Archive for May, 2009

I once participated in a business coaching program where we were asked to set BHAGs - Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Looking back now, I can see that moment was a significant turning point for me. Up until that point, I had been playing it safe. My goals up until then weren’t Big, Hairy and Audacious. They were Small, Bald and downright Timid. I had been playing it safe. I wasn’t committing to a bigger vision because that way I could avoid disappointment if it didn’t work out. I had been censoring my goals and aiming for what I thought I could achieve as opposed to what I truly wanted.

Fast forward, and there have been some BIG changes in my business. Sales revenues increased by 285% last year and this year we are set to triple revenues again. My team and I (yes, I’ve had to pull in extra people to assist and manage all this growth) are fastening our seatbelts for an exciting year ahead. So, I want to share some of what I’ve learned about business growth over the past few years.

It starts with a decision. I recently read two books by two different multi-millionaire authors, and what struck me was both of them recalled a specific moment when they decided to become wealthy. While I’m not quite in their income league just yet, I did recognize that I had everything I had accomplished started with a decision.

You need a plan. For years I had resisted planning in too much detail, as I wanted my business to grow more organically and spontaneously. I was afraid that following a plan might prevent me from responding to new opportunities as they arose. I was deluding myself. How can you tell whether you are on - or off - track without a plan? Dare to set and plan for goals bigger than you dreamed possible.

You can’t penny-pinch your way to your ‘Big Vision’. Don’t get me wrong. The first law of profits is ‘have more coming in than you have going out’. But if you have a big vision for your own business, you must be willing to invest in the tools, systems and people to help you get there. I spent more on coaching and training last year than ever before, and my business almost tripled. I don’t think that is a co-incidence.

Be prepared to ruffle a few feathers. As you start to live your vision for your life and business, people WILL notice, and not everyone will be happy about it. Some might feel threatened as they see you striding outside of your comfort zone because it brings up their own fears and reminds them how they are still playing small. Others may just be downright jealous. Nothing brings critics out of the woodwork like success! It helps if you are prepared for it, and I would even go so far as say celebrate when the critics start making noise, as it means you must be really doing something.

Do you know about ‘ethical bribes’? An ‘ethical bribe’ is a freebie, something you giveaway in exchange for a person’s contact details and permission to contact them. So why do you need an ‘ethical bribe’? Because just as you don’t propose marriage on a first date, most business relationships need to start slowly and have the trust build up between you.

When you have permission to contact prospects you can send a mixture of valuable information plus sales offers to build up their trust and make sure that when they are ready to act, they buy from you. While traditional sales techniques focus on ‘closing the sale’, sometimes at the expense of the relationship, with this model, you give before you get. Your prospects get to ‘sample’ you at low cost and risk. But it also gives you a chance to showcase your expertise too. When you share great content, people can’t help but think ‘if the content they give away is this good, how good is the stuff that they charge for?’

So what makes a good ‘ethical bribe’ and how do you go about creating it? First of all, you want something that has a high perceived value to the user but is low cost to distribute, that’s why information makes a great ethical bribe. You should give it a value too. For example, if you’re offering a free e-book that you could sell for £27, then say so.

Next you need to think about what content to include. You want to find the balance between sharing information that is valuable, and giving away all your information. A great tip is to make sure that your ethical bribe addresses the number one question, problem or issue that faces your typical prospect, and make sure that is summed up in your title. Eg ’7 Days to the Career of Your Dreams’, ‘How to Lose Weight Without Dieting’.

Tell them what to do, but you don’t necessarily need to spell out HOW to do it (your paid product or service should do that). But make sure that you are sharing great content that isn’t easily available elsewhere. You want your prospect to feel that they have received value from what you provided, even though it was free.

Next you’ll need to decide what format to present your ethical bribe. Choose a format that suits both your target audience and suits you. No point in giving away a free ebook if you’re targeting an audience that isn’t online. Similarly, if you love talking, but hate writing, it might make more sense for you to record and give away audio material rather than write an e-book or free report. Here are some examples of formats I’ve used to get you started: e-book, e-course, teleseminar, quiz or assessment, CD, videos.

Finally you need to ‘sell’ your ethical bribe. Just sticking the word FREE in front of something doesn’t in itself make it desirable! Even though it’s FREE, you still have to let people know that it exists, and why it’s worth the trouble of claiming. Tell them what important benefits they will gain from reading/using your ‘ethical bribe’, and why they should claim it.

You’ll be surprised at the difference an ethical bribe can make for starting relationships, building trust and goodwill, demonstrating your expertise and ultimately attracting more clients. So don’t delay, make sure you get started on your ethical bribe today.

Whatever business you are in, one of the best assets you can build is a databank of testimonials from satisfied clients and customers. But exactly how do you get those rave reviews that you can use to attract more clients? Here are my 6 top tips for collecting and using effective testimonials.

1. Deliver a great product or service

I know it’s stating the obvious, but the first step in getting testimonials is to have satisfied customers and clients. That means you need to make sure you have delivered on your promises and at least met, if not exceeded, your customers’ expectations. Don’t try to collect any testimonials until you have met this criteria!

2. Ask!

The big secret of getting testimonials is no big secret at all. You’ve simply got to ask. If you’ve been in business for any length of time at all, you probably already have satisfied customers who would be more than willing to give you an endorsement, if only you ASK them. I understand that you might be self-conscious about asking, so why not send a note or email along these lines.

‘Can I ask a quick favour? I’m in the process of updating my marketing materials and want to include examples of people I have worked with and how I’ve helped them. I would love to include you. Would you be willing to jot a couple of lines about how my (service/product) helped you? I’m planning to get this completed in the next two weeks, so if you could reply by (deadline) it would really help. Thanks in anticipation!’

There, now that wasn’t so difficult was it? Try it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the responses you get!

3. Use full contact details

Have you ever seen those testimonials that are signed by someone like ‘J.V, Leicester’. Do you believe them? I don’t. They scream ‘made up!’ Testimonials simply aren’t worthwhile unless accompanied by full contact details: name, company, location, age, profession. Include as much relevant info as you need to prove that the testimonial was provided by a real person.

4. Use examples of your target audience

If you’re targeting single 20 somethings, then it doesn’t make sense to include a testimonial from a 50 year old married woman. The unspoken question many of your prospects have in their head is ‘Will this work for me?’, so they want to see case studies and examples from people who started out in a similar situation. Adapt your testimonials to make them relevant to your target audience e.g. if you are targeting working mothers include information like, ‘Sarah Smith, mother of 3′.

5. Make your testimonials more believable with photos, voice and/or video

We’ve all seen the ‘testimonials’ on TV that are actually paid actors, so it’s not surprising that many of your prospects are jaded and skeptical. You can make your testimonials more believable by using proof in the shape of photos, actual voice recordings of the testimonials and even video testimonials if you can get them. Audio Generator includes a feature for easily collecting voice testimonials from your customers. They provide you with a phone number, the client calls to record their message, then you get a simple code for uploading the audio to your website.

6. Have a system for soliciting testimonials

I know you’ve already got too much on your ‘to do’ list, and the last thing I want to do is create more work for you. The key to getting anything done in marketing is to put a system in place that automates the process. For example, send a form letter or email a specific number of days after the service, treatment or goods have been received verifying that your client is happy and asking them to provide you with their comments.

Some of the best testimonials I got for my first e-book came from a standard email I sent to every customer 14 days after they ordered the product. I just set the email up on my auto-responder so I didn’t have to think about it. It generated a steady stream of testimonials with no further action required on my part.

The bottom line is that adding testimonials is one of the most effective changes you can make to your marketing materials, so make sure you start collecting and using testimonials, starting today!

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