Friday, July 23, 2010


The 3 most important components of a retail marketing strategy

It's easy to make retail marketing too complicated, or entirely too tactical.  But the more retail businesses I see and speak with, big and small, the more I realize they all need to focus on three things:

A great customer relationship management system.  This is key.  It's the hub of all information you have about every customer.  Who they are, how often they shop, what they like, when they last visited, etc.  If it's really good, it stores wish lists that their family, friends, etc. can access.  It tracks their birthdays and anniversaries, their ring size, their favorite candy, whatever is relevant to your business and the relationship you have and are building with each customer.  Without a great CRM system (and there are plenty out there complicated enough for enterprise retail as well as simple enough for small storefronts), it's too easy to commoditize your customers as one.  But when every customer is unique, and you have the ability, knowledge and tools to treat them uniquely, great things happen to order frequency, basket size, and referrals.

Seamless point-of-sale registration & data capture.  Too many retail businesses worry about advertising.  They get fixated on direct mail, or newspaper ads, or other expensive ads to target prospective customers.  Many of those same businesses have customers walk into their storefronts every day (either in person or online) and fail to capture anything beyond the occasional transaction.  How many people visited your business today?  How many email addresses did you capture?  How many newsletter subscribers did you add?  What were you able to learn from them with just a couple seconds, or a simple question at the register, to deepen your understanding, relationship and communications with that customer?  Your biggest marketing opportunity walks in and out of your doors every day.

Regular, contextual, passive marketing.  Yes, you can leverage that newfound information to tell everyone with a birthday this month to come in for a free appetizer.  You can remind spouses that anniversaries are around the corner.  You can get very complicated with your marketing back to the customers you manage in the CRM system, as well as capture at the point-of-sale.  But if you're just getting started, keep it simple.  Start a newsletter.  Teach your customers something.  Demonstrate regularly your expertise and value.  Give them a simple reminder, a quick one, of who you are and what you do and what you can provide the next time they're ready.  It doesn't take much.  Don't overthink this part, just start doing it.  Give your customers an excuse and more opportunities to buy and refer.



Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Why prospects won't return your calls

If you're in sales, you're intimately familiar with leaving voicemails. If you're like most salespeople, you leave a ton of voicemails every week and get few responses.

But take a moment to think about the message you're leaving.
Prospects aren't going to care about you, let alone return your calls, unless you give them a reason to.

Monday, July 12, 2010


How words, body language and expressions can help you win or lose new business

This is a guest post from Arden Clise, etiquette columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal and an expert on business etiquette.

My neighbor recently had their fence replaced. As I watched it being built from my office window, I noticed the people they hired to replace it were doing really quality work. The fence looked very sturdy, had great lines and everything lined up perfectly.

One day, as I was walking my dog, I saw someone working on the fence. So, I decided to compliment him on the work. As I approached, I said, “You sure do good work!” He kept his back to me and didn’t respond. I got closer and stated, “The fence looks really nice.” He turned his head, while keeping his back to me, and mumbled, “Thanks.” I was a little surprised by his aloofness. I then said, “I’m a neighbor and I’ve been admiring the work you’re doing, do you have a business card?” He replied, “No, it’s my son’s business,” while he kept his back to me.

I was amazed. Here I was a potential customer and he showed absolutely no interest in me or my business. Everything about his body language, his demeanor, his words said, “Go away.” In my disbelief I stood there a few seconds longer and he finally said, “I don’t have a business card.” I then walked away and thought, wow, he just lost a potential customer and all I was asking for was a business card.

What went wrong here? Let’s start with body language. Whether we know it or not, our body language speaks volumes about who we are and how we feel. In fact, our body language says more about us then our words do. Everything about this man’s body language said, “I’m not interested.” He kept his back to me, he didn’t give me eye contact and his facial expression was serious and unapproachable. If he wanted my business, he should have turned around, smiled and looked me in the eye.

Let’s talk about his words. What could he have said to convey he was interested in me and my business? He should have stopped what he was doing and thanked me for the compliment. He could have asked me where I live in the neighborhood or asked me about my dog. When I asked for a business card he could have said, “Actually, since it’s my son’s business, I don’t have a card, but let me get you one of his cards.” Or better yet, he could have said “It’s my son’s business, let me get him and have you meet him.”

Are you training your staff on how to interact with customers? Do they know how important it is to drop everything for a customer and get them answers? Are they aware of the importance of having open, friendly body language? If not, you may be losing customers.

Don’t build a fence that gets in the way of growing your business.

About Arden
Arden Clise is an etiquette consultant, speaker and business etiquette columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal. Founder of Clise Etiquette, Arden helps companies increase their profitability and improve their company image by giving employees the skills they need to be confident, courteous and successful.

Arden offers contemporary business etiquette seminars and individual consulting. An engaging speaker, Arden presents at corporations, organizations, professional associations and colleges.

Arden can be reached at or 206-708-1670.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


What's your 2011 strategy? Why you need to get started now...

Yes, I'm asking about January in July.

You don't have to have your budget set.  You don't need to know your January sales quota.

But at this point in the year, you probably have a reasonable idea of how you'll finish 2010.  Especially if you work in a recurring-revenue business, you have a good idea of expected 2010 revenue and margin. 

So what's ahead for next year?  What's your 2011 revenue and profit goal?  What do you want market share to look like?  And how the heck are you going to get there?

The answer is probably a shift, acceleration or full change to your current strategy.  Not just sales & marketing, but overall go-to-market.  New products, new markets, new partnerships.  Some of these may require new people, new processes, shifts in how you do business today.

That's a lot of new, a lot of potential change, and certainly a lot of things to figure out.  And when you hit January 1, it had better be figured out or you're already behind.

I'm not trying to scare you.  You have plenty of time.  Just get started now.


The start of the sales pitch: are you being vague or helpful?

If you're selling a solution, and you get right to explaining exactly what you do at the start of a sales call or marketing message, you're being direct.  You're telling the prospect exactly what you sell and what it does.

Or are you?  You're describing the product or service, but not necessarily the context.  You're making the solution clear, but without knowing or understanding how it'll be used, how it'll be valued, whether it's even needed.

So if you start a prospect conversation by offering outcomes, by generating interest initially not based on what you sell but what you enable, is that being vague?  Or is it even more direct and useful for the prospect?

I don't care about what you're selling unless (or until) I need it.  I don't need it unless it solves a problem, or delivers an outcome I've prioritized.  I don't really want to buy what you're selling.  I want to buy what it unlocks, what it enables.

What I'm selling isn't a secret.  But I don't want to waste your time describing it unless you need the outcome it represents.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


How to write a marketing plan with five questions

Ask 20 marketers how to write a marketing plan, and you'll get 20 different answers. Some have more strategy than tactics, some get tactical immediately without a strategic foundation.

But the biggest problem most marketing plans have is that they're company-centric. They're written from your point of view, based on what you want from the market, and they fail to reflect or take into account your customer's perspective.

The same is true for the sales process most companies use today. It's easy to define the process you want your sales team to go through in working leads into opportunities and, eventually, closed business. A more valuable exercise may be to map the buying process. How do your customers buy, what stages do they go through, what triggers or accelerators drive them closer to making a decision?

So for your marketing plan, take that same customer-centric approach and apply it to five questions.

  1. What/who are your targets?
  2. What do they care about? What outcome are they seeking?
  3. Where do you find them?
  4. What or who influences them?
  5. How do they want to engage and (eventually) buy?
These five questions are the foundation of your plan. The answers should give you a blueprint for what to do, where to do it, what to say, and how to match your marketing and messaging to the way your customer already thinks and operates.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Maybe it's not a sales funnel; maybe it's a bowtie

The problem I’ve always had with sales funnels is that they’re completely inaccurate.  What gets qualified and converted at the bottom of the funnel is by no means everything you’re going to get from the opportunities and/or leads that start at the top.  It may be what you get most quickly, this month or quarter, but it’s just the beginning.

For every qualified and ready-to-buy lead you generate, you likely also meet 3-5 qualified but not-ready-to-buy leads.  In a traditional sales funnel, you ignore these and go for the right-now sale.  But we’ve seen again and again that those 3-5 other leads are going to buy…eventually.  You want them to buy from you, so you need a strategy to stay in touch and engage them more actively when they’re ready.  The funnel doesn’t allow for that.  So at minimum, the traditional sales funnel is far too narrow.

Traditional sales funnels also only reflect half of the story.  What about repeat purchases?  Referrals?  Word-of-mouth opportunities that turn one sale into four?  That first sale may be the narrow part of the funnel, but if you know what you’re doing it widens again significantly from there.  Renewals, repeat purchases, referrals, etc.

Flip the funnel on its side and you’re getting somewhere.  Worry today about how much you can naturally drive through the middle of the bowtie for immediate closed business, but put even more focus long-term on expanding each end of the bowtie.  That’s the trick to long-term revenue leverage, and it’s likely a far better way of managing current and future sales.




You have plenty of time

If every week was a four-day workweek, I bet you’d still have plenty of time to get your job done.  How do I know this?  Because you’ll do it this week without a problem.

You’ll be in fewer meetings than a typical week.  You’ll get fewer emails (how many did you really have yesterday?).  You’ll have less time until Friday afternoon but you’ll still find a way (proactively or reactively) to get the right things done and go home Friday night without the walls falling down.

I bet you could get everything and more done this week with just the 32 hours you have if you focus.  And if you can do it this week, why not do it every week?

You’ll always have plenty of work for as many hours as you put into your job.  The trick is to figure out how to succeed with the right amount of time.  The clock doesn’t define that, and a 9-5 Monday through Friday schedule doesn’t define that.   The work defines that, but more importantly you define that. 

See if you can start some new good habits in this shortened week around prioritization, focus and results-oriented output.

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