Tag Archives: Success

But I’m not technical… and other excuses that will cripple your sales.

My degree in psychology does not qualify me to sell a technical product. When I first got in this industry (almost 6 years and 2,300 websites ago) I thought, boy, do I have a lot to learn. And that was true, and I almost let it cripple me.

Now, for those of you who do not know me directly, I am not short on confidence. My parents told me I could do anything, and I believed them. So when given the opportunity to start a company selling web solutions, I said why not and jumped in with both feet. Unfortunately, the first few meetings I had with potential clients were disasters. I wasn’t prepared to answer their questions, I didn’t know what I was selling, and I couldn’t provide them with any value. I was shell shocked. I had just invested over $60,000 into a business that I didn’t know the first thing about.

My initial reaction… RETREAT, FULL RETREAT! Hide your head in the sand until this passes and then pop back up as a blond and hope no one noticed. Unfortunately that strategy didn’t work. I had to get back on the horse, I had to make my investment work. So then I took on the attitude that I had to learn everything there was about web technologies and websites. The next meeting I went into, I was going to be the biggest web nerd in the room. I started reading books and other websites that I could find. I tried to devour as much information as I could.

But what was happening to my sales and leads while I was doing all this learning? Nothing. I had no sales, I had no income, I had nothing in my pipeline. That was even scarier than being laughed out of a meeting. So I knew I had to find a healthy balance of learning and selling. I took on the attitude that I have now… I may not know everything about technology, but I know we (NSNA) can do just about anything any client wants on the web.

And more importantly, I realized that my potential clients don’t care if I know everything about the web or not. They care about what I know about their business. They care about how I can help them make more money, spend less time at work, manage their own site, learn a new skill, etc. That is the value I provided them. My clients enjoy the fact that I do not speak geek. They like that they are speaking with another business owner that understands that making payroll can be a bitch sometimes and that sometimes at the end of the month there are a lot more bills than cash.

So now the important skill that I bring to the table when meeting a client is that I listen. I listen to what they want, I balance that with what I know works and how our products work, and the result usually is a happy client with a new web solution. The point is, don’t let your fear of not knowing paralyze you into not selling. If you are a ProFusion Dealer, spend time building your website on the tools you were given when you first signed up. Show your clients what you are doing, show them how you can add pictures to your website with a few mouse clicks. Show them how you can turn a boring business website into an Italian Restaurant site in less than an hour. Show them how you can make your new product dance, and I guarantee they will want to do business with you and they will tell their friends about you.

So stop waiting, start selling!

Tips for a successful trade show

The very words Trade Show make some small business owners shudder. A Trade Show can take a lot of time and most of the time that’s something a small business owner just doesn’t have. With some careful planning however, a trade show can not only be fun they can be profitable as well.

Here are 10 tips we’ve picked up from attending a lot of shows, not only as vendors but participants as well. They may be basic but the best tips usually are pretty basic.

1. Set clear goals of what you want to achieve at the show. Do you expect to sell products, launch a new product or promotion, or possibly meet suppliers? You can set more than one goal but be clear and focused on what your participation will involve. In our business (selling web solutions) we don’t expect to sell a site on the spot. What we do look for is hot leads. At each trade show we attempt to identify 3 – 5 hot leads. We do this by gathering business cards from participants. When someone hands me their card, I quickly look for a web address. I then ask them one of two simple questions. If they don’t have a site listed on their card, I ask why? If they do have a site listed on their card, I ask them how happy they are with the performance of their website. Based on their response, I quickly note on the back of their card how “hot” they are. If they expressed some sort of displeasure or unsatisfaction with their website, I mark them as “hot” and follow up with them right after the show is over.

2. Find out everything you can about your space in advance. There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up to a show only to find that your booth is too big or too small to fit the space. Finding out the location of your booth in advance prevents you lugging around boxes and products in search of the right spot. Finding out everything that is included (table, table cloth, electricity, etc) in advance is a big time and headache saver.

3. Have everything you need, like extension cords; tape etc with you when you arrive to set up your booth. It prevents last minute searching for items needed to set up your booth which, if you’re in a strange town can quickly turn into a nightmare. We have a trade show box that stays with our booth that contains a hammer, thumb tacks, pens, rubber bands, notepads, band aids, extension cords, replacement light bulbs, tape, breath mints and much more in it. It has been used at every trade show we’ve been to and always comes in handy.

4. Make sure your display is appropriate for the group you are targeting. Who is your target market with your trade show display? Different audiences go to trade shows differently and have different needs.

5. Advertise in advance of the show. Let the public know that you are participating in a particular trade show. Invite your clients, customers, suppliers and be sure and give them your booth number. Advertise your attendance to the trade show on your website as well.

6. Stand out! Don’t just be another booth and vendor at the show – find something different and unique and use that to draw visitors to your booth. Arrange your booth strategically so that everything can be seen quickly by visitors. Put larger items in the rear and shorter items up front. A table runner on top of the table cloth is an effective way of making your table stand out. Be creative with your booth, include pictures if possible and be sure your company name and logo are more than obvious.

7. Should you give something away? Most people who attend trade shows are expecting some giveaways and food is always popular. Make sure you package your food in a way that allows you to have your company information on it. Gift Certificates for some of your services are another great Trade Show giveaway – there’s nothing better than getting a deal on your services. And when they redeem their certificate, they will learn how great your services are and come back for more. Offer a drawing for a prize that complements your business and appeals to everyone. Have visitors and guests sign a guestbook, fill out a form or drop their business card in a bowl. You can then use this information later to make a follow up contact. We gave away a Wii last year at a trade show and we were one of the most popular booths at the event! We collected over 300 business cards and have closed 7 deals from that show alone.

8. Arrive early enough to the trade show and make sure everything is set up correctly and that everything works. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes – you’re going to be on your feet!

9. During the show, never turn your back to the crowd and don’t sit down unless you’re having a conversation with a guest and you both are sitting. Stand in front of your booth, if possible, saying “Hi” to those that turn and look toward your or your booth. Have your elevator speech ready. More importantly, is being ready to listen to what your guests have to say, you may learn a lot about them and be able to fill a need that they have.

10. A portfolio or display of your work should be on hand for visitors to see. A digital photo frame is an excellent way of showing your work or placing a Power Point® presentation on a laptop – your visitors will find this visually appealing and it will draw their attention. Offering a brochure with your best work for them to take with them will serve as a reminder once the show is over.

These 10 basic steps to Trade Show exhibiting will make your booth stand out, draw visitors so you can gather their contact information, save you time, money and stress. The most important thing about a trade show is to have fun!

Ride the Wave of Success through a Down Economy

Working with clients, I encounter a certain issue over and over again. When times are good for a company; marketing and communication seem to be put on the back-burner. When we approach them about our Search Engine Optimization services (being ranked higher in the major search engines) they look at us like we are crazy and typically elect not to market their site/business online. It has always baffled me that people are willing to spends thousands of dollars on a shiny new website, but hesitate to put a percentage of that money into driving additional traffic to it.

When times are tough, these companies start approaching us about our services once they realize that their competition is kicking their butt in placement on Google, Yahoo! and MSN. Since the client doesn’t have as much business as they used to, they look to us to get them ranked organically. The problem is that they want to be ranked #1 in the organic listings the next day.

Internet Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, or Online marketing; no matter what you call it, takes time. Marketing also costs money. One would think that when times are good, companies would put more money into marketing thus more likely managing to avoid the downturns all together. After all, is there really such a thing as too much business?

A great example of this persistent problem that I see often has to do with a family member of mine. Their business is Sport Fishing in Alaska with Black Rock Charters. Three years ago when we first put up the website I asked if they wanted to do Search Engine Marketing. They elected to put minimal effort/funds into marketing (which is more than most busy companies), simply because at the time they had more business then they could manage. In fact times were so good they added two additional boats to their fleet. For two years the boats were full 80-90% for the entire season. Then came 2008 and the boats were only full 70% of the time and now looking forward to Spring/Summer 2009 the boats are well below average bookings for this time of year.

Of course, the owner/family comes to me and is ready to work on their Online Marketing strategy, which is wonderful but a little late. If I had started 3 years ago, Organic Online Marketing would have had more than enough time to get grounded and the rankings would be here. Now we have to work twice as hard in a shorter period of time in order to get similar results.

What I hope is that others take this story into consideration when budgeting for marketing. Business always runs in a cycle, up one day, week, or year and down the next. Marketing allows you to make the highs higher, and the lows easier to endure. If you plan for the future, by establishing a budget for online marketing today you will be one step closer to business success.