Tag Archive for 'Sales'

How Nate Silver Can Save Your Business

On election eve, every media outlet was talking about how close the Obama-Romney race would be. Not Nate Silver. He had been steadily raising Obama’s probability to win every day leading up to the election. Even as Fox News was covering the election, Karl Rove was claiming that Romney will pull close or even win, the numbers he was looking at told him so. At that point Silver had Obama as a 90+% lock to win. When it was all said and done, Obama won by 126 electoral votes and the guy with the numbers, not the ideology, looked like a genius.

Why had the rest of the media gotten it so wrong? For the same reason so many business owners get it so wrong – we only want to listen to the numbers we want to listen to. Nate Silver is a numbers guy, he processes all the numbers he gets. The media sees a left leaning poll and a right leaning poll and they will give more credence to whichever one supports their ideology. That’s why Nate Silver gets it right and Karl Rove is flabbergasted that the numbers he wanted to believe in didn’t match reality.

The election was certainly a wake up call for the media but it should ring true with business owners as well. No, not because of taxes. Because we all look at analytics, social media followers, sales, budgets, expenses, and tons of other numbers and try to fit those into the narrative we’ve built for ourselves. Instead, we need to resign ourselves to the fact that numbers don’t lie, only people do – often to themselves.

Most businesses have only one goal – more money. Everything you do has to somehow bring in more money. If it isn’t, you’re doing it wrong and you are lying to yourself about how much value all that effort you put in is worth.


First, if you’re simply looking at analytics, not analyzing them, you may as well not use them at all. What you call “good traffic numbers” could easily be untargeted hits that won’t turn a profit for your business. You have to consider what the numbers mean to your business – where is the traffic coming from, where are they landing, how long are they staying, etc. Traffic is not the goal, sales conversions are. Mitt Romney led in many national polls but his massive lead in places like Oklahoma didn’t matter, only the ones in states like Ohio and Florida did. Don’t fool yourself into being married to the traffic numbers if that traffic isn’t doing anything for your bottom line.

Social Media

What you call a “good social media following” could easily be a bunch of people that simply skim over your content daily or followed/liked your page only to get an offer. The number of followers can give your ego a good boost but, as with analytics, if you aren’t engaging the right people, the number of followers simply doesn’t matter.


What you call “good sales numbers” could easily be wasted opportunities to upsell customers, sell them more, or at least get them to refer their friends. For all the effort you spend on marketing, content, and everything else, consider how much return they bring back versus a simple thank you email to an existing customer or a discount offer for referring a friend. Stop acting like a big multinational with a huge marketing department, focus on the basics and stick with what works for you – not others.

Figuring Out Your Business Formula

You hear business numbers guys talk a lot about return on investment. Probably because it’s the only real number that matters. If your investment of time and/or money isn’t paying off, why keep throwing money at a losing hand?

As a small business owner, you’re also strapped for time and cash which means you have to be very selective about where you spend both. This is where most business owners shoot themselves in the foot. We tend to build our strategies based on what works for others. Just like CNN and Fox News, though, all the case studies you read are simply there to support an existing viewpoint. Your own numbers never lie and never lead you down the wrong (and expensive) path. Stop trying to make things fit into “how you want things to be” and realize that the numbers are truly all that there is.

Go Fire Yourself

You have your own business, you’re in control of everything, and you answer to no one. You’re living the American Dream. But you want to be more successful. Your business simply isn’t growing like you wanted. Odds are, you have fallen into the trap that countless small business owners are already in – you are doing too much and not doing it well enough.

If I had an employee who wasn’t producing the results I wanted, I would replace him with a new contractor. If you’re not producing the results you want for your business, logically the only solution would be to fire yourself.

Step back for a second and truly consider what you bring to the table. No one, literally, no one, can do everything that goes into building a growing business. At least not as well as it could be done. You need to figure out where your strongest assets are and stop doing all of the things that you aren’t good at and eat up your time. So what are you good at?

I’m a Good Manager

Most good business owners fall under this category. As the boss, you need to manage your team just like a football coach manages his. You never see Rex Ryan throw on some pads and throw a football. That’s not his job. Good managers should manage and delegate well, not do the work of the people they manage. Certainly many small business budgets are prohibitive but with the wealth of contractors available, there are truly very few businesses that can’t afford to invest in assistance in any field.

I’m a Good Developer

Many online business owners are developers who created their very own application or service. But just because you made your own product with your own sweat and tears doesn’t mean you are the best person to run the business end. Developers don’t always make good managers and rarely make good marketers or sales people. Developers need a partner even more than they need employees or contractors. You should work on the technical side of things and let someone else worry about the sales, management, and marketing.

I’m a Good Marketer

Marketers don’t tend to make good CEOs. Maybe because so many people think they are good marketers. Marketing is both a crucial piece of the puzzle but also a very small one. It takes up a lot of time but is useless without the right business or product in place. Marketing is a skill, not the basis of your business, which means you need someone to take care of the really important stuff while you spread the word.

I Just Want to Have My Own Business

Too many small business owners fall into this category. They just want their own business for the sake of having their own business. That’s a fine aspiration but if you don’t have the skills or the drive to run your own business, you don’t want to be a CEO, you just want to be an investor. Look at the TV show “Shark Tank“, the sharks don’t run all of those businesses, they just buy a chunk of the company and count the profits. They may even own the majority of the company and have someone else run everything. If you fall into this category, then it’s definitely time to fire yourself.

Staying in Touch With Clients For Repeat Sales

We all know it’s easier and cheaper to keep an old client than to find a new client, so why aren’t you doing everything you can to make sure your clients are satisfied and to keep your business name on their minds?

Every customer wants to be treated like they’re cared about, and not like just another email address on a list. You want to make sure that every customer is satisfied with your service and knows about any new products, services, or deals that your business may be rolling out. At the very least, you want them to remember you next time they need your service.


Sometimes, it’s enough to just check in on a customer or client’s satisfaction. “Are you happy with our service? Do you need anything else? Okay, I’m available whenever you need.” Don’t just let a person do business with you, make sure they are satisfied enough to come back or recommend you to their friends. You shouldn’t be satisfied with a one-time buy. You want to get the most out of every sale.

I bought a small piece of music equipment a few months ago from a company called Sweetwater that I found on Google. It was a small purchase and I had never intended to use them again, but just to buy and get on my way. Then, AJ called about my $8 order. He wasn’t trying to upsell me or get me on a list, he just wanted to make sure I got what I needed and that I know that if I ever need anything else, he knows a lot about that stuff and can help. He then sent an additional email when the order was shipped and another when the product arrived (with a thank-you note from AJ). I was never going to use them again but because of the way they treated my tiny $8 order, you better believe I’ll use Sweetwater again if the opportunity ever comes up. I feel very comfortable reaching out to them.


Just in case I forget about Sweetwater, they remind me of their existence, their products, and current deals with a monthly email newsletter. Though you have probably heard of the importance of email newsletters already, their relevance can’t be overestimated.

If you are a business, you need to collect the names and information of your customers. Use that info to tell them what you need to tell them. You have a direct line to every customer who gave you their email address, phone number, or even mailing address.

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of a regular newsletter, remember that they’re not blog posts: they don’t need to be sent out at specific times every couple of weeks. A few months ago, I purchased “Louis CK: Live at the Beacon”, a stand-up comedy special that he released himself online. He has sent me only one email since, and when he did I knew it was something important about him and his business that he wanted me to know. Because he sent just one email in months, it was way more effective than frequent, regularly scheduled newsletters that I usually just end up unsubscribing from anyway.

The goal of the newsletter is to tell your past clients what they need to know, not bother them with filler.

Social Media

More and more focus on social media means you have an additional outlet available to reach your customers. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ (or all 4), ask your customers or clients to follow you. Don’t just use it to promote, be useful and helpful. The beauty of social media isn’t that it offers a chance to market directly to the consumer but the ability of the consumer to interact directly with you and your business.

Using The Right Tools

MailChimp is arguably the best email list tool out there and its users are very satisfied. It’s very easy to use and requires very little time to figure it all out. Simply create your list, customize your template, and start a campaign. The best part of the service is the result tracking features that tell you who is opening, clicking, Tweeting, and coming back for more. Accounts with under 2,000 and 12,000 monthly emails are free but larger accounts start at $10.

Another good option and old standard is Constant Contact, which does both email and social media campaigns.

For better control over your social media outreach, consider a tool like HootSuite, which allows you to see your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, FourSquare, and other accounts all in one application. They provide great analytics and offer a free account for up to 5 social profiles. The Pro account for unlimited profiles, message scheduling, and better integration costs $10 per month.