You don’t need one to start a business necessarily. You can navigate entrepreneurship for quite a while without a business plan, especially if you aren’t looking for any capital.
There’s nothing preventing you from getting your first client, building an app and attracting users, or selling things on Etsy without a business plan.
But, the moment that you want to start treating your passion as a business and not a coincidental success, you’ll want to write up a plan. Even if you don’t need funding, a business plan acts as a roadmap to ensure that you have all of the components that you need in order to grow sustainably as far as team, execution, product/service mix, and marketing/sales strategy are concerned. Honestly, many a crisis could be averted if new business owners or hobbiepreneurs would go through the exercise of creating a business plan. There’s even more value in keeping it updated every year with new goals and targets, and making sure that your business and brand is still in alignment with your original mission, vision, and core values, and keeping up with how the industry is evolving versus getting blindsided by it later and trying to figure out how they got into that position.
How many times have you gone to a networking event, Meetup, or gathering of sorts and collected a pile of business cards that you never ended up doing anything with? You may have your own system that you try to remember to stick to when you have time, but we’re all CEO’s and/or sales people… and we have a long list of things that need to be done when magic windows of time open up. Making connections and following up is a key part of the sales process that seasoned sales professionals often neglect. Those that don’t do this crucial step are leaving money on the table, so to speak.
I’ve been in sales for about 13 years, and very few things have changed. The fact that your connections matter, and the more that you have of them – the better, have not. Unfortunately the tunnel vision of getting to the next sale and hitting your quota so that you can eat, often get in the way of sales folks consistently adhering to the tried and true best practices of the trade. Which means follow up and nurturing of business connections can go by the wayside.
Did you know that 80% of sales require 5 follow-ups.
And that’s crazy, right?
Because good business connections = referrals, which are people who are looking for what you provide and are in the market for it at the moment. How fortuitous!
Yet… once we make a sale or a few, we’re hunting for fresh meat when we have a pile of relationships sitting on our nightstands, underneath coffee cups, hidden between cracks and crevices. And good luck finding that business card when we remember that we met a guy at an event that does that thing that we need. Some of us have created mini leaning towers of business cards that fall over if the office door slams a little too hard. Well, from this day forward let’s commit to creating follow-up procedures, because what I’m about to show you will change the game when it comes to dealing with the struggles that sales people often go through when it comes to keeping their administrative houses in order. I’ve stumbled upon a tool that makes follow-up less overwhelming and circumvents manual entry and all of the other things that sales people hate about their jobs; however, are also necessary evils. Oh yes, and we can ditch having piles of business cards that eventually take up precious real-estate in our work and live spaces.
Sales Follow-up Option #1: Send out a Mass Email
So, here’s what I do. Prior to a trade show or major networking event, I draft my follow-up messaging. What I used to do was have my assistant put all of my contact from the event into a spreadsheet, and then I would send out a super generic email to everyone to follow-up and hope that folks would respond and setup a meeting with me. Lazy, right? Impersonal. And was I shocked that I got very little, if any response? Nope. However, if you aren’t currently using a CRM, this level of follow-up is the least that you can do. Because having everything in a system that you can market and send super valuable content to later is a step that most sales people don’t do. I’d say about 10% of the people that received my message post-event responded, and I’d at least get one opportunity and sometimes a new client with my shoddy, half-baked attempt at continuing the conversation and keeping those relationships going after our initial encounter.
Sales Follow-up Option #2: Schedule Your Follow-up Sequence
So option one isn’t the worst, but it’s definitely not the most effective. I still encourage my clients to draft follow-up messaging before an event, or even a generic everyday follow-up script (telephone or email). This way, you can get right to it and not have to waste brain space trying to figure out how to approach the conversation. Also, with scripts you can manage consistency with your sales teams to ensure that they are all communicating properly and following the best practices that your company has set forth as standard in order to create the best results. This is often hard to manage, but at least this is a standard that you can hold your sales people to. In your follow-up sequence you want to draft your initial email, your email that you send out after a certain number of days if you don’t get a response, and another email that you use to close this round of follow-up.
In the initial message, you can keep it brief and to the point; although, I would make sure that you personalize the message with the recipient’s first name and maybe add a quick reference to a conversation that you have just so that they know that they aren’t receiving a templated response (because it’s 2017). Like… go Yankees! Or something similar like that. Don’t overthink it.
The second message in the sequence can just be a quick check-in if you didn’t get a response to your initial message. Determine how many days out you want to send this message (3-7 business days is a good option generally). Share something of value so that the message isn’t so self centered. Include a link to a piece of (preferably branded) content that is relevant to the conference or event, or helps solve the companies problem. Or even better, if you have a legit referral, that may help you get a more immediate response as well.
Message number three can be a nice message that ends the follow-up sequence that tells them that you are here when they are more available for a conversation.
You can typically set these templates up in your CRM or you can email them using a drip sequence with a your email service provider. The only problem with this is that you may not be able to add personalization to these messages. Another cumbersome option is to manually send these messages out by hand, and calendar the dates for which you need to complete the different steps of the follow-up sequence.
Sales Follow-up Option #3: Sales Automation
So… the star of the show is automating this entire process. I stumbled upon the most amazing CRM a little over a year ago, and I’ve implemented it in a half dozen sales teams varying from 1 person to 10+, and with 100% success. Sales people love it, and CEOs and management are able to actually manage their sales process, have accurate forecasting and reporting, and did I mention that sales people ACTUALLY use it? I’m not going to get into all of the cool features that it has. But I will show you how I use it to manage my sales follow-up.
Introducing: Hubspot CRM
So let me illustrate how this works in steps…
I prepare my templates for follow-up, whether it is a general follow-up sequence or a post-event sequence of sorts.
I enter them into my Hubspot Sequence Library
Once I get a new contact or a business card, I enter them into the system. Recently, Hubspot released this handy new feature where you can take a picture of a business card and it enters the information in so that you don’t have to type it all. You may have to make some edits, because of course it isn’t perfect, but it makes for speedy input of data.
Once the information is in, I enter the contact into the sequence, and customize the messaging for the contact. I can do this simply and easily from my email by just pulling in the template. It helps to have the template as customized to the conference or event, or even to your general company voice so that you don’t have to make many edits, and you can just drop each contact into the sequence, and voila! You’re done!The sequence keeps going until the last email is sent, or the recipient responds. Cool, eh? I mean, all sorts of CRMs have fancy tricks, but this one is the easiest to setup and deploy that I’ve found. There is all sorts of advanced stuff that you can do with the Hubspot CRM, oh, and did I mention that it’s FREE?
The Hubspot CRM is FREE with one small caveat. There are some PRO features, and sequences is one of them. The fee is $50/user; however, if you are interested in a FREE demo and would like this feature for you or your team, we can get you a pretty sweet discount as we are an agency partner at Hubspot.
If you’re interested, please let us know.
In the meantime, use these tips to and start making your follow-ups a priority.
3 Ways to Turn Your Pile of Business Cards into Profit (Automate) June 28th, 2017Amara
Establishing a comprehensive marketing plan and strategy is essential for sustainable and consistent growth for any and all businesses. A cohesive plan will help identify which marketing and promotional efforts must take place in order to achieve the goals that are set forth by the company over a specific period of time. In addition, the plan will outline and help communicate key details about the target customer(s) as far as who they are, what their needs are, and opportunities in the market to provide service where there are deficits. While there are key components of a traditional marketing strategy that you want to be sure to flush out, here are some additional considerations that can turn an ordinary strategy into a winning one.
We picked this one first for a reason, and here’s why. We’ve composed a number of strategic plans for our clients, and when we do, they are always full of surprises. The good news with market studies is that they are data driven, so it takes emotion and opinion out of the equation. When done the correctly, there are a number of insights that come to the surface, as well as new opportunities; however, some business owners aren’t willing to accept the truth if it is different than what they had hoped or envisioned. Sometimes, the truth is that the market isn’t ready for certain innovations. Or, their market has changed and wants something different. Often, the demographics for some target markets shift in certain ways as time goes by, which explains why sales have had a slower rate of growth year over year. The market is outgrowing the business in some cases, or the business is out of touch with what their customers need. (The fossil fuel vs renewable energy demand for example). Without being able to keep it real and face the music about your business, cognitive dissonance creeps in and business owners often go with what they know or what is comfortable to them versus being willing to make adjustments to better serve their market. Being honest about your business and being open to feedback will keep your business ahead of the curve versus falling behind or trying to keep up.
Understanding Where Your Customers Are.
Creating buyer personas or customer avatars, fictitious detailed representations of your target customers, are an essential part of any traditional marketing strategy. Knowing who your customers are, and key information about their lifestyle and their needs will help you better understand where to find them. You may have an extremely niche business, but knowing where your customers are, can help you streamline your marketing so that your efforts are more effective. Most people think that marketing is all about social media. Social networking is a fantastic tactic; however, your customers may not be on Facebook. Or, their intent for being on Facebook may not be to check out companies that clean up oil spills. Facebook is missing one key component: a search engine. So people tend to stumble on new information on Facebook, and not so much go searching for it on that channel, which is why retargeting ads are really effective because they show ads for businesses where the user has visited their site and may not have converted during their visit. However, your customers are probably searching for problems that your business can solve via search engine (Google and Youtube being the #1 and #2 search engines in the world), so SEO (search engine optimization) tactics and a video strategy could really benefit your business and help you generate leads. Also, joining business organizations and going to networking events that have people from your personas or avatars that attend will make that time that you spend networking more effective as well. Those are just a few examples of how understanding your customer can help make your marketing more effective.
Understanding Your Customers Pain.
One of the most important aspects of communicating about your products and services is being able to evoke emotion. Fear and greed are two things that get people to move; otherwise, your sales end up being at the mercy of other people’s priorities. When you can create demand and heighten a sense of urgency with people, you’re able to close faster. Also, there is value in being able to solve problems as quickly as possible. If you have a business that provides emergency services like water damage restoration, where someones property is flooded now and they need immediate support, you want to make sure that your business can be found quickly, because people decide to do business in cases like this with the first person that will pick up the phone and can help deal with the problem quickly, because if the property is flooded for too long it can create even more damage and be more expensive to fix, or better yet – create more pain.
So often I see people in similar industries competing with one another head to head with the services that they offer, when they really need to paint the picture of how the problem will be solved so that customers have more confidence in the process, versus shopping for price. Creating more value in your process also will allow you to attract the right customers so that you get paid for what you are worth.
Communicating Your Value Propositions.
You want to really know what your brand promise is and have an understanding of how you are positioned in the market. Are you the low priced leader? Are you the designer to the stars? Do you have a money back guarantee? What are the key things that you do or the things that you can say that communicates the value of who you are and what you do. This is how you eliminate competition and create focus on the things that are of value that you provide. You want to use these characteristics in your marketing copy, proposals, product descriptions, hiring processes, etc. Often times, when you compete as a commodity, versus trying to showcase your value, you attract the wrong customers, and this is how companies get bad reviews or have really painful experiences with new clients, because they don’t value the same things. Customers that value price, may not value integrity or customer service. Customers that value support and giving back tend to be willing to pay more for services and trust companies that have a phone number on their website so that they can talk to someone, or just the simple fact that proceeds go towards supporting a cause, or that the company participates in community activities can make them stand out and help them attract the right customers with the right values.
When you see a brand that is consistently doing things to help people, and getting positive reviews, you tend to trust them more, right? If you see a brand mentioned in the news, or acknowledged publicly for their work, you may think that they do a better job over another competitor, correct? Well, your customers feel the same way. So, it’s important to incorporate communication about your accomplishments and capabilities in your marketing. Getting recommended on LinkedIn, having video testimonials, being mentioned as a subject matter expert in publications. These are all ways that you can build credibility for your brand and get a faster YES! Sometimes, just having a basic content strategy that is consistent will set you apart from another company that has a stagnant website and presence, and also helps you show up more in search results.
What are you willing to give to someone that fills out your contact form, in exchange for their email address? I see so many companies building funnels and landing pages to build their list, and then offering nothing of value in return. This is like showing up to a first date in your pajamas and then going dutch. It’s not a good look. If you are offering something free, it better be good. This is your first impression to make a lasting impact. Be clear about what you intend to give and what they can expect from you. Also, what do you intend to give to your community? Are you speaking at industry events as a subject matter expert? Being in the mindset of giving will help you GET a lot of attention, customers, and whole host of things, so long as it is authentic and consistent.
So many times, I have clients in my office wanting me to create campaigns exactly like their competitors because they think that’s what they should be doing. Wrong. Be disruptive. Piss people off. Make waves. Excite people. Whatever you do, do something to stand out from the crowd. Mediocrity means that you are swimming in an ocean of the status quo, and it’s almost impossible to win the battle of sameness. Even in the most heavily regulated industries, there are ways to say or do something different. Mix a headline or two with a controversial topic just to get people to see a different perspective. You can be disruptive without damaging your brand or your image. Just be authentic, be creative, and take a risk. When the attention comes your way, just be sure to provide value!
The Tortoise and the Hare is a kids story from our distant past (for most of us); however, it’s a simple reminder to be consistent. Yes, there are bigger companies than ours, but they all started out small at one point. If you keep being consistent, you will catch up. If you consistently give, consistently communicate value, consistently provide thought leadership, consistently build your sales pipelines, etc., your results will have a compounding effect over time. Fast growth creates peaks and valleys. It’s not sustainable in most cases. Consistent growth is sustainable and has more longterm rewards. Be consistent.
Clarity creates opportunity where there seemingly isn’t any. When we go through the business plan and marketing planning process with our clients, we often find that the lack of clarity about values, customer profile, value propositions, etc ends up creating doubt and confusion. You can’t create a cohesive marketing program without knowing the components of these essentials. Without an awareness about the different aspects of your business, it not only causes internal confusion, it creates a lack of clarity with your consumers. For example, if your core values and company mission are not communicated and do not align with the staff that you have hired, you may have a hard time maintaining the quality and standard of service that people are used to getting from you. Lot’s of problems erupt when clarity is lacking, so the next time there is a problem or your marketing seems ineffective when it should be working, check for misinformation and miscommunication. The culprit for the issue is sure to be a lack of clarity.
Things change, and you should be open to it. As an entrepreneur we get front row seats to the show that we have very little control over, and that is… owning a business. Sometimes we go left, our customers go right. We think we’ve positioned something perfect, and we’ve given our audience what they’ve asked for, and then we get a big goose egg. It’s weird. Things change, so should we. Sometimes we just have to be fluid and flexible, and go with the flow versus against it. Now, should we hop on every trend? No. I don’t think so. But, if we notice patterns, and if there is feedback that we are getting from our target demographic, or even our customers, it pays to take heed. Pay attention, and make the necessary adjustments that are a win-win for everyone.
If you’d like help with further defining your marketing strategy or plan, you should join our 30-Day Marketing Challenge where you’ll get coaching and support to help you grow your business and be more effective with your marketing.
10 Essentials of a Winning Marketing Strategy November 9th, 2017Amara
Adding emojis to content outside of social media has become quite common and has proven to be a rather effective addition to traditional marketing communications. Unfortunately, unless you are using a mobile device, the characters aren’t always readily available on desktop via a touch keyboard for emojis. Twitter and Facebook have integrated emoji selectors as an option for when you are drafting posts, but other networks aren’t so accommodating. So how does one properly convey their feelings to their readers if they wish to do so on their desktop (with an emoji).
On a Mac, press and hold [Command] +[Control] + [Spacebar], and then you’ll get a little window that will pop out, and you can choose your emoji. It should look like this.
There are lots of benefits and ways to use emojis for everyday use outside of spicing up your typical zebra conversations.
Push notifications with an emoji, saw an 85% higher open rate – Venture Beat
Brands using emojis in their subject lines for their email campaigns saw a 45% increase in their open rate. – Search Engine Journal
Social media posts with emojis have a 33% higher share and comment rate, and a 57% or higher like rate.
There are also some really cool #marketinghacks (and #lifehacks I suppose) that make emojis really handy. For example, if you have a lot of documents that you collaborate on in various categories, you can add an emoji to the title to help identify what type of document or message is contained in the document. You don’t necessarily need a smiley face for good news or bad news; instead, you can use some of these handy ones (I call them utility emojis) to help identify document categories quicker. Like the 📌pushpin emoji for example.
Basecamp, my project management tool of choice, has already incorporated emojis into it’s message board feature to help the different subject matter stand out.
What are some other ways that you can use emojis outside of social media?
How to Add Emojis to Your Marketing Content on Desktop June 14th, 2017Amara
If you are looking to grow your business in the next 30 days by 5-20%, hire a unicorn (you know, that rare mythical person that has the exact combination of skills, experience, and interpersonal prowess that could take your team to the next level), or accomplish any particular goal that just needs a little time and attention, you should join our 30-Day Marketing Challenge. It’s free, and you’ll get what you need to hit your 30-day goal. I’m sure of it.
I’ve been in sales and marketing for over 10 years, and whenever I speak to small business owners, or anyone for that matter about their marketing, they tend to always have similar questions. Yet, with all of the information that is out there in regards to marketing and all of the different tactics and strategies one can employ, people still have a hard time wrapping their head around what to do, how it works, IF it will work, who they can turn to for help, etc. I don’t blame them. Analysis paralysis, mixed with perfection poison, and the crippling frustration with a lack of clarity and confidence in what to do and how to execute leave many unable to do the things that make the most impact with growing their business.
We’ve worked with, interviewed, and consulted with hundreds of people over the years, and the one Aha! moment that hit me like a ton of bricks was that missing element for entrepreneurs COULD be support. Real authentic support from someone who’s seen what works and what doesn’t, and can help give entrepreneurs the confidence that they need in order to execute their marketing and move forward in their businesses. The majority of us entrepreneurs don’t know what we don’t know about marketing, let alone growing a business. Although, there are a million and one shelf-help books that give us lots and lots of information, but some of us need permission to charge ahead and do that thing that helps us find new customers. Others of us have no idea what that thing is.
So, we’ve addressed all of this in our challenge, and we’re convinced that we can help anyone who can commit to doing the work consistently for the next 30 days with our guidance, they will hit their goals. If you haven’t already, you should join us for the challenge. We have bots and all sorts of cool stuff in it, and there’s more to come. I hope to see you’ll join us.
If you don’t wish to join us for the challenge, what do you intend to do instead? What do you need help with? Is it just a single tactic that you need help executing? Feel free to contact us.