When launching a company or a product, my goal is always to get the maximum traction possible in the shortest amount of time. Sometimes, I get better results than others, and because of that, I’m always on the lookout for methods that appear to be more effective than what I’m currently using.
It was with this desire in mind, that I started to read a book called Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat by Michael Masterson, and while I’ve not yet finished this wonderful book, I have already picked up some really fantastic ideas, the first of which is what Michael calls The Optimum Selling Strategy.
Introduction to The Optimum Selling Strategy
Michael believes that for every business at any given time, there is one best way to acquire new customers, and that this best way is the way the meets the company’s greatest current need. For a startup, the greatest need is almost always – or should be – generating positive cash flow.
Put simply, startups need to find the most effective way to generate positive cash flow NOW.
The mistake that most entrepreneurs make when they are first starting out is that they are so totally jazzed with their product or service (their baby), that they don’t give adequate considering to feeding their baby – with cash flow. Oddly, this same thing can even happen to more experienced entrepreneurs like me! We often assume that one method of selling can be just as good as another.
According to Michael, we’re dead wrong.
How we sell our lead product – the specific decisions we make about presenting and pricing it – has a huge impact on whether or not we’ll be successful. If you find yourself thinking that your product is so totally awesome that it will sell itself, you’re in for a rude awakening, I can assure you.
Figuring out my OSS for the Bright Ideas Agency is something that I’m working on right now; and was my motivation for writing this post. I always think through things better when I write, so why not share my thoughts, ideas, and insights with you? Hopefully, some of you will add your own ideas down in the comments, and we’ll all benefit as a result.
How to Discover Your Optimum Selling Strategy
When you get this right, you are taking a huge step in the right direction. It will make everything else that much easier. Problems will be less of a hassle, obstacles will be easier to overcome, and objectives will be less difficult to attain. Why? Simple…customer acquisition will no longer be your biggest and most expensive problem. Woot!
There’s another benefit to knowing your OSS that you should be aware of, and that is this: when you truly understand the basics of how to sell to your marketplace, you will never fall victim to anyone else’s half-baked marketing strategies and idiotic sales programs. And, even when you hand over the reigns to your marketing and sales functions to someone else, you will be able to confidently lead them in the right direction as your company grows.
The Four Secrets of the OSS
When you are first starting out, there are plenty of tactics that you could employ to attract customers. Direct mail, PPC advertising, Email marketing, SEO, Blogging, Youtube, and Podcast, Radio, etc…
As you are not likely an expert in all of these areas, you are going to very likely end up talking to people who are, and as a result, each of the experts you talk to is going to make a compelling case for why their particular method or medium is the best one for you to use.
To determine the optimum selling strategy for your business, you need to answer four questions that will have a significant impact and how quickly you generate positive cash flow – if at all!
Here are the four questions:
- Where are you going to find your customers?
- What product will you sell to them?
- How much will you charge for it?
- How will you convince them to buy it?
Answering these four questions is critical to discovering your OSS. To help you (and me) do that, let’s dive a little deeper into each one.
Where Are Your Customers?
As I’m an online marketer, I tend to think about this in terms of where do they hang out online? Which blogs, forums, and communities do they enjoy? I also am starting to ask myself which magazines and trade journals they read because, most often, these companies will also maintain an email list. This is important because using “sponsored emails” is a going to be a part of my outreach strategy (which I will explain in future posts).
The trick here is that the answers may not be as easy as you’d think.
To give you an example of what I mean, I’m going to summarize the example that was used in Ready, Fire, Aim: let’s say you want to sell a new kind of golf ball. Where could you find your customers? The follow places might all work to reach them:
- In the golf pro shop waiting in line to pay for stuff, so an ad near the cash register might work.
- Advertising on the back page of a golf magazine might also work
- A TV commercial that is run during tournaments might also work
- Renting lists with names and addresses of amateur golfers might also work
As you can see, there are plenty of places where your customers could be reached, so what should you (and I) do?
The Best Strategy for Startups
Here’s my best advice for the lowest risk strategy: do what everyone else is doing. Why? Because if everyone else is doing it, it must work, right? Now, I’m not saying that you should do what everyone else is doing forever. There will be plenty of time to innovate and experiment later on, but for now, you need cash flow and want to avoid risk.
Finding the Best Locations
So, how do you locate the best places to find customers? Simple. Just pay attention to where your competition is advertising. Then, talk to people who are already selling to the same set of customers. Ask for the names of the people who are in charge of marketing and tell them you are a marketing student eager to learn what they do (this is true!) and ask for a 15 minute “informational interview”. Or, even better, ask them to be a guest on your podcast! (Why do you think I interview so many successful people on mine?)
Every industry also has its own trade association and these associations can be data gold mines. Contact them and tell them your plans for marketing your product. They will want to help you – just keep in mind that their advice will be a bit biased.
The goal with all this is to assemble a master list of media placements – a map of where all the marketing activity for your industry is happening. This map will reveal where your competitors advertise, how often they do it, and how much they are spending.
Short on cash? Not to worry! Doing research like this doesn’t cost anything more than your time.
When it comes to marketing, nothing is more important that where you buy your media. This is because it really doesn’t matter how well your sales copy is written if you are pitching the wrong audience. For example, if my ad offered 75% off Luis Vuitton bags, but I sent the offer to lumberjacks, I’m not likely to sell much, am I? Whereas, if my sales copy is just average, but I target my exact customers (and do it well), I’m going to see a LOT more sales come in the door.
What Product Do You Sell Them First?
We’ll discuss this in detail in the next post in this series, so stay tuned…or better yet, become a subscriber and you’ll never miss a thing!