How to Win New Business

megaphoneIt is the million-dollar-question for most entrepreneurs.   In order for your business to grow, you need to win new business, while growing your existing business.  Study after study have proven that it is much cheaper, and much more profitable, to market to an existing customer.  If you already have a relationship with a customer and they buy something else from you (either a product or service) that “sale” didn’t cost you half of what acquiring a new customer would cost.  So, when looking to grow your business, start with customers you already have.

However (and it is a big however), marketing and selling to your existing customers will only get you so far.  Eventually, you need to win new business, find new markets and attract new customers.  I estimate that probably millions of pages have been written on this subject.  But Chris Brogan narrowed it down to 7 Ways to Win New Business.  I like things that are direct and to the point.  I like lists.  And I loved this post.

One of his ideas struck me as critical to the success of most entrepreneurs: Focus on what you do best, and do that even better.

One of the most common “mistakes” I see entrepreneurs make is to try and do everything all at once…even things they don’t like and/or aren’t good at.  The best marketing strategy won’t work if you don’t execute it well.  The best way to make sure you execute well is to….focus on what you do best and do it even better.  If you need help with other stuff, ask for it.  You can find a consultant, contractor or an employee who likes doing what you don’t.  Find the things that you like doing and are good at.  Focus your energies there.  The results will speak for themselves.

Case Study: KidzSack – planning and doing alot!

frontPackaging_op_626x693I first came across Tina’s products while looking for some entertaining and useful stuff for my kids when we travel.  I found the KidzSack and have been a fan ever since.  What I love about this product, and the company founder Tina Hill, is that these handy kids backsacks are practical, thoughtful and tough.

I found out why when I asked Tina to explain her business to me.  Tina planned everything down to the smallest details.  Then she started working…I mean doing things, calling people, sending samples.  She planned a little so that when she started doing stuff it worked.  Here’s what Tina has to say about her experiences building her business and her brand.

Laura: How did you get started with KidzSack?

Tina: I am a 44 year old mom of four who started my business with just $200 about 2 years ago.  Now, I am in over 120 stores internationally including Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton Resorts.

Laura: What was your strategy when starting out?  What made your backpacks different?

Tina: I had to be both unique and creative in my marketing and brand strategies.  First, let me tell you that Kidzsack is an eco friendly, creative backsack for kids ages 4 and up. There are obviously tons of backsacks, backpacks, and sportsacks out there…so what makes mine different?  What would make mine stand out among all the others?  And why is it eco friendly…I mean, everyone is jumping on the eco band wagon these days, right.

Kidzsack fabric is made from 100% recycled cotton and soda bottles making it eco friendly..and it is made in the USA.  I decided from the get go that I needed something to set me apart.  I wanted to be first in a new category…something to give buyers something to really think about. Kidzsack is the only creative backsack on the market that uses recycled fabric.  Something that Whole Foods has taken notice of and I’m now selling there.

Kidzsack packaging is made from cardboard that can be recycled but not just that…being a parent concerned with quality, I’ve made packaging that isn’t entirely enclosing the product.  I want consumers to be able to touch the fabric and see the quality.  It’s not cheap lightweight poly cotton.  The fabric is 10 oz. canvas that the consumer can actually feel for themselves.  The packaging is even mom designed by a local mom!

Kidzsack is mom invented and made in the USA.  I know that when I’m shopping for gifts, seeing something mom invented and made in the USA makes me pause and read more.  Especially in a market where EVERYTHING is made in China.  This also sets me apart from the majority of mass merchandise coming out of China.

Kidzsack is packaged with reusable markers because as a mother of four kids (13, 11, 9, & 7), I understand the importance of buying an activity (arts & crafts item) that can be used again…and again.  How many times have I bought a gift in the past that my kids played with once…and then it got put away on a shelf…or in a closet…never to be played with again and left to collect dust!!  Buying a reusable product, activity is something that consumers are looking for…especially in this economy when everyone is feeling the pinch.

Laura: What have you done to get visibility for your product?

Tina: I have created a  product that is first in a new category; that stands apart from the rest because it’s using materials that other similar products are not. I have contacted every newspaper in every town that I have ever lived in to get them to write a story on me.  I have contacted every eco magazine to get them to do a write up on Kidzsack.  I have e-mailed friends for contacts at networks and that has gotten Kidzsack on CBS NY.  I have networked and e-mailed and blogged and you name it…because I have every intention of making Kidzsack a household name.  I’m trying my hardest to stay true to the USA and am even using local manufacturers for both screenprinting and sewing. I’ve created something that moms can understand because it’s a mom must have.  The Kidzsack solves a problem.  When mom is running out the door…all she has to do is, grab a Kidzsack, throw a juice box in and snack. No more looking for toys, activities, coloring books, crayons…BECAUSE KIDZSACK IS THE ACTIVITY.  Kidzsack is a Fun Creative Bag for Kids on the Go!

What’s a Tweet?

The most common question I get about Twitter is “What is it?”  Here’s the scoop…my definition of Twitter is “Blogging for people twitterwith ADD”.  Seriously, twitter is great for people with short attention spans. It is a fast and easy way to push a message to tons of people all at once.  Twitter let’s you send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are posts of up to 140 characters that appear on your profile – known as your “tweet feed”.  Twitter has a language all its own…posts are tweets, the action of posting is called “tweeting”, people who tweet are called “tweeps” (not Twits) and it goes on and on.  Language aside…Twitter has grown like crazy and provides an interesting opportunity for businesses.

Because of its growth, Twitter is a great place to network, build your brand and go prospecting for new clients.  You can actually have a very intelligent conversation in 140 characters or less…plus, people find you and check out your profile, decide to follow-you and you don’t even know it.  They just think you’re interesting, or are interested in the same stuff they are, so they follow you.  The question is how to make yourself stand out from the zillions of other businesses pushing their message.

The thing is, in order for Twitter to work, to get yourself to stand out, it is a significant investment of time.  When you’re first starting out, it takes a while to build a following, to follow the right people yourself, and to make yourself known in the right groups.  Now some of you wanted to know how to do this social media stuff without adding more things to your to do list.  The short answer is that you can’t.  It is another thing to do.  However, if you know that it is going to attract customers and generate revenue then maybe you can trade off some of the other things you’re doing that aren’t helping you reach new customers, or generate revenue.  It is a trade-off, and that is why knowing your objectives and understanding your audience up front is so important.

Anyway, here is how to get started:

When you setup your profile – think carefully about your username, especially if you are struggling with the “My name or my Company name” thing.  If you’re an independent professional then you might want to use your name.  Use your company name if you want to build your brand and you have others representing you.  Your profile on Twitter is completely search engine indexed, which means that all the words you use are very important.  Think of each word as a keyword and make sure it matters to the audience you’re targeting.

My favorite feature of Twitter is definitely the Chats.  Now Chats are not a traditional “feature” but they are the most beneficial aspect of the platform for most business owners and entrepreneurs. This is how you make yourself stand out – get yourself known by your target audience. The way to prospect and network is to go where your prospects hang out…remember?  There are chats on Twitter about every topic you can think of.  They are usually hosted by someone who is an acknowledged expert on the topic on Twitter, they are usually at a scheduled time.  To find the different chats – a great list has been created.  I’ll include the link in the follow-up email.  Chatters track their conversations using hashtags (#) followed by the name of the chat, for example #smallbizchat.

At a specific time, folks start tweeting using the # and then you can follow the discussion by searching on the #word.  These discussions are a great place to build yor credibility, and to make an impression with your target audience.  Anpther warning…on Twitter you have to be part of the conversation or it won’t work.  You have to post tweets that are interesting.  You need to respond to other peoples tweets by either replying or retweeting.  The difference between a reply and a retweet is that when you reply to someone’s tweet – their followers see it along with yours – a great way to get added visibility.  If you retweet – you’re giving that person visibility to your followers – it is a compliment to be retweeted.  You should Reply and Retweet frequently so that you are part of the conversation.

Please remember, not everyone needs to be on Twitter.  If you know that a large group of your target audience is active on Twitter, jump on and start tweeting.  If you target a group that is not active on Twitter, then why on earth would you spend time even thinking about it, unless you’re trying to expand your audience – which brings us back to your business objective once again.

Become a Fan!

FaceBook is fun, no doubt about it. You can find friends from high school, college, previous jobs…it’s a hoot to see what everyone is up to.  However, the biggest challenge business people have with FaceBook is how to draw the line between personal and facebookLogoprofessional.  I for one am a very open person – I pretty much say what comes to mind and will typically tell you more about myself than you really need to know.  However, there are some things that I don’t really want clients or colleagues or prospective clients to see – like the picture of me falling off a swing last Easter at our family easter egg hunt in the park…hysterically funny for my family, but definitely not flattering and not something I want out there in my professional life.

As an entrepreneur or business owner, branding yourself versus your business can be confusing.  FaceBook can help or hinder you in this area if you don’t use it appropriately.  You can use Fan Pages to distinguish between your personal and professional lives.  My personal profile I try to reserve for family and friends.  Professionally I try to use my Fan Page.

A Fan Page is a page that can be created by a business, a non-person who doesn’t require a profile.  This was done to allow businesses, bands, non-profits and others to have a place to gather just like with FaceBook profiles.  Individuals can become “Fans” of your page, which is completely separate from your personal profile.  The benefit for us entrepreneurs is that you can provide business related content to your fans without them seeing the picture of you falling off the swing at Easter.

To create a Fan Page, start on an existing Fan Page…you can use mine if you like (42 Rules Fan Page)  …and please be sure to remember to become a fan!  Scroll down to the bottom of the left hand navigation bar, there is a link that says “Create a Page for my business”. Click that and off you go.  You can classify your business as local or product specific.  Then you add your content:  your bio, in this case is going to be your business description, and your image will probably be your company logo and your links should go back to your company webpage.

Now you can begin telling people about your Fan Page and inviting them to “become a fan”.  You can advertise within FaceBook and target specific groups of people who would be interested in your stuff.  On your Fan Page, you want to give folks things to do, learn, try…you can create events recommended reading lists, discussion boards, videos, product reviews….almost anything you can think of.  And remember – this page is specifically for your business!  Use it to promote new services, seminars, events…offer value added information like white papers, discussions, question and answer discussions.  Whatever you find that your Fans like – remember back to our earlier comments – its always good to ask them what they might like to get from you, from other fans, etc.

LinkedIn Answers Rock!

The feature I find the most beneficial to business people looking to expand their network or build their credibility is the “Answers”linkedin-logo feature of LinkedIn. The objective of Answers is to share your expertise and establish yourself as an expert.  Answers is a great way to interact with people…to give and get information.  It’s also a great way to make your business stand out – by providing valuable information to your network.  A huge warning….This is not a lead generation forum, and using it like one will seriously hurt your credibility.  I am going to repeat myself on this one….this is not a lead generation forum.  You will only damage your reputation if you use it incorrectly.  Provide useful, relevant answers and you will do just fine.

To get to Answers, go to the top navigation bar on your LinkedIn profile, hover over “More” and click on “Answers”.

You can ASK and ANSWER questions here.  When asking questions, keep them short and specific. You are more likely to get response if your questions are clear and on point.  For example “How have you successfully used Advisory Boards in your business?”  OR “What are your best practices for hiring a virtual assistant?”  When answering questions, remember that these folks are honestly looking for information – they don’t want to hear your sales pitch.  So if you have something to share, do…if you’re just looking for a way to get visibility…believe me this is not the kind of visibility you want as you will quickly be identified as a spammer.  Probably not what you want :-)