Business Strategy For The REAL World
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The Entrepreneur’s Tool Kit
A constantly expanding list of tips, tricks, and suggestions to help you plan and execute your strategies.
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1-- How To Price Your Product
2-- Advertising Dollars As An Investment, Not An Expense (Measuring your ROI; here’s how to do the        math.)
3-- Four real-world examples of how showmanship got the point across (especially when the        audience was half asleep)
4-- Do-It-Yourself Video. Think twice before trying this at home!
5-- Lights! Camera! Action! Ten proven tips for looking like a pro on video camera.

PLUS...

6-- Business Plan on interactive disk! Contact us for your copy.
7-- CRAZY IDEAS THAT WORKED! See separate page with 10 wild and crazy ideas that       resulted in millions of dollars of sales.
8-- Strictly Business! See how our enthusiasm is tempered with conservativism.
9-- Coming soon... more tips on ROI, sales team management, Green Tech renewable       energies, branding strategies, and more!

Pricing Decisions
(The Laws, And Exceptions, To Supply And Demand)
Here’s an easy quiz:
--Why do furniture outlets and car dealers have sales events?
--Why do airlines charge businessmen $1000 for the same seat, next to the grandmother’s at $150?
--Back in the 70's, did dear old Martha Stewart sell more pies at $3 or $10?

Here’s a tougher quiz: How much should YOU charge for your product or service?

In general, the lower your price, the easier it is to get orders. Thus, the sales events for clearance, off-season, overstock, or boss-got-desperate reasons you see every day. The problem is, too much of that and your accountant will be using red ink. The trick is to get the MOST profit dollars. Notice I said profit, not sales. We’ve got some nice tools, called Activity Based Costing, that help ensure that you recognize true costs and returns from each product and service.

Here’s an example. The Troy-Bilt company was selling 90% of its tillers in the spring rush. That created pandemonium in March, but a very quiet (and expensive) factory the rest of the year. By offering a series of off-season savings, we were able to smooth out that peak so that September was just as busy as March, and all the other months were also strong enough to keep a steady workforce. This created excellent profits due to the steady level of activity.

Because every pricing change causes an effect of some sort, it’s essential to measure and test the results. It took us two years of trying various plans, but the company ended up with one that maximized their profits. We can help you do likewise.

Advertising Dollars As An Investment, Not An Expense
(Measuring your ROI; here’s how to do the math.)
I’ll bet that half of your advertising works really well. But do you know which half? Chances are, your ad budget is influenced by which media reps were most persistent, or which salesman painted the rosiest picture. They show you demographics, reach, cost-per-whatever and a bunch of figures that “should” result in sales for you. But don’t expect any guarantees from them!

The only way to know what works and what doesn’t is to measure it. There are ways to measure most ads. Some responses, like coupons, special phone or email numbers, and actually asking the prospect, are easy. Others, like counting TV or PR impressions, are more challenging. But with the clever use of some incentive device, you can get accurate counts.

How much can you afford to pay for an ad? That depends on your profit margin, the number of prospects who express interest, and the conversion of those to actual sales. For instance, let’s say your advertising agency suggests a $1,000 ad. If your product sells for $100 and your profit margin allows 20% of that for advertising, you would need to get 50 sales ($1000 divided by 20% of $100, or $1000/$20).

But keep in mind that if only 50 people call, visit, or inquire as a result of the ad, not all of them will necessarily buy. Maybe you are lucky to convert half of them, but more typically, you are apt to get no more than one tenth. This varies by the type of business you are in. Whatever your conversion rate, you’ll need to get many more responses than 50 if you expect the ad to break even (from 100 to 500 in this example, if you need twice to ten times the 50). If there are expenses associated with responding to the inquiries, such as emails, letters, brochures, staff time, etc., you’ll need to include those and up the figure even more.

This concept is simple: how much profit do you get from each ad dollar?

The execution can be complicated (that’s okay; we can show you how) but very rewarding. Just think: How many of your competitors will go to this level of detail to fine-tune their ad budgets? If they want to stay in the dark, fine! Let them waste their money! By using measured response and accurate accounting, you can get far more return for each of the dollars you spend on ads and PR.

4 Real-World Examples Of How Showmanship Got The Point Across.
(...especially when the audience was half asleep)
1-- Keep their attention. Have you ever been to an all-day training session or sales presentation where it gets so boring you have trouble staying awake? About ten years ago, the nice folks at Sears asked me to present twenty minutes of new product features and benefits at a hundred or so day-long “Poweramas” around the country. Unfortunately, except for the first few live ones, they wanted it on video.

Solution? We made a very memorable, whacky-with-a-purpose, video that kept attendees on the edge of their seats. Oh sure, it started out sane enough, with me in a blue pin-stripe business suit seated in the boardroom. But soon the product was shown doing some amazing (but true) things. And every so often, I’d do something like suddenly appear in a wide-angle close-up and a goofy grin, yelling: “Hey! You in the back! Wake Up!” The attendees never knew what would happen next, so they paid close attention, had a great time, and learned much more about our product than from most of our competitors’ live presenters.

2-- Look for something to demonstrate. If you need to educate an auditorium (or small office) of people about your product, don’t just use Powerpoint or a static display… put the product in motion! Drive it or drag it onto stage (depending on exactly what your product IS of course); hold it up and show all sides; toss it into the audience. Don’t use a script; instead, use the physical attributes of the product as built-in reminders of what features and benefits you want to show. Once, I had to address a national convention on the power of mailings (what could be more boring??); so, to impress on people the selling power of all those mailings, I tossed the fistful of letters and brochures into the air. That really woke people up! (Note: by the second meeting, I learned to first fan out the mailings between my fingers so that a big clump wouldn’t hit the ceiling light fixtures.) (No, nobody got hurt, and it sure was memorable; it’s a good idea to practice your shtick.)

3-- One demo is worth a thousand claims. If there is a doubt in viewers’ minds about a key claim of your product, prove it in a decisive manner. Jim Devine of Windo-Therm realized people thought his window insulation system was weak because it used dual sheets of hi-tech clear plastic film (it looked about as strong as food-wrap plastic). So, he’d haul off and clobber it with a right hook; made a fearsome whack, but the film just bounced and asked for more. We did some similar tests for him, using a baseball pitching machine at 60mph, and even a 14-pound bowling ball from as high as we could hold it.

That bowling ball idea got started years back when we were trying to convince a roomful of 300 lawnmower dealers that plastic was a better material than metal for gas tanks. At that time, plastic was still considered a cheap, inferior substitute. So, I showed them a video of some comparison torture tests of plastic vs metal fuel tanks. These tests included freezing, heating, hammers, ice picks, setting gas tanks on fire, crashing them into brick walls, and of course, the live bowling ball drop, which was actually done in the auditorium. Holding the ball high overhead, I let it go; it dented and ruptured the (empty) metal tank. It merely bounced off the plastic one. The dealers loved it. The demonstrations were memorable and convincing, and the dealers sold the new concept to their customers with confidence.

4-- You are the performer; put on a SHOW!
· Know your audience; appeal to their interests; avoid their dislikes.
· Practice your pitch until you can do it from memory, without following an exact script.
· Practice on video, so you can see what your audience will see; I’ve always been amazed at the   stupid things I was doing without even realizing it.
· Position some visual cues or large notes you can see at a glance, to help you stay on plan.
· Place a large clock someplace where you can inconspicuously glance at it.
· Get in synch with the audience, and get them in synch with you.
· Be animated! Roam the stage, and the front rows and aisles. Get close to the audience.
· Be alert for snoozers; gently get them engaged again.
· Keep control of the room; if troublesome questioners interrupt, promise you’ll get to their answers   at the end rather than derail your timetable and flow. Start by insisting that cell phones be turned   off. If private conversations start, stop your presentation and ask for their attention.
· Cue visual aids that are 100% reliable (and have a back-up plan if they fail).
· Rehearse your pitch ahead of time in the actual room; learn where the lights and mikes and   controls work best; will your posters or banners or A/V screen stay put and be visible to all?
· Don’t do your best trick first. A comedian or magician or circus performer always starts with some   easier tricks and builds to a crescendo towards the end.
· You are delivering a sales pitch (Always! Regardless what you are talking about!) Remember the   selling steps of Attention, Interest, Conviction, Desire and Close.
· Leave them loving you and wanting more (especially of whatever you’re selling).

If you are faced with giving a presentation to a live audience, we can help you get over any jitters, tenseness and fear of failure that you might have. With some coaching and practice, you will soon be able to deliver an exciting, memorable and effective presentation!


Do-It-Yourself Video
Think twice before trying this at home!
The good thing about today’s video cameras is that for $269, you, too, can be a Steven Spielberg. At least in your own mind. In everybody else’s mind, you are that guy that gets up to do Karaoke down at Billy’s Bar on Friday night.

Even if your brother has a digital videocam and a $500 editing program on his PC, the best you can hope for is looking like the wedding video he just did for cousin Sally.

Our advice is very strong: get a professional videographer who has broadcast-quality equipment and experience! If you wish to sell, or to train, or to service, or to inform, do not use home video equipment. Oh sure, it’s okay to try it yourself, just to get a better feel for what you are trying to say, but then find a pro.

A pro will usually charge about $1,000 per finished minute of video (with a range from $500 to $2,000, depending on what you want; car chases are more).

A professional videographer does this for a living. He or she will have “broadcast quality” cameras that shoot Beta and cost more than your SUV. They will have a portfolio of jobs they’ve done for industrial clients and that have appeared on numerous TV stations. They will know why things like continuity, jump cuts, insert edits, white balance and multiple audio tracks are all things that can make or break your presentation. They will rig you with an inconspicuous lapel mic that will deliver natural, non-echo audio. They will have a separate person there just to listen in headphones to every little sound. (We have done all this ourselves, so we speak from experience.) They will turn out a video that is a technical masterpiece, rather than an embarrassment. You can learn more about their craft by seeing the details posted by YouTube on their Toolbox page.

But technical excellence alone is not enough. You need to provide the right content (the words, story, visuals, product, etc.) and you will need to find a person or company that knows how to turn your material into a persuasive sales presentation. That requires salesmanship, knowledge of your product and your audience, and the technical aspects of videography. Look for a producer or agency that has experience with this.

If you need en effective video, we can help guide you through this process and select the professionals that are best for you.

Lights! Camera! Action!
Ten proven tips for looking like a pro on video camera.
Okay. You’ve hired a pro to make a video for you. It might be a sales pitch, or a report to the Canadian division, or a training tape for the field reps. Now you are nervous as a kid on a first date. How do you keep from looking like a fool? Here are some tips.

1-- Guys, shave real close that morning. And bring the electric razor and a small mirror to the shoot and shave again just before shooting. One-hour stubble will show up like a 5-o’clock shadow on video.
2-- Grooming and complexion: the camera sees all. Get a haircut; get some makeup for that annoying blemish; have a smile you are proud of.
3-- Glasses: camera lights will cause multiple reflections, so contacts are best. Wearing nothing will make the camera guy happy, but if you have the vision of a blind raccoon, you’d better wear your glasses if you wish to have eye-to-eye contact with the camera lens. Don’t use tinted or transitional sunglasses unless you want to look sneaky.
4-- Practice until you are so comfortable that you could deliver the words and action smoothly, without reading from a script. It will be much more natural. Just don’t strain to remember every word.
5-- Look directly into the center of the camera lens. Don’t flick your eyes around (you’ll look shifty) and NEVER try to read words written on a sheet of paper held next to the lens. Direct eye-to-eye contact is by far the most powerful. This may require a few takes (my record is 26 for a simple 2-paragraph segment).
6-- Not enough time? Get a teleprompter (that reflective glass the President and your local news anchor use to say their words while looking directly into the camera). Your eyes will look a little more shifty, but if exact wording is needed and time is tight, this is well worth the rental.
7-- No time and no money? Skip the direct eye contact. Pretend you are being interviewed by a reporter who is 45 degrees off to the side of the camera. Read from the large words you’ve put there on a poster.
8-- Shoot in short scenes. Your producer and videographer will try to break up your presentation into easy segments. This allows you to refresh your memory while they capture all the good stuff you said up to the point where your cell phone went off. (Hint: silence that, plus any other distractions like nearby office noise, outside traffic, A/C fans turning on, etc.)
9-- Make it easy for the pros to edit all these pieces together afterward by doing three things: start each scene with a closed mouth and end with a closed mouth; don’t needlessly move or fidget; try to keep your voice pitch in about the same range. This doesn’t mean you should be deadpan and motionless (like some famous politicians); obviously, an energetic and animated delivery is more interesting. But if you can return to the same relative position (physically, visually, and audibly) at the starting and stopping points, it will be far easier to edit together a seamless program that looks like you did it all in one take.
10-- Relax and keep a sense of humor. It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s the beauty of video. You can always try the shot again. (“Take 27…!”)

Got a video coming up? See us for some 1-on-1 coaching that will make you look like a pro!


Interactive Business Plans available. Contact us to see how easy it is to get started on (or to update) your business plan. It is your first step to actually achieving your goals!

Crazy Ideas That Worked! (And a few that crashed in flames!)
Read how these real-world promotions resulted in millions of dollars of sales and profits.


 

 
Next Step to Profits
(518) 753-9528
cwicker(at)SherwoodFarmGroup(dot)com
 

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