Visitor Guide 2016


    Mitchell Chamber Blog
    Mitchell Chamber Blog
    Sharing news, connecting businesses, and enhancing the business environment in Mitchell, SD.
    8:20 AM

    4 Fun Crowdsourcing Ideas for Your Business

    When people participate in something, they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility to see it succeed. That’s one of the reasons why it’s a good strategy to involve customers, and potential customers, in crowdsourcing parts of your business.

    Ever notice all the food manufacturing companies that run contests to help them pick the next flavor? That’s crowdsourcing. What about magazines that run “Cutest Baby” contests through social media voting? Crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing gets people excited about outcomes and they’re more willing to put resources (time and money) into it. If you’ve been considering crowdsourcing, here are a few fun ideas to get your audience more engaged.

    Create an Insiders Group
    Many companies use their buyer persona to target people fitting that persona through social media. They ask them to join an insiders or advisers group. This gives members special access to the company and they serve as an informal R&D group.

    While you may not need something as large as that, selecting a question and throwing it out there on social media for voting can still drive interest. For instance, thinking about staying open later to accommodate the after-work crowd? Ask people what your hours should be. If someone tells you they wish you’d be open later so they could come after work, chances are if you change your hours to accommodate “their” wishes, they will patronize you, especially if you point it out to them.

    Get the Kids Involved
    This idea came from a program called MyMachine. In MyMachine, elementary school children created “dream machines” that were then vetted by college-level design students. Finally, high school tech students designed prototypes so the kids could see their dream become a reality.

    Crowdsourcing that involves kids is a brilliant marketing idea because, let’s be completely transparent here, most parents like to brag about their children and with social media, there’s no end to the reach they can have. If you create a crowdsource contest or idea and you involve children in some public manner, their parents will become the largest social media ambassadors you have and will drive more traffic to your site than you can imagine. Get the word out and they’ll flock to you.

    Find the Right Words
    If you’re not a wordsmith and don’t want to pay a marketing firm for your next tag line, crowdsource it. Create a contest to find your next message. It’s easy and can be a lot of fun. You can also do this same thing with your logo design or mascot. If you’re concerned about what you might get and are worried you’ll have to use one of them, have a firm give you 3-5 ideas, present them to your audience, and ask them to vote. 

    Create a Users’ Group
    If your customer base is large enough and there’s skill involved in using your product, you might want to consider a users’ group. User groups are the ultimate crowdsourcing platform. People are crowdsourcing customer service and assistance for you. To do this you need a platform (an online community) and you need to approach power users in your audience to act as gurus and answer questions. You can also have a member of your staff in the community to seed questions and answers. No one ever wants to be the first person to ask.


    There are a few things to keep in mind before launching any sort of crowdsourcing activity. Crowdsourcing requires very little investment outside of time and it’s a great way to get people involved and understand your customer better. However, even the founders of this country understood the danger of direct democracy when they instituted the electoral college.

    Island Records learned the hard way when they decided to crowdsource a concert tour for Justin Bieber and the crowd voted to send him to North Korea. Never place anything in the hands of the crowd that you don’t want them to have a say in. Some people enjoy the joke and the power too much. If you’re worried your target demographic might be surly and unpredictable, you can limit the choices. That way your Bieber won’t end up in North Korea.

    Photo credit via Graphic Stock

    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    8:20 AM

    The ROI in Giving Back as a Small Business Owner

    Before you say you have no time to give back, or before you grumble about already doing it, this is not your typical post telling you that you need to give back to people who support you in your community. Instead, this article encourages you to give back as a small business owner based of what you will get. These benefits are all about you and your business, a return on your investment of time. Here’s why you should think about giving back:

    Free Resources Reduce Tire Kickers and Shorten the Sales Cycle
    Giving back doesn’t mean hours of volunteerism, although it can if you’re so inclined; but there is something you’re likely already doing for your business that will help you build a loyal audience of customers who turn to you as an expert. Content marketing, and giving away your knowledge for free, increase sales and build your reputation as a leader in the industry.

    It has another (secret) added benefit. It decreases the number of tire kickers your sales people have to deal with by helping people self-qualify. They have easy access to becoming an informed consumer and once they approach you to buy your service or product, they know they want it. An educated buyer shortens your sales cycle and frees up your sales people as your sales people will then work with more “sure things” and less “maybes.”  

    Mentees Yield Strong Connections
    Another way to get involved in your local community that pays off for your business is taking part in a mentor program. There are a number of options from Junior Achievement-type groups to a formal mentorship program through the chamber. You can even contact your local college that has a major in your area of expertise and offer your services as a mentor.

    Millennials have a strong interest in mentorship. Many want to have their own businesses someday. As a small business owner you have a lot to give.

    But they also have a lot to give back to you. Building a relationship with a mentee not only gives you another perspective and can help you in marketing to their generation, but adds a younger demographic to your network that can help you find interested interns and entry-level employees.

    Presentations Increase Word of Mouth Marketing
    There are numerous groups within your community looking for cheap (aka free) speakers for their organizations. These include associations, school groups, PTAs, chambers, and other membership organizations. They are tasked with being a resource for their audience as well and they can’t do it alone.

    While most won’t allow you to give a sales-y presentation, many do appreciate your knowledge and expertise and will give you a small plug at the end by allowing you to give out your contact information. This is a great marketing opportunity for you. You are presented as an industry expert and you have a roomful of people in a semi-captive situation during your presentation. No other form of marketing can say that.

    If you make a great impression, people will talk about what they learned from you. Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful tools you have in your marketing arsenal.  

    A Takeaway for Giving Back
    As actor Kevin Spacey once said, “If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.” While giving back is the right thing to do, there’s also value in it for your business. By giving potential customers the resources they need to make an educated decision, and by helping tomorrow’s leaders get started on their dreams, you’ll help them and they’ll help you.


    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    8:25 AM

    Does My Business Need Brand Ambassadors and How Do I Get Them?

    Some business owners think brand ambassadors are only for large companies with mass appeal, like Coca-Cola or Nike; ones that have huge outreach, alluring to organized groups like mommy or fitness bloggers.

    But that’s not the case.

    Any size business can benefit from a group of loyal customers who sing its praises. You just need to know how to motivate them and give them something to talk about.

    Steps to Creating a Successful Brand Ambassadors Program
    1.   Decide What You Want
    As with most marketing strategies, you want to figure out your goals. Are you looking for more shares on social media? Do you want people who will try your new products or services and talk about them with their friends? Do you want to increase reviews on online sites? You need to know what it is that you want from them before you start recruiting.

    2.   Know Who You Want
    Your brand ambassadors will represent your company, so give careful thought as to who you want that to be. They should represent your ideal customer. One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is in believing that being all things to all people will mean more sales. Drilling down to your ideal customer is a much more effective approach because you can talk directly to them and their challenges.

    Selecting the wrong demographic for your ambassadors can minimize sales. For instance, if you’re trying to create a very on-trend teen brand, using middle-aged mom brand ambassadors won’t match your brand. It may inspire more moms to want to foot the bill for your fashions, but it will mean less teens want to wear them.

    3.   Recruit Based on Goals
    How you recruit brand ambassadors is based largely on your goals. For instance, you’ll recruit bloggers by reaching out directly to influencers who match your ideal customers. An idea for mass recruitment is to run contests or sweepstakes to be part of the ambassadors’ group. Creating exclusivity around it will increase sign-ups.

    If you have a small, relatively unknown business reach out to your most loyal customers and let them know you’re putting together an exclusive group and you’d like them to be a part. Be specific about what’s in it for them such as special member preview sales, discounts, swag, etc.

    4.   Provide Frictionless Ways to Help Them Do What You Ask
    Whatever it is you’re asking them to do, make it easy on them. If it’s a social media ambassador program, give them a content round-up of your most popular content, making it easy for them to share to their networks. If it’s blogger outreach you’re doing, give them exclusive opportunities to review new services or products ahead of everyone else.

    5.   Give Them Something Too
    You don’t want your brand ambassador program to turn into a pay-to-play situation. That’s not ethical and doesn’t sit well with an audience knowing there was an exchange of goods and services for whatever they’re providing you. However, since they are doing you a favor, you should find ways to delight them as well. For instance, send them special “insider” swag. Comment on and circulate their content. Make an introduction that you know will be of use to them. Find little ways to increase their loyalty by being a good business “friend.”

    Why All Businesses Need Brand Ambassadors
    Brand ambassadors can provide an amazing service to any size business because word-of-mouth marketing is among the most powerful kind. People believe other customers, even if they’ve never met them. A successful brand ambassadors program can increase customer loyalty, but only if you meet their needs as well. Having a team of ambassadors should never be solely about your business. Give them reason to want to help you by helping them.


    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    8:15 AM

    6 Things You'll Miss Out On If You Don't Improve Your Business Content

    Google wants content.

         You want customers.

              Customers come through Google.

                   What does that tell you about content?

    In order to get more customers you need good content.

    Not good in your eyes but valuable in the eyes of your prospective and current customers. Google can’t ask each of your customers what they think about your offerings so instead it looks at things it can measure like:

    ·         Page shares

    ·         Likes

    ·         Time on page

    ·         Number of pages visited and many other super-secret things it won’t share with us

    Google has even told us content is important. Check out its advice on creating quality content.

    The simplest way to understand the importance of quality content comes from Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, in an article he wrote for the Content Marketing Institute:

    “Content quality is important because Google thinks it’s important.”

    If you’re not creating quality content, or content that others value, you won’t get found. If you cut off this way of attracting potential customers, here’s what you’re losing:

    Educated Customers
    Often by the time people find your business, they’ve done a little Internet exploring (techie pun intended) on their own. They are aware of what they want and what’s out there. This saves time in your sales process.

    If you can attract customers who have already done their homework they’re further down the sales funnel, which means a quicker conversion and less drain on your sales resources. If you’re not placing your business in their buying path, you’re losing out.

    Organic Referrals from Google
    If you refuse to provide what Google says it takes to be successful, you’re cutting off a major revenue stream. For many businesses Google referrals make up between 60-70% of the organic referral traffic. That’s a lot of missed conversions.

    Cheap Paid Referrals
    In an ironic twist, Google gives preferred pricing for its paid campaigns to companies that rank highly in its organic rankings. If you create inferior content, or no content at all, you’ll rank in the bottom of their organic referrals.

    Some companies figure they’ll just pay to place. That’s a fine strategy except Google will penalize you and your costs will be much higher than those who play according to Google’s suggestions of providing good content. Plus, very few people trust paid placements the way they do organic listings.

    Without content, you lack shares. Very few people will share your web copy, even if it’s brilliant, because it’s about you not something a vast majority of their followers will find valuable. Face it. That’s why people share, to be of value to others – to make them laugh, to inspire them, to educate them, or get them to see their viewpoint. The chance of your web copy doing that is very slim. Your blog, on the other hand, could be a perfect source for shares.

    Often businesses attract customers through the tone and culture of their business that is shared through content. People do business with people, not entities. Content is a way to connect with your potential customers. People fast-forward commercials, ignore ads, and listen to their own playlists sans interruption. You can no longer get in front of their face on your terms. It must be on theirs. Creating interesting content is an effective way to do that.

    Cheap Research and Development
    If you ever thought about launching a new product or service and you reached out to a firm that handles polling or public opinion, you know how expensive that can be. If you’ve taken the time to build a community of followers through good content, you can ask them their opinion directly on anything from new branding to a new product line.

    You get free advice from people who are already following you because they like your brand and they feel more engaged because you are taking the time to ask their opinion. People feel invested in that which they helped create.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking content takes time you don’t have or can’t afford. Can you afford to go without the things mentioned above? Only of your pockets run deep, and even that will only get you so far in the referral economy.

    Photo: © GraphicStock

    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to get more customers through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Managers Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    8:41 AM

    How to Stay Safe Online

    Cyber security is becoming such a big deal even the politicians are talking about it. According to the FBI, billions of dollars are lost every year with cases of cyber crime. Often small businesses are underrepresented in these types of statistics because crimes against them go unreported. A decade ago, cyber criminals were working on those with deep pockets but today’s cyber menace looks for low-hanging fruit – businesses without adequate security measures. If you want to avoid becoming a victim in your business, there are a few things you need to do:

    Beware of Ransomware
    Ransomware is one of the FBI’s major concerns. It’s a form of insidious malware that encrypts and locks your files. This form of electronic extortion demands payment from the victim to unlock the files.

    There’s very little that can be done outside of paying the ransom or using a restore point to reinstall your data, assuming you have a backup. Which brings us to the most important point – backup your files. If you have a good current backup you needn’t give in to these criminals.

    Most of ransomware comes from user error when someone clicks on an email link. Since ransomware often doesn’t immediately show up, an employee can infect your entire network without knowing.

    Educate Your Employees
    If you’re a one-person shop, you need only educate yourself on the dangers of the Interwebs but if you employ others and they bring their own devices to work and use your company network, you need to bring them up to speed on cyber security best practices immediately such as not clicking on questionable links (and educating them on what “questionable links” can look like. Cyber criminals have become a lot more cunning and a lot better at mimicking emails from popular brands. Some even pose as the IRS) and installing updates.

    Perform Updates
    Companies like Microsoft spend a lot of money on updates so you can be sure they’re valuable. Most of the time they’re patching a security risk. Many people simply read over the new features or bug fixes and decide whether they want to install them or not based on those things. What they don’t realize is that “out-of-date” software increases your risk of being hacked. As inconvenient as applying an update may feel, recovering from a cyber attack or breach in security is a lot more so.

    Limit Activities on Public WiFi
    If you want to check Facebook while you’re at the airport using their free WiFi, go ahead. If you have a sudden desire to check your bank account on a public WiFi, fight it. If you travel often and you deal with a lot of secure information (or what should be) invest in your own hotspot or use a VPN. Don’t use public WiFi for confidential information, even if only for a moment to check a balance.

    Use Hover Overs
    As mentioned earlier scam emails are becoming more sophisticated in design and appearance. Clicking on an email link can place your entire network at risk. Before clicking on an email, hover over the link to see the address. If it’s an email from a reputable business like Amazon or Yahoo you can be assured it will be linking to or If you have questions about it being legitimate, close out of the email and contact the company directly. One other thing, the IRS never sends emails.

    Use Strong Passwords and Be Selfish
    Don’t use passwords that are easily guessed from public information. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and characters when allowed. Try not to share passwords between multiple sites or people. Also, if asked a security question from your account, don’t use real answers. Again, many of these could be a matter of public record or easily ascertained through social media. Yes, cyber criminals are not above stalking you for information. It’s better to use the security question and make up your own answer. Just make sure you can remember it since it’s a work of fiction.

    Don’t write passwords down or keep them electronically in a Word document labeled “passwords.” Whenever possible use a two-step authentication process for logging in. The chances of that being hacked are a lot less than a single sign-on.

    A Final Word about Staying Safe on the Internet
    As a small business owner, one of the most important things you can do to safeguard your company’s future is to take care of security vulnerabilities today. Not only can cyber criminals steal valuable information from your operation but once they have it is very difficult to regain the trust of your customers. Invest the time and money to educate yourself today or invest in working with someone who can help. It’s the one thing your customers will never thank you for but it means the world to them.   


    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Associations North (formerly Midwest Society of Association Executives’) Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    8:15 AM

    5 Ways to a Better Bedtime Routine

    What does your bedtime routine have to do with the success of your business? Plenty. Every time you use everything you have on a given day and you’re exhausted beyond belief, and then you short yourself essential sleep, you’re borrowing from tomorrow’s success. It’s impossible to give tomorrow your all when you’re exhausted, so establishing a healthy bedtime routine is essential to the health of your business. Here’s how you can do it:

    Know Yourself
    I’m going to go against today’s push led by Arianna Huffington and the early to bed, “sleep eight hours” army. You must listen to your body in order to establish a better bedtime routine. Some people need 9-10 hours of sleep. Winston Churchill preferred a biphasic sleep where he slept for a few hours each night (usually from 3 am to 8 am) and again in the afternoon for two hours. Thomas Edison saw sleep as a waste of time and practiced a polyphasic sleep schedule sleeping for 30 minutes to an hour every four to five hours. Leonardo Da Vinci did the same. Figure out what makes you feel most rested and commit to that type of sleep schedule.

    Kill the Electronics
    Most sleep gurus will tell you that you need at least one hour before bed that is electronic free. This is because of the blue light stimulating your brain and disturbing sleep. Again, the electronics ban is something that is largely personal. Does checking your emails before bed cause you anxiety or does it allow you to feel more in control of what you’re facing tomorrow morning? Are you a light sleeper who is disturbed if someone sighs next to you or can you sleep with a freight train in your home? It’s important to note, the light from a train is incredibly disturbing, a lot more than a cell phone, although I haven’t seen the studies. But if you’re having issues falling asleep or staying asleep, try instituting the electronics ban an hour before bed and charge those electronics somewhere outside of your bedroom.

    Do Something You Enjoy
    Instead of using electronics right before bed, do a quiet activity you enjoy. You can read, meditate, work on word puzzles, take a hot bath, snuggle with your kids or a hundred other activities that can help signify to your brain that the day is ending. Some business owners prefer to review their day, congratulating themselves on their wins and putting together a new game plan to conquer their challenges. But don’t let this daily review cause you anxiety. If it does, turn it back to celebrating the good things that happened and enjoy the feeling of being grateful for what you and your team accomplished.

    By doing the same activity every night, your mind will begin to understand what the activity signals – impending sleep. Psychologists tell you to establish a sleep routine for your child. The consistency and predictability are relaxing. It works that way for adults too.

    Think Happy Thoughts
    Nothing kills sleep faster than anxiety and reviewing all the things that went wrong in the day or everything you have to do tomorrow. Stop it. Instead, practice mental control. If an anxious thought comes into your head, envision yourself holding it in your hand and then blowing it away like a dandelion seed. Then think about something that brings you great joy and only think about the joy aspect. For instance, your children may bring you joy and you may start thinking about them but then your thoughts quickly erode into how angry they made you today or how you let them down as a parent.

    If you need to, “transport” you and your children to a happier place, like a family vacation that hasn’t occurred yet. Your happy place doesn’t have to be real. Your focus is on the happiness so whatever brings you that can set your mind at ease enough to gently drift away to sleep.

    Try Music
    This is another personal suggestion as some people find music very distracting when trying to sleep. But there are sites like (and music sites like Amazon) that play sounds, not traditional music. These “songs” are created by artificial intelligence with the insights of auditory neurologists. They’re designed to induce deep relaxation in about fifteen minutes.

    Final Words on Getting Some Rest
    The quest for sleep is one that eludes many successful business people, but it’s extremely critical to your abilities to running a successful venture. A lack of sleep can severely impair your problem solving and decision-making capabilities.

    The key to establishing a better bedtime routine is to do what works for you. If eight hours of sleep leaves you feeling groggy, try other sleep schedules until you find one where you feel refreshed. Use sounds or a fixed bedtime routine/activity to signify to your mind that it’s time for rest. Finally, if none of this is working get a professional opinion. You could have a life-threatening condition called sleep apnea or extreme anxiety, which could be contributing to your inability to find sleep and stay asleep.

    Finding a sleep solution is critical to your success in business. Stop borrowing energy from tomorrow. Create what you need today.  


    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager Blog.

    She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

    8:25 AM

    Is 2017 The Year to Simplify Your Business?

    There’s a lot of talk about making life easier–getting rid of clutter, buying less, not making things so complicated. We carry around a powerful multi-tasker that takes pictures, does our banking, keeps us on schedule, and makes phone calls. Some people are even moving to 300 square feet homes to minimize the things in their lives.

    Yes, simple is in. But is it time to simplify your business?

    The answer is probably yes.

    The Benefits of Simplification
    One of the most common examples in simplification in business is lean manufacturing or operating in a lean environment, with little excess.

    But simplifying can also be done by limiting your offerings as did McDonald's. When the McDonald brothers came to Ray Kroc to buy eight milkshake makers and told him the original idea for their restaurant, Kroc wrote that it was a “…radically different kind of operation, a restaurant stripped down to the minimum of service and menu.” This was back before the McRib and salads. He went on to write, “…When I saw it working that day in 1954, I felt like some latter-day Newton who had just had an Idaho potato caromed off his skull.”

    When things are easy, more people will adopt them and because the learning curve is minimal people will stay with the product.  Steve Jobs and crew did this in eliminating buttons, employing a swipe, and streamlining design in Apple’s i-products.

    Simplification is also a way to differentiate your business in a crowded market like Frontier Airlines does. They offer bare-bones airline travel for people who don’t want to pay for all the extras in their ticket.

    Sometimes businesses simplify pricing and require willing customers to take on some of the “cost.” Aldi grocery stores does this by not supplying free grocery bags (you can pay for them), requiring customers to bag themselves, and charging a quarter to “rent” a grocery cart to entice people to return carts to the cart corral. In return, customers get the lowest prices without cutting coupons.  


    Ways to Simplify Your Business for Greater Return
    Maybe simplifying your menu or creating the new swipe isn’t a possibility for you but here are a couple of ideas for the new year. You could simplify: 

    Who You Serve
    Don’t try to serve everyone. Think about a niche and how you might become the best in serving that group. It may be a lot easier to be at the top of a niche than the general market and you’ll be more valuable to that industry because you will understand them and be one of the few who does. Personalization is now an expectation of customers and specializing in a niche is a great way to accomplish that.

    Your Pricing
    You could rework pricing to service a special group just as Aldi targets the thrifty shopper. Where can you cut costs and pass the discounts on to the customer? Are there any areas where they might be willing to take on some of the work like the McDonalds brothers did with a lower price menu and no waitress service. Or you could look to changing your pricing to the other end enticing luxury buyers and bundling things together knowing that they’ll pay extra to have a one-stop shop or service, handling what they need for them.

    Your Technology
    Taking all aspects of your business to the cloud can mean a reduction in costs with better security and fewer worries over lost data. It also helps employees (and customers, if fitting) reach information from anywhere they have an Internet connection.

    Want more suggestions about simplifying? Try these ideas from Entrepreneur magazine.

    A Final Word About Simplification
    Often simplification cuts costs and with less moving parts there’s less to go wrong. However, when choosing how you will simplify your business, there is a difference between simplification and placing all of your eggs in one basket.


    Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect to their audience through content for higher conversions and greater loyalty. Her articles have appeared in Associations North (formerly Midwest Society of Association Executives’) Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager Blog.

    Christina’s an introvert who loves presenting and working with groups to help improve their storytelling and content marketing, yet she feels incredibly awkward at cocktail parties.

    8:31 AM

    10 Easy Ways to Increase Sales

    One of the most obvious ways to boost revenue in your business is to make more sales. Here are ten ways you can start doing that today:

    1. Do You Have A Sales Strategy?
    Most businesses think they have a strategy, but they don’t. 

    Now is a good time to develop one.  You need to consider who your ideal customer is and what are the products and services that provide the best return for you. 

    The sales strategy should be a brief one-page roadmap that encapsulates:

    • what you want to sell
    • who you are going to sell to
    • where you are going to sell
    • how you are going to sell
    • when you are going to sell 

    Keep it simple and keep referring back to it.

    2. Are You Missing Opportunities?
    You could best sum this approach up as ‘preach to the converted’. Your current customers are likely an excellent source for new business.  You may have a product or service that they may not know about that might suit their business.  Essentially, the first port of call should be the clients that have already bought from your business.

    3. Back to Basics
    Chambers mentor businesses that have sales issues all of the time.  Oftentimes the problem is businesses have veered from their target market and fail to realise it. 

    Take an honest look at what your market is and where you are at the moment.  If sales are not at a level that you would like you might need to ask yourself some tough questions such as ‘Have I focused too much on one sector of my business?’ or ‘Have I deviated from my sales strategy and forgotten about my target market?’. 

    The second question is quite a common question.  In struggling economies many businesses survive by ‘throwing everything at it.’

    But the economy is largely picking up now. It’s time to assess the business and get back to selling the right products to the right customers.

    4. Customer is King
    Simon & Garfunkel knew this 45 years ago when they sang ‘Keep the Customer Satisfied’.  In an age when almost anything can be bought or sold online at any time of the day or night by anyone, the need for excellent customer service has never been greater. 

    Some businesses have built their reputations on looking after generations of families.  Your business can do that too by ensuring that staff are properly trained and that customers get consistent excellent service every time that they deal with your business.

    5. The Price is Right
    Have you considered how your product or service is priced?  What research have you carried out to make sure that it is competitively priced and that overheads and margin are factored in?  It is very easy to sell too cheaply just as it is very easy to end up broke.

    6. Be Ruthless
    What you are not selling is as important as what you are selling.  Take a look at the products or services that are simply glued to the shelves and get rid of them. 

    Don’t be reluctant to retire certain products or services.  One of the secrets to success is being able to detach yourself from the emotion of a business decision.  If something is not selling don’t stock it and don’t waste money marketing it.

    7. Open Your Eyes
    The first quarter is a very good time to take a look at what your competitors are doing. It is also an excellent time to look at similar businesses in different geographical areas to see how they are trading and to see if lessons can be learned. 

    8. Raise Awareness
    You know all about your business, as does your family, but never presume that your target audience does.  Think about how you how can market your business.  Go back to your sales strategy in point 1 and identify your ideal customers and then target them where they are.

    9. Look the Part
    When was the last time you looked at your branding?  Branding isn’t just a logo or a website. It is everything from an auto signature on an email to letterhead to company vehicles.  There are more options available now to help you to get your branding right.  There are countless examples of how you can carry out a brand audit online.

    10. Stay in Shape
    Just as much as the New Year provokes people to get back in physical shape, the first quarter should also be a time when you identify training needs and areas for professional improvement. 

    There’s a good chance your local chamber can help you with training through networking and other learning-based events.  They are also a great resource on what your community offers.

    Every company needs sales to be successful. In order to do so sales and marketing strategies should be reviewed periodically to ensure they are the most effective for your business. Adjusting your tack every so often is the best way to stay on course.

     © Can Stock Photo Inc. / olivier26

    Brian Cleary is the Chief Executive of Clonmel Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest business services organizations in Ireland. He’s also the past director of Chambers Ireland. He writes for a number of online publications and is a regular co-presenter of the 'Small Business Show' a syndicated radio program broadcast on a number of stations throughout Ireland and available as a podcast.