I always find it best to learn from others stories. This I am going to share a report written by me after working with a business that was struggling to make a profit. There were three business owners and two were in a relationship. It was a tricky situation…..By reading this you may be able to see where your hidden “blindspots” are in your business are.
Overview: Busy successful business with strong testimonials from leading brands. Great trainers and coaches working in the business rather than on the business. Need a long term sales and marketing strategy rather than ‘band aid’ fixes to attract new business. As small business owners they understand and want to work smarter not harder. Clients are always happy with their level of professionalism and quality of training, but they need more business “on the books”
1. Time of the leaders and stakeholders within the business
Biggest challenge I heard when I meet all of you is your time. Each of you will be different and therefore I would suggest the following steps to make a little time in your week to allow for “proactive” tasks. Without “proactive” tasks in your business you are only “reactive” and sales and marketing are “proactive” tasks. This is often a masked problem which is not highlighted when business is booming but may quickly become a big problem when a major clients needs change or alter and leave your business. How to fix that hole quickly is in the planning or “proactive” tasks you preform on a daily/ weekly basis over a period of time.
1.1 Look at where you are currently.
A revenue check and cost analyses for each key member – is every stakeholders (working in the business) performance fair, reasonable and reliable ? Do all stakeholders agree ? What if anything needs to be implemented for this to happen ?
1.2 Members with less revenue driving take on larger chunks of “proactive” tasks.
1.3 Set agreed “rules” for all stakeholders with all clients (to stop time wasting) to allow more time being “proactive”
1.4 Incorporate a number (even if it is one) “proactive” task a day
1.5 Charge accordingly – is our business charging accordingly ? If time is tight are rates reflecting supply demand ?
1.6 Incorporate planning time weekly with time blocking and 90 day plan (if you require cheat sheets on “how” I can send them to you)
1.7 Thinking about “releasing” time to allow key members to strategic plan on moving your business forward. Brainstorm ideas ie Employing trainers short term / long term (see notes re outsourcing task below) Hiring an accountability and/or a business coach to work with your team so leaders/stakeholders do not get “stuck” in a moving away or non productive strategy.
1.8 Working on your “dream clients” – knowing your perfect Avatar and what are your clients biggest fear and what needs you are solving for them? This is the “long” term will not only be time saving but lower marketing and sales costs and increase profit.
Note: Working “on” your business is the most important tasks of the leaders and this is often the not so easy task that leaders want outsourced. If outsourcing a task the rule to follow is “if you can do it …..you outsource”. This rules ensure clear delegation and understanding of the value of the task.
2. Business practice and structures for small business
2.1 Meetings – Do you have a regular meeting ?
I am unsure of your business practices however I would encourage you to have weekly meetings in place in your business for a number of reasons. Meetings are tasks that “take time” in the short term but “safe time” in the long run. Often small business owners think this is “time wasting” as there is other more urgent reactive tasks to do in the business. When all stakeholders are “busy” this is one function that can keep your business communication on “track” for both short and long term desired outcomes.
If your weekly meetings have an agenda, minutes, time schedule, and action list all stake holders will know where each task is currently and who is responsible for managing the task. This will stop long discussions, make your business focused more on the outcome and remind each stakeholder of their responsibilities and accountability.
2.2 Time blocking and 90 day plan – do all your stakeholders use these tools ?
These are important tools for small business leaders and are always the things that are first to disappear when stakeholders are busy. These tools however are needed the most when times are busy as they keep you on track with both “proactive” and “reactive” tasks and keep your mind clear to deal with day to day issues. We also know that 90 days comes and goes quickly and many things can stay on a “to do” list for longer making stakeholders feel overwhelm or low on energy in every task they do.
2.3 Procedure file – Do you have a procedure file ?
When running a small business “time” is precious and a procedure file again in the “short” term looks like more work. If you need to do something once writing a procedure for the task will take you longer however the good news this procedure is transferable without you being there.
To give you an example if the person who installed your database had given you the “how” and “why” in a procedure you would know what your database can do and how to do it without the person being there. This will add massive “time saving” value to your business and allow others to preform tasks in a measured manner that suits your business.
2.4 Planning – your perfect client / Avatar
Every business wants to be profitable that is why you are in business to make money to have a certain lifestyle you enjoy. Currently ask your leaders what are we focusing on ? Is it the “lack” of clients, business or income? If it is then you have an “away moving” strategy
Planning and working on your “perfect client” allows you to focus on what you want. We all know what we focus on we get more of in our lives and in business. Your results are a direct result of your focus as a “team”
Focusing on your “perfect client” will produce more clients as you will be easily able to identify who they are, what are their biggest fears and how you can offer a “do it for you” solution. You will speak directly to them in their language just like you know what they have been thinking !
2.5 Testing your theory and producing your template.
Testing your market is crucial to your business success. Find your “perfect clients” and actively listen to what they want and ask them for feedback on your theory work in 2.3 You will need a sample group to get an informed and accurate answer and you can tweak your theory work in 2.3 with their feedback until your “pitch” is perfect for your Avatar. This becomes your template for all sales and marketing.
3. Marketing Tool One – Electronic / hard copy
Introduction to i-perform that can be sent to potential clients in both electronic / hard copy
This information must provide at a glance i-perform as a business – key message ie Avatar and introduction to Facilitators. It must be a consistent message, with contact details and what “do it for you” solution for your “perfect client” It needs to speak in your “perfect clients” speak (VAKAD) answering all of their objections and offering the solution. This represent you as a company ie if your values are quality then ensure your marketing tool is quality. After making contact with a client this tool may be posted or emailed to the client on the same day. Most of this information may be collated via your website once your “perfect client” is identified.
Cost: Depending on quantity and quality of print
Hours: Once planning in place – 2-5 hours work
4. Data base functions
A businesses data base is the single most import sales and marketing tool needed. This is high detailed work often given to a junior or low level employee and yet this is gold for any business that understands its value. A good maintained data base is the hub of your business and can generate leads effortlessly. This is also important if you ever decide to sell your business as it is where your cash flow originates from. Even if key staff leave a good database can hold clients as they recognise the format of the system not just the key staff member. A formatted marketing strategy using your database will give your business an identity of its own keeping your clients close.
Having a system that you can categorise your contacts in and doing this each time you add a name will make accessing marketing groups easier. I would suggest from our discussion you keep it simple by having three broad categories that will work for you.
Everyone you meet and know must be in your data base and fall into one on the categories. This will allow you to “direct” market to your key clients.
A:Contact who books the training / coaching service
B:Contact who is the decision maker
C:Contact who are in the training / coaching service
4.1 Clean your data base
You have an unknown or unclean data base currently. Some of the contact maybe gold others may need to be deleted. There are two ways of cleaning a data base the first is the most expensive however the most effective the second is a less expensive option but not as effective.
- Telemarketing the data base – time /cost of 1000 phone calls $30 ph/ 12 hours
- Mail out – re introducing your business and what it has to offer $1 per item / 5 hours
4.2 Effective use of your database
I would suggest that you engage a trainer for 1-2 hours to give you training on your software so you understand the use of it and its capabilities. I would also ask for this training to come with notes for your procedure. A decision needs to be made if this system will work for you or do you need to reinvest and look at a new option ?
This is important decision as the database must be able to offer your business what you need. At this point if it does not offer what you need then pushing forward with it will become a major problem when your business grows another level. Ensure two things are documented the “how” and “why” in your procedure for future reference. Write a procedure on “how” and “why” file it in your procedure file (hard copy) for the following purposes
4.a: If you forget, you have new staff or no person is trained on “how” to use your database you have a written procedure that runs you through the basic functions of “how”
4.b: When the “database” question comes up again you will be reminded of “why” you chose the database software then you can make further decisions from a point of reason.
4.3 Note: Tasks delegated in any business must be understood by Management or key people or you will not understand the value of it. Clearly for small business this is where they can lose both time and money. If you do not understand the value you will not know if the charge to outsourcing it is worth it or not. Just because it is expensive is not a clear indicator what it is worth to your business.
5: Everyday “proactive” marketing tools
Everything you do in your business needs to have a marketing spin using your template so that it is easy for your customers to continue to buy from you. This is also time effective for you.
5.1 Update your “tools” in your business using your marketing template
You may need to update any “tools” you are currently using with your new marketing template. This needs to be done but would be a large chunk of work in one hit. Suggest that you agree in your meetings some rules that will support stakeholders rather than push them into overwhelm. An example maybe an agreement that each time you come across a “tool” you use for training or coaching you update it or perhaps each stakeholder puts one update in their time blocking or 90 day plan per week (see 2.2)
5.3 Here are a few “marketing” suggestions worth discussion:
- Every feedback form has opportunity to be proactive – update your feedback forms to collect not just information about your training but information about what “public” course people are wanting, collection of accurate database information, information about your up coming program’s (testing your market it crucial)
- If you are collecting information on your feedback forms ask for birthdays and you can generate a list of birthdays of your clients (via your database software function) send an offer or simply card from your business. This is a great way to impress and to keep your business upfront in clients minds.
- Give your clients at your training a “take home” learning that they can personalise ie a card with three key points (linked to their training and worth keeping) and tell them to pin it up where they can see it every day. It will reinforce their learning and they will see your business details every time they look at the card.
- After each “training” 2 or 3 months later send your clients something, depending on the training that has been completed that is relevant to their learning and remind them of their learning outcomes and about your business.
- Sales pitch at trainings – if you are training then up sell your business while they are listening to you. Do an NLP technique and tell them briefly about your “public” courses coming up.
- At all trainings offer a discount if they sign up on the day to another program. You can also have a “newsletter” as a take home with offers to other profitable services you offer like coaching.
- When you have “them” in a room then capture the opportunity to up sell other services offer a manual, book, or extended program you can offer to these clients to increase your profits
- What do you offer as an incentive to your clients that book your trainings ? Do you have a “wow” factor if they book large or small trainings with your company ? Is this something you need to have a schedule for ie 3 day training program equals “x”
- What do you offer your decision makers outside of being great trainers ? Is there something you can give them to “add value” to your service ? If they offer large pieces of business you could offer them this however it would need to be costed into your profit/training costs.
- Work that has already been completed can become “products” eg online course
6: How to best use your database
In our busy life’s we are flooded with a stream of people wanting our business and screaming at us to get attention. A smart marketer knows this and understands that unless you are an established company brand or you have endless amounts of cash it is not easy for your clients to hear you over the noise. This is why your “marketing template” works because your business is speaking directly to your “perfect client” offering a solution. We do however need to be able to get that message across therefore it is important to take the road least travelled.
If you think that currently everyone is doing email newsletters then do the opposite, post out a hard copy newsletter. Marketing effectively is about doing something different to be seen. There are lots of ideas on how to use your database effectively the first one is to be seen you need to be different. Hard copies and snail mail is out of fashion so start there.
6.1 Send out a consisted message targeted to clients – using different formats:
- Newsletter – this works well and is simplistic enough to send to all three of your categories. Key points to remember – think about it from your clients point of view rather than what you want you want to tell them. Testimonials are great – collect these from your feedback forms which I am sure you do already. Good point is to ask for permission to use these in your newsletter on your feedback form also. Information about the effectiveness of what you and your services do or information type articles that are valuable to your clients and give relevant information about your training. Testimonials which answer your clients biggest objections are best.
- Plain text email – auto responder. You can pre write these emails addressing it personally up to a year in advance and you can write them about relevant things your clients may need. Things that you may discuss are the seasons, financial year beginning or end, general value adding information and just touching base with them without you doing anything once you have set it up. Important here to use plain text, look like you are just checking in and keep information to screen shot rather than having to scroll down
- Have an automatic feed from your website into your database – re your white paper (see under website)20. Social media also here must give the same message and use the same marketing template. (See point 9)
6.2 Marketing tool to help increase your ever growing data base – cold mail6.2 Marketing tool to help increase your ever growing data base – cold mail
The “lumpy letter” – this is where you send your prospective clients (cold contacts) targeted information with a gift that links your message together. There are three major points here
A. Make sure you do your research about a company to ensure it is worth the cost
B. Find the contact understand which category they are in (see point 4: a b or c)
C. Ensure you use your marketing template to ensure you target your market and offer a solution.
7. Website – working for you by giving you “hot” leads
Your website is excellent and branding logos really impressive. The one thing that is unclear to me is what do you specialise in and who are your target market ? (See perfect client and marketing template point 2.4 and 2.5)
To speak to your clients effectively online you need to know who your clients are and what is the secret problem they have that they may not ever admit to ?
Once you know that you can speak directly in their language (VAKAD) and offer them the solution to their problem. These people become your “hungry crowd” because you are what they need in their business now.
How do you find your “hungry crowd” on line ? Google Adsense. It will only work when you drill down and “specialise” because to engage them (your hungry crowd) you must specifically meet their needs with your solution. (See perfect client and marketing template 2.4 and 2.5)
7.1 Preparing your website
Once you have your Avatar (see perfect client and marketing template 2.4 and 2.5) you give them a solution in your website. You ensure that when a visitor visits your website you get their details by offering them a solution to their problem. This must be of value and an exchange of their details for this information. This is their introduction to you and your service. If you give this information for my details what value you must give if I paid you for your training ?
You have your white paper which needs to have an enticing name for me to want to exchange my details for your free offer.
The new prospect details are hooked into Auto-responder with pre written emails that offer them more valuable details on how to fix their problem.
You will get “hot” leads and you will need to call them within a specific timeframe (this can be discussed in your planning meetings I would suggest 24 hours) This is worth your valuable time as you just need to close the sale.
Google key word expert – 3 months testing for best / lowest rate keywords
Cost $2000 – $5000
Website changes – minimal as structure is in place
Cost: unsure depends on you provider
Google Adsense campaign depending on key word costs – up to you as how many leads do you want to generate ? You can nominate any amount from $50 per month
Cost: $700 – $1000 per month
Auto responder or similar database program (your software may have this function)
$200-$300 per year
8. Knowing the system is working – test
Testing that your system is working is a matter that needs to be checked in on weekly. No point having done the work and paying for google Adsense but clients can not down load your free offer. Ensure on a weekly bases your process is working by self testing your process.
Once you have the vehicle (what you specialise in) you drive into their business. Once in you know you are awesome trainers so you automatically cross sell other trainings until you become the only training solution to their business. Your data base and marketing tools here (see point 6) will allow you to stay in contact (once set up) without you having to do anything more which will save you time. Reinvest this time in “proactive” tasks like planning and your business will continue to grow
You now have a clear understanding of operating a sales and marketing strategy within your business. Your foundations are strong and you are now building your business effortlessly as you have procedures in place where you do each task once saving you time to generate more income because you have more time to train and coach
9. Social media
Set up a social media strategy and get connected so that you can tweet, post or like from your phones at any time. Linking in your Auto responder and your social media to be giving your “marketing template” message out to your “perfect clients” means your message is reinforced to your “group”. Social media is important however can be very time consuming. It does have auto functions and you can easily use “current work” rather than producing work for it. This is a “proactive” task and information produced/posted is best when looked at from a long term strategy rather than at “hock” basis – your “marketing template” (see 2.4/2.5) will help you identify your market.
Linked in is great to collect contacts and suggest that you always make contact with anyone you meet. I know that you stated this is a platform you know and use already which is great.
10. Employment of an effective Sales Representative
Once all of the above are in place and working effectively and you have a written procedure for each process you can delegate your sales and marketing work knowing that you are delegating clearly.
Your stakeholders need to decide and agree on what you want in a ‘sales’ person.
Most sales people (especially more junior sales people) are not foundation builders in businesses. They rely on the foundations being strong as they are the connectors. They need to have all marketing tools in place so that they can quickly and effectively link clients into your business. If they need to consistently be asking for tools the client (and the sales person) both become frustrated with the process and the client see the business as “frustrating to deal with” This is a reflection of how the sales person is feeling about the lack of tools and the lack of foundations within the business.
To have a successful sales person in your business you (the leaders) must have strong foundations, clear and concise instructions and be able to delegate clearly. Your minutes and procedures will help you identify what you need in a new team member. For example are you finding certain tasks more difficult than others ? What are you identifying from your meetings which are lacking from your current stakeholders ?
Employing a sales person is never a quick fix it is a long term strategy. The stronger your foundations the quicker the sale person will be able to “connect” people to your company.
10.1 Identifying tasks of the sales person
You may decide that you need a “sales and marketing” person as you want to delegate marketing tasks. This person will be able to be more “responsible” for marketing workloads and sales. The cost will be higher for an employee who has both skills. However again to be effective in their position they need a clear road map from the leaders in the business.
11. The flow of business
Energy flows and business grows – all businesses are either dead and dying or green and growing. In order for any business to grow strategies need to be reassessed, courageous change needs to be taken, and the leaders need to be open to see outside of the box – on a daily basis. Everyone must be on the same page !
With the brief time I spent with you I know you are smart enough to know that band-aid fixes will not work for long term in any business. This is a problem for your business however the above offers a clear step by step solution. Many tasks simply can not be delegated or out sourced because they are decisions the “leaders” need to make. Like many small business owners you have been busy working in the business not on the business. To move forward as business owners you need to make some planning decisions, have some honest and open discussions and decide what path you take. I would strongly advise that the “planning” (points 1 to 2.5) be actioned first or the other tasks become ineffective and a waste of time and money.
In conclusion I thank you for the opportunity to write this for your business and would be happy to discuss any of the above suggestions.
Note: The costs and suggestions in this document are only a guide and are based on my knowledge and learning from 25 years of practical work in business. This is a stand alone strategy and offers no agreement of further work on your behalf unless we mutually agree to engage in a contracted services.