7 Tips For Startups Selling To Small Businesses

There are currently 500 million small businesses around the world, and new ones are being born every second with the bulk including: restaurants, cafés, professional firms, real estate companies, health and fitness centers, and more.

If you can reliably sell to small businesses, your enterprise has unlimited potential. The tips below will help you figure out how to do it.

1. Get Feedback from Day One

Get feedback from small business prospects early and often. If you’re a developer, you probably haven’t run a brick-and-mortar local business. Your armchair ideas, while they may be visionary, need the influence and grounding of concrete feedback from actual buyers.

You have to go out to the businesses and strike up conversations. A lot of them. If they seem interested before you finish your pitch, you’re on the right track.

For example, if you’re building a mobile app for restaurants, go by some actual restaurants and see what type of phones the owners use. Don’t simply assume that all restaurant owners have the newest iPhone 5 and all the latest apps.

2. Solve a very specific problem

You need to find something well defined that is a huge pain to small business owners, and then solve it. Put yourself in their shoes. If you can do one thing very well, you’re way ahead of competitors that do many things “sort of adequately.”

3. Be willing to hand-hold

The average small business owner is notoriously tech-illiterate. Your solutions have to be simple, and you have to be ready to do things automatically, or provide clear, brief, step-by-step instructions.

Small business owners want you to do things for them.

4. Deliver real value

If you can’t show, with the utmost clarity, how money that your customers give to you comes back to them with a nice return, you don’t belong in business. Small business owners don’t have money to blow, and they need to stretch every dollar as far as it can go.

Your product should have a nice, demonstrable ROI, or it should be changed until it gets one.

5. Nail down your marketing message

This ties into the last point. Your message to the market should be clear about how the product saves the customer time, money, or both. Whatever your key benefits are, find a way to communicate them that is immediately understood by your target audience, and that also resonates with them emotionally, if appropriate.

For many small business owners, a big concern is having enough business. If you can tie into a way to boost their business, you’ve likely got their attention.

6. Don’t be afraid to cold call

Get comfortable with rejection – you’re going to experience a lot of it. The upside, however, is that your pitch will get well honed and you will have a new, cost-effective way to increase your sales. Not every industry is ripe for cold calling, but many small business owners live offline, and this is a great way to reach them.

If you have a compelling pitch, the time-honored tradition of cold calling can be your startup’s bread and butter.

7. Keep it simple

Confusing a small business owner with your convoluted pitch is the fastest way to lose their interest, as well as any chance of winning them over as a client. You’re probably very passionate about your product, but make sure that this passion doesn’t lead to nonsensical meth-fueled rants to prospects about the glory of your offerings.

This applies to product design as well. Focus your product on a few core features and keep it simple. Don’t overthink things, and emphasize ease-of-use and setup speed.

Keep your attention on helping others first, and the rest will take care of itself.

Conclusion

Selling to small businesses is challenging, but very rewarding if you can develop a reliable, repeatable method for success.

If you only remember one thing from this post, remember to give the product to actual customers and get feedback as often as possible. They know the secret to your small business becoming a large business – you just have to get it out of them..

Boost Your E-commerce Sales with One Letter

I’m not sure about you, but I can tell you my household bought more online over the festive season than in any previous December in history. With three kids in the house, that’s a fair amount of toys and presents, and we used e-commerce websites way more than traditional bricks and mortar stores.

As a result, we had plenty of packages arriving in December, and there was a really interesting observation I gleaned from the experience. See, I had plenty of packages turn up with a packing slip and perhaps a receipt, either inside the box along with the products, or stuck on the outside.

That was better than a few suppliers though: I even had a few packages turn up with nothing more than a return label on the outside to give me information where the product came from.

One e-commerce company had quite a different approach, which ensured that I – along with plenty of other customers – became fans of the business. I’m amazed at how simple it was.

It was a letter. That’s right, one of those paper items you used to receive before email.

One A4 page on letterhead, with a nicely merged letter thanking me for choosing them to purchase from, and welcoming me to get in contact with them should I have any questions or feedback about the products, the purchase process or the delivery experience. Even better, it was hand signed by someone senior in the business.

It cost this company one sheet of paper, and some time. Sure, it was no doubt a generic letter that everyone who had a parcel delivered last month received, but the fact is they were the only company out of a dozen or more from which we bought who wished us season’s greetings, and invited us to get in touch.

It didn’t even cost them postage – it was inside the package already being sent – yet it had the day’s date and my name throughout, so it was personalized more than a photocopied flyer for all customers.

The packaging was pretty special too – the packing tape they used had their logo printed on it, but it was the letter that really got me thinking.

If you have an e-commerce business, how could you not afford to mail merge a letter and send it with every parcel sent? The letter could be a ‘Thanks for your first purchase’ or a ‘Great to see you again!’ for those who have bought before. The data filtering shouldn’t be too hard, and it could make all the difference to the unwrapping experience.

I look forward to seeing more of these over the coming year.

Do you have a great tip for the offline experience in e-commerce? Let me know so I can share it with others; between us, we’ll make e-commerce an even more inviting space to be in..

20 Must-Do Business Boosters

With 2012 almost over. Here are 20 actions to do over the next few weeks to ensure your business gets off to a flying start.

  1. Call one of your biggest clients and wish them a happy new year. No catch, no sales spiel, simply call and thank them for their business and wish them a happy new year. This will be genuine and a great way to reinforce your relationship.
  2. Run a report in your accounting package to determine who spent how much with you last calendar year. Print out the top 10 clients and ensure you give them extra special treatment.
  3. Using the same list, look at the bottom ten spenders. Do you see a few that seem to take up a lot of your time, yet their spending doesn’t reflect this? Perhaps you should consider letting these clients move on, so to speak. Don’t leave them in the lurch though – send through names of suppliers that will look after them well.
  4. Schedule in a time in your calendar every week to spend on marketing. It could literally be half an hour to write a blog post, or an hour a week to attend a networking event.
  5. Call a client that you haven’t done any work for in the last twelve months and say hello. Offer to catch up over a coffee (your shout) and enquire how their business is going, and how you could help.
  6. Cast a critical eye over your own website. Can you spot any improvements that you should be making? Schedule some time over the coming month to get these done, and ensure your website is in tip-top shape for 2012.
  7. Look at overhauling your email signature, to include a line with services you offer. It’s amazing how often clients don’t realize the full spread of services a supplier may provide.
  8. Rekindle a relationship with an old friend. If there’s someone who you haven’t seen socially for a while, call or email them and invite them to meet for a coffee or meal. Being happier in your social life means you’ll be more productive in business life too.
  9. Schedule your leave for the year. That’s right: I’m ordering you to take a holiday. Plan when a good time would be, and mark your calendar with the dates now. It gives you a goal to work towards, and ensures you take time to refresh yourself.
  10. If you have employees, take a moment to share your vision for the year ahead. A ship with the whole crew working towards the same goals gets there faster than a ship with a crew kept in the dark.
  11. Buy yourself some new professional attire. It’s important to always look the part, and if you haven’t bought some new shirts or clothes in a while, this may be just what you need to feel more confident in what you do.
  12. Write a list of goals for the year. I’ve written about this a few times, including my last newsletter for 2011. Take time to have an action list and stick to it.
  13. Start a new healthy habit. Maybe an early morning walk or making time for a healthy lunch each day. Whatever it is, the start of the year is a good time as any to build a new habit. Healthier means more productive and happier too.
  14. Thank your employees. A big complaint amongst full time workers is the lack of appreciation they often feel. Take a moment to verbally thank a colleague or employee for their hard efforts – they will appreciate the gesture.
  15. Look at your top ten clients (point two above). What makes them different than those further down your profitability list? Look at ways you could advertise or market yourself to more of those sorts of clients, and less of the low spenders.
  16. Ask a colleague to review a recent proposal or pitch document. Get them to provide critical feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Make changes to your documents to make them sell and read better than the ones you used in 2011.
  17. Buy a book on a topic you want to learn about this year. It could be developing mobile sites, a how-to primer for HTML5 or more accounting or productivity knowledge – order it now and start reading it as soon as it arrives.
  18. Using the same list I mentioned before, look at the next group of clients, the ‘B group’, so to speak. What services are our ‘A Group’ using that your ‘B Group’ should? Contact them and market these particular services to them: you’ll end up with more clients in that A group than before.
  19. Look at the list of goals you had at the start of 2011 – is there still one or two you haven’t crossed off? Make a point to dive into these straight away.
  20. Take time to enjoy life – your world shouldn’t just revolve around work. Learn a new language, take up a hobby or visit with friends more often.

If you complete all 20 of the actions above, I am absolutely positive that you’ll be putting your business in a better stead for the coming year. Best of luck with 2012!.

Why Landing Page Videos Lead To Phenomenal Results

Your customers have an attention span of 8 seconds.

A goldfish has a 9-second attention span.

You have 8 seconds to make a first impression with your landing page. Once you have their attention, you need to maintain it every 8 seconds (that’s approximately every 20 words).

So, how do you communicate your product benefits when your customers are constantly distracted by the white noise of the Internet?

Video helps simplify your product benefits in a way that appeals to your audience. Instead of explaining their product and its benefits in plain text on an average page, innovative companies are turning to video.

Only 28% of the words on an average page of a website are actually read. A single Internet video, on the other hand, holds attention for approximately 2.7 minutes.

Simplifying all of your product information into a 60-second, 150 word video just makes sense.

A video is more likely to be consumed in its entirety, the information is more likely to be retained, it’s easier to share with friends, and it’s more likely to entertain or impress. If you place a video on your product page, most people will be more interested in watching that video than reading through hundreds of words of Helvetica.

Our learning styles build the case for video as well. A recent study of 221 university students showed that nearly half (105) were visual learners, while only 11 were verbal learners. People would rather watch how something works than read or hear about how it works – it’s easier for them to understand.

Combined with the fact that the average American adult has a grade eight reading level, video wins out every time.

So, what do our visually-focused goldfish-sized attention spans crave more: a 60-second video or a standard website page? Google Drive, for one, is banking on the former.

Notice that there are no written words in the video; the message is exclusively visual and auditory. You’ll also notice that there are no demonstrations of the actual tool itself. Whether or not showing Google Drive itself was a strategic approach is debatable, but experts agree that the benefits are clearly explained in the video.

Google Drive isn’t the only one to turn to video to simplify product benefits. Here are three other examples of companies visualizing and clarifying what they do through video.

1. Rypple

Rypple’s video is displayed proudly on the homepage as an introduction to the problem it solves, its benefits and a trial free. After adding the video to the website, Rypple saw an incredible 20% increase in conversions. Approximately 30% of the traffic that lands on the page watches the video, and approximately 50% of those viewers watch the video in its entirety.

“I hear from lots of people at top companies that the video tells a story that they can easily relate to, and very clearly. That probably also explains why overall engagement with the app was higher – more inspiration to explore Rypple […],” said Jesse Goldman, VP of Customer Success at Rypple.

2. Dropbox

Dropbox’s video was displayed on the homepage as well. Unlike Rypple, Dropbox placed only a logo, the video, a login button and a download button above the fold. When this particular video was on the landing page, it received almost 30 thousand hits a day during the week. In one month alone, it was viewed 750 thousand times. The video increased conversions by over 10%, giving Dropbox an estimated “several thousand” extra signups per day.

“The goal with a video was not viral marketing. It was not getting people to blog about it. It was focused on providing an on-site resource for people to get turned onto the product,” said Lee LeFever, founder of Common Craft, which is the company behind the video’s production.

3. Inbenta

nbenta’s video made itself a home on the company website, much like the Rypple and Dropbox videos. The team conducted tests to find that the average visitor converted at a rate of 1%.

Visitors who viewed the video converted at a rate of 15%! Overall, the video led to a 20% increase in total online leads generated. What’s interesting about Inbenta’s video is that it appeared in a video lightbox, which enlarges the video and dims the background. Video lightbox has been proven to increase conversions by up to 20% compared to traditional video displays.

“We are now able to explain what our company does in a few minutes with a fun, yet highly informative video. Since the video was posted on our website, we have seen a 20% increase in online leads,” said Jordi Torras, CEO at Inbenta.

You have 8 seconds to make an impression.

A video simplifies everything your business does and all of your messaging into a digestible piece of content. Compared to pages and pages of text, a video ultimately takes less time to create, takes up less valuable website real estate, and explains your benefits more effectively.

Plain text just doesn’t appeal to the modern customer the way video does – it’s brain (and conversion) science.

About the Author: Andrew Angus is the founder and CEO of Switch Video, a North American based company that produces simple explanatory videos that help clients clearly explain what they do and engage with their prospects. Angus, a well respected leader in the explainer video industry, spearheads the movement to integrate brain science, web metrics into the production of animated explainer videos and has recently launched their course: How to Tell Your Companies Story & The Brain Science to Make It Stick .

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