Thursday, July 30, 2009

Buzz! How to generate Buzz using Twitter

I have been using Twitter for about a month now, with the goal of generating interest in my Outsourced Sales Management Consulting practice. Think of Twitter and all of these types of social media sites as advertising tools, to send out your brand to as many people as possible.

Now to some ideas!

I have found (with a help from my friends) two other web sites that link to Twitter: is a site that broadcasts your message out to multiple social networking sites like Twitter. There are currently over 45 sites that connects with. Think of each one of those sites, as a mini advertisement with its own target markets. When you setup a account you can select as many of those sites as you want. At the main screen on there is a box where you enter your message and it is then posted to all the social sites that you have selected. One entry is then sent out to many social networking sites. is a web based tool that ranks your Twitter postings. It has a very interesting graph showing how you compare to other people in the world of Twitter. I am listed as a Connector in the over all ranking of Twitter accounts. You can also compare your Tweets to other peoples Tweets.

There is a series of tabs on the right. The next tab is Stats, which gives you an overview of your Twitter activity. The Stats lists: Engagement, Reach, Velocity, Demand, Network Strength, and Activity. The Content tab lists specific activities like questions and answers, and retweets. Use this as a guide to your Twitter activities keeping the goal of building up your followers to build your brand identity. Finally there is the last tab for Network which shows a world wide map with an overlay of your influence. My map shows that I influence people in the United States.

This web site is a new tool for me so I will have to update you on the trends that I observe. I look at as a way to measure the effectiveness of my marketing message, also know as Buzz. The more these indicators grow the more Buzz my effort is generating. My goal of all these tools is to increase paying clients for my Outsourced Sales Management Consulting practice. The more Buzz and traffic on my site I can generate, the higher probability of closure of new accounts. I am also targeting new clients that are based outside the US. Based on the map on I need to focus on connecting to people outside of the US.

I hope that this helps you and gives you some tools to increase your Buzz. Please post your comments below. If you are looking to increase your company’s sales, please click through to my web site for my contact information.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Polls for Market Studies

I sent out a poll today asking for ideas for this week’s Blog entry, and realized that polls would be a great topic.

I want to establish some definitions so we all have some common points of reference.

First the definition of Marketing. Marketing is the activities which attract potential customers to your company’s product or service. Marketing can take the form of a number of activities such as:

o Blogs and other Social Networks
o Advertisements
o Printed literature
o Trade shows
o Word of mouth
o Video postings

In each case the goal is to deliver a message to a specific target. In classic marketing terminology there was the Shotgun and the Rifle approach. The concepts are still the same; you can choose to target a wide range of potential customers with a broad general message, or a very narrow range with a specific message.

So using the examples above we can see that Blogs are a way to send a message to a broad range of potential customers or clients. I sent out about 2500 notices that I have updated this Blog, and look for a fraction of the recipients to reply back to me, looking for my consulting services to grow their business.

I have a friend who does direct mail for his clients. He uses a more targeted approach. He mails out offers from a cable company to people who have just moved into a new home. The message targets a specific potential customer at the exact time when they are deciding on their phone, internet, and cable TV needs.

Now the Second Definition: Sales. Sales are the exchange of products or services for money. Profits in a company are derived for the sales of products or services. Marketing is an expense that causes the Sales to occur. The two go hand in hand. Without actively marketing you product or services you will not get sales.

Now on to the main topic: Polls.

A Poll is a way of asking a series of questions to a potential customer or another target group. I have used polls to ask a number of interesting questions, for example:

• Looking for feedback about my company’s technical support
• Asking reps what types of products they would like to sell
• Looking for the next topic for this Blog

In all cases, I had an idea of the questions, and the potential answers I was looking for.

Polls are easily available on Linked In, Blogger which is a Google product, and Constant Contact. In each case you can very easily set up a Poll to ask one question and offer a range of potential answers to select. Try to think about the goal of the Poll and ask the questions in such a was as to gain useful information from your potential customers.

Remember in every case your goal is to gain information about you potential customer, and move them to the point of closing the sale. Why did Ronald McDonald always ask “You want fries with that? “ It was an easy way to Poll his customer at the exact time of the decision, and move the decision process in favor of closing a sale.

Remember in the last Blog we profiled Bob. You can use the Poll to ask Bob questions and then expand your profile of him. The more you know about Bob, the easier it is to influence his decision, to purchase your product or service.

Here are some specific guides to setting up Polls:

On, select Dashboard, then Layout, then Add a Gadget. Polls are in the Gadget section. I have selected to add the Poll Gadget to the right side so that the Poll would not be lost at the bottom of the Blog page.

On Lined In, select Applications, and the Polls follow the installation instructions to get the Poll set up. Once the Poll app is set into your Linked In you can select it and then the Create a Poll tab at the top of the main section.

On Constant Contact, select Surveys and then create a Poll or a Survey. The Survey in Constant Contact is a Poll with more then one question. The poll is sent out the same way as a newsletter to your target population. Constant Contact has a great feature that lets you track who took the survey, and look at the responses. The Survey was so easy to use, even Ed could fill in all the answers.

Next Step: Create you own Poll!

To grow you sales in the United States contact Seth!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Strategies for Sales Channel Development: How to find new customers or clients.

Thank you to all the people who sent me emails with questions and comments to the last Blog. I really appreciate your feedback.

This is a continuation to my prior Blog entry where I was talking about the 60 mile comfort zone. In the last Blog, I asked some questions for you to think about. In this Blog I want to ask some additional questions:

How does this potential customer (as outlined in the prior Blog) purchase products?
What is the key factor to that customers purchase decision?

In the last Blog I listed some statements of the target market of companies. For example:

“I am looking for the manufactures that use precision machined parts made out of Titanium any where in the US”. This is the target customer of the Titanium R US Company.

Let’s think of the person that makes the decision to purchase Titanium parts from the Titanium R US Company for a moment. What drives their decision?

In this scenario, Bob Robert’s is the VP of Engineering at BobCo, who is making the decision which vendor to select for his company’s Titanium parts.

Let’s try for a moment to profile Bob:

What is Bob’s background?
What is the capacity of Bob’s company?
Are they looking at Make it vs. Buy it?
Are they checking out other vendors?
What is Bob’s biggest Fear?
What makes Bob Happy?
What are his personal interests?

Once we have profiled Bob as a typical customer of our company, we can then determine how our company can best meet Bob’s needs. At this point we can now look at Sales Channel Development. The needs of the target customer should determine the sales channels needed to expand your company outside of your 60 mile comfort zone!

In the Industrial Sector companies have used sales agents, and distributors to meet the needs of their customers. In the Retail Sector, companies have sold product through stores to consumers. Keep in mind that you can develop more then one channel to meet the needs of Bob, and the other potential customers profiled in the prior Blog. For one client I identified 6 different target populations, and then set up unique distributors across the United States that targeted each of these markets sectors. In every case I also had only one distributor in any given geography for each of the 6 targeted markets to avoid channel conflicts.

Let’s go back to Bob Roberts again and fill in some of his information as an example of how to develop a channel. This example information is based on my experience in the industrial sector.

What is Bob’s background? Bob is an engineer who likes to work with other engineers. He feel that they “Speak his language”, and he respects another engineers opinion.

What is the capacity of Bob’s company? Bob’s company has internal manufacturing capability but they do not have the expertise or machinery needed to work with Titanium.

Are they looking at “Make it vs. Buy it”? Bob’s company does not want to make the investment needed to bring Titanium manufacturing in house.

Are they checking out other vendors? Yes they always check out multiple vendors.

What is Bob’s biggest Fear? That the project will be behind the schedule and his company will need to delay the shipment of a critical component to their customer.

What makes Bob happy? Not having to worry about meeting his goal. Being able to leave work at a reasonable time, since his vendor is supplying him quality component on time.

What are his personal interests? Going for long fast bike rides.

Wow! By talking to Bob and asking him a few questions, we are able to understand his needs and develop a plan to win him as a customer. Using this plan we can then expand our sales team to meet the needs of people like Bob across the country. Let’s look at Bob’s answers and generate a Sales Channel Outline to meet his needs:

Our Sales Person needs to be an Engineer who can establish credibility in his relationship with Bob. Bob want to know that his components are being built in a timely manor so he does not worry. The Sales Person needs to communicate with Bob the status of his parts on a regular basis.

Based on these goal we can set up either a team of independent sales representatives, or direct employees, who are degreed engineers to address Bob’s needs. Independent reps offer an advantage of having long term established relationships with target companies like BobCo and providing Bob Roberts with a range of solutions to his problems beyond his need for Titanium machined parts. With either option, the sales person must keep in touch with to make him feel comfortable and happy.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The 60 Mile Comfort Zone

In talking to small companies across the country about ways to expand their business, I noticed that there were some common factors. They almost all had an established set of customers with whom they worked, located with in a radius of about 60 miles. This seems to be the Comfort Zone of the owner of a small company. The sales of the company’s product or services are based on the personal relationship between the owner and the customer within The Zone.

It is great to have a group of friendly customers who you work with on a regular basis, but how do you take the company to the next level? If you are dependent on one group of customers then you are subject to the same economic cycles as they are.

Jumping out of The Zone

To grow a business past this initial stage requires a Sales and Marketing Plan. Some of the topics which should be addressed in the plan are:

Who is the new target market?
What are there needs of this new market?
Where are they located? Are there test locations or are you looking to expand nationally?
How do you find the clients in the new locations?

This seems fairly simple but I am surprised how many small businesses struggle with these few basis questions.

At this point in the Blog I will make an offer to any company who would like advice about taking the next step to grow. I will talk to you for 23 minutes about ways to expand your company into the larger US marketplace. I only ask that you jump to my web site and fill in the contact information. I will send you back an email with a time for you to contact me. You pay the phone call and I will talk to you for 23 minutes.

Who is the new target market and where are they located?

“I am looking for the manufactures that use precision machined parts made out of Titanium any where in the US”
“I am looking for Chief Learning Officers, of Fortune 1000 companies, located in the Metro Boston or Metro Providence area”
“I am looking for builders of large rotating machines that have require extreme life and reliability”
“I am looking for OEM builders of Automation Machines with between 16 and 128 inputs and outputs, anywhere in the US”
“I am looking for CEO’s of small to medium sized companies that recognize there own need for a coach to help them”

By specifically analyzing your target customers, you break up the overwhelming large potential market of the United States, into a specific target that you can point your finger at. Be detailed and specific to define the target. You can always define more then one target market, and establish a plan to target each one.

I like to do this as an exercise in my Sales Rep Training Classes. I go around the room and ask professional sales people, who their target customers are. Usually it takes one or two them to start talking before the others student’s brains turn on and they come up with ideas. I like to use the old fashioned method of writing on a flip chart in front of the class, and freely share the ideas with everyone in the class.

I had one independent sales rep based in Chicago, who thought his customers were anyone breathing in the northern hemisphere of the planet…… He went out of business.

What are there needs of this new market?

The sales strategy must address the needs of the customers. If you are selling a low cost commodity product, then set up a low cost method to sell the product to the customer. Apple is a great example of a paradigm shift in the selling of software. Software was sold to customers in colorful boxes on shelves of stores, like CompUSA and Egghead. As the internet developed, there was a shift to downloading of the product from the developer’s web site. Apple changed that model with the App Store for the iPhone and iPod. Now you can just touch the desired software and it is automatically be delivered and installed in your device. Apple now has total control over the distribution of all the software products for this niche market, and collects a fee on each App sold.

On the other extreme are custom designed automatic assembly machines, designed to increase production and lower the cost of manufacturing products. Each machine is designed to meet the needs of that one specific customer exactly. Since each customer is different each machine is also unique.

In the case of Apple there are no sales people involved in the purchase of the App software. In the case of the custom machine, the Sales Engineer works closely with the customer throughout the entire design process. The custom machine builder’s sales process is entirely based on building up a long term relationship between the sales person and the customer.

In both of these examples the structure of the sales team should be selected based on the needs of the customer.

More about how do you find the clients in the new locations, in the next entry.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

International Manufacturers Expanding into the US Marketplace

Many companies have expressed an interest to me, to expand into the US marketplace. In this update of my Blog, I will review some if the factors that are keys to successfully entering and growing in the United State. I want to point out that my experience is in the industrial sector, which is the focus of this Blog. Even though these ideas may be applicable to a consumer product company, I will focus on growth of companies that target other companies.

The United States is not Europe.

We do some things differently here in the US compared to other countries. One fundamental difference is that in the US, business is conducted using credit. A product is purchased by a company using agreed payment terms. For example, when a distributor purchases a product from a manufacturer, the distributor pays for the product 30 days later. Most companies do not pay at the time of order for inventory, or pay but wire transfer which are common with European customers.

A second difference is that our standard size of literature is 8 ½ inches by 11 inches, and not the European format of A4. People here do not know what to do with a piece of literature that is A4 size. Since this size does not fit into a file drawer, people do not know where to store the literature. What is the message that a non US company is trying to give to an American potential customer? By using A4 sized literature, the message is that the manufacture does not care about the American customer. This is not a good place to way to build new relationships.

The United States is really big!

Even though the US is one big county, we can look at it like a lot of smaller countries. Each state or region has a different culture. To develop and grow business here in the US, you must be aware of this uniqueness, and work with the local culture. Again companies should not try to force a sales plan that works in New England onto a distributor in Arkansas. You need to find out his local needs, and the needs of his local customers in order for the plan to be successful.

People grow business, not web sites.

Web sites, blogs, social networks, and Twitter, are all tools to connect people with other people. It is the person that is looking into your eyes, and shakes your hand that makes a decision for his or her company. To grow a company you must get a message across to that person.

Are you able to present your company’s product or service and answers these questions:
Does your product or service have a value to the person sitting across from you?
Does your product save them money compared to their other chooses?
Can you improve their life? Will selecting your product or service, give this person more free time?
Does the customer know the local sales person?
Does the customer know your company?

By presenting your company in a way that addresses these questions, you are relating to the needs of that local customer, rather then shouting at him the features of your product.

Business is grown one person at a time.

If you are not helping someone do something, then what is the goal of your company? I highly recommend Jeffrey Gitomer’s books including his “Little Red Book of Selling”. Look on page 7 for the reason “Why People Buy”. Please post your comments if you have read this book to share with the other Blog readers.

I have a wonderful product or service. Will you sell it in America?

I receive about three emails every day from very nice people around the world that ask me this question. I always answer them back the same way, by asking them if their company is ready, and if they have the funding to expand into the US.

Sales of products or services do not just happen, in the industrial or business to business sector. Companies must invest in their future by advertising, marketing, setting up and then training field sales people. I have looked at the sales of many companies over my career. I have tracked the results of specific activities to the overall sales of the company looking for success factors. One great example was the sales agent training programs I presented annually for one of my clients. Within 30 days of every training class I would see a spike in the monthly sales. There was always one sales person who attended my class, and then used the sales tools I taught him to close a new major account. Since ending my training classes, sales at this former client have fallen off dramatically.

The economy in many sectors is not doing very well. In my opinion we all need to increase our level of investment, and activity to get things moving again. I welcome your comments and would be glad to help you in any way.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Using social media tools to expand your potential customer base

Twitter and Linked In and Blogs…. Oh My!
Twitter and Linked In and Blogs…. Oh My!
Twitter and Linked In and Blogs…. Oh My!

Sometimes it would be great to ask the All Knowing Wizard of Oz to tell you what to do with these new marketing tools. Since he is not available, I hope that I can answer some of your questions.

I started to try out Twitter a few weeks ago as a way to expand my connections. My goal is to find small companies that are ready to expand their sales and marketing efforts in the US. I then help them to connect with sales people and customers across the country and the world. The way I think of the social networking sites is like a TV commercial. I am sending out a very small message to a large pool of prospective customers. The focus of the message is my brand, me, and where to find more information as a fellow up. For example, books that I am reading, updates to my blog, meetings I am attending and that I am looking for sales people to sell my client’s products.

How does this tool fit into my sales strategy?

Think about the classic sales model of a big funnel. The inputs into the funnel are raw unqualified prospects. In the old days of the 1980’s the inputs came for responses to advertisements. The outputs of the funnel are customers that purchase something from you. The challenge in this model is to mover prospects through the selling process from raw leads to closed sales. The Social Networks are a way to get people that are interested in your specific message and then drive them to the next step in the selling process. In my case the Twits drive traffic to the Blog. The Blog drives traffic to my Web site, which gets people to send me an email requisition more info.

Who is reading my messages? For me it is a lot of people that I do not know. My goal for now is to let the network grow. The bigger the audience the higher the probability that my commercial with hit the one person that I am looking for.

If I post someone finds interesting, great!
If they read that leads then go to my Blog, Wow!
If they read the Blog and then contact me, Hurray!

Some people commented on my Linked In postings that Social Networks do not have a good ROI. I learned from Bill O’Leary in the early 80’s that ROI is Return On Investment. What is the investment in a Blog? What is the investment in a Tweet? Nothing but my time! The ROI for only one hit is huge and worth my investment in time.

I hope that you found this interesting. Please post any comments or questions, and please add your name to the followers list.