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The Leading Edge September 2013
Small Business Success
Taking Care of Business  

    Contents
In this Issue

Getting People to read Your Blog

7 Ways to Overcome Sales Fear (Part I)

7 Ways to Overcome Sales Fear (Part II)

Give Your Marketing A Tune Up

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THE LEADING EDGE - your monthly link to groundbreaking ideas for entrepreneurs

Why consumers now love to SHOP for products and services at concept stage.


Small Business News:

Facebook Canada reaches out to small business by teaching them to market - Facebook Canada is reaching out to the small business crowd through a new program called Grand for Good - with the first trial run happening in Toronto. Read more...


Small Business Important - John Rafferty MP - Small businesses and their owners play an important role in the economic success of every community across Canada. As such, there was a lot of interest in Ottawa when MPs founded the All-Party Entrepreneurship Caucus this past spring. Read more...


CFIB: Business Barometer® Small business confidence sees big increase in July - Toronto, July 25, 2013 - Small business confidence increased smartly in July, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The Business Barometer® index rose almost five points to 64.2, making up nearly all the ground lost in the previous four months. Read more...


Financial Post: Why small manufacturers are returning to 'Made in Canada' - The Made-in-Canada business model once seemed viable for only niche, high-end brands, such as Canada Goose, that could afford higher manufacturing labour costs. But a change may be afoot. Read more...

 
    Getting People to read Your Blog
 
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A few months ago we talked about setting up your blog; how to design it and how important it is the content is up to date. This month we'll take a look at how to drive visitors to your blog - after all you've done all that hard work, invested all that time, now you want people to read what you've taken all that time to write!

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to set a budget to promote your blog, or you want to try various strategies that don't carry a cost. Remember though, there is always a cost to free - it may be hidden, but the cost can be in the time investment you must make.

You may want to try the free approach initially and then move to paid advertising once you start to see results and can put some of those new found profits into a new eMarketing budget.

Dollar free

I mentioned earlier this approach may not cost you any cash, but it does take time; on the upside it can be very effective. Join message board communities - basically all you need to do is find forums that are frequented by people in your target market and join in the conversation. The key to this strategy is not to overtly promote what you sell, but rather provide useful information and advice and demonstrate that you have a degree of expertise. This will encourage forum users to trust you and your advice. If you then have a link to your blog in your signature line, people will start to visit to learn more about you.

Sometimes promoting your blog is not allowed by forum managers, but in these cases there is usually a folder available within that forum that does allow you to advertise your sites. Often, you have to 'earn' the right to be able to have a link; this can be based on how regular you post perhaps, or on the length of time you have been posting messages. All sites are different so make sure you know the rules for the site you are using.

There are many social networking sites; if you choose one that is frequented by like-minded people, you will be blogging about similar topics. This way you get to become part of a 'community' and get to know others who will be happy to promote a link to your blog. Often these social networking circles allow cross-promotions. It's all about building the number of readers of your blog - spreading the word. Another approach is to use your expertise to write thought-provoking posts and submit them to bookmarking websites such as digg.com and delicious.com. People spend hours wandering through these sites looking for interesting websites and blogs. This is a strategic and viral sharing method.

Okay, so you have a budget...

Google AdWords is still probably one of the best forms of promoting your website, or blog. You will need to check out for yourself how it works, but there are good guides to follow so don't be intimidated. How it works is that you place a simple ad on the search engine result pages (you choose the search words - note: do so carefully) and you only pay when someone clicks your link. You also choose how much you are willing to pay for each click. The more you pay, the more likely you are to appear on the page and how high up. You control the budget, so if you say you are willing to pay 20 cents for each click and put $200 in your account, you will get 1,000 click-throughs to your website or blog.

Another way is to look at other blogs covering the same topics as you and see if they are willing to let you pay for a text link. Not all will allow this, but some do so be patient and ask several.

Think of your blog in the same way as you do your website and drive traffic to it in the same way. Talk about it - and provide a link - whenever you contribute to anything. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it's worth investing a little time and money in marketing what is increasingly become a vital marketing tool.

 
   
7 Ways to Overcome Sales Fear (Part I) Top

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I was recently searching my old files for some sales tips and advice and came across this piece. Reading it again it reminded me of all the things I forget about selling especially when times are tough, and I've lost several deals in a row. I'm sure you know the feeling - nothing seems to be going right and you get into a funk - and the worse the funk gets, the more sales you lose - or at least fail to close. I hope reading this will remind you of some of the basic rules and laws of selling that we sometimes forget.


You started your business because you are a fantastic furniture maker and you make high quality furniture. It might even be the best furniture in the world. But even the best furniture in the world needs to be sold in order for your business to be successful. And while small business owners are good at what they do (for instance, making furniture), they are often not so good at the "business" part of running their small business. It's just the way it is. Many small business owners - even after years of being in business - suffer the sweaty palms, the heart palpitations and shaky voices when it comes to asking a potential customer for their money. It's downright scary. The fear of asking for money is the #1 thing that keeps sales people from being successful. If you can overcome this fear and take ownership of the sales process, you'll go from doing well, to doing exceptionally well. But, it means identifying the fear, feeling it and pushing past it toward success. Here are some steps you can take to get over that fear and come out the other side meeting and exceeding your sales targets.

Understand that selling is a numbers game

It may be hard for you to believe, but you have to accept the fact that rejection is part of the deal. Everyone has to experience a certain number of no's in order to get to a yes. It's simple math. The more people you ask, the closer you are to making the sale. There's no getting around the part about 'asking' for the sale. The most recent sales statistic I read said it's 10-1. That means you'll hear "no" nine times before you'll hear "yes". The good news is, every "no" you hear brings you one step closer to that "yes." And if you get really good at it, you can cut that ratio down to 8-1, or 7-1. And, don't get too hung up on the 10-1 ratio; every industry, and every product, is different.

Don't take it personally

How many times has someone said that to you? And yet isn't it one of the hardest things to do? You've put your heart and soul into the presentation, you've laid it all out on the line, your best efforts are at stake, and still the customer says no. Remember, they are not rejecting you. There could be a hundred reasons they are saying no. It's not the right time. They truly can't afford it. Your product just isn't right for them (yes, it's possible!). Whatever their reasons, their "no" is not a reflection of you. So get over it, and move on to the next customer which will get you closer to that YES!

Recognize that NO isn't always NO

While you don't want to be pushy, there are times when people say no, when they really mean "not yet", or "maybe, but I need more information." Learn to read people. Is their no, firm, or reluctant? If there is hesitation, it may mean they just need to hear more. Or it may mean that they really love it, but now's not the right time. In any case, seize that moment to give them what they need. If it's more info - come back again. If it's not now, ask them when will be a good time. Is it really money that's the obstacle, or are they afraid because of a previous bad purchasing experience? Don't be afraid to ask questions to find out the truth behind the no. Good probing is intrinsic to good selling.

 
   
7 Ways to Overcome Sales Fear (Part II) Top
 

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Use reverse psychology

Think about all the things you personally dislike when someone is selling something to you. Is it feeling pressured to buy? Is it smooth-talkers you just can't trust? Is it feeling like they're not telling you everything? Make a list. Don't hold back. Then strive to create a sales experience for your customers that is the opposite of those things. Because you will believe in what you're doing, it will come across as genuine and you may be surprised at how well people respond. Another way to use reverse psychology is to pull away - take the potential of buying away from them by saying something like "I can see that this may be too big of a purchase for a company of your size at this time. Perhaps I came come back when I have something that's more within your price range?" It's very unlikely that you would lose the sale by using this approach, but it may just spur them on to make the decision to purchase sooner than later.

Do your homework

Know your product. But more importantly, know what potential objections might come your way from customers. You should keep a list of every objection anyone has ever made about what you sell, and have a response to overcome each and every objection. The more prepared you are to deal with those objections, the closer you'll be to a sale. And if a customer comes up with one you've never heard, be grateful. It's one more to add to your list that you'll be able to overcome the next time. The important thing about this strategy is that it makes you incredibly confident about dealing with objections, and confidence is the key to increasing your closing rate.

Be yourself

This may sound simplistic, but people who aren't comfortable selling often feel like they have to develop a sales "persona" to be effective. Nothing could be farther from the truth. People can see through that. Your best strategy is to develop a style you feel comfortable with - one that is authentically you. Don't assume customers want a certain style, or character, because you'll be pretending, and authenticity is one of the strongest selling features you can have.

Make no apologies

Pricing is one of the biggest fear factors for most business owners. They are great at telling customers how good their product is, but almost cringe when they get to the point where they need to tell them the price. Customers sense fear, and they will try to negotiate a better deal. It's human nature. You should be confident in the price you have set and make no apologies for it. That shows integrity and a belief in your product. You may have some wiggle room in your mind to be able to negotiate with customers, but whatever that number is, don't go beyond it just to get the sale. Your compromise will only serve to undervalue what you have worked so hard to achieve. Bottom line - not everyone can be your customer. If they are not willing to pay a fair price, maybe they need to go to your competitor who sells furniture for less. They may also be getting less (in quality and service), but ultimately it's their choice. Choose to walk away rather than give up the store!


Fear of asking for the sale is natural, but don't let it hold you back from moving your business forward. Make a decision today that you'll acknowledge the fear, allow yourself to feel it (the adrenaline actually makes you sharper if you let it), and then go for it! You've got nothing to lose, except of course, the sale, and there's always another one just around the corner!

 
   
Give Your Marketing A Tune Up Top

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So, the slow days of summer are over - well almost - and most people are back to work and looking forward to the fall and new business opportunities. This is a great time to see if your promotional collateral is up-to-date and fully functional. All too often our marketing materials, website, advertising and all the other stuff is ignored until somebody yells at you. Hey, if it ain't broke don't fix it eh? Well, no - if it's not working at its best then it's costing you money for little return, not to mention lost opportunities. The best case scenario is that marketing is part of your overall strategic plan, and you revise the plan every year don't you? Or, you have someone who does it for you - that would be nice wouldn't it? But, for most of us we have to manage our marketing strategy off the side of our desk and often it gets shoved to the bottom of the pile as more urgent priorities fight for our attention.

So, before you get busy with all the new season's priorities, take a breath and give your marketing strategy a quick wash and brush up - you won't regret it.

The Printed Stuff

No doubt you have a bunch of brochures, leaflets, order forms, flyers, rack cards, business cards and whatnot. Take a close look at them. Are they up to date? Check web addresses, phone numbers, email addresses - are there any typos? Do they look tired or dated? Have you changed your logo, tag line, or brand image? Check how many you have left, and if inventory is running low now might be the time to get them rewritten and redesigned.

Your Website

I would put money on your website being out of date, even if all the information is correct; even if all the product images, prices and descriptions are up-to-date. Why? Because the vast majority of us have websites that were never designed to be viewed on smartphones, or tablets - and that's what most people use these days to look you up. So, if nothing else, you should look at getting your website optimized for the technology of today - not yesterday.

Your Physical Presence

If you have a storefront, showroom, or reception area this will be the first impression people have of your company. Take a fresh look at your premises - try to see it through your customer's eyes. When we see a place every day we get used to it, we don't see that the carpets have become grimy, or the wall is marked, the chairs torn and scuffed. Try asking a friend, or acquaintance, to come in and tell you honestly what they think of your premises - to be a secret shopper and let you know how they felt when they visited you. People will judge you by the front you put on; if it's tatty and unkempt they might well think that's what will carry through to your products and services.

Let Your Customers Lead the Way

It's always a good idea to survey your customers at least once a year. You can do an online survey using something like SurveyMonkey, or simply email, or call ten or fifteen people and ask them a few questions. It doesn't matter how you get a handle on the pulse of your market - just that you do it. It can be really simple - five short questions, less than a minute, but the information you get back could be priceless.

Take Your Head Out of the Sand

Do you know what promotional activities your competitors are doing? If your answer is no, you should be hearing warning bells. Never take your eye off your competition. Check them out now - right now. What are they up to? What are they promoting? What prices are they offering? Become one of their customers, or get a friend to visit them and see how good, or bad, they are. The Power of People

We all know that our most valuable resource is the people that work for us, but how often do you check what your frontline staff are doing? They can be your most valuable marketing tool, or your worst - do you know which? Are they representing your company as you would? Are they professional? Are they saying/doing the right things? Just like your storefront, showroom, or reception area, your employees are the face of your business - make sure it's one that customers are pleased to see.


So, before fall becomes winter, tune up your entire marketing strategy - it doesn't need to take long, and it might not need much attention, but I guarantee it will benefit from a little TLC.

 
   
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Community Futures Mount Waddington
14 - 311 Hemlock Street (Box 458), Port McNeill, BC, V0N 2R0
1-877-956-2220 | Phone: 250-956-2220 | Fax: 250-956-2221
info@cfmw.ca | www.cfmw.ca


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