There are over 11,000 business books published each year. In all of them there’s one thing missing: ACTION! Without action all the knowledge in the world is useless.
As a business owner you don’t need more ideas, you need focus. Today, I’ve made it easy for you…I’ve listed 22 actions you can take today to position your business for breakthrough growth. Implement them all or implement just one…but implement something!
Each of these actions compounds on the others so you’ll get better results the more you implement.
Action #1: Create a Customer List (60 minutes)
If you do nothing else do this! Your customer list is the only real asset in your business. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. You may own equipment and real estate and according to your accountant they are assets…but in reality, the only assets you have are the relationships you have with the people who are willing to give you money in return for service. Without that one primary asset, you don’t have a business. So start paying close attention to your customer list…it’s the most valuable thing you own.
If your list is in Quickbooks…get it out. Quickbooks is for accounting. You need a marketing list. I recommend using Highrise if you’re just getting started with your list, or Infusionsoft if you’re ready to leap to the next level. Infusionsoft will automate all of your marketing and fulfillment processes…it’s what I use to power my business.
Action #2: Create a Written Process for Getting Contact Information From Every Customer (20 minutes)
What good’s a list if you don’t have a way to grow it. In my experience businesses divide into two categories—1) The businesses that bill their customers after the fact; 2) Transactional businesses that deliver the goods and get paid at the same time. Businesses that bill customers almost always have a decent customer list…if not, they don’t get paid. Transactional businesses mostly ignore the value of a customer list.
If you’re not collecting customer contact information come up with a reason for needing it (it makes it less creepy when you ask). Here’s a hint…you don’t need a good reason, just a reason. At a minimum collect name and email. Ideally you’ll collect name, email, mailing address, phone (and maybe their Twitter handle).
With your list in hand, and a process for growing it you now have the keys to instant sales…just send a message to the list when you need some extra cash.
Action #3: Make a List of Everything You Can Guarantee (15 minutes)
Most small businesses fear guarantees. Afraid that they’ll be taken advantage of. The reality is that only a very small number of customers ever claim a guarantee. Your risk is small in offering a guarantee…but the perceived risk reduction in the client’s eyes can make selling much easier.
You don’t have to guarantee your product or service or it’s results. It’s best if you can, but you can guarantee anything. Here are a few examples:
- Guarantee that your phone will be answered by a real, live human.
- Guarantee that you’ll return customer calls on the same day.
- Guarantee that you’re service people will arrive when promised.
- Guarantee that your quoted price will be the final price.
- Guarantee that a particular item is always in stock.
If you stop to think about it the list is endless. Guarantee satisfaction, and offer money back if possible. But if you’re not comfortable with that, guarantee as many pieces as you can.
Action #4: Sign-up for an Email Marketing Service With an Autoresponder (15 minutes)
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways you can market your business. National studies have shown year after year that email marketing delivers more than a 40:1 return on investment. That’s more than double the next best marketing method. If you’ve completed Actions 1 and 2 and are growing your list, you’re crazy if you don’t have a way to do email marketing.
If you’re thinking, e-newsletter, you’re only half right. I do think e-newsletters, sent weekly or bi-weekly, are an essential part of your marketing mix, but the real power in email marketing is automation. With automation, you can capture a new lead and send them a series of educational messages over time…automatically (even while you sit on the beach sipping a margarita).
If you’re looking for a solid email marketing service, I recommend iContact, Aweber or Infusionsoft.
Action #5: Make a List of Your Clients’ Pains and Your Cures (30 minutes)
Forget about what you do for clients and how you do it for a moment. Think about the biggest complaints and challenges your clients face. Even if it’s outside your domain…those are the things they’d pay to have solved. Then make a list of your cures to each pain. Your clients don’t want your service or product…they want the cure for the pain they feel.
You may find that your current offering doesn’t cure the pain…it only goes halfway. How can you be the whole cure? What would you have to add? What would it be worth to your clients?
Action #6: Start Tracking Lifetime Client Value (20 minutes)
In your client list, start tracking the value of each transaction that your client completes. Keep a running total for each client. Over time you’ll be able to calculate an average value of a client over the life of their interaction with you. Knowing this one number can drive your entire business. If you know what a new client is worth in total it changes how you look at every investment in your business…especially your marketing.
Knowing Lifetime Client Value will give you clear insight into the value of your list. Think about how you can use this knowledge…Let’s say that you know each client is worth, on average, $10,000 over 5 years. And you know that for every 20 leads you get, one becomes a client. That means each lead is worth $500. That’s pretty good motivation for filling the pipeline with leads don’t you think?
Action #7: Stop Worrying About the Cost of Marketing and Focus on ROI (5 minutes)
I understand that marketing can be expensive…especially in a tough economy. But marketing is an investment, meant to grow your most valuable asset (your client list). The appropriate number to watch is ROI—Return on Investment. Focusing on ROI is a decision more than an action, so just do it, make the decision.
When you do, you’ll find that your marketing will move from being a fuzzy part of your business to a highly tracked and measurable area of focus for you. To get maximum ROI from your marketing, place small bets, keep the winners, cut the losers and let your winning marketing campaigns compound.
Action #8: Signup for a Press Notification Service (5 minutes)
Getting free publicity can be a huge boon to your business. And there’s a little secret most business owners don’t understand…the press needs your story. Yes, it’s true…there’s a reporter out there right now on deadline and she needs you. The trick is finding the reporter.
Here are two services that bring those hungry reporters right to your inbox:
- Help A Reporter Out HARO, as it’s called is a free service that reporters use to post requests for experts to interview for their stories. All you’ve got to do is go to the HARO website and create your free account. You’ll get three short emails each day with listings of press opportunities and the contact information for the reporter.
- Reporter Connection Reporter Connection works much like HARO. It too is free and will send you one email per day with listings.
Just scan these emails when they come in and when you see an opportunity to provide great information, click and respond.
Action #9: Make a List of E-newsletters, Blogs and Podcasts in Your Niche (30 minutes)
Your search for free publicity shouldn’t end with traditional media. There are millions of websites that publish information on a daily basis. I guarantee there are some publishing in your industry (or in your prospect’s industries). These sites usually have highly targeted audiences. And the owners of these sites need content to keep their readers satisfied. Take a look at the site and the types of articles they publish. Write up your idea for an article and call the owner and pitch the idea. To find blogs use Google Blog Search.
And be sure to look for podcasts on iTunes. These are great places to land an interview. Just remember to provide high quality, educational content and keep the sales pitch subtle.
Don’t think it’ll help…listen to how E-Letter Subscriber and business broker John Kraft leveraged niche media to drive real business…
John said all it took was a short conversation with the marketing manager at TravelHost, a company that sells business opportunities. TravelHost sends a daily video to about 2500 business brokers (they’ve created their own media outlet…more about that in a moment). John is working with laid off mid-level and senior state employees to find them businesses to buy…that’s unique and newsworthy. It’s also the kind of information that other brokers want to know. He made it easy for TravelHost to talk about him…he gave them what they needed.
As a result John says he got 5 calls within a week, landed one new listing and three additional leads in under a month (in case you don’t know, that’s big results in John’s business).
One reason for the big results from a relatively small press opportunity is that niche press is targeted. If John had the same information published in the local paper I’d guess his results wouldn’t be as good…even though the audience is 50 times larger. And it would have been harder to land that newspaper article.
So being observant and understanding the audience + a couple of phone calls = profitable new business (and the side benefit of lots of exposure). Do you think you could spare an hour a month to get some great niche press?
Action #10: Create a 5 Step Follow-up Campaign For New Prospects (90 minutes)
Never let a new prospect fall through the cracks…write 5 short emails to educate and help your prospects move to a buying decision.
- Email Day 1: Thanks for dropping in…did we answer all your questions
- Email Day 3: Answers to questions (answer 5 frequently asked questions)
- Email Day 5: Client testimonials
- Email Day 7: Special Offer (I like adding bonuses that expire on Day 10, rather than discounting)
- Email Day 10: Last chance…
Action #11: Write a 5 Step New Client Welcome Campaign (90 minutes)
Don’t make the mistake of stopping your marketing when the client buys. Use an automatic welcome campaign to give the client confidence that they made the right choice.
- Email Day 1: Congratulations on your purchase (confirm in their minds that they made the right decision…fights buyer’s remorse)
- Email Day 3: Important resources – Tell ’em how to best interact with your business and how to get help if they ever need it
- Email Day 5: Client success stories – send stories of happy clients who got great results and reassure them that their results are around the corner
- Email Day 10: Ask for referrals (introductions to friends, family, co-workers)
- Email Day 21: Ask for a testimonial
This sequence does a lot…it helps avert buyer’s remorse, automatically asks for referrals and gathers testimonials.
Action #12: Setup a Google Place Page for Your Business (30 minutes)
Google has created millions of free webpages for local businesses all across the country. If you haven’t claimed yours yet you need to, pronto! Google’s Place Pages are one page listings for local businesses hosted by Google. If you’ve ever searched for a local business and seen the map showing business locations, then you’ve seen a local search. If you’re a local business this is your listing in the new phone book.
To claim your Place Page go to Google Local Business Center. You’ll need a free Google account (your Gmail account will work) to log in. Then you can search to see if Google has created a page for you. If not, you can easily create one.
Be sure to add complete information. Your page will serve you better if you’re thorough. Remember to add photos and videos from YouTube, too.
When you’re done, send an email with a link to your shiny new Place Page to your best clients and ask them to write a review for you.
Action #13: Search for Online Reviews of Your Business (20 Minutes)
Your online reputation is more important than ever…and it’s spread all over the web. Go to Google and search for “Your business name reviews” and you’ll get a picture of what’s out there. You’ll also want to go to Yelp.com, Angie’s List (requires a small fee) and your Google Place Page (see Action #12).
I’ve had two clients do this and find some really damaging reviews posted about them (in both cases we suspect the reviews were posted by competitors). Once we found them we were able to combat them by asking happy clients to post their own positive reviews.
A word of caution…as with all things in life, honesty is the best policy. Don’t post fake reviews. Get real reviews from satisfied clients…you’ll get better long-term results.
Action #14: Schedule 1 Day A Week For Client Attraction (30 minutes)
This is a practice I learned from top marketer Fabienne Frederickson and it’s paid dividends ever since. Now, I know what you’re thinking…“I can’t possibly devote a day a week to marketing.” I thought that too..and then I did it. Just make the decision to do it, start blocking off your marketing day (I prefer Monday) two or three weeks out on your calendar. Chances are that you don’t have much scheduled that far out. Once you block it off be sure to defend that time. It’s essential to consistently growing your business.
Can’t do an entire day? No problem. Block off 90-120 minutes first thing every morning. Then fill that time with actions that get more clients.
Action #15: Create a Facebook Page for Your Business (30 minutes)
If you don’t already have a fan page, go ahead, make one. Just login to Facebook under your personal profile. Then go to Facebook’s Pages guide. You’ll need a graphic designer to create a profile photo for your business (if you need a good one, send me an email and I’ll introduce you to mine). Before you invite your friends to “Like” your page, put 3-5 informational posts on the page. You don’t want guests coming to an empty page…they won’t stick around.
Be sure to add 5 photos (in addition to your profile image). These show across the top and give you an opportunity to brand your page or create images that promote a specific product or service.
Now invite all of your friends to “Like” your page. Now the real work begins…creating content so good it’ll spread.
Action #16: Start a Facebook Ad Campaign (25 minutes)
Facebook has one of the easiest advertising platforms around. In just a few minutes you can have an ad campaign up and running driving leads to your Facebook Page or your website. You can target based on a number of demographics, but the most valuable feature is targeting based on what a person “Likes” on Facebook. Using this targeting you can drill down by interest to find people who have already said they are interested in your topic.
With a Facebook ad campaign you can pay-per-click (you pay a small amount each time someone clicks on your ad) or you can pay per 1000 impressions. I recommend starting with pay-per-click.You bid on ad space and I’ve seen bids range from a dime a click to several dollar a click depending on the interests you’re trying to target. You can set your maximum daily spend. Once your campaign hits this amount each day your ads stop running…this is a failsafe to make sure you don’t go broke. I typically set the limit at $10 or $20 dollars to start (during testing).
You create your ad copy…you’ve got a 25 character headline and a 135 character ad body to work with. Keep it right to the point…and make sure to include a call to action. You’ll also want to include a photo. Please, do not use your logo! Use a photo of a human face. My testing shows that photos of people (smiling women to be specific) get a greater response than any other type of picture.
Action #17: Get One Powerful Testimonial (45 minutes)
Great testimonials can do all of the selling for you. Take out a piece of paper and write down the name of your best, happiest client. Get ‘em on the phone and tell them you’re collecting client stories and you’d like to feature theirs on your website (they’ll be flattered). There are two types of testimonials…the first: Feel Good Testimonials do just that, they make you feel good because the client is telling how nice you are and what a pleasure you are to work with. Feel good testimonials may make you feel good, but they leave your bank account empty.
The type of testimonial you want is a Results Testimonial. In a Results Testimonial you want your client to cover 4 things:
- The situation they were in before they started working with you.
- How they came to find you (what other options did they try, without result first).
- The great results they now enjoy after working with you or using your product.
- Would they recommend you to others facing the same situation.
If you can get the testimonial on video, those are always the best, most credible. If you get a written testimonial be sure to include the client’s full name, city they live in, telephone or email (with their permission) and photo. Avoid anonymous testimonials, they’re not credible.
Action #18: Develop One New Idea Your Competitors Wouldn’t Dare Do (90 minutes)
If you sit and think for a little while you’ll stumble upon one (or more) ideas that are considered taboo in your industry. Those ideas are the perfect place to go to separate yourself from your customers. In my last business, we guaranteed response time for our crews…and offered to pay the client 1-hour of our fee if we were late. Guarantees in that industry were unheard of…and we had a number of competitors ask us if we were nuts for offering it. (By the way, if your competitors think one of your marketing ideas is crazy that’s a clue that you’re headed in the right direction.)
That one idea lead to $50,000 in business and we never needed to pay out a dime on the guarantee…not a bad ROI on an idea our competitors wouldn’t dare try.
Action #19: Make a Top 10 List (30 Minutes)
I’m a big believer in the power of networking to grow your business…and to grow personally. But most people go about it haphazardly. If you’re systematic about networking you can get amazing results in no time at all. My secret weapon for getting more clients by networking is my Top 10 List.
I keep the names of the 10 businesses or individuals I’m trying to meet and gain as clients on this list. When I meet with a networking contact I share it and ask if they know anyone on the list. If they do I ask for an introduction…and I almost always get at least one. It is without a doubt the fastest way to expand your network.
Action #20: Read (60 minutes, repeat daily)
A 2007 Washington Post article reports that half of Americans read less than four books a year and an astonishing 27% didn’t read even one book during the study period in 2006. Look around at the successful people you know. If you compare the size of their personal library to the size of their TV, you’ll see the library is (much) bigger. There is a direct correlation between your income and how much and what you read.
Reading four romance novels a week won’t get you any further along, but reading a great business or success book each week (or even just one a month) will get your mind focused on the principles of business and life that lead to success. The value in these books are the principles that they reveal. If you can take the principles and apply them, you’ll move forward.
Dr. Tom Hill taught me a system to read a book a day (I don’t usually hit that number, but I’m probably in the top 5% or 10% of readers based on the Washington Post story)…here’s how it goes:
- Read the back cover and the inside of the jacket. Look for the other authors who are recommending the book. They may be authors you’ll want to check out later.
- Read the table of contents.
- Read the front matter.
- Read the first and last chapter in their entirety.
- Read the first few pages and last few pages of each chapter in between.
- Make notes about the principles revealed in the book.
Here’s Dr. Hill’s thoughts on why this approach is effective:
- When you read a non-fiction book you usually want to learn the principles the author is using to get some result. That’s the focus.
- The principles of most books are outlined in the table of contents, the first and last chapters and the beginning and end of each chapter.
- The middle of most chapters is fluff and stories…you only want the principles.
- The testimonials and front matter give you a clue into who has influenced the author’s writing and points you to other resources. You will generally get a glimpse of the author’s background and learn how they came to the knowledge they’re sharing.
As Dr. Hill correctly notes: The winners in business and in life are the people who learn and apply the most number of proven principles. Reading is your path to acquiring them.
Here’s my short list of must reads for entrepreneurs:
- The Bible (I don’t care what you believe in, but the principles outlined throughout the Bible have proven to be effective in life and business.)
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (I’m currently reading his recently published Outwitting the Devil and it’s worthy of your time as well).
- No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs and No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits by Dan Kennedy
- Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch
- Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
- Influence by Robert Cialdini
- Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
Action 21: Send a Card (10 minutes)
Send someone who you’ve interacted with this week a card or personal note. It shows gratitude and it sets you sets you apart from 99% of business people, who, if they do anything, send an email. I send cards on a regular basis to thank people, to say “nice to meet you” and to generate leads and open doors when I can’t find any other way in.
President George H.W. Bush credits sending a “nice to meet you” card to everyone he ever met as being one of the keys to his success. President Ronald Reagan was known to sit up at night and write “Thank You Grams” every night. I figure if it’s good enough for two men who’ve held the highest office in the land…it’s good enough for me.
Action #22: Take Massive Action (all day, every day)
I admit this isn’t a quick action, but it’s the difference between being wildly successful in your business and being mediocre. So don’t read this article and set it aside. Don’t read and do one thing. Figure out how to do 10 or 15 or all of these things. That’s taking massive action and it works. It’s getting the odds in your favor. Not everything you try will give you all of the results that you want, but in total, by acting on many fronts and at many levels you’ll get everything you want and more.
So go get after it!
What would you add to the list? I’d like you to share just one quick action in the comments that you do that make a big difference in your business.
Thanks to Corbett Barr of Think Traffic for the inspiration for this article.