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Posts Tagged ‘practical business advice’

If you are an organiser who has recently switched your event booking and payment process from offline to online, then you’ll know that sometimes it takes a little getting used to – both for you and for your attendees.

At first organisers can be a little tentative and reluctant to becoming exclusively online. And attendees? Well, they will continue to use the booking and payment methods that they have traditionally associated with the organiser, no matter how imperfect and unsatisfactory that process is – but only until they are otherwise instructed.

Yet for organisers it is vital to grasp the nettle sooner rather than later – the financial payback of online registration and payment demands it. And you’ll be surprised how quickly even your most traditional attendees will adapt to online registration.

Here’s 10 tips for getting your attendees onboard:

1. Go 100% online
Don’t give your attendees a choice. Stop offering alternative booking methods. When you are booking a flight online, airlines don’t also give you the option of booking your ticket via the phone. As a result we all book our flights online without a second thought.

2. Get your marketing focus right
To maximise your online registrations make your marketing emails short and punchy – a paragraph in length. See it as a short trailer for your whole event. Give a concise overview of the event highlights and make your ‘register now’ button very highly prominent. Make the button impossible to miss and ensure that when it is clicked that it links to the event registration website.

Your marketing email is about persuading your attendees to visit your registration website and not for displaying all your event information.

3. Always be linked in
Always include the URL link of your registration website in your emails. Always send several emails to potential attendees for each event and include the link in every one.

Always include your URL link clearly and prominently on your corporate website. Include the link in emails about your event to your social networking groups such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Talk about your event and include the link on online forums or on Twitter or on your Facebook updates.

Make the link a clear ‘call to action’ for the attendee such as ‘register now’ or ‘register here’ or ‘to register for the event click here’.

4. Create incentives for online bookings
Offering online registration discounts encourages early attendee adoption, so make the ticket price more expensive for offline bookings. Charge a processing fee for manual or paper registrations. Make it clearly financially beneficial to book online. It is, after all, generally accepted that you get better deals via the internet no matter what product you are buying. You need to tap into that mindset.

Similarly, consider offering discounts for early online registration.

5. Refuse phone bookings
If potential attendees phone in to book manually then explain that registration and ticket payment are now exclusively online. Let them know that you will send an immediate email that will include the link for them to go straight to the registration page.

Have the email ready to go and explain the benefits for the attendee of using online registration and payment.

6. Give prior warning
Prepare your potential attendees for the switch. Give then good warning. Send them an email in advance that will explain that your next event will only accept online bookings and payment.

Let them know what to expect and how the process will work.

7. You’ll love it
Let your attendees know how they will benefit from your online registration system, such as ease of use, convenient and quick, more secure, self service, better communication.

Get them on board either with an email or a link to a page on your corporate website.

8. Make it official
Add a message to your voicemail system announcing the newer and more convenient online registration option along with the URL of your registration website for your next events.

Promote your online registration by placing your URL address in all printed materials, e-newsletters, email communications, handouts, signage etc for each event. Or if you run many events devote a page to your events on your corporate website with clear links to the registration website for each event beside each event description.

9. Educate them
Include a short frequently asked questions section or page on your corporate website.

Provide easy to follow numbered steps on how to register for your event. Put it on your corporate website or in your emails to give attendees confidence. Make it along the lines of ‘it’s easy to register and pay – here’s how’.

Offer attendees an online demonstration of how registration works.

10. Get your staff on board
Make sure that your staff are familiar with the online registration process and comfortable explaining it all to potential attendees.

Enrol your staff participants in one of our free, online registration training sessions to answer all their questions and build their confidence.

Alan Anderson, Blue Tube Design

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People often over-analyse starting up a business. As PricewaterhouseCooper’s Nigel Reynolds explains, in the early days, it really is all about cash flow – cash is king.

Now more than ever, business owners are concerned about managing cash – but you simply can’t think about money coming in with a short-term frame of mind.

As a small business owner in this current economic climate, what is your number one strategy in retaining customers and encouraging stable growth in the medium to long term? How far ahead to you consider when trying to grow your business?

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Issue 1 “We have those sales figures Steve, I just need to go through the paperwork and tally them up…”

How can you boost sales? There are many options, however two obvious ways are: review your current sales process, and develop your sales staff.

The issue

So I arrive at my new clients premises to do the exploratory meeting and see if I can help them boost their sales. First step? Review the process.

In response to a question like “So how are sales going at the minute?” I often get wordy answers which talk about results in a very general way. I enjoy hearing the owners’ perspective on it; it’s good to get a feel for their industry & business from their point of view.

However it’s when I start asking for specifics, “What volume of enquiries are you getting?” that I regularly get a response along the lines of: “We have that figure Steve; I just need to go through the paperwork and work it out…”

The response

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again “if you can’t (or in this case don’t) measure it, you can’t manage it”

If you’re already tracking your enquiries – great! Be mindful here; are you only tracking this in terms of knowing where your valuable marketing budget should be spent? This is crucial of course, but it would be useful to know how effective you are with each of those leads wouldn’t it?

There are many ways to measure sales effectiveness, but here are some basic measurements that can help build a picture of your current business performance:

  1. Sales
    • a. Sales by number (volume of sales)
    • b. Sales in good old pounds sterling (value of sales)
    • c. Sales Conversion rate = ‘Total Sales’ divided by ‘Total Enquiries’
  2. Sales’ Cost
    • Cost of an Enquiry = ‘Total Marketing Spend’ divided by ‘Total Enquiries’
    • Cost of a Customer = ‘Total Marketing Spend’ divided by ‘Total New Customers’
    • Total Cost of a Customer = ‘Total Costs’ divided by ‘Total New Customers’
  3. Sales’ Value
    • ‘Average Worth’ of a customer = ‘Total Revenue’ divided by ‘Number of Customers’
    • …it’s also worth looking at the average lifetime of a customer.
    • ..and the most popular product choice.

N.B. The above calculations should have specific timeframes. To use the most obvious examples: Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly & Annual.

Interesting to note, often well established companies struggle to provide these figures, though the reasons be different from a start up business: perhaps they have too many measurements (can’t see the wood for the trees) or simply with the passage of time their ‘Key Performance Indicators’ are no longer ‘Key’ anymore!

So you want to boost your sales? You need to lead your salespeople! Current frontline sales-relevant figures are the first step!

Action: Does this relate to you & your business? If so, based on the above, what will you STOP doing, START doing and CONTINUE doing today?

Related Articles: This is the first in the series: “Boosting sales: Things my new business clients say to me” which follows this introductory piece ‘Your new business is exciting isn’t it!? DON’T talk about it!’ See it here: Part 1 Part 2

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One of the first things you need to do when you set up your own business is to find yourself a good accountant. However simple or complicated your business’ finances are, you are going to get yourself in a muddle if you don’t know exactly what you need to record, how to fill in your tax returns or when to file your accounts.

Speaking to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)’s Clive Lewis the other day, I learned that many start-ups don’t use their accountant as much as they could or should.

You should be able to rely on your accountant to be there for you if you call up with a query about your book-keeping, however trivial it may seem, or if you have a sudden change of circumstances – for example if a client suddenly puts in a big order and your cashflow is thrown off-balance. They should also be reminding you of deadlines for self-assessment or, if you’re a limited company, when your accounts are due to be filed.

There is certain information your accountant will need from you in order for him or her to understand your business and do your accounts for you, too, but again, a good accountant will tell you what they need. According to Lewis, your relationship with your accountant should be a long-term one with regular contact.

Ask other business owners you know who they use, or visit one of the accountancy associations’ websites to do a search for your local accountants. Even if you have a good brain for maths, you still might need somebody to hold your hand while you work out how to use your new accountancy software. Ideally, you will choose an accountant who has previously worked with other businesses of your size and in your industry.

So, don’t be shy; pick up the phone and ask away. And if the person at the other end doesn’t want to help you out, take your fees elsewhere and find an accountant who will make life easier for you.

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The two most common complaints in business are that no one asked me and no one told me. While, in my experience, it’s impossible to ever fully eliminate these complaints, making a concerted effort at addressing them can lead to a big boost in team morale.

As a manager, I feel that if I don’t tell people what’s going on, I can’t complain if they fill in the gaps with negatives. And if they don’t feel that their input is taken seriously, they will become de-motivated and probably work less hard, as well as putting up with things that frankly, they should be screaming about.

In fact, listening is the key to continuous improvement. I do try to practice what I preach and I interview all staff, including those in junior roles, on a regular basis. It doesn’t take all that long, it’s amazing what you find out, and the very act of listening leads to a big improvement in morale.

Another angle that we have tried is to hold a series of workshop sessions with all staff whenever we review our strategy. These enable us to get useful input on the broad thrust of the strategy, and identify many of the potential pitfalls. It also means that we communicate and get buy in as we go along. By the time the strategy is completed, everybody is on board and starting to act on it. This is hugely better than a brilliant strategy done by outside consultants but that sits beautifully documented but largely untouched on the shelf. With that sort of strategy, you wonder a year later why the business isn’t really following it, and why it faces resistance at every turn. The lesson is that it’s important to explain where you are going to everybody even when you are a small company.

In most businesses, money is not a great motivator, but can certainly be a great de-motivator. So it’s important to try to be consistent in how you reward people, and also to explain pay policies so that there is a degree of buy in. Sometimes, it may be better to reward with bonuses rather than pay rises, as rises institutionalize pay differentials in ways that may become unfair over time, They can’t easily be unpicked and when discovered will destroy morale.

Motivation is a funny thing, and is pretty hard to achieve. I hope that some of the ideas here will stimulate your further thoughts.

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In the last post I raised the idea that hearing about random aspects of your new business start-up is not necessarily what the customer wants.

Which depot the product has come from, or indeed difficulties in setting the service up, are unlikely to be helpful features! Giving unnecessary background info could even be detrimental to selling your fantastic product/service – loose lips sink ships, as they say.

The worst examples of this type tend to be around those features that aren’t developed. You know the ones: “our delivery service isn’t quite set up currently”, or “24hr functionality wasn’t ready for the launch date” etc. As a customer, isn’t it great to hear about something that you want, but can’t have yet? Of course not!

Simple steps to fix

  1. Ask questions about them, their use & their situation
  2. Then talk about what they can have (not what they can’t)
  3. Get to the sales decision, and regardless of the outcome
  4. NOW you can let them know about upcoming developments.

If they’ve already purchased, great! If not, you’ve made them aware for future reference. As a brief aside it’s probably a good idea in this case to get the customers details and contact him when the service he wants is up and running!

Okay so in truth, I’m not really saying don’t talk about your business at all. Local people are often interested in local businesses, especially new ones, and it IS a good way to build your relationship with your customers. Chatting enthusiastically about yourself and your business is great for developing that rapport.

The real point I’m trying to make here is to differentiate between background chit chat (optional) and the sales process that you will need to walk your customer through to solve their problem (obligatory!)

ACTION: Does this relate to you & your business? Based on the above, what will you STOP doing, START doing and CONTINUE doing today?

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So your new venture is probably consuming each and every day at the minute. It’s probably also a fair bet to say that you’re pretty passionate about this exhilarating step in your life to date. I’m no psychologist, but in these circumstances it would seem fairly natural to want to share some of the details with interested parties – right? No-one can fault you for that, can they? Of course not…unless they’re not human…

…hmm…or a stakeholder in this business…or a customer!!

All too often I have seen SMEs fall into this trap. The owner is so impassioned that he will talk more to his clientele about the business and its merits (or worse – it’s difficulties!) than about them (the customer) and their need.

Take the example of buying a radio. Do you want the audiophile salesperson to tell about every radio in the shop? No! Do you want to hear about where they came from?  Probably not. Do you want to hear about the latest & greatest radio? Maybe. What about the difficult morning they’ve just had? Gotta be a no, right?

How about if the clearly knowledgeable salesperson showed an interest in what you want the radio for, checked your planned/current use, thought for a moment and said:

“I have just the thing for you…you mentioned (X) well this radio is great because it (insert feature that delivers/improves X)…and something that I think will be really useful in your particular situation is (Y) because…”

…a resounding YES! I hope!

More to come in Pt 2!

ACTION: Does this relate to you & your business? Based on the above, what will you STOP doing, START doing and CONTINUE doing today?

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