Are You Ready
Your market is changing! How do I know that? I know that because every market in the world is changing. If you were successful last year you will be tempted to do the same things this year and expect the same results. You will be disappointed! 2015 will not be like 2014 and the following year will be different again. That’s just the way it is, so get used to it.
Twenty years ago when I started in this business, things were very different. No cellphones, no email, no internet, and only one in ten executives had a computer on their desk. Things are very different now but what strikes me is how difficult it was in those days to get people to realise that things are changing. When I asked any audience who has an email address only 5 in a hundred would put their hands up. The rest were sceptical. Today when I talk to audiences about digital marketing, creating business relationships with social media or using Youtube of Pintrest to promote your business I get the same scepticism.
We can’t fight it and now is the time to accept that you and I have a huge range of new skills to acquire if you are going to get ahead in 2015.
I am writing this just before the year starts and at the same time I am thinking about what I will do differently next year. My thoughts on the matter are as follows:
Love it or hate it you cannot ignore it. The rapid (exponential) growth in Social Media has changed the way we do business. Facebook used to be for mothers to keep up with their children or friends to share their lives. This is no longer the case. Facebook is actively encouraging businesses to be involved. Now is the time to look at the way in which Facebook can help you develop better business relationships. Facebook is the second biggest community in the world (China is the biggest)
Publish and be damned
If you want your new customers to come banging on your door it is not enough to tell them where the door is. There are hundreds of doors for your customer to choose from so you have to give them a good reason to choose yours. When a customer wants to solve a problem (find a service or buy a product) he is most likely to go to the person or company that is seen to be the expert in the field. If you have a new Mercedes you will not take it to the local, high street mechanic to get it serviced, you will go to the specialists, to the people who you consider to be the experts. If you want people banging on your door you will need to be seen to be the expert in your field.
There are many things you can do to be seen to be the expert and one of the best ways is to write about your expertise. Give away your intellectual property in blog posts and articles. These can be published in thousands of different ways, in your newsletters, your website, other article websites etc. The more you write the more you will get noticed as the “go to” person or company to provide your products of services.
All articles should be well written so if you don’t think you can do that hire a professional writer. There are tens of thousands of people around the world who will write your articles for you. Try www.Fiverr.com or www.Elance.com.
Going back to basics
Embracing new technology to grow our businesses is important but we must not loose sight of the basics. The majority of your business this year will come from your existing customers so it is vital to maintain that relationship. A good CRM system is important here and I am always amazed how many businesses I train who have no formal CRM system in place. This does not mean you have to buy expensive software if you don’t want to. When I first started selling BC (Before Computers) we had what was called a “Tickler Box”. Each customer had an index card with their name, address, purchasing history and some personal details. This was referred to before every meeting, phone call etc.
Today we use much more complex CRM systems but the principle is just the same.
Not Sell, Sell, Sell
In the past the best sales people were always selling. I am reminded about the old American acronym ABC – “AlwaysBe Closing” but the world has moved a long way from those days and I am amazed to see some sales trainers still using this acronym. Selling today is more about listening to problems and providing solutions.
Now that the internet connection in this country is getting up to speed (mostly), video is becoming the communication medium of choice. Maybe not this year, but very soon we will be communicating with our customers exclusively via Skype, Google Hangouts or whatever the next generation software will be. Sales people will soon be wearing Shirt, Tie and boxer shorts to meetings.
YouTube and Vimeo etc. are also a great way to communicate the value of your product or service to your potential customers. Don’t know how to do it? Well you had better find out before your competitors do.
Email is dead, Long Live instant messaging
Can you imagine doing business without email? Of course not. Twenty years ago I asked audience to consider business without writing letters and that was considered to be impossible as well, but 4 years later I couldn’t find anybody still using letters to communicate with their customers apart from invoices and statements to the accounts department.
Okay, I accept email is not dead yet, but it is dying. Many American Universities have stopped issuing email addresses because the students use instant messaging to communicate. In 4 years time we will all be using Whatsapp and Skype as often as we use email today. More often probabley.
Free advertising has come and gone
When I started in business the largest portion of my monthly expenditure was taken up with advertising in Newspapers, Magazines and via fax broadcasting (remember those?). Then came email and later social media advertising which, for the most part, was free. Those days are rapidly passing us by to be replaced by paid advertising on the social media websites, pay per click advertising and spending a huge amount of money (if you can afford it) on companies to produce clever tweets to be retweeted or video clips that will go viral. We all have to find new ways to market our products and the bad news is that half of the things you try will not work. The good news is that half of the things you try, if you are creative and looking for new and clever ways to do things, will work.
Get into the cloud
Having “grasped the nettle” of digital marketing and internet selling you now need to move from a server based (or table top) system to housing and using your important information in the cloud. That means that CRM systems, accounting systems and information storage and all the other stuff you have hanging around on your computers should be hosted online.
I designed my own CRM system many years ago and I am very fussy about my customer information. Recently, after an exhaustive research into the best systems to use, I have decided to move onto Apptivo (www.apptivo.com).
I don’t know how you feel about the above marketing and business challenges that we will face this year. I am both excited and fearful about the future because I know I will get some stuff right and some stuff wrong. The success of the year will depend on the balance. Good luck with it all.
Have a great year.