You may think that you’ve already made your first impression during your wooing of your potential client to set up your first face-to-face meeting. While it’s true that you’ve already started to make an impact on the person you’re meeting, it’s nothing compared to what they’ll take away from your first encounter. What you do before, during, and after your meeting can set the stage for a positive outcome now and into the future.
Once you’ve set the date, there are several activities and brainstorming necessary to prepare.
- Create an agenda for the meeting covering everything that you’d like to accomplish during the session.
- Brainstorm any concerns and questions that the client may have during the meeting to ensure that you can have a response prepared for them at the meeting.
- Find ways of how your service will make your client’s life easier as a way to promote your product.
- Boost your credibility during the meeting through providing research, other client feedback, and other methods.
- Run through your presentation for practice in advance of the big meeting.
- Go over any activities that will prepare you and your staff for the meeting.
Activities for During Your Meeting
When the day of your meeting arrives, there are several activities that you need to keep in mind during the meeting.
- You may find that it’s necessary to bring all other key staff members to present portions of the presentation. It’s better to have them on hand to answer questions then to leave the client hanging.
- Follow the lead of your client when it comes to the format you present.
- Be ready to listen. Yes, you’re going to go over your presentation, but it’s vital that you pay attention to what the client has to say whether it’s comments or questions.
- Follow through on any promises made for the meeting, such as having a particular figure or information they need to make a decision.
- Provide them with the information necessary to seal the deal.
After the Meeting
You also should have several activities in place after the meeting, no matter the outcome.
- Follow through with any promises made during the meeting as soon as possible.
- Continue to work on the relationship between your company and the client.
- Don’t get discouraged from hearing no. Go over what went wrong and what went right to find how you can prevent the problems and strengthen the positives.
Incorporating these different activities can help you to make a rockstar impression on your client during the meeting by selling yourself and your company.
The Elephant in the Room: Negotiation
One of the hardest things to handle is the negotiation during that first meeting as it can be intimidating. There are a few tips that can help you in making negotiation come naturally to you.
- Create a pricing strategy, and stick with it. It can be easy not to set prices and just go with the flow, but this not helpful in the long-run.
- Determine what you’re offering to the client, and prioritize the best characteristics first. This information will help you determine what you can give in on, and what really matters to you.
- Take your time, and don’t feel as though you need to give in too quickly in the process. This action can lead to you selling yourself short, but knowing your value can help.
- Keep in mind that no matter what you’ll still have to deliver a quality product or service at a price you agree upon.
- Focus on negotiating with the person rather than the company they represent. Don’t allow them to put the company before what they believe would be a good partnership.
- Remember that you shouldn’t lowball yourself too much. Once you’ve agreed to a figure, it’s complicated to get that number up. You need to make sure that you’re keeping your profits in mind.
- Offer add-on services that can boost your profit margins and provide for the client’s needs.
- Write up any requests for proposals that you get carefully to achieve a deal that does more than look good on paper.
The negotiation process doesn’t have to be feared when you know exactly how far you can go without sacrificing too much just to get a yes.
Nurturing Your Champion
Once you’re dealing with a company, it’s essential to maintain a good relationship with your contacts. This contact is the representative of the company that you’re speaking, and you should be grooming this individual or individuals to be your champion. You want them to be your ally now and in the future. This relationship can make it possible for them to vouch for you in the future in case of additional dealings.
While you may not be able to have free reign to pick your champion, there are a few characteristics that you want to look for in your potential champions.
- Your champion should be someone that is respected in the company by supervisors and decision-makers.
- Your champion should be able to consider the long run for their company’s interests rather than just short-term gains.
- Your champion should have a good social network.
- Your champion knows how to handle the system and get things done.
- Your champion should be the type of person who’s willing to give credit where credit is due.
- Your champion should have similar vision, values, and philosophy as you to work well with you.
You have the tools and know-how to prepare for all the exciting details of your first meeting. You’ll be able to plan and execute your proposal while working on improving your business relationship with those involved.
In order for your business to maximize its potential, you have to shoot for the stars. In most cases, these metaphorical stars refer your dream clients: the big fish that could provide a significant boost to your profitability and visibility on their own. However, dreaming big is one thing, and actually realizing these dreams takes a deep understanding of the client needs, a commitment to do whatever is necessary to secure such business and a willingness to implement certain important steps.
All three of these elements will be needed in order for you to lock down the big boys in your industry, and even then, you are still likely to face some level of resistance. But do not be discouraged; even if it takes 10 no’s, the one big yes will make it all well worth the effort. There will likely be many of your competitors also vying for the business of these same clients, and some of them may just be better fits. And that brings us to the first important step in locking down the big fish: choosing your targets wisely.
Targeting the Right Clients
Chances are, you can already name at least 10 major players in your industry whose business you would hope to secure. They are the dream clients which could individually take your company to the next level, and they are the kind of customers you should be targeting. However, your business may not always be the best fit for all of these clients, no matter how great your products/services are or how effective your sales strategy may be.
It is easy to immediately target the companies with the biggest budgets and the most meaningful imprint in the industry, but you do not want to spend unnecessary time and effort while ignoring more realistic choices. Although you want to shoot for the stars, you should not be shooting blindly at the biggest target. You can make an effort at all of the big boys, but the majority of your efforts should be focused on the most likely candidates among them.
The first step is to compile a list of all of the big clients with whom you would like to work. Start with any clients you are already considering and continue to add to the list as you come across other big fish. Then you want to order them in terms of which would be most beneficial for your company and which are most likely to buy from you. Think of the needs of the clients and try to match them with the services your company provides. When choosing the right target, consider the following questions:
- Which have the most money to spend with your business?
- Which have the biggest need for your products/services?
- Which would be most likely to lead to more growth in the future?
- Which companies have a vision and set of values and that most closely match your own?
Once you have identified the best targets, you should immediately begin to implement the steps to secure their business. This may mean further research into the clients and their needs, but you always want to move quickly if you hope to hook the big fish. Assuming this will be your first official contact, the first impression you make upon the client could literally make or break the deal.
It may seem cliche, but business is all about relationships. After all, cliches in the business world exist for a reason, and many of them are fundamental time-tested truths. And this one is even more true and essential than most. To have a thriving, successful company, you must focus on your relationships with partners, employees, vendors, colleagues, and most importantly, clients.
Another cliche: every business needs customers/clients to be successful. While this should be the most obvious of all business maxims, many entrepreneurs and managers get so caught in the countless other elements of running a company that they lose track of what is most important. The relationships you build with your clients are the most crucial part of your business, and the quality of products/services you provide them is the single most critical aspect of success.
With that being said, it should also be noted that the number of clients you have is not always the most important thing. While you and your company should naturally focus on increasing the quantity of clients, you could be even more successful by focusing on the quality of clients. This means you should structure your marketing, sales, and outreach towards reaching the big fish.
These types of clients may not always respond to the traditional tactics you use to reach more modest clients, and you should understand the steps to reach the bigger clients in your industry. To do just that, the following steps can help you redirect your efforts towards the big boys and build relationships that can indeed take your company to the next level.
1. Make a good first impression.
You only get one shot at this, so you should take all necessary steps to ensure that your first impression is a great one. Your first meeting with a big client should be professional, focused and exciting. You should be able to quickly explain the benefits of your company, and stress how your products/services will make the life or business of the client better. These big fish typically have tons of companies vying for their business, and if you do not get it right the first time, you may not get another opportunity.
2. Make them feel like your highest priority.
Big clients need to understand that their needs will always come first concerning business. You need to let them know that they will be important to you and that you will always put them ahead of other priorities. Make them feel special, and they will give you their business. A few ways to do this:
- Return their calls or emails immediately.
- Work to resolve problems as soon as they are brought to your attention.
- Give them a personal touch and work with them yourself.
- Check in with them at regular intervals, and make sure they are satisfied with your products/services.
- Most of all, work to build a meaningful relationship.
3. Be flexible to meet their needs.
You may have specific policies, procedures or other elements of your business that do not fit well to what the big client needs. In these cases, you should be flexible and do anything within reason to adjust these elements according to the needs of the client.
There is also one bonus tip that many business owners overlook in trying to reach big clients: be passionate and have fun. If you are passionate about your business and providing great products/services, the client will feel that and know that you are someone they can trust. Additionally, you should make your interactions fun to let them know that you enjoy what you do.
The business world offers countless paths for entrepreneurs to choose. Some are paths of super-sonic speed that catapult a company to the top of the industry, seemingly overnight. Other paths include low risk and relatively low rewards, as business owners take the cautious path to avoid failure. The ideal path would involve steady growth and improvement, but unfortunately, none of these paths guarantee success in the end.
Depending on your goals and your industry, you may find it necessary to move at a certain pace. Those in technology must maintain a fast pace to keep up with the ever-changing needs of an ever-growing market. Those in more traditional fields may feel that consistency and steady quality are more important than constant adaptation. As is the case in so many areas of business, the key here is balance.
No matter what your industry or how grand your goals, you need to be able to find the right balance of growth, change, adaptation and improvement that matches the needs of your customers and the demands of your field. To put it in relatively general terms, there are three basic speeds at which a company may grow.
Some companies launch to the top of their respective fields in almost no time. While this would seemingly be the ideal course for any business, overnight success is often a matter of sheer luck. Even aside from the uncontrollable variables that are usually involved in this path, fast-paced growth is not without its drawbacks. Many companies quickly exceed the scope of what they can handle, either in terms of customers or countless other elements, and this can cause a collapse that is just as fast and epic as their rise.
Slow and Cautious
On the other side of the spectrum, many companies toil in mediocrity and microscopic growth for years, with little to show in terms of success. This is often the result of overly cautious decision making and/or an unwillingness to change by those at the top of the company. This path can certainly lead to a more predictable future when compared to the fast-paced path, but that future may never fully develop into anything meaningful. Businesses that end up on this path almost never reach their full potential.
To avoid the grand pitfalls of super-fast growth and the grinding mediocrity of overly cautious business, you have to find the balance that fits your needs. You want to be able to adapt and improve with the needs and trends of your market, but you must also remain consistent and true to the values that define your company. Finding this balance may be easier said than done, but understanding the importance of it and making decisions with this in mind will ensure that your company reaches its intended destination in the right amount of time.
Starting a business can be one of the most challenging processes of a person’s life. It takes creativity, planning, determination and tireless effort, but once the doors are open and the business takes off, it can be one of the most rewarding moments of life.
But a successful entrepreneur cannot be content and stop there. Now that your company is up and running, you must continue to improve and grow in order to achieve any meaningful level of success. Even if your company is already thriving, the business world moves fast, and those who are not getting better will quickly be left behind. Your competition will always be right there with you, and you cannot afford to be satisfied with mediocrity.
In a sense, a business is like a living organism. It must continue to grow and evolve, or else it will deteriorate and die. If you take the right steps and care for your business properly, it can continue to grow and reach its full potential. With that being said, there are three essential building blocks of business growth:
By understanding and utilizing these elements, you can help your business achieve the highest levels of success.
This building block is the foundation upon which your new business was built. It is the expression of your creativity and the incarnation of your ideas. Innovation is what led you to the first moments of starting a business, and it is what helped you get off the ground. However, it is also what is necessary for your business to grow. Even after the initial innovation that led you to develop the unique product, service or technique that makes your company special, you must continue to improve upon it.
This building block is essentially the quantification of your innovation. It is where your business can be broken down, measured and accurately gauged in order to make improvements. In almost every case, the best information for proper analyzation comes from customer feedback. Listen to those who purchase your product or engage your service and identify what is important to them. Find out what they believe is best for your business and what could use improvement.
Once you have the quantifiable information from your customer feedback, combine it with your innovative ideas and implement them accordingly. This is the step in which it all comes together and your improvements are put into action. With the proper combination of these three building blocks, your business will continue to grow and thrive for years to come.
There are many ways to start a business, and each entrepreneur will take his or her own individual path. Variations may exist in terms of planning, development, funding, and management, and of course, there are countless different types of businesses offering countless different products and services. But no matter the paths taken or strategies implemented, the goal is always to create a profitable venture which you can call your own.
To the average person, the traditional method of starting a business involves developing an original idea, product or technique. While there is obviously nothing wrong with this entrepreneurial path, it can be much more challenging and risky than a common alternative. That alternative is the franchise, and it allows entrepreneurs to create and build their own business with less strain and creative development than its traditional counterpart.
The Fundamentals of Franchising
By its simplest, most legally correct definition, a franchise is essentially nothing more than a license. But in a much more practical and meaningful sense, a franchise is an agreement and a relationship between a company (franchisor) that allows its name and operating methods to be used by an entrepreneur (franchisee). In exchange, the entrepreneur agrees to operate their business according to the terms of the lease.
Business Format Franchising
The most commonly known and recognized type of franchises are known as business format franchises. These are based on an earlier model called the trade name franchise, and the main difference came in the rights of the franchise. Whereas in a trade name franchise, a franchise only owned marketing rights for his or her company, modern business format franchises allow entrepreneurs to have more ownership rights over the entire business, even including operating methods.
Product Distribution Franchising
Also known as traditional franchising, product distribution franchising may be less recognized and identified with franchising by the general public, but it is actually larger in terms of total sales than its business format counterpart. While business format franchising puts the focus on the system of doing business, traditional franchising has more emphasis on the products manufactured by the franchisor and supplied to the franchise. This is commonly found in gasoline, bottling, automotive and other industries.
The changes that came about in the rights of franchisees allowed for much greater control and customization for entrepreneurs who were looking to own a business. These shifts put a much greater emphasis on the success and development of small business owners, instead of simply churning out the same old thing from major corporations. It also allows for a more significant local impact, as franchisees can tailor their service and marketing to the needs of their communities.
But in order to obtain a franchising license and successfully operate this type of business, one must still adhere to franchise standards. If you feel this might be the right path for you to create your business, the first steps include:
- Developing an effective business model, including prospective customers and suppliers, as well as funding strategies.
- Developing a model that will provide consistent positive results without obvious issues.
- Creating a system for employing, training and maintaining a staff that will provide a high level of quality production.
- Maintaining a model with the same standards, branding, and values as the franchisor.
Starting a small business is one of the most exciting and meaningful events in a person’s life. You will likely go through a rollercoaster of emotion throughout the process, but this is all part of the journey and worth it when done correctly.
But unfortunately, many people fail in business simply because they believe in certain myths which have mislead them. Some seminars, speakers, blogs, and marketers will lead you to believe that all you need for success in business is a bit of capital, a targeted profit projection and a strong desire. While these things are necessary when beginning the journey, they are far from all that you will need in the marathon ahead.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know what information is misleading and what is truly valuable in the world of entrepreneurial beginnings. However, there are a few keys to spotting the myths and those who are selling them. These include:
- Any information that comes with a price tag
- Unrealistic testimonials from “real people”
- Newsletters or subscriptions that charge money for “business advice”
- Anything that guarantees success in business
- Any information that sounds too good to be true
These are just a few factors that may signify bad info, but none of these are sure-fire signs of a scam or misleading information. You have to judge for yourself whether the advice you take is legitimate or is only for the profit of the person giving it. Generally, those with legitimately helpful information and good intentions do not need to (or even want to) charge to give advice and help.
The Marathon Ahead
The fact is, there are no sure-fire strategies or guaranteed techniques for quick success in business. Business is not a sprint; it is a marathon that will be full of ups, downs, trials, and challenges. But luckily, it will also include excitement, education, fun, and friends. Eventually, with a little bit of luck– and a lot of perseverance– it may also include great success.
If anyone has ever told you that marketing is not a creative field, that person is dead wrong. In fact, successful marketers are some of the most creative, ingenious and pragmatic people on the planet. They must develop effective, persuasive strategies to convince people to buy a product, and then develop creative, efficient means of getting the message out.
Throughout a career in marketing, I have developed several notebooks full of little strategies and techniques that have been effective. Some of these were developed independently, but the majority are based upon strategies of industry legends. This little article is meant to share a few of the best tips, techniques and marketing hacks in my notebooks that could help take your business to the next level.
- Create a monthly or bi-weekly newsletter for your business. These should be both in print and email formats.
- Utilize direct mail and direct response campaigns to reach a wider audience.
- Always stay involved in your community by contributing to local charities and events. Take advantage of any local events as an opportunity to grow your business.
- Keep a list of your previous customers and stay in contact with them. Those who have bought your products/services before are the most likely to buy it in the future.
- Develop a short, concise report that summarizes your services and your values. This should be sent to any new prospects, usually as your second touch, or the second time you interact with them.
- Maintain ads in the Yellow Pages. These provide great value and are not yet obsolete.
- Offer free eBooks, webinars, product demos and other digital items that can entice potential customers.
- Contribute to local newspapers and publications. These articles should not be blatantly promotional but should relate to your industry.
- Contribute to blogs and websites that are relevant to your industry.
- Offer free seminars or lectures that can help build awareness of your business.
- Create a podcast that is relevant to your industry. Bring in guest speakers and industry experts who can lend credibility and helpful information to your podcast.
- Tweak, test and adjust your current ads to find the most effective message, format, and medium.
- Offer incentives to new customers, such as one free month, introductory prices, purchasing benefits and other rewards/bonuses.
- Create regular incentive programs for new and current customers. This may include drawings and referral bonuses.
- Always be on the lookout for effective marketing strategies including those of competitors, industry leaders or anyone with good ideas. Tailor these strategies to your audience and make them your own.
- Barter for your marketing services. Offer free products or services (as opposed to money) in exchange for marketing.
- Do a free giveaway for anyone who brings in one of your print ads.
- Be willing to bring in new clients, even if it means taking an initial loss.
- Create and manage affiliate programs that reward referrals and marketing.
- Cultivate relationships with your vendors. These relationships may prove to be crucial, especially if your business hits a rough patch.
- Offer free public clinics to teach your community about industry-relevant information.
- Offer to pay for leads and market data. This may seem difficult at first, but this information will pay off. Just make sure not to pay too much; the key here is value.
- Conduct polls, studies, and customer satisfaction surveys. Some of your most useful information will come directly from your customer base, and it will come for free through these techniques.
- Network and cultivate relationships with others in your industry. You can develop a plan to trade leads with whom you were unsuccessful.
- Approach large companies, organizations and corporations, offering to be their exclusive provider at a significantly discounted rate.
It is unlikely that all of these techniques will apply to your business, but you should be able to identify several which can be tailored to your needs and help your business grow.
In today’s fast-paced world of instant information, on-demand entertainment and personalized marketing, every business must take advantage of every opportunity for marketing and publicity. There are countless possibilities for this, from television commercials and radio ads to social media campaigns and viral marketing, but small businesses and startups are generally at a disadvantage. For one thing, they are small and have small marketing budgets; and secondly, they likely have a small audience and little brand recognition.
This means that small businesses must be even more eager to take advantage of marketing opportunities– particularly those that come with a small price tag. Enter, public relations, the medium which allows startups and small businesses to reach a large audience and significantly increase branding, for free.
To be specific, public relations is the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company, organization or person. Of course, there are a number of ways in which this favorable image can be cultivated, and you must identify the best ways to use this practice for your own business. Speaking generally, there are three key areas to public relations on which a small business can capitalize for marketing purposes:
Developing and implementing a strategy that includes all of these areas will greatly increase the efficiency of your public relations efforts.
This may seem obvious, but the first step to successful public relations for small business is getting noticed. In fact, the entire goal of your public relations policy should revolve around continuously getting noticed in a good way, and for good reasons. This means that your strategies (in both public relations and marketing) should always be based on providing value to your target audience.
The best way to begin is through a press release. For PR rookies, here is a step-by-step guide for successfully creating and distributing an effective press release:
- Create a press release announcing something special or significant about your company. Remember that it must be an attention-grabber that is relevant to the needs of your market.
- Summarize and compress the release into a single hook or angle that is most likely to be noticed by the media and your customers. This will be your headline.
- Develop your press release in a professional format, on your letterhead. It should include:
- Important information
- Supporting facts and figures
- Your contact details
- Send your release to each media outlet you choose with an opening letter that will be interesting and specific to each media person who receives it.
Remember that your public relations strategy should include all media, especially those that are most relevant to your industry, market or business. A diversified strategy should include:
- Social media
- Any other media outlets that your audience may view, read or listen to
The internet has changed the business world unlike few other innovations since the invention of paper money, and the marketing industry may have felt this impact more than any other. For many small businesses, the digital world has opened up boundless possibilities for reaching audiences that were not possible before. Because of this, the size and scale of many entrepreneurs’ marketing efforts often completely outweigh their capabilities of converting prospects actual paying customers.
This is one of the many reasons why direct response marketing can provide some of the most beneficial and tangible results for small businesses. In addition to the measurable success of direct response campaigns, many modern customers respond better to marketing that opens a dialogue with them and asks for their immediate input. While there are many kinds of digital direct response strategies that can be effective, most small business owners find two tried-and-true marketing techniques to be the most efficient.
Direct mail marketing and telemarketing have both been around for decades, and even with the prevalence of digital marketing, both strategies can be highly effective when used properly. For many specialized or higher-priced items, these techniques provide higher conversion rates than any digital strategies, and the direct response element adds measurable data for future campaigns. Here are a few tips to get the most out of each:
- Build and/or purchase a mailing list that fits your target market.
- After accounting for the cost of mailing lists, determine your budget by comparing the cost of mailing vs. cost of the order.
- List the benefits customers would receive from your product/service and determine which is the most meaningful.
- Develop an engaging, informative sales letter centered around that specific benefit. Add appropriate graphics and headlines.
- Include supplementary items that would aid in the purchase, such as an order form, reply envelope, brochure, etc.
- Develop a call plan that lays out exactly what you hope to accomplish during your calls. Add topics to discuss and potential questions that may arise.
- Create a sales script based on this initial call plan that includes appropriate verbiage, product features, product benefits, selling terms, etc. This will provide a structured guide for the call, but you should not expect calls to follow it exactly.
- Ask questions that demonstrate that you understand the potential customer’s needs and offer feedback to show that your product/service can address his/her needs.
- Be relaxed and conversational, always focusing on the needs of the customer but always guiding the call towards an eventual purchase.
- Remember to be grateful for the prospect’s time and allow your demeanor to reflect that.
As with all marketing techniques, the key to success in both areas will be continual evaluation and adjustment. You should not expect overwhelming success on your first direct mail campaign or in your first series of calls, but paying attention the data of direct responses and adjusting accordingly will ensure increasing levels of success as your business grows.