Want More Clients? Do You Need to Fix Your Marketing or Your Sales Process?

I spent the last week at a conference and had the opportunity to speak to lots of small business owners about what was working, and what wasn’t working in their business. A lot of entrepreneurs were saying that even though the overall trend was an increase over last year, they are still looking to increase their revenues even more.I found it interesting to listen to what they thought was preventing them from achieving those goals. The two topics that come up most often in these discussions are marketing and sales. The thing is that I think there are a lot of entrepreneurs who don’t understand the difference between marketing and sales, and how one impacts the other.Here is a simplistic way of explaining it. Marketing is what happens before a client contacts you. It’s what you do to increase awareness so that people know who you are and what you do. Sales starts once the client contacts you asking for information about working with you. It continues from the initial contact until you have their credit card number and their signature on the dotted line.Once you have the sale closed, I would say marketing kicks back in again (though I know many people feel that the service you do after the sale is a continuation of the sales process – and I can see their point on that!). The reason I feel like it is marketing is that you are now setting the stage for repeat and referral business. In my opinion, that’s marketing.So basically MARKETING is the process of getting your name out in front of more potential clients, of letting them know you exist and how you can help them. SALES is the process of closing those potential clients who raise their hand and say “hey, that sounds good! I’m interested in that!” You could certainly break things down even further, but for now let’s go with that idea, OK?So what’s your problem?When you look at your business, ask yourself a couple of questions:

How often are you getting new inquiries or quote requests?

Does your phone ring fairly often?

When you do get an inquiry, is that person the “right fit” for your business?

Once you reply to the inquiry, how often are you closing the sale?

How hard do you have to work to close the sale with that prospective client?
It’s your marketing… If you aren’t getting many inquiries, it’s fairly easy to see that you have a marketing problem. You aren’t doing enough to let people know you, and your business, exist and that you can be of service to them. In this case, your marketing problem is generally pretty simple – it probably means you just aren’t doing enough marketing! No one tells you that when you open your business, you aren’t just becoming a business owner, you are also becoming a marketer… but it’s true!Not getting enough inquiries is not the only sign that you have a marketing problem. If those leads aren’t coming in the way you want them to, if the people contacting you aren’t your ideal clients or if you are just flat out having to work really hard to close the sale, then your marketing just isn’t getting the job done the way it should.Really great marketing will filter your clients for you. It attracts your ideal clients and draws them in. They see it and they think, “YES! I want that!” or “I need her!” It gets you half the way down the sales path because they have already “self selected” and decided that they want to work with you. It’s almost as if your marketing handles a good bit of the client qualification process for you.At the same time that your marketing is attracting your ideal clients, it should also be repelling those clients who you just don’t want to work with anyway. They should see that same message that makes your ideal client anxious to talk to you and think, “why on earth would anyone want THAT” and toss your ad in the trash.Far too many entrepreneurs get worried about appealing to everyone or saying something that is off putting to some people. My answer to that is that this is actually a GOOD thing. Those aren’t the clients you are meant to work with anyway!How do you fix it?If you are experiencing these marketing problems, you need to sit down and take a good hard look at your marketing message.

Do you know exactly who your ideal client really is? (hint: if your answer is a vague as “moms of preschoolers” or “baby boomers” then the answer is no, you don’t know exactly who your ideal client is!)

Are you able to clearly articulate what it is that you do for them, why they should work with you? (Another hint: if the answer is “I give great customer service,” or “I have 25 years of experience in the industry,” that’s not thought out enough).

Are you making sure you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket? You should aim to hit them with your marketing message in at least 3 different places at the same time whenever possible.

Are you marketing consistently and regularly or only here and there?
It’s your sales process… Now if you are getting a lot of inquiries from all of the right people but they just aren’t converting into sales, then you have a sales problem! At that point, it’s time to sit down and evaluate your sales process.For the next month, keep track of the number of inquiries you get and the number that you actually close and book. Keep a spreadsheet or a chart that tracks your leads and sales. Once you have that information, you can figure out what percentage of sales you are closing. No one is going to have a 100% close ratio, but if you are closing less than 50% of the prospects you work with, there is definitely significantly room for improvement in your process!How do you fix it?

Review the “script” you use as the basis for your conversations. Don’t have one? Well, that might just be your problem!

Take a good look at your qualifying questions. Are you getting the info you need?

Review the emails you’ve sent during the sales process, do they have a really clear call to action on what the client needs to do next to start working with you?

A BIG but really basic thing that I see happening a lot… are you actually asking for the sale? I’m always amazed at the number of people who present the perfect plan but then close the conversation with “so take a look at this and let me know if you have any questions. OK?” and never actually ask for the sale!

Review your follow up procedures. Chances are you aren’t following up enough!
So here’s your homework… Set aside some time to look at your business this week and see where you can find room for improvement. No matter how successful you are, we can ALL find somewhere we can be doing better! Pull out your marketing plan for the last year, review your materials and your message. Look at your sales process. Review those scripts and templates and see if you can adjust the language a bit to appeal more to your ideal clients. Practice a “closing the sale” conversation with a friend or colleague and ask for feedback. You’ll be glad you took the time to do this when you see your revenues increase as a result!

Business Loans In Canada: Financing Solutions Via Alternative Finance & Traditional Funding

Business loans and finance for a business just may have gotten good again? The pursuit of credit and funding of cash flow solutions for your business often seems like an eternal challenge, even in the best of times, let alone any industry or economic crisis. Let’s dig in.

Since the 2008 financial crisis there’s been a lot of change in finance options from lenders for corporate loans. Canadian business owners and financial managers have excess from everything from peer-to-peer company loans, varied alternative finance solutions, as well of course as the traditional financing offered by Canadian chartered banks.

Those online business loans referenced above are popular and arose out of the merchant cash advance programs in the United States. Loans are based on a percentage of your annual sales, typically in the 15-20% range. The loans are certainly expensive but are viewed as easy to obtain by many small businesses, including retailers who sell on a cash or credit card basis.

Depending on your firm’s circumstances and your ability to truly understand the different choices available to firms searching for SME COMMERCIAL FINANCE options. Those small to medium sized companies ( the definition of ‘ small business ‘ certainly varies as to what is small – often defined as businesses with less than 500 employees! )

How then do we create our road map for external financing techniques and solutions? A simpler way to look at it is to categorize these different financing options under:

Debt / Loans

Asset Based Financing

Alternative Hybrid type solutions

Many top experts maintain that the alternative financing solutions currently available to your firm, in fact are on par with Canadian chartered bank financing when it comes to a full spectrum of funding. The alternative lender is typically a private commercial finance company with a niche in one of the various asset finance areas

If there is one significant trend that’s ‘ sticking ‘it’s Asset Based Finance. The ability of firms to obtain funding via assets such as accounts receivable, inventory and fixed assets with no major emphasis on balance sheet structure and profits and cash flow ( those three elements drive bank financing approval in no small measure ) is the key to success in ABL ( Asset Based Lending ).

Factoring, aka ‘ Receivable Finance ‘ is the other huge driver in trade finance in Canada. In some cases, it’s the only way for firms to be able to sell and finance clients in other geographies/countries.

The rise of ‘ online finance ‘ also can’t be diminished. Whether it’s accessing ‘ crowdfunding’ or sourcing working capital term loans, the technological pace continues at what seems a feverish pace. One only has to read a business daily such as the Globe & Mail or Financial Post to understand the challenge of small business accessing business capital.

Business owners/financial mgrs often find their company at a ‘ turning point ‘ in their history – that time when financing is needed or opportunities and risks can’t be taken. While putting or getting new equity in the business is often impossible, the reality is that the majority of businesses with SME commercial finance needs aren’t, shall we say, ‘ suited’ to this type of funding and capital raising. Business loan interest rates vary with non-traditional financing but offer more flexibility and ease of access to capital.

We’re also the first to remind clients that they should not forget govt solutions in business capital. Two of the best programs are the GovernmentSmall Business Loan Canada (maximum availability = $ 1,000,000.00) as well as the SR&ED program which allows business owners to recapture R&D capital costs. Sred credits can also be financed once they are filed.

Those latter two finance alternatives are often very well suited to business start up loans. We should not forget that asset finance, often called ‘ ABL ‘ by those Bay Street guys, can even be used as a loan to buy a business.

If you’re looking to get the right balance of liquidity and risk coupled with the flexibility to grow your business seek out and speak to a trusted, credible and experienced Canadian business financing advisor with a track record of business finance success who can assist you with your funding needs.

Doing Business in Cancun, Mexico

Many people from all over the world come to Cancun and the Riviera Maya in search of business opportunities. It is easy to be dazzled by the splendor of sprawling luxury resorts and white sand beaches that stretch for mile upon mile down the coast, but anyone coming here to prospect for business needs to look beyond this, and at the same time see it for what it really is. The Mexican Caribbean is a tremendous tourism draw and is in the first place in all of Latin America for foreign visitors each year, which translates into billions of Dollars being generated, both in tourist spending and tourism infrastructure, such as hotels and real estate developments, as well as the consumption of goods and services of a city of nearly 1 million inhabitants.The reality here, is that all business is ultimately dependent upon the stream of tourism; there is no manufacturing of any kind nor are any products made, other than some negligible amount of handicrafts. Cancun and the Riviera Maya are voracious consumers of goods and services, but do not generate a product outside of being a major tourist destination with attractive and varied real estate offers. To illustrate this point, there is an ocean container ship that arrives each Thursday in Puerto Morelos (10 miles south of Cancun) loaded with full containers of goods coming from Miami, but it always leaves empty, or nearly so. There is a lot coming in, but virtually nothing being shipped out.Anyone casting an eye on the area for business, needs to know that there are really two main areas that have enduring potential: Tourism/Entertainment and Real Estate and its ancillary services. Once this is clear, then there are many attractive opportunities at hand, and fortunes to be made. Naturally, being a city of nearly a million people, there are also business opportunities in everything from retail commerce to providing any combination of goods and services to the local population. Cancun has good communication infrastructure and is a powerful brand recognized throughout the world. While learning to do business in Mexico can be challenging, there are also many rewards to be reaped for those with intelligence and perseverance.Living on the beach year round may also be a great reason to move here and grow your business. If you are ready to test the waters, an excellent option for short term affordable housing with available business services in the same building is Art Deco Suites. Having a safe and clean place to base yourself while you get your bearings in a new environment is key. Art Deco Suites provides tastefully appointed and completely furnished Suites right in the heart of downtown Cancun and include free wireless broad band internet access, unlimited calling to the US and Canada, as well as a large conference room, and short term furnished office space and bilingual secretarial services by the day.