More isn’t better with small business selling

Careful who you choose as teachers for small business selling. You know more about your business than they do.

Whether it’s what you’re selling or how you’re communicating, quantity does not trump quality.

The “experts” (curious, this moniker that used to be earned is now self-appointed) would have you believing more products and more noise offer the key to more money. Sometimes this works, but it’s not a good way to build a loyal client base.

Most tire of being bombarded with messages about “new and improved” or “my latest upsell.” Do you find it curious the more these folks claim to be rolling in dough the more aggressive they get with their selling tactics? The “more” conviction seems suspect to me.

Better to take your time creating (or vetting) quality products, people and services to recommend than amassing a ton of offerings. One buy of a poor product (or service experience) can undermine years of activity building good will.

Extending the reach of quality products

One area I’ve found that counters intuitive thinking on the small business selling front is books. We started the Horse Sense and Cents series (non-fiction equine products) with print. For years, we held off offering digital titles, figuring this would undermine print sales (digital books sell for about half the price, although profit margins are higher once creation costs earn out). The opposite happened.

Offering digital editions (we use mostly Kindle – Nook and other providers haven’t worked as well for us) increased print sales. What we discovered is people would buy the digital product, like it, then buy the print title (often as a gift). Audio extended this even further, and now represents majority sales.

So, now, instead of trying to complete a full length book prior to realizing any income, we’re focusing on segmenting material in early releases of e-booklets (5,000 – 10,000 words) available as Kindle Editions (priced mostly at $3.99) and converting them immediately to audio titles (we do not control price here, unfortunately). Over time, these shorter titles will be assembled for full-length offerings (print, digital and audio).

This is a tight niche audience. That helps a lot, particularly on the audio side. There are few competitors here offering similar material.

It’s also important to ensure all you provide is good quality. If it’s not, word of disappointment spreads a lot faster than satisfaction. Resist the urge to “extend your product line” fast if you don’t have the time to do it right.

Instead, consider different ways to package what you share to appeal to a wider audience. This allows you to position the product to a niche (much easier to sell that way) while increasing revenue and decreasing creation time.

Using a blog or newsletter for reach

Careful who you choose as teachers for small business selling. You know more about your business than they do. http://NanetteLevin.comSure, there are tons of people claiming you need to post daily or more frequently to build an online audience. This isn’t practical for most small business owners. Plus, people will soon tune out on your daily dose of dreck if that’s all time permits.

It’s best to be consistent (admittedly, I’m not – yet). Weekly is ideal for most, but monthly can work with a niche audience. Try to select a schedule that works for you. Whether that’s every Wednesday or the first Sunday of the month, you’ll build credibility if you stick to a schedule you promise. Your readers will come to anticipate your regular cogent comment.

Throwing out material that’s crappy won’t help your prospecting efforts. You’re better off taking the time you need to create good material readers will relish than falling into the more grind. No sense depleting your energy and losing readers with a schedule too frequent it makes writing a chore.

Using social to sell

Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 Rule) really does work here. Limit selling in your newsletter, blog, online accounts and general communications to no more than 20% of the content you provide. People who appreciate and respect what you offer will connect without a call to action on every message you craft. Those same people will likely get turned off if you turn up the volume of your selling strategy.

Trust is important in building a long-term business. People tend to recoil if you state you’re providing information to help, educate or amuse them yet always punctuate it with “now buy my stuff.”

A great example of this done well (his content is raunchy, so be forewarned) is Matthew Inman at The Oatmeal. He’s built a model (as an artist – most suffer here) for profitable returns without pushy sales. His newsletter list sees comics as he creates them. The website has products to buy (which you must click to for more reveal on the teaser newsletter frame), but the sell is soft. When he does launch a campaign (two relatively recent ones included a fundraiser for a Tesla property purchase and “Exploding Kittens”, a game he created with a partner), support exceeds expectations. He’s built a following that’s loyal and ready to give back when he asks.

How about you? Have you found a fun way to make money focusing on quality over quantity? What schedule works best for you? Did you discover delight when you shifted to a tighter niche focus? Any great examples of small business selling done right you’d care to share?

4 responses to “More isn’t better with small business selling”

  1. I like the 80/20 rule- it works in so many areas of your life. And now with all of the social media it is difficult for a small business to keep up. I’m trying to be more consistent with my postings as well. thanks for sharing your thoughts

    • It is curious how that ratio seem to play out so often, isn’t it Sue. Right – social media can be a real time drain. I limit my primary participation to three that work for me, namely Pinterest, FB (not so much for sales direct sales, but it does drive visitors and LinkedIn). That’s enough.

  2. What an interesting (and helpful to know!) strategy about your publishing Nanette. And I really like the 80/20 rule. I don’t think anyone likes to be bombarded with constant sales pitches. The beautiful thing is when you create a genuine resonant relationship with you community, they WANT to buy what you offer.

    • Frankly, Deborah, the discovery was an accident. Once I started seeing patterns, though, I sought to learn why. Audio is a great strategy for anyone in a tight niche industry who’s first or early to the platform. Of course, that requires you offer something people are looking for with the book format, but if you have a viable business, chances are great you already do in other forms. You’re so right on people seeking you out. Thanks, as always, for expressing the idea so artfully.

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