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Posts Tagged ‘customers’

Take Your Ad Out of the Yellowpages and Save a Bundle!

Posted by 104Inc.com on February 25, 2009

Take your ad out of the yellowpages and save a bundle. Actually, there’s a bit more to say, but most of my customers usually did just that before coming to see me. You see, I counsele 1000’s of clients during my years as a marketing consultant. So, during a recession, customers would ask to cut or remove their ads entirely. Hey, it made perfect sense to them. When business is good, advertise. When it’s bad, don’t. They also probably buy high and sell low in the stock market, too.

I understand that a slow cash flow is hard to cope with and the first inclination is to cut out the overhead. Unfortunately, they think of advertising as overhead. I considered it an extra salesperson that never slept, needed no health benefits, but always worked hard to bring in business. It was tough to convince my customers to stop dumping money in the yellowpages and start getting more for less.  Advertising should be the last thing to go especially if you can cut cost and get more leads in the process. Now doesn’t that sound like a win-win?

But invariably some businesses will still remove advertising and hope things would get better on their own. Amazingly, when I see them the following year, things weren’t any better and often, worse. They couldn’t comprehend what was happening, so I tried to explain the situation.

I would start with, “You just made your competitors very happy.” The business owner would look startled. “Why is that?” they might ask. “Because,” I reply, “you aren’t in the yellowpages anymore and that’s great but did you replace it with a lower cost and more effective alternative?  No. So when a consumer’s water heater dies and they go searching for a plumber, the other plumbers are there and you aren’t. They get to benefit from less competition. So, even though they pay for the ad, it works better when there are less ads. You did them a favor. I hoped they thanked you.”

Sure, the poor times might cause you to drop the color or reduce a size, but dropping the ad is not the way to help yourself when every customer becomes even more precious. There are other ways to beef up the results of your ad without spending more. In fact, I’ve had some clients spend less and still maintain a successful advertising program. It’s all about the little things and how they are handled. Haven’t you brought your car into the shop for a tune-up? Well, I bet it’s time to trade in that old and dusty yellowpages ad and 104inc.com is your neighborhood low cost and high impact advertising source. They will show you how to create a headline that works and create a slimmer and trimmer ad that can compete for more business. Also, 104inc.com will help you track the results of the ads so you know exactly how it’s doing.

Give your ad a makeover and take it out for a test run with a 45 Day FREE Trial. In a poor or good economy, your advertising can help you bring in customers, if it’s well thought out and created with your business in mind.

 

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Posted in Advertising, Business, Business Finance, economy, Free Trial, marketing, Online Business, Online Discounts, Sales Training, success, work | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Looking For A Safe “Bank” For Your Money?

Posted by 104Inc.com on November 25, 2008

Overall Messages

  • Bank of America is one of the world’s largest and strongest financial institutions, by many indicators.
  • We believe it has a strong balance sheet and liquidity, a diverse earnings stream, leading positions in key businesses and a world-leading brand.
  • Even in these challenging and uncertain times, they have continued to meet the needs of their customers and clients while taking steps that should significantly enhance earnings capabilities when economic and financial markets conditions improve, and they will.
  • Because of the sheer scale and diversity of their businesses, the company is better able to withstand market shocks than many of their peers.
  • The advantages of comprehensive financial solutions, geographic and earnings diversity, liquidity and capital strength position them to compete in the marketplace.

Proof Points

  • Strong balance sheet and liquidity.
    • More U.S. deposits than any other bank, with total deposits of nearly $874B as of September 30, 2008.
    • Bank of America and Bank of America, N.A. have high long-term bond ratings from the major credit rating agencies. Bank of America, N.A. (long term): Moody’s, Aaa; Standard & Poor’s, AA. BAC (long term senior): Moody’s, Aa2; Standard & Poor’s, AA-.
    • Tier One Capital Ratio exceeding 9% (assuming acquisition of Merrill and after TARP money).
    • Third quarter results. Net income of $1.18B, even after absorbing losses associated with market turbulence and several one-time charges as well as continued high credit costs. With year-to-date net profits of $5.8B, Bank of America has been one of the most profitable banking companies in the world while operating in a very difficult environment.
  • Leading positions: Largest retail bank in the U.S., serving 1 in 2 households. Largest commercial bank in the U.S., serving 1 in 3 companies with revenues of $2.5MM to $2B. Relationships with 99 percent of the U.S. Fortune 500 companies and 83 percent of the Fortune Global 500.
  • Most admired financial services brand in the world by the Financial Times.
  • Open for business and planning for the future.
    • Even in this challenging environment, we are taking advantage of key growth opportunities, using our continued strength and stability.
    • We continue lending to those who need and can afford credit.
      • Business lending remains strong and we have continued making loans to states and municipalities in a time of extraordinary uncertainty.
      • In just the three months since the merger with Countrywide was finalized, we have helped more than 250,000 Americans purchase a home or save money on the home they already own.
    • The Countrywide and Merrill Lynch acquisitions will expand our ability to deliver critical financial services to millions of Americans – including mortgages and financial planning –and help stabilize the financial markets.
    • Our home retention programs will help up to 630,000 borrowers keep their homes, by modifying more than $100B in current home loans.

To Find the nearest Bank of America branch in your area please visit http://104Banks.com

Posted in Banking, economy, family, job, life, Mortgage, Personal Finance | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Building Partnerships: Identifies partnership needs

Posted by 104Inc.com on October 20, 2008

Analyzes the organization and own area to identify key relationships that should be initiated or improved to further the attainment of own area’s goals.
 
Competition today means getting to the finish line first with better products and services. What is good enough today most likely won’t be good enough tomorrow. Even if you’re meeting your objectives, don’t get complacent.

 

You could probably find small ways to improve your team’s operating procedures, but chances are your work area isn’t responsible for the total process. Whether you are producing a product, rendering a service, completing a project, or implementing an improvement idea, people outside your work area are going to be involved in what’s going on. Partnerships force you to consider how your work area and organization fit into the larger business process. They broaden your outlook and help you see how to make a major leap forward.

 

 

An organization is like a link in a value chain that connects the seller of raw materials or ideas to the end-user of finished products and services. An organization receives products or services from suppliers, adds its unique value, and then provides enhanced products or services to its customers. The customers add their unique value and supply even more enhanced products and services to customers one step closer to the end-user.

 

Consider a simple example. Suppose your organization, Sandy’s Sausage, processes sausage and other cured meats for grocery stores and pizzerias. One value chain might begin with the farm that grows grain (George’s Grains), which is sold to the livestock ranch that raises pigs (Paul’s Pigs). The pigs are sold to a meat-packing plant (Mo’s Meats), which sells the pork to your organization for processing into sausage. You sell sausage to a chain of pizzerias (Pat’s Pizza), which prepares the final product for consumption by end-users, the pizza eaters. There are many other customers and suppliers in the chain: tractors to run the grain farm, trucking from suppliers to customers, spices for the sausage, other ingredients for the pizza, and so forth. Every link in the chain adds value and offers opportunities to improve efficiency through partnerships.

 

Within an organization, work units are arranged in similar customer-supplier chains, with one unit serving as an internal customer to another. For example, the accounting department of Sandy’s Sausage might supply financial data to its customer, the human resources department, which uses the data to provide staffing services to its customer, the meat processing department.

 

Chains of customers and suppliers compete with one another to provide greater value to the end-user. This value is measured by such factors as lower cost, higher quality, or faster time to market. If Sandy’s Sausage and Pat’s Pizza partner to create a more tasty and cheaper sausage pizza, they can gain a larger share of the pizza eaters market, which will benefit both organizations.

 

The majority of business partnerships fall into three major categories:

  • External Customer Partnerships

Oftentimes, traditional organizations treat customers as distinct and separate entities that they must convince to make a purchase. Organizations that form partnerships with their customers take a different approach. By collaborating with their customers, these organizations remove the guesswork about what customers want. Because they help their customers become more productive, they increase sales, build more durable relationships with customers, and lock out competitor suppliers.

  • Supplier Partnerships

Organizations need suppliers for materials, parts, services, or information. Because these purchases add significantly to overall costs, it is to the organization’s advantage to obtain the highest value at the lowest price. Without partnering, organizations have to negotiate a better deal. To do this, some organizations use pressure tactics, haggle, or play one supplier against another. With partnering, organizations have suppliers who understand and respond to their needs. Organizations that help shape the nature of what their suppliers provide are inherently more satisfied with what they get.

  • Internal Partnerships

In traditional organizations different areas or units have their own agendas that often compete or conflict with those of other units. For example, the marketing department might want to develop many products to meet customer needs, but manufacturing might prefer few variations to enable long production runs. Meanwhile, engineering might want to tinker with new technologies to stay up-to-date. Each group tries to maximize its own goals without considering the overall organizational goals. When work units form internal partnerships, they establish relationships that move everyone toward common objectives. As partners, they share ideas, resources, information, and know-how.

To determine which partnerships you should initiate or improve, take the following steps.

1. Identify improvement opportunities.
Organizational units don’t exist in a vacuum, and you undoubtedly already have many potential partners. Your first challenge is to examine how these relationships function and then determine if building strong partnerships with these groups will be mutually advantageous. Ask yourself:

Do my external customers:

  • Share their strategies and how my organization/area can help to achieve them?
  • Share information on problems, profits, costs, and similar factors?
  • Consult my organization/area about the timing and nature of products or services they want?
  • Share expertise and knowledge with members of my organization/area?
  • Regularly contribute innovative product/service ideas?
  • Share concerns about our products/services immediately?

Do my external suppliers:

  • Consult my organization/area when developing strategies and plans for functions such as production and billing?
  • Emphasize factors in their measurement and reward systems that are consistent with what my organization/area wants (quality, low price)?
  • Share information on problems, profits, costs, and similar factors?
  • Deliver products and services in a way that meets my terms rather than pushing for their own schedule, pricing, etc.?
  • Share expertise and knowledge with members of my organization/area?
  • Regularly contribute innovative product/service ideas?
  • Address my needs and complaints quickly?

Do my internal customers and suppliers:

  • Integrate their processes with my area’s?
  • Shift resources to my area quickly and willingly when I need them?
  • Readily form cross-functional teams to explore new ideas or enhance organizational integration?
  • Coordinate their actions with my area’s?
  • Treat people in my area as friends and collaborators, not enemies and competitors?
  • Share resources, information, and ideas rather than protect their turf?
  • Consult me in the early stages when their decisions and actions affect my area?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you have an opportunity to improve. A partnership will help you take advantage of that opportunity.

2. Challenge boundaries.
Rigid boundaries around organizations and work areas can blind managers to the possibility of integrating their work processes with those of internal or external customers and suppliers. An important step in building partnerships is to challenge those boundaries.

 

But, challenging boundaries does not mean destroying them. Not even the strongest proponents of “boundary less organizations” seriously suggest tearing down all boundaries. Rather, managers should try to make the boundaries more flexible and allow greater movement between them.

Boundaries are an intrinsic part of organizational life and serve useful purposes. Your organization does different work than your customers and suppliers. Your area performs distinct functions for your organization that no other area performs. Boundaries keep tasks differentiated and roles clear.

However, rigid and unyielding boundaries create problems. Inside an organization, functional units—like marketing, human resources, sales, and research and development—are often called silos or chimneys because they appear as hierarchical stacks on traditional organization charts. Each silo has its own agenda, resources, and leadership structure––a condition that fosters an “us” versus “them” attitude. Such feelings discourage integration across the organization and impede goal achievement.

 

It is especially difficult to think of lowering the boundaries of your own organization to make way for external partnerships. After all, the organization is legally defined as a separate entity. But if you rethink the ways your organization works with a potential external partner, you can open up pathways of productivity that are now blocked by the boundaries between you.

 

Challenging boundaries means changing your mind so that you can change your behavior. To shift mental gears, identify the purpose of the value chain and how the goals of your organization fit into that chain. Then think about how much easier it will be to meet the organization’s goals if you work with, not against, other members of the chain.

3. Identify potential partners.
Your work area might deal with a large number of internal and external groups. Some of these groups will be good candidates for partnerships. Spend time analyzing your current relationships and select those with the greatest potential for immediate payoffs.

 

Begin by making a list of your most important internal and external customers and suppliers. Identify what you need from them and what they need from you. Next, think about your relationship with these groups. Are you more open with some groups than with others? Finally, when a group seems compatible, identify how building a business partnership could better meet everyone’s needs.

 

Don’t just explore current relationships; extend your search for external partners. Ask experts, make visits, attend trade shows and conferences, and explore the literature about potential partners. Find organizations whose strengths will complement your own and look for trustworthy companies whose values are similar to yours.

 

Identifying potential partners is only one stepping stone in a longer path. Don’t commit to a partnership before exploring all of its positive and negative possibilities.

 

Posted in Advertising, Business, economy, Online Business, Personal Finance, Sales Training | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

To succeed at selling: Questions and probes

Posted by 104Inc.com on October 20, 2008

Seeks information to understand situations, needs, and desired potential benefits.

To succeed at selling, you need to sell to customers’ needs. How do you find out about these needs? Research the industries your customers are in. Then confirm the information you gather by asking questions. Studies show that asking questions is the most powerful way to persuade.

 

 

1. Do your homework.
Know as much as possible about your customer’s industry, the products and services they provide, the challenges they face, and the business needs they’re striving to achieve–before you walk in the door. Locate this information through:

 

 

  • Online or offline databases
  • The Internet or your company’s intranet.
  • Newspapers, magazines, journals, trade publications, annual reports, and other sources of business data.
  • Business directories.
  • Professional organizations.
  • People within the organization who report to the customer. These “gatekeepers” can include receptionists, assistants, or junior people from associated departments.

Think about the information that will help you learn more about your customer’s situation and needs. For example:

  • What is the customer’s buying criteria? (Criteria might include service, price, and quality.)
  • Is there a problem or concern that needs to be addressed? How critical is it? In which area(s) does it have the biggest effect?
  • What are the customer’s time frames for making a purchasing decision?
  • Is the customer considering any of your competitors? Which ones? Why?

Anticipate problems your customer might be experiencing. Before you meet with the customer, identify how your products and services can solve those problems.
2. Ask questions.
Ask questions to clarify the customer’s situation and needs. There are four types of questions that are critical.
 
 
 
Basic Fact Questions. The answers to these questions reveal specific information about the buyer and his or her business.

Examples:

  • How many operations like this does your organization have around the world?
  • How many people are employed at this plant?
  • What are your plans for growth over the next five years?

By doing your homework, you can answer many basic fact questions. Be selective about the number of these questions you ask customers. People are busy and, in many cases, don’t have time to educate you on the basic facts about their business. Seek only clarification of information that is not obvious or readily understood.

Problem Questions. These questions surface problems that the customer is experiencing. Their purpose is to help you:

  • Better understand the customer’s concerns or dissatisfaction with the current product or service.
  • Identify how your products and services might solve the problem.

Examples:

  • What problems are you experiencing with your present system?
  • Why do you think the process is so inefficient?
  • What quality or reliability problems are you experiencing?

Consequence Questions. Often, asking problem questions will get the customer interested in your product or service. Sometimes, however, you need to increase the size of the problem in the customer’s mind to promote interest. Asking about the consequences of problems “builds the pain” of the customer’s current situation.

Examples:

  • How will the problems you’re experiencing with your present system affect productivity?
  • To what extent do your process inefficiencies translate into opportunities for your competition?
  • What kind of turnover or training costs are you incurring because of your situation?

Asking hypothetical questions drives home the need for a solution–especially in the minds of your customers. If they didn’t recognize the extent to which a problem could damage individuals or the organization, they will now.

Benefit Questions. These questions surface the usefulness or benefit of implementing your product or service. By asking questions that let customers tell you the value of your solution, you ultimately allow them to convince themselves of the need for your product or service.

Examples:

  • How would it help to have online diagnostics?
  • What advantages would you gain from a software package that requires very little training to use effectively?
  • Is there any other benefit of eliminating this problem?

The key to successful sales calls is preparation. When planning your next sales call, write down questions that you need to ask your customer. Consider each category–basic fact, problem, consequence, and benefit–and plan your call around asking those types of questions.

 

Keep in mind that when making a purchasing decision, a customer must answer the question, “Is the problem big enough to justify this solution?” Therefore, you must ask several problem and consequence questions. This will raise awareness in the customer’s mind that the current situation and needs are serious enough to warrant buying your solution.

 

Posted in Advertising, motivation, Online Business, Sales Training | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »