The Three Steps of the Customer Buying Cycle

A common misconception with a lot of people is that business transactions are simple affairs: customers express interest in something, they buy, and then they leave.

This is a vast oversimplification of what is actually at work. Business majors and entrepreneurs have spent decades plotting out and exploiting every step of a customer’s buying process so as to better attract and retain their business. There are three sequential steps that customers take when they show an interest in purchasing something, and a lot of business owners are unaware of how to best target each of these phases. Each phase reflects a different stage of their mentality, meaning that the ideal strategy to exploit each phase will differ. So what are these three phases of the customer buying cycle?

Three Main Phases

These three phases are awareness, interest, and purchase. Awareness is the phase where they first become aware of the product or service that you are offering. Interest reflects the period of time where they show that they might want to buy your product – a customer that inquires about specific details relating to what you sell would be a good example. Targeted sales pitches are usually made in this phase. Lastly, purchase is the period of time where they make their final evaluation and the decision to purchase from you. Understanding how to address the needs of each phase will go a long way towards boosting your sales and securing long-term business from your customers.

1. Awareness

This is the incipient phase of a customer’s awareness of who you are and what you are all about. This phase of the customer buying cycle is where customers make their first judgement of you, which is why a lot of marketing and advertising departments spend so much time and money polishing the image of their business. This phase is important because it is where you can craft your message to appeal to the desired market segment. Another important tool that is commonly used during this phase is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This refers to the practice of tailoring your website to the demographic that you wish to market yourself towards. Businesses will commonly insert relevant keywords into their indexed pages with the intention of leading searching customers to their website.

2. Interest

This phase of the customer buying cycle is when customers come to you. The awareness phase is where you grab their attention, and this phase is where you have a chance to build upon it. Customers are typically non-committal during this phase; they are likely still doing plenty of research and shopping around. Targeting buyers during this phase means that you need to give your potential customer a compelling reason to purchase from you instead of your competitors. The responsibility here is two-fold: first, you need to market yourself as the solution to the customer’s unique problem. Second, you need to address the customer’s needs and perspectives. Businesses will frequently offer positive reviews and testimonials of their products to convince these potential customers that they offer the solution to their needs. Offering a persuasive sales pitch is only half of the solution: make sure that the customer feels that you are concerned with what they want.

3. Purchase

This phase of the customer buying cycle includes not only the actual purchase of the good or service itself, but also the final evaluation. A customer might still be reviewing their options in this phase, but what differs from the interest phase is that they have shown a distinct desire to purchase the good or service in question. This gives you an opportunity to give the customer a more comprehensive overview of what it is that they wish to purchase, and it is also the appropriate time to upsell additional products or features. Car dealerships are especially fond of this point in the cycle. Once the customer sits down and begins negotiating the price of their future vehicle, the sales team moves in and does everything they can to get that person to buy the car. Whether they slash the price, throw in extra bonuses or offer them rebates, they will do whatever it takes to turn that expressed interest into an actual sale. This is where you want the sales team to take over: the amount of persuasiveness and personal magnetism they exhibit are every bit as important as their receptiveness and concern for the customer’s needs.

Write Your 2019 Business Plan Today

As the year begins, businesses all over the world have renewed (or established) the goals that they are aiming to achieve. Whether you want to increase yearly profits by 20%, open a new location, hire an additional person, or even find a way to take more time off, you’ll have to chart out a road map that will ultimately get you to your desired destination.

Like Mark Twain, a famous American writer once stated, “To live a fulfilled life, we need to keep creating the “what is next”, of our lives. Without dreams and goals there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.”

A well-written business plan serves as a road map to profitability and should be used as a guide for structuring and operating your business.

Write down your 2019 goal for your business. Where do you envision your business by the end of 2019? Be very clear and concise. Clarity brings a sense of direction. A detailed business plan should include a market analysis, details of your product and target audience, sales and marketing strategies, funding requirements and most important, revenue projections.

Being successful doesn’t necessarily require you to do something completely radical and untested. In many cases, applying existing models in a way that you haven’t yet tried is enough to make your dream a reality. For example, if you aren’t making much use of social media, now might be the time to open up a new Instagram account. This, and many other methods, will go a long way towards accomplishing every goal you set out to meet well before the year ends!

Need help writing a business plan? Call us today! 408-899-6737

Achieve Better Management of Business Operations

Here are seven suggestions to apply personal discipline within the context of achieving better management of business operations and the more effective utilization of your personal time:

Delegate: Delegate activities to the staff with the appropriate skills. Manage this approach through an organizational structure and individual Positional Agreements appropriate to the size of the organization.

Prioritize: Prioritize your daily work by reviewing the next day’s important activities in a ‘to do list’ at the end of each day. You can maximize personal productivity by focusing on this list the next day. And don’t do what’s not on the list – resist the urge to be distracted and to do things that you enjoy more.

Handle each piece of paper only once and never more than twice: Don’t set aside anything without taking action.

Clean up: Clean up your desk and office shelves once per month. Categorize everything into four groups: ‘Do it’, ‘Delegate it’, ‘Defer it’, and ‘Dump it”. Before getting rid of anything, just ask the question, “What is the worst that can happen if the item was gone?” If the answer is “nothing”, then dump it.

Put personal interruptions on hold: Put your calls and personal interruptions on hold for one hour, two hours or whatever is appropriate to your task at hand. It is amazing how much work that can be achieved by using this simple technique and not being distracted by a phone call or personal interruption – and most of these potential interruptions will not meet the definition of ‘important’.

Learn to say “No”: This may be the most effective way to maximize your personal utilization of time and is often the hardest word to use in business. Make sure that if you don’t say “No,” it is because the activity is important in context of your own role in the business.

Make sure you set aside personal relaxation time during every workday. Don’t work during lunch. It is neither nutritional nor noble to skip important stress-relieving time or important energy input. Take vacations, particularly mini-vacations. The harder you work, the more you need to balance your leisure and exercise time.

As a business owner, the key to time-management is to build your personal and business life around your individual needs and desired outcomes through planned and measured activities. Time management is, in fact, the ultimate in self-improvement because it is the foundation for achieving your goals in every aspect of your life.

 

How to Avoid Uncertainty, Always Being on the Job, and Burnout – the Top 3 challenges of Small Business Owners

 

It’s not easy being a business owner. Overwork and burnout are two especially common problems with entrepreneurs, and it’s not hard to see why. 

One survey from New York Enterprise Report found that small business owners work twice as much as regular employees. It also found that 33% of small business owners reported working more than 50 hours per week, and 25% said they work more than 60 hours a week.

That’s hardly the only study reporting those kinds of hours, either. Gallup found that 39% of the owners they surveyed worked over 60 hours a week.

It’s not just about the hours.  Small business owners work more, sure. But they’re also under more pressure. This is true whether they have employees or not.

Hard work is an admirable trait, but work for the sake of work is a waste. There are ways to reduce your workload while still putting in the time and effort your business needs to succeed, and implementing these methods will preserve your physical and mental health in the long run. These are some of the ways in which you can reduce your workload and restore your personal time to a healthy level.

1) Delegate

Good business owners understand the value of hiring people smarter than themselves to do a job right. An excellent manager, a well-trained crew and a virtual assistant can do wonders for your bottom line. You can’t do it all yourself. So, don’t. 

Delegate tasks that are time-consuming, such as social media marketing, CRM management, newsletters, blogging and customer support services.  If you train your workers correctly, you won’t have to do the jobs of four different people.

2) Work smarter, not harder

The law of diminishing returns hits us especially hard. Don’t believe the hype when somebody brags of “working” 80 hours a week. If you were to follow them in their day-to-day life, you’d probably find that their productivity was exceedingly low, and that they were classifying a lot of non-work activities as work. If you are sitting at a desk but you’re not doing much, that means nothing. but if you find ways to squeeze more work in the time you have, you won’t have to put in as many hours to get things done. If you’re using old software, upgrade to something newer. If your store’s layout is inefficient, change it. If your business is drowning in paperwork, streamline it.

As an added note, the GDP per hour worked tends to have an inverse correlation with the number of hours worked overall. Put another way, countries in which people work more hours per year generally have lower levels of productivity. As an example, South Koreans work an average of about 2,100 hours a year and produce about 32 dollars of GDP per hour worked. The French work about 1,500 hours a year and produce twice that per hour worked. Smarter work means you don’t have to put in as many hours to produce the same number of goods and services.

3) Manage as much as you need, not as much as you want

A lot of new supervisors and managers run into this problem, but some business owners are this way as well. Your business is your baby – you want people to treat it with the same care and attention that you do! the problem is, some business owners don’t let a person do what it is that they hired them to do. If you believe that you made the right decision in hiring a person, back off and let them do your job. Not only will it be easier on you, but your team will not resent you as much. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep an eye on things, but if you are micromanaging your team on a daily basis, you screwed up somewhere. Whether you are being overly controlling or you didn’t hire the right people, the fault still comes back to you.

You’ll never be able to control everything all of the time. If you learn to let the small details go, you can focus in on the things that really matter.

Need help setting up a plan to leverage your time to maximize efficiency and profits?  Schedule a complimentary session with us!

 

 

 

10 Steps to Make Time Management Work for You

The right techniques make time management work.

In the quest for better time management, we have been flooded with a large variety of gizmos, tools, and programs invented to help us more effectively manage our time. These tools and programs make great claims, but most fail to help us achieve that ultimate “nirvana” of time management that we desire.

Of all the time management “stuff” out there, I’ve found a few simple techniques that consistently work well, if implemented properly.

Here are 10 steps that, if followed, will ensure time-management works for you:

1. Kick the Habit: Like many poor habits, poor time management is a behavior that has been developed over time and the first step in “kicking the habit” is to recognize that you have a problem and then to make a firm commitment to do something about it.

2. Effective Planning: Similar to other disciplines, effective time management is a discipline that can be learned and mastered over time. The key principle to effective time management is planning. It’s been shown that for every minute you spend in planning, ten minutes is saved in execution.

3. Plan Each Day in Advance: The first step is to plan each day in advance. Whether you use a day planner, PDA device or electronic calendar, find the tool that works best for you. Sit down each night and carefully plan out your next day. Ask yourself: “What is the most important use of my time?” and “Where do I bring the greatest value to my organization?”

4. Develop your Daily Plan by Ranking Tasks: with the key tasks that must be accomplished (based on the answers to the two questions above). Once you have listed these vital tasks, then rank them accordingly (usually the ABCD method works well).

Planning your day the night before has other benefits as well. One key benefit is that you will sleep better, as your conscious mind can rest (because you’ve written down what must be accomplished and don’t have to worry about remembering every task). Your subconscious mind can then go to work on these issues while you sleep.

5. Block Scheduling: Next, look at your day as blocks of time put together. We call this Block Scheduling. Start with ‘hour’ blocks, then as you get more practice and become more proficient at budgeting your time, you will look at 30-minute blocks of time.

6. Mark Your Calendar with these Blocks of Time: Some of the most effective time managers look at their days in 15-minute increments. Take the ranked tasks from your list and insert them into the blocks of time on your calendar, starting with the most important task first.

7. Determine what time in the day you will set aside for each task: Morning time is usually the best time to tackle your most difficult and highest priority tasks. As the day wears on and you wear down, you can then work on the other tasks requiring less mental effort. Now you’re ready to begin your day.

8. Prioritize & Focus to reach Completion: Jump right in and begin on the most important, highest value task immediately.

Focus single-mindedly on starting and finishing this task and do not deviate from your plan. One of the biggest enemies of time management is the practice of starting several tasks but never finishing any of them.

A great prompting question to always ask yourself is, “Is this the most important thing I should be doing right here, right now?” Another key to successful Block Scheduling is not getting “derailed” from your plan.  Learn to delegate routine and time consuming, but vital tasks.  Focus on what your best at and what brings you the most profit.  Yes, focus on what got you started in your business in the first place. 

9. Minimize Distractions:  Distractions like the phone, internet, email, co-workers, daydreaming, etc., can and will work to thwart your plan. Make the necessary arrangements to keep these distractions to a minimum.

10. Additional Tips: Finally, here are a few final suggestions:

* First, make sure you take the appropriate time to speak with employees and co-workers, as well as time for returning phone calls, emails, etc. The key is to do these tasks when they are scheduled (much easier said than done, of course).

* Schedule several breaks during the day  – take “5-minute vacations” where you can walk outside or around the office, stretch and clear your mind to recharge your mental batteries and allow yourself to get re-focused on your work.

I challenge you to start today by implementing these techniques. If you learn to do them and do them well, you’ll be able to use some of that new found time for some much needed personal and family enjoyment.

What makes you special?

 

 

 

 

 

One of the first lessons in building a business is really a lesson that has to be continuously examined and almost relearned: what makes you special? How are you unique?

You need to work out what is special about you, and then make a big deal about it. And don’t just say ‘price’ or ‘quality’ – these are empty terms. Make it very specific, and meaningful.

How is that possible you ask? Well here’s an idea: every person and every individual is unique – you are unique, you are different, so focus not only on your product or service, but the unique aspects of your personality, who you are, what you stand for, and what you value.

Better yet – focus on the unique positive difference your product or service will make in the lives of your unique set of ideal clientele.

Need help defining what is unique about your business? Schedule a complimentary session with us!

Are You Running on Auto-Pilot?

Are you going through your life on auto-pilot?  Are you letting your reactions and responses to life’s circumstances and events be dictated by your previous values, attitudes, and beliefs…or are your responses a result of living in the present?

Most people tend to react (act again) as they go through life.  They react to other people’s conscious, or unconscious desire, or ability to “push” their buttons, or to situations without operating in the now moments of their lives. Their reactions find their origin in their learned attitudes, beliefs, expectations, prejudices, values or historically directed emotions. When we react from the history of our past, we take the risk of:

  • over-reacting
  • under-reacting
  • reacting inappropriately
  • reacting too quickly
  • reacting too slowly

Any of these responses to any set of circumstances or people are doomed to cause continued stress, anxiety, and continued, unresolved personal feelings.

When a person reacts without being totally conscious or thinking out of the now, they’ll often say or do things they’ll regret later.

Here are a few strategies to consider the next time you find yourself out of emotional control due to another person or an event.

  1. Take a quality pause, a brief 2-3 second break where you say to yourself – I do have a choice.  I can react the way I normally would have to this stimulus or I can react differently. With the quality pause you can get out of auto-pilot and into the present.
  2. Develop the habit of counting to 5, slowly, before you speak or act as a result of a stimulus.
  3. Give someone you are close to the permission to alert you (make you aware) each and every time you react without pausing or taking the time to think through your response.
  4. Create personal anchors (a personal reminder) that automatically kicks in every time you find yourself losing emotional control.  Thought-stoppers work well here. (What’s a thought-stopper? An example might be to place an elastic band around your wrist…one about a quarter of an inch wide…and each time you find yourself into negative thought, or losing emotional control…just pull the band back and let it go.  Whatever you were thinking about will be gone in a flash.

Living life out of auto-pilot is to live incompletely…to live the past.  To live in the present…the now…only requires that you become conscious every time you are functioning from memory, expectations, or in the future.

And that’s worth thinking about…

Have You Ever Had Conflict in the Workplace?

 

 

 

 

 

Conflict in the workplace and even at home is often inevitable. Conflict is generally a good thing. A difference of opinion inspires creativity and growth. Imagine if everyone was the same and agreed all the time. Life would be boring!

The big challenge is knowing how to deal with conflict when it arises to encourage a win:win outcome.

“Seeking first to understand and then be understood,” Stephen Covey 

Step 1:  The conflict resolution process consists of setting some guidelines for the discussion. Keep the discussion above the line by taking Ownership, Accountability, and Responsibility for their actions.

Getting commitment from each party to play above the line will stop the tendency to get into a blame or excuse situation.

Getting both parties to have both self-respect and respect for others is the next step.  Creating a Win:Win working environment is the only way that will give satisfactory results.  In an environment of both self-respect as well as respect for others, both parties are willing to listen to the other’s point of view and then respond in an assertive way.

Step 2: Now is the time to get them talking. The rules are simple…

Each person gets to speak in turn on what their side of the situation is by starting with the phrase, “What I feel like expressing is…” The other party cannot interrupt until the first person has finished speaking by saying “…and that’s what I feel like expressing.”

Then the other party is to repeat to the first what he/she understands their issue to be. Only once the second person has successfully understood the situation will the first person be able to have their turn to state their case.

This method of conflict resolution allows a creative resolution to even the most challenging of issues. As long as both parties are willing, there will usually be a successful outcome.