Double Your Sales In 2011

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to take inventory of your business. What are you doing well? Identify your strengths and celebrate them. What do you need to improve? Identify those areas, too, and work hard to make things better.
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to take inventory of your business. What are you doing well? Identify your strengths and celebrate them. What do you need to improve? Identify those areas, too, and work hard to make things better.One sure way to improve is to study the habits and strategies of those you admire--or, at least, of those who are experiencing success in their business ventures. That's why I've been sharing some tips from Clate Mask, small-biz entrepreneur and co-founder of e-mail marketing company Infusionsoft.

I've broken Mask's 9 Building Blocks of Success into three parts. Today I present part 3, but before I go on, here's a quick review of the first six tips I wrote about:

Building Block #1: Supercharge Your Website. Having a website isn't enough nowadays. Your site needs to attract viewers, provide an interactive experience, and provide you with customer leads.

Building Block #2: Fill Your Funnel. "Today's leads are tomorrow's buyers, or next month's, or next year's," says Mask. "By putting [every] lead in your database, you're securing a lucrative future for your company. The more leads you have in your funnel, the more buyers you're going to have down the road."

Building Block #3: Convert Your Funnel. This is all about turning prospects into customers. The key, according to Mask? First, add value whenever you interact with these folks. That is, give them valuable information. They'll start to view you as a trusted source. Second, be yourself and don't be afraid to inject your personality into everything you say and do. Third, show, don't tell, prospects how your product or service will help them.

Building Block #5: Sell Stuff Online. Every company has something to sell on the Internet, even if there's no tangible product being produced. What about your knowledge? Your expertise? Those are worth peddling as well.

Building Block #6: Flip Your Funnel. A paying customer is a wonderful thing, but don't you want that same customer to buy from you again? And again? "Flipping your funnel" is "re-selling" to existing customers. "The sales process requires the continuous courting of your customer," Mask writes. A happy customer already knows and trusts you, he says. They know what they can expect from your company, and they've already proved that they need or want what you have to offer.

Building Block #8: Grow Through Partners. No (wo)man--or company--is an island. Forming partnerships is just good business. Be sure to recruit those who have a vested interest in your company. They'll send referrals your way and get paid in return. "It becomes a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship," Mask says.

Without further ado, here are the final three building blocks:

Building Block #4: Win Lifelong Customers. Let's face it. You don't want people to buy from you once, the never bother with you again. You want, to borrow a page from Facebook, raving fans. You want people who buy your products "regularly" and tell all their friends and family how great they are.

But how do you do that? Mask says to give customers "the experience they deserve" and to build a relationship of trust and loyalty. And to do it through consistent follow-up.

There's an array of reasons why somebody would buy something from a company once and only once. Perhaps they had a bad experience. Or they weren't made to feel special. Or there was no encouragement to return. To avoid those pitfalls, be sure to 1) maintain an accurate, up-to-date customer database, 2) target your follow-up campaigns, and 3) deliver on your promises. (Mask cites a couple of examples in his e-book: "If you claim to be a fast food restaurant, then you better get that food out fast. If you're a bookstore, you better offer a wide variety of books.")

Building Block #7: Collect the Cash. Making a sale is about more than getting someone to say, "Yes, I'll buy your product/service." You have to follow through and actually get the cold hard cash…or check…or credit card number. With technology advancing by the day, there are more ways to pay than ever. People are using mobile devices, PayPal accounts, and other methods. You wouldn't want to lose a customer because you can't accept their form of payment.

And there's more. You need to have the systems in place to manage collection--credit card processing capabilities, efficient invoice processing, well-thought-out payment plans, etc. Mask suggests using technology (software applications, for example) to put your finances on "autopilot."

Building Block #9: Measure and Tweak. Every now and then, you'll need to step back and see what's working and what's not. With this block, Mask is referring to your ability to accurately track your marketing efforts. That's a difficult thing to do with TV, radio, or billboard marketing. Those campaigns tend to be untargeted and their results hard to measure, which explains why businesses are moving away from them.

One measuring method that's gaining popularity is online surveys. And some companies are willing to pay people for participating. "Why are businesses willing to pay consumers as much as $5 apiece to get their opinion?," writes Mask. "Because they need to know what marketing messages have an impact and which are a waste of their money."

He adds: "When you start throwing money at marketing efforts, you better be able to view your successes or failures. Otherwise, your efforts could be useless, ineffective, and, in some instances, working against you. ... When you're able to pull reports, showing the number of leads and sales from your marketing efforts, you're in a position of strength."

So, in a nutshell: Step 1--Put together a marketing campaign and launch it. Step 2--Measure the results. Step 3--If you don't get the response you want, tweak the message and try again. Step 4--Repeat until you get it right!

It's the 5th of January. You've got the entire year ahead of you to try out these building blocks and see what happens. Here's to a successful 2011!

Editor's Choice
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
Roger Burkhardt, Capital Markets Chief Technology Officer, Broadridge Financial Solutions
Shane Snider, Senior Writer, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author