I decided it would be fun to interview 10 of the smartest marketing gurus I know, including 7 multi-millionaires, about the best ways to increase customer and cash flow for just about any business.
What I got were a variety of fresh, innovative ideas — and once you read them, you will know that they came from a group of folks who have already made it big in businesses of their own.
The following are the “15 Best” ideas for super charging your business, no matter what kind of business you are in.
- “Same-Old” is out — Getting attention with something new is in. To get new business, you must strive to be innovative and dramatic. For example, an insurance agency, offered “the biggest steak dinner in town” if it couldn’t save any person money on their car insurance. This challenge was enough to make the telephone start ringing off the hook for days at a time. The customer flow was “absolutely crazy” for days. The bottom line: dozens of new insurance buyers and tons of new cash flow — and all they had to do was fork out the cost for a half dozen steak dinners!
- Tight target marketing. The big job in marketing and sales is getting to the right people inside another company. Addressing mail to “Facilities Manager” or printing a “routing slip” on the outside of the envelope is ineffective. Hitting the target is the challenge. Scoring a bull’s eye means making contact with the right individuals and is the only way to make the sale. Taking time to be highly targeted in business communication is essential.
- Be more creative. Pushing direct-mail pieces out the door or sending the newsletter to the mail room isn’t doing the job. Ask yourself: “Will anyone be intrigued enough to read the mailer–before tossing it in the wastebasket?” Ask the same question about the company newsletter. A highly creative approach is necessary to be different and distinctive. Creativity costs money. But, if more people read the ad, take time with the newsletter or decide that the offer in a mailer makes sense, you have accomplished the goal.
- Focus on what customers care about. After listening to the admissions director talk about what should be shown in the school’s new recruiting video, the marketing consultant asked, “Is this what parents and prospective students are interested in knowing?” Suddenly, everyone became less confident. Someone suggested asking the student tour guides what questions the visiting parents and kids asked? Whether creating an ad, a brochure, or a sales presentation, knowing what the customer wants, needs and expects is what works.
- Tell customers how to think about your company. We come to conclusions by making comparisons. If you don’t let customers and prospects know why it is in their best interests to do business with you or buy your product, they won’t. The rating of life insurance companies makes an impact on customers. The J.D. Powers’ customer-satisfaction survey on cars and personal computer manufacturers influences buying behavior. Wise companies spend time and effort consciously influencing the way they are perceived by customers, prospects, bankers and stockholders.
- Make your offers outstanding. Customers are cautious. They don’t like being put on the spot; they don’t want to make a mistake. This is why offers are essential. “Try it for 30 days…free.” “We won’t deposit your credit card slip for a month.” “Your satisfaction is guaranteed.” “Take the car for the weekend and drive it all you want.” The goal is to overcome the customer’s reluctance.
- Be in the right place at the right time. “Why didn’t I think of you last week when we bought the new…” Some salespeople simply shrug off such comments. Oh, well. I can’t be in the right place every time.” Wrong. Being in front of the customer is today’s assignment. Developing a consistent program for staying in front of customers regularly is the challenge. A mix of seminars, newsletters, bulletins, fact sheets, special events and informative articles will keep you in the customers’ minds. Ponder these tips for a week, and next week I’ll give you the remaining 8. Your business should shine after that!
- Name your product or service. One of the best ways to differentiate your products or services from all the rest is to give them distinctive names. A building contractor with expertise in remodeling during off-hours calls himself the “stealth” remodeler. A fuel oil dealer doesn’t talk about service–he emphasizes “ComfortCare Service.” The idea is to imbue ordinary ideas with new meaning thereby separating your com-pany from your competitors. Make sure, however, that the name appeals to your customers and not just to you.
- Be relentless. Persistence is power in marketing and sales. Far too many firms fail in their efforts because they don’t follow through long enough to produce proper results. Marketing momentum comes from a consistent effort. Once you start a newsletter, issue it on schedule. It takes time for customers to comprehend what you are doing and for prospects to get acquainted–and comfortable–with a business.
- Get rid of the self-serving nonsense. Most company publications, ads, letters, brochures, and other sales materials are filled with words, photographs and information that do nothing more than toot the company’s horn. No one cares that the business says it is the “best,” “oldest” or the “biggest.” Pictures of the staff are only interesting to the staff. A better approach is to ask prospects what they want to know about your company. We doubt anyone will be anxious to see pictures of the CEO, chairman of the board or the executive vice president.
- Tell them everything you know. Spill the beans, so to speak. Since today’s customers want information, knowledge and helpful ideas, do everything you can to share everything you know. This is the only way to become a valued resource to your customers. When people use your ideas, they will buy what you sell.
- Be generous. No one wants to do business with firms operating on a one-way street. Buy a new car and the dealer hands you a 20-cent plastic key holder! It sends a message that this dealer doesn’t under-stand his customers. You may forget the car, but you will never forget the lousy key ring! Another auto dealer delivers the new car to your office. What a difference. This dealer sends a powerful message–our customers are important.
- Make prospect identification your mission. The single most important daily activity in any business is prospect identification. By making prospecting a continuing process, companies produce a steady flow of new sales leads. They never stop asking, “Who do we want to do business with if we have the chance?” Then make sure all prospects are entered into a database so they can be cultivated over a period of time.
- Scrutinize your corporate identity. Yes, how a company presents itself makes a difference. Is the logo appropriate? Is it dated? Does it communicate the right message and the correct image? Is the president the only one who understands it? What about the company colors? Are they reminiscent of the late ’50s? Do the letterhead, mailing labels and business cards convey a strong, positive message? Or, are they dull and ordinary looking? If you don’t think this is important, your competitors will be thrilled. Corporate identity is the face you put on your company.
- Write customer-centered letters. Most business letters have cold, impersonal words. “As per our conversation…” “Pursuant to our agreement…” When was the last time you heard anyone talk this way at lunch (other than perhaps a lawyer)? Yet, give the same executives a pen and they become stilted. There is no reason why business letters should not be warm, friendly, conversational, interesting–and customer-centered. Write as if you were the one reading it. Should a letter end at the bottom of the first page? Yes, if that’s what it takes to tell the story? But it may take two, four or six pages. A letter should be as long as necessary and always interesting to the reader.