Are you giving off subtle signals that are putting off potential customers? And are these signals building confidence or wariness among your staff? Subtle signals are often more powerful than overt ones. So how do you avoid sending the wrong signals?
If you spend too much time telling and not enough asking, then the subtle message is that the buyer is a sales target. The same applies to staff. At a recent restaurant launch the owner talked about the brilliant things that had been done but that one group of people had made it harder and needed to do better. The good news motivated, but the subtle message, sucking energy from the room, was “we bear grudges”.
Advice: Always stay focused on others. Keep your disappointments private.
Doing the right thing is assumed — but putting extra attention on having done the right thing may give the subtle message that it is special. It could suggest that you done the right thing this time, but normally you don't.
Advice: Help people to see that you always do the right thing by your actions, not your words.
In business we care far more about whether the job is done well, than whether there was a challenge on the way. Customers aren't going to buy it because they are sympathetic about the problems you had. So focus on the outcomes, not the journey. Tell people what they want and need to know — the job has been done and it has been done well.
Advice: Quality matters and so does the perception of quality.
The subtle signals in phrases like “I think you should” and “what you need to do now” highlight your desire to make choices for others, for the right reasons perhaps, but in the wrong way. Customers like to make their own choices. So facilitate these choices by asking questions to help them make their own decision — and support the choices they do make.
Advice: Influence comes more from supporting small choices, not defining large ones.
Most conversational questioning isn't deeply considered and an off the cuff reply can send a damaging subtle message. For example, “how many employees do you have?” assumes a business model that relies on internally-resourced work, but perhaps you use efficient outsourcing arrangements. If so, then the subtle message in a reply of, say, “four” is that you’re a very small business. Is that really representative?
Advice: Be alert to the underlying question and give a considered response that answers that question.
As humans we have to make assumptions all the time, usually based on some internal model of how the world works. A statement that means one thing in our model of the world may mean something very different in the other person's world. Therefore checking what assumptions have been made is always worthwhile. Do this by asking clarifying questions.
Advice: Check understanding. Often.
When you align the subtle signals to the overt ones you'll be seen as consistent and always on message, and that's something the truly great businesses do brilliantly.
Attracting large numbers of visitors to your stand at an exhibition is a two-stage process — including activities pre-event and during the event. Here are ten ways to maximise visitor numbers:
Inform visitors of your presence about a month before the exhibition and give them a flavour of what you’re showcasing. A good option is advertising or getting an editorial in the show guide as this usually goes out to all pre-registered visitors beforehand. There will also be printed copies when people arrive at the show. A lot of visitors plan their day over a coffee using the guide before they start roaming.
Another great way to flag up your presence at a show is by sending email or direct mail to your client and prospect database. Social media is also a quick and easy way to amplify the message — think LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, depending on your sector.
A successful exhibition stand is a mixture of creativity, functionality and activity. Ergonomics are important — is the stand open and welcoming, does it flow correctly, is it well-designed? A good stand should look architecturally interesting and include the use of different materials, finishes, lighting and colours.
What is your message and is it illustrated in your design and content? Rather than just showing graphics or brochures on your stand, digital tools such as quizzes, surveys, games and animations help visitors feel engaged and make your presence far more memorable.
Offer visitors an incentive to part with their data; for example, a prize for taking part, an interesting giveaway (tied in with the theme) or a draw for a bigger prize post-show. This also keeps the exhibitor-visitor dialogue going after the event. By posting event scrapbooks on sites such as Storify and Pinterest, and using your blog, you can broadcast key messages to visitors as well as to prospects that couldn’t make the show.
If you’re on a smaller budget you need to maximise it. If you don’t exhibit often you may not get value out of purchasing a stand and would be better off hiring it. Hired stands can still be creative and bespoke and they are cheaper so you can test the water. Small spaces can deliver just as well as larger ones. Use the height above a stand for rigging a banner or halo.
Make sure you can track the success of what you do so you can measure return on investment. If you’re going to invest in exhibiting, you need to measure your results against your sales lead and conversion objectives.
There are good freebies and bad freebies. Bad freebies for me are generic items — such as pens, mugs, mouse mats that don’t tie in with anything you’re doing. Good freebies have relevance, longevity and a purpose. We recently did some customised Toblerone bars — everyone likes chocolate, but they tied in with the “angled” theme on our stand. We also combined this with an augmented reality wrapper that played a video from an app. Good freebies don’t have to cost the earth; but if you can’t think of anything original, then freebies won’t be missed.
Staff in branded tops can look neat and yet informal. Being relaxed but professional is key. Visitors don’t want to feel intimidated — if you’re suited and booted, it helps to drop the tie.
No visitor wants an over-zealous salesman in their face as soon as they’ve walked on to the stand. Establish eye contact first, smile and ask them how they’re finding the show. Don’t go for the hard sell straight away — you need to find out why they’re visiting. But remember you are there to generate leads and you won’t do that if you’re ignoring everyone, are on your mobile, talking to your colleagues or taking a break.
Copyright © Samantha Thomsett, head of marketing at exhibition stand and display specialists, Nimlok.
Recently we’ve seen some sinful uses of social media; from clueless users to pointless tweeters. Already this year we’ve witnessed an array of social media blunders, not to mention those who’ve been prosecuted for their comments on social media.
So why all the sinning? With social media use at an all time high and as competition increases between social businesses, people are stretching the social media boundaries to stand out online. Some businesses have lost sight of social media etiquette, business etiquette and common sense as they “borrow” content and spy on their competitors.
But businesses that abuse social media are only damaging their own reputations and jeopardising their business opportunities.
So what are the 11 social media sins?:
Although you can delete posts, people can also screen grab and anything you post can remain in the social media realm forever. This is particularly relevant with Twitter — you can never be certain who is monitoring what you tweet. Never post anything on social media that you wouldn’t be happy for the whole world to see.
Treat social media as one and be consistent across your social media profiles. Your social media profiles should not be competing for your attention, do not favour one over the other; you should post content consistently over all sites. But keep in mind though that each has its own rules and purposes.
Use Twitter to signpost, ensure LinkedIn is B2B focused, Facebook B2C and Google+ should be a mixture of the two. You may need to alter the language of your posts based on the target audience of that platform. Ensure that your presence is consistent and truly represents you. Your social media profiles are usually the first place people go to find out about you, if you’ve got a mismatched, jumbled and inconsistent presence, people will be less likely to trust you and what you post.
There are thousands of fake social media users posing as celebrities and everyday users, with many of these being controlled by internet trolls. These are people who trawl social media sites posting derogatory comments and abusing users and should be reported to the social networking site in which they are operating on.
You must ensure that those influencers you follow are verified (have a little blue tick). If you’re an infamous user yourself, consider getting your own account verified.
You need to be careful what you tweet, even on your personal social media profiles. If your employer is mentioned on your profile, they can be liable for any offensive comments you make through Vicarious Liability.
Mind your social media Ps & Qs, watch your language and do not swear — especially if you’re posting from your business account. Your tweets represent your brand so ensure they reflect your target market and avoid offending anyone with your language.
There are proven best and worst times to post on social media and constantly broadcasting brand messages can be a waste of time. Check out the best times to post and ensure your posting is targeted.
Mix up scheduled tweets with timely posts throughout the week so you’ll create a great balance for your social media profiles and save yourself a lot of time.
Social media is not the place to air your dirty laundry and you will undoubtedly regret doing this so don’t share your personal information, family disputes or private matters.
Do not mix your personal life with your business handles; ensure you create a different personal account to keep up to date with friends. Already this year we’ve seen a number of cases involving people being fired, and in some cases prosecuted, for what they’ve said on social media. Again, don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the world to see — including friends, family, colleagues and employers.
Most of us have received negative or abusive comments on social media at some time. Don’t delete these comments, instead reply to them promptly (not necessarily immediately) and appropriately (step back, compose yourself, don’t reply in anger, deal with this in the same manner as you would through any other form of contact) to show you are dealing with this.
This is particularly true when it comes to social customer service; Twitter is now the first place many of us go to complain and if your company is brushing these comments under the carpet and removing them from your feed then this shows you in a terrible light. Show respect when replying and only use humour if appropriate.
So, don’t kill comments (unless truly offensive, in which case report and block); start dealing with them confidently. Ultimately, you will be judged on the way with you deal with it.
Don’t insult or mock people via social media; instead treat all your connections with respect. Ensure you get the tone of voice right, as well as the content you share — never position yourself online as something you are not.
Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Forge new relationships, share content and that way your will gain respect, support and recognition.
Social media has made it harder than ever for individuals to keep a track of their comments, posts and articles; and it’s now easier than ever for people to steal your content. Don’t steal other people’s tweets, arguments and opinions — it’s wrong.
We all know that social media is great for getting content ideas and inspiration, but if you are to use someone else’s articles, don’t present them as your own and reference them correctly. Social media content can still be copyrighted and you may find yourself in trouble if you present ripped off content as your own.
Many people think social media gives you anonymity but this isn’t always the case. Social media posts and comments are traceable so never use social media to slander people or businesses.
If you have a problem with a business or a brand, make sure you bring this, politely, to their attention and do not use social media as a way to broadcast your hate towards them. If you’re a business, don’t lie about other companies or mock them on Twitter.
Ensure that you have correct training and policies in place to monitor what your staff post and who has access to your accounts. After all, social media is an extension of your existing communications channels.
Love what your competitor is doing on social media? Well, don’t just sit back green with envy, go and do it yourself. Social media has removed boundaries that were traditionally the realms of big brand, big budget names.
Social media has provided a glass wall into other businesses and If you like something they’re doing, then think about doing something similar yourself. Not only has it allowed you to monitor competitors, social media has also allowed you to keep a track of your business targets, giving you an easy way to communicate and network with them.
© Emma Pauw, social media writer, We Talk Social.
Business advertising spend in the UK hit a new high of almost £14bn in 2013 and is set to increase to £14.8bn this year. But are businesses getting their money’s worth?
Personally, I doubt it. And the reason is that most businesses will miss out on one essential ingredient: experience.
Experiential marketing helps consumers contextualise the narrative behind your product and service.
Let’s take perfume as an example. Perfumes are, functionally speaking, a mixture of ingredients that produce a pleasant smell.
But people don’t wear perfume for the constituent parts; they buy it for the experience, they buy it in the hopes that they will feel attractive and desirable, and they buy it to give them a sense of confidence.
How is this experience achieved? By creating a holistic experience of the product.
It starts with advertising. Perfume ads usually feature a model sauntering around looking sexy; there is usually a husky voice saying abstract words like “adored” or “eternal”; and there is either lots of colour, for fun adventurous brands (think Joop!), or black and white, for brands that focus on being sexy and powerful (such as CK).
Next comes the in-store experience. The bright lights of each perfume shelf, the imagery displayed nearby — all are designed to continue the experience.
The bottle is also key — it takes the experience from store to home. Some are rough and jagged, others are sleek and curved.
And every time the customer uses the product, they experience that vision.
You might say: “But my business is in accounting software, not perfume.”
But you can still apply the same thinking. Experiential marketing relies on bringing together five distinct dimensions into one holistic experience:
Feeling. What will it feel like to use your product or service?
Sensing. How do customers physically sense your product?
Thinking. The experience still needs to take into account the rational, logical value of your product or service. How obvious can you make the benefits of your product? Can you illustrate its potential with a demo?
Acting. What behaviours will your product help to facilitate? Changes in behaviour can be highly motivational and empowering, such as Nike’s classic Just do it tagline.
Relating. How does your product or service link the customer to others, or even to a projection of their future self?
As the Chinese proverb goes: “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”
Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus.
Social media platforms such as Twitter give brands a free and invaluable way to connect with clients (both current and potential), spread brand warmth, monitor competitors, manage customer service, gain customer insights and drive website traffic — what’s not to love?
Yet, many brands are jumping feet first into the social media realm without understanding the basics; in particular, how to post content. This may seem like a no-brainer to some, yet many brands still don’t understand the fundamental rules of social media. Yes, social media is integral to your brand, but going out all guns blazing with no planning or strategy may do more harm than good.
And what’s the biggest faux-pas of all? It’s using social media channels to broadcast rather than engage.
If used in moderation, broadcast messages on social media can be effective. You can flag up new website content including blogs, news and articles. And you can attract more fans and followers by positioning yourself as an industry expert.
Yet, this must be done in moderation. If you continuously broadcast marketing messages via your social sites, people will soon switch off. Mix these messages with engaging third party content, network with customers and work to build strong lasting relationships with your followers. Social media is a long game but over time you will see results.
You wouldn’t train your in-store staff to constantly shout out brand messages in an attempt to sell to customers — apart from looking unprofessional, it would drive people away. So why do brands do this on social? The best sales people get to know their customers, they engage them in conversations, find out what makes them tick and then provide a solution to match their needs. The same should go for social media.
A report from Brandwatch shows that 25% of top brands continue to use Twitter for broadcasting purposes only. If you’re constantly broadcasting marketing messages, your content is without context, no trust is built and ultimately no sales. This can also make your brand look uncreative; your social media sites are supposed to show the human face of your organisation, to show your personality. If you’re only pushing brand messages, your business looks dull and uninspiring.
The real value comes from engaging your followers in two-way conversations, interacting with them and showing them that you care. Over the years, many brands have created a huge sense of brand warmth via their humorous and engaging social media posts; and their messages are retweeted, spreading their brand messages much further than those brands who broadcast. So come on guys, get some personality.
We all know the saying; if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? Well, the same goes for social; it’s all well and good endlessly posting but if you’re not engaging your followers then these posts will fall on deaf ears. If you’re constantly pushing out messages, people will soon switch off. Instead start engaging in conversations, joining in with the chatter and building up a strong sense of brand warmth and rapport with your followers.
Copyright © 2014 Emma Pauw, social media writer, We Talk Social.
Have you given much thought to how you communicate with your customers once they have ordered from your online store?
For many businesses, email is the obvious option; it is cheap, everyone else does it and all of your customers have an email address. But that is exactly the problem — because everyone else uses email, your communications get buried.
According to MailChimp, only 17.35% of ecommerce emails get opened. So, if you currently use email for order updates, then these communications are potentially reaching less than one in five customers.
Using SMS texts for customer service is a brilliant way to add customer value post-purchase for seven reasons:
SMS communications have a staggering open rate of 98%. Sending text messages ensures that your customers stay updated at every stage of the ordering and delivery process.
At a time when customers have handed over money and they are eagerly waiting for news on their order, there is no better time to use SMS as a communication tool. 90% of texts get read within five minutes. Your customers will appreciate the instant updates.
Mobile phones are very personal devices. Communicating through SMS to provide order updates shows you care and will build deep trust and loyalty.
With the growth of mcommerce, more and more consumers are buying goods through their smartphones. So communicating with them through a method that is more smartphone-friendly simply makes sense.
Some smartphone users turn their internet off in order to save battery. Others simply don’t have 3G or 4G signal. SMS overcomes these technological issues.
SMS makes your brand stand out from the crowd. With so many ecommerce businesses communicating solely through email, SMS is a great way to reach your customers.
Once your existing customers have received customer service texts from you they are more responsive to future promotional texts that add value. For example, you could send a loyalty coupon with an embedded URL code to your online store.
SMS gives you a greater ability to keep customers informed in a way that’s personal and relevant to them, enabling you to engage with them throughout the order process. This not only leads to increased satisfaction — but also increased sales.