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Gucci travel bag: When it comes to running a business, your sales are likely to move in one of two directions: up or down.
Obviously, you want them to go up.
If you simply try to “hold serve” and just remain profitable without actively trying to grow your top line sales figure, you’re likely going to see that number drop over time.
That’s why it’s important that you pursue an aggressive strategy that will increase your sales.
Analyzing Your Market
Define your target market.
Every product or service has a market for which it is ideally suited.
Some have a wider appeal than others, but many of them are targeted at specific audiences in their branding, features, and quality.
Identify your target market by first figuring out exactly what needs your product or service meets.
Think about who, specifically, has this need.
For example, you can start by narrowing down your target audience by choosing a gender, age range.
Or a socioeconomic group that would be most interested in your offering.
Work until you’ve identified the group that you think would have the most interest in your offering.
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Identify your target market’s desires.
Once you have a target market, identify what exactly it is that they will find appealing in your product and in a business in general.
For example, if your target audience is outdoor-enthusiasts, they may value a durable product.
But also look for ecologically-conscious companies.
Consider both when seeking to understand your target audience.
To get this type of information, you can ask customers yourself through polls or surveys or you can search online for existing data.
Additionally, you can work with your contacts in the industry to get their take on this specific market.
Study your competitors.
Understanding your competition will help you better position your offerings in the market.
Figure out how your competitors are advertising.
Pricing their products, and any new strategies they are employing.
There are many ways to get this information, including:
- Online research. The simplest way to track your competitors is by researching them online. Look up what you can on their website and through online reviews.
- Then, try using a service like Google Trends to identify what people are looking for and Google Alerts to get a notice when your business or a competitor is mentioned in the media.
- Look at industry reports. Find data from trade associations, analytics firms. and advocacy organizations.
- Talk to your customers. Figure out what other products or services they’ve used and why they have now chosen to use yours instead.
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Enhance your competitive advantage.
A competitive advantage is the quality of your business or product/service that allows you to sell your offerings more easily than your competitors can.
Lower costs, higher quality, greater choice, and better customer service can all be competitive advantages.
Identify one of these factors that your business gets right or in which you outperform your competitors.
If there is one area in which you routinely beat your competitors, single that one area out.
This is your competitive advantage.
- Once you’ve identified a competitive advantage, make an effort to emphasize and improve upon it by making changes elsewhere in your business model.
- For example, if you offer a cheaper product than your competition, try to cut costs elsewhere while maintaining the same product quality as a way to further undercut your competitors.
Promoting Your Business
Build your brand.
Your “brand” is the sum of the associations and connections you have with your customers.
That is, it is your business’s public face and the personality that it shows to customers.
This includes what the business and its management believe in and how your business helps fulfill your customers’ needs.
First, you’ll have to decide what your brand is.
Define it clearly and fully by writing out what your business wants to provide and what you, as the business owner, believe in providing to them and your community.
From here you can use your brand in every point of contact with customers, from in-store interactions to emails.
- Assess your current brand. Does it say what you want it to?
- If not, it’s time to make a change.
Use content marketing.
A great way to promote your brand online is to post useful articles that will appeal to people in your target market.
Digital marketers call that content marketing.
- Good content marketing attracts people to your website who might purchase the product or service that you’re selling.
- If you’re not a very good writer, you might have to hire someone to write and post articles for you. That will require an investment.
- Be sure the articles that are posted to your website are optimized for search engines. You want people to find those articles when they’re searching for keywords relevant to your niche.
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Advertise your product or service.
If your customers don’t know about your business, you won’t be able to sell to them.
Build brand-name awareness by reaching people in your target market with messages about how your product or service will benefit them.
- It’s easy to track the effectiveness of both online advertising campaigns and “old school” media campaigns (such as radio ads).
- Online advertising, however, offers a more focused approach online versus the mass appeal of traditional advertising channels.
- Obviously, advertising requires an investment.
- Be sure to validate the effectiveness of your campaign so that you can determine if you’re receiving a good return on investment.
Make the process of buying your products a safer bet (and publicize this).
Customers are more likely to buy from you if they’re confident that their money won’t be going to waste.
Demonstrate confidence in the quality of your products by “insuring” the customer’s purchase.
- Offer a money-back guarantee
- Have a generous return program
- Have a “satisfaction guaranteed” policy
- Use social proof. One of the best ways to use social proof online is to provide testimonials about customers who’ve loved your product or service. It’s best to include full names and even pictures of the people who’ve given you rave reviews.
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Build a presence in the community.
One great way to build positive recognition for your business.
Especially if it’s a small business is to become an active player in the community.
Look for opportunities to promote your brand by sponsoring or underwriting local events.
And charitable causes or by participating in gatherings and festivals.
As an added bonus, you may even have a chance to sell your products at the events you participate in. Below are some of the types of events and organizations you may want to be on the lookout for:
- Charitable causes (dinners, auctions, fundraisers, etc.)
- Non-profits with a large potential audience (college radio stations, etc.)
- Local entertainment venues or organizations (community theaters, sports teams, etc.)
- Large outdoor gatherings (street fairs, music festivals, etc.)
Create new demand for your product or service.
How can your product or service appeal to people in a way that you haven’t thought about yet?
Try marketing it with that angle and see if sales grow.
- The classic case of Arm & Hammer advertising from decades ago is a great example of how to multi-purpose a brand.
- The company advertised its baking soda product as a means to deodorize drains once it had outlived its usefulness as a refrigerator air freshener.
You might think that to increase sales, you should lower prices in an effort to attract more customers.
While sales and discounts often lead people to purchase your product or service, sometimes raising prices is also the right move.
- If you keep the same number of customers after your price increase.
- Then you’ll definitely raise your top line sales figure.
- Higher prices often lead to a perception of increased quality.
- That impression could send more business your way.
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Offer (and publicize) special deals and discounts.
Customers love great deals, so special one-time offers are a great way to raise your sales in the short term.
However, to take full advantage of the sales “spike” a special deal can provide.
Make sure as many people know about it as possible.
This may mean mentioning upcoming deals to your existing customers.
Distributing flyers or handouts, paying for advertisements, or more.
Balance the costs of publicizing your deal with the benefits you’re likely to gain from it.
- Flat or percentage price cuts for certain products (e.g. $20 off all microwaves)
- Percent discounts for purchases over a certain price (e.g. 10% off on purchases over $70)
- Buy x, get y free deals (e.g. buy three, get one free)
- Limited-time bundles (e.g. buy a computer by the end of the month and receive a free keyboard)
- Free shipping for orders over $50.
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Offer an opportunity to “upgrade”.
- If, for instance, your customer is purchasing a 21 inch (53.3 cm) television set.
- You might give them an opportunity to upgrade to a 24 inch (61.0 cm) television at the checkout, for only a little extra.
- The customer may or may not take the bait.
- But you’ll never lose the original sale unless you push very hard, so it’s very difficult to lose money with this trick.
Offer “companion” items.
Don’t settle for making a sale on one item if you can get away with selling two!
When a customer is making a purchase, you may want to offer them another item that complements an item in their shopping cart.
Recommend something your customer is likely to need to make the most out of the purchase, like some sort of optional accessory.
You can even offer a discount on the second item to sweeten the deal!
- For example, if a customer’s buying toys, you might upsell by offering your customer a pack of batteries.
- Or, if the customer is buying a printer, you might offer $10 off of a pack of ink cartridges.
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Offer pertinent services and plans.
Another great way to make a little extra money is to upsell optional services or plans.
When the customer makes his or her purchase.
Optional warranties, protection plans.
And subscriptions to services or publications related to your customer’s purchase are all things you can recommend to make a sale more profitable.
- For example, if you’re selling a customer a car, you might offer a warranty that covers any problems caused by the car’s workmanship as part of a package deal.
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Offer small, inexpensive items for sale near the point of sale.
One way that businesses frequently practice “passive” upselling is by positioning small impulse-buy products near the point of sale (cash register, checkout line, etc.)
Because these small items are relatively cheap and offer instant gratification, customers will frequently add these to their purchases.
Over time, the profits from these tiny sales can add up.
- You have probably noticed this method of upselling in practice at the grocery store checkout line, where gum, candy bars, and beverages are frequently for sale.
- If you’re running an e-commerce business, you still have a virtual checkout line.
- Advertise small, inexpensive items within the shopping cart screens so customers can buy additional items they might like.
Using Smart Business Strategies
Teach your salespeople how to demonstrate the value of your products.
By explaining or showing your customers how your products can make their daily lives better.
You can strike a personal chord with your customers and boost your sales in the process.
You may want to direct your salespeople to make reference to common uses for hot products in their sales pitches or even have them actually show the customer your products in use.
- For example, many large department stores like Costco have employees give product demonstrations on the floor.
- They show customers how to cook with electric grills.
- How to clean soiled carpets with steam cleaners, and so on.
Offer sales incentives to your employees.
One time-tested way to boost sales is to give your salespeople a reason to work extra hard.
Offering incentives to employees who make lots of sales is a good way to maximize the selling power of your company.
Below are just a few of the types of incentives you may want to offer to high-sales members of your workforce:
- Commissions (a small percentage of each sale’s cost awarded to the employee who made the sale)
- Reward packages (e.g. extra time off, gifts, etc.)
- Achievement awards (e.g. employee of the month, etc.)
Let your customers try your products before they buy them.
If a customer can experience a product’s benefits firsthand, he or she is more likely to remember (and eventually purchase) the product in question.
If possible, try to give your customers a chance to “sample” or “try-out” your product or service for free.
- This option isn’t suitable for every business, though. You can’t “try out” a life insurance policy, for instance.
- For example, if you run a grocery store, you may want to have an employee distribute small samples of new products to your customers. This principle applies to non-food industries, too. Car dealerships are best known for using the “try before you buy” method by offering free test drives.
Arrange cooperative marketing with other businesses.
Reach out to businesses that are affiliated, but not competitive, with your business and discuss strategies to help each other.
For instance, if you own a landscaping company, partner with a local nursery.
You can offer plants and supplies from the nursery to your customers.
And the nursery can recommend your landscaping business to their customers in exchange.