Author: Dr. Steven Kirch

The Keys To Profit & Business Growth – Interview with Elizabeth Bachman

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE INTERVIEW

 

 

If you cannot watch, you can read it below…

As one of the people whom I regularly consult about business, I’m so excited to bring you on here to give some new information in addition to the work that we’ve featured you before. I’m always excited to come to you as a resource. Before we get into productivity and profit, let me ask you about your dream interview. Who would be your dream interview if you could share the stage with someone who’s no longer with us? If so, what would you ask them?

There are an awful lot of people that I admire throughout history, but I think perhaps more than ever, I would look to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The work that he did in non-violent protest, in the non-violent calling of our attention as a country to the systemic racism that still exists. I am an old white guy, and I benefit from this. I’m working hard to become an ally of those who are oppressed by the current system. I’ve benefited tremendously throughout my life. I would ask him a couple of things. One, what is it that I could do better to help those who were not born into the privilege that I have? The other is how did he find the strength, the personal conviction to continue to beat his head against that proverbial wall consistently without becoming frustrated? I’m sure he could be getting frustrated, but without becoming violent or becoming overwhelmed with the size of the problem. At least his public persona was like that. How did he find that within himself? That to me is the measure of a man or a woman.

I have often thought about the things he said that inspired people. Often it was enough. He was done and it was time not to take it anymore. I was hearing one time somebody talking about a turning point in life isn’t necessarily the turning point. That is a huge cataclysm. Sometimes a turning point is the moment where you’ve said, “Enough,” as Rosa Parks said, “My feet hurt. I’m not going to get up and move to the back of the bus. I’m going to stay here.” The courage it took there but also being tired.

Sometimes it is that proverbial straw. It’s one more thing that pushes you over the edge and you say, “I can’t do this. I can’t be this. I can’t react this way anymore. I have to do something different.”

This actually brings me to another thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot is awareness. Becoming aware of where things are not right. We’ve been through a year of a pandemic. Society and life are changing completely and a year of social upheaval and a year of pushback where people said, “Enough. I can’t do anything more.” It also comes from being aware when you are being put down or as an ally where you are putting someone else down without realizing it, being aware of the unconscious assumptions. I look at Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Doctor, and think about the courage it must’ve taken to speak out in the first place, the courage to keep talking, and the courage to keep moving forward. America has an African-American senator from Georgia who was a pastor in Martin Luther King’s Church. There is progress.

Most small business owners have no clue what their time is worth.CLICK TO TWEET

It’s slow but it’s been 400 years in the making. There isn’t any reason to expect that overnight we’re going to be able to change the system. I was reading the book How to Be an Antiracist. The system adapts and the system morphs because the system is all about power and who has it. The system doesn’t want to give up its power. Those of us who have privilege recognize that in order to raise all boats, we have to not be concerned about whether or not we might lose a little bit of what we might otherwise gain.

That’s where fear comes in. Fear and greed are old friends, our old enemies. Fear and greed are motivating factors. I also am reminded of a meme that was going around during the beginning of the lockdown in April 2020 or maybe over the summer, I think too. People were saying that the pandemic aren’t real if they’re not happening to you. That’s not the exact quote. I have to look up that quote. You have to be reminded to pay attention if it’s not happening directly to you.

The fact that I don’t have to think about the color of my skin and yet a person of color, every time they look in the mirror, is reminded that they are a person of color, that disparity in opportunity.

It is not the same as racism, but I do remember as a woman, I am careful walking down dark alleys because as the old saying goes, “Boys are trained to take charge, try stuff, go ahead. If you fall, it’s no big deal. Girls are conditioned by society to be careful.” I remember back in my early 30s, sitting around with a group of friends who I was working on a show. One of the singers who was a big, burly guy with a big loud bass voice asked the women at the table why they would be nervous walking home alone in the city if they went out to get pizza because it would never occur to him to be nervous.

The disparity in treatment. That’s why I’m so proud of my girls that have set off on their own. One is an Adjunct Professor of Writing at Columbia. The other is finishing her Master’s in Mathematics at Boston University and looking to land a job shortly working in artificial intelligence and natural language processing, which is a big thing these days.

SWGR 558 | Business Growth

How to Be an Antiracist

It would not have been available to a woman years ago.

It was much more challenging. My wife has a Master’s in Mathematics but when she went through her master’s program years ago, she was one of a handful of women in the program. When my daughter was at St. Olaf as a physics and math major, I think close to half the class was female.

It is possible to change.

We’re making progress.

We have to keep trying.

Particularly in this day and age, I sit on a lot of Zoom meetings, as everybody does. It’s much easier to hide in a Zoom meeting. I’m trying to be aware of people who perhaps their voice hasn’t been heard and they’re sitting silently in a meeting. I know that’s one of the things that you help your clients with is how to speak out.

How to speak out and do it in a way that the people who need to hear you can actually take in the information instead of shouting in their faces, which makes people automatically say no or put up resistance. How do you do that? Which actually takes me back to Martin Luther King and how the non-violent protest was a way of making the point without instantly provoking armed resistance.

It’s funny. It occurred to me that some of what you do parallels some of what I do in the marketing because what we try to do with our marketing programs, with our strategic marketing to help our clients, is to enter into the conversation that’s going on in the head of your prospect. You want to interrupt what they’re thinking about. They have a problem that they don’t want and a result that they do want. If you can use your product or service to connect those things and interrupt that conversation that’s going on in their head, then you can get their attention. I would guess that there’s some similarity between that approach and what you talk to your clients about with respect to how you do approach someone in a way that is constructive but not antagonistic.

That’s one of the reasons why I love working with you, Steve. I have to be transparent. Steve is my business coach. Thanks to Steve in the six months I worked with him in 2020, my revenue doubled. I have to say it. The stuff he promises can happen because it happened to me. One of the things that you were talking about in terms of marketing is I come from a presentation and marketing background. You may think that the performing arts are not marketing, but of course, they are, because what you’re doing is selling an experience. You’re trying to move people to think the way you want to think or to experience something. Of course, in training performers, you’re trying to market yourself as the product. The difference is that you yourself are the product, rather than perhaps in your widget or your service. You and I both work a great deal with service-based organizations and people who are their product. It’s the same thing.

Steve, this is really fun because I haven’t even gotten to all the questions I had for you. I have a lot of questions for you. Although I work a great deal with women in the corporate field, it’s still a matter of selling an idea, if you will, or enrolling people into the idea that you are the person to be listened to, the person to be followed, the person to be hired or promoted. It’s still sales and marketing. It’s the same thing that you do, Steve. I wanted to ask you though a couple of specific things. You were a productivity coach for many years, right?

That’s correct.

What got you to move from productivity to profitability to focusing on how to make a profit?

The easiest way to wind up with more money in your pocket is to cut expenses.CLICK TO TWEET

That’s interesting because in fact, I still work with people on their productivity but it’s with the aim of getting them more profits. The problem that I had was that I would sit down with a small business owner and I would explain to him or her how I would improve their productivity and they get very excited about it. The fundamental fact of it is that most small business owners haven’t a clue what their time is worth. If I tell you, “I’m going to get you an hour of your time every day for the rest of your life in terms of productivity,” “That’s great.” “What would you do?” “I can do this.”

The chasing of shiny objects is always a problem for the small business owner but to sit down and say, “What is that worth to you?” Often, I get a blank stare. “I don’t know.” If they couldn’t understand what the value that I was bringing them was, what was the value of that hour I was giving them, how would they know whether or not it was worth engaging as a coach? When I came across this system and it’s a systematic approach of improving leads, how many prospects do you have coming into your pipeline? How efficient are you at converting those, what methods do you use to convert those prospects into clients, how do you maximize the value of each client, how do you properly set your pricing so that each line of business is profitable? How do you most efficiently drop those revenues into your pocket, into the bottom line, how do you take the top line, growth, and make that into a bottom-line profit, which is of course what the small business owner really wants?

By going through this systematic approach and coming up with a number, I say to these small business owners, “If you give me 45 minutes, I can find $30,000 to $50,000 or even more in untapped revenue without you having to spend any additional money in marketing.” It’s fun to do this. There’s a quantification of the value that I’m bringing. If I’m going to bring you a $100,000 or $150,000, to spend a fraction of that on me as a coach to get you there, it’s a no-brainer. That was what caused me. This system is so powerful. It was clear to me that it fit naturally with what I already do. I use that productivity expertise to help implement these strategies.

That’s actually one of the things that I like about working with you is implementation has always been a challenge for me. Getting it done and how do you use these strategies has helped immensely. As I’m on a similar line, I’ve heard you say a wonderful thing about businesses don’t fail because they run out of clients. They fail because they run out of cash. Can you talk a little bit about what you mean by that?

What’s really interesting is when you sit down with a business owner and you ask them how they do manage their business, often the reality is that they manage their business by looking at their bank account. If they have money in the bank, then they feel good. If they don’t have money in the bank, they feel bad. They don’t look at what the cash flow is. I like to partner with CPAs or bookkeepers and make sure that there’s a strong relationship between the small business owner and either the CPA or the bookkeeper so that they understand their cashflow. You get to the middle of the month and you’ve got thousands of dollars coming in cash but you can’t pay a creditor today because you have nothing in the bank. That’s a problem and that’s where you wind up. If you run too fast, get too far out over your skis, as they say, in terms of managing your cash flow, that’s when the business goes out when you go out of business. If you can’t sustain it because I made this great investment that’s going to pay off a year from now but you run out of cash before you get any of that return, it doesn’t matter.

There are so many companies where income or sales fluctuate, you may have a great month and then you may have a month where nobody picks up the phone calls or they say, “Yes, but not now.” Planning for the cash flow is a big challenge.

You should always have some amount of cash in reserve so that you can get through those lean months. A big corporation can write a bond. They can borrow some money from a bank to have a line of credit. Some small businesses have a line of credit as well. The best way to do that, if you are a small business, is to put a little piece of it into a separate account that you don’t touch. I’m a big fan of Profit First methodology by Michael Michalowicz. It’s one of the things that he recommends. You take a piece of your profits. By the way, you should always have a profit in your business. You should take the profits first before you pay yourself and pay your bills.

Maybe it’s a small amount. Maybe it’s 1%, 2%, 3%, or 5%. You always have a profit. You’d take a piece of that and you put it off into an account, which is he calls it The Vault. You set that aside until you’ve built up enough to have 3, 6 months of expenses set aside so that if you hit a lean patch, like a pandemic, that’s what costs a lot of businesses to go under. They didn’t have enough backstop. Fortunately, the government stepped in here, at least in the U.S., but then that money ran out and businesses started failing.

 

SWGR 558 | Business Growth

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine

I spent a lot of time in Austria in a resort area and when the tourists aren’t allowed to come, life is hard. In Austria, they pay 51% to 55% tax. Their taxes are high and therefore, when things get thin, they have a cushion because they’re getting money from the government. That’s why they pay those high taxes. They have a safety net, which America is not so great at, has not done that so well.

Although we had some emergency legislation in 2020 and it looks like we’ll have some more emergency legislation coming through here that will hopefully prop up some of those in the greatest need.

Let me ask you again because this also works for families. If you have a salary but if you’re spending your whole paycheck or more, it’s the same principle. You were talking a little bit about finding more untapped revenue. Some of it is, “I have to get more clients,” but it’s not that. It’s not that simple. What are other ways we could find untapped revenue?

I think there are a number of things. If we start at the back end with the P&L, the profit and loss statement, the easiest way to wind up with more money in your pocket is to cut expenses. I ask the readers, “How long has it been since you’ve looked at your credit card statement to look at every line? How many of those line items are absolutely required to generate business? Are there things in there with cheaper alternatives? Finally, what are those things that are completely unnecessary?

What’s that system that you signed up for six months ago that you actually haven’t touched but you’re still paying $30, $50 or $100 a month for?” I worked with one small business owner who was paying $400 a month for a 401(k) system for her two employees. Nobody was using it. Unfortunately, there was a huge disentanglement charge but that was only 3 or 4 months of the cost. It was still worth it to pull out of that. Looking at those things and every penny that you save off of your expenses dropped straight to the bottom line.

Reminds me of a friend of mine who opened up an office. She was so excited and she had ordered this big fancy sign for office but her business was online only. Customers never came to her office. Almost everything she did was online. She didn’t need it. She said, “This is so cool.” She knew someone else who did have customers walking in the door. She thought what they had done was cool and so she invested all this money in an office that she didn’t need. This was even pre-COVID. This was pre-pandemic and then realized, “I could have saved that money.” Of course, you don’t realize it until after you spent it. Is this part of what you mean by being business growth strategies?

There’s the strategy to grow and it’s growing your pipeline. It is growing your leads. We have a number of methodologies to improve the incoming number of folks into your pipeline. We look at the conversion rate. Are you attracting the right kinds of prospects? Are they people that you have a chance? If you get 100 leads and only convert 1% or 2% of them, you’d be much better off with a system that gets you 10 leads but you convert 5 of them. Are you getting the right kinds of leads?

Are you advertising the places that your clients are instead of where you think where they’re not basically?

Are you attracting the right kind of people with your marketing message? Are you entering into the conversation that’s going on in the head of your prospects? Are you interrupting that conversation? Are you sending them useful materials when they’re actually ready to buy? Statistics show us that 1% of people that go to a website, they go to a landing page. They are ready to buy right now. The other 99%, you want to capture their information and then provide them with education that as they move from future buyer to now buyer. When they’re ready to make that vendor selection, when they’re saying, “I’m ready to buy now. I’m ready to buy this solution,” that naturally, you’re top of mind. They do a drip campaign, a client nurture campaign. There’s a variety of ways of making sure that you stay top of mind with your prospects, the people that are along the buyer’s journey.

Of all the various things that you talk about, that you help people with, where could somebody start? Is there a most important thing?

Yes. The most important thing is to make sure that you understand what makes your business unique and how is it that you service your clients. What makes an ideal client for you and how do you service them in a way that’s different from your competition? We’re working with a carpet cleaner. That’s a difficult business to differentiate but there are a couple of things that he does that differentiate him from his competition. He likes to stress the fact that he’s a second-generation carpet cleaner. His dad was in the business. He knows a lot about how to clean carpets and what’s the right way to attack the different kinds of material. That’s very important but a lot of people can say it.

What he does is he takes such care of the home that he goes into. He takes care of it as if it was his own. He put some little corner strips to make sure that his equipment never bangs the corner and chips it. He’s very careful. He has a methodology too. He uses less water. Particularly if you have kids, you don’t want to have to say, “Kids, you can’t go on the carpet for 24 hours.” It dries in a couple of hours. There are things that are a little bit different and helping. He’s got a UV light that he uses to find urine spots from pets. That’s a big problem. Often he says, “I find it in places that the homeowners didn’t think that there was any problem.” “The pet never goes in. How did that happen?” The key thing here is you don’t want to come up with one or two things. I always work with my clients to find three things that make them unique because you may share one or maybe even two with somebody, but you’re never going to share all three.

The strategy to grow your pipeline is growing your leads.CLICK TO TWEET

Steve Kirch, it’s wonderful. I will say, as someone who works with Steve, that going through the process of finding out where you’re doing okay and where, “I haven’t even thought of that,” is very interesting and exciting. With me, he came up with a potential $133,000 in extra revenue. That means me implementing everything, which is where I then lean on Steve as a productivity coach. It’s a fascinating thing. As a coach, I truly think of myself as a small business, which I don’t know if I did before. That’s also exciting. If you are a founder running a small business or curious of how even your home as a business and your personal expenses could get better, then I highly recommend reaching out to Dr. Steven Kirch. Steve, what’s the first thing that people should do to find you?

I think the easiest thing to do is to go to the website, ProfitMinds.net and download the free book. There’s an eBook that outlined some of the strategies that we use. I would start there. You can also reach out to me from there and make an appointment.

Thank you so much, Steven Kirch. Before we go, don’t forget that if you’re interested in how your presentation skills are helping you, then you could go to my free four-minute quiz, SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. It only takes about four minutes. That’s where you can see where your presentation skills are doing well and where a little support might be able to get you the recognition and the results that you want. Thank you so much for joining me. Thank you, Steven Kirch, for being my guest. I will see you on the next one.

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Top 5 Reasons to Hire an Intern

As your business grows, eventually you’ll want to start building a team. Having people in your corner means you don’t have to be the expert at everything, and you can spend more energy on the tasks and projects that truly require you to do them.

But there’s often a fuzzy gray area between recognizing that you could use extra help and actually having the resources to hire that help. Additionally, even established businesses can benefit from reducing their costs—and hiring a team can quickly become a major expense.

This is where I like to consider using an “internship” strategy.

Instead of hiring new personnel as you grow, consider offering an internship. Go to your local junior college, college, or university and offer an internship for the semester—or the year—to those seeking degrees or experience in a similar field or area of expertise as needed for your business.

But how do you know if offering an internship is the right approach?

Here are my top five reasons hiring an intern is a great move for the growing small business.

1. Internships can help cut down on labor costs

Labor costs make up a huge expense for any small business. Salary, benefits, social security taxes, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, and other costs really add up.

And yet, what can you do? You must​​ have the labor you need to operate your business, especially as your business grows.

Hiring an intern can help cut down on labor costs in a couple of ways. First, student interns are more likely to work part-time, since they usually have classes to attend in addition to the internship.

Second, their lack of experience means they can start at a lower salary than other prospective employees, and they don’t need a huge benefits package to make the job appealing. This is in part because most of the benefit for interns comes from the experience, which brings us to reason number two:

2. You are helping students gain real-world experience which makes them more competitive in the job market

Schools love​ it when a business offers internships because internships act as a value-add to their educational offerings by providing their students with real-world experience. Some schools even offer course credit for internships as an extra incentive. Many schools have a job placement office that will be happy to help you find the right candidate.

And the students love them, too!

Not only does an internship put some money in their pocket, but it also gives them practical, hands-on experience in their field.

This experience looks great on their resume. It gives them a jumpstart on their peers when they graduate, especially if the company providing the internship hires them upon graduation.

And given the state of the economy and the sparseness of the current job market, any competitive edge is a big deal.

3. Administrative help allows you to focus on the important things

Every business could use additional administrative help.

Offering an internship to a student majoring in business administration not only helps the student gain hands-on work experience, but this can also be a low-cost way to take some of the administrative tasks off your plate.

What could you get done in your business if you could pass off your admin tasks to someone who is actually interested in business administration?

Spending less time fretting over administrative details and more time working in your zone of genius can have major ripple effects that spread through your entire business.

4. Student interns are dedicated and enthusiastic

Just because interns work part-time, have less experience, or accept a lower starting pay doesn’t mean their work will be subpar.

Far from it: Interns are enthusiastic and eager to learn, and they’re highly motivated to produce quality work.

This is especially true if there is a possibility of being hired full-time after graduation, but even the promise of adding your glowing recommendation to their job materials can be an excellent motivator.

And since interns’ goals are often centered on learning how to work in a particular field, they tend to be especially open to critique and have a genuine desire to improve. Sometimes they even possess skills or a perspective that older, more experienced workers may not—consider their skill with social media or reaching that younger demographic.

5. Interns can fill the gaps as you grow

If you’re a micro-business or solopreneur, you probably don’t need a full-time employee. But as your business continues to grow, you may find having extra help to be a huge asset.

In this way, hiring an intern part-time can be a gap fill until your business grows enough that you need full-time help.

And by the time you’re ready for a full-time employee, then perhaps this intern will have graduated and will be ready for a full-time job—and they’ll already be trained and familiar with your processes. It’s a win-win!

Is offering an internship right for you?

Internships could potentially save small-business owners thousands of dollars each year, but as we’ve seen, that’s not the only reason to hire an intern.

Internships can provide enthusiastic help for the tasks you don’t need to do yourself, and can be an excellent stepping stone as your business continues to grow.

To decide if an internship approach is right for you, take a look at the administrative tasks you wish you didn’t have to do.

  • What would you pay a full-time professional or contract worker to do them?
  • Could an intern handle these tasks, or do they require professional expertise?
  • What would you pay an intern? How much would that save you?
  • What would it cost (in additional time or money) to train the intern as compared to a more seasoned worker in the areas where they lack experience? Would your hiring savings outweigh these costs?
  • Could the intern bring some additional skills or perspective that you don’t need to train (and maybe can’t)?

And perhaps even more importantly:

  • What would you focus on if you didn’t have to do those tasks?
  • How would the time you spend on your business look different?
  • What could you accomplish in a year by focusing on the aspects of your business that sit firmly in your zone of genius?

If you’d like to dig deeper on this and other strategies for increasing your profits, grab your free copy of my e-book, Mind Your Profits, at www.profitminds.net.

Don’t Let that Prospect Just Walk Away

What happens when a prospect isn’t ready to spend the amount you’re charging?

Short version: they leave.

Whether by walking out of your brick-and-mortar store or closing a browser tab, if a prospect decides not to buy your offer, they’re gone. They might try to find a better option elsewhere, or they might not.

If you don’t have a strategy for capturing that prospect’s business, you could be leaving money on the table.

What is down-selling?

Down-selling is nothing more than offering a prospect an alternative at a lower price when they decline your original offer.

The goal is to turn the prospect into a client. You not only get the short-term financial benefit, but you also​ gain the opportunity to do business with them again in the future.

Gyms do this all the time. They always start by trying to sell new members a full one-year membership.

If the prospect declines, they’ll offer a 90-day “health makeover” membership. If that fails, they may go to a 30-day or possibly a one-week “trial” membership.

Gyms and health clubs know if they can just get a prospect to buy something, the odds of them staying with them in the long term goes up exponentially.

Small sales add up to big results

Consider the local florist.

Many people show up at a florist to buy roses for their better half—Valentine’s Day, a birthday, an anniversary, Mother’s Day, and so on.

But suppose a bouquet of a dozen roses costs $50, and they don’t have that much money to spend. If the florist didn’t have other options, that’s a prospect out the door and buying at another shop.

If the florist has a less expensive alternative—say, a dozen carnations for $25—the florist might make a smaller sale (instead of no sale at all).

This seems like a minuscule move, but it makes a big difference.

If our hypothetical florist only used that down-sell once each day, this would still add up to almost $8,000 in additional annual revenue.

I do this in my business, too: My highest priced offer is one-on-one coaching, but I also offer group coaching at a lower price point. More affordable still is my e-learning site. By providing high-quality options at multiple price points, I make my services more accessible to a wider portion of my prospects.

Having a solid down-sell strategy increases the value of each prospective customer by turning a no-sale into a smaller sale.

How to create a down-sell offer for your business

What’s your current price point for what you currently sell?

Cut that price in half and try to come up with an alternative for this new price.

How many of this new product or service would you conservatively estimate you could sell each week?

To see how this strategy can affect your revenue, multiply your reduced price by your number of weekly sales, then multiply that number by 52 weeks to reveal your annual increase.

And that’s just one down-sell. How many additional down-sell opportunities would you estimate you could easily develop?

In addition to less expensive bouquet options, our florist could create down-sell alternatives for weddings, lower-priced options for funerals, less expensive boutonnieres for prom, and so on.

Ultimately, a small sale is better than no sale. And if you really “wow” them, if you over-deliver on your promises, if you give them an exceptional experience, they’ll want to keep coming back and giving you their business over and over again.

Want to understand down-selling better or learn more about how this might fit in your overall profitability strategy? Grab your free copy of my e-book, Mind your Profits, from my website www.profitminds.net.

How to Create Three Months of Email Content in an Afternoon

Most small-business owners know the value of an email list. Email can be a great way to communicate with your audience on an ongoing basis.

But this is where a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck: Once you start an email list, how do you know what to send them?

No one wants to be spammy—we don’t want to send advertisement after advertisement. If we only email our clients when we’re selling something, they’ll never want to open our emails.

But when you deliver value in your emails, you build a relationship with your audience—you build trust. Sending weekly emails with quick deliverables keeps you and your company top of mind for your prospects and helps move them along their customer journey until they are ready to buy.

Here’s how to generate three months of email content in a single afternoon—without hiring a copywriter.

Step 1: What are the top 5-10 questions your potential customer will ask?

List out some of the questions your prospects and customers are asking. These questions don’t need to be broad—they should be questions you could answer in just a few minutes.

For example, if I’m selling custom window treatments, my customers might ask questions like:

  • What is the best window treatment for living rooms?
  • Does the material of the blinds make a difference?
  • How long does it take to install a custom window treatment?

If I’m a fitness coach, my customers might ask:

  • What should I eat before and after my workout?
  • How do I choose what exercise program is right for me?
  • What are the best exercises for back pain?

Take a moment right now to brainstorm 5-10 questions you hear from customers and potential clients.

Step 2: What are the top 5-10 objections you hear from prospects?

List out the most common objections raised by your potential customers. Cost objections come up in every industry, but there are also probably other objections specific to your product or service.

Once you have a healthy list of objections, jot down what information the prospect needs in order to overcome that objection.

A window treatment prospect might think their old blinds and drapes are fine. The information they need is how faulty window treatments can lead to floor discoloration and damage from the sun.

If someone is considering a fitness coach, they might have tried a weight loss program before without success. The information they need is why fad diets don’t work, or how the right program will be focused on their specific needs in order to help them reach their goals.

Just like you did in Step 1, take a moment to jot down 5-10 common objections relevant to your industry.

Step 3: Choose 12 of these topics

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

You’ve likely generated more than 12 ideas, but you only have to choose 12—one for each week of the three-month time frame. (If one of those months is five weeks, of course, you may need to choose 13 topics.)

Select the topics you believe your audience would be most excited to learn about. This might be your most frequently asked questions, or topics that are especially interesting.

If you know your ideal customer well, it should be pretty easy to narrow down your topics. But if you have doubts, reach out to one or two great current clients and ask them which topics they’d be most interested in.

Hold onto any extra topic ideas—you can use these to jumpstart your content next quarter.

Step 4: Record a short video for each topic

Once you’ve selected your topics, record a short video answering each question or providing information around each objection.

Why videos?

First of all, videos are easy for anyone to create.

There are many free or low-cost video recording software options. One app that many people already have is Zoom: you can start a meeting, hit record, talk for a few minutes, and save your video without any complicated tech. If you hit “stop recording” at the end of each video response, Zoom will generate separate video files without any extra editing on your part.

And for a lot of us, making a video can also be faster than writing out email copy. With video, you can rely more on the inflection of your voice, rather than having to carefully edit the text to sound like “you.” Seeing your face encourages prospective clients to trust you and can nurture a friendly, personable relationship.

But perhaps most importantly, prospects are more likely to actually open emails that include video.

One analysis found that merely including the word “video” in a subject line can increase an email’s open rate by 6%. Another found that videos can increase click-through rates—how many readers clicked on a link after opening an email—by a whopping 65%.

These videos don’t need to be long. In fact, keeping the video under five minutes can help ensure the value is quick and digestible for your viewers. Even if you need to re-record a couple of the videos, this whole process shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.

Step 5: Send one video a week to your email list

Congratulations, you’ve created all of next quarter’s email content in a single afternoon!

Now all that’s left is sending the videos to your email list. Most CRM software has an option for scheduling your videos ahead of time. You can do this yourself or give this task to a VA.

In the subject line, preview the topic of the video—and be sure to include the word “video” to get that open-rate boost.

Here are a couple of subject lines from our examples:

  • [Video] How to tell if your window treatments are damaging your floors
  • Why fad diets don’t work [30 second video]

The magic of quick-value content

The goal of all this is to offer bite-sized content that your subscribers can easily digest.

Offering short videos teaches your list that when they (1) open your emails and (2) click on your links, they get immediate value. As a result, when you do have something to sell them, they’re already primed to open the email and click on what it is you have to offer.

This is just one method of client nurture. If you want to learn more, visit www.profitminds.net and download a copy of my e-book, Mind your Profits.

Why aren’t my prospects buying?

The Buyer’s Journey

You have a great product at a no-brainer price. Your sales copy is excellent. Traffic is coming to your website at reasonably consistent rates.

And yet: almost no one is biting.

This can be so frustrating because we know our product or service will help prospects solve their problems. We’ve spent so much time and energy making our product/service into the best solution out there.

It can feel like we’re one of those sign spinners—pointing the way, sweating in the hot sun, and dancing until our muscles ache—and no one’s making the turn.

What gives?

The fact is, only 1% of prospective customers are ready to buy right now. The other 99% still have to go on a journey before they’ll be ready to buy.

Think of the customer relationship like a romantic courtship. While maybe 1% of people are ready to fly to Vegas to tie the knot then and there, most need to go through a few key steps before they’re ready to settle down.

By recognizing the buyer’s journey, you can better understand where your prospects are along that path, what they’re thinking about, and what they need from you at each stage.

1. Future Buyers

For most buyers, the journey starts when the prospect is still a “future buyer.”

These prospects aren’t comparing companies, weighing options, or picking out which color product they like. Prospects at this stage likely don’t even know that they want a product or service to begin with.

The question they’re asking (and the question you need to answer) is “why should I buy?”

Not “why should I buy from you” but “why should I buy anything in the first place?”

How do you answer this question? By highlighting the benefits of a purchase. They need to know what problem your product or service solves and why they want a solution.

This is a very different question from what most small-business owners try to answer on their websites. Their content most often focuses on choosing a vendor once the buying decision is made—but that marketing content is skipping crucial steps.

For example, if I’m selling air conditioners, at this stage I’m not talking about my appliance’s features but about the benefits of having an air conditioner. I’m talking about the discomfort of hot rooms and unsightly pit stains. I’m talking about the comfort of cool air after working in the garden all day.

If I’m an accountant, the future buyer doesn’t need to know my expertise and qualifications. They need to understand what a relief it is to let someone else manage their books and completely remove any concern about taxes.

2. Soon-to-be Buyers

The next stage is the “soon-to-be buyer.” These prospects understand the benefits of buying a product or service to solve their problems.

The question they’re grappling with at this stage is “why shouldn’t I buy?”

This is the stage when all the objections come out of the woodwork: Is it worth it? Will it be too expensive? Is it time-consuming to implement? Sure it works for some people, but will it work for me?

The information you provide at this stage should work to overcome those objections. Soon-to-be buyers need to know that the solution you’ve presented (a) will work, and (b) will work for them.

Soon-to-be buyers of air conditioners, for instance, might be concerned about how an AC unit will affect their electric bill. Effective marketing, then, would address the importance of energy efficiency, or how energy-efficient appliances can save money on electric bills in the long run.

An accountant’s soon-to-be buyers might be wondering if they actually need to pay for a professional: “Couldn’t I just have my nephew keep track of my books?” Marketing in this stage, then, could address “return on investment” and how professional management of cashflow can actually add to a business’s bottom line.

3. Now Buyers

The “now buyer” is that 1% we talked about earlier: prospects who are ready to make a purchase right now.

Their main concern is vendor selection. Now that they know they want to buy, they’re asking “who should I buy from?”

Now buyers are ready to hear what separates your product from the competition. Why my air conditioners are more energy efficient than other brands. What expertise and certifications make my accounting services first rate.

The issue is most marketing starts with this step.

While setting yourself apart from competition is important, most prospects aren’t going to care about this until they’re ready to buy.

By nurturing your prospects with the valuable information you have provided through every stage of the journey, they already trust you more than your competition by the time they make it to this stage.

The answer is simple

Why aren’t prospects buying? Short answer: They don’t know you.

A slightly longer answer: They don’t know you—yet.

The goal, then, is not to sell to the prospect right away. (You wouldn’t propose on a first date, after all!) Instead, the goal is to nurture the prospect along their journey so that when they are ready to buy, you’ve given them all the information they need every step of the way. This builds trust and makes them naturally want to buy from you.

To learn more about how to nurture your prospects, check out my ebook, Mind Your Profits.

How to Discover Your Ideal Customer in 2 Simple Steps

How to Discover Your Ideal Customer in 2 Simple Steps

How do you describe your perfect client avatar?

When it comes to marketing, many business gurus offer some version of this advice:
• figure out who your ideal customer is
• be really specific
• then sell to that person

Most entrepreneurs know they need to have an ideal customer (or ideal client, or ideal customer avatar, etc.) in mind. Understanding the specifics about the person you’re selling to can be incredibly helpful, whether you’re crafting your message, working on your marketing, or developing your products.

But when it comes to actually figuring out that ideal customer, the strategies these gurus suggest tend to be pretty abstract, asking us to “imagine,” “picture,” or “visualize.”

We’re supposed to “imagine a day in the life” of someone—but how can we do that if we don’t know who that someone is?

The old way works (sometimes)

While ideal client visualization exercises can be helpful once you know who they are, visualization can be challenging if you don’t immediately know the type of prospect you’re looking for.

Some business owners know instinctively who their ideal customer should be. If you’ve been selling a service for a long time, you may have a sense of who you enjoy working with (and who you don’t enjoy working with—but that’s a topic for a later blog).

Others start with a specific client in mind and design a product around their needs. That approach is a little better, but it doesn’t help those who already have a product or service and need to figure out who to target in their new marketing campaign to take their business to the next level.

Unfortunately, most business owners lack a strategy for zeroing in on their ideal customer avatar.

Consider my client, Elaine, who is a coach for women executives. While “women executives” may feel specific already, Elaine knows that the more specific she is about who she serves, the more effective her marketing campaigns will be.

But waiting for a client avatar inspiration is no way to run a business. We need a strategy.

Here’s a new approach:

Step 1: What is your unique selling proposition?

Instead of trying to pull an idea customer avatar out of thin air, start by looking at your offer.

What is unique about your product or service?

What is the superpower that only you can offer?

An accountant, for example, might be especially good at sorting through an unorganized mess of documents and receipts. A painter might be especially good at capturing the dynamic movements of water and the ocean.

For Elaine, her superpower is helping women speak with voices that will be heard. So often, diversity is treated as a checklist; while women and people of color may be invited to the meeting and allowed to “sit at the table,” their ideas are not always taken seriously. Elaine’s unique selling proposition is helping people position those ideas so others will really listen.

Step 2: Who is going to benefit most from that proposition?

Once you’ve zeroed in on what you offer and why it’s unique, use that to brainstorm your ideal client.

Who is going to benefit most from your superpower?

Who is going to want or need your unique product or service the most?

That accountant who is good at making the disorganized organized could be especially helpful for business owners with ADHD. That gifted ocean painter could market their work to avid surfers.

As Elaine and I started working together, we realized that the person who most needs her superpower is the female chief diversity officer. This woman not only clearly gets the problem—she lives it every day in her job.

And here’s the beauty of this particular avatar: After Elaine is effective in helping the chief diversity officer be heard, she is a great conduit into the C-suite, with potential introductions to other women executives who experience this same problem on a daily basis.

Stop waiting and start strategizing

The days of aimless visualization are over. We no longer need to close our eyes and cross our fingers, hoping the perfect idea for an ideal customer avatar will somehow fall into our laps.

Instead, we can use a concrete strategy to reverse engineer our market based on what makes our offers unique.

It’s a simple exercise, but it works. By taking the guesswork out of developing an ideal customer avatar, this strategy leaves more time for us to dig into the details of who this person is and what is motivating them so we can actually put the avatar to use in our marketing.

If you try this exercise, comment below to let us know who your ideal client is!

How to Get More Referrals from Business Partnerships

partnership
shaking hands

The business world is going through a major shift right now.

For many, business is very slow indeed. Some businesses may find themselves unable to work the way they normally do because of the lockdown.

But if you can’t work in your business—work on your business.

As more and more people are able to connect using video conferencing technology and other communication apps, this is the perfect time to build relationships.

One great relationship to cultivate right now is a joint venture partnership.

A joint venture, or JV, refers to any situation where two parties engage in a commercial enterprise together while retaining their individual identities and businesses. A common example is giving referrals in exchange for some amount of affiliate income.

Seems simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, a lot of small-business owners are going about joint ventures the wrong way. And this can significantly limit how effective those relationships are—and how much profit they can bring in.

The mistake you’re probably making:

Here’s an example of the typical way most joint ventures work: “I’ll send you a referral, and you send me 10% of whatever you make from that referral.”

This quid-pro-quo is how most small businesses are thinking about joint ventures.

Typically, a small-business owner will look for potential partners who solve different kinds of problems for a similar client base. For example, one of my clients is an interior designer. Homeowners who hire her are probably also looking to hire a contractor to complete her designs.

If she went about it the usual way, she would partner with a contractor or two and send the homeowner to them to get bids. Then the homeowner would pick one and that would be the end of it. Perhaps one or both of the contractors would send referrals to the interior designer, and maybe there would be some money that changes hands in exchange.

And that would work.

But there’s a much more powerful way to connect with referral partners that has the potential to bring in a lot more clients.

Do this instead:

Think about the problems that your referral partners have when they work with your common clients.

What are the hot button issues for these potential partners? What are their concerns? And how can you or your offerings help alleviate those pain points?

My interior designer client noticed that contractors really don’t like working with clients who constantly change their mind. When clients can’t make a decision, it usually results in lots of change orders for the contractor. It can really impact the schedule and it’s a huge hassle.

When setting up their referral relationship, then, this interior designer stresses to the contractor that she will help them deal with those client issues. She explains how she’s not just a designer—she’s a project manager, too.

She doesn’t just throw her design and the clients at the contractor saying, “it’s your problem now.” Instead, she stays with the project from start to finish—and even helps coordinate deliveries of hard goods like cabinets and appliances. She takes care of all the things that distract the contractor from doing what he’s there to do.

By emphasizing these aspects of her work as an interior designer, she helps contractors understand how she can solve their problems.

As a result, her JV contractors are much more likely to send clients her way.

Here’s another example:

As a business coach, accountants are a great resource for me. One of the biggest problems they have is when their clients come to visit them in March with an overflowing box of receipts and invoices and expect them to solve their tax issues in two weeks.

I help my CPA partners by guaranteeing that the clients they send to me will come to see them at least two to four times per year, if not more. This way, they get an opportunity to work with clients throughout the year, instead of dealing with a mad scramble to get things done during tax season. The CPA can finally move from being a bookkeeper and on-demand tax preparer, to building a valued relationship with that client.

Ask not what your partners can do for you, but what you can do for your partners.

When you set up a joint venture, don’t just think about how you and your JV partner can solve your mutual clients’ problems. While that can be a useful first step in finding a good referral partner, it is not the only ingredient in cultivating a fruitful relationship.

In addition to solving your customers’ problems, think about how you can solve your JV partner’s problems—especially the problems that arise when they work with your mutual clients. If you don’t know, perhaps that can be a topic of conversation at your next (virtual) coffee meeting.

When you emphasize how you can make their work easier, smoother, or more profitable, they will be even more motivated to send their clients to you.

It’s the very definition of “win-win.”

Black Lives Matter. PERIOD.

Black Lives Matter. PERIOD.

Ready to march in Pleasanton’s Black Lives Matter protest

Children are an amazing gift. You bring home this little blob from the hospital, turn around a few times, and discover an amazing person. That’s what’s happened to me recently. My amazing daughter, an adjunct professor of writing at Columbia University, challenged me: “Are you going to do something, Dad?”, “Do you have any plans for showing up on LinkedIn as an anti-racist?”

This is a hard thing: I am a small-business owner and have tried to keep politics out of my business even though I have very strong theological roots and care deeply about the plight of all humanity. Today, I serve on the board of The Gratitude Network and give that work the highest priority as I set my schedule for the day and the week.

Given today’s environment, it will be impossible for me to say what I believe to be important without appearing to be taking sides politically. But I can no longer stay silent.

My daughter knows my heart.

From the very beginning of our relationship, my wife and I have worked to improve the lives of the under-resourced locally, across the US, and around the world – investments of both time and money. Although never wealthy, we knew we came from privileged backgrounds as we never had to worry about where our next meal would come from – even if it might be waffles at the end of the month as the food money ran short.

We were both raised in white, suburban surroundings, attended fine schools, and were afforded excellent college and graduate educations. We have worked hard to provide for our family and I do not apologize for what we have been able to achieve.

But the events of the past two weeks have shown that I must do more. The senseless killing of George Floyd has re-awakened the nation to respond to this issue at a level that I don’t recall since the height of the civil rights movement in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

This is not just about standing on the right side of history but about standing up for what is right, period: I must stand with them.

My daughter asked me the following questions: What don’t I know? What do I know? Where do I have influence? What am I going to do?

What don’t I know?

I am a heterosexual, white male. I clearly do not know what it is like to be a person of color. Or a woman or gay or bi or trans or anything other than what I am. I do not know what it is like to be denied fair treatment just because of who I am or what I look like.

I do not know what it is like to grow up in a system that is biased against me.

What do I know?

I know that I was born into white privilege. I would say “solidly, middle class.” Dad worked, as an engineer, Mom didn’t (well not for pay, anyhow). While there were clearly limits to what we could afford, we never wanted for anything growing up. That was not a choice I made, I just got lucky.

I also know that all people are God’s children and we are all equal in God’s sight. I know that I hope for a world in which every child can grow up free from fear and want and able to live out their own dream, and any system which perpetuates inequality is wrong and should be abolished.

I also must acknowledge my participation in the systems here in this country which perpetuate that inequality. I have not done so intentionally, but nonetheless, I am part of the system.

I even have to admit that deep down, I am a racist. My brain is wired to prefer those who are similar to me – this was a survival mechanism as we evolved as a species, so it’s there and I need to acknowledge it.

The question is, do I act out of that racism? Do I let my “reptilian brain” control how I act? I work very hard to be able to say “No!” to that instinct. I think I’m doing okay, but it’s still there.

Where do I have influence?

I have influence in my community, with my friends, in my church, and even a bit on-line. Over my lifetime, I’ve noticed that I’m a natural leader, so in most settings where I participate, I wind up in some sort of leadership position.

As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” So I need to acknowledge that I have that responsibility and speak out against all systems that continue to, in the words of Al Sharpton (from Mr. Floyd’s eulogy last week) put a knee in the neck of black people. These are our systems of education, employment, justice, and public protection (aka police) at the very least.

What am I going to do?

Well, last week, I participated in a march here in my local community with my mask and my sign “Black Lives Matter, PERIOD.” Yes, all lives matter, but when you read the parable of the lost sheep, it’s clear we need to focus on the one who is lost, not the 99 who are doing fine.

Assuming social restrictions continue to loosen, I will go to Washington for the march on August 28 to commemorate the anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, “I Have a Dream.” Between now and then, I will speak out. I will not remain silent. I will challenge the status quo. And I will begin working to change the systems that perpetuate injustice and inequality.

It’s time for this privileged, white man to state firmly and for the record: Black Lives Matter. PERIOD.

The Simple Way to Find More Money for Your Business

The Simple Way to Find More Money for Your Business

man working with calculator to calculate numbers.
Saving money by reviewing your expenses

The current pandemic crisis has made things especially difficult for small businesses. Funds are low. For many, business has slowed to a crawl—if not halted entirely.

Many business owners are concerned that their businesses will fail. They worry that people will stop buying, and they’ll lose all of their customers.

But here’s the truth: no one goes out of business because they lack customers. Businesses fail because they run out of cash.

Every business owner should have 6 months of expenses in reserve, but most do not. Why is that?

Consider one of my clients (we’ll call her Amy). Her interior design business was growing, but her expenses were growing, too. Her business was making just barely enough to break-even.

Even in her best quarter she wasn’t able to bring much of that hard-earned money home—and she certainly wasn’t able to keep enough on reserve.

This wasn’t for lack of clients. In fact, Amy had more business coming in than she could handle all by herself. She needed to hire a junior designer to help relieve some of the workload, but didn’t think she could afford one.

The issue? Expenses.

Amy’s expenses were simply too high. And when expenses are high and growing as fast as revenue, it’s difficult to increase the bottom line, no matter how many customers are coming in.

This is why it’s so important to review your expenses. You may be leaving money on the table!

 

The simple way to audit your expenses:

Reviewing your expenses is a simple, straightforward way to figure out how to cut costs and improve your bottom line.

I recommend following the process laid out in Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz.

First, get out all of your bank and credit card statements. You may find it useful to print them out.

Next, categorize your expenses using the following metrics:

1. For anything that creates Profit, mark those expenses with a P.

This might include employee payroll, necessary software, and professional development resources.

For Amy, this included things like Quickbooks, her customer relationship management system, her project management software and her part-time office manager.

2. Label expenses with an R if they are Replaceable.

Are there expenses you might be able to switch to a cheaper option?

Now is a great time to review all of your expenses and see if there are better rates available. Some vendors may cut you a deal rather than to lose you as a customer.

For Amy, this meant looking at her internet and phone bill and asking a Technology Services Agent to review her service to see if she could get a better deal. We also reviewed her business insurance to see if she could reduce her costs there as well.

3. If expenses are Unnecessary, mark them with a U.

These are expenses you can do without entirely. For example, if you have a gym membership, are they still charging you even though they’re closed during the lockdown?

Amy had signed up with a credit card processing service, expecting clients to pay that way—but none had. She was able to cancel that $70/month contract.

She also discovered her 401(k) plan was costing her more money than she was saving in taxes, so that became another unnecessary expense.

 

Now it’s time to cut

Once you have marked all of the items in your statements, it’s easy to see where to cut expenses.

Eliminate anything marked with a U, and look into alternatives for anything marked with an R.

Keep the items marked with a P, since those are what actually create profit. Ideally, these goods or services should essentially pay for themselves.

This process also allows you to spot redundancies.

For example, Amy had switched project management software but had neglected to cancel the old one, so she was paying twice. We were also able to trim back marketing expenses by cutting out the services that were not bringing in new prospects.

Once we reviewed all of Amy’s expenses, she realized she actually could go out and hire that junior designer for at least 20 hours a week. Taking away some of her workload (and her stress!) will allow her to continue to grow her business—and continue to service her clients with the quality of attention they deserve.

 

Don’t leave money on the table

Many entrepreneurs think of increasing profits as solely increasing the revenue that comes in—but the expenses that come out of that income are just as important a part of the profit equation.

Furthermore, freeing up expenses allows business owners to put more money towards things that will actually lead to generating profit—like marketing, professional development, or hiring an assistant or a business coach.

What will reviewing your expenses make possible?

Kick Start Your Marketing

Today I’d like to teach you about the three most important start up marketing tools you need to get and keep new customers.

  1. In person: It’s essential you meet with customers/clients in person whenever possible. This shows you respect them and take the time to work with your clients to give personal attention to each of them.
  2. Follow up letter: Always take a moment to send a follow up letter about what you talked about, new agreements or partnerships made and to thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Likewise, you should always send thank you letters or small gifts to partners you find success with.
  3. Phone call: Use a telephone call to follow up with them to talk again about the matters you talked about in your meeting and offer any assistance you can to help their business run smoothly and more successfully.

None of these will work if you don’t have a quality product/service to back you up!

Here are the key steps for putting together your start-up marketing tools:

  1. Research potential customers, buyers, competitors and their preferred methods of distribution.
  2. Talk to potential customers. Take a hard look at your product from a customer’s perspective and see what it needs to be successful.
  3. Follow up with your 3-step process from above.
  4. Develop systems for contact follow through, quality control standards and customer service.
  5. Develop post-sale follow up system to keep lines of communication open is customers and build on your current relationship which increases future purchases.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs” Peter Drucker, management consultant

Here’s another one I love from an icon:

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company

This lesson has offered you the tools to put together a start-up marketing plan that can be used over and over again to help your customer base and business grow in a manageable way.