How to Develop your Sales Funnel – Keep those Targets Moving Along

How to Develop your Sales Funnel – Lifeblood of your Small Business.

Listen, whatever marketing and promotional work you undertake, whether that be pressing the flesh, putting photos up on Instagram, email marketing or whatever, your focus needs to remain on moving people in your target market along and how to develop your sales funnel.

Remember : Nothing happens until something gets sold.

Traditionally, the sales funnel has been portrayed in images as a type of water funnel, with its big open end at the top and the narrow tube at the bottom. This representation seeks to convey the idea that, while large numbers of ‘cold’ prospects may be thrown in at the top, relatively few will come out the bottom and become actual paying customers.

But there’s a degree of laziness to this.

At the core of this image is the notion that prospects simply fall into your sales funnel, like rain into your gutter, and that the only work involved is moving them down along. Indeed, this even suggests that gravity will push some out the other end, irrespective of your input. It’s lazy.

I put it to you that a much better image to form in your head would be of an upturned funnel. Now, suddenly, you’ve got to lift your funnel up for the ‘cold’ prospect to get in there in the first place. There’s already work to be done. Moreover, now gravity cannot help you get them out the top. You’ve got to keep those targets moving onwards and upwards. More work involved. In fact, your poor old prospect has to want to get to the top. He ain’t passive no more. Huge difference.

how to develop your sales funnel

How to Develop your Sales Funnel

The first thing to understand and accept in wanting to develop your sales funnel is the need to develop your sales funnel.


By that I mean to draw your attention to the probability that you will lose 20 – 25% of your existing customers / clients over the next 12 months. That’s just life. Some retire, some close down, some begin to buy from their sister or best friend. Some just don’t need your product or service any longer. Maybe you haven’t progressed or innovated and you can no longer meet their ever-changing needs.

OK, so once we get into the frame of mind that we need new customers, what then?

Step one is research. In fact, it’s research, research, research. Get out and meet people, network, check out new businesses, get on the internet, get along to trade shows and conferences, etc. Find new prospects. They’ll be cold at first, but c’est la vie.

From there, it’s a question of developing a relationship, making enquiries about their needs, matching your product or service to those needs, getting into presentation mode, then negotiating and so on.

Now, I always advise people to put a system in place for seeking out new ‘cold’ prospects. Give yourself a manageable target every period of time. For you, that might be to meet 10 new people per week in their office or at networking events, or it might be to go visit 4 new trade shows per annum, where you’ll walk up to stands and see where you can offer a benefit to the exhibitor.

However you choose to do it, be sure to keep working on how to develop your sales funnel. After all, it’s the lifeblood of your business.

Profiteering UK Retailers in Ireland exposed by Exchange Rates

Profiteering UK retailers in Ireland have been a problem for years.

In recent months, however, this has been particularly clearly demonstrated by the post-Brexit exchange rate between the Euro and Sterling.

I was down in Galway recently and rambled into Debenhams, where I picked up a coat and took a notion to pull off the Euro price tag to reveal the Sterling beneath. I was interested to see if, and to what extent, the retailer was “doing” its Irish customers.

Even though I fully expected to see something unfair and unjustified, in fact I was shocked by the extent of the blatant profiteering. With an average exchange rate of below 1.20 over the last 5 months or so, I might have expected the Stg£ 125 price to equate to somewhere around € 150 – 155 maximum. In fact, the price was € 190, a total unadulterated rip-off.

profiteering uk retailers ireland
Coat in Debenhams Galway

Recently, my ‘other half’ purchased a pair of jeans for me (bless her) in Next. Upon receipt, I did the same thing and removed the Euro price tag to reveal the Sterling “equivalent”. In this case, the Stg£ 35 item should have been priced at around € 42 –  44. As you can see, it was € 48.

profiteering uk retailers ireland
Denim at Next Castlebar

Perhaps the most telling aspect of profiteering by UK retailers in Ireland is the appearance over recent years of a new type of price label they have created for Irish stores. More difficult to remove and with a type of extra black skin underneath,  it has become difficult to reveal the Sterling price. This new departure is a clear and blatant attempt to cynically hide the outrageous exchange rate often applied to pricing in Irish stores.

Directly related to this issue of pricing in Irish bricks-and-mortar shops is the phenomenon known as “geo-blocking“, an online practice that prevents shoppers in some countries from being able to buy products and services for cheaper prices in other countries. Incredibly, this is not yet illegal within the EU.

Come across profiteering UK retailers in Ireland? Go elsewhere

Ultimately, of course, we have to question why Irish-based retailers do not take greater advantage of this appalling behaviour by UK brands. There is the argument of marketing power, on the one hand, whereby “Barry Murphy Menswear” cannot possibly compete with the advertising budget of the larger chains. On the other, there is the fact that most Irish clothing retailers source their stock in the UK anyway and lack the purchasing power to drive a hard bargain on that front. Thirdly, Irish brands simply don’t have the market clout, don’t sell the same huge volumes and couldn’t get away with it anyway. I’d like to think they wouldn’t try.

But why do we let profiteering UK retailers in Ireland get away with it? Go shop elsewhere, I say.

Irish Craft Beer Symbols Launched

Irish Craft Beer Symbols.

This year has seen the launching of two separate Irish craft beer symbols, in an apparent attempt to stave off ‘pretenders’ from the world of Irish craft beer production.

There has been a phenomenal growth in production of Irish craft beer over the last few years, to such an extent that the well-known community website, Beoir, now lists an incredible 86 micro-breweries in Ireland.

Faced with the challenge of dodgy market entrants, either from the large multinational breweries or independent pretend-breweries, we have recently been treated to the introduction of two types of quality-of-origin labels. As the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland (ICBI) puts it on their won website, “Unfortunately, some other companies are jumping in on this [market growth] and releasing products into the market which they are misrepresenting as craft beer and being vague about origin to suggest a provenance of craft beer from an independent Irish brewery.”

First off the mark was Beer Ireland. According to Beoir, the criteria for carrying the Beer Ireland symbol are as follows :

  • The beers have been produced in a brewery on the island of Ireland.
  • The brewery is legally and economically independent of any other brewery.
  • The brewery meets the legal definition of micro brewery.
  • The brewery owners are professional members of Beer Ireland.

irish craft beer symbols

Meanwhile, the ICBI symbol requires that :

  • The brewery the beer came from is independently owned, small scale and a registered microbrewery as recognised by Revenue.
  • The brewer has complete ownership of the brand.

irish craft beer symbols

Although Irish craft beer symbols such as these are desirable, one concern would be for the capacity of these umbrella organisations to police their usage and validity in every case. Shelves are already awash with so-called craft beers that are questionable in the origin of their production.

But there’s another marketing issue here. Does the consumer really care that much about the origin of the beer s/he is drinking? While those of us who love great-tasting craft beer might not touch them, the reality is that the ‘imposters’ couldn’t be eating into the market if consumers didn’t welcome them. Might it be that there is a large section of the beer-drinking market that simply wants ‘new’, as opposed to ‘craft’? Is that why we now have our Hop House 13, Cute Hoor, Smithwick’s Pale Ale and so on?

West of Ireland Craft Breweries

Whatever about Irish craft beer symbols, if it’s West of Ireland craft beers you’re looking for, go try out these guys :

West Mayo Brewery

Reel Deel Brewery

Black Donkey Brewery

Mescan Brewery


Email Marketing for Customer Retention

Email Marketing for Customer Retention

Gathering email addresses (with permission), with the aim of incorporating email marketing for customer retention into your overall marketing strategy, is a great way to go and worthy of special attention.

You can do this with online list building services like Sumo, or paper versions of the same thing stuck on your counter top beside your till. Try Facebook contests (get entrants to send email by message, not in public comments) or have people put their email address in a goldfish bowl to enter an in-store competition. Don’t ignore the opportunities at trade and consumer shows. Same for networking events and as part and parcel of your ongoing interaction and communication with your existing customers. Stick an invite to join your mailing list in your auto-signature.

Note that, even in its free version, Sumo offers very nice pop-up and slider email capture forms, including the type that appears only as your website visitor is about to leave.

When a person gives you their email address in the full knowledge that you will market to them, there is a clear indication that they are happy for this to happen. There is a commitment; a sign that they think you are ok. They’re offering you the chance to develop them into loyal ‘fans’.

Now, don’t forget that, like all other elements of your varied pro-active communication with your audiences, whatever you write about in your email marketing must be of interest to your customers and prospects. It’s up to you to provide them with opportunities to gain value.

There’s little point in constructing a lovely email about stuff they simply aren’t interested in. Vary the content of your emails and keep track of their success. Learn to know what works and what not so much. Come up with different articles for your different audiences.

email marketing for customer retention

Is Email Marketing Worthwhile?

Sure, it can be contended that the success rate of email marketing might be low, in terms of click-throughs to your website and purchases (where relevant).

But it can equally be argued that the investment is pretty low too. Especially if you’re disciplined enough to be noting down what it is you want to say in your next email as you go about your daily tasks. Where this form of marketing can indeed be slow and time-consuming is if you find yourself sitting down to write your next email without having put any thought into it previously. That’s a sure-fire way of ending up wasting time staring at a computer screen or looking up videos of cuddly cats on YouTube.

DO NOT click on that link!

Jot down your ideas as you go. Have a focal point for each email. That might be the pure selling of one particular product or other this month, or simply providing useful non-salesy information for your customers next time. Think about what your customers want and remember that this is, at a minimum, brand reinforcement you are engaging in.

Email Marketing for Customer Retention – Tools

There are several well-known email marketing platforms that dominate this market. I use Mailchimp, which is free for those who have fewer than 2,000 email addresses on their list. Indeed, automation services (for example, where you want to automatically send an email to a person who has read a certain blogpost on your website) no longer incur a cost.

Mailchimp (and other services) also offer landing page options, so you can have a stand-alone URL that comprises of nothing other than a sign-up form. Wonderful for requesting sign-ups at outdoor events, trade shows and the like.

Sample Landing Page Email Signup Form

People as part of the Services Marketing Mix

People as part of the Services Marketing Mix

When we think of the Marketing Mix, we’ve all heard about the famous “Four Ps”, made up of product, price, place (distribution) and promotion. However, the importance of people as part of the services marketing mix might just pass us by.

You see, potential customers will make purchasing decisions based not only on your marketing communications, service quality and reasonableness of your pricing, but on your full services marketing mix – and that includes most especially your people.

Here in the West of Ireland, there’s this great seafood restaurant along the coastline, serving up fabulous local oysters, mussels, fish and more. The view from the dining room is to die for, with ocean, islands and spectacular cliffs outside its big windows. Pricing is perfectly reasonable. It’s great. But the staff leaves a lot to be desired – especially the owner/manager. I’m not sure if they realise it or not, but their manner is very poor, leading to a big ‘fail’ in this critically important P – people as part of the services marketing mix.

Meanwhile, inland, there’s this run of the mill (in terms of location, decor and seating) café diner that opens up for lunch each day.  Now, don’t get me wrong, they do really very nice food indeed, especially their great and varied home-made soups. But the thing here is that the owner/manager is fantastic, always wears a smile and is truly friendly. I return regularly.

I recently read a motivational sign inviting us to smile, because it might confuse people. Unfortunately, this is very often the case. But if you can invest in really great people and add them in to your marketing mix, you’re onto a winner.

people as part of the services marketing mix

Anyway, the ‘people’ in your marketing mix involves two key functions : procedures and personality. Procedures is about doing the necessary in an organised and efficient manner. Personality is about delivering that functionality with a nice and friendly manner.

I remember reading the late great Feargal Quinn’s legendary book about quality customer care entitled “Crowning the Customer” and a passage inside where he mentioned that, at the time when he was still involved in recruitment for his business, that if a candidate didn’t smile during the interview he didn’t get the job. You can buy that book from the publisher here.

Just remember that there’s no point in having the finest automobile, bought at an excellent price and running on the straightest road, if the person behind the wheel doesn’t know how to drive! In service businesses, be sure your people are the right people.

Updated 2019.

Winking at a good-looking Girl in the Dark

Avoid Winking at a Good-looking Girl in the Dark

As the old adage goes, “Running a business without advertising is like winking at a good-looking girl (or guy) in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but nobody else does”.

winking at a good-looking girl

Now, for “advertising”, you can substitute “promoting”, thereby allowing yourself to concentrate on social media, for example, or getting out and meeting people. You may not have a budget for pure advertising, in the sense of spending money on media. However, if you’re short of cash, mister *, you might still be able to time-manage yourself to a sufficient degree to allow yourself dedicate some time to social media work, on Facebook, Twitter or other. Or get along to some networking opportunities. Or try to generate some favourable and free press coverage through PR work.

Essentially, you’ve got to be telling people (your target markets) about what you’re doing and what’s good about your product or service. Another adage states that “If you’re not telling, you’re not selling”. There’s no arguing with that.

As the summer winds up over the next few weeks, many of us self-employed small business owners who have perhaps been on autopilot for the previous two months will begin to turn our thoughts back to the job at hand. I regularly say that micro-business owners often have two beginnings to their year. The first, of course, is in January. But there’s a second one in September, once the holidays are over and the kids have gone back to school. Let me suggest that you develop some rigorous system to urge yourself to communicate with your audiences into the future.

  • Develop a social media marketing plan and schedule that makes use of the platform(s) your audience is active on.
  • Get networking offline, regularly.
  • Build relationships with journalists, bloggers and other influencers who can give you some coverage gratos.
  • Ask for testimonials from satisfied customers and put them up on your website. Even better, shoot some video testimonials.
  • Employ some free content marketing amplifiers, like Missinglettr. I like it very much.

Winking at a good-looking Girl

So, the next time you’re considering it, switch on the light first …

*  Stolen from an old U2 track, “Bullet the Blue Sky”.

5 Great Irish Advertising Slogans

5 Great Irish Advertising Slogans over the Years

I was listening to the radio the other day, Joe probably, when my mind drifted to some of the great Irish advertising slogans that have adorned the airwaves over the years. It must have been something he said.

Wondering why these slogans were (are) particularly excellent, I realised that one characteristic they all share is a small number of words. One of them is so short, it contains just two! But, of course, that in itself is not enough. The slogan also needs to speak in some way about the brand and its market – the “feelings” of its consumers, if you will.

1. “My goodness, my Guinness”

While recalled somewhat less frequently than its more famous cousin, “Guinness is good for you”, the amazing thing about this classic from the 1930s is that people still say it on the street, every single day, without even noticing.

great irish advertising slogans

2. Brennan’s, “Today’s bread, today”

The grand old character from Brennan’s Bakery who’s been uttering these immortal words for decades is a legend in himself. The bakery’s advert sketches, played out between “Old Mr. Brennan” and one of his side-kicks are fantastic and the tagline is simple, but brilliant. Two words, one repeated. One of the truly great Irish advertising slogans.

great irish advertising slogans - brennans

3. Centra, “For the way we live today”

Centra’s memorable tagline makes great use of a nice little musical ditty, so that we not only recall it fondly, but sing it.

great irish advertising slogans centra

4. “Look up, it’s Aer Lingus”

It’s a long time since our skies were filled with more or less just Aer Lingus, British Airways or Aeroflot. This ancient slogan still makes those of us of a certain age mutter it to ourselves whenever we see or fly the “national carrier”.

great irish advertising slogans - aer lingus

5. Homestead, “Brings value home”

Used, among others, in the ad that won the award for Irish Radio Ad of the 20th Century, this was all about warmth, comfort, homeliness and reasonable prices in the recession-hit Ireland of the 1980s.

great irish advertising slogans homestead

Great Irish Advertising Slogans

There are other greats, of course. But another of the characteristics of these taglines is that they make us smile. Like this superb old Guinness TV classic, “Tá siad ag teacht”. Brilliant.

3 Free Tools to Amplify your Blogpost

3 Free Tools to Amplify your Blogpost

These 3 free tools to amplify your blogpost are easy to use and help disseminate your writing beyond the confines of your website.

amplify your blogpost -

(What a great name, by the way!)

“Deliver It” does exactly what it says on the tin. In its free version, you can feed it one source of blogging and request that its system puts out your latest blogpost across up to three social media platforms. in my case, I pump my blogposts out onto my Facebook Page, Twitter account and LinkedIn profile. Great reach! Easy peasy. There is also a paid version, where you have greater choices. Visit

amplify your blogpost - missinglettr

I really like this new platform that I stumbled across a month ago or so.

“Missingletter” takes your blogposts as they are published, looks at them, generates up to nine content snippets and tweets them out nine times over the next year. Don’t worry – you keep editorial control over those snippets, so if you feel one doesn’t really reflect the true content in your blogpost, you simply reject it. gain, there is a paid version with greater flexibility. Class idea! Visit

Facebook scheduling

amplify your blogpost - Facebook

Yes, the behemoth of them all.

When you’ve published your blogpost and it’s been automatically posted to Facebook through (see above), then you’ll want to repeat it out in maybe  two or three months. Copy and paste the blogpost’s url into your Facebook page, watch the preview being automatically generated, edit as required and hit the “schedule” button to give it a new lease of life later on. If you have your Facebook page and Twitter account linked through, then it will also appear there.

Remember to treat your blogposts like a product, rather than a promotional tool. The blogpost itself needs to be promoted, so use these three methods, along with others, including the ‘share’ buttons like I have below.

How has Applegreen done it?

Applegreen and Me

We spend a lot of time at petrol stations. Well, I do anyway.

We’ve got our Topaz, Maxol, Texaco and others. We used to have our Statoil, Jet, Shell, etc. But never has one brand achieved anything like Applegreen. This is the first time in my life I’d actually bypass a petrol station if it isn’t of one particular brand – and that brand is Applegreen.


OK, so they’re on the motorways. But, in fact, I’m rarely on a motorway, so that isn’t a factor for me personally. No, I’m talking about places like Frenchpark, Swinford, Birr and Poles.

There’s something about them. The interior design is as nice as you’ll find in a roadside petrol station. Heck, some of them even have comfortable armchairs and low coffee tables to sit down and enjoy your coffee. The toilets are – wait for it – clean! They’ve got a decent rewards scheme going, complete with handy small keyring card. Their fuel price signage is big and clear, making it simple to choose to stop when driving towards them. And let’s face it, they’ve got bright cheery light-coloured green fascia and branding.

But there’s more. There’s a quality about the place. They’ve dumped the typical cheap and nasty look of a roadside petrol station, with crappy interior doors and poorly thought out interior. They’ve gone with nice rich-coloured shelving, doors and walls, with some dark browns, rather than bright white or light creams. In as much as is reasonable in this environment, they’ve gone with an upmarket look, while keeping the fuel prices low.

We speak of the “Four Ps” of product marketing. Applegreen has nailed its product, pricing and place (great locations). I don’t need to pay attention to the promotion; I’m converted already. Then again, maybe that means they’ve nailed that ‘p’ too …

But in services marketing, there are three other “Ps”, namely processes, people and physical evidence. Applegreen would appear to have made a particularly conscious effort on the physical evidence front. Basically, they’re nice petrol stations. Enough said.

Basically, this is a great example of positive branding.

During 2015, Applegreen held its initial IPO on the Irish Stock Exchange.

However, in March 2016, Clare County Council rejected its bid for a new motorway station in that county.

Differences Between Agents and Distributors

Differences between Agents and Distributors

OK, so you’re ready to have somebody else selling on your behalf “while you sleep”? Of course, there are various solutions to this, but two of the more common are the ’employment’ of commission (aka sales, aka trade) agents or distributors. But what are the differences between agents and distributors?

Essentially, the difference is one of product ownership. While a commission/sales/trade agent sells product on your behalf that you continue to own and invoice the ultimate customer for, distributors take ownership of the product and sell on to their own customers. This can mean that while, on the one hand, your business builds a relationship with the customer, on the other you may not even know where your product ends up.

Differences between agents and distributors

The key point to remember when choosing between selling via agents or distributors is the following :

In the case of distributors, a supplier / manufacturer sells his product to the distributor, who in turn sells the product on to his customers, adding a margin to cover his own costs. Distributorships are used as a low risk means of expanding business into new markets or territories. The distributor assumes liability, i.e. legal responsibility for one’s acts or omissions. Failure of the distributor’s business entity to meet that responsibility leaves him open to a lawsuit for any resulting damages or loss, which may occur to the other party. As the distributor has taken ownership of the products, he is incurring a greater degree of risk than an agent in the course of his business. The distributor has no authority to create a contract between the supplier and customer. The customer’s contract is, in this case, with the distributor.

On the other hand, an agent is a self-employed intermediary who has continuing authority to negotiate the sale of goods on behalf of another entity – the supplier / manufacturer (aka the principal). The agent may negotiate and conclude the sale of goods on behalf of and in the name of that principal. As he does not take ownership of the goods, the agent does not take on responsibility. This remains with the supplier.

Here are some main differences between agents and distributors.

Distributor advantages :

  • A supplier is able to pass on risk associated with the products.
  • The distributor is motivated to sell the stock he has purchased from the supplier.
  • A supplier will not incur any liability (with exceptions e.g. defective products).
  • The appointment of a distributor will avoid the need for a supplier requiring an established place of business in the territory, reducing administrative costs.
  • The supplier has avoided the cost of employing a salesperson in the territory.
  • A supplier will only need to monitor accounts with a distributor.
  • No compensation is automatically payable to a distributor upon termination of the distributorship agreement.

Distributor Disadvantages :

  • The supplier has limited control over activities of a distributor.
  • Under an exclusive distributorship arrangement, the supplier’s entire credit risk in respect of sales in that territory is concentrated on the distributor.
  • A distributorship arrangement is likely to be governed by domestic and European competition legislation.
  • The supplier lacks information on the ultimate customer – he who buys from his distributor.
  • Given the large degree of autonomy granted to a distributor, it is critical that the selected distributor is financially and commercially sound.

Agent Advantages

  • The supplier has more control over the activities of an agent.
  • The financial and commercial background of the commission agent will not be as critically important to the principal.
  • The principal will want to ensure the integrity of the sales agent, since the principal will in the normal course be bound by the actions of the sales agent. This can be more easily done, when dealing with one person, rather than a company, as with a distributor.
  • The supplier keeps in direct contact with the customers.

Agent Disadvantages

  • The principal is not able to pass on risk associated with the products to the agent.
  • The principal will incur liability as a result of the agent’s activities.
  • In most instances, the principal will be obliged to take on the expense of training the agent.
  • The principal will still be obliged to monitor the accounts of all customers.
  • An agent would normally carry several products from several manufacturers. If the supplier’s product is not selling well, the agent will typically divert more attention and energy to other products in his suite.
  • Under EU Commercial Agents Regulations, minimum notice provisions apply in the event of termination of the agency and the agent may also be entitled to compensation, over and above this notice requirement.

While there is no right or wrong choice here (it depends on your industry and what choices you make for growth strategy), do take these differences between agents and distributors into consideration when plotting our next steps. Also, consider other factors in distribution agreements outlined in this blogpost.