Browsing Date

May 2013

How to “Create Customers Who Will Create Customers”

By May 20, 2013 No Comments

Take a minute to think about your three favorite stores. Chances are, you’ve been shopping at the same spots for years. You might even know the owners by name and have referred friends who’ve turned into long-term customers themselves. If this sounds familiar, you are, as Steve Curtain describes, “a customer who creates customers.”

But as a business owner yourself, how do you find these people? The answer lies in the attitudes of your customer service employees, says Curtain, author of the upcoming book (out in June) Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary.

Identifying job essence

In researching his book, Curtain sat down with several customer service employees to ask them the question, “What does your job entail?” Most responses sounded like they were read off of an online job description: to answer calls, transfer calls, retrieve account information, etc.

“Rarely did employees refer to actions and behaviors pertaining to job essence, which is creating promoters to your company—people who will spread positive word of mouth,” he says. “They can do this by seeing service as a verb, as something they have to work on and cultivate every day.”

Service as a verb

customerEmployees who focus exclusively on the transactional part of their jobs (how many calls executed in an hour, sales leads brought in per quarter or month) can make customers feel devalued. In order to change this dynamic, Curtain recommends business owners train customer service employees to emotionally cultivate each customer. This can be accomplished by expressing genuine interest in the customer (knowing/learning their name), sharing unique knowledge that cannot be found on a company’s website or inside a brochure, and conveying authentic enthusiasm or energy in their voice.

“Think of service as a verb, just like love is a verb in a committed relationship,” Curtain says. “Being in a relationship with someone requires you to be interested, to care and to do things that make the other person feel appreciated. It is the same with customer service. Instead of looking at a customer service role as just practical, empower your employees to think of what they do as a journey and something to cultivate every day.

“Companies that do this tend to attract more business opportunities and create customers who go out and create more customers.” 

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#1 Customer Service Mistake via Social Media Channels

By May 17, 2013 No Comments

“The biggest mistake a small business owner can make is to think social media replaces customer service, and to just use Twitter and Facebook to put out fires,” says Peter Shankman, author of Customer Service: New Rules in a Social Media World and Nice Companies Finish First.

Good customer service, says Shankman, comes down to making customers happy at the point of purchase and engaging them in positive ways via social media channels.

#1 Do

But what should a small business owner do if a customer leaves a negative comment on the company’s Facebook or Twitter page?

“Answer as quickly as possible and explain that you are in the process of fixing the problem,” he recommends. “Remember: there is no better lover than a former hater.”

Shankman advises business owners to create alternative email addresses for complaints. For example, if a customer visits a company’s social media page to complain about something, respond quickly (in an hour or less, if possible) and ask them to send you an email documenting their complaint via an alternative email address (one that is different from your primary address, but is still forwarded to you). This will help cut down on spammers who see the same tweet and want to send you multiple ranting emails.

#1 Don’t

delete-buttonWhile it can be difficult to see scathing reviews on your company’s social media pages, remember not to react in haste by responding unprofessionally or deleting the customer’s comment altogether.

“Deleting comments is never a good idea,” says Shankman. “The customer can easily retaliate by taking a screenshot of their former comment, posting the screenshot and telling the world that you deleted the comment, which can make matters even worse.

“Just reach out, acknowledge their complaint, tell them that you are taking steps to find a solution and then offer your contact information.”

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The Death Of Hype-Marketing (And What To Do About It)

By May 16, 2013 No Comments

pr-megaphoneThere was time when marketing was simple. If you said your message loud enough, customers believed it.  You simply said your product was amazing, and if they bought today you’d throw in some freebies.  You would repeat the message endlessly and they’d buy, endlessly.

But things have changed.  Consumers have become numb, jaded and skeptical of hype-marketing and self-promotion. The greater your deal, product or service, the more likely they are to be suspicious.

Remember the, “But wait there’s more!” Ginsu Knife approach from the 80s and 90s? It was all hype-marketing and it worked. Too well.  Internet info-marketers exploited the hype-marketing tactics at hyper speed during the first decade of 2000. Just like the Ginsu, the techniques worked. Consumers lapped up every info-product on the net because of marketing techniques like:

  • Scarcity — “There are only 10 spots left.” “Today only.” We not only bought stuff. When hype-marketers said it was the last day to buy, we emptied our wallets as fast as we could!
  • Social proof — “One million people already bought this, why haven’t you?” It’s a hype-marketing take on “keeping up with the Joneses” and it worked.
  • Price priming — When a hype-marketer can make a customer think they’re getting a $500 item for $19.95 they can sell anything. Price priming does just that.  “You think you would spend $500 for this. But you won’t. It’s not $300. It’s not $100. It’s not even $50. If you act today it is only $19.95”

Marketing Reborn

Just like the Chia Pet, Pet Rock and Snuggie, at a certain point you can have too much of a “good” thing.  Hype-marketing worked so well that it became the addiction of all marketers, causing it to finally implode in recent years.

Hype-marketing is finally dead (and I spit on its grave). There’s a whole new age of marketing being born and hype has no place in it. The new marketing method, Permanence Marketing, overcomes the hurdles of distrust and skepticism by addressing the new customer needs:

  • Customers need to individually believe your message before they buy.
  • Customers need to hear the message over and over (repetition), over extended periods of time (longevity), and most importantly, via multiple sources (3rd party validation).
  • Customers must have a way to dip their toe in the water (no risk).

If you’re still hyping a message instead of living the message you’re not going to be in business much longer.  Here is how to adopt Permanence Marketing in your organization:

  • Get clarity on your business purpose.  What is the value you deliver, how does it make your customer’s feel and how does it change their lives? That’s your business purpose. Market the difference you are make (e.g. you experience freedom), not the features you are offer (e.g. we make a convertible car).
  • Define your core message.  My core message is that “Business is the ultimate platform for expressing your authentic self…. and I show you how to get there.”  I don’t use those exact words, but the core message stays the same and is for the long haul.  Your core message is how you communicate your business purpose.
  • Get social, stay social. Social media today is like cars were at the turn of the century — noisy, loud, visible, frivolous and unsettling for people who weren’t involved or didn’t own one. Horse owners thought cars were a phase. Business owners often think the same of social media—that it’s a phase. Intelligence alert. Social media, like cars in the 1900s, isn’t going away. It’s only going to spread and you’d better be setting up social media platforms for your message if you want to keep up.

Pick a platform (or two) and commit to staying on it for the next 5 years. It can be a blog, or Facebook, or Twitter, or Linkedin.  The thing is you don’t pick it, your customer does.  Where do your best customers already hangout on social media. That’s where you need to be. Permanently.

  • Value and reward referrals. Marketing is no longer just about getting a message out there; it’s about proof of value. Customers are basing more and more decisions on the only thing that can’t be (easily) manipulated, 3rd party unbiased recommendations. Every single customer that you wow leads to another potential 3rd party validating how great you are.  Think of Yelp, epinions.com and the most powerful review/recommender ever… your best friend.  In other words, your best marketing is to deliver an amazing experience to your existing clients. They’re what’s selling your product.
  • Offer a sample. People don’t want to risk their money, time or effort to try something new. So, offer prospects a way to experience your product/service or a component of it with no risk.  Invite them to test drive the car you are selling, or sample the service you’re offering at no risk.  They need the comfort to know what it will be like, and feel like, before they take ownership of it.

Hype is dead! Hype is dead!  Welcome to Permanence Marketing.  It has been a long time coming, and it’s here for the long term.

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Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Is Your Website Customer-Friendly?

By May 14, 2013 No Comments

Have you ever gone to one of those business websites where you’re looking for something simple—like a phone number to call or an email address to contact the business quickly—and you can’t find it? Frustrating, isn’t it?

Sometimes small business owners and their Web designers get so caught up in making a website look cool or adding the latest graphics and technology that they lose sight of a website’s core purpose: to serve customers. To see if your business website is serving customers effectively, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Can customers quickly find a way to contact you? At minimum, this means putting some type of “Contact Us” tab or link near the top of the home page where it’s clearly visible. Depending on your business, you might want an actual phone number or email on the home page. Also keep in mind that more customers are using mobile devices to access websites—so a click-to-call feature that enables them to easily contact you from their mobile phones could be useful, too.
  2. Can customers easily find the information they need? Depending on your business, commonly sought information could include driving directions and maps, hours of operation, shipping information or return information. Make sure these elements are clearly marked and easy to see “above the fold” on the home page.
  3. Do you offer customers a range of communication options? Some customers prefer to call you, while others would rather send an email and still others may want to use chat. Providing as many contact options as possible means customers can pick the method they want—which keeps them happy.
  4. Does your site load quickly? Just like customers resent waiting endlessly on hold, they hate to wait for slow-loading websites. If your site takes too long to load, they might head to your competitors’ site instead. Make sure your site loads immediately—not only on desktop computers, but also on mobile devices.  

WebDesign

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The Secret to Using Video for Customer Service

By May 9, 2013 No Comments

In this 24/7 instant gratification world of the Internet, customers with questions are too impatient to wait on the phone or for a reply through email for their answer. It is also expensive for small businesses to staff this function so customers can receive a reply quickly. Instead, customers would much rather use web self service and watch a short one minute video to get their answer. Ultimately, this will decrease company service costs while increasing customer satisfaction.

Successful small business owners use videos effectively in three areas:

  1. Pre Sale. These videos show how their product can be used. Studies prove that a video showing it in a real life situation by customers increases the purchase rate. The video answers the most important question: "But, how does it really work?" Photos and descriptions are not nearly as effective. FibreGlast, a commercial distributor does this very well.
  2. Post Sale Q & A. Using video to demonstrate common installation questions others have experienced will not only minimize calls to the company, but will relieve customer frustration. Photos and descriptive are not nearly as effective. It is critical to be preemptive here and post videos before customers voice their concerns. This feature from Amazon is very popular.
  3. One on One Replies to Customers. This is a perfect way to build a more personal relationship with a customer. It can be as easy as a 15 second recording from a desk cam where an employee thanks a customer for calling or posting a comment. The key is to mention the customer by name and the specific issue that was identified. The video should then be posted on social media so other customers and prospects can see the brand promise in action. A link can then be sent to the customer with thanks. Here is an example from Nextiva.

Picture1

These videos can be created by the employees, but customers should also be encouraged to submit their own versions. Companies testing their products could never dream of all the ways their products could be used or issues that might eventually come up. Videos submitted by real customers using products in their environment are a very powerful testimonial. 87% of customers check reviews before completing their purchase.

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com

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Less Is More: The Secret To Colossal Business Growth

By May 8, 2013 No Comments

I hope you have your seat belt on (even if you're sitting in your office chair). At the very least you're about to experience a jolt, and at the very best you are about to master the greatest tool for colossal business growth. This best kept secret is not so secret after all.  It is something you likely have already heard about – it’s called Pareto's rule, or the 80/20 principle.  The secret is not in knowing it, it’s in using it.

businessgrowthIn case you're not familiar with the 80/20 rule here is a quick primer:  In 1906 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He started looking around and noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas, and so and on and so on. He determined that much of life, and muh of business, can be categorized with this 80/20 principle. In fact, you may have heard that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. Yep. That's from Pareto's law.

I recently saw a presentation by Peter Philippi, the President of Strategex, a business growth consultancy that focuses on the 80/20 rule. In his presentation he displayed a chart that blew my mind away. His company had studied the P&L of nearly 1,000 companies and divisions.  They broke down the P&L by customer, sorted by revenue per customer from most to least, and segmented the clients into four quartiles. Pareto would have been proud because this is what they found:

 

Customer Quartile

Total Revenue

Effort

Net Profit

Top 25%

89%

25%

150%

Top Middle 25%

7%

25%

breakeven

Bottom Middle 25%

3%

25%

breakeven to loss

Bottom 25%

1%

25%

major loss

Shocking, right? 89% of the revenue is generated through the top 25% of clients.  And look where all the Net Profit is! Right at the top.  Pareto was obviously onto something huge, and if you want to benefit from what he discovered you'll put this principle into action. Use the same table to figure out who your twenty to twenty five percenters are and start focusing on them:

  • Customer Quartile – Use this to group your revenue per client over the last 12 months, from most to least revenue.  Based up the number of clients you have, break into quartiles. For example if you have 160 clients over the last 12 months, the top 40 revenue producers would be in the top quartile, the next 40 in the top middle quartile, and so on.
  • Total Revenue – This is the percentage of revenue that each quartile makes for your business as a percentage of all revenue. For each quartile add up the client revenue, and divide it by total revenue for all four quartiles.
  • Effort – This a simple cost analysis.  How much money (this includes time spent by your people) do you use for each quartile?  Sum up each quartile and divide it by your total cost.
  • Net Profit – Is the profit you made from each quartile.  If you have good accounting, you should be able to determine profitability per customer.  If you don’t take your total revenue by each quartile and subtract the effort. The determine the percentages of total net profit.

This process alone should be a big eye opener for you and get you motivated to do what's next.

When I did this exercise for my business, I found it to be very similar to the share above. My top clients and, you will find, your top clients represent most of the revenue and all the income for our respective business. Now that you have this clarity, you're ready to take action to benefit from it.

Just knowing this information isn't enough. I mean it's fun to know, but it's way more fun to take action on it. So, here is what you want to do next… Pumpkin Plan your business. If you don't know what that means, then allow me to shamelessly plug my book by the same name. Until you have time to check it out, here's the applicable part of the plan in a three-step nutshell:

  1. Play Favorites – Concentrate on wowing your Top Clients.  I am not suggesting dumping the entire lower 75%, but I am suggesting that you hyper-serve the top clients you have, the ones that make you the most money and bring you the most business. You probably already know who they are without checking the chart, but appreciate that they're the ones you need to focus on.
  2. Clone The Best – Study your top 25% quartile and learn what makes them unique – industry? demographic? psychographic?  Concentrate all your marketing efforts on getting more clients like your top quartile. This may take some digging, but keep asking your top client what it is that they do, or that you do for them, that makes them repeat customers.  Find out where your top clients congregate and start going there – birds of a feather do flock together.
  3. Dump The Rest (Selectively)  – Don’t randomly fire your lower clients, but do look for traits in them to see why they aren't producing. At the same time look for the traits in new prospects, or existing lower ranked clients that you see in your current topcClients. Treat these new or existing clients with priority, since if anyone is to rise up to become part of that 20 percent Pareto recognized, it is these clients.

I can hear you baulking already. I did too. In fact, I even asked Peter a question specifically about this. I said, “Peter, this is great, but I think I need to keep all of my clients. What if one of them turns into a top 25% client?” I mean, you never know, right? And even the major leagues keep a farm league around to move up their talent. But I was thinking about this all wrong.

Peter told me a sobering fact. His firm researched this question, and found that only 1% of lower tier clients ever jump to the top. This means it costs far more to wait and see which weak client becomes strong, then to set up a marketing plan that just goes after top clients.

The 80/20 rule makes it clear that different clients have a dramatically different impact on our business.  We need to focus our energies on serving and duplicating our best clients. The weak ones, shouldn’t be mistreated, but they should never been served to the level as our best.

Mom told us to treat all clients equally. She lied. Or at least she didn’t know the Pareto principle.

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