Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In Social Networks, The Important Thing Is To Be Where Your Client Is.

Be Where Your Client Is.
A couple of days ago a very dear friend of mine, owner of an ecommerce site told me he was about to give it a try to a new social platform, from which he had heard was being positively accepted by many, growing at a pretty strong pace and looked highly promising.

My answer, as in many other similar situations, was the same: "If your client is there, it should be great." Unfortunately, my comment wasn’t properly taken, and my friend started to give me all the reasons why he wanted to try it and give himself a chance, or better yet, give his business a chance.

Obviously, I didn’t mean to bother him, quite the contrary, my idea was to keep him from having the headache of embarking on a significant effort, an investment of time and money to develop and maintain his business presence on another social network, without being completely sure at the end it was going to be positive for him.

I finally gave up to his reasoning and couldn’t make it through all the excitement and positive expectations that were already created about the issue, and to not be like the grinch who always puts you down to earth with things, I recommended him to go ahead and give it a try, that maybe it could work for him.

To start with, all our efforts have to generate positive results.

And that’s simply to begin with: it all comes down to generating positive results. Managing the presence of any company in a social network is a task that requires the investment of a significant amount of time, all actions must be planned to be executed correctly and timely, content is to be be organized and prepared so that  it generates the best feedback possible, well, in short, is not something that can be taken lightly, or at least shouldn’t be taken lightly.

That’s why before embarking yourself on the adventure of using a digital platform, in this case a social network, to promote your business, you should make sure that your current and potential customers are there, and that you'll be able to generate the results that justify carrying out such effort, especially in times like today’s where every cent counts and there are so many restricting factors.

When it comes to your business, your company, all the time and money spent in anything must be justified, or at least, the uncertainty surrounding any decision you make should be minimized as much as possible. Would you take the risk to spend a substantial amount of money in a platform which doesn’t guarantee you’ll reach the target market you are looking for?

Isn’t it more effective, instead, to analyze a little bit what the audience for such recommended platform is and make sure your client or prospective client is frequently there?

How do I know which is the social platform that works best for my business?

It’s relatively simple. Each social network identifies itself with a particular audience, has specific demographics, it’s populated by a certain type of businesses, and studies about its growth, trends and development are published with some regularity. Take your time to review this information and then make an informed decision.

If you take your time to do your homework and study it a little, you'll have a better understanding of who is its prospective audience and if it’s a fit for your business. You will even have the chance to familiarize with what companies and products like yours do and what strategies they put in place within the platform.

If you have your online store in Spain, for instance, and can only sell inside the country, what benefit do you get from a social network whose audience is concentrated in another country? Making yourself these kind of question will allow you to make a better decision.

However I think, in addition to what I wrote above, the most important thing is to know what your customers’ preferred social networks are. Now that is pure gold, the authentic one.

How I can know which social networks are my customers’ favorites?

Simply ask! If you already have a business, whether it’s an electronic store or a physical one, you probably have (or should already have) a customers base or at least a growing customer base with which you are already doing business or relating with, on a regular basis.

What if you directly ask them what social networks they use more frequently move? What if you ask them where they usually maintain their most enjoyable and enriching conversations?

You might be surprised to learn it’s not Facebook or Pinterest, but a specialized forum exclusively devoted to a specific topic which is extremely interesting and engaging for them.

If there is one thing you can be sure of, is that there aren’t truths written in stone when it comes to social networks. At least, not until today.

If you want to know which social network or digital platform can be more effective to your business, start by asking your customers where they usually spend their “social" time.

This way, you can eliminate much of the uncertainty that is always present when you are about to choose which social network to use to promote your business.

Think you may find a more effective way to choose your social networks?

Related articles in this blog:
Social Media: Don’t Stop Halfway Down.
“I want to be in Social Networks but don´t know where to start with”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Make Your Business Grow: What Actions Can You Take To Sell More?

Make Your Business Grow.
Growing your business can become a daunting task for you and easily overwhelm you.

There are so many things you have to take into consideration that many times, even without purpose, you stop paying attention to the most important one: Bringing in more money!

Some time ago, I read an article that brought together more than 50 tips to help business owners increase their sales.

I found it really interesting and wanted to choose for you, the tips I consider most relevant, effective and easy to implement. I grouped them according to the business areas they are related with.

You have them below. I am sure you’ll find them interesting as I am completely convinced they will assist them in increasing your business numbers.

If you don’t show it, you don’t sell it.

  • Get your business to be in the spotlight. Build for your business a strong corporate identity, impacting, simple but with elements that make you different from others. Give business cards to your friends and acquaintances, suppliers, partners. Help everybody know what your business is about.
  • Take advantage of all available tools: Email and video marketing, social networks and all other marketing tools that allow your business reach places you can’t physically be present.
  • Make sure you are always available by phone, email or any other channel: to offer your customers advice and recommendations regarding your products, or even products you don’t have in stock, and also to resolve any concerns or complaints that may arise after the purchase is done
  • Put some money in advertising: It’s a common mistake to expect your business to grow by itself, organically, with the lowest possible investment on your side. Don’t fall for it. If you have a restricted or minimum budget, it only means you have to optimize the way you use money, not that you can’t do anything. Advertise your business, no matter how discreet your campaign might be.
  • Participate in or organize community events: you can get in touch with your actual or potential customers by doing it. It will not only help you create a strong brand presence for your business but also allow you to humanize it a little bit. Keep in mind it’s all about people.
  • Expand your business reach: If a market becomes tight for you, look for opportunities to open new markets on different areas, new targets. Be always on the look for ways to expand your business footprint, even when things are going well. A business that is resting on its laurels, is in deep danger.

Take good care of your sales flow and sales team.

  • Always establish clear goals to drive your sales department by and monitor them regularly: No matter whether they are daily, weekly or monthly goals. It will depend on your product’s sales cycle. In any case, the important thing about goals is that they allow you to confirm if things are going well or if, on the contrary, it’s time to make decisions.
  • Once you reach your goals, go for bigger but always reasonable ones: One of the easiest ways to burn down a business is to set unrealistic goals. Pretending, for example, that a business that has just started is going to sell enough to buy a corporate jet in just six months, isn’t only unreal but childish. Realistic goals are easier to reach.
  • Give your sales team ongoing sales training: This way they’ll be more effective in every sales visit to customers or even at your store’s counter. There are specific techniques for each case, which might be of great interest to you.
  • If you don’t have a sales team: Seriously commit yourself to developing one for your company, no matter how small it is (just make sure it has at least two people). The results are always positive.
  • Promote healthy competition among your salespeople: Give them prizes and incentives, help them improve their performance every day, take good care of them and recognize their accomplishments. A motivated and committed sales force is the guarantee for your company’s growth.

If you have a client, you own a treasure.

  • Get to know your customers. Make a sincere effort to know who they are, what motivated them to come to your business, where they live, what they like and how did they get to know your company. All the information you can gather will be extremely useful in discovering new marketing opportunities.
  • Create a complete database of your customers. And don’t settle, if at all possible, to simply collect contact information (phone number, email address and so forth). Go a bit further and try to learn a little about their likes, hobbies and lifestyle. This information will come handy while designing your promotional efforts.
  • "The important thing is not having your customers coming in but coming back afterwards" therefore you should concentrate your efforts on making your client have a unique shopping experience so they do business with you and no one else, and feel motivated enough to recommend you to their friends.
  • Offer your customers different payment options: It happened to me once I went to make a purchase and the guys only accepted cash. I had to go out and walk to the ATM to get the money to pay. Quite a bother. Don’t allow this to happen to your customers as they can decide to go somewhere else.
  • Make sure you shine in the after-sales service: Customer’s loyalty is built after the purchase has occurred, therefore it’s an excellent idea to take every possible opportunity to be there, on your customer side, ready to solve any problem that may arise or just to make sure everything went as you expected it.
  • Reward your most loyal customers. Invite them to share their experience with others. You can always turn them into powerful brand ambassadors. Word of mouth advertising continues to be the most powerful kind of promotion you can get, especially in a hyper-connected world like ours.
  • Conduct frequent satisfaction surveys: always show your customers their opinion is important to you, and use those opinions to develop real  improvements in your products or services.
  • Take advantage of seasonal sales: Not only your clients will be more willing to increase their spending, but you will have an opportunity to make your promotions more effective and increase your numbers significantly.

As you can see, those are simple things that don’t take much effort to implement once you realize the important influence they can have on your business development. Take them into consideration and implement them one by one if you find it difficult to do it all at the same time.

The only thing that can happen is that your sales begin to flow in a more orderly and organized way, and that is definitely not bad for your business, or is it?

Related articles in this blog:
What Are The Advantages Of Developing A Sales Force For Your Business?
3 Questions that can help you grow your business!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What Are The Advantages Of Developing A Sales Force For Your Business?

Develop your own sales force.
This post is a follow up on the conversation we started last week about companies having independent sales representatives versus full time sales people, which was entitled “Why You Shouldn’t Outsource Sales When Starting Your Business”, and as usual, you’ll find a link to it at the end of this post.

I’m not focusing this conversation on whether one option is better than the other as they both are great, or if independent sales people are more professional or efficient than full time, paid sales employees, or vice versa. It’s truly not about that.

It's just that there is a “best” time for everything, like most things in life.

And it is for this reason that, today, I want to share with you the reasons why I believe building an internal sales team for your business is the right thing to do when starting up or when your business is starting to grow, even if that team is only formed by two people (always two, no less than that please. We’ll come back to that later on this blog)

Among the reasons I consider most important, I would mention the following:

  • Having an internal sales team gives you the opportunity to create and develop a substantial database: If you have an internal sales force, through them your company will be constantly in search of new markets and customers, managing incoming orders and doing the appropriate follow up on each one, and all information coming in and going out will be signed by your company and delivered by people who identify themselves as part of your business.
  • It allows you to concentrate on selling not only as a transaction but also as an opportunity to develop brand awareness and to provide high quality customer service.
  • An internal sales team will be dedicated full time to representing your company and your products, and assisting you in developing your product line continuously. They are closely involved with your company, with its growth and share the same long, medium and short term goals.
  • Customer related incidences can be resolved in real time, without unnecessary delay and in a manner that doesn’t affect relationships, without intermediaries.
  • Full time sales people will be strong brand ambassadors, with a deep and detailed knowledge of your business operation, product features and all the details your customers need and want to know.
  • An internal sales force, properly managed, receives ongoing training not only about product, but also sales techniques and other administrative tasks, allowing you to effectively detect and correct any errors that could be happening in your sales presentation.
  • Your sales team is the link connecting your company with the real world and its customers. They become the ears, mouth and eyes of your company, and are the best source of really important information about what your customers need and expect from your company and product.

And finally, when you hire independent sales people it indirectly means you waive the right to keep under control the way your products are sold and, therefore, the image that is built around your product and company throughout the sales process.

Maybe you wouldn’t like to know that the last contract your company signed through an independent representative, was only possible after your customer received an excessive, even abusive, pressure to sign from your "representative".

Keep in mind your customers can always think that if you chose them as your company’s representatives, you must agree with the things they do to close the deal, aren’t they right?

When should you outsource sales?

Personally, I think the right time is when your company has an internal sales force already in place and working, and you simply want to further develop your business or explore new opportunities.

External sales agents, or independent commission only representatives are great for increasing the reach of the work you already do with your own internal sales force, to open markets you can’t access directly or do it at reduced costs, or for specific trade opportunities.

You should use them as an alternative to expand the customer base you already have under control with your internal sales force, so that any failure of the external, independent sales structure, only has minimal impact on the overall operation of your business.

As we mentioned last week, our conversation is not about whether external or independent vendors are good or bad for your business, but to recommend you to always use them as an extension, and not a replacement, of your internal sales force.

An article you want to might want to read about this topic:
Do not Outsource Your Sales. Here's Why

Related articles in this blog:
Why You Shouldn’t Outsource Sales When Starting Your Business

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why You Shouldn’t Outsource Sales When Starting Your Business.

One of the most important areas to keep in mind while running your business is sales, and it’s not about my beliefs or because I just feel so, but about a very simple reason: sales is the area that brings the money in, therefore, it’s what keeps your business alive and kicking.

Without sales, your company will have very limited opportunities to survive and I’m sure you can easily understand why.

In addition to that, all businesses, including yours, were created to make money and be profitable, among other things, and you make money by selling!

Amusingly, when the time comes to develope a sales force for their companies, develop a customer base and open new markets and business opportunities, many business owners choose to hire sales representatives offering only a commision per sale instead of a salary, or sign a representation contract with an external company.

Why business owners hire independent sales representatives?

Most of the times, the reasons why you might think is a good decision to hire a commission-only salesperson, or an outside independent representative are the following:

  • You think it will help you cover more territory and grow your business faster, without having to put down a lot of money for it.
  • You don’t want to take the headache of having to manage, train and lead an "in-house" sales team.
  • You believe you don’t have the ability or the time required to create and develop an internal and effective sales force.
  • You simply want to save the money involved in having a full time, paid employee to developing your customer base.

In my professional opinion, hiring an independent sales representative is not the best option especially if your company is starting to grow.

Why I don’t think it is the best option?

As always, every time I make a reflection like this, I share with you the reasons behind it:

  • The main spot is for your product and company: Or at least, it should be. Unfortunately an independent representative has to make a living out of its work, and not receiving any money by representing and marketing your product doesn’t make it any easier thus the only way to put it all together is by adding other products to its portfolio. This means your product will not be the main one, but just another one.
  • An independent rep will push for the products which are easier to sell, rotate faster or offer a higher commission, because that’s the way it will be making money. May God permit your product is the best seller.
  • An independent rep rarely gets to have a deep and detailed knowledge of your company and product, because of the many products and companies he works with. No one can get to know your product and company better than yourself, therefore, no one can sell your product better than you or those who are as intensively committed with your company as you are.
  • It’s usually very difficult to monitor the work of independent representatives (whether individuals or firms) just because they are, well, independent. Nothing obliges them to your company or your product, so you have no way to put pressure on them to devote more or less hours to your business, to work harder or not. They go by their own rules and follow their own plans, and you either take it or leave it.
  • The goal of an independent sales representative is simply to make money, and will do so by selling any of the products it represents, regardless of which one is the best seller. Your situation is completely opposite because you need not only your products to be sold but also a customer base to be built.

No wonder it’s said that "whoever has a customer, owns a treasure" and specially in the case of business starting up or growing, it becomes a hard-as-rock true. Hiring an outside sales representative isn’t one of the most effective decisions you can make, for the reasons I’ve shared with you above.

So now, what do you think and what have you done? Have you make an effort to build up your sales team? Have you gone for the outsourcing option?

In the next post I’ll explain you why I am positive the best thing you can do for your business is to develop your own sales force.

Related posts in this blog:
Corporate reputation and sales reps’ responsibility.
Customers: Past, present and future of your business.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Viral Content: A Creator’s Perspective.

There’ve been many cases of videos that have achieved extraordinary levels of popularity and, theoretically, this popularity has had very positive effects on business development and brand positioning.

And I say "theoretically" because it’d also be interesting to assess how a video, which has become the most watched one by a particular audience at a particular time, has impacted sales of that particular product.

In any case, last week's post wouldn’t be complete without making a reference to the opinion of one of the companies which has had the opportunity to create one of those pieces which has became famous by the way it’s been shared.

The video in question is the one following. Enjoy it and, as we did last week, after you see it, we comment on it.

A Dramatic Surprise On A Quiet Street

Simply extraordinary, isn’t it? At least, I find it espectacular and enjoy it everytime I watch it. In any case, you could assume the creative agency of this spectacular piece had something to do with the impact the piece achieved, and that’s why I’d like to highlight comments made by Kris Hoet, a Duval Guillaume Modem’s representative of the agency responsible for the video, in an interview published in Social Times.

As always, I’ve included a link to the original interview at the end of the post.

There is no possible way to plan for a viral content.

"There is no possible way to plan a viral content, much less prepare for it" according to Hoet. And that should be clear to you in order to adjust your expectations when planning campaigns like these.

The phenomenon of virality is a combination of a lot of things, many of which are beyond your control, especially when you realize that viral occurs when your audience choose to share the content you’ve produced.

"There is no magic formula for creating viral content. If there were, we would all be rich" Hoet says on the interview, adding that "If you create something that your customer likes, you think people can like it too, inviting them to think and that is aligned with the brand, then you are starting off on the right foot"

It seems almost unbelievable that a piece which reached 10 million views in the first 48 hours and became the second most shared commercial video (at least so far), was planned on such a simple way:

  • The customer liked it.
  • Its creators were confident it would be liked by the audience it was aiming to.
  • The content was an invitation to think.
  • It was aligned with the brand.

The importance of content on a viral video.

And I think this highlights the importance of creating relevant content, with good taste and, above all, inviting people to think thus "engaging" with your audience, and aiming to reach for people’s heart. If it isn’t done this way, it wouldn’t been possible to achieve at least 3 out of the 4 points mentioned above.

Hoet himself says in the interview, "People talk about friendship and what friendship means, and that's part of what we wanted to achieve," referring to one of the campaigns the agency has created, which has also been very popular.

Notice how he refers to friendship, an emotion deeply rooted in our hearts. He didn’t say: "We wanted people to share it like crazy". Instead, he is inviting us all to  look for an emotional connection with the audience, using content tied to deep values and feelings, invite them to think.

That’s why content should always be King in all your marketing efforts. Whether it becomes viral or not, the important thing is to create material that makes sense, that your audience likes, of which you can be proud, and above all content that invites your audience to think.

Here you have a link to an spectacular campaign created by the same agency. What do you think?

Discover the 007 that is within you. You have 70 seconds!

As promised
The interview with Kris Hoet in Social Times

Related posts in this blog:
A Uncontrollable Relationship: Virality and The Emotional Impact.
Viral begins with an Emotional Impact.