Monthly Archives: June 2012

Fun Facts for the 4th

In honor of the Nation’s Birthday, here are some interesting bits of information relating to the 4th.  Enjoy!

1) The only two signers of the Declaration of Independence who later served as President of the United States were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

2) Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (bitter rivals) died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.

3) Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letterto his daughter Sarah Bache in 1784:

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country.

He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly.

You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk;

And when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey.  For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America.

He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.“

4) There were an estimated 2.5 million people living in the newly independent nation in 1776.

Total U.S. population in 2011 is 311.7 million.

5) 87.5% ($2.8 million) of imported U.S. flags are from China.

  I still kind of like the old “Betsy Ross” flag; made in the USA:   

6) 97% ($190.7 million) of imported fireworks are from China.

Source for the above material:

http://interviewangel.com/17-fun-facts-about-the-fourth-of-july/

7) The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence did not sign at the same time, nor did they sign on July 4, 1776. The official event occurred on August 2, 1776, when 50 men signed it.

8) Thomas McKean was the last to sign in January, 1777.

Source: http://www.purpletrail.com/partytrail/featured_fourth_of_july/4th_of_july_history_trivia_and_facts

Have a safe and fun Fourth of July!

Zero in on Your message

I’m in a position that many salesmen would die for.  My company has a TON of products.  Our line sheet has 64 items, spanning 12 categories.  In total, we sell over 20,000 products from about 20 regular manufacturers.  This is a stark contrast to the last two sales jobs I had, where I sold commercial energy contracts and international phone cards.  Basically, in those jobs I had 1 option.  If the prospect didn’t want or need it, I was out of luck.

The difficulty in having such a large variety of products is, how do I communicate everything we do to a brand new customer?  If I just start spewing out a laundry list of products or categories, I usually get to about number 4 or 5 before their eyes begin to glaze over.  This is actually quite funny to watch, unless you actually plan on selling them something.

As my owner reminded me yesterday, people are busy.  They don’t have time to listen to a salesman drone on and on about everything they do or sell.  As a salesman, you need to have a plan of attack.  Know what your opening statement will be.  Know what type of business it is, and what products you have that will likely interest the customer.  If you have a lot of products like I do, focus on one or two that that specific customer will need or use and talk about that initially.

For example, for law firms, my owner recommended leading in with HP brand toner.  This is because law firms typically use a lot of toner and we are very competitive with HP brand.  I ask questions to gauge interest; such as “are you using HP printers? Do you know about HP’s current incentives?”  If there is interest, I continue on that product line.

If there is not an interest, or the person isn’t using that product at all, I either ask if there is a product or service that they have trouble getting or a vendor they don’t like dealing with.  If I can find a “pain” point, I might be able to get in that way.

If I haven’t struck an interest by then, I graciously bow out and leave my information.  On the next call, I plan to take in a different 1-2 items to show.  I continue in this fashion until the person either is interested in something or has filed a restraining order on me.  All kidding aside, common wisdom seems to suggest that it takes 3-5 calls on a prospect to get a sale.  If I try to sell all 20,000 products to a prospect at once, they get overwhelmed.

By spreading my message and products out over several calls, I come across as the idea guy.  I’m someone who is thinking of them and their business.  People respect that.  The people that don’t respect it are often the people who are all about price and nothing else (a losing game for a salesman).

Be knowledgable, stay focused, follow up and truly help the customer.  You’ll build your book of business faster than you think.

Can I help you? No really, can I HELP you?

As salesmen, it’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly pushing your product.  I recently caught myself doing this.  The sad thing is, I should know better.

I got a better reality on this a few days ago when one of our vendors dropped by.  I was on another call, so I wasn’t able to speak with him.  I emailed him a while later, asking what his call was about.  He responded that he just wanted to find out if we had any new items he needed quotes on.

While there’s nothing wrong with that, I thought to myself, did he bring me anything of value?  Did he offer a solution to a problem I might have?  Did he introduce a product or service that would help me with a problem?  The answer to all of the above was “no.”

I have been doing the exact same thing over the past few weeks, with little or nothing to show for it.  Even when I gave them information or ideas on how to use my products to increase or improve their business, I was not really offering to help them with their business.  How could I, when I never found out what help they needed?

Last Thursday, I went out and simply asked what they needed help with and how I could be of service.  I got 4 requests for quotes!

What do YOU need in your business?  What problem is really bogging you down?  What do you need to solve it?  A product or service, advice, what?  Let’s sit down for 15 minutes and see if I can help you.  If I don’t have a product or service that will help, maybe I can offer advice or refer you to someone who can help.  Then, when you DO have a need for something I provide, remember me.

I’ll end this by saying the obvious: “Can I help you?”

How to Increase Sales through marketing without going bankrupt

In my experience, many companies tend to go to extremes when it comes to marketing: they either don’t want to spend money at all, or they throw larges sums of money away on the same marketing strategies, whether they work or not.

In this article, I’ll discuss how to strike a happy medium to grow your business without breaking the bank.

There are a wide variety of opinions about how much of your overall budget should be spent on marketing.  I don’t like this approach, as I feel each business is different.  Rather than focusing on spending, say, 10-15% of your budget on marketing, a better question is: “where am I at with my business, and what are my immediate short and long-term goals?”  If the business is just starting out, and sales haven’t taken off yet, telling the new business owner to spend a thousand dollars on a direct mail or Facebook campaign might be like telling a bowler to run a marathon.  Furthermore, 15% of nothing isn’t going to be very effective.

On the flip side, a major corporation with a good reputation may find that they can accomplish their goals with a budget of much less than 10% of revenue.

The key to being effective lies in expanding your sphere of influence from where you are now to a higher level.  This new sphere of influence should be a definite, achievable goal.  Don’t count on “going viral” (but be ready in case it happens) to achieve success.  Focus on steady, demonstrable growth.  If the windfall comes, great.  If not, know you are on the path to success.  Your sphere of influence depends on how much attention you command from others.  In business, the best kind of attention to get is a reputation as an expert.  How much attention you command depends on establishing communication lines with as many people as possible.

The goal of marketing, then, is get people’s attention in order to extend your communication lines wider and wider; while simultaneously portraying yourself as valuable.

To extend your communication lines in an ever-widening sphere, one looks at how big the sphere currently is.  If you are new or small, your sphere of communication may be only 20 people.  Your first goal may be to build that sphere of communication to 100.  Thus, your marketing strategy should to geared at establishing good contact with 100 people.  Keep in mind, you may have to actually contact 500 or 1000 people to get 100 that will actively be interested in you or your business to remain in good communication and/or buy anything from you or otherwise refer others to you.  This can be done inexpensively, using email, social media (Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin especially), writing blogs, distributing business cards; even walking around with informational flyers works. A technique I like is “mutual benefit” marketing; I buy from you, or advertise and refer people to you, and in turn, you buy and refer people to me.  Social media is a great tool for this (think of the Barney song, “I Like you [on Facebook], you Like me…”).

In your early marketing efforts, pay attention to what messages and media are effective.  If offering discounts doesn’t work, maybe branding your business or product as the hip thing does.  Ask your potential clients and existing customers what motivates them to buy a product or service.  To avoid sounding like an obvious sales pitch, I ask what purchases they’ve made recently.  For example, I sell print marketing and office products.  At a trade show, I ask what equipment they’ve bought recently, or who they’ve hired recently.  If they haven’t, I ask if business is down and get their opinions.  If they have, I asked what made them choose that model or person.

I may not be able to sell him a new car, but I CAN find out that he bought the Porche because it makes him appear successful.  After talking with 10-15 people at a mixer, I find that all of them like to look successful.  Guess what message will be in my next email blast or flyer?

The specific tools you use depends on your business also.  My company, Accurate Forms & Supplies, is primarily a business to business (B2B) enterprise.  Therefore, I’m not going to go to Walmart and put my business card on people’s windshields.  First of all, it’s annoying and not an effective way to get your name out there.  Second, my product line isn’t geared toward individual consumers; so even if it wasn’t annoying, most of the people seeing my card or flyer couldn’t purchase my products anyway.  I would want an informational flyer or ad that communicates to business owners.  Then, I would need to place the information where my target market will see it AND be interested enough to want more information.  Wall Street Journal, talk radio, etc. are where I’ll be looking to get my message.

As your business grows, your marketing should grow also.  Once your communication lines grow to 100, 200 etc., your marketing should grow to attempt to target hundreds or even thousands of potential customers and referral partners.  Here, your looking at having a professional website, backing with automated email autoresponders, email newsletters, and advertising.  A key point here is, do what was successful to get you to this point.  If business cards and social mixers didn’t produce results, but Facebook advertising did, expand your Facebook advertising and drop the unsuccessful actions.  Use the tools and messages that worked in the past, rather than holding onto unsuccessful actions.

Notice I didn’t necessarily say, “spend a lot more money.”  If I got started by just printing flyers and handing them to people and that worked well, I just expand it.  I could hire 2-3 guys and have them pass out the flyers for me.  Or, I could hire a company that passes out flyers for me.  I can call Jim and have him print thousands of the flyers in color for less money than it costs me to print them myself (OK, shameless plug).  The same action that cost me $50-100 and my personal time could reach 20x more people, while the cost of the new scale only increases 2-3x.

To conclude, marketing should be geared toward 2 things: 1) expand your communication lines and promote your business on a gradient scale; and 2) correctly target and reach your potential customers with a message that will make them either want to buy or be curious enough to follow up and seek more information.

Stay tuned for more detailed information on how to utilize the techniques mentioned in this article.

Pitfalls of a truly “paperless” office

The digital age was supposed to completely eliminate our need for paper, resulting in a complete reforestation of the Earth, empty landfills and a Golden Age for mankind (OK, I may be exaggerating a bit there).  However, some 15-20 years later, copy paper, Post-it notes and business cards remain fixtures in virtually every office.  Why hasn’t this vision of a truly paperless office become a reality?

One may just as well ask, why don’t we have flying cars?  The parallel here is that they both seem like great ideas in theory, but fall short in practice.  If some moron zips across 5 lanes of oncoming traffic, while updating their Facebook status to avoid having to circle back for that tasty cheeseburger or designer handbag on sale on the highway, chaos ensues.  When they can do that in a flying car 1000 feet off the ground, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “the sky is falling”.

In a truly paperless office, the business cards, Postits, and stacks of forms are replaced by emails, instant messaging and computer desktops filled with so many icons, it begins to resemble a Monet painting.

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(Monet’s Garden at Giverny)                                                              (a very cluttered desktop)

The happy medium, of course, is a hybrid of the two.  While eliminating the clutter of stacks of paper does sound appealing (my desk is made of wood?), email and electronic documents are not an end-all answer either.

Email is great for the quick notes.  “Did you get my request for information?”  “How is that project coming along?”  “Do you have pricing yet on that job?”  These are all best done through email.  For some, such quick-hit messages are being done through texting or instant messaging (IM for those who actually use it).  My texting speed on my phone is about 5% as fast as the average teenager, but I do use texting.  If you had to use Postit notes for every note, the office would quickly look like a pink and lime green blizzard recently rolled through.

When I want to go into greater depth, such as this article, I usually create a Word document, or if the information is general in nature, I create a blog like this one.  I then copy a link to the article and email everyone I want to read it.  I also post links to Facebook and Linkedin when appropriate.

That is the true advantage of electronic media: being able to reach lots of people at once.  Imagine trying to write, “mandatory meeting at 10am Friday,” and physically copying that message 15 times, then walking to each person’s desk and handing it to them.  Or, I type that message once, copy in all of the people I want to invite (or even better, creating a contact list and typing the name of the list), click Send and I’m done.  Email marketing and online marketing are great tools for advertising specials, giving advice and showcasing new products to a mass audience.

Paper, in my opinion, is better for individual communications.  If I want Susan in marketing to see a promotion, rather than the entire marketing department, I create a flyer, then print it out and give the physical copy to her.  Paper is also better for long documents that require extensive time to read.  I find that my eyes start to hurt after reading something for more that a few minutes on a computer screen.  This is not so much of a problem with paper.

Ironically, as more and more communications move from paper to electronic formats, paper becomes more valuable as a medium.  Back when email and electronic media were new, they were effective because they weren’t amid a pile of papers on a desk.  Now, as email and other electronic communications are more and more ubiquitous (wide spread), paper gets noticed.  If I get to my office and a have 20 emails and only 4 sheets of paper, I tend to look at the papers first.  Psychologically, I feel more productive that way.  I think, “I’ve got 2 tasks: one will take an hour, one will take 5 minutes.  I’ll do the 5 minute task first.”  Another factor is, paper seems a bit more personal, because it’s tangible.  I can feel it.  It has mass.  Whereas an email can be deleted and forgotten, a flyer, postcard or business card can stick around.  It winds up in a rolodex, drawer or filing cabinet.  If it was a message or advertisement, the chances are it will get read more than once.  Also, people tend to be nosey.  They look over at what’s on their neighbor’s desk and glance at what’s there.

A paperless office may or may not ever become a total reality.  Both paper and electronic media have their place in today’s world.  If you use them correctly, you can stay organized, focused and remain successful and balanced.

Regards,

Jim

Don’t forget to visit me on the following sites:

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How to Multiply your success by 10 or more

When I was working in the food service industry, I was continually shocked at how many restauranteurs assumed that if they opened their doors, cooked good food and kept the place free of vermin, people would beat down their doors.  I was not so shocked that over half of new restaurants go out of business within 2 years of opening, and that number swells to about 90% within the first 5 years.

As a salesman, I often struggled to get ahead, as I was tied to a limited territory, and relied on cold calls and referrals to get new business.  What I lacked was Marketing.  As I’ve moved into the field of office supplies and custom printing, I’ve found that the successful players in the field, in EVERY field, have mastered the art of marketing; to one degree or another.

Marketing accomplishes a few key things for any business:

  1. It creates brand recognition.  People buy from people and companies they either know from past experience, or have heard of or seen before.  Marketing helps get the name of your business out there, either visually or aurally (by sound).
  2. It warms up prospects (slightly) to sales calls by you or your sales team.  If they’ve seen an ad piece in print, on TV or on the radio, they are more likely to field a call than a completely blind cold call.
  3. It keeps your name in front of prospects.  Often, a customer won’t buy from a cold call for various reasons: they don’t need your product or service at that time, they have a good relationship with a current vendor or business, or maybe they need to get the money or financing together.  These factors can change.  If all your prospect has is your business card mixed in a pile of other papers in the bottom of a drawer, what are the odds of them calling you first?  But if they have 3-4 emails with excellent content, a postcard mailer or two, and a few promotional products with your name and contact info, your chances of getting a call back increases exponentially.

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In this newsletter, I’m going to share some tips to help your business increase its marketing efforts, without creating a crater in your P&L statement.

Informational flyers and stationery

When making a call, instead of simply leaving a business card, leave something tangible.  A simple informational letter would be OK to start, but I recommend something that catches the eye.  Photos, color logos and color designs are more likely to grab attention than plain text.  For example:

Image This photo illustrates some of the frustrations that our customers have when trying to design a custom form for their business.  Instead of simply writing a list of benefits, including something to the effect of “we help you sort through the confusion of designing your custom business forms,” I included a picture that shows that frustration.

Full color postcards are great tools, as they are versatile.  If you have a mailing list, you can send a postcard to promote an upcoming special or new item.  Again, use graphics that are not only colorful, but evoke an image.  Do you think it’s an accident that burger ads look so tasty?  If you don’t have a mailing list, or want to give your sales team some to hand to their prospects or customers, postcards work great. They typically cost less than $.05 each, and they give you a lot more room for pictures, descriptions and other useful information than a business card.

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Flyers work well when the decision maker is not in, or is tied up.  Rather than bugging them by demanding to speak with them, a professional flyer that details some key benefits of doing business with your company, along with your name and contact information can be much more successful.  Follow up is made easier, as there is an established reason for the call, namely, did the person get my information?

Business Referral Cards

Business cards are one of the most underutilized forms of marketing.  A twist on the business card is the business referral card.  The difference is you use the back of the card to offer referrals to your existing customers.  Have a few lines where they can write their name and email address on the back.  Then give them the card, so that they can give it to their friends.  Offer them a commission on all referrals that are received.  Additionally, you may want to offer a discount for the recipient to entice them to come in.

Instead of money, you can offer the people giving out the cards discounts on products.  This tool combines referrals and word-of-mouth with incentive-based marketing.  Restaurants love this tool, because it is more effective and cost effective than coupons.

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In the next issue, we will be exploring online marketing in a bit more detail.  Meanwhile, check out our website for more information about us or our product lines:

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Also, please Like us on Facebook.  We often post exclusive information and specials for our fans.

Have a great June everyone!

Regards,

Jim Kurtz

Accurate Forms & Supplies

(817) 498-4840

(800) 777-0072

www.accuratesupplies.com