Take a moment and read ScoCar's free business tips.  Our tips have been cultivated over 25 years of experience and will help you grow your business.

Advertising:

  • No matter how good, different and better your product / service is, if you don't advertise or promote it, don't expect a significant amount of sales. 

  • Word of mouth is the best advertising but that takes a lot of time to cultivate. 

  • The more eyes that see your ads, the more sales you will generate.  Advertise with the publications in your market with highest paid circulation.

  • Frequency is more important the size.  You'll want a consistent presence monthly to convince potential customers your company is real and should trust your brand enough to buy from you.

  • Ads towards the front of a magazine with right hand page positioning pull best

  • Color ads pull 4 times better than black and white ads

  • It takes approximately 6 to 9 times for your ad to be seen, remembered and trusted

  • For ever $1M in sales, you should be spending about $100K in advertising.  If not, your competitors probably are.

  • Tracking your advertising will help you identify which half of your advertising is working and which half is not.  Without this valuable intelligence, your wasting about half of every ad dollar you spend.  Don't just ask customers how they heard about you.  Doing so takes up valuable time and studies show their likely to give you a magazine you don't even advertise in.  Instead, invest in a call tracking service with specific 800's and web tracking with Google Analytics and custom domain names that point to your main web site.

  • Publishing companies are for profit and have a responsibility to take care of their advertisers first.  They might throw you a bone with a free press release, free article and a discounted ad but if you aren't on board for the long haul, don't expect them to take care of you.

  • Ads should be designed to be pleasing to the eye.  The eye should be drawn through the ad in a Z pattern towards the call to action & contact information. 

  • Ads should include the cover of your catalog, "download online". 

  • 800's will significantly increase your ad response and don't cost much more than regular toll lines.

  • Update your ads after every 2nd ad.  This will ensure you ad does not become stale.  Don't forget to send in a new product release with your ad.  An effective PR program will greatly improve advertising reach and effectiveness.

  • If you don't have 12-18 months of financing lined up, don't waist your time trying to run a full schedule / program with major publishing or TV companies. 

  • Good advertising can actually hurt your business if you aren't prepared for it.  Make sure you have your vendors sorted out, the product finalized and in production, pricing/part numbers/tech support/warranty in place and the sales / tech support / shipping department in place to handle the extra business.

  • Never say to your designer, "I don't know what I like but I'll know it when I see it."  Know what you like and know what you don't like.  Look at the major magazines and your competitors' catalogs.  Study them closely for elements you like (colors, fonts, backgrounds, themes, messages, etc.).  Then, you can combine the elements into your own, unique look that is memorable and sells.

Marketing:

  • About half of all product costs are related to marketing.

  • Approximately 80% of sales will come from 20% of your customers.  Make sure you know which customers are in your 20% and make sure they are always taken care of.

  • Don't try to be all things to all people.  Try niche marketing instead:  do one thing and do it better than anyone else.  And if it's something you love doing, it's not work but actually fun.

  • Approximately 1% of your customers can never be satisfied.

  • Make sure your marketing and collateral materials have brand synergy.  Your business cards, letterhead, envelopes, flyers, ads, catalogs, flyers and web site should have a unique, memorable and consistent look and feel.

  • Know your competitors' products inside and out.  And, never slam them to your customers...only talk about how your product and/or service is unique and different. 

  • Drive as much tech and in-depth info into your web site as possible.  Consider an in-depth frequently asked questions section that addresses questions people ask most.  Make sure all of your instruction manuals are in PDF format and available online. 

  • According the USPS, direct mail response can vary from .01% to around 12%.  For the best response rates, make sure your collateral engages the customer by solving their problem and asks for their business.  Deliver value as well as a great product.  Consider offering free shipping or a free gift with purchase. 

  • Make sure your collateral materials are technically and grammatically accurate.  And, include a disclaimer statement that you are not responsible for typographical errors, products may vary slightly from photos, pricing and availability subject to change without notice, some products are for off-road use only which never be used upon a highway, dyno tested results shown but your actual results may vary, etc.

  • Make your high resolution logos, high resolution product photos, product features and benefits, and pricing available to you dealers and distributors online via FTP or on CD-ROM.  You'll want to make it easy for dealers and distributors to effectively sell and represent your line.

  • Don't accept COD...most people change their mind before delivery and you'll end up paying the shipping both ways plus a penalty from your shipping company.

  • Ship promptly and if something is back ordered let your customers know right away and when you'll expect it to ship.  Don't charge until the order ships.

  • You can re-coup some of your shipping department costs by adding  nominal packaging and handling charge to each order.

  • When pricing your product, use a cost base method.  That is, add up all of your costs in the product and that's your cost of goods sold.  Then, add enough to cover all of your overhead costs (general and administrative, marketing & advertising, legal).  Typically, if you aren't doubling your money (after all of your expenses), you aren't making money.

  • Trademark your logo and copyright your photos within the first 90 days of use.  Save copies of everywhere you logo is used.

PR:

  • Establish strong, key relationships with your ad reps and editors.  They like getting their information from the source first.  If you are too busy to do this, make sure you have a media specialist who can answer their questions timely.  If not, your helping your grow your competitors business.

  • Editorial may be promised but it is never guaranteed or predictable.  Editorial is like gold:  If you receive a 5-page article, calculate the cost of what full page four color ads would have cost in the same area...Ask for permission to include articles on your web site and consider reprints for direct mail campaigns or e-blasts.

  • Send in news releases regularly (at least once a month).  The best news release is simple:  50-75 words of text (max) with just the facts (P/N, price, features and benefits and whom to contact for more information.  Don't submit an eloquent 400-1,000 word essay.  Did you know it's the job of staff journalists at the magazine to put their editorial spin on your news release?  Don't waist your time or theirs, send it in right and it has the best chance of getting run.

  • The media are always on tight deadlines with no time.  Implement a news release archive with your news releases, high resolution 300 DPI product photos, and the media contact at your company.  This will save lots of time and make it easy to deal with your company.

  • The MPMC media trade conference is the best opportunity you'll have to be one on one with the media all year long.  For 4 days, you'll have different meetings every half hour with major publishers, freelancers and media outlets.  You'll want a media kit with your catalog, press releases, high resolution product photos, part numbers, pricing and your logos on a flash drive or CD-ROM.  Plan on strengthening your relationships with editors as well as finding out about editorial opportunities for your products throughout the coming year. 

  • Plan a bi-yearly or quarterly editorial roundtable at the major publishing companies you do business with.  Make sure your ad rep and media company attend.  Bring a media kit plus samples of the latest products you want to introduce.  Be prepared to answer technical questions and realistic delivery dates.  This is an excellent way to reinforce your advertising dollars.

Sales:

  • Have an established pricing and sales structure.  You need terms and conditions of sales for your dealers and warehouse distributors.  It should include clear, specific pricing with MAP and co-op advertising, ordering, payment, shipping, return guidelines.  Revise this as necessary and make sure your internal and external sales force always has the latest version.

  • Your sales force needs goals, incentives and management to be the most effective.  If you aren't paying your sales force a commission and/or a bonus for goals reached, why should they do anymore than just enough so they don't get fired?

  • Track your sales vigorously.  Know what is selling and make sure it is in stock.  Keep track of products customers are asking for that you don't currently offer.  Keep track of problems / issues and try to resolve them. 

  • Utilize CRM (customer retention management) software.  They allow your sales for to stay on top of each step of the sales process.  And, they are ideal for scheduling and follow-up calls and meetings.

  • Turn an objection into a yes.  Know your product better than anyone else (and your competitor's products too.  Put your consumer hat on and think as if you were buying your product.  The product you are buying must overcome your objections and solve your problem(s).

  • Be upbeat, friendly and nice...always.  You are on the front lines and represent your company.  Keep photos of something that makes you smile at your desk... Inject some humor into your life and watch comedy in your spare time.  Exercise 5 times a week, 30 minutes a day...the endorphin release is excellent stress therapy and will make you happy and upbeat.

  • Think of every call as a sale...who will close it, you or the customer.  Answer every call by the 2nd ring.  Never let a call go to voice mail unless it's absolutely necessary.  Follow up with every lead and every missed call...failure to do so gives the sale to your competitor.

  • In the first 5 minutes, your sales force should categorize buyers in one of 3 categories:  buy now, buy later or will never buy.  Always ask for the order and once the sale is made, don't buy it back...just take the order and thank them for their business.  Up selling, by suggesting related recommended accessories, adds value to the customer while adding to your bottom line.

  • Cultivate testimonials and use them in your catalog, flyers and web site.  They are like gold to potentially new customers.  It greatly reduces the pre-purchase objection of buying and helps build brand loyalty and trust. 

  • Know and cultivate your company reputation on enthusiast forums.  Enthusiast forums can actually make or break a business these days.

  • When selling to jobbers and warehouse distributors, don't compete against them.  Refer all incoming retail sales to them only.  Consider offering spiffs for 30-90 days and reward your best dealer sales with extra special incentives like a free trip or something of substantial value.  As a rule, sales people always push what they make the most on first.  And, this gives you an extra edge over your competition.

  • Utilize sales rep agencies to approach large mail order companies with your line.  They will know what adjustments (if any) that need to be made to your line before approaching buyers and merchandising managers.  They have the connections you don't and follow up monthly on your behalf to keep everything running smoothly. 

  • The PWA Conference (held every September) is where the deals between manufacturers and sales rep agencies for the following year.  At this show, you'll need to be sure you have next year's pricing, a flyer / catalog of what's new, sample new product (even if it's a prototype), high resolution product photos / logos and product descriptions.  The SEMA Show is where the buyers go to see your product on display and fine tune any pricing / delivery terms.

Staff:

  • Invest in quality people who are positive, self motivated, willing to learn, good with people, responsible and detail oriented.

  • Take care of your people and they will take care of you.  Never ask them to do something you wouldn't do yourself.

  • Spend the extra time and resources on your staff training.  Provide the tools and training they need to do their job to the best of their ability.  Teach them to know your products and services better than anyone.

  • Focus on what you do best and surround yourself with experts in areas where you are weak.

  • Empower your sales, technical support and customer service personnel to be nice, positive and understanding of your customers.  Earn a customer for life by giving them the authority to make a bad situation right.  Their order was shipped without the hardware and instructions they need?  Ship it overnight, even if it's on Saturday, at no charge and give them a discount off their next order.

  • Fire negative people.  All it takes is one bad apple to spoil the bunch.

  • Have job descriptions for each position and make your expectations of each employee clear.  Have an employee handbook that each employee signs.  Have quarterly reviews of your employees.  Have a human resources department to resolve employee issues. 

  • At the very least, give your employees a standard of living increase in the pay yearly.  Reward exceptional performance with a special bonus.

  • Monitor you Internet.  Studies show that employees spend 1-2 hours a day on non-work related activities like Solitaire, personal e-mails, personal social networking and even shopping.

  • Spend extra on a highly skilled general manager to run your business.  In your absence or when you are just too busy, your GM is your first and last line of defense.  To find the right person, you may need to look outside your company and even outside your industry.  They don't have to be an expert in your product or industry, but they do need to be an expert in running a business.  Consider using a head hunting agency for this.

  • Grow your infrastructure along with your business.  People are your most valuable resource and you must have enough people to get the job done.