Archive for Small Business Marketing

Elements of a Successful Sales Meeting

money in hourglass

One of our major goals (if not the major goal) is to generate sales conversations. Depending on your business, that conversation may take place in person, on the phone, web meeting, or email. No matter what the medium, if you sales calls are not effective, your marketing budget will be wasted.

Every once in a while you run into a prospect who makes the sales conversation easy for you. In my experience, these folks tend to be highly trained sales people or business owners. I recently met such a person; she sent me one of the best pre-meeting emails I’ve ever received. I’ve included most of it below (I’ve changed a few minor details) and I’ll follow it up with some comments about why I thought it was such a good message.

“…Just to review what my goal is for the meeting, I would like to learn more about the services you provide and how much your services cost.  I am not sure if I can get the bank to pay for the fees but that is my first choice.  As far as budget I don’t really have one at this point so I wanted to let you know that upfront.  I don’t know that I can make a final yes or no decision from our meeting but I will be honest with you about that.

The other thing I would like to learn more about it how I can be a referral source for you.  I would like to know the types of clients you are looking for, size, budget, etc.

Thanks Bill, I am looking forward to meeting with you on Thursday, please let me know if you have any other questions or need any other information prior to our meeting on Thursday.  Thank you. – Robin”

Lessons from this message:

She let me know what she wants to accomplish. Not only did she tell me she wanted to learn about my services, she also wants to talk about being referral partners. These are two very different types of conversations and I often seem them being confused when professional service providers get together to “learn more about one another”. We should all identify our goals and agenda before starting a meeting.

She told me up front what her challenges will be. I appreciate this because it helps me prepare some options ahead of time for moving forward. We should always be listening and asking about challenges and obstacles during our calls, Robin just made it easier for me to help address those challenges by putting them on the agenda.

I know she probably won’t make a decision during this meeting, so I can know that in order to leave the meeting with a clear future we will need to discuss what our next steps should be.

Robin also asked if I needed to give her home work. In this case I didn’t, but asking a prospect to do some preparation or provide information before you meet is a great way to insure a productive meeting.

After reading this email, I was actually looking forward to having the meeting! I can promise you I don’t think or say that very often.

I’m sure there are additional lessons to be learned here. Leave a comment and tell me what you learned that I forgot to list.


ICON 14 conference

Infusioncon, Infusiosoft’s annual conference, is not just for infusion soft users anymore.

#ICON14 is being billed as the ultimate sales and marketing event for small business success. The conference consists of three days of education with over 30 speakers, six tracks of breakout sessions, and plenty of networking opportunities. There is also a pre-conference campaign builder boot camp.

The folks at Infusionsoft have put together an impressive lineup of speakers including some of the most influential small business leaders. Speakers include best selling author Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog)  MSNBC’s host of Your Business, JJ Ramberg  (@jjramberg), Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) and Peter Shankman (@petershankman).

The conference sessions include two categories, each with three tracks inside of that category. The Infusionsoft Breakout Tracks include the Infusionsoft Basic Track, the Infusionsoft Advanced Track, and Infusionsoft Stories Track. The Small Business Education tracks include the Big Ideas track, Lifecycle Marketing track, and the Developer track.

The pre-conference campaign builder boot camp is a three hour session were Infusionsoft users, with help from experts, will import a campaign from the marketplace, customize it to fit their business, and launch. The bootcamp takes place on Tuesday, April 22, the day before the conference starts. The cost of the boot camp is $395.

The conference will be held at the Phoenix convention Center located in downtown urban Phoenix. Discounted hotel rates are available for both the Sheraton downtown Phoenix and the Hyatt Regency. The cost of the conference is $499 if you register before February 7, 2014 the price goes up to $599 after that until March 31, 2014 and after that you have to pay the full conference rate of $625. Those rates included daily continental breakfast as well as a catered lunch.

For more information about the conference visit the conference website. I’ve been given a coupon code that’ll save you 10% off the price of your tickets, just enter brelsford10 as your promo code during checkout.


Small Business Owner as Artist

artist painting

Are you an artist?

My guess is most people who read this blog don’t consider themselves artists. I think you are an artist, here’s why.

Last weekend I was listening to an online workshop conducted by photographer Joel Grimes. The topic of the workshop was Creative Expression in Photography. In laying the groundwork for his talk, Joel made the following statement:

“If you have a passion to create, you are an artist.”

By that definition, almost every small business owner that I meet is an artist. I say “almost” because once in a while I run across someone who just gave themselves another job. But the majority of owners I meet, and the ones I love to work with, have that passion to create. They may be creating as part of their job, or their job may provide the means for pursuing their passion – either way, their business is more than just a job.

I’ve heard others talk about looking at your work as art. Seth Godin talks about this a lot. According to Seth:

“Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work.”

In the past, I’ve always just sort of nodded and said to myself ‘I get it”, but it never really struck a chord with me. For some reason, when I heard Joel say it, it did strike a chord. It wasn’t just his definition, but his thoughts about how adopting the mindset that you are an artist affects your outlook of what you do and how you do it.

For example, one of the concepts Joel discussed was the concept of building a body of work. He explained that if an artist wants to be know for something, they need to build a body of work around that subject.

Building a body of work takes time. You get an idea, you try it out. You step back and evaluate it. You determine what worked and what didn’t. You figure out how to make it better next time. And then you start again.

A photographer may want to build a body of work consisting of 20 photographs. Photographers only want to show their best work, so they don’t just go out and take 20 snapshots and call it a day. How many photos do you think they take before they have twenty they want to show?A hundred? A thousand? I don’t know the answer, but I know it’s a heck of a lot more than 20.

It’s the same for business owners. We don’t create the perfect product or solution on the first try. We also try new ideas, evaluate our results, and work on improving. Creating a body of work around a specific type of solution for a specific type of customer takes work – we can’t just do it once and call ourselves specialists.

How we go about building our body of work also influences our happiness and success. Would you create 20 photographs that were all the same? Or take 20 “easy ones” in order to be done as quickly as possible? Or would you take more time, work on the difficult shots, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone in order to learn and grow?

Another lesson I took from the workshop is that defining yourself by your tools (or title) can limit you. Joel explained how changing his self view from photographer to artist helped him break free of the constraints of what was “technically correct” and create art that he enjoys making and his audience not only likes, but are willing to purchase at a premium price.

Have you ever limited yourself or your customer because “that’s just the way things are done in our industry”? If so, take another look, filling this type of unmet need may be the key to taking your business to the next level.

So why is any of this important for small business?

Viewing your work as art is one way to connect your passion to your daily activities. Many others much wiser than me have written about the connection of a larger purpose to your daily work as a key to success. The key is to actually implement it and I think Joel’s ideas on viewing yourself as an artist can help.

As you plan for the coming year, take some time to answer these questions:

  • How would your business be different if you looked at yourself as an artist?
  • What is your current body of work? How do you feel about it, does it represent your best work?
  • What will be your next body of work?
    • Will you chose it deliberately or by default?
    • Will it help you grow in your art?
    • Will you keep taking the same types of photos, or will you branch out and try something new?

What do you think? Can you see yourself building a body of work the way an artist does in 2014?

Creating a Content Marketing Strategy Map

Business Charts

One of the primary goals of your small business marketing system is to deliver the right information, to the right person, at the right time.

In order to achieve this goal,  you need to know who your buyers are, where they are in their buying process, and what they need to see or hear in order for them to feel comfortable moving to the next step in their buying process.

Using this basic information (who, what, when), you can map out a content marketing strategy that will help you attract your ideal customers and increase your sales.

The Right Person – the first step is to identify who the players are in your ideal customers buying process. Whether you call them buyer personas, profiles, or some other name, step one is to identify who they are. Depending upon what you sell and the companies you sell to, your list of players may include:

  • Initiators
  • Researchers
  • Influencers
  • Decision Maker
  • End Users

For each of these roles you will want to consider what information they need in each stage of the buying process.

The Right Time – in order to deliver marketing content at the right time, we have to understand our ideal customers’ buying process. Just as we have a process for selling, prospects have a process they go through when making a purchase. It is important that you understand the stages your customers go through in their buying process, but for this post, let’s define our stages as Early, Middle, and Late.

In the Early stage of their buying process, your prospects may have not fully defined the problem they need to solve. They may have a vague idea of the possible solutions available. Buyers in the early stages of buying often express that “they don’t know what they don’t know”. They spend a lot of time gathering information and circling back to ask better questions as their knowledge increases.

Prospects in the Middle stage of their buying process have a general understanding of how you can help them solve their problem. They are also researching other vendors and trying to narrow the field in order to make their final decision easier.

In the Late stage of the buying process, each player is looking to make sure that their specific needs are being met before the sale is closed. Some key players (i.e. decision maker) may just be entering into the discussion during this stage.

The Right Information – once you understand who your audience is and how they go about making purchasing decisions, you can work on creating the informational content they need to see or hear in order to move from one stage to the next.

There are several ways you can package your information content at each stage. While you will want to choose the formats that your customers prefer, here are some typical content formats that marketers have used in each of the buying stages:

  • Early – Problem Domain Blog Posts and Industry Studies
  • Middle – Product and service specific Blog posts, demonstration videos, case studies
  • Late – Testimonials, reviews, ROI calculators, buyers guides

Once you have your content marketing strategy map, you’ll spend less time trying to figure out what content you need to create and spend more time having sales conversations and closing deals.

How to Get More Business From Fewer Leads

people in funnel

Most small business owners and salespeople that I work with are pretty good at closing the deal once they get in front of the right people. What they struggle with is getting in front of enough of the “right people”.

In marketingspeak, we refer to the process of attracting the right people as lead generation. When most people think of lead generation (or leads), they naturally picture a sales funnel – that diagram that seems to show how if you just pour more people into the top of the funnel, more customers will trickle out of the bottom. This viewing of marketing as just a numbers game leads to a lot of frustration and wasted marketing budgets.

People Not Leads

It is important to remember that we don’t want leads. What we really want are customers, people who buy from us regularly. And we don’t want just any customers; we want profitable customers. Profitable customers who refer us to other profitable customers like them.

Borrowing from Stephen Covey, we need to start with our Ideal Customer in Mind. We need to take the time to understand which customers we are best able to serve. Who are the customers who appreciate the value we bring to the table? Which types of projects are your most profitable? Which ones suck the life out of you and your staff? If you are having trouble defining your ideal customer, start with this question – who do you not want to work with?

Understand Their Buying Process

Once you can identify what your ideal customers look like, you can begin to research their buying process – the stages they go through when making a purchasing decision and the information they need to move from one stage in their process to the next.

Once you understand how your ideal customer makes purchasing decisions you can begin to examine your existing marketing content to make sure that you have content that educates and builds trust for each stage in their buying process. By having relevant content in each stage, you increase your chances of attracting ideal customers no matter which stage they are in. You also increase your chances that they will stay with you as they continue along the process until they are ready to make their purchase.

Fewer Leads, More Conversions, Bigger Deals

Armed with a narrowly defined target audience and a thorough understanding of that audiences buying process, you are now ready to build effective lead generation campaigns. When you do, you will probably notice that the “marketing math” of the sales funnel gets turned on it’s head. It is very common for business with effective lead generation campaigns to see a decrease in the number of leads they receive. However, these leads are typically much more qualified leading to higher conversion rates and higher sales figures.

The next time you work on your lead generation system, remind yourself that leads are people and work to attract the type of people with whom you want to have a long term working relationship.

Mapping Your Sales & Marketing Processes

marketing hourglass

I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of having a marketing system before you try to automate it. This means taking the time to learn how your customers make their buying decisions and aligning our marketing efforts with the stages of their buying process.

In Duct Tape Marketing, we use the concept of the Marketing Hourglass to evaluate a marketing system, make sure we are aligned with the customer’s buying process, and make sure we have processes and tools to help potential customers move from one stage to the next. If you are not familiar with the Marketing Hourglass, here is a quick summary of the stages:

  1. Know
  2. Like
  3. Trust
  4. Try
  5. Buy
  6. Repeat
  7. Refer

Most buyers, particularly in the B2B world, go through these 7 stages – the part that varies is who is involved in each stage and the speed with which buyers move from one stage to another.

The Marketing Hourglass is a great tool to make sure we have marketing materials that address the needs of buyers at each stage of the hourglass. In addition to marketing materials, we also need some procedures in place to help guide buyers from one stage to the next. This is where marketing automation often comes into place – by helping to identify which stage a buyer is in and then deliver the appropriate information to them.

When mapping out the processes you want to automate, you may find it helpful to ask yourself (and you team) these questions:

  • When I do X, what do I want the buyer to do?
  • What happens next if they do (perform the action above)?
  • What happens next if they don’t?

Now, I realize we would love for our buyers to jump directly from Know to Buy, and occasionally it happens, but most of us need to do a little bit more work to land new business.

Beginning with the end in mind, marketers and salespeople in the B2B world typically want to get people to the Try stage. The Try stage often consists of free consultations, audits, reviews, assessments – offers that facilitate face-to-face meetings and help start sales conversations.

Using this example, we would first decide how we can get folks who fit our ideal customer profile to Know about us. Lets pretend you decide to conduct a targeted post card campaign. You can begin to map out your process by asking the questions above:

  • When I send the postcard, what to I want the prospect to do? If you follow our recommendations about direct response advertising, you will want them to call your office or visit your website in order to trade (additional) information about themselves for a special offer. You can then continue share information with them that will help move them to Like and subsequent stages.
  • If they take that action, you will need to follow up – typically by sending them the information they requested.
  • What happens if they don’t respond? Will you try again? How many times? Will you follow up the same way (postcard) or will you try something different (a phone call)?

Wash, rinse, and repeat until you have your process mapped out. Once you have your processes mapped out you will be in a better position to decide what collateral you need to develop, what tools you need to buy, what skills you need to learn or outsource, and which metrics to use to measure your success.

Two Ways to Get More Marketing Done

one and one equals three

One of the challenges that small business marketers face is balancing new projects (install a new CRM system) with the ongoing, day-to-day marketing activities (following up with the people you met at a networking event).

To balance these activities, along with all of the other hats that small business owners wear, we often talk about the idea of “living by a marketing calendar” – or creating the habit of scheduling appointments with yourself to work on your marketing system.

One way to make good use of your scheduled marketing time is to identify and create systems that will free yourself from the redundant, repeatable, daily tasks that every business must perform. By creating systems to handle these type of tasks you can free yourself to focus on the high value activities that will grow your business while maintaining your piece of mind that the “grunt work” is still getting done.

My two favorite weapons for getting more marketing done are marketing automation software and my virtual assistant. What works for me may not work for you when it comes to specific tools and solutions, but one thing I do believe is key this – you have to have a system before you can automate or delegate it.

Therefore, the first step is to map out your process(es). You can then use your map to determine what tools and resources you need to automate and/or delegate the different steps in that process.

Using the networking example from above, your process may look something like:

  • Decide whether to follow up with each contact
  • Enter information into your contact database
  • Classify them as a potential customer, a potential referral partner, or both
  • Contact them for a 1 on 1 meeting
  • Connect with them on LinkedIn
  • Add them to your “Gain Top of Mind” sequence or process
  • Add them to your “Maintain Top of Mind” sequence or process
  • etc

You process map can help you determine what needs to be done, when, and by whom. Some tasks, like sending and email reminder, can be fully automated. Other tasks may only be partially automated but require a personal interaction to complete – automating the scheduling of a follow up phone call on your calendar.

When working through a process map, I find it helpful to ask the following questions:

  • What action will I perform?
  • What do I want them to do in response?
  • What if they don’t?
  • If they do, what’s next?

One hint, if you try to do this for your entire marketing system in one sitting, you will become frustrated and overwhelmed. Start with one set of processes, turn it into a system, automate and/or delegate as many of the steps as possible and repeat.

Live by your marketing calendar and use that time to build systems in your business and soon you will find that 1+1 can be >=3.

photo credit – Hubspot

7 Marketing Metrics Every Small Business Should Track


When it comes to marketing your small business, how do you know how well you are doing?

One of the biggest challenges small business owners face when it comes to marketing is determining what’s working, what’s not, and what to do about it. Specifically, they want to know where to spend their limited time and resources in order to grow their bottom line.

In order to answer those questions, two things need to happen. First, you must treat marketing as a system and second, you must build the habit of collecting and evaluating metrics that tell you how that system is performing.

If you are just beginning to use metrics to help improve your marketing, don’t get bogged down in the plethora of marketing metrics you could track. Try to select a few that will help you answer the key questions you have about how your marketing system is performing and how you can tell if those results of those efforts are improving.

To help you get started, here are 7 metrics you can track that will help you determine how well you’re doing in the different phases of the customer life cycle.

1. Visitors – helps you determine how you are doing at attracting traffic to your business. I am referring to traffic in the broadest sense here; depending on your business, traffic may include visits to your office or store, people calling you on the phone, visitors to your tradeshow booth, or people visiting your website.

2. Opt-ins – help you measure how well you are capturing leads. Lead capture involves collecting contact information from your visitors, along with permission to follow up. While lead capture is often associated with online marketing, it applies to offline marketing as well. For example, a local grocery store may ask customers during checkout if they would like to receive updates when fresh produce arrives.

3. Hot Prospects – tracking the number of prospects who have shown signs that they are ready to engage in a sales conversation is a great way to determine how well you are nurturing leads. Hot prospects may be those who have requested a free consultation, asked for a proposal, or walked into your physical store. What behaviors do your prospects exhibit right before they buy?

4. Sales – tracking the number of hot prospects that convert into sales can let you know if you need to work on your sales process – either collectively or with individual sales staff.

5. Customer Satisfaction – scoring can help you determine how well your customers believe you are delivering on your promises and the expectations that you set during the marketing and sales process.

There are many ways to measure customer satisfaction. One popular method is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Like most things in marketing, consistent execution and following up are your keys to success no matter how you measure customer satisfaction. Make sure you follow up with both unsatisfied customers (to see if you can rectify the situation) as well as satisfied customers (to collect referrals and/or testimonials).

6. Lifetime Customer Value (LCV)– is a way to assign a dollar value to the long-term relationship you have with your customers. LCV can help you determine how well you’re repeat sales, cross selling and up-selling efforts are performing.

7. Referrals Received – is the primary metric we use to measure our referral marketing results. For B2B companies (like my own) I also like to measure referrals given as I’ve found it to be a leading indicator of referrals received.

Once you are tracking these metrics, you will be in a better position to make smart decisions about where to focus your marketing efforts and budget in order to increase sales. For example, you may find that you have plenty of traffic but no opt-ins. Or you may have plenty of people expressing interest (opt-ins) but none of them are converting into leads – leading you to work on lead nurturing.

Over time you will have new questions and will develop new metrics to answer those questions. Don’t forget to periodically review your metrics and drop any that are no longer providing value.

Do you have a favorite marketing metric? Tell me about it in the comments below.

5 Things You Can Do This Week To Improve Your Marketing

5 mosaic

Working on your marketing doesn’t have to be an expensive, multi-month project. Paying attention to the “little things” can produce big results. Here are 5 things you can do this week to work on your marketing and grow your business. You don’t have to do all five – pick one or two:

1. Schedule marketing appointments with yourself. The best way to make progress on your marketing system is to consistently spend time working on it. Get out your calendar and block off 90 minutes per week for the next month to work on your marketing.

2. Refer business to one of your customers. We have all heard the adage that we need to “give to get”, but when was the last time you referred business to one of your customers? If you are a B2B service provider, you probably have all kinds of people in your network who could benefit from knowing one another. Help your customers grow their business and they will help you grow yours.

3. Invite a prospect (or customer) to a networking event. Do you attend chamber meetings, lunch and learns, or other networking events? Why not invite prospects and customers to attend with you? This can be a great way learn more about your customers and their business.

4. Review your (email) Sent folder to discover frequently asked questions. One of the things that bogs down our marketing efforts, is producing relevant content. Whether is content for our website, blog, newsletter, or social media, it often takes us longer to decide what to write than it does to write it.

Most of us find it much easier to answer questions. We answer questions everyday – in person, on the phone, and via email. And we probably answer the same questions over and over again. The questions and their accompanying answers make great marketing content.

The next time you are stuck trying to think of what to write about, take a look through the sent folder of your email program and leverage the work you have already done.

5. Write down 3 ways to identify who is NOT your ideal customer. While it is important to define your ideal customer as narrowly as possible, small business owners often get hung up on this part of their marketing strategy. Sometimes it’s easier to define who we don’t want to work with. Once we know how to identify who we don’t want to work with we can refine our marketing messages, improve our qualification processes, and do a better job of educating our referral partners. Knowing who are ideal customers are helps us do a better job of marketing; avoiding non-ideal customers keeps us out of energy draining “lose-lose” situations.


photo credit -  Leo Reynolds on Flickr

Visually Display Your Professional Story on LinkedIn


LinkedIn continues to add great features to help us connect, communicate, and build our professional network. The latest enhancement gives you the ability to easily use visual content to share your professional story.

Now you can enhance your LinkedIn profile by including images, videos, presentations and more. This isn’t reserved for artists or those who work in visual fields, anyone can take advantage of this new feature to tell their story. Share data and results in the form of charts, demo your latest software enhancement, show off the latest project your architecture firm designed – you’re limited only by your imagination.

You can add visual files to the Summary, Experience, and Education sections of your profile. Edit your profile and look for the Add File icon. I’ve circled it in red in the screenshot below (click the image to enlarge).


I keeping with social media practices,  other members can “like” or comment on what you’ve posted.

Here is a short SlideShare presentation from LinkedIn showing some examples of how people with different job functions can enhance their profiles with visual content.