Thursday, November 11, 2010


No matter how great your products are or how wonderful is your personalized service, in order to attract and keep new business your pricing must be competitive. Good pricing is not what you need to charge for your enterprise to be profitable, but what customers are willing to pay for your products/services based on location. (convenience)

Too Much Advertising?

Spending too much on advertising or not spending enough? It's not the amount of money you spend to market your enterprise, it's the plan that makes it work. Even in a down economy some businesses grow. Don't blame economic conditions for business stagnation, blame your marketing. (or lack of it)

Business Basics

Do you sell products in a retail location? Check on your basics, sometimes we let them slip: Are the windows and floors clean? Is the sales space well lit and uncrowded? Are your displays fresh, well lit, prices marked, and easy to see? There a a few basic retail techniques that the big chains live by and many small businesses ignore.

Got Good Employees?

How difficult is it to bring in new customers and yet, how easy it is to lose them? An improperly trained or managed employee can cost you customers and you never know it. Monitor, manage, encourage and reward those that interact directly with your customers/patients. They can bring you more business OR cost you more customers than you realize.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Business Website

A business website that truly is intended to attract customers and drive business requires a fine line of graphics, photos and information. Too many graphics and videos and people don't wait for them to load. Simplicity for the facts: How quickly can a web visitor find the information they need to do business with you? Location, pricing, promotions, hours, etc.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Forest or Trees?

It's easier to drive customers away from your business than attract them. Simple things like unkempt exteriors, parking issues, pricing/value ratios, etc are easy to resolve if you stand back and do a good business self-inspection. Most business owners don't see the forest for the trees . . .

Monday, November 1, 2010

Move Into the 21st Century With Your Marketing

Let us help you build your business on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking - internet marketing sites. There is no cost to you! If you're in business and have a Facebook page that's not driving business your way, you need help. Don't let FB tie you down with no results. Let us show you how your FB page can help your business grow.

Monday, May 17, 2010

MLM - Another Point of View

I love some of the products offered by many of the multi-level marketing or networking companies. Selling a great product at a reasonable price is the basic idea behind any successful business idea. But sometimes I see MLM marketers caught up in the growth of their down-line and less enthusiastic about their products.

To create excitement about a product or service you are selling it is absolutely necessary for you to believe in the outcome of using that product. You need to be sure and totally convinced that the price is consistent with the results expected. And YOU should be willing to use and promote how the product impacted your own life and the lives of others you know.

There are things that you can do to rise to the top of the MLM world, if you understand and believe in the paragraph above. First of all, if you are selling products, be sure to have sufficient inventory on hand to meet your customer's needs. In this world of instant gratification, not many are willing to wait for you to fulfill their orders.

Secondly, today's consumers are not willing to pay your shipping costs. They may do it the first time or maybe a couple of times, but if the customer wants to continue to use the product they will find alternative sources where shipping is included.

Remember that most consumers know how to use the internet and most MLM products are widely available with a quick search at lower prices on the web and most all will include the shipping. Understand your competition is not necessarily the other MLM sellers in your area, but the internet.

A word about downline - people will want to be a part of an exciting, cost effective, successful product/service. When you are convinced that your product/service is the best and the pricing is reasonable that excitement will be contagious and others will want to join in.

Most MLM marketers are their own worst enemy. The FEW successful ones have learned to love their products and transfer that enthusiasm to others that want to be a part of the program.

Find a product or service you can use, believe in, that works for you and you are not be embarrassed to promote and sell to others and you may find yourself one of the successes in a tough, but potentially rewarding business.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Print Ads Big Enough To See

Businesses and professionals spend a lot of money on newspapers, shoppers and specialized magazines. Many times the ad salesperson, in hopes of making a sale, does not share enough information about the requirements to make an ad work.

I always ask buyers, "what attracts your attention to read an ad" and "what could you do to make your ad easier to read and understand"? Many will step back as they look at their own ad and start to see things that should be changed in order to get the most results from their investment.

One thing that always comes up is the size of the print. Usually headlines of an ad are readable but many of the features and finer points are in very small print. So small in fact that a truly interested party may be required to get their reading glasses just to read it. And the usual result is that the truly interested reader is not in a position to "get their glasses" and move on to the more readable ad.

Real estate agents are usually the guilty parties on this rule. In order to list the maximum number of properties in their ad, they reduce the print and pictures so small they are virtually unreadable to a large segment of the population. And part of their ploy is to create a phone call from the interested party. However, it should be noted that studies have shown that many would be interested parties simply move on to the next ad.

So when you place your ads, stand back and inspect them closely. Be sure it's an ad that would capture your attention AND if it did you would be able to glean the details of the offer with a quick glance - without your glasses.

It's a shame that so many print advertising dollars are wasted because of poor quality ads. Ads that don't attract or keep readers attention.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Your Customer - Your Best Marketing Tool

Each time I call the customer service department of large companies I hear the same phrase that is part of their script: "Is there anything else I can help you with today?" I know this is the script and I know they really don't mean it. These customer service representatives have scripts they follow AND they're being timed on the efficiency of each call. Basically, they're trained to attempt to resolve your issues and get the next call as quickly as possible. That's how big companies see everything.

However, when I call or go into a local business sometimes they seemed rushed to many other things. Maybe the small business owners could take a lesson from the large companies and always attempt to provide more than the customer has requested, even though the large corporations customer service rep probably didn't mean it.

The next time you answer a call or wait on a customer in your business, stop just as you finish the sale, look the customer in the eye and in all sincerity ask "is there anything else I could help you with, today?" Then remind the customer that if they are happy with the service/products you've provided to please refer a friend AND come or call back again.

We customers appreciate someone who has shown a genuine interest in our patronage. And believe me, customers will return and will recommend their friends when they feel that connection with the business.

It's in the business owners best interest to show a genuine interest in your customer. The rewards will be great and continuing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sluggish Sales?

Why are sales sluggish? Are your sales and marketing efforts what they should be? Do you (and your sales staff) know where to find leads and potential customers? And if so, what are you doing to reach them? Most consumers and businesses make purchases because THEY seek out the company, not because the company came looking for them.

It's a shame that potential customers are buying your product everyday and would be buying the product from YOU if they knew you were there and knew you had good prices and good service. But no ones bothered to tell them.

When they looked on the internet your website was far from impressive. There were no contact emails for the sales department and no individual phone numbers, only the main office number. Links were broken and some of the pricing was outdated.

Create a presence in brick and mortar and on the internet that has no rival. Make your business the cleanest, most well-lit and welcoming in the neighborhood. And make your internet site the easiest to use and most informative. Your web site can be your cheapest and best sales person.

Do the things it takes to succeed, don't moan and groan about the economy if you're falling short in your business management.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quantification - Big Word With Big Results

Besides the money that you put in your pocket from your business enterprise, how do you really know you are growing, doing the same or going backwards? The only way you can really keep up with the progress your business is making is by keeping some accurate numbers that reflect your success and compare the historical data on a regular basis.

This may sound like the work of a statistician, but it is the necessary gauge on which you can determine the progress and direction of your business. The information does not need to be detailed but should provide you a historical benchmark from which you can easily compare your ongoing results and make future plans.

For example, you sell 100 widgets this week. Next week you sell only 75. With this very basic information you can look back at last weeks sales and attempt to determine why you sold more last week than this week. Then compare your widget sales monthly. After one year you can look back over the past 12 months and determine which months are best for your business and which are worse.

You do not need an expensive computer program to track your ongoing results. A simple spreadsheet will do the calculations for you and is easy to set up. If you have no experience with spreadsheets, it's time to learn. A spreadsheet can be the most useful and least costly business tool you own.

Historical data collected about your business is the best mechanism for determining the future direction your business should pursue.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Marketing Is a Full Time Job

If you want your business to be successful you must devote plenty of time to marketing and advertising. If potential customers do not know you exist, they can't do business with you. Marketing is a full time job and a small business owner should always be in the marketing mode.

1 - Carry your business cards or coupons with you everywhere you go and when given a chance, pass them out.

2 - Wear a nametag with your business name on it . In gatherings it helps people know your name and associates you with your business.

3 - Every day look for at least one good marketing idea and how it might work for your business. Keep a file of good direct mail pieces you receive and advertising that you read and hear. You could possibly use one or a combination of those ideas later.

4 - Check out your competitor. See what type of advertising and specials he may be offering and keep your prices in line.

5 - Always ask customers how they heard about you and use that information for future marketing and advertising plans.

6 - When you run across customers that you haven't seen in a while, ask them why they no longer do business with you. You may learn something you didn't know.

7 - Keep up with new and developing technology that could be used to market your business. The social networks have a lot of potential and very few small businesses have discovered that, yet.

8 - Join local business groups, participate in charity events and be a part of the community. When you give back, you always will reap rewards.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Not-So-Secrets of Business Success

There are a few simple things that business owners can do that will create a successful enterprise. It's so strange that many business owners overlook the obvious and wonder why they are not enjoying success.

1 - Choose your location carefully. The cheapest rent is not necessarily the best reason to make a location determination.

2 - Decorate your business is bright but tasteful colors. Be sure the showroom area is well lit and there are plenty of windows to allow in natural light and allow for showcasing of your products.

3 - Hire the best possible employees. Pay more than your competitors and train your employees better than anyone else. Bring them in early on a weekly basis and buy breakfast.

4 - Hire a janitorial crew to clean your business regularly. Employees should not spend their time during business hours to clean the place. Let professionals handle that job after hours. A clean business is a successful business.

5 - Decide who is your target market and advertise heavily to bring your customers in. Activity creates business.

6 - Treat your customers with respect and provide the highest level of service. You will be rewarded with free referral business.

7 - Keep your inventory and fixtures current. Don't be afraid to mark down or discard stale product. Products that are old, dusty and discolored from age are not good indicators to your customers.

Of course there are several more obvious things you can do to ensure the success of your business and we will discuss those next time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Convenience - A Deciding Factor

We know price plays a big part in a customer's decision to patronize a business. But one of the biggest factors is convenience. There's no doubt that potential customers would much rather make their purchases in the most convenient location if the price is relative.

Small businesses with limited advertising resources need to consider who their most probable target audience is. The neighborhood, people and businesses located nearest your business are the most likely potential customers to do business with you IF they know your enterprise exist.

You can target the geographic area within a small radius of your business with direct mail and localized print advertising. Purchase a list of all the potential customers within a five-mile radius of your location and acquaint those people with your products and services with special offers and possibly coupons.

Many times if you can get a customer into your business the first time and their shopping experience is positive, they will return again and again. Your job as the marketer of your enterprise is to be sure your new customer will become a repeat customer. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Programs to guarantee repeat business can be established to ensure customers continue to come to you for your products and services. Possibly offer a guaranteed trade-up of a product that may sensitive to changes in technology, or possibly offer free cleaning and repair or even free annual inspections. Anything you can do to bring that customer into your business over and over enhances your chances of future sales and referrals.

Look locally for the best possible customers for your business. And when you are successful at attracting new customers, be sure a system is in place to take advantage of the new relationships and ensure future patronage.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Networking Builds Your Business

Networking has become an overused term in today's business world. Instead of networking, I call it relationship building. Your best and most efficient marketing tool is networking, building lasting business and personal relationships that produce positive results for your business.

Networking is efficient because the only real cost is your time. You can spend your non-working hours volunteering for community services, serving on boards, participating in community events and being involved in the school and extracurricular activities of your children. All of these activities put you in contact with others who may need the products or services your business offers.

Even though your networking contacts may not be your target customers usually these people will be a good source of referral business once they feel comfortable with you and your business.

The first and foremost reason for networking is to build lasting, personal relationships. But ultimately your business can benefit from these affiliations.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Getting The Most For Your Efforts

Have you heard the word "upsell"? It's a process by which a salesperson attempts to persuade the customer to purchase upgrades or add-ons to an existing sale. I define upselling a little differently.

When I think of upselling I think about value-added or relationships established. I think in terms of taking the simple sale to the next level of the business affiliation. Not only can you upsell products, you can upsell your service.

For example; A customer comes into your cell phone store and buys a cell phone. The most basic upsell would be to add a car charger, leather holding pouch and other necessary additional products.

We suggested to one of our clients they put a coupon for the ancillary item in the box of the main product. Therefore when the customer opened their cell phone box, they had an instant reminder that they needed to purchase additional items, and they could get a discount for making the extra purchases now.

You can upsell service in a similar way. Once a client has successfully benefited from the services you offer, you can suggest or recommend other services that you or your colleagues may provide that could be beneficial. When you upsell your client to a service that your business associates my offer, you are creating a referral network. You should benefit from the referrals from others in the network.

Whenever you successfully create a sale of any product or service, that is the very best time for creating additional business opportunities.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Advantages of Small Business

Sometimes it seems like the small business person is being crushed by the giant corporations. They seem to have all the resources and we are just trying to make a decent living. But there are definite advantages small businesses have and we should be taking advantage of those.

First, we can react quickly. There's no need to convene a board or get home office approval. If something changes and we need to react, we can make the decision and move on it.

Secondly, we can control the delivery of our products and services right to the front line. If you are like most small business owners, you are working the front counter or within ear shot. So you know what your employees are telling your customers. There's nothing better for improving customer service than for managers or owners to work the counter, to experience the real world.

Small business owners hear directly from their customers the things we are doing right and wrong. When a customer calls a business for help and is answered by an offshore call center of a large corporation, all the poor customer can do is complain to their friends. The large corporation just keeps shoving that poor quality of service down our throats. And we accept it.

But when the customer talks directly to an owner, the business owner can understand quickly how he can provide a better level of service locally.

Small enterprise operators must understand they can market their products globally, but to compete against the giants they must service their products locally.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Get The Word Out There

I was impressed with a marketing video that was posted on Facebook by a young family member about his unique business. I was drawn to watch the short video clip and amazed at how well it was done. I commented on the good job he was doing marketing his start-up enterprise and he responded "I'm just trying to get the word out"!

That's really what marketing is all about. You can have the best product or service in the world and if people don't know about it you will not be successful. The basics of what type of product/service you offer, where you are located and your basic business hours should always be someplace where customesr, or potential customers, could access the information.

Not too long ago I got interested in making wine as a hobby. I searched the internet for information and finally ordered some supplies and started making wine. On a trip to California I was able to locate another wine making supply store and actually browse through it and brought back a box full of supplies all the way from California.

About a year into my wine making hobby, as I got to know other people and make connections, I learned that there was a wine and beer making supply store just a couple of blocks from my house that had been in business for years. I was shocked and flabbergasted. This business that could have been a great source of information and supplies was hiding just up the street from the place that I have lived for 10 years and I never knew it.

If we all operated the way this little store operated, we'd be out of business. I needed his products and advice and in all my searches could not locate him or even hear the business existed.

So be sure your business is "out there" and the world, your customers, know what you do and where to find you. That's the basic step in successful marketing.

RiverSouth Marketing

Monday, February 1, 2010

Customer Loyalty Can Be Created

Customers continue to do business with certain people and/or companies because they have developed a loyalty towards that individual or company. What can a business do to build that type of relationship with a customer?

Let's look at the problem from a different prospective - what does a business do for a customer that causes that customer to be loyal to the business. As a customer myself, I tend to do business with companies I feel good about. If I find a business or individual that is meeting my needs, treating my fairly, seems genuinely interested in me and my requirements, and is available at the times and on the days when I expect them, that usually brings me back over and over again. And I usually recommend that business to friends.

Meeting those are simple expectations should be within the capabilities of most businesses, but many times businesses fall short. So if your company had a "Customer's Bill of Rights" maybe they should read something like this.

"If you are a customer of my business I will, to the best of my ability, provide a fair price, reliable products/services, reasonable hours of operation, and an understanding of your needs and expectations. And I will strive to always be courteous and respectful, provide a clean and safe business environment, and always be dependable and honest in our dealings."

Simple objectives, long term rewards.

Is The Customer Always Right?

We've heard that saying all of our lives, but I sure have had situations where I question the wisdom. But whether right or wrong, they are still the customer and we need to be sure we treat them fairly, honestly, and with respect if we intend on growing our business.

It's actually better NOT to make a sale than to sell your products or services to a customer who is not going to be happy and in the end cost you money, time and reputation. The old adage "you can please some of the people most of the time but you can't please all of the people ALL of the time" reminds us that no matter how hard we work at taking care of our customers, we are still going to wind up with an occasional problem.

Simple suggestion to avoid this: Be sure you thoroughly explain your products/services when the sale is being made, including warranties, shipping information, etc. You don't need to cover every detail but a little experience and you will learn which details create unhappy customers.

Learn from your mistakes. If you have an unhappy customer, decide what went wrong and make corrections that will ensure the problem doesn't come up again.

Our customers are as imperfect as we are, so if we want our businesses to grow and prosper we must learn to deal with the imperfections.
RiverSouth Marketing

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Personal Attention Does It Every Time.

It's hard for a restaurant that's not affiliated with a national chain to make it unless they have something very special. Quality of food and service are definitely the top contenders for gaining repeat customers.

But some of the best food I have ever had came from a restaurant where I never really felt comfortable or welcomed. But I have a place that I go to often and recommend to everyone where the food is mediocre but the ambiance and the attention is spectacular.

The owner of this Mexican restaurant always comes to the door to greet us. If he misses our entrance he will stop by the table to shake my hand. He treats us like we are his best customers and we really aren't. The bartenders and long-time staff do the same.

It's the owner and staff's personal attention that brings us back time and again and keeps us recommending this establishment to everyone coming into town to visit.

So business owners and professionals, single out your customers and learn their names. Take time to ask them about their family. You'll not only gain a friend but a loyal and appreciative customer.

Present Your Business in a Professional Manner

Walked into a local store the other day and the windows and walls were plastered with hand lettered (scribbled) signs and brochures. Specials on this and that all written in magic marker on regular sheets of paper.

How professional is that? It doesn't take a large budget to use your computer to do a simple sign layout and print it in color on your printer. Scribbled, hand-written signs indicate to your customers that you do not operate your business in a professional manner.

It cost very little to actually employ a graphics designer to help you put together attractive brochures and sale posters.

Business Hours Neet To Be Convient for Customers, Not Necessarily Employees.

When someone decides to go into any type of business venture we assume their motive is to serve the public successfully therefor creating profits, and making money. You cannot produce sales, income and profits unless people patronize your business and pay for your products and/or services.

Therefore if you would like to be successful, you should always set your business hours to meet the needs of your customers. The type of business and customer expectations usually demand when your enterprise is open and available to do business.

I know of too many small business that set their operating hours based on their and their employee's own convenience, therefor costing them business. If you are happy with status quo, that's fine. But don't ask how to improve your bottom line unless you are willing to make changes sometimes that may be inconvenient.

Advertising vs Marketing

A company I worked with recently was spending a good deal of money advertising their product in both print and direct mail. They were not getting the results they needed to justify the cost.

We put together a marketing program by bundling a few of their most popular products and creating a price leader for that particular bundle. We then created unique advertising promoting this particular bundle, placed the advertising where it would be seen by this company's target customers, trained the staff on responding to the responses for that bundle, AND initiated a system to track the responses and ad results.

We had created a marketing plan, not merely bought advertising.

Three Basic Reasons People Do Business With Youl

Price, convenience and perception are three basic reasons people do business with you. In a nutshell here is the breakdown of how it works.

People are usually looking for the best price on an item. that makes common sense. But sometimes convenience becomes more important. For example it's not worth the trouble to go to a supermarket for a loaf of "equal" bread even if it's cheaper. You will pay a certain amount more for the convenience of avoiding the supermarket.

The only time that price and convenience are outweighed is when a business has created a perception (true or not) that their products are superior and the price and lack of convenience may be justified. If their product(s) makes you feel good about using it, then you are willing to pay the premium. Examples being Mercedes or Lexus automobiles or something as simple as coffee from Starbucks as opposed to coffee from the corner gas station.

Where does your business fit in? If you are like many small business persons, you really don't fit in any of these. In order to increase your business, you need to decide which category you should position your business in and price your product(s) accordingly.

People and Business that offer a Service Could Take a Few Lessons, too!

We've talked about business that sell products and have storefronts and all the things they could do to improve their business and their customer's impressions of them. Most of the same principles hold true for people and business that sell only service. Such as real estate agents, mortgage brokers,advertising and insurance agents, etc.

Try these basic concepts on your website to help your business grow:
1. Be sure your website is easy to navigate and contact information readily accessible - don't make the customer search for a way to contact you
2. Put email addresses with every agent along with telephone numbers - some folks like to email, not call
3. Be sure your web pages load quickly, even on slower connections - most people are not going to sit and wait for a fancy multi-media page to load when they are seeking information
4. Check your own website often and from varied locations and computers to confirm how it loads and looks to others. The message you may be trying to get across may not be making it to your potential customers.

Take Care of Your Customers For Sure - But What About Your Employees?

Taking care of the customer is certainly one way to ensure repeat business, and customer referrals. But taking care of your employees is the way to ensure your business can continue to take care of your customers.

I've met too many business owners in my career that used employees as a necessary evil. People they must pay as little as possible to achieve the business owner's ultimate goals. And the real shame is that many employees of small business enjoy what they do to the extent that they put up with the ill-treatment given them by the owners.

With a very few exceptions all the investments I have ever made in people for my business have created returns many times over. There are always some bad apples that tend to make you a little shy of trusting employees too much, but overall my experience over 30 years has been over-the-top positive.

I found that if I respect and share with the people responsible for my business success, they will work hard to be sure my business is successful.

Take care of your employees and MOST of time, with your good supervision, they will take care of your customer and YOU!

RiverSouth Marketing

You've Got A Friend - In Business

Cross promotion is where two or more businesses agree to promote each others different products. This is a good way to build your business and to help other business owners build theirs.

But I like to use the term "relationship building" when your business success is helped along by others you tend to do business with. For example, if you get to know your banker and he provides good service for you, you will tell your friends and business associates about him and possibly create new business for the banker.

That also works in reverse; if you build a relationship with your banker and he knows and understands your business AND feels a connection with you he will probably be one of the best promoters of your enterprise in town. This is also true of your accountant, insurance agent, etc.

Build relationship on a personal level with others in the business world and those relationships can be a vital part of your businesses success and prosperity.

RiverSouth Marketing