Posts Tagged ‘Revenue’

Winning Your Customer’s Heart – and Mind

Monday, March 24th, 2014

There a number of statistics in the field of selling. One of the most interesting has to do with the time it takes to gain customer awareness.

The Rule of 7 says:

A prospective client needs to see, hear, or otherwise be exposed to your message at least seven times before they respond in some way, shape or form.

If you don’t have a Client Contact strategy with at least 7 steps, you significantly reduce your odds of sales success.

The reason for this is simple: Most of us have learned that the average sales person is not interested in a relationship, but rather in a quick and easy (“quick and sleazy”?) transaction. Most of us want a relationship with our service or product providers, but few sales people seem willing to invest the time it takes to establish a relationship, and so we tend to stick with our suppliers-of-habit, not necessarily because they are particularly good or effective, but rather because it is “better the devil you know.”

The Rule of 7 is based on building familiarity for the sales person, their company and their products, or what is called “mindshare” (the portion of the person’s “buying awareness” that you occupy). After a couple of contacts you might achieve 1% mindshare, but at this point your prospective Client barely knows you, and the odds of a sale are proportional, but if you increase the mindshare to say, 60%, you significantly increase your odds of success.

It is common sense: Familiarity breeds trust and trust breeds sales. So here are …

4 Steps to Building Mindshare:

1. Define who is worthy of Contact. Your criteria might be prospects with size, prestige, influence or, if you are just establishing a market, it could be “everyone.” The main point here is to think this through before acting.

2. Create a Positive Contact System. This might include resources that positively impress your Client (brochures, uniforms, website, signage, service level at first contact, newsletters, information, education, advice), and a schedule or system for passing those to a prospective Client in a planned manner. For example, a small handwritten “Thank you” card sent after a sales call, is an old fashioned yet still very powerful way to create a positive impression and set yourself apart from the crowd competing for attention.

3. Vary the Contact. Use e-mail, fax, direct mail, courier service, the telephone and, if appropriate, a visit. Mix them up and orchestrate them (that means “planning” again!) Sending seven e-mails or leaving seven voice mails won’t build a relationship. In fact, they look a lot like stalking! Varying the medium creates the need for your prospect to interact with you at different levels.

4. Schedule the Contact. Accept the reality that it may take 4-6 months to have a prospective Client accept that you are interested in a “real relationship”, at which point you still may not sell something, but at least you have become a “serious contender”. What gets scheduled tends to get done, so develop a “contact calendar” for every new prospect (this is why step 1. is in here, by the way), and stick to it, while taking care to avoid “overwhelming” or “inundating” your contact. A good rule of thumb is to never let more than two weeks go by without a contact. Using a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool will make this task much easier, and there are many options to choose from.

We forget that it is more than your company’s market reputation, your technology and your marketing prowess. People buy when they are comfortable at the point of contact and when they trust you to perform. The best relationships take time and a solid strategy to bring it to fruition.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Customer Retention – Key to Growth

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

In the search for growth, we typically think about new products, new markets, and yes, new customers. However, rarely do we spend enough time and thought as to how valuable our current customers are, and how they can be a excellent source of the very growth we seek.

What Are Good Reasons to Retain Customers?

1. It’s cost effective: It costs around 1/6th to 1/5th as much to keep an existing client – or to resell to them – as to win a new one!

2. It’s sanitary: You limit the number of people in the marketplace who say, “Yeah I used to use that product” and increase the number who say, “Yeah I’ve used that product for years!”

3. It’s good manners: the old adage treat others as you would have them treat you applies 10 fold here.

4. It’s feedback: Clients who leave you, leave for a reason. Sometimes that reason has nothing to do with you and your product – and sometimes it does! You need to know when it does. A customer retention strategy will make sure you know why they want to leave or have already left.

What Are the Absolute Basics of Customer Retention?

The following are a list of ideas and tips for maximizing your customer retention. Why not include some of your own ideas and meet with your staff or team to determine how you can incorporate a number of them in your customer retention strategy.

1. Be very clear on the true value of retaining your average Customer – work out their Life Time Value to you and act accordingly.

2. Keep the quality of your communications at the highest level. Make sure you are always;

a. Professionally courteous

b. Personally caring

c. Mindful – have systems that track facts about your clients so that you can recall their details, history, preferences easily before or while talking to them

3. Automate the bottom 80% of your client base revenue, and personalize the top 20%, you can do this through;

a. Social media

b. Members area on your website if relevant

c. Newsletter

i. On-line survey’s tied to the newsletter can increase engagement and help to gather important information

ii. Product or feature reviews

iii. Educational tidbits

iv. Profile on team member

v. Success stories of customers (ask then to submit to win a prize, then use the content for this item)

4. Keep your promises. “The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy. The essence of trust building is to emphasize the similarities between you and the customer.” Thomas J. Watson

5. Over deliver (which sometimes means under-promising);

a. On the products

b. On your services

6. Maintain regular, quality personal communications;

a. Outgoing – try sending out links to interesting articles that you suggest as a relevant read

b. Incoming

i. Make feedback easy

ii. Invite it

c. Two-way, engage with your customers in a meaningful and authentic way

7. Value-add regularly, what else do you have to offer your customers that they may not already be using.

8. Sell to them regularly;

a. Reinforces their prior commitment and keeps you in the forefront of their mind

9. Accept complaints as a gift – the person making them could have just walked out, but here they are telling you what you need to do to keep their business. The insights gained should be incorporated into your evolving systems to avoid triggering this same instance in future. There will be other instances with different causes, but it’s a matter of swatting them successively until they are a rare event.

In the case of customers, as in many areas of life, the grass always looks greener on the other side. We need to appreciate the ones we have, especially the ones who fit our ideal client, and make it our priority to serve them. Our return will equal our investment in them.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Revenue Growth Tips – Could be time to build a Global Business

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Have been holding back from taking the plunge to going global? It’s understandable, as it requires a lot of hard work and investment to be successful. Not for the faint of heart. However, it may open up a key area of growth, one where you need not fight over ever smaller small gains in market share domestically. To be successful, you need to invest upfront in market research to gain knowledge of which countries have businesses and consumers with cash, and hold the best opportunity for your products and services. Some efforts I think you should be doing to ramp up your own global business.

1. Set stretch goals – Aim to generate 20-30%, up to 50% of revenue outside North America within three to five years. Why such a big number? If you don’t set a stretch goal, it may not get the attention it deserves and it will become just another project. Stretch goals can generate a level of energy and excitement that will light up your organization. Something that may be missing today.

2. Go native –You can get by in many countries by speaking English, but you’ll have an edge if you hire staff who speak the language. But it goes beyond this. You need to understand customs, the culture and how business gets done in the country. There are ways to slowly enter a country – marketing, distribution before establishing a beachhead, but having someone who is native to the market is hugely beneficial. It is an investment that will return itself many times over.

3. Focus narrow and deep –The tendency is to try to sell the entire product line instead of picking a narrow focus and doing it well. That is a steep learning curve that can lead to disaster. Much better to create an entry strategy that targets one or 2 products, the sales strategy, promotional tools and aids to make a real inroad into the market. As you learn and get established, you can broaden it. This learning period will also allow you to tailor products and services to meet local requirements as well as tuning your marketing, sales and customer service strategy to maximize effectiveness.

4. Source globally –To keep prices competitive, along with and lead and service turn-around times to a minimum, one needs to look for factories and support centers in the country or region. Personnel costs can also be lowered by relying on sales, and service centers located in areas offering either lower wage rates or tax incentives. It can also create business opportunities where local companies or governments give preference to firms with a local presence.

5. Follow your customer –This seems obvious, but many times gets overlooked. To map your route overseas, contact your existing customers or partners and ask if they need your support internationally. If you are a solid supplier with a strong reputation it reduces their risk of supply. It also greatly reduces your risk of going global if you have sales revenue flowing on day one.

Going global is an option that may be closer than you think. Keep watching, we will provide more tips along the way.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Revenue Growth Tips – Slay the Vampires

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Too many items on your to-do list? Or have you stopped looking? It’s easy to fall behind if you are short-handed because of recent cutbacks. The solution: just stop all those activities that drain energy out of your business, and focus on the work that will actually produce profitable growth. It is easy to get spread out chasing the next wave. Why not hit the reset and drive a stake into actions that keep you from the success you deserve.

1. Stop listening to bad news – The old saying is that bad news sells newspapers. Not sure if you noticed, but newspapers are on their way out. This is due more to alternate forms of news transfer, but all bad news does for you is freeze you in your tracks. By the way, you can’t do anything about most of it. So why not make your own news – good news. Focus on spending more time connecting with customers, developing new solutions to their problems, working to streamline your business.

2. End a contentious relationship – Sometimes we hang on to a creative, but disruptive employee, a non-performing supplier or a difficult customer. There may be a tendency to continue the status quo for fear that the replacement will be no better. One needs to instead take the opposite view – and pull the plug on a bad relationship. As one of the biggest energy-suckers, once the relationship is severed, the organization can many times quickly overcome the change and actually thrive as a result. You’ll be wondering why you didn’t do it sooner.

3. Quit selling unprofitable products or services – While new products and services are the lifeblood of a business, too many can actually sink the ship. As pointed out in a couple of earlier tips, focusing on fewer products and one’s core competencies can reap great dividends. Too many products can mean your team is being pulled in too many directions and you are not getting the intensity to master any of them. Scale works in Marketing and Engineering as well as in Manufacturing. Take a hard look and focus on your most successful products, letting the marginal ones head for the door.

4. Don’t answer your own e-mail – With the ability to communicate 24/7, we inadvertently find ourselves chained to it. Email can be a huge time sucker, where the more you communicate by it the more time you spend tackling your in-box. To increase productivity, Business Leaders need to utilize their assistants to take over and handle their email. This creates time to engage and inspire their teams more effectively. Having time to walk around and talk with your team is how Leaders build great businesses.

5. Never eat alone – Sometimes there is a tendency to think that if you only worked harder, and used that extra 30-45 minutes at your desk, you could achieve that breakthrough. Think again. Not spending time with your team or out in the market, you lose contact, you lose touch and you lose potential leads that could change your business. Not only is it important to change your scenery to refresh your mind, you need to maintain or create new contacts to open up new avenues. Think of it as 2 holes of golf and a sandwich.

Drive a stake in the vampires that hold you back. Keep watching, we will provide more tips along the way.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Revenue Growth Tips – Make sure you’ve got the Right Business Strategy

Monday, February 10th, 2014

It’s great to be fired up about your company’s strategic plan, but before you commit the rest of the year to executing it, make sure it passes the test. If not, head back to the drawing board with your leadership team. Keep in mind, you are betting your company’s future on your plan. If you haven’t gotten the details right or shaped it from the proper perspective, time spent at your offsite will ultimately hurt your company. Take a step back and reflect, and the time to polish it so that you can make the most of the year.

1. Play to win – Sometimes, after a series of setbacks, or an economic downturn, a firm can become overly cautious. This can result in reductions in expenses, staff, and planned future investments. Perhaps unknowingly you begin to play defense. It has been shown, that one of the best times to invest is during a down-turn or slow period, as you prepare to accelerate. To grow through the cycle, you need to go on the offensive – investing in marketing, new products and services, upgrading your team’s skills. Change your mindset and change your future.

2. Seek customer input…Voice of the Customer is a valuable process used by leading firms to rev up growth. It can help define what are considered the most important attributes that are desired in current or future products. Another approach called LeadUsers employs efforts by Customers, who failing to find a solution to their needs from suppliers, build their own. These prototypes or fully-functioning products can provide the genesis of new products, even new industries.

3 …but know what to ignore – The upside of Customer input is you build your relationship and provide products and services more closely aligned with their needs. The downside is if you act on every suggestion your customers make, you end up in bankruptcy. The trick is to achieve a balance between creating greater value for the Customer and more profit for your business. That’s a win-win every one can use.

4. Involve the broader team – While it takes a great strategy from the leadership team to win in the marketplace, as on the battlefield, it takes the troops and middle management to execute it successfully. Too often the people who are expected to win on the battlefield haven’t heard of, been involved in, or bought into “the plan.” It is not surprising that success has been compromised at the onset. Instead of getting blindsided, middle managers should be an integral part of annual and quarterly planning sessions. What results is a plan that people understand and can be part of.

5. Set fewer priorities – There is always a trade-off between defining the needs of a business, setting goals and priorities. The tendency is to get everything on the table and create a huge list to knock off. But having too many goals by itself can lead to distraction. An option is to establish a set of goals that fall into a logical sequence, building upon one another throughout the year – somewhat like building a brick wall. Then to focus on the top three for the quarter, and one per month, making sure a high-priority project is completed before moving on. In this case, less is more.

Great strategy requires some good fundamentals. Keep watching, we will provide more tips along the way.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Revenue Growth Tips – Mindset Matters: What’s yours?

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Growing competition and difficult economic times can take the wind out of one’s sail. However, sometimes it can be the retention of sacred-cow ideas and grandiose illusions that get business leaders into trouble. To combat them and make your business stronger, one needs to build upon reality. Here are a few myths to watch out for and remove from your way of thinking.

1. We really know our market – Gathering real market intelligence could prove you wrong. Having been focused on a particular market could cloud your view as to opportunities elsewhere. When developing new products or services, it is easy to get tunnel vision, and overlook the possibilities that slight modifications in performance, size, weight and cost could open up. Conducting exploratory research in adjacent or entirely new market segments could provide a very pleasant surprise.

2. One size won’t fit all – The general view is that one must customize products to meet the particular needs of a market segment. And so much effort is spent on slicing and dicing markets to get all the magic ingredients. Mass customization, a product customized for each individual customer, is the extreme example. However, this can lead to a dizzying array of models and features that can add undesired complication and related cost unless one is careful. An alternative is to focus on being the best within a category and finely tune the sale and delivery to maximize the customer experience. Both higher growth and profitability are possible outcomes.

3. Competitors are always hostile – Not necessarily so. While the typical thought process is that my competitor is my enemy and we are locked in mortal combat, that view is very limiting. Careful study may find that you actually don’t compete in all market segments or product/service areas. You also may have significantly different core competencies and interests in developing them further. Cooperating in a teaming arrangement or alliance may prove quite beneficial to both and open up new avenues of growth.

4. Gross margins will grow as we do – Not necessarily so. Research shows that they typically dip. If one has to add extra equipment, space, train new workers, employ new systems, and incorporate other costs, adding the new business may actually reduce margins. One needs to take a close look and understand all the ramifications, and then build a plan to maximize the profitability as one grows.

5. As the Business Leader, you know it all – Two potential issues here. You think you know it all, and you think you need to know it all. In the first instance, despite regular team meetings, people may inadvertently not mention certain issues or events. They may consider them unimportant to you or desire to work through the issue themselves. In the second, you may be needlessly getting involved in day-to-day matters best handled by a team member. Both issues can be addressed by defining business priorities and the proper communication patterns desired to foster right behaviors.

What and how you think about things does matter. Keep watching, we will provide more tips along the way.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at

Revenue Growth Tips – Act Like a Fast-Growth Business

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

It is said, that if you want to fly with the eagles, you need to stop hanging around with the crows. Same goes for business. If you want to grow faster, you need to think and act like a fast-growth business. The following are 5 tips to help you begin the journey of moving faster toward achieving your goals. Whether you run a small or midsize business, manage a department in a larger company, in good times or bad, these tips will work for you.

1. Hyper focus – Align the entire organization around a single, high-impact, measurable priority each quarter. One, not 25, not five. Just one overarching focus for the next 90 days that removes a significant bottleneck in the business. When you knock this one off – move to the next one. This energizes the organization and creates momentum which can create an upward spiral.

2. Move faster – If you want to grow faster, move faster. Think of football teams that run the “up-tempo” offense, it can devastate the defense. The executive teams of the fastest-moving companies huddle daily, as if in constant crisis mode — driving on priorities, metrics, and data gathered from the market. And successful executive teams gather once a week vs. annually. It’s about having a bias for action.

3. Create an edge – Define an underlying advantage of 10X over the competition to dominate your industry. How to figure this out? Look at your industry’s biggest cost and time constraints and challenge the conventional thinking in those areas of the business. Investigate and pursue a Blue-Ocean strategy where you create a new set of rules to play by.

4. Achieve mindshare – Establish your company as the thought leader, the company to go to when innovation in needed. Opportunities include the digital market space with blogs, white papers, YouTube videos, and Twitter messages. Published content is king in driving education-based marketing programs and in establishing you and your company as the authorities in your industry.

5. Manage your cash – Fast growth requires large amounts of cash, so construct a business model that fuels your growth without the need of outside capital. Advanced payments, tighter billing practices, and shorter sales and delivery cycles are a few of many strategies. And to stay focused, look at your cash position daily. You’ll sleep better knowing the business can fund its own growth.

Building a growth strategy need not be overly complicated. Stay tuned, and we will provide more tips along the way.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at