Self Marketing

Bus or Car: Which Self Marketing Vehicle Are You Driving?

What was your favorite PBS show growing up? I loved Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers as much as the next kid, but my favorite program was 3, 2,1 Contact. Remember that show? I can still remember munching on Little Debbie snack cakes while being mesmerized by their science skits and reoccurring stories, like the Bloodhound Gang.

One of 3, 2,1 Contact’s best pieces was a simple but brilliant math lesson about efficiency. Shot documentary-style, the setting was a school parking lot. Parked in front of a group of 60 kids was a school bus and a hatchback car. A young lady asked the viewer which vehicle could transport all the kids to the destination on a very small, specific amount of fuel (I don’t recall the exact volume). 

As a kid, I thought the car would use the gas more efficiently. It’s so tiny! Both vehicles attempted the task. The hatchback, which could only hold 3 passengers, ran out of fuel on the 6th trip after transporting only 18 kids. The bus, which could carry all the children in one trip, successfully completed the challenge. 

To my surprise, the bus was the more fuel-efficient method of transportation.

This illustration applies to the current Sales Automation business trend.

Sales Automation is the “set it and forget it” process of acquiring new customers. Email blasts and search ads drive prospects to landing pages, which then capture their info, score them, and queue them for salespeople to contact. The salespeople complete a call or demo and re-score the prospect, which triggers a whole new set of emails or higher tier calls.

Ugh.

That’s the bus at work. It’s fast. It’s efficient. And guess what, it creates customers who have no loyalty to you or the company.

Thinking back to the 3, 2, 1 Contact bus/car test, let’s ask a different question. Instead of "which vehicle was more efficient?” what if they were testing "which driver made more of a personal connection with their passengers?" The bus driver could never get to know the children they carried. But the car driver could have chatted and connected with each car load on a personal level - a few minutes to talk to each kid.

As you decide how to gain efficiencies in your sales process this “spring cleaning” time of year, protect the customer relationship!

Perhaps you route support calls back to the same sales rep the customer spoke with first. Maybe you send a printed thank you card with a unique message to every new customer. Try sending at least one unsolicited referral to one of your customers each week. Once a customer has been contacted, all templated messages should include a personalized intro.

Automation may dominate the current conversation in sales, but heed this warning:

You can automate a sale, but you can’t automate a relationship.

New Holiday Designs Just Added

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All year long we've been very busy making new things for you to enjoy. Like little helpers bustling around a workshop...if only there were a seasonal reference we could make... Anyway, in addition to our new Message Library and Holiday Ebook, we’ve added fresh designs to our holiday art galleries! Check them out below!

So whether you send an email from the Message Library or create one of your own, you’ve got everything you need to make your customers' spirits bright.

Thumbs Up to A New Gallery Of Fresh Thanksgiving Designs

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To all those who have smiled throughout 2013 even when they're being shoved in the oven, I raise the long piece of the wishbone to you this Thanksgiving: May the only family drama you experience stream from Netflix. May the kids' table be as quiet as your phone in airplane mode. May the turkey be as juicy as your Facebook updates. May you only check email once... or thrice. May your Instagram moments get more likes than your siblings'. And may you enjoy a Thanksgiving to remember.

This Thanksgiving, all of us at Ace of Sales are thankful for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope our new Thanksgiving designs will light up your week and your inbox with warm replies.

Enjoy Your Extra Hour - 2 New Daylight Savings Designs

Not into Halloween? We have a couple new designs for you too! Don't miss out on our new Daylight Savings Reminder Designs for your customers. They're a great tool to give value and get great responses.

Check them out and then send them out!

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6 New Halloween Designs To Die For

You're either a Halloween person or you're not. For those of you with cotton spiderwebs draped over your front yard right now – we've created a custom theme for this year's Halloween Designs that's sure to be a thriller! Send them as email greetings or printed cards.

See them below.

Don't have an Ace of Sales account? Don't let that stop you! Everyone gets a free basic account for 30 days at aceofsales.com. Just enough time to scare up some fun!

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The Power of Free

Recently, I visited a health fair where a small booth was offering free five minute massages. Not one to miss out on freebies, I got in line. The therapist did a great job transitioning me from an indifferent walk-by to an appreciative customer!

Here's how they did it:

  • After the five minute massage, the therapist insisted I visit their spa for a free 30 minute session.
  • She handed me a business card and flyer.
  • She called me the next day to set up the free appointment at their office.
  • A couple days later, I got a full-color postcard reminding me of my appointment.
  • From the moment I stepped foot in their office, the staff was friendly and professional.
  • After the session they offered me a $10 off coupon for a 1-hour deep-tissue massage.
  • To ensure I didn't forget them, they followed up with a thank you card and reminded me to make sure I took them up on their offer. They even added a little humor about being careful on the way in for my next visit. (I shared with them that a cop pulled me over before my free massage.)

This local business was on the ball...and just won a new customer!

Create Impact With Printed Cards

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Emails, texts, and phone calls are cheap. Printed cards are forever. OK, diamonds are forever. But the impact of a printed card lasts a long time. When you get a personalized greeting card or postcard in the mail from someone you know, it has impact. It communicates your level of investment, organization, sincerity, and commitment. The response is respect, appreciation, gratitude, consideration, and a deepening of loyalty.

Emails can get ignored. Printed cards can be kept for months.

Texts are forgettable. Printed cards are placed on the front of desks.

Phone calls get sent to voice mail. Printed cards get sent around the office.

Are you sending printed cards to your new prospects? Best customers? Business friends? Partners?

At Ace of Sales, we just relaunched the beta version of our printed cards feature. You can now upload your own image or choose one of ours. In a one screen, mobile-friendly interface you simply upload or choose an image, add a message, and send. Your card is printed and mailed for you within two business days (currently, US and Canada only). Add custom finishings like rounded corners or a gift card to your order. Greeting cards are less than $2 with postage. Postcards are a buck or less. We don't put the Ace of Sales logo on the back of your cards.

We loved the way our longtime customer, Amy, put it – "I just ordered a card for my mom and the process was super easy. I especially like the fact that everything is on one screen and you can see at a glance how everything will look without having to make additional "navigation clicks". Thank you for providing such a quality service!"

This week, I take a break from my usual column to invite you to try our new printed cards in Beta at Ace of Sales. (Everyone who signs up gets a 30 day trial account at no cost. Monthly subscriptions are $20 after that. No contracts ever. Cancel at any time.)

Sign up here to send one to yourself and one to your customers today.

I await your feedback at andyhorner@aceofsales.com and look forward to hearing about the impact our printed cards make on your customers!

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No Surprises! Music to Your Buyers' Ears

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It was Sunday night. I was 11 years old. My identical twin brothers, both 12 years old, had been jerks to me all day. As the younger brother, I decided it was my duty to fight back. My father, a minister in the tradition of Jonathan Edwards, liked to decompress from being "on" all day and required that "the children" go to bed early, while he had dinner "in peace."

This was my chance.

My brothers and I all slept in the same room. I told the older twin, the ringleader jerk that day, that dad was discussing something secret about us kids with mom and that he should do reconnoissance to listen in.  While he crept down the hall, I replaced his pillow with his saxophone case. Inside the pillowcase and in the dark, you could hardly tell. I then hollered from my bed, "DAD, SOMEONE'S OUT OF THEIR BED!" My brother flew down the hall and dove from the middle of the room into his bed.

WHAM!

2 minutes later, I got a spanking from the preacher man that could have been titled, "Sinner in the Hands of an Angry Dad."

Lesson: People hate surprises that hurt.

It's a truth every business person must pay attention to in our current economy now more than ever!

House prices are slowly returning. Some employers are cautiously hiring. Pocketbooks are cracking back open. Are we out of the recession? Who knows? But regardless of any good news and positive mojo out there, businesspeople are still hyper-cautious and doing everything they can to prevent surprises that could hurt their revenue and growth.

How does this impact you? It means your prospects want to try your product or service, scrutinize examples, project outcomes, review testimonials, check references, and guarantee results before they buy. In other words – they don't want to find a saxophone case in their pillow!

If you're not prepared for this hyper-caution in post-recession buyers, you'll lose sales to customers who may have trusted you in the past but are now required to "prove before the company will move."

Here are 5 ways you can remove these "no surprise" sales road blocks:

1. Offer conditional trials: Most often, businesses give away free samples or trial services without any plan to take a leadership role during the trial. Before the trial begins, agree on a result, a meeting time to review, and their next action. An example by a lead service might be, "If we can provide an average of 500 new solid leads for a full month, will you agree to a 12 month contract?"

2. Offer high-value-to-them, low-risk-to-you money-back guarantees. Your customers may have fears that you know are highly unlikely to ever occur. If your customer won't move forward unless you guarantee a completion date, and you know that you deliver 99.8% of every project on time, quell their nervousness with a money back guarantee for missing the agreed upon deadline.

3. Use an in-person testimonial. Have you ever brought a current customer with you to a prospect presentation? It's extremely powerful. Pay your customer's airfare or buy them dinner. Do whatever it takes. Talking to one of your loyal customers will fill in huge holes, transfer understanding, and provide confidence to your prospect that you can't convey.

4. Create crystal clear examples. Customers at times fear surprises because they don't understand what they're buying. It may be that your process, product, and result still seem cloudy and abstract to the customer. Create whatever it takes to help your customer understand exactly what they're buying. Use detailed infographics, high quality photography, professional-level videos, 3-D animation, and miniature models. Whatever it takes!

5. Be the poison checker. Wise kings had servants check their wine for poison before they drank. You're the servant. If you don't use your product or service yourself, quit your job. Lead your presentations by showing your prospects how you use and love the products and services you represent!

We're in an era where people want to know what to expect. They're more careful, cautious, and conscientious about spending than ever. Remove the possibility of surprise where you can and you'll find buyers who still love to buy!

Have an idea or tip to add? Disagree with me? Add your comment below.

And follow me for more ideas on sales and self-marketing on Twitter @AndyHorner.

Network, Network, Network

It might sound cliché, but no matter how modern and sophisticated technology becomes for marketing and sales, nothing can replace the good ol’ personal referral.

There are a myriad of groups and organizations you can become involved in to meet people and start to make connections, and even have some fun while you’re at it!

  • Start attending your local chamber of commerce events and mixers. You may even want to attend chamber events in nearby cities and towns.
  • Join local associations for your type of business or related business. (For example, If you are a web development company, it's a good idea to join your local technology association.)
  • If you are interested in politics, join your local party chapter.
  • Take a class at a gym.
  • Take a cooking or photography class at your local community college or university – something where you can interact and chat with members of the class (not just sit to hear a lecture).
  • Love softball? Join a rec league!
  • Do you play the trumpet? Join a community band.

Guest Post - Does your email pass the Scan Check?

Before you read an email, you scan it first to determine if you “want" to read it.

This “always on" scanning mode helps you filter out the noise of the Internet from the messages that you actually want to read in your inbox.

Without knowing it, you probably did this today, with this very blog post. And guess what? Your customers scan your emails too! In the blink of an eye, your customers evaluate every email to meet two criteria:

1. Is the message important? 2. Will it be quick and easy to read?

Even if your information is important to your contacts, if your emails don’t produce a “yes" for criteria #2, your message may be ignored or deleted right along with the spam.

To get your emails read (and get a response), you must format your emails for scanning.

Here’s how you can write emails that are quick and easy to read:

  • Keep your emails and ezine articles short. Try to keep everyday emails to 150 words. Limit your lead ezine articles to 400 words. If your email goes on and on, they will immediately fail the scan test, and you’re toast.
  • Restrict the majority of your paragraphs to three sentences or less. Long paragraphs are scanning quagmires that can trigger the subconscious minds of your recipients to demand, “next email!"
  • If you can’t avoid writing a large paragraph, make it easier for the reader to scan. Summarize the paragraph with a bolded title and structure the main points as a numbered or bulleted list. The result – instant “scannability!"
  • Don’t bury your calls to action inside a paragraph. Whatever you’re prompting your recipient to do (download a PDF, visit a webpage, register for a webinar, or answer a question), put it on a line by itself and bold it.
  • End your emails with a dialogue opener, not a closer. Stop writing “best wishes" or “warm regards" at the end of an email. It translates to “have a nice life." Instead, use something that opens a dialogue. Try “Thoughts?"; “What do you think?"; or “Eager for your reply."

Everyday I’m cc’ed on ezines and emails from salespeople who are delivering value to their customers with Ace of Sales. They’re answering customer questions and delivering ideas, updates, and success strategies.

They’re experts in their industry, just like you. However, there’s a big difference between them and you. Their customers are aware of their expertise and are repaying them with their loyalty.

Are you writing regularly to your customers?

If you think you don’t have enough time to write, allocate more time. Make it a priority.

If you feel you have nothing to write about, switch to an industry that ignites your passion.

If you don’t think you’re a good writer, you just need confidence, and some pointers. I've got some for you.

Here are 5 pointers to improve your writing:

  • Follow great content creators. To see how bloggers and expert article writers do it, use www.alltop.com to find popular blogs regarding topics you’re passionate about. Or, find your favorite magazine’s online version. Digest and examine their free content to grow your writing skills. I frequent wired.com and dwell.com for my inspiration.
  • Improve your diction. Remember vocabulary tests from grade school? For most people, learning new words stopped about the same time. If you have a smart phone, get Dictionary.com’s app and turn on the “Word of the Day" feature. Each day, you’ll learn a new word like, “perspicacious." To retain the word, force yourself to use it that day in conversation.
  • Use more precise words. No one is expected to speak with Elizabethan eloquence, but it would behoove you to swap more general, common words with more fitting synonyms. The word “discover" is better than “find" and the term “aesthetically captivating" is more informative than “interesting." Using a more accurate word makes you appear more educated while improving your customers’ engagement and comprehension.
  • Break your sentences down. If your paragraph feels awkward, chances are you’re trying to cram too much into one sentence. Split unwieldy sentences into two or three and you’ll find your words and ideas will work themselves out into a more flowing arrangement.
  • Don’t reuse words too often. A quick way to sound pedestrian is to recycle the same words over and over again. Everyone has pet words, but when they appear too often in your writing, your readers may view them as a crutch for your inability to communicate clearly.

Andy Horner is the Founder and CEO of Ace of Sales, an easy-to-use email marketing program and CRM. Download his ebook, 'Get Responses! 10 Tips To An Irresistible Email.'

Closing More Sales with a Calling Formula

How many phone calls does it take to close a sale?

You may not know the answer right offhand, but with some diligent activity tracking, you will be able to calculate this valuable number.

When I was selling life insurance, I knew that if I wanted to make 3 sales on any given day, I just had to make 75 phone calls. My formula was 25 calls = 1 closed deal.

How did I know this?

I tracked my activity.

Every day I would put a scrap piece of paper near my phone. Every time I made a phone call, I put down a tic mark under 'Calls.' If the person I was calling picked up, I put a mark under 'Contact.' I also tracked how many personalized emails I sent every day, how many proposals I sent out, and how many deals I closed.

By tracking this activity for 3 months, I was able to uncover my formula.

Using a simple spreadsheet (like this Google Doc, which you are welcome to copy and use) you can determine how many phone calls, how many contacts, and how many proposals it takes you to close a sale.

You can also watch this screencast to see the Ace of Sales Calling Formula in action.

We would love to know your experiences in working with this. Has tracking your activity helped you to become more efficient? Tell us in the comments below!

Everyone Gets Good Customer Service (Not Just Customers)

Recently I had a problem with my garage door. There is a small “mom & pop” garage door sales & service shop just around the corner from my house. I had never shopped in their store or even dealt with them before, but I thought I’d give them a quick call, and hoped they’d have some advice on whether or not I might need to hire someone to fix it.

I called the number and a friendly female voice answered the phone. I explained the problem as she listened patiently, and she then offered some advice about a quick fix I could try myself. And you know what? It worked!

Even though this company sold me nothing and didn’t even try to send a repairperson to my house just to “check it out,” guess who I’m going to call when I do need a new garage door?

Finding Your Own Little Space in the World (in Your House, at Least)

Is your home business taking over your whole house?

It might be worth it to take a day or two “off”, invest in some inexpensive items like file cabinets, shelving, and clear plastic bins (see step 4 below), and reorganize so that you can consolidate your business into as little space as possible. This will help prevent items from getting lost, make it easy to find customer files quickly, and have your supplies at your fingertips. It will also help cordon off your “business zone” from the rest of your home, so you can enjoy time with your family “away” from the business.

A good system for organization is to use S.P.A.C.E. – an acronym popularized by Julie Morganstern. It stands for Sort, Purge, Assign, Containerize, Equalize.

1.Sort – sort like with like. Don’t worry about how many piles you might end up with. You can consolidate piles at the end of this step if it works with your system.

2.Purge – throw out (or better – donate and/or recycle) what you don’t use. Don’t hang on to anything you might use - if you haven’t used something within the last 6 months, get rid of it!

3.Assign – put things in their proper area. If it doesn’t belong in your office space, find another place in your home for it. If it does belong in your office space, find the best location for it there.

4.Containerize – do NOT do this step before you have completed steps 1-3. Once you get to step 4, you’ll know exactly what types and size of containers you’ll need.

5.Equalize – another word for this step could be “maintenance”. Keep your space organized every single day, and never let it slide back into the chaotic mess you once worked in!

As you work on your space, you may find you need a different type of container, or you need to bring an item back into your office area that you removed. It’s OK – this is a process, and it’s up to you to refine it to best suit your business and personality!

6 Ways To Become The Local Guru

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Becoming the local “go-to" expert on your product and service can have a positive impact on your customer base.

For example, let’s say you run a health food and supplement store. Some things you can do are:

  • Host a community seminar on fitness and health. Make sure to have a sign-in sheet to capture names & addresses. Send follow-up info by email or postcard.
  • Attend health-related fundraisers and public events. Meet, greet and hand out business cards. Follow up.
  • Volunteer to speak on nutrition at clubs, organizations, and associations.
  • Keep up with all the latest specialized news on vitamin/health topics and send pithy e-mails to local editors or reporters suggesting a local angle.
  • Send out regular newsletters on nutrition topics to your contacts.
  • Establish pen-pal Twitter, Facebook, blog, or e-mail relationships with other leading health and nutrition experts.

There is one more thing...a catchphrase.

How can a catchphrase help you brand yourself? Let's look at Steve Jobs as an example.

The founder and former CEO of Apple was a masterful presenter. By the time he reached the end of his annual keynote presentations, after dazzling the crowd with the newest Apple device, he prefaced the last section of every speech with: "There is one more thing."

When he was introducing colored shells on the original iMac, or revealing FaceTime video chat from your phone, Jobs not only saved the best for last, he encouraged his audience to expect (and anticipate) his catchphrase.

Watch the video above to see him deliver his catchphrase during 31 different speeches. Each time, he is building on the momentum created by all the other times he used this tiny phrase, "There is one more thing."

After a few years, the audience laughs when they hear him say it. He is fulfilling their expectations of him, expectations he carefully set himself.

Creating a winning catchphrase is a process of discovery, that helps to augment the impression you want to make.

After years of releasing ground-breaking and industry-defining products, Steve Jobs was always thought of as having "one more thing." Using his catchphrase, he reaffirmed that impression to everyone who heard it.

When developing your own catchphrase, ask yourself what you want your audience to think about you as they associate this catchphrase with you.

My catchphrase (which is also the tagline on my personal website) is "I make things happen." Not only does this describe my levels of productivity and creativity, when people read this catchphrase, they are left with the impression that I know how to make them happen.