Category Archives: Managing

Spring bulbs can still flower

By Stephen Rhodes

Jeff’s scavenger hunt got me thinking about spring, and the seasonal reboot that tales place once the sun stays in place for any length of time.

By now, you know if your marketing plan is working. Are you happy with the results? If you are, great, keep it up. If not, you need to take a look at the key metrics that you use to measure success. It’s only the second quarter and there is plenty of time to change the trend line.

First, examine your expectations. Were they realistic? Have market conditions put your plan in jeopardy? Has your competitors stepped up their game? Have your customers responded favourably to changes you may have introduced – price increase, new products, improved customer service?

Failure in business often comes from a dogged persistence to stick to a plan that isn’t working. Smart business people are adaptable and open to change.

Smart business people also have their finger on the pulse of their business and have a set of indicators that help them measure success. You need to understand and monitor the metrics that are important to your business.

If one of your goals is to develop new customers and your marketing tools are not getting your message to the people you want to reach, change the tools.

Talk to your customers. Sometimes we get so caught up in the advances of marketing through media darlings like Facebook and Twitter that we forget the old-fashioned telephone can put us in touch with a customer instantly.

There is no shame in adjusting your goals midstream.

If your goal is to drive the top line, revenue, and you have invested heavily to do that, you need to look at what’s working and what isn’t and refocus the investment. If the goal is to protect the bottom line, then you might have to adjust expenses. Hopefully, in any kind of investment in your business, you provided for a reasonable length of time to allow for growth, part of your strategic approach to building your business.

The point here is that there is lots of time to adjust your plan. With a little care and attention, the bulbs you plant this spring will still flower.

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Filed under Communications, Customer Service, Managing, Marketing, Networking, Sales, social capital, Stephen Rhodes, Sustainability

Spring Scavenger Hunt for Business

By Jeff Bowman

Spring brings renewal, and with it I like to take the opportunity to renew some business practices, renew business relationships and the energy and vigour required for a successful business to thrive.  The Spring Scavenger Hunt is an excellent way to accomplish some of these objectives, as it provides you with some realistic goals to achieve in a way that is creative and fun, and doesn’t seem so much like “work”.  Give it a shot!

My scavenger hunt list is simple, commonly found and recognizable items to search out for your business.  What makes it unique, is that you set your own numbers and timetable for completion.  For small businesses, you are competing against yourself.  For larger business, you can create teams in the office, sales teams or management teams to compete against each other. Like all scavenger hunts, there should be a reward for a job well done -a dinner out on the company, a round of golf or, perhaps, a shopping voucher from a local store. Put a little fun and excitement into the office to mark the turning of the season!

Here is the Spring Scavenger Hunt for Business list. (You can fill in your own numbers – set a time limit)

____    New Clients

____    New qualified Prospects (can’t be the same as #3)

____    Referrals from existing clients

____    Testimonials about your product or service

____    New uses/users for your product or service

____    Recognizable ways to expand your local community involvement

____    Things you didn’t know about your competitors

____    Ways to make the office environment more fun to work in.

That’s it.  8 items that, if found will generate more revenue for your business.  This isn’t just a fun game, make sure that once the list is complete you utilize everything you have found.  New clients and prospects speak for themselves in terms of business growth. The ability to generate referrals is an indicator of how well you have developed current client relationships. Testimonials can be used (with permission) on websites, literature, and new prospect presentations. Every company can find new users or uses for your product or service if you think hard enough. Check out http://www.wd40.com/files/pdf/wd-40_2042538679.pdf to see what I mean! New uses translates to more volume sold, as does new users. Community involvement builds social capital for your business.  Knowing more about your competitors allows you to capitalize on any weakness you might uncover.  Finally, making the office more fun to work in reduces stress, increases creativity and productivity.  What business can’t use more of that!

Good luck with the hunt! I’d love some feedback on how it worked for your business!

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Filed under Communications, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Marketing, Media, Networking, Sales, social capital

Tune Your RADIO to”Success 2012”

 By Jeff Bowman

During the first quarter of the new year, we must reflect on the successes and triumphs that we experienced this past year.  It was another complex year in terms of the recession, however I prefer to celebrate the victories we had rather than dwell on the difficulties we may have encountered.  In analyzing our achievements, we can better plan for increasing the business victories in the next year. The first quarter of 2012 is time to rev up the planning of sales and marketing activities for 2012.

2012 will bring many of the same challenges that we experienced in 2011, so we need to highlight our areas of success and plan around them moving forward as a sales organization.  It is important to stress that business should not operate in silos, with marketing having their planning meetings, finance theirs and so on.  A sound strategic sales plan is fully interdependent on the actions of every other employee in the company.  If operations decide to change shipping procedures for example it may impact sales, finance clamping down on days outstanding will result in a more difficult selling experience and then we may have new product introductions or changes in marketing budgets that directly affect sales. An overarching plan must be in place that incorporates the individual ideas, plans and actions from every department.

I recommend you tune your RADIO.  It is an analogy I use to assist business owners to identify and deal with issues affecting their success.

R – Review your successes and performance against your objectives, incorporating frontline accounts and testimonials. The sales force should meet to debrief about their experiences. Special attention should be paid to what was done right, what made the sales process easier, what made clients more acceptable to their calls. Focusing on the accomplishments creates a more driven and motivated sales representative. Who enjoys sitting in a meeting being reminded of negative sales trends, reduction of sales efforts, cut backs in marketing.  These are your frontline people, keep them interested!

A – Ask clients what they like about doing business with you.  Surveys can tell you important information, as well as demonstrate to the client that you are interested in their views. Everyone in the organization represents the company, and everyone can ask the clients for their opinions. If changes are suggested and undertaken, let the client know what you did to improve!

D – Dialogue creation. Focus on the many different ways there are to keep lines of communication to the clients and prospects open.  Twitter, blogs, newsletters, product updates, and surveys keep your name top of mind with the client.

I – Investigate the industry. Keep on top of the competition, be aware of emerging trends, understand where the customer’s real needs are and address then directly. Take the time to train your employees, so that their customer service and consultative sales skills are top-notch. (all employees who have any contact with any prospect or client)

O – Organize, set objectives and obtain results. Analyze the potential that exists in every territory or region that you sell into.  The potential is made up of many variables including the competitive environment, trends, population growth, demographics and is closely affixed to marketing activities. I have been working with businesses for 20 years in looking at “real” versus “imagined” potential, and I can tell you, a good understanding results in increased recognition of untapped potential. Create “realized potential” objectives and monitor the results quarterly.

Tuning into your business needs isn’t as easy as tuning in a radio station, however making the effort to tune into those distant and local areas of concern in the business will certainly improve the reception and your business success.

The Marketing Pad specializes in assisting and facilitating the “Success Planning Process”. Call us today to get you to the next level.  http://www.themarketingpad.com

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Filed under B2B, Communications, Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Marketing, Media, Sales, Strategic Planning

It’s 11 O’clock. Do you know where your sales are?

 By Jeff Bowman

For those of us experienced (old) enough to remember the channel 7 news from Buffalo in the 70’s and 80’s, “It’s 11 o’clock, do you know where your children are?” was the phrase that led to the nightly news. It was a reminder for all parents to know where their kids are at all times.  In business today knowing where your sales are now, where they will be next month and the long-term projection  is critical to success, yet most businesses don’t analyze their sales strengths, weaknesses and potential until it’s too late.

It’s no secret that if you stop making calls, you will notice  a decrease in sales, and by the time you notice it you are already into the next cycle of ramping up time required to get relationships and sales back on track.  This can cost months of revenue, has cost many salespeople their jobs and has led to many small businesses closing their doors unable to keep up with expenses. How do we get into this cycle, more importantly once in it, is there a quick and effective way to get out?

Time is every businesses enemy, and in bad economies, it seems to work twice as fast against them. Clients react quickly to change, looking for better service, a more reliable business relationship and lower costs.  If you are not on top of your customer contacts, not providing the level of service your clients have grown accustomed to or you are not being competitive, then clients move elsewhere. Sometimes sales tracking, prospecting and diligent client cultivation gives way to reactive, time-consuming measures taken to survive and keep the ship afloat. We quickly lose sight of the simple things in the business that have made it successful.

There is a solution to the problem, and as with most problems the solution starts with the recognition that there is a real issue. Revisit previous years, paying attention to details like number of clients, average order size, buying frequency, seasonality of sales, and types of products or services supplied.

What is different?

Are you promoting your business as much?

What have you cut in order to save money?

Are you listening to your clients?

Are you aware of new competition?

Is there potential for growth?

Once you have some answers to these questions,  planning takes over to eliminate the weaknesses, and build on the strengths. Yes, it is work, and yes there will be a lag between actions and results, but with the proper planning, guidance and sales support you will be back on track. Don’t lose sight of something as critical to your business as sales. Know where they are, where they will be, and where they have been at all times.

View our Winter Newsletter.

 

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Filed under Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Sales, Training and Development

Trade Show No Shows

By Jeff Bowman

I had the pleasure of attending a trade show for the promotional products market last week. First off, I have to tell you that I love going to trade shows and exhibitions especially for new products.  It comes from my days as a youngster attending TV and appliance trade shows with my dad. It was a world of wonder to a 12-year-old seeing the glitz and the hype and the barkers, not to mention leaving with a bag load of freebie stuff. I recognized that networking (chatting up the people in the booth) resulted in building relationships, and I would often see the same people for several years in a row. “Hey you’ve grown” was a phrase I heard a lot.

Last week, I was a little disappointed, not with the show, it was very well laid out and promoted, but with the sales skills of some of the representatives manning the booths. I should also mention the total lack of people at some of the display booths. How can you justify the expense of participating in a show if you have no live point of contact? Enough about the no-shows the majority of business owners are far too smart to let that happen.

As I moved down the aisles I was tempted by an array of colours, freebies, contests and noise. The noise  is like music to my ears as a sales trainer.  The sound of the booth hosts inviting you in, recognizing the company name, offering up a handshake, asking the right questions.  Questions like “do you use promotional incentives”, “have you seen the latest”.  I was most impressed by a guy who read the name of my supplier on my badge and said “Oh you use Richard”, I said “do you know him?” and he replied “no, but I need to meet him if he deals with you”.  Corny, maybe.  A little hokey, yes. A sound foundation for relationship selling? Definitely!

The booths that I walked past, and I do mean literally walked past, contained no enticement, maybe a small dish of hard candies on a barren table with a stack of business cards.  There was no noise, no chatter.  Often the two booth hosts were too engaged in their own conversation to notice my interest or total lack thereof. One guy was on a cell phone with his back to the guests, another lady was adjusting her make-up, and yet another man was eating in the booth, and leaving crumbs on the nice clean carpet. I have been to enough shows in my life to make the split-second decision, if I don’t see or hear anything that catches my interest or at least one of my senses, I walk on by.

Time, effort, cost vs result measurements will tell you if the trade show was a success.  You can blame poor results on a great number of things, but your company’s lack of effort in sales lead generation should never be one of them!

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Managing, Sales, Training and Development