4 reasons you shouldn’t build discounts in to your marketing strategy

No matter what you sell, whether you’re a B2B or B2C (or combination) business, or how big your budgets are, everyone is concerned with increasing revenue.  When you see a slump in sales, or you want to attract new customers, the first thing many people think about is offering a discount.  It could be buy one get one free, half price or 10% off. You might even go for a special promotion, such as Build A Bear’s “Pay Your Age” day (which has generated mixed results in the past).  We’re all quick to get the shears on our pricing structure in the hopes of generating increased sales.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. It works.  Or, at least it can do.  Offer a serious discount, you’re likely to get more interest and new people through your door.  It’s why the likes of Groupon does so well, people are always looking for a bargain.  Price cuts can also encourage people to spend their pennies with a new business for the first time, preparing to take a gamble on the outcome thanks to the heavily discounted cost.  There’s reduced perceived risk from the consumer’s perspective.

 

However, is discounting really a good idea as part of your ongoing marketing strategy?  There are definitely some problems with this approach.

 

#1 – You demonstrate lack of confidence

When your product costs X, and you tell a prospective client or customer you’re prepared to sell it for Y, what are you showing them?  You’re demonstrating you don’t have any confidence in the original price.  You’re showing them that it was never really worth X in the first place.

 

That has an impact on the perceived value of what it is you’re offering.  You can sell all the features, all the benefits, all the mod-cons that come with your product/service, but as soon as you start talking about price, that is the only thing your customer will focus on.  All the good stuff will be forgotten, and the price point becomes the focus.

 

#2 – You’re setting yourself up for future problems

Once you offer a discount, there’s no going back.  Whether it’s existing customers that get the discount, new ones only, or it’s open to everyone, people are going to expect you to offer something similar again in the future.

 

People who sign up for three months of a service at half price might decide continuing with the same service at full price later down the line isn’t worth it.  All you’ve done there is sell your product at discount, and ultimately lost a customer.

 

Other people may only buy from you when you make the discount again, knowing that you’re prepared to slash prices when times get hard.  That means you’re putting people off from buying from you at every other opportunity.  Not to mention the fact that people who bought early, and didn’t get the discount, will be peeved they spent more instead of waiting.

#3 – You don’t care about customer loyalty

Discounts are there to entice people who don’t normally spend with you (unless you’re offering it solely as part of a customer reward).  In that situation you’re showing you don’t care who comes to you, as long as they come and buy.  There’s no opportunity to build loyalty when your sales process is based solely on price – next time they need to buy a similar product/service they will simply look around for the cheapest option.  If that’s not you, they will go elsewhere.

 

# 4 – You’re making your sales team work harder

Unless you’re plucking figures out of thin air, your pricing structure is carefully calculated to ensure you ultimately make a profit.  If you take that product/service and sell it at half price, you’re going to need to sell twice as many to keep the same level of revenue.  That’s more people your sales team are going to have to convince to part with their money.

 

 

You are far better working out a sensible pricing structure that not only ensures you are able to make a profit as a business, but that your customers and clients are receiving value for money in the long run.  Equally, your pricing structure should be sustainable – you don’t want to have to change it every few months.

 

 

Case Study: Email and Diary Management

Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about how you can outsource your inbox to a Virtual Assistant, as well as providing top tips for how to better manage your email yourself. This week I wanted to give you an example of the work I do for one of my clients, and how it’s helped.

Jon runs a hugely successful property management business in Essex. To keep his overheads low he runs a virtual office, with the vast majority of tasks associated with the business either being undertaken by himself and his wife, or outsourced to experts.

He has a marketing firm handle all of his branding and social media, his wife Reenie manages the admin, a bookkeeper comes in twice a month and then there’s me. I’m in charge of Jon’s email and calendar.

So, what exactly do I do?

Although Jon has his own email, only the members of his team know what it is. Every other email comes to the generic “office” email address, which I manage. On an average day we can receive anywhere between 50 and 120 emails per day.

My job is to whittle this number down significantly. Ideally to less than 10.

Every morning I therefore filter the emails and delete any obvious spam. Any newsletters that might be useful in terms of content production I forward to the marketing team, and then delete.

I then answer any obvious queries, for example, requests for information on when work will be completed, or a property will become available again. The answers are all easy to find, thanks to the processes we have already put in place, and it just takes a few minutes to grab what I need and send it over to the enquirer.

Next I focus on meeting requests. These can be 121’s from his various networking activities, meetings with existing landlords or new ones, property visits etc. To save email exchanges taking place I tend to pick up the phone and call people to book them in there and then. There is nothing worse than suggesting a time and date, only for Jon to have filled that slot himself in the time it’s taken the person I am speaking to to get back to me.

Finally, I forward directly to Jon any emails I am unable to deal with myself. Usually these will simply be brand new contacts or potential prospects, as he always likes to be the first contact. Over the last two years, I have never sent him more than 8 emails in one day. Everything else I save him from, which saves him an insane amount of time each day.

The process is repeated during the late afternoon, at which point I also check his calendar and confirm any appointments he has for the next day to avoid wasted time.

Where necessary I also arrange travel, both domestic and international, and send invitations to his database for viewings and any events he is speaking at.

The time he saves in not having to deal with the mundane day-to-day management of his inbox is worth far more than what he pays me to deal with it on a daily basis. He’d be the first to admit that he was sceptical about it all at first, but after working with each other for a few weeks, we got in to a great routine, and he’s never looked back. Most people know that it’s me they’re going to be hearing from, and none of them realise I am not based in the same area (though, my accent probably helps out with this a bit).

 

If you want to find out whether outsourcing your email could bring benefit to you and your business, please give me a call on 0161 883 2024, email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk or send me an InMail. I am always happy to discuss your options, or provide tips to help.

Using #Hashtags for your business

Last month we took you on a whistle stop tour of the humble #hashtag and what it’s all about.  Hopefully it helped you realise why Twitter is a great way to promote your business, and this week we thought we’d go through the many different ways you can use #Hashtags to increase your reach.

Find and use relevant #hashtags for your industry

For example #FlightDeals #VirtualAssistant #ITGeek.  That way when users search those #hashtags your Tweets will come up.

Keep on top of trending #hashtags and use them where possible

This doesn’t mean just jumping on something because it’s hot, including an irrelevant but popular #hashtag in a Tweet about cheap flights is going to make you look like a spammer.  And NEVER jump on a tragedy to make a point, or promote a product.  Just don’t. Seriously.

Create your own

Remember, you can create your own #hashtags, which is a great way to promote a specific event, campaign or product.  For example, we created #TSHTips for when we share hints to make your life easier.

Create competition

Twitter users are more likely to retweet (RT) your #hashtags if they’re in with the chance of winning something, so why not set up a competition, raffle or contest?

Create some Twitter buzz by asking followers to mention a specific #Hashtag in their Tweets and reward them when they do.

Check your settings

Your hashtag’s visibility will depend on your privacy settings. If your Twitter account is private, only those you allow to see your Tweets will have access to your hashtags. If you are using hashtags to increase your brand’s exposure, make sure your Tweets are set to Public otherwise you’ll be missing out.

Be clear

If you’re using a hashtag to join a conversation, make sure the hashtag is specific and relevant to your topic. For example, if you’re talking about Obama’s health care plan, use #Obamacare instead of simply #Obama. A vague or generic hashtag like #health or #opinion isn’t effective either.

Keep it simple

Hashtags, like links, look like spam if they are used too often. While there’s no maximum limit to the number of hashtags you can use in a post, three really should be your lot on Facebook or Twitter.  Anything more and it can be difficult to read, and doesn’t give you much chance to add anything else to the conversation.

Don’t repeat yourself

Personally, there’s nothing worse than seeing someone use the same #hashtage more than once in the same Tweet.  Really, what on earth are you trying to achieve?

We love #Hashtags, #Hashtags are great.

No, just no.

 

Give context

So many people think a Tweet which just contains #Hashtags is enough to get a point across. It’s not.  Not only is it confusing, but it’s also really boring.

Why would you simply Tweet #happy?  What on earth does that mean?

Add context.

Equally, don’t just Tweet for the sake of Tweeting.  Make sure you are actually adding to the conversation, and not just appearing in search results.  For example, don’t just say Love #TheApprentice – no one cares.

Say something worth reading, or keep your mouth shut.

Top Tips for Managing your Email

I recently wrote about outsourcing your email management to a VA, and why this can be hugely beneficial. While I am a great advocate of this approach, I am also a realist and I know for many people this is just not something they can consider, let alone get on board with.

With that in mind I thought it might be an idea to share some of my tips for getting on top of the Inbox Hell so you can work towards Inbox Zero.

# 1 – Set limits

If any of you have emailed me over the last few weeks you will have noticed I have an auto-responder set. Essentially it explains that my inbox is not monitored constantly, and is instead checked at specific periods throughout the day.

I find this is a great way to manage other people’s expectations. Some people when they send an email, expect an answer immediately; however, others are happy to wait up to 24 hours. For the largest part it depends on the precedent you have set, but also the urgency of the email itself.

Personally I find checking my inbox repeatedly throughout the day is a huge distraction. It is also a great way to procrastinate. If I have a task I don’t want to do, or am struggling with for some reason, you can bet anything I will just hit refresh to see if anything has snuck in that demands my attention. Nine times out of ten, even if it isn’t urgent, I will deal with the new email before tackling the task I’m avoiding.

Even I have my imperfections it would seem!

I know I can’t just change the way I am, so I have to remove the temptation full stop. Instead of spending a day with my inbox open (and therefore easily accessible) I close it throughout the day, and only open it at my pre-specified times.

This can be a great way to ensure your inbox doesn’t rule you, though I admit it can take some getting used to. How often you choose to check your inbox, and when those times are, will greatly depend on you. I have opted for three – early morning, mid-day and approximately 4pm. These times might work for you, or you might prefer to add in a couple of extra ones as well.

The point is, allow yourself time away from your email so you are not being dictated to constantly, or distracted by new requests.

# 2 – Introduce “One Click”

If you have adopted tip 1 you have suddenly drastically reduced the amount of time you have to spend on emails per day. This means you have to be far more efficient when it comes to actually dealing with them.

Over the years I’ve found many people handle their inbox very badly. They will open it up, see a number of new emails and then proceed to browse; perhaps opening a few, reading them, and then moving on to the next one. They might even hop around, cherry picking what they want to focus on. This is a complete waste of time as nothing is being dealt with, which means, at some point, you will have to go back and re-read an email to actually action it.

Stop the madness!

The One Click approach is simply that. Open an email and then click on just one of these buttons – reply, delete or archive/move.

Force yourself to do something with that email.

Does it warrant a reply? If so, provide it there and then. If it’s not your job to handle it, then forward it to whoever it is and CC the original sender in. Get it out of your inbox and in to someone else’s.

Is it simply for information purposes? Is it junk? Is it completely irrelevant? Then delete it! Just get rid of it and move on.

Maybe it’s not something you need this second, but will do later, in which case archive it. Hopefully you will have suitable folders set up so that you can assign such information to the right client, job, category etc. so it’s easy to locate at a later date.

# 3 – Keep it short and sweet

This is actually my favourite tip, and it concerns what to do when you are replying to an email.

Keep your reply as short as possible. In an ideal world, no more than three sentences! If your response is likely to be wordy, and therefore time consuming to produce, you are better picking up the phone and having an actual conversation. Remember those?

Not only is a lengthy response difficult for you to compose, it is also difficult for the recipient to read. Long emails tend to be skip-read, which means important information is lost, and valuable time is wasted. Why take all that time for no benefit?

Complex scenarios and concepts are often much better explained in real time, via an actual conversation. You are then better placed to answer specific questions as and when they pop up, and clarify anything in more detail if required. If you don’t have the time to explain it there and then, make an appointment for either a telephone or face to face meeting.

Get off the email merry-go-round and take back control.

Hope these help, feel free to let me know how you get on, or if you have any tips of your own that help you stay on top of your inbox!

Your phone and the Pavlovian Response

These days phones are almost everywhere. You probably have one in your pocket or handbag, one on your desk at work, and you no doubt have a landline at home too (though these days, it’s often hard to see why). You might even make the distinction between a personal and work mobile, to add more crazy in to the mix.

Phones are there to make communication easier; however, they make getting things done so much harder.

It rings, you answer it; it’s a Pavlovian response and a habit the vast majority of us can’t resist.

However, if you want to get more done it is essential you remember your phone, whatever guise it comes under, is meant to be a tool to help you, not constantly interrupt your day.

Here are my top tips for putting your phone in its place and ensuring you remember who owns who in this relationship!

#1 – Busy? Don’t answer it

You have a phone so you can be reached, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be available constantly. I have a client who will answer her phone no matter where she is – even when in the bathroom!

If you’re busy, you’re busy. Let it go to voicemail, trust me, if it’s important they will leave a message or call back!

#2 – Turn it off

Did you know you can actually turn your phone off? I know, it seems to be news to a lot of other people too. When you really need some quiet, uninterrupted time I strongly suggest turning your phone off. It doesn’t have to be all day, maybe just an hour, but knowing you can’t have any rings, bings or notifications for a whole glorious 60 minutes is an amazing feeling.

Personally I just put my phone on flight mode, but it’s amazing how productive I can be during that short space of time. If nothing else, it stops you being tempted to keep checking if you have missed something. It’s off, just leave it be for a while!

#3 – Respond with a text

If I have my phone on, but I’m not in a position where I can, or want to answer it I tend to cancel the call and immediately reply with a pre-set message such as “Sorry, currently in a meeting, will call you back shortly” or something to that effect.

It can be a great way of acknowledging the call (which is the main reason most people want to answer it in the first place) without being bogged down in having to deal with it there and then. It also buys you some time so the individual won’t phone you back in five minutes simply thinking there was a problem with the connection.

Of course, while everyone can no doubt accept the benefit of having periods of peace and quiet, there is always The Fear. The Fear that the call you miss is going to be the next big lead, client or job. What if they don’t leave a message, and you can’t call them back?

If you suffer from The Fear, then consider getting someone in to handle your calls for you.  Using our call handling service might give you the perfect solution – available for an ongoing basis, or just temporarily to give you the peace and quiet you need to get on with the vital things.

How a VA can make you a better networker

One thing many people struggle with is making the most of their networking activities. It’s all very well finding the time to actually attend a networking meeting either weekly or fortnightly, but doing it right can be all too time consuming for some.

Networking isn’t simply about showing up and passing business cards around. You need to take the time to think about what it is you want to say – you only have 60 seconds to get your point across and make people remember you. Equally, you also need to commit to the follow up. If you’re not going to make the most of any connections or leads that have come your way, you’re totally wasting your time rocking up to an event in the first place.

I have one client who attends, on average, six networking events a week. All, bar one, are morning meetings which he likes because he can get them out of the way before most people have started in the office. However, he came to the realisation that he wasn’t keeping on top of everything effectively, which meant he was essentially wasting his time, and money, by going to all these different events.

In order to help reduce the strain on his time, and ensure that he is being as efficient as possible with his networking activities we have put a few things in place.

60 Seconds

Once a month we have a 10 minute phone call to brainstorm ideas and catch up on what’s been happening in his business. From this chat, and from my general day to day knowledge of what he’s been up to, I am able to write his 60 seconds/elevator pitches for him to use.

He prides himself on not using the same information over and over again, as he wants to keep things interesting for the rest of the people in the room. Thankfully I have a great system set up whereby I know what he has said in which group, and when so there is not likely to be any repetition.

CRMs

When a new member joins one of his groups, or a visitor has attended, he will send me a picture of their business card via WhatsApp. I will then add their details in to his CRM system, along with information of what meeting they attended, if they have been before and if he has set up a one to one meeting with them.

One to Ones

Before you think it, no, I do not attend one to one’s on his behalf! We did talk about it once, and I managed to talk him out of it. However, what I will do is liaise with people to book the one to one’s in the first place, and send confirmation of the appointment once it has been made.

He then records his one to one meetings on his iPhone, and sends me the audio which I will transcribe. From this I complete a “file note” for him, which will be attached to the individual’s record on his CRM and forwarded to them as well. This is to allow them to confirm that he has understood precisely what they do in their business and what sort of opportunities or referrals they are looking for.

I will then add their details in to a database so that in 11 months we will make contact again to arrange another one to one.

Referrals

When he is handed a referral or lead he will always pass me the details so that I can make the initial contact. I will find out precisely what is required, and pass over any information that the prospect needs to be able to make a decision.

If a meeting needs to be arranged, I will schedule it.

From there, the client handles everything else himself.

This is an approach that works perfectly for him, but might not be ideal for everyone. However, I hope it gives you some idea of how outsourcing some tasks could take the pressure off you, and allow you to be more efficient at work.

If you want to have a chat about how you could improve things in your office, why not give me a call on 0161 883 2024 or email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk

What’s the deal with #Hashtags?

When we talk to people about Twitter, one thing that comes up time and time again is the fact it’s just so damn confusing.

“All those hashtags – why can’t people just speak English?”

For many, the humble # makes text seem confusing; but the reality is it’s an integral part of how we communicate online these days.  As such, if you’re going to use Twitter on any meaningful level, you need to find out how to use them.

The basics

The purpose of a #hashtag is to turn any word (or string of words) into a searchable link.  Why’s that important, you may well ask (and again, many do).

Essentially it means you can organise your own content, and track specific topics of discussion based on those particular keywords.

Like cake?  Who doesn’t?  Type #cake in to the Twitter search bar and BOOM – everyone else’s Tweets about #cake will immediately appear in chronological order.

What can you include in a #hashtag?

The reality is you there is no pre-determined list of #hashtags.  Of course there are many that are popular, either trending temporarily, or sticking it out for the longhaul.  But if what you want doesn’t exist, you can simply create your own.

The key thing to remember is you can’t use spaces. If you do add a space, then the next character will form outside of the linkable #hashtag.  Even if you are using multiple words in the same #hashtag you MUST NOT use a space.

If you want to make your #hashtag easier to read, then consider using uppercase letters for the start of each word, for example #LuLovesShoes.

The good news is this won’t change your search results – #lulovesshoes would appear, regardless of capitalisation.

Numbers are supported, so tweet about #50ShadesOfGrey to your heart’s content. However, punctuation marks are not, so commas, fullstops, exclamation points, question marks and apostrophes are out. Forget about asterisks, ampersands or any other special characters.

Make yourself heard

How and why you use #hashtags will depend largely on what you’re trying to achieve, and also your style, tone and voice.

Lu likes to use her #hashtags as an aside, or to convey personality, humour (or more likely, sarcasm). Her current favourites include #SendCoffee #ShoeLove #ShoeGoals #MumOf5 #WhyGodWhy

 

The key to Twitter is getting involved.  Why not spend some time looking around, searching existing #hashtags and seeing what other people are doing?

 

Remember, we’re here to help – so if you need a crash course, or just have a quick question, don’t be afraid to get in touch. Drop us an email: lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk, call 0161 883 2024 or leave a comment.