Thinking about raising your prices?

 For Entrepreneurs, General  Comments Off on Thinking about raising your prices?
Mar 302012
 

As a service provider who leans toward the “I just want to help” category, setting a price for any project can be a perplexing and occasionally frustrating experience. I remember when I started my business in 1998, particularly as I was coming from a manufactured product background, I struggled with what to charge for my services. I researched and researched, and ultimately “threw a dart” to come up with an hourly rate. And I did ok.

Then, during my annual review and planning when setting my revenue goals for the upcoming year (usually in my head, but that’s a topic for another time), I knew I had to increase clients, increase rates – or both – to achieve my goals. As I was working a full schedule already with the clients I had, I knew it had to be the rates. Yet, every year for several years, I would have an internal battle over this issue, especially when I was repeatedly reminded by business gurus that I needed to increase my hourly rate by at least 25% – or even double it.  When I heard this, I balked.  “Double my rates?! What world are these people living in?”  My fearful self would follow that question up with, “How on earth could I tell my clients that I’m hiking my rates?!”

To say I’d be uncomfortable just thinking about the conversation would be a huge understatement.

Well, I’ve certainly learned a lot since 1998 about pricing and negotiation. Moreso about the importance of customer experience and expectations, and the impact of adding value to someone’s life – business or personal – has on pricing. That’s the space I play in now… but it took me time to get here.

If you’re where I was: feeling like you’re giving too much away yet struggling with increasing your rates, or perhaps you just aren’t confident in how to move forward with your clients with a new pricing structure, you may want to read this article by Jenna Glatzer on negotiating like a pro. Wish I’d read this all those years ago… it might have reduced my learning curve substantially!

I hope the article helps you shorten your learning curve as well. Thanks, Jenna!

To your success,

Lara

p.s. Did you have a growth experience (an “aha” moment) around pricing? Tell us about it – and the results – below!

All The Stars Aligned?

 For Entrepreneurs  Comments Off on All The Stars Aligned?
Aug 192011
 

Well, it’s Friday. I’m supposedly on vacation, yet typing this from a hotel lobby in beautiful North Bay, Ontario, an hours’ drive from where my family is revelling in the beautiful outdoors of Algonquin Park. You’re probably wondering a) why this is relevant to you; or b) why is this crazy woman blogging while on vacation (or both)?

Well, as entrepreneurs, we need to rekindle our creativity, recommune with our environment, and reconnect with our family. That’s usually what we call “refilling our well”… for if we are tapped out from all the craziness that is small business ownership and life, we have nothing to give anyone at any time. Including ourselves. And that’s why I’m on vacation. Supposedly.

At the same time, as small business owners, we know that it ultimately is our responsibility to make certain everything in our business runs smoothly, and our goals are met… whether we have a large team or a small team (or a non-existent team) supporting us.

As many of you may know, we just began the launch of our Engaged Marketing video series on Wednesday this week. We opted to use a new platform to communicate and market ourselves, and so were diligent in researching options, and are very happy with the on-line technology.

The off-line technology (i.e. video recording) was my own responsibility, and – though I am always eager to learn new things – well… for this project, let’s just say I should have stuck with what I know well. And video recording and editing isn’t it… at least not yet (though I’m getting plenty of “learnings”)!

Actually, that’s the reason I find myself an hour’s drive from where I should be, and in a fluorescently lit room instead of a naturally lit forest. I have been reminded that sometimes (ok, most of the time), it’s better to hire someone who knows what they’re doing, than spending your holiday figuring out what you didn’t know in order to save your project. I would have saved myself time, stress and frustration… and the added expense to correct my mistakes (not to mention a small fortune in fuel).

I know what my next choice will be when faced with doing something I know little about: find an expert and save time learning by watching, or by getting educated from them. It’s sure to save my sanity… and likely my holiday.  🙂

To your success,

Lara

p.s. if you’re interested in learning a little more about marketing, without having to flounder around trying to do things strictly on trial-and-error basis like I just did, I hope you’ll join me over at the Engaged Marketing series. Witness first hand the results of my efforts of learning a new medium… and add your voice to the conversation (btw, I AM taking questions on marketing there).

 Posted by at 8:13 pm

A searching customer is fair game.

 For Entrepreneurs, Marketing Tips, Websites  Comments Off on A searching customer is fair game.
Apr 212011
 

While conducting some research for one of our clients, I came across a fascinating study published by GroupM Search that outlines the relationship between consumers’ search engine activities, social media activities and purchasing power. While the study concentrates on consumer electronics and consumer package goods, there are some insights applicable to virtually any line of business. “The Virtuous Circle:  The Role of Search and Social Media in the Purchase Pathway” is posted on their blog and while it is a long read the implications are very thought-provoking. Essentially the study found that

“…the research clearly indicates that search plays a dominant role at the beginning of the purchase process to establish a consumer’s consideration set. Furthermore, category blogs and earned social media in the form of user reviews are very influential and sought out by consumers to solidify purchasing decisions.”

As alternative forms of advertising – especially free (or relatively low-cost) online mediums like blogs and Facebook – become more mainstream we are beginning to see that they have a measurable impact on the buying behaviours of consumers. This study talks about the purchasing journey of a consumer and the impact that search and social media have on that particular consumer. Some highlights of the study include:

1. “In nearly 60%of all consumer journeys that end in purchase, the starting point is a search.”
The clear implication here is that search engine optimizing the content on your website is absolutely vital to reaching your potential consumers.

2.”76% of consumers who are starting with either search or social media are signifying intent to explore and potentially buy without commitment to a brand at the outset.”
How encouraging is that?!?! Whether you are an established brand or a start-up, three-quarters of the time you stand an equal chance to attract your potential customer at the onset of their purchasing journey. Your brand isn’t necessarily what is going to pull them in – but what will keep them there is up to you.

3. “A consistent finding throughout the study is that consumers are having brand perceptions shaped and altered through social engagement.”
Companies and entrepreneurs need to realize that their branding has become a 24 hour, 7 days a week process that is happening at work, at home and anywhere in between. This affects business and marketing strategy immensely in that “as brands think about how and from where to best provide content, search continues to make a compelling case as a valid recipient for initial investment of ad dollars and ongoing optimization efforts.”

This report is full of practical insights applicable to virtually every business and is definitely worth a read.

Boy, do I need a list

 Email Marketing, For Entrepreneurs, Planning  Comments Off on Boy, do I need a list
Feb 222011
 

So my last entry talked a bit about the idea of email marketing – mainly from the perspective of using it as a client care/communication vehicle. You see, I’m always drawn to thinking about and fostering my current business relationships. What’s the old saying? A bird in the hand is worth more than a flock in a tree?  No…that can’t be right. But you get my point.

That being said, all entrepreneurs need to be looking for ways to get new clients (while keep their existing ideal ones). And we can all agree that the email is a cost-effective and readily available tool for business building, right? So why is it that we all seem to find it difficult to properly utilize this tool that we use literally all the time?

Then I read Shawn Casey’s blog entry “Successful Email Marketing Campaigns Hinge on Successful List Building.” He shares ideas on how to build great lists – the key foundation to a great and successful email marketing campaign. It’s definitely worth a read.

I’ll bet you’ll finish it and think…Boy, do I need a list!

 Posted by at 3:28 pm

Making sure it matters…

 Client Communication, For Entrepreneurs, General  Comments Off on Making sure it matters…
Feb 032011
 

While having a communication plan is a vital component to client care, carrying out the plan should never trump the content of what is being distributed. How many of us have received flyers, e-newsletters, or text messages from someone we’ve done business with and found the information to be outdated, irrelevant or – worst of  all – unprofessional.

Essentially, we become instantly annoyed and either hit the delete button or find the recycle bin. Pronto.

To avoid this pitfall, consider the following 3 things when attempting any client communication:

1. Do I have something to say?
This may sound obvious, but if nothing new is going on at your company you don’t want to risk boring your clients. Don’t use this as an excuse to lose touch with them, though. Instead, you need to find something to talk about that will interest your clients and remind them of why they like doing business with you.

2. Does what I am talking about resonate with my target audience? 
Essentially, any good marketing will stir emotions. Excitement, anger, frustration – these are all good reactions to your contact if it drives your clients to call you to solve their anger or frustration. Emotions we want to avoid?  Indifference, annoyance, and fatigue. When evaluating the content of your marketing endeavour, make sure it stirs up emotions.

3. Does my communication contribute to my brand?
This is quality control. Whether it is an email, snail mail, or a phone call make sure that the piece is error free, is neat and tidy, looks professional and contributes to your brand. If it is a phone call, make sure that you don’t spend the entire time talking, but that you take the time to listen and consider your client.

While this small article from a British agency (Cubic Promote) applies to all prospecting and client materials, their 5 Checkpoints to test Your Marketing Material Value further reminds us that marketing material and client communication plans need to have content that matters to our clients.