10 Tips to Optimize Your Web Site for Higher Sales



If you haven’t optimized your Web site for sales, you might want to reconsider. There are more and more indications that online shopping will continue to grow.

In an article entitled, “Cyber Monday Prep: 10 Tips for Greater Sales,” Website Magazine offered some excellent strategies in 2010. They’re still relevant.

They were intended to help you for Cyber Monday, but my sense is they’re great tips to keep in mind year-round.

ID-100112923 marinHere’s the checklist:

1. Ad campaigns – make certain they’re consistent with all your promotions, and they have the right key words.

2. Landing pages – review and improve your landing pages for the desired results.

3. Shipping information – make sure it’s highly visible and easy-to-understand.

4. Return policies – should be easily read and linked to your shipping policies.

5. Contact information – should contain telephone accessibility.

6. Discount codes – need to be active and connected to the right products.

7. Affiliates – should be kept in the communication loop, and be apprised of all the necessary elements (i.e. codes, creative and links).

8. Social campaigns – have them properly orchestrated and monitored.

9. Shopping cart – do some practice runs to make sure there are no glitches.

10. E-mail – responses should be prompt, show appreciation, cross-selling options, and opportunities for consumers to receive your newsletters.

Finally, make certain your site is ready for a sudden increase in traffic. And ask your friends and relatives to try out your site.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles:

“Your brand is created out of customer contact and the experience your customers have of you.”

-Stelios Haji-Ioannou


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy of marin at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Enthusiasm Prevails in 2010 Q4 Plans of Internet Marketers

Oct. 22, 2010

Almost two-thirds of respondents in an Internet marketing study forecast healthy double-digit percentage increases this holiday season, according to a Website Magazine report on the Shop.org 2010 eHoliday Study.

This year 63.3 percent anticipate 15 percent or higher increases in sales. That compares to 45.8 percent of responding marketers last year.

BIGresearch conducted the study for Shop.org.

Website Magazine reported other salient data:   

  • 40 percent of online retailers will begin holiday marketing by Halloween, and another 40 percent will begin by November 1 
  • 84.5 percent will offer free shipping at some point during the holiday season
  • 72.5 percent have increased their Facebook presence for the holidays
  • 54.9 percent have enhanced or invested in product pages for cross-selling during the holidays
  • 54.9 percent have optimized site search features to maximize holiday sales
  • 52.9 percent have invested in customer ratings and reviews platforms in advance of the holidays
  • 43.1 percent will increase their presence on Twitter this holiday season

The magazine also reports 32.2 percent of shoppers will shop online.

Here’s why:

  • 35.1 percent – 24-hour convenience
  • 33.1 percent – easy price comparisons
  • 30.8 percent – lack of crowds

So, consider what your competitors might be planning, and strategize what’s best for you.

For other marketing insights, you might wish to review this site’s Marketing/Sales and Tech business-coaching columns. You’ll find more than 130.

Microsoft’s adCenter Expands Negative Keyword Limits


Aug. 22, 2010


Microsoft has added a wrinkle to its advertising program – an increase in negative keyword limits.

The change enables advertisers to increase by “thousands of negative words…both the campaign and ad group levels,” reports WebProNews in 2010.

“If you’re not familiar with negative keywords, advertisers can prevent their ads from appearing in response to certain search queries using negative keywords (specific words or phrases that help prevent ads from being displayed to customers who are unlikely to click),” explains writer Chris Crum.

“Doing so will also keep your keyword-level negatives from overriding your newly expanded lists at the higher levels,” he quotes Microsoft’s Tina Kelleher.

“Advertisers need to upload their expanded lists of negative keywords at the campaign or ad group level with the negative keywords migration wizard in the Desktop, then remove keyword-level negatives, the company says,” adds Mr. Crum.

“Unless, of course, you’re perfectly happy with your campaigns as they are now and don’t need the increased capacity for negatives at the higher levels, then there’s no action you need to take at all,” he quotes Ms. Kelleher.

From the Coach’s Corner, here’s a question: Web Publishers: Are You Optimized for Bing?

“With no ads, who would pay for the media?  The good fairy?”  

-Samuel Thurm

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Business Got You Down? Tips for a Morale Boost



If sales are discouraging and you feel like you’re on a treadmill going nowhere, it’s probably because you’re worried about the future. Trust me, you’re not alone.

The trick is taking baby steps and not worrying about the future results. Instead, focus on the positive. Business success and strong sales stem are made possible by enthusiasm, and an attitude of service and gratitude.

This means not focusing on the proverbial “results department.” That department door might not open. So only focus on footwork and simply knocking on the “results department door.” Imagine yourself knocking on one door and then moving quickly to knock on another.

ID-10063171 David Castillo DominiciDon’t wait for the doors to open because that’s what leads to despair. It’s true that a watched pot never boils.

Moreover, this is a good time to measure your progress – not your obstacles.

Consider the acronym, GO, an acronym for “gratitude” and “options”

By way of explanation, sometimes discouragement is so bad a businessperson obsesses about what’s not working instead of relishing what is working.

By focusing solely on the problems they become bigger. When that happens, it’s an endless cycle of despair. The person feels trapped.

Conversely, if a businessperson focuses on the positive, such an attitude of gratitude opens the person up to a childlike wonder and creates hope. Hope leads to options.

So, with hope, anything is possible. Know that for each problem – I prefer the word challenge – there are 10 possible solutions for options.

But how can you get gratitude and options?

First create hope for growth. Examine the progress you have made and start a gratitude list. Pat yourself on the back for any footwork. Start by asking yourself, “Where, how, when, why and with whom have I made progress?” Write or type your answers. No progress is too small to list.

Ask yourself these 10 sample questions:

  1. What networking events, lunches or meetings have I attended?
  2. What new acquaintances have I made?
  3. What recognition or positive comments have been made by others about me?
  4. What free publicity have I received either from my efforts or those of others?
  5. Have I created a new Web site or marketing collateral?
  6. Any new skills or knowledge?
  7. Have I attracted any new clients or retained old clients?
  8. Are there any companies or businesspersons indicating interest in my capabilities?
  9. Have I done any pro bono or volunteer work?
  10. Do I have a support system or mentor?

If you can’t give a positive answer to the 10 questions, then do what you have to do for the right answers. That’s just to get you started. Perhaps there are other pertinent questions you can ask.

Consider the acronym, GO, an acronym for “gratitude” and “options”

Now, it’s time for a new vision for growth, here’s how:

  1. Write out your vision plan. One page will do.
  2. Set goals for footwork – not results.
  3. Periodically, each day ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now, productive?” (Chances are it isn’t productive, so focus on what is.)
  4. Keep records of your baby steps.
  5. Honor your progress with gratitude and keep it going with affirmations.
  6. Stay in close contact with your support system.
  7. Get exercise, sleep and medical care when needed.
  8. Practice stewardship of your assets. Focus on cleanliness and organization.
  9. Focus on your favorite hobby and recreation.
  10. Ask clients for feedback. If a client complains, don’t get defensive just take notes. When you’re complimented, ask for referrals to two people who might also appreciate what you have to offer.
  11. Keep on practicing gratitude. Always handwrite a thank you note when someone considers buying or hiring you. Thank people for their business. In fact, in every e-mail, note, meeting or telephone conversation, remember 98 percent of the time a thank you is warranted.
  12. Keep in mind the adage, “What goes around comes around.” Try to listen more and avoid treating others as though they’re invisible, and you will be accorded greater respect.
  13. Keep smiling. A jovial Joe or Jane is an attraction to others.
  14. Look around for someone else to help. This will help you smile.
  15. As you succeed, carry this message to others.

As you go along and think of other pointers, add them to these suggestions.

Now, GO! Good luck!

From the Coach’s Corner, here are 30 Time Management, Stress Reducing Skills

“The best morale exist when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it’s usually lousy.” 

-Dwight D. Eisenhower 

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at www.freedigitalphotos.net 

Want More Revenue? Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins of Selling



Whether you are an established company or a startup, what you probably need most is a positive revenue stream. It’s possible with a higher-performing sales staff.

So you might wish to consider the latest strategies of a globally known sales trainer, Roy Chitwood, who is based in Seattle.

He says salespeople often commit seven crucial errors. Mr. Chitwood, of Max Sacks International, has the credentials to address the topic – more 250,000 salespeople at 3,000 companies in 18 countries have used his sales counsel.

He’s released a white paper, “The Seven Deadly Sins of Selling.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Sin No 1: Talking too much, listening too little. The typical salesperson walks into an office, gives the official two minute warm-up – asking about the fish on the wall or the family photo on the desk – then, like a high diver, leaps into a hot presentation about this feature and that feature, the options available, the price and the savings.

There is no close. Most interviews are terminated by the prospect so they can get on with their life. Knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them is the only way to find out if you’re making a presentation to the person with the real need, the authority and the money.

Sin No 2: Selling the product, not the benefits. When someone buys a drill bit, it’s not the drill bit the customer wants, it’s the hole. People buy to fill a need or solve a problem. No one is willing to pay for a product or service they don’t need or does not perform. Yet salespeople sell as if they will. Presentations continually focus on the width, height, weight, power, speed, buttons, bulbs or whatever of the product/service.

Whether they’re individuals or committees, people buy benefits, not features. Prospects have hidden buying motives. There are reasons why they select one brand over another, why one product/service seems to fill the need better.

Ninety percent of selling is conviction, and 10 per cent is persuasion.

-Shiv Khera

Sin No 3: Never asking for the order. As a prominent study proved, more often than not, customers don’t have to worry about a pressured close, because in 62 percent of the cases, the salesperson never asks for a sale. For most salespeople, selling is an uncomfortable experience because they don’t know where to go in their presentations.

When prospects say “I would like to think it over,” “Your price is too high,” “I want to shop around,” what they’re really saying is, “You haven’t convinced me to buy.”

Sin No 4: Pushing for the close too often, the salesperson tries to “sell” rather than help the customer “buy.” When the salesperson is ready the trick closes begin. These old closes and gimmicks are outdated and backfire more often than they work. The prospect has fears, uncertainties and doubts about the decision to spend money, and when closed too soon, reacts negatively to being forced to makea decision.

Pushing too hard means the salesperson is forcing the prospect to build a defensive wall that won’t come down easily. Following the sequence of a well- given presentation means asking for the order will be at the right time.

Sin No 5: Wasting selling time. Selling is a problem for most salespeople because they don’t know how to spend their time profitably. Selling is prospecting, cold calling and obtaining leads. It is traveling to meet strange people, having to send emails and proposals, make phone calls and hand out brochures. It is doing the paperwork and servicing the client.

There is only one way to insure you get to the close, and that’s by having a logical sales procedure. This is why the salesperson should learn the buyer’s decision-making process.

Sin No. 6: Not identifying prospects from suspects. There are many people who will listen to a sales presentation. It may make them feel important or help them fill their time. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t help the salesperson get any nearer to the sale. In fact, it takes the salesperson further away from the sale because time has been wasted and the point-of-entry into a company has been mismanaged.

Presenting to people who are not qualified is just that – presenting. It is not selling. And a company or a salesperson can’t make a profit by just presenting. Probably the greatest misuse of a salesperson’s time is presenting to someone who doesn’t have the need, the authority or the money.

Sin No. 7: Making a sale, not a customer. A professional salesperson is someone who helps a prospect satisfy a need. And most importantly, your company can count on the loyalty of a new client – one that will return with repeat and increasing orders. For many salespeople, just getting the sale is the only objective.

To accomplish this end, they use whatever means are available – assumptive closes, high pressure tactics, promises of extra incentives, threats of price increases or whatever other tricks are in the bag. Salespeople like this sometimes walk out with a sale, but they don’t sign on customers. In fact, the customers may be so resentful of the pressure and tricks, they may rethink their commitments.

Mr. Chitwood’s Web site: www.maxsacks.com. (Mr. Chitwood also has sagacious advice if you’re discouraged in job hunting and need powerful tips for the best job.)

From the Coach’s Corner, see these resources for productive selling:

Sales Secrets for Getting by Receptionists, Gatekeepers — Getting past receptionists and other gatekeepers is a universal challenge for salespeople. Successful salespeople, however, have the right insights and approaches for success. Here’s how they do it.

11 Sales Strategies to Outsell Your Big Competitors — Big companies have obvious advantages over small businesses. Their brands are well-known. They can afford sales training, sales-support staff and customer-relationship management software. On the other hand, there are good reasons why Cyber Monday has become big.

8 Tips for Cold Calling By E-mail and Telephone — Since the advent of the digital age, cold calling is out of vogue for many people. But in the tepid economic recovery no matter what your industry is – whether it’s advertising or staffing services – cold calling has become the logical tool to use to generate clients or business customers.

6 Sales Tips for Successful Cold Calling — For most businesspeople in a lackluster economy, it’s important to create new opportunities with successful cold calling. Yes, it’s necessary to concentrate more efforts to create new sales. Attending mere networking events or depending on a high marketing budget aren’t sufficient for strong sales. OK, cold calling isn’t always easy, but you must if you want to dramatically increase sales in double-digit percentages. Develop and implement the right strategies. You’ll be in the all-important groove for a happy buying environment.

B2B Telemarketing: Your 1st Priority Is to Build Trust — Telemarketing is, of course, a challenge. You must create a favorable first impression in your initial approach. This means building trust should be your primary goal. Here’s how.

“The superior man is distressed by the limitations of his ability; he is not distressed by the fact that men do not recognize the ability that he has.”

-Confucius


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo credit: www.mconnors.com

Data for Americans’ New Passion — Internet Videos



If your business Web site doesn’t have videos, you’re missing an opportunity for growth.

Data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau is enlightening: In America, 11,000 online videos advertisements are watched every second – 23 minutes a day — a total of 28 billion video ads every month. That’s a 23 percent increase from 2010 to 2014.

The data mirrors another report:

Video-watching continue to be a favorite Internet habit of Americans, according to data released in July 2013 by research firm comScore for the month of June. More than 85 percent of American Internet users — 183 million — watched nearly 45 billion videos in June. In Web advertising, Americans watched 20 billion video ads.

Top 10 Video Content Properties by Unique Viewers

Google Sites, driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube.com, ranked as the top online video content property in June 2013 with 158.3 million unique viewers, followed by Facebook with 61.6 million, AOL, Inc. with 51 million, VEVO with 49.3 million and Microsoft Sites with 46.8 million.

More than 44 billion video content views occurred during the month, with Google Sites generating the highest number at nearly 15.7 billion, followed by AOL, Inc. with 775 million and Facebook with 730 million. Google Sites had the highest average engagement among the top ten properties.

Top U.S. Online Video Content Properties Ranked by Unique Video Viewers
June 2013
Total U.S. – Home and Work Locations
Content Videos Only (Ad Videos Not Included)
Source: comScore Video Metrix
Property Total Unique Viewers (000) Videos (000)* Minutes per Viewer
Total Internet : Total Audience 183,308 44,693,710 1,299.3
Google Sites 158,337 15,719,544 500.1
Facebook 61,646 729,548 24.7
AOL, Inc. 51,014 774,641 58.5
VEVO 49,293 562,445 38.9
Microsoft Sites 46,801 615,005 33.3
NDN 46,605 517,871 86.6
Yahoo! Sites 41,391 304,598 73.6
Viacom Digital 40,457 421,490 45.3
Amazon Sites 33,784 135,099 19.1
Turner Digital 27,587 255,590 40.5

*A video is defined as any streamed segment of audiovisual content, including both progressive downloads and live streams. For long-form, segmented content, (e.g. television episodes with ad pods in the middle) each segment of the content is counted as a distinct video stream.Video views are inclusive of both user-initiated and auto-played videos that are viewed for longer than 3 seconds.

Top 10 Video Ad Properties by Video Ads Viewed

Americans viewed a record 20 billion video ads in June, with Google Sites ranking No. 1 with 3.3 billion ad impressions. LiveRail.com came in second with 2.4 billion ads, followed by BrightRoll Platform with 2.4 billion, Adap.tv with 2.2 billion and Specific Media with 1.5 billion.

Time spent watching video ads totaled 7.5 billion minutes, with BrightRoll Platform delivering the highest duration of video ads at 1.2 billion minutes. Video ads reached nearly 54 percent of the total U.S. population an average of 121 times during the month.

Hulu delivered the highest frequency of video ads to its viewers with an average of 73.

Top U.S. Online Video Ad Properties Ranked by Video Ads* Viewed
June 2013
Total U.S. – Home and Work Locations
Ad Videos Only (Content Videos Not Included)
Source: comScore Video Metrix
Property Video Ads (000) Total Ad Minutes (MM) Frequency (Ads per Viewer) % Reach Total U.S. Population
Total Internet : Total Audience 20,090,763 7,487 121.1 53.6
Google Sites 3,260,119 300 29.7 35.5
LIVERAIL.COM† 2,390,027 800 29.4 26.3
BrightRoll Platform**† 2,384,810 1,155 15.3 50.2
ADAP.TV† 2,208,488 1,048 18.1 39.4
Specific Media** 1,482,259 567 13.1 36.7
TubeMogul Video Ad Platform† 1,442,628 438 15.3 30.4
Hulu 1,395,987 533 73.4 6.1
Tremor Video** 772,829 358 12.5 20.1
AOL, Inc. 670,437 314 12.6 17.2
Videology† 598,124 238 9.3 20.8

*Video ads include streaming-video advertising only and do not include other types of video monetization, such as overlays, branded players, matching banner ads, etc.
**Indicates video ad network
†Indicates video ad exchange/DSP/SSP

Top 10 YouTube Partner Channels by Unique Viewers

The June 2013 YouTube partner data revealed that video music channel VEVO maintained the top position in the ranking with 47.5 million viewers. Fullscreen held on to the #2 position with 34.3 million viewers, followed by Maker Studios Inc. with 28.8 million, Warner Music with 28.4 million and ZEFR (formerly MovieClips) with 26.5 million.

Among the top 10 YouTube partners, Machinima demonstrated the highest engagement (76 minutes per viewer), followed by Maker Studios Inc. (62 minutes per viewer). VEVO streamed the greatest number of videos (534 million), followed by Maker Studios Inc. (477 million).

Top YouTube Partner Channels* Ranked by Unique Video Viewers
June 2013
Total U.S. – Home and Work Locations
Content Videos Only (Ad Videos Not Included)
Source: comScore Video Metrix
Property Total Unique Viewers (000) Videos (000) Minutes per Viewer
VEVO @ YouTube 47,452 533,916 37.7
Fullscreen @ YouTube 34,287 309,216 28.2
Maker Studios Inc. @ YouTube 28,758 476,838 62.3
Warner Music @ YouTube 28,375 160,236 18.4
ZEFR @ YouTube 26,530 137,230 14.4
The Orchard @ YouTube 22,564 85,294 10.6
Machinima @ YouTube 20,380 389,548 75.8
UMG @ YouTube 17,907 60,096 9.8
BroadbandTV @ YouTube 16,759 127,043 24.5
E! Entertainment Television @ YouTube 15,634 39,251 4.1

Other notable findings from June 2013 include:

  • 85.2 percent of the U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
  • The duration of the average online content video was 5.3 minutes, while the average online video ad was 0.4 minutes.
  • Video ads accounted for 31 percent of all videos viewed and 3 percent of all minutes spent viewing video online.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more video insights:

A Lesson in Great E-mail Marketing Using Social Media, Videos — Dog lovers would love a promotion by Orvis. Actually, you don’t have to own a dog to appreciate the digital marketing by the firm. Orvis is a nationwide high-end purveyor of men’s and women’s clothing, products for the home and travel, and of course you can buy gifts for your dog. 

Great News for Web Publishers: Video Ad Spending Explodes — The global real-time bidding (RTB) expenditures on online video advertising is forecast to hit $1.14 billion in 2014, according to an independent consulting firm.  

Tips: Do it Yourself Videos are OK, but Get Help if You Aren’t a Pro — Videos, as a marketing tool, are great because they enable prospects to actually see your business from their computers. You can be seen as hospitable. Videos can help your prospects feel like guests.

Need a Game-changer? Try a Good Video for More Credibility — Whether you’re an event planner or if you want to make your business more credible, here’s why good videos should be part of your marketing mix.

“Stop thinking of ‘video marketing’ as this separate entity that is optional for your business. Video is an effective form of communication that needs to be integrated into each and every aspect of your existing marketing efforts.”

-James Wedmore

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Competitive Intelligence Author Shares Her Insights



Even before the Great Recession, businesses had headaches in reducing risks. KPMG’s 2007 study of 544 global executives revealed that many companies wanted to be able to be able to manage their performance, but only 20 percent were able to make reliable forecasts.

Yes, it’s increasingly difficult to stay on top of marketplace challenges and to invest in trends to get the most return on your investments. That’s why the competitive intelligence (CI) process is sweeping the planet. CI enables a company to reduce risks and accelerate profits.

The returns are great, but it usually requires a hefty investment. Best Practices LLC said in 2007 the average CI budget was a whopping $821,613. The average CI manager was paid $148,709.

If anyone knows how to make CI cost effective, it’s author Seena Sharp. She wrote the book, “Competitive Intelligence Advantage: How to Minimize Risk, Avoid Surprises, and Grow Your Business in a Changing World.”

“It’s a pragmatic view of CI and how it can immediately provide benefits to those companies that use it,” she said. “Better decisions, reduced risk.”

Not only is she a great author, she is the knowledgeable as principal of consulting firm, Sharp Market Intelligence, www.sharpmarket.com.

Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Ms. Sharp:

Q: How do you differentiate CI from market research?

A: Market research (MR) captures what consumers say about what they’ve done or will do. Often, the reality is not the same as actual behavior. No one is deliberately lying – we just believe better about ourselves. We exercise four times a week, and eat five vegetables a day, etc. MR is more focused on the past and on intentions.

CI is more focused on what is actually happening in the marketplace and on the near future.

MR is more tactical and methods-driven, while CI is more strategic and results-driven.

MR results are mostly quantitative; CI results are factual, but also include insight, perspective, and raising questions.

MR relies mostly on consumers, while CI taps a wide range of constituencies, including competitors, suppliers, distributors, major customers, and experts.

With MR, software is widely used, while you cannot get CI from software. CI requires analysis and thinking, identifying patterns and discontinuities.

Q: What are your “11 Myths about Competitive Intelligence?”

A: The myths are:
1.   Market research and competitive intelligence are the same.
2.   Competitive and competitor intelligence are the same.
3.   Data, information and intelligence are the same.
4.   Competitive intelligence is spying.
5.   There’s no information on private companies.
6.   The best information comes from my industry.
7.   Information is free.
8.   Information costs too much.
9.   Not every decision requires competitive intelligence
10.  Competitive intelligence is a waste of time.
11.  You cannot use software for CI. Software can gather and organize info – to a limited extent – but it cannot do the analysis of a seasoned, experienced, sophisticated businessperson.

Q: Why do you feel statistics, facts and forecasts are the wrong tools for gauging the future?

A: There are no statistics or facts about the future. Statistics and facts are very useful for providing an understanding of what has happened, for providing a foundation for understanding a company or industry or product. We can forecast the near future for planning purposes, as long as we understand the likelihood of their not being accurate.

No one has more statistical information or formulas for analyzing them than do economists and stockbrokers – and yet they can’t get it right. How can the rest of us, with far more limited tools available to us, hope to have accurate forecasts? So, as long as we understand their limitations, they will be useful – just not likely to be true.

Part of the reason we cling to forecasts is that they provide comfort. It’s a hard number that won’t be challenged, in comparison to an idea or opinion. The 1950s were a period of relative stability and expected growth, so it was far, far easier to forecast fairly accurately. Somehow, we’ve never let go of that belief, even for those who weren’t in the work force during that period. We want to be able to forecast and to get a sense of our future.

I have dozens of headlines from the mainstream newspapers with the following words in their headlines, “unexpected,” “lower than,” “surprising.” These all indicate that what was predicted by the experts just didn’t happen. And it doesn’t – not in a changing world, and what industry isn’t changing.

The reality is that few businesspeople recognize the changes that are happening in their industry, and when they do point to changes, they’re ones that have been happening for decades, such as more technology, faster, more convenient. But they rarely know about the changes that provide opportunities.

Q: What are the key indicators of change, opportunity and potential threats?

A: Differences. Change refers to something that’s different. So, any observation of what doesn’t fit or isn’t the same is ripe for consideration of an opportunity or threat. I counsel my clients to pay attention to surprises, as well as info that’s contradictory or unconventional, or challenges assumptions. This is the info that is typically ignored, laughed at, or underestimate. But it’s virtually always a first sign of market changes.

Q: Businesspeople typically are apprehensive about uncertainty.  What’s an example of your principle, “surprise to avoid surprise?”

A: Customers who don’t fit your target profile. Virtually all businesses have customers who don’t match who the company thinks buys their products. They could be women or teens or rural dwellers, or people whose income is below $25,000, etc. Businesses are still stuck in defining their customers according to demographics. That’s useful – to a limited extent.

The book, “The Millionaire Next Door,” clearly painted a picture of wealthy individuals who have 10-year-old cars, and don’t buy jewelry or expensive cars. Yet, sellers of pricey items passionately believe that it’s the wealthy who have the means to buy their products. The reality is that your customers are those who want your product or service, not those who can afford it.

Q: What’s your philosophy on determining if changes are fads or trends?

A: I have studied the definitions of fads vs. trends – and while the matrix comparing them is reasonable, I would be hard-pressed to identify anything as a fad. Virtually all fads last several years, so while they may not have staying power, they’re not gone in a few months or a year, as most people think of fads.

On the other hand, when I ask people for trends in their industry, they mention things that have been going on for years and often for decades, such as more technology, faster, more convenient, etc. The point here is that most trends are facts, because people don’t recognize trends until they’ve been happening for years. They will categorize virtually anything that’s different from conventional wisdom as a trend, when it’s really a fact. This could include customers who don’t fit the profile.

Think about people older than 50. Their purchases or activities are constantly and still referred to as something new or different, when the reality is that it’s been true for decades. Many of the attention that boomers have been getting are things that people over 80 have been doing for decades – dating, having sex, exercising, working, etc. Not new, but many refer to it as a trend.

Q: What do you consider the importance of substitute and indirect competitors and the danger of focusing on competitors?

A: Any customer or prospect who buys a product or service from a company that is not a direct competitor, is a substitute or indirect competitor. For example, if you need a financial planner, but had a bad experience with one in the past and refuse to use another one, you might get your needs met from a wide variety of other companies – such as banks, lawyer, accountant, and software, etc.

Now, a financial planner will not consider any of these to be competitors. But if they lose business to a lawyer, the lawyer is their competitor for that particular service. The important thing to recognize is why is a non-industry professional getting the business? This is the key to satisfying customers. The financial planner will usually refer to price, but in industry after industry that we have investigated, price is virtually third or fourth in importance. It’s only first when the companies have not differentiated themselves, so that to the customer, all seem the same.

Q: What else would you like to add?

A: CI is not gathering data, and it’s not focusing on competitors. It’s going way, way, way beyond that to gaining insight and perspective about a world that is constantly changing and changing in unexpected ways.

The value from CI should save far more money than the investment, such as hiring an accountant to do your taxes. CI tells you – in advance – what you will discover later. The reality always presents itself. It’s just a matter of when you want to learn it.

Disclosure: Not only is she authoritative, Ms. Sharp is a fun consultant with whom to work as I’ve known her many years.

From the Coach’s Corner, want more of her insights? See this article: Hottest Tactics to Beat Your Competitors

“I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”

-Walt Disney


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 






Strategies for Maximum Customer Loyalty, Profits



A major factor affecting profits is customer retention. Profits tend to be elusive without consistent customer loyalty.

If you don’t have sufficient numbers of loyal customers, it’s important to do a profit analysis to determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Then develop a strategic action plan and implement it.

Bear in mind American businesspeople and consumers have increasingly become cost-conscious and look for opportunities to save money.

ID-100117052 stockimagesThis trend has prompted many companies to slash prices and to make the mistake of focusing on price in their sales messages.

That means your customers are constantly hit with discount offers.

And they are tempted to change to your competitors because of price, quality and service.

But it isn’t a permanent switch. Such customers will then gravitate to the next low-ball offer.

So advertising to target such low-balling customers is simply not cost-effective.

I’m referring to customers base their decisions on price, only. They constitute 18 percent of buyers.

Therefore, it’s key to target the other 82 percent who can be persuaded to buy based on their five perceptions about value.

My research also shows that you have to reach a prospect with five positive messages before the decision is made to buy your product or service.

Why companies lose customers

When devoutly loyal customers shop elsewhere, 70 percent of the time they feel taken for granted.

Customers will leave you for a myriad of reasons, including failure to properly answer questions, treating them abruptly, making the buying process inconvenient, failure to solve problems quickly and subsequently failing to provide added value to assuage an unhappy customer.

Losing customers also means blown opportunities for word-of-mouth advertising and customer referrals. Plus, social networking and blogs – positive and negative – have changed the marketplace even more.

That’s why listening to customers is so vital – to gather information, to analyze it, and to develop answers.

In large cities, the advertising opportunity costs are high – usually $300 to $400 or more per customer.

If you lose a customer, it will cost you more to attract a replacement. Then, you have to factor in the sales curve – how long it takes for a new customer to become profitable.

So profits suffer in a down economy if you lose customers and can’t easily replace them. That means layoffs, which will hurt you even more.

Fifty-two percent of a customer’s value-perceptions motivating them to buy from you hinges directly on what they think about your people – spokespersons, sales reps and other personnel. (For more on value perceptions, see “The 7 Steps to Higher Sales.”)

So it helps to have ongoing discussions with your staff on these topics: Why customers buy from you, perceptions about poor customer service, and the factors about your service and products they like the best.

Research and other methods

Continually query your customers in formal surveys and in casual conversations using open-ended questions to get solid answers, not “yes” or “no” answers.

Take action steps and make improvements when feasible.

After you get great feedback and measure the results of improvements, tell your customers and express your appreciation.

When customers make purchases, don’t forget to thank them and prevent buyer’s remorse by tactfully reminding them of the value of their purchases.

And explain to your employees why it’s important to stop using the most-trite phrase on the planet: “Have a nice day.” Instead, your employees need to focus on providing an attitude of service and gratitude.

You’ll be creating a happy buying environment for repeat business and customer loyalty.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles:

How to Profit from Word-of-Mouth Advertising and Customer Service — When was the last time you explored options for improving your word-of-mouth opportunities? Here’s a hint: Customer service is the No. 1 key to good word-of-mouth advertising and repeat business. My firm’s research shows that consumers usually respond favorably to marketing after receiving five positive messages. Conversely, they will divorce your company if they have five or fewer unfavorable experiences.

Why Companies Are High Maintenance to Customers (but Don’t Know It) — Businesses are losing more than they know because they inconvenience customers. Such negative customer perceptions result in lost opportunities in revenue growth, tarnished branding and smaller profit margins, according to a study.

Marketing – Insights for Attracting Millennial Customers — Marketers from fast food to cars are struggling to understand an important demographic – 59 million young adults, aged 23 to 36, according to a published report. Other observers believe there are 80 million millennials, but in a slightly narrower age group. Either way, companies are obsessed with targeting millennials for good reasons.

Why Your Customers Stay or Leave – Insights from Study — Despite all the emphasis on speed in customer service, it’s not the salient factor in keeping customers happy. A study confirms that the power of emotion is most important, according to a January 2013 published report in QSRweb.com.

Understanding Customers — Social Media Humbles Companies — Marketing is the understanding of your customer for the cost-effective process of selling the right product or service at the right time and at the right price. Inexplicably, Verizon joins the list of big companies failing to understand how poor research and judgment would draw fire from their customers and social media.

“Well done is better than well said.”

-Benjamin Franklin 


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy of stockimages www.freedigitalphotos.net

Ad Agencies Seeking New Clients — How to Create a Marriage



An article in AdAge.com once caught my eye: “Marketers Exhibit Cad-Like Behavior at the RFP Ball.”

The author, Jennifer Modarelli, opined in February 2010 about the lack of courtesy and respect companies give to advertising agencies.

Years later, it all remains true. I agree with her.

ID-10046954RFPs, or requests for proposals, are time-consuming and costly.

They also lead to a black hole when ad agencies submit ideas when they’re later used by the prospects without compensation to the agencies.

There were also excellent comments by readers.

Such behavior is symptomatic of the times, and sales opportunity costs are too high.

Many ad agency ideas are worth millions.

Therefore, it’s important for ad agencies to step up.

That means doing what’s necessary to earn a place at the senior executive decision-making table in the conference meeting rooms.

Have you encountered such behavior? Yes, you probably have.

What can be done about it?

Here are some options you might wish to consider:

1. Unless, you have the staffing to absorb such high sales opportunity costs, stop reacting to RFPs.

2. In your pitches, stop giving details without an agreement and compensation. Instead, share your approaches to prospects’ marketing dilemmas.  Otherwise, a cost-benefit analysis will show the resulting legal hassles aren’t worth it.

3. Refrain from giving proposals – try letters of agreement after using the appropriate steps to sell your brand to prospects. Even better, here’s a valuable secret, present the prospect a deal memo.

4. Offer benchmarks for your performance and show empathy for marketplace conditions. But monitor the client. Make sure you’ve got a great client who operates the business successfully.

5. Develop ground rules for client service (my firm has 61). Occasionally, I’ve encountered some friction with a client, so I pull out my service policies and I discover I failed to adhere to them.

6. Solicit compliments. When you get them, ask for two referrals to their peers at other companies who might need your great marketing.

7. Pre-sell your shop. Bypass the advertisers’ “screening out consultants” by getting close to the advertiser in advance. Join the largest business organization in your locale and volunteer for appropriate committees.

8. Continue your SSP, shameless self-promotion. Try new approaches.

Good luck in romancing new business!

From the Coach’s Corner, additional reading:

You Can Get Bigger Corporate Accounts in 5 Steps — So your company needs to grow and you’ve decided to go after bigger fish. Getting bigger corporate accounts is easier, if you develop the right system. But not only must you have reason to be confident, you must position yourself and your company to instill confidence in your prospects.

Consultants – 5 Strategies to Build Trust with Clients — When a businessperson hires a consultant it’s usually because of brand trust. That’s an emotional decision no different than when a consumer buys a new refrigerator or car. But there’s one major difference – the consultant is dealing with a wealthy client or someone who wants to be affluent. Wealthy people have a different mindset, which is why they have money in the first place.

The 7 Steps to Higher Sales — Secrets for sales success – seven steps to higher sales, five value perceptions that motivate customers to buy, and the three-step process for overcoming sales objections.

Marketing – How to Profit from Emerging Human Behaviors — Become more profitable: Forecast emerging human behavior and tastes, and leverage trends to be relevant.

“Advertising is totally unnecessary. Unless you hope to make money.”
-Jef I. Richards


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy of Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Marketing – How to Profit from Emerging Human Behaviors



One of the traits successful businesspeople share is the ability to see the big picture. That’s true in marketing, too.

So a marketing thesis caught my eye: “5 marketing megatrends you can’t ignore” by Adam Kleinberg. He’s the CEO of Traction in San Francisco.

He points out that everyone is seemingly aware of trends including Twitter, the baby boomer passion for home renovation or that green is cool.

ID-10074110 KROMKRATHOGBut he contends it’s best to understand the big picture. I agree. It’s one of the complaints my clients have often voiced about their employees or vendors. Their typical comments: “People don’t understand what’s at stake or they don’t understand my vision.”

Mr. Kleinberg certainly gets it. He understands that many companies have not capitalized on what he calls the “5 marketing megatrends you can’t ignore.”

Businesses broadcast their value propositions, target their niches and distinguish themselves from competitors.

My sense of his argument is that most do not forecast emerging human behavior, tastes and leverage trends to be relevant. That means better understanding the big picture.

His five mega trends:

Mass collaboration is powering the new economy – He explains how some businesses are innovating to create better products almost by consensus with stakeholders outside their companies. He calls it the “collaborative economy.”

“A fundamental shift has occurred in which brands have become a conversation — and audiences have just as much of a say in the shape of that dialogue as marketing directors and agency copywriters, he wrote.

He singles out Apple for good reason. The results speak for themselves. Apple customers are fiercely loyal.

Constant connectivity in an on-demand world – He suggests Millenials only know about instant gratification.

He’s right. For them, everything is on demand – they’re instantly and constantly wired. They only know technology.

I would add the word, mobile, to describe the phenomenon.

He cites Sprint for its “now” concept. Sprint is making inroads to being synonymous with “get what you want now.”

Globalization: Making the world a smaller place – He reminds us that globalization is a permanent. It’s not going away. We’re all globally interconnected.

Candidly, in studying the visitors’ data for this Biz Coach Web site, I’ve been amazed at its national and global reach – not just the locations of my site’s users but how certain columns attract readers and why bloggers re-post certain Biz Coach topics.

Unions don’t seem to get this global concept and complain about offshoring of jobs. Yes, I have a lot of empathy, but one of the emerging trends is that more and more people are enjoying their abilities to empower themselves.

Mr. Kleinberg understands and makes this suggestion: “The recession has left millions of Americans out of work, many wondering what their next move should be. Today, they can start their own global business from the comfort of their living room.”

Hey, I agree – he’s preaching to the choir as I’ve written about this. For more, see this Biz Coach article: “Need a Job? The Recession and Offshoring Don’t Have to Be Obstacles.”

As a company example that understands what’s taking place, Mr. Kleinberg suggests Alibaba.com and discloses it’s a client of his:

“It’s a website that helps small and medium-sized businesses around the world find suppliers or manufacturers for virtually any product or service they might need. Alibaba.com makes it possible for virtually anyone with a laptop and an idea to find a supplier half a world away to help them build a business. The site has 42 million members, and the company has grown from 18 employees to 10,000 in a decade,” he wrote.

Pervasive distrust in big corporations – Mr. Kleinberg asks these questions:

“Does our economic situation have you infuriated with corporate America? Do you feel like the jerks on Wall Street and the incompetents in Detroit almost destroyed this country’s financial system to line their own pockets? Do you trust big banks to have your best interests in mind?”

He adds: “If you answered ‘yes, yes, no,’ to the above, you’re not alone.”

He contends that the brand that gets it is Ally Bank, and quotes the company’s advertising propaganda:

“We are Ally Bank, built on the foundation of GMAC Financial Services. And with that experience we’ve learned that these times demand change and a new way of doing business. So we’re taking banking in a new direction…That means talking straight, doing right and being obviously better for our customers.”

A global sense of urgency to fix the problems of a modern world – He asserts going green has become an immediate priority:

“Being green is a minimum standard…But being green is symptomatic of another megatrend that is influencing the world on a massive scale — a global sense of urgency,” he wrote.

Which company does he cite? IBM.

IBM has wrapped its big blue arms around the massive sense of urgency that is sweeping the globe with its campaign for ‘A Smarter Planet’,” he wrote.

He indicates that IBM’s Web site summarizes how IBM is relevant:

“The technology is here.
The people are ready.
The time is now.”

Congratulations to Mr. Kleinberg, www.tractionco.com, for his insights. I received his article via the folks at www.imediaconnection.com.

So study human nature or hire someone who gets it. Treat this economy as an opportunity for growth. And go find a need and fill it. Good luck!

From the Coach’s Corner, see this article: Create Buzz to Win Your Major Marketing Campaign

“Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things.”
-David Ogilvy


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Photo courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at www.freedigitalphotos.net 


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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.