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.

 

 

An open letter to the Door to Door Sellers of LinkedIn

Hi

I hope you’re having a great day.

My day was going great until I got an invitation to connect from you. I admit I didn’t recognise your name so I went to your profile to see if I could find out anything helpful. It turns out we have various mutual connections, and for me, that provides you with a degree of legitimacy.

So, I accepted.

I’d barely clicked “accept” before I received another notification – you’d sent me an InMail.

Now, I’m a fairly realistic individual. I know I’m awesome to be around and am generally a good person, but even I know nobody is waiting with baited breath to get in direct contact with me. The speed with which that message comes through would give most people whiplash, which tells me one thing; you’re a salesperson.

Yes, I know we’re all “salespeople”, in the strictest sense of the word – why else be on LinkedIn in the first place? However, you’re one of those salespeople.

With trepidation I open the message and yes, there it is, the generic sales pitch.

Sigh.

Within 60 seconds of accepting your request I have already removed you as a contact. OK, so it’s a minor waste of my time, and a constant source of irritation but in all honesty, I just feel sorry for you.

Despite the fact you think you’re a hot shot with your 500+ connections, I assure you, you’re doing LinkedIn all wrong.

If you have to send a generic pitch to every single new contact without actually reaching out first, then there is something wrong.

This approach is exactly the same as the person who attends a physical networking event and spends the entire time collecting business cards and talking at other people. These people don’t get invited back for a second time, and people avoid their calls. The rest of us, who have mastered the art of conversation and relationship building talk about you when you’re not there, and warn other people to stay clear.

The simple truth is we should all treat our connections like gold. The people you spend time with, whether that be in real life or the virtual world, should be your tribe. They have your back, they cheer you on, they support you and you can learn from them. They are not simply people to sell to and then spit out once you’ve got your pound of flesh.

Spamming people on LinkedIn (and yes my friend, that is exactly what you are doing) is the modern day equivalent of traditional cold calling. I’m not naïve enough to think it doesn’t work, occasionally. For every 20 people that ignore you, one might bite and with your relentless enthusiasm you may well close a deal one day. However, I assure you there is so much more to gain by playing the long game and actually remembering to be social when using social media.

LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to build relationships, whether that be from scratch or to enhance existing ones. The only way to do that is to take your time, be useful to others and always be considerate and respectful.

If you can’t manage that, be quiet. And stay the Hell out of my inbox!

5 examples of good LinkedIn etiquette

I’ve been doing this gig for a while now, yet it never fails to amaze me how bizarrely people act on social networks compared to how they would in real life.

It’s almost as though when you sit someone behind a screen and ask them to connect with a fellow human being, all rational thought and social etiquette goes out the window.

And it really gets my goat.

So here are my top 5 tips when it comes to LinkedIn etiquette.

# 1 – Be personal when connecting

If you’ve decided you want to connect with someone, take the time to send them a personalised connection request.

If you were in a face to face environment you wouldn’t just go up to someone and shove your business card in their face, hoping they’d get back in touch with you one day. That would be rude.

It kind of works the same way on LinkedIn.

Sending someone a generic message shows you can’t be bothered to explain to them why you’re reaching out. What is it about them that makes you want to connect?  What is it you think you can offer them that would be of benefit?

Yes, many people will accept your request regardless of how you ask them to connect, but they’re not going to be invested in you.  They’ll just ignore your posts, and ultimately might end up removing you as a connection anyway. So what’s the point?

Put the effort in now, and you have a much better chance of establishing a genuine networking relationship.

# 2 – Once you accept, send a message

Far too often when you accept a connection request from a random person they don’t actually get in touch.  That means there’s no interaction, which is kind of the whole point of LinkedIn. Isn’t it?

The best thing you can do is send someone a personalised message as soon as you accept their invitation.  This is a great way to get the conversation started, and also get a better feel for whether they’re genuine, or are just collecting names and bulking out their contacts list.

# 3 – Say thank you

No doubt your parents always taught you to say please and thank you – well that rule hasn’t gone out the window just because you’re on LinkedIn.

If someone has taken the time to endorse you for one of your skills, then you owe then a thank you.  After all, they’ve gone out of their way to do something that’s of no benefit to them, but could be of benefit to you.

They didn’t have to do that.

Don’t feel obligated to endorse them back, although, if you can genuinely recommended them for a skill they possess there’s no reason why you wouldn’t.  However, make sure you avoid the trap of trading endorsements when you have no idea what you’re really talking about.

# 4 – Keep it professional

Not all social networks are created equal, and nor do they have the same purpose.  LinkedIn is not the place for you to share photos of your kids, your dog or to moan about the weather.

LinkedIn is business focussed, which means anything you post should be business related.  You can post about what you’re up to, who you want to connect with, ask for information or assistance from your connections and discuss industry news.

But no one wants to see a picture of what you’re having for lunch.

# 5 – Introduce people

The whole point of networking is to increase your network. I know it sounds obvious, but apparently when it comes to LinkedIn many people seem to have forgotten this.

One of the best things you can do when it comes to using this amazing platform is take the time to introduce your contacts. If you know someone who’s looking for a web designer, and you happen to know a web designer, then take a minute to introduce them to each other.

Facilitate other people’s connections and you greatly increase your own social capital, as well as getting a warm fuzzy feeling for doing a good thing.

 

If you want more tips on Netiquette please email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or call 0161 883 2024 to find out when our next training session is.

Three types of people you should avoid on LinkedIn

So far this week I have done one-to-one LinkedIn Orientation with five people. OK, so that’s just a fancy way of saying I spent two hours going over the basics with five separate people who signed up, created a profile and promptly lost their password. One of them hadn’t been back on since uploading their profile photo, and that was ten years ago.

This is probably my favourite part of the “training” I do with people – taking someone who admits they know nothing, or have preconceived ideas about what LinkedIn is, and getting them to embrace it. Admittedly it’s baby steps, going from “member” to “daily interactor” doesn’t happen overnight, but you get my point.

One thing that often comes up, certainly with people who have had their accounts for a while is connections. Often I hear things like “who is this person? I don’t know them” or “why do strangers keep asking me to connect?” Equally typical is the query “why add me and then never communicate?”

The simple truth is LinkedIn is full of people who aren’t using it properly, and unfortunately when you aren’t confident in what you’re doing, you can find yourself looking to these people as the “experts”.

Here’s my list of three types of LinkedIn users you should probably try to avoid if you want to attain LinkedIn zen.

#1 The Door to Door Salesperson

We have all received an invitation to connect with someone we don’t know, only to receive a generic sales pitch via InMail the second you accept them.

If you have accepted someone who does this, do yourself a favour now, and remove them as a contact. They are not interested in two-way dialogue and relationship building. They just want to knock on your door and sell you something, then they will move on.

Equally, if you are this person please, on behalf of everyone else on LinkedIn, I beg you to STOP! Here’s why.

 

# 2 The Social Police

Every so often I see comments, on other people’s posts, about the validity and appropriateness of what they’re sharing.

“This is LinkedIn, not Facebook”

“This sort of thing doesn’t belong here”

“LinkedIn is a professional network – be PROFESSIONAL”

You get my point.

The sort of posts that get these comments are either family or pet photos, memes, or jokes to name a few. Now, don’t get me wrong, when I see these things I do invariably roll my eyes because, in all honesty, LinkedIn is not the place for them. However, I refrain from commenting on such posts because I am not the police of social interactions.

What annoys me more than inappropriate posts are the comments from the self-appointed social police. Their opinion of what is or isn’t appropriate on LinkedIn is just that – their opinion. There is no handbook that says “Thou shalt not post a meme of a cat wearing a watermelon as a helmet”. There is no LinkedIn code of conduct in that sense. I am a firm believer that if you don’t like it, you just don’t interact with it; or maybe, you can remove the offender as a connection. Believe it or not, you do have those options.

Personally I recommend avoiding the social interaction police at all costs. It takes a certain type of person to comment publicly on someone else’s post in a manner that comes across as nothing short of rude, and in some cases bullying. Who, if they genuinely wanted to educate and help their fellow connections, would rather hit out, instead of send a private InMail along the lines of “Hi Bob, funny meme earlier; however, LinkedIn really isn’t the sort of place for that sort of thing. You’d probably get more interaction if you …”

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

# 3 The Ego

We have all seen them, the LinkedIn users who have a headline along the lines of “MOST VIEWED LINKEDIN USER” or “The Midas of sales: Everything I touch turns to sold!”

No, really, I’ve seen the latter. I’m still cringing now.

There is a really fine line between confidence, and an overwhelming smugness, and the people who go too far are really difficult to build relationships with on LinkedIn. Which is why I always avoid them.

It’s such a shame really as you can guarantee in a genuine networking environment they wouldn’t stand up and say “I am awesome, I am great, I am perfect”. Well, some might, but very few. In the real world they may exude confidence, but they are probably capable of having a two-way conversation.

Online they are just narcissistic and are predominantly interested in either the sale (see point 1) or collecting numbers. Don’t be one of their numbers.

 

 

These are just the people I will always avoid, you may agree – you may not. However, the key here is that you do have a choice who you interact with online, as you do anywhere else. Don’t feel you have to accept everyone, and don’t feel once you have accepted that you can’t back out again. Keep the connections you want so you can customise your own LinkedIn experience.

I don’t care how big it is, what can you do with it?

When we first speak to people about their social media, many of them are concerned with the number of people following them on their various channels. We’ve had clients embarrassed by their lowly 100 fans, and envious of a competitor boasting over 1,000.

We’ve said it before, and we will say it again – when it comes to social media, size does not matter.

The same is true when it comes to things like LinkedIn and your other networking activities.

You will no doubt have noticed that when you get over 500 connections, LinkedIn stops specifying precisely how many you have.  As a result 500 becomes this wonderful number many aim for, because to have that 500+ next to their name makes them look impressive.

If you know that many people, you must be really well connected.

Apart from that’s not the case.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m conducting a little experiment with LinkedIn at the moment, and part of that means I’m just accepting invites from anyone.

A quick scroll through my last 20 connections (added over the last five days) and I find:

  • 1 person I’ve met once at a networking event
  • 2 people I’ve heard of, have mutual connections with, but have never had a conversation with
  • 13 complete randoms that haven’t even taken the time to start any communication beyond sending a request
  • 4 people I actually know (two of whom are previous clients)

I don’t think there’s anything particularly unusual about that, many of us if we take the time to look through our network will find numerous names we don’t recognise, and faces we can’t place.

That’s not a network.  That’s a directory. And it’s pretty useless.

The whole point of LinkedIn is to connect with people you know and trust.  Countless times I’ve asked a genuine connection for an introduction to someone else on their list, only for them to reply “I’ve no idea who they are”.  Great.

Well, plus side they just add people so at least I can introduce myself, but it’s still quite frustrating.

There’s whole swathes of the LinkedIn community that are out there collecting names and numbers, and then, for some inexplicable reason, doing absolutely bugger all with them!

Not only that, but the bigger the network, the harder it is to do anything meaningful with.  When you have over 500 contacts how do you begin to manage that?  How do you code people so you can immediately pin point your history, interactions, commonalities, their potential as a customer, supplier or collaborator?

You have no idea who most of them are – so explain again why size matters?

Everything is better when we stop and take the time to actually connect. I’m not saying for one second you have to delete everyone you can’t sell to (how egocentric is that?), but at least identify who these people are you’re now sharing your cyber space with.

The virtual world will be a better place for it.

 

 

 

It’s not about the money, money, money

When I was younger I had a number of customer facing jobs. For the largest part, I loved them; however, the downside was often the customer. Despite what they tell you at Front of House School, the customer is not always right. In fact, the reality is, on occasion, the customer is just a pain in the proverbial.

As is often the case when you are a lowly waitress, retail assistant or bar maid it is easy to imagine what it might be like doing a job where you aren’t directly at the coal face, having to put up with people’s bad moods and attitudes. Of course, it doesn’t take long to realise that actually, no matter where you are in the hierarchy, the chances are you’re going to have to put up with someone’s sh!t. That’s employment.

So then, when you decide to embrace the life of the self-employed bod, it can be tempting to think you’ve finally broken free of the shackles, and you really can tell people where to go if you feel like it. Of course, you can even if you are employed, though it’s safe to say you’re unlikely to be welcomed back for your next shift (and yes, there does speak to the voice of experience).

My point is, when you run your own business you can be forgiven for thinking, initially, that you are completely autonomous; but you’re not. At least, not if you actually want to earn any money, which is kind of the whole point. If you want to pay the bills, you need to be able to send the invoices, which means, for at least a while, you’re going to have to take jobs where you can find them.

They might be poorly paid, not really worth it jobs; they might be too time consuming or it might be that the customer is a complete and utter [insert word of your liking here]. We’ve all been there, and that’s just one of the realities of business.

However, it doesn’t have to be for long. I remember when I just started out, a much respected client of mine told me that the ultimate goal, for him at least, was being able to cherry pick the work he did, and the people he did it for. His plan was to be in a position whereby he wanted to earn the money his clients would pay him, rather than having to earn it.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, other than being pleased his goal meant he needed an extra pair of hands, and therefore secured me a regular income stream. Now though, over three years later, I completely understand what he meant, and confess to having embraced the ideology myself.

When it comes to my clients I have one job: to make their life easier. It doesn’t matter what task they need completing – social media, content writing, credit control, research – I’m there to save them time so they can get on with the more pressing aspects of their business. And I’m damn good at my job. Not being arrogant, it’s just true.

That said, I realised while I was great at helping other people out with their time issues, I was getting bogged down in my own. I’d be chasing after potential leads I’d been passed, and spending not insignificant amounts of times warming people up. I’d go over proposals with them, sketch out complicated editorial calendars, listen to their insane to-do lists and come up with plans to help them move forward.

I invested.

After chasing and chasing I’d invariably get to the point of securing the deal, and starting work. Then, the inevitable happened. The client, who was never 100% in to begin with, didn’t engage. Therefore they didn’t see the benefit, and when cash flow became the slightest bit of an issue (which it invariably did because they weren’t actually engaging), I’d get binned.

And my invoices would go unpaid.

And my emails would go unanswered.

I am a huge fan of trusting your gut, sometimes you just get a feel that someone is going to be a bit too difficult to work with. Don’t get me wrong, I love a challenge, and I have clients who do challenge me; however, that’s because of the nature of their work, or the tasks they need me to do, not because of their attitude.

While I understand the argument that you have to be consistent and relentless in your pursuit of particular clients, I actually don’t bother myself. If you don’t want to work with me, that is fine; I have no interest in forcing you and badgering you. There are other clients who do want to work with me and they are deserving of my time, energy and efforts, so it’s no loss to me.

Laid out bear on the cold digital screen I know I may sound a little bitter and twisty, but actually it’s not about that. It’s about knowing my worth.

Do you know yours? Ask yourself, honestly, how much time do you spend chasing down things that are genuinely a waste of time at work? Maybe it’s not leads, or clients, maybe it’s using the wrong social media platform, or not automating your invoicing. Perhaps you’re spending too long managing your email, or you’re not compiling effective to do lists. Are you mis-managing your time, or taking forever to write a blog post that could easily be outsourced to someone else?

Now is as good a time as any to ensure you are using your time more productively.

When friends aren’t friends

As someone who uses social media to market my personal brand, my business, my author persona, and for my clients, I often take my presence on many networking platforms for granted.

Of course I’m on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  I dabble in a few others, but those three are my stalwarts for communication.

Over the years as I’ve met more and more people through networking I’ve accumulated significantly more *friends*. In fact, as I write this I have 424 of them on Facebook.

I say *friends* because it’s obviously a bit of a misnomer.

The standard definition of a friend is: “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations”.

Personally I feel the word affection oversells it a bit for a lot of my Facebook connections.  They’re alright, we perhaps get on, but that doesn’t necessarily make them my friends (any more than I am to them).

For me, a friend is someone you’d call up and invite round for a coffee.  You’d go out your way to phone a friend on their birthday. You’d actually check in with them once in a while.

I assure you I do not do that with the vast majority of my 424 *friends*.  And more’s the point, they don’t do it with me either.

Those of you that have had the pleasure of being friends with me on Facebook (or actually, shock horror, spend time with me in real life) will know I’m ever so slightly opinionated. I quite like a drink. I occasionally get selfie happy. And I swear far more than my Mother is comfortable with (sorry Mum, don’t know what happened there).

I’m loud, I’m proud and I’m gobby.  And just occasionally that really gets up people’s noses.

Whilst I understand and respect people’s rights to take a step back and think “oooh, she’s a bit whoa”, there’s not a tiny part of me that’s sorry.  You see, my Facebook profile is all about ME.  The good, the bad and the hungover.

On Facebook you see the real me. The piddled off with the world, frustrated Mum who wonders if it’s acceptable to drink at 2pm because it’s already been a long day. The Mum who can’t help but find it funny that her three year old can swear like a sailor in total context.  Yes, I know it’s not ideal, but he’s not beating the cr*p out of anyone or calling people names, so I’ll take that as a win. The Mum that sometimes thinks her autistic son is playing the ASD card a little too well, and might actually just be a kn*b at times.

Yeah, I said that.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking more about my social media presence. This whole accepting friends invites from people I barely know, but maybe met once at a networking event just because they asked and it would be rude not to isn’t sitting well with me.  I want to share photos of my babies, I want to moan about the client that hasn’t paid, I want to talk about my day and the idiot that wound me up without fear of recriminations.

I want to, and I will dag nammit.

So, I am having a legendary cull (though, because I’m not an attention seeking numpty I won’t be announcing it and then congratulating the people who were lucky enough to ‘survive’).  My cull isn’t meant to be the virtual equivalent of two fingers sticking up at a foe.

Instead it’s a nod to the fact that our relationship is, and should be, purely professional.  If you have been deleted (the ultimate virtual insult), please do not be offended.  Remember I am doing this because we are not mates, and that’s not a bad thing.  I want you to see me as the polished, consummate professional I pretend to be Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.  Well, some of the time between those hours, anyway.

Equally, I want to see you in the same way.

If I bump in to you at a networking event I don’t want my first thought to be “That was a lot of cleavage on Friday night”, or “Interesting adjectives you’ve been using for your ex-husband’s new girlfriend”, or “You come across as a self-indulged know-it-all in your look-at-me posts #LuckyGirl #Mumpreneur #LaptopLifestyle #HashtagAllTheThingsUntilSomethingSticks #IAmSoAmazingEveryoneWantsToBeLikeMe”.

They’re just examples from this week.

Some of them might be slightly exaggerated. To my knowledge nobody has used the last hashtag. Which is actually a shame. That would have been amusing.

Invariably we add people because we want to feel connected, but connection only comes from interaction.  When all your *friends* do is sit there and watch your life unfold before them, but aren’t actually part of your day to day doings, then that’s not friendship. That’s voyeurism.

Let’s just keep that, and the sales pitches to LinkedIn, shall we?

 

PS: Currently down to 260 actual friends.  It’s strangely cathartic!