Growing business, lessons from gardeners. Lesson 2

Every good gardener knows that it is essential to prepare and maintain the soil if plants are to thrive and grow. Sow seeds in rough, untilled soil and few will germinate. In business building relationships with prospects is the equivalent of preparing the ground.

Winning customers

Prospects need to be prepared to become customers in the same way that soil needs preparation for plants to thrive.

Prepare the ground

Few prospects buy at the first contact, especially when they can’t touch or experience our offer before committing to the purchase. Research shows that it can take up to 28 contacts before a prospect is ready to buy. Most businesses give up long before that. That means we are leaving potential business for someone else to pick up.

We must educate our prospects into understanding what we have to offer and how that could help them. That means building our list and then communicating with that list on a regular basis. Here are some ideas for building your list:

  • Offer something of value to website visitors in return for their name and email address (make it simple to sign up in 30 seconds, first name and email address is all you need, you can ask for more details as the relationship builds) Offer a free e-book, a module from your programme, a teleseminar, a discount voucher etc.
  • Contribute on social media, follow people, like businesses, join in conversations, share prospects’ promotions, offer some useful tips or contacts. Be generous.
  • Collaborate with other businesses offering a non-competing service to the same target market. So a florist might combine with a restaurant, a website developer with a copywriter, a personal trainer with a diet coach.
  • Carry business cards and a notebook with you at all times. Your best prospect  might be another mother you meet at the school gate or the person sitting next to you on the train.
  • Attend networking events on a regular basis but don’t expect an immediate payback. Ask if your new contact would be willing to join your mailing list. See the points below about building relationships. For more networking tips see  12 Tips for networking success  and How to make networking work for you

Build relationships

We need to work at our relationships. We must follow up with those people we meet networking and with those people who join our list;

  • connect on social media,
  • meet for coffee,
  • send a follow up email,
  • call them
  • send them information or contacts that might be useful to them
  • offer a sample or opportunity to test your service
  • send a regular newsletter
  • invite them to an event that could be useful to them

Demonstrate your offer

Visual merchandising

Make your offer irresistible

People buy with their senses: smell, sight, sound, taste, touch. How many of these are you using to promote your offer? Copy the big boys, they can afford to pay for the research to show what works. That’s why the supermarkets have in store bakeries and play German music when they have a German wine promotion.

Here are some ideas:

  • use your window to show off your products, take items out of boxes and show how they could be used; combine products in the way a customer would e.g. model a whole outfit not just one element. If it’s impractical to put products in the window use photographs, or better still a video as motion captures attention
  • use in-premises displays that people can touch, smell or taste
  • pass round samples at a networking event
  • put a video or podcast on your website or blog
  • write a blog and upload photos where helpful
  • post photos and offer tips via Twitter or Facebook
  • share your expertise on Linked In or in a Facebook group
  • post pictures on Pinterest
  • play the kind of music that will encourage your prospect to linger or buy (make sure that you comply with local legislation for playing music in public)

Our great gardener knows that they have to keep on working the soil and that’s what we have to do with our prospects so I’ll have some more ideas for you in the next few posts. Do join in the discussion if you have any more ideas or have experience of any of the ideas here.

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