Marketing

What Should We Do?

With business closings, unemployment, restrictions, and people directly or indirectly impacted by the virus, what should we do? Here are some things we can do:

Don’t Make Drastic Changes

When possible, do not make significant, time-consuming, and cash-consuming changes. These are not normal times and no one knows how long this situation will last.

Adapt and Change

Many businesses have been adapting and changing their business models to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. Can you do the same? Think of how you can modify your product or services to deliver them in a safe and different way. This is not always easy to do, but there are always possibilities.

Don’t Be Too Positive or Negative

Let’s not be foolishly optimistic about the situation because with each passing week or month that you expect things to change, your disappointment will keep on growing. However, do not be so negative to think that the world will never open back up.

Only Think About What You Can Control

If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that a lot in life is out of our control. What you can control are your reactions to others, actions you take, choice of words, reactions to your emotions, and the amount of news that you view. A formula that is probably true is More News = More Anxiety.

There is so much that is unknown at this time, and it would be great to have all of the answers.

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Why is Sales Such a Bad Word?

Everyone is trying to sell something, whether we realize it or not. Even employees are trying to sell themselves to get a job and keep moving up the ladder. Although selling has a bad reputation, it is more about intent, which makes it either good or bad.

The Bad Side of Sales

Selling a service or product that is unnecessary, unhelpful, damaging, or just not needed are the worst forms of selling. The “not needed “ product can be very subjective though, because no one really needs a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, but on the other hand, maybe it is exactly what is needed! On a serious note, a common example of selling something that is unnecessary can be a professional telling you that you need to replace your entire heating system, when it can easily be fully repaired for a fraction of the cost. Another example can be a warranty that is completely useless. The list goes on and every business that sells or provides a service should try to avoid selling in this manner.

The Good Side of Sales

If you are selling something that is in the best interest of your client, customer, or patient, then you are selling correctly. Put their interests before your wallet and you have nothing to worry about. This is the simplest test to alleviate your fears of being a sales person.

Don’t Over Think It

Don’t think about it too much. Everyone is selling something to some degree, whether we recognize it or not.

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Are You Keeping Track of the Right Metrics?

Financial information tends to bore most people except for accountants, accountants, and accountants. Even though the thought of looking through and analyzing numbers may scare you, there are some metrics that drive your financial results and should be measured carefully. They are usually more exciting to keep track of because they can also help predict your results. Here are some examples:

Customer Metrics

Volume: Examples of customer metrics can include: the number of patients, clients, or customers seen/visits per day, week, or month. An increase in this number will increase your sales, however, there may be a delay in actual cash received.

Sales per customer: Are your customers purchasing more or less from you? An easy way to increase sales is to increase the amount of sales to each customer.

Multiple Location Metrics

Same store sales or sales by location: If you have multiple locations, you must keep track of your sales by location. Ideally, you want to keep financials by location, but sales per location is a good starting point. You should compare the sales versus the same period last year and also with other locations.

Net profit by location: It’s great if your sales are doing well in one location, but if the profitability is poor, then you need to know this to make improvements or to shut down that location. Time and resources need to be spent at locations that will achieve the highest return.

Sales or Billings per Employee or by Employee

Sales results: Which employees are performing well, and which are not? What if you operate a real estate office and do not know which agents are your top performers and which are not performing?

Billings: For non-sales positions, especially professional services firms, a crucial number is billings per employee. A low amount may mean that you are over staffed or have inefficient operations. It is also critical to know billings per individual employee.

Leads & Sales Generation

# of leads: Are you receiving more inquiries or less inquiries compared to last month or last year at this time? An increase in leads should result in an increase of sales, but this is just the starting point.

Appointments scheduled: What is the percentage of inquiries that set appointments? You need to make sure that you are able to schedule appointments from your leads.

Appointments closed: A high closing ratio is the ultimate goal and a sign of sales productivity.

Customer acquisition cost: Ideally, you want to obtain customers at the lowest cost possible with the least amount of effort. The longer you retain a customer then the more you can spend trying to acquire them, but if you spend too much money on obtaining one-time customers then your profitability will suffer greatly.

The Metrics are Endless

There is an endless amount of metrics, and each industry has their own set of metrics that are measured, but sometimes metrics can be borrowed from outside your industry to make your own business more profitable. Review your situation to see which metrics will have the most impact to keep your success moving forward.

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How to Destroy Your Business Success in 6 Steps

Sometimes to be successful means to avoid doing the things that will destroy your success. It’s easy to go down the wrong path and it’s important to be aware of this.

Step #1: Saddling Your Business with Debt

Conventional wisdom states that there is smart debt vs. dumb debt or a similar description of two kinds of debt. Although there is some truth to this, the bottom line is that large amounts of debt will cause a huge handicap to your business, especially a start-up. Even if you are doing well it will not feel like it when you have massive debt payments each month or sometimes on a daily or weekly basis if you took out a predatory lender loan. When you have easy access to large amounts of debt it numbs your sense of being financially cautious, prudence, and allows you to spend your money on things that can easily be justified but are not necessary.

Step #2: Poor People Management

See what happens if you constantly treat your employees, vendors, and customers disrespectfully. The end result will be high turnover, sabotage, lack of a sense of shared purpose, losing customers, and everything else negative. It is amazing to see how little attention is paid to the management of people in a poor performing business.

Step #3: Over Working Yourself

There are times when you need to work more or work more rigorously, but if done for too long, then your productivity will decline, decision making becomes worse, and you may find yourself in the hospital for stress induced health reasons.

Step #4: Not Listening to the Right Advisors

Unemployed Uncle Jimmy with a string of failed businesses will not provide you with the advice you need, and if he does provide you with advice, then do the opposite. Or, which is also very commonplace, is to seek the advice of the wrong professional. Make sure the professional that you confide in is an expert with the advice you are looking for.

Step #5: Personal Issues

This is somewhat related to step #2, but more on a personal level. If you are going through difficult times on a personal level, then this will ultimately translate into poor business performance.  A common example is taking care of a sick family member that needs you. If you need to focus more fully on your family situation, then delay starting a business, or for an existing business try to delegate more of your business responsibilities to trusted employees.

Step #6: Ignore Marketing and Sales

Many years ago, I met with a brand new business owner to discuss his business and try to help him out. During our discussion, I asked what he was doing for marketing, and he said that he did very little because he didn’t want to spend money on marketing because marketing costs money. I’m not sure of my exact reply, but he was no longer in business within a few months’ time.

Summing it Up

Some of these steps may seem obvious, but they are common due to the fact that it is hard to take a step back, access a situation, swallow your pride, and say to yourself, “Hey, I need some help because I am not always right.” We should probably all say that more often.

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Which Type of Business is the Best One to Own?

Which type of business is the best one to own? The short answer is one that makes money, but the long answer is that it should have all or some of the following characteristics:

Simple product or service: The more complex the product or service you are offering, the harder it is to operate your business. For example, it is much more difficult to train someone to be a management consultant than a server at a restaurant, although some restaurateurs might think otherwise.

Recurring and/or predictable revenue: Subscription-based services receive recurring payments on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, which tend to be highly predictable. A project-based business performs a service, gets paid, and has to find another customer, whereas, a subscription-based business may have no known end date or automatic renewals. A perfect example is a software company, but another example is a landscaper. A landscaper may not be thought of as a subscription-based business, but it actually is.

Cash in before cash out: Selling a product or service and then waiting to get paid can drain your cash resources, especially if you are growing. Ideally, you want to operate a business that receives cash up front and then pays expenses.

Low capital investment: If you need to invest large amounts of cash upfront for improvements and equipment then it creates a hurdle to overcome. This is especially true if you do not have a lot of cash and are using debt because the debt payments act as a handicap to your success. On the other hand, if you just need to rent a small office to start your therapy practice, then the risk is much lower.

Economic profits: Did you know that many small businesses do not produce much of an economic profit? For example, if you start your own medical practice and then make as much as you did as an employee then there is no economic profit. Although, you do have to give it a few years to determine this.

Easily scalable: This means that you can easily duplicate your success by either opening more locations or growing your operations easily without relying on the owner exclusively. A perfect example is a franchise, which has a blueprint to run the business smoothly. A bad example is a niche-consultant who works one on one with clients.

The interesting fact to note is that almost any business can modify its strategy to have the desirable traits above. The complex can simplify their offerings, services or products can be made recurring, and profits can be grown to more desirable levels.

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An Alternative to Setting Goals

Setting goals can become very frustrating and produce anxiety when we realize that they aren’t being achieved. Should you set goals that are very likely to happen or goals that are very difficult to reach? What if you miss your goal by a minor amount or the outcome was good, but not what you expected? Alternatively, there is a much less stressful, and possibly more effective alternative to setting goals and achieving your desired outcomes.

The truth about goal setting: The truth is that they are all guesses, estimates, arbitrary, and do not tell the whole story of what you are trying to accomplish. Ironically, you may achieve a better outcome than your goal, but still fail to achieve that goal because you didn’t make the numbers. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, but only lose 15 pounds because you also gained lean muscle mass, then you just failed at your goal. You may be healthier, are in better shape, look better, and are stronger, but according to your goal, you just lost. This doesn’t make sense, does it?

Think about the general direction you want to move towards: Do you want to lose weight, make more money, or save more money? Know the direction that you want to go in, but do not specify an exact number. However, it is still important for you to take measurements before, during, and at the end of the year.

Form habits: Goals are not accomplished without actions, which is why your energy should focus on your habits. If you want to lose weight, then start exercising on a daily basis, even if just for 20 minutes a day. If you want to increase sales, then spend 30 minutes a day on marketing activities. Devise a plan of which actions you need to take and then keep repeating them until you build momentum and start seeing results. Tweak as necessary.

Intensity should be based upon desired outcome: If you want to achieve dramatic results, then there should be a direct correlation between the size of the desired outcome and the amount of intensity and effort to achieve that outcome. A desire to increase sales significantly should spark you to spend more than 30 minutes a day on marketing activities, and quite possibly double or triple that.

The bottom line is to set actions instead of goals to achieve desired results.

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New Year, New Goals or a Waste of Time?

Christmas Day just passed by and another year is approaching in just 5 days. Did you set goals for the New Year or do you think they are just a waste of time? You are probably right either way, but if you do set goals, there are ways to increase your odds of actually achieving them. This is a twist on the SMART acronym of goal setting.

Make goals that you are passionate about: Do you want to run a marathon, grow your business, or start a business? If you are not passionate about your goal then trying to achieve it will feel like drudgery. Another way of looking at your goals is to determine the reason why you want to achieve it. If it would be nice for you to run a marathon without the reason, then your drive will not be strong enough.

Be able to achieve your goals: If your goal is nearly impossible to achieve then how do you continue working towards it when it is futile? This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have some stretch goals, but the more realistic your goals, then the higher your chance of success. On the other hand, if the goal is too easy, then you may not even bother to work towards it. Also, too many goals will dilute your focus so try to stick with a handful of goals.

Create an action plan and habits: Goals are achieved by the constant actions we take on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. For example, if you want to increase sales by 20%, then develop key actions to implement and then review them weekly. If you want to lose weight, then make it a habit to exercise on a daily basis. Habits and actions are so important, that you can commit to certain actions, while ignoring everything else, and still achieve spectacular results.

Be clear: Put a number and timeframe on a goal, which allows you to work backwards and determine achievement. A bad goal is to say that you want to lose weight, while a good goal would be to lose 24 pounds in one year. To achieve losing 24 pounds, you can then break the goal into monthly targets to lose 2 pounds per month or approximately half a pound per week.

Review your progress: Periodically access where you are with your goals to see if your actions are working. If so, then continue, but if not, then make changes.

There you have it. Simple ways of setting and achieving goals so you do not waste your time.

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10 Small Improvements That Have a Big Profit Impact

Improvements do not have to take an enormous effort to make a huge impact on your profits. Sometimes it’s the small things that add up over time. Here are 10 simple improvements that can have a significant impact on your profits:

  1. Schedule work better: Are you wasting time by scheduling work poorly? For example, do you allow enough time for you or your employees to complete a project within the scheduled time? If not, then there will be too much stopping and starting which kills efficiency. Another scheduling challenge is to make sure that you do not have too little or too many staff members scheduled at the same time.
  2. Set aside time for high value activities: High value activities are not usually urgent, which makes them get pushed to the side. In order to get these items done, you need to schedule this type of activity, even if just an hour or two a week.
  3. Look at your financials: Do you look at your financials or tax return just once a year or possibly not at all? For starters, you should review your financials at least once per month to see how you are doing versus the same time last year. Your financial statements are the measurement of your business’ results, and you need to know how you are doing to make better decisions.
  4. Consistency of pay: When possible, try to keep your pay and distributions consistent, unless paying yourself a bonus or bonus distributions. This makes it easier to manage your cashflow and reduces the temptation to take too much just because you had a good month.
  5. Work less: Working crazy hours will burn you out over time and is not sustainable. Try to consistently reduce your hours over time to give yourself a breather. If you become depressed or develop a health problem, then you will not be able to work at all.
  6. Acknowledge people: Show sincere appreciate, gratitude, and respect for your employees, customers, vendors, and especially your family for bearing with you during good times and bad.
  7. List your activities for a week: Over the next week, jot down everything that you do and how long each task takes. Then, ask yourself, “Should I be doing this, should someone else be doing this, and does this even need to be done?”
  8. Pay extra towards your debts: Even a small amount will add up to quickly pay off your debts. You will save interest and eventually increase your cash flow. You’ll also think twice before incurring more debts.
  9. Contact an old customer: Is there an old customer or client that you liked to work with and have not heard from in a while? Maybe there was a misunderstanding that you can easily resolve or maybe no reason at all and they just need to be asked to come back.
  10. Use a pricing worksheet: Instead of just winging it with your pricing, why not develop a pricing chart? It will take the guess work and emotions out of pricing, which ends up causing you to undercharge.

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Are You Too Financially Cautious?

Is it possible to be too financially cautious?  Cautious does not mean that you are just conservative or frugal with your money, but that you are too afraid to spend your money wisely. You may not even be aware that you are too cautious and here are some examples:

Hesitate to make the right investments: Aside from traditional investments, you may be too cautious to invest in your own education and knowledge, spend the money for new equipment and technology, marketing, or spending money on employees.

Too cautious about wasting money: If you are so concerned that you will waste your resources then you will end up spending too much time trying to save a nickel, but it ends up costing you a dollar. For example, you don’t want to spend the money to keep track of your finances in QuickBooks or even Quicken for personal use, but yet you incur hundreds of dollars of insufficient funds charges each month. I have seen clients spend approximately $10,000 for insufficient funds fees.

Not taking a loan when you should: I am not an advocate of borrowing money excessively or foolishly, nor do I think that borrowing should be avoided at all times, which some pundits advocate each position strongly for. However, sometimes you need to have a line of credit to smooth out some bumps or to take advantage of low-risk opportunities that arise. Alternatively, if you pay off all of your debts too quickly then you may not have any cash available.

Time versus money: Using your time productively strongly dictates your financial success. However, if you spend your time on $10 per hour activities that drive you crazy instead of paying someone to perform them, while you can be making $200 per hour, then that is a poor use of your time and financial resources.

Money before relationships: If you are too financially cautious then you will probably never want to get married, and if you do, then you will worry about not having enough money for your children and will probably not have any.

Another way of saying financially cautious is to be penny wise and pound foolish. Don’t try to save your pennies, but make dollars!

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5 Habits for a Healthy Business and 3 Unhealthy Habits to Avoid

Our habits are repeated actions that we take, and have a tremendous impact on our results. Healthy habits become ingrained within us and we continue to do them with little thought or resistance over time. What are some practical, easy habits to ensure a healthy business and also the habits to avoid?

Healthy Habits:

Schedule activities: If you want important things to get done, especially non-urgent, important items, then you need to schedule them. Whether you need to schedule an activity on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, once it is on your calendar, then the likelihood of it being completed increases significantly. Examples include setting aside time for marketing, networking, reviewing finances, and reviewing processes.

Delegate often: Do you want to get more done? The key is to delegate, but not only to delegate, but to delegate the right things and delegate to the right people. Think before performing a task that needs to be done, especially a somewhat urgent task. This can be as simple as scheduling appointments, cleaning up a mess, or communicating simple issues.

Pause before spending: Virtually every single expense can be justified and rationalized for your business or for you personally. Before committing to spending money, first pause, think about it, and answer  the following questions: can the expense be delayed without their being a negative impact, are their other options, and what would happen if I do not incur this expense?

Consult advisors regularly: Everyone should have an advisor to consult with before making major decisions. High impact decisions can include: employee management issues, loans and finances, purchasing another business, opening another location, legal matters, etc.

Measure results: This can include reviewing your financial results, effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and employee productivity. Do not make assumptions, but keep track of important metrics and review your finances. Just because you are busy does not mean that you are profitable. Look at the numbers!

Unhealthy Habits:

Impulsive decision making: Almost all important business decisions can be pondered, and do not have to be made immediately. Take your time!

Following emotions and feelings: Don’t do things just be you feel like it or because you don’t feel like it. This can include being reactive to a customer that is upset or an employee that made a mistake. Although you may feel better at the moment, it doesn’t help long-term. The same goes for how you feel. I know that I feel like playing Cooking Fever on my phone for a few hours, but if do so, then only the virtual customers in the game will be fed, while my family will be starving.

Consulting with inept people: I know this may sound harsh, but seek the advice of people who are competent to give you advice and/or thoroughly know you and your situation.

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