Cost-Sensitive Sales

If you’re struggling to make sales, or aren’t making the sales you want, chances are good that you’ve thought of all kinds of things you can do to have more sales including adding more products to your inventory, doing paid ads, moving to a trendier location, adding more sales people to your sales team, or redoing something (like your store, your products, your packaging, your website etc.) Some of these things can get to be expensive, and you may not have a lot to spend right now. Unfortunately, you may have to spend at least a little to get in some more sales, but there are somethings you can do to bring in more sales without raising the overhead too much. Today’s post is a little longer than usual but there are lots of ideas in it to help you increase sales and be more profitable.

First and foremost is addressing something that too many companies aren’t addressing in their marketing, including on their website and social accounts: who are you, why you do what you do, and what makes you different. Maybe you really aren’t much different as far as the products or services you offer, but because you’re running the business, your business is different than any other one out there. How you approach business, the people you hire, the things you offer are all a little different because you’re behind the business, but people don’t know that unless you say so.

Another thing you could try is reusing existing supplies or technology in new ways. For example maybe you buy decorative boxes that you sell as the packaging for your gift box sets (spa day, wine inspired, new baby etc.), but some people may be interested in buying just the boxes for their own purposes, so you could offer them as a separate purchase. For technology, maybe you do embroidery on shirts that companies buy to resell from you, but you could use the same technology to embroider logos on shirts for companies, or embroider initials on towels for hotels or for newlyweds.

You can also look for products that you can resell, including digital products and items that you never touch. For example if you create dog leashes you could find some products on Amazon to sell (aka drop shipping), or a digital video course on training your dog you can sell as an affiliate.

Another way to increase sales with a physical location is to give your location a fresh coat of paint and do the deep cleaning you may have been putting off. Everyone prefers to shop in a neat and tidy space. Even when the atmosphere suggests that it’s a dark and mysterious type location that doesn’t mean that you need to have dirty floors, peeling paint or a kitchen (or back office) that hasn’t been cleaned since you moved in.

As for the people-cost concern, something I’ve always suggested are working with interns from high schools and colleges. Adding them to your team even for 1-6 months gives you the extra hands or bodies you need and gives them real world experience that they can apply to their future job, gives them the opportunity to try something out, or fulfills that school credit they have to get in the community. Especially when it comes to technology students are great to work with because they know the technology far better than many because they’ve been exposed to it for longer and understand it in ways that it may take some of us years to ever get, if we ever get it at all.

There are lots of free and low-cost marketing opportunities as well, from social media to guest blog posts, to media interviews. The only catch there may be that you have to do the work of finding blog post and media opportunities and letting them know why they should share you with their audience.

Now, the question you’ve got is cost. Yes, depending on how you’ve had your website done or you’ve done your website there may be some cost there (if you don’t have a website set one up now using any number of free services or contact an agency or tech expert for help). You may also have to buy more of something you already buy, but there could be a good chance for a (higher) discount then and you could take advantage of that and spread the cost around. And yes, you may have to pay a minimum wage for the interns (many programs require it), but it’s usually far cheaper than what a regular employee would cost you (and you may decide to hire them later which would save you future training costs). Most of these suggestions though require more of your time than your finances, but all of them require that you really commit to doing better and helping more people. These are just a few of the ways you could grow your business and reinvigorate sales, what will you do today to move your company forward?

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Be Yourself Because You Matter

In the wake of large storms like those that have hit the southern US or natural disasters like the fires and drought on the west coast of the US it’s easy to think big picture. Sure millions are without power, millions are dealing with smoke or water issues, animals are struggling to deal with their homes being devastated, and companies have lost millions if not billions as a result. Those are some big numbers and indicate that a lot of people were affected by those events, or are still being affected. There’s nothing wrong with looking at those big numbers and sending mass aid to those locations. Those big numbers prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s an issue, and not just for one person but for millions.

But when it comes right down to it, it’s not millions of people having the exact same experience, every person’s experience is different. Every struggle is different, every challenge is different, and we’ll all make different choices when it comes to resolving them. Each of the people in Florida and the surrounding islands are united by their common hurricane experience, but each of them experienced something slightly different, and each will resolve their problems at a different speed or with a different solution.  And as part of that common experience, each and every one has the opportunity to rise from this situation stronger than they were before.

The same is true for us. We’re each living life together, but at the same time each of us have very different lives. As part of those lives we’ve got different opportunities and different challenges. You’re here reading my blog, and there are thousands of other blogs you could be reading, including thousands that also post on business, life, family, relationships and/or success topics, including some that I read on a regular basis.  Why do those thousands of people keep writing even though they’re one of many? Because if the writing we do helps just one person, makes a difference in the life of one person, encourages just one person that they’re not alone in their experience, it’s worth it.

Regardless of what you do in your life, the biggest responsibility you’ve been given is to be yourself and make a difference as yourself. Maybe you’re able and willing to put yourself in a plane in the path of a hurricane to get data that will be invaluable to saving lives and understanding climate change. Maybe you’re willing take a risk on an experimental drug for your illness so that tests can be done and learned from to better help others in the future. Maybe you’re happiest when you’re around kids and as a teacher you can help the next generation gain confidence in who they are and teach them the skills they’ll need to survive. Maybe you’re willing to listen to those who are struggling and help them find the path back to themselves and learn to live again. Whatever your gifts are, don’t be discouraged because you’re one of many, choose to be strong and brave in that path and be yourself.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”  Jane Goodall

Getting Past Anger and Conflicts

Every relationship has challenges, whether we’re talking romantic relationships (aka partnerships) or that of a relationship between parent and child or even the types of relationships between friends or between boss and coworker.  One of the greatest obstacles that a person has to overcome in a relationship is the challenge of conflict and choice to respond in anger, or to just give up because you’re afraid of conflict. Today’s Dr. Wayne Dyer inspiration is a simple but powerful one:

“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.”

It can be so tempting to just let things get worse and worse.  It’s almost too easy to hang onto our anger and the feelings of frustration, rage and irritation that fill us when we’re angry.  Most of us don’t have the gift of holding onto laughter.  We get looked at as not taking life seriously if we’re laughing all the time. Sometimes we laugh so we don’t feel the pain or to avoid our responsibilities, but all too often we don’t laugh enough, or at the very least we’re not happy.

Many of the kids TV shows and movies, both past and present, do a good job of showing both the happy and the challenging.  There’s usually an obstacle or two to overcome, but there’s a lot of fun to be had too.  Somehow that’s one of the things we seem to forget as we get older: that life can be fun and isn’t just about the responsibilities (but the responsibilities can’t be forgotten either).

But back to anger: I believe too many of us let anger rule our lives.  We let it get in there and it sticks.  So this weekend and coming week I challenge you to take notice when your anger starts to rev up and take a step or two back instead of letting it take over.  Ask for a moment, take a physical step away, or finally take action on what you’ve let stew for a long time so that you can get to truly living and enjoying life.

Remembering Your People

The past few days and weeks in the US have been filled with remembering as we’ve remembered past hurricanes and what our cities and homes used to look like, and as we’ve worked through another September 11th, remembering the men and women who died in the attacks and the men and women who worked tirelessly afterward to rescue and rebuild.

Today I want to talk about the importance of remembering in business, especially about remembering your people, including your suppliers, your employees and your customers. I’ve worked with several business owners who have no interest in their people, no real care for their people or they’re simply clueless about how neglected and unrecognized their people feel.  One of the things that can make a huge difference in success is to recognize your people and recognize how essential they are to your success. The businesses I know would be in big trouble if their people started to walk out, and unfortunately that’s what happens to businesses around the world every day.

What would you do if your employees started giving even less effort to your business and customers and then started finding new places to work? What if your customers stopped telling others about the great things you offered because they were tired of being treated poorly, or received apathetic treatment?

I know it sounds really simple but sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest difference. If you made time to thank your employees and recognize their good work regularly and you made a point of encouraging not only interaction with your customers by your employees but did better with customer recognition and engagement through social media and emails, your business would see a world of difference.  And imagine how your business would grow if you gave your employees extra training, or any training at all beyond what they got when they were initially hired.  If you’re not recognizing your employees, seeing their talents, hearing their challenges, you’re missing out.  A little effort can go a long way in this area.

I encourage you to take time this week not only to recognize the people in your direct circle of business, but to also extend that recognition to the people around the US who are dealing with the hurricanes and memories as they remember September 11. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can make a huge difference.

The Challenge of Rebuilding

A topic that’s on many people’s minds today is rebuilding. It’s not usually something we do without a reason, most of us choose to grow or make the minimally necessary changes and updates that are required to keep ourselves, our homes and our businesses going. But sometimes things beyond our control force us into rebuilding, like hurricanes, other disasters or negative events, or even the age of something.

But often if we really think about it and force ourselves to admit the truth, we really wanted to make at least some of those changes in the first place, and just hadn’t had the means or made the time to make those changes. While no one ever wants to have parts of their house flood, lose their car or get a health scare, sometimes they’re the impetus that force us to make those changes and rebuild or start over. You know what I’m talking about, it’s the peeling paint you’ve been meaning to replace, the engine that you have to say a prayer to start every time or the better food and cooking choices your family has been trying to get you on for a while.

But there are people who actually love the rebuilding process. I’m fascinated by the many older structures that are around our world that people are repairing and bringing back to their former glory, and giving them a second (or fifteenth) life. Some of those buildings are such an integral part of the story that makes up who we are today, or help bring to life a culture and group of people who no longer exist as they used to. For the people invested in the rebuilding process, they’re motivated by the vision they have of the future and the impact they know their hard work will have on the immediate community and the world at large as well.

Rebuilding is difficult, it’s not easy to clear out the junk and start over. If you’re rebuilding it’s not your job to bring your life back to the former glory, but to build it the way that will best serve you going forward. Don’t be afraid to let the past be a memory and rebuild on the foundations of the happiness and experiences of those memories, going forward in a different direction.

Difficult Explanations

Sometimes it seems like the season for bad news, doesn’t it? As if you just can’t escape it and the hits keep on coming. Watching the news and talking with some of my family and my clients over the past few weeks has me thinking about how you talk with kids when faced with difficult news. How do you tell your kids why you’re leaving the house so suddenly, why you’re in a large auditorium with hundreds of other families, why you’re never going back to the only home they’ve ever know when you’re faced with a hurricane? How do you tell them about an attack like 9/11? How do you tell your kids that a relative has died or terminal cancer has just been discovered, let alone a parent? How do you break it to your kids that you’re bankrupt and everything is going to be sold and you have to move? How do you tell your kids you’re getting a divorce or a relative or parent went to jail? These are conversations no parent wants to have, but many have to have with their kids.

The stories have been told of how people never knew until it was too late or felt like their whole lives were a lie when they finally found out. I get that sometimes parents don’t tell them because they want to protect their kids, and sometimes it’s not the wrong thing to do, especially if they’re super young (under 5) and not ready for the realities of life. But kids today are so exposed by the TV they watch, what they hear parents talk about, what they see and hear in school, and what they see and hear when they’re out and about with their parents that it’s hard to keep the truth from them. Honestly I don’t think the truth should be fully kept from them. Maybe there’s the PG version to share or the cliffs notes version, but kids, just like adults, need answers to the things that go on in their worlds. And more often than not, they pick up on the experiences the parents are going through and feeling and are concerned about that, something I remember vividly as a kid.

Yes, the truth can be painful, but the lies are so much more so, and the fears over what is unknown can be debilitating. I encourage you to choose to give your kids an answer, a real one, before they find out from another source. When you are the one telling them about what could be a scary event, you have the ability to give them the truth before they hear rumors, and establish next steps with them so they feel comfortable with how things are going from this point. It also gives you the opportunity to let them know that you’re here for whatever questions they have and will do your best to answer them.

This week I encourage you to be the parent and have the difficult conversations you may have been avoiding with your kids.  They’ll feel better about it and you may feel less guilty keeping it from them too.

Just Another Sale?

If you’re really in business it’s important to make sales. There’s no two ways to put that. If you’re not making sales you’re either doing some kind of renovation, closed for some temporary reason or going out of business. If you’re offering a product or service and not selling it or making a profit from it, what you’ve got is considered a hobby, not a business. So without a doubt you need to have sales to be in business. However, what I want to talk about today is the idea that not everything needs to be a sales pitch.

If you’re like me you get a dozen or two emails every day from various retail companies who are letting you know about sales they’re doing, reminding you to repurchase products you may be running out of, trying to up-sell you based on previous purchases or letting you know about the latest and greatest products they’re now offering. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact sometimes it can be very helpful and even exciting to get those emails and see what’s new or at a great price you’ll want to take advantage of. Sometimes it’s good to send an email that lets your subscribers know that everything in a category is on sale and not really include specifics, but more often than not people want to be inspired and see some of the specifics that they could get as part of this sale.

But if you take the time to think about it, in most cases the sale or purchase is a very small portion of the customer experience with that product or service. For example, let’s say I spend 20 minutes researching movies that are out and texting with friends to decide what to see and another 5 buying my ticket. So the purchase portion of my experience with the movie is a total of 25 minutes. But then I go see the 2+ hour movie, I talk about it with my friends for an hour after, I go home and think about it throughout the next few days, and because I enjoyed it so much I’ll watch it whenever it’s on TV and maybe even invest another 5 minutes to buy it when it comes out on DVD. The point here is that I’ve spent a total of 30 minutes in the sales/purchase aspect of this movie, and invested well over 60 hours on my experience with this one movie, which means there’s so much more to your business than just getting the sale.

You want to create products that your customers will use, remember, enjoy, talk about and share for years to come. You want them to be open to products in the same line and even the next generations of the specific product they bought initially. You want your customers to feel comfortable with your brand, with your employees, and with your products/services. All of this means that you have to remember that there’s so much more to what you’re selling than just the sale. In many ways the sale should be just the beginning.

Which is why it’s important to take time to celebrate your customer’s birthdays, to share tips for using your products, to raise awareness for needs in the world like Hurricane Harvey/Irma, to celebrate the fact that spring is here and winter is over, and ultimately to remember that your customers are so much more than a cash machine. They have lives, families, dreams, interests, passions, purpose and even fears and issues that all can play into the purchases they make and don’t make. Don’t be so focused on the sales pitch that you forget that your customers are so much more than another sale.

Helped to Succeed

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is help. It’s an appropriate topic as students head back to school and parts of the US are being battered by hurricanes, not to mention all the needs that continue on a regular basis like hungry kids and veterans their families. I think being helpful should be an important part of your life, and that of your family. I make it a point to donate every month to a variety of organizations who do all kinds of work around the US and world. But as you know there are tons of other ways that you can be a help, and we’ll be talking about some of them as we go through this month.

But for this post I wanted to keep the focus on being successful as it relates to help. I have yet to meet anyone who is an island when it comes to success. There’s always someone somewhere who has helped with it, whether it’s in creating the website program that the person used to build their own website or the company that sells the wood products you use to build decks or even the people behind the social sites that you put ads on to get local customers for your consulting practice. Simply put, everyone needs help at one point in time or another.

However, I don’t believe that you should be a victim or receive handouts forever. We see lots of people stepping up to help with the difficult hurricane season we’re currently experiencing and that’s great. It’s important to step up and help out when there’s a disaster like that, or even something much simpler like a senior citizen trying to reach an item on the top shelf at the grocery store. But you should not remain in “recovery mode” forever. You should be able to take the help that’s given to you, or find the help you need, and be able to build, grow and thrive from there.

What have been some of the stepping stones or ladders that have helped you get from where you were to where you are today?

Failing in School

Today I’m thinking about the countless families around the US, and maybe even the world, who are preparing to enter another year or who have already begun. It will probably be a year that has challenging moments for you as a parent, and also for your kid or kids who are in school. Maybe the education aspect will be easy for you and your kids, maybe the only challenge will be the relationships between your kids and the other kids, or between your kid and their teacher(s). Maybe the only challenge you’ll face will be dreams and fears your kid has of being in school or things that could go wrong. But maybe the challenge you’ll face is with the education aspects and learning.

If you’re a good parent you’ll do your best to help and support your kids as they face the challenges of this new school year. Maybe that means hiring someone to help them or taking extra time personally to be with or work with them. Unfortunately, as good of a parent as you may be it’s highly likely that your kid will still face failures. They’ll screw up in ways that make their stomachs drop, they’ll feel guilty, they’ll not want to approach you with what’s going on and they may hide the truth. Sometimes there won’t be much you can do, and that will hurt you, and make you hurt for them.

While I do believe that life should be made of successes and victories, the fact is we all have to deal with failures. There are people in Texas who feel like a huge failure because they just lost all their belongings and didn’t have flood insurance. They feel like they’ve let down their families. But there’s no way you can prepare for or stop a hurricane, just like you can’t stop your kids from being who they are and learning the lessons they’ll learn. The best thing you can do is to be there to help them pick themselves up after they fall and help them get back on track with love and support.

The other thing you can do is make it a priority to celebrate at least one good thing that your kids did each week. That way when the failures and challenges happen, your kids know that you’ll support them through the good and the challenges. How do you help your kids when they fail?

In the Business of Helping

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is the topic of help. I believe that each and every business should exist to help their customers with something. Maybe that help is something that seems important like fixing a broken leg or maybe that help is something that seems trivial when compared with a broken leg like jewelry to give your young daughter for her birthday. Both of those are helpful, they’re just helpful in different ways and at different times.

I think that keeping the focus of your business on what you do to help people is one of the ways you can ensure your success. If you and your employees are aware of and focused on being as helpful to customers and potential customers as you can be not only will you have happier customers, you’ll also have happier employees and often you’ll have more opportunities for growth and contribution in your community and the world.

With a focus on helping your people you’ll work on designing systems, creating guidelines, marketing products/services, providing customer service, hiring, and even creating products/services that do more than just add to your bottom line. Yes, the bottom line is important, but if you’re keeping employees longer, keeping suppliers longer, and have happier customers, the bottom line will take care of itself.

There are unfortunately tons of ways that businesses are unhelpful, sometimes intentionally but all too often because the businesses and their employees are rushed, overworked, uninformed, overwhelmed, lazy or unhappy. Some things are more simple fixes like website updates and doing different marketing, but others are more challenging like product or employee changes.

But if you look at the well-known successful businesses, more often than not one of the keys to their success is how valuable (helpful) people find them. These businesses have legendary customer service, they have fantastic return policies, they offer products that improve people’s lives, they have happy employees, and they are well-known in their community. No, they’re not perfect businesses, and even if you implement a “help” policy at your business you’ll still have some mistakes and unhappy customers, that’s part of doing business. But, it could bring about the boost, passion and direction that you’ve been missing. How do you help your people?