Good but not quite Carling!

Do you remember the Carling adverts? I think I like the cricket with the nun’s one the best, but I also like the office escape. If you don’t know the adverts, it’s where a guy does some amazing feat just to fail at the very last moment.

And that is exactly like a great many businesses’ marketing. There is some great marketing about but most fails just when it might have converted into a sale. And that’s just the case with a piece of direct mail (door drop) we received from one of the estate agents in our town. We were just about to put our house on the market when a card dropped through our letterbox.

‘Just SOLD in your area’. The design was good, the photos lovely, each picture had ‘sold’ printed on it – just what we needed. But then I turned over the card and they lost our business.

You see they are looking for ‘…similar cottages to yours…’ because they can sell more. Well we lived in a large three storey semi-detached Victorian house. And to my mind, if they don’t know the difference, that’s going to be a problem for me.

Now you might be thinking that some delivery company did the door drop. Well, even if they had, a good estate agent would know which roads were lined with cottages. As it happens I saw the person doing the door drop; it was a suited young man who looked very much like an estate agent. Now I’ll be fair, in our road there are both cottages and houses, but that’s where the ‘good but not quite Carling’ comes in. This guy (the estate agent) to a point was doing a great job, but he failed just at the last moment, because he wasn’t thinking about exactly where he was posting his marketing cards and it cost his company business.

So, is your marketing Carling or not quite Carling?

Sherlock Holmes gets it!

I watched an episode of Sherlock recently, ‘The Sign of Three’, and I must confess I was beginning to think that maybe I could be doing something better with my time.  But, the last ten minutes, or so, saved the day; because it made me think about business.

So, what’s Sherlock Holmes got to do with any business?  Well, he’s a pretty good detective, and in business we should always be looking for clues, such as to business trends, customer delight and staff morale – to name just three.

And something that caught my attention was when Sherlock was ‘helping’ Mary with the seating plan for her wedding.  She asked Sherlock if this particular person should sit at the top table and Sherlock said no.  When Mary asked why Sherlock replied, ‘Because he hates you and barely thinks about you.’ She replied, “Really?”  Sherlock then explained, “…Second Class post, cheap card, bought at a petrol station…”

The thing is this is also the case with many businesses.  They use 80gsm paper, manila envelopes or cheap off-white, thin card, Second Class stamps, leaflets printed on their inkjet (often crooked), and much, much more; everything for as little money as possible.  Now I’m not saying that you should throw your money away.  But, when talking to clients and prospect customers, what does cheap stuff say about you?  And, more importantly, what does it say you think about them (your client)?

As Sherlock says, do you barely think about them?

Little things can make a bid difference to the success of your business so make sure you get them right.

99 Red Balloons

I’ve just listened to one of my favourite songs from the ‘80s, ’99 Red Balloons’ by Nena and it reminded me of a presentation I attended some years ago by BNI Executive Director Andrew Hall. If you ever get the chance to hear Andrew talk I highly recommend it as he tells the most amazing stories which are all linked to business success. And it is one of those stories that I want to relay to you now. Although Andrew tells it much better than I will, I think it is so powerful but at the same time so easy to implement.

The story is about selling and comes from the time that Andrew used to sell balloons in Battersea Park.

At the time Andrew had a team of fourteen sellers and what made him unusual was that he trained his team in how to sell a balloon. He didn’t just give each member of the team a bunch of balloons and say ‘go sell’. He did a far better job than that, and this is what he did. It really is what makes the difference between doing an okay job and a brilliant one. And it’s so simple.

It goes something like this. When someone approached the seller, Andrew’s seller would say “Would you like one?”, and that’s where most normal sellers would stop. And in most cases this seller would get a ‘No’ or a shake of the head. But Andrew’s sellers were well trained, and before the person approaching them had time to speak, they added the ‘killer’ line, “Which one would you like?”

They had been presented with a simple choice, would they like the red balloon or the blue balloon? The result? Hundreds of balloons sold.

So, how does this story help you?

The answer is simple. Most people when selling ask the prospect if they would like to buy whatever it is that they are selling. Therefore it is easy for the prospect to say ‘No’. But, if instead, you can provide your prospect with a choice then your conversion will increase.

It can be as simple as asking, “Will you be paying cash or would you like me to invoice you?” Either way they are giving you their order.

If you can find your ‘Which one would you like?’ offering your sales will climb.

And, should you need any help then please do contact me.

£100 Bar Tab

Collecting the details of your clients and prospective clients, and keeping in touch with them, is essential to your future success.

And I really like this simple little card that I picked up at my local just last week.

It offers the chance of a £100 Bar Tab. Now that has to be worth my name and address. But there are also another couple of nice things offered.  A small gift when you sign-up and the promise of a little treat on your birthday.  Well at least I know I’ll have one present to look forward to!  But they also have a clever promise, a guarantee, especially useful for those worried about handing over their details to companies.  They will “… NEVER, EVER, EVER rent, sell or share your information”.  That’s a nice reassuring touch.

Their fishbowl was already pretty full with completed cards when I dropped in and there was even a pot of pens conveniently close by.  Not one pen mind you – about thirty.  Another bit of good thinking.

So, what simple mechanism can you put in place in your business to collect data and ensure yourself a brighter future?

Their phone went dead!

I rang a prospective new supplier today – at 9.37am. After ringing for ages the phone suddenly went dead. Maybe they weren’t open yet, I thought. I rang again, this time at 10.52am. Again the phone rang and rang and rang. Again it suddenly went dead. Did I try a third time? No!

That company lost what could have been a huge amount of business for them. Why? Well, for any number of reasons. Their phone is left unattended for hours. When it’s not answered it just goes dead; not even a boring answerphone message. At least with an answerphone message I would have known the business still existed. There’s lack of customer care. Lack of organisation. Lack of thought. I could go on. What’s certain is that nothing is saying we really value your business.

So do you know what happens when someone calls your business? Is the phone always answered? How many times does it ring before it’s answered? What is said when it is answered? A bored ‘Hello’ or a helpful ‘How can I help you?’

You could be spending a great deal of money on advertising only for it to be wasted by how your phone is being (or not being) answered.

Why not run a little test? Ring your office the moment it opens, then again half-way through the morning, again just before lunch, during lunch, just after lunch, half-way through the afternoon and lastly just as you are about to close (but not all on the same day). You might be surprised at the results.

I know of a company where the receptionist wore headphones; no one heard the phone ring and no one knew she often didn’t answer it when it did.

In my business the aim is to answer the phone within three rings (by the office staff). Should the phone ring more than three times then the person nearest a phone picks it up. It doesn’t matter who that member of staff is as they have all been trained on the best way to answer a call.

46 Weeks

One of the most important things we do as business owners is to decide how much we want to earn from our business each year, because only then can we determine how much we actually have to sell.

What follows is a simple calculation to work out what your hourly charge rate should be. Now before you say, “But I’m not charged out by the hour”, the principle is the same for you. You need to know how much you want to earn and how your business is going to generate that income.

So, first decide on how much you want to earn; how much do you want to pay yourself? For this example I am going to work on £50k (before tax).

Obviously our starting point is 52 weeks but from this we need to take off 5 weeks for holidays and one week for being ill. This leaves us with 46 weeks. Why? You can’t earn while you are on holiday or off work sick. This means that based on a 5-day working week we have 230 days per year when we can earn money.

Therefore, to earn my £50k I need to invoice £218.00 per day and based on a normal 7.5 hour day this is an hourly rate of £29.00 per hour. But, this is where a great many business owners make a big mistake and end up wondering why they never make any money. Because the fact is you only make £29.00 per hour when you are doing chargeable work. And that is the key – chargeable. Sales, networking, invoicing, meetings, estimating, travelling, social media, etc., are not chargeable hours. So, you need to know exactly what that split is. Some say that of a typical working day only 40% is chargeable. But, for my example I am going to work on 50%, which means that my hourly rate of £29.00 per hour now becomes £58.00 per hour.

Now before you start thinking, that’s not so bad, or I’m already charging more than that. To this figure you need to add your overheads and variable costs. For example: rent, insurance, car, tools, computers, petrol, etc.

This is a very simple calculation but one that most business owners don’t do. Please don’t be one of them, as knowing what your chargeable rate should be will make a big difference to the standard of the life you live.

Glasses on the bar!

It amazes me how many businesses seem to go out of their way to lose business and customers. And I fell prey to this just last weekend.

Now, okay, the pub I was in had been busy. But no business can afford to throw away business – ever. Well, not if they want to be Super Successful. Or, maybe, even just stay in business.

This is what happened. Things were becoming calmer after a hectic lunchtime and two of the bar staff started to clear the tables of empty glasses; something that really should have happened as part of the service. Soon the bar top was covered in an assortment of dirty glasses. Now to my mind it would have been better for one member of staff to collect the glasses and the other to take them off to the kitchen. As the whole bar looked a right mess.

But, things were far worse than that. No one was served for over five minutes! And there was a fair number of us; in fact the bar staff had to work their way through us to get to the bar. This was when three locals had decided they had had enough. There was another pub up the road. A couple that had only just arrived followed them out of the door. And I was only getting some extra drinks or I would have left as well.

The thing that got me was that these two members of staff could see us all waiting but didn’t think to stop doing a job that could wait and instead do a job that would make them a profit. Now I certainly won’t be going to that pub again; maybe I never would have done as we were only passing by. But the three local people certainly gave the impression that they wouldn’t be back as it seemed this was pretty much normal service.

Business is tough at anytime, and is certainly hard at the moment, so you just can’t afford to throw away business that is already in your hands. Now I’m sure that you are thinking that you would never stack a bar high with dirty glasses when you had customers waiting, but are you absolutely sure that you aren’t doing anything similar in your own business? Might just be worth a look and you never know you just might see an increase in your profits if you were to find something.