Thursday, January 26, 2012

Marketing is in the Air Again!

Having just finished a seminar in Texas where the enthusiasm was contagious, I'm eager to talk more marketing!  I hope you are looking ahead and planning to make this a great year for your rural business.
Several people lately have asked questions about selling and money issues.  So today I want to start on these four questions and tomorrow I'll finish:
1.  How do I get paid and be sure everyone understands my term/conditions?
2.  How to insure they show up with cash when that's my terms?
3.  Closing strategies
4.  How to deal with defaults
1 & 2 are related.  Once you have a buyer who actually wants what you have for sale, it's pretty important that the details are clear.  Misunderstanding the details involved just creates bad feelings at the least, and maybe a lost sale or a lawsuit at the worst.
If you have a website, it may be a good investment to have a page of information about the details of buying from you.  That would include things like
  • deposits (and their refundability)
  • whether you take checks, credit cards, only cash, or checks must clear before pick-up
  • If you have payment plans
  • what goes with the product (registration papers or just application, halter, blankets, bottles and milk, mentoring availability, boarding, etc.)
When the buying process is more complex, a written contract may be appropropriate. 
What's actually written on the page or on the contract needs to be very clear.  I'm a word person, myself, and yet when it comes to writing "stuff" about terms and money, I feel strongly that I need help.  If your business sales occur in large amounts of money, you might even want to invest in a legal professional to help with wording.  But at the very least, write out what you think is clear, then ask someone else to look at it and see if it's as clear as you want.  Words can be slippery!  The point of a page on your website or a contract people sign is to avoid all the slipperyness.

While I'm on the subject of contracts, I want to mention a marketing fact.  This is about the way buyer psychology works.  Contract is a scary word.  Suppose you want your buyer (who needs a payment plan) to read the contract.  Rather than tell him to read the contract, try saying, "Super!  Would you sit over here and take a look at the paper work?"  Paper work is not scary.  Even if it actually is a contract. 
Also on this same subject is the question of how to word other things gently so they are not confrontational.  For instance if you require checks to clear or cash payment before the animal leaves your farm, how can you say that without making it sound like this buyer is suspect to you?

There may be many ways to word it, but here're a couple that are a little softer:
"We recommend you mail your check early so it clears before you arrive, or simply bring cash when you pick up your ________________ (animals or products)."  or
"Our policy for every sale is a cleared check or cash before pickup."

Personally, I think it's a good idea if your terms and conditions are printed and signed off on by every buyer--whether that's from a web page or a contract.  Just a page that says, "I've read and understand the terms and conditions."  That said, be prepared to make changes as the situation arises.

Tomorrow I will cover the last two questions.

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