The eternal question: how can I increase business?

A friend of mine asked me this the other day, and I wanted to share my response in case it helped others wondering the same thing.

  • Are there seminars, conventions or meetups you could speak at?
  • Are there blogs you could guest blog on?
  • Are you posting YouTube videos of uses for your product?
  • Can you partner with brick and mortar establishments?
  • Are there forums you could participate in to establish your expertise? For example, is there a StackExchange forum for your type of business?
  • Can you segment your business into vertical markets and target one or two of those specifically?
  • Have you asked existing customers for testimonials and referrals?  How about video testimonials?  Everyone has a smartphone nowadays, and making a video is a snap.  You can host videos on your YouTube channel.
  • Where do your customers go?  Can you go there?

Interesting small business ideas coming out of the recession

In a glass-half-full note, one of the positive things that comes out of a downturn is that laid off workers generate new business ideas.  Here’s one you probably haven’t heard of: wedding cake rentals.  My brother-in-law and his wife have started a company called Twin Cities Cake Rental, which allows engaged couples in Minneapolis/St. Paul to rent a wedding cake.  The cake itself is a prop, and guests are served sheet cake, saving the new couple hundreds of dollars.

Good luck in your new venture, Chris and Robbin!

The future of contracts in China

Scrap metal traders are finding out that a deal’s a deal in China – until it’s not.   The question is, over the long term, will the Chinese adopt our practices or will we adopt theirs?   I hope for the former.  It’s such a shame when someone is willing to sell their good name for a few dollars, and the small immediate payback will be greatly outweighed by transaction friction for years to come.

Three words from Seth Godin about email

Seth Godin speaks to Google – a wonderful talk that’s well worth an hour of your time. Most interesting story: creation of Hallmark collectible ornaments (about halfway through), with followup marketing by email. Takeaway: the most effective email campaigns are

  1. Anticipated
  2. Personal
  3. Relevant

The “email blast” approach has never worked, will never work, and will likely land you in hot water. Take the time to do it right.

That Software Guy works with MailChimp on email promotions. Check out their resource library to see the depth of their expertise. Reasonable prices for small businesses too.

Business intelligence hard to find? Build it yourself!

Regular readers of the blog know I’m a huge fan of Jeffrey Gitomer. His newsletter is a great read – there’s always something inspiring in it. Of course, if you’re looking for a shortcut to success you’ll be disappointed; his advice tends to emphasize the important of hard work and self-reliance. Last week’s was no exception.  A salesman complained that he had trouble tracking down the independent pharmacies that constituted his natural market, and Gitomer responded by telling him to DIY:

If there is no information available, begin an email magazine or a blog that features a ‘pharmacist of the week.’ Do three or four each month. Call them up, tell them you’re documenting the history of the independent pharmacy, and begin to ask them about their story, how their business has evolved, what makes them buy, and why they select one vendor over another. After six months, you will be a world-class authority on independent pharmacy owners. When you can’t find information, you have to be proactive and get it on your own.

What a brilliant way to ask a prospect, “how can I best sell to you?”  People love talking about themselves and telling their own stories – and getting this background information can give you incredible insight into their needs.

Blast from the Past

Here’s Clifford Stohl explaining why e-commerce will never work back in 1995:

Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet–which there isn’t–the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

Yes, what could be better than a salesperson hovering over you anxiously awaiting their commission. 🙂