Locked away ... many consumers are reluctant to part with their money. Photo: Michel O'Sullivan
Zero sales? Nothing is more depressing or humiliating than a total lack of consumer interest – a likely state given fragile consumer confidence.
Marketing expert Cian McLoughlin runs a boutique sales advisory business, which means many of his clients “are grappling with lack of sales and cash-tills which just aren't ringing”, McLoughlin says. But he is optimistic.
“Whether you’re a plumber, a type-setter or a multi-national business, the fundamentals of sales don't change too dramatically,” he says.
Marketing guru Cian McLoughlin.
Here are some tips on how to rake in the dollars whatever your business and the retail outlook.
1. McLoughlin’s first tip for any entrepreneur concerned about cashflow is to know your client intimately. The way to know your client, he adds, is to “start at the end and work backwards”.
Assess what problem your product or service addresses. Work out who needs it.
2. Try just to capture one or two early customers, who you may need to offer a discounted rate, McLoughlin says.
But only discount if, in return, you will get something valuable.
Persuade the clients to take reference calls or “do some video on your website” - something which they can freely give, but which generates “tangible value”.
Once you have secured some "light house” customers, refine your messaging.
3. Exploit cost-effective new media mechanisms that fuel momentum.
Twitter, blogging and podcasts build a sense of community and collaboration around your offering, McLoughlin says.
4. Remember that no single strategy will build your “sales pipeline”, McLoughlin warns.
You need several complementary strategies. Think networking and article writing, among other strategies.
5. Worry less about what you have to offer – fret instead about the “needs and pains of your clients”, McLoughlin says.
Successful marketers tune in to clients’ needs and offer “compelling” answers to their problems.
“You don't have to be the cheapest or the newest or even the biggest brand in the market - just find a way to differentiate on the level of service you provide and you should get the tills ringing again,” he says.
6. Entrepreneur Magda de Berg, who runs the toy shop Toy Universe, also has some great tips for dollar drought sufferers, she says, explaining she once built a marketing business from a zero-dollar turnover to one over $2 million. Her first tip is simple.
“Don't panic,” she says, adding that panic is a common reaction.
7. “Analyse,” De Berg says. Assess your business coolly and produce at least five possible reasons for your dollar drought. Likely one reason explains 80 per cent of the problem. If you cannot step back and assess your business impartially, enlist the perspective of a detached trusted source, she says.
8. “Survey,” - Even if you have a handful of clients, ask them why you are not sinking sales. Do your survey online or by telephone without necessarily offering anything back. Just be brave enough to ask the questions and give customers extra space to air personal grievances.
9. “Analyse again,” - Once you have some results from your customers, you may notice that a peeve repeats.
You might be failing to answer the phone. Or your shipping might be slow. Or you might be charging twice as much as a rival.
“Immediately fix these issues without fail or hesitation.”
10. “When your fix is in place, shout it from the rooftops.” Tell your customers you listened, De Berg says.
Your customers will then gladly buy from you repeatedly, De Berg says.
She adds that four months into Toy Universe going live, business was poor. She asked customers why.
“The surveys showed one major issue our site had - we fixed it within 3 days and our sales are now up 400 per cent and still climbing.”