I am often confused by the decisions normally very smart entrepreneurs make when it comes to marketing and sales, and growing their companies. It’s as though logic flies out the window and emotions rule the day when we start talking about sales and marketing.
Of course, I’m not suggesting entrepreneurs need to be perfect – in fact, I personally made one of these mistakes last year. My issue is with the entrepreneur who doesn’t realise when they are screwing up and continues to let their mistakes hurt their business’s long-term ability to grow.
I recently read a study that looked at businesses’ cash flow. It found that only 12 percent of businesses never have a cash flow issue. That means 12 percent of businesses can consistently pay their bills, pay themselves, and have profits left over. Of the others, 47 percent of businesses say that cash flow is sometimes a problem, and 41 percent of businesses surveyed said cash flow was a consistent problem.
To be fair, this study didn’t publish any additional info about the business owners – for example, did all of these businesses have less than $1 million in annual revenue? If so, I would assume those businesses would have greater cash flow issues than a group of businesses at $1million-plus in revenue. For this discussion, let’s assume this is accurate (based on my experience of working with small businesses, it is pretty close). How do you fix a cash flow issue for any business?
The interesting thing is that in the vast majority of cases, your marketing is linked to cash flow issues. The mistakes many entrepreneurs are making with marketing, sales and business growth are the same five mistakes that are causing their cash flow issue.
1. Not making customer retention a priority in your marketing strategy
I’m going to start with the one that is most near and dear to my heart: customer retention. You don’t have to use a newsletter to grow and maintain retention (although that is a good idea). But, you do have to do something, and that something needs its own budget. Retention is not a portion of the marketing budget. Without customers, your business is worth just about zero.
The reason so many businesses struggle to grow is they invest nothing in retention. These normally smart entrepreneurs have deluded themselves into thinking that their product and services are so amazing and life-changing that people will continue to buy over and over again without prompting.
So what lie do these same entrepreneurs tell themselves when they have 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? Tens of thousands – maybe even hundreds of thousands – of dollars spent on marketing, and only 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? If you’re a large retail chain, that isn’t bad, but for dentists, lawyers, financial advisors, or anyone in a service-based business, that is far from good.
Starting today, you must have a customer retention budget. Use the budget to increase retention, and from there, upsell the existing customers. The longer a customer is with you, the greater the chance for a referral. Their customer lifetime value goes up, too.
Done correctly, your retention campaign can increase sales and create more prospects. Regardless of how you use it, you must have a retention budget.
2. Getting bored with things that make you money
As entrepreneurs, we are prone to getting bored, and that even happens with our marketing. Regardless of how well it is working, we get bored with it and want to try something new. This is a toxic practice on many levels. I understand wanting to try something new, but you never cancel marketing that is working (even if it isn’t exactly crushing it) to try an unproven new thing. When people do this, they are basically saying, “I hate money.”
How many times have you tried a marketing program, only to have it not work out as promised or as quickly as promised? Do not cancel good marketing to chase unicorns. You can also call this tendency “shiny object syndrome.” It’s particularly severe when it comes to hip cutting-edge marketing tactics, like influencer marketing.
If you want to try something new, create a budget and try it. Don’t kill a pipeline of incoming cash to drill for a hopefully more profitable pipeline, because when it doesn’t work, you are screwed. If you can’t afford the new marketing without killing the old marketing that is working, then you shouldn’t be starting the new campaign until you figure out how to pay for it.
These are two huge mistakes that I see small-business owners make all the time that destroy your cash flow.
3. Not investing enough money into marketing
I was chatting with a dentist from the greater New York area a while ago, who claimed to be getting patients with this one type of marketing for about $175 each. That is good in the greater New York area because of all the competition. However, just because you hit a home run doesn’t mean you can expect to hit a home run every time you’re up to bat. In that area, it costs $250–$450 to get a new patient in the door.
You will never grow if you’re not willing to invest a realistic amount per new customer. I’ve chatted with entrepreneurs who want to get 50 new customers per month, which should require a budget of at least $12,500, but currently, they only have a budget of $3,000 per month. I hate to break it to you, but you’re never going to hit your goal. If anything, the $12,500 per month you have devoted to marketing may not be enough, because as you scrape the low hanging fruit, you often find you need to increase the amount you’re willing to pay to get a new customer.
4. Feast or famine marketing
This is actually the mistake I made in 2016. We had so much going on in the first half of the year (the feast) that I didn’t plan well enough for July, which is typically a slower month for us (the famine). In July, I need to do more marketing and even spend more money on marketing to make up for all the business I lose when people go on vacation and forget about their campaigns. But, I was planning a vacation myself in July, and in turn, I actually ended up cutting marketing because I didn’t want to do the work that was needed.
Bad planning and a cut in the already planned marketing for July tanked the month. It was our worst month for new sales in nearly two years. You can’t allow a busy period to take your eye off the ball. If you have traditionally slow sales months, you must do more, spend more, and market more, in those months.
5. Cash flow issues demand more marketing, not less
This is the last of the bad ideas for today, but when you are having cash flow issues, shutting down the pipeline that is bringing in the cash you do get is just dumb.
Of course the argument I always get is that the marketing wasn’t working anyway. Well, if that was true, why didn’t you cancel it earlier? Typically, the entrepreneur doesn’t really know whether their marketing is working or not. All they know is they need money, so they cancel marketing to free up cash. That may help the problem this month, but it creates a new problem next month when no new customers show up.
When times are hard, you need to reinvest more in marketing, not less. You must figure out how to close more sales, not get fewer leads. There are lots of good ways to shore up your cash flow situation, but cutting off revenue-generating marketing is not one of them.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?
How do you market your company to this generation?
According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.
They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.
So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?
1. By being transparent
Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.
Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs
Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.
Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.
2. By offering options
A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.
That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.
3. By being forward thinking
We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.
On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.
1. By being transparent
As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.
2. By offering options
Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.
Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.
Related: The Z Generation
3. By being forward thinking
They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.
The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.
Free Sample Marketing Plan Template
You don’t need an MBA to write a marketing plan for your business. While no two businesses are alike, all solid marketing plans need to provide specific information. Use this sample marketing plan template to get you started on the right foot and cover all the essential information.
Your marketing plan should provide a comprehensive blueprint of the business, its market and associated market activity, its position in the market, target and expected customers, offerings, competition, solutions and contingency plans.
Using a sample Marketing Plan Template can save you a lot of time in creating your own marketing plan.
Download a Sample Marketing Plan Template
Use the free templates below to help make sure you’ve covered all the important bits:
Recommended Marketing Reads:
- Smart Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
- Mega Guide to Online Marketing
- Marketing Toolbox for the Entrepreneur
- The Ultimate Marketing Tool Library for Entrepreneurs
4 Steps To Writing Content That Converts
Hook them, engage them and tell them what you want them to do.
Is your content persuasive enough to convert your visitors into leads?
Some pieces of content you create will drive conversions, while others will be lost in the archives. As a marketer, you always want to write content that is persuasive enough to turn your visitors into leads and thereafter, into paying customers.
Writing persuasive content is not magic. Let’s take a look at some ways to write content that converts.
1. Craft an enticing title
The title of your content is the most important factor that influences engagement. A whopping 8 out of 10 people may not even read your content if the title isn’t captivating enough.
Using Headline Analyzer by Coschedule is the best way to create a magnetic headline that attracts your audience. Just enter your headline and the tool will report back with a score and a grade along with some suggestions to improve.
For analysis, the tool looks at the following factors:
- The headline type: It capitalises on the type of headline that converts, including lists, how to’s and questions.
- Word balance: It helps you to curate an enticing title by checking to see if it has the right word balance.
- Character length: It also looks whether your title is scannable and easy to digest.
2. Fulfill your title’s promise
Getting clicks on your title is just half of the equation. Ensuring that your content fulfills the promise of your title is another equally, maybe even more, important part of driving conversion. If your content can’t keep the promise your headline makes, your visitors will likely abandon your site without further engagement.
When crafting each line of your content, keep in mind that the purpose is to get your visitors to read the next sentence, then the sentence after that and all the way down to the end of your article.
Aside from providing value, you’ll also want to evoke a desire for what you’re offering.
3. Make it scannable
Most of your website visitors spend less than 15 seconds on your website, meaning people quickly skim through the content instead of reading word for word.
If your content is hard to scan, meaning it contains long sentences and paragraphs, it’s likely that your visitors won’t stick around. Chances are, they’ll go to your competitors to find content that’s easier to consume.
To create content that is easily scannable, you can follow the actionable tips below:
- Short paragraphs: Write short paragraphs, preferably 3-4 sentences at most. Breaking down your content into short paragraphs makes it more digestible for your readers.
- Use attractive subheaders: Readers should be able to bounce around to seek out the pieces of your content that interest them. By using attractive subheaders, you can pique the curiosity of your readers and keep them engaged.
- Use bullet points: Using a bulleted list is the easiest way to ensure that your content doesn’t strain your visitors’ eye to read through it. Since bulleted lists stand out from the rest of your page, they make the entire piece easier to skim through.
4. Add a call to action at the end
The best way to convert your visitors into leads is to add a call to action, such as an email subscription form, at the end of every article you publish.
Some tips to speed up the growth of your email list are:
- Offer a post-specific resource: Create a post-specific resource, and offer it for download in exchange for the email address of your visitors. When the resource is post-specific, readers are more likely to engage with the campaign, in turn boosting conversions.
- Creating a premium library: To increase both perceived and actual value, you can create a premium library consisting of ebooks and other valuable course materials. You can then persuade your visitors to subscribe to your list by adding a signup box at the end of each article.
- Content gating: Content gating is a popular strategy to boost conversions on your site. For instance, you can grow your list by blocking a small section of your content for subscribers only, which encourage your readers to sign up for your list.
The best way to create content that converts is to use emotion in your copy and evoke a desire for what you’re offering. By following the above tips, you can write content that converts your visitors into leads, and soon thereafter, into paying customers.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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