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Small Business Revitalization Blog

Small Business Coaching: Revive Your Profits, Revitalise Your Perspectives, Reinvigorate Your People

Marketing Mistakes to Avoid… Why Your Personal Brand is Mission Critical!

Imagine this… you are new in town and attending a networking event.  There are plenty of service providers there and you are looking for a day spa you can visit regularly. You meet a hairdresser/beautician who wears no makeup, promotes tanning but is pale as snow and has ratty looking hair…would you use them?

Most of you are already laughing – you are probably thinking ‘stupid question’!  It sounds stupid, but it is a reality for many service providers – who they are does not reflect the products or services they are promoting…  If you are going to promote yourself as a success coach then you must be vibrant and full of life first.  If you are a strategist, then demonstrate your expertise in your conversations.  If you are an image consultant then lose the bright green eyeshadow and frumpy clothes!

When your personal brand is incongruent with your stated business image, your potential clients experience confusion.  They don’t know what to believe… and research tells us that people believe what they see before they believe what you tell them.  Everything about your personal brand needs to reflect your business brand if you are the one representing your business in public!!

As a small business coach, I encourage my clients to look at their personal brand Here’s 5 (hard) questions to ask – if you want an honest opinion, ask for feedback from others who are willing to tell you what they really see:

1.    Does my branding (logo, business cards etc) reflect my product and services accurately?
2.    Am I dressed and groomed appropriately to represent my business?
3.    Do my written communications demonstrate my expertise?
4.    If I met me for the first time, would I have confidence in me?
5.    How else can I add value to my brand to make it even more distinctive and personal?

Reinventing your brand can reinvent your business.  The devil is definitely in the detail!!

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3 Ways to Ensure Networking Delivers More Profits!

Many small business owners ignore the marketing strategy of networking because they don’t see obvious results on the bottom line, or they feel they are just too busy to invest the time that networking requires. 

Here’s 3 quick tips on how to leverage your networking investment and maximize the results: 
1.    Define your networking objectives clearly.
‘Getting some leads’ is not a clear objective.  Consider the following instead:
•    Make contact with at least three people who want to know more about what I do
•    Meet someone who can ……….(fill in the gap – what do you need to make your business work better right now?)
•    Find at least two opportunities for joint ventures or promotional partnerships…
Now that you know exactly ‘who’ you are looking for, networking is going to start working for you!!

2.    Follow up!!!
By this I do not mean collect as many cards as you can and add them to your database without asking!!!  Be strategic in your follow-ups:
•    Write notes on the back of the person’s business card if you need to follow up in any way.  Do what you promised within 48 hours.
•    Set up an automated process on your website where you can enter their details into your database – BUT you give them the choice to opt-in!  I actually share an example ezine with my prospects to entice them to sign-up.
•    Be willing to explore.  I often have coffee with people I’ve met just to explore what the possible opportunities are – a quick brainstorm can lead to outstanding profit generating projects!

3.    Measure your networking returns
If you don’t know what you get out of networking events, it’s time to start measuring the return on your marketing investment for each event that you attend.  
•    Set up a simple spreadsheet that notes investment of both time and money, the follow-ups and the outcomes.
•    Measure the returns on any joint promotions that you undertake.
•    Measure the referrals you receive from people you have met networking.

Networking will work for you, when you start working it!  I always go to events with the approach of ‘how can I help you get what you need?”  Give first and you will always receive!

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Social Media is Buzzing for Small Business

Everywhere I look at the moment there is buzz around using social media as a marketing tool!  Twitter and Facebook are constantly in the news and the growth of 'how to' information is almost overwhelming.  It was refreshing to come across some great social media statistics today that shed some light on what's really happening out there! Over 800 businesses were surveyed by Michael A Stelzner from the Social Media Marketing Industry Report and the tangible results being achieved were very encouraging, especially as using social media is free (except for your time investment):

  • Generated exposure for my business (81%)
  •  Increased my traffic, subscribers or opt-in list (61%)
  • Resulted in new business partnerships (56%)
  • Helped us rise in the search rankings (52%)
  • Generated qualified leads (48%)
  • Reduced overall marketing expenses (45%)
  • Helped me close business (35%)
So what is your social media strategy?  If you don't have one, now is the time to start!  Email me if you'd like my free 'Get Started on Twitter' guide! Of course, for Revive Coaching clients, there will be a much more comprehensive guide coming your way soon!

Just for the record, after being on Twitter for less than two weeks, I received my first prospective client enquiry!  How does it get any better than that?

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Want to achieve more? Get your objectives clear!

marketing objectives, targets, goals; how to set a marketing budget
I come from a family packed full of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Just lately I've been to quite a few family functions and have been loving talking to people about their various businesses. 

What's interesting is how often people expect a simple perfect answer when they haven't actually told me what they really want to achieve!  To be successful in any area of your business decision-making, you need to start with your objectives and goals!
For example, I am commonly asked about how to set a marketing budget: "Do you set the marketing budget as a percentage of sales or are there better options?"  My usual response is "It depends, what are you trying to achieve?" 

There are some broad rules of thumb around percentage of turnover for most industries, but if you really want to set a marketing budget that is appropriate for your business you need to ask yourself the following:
  • What are the specific business objectives that my marketing budget is supporting?
  • What marketing strategies do I need to use to achieve these business objectives effectively?
  • How much will effective implementation of these marketing strategies cost?
  • Are there other hidden costs involved?  (e.g. lots of time or resources, or compromises on gross profit if pricing strategies are a part of the solution?)
  • Can my business afford this marketing strategy?  If not, what are my alternatives?
When you ask questions like these, you are setting your marketing budget strategically, rather than operationally.  You are seeing this budget as an investment which will bring a return to your business... just make sure you measure the results of your efforts so that you know exactly which 20% of your marketing budget is creating the 80% of the results!!!

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Pricing strategies: 5 alternatives to discounting…

Want to stop discounting?  Start implementing these strategies...

    1. Differentiate your products by promoting benefits rather than features.
    2. Add value eg put together a package deal which gives you a higher average dollar sale, but offers value to your customers.
    3. Decrease the value given if you need to decrease the price (ie don’t discount your services, offer the client less) – otherwise you’ll become known for discounting and your clients will continue to ask, even when the recession is over!
    4. Using guarantees or other approaches which take the risk out of the purchase for the buyer.
    5. Offer a free gift with purchase (low cost to you, high value to your customer). 
What is your biggest challenge around pricing as a small business owner? Share it in the comments section below. If you need to share more than just a comment, call the Revitalization Experts!

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How to maximize your pricing strategies in a downturn…

Recession pricing can be quite challenging when all about you are losing their head and discounting like crazy.  Want to avoid discounting?  Think on this…

Pricing is the most common element to be adjusted in the marketing mix during recessions. Why? Because on the surface the price is what potential customers are responding to. However, research into consumer behavior trends has shown that changing other areas of the marketing mix (ie product, promotion or placement/distribution) can be much more effective!

Your pricing strategy impacts your long-term positioning and image. Becoming known as a discounter during the recession does not position you for a strong come-back when the economy starts to recover. Here’s three things to try instead of discounting your prices:

1. Understand your client! If a client asks for a discount, delve deep into what they are really trying to achieve. Instead of offering a flat discount, you could add additional value for the same price, decrease the product/service offer to more closely meet their needs (ie align your offer with their preferred price). Alternatively use a differentiation strategy: if you are the expert and they really need you – stand firm on your pricing. As Warren Buffett remarked:  "Price is what you pay, value is what you get." Know the difference and communicate it to your clients once you know what they really want from you!!

2. Innovate… If you only offer a ‘first class’ price, introduce a business class and economy class version of your service or product. Do whatever it takes to get prospects on side and the money in your pocket instead of your competitors. Sometimes, instead of upselling, you may need to ‘downsell’ to get the sale. Remember, all value is relative! Create value at multiple levels – redesign your offer to suit the market’s current needs. (I’ve just done this – very soon you’ll be able to purchase business coaching in one-off 15 minute packages – much more affordable but still with the same high quality!!)

3. Avoid profit wars. Getting into a bidding war with a competitor is a sure-fire way to lose your business if it happens regularly. Put a limit on how many times you will re-quote. Put a value on whether business with little or no margin is of any benefit to you in reality (mostly it’s not). Be willing to say no! This is tough to do in tough times, but unprofitable business deals will drive you out of business faster than a lack of business will – never make a loss upfront unless you have a strong backend or strategy for achieving repeat sales at a profit!

What is your biggest challenge around pricing? Share it in the comments section below. If you need to discuss more than just a comment, call the Revitalization Experts for help!

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Do your pricing strategies maximize your profits?

Maybe you’ve never considered how your pricing strategies can maximize your profits.  This is the first of a series of blog posts on using pricing strategically to maximize your marketing results. 

So, we’ll start with some basics – here’s seven pricing options you can consider when initially setting your prices.

 1. Competitive pricing – where you study competitors pricing and align your pricing around your competitors price, depending on how you position your products and services.

2. Cost plus mark-up – Instead of considering competitive pricing, review your own cost structures – if you are more efficient than a competitor you may be able to price lower and offer products of similar quality, or you may be able to enjoy higher profit margins! Be careful to ensure that your pricing is in line with customer expectations or you may not find yourself in a competitive position.

3. Loss Leader – a common marketing strategy where a desirable item is sold at or below cost to attract new / more customers. Combine with an up-selling or cross-selling strategy to achieve profits short term.

4. Overstock pricing – Excess inventory can be sold at a strong discount to avoid storing or discarding it. Useful when you need to minimize losses. Inventory management is a higher priority than profit if you are using this strategy. Overstocks can also be used as a loss leader.

5. Bundling and quantity discounts - Reward customers for bulk purchases by offering quantity discounts or bundling complementary products. Bundle overstocks with popular items to avoid overstock sales. Bundle a new product with established products to build awareness. This is a great value-add strategy.

6. Membership, loyalty programs or trade discounting – Knowing what an A+ customer looks like for your business can help you segment and attract business from profitable customer segments by offering special prices. You can use selective discounting, percentage off savings or other rewards to keep these clients loyal.

7. Versioning – This strategy is very useful for services and technical products. The same basic product or service is sold in a number of versions. This is where you see free trials or basic versions available very cheaply. Consider adding upgrades, additional services or risk management type products (eg warranties, insurance etc) to your base product.

There are many more pricing options to consider, however these are good basics to consider when deciding how to price your products and services. Next post we’ll consider how to maximize pricing during a recession.

What is your biggest challenge around pricing as a small business owner? Share it in the comments section below. If you need to share more than just a comment, call the Revitalization Experts!

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