Posts Tagged ‘Branding’


Make Your Business the Quadruple-Threat of Customer Service

10-31 customer service  smallWhile advertising can be a good way to bring new people to your business, the customer experience is what brings them back. Gaining each new customer costs an estimated four to ten times more than retaining repeat customers, depending on the type of business. So, while you need both, you can get a lot of mileage out of taking good care of your existing customers, getting them to buy more frequently from you and to spread the news about your business to other potential customers.

Below are a few great ways to make your business a quadruple-threat of customer service:

Create an Enjoyable Customer Experience

Do you like clothes shopping? Many people that I know wish they could avoid the hassle by hiring a personal shopper. Recently, a friend told me about Von Maur, describing the experience as “like the rich people shop.” As soon as you start shopping, someone offers assistance without pressure and then, reserves a roomy, clean dressing room for you when you’re ready. You do not bump into other shoppers and the restrooms are so beautiful that you want to throw a party in them. Add their no-interest credit cards to the mix and you have a truly enjoyable customer experience.

Von Maur figured out how to remove the drudgery out of shopping and make customers feel like Julia Roberts in the Pretty Woman shopping scene (the second one, not the first). Trader Joe’s is another great example.  While grocery shopping isn’t usually considered “fun”, Trader Joe’s breaks the mold. While I enjoy their mix of unusual products, their customer service keeps me coming back. When you ask an associate where an item is located, they actually escort you to the exact placement instead of pointing out into space. They also engage you in dialogues when you check out about new products

Regardless of your business type, you can take a page from Von Maur and Trader Joe’s. If your consulting services require long meetings with your client, bring in their favorite treats and coffee, even if you have to carry them to the customer’s site. Or, if your sandwich store sports long lines (a nice problem to have), serve a free mini-cup of your home-made soup while your customers wait. These small gestures can pay big dividends.

Trade on Service

When you have a legend about your business’s amazing service, like Nordstrom does with its famed “taking the tire back” story, you know that you provide an exceptional service.  Nordstom’s well-deserved reputation comes from making product returns effortless, without question and, perhaps most important, without guilt. Customers perceive Nordstrom as a company that is willing to do anything for them. If you take good care of customer issues, you cultivate loyal customers and earn valuable word-of-mouth advertising.

Other companies that have done well with this are Nextiva and its Amazing Service promise and CVS’s 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. They represent businesses that put their customers first, with guaranteed service that goes above and beyond that to ensure that customers have a fantastic experience interacting with the company.

Your customers will look forward to buying from you when you stand solidly behind your product or service. Make customer support accessible and guilt-free. Offer friendly and helpful phone support representatives, and make sure that your website prominently displays a customer support link. Then, remember that “the customer is always right” still holds true. You may have shipped the un-plated cap screws that they originally ordered, but if they now say that they wanted plated ones, accept the return without question and get the right product in their hands quickly. Particularly in a challenging economic environment, customers are less willing to risk their hard-earned cash. If they know you back up your products or services no matter what, you reduce their risks and open their wallets- not just once, but over and over again.

Make it Right

Every business will have times when, despite best efforts, a customer is let down.  However, businesses aren’t made on being mistake-free; rather, they are made by how they respond to customer issues.  If there’s an unhappy customer, whether they complain directly or online through social media or review sites, take swift action.  You can quickly turn a ranting customer into a raving fan by making it right.

Create a Personal Relationship

You may not care if restaurant servers know your name, but you probably feel like a celebrity, however, when they remember that chocolate lava cake is your favorite dessert — and they bring a free one to your table just for being a frequent customer. While big businesses offer coupons and other generic loyalty rewards, small businesses have the luxury of developing truly personal relationships with their customers and gaining loyalty for their efforts.

I know a freelancer who took copious notes every time she worked for a new company. When she returned the next time, the employees were impressed when she remembered their names and the company’s unique processes and procedures. In her clients’ eyes, she was part of their team and they asked for her every time they needed help.

Personal relationships with your customers make you a part of their circle of friends.  With technology, it is easier than ever to keep notes on your customers’ preferences and use that to enhance your relationship. When you make customers feel important and cared-for, they will turn to you first for their needs.

Employ the quadruple-threat strategy to make your business a valuable partner to your customers and with focus, this can help you to grow exponentially.


How to Establish and Sustain Your Competitive Advantage

horse racing smallNo matter what industry you’re in, I’m willing to bet it’s pretty competitive. You constantly have to be on your toes and know what the other players in your field are doing. However, it helps if you have a strong competitive advantage. This is that je ne sais quoi that makes your brand unique and attracts customers to you. If you don’t know what your competitive advantage is, this article will help you find it, as well as help you keep it.

Defining What Makes You Unique

Not sure what your competitive advantage is? Here are several examples:

  • You offer products no one else does
  • You focus on quality products
  • You offer stellar customer service
  • You charge less
  • You offer a unique experience

If you were to ask your customers why they come back to you again and again, what would they say? Don’t be shy to ask them this exact question. Sometimes you’re too close to your business to see what your advantage is, and your customers’ answers may surprise you.

Shifting Your Mindset About Your Competitors

Even if you’ve got an amazing competitive advantage, it’s important to not rest on your laurels and assume you will always be on top. It’s easy to mimic those benefits your company offers, and if you’re thriving, you should expect that other companies will do just that.

When business is booming, it’s easy to think you’ll never be anywhere but #1. When your competitors are light years behind you, or you put all your energy into one large client, you take your focus away from that competitive advantage. But you shouldn’t. Have the attitude that that advantage is something you have to fight for, every day.

Sustaining That Edge

Once you accept that your competitive advantage is something you can never take for granted, you’ve got to be diligent to stay on top of owning it. If your advantage is offering the best product on the market, make sure you’re paying attention to all other players and the quality of their products, as they’ll likely improve over time. Continue to innovate on your own product so it’s constantly evolving too.

If customer service is your strong suit, make sure your staff has continual training, and that you monitor a few calls to ensure they’re following your high-quality customer service protocol.

Remember: sustaining that competitive advantage takes effort. If it’s truly important to you to own that advantage, put energy into maintaining it every day.


5 Out-of-the Box Digital Marketing Ideas

10-22 Outside the boxWhen it comes to marketing your small business, you don’t want to have the same marketing campaign as your competitor, but sometimes you simply can’t find the creative juice to develop an inspiring idea. Here, we’ve got five ideas to jumpstart your thinking and get you moving toward increased sales and floods of new customers.

1. Viral Video

If you’ve never considered creating a video, there’s never been a more affordable time to dabble in the medium. Many of your customers likely prefer video as a means to consume content, over written content. By developing a few strategic videos (try a how-to to start) you can attract a different audience from your standard one, and you can reach a wider number of people if you invest in making a killer video that people want to share.

Getting Started: John Jantsch has a great list of video editing tools that will set you off on the right foot with your video marketing. 

​​2. Infographics

If you’re heavy into blogging, remember that you don’t always have to write your content. Liven up your blog with an occasional infographic, and then see if your traffic jumped for that post. An infographic takes a dense amount of information and makes it visually appealing so that more people absorb it.

Getting Started: If you’re not design-oriented, use a tool like Piktochart to easily create visually appealing infographics.

3. Giveaway

What better way to attract people toward your brand than by giving something away? That might be some of your products, or maybe a larger prize, like an iPad. If you list your giveaway on sites dedicated to giveaways, you’ll reach people who otherwise wouldn’t have heard of your product.

Getting Started:  Set your parameters for the giveaway. How can people enter? Are there multiple ways to get entries? How many winners will you select? What’s the deadline? Where will you promote it? The more you promote it, the more entries you’ll have, and thereby more leads. 

4. Co-Marketing

Let’s say you sell peanut butter, and you know a guy who runs a jelly store. If you partner up, you can combine forces to market your products together. Maybe you offer a 25% off of jelly coupon to every customer you have, and he does the same for your peanut butter. Or you go in on online advertising together, cut your costs, and double your results.

Getting Started: Look to your local community to find possible partners. They shouldn’t compete, but should sell products that complement yours. 

5. Speaking

Speaking as an expert in your field is an excellent way to brand yourself. Choose a topic you know well (and maybe one that lends itself to people deciding they’d rather hire you to do it than do themselves), and give plenty of value in that speech. Afterward, be available for people to approach with questions.

Getting Started:  Look for conferences and trade shows in your industry, then pitch event planners on the topic you’d like to cover. After getting a few under your belt, they’ll come easier.

Always be on the lookout for opportunities to market that maybe everyone else isn’t already doing.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Does Your Customer Service Reflect Your Brand?

Barbeque: Waiter Seating Guest at TableHave you ever stopped to think about how well your company’s customer service reflects your brand? As workers on the front lines of your business, customer service employees are often the first contact customers have with your company, making their role as “brand ambassadors” crucial.

How do customer service employees convey your brand? Consider the different types of customer service you might receive at a fancy, white-tablecloth restaurant vs. a casual, ‘50s-style diner. Waiters at the fancy restaurant might be formally dressed, speak quietly and address you as “Sir.” Waitresses at the diner might chomp gum, call you “Hon” and slide into your booth to take an order. In both cases, they’re conveying the business’s brand.

Here are some aspects of customer service that can build your business brand.  

  • Uniforms: If your customer service employees interact with customers in person, uniforms are essential to building a brand. Uniforms should tie in with your business’s colors and logo, its mood (formal or informal, fashionable or functional), and the demands of the job.
  • Grooming: Along with uniforms, grooming standards reinforce your brand. If you own a hip graphic design firm or restaurant, you might want staff to show off their tattoos and nose rings. If you own a conservative accounting firm, you probably want these covered up removed during work hours. To make sure your grooming standards don’t discriminate against any category of employee, allow for work-arounds. In other words, you can’t refuse to hire someone because of tattoos, but you can require the tattoos to be covered on the job.
  • Speech: The ways your customer service representatives talk to customers says a lot about your brand. You might require a more formal conversational style, such as always addressing customers as “Ms.,” “Mr.” or “Mrs.” And saying “Please” and “You’re welcome.” Or you might be fine with employees addressing customers by their first names or using casual expressions like “Sure” and “No problem.” Either way, setting guidelines for employees to follow—such as scripts for customer service reps who deal with customers on the phone–creates a level of uniformity that reinforces your brand.
  • Assistance level: At some businesses, customer service is more of a DIY affair; at others, it’s a white-glove approach. Set standards that are in line with your brand. Should customer service reps guide customers through every step of a complicated process, or get them started and then let them finish on their own? Can an employee assist more than one customer at the same time, or must they handle one customer’s issue before interacting with the next? When transferring a customer to another phone line, should the employee stay on the line and introduce the customer to the other service rep, or just transfer the call and hang up?

When it comes to customer service, little things make a big difference in how your brand is perceived.


7 Keys to Digital Marketing Success

Man working at his desk during the dayIf you’re new to running a business online, you might feel like you’re looking up from the bottom of a very tall mountain. There’s so much to learn, and so much competition. Sure, it can be daunting, but you’ll learn the best strategies for your business over time. But for now, here are seven strategies that will give you a little boost to get started on the right path.

1. Have a Strong Presence Online

This is probably my biggest tip from my own personal experience. When I’m not running my #SmallBizChat or blogging, I’m on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn chatting with contacts and sharing content. I strive to create value to small business owners, and want them to know that they can find great advice and tips from me, no matter which channel.

Decide what you’re known for and what you can help people with. Then dominate that field on every digital channel that makes sense.

2. Limit The Channels You Use

Notice in the last tip, I said to use “every digital channel that makes sense.” That does not mean you need to be on every single social media out there. Find out which ones your customers are spending time on, then settle in to roost on those. I’d say you can’t successfully manage a presence on more than three or four. Find what number and which sites you enjoy using and stick to those, even if it’s just one to begin with.

3. Read, Read, Read!

You can’t succeed as a business owner if you operate in a bubble. Sure, you know a lot about your industry, but there’s still a ton left for you to learn. And you also need to stay on top of other areas like marketing and business strategy.

Find blogs you enjoy reading and subscribe to them. Participate in LinkedIn groups so you can get access to more content on your industry. Make continuous learning part of your daily to-dos.

4. Get Your Website Right

Because your website is often a potential customer’s first interaction with your brand, you need to ensure it speaks to them. Your copy should be targeted exactly to the audience you’re trying to reach and quickly tell them that they’re in the right place for what they’re seeking.

5. Leverage SEO

Being found on search engines is imperative for the success of your digital business. Use keywords that zero in on what you offer, and that will help you rise up search engines. And if you’re a local brick-and-mortar business, such as a bakery, make sure you include the name of your city or town in those keywords.

6. Use Email to Reach Your Network

Email, too, can help you expand your business. Segment your list so that it’s divided into groups of people that make sense, such as those that have bought shoes, those that have bought women’s dresses, et cetera. You want to send a highly targeted email to each group so they feel connected with your offer, not turned off by it because it’s not relevant.

7. Be Consistent

Everything you do online has to keep being done if you stand a shot of success. Update your social media daily, or at the very least, several times a week. Blog consistently. Send your email newsletter out at the same time each month. 


Mondays with Mike: How To Become A TED Speaker

TED-Talk-WebTED can change your life, and I’m not just talking about the insights you can glean from the brilliant ideas shared by the many speakers. I’m talking about giving a TED talk – one single engagement that will expose you, your ideas, and your brand to millions of people. It’s the biggest public speaking opportunity around, and it ain’t an easy one to land.  

I’ve given a few TEDx talks – the regional feeder program for TED, and I sat down with the curator of TEDx Hoboken, Elizabeth Barry, to get some insight into what the curators are looking for and some strategies that speakers can use to get the opportunity of giving a talk. If your goal is to give a TED talk, TEDx is the logical place to start.  

 

Let’s start with Elizabeth’s list of dos and don’ts for landing a TEDx talk:

 

DO NOT:

  • Pitch yourself or your business. TED and TEDx talks focus on ideas, rather than people.
  • Simply repeat an earlier performance. Find a fresh idea.
  • Think you’re more important than your idea.

DO:

  • Be real and be kind. You’re not the focus of the talk; your idea is.
  • Present an idea that’s original, profound, and genuinely worth spreading.
  • Bring all your passion and expertise.
  • Focus on your idea and its applications in the lives of others.  Your talk should be more than simply a story about your life. Look for an idea that can benefit your audience.

Elizabeth stressed that TED and TEDx aren’t about grandstanding. Sure, the events generate great publicity, but the goal of the project is to spread and profound ideas that make a difference in people’s lives.  

 

Once you’ve landed and given a TEDx talk, you can focus on the big fish. One thing you should keep in mind is that TED was created by a group of journalists, so your best angle is to focus on a compelling story. Additionally, you should consult the editorial calendar to make sure your great idea wasn’t covered by the previous quarter’s talks. 

 

You should absolutely promote the heck out of your TEDx video – since each view is a new (and trackable) impression, but it’s essential that you not simply try to recycle your TEDx content. Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s your idea that’s the focus. Should you land a TED gig, it’s not simply because you’re so wonderful; it’s because you have something important to share that can enrich the lives of the audience.

 

It’s impossible to overstate how huge a TED talk will be for your career. At the time I wrote this article, 1.2 million viewers had watched a TED talk given by a young man named Cesar Kuriyama. He stood on the stage and shared the insight he’d gained from his project in which he recorded one second of video every day and edited the clips into a video that captures the absolutely ordinary images that comprise our lives. The power of his talk was in the weight of the impressions that fill our lives … the ones that we too often take for granted and forget as soon as we’ve seen them.  

 

Kuriyama shared his experience of image and memory and the complex ways that we recall the events of our lives, both good and bad. Not only has he gained astounding publicity for his projects, but he’s also touched 1.2 million people with his idea worth sharing. That’s the power of TED. It’s a worthy goal.


Mondays with Mike: What The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Can Teach You About Marketing

Your mother, your brother, your best friend, and a loooong list of celebrities, and me too: everyone jumped on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, posting videos of themselves, donating money, and challenging their friends and family to do the same.  Those who participated got their fifteen minutes of fame, and those who wimped out were ridiculed as being no fun.

Aside from the fact that the Challenge raised millions of dollars and promoted awareness about ALS, a terrible, degenerative disease, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a remarkable example of the tremendous power of social media, and it illustrates what can happen when you invite your customers to share pics, videos, and messages that promote your brand.  There are several important principles that the Ice Bucket Challenge teaches us about developing a winning social media marketing strategy. 

  1. Be the EST.  While Challenge videos that simply featured calls out to a couple of friends followed by a typical soaking didn’t circulate terribly far, videos of particularly creative approaches were shared thousands and thousands of times.  FunniEST, coldEST, wettEST … extreme examples got the most views.  Whether it was Ben Affleck calling out his celebrity pals and then pushing his wife into their swimming pool, or whether it was a group of middle aged moms rapping their challenge, standing out from the crowd is what gets the most mileage.  Invite the participants in your social media campaign to interact in creative ways.  Ask them to give you their EST.
  2. Find something ubiquitous.  Everyone could participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, because all that’s required is water, ice, and some sort of container.  If the components had been caviar, platinum, and moon rocks, then that would have left most of us out.  Invite your fans to tweet, photograph, and share pics of themselves in your place of business, or wearing your logo.  Make it simple, repeatable, and leave room for creativity.
  3. Recognize the emotional power of social media.  There was some criticism of the Ice Bucket Challenge from folks who thought it trivialized the disease.  Some of the most powerful videos posted and shared were those made by people who suffer from ALS and from their friends and families.  Authenticity shines through in a video, and creating a powerful emotional connection with your brand through your customers’ true stories promotes your brand in a positive way.
  4. Be pictorial or easy to replicate.  Maybe you invite your fans to take your logo on vacation with them and share pics of your logo in exotic places.  Or perhaps you give away bumper stickers and ask customers to take pics of their cars in unusual spots.  The key is to make it easy to incorporate your logo into a photo that can be shared and reshared until the image covers the globe. 

Creative images make millions of impressions via social media.  You invite the participation of your customers, and while you will need to monitor and perhaps to edit content to ensure that it’s appropriate, the beauty of a social media campaign is that you can sit back and let your fans do your marketing for you. 

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5 Steps to Starting Your First Business

Woman Running Up the StairsIf you’ve been considering starting a business for some time, stop letting your fears and worries keep from making it a reality. Sure, it will require plenty of work and quite a lot of stress initially, but the payoff, both financially and spiritually, will be well worth the journey. Not sure where to begin? Here are the first five steps to starting your first business.

Step 1: Develop Your Viable Business Idea

Before you fall in love with an idea for your business that no one will actually buy into, do a little research to first see what the market is interested in, what other companies you’ll be competing against, and how you can come into a crowded market with something unique.

  • Conduct surveys and focus groups to understand how people perceive your business idea
  • Look at your competitors. What are their strengths? What areas are they leaving wide open for you?
  • Determine your unique selling proposition. Will you be the cheapest? Best quality? Unique in some other way?

Step 2: Take Care of Branding

Now that you know what you will sell, get your branding in place. This is an area I don’t recommend trying to DIY unless you happen to be a phenomenal designer. Work with a graphic designer with experience creating professional logos, as well as one who can develop a website that will attract new customers. Realize, too, that branding goes far beyond just your visual representation, and will include every message you put out to the world.

  • Look at other logos and take notes on what you like (and don’t)
  • Decide what’s critical to include on your website, and what’s extra
  • Provide as much input as possible on the branding process so that your expectations are met

Step 3: Get Your Plans in Place

You wouldn’t step into the forest without a map, so why would you start a business without a plan? You’ll need both a business and a marketing plan, though neither have to be gigantic, in-depth documents. Your documents are designed to guide you and to establish the direction you want to take. Your business plan should be an overview of your company, what you want to sell, and your approach to the business. Your marketing plan should encompass who your customers are, the different channels you’ll use to reach them, and strategies for each.

  • Use your business plan as a guidance for the future, but don’t be afraid to tweak it every few months
  • Determine how much you can afford to spend on marketing before you decide on the channels you’ll use
  • Keep these documents handy where you can review them regularly

Step 4: Test It All Out

If you will be operating as an ecommerce site, ask friends or colleagues to play around on your site to ensure everything works well. Pay special attention to the checkout process, as it needs to be as simple and streamlined as possible. If you’ll be running a brick-and-mortar retail, make sure your staff is well-trained on your point of sale system, and that everything is running smoothly.

  • Click all links on your site to ensure they go where they should
  • Minimize the checkout process to just 1-2 pages
  • Hold a soft launch event in your store to test run how everything will go

Step 5: Just Do It

Waiting around for the perfect moment to open the (real or virtual) doors on your business is futile. Just jump in! There will be mistakes, so note them quickly, learn from them, and make changes for the better. Aim to create a big splash around your grand opening.

  • Notify local press about your grand opening and invite them for a tour
  • Offer special discounts your first days open
  • Amp up your social media efforts with your launch

You’ll never be flawless when you open your business (or later, either!) so consider it a learning process that will continue to help you evolve as a business owner.


Mondays with Mike: The 4 Crazy Ways To Advertise With Mobile Technology

Consumers are absolutely besieged by images, messages, and impressions.  Every time we turn on our phones, computers, televisions, e-readers, or radios, we’re inundated by advertising and information.  Given the overload that we experience, it’s often the most outrageous messages that hit their mark. 

If you’re looking to boost the number of impressions you make, one of the very best ways to do it is via social media. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram touch more users more times per day than we can really wrap our heads around.  That’s a lot of potential impressions, but you have to do something novel to really capture the attention of potential customers.  If you’re determined to make a splash, here are some ideas to get your started. 

  1. Invite users to submit videos or pics with your product or logo.  Think people won’t take the time to make and upload a video?  Think again!  Look at the thousands and thousands of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos filling up your newsfeed on Facebook.  The videos of folks dumping ice water over their heads – sometimes in very creative ways – demonstrate the power of the novelty video.  Someone makes a video, shares it, and it spreads, increasing exponentially to reach more users every day.  The best way to adapt this photo/video idea for business is to run a contest:  Invite customers to post pics of themselves wearing a hat or t-shirt with your logo while they’re on vacation or in an unusual spot.  The photo that gets the most likes or shares wins a prize.  Think about the potential here – you’re going to be making thousands of impressions and building fans for life.  Powerful stuff.
  2. Pop-up advertising.  We become completely immune to things we see or hear day after day.  When the same old ad comes on my Pandora radio, I completely tune it out.  It’s like I don’t even hear it.  Novelty is king, and that’s why pop-up advertising is so effective.  Whether you turn your pizza shop delivery vehicle into a giant slice of pizza or whether you hire a clown who walks on five foot tall stilts to entertain folks in the parking lot on a busy Saturday, the real secret to pop-up advertising is that random people will take pics and share them with their friends.  Your little attention-getting stunt will continue to make its way around social media long after your part is finished.
  3. 2014-08-25_1635Flash mobs.  More labor intensive than some other techniques, the surprise and wonder factor here is huge.  You coordinate a number of people to perform in public, making sure you get good quality video of the event, and you post the video online.  Again, like the other social media techniques, the power isn’t in the initial views.  While the folks who happen to be on the street or mall when you perform will certainly be surprised and enjoy the event, the real numbers come when the video is shared over and over, resulting in tens, or even hundreds of thousands of impressions.
  4. Work lightning fast.  Twitter is particularly useful for brief messages that are timely and relevant to rapidly developing current events.  One of my favorite examples was the Oreo hashtag during the Superbowl when the lights in the stadium abruptly went out.  “You can still dunk in the dark” was the tagline of the ad that appeared on Twitter just seconds into the blackout.  The ad was retweeted countless times, and Oreo was declared the winner of the Marketing Superbowl.  You need a smart, witty social media guru on your payroll in order to take advantage of current events opportunities, but it can be worth every penny you pay.  Seize the moment!

Key to all of these social media strategies is the fact that by getting consumers involved with spreading the word about your brand, you’re transforming them into your biggest fans.  Social media works because everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame, and there’s no reason while they can’t have that fifteen minutes while wearing your logo and creating millions of brand impressions. 




 
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