February 4, 2014

3 Tricks to Removing Risk from Your Sales Pitch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 12:43 pm


Every day I get sales calls and emails. Most of them are asking me for money right off the bat and if I said yes to them all I’d be out of business. Whether you’re selling manufacturing services, web hosting, or even your product line wholesale the biggest worry your customer has is that dealing with you might lose her money. I’m not buying ad space on your blog because I might not get any sales and you still get the cash. I’m not buying your product to put in my store because my customers might not buy it from me and then I’m stuck with it. I’m not manufacturing a new product in your factory because it might not sell and I’m stuck with that inventory. That’s the kind of thought every customer has when you try to sell to him or her.

The good news is there are ways you can eliminate this worry from your sales pitch.  If you’re 100% certain your customer WILL benefit from your product or service, offer to prove it to them. Here are a few ways you can do it:

1. Money Back Guarantee
If you’re certain your product will sell in a store, make that promise to a potential wholesale customer. Next time you’re talking to a boutique owner you want to close, tell her you’re so sure your product will sell that if she’s not happy with the sales after 30 days you’ll send her a prepaid mailer to return any unsold merchandise and issue her a refund for those items.

This will help ease your customer’s mind because now she knows she can’t lose money working with you. You can try this approach with service based offerings too. If you can’t get people to buy ad space on your blog offer a money back guarantee on the ad space. If you are confident your advertisers will make money working with you, you shouldn’t have any problem with this and it will get you a lot more “yes”.

2. Partnership (We make money if you make money)
Selling something your customer pays for before she sees any benefits is difficult. Another way to circumvent this risk is by offering an arrangement where you only make money if your customer makes money. This is the model Square has adopted. This credit card processor provides its customers free hardware and comes with no service charges. The only fee Square charges is a percentage of sales. So if Square’s customers are selling products and benefiting from their service, Square gets paid. If the customers aren’t selling anything, Square gets nothing too.

You can use this approach for product-based businesses too. If there’s an online retailer you’d like to work with offer to drop ship products as their customers order. That way the online retailer doesn’t have to buy any inventory up front. If the products sell, you and the retailer make money. If the products don’t sell no one loses anything.

This is actually the model I use for my t-shirt printing service DropShipDTG. Since we print t-shirts for designers as orders come in, there’s no need for the designers we work with to spend any money up front. We only make money once they’ve made money.

3. Free Trial
A free trial is a great way to allow a customer to try before they buy. If you’re selling a service, offer that service for free for a week or two so the customer can decide if it is something worth paying for. If you’re selling a product you could consign the items to a retailer for a short period so they can make sure your product line sells before they spend money on it.

This business model is also starting to become trendy with web design/hosting businesses. You’ve probably seen commercials offering to build, host and market your business website for free. The idea is that these all-in-one service providers will do all the work and if you are happy with the finished product you pay them, if you’re not you don’t.

The biggest catch with removing risk from your sales pitch is that you have to be really confident that you’re selling a product that’s going to truly benefit your customers. If you’re just out for a quick cash grab and don’t care about the success or failure of your customers, not only will this approach fail, you probably won’t stay in business very long.

Have you come up with a clever way to remove risk for your sales pitch? Tell us about it in the comments below 🙂

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November 8, 2012

Using the Ground Game Strategy for Growing Your Business

If you followed any of the coverage of the US elections this fall, you probably heard the pundits talk about two things: how much the candidates are spending and who has a better “ground game”. This is interesting because the same exact tools that win elections can help you win as a business. It’s pretty well acknowledged that a big part of Obama’s success was his ground game, and I’m a big believer in developing a ground game for your business too. You can win by spending money — many elections have been won that way — but it’s not the only option.

Here are three ways I’ve used our ground game to boost sales this year, even though we didn’t spend much money on traditional advertising:

1. Shaking hands and kissing babies
When people feel a personal connection to a brand or a political candidate, they’re more inclined to throw their support that way. This is why political candidates get out there in front of voters and it’s why I spent most of my year getting out in front of my customers. By the end of 2012, we’ll have appeared at 16 pop-up retail events all over the US. We traveled north to Boston, west to Chicago (twice). We did events in Philadelphia (THREE times), DC (2x), NYC (3x), Pittsburgh, and Baltimore (3x). In March we’ll head south to Orlando. We travel to large events with tens or even hundreds of thousands of consumers, and our primary motivation is to get them to meet us and love us — even if they don’t buy anything right away.

We know just showing our line to people and chatting with them will help spread our brand awareness. They might not buy from us today, but there’s a good chance they will remember us and buy from us some other time.

You can employ this strategy, too. Think about festivals, craft shows and outdoor markets, but also think about trunk shows and home parties. Choose activities that appeal to your target customers and enable you to talk to them one-on-one.

2. Making It Stick
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: give people a reason to remember your brand. Political campaigns are usually happy to give you t-shirts, bumper stickers, pens, all sorts of stuff with the candidate’s name on it. They want you to remember their candidate so when it’s time to vote, you’ll remember to vote for them.

We employ the same strategy. We are always giving away loads of fun free stuff. We give it out at shows, we give it out with our orders. We give out cute vinyl stickers with our characters on them, 1″ pins, funny comic strips. We don’t give out stuff that looks like marketing material; we don’t just give out a business card, we give out something our customers would actually want so they’ll keep it and remember us.

Just yesterday a customer told us he ordered from us because a friend of a friend who lives across the country came to visit, and had one of our vinyl stickers on something. That’s how he found us.

3. Staying on Message
If you have a message that resonates with your audience, you’re more likely to attract their support, whether you’re running for office or promoting your brand. What does your brand do? Does it make life easier, does it make your customers more attractive, does it help your customer be a better parent? My own products are conversation starters — we design items you could wear out to a bar and it’s likely that someone will strike up a conversation with you based on what you’re wearing. We’re not just selling clothing, we’re selling human connections.

When you’re presenting your product on the ground, think about how you can present more than just the product: how can you present the benefits of owning your product? Think about employing signage, videos, live demos or brochures depending on the item you sell.

Have you used ground game this year to boost sales? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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July 13, 2011

This is Why I Am Declining Your Request for Sponsorship

Filed under: Ecommerce — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 12:16 pm

I get sponsorship requests in my inbox almost daily, and they are usually a variation on the following themes:

1. Buy ad space from me! I get 100 visitors/day and have a page rank of 2.

2. I want to review your products on my blog. I get 1,000 visitors per month.

3. I want to host a giveaway for your products. I have 500 Facebook friends.

DELETE DELETE DELETE!!! I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but I am trying to run a business and these “offers” suck! They’re money losers for me and I can’t just give away free money all day.

If you’ve been sending out solicitations like this, let me explain the brand owner’s perspective. (If you’re a product-based brand owner, this should be your perspective too, so listen up.)

When I make a decision to advertise or donate free products to something, those decisions cost me money. My advertising budget is hard-earned. My products and postage are not free. So when I am presented with an opportunity to part with my money, I’m going to make that decision on statistical probabilities. Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say an ad costs me $50.00 for 10,000 impressions. If I expect a 1% click-through and a 1% conversion that means I can expect 100 clicks on my ad and one conversion. So the statistical probability is that one sale would cost me $50.00. If I sell a $500.00 product, I might be cool with that. If I sell a $10.00 product this ad is clearly a bad idea.

I might play with the numbers depending on the situation. For example, I know when I do co-op ads, I get a 4% click through rate and a 3% conversion rate. When I get an editorial placement, maybe I average a 3% click-through and a 2% conversion. I can make these estimates based on past performance of other ads or other editorial placements. This information gives me numbers to run different scenarios with so I can make an educated guess about how much a conversion is going to cost me.

So, getting back to those unsolicited sponsorship requests. If I give you a free product to “review” I am paying about $5 in postage and losing about $25.00 of inventory, so this placement is going to cost me $30.00. If your blog receives 5,000 visitors per month, that’s less than 200 visitors per day. Even if your review of my product stays on your home page for 5 days, I’m probably getting less than 1,000 impressions. Even if the placement garnered an unheard of 5% click-through and a 2% conversion rate (again, double the average conversion rate for most ecommerce sites), I’d still be paying $30.00 per conversion. So you can see why, in all statistical probability, your “review” offer is a money-loser for me.

How to get brand owners to say yes to your requests
If you’re running a truly successful blog, you won’t need to spend your days begging brand owners for free stuff. They’ll come to you with offers because you have something to trade. I offer free product for review and giveaways all the time. But I make those offers to publications with millions of readers, because those are odds that are statistically favorable for me.

If you want my products for your contests or just as free swag, you’ve got to have something to offer me that’s worthwhile, and that means a sizeable targeted audience. Spend your time building your readership instead of asking for freebies. The freebies will come when your publication is worthy of them.

Want to figure out the probable results of a sponsorship?
I’ve created a handy conversion calculator that computes the probable results of an ad or sponsorship. If you’re considering buying an ad or giving away a free product, use the tool to determine the probable results of the sponsorship.

If you’ve been trolling for free stuff from brands, you should test out my calculator too. You can supply the calculator with your site traffic info and the average value of the goods you’ve been asking for. My calculator will tell you what sponsoring brands are probably paying per conversion when they accept your offer. Really think about whether you’re actually offering them a valuable opportunity before you keep requesting freebies.

What about secondary conversions?
I harp on secondary conversions a lot on this blog. I am constantly saying that marketing is about more than just sales. I absolutely mean this. That said, it’s a little about sales. If a marketing opportunity is statistically likely to cost a lot more than the value of my sales (i.e. the marketing opportunity costs me $500 and I only expect $50 in sales), then the chances of that opportunity delivering a lot of secondary conversions aren’t great either.

If I’m on the fence about a placement, meaning I feel it’s well-targeted, but the statistics say I will pay $8.00 per conversion when I typically try to pay $6.00 per conversion, I might go for that placement expecting secondary conversions to make the placement worthwhile, but it has to be close to my targeted cost per sale for secondary conversions to tip the scales in favor of a placement.

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July 21, 2010

The Big Picture: Understanding the Difference Between Sales and Marketing

Filed under: Growing Your Business — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 5:17 am

When small business owners talk about what they want out of their marketing efforts, the top thing people say is “more sales.” While more sales is always the idea, this answer sort of ignores the forest for the trees. A truly strategic marketing plan isn’t focused simply on immediate sales, it’s focused on overall brand growth, which later translates to a big cumulative effect in terms of sales.

When you develop a marketing campaign, try to think about what you want to gain from it, other than sales. Here are a few objectives to consider:

1. Goodwill in the Community
Sometimes companies do things to promote goodwill in their community. It can be sponsoring little league or raising funds for a charity. These sorts of efforts won’t necessarily draw lots of immediate sales, but they associate your brand with something positive and foster brand awareness and brand affinity so that people will patronize your business eventually.

2. Press
Getting media placements is a great way to raise brand awareness and online placements can improve your SEO by providing you with valuable link juice. Sometimes media placements do drive immediate sales, other times the results are delayed.

3. SEO
Getting links and writing high-quality, original content for your site is the way to get search engines to notice you. The idea is that the search engines will bring traffic and that will in turn bring sales. Most of the traffic probably won’t result in sales, but that’s fine. Each person that finds your site becomes a person who knows about your brand.

4. Buzz/Word of Mouth
Brands often do things just to get people talking about them. You might create a viral video or host a giveaway. This sort of thing doesn’t necessarily drive people to make immediate purchases but it gets your brand noticed and talked about, which can drive sales in the future.

5. Brand Affinity/Consumer Engagement
Sometimes companies do things to get their customers to like them a little more. These types of campaigns encourage customer loyalty and positive word of mouth. A company might ask fans to help name a new product. Ben and Jerry’s has a free ice cream day every year. These types of activities make customers prefer your brand and engage with your brand. It builds a better relationship with your fans and keeps them shopping with you.

6. Brand Awareness
If people haven’t heard of you, they can’t shop with you. When Budweiser puts a billboard on a highway, they of course do not expect people to pull over immediately and buy a 6-pack. The idea is to get people to think about the brand so that when it’s time to make a purchase decision, the brand will come to mind.

7. Social Media Connections/Newsletter Sign-ups
Getting permission to market directly to people via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. is a huge deal. These types of connections can lead to a consistent stream of sales over time. When you do things like give away a gift card each month to one of your newsletter subscribers, the idea is to get newsletter subscribers, who will hopefully eventually buy stuff. The idea isn’t that all of those people will immediate start opening their wallets. These sorts of campaigns can be a bit of a numbers game. If you have 5,000 Facebook fans and every time you send out a coupon 1% buy something you’re now getting 50 sales each time you send out a promotion on Facebook. It may have taken a couple of years to amass the 5,000 fans and during that entire time your sales may have been a slower trickle from that source. The idea is to see gains over time.

One final thing to keep in mind: all of these marketing objectives tend to feed each other. You can focus on SEO and generate word of mouth. You can aim for brand awareness and end up with better SEO as people link your site once they’ve discovered it. All these different marketing objectives work together to help propel your brand towards success.

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