5 Phases of the Marketing Funnel: From Awareness to Advocacy

As a marketing consultant, I take a diagnostic approach in determining why companies aren’t hitting their goals. All too often companies will assume that their current marketing campaigns just aren’t working (and that certainly may be the case). But there’s typically more beneath the surface that needs to be addressed before we can work on putting together a comprehensive marketing plan. Time and time again I refer to this chart in helping my clients identify where the real problem with their marketing seems to be. Once we figure out where the challenges are we work to overcome these obstacles. There are five main processes that occur during the customer behavior funnel that must happen (typically in order) before a company will have loyal, repeat customers. Additionally, the marketing approaches will need to be carefully tailored in each phase in order to move prospective customers through the funnel.

  1. Awareness. The very first process that occurs in the marketing funnel is creation of or growth of awareness. Simply put, if your customers don’t know that your company or your products exist, they cannot, and thus, will not buy from you. This seems pretty straight forward, but plenty of companies scratch their heads at their low sales when they haven’t done any marketing to inform their customers they are open for business. Companies must market themselves and create awareness before they can even hope for sales.
  2. Consideration. Once a customer is aware of your product, they will consider your offering. They will determine if your product is something they want or need, if it’s a fair price, and if they are willing to buy. Marketing plays a large role in this phase as well, and can often tip an on-the-fence shopper into a paid customer. Consider a scenario of two restaurants that you pass everyday on your way home from work. Clearly you are aware of them both. Now, imagine that one of these restaurants runs a well placed advertisement that is packed with enticing language for delicious meals and happy hour promotions. Which restaurant are you more likely to try? After a period of consideration (that can vary based on the product/service being sold), the prospect becomes a customer in our third process.
  3. Trial. Congratulations, you made a sale! After building awareness and telling your prospects that they should buy from you, they finally took the plunge. Now it’s up to you to not only deliver a great product or service, but to deliver a great experience! This is all part of marketing too, and it will affect not only your brand, but also whether or not your customer will continue on to the fifth phase in this marketing funnel process. (The fourth phase happens whether you’re ready for it, or not).
  4. Attitude. After the purchase, your customer will automatically make a decision about how they feel about what they just bought. Companies strive for (and invest a lot of time and money in) delivering products and services that leave a favorable taste in their customers’ mouth. No company wants to be the cause of the dreaded “buyers’ remorse”, which leads to cancellation of services, return of products, and nasty reviews on consumer reports and websites. Marketing can be difficult in this phase, but if done elegantly, innovatively, and effectively, your business can help to shape the way your customer responds to the purchase. If, and only if, your customer has a favorable attitude about the product, they will graduate to the fifth and final phase in the marketing funnel, and become a company’s dream customer.
  5. Loyalty. One of the biggest aspirations companies strive for is to have high levels of customer loyalty. Having your customers so happy that they not only purchase (and re-purchase) from you, but refer more business to you from friends and family, and become an advocate for your product is one of the biggest indicators of success. However, just because your customers have migrated through the funnel to a loyal customer doesn’t necessarily mean they will stay there. Companies must pay attention to the marketing at the top level to ensure customer satisfaction and retention. For some this involves innovating new and exciting products, like Apple. For others it involves excellent customer service, like Trader Joes. Some offer loyalty programs, like many airlines and hotels. At any rate, companies who take for granted their most loyal customers often lose them, and thus all the effort they invested in converting them through the marketing funnel has gone to waste.

With marketing permeating this funnel at every level, it’s critical to be able to identify which area of this customer behavior process is in need of repair so that you can target your efforts accordingly. Make sure your marketing communications are integrated and consistent in each phase to build a strong brand that your customers will relate to. Marketing is not simply a matter of attracting customers; it is also retaining and growing your customers into loyal, repeat buyers and advocates of your brand.

Breanna Bremer is a professional business advisor at Innovantage Consulting who helps her clients attract, retain, and grow their customers by creating and implementing customized marketing and business development strategies. Read more posts from Breanna Bremer on her websites or her LinkedIn profile.

December’s Startup to Watch: Moi

With the holidays looming, I found myself asking “is there even such a thing as ‘the perfect gift?’” We feel so much pressure to buy the coolest things for our loved ones, only to find that the newest gadget is replaced by a newer version in a matter of months, the clothes are the wrong size or color, or the toys are lost or thrown away as they age, break, or become forgotten. And how the heck do you shop for kids? I haven’t been a kid in ages! We have all been there before- that uncomfortable place where we debate what to get for our kids, or the children of our friends and family. Something fun, or something educational? Clothes, books, or dolls? Electronics, or stuffed animals? Forget it; I’ll just get a gift card and let them decide for themselves.

The answer to my confusion and stress became clear when I met Michael Tang, founder of Moi, this month’s Startup to Watch.

What is Moi, you ask? Let’s put it this way. Imagine taking one of the artistic masterpieces your children created off your fridge and turning it into a real life, tangible statuette. This is the meaningful, lasting work that Moi does. Mixing 3D printing with childrens’ art work, Moi gives children and families lifetime heirlooms, and the opportunity to see, touch, and interact with their creativity on a whole new level.

Why is this relevant? The holidays are right around the corner, and what better gift to give to the children in your life than seeing their creations become 3D, tangible works of art? What gift could be more personalized than this? After all, the holidays are all about giving meaningful and special gifts that really show thoughtfulness and love. By giving the gift of Moi 3D creations this holiday season, you’re showing support of someone’s dreams, and encouragement to continue creating. In my article “8 Reasons Why You Should Start-Up, Starting Today,” I encourage people to pursue their dreams and build something big from the great ideas in their mind. Moi is giving children that opportunity, and showing us that it is never too early to inspire creativity.

This startup is encouraging children to dream big, because anything they dream up can become a reality. The characters they draw on paper can literally come off the page and become their own one-of-a-kind collectable art piece. Moi is inspiring creativity, innovation, and appreciation for art, while communicating to children and families that anything is possible.

For more information on Moi, visit www.moicreate.com

For more information on Breanna Bremer, visit www.breannabremer.com

7 Signs it’s Time to Hire a Consultant

The year is almost over- are you on track to hit your annual goals?

I’m not just referring to your sales goals (although those are critical), I also mean goals of the mission and vision of your company, employee satisfaction and engagement, awareness, and everything else that indicates a strong and successful business. If you’re not quite on target, it’s time to make a change. Bringing in an outside consultant may be the breath of fresh air (and new set of eyes) your business needs to finish this year strong and start next year off with a bang. Even the largest, most successful companies turn to consultants; maybe it’s time you consider it too!

Here are seven signs it’s time to hire a consultant:

1. You feel stuck or stagnant.
Simply put: If you feel like your business is in a rut, it probably is. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, and now’s the time to take matters into your own hands. Hiring a consultant can help address these concerns and get you back on track for growth.

2. You need help identifying problems, issues, or areas for improvement.
It’s a hard truth that people “on the inside” often don’t see things as clearly as those “on the outside”. Sometimes executives and business leaders may be blind to areas within their organizations that aren’t functioning optimally, or opportunities to enhance their business both externally and internally. Consultants bring the fresh, objective perspective that can open up new ideas and avenues that weren’t identified previously, and enhance a business.

3. You’re unsure of which direction to go.
Even if you have identified areas for growth, it may be tricky to decide on how to move forward. Consultants can help strategize as well as implement new plans, programs, and procedures to move forward and help your business grow.

4. You want someone to supplement your staff, but don’t want to hire a full time employee.
Let’s face it- hiring a full time employee is expensive. Consultants are an efficient way to get temporary expertise and support when you need it most. By hiring a consultant, you will get a relatively low cost, low commitment solution to a project or problem you’re facing.

5. You want insight into your market.
Many business leaders think they know their customer, but their knowledge is often biased and subjective. It’s tough to remove your “business” cap when trying to understand your customers. Consultants don’t have the same biases, and are able to conduct the research necessary to provide honest insight and feedback that will help you relate to your customers and better serve them.

6. You want freshness and creativity.
Every company does things differently and has their own creative process for operations, marketing, production, etc. Because they have been around other businesses and been exposed to innovation among different industries, consultants will bring new ideas and creativity to your business that you may not have had access to previously. In an ever changing world, innovation is critical to stay afloat.

7. You want to bring new life to your organization.
Companies get stale, but consultants can bring a freshness and excitement that may have been lacking. Mixing it up and engaging new professionals with your team can liven up the work environment, spark new ideas, and create a critical collaborative environment.

If you find yourself identifying with any of these seven signs, do your business a favor and consider bringing on a consultant to help. Amazing results come from collaboration, and recognizing the need for improvement is the first step in achieving your goals.

Breanna Bremer is a professional business advisor at Innovantage Consulting who helps her clients attract, retain, and grow their customers by creating and implementing customized marketing and business development strategies. Read more posts from Breanna Bremer on her websites or her LinkedIn profile.

Increase Customer Retention By Setting Proper Expectations

The first (and debatably the most important) strategy in customer retention is properly setting expectations. This actually comes during the sales process, rather than afterward, and this element ends up being the downfall of many “talented” salespeople.

Set proper expectations.

Imagine buying a new SEO service for your website. The sales person, perhaps feeling pressure to hit quota, tells you you’re going to get at least 15 leads per week, and close deals with at least three of them. Sounds pretty great, right? You buy the service and wait eagerly. And wait. And wait. Maybe a few leads come in, but you don’t hit that promised number. You feel cheated and lied to, and you cancel.

This is called “selling hot”. The salesperson will promise the moon just to close the deal. Although this tactic can generate an impressive volume of closed business (after all, who wouldn’t want to buy a product or service that can deliver such amazing results?), the turnover and cancellation rates will be equally as high, and tarnish the brand reputation. It’s a classic case of over promising and under delivering. It’s critical to set the right expectations before the deal is closed so the client doesn’t feel disappointed when their imagined outcomes don’t happen.

Now imagine the same situation, but instead of making promises in hopes of exciting you into a deal, the salesperson sets appropriate expectations. He explains to you that every client experiences different results, and you can definitely expect some new traffic with the opportunity for incoming leads and closed business (after all, the company has a great portfolio of successful clients), but the results really depend on the client. You purchase the service, get a few leads, close some business, and feel completely satisfied.

Don’t avoid setting expectations.

Sometimes salespeople will avoid setting expectations at all, which can be a big problem too. If you don’t tell the client what they can expect as a result of doing business with you, you put the client in control of setting their own expectations. This can be a huge problem. Customers will, by nature, have a preconception of how their life or business will be affected once they purchase a product or service. Typically customers set high expectations because they are investing their money in what you’re selling, and need to justify the purchase. Depending on the product, they could have wildly unrealistic expectations that simply can’t be achieved from your service. As a salesperson or account rep, you must be in charge of setting the proper expectations so you can avoid backlash from clients who don’t hit their unrealistic goals.

By setting proper expectations, your clients will know exactly what they should be getting by purchasing your product or service. There will be no surprises or disappointments. In fact, if they have an unexpectedly positive experience, they will be thrilled that the service over delivered. This, obviously, is the ideal situation.

Take the opportunity to level with your clients.

Most customers will appreciate the breath of fresh air when a salesperson can set appropriate expectations without promising them the moon. People can often see past audacious promises, and don’t like dealing with the stereotypical “used car” type of sales associate anyway. If you can relate to and level with your client, and honestly explain to them what they can expect as a client of yours, they will appreciate your honesty and like the fact that you’re not using high pressure sales tactics to mislead them into buying your product.

Retention is built on a solid foundation of meeting expectations. It’s not about under promising and over delivering (although over delivering is always great), and it’s certainly not about over promising and under delivering. It’s about setting appropriate and realistic expectations, and meeting (and/or exceeding) them consistently. If a customer knows exactly what they will get from your product or service, and their goals are met, they will have no reason to be disappointed or cancel. Decrease turnover and increase retention during the sales process by setting the right expectations.


Why Integrated Marketing Communications is Like a Brick House

Have you ever seen a print advertisement in a newspaper or magazine for a beauty product, food product, automobile, etc., and seen an advertisement on TV for the same product? Maybe you also hear a commercial on the radio for the product, and it sounds very similar to the TV ad you saw. Perhaps you noticed that the company uses the same (or very similar) backgrounds or landscapes, models, and other visual indicators. Did you also notice the verbiage of what the company is advertising and how they are advertising it? Did you recognize that the same promotion or value proposition was clearly referenced and advertised in each marketing channel? This isn’t due to lack of creativity, it’s just the magic of marketing, plain and simple!

There’s an important concept in marketing called “integrated marketing communications”, which supports an idea of consistency in all marketing efforts. Why is consistency important? It’s the difference between building a house out of bricks and building a house of stones. Let’s consider a hypothetical situation to illustrate the point:

While reading your favorite magazine, you come across a beautiful, artistic, and elegant full page ad for a new model of a vehicle. The advertisement emphasizes luxury and comfort that this car encompasses. Later on, while driving to dinner, you hear a radio ad for this vehicle that is comical, features a noisy family, and emphasizes the safety of this car. While watching TV before bed, you see a commercial for this vehicle racing through town while dodging obstacles, explosions going off in the background, and a gruff man narrating about the performance element of this car. Maybe you also receive a piece of mail advertising the spectacular price the car is selling for at the dealership down the road.

This is like building a house out of stones. Stones are strong, they can support weight, and they are relatively functional. Similarly, each ad, on its own, may be very effective in accomplishing its purpose. For example, after reading the ad we know the car is luxurious, after hearing the radio spot we know it’s safe, after seeing the commercial, we know it’s a performance vehicle, and the mail clearly states the great price.

However, building a house out of stones is very challenging, as they are all different sizes, they don’t balance well, and the walls can easily topple over due to instability and the edges that just don’t line up. With each advertisement focusing on a different element, the audience is left conflicted about what the take away is. Do we want this car for its luxuriousness, safety, performance, or value? Each form of marketing ends up competing with the other, and the effectiveness of the advertisements are diluted.

Now let’s imagine that each form of marketing focused on the same message: “This car has a very sleek design and a luxurious interior”, for example. The message from the print advertisements would be supported and reiterated by the messages heard on the radio and the messages seen on TV. After being exposed to all the different forms of marketing, one would have no doubt about what the company was trying to convey, as well as the value of owning this new car. This is like building a house out of bricks. Each element is strong and they work together due to their matching clean edges. Like bricks, these elements are very easily stacked, built upon, and strengthened by the presence of other pieces.

Integrated marketing communications is all about clarity, repetition throughout media, and consistent branding and messaging. You want your customers to know exactly what you’re trying to convey, and you want to reinforce this message throughout all of your marketing efforts. Try to shape each form of marketing: traditional/print, radio, TV, social media, direct mail, etc, to communicate the same message so that your target audience doesn’t get confused. In fact, leave them no opportunity for confusion. Be clear and be consistent.

The point of integrated marketing communications is that each marketing effort is supporting and adding to the effectiveness of the others. Like a series of well positioned bricks, strategic integrated marketing communications initiatives stack on top of each other, creating a strong, cohesive, well rounded campaign. Each element adds more support and value to the integrity of the campaign, as they repeat the important and desired information, and communicate them in a consistent manner, across diverse and complimentary channels. This is a strategic marketing process aimed at developing the strongest and most productive outcome.

Integrate your desired message among all forms of marketing and communication, and have the elements working together to enhance your initiatives. Build your campaigns with strong and sturdy “bricks”, that compliment each other and work together to enhance your desired goals.

Selectivity and Rejection: Why Turning Down Prospects Will Save Your Business

When I was starting out in my career, I was beyond eager to close business. I found myself pounding the phones cold calling, and often ended up somewhere between arguing and pleading with prospects trying to get them to buy. Every “no” felt like a loss to me, and I would try as hard as possible to close even the smallest deal. It became a game to me, and eventually I didn’t care about the size of the deal or the customer I was closing, I just cared about my conversion ratio and how many deals I could make.

What I didn’t know is that my effort to close every deal I encountered would end up being my downfall for the next several months.

Customer service calls and cancellations started rolling in. I was spending hours per week on the phone trying to put out fires for my smallest clients, taking me away from the opportunity to close more business. Clients who were not benefitting from the service I sold to them were giving me an earful about how upset they were, and the conversation typically ended with a threat to call their credit card company to dispute their charge. I was miserable.

After this went on for a while, I realized that this was not productive for my book of business or my commission checks, and something needed to change. I figured out that my best clients, the ones who were doing great with the service, and the ones who were paying the most to be doing business with me, were the ones who were causing me absolutely no problems. Additionally, by best clients were the ones I didn’t have to push very hard to close because they understood the value of the service I was selling, and were confident in their ability to benefit from it.

I wanted more clients like that.

I decided I would begin to be selective with my clients. I would call prospects, and if I was receiving too much push back and a refusal to buy, I would just let it go. If the prospect seemed to enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing, rather than posing relevant questions about the service and how they can benefit from doing business with me, I would decide I didn’t need their business, and politely let them off the phone. I figured that if the prospect was giving me a headache during the initial sales call, they would probably be a pain throughout their lifetime as a client. After all, there were thousands of other prospects who would understand the value of what I was selling, and would be much a more pleasant client.

Moreover, I began to identify the prospects who wouldn’t benefit from using my service. I started to understand that not every prospect would be a good fit for what I was selling, and those clients would be dissatisfied with the service despite my best efforts to keep them happy. I didn’t want clients who would not benefit from their membership with our service, because they would just cancel after their term ended. It’s not to anyone’s benefit to sell to people you can’t help. Not everyone needs to become a client of mine, and not everyone should become a client. After all, the service wasn’t a “one size fits all”; some people were just a better fit, and that’s ok.

I became drawn to having clients who would see success with my product and would continue to renew and upgrade their account with me. Identifying the elements that a “good client” embodied, I was able to avoid the less than ideal clients, and keep from investing my time trying to close a deal that will just end in an unhappy client and a cancelled account. I focused my efforts trying to recruit the ideal candidate for the service I was selling, and that has made all the difference.

To me this was a selfish approach because I didn’t want to deal with customer service calls if I didn’t have to, and I didn’t want to take more cancellations, which would be a negative representation of my sales record. However, it’s also to the prospects’ best interest, because I saved them the hassle of buying, suffering through, and fighting to cancel a service that just isn’t a fit for them. It’s not easy to turn business down, but it really makes a difference for all parties involved. Additionally, it’s the ethical and moral thing to do. Be selective with your clients, don’t be afraid to turn down a deal, and strive to work with the clients who will be the best fit for your product or service.

Increase Customer Retention Through Preventative Maintenance

The most effective way, by far, to expand the lifetime of anything is to consistently do preventative maintenance. You take your car to the shop for tune-ups and oil changes, you visit the doctor’s office for check-ups and immunizations, and you have necessary servicing of large household appliances and systems. Even if things aren’t broken, it’s critical to take good care of anything that you want to last. The alternative of neglecting these important elements would have detrimental implications, and any damage to these would be incredibly cost and time intensive, and may potentially pose much more dangerous fallout.

This habit of preventative maintenance is applicable in just about every aspect of your life, and is particularly relevant in business. One of the largest challenges many companies face is customer turnover. The struggle with retention is huge, and even the largest, most successful companies still need to be mindful of this difficulty. Preventative maintenance is critical for companies who strive to maintain customer loyalty and aim to limit the amount of returns, cancellations, and dissatisfied customer surveys they encounter. The amount of time and funds necessary to invest in the servicing of current customers is dramatically outweighed by the potential return your business will receive as a result of your efforts.

A quick, inexpensive, and incredibly effective way to do a client check-up is to pick up the phone. Check in on them! Make the goal of each call to find out how you client is doing, actually listen to their pain points or complaints, and communicate that you understand their challenges. From there, you can work on addressing their issues, but first and foremost you need to demonstrate that you know what the problem is. Doctors don’t write treatment plans before they diagnose the issue, and they don’t diagnose the issue before they listen to the symptoms that you tell them. You need to operate the same way. Be patient, listen, identify the real problems (if any), and then work on a plan to solve them if necessary.

Your customers will be pleasantly surprised to get a phone call from your company with the sole goal of checking in. It’s important to call without any intention of making a sale. If the customer happens to be thrilled with your business and requests to purchase more product, or increase their account coverage, great! But make sure your clients know that the purpose of this call is for customer service. Don’t push a sale either- you don’t want to condition your clients to feel like every phone call comes with an ulterior motive or sales intention.

Another benefit of calling to check on your clients is the personal element you develop by doing so. Putting a face and voice to your brand by personalizing their customer service experience will increase their attachment and commitment to your company via the relationship they will develop with your customer service team.Make the experience individualized versus corporatized. People like to feel special and important. Call them by name, familiarize yourself with their account and their needs. More than anything, your clients are people, not commission checks. Help them out, and your business will reap excellent benefits.

The biggest mistake a business can make is avoiding calling the dissatisfied clients. The mentality that some companies erroneously maintain is that if they call a client who is potentially dissatisfied with their experience, the client will use that opportunity cancel. After all, if you don’t call, they probably won’t remember that they are unhappy with your company. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. If they are unhappy with the results they are getting as a customer of your business, they will get around to cancelling eventually. It’s much better to call now and have the opportunity to address their complaints and potentially save the account than to let it sit and leave the customer thinking you don’t care about their business.

Do not make the mistake of projecting your own experiences or expectations on your client. For example, while working at a popular real estate website company, I would check in monthly with my clients who were real estate agents that lived all across the country. Some lived in busy metropolitan areas, and would receive dozens of leads per day from their advertising campaigns, while others received one lead over the course of a few months. One day I had an encounter with an agent who was unhappy that she had “only” received ten leads in a week. I worked with her on the phone for about five minutes to help her more effectively manage those ten leads, helping her realize that ten closed leads is better than thousands of unclosed leads. She calmed down, got excited about following up with them, and gave me a referral of a friend of hers who wanted to sign up with me. Score! Five minutes was easy and effective preventative maintenance, showing my client that I care and I’m there to help. Additionally, I was able to take care of her displeasure before the issue and her frustration got out of hand, potentially saving the account from a cancellation and an angry review on our site.

After dealing with the woman who was unhappy about ten leads in a week, I reluctantly called to check in on another client who, after almost two months of running his campaign, had only just received his first lead. I started the phone call sympathetically, almost apologetically, and on the defense for an angry client who may complain about their issue. To my shock, there was no issue! This older gentleman was beyond thrilled to have received a lead, exclaiming in his adorable southern accent “Oh my! I’ve gotta go, I need to put gas in my car and prepare for some showings!” Obviously his perception of the results he was getting were dramatically different from mine, and I learned to stop projecting my expectations on my clients, and focus on addressing their individual concerns as needed.

There have been plenty of times that I forced myself to call customers that I was afraid might give me an earful about how disappointed they are in the results. To be honest, I did receive a few cancels as a result of those phone calls (which probably would have happened either way), but much more often I had the opportunity to address my customers needs that weren’t being met, and I was able to make some changes to the account, or help consult my client to use their account differently so that they were much more pleased with their results. Customer service and a regular client check-in is the best use of your time and resources to prevent turnover and increase client retention. Don’t ignore your clients; pick up the phone and ask how you can help them get the most out of their experience with you.

Get More From Your Closed Deals

You just closed a huge contract and you’re flying high on the post-deal buzz, complete with high fives from your colleagues, and a nod and thumbs up from your boss. Your commission check is going to have a little extra padding this month, and you’re feeling great. Suddenly you are hit with the heavy and disappointing realization that your pipeline is now much smaller than it was, and you no longer have this exciting contract to look forward to. It’s already closed, now what?

One of the biggest and most common mistakes companies and salespeople make is assuming that the sales avenue is over after the initial deal is closed. Worse yet is the assumption that a customer is no longer of value after they sign the contract and become a client. Ironically enough, the closed deal is just the beginning of a tremendously lucrative opportunity for the account representative who is able identify its massive potential and act on it strategically. Here’s why:

  1. Customers are often a source of repeat business. If your customer is hooked on your product or service, it’s likely they will renew their contract or use your business at another time. Customer loyalty is a huge advantage that will ensure more deals in the future as long as the service and performance is satisfactory. In fact, there are very few successful companies that have only one-time customers, so take advantage of the opportunity to retain customers through great service, a great product experience, and the presentation of new products or services that your customers would want to purchase. 
  2. The accounts of happy customers tend to grow over time. During the lifetime of a typical customer relationship, there are consistent opportunities for upselling. Whether you are adding new services to their accounts, offering additional features to compliment or facilitate their experience with your business, or selling new products they would benefit from using, your current customers are your easiest sell. This is because, as your customer, they have already established trust in you and see the value in being your customer. Upselling also increases their level of commitment to your business and makes it more difficult for them to switch to another company or provider. 
  3. Customer referrals are sales gold. Nothing is better than a hot lead, and current customers are the best source for those opportunities. If your customers are happy with their experience, they won’t hesitate to refer new business to you because most customers like to share their joy with friends/family/business partners. Creating a referral program or some kind of incentive can even be a catalyst to make your customers work for you as your own personal “sales team”. Moreover, the referrals you get will listen more carefully to your sales presentation knowing that their peer is already a happy client of yours.

The one caveat I will mention here is that growth doesn’t always happen on its own. Often you will need to seek out these opportunities by contacting your current clients and asking (again) for their business. Ask your customers to renew, to upgrade, and to refer. Don’t neglect your customers after you sell them; treat current clients just as well as, if not better than, your prospects and continue to check in and offer great customer service. Identifying and acting on these opportunities will ensure that the selling doesn’t end just because the deal is closed.

The Most Effective Sales Strategy: “What’s in it for me?”

When I consult with my clients who struggle with marketing or sales initiatives, I always start out the session asking: “what’s in it for me”? In other words, if I am a potential customer you are trying to attract with your marketing campaigns, or you are trying to sell your products or services to, what is the benefit I will get from buying from you? Always frame your value proposition as if the customers were asking you “what’s in it for me?”

Many people at this point will start rattling off all of their differentiating factors, nifty product points, or explain that they have the best customer service in the industry. This is all well and good, but it is far from relevant unless they can identify what that means to the customer. Don’t focus on the features you offer, or why you’re different from the rest; all of that information is important, and you can dive into that as needed, but what’s most important, and what you should focus your efforts on, is how you will directly affect the customers’ pain points and make their job, life, or business situation better.

Finding a pain point can be tough, and often you will need to dig deep. You could conduct market research in the form of surveys, interviews, and/or focus groups, you could ask current clients how your product or service best helps them individually, but the easiest way is to simply ask your prospect. After all, every customer faces different challenges, and what troubles some may not trouble others. Additionally, people genuinely appreciate when businesses care about their individual struggles. So get to know the prospect you’re selling to, and don’t feel uncomfortable asking them what they are looking for from your product or service. People love to talk about themselves and their business, and it makes them feel more connected to you as a salesperson or company.

Once you know what your prospective customer is really struggling with you can focus the sales efforts on their individual situation. Show the prospective customer that you relate to them and understand their unique problems (even if they aren’t so unique). Make them feel understood and special. Once you have gotten an understanding of the pain point and have communicated to the customer that you know how their struggles are affecting them, you can present your value proposition in a “what’s in it for me?” perspective. By explaining to your customer what they will gain by working with you or using your service, you will illicit a much more interested and positive response. Be sure to frame your sales pitch around how your offering can help their particular situation, make their life easier, save them time or money, etc.

Don’t make your sales presentation too feature rich; keep it simple and always address and stress how your prospect will benefit by being your customer. Don’t leave them wondering “what’s in it for me?”

The Truth About Effective Employee Motivation

Employee motivation is one of the toughest challenges that companies of any size face, and employers often take drastic measures to ensure they are rewarding successes of their employees in hopes of increasing overall motivation of their teams. However, what most employers don’t know is that if they changed they way they motivate their staff they can save the company time, money, resources, and increase overall productivity and morale.

Most companies use bonuses and monetary incentives to reward and motivate. These tactics are good, and it’s important to support employees financially, but financial rewards are not always necessary and can often backfire. I’m not talking about commission in a sales job- that is critical, but offering a cash incentive as a “thank you” or encouragement for high performance isn’t the most effective way to motivate. Why not? Because the motivation the employer is offering is extrinsic, meaning it is coming from an outside source and the behavior is being rewarded externally. Psychologically, this can cause the behaviors that are being rewarded seem more like a “job” since money is being exchanged as a result, and the employee may take less enjoyment in the activities as a result and may not work as hard in the future.

Along that note, other incentives can be just as effective as a cash bonus, such as a free lunch, gifts, a plaque, etc. These are often much more cost effective than bonuses, and offer the same extrinsic benefits of recognizing the efforts of the employee, and giving a tangible reward in exchange.

Even more effective is skipping the tangible reward, and instead giving recognition and appreciation to the employee, perhaps publicly. Placing a photo of the employee on an “Employee of the Month” wall, doing a shout-out on a company email or newsletter, and other similar acts of recognition make the reward about the person who did something wonderful, not about the gift or incentive they receive. This little thing called “bragging rights” can go a long way, and become an intrinsic form of motivation, because employees now want to achieve great results for their own personal pleasure and satisfaction.

The most effective way to motivate employees is to align them with the company’s vision and mission. By making the employees understand the goals of the company, and why the company has those goals, they will want to accomplish great things because they see the impact their work has in the overall plan. When employees are “drinking the kool-aid”, they are more likely to work harder and feel more gratified as a result of their efforts.

I encourage employers to reevaluate the methods they use to motivate their team and ensure their employees share the same vision for the growth and future of the company. Additionally, offering appreciation and recognition can cause amazing results internally for the employee, which will benefit the company in response. Financial incentives are great, but use them sparingly and wisely, focusing more on the genuine appreciation you are showing to the employee; make the reward about their efforts and the role it played in the overarching goals of the company instead of simply the incentive the employee is receiving.



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