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There’s a harsh reality that quickly sets in for every business owner: Making sales is hard. It takes the perfect combination of a great product or service, a solid game plan, a lot of hustle, and a little bit of luck. Step #1—get your foot in the door and get that first meeting set up.

Start with Your Database

You’ve probably heard that it’s easier and less costly to retain a past customer than gain a new one. If you’ve been in a business a while, you probably have plenty of people who haven’t purchased from you in a while. Reach out to those people before looking for new prospects. If you’re just getting started, and not new to the industry, you probably have clients you’ve worked with in another capacity. Go after those prospects if allowable and ethical.

Build a Prospect List

First, find your prospects. One way is to scour the Internet looking for companies/customers that fit your business. But don’t do this yourself. Hire a virtual assistant to do the work. For far less than $100 in most cases, a VA will build a prospect list using the criteria you lay out. Sites like Upwork are a great place to start.

No, Cold Calling Isn’t Dead!

Don’t listen to the “experts” that say cold calling is dead. Ask anybody who does it regularly and you’ll find that it’s alive and well. Sure, it will likely work better for some businesses than others but let’s make one thing clear: You cannot use technology to forsake human contact. Just because we live in the digital age doesn’t mean that your sales process won’t involve human contact. Cold call 100 prospects and e-mail 100 and see which gets the better results. Likely, it will be the cold calls.

But Before You Call…

Do your qualifying before you call or e-mail. Asking the prospect qualifying questions like, “when is your contract up?” is a great way to end any chance of getting their business. Do some research and call with some knowledge of their company. Be able to speak intelligently about their business and from that research have a list of questions you might ask about any potential needs. For example, if you sell cloud-based software you might ask about how their sales staff communicates with the home office.

Genuinely Care

There are plenty of sales people that can act like they care but a better approach is to actually care. You have a product or service that you genuinely believe in and you care enough about the potential customer to tell them about it. Caring means that the sale is the last step in the process. Building the relationship comes first. People know if you care more about them or the sale when you talk to them. Make sure you’re operating from the right state of mind.

Play the Numbers Game

You’re going to be turned down more than you hear the word, “yes” so after you’ve done your research, contacted the company, and potentially heard, “no,” move on. Carve out time every for prospecting and make that your sole focus. Don’t allow any distractions to pull you away from what you’re doing. Don’t forget that no business succeeds without a strong sales funnel.

Name Drop

Want to significantly up your chances for a first meeting? Do some name dropping. Do you know somebody they know? Is there another influencer in the industry using your product or service? Even if it’s one of their competitors, drop a name or two.

Load Them with Facts

You’re going to have a rough time getting time with a prospect if you throw the call to action in front of them right away. Instead, show them that you understand their problem just as well or better than they do. Load them with industry knowledge, case studies, and before and after statistics. Once you gain some credibility, it’s time to ask for the meeting—not the sale.

Change your Communication Strategy

If your method of first contact is e-mail, understand that a lot of e-mail ends up in spam filters or discarded before making it to the intended recipient. Just because they didn’t respond doesn’t mean they’re not interested. If e-mail doesn’t work after multiple attempts, make a phone call or go super old school and send a letter. In other words, don’t give up.

Try “Off Hours”

Many decision makers have assistants that act as gatekeepers. Calling or e-mailing during work hours often means that you’ll get an assistant who may not have the level of knowledge that the decision maker has.

High level leaders don’t have 9 to 5 work hours but many assistants do. Making contact in the evening might mean that the decision sees the e-mail or gets the call before the assistant—eliminating the gatekeeper

Know If Your Advertising Working

Advertising a small business is too expensive to do haphazardly. If you’re going to invest money into either print, radio, TV, or online advertising you need see a return on your investment. Unfortunately, many business owners don’t know how to evaluate the success or failure of their ads. Ask them how well their advertising is working, and the best some owners can say is that they “think” their advertisements are working well, they don’t know which ads are working well, or they don’t know if any are working.

Don’t fall into this trap. To make the money you spend on ads pay off, you need to measure and evaluate your ad spend based on data.

The Problem

Although there’s a lot of science involved in advertising, there’s also a lot of art. Many factors are hard to measure. For example, if somebody sees your ad, comes to your store and doesn’t buy anything, that builds brand awareness. They may come back later when they need what you sell. In that case, your advertising worked—just not immediately. There are plenty of situations where advertising is hard to measure but that doesn’t mean you should give up trying. The fact is, most advertising is measurable if you design your campaign correctly.

Before You Advertise…

To measure the effectiveness of your ad you need baseline data. What was your store or website traffic before you ran the ad? How were your sales? Did sales increase for the products or services you advertised? You will only know if you have past data.

If you aren’t the type of person who likes to collect and analyze data, find somebody to help. It will be money well spent.

Use a Coupon

Everybody wants to pay less. If you’re advertising a product or service, include a coupon. If you’re running multiple campaigns, make sure to put a code somewhere on the coupon so you know which campaign the customer responded to. This works for both online and print advertising. For radio and TV, you could give them a coupon code to mention at the store or to type in online. You could also offer an incentive. “Mention this ad and we’ll give you an extra 15% off.”

Use E-mail Software

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to advertise your products and services to existing customers and to prospects. By getting customers, prospects and casual shoppers to sign up for your mailing list, and then sending mailings on a regular basis, you give yourself repeated opportunities to get their business or their repeat purchases at minimal cost to you. One tactic to build your list: ask people to sign up for your mailing list to get a discount coupon or free information.

Don’t use your gmail or a personal account for email marketing. Individual email accounts don’t give you any way of measuring the results. Instead, use software like Constant Contact, Mailchimp, Aweber or one of the many others that provide metrics like open and click rates. This is the most effective way to track the success of your e-mail campaigns. As you get more familiar with these programs you’ll find plenty of other powerful features that you can use to better target your customers and improve the metrics.

Related Advertisement: Constant Contact Special Offer

Split Test

Advertising is an art because what should work sometimes fails. Every advertising pro knows that they must make multiple versions of an ad and test them against each other. For example, if you have 30,000 people on an e-mail or mailing list, you might send 10% of the list ad #1 and 10% ad #2. Once you see which ad performed better, the other 80% will receive the winner of the split test.

You can split test with more than 2 ads, of course, but make sure you’re only testing one condition at a time until you gain experience with testing ads. If you change the art and copy, for example, you don’t know which of the changes resulted in a better or worse performance.

Once you do understand split testing and do enough volume to warrant it, you may benefit by using multivariate testing (ie, testing several variables in a single ad) to see which combination of elements best achieves the result you want to attain. Google Analytics Content Experiments is free to use, but takes some time to learn how to set up properly. There’s also commercial software such as Optimizely available to do multivariate testing.

Use Social Media Metrics

Social media advertising has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Now you can see performance data in stunning detail, and you can target specific demographics. You can make changes to your ad early in the campaign if you see that it isn’t working, and you can split test different ideas and compare data for each.

But first, you must understand how to read the data. Before starting a social media marketing campaign, understand the platform and understand how to interpret the data. Don’t spend any money until you master those two items. Same is true with search engine advertising.

Set Your Website Up Correctly

Create custom landing pages for your ads. For instance, if you own a florist and sell flowers and plants, instead of making all of your ads go to your home page, have separate ads pointing to individual pages for holidays such as Easter or Mother’s Day. Have other ads featuring sympathy arrangements, or get-well plants and floral arrangements, each pointing to an appropriate page. You accomplish two goals this way: One, accommodating customers by sending them straight to what they were looking for, and two, allowing you to easily measure how well your ad got people to your site.

If you do want to send people to your home page from various ads, use tracking code in the ads so you can tell which ads actually delivered people to your site.

Tracking visitors to your site is an important metric but also tracking how they interact is equally as valuable. If you aren’t already using it, Google Analytics is a free tool that will help you better understand what people are seeing on your site and how they move through it.

Go Old School

Before the days of sophisticated measurement data, business owners would ask the simple question, “how did you hear about us?” Even in the 21st century, that’s a great question to ask. Not only will it give you valuable data, it’s an effective icebreaker that might result in building a relationship with that customer

Some Low Cost Ways to Promote Your Business

What’s the best way to promote your business? How can you advertise your business and get your name in front of potential prospects when money is tight or you’re just starting up? How can you get the word out about your business in the most affordable way?

Promoting a business is an ongoing challenge for small businesses. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, these proven marketing strategies will help your business find new customers without spending a fortune.

Plan your attack. Define who your best prospects are, and then determine the best way to reach them. Be as specific as possible. Is the decision maker the CTO of the company, the director of human resources, or a 37-year-old working mom? Will you find them on Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube or Instagram? What about in-person networking at local business meetings? Will you find people at those meeting who are likely prospects or who know and could recommend you to likely prospects? Will customers be searching for your type of product on Google or Bing? Do you want to start promoting your business to them at the start of their buying cycle, or when they’re about ready to pull out their credit card and make the purchase. Write your answers down, and refer to them before you start any new marketing tactic. Use this marketing plan worksheet to gather your information.

If you don’t have a website, get one set up. If you can’t afford to have someone custom-design your website, put your site up using one of the companies like Wix, SquareSpace or Godaddy that provide templates and tools that make it easy to create a basic website.

Set up a listing for your business in search engine local directories.
Google and Bing both offer a free listing for local businesses.
To get listed on Google, go to Google My Business.
To get listed on Bing, go to Bing Places for Business
Yahoo charges for local listings, but you get listed on a lot more than Yahoo if you buy their service. The service, called Yahoo Localworks, costs $29.99 a month and lists you in 50 directories including Yahoo Local, Yelp, WhitePages, Bing, Mapquest and more. The benefit of paying: You have a single location to enter your data to make it consistent and available on multiple online directories that your customers might search to find what you sell.

  1. Set up your business profile or page on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus,Twitter and Pinterest. Be sure your business profile includes a good description, keywords and a link to your website. Look for groups or conversations that talk about your type of products or services and participate in the conversations, but don’t spam them with constant promos for what you sell.
  2. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a business card and business stationery, have them made up — immediately. Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously. Be sure to list your website address on your business card and, letterhead and any handouts you create. Include your main social media profile link, too, if possible.
  3. Sign up for an email service, and send an email newsletter and/or promotional offers to customers and prospects for your business. Be sure you ask for permission to send email before putting any person’s email name on your list. One good way to build a permission-based email list of people who want your mailings is to give something away. It could be a free ebook, or even a free tip-sheet on how to do something related to your business. If you’re a health coach, for instance, you might offer people who sign up for your free newsletter a tip sheet with “10 Easy Ways To Lose Weight Without Going on a Diet.” If you don’t have anything to give away, try offering a signup discount on products or services as an incentive.  An email service like Constant Contact* makes it easy to manage your list and send professional-looking mailings.
  4. Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.
  5. Talk to all the vendors from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or service, or if they know anyone who can. If they have bulletin boards where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the board.
  6. Attend meetings of professional groups, and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, other local business groups, local chapters of national groups such as NAWBO, or civic associations. Have business cards in a pocket where they are easily reachable. Don’t forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to them. They’ll be flattered by your interest, and better remember you because of it.
  7. Pay for membership in those groups that attract your target customers. If the group has a website and publishes a list members on the site, make sure your name and website link get added. Once it is added double check to be sure your contact information is correct and your website link isn’t broken.
  8. Become actively involved in 2 or 3 of these groups. That will give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects. But remember: opportunists are quickly spotted for what they are, and get little business. While you won’t want to become involved in many organizations that require a lot of your time in, you can –and should– make real contributions to all of them by offering useful ideas and helping with projects when possible.
  9. Post Interesting information and pictures regularly to your social media accounts. The information or photos should be interesting to your audience. Tips on how they can improve their life or business or special offers are likely to get the most likes and shares.
  10. Look for something unusual about what you do, and publicize it. Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV stations, and magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. Post the press releases on one or more online press release services, too, being sure to include links to your website. To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release. Editors of printed publications are often in need of “art” (drawings or photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text.
  11. Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts. Be sure your name, business name, phone number, and a reference to your product or service is included at the end of the article. If the editor can use the article you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free, too.
  12. Publicize your publicity. Whenever you do get publicity, get permission from the publisher to reprint the article containing the publicity. Make photocopies and mail the copies out with sales letters or any other literature you use to market your product or service. The publicity clips lend credibility to the claims you make for your products or services.
  13. Ask for work or leads. Contact nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses that have customers who may need your services.
  14. Network with others who are doing the same type of work you are. Let them know you are available to handle their work overloads. (But don’t try to steal their customers. Word will get out, and will ruin your business reputation.)
  15. Offer to be a speaker. Industry conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need speakers for meetings. You’ll benefit from the name recognition, contacts and publicity you gain from being a speaker at these events.
  16. If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested. Or, teach others how to use some tool you use in your work.
  17. Put videos of your product or service on YouTube and other video-sharing and slide-sharing sites.
  18. Find out what federal, state, and local government programs are in existence to help you get started in business. Most offer free business counseling, and some can put you in touch with government agencies and large corporations that buy from small and woman-owned businesses
  19. If you are a woman-owned or minority-owned business look into getting certified by private, state or federal organizations. Many purchasing agents have quotas or guide for the amount of goods and services they need to buy from minority- and woman-owned businesses.
  20. Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell. Be sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out. Follow up periodically with postcard mailings.
  21. If you use a car or truck in your business have your business name and contact information professionally painted on the side of the vehicle. That way your means of transportation becomes a vehicle for advertising your business. If you don’t want the business name painted on the vehicle, consider using magnetic signs.
  22. Get on the telephone and make “cold calls.” These are calls to people who you would like to do business with. Briefly describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem.
  23. Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.
  24. Offer a free, no obligation consultation to people you think could use your services. During such consultations offer some practical suggestions or ideas–and before you leave ask for an “order” to implement the ideas.
  25. Learn to ask for referrals. Ask existing customers, prospects and casual acquaintances. When you get them, follow up on the leads.
  26. Use other people to sell your product or service. Instead of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for affiliates, resellers or people who will generate leads for you in return for a commission on sales. Be sure your pricing structure allows for the fees or commissions you will have to pay on any sales that are made.
  27. Get together with businesses who serve the same market, but sell different products and services. Make arrangements to pass leads back and forth, or share mailings.
  28. Have sales letters, flyers and other pertinent information printed and ready to go. Ask prospects who seem reluctant to buy from you: “Would you like me to send information?” Follow up promptly with a note and a letter that says, “Here is the information you asked me to send
  29. Run a contest. Make the prize something desirable and related to your business — it could be a free gift basket of your products, for instance, or free services.
  30. Test buying Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on the search engines. If you are not yet advertising on search engines search for offers that give you $50 or $75 in free advertising to start. Read the directions for the service you plan to use, and very carefully watch what you spend on a daily or more frequent basis until you are comfortable using PPC ads and see you are getting a return on your investment.
  31. Promote your posts to targeted audiences on Facebook. This is an expensive way of getting your business in front of potential customers in very targeted locations or who have interests that match what you sell

 

 

  1. Set up your business profile or page on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus,Twitter and Pinterest. Be sure your business profile includes a good description, keywords and a link to your website. Look for groups or conversations that talk about your type of products or services and participate in the conversations, but don’t spam them with constant promos for what you sell.
  2. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a business card and business stationery, have them made up — immediately. Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously. Be sure to list your website address on your business card and, letterhead and any handouts you create. Include your main social media profile link, too, if possible.
  3. Sign up for an email service, and send an email newsletter and/or promotional offers to customers and prospects for your business. Be sure you ask for permission to send email before putting any person’s email name on your list. One good way to build a permission-based email list of people who want your mailings is to give something away. It could be a free ebook, or even a free tip-sheet on how to do something related to your business. If you’re a health coach, for instance, you might offer people who sign up for your free newsletter a tip sheet with “10 Easy Ways To Lose Weight Without Going on a Diet.” If you don’t have anything to give away, try offering a signup discount on products or services as an incentive.  An email service like Constant Contact* makes it easy to manage your list and send professional-looking mailings.
  4. Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.
  5. Talk to all the vendors from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or service, or if they know anyone who can. If they have bulletin boards where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the board.
  6. Attend meetings of professional groups, and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, other local business groups, local chapters of national groups such as NAWBO, or civic associations. Have business cards in a pocket where they are easily reachable. Don’t forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to them. They’ll be flattered by your interest, and better remember you because of it.
  7. Pay for membership in those groups that attract your target customers. If the group has a website and publishes a list members on the site, make sure your name and website link get added. Once it is added double check to be sure your contact information is correct and your website link isn’t broken.
  8. Become actively involved in 2 or 3 of these groups. That will give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects. But remember: opportunists are quickly spotted for what they are, and get little business. While you won’t want to become involved in many organizations that require a lot of your time in, you can –and should– make real contributions to all of them by offering useful ideas and helping with projects when possible.
  9. Post Interesting information and pictures regularly to your social media accounts. The information or photos should be interesting to your audience. Tips on how they can improve their life or business or special offers are likely to get the most likes and shares.
  10. Look for something unusual about what you do, and publicize it. Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV stations, and magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. Post the press releases on one or more online press release services, too, being sure to include links to your website. To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release. Editors of printed publications are often in need of “art” (drawings or photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text.
  11. Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts. Be sure your name, business name, phone number, and a reference to your product or service is included at the end of the article. If the editor can use the article you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free, too.
  12. Publicize your publicity. Whenever you do get publicity, get permission from the publisher to reprint the article containing the publicity. Make photocopies and mail the copies out with sales letters or any other literature you use to market your product or service. The publicity clips lend credibility to the claims you make for your products or services.
  13. Ask for work or leads. Contact nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses that have customers who may need your services.
  14. Network with others who are doing the same type of work you are. Let them know you are available to handle their work overloads. (But don’t try to steal their customers. Word will get out, and will ruin your business reputation.)
  15. Offer to be a speaker. Industry conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need speakers for meetings. You’ll benefit from the name recognition, contacts and publicity you gain from being a speaker at these events.
  16. If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested. Or, teach others how to use some tool you use in your work.
  17. Put videos of your product or service on YouTube and other video-sharing and slide-sharing sites.
  18. Find out what federal, state, and local government programs are in existence to help you get started in business. Most offer free business counseling, and some can put you in touch with government agencies and large corporations that buy from small and woman-owned businesses
  19. If you are a woman-owned or minority-owned business look into getting certified by private, state or federal organizations. Many purchasing agents have quotas or guide for the amount of goods and services they need to buy from minority- and woman-owned businesses.
  20. Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell. Be sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out. Follow up periodically with postcard mailings.
  21. If you use a car or truck in your business have your business name and contact information professionally painted on the side of the vehicle. That way your means of transportation becomes a vehicle for advertising your business. If you don’t want the business name painted on the vehicle, consider using magnetic signs.
  22. Get on the telephone and make “cold calls.” These are calls to people who you would like to do business with. Briefly describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem.
  23. Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.
  24. Offer a free, no obligation consultation to people you think could use your services. During such consultations offer some practical suggestions or ideas–and before you leave ask for an “order” to implement the ideas.
  25. Learn to ask for referrals. Ask existing customers, prospects and casual acquaintances. When you get them, follow up on the leads.
  26. Use other people to sell your product or service. Instead of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for affiliates, resellers or people who will generate leads for you in return for a commission on sales. Be sure your pricing structure allows for the fees or commissions you will have to pay on any sales that are made.
  27. Get together with businesses who serve the same market, but sell different products and services. Make arrangements to pass leads back and forth, or share mailings.
  28. Have sales letters, flyers and other pertinent information printed and ready to go. Ask prospects who seem reluctant to buy from you: “Would you like me to send information?” Follow up promptly with a note and a letter that says, “Here is the information you asked me to send
  29. Run a contest. Make the prize something desirable and related to your business — it could be a free gift basket of your products, for instance, or free services.

Test buying Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on the search engines. If you are not yet advertising on search engines search for offers that give you $50 or $75 in free advertising to start. Read the directions for the service you plan to use, and very carefully watch what you spend on a daily or more frequent basis until you are comfortable using PPC ads and see you are getting a return on your investment.

  1. Promote your posts to targeted audiences on Facebook. This is an expensive way of getting your business in front of potential customers in very targeted locations or who have interests that match what you sell