Your most valuable asset

In these slow recovering times increasing sales revenue is on the mind of every small business owner.  Unfortunately most small business owners have never had to focus upon sales and marketing.  Their sales plan consisted of little more than answering the phone.  No, when desperate, they try things that they have never done before—mailings, radio, tv, print advertising, and many other things that they have never had to do before.  Unfortunately they all seem to miss the utilization of their most valuable asset—their customer list.

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Want to improve your sales?

Follow these rules to improve your sales:

  1. No one will care what you say until they believe that that you care.  You must first prove to your client that you care about them.  They already know that you care about yourself and you care about what you are selling but they must also be convinced that you care about them.  How do you establish that you care about them?  By asking questions.  The more questions that you ask about them the better.  Trust is developed when a person thinks that you care so the more that you can get them to talk, the more trust.  The more trust the more likely the sale.  Therefore your first rule is no attempt to sell should be made until you have questioned them to the point that they believe that you care about them and understand their problems.
  2. People run from pain faster than they run to pleasure.  Find the pain.  Find it through your questions.
  3. Run the pain funnel.  Once pain has been identified ask this series of questions:
    1. What effect has this had on your business?
    2. What effect has this had on you personally?
    3. How long has this situation existed?
    4. What have you done to fix it?
    5. Why hasn’t it worked?
    6. How open-minded are you to a solution?
    7. How committed are you to fixing the problem?
    8. When do you want to see a solution?
  4. Now you can talk about me.  You cannot talk about yourself until you have gone through the first three steps.  Now when you talk about me you can do so to show the benefit of working with you.

These rules must be followed in every industry and in every sale.  Sometimes this process can take weeks—months—and other times they are done in five minutes.  Sometimes they are done in writing—most times face-to-face.  People still buy from people and by following this process you will increase your sales.

Six Responsibilities of a Small Business Owner

The Fremont Group sponsors workshops based upon the book, Minding My Own Business.  The book identifies the six responsibilities of a small business owner and then analyzes each.  The Fremont Group derives funds in three ways—the sale of the book , donations and our workshops—all run by volunteers.  Do your own self-examination of your responsibilities.

  1. You must earn a minimum, mandatory percentage of profit.
  2. You must create cost controls to assure that the profit is produced.
  3. You must put your people into an organizational structure where they are responsible for the enforcement of the cost controls through accountability and incentives.
  4. You must sell—internally and externally.
  5. You must keep the money you make—tax and risk management.
  6. You must have fun.

How did you rate?

Sales and Marketing

Small businesses often operate near their breakeven and therefore to become profitable they must either lower their breakeven or increase their sales. The fact is, lowering your breakeven is neither simple nor even advisable. If you are fat anyone can provide a simple answer to your weight problem—don’t eat. I can guarantee you that if you don’t eat you will lose weight. I can also guarantee that if you don’t eat long enough you will die. The real answer to weight problems is the purchase and use of running shoes. Exercise more and your body becomes more efficient—you can eat more and still lose weight. The same goes for your business—most businesses are starving themselves to death. It isn’t less overhead that you need—you probably need more! But obviously you can’t just eat more—you also have to run!

Small business owners are generally very good at sales. The owner understood his product and represented it well. They convert sales quite effectively in large part because the owner is personally involved in the sales process. Sales revenue produced from sales are the result of an easy equation—number of opportunities times the close rate. Since they are good at sales their close rate is high but since they fret over every dollar they rarely invest effectively in the generation of opportunities.

Sales is the conversion of leads into dollars; marketing is the generation of those leads. The unfortunate truth is that businesses with limited funds are reluctant to invest in marketing. Since they rarely have a controlled budget they don’t know what they can afford for marketing. Marketing is not unlike any other expense—it has to fit into your budget, however consider what the effect would be upon your business if you had twice the number of sales opportunities per month! There is nothing that you could do that would have more impact upon your business so long as: (1) your close rate is not reduced; and (2) the cost per lead is monitored and controlled.

At your management retreat ask your sales team to identify your current marketing effort. Identify you current “cost per lead.” This is the real marketing cost to your business. Then challenge them—how can we double the number of leads while maintaining the same close rate? Obviously there would be an increased cost to this effort and there is only 100% of your revenue that you can spend. The next step is to go to finance—how can we re-allocate our budget so that we can accommodate this effort? When it is determined how you are going to afford it you then must go back to sales and establish controls to maintain the close rate and cost per lead.

If you want to really change this year, change your marketing.

Business to Business Advertising

“We don’t advertise, we believe in word of mouth!” How many times has this been said in small businesses around the country? Quite often. You also hear “word of mouth is the best advertising”. These two statements assume three things:

1. Your business is so interesting and important that people will want to talk about it

2. Things people say are all going to be what you want them to say about your business

3. Everything that’s said will be positive and is said to a potential customer

None of these things are necessarily true. We hear that one complaint or bad mouth experience represents 100 dissatisfied customers that would not be good advertising. Since you cannot control it, word of mouth what ever it is, is not advertising. Word of mouth recommendations are effective for good restaurants, local sales events, movies, fine wines, good babysitters, perfumes, favorite beers or other items that are the everyday topics of conversation. Most people don’t discuss favorite gas stations or preferred plumbers on a frequent basis. clip_image001

Why advertise?

To control your own future

To make a statement of who and what you are

To establish a position or personality for your entity

To save money, it is the cheapest sales call

To create a call to action

What is advertising?

The entire purpose of advertising is to sell. Foote Cone Belding’s definition from 1903 was that “Advertising is Salesmanship in Print.” Certainly in 1903 when print was the only medium available that was so. With all the new media the concept holds true, the purpose is to sell.

Advertising is any sales message that can be delivered indirectly. That is, a statement that you control, have paid for, that is placed when and where you want it that communicates without face to face human contact. Telemarketing is advertising.

What about viral or guerrilla advertising? It is still advertising if you spend money to control a message and deliver it indirectly. When Gallo Wine wanted to increase sales of Spanada in 1972 they sold cases of the wine in Florida during spring break, put up displays and point of sale ads in bars and had salesmen order Spanada in the bars. The salesmen never directly sold the sangria to customers they just let people hear them order the drink. This was early guerrilla marketing & integration of sales, promotion, PR and advertising to expand a brand outside the core market of Orange County California.

What are Public Relations?

Any message that is not paid for, controlled in its distribution or where you cannot control what is being said is a Public Relations Program. Newspaper articles, TV news, publicity, propaganda, are all public relations. Word of mouth advertising is not advertising, it is PR as it is uncontrolled, and it is usually unplanned and un-focused.

What are Promotions?

Promotions are those sales messages that are timed for a short distinct period that make a specific offer to stimulate action and provide a reward. BOGO, Buy One Get One is a perfect example. Promotions may be either offensive or defensive. Offensive promotions are usually scheduled and have specific objectives such as sell x cases in a month. Defensive promotions are usually pulled off the shelf to protect the brand from a competitor’s action.

What is Effective Advertising?

It is effective if it works to meet its objective. If your objective is to increase awareness and your metrics indicate the communication has done so it is effective. If you want to generate 200 sales leads a month and you get them the ads are effective. Being cute or “creative” only helps if you improve the sales process. When Wendy’s did the “Where’s the Beef Campaign the largest increase was the sale of the baked potato entree. The ads increased awareness of Wendy’s (good but not the objective) but did not convince people that Wendy’s had bigger and better burgers (bad). The campaign was short lived but memorable, however it did not meet the original objective

How do you measure advertising?

Marketing Research has shown that

1. Advertising changes opinions and attitudes

2. Significantly improves the close ratio for both manufacturer and distributor salesmen

3. Is cost effective (provided frequency is adequate total sales costs drop between 10-30%

4. Non advertisers have a 20-40% increase in sales costs

5. Advertising works in every market and at every sales point*

*Morrill Study 1964-1969

Another study indicated that 56% of B2B buyers reported they had specified recommended or purchased something as a direct result of advertising. In the consumer marketplace the percent who buy as a result of advertising is much higher, this is why Tide the most advertised detergent, has been the number 1 selling detergent since it was introduced in 1947 with sales over $1,250,000,000 today.

Advertising does reduce the sales cost!

Since salesmen are required to deliver the final presentation and close of a sale, it is most cost effective to get them to a hot lead rather than to make a cold call. Cold calls are inefficient. Twenty years ago a cold call was estimated to cost $250/call, when travel, burdened labor and overhead were all considered. A first call by direct mail or trade publication costs less than $1.00 per buyer or influencer reached.*

Advertising creates continuity. After a salesman leaves, a print ad or brochure stays behind and provides a place where information can continue to be found. One of the most effective continuity vehicles is the web site. Keeping yours up dated and current provides the customer or prospect the chance to continually learn more about the company.

* Dartnell, Forsyth Group, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine

What do I need to do to create the most impact?

The two major answers are compelling visuals and color. It is interesting that visuals in the sound bite age are the greatest attraction to create attention; however the written word remains the most memorable. Just do it, Where’s the beef? These and other lines have become part of the lexicon even when people have forgotten the visual or the product being advertised.

Why spend the extra money for color? The answer is to gain attention. Yellow has the greatest number of receptors in the human eye so the eye recognizes yellow more easily than any other hue.

4 color advertising increases reader interest or viewer interest. A Readex study indexed B/W to 4 color readership in identical print ads. In each case color increased interest dramatically, regardless of the quality of the creative product.

Index Improvement Index

Company A 6 B/W ads 100
5 4/C ads 180
Company B 2 B/W ads 100
3 4/C ads 214
Company C 2 B/W ads 100
5 4/C ads 154

Readership measurements by average noted scores over a 20 year period (89,000 different ads) are consistent with the above findings.

34% 35% 47%
Black & white ads 2 color ads 4 color ads

The conclusion is that if you want to have a message well read and remembered don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Spend enough to do the job properly. That is one of the reasons to be sure that before you spend make sure that you have a defined creative strategy and that your position is clear enough that it can cover all the messages you want to use.

How often to advertise is a more difficult decision for business to business advertisers. In consumer products there is more research into buying habits and the length of the buying cycle. A manufacturer will know how long it takes for salad dressing to be consumed and how long a box of Tide will last. One of the reasons beer ads are so frequent is that a heavy beer drinker will drink a six pack or more a day. Schaeffer came up with the theme “Schaeffer… is the …one beer to have when you’re having more than one” because of this research. Do some research to find out what people think about your company. Find out what is important to them and deliver it.

We have discovered the following in business advertising; most buyers spend between 5.7 and 17 days investigating potential suppliers when they are investigating a product or service. This short time frame is the opposite of the situation Danielson Fuel Services found at the Sardis Café where the owners looked for new gasoline suppliers for a year before Jerry Danielson happened to walk in. The fact that this happened to occur, reinforces the need for a continual marketing outreach program integrating PR, direct mail, advertising and sales calls focused on shortening the sales cycle.

Buyers initiate 73% of business to business sales orders. 19% of the orders were generated by sales people and only 8% were generated by telemarketers.

This would argue that B2B products are bought not sold which is the conclusion Accenture reached in their research for the Distribution Research and Education Foundation.

Average Number of Days in the Buying Cycle

Selected B2B Categories

Determining Needs & Specs Investigating Suppliers Requesting Proposals Evaluation & Selection of Supplier Final Approvals & P.O. TOTAL
Construction 46.0 15.1 17.5 10.6 13.1 102.3
Machinery 35.0 17.0 13.5 9.6 15.1 90.2
Materials & Components 20.9 11.3 9.4 6.3 6.7 54.6

15.0 9.3 10.5 7.2 6.1 48.1
Maintenance & Repair 10.1 5.7 7.5 3.7 4.6 31.6

* PRO reports Penton Research Services and Accenture Consulting (formerly Anderson)

In each instance noted above the collection of information, needs, specs and supplier data consumed the preponderance of time. Successful informative advertising can provide much of that information and shorten the cycle, improve close rates, and improve cash management. How long should it take Extreme to get feedback in your buying cycle?

It is important for suppliers to present their offer to buyers during the media aperture of receptiveness and respond quickly to requests for information. Most of this research predates widespread internet use. Now that everything is on the web websites are necessary to allow the buyer to collect information with greater speed and detail that ever was possible before. One change in the rules is that you must drive buyers to your website. One of the most successful examples were the Super Bowl ads for Victoria’s Secret Lingerie which generated so much web traffic that the website went down in minutes. The site ended up with over 2,000,000 hits in the first 24 hours. Lingerie sales skyrocketed as men bought. We don’t know if the women actually wore what the men bought but the sale was made.

Frequency Trumps Reach

Own what you can own. As Jim Croce said, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape” so don’t pick a fight you can’t win. Focus on your core customer with a message that they care about. This is especially important in the B2B market. Recent examples indicate that 11 sales calls are now required to make a sale where once 3 would suffice. Since sales calls are expensive an indirect, frequent ads are economical and more polite than constant phoning. Customers have joined do not call lists which prohibit calling them and many who haven’t joined are annoyed by the frequent call. Broadcast faxes can be useful but California has a law against unsolicited faxing, does Texas? Frequent pleasant reminders that break through the clutter however may actually be welcomed into the mind set and the frame of reference. Direct mail can be effective to build frequency if it is simple; a website is superb if the customer can find it.

To support the case for frequency we need to look at concentration in media against the specific target. This is true in most markets whether restaurants, construction, aviation or petroleum. There is a law of diminishing returns. So hit your customer often but not two often the number is usually from 3-10 times in the buying cycle. So to reach a GC for your electrical company you might want to have at least 3 messages received in a 6 week period.

Advertising is a leading indicator and it is contrarian. Since its purpose is to sell goods and services efficiently, up front spending is often required. When a new product or service is being introduced the percentage of money spent on advertising is the highest it will ever be. The curve of increasing revenue will lag behind your expense which is why most introductions take 24-36 months to payout.

In a recession the same situation arises. When sales slow the tendency is to cut advertising. The correct response is to do the opposite as advertising is designed to increase sales. It makes no more sense to cut advertising than it does to fire all your sales people and expect to gain sales. Research has proven that when a company remains constant or even increases advertising spending during a recession the business increases dramatically more than non advertised brands when the economy improves.

In summary why should a small business advertise?

    • To control your own future
    • To make a statement of who and what your company is
    • To establish a position or personality for your firm
    • To save money, it is the cheapest sales call
    • To create a call to action

Research has shown that advertising changes opinions and attitudes, significantly improves the close ratio for both manufacturer and distributor salesmen. Advertising is cost effective (provided frequency is adequate) total sales costs drop between 10-30%

To make advertising work you need to do the same things you do when you plan a construction job or a financial plan. You take the time to decide what you want to accomplish, you write down what you intend to accomplish and then execute. Advertising is a tool just like job scope, construction drawings, a printing schedule or an income statement.

The last thing to remember is that at the very beginning you must know if your target audience thinks your message is IMPORTANT if not get a new message. Next the message must be BELIEVABLE if not change the message, and lastly it must be UNDERSTANDABLE. If not, change the message. Ask some customers in the target audience, if you don’t get an 8 on every measure on a ten point scale. Start over.

Everyone cares about WIIFM.

Twitter for Marketing

Top Ten Ways to Use Twitter for Marketing
By Jason OConnor (c) 2009 The Net Gazette

Twitter is a micro-blogging site that asks you a basic question,
"What are you doing?" It allows anyone with an account to write
up to 140 characters in a text field as a means to update,
comment, promote or communicate to others who are "following"
you. When people follow you, they see what you've recently
contributed when they login. They see your "tweets", which are
the messages you leave.

And of course you can follow others who tweet about the things
that interest you. As an Internet marketer you may want to follow
other Internet marketers, for example.

Like anything, and this is especially true of working with social
media, the more you give, the more you get. In other words, the
more often you tweet the more activity you'll generate. Some
suggest that you tweet a few times a day, every day. Not every
tweet needs to be profound. But they should all be useful.

It's important that you don't abuse Twitter for marketing and
promoting your products, services or affiliate links. Most of
your tweets ought to be about offering your followers useful and
valuable information. Only once in a while should you try to use
Twitter to promote something. Otherwise you'll be perceived as a
spammer, and no one wants that tag.

Imagine if you had a large number of people following your
tweets? Some people have tens of thousands following them. If you
had something to promote and you had a large following, you could
quickly and efficiently alert a lot of people of your promotion.
It acts sort of like an opt-in mass emailing blast to your house
email list, but it's a heck of a lot easier and faster. This is
the power of Twitter.

One thing that I've noticed with Twitter is that it can seem
overwhelming at times. The sheer information on Twitter, the
'how-to's', tutorials and all the other ubiquitous advice on
how to use and take advantage of it can seem hard to understand
and implement. So here's an easy-to-understand list of the top
ten ways in which you can use Twitter to market yourself, your
business and your website.

The Top 10 Ways To Use Twitter for Marketing:

1. Use it to promote new pieces of content you or your company
create to drive traffic to your site. From online articles to
blog posts or from videos to webinars, each time you add
something to the Web that is of value, tweet about it and include
a link. (Most people on Twitter use to take a
long URL and make it short.)

2. Use it for learning new marketing ideas, strategies and
techniques. If you follow the right people, and you have to be
picky about who you follow, you'll get pointed to a good amount
of useful tutorials, videos, e-zines and other things that teach
you about marketing.

3. Use it to get new customers. Use Twitter's search to find
people who may be interested in your product or service. There
are many ingenious ways to search for people on Twitter. For
example, if you sell red widgets you could go to and find people who have tweeted
specifically looking for red widgets. To do this, type the
following into the search box: red widgets?

 * You'll notice a lot of the results will be of others selling
red widgets. These ones will all obviously have links in them to
direct people to the site they're selling red widgets on. To
weed these people/tweets out, use the negative sign like this:
-http red widgets?

 * Since every link has 'http' in it, using the negative sign
in front of it will cause your search results to not include any
tweets with links in them.

4. Use it to build your email list. Use Twitter's search to find
people who may be interested in the monthly newsletter you send
out to your opt-in house email list. Invite these people to join.

5. Utilize Twitter plugins or add-ons such as TweetMyBlog or The
Twitter Updater, which both automatically make tweets of every
new blog post you publish. Also check out TwitThis. When visitors
to your website click on the TwitThis button or link, it takes
the URL of the Web page and creates a shorter URL using TinyURL.
Then visitors can send this shortened URL and a description of
the web page to all of their followers on Twitter. Finally, look
at TweetLater, a service that allows you to write lots of tweets
at once and then schedule them to go out over time.

6. Use it to build buzz about an upcoming product or website

7. Use it to better brand yourself or your business. Remember,
when someone wants to learn more about you or your company, they
are increasingly using sites like Twitter for research. You could
easily use Twitter to establish yourself as an authority in your

8. Use it to update followers on breaking news regarding your
company. If your company is mentioned in a new article, tweet
about it and include a link to the article. Or if you're at a
conference or trade show, you could tweet what you're doing and
invite people to visit you in person.

9. Use it for business networking, master-mind groups (see
Napoleon Hill), and getting yourself seen by high-profile people
in your industry.

10. Use it as an instant messaging system to keep you and your
team on the same page during projects. This is especially useful
for those who work with teams spread out in different cities or

You should note that this top 10 list is not in order of
importance or in any particular order. I suggest that you give
Twitter a try if you haven't already. See if you can apply a few
of these techniques and tactics to help you take advantage of
Twitter as a marketing tool.

And one more important thing to remember is that there is no
silver bullet in marketing. You should always be trying and
implementing numerous tactics when marketing your business.
Don't only rely on Twitter or any other one thing. Instead, use
Twitter (or any other Web 2.0 site) as simply one more tool in
your entire social media and marketing toolbox.
Jason OConnor is an Web consultant
He writes for The Net Gazette, a Web marketing newsletter
(, and owns Oak Web Works, LLC, a
Web design and marketing company at
Copyright � 2009 Jayde Online, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

Blog for Increased Sales

How a Blog Can
Seriously Help Your Business

By Jason OConnor (c) 2009 The Net Gazette

If your business website doesn’t have a blog, get one. A blog, if done right, can act as a direct and indirect mechanism that brings large amounts of qualified visitors to your site, many of whom may become customers.
This is mostly related to the way blogs interact with search engines and the traffic I am speaking of will come from search engines, mostly Google.
Before I explain how you can do this to help your website, let me first give some background on how search engines work, Google in particular.

When it comes to optimizing your website (or blog for that matter) for search engines you must always keep in mind two things: on-page optimization and off-page optimization.
On-page optimization is the elements of a Web page that better optimize it to be found and ranked well in the search engines. These elements can include on-page content such as the actual sentences and paragraphs on the page, the headlines (or headers or Hx tags), the links, the links’ text, the title tag and much more.
Off-page optimization means the things that are done on sites besides your site, namely link-building. Off-page optimization is the process of creating links (or causing others to create links) on other websites that point to your site. Inbound links as these are often called have a major impact on how well you rank in search engines. Generally speaking, the more inbound links, the better. But the quality of the sites with these inbound links, or the way the search engines perceive the sites, is even more important.
To rank on the first couple of pages on the search engines requires work on both on-page and off-page optimization.
Two additional and important pieces of information that you’ll need to understand are related to site content and internal links.
Search engines also very much love new, original and quality content, and they like to see your website regularly adding this kind of new content. You don’t need to add pages every day, just add pages at the same rate over time. So if you add a page a week to your site, keep it at around that same pace, or increase or decrease gradually.
A website can be considered a living entity in a sense. It certainly shouldn’t be static. It should grow over time. And the fantastic thing about content is that the more of it there is on your site, the more chances you have of getting found in the search engines.

The idea that inbound links help your search engine rankings that I explained above can be extended to your internal pages as well. In other words, the more links to a particular page coming from other pages within the same site will boost that page’s rank as well.
Think of it this way. If you had a ten page site, including a product page and every page on the site contained a link to your product page and, if all other things were equal, your product page would rank higher than the rest of your site’s pages (besides the home page which is given a little extra weíght).
Now let’s consider what would happen if there were only you and your competitor in your industry (if only that could be true!) and your site still had those ten pages while your competitor’s site contained one hundred pages. Furthermore, your competitor set it up the same way as you where he added a link to every page on his site that pointed to his product page. If all other things were equal, his product page would outrank your product page every time. Why? Because he had 100 internal links pointing to his product page and you only had 10.
If you put all these pieces together now, on-page optimization, off-page optimization or link building, content creation and internal linking, can you begin to see why a blog may be a good thing? A blog helps with all of these.
A blog that is regularly updated is providing a mechanism for adding fresh content on a regular basis. Plus, it’s so easy to use a blog that anyone can use them, so even if you or your employees don’t know a thing about Web pages and HTML, you’ll still be able to add new content to your site.

Consider this. If you add fresh, quality content to your blog on a regular basis by writing posts, something the search engines love, and within each post you link to an important page within your site, let’s say your product page for instance, you’re now building links to help your rankings using your blog. With this additional link your product page gets that much more boost in the search engines.
Remember how I explained that links from within your site help your rankings? Adding links within your blog posts pointing back to your other important pages that you want to rank well is a great way to help your rankings.
And every time you publish a new post, you’re giving the search engines one more entry point into your site. Your site will quickly get bigger, and with each new page your site gets more visible.
Keep in mind that the links you make within your blog posts should be relevant. Only link to your product page from a post that has to do with your products. And also, blog posts ought to be useful to your site visitors. The less you talk about your products and instead offer useful, free information that people can use, the more traffíc and repeat visitors you’ll get.
Remember that people really don’t care about you, your website or your products, they only care about how you can help them. If you sell furniture, a blog post about how to find the best deals on furniture would be far better than a post about how your chairs are the best in the world.
One important thing to remember is that if you plan on creating a new blog for your business as a way to augment your website be sure you put the blog on your actual domain. This means that you would not use a remote service like Instead, you must have the blog on your business website’s address (or domain). For example, if your website address is then your blog should be located at or
By adding a blog to your business website you are creating a way to get additional traffic. You’ll get direct traffic from your posts, which get indexed by the search engines and drive traffic to your site from searches. And, you’ll get indirect traffic from your other site’s pages ranking well in the search engines because they have links pointing to them from your blog posts.
You’ll be regularly adding fresh content to your site, which search engines love, thereby creating more ways to be found in the search engines at the same time. And each post provides a new chance to create a link or two to other pages and blog posts on your site, thereby boosting those pages’ rankings.
Like I suggested at the beginning, if your business website doesn’t have a blog, go get one.