Archive for July, 2012

Increase Your Profits In 20 Minutes A Day…

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Our guest this week is Adam Green, founder of Maple North Internet Marketing, a Toronto-based online marketing firm specializing in search engine marketing, social media marketing and Google Analytics consulting.

The title may read like an overused infomercial – but if you’re reading this, you are interested in the offer.

We drive traffic to clients’ websites to generate sales, leads or increase brand exposure to help their business grow. So I’m often asked: “What’s the secret to online marketing?”

It’s really quite simple. Look at your analytics stats daily. Analytics, in the online world, are your website statistics. They track your visitor activity, traffic levels, goals and so much more.

So step 1, make sure you have some form of analytics installed starting today. I recommend Google Analytics as the system is quite robust – and it’s free.

Think of your website like a retail store or sales person on the road. How do people interact at your location/with your people and what types of behaviour have lead to sales in the past?

Write these ideas down on a list. Let me help you with a few:

1. We tend to close a sale when our sales reps use a case study.
2. We often get a “yes” when we discuss a specific service offering.
3. Customers purchase our products when they spend more than 5 minutes in our store or come back 3 times.

Step 2 is to consider how these questions relate to your website and what information it delivers. Do you have the case study in question on your website? How often is it visited? Can a visitor find the case study easily in your navigation? Should you make it available on your home page?

If your business gets more sales through an entry level service, how is that service portrayed on your website? How many people visit the page and what path do they take to get there?

If your retail stats show your customers’ purchase behaviour increases after “x” amount of store visits… guess what? You can see how often they visit your site in your analytics stats also.

Step 3 is to encourage repeat visits. Take some time each day and look at your web stats. Are you leveraging your email marketing list? Are you engaged in banner advertising and remarketing to drive traffic back to your website?

Create a baseline and begin to test ways to improve your website to grow your profits.

These 3 simple steps embody much of the secret to online marketing. Start using them and, in the 20 minutes a day you spend on them, you will increase your profits.

You can contact Adam at adam@maplenorth.com or by phone at 416-616-8597

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Cop Out Or Common Sense?

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

“How can you be sure that you’re not just taking the easy way out?”

“If you let yourself off the hook once, won’t it be easy to do it again?”

Last week’s post clearly touched a few nerves. I understand that some business owners feel strongly that a sales budget shouldn’t be cut mid-year. But I have an answer for those 2 (and the other) questions which were fired at me this week.

You’re not taking the easy way out if……….

1. At the beginning of the year you applied your execution “know-how”¹  to the setting of the goal. You do that by inviting the key people responsible for achieving the goal to participate in setting it. Before giving the goal the “go ahead” you persist in asking probing questions until you understand how the goal will be reached. Questions such as:

• Which products will generate the sales? (e.g. old or new)
• Who will buy them? (e.g. existing customers or new ones)
• What compelling reason will they have for buying them, now?
• Who is responsible for getting the sales and making, delivering and supporting the products?
• How will they need to work together and why will they do that?
• Are our reward systems strong enough to make them want to work together?
• How will our competitors react?
• What are the milestones along the path to reaching the goal?
• Who is accountable for reaching the milestones – and do they know that they are?

2. By doing this you ensure that:

• The goal is linked to the company’s capability for delivering the results.
• There is strict accountability for reaching each and every milestone.
• There are contingency plans to deal with the unexpected things that life consistently throws in the path of even the best laid plans.

3. Even if, despite all of that, unexpected circumstances force you to consider lowering the goal, you:

• Relentlessly seek out and focus only on the facts – not opinions, emotions, feelings or anything else – which have caused the situation to change since the goal was set.
• Evaluate the alternative responses to those facts using logic and experience.
• Conclude that the only alternative that makes business sense, in the long term, is to lower the goal.

You’re not letting yourself “off the hook” because………..

Lowering the sales goal is not the result of an emotional reaction. Nor is it a step which is taken lightly.

The decision is based on facts (about circumstances which might not even have existed at the time the goal was set). It’s a rational, well thought out response to the situation.

To act in any other way is not a logical approach to business and so flies in the face of common sense.

¹ “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done”, Bossidy and Charan, Random House, 2009, pages 32 and 38

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Bad Strategy – How To Spot It

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Can You Lower Your Sales Goal During The Year?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The meeting was moving along well until the topic of the annual sales target came up.

The leadership team wanted to lower it to a point significantly below the previous year’s actual results. They believed that the arguments for doing so were logical and made good business sense.

• Actual performance at the end of the first quarter was well behind target.

• Research, admittedly informal, revealed that sales producers made a limited contribution in their first year with the organization. Things improved in the second year. But it took 3 years for them to produce sales at a rate which would keep the organization at the level of the previous year.

• Because of growth, almost half of those responsible for producing the sales were in their first year with the organization.

• There had been a number of large non-recurring sales in the previous 2 years. And while it was reasonable to hope there might be some this year, it seemed unwise to plan on them.

Some of those at the meeting were shocked. After all, this was only the end of the first quarter.

The target was set a few short months ago. The leadership team believed it was possible then. How could they argue it was impossible now!

Then the view was expressed that companies couldn’t (or didn’t) change their budgets once the year started.

We hear this quite often and my response is usually “Who says they can’t”? There’s no external authority that says it’s not allowed.

Publicly traded companies regularly revise their budgets during the year (ask any RIM shareholder). They call the new set of estimates a forecast.

Why can’t privately owned companies do the same? What happens if, for example, it becomes apparent that the company can or will exceed its budget? There isn’t a leadership team I know that won’t revise upwards.

The challenge is when it comes to a downward revision. Our first response is that it’s giving up, quitting, losing. But that’s an emotional reaction.

What happens, for example, if the economy tanks; or a competitor introduces a new technology; or people with needed skills can’t be found; or financing for additional resources couldn’t be obtained?

All of these events can be demonstrated to have happened. They’re not a matter of opinion, they’re facts. To cling to a budget that was developed either before any of those things occurred or which assumed their impact would not be as great as it was seems illogical.

I mentioned some of the facts in this case earlier. Here are some others.

• Every member of the current leadership team was new to their role when the budget was developed.

• No analysis of the drivers of the organization’s previous results had been done in recent times. So none was available to help or inform the new team. 

• The previous leadership team had been in place for only a year and had other challenges to deal with.

• The handover period between the teams from was relatively short.

After some heated discussion the budget was lowered.

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Where Do The People Fit?

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The More Things Change……

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

….the more they stay the same. I was reminded of that old adage twice last week.

The first time was when I caught myself saying something my father used to say. The second was when I read a blog post about growth strategies.

And the same thought occurred to me on both occasions. My father’s saying and the piece on growth strategies are as true today as they were when I first encountered them.

My dad, a grizzled fisherman and survivor of the Atlantic convoys in World War 2, had a number of sayings. One of his favourites was “Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the blind obedience of fools”.

Substitute “people” for “men” and I believe it’s every bit as wise and useful today as it was in his day. I use it all the time – ask anyone who works with me.

The piece on growth strategies talked about Ansoff’s 3 intensive growth strategies – which were first published in 1951. They are:

  • Market penetration – when a company increases its share of its existing markets by – getting current  users  to buy more; users of competitive products to switch; and non-users to start purchasing.
  • Market development – selling existing products into new markets. There are 3 ways to do that – identify new groups (markets) in the current geographic area; use new distribution channels to reach more users also located in the current area; or start selling in new locations e.g. into the U.S., Europe or Asia.
  • Product development – developing new products or services for existing markets. A company could add new features to existing products; offer different versions at different price points – silver, gold or platinum variants; or introducing a new technology which offers more benefits to the user.

Diversification, which was also included in the article or blog post, is a fourth strategy which, to be fair, was added later.

A company can use its core business strengths to diversify in 3 ways. Add new products which are related in some way to its existing ones. Or, add new services, unrelated to its current offering but which appeal to its current customers. Finally, it can move (perhaps by acquisition) into a new business which is unrelated to what it has been doing.

While they were first defined and described 61 years ago, these strategies have been around for much longer than that. And yet, despite what we hear and read about none of the old rules being useful in this age of rapid change and uncertainty, they are still being used.

For example, could Apple’s (and Android’s) gains at Blackberry’s expense have been the result of a penetration strategy; was Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram a product development or diversification play?

Are these strategies being used in the same industries and in the same way as they were 60 years ago? Clearly the answer is no. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be adapted and applied today.

If rules are used for guidance by wise people then some things, for instance growth strategies, can stay the same, even while other things change.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 5 Tips for Fast Growth in a Slow Economy.

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