Small Business News
Exceptional leaders differentiate themselves by doing a few things better. Here are six things you can learn from them.
What makes an exceptional leader exceptional?
This was the topic I had the fortunate opportunity to discuss recently with a class of graduating university seniors. Many of the students believed that future business leaders needed a new set of leadership skills that recognized the new global economy that continues to be molded and shaped by rapidly changing technology and globalization.
They aren't wrong.
They were overlooking, however, the fact that fundamental leadership skills are characteristic of all great leaders, past and future. What differentiated exceptional leaders from great leaders, however, was not necessarily how to amend these characteristics but rather how to execute them better.
Here are six things exceptional leaders do better:1. Great leaders are exceptional communicators and orators. Exceptional leaders are better at knowing when to shut it and listen.
Being able to motivate and influence others is an incredibly important skill for a leader. The most exceptional leaders, however, are often those who ask more questions than they answer. Not coincidentally, they also know the right questions to ask. Typically, the reason exceptional leaders are great communicators is not because they orate well but rather that they are better at understanding with whom they are speaking.2. Great leaders are exceptionally idealistic vision setters. Exceptional leaders are better at admitting when they are wrong.
Great leaders operate innovative companies that often challenge a business or cultural paradigm. Exceptional leaders are no different, except that their companies endure. Think about it.3. Great leaders are exceptionally organized and analytical. Exceptional leaders are better at delegating.
I do believe that great leaders need to possess a high degree of organizational skill and be able to apply analytical thinking to understand complex business situations. Indeed, the age of Big Data is making these skills even more necessary. Exceptional leaders, however, understand the importance of and how to surround themselves with exceptional talent and delegate tasks and responsibility to them.4. Great leaders are exceptional problem identifiers. Exceptional leaders are better problem solvers.
One trait that separates great leaders from the field is the ability to delve into a problem, ask the right questions, and understand the root cause of an issue. This is not as easy as many believe. Exceptional leaders, however, not only intuitively understand how to do this but also how to construct and assess the problem in terms of a solution. It's a fine line that exceptional leaders understand.5. Great leaders are exceptionally confident decision makers. Exceptional leaders are better at dishing credit.
A great leader is really adept at running a great company. An exceptional leader, however, does not necessarily run an exceptional company. The rest of the company does. Think about it.6. Great leaders are exceptionally smart. Exceptional leaders are better at not being stupid.
Not being stupid is one of the most undervalued skills today. This goes beyond bad business miscalculations to include remarkably stupid personal decisions leaders make that inevitably seep into and tarnish a business. Exceptional leaders instinctively know how to keep their noses clean and avoid precarious situations.
The debate will assuredly continue about what exactly differentiates an exceptional leader from the rest. For certain, the graduating seniors are convinced that technical skills, such as being fluent in a programming language like HTML, are key factors to becoming a great leader in the future. Again, they aren't necessarily wrong, but I am hopeful that they will find their youthful exuberance as a much more valuable asset!
So which other skills are exceptional leaders better at? Share your thoughts below.
If you're looking for a business, industry, or career to sink your teeth into, look no further than your next meal. 10 reasons the food industry is booming.
You'd never know the economy is in a slump from the state of the food industry. Specialty food sales in the U.S. alone grew 13 percent to $85 billion in 2012. And Americans consumed a record $34 billion worth of wine last year.
If you're at all into food (I mean, who isn't?) and looking for a business, industry, or career to sink your teeth into, look no further. Here are 10 reasons that food isn't just the way to your heart; it's the way to your wallet, too.
Venture capital flowing into food tech. Venture capitalists poured $350 million into food tech companies last year, an increase of 7.6 percent over 2011, according to research firm CB Insights. Not only that, but the number of deals increased by 37 percent, including robust activity in international markets.
Gourmet to go. Just because there's growing demand for healthy and tasty food doesn't mean people have the ability or the time to make it or eat out all the time. There's huge and growing demand for personal chefs, party chefs, specialty caterers, and thousands of gourmet and pre-made food websites. If you've got a kitchen and a cool recipe, you can make it and sell it.
Food franchises. If you wanted to own a food franchise business, you used to be limited to the likes of McDonald's, Subway, and Pizza Hut. Not that that's a bad thing, but these days, the choices are virtually limitless, from Baja Fresh to Ben & Jerry's. While restaurants like P.F. Chang's and Cheesecake Factory don't franchise domestically, both companies are looking for international partners to license.
Diversity. America has always been a melting pot, but we didn't always eat that way. If you grew up on the East Coast in the 60s or 70s, chances are you never heard of Mexican or Thai food. That's all changed now and it's opened the door for family-owned restaurants that specialize in all sorts of ethnic cuisines.
TV for Foodies. We've come a long way from Julia Child and Galloping Gourmet Graham Kerr. With blockbuster hits like Top Chef, Kitchen Nightmares, and Iron Chef America, food TV has turned into a booming media business. The competition is fierce but the opportunity is there for anyone to become the next Bobby Flay or Rachael Ray.
Health restricted diets. There was a time when the only diet foods you'd see were sugar-free foods for diabetics. Now, we have lactose and gluten-free foods and, the more we discover about how what we put in our bodies affects our health, the more fragmented our food choices will become. And choice spells opportunity.
Demand for natural and organic foods. Besides all the Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and dozens of other markets specializing in natural and organic foods, there are thousands of farmer's markets popping up in cities big and small across the nation.
Sustainable and safe agriculture. As an entire industry retools to become more animal and environmentally friendly, and to improve the healthfulness and safety of our food supply, opportunities abound throughout the food chain.
Packaging and cold transport. Ever wonder how all that fresh and frozen food gets to your grocer without spoiling? New techniques in flash freezing and fresh and frozen food packaging and transport have enabled huge and growing industries.
New world wine, crafted beer, premium liquor. America's wine industry is booming and not just in California, either. Wine making has popped up in nearly every state, even Texas and Alaska. Not only that, but you can start small by growing grapes and selling them or buying the grapes and trying your hand as a wine maker. Likewise, demand for specialty brews and premium liquors has never been better.
The word 'wait' can be destructive to a growing business. Here's why.
Wait. What a crappy word.
Does anyone actually like waiting? Is a "waiting room" a good place? Is waiting in line fun for anyone? I can't think of anything worth waiting for. Okay, maybe fresh baked bread or a slice of good New York pizza but that's about it.
In my online marketing business VerticalResponse, I live by the minute. Every minute we are around we're bringing in new customers, making sure they're taken care of, generating revenue and hopefully a profit from it. If one day goes by that we don't do something to drive that specific behavior, that day is lost...forever. That's right, there's no making it up.
It's not an easy concept for people to grasp, especially folks who come from the world of big business to work for us. They're not usually fast moving, and will "wait" to get something perfect rather than do it well, and do it now.
Perfection is overrated. What's perfect? What's "done?" Nothing. Ever.
So my motto is and has always been:
- Do something, don't wait, even if it's not perfect.
- Learn from it.
- Refine it.
- Make it better.
Do you share this motto and if not, should you?
New research reveals the least-friendly states for start-ups. Where does your state fall?
Where's the best place in the country to start a business? For that matter, where's the worst? Thanks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we now have some pretty good answers.
The Chamber released its Enterprising States report recently, which "takes an in-depth look at the priorities, policies and programs of the 50 states that are vital for job growth and economic prosperity," including "entrepreneurship and innovation."
That gives us a unique, data-driven opportunity to rank the states by how friendly they are to new ventures. Today, I'll take a look at the 10 worst of the bunch. In a future column, I'll examine the states that are doing a better job.
It's fair to say that the University of Wisconsin-Madison probably saved the Badger State from an even worse ranking. Wisconsin ranked 11th in "academic research and development as a share of gross state product," which is one of the six criteria of innovation and entrepreneurship in the study. The downside? A very low "business birthrate," and a small percentage of high-tech firms as a share of all businesses.
#42: South Dakota
A middling percentage of self-employed and a big jump in the percentage of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs are the silver linings for South Dakota. The problem is just that there aren't that many high-tech firms now. (Remember when Gateway was there?) The state does better in its overall business climate ranking, and it "continues to highlight its lack of personal and corporate income taxes to attract new and expanding businesses."
A low "business birthrate" knocks the Hoosier state toward the bottom of the list. Its other entrepreneurship ratings are all in the bottom half of the country, but the overall business climate isn't too horrible. Indiana "has embraced a job creation strategy focused on holding taxes in check, investing in infrastructure, offering targeted support and incentives to job-creating industries, touting the state's low cost of living, and capitalizing on its crossroads position," the report said.
There aren't too many people even trying to start businesses in Iowa, at least according to the study. (Iowa came in 49th for "business birthrate.") But, there are some real bright spots. Ranked 12th for "academic research and development" and 14th in STEM job growth, there's good reason to think Iowa will be doing a lot better on the list in the years to come.
The Volunteer State did no better than #30 in any entrepreneurial category. There just simply aren't that many STEM jobs, which is either the cause or effect of having a low percentage of high-tech ventures to begin with. "Tennessee's strengths are in exporting (ranking 11th overall) and in its 12th-ranked business climate," the report said. "The Volunteer State ranks 29th in overall economic performance but 17th in short-term job growth, a sign that growth may be accelerating."
With a significant growth in the percentage of self-employed people, and a respectable #18 ranking in terms of academic R&D, what is it that sends Mississippi to the bottom of the list? An absolute dearth of high-tech jobs and firms. Mississippi was dead last in the concentration of STEM jobs, and it ranked #49 in the report's overall economic performance category. Bright spots: The state is betting its entrepreneurial future on the health care industry, according to the report, and it ranks high when it comes to exports.
It's not dead last in any of the innovation and entrepreneurship categories, but Kentucky doesn't really shine anywhere either. Its best showing is a #23 for STEM job growth, although that may be more of a function of not having many STEM jobs to begin with. That said, the report credits Kentucky with marked signs of increasing economic activity, including job creation (apparently, just not the kind of STEM jobs that are seen as an indication of entrepreneurship).
A lack of STEM jobs, the second-smallest percentage of high-tech firms, and a tiny percentage of people reporting they were self-employed sent Arkansas to the bottom of the list. Paradoxically, it ranked right in the middle--25th--in "business birthrate." (Of course, starting a business is no guarantee of actually growing one to success.) Possible bright spot: "One of the largest private investment projects in state history, a $1.1 billion steel mill, was announced in early 2013."
Very few STEM jobs and the fact that Maine came in dead last in number of self-employed combined to push the state near the bottom of the list. Overall, Maine is just in rough shape, according to the report. Looking for bright spots, the report cited the state's "Business Friendly Communities initiative to encourage communities to review their economic development and business services."
#50: West Virginia
West Virginia ranked dead last in "business birthrate," and no better than #33 in any other innovation and entrepreneurship category. The state has a "strong emphasis on creating jobs in manufacturing," the report says. Want more statistical proof? West Virginia ranks near the bottom in terms of broadband Internet speed and connectivity. It's tough to start a high-tech firm in the 21st century (or any business, really) if you can't count on reliable broadband.
These irritating customers are usually more bother than they're worth.
Most of the time, customers (and prospective customers) are great. However, there are eight types of customer that are usually more bother than they're worth. Here they are, along with some advice for coping with them.1. The Lookee-Loo
They are "interested" in your company's offerings but have no intention of buying from you... or anyone else.
Your best defense: In your initial meeting, determine the prospect's financial result of NOT buying. If that number is small, politely move on.2. The Surpriser
They seem to negotiate in good faith but, just after you've made an agreement they demand a huge discount "or the deal is off."
Your best defense: Just say no. The customer will respect you for holding firm. If the deal disappears, it was never real in the first place.3. The Freeloader
They demand you write a detailed proposal, then use your proposal to extract concessions from their current vendor.
Your best defense: Never write a substantive proposal without extracting a promise that you can personally present your findings to top decision-maker.4. The Brick Wall
No matter how much you try, they won't provide you with the information you need to discover whether or not you can help them.
Your best defense: Throw the ball back into their court by asking: "So, how exactly can I help you?" If they don't have an answer, shrug and move on.5. The Enabler
They tolerate unethical behavior from your competitors and expect you and your firm to be similarly "flexible."
Your best defense: Never do business with any company or person who asks you to do something unethical or illegal.6. The Invisible Man
They confirm appointments to meet with you but are "called away on important business" when the meeting is supposed to occur.
Your best defense: If it happens once, no big deal. Twice, still no big deal. One more time, assume it's intentional and move on.7. The Poseur
They claim to have full authority to buy, but actually play a minor role (if any) in the decision-making process.
Your best defense: Keep the poseur involved as you increase your list of contacts at the customer site.8. The Job Seeker
They pretend that their company is in the market for your offering but are actually trying to build job-hunting contacts in your industry.
Your best defense: Provide your best advice to the job seeker then determine who else (if anybody) you should be talking with.
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A healthy workforce is a hard-working work force. Here are some practical programs that have worked for other businesses.
You want a healthy workforce. Healthy employees miss less work, concentrate better when they are there, and cost you less in insurance fees. But, employees push back if you do things like CVS Pharmacies did--requiring employees to reveal personal health details or else pay extra towards their health insurance.
But, how to get people healthy? You have neither spare time nor spare money lying around. Here are some ideas that might help your business out.
Give people their weekends back. Healthcare consulting company Vynamic implemented a company policy that states: "To promote better balance, employees are to refrain from sending non-urgent emails to other employees between 10pm and 6am Monday through Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday, and all Vynamic holidays. In urgent matters, call or text is preferred over email." While recognizing emergencies do exist, they also stopped the constant flow of requests and information that prevented their employees from relaxing.
Make lunchtime fitness practical and possible. At Bandwidth, a communications technology company, rather than allowing employees 30 minutes to grab a burger and fries, they encourages 90 minute lunches, so that employees actually have time to hit the gym. They further encourage physical activity by sponsoring sports teams.
Health food, even at 2:00 a.m. Scripps Hospitals knows that people working in a fast paced hospital environment often count on vending machines for their food. So, rather than removing the unhealthy vending machines and making their employees hungry, they installed self-service kiosks from FITzee Foods, stocked with healthy food, including complete meals. In order to make it a bit more affordable, they subsidized the cost of the food, making it an even more attractive option. The end result? Weight loss and reduced health care costs for their employees. Plus, something better than a candy bar available on the overnight shift.
Appeal to their sense of competition. Manufacturing company Ashcroft implemented a year long fitness program that focuses on friendly competition. Employees can form teams or compete one on one in programs put together by GlobalFit. The length of the program is more likely to result in real changes than a single 5k run or month long fitness challenge. At the one year mark, Ashcroft has 68 percent of their employees voluntarily participating.
Outsource your wellness. Printpack does packaging, not fitness, so they lacked the expertise to design and carry out fitness programs, even though they knew that a healthy workforce was beneficial to their bottom line. So, they found a company that could take care of it for them--TourdeFit. No more negotiating contracts with fitness centers, or trying to find resources for their employees across the globe. Employees can find what is best for them, which makes people more likely to get in shape.
What wellness programs have worked for your business?
Unless you start delegating tasks you would normally trust only to yourself, you're doomed to keep running in place, headed for burnout.
What would you do today if you didn't have to work?
That's not a trick question. It's a question that trainers with the Strategic Coach program ask in order to help break their entrepreneur clients of work addiction. Dan Sullivan, the Toronto-based founder of Strategic Coach, has often said that you can have everything you want in life as long as you're willing to give up everything you don't want. The problem is that a lot of super-successful high-performing people never stop to think about what they'd be doing today if they didn't have to do anything.
The survey research I did for my book Business Brilliant revealed a lot of interesting things about the habits of self-made millionaires. The research showed, for instance, that such super successful individuals are much better than most people at limiting their activities to only those things that they do best. They are very good at getting others to do work that they themselves are not exceptionally good at. It's a trait that ensures they don't waste time on activities that would be better handled by people with superior expertise.
The problem is that when such top performers accept more and more responsibilities, they are loathe to take the next logical step and delegate some of the work that they are exceptionally good at. Why? Probably because that would require them to change what they regard as a winning game. My research shows that more than 60 percent of self-made millionaires credit their work habits with making them successful. Among the super-successful, those who have a net worth over $30 million, 80 percent say their work habits are responsible for their success. How can you break a habit that's been that good to you?
So would you be surprised to know that these self-made multi-millionaires work about 56 hours per week and say they spend a lot of that time "putting out fires"? About eight in 10 say they find their work "stressful and not enjoyable," and only a little more than two in 10 say they know how to detach from work and relax. Having achieved wealth that most people can only dream of, four out of five multi-millionaires spend their days like hamsters who can't get off the exercise wheel.
So at Strategic Coach, trainers introduce an exercise they call the "retirement trick." They ask entrepreneur workaholics to envision what tasks they would still do if they were to retire tomorrow, if they were totally free to do only the work activities that they truly enjoy. Most entrepreneurs respond to the exercise by realizing that they would stop coming into the office every day. And if they didn't have to be there, they would allow a lot of the tasks they do very well to be taken up by their employees--who would likely do them just as well.
In Business Brilliant, I profile Stanley Doobin, the head of a privately-owned maintenance company called Harvard Maintenance, who used the retirement trick to break his habit of working 14-hour days, seven days a week. Despite his background in accounting, he's since pried himself away from his company's day-to-day financial details. Now he spends half his time recruiting new executives and prospecting for new clients, the two activities he enjoys the most, which also happen to provide the business with the greatest value. His company has grown faster than ever thanks in part to his new work habits, and for the first time he was able to take a two-week vacation without a phone call or even an email to the office.
According to Dan Sullivan, lots of high-performing entrepreneurs reach what he calls their "ceiling of complexity" without ever realizing it. (And since they're in charge, no one will tell them!) When you hit that ceiling, no amount of extra effort at what you do best will get you better results. Unless you break with your winning game and start delegating tasks you would normally trust only to yourself, you're doomed to keep running in place, headed for burnout.
With the stakes that high, it seems like undoubtedly you should try and play the retirement trick yourself, or get help with some coaching. What would you be doing today if you only did the parts of your job you really enjoyed? And which of today's tasks did you keep for yourself solely because you don't want to trust anyone else to do them? These are important questions for you to ask yourself. You pride yourself on being a master of risk and reward. But, to paraphrase Dan Sullivan, are you willing to risk giving up everything you don't want, in order to have everything that you do want as your reward?
When entrepreneurs and pilots screw up, they take other people down with them. But the similarities don't stop there.
Entrepreneurs are a lot like pilots. They're goal-oriented and disciplined. To be effective, they must project confidence and competence at all times. And, like pilots, they know that if they screw up, they'll take other people down with them.
Professional pilot and change management consultant Moe Glenner explores that similarity in his new book Selfish Altruism. It turns out there are many valuable leadership lessons you can learn about how to run your company by taking note of the behaviors that get pilots into trouble. Here are four of them:
1. Don't assume you always know best.
What Glenner calls "know-it-all" pilots can get themselves and their passengers killed. "Consider the pilot who argues with air traffic control or ignores weather forecasts... or even ignores indications that the airplane is not performing optimally," he writes.
Business leaders make the same mistakes, he adds, "based on the premise that 'I already know everything there is to know and the directive conflicts with my already established knowledge.'" The problem, of course, is that nobody really knows it all. "There is always more to learn and there are always people who know more than we do," Glenner notes. So when someone gives you a piece of advice, or tells you to follow a rule, at least take the time to consider that person may know something you don't.
2. Don't react to problems too quickly.
When a flight goes wrong, it's natural to feel compelled to do something immediately to fix the situation. But an overly fast reaction can do more harm than good, Glenner explains. "Let's say the pilot has discovered that his plane is losing altitude. An impulsive reaction might be to pull back on the yoke. The problem with this is that pulling back (without doing anything else) decreases airplane speed and may in fact cause a stall/spin reaction."
There are many situations, in flight and in business, when something goes wrong and a quick response is needed. But it should always be a well-thought-out response. "The remedy for impulsive behavior is the realization that there is time to think and then implement appropriately," Glenner writes. "A pilot needs to check all his instruments (quickly) to identify what the real cause is." It could be that power was cut inadvertently, or weather may be causing the unexpected descent. Once the pilot has determined the cause of the problem, he or she can take appropriate action without risking making things even worse.
3. Don't believe you're invulnerable.
It's human nature to think that because nothing has gone wrong so far, nothing ever will, but that's the kind of thinking that causes planes crashes.
For instance, Glenner describes the three sides of a rectangle that a pilot must fly to land properly on a runway. Each corner requires the correct turn and altitude, but these can be thrown off by weather and other conditions. "Many pilots believe this can't happen to them," he writes. "Over time they fail to be as diligent or continue to educate themselves on the potential dangers. This complacency has caused many an accident, often with tragic results."
In the business world, Glenner notes, the same kind of thinking can lead companies to either dismiss a risk, or have only vague plans for dealing with it. That creates a greater risk, he writes, "the risk that something can derail a project without a set plan to remedy it."
Instead, he advises a formal risk assessment discussion, resulting in a written plan for dealing with adverse contingencies. While you won't be able to anticipate every problem, you can give yourself the best chance to come out all right if a problem does occur.
4. Don't go it alone.
Some pilots--and some entrepreneurs--develop a macho, I-can-do-it attitude that leads to trouble when they try to take on more than they can handle. "Consider a pilot who only had three hours of sleep the night before a flight," Glenner writes. "For commercial pilots, this would likely be a no-go factor. For private pilots, it should also be a no-go factor, except some pilots believe they can make the flight, lack of sleep notwithstanding."
The dangers of this behavior in an airplane are obvious, but it's dangerous in business too. If you are struggling with too much responsibility, too many hours of work, or tasks that you don't have the know-how to do--get help. (Here are some tips for learning to be a better delegator.) Toughing it out when you're over your head is bad for your business. If you're not well-rested and thinking clearly, your company, and its employees, may pay the price.
The business world loves CEOs with charm and vision. But research suggests chasing these leadership traits comes with plenty of dangers.
The study of leadership involves a number of different popular models, as I wrote in the book Everything Leadership. One that has been particularly pernicious is the Great Man theory, in which certain people are born to leadership and others... well, aren't.
Silly, right? Great leaders--and remember, there is not one type of leader for all types of organizations and situations--have often had to learn how to lead. It's become clear that you don't have to be a white male of European descent to guide others effectively.
The closest heir to the Great Man throne has been the Visionary. Such people (Steve Jobs comes to mind), because they can see farther and more clearly, can move a company to greatness, inspiring everyone around them. You can hear the awe in employees' voices at certain companies when they mention the One at the Helm. Not only is there vision, but an implied charisma. And who wouldn't want to be like that?
Any entrepreneur who wants a strong business, according to some research out of the Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick in the U.K. Christian Stadler, an associate professor in strategic management, studied the leadership and strategy of such century-old European companies as Royal Dutch Shell, Glaxo, and LaFarge.
The ones that made it through the long haul had a leadership style that Stadler describes as "intelligent conservatism." These corporate cultures focus on long-term success and steady growth. Management tends to listen to employees and has a deep understanding of the company, as 97 percent of CEOs were promoted from within. These are often the people who also direct a company through its biggest transformations because they understand how to structure something new in a way that will work with the existing culture, practices, strategic aims, and investor relationships.
Where Charisma Fails
The problem of charismatic leaders is, ironically, their strength. When a company is moving in the right direction, the charismatic leader can super-charge progress. They're very good at getting people in the company to move in one way or another. But when they start to move in the wrong direction, they're just as good at getting everyone to nod their heads and move in lockstep.
Vision is important, but so is a keen sense of hearing. Leading a company means working with all the employees. Why assume that you're the only one with a good idea or keen insight?
Do you give up after a few sales calls? Expect new business to come from every networking event? It's time for a shift in mindset that you can take all the way to the bank.
Does the thought of hearing "no thank you" one too many times slow you down? Getting your products and services into the hands of future customers has its challenges, but when we add a fear of rejection to the mix, the challenge becomes monumental. What if you could see no as the magic word that gets you closer to the sale instead of letting it knock the wind out of your sails?
It’s entirely possible. Let’s begin by understanding why we take rejection so personally in the first place.
If you represent a product, you probably use it yourself and believe in it with all your heart, And those of you who are inventors have poured blood, sweat, and tears into developing your products, not to mention tons of money! For service providers the thought of rejection is especially daunting because your knowledge and talent are literally a part of who you are, making it feel truly personal. All of these scenarios make it only natural to embrace your business as an extension of your very being. Hearing no can feel like a very personal rejection.
But to realize your dream of success, a separation of self from your product or service is absolutely necessary. A simple shift in mindset will give you the courage and commitment to step boldly into the world of sales and move your product or service into the lives of the many customers who await them! Begin by taking on these simple mindset shifts and you may just become a sales machine!
It's not all about the sale.
Sometimes we put the pressure on by thinking that our cold calls should result in sales. Remember the true purpose of cold calling: of course it’s always about relationship building in the end, but in most cases the goal is to end up with one of the following outcomes:
- Permission to add the person to your database for periodic updates
- A plan to contact them at a later date when they may be in need of your service or product
- A request to take them off the list altogether
Simple, right? Understanding the purpose gives you permission to accept that not everyone is the perfect candidate. Those who wish to be removed from your list aren’t saying that they don’t like you or your product; it simply means that it’s not right for them at this time.
It's not personal.
Remember that you are speaking to a human being who has feelings, moods, and concerns, just like you. If you do encounter someone who is rude or unpleasant, consider that it is not all about you. Do not take it personally! Most likely, this person’s mood has been pre-determined by all sorts of other circumstances. Allow them their space and get on with your day.
I'm already successful.
Too often we base our success on the final outcome. Take on the attitude that the phone call or initial meeting is the success. You have taken a huge step! And the more you get out there, the higher your odds of success. Take the heat off by visualizing an outcome that is best for all concerned. Sometimes, a "no" is the perfect answer because the circumstances aren’t just right. It’s best to know this so you don’t get into something that is doomed from the beginning. No matter what answer you get from your prospect, celebrate the fact that you actually made contact and are one step closer to your ideal customer.
It's all about the numbers.
Try to remove the emotion by seeing your phone calls and meetings as statistics. If you make twenty-five phone calls, odds are good that you will find one person who will want to learn more. If you effectively attend four or five networking events per month instead of per year you will build more relationships and increase awareness of your brand. Everyone hears the dreaded "no," but not everyone keeps plugging away at it. It’s like working up to 100 sit ups instead of staying at 20; the end result will be so much better. Get those numbers up there; love the "no" because it only means that you are getting closer to the yes!
I am not alone.
Did you know that 44 percent of salespeople quit trying after the first "no?" Considering that 40 percent of all solid prospects say no at least once before buying, this is a sad statistic. You are not alone in your fear and frustration, but if you can buck up and be persistent you will succeed! Again, the proof is in the numbers!
No matter how emotionally connected you are to your product or service, they are only as good as your efforts to promote them. Respect the hard work and dedication that went into your company by transferring the same determination to your sales efforts. You can do it!
You need to keep your business running but you also need to maintain your health and nourish your mind. Here's a scheduling trick to fit it all in.
Business gurus are endlessly urging busy professionals to build healthful practices and moments for renewal like these into their days. But don't they know you have a business to run? It's not exactly like you're up to your eyeballs in spare time.
Bold Academy founder Amber Rae thinks she may have found a way to manage to shoehorn it all in. She laid out her unique approach to scheduling recently. Rather that schedule hour by hour, Rae's technique is to use Sunday to map out her week, setting a goal in four areas for each day but leaving lots of flexibility within that framework. What are the four areas? Rae explains:
Work: For each day, I outline my "Top 3," meaning the three most important things I will have accomplished by the end of the day. Sometimes I'll map out the entire week on Sunday because my priorities are super clear. Other times, I'll decide on my Top 3 on a day-by-day basis.
Play: I've found that play enables me to self-express, reflect, and give my ideas space, which shows up positively in my work. Making time to create art, get into nature, go on photo walks, read poetry, skip down sidewalks and the like puts me in a constant state of curiosity and flow.
Fit: Movement keeps ideas moving forward so I aim to move my body for at least 30 minutes each day.
Push: Since learning and growth is important to me, I do something that scares me (almost) every day. This may be asking someone whom I deeply respect for an interview or writing about a topic that makes me feel vulnerable.
For each area she pins down an activity or goal(s) (say, a dance class for "play", or rock climbing for "fit") and writes it all up on a big grid for the week. Check out the article for what the finished product looks like, as well as Rae's other tips. For instance, she also recommends batching tasks that require a similar headspace together on particular days, so Tuesday and Thursday mornings are set aside for calls and meetings, while Saturday is a pressure valve to release over-scheduling anxiety with more spontaneity.
Why would this technique work any better than your ad hoc efforts to squeeze it all in? By being intentional and spotlighting your goals, you can keep better track of how you're doing, while having actionable ideas at the ready each day saves you from wasting time stressing out about what to do to fulfill those goals. Plus, the system seems flexible enough that it wouldn't feel too constraining and could bend to accommodate unforeseen tasks and sudden crises.
But Rae stresses you should feel free to tinker with her framework. "It's all about experimenting to figure out what works best for you," she concludes.
Could the "work, play, fit, push" framework help you fit it all in?
There's an entire field dedicated to studying how to nudge consumers to spend more--and it has come up with some pretty bizarre findings.
Some of the quirkiest things can make consumers more willing to part with their paychecks. Did you know, for example, that red is supposedly the best color for fast-food restaurants? At least, that's what so-called "color consultants" suggest. Never mind that human behavior is hardly consistent and the psychology of color is less than scientific.
There's an entire field dedicated to deciphering who spends what, when, and why--and it's come up with some pretty bizarre conclusions about how business owners might boost sales with subtle environmental suggestions. You decide whether they're worth the effort.
Let there be light.
Sunlight makes people happy. And happy people spend more money. That was the rationale behind a study performed by the University of Alberta investigating the effects of sun lamps on consumer spending. Students at the university who were exposed to a sun lamp while browsing were willing to pay 38 percent more for green tea, 21 percent more for a carton of orange juice, 27 percent more for a gym membership, 29 percent more for an airline ticket, and 56 percent more for a newspaper than their sun lamp-deprived counterparts.
Play it cool.
Risk-takers know how to keep their cool in high-stakes situations. In fact, they rely on it. Researchers at the University of Virginia and University of Houston found that gamblers--in the form of Missouri daily lottery consumers--were less willing to risk their hard earned cash when the temperatures increased.
According to the study, daily sales of Missouri Lottery scratch tickets in St. Louis County decreased by $594 for every 1-degree increase in Fahrenheit temperature. The reason? The psychologically depleting rise in temperature appears to decrease consumers' willingness to play complex games, researchers say.
Deal in green.
Cash may be king, but the efficiency of virtual payment methods, credit cards, and debit cards certainly threaten to dethrone the monarch. And that would be a shame, say researchers from Virginia Tech University.
Previous research into the psychology behind spending habits has revealed that consumers are less willing to part with cash than credit--but there's a catch. When it comes to food, customers who paid in cash, not credit, consumed 45 percent more calories than their peers. Folks who spend cash--which they view as a more painful move than charging it to a credit card--are more willing to indulge to alleviate the negative mood brought on by too much spending, the researchers say.
Sounds like great news for food brands... unless, you delve into more research on the topic. Another study claims cash customers remain stingy with their money even after making--and splurging--on a food purchase.
Real success takes discipline and methodology. Here are eight things the most successful people are meticulous about getting right.
Most people claim to want success. But not everyone is willing to do the hard work and the smart work to get there. Often opportunities present themselves and because people are distracted, they miss them or give up on them before things fully develop.
Truly successful people don't leave much to chance. They are disciplined and focused. They constantly seek new methods to achieve more, in bigger and faster ways. Listed below are eight different practices that will help you concentrate your efforts on rising above the tide.1. Make Materialism Irrelevant
Fancy cars and houses are all well and good, but many foolishly focus on the byproducts of success, rather than concentrating on building sustainable success in the first place. Establish a bare minimum for your material needs, and then you can enjoy the benefits of success, debt and stress free.2. Enhance Knowledge
Success comes faster to those who are open, active learners. The higher up the success ladder you climb, the more complex the systems and opportunities that are presented to you. Absorb all the information you can and if you sense a gap you can't fill, connect with people who have the knowledge you need.3. Manage Relationship Expectations
People in your life require time. Successful individuals attract folk and so they have to carefully regulate the time they can spend with others. It's hard to limit the time you share and still make people feel important. Make choices about the people who matter to you and determine how you each can get value from your interactions. Then make sure they understand your limitations so they don't take it personally when you can't be present.4. Practice Emotional Self-Awareness
Not all successful people are calm and nice. In fact, many can be volatile. But most are very aware of their tempers and idiosyncrasies. They know how to use their emotions to get what they want from life and work hard to make sure feelings don't become a detriment. Know yourself and learn how to let your emotions work for you in positive ways.5. Commit to a Physical Ideal
Everyone has a vision of their own perfect body. They don't have to be fashion models or athletes to be happy. But physical health is a consideration in their life and it's a big distraction when it gets out of whack. Determine the body you believe is worth working for and set a game plan to achieve and maintain it.6. Gain Clarity About Spirituality
There are many highly successful people like Richard Branson and Warren Buffett who don't consider religion to be important or relevant. But they have a clear point of view as to the role spirituality plays in their life. Find your own way to be at one with the universe and be clear and deliberate in how you practice.7. Adhere to a Code of Ethics
Really successful people live by rules. They may not be the rules of others, but consistency is important for them to maintain power and stability. Their individual view of how the world works is the basis for how they believe people should be treated and they will defend it until their dying day. Determine your ethical lines and broadcast them loud and clear so people around you know where you stand.8. Focus on Time Efficiency
Prioritization is a key component of success. You can't reach your pinnacle if you are wasting time on distractions. Integration of activities frees up time for greater achievement. Spend your time on activities that are fun, enlightening and productive and soon you'll have gained hours to reap the benefits of success.
Ultimately, really successful people live their lives by design instead of default, so if you want to be one of them, dedicate time and effort to determining the plan for your preferred future and execute that plan in a focused and consistent manner.
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There's H&R Block for taxes and walk-in clinics for patients. This company is betting the same model can work for legal advice shops.
It seems like a head-scratcher: Why would a legal services website that grew 35 percent last year, and every month gets 2 million unique visitors and 500 new small business clients, suddenly want to go brick and mortar? And it's an unusual retail offering at that--LegalForce, formerly branded as Trademarkia, recently opened in Silicon Valley a tablet store, book store, legal office, event venue and lounge, all rolled into one.
Situated right across the street from an Apple store in a busy Palo Alto shopping district, LegalForce's physical store will be the first of what founder and CEO Raj Abhyanker hopes will one day be a national chain. The idea is to make legal services as accessible as possible to regular folks, much like how easy it is to get on-demand accounting help by walking into an H&R Block, or how One Medical Group uses technology to improve access and communication between doctors and patients through things like same-day online scheduling and direct patient email access to physicians.
Legal Advice--Plus Books and Gadgets
While it might sound like an unusual offering, Abhyanker says the City of Palo Alto wouldn't have let him set up shop there without selling something other than legal services, and books alone weren't going to cut it, although books are important to people when it comes to legal dilemmas. Someone going through a divorce, he says, might peruse the legal section of a bookstore before seeing a lawyer.
As for selling tablets, Abhyanker says his store actually feels a lot like an Apple store with tables of devices that people can pick up, play around with and use to access LegalForce's online tools. And if they end up buying one, LegalForce can also offer them content bundles as well--things like e-books about legal matters as well as legal document templates.
The LegalForce floor is staffed by what Abhyanker calls "legal concierges," educated people who have experience working in a place like an Apple store. They don't give legal advice but can point customers in the right directions for receiving it--whether it's in a book, tablet, through online legal forms, or through face-to-face meetings with an actual attorney in a private area of the store--no appointment necessary seven days a week, including evenings and weekends.
How the Business Works
LegalForce has its own cadre of attorneys at hand plus invites outside legal specialists to buy into the brand, similar to how attorneys can join SuperLawyer or Lawyers.com. Each lawyer in the network associated with the flagship Palo Alto store adopts the LegalForce brand but keeps an independent practice while agreeing to LegalForce's rules, such as being available to clients via mobile devices, responding to them in minutes as opposed to hours as well as using the company's shared infrastructure and globalized support.
The whole thing is such a decidedly different tack that you'd think getting into peddling merchandise would be a hassle considering it introduces pesky things such as managing inventory, but Abhyanker isn't daunted.
His father owned what was at one point the fifth largest Apple computer dealership in the U.S. "So I grew up selling Apple computers in Phoenix, Arizona, dealing with inventory and computing and retail experiences when there were independent computer stores prior to... today['s] Apple stores.
And he's hoping people just hang out at his store, as well.
"We've created a community space to build trust with lawyers so [they] aren't seen as sharks anymore," he says. "I think lawyers should be seen as counselors... and there's no need for lawyers to be seen as kind of this separate breed of people. Our biggest strength is to be able to be available to people in their times of need. We want to put a human face to our otherwise online law firm."
Even so, going brick and mortar isn't cheap, especially when you're talking about premier Silicon Valley real estate. Can LegalForce stores get enough foot traffic to pay the rent?
Maybe not in the short term, says Dr. Roland Vogl, executive director of CodeX, short for the Center for Legal Informatics at Stanford, who met Abhyanker when he pitched his idea for LegalForce at a Stanford startup summit last year.
"My sense is... he is not too concerned with making the stores themselves profitable in the near future. It sounds to me like his desire is to make the point that you can take the fancy mahogany furniture and marble clad law firm environment away and have something that's more accessible to everyone... and take away the price tag from accessing competent legal counsel, which is what we currently have in the country," says Vogl, who is now a strategic advisor to LegalForce.
The Future of Law Firms?
In the long term it might be a different story. Vogl says he can see LegalForce doing what Quality Solicitors has already done in the U.K., where non-lawyers are allowed to invest in law firms, which brings in more capital for tech innovation and makes it possible to run firms more like real businesses instead of consultancies. Essentially, Quality Solicitors is doing over there what LegalForce wants to do in the U.S.--group together large numbers of law firms to operate out of hundreds of branches that offer approachable, same-day service.
"I think that's where the trend is going," Vogl says.
Airbnb co-founder and CPO Joe Gebbia says his company uses one tactic to really understand the customer experience.
While speaking at the 99U Conference in New York City, Airbnb co-founder and CPO Joe Gebbia spoke Friday about one important key to his company's success: empathy. Specifically, empathy with customers.
His talk focused on storyboards, one of Airbnb's favorite ways to get employees inside their customers' heads.
“Bringing words to life, storyboards show you things that words can’t,” he said.
According to him, storyboards help bridge words and experience--a challenge that Airbnb, a marketplace for home rentals, faces on daily basis.
“So how do we bridge from our script to these real world experiences? We storyboard. And we storyboard like crazy. Last year we embarked on an ambitious project to map the entire guest and host terrain of Airbnb and we did it through illustration. We looked at key emotional moments of the journey and we drew them. We visualized them. And what it’s done for us, it’s allowed our entire company to achieve a whole new level of empathy with our customers. ”
Gebbia also suggested that storyboards might be used to execute ideas and innovation for businesses that are just launching.
Airbnb was founded in 2008 by Gebia, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczy. The company is based in San Francisco and has raised over $230 million in funds. Over the years, Airnb has connected hosts and guests in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries.
In a rare moment of reflection, one founder shares two important lessons that have helped him get through the toughest days.
I think about success a lot. I also find myself working really long hours, constantly self-evaluating, and sacrificing my days, nights, and weekends towards something I might not ever achieve. I'm regularly told I need to get a life, which happens once a month when I find time to go out.
I'm pretty damn happy though. After two of the most frustrating, anxiety-ridden, incredible years of my life, I'm beginning to understand two important things:
1. There are two types of people who achieve success at much higher rates than the rest of us--Doers and Makers.They exist to make things that impact our lives and do things that disrupt our industries.
2. Success is not an end result. It is a cycle.
It's surprisingly rare to come across these types of people. What have you done today, this week, this year? While it's practically ingrained in us to rattle off a list of busy-work as if we were answering to a boss, when you answer truthfully to yourself, the number usually shrinks to almost nothing.
A Doer first says they will do something and then they do it. It's a subtle difference, but it matters because verbalizing a goal makes it real. Doers are active thinkers, not passive thinkers. Their ideas are followed up with action because success is in the execution.
These people have an ability to create something new, and in our increasingly service-based world this is becoming a unique trait. From websites to companies, Makers fearlessly enter the void and return with something remarkable... something tangible.
My high school had two paths: technical/vocational and university. It was generally frowned on to choose the technical path and I'm ashamed to think I wrote off the non-university students. I also remember taking several technical classes and learning how to design, build, and test things. Some of my proudest moments happened in these classes.
If you can't make anything, learn how. Understanding how to build things will open your eyes to new opportunities and allow you to lead more effectively. Teaching myself to program has fundamentally changed the way I see the world because I see possibility where others see mystery.
The Cycle of Success
The cycle that Doers and Makers enter is ever-changing, ill-defined, and can't be taught in school. (Ignore your professors who still think a business degree gets you anywhere. Better yet--ask them about 3-D printing, driverless cars, and the millions of jobs that will be lost to these emerging technologies.)
The cycle of success is defined by moments of happiness followed by spells of sorrow, all existing in a constant state of chaos.
The cycle is about being the first one in the office and the last one out. It's about putting the vision and the team before yourself. It's about continually questioning everything you know and every assumption you have made. It's about going home mentally exhausted and falling asleep before your brain can convince you to make dinner.
And it's about waking up and doing it all over again.
The cycle is rewarding, inspiring, and life-altering. It's surrounding yourself with great friends as you go on an epic adventure. It's believing that you are making a difference, that you exist for a reason, and that you can make a difference in people's lives.
Why you should build a relationship with third-party influencers to gain traction within the consumer marketplace.
Every brand, new or established, is looking to gain traction within the consumer marketplace by driving velocity at retail. There are many marketing strategies designed to accomplish this goal; however, one of the most effective strategies is developing relationships with unbiased third-party experts. Depending on the industry in which you compete, these influencers could be nutritionists, dieticians, gadget experts, designers, bloggers, or myriad other category specialists. Each brings a level of expertise and knowledge within your vertical market that can be leveraged via both paid and unpaid partnerships. Below are five reasons brands should consider leveraging third-party influencers:1. Build Instant Credibility
Every brand, regardless of industry, wants to be perceived as a credible player, and influencers are one of the best ways to build credibility. When an unaffiliated expert speaks positively about your brand, significant credibility is attained that is difficult to achieve in almost any other way. This credibility is important to buyers and retail partners when making decisions about whether to carry your product or service or not.2. Validate Your Product
When you launch a product or service, one of the keys to success is validating that your offering does what you say it does. It's common for brand managers to speak about features and benefits; however, when a third-party influencer speaks positively about your product or service, it validates it within the consumer marketplace. This endorsement can be utilized in all of your marketing materials, including, POS, packaging, advertising, etc.3. Access Top-Tier Media
One of the greatest value propositions associated with third-party influencers is their powerful relationships with top-tier media. It is rare for a brand manager to be featured on the Today show, Good Morning America or Fox & Friends. However, each of these programs has "go-to" third-party experts who can provide the latest trends on topics like health, nutrition, kids, style, fashion, consumer technology, etc. Thus, developing relationships with these experts could land your product on some of the most desirable news shows in the country.4. Achieve Broad Exposure
In addition to top-tier media connections, many third-party experts also have large social media followings. Therefore, when you develop a relationship with these individuals, you can potentially also gain access to the consumers who follow their insights and advice on their blog, Twitter account, or Facebook page. While there is no guarantee of such comprehensive exposure, these communication vehicles should be considered when thinking through opportunities associated with influencers.5. Leverage Social Media
Third-party influencers can be incredibly effective when utilized within your social media programs as well. For example, doing a Q & A on Twitter with an influencer can help drive consumer engagement online while hosting a Google+ Hangout with an expert and one of your brand spokespersons allows them to better explain the features and benefits of your product to media attendees. As powerful as this can be, keep in mind that utilizing influencers in this capacity typically requires a participation fee.
Developing relationships with third-party influencers takes time and a certain amount of finesse. Many understandably only want to work with brands they like, products they use and appreciate, and services they would be willing to refer to a friend, much less a national audience. Therefore, it's important that any brand looking to take its marketing efforts in this direction do so smartly by first identifying the right people, and then working to fortify the relationship. Once in place, these partnerships can bring your brand a level of exposure and credibility it just can't get on its own.
Leah Busque, founder of TaskRabbit, talks about what she's learned from launching her start-up.
“There is a difference between having an idea and...actually building on that idea,” Leah Busque, founder of TaskRabbit, told the audience at 99U Conference in New York City on Friday.
Here are five lessons she has learned trying to make her idea a reality:
1. Tell everyone you meet about your idea.
“This might seem inter-intuitive,” admitted Busque, but by sharing her idea, she was able to find an advisor in CEO of Zipcar Scott Griffith, who helped raise money to fund TaskRabbit and allowed her to work out of Zipcar’s office.
“The amount of risk involved in sharing your idea is so marginal compared to the reward of collaboration,” insisted Busque.
2. Cultivate an atmosphere of mentorship and collaboration.
“Surround yourself with a community that’s supportive and passionate about what you are building,” said Busque, who finds her employees’ and team members’ passion motivating.
3. Have Big Hairy Ambitious Goals [BHAGs] and take baby steps.
“I don’t wake up every morning and think how I am going to revolutionize the way people work every day. That’s just too big of a goal. But, I do have small actionable steps every single day that I can focus on," she said.
4. Ship it.
“It’s easy to get caught up in perfection,” said Busque. However, rather than spending time and money trying to get product to a perfect state, entrepreneurs should “ship” their product in the smallest possible test run -- get it out there and get customers using it.
“The customers will be the ones to tell you if it’s really working or not,” explained Busque.
5. Love what you do.
“Start-ups are hard. They become part of your life. There is no: Work. Life. The lines become blurred and if you don’t really love what you do and aren’t compassionate about what you are doing, it’s going to be even harder.”
Bullies are not one size fits all. What kind of bully do you have in your office?
There have been some great articles written about office bullies and even a book about it. And every company has one, you probably have one, and you may or may not even know about it. And bullies don't come in one shape, sex or size; they're all over the board. At my company VerticalResponse we've had bullies range from tiny women to burly dudes who've waved their bully wands like an iron fist, and trust me, it's no fun for anyone.
And bullies don't always bully down the organization, sometimes they have so much power that they can bully you too. Perhaps you think they hold some kind of "key" to your business and if they were gone your company wouldn't survive. That may be partially true depending on your business, but more often than not you'd be surprised how other people step in and step up to fill shoes you thought were irreplaceable.What Type of Bully Do You Have?The Actor
This person isn't always a bully, perhaps they're only a bully behind the boss's back, and when you're in the room they're sweet as pie. How do you combat this bully if they're fake to your face? You need to have relationships with your team at every level so no one is afraid to tell you the cold hard truth. Then you need to confront your bully and tell them you're very aware of their misbehavior. If it doesn't get corrected they need to go, as it's not worth losing great employees.The Martyr
This bully makes it a point to tell their team to hurry up and do their jobs or else the bully's job is on the line. These are the same people who will use your name to get what they want instead of having a relationship with colleagues and working together for a common goal. If you see this behavior nip it in the bud, it's making you look like you're the tyrant (not them) and more often than not it's probably not true.The Wincer
This bully walks the halls with a mean-face, doesn't smile and says more without words than if they opened their mouths. You need to call this bully out in front of people, cheerfully ask them how their weekend was, and ask them what the issue is that's making them seem stressed. The more you call them out, maybe the more they'll turn that frown upside down!Sybil
When Sybil is happy and not stressed there's not a bully in sight! Say something they don't want to hear or deal with? The bully comes out and comes out big time. Stress is part of any job and dealing with it and the people you work with is just a part of it. At VerticalResponse we had a Sybil, we loved Sybil but only when Sybil was happy. We wanted to ask only the bully part of Sybil to leave the company but unfortunately we had to ask the entire person. It was the best choice for all of us and both Sybils!
So make sure your company is as bully-free as possible, you'll have a happier place to work.
Acquiring new customers is a permanent fixture of your sales process. But how do you develop new strategies to earn new business? Try these ideas from the Young Entrepreneur Council.
We asked successful founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council to name some unusual--or at least lesser-known--customer acquisition strategies they've used recently to strong results. Here are some of their best answers.
1. Visit Popular Conferences
If you are a seed, or even a funded start-up, you may not have the resources to attend some of the big-name conferences (which can cost up to of tens of thousands of dollars). Instead, stand outside of the conference venues--dressed appropriately--and meet the attendees while they are on lunch break. This is an effective strategy that's worked for us on numerous occasions.
--Sunil Rajaraman, Scripted.com
2. Investing in Old-Fashioned Relationship-Building
While everyone is busy looking for the next viral campaign, we find old-fashioned relationship-building still trumps all other marketing efforts. Our best customer-acquisition strategy is the oldest one in the book: referrals. Most of our clients are referrals from existing clients, investors and other service providers who work within our ecosystem.
--David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services
3. Stop Selling, Start Asking Questions
Instead of trying to guess the sales triggers with a potential customer, let him tell you why he needs your product or service. Ask strategic questions so you can accurately address his needs and close the deal, while adding value to your company over your competitors.
--Benjamin Leis, Sweat EquiTees
4. Posting Contrarian Articles
I've posted contrarian articles on my site with much success. Posts such as "The Best Ways to Build up Credit Card Debt" became quite popular with our readers and attracted many new ones.
--Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
5. Making Weekly Phone Calls With Customers
To start 2013, our team decided to go back to our roots and chat directly with customers. Every team member now has a weekly call with a different customer. We ask for honest feedback (good and bad) and learn a ton. One amazing side result: Our customers have requested different ways to share our story with their friends. We created referral kits and have even helped them host selling parties.
--Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
6. Giving Away Content for Free
We syndicate our company's content for free to publishers who have big audiences because we stand by how good our stuff is, no matter where people first see it. If people read something that's great, they're going to want to know where it came from--and follow that source in the future.
--Derek Flanzraich, Greatist
7. Using Existing Customers to Gain New Ones
Collecting information about your current customers allows you to give them what they want. When they buy something, make sure you keep track of what they purchased. Make sure they're happy. And then, give them the tools to tell their friends about your products. Your best customer is your best marketing tool to acquire new customers.
--Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
8. Sampling Services to Non-Member Companies
We offer free referrals to non-member companies as needed for a win-win-win scenario: Our users find a pro, a pro gets a piping hot lead and we've warmed a promising lead of our own. At times, prospects know nothing about us, but they're open because we helped. When your brand is new, it's important to create these micro-branding experiences for your target market--priming them to be receptive.
--Manpreet Singh, Seva Call
9. Experimenting With Odd Ads
We were stumped as to why our ad campaigns had so many click-throughs, but very few resulting downloads. We ran an experiment with a blank banner ad to see if users on touchscreens were intending to tap our ads, or if the taps were accidental. The blank white banner ad had the highest click-through rate of all our ads. As a result, we are now less likely to use pay-per-click advertising methods.
--Justin Beck, PerBlue