I read once that something like 30 percent of all drinkable water gets wasted on the way to the consumer by leaky pipes. Likewise, your business may be letting potential revenue drip away, to be lost forever, all over the place. Use this checklist to make sure you are taking best advantage of all the opportunities for earnings that would be arriving safely if you only plugged up those holes.
1. Improve your followup. According to the National Sales Executive Association, only about two percent of sales occur on the first contact. Eighty percent of sales require at least five contacts before the transaction occurs. That means that if you put out your sales message just once or twice, you're barely out of the gate. Those who might eventually buy are hardly even beginning to pay attention. You must repeat that message again and again before it wakes up busy people to what you are offering.
2. Put your marketing activities on schedule with a plan. I see a lot of businesses bedeviled by the "feast or famine" syndrome, where they stop marketing when times are good and therefore have no pipeline in place bringing them new leads when the economy slows down. They get busy marketing, but there's a time lag before new business comes in, and when it does, they stop marketing once more, keeping the cycle going. Instead, invest time or money in creating a marketing plan that tells you what to do each week or month to keep business continually flowing in. If it's too much for you to handle, hire assistants or outsource it to hungry but competent colleagues.
3. Increase your personal productivity by working at your most creative times. Once I incited a firestorm of criticism on CompuServe's PR Forum by revealing that I hardly ever spend more than one hour writing a press release. Other PR professionals opined that I couldn't possibly create decent work that quickly. Well, I do, and here's my secret: following a process that creativity researchers will tell you is used by top scientists and inventors, I absorb all the facts and define the challenge for myself, then go to sleep, take a walk or step into the shower. Within a day, my unconscious mind brings me a "Eureka" experience with a terrific headline. The rest of the press release pours out right after the headline. Had I sat down to try, try, try to write that document, it would take triple the time and not reach the same quality.
4. Stop unproductive marketing activities, boosting your profits. Advertising pros know that most advertising doesn't work, but they continue to spend like crazy because part of it does. If you can identify which marketing efforts of yours are not giving you a return, and stop spending money and energy on those, you'll be earning more from what you spend. Admittedly, it can be difficult sometimes to pinpoint what actually brings in customers and clients. However, if you begin asking each new buyer how they heard about you and keep track of the answers, patterns almost always emerge. One graphic artist learned through this kind of research that nearly all her clientele came from word of mouth and none from her ads in the local business journal. Of course, the opposite discovery could have happened, too. Don't assume, find out!
5. Market more often to your customer base - much more often. Hardly anyone stays in touch with existing and past customers often enough. They think they might be "bothering" their clientele by letting them know about new products, opportunities to buy before a price increase, success stories of other customers like them, and so on. Nope, it's not so. On the contrary, staying in touch ensures that you stay in the awareness of people who have done business with you before, so that when they need you again, they come to you rather than go to your competitors.
6. Hire help for mechanical tasks or a virtual assistant to help manage communications. Feeling overwhelmed? If you can make, let's say, $100 an hour doing what you do best, you should not be spending too much energy on routine things like stuffing envelopes, doing errands like going to the bank and the copy shop or putting together slides for your upcoming lecture. Instead, pay someone $25 an hour to get those to-do's accomplished and free you up to get more high-paid work accomplished. An exception to this principle is when you do the repetitive tasks as a break or rest from money-making activities that tire you out.
Increasing your productivity means increasing the income from your business without spending more hours working. Get started on at least one of the above today!
Marcia Yudkin, [email protected], is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity and 10 other books. She runs a private member site, MarketingforMore.com, which supports business owners who are growing their businesses. Learn how to avoid the most common pricing mistakes in her free report, "Charge More & Get It," available from http://www.marketingformore.com/survey.htm.