Business Growth Masterclass 16 – How to Calculate and Lower the cost of your Customers

How to Calculate and Lower the Cost of Your Customers

 

Hello there and welcome to the 16th instalment of my Business Growth Masterclass. The step by step guide to building the business you always wished you could have.

 

Today, we’re going to look at how to calculate the cost of your customer and a few techniques you can use to lower that cost and increase the profitability of each of your customers, both old and new.

 

As ever though, before we get our teeth into today’s material, lets just check on actions from the last Business Growth Masterclass:

 

Did you do your homework?

  • You have a system in place for measuring your conversion rate on a daily, weekly, monthly and by-campaign basis.
  • You have chosen two new strategies to implement for an increase in conversions, and are measuring the results.

Great. Homework done. Now let’s get started with today’s Business Growth Masterclass.

When you buy a product, you want to receive the most for your money. The same is true for customer acquisition.

customers

Generating leads and converting those leads into paying customers is a process that costs you money. You can attribute a piece of your marketing and sales costs to each of the customers that you successfully attract and convert.

Essentially, you buy customers for your business.

Let me repeat that: essentially, you buy customers for your business.

Please read this again and understand it on a very basic level. If I sent you to the store with £40 to buy a white t-shirt, you would be successful. Well you can do the same thing with GOOD clients (ones that pay, stay and refer). Do not be scared to go into the business of buying good clients. This one distinction can completely change the way you do business and your level of success.

So when you think of your customer as your most valuable asset, you’re absolutely right. They’re an investment in your business that you expect to see a return from.

As with any investment, you not only want to see a return, but you want to see the greatest return possible. In this case, you could try to reduce your marketing budget, or boost your profit margins, but the easiest way to minimise the cost of a customer and maximise your return is to increase the number of times each customer buys from you.

In the five-step process, this is called increasing the number of transactions in your business. Instead of constantly chasing down leads and buying new customers, your work is to keep the customers you have bought coming back to spend more money.

In this Business Growth Masterclass we will cover:

  • The financial impact of repeat business
  • How to figure out the average number of transactions of your business
  • How to calculate your average customer acquisition cost
  • The lifetime value of your customers
  • The 80/20 rule and letting some customers go
  • How you can lower the cost of your customers to boost profits

Increasing your repeat business is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to boost your bottom line.

Turning a single transaction customer into a repeat or lifetime customer is one of the simplest ways to boost your bottom line. It costs very little and is largely based on the experience you can create for the people who buy from you.

With a little bit of time and thought, you can turn single-transaction customers into loyal patrons, or even big fans of your business. This not only translates into returning customers, but also earns customers that refer you to their friends.

Financially, the more times a customer buys from you, the lower their acquisition cost becomes. You only have to buy customers once, so when that figure is spread over several transactions it goes down.

Here’s a chart of how a 10% increase and 30% increase in average number of transactions can impact your bottom line.

Starting Point 10% Increase 30% Increase
Leads 4,500 4,500 4,500
Conversion Rate 30% 30% 30%
Customers 1350 1350 1350
Transactions 1.3 1.43 (10% increase) 1.69 (30% increase)
Average Sales Value £140 £140 £140
Revenue £245,700 270,270 319,410
Margins 24% 24% 24%
Profit £58,968 £64,864.80 £76,658.40

What is the average number of transactions for your business?

If you have a system for managing customer accounts and tracking purchases, this next step will be really straightforward. If you have a computer-based point of sale system, your reporting functions may even be able to calculate this figure for you.

To figure out the average number of times each customer buys from you, you need to choose a time period (the last 12 months is a good starting point) and a sample of customer accounts with the number of times each has purchased from you. Take 50 at random, or all the customers starting with the letter “T” as an example to illustrate the point.

Then, add up the total number of transactions for each of the customers in your sample, and divide the total by the number of customers in your sample. This is your average number of transactions. For example, if I have a sample of 10 customers, my calculation might look something like this:

4 + 5 + 2 + 8 + 5 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 6 = 32 32 / 10 = 3.2 average number of transactions

If you don’t have an existing data source for this information, survey your customers or start your own tracking system to use over the course of a week or month. Note on your customers’ accounts when they purchased and what they purchased, or keep a tally at the cash register. If you can’t survey your customers or create a viable database, then just estimate the figure based on your observations over a week or over the history of your business.

Remember that the average number of transactions is going to be different for every business. Grocery stores will have far different figures than furniture stores, computer stores will have dramatically different numbers than coffee shops based on the frequency that people need those products or services.

What is the average customer acquisition cost for your business?

Do you know how much do you spend – on average – on each customer you acquire? To calculate this, simply divide the amount of money you spend per month (or per campaign) on lead generation by the total number of sales in that month (or campaign duration).

For example, if you spend an average of £5,000 each month on advertising, and you generate about 250 unique sales per month, your average customer acquisition cost is £20. Or, if you spent £10,000 on an ad campaign over three months, and generated 400 campaign-specific sales, your customer acquisition cost would be £25.

To evaluate this figure, look at it as a percentage of your average sale. Of the 250 unique sales in first example from the paragraph above, and say the average purchase was £75, £40 of which was margin. Subtract the customer acquisition cost from your margin, and you’ll have the average profit of each sale, in this case it’s £20.

What is the lifetime value of your customers?

Now, assuming your average customer acquisition cost is £20, let’s take a look at what would happen if you turned that customer into a lifetime customer. What value does that customer have to your business?

First let’s look at the value of a single transaction customer:

Customer Acquisition Cost £20
Number of transactions 1
Average value of each transaction £75
Average profit margin £40
Margin minus acquisition cost £20
Total value of customer £20

Then, assume that an average customer ‘lifetime’ with your business is about five years. Calculate as you did above, spreading the customer acquisition cost over the total number of transactions.

Customer Acquisition Cost £20
Number of transactions 15 (assuming 3 per year)
Average value of each transaction £75
Average profit margin £40
Margin minus acquisition cost £38.67 (£40 – [£20/15])
Total value of customer £580

Here’s a more in-depth look at cost of a single transaction customer, in comparison to a tripe transaction customer or a lifetime customer:

One Time Year Lifetime
Customer Acquisition Cost £20 £20 £20
Number of Transactions 1 3 15
Average Value of Each Transaction £75 £75 £75
Average Profit Margin on Each Transaction (excluding acquisition cost) £40 £40 £40
Actual profit per Transaction (profit margin – [customer acquisition cost / # of transactions]) £20 (£40 – £20) £33.33 (£40 – (£20/3)) £38.67 (£40 – (£20/15))
Lifetime Value of Customer (in profit)(actual profit per transaction x # of transactions) £20 £100 £580

Based on the chart above, you can see that the lifetime customer who purchased from you 15 times over five years brought your business £580 in profit, in comparison to the single transaction customer who brought your business £20 in profit.

Both customers cost you the same amount – £20 – but there is a £560 difference in return on investment! Repeat business – the average number of transactions per customer – makes a huge difference on your bottom line.

Give yourself permission to fire some of your customers.

Everyone has a group of customers they enjoy doing business with and are pleased to continually serve (our A-list). Likewise, we all also have a group of customers (our C-list) who are a pain to deal with. They may consistently complain, only take advantage of special offers or never spend much money after a bunch of hassle.

Like a good business owner, I bet you treat every customer with respect, and give them the attention they need – even the C-list. Here is where the 80/20 rule applies: 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. That 20% of your customers is what we call your A-list.

The important point here is that while you’re busy trying to make your C-list customer happy, you’re missing the opportunity to give your A-list customer the level of service they deserve. Since the majority of your revenue comes from your A-list customers, that’s where you should be focusing your efforts.

So, give yourself permission to fire your C-list, and stop bending over backwards to address their concerns. Don’t let them rule your time. Spend your efforts making your A-list happy, and their purchases will more than make up the difference.

Let’s look at some strategies that will help you boost your repeat business, and your bottom line.

Customer Service

Everyone- even businesses with high customer service standards – can improve the service they provide to their customers. This phrase is used a lot, but it’s true: Under promise and over deliver.

If you’re looking for new ways to impress your customers with service, conduct a survey of your existing customers and ask them how you can enhance or streamline their experience dealing with your company.

When you establish standards of customer service, make sure they are:

Consistently implemented by everyone in your business. Every customer who walks through the door experiences the same level of service, and receive that same service every time they walk through the door.

Convenient for your customer. Make the purchase process seamless for your customer. Think of all the steps your customers has to take from driving or walking to the store until they leave with their purchase, and try to eliminate any inconvenient elements.

Driven by the needs and wants of the customer. Understand how your target market wants to be treated when they’re purchasing from you. What do they value most from the experience? High end linens, or fast service? One-on-one assistance, or ample space and time to browse?

Newsletters

Use newsletters to establish and maintain regular contact with your customers. This is an easy, time-effective and cost-effective customer retention strategy

You’ll spend an upcoming Business Growth Masterclass learning how to create and send effective newsletters, but the most important point to remember is that the newsletter (just like all other marketing materials) needs to be focused on the needs and interests of your target audience.

The most popular and environmentally friendly form of distribution is through email. This is highly cost effective, as some web-based programs start at just £10 per month, and can be customised to your business’ graphic standards.

Here is a list of the types of content you can include in your newsletter:

  • Expert advice or opinion
  • New product or service features
  • New offers or promotions
  • Company news
  • Customer surveys
  • “Missed you!” emails
  • Event or closed-door sale invitations

Added Value

Find ways to increase your customers’ perception of value so they feel that their money goes further at your business compared to the competition. Value added products or services not only add to your average Transaction value but create repeat customers by:

Making a great first impression. Providing a customer with more than they expected – something goes beyond meeting their needs – establishes a solid first impression of your business. They learn to associate the experience of shopping at your business with pleasant surprises, which is a huge draw for returning customers.

Giving them a reason to come back. The perception that your products or services have a higher value than the competition will convince your customers to purchase from you, and refer their friends. The addition of new value-added products or services will keep them coming back.

Here are some examples of added value:

  • Free shipping/delivery with minimum purchase
  • Premium product or service line
  • Bonus gift with minimum purchase
  • Complementary product packages
  • Guarantees or risk-free purchases

happy customer

Incentives and Customer Loyalty Programs

A common form of customer retention is to provide incentives to customers to entice them to come back and buy from you.

A systemised form of incentives is called a Customer Loyalty Programme – and I bet you’re part of several. Loyalty programs work because they provide a consistent visual reminder of your business through a card, key fob, rewards vouchers, or other such items, and give the customer a financial incentive to purchase from you instead of your competition.

These programs vary from simple cards to complex rewards structures, but they don’t have to be complicated or costly. Plus, once they’re in place, they’re super easy to maintain. Loyalty programs are also great market research tools because you can collect a wealth of information on the signup form, maintain a detailed database and monitor their purchase habits.

You’ll spend an entire Business Growth Masterclass learning how to set up a loyalty programme from start to finish, but here are the basic structures to give you an idea:

Loyalty Cards Provide a wallet size card and use a stamp or punch to track their purchases until they reach 10. When they reach the magic number, the next product or service is free.

Rewards Dollars Return a certain percentage of each purchase to the customer using coupons that can only be spent with you.

Rewards Points Award a certain percentage of each pound they spend to a points account. These points can be used to spend in-store, or on special items brought in for points-holders only.

Membership Amenities Produce membership cards, and give your members access to services, discounts or amenities that other customers do not have access to.

Remember, each of your customers is a valuable asset that you have purchased to grow your business.

Treat your customers like you would treat good friends, and offer them the perks and rewards they deserve for their loyalty. I find that this approach is also a lot more rewarding because I get to know my customers, and some of them actually become friends.

Of course, there will always be a few clients you’ll never please, so keep the 80/20 rule fresh in your mind. Don’t be afraid of firing the customers who drain your time and your resources. Your A-list will more than make up the difference in revenue.

In the next Business Masterclass, I’ll show you a ton of ways you can add value to your product or service, and boost the pound value of each and every sale.

As always, let me know if you have any questions.

You can  use the contact form below to discuss and get help with the topics covered in this, or any of the previous Business Growth Masterclasses.

Until next time, good luck!

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Business Growth Masterclass 10: How to Create Marketing Materials that Work

Hello again everyone, and welcome to the 10th instalment in my series “Business Growth Masterclass”

As ever, before we begin, lets recap on the main points fromthe last Masterclass.

Checkpoint:

  • You have established which of your three draft marketing messages is the strongest, and incorporated it into all of your existing marketing materials
  • You have implemented a lead tracking and management system and trained your staff to use it effectively

Your marketing materials are an extension of you and your company.
How are yours working?

You can have a lot of fun creating marketing materials for your business. It’s an opportunity to work on a project that isn’t a spreadsheet, or a graph or an order form. You can really get creative!

Your materials get distributed in the world to send out a particular message (or messages) about your company and what you sell. They’re ambassadors for your business because they speak to your potential customers when you’re not there.

As you probably know, it’s easy to get carried away with marketing collateral. You’re surrounded by flashy, clever advertising everywhere you look, and when the time comes to create your own, you can’t help but feel that you have to keep up with the joneses.

Most of the time this doesn’t work. You spend more money, and see less impressive results. In this Masterclass, I’m going to show you some proven strategies for simplifying and strengthening your marketing materials, and focusing on the materials you need not the materials you think you think you should have.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • The marketing materials you really need – and the ones you don’t
  • The mistakes you might be making now
  • The elements each piece of marketing collateral should have
  • What you need to know about the design of your materials
  • What you need to know about testing, measuring and making mistakes

It’s easy to want to match your competition piece by piece – but when you’re trying to stretch your marketing budget, focus on the materials you actually need.

Just because your competition has an eight page, glossy colour brochure, doesn’t mean you need one to run a successful business.

When one brochure has the ability to eat your entire budget for marketing materials, you have to prioritise what’s essential and what’s just a “wish” or want. You need to make sure you’re spending on the items that are going to bring in the most return on investment.

Your marketing materials need to communicate your message to your target and motivate them to act. Do you really need a glossy brochure when black and white flyers will be just as effective? Think about this when making decisions about your marketing items.

Make choices based on how your target audience prefers to receive information. Do they prefer paper newsletters, or electronic ones? Are they environmentally conscious, or technology savvy? Do they appreciate personal contact, or just need to see information in a newspaper? Remember that how you communicate is often just as or more important that what you communicate.

Make green choices – your customers will appreciate it. Choose recycled paper and envelopes when you can, and print double-sided. Produce marketing materials in electronic format (like newsletters), and print limited runs of hard copy materials (like brochures).

What are the marketing materials that your business needs, wants and would like to have?

  • Logo
  • Business Cards
  • Brochure
  • Website
  • Newsletter
  • Catalogue
  • Advertisements
  • Flyers
  • Fridge Magnet
  • Branded Items (pens, memory sticks, etc.)
  • Employee Clothing
  • Cloth Bags
  • Product Labels
  • Signage
  • Email Signature
  • Blog
  • Letterhead + Envelopes
  • Thank You Cards
  • Notepads
  • Seasonal Gifts
  • Company Profile
  • Internal Templates (Fax Cover, Memo, etc.)

Create a list of your essential marketing materials then, below it, create a list of your “wish” marketing materials. You can use your “wish list” when you have a little extra budget, or are looking to create a “wow” piece. The list above is for you to use as a guideline – you may not need all of these items, or want to add your own ideas to the list.

Take your existing marketing materials through this audit, and look for opportunities to improve and strengthen.

Are you fighting for their attention with a powerful headline?
You have about four seconds to grab the attention of your reader with your headline. If you do, you have a few more seconds to convince them to read your subheadline. If you’re successful in doing that, you have a few more seconds to get them to read further. See what I’m saying?

Make sure your headlines:

  • Offer to take away pain or give pleasure
  • Hit your target market’s hot buttons
  • Bring up emotion
  • Are bold, dramatic, shocking or unbelievable
  • Answer the questions – what’s in it for the customer? why should the customer care?

Are you triggering an emotional response to a problem, fear, need or want?
Once you have their attention, you need to continue to keep it. Shake up their confidence in what they’re doing now, or the urgency with which they need to solve their problem. Put their fears, concerns and desires in black and white text in front of their eyes:

Ask them if they:

  • Are doing enough?
  • Can wait any longer?
  • Can sacrifice any more?
  • Are paying too much?
  • Are getting the best product or service for their money?

Are you building their trust or confidence in your ability to meet their needs?
You’ve got their attention, and tapped into their emotions, now you need to build their confidence in you ability to solve their problems and meet their needs. You’ll need to show them your solution, and prove that you can be trusted to do what you promise.

Tell them how:

  • You’re different from the competition
  • You’re highly qualified
  • You have documented results
  • You have a high number of happy customers
  • You get recognised from others in your field

Are you wowing them with your competitive edge?
You may be the best at what you do or have the best product but if your customers can’t get a hold of you when they need you, how valuable are you? Here are some examples:

Tell them how you do more than the competition:

  • 24-hour hotline
  • Housecalls, or free delivery
  • Customer rewards program
  • Other convenience services

Are you overcoming their objections before they’ve raised them?
It makes no difference what business you are in; there will always be objections to buying what you are selling. Most often the biggest objection is the price. You should confront them head-on by explaining why it’s worth paying your price. You need to put their fears to rest before they will be ready to buy.

Are you providing an element of risk reversal with a strong guarantee?
Stand behind what you’re claiming about the quality of your product or service, and offer a guarantee in your marketing materials. Typically, the strength and length of the guarantee indicate the quality of the product in most customer’s eyes, so create a strong one.

You can guarantee:

  • Performance
  • Benefits
  • Longevity
  • Satisfaction

Are you showing them what other people have said about your product or service?
Use testimonials to speak to your credibility and merit. Let the testimonials show your potential clients how trustworthy you are, and how much benefit they’ve received from your product or service. Make sure the testimonial addresses the problem that your customer had before they used your product.

Are you giving them an easy way to contact you?
Make it easy for customers to be in touch with you, or get more information. Clearly display your phone number and website address on everything you produce, and consider including a map of your store location so you’re easy to find.

Each piece should provide the following contact information:

  • Location (with map)
  • Phone / Fax / |Mobile Phone Number
  • Website
  • Free phone number
  • Email address

Are you giving them a reason to act NOW?
The last job your marketing piece has to do is motivate your viewer to take action. You need to make them want to call for more information, visit your website, or just come into your store. Invite them to take action on every page.

To motivate customers to act, you can:

  • Offer special “bonus” offers to quick responders
  • Make a time-sensitive offer
  • Tell them how rare your product is, or what limited quantity you have
  • Offer limited-time added value

Are you telling them what your product or service will give them?
Your customer doesn’t care about the features of your product or service, they only care about the benefit that feature will provide them. Customers buy benefits, not products or services. A client is looking to buy some more confidence from a new hairstyle, not a haircut.

Are you telling viewers the story of your product or service?
Remember that you are painting a story to tap into the emotions of your viewers. Detailed technical descriptions should be replaced with descriptions of how the customer may enjoy the benefit, and how they might feel.

The story will help the reader picture:

  • How they’ll feel after using your product or service
  • What they’ll look like using your product or service
  • What they’ll have time to do once they buy your product or service
  • The relief they’ll experience after purchasing your product or service

Are you giving them a reason to keep your marketing piece?
Give your customers a reason to keep your business card, brochure, newsletter or direct mail piece, refer to it, and pass it on to others to see. If you are selling hair care products, you can give your readers tips on how to combat split ends, frizz, unruly curls and heat damage. If you sell kitchen products, you can provide recipes that use your cookware or tools.

Some ideas for keep-able marketing pieces are:

  • Top 10 lists
  • Tips for product caretaking and longevity
  • Recipes
  • How-to’s

Flashy design is not important to your marketing campaign – but clear and professional looking materials are absolutely essential.

When it comes to the visual presentation of your marketing materials, you need to strike a balance. On one hand, you don’t want to spend all of your budget on design and production. On the other hand, the cost of sending out materials that don’t look and feel professional is usually much higher.

Going back to our discussion on time management, you’ll want to check in with yourself and see if your time is best spent designing your brochures, ads, flyers and direct mail, or if you should hire other resources.

Resources for marketing collateral design and layout include:

Graphic Design Agency This is generally the most expensive option. However, if you can find a small to medium sized agency you’ll typically be able to work within a reasonable budget. This can also be a resource to use for “wow” pieces, or design projects that require a little extra flair.
Freelance Designer Freelance designers don’t carry the overhead that agencies do, so typically their prices are a little cheaper. Try to find a designer you work well with and build a long-term relationship. Ask your network for referrals, or try listings like Craigslist.
In-House Designer If you don’t have the time to design your own collateral, but have heaps of marketing collateral and signage to design on a regular basis, hiring a dedicated employee may be your most cost effective option.

If you’re designing your materials in-house, here are some guidelines.

Consistency Your materials need to be cohesive and look like they come from the same company. Be consistent in your colour choices, font, headline styles and logo placement.
Simplicity Keep your materials simple and easy to read. This will save you money, as little details like full-bleed printing and die-cut edges are more expensive.
Information Hierarchy Think about the information that you need your customers to receive, and the information that is less important. Structure your page so that the most important messages jump off the page, and less pertinent details are at the bottom.
Colour Choice Colors give a visual message to your readers, and have many meanings including cultural connotations. Choose your business colors carefully, and stick to two or three.
White Space Every piece needs enough white space to give viewers’ eyes a place to rest when taking in information. The point here is not to crowd your piece with text and copy.
Photo Choice Put some thought into the photo you select, if you choose to include photos in your marketing materials. Details in the photo can unintentionally communicate messages about your business, so make sure they’re the right ones.

If you’re going to try something new – test, measure and make mistakes in small batches, or online.

You will need to constantly be monitoring the success of each piece of marketing material and looking for opportunities to strengthen and improve it. Since you already have your lead tracking and management system in place, this is a matter of sitting down on a regular basis and reviewing the leads each piece generated, and how many turned into sales (we’ll review this when we get to conversion rates).

Remember, always test, measure and then make choices.
If you’re not sure about a new strategy, do a test run to a limited distribution area, or test the message out online. Do small production runs of brochures or flyers you’re not sure about, so you don’t end up with heaps of flyers that didn’t work.

In the end, the strength of your marketing piece is in what you say and how you say it.

Too often, flashy design gets in the way of the message and you miss an opportunity to attract a customer. Simple, clear marketing materials deliver an easy-to-understand message to your target audience, and result.

If you would like some help with the ideas idiscussed in this Masterclass, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

In the next Masterclass, we will look at the role of your offer in motivating your audience to take action. A powerful – even irresistible – offer can act as an ace in the hole for your lead generation efforts. I’ll show you how to put one together.

Business Growth Masterclass 9 – How to Generate More Leads with Less Effort

Hello again everyone, and welcome to the 9th instalment in my series “Business Growth Masterclass”

As ever, before we begin, lets recap on the main points fromthe last Masterclass.

  • You have created three marketing messages using the step-by-step process
  • You have tested your marketing messages internally – with your staff, management and colleagues
  • You have started or are about to start testing your message externally – using advertising, direct mail or another lead generation strategy.

Has everybody done all that? Good. Ok, lets get started with this month’s masterclass.

What is the current picture of lead generation and management in your business?

Here’s the deal: in order to start generating more leads with less time and financial investment, you first have to spend time setting up systems and making some changes. Your goal after this Masterclass is to establish a solid lead tracking and lead management system, and make small tweaks to your existing lead generation strategies based on the work you completed in the target market and marketing message Masterclass. We’re going to look at many different lead generation strategies in upcoming MAsterclasses, but I want you to see the impact that the work you have already done will have on your existing strategies. I want you to start seeing results more or less straight away.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • The current status of lead generation in your company
  • The purpose of lead tracking and management systems
  • Types of lead tracking and lead management systems
  • How to set up a lead tracking and or management system
  • Qualified lead generation
  • How to get more results from your existing strategies

Do you know where your current leads are coming from, or how many you get on a daily, weekly, or by-campaign basis?

If I asked you to tell me right now what your top lead generation strategies are, what would you say? A big part of step-one is gaining a solid understanding of where your business stands right now in terms of lead generation. Otherwise, how are you going to know when your lead generation strategies are working? Or which strategies are working? In a few minutes, I’m going to show you how to set up a lead tracking and lead management system that works with your business. But first, I’d like you to write down what you think your top three lead generation strategies are right now.

Every business needs a lead tracking and management system. Do you have one in place?

A lead tracking and management system is absolutely essential to your business for a number of reasons. One, it is the only way to know which marketing strategies are working, and which ones aren’t. The information your system gathers will allow you to make educated decisions about marketing campaigns and investments. Two, it organises your sales and marketing efforts and manages contact information in a user-friendly way. It’s clear who you called, when, what you said, and when you said you’d follow up. Three, it enables you to manage your sales staff by tracking their progress on several leads at once. You’ll have access to an at-a-glance picture of their sales figures and productivity.

Your lead tracking system needs to:

  • record the leads that arrive by phone, in-store visit, and website visit
  • track the source of each lead over specific time periods
  • record pertinent customer information
  • be simple enough to be used by all staff members

Your lead management system needs to:

  • track your leads through the sales plan or process
  • increase customer communications or contact
  • keep track of correspondences and follow-up requirements
  • make it easier for you and your staff to close more sales

Here is a list of information you will want to gather from your leads.

Depending on the needs of your business and the lead tracking and management system you choose (i.e., do you need a mailing address, or just email address?) some of these items may be optional fields.

  • Company Name
  • Name of Contact
  • Alternate Contact Person
  • Mailing Address
  • Phone Number
  • Fax Number
  • Cell Phone
  • Email Address
  • Website Address
  • Product of Interest
  • Source of Lead (i.e., How did you hear from us?)
  • Reason for Enquiry

If it is appropriate for your business, you also may wish to gather demographic information from your leads – but keep this voluntary. This information would be ideally used in your market research analysis.

Keep in mind that your lead tracking and management systems need to be simple enough for everyone in your company to use.

Unless you are the only person in your company who manages incoming phone calls, greets customers and chases down leads, the systems you implement will need to be used consistently by everyone in your organization. Once you have decided on a system, schedule enough time to train your staff thoroughly and be open to feedback. Since you’re not the sole user, you’ll need to consider their thoughts on the usability of the systems.

Pick a lead tracking and management system that suits your budget, and offers the features your business needs.

Each business will have different requirements when it comes to lead tracking and management. A retail store will have different needs than an estate agents office, for example. The retail store may only need to record leads based on lead generation strategies, and keep lead information for their direct mail or newsletter databases. On the other hand, the estate agent will need to make contact with their leads on several occasions, and need a system that will record and remind them of those correspondences. Software for lead management ranges from simple to highly sophisticated, and can be a great investment depending on the needs of your business. Some CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools are available online as a web-based system you can subscribe to and have access to on the road. I’ve listed the features and advantages to a number of different systems below – ranging from low-tech to high-tech, paper-based to web-savvy.

Index Cards Variety of sizes: 3×5, 4X6 or 5X8. Basic contact information on one side, notes on the other Easy to organise and sort This is a basic system used to manage leads by those who may be less comfortable with computers. This system will be effective at tracking low volumes of leads.
Rolodex More contacts than index card system Easily organised and compact Basic contact information on one side, notes on the other side Another basic system that will effectively manage leads without the use of a computer. While this system can store a higher number of cards, it is also only effective for tracking low volumes of leads.
Excel Spreadsheets Electronic system that is highly customizable by date, name, source or other variables Easily organised and analyzed Several worksheets in a single file allow leads to be tracked and contact managed Accessible for those with basic computer skills This is a slightly more sophisticated system that will allow you to track higher volumes of leads, and effectively organise the information that you collect into charts that can be analyzed. In Excel, you are able to work with a number of tracking sheets in a single file, and create hard copy tracking sheets for staff to use at point of sale and reception. Excel also has the capability of importing data from Outlook and Maximiser.
Database Management Programs High level of organization Unlimited space for notes and record-keeping Data-entry required Examples include: MS Outlook, MS Excel, Maximiser A more sophisticated system that will interface with Excel and manage high volumes of leads and customer details. Manages distribution lists for newsletters and direct mail campaigns. Primarily manages contact information, and provides space for notes, follow-ups and reminders. Tracking high volumes of leads without recording and inputting customer information is best done in Excel.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software Web-based, and accessible from anywhere with internet access Organises leads and customers by name, company, date, or status Ability to attach documents (like proposals and contracts) to leads Ability to write notes and log correspondence by date View contact history and status Interfaces with e-mail marketing programs Example is SalesForce A highly sophisticated system with advanced features. Tracks a high volume of relationship-based leads, and provides a detailed, feature-heavy system for lead management. Not ideal for retail businesses, or businesses that need to track a high volume of leads with minimal customer information attached.
Website Analytics Monitors and analyzes website traffic and online advertising Tracks number of people who visit your site, where they came from (search engines, online advertisement, website link etc.), how long they stayed, the pages they visited, and which page they left the site from. Google Analytics is an easy-to-use example An ideal way to track and analyze website traffic to complement your overall lead tracking system. This is not a complete system on its own. Requires the insertion of a specific code into each of your webpages, or each of your online advertisements. Monitors usage statistics, and generates reports, charts, graphs, etc.

Bringing qualified leads into your business will save you and your sales team time, and result in higher revenues.

Qualified leads are simply the potential customers who are the most likely to buy your your product or service. They’re not just in your store taking at look at the latest features in refrigerators, they’re in the market to purchase a refrigerator. They’re not wandering in to see what a £500 handbag looks like, they are the kind of person who can actually spend £500 on a handbag. Some of the people who will call you or visit your business will never buy from you no matter how good your sales scripts are or how much time you spend overcoming their objectives. There are a variety of reasons for this – and you’ll never eliminate all of these people – but you will need to focus on bringing in more of the people who are ready to buy. The good news is you have spent so much time and energy cultivating a comprehensive knowledge of your target market, that you’re in a great position to increase the number of qualified leads you bring into your business.

How do You Get Qualified Leads?

The crux of qualified lead generation is making decisions based on the market research you completed on your target market. You basically need to know where to reach your market, and how to speak to them. When you are designing, executing and making choices about your lead generation strategies, always consider these questions.

Who is my target market? Write down your target market description to keep you focused on the specifics of this group of people.
DISTRIBUTION IS EVERYTHING: How does my target market like to receive information? Do they read the newspaper? Pick up the family mail? Spend hours on Facebook? Subscribe to Reader’s Digest? Listen to newsradio on long commutes to work?
What motivates my target market to take action, and how can I tap into that motivation? How will you tap into your target market’s emotional response? What issues or needs will mean something to them, and drive them to your business to solve them.
Where can I place my marketing message so my target market will see it? Look at what you found out in your market research about your target market’s hobbies, activities and interests. How can you place your message or your product or service in their path?
What can I offer my target market to entice them to purchase from me? Can you offer your target market something special, rare, or time specific that will appeal only to them?

I’m going to show you how some little changes will generate big results for your company in short order.

Once you’re set up with a testing and measuring system (your lead tracking and management systems) to evaluate the success of your lead generation strategies, you need to start by looking for opportunities to beef up the strategies you’re currently working with.

Use your new marketing message. Make sure that you have put your new marketing message on all of your marketing materials, where new and existing customers can see it. Revise your standard advertisements to feature the strengthened copy.
Strengthen your offer. Create an offer that’s too good to refuse – not for your entire target market, but for your ideal customer. How can you cater to their unique needs and wants? What will be irresistible for them?
Refocus your direct mail campaign. If you’re sending your direct mail to entire postal code areas, stop and refocus. If your distribution area is that broad, chances are the copy on your postcard or letter is too broad as well. Brainstorm ways to narrow your distribution and only hit your target audience. Purchase consumer lists based on demographics, not just location, or limit distribution to specific housing types. Of course, make sure you rework the direct mail piece to feature your marketing message.
Let your target market’s behaviours dictate your distribution plans. As I discussed above, the more you can tailor your strategy to the needs and habits of your target market, the strong your results will be. Look for opportunities in your existing direct mail, advertising, flyer drop and other strategies to get specific. Narrow the demographics of your list, or place an ad in a niche publication. Brainstorm new ways to target your market’s emotional reactions.
Tap into low-cost advertising. Advertising in places like the YellowPages, classifieds sections, e-mail newsletters and Google Adwords can be a great place to test your marketing message for minimal investment. In an upcoming Masterclass you’ll learn how to place ads in the YellowPages and other listings that stand out from the competition.
Look for some referral business. Referral business is desirable because it usually brings qualified leads into your business. Someone has referred them to you based on a current need or desire. > Provide your customers with an incentive to bring business to you. Reward successful referrals with discounts or gifts. > Create a referral chain by giving each new customer three free coupons for products or services that they can give to their friends. When their friends come into your business, do the same. > Create complementary alliances with non-competitor businesses with the same target market. Cross-promotion or cross-referral strategies will benefit both businesses.
Website sign-up Add a feature on your website that encourages visitors to sign-up for newsletters or other communications. You can also set up your website so that potential customers need to fill out a simple form before they have access to “free” information.
How to Create Marketing Materials That Work The next Business Growth Masterlass will walk you through some tips and helpful suggestions for improving your marketing materials. Revise your existing materials based on these suggestions, and watch your leads multiply.

Stop using strategies that don’t work.

Now that you have a comprehensive lead tracking system in place, you’ll be able to track the leads that each strategy is responsible for generating. When you complete your first few campaigns with the lead tracking system and analyse the numbers, compare the results to the initial predictions you made. Were you correct in your assumptions, or were you surprised by how things shook out. The purpose of testing and measuring using a lead tracking system is to figure out which strategies work, and which don’t, as well as which strategies work best, and which generate mediocre results. This not only will save you money but is incredibly useful information to have when developing marketing budgets and, of course, trying to drive sales.

READ THIS: A quick cautionary note on conversions.

While the focus of  recent Masterclasses has been lead generation, remember the first part of the formula: No. of leads x %age conversion rate = No. of customers. You’ll be working on conversion rates in just a few Masterclasses from now, but my point is don’t lose sight of the relationship between leads and conversions in the overall formula. Remember that when more leads start flowing through your door, you’ll need to have the resources and systems in place to give a high level of customer service and to convert them into loyal customers. You’ve put effort into generating these qualified leads, but if you don’t have the resources in place to give them the attention required, you’ll lose them.

Once established, your lead tracking and lead management system should require minimal time investment…if you keep it up to date.

If you would like some help with the ideas introduced in this Masterclass, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

One last reminder before I sign-off – keep your systems up to date. The biggest pain (and drain on time) is having to go back and enter heaps of data into your database or management system because someone has let it pile up. It’s also a huge missed opportunity! If you fall behind on your lead tracking system, because you won’t be able to effectively evaluate your campaign or strategy. Or, you may have missed a lead because you didn’t follow-up soon enough. Be diligent, and set a strong example for your staff members. Good luck!

Hello, again, and welcome to the 8th instalment in my series “Business Growth Masterclass”

As ever, before we begin, lets recap on the main points from last months discussion. You should by now,

  • know who your target market is, what their needs are, what their purchase behaviours are and how to reach them.
  • know how to use market research to find out more information about your market on a regular basis.

This month’s masterclass is about writing targeted messages for your target market.

In the last masterclass, I shared with you how to isolate your target market, and then how to use market research to gather information about that group of people to use in your marketing strategies.

Today we’re going to take your market research and use it to create a powerful marketing message. The strength of your marketing message lies in its ability to speak to the specific wants and desires of your target market, and tap into their emotional reactions, or hot buttons.

When you push those hot buttons, you motivate your audience to take action. The more people you can motivate to take action, the more leads you’ll have in store and on the other end of the phone line.

In this Business Growth Masterclass we will cover:

  • How a strong marketing message will supercharge your lead generation
  • Examples of strong marketing messages
  • A step-by-step process for developing your unique marketing message
  • Strategies that will strengthen your existing marketing message
  • How to test and measure the strength of your message.
  • How to be consistent with your strong marketing message

A strong marketing message will make a huge difference in your lead generation strategies.

A marketing message is simply a statement or phrase that you use to communicate information about your business to others. A strong marketing message will do four things:

  • Speak to the reader’s needs, wants or problems (hot buttons)
  • Offer a solution, advantage or benefit
  • Describe a point of difference
  • Motivate the reader to take action

As I said earlier, the key here is to motivate your target audience to do something after they read or hear the message. It needs to be strong enough to entice the audience to ask for more information, visit the website, pick up the phone or walk in the store.

You will put your marketing message on every piece of marketing material your business uses for lead generation, so it has to be powerful and consistent and speak to the group of people that you have identified as your ideal customers. Strengthening your marketing message has the potential to dramatically increase your lead generation before you even change your existing strategies.

Here are some examples of strong marketing messages that are used by successful businesses today.

Domino’s Pizza You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free!
M&Ms The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car We’ll pick you up.
Nyquil The nighttime, coughing, achy, sniffling, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest medicine.
FedEx When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
Dentist We guarantee that you will have a comfortable experience and never have to wait more than 15 minutes or you will receive a free exam.
Estate Agent Our 20 Step Marketing System Will Sell Your House In Less Than 45 Days At Full Market Value.

Let’s get started with the process you can use to create a new marketing message for your business, or refine the marketing message you already have.

Work through the following questions to brainstorm and record the aspects of your business that you will communicate in your marketing message. Take your time, and be as detailed as possible.

1. Use all the information you gathered about your target market to figure out what your customer’s hot buttons are.

Write down who your customers are, and what their problems, desires and needs are.

Take some time to revisit the behavioural and psychographic information you gathered when researching your target market. This will give you an idea of what kind of emotional hot buttons you should focus on when creating your marketing message.

Hot buttons are emotional triggers that motivate your potential customers to take action. Some common hot buttons are: price, location, exclusivity, results, safety, timeliness, convenience and atmosphere.

2. Describe the value or benefit that your product or service offers your customers.

This is what your customers get when they spend money at your business – the answer to “what’s in it for me?” How do you solve their problems? How do you meet their needs, or fulfill their desires?

For example, maybe you’re a grocery store in the neighbourhood, and you offer the convenience of being just a short stroll away instead of a car ride.

When you’re thinking about this question, think about your product or service in the context of the benefits, results, or advantages customers receive, instead of the features you offer.

3. Think about the outcome of the value or solution that you provide.

Brainstorm what happens when your customers receive the value or benefit from your product or service, what happens? Are they thrilled? Relieved of worry? Do they have more time to spend with their families, or do they put dinner on the table faster?

This is kind of like the storytelling aspect of creating your marketing message. Paint a picture of how you will improve the lives of your customers, in one way or another.

4. What is your company’s point of difference? What makes you stand out from the competition?

Your point of difference – or uniqueness – is something you will want to strongly feature in your marketing message. It is the reason that the reader should choose your business instead of your competition.

For this step, do some research on your competition and see what kinds of marketing messages they are using. How strong are those messages? What benefits and results do they promise?

If you are having trouble figuring out what sets you apart from your competition, think about including an irresistible offer, or a strong guarantee to give yourself an edge. (We’ll spend some time on powerful offers and risk reversal strategies like guarantees later on in the Masterclass series.)

5. What is the perception you would like others to have about your business?

How you wish your customers to perceive you will impact how you describe your offering in your marketing message, and the kind of language you will use. Revisit the vision you created, and write down some ideas about the image you want your business to project to the outside world.

For example, if your business is completely transforming its operations to become more environmentally sustainable, you will need to use different language and emphasise different features and benefits than you did before.

6. Based on the notes you wrote in response to the above questions, summarise the information into a paragraph of 4 to 5 sentences.

If you’ve got pages of notes, this may be a challenging part of the process, but that’s okay because it means you have a lot to work with. Take your time, and wade through your notes bit by bit.

You may want to start by writing 10 to 15 sentences, and then narrow those down to 4 to 5 sentences when you have a better idea of what specifically you want to focus on. Or, you could try writing three sentences for each question, and then working to consolidate from that point.

Keep in mind that the most effective marketing messages use strong, descriptive language that triggers emotional responses. Think about how you would describe your point of difference, or value-added service to a close friend, and write with that in mind.

7. Using descriptive language, consolidate your paragraph into a single sentence of 15 words or less.

This sentence will become your unique marketing message!

I know how challenging this part of the process can be, so to make it easier, I usually write a few different sentences that emphasise different things to give myself choices. For example, if you don’t know whether to feature your company’s commitment to unbelievable prices, or its guarantee of customer satisfaction, write one sentence each and compare which is stronger.

Aim to have two or three sentences that you’re happy with, and then test them out to see which is the most effective.

The only way to find out the strength of your marketing message is to test it. Don’t be afraid of making some mistakes – you need to get feedback!

Test your three draft marketing messages internally first.

Before you go out to the public with your drafts, test them on your friends, family, staff and colleagues first. Use their feedback constructively, but don’t be afraid to stand up for elements that you believe are effective or important.

Once you have gathered enough feedback, rework your draft messages and incorporate the suggestions you believe are valuable.

Incorporate feedback, and then test a few draft messages externally.

When you have refined your draft messages and incorporated staff and colleague feedback, you can start to test the messages out on your audience.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, or cost a lot of money. Simple tests using small-scale distributions will give you the information you need to choose which message is the most effective.

For example, place two or three ads in the local newspaper or on your social media accounts – one a week with a different message each time – and compare the number of leads each ad generates. Or, send out a small direct mail campaign, with the materials split into three groups – one for each message.

The message that generates the most leads is the strongest, and will be the one you choose to be your business’ unique marketing message.

Now that you’ve got a killer message, use it consistently on all of your marketing materials and in all of your campaigns.

Consistency and repetition are powerful persuasive tools to use to reinforce your message over time. Ensuring your marketing message appears on all documents related to your business will build your brand image and your company’s reputation.

Make a list of all marketing materials, stationery, signage and internal and external documentation that your customers and clients come in contact with. Then, incorporate your marketing message onto each of them.

Here’s a suggested list of materials to include:

  • Website
  • Advertisements
  • Direct Mail
  • Listings
  • Phone Messages
  • Email Signature
  • Business Cards
  • Letterhead

Now that you know what you’re going to say, and who you’re going to say it to, let’s dive into some lead generation strategies.

If you would like some help with the ideas introduced in this Masterclass, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

The next Business Growth Masterclass focuses on advanced strategies for lead generation that you can start implementing into your business right away. Our focus is to set up lead generation strategies that either immediately or over time will run themselves, so you can generate more leads with less time investment.

Business Skills Masterclass 8 – How to Strengthen Your Marketing Message

Do You Know How Your Client’s Make The Decision To Buy What You Sell?

Have you ever given any thought as to how your clients make that all important decision as to whether or not they will buy your product or service? What is it EXACTLY that triggers their buy / don’t buy button? Is it really price that controls their decision, or are other factors involved?

What you need to know…

Believe it or not, price is actually one of your prospects last considerations. Human nature says that no matter who buys what you sell, they will always want “the best deal.” That doesn’t mean the lowest price, but it does mean they want the most “VALUE” for the price they pay. The perception that your product or service offers extraordinary value controls their final decision.

Why you need to know this…

The key is to create “extraordinary value” as it relates to what you sell. In fact, if you do this, you can even charge a much higher price, providing the perception of value justifies that price. Unfortunately, most business owners don’t have a clue how to create “extraordinary value,” and therefore don’t offer it to their prospects, costing themselves massive market share and a boatload of lost revenue.

To create value, a business must “innovate.” You must understand the things your clients want from your product or service, and then use innovative ideas and solutions to either remove the pain and frustration they normally associate with what you sell, or enhance the benefits they receive from using it.

For example, the working mum who feels frustrated and worried when she drops off her child at daycare because she doesn’t know how the child is being cared for finds tremendous relief and peace of mind (extraordinary value) when the daycare installs Web Watch… a 24 camera surveillance system that allows parents to view their child online, anytime.

The cost to you if you fail to act…

If you fail to create “extraordinary value,” then you look like, feel like and smell like your competition. You will be forever doomed to compete with them on price, and when you’re forced to compete on price, you have just lost the battle. There will always be someone willing to undercut your price… ALWAYS!

By innovating your business, you begin to separate your business from your competition. You begin to eliminate your competition from the minds of your prospects… and you will have your prospects literally saying to themselves that “I would be an absolute fool if I bought this from anyone else.”

Innovation attracts your “ideal” clients to your business. These are the clients that will buy more from you at premium prices. They will spend more money and buy from you over longer periods of time. Your revenue and profits begin to skyrocket as you begin to add unprecedented market share.

Look for ways to “innovate” your business and do so in such a way that you create extraordinary value in the minds of your prospects.

Business Growth Masterclass Sesssion 7: How to Identify Your Target Market

Hello there friends, and welcome to the seventh installment in my series “The Business Growth Masterclass”.

I’ve called this session:

How to Identify Your Target Market

But first, as usual, lets recap the homework set in the last installment of the Business Growth Masterclass.:

After the last session, “Managing Your Time To Make More Profit”:

  • You know what your time is worth on an hourly basis.
  • You know what time(s) of day you are most productive.
  • You have five strategies for improved personal time management.

 Yes? Brilliant! Now let’s get on with this months material.

Determining your target market is your first job as a business owner

This Masterclass officially marks the beginning of using Step One of the five-step process, (see November’s Masterclass) which shows you to how to bring a high number of qualified leads into your business.

Qualified leads are the group of people who are most likely to buy from you – they have a current need, problem or desire that your offering will solve or serve. These people are your target market, or ideal customers. Qualified leads are generally easier to convert into customers, so a high number of qualified leads mean a high conversion rate and, of course, more sales.

A great example of this going wrong… you own a hot dog and burger business and are standing outside a large conference venue, waiting for the lunch-break so you can take advantage of a huge rush of people in a short period of time (a great way to do business) to give away small hotdogs to generate customers for your business down the road. You have prepared all your toppings, flyers with simple directions, arranged for staff to handle the rush and stocked up to the gunnels to ensure you do not miss a single prospect. The group comes out and you manage 25 free hot dogs given away when you were expecting 500.

What went wrong? You did not realise the conference attendees were members of a health and wellness group comprising of 95% vegetarians!

This wouldn’t happen to me I hear you say, but the same kind of mistake COULD be made by any business owner – in fact, a lot of the businesses I work with have made just this mistake, but in the context of their own marketplace. The morale of the story; if you are talking to the wrong audience it doesn’t matter how good your offer is – you are wasting your time. Talking to your target market is absolutely CRITICAL to successful marketing.

So, your first job as a business owner is to work out who your target market is, and how the people in it think and behave.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • How your target market influences your marketing choices
  • A step-by-step process for identifying your target market
  • Types of target markets
  • Examples of target markets
  • Market research strategies

Generating qualified leads will make it easy to boost your conversion rate, because your prospects will already want or need your service.

A target market is simply a group of people with something in common – things like age, gender, opinion, interest, or location, – who will purchase a particular product or service. Your market can be broad or specific in scope, and it is unique to each business or industry.

Knowledge and understanding of your target market is crucial to the viability of your business. You have to know if there is enough demand for your product, or enough interest and need for your service. You have to know how to communicate with your customers, and understand their thoughts and behaviours.

Without a comprehensive understanding of your target market, you can’t make smart choices about your introductory offers, marketing strategy, pricing structure, and product or service mix. It’s kind of like driving a car with a blindfold on – you’d be headed for disaster.

In addition to being essential to confirm assumptions and understand purchase motivations, market research is something you will need to get into the habit of doing on a regular basis to monitor trends and stay ahead of the competition. Identifying your target market is not always easy, but I promise it will pay off in spades, so stay committed to your efforts as you work through this Masterclass.

Let’s start with an easy, step-by-step process to identify your target market.

You probably already have an idea of who your target market is – or who you want it to be. Start by describing who you think your target market is in two or three sentences on a sheet of paper.

As you work through this process, you may find that you were correct in your assumptions, or not. Either way, this Masterclass will uncover invaluable information about your audience.

When you set out to identify your target market, you need to find the group of people that has these four characteristics:

  • They have a particular need, want or desire.
  • They have the financial ability to purchase your solution to their need, want or desire.
  • They have the power to decide to purchase your product or service.
  • They have access to your business, through a physical location, Internet or catalogue

First, take a look at what your product or service offering is to your potential customers.

To find the group of people with the characteristics listed above, you first need to answer the following questions about your product or service:

1. What is the need, want or desire that my product or services fulfils?

 Does your offering primarily fulfil a desire, or serve a need or cater to a want? What is that desire/need/want?
2. What does my product or service cost?
 Do you offer a high-end product, or low-cost alternative? Do you sell large items, like a kitchen appliance, or small items, like household cleaning products?
3. Who makes the decision to purchase my product or service (who has the power or authority)?
 For example, if you provide a product or service for children, their parents are the people who make the decision to make a purchase.
4. How are my products or services accessed?
 Does your ideal customer need to live in the same town or region as your business? Or can they access your products online, or through a catalogue?

Demographics 

Now let’s look at the demographic characteristics of the people that need, can afford, locate and decide to purchase your offering. Some of the information in this table may be less important than others (like ethnicity or religion) depending on your product or service and the market you are trying to attract.

Age In general terms, what is the age range that my product or service caters to? Kids? Teens? Adults? Seniors?
Income How much do they have to make to afford my product? Is this single or double household income? Low? Medium? High?
Gender Does my product or service appeal to men, women, or both?
Generation What is the generation of my customers? Based on the age range I identified, are they baby boomers? GenX? GenY? Where do they stand in the overall family life cycle?
Nationality Is nationality relevant to my product or service?
Ethnicity Is ethnicity relevant to my product or service?
Marital Status Are my customers married? Single? Divorced?
Family Size Does my product or service cater to large or small families? Is family size relevant?
Occupation or Industry Does my product or service appeal to people in a certain occupation, or industry?
Religion Is religion relevant to my product or service?
Language Is language relevant to my product or service?
Education What level of education do my primary customers have? High school? University?

Psychographics

Now lets look at your target market’s psychographics. Psychographics are the qualitative characteristics of your target audience, like personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyle. These characteristics can give you a lot of insight into how to best interact and communicate with your target market.

Lifestyle What kind of lifestyle group does your audience fall into? Are they conservative or trendy, travelers or soccer moms? Are they thrifty or extravagant?
Values + Beliefs What are their values and beliefs? Would you consider them environmentalists or safety conscious?
Attitude What kind of attitude do they have? Are they positive or negative? Open or critical? Easily led or opinionated?
Motivation Are your customers opinion leaders or followers? Do they tell others what products they need, or do they need others to tell them what is trendy and what works?
Activities + Interests What do they do in their spare time? What are their hobbies and interests?
Social Class What social class does your audience belong to? Lower, middle or upper? How much extra money do they have to spend on luxury items?

So, now that you’ve gathered all this information, what does it tell you about your ideal customers?

You’ve done enough research now to create a picture of who you think your ideal customer is. Being as specific as you can, write a 1-2 sentence statement about your target market.

For example:

  • My target customer is a successful young professional; a middle-class man aged 20 to 35, who is single, makes more than £10,000 per year, and is physically fit. He is university educated, and has an active interest in economics and politics.
  • My target market is affluent new mothers; married women with children under five years old, between the ages of 25 and 45, and have a household income of at least £50,000 annually. She is the trend and opinion follower, and her purchase motivations are driven by her peer group.

Now that you’ve made some educated assumptions about who your target market is, you’ll have to use some market research strategies to confirm them.

Market research is the study of a particular group of consumers – or markets. It is one of the most valuable activities you will work on as a business owner, since it keeps you connected and informed about your customers thoughts, motivations and behaviours. Market research also minimises risk and assumption-based decision making, which will improve the success rate of everything you do for your business.

When you begin your market research, you need to start out with a clear question that you want answered. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get off track and fail to end up with the information you really need. Think about questions like:

  • Am I right about my target audience assumptions?
  • Is my target audience interested in my new product or service?
  • I need more information about my target audience’s purchase motivations
  • What new trends are my target audience following?
  • What recent economic developments have impacted my target market?
  • How can I improve my customer service?
  • Has my target market changed in the past year?

Market research needs to be conducted regularly – regardless of how long you have been in business, or how well you know your target market. Trends shift, and environments are impacted by economic and political factors beyond your control.

There are two main types of market research – primary and secondary – and three main areas of market research – consumer, competitor, and environment.

Here’s a really helpful chart to use to organise information when you’re conducting your market research. This will help you conduct research that is comprehensive and cost effective.

PRIMARY
(First-hand information gathered from your customers or about your customers. i.e., customer surveys, observations about the competition, etc.)
SECONDARY
(Second-hand data or research that has been completed by or for someone else, but can be applied to your objectives.)
CUSTOMER
(Demographic, behavioural, psychographic and geographic characteristics.)
> info right from the source
> can be time consuming and costly – but most valuable
> most current
> most specific
> statistics
> trade journals
> public surveys by larger companies
> government publications and surveys
COMPETITION
(Marketing, product and consumer observations you can make or gather from your competition.)
> what works, what doesn’t
> adding value to existing offering (to give yourself an edge
> types of products that consumers are interested in
> types of lead generation strategies your competition uses, and the types of potential customers that you currently see
ENVIRONMENT
(Social, economic and political trends that may impact your business or your customers thoughts and behaviours.)
> newspapers
> trade journals
> consumer reports

Strategies for cost-effective secondary market research

Demographic Research (Customer)
Basic demographic research is something you won’t have to conduct yourself. Every town or region will have demographic information available online, or in town halls, libraries and business centres. National and regional statistical information is also available online or through government agencies.

Online and Consumer Research (Customer and Environment)
Primary market research can be expensive, so secondary research on general consumer behaviour and purchase data can be extremely useful for small businesses. Some information will be available online, while other information (usually free) will be available at your local chamber of commerce and business centres.

Primary market research strategies you shouldn’t miss.

Ground Research (Customer or Competition)
Spend some time in your local area at different times of the day observing and talking to the people who live, work, or spend time there. What do you notice about the area? How well is it taken care of? Why do people spend time here? Is anything missing? Get a sense of their age, gender, clothing and any other features.

Competing Businesses (Competition)
If you have direct competitors in the same local area, spend some time being “their” customer and making observations about their business. How do they advertise? What market are they targeting? Is there a niche market that is being missed?

Surveys (Customer or Competition)
Surveys are the most popular way to gather first hand information from your existing and potential customers. Take your time to administer them carefully and thoughtfully – surveys can get complex and variables can be high.

  • Keep your questionnaire short and focused on getting at the information you need to answer your market research question. This will encourage a higher response rate.
  • Remember that your information will only be as good as the people you ask for it. Try to get as broad a cross section as possible. Depending on your market research question, you may not want to limit it to your existing customers.
  • Choose a survey method – telephone, web or paper-based – and understand the pros and cons of each. Research some survey templates, and spend more time than you think you need to on crafting your survey.
  • Include basic demographic questions on your survey so you can cross reference responses with factors like age, income, sex, and profession.

Website Analysis (Customer)
Use a website tracking system like Google Analytics to monitor how visitors to your website behave and use the information available. These programs will allow you to see how many people visit your site, where they are from, what pages they are looking at and how long they spend on your site.

Customer Loyalty and Purchase Data (Customer)
Your point of sale system (if you have one) – depending on the level of features it offers – may also be able to run reports on customer purchase patterns and trends. If you have a customer loyalty program, you can keep track of purchase information in each customer’s file or account. The type of information you’ll need to keep track of here is behavioural: brand loyalty, product or service usage, purchase frequency, and readiness to buy.

Focus Groups (Customer)
Assemble groups of six to 12 people and ask them general and specific questions about their thoughts, opinions and habits as related to your marketing question. Be sure to assemble a cross section of people that is representative of your target market.

When you’ve completed your market research, analyse what you’ve learnt. Go back to your original question, and critique the outcome.

How has your market research supported the question(s) you set out to answer? Were your original assumptions confirmed or refuted?

  • Does my target market exist in my geographic area?
  • Does my target market actually want what I’m selling?
  • How does my target market want to purchase from me?
  • Is my target market interested in my new product or service?
  • How does my target market want me to communicate with them?
  • Is my target market large enough in my local area to support my business?
  • Are there areas of my research I could dig into for more information?

You may discover some hard facts to face about your business. Perhaps there is not a large enough market base in your area to support your business. Maybe you’ve spent a few hundred or thousands of pounds going after the wrong type of customers. This is all okay – don’t get despondent – it’s all valuable information that you can work with to make better decisions about your marketing strategies and product or service offerings in the future.

If you have flexibility in your product or service, you may be able to find ways to enhance your offerings and extend your target market to include more people, or a larger share of the marketplace.

Your market research is ongoing – each time you talk to a customer, supplier or sales rep, you’re gathering information about your clientele, and thus conducting market research. Consider keeping a log at the point of sale for staff to use to record customer comments and complaints. Review the log for customer returns, and reasons for returns, to get valuable feedback on your offering.

Remember, audiences, trends, products and services change, so stay ahead of the curve and keep on top of your market.

Plan to make market research a regular part of your business, and schedule time and money for primary research at least once a year. This is the only way to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to trends and environmental changes beyond your control.

If you would like some help with the ideas introduced in this Masterclass, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

The next few Masterclasses are about applying the information you have learned about your target market to refine your marketing strategies. You’ve clearly identified who your target market is, and how those people think and behave, so your next task is to determine what to say and how to reach them.

In the next Masterclass, we’re going to look at your marketing message and see how clearly you’re communicating with your audience. The strength of your marketing message is the backbone of your marketing materials, and a huge factor in the success of your lead generation strategies.

Business Growth Masterclass – Session 6. Managing your time to make more profit

 Welcome to the sixth instalment in my blog series The Business Growth Masterclass.

I’ve called this session:

Managing Your Time to Make More Profit

But first, as usual, lets recap the homework set in the last installment of the Business Growth Masterclass.:

Checkpoint:

  • Your workspace is organised for productivity and minimises distractions.
  • You have cleaned out and cleared out areas in your office or business where old stock or surplus office supplies are kept.
  • You have begun to organise your paper and electronic filing into systems, with the help of your staff.

All done? Fantastic! Now let’s get on with this months material.

Small business owners too often confuse being busy with being successful. They’re not the same thing!

In this session we will cover:

  • How you should treat time like money
  • How to calculate what your time is worth
  • The five biggest culprits of time theft
  • Where your time goes in your existing schedule
  • Strategies to allow you to take control of your schedule

If time were money, how would you manage yours?

Time is far more precious than money. There are a finite number of days that you will spend on this earth, while money is something you can usually get more of.

If you are 35 years old with a life expectancy of 75… you have already spent 12,775 days on Earth and have 480 months left to fulfill your life destiny. If you plan to retire at the age of 50 you have 180 months to make enough money to retire (have you thought about how much money you will need to sustain your lifestyle in retirement?) and in those months 1,440 days are weekends… so you have 3600 workdays to make it all happen. What are you waiting for… time to stop confusing being busy with being successful!

The fact is that many business owners actually manage their money as though it is more precious than their time. They started the business to choose their own hours, spend more time with their family, and be their own boss. But, somewhere along the way the only goals that mattered became the financial ones. Or, the only item worth measuring and managing was money.

Your time will never be managed for you – you have to make a decision to choose to spend your time wisely. To take ownership of your own schedule, and use the power you have to change what isn’t working. I’ll share a few tools to get you started, but first let’s take a look at what your time is worth first, to attach time to money.

Your time has a price tag, and sometimes it’s much lower than you think.

Here’s a really simple exercise to determine what your time is worth based on your annual income and the number of working hours in a year.

Target annual income

A.

Working days in a year

B. 235

Working hours in a day

C. 7.5

Working hours in a year

D. 1,645

A / D = YOUR HOURLY WORTH

E.

It’s unrealistic to assume that each of the 1,645 hours in a year is a productive one. Various studies have put actual productivity at anywhere between 25 minutes and four hours per day. That’s a lot of room for improvement!

Now, this calculation doesn’t factor in overtime hours, taxes, or expenses. If you work as a consultant for an hourly rate, it doesn’t factor in the cost for you to provide your services. The point is, this is your hourly worth in the best-case scenario.

When you start thinking about time management, the goal is to get more done in less time, and thus increase your hourly worth (among other benefits, of course!).

There are five major things that drain your time. But don’t worry, it’s really easy to fix the leaks.

Email
Your email is a consistent distraction. With the mail programme running all the time, emails can distract you as they arrive. Or, you’ll find yourself checking for new messages every 15, 10 or five minutes. Writing, reading and responding to emails can easily monopolise your time, because they seem like an ever urgent and important task.

Mobile Phone and/or Personal Organiser
Your mobile phone has most likely given you increased freedom from your workplace, but mobile devices seem to have also taken away your freedom to choose when you work. You can work outside of the office, but this often means you also work evenings and weekends when spending time with your family and friends.

Open Door Policies
While you want to be open and accessible to your staff, sometimes you can make yourself too accessible. Open door policies have the potential to create a daily mass of employees lined up at your door seeking immediate answers for non-emergency issues.

Meetings
Unstructured, unnecessary, run-on meetings can gobble up hours for no reason at all. Especially as a business owner, your presence may be requested at a variety of meetings, but it’s not always required. Days spent in back to back meetings often mean that your workday starts at five or six instead of nine.

You
Since effective time management is a choice, everyone is guilty of letting themselves sabotage their ability to work productively and efficiently at all times. It’s easy for business owners to avoid separating business hours from leisure time and let the two run together. We all have distractions that we fall into from time to time.

“It takes the human mind 15 minutes to properly focus… if you get interrupted every 7 minutes… you have a huge problem!”
Karl Bryan, CEO, Author, International Speaker

Now you need to take some time to figure out where your time actually goes, so you can see what leaks need to be repaired.

I have some worksheets you can use to assist you as you complete this personal time management research exercise, or you can make one up for yourself.

You’re going to take a good long look at how you spend your time so you can paint a clear picture of your current situation. Once you understand your own personal habits and patterns, you can start making changes that will have the greatest impact on your own schedule. You’ll learn how to be a better time manager.

1. Complete a Time Audit for three working days in a row.

Use a Time Log  to record how you spend your time in detail for three working days (it is a bit of a bind…s  don’t try to get it perfect as that will just stop it from happening… but just do it. And remember ‘the more you defend your excuses… they more they own you!’).

Be honest with yourself, and be as specific as possible. If you notice something about what you’re doing, or which distractions have the greatest negative impact, log these notes as well. The more information you can record, the better.

2. Take a look at your time records, and categorise the different ways you spend your time.

Use different colored markers or highlighters to shade the blocks of time you spent on various activities. You can create your own categories, or use the ones below:

  • Travel
  • Eating, including preparation
  • Personal Errands
  • Exercise
  • Watching TV
  • Sleeping, including naps
  • Personal computer use
  • Being with family / friends
  • Internal meetings
  • Emailing (checking, reading, returning messages)
  • External meetings
  • Telephone, (checking and returning messages)
  • Administrative work
  • Client work
  • Non-client, non-administrative work

3. Based on the categories you created, go through each of your days and decide if you have spent enough, too much, or too little time on each main task.

Based on your observations, answer the following questions:

  1. What patterns do you notice about how you spend your time during the day? When are you at your most productive? Least productive? Most or least interrupted?
  2. Write down the four highest priorities in your life right now. Does your timesheet reflect these priorities? (Show me your schedule and I will show you your priorities!)
  3. If you have more time, what would you do?
  4. If you had less time, what wouldn’t you do?
  5. Could you remove the items in question four and add the items in question three? Why or why not?
  6. Is procrastination a problem for you? How much?

Here are a series of effective strategies for improving your time management skills, and for doing more in less time.

The strategies described below will help you take charge of your schedule and use your time in a more effective manner. Grab your pad of paper and start by choosing five or six strategies to try, take some notes as you read through and decide which you will try first.

Remember this is an individual process – everyone works differently – so if you have to try a few different things to get some meaningful results, that’s okay/normal!

Prioritise your tasks

> You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what is most deserving of your time.
> Choose what needs to be completed now, what can be completed later, and what can be delegated to someone else.
> Focus on your top three priorities at any one time, and consistently revise your list so that the highest priority items are always on top, and the lowest priority items are always at the bottom.

Delegate

> You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what you absolutely need to do, and what others can finish for you.
> You also need to accept that while it may seem “faster” for you to complete a task initially, spending the time to teach someone to complete the task will save you hours later on.
> Delegation is a vital skill that you need to refine, practice and master as a manager.

Focus on your skills

> If you have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, you can use this to your advantage.
> An effective way to manage your time is to only do the things that you know you are good at, or required for, and delegate or outsource the areas where you are not so strong.

Say no

> Learn how to say no, and you will reclaim dozens of hours every week.
> It’s so easy to say yes to something in the moment, and later feel overwhelmed when that task is added to your to do list. You may feel pressure to say yes to everything as a business owner, but you do have a choice.

Keep a strict schedule

> Create and keep a strict schedule for yourself that supports your productivity, and minimises distractions.
> Include personal and work time in your schedule
> Schedule time for things like closed-door work, work planning, email and phone responses, internal and external meetings, “me time”, family and exercise.

Make decisions

> As a successful business owner, you will need to learn to make good decisions quickly and efficiently, without wasting time with deliberations.
> You can only make the best decision with the information you have, in the time frame you have to make it. No one expects you to be able to see the future – be decisive, make some mistakes, and learn from them.

Manage interruptions

> Establish which hours of the day you are most productive, and set those hours aside for yourself to finish important tasks, uninterrupted.
> Schedule open door hours, and closed-door hours.
> Schedule windows of time for reading and replying to emails, and for answering and replying to phone calls.

Manage interruptions Avoid duplicating efforts

> Take note of how many tasks are completed more than once, or by more people than necessary.
> Establish clear communication systems and procedures to minimise this, and make sure all your employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
> Use tools like checklists, meeting minutes and individual task assignments to minimise mis-communication and duplication in tasks.

Stop procrastinating

> If you are a seasoned procrastinator, the idea of “just stopping” is usually much easier in principle than in practice.
> The best way to overcome procrastination is to use your willpower to stop. Refining this skill will help to prevent you from procrastinating in the future.
> Try working in blocks of focused time, with breaks or rewards at the end, and break down big tasks into small manageable ones.

Effective time management is just a formal way of saying that you make good choices about how you spend your valuable time.

It really just boils down to making choices, and setting up a structure that enables you to succeed. You have to try a few different strategies and structures to see what works best for you.

Remember that time management is a personal investigation that will look different for everyone. Some people can work in the middle of a loud, crowded room, and others need absolute silence to function at a high level. Respect your own needs.

If you would like some help with the ideas introduced in this Masterclass, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

Next time, we’re going to dive into investigating what your qualified leads look like, and how you can go about getting more of them into your business.

Until then, be successful.