service you provide with your business in the lives of your customers–even if (and especially if) you think you’re selling a commodity.
By offering concrete and valuable insights tailored to your prospects, you’ll skyrocket the effectiveness of your marketing, and you’ll feel better marketing it. However, even after exhaustive research, surveys, and thinking about it, you cannot find any value to what you market, then perhaps you need to think about marketing something else entirely which you feel better about selling. Feeling good about what you sell because you are genuinely enriching someone’s life is one of the most important factors in succeeding as an entrepreneur and being a successful marketer.
If you work with me, this will be the very first activity I’ll make you do. Even if I’ve run the marketing campaigns for my clients, I force them to think about this topic deeply because it helps them see their business in a different light and find more ways to serve them.
Principle #3: Talk to Your Customers In Their Language
You’ll notice the concrete step above is to stop thinking about marketing from me-focused (that’s you and your business) to you-focused (all about the customer). This is in sharp contrast to institutional marketing that a lot of businesses do.
You’ve seen institutional marketing before. It is the kind of corporate marketing meant to build a “brand” or about “branding.” It’s also mostly meaningless and ineffective. It’s the kind of marketing that reaches you to say “we’re JD Power’s #1 brand” (great, why should I care?). Or “we’re part of the neighborhood” (isn’t every bank? what’s special about you?). Or any such generic piece of marketing that toots its own horn but actually has no value for the prospect or customer reading it. Like most real estate agent ads that just have a name, photo, and a phone number.
Ads like this can work for Coca Cola and other big name companies to remind the customer that they exist, but the rest of us must be more direct with our marketing. Direct does not mean abrasive or rude or intruding. It does mean getting to the point and demonstrating the value that the customer cares about. Great marketing that gets results (customers calling you) immediately is more direct. And when you need to bring in funds to keep the lights on in your business, this is the kind of marketing you need. It is also more respectful of your customers because it talks to them about their needs, not just about how great you are.
Principle #4: Be Direct (Make an Offer)
Direct Marketing is you-focused (on the customer). It speaks the language of the customer first and foremost and promotes the business as a means of helping the customer fulfill his or her goals, needs, wants, and values.
Direct Marketing also makes a specific offer to your prospect. After attracting and showing that your business is completely aligned with your customer’s interests, you can specifically talk about a unique promotion. Maybe it’s a sale on mattresses for the next one month, or a time to think about premiums, or a new procedure at your clinic that you have a special discount on, or a new widget that your R&D just developed that’s in limited supply. You’re now selling something specific: a consultation, a call, a widget, a procedure, whatever. Specific is key.
Next, you ask for a response. You will no longer include just a phone number or website. Instead you will say “call me now to setup a consultation.” Or “click on this website, fill out the form and get this done.” When you ask for a response, you get to actually see how effective you were with this particular piece of marketing. If 100 people respond in one area, but another piece of marketing brings in 200 responses, you know that you can ditch the piece that got only 100 responses. You will learn what kinds of responses you can create in various parts of the book.
Finally, you set a deadline or constraint to act by. Think about homework and essays from your school days. Many of us often only got around to getting something done when given a deadline. You realize on Sunday night that you have to get this paper done, or you fail the report. That was the marketing offer in that class: “Get in your essay by Monday or lose the chance to get the grade.” You must do the same. As a dentist, this can mean saying “accepting only 20 new patients” or “please respond by Friday if you want to schedule a consultation because quantities are limited.” This is an extra incentive to get people to act.
This is not manipulative in any way. When you respect yourself by putting deadlines to your offers, customers end up respecting you as well as someone who has standards in how they do business. Customers also appreciate the push to act on something that actually benefits them! (Remember, we talked about how it’s important to go from me-to-you mindset in marketing). Additionally, you know that you do not have unlimited resources to deal with every single prospect. You would need unlimited dollars, time, assets, and employees to do that. A timeline or some sort of limit is an acknowledgement of the fact that your time, money, assets, etc are limited and scarce and helps you and your customer organize it.
If you notice closely, this is exactly what a good salesperson does. He tells the customer how her life can benefit from the product/service he is offering, exactly what the offer is, and if she is interested in buying it now or later (and if later, then when)? This is also what makes marketing an extension of sales. When you follow the ideas above of Direct Marketing, it’ll be like sending in a sales person to a customer. You’ll have a much higher chance of getting their attention, action, and potential sale.
Note that sale does not mean trading dollars for your product or service. It can mean other things as well such as asking for more information. We will talk about that in the section on “Education”.
Look through your past marketing materials. Are they “you” or customer focused talking to them about their needs, desires, wants, goals, and values in the language of your customers? Are you making offers to them in your materials? Are you asking for them to take action within a specific time? Do you measure how effective your promotions are? How many people respond to them? Or do you measure at all?
Brainstorm how your marketing can look like once you make these changes.
Here is a handy checklist of questions you can refer to when creating your marketing materials going forward:
- Is your marketing focused on the things that your customer(s) care about?
- Have you made a specific offer to something in your business (a product, service, website, etc)
- Have you asked for a specific action by the prospect (call now, visit this site, schedule a consult, etc)
- Have you set a limit on the offer? This can be a time limit, quantity limit, etc.
- Are you measuring/tracking its effectiveness? (see next section)
Principle #5: What Gets Measured Gets Improved
Using the ideas so far can dramatically increase sales for you and bring in business. You’ll also note that these ideas work regardless of the medium or tools you use. Whether it be online or offline, these principles work. Failure to use these principles in your marketing can make your efforts weak despite whatever cutting edge new hot social network you’re using to promote yourself.
Following the principles above have created millions of dollars in results. Compound the principles above with measurement and you’re going to far ahead of anyone else.
Consider that you start making specific offers in your marketing promotions and even measure its effectiveness.
Offer A gets 10 people to respond to you out of 1000 people you reached out to. That’s a 1% response rate. Let’s say that 10 people each buy $10 worth of goods and services from you. That means you’ll have made $100.
Offer B gets 20 people to respond to you out of 1000 people you reached out to. That’s a 2% response rate. They also each buy $10 worth of stuff. That means you’ll have made $200.
In effect, you doubled your revenues by making small changes in just your marketing. Does it cost any more to send that email, that flyer, that banner? No! All you changed was the marketing message on there and you doubled your revenues! Imagine how you can grow your business if you got better at this.
This is the power of good marketing. With very simple changes, you can double, triple, quadruple your revenue! Therefore, resolve to always measure how different messages are performing and if you can improve them. Resolve to measure how different places you put your ads on are performing as well. See if you can improve them.
All it requires is thinking about the value of your business differently, going from me-to-you focused with direct marketing, measuring the results, and educating customers over the long haul to succeed.
Principle #6: Send Your Customer to School
This type of direct-response marketing is not just useful in the short-term, but also in the long term as you make specific targeted offers, or educate them over the long haul.
Many of you might sell something more complex, and it isn’t well suited for an order in a limited time. In which case, you need to spend more time educating them and showing them how their dreams, goals, values, wants, and needs aligns with what you’re offering. Customers really need to appreciate the intricacies before they get the value of what you’re offering them. Therefore, your marketing can be focused on educating them first, instead of directly selling them your product or service.
You can make the direct-response marketing offer about sending them, giving them, enrolling them, in some educational material that can be useful to them right away. This can be a book, audio program, webinar, seminar, etc.
Over the long run, dedicating yourself to educating your customers also makes you the authority in their eyes. We trust, respect, and revere great teachers who’ve made a positive difference in our lives. If you have the ability to, sit down and develop a curriculum to help educate customers about your domain of expertise/what you sell. You definitely know more about it than them. And people tend to buy more frequently from people they trust, respect, value, and revere.
Don’t just think about educating them in one way. Find different ways of doing it.
Example: Many financial planners invite people into their office for a “free consultation” but don’t realize how nerve-wracking it is for a stranger to bare their entire financial situation in front of a stranger (even if they’re getting it for “free”). How much more effective would it be if he first prepared them with a great short educational book, perhaps an audio recording, or even a few short videos?
This is also a great way to beat the “manipulative” image that marketing and advertising often have. Far too many business owners secretly feel that all this is somewhat sleazy. Yet, when you focus on enhancing the life of your future customer with great information, you go from becoming a sleazy marketer, to a really valuable consultant in their life. This is how you go from being in a commodity business to becoming a truster advisor to your customers — becoming the preeminent or the only choice for your customers.
It is a longer path to prosperity, but is a lot more sustainable and rewarding, and you will create customers for a lifetime. In fact, that is the primary reason I’ve written this book. I want to work with business owners and startup founders that get the principles and philosophy I follow. I’ve worked with many that don’t and spent a lot of time and effort educating them, but sometimes to no avail. With this book, I can serve someone like you by educating you and demonstrating the results that are possible. At the same time, when you choose to engage with me for more work (or even a recommendation or emailing in a question), you are likely to see me as your ally. It also helps me qualify the people who get my ideas and those who don’t, so I can choose to not work with them.
Indeed, writing a book can be one of simplest pieces of education and credibility markers that can help you get customers.
This commitment to educate your customer will open you up to other businesses/services that can also serve your customers. Recommend complimentary and supplementary products and services that can enrich your customers. Or better yet, tie up with these other businesses and actively share in their revenues based on your recommendations. Not only will this create new revenue channels for you, but also increase the trust and respect customers feel about you. (You’ll learn more about this idea in the “New Offers” and “New Markets” section).
Take care that you do not come across as insulting to your customer when you educate them. You may know a lot more about your specific industry, product or service than them, but deliver your knowledge in a friendly supportive way. This also means taking a customer-focused approach to educating them. Always explain why they should care about what you’re teaching them. And let your own personal story and history shine through in this. People like to connect with you as a person. They want to feel that they’re dealing with a real human being (yes, even in technology or heavy industrial companies). By adding a splash of humanity, you once again help set your business apart from everyone else and go from being a commodity to a real live unique business worth buying from.
What are you doing to educate your customers right now? Can you better educate your customers? What would that look like? What mediums can you use to get it to them before they even come to you? Do you think you can convert some of the customers you lost this way?
Think of a syllabus or curriculum that you’d like to take your customers through. Brainstorm the best way of delivering this information (audio course, online course, a book, a pamphlet, a seminar?)
If you’re looking to become a trusted educator of the product or service you’re selling, there are also many people who sell pre-packaged kits that you can label with your own business’s name to market to your customers. If you’re looking for recommendations, contact me here with details about your business, industry, and what you’re looking for. I likely can recommend you some resource where you can find the help you need.
Principle #7: Money Math
Don’t throw your money away on things that don’t work, but at the same time, don’t be stingy in spending money on getting customers. There is an easy way to decide on how much to to spend to get your prospects to become customers.
Find out how much you make on average from each lead. So if out of 10 leads, 1 becomes a customer and brings in 100100 that means that for every prospect you engage with, you stand to make $10. Next, find out how much it costs you to get a customer. Once again, say you spent $50 to reach out to 10 leads from which 1 became a customer, you spent $5. That means you net $5 from every prospect you reach out to. Do this math for the lifetime of your average customer.
This number now becomes what you use to make spending decisions for marketing.
In the case above, you can technically afford to spend an additional $4.99 (or a total of $9.99 per lead) to get that customer and make a profit (Admittedly $0.01 is not much of a profit, so you will have your own threshold that makes sense to you for your cash flow).
Hopefully, the money you make per lead exceeds the money you spend.
You can do a few things from this point:
- You can increase the amount you spend per lead. This will increase the number of leads who become buying customers (since you’re giving them more attention, information, services, etc). Remember, if there is a gap between what you get and what you spend, you can afford to spend more.
- You can increase how much money you get from a lead. This can happen through up-selling, cross-selling, and creating or promoting new products and services that will be valuable to your customer. This will widen the gap you get from how much you get per lead and how much you spend per lead. Indeed, for most businesses that I’ve dealt with, most of the money is made after the first sale. For example, you can aim to make $30 per customer over 3 months instead of just a one-time sale of $10 for example. So you can afford to let the first sale be at break-even or even at a loss if needed because you will gain $20 from it compared to the $10 otherwise.
- You can decide on all the ineffective things that are weighing you down. We saw the power of making small changes to ads that can yield a big result above, so I won’t go into that. You might be able to make these ads a lot more effective and therefore keep your expenses as they are but increase revenues. But you can also decide to cut out the wrong things to spend on. This can mean cutting out an advertising channel that doesn’t make you anything for example.
In general, the only marketing math you really have to do is figure out how much you make per lead, and how much you spend per lead. Find ways to make more per lead, find ways to increase the effectiveness of what you spend (and remove the deadweight). And realize that you can afford to spend a lot more to get the really interested prospects to the finish line and get them into paying customers since over their lifetime, you will make a lot more money from the customer. Of course the decisions you make depend on your cash-flow as well. So do the best you can with your cash-flow.
In general, spend as much as you can to get a customer through the door, increase the lifetime value of the customer, increase the effectiveness of the marketing expenses or drop it if it remains ineffective. We will spend the next section figuring out all the ways to optimize this.
Phew! You’re all done with the Principles of Marketing. Did you find ideas that worked for you? What principles were you ignoring or breaking and what do you want to do now that you know more? What is still pretty unclear?
Leave a comment below!
#1: Market, Message, Medium — in that order
Credit goes to the amazing Dan Kennedy for this idea. Many people think marketing is the medium and the message. They think marketing is “advertising” or just a promotion. They think it’s about the blimp flying above the stadium. They think Yellow Pages, Facebook, Google, billboards, TV, etc. Or maybe about clever of funny ads. But these are all different mediums or messages. This is not the right place to start. It’s much easier to start with the customer (the market).
It always starts with the market. We talked about this before, where you become customer-focused. You must get to know their goals, dreams, wants and needs. The better you get to know the inner life of the customer, the better you’ll get. This will lend itself to easily writing a message that will resonate with them. And if you have truly understood what the customer is all about, you will also have an instinctual knowledge about the media they consume. Do they read the newspaper or are they getting their news from the Internet? If from the Internet, is it from social media or on news sites? What events do they attend, where do you they shop? These ideas go a long way towards helping you pick the medium.
Instead of starting with medium (“We’re going to radio ads now!”), you start with a more natural point (“Who is my customer? What are they like?”). This in turn helps you create the right message for them. By that time, you have an almost instinctual idea of what medium to use to promote this message to the right market.
Earlier in the book, I had given the example of the dentist who targeted executives in her commercial area. Many people wonder how to do that. There are many companies that will do a blast of messages to everyone indiscriminately. You can do something smarter than that.
First, you should look at your existing customer base and send them messages. They are significantly more likely to read and react to your messages since they are used to working with you. Do not overlook this part. You absolutely must be in contact with your existing or past customers constantly so that they remember the service you’ve rendered to them and tell them about new things you can offer. I’ve seen far too many companies take on a client and then forget about them once a transaction has taken place. Because they’ve bought from you before, there is likely to be familiarity with you. They are therefore significantly more likely to buy from you again. You’ve got the “market” part figured out.
Make it a point to have a day every week/month/quarter where you send them a message thanking them for their past/current business, and also presenting them with a new offer. This one step alone can bring in a flood of new business. There will be a lot less friction in selling to them since they’ve bought before from you.
But if you must find new customers, consider using existing lists. Simple go on the Internet and search for your target customer type + location + “list broker.” For example, you can search for “Business executives Tulsa list broker.” You will soon encounter a broker whose job it is to keep in touch with someone who keeps an up-to-date list of business executives in Tulsa. You will get their phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses at the office. Now you have the information you need to create a campaign for them.
But don’t lead with this step. First, start with market, then message, then medium. You will think of new messages and offers to different markets. You will save a lot of time and money. You will increase the profitability of each piece of marketing, drive down costs, and resonate more deeply with your customers.
#2: Referrals: The Fastest, Cheapest, Easiest Way to Grow
The cheapest and most effective medium to grow your business is through referrals from your existing customers. Creating a system of referrals is one of the easiest things you absolutely have to start doing to grow your business. Many businesses appreciate referrals, but you need to create a system around this. Don’t let it happen by chance. So, what are the elements of a great referral system?
First, you must create some collateral. This can be a card, a magnet, a website link, whatever you think will appeal to your customers. Next, you must think of an offer for a referral. You want the person making the referral to look like a hero. This means exclusive pricing, a special offer they can’t find anyone else. So that when your customer refers your business to their friends/colleagues/family, they will be giving something truly valuable that won’t be found normally by a cold prospect reaching you.
Create a script that you say out loud every time you know you’ve created a great customer experience. You must make it easy for your customer to refer your business to their friends, family, colleagues, associates, etc. Prime their mind with exact ideas on where they can get this. You can either give them an incentive by offering them discounts in the future or additional perks, or you can offer additional benefits to the new customers they bring in for you. Finally, find a way to thank the person who makes the referral.
A dental practice implemented a referral system where customers bring in new patients to the dentist. The customers bringing in the most referrals were put up on the “Golden Smile” Board in the office that was visible in the waiting room. This type of recognition was a powerful incentive to keep growing the number of referrals. At the same time, it made other patients curious as they waited for their appointment and also wanted to learn about how they can join the program. This dentist was successfully able to grow his practice primarily through this system.
Do you have a referral system in your business? Do you make it easy for your customers to refer you to other prospects? Do you give them ideas on who they can contact? Do you think of special offers to compel them to refer you to others? Do you offer something compelling to the prospect who is being referred? Do you have a way of recognizing and thanking the person who brought in the new customer?
Take the time and design this referral system today. Out of all the other strategies discussed here, this is the easiest, simplest, and fastest to implement and can yield you results right away. Go into your client list and let them know you want more customers just like them. Give them an offer and let them bring you new customers. Put it on a card, or some other memorabilia so they know exactly what action to take once they’re done doing business with you.
If nothing else, ask your customers to systematically leave you a review on Google, Yelp, or your related business directory. Prospects that want to do business with you often look at the number of reviews as well as the detail of the reviews to make a decision to engage with you. You absolutely must ask after each transaction is complete for their feedback and solicit their review because it helps refer more customers to you. Collect these reviews and use them as testimonials. This kind of social proof can be an extremely powerful.
A local medical practice skyrocketed their customer base and search position (ranking at the top of the search results) by simply being the most reviewed practice in the city. More reviews, and longer reviews meant this place was popular, and people trusted it. The doctor would literally hand a card with instructions on where to leave reviews at the end of a satisfied patient visit. She also gave many patients a card asking for specific referrals as well. And that’s really the last piece of the puzzle — making it very easy for the customer to remember the commitment they’ve made to you and make it easy to share.
I worked with a popular wedding photographer who does a variety of great ways to draw referral business. When he signs on a client, he tells them that “I grow my business through referrals. I’d like to ask you that if you know of other couples getting married, please let them come to me. As a gesture of goodwill, I will do a custom canvas portrait printed for you.” Once the wedding is done, he works with the couple to select 2-3 great photos. If the guest list is local, he offers to send these guests a picture on his dime as a memento from the wedding with a note from the couple, and also includes a special offer for people to come into his studio for family portraits, corporate photography, and other events. Last time I checked, he’s booked nearly every week of the year with his calendar extending 2-3 years in advance.
That’s the power of a great referral system. Make one today. Your business will thank you. It doesn’t have to be expensive or hard. Recently, at a Dental Conference, I met close to 7 vendors who all sell a ‘referral’ system for $300-$600/month. It’s basically a software that does the above things for you. You are likely to get a better rate when you, as a human, asks them directly for it as opposed to some automated marketing message (although an automated message can certainly become important as you scale your business).
On the note of referral, I wanted to seek your referral for this book and my services as well. Here’s what I’d like to request. I hope you’re seeing how implementing even some of these ideas can 2x, 5x, 10x your sales. If you believe others can benefit from this, would you:
- Share copies of this book for other business owners or employees who can learn from this.
- Refer my consulting or speaking services to an organization or person who can benefit from it.
Can you think of other business owners in your friend circle who can benefit from this book? How about vendors you deal with? How about your customers themselves? Indeed, how about a niece of nephew that is thinking to learn about marketing but has a very fuzzy idea about it? Or perhaps employees in your own company who can start the work of realigning their efforts with enduring and true principles of marketing.
In the next section, you will learn about something more powerful than money to connect with your audience.
#3: The Pen is Mightier than the Dollar
Great copywriting can be a powerful lever! This is the actual content or message of the marketing you create. You already saw how great marketing for startups and small business is very far away from general “branding” type ads. Copywriting therefore becomes a chance to grab the attention of the people who are our prospects, and then telling them what they want to hear.
It begins with great research and really knowing how your product or service fits in the life of your customer. Copywriting is then a matter of writing that out using the language that your customer likes.
It starts with a great headline. A great headline alone in your promotional campaigns (or email subject lines) can change conversions 2x, 3x, 10x! This is the initial teaser that gets the attention of your prospect. A small change in the order of words can make a big difference. So experiment with this. Write something that grabs the attention of your customer in a way that is in line with your product or service. Stay away from bait. An attractive person with big words that say “SEX” can definitely get attention, but isn’t appropriate (unless that’s what you’re selling). Stick with something that’s about your business and how it relates to your customer.
Be on the lookout for great headlines everywhere you go. There’s a reason that magazine stands at check-out counters still exist. Those flashy headlines filled with celebrity gossip work and get their target market to pick up the magazine and buy it. Perhaps there are other captivating things in your own market.
Next, describe what people have to gain from using your product or service. People don’t appreciate something about you unless you tell them. A great restaurant spells out all the ingredients that go into it. The chef’s journey. All the ingredients etc. Really make it vivid for them so that they can see, feel, hear, and sense what their life will be like after having done business with you.
Yes, this is possible even with B2B marketing. Yes, even if it’s just machinery. You are ultimately selling to a human. This isn’t about using sleaze and using language like the next best fiction bestseller. Rather, it is about using the customer’s language and really explaining what they have to gain. Use testimonials, case studies, a story of someone else and what they got from using your product. Use statistics and graphs and charts as appropriate. All of this should aim to answer one question: So what? Make it always relevant to the prospect!
It is easy to get carried away and obsessed with your own service. So take a step back once in a while and read it out loud to see if it’s making sense. Better yet, give it a customer to read. Test it out with a few prospects and see how they respond.
Include objections in your longer messages! Yes, this is important. Saying that your product is the best without discussing the downsides rings the alarm bell in people’s minds. Be honest and admit where you aren’t perfect, and explain what your counter-response to that is. Don’t be insecure about this. If anything, it makes you look very secure when you do this.
At the very end, make an offer (see section on making an offer), and ask for the prospect to take an action. It can just be opting in to get the free educational content you’ve provided, or straight up buy from you.
If you aim to do just this, you will be leagues ahead of most of your competitors. Most people do not think through these issues carefully enough. They are much happier tooting their own horn and talking about how great they are. Do this even with your business cards. Find ways to summarize your core value in a few short sentences. You will learn how to do this especially on the section “USP – Unique Selling Proposition.”
Great copywriters have turned around entire businesses. Great copy can make a huge difference to your business. I would recommend hiring a copywriter to write your ads if you have a lot of it to do and you can’t seem to crack it. This can absolutely be one of the most important pieces when it comes to marketing.
I implement all the Principles and Strategies we talk about in this book, but the primary concrete output that I do for my clients is copy that can be used to execute on all these ideas. A good effective copywriter should be able to understand these Principles and Strategies you’re trying to execute on before they produce copy for you. Much like the tip of an iceberg, this copy produced should be based on a much larger foundation of everything else discussed here.
#4: Your Unique Selling Proposition is what moves Customers
Your USP or Unique Selling Proposition is the core reason why a customer should care about buying from you or working for you. Unfortunately, far too many business owners believe they have nothing unique to offer, or have a hard time articulating that into words.
Consider most real estate agents. What exactly sets one apart from the other, except for access to listings? What sets apart dentists? How about accountants, chiropractors? Unfortunately, other than location, there’s not much else going for many of them.
Getting the right USP can help you outsmart your competition. It can become a strategy that guides your thinking. It also vastly simplifies your life. Your USP cuts through the clutter and gets the attention of the customer. It makes it easy to develop new offers to give your customers. This is not necessarily about coming up with a trademark new product or proprietary new process or technology. Often times, it can just be in how you configure it to be.
It always starts with the customer. You have to be unique in their eyes in a way that gets their attention. So what makes you unique to your customers and prospects?
Look at your product or service. Think through on what their features are. Next, think about their benefits. Benefits are very different than features. A feature might be “we’re open 24/7”, a benefit might be “because we’re open 24/7, if your machinery breaks down and production comes to a halt, we will troubleshoot and fix things for you right away.” Benefits connect with the higher needs, wants, goals, and values of the customer. You can start off by grabbing a piece of paper and drawing a column in the middle. On the left, write out all the features of what you offer. On the right hand, think deeply about the benefits to your customer. If you have different types of a customer, make different columns to describe the benefit to those customers. Be exhaustive, write out everything. You might be shocked to discover what you learn. You might learn that your business is not such a commodity as you thought it was. That there is indeed something unique about you.
If you’re still stuck, think through on 3 categories: cheap, fast, or quality. You can have 2 out of the 3 in your business, not all 3 usually. Which 2 do you offer? You might discover your core message and business has been wrong all along. A chiropractor offered adjustments for cheap. You could book an appointment and see him the next day and pay him a low amount. But he did not understand that customers were looking for more than just an adjustment once in a while. They wanted more. He was hesitant to talk to them about it, and as a result, his practice was not taking off. He assumed that a patient would figure it out themselves. They didn’t. Once he understand that he wanted to compete on quality and price, he changed tactics. He spent more time with patients and educated them on the long term benefits of working with him. This steadily helped him grow his practice.
It might help you to think about some of the competition in your market and what feature and benefit set do they offer. Seeing the contrast will help you drive towards a Unique Selling Proposition.
While what you do is very important, what you don’t do is just as important. What don’t you do? This can be a very powerful source of being unique. For example, you don’t charge your customers until the order is fully finished. Or perhaps you don’t outsource your support staff to Asia. Maybe you don’t recommend a product that your competitors do–because you know it breaks down in 12 months. You take a hit in profit by doing it in the short term, but you get happier customers in the process. In preparing your feature and benefit list, spend time thinking about all the things you don’t do.
Finally, you might not have considered it, but find a way to make it risk free for your clients to work with you. Reversing the risk for the customer can be an incredible differentiator. Think about Dominoes Pizza who made their business empire in service of a simple way of removing risk for the customer: “30 minutes or free.” This removes the risk for a customer to order from Dominoes because they know what to expect.
Businesses often are afraid of offering a risk protection for the customer. But they underestimate exactly the fear, hesitation, and anxiety people have in trying something new or doing business with a stranger. People want even adventure while knowing the constraints of what they enjoy. Just think of the tremendous rise of travel tour packages that promise adventure, but not go too off the beaten path. Perhaps you think your customer is different. They’re mostly not.
Offer money back guarantees, offer performance based fees, give them long trial periods, take on the risk for your customer. Be generous in your risk protection for your customer. You think you will be taken advantage off. But for most businesses I’ve studied or consulted with, this risk reversal only increases sales, and returns/refunds are fairly minimal compared to the rise in sales.
Explain your USP consistently, and this will help you stand out, and give customers a reason to act upon your offer (going back to the direct response aspect of all your marketing now).
Let me offer my own unique selling proposition as an example as well.
Most people go to agencies for their marketing needs. They go find “someone creative” to whip up an ad. Agencies are compensated by you but they also make a percentage of the media spend you do. On the other hand, a freelancer creative is only focused on her piece of the puzzle, without seeing the bigger picture or strategy.
Unlike them, I believe in sitting on your side of the table. I work with timeless principles, not the latest hottest technique or fad bestseller. I only deal with entrepreneurs or business owners directly. I help companies fix their marketing, discover new channels of distribution to bring in new sources of revenues. I also train people in sales. And I charge only based on the value I provide, not a fixed cookie-cutter price, take-it-or-leave-it. I think this is not in integrity with the needs of different businesses of different scope and size.
To most businesses, this is very compelling story. They’re risking little, and have a huge upside. This kind of win-win partnership is what sets me apart from a large number of consultants you can hire.
Activity: Make finding your USP a core part of your marketing. Make a list of your features and benefits from the eyes of your customers. Find the edges. The things that set you apart from your competitors. Also focus on things that you don’t do when making this list. Finally, find a way of reversing the risk for your customers in doing business with you. The list that emerges will be a powerful tool to help you make new offers and supercharge your marketing and sales efforts.
In the next section, we will learn about how simple databases can make you a savvier marketer.
#5: Databases for fun and profit
This is not going to be a technical discussion. This is more about a mindset and simple tactic to bolster your revenues.
Do you have your prospects, customers, sitting in a database separately? Do you collect their information at all? Often times, you might need to give them an incentive to do this, but you should do this to continue to provide greater value to them.
Many businesses keep databases on their customers in order to fulfill orders, remind them about appointments to your practice, or do other routine follow-up work. The rest of the time, this information is never linked. The dollars and cents are on their own cash flow and income statement separated from the value of each customers.
Yet, if you take the time to maintain a database of customers who you interact with, what they’ve spent with you, their needs and desires, and other personal notes, you can be head and shoulders above the rest of your competitors. Figure out which customers are coming in, how frequently they’re coming in, and how much they’re spending each time.
You might find trends that you didn’t consider before that can help you shift your business to make it a lot more profitable.
I worked with a company to market and sell logistics services. Based on the territory, there was a variety of companies. From textiles to cosmetics, technology and manufacturing. Doing some number crunching, we found out that technology companies were disproportionately more profitable. They needed overnight services more frequently, they tended to insure their packages against any damages, and had high margins in their product itself. I then went on to target only technology companies and grew the effectiveness by 130% in that one area. Manufacturing companies used the slowest means of transport (least profitable), and packages were heavy and bulky, and tended to damage other packages. Textiles and cosmetics were fairly low volume. Yet, the company used to spend an equal amount of time, money, and effort targeting companies from all industries before I looked at the database and found trends that made a difference.
Activity What trends can you find in your business? Are some customers bringing in the most amount of money? Can you serve them better? Can you find more of those customers somewhere? Can you ask your most profitable customers for referrals? Can you dig into their lives and understand what they’re looking for so you can make your messages more laser focused? Doing this can bring in better customers into your business, and keep your efforts focused on wildly profitable areas.
And this applies to prospects as well! Do you collect their information and send them relevant marketing offers, and educational content? You never know but that customer might just discover that over time, they really need your product or service. Perhaps they grow more educated in the space, perhaps they’re dissatisfied with their current vendor. By continuing to message them, you remind them that you exist, that you’re there to help them meet their needs, and you have their best interests at heart.
Some of my clients have been hesitant to do this. They don’t want to appear like they’re spamming them with emails or useless flyers. However, if you’re customer-focused, creating messages by being intensely focused on the customer, and shape it with a unique selling proposition, your offer will rarely be seen as an intrusion. This is especially the case when you lead with education and then ask for an order.
Prospects and customers reward this level of nurturing, this level of targeted and specific offers that gets to the heart of their deepest needs wants desires and goals. That’s why the Principles part of this book is so important. You cannot skip over them.
Imagine if you got a newsletter each month from a financial advisor that you met with once (but never did business with because it was too big and scary to do) and she kept on sharing extremely useful information that helps you make better decisions yourself. When she extends an offer for a business owner like you specifically, you will not see this as an intrusion, but actually greatly welcome this offer.
But this happened because she kept a database of prospects as well as current customers. She took detailed notes on what they were all like, and used that information to create offers that strike a chord. Sometimes, she even puts on a sticky note or gets her assistant to put a sticky note about something you mentioned in your last meeting with her (e.g. “I know your son is just about to head to college, so I think you’ll like this issue of my newsletter especially about how to manage finances with a student in college”).
This can be a great way of reactivating customers or prospects you’ve engaged with in the past. In addition, you might find other things to upsell them based on what they’ve bought from you in the past.
On that note, I’d like to ask you to consider joining my list. I send useful articles that remain ever-fresh and useful for the entrepreneur and business owner to be more effective at running his business. I will work to deliver value, and I hope this will also be another factor to help you consider hiring me to consult for your business, or come in to talk with your employees or other organizations that you work with. Please sign up for my email list here. I send out 2-3 emails a month at most with thoughtful medium sized articles.
#6: New Offers
If you’ve created a USP and have created a current database, coming up with new offers should be straightforward. Especially if you focus on educating customers constantly.
If you’re not in the business of creating new offers and marketing promotions on a regular basis, your first new offer can be calls to receive your education. This can become a constant promotion. This is a simple low cost opt-in that interested customers will gladly sign up for. Get their contact information and send them offers and marketing educational material on a regular basis.
Always find ways to personalize this. Even in impersonal highly technical fields, people are generally people. Tell a compelling story if you can. Or stick with technical jargon if needed.
You can also create new offers based on the customer type. For example, as a dentist you can create an offer just for executives in the area (perhaps lunchtime specials where professionals can come in and get work done), and then another one for just families (more weekend appointments). You don’t have to advertise the same prices for both or the same terms. Once again, think about your market first, and the message will come to you easily.
You can do different offers based on seasons or big events. Christmas time usually has the most sales. But you can find different offers based on dates relevant to the customer. Are there important days in your industry that your customers know about? You can create offers based on your own personal moments. If you’ve kept a database (as discussed earlier) and spent time educating your customers, your prospects have some personal rapport with you. Offer them a birthday offer (your birthday or their–ideally both). Once you start thinking, there is no end to the kinds of offers you can imagine and try out.
Talk about how you can upsell more things, find more products and services to get to them. And for prospects who have never bought from you, give them something (even a loss leader) to get them in the door and walk them through the ladder of steadily increasing things to buy from you. This means always looking out for things to sell them.
This can also be a great way of re-activating customers who’ve stopped buying from you. It is a shot of relevance that can connect with your customers.
This could also mean re-configuring elements of your product and services to more “bite sized” chunks that they can buy into. This was a big revelation for a lot of software companies. Whereas before, software companies asked for a flat fee for their software, more and more we are seeing monthly subscription prices at a much lower price than a 1 time annual subscription fee. This lower risk offer is a lot more powerful in making a customer try the software out. Can you think of ways to give your product or service at different levels for different customers? Can you give a more basic version of your product or service? A more premium version? Make it easy for them to engage with you.
In my business, my initial offer is just this book. It is not a big commitment to get this and go through this book. Next, I offer readers like you a consultation. I work hard to blow people away in this consultation. Even if they don’t choose to retain me for longer engagements (and we have to be well aligned in the first place to do it), they will at least have a positive experience in working with me. Those who retain me longer then get requests to recommend me to others. At every stage, I am working hard, delivering results, and incrementally asking for more as well. This way, I try to build progressively win-win relationships where both parties are getting richer.
You can grow your business risk free by working with me. You’re already reading the book, now you can choose to make it come alive in your business by contacting me. There is no obligation when we do an initial conversation. Contact me today to setup a time and talk.
Work to find ways to continuously add greater value and contribution to your customer. It might not even mean selling your products or services, but referring other complimentary businesses and their catalogs to them.
Increase number of clients, increase average sale by client, increase number of times people buy from you again.
So far we’ve been looking at just one dimension of growth — your customers. But what if you could branch out and geometrically grow things up? Learn more in the next section.
#7: New Markets
This can be an exciting new way of growing your business. You can re-purpose a lot of your old marketing materials and explore new markets altogether. You may need to customize it based on the unique variability of the new market, but it is certainly possible.
Think of new geographies, new demographics, new types of people who can benefit from your product and service. Just like before, find a list of people who match these variables and send them your offer. This process can even be accelerated if you have a business associate who already serves a complimentary product or service in the new market you want to enter. Offer to piggy-back on his customer or prospects database on a commission basis or a percentage of sale basis. This is to ensure that you get a trusted recommendation from someone the end customer trusts. If that’s not possible, you can still send in your offer with an existing channel. At least there is a higher likelihood that the message will get opened and read.
You could start off with the best materials you have and keep refining it.
In my business, finding new channels like this has been one of the fastest ways to help my clients grow. And people are truly appreciate when you reach out to them to discuss an opportunity to do business together. Whereas others want to be vendors, you are engaging with these other businesses as an equal, as someone that enhances the lives of their customers. Be bold and reach out to these companies and you will be surprised at how quickly and how profitable these relationships can become!
The best way to make these relationships work is to assure them that your businesses are non-competitive. Take care of doing all the marketing work for them. Trust them, let them take a lot of the front end profit if you like since you realize you can make a lot more after the first sale goes through. Let them even take the order so there is more trust.
I worked with a software company that sold highly specialized software to schools. It had gotten to 24-30 schools by itself through its own direct selling efforts. By finding just 2 other complimentary companies that would benefit from promoting this software to its customer base, we were able to get this software to 1,600 schools in the span of 4 months. For fractionally more in commissions, these companies even took care of selling and servicing the software issues leaving us with little to do except collect commissions.
This requires no technical knowledge. You don’t need to know SEO, Adwords, or anything like that. Finding great partners to work with can exponential help you grow your business.
A great way to start is to ask your existing customers what are things they buy before, during, and after they buy from you. What do they buy instead of you (whenever that does happen). All of these can be great complimentary businesses to partner up with to cross-sell or form some sort of joint venture that can help you both sell to each other’s customers.
Alternatively, find a listing agency in your area. Search for one online and contact them to help you pick lists that will work best. They are incentivized to get and keep your business by giving you the best lists possible to get your message in front of the right customers. You can splice and dice lists based on geography (just local ones), demographics (age, marital status, income level, etc), and even buying patterns (dog food lovers, contributors to certain non-profits, etc). You will be shocked at the type of lists you can use to get to new customer segments you hadn’t even dreamed of. Based on your selections, you can mail them, call them, email them, etc. These agencies will help you find the right people.
Spend the time thinking through the Market –> Message first before you find the actual list you can advertise to.
#8: Different Strokes for Different Folks
You should break down your customers into different types. You already do this unconsciously with your social circle. Some people are good to grab a drink with. Some are close friends with whom you share everything. Some are work colleagues, or just acquaintances. You deal with all of them differently. You share different things with different people. You speak their language when you connect with them.
Don’t fall into the trap into thinking that “everyone” can be your customer. The more specific you can get, the easier chance you have to speak their language, reach them, and get them to become your customer. Be specific, niche it down. Always. In fact, if you’re having a hard time getting or growing your customer base, you might just be aiming too broadly. Instead, pick a narrower market.
In the same way, creating different lists of people who buy or may buy from you can help you do more targeted marketing. What kinds of offers you make to a segment of doctors is very different than how you’d talk to a group of teachers. This type of granular segmentation can really help you not only market better to them (think about specific messages and specific mediums to reach them), but genuinely develop closer relationships with them.
Relationships become everything when it comes time to make the sale and keep the customer buying from you–seeing you as a trusted advisor.
This extends after the sale has been made. Stay in touch with the customer after they’ve made the purchase. Make them feel good. A lot of people send birthday cards and holiday cards to their customers. This is great, but only the first step. Send them materials letting them know that their portfolio is doing great. Send your patients case studies of how happy people are when they get a certain procedure done. Call them, checking in on them. This reduces buyers regret, or the fear that they missed out on making a better decision. Offer your best deals to your existing customers first. It is much easier to keep an existing customer than to get a new one. So instead of a new hot campaign to pull in new customers, it might just be a lot easier to get existing customers to revisit you. This is also a great way to get their referrals (see above).
All these strategies are great, but they all fall apart when you get face to face with a customer, or worse–after you make the sale! In the next section, we’ll learn about 2 more super strategies that can make you sell more and feel good in the process.
#9: Holding a Conversation aka Selling!
All this marketing is great, but people often freeze up at the point of sales. Unfortunately, selling is viewed negatively in our society. A “lowly” salesperson is made to wait, is insulted, and is basically considered to be at the bottom of the pyramid. This is ironic since nothing can happen in a business until the sale is made.
All your marketing can fall apart if you fail at the selling portion. If you’re selling anything that requires some human interaction, you must get the sales part down. Nothing happens in a business until a sale is made.
First, all of this effort you’re putting into marketing a lot smarter will help you with sales. You will get customers who are already engaged and hopefully educated before they come to buy from you. This is a dramatic change compared to how sales are usually done in organizations.
I’ve worked on and worked with many startups which are really well funded with millions of dollars, but have salespeople making cold phone calls trying to get appointments right away. What a tremendous waste of money and time! It is a sure fire way to burn through all the cash you’ve received. Not to mention how discouraging this is. Despite what people say, getting rejected a thousand times feels awful. Some can push past it, but most can’t. No wonder that after the US Military, sales organizations employ the most number of motivational speakers.
Yes, this applies even to companies where face-to-face selling is paramount. Even they can benefit from having sent highly targeted educational or marketing materials with strong calls to actions on offers. This makes the salesperson a welcome guest to their office.
You won’t need motivation to sell. Because the role of (good) marketing is to pre-sell qualified prospects about your products and services so that when they come to you you can have a better conversation and convert them into paying customers. This also changes the power dynamic.
Whereas before, when a cold call as a salesperson gives all the power to the customer, with good marketing you can nurture a prospect until they’re ready to buy from you. When they come to you, they approach you with greater respect and view you as someone who sits on their side of the table. In other words, they will see you as someone on their side. A sales call will feel easy and effortless if you’ve spent your time doing good marketing to them with the principles and techniques discussed so far. Great marketing has already done the job of “cold calling” for you or your salespeople. It now becomes a lot cheaper to call on a prospect (vs before where startups spend tons of money doing all cold calling and very little marketing).
On this note, it is also worth noting that a lot of startups invest a lot in SEO in writing up great content. But without promoting this content or educational material, it doesn’t really matter. Spend just as much time, money, and effort promoting the content you produce.
Start small, create great marketing, test offers, and bring them in to you. There is a completely different dynamic that occurs when the customer comes to you to inquire about your products or services compared to when you cold call on them. You want to be the former category.
During the sales call itself, you can focus more on asking questions and think about serving them in the best way possible.
The Mindset: You treat people like people. You don’t manipulate them with fancy persuasion tricks. You don’t have pressure filled closing techniques. You might win one sale from this, but over the long term, you create resentment in the mind of the customer if they feel duped. Even relying on your likeability alone is not enough. Because when circumstances call for it, they will demand more than that.
The only way to therefore sell is the same way you are supposed to deal with most humans: ethically, fairly, and sincerely. You do not “drive” a bargain with your spouse. You don’t “close” a deal with your kids. This sort of language alone implies that your prospects and clients are objects that you manipulate. They are not.
The objective of the salesperson might even be to disqualify the prospect! It is their task to see if the prospect is serious about buying now, or if they’re just window shopping. Good marketing will have eliminated most of these issues, but a neutral approach to selling can help put the salesperson in charge of the interaction.
The Environment: Create an environment where the customer can talk about their needs wants desires and goals without judgment. You start off each sales interaction trying to gauge why they’ve come to you. This can be as simple as admitting that the customer has many options. Admit that you have flaws. Why are they coming to you?
How can you do this? By no longer trying to relate to them, to become overly-friendly with them. Instead, focus on remaining neutral (yes, neutral). Be a blank slate. Keep asking questions. Do not express approval or disapproval over their choices. Do not grovel, do not beg, do not be a pushover. Remain neutral.
Next, bring up the “flaws” of your products and services upfront is a huge pressure valve. Bring them up before the customer does and you will see them much more at ease. Address the pluses and minuses before the customer does. This makes you a consultant with the customer’s best interests at heart, not a pushy salesperson. This elevates the sales process. It also disqualifies the people who are time-wasters, who are not suited for your product or service. Selling to these people might feel great when you “push past their resistance.” But it bites you later on when they grow disgruntled.
As a salesperson your goal is therefore to get pre-qualified leads through great marketing to explain why they want to do business with you. Your goal is to bring out all the things that are on their mind, and then explain to them the pros and cons, and all the ins and outs of working with you. After all this is done, you can get to the close
The Close: If you’ve followed the principles of direct response marketing, you know that you must ask for a close. This can be as simple as asking the prospect to take the next step. Have this figuring out beforehand. Don’t be afraid to ask for a close. The language can be as simple as “Shall I go ahead with your order then?” if it is appropriate.
This is a simplified method of selling which is very different than everything else in the market. It reduces friction and doesn’t follow the typical “pump yourself up” methods of motivational selling where the salesperson has to yell affirmations to feel good. I conduct a longer 1 or 2 day workshop at companies to really go deep into this philosophy. To see if this is right for you, consider setting up a call with me to learn more and train your team in this method of selling.
#10: Customer Service: The beginning of a relationship
The sale is not the end of the marketing, but really just another touch point. As has been discussed repeatedly above, the first sale is just the beginning of a relationship. Give the customer a reason to want to keep buying from you. Instead of chasing new customers, you can have it a lot easier selling more things to the same customer. That happens only when you provide an excellent experience to your customer.
This goes back to your USP. If service is what sets you apart, then deliver on it. Even if it doesn’t, find ways to deliver better service, and more ways to contact them. There is no such thing as too little follow-up. Nowadays, with modern tools, it is easier than ever to contact your customers and keep them engaged. Right after the first sale is done, thank them for trusting you for their time and money. Reassure them that they made the right choice in buying from you. Give them ideas on how they can best use the product or service you provided them.
After a certain interval, check in to make sure they are doing fine. Offer them the educational material that you prepared for them. This is also the right time to start thinking about upsells and cross sells with other products and services provided either by you or by other complimentary businesses that can enhance the life of your customer.
You must become an ally to your customer. Learn everything you can about their world and find ways of serving their needs. This is not about becoming a supplicating doormat who breaks his or her back, where you give in to every one of the customer’s demands. Not at all. This is about essentially changing the dynamic of this relationship where they won’t ask you to bend over backwards because you’ve given them value above and beyond what any other competitor will.
This value is not always the product or service itself, it is often the way that product or service is delivered to them. It started with the direct-response marketing style which was focused on the customer’s needs, wants, desires, goals, and values. It happened with great education based content that enriched their lives instead of typical marketing that tells everyone how great your business is. It went into the personalized touch that happened when you got referrals from them (or when they were referred to you), the customized messages they got when you segmented your list properly, and found opportunities from other companies to promote to them. All of these things can set you apart…and it has little to do with the product or service itself.
This is the heart of transcending your business from a mere commodity business into a preeminent business which becomes the only choice for your customers. Great customer service ties it all together.
What now? That’s the end of the 10 strategies. There is a way to get all of these pieces running on full power. Learn how in the next section.
Commit yourself to testing, experimenting, and iterating constantly. Your business is not a destination, and neither is marketing. This is an ever evolving and fun way to be there to serve your customer. Isn’t that what makes work and your business most enjoyable? When you get to connect with your customers, and provide something valuable to them?
That is the heart of marketing. So commit yourself to experimenting and testing. Do small tests and if things work, go bigger and bigger (as much as your appetite holds).
When it comes time to implement these ideas, pick the one that feels the most right to you AND that you feel is easiest to implement. There is a tremendous power that comes from snowballing your success. Perfect one thing before moving on to the next.
Don’t feel pressured to have everything humming along perfectly. Perfect is the enemy of done. So focus on implementing the ideas in here as well as you can. Having some sharpness or expertise in marketing is better than having anything. Even a Principles and Strategies discussed here will go a long way.
You’ve learned some powerful strategies so far.
What are your big questions left about marketing strategies still lingering in your mind?
What would you like clarified further? What can be made more clear? What was most useful?
Share your story, comments, or questions below!
In the next section, we’ll look at some tools to make all these pieces work together!
The following tools, if used with the principles described previously and with the right strategies, will be very effective in helping you succeed.
You need tools that you can iterate it on easily. That means they have to be easy to use for you, and easy for you to understand, make changes, and measure results. I am proposing a few tools that can help you accomplish this.
You might struggle with keeping your website up to date. If you do, then I have great news for you. WordPress is free and one of the easiest tools on the Internet to build and maintain your website. It is dead simple to use. Updating it is also a breeze. I believe that if you can write an email, or write documents on your computer, then you can maintain your own website and update WordPress.
You’ll be in safe hands if you use WordPress. You can create your own custom design and pictures and work on this. There are scores of freelancers that you can hire on Upwork.com who will help you with design and editing if you need. But look for tutorials on YouTube.com on how to install and get started with WordPress on your domain name. It won’t take more than 20 mins to 1 hour to get up and running, and the payoff is high since you can make changes so quickly.
However, if even this is too daunting, I recommend using even simpler online website builders like wix.com or squarespace.com. Today, maintaining an up to date website is a must in order to inform existing and new customers. It is also an important tool to collect customer data and nurture them over time.
In addition to your website, there are many tools out there that can help you deliver great customer service to your customers. You should also consider using email management systems. Even a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that keeps track of all the interactions you have with customers. Hubspot is one such software which is virtually free with limited functionality that you can sign up and get using right away. A great CRM will help you keep track of all your customers, keep notes on them, and communicate with them.
Mailchimp is a simple tool to help you do emails en masse to your customers. You can customize all fields of the email to make it look personal to anyone. It is also free to use for up to 2,000 people on your list. Beyond that, you pay. For a lot of small businesses, this is more than they need.
To connect all these tools together, look at Plugins within WordPress itself. They can help you connect it all together. If you want to make Hubspot talk with Mailchimp, look at the integrations tab in Hubspot. They will help you do it.
Please note that I have not been compensated from any of these companies to write about them here. I’ve looked at many solutions (certainly not all, of which there are hundreds if not thousands), and this setup has the best balance of value for money, ease of use, and enough sophistication to allow the amount of control you want.
Despite what everyone else says, email or even direct mail remains the most powerful tool to market to people in scale. Barring in-person mediums like telephone, speaking, or one-on-one meetings of course.
Direct mail can be a powerful tool as well, as long as your mail does not look like spam. What do you do when you get an email that looks like spam? You throw it away! In the same way, what happens when your mailbox is filled with flyers and useless offers by yet another credit card company? You throw it away!
The key to getting your direct mail or emails read is to make your piece look like its written by a human. Use a real stamp if you can. Don’t use teaser copy on your envelope. While there are certain cases where this can work, for the average small business or startup owner, think simple and human. This can be a huge differentiating factor. It can be the difference between a person opening your mail or throwing it away in the bin then and there.
On the next section, we will learn more about outsourcing a lot of this stuff.
Knowing how all this works, you won’t ever be fooled by a salesperson who flashes his smile and winks her eye to get you to invest in something that doesn’t work. Beware of people with no skin in the game. Beware of people who are incentivized to do something contrary to your interests.
I had to hire a Facebook consultant to help me run campaigns for a company I was invested in. This consultant not only charged a retainer fee, but also wanted to make 10% of the ad spend. Out of the 18 people we interviewed, only 1 person was honest enough to say that Facebook was not a good use of our time and money given the market we were trying to reach. Everyone else said Facebook will definitely work and that they’ll keep “experimenting” to get something until it works. This virtually guarantees that the consultant extracts the most amount of money out of the company because he makes money when he spends more money on Facebook. Beware of consultants that don’t have skin in the game — a great consultant should sit on the same side of the table as you. Your loss should be their loss and your gain should be their gain. Unfortunately, don’t rely on someone to be honest in this situation when it is in their interest to make money from them not being fully honest with you.
I once was advising an educational institute on how to do marketing. They were on the brink of insolvency. They had somehow committed $10,000/month for ads in the equivalent of a coupon saver pack because the owner was impressed by the sales rep who sold it to her by hearing all the fancy numbers. No one in her target market would read that, but based on emotion and a few big numbers, she had sunk a lot of money into this and refused to get out of it.
You should also not care about how many hours a consultant puts into their work. A lot of consultants charge by the hour. That means even if there isn’t any work needed, they end up billing you more for their busy work (think a lot of lawyers). I believe when hiring a consultant for your marketing, you should hire based on results. Hire people who stand behind their work. That’s how I structure the deal with a 1 page agreement usually and I deal primarily with the owner or entrepreneur him or herself so as to avoid any needless politics. I pride myself in having a performance based approach to my pricing. I make most of my money when you make money. And if I don’t deliver results, I don’t make money. That’s fair and I believe that’s having real skin in the game.
If you are interested in my services to help you with your marketing and sales, please go on my contact page and fill out the form to get started. Even if I don’t have the bandwidth to work with you directly, I should be able to refer you to other options that I would feel good about.
Nevertheless, for routine mundane activities, you can pay by the hour or pay per project. For example, sites like Fiverr.com will give you a fair understanding of how much a completed project will charge. Similarly, you can make job postings on Upwork.com. All you have to do is search for “your key word here” + “outsource” and you will find plenty of people to do specific pieces of marketing for you.
The question of tools is vast. Can I expand this section? Create a supplementary guide? Let me know what kinds of questions you have regarding this and let me know filling out the form here.
Technologies change all the time. But some things are here to stay. Websites will stay, and so will email. If you aren’t following the principles above, don’t waste your time on the newest tech tactic or channel. Focus on the fundamentals. Use evergreen tools that you know will pay off. A clean website that sells your products and services in a way that customers want to look at will pay off. So will email. It’s not going anytime soon. And direct mail and telephone still work, so write that letter to your customer list, and make those phone calls. They still work.
We went over a lot of materials. But to make all of this work, you need to build a system. You can implement the principles and ideas above haphazardly. But to reap the true rewards of all this, you need an engine or a system that can reliably work. Investing in this engine can be one of the most important things you can do for your business. This is how you can “make money while you sleep” because you know that more customers are coming your way. This is where the fear of scarcity, a recession, business cycles goes away. You’ve created an engine.
Build this engine over the next few weeks to a few months and run it with full horsepower.
I truly believe that business and trade is one of the most potent forces for good in this world. I believe marketing is a critical piece of that to help educate, inform, and get customers to identify and act in a way that aligns with their highest needs, values, goals, and wants. Marry great marketing with entrepreneurs like you committed to creating and selling great products and services, and we can get a very potent force to change the world.
Fast-track your success
Building this marketing engine can feel daunting and difficult if this is all new. Even if it isn’t, the learning curve can appear steep. Some of you might still feel daunted by the personal changes you have to make to feel comfortable doing this. Perhaps writing and assembling pieces of this engine are difficult, time consuming, or you’d rather focus on other parts of your business.
Even if you use a few of these tactics, you will do better than most. But if you want to get everything out of your business, you will need to dedicate time, effort, or dollars to marketing.
Alternatively, you should consider hiring a marketing consultant (someone who gets the principles we discussed above) and paying them a fee is like getting money at discount. We discussed this before, but it bears repeating.
If someone can change your conversion rate from 1% to 2%, they have effectively doubled the effectiveness of your marketing, which means double the revenue. Is it possible for a marketing expert to do this? Yes. Just stay away from “Branding experts.” A well trained direct response marketer who knows how to design systems can do this for you. A great hire should also charge you a percentage of the performance they deliver–not just a flat retainer fee. This shows that they are confident in their abilities.
I’ve routinely worked with businesses where I have doubled, tripled, quadrupled their revenues with fixes to their marketing. You pay for the expertise and my ability to perform. And of course, I practice what I preach.
My Risk Free Guarantee: If my work doesn’t increase your business, then you get your money back. Your relationship with me should be profitable, and you should get results from my work.
If you’re interested in growing your business, and have the means and ability to scale up over time, and are looking to hire a marketing expert, you can contact me here to explore working together. My fees are based on performance, so you risk little when we work together except the hard costs you would have spent on marketing anyways.
Even if you don’t use me, consider hiring someone who gets the concepts discussed above. Contact me.
And now I’d like to turn it over to you:
Did you learn something new from this guide?
Or maybe you have a question.Share