Category Archives: Profitability

what-time-is-it

Time for a Big Push!

Time for a Big Push!
By Talmar Anderson

How is business?  Are you looking at your goals? If you are like most business owners, end of the year is when you start to consider how you will finish your fiscal year.  While you can start planning for the new year, don’t be so quick to call this year done! Have you broken down each specific goal item to see where you can create a push?   Not just the big money goal.  Let’s look at your history. Here are three areas you can look at to find some cash flow and prospect opportunities to smash your goals!

  • Is one service or product more popular with your market at this time of year?
    • If you have been in business for a few years you can look back to understand what specific product or service is in demand this time of year. Spend focused energy there with the prospects that need/want your offering. Consider a new marketing outreach to educate others of the reason for the current demand and how they could benefit too.
  • Is one service / product trending up in your business right now?
    • Let’s look at the last 3-6 months and consider blowing up that trend even more! Look to see what piece initiated that upward tick.  Was it one specific product / service benefit that you newly highlighted?  Was it new pricing?  Maybe a new referral source? You could create a promotion to ramp that trend even higher.  Maybe some educational marketing on the benefits of buying your service or product?
  • Have a piece of your offerings that needs a shot in the arm?
    • If you are missing your goals in one specific area, now is the time to refocus resources. Can you pull a small bite out of the product /service and offer it at a special price for a limited time?  It could be a “try this” offering that can easily lead into the full engagement.  Setting limits on time is especially critical if this is structured as a loss leader to a larger sale. SPECIAL NOTE: Develop a strong and consistent follow up process for the upsell into the full product.

This is where all that work you have been doing all year can quickly pay off.  All the tracking, measuring and data recording you have built into your company.  This structure allows for agile actions and specific decisions that can save your company from “throwing money after bad”.

Last thought. If you are going to put these specific pushes for more business in place, don’t forget to plan for success! Make sure you consider how you will fulfill each new order and track what “Sold out” could be very specifically. This will protect your reputation, quality of deliverables and sanity!…It is NOT too late to effect change.  This is a great moment to look at your goals and metrics to take action.  Now GO! Grow!

 

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114H

Where are you coming FROM, Dear?

Where are you coming FROM, Dear?
by Talmar Anderson

Let’s talk about the most significant way YOU can take control of your company’s spending AND earning.  Truly it is a simple process that can be rolled into conversations and takes just minutes to track…and yet, most of you are NOT DOING IT! Seriously, you are breaking my heart.  Be nice to Talmar and start doing this EVERY SINGLE time you have a prospect conversation or inquiry. These two questions can significantly lower your expenses while increasing your income.  This is not sunshine I am blowing. Check this out…

I want to know, I mean actually detailed and counted, know where you are getting your leads. When anyone asks about your services, your company’s pricing or how to work with you, stop and focus! I know your adrenaline starts pumping and you are trying to figure how to close the sale before you have even determined the problem, your solution and if it is a good fit but take an extra pause and invest in gathering data for your own business.

You must take the time to ask them how they heard about your company. You owe it to your own business to make sure to get more than “the internet”. Are you advertising on Facebook? Have you invested in SEO? Did you hire someone to manage and write a blog for your company?  Wouldn’t you like to know which marketing dollars are working for you?? This is our opportunity to know! Follow up questions take just another couple of minutes.  “Was it an ad or did you read an article?” “What were you searching for when you found our information?”

If the person on the other end of the telephone says “I met someone at a networking event that mentioned you”, make sure to ask if they got the name of the person.  What event were they at?  These details can ensure you are networking where your prospects are as well as make sure to acknowledge the referring person!

And let’s talk about that referring person. Are they a former or present client? Are they in an industry that is complimentary to yours? Consider that if you continue to get referrals from the same “type” of person you could start a targeted marketing campaign focused on these areas.  Then we take note on your referral tracking system/ worksheet/ notepad. I don’t care where just do it and make sure you can get to it for review!

As you review, you look for similarities. If previous customers are a strong source of referrals, make sure to be in front of all of your previous clients in some consistent way that reminds them to refer to you.

That is how this can really focus your expenses while increasing income.  If we find that our leads and clients are NOT coming from internet searches, than you may be able to move a significant part of your SEO budget to a focused direct mail “thank you” campaign to previous clients. Now we are not spending money that is not converting and we are focused on marketing to referrals we have PROOF converts to clients.

Take the time to ask.  The time to document.  This will move you away from “thinking” you get your clients from point A or being “pretty sure” that they are coming from Point B. You will KNOW how to spend marketing money that converts to paying customers. THAT is the definition of a win/win!

Now GO! Grow!

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Open up

Open Up for Higher Pricing!

Open Up for Higher Pricing!

By Talmar Anderson

There are a lot of the ways that a business owner can effect change to raise their rates (accessibility, highly responsive customer service, for more READ this). Today I wanted to talk about where the idea of demand driven rate, fee or price increases are rooted. Stay with me because this will work for you whether you are in a service industry or own a product driven company.

Do you know that person you see and they instantly make you feel relaxed, you smile and feel like you could tell them anything without judgment?  I just saw one of my favorite people. Truthfully we have not worked together simply because I have yet to need her services and products (thankfully). I have immense respect for her expertise and achievements. I recognize her success and potential (sometimes better than her!).  I refer her to anyone that may even possibly have a need for her services. She is worth her weight in gold and I can look the referral in the eye and know, whatever she is charging, the value will always be there. How does she do it?

Brilliance + kindness + listener = High Value (set your own fee / price)

Open your big beautiful mind.
Open your warm friendly heart.
Open up space in the moment to hear.

If your market can consistently receive exactly what they expect from your company as a deliverable AND you apply these 3 extra pieces…You are a leader in your industry. Look in the mirror! “Hi Awesome!” These extra pieces will draw the ideal client. And that client WANTS not just what you sell but what is sold by YOUR company!

Brilliance, your expertise, is why you are so damn good!  Own it. You DO know your product or service better than others. You understand the customers’ problem and offer a solution that is helpful to your target market. Do others offer it? Maybe yes. But not as well as you. Walking in that expertise let’s a prospect believe in you and happily pay your increased pricing.

Kindness, friendly customer-centric services, operational processes and personalities can draw a cult following and raving fans.  This is where word of mouth will outshine the marketing efforts for an industry leader. Well treated clients that can feel the kindness before, during and after every sale will refer over, and over again. If they can feel that just by seeing you out networking or entering your office or store, they will not be leaving to save a few dollars with a different company. Kindness is priceless!

Listener. The root of all success. Let your customers not just be heard but feel like they have been heard. Make sure your company communicates not just to them but with them!  Listening is critical if you want to know what problems your market is experiencing. Focus and presence of mind are the hallmarks of caring and consideration. Really hear not just what they are saying but how they feel about the problem.  This will give your company the opportunity to respond both in communications as well as product and service offerings. Delivering the right solution instead of selling what you already have is always going to allow for higher fees!

If your clients want what YOUR FIRM offers, not just what is available on the open market, then the value of your offering has increased. Ask Starbucks about that. Let your customers set the value of what your company sells. Sell to your market for high value items. Not your competitors market.

Certainly if you sell to low income families, you can absolutely price yourself out of the market’s capacity to pay. Then we look for other ways for your company to generate revenue and build on the strong connection of your high value market position.

However, too often I see the opposite. Business owners set middle of the road pricing because they fear “the market won’t bear it”. Maybe it is your own fear of rejection or even fear of success. Often, convincing ourselves of the high value is a huge self-esteem exercise.

I challenge you to price your services and products off of what YOUR CLIENT value! As I told my rockstar-basketball playing niece, “Of course, you should be missing a basket once in a while! If you never miss a shot, you are not pushing yourself to be the best. Your team needs the best of you”. Higher fees allow us to build and deliver better products and services. Your business and customers need the best of you.

Not coincidentally, these 3 distinguishers truly are the mark of great leaders too.  Use them to lead you to higher profits.

Now Go! Grow!

 

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Tech & Money 650 x433

Ain’t Technology Grand? Yes, but Only If You Use It!

Ain’t Technology Grand? Yes, but Only If You Use It!
By Talmar Anderson

Today I am going to save you money!  There are so many fantastic solutions to just about every operational need you can come up with for your business. Online technological systems are popping up everywhere on the internet.  Some are from tried and true entities while some are from the next potential Zuckerberg.  As a business owner there is more to just finding the answer to your question.  To protect you and your company from investing in a solution that can only frustrate, I recommend a few easy steps for success.

  • Understand your problem before buying.
  • Consider how quickly you can really start using and integrate the new product
  • Consider the cost
  • Plan for how it will work in your company.

Understanding your problem? By this I mean don’t get wooed by a shiny new idea that is not for your business.  I highly recommend you wait until you have identified a problem and then actively look for the correct solution. Upgrades within free products are the easiest way to go down this costly road. If a tool you are using for free is great then the upgrade for $15 a month must be awesome.  And it’s ONLY $15 bucks a month, right? Sounds great IF it is useful. Otherwise it is $180 a year for something that was working for free.

How quickly and easily a new product can be learned, integrated into your current systems and your staff trained up needs to be part of your consideration process. The size of the product itself can determine this part.  Is the new product the right size for where your company is today?

Some products may be too big for what your company needs at this time. (Salesforce and InfusionSoft are common ones I have seen clients sign up for and eventually dump because it truly was not the right complexity for their companies. Too much, too early.) Would it be nice to be able to have great pipeline management? Of course but with complex training and a long implementation process, go back to what your business needs.  If your company delivers for 5 contract clients a year with the capacity to only take on one more.  How many pipelines do you need to be managing for YOUR business’ success?

The cost consideration is the piece that requires little council from me. Is it reasonably priced for the part this piece will play in the overall operations of your business? How many ways will it facilitate your operations? Is it duplicative of another product or service that you will have to cancel?  You know what is best for the company budget and growth.

Planning for how it will work in your company initially includes placing time on your (or your assistant’s calendar) to start training and setting up the system within the new product you purchased.  Once that is done, there will need to be a training schedule set for when and who will need to learn the new system. Additionally, there needs to be time commitment, process creation and internal communications on how this new product will be used by anyone/everyone in your company.  This final step is where a business owner can really push off the new solution to your problem. That expense will keep coming in, month after month, even if the planning commitment for training and implement time keeps being pushed back.

Don’t get me wrong! I LOVE these online solutions.  Need something to quickly and easily jot down notes as well as organize them? Got it. Check out Evernote.  Need an online scheduling system to help cut down on the back and forth of setting appointments? Check out ScheduleOnce. Need a hosting site for an online course you offer to clients? Zippy Courses is the one I use. There are even specialty programs and systems.  HelloBar, Podcast Websites, Microsoft Windows Live Movie Maker are all wonderful online products offering singular solutions that meet a very specific need and that may help you with your business operations.

You don’t want to pay for a product even if it is EXACTLY what your business needs if you are not going to commit to the time, training and systemization required to use it.  Then it is just money pulled out of your business monthly like some sort of punishment. These tools can be real time-savers and efficiencies for your company so PLAN to use them before you buy!

What software or online tool did you buy for your company but end up canceling or writing off because you did not have committed time for integration? I’d love to know!

How Big is YOUR Bathtub? – Business Growth

How big is YOUR bathtub? – Business Growth
By Talmar Anderson

A common denominator for my clients is growth- whether unplanned for growth or written out, controlled growth. For some, it has been slow, staged, incremental growth and for others it was full court press, hit them ‘til it hurts growth. There is a second thing that all of the clients that are already in the midst of growth have in common.  They identified the best way to get the message out!  Not only identifying the target market and the ideal client, growing companies have identified how best to get in front of their people.  While I understand that it is easier to work with an existing client base for growth, today we are talking about new clients for growth. So let’s stop fishing in our own bathtub and look to the big beautiful ocean!

For a company to experience growth we need to have successfully identified the metrics of our new clients and find where they are swimming, right?   “BEEEcause you know… it is all about the data, ‘Bout the Data. NO guessing!” (Thank you VERY much Meghan Trainor).  We should understand exactly how your clients are coming in to you.  How many similarities do your new clients over the last year share? What specifically was happening in each life or business that made THIS the buying moment? And the one I like most, how did they hear about you?

How you are getting your clients will specifically tell you how to spend each and every marketing dollar and the even more precious, marketing time! THIS can be extremely important if you as the business owner are spending any of your own time to be out in the business development of your company.  If your branding and marketing efforts include face time, you must be very strategic about it! I will assume that you are already fully on-board and gloss over the fact that marketing must be a part of your budget not just every year but for each and every month. (Don’t already agree? Reach out and we can find some ways to convince you!)

So now that we know who has historically bought from your company and why, we can be strategic about how to expand that reach.  Thinking about that market how can you get in front of them?  I am not talking about your email list and your social media current connections.  If we agree that new client growth is a part of your company’s needs, then we need to stretch beyond our current contacts.

I have complete faith that the prospects on each of your email and social media lists are consistently being followed up within your own company’s sales pipeline process.  So this is not about helping them get to the buying decisions faster.  (Again, another discussion)

We need to advertise and educate in a space where people that do not know they should be working with your company can find your solution to their problem!  How can they buy from you if they do not even know who you are and how you can make their life / company better? We need to be front of that ideal client so that they can even consider hiring us. As each individual’s time is limited, we have to find ways to put our information out there and attract new inquires to develop new prospects.  We can close a lot more people from 200 inquiries a month than we can from 4 inquiries.  Advertising, whether taking advantage of free opportunities available for your market or as a budgeted item that is systematically addressed, must be a part of your companies processes and marketing efforts.

Get your clients from referrals?  Then you still need to advertise!  You will now be advertising to your potential referral sources.  Your company’s marketing efforts are about expanding the number of referrals sources that lead a perfectly qualified prospect to your fishing pond.  Then you can hook them!

If we are going to serve a higher number of prospects to allow for higher sales revenues, then we need to stop just looking to our back yard pond.  Yes, it is easy to get to and we know what they like but they already know about you and will be on your lists for when their buying needs come around.  Now we need to grow our possibilities.  We need to educate and explain to new people how your company can offer great value and benefits. So let’s cast our line wider.  Try new avenues that are specific to your ideal market.  Make sure to be feeding them to your connections or email list so that it will be easier to keep educating them.  Then a little nibble will turn into a nice big bite!

I’d love to hear where you are having “fishing” success!

“It depends” is Not a Price but It Is a Killer!

By Talmar Anderson

Pricing is a challenging part of any business.  Making sure you are taking advantage of market trends, value delivered and demand from clients are all items we want to consider when setting a price.  And oh yeah, covering cost of goods, operations and…dare I say it? Make a profit!  A common issue that my service industry clients struggle with is how to have a set price for client consideration. “It depends” is a killer.  I promise that while start to expound on the different possibilities you are losing the listener.  “It depends” is to open ended and scares the buyer.  They worry that there will be no clear end on the investment.  Hourly pricing is the easiest because it is quantifiable and therefore most service professionals comfortable justifying the price when it comes to invoicing or proposals.  I would challenge this and suggest that you consider packaging to bring in more qualified prospects and improve your sales conversion ratio (how many leads turn into paying clients).

Packaging is the process of setting an inclusive price with a set expectation of delivery.  If you can find a component of your business deliverables and create an easy to understand package then your clients will be able to more quickly understand your offering and self-qualify.

A package should have:

  • a defined price,
  • details of exactly what is included (and depending on your industry possibly what is NOT included) and
  • a declaration of how exactly a client can add to the package as well as any price considerations.

As an example we can look at a website development company.  As the owner, you can take a backward look and case study review of your past clients and projects. Let’s say that you have decided that your company can create a quality product, with consideration of your costs and expense, of a delivered website for $5,000.  This beginning package may not be at your highest profit margin but is easily duplicated and is still a good step one for your entry level clients.

Once defined you can put that Package “out there” – on your marketing materials & website or as a rolling-off-of-the-tongue starting price point that is easily quotable in any conversation, amazing things will happen.  Several great benefits will occur:

  • Prospects can easily self-qualify.
  • Referral sources can make sure that leads will be more consistent with your potential target market.
  • Confidence and talking points come more easily to any team member that is part of a conversation representing your company.

EVERYONE can know that your projects start at $5,000.

This process can be replicated for other services or price points within your company. Consider packages based on average sales and even the high-end projects can be packaged.  If the website development company can also offer a full year of brand management, website development and content generation, this package can be spelled out to ensure you are in the running for those types of jobs.  Don’t worry about missing out.

The key to packaging is to not worry about what you COULD do.  Could the website designer create a logo for someone?  Sure….but let’s be known for websites if that is our core offering.  As you get in front of qualified prospects and existing clients you can expand on their needs and educate on your company’s other skill sets.  Packages will get you in the door but absolutely DO NOT have to be all that you offer.  Getting rid of “it depends” for fear of missing out will strengthen your credibility and allow clients to more easily connect.

Nerve-racking! Operational Growth and Cash Flow

By Talmar Anderson
Originally published May 15, 2014

As an owner, we start our companies by handling it all ourselves.  Our next steps will be finding ways to sell more and deliver more.  This growth is often directly and easily tracked performance through growing revenues and profit margins. But when a company has need for an operations team, development and growth does not always directly deliver revenues.  However, it is precisely this operational growth of process and support teams that is required to set up a company for success.

You are counting the time you bill your clients as well as the time you built into your labor costs for production of your offering. Forecasting and covering these variable costs is easy and offers a security.  You know how many widgets you need to sell to receive “X” dollars in revenue. However, when forecasting organizational growth we need to ensure that all of the operational and salaried sales functions we develop get forecast under your fixed costs.  You logically understand that to grow the business, you can expect your expenses to increase. Emotionally, this can be a little frustrating and even depressing.

Knowing why we are hiring will allow us to feel a sense of satisfaction and deserved achievement.  Your business will require all kinds of growth throughout its many transitions. Be sure that you acknowledge the reason and create metrics for its success.  Panic can cause us to start cutting these long fought for, defined, developed, trained and implemented positions and processes! Go back to your reasons and goals for your sense of progress.

Start preparing yourself by taking the time to write the goals that you expect to achieve through this growth project.  By writing down our expected results, we can see the progress and quell the panic that may come with an increased monthly outlay of cash.

Did you build an operational structure that supports you pulling yourself out of day to day operations? How many hours do you expect to be freed up? I recommend that you have a plan for that extra time or it can turn into a lot of watching the cash flows. A plan to free up 5 hours a week to write your memoirs is quantifiable and will allow progress that is measurable. This does not directly bring cash in to our account and that has to be considered.

Most of my clients started growing their businesses by outsourcing their bookkeeping processes. If you are thinking about doing this write down your reasons.

  • Do you need more complete and consistent reports for stronger decision making?
  • Is one of the reasons because it stresses you out trying to understand the accounting concepts?

Both are great reasons and supportive of the business, your vision and your mission.  But neither directly grows the bank account. The bookkeeping systems are required if you plan to build a successful company.

Another example is management. If you are bringing on a site manager, is it to:

  • Add a layer of responsiveness for your staff?
  • Freeing up time on your own calendar by off-loading some of the daily tasks and allow space for strategic planning?
  • To create stronger oversight of the consistency of service delivery and product performance?

All supportive and necessary processes in a growing company but these do not move the decimal point in the checkbook, right?

What can you do if you know you are going to grow more and more anxious with the investment in your operations processes and team?  Slow the progress and split some of the time and money investment in a new / additional revenue push.  Can freeing your time from the operation processes allow for a business development push? Can the hours now open on your calendar allow development and launch of a long thought of quick to market service or product? Can freeing an existing staff member that is brilliant with clients from doing the bookkeeping allow for more billable hours to be invoiced monthly? Knowing your personal stress triggers allows us to plan for rapid or slow progress that is satisfying AND rewarding.

How you grow should be specific to YOU and your comfort level.  Understanding what processes are needed and how to organize your team comes with an understanding that you are investing in your company’s foundation just as if you were buying equipment in a factory. Planning can make it less stressful and keep you focused.