Accentuating the positive always seems like the right thing to do. That goes for sales, too. After all, who doesn’t want to take the high road?

The fact is, however, if you are competing with similar businesses for market share, you need to tap into the most common reasons businesses tend switch vendors or providers. And while most businesses would rather stick with one vendor over the long haul because it is less complicated, they will make a change if they feel it is worth it in the long run.

If you are talking to a prospect who currently works with one of your competitors, chances are the only way you will get this prospect to jump ship is if you tap into the reasons that business’s current situation isn’t working out. But how can you help them to see there is a problem with their current vendor without seeming like a piranha? It all comes down to asking the right questions.

Question #1: How do you like your current vendor?
It’s that simple. A prospect may be unhappy with their vendor but has never been asked whether they are or not. Allowing that prospect to put into words how they feel could make all the difference. When forced to verbalize how they perceive their current vendor they may just finally realize what that vendor lacks.

Question #2: How many vendors do you work with?
When it comes to vendors or service providers, more is not always better. In fact, it’s almost never is. People want to avoid hassles. More vendors means more invoices, different processes and more time wasted on administrative tasks. If you can offer a B2B client one solution to all of their needs, chances are they will be interested.

Question #3: How much are you paying?
A lower price isn’t always what a business is looking for but the value they receive for that price matters significantly. When you can show that what you have to offer comes at an outstanding value (not necessarily a lower price), you can win over a lot of businesses because they will realize that they aren’t getting enough for what they are paying.

When you ask prospects these three simple questions, you allow them to decide for themselves that it is time for a change. In other words, they figure out what their current vendor is lacking without you going on the attack. You simply ask them the questions that will help them come to the right conclusion.

More and more consumers are asking for personalized experiences. After all, in today’s online marketplace, people are asked to give up more personal information. Therefore, it only seems fair that they should expect this information to be used for their benefit.

Unfortunately, many businesses – especially small businesses – are at a loss when it comes to knowing how to provide these types of experiences. Further, the time, money and resources that are required to develop these types of experiences also can seem overwhelming.

The truth is, however, that creating these types of experiences don’t have to be as complicated as you might think. In fact, you may already be doing many of the things that allow you to customize the overall customer experience.

Below are some the easiest and most practical ways to offer your customers and prospects the personalized experiences they are looking for – without expending a great deal of extra time, money and manpower.

  • Targeted searches. When your customer is searching for something, quality always trumps quantity when it comes to search results. Focus less on volume and more on targeted offers.
  • Specific content. Again, more doesn’t mean better. Nothing is more impersonal than content that is merely sales copy or copy solely designed to drive a reader to a particular website. Instead, make sure your content connects, educates and inspires. Solving a problem for a customer or prospect is the ultimate personalized experience.
  • Do your research. If you aren’t conducting market research it is impossible to know what your market wants. And if you don’t know what your target audience wants you can’t give them a personalized experience. Try to hone in on specific segments of your target audience and market to these particular segments separately instead of using one broad marketing message.
  • Get interactive. Calculators, quizzes and other tools that help you engage with your target audience are more popular than ever. Further, when these tools help an individual determine a product they could use, for example, the personalization factor increases dramatically.
  • Don’t forget to be human. In many cases, the most effective personalized experiences are just that: person – to – person. Don’t get so caught up in trying to give your target audience the latest in digital technology that you fail to really get to know them on a personal level. After all, the most personalized experiences occur when your customers and prospects feel that you really want to get to know them.

If you are looking to draw more traffic to your website, organic searches are an outstanding way to do that. While chances are great that pay-per-click ads also will be a part of any truly effective marketing strategy, organic searches are an excellent tool that allows small businesses to generate qualified leads.

As a small business owner it can be difficult to know exactly how to increase organic traffic—especially when so many other businesses (with similar product offerings) are trying to do the same thing. In light of this fact, here are some important reminders small businesses should keep in mind when trying to increase organic traffic:

  1. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Many small businesses that sell to a specific target market try to water down their overall message to try to appeal to a greater number of people. This is almost always a mistake. Why? You often end up alienating the very customers and prospects who are really interested in what you have to sell. Therefore, it is always best to cater to your specific audience.
  2. People understand that they get what they pay for. If you offer the best product or service, people will be willing to pay for it. It’s that simple. Sure, there will always be those consumers who are only interested in a low price but those individuals almost never remain loyal to any business or brand. Most people are very aware that you get what you pay for and may actually be put off if your price is too low.
  3. Focus on community building. Connect and engage with customers and prospects on social media. Make sure your content always connects, educates and inspires. People may be initially attracted to your product or service because of a promotional offer, for example, but customer loyalty comes about through building long-term relationships. That is why it is important that you foster these types of relationships.

Organic marketing is not always easy and it does takes time. However, if done correctly it can have a tremendously positive effect on your bottom line. In the end, organic marketing is about building something of value that goes beyond just what you are selling. And once you create that value you can be sure that customers will keep coming back for more.

No business exists in a vacuum. If you aren’t aware of what your competition is doing at any given time it could spell big trouble for your bottom line.

While this is probably not the first time you’ve heard this advice, it can be difficult to follow. After all, running a business takes a lot of time and energy. Further, even if you really want to keep tabs on the competition, it can be difficult to know exactly how to do that.

If you are wondering how exactly to track what your competition is doing so that you can stay one step ahead of them, we have some simple tips to help you out.

  1. Jump on their website. What are your competitors selling, how much are they selling it for and is it something that you should sell but don’t? Are your competitors offering discounts and promotions that seem to be working especially well? How does their landing page look? Is it easy to navigate? A competitor’s website is a treasure trove of information.
  2. Do a keyword search. Who is coming up when you perform a search with words your customers and prospects are likely to use when looking for you. If your competitors show up on the first page of search results but you don’t then it’s time to up your SEO game.
  3. Follow them on social media. If your competition has a large following you can better understand why that it is when you peruse their social media sites. It also will help you to get a glimpse of how they interact with customers and prospects.
  4. Make a purchase. Wonder what the customer experience is like for a customer of another brand? Become a customer and you’ll get the answer. Along those same lines, give their customer service line a call. Find out how they handle questions or complaints to discover if you could be doing things better.
  5. Attend tradeshows. Visit competitors’ booths and see what they have to say and how they are presenting that information to prospects. Tradeshows also are often the place where new initiatives are launched so you can get those details first hand.

Keeping a close eye on the competition will help you understand how your competitors are able to succeed. It also will give you some ideas on how you can better promote your products and services and interact with customers and prospects.

Are you selling a product or marketing your business? Did you know there is a difference? If you aren’t sure what you are-or should be-doing, you aren’t alone.

Running a business take a lot of time and energy. Getting the name out about your product or services may seem like something that you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time on. After all, if you have a great product or service and outstanding customer service, people should flock to you, correct? At most, you should only have to run a few radio ads or send out some emails to get the attention of would-be customers.

The truth is, you need to sell and market your business. Think of it like this: When you sell something you talk about benefits. For example, if you sell home siding, you talk about how great that siding is-durable, energy efficient, etc. To market your siding you tell the consumer how much better their life will be when they buy your siding. They won’t have to worry about maintenance and their house will be more comfortable because siding it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

But how do you know what prospective customers believe will make their lives easier? How do you know what to say to convince them that durable siding is something they can’t live without? The answer is simple. You listen to them. Sometimes what customers tell you won’t make sense, sometimes it won’t seem practical, but they know what they want so they are always right.

While selling is pretty straightforward, marketing involves measuring results. If your marketing campaign is working, you are gaining more customers and your current customers are buying more (although it is important to remember that even the most effective marketing efforts will take time). The key is to gage the performance of your marketing campaign over time. How much interest did it generate? That is the most important factor.

Finally, if your marketing efforts are paying off in the form of new customers, be sure and reward those customers. Satisfied customers are always your best salespeople. A lot of has changed in the world of marketing but when it comes to selling, nothing works better than word-of-mouth advertising.

Much is made about the importance of identifying a qualified lead. Equally important, however, is deciding whether a lead is a dead-end.
If you want to meet your sales quota, it is important that you spend time on leads that are likely to make a purchase. Unfortunately, many leads that have no intention of buying can suck up a lot of your time. That’s because these leads talk a lot about buying without having any intention of doing so.

In order to identify leads that are all talk but no action, we’ve come up with nine surefire ways to pinpoint leads that are likely nothing but time-wasters. And once you identify them, you will be free to concentrate on leads with real potential.

  1. Conduct background checks. Find out exactly who the lead is and if they fit into your target audience. If they don’t fit your criteria, go no further.
  2. Find out what their problem is. Ask the lead what problem your company can solve. If there isn’t one, you can bet there won’t be a sale, either.
  3. Ask about their budget. If your product or service costs more than their budget allows, it’s time to move along.
  4. Discover what they think your company can do for them. If a lead has an unrealistic view of what you can do for them, things aren’t going to work out.
  5. Ask about the competition. Serious leads are likely getting a variety of bids or checking out different companies. If you are the only one they have approached this is a red flag.
  6. Identify the decision maker. If you are not talking to a decision maker ask if you can, if the answer is no, there’s no point in pursing this lead.
  7. Get an address. If a lead is located outside your service area it’s time to move along.
  8. Check their level of engagement. If a lead is really interested in your company or service, they likely would have visited your website or connected with you on social media. If they haven’t, you can bet that they aren’t that into you.
  9. Consider how easy they are to follow up with. If you can’t get in touch with a lead after the initial contact (despite a few good attempts), it is probably best to move on. If they were really interested, they wouldn’t be avoiding you.

While you don’t want to discount a lead that may convert into a sale, neither do you want to waste your time on a dead-end lead. While being too picky may seem like a bad thing, being specific about what types of leads to pursue will pay off in the long run.

Many businesses are using content marketing to promote their business online. This is no surprise given the many ways these businesses can use content marketing to leverage their brand. From allowing a business to be seen as thought leader in their industry to capturing leads to building brand loyalty, content marketing is the name of the game.

Unfortunately, your business is not the only one that knows this. As a result, your target audience is relentlessly being bombarded with online messages. So how is a business to stand out? What follows are three strategies to help you get noticed and stand out from the crowd.

1. Know your audience. You must do more than just create content. Make no mistake, posting content that doesn’t connect with your target audience is as pointless as not posting any content at all. Think of it this way: Is your content entertaining? Great. But is it entertaining to your specific target audience? It better be or it won’t do a thing for your business. Does your content tell stories that your target audience wants to hear? Does it solve the problems your target audience is experiencing? If the answer to these questions is no, then your content is nothing but clutter your target audience will tune out. What’s worse, your target audience will come to see your business as a nuisance they want to avoid.

2. Think in terms of maximum engagement. Is your content merely consumed by your target audience? If so, it’s not doing its job. Your content must be easily shared but it needs to go a step further. It must be likely to be shared. You can include a million share buttons but if your content is not viewed as something that inspires readers to bring to the attention of others, that content has a very limited shelf-life (never a good thing in the world of content marketing ). You also must make sure your content does not exist in a silo. Repurpose your content so it fits different platforms. This includes everything from blogs to social media to email marketing. Your content’s reach should be far and wide.

3. Beware of content overload. It goes without saying that quality trumps quantity. However, your content needs to be more than just high quality. It must be something your target audience not just wants to read but feels that they have to read. This type of remarkable content not only breaks through the clutter, it is something your readers anxiously wait for because it is that significant and helpful.

Content marketing has proven itself invaluable to businesses competing for attention online. As a result, the stakes are higher than ever to break through the noise that surrounds it.

If you are a business owner wondering whether you should concentrate more on digital marketing or more traditional marketing methods, you are not alone. Many businesses today are asking the same question.

You may be surprised to learn, however, that choosing one of these methods over another is almost never a good idea. Instead, the name of the game is marketing integration.

While digital marketing seems to be all the rage, most marketers agree that if they are looking for the highest quality leads they will find those leads using decidedly traditional marketing techniques. In other words, at tradeshows, networking events and industry conferences.

That doesn’t mean you won’t need digital forms of marketing. While you may find some outstanding leads working a tradeshow, the best way to nurture many leads is through social media or other digital marketing methods. If you are interested in marrying digital and traditional marketing but are unsure how to do it, here are five simple ideas that will get you started.

  1. Parlay a TV ad into online exposure. A consumer will only see a television ad for 30 seconds but adding a digital call-to-action will keep viewers engaged in the long-term. This can be accomplished by encouraging viewers to go to your website, for example, to learn more about your product or to access special offers.
  2. While online shopping continues to skyrocket in popularity, more and more people are comparison shopping online and then making their final purchase in a physical store. Providing coupons online that allow shoppers to save in-store combines the virtual and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences. If you are trying to drive traffic to your website, make sure to have printed collaterals in your store that encourages shoppers to check you out online.
  3. Turn information collected online over to your sales team so that they can use this information to follow up leads with a phone call or personal note.
  4. If you are hosting an event at your place of business consider live video streams for those who can’t attend. You also can promote the event on your social media sites before they happen and post photos afterward.
  5. Make sure your print materials use keyword phrases that compliment your SEO strategy.

Whatever your marketing goals, it is important that you never view digital and traditional marketing as an either-or proposition. Instead use them together to engage customers in a more holistic manner.

Blogging can do wonders for a business. Driving traffic to its website and converting that traffic into leads are just two important benefits of blogging. Blogging also helps a business become seen as a thought leader in its industry which helps establish trust with current and prospective customers.

While it is easy to see why blogging is so important to a business, blogging itself can be much more difficult. Many times it isn’t the blogging itself that causes issues, rather the ability to come up with blog topics over and over. In order for blogging to successfully promote your business, it must be done on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, coming up with new and fresh ideas can be extremely challenging.

If you feel as if you have hit a wall in terms of blog post topics, rest easy. What follows is a list of ways to spark your creative juices and have you back at the keyboard in no time.

1. Ask questions. These questions don’t have to be profound. Next time you are talking with a client just ask that client what his or her biggest challenge is right now. And customers aren’t the only ones you can get ideas from, either.

2. Interview experts. People love to read interviews with leaders in their industry who have been successful. Interviews are great blogs because you don’t have to come up with the content, the interviewee does that for you.

3. Brainstorm. It seems simple but how many times have you asked your co-workers and sales team to sit with you for a few minutes and just throw out ideas. You might be surprised at how many topics you gain from such meetings. Bring donuts and the room will be packed!

4. Use personal experience. Think of a time when you learned an important lesson from a failure. Or when you stuck with an idea no one else believed in and it paid off. These types of blog posts make for great reading because they personalize the author.

5. Spy on your competitors. What are your biggest competitors writing about? If they are getting a lot of likes on their blog posts see if there is anything you could learn from their methods or topics.

6. Keep up on current events. This is a great way to write timely and creative blog posts. Sporting events are a good example. How about a post on how hiring employees is like preparing for the NBA draft.

7. Take a look back. What were your most popular blog posts? Consider updating those posts or expanding on them. Chances are they will be popular once again.

Blogging can be difficult but is essential to the success of your business. Hopefully the ideas listed above will make the task of blogging a little easier.

If you are looking for the best ways to market your small business, you need to know what the latest trends in marketing are right now. The problem is, it can be difficult to distinguish an important trend from a passing fad.

While you want to be on top of the latest trends, you also must be aware of what really works. Usually the answer is a combination of the hot new trends and the more tried-and-true methods. It also is important to remember that what is hot today may not be hot tomorrow.

So what is hot today? According to many marketing experts, in 2017 the following marketing techniques will gain small businesses the most traction with customers and prospects.

  1. Quality Blog Posts: Not only will a quality blog aid your SEO efforts, it will help you acquire new leads. While it is important that you update your blog on a regular basis, quality always trumps quantity so make your blog posts worth reading. In other words, every blog needs to connect, educate and inspire.
  2. Social Media Advertising: Targeted ads can do wonders when it comes to acquiring qualified leads. Facebook is one example of a social media site that allows businesses to specify what audience a specific ad will reach. These ads also allow a business to track the specific behaviors of its target audience and then tailor its efforts in light of this information.
  3. Mobile Marketing: Mobile marketing has been all the rage for some time and it shows no signs of slowing. No matter how aware you are of the importance of mobile marketing, you might be surprised to learn that 98 percent of text messages are opened. Add to that fact that 95 percent of Americans use a mobile device and it is easy to see that mobile marketing must remain a top priority for businesses.
  4. Live Streaming: While visuals have always been an important part of marketing, live streaming is becoming the go-to method of getting noticed online. With more than 100 million hours of video viewed every day online, live video is one of the hottest marketing techniques out there.
  5. Email Marketing: Many businesses are turning their attention from their email marketing efforts but this can be a costly mistake. Considering that more than 90 percent of consumers say they want to receive promotional emails and it’s no surprise that email marketing remains an outstanding marketing strategy.

What is hot this year may not be hot next year. But as a marketer you must keep up with what speaks to consumers at this very moment.