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15 Tips

that wil drive trafl fic to your business

By L i s a R i c c i ot t i , M i c h a e l G a n l e y a n d G e o f f r e Y M o rg a n Ill u st r at i o n S by b e n w e e k s



Are Canadians the worst salespeople in the world? Do we fare any better with our marketing skills? A high-powered executive recently transplanted to Edmonton from the U.S. said the biggest challenge she faced in her new position was finding good salespeople. “Canadians are too polite!” she lamented. “They find it hard to directly ask for a sale. I see it everywhere – in stores where I shop as well as in my own staff.” But is she right? The sales and marketing experts that Alberta Venture talked to had a different interpretation, suggesting that she was probably still in the midst of a cultural transition. Sure, we’re nice about it, but Canadians do know how to sell. Otherwise, we’d never stay in business. The truth of the matter is that the American understanding of salesmanship, one embodied by the

a media-savvy generation raised on those tools, everyone from giant corporations to mom-and-pop corner stores is learning that honesty works better than hucksterism image of a glad-handing salesman who when it comes to selling products. could sell bibles to a priest, has little appeal These new media avenues have also to most Canadians. changed the marketing game, making it Instead, Canadians take a different both more inexpensive to get skin in the approach to selling. You’ve probably game and more compliheard the saying that while nobody cated to figure out there are a lot likes to be sold, just about everyone if you played your hand of new tools for making sales and loves to buy, and it’s the driving well. Anybody can opening doors force behind a new concept in sales launch a social media psychology called “no-sell selling.” campaign and it’s not It rejects the idea that people buy terribly expensive to because you’ve convinced them they update your website, but how do you need your product. Instead, it builds measure the impact? on the idea that people make buying “The media and advertising landscape decisions more often because of their own have changed dramatically in the past two reasons than those the company might want decades,” says Geoff Plewes, director of to give them. client services with the Calgary-based marThere’s a reason why products like the keting and ad agency Rare Method. “But the ShamWow and the Slap Chop tend to sell fundamental principles haven’t. There are better south of the border. With the rise just a lot of new tools for making sales and of Facebook and Twitter, not to mention opening doors.”



Listen more, sell less

Jared Smith, co-founder of Incite Marketing in Edmonton, says after 12 years in the business, he’s found that the best way to

approach sales is by following George Costanza’s infamous “Do the Opposite” strategy. “Don’t act like a salesperson,” he says. “Buyers don’t want to be tricked or coerced, or they’ll push back.” Instead, learn the art of listening and asking great questions. “Everyone wants to be understood, and the more questions you ask, the better you’ll recognize what they really want. Then you can tailor your presentation to their needs.” Smith also emphasizes the need to be sensitive to different personalities and cultures,

and adapt your sales style to match them. He’s more forceful with aggressive characters and softens up with gentler souls. Within that framework, he also uses the “push-pull” technique common to martial arts. When it comes to buyer resistance, don’t meet force with force. Instead, if a prospect seems to be digging in his heels, back up a bit; if he seems to be slipping away, step up your pitch. But always stay within the comfort zone of the customer. “The key thing is to make the other person comfortable.”

BE A LUDDITE Sure, it’s nice to be plugged in to all the latest and greatest technology. But when it comes to selling, sometimes a face-to-face encounter is still the best method out there. “I know every one of my clients personally,” says Glori Meldrum, CEO of g [squared] in Edmonton. “I’m old-fashioned that way. People want to feel valued and it’s important to keep the personal touch. Getting together for coffee or lunch is also a great way to say thank you, something people often overlook.” Keeping a good client is easier than finding a new one, and taking the time to pick up the phone instead of texting, or meeting instead of emailing, is a great way to build client loyalty.


WHAT SETS YOU APART Everyone knows – or should know – that in order to sell effectively it’s essential to do your research and know your target audience. But you might want to take a look in the mirror, too. When thinking of your ideal customers, what is it about your product or service, from their perspective, that makes you special enough to earn their dollars? Why, in a sea of options, should a buyer pick you? Dig deep for the answer, be honest with yourself and don’t fall back on the usual clichés. “Everyone says they have great service, quality, leadership or other buzzwords,” says Meldrum. “But you need to show how you’re unique. You don’t want to be like your competitors.” Once you understand how your company’s product or services are different, condense that down to an elevator pitch and make it the basis of all your sales and marketing. “Own a position,” Plewes says. “Reduce your message to the one or two things you do best.”


untraditionally “It’s time to turn the traditional sales and advertising model on its head,” Plewes says. Imagine the money you spend on sales promotion as a funnel. At its widest, most far-reaching (and expensive) span is awareness advertising, including traditional media such as TV, radio and billboards. Direct-mail

campaigns fall around the middle of the funnel, while Internet marketing sits at the bottom. Instead of starting with traditional media, build from the bottom up. “A good website can be a powerful sales conversion tool,” Plewes says. “Make it as easy to navigate and act upon as possible and include

a contact form. Then follow up on those leads and measure your results.” He suggests testing a website with a focus group of friends to ensure it’s doing what you want it to do. “Once a company has a solid website, then they can think about layering in ads in community papers or specialty niches and even move up the funnel to awareness ads on TV or radio as sales grow.”




it still comes down to


Tony Setchi, who sells new cars at Sherwood Kia, firmly believes that people buy the person doing the selling rather than the product itself. Retailers who’ve watched customer loyalty vanish as buyers chase the lowest prices may disagree, but when products and pricing are comparable, people will be the determining factor. IF PRODUCTS AND PRICING ARE “When I want to buy a COMPARABLE, IT WILL COME six-piece luggage set but DOWN TO I can’t find someone to YOUR PEOPLE help me, I go to another store,” says Gladys Weiland, marketing manager at Harley-Davidson Gasoline Alley in Red Deer, the dealership with the best sales figures in Western Canada. “I believe if you’re not loving the person who’s helping you, you won’t feel like buying or staying in the store. That’s why we focus on giving every customer a great experience.”

lose the battering RAM

Traditional sales manuals spend a lot of time focusing on how to overcome sales objections and break down sales resistance. But those kinds of waroriented metaphors are increasingly outdated. Sherwood Kia’s Setchi (ranked as the No. 1 Kia dealership in Canada for the past four years), says that pressure sales just don’t work that well. Although his employees brush up on their sales techniques constantly, Setchi says going to war with a customer is almost always a losing battle. “Long story short – honesty is most important,” he says. “We’re open about our dealings so people believe us when we say it’s a fair deal. We find the common ground where the buyer’s needs and wants intersect with ours. Then the cars sell themselves.”

choose your priorities Part of the art of being a winning salesperson is learning to lose gracefully. Let’s say you’ve done your due diligence on what the customer really wants, and tried to match her needs with your appropriate product or service. If you’ve conscientiously completed this process and the customer still doesn’t buy, then she’s not right for your business. Remember that in sales there are three variables: price, quality and service. No matter what

promises a company makes, no one stays in business by offering all three. You can only pick two. Find the two that are right for your business and stick to them.

Does your company really need a Facebook page? Should your CEO really be tweeting? Maybe. It all depends on whether your ideal customers (who you’ve carefully defined) are using them. If they are, you should learn to use these tools to build relationships, engage with customers and gather feedback on their likes and dislikes to improve your product or your marketing. But save the selling for other media. There’s a reason it’s called “social media” – it is most effective when it’s used to share information and exchange ideas, not promote products. Glori Meldrum uses social media because she wants to be in the know and hear what others are saying about her business and her competitors. “It’s not going away, so I’ve joined the conversation.”



When you’ve put it all together and sales are booming, don’t get complacent. “If you get overconfident and relax, you won’t notice when things start to change,” Smith says. “Audiences change quickly and you have to adapt.” It takes hard work to succeed in sales, but you need to remember to keep working hard in order to keep the next sale coming in. >



MARKETING TIPS rock, paper,


Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism has had a consistently great print campaign for the past five years. The tone is authentic to the province: witty, honest and replete with homespun wisdom that makes you smile. (I once met a Newfoundlander who proclaimed proudly: “We don’t have unemployment; we just got all the work done.”) – Steve Williams 4 hierarchy within the design





4 writing is laconic and avoids clichés

The writing is laconic and avoids clichés. It piques your curiosity. And it is paced slowly, much like you’d imagine your Newfoundland/ Labrador vacation might be.

Unlike many print ads, there’s an easy hierarchy within the design. You know exactly what you’re supposed to absorb, and in what priority.

If you’re going to create a marketing campaign, do it thoughtfully and do it right. There’s no sense buying one billboard and hoping to get results.

You need to come up with a plan – whether it’s a $20,000 plan or a $200,000 plan – and stick to it.

The photography is spectacular, but unlike many scenery-based campaigns, you can imagine yourself in the shot.

Every facet speaks to the brand character, right down to the call to action. It’s not the ubiquitous, “For more information” or “Operators are standing by,” followed by an 800 number. True to their approachable, friendly nature, the ads give you a name, inviting you to “call Kate” or “Sean” or “Jillian.”



“It’s all about longevity,” says Alyson Hodson, a partner at Zag Creative Group in Edmonton. “For any business trying to get into the marketing world, they’ll have to put the money and the time into it and commit to it.” That doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money. Maybe you choose just a couple of marketing mediums, do some social media and update your website. Some of these things can be done relatively inexpensively, but not without thought and advance planning. The exact length of time you run a campaign will depend on a number of things – three of them are your budget, your geographic reach and how well your brand is already established. The plan could run for six month or a year or five years. The key is to pick a term and stick to it.

The campaign has won awards for both creativity and effectiveness, and it is also meeting or exceeding every metric set for it. Wisely, the government has continued to invest.

Advance planning

+ + +

time and commitment social media money (needn’t be a ton)


successful campaign >

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We all want to know what kind of bang we’re getting for our buck, but it’s information that is particularly tough to come by in marketing. “We’ve had clients come to us and ask, ‘If we do this campaign, what can we expect in a year?’” says Hodson. “That question is hard to answer.” That’s not to say there are no measuring sticks. It’s getting easier in some respects with the Internet. There is Google analytics to measure

click-throughs on your website and you can track the impact of online ads. But it’s a soft science.

So people went to your website; what did they actually do? Did they buy from you? Plus, the influence of any particular marketing

campaign will be affected by external factors like economic conditions and new competition entering the market. American businessman John Wanamaker is often credited with being the first to recognize that half of his marketing budget was wasted, but that it was impossible to tell which half. The key is to have faith that it is crucial to build awareness of your brand.

SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE? Often in small and medium-sized businesses there is no dedicated marketing person. The job falls to the vice-president of sales, perhaps, or to the owner. But marketing is not really their bag, so it gets less attention and scrutiny than it deserves. There’s a point where that starts to change. “You’ll start feeling really timestarved with the amount of stuff that you have to put out, versus the amount of time that you have to actually do it,” says Scott King, the director of interactive services with Trigger Communications, a Calgarybased marketing firm. Then perhaps it’s time to hire an expert.

“It’s important to use agencies because we have copywriters

and web people and designers and creative directors and media buyers,” says Hodson. “Even a small welding company who needs some more sales: maybe all they need is a good strategy, a website and some corporate marketing materials. I still think it’s important for them to hire someone to do that because it’s going to look professional.” That’s not to say everything is outsourced. Keep someone internal to deal with the marketing agency and order new signs and envelopes and ensure that a logo goes on whatever needs a logo. But for the big-picture stuff, there comes a time to involve the professionals.

SHOP AROUND “Fit is probably the hardest thing to find and the most important thing to have when you’re working with a third-party company to handle your marketing and communications,” King says, adding that some of the best work Trigger has done is with clients who “put in a great effort to find out if we’re a fit.” There are ways to ensure a prospective marketing firm will work well with your business. The first is to be honest about your company’s marketing budget, since many agencies will have a difficult time presenting their ideas and solutions if they don’t know what to spend. “The problem is that the amount of money you have to spend might depend on whether you’re using stock photos or taking shots from a helicopter above Calgary,” King says. Finding an agency that can fit both your needs and your budget is an important place to start.




Is your brand old and tired, dating as it does from the days of Leave it to Beaver? Maybe it’s time for a total makeover, but rebranding is a sensitive issue, tied up with the history of the company. For many owners of small and medium-sized businesses, their brand is their baby. Maybe you designed the logo yourself and have watched it pop up all over the place as the company has grown. The key is to not get emotional. When you hire a marketing company to work for you, it’s important to trust it and its research. “Often clients will look at [a campaign plan] and say, ‘I really don’t like the colour blue,’” says Hodson. “Well, it doesn’t matter if you like blue. Your target market loves blue.” As in all professions, there are reasons why things are done as they are. And when you rebrand, it’s important to roll it all out at once for maximum effectiveness. Hodson admires the job Telus did a few years back. “One day, the light went on and everything was changed: stores were changed, advertising was changed, signage was changed and it was consistent overnight,” she says. “Too many companies say ‘I want a new brand but I don’t really have the budget to redo my signage or my vehicles. Can I do that later?’ It’s not good to piece out a rebranding campaign. You have to commit to it and launch it all at once for maximum effectiveness.”

If you’re going to rebrand, roll it out all at once for maximum effectiveness.

know your


Don’t overestimate the importance of geography. More and more national and multinational marketing agencies are working with local clients. “It’s a lot easier than it used to be,” says King. “We have a really good example of that with Kal Tire. They’re a national brand with more than 200 stores and tons of money on their marketing budget. They’re based out of Vernon, B.C. That’s a really small place for a company that does the kind of sales that they do.” On the other hand, bear in mind that working with an out-of-market agency might require more time for it to understand your brand and get up to speed on your business.

“It actually takes a while for a marketing agency to get its footing with you and figure out how you’re relevant and different and how that can be conveyed through communication,” King says. Be prepared for that to take even longer with a marketing agency that isn’t local.

know thyself

With respect to your marketing campaign, bolder is not always better. Sure, you want your brand to make a splash in the marketplace but, as King says, be truthful to your corporate identity. “I wouldn’t expect an organization that’s helping the elderly or something like the Mustard Seed, which looks after homeless people, to be super bold

with their advertising – it’s not their brand.” The marketing goal with a company or organization in that sector should be understated and confident in a quiet way. When asked about a company like Benetton, whose recent marketing campaign featured a picture of the Pope kissing an Imam, King says there’s no point in being shy. Companies like Benetton and Lulu Lemon, whose brands conjure energy and fun, should be as bold as possible. “If they get out there and create controversy, it’s probably good for them.”

But courting controversy requires more nerve today than it did just five years ago. Social media and the Internet will amplify controversy. “It can seem a lot worse than it really is,” King says. When the Gap redesigned its logo, for example, the company underestimated the public backlash and ended up stopping plans to roll it out. As far as controversy goes, “You have to be in the middle of it, and you have to respond in an honest way and, more importantly, you have to keep responding,” King says. “You can’t ignore it and hope it goes away.” AV

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Alberta Venture Sales and Marketing Guide 2012  

Alberta Venture Sales and Marketing Guide 2012