Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Top 10 Easiest Ways to Increase Your Referral Business

Turning to your current and/or past clients for their referral business is not only a smart and practical way to build your business, it's EASY!

1. See your clients NOT just as mere 'business', but as a budding friendship.

Friends help friends.

2. Tell your clients just how important their referral support is to your success.
People love to know when they are doing good and when they have been a key player in something successful.

3. Ask for them!
I know, obvious, but so many people are afraid to simply ask. Here is some sample dialogue for you to try: Address one of your clients/customers today and simply ask - "Of all the people in your office (or of all of your closest friends) which person do you think would be the most interested in the product/service I offer?"

4. Begin at the beginning.
Instead of waiting later in a client/customer relationship to ASK for referral support....(which for some can be uncomfortable) begin TELLING your prospects/new clients at the very beginning that receiving referral support from your clients is HOW you do business.

5. Express yourself!
Let your clients know ALL that you do. Most will think the only thing you do or offer is what they get from you. Explain through stories, examples, and other offers the FULL RANGE of what you are able to offer.

6. Keep improving - go for mastery.
The better you become at what you do or know, the more confident you naturally come off to others - thereby creating more confidence in THEM to easily refer you to the people in their life as "THE ONE to go to."

7. Shift the burden.
Many business owners are afraid that asking for referrals from their customers/clients puts an unwanted burden on them. (They feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for 'help.') So, shift your belief or understanding. When you ask your clients to refer their friends or colleagues to you, YOU (once again) are HELPING MORE PEOPLE. (The burden stays on you and off of them!)

8. Create Exclusivity!
Create an experience for your customers/clients that feels (and is) exclusively just for them. HOW you do business should definitely stand out (and apart) from your competition. It doesn't have to be a lot. Keep it simple - yet clearly beneficial to your clients/customers.

9. Go Long (think Life long relationship)

Let your clients/customers know you are interested in serving them for the long haul. Sometimes it won't occur to a client/customer to return to you for your product or service. Let them know you would like to serve them as long as they need the product or service you are exchanging with them.

10. Keep it Easy - Keep it Simple.

People love easy and simple (isn't that why you are reading this top ten?). Whatever your product or service, make the experience of working with you as easy and simple for your customer/client as possible.

This piece was originally submitted by Laura Burkey, Founder/Creator Coach Master Skill Group, Career and Life Coach

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Debunking Myths about Consumer Behavior in a Recession

I thought everyone might find this article that I read interesting because it helps to quell the fear mongering about our economy. Enjoy!

June 2, 2009 - The number of 'facts' circulating about how consumers behave during a recession appears to be correlated to the number of self-appointed experts desperately searching for those elusive green shoots of recovery.
Here, we attempt to debunk some of these widely held beliefs.
Myth one:people turn to drinking at home in recessionary times
The pub trade's problems are well documented. The combined effects of the smoking ban, increases in alcohol duty and the recession have hit its takings hard.
However, the latest sales figures, for the first quarter of this year, compiled by the British Beer & Pub Association, reveal that the slump is not confined to the on-trade. Sales of beer in supermarkets and off-licences were down 11% compared with the same quarter in 2008 - the biggest three-month decline since 1997.
Richard Brown, managing partner of strategy firm Cognosis Consulting, claims consumers are cutting back on drinking partly because of health concerns, but also because the scale of this recession is becoming more clear.
"The drinks industry is on a far more slippery slope than it thought it was going to be,' says Brown. He adds that, while in previous recessions drinkers traded down, this time, they are simply trading out.
Myth two: women still buy lipstick as an affordable treat
The 'Lipstick Effect' - the idea that women purchase lipstick as a 'pick-me-up' during hard times - had proved a resilient concept over the decades. Last week, however, Mintel research revealed that only 3% of female consumers said they had bought a lipstick to make themselves feel better during the current downtown.
The same research found that 60% of women are instead spending the same or more on foundations and 'essential products' such as shampoo and cleansers.
'In this recession, "austerity chic" - or looking good for less - is replacing the Lipstick Effect,' says Nica Lewis, head consultant at Mintel Beauty Innovation. 'Beauty is now marketed as a necessity rather than a luxury. This means women are investing in moisturisers, body lotion and haircare, rather than lipstick.'
Myth three: all charities will suffer from declininq donations
The public is still willing to donate to charity despite the hard times. Last month's London Marathon raised a record Pounds 22.4m for charities, according to donations website Justgiving.
Interestingly, the average donation fell from Pounds 32 to Pounds 29.50, but an increase in the overall number of donors resulted in a 7% rise on the 2008 total.
The site will continue to process marathon sponsorships for three months, and the final figure raised is expected to be about Pounds 25m.
Meanwhile, in March, the biennial Comic Relief/Red Nose Day fundraiser also bucked expectations by bringing in Pounds 57m on the night, an increase of Pounds 17m on the previous event in 2007 - when the economy was still in rude health. The total has since risen to more than Pounds 65m.
Myth four: shoppers will abandon brands for own-label products
Many a branded-goods marketer must have shuddered when the big supermarkets began to promote their ownlabel value ranges in earnest. Last September Teseo launched its Discount Brands range, while Sainsbury's has pulled no punches in telling consumers to 'Switch and Save' to its Basics range.
Yet TNS figures for the 12 weeks to 22 February show that brands' value sales are growing faster than those of own-label goods; the former were up 7.3% on the same period last year compared with 6.6% for own-label.
David Iddiols, senior partner at research company HPI, says his firm's latest 'Crunchometer' poll revealed that 51% of consumers said they were buying more own-label goods and cheaper brands than they used to, but he notes that 'a lot of counter-balancing goes on'. In other words, most consumers do not trade down across the board. ? suspect consumers find solace in some of their favourite trusted brands during hard times,' adds Iddiols.
Myth five: stayinq in is the new going out
While it is true that consumers are staying in more, there are still some activities that can tempt them off the sofa and out of the house.
Despite gloomy predictions from industry-watchers on how cinema would suffer at the start of the downturn, the medium is flourishing.
In January, cinema admissions hit a five-year high - 14,504,588, up 7.7% year on year, according to the Cinema Advertising Association. Figures for February showed that this was not a blip, as admissions rose further still, up 16.4% year on year.

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. May 6, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How Sharp is Your Saw?

Remember Albert Einstein, he is known for some really great quotes among his many scientific achievements. One of my favorites is: “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. Well, that ought to stir things up a bit. Let me ask you a few questions. Do you find yourself struggling with the same kind of Business challenges on a regular basis? Do you find you have consistent challenges dealing with people? Is technology constantly testing you and frustrating you? Do you regularly find there’s not enough time in the day to get things done? Do you think things will eventually change in all these areas of concern to better suit your style? Einstein also said; “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” So with that, let’s have a look at some ideas that might inspire you to lead a better quality of life and move past some of the barriers that may be holding you back.

Take a moment and think about one thing that you do very well. Maybe it’s a particular sport that you have mastered. Perhaps it’s a musical instrument that you spent years studying and are now quite accomplished. Possibly a hobby like racing cars, piloting your yacht in coastal waters, gourmet cooking, anything that people who know you would say you are great at doing. Got it? Good. Now, how long did it take to become so skillful and masterful at your particular craft? Why did you take the time to learn and become so proficient in this area of interest? You will likely start to notice in this discovery that the things you enjoy doing are tied to what you value. Further, the things you value are much easier to become passionate about than the things you don’t. Do you think there is some significance to being passionate about anything you do in order to achieve a masterful status? Hmmm!

Let’s draw the connection to your Business. When you started your Business, what was the purpose, (your why) the primary reason for doing so and is that still true for you today? Were you going to fill a void in the marketplace or were you simply determined to provide better value and service than what was currently being offered in your industry? Did it get the juices flowing just thinking how you could own your market or at the very least carve out a disproportionate share? Was there a goal or a vision you started with that would stretch and challenge you with its accomplishment? Is there any skill, competency or knowledge that you lack that could move your Business to that next level you desire? Okay, here comes the big one. Is there anyone holding you accountable to what you set out to do? Do you have a mentor that can listen to you and critique your ideas and plans? I’m going to recommend that you find and meet with someone you can trust or a small group you can mastermind with at least once per month.

I have talked about this in the past and know the value of working through this. Remember Einstein’s quote and the value of advanced thinking. Re-examine your big picture goal (your vision) and take a forensic look at where you are (your current reality) in relationship to that goal. Are you stuck in a rut with no clear direction or instructions on how to get out? When establishing your current reality it’s important to list all of the things you currently possess in terms of skills, competencies and knowledge. Also state what you have accomplished in relation to your goals so you are clear of the distance between the two. What’s important next is not to be too concerned if your goal or vision is seemingly far away or not even in the picture of realization. What is imperative is to determine what skill, competency or knowledge you must learn and apply that to move you one step closer to your goal. Is it time to hire a Coach, attend that seminar, read that book or enroll in an online webinar? In the beginning of this exercise there is usually a fair amount of tension between where you are and where you want to go, this is a good thing. With each subsequent step of learning and development the tension begins to relax and the target begins to move closer. You will find this exercise can be applied to any new endeavor, skill or competency you want to master.

Think about it, even Tiger Woods has a trainer, a coach and a support team to stay at the top of his game. Would you agree that Tiger is a pretty fair golfer? He’s such a great metaphor for success because while others would be happy to be the “Tiger Woods” of their particular market, he continues to raise the bar on himself. Why not start to raise your bar. After all, the only restrictions to what we can achieve and accomplish are allowed by our own self limiting beliefs. In the prophetic words of another great mentor of mine, Napoleon Hill, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”. It’s time to kick that “gremlin” off your shoulder that’s telling you aren’t good or smart enough. Get out the grinder or the file and sharpen your saw, life’s going to get allot more fun and interesting. Stay positive and strong, you have much to be grateful for!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Getting What You Want by Design

According to Mick Jagger, “you can’t always get what you want”. Are you getting what you want or what you deserve? More importantly, do you recognize the difference? There are times in the lives of any Business owner when the big question inevitably comes up, “do I have what it takes to succeed in Business?” You might frame it or ask it differently, but the sentiment of self doubt has visited before, hasn’t it? Okay, so now that I know you are all human and quite normal, let’s see what we can do to eliminate that little gremlin from your life and restore your confidence forever. Recognizing you’re stuck is good; not doing something about it can be fatal.

I would like to suggest it’s time to revisit the marketing plan you created when you started your venture that outlined the clear path you were going to follow and how you were going to measure and track your progress. What! You aren’t going to say you missed that little step in the development of your idea, are you? I didn’t think so. So for those that are just starting out and for some of you that need a refresher, let me give you some ideas you might want to incorporate into your marketing plan to give your Business a boost. I believe a marketing plan does not have to be complicated and time consuming to create, however it should contain the following elements. To clarify the difference between a marketing plan and a Business plan, a marketing plan is a vital component of your Business plan. It deals specifically with the development of your products and services, the industry you are in, your marketing goals, your strategies, tactics and a track to follow to ensure you stay on the rails.

When it comes to the development of your product there are some important things to consider. Why will people choose you? Will it be price, quality, speed of delivery etc? What will make you stand out from your competition, what is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? This is an important one to figure out because if you aren’t clear about this, your customer won’t know either. Do you know your target market and what they want? When will you find your customer in a receptive mood to buy? You have all heard the story, that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish you will feed him for life. More importantly, where are you going to find fish? Metaphorically speaking, some Businesses are standing in the parking lot of their local shopping mall with a fishing rod in their hands when the river is just down the street. What are their chances of even getting a nibble?

Have you ever considered doing a SWOT analysis? This stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. What are you really good at? What are you not so good at? What other opportunities are there in your field that has yet to be explored? What are the threats that could adversely affect the operation of your Business? What about the Government, legislation, competition etc? When you first wrote your plan did you outline your short term, 30-90 day goals, mid term, 90 day to 1 year goals and your longer term goals form 1-5 years?

What about your overall objective or your strategy and what tactics or methods will you use to achieve that strategy? Most importantly, who is going to hold you accountable to your plan? What devices will you put in place that will ensure you follow your plan? It’s critical that you give yourself some timelines for your various objectives or there’s no point to the plan in the first place.

Developing a sound marketing plan is one of the many things we work on with our clients. There’s no better time than after the summer break to give your Business a recharge and to finish the year strong and profitable.

Have a great and productive week, you deserve it!