5 ways to turn precision into profits

June 29, 2015, 2:00 PM UTC
Operations At The Bureau Of Engraving And Printing As The $1 Bill Is Printed
50 subject one dollar note sheets sit in a stack before receiving a serial number and the U.S. Treasury and U.S. Federal Reserve seals at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Republican efforts to pass a fiscal year 2016 budget cleared another hurdle as the House named its members to a conference committee and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to do the same by the end of the week. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Andrew Harrer — Bloomberg via Getty Images

1. Use dynamic pricing: Amazon (AMZN) is constantly changing its prices, and so are airlines—and customers don’t balk. But most entrepreneurs are afraid to do the same thing, and that’s one reason they struggle to compete with Goliaths. Quit leaving money on the table. Instead, invest in software that enables you to use dynamic pricing too. The software isn’t cheap, but it beats going out of business because you couldn’t profit from periods of peak demand.

2. Try “mask” marketing: Many companies miss out on sales because they limit themselves to using thousands of keywords in their search engine marketing (SEM). You’ll get the best results if you use a new automated technology called MASK, an acronym for massive array of structured keywords. It employs millions, rather than thousands, of keywords. The method was developed by Gauss & Neumann, an SEM research lab staffed by Ph.D.s. For one big airline client that used it, says CEO and co-founder Alberto Cabezas-Castellanos, “sales went up 53% in one year.”

3. Map it: This column is about data—but you also need to know when to go beyond it. For example, are you trying to figure out where to expand next? Don’t expect your team to make the right call by studying Excel spreadsheets. Map out the data and put it on the wall so they can see exactly where there are gaps in your coverage. When I used this technique in my own coaching network, it was immediately clear where we should put down a stake next.

4. Craft precise pitches: You’ll intrigue potential customers more if you tell them your service will save them $7.82 per unit rather than it’s “nearly $8.” Says Tom Sant, author of Persuasive Business Proposals: “Specificity is what gives people confidence in your message.” Even better, use graphics that illustrate the financial impact of your product or service—whether that is improving sales, saving money, or increasing employee happiness. It’s a powerful way to stop prospects from merely skimming your marketing materials.

5. Create a math department: It’s not just the Ubers of the world that need access to a designated team of quants. A math department is the hottest new function of the 21st century for companies in every industry. To grow successfully, you need precise data analysis driving all key decisions—inventory, routing, pricing, and staffing. Otherwise, you’re just winging it—and you’ll never make the most of your marketplace.

A version of this article appears in the July 1, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine.

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