New beginnings….

Normally anyone would expect to see a plethera of yao yao which would basically say nothing. I will do my best to be sure that when something is posted that it has some kind of substance that anyone can use.

This beginning is a start of a new company venture. The partners involved asked me to come aboard to help with strategies and ideas to help with a new version of Appointment setting for Financial planners and Insurance agents with series 6 licenses. This in itself is a great opportunity, so why did they need me?

Well, apparently when the idea came about there was a pre-test done to see what the response would be to marketing this kind of service seeing that there was already a few out there doing it. Unfortunately as a lot of online deals go, there are a few companies not doing business honestly. So, credibility had become an issue. Of course those things can be easily remedied, but what about fulfillment? What do the customers actually get? Where is there value perceived or realized? what will be the companies Return on Customer? short term and long term?

Coming from a mixed background of Marketing and Operations(what a conflict of interest wouldn’t you say?) I now had the opportunity to address true marketing strategies after setting down an actual footprint for the operations and cost analysis, and what funds would need to be appropriated to ensure a sufficient budget would be in place to cover unforeseen costs of marketing and acquisition. (which there were many)

When all was said and done, actual profit of the “test” run came out just under even. (actually they lost a bit of profit on the first deal)

After sitting with the partners and explaining what the challenges were, one partner decided it was not a profitable idea to continue pursuing this venture and returned to a former client contract to continue producing revenue for the company. I had suggested against this but was not really allowed to explain what remedies they had that would turn this seemingly unprofitable venture into one that could become a self running branch of their company.

Speaking further with the second partner revealed, that it was always an intention to research further before running the test. They wanted to see if there was any feasibility in pursuing this venture as it was already making a different similar size company quite a healthy profit. They were doing so well with fulfillment there was no reason to think it was not a good venture to pursue.

I looked a bit further into what the company was doing with the second partner and found out that the fee structure was a bit different and that if costs were to be controlled more, that this company would have to restructure its fee schedule to cover initial costs. Then a fee for residual income and actual long term profit would be needed.

Return on Customer was being reviewed now and seeing that a long term commitment to a per schedule appointment for continual revenue generation allowed for greater returns on existing clientèle.

Once the partners began to see the actual response rates of the first test run, it became clear that this was still a viable venture to continue with, which allowed for new suggestions on how to attract new business through both conventional and Innovative methods in marketing. This now includes online optimization of their website and future PPC advertising, along with networking referrals which started to come in even before appointments were being set for the first test run client. This was a large indicator that because pricing had been set higher than normal and even though process and unforseen procedures and licensing issues arose, that honesty and integrity held the test client in place and kept them confident that we could produce what was guaranteed.

Closing ratio is up to the agent or planner of course, but as far as client acquisition and appointment setting goes, the process now has an actual path, and the marketing methods that are now in place are already producing a flow that is both manageable and profitable.

Statistically, increases should be noted within the next month or two, to a point that outward conventional marketing methods may not be needed, and only online optimization may need to be employed. Even with a conventional 33% fallout rate, with a base of 300-400 clients per salesman and two appointment setters per agent, profit margins for the company should still hit anywhere between 25%-45% depending on operational costs.

SO, what does this have to do with anything? I value professional opinions. It’s how I learned a lot about marketing and operations outside of school…I like hearing real world experience talking rather than theory. I’d like anyone’s opinion on how they think this pans out for the partnership. I’ve left a lot of details out so that everyone else can throw down and give their professional opinion. I value perspective, and honesty. Have at it!

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Action instead of reaction

Interestingly enough I find myself blogging here again. :p

I wanted to focus on a couple of thoughts from some articles online written about capitalism and what its effects have been.

Capitalism has taken a negative connotation to itself via the “croaImagenie” capitalism that has taken its seed in our society. The Negative nature of Capitalism has been brought about by a lot of the political moves by the current administration as favors returned for the support given by private industry to politics. There seems to be a misnomer that capitalism intends only to serve the wealthy 1% of this country. It is, in fact not true. 

Capitalism has served many of the poor in enrichment, literacy, and lifestyle support. The private industry has offered a lot of help with not just wealth in money, but in building schools rebuilding or rehabbing schools and with organizing donations and contributing themselves for the middle and lower class. It’s been by their(the middle class) help as worker bees that a lot of the commerce of trade and enrichment of lives that capitalistic models have contributed to the good of many.

It is unfortunate that Capitalism has taken on such a negative connotation. In and of itself, its pure intent is to create competition and in the end the consumer benefits and the winning business keeps its doors open. Through proper commerce and innovation new products are offered and the market place is served economically well. There are people that do see where this is abused and the only ones that seemingly benefit are the “1%”. That said it is brought on as of late by the mainstream media that simply does not wish to encourage capitalism as they are seemingly leaning towards a different philosophy that enlists the government as not just a solution to the troubles of commerce but a resolution that it’s the only way to resolve the issues of capitalism. When looked at closer it begins to look like Socialism or communism.

The true resolution would lie in disallowing croanie capitalism and allowing for true commerce without special interest to operate. This would mean that payoffs and back room deals would have to be found out and stopped immediately. This of course is just not possible as it is near impossible to tell when those things are happening. Rumors abound but the manpower needed to battle that would be immense as well as the resources. A different resolution may be in order which would be a longer term plan to teach and raise a new breed of capitalists. A breed of these new capitalists that would still work together but for the betterment of commerce and trade where there is a win win win win win situation.

Here’s a link to an article that talks about one of the ways that this can be fixed:

http://www.inc.com/eric-markowitz/john-mackey-is-the-next-ayn-rand.html

CEO John Mackey has a great take on what needs to be done. If we can begin to teach this as a philosophy, this writer believes that there could be an effective change. 

Excerpt:

1) All businesses need a higher purpose. “Money is not what drives most entrepreneurs,” he says. “What drives most entrepreneurs is some kind of dream. Business will never be trusted if all it talks about is maximizing profit.”

2) Business must create value for everyone that trades with it. “We’re so hooked up to the win-lose dynamic,” he says. “The most amazing thing about capitalism is that it’s not a zero-sum game. It’s a win-win-win-win-win. Business must create value for customers that trade with it.”

3) We need a new type of leader. “Ultimately, you cannot create a conscious business unless the leadership is conscious with it,” he says. “We need more servant leaders who are dedicated to serving the stakeholders.” 

4) We have to create company cultures that are humanistic and empowering. “Conscious businesses have trusting cultures,” he says. “They tend to be more authentic and caring.”

With the economy now rebounding and still a lot of tensions filling the air about whether or not the economy is truly experiencing a recovery, this is a mark to begin following. Many will be against this as they want to keep the current model, but in order to change what’s really going on these suggested changes are definitely a great start.

What do you think?

 

Reaching decision makers…how to find them, how to sell them…

 

Got a question recently regarding how to get to the decision makers.

One is, just ask for them. When asked what it’s in regards to, answer! Its not always that easy though; sometime you have to plan it out a bit…here’s some thoughts on how to start finding then getting to, then selling them.

Who are my biggest targets that I want first? Who has the best reputation that will help me tell the rest of the marketplace, “I have earned XYZ, Inc.’s business and have already helped them increase their business by XX% or they made X amount of dollars recently by using my service to increase their sales or lead gen.”

Once you’ve gotten that list it’s time to do your research on who runs the show and how they do it. Are they Methodical? Spontaneous? Humanistic? or Competitive? These traits will let you in on how to get their attention. It will also tell you how toaddress them when it comes time to sit with them and present your product or service.

Whether it’s doing a simple connections program to start sending a news letter about mobile media and what it does for businesses, or if you choose to give good marketing and sales info that a decision maker can really sink their teeth into. (be aware that doesn’t mean email the heck out of them or send them huge sales emails) Simple short relevant to their industry stuff will suffice. You will begin to earn their trust. Then you can begin to reach out to them. If there’s a Gate Keeper, sell them on the benefits of why the decision maker needs to get back with you.

Gate Keepers have a job, and it’s not just keeping the gate. Many operators and receptionists are regarded as trusted advisors to what is good and what’s not to invest time into. They won’t allow anything they view as ‘salesy’ through the gate as it does nothing really for the company. You could have the best thing for that company but if the GK sees it as ‘just another sales call’ it ain’t happenin. Make it relelvant to the company’s needs, you may wish to look in the news to see what trends or challenges the industry is facing and offer that up as a means to present your solution. ‘You know I just read that normal radio and magazine ads just aren’t driving as much traffic as it used to…have you heard of mobile marketing and what it’s been doing for many of these kinds of businesses now?’ Get the pic?

Your best bet to reach the decision makers is using a targeted approach. Buying a lead list may not be in your best interest. You may have to go work out at the gym to find out who the decision maker or decision makers are. If it becomes a maze make sure you get to as many of them as you can and see who has the most interest and invite them out to coffee or lunch. Explain to them the trends of their industry and what you know about them. This gives you credibility as a ‘solution bringer’ not just a salesman. Then begin to bring together what your solution offers and make your case from there. Teams are now more trusted than in days of old. Make sure you get them on board if there is one, if you’re dealing with small businesses you should be able to just call and get the appointment.

It can be hard when everyone is away, sometimes it takes a lower level to sell you first. I’ve done it on many occassions to get to the main person I sold the receptionist on it. I didn’t always get the sale, but I got the appointment. That’s your goal for now. Make that list, begin to reach out, and then get the appointment. Once you’re in there demonstrate expertise on their industry, then yours.

I have a friend that has a motto for Sales people…”Sum Tertius”. It means, “Me Third” First the great one above, then you (my prospect) and then me third.

Work it like that and you’ll have a recipe for success.

 

Empire Avenue…what a rush!

{EAV_BLOG_VER:d7ff33935dbda4f2}

So here’s the skinny, in order to verify a blog, I have to add the string above to be sure it’s my blog and it’s real…

Well there’s the string…now what?

Well, honestly, since I’m on a lunch break I’ll write something useful.

To be able to increase visibility out in the marketplace a lot of small businesses are taking the road map most traveled…might not be the best idea.

Look to see where your market hangs out the most. (go where the ducks are in the pond)

Principles of marketing don’t change, just the modes, and methods. You still need to be in their heads as often as possible to build the trust and brand. Once that is in then you have to find a way to be sure it gets automated so you’re not tied to your business.

I’ve been thinking lately on starting to become a business efficiency expert since a lot of people are so good with creating new tools, but not necessarily the map…

Tyler Garner of Infusionsoft recently talked on the subject of how to monetize social media. his point was true for any marketing that you engage, there has to be a map or you will go nuts.

Take the time to write it out or plan it with software that will help you get a map drwan according to your goals and then figure out what tools will help you get there the quickest.

New way to outsource…here at home

Virtual Receptionist

Domestic Outsourcing just makes sense

Small and medium sized business owners are starting to hit a wall with the way the economy is going. It’s not easy to hire employees at the drop of a hat that can be specialists, or even non specialists and bring value to the business for wages that make sense.

In comes the thought of outsourcing; send what you can overseas…or should you? The Big guys do it, why not us? Isn’t that how to keep costs down? Isn’t that the way to control my business without having to pay out of my profits so heavily?

I know of a couple people that have Virtual Assistants overseas and love it, and I’ve heard a few horror stories about how inefficient they are, comprehension issues, etc.

So where budgets no longer allow for the hiring of new employees there’s an age old challenge that allows businesses to holds its owners down; make them work in the business until they really make it big or they finally fail simply because they are overwhelmed with the work, become too busy to deal with the daily operations and can’t get out to make the cash register ring, or they just give up.

So what about outsourcing…Domestic?

As many small businesses are opening there are just as many business owners that are trying to figure out if it’s still worth the stress and the strain of having to build it from scratch only to get held up because they can’t afford to hire that employee they need, or just shut it down.

Numbers alone already show that even with 25% profitability that someone would have to gross thousands to employ one employee

What's my profit margin?

for 8 hours. (Essentially 10K+ gross to justify a $2100-$2500/mo employee at or around minimum wage)

So what to do then? Outsource? As far back as 2004 Inc.com already had an article that said States were rewarding companies that DIDN’T outsource offshore.

The reasons to do outsource are many. Ease of focusing on core functions, lower operational cost, (huge one) Access to global knowledge base for creative and strategic planning, possibly freeing up resources for projects that need capital infusion etc.

However, when your local and state government are giving you reasons to NOT do it, even with incentives to not outsource, how can you bear having to do all the work yourself? How do you justify the cost of having an employee? I’ve known family businesses with families that have this false sense of pride in having a “family business” when they are actually drowning in it losing time together, losing time to themselves, losing their own identities and becoming the business in a way that is just not fulfilling.

So what’s the solution? Outsourcing…domestic, on shore, at home.

But that’s insane! No company that is a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) will work with a small or medium sized business right? Wrong.

New Niche, new way for the little guys to get out there and compete with the big guys.

Keeping in touch with your customers Live is what keeps your business growing

The secret is using a “Shared” model where numerous companies can share in the talents of one seat rather than having to buy a dedicated agent. (or five to ten as most BPOs would require) Being able to participate in the marketplace with a means to cut costs on virtual reception, Live Chat interaction, Email interaction, Text SMS services, etc can really help to increase revenue by having the menial tasks cared for while you concentrate on what’s important…making the cash register ring.

You don’t have to sacrifice your business’ identity, and you get to keep control over your company’s brand identity and brand affinity. There is a new breed of outsourcing that will help you keep things local, efficient, accurate, and definitely out there available for your market. You just need to search them out and make sure they will do it according to your parameters or that there can be a viable work around to get the job done.

The obvious benefit to the economy here at home is that more jobs are created and more people can work for a living that makes sense to them and their families.

Top Five Reasons to Outsource…Domestic

There’s talk of how outsourcing would make sense. It’s not huge, but it’s out there and it’s gaining a bit of steam.

So what would the top five reasons to outsource domestic be? The same as doing it offshore, it’s just that now you can afford it.

Here’s a short list as to what the benefits are to using an on shore solution.

BPO

BPOs are big honkin call centers meant for the big boys

1. Lower cost for operations – Face it, hiring an employee will cost you thousands even if they are minimum wage. The load pushes it up even higher and that just doesn’t cut it for 8 hours. Especially if you need the coverage for more than that. Having someone sit around that is only 8 hours and not necessarily producing that whole time is just not justified.

2. Able to focus on core functions – Virtual Assistants are great for one person operations, virtual reception, Live Chat and email interactions are great for small businesses that want to continue to focus on doing what they do best. (Doctors, Lawyers, Service providers, I even know a guy that uses outsourcing to sell his cigarette alternatives) Think about this if you’re tied to your phones right now, this is a way to get away from them and not be tied to our business, but it can be tied to you. You deal with the intel at your discretion, not the prospect or suspect.

3. Freeing up internal resources – Instead of having the receptionist tied to a desk and hiring another office person, why not have a virtual receptionist take care of the appointment setting and other non-core functions of the office (things that can be handled outside the immediate office) while the receptionist focuses on customer care, and assisting with other office functions. (Filing, follow up, proactive response rather than reactive)

4. Some companies can realize the benefit of re-engineering their processes while having a service like this in place; Even the little guys need breathing space to really see what’s going on. So, why not have an outsourcing company do some of the work for you, when the time comes to take that particular process back there will be other processes still needing to be covered.

5. Convenience – Do you really like having to answer your phone 24/7? Do you like missing your chat and missing a sale? Is it worth the lack of customer service when you’re sick that no one ever gets to them and interacts with them live? Why would you sacrifice that? I know a lot of people that have already told me that their customers know sometimes if the phone isn’t answered they’re busy…really? You will settle for that when there are opportunities to have someone else that you teach how to answer for you, how to work as if your actual employee, and can give that personalized service that normally only you can provide? You will settle for that?

If you have, you’ve given up your life for a business that owns you. Reminder: The American Dream isn’t to be owned by your business, (or anyone or anything else for that matter) but to own a business and succeed it. Find an onshore solution that can help you with some of your processes and get them off your shoulders. There are more benefits to doing this than I’ve outlined, but these five should get you thinking about doing something different, or we live out the definition of our friend Albert Einstein when he spoke on the subject of insanity.

Been a Bit…but I’m back!

Well, I’ve been busy workin on a few projects, and time has definitely gotten away from me.

I’ll be back online here shortly with some of the new research that’s been done by companies looking to help businesses grow via online tools and offline as well.

Right now I’m reviewing a couple of reports and studies about how live Chat is getting more attention online.

Interesting to see that SEO guys don’t necessarily believe that Live Chat can help increase conversion as much as 38%. This confirmed by an international Market research firm, and then again by a smaller firm that was approached by an actual service provider to do research on their particular company.

Guys here’s the bottom line, if you’re not there to interact with your potential customers, guess what? You’re leaving money on the table, and your customer is taking it(Their money) to your competitor!

Why the heck would you want to let go of money that belongs in your account?

Sometimes it amazes me how business owners think they have it all with one side of the picture. I had one guy tell me that if the site is architecturally designed well that conversions are just fine…guess he didn’t hear the part about 38% MORE than what is already there. Or how about the 80-110% for eCommerce sites?

Now I”m not saying this is the end all to increasing conversions on your site, but it definitely a way to make it better than what you have right now.

If you don’t have anything happening with your site right now, time to get it analyzed by someone that understands your niche, and knows how to get you in front of the right traffic. Then it becomes design and copy time, then you need to optimize it until you get the right kind of leads then you need a system to work that lead into a sale. (Whatever that process is)

I can tell you after seeing varied results, it’s better to have it than to not. Oh, and just because a site has it, if it can’t be monitored 24/7 you’ve thrown the money away. Find a service that can respond for you on the overnight or over weekend, etc. (This way you still have a life yeah?)

I’ll talk more about stuff next week…Glad to be back in the writing mode gang!

PP what?

So I have been having a conversation with a new friend on facebook that related to how PPC and online marketing works. With how fast everything is moving and how much innovators are getting ahead, there are a lot that are being left behind.

He chooses attraction marketing for his online business and I have to admit it has its merits to a certain degree. I have had that conversation with a few marketers. The conventional ones like the new stuff and want to figure out the latest and greatest. Seemingly though the rest of the world is slowly catching up and certain “outdated” methods are just now beginning to take effect. (it boggles me that it takes so long for many to realize and accept what marketing is bringing to the table and then to respond to it taking even longer…oh well, human kind)

Here’s an excerpt from that conversation:

Media buying in the “Google” realm can be a bit daunting to some. I am certified with my company in PPC, and it works well provided you take the time to learn the intricacies of it and then use it creatively. It’s truly the only way you can get ahead, and if you do it right, it can turn out a real profit.

SEM / SEO is a different beast even though they are keyword driven as well. They can prove to do some real justice to a business owners bottom line, but can get really pricey. Together they work hand in hand to create relevancy and freshness in Google’s realm and it can really help drive traffic…again, IF you take the time to learn it right.

There are some good tricks that you can use that the attraction and affiliate marketers use to get into the right spots on the content networks that have proven on more than one occasion that Google is still the way to go.(this is a given by most that Google is the only way to go, heck they created this whole PPC thing right?)

Attraction marketing is the “long funnel” marketing model that can be really effective when done with diligence and persistence. As you have found, it can be a great help in generating the kind of traffic you may be looking for. As for the honesty of pics, be assured you will run into a few that are not so open about who they really are, even business owners sometimes are a bit shy to let out their identities on facebook, linkedIn, etc.

Don’t want to get into a long drawn out blah blah about online marketing, but this is where everything has headed, and will continue to head until someone comes up with something else.

What do you think?

The three “R”s…

Recently Cory Treffiletti, president and managing partner for Catalyst SF, wrote a quick article on the three “R”s of marketing, and got things back to basics.

To go over them real quick they are; recency, resonance and relevance.

Recency is the amount of time that passed since the last time your particular target market saw or heard from you. Resonance is how you rang in their ear…did you make an impressino? Did you get their attention?

And then relevance…were you what they were looking for? If not at that time, now? Do you still have relevance in their mind?

A lot of times we think everyone should have what we’ve got to offer, and forget that a return on customer is a constant changing or adapting to what your customer or client needs at that time.

I was asked once what my definition of Quality was, after a bit of thought, I answered, “The best possible product or service given to the customer at that moment in time.” It could have been by most terms described as a cowardly answer as it seems to take no solid stance or no real posture to relevancy. I beg to differ though, if you have a mind set to adapt to what your customer wants when they want it, your competitor however strong a brand they may be, may lose that customer or client to you simply because you resonated in their ears a lot more than the familiar brand they are used to and with a product or service that is the one niche they are loking for, Can this be a curse too? yes, let’s be honest you have to have something that everyone will associate you with as far as a brand they can recognize or identify with.

An advantage to being that type of “quality” though, is the ability to adapt to your suctomers needs through constant metrics and testing to see what your market is looking for and giving it to them at that moment in time, There are some Business Intelligence tools that can help with that, and then sometimes it will take a bit more of just watching and listening to the marketplace to see what everyone wants or needs. Get in front of them and make your offering.

All in all though making sure your three “R”s are in order and continual, your business stands to profit the most when everyone knows you have what they want. Driving behavior is the key. If you can effect mass re-programming, you stand to profit well!

Find yours and Keep it Rolling!

Consumers are in control…you just figured this out when?

Just read in Yahoo Business News today that Wall Street is finally acknowledging that consumers, not capitalists, not republicans, not democrats, not international business, not anything other than “CONSUMERS” are in control of things. Right here, right now, we are standing in the midst of a transference of wealth. What shall we do to make it effective so we, the “market consumers” can benefit?

Many will see an opportunity and will find a need and fill it. The economy is about to return to a service base rather than a product or “latest advanced toy” basis. We have become so comfortable with ourselves, that our innovative nature took a back seat to comfort creature mentality and has set us back about ten years.

Here’s the point; if Wall Street is finally acknowledging that consumers are in control and many of the “big boys” are the ones that are the most affected, we have a chance to say, “Ok. No more crap. Let’s get this country back on the road by making sure you’re producing things that are smart. Not just the latest toy, but the latest innovations that prove we can produce just as well just as inexpensively, and let’s make sure we support the ones that do.”

Enough of being led like blind sheep as consumers we have a choice in where the money flows, let’s make wiser choices and effect the right change.

Here’s an example; Hyundai came to this country with a product that was cheap and built pretty cheaply by my standards. They banked…quite well. They turned around and took that and now produce a luxury vehicle that rivals our old friends BMW and Mercedes, and are competing. We as consumers told the other two that rest on their reputations and history, it no longer matters about your name, I want a car I can enjoy and I’m not paying huge bucks for it. I mean really, $400 for a brake job? and only the fronts? Sorry, I’ll go with a well developed smart car that gets major mileage and is light on my wallet.

Since the consumer market is holding a lot of its discretionary income close to home, businesses have to find new ways to market to us to get us to come spend. Else not we will continue to watch the downward spiral of the economy til well into the next decade.

We have Wall Street’s attention, I say we keep it and make something of it by showing them through our voice…our wallets…that we will only support those that will support us wuth better services and products. Now is the time, make it count.

Business Development…what is it?

Ok. So ‘ve had this presentation for a bit and felt it was time to put it out there both as a refresher course and a “newbie” course for those that don’t quite get what Biz Dev is.

Here isa link to a presentation that is fairly simple to understand, once I get audio put to it we will do more to get it out to everyone in the business world.

Many think this is elementary stuff, but I’ve been running into too many people that just don’t understand that when times are slow that is when you make your best investments in your marketing, and TRACK THEM! Then you follow your sales through and make sure your conversion ratios make sense, then you do it again. (you know; wash, rinse, repeat as necessary)

Here’s the link: Click here

Once you’ve gotten here,  comment and give me your thoughts on what you think are necessary steps to making business deveelopment really work in our now economy…and be careful, there are a lot of emotions running right now, be critical in your thinking, find facts not feelings.