Marketing Tip – Small Business Owners Need to Keep in Touch to Get More Referrals

The phone rings.  You answer it.  The person on the other line says, “Bob Smith suggested I call you.  He said you can help me.”  Ahhhh!  It’s a beautiful day!!!

How often does that happen to you?  Probably not often enough.  But with a little marketing planning, you can dramatically increase your referral business.  The result is bigger sales for your small business. The most important thing is to keep in touch with people on a regular, consistent basis.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Most small business owners know they need to do these things.  But few have any type of marketing system for keeping in touch with the right people.  Even fewer small business owners know the right way to ask for referrals.

Who should be on your contact list?  

EVERYONE!  Past clients, prospects, business associates, friends, neighbors, even people who at one point thought they might use your services, then changed their mind.

The biggest mistake we make is to think, “Oh, those people know what my small business is. I don’t need to market to them.” 

Yes, your neighbor, your banker, and the people in your Rotary group probably do know about your business.  But when they think of you, they think of you walking the dog, making a deposit, or organizing a meeting. 
 
Because they don’t see you in your professional capacity, they don’t think of you that way–unless you use a smart marketing strategy to remind them.  And, as much as we’d like to think we are unforgettable to our past clients, they start to forget about us in as little as six weeks!

Obviously, when making a marketing plan to keep in touch with your contacts, time and budget need to be considered.  You will want to see some people once a week.  Others will simply get a monthly e-mail newsletter.  No matter what, talking about your business, mailing personal notes and cards, and sending regular e-mail newsletters to all of your contacts is vital to building business. 

 
By marketing to your contacts on a regular, consistent basis, you will ensure these people think of you whenever they hear of someone else who might need your product or service. The result? More referrals, more business and more sales!

Business Brokers – How to Choose the Right One

The vast majority of small businesses are sold without the assistance of business brokers.

But if you do decide the hire a broker, here are some suggestions on how to pick the right one and how to structure the agreement in your favor.

What Business Is The Broker Actually In?

In many states there is no training or certification needed to become a business broker. In other states, brokers are required to hold a real estate license.

In these states it’s common to find real estate agents that do business brokering as a side business. If you deal with a broker who is also a real estate agent, make sure that being a business broker is more than just his hobby.

You will pay a pretty penny for the broker’s expertise and experience – you should make sure they have that experience when it comes to selling businesses and not just experience selling houses.

Questions To Ask

If you hire a broker you will be working with them closely for months to come; they will have access to your most confidential business records; the amount of money you put in your pocket at closing will be influenced heavily by the quality of work they do.

Therefore, you absolutely must check them out.

Here are some questions you should ask any prospective broker before hiring him:

1. How long have you been a broker?
2. Have you ever owned a business?
3. How many businesses similar to mine have you helped sell?
4. Can I see a blank version of your Listing Agreement?
5. What percentage of you income comes from brokering and how much from real estate (If applicable)

Ask them to provide you with references from previous clients. Then, I suggest you do something very unusual: Actually call the broker’s references!
I know a lot of people ask for references just to see how the person will react when asked (and to see if they actuality have any). But you can learn a lot about the broker’s reliability and professionalism by talking to people who dealt with that broker when they were in the exact same spot you are in.

Business Broker Fees

There are two benefits a broker can provide the business seller. First, he can locate potential buyers while maintaining the seller’s confidentiality. And second, a broker will qualify these potential business buyers so the seller saves time by not having to deal with weak prospects.

The big negative of dealing with a business broker is his fee, which averages 10-12% of the sale price. This fee is charged to the seller.

There is also a minimum fee. A very small business will pay a flat amount, typically $8-$10,000, instead of the commission. For a business worth $50,000 this minimum fee actually works out to be a higher percentage than the 10-12% industry average. But as a matter of practice, brokers usually won’t be interested in your business unless the asking price is above $100,000.

These fees are the reason most business owners choose to sell their business themselves and rely on their lawyers and accountants for the professional assistance they need.

The Broker Agreement

If you decide to use a broker you’ll be asked to sign a broker agreement which will detail the his fees. If possible, have your agreement include the following clauses:

Timing of Payments – Have it written into the agreement that the broker’s fee will be paid at the time you receive the purchase price – not at the time the sale is closed. This way, if you finance part of the sale price over a number of years, you pay the business broker as you get the money, not all up front.

Length Of Agreement – Your listing agreement should be for a limited time. If the broker locates the buyer within that time he gets paid. Be careful of lengthy agreements that lock you in with one business broker for more than 6 months. If he doesn’t produce, you want to be able to try other options. A 6 month business broker agreement is the longest you should allow. However, because selling a business can be a lengthy process, 3 months is usually too little time for the broker to find the right buyer. Try to settle on something between 3 and 6 months. If after six months, you haven’t closed the deal but you think the broker has done a good job, you’re always free to extend the agreement. But you want to be free to decide on an extension 6 months from now, not today.

Broker’s Guarantee – Include a paragraph stating that if you find the buyer, you don’t have to pay the commission. Without this clause, the broker is usually paid no matter who locates the buyer. Before signing any listing agreement, it is best to have your attorney review it to make sure your interests are protected.

Ingredients of Small Business Marketing

A business may be small, but the efforts of operating it is not. Small business owners often wear many hats – financing, product development, marketing, sales and customer support. While major corporations have sufficient resources to kick off a thoroughly planned marketing campaign, small business marketing is often on a budget. Marketing a small business should not be limited to a single channel because of the size of your business. Customers will always go through the three phases of a purchasing decision making: 1) aware of the products or services, 2) collecting enough information before the purchase, 3) and action of purchasing. The ingredients of effective small business marketing provides the information they need at each stage of a purchasing process.

Reach the Customers

Most small businesses target local market. Your business, of course, should be listed on local phone directories. Ads on local newspapers and flyers will bring you business from your local communities as well. Distributing business cards is always one of the most popular and inexpensive ways for small business owners to market or advertise their services and products. For instance, some landscaping companies distribute business cards door-to-door in newly constructed communities. If your services involves with artistic design (interior design, web design etc.), color business cards or custom business cards are more effective. They show the artistic tastes of the designers.

Provide Information About Your Products and Services

Awareness of a product or service is the start-point for customers to make a purchase. They will further research and compare similar services or products before they make contact for possible purchase. Now that you need a brochure or a website to present your business with product details, testimonials etc.. If business card design makes a good first impression, brochure design and brochure printing (or booklet printing if you prefer) are effective for converting leads into sales. Brochures that you send out will get more attention if you enclose a personal note with personal touch to introduce yourself and your company. A professional Web site serves as an online brochure to promote your products or service so that the prospects can get the information about your business 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Affordable Web hosting costs as little as $25-$50 a year.

Call for Action

Once customers have made up of their mind to purchase your services or products. The brochure or the website should offer clear direction for further actions. The advantage of a website over brochure is that you are able to update as frequently as you want, offer discount or incentives for customers who make purchase in a certain timeframe. When they’re ready, a transaction is just a few clicks on a website powered with online shopping carts.

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