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5 Things You Must Do To Sell To a Small Business Owner

Small business owners are an odd lot. I can say this without judgment because I am one.

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Cracking the small business code is something that routinely perplexes large organizations. I see it every day, and I’ve been asked numerous times to consult on that very puzzle.

The thing is, however, a lot of small businesses want to sell to other small businesses too. Many times I find that they miss the subtleties of attracting small business even though they need look no further than their own buying habits for keys to the sale.

So, today I’m going to share how I, one long-time small business owner, think and make purchases in an effort to create what might become your cheat sheet for how to think about selling to small business.

I suspect there are Fortune 500 consultants that would charge tens of thousands of dollars for what I’m about to reveal below, but you get it for free!

1) Realize I don’t plan that far out

Small business owners would love to have a three-year and five-year plan, but the reality is we often have a one-week plan and it’s a rough draft. I’m not saying it’s perfect, I’m just saying it’s the reality of the time and resource sparse business.

We don’t respond well to future ROI messages or value received over time because mostly we’re usually looking to fix something right now. Talk to me about the pain I have today, fix the problem that will get me immediate relief and then we can talk about the future.

2) Help me buy value over price

I actually don’t want to buy on price, but I will. If you don’t give me a way to see how your solution makes better sense to me right now , I’ll choose the lower price. But if you can demonstrate that you’re going to be here whenever and however I need you, that switching to your solution isn’t going to be painful and that this time it’s going to be different, I’ll pay a premium.

The problem is, I don’t believe your brochure. In fact, the greater problem is I don’t fully trust myself to implement what you’ve suggested either. So, demonstrate by building a relationship, don’t sell, educate. Prove to me that you really understand my business by using my language – if you use the terms synergy or value proposition it will hard for me to hear anything else you say.

3) Make the service as sexy as the sale

Good marketing makes you hungry for how your world is about to change for the better. Good marketing paints a picture of your new shiny world once you’ve bought the product or engaged the service. That’s the job of marketing – to build know, like and trust.

The problem is that once I say I want to buy, good marketing seems to come to a crashing end.

Good marketing also understands that I need to be oriented to what I just bought, I need to know what to do next, I need to know who to contact with questions, I need to know how I pay, how I get more, how I add features and I need to know it all as part of your sales and service process.

In fact, good marketing doesn’t ever end. It also wants to measure the results I got and it wants to make sure I’m thrilled.

4) Know that I am loyal to a fault

Okay, I’m playing with fire sharing this one, but you need to know that I value loyalty as much as anything. So, that’s a great thing to know, but it’s a two-way street. I will be loyal to companies that are loyal to me.

If you fix my problem, you do it in a way that is simple, effective and affordable and if I come to trust your words and actions – I’ll buy anything else you present to me in the same way. I’ll go out of my way to keep buying from you because what I know about you is more comforting than what I don’t know about someone else’s pitch.

Take advantage of this by making it easy for me to share you with my friends, neighbors and colleagues. Make me feel like a champion for your business and I’ll willingly become an unpaid member of your sales team.

5) Continue to educate and I’ll buy more

Don’t change once I become a customer. If you want me to buy more, don’t just toss me into the up sell and cross sell sales funnel that consists of little more than canned sales messages.

Continue to educate me, share things that real people share with each other, talk to me like someone you want to have a deeper relationship with – do that and you’ll earn the right to come to me with the unabashed intention of selling me something else.

5 Steps to Small Business Public Relations Success

Getting positive mentions of your business, products, people and events in the publications that your ideal clients consume is an essential part of what I call the lead generation trio (advertising and referrals being the other members.)

Public Relations for Small Business

Fora do Eixo via Flickr

The credibility that comes with media coverage is something you simply can’t buy and obtaining this coverage is something that you simply must make a part of your overall marketing system.

While a spot on Good Morning America might not quite be in the cards at the moment, even the tiniest of local businesses can generate some media coverage in this day and age by simply adhering to the plan outlined below.

Create your media target list

Most small businesses, particularly local businesses, can probably dig up the five or six important journalists, producers and editors that they need to focus on with very little effort.

Create this list and then get to work on turning it into a rich dashboard of information by creating Google Alerts for each of the members of your list so you know when they’ve written something. Subscribe to the blog their publication makes them write, find them on every social network they belong to and add them to tools such as Twitter Lists and Google+ Circles so that’s easier to listen to the things they are doing and saying.

It’s not uncommon these days for journalists to talk about stories they are working on in social media outlets. In many cases you put yourself in a story as a source by simply paying attention.

Build relationships

The reason for setting up all of those ways to listen in the first step above is that you want to start the process of building a relationship with these journalists in order to become a trusted source.

You don’t do this by bombarding them with press releases; you do this by proving you are indeed a worthwhile source of information. You do this by making their job easier.

Get in the habit of making thoughtful comments on their blog, sending them deeper industry research that you have access to, and recommending other people they might want to talk to for a story they’ve written or are working on. The key is to prove yourself useful without asking for anything.

Plant seeds

Once you genuinely practice the acts of relationship building outlined above you may earn the right to introduce story ideas that involve your company.

There is a subtle art to this and you may have to change your mindset in order to get it. It’s never about you. Okay, if you have huge news, it could be, but how often does your business really have something blockbuster like.

If you’ve paid attention in the relationship building phase you know what this journalists writes about, the kind of things they cover, the kind of stories they write and how they write them.

Your job is to introduce story ideas that will be of interest to their readers first and involve your organization in some fashion second. Few people, including most PR firms, fully get this, but it’s the key to success.

Announce everything

One component of your system that needs to be worked routinely is the release of news of some sort on a routine basis. This is the announcement kind of stuff, the promotions, the new client, the new product, the new technique, the non-profit partnership kind of things.

These are little news bits that may get a little local coverage, especially if you release them to your Chamber or local trade group, but the real point is to give your firm a steady stream of online press release material.

These biweekly or monthly submissions will create an active stream of links, mentions and even direct to prospect exposure that builds up over time when your still with it.

Use tools like Pitch Engine or PRWeb and get in the habit of putting these out at least once a month. You can also build a little “newsroom” page on your website and archive these releases there for additional SEO and viewing.

Amplify success

The last piece of the system comes into play when you start to receive coverage.

Make sure that you get as much mileage from every mention as you can. Republish, link to and even print news stories that include your firm and include them on your web site, in your marketing materials and in your social media activity.

If you happen to land a story that features your firm you might want to see if you can obtain full reprint rights and turn it into a staple component of your marketing materials.

Get in the habit of communicating press mentions and announcements to your current clients too. While I’ve talked about PR mostly in the context lead generation, it’s also a great vehicle for reselling your current clients and making it easier for them to refer you to their colleagues.

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