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Small Business Success January 2012
Small Business Success
Fresh ideas for your Small Business  

    Contents
In this Issue

Welcome to 2012

Reactive Marketing Versus Proactive Selling

New Year Resolutions - Food for Thought

2012 - Do You Know What to Expect?

Walt's Words of Wisdom

Small Business News:

General and small business corporate income tax rates federally and for each province and territory for 2012. (taxtips.ca)


Small business balks at credit card fees (CBC)


LinkedIn group lists top small business resources (from Globe and Mail)


Privacy laws and your small business (Financial Post)


Ottawa making mistake with tax changes, Rae warns (Globe and Mail)

 
    Welcome to 2012
 
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Welcome to the first edition of the Small Business Success eMagazine for 2012.

This year Small Business Success is going to shake things up a little and move away from its regular five short articles. This year, each issue will start with an approximately 1,000 word article that will be able to investigate a topic in a little more detail than in the past. Then we'll choose from a mix of articles, commentaries, ideas, book reviews, lists and a whole lot more. We're even introducing a new comic strip, focused on small business, that will be humorous, or educational, or often both. We'll still bring you lots of tips and advice, just as we always have, but now you'll be able to access a miscellany of business information delivered in a multitude of ways. All of it aimed at helping you become even more successful.

Please let us know what you think of our new approach, and feel free to tell us what you'd like to see in future issues.

 
   
Reactive Marketing Versus Proactive Selling Top

Image What is the difference between sales and marketing? Nothing, if you believe the many North American business people who seem to use the terms interchangeably.

This always makes me shake my head, especially when I see universities promoting their business diplomas without any true sales training in the curriculum. Oh, there's plenty on marketing, but little to nothing on actual selling.

Zig Ziegler, the great sales guru, once said, "Selling is the only activity in a business that contributes to profit; every other activity contributes to cost." That is a sobering thought, especially if you have an extensive marketing plan, but no real sales strategy.

I used to read business plans for a living - honestly! At the time, I was managing a business program where participants had to submit a viable business plan to get accepted to a government-funded program. After reading dozens of these plans, I had a rubber stamp made up which said, "Sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring is not a sales strategy." I used it extensively!

All too often, these entrepreneurs would create a marketing strategy full of expenditure; there were newspaper, magazine and Yellow pages ads, radio spots, brochures, business cards, and more. Nowhere, however, did they explain how they were actually going to get orders. Their strategies were based totally on reactive marketing rather than proactive selling.

Now, I'm the first to say that a business needs a good marketing strategy, and a realistic budget to go along with it, but unless a business owner knows how he or she will actively go out and get the sales that are the lifeblood of any business, trouble looms ahead.

So, what does a sales strategy look like? Is it something that could double as a thesis for an MBA? Do you have to have the writing skills of a Mark Twain? Not at all, it can be as simple as a one-page document with a diagram on it showing the steps you are going to take to achieve sales. It's a road map - follow it and it will lead you to the sale.

Let's take a look at a typical sales strategy for a business-to-business company selling a product or service. This is just one way to go; you can adapt this to suit your business, your market, and the way you like to work.

The first thing you need to do is build a list of prospects. Once you have a database, you need to decide what you want to do with it. This is where many people panic - "You mean I have to talk to them?" Yes, this is the difference between sales and marketing - the act of selling is interactive!

Okay, cold calling is a real pain and there are few of us that actually enjoy it, so your sales strategy should include something to warm up your potential customers. An old fashioned sales letter will do the trick, something to let them know you exist and that you have something of interest to talk to them about. With so many unwanted emails hitting our inboxes these days, it's pretty pointless sending out unsolicited messages, but a properly addressed, and well written, sales letter has a good chance of being read by the intended recipient. Depending on the type of product or service you are selling, including a piece of sales literature might also be worthwhile.

Once you have mailed your letters -small batches, several days apart - you need to get into selling mode and call the prospects who have received your sales missive. Here is where many an enthusiastic sales person comes unstuck and all because they try to make the sale over the phone immediately. The purpose of this first call is to sell yourself not your product or service. Way back in the mists of time, a time of sales myth and legend, someone once said, "The three golden rules of selling are sell yourself first, sell your company second, and sell your product or service last." Whoever this person was, they spoke great words of wisdom!

The purpose of your first call is to introduce yourself and your company and get them to meet with you. The most effective type of selling is face-to-face, so getting one-on-one time with your prospect is your first sale.

Now, I hear some of you say that this is all very well, but getting to speak to the prospect in the first place is often nigh well impossible because of the dreaded screener. Screeners are only bad news when you handle them poorly. The secret is to treat them like real people and with a great deal of respect; after all, they can be an extremely valuable resource to you. Often these corporate guardians are a powerhouse of knowledge and can help you navigate the politics of the company. So, instead of trying to sidestep them, solicit their opinion; tell them why you are calling, tell them about your product or service, and ask their advice. Often they will advise you speak to a different person, or approach your prospect in a different and more effective way. They may even tell you about your competition, especially if they dislike them because they were rude or ignored them!

Once you get through to your prospect, your goal is to get a meeting with them. Suggest a short meeting with a strict timeline, for instance 30 minutes. Give them multiple days and times that you might meet, or suggest that you could meet them anytime the following week at their convenience. Make it easy for them to say yes, and difficult to say no.

Now that you are face-to face and able to make a presentation, the chances of closing the sale are high, although for larger commitments you may have to have several meetings.

So, create yourself a road map to the sale and remember - sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring is not a sales strategy!

 
   
New Year Resolutions - Food for Thought Top
 

Image Every year most of make resolutions; we'll exercise more, lose weight, start a new hobby, stop smoking, do more for charity, the list goes on. By February however, those good intentions have usually been forgotten, overtaken by the sheer pressures of everyday life. But, what about making a few resolutions for our businesses?

To get you started on thinking about what your business resolutions might be, here's a few tough love options that if adopted will very likely improve your bottom line.

  1. Think positive dude! Just because 2011, for many people, was like Nightmare of Elm Street doesn't mean that this year will be the same, unless of course you create a self-fulfilling prophecy by projecting doom and gloom.
  2. Get out and spend more time selling. I know, you hate selling, and you shouldn't have to do it now that you're the boss/owner of the company, but can you really trust anyone else? You know the answer to that don't you? Sell, or supervise someone else selling - your choice! Just do it, or you know what'll happen to those revenues.
  3. Stop working blindly. Just because you're putting the hours in, doesn't mean you're reaching goals and objectives that will take you business to the next level. It's not about working 12-hour days, it's about what you end up achieving. Take breaks, go for a walk, don't drift into auto-pilot - focus on achieving tangible, quantifiable goals.
  4. Make daily to-do lists. I know you already do, but here's a novel idea - actually make sure they're achievable and police yourself to cross everything off the list by the end of the day. If you don't, pay a forfeit - make three telephone sales call first thing next morning - before you do anything else. That should help your focus!
  5. Stop being tempted by greener grass. So you're an entrepreneur, and the ideas keep coming; new markets, new products, purple grass, stringless yo-yo's - the madness has to stop, now! Make a plan and stick to it - how hard can that be?

At the end of the day, we make our own luck, or so they say. In any case, if 2012 brings you good luck welcome it with open arms. If the other variety turns up take the hits, get up, dust yourself down and get right back out there and do what you do, only better.

 
   
2012 - Do You Know What to Expect? Top

Image I love watching trends, I subscribe to several online services that regularly forward me the latest information on what people are buying now and what they will be buying in the future. One such service is trendwatching.com, an independent company that constantly tracks trends around the world through a network of contacts, who keep an eye open for what's new in the world of business in more than 120 countries.

For our first issue of the year, I thought I would bring you a very brief teaser of what the Trendwatching team have come up with as the 12 crucial consumer trends for 2012. If you'd like a whole lot more detail just go to their briefing by clicking trendwatching.com/briefing.

When you are reading about these trends think about how they might be interpreted within your company; are there lessons to be learned, is there anything transferable? Do they talk about a new market you might consider targeting? Do they give you an idea for a new product, or a different application for an existing one? Most importantly, try to get into the heads of tomorrow's potential customers.

Consumers' needs are constantly changing, and those businesses that recognize those changes and can either anticipate them, or at least react quickly to them, will succeed while others are doomed to wallow in the economic doldrums we are all growing far too used to.

So, let's have a quick look at what Trendwatching is predicting for 2012.

Red Carpet
Think China - within eight years we will see the number of Chinese tourists increase to 100 million. Targeting, and wooing, this new demographic is at the top of many organization's strategic plans.

DIY Health
We are all obsessed with our health and fitness. The trend in 2012 will be to track our health and fitness using our mobile devices. According to Innovation Management, there are more than 9,000 mobile health apps for smartphones, but they report that some estimates put the number at over 17,000. How can you tap into this trend?

Dealer-Chic
Haggling for a good deal has now become a way of life for consumers. The thrill of the chase for that top discount, along with the kudos achieved by getting it, are the reason that offering more for less is going to be a major part of smart companies' marketing strategies.

Eco-Cycology
Many of us take back our ink cartridges to our local office supply store, and of course then purchase replacements while there. Promoting your green credentials and encouraging people to recycle product they purchased from you, through you, is going to be a major trend in the coming year.

Cash-Less
This is the year the vast majority of us will just swipe our cards, or even smartphones, to pay for what we buy, cash is passé. A month or so ago, Google launched a Near Field Communication (NFC) mobile payment system called Google Wallet, which will see us simply tapping our phones on a terminal to instantly pay our bill. Making it easy for people to buy what we sell is the trend. How can you adopt, or adapt this to your business?

Bottom of the Urban Pyramid
Targeting those urban consumers that earn less, but still want innovative solutions to their problems and needs, is going to be huge in 2012 and beyond. From low-cost mobile devices, to highly nutritional snacks and beverages, the trend will be toward developing well-priced products and services to this massive market.

Idle Sourcing
Crowdsourcing will continue to be front and centre this year. Idle Sourcing, a sub-set, just makes it simpler, if not effortless, to become involved. For instance, in Boston there is a prototype app that when downloaded to your mobile device senses pot holes in the road as you drive over them. Then, via the GPS unit in your device, it sends the information to the highways department, so that they can monitor road conditions. What app could you have developed for you that might keep you ahead of the game?

Flawsome
This is all about being honest about your product, or service. Our customers know we aren't perfect, so why try to pretend we are? Think of the campaign run by Miracle Whip last year that posted both good, bad and downright ugly reviews of their product. It was a massive success and saw sales increase significantly.

Screen Culture
Trendwatching classifies this as less of an actual trend, but more of how all other trends will actually be displayed. Think about how you can get your product, or service, seen on the screens your customers and potential customers use every day. Screen culture can also be about letting your customers watch a major sporting event while they shop, via a screen attached to their shopping cart, or browse your entire inventory via a touchscreen interface. How can you appear on your prospects's screens?

Recommerce
Trading in, and trading up, is what this trend is all about. Encourage your customers to exchange or upgrade, by giving them discounts. Facilitate a swap meet for them perhaps - anything to support sustainability.

Emerging Maturialism
Apparently consumers, in traditionally conservative emerging markets, are becoming increasingly open-minded. This means that if you sell to these markets (e.g. China, India etc.) you can offer more risqué products and experiences and "out there" advertising promotions. Think about how this might apply to your more traditional markets.

Point and Know
We live in a world where information about almost anything is literally at our fingertips. Using our smartphones and other mobile devices we can access information and services at any time, anywhere. For instance, Google allows people to scan a bar code, or just take a photograph of a product to access more information. QR codes,those weird looking squares we are starting to see everywhere, give consumers instant information. If you are not already studying this new technology to see how it can help you reach the eyes and ears of your customers, you are already falling behind.

In this article, we've merely looked at the tip of the iceberg. Keeping up with trends, and that means technology too, will be increasingly vital for businesses wanting to keep their share of what for the next little while will be a tough market. Good luck and happy trendwatching.

 
   
Walt's Words of Wisdom Top
 

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imagePublished in cooperation with Small Business Success