Think your small business doesn’t need an app, think again.
Whether you own a restaurant or a law firm, not having a mobile app for your business could put you at a huge disadvantage under your competitor down the street.
Rewind a few years and companies that didn’t have a Website that was more than brochureware were in the penalty box. But today, there’s more to covering the basics. A small business better have a website optimized for mobile searching and should seriously think about creating a mobile app for the business.
“Mobile phones now account for upwards of 20% of global Web usage, and we will see that continue to grow,” says Qayed Shareef, chief executive of Mimvi, a mobile search and discovery technology provider. “Any business that has customers should consider having an app.”
Because of the proliferation of mobile phones and consumer preference for conducting Web searches via a smartphone or tablet, having a mobile app could mean the difference between a potential customer using your business or going to your major competitor down the street. What’s more, if your small business develops an app it creates a deeper relationship with customers, which goes a long way to boost loyalty and thus revenue.
“You can have a more intimate relationship through the various ways of being able to communicate your business, whether it is through social media, push notifications (a feature similar to text messages), a fan wall or more,” says Nicholas Kohlhepp, founding partner of Social Brothers, the Internet and mobile marketing company. “With your icon always on their device it’s a constant reminder of your brand.”
Developing a mobile app won’t break the bank, unless you want all the bells and whistles, but it does require research. According to experts, it only makes sense to develop a mobile app if the small business first understands what’s involved and what they are aiming to achieve. The business owner has to know his or her target market and have a clear idea of what it wants customers to use the app for.
“Some of the best industries for developing a mobile app are restaurants and clubs, entertainment, professionals (spas, salons, law firms, etc),” says Kohlhepp. “Even if your industry doesn’t fall into one of these categories, most businesses that market to the consumer group can benefit from having an app.”
So how much is an app going to cost a small business? According to Kohlhepp, a small business can have one made for around $1,000 plus a small monthly hosting fee that includes a mobile app portal for making content changes, analytics and unlimited push notifications.
Typically, these apps are built on a platform that makes it quick to develop but also offers customized features. Kohlhepp says some of the typical features in a roughly $1,000 app include food or merchandise ordering, scheduling of appointments, push notifications, mailing list sign ups and one-touch directions or calling.
Shareef says it’s a good idea to first talk to customers to find out what they want out of the mobile app.
Let’s say you own a restaurant. It wouldn’t be wise to create an app to let customers look at the menu, but not offer an ordering capability, if that is what they are clamoring for.
“It's essential they have a clear understanding of what they want the app to do, what the customer experience should be in using the app, and how the business can measure the app’s success,” says Shareef. “This will save owners time and money when working with a developer.”
What’s more, Shareef says to be mindful of the market share between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android OS. Since it’s pretty evenly split you’ll have to decide if you want to make the app for one platform or the other, or for both. Shareef says you’ll also want to make sure there is support for the app after it’s live in one of the app stores.
“Mobile operating systems are being updated often, and most businesses will need someone to update the app to make sure it is working and optimized for new OS updates and handsets,” says Shareef. “This will not only help to protect a business' investment and brand/image, it'll maximize the long-term impact the app has on your business.”
Here are some top tips to make you stand above the crowd and ensure that your business is well placed to grow and prosper.
Small business advertising is a science and an art. Companies often miss the fundamentals of advertising. Regardless of the size of your business an understanding of the laws of advertising can reap huge rewards.
My understanding of these fundamental laws came years ago when I had the privilege of working for one of the all-time advertising success stories; NordicTrack. NordicTrack's advertising was based on flawless execution of fundamentals.
According to Small Business Administration, 5% of an entrepreneur's gross sales should be budgeted for advertising. A 5% small business advertising budget can only help if you understand the laws of advertising.
Use One Message:
A high response rate ad usually conveys a single message. NordicTrack's message of the "World's Best Aerobic Exerciser" was simple and compelling. Your small business advertising needs to quickly communicate its core message in 3 seconds or less. If you are fearful and overwhelmed by technology, which computer book do you buy? "DOS for Dummies" began a best-selling phenomena because its message was easily understood and to the point.
It has become human nature to distrust advertising. Claims need to be real and credible. Roy H. Williams, best-selling author of the "Wizard of Ads" says, "Any claim made in your advertising which your customer does not perceive as the truth is a horrible waste of ad dollars."
NordicTrack added enormous credibility from a University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse research study, ranking the cross-country ski exerciser first in the areas of weight loss, body fat reduction, and cardiovascular fitness. Ivory soap's advertising success was attributed to its credible statement that ivory soap is the 99-44/100% pure.
Large businesses have a greater margin to waste capital and resources without testing advertising. Small businesses do not have the luxury. Use coupons, codes, and specials to measure the headline, timing, and placement of your ad. Test only one item at a time and one medium. Testing can be as simple as asking every customer for several weeks how they heard of your business.
Be Easy to Contact:
Every single brochure, box, email and all company literature should have full contact information including: website and email address, phone and fax numbers, and company address. It seems simple but is forgotten by most companies. At NordicTrack, every box a ski machine went into had full contact information and the "World's Best Aerobic Exerciser" tagline. Be everywhere.
Match Ads to Target: Successful business advertising speaks to one target market only. At NordicTrack, the ads were tailored to each market. An ad in a medical publication preached the cardio-vascular benefits of cross-country skiing to heart patients. Ads in women's magazines discussed the weight-loss and calorie burn from cross-country skiing. Focus the message to the target group.
Create Curiosity: Successful business advertising does not sell a product or service. NordicTrack's ads sold the free video. Once a potential customer watched the video, they contacted the company for more information. The end result, millions of dollars of sales. Create ads that generate interest and make the customer want more information.
Having a poor response is not the medium's fault. Often the problem is the message. Small business advertising is not a quick fix solution to marketing your company. It takes planning, testing and constant exposure to have an impact on your small business. Done correctly, small business advertising can be a winning strategy.
There's always talk about the end game in the form of an acquisition, funding announcement, or eventual flame out. Hollywood has even made a movie about the founding of Facebook that glamorizes start up life instead of showing what it really is: a day in day out marathon of work with very little glamour. We rarely hear about the harsh realities that entrepreneurs face and the journey that this entails. This isn't meant to be a downbeat and negative article, but actually quite the opposite. By knowing the harsh realities that lie ahead, you can be prepared when they come about so you can solider on. Here are some of the harsh realities that come with the territory of being an entrepreneur.
Your First Iteration of an Idea Will Be Wrong
The first iteration or implementation of your idea will often be wrong. That's not because you're not smart, not doing the right things, or some other reason to come down hard on yourself. As it turns out, this is actually a good sign. No idea survives its first interactions with its customers and requires you to synthesize feedback to adapt to the customer. You could be prideful, not listen to what your customers are telling you, and keep things the way they were. In the end, that just leaves you with no customers and a product you may not even use yourself. It's okay if things change up a bit when it comes to your idea and its implementation.
Your Friends And Family Won't Understand What You Do
"You're an entrepreneur, so that means you're unemployed?" or "Oh that's nice." are some of the many reactions you will get from close friends, family members, and others over the course of starting your company. Even if you achieve milestones that are worthy of praise (customers, fundraising, new traffic levels, press,etc.) and denote success in the entrepreneurial world, people still won't understand what you do. Unless you build one of the few consumer success stories that come around every few years, things probably won't change here. The b2b space is even more difficult to explain as most people aren't your customer, especially if it's a niche workflow. This is okay and sometimes even a relief to know there is more outside in the world than just techies and entrepreneurs. Just because they don't understand it, doesn't mean you're doing something wrong or unacceptable. I doubt Larry Ellison can have most of his family understand Oracle (that database company that stores information), but things turned out pretty well for him at the end of the day.
You Will Make Less Than Normal Wages For A While
If you got into entrepreneurship first and foremost for the money, then you are in the wrong business. Sure you may one day sell your company, but that day is probably far far away. Even then, there are usually earn out clauses, vesting still in tact, and a whole lot more. Even if you raise a good chunk of cash, your money is better spent on hiring the best talent than paying yourself a higher wage. There's nothing wrong wanting to make money, but in the beginning it's going to be rough. You will make less than most of your friends, especially the ones doing the "normal" paths of things like finance. It's a litmus test in its finest form though. If you truly love what you're doing, the capacity to have a large bank account takes a back burner to completing your mission. Sure you need some basic creature comforts, but luxury items almost seem silly as you will not have the time to truly enjoy them.
Everything Takes Twice As Long...If It Even Happens
Multiply everything by two, including the things inside of your control. When things take longer, you sometimes think that you're doing it wrong or no one really cares. In reality, everyone else has multiple deals and responsibilities on the table. By factoring this into the expectations of your startup, it makes a lot easier to prepare for launching products, closing deals, and more. Also, be persistent and get the other party what they need as soon as possible. On the flipside, most deals just never work out. It may be an acquisition all the way down to a simple business development deal. There are always many moving parts and excitement that can just fade. That's okay though. If you're building your company upon one deal or a silver bullet (more on that below), then you need to re-evaluate things. Don't be depressed when a deal falls through as that is just the nature of the beast.
Titles Mean Nothing. You Will Be a Janitor
Hey there Mr. CEO, Chairman, and Co-Founder! As a co-founder of a < 10 person company with a product that doesn't have customers, titles really don't mean much. Everyone will be doing a little bit of everything, including cleaning the toilets. Don't try to mask the grind of being an entrepreneur with some superficial title. In reality, you should love and embrace the nitty gritty of those first days. Business cards are nice to hand out, but they really shouldn't say more than co-founder or something else. Maybe someone inside the company plays more of the CEO role (speaking and being the face of the company), but that doesn't really matter in the early days. You have to be humble and you have to be willing to do whatever it takes. You don't have a staff of 50 to throw the task on to either. If you don't do it, it won't get done. Sure you could also try to optimize for efficiency, but that's almost counter productive as the early days of a start up requiring doing so much, that it's hard to just cut something out.
There Is No Silver Bullet
There shouldn't be and usually never is a single deal that can make your company. Certain deals or customers can take you to another rung on the ladder, but there are still many more rungs to climb along the way. You shouldn't look at a deal as the end game to the startup, but a means to a specific milestone that is in the near future. A deal can be taken away far faster than it can be given to you. By training yourself to diversify your risk and the milestones that advance your company, you control the destiny of your company, NOT one single partner. The success of a start up is the compilation of luck infused with many little wins along the way.
Customers Will Frustrate You
Having customers is a great thing, but dealing with support is a whole other ball game. If you're in the consumer world, expect to deal with customers that don't notice the obvious even with your fancy pants UI/UX in place. You will also get an influx of feedback that is often contradictory. One customer wants it in red, another wants it in blue, and a third wants it combined to become purple. The key to dealing with customers is to respond to everyone, but have a strong rule of authority. If you succumb to customers frustrating you and do everything you say, you quickly end up in a far worse position.
You Can't Do It All Yourself
Some entrepreneurs have a superhero complex that they feel they can do everything themselves or with just one co-founder. They think that it's possible to scale the company with just two to three people. This just results in being overworked and unfocused. Know when to let go of your pride and bring in people that are often smarter than you are. By bringing in others to work with you, there's also an ability for each team member to be laser focused on what they're best at.
There Is No Such Thing As An Overnight Success
In some cases you may be able to find out that your idea just won't work or that you are one of the lucky few that get acquired early on. Other than that, be prepared to work on your startup for many many years. The press often makes it seem as if success happened overnight, but the entrepreneurs themselves spent a lot of time with the company over the course of many years. Start ups aren't a 5k, but an all out iron man competition.
Building A Team Is Hard
Finding co-founders by themselves is very hard just by itself. Finding a group of individuals smarter than yourself across a broad range of skill takes up way more time than you would ever think. In the early days, you may be super excited about your company, but it's often hard to get a large group of others equally excited. They may have their own ideas they want to work on, be comfortable with a cushy salary, or generally just not interested in what you're doing. Just because you're excited does not mean others will be excited. If you're lucky enough, you will hit a certain period of growth explosion that requires you to hire rapidly and be a great judge of character on the fly. This is a dangerous period for a startup as the company is still small enough that the wrong DNA can make things take a turn for the worse, but you cannot be as granular with hiring these employees as your first 10.
There Are Forces Outside Your Control
Last, but not least, you have to understand that you cannot control everything in the universe. Markets collapse, the government intervenes, tragedy strikes, and other unforseen circumstances. You don't let this make you quit. It's like a roadblock on the way to a concert, sports game, or party you want to get to. You may have to sit in traffic or take an alternate route, but as long as you are determined to get there, you will end up at the event. In the words of the late Randy Pausch "Brick walls are there to show you how bad you want something." Once again, this isn't a deterrent to becoming an entrepreneur, but just a reality check to make sure you're prepared. Many companies die because people just give up . Hopefully this article does some small bit in helping preventing this. Life as an entrepreneur is hard, but if you really love what you're doing and have the determination, you will do it.
Crafting a good sales pitch is not easy.
That's because a sales pitch is no longer a “pitch” in the sense that you throw information at your customer as a baseball player would pitch a baseball at a batter.
Nowadays, an effective sales pitch is a two-way street -- a conversation where you listen to the buyer, ask real questions, and offer them a solution to a challenge they’re experiencing.
A good sales pitch starts with a great first impression. Sales professionals work hard to make a memorable and positive initial impact by creating laser-focused one-liners, but it’s just as important that your short, snappy delivery also resonates long after you’ve delivered that opening line.
You want a presentation that holds your audience’s attention -- the longer you're able to keep that attention, the higher your chances of winning them over. And captivating your audience involves being prepared with relevant buyer information, and a pitch that actively includes the buyer in the discussion.
As simple as it sounds, effective sales pitches require upfront work and a conscious effort to stray from the script. Creating effective sales presentations that are collaborative is an art that’s perfected over time and comes with years of hands-on experience.
Knowing that, here are a few tips to get you on your way to a more effective sales pitch.
1. Do the Due Diligence
Unless you're pitching a timeshare at the fountain of youth - your product isn't likely going to sell itself. As mentioned, it's not just tossing information at the buyer anymore, but crafting the pitch that will be the most successful. Making the perfect pitch requires you to understand your customer, so if you're not researching your customer, you are severely decreasing your chances of making that deal.
Do Your Research: 82% of sales people are not aligned with the needs of their buyer. If you’re only espousing why you like the product -- that value may be completely lost on the buyer.
Your sales pitch should be different each time you deliver it. This can’t be emphasized enough. If you come in with the story from only your angle, is it any wonder that it doesn’t resonate with your audience?
Prior to presenting your pitch to the buyer, you should conduct thorough research on their company, their industry, and competitors. During your initial contact, be sure to ask the right questions so you can tailor your message to address that business’ specific needs and ease the deal to the next step.
Great research will also eliminate unnecessary noise and will keep the buyer(s) engaged. Show them that you understand their business with a lean message that highlights your product’s features that matters to them the most.
2. Best Decision You've Ever Made
All of the research and customer information in the world won’t help you if you aren’t in touch with the actual decision maker who can approve the purchase.
Before the actual sales pitch, ensure that you are talking to the person who not only truly understands the business, but is also a decision maker. If you can’t figure this out through your own research, go ahead and respectfully ask your contact with the company; they don’t want their time wasted either.
3. Give Them the Answers To Your Homework
You've done your homework, now share your answers to a problem they're struggling with.
Guy Kawasaki, an author and venture capitalist said, “Enchantment is the purest form of sales. Enchantment is all about changing people’s hearts, minds and actions because you provide them a vision or a way to do things better. The difference between enchantment and simple sales is that with enchantment you have the other person’s best interests at heart too.”
It’s no secret that customers respond most to products that solve a current problem. A successful sales pitch will acknowledge that problem (via research) and provide a solution. Even if your company only offers one product, each pitch should speak to the unique challenges of the business you’re pitching.
Your message should be honed on a specific product feature or features that the audience will benefit most from.
4. Address Objections with Objections (Respectfully)
As you’re reviewing your sales message, be sure your presentation not only includes thorough research and solves a customer problem, but that the pitch also addresses potential sales objections that may come up.
The most common sales objections fall in four buckets: Budget, Authority, Need, and Time (also known as BANT). You may not need to have a detailed response to all four, but be prepared to discuss each. The key here is to offer up a reply that shows value to your buyer.
Does the target audience currently have a competing product that is similar? If so, highlight the features that differentiate your product. Do they not have budget this quarter? Talk to how much money your product can save them.
Over time, you’ll hone your objection-response based on the feedback you receive in face-to-face sales meetings. In the meantime, leverage customer and product research and use that knowledge in handling objections.
5. You're Listening, But Are You Hearing Your Buyer?
You've put together a fantastic pitch and you feel as if you've covered every base, but even though you’re there to pitch your product and have put hours into the preparation - that doesn’t mean you know everything.
If you’re on a script -- it’s time to put it down and don't be overzelous or overconfident -- go into the pitch with an open mind and aim to let the buyer do most of the talking.
Check in with the buyer during your pitch - take the time to listen to them and respond with deep, thoughtful follow-up questions. This is critical step to really understanding their business needs and ultimately closing the deal. If you’re listening and asking the right questions, you can adjust your sales message to one that sounds really attractive to the buyer.
If your pitch goes well and you have your ears open, it should feel less like a business presentation and more like a healthy conversation about their business needs.
6. A Call for "Call to Actions"
Even though listening to your buyer is critical - don’t just pack up after your pitch, shrug your shoulders and wait for the customer to define the next steps.
Every sales pitch should end with a call to action that makes sense. Even if the customer isn’t ready to complete the sale yet, be sure to keep the prospect on the journey and move forward with a follow-up meeting or a trial period.
Never wait for the customer to make the call to action. This is solely the salesperson’s responsibility, and failing to be proactive could result in the meeting or relationship ending before you have met your purpose for coming.
7. Reference a Referral
Okay, this isn't really a step, but more a a head start for your next pitches.
Ask current customers that you have a healthy relationship with for referrals to other potential prospects. Referrals are more likely to complete a sale than any other method, and generally a customer who is happy with your service will be happy to spread the word.
However, remember a referral without an introduction is ice cold, so be sure to ask for a quick email introduction rather than just leaving with a name and phone number
Congratulations, you’ve gotten to the point of bringing a prospective buyer into the same room to hear your pitch, so don’t go into the presentation under-prepared. It’s no easy feat to get in front of a potential customer, so don’t waste their time and yours with a long-winded, boring sales pitch that isn't relevant and says little to nothing at all.
So, keep the pitch on-message, keep it clear and you'll keep your buyer's attention. Review it repeatedly and trim excess until it’s as concise as possible without losing the intent. Remove unnecessary buzzwords, like “synergy” and “best practice" -- you won't need these words if you know your customer's needs.
Ok, you're ready. A little bit of nerves are okay, but be confident because you've put real thought and effort into your sales pitch; you know your product, you know your buyer, you're ready to listen, you're solving a real problem, and you're ready for any objection. What's not to like?
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