16 posts categorized " Sales and Business Development"

12/07/2017

How to Get Ahead in 2018 - An Interactive Guide for SMBs

How to Get Ahead 2018 - title slideThis month we have something very special for small business owners and their employees. The crack marketing and sales team at NewPath Consulting are thrilled to present our special small business guide, How to Get Ahead in 2018. We have pulled together industry experts, knowledge from our many years of experience in the field, and culled a collection of our best posts from 2017 into a 20+ page electronic book, available for download for our website visitors.

How to Get Ahead in 2018 is an interactive guide you can access online or download to your computer to learn our best insights, suggestions, quizzes, tips, and links. It includes a model of what we think small business owners need to do to be successful in 2018 - namely, 5 core business capabilities that are subdivided into several subtopics. We believe SMB owners must either acquire these skills or outsource to web professionals like NewPath Consulting.

Using online services and technologies is not enough. For your business to truly become a digital workplace, you must continue to upgrade these skills and be continually more proficient in attracting and serving your customers online. And we’re here to help.

We wrote this book for businesses that have been on the forefront of technology at times but are finding it hard to keep up, and for those that have shied away completely. Practices that worked even one year ago have been surpassed by new and different approaches. In this guide we give you the basics of what you need to know and do in order to keep ahead of the competition.

We started with actual business basics - not technology. What does every business, regardless of size need to do? We think it's:

  • Understand your business and your business model
  • Attract and connect with prospects online to build an effective sales funnel
  • Nurture customer relationships and build brand loyalty
  • Implement services to collect and analyse business performance

So with these goals in mind, we’ve outlined 15 simple, concrete steps for becoming a digital workplace, and link you to our favourite cloud-enabled technologies for each tip. You’ll know exactly what to do, and the tools you need to do it.

We’ll take you through a process that starts with a solid foundation - your business model - and builds a solid online presence that makes you available to customers and prospective customers 24/7. We also teach you the many ways you can automate your sales and marketing so you can focus more on your customers.

08/01/2017

Why Your Customers Are More Important Than Your Brilliant Business Idea

MANWORKING

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on digital workplace transformation. Part 1 and Part 3 are also available on this website.

Continuing our conversation about bridging the digital divide, today we’re taking a closer look at the core of your business.

Which one of the following do you think is most important to a business owner?

An idea?
Money?
Time?
A customer?

An idea is what you do in your business. For example, you walk dogs, you design websites, you’ve created a new software solution, you have a bakery, or you’re a lawyer.

Money is how you fund your company, compile reserves for future needs, and pay yourself and your team.

Time is a universal measurement - we all share the same 24-hour clock.

A customer is someone who is engaged in buying or trying out your services. This is an important distinction, because it’s means that someone does not have to be paying you to be a customer.

NewPath’s Alex Sirota notes, “When I ask this question to all of our new customers and prospects, I’m surprised that fewer than 50% give what I believe is the ideal answer: the customer.”

One can make a case for all of these items being essential to a business and its owner, but the customer is always more important than any of them. And it’s your customer who helps clarify and specify the other three.

Do they like your idea? Are they willing to pay for it, and how much? How quickly do they need it, and by when? Elevating the customer to be more important than your ideas, time or money is what makes your business successful.

A brilliant idea isn’t enough

Most people will say the idea is most important, but Alex says that means they’re letting their ego speak. “When you have an idea you think is great you think everyone’s going to buy it,” he says, “This is a mistake too many business owners make.”

You get emotionally attached and think your idea is the best, but likely it isn’t as unique and original as you think. And there are a lot of bad ideas that succeed - just look at the late-night infomercials for ordinary products that still sell extremely well because they’re using such an effective sales formula.

“I hate to break the news to you,” Alex continues, “but if you don’t have customers for your idea you’re nowhere.” He cites this post from Derek Sivers about how ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier; it’s the execution, even of a bad idea, that’s worth millions, while a 5-star idea is worth very little without execution.

When time and money are scarce

When a business owner claims that time or money are more important than customers, watch out! These are huge red flags. If time is most important to them, it probably means they’re not doing a great job at handling their time. Digital tools can help you save time, but they can only do so much. You likely have more work to do on time management before you can successfully run a business.

If money is the top issue, it means they may not have saved enough to run a business through lean times. There is a simple solution to this: Make the customer the most important thing, and the customer will pay money for the value you deliver. With enough customers and enough money, you’ll earn a profit and you can pay yourself.

If money was the most important thing in a business, anyone with money could succeed and yet there are countless examples of businesses who had money but failed. Why did that happen? They didn’t treat the customer as more important than time, money or their idea.

This question is a crucial litmus test for you as a small business owner. Get your head around the fact that that the reason you’re doing this is to get and keep customers - to get customers to buy more from you and refer others to you. Technology can save time but that is only useful if you leverage that time to earn more revenue or save costs.

It’s getting more customers that will make you run a better business because customers will tell you what they are willing to pay for and use, and how they wish to be treated.

Customer-centric marketing requires a modern business model

To get and keep customers, you have to have a functional business model. This is what many businesses have the most trouble with. By the time customers come to us at NewPath they’re already attached to a bunch of tools and technologies, but they’re unclear about their business model and how it operates. Your technology tools must support your business model.

At NewPath Consulting, we onboard all new customers by taking them through a business model generation tool called the Business Model Canvas, created by a company called Strategyzer.

This process helps us to understand their current business model and also how the business wants to evolve. This exploration and documentation greatly helps us address real business challenges with the cloud tools we have at our disposal.

These three videos explain more:

Why every business needs a business model

(This is part of a short series of videos you can watch here.)

2. The Business Model Canvas theatre - a helpful analogy

3. The sections of the Business Model Canvas

Note that out of all the elements on the business model canvas, ‘customer’ appears twice. Money is represented, but only as a measure of whether you’re making more than you’re spending. Your idea (value proposition) is at the center, but doesn’t stand on its own.

Business Model 500x342
And what about time? It doesn’t even appear on the canvas. “A lot of business plans have time lines,” says Alex, “but really they’re irrelevant. The only time that matters is when you can start delivering value to your first customers. Then it’s about how you can scale to get more customers.”

At NewPath, we have taken many small businesses through the Business Model Canvas exercise. We have observed that many customers are clear about what appears on the right-hand side of the BMC: who your customers are, what you deliver to them, and where you interact with and find your customers, as well as how you make revenue.

What’s not usually as clear is the execution - all the things that appear on the left-hand side of the BMC (or backstage, as you’ll see in the video above): their key activities, the resources they need to make these happen, and the partners who will help raise visibility and even provide customer referrals.

Businesses earnestly try to find customers one-by-one, and hope and pray they will get word-of-mouth referrals, but this is rarely a scalable model. Customers should find you, when you execute superior sales, marketing and operational processes, build mutually beneficial partnerships, and deliver consistently on your value proposition.

How different businesses use the Business Model Canvas

If you want to see sample Business Model Canvases from Amazon, Disney and Lego, check out this video playlist. You can also try sketching out your organization’s canvas with this BMC template for Google Drive (save a copy to your own Google Drive account in order to enter your own content).

For the first time ever, we’re sharing the NewPath Consulting Business Model Canvas, Version 4, which describes where we currently stand. As you’ll see, we’ve identified one of our key costs as marketing, particularly content marketing, and the money we’re spending here is working.

One of our recent new customers has been on our mailing list for years. When we started writing about business models, they finally reached out because they realized they needed to identify who their target customers really were and whether they were effectively communicating with them online.

Too many small businesses don’t know where they’re spending their money and don’t reinvest enough back into their business. Service businesses charge for their time and materials and fail to “break the time barrier.” You have to invest wisely on the left-hand side of the canvas in order to drive new revenue. Unfortunately many SMBs don’t know where to invest or how.

If you read the NewPath BMC carefully you’ll see our key resources are writers and social media experts, as well as our sales relationships. It’s essential for a business to clarify who are its real partners, and who are the new partners you should be considering.

When clients come to NewPath Consulting, “I don’t ask what colour your website should be,” says Alex , “and we’re not just here to fix your technology issues. I want to first understand your business model, and the key activities and resources that will help your business model run better.”

Would you like to sit down with Alex Sirota and see how your business fits into the Business Model Canvas? Join him for a free 30-minute consultation where he’ll work with you to:

  • Start to document your Business Model Canvas
  • Recommend a few goals to help your organization grow
  • Explore a NewPath Consulting business success plan that’s right for you

Click here to book your free consultation today!

03/30/2017

NewPath at Digital Main Street Forum

The Digital Main Street Forum aims to assist entrepreneurs in embracing digital technologies to build and grow their business – from online marketing and leveraging data to better engage your clients, to adopting ecommerce to reach a broader customer base, the Digital Main Street Forum will help you understand the "Why" and "How To" of embracing both bricks and clicks for your business. NewPath Consulting will have a booth at this event so please come check us out!

You can register online for free.

01/13/2017

NewPath Consulting at Vaughan B2B Expo on February 1, 2017

Join us on February 1, 2017 at Vaughan's premier opportunity to meet and make partnerships with local small business owners. The Vaughan B2B Expo will be held at the sumptuous Terrace Banquet Centre.  Come for a decadent breakfast and delectable lunch while visiting the 100+ vendors, including NewPath Consulting, who have set up displays.  Meet local politicians and government dignitaries, hear keynotes by business success stories and mingle with the best and brightest of the Vaughan small business community.  

At the NewPath Consulting display we will be showing our "Transforming into a Digital Workplace" presentation and offering free business strategy consultations to visitors.  We look forward to seeing you there!  

Vaughan Mayor Bevilacqua at the 2016 Event
Vaughan Mayor Bevilacqua at the 2016 Event
Kristine Black at the 2016 Show
Kristine Black at the 2016 Show



 

10/28/2016

How to Build a $1M Small Business

In a 2014 blog post, Christoph Janz, SaaS investor and co-founder of Point Nine Capital, wrote that there are five ways to build a $100 million business. You need either:

  • 1,000 customers that pay $100,000 per year (These are called elephants.)
  • 10,000 customers that pay $10,000 per year (called deer)
  • 100,000 customers that pay $1,000 per year (called rabbits)
  • 1,000,000 customers that pay $100 per year (called mice) OR
  • 10 million customers that pay $10 per year (called flies)

Janz builds on a popular hunting analogy used by salespeople, as a creative way to describe how businesses need to lure each of the five types of animal. The point is that you wouldn’t try to lure an elephant the same way you would a trap a fly.

Elephants are difficult to capture, it’s a lot of hard work, and you probably won’t end up getting many of them. Deer are fast moving and difficult to catch, but once you land them they make good customers. Rabbits are plentiful, but they can be tricky to catch and are fickle.

If you know your target customer and how much they are able pay, Janz asserts, you can align your marketing and sales and marketing effort to reflect attracting kinds of customers. And while he was writing about SaaS (software as a service) businesses, this applies just as well to service-based small businesses like yours. 

How many animals does your business need?

Small service-based businesses rarely serve 100 clients simultaneously, but we can apply the same theory of understanding and targeting your clients.

Let’s look at a small business who is striving to build a $1 million business, which might break down like this:

40 elephants at $25,000/year = $1M
100 deer at $10,000/year =  $1M
200 rabbits at $5,000/year = $1M

1M Business Chart

The idea is that to build a $1M small business, you need to understand the average price point for different kind of customers, and then you need to set specific goals as to how many of each type you need.

To grow to 50-100 customers you will need to understand the cost involved to scale to this level and how you will serve them all simultaneously.

This approach also requires a steady revenue stream on an ongoing basis. So these are not one-off contracts but recurring revenue streams that are set up as recurring contracts, rather than one-time fees (otherwise you will have to find a new set of 50-100 customers every year!) This tiered recurring revenue model can be very successful for small businesses, as long as you understand what sort of infrastructure and resources you need to attract more of these types of clients.  

The hunt for small business customers

Prospective customers who will spend $10,000 or $1,000 per year need a much different sales and marketing approach than customers who will spend $100 or $10.  

How do you diversify your offerings, attract each type of client, and market effectively to them? One way is to build strong partnerships with the vendors you work with. That way you can cross-promote each other’s businesses and services, and provide trusted referrals to each other.

Hunting mice and flies to purchase lower-priced items means attracting large volumes of prospective or trial clients through social media and viral marketing campaigns.

Rabbit-hansbenn-pixabay-1581187_640

Hunting rabbits requires solid inbound marketing techniques, where you’re providing solutions that people with a specific problem are searching to solve. Here’s where you write amazing content about the right topics, and present at meetings, conferences and other events. This is the majority of the marketing we do in our business at NewPath Consulting, and we find it’s really been the only way to get rabbits.

Deer-Unsplash-pixabay-731343_640

Hunting deer on the other hand, who will pay a much larger amount of $10,000 per year, requires salespeople reaching out to customers who are capable of paying that much. The owner has to either
be a salesperson, or hire salespeople who specialize in the types of customers who pay $10,000 per year. Still, it’s unlikely you’ll close most of these as cold calls. Getting deer really depends on those vendor relationships we spoke of earlier: partnership programs, referrals, or the added value of having someone who can provide service and support for a product.

Elephant-Amandad-pixabay-402517_640
Hunting elephants requires the strongest relationships, along with recognition in the marketplace. And this happens after you land a lot of deer and rabbits. That’s why very small service businesses should focus mostly on attracting rabbits and deer. When you land an elephant, a lot of attention has to go towards a small number of clients, and you cannot pay as much attention to landing more deer and rabbits.

Hunting clients for a small business takes a clear understanding of the specific types of clients you want to attract to your business, and what it takes to land them. You can’t use the same tools to attract an elephant as you would to attract a fly.

07/21/2016

How to Expertly Manage More Small Business Leads with a CRM

Highrise is a key service in NewPath Consulting’s service plans as well as the CRM it uses in its business.

Put yourself in a prospective client’s shoes for a moment. Imagine how it would feel to hear, “Hey, congratulations on that award, that’s terrific! What would you say was the key thing you did to move that project along?” or “I saw that link you shared about the [industry news]. How do you think that’s going to change things in the industry?” or “I see you’re a [sports team] fan. What did you think about that [call, penalty, trade, announcement, etc.]?”

Chances are, you would feel like the other person understands something about who you are and what interests you, and you would probably enjoy the chance to talk about yourself, your opinions, and your accomplishments. That would put you in a much warmer frame of mind to explore potential opportunities.

To build a successful business it’s not enough just to meet a lot of people or collect names in a database; you need to develop those relationships. What’s most important is how often people hear from you, and how they feel about those interactions.

 

What is CRM software?

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a tool designed to help you structure and advance your ongoing communications with everyone who comes in contact with your business - potential customers (leads), prospective customers (leads you’ve qualified as prospects), and existing customers.

Some CRM programs are downloaded as software onto your computer, and others are in the cloud and you can access them from any device with an internet connection including, in most cases, a mobile app, so you can stay connected and up to date from anywhere.

 

Why use CRM software?

You may have good intentions about following up with people, but be honest: How well are you doing this on your own? Without a system in place, are people and potential opportunities falling through the cracks?

When you do reach out, are you armed with enough background information about the person on the other end? Can you trust your memory of what you’ve already discussed in previous calls, emails, or social networking messages?

Highrise, for example, is a cloud-based CRM service that allows you to quickly and easily scan a history of notes you’ve taken during or after phone calls, as well as emails sent back and forth with this person. You’ll never have to rely on your memory again!

You can also browse your prospect’s recent Twitter updates or their latest job moves from LinkedIn to bring more context into your conversation. (Click on screen shot to see full size image)

Highrise with integrated twitter stream in profile


When is it time to use CRM software?

Many businesses start using CRM software when they get serious about direct sales; when more than one person is involved and coordination and collaboration is required. You’ll know you’re at this point when you’re attending trade shows, giving presentations, and in other situations where you’re collecting a lot of leads.

The CRM provides a shared view of where your company is at with its sales and marketing process. Any number of people can move forward a relationship with a contact as needed and no one will be lost. Of course ideally a relationship is built with the same person over time, but it’s wise to have checks and balances in place for the inevitable hiccups your team will go through.

In Highrise, the business owner can designate which team members can access which areas of the account, and choose which parts of the sales process to outsource and how.

This screenshot shows assignment of a task to one of the NewPath Consulting staff. (Click on screen shot to see full size image)

Highrise task assignment

What else can you do with CRM software?

Use your CRM as a help desk

Sales and marketing aren’t the only functions that benefit from a systematic approach that’s documented and housed in a central location. Good customer support also depends on having a clear line of communication and dedicated follow up.

The Highrise team came up with a way to use their CRM for customer support. It starts by funneling customer support emails into Highrise. They outlined the process in this blog post: How we do incredible customer support (and run a support help desk).

 

Use your CRM to email a group of people and track responses

When you think of pre-written emails sent en masse to a specific group, newsletters probably come to mind. “Folks are numb to the gloss of email newsletters,” writes Chris Gallo of Highrise. He equates newsletters to “a blast of email to a group of people you don’t know or a list of emails you bought somewhere.”

The Highrise Broadcast tool, on the other hand, “is conversational. It’s for sending email to a group of people who really want to hear from you. People you do business with. Or people who’ve opted in to receive messages from you.”

For example, people who’ve just joined Highrise receive a note from CEO Nathan Kontny. “Our team averages almost a 60% open rate on all welcome emails using Broadcast. Lots of customers even reply to them, and start conversations with our support team.”

See Chris’s article: Send Emails that You Would Want to Receive.

To use this group emailing strategy effectively, you must get into the habit of creating a new record immediately after meeting someone. Depending on the tools you’re using, you can type the data into your computer, scan the business card using your smartphone, or merge the contact right from your email program.  

Assign one or more tags to your new contact. You can create tags for where you met the person, how they came into your pipeline, where they live, which service they need, or whatever makes sense for your business.

Here is a screenshot of filtering contacts by  tags in Highrise (Click on screen shot to see full size image):

Highrise filtering by tags


Customer relationship management is about far more than serving your current customers. It is a powerful way to build and maintain strong ties with everyone who comes in contact with your business. When you show people that you remember, know, and understand them, they will feel cared for and motivated to stay connected with you.

04/27/2016

"Building a Digital Workplace with WordPress" Presentation - Toronto City Hall

On April 27, 2016, NewPath Consulting participated in the Enterprise Toronto Small Business Technology Forum. Presented by the City of Toronto this event was aimed at traditional businesses looking to embrace technology and make money online - whether it be ecommerce and digital marketing, or building a digital workplace, this event has everything a business needs to start embracing digital thinking.

We enjoyed seeing many small businesses at our presentations and at our booth at the event. Even though this was our first time presenting at this event, the reception and turnout exceeded our expectations. We look forward to continuing the conversation with everyone we met at the event. Below is the presentation we presented with a few small edits based on feedback we received. Feel free to pass around the link to this post to your colleagues!

04/04/2016

The Business Model Canvas: More examples, tools and techniques

Back in 2012 we posted a quick video describing the business model canvas (BMC). In the last 3+ years there has been a lot of material posted online that explains the value of this extremely useful tool. We now use this canvas during our on-boarding exercise for every new customer to understand their  business model currently and where the business wants to evolve to. This exploration and documentation greatly helps us address real business challenges with the cloud tools we have at our disposal. Here is a selection of the most useful BMC tools we have found.

  1. Google Docs BMC template - a great way to collaborate online remotely with your team to collaborate on the canvas.
  2. A video describing the BMC for Gore Fabrics, makers of GoreTex.

 

 

3. A really fun, animated playlist of short videos explaining why the business model is important to today's business. It takes you through the why & how and gives you examples of the power of iterating the model.

4. A set of videos describing real world business models from companies like LEGO, Nintendo, Tesla, Disney and Amazon using the BMC. These videos really give you a good taste of how flexible and powerful the business model canvas is.

Updated March 20, 2017:

5. A 1:31 video describing the theater of the BMC - excellent way to describe this to people with little experience in business:

 6. 14 more examples on using the BMC including a terrific article on the various ways the BMC can be used. VERY helpful!

Finally a longer 45+ minute talk by the creator of the BMC, Alexander Osterwalder given at Google back in February 2011.

 

 

02/27/2016

Announcing Digital Workplace workshop at COSTI Vaughan - March 17, 2016

02/10/2016

Transform Your Business Into a Digital Workplace

A short presentation on transforming your business into a digital workplace.