Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Attract More B2B Prospects with Content Marketing

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

This week’s guest is Paul Heron, CEO of Complex2Clear, a Toronto-based communications agency specializing in proposals, content marketing and websites for companies selling B2B services.

 

If you’re reading this post, chances are you think strategically and work at staying ahead of your competition in innovation, quality, delivery and client experience.

But who, besides your employees and your clients, appreciates how much value you deliver? Do outsiders generally know and admire your company ─ or do you often find yourself starting from scratch when explaining your key benefits and track record to new prospects?

If you’re in the “starting from scratch” category, consider content marketing, a powerful tool for building positive awareness about your business.

Content marketing is the practice of creating and sharing useful information prospects and others can read, listen to or watch via blogs, e-newsletters, white papers, research reports, magazine articles, industry presentations, webinars, case studies, podcasts, videos and others formats.

The idea is to demonstrate that your company is innovative and expert, but also generous in spirit ─ willing to share valuable knowledge freely with others. You gain recognition for being both smart and approachable and become the logical first stop for anyone shopping for your products.

Content marketing is among the fastest growing trends in marketing (to prove this, Google the phrase). Once available only to large consulting and financial services firms with research and printing budgets, it can now be practiced by anyone with a website.

Sound interesting? Here are some tips and a high-level schedule to help you get started.

CONTENT MARKETING TIPS

Start with research: Where is your community online? How can you best reach them? What kind of information would prospects find useful? What frequency makes sense ─ for you and your audiences?

Focus on your core message: Remember, this is a marketing initiative, not a creative writing exercise. It’s critical that each piece of content support your brand. Creating random blog posts about whatever’s on your mind is not content marketing.

Start small: Don’t overcommit. It’s better to publish monthly (or quarterly) and increase frequency, than to start weekly and burn out in a few months. Decide what resources you have and fit your campaign to your capabilities.

Set up your website to support content marketing: Use a contact manager and forms to begin building a list of people to whom you can push your content. Enable Google Analytics, so you can see which site pages attract and retain visitors to guide your content development. Here’s a video and free website audit tool to help you in this process.

Manage information quality: Make sure every item you publish is valuable. Your growing list of subscribers following your content is a business asset. Protect it with a process that ensures they receive consistent quality. Assign one person to review all content before publishing.

Avoid infomercials: This shouldn’t need to be said ─ but never stray into advertising in your content marketing. Along with poor quality (see above), it’s the fastest way to burn off your audience.

Set goals: Content marketing takes time and money. Set goals, track your costs and measure results to ensure it’s a good investment of your resources.

SCHEDULE

1. Confirm you have the appetite and resources for a content marketing initiative. Be realistic. A content marketing campaign is a long slow process. If you can afford to, consider using an outside agency to supplement your internal staff.

2. Brainstorm ideas for content to share. Use a facilitator and generate lots of topics. Plan to repeat this exercise every few months.

3. Rank each topic’s potential impact and time/effort to develop. Segment high-impact topics into several items to increase mileage. Identify your priorities and low-hanging fruit. Plan to revisit important topics every 6 months or so with an update.

4. Identify a subject matter expert for each topic. Who will be responsible for each item? This person may not be the writer; he or she could generate bullet points and review the draft for accuracy and completeness.

5. Set your priorities, channels and schedule. Frequency is important. When managing resources, consider publishing shorter items to increase frequency. The aim is to be top-of-mind when a prospect needs your services.

6. Document your plan, assign responsibilities and deploy. Manage your content marketing campaign like any other business process to enjoy maximum success.

You can contact Paul at 416-619-9208 or paul@complex2clear.com

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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

Why Would Anyone Hire A Management Consultant? – Part 2

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

In my last post I talked about how owners of companies can find themselves faced with situations they haven’t encountered before – and not realize what’s happening.

After all, that happens in our personal lives. Remember the first time you fell in love?

We’re caught up in the symptoms – the tune playing endlessly in our head, the face we can’t get out of our mind and the grin we can’t wipe off, no matter what else is going on. How many of us simply didn’t understand what was happening? I don’t know about the ladies but believe me, none of the men did!

Sometimes it takes someone who has already had the experience, to alert us to the situation.

Think for a moment about a company with between $3 and $5 million in annual revenues and which has been in business for anything from 5 to 20 years. The owner is successful by any measure. They’ve grown their businesses to a respectable size, provided employment for others and beaten the odds of failure.

But then things start happening that many of them have never encountered before.

I’m So Frustrated

For example, in companies of this size the owners are typically directly involved in everything that happens. That may work well for a time, but eventually either the volume or the complexity of the business reaches a point at which no human being can sustain the effort required.

That’s when we hear them say things like “I’m just so frustrated!” When we ask why, typical responses are “I’m working 16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week – but sales aren’t going up.” Or he or she often feels that they’re not paid enough for hours they work. They only want to work 4 days a week in the summer and take more vacations with their families.

Because they’ve been successful up to this point, they believe they can figure it out for themselves – overlooking the fact that this is a situation they haven’t encountered before.

Some may try developing (or hiring) supervisors or managers to take work off their shoulders. But it isn’t successful and they feel it isn’t worth trying again.

But a consultant, who has had experience delegating and working with a management team, knows that it isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to most people. He or she can help the owner select competent team members and get them working together effectively.

A Victim of Their Own Success

Business owners can also be a victim of their own success. For example, adding a new distributor can result in sales growing so quickly the company can’t cope.

This leads to a dramatic increase in customer complaints – about customer service, quality, delivery or all three. And the owner is caught in an endless cycle of dealing with urgent, day-to-day issues and juggling operational balls.

An experienced consultant can see beyond the symptoms, help the business owner break out of the cycle and put processes in place to maintain control of key functions.

I don’t want to take the romantic analogy too far and suggest that a management consultant could be a business owner’s best man (or woman). Even I realize that may be stretching things a bit!

But there are times when getting an objective, third party opinion could be the best thing to do – no matter how difficult or unlikely a solution it seems.

 
If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 3 Reasons Why Consulting Assignments Fail Part 1 and Part 2
 

 

Why Would Anyone Hire A Management Consultant?

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

 I gave a presentation last week on the topic – “Why would anyone hire a management consultant?”

I think the topic the organizer actually had in mind was – why would anyone in their right mind hire a management consultant? But they were too polite to be that specific.

Many members of the group I talked to know business owners whose companies have between $3 and $5 million in annual revenues and who have been in business for anything from 5 to 20 years.

So, I customized the presentation to that situation, which wasn’t difficult, because owners of businesses like that often face an intriguing situation.

They’re successful by any measure. They’ve grown their businesses to a respectable size, provided employment for others and soundly beaten the odds of failure (80% of new businesses don’t make it beyond the second year).

But, at around $3 to $5 million, something changes and annual sales stop growing. The exact point at which it happens varies depending on a number of things e.g. the industry – but it does inevitably happen. It’s not that sales go into free fall, they just stay flat or go up one year and down the next.

The owners’ first reaction is to focus on their sales team. They may, for example, try to get their salespeople to make more calls or they even make personnel changes. They may also try some marketing – by which they generally mean promotional – programs.

Most of the business owners have never encountered this situation before. And because they’ve always been successful up to this point, they believe they can figure it out for themselves.

However, life is full of situations we’ve never experienced before. The analogy I used in my presentation was falling in love for the first time.

Lots of us (particularly males) don’t understand what’s happened. We focus on the symptoms – the churning stomach, the same tune playing endlessly in our head, the picture of the other person we can’t get out of our mind and the grin that’s fixed firmly to our face no matter what else is going on around us.

It may take a good friend, who is already in a long-term relationship, to alert us to the situation – we’ve finally met the “one”.

An experienced management consultant can play the same role for a business owner. An objective third party, they use the symptoms to find the root cause of the situation.

For example, we had a client in an industry in the early stages of consolidation. The bigger players were beginning to buy up the smaller ones, changing several aspects of how the game was being played. We spotted that because we’d seen it before – unlike our client.

I’ll tell you about a couple of other situations when hiring a management consultant will help in my next post…….
 

How Redesigning Your Website Can Challenge Your Business Model

Monday, June 11th, 2012

 Marie Wiese is founder of Marketing CoPilot and the author of the eBook, “Quality Visitors. Quality Leads.” Marketing CoPilot helps business owners turn their website into their best sales tool.

So you have decided to redo your website. Good idea. Today’s website is more than a corporate brochure; it’s your frontline sales team.

You have selected a marketing consultant to help you determine strategy and messaging.

You have hired a designer who starts to build your new site and suddenly you grind to a halt.

What happens when you go to add to content?

Suddenly you realize that the way you have been describing your product or service doesn’t work on the web. Suddenly you realize:

– There is no clarity around your offer
– You have no differentiation in what you are selling or describing to prospects
– You don’t have a compelling story to tell in social media

Why does developing a compelling web presence for your business suddenly challenge your business model?

Here is a real life story of one business owner and what changed when it came time to articulate their business on the web.

In December of 2011, Marketing CoPilot launched a new web presence for SPM Learning to help drive lead generation and establish a web presence to find customers and nurture existing relationships. The team at SPM Learning agreed early in the process that in the game of selling learning solutions to large corporate customers, a website and web presence needs to:

  1. Clearly state your value proposition in eight seconds or less on the home page.
  2. Be compelling enough for someone to take a next action on the site.
  3. Have content, messaging and compelling actions on the site that lead to more than a visitor passively perusing course listings.

In other words, the process of selling learning courses needed to change and so did the story.

SPM Learning was struggling with an issue that many business owners face when presenting their companies online. In an era of customers who want content that is “all about me”; are demanding relevant content online to make a buying decision; and, are well into the buying process long before you hear from them, just posting product information is no longer good enough.

Here’s a good test:

– Go online and search for “leadership training”
– Review the first five organic search results you get (skip the Adwords)
– Look at what people are actually selling in the top five results

In my top five search results, I get companies selling commoditized training courses. There is no differentiation amongst them and likely they are competing on price.

For SPM Learning, they realized quickly they did not want to be in this category, yet the content they were providing for the website, and the way they were articulating their business, was putting them there.

Upon launch of the new website (www.spmlearning.com), we were able to see in the first 30 days using Google Analytics, where people were landing, what they were reading and what they doing on the site.

And guess what?

They were not looking at course listings. We launched a blog strategy for SPM Learning to change the conversation and drive traffic to the site based on engagement around “learning solutions” and the complete process of leadership training for employees, not just buying courses. The click through rates that SPM Learning enjoys on their blog activity and email marketing has improved by more than 30% and they have built better engagement around the topics of learning solutions. This helped position their company as more than course listings.

Before you hire a consultant, talk to web developers or write a line of copy, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the most important action I want someone to take on my website?
  2. How will I help them take that action?
  3. How will I articulate the “offer” and what they can buy from me?
  4. How much information can I share to guide them in the process?
  5. Could my current business model and what I am selling translate on the web to let prospects “self-serve”?

Your website is one the most important business tools you have today. Use it wisely for your business and it will pay back in spades.

You can contact Marie Wiese at 416-436-7931 or marie@marketingcopilot.com

Cannonballs And Email – Or Anything Else For That Matter…..

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Cannonballs and email – really, what could they possibly have in common?

A couple of things – I found myself involved with both last week and one of them applies to the other. You see “cannonballs” is a metaphor and email, for this purpose, is a marketing tool.

Other marketing tools are direct mail, adverts (on-line or traditional), newsletters and any other printed or electronic promotional piece.

And cannonballs apply to them too – and other things……

Cannonballs first

I’m reading Jim Collins book “Great By Choice”. In it, as you may know, he contrasts pairs of companies in 7 different industries. His goal is to find the reason(s) why one of the pair did incredibly well in uncertainty, even chaos, while the other company very definitely did not.

Collins and his team wanted to determine the role of innovation in the relative performance of the companies.

They found that, contrary to their expectations, the better companies did not always “out-innovate” their less successful competitors. In fact, the opposite was often true.

What the better companies did do was to combine innovation with discipline. Collins introduced the cannonball metaphor to illustrate the point.

Imagine a company has to fight a battle (with its competitors). It has both bullets and cannonballs (products/services) but a limited supply of gunpowder (resources) to fire them with.

Should the company fine tune range and direction to the target? If so how?

Bullets are the obvious choice because they use least gunpowder. Get the range and bearing right and then use cannonballs to put a dent in the competitor.

Now email………

Last week I was talking to a client who was considering lead generation ideas.

He had a proposal recommending email campaigns and some other things. Our client said he didn’t have much faith in these campaigns because the results had always been poor in the past.

I asked him which of the variables – the layout and content of the piece, the quality of his list or both, timing of the drop – had been to blame. He didn’t really know.

We hear this all the time.

So I suggested he get 2 or 3 alternative layouts for a campaign. Each should have different graphics and copy than the others.

I told him to take them to 6 to 12 customers who he trusted to tell him what they thought. Then show the alternatives, one at a time, and ask the customer what the piece told him. Saying nothing, he should record the comments word for word.

This would give him quality control for the most difficult variable – layout and copy. When he heard that a layout was communicating the message he wanted, he could email or mail it to everyone.

There are variations on this approach. He could mail different layouts to larger parts of his list (say 10 % of the list for each layout) and compare the responses. He could also email or mail the pieces at different times on different days.

But whichever variation he chose, he would be firing bullets. Only when he found the layout which got the response he wanted should he fire a cannonball – emailing it to everyone.

Finally, anything else………..

The metaphor has wide application.

Why launch a new product before testing it with a portion of the market first? Why move into a new region, Province or country before firing bullets at part of it first?

And yes, why adopt a change in strategy before testing that first too.

This approach may take a little longer but it will dramatically reduce the risks and conserve valuable resources.

Any thoughts?

If you enjoyed this post you’ll like Why Strategy Is Still Worth A Business Owner’s Time

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I’m Not Alone………

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

It started last year.

It continued to bother me this year but I didn’t say anything to anyone. I couldn’t, I wasn’t sure how to put it.

Then I found out that someone else felt the same way. He has a much higher, more public profile than me. And he wasn’t afraid to speak out.

That tipped me over the edge.

Just as I took my first couple of tentative steps, I discovered there’s someone else, also with a higher profile than mine, who is talking about it too.

I feel so much better. So I’ll say it out loud……..

The words strategy and strategic are being overused and misused. And it’s wrong because it’s causing confusion and doing harm.

It first became clear to me………….

…..when I read Richard Rumelt’s book “Good Strategy: Bad Strategy, The Difference and Why It Matters”.  I believe 3 of Rumelt’s 4 major hallmarks of bad strategy involve misuse of the words strategy or strategic.

He describes “Fluff” as a superficial restatement of the obvious combined with a generous sprinkling of buzzwords.

Rumelt’s example of fluff is a major bank stating “Our fundamental strategy is one of customer-centric intermediation.” Intermediation, accepting deposits and lending them to others, is what all banks do. And this one’s processes didn’t make it any more customer friendly than its competitors. The statement is fluff not strategy.

Then there’s “Mistaking goals for strategy”. For example he talks about a document labeled “Our Key Strategies” which was no more than a list of goals with no reference to a key strength the company could leverage to achieve the goals.

The third one is “Bad strategic objectives”. Rumelt talks about “dog’s dinner objectives”, a list of things to do with the label strategies or objectives, where 1 of the “to do’s” is to create a strategic plan. There are also “blue sky objectives”, which are simply a restatement of the desired state of affairs.

And now there’s someone else……………….

…..who is making a similar point. This week Harvard Business Review published a blog post by Joan Magretta called “5 Common Strategy Mistakes”. I think 3 of them also involve confusing strategy with something else.
First is confusing marketing with strategy. Doing that, she argues, means overlooking the point that a strategy not only requires a value proposition, it also requires a unique configuration of (companywide) activities that best delivers the value.

Next is confusing competitive advantage with what you’re good at. Companies often look inward, see a strength – and overestimate it. But to form the basis for a strategy a strength has to be something the company does better than its rivals. And that judgment can only be made by the market.

Finally there’s thinking that growth or reaching a revenue goal is a strategy. Sound familiar? Mistaking goals for strategy is on Rumelt’s list too. It’s not the goal (e.g., reach $50 million in revenue), nor is it a specific action (e.g., launch a new product, enter a new market, make acquisitions). Strategy is the set of integrated choices that define how you will achieve the goal; the actions are the path you take to execute or realize the strategy.

Now that I feel better, that I’m not alone…………

…..I’m going to continue speaking about it.

Because it will only get better if we get it into the open, get people, business owners, talking about it.

We have to stop overusing and misusing strategy and strategic. It’s causing confusion and doing harm to the most important part of a company – its business strategy.

By the way, you can see my first couple of tentative steps here and here

Profit In Process

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

This week’s guest post is by Tibor Shanto – Principal of Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., – a recognized speaker, author of the award winning book Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers, and sought after trainer.

Most sales people are taught that companies go under due to lack of sales. We all know that the reality is that companies fail due to a lack of profits.  But this disconnect is one reason sales people see discounting as an alternative to selling. Reps fail to realize that the 5% discount they give on a deal could be half, or more, of the margin in the sale (why worry, they still get  their commission).

One way to address this is to ensure that you have a detailed, clearly defined and suitable sales process.  This needs to include defined stages that align with the buying process, and clear workflows.

The sales process also needs to align with other processes in the company. While sales does drive orders,  if it is not synchronized with the rest of the organization, there is a real risk to productivity and profits. One example is the waste that results in working at cross purposes, typified by the often found disconnect between sales and marketing.  I recently saw the results of a survey that suggested that 75% of marketing managers do not know what the sales team’s quota is. 

Once the sales process is aligned with other processes in the organization, they can be harmonized and leveraged for further advantage. A good example can be found in environments where production and related resources are directly tied to orders.  Having a logical process that helps sales execute and at the same time delivers predictable and reliable forecasts to production is a definite competitive advantage. 

For example, one of our clients publishes a series of trade magazines. One challenge they face is maximizing revenue from each issue.  Specifically, the more ads sold the larger the issue, but this impacts editorial, layout and other areas of production.  Add to this the fact that the issue has to be locked down many days before publication.

There was a constant to-and-fro between sales and production with sales trying to get one last advertiser in to an issue after the deadline or ads that sales had guaranteed would come in evaporating. Both situations caused havoc for production.

We worked with both groups, analyzing how different ad sales unfolded, the time from start to finish of the process, critical points along the way (go/no-go points), confirmation points and elapsed times from those points to close. This allowed sales to quantify aspects of the sale and establish reasonable probabilities to close from specific events during the sales.

Armed with these facts, we sat down with the production team with two goals in mind. First, was to help them understand in an objective way how a typical sale unfolds,  including critical turning points. Second was to establish a rule and workflow with respect to objectively agreeing which opportunities were to be included by production, based on where they were in the process at a specific point in time prior to publication date.

This allowed production to better plan a given issue, and sales to be more confident in communicating and adhering to deadlines with advertisers.  While there are still instances where sales try to bring in one more ad, production has built in a bit of wiggle to their timelines.

This same approach can be implemented by aligning the sales process with other areas of the company.  It goes without saying, that the same efficiencies can be realised in other environments – JIT or otherwise.  The key is to have a sales process to begin with, one that suits the needs and the type of sale on which the entire organization needs to execute. 

This removes the emotion and subjectivity when it comes to sales predictability, forecasting and driving both revenue and other key objectives of the organization.

Tibor can be reached at info@SellBetter.ca, or + 1-416-822-7781. You can read his blog, The Pipeline and follow him on Twitter @Renbor.

5 Tips To Improve Margins and the Bottom Line……

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Sometimes the old truths are the most important ones. A conversation with a client the other day got me thinking about these simple tips that can pay major dividends.

There are really only 4 ways to increase profits – sell more, improve margins, cut costs or do all three. Costs always have a habit of creeping upwards over time. So, particularly in these economic times, it pays to take a hard look at them and then eliminate the things we can live without. But there’s a limit to the extent to which we can cut costs before we hurt the company’s long term growth potential. To get steady, incremental increases in profit we have to sell more and improve margins.

There are only 2 ways to sell more – add new customers or increase sales to existing customers. In my experience, when we talk about selling more we tend to put the focus on adding new customers. But we know that it costs at least 6 times more to sell to a new customer than to an existing client. That’s not hard to understand when we consider the “acquisition” costs – e.g. advertising, telemarketing, etc.

Tip # 1. Don’t lose your least expensive prospects – existing customers. They must be convinced that we do a great job; otherwise they wouldn’t buy from us. Every business loses some customers over time, but when customers leak away, replacing them with new ones cuts into profits. The key is to focus on our “retention rate”. We need to have a process that alerts us when a customer stops purchasing from us. And we must find out why exactly they’re leaving – not simply make assumptions. Keeping customers satisfied is better for your bottom line than replacing them.

Tip # 2. Remember not all customers are created equal when it comes to profitability. Pareto’s rule tells us that 80% of our profits will come from 20% of our customers. But, how many of us slip into the situation, over time, of treating all customers as equally important? That actually hurts our profits because we waste money using the same marketing and selling techniques on everyone and treat them the same way when they contact us.

So, how do we recognize the 20% of customers who give us 80% of our profits? They are the companies who buy from us regularly and understand the value of what we do for their business. They focus on quality and reliability rather than price and they pay on time. Because they are successful in their field, they have the potential to grow, allowing us to grow with them. They may even refer potential clients to us. These are our “A” customers. Can you identify yours?

Tip # 3. It makes good business sense to treat “A” customers differently than the others. Everyone in the organization should know who they are. So, when they talk to them on the phone or face-to-face, answer their email, make product for them or pick their orders, these “A” clients get the most prompt, attentive, efficient service we can give. We should market differently to them too. Stay closely in touch personally and via email, e.g. send them our newsletters, and develop the relationship by figuring out how we can help them respond to the changes in their industry.

Tip #4. Watch the customers who offer some, but not all, of the benefits of our “A’s” very closely. They still focus on quality and reliability but may not have been around as long as “A’s” and so may not buy as regularly and/or as much. These are our “B” customers, and apart from what they do for our bottom line today, they have the potential to be the “A’s” of the future. Identify them and build a strong relationship with them. They may get fewer face-to-face visits than the “A’s” but they do get regular calls from our internal sales staff – a very effective but much less costly method of maintaining contact. They are also on our email database.

Then there are customers who buy smaller amounts consistently but who have very little potential for further development. These customers – our “C’s” – are solid contributors to the remaining 20% of our profits but the ones who may be most likely to drift away. Our sales and marketing strategies are designed to maintain these relationships in a cost effective way. Primary contact is via regular (but less frequent than for “B” clients) calls from internal sales and email contact about the products or services they buy.

The final group is easy to recognize – they complain most and buy small quantities of our products irregularly. That’s because they are focused on price and discounts. They buy from us only when we’re cheaper than our competitors – they have no loyalty. When they do buy from us, they are abrupt, demanding, they always need delivery immediately and people hate dealing with them. Processing their orders requires our staff to drop everything else and get them to the front of the line. They are our “D” accounts. Dealing with “D’s” can be so disruptive that occasionally they even cause us to make mistakes with the orders for the profitable customers.

Tip # 5. The final tip is to “fire” your “D” accounts. That’s correct, if orders from “D” customers are profitable they’re at the bottom end of the margin scale and the amount of resource required to get them out the door wipes out anything we were going to make. Yet we all have “D” accounts – why don’t we just get rid of them? We don’t have to be rude, simply play them at their own game – quote high prices or long lead times. They’ll make the decision not to deal with us. Do it often enough and they’ll stop calling.

Focus on your “A” and “B” customers and you’ll improve your margins. Match your sales and marketing resources to customer type and get rid of your “D’s” and you’ll improve the bottom line. Make retaining “C’” customers a priority; work hard at turning your “B” accounts into “A’s” and get your sales staff focused on understanding your “A” accounts’ business – then you’ll not only sell more but you’ll make more profitable sales.

Some “oldies” but truly “goldies” in these very difficult times!

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