Apple’s slogan, Think Different, was a game-changer for the computer industry when it appeared on television commercials and magazine pages in 1997. Apple set itself apart by making the purchasing decision personal. The Think Different campaign was attractive because it referenced other well-known people such as Einstein, John Lennon and Martin Luther King and it made you feel like you could be part of that club by buying Apples. Plus, it made Apple a luxury symbol. Apple has never come out with a budget laptop, because the brand is based on the notion that Apple users can afford to buy the highest-end products.
But it’s hard to “think different” when you’re doing the same things every day, which is a challenge that many people who own their own business face. Shake yourself up by teaching yourself how to think different. Some people do this by hiring a coach or consultant, and this can certainly be effective.
You may consider bringing your staff together for an open-minded meeting. The people who do the same jobs everyday will most definitely have ideas for how they could get things done in a different way.
You may find yourself saying to yourself or your staff things like, “Let’s just do it that way because we know it works.” This is the same as saying, “I don’t like where this path is leading me but I’m going to stay on this path just because I’m already on it.” If you were making any other decision–actually literally on a hiking path, in line for a food cart pod and you changed your mind about what you wanted, or buying shoes–would you stick with the decision you already made simply because you had already made one? No, most people would not! So give yourself the same freedom in your business. Learn how to do things differently, or at least, how to see that there might be a different way to think or act, and see where that goes.
What groups would be natural customers or ambassadors for your businesses? If you sell carpet cleaning, maybe churches, retirement homes, or pizza parlors would like a discount offer.
When they redeem the discount you offered, give them the best service you can possibly provide. You can bet that they will speak highly of you to their friends and business associates.
Examining how you price your products and services can go a long way toward increasing your bottom line without much effort on your part.
There’s a distinct psychology to pricing that takes into account what people perceive as a good deal, even when there are better deals to be had. You can also use this trick to make a “value” package of your products or services. Do this by combining a slow-moving product or service with one that gets a lot of attention.
Certain prices, and comparisons of certain prices, have more psychological impact than others. Retailers have long known that prices ending in the digit 9 are perceived by the brain as cheaper, even though it’s only cheaper by one penny. For instance, $2.99 is perceived as closer to $2 than closer to $3, even though that penny barely makes a difference.
In an experiment conducted by the University of Chicago and MIT, prices for women’s clothing were set for $34, $39 and $44. To the amazement of the researchers, the items sold best at $39 even though that price was more expensive than other options.
Comparison pricing works well when customers feel they are choosing between a cheaper product and a more expensive, but similar, product. An example of this is well-illustrated by a famous case study involving the company Williams-Sonoma’s bread machine. They introduced a $275 bread machine, which almost no one purchased. Then they introduced a $415 model and, amazingly, the $275 model started selling well. People thought they were getting a “deal” because it was similar to the more expensive mode but cheaper.
So, think about how you can combine your products or service packages into comparison groups with the goal of having the customer pick the one you really want them to pick . . . the one with the higher profit margin. If you have a small and a medium package, add a large package. Some will choose the large package, but many more will choose the medium package, which is where you’ve bundled your most profit-generating items.
Many people have a tendency to become stressed out when they’re facing a difficult decision. Why? It’s because we mull over the possibilities in our minds with very open-ended outcomes.
The choices and the outcomes–both positive and negative–are swirling around in our heads, with no clear resolution. Our imaginations take over and what seems like a harmless choice leads us straight to the most horrible outcome we can imagine, am I right?
Put an end to that with these tricks that are proven to help anyone make decisions with a clear mind.
1. Write It Down. Make a chart. Use a spreadsheet. Whatever system you like, use it here. The act of putting things in writing takes them out of the swirly zone in our minds and makes them black and white — or pink or green, whatever color you like to write in! Make columns of options with pros and cons of each. You will quickly see which are the most positive and negative aspects of each choice and it will be easier to sort it out.
2. Act like you’re advising a friend. If a friend of yours made the aforementioned chart and the outcomes were as clear as they are on paper, how would you advise your friend? You take the emotional closeness out of the decision when you’re giving advice, so give yourself that same gift of objective decision making.
3. Limit the number of choices. Let’s say you’re thinking about buying a new car. Rather than list out all the safety features you want and all the different brands you are considering, make it a simpler choice by listing the pros and cons of buying a new car or not. Then, buying a car in a certain price range or not. You’ve limited the amount of uncertainty your brain experiences and inched your way to making a choice that is the one you actually need to make. Do the same thing when you’re making a business choice to hire a new employee or not, or whatever decision it is that you’re facing. Break it down.
4. Remember that your decision is reversible. In almost every case, you can reverse your decision if it doesn’t work out. You can return or sell the car. You can let an employee go. If you’re thinking about moving across the country, yes, that is a big decision. But it too is reversible. That awareness alone alleviates so much stress.
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Have you ever walked around the historic cemetery in your town? It may sound morbid but quite often these old cemeteries are full of big old trees. They have established landscaping and they often (unless they are ancient and neglected cemeteries) have groundskeepers or volunteers who keep things looking nice. We have a great old Masonic cemetery in our town and it’s on a hillside, so it’s a popular place for people who want to get in an active hike or run, or just find a quiet corner to sit and contemplate.
The people who are buried in this cemetery are our town’s founding families. They were churchgoers and they were Masons. Nearly to a person, based on the history that is known, these were successful, well-off families who were involved in local government, business and education. Why were they successful? In part it’s because they kept their business partners close. If a home needed plumbing and a plumber was a Mason, that plumber got the business. If a congregation member was a doctor, that doctor pulled the teeth and attended the childbirth. In return, that doctor or plumber’s business stayed in the group as well.
Whenever you join a group, be it Masons, a church congregation, your city’s Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club or any other philanthropic or educational organization, there’s a certain amount of networking that goes on. For the most part, these groups exist to look after the community and each other. Why not put that power of the group to work for your business?
Industry-specific trade groups perform a similar function, although for most small business a local group will provide the most benefit. Take care not to overdue the networking. We’ve written an article about good networking…I think I’ll write an article abut bad networking as well! Bad networking would be passing out a business card to every person in the room every time you show up to a meeting. Never remembering someone’s name. Focusing too much on the free food and drink at the meeting. Just as examples.
Avoid bad networking and put the power of the group to work for your business. If you’re a carpet cleaner, there’s a chance you might get the next deal. If you operate a food cart, there’s a chance you could set up shop in front of your fellow member’s business.
Most for-sale services can benefit from this principal…customers like to buy more than one of a thing when they find something they like and believe in. And it really doesn’t matter what you sell . . . haircuts, cold-pressed coffee, carpet cleaning or dog walking. When your customers are making their decisions, give them the option to buy more than one at a time.
You can offer haircuts every two months, daily coffee delivery, quarterly carpet cleaning or dog walking whenever they need it. It’s why the “subscription of the month” clubs and the weekly meal delivery services are so popular right now.
Give them a discount or a bonus of some kind if they make a long-term commitment to you. Your customer no longer has to think about where they are going to go for that service six months from now, because they’ve already chosen you. You no longer have to worry about how many customers you will have six months from now.
Ask anyone around you this question: Could you write a book? If there are any writers around you, you might not get the same answers like you would if you asked the general public! But most people say no, they could not write a book. Why is that?
There’s a perception that writing a book takes 10 hours a day of research and writing, leaving no time for other pursuits or work that you get paid for while you do the unpaid work of writing the book. Maybe that’s true for some books, but there’s another way that you could accomplish that goal.
You’re already blogging, right? If you write one well-written and researched blog post/article each week, that’s 52 blog posts/articles per year. That’s enough to turn into a small book! It doesn’t matter what your field is…you are a dentist, a health coach, a real estate agent…you have the expertise that other people want.
Approach your writing as if each blog post/article could be its own chapter in your soon-to-be-published book. Organize your thoughts the way you might if you were looking at big pictures (the sections) and narrowing them down into topics (the blog posts/articles, which are chapters). It’s a lot less daunting to consider writing a book this way, a page at a time.
After a year or two you’ve got the material for a nice printed booklet, an ebook, white papers, downloadable guides, or bonus free material you can compile on a thumb drive for your customers.
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In years past, the way to reach someone in the media was to send out a press release. Ideally, you’d have your local contacts and send the press release as far and wide as you could. Then, services such as PR Web stepped in and promised being able to reach media contacts all across the globe with one push of a button.
Nowadays, the standard press release gets you nowhere. There are so many of them being sent out all the time that it’s just not effective unless you can pay a lot of money for a very targeted list.
If you’re a local business, it pays to develop a relationship with your local media. For newspapers, start by contacting the editor of the business page. Don’t go in person unexpected! They’re busy, and it is viewed as intrusive to just show up without an appointment.
Send a polite email introducing yourself and your business. Avoid being demanding. Ask if there’s room in her schedule for an in-person meeting. Ask if she’s in need of any sources for business-related local articles.
Remember…you’re a real estate agent, perhaps, or a lawyer or a contractor, but you can still speak to trends in that industry. So even though she might not be planning an article about your business per se, you can still be a source for a big picture article.
When you plan an event at your business, invite your media contact. When you have a news item to promote, send your media contact a short to-the-point update. Be patient. It might take several emails before you get a response. But eventually you will get a response and you can be sure that when your media contact needs someone in your field to be a source, she’ll think of you.
Most people are turning to Facebook advertising these days. Nothing wrong with that. But when you’re in a service business, sometimes a local, face-to-face approach might work out in your favor. Most grocery stores print coupons on the back of their receipts for other businesses that have nothing to do with food…guy a loaf of bread and you get a coupon for an oil change. Consider what you could do if you found a complementary business to advertise with or work with.
For example, a gym or spa might have a corkboard holding the business cards of other health service providers they feel good about recommending. Could you get to know them and add your card to the list? Could you get them to add an item in their next newsletter that new gym members get 10% off your services as well?
If they advertise in print, could you split the cost with them and add your offer to the promotion?
Think of the way that wedding planning services work…planners and publications often offer “package deals” where the bride orders catering, flowers, a cake, tailoring services and photography from one vendor. What would happen if you found a network that complemented your niche and began promoting yourself that way? If the opportunity doesn’t exist, would you be willing to put the hard work into creating it?
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Chances are that you toss that junk mail you get every day without even looking at it. But think again. Depending on your service, the very businesses that are direct mailing you could become a new opportunity. The fact that they’re advertising shows that they’re eager to get new customers. How can you help?
Here are some suggestions:
- That spa that opened up down the street might want your juice cart to park in front it it for a few hours a week.
- Perhaps the spa would like to advertise that they partner with a local health coach for consulting.
- Perhaps the new spa needs a contract for carpet cleaning or floor polishing each month.
- Perhaps you and the owner can collaborate on the next piece of advertising where you offer a double discount deal for the customers who sign up for both of your services.
Think about what you buy. You are both a business owner and a customer when you support other businesses. Do those other businesses know what you do and that you are a customer?
Ask yourself how you might use the opportunity to build a new relationship with another local business the next time you need to buy something, whether it’s stationary or a cup of coffee. I’m not talking about giving them your elevator pitch, but open a new door through some sort of partnership or collaboration. Perhaps you can offer a trade of your services or products for theirs. This type of deal keeps money in your pocket, allows you to meet new people, and is an opportunity for the new client to tell more people about your services.
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