Winning Elevator Pitch

If you’ve been to a business networking event, you’ve no doubt been bombarded by elevator pitches. At the end of the night, though, only a few will stand out in your mind — and fewer still will result in sought-after contacts. What sets those pitches apart, and how can you ensure that yours generates interest and conversation?

Whether you’re looking for investors or just trying to get people interested in your business, your success depends on your ability to explain what makes your business unique and to hook your listener in less than a minute. Entrepreneurs and business professionals share their best tips for writing and delivering a great elevator pitch.

Start off strong. “Eighty percent of your success will depend on your opening line. It must snag your listener’s interest and make them want to know more. Do this right, and your prospects will follow you, wanting more.” – Bert Martinez, founder and president of Bert Martinez Communications

Repeat key information. “Oftentimes, people mention their business name only once, or not at all. It is much more useful to say, ‘My name is Steve Schwartz. I’m a website designer with PD-go! Web Solutions.’ Then, at the end of the pitch, say it again: ‘I’m Steve Schwartz with PD-go! Web Solutions.’ Repetition is important. That’s why you hear the website address or phone number several times in a radio ad — it helps it sink in!” – Steve Schwartz, owner of PD-go! Web Solutions

Be interesting, but authentic. “While creating interest and value is key, remember to be authentic and realistic. Making outlandish claims about your company will eventually be discovered, and your integrity will be diminished.” – Ed Cederquist, CEO and co-founder of bistroMD

Prioritize your pitch. “Be specific, but use plain language when describing the problem your product or service solves. If it solves several problems, prioritize and stick with the most important one. Stick with what problem you are solving, who will benefit the most from your solution and why people should believe that you can do it.” – Andrey Mihailenko, vice president of marketing and sales at Targetprocess

Know your audience. “When crafting your elevator pitch, you first need to think about who you’ll be in the elevator with. A good pitch will shift depending on the audience you’re trying to reach. Lead with the information that the recipient will care most about, and the rest will follow.” – Andrew Cross, senior account director at Walker Sands Communications

Focus on what matters. “Avoid telling your listener that you have a ‘revolutionary idea.’ Whatever you’re pitching is not revolutionary. Words like that can automatically put investors off. Instead, explain why you are the person to do this and why you’re solving this problem [based on] your experiences.” – Ebong Eka, CPA and author of “Start Me Up!: The No-Business Plan Business Plan” (Career Press, 2014)

Keep it conversational. “You want to stand out and generate excitement. Don’t regurgitate a memorized pitch that sounds like a pharmaceutical ad. When I hear a pitch, I don’t necessarily want to feel like I am being pitched. I would rather have it be more conversational. Start with the problem you are trying to solve, the way the current alternatives are lacking. Then, briefly describe your solution.”  – John Torrens, assistant professor of entrepreneurial practice at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management

Think about your end goal. “You should build your exit strategy along with your business plan. Investors [hearing your pitch] want to know that you’ve evaluated the risk and have thought your plan through from soup to nuts.” – Summer Kramer, founder of SummerSkin

Make a connection. “An elevator speech is an important networking tool. It should serve as a verbal business card that provides a brief, compelling introduction to one’s company and intrigues new acquaintances to seek more information. At your earliest opportunity [after giving your pitch], express an interest in your new acquaintance and learn as much as you can about him or her. The information you gain will provide insight as you proceed with efforts to build a genuine, mutually beneficial relationship.” – Juana Hart, founder of J-Hart Communications

“Finish your pitch by asking the other person what they do. It starts an actual conversation and allows you to actually connect, even after the elevator ride is over.” – Stacey Hawley, founder of Credo

Tell, don’t sell. “A big part of your job is to motivate people to act, whether you’re trying to close funding, attract talent or acquire new customers. [To do this], you have to be prepared to tell a compelling and unforgettable story that draws your audience in. When it comes to pitching your startup, my advice is to tell, not sell your story.” – Sue McGill, co-founder and executive director of JOLT

Open the door to continue the conversation. “Your elevator pitch is simply an introduction to your company, not a sale you have to close. End by summarizing your top talking points and offering a way for the prospect to get in touch with you. Be sure to have your business card on hand.” — Alex Membrillo, founder and CEO of Cardinal Web Solutions

Jumpstart Your Email Marketing Strategy

Sending out an email newsletter may seem like an easy task, but if you think that all you have to do is make a template, add in new content and hit send, you’re not likely to see the results you want.

Email marketing requires a lot of careful planning and work to be effective, but when it’s done right, it can drive traffic to your website, increase your customer base and boost sales. So how can you make the most of your email marketing campaigns? It’s all about getting to know what your subscribers want, creating quality content and taking advantage of all the great email marketing tools at your disposal.

Ready to improve your email campaigns? Here are five great email marketing tips from entrepreneurs and digital marketing experts.

Email marketing is pointless if you can’t get your subscribers to open your emails in the first place. In order to make sure your campaigns are fully effective, you need to make sure you’re sending people what they want, how they want it. One way to do that is by carefully observing your customers.

Business and digital strategist Kyla Roma suggested creating “virtual focus groups” to help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. This way, you can better understand how what you do affects customers’ day-to-day life, she said.

“I create a group of five people who are my ideal clients and follow them on social media, look at their responses to my past emails, and I’ll look out for how they speak to and interact with others,” Roma said. “I use that social information to help my client’s join the conversation in an authentic way.”

Roma noted that many brands are too impersonal and sound very corporate, which can feel awkward for customers and clients.

“Creating a virtual focus group lets you get specific, relax and help your clients while increasing your open rate,” Roma said.

Make a content calendar

An email marketing campaign is nothing without quality content, and that means you need to plan ahead. After all, trying to create a promotional email or newsletter at the last minute can be stressful for you and translate into sloppy content for your subscribers. The best way to avoid this is to create a content calendar and stay ahead of the game by at least a few weeks.

“Great content takes time,” said Marci Hansen, co-founder and chief marketing officer of eligibility verification service provider SheerID. “Create a calendar for your email marketing campaigns [and] brainstorm ideas for content in advance.”

These ideas can include exclusive promotions for a holiday like Veterans Day or Teacher Appreciation week, white papers if you’re marketing a B2B product, or strong blogs posts on buzz-worthy trends, Hansen said.

Then, Hansen said that you should pick the date you’re planning to send out your email and back up from there to choose a deadline. Make sure you give yourself time to create artwork and have the email blast reviewed, and then set reminders on your calendar so you don’t forget.

“[This way] you’ll never be struck by the sudden realization that it’s time to get a newsletter or promotional email out, and you have nothing to say,” Hansen said.

Cut sentences short

Once you’ve caught your subscribers’ attention with great content, focus on facilitating click-throughs. Otherwise, people will be opening your emails but not purchasing your products or reading the content on your site, and all the effort you put into your campaign will be wasted.

Justin LeVrier, executive vice president of growth at training and consultant organization CHARFEN, said that a great way to increase click-throughs is to cut your sentences short. This leaves people wanting more information.

“In the text of our emails, the introductory paragraph closes with a sentence cut in the middle, followed by ‘… (continue reading),'” LeVrier said, noting that doing so has increased his company’s email click-through rate to 22.5 percent.

Just make sure that what your subscribers are clicking through to is valuable to your customers and clients. LeVrier noted that it’s important to make sure that the content you’re sharing with your subscribers is worthwhile, because they trust you for information and insight.

Follow up

How many times have you found your inbox so inundated with emails that you miss out on important messages? If it can happen to you, it can happen to your customers, too, so following up is a must. However, if you follow up with every email blast you send, it’s sure to annoy your subscribers, so limit your use of this tactic to new subscribers.

“If a new email subscriber opts in to a campaign but doesn’t open the initial message, I send an email one day later and another email the day after that [until they open it],” said Marc Prosser, co-founder of online publication Fit Small Business. “Email marketing best practices dictate that you don’t want to overwhelm people, but this scenario is an exception to that rule. If that person misses your first email and your next email arrives a week later, there’s a chance they won’t even recognize you at that point.”

Prosser notes that by reaching out multiple times after a new subscriber signs up, it ensures that they’ve received your first message and know to expect future emails from you.

Use marketing automation

You shouldn’t automate your entire email campaign, but automating the way your email blasts are sent out to your subscribers can be a huge help.  Digital marketing consultant Rob Watson said that using automation tools to follow up with further campaigns for people who open or click links in your email campaigns can help you generate leads and make sales.

“Imagine sending a campaign to 10,000 recipients and knowing that 2,000 of them opened it,” Watson said.  “All things being equal, those 2,000 people are probably warmer than the 8,000 who didn’t open it, but that’s not much to go on. It’s also a lot of customers to follow up with.”

But if you set up an automated three-step campaign instead, you can pinpoint and market to the customers that really matter.

“[For example, the] first email makes them aware of a new product launch and how it will benefit them,” Watson said. “A second email is sent just to those who opened the first email — this time they can click a link to a time-limited offer on the new product. For those who open the second email and click the link, a third email is sent just before the expiry of the offer to remind them that they have only a short time left to respond.”

Watson said that by the end of this campaign, the 2,000 people who opened the first email will have whittled themselves down to a few hundred or fewer, all of whom have shown a genuine propensity to buy. You’ll also see greater open and click-through rates and save yourself a lot of time and effort.

Marketing Plan on a Budget

When running a small business, you may have a limited budget, which means wearing several hats. This is especially true of your marketing budget: as a business owner, you need to figure out which activities will draw the largest amount of leads for the fewest dollars.

Understanding your audience and customers is key to working out marketing; businesses need to identify what marketing methods are sustainable and get desired results. It should be noted, across the board, social media tends to be one of the most cost-effective methods of marketing.

“There are so many advertising options on social media platforms that have fantastic segmentation. Being able to target the exact type of customer you want is invaluable,” said Rachael Parker, global content strategy manager at TechSmith Corp.

John Donnelly III, senior vice president of global sales and marketing for Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics company, said that even conservative companies are thinking about spending a majority of their marketing dollars on social media.

“Social media [can] capture insights [and help you] listen to your audience about what they have to say about the product or service,” Donnelly said.

That data can prove invaluable as businesses market existing products or look at launching new lines, he said. Through social media analytics, Donnelly said, “you can see what happened in the past, [discover] what [is happening] now and identify best approaches for the future.”

“Look to millennials, maybe your own kids, and see how they interact with technology, how they behave and how they consume,” said Zak Brown, chairman of Motorsport Network and executive director of McLaren Technology Group. “They represent the future patterns of marketing and you can do far worse than take cues from what is all around us (i.e. street marketing).”

Traditional marketing still works

Social media isn’t the only way to reach customers. Mike Boyd, franchise owner and chief operating officer of the Instant Imprints promotional product franchise, said that he and his wife/co-owner, Linda, have stuck to the methods that work best for them. That includes weekly emails, direct mailings and pay-per-click campaigns.

“For many years, we let what we didn’t know about that discipline stop us from doing anything,” Boyd told Business News Daily. “Once we stopped trying to figure out ‘marketing’ and instead did things that would make us more visible to the people who wanted to be our customers, stuff started to happen.”

The Boyds have also worked at acquiring new customers by becoming active in local networking organizations, such as BNI and the chamber of commerce.

“We knew that sitting within the four walls of our shop and waiting for the next customer to find us wasn’t a good plan,” Boyd said. “You need to become a business leader in your community.”

Changing what doesn’t work

While it’s good to stick with tried-and-true tactics, Boyd said small business owners can’t be afraid to alter their plans when some aspects aren’t working.

“All of our tactics haven’t survived [since we started],” Boyd said.

For example, he said the company originally participated in a business “welcome wagon” program that introduced it to all the new businesses in the community. While this helped the Boyds meet a lot of new people, Boyd said, it never turned into actual sales. So, instead of spending money on that, they repurposed those funds to a Google AdWords pay-per-click program.

“We have had that kind of evolution,” Boyd said.

“Do something, and then review and improve. It is far better to put your ideas into practice and use the feedback to iterate and fine-tune your communications, then to spend ages on a highly-considered campaign,” Brown said. “You’ll learn far more in the real world from your customers than you ever can in theoretical abstraction.”

Continuing the conversation

Your small business marketing plan needs to revolve around making yourself more visible to those you don’t already know and keeping customers in the fold after a sale is made.  Social media allows a company to reach out before, during and after every transaction and stay engaged.

Weekly emails and post-purchase thank-you notes, like those the Boyds send, are another way to do the same thing.

“That really makes an impression on customers,” Boyd said. “They don’t expect you to carry on the dialogue after the transaction.”

“Over my career, I have learned that marketing doesn’t stop with the typical marketing channels. Marketing covers every step of a customer’s journey and every way that a customer interacts with your brand,” Parker said. “By keeping that in mind, you will have more opportunities to help your customers be successful.”

Some Tools To Change Email Marketing

Email marketing has been around for two decades — and it’s showing no signs of dying any time soon. In spite of newer, cooler-sounding channels like social media and mobile marketing, email marketing has proved to be one of the most effective and sustainable ways to reach customers and grow a small business.

Thanks to technology, email marketing is continuously evolving. From laboriously managing lists and manually sending text-only emails, a plethora of email marketing solutions now offer advanced systems that let you send automated, beautifully designed rich-media messages that convert and deliver a decent return on investment (ROI). And there is so much more to come.

To help you stay ahead of the tech curve and gain an edge on competitors, here are five tools that are changing email marketing and how you can use them for your small business.

What: Transactional emails can change the way online stores cross- or up-sell their products and services. Considered as one of the hidden opportunities in email marketing, transactional emails like order confirmations, delivery notifications, receipts, password reminders and other transaction-related messages are almost guaranteed to be delivered and read by customers. For this reason, transactional emails are an excellent way to suggest additional items customers might like and add to their orders, distribute promotions and coupon codes, and announce future sales and special events.

Solution: Check out Campaigner. Its new SMTP Relay feature helps businesses harness the power of transactional emails to build relationships with customers. The service guarantees increased open rates and delivery to help businesses boost revenue from customers already interested in their products and services.

2. Mobile: Responsive email templates

What: Responsive email templates can change the way your emails are opened, viewed and acted on by customers. Just like responsive Web design, responsive email templates ensure that your emails are seen the way they are meant to be seen. They automatically adjust to a customer’s device — desktop, tablet or mobile — for the most optimized view based on screen size.

Moreover, data from the U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report revealed that 65 percent of emails are being opened on smartphones, making it more important than ever to use an email marketing service that offers this feature. Because if a customer can’t read your email properly the first time, or if they have to bother with zooming and endless scrolling on a small screen, it will likely be trashed and future emails will probably be ignored.

Solution: Check out Campaign Monitor, which specializes in optimizing emails across all devices. The service lets you create your own template, which you can easily design using drag-and-drop elements — no coding skills required. It also gives you the option of choosing from pre-made, mobile-ready templates so you can get started right away. If you are a little more tech-savvy or you have a Web programmer on your team, Campaign Monitor lets you edit templates using open language CSS and HTML.

3. Engagement: Video emails

What: Adding videos to your emails can change the way customers engage with your brand. It’s a growing trend that few businesses have yet to master, but those who have mastered video email gain an edge over their competitors. A 2013 study revealedthat 55 percent of marketers who used video email marketing saw higher click-through rates, while 44 percent saw an increase in how long customers viewed emails; 41 percent also experienced more shares and forwards.

This year, KISSmetrics, an analytics company, predicted that video marketing will continue to grow, as it delivers more of an impact to consumers, saves time getting your message across, and offers the potential to go viral. Additionally, videos can be repurposed throughout other marketing channels and social media, giving businesses a boost in search engine optimization.

Solution: Check out MailChimp, which offers several ways to include video codes in your email marketing campaigns. Most email providers don’t support video players in emails, but MailChimp provides three work-arounds. These include auto-converting embedded videos that you’ve already posted on your website or blog, manually linking to your videos with screenshots and video merge tags for YouTube, Vimeo and other online video-streaming services.

4. List management: Big data and predictive analytics

What: Big Data and predictive analytics can change the way you manage email lists to better segment and target customers for more successful email marketing campaigns. These advanced reporting tools can help you discover what’s truly working and what isn’t — by revealing key insights such as trends, how customers are interacting with emails, the ways demographics impact customer behaviors, and how purchase and Web-browsing histories are predictive of future behaviors — so you can make wiser data-driven decisions when it comes to your marketing spend.

Solutions: Check out BlueHornet email marketing solutions, which aims to increase ROI for small businesses by offering a wide range of advanced analytics and reporting tools. The service can help you segment lists based on clicks, as well as target customers using social media and mobile behaviors. It also offers features like data visualization, custom reports and email testing. Additionally, BlueHornet gives you access to delivery management reports to uncover how emails are treated by customers and email providers; this includes complaint rates, spam rates, bounce rates, blacklists and block lists.

Another option is to integrate small business-friendly Big Data solutions and customer relationship management (CRM) software into your email marketing campaigns. Using these additional tools, you’ll discover even more insights into customer behavior and how this data can boost your email marketing campaigns.

5. Delivery: Wearable technology

What: Wearable technology — particularly smartwatches — will change not only the way people communicate, but how they access, read and act upon emails.  Apple Watch is set to arrive in early 2015, and Android Wear has already claimed its stake with several smartwatches on the market. Just as email marketers have had to adapt and cater emails to smartphones and tablets, they’ll have to optimize emails for even smaller screens and thus far unpredictable wearable-based consumer behavior.

Solutions: There are currently no wearables-friendly email marketing solutions available, but there are several best practices that industry analysts have already began to surmise. Marketing research firm eMarketer reportsthat wearables have a much smaller window of opportunity for emails to convert and that interaction will be limited. Instead, businesses should focus on touch-based engagement and single-touch responses, not two-thumb typing and multi-tap browsing, as customers usually would with other mobile devices.

Information About Some Major Email Marketing Mistakes

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach customers and increase sales. It allows merchants and service providers to easily send out deals, promotions and announcements, as well as drive new business by reaching out to prospects and warming up cold leads. Launching an effective email marketing campaign, however, is an art form. Using ineffective email marketing techniques and strategies won’t just fail to deliver desired results, but it may even harm your brand.

“There are many elements that go into a great email campaign,” said Amit Khanna, president of small and medium businesses at Salesgenie, an email marketing lead generation tool. Two important components are the offer and messaging, which includes everything from creating a compelling subject line to crafting a strong closing call to action. “But it takes much more than an attractive product or service offer and effective copy to create a winning campaign.”

Other than the actual email itself, email design, mode of delivery, mailing list data and how information is targeted are all essential to email marketing, Khanna said. “In sales, it’s all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. This principle holds true in email marketing as well,” he added.

1. Not targeting customers.

Email marketing solutions make it easy to send emails to all your customers with just a few clicks, but sending the same email to all customers is an ineffective strategy. Make sure you send the right message to the right recipients by segmenting customers based on the offer, target demographic or context of your emails. The extra work in targeting customers will ultimately yield much better results and is the key to email marketing success.

2. Failing to use responsive design.

With 50 percent of emails now being opened on mobile devices, it’s critical that your emails use responsive design to optimize content on your customers’ tablets and smartphones. Responsive design will ensure your email is seen the way it’s meant to be seen. Without responsive design, customers will be faced with the inconvenience of zooming or scrolling from side-to-side just to read your email, a nuance that could send your message to the trash bin.

3. Violating email marketing platforms’ terms of service.

Don’t use customer communication platforms like MailChimp or ConstantContact for lead-based email campaigns. These services don’t allow businesses to use purchased or other third-party mailing lists they didn’t compile themselves, but marketers often buy lists and load them on these platforms — by violating their terms of service, these companies can shut down your account or, worse, blacklist your domain.

4. Purchasing mailing lists without vetting the seller.

If the price for a mailing list seems too good to be true, don’t buy it. You get what you pay for, so make sure you buy email lists from reputable source. For instance, you could purchase a DVD full of email addresses for $100, but it will likely be filled with dead email addresses that can land your email in spam folders or get your domain blacklisted by email providers.

5. Using an out-of-date email address list.

Email mailing lists can either be purchased or collected internally — such as when customers sign up in person or through your website — but neither process guarantees that all email addresses on your list are valid. Email providers have anti-spam programs that block or junk inactive email addresses, so having many outdated email addresses on your list could raise a red flag. Avoid getting your emails caught in the spam folder by making sure your email address list is up-to-date.

Marketing Tactics for Acquiring Customers

When it comes to acquiring customers, many businesses aren’t sure which marketing tactics they should use to fill the sales funnel. A successful lead-generation tactic has to meet several criteria:

  • It generates large numbers of qualified leads for your company;
  • It helps you reach a specific audience of your target customers;
  • It tracks the number of leads you get; and
  • It measures the costs and ROI.

There are seven marketing tactics that meet these criteria. They are proven tactics because they are the best ways for producing large numbers of actionable leads.

First, there are the online lead-generation advertising tactics:

Display ads (aka banner ads) are the most widely used form of digital marketing. They are used on websites that are frequented by the ad’s target audience and are used to generate leads. Also, marketers are now getting high response rates with interactive mobile ads on customers’ iPhones and iPads.

Social media advertising uses banner ads to target users on Facebook and LinkedIn (e.g., a “honeymoon cruises” ad will appear on the Facebook pages of users whose status is Engaged). Even Twitter now offers social advertising through Promoted Tweets.

Email marketing is another effective online lead-generation tactic. Many businesses are reluctant to try it, because they’re afraid their marketing emails will be mistaken for spam. But if you use targeted, permission-based mailing lists and follow the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act guidelines, you can help to ensure that your emails will get through to your target customers.

Before the digital era, these three tried-and-true tactics reigned, and they still bring in thousands of leads for companies that use them:

Direct mail is a great tactic for explaining the benefits of a complex product or service in detail. But it’s an expensive tactic, so use it only if you’re selling something that gives you a high return on marketing investment (e.g., cars), or if your customer has a long-term lifetime value (e.g., insurance) through a renewable contract or repeat sales.

Cold calling works best today if you’re selling products or services to other businesses. In cold calling, you use a targeted call list of customers (e.g., business executives) who might have a need for your products or services.

Trade shows are still a great way to collect leads, because they bring you face-to-face with customers who may be looking to buy your products or services.

Which of these tactics should you be using? As many as will work successfully for your type of business and provide a positive ROI. Ideally, you should test all seven lead-generation tactics and use the ones that work best and are the most cost-effective for your business.

Know More About Successful Sales Pitch

Sales are the lifeblood of any company: No matter how fantastic your product or service is, if customers or clients are not purchasing it, it might as well not exist. That’s why crafting an effective sales pitch is so critical for business growth.

Bob Circosta, the original host of the Home Shopping Network and television’s “Billion Dollar Man,” knows a lot about what it takes to close a sale. It’s not about giving a rundown of the facts and features of your product — it’s about communicating the ways in which it can help the buyer, he said.

“Stop thinking of it just from the perspective of what you have,” Circosta told Business News Daily. “Think about what it will do for others. You need to take your elevator pitch and transcend it … to other people’s perspective [and] solve their problems.”

“If [sales reps] focus on how to communicate effectively and help the person, it takes pressure off themselves, and puts the focus and energy where it needs to be,” Circosta said. “A superior salesperson inspires the buyer to feel the benefits of what they have.”

If you want to craft better sales pitches, here are a few key elements you should focus on.

The opening

The first contact with a potential customer or client is crucial to setting the tone for the ongoing relationship. Tom Silk, executive vice president at WorkStride, a provider of employee recognition software, said there is power in the first sentence of the sales pitch. But it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it, he added.

“Use tone, energy — stand up and show enthusiasm,” Silk said. “Energy sets the tone of the conversation.”

Moreover, it’s important to establish a connection with the person you’re selling to, said Brian Stafford, CEO of collaboration software company Diligent Corp.

“Establishing rapport is absolutely critical,” Stafford said. “The best sales rep creates a connection with the prospect as early on as possible.”

Social cues

Whether in person or on the phone, pay attention to the cues that are happening during the pitch, Stafford said. Pay attention to who is speaking, and if it’s an in-person meeting, note the body language. Look for affirmative cues, such as head nods, forward leaning, and open, relaxed postures. If you are getting the opposite, such as crossed arms or other nonresponses, then take a step back.

“I think sometimes, [sales reps] keep plowing ahead even if they aren’t getting the response they hoped for,” Stafford said. “It can be more dynamic to stop and pump the brakes, ask questions, and force them to say what isn’t working for them.”

It is harder to identify these types of social cues over the phone, but they are there if you listen. Silk advised envisioning what is going on in the room and working through the “noise language.” What is being said, by whom and how? Adjust to the silence, and solicit feedback.

“If the plan is not going well, change and adjust on the fly,” Silk said.

The call to action

This is perhaps the most important part of the sales pitch: Ask someone to take action at the end of a sales presentation, Circosta said. Even if the prospective buyer isn’t ready to make a final decision yet, leaving them with a clear call to action will at least keep the idea of doing business with you fresh in their mind.

“If you don’t ask them for the sale, they probably won’t go through with it,” he said.

The follow-up plan

Knowing how and when to follow up on a sales pitch is another factor in its success. It would be nice if every sale were closed at the end of the pitch, but that rarely happens. Decision makers need to take time to evaluate the proposal and ensure what you have to offer is going to fix their problem or improve their capabilities.

WorkStride creates a project plan with its potential clients, defining the milestones for follow-up and the best method to do so.

“The whole purpose of the project plan is to let us know when to follow up,” Silk said. “No ‘checking in’ annoying calls. We can make the follow-up calls with a purpose — after a key meeting of decision makers or at the appropriate time in their budget cycle.”

Diligent Corp. employs a similar strategy: “Follow up, and make yourself be a champion of your key contact in the sales process,” Stafford said. “Problem solve with them. What are the things we need to do to get them over the line?”

Above all else, Stafford said the most important thing you can do throughout the entire sales process is to listen to your prospective client.

“Ask questions and listen,” he said. “Figure out what a potential client wants in a product, and then tailor your response to meet it.”

Pitch Your Business to Customers, Investors or Anyone Else

A great elevator pitch — the 30-second speech that tells someone about your business in a nutshell — is one of the most important tools an entrepreneur can have. It’s a fast, effective way to grab the attention of someone who might be able to help you grow your company.

But what do you do once you have someone’s attention? Successful sellers and marketers know that the best sales tactic is to demonstrate the benefits for the person to whom you’re pitching. But the way you execute your pitch will vary greatly depending on who the recipient is — a potential client isn’t going to be interested in the same things as a venture capitalist.

“You get one chance at explaining what your business does in order to entice a specific audience to want to understand more, [and] the pitch must be altered to fit the audience’s specific needs,” said Brendan Morrissey, CEO and co-founder of Netsertive, a digital marketing intelligence company. “Catering to those needs to showcase the problems you are solving in a sincere way will set you apart from competitors.”

A customer/client

Why do people pay for a product or service? In nearly every case, it’s to solve a problem or meet a need that they have. Andrew Ackerman, managing director of startup accelerator DreamIt Ventures New York, said that the most effective way to pitch to potential customers is to understand their specific pain point and focus on it relentlessly.

“If the customer needs a faster solution, don’t spend a lot of time talking about how you are less expensive than the competition,” Ackerman said. “It seems simple, but so many salespeople feel like they have to go through every possible feature and benefit.”

“Everyone is busy, so we respect the time we have with everyone by just talking only about solving their distinct and direct problems,” added Jane Wang, CEO of employee wellness solution myHealthSphere. “It is important to focus the message on things that matter to them the most.”

If you’re not sure what the buyer cares about most, Ackerman advised asking them directly, so you can get right to the point.

An investor

It’s a whole lot easier to convince someone to make a one-time purchase from your company than it is to persuade someone to pour hundreds of thousands —or even millions — of dollars into your fledgling business. Investors want to know that you and your team have a solid plan for growth and will give them a good return on their investment.

“[We look] for founders who have a clearly developed and defined ‘why,’ ‘what’ and ‘how’ in their pitch,” said Boris Wertz, founder of Version One Ventures. “Each of these is a key component. If you’re missing any, it can hurt your pitch and your chances for funding.”

Wertz defined each of the three components as follows:

  • Why: Why are you building this business? What problem are you looking to solve, or what question are you looking to answer? The pitch needs to clearly show motives and values behind your product or service.
  • What: Describe your product or service, and be able to demonstrate it for the people to whom you are pitching. Investors need to see that something can and does work, especially with new technologies. An idea for something can be great, but if the product itself doesn’t work or has too many technical or mechanical problems, it’s not a good sign.
  • How: How will you build your business? Show your plan for growth. A strong business model and solid plans for distribution and scale are key.

Lilia Shirman, CEO of B2B consulting services firm The Shirman Group, said that knowing your competition well, and having all your financial information memorized and understood, will make a good impression on investors. Most important, regardless of the outcome, keep the door open for future contact with potential investors.

“Don’t think of the current funding round as a transaction,” Shirman said. “Build relationships with future rounds in mind.”

A corporate buyer

When you’re getting ready to sell your business, a prospective buyer will want many of the same details an investor would, like the business’s track record and potential for future growth. But because this person will have a much larger stake in your company, he or she may want a little more comfort that your current revenue won’t evaporate six months after the sale, Ackerman said.

Michael Shepherd, president and CEO of The Shepherd Group PR and content marketing firm, noted that confidentiality is crucial in a corporate acquisition, so you’ll want to make sure your discussions reflect this.

“Avoid letters, emails and other written forms of communication that could make their way into the wrong hands during the initial stages of testing the market,” Shepherd told Business News Daily. “Use the telephone and … secure a [face-to-face] meeting, ideally over lunch.”

A media outlet

If you don’t have the budget to hire a public relations firm, you’ll need to learn to pitch reporters that cover your industry. Unlike pitches to the three audiences mentioned above, a successful media pitch won’t directly result in sales or funding. However, the way a reporter interprets and writes about your business does influence the way his or her readers see you — and those readers could be potential customers.

But keep in mind that reporters aren’t looking to write an advertisement when they feature your company. Often, they’re looking for industry experts who can comment on topics that interest their readers. Instead of trying to use the media as a megaphone for your sales message, research the outlets you’re pitching to, and try to help them serve their readers.

“If you are pitching to reporters, give them information that is useful for them and their [publication], and not because it will necessarily help your business,” said Holly Bennett, public relations associate for Toronto Vaporizer. “Find out as much about the person you are taking to and the situation at hand. [Use] company websites, Twitter and LinkedIn to research who you are speaking to so you can be as valuable to them as possible. This builds trust and lets them know you are serious about making a connection that is mutually beneficial.”

Bennett added that if you’re sending a pitch via email, avoid copying and pasting the same text to send to every reporter: “Make sure it’s always personalized, every time, for each person you are speaking to,” she said.

A networking contact

The end goal of networking as a business owner is to get your new connection to recommend and/or introduce you to his or her own network. Directly “pitching” a networking contact in the way you might with other types of audiences is generally a bad idea, as you may come off as rude, desperate or presumptuous. However, what you can do is strike up a conversation and see if you can help them with their own business or career. In return, that person may be able to do something for you down the road — but don’t assume that from the start.

Shepherd advised connecting with someone you meet at a networking event on LinkedIn and inviting them for coffee to get to know them professionally, before you even bring up your own company.

“Don’t try and sell your product or service at the initial meeting,” Shepherd said. “Sell yourself, your experience and successes in working with companies and clients the individual is likely to know. Make the next touch a personal email or phone call aimed at more formally introducing your company and how you can help them.”

“Find ways to understand what you can do for your new connection — then, do it,” Shirman added. “Build relationships, and offer value before asking for favors.”

Once you’ve developed the professional relationship to the point where you feel comfortable asking for a favor, then you can start talking to your contact about introducing you to other industry players.

“Your goal is to get contacts excited about your business and comfortable with the idea that introducing you to their network will make them look good,” Ackerman said. “Hit your key benefits hard, stress your experience and any other social proof you can leverage, and be very specific about the types of people you want to meet. For instance, if you want customer introductions, list industries you are targeting, and ideally list specific companies and the job titles of the people you want to meet.”

General tips

Ultimately, all pitches are about building mutually beneficial relationships. Here are a few fundamental tips you can use no matter who your audience is.

Make it conversational. “Don’t pitch in the traditional sense of the word. Your job is to listen to the needs of your potential new client or customer, and figure out very quickly if you can help and add value. Customization is all about having a real conversation and doing more listening than talking.” – Jane Wang, CEO of myHealthSphere

Provide real examples. “Use real stories that are relevant to the audience, to illustrate why your business does what it does and how it helps buyers in your target market. By utilizing current use cases, you can help an investor or prospect understand more easily why you are the right solution for them, keeping them engaged at the same time.” – Brendan Morrissey, CEO and co-founder of Netsertive

Believe in what you’re pitching. “If you don’t believe in your business, why should others? I have personally encountered entrepreneurs who didn’t convey a strong passion and belief in their business. If you don’t genuinely believe in your idea, leave it and start working on a new one.”

Remarketing Campaign a Success

Remarketing is a tactic that involves showing ads to people who’ve visited your website or used your mobile app. This strategy is a particularly cost-effective way to increase your sales conversions because you’re reaching out to customers who have already expressed interest in your products or services.

“Remarketing helps to encourage those lost conversions to come back,” said Jeni Garrett, founder and CEO of The Woodhouse Day Spas. “It is great for small business owners because it has a lower cost per acquisition, so with the impression conversion rates, you are able to move through your sales cycle fast and for a much lower cost.”

“Remarketing is so powerful because it allows marketers the opportunity to continue the conversation that otherwise may have only been a 30-second decision on the part of the consumer,” said Jason Hobbs, founder of digital marketing company The Found Group. “When someone comes across the website of a small business, the potential consumer’s initial experience may not be enough for him or her to make a decision. That’s where remarketing comes in.”

“With simple-to-use third-party tools and services available now from companies like Google, it has never been easier for small players to set up their own remarketing campaigns,” Beri told Business News Daily.

There are different strategies for remarketing, and each one has its own benefit. For example, standard remarketing through Google AdWords shows ads to your past visitors as they browse Display Network websites and use Display Network apps. Dynamic remarketing, on the other hand, uses ads that include products or services that people have viewed on your website.

If you want to launch a remarketing campaign, here are three tips to make it successful.

1. Spread your campaigns across multiple channels.

Most businesses choose a specific channel for their remarketing campaigns, such as display, banner, Facebook or video ads, said Mike Hans, founder and CEO of Forge Group. But consumers aren’t on just one channel. Just as in any other marketing efforts, it’s important to catch the consumer where they are. This means spreading out across a variety of channels, including (and perhaps especially) mobile devices.

2. Segment your remarketing lists.

Hobbs recommended segmenting your list of web visitors by behavior for an even more targeted remarketing campaign. For instance, if a consumer gets to the last page of an ecommerce checkout process and doesn’t complete the purchase, that person should be added to a different segment for a different messaging set than a visitor who only visited the homepage.

“This consumer was very interested in buying something, but decided not to at the last second, perhaps to do a little more price comparison-shopping,” said Hobbs. “That should inform you to run ads that address price-matching guarantees, which will put people back into your ecommerce system so they don’t buy the competition’s product instead.”

3. Don’t be afraid to test and fail.

There’s no straight line to success, Beri said. What you thought at the outset about your product and how people use it will change daily. They key is to “fail fast” – learn from what worked and what didn’t, and keep improving on your product and business model.

Some Customer Service Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Customer service is the backbone of a successful business. It could be the difference between good reviews and repeat customers, and word getting around about negative customer experiences and people avoiding your business altogether.

Given that customer service is so important, it is valuable to know some of the most common customer service mistakes. Customer service experts lent their expertise to Business News Daily and shared how to avoid them.

The mistakes

1. Over-automation

Just because it can be automated does not meant it should be, and it also does not mean the automation will automatically translate into cost savings.

“Give them that option. Don’t force customers to use frustrating phone trees,” said Dana Brownlee, founder of consulting firm Professionalism Matters.

2. Failing to listen

Assuming you know what the customer wants, instead of listening to the customer, is a big mistake.

“Teach listening skills throughout the organization, especially to (customer service representatives),” said Brownlee. “Develop processes that ‘force’ CSRs to really listen to customers – get rid of CSR scripts.”

3. Being reactive instead of proactive

Instead of thinking about how to delight customers on the front end and avoid getting the calls, many companies fall into the reactive approach of being satisfied with somewhat mediocre products or service and thinking of customer service as something that happens on the back end when there are complaints or problems. Take time to conduct process analysis, continuous process improvement and root cause analysis to truly improve your product service.

“Require every employee to take (five) customer service calls a month to maintain connection to the customer. Incorporate customer service goals into every employee’s compensation/bonus structure,” Brownlee said.

4. Undervaluing customer service staff

It’s a shame that very often the staff members who interact with customers the most are paid and valued the least. To avoid this mistake, Brownlee said, “Hire better staff, pay them more, and reward them for providing great service.”

5. Not giving customers what they want

According to Robert C. Johnson, CEO of TeamSupport, customers want accurate answers or quick, efficient and respectful solutions, and getting that to the customer is the most important thing, even if the answer or solution is not ideal.

“Make sure the employees (who interact) with customers have access to the right information and are listening to their concerns,” Johnson said. “Ensure communication is realistic – it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver on that promise than the other way around.”

Avoiding customer service mistakes

Customer service is proving to be a vital part of a successful business. But where does it start? Employees may not know where to turn for advice on customer service, or how to get the right information.

“A culture of exceptional customer service must start at the top. It can’t be just a slide in a presentation or a cliche saying that employees are expected to follow,” Johnson said. The CEO needs to set the tone, invest in the right team members and technology, and lead by actions as well as words.

A survey conducted by Professionalism Matters also found that scripts are not the way to deal with customer service complaints. Customer service representatives need to be trained to work to resolve a customer’s specific situation, as opposed to the “if they say this, you say that” approach.

Correcting mistakes when they happen

No one is perfect. Whether due to a lack of focus, understanding, guidance or diligence, mistakes will happen.

“Sometimes we move too fast, and sometimes things just happen. At the end of the day, it’s how you recover from these mistakes that’s important,” Johnson said. “Good companies own both the good and the bad things that happen.”

The key is knowing how to rectify the situation once it has happened and making sure that the customer still receives the best customer service, despite some bumps along the way to a resolution.

Johnson suggested reaching out to the customer and owning up to the problem with empathetic and sincere communication. Formulate a response strategy, such as a timeline for communication, and execute it quickly.

It’s also critical for customer service representatives to apologize on behalf of the company immediately if the company dropped the ball in any way, Brownlee said in the Professionalism Matters survey.

“There’s nothing wrong with simply expressing regret that the customer is experiencing anguish, even if they haven’t determined yet if the company was at fault,” Brownlee said.