Have you ever dreamed of running your own business? If you asked 100 people this question, I would imagine 90% would respond “YES”. Well have you ever dreamed of running your own business from the comfort of your home? That may sound like a distant reality to some, but according to the market research firm Interactive Data Corp, in 2009 over 18 million Americans did just that. And for many people, joining a home-based franchise system has been the answer to accomplishing their dreams of work-life balance, career satisfaction, and financial success.
When you hear the word franchise, many people naturally envision a true brick and mortar concept found on street corners, strip malls, and office buildings. On the contrary, some of the world’s best and most successful franchise businesses can be started from home. For example, are you thinking of starting your own children’s in-home tutoring business…there’s a home-based franchise for that! Thinking of starting your own business coaching/consulting company, there’s a home-based franchise for that! Thinking of starting your own dog-walking/sitting, commercial cleaning, senior care, home improvement, advertising, financial services, etc… there are home-based-franchises for that too! You get the picture.
There are a number of key benefits that a home-based franchise can bring versus a traditional business. Low overhead for office expenses, flexible work schedule (you set your own hours), and the freedom from “office politics” and that annoying boss. Once you find a strong home-based franchise system that provides the structure you need to achieve your personal and professional goals, you are well on your way to experiencing and enjoying the life you always wanted. So grab some coffee, turn on your home computer, and slide into your comfortable slippers because it’s time to go to work.
It seems like every second article you read today is about social media. How it can build your brand, help you connect with your customers and keep your business ‘current’. But it’s hard to sign off an investment of time and money to something that’s relying solely on the long-tail for returns, right?
Sure, social media can seem like a time-suck waiting to happen; but Sony executives weren’t complaining when they cleared $1.5 million in sales on Twitter. Or Dell; who revealed their Twitter presence accounted for a $3 million increase in sales in 2009.
Social media can, in fact, build upon your online sales effort. You just gotta get it right.
1. Word of Mouth Like a Wild Fire
Getting people to tell their friends about your product or service is the golden ticket. People trust their friends to give them recommendations, and the rise of online social networking means customers are more likely than ever to tell the world about their purchase; and spread it further too.
Work the viral angle – offer a limited offer or special promotion through Twitter or Facebook, and let your followers spread the word for you. Remember, a hot giveaway is perfect to get retweets and perhaps a few new followers; but if you want sales, a discount will drive it home.
2. Unprecedented Interaction
Marketing your product or service through TV, print or radio can leave customers feeling like they’re being marketed to. The beauty of social media is the fact that it’s based on the premise of being a social activity; so users feel at ease, and comfortable conversing with you. The key is to start conversations in a non-threatening way; don’t force yourself on people, and stay true to the social aspect of the platforms. Be the guy everyone wants to talk to at a party, built trust and loyalty *first* with your followers and friends and you’ll get a better result when it comes to promoting your product.
3. Global Domination from your Computer
Tapping into Facebook and Twitter’s 600 million strong combined user base means that you have more promotional reach at your fingertips that you’d probably ever thought was possible.
The sky’s the limit when marketing through social media and that means sales can reach new heights – but it doesn’t come automatically.
You’ll need to build up your following, and there’s a number of things you can do to help up your count:
Start promoting your Twitter and Facebook profiles on your other marketing, on and offline.
Use keywords as search terms to find Twitter users that are already talking about what you’re selling; then follow them to get a follow back.
Use Facebook ads to drive people to your fan page.
Encourage new followers by promoting a giveaway: ‘Follow us for the chance to win…’ or ‘Retweet this to go into the draw for…’
4. Mix Social with your Sales Team
Gone are the days of the dry email after a networking event or sales call. ‘Lovely to meet you, I wanted to remind you of our amazing offer…’ Now, your sales team have a new tool at their disposal. Social media is fantastic for building relationships; just search for your sales leads name in Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, and connect, to continue the conversation in a friendly; unobtrusive way. By connecting with potential customers online in this way, you’ll have an opportunity every day to pop up on their desktop.
5. Communication and Traffic Boosting Tool
Social media is just another form of communication. It offers more than many traditional marketing avenues, but if nothing else – it’s a new audience to tap into. Twitter and Facebook offer you the opportunity to communicate offers, announcements and news, and of course, drive traffic back to your website; ultimately, increasing sales. Promote away!
Lewis Howes is a former professional athlete, world record holder in football, and author of the LinkedIn book, LinkedWorking. He is the founder of the Sports Executives Association, and the popular sports and social media blog SportsNetworker.com. He writes for popular social media blogs such as mashable.com, socialmediaexaminer.com, and problogger.net. You can find him on Twitter @LewisHowes.
The #s never lie and you’ve all heard it in your business “80% of our business comes from 20% of our customers.” In my past posts I’ve covered numerous topics on how marketing relates to sales. As a business owner, this topic is your best and worst friend…FOLLOW-UP. Over the past 12 years I’ve been astonished how many sales people and companies that I’ve bought large ticket items from and never heard from again. I’ll only focus on 1 category though, as I write this I’m 34 years old and I’ve purchased 24 cars. YES, 24 cars and I know that’s not a good thing (I’m in auto rehab though, I’ve had my current car for 18 months). I tell you this because to this day, I don’t have a SINGLE sales person from a car dealership who has EVER called on me or calls on me now. This number covers 16 dealerships, 13 local Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky car dealerships. So I’d say the numbers below have some validity as too a “Marketing Problem” most dealerships have.
Think about that for a minute. I’ve had closed deals with over 20 sales people on transactions ranging from $12,000-$65,000 in 1 industry, and I’ve NEVER had a sales person follow-up with me? No one calls me monthly, no one sends me or wife a personalized card, no one calls to see if I am in the market AGAIN or if I know anyone buying a car. What a novel idea, actually call someone and ask them?
I do get a computer generated Birthday card from a Cincinnati Toyota dealer where I bought 2 Toyota FJ Cruisers on the SAME DAY and never heard from the sales person or a manger after the sale. The worst part, I was referred to the GM who got me with his “Top Salesperson”, neither has ever followed-up.
I’m consistently amazed in my travels how I hear the car dealers cry the blues because sales are down and no one is buying and you can’t get them financed, BLAH BLAH, BLAH. I’ve heard it all, my question to all of them is the same; “do you follow-up consistently with your customers.” Does the sales manager, GM or owner call every customer and say thank you afterwards? Does the sales person have a system of contacting the customer monthly via email, phone or mail? Of course most of them say they have a follow-up system in place, but most either don’t realize they don’t or they think follow-up is a generic letter from the service manager that’s generated by a computer and has a computer printed signature to be follow-up.
A number I hear around the industry is that car dealers can spend around $300 per sold car on advertising. So it seems to me that if you spend $300 on a customer, it would be a great idea to try to get their next purchase, their brothers, their neighbor, their parents, etc. But they never do follow-up.
Think about these numbers: Let’s say I’m a car dealer in Northern Kentucky who sells 3,000 cars per year. Imagine if I follow-up with my customers hard-core and we consistently get referrals from those customers, but at the end of the year it’s only 10% (WHICH WOULD BE REALLY LOW). So that’s 300 car sales we just made because we run a professional sales operation and properly treated our customers. At the $300 per customer, we just saved $90,000 in advertising expenses per year. Now the scary part is a GREAT follow-up program that involves everyone from the sales person to the business owner can get easily 30-40% in referrals. Your numbers are right, those dealerships are WASTING upwards of $200,000 per year in advertising because they don’t know how to take care of their customer.
As a retail business owner I realized at a young age the importance of follow-up. Our company not only sent our large-ticket customers 8 mailings per year that had a valid good offer and were personally signed by a department head, but we made sure our sales people called their customers and sent thank you notes consistently. We touched our customers upwards of 12 times per year and because of this we were able to only spend $35,000 per year in mass media for a business doing $15 Million in retail sales. We spent less than $50 per customer on advertising, compared to the industry norms of upwards of $300 per customer. Go figure, customer follow-up works.
Matt Plapp is a Marketing Consultant in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at email@example.com or 859.743.2408.
It was a normal weekday at the office while I sifted through my mail. Not uncommonly, I had received something from my area Chamber of Commerce. I should point out that this is our areas largest Chamber with over 5500 members. As I opened it, I was pleasantly surprised to find a personally hand written thank you note from the Director of Membership, John B. “Brennan, thanks sincerely for your membership, here’s to your success.” What an impact this made on me. I called John to thank him for his thank you card. Does that seem silly? It’s not. Here’s why. That phone conversation turned into a lunch, which then turned into a meeting as to how our two organizations might help one another. Although, I knew not to rush the process as our relationship was so new. Over the next few years, we invited John & his Chamber to enjoy a complimentary booth and 5 minute presentation at our All Chapter BNI Awards Breakfast. What was in it for us? Nothing. We were glad to be associated.
After a few years of this we realized that our two like-minded organizations had an opportunity to take a step together. Across the globe, regional networking organizations were coming together in February to celebrate networking during “International Networking Week” (www.internationalnetworkingweek.com). While “International Networking Week” is an initiative of BNI, it is open to all networking organizations. Collaboration being the mindset of course (novel idea, I know). John, Laurie, & Kitty at the Chamber embraced the idea. What happened next? Well, 380 people in a room of course. On February 3rd, 2010 to be exact. An event sponsored by 13 companies, presented by the largest Chamber in our region, the largest business referral organization (us), and the regions leader in business news. A powerful keynote speaker names Cea Cohen Elliot (ceaspeaks.com) changed lives that day, and 380 people then walked out to change the lives of others.
Rewind a few years. Picture John B. sitting at his desk at 5:48pm. While he is definitely ready to head home for the day, he writes out one last thank you note. “Brennan, thanks sincerely for your membership, here’s to your success”. Had he walked out at 5:46pm, there would not have been 380 people in a room, and lives would not have been changes, including my own.
Zig Zigler once said, “you don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.” Life is a boomerang, you’d better start throwing. Thanks John
Advancements in technology have made telecommuting an ideal alternative for many businesses and employees. Broadband connections are increasingly common in homes and retail locations, and phone systems allow users in remote locations to operate on one central system. A remote workforce can stay connected almost as well as one stationed in office cubicles.
There are four benefits that make telecommuting an advantageous solution:
1. Save money.
Businesses can save a great deal by having employees that spend some or all of their time working away from the office. It eliminates office space and office equipment, and can reduce utility bills. Telecommuting saves employees money by cutting back on gas and maintenance for their cars.
2. Save the world.
Okay, telecommuting might not save the world by itself, but it does enable companies and their employees to use less gas and electricity, and every little bit helps!
3. Flexible workforce.
Telecommuting allows employees to have very flexible schedules. People spend a great deal of time traveling to and from work each day, and telecommuters can use that saved time in a more productive manner. Also, working from home can be an ideal situation for many employees, such as single parents.
4. More eligible job candidates.
Companies using telecommuters can expand their job search to include a much larger scope. A business in Boston can find an ideal job candidate in Seattle. With telecommuting, businesses no longer have to worry about the logistics of relocating a new hire.
“I have recently been working with a number of new business clients and their owners who are very good business people, have great businesses and business models. But, the old saying about “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”, well it just isn’t true in today’s business environment, I suspect it never was true. Especially when you are joining or considering joining forces with other business partners. Whether you know them well or not there are a few basic business documents that are a must-have before you jump into the proverbial “business bed” with your new partner/s.
Besides the basic operating agreement the following two legal documents are must haves before day one of when the partnership takes off:
1. A Buy-Sell agreement: consider the buy-sell agreement a prenuptial agreement of sorts, in the case the business partnership doesn’t work out for several very distinct reasons.
2. An Employment agreement amongst the new owners: It is used to plan out in detail how you and your new partners will be compensated with salary, bonus, fringes, perks, etc., and for how long thru the business.
It doesn’t necessarily require you to be an expert in employment law. It does require you to work with your business advisors to hammer-out these agreements well in advance of when they are needed. Friends, brother and sister, father and son, mother and daughter, new acquaintances, it doesn’t matter—all should have these two agreements in place.
An experienced CPA specializing in working with businesses and/or a seasoned business attorney are good resources to call on to help you with the process. It isn’t that expensive of a process either; and it sure beats the cost of when something bad happens and you don’t have the plans in place to handle them. If the documents have been drafted for you by your partners advisor’s, I strongly encourage you to have them independently reviewed by those who will be advocates and protectors of your interests—again your CPA/Advisor and/or your business attorney are your best bets to help protect your interests. By the way, the businesses I mentioned at the start—they either didn’t have these documents in place or relied on their partners to ‘take care of it’. In retrospect I guarantee you that these business owners wish they had known about the advise contained herein and had had a chance to follow it.”
Scott J. Malof is a CPA/PFS with SS&G Certified Public Accountants and Advisers in Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky. Scott specializes in assisting closely help businesses plan for their future successes. Scott can be reached at 513-587-3278 or SMalof@SSandG.com
How often do you buy a new pair of shoes? (For my wife, I think this is about every week)
The answers to those questions are your buying cycle for each category.
What is the buying cycle for your product/service? (If you don’t know it, I suggest you find out)
It is important to know the buying cycle of your product/service because it plays a big part in how your potential customers react to your advertising.
Take the target pictured above. Each red ring of the target represents a part of the typical buying cycle…..
– The outermost ring is when you are not in the market for a product/service. (You own a car you are happy with and buying a new one is the last thing on your mind.)
– The second ring is when you realize you may need that product/service. (Your car has been in the shop lately and you are wondering if it is time to get a new one)
– The third ring is when you’ve decided it’s time to purchase that product/service, but you want to shop around. (You hop online to do some research)
– The Bulls-Eye is when you are ready to buy. (You’ve had it with your car and it is time for some new wheels….NOW!)
The timing between each ring depends on the buying cycle of your business.
How often do your customers need to purchase your product/service? (For example…..the buying cycle for a new car is about 5 years. The buying cycle for gas for that car is about two weeks.)
The key to marketing success is how well you reach your potential customers BEFORE they get to the Bulls-Eye. If your marketing efforts are based exclusively on reaching the people in the market for your product/service RIGHT NOW, you better have the lowest price or you will lose out because you haven’t taken the time to differentiate yourself from your competition in the mind of your potential customer.
Cultivate a marketing message that creatively explains your businesses Unique Selling Proposition and then consistently hammer home that message.
If you consistently tell someone WHY YOU before they NEED YOU they will FIND YOU.
What is the value of referral marketing? Would you rather create one client via the “Old Fashioned” cold calling or several clients with less effort through your referral power team?
Did you know that it takes the same effort to make one sale as it does to create several new clients by using referral marketing strategies? You create a referral power team with professionals who have the same target market and train each other your products and services. You work to create a strong relationship with your referral power team and to “Train” your sales force. The team is out their looking for potential clients for you just like you are looking for clients for them. Once you both get on the same page the referrals start rolling in.
So the time it takes to try to create one sale you can create three sales. You repeat this four times and you now have four referral partners and they are sending you three referrals per week. You are now getting twelve referrals a week and you’re not spending any more effort than it takes to create one sale.
You have created a sales force that is constantly looking for people who can use your products and services. How strong your relationship and whether you have done great job of training your referral partners will determine the closing ratio. There is a direct correlation between your relationship and your closing ratio.
Here is a diagram which shows these marketing strategies:
The above is what most sales people use to get new business “Cold Calling”. Below is how professional sales people who rely on referral marketing find new clients:
Take your business to the next level! Stop cold calling and start building your network of referral partners or your “Referral Power Team” today.
Duane Plapp is a professional business coach with The Referral Institute Cincinnati. Duane can help you create “Referrals For Life”. If you’re interested in learning more about referral marketing you can contact Duane at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-240-6428