Even if you are not a business owner yet, you are a salesperson. If you have enjoyed a product or service and have spoken positively about your experience to someone else, you were selling the business. All you have to do is translate this inherent skill into a business asset. By having an elevator pitch, finding fans and cultivating business friendships in your "back pocket" you will create an instant sales situation to serve you at a moment's notice.
To "pitch" someone an idea is to communicate quickly and succinctly. An elevator pitch is designed to hook the audience in as short a time as possible (most of the time it is 30 seconds). Try to boil down what you do into one or two sentences. Steve Strauss in "Elevator Pitches: Making them Work for You" says that an elevator pitch should intrigue your listener and leave them wanting more. Mr. Strauss gives five tips for creating a powerful elevator pitch.
After you've perfected writing your pitch, practice it with people you know and trust. Find the words that are comfortable for you to remember and say the most in the least amount of time. Get feedback from the friends: Ask them what works and what does not work. Ask them how they would rather hear a phrase. Smooth your pitch over.
While you are delivering your pitch, there is an entirely different pitch occurring. Your body language and how you present yourself, while you speak, speaks volumes. Here are a couple of things to stay aware of while you deliver the words:
- Eye Contact--Keep eye contact while delivering your pitch. If you are looking at the floor, you are distracting your audience from your true intent--your product.
- Firm Handshake--It has always been true that first impressions are important. A firm (not crushing) handshake says a lot about a person.
- Body Language--Pay attention to what you say with your body. Are you shifting your weight from one foot to the other? Are you open, with arms uncrossed and eyes directed at the other person?
- Get right to it--When you only have 30 seconds, it is imperative that you are direct and to the point.
- Say "thank you"--Leave the pitch on a positive note. Courtesy and professional behavior speaks volumes (much more than the elevator pitch) about who you are and the ideas you represent.
Then launch your elevator pitch and find your fans. Every time you speak about your business in the form of an elevator pitch, you have a chance to get immediate feedback. As you get comfortable with saying your pitch, you can pay attention to your audience's reaction and change the pitch so that it is powerful and keeps other's attention.
Finding FansPut yourself in situations where you can meet people of like mind, who need your business. Practice your elevator pitch. A fan is someone who not only understands what you do and patronizes your business but also, is willing to talk to others (preferably many people) about your business. Fans are all over. They come from personal referrals, old business friendships or relatives.
Many people are close to being fans, but they aren't sure how they can help you. In these cases, you can teach people how you need help. If you need help selling then teach these people your elevator pitch. They will sell your business for you.
Fans can also help mentor you or find a mentor for you. They can counsel you, offer financing or help you find financing a loan or grant for your business. A fan is someone who will stick by you at the beginning when you are new to your business and support you as you setup and grow your business to success.
Cultivating Business Friendships
Referral groups, friends of friends or even after work business mixers, are some good places to cultivate business friendships. Business friends are different than fans. They may be long time customers, new acquaintances or people in a similar line of work that are willing to refer new business to you.
This isn't just about networking. Friendships are about helping others in their lives and businesses, volunteering and supporting others in growing their business, too.
In Friendship Marketing: Growing Your Business by Cultivating Strategic Relationships by Gerald R. Baron, the name of the game is compassion and service. By finding ways to help others, you can actually cultivate business relationships. Mr. Baron says, "The more needs there are in the world, the more opportunities you have to fill them. And the greater the intensity of the need, the greater the opportunity to become the hero…"
This section may be more challenging to you if you are not comfortable talking about yourself and/or your business. It might be helpful to take a college extension course on public speaking to get comfortable learning to communicate ideas clearly and concisely to others.Networking
The best way to meet fans, cultivate business friendships and practice your elevator speech is to network. There is a fine line between business and personal networking. Because, after all, when you are selling a business you are selling yourself. The similarity is intent. The difference is in the approach. Any human connection is a worthwhile one and, business or personal; it offers a chance to connect with someone else.
Social networking is the current way most people connect both on business and a personal level. Facebook and MySpace and Linkedin are three, well known social networking sites that offer ways to connect. There is not substitute, however, for face-to-face contact.
Alex Benzer says an important part of success is "having a web of friends and associates in "Five Steps to Creating a World-Class Social Network in Any City." Social and Business networking go hand in hand and Mr. Benzer gives five tips to setting the stage for optimal networking.
- Have an attitude of openness and interest--showing a general interest in others, makes you more approachable.
- Honor all invitations--respect this intangible gift with the same consideration that a tangible gift merits.
- Honor all contacts--not everyone is interesting, but your connection with one person maybe lead you to a more interesting connection with someone else.
- Follow up on all contacts--Mr. Brezner says he follows up the next day with everyone he meets. Don't wait until something pertinent will happen because that may never come.
- Give back--Now that you have accepted all these fabulous lunch invitations, initiate a lunch date of your own. You can even try asking a few people of similar interests.
Networking is about genuinely connecting with people with a common interest. Even if someone does not work in a similar area, however, does not mean that they might know or be able to connect you with others who can greatly improve your business or personal success.
Most groups are limited in size to ensure that everyone has enough time to share information. The intention of the group is to create a close-knit group that is proactive in giving and receiving referrals and feedback.
Attendees can expect to learn a lot about their business as well as the business community and all are expected to reciprocate with personal and professional referrals.
Where there is a business type, there is an association. A quick on-line search or even a discussion with another business owner is likely to reveal a myriad of possible business associations. These groups usually have a formal meeting place and time to offer discussions on pertinent topics as well as networking time before and after. They are advocates for structure and change within that particular business group's community. Most associations have a strong work ethic and guidelines that protect, preserve and renovate the associations cause.
Chamber of CommerceMost cities have a Chamber of Commerce. Each group has its own directory and meets regularly to discuss ways to maximize your business in relation to your city or town.
Most Chamber of Commerce groups offer the following benefits:
- Expand Business Opportunities--Your business can thrive through networking events, mentoring, marketing events, committees and councils, professional development and access to government bids.
- Community-based Activism--Find your voice in the government. By doing so, you might fill a well needed void in your town or community with your product or service.
- Save Money--Many groups offer advertising opportunities, Health Insurance group rates and Worker's Compensation group rates.
Marketing is the planning and implementation of a strategy to gain more revenue for a business. What is the difference between Marketing and Advertising? Advertising is one piece of a larger Marketing plan which also includes: Branding, Public relations, Sales strategy, Publicity and Promotions.
The above chart shows how each section of reports back to Marketing and is an integral part of the Marketing Plan. It is important to not only see each of these areas as separate but also to see them as an important part to your Marketing Plan as a whole. Each entity serves a purpose and feeds the others as it grows and takes shape. For example, an advertising campaign on billboards is more powerful if it is backed up by a press release from public relations sent out to all the local newspapers.
Creating a Marketing Plan
If you have written a business plan, you have already created a Marketing Plan. A marketing plan for a small business typically includes:
- Small Business Administration Description of Competitors, including the level of demand for the product or service and the strengths and weaknesses of competitors
- Description of the Product or Service, including special features
- Marketing Budget, including the advertising and promotional plan
- Description of the Business Location, including advantages and disadvantages for marketing
- Pricing Strategy
- Market Segmentation
Remember to include all elements of marketing and how they contribute to the bottom line. A Marketing plan is the easiest way to see how you will achieve success in your business. The projected numbers come from estimated sales. Sales are a part of the Marketing wheel and are fed by every other part. For example, advertising and promotion directly feed sales and can affect the price.
Cost Effective Ways to Market Your Business
Once you have researched and written your Marketing Plan, you can begin to market your business as planned. There are some unique ways to enhance your position in relation to your competitors.
Santa Monica, California based company, Westside Rentals, has a theme character "Westside Rental Man." He shows up at local sporting events, fundraisers and even parties to promote the company. Mark Verge, owner of Westside Rentals is a master at free or low cost advertising. He is quoted in newspapers, shows up at philanthropic events and has even placed a few unusual looking cars (i.e. a hearse) on main thoroughfares in his city advertising his company. He is the most successful rental agency in Santa Monica and if you don't know about Westside Rentals you've been living under a rock. Mr. Verge continues to come up with innovative ways to spread the word about his company for little or no money.
As you look at your completed Marketing Plan, do you see any opportunities to partner with other companies? By doing so, you can create a natural flow of referrals and a deep network of customers. Think about how business flows to you and where the customers are before they reach your business. This natural progression can be helpful in understanding how to connect with businesses that have customers before they reach you or after your customers leave you.
When entering into a partnership it is a good idea to have a contract in place. The contract should delineate the roles for each business owner and the expectations and outcomes should be clearly drawn out.
Trading Goods and ServicesTrades are a wonderful way of valuing your product in a new way. The way a trade works is you and another person come to an agreement about what each of your products is worth and how you can give and receive an equal amount for your particular good or service. An example: A coach has offered a client her services in trade. The client is an interior decorator and agrees to redo the coach's living room in exchange for three months of coaching. An agreement is drawn up and signed by both and, when the trade is complete both are satisfied with the results.
A legal agreement is necessary with these types of trades defining what will happen if either party decides to terminate the agreement or cannot fulfill her portion of the agreed service. A lawyer is not necessary, but the terms should be mutually agreed to and clearly written before the trade begins.
Tradeshows offer an easy way to network, find referrals as well as gather new customers. If you cannot afford a booth, try to pair up with a person or even a group to have a presence. Then, while you are there, walk around and look at the other booths. Take notes and talk with people about what they like or dislike in what they have seen so far at the tradeshow. You may gain some valuable insights into your customers, competitors and business.
Community OutreachIt used to be that companies used to run campaigns to "give back" or donate to a worthy cause. Now entire companies are being created for such a purpose. Paul Newman created Newman's Own and the companies proceeds went to various non-profit organizations. On a smaller scale, you can make a commitment to contribute to a cause and publicize this. People around the world are now carefully watching their money and consciously choosing their products and services based on the cause supported or overall philosophy.
Interested in learning more? Why not take an online class in Business Administration?