First, there's the time issue.
You're way too busy to divert your attention to social media, networking, brainstorming clever campaigns, going on sales calls, or any of the other things that go into attracting customers and making sales.
Then, you have to overcome the learning curve.
Why is it so hard anyway?
Finally, there's the ick factor.
Between the feeling like a used car salesman and setting yourself up for inevitable rejection, why put yourself through that?
We do it because we have to.
Without sales and marketing, you have no revenue.
And without revenue you have no business.
If you hate the idea of marketing or going out and selling, it's time to rethink the way you're doing it.
Check out the resources and tips below for help creating a strategy and implementing a process to promote and sell your company's products and services without getting the icky-squishies.
Email Marketing Planner
Sales and marketing are usually the most dreaded of all business tasks. Sometimes all it takes is a minor shift in perspective to have that aha moment. If you find yourself dragging your feet or struggling to get past the low-hanging fruit, try some of the tips and tools below. Don't forget, we also have open office hours every week. Visit our office hours page for dates and times.
There is no denying the importance of marketing for your small business.
As much as we'd all love the idea of If you build it they will come, the truth is people want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. The only way to become that go-to person is to create a strong marketing strategy to get in front of customers and share information about your products and services.
We're not going to lie. Google is confusing.
It doesn't matter if you're talking about SEO, ads, page rank, paid search or any of Google's other digital marketing products, they're all designed to keep users guessing.
The good news is we've curated some awesome content from digital marketing consultant and Flackery contributor, Brad Solomon from SC Digital to help you ask the right questions and find the right products to get your website and products in front of your target audience
When it comes to Google, we start with the experts we know, Daryl Eames from New England Web Strategies and Brad Solomon from SC Digital.
If you have a question that isn't addressed in their blogs, give them a call. You might just find that hiring a professional to handle your digital marketing is a lot cheaper than you think.
If you plan to do regular newsletters, or automated or transactional emails, you're going to need an email service provider.
When it comes to email marketing, ESPs do the heavy lifting.
They manage your mailing lists, provide templates, workflows, reports, and all the things you need to run effective email campaigns.
The problem is that it can be difficult to compare ESPs 1-to-1 based on pricing alone. .
Most offer similar services, but their core bundles can differ greatly.
Some offer SMS tools, chat bots, landing pages, and other goodies while others are bare bones with limited tools for mailing list management and email scheuling.
The only way to get a clear picture is to understand what you need, what you want, and what you’re willing to compromise.
Once you know what services are essential to your marketing strategy, you can compare features and prices.
You also need to look at recent reviews.
We loved our last ESP for over two years. They were everything we wanted and a lot more.
Until they weren’t.
Their reviews show pretty clearly that something happened to change people’s opinions.
Finally, make an extra effort and test them.
Most ESPs have a free trial that includes all their free and premium features.
You don’t have to move your entire mailing list, but spend a little time playing with the ESP.
Test all the features that you know you need and test some of the ones you’ve never used.
Don't forget the point of using an ESP is to make managing email campaigns easier. It may take a few tries, but you will know when you’ve found the right one.
Over the years we've tried MailChimp, Constant Contact, Sendinblue, and Moosend.
Each has their own unique features and challenges. With the exception of Moosend, any of these industry leaders would meet the needs of the average micro-business owner with a modest sized mailing list.
MailChimp and Constant Contact are both well-established and provide the standard features you need in an email service provider (ESP) as well as many advanced tools. Our only real issue with these ESP is their price. MailChimp does offer free and budget options, but once you start adding on features the price can jump steeply.
We also still like Sendinblue for anyone looking for an entry-level ESP.
Their free plan includes an impressive list of features that will meet or exceed many business owners needs.
They provide a solid service for the average user. The only reason we dropped them was because we wanted advanced reporting and didn't want to pay $65/month for the Premium plan to access one feature.
Until recently, Moosend was our all-time favorite because of the ease of use for setting up campaigns and mailing lists. We also loved their customer service and campaign reporting options.
That all changed when they updated their business model.
Their new pricing plans were still well within most people's budgets, but we found the quality of service dropped substantially within weeks. Instead of user-friendly products and stellar customers service, there were suddenly billing issues, disruptive changes to the user interface, and customer service was no longer willing to help with anything.
These are the services we've used in the past. With the exception of Moosend, we'd recommend any of them as being worth a look.
We are currently testing MailerLite. We're happy so far, but haven't used it long enough to provide an informed opinion beyond their pricing. (It's good. 😀)
The thing to remember is that the ESP you choose has to meet your company's needs.
There are dozens of ESPs for almost every need and budget. The only way to choose the right one is to understand what you need, what you want, and what you’re willing to compromise.
When you've got your list narrowed down to two or three, give them a try.
Once you've tested all their features, you'll know pretty quickly which is the winner.
When was the last time you backed up your mailing lists?
Yes, we're serious.
This is especially important if your list comes from sign-up forms and landing pages.
What would happen if your ESP went out of business, got hacked, or otherwise locked you out?
It would be inconvenient if your mailing list comes directly from your customer database, but what about all those emails from ad campagins?
How much time and money have you spent on landing pages, give aways, and Google ads?
Why would you risk losing your entire mailing list when you can back it up in less than 5 minutes?
Schedule a reminder and do a regular backup. Once a month is good for most people, but once a week or even once a day isn't a big deal if you run a lot of campaigns and have a large number of sign-ups.
How do you back up your list?
It depends on your ESP, but most will have an export option under subscribers. All you need to do is select the lists you want to backup and choose export as a csv file.
Depending on the ESP, you will either get an email with the files attached or they will download automatically to your desktop.
Sales is such an important part of business success that we did an entire issue of Flackery about it.
Sales Xceleration is an incredible resource with many tips, tools, and templates for all aspects of your sales process.
Their resource library is full of useful information that any business owner or sales professional needs to jump-start their sales.
Rain Group is another international sales training company. Their website says it will "help your sellers lead masterful sales conversations, build their pipelines, increase win rates, negotiate the best agreements, and drive growth at strategic accounts."
The Business Guild has not had firsthand experience with this organization, but there is a wealth of tips, tools, and data on their website that makes them a phenomenal resource for anyone looking to up their sales game.
We also really like that they have a lot of content devoted to consultative selling.
At its core, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program is a sales tool designed to manage interactions with customers.
Anything related to direct customer or potential customer interaction can be automated and managed through the CRM.
On the other hand, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is more about managing company resources including customer relationship management.
In addition to all the usual features found in a CRM, an ERP will also handle
While most of these products are designed for teams, you can see how having a platform that automates and manages many of the critical tasks involved with running a business are beneficial to one or two-person businesses too.
Cost varies based on features and the number of people in your organization, but most of the better programs offer a free or budget-friendly bare-bones version that meets most people's needs. And if you haven't tried an ERP or CRM it is worth setting aside an hour or two to see what they can do for you.
If you've ever been overwhelmed by the idea of choosing or using a CRM, this one's for you. CRM Magazine is a business magazine that provides information about CRM products and services.
In addition to articles and other content, CRM Magazine hosts live webinars on topics related to sales and CRM training.
Typical topics include:
As a magazine, rather than a sales training or service provider, CRM Magazine has a depth of information about just about any question a business owner could have about choosing and using a CRM for their customer relationships and sales management.
Like a lot of micro-business owners, we've had a hard time finding a CRM that meets our needs.
Many are overwhelming in complexity or don't work well for solos or small teams.
Our main issue with most of the more prominent CRMs
is the inability to add custom fields. (Even the ones that say it's possible to add fields require far too much effort for the average user with no coding experience.)
Our best suggestion is to make a list of what you need from a CRM then start testing which ones have those features. It's unlikely you will find one that does everything, but with a little luck and a willingness to compromise you may find one that does most of what you need. (See our article How to Look for a CRM Without Losing Your Mind)
We've listed a few of the better ones in the FAQ section below. They didn't work for us, but they are solid choices with reasonable prices that may work for you.
We are currently testing Less Annoying CRM and Notion.
We are cautiously optimistic so far, but we haven't had enough time to put them fully through their paces.
Nutshell CRM bills itself as a fully customizable small business CRM that helps sales teams collaborate on deals.
It's an easy-to-use program that integrates smoothly with dozens of popular programs and comes highly recommended by sales expert Charlene DeCesare.
Unlike HubSpot which focuses on inbound marketing automation, Nutshell is designed to manage outbound sales.
It's primary features are:
Nutshell CRM offers a broad range of tools to meet the needs of most micro-business owners.>
And with two subscription plans, this CRM should fall within most budgets.
Pipedrive CRM s a full-featured CRM designed to help you manage sales and customer relationships.
With four levels of pricing from $12.50 - $99 per month (billed annually), this CRM is our top pick for business owners looking for an affordable customer relationship management system.
All plans include:
Pipedrive also has a large selection of spreadsheets and email templates. sales scripts, sales tactics and more which makes it a great choice for businesses looking for a little guidance with sales management.
Dolibarr s is a free, self-hosted, opensource ERP program, but don't let the price tag fool you.
Dolibarr has all of the standard features you would expect in an ERP and a few more.
And it is all free.
Unlike the other options that provide a hosted cloud solution for your CRM or ERP, Dolibarr is an open source program that you host on your own server.
We know this sounds a little daunting, but the fact is most web hosts allow multiple websites to be hosted on shared hosting accounts. And if your existing website is on a shared hosting account that includes CPanel, you probably have access to one-click installation of Dolibarr via Softaculous.
Learn more about Dolibarr at www.dolibarr.org
Be sure the check out their online demo to see what Dolibarr can do for you.