What if Your Business IS the Best Choice?

As a follow-up to last month’s article on what to do if your business is not the best choice to fulfill a prospect’s needs, this month we are advising you on what to do if your business is the best choice.

Last month, we discussed some strategies to consider when you realize you’re not the right choice for a product or service your prospect needs. We had many positive comments about the piece and some people even indicated that they had never even thought about some of the strategies. 

So, this month’s topic should be obvious--What if Your Business IS the right choice? And some of the brief answers will be obvious, too. But, some won’t…so read and heed.

Step 1: Thank the client and review the agreement and timeline to make sure you’ll be giving them what they want, when they want it. I like an email or phone call for immediacy, but a hand-written note card for impact really works. 

Step 2: Ask what other providers they were considering, unless they told you up front. This information will help you analyze the competitive landscape.

Step 3: Ask why they chose you, your product or service. You need to compare why you think they picked you with why they actually selected to work with you. You may have focused your pitch on service when the client made the decision based on cost. This information will help you analyze your branding and brand promise. And, remember, your prospect’s perception is your reality.

Step 4: If you’re providing a product, give periodic status reports on design, production or delivery. Some variation on a project plan can be helpful.

Step 5: This is even more important with a detailed process or project. Your plan should include dates for regular client status updates.

Step 6: Make sure there aren’t any surprises. Whenever you encounter a problem, communicate quickly. If it’s your fault, fix it fast but let the client know about it. If it isn’t your fault, analyze probable causes and likely solutions for the client and collaborate on fix. And fix it fast.

Step 7: If the client asks for changes in scope, timing or content, carefully analyze the impact any changes will have in cost and delivery. Quickly share this update with them. Seek approval or negotiate options.

Step 8: Lots of small businesses wrongly assume the job is done when the check clears the bank. Not so. Follow up in a timely manner to see how the product, service or project is working out and gauge their level of satisfaction. Depending on the scope or details of the deal, check in regularly. Hey, if my dentist can call the next day to see how I feel, so can you.

Step 9: Where appropriate, consider customer satisfaction surveys, either created in-house or administered by a third party. If you can respond directly, thank them for their comments and suggestions. Periodically communicate the positive actions you’re taking to improve quality or service resulting from the surveys to your whole customer base.

Step 10: Create and launch a Customer Contact Program. It can include a grid or spread sheet with customer contact and current volume on the vertical axis and various ‘Customer Touches’ on the horizontal axis. Examples include holiday greetings, those notes seeing how things are going, articles of interest to them, especially if you wrote them and links to resources or events they might find useful. 

So, there’s a lot more to successfully interacting with customers when you win the business than simply thanking them and beginning work. These simple strategies will enhance your customers’ experience, helping you win more repeat business. 

Happy Pitching!

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

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  • Next up: What if Your Business isn’t the Best Choice?

    What if Your Business isn’t the Best Choice?

    You can’t win 'em all. Here are five next steps to consider when your business isn’t the best fit for the client or proposal.

    It looks like this new series in which I respond to sales pitch questions from readers is a hit. Thanks to those of you who took the time to comment or ask new questions. This time, R.G. from Beachwood asked, “What should you do if you conclude you’re not the client’s best choice?”

    The answer may seem obvious, but let’s take a deeper dive to consider options when you realize that you can’t do it as fast or as well or as inexpensively as the prospect requested.

    Option 1: Just tell the truth. The simplest and easiest option is to indicate that you now realize that you’re not positioned to be able to give them what they need and want. Thank them and walk away. No shame in retreat here—it’s simple, honest and courteous. But, there may be better choices worth evaluating.                                                   

    Option 2: Consider offering ‘just enough.’ Let them know what you can do and why and let them determine if that’s enough of what they wanted to choose you anyway. It’s their call, not yours, but do try to negotiate a win-win. I’ve had several engagements where I didn’t think I was the best choice for a prospect’s needs, but let them make that call. They went with me anyway and we were both happy with the results. You never know until you try!

    Option 3: If you can’t do it all, can you do part of it? Can you partner with a colleague or their in-house resources to do the rest? Part of the engagement is better than none of it. However, these partnerships need to be well established and vetted before suggesting them. And you always run the risk of your partner not meeting your or the client’s expectations. Ask yourself if you have the appetite for that kind of risk. But, remember, if you did walk away, you’d have nothing to risk…but nothing to gain, either. You miss 100% of the shots on goal that you don’t take.

    Option 4: Separate necessities from desires. If it’s a pricing issue and you can’t do it for less, can you do less of it and still keep them happy? Part of your cost may be speed of delivery, value-added components or timing of launch or delivery. Engage in a thorough analytical discussion with the prospect to clearly define their ‘gotta haves’ and separate them from their ‘wanna haves’ or ‘like-ta haves.’ Now, can you handle the ‘gotta haves’ at a price that works for your needs and theirs?

    Option 5: And, finally, be realistic. How thorough, accurate and practical are the requirements listed in the prospect’s RFP? They may be so unrealistic that no provider would be able to meet them and still make a profit. How accurately are you evaluating your own real capabilities compared to those requirements? You may be too self-critical. So, as mentioned above, clearly state your case and value proposition. Let the prospect decide how close you come to what is really needed and how you compare to the other providers in play.

    So, add these strategies to your growing Sales Pitch Tool Kit and commit to trying some of them. And don’t tell me something won’t work unless you can tell me that it didn’t work. One may actually help you accomplish both your sales pitch goal…and objective.

    Happy Pitching!

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

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  • Next up: White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council Visits Cleveland

    White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council Visits Cleveland

    Last Friday, the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council visited Cleveland and other parts of Ohio to continue its tour of Opportunity Zones. The Small Business Administration was also present to speak with small business owners about how the program can spur investment and drive local hiring.

    The meeting gave Cleveland’s OpportunityCLE coalition the chance to highlight key projects happening in Cleveland Opportunity Zones. OpportunityCLE is a collaborative effort between Cleveland and Cuyahoga County’s robust network of public, private, and philanthropic partners. To learn more about this work, click here.

    Opportunity Zones were established by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 with the goal of creating long-term investments in regions of low-income rural and urban communities. The program provides tax incentives for investors to re-invest within Opportunity Zones. Members from the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council were hosted by GCP this past May—and last week’s meeting served as a critical touchpoint to connect small businesses to resources.

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  • Next up: With State Capital Bill Underway GCP Gears up to Recommend NEO Projects

    With State Capital Bill Underway GCP Gears up to Recommend NEO Projects

    Per recent guidance from the Office of Budget Management, the state capital bill is underway. This is a legislative-led process that provides funding for community projects across the state. Over the next several months, the General Assembly will work with the Administration to determine and prioritize significant projects to support with capital funding. GCP has historically participated in this process by prioritizing Northeast Ohio projects and advocating their importance to the legislature and Administration.  

    GCP plans to work closely with the legislature to recommend a list of priority projects for the 2019-20 state capital bill. GCP will accept projects for consideration until November 1, 2019 with the intent of seeking approval from its board leadership by mid-November. For more information on the state capital bill or GCP’s process, contact Alesha Washington, Vice President of Government Advocacy.

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  • Next up: 10 Can't-Miss Ways to Supercharge Your Content Marketing

    10 Can't-Miss Ways to Supercharge Your Content Marketing

    Couldn’t make it to Content Marketing World? We’ve got you covered! Here are our 10 takeaways from this year’s show.

    Before this year, I was a Content Marketing World newbie. So before attending this year’s CM World conference, I had no idea that everything, and I mean everything is orange—right down to the orange-dyed deviled eggs in the morning and the orange push-ups for dessert. I had no idea that actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt had his own production company (or, in full disclosure, even who he was. But in even fuller disclosure, I have three girls under the age of 10 so if he doesn’t star on the Disney Channel, I’m not going to be familiar). And mostly, I had no idea I could spend 20 intense hours with a bunch of strangers, discussing content marketing of all things, and come out wishing there was another 20 to go.

    The takeaways were endless, but I’ll focus on just the following five:

    Tip No. 1: Build an audience first, then sell them something. In his opening remarks, CM World founder Joe Pulizzi gave the best example of this advice: Star Wars. Creator George Lucas famously negotiated for the exclusive rights to Star Wars merchandise, which has made nearly $20 billion. It wouldn’t be so without that enormous audience of faithful followers.

    Tip No. 2: Know who you are. Identify your secret sauce and how you’re going to get that across to your audience. What sets you apart? What’s your tone? How are you going bring your company’s personality to life?

    Tip. No. 3: Sell the means, not the end. Serta doesn’t sell you a mattress, they sell you a better night’s sleep. Disney doesn’t sell me a vacation, they sell me a week full of family memories. Focus on the end result, the desire fulfilled, of buying your product or service.

    Tip No. 4: Tell all the stories. Every company has stories to tell, and a lot of times they are right under our noses. Talk with as many people as possible. Find the stories that are relatable and change the lens through which people view your company. Once you find these stories, tell them in a variety of ways using different technologies.

    Tip No. 5: Identify your Influencers. And then use them. Maybe they’re your faculty if you work for a university, or the doctors of your hospital, people who sit on your advisory boards or, of course, celebrities (including popular bloggers and vloggers)—anyone who has influence over your target market. Tag them on social media, tweet at them, encourage them to share your posts and tag you back. Create a buzz around your products or services through your influencers and continue to court them all along the way.

    Let’s dig deeper

    Those are some of my overarching takeaways from my experience at CMW. Now, let’s dig a little bit deeper.

    Tip No. 6: Don’t rely on vanity metrics on social media. This seems to be the latest marketing lingo, but it rings true. So what if one of your posts got 357 likes? Did it lead to anyone purchasing, signing up, providing contact info, seeking more info, etc? Building a brand is important, no doubt. But actual engagement is really where it’s at.

    Tip No. 7: Create secret boards on Pinterest for company personas. Pin things you think interest or appeal to these personas, or that just remind you of your personas (colors, textures, activities, quotes, foods, etc). Share the boards with your team and revisit them every so often for inspiration.



    Tip No. 8: Watch it! Six out of 10 millennials prefer watching a video to reading a newsletter. And we’re all seeking the attention of millennials, right? They are the latest group of consumers, so put some serious thought and effort into making a video!

    Tip No. 9: Caption it! Speaking of videos, did you know 85% of videos on Facebook are watched without sound? Whether it’s that they just don’t care to hear it, or don’t want their coworkers to hear them hearing it, people are foregoing audio. So, make sure your videos are captioned. Not only is it better for SEO and accessibility, but certain words might spark someone’s interest while scrolling through Facebook.


    Tip No. 10: Feel it! When writing, start your piece where it gives you goosebumps. Sometimes it’s at “go” and sometimes it’s not. Focus on the kinds of emotions that trigger goosebumps (shock, awe, sympathy and nostalgia) and draw those out in your story.

    As they said in the opening keynote this year, “Marketing is like a race without a finish line.” All marketers want to get there first. But even when you do, you just have to wake up the next morning and do it all over again. So perhaps the best tip is to just get a good night’s sleep. You’re going to need it.

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  • Next up: 13 Tips to Get Your Brand Balling on a Budget

    13 Tips to Get Your Brand Balling on a Budget

    Marketing expert Jeffrey M. Staats offers 13 tips to go from building your brand to igniting your brand while still staying within a small-business budget. And scroll to the bottom of this article to listen to the full webinar.

    If you missed our most recent WebEd Series, Maximize Your Marketing Spend: Spreading Your Brand Without Spreading Your Budget, you’ll want to read on to hear the great tips offered during this discussion geared specifically toward small businesses.

    Jeffrey M. Staats, a marketing expert with 17 years of experience helping companies grow their businesses by using marketing to their advantage, likes to think of his webinar as teaching small business owners “how to be balling on a budget.”  Because, as a small business owner, the real goal is to be the best at providing a solution to a consumer pain point and then spread awareness and consumption of your brand as much, and as cheaply, as possible.

    In order to be balling on a budget, Jeffrey says it’s helpful to first know the following three fun facts:

    Fun Fact No. 1: Video is hot. So hot, in fact, that 64% of consumers say watching a video on social media influenced them to make a purchase.

    Fun Fact No. 2: Consumers are doing their own research. More than seven in 10 (72%) of B2B buyers are researching options before they even talk to vendors.

    Fun Fact No. 3: If a potential buyer leaves your site, you can still get them back. Exactly 70% of people are more likely to convert with you when they are sent a retargeting ad after looking at your website.

    As a seller, brand awareness is the first step on your journey. For a small business with limited budgets, staffing and time, look for digital marketing to be the majority of your marketing. Jeffrey takes us through the stages of building, growing and igniting a brand, identifying 13 tips along the way that can be done digitally and inexpensively.

    Build Your Brand

    The initial goal with your digital marketing strategy is to build your brand. You’re a small business so you’re probably still working on having a voice within your industry. Take the following five steps toward doing just that.

    Build Your Brand Tip No. 1: Corner the market as a thought leader. Identify an expert in your company and get that person out there to start writing content—whether it’s on your website, blog or social media. The focus should be on the customer’s pain point and what your company can do for them as an industry expert.

    Build Your Brand Tip No. 2: Leverage fans for testimonials. Referrals are key to small-business success and should be a regular part of your marketing strategy. Build a referral program, leveraging your fans—your brand ambassadors—on a regular (i.e. quarterly) basis.

    Build Your Brand Tip No. 3: Align key messaging with SEO. You have a great solution for a customer pain point and you want to make sure it translates into your website and what people are searching for. Have an SEO audit done on your site so that you know where you stand. Keywords and key messages should be built into all important areas of your website.

    Build Your Brand Tip No. 4: Own one social media channel. Small businesses want to be everywhere but it’s just not possible to do it all, well. Choose one channel and post three or four times a week, purchase sponsored ads and create lead forms. It’s better to put your budget efforts toward one channel than spread yourself thin.

    Build Your Brand Tip No. 5: Expand your subscriber base and give them options. When someone signs up for your distribution lists, ask them how often they want to hear from you. Find out what type of content they would like to hear about and what they consider to be their pain points. Let them choose the way they want you to interact with them.

    Grow Your Brand

    Once your brand is established, it’s time to grow it further. Jeffrey offers four steps to experiencing this type of growth and knowledge transfer.

    Grow Your Brand Tip No. 6: Be valuable. Reward someone with something tangible for giving you their email address so that they recognize the value you offer up front. Give them a checklist or a template or something that they’ll find useful and entice them to come back for more.

    Grow Your Brand Tip No. 7: Offer webinars and blogs. Plan a consistent webinar series and blog as part of your content strategy. You’re a thought-leader in your field, after all, so you have a lot of insight to offer. Bring in outside experts to contribute, providing more engagement and furthering your reach.

    Grow Your Brand Tip No. 8: Have media on speed dial. Anything you do that’s worthy—whether it’s hire more people or roll out a new product—should be sent to the media. Create a media spreadsheet with local contacts and send an email every time you have something new.

    Grow Your Brand Tip No. 9: Leverage co-branding. Take advantage of opportunities to create a co-branding marketing campaign with associations or other strategic partners. Spend money to be able to access their lists instead of doing it all on your own. Being backed by an association or other partner is more powerful and gives you additional credibility.

    Ignite Your Brand

    Ultimately, you’re looking for high growth for your company. Here are four tips to ignite your brand and take it to the next level.

    Ignite Your Brand Tip No. 10: Get on review sites. 82% of online buyers look at reviews before making a purchase. Get people to talk about you on the major review sites, such as Yelp.

    Ignite Your Brand Tip No. 11: Leverage chat. Offer a chat option on your website so that you can have a conversation with your potential customer and give them quicker answers to their questions than an online form is capable of providing.

    Ignite Your Brand Tip No. 12: Create a calculator. Offer the capability on your site for potential customers to calculate the ROI or do a product comparison.

    Ignite Your Brand Tip No. 13: Start a video series. This is a great way to bring personality to your brand, while offering expert information and cultivating your content.

    Watch below for a full recap of this webinar.

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