I'd like to point out a business owner who is living much of the advice I'm writing in this column relating to sales and marketing. Tina Hill of Kidzsack is a mom-preneur and inventor, and she's using many different ways to connect with customers as well as buyers.
Previously Hill was a fashion designer, and after time out of the workforce, she was inspired to create Kidzsack because her kids needed a product like it. She also wanted an outlet for her creativity. Hill created Kidzsack, an "eco-friendly backpack and a craft project for kids."
In order to sell her product, Tina has to reach business owners and merchandisers. She's taken to doing much of her own promotion and marketing herself in different ways from online to the phone to in-person networking. Using Tina as a model, here are 5 ways (plus a bonus way) you can promote your start up business more effectively - and obtain sales in the process.
One of Hill's key tools is LinkedIn. When she got an order from a Zoo, she went on LinkedIn and connected to the rep, and then worked creating a relationship. Recently she sent him a message, and he bought a new order of products. Hill also sells to resorts, so she joined several resort professionals discussion groups. There she found and connected to resort buyers, which directly led to sales. When DrToy.com gave Kidzsack a "Best Vacation Product Award" Hill put up a press release under the news topic in several of her groups. Buyers got right back to her. Her advice: "Use Groups and reach out to members as a way to find buyers who wouldn't know the product otherwise."
Find Writers and Bloggers interested in Your Industry
To help promote her product to end customers, Hill often reaches out directly to Bloggers who cover kid products. Hill told me "A lot of people read blogs and they shouldn't be underestimated'Žone person reads it and then tells two people who then tell three'Žand so on." Clearly she understands the power of social sharing, and how blogs and other online platforms encourage readers to share content, which can lead to sales.
Another good place to find writers? Watch the "Help a Reporter" list. I sourced this article via that list.
Pick up the phone
Tina said "Cold Calling is old fashioned but it's still the No. 1 way I've been getting my sales. People still like dealing with people directly and developing a relationship on the phone and not just by e-mail. E-mail is great for follow ups but I always make an initial first call." I ran that by the "Queen of Cold Calling" Wendy Weiss and she agreed. "Cold calling works. The number one mistake that most cold callers make is to not prepare effectively for their calls. It's a myth to say that cold calling is a numbers game--it's not. Cold calling is a preparation, strategy and skills game."
Find people in person
So often, we know someone who knows someone who can help us, but we don't work our network effectively. Tina sent an email to hundreds of friends and contacts asking for help getting her on TV. "Talk with your friends because everyone knows someone. I reached out to friends and asked 'Who knows someone on TV'? A really good friend knew an anchor on CBS, and they used Kidzsack for their'EcoFriendly must-have products.' "
Have an Effective Website
Hill's website has everything that's needed to find out more about her product, and she says people look at it first, before they contact her. While it is a good site, I'll take a writer's prerogative to suggest a few improvements. The "Where to Find Us" tab on the site is trying to be 3 pages in one. It is acting as the "News" page for the site, the "Where to Buy" for retail, and the "How to Contact a Sales Rep" page, and in doing so it is too busy. Tina would be better off having a "Where to Find Us" page that is for consumers, segmented by State and then Town so it is a bit easier to find the product. The other items deserve their own pages too, so News could show on the "About" page. There also should be a clear link on the home page for wholesale buyers to contact Kidzsack.
Use Online Sites to get Business Support
In addition to reading this column (Thanks) Tina uses small business owner communities www.mommymillionaire.com and www.mominventors.com because "they give tips, have discussions, and help in every way possible. I have made friends on these social networks that have helped me with leads as well as product liability insurance advice (reducing my costs significantly)." Mommy Millionaire got her four or five good friends from the website, and they've helped her shape her business. There are community sites like these for many industries. Use your search engine to find one and become involved.
What are some of the suggestions you have? Please leave comments below.
Last updated: Aug 5, 2009
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr