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Many businesses have rigidly defined the respective roles and responsibilities of their customer service and marketing departments. This is often the source of frustrations as, on one hand, the marketing guys do not have the opportunity to interact with the customers and, on the other hand, the customer service team has only a limited opportunity to influence product design and communication.
Small businesses have much more room for manoeuvre, as they can chop and change, test and experiment without affecting a large volume of customers. Very frequently, small companies manage their customers through a single channel, handling social interactions, marketing efforts, customer service and many other activities in one place. They use mishaps as a marketing opportunity and dispatch little gifts and samples to “compensate” customers. Customer service is clearly being used as a marketing tool.
Whilst larger operators are busy leveraging their social media reach by pushing multitudes of promotions, special offers, coupons, vouchers and deals, small businesses can build a long-term advantage by establishing close-knit communities of customers. Positioning customer service at the heart of the marketing strategy contributes to the exchange of ideas and the resolution of problems whilst creating a platform for future recommendations.
All this contributes to the development of a very strong sense of loyalty.
The challenge comes when the business grows and someone makes the suggestion that life would be much easier if dedicated marketing and customer service teams were established…it will be hard but just make sure you resist the temptation.
Guest blog by Very Good Service.
Read more in our dedicated section about customer service.
Onwards with the mission to give you the heads-up and the low-down on baffling data jargon. In part two, I am focusing on spring cleaning and ensuring your data is spic and span and up-to-date. It is that time of year after all.
I will start off with an easy one. A data record that has been tele-verified has been called up and the details double-checked by a call centre agent. So you know that the telephone number, address details and contact name have had their t’s crossed and i’s dotted.
As the name suggests, data recency refers to how recently a record has been checked. So a data file that has 24-month recency was gathered or tele-verified two years ago. A file with 12-month recency was gathered or verified 12 months ago and so on. The shorter the recency, the more likely the contact details are to be accurate. Recency is especially important in business data, due to the regularity of staff changes – think about it; you are more likely to change your job than your house.
“What is a de-dupe?” It’s a very common question. A de-dupe deletes duplicate records. So if you have multiple records for one customer, a de-dupe will remove the duplicates. This makes sure that you are not mailing, emailing or telephoning the same company twice, which can be embarrassing and costly.
The other useful reason for a de-dupe is to make sure you are not buying data you already have. So when you are buying new data records, you should de-dupe against your existing customer and prospect data. That way you are only buying net data, i.e. data you don’t already have in your marketing database. Again saving you time and money.
A bit like a financial audit, a data audit will tell you what state of repair your marketing database is in. The audit identifies any dodgy records such as wrong contact names or wrong address details. It will flag any records that are on the suppression files such as TPS or MPS. It will highlight companies that have moved or that no longer exist. The audit report will also tell you what you need to do to get your data back into tiptop condition. And more importantly how much it will cost.
Once you have identified the problems with your data with an audit, a data cleanse will put it right. Think of a data cleanse as a spring clean. All the incorrect details will be updated and the dodgy records removed. Therefore you won’t be wasting time and effort trying to market to them. Happy days.
It’s a simple question really. Many of us are passionate about selling products and/or services that we wholeheartedly believe in. Because, let’s face it, if we aren’t passionate about our own product then we can’t expect our customers to be. But selling someone something they need but don’t particularly want can be incredibly difficult.
Selling someone a product or service they want is often just a matter of closing the deal. What many people fail to realise is that it’s incredibly difficult — perhaps nigh on impossible, to sell someone something they might need, but don’t think they want.
Occasionally, I’ll meet a business owner struggling to make their business model work. And often, the root cause lies in the fact that they’re on a crusade to change the world. They believe so passionately in their business, product or service that they are convinced everyone else should too.
They look to the branding and the marketing to solve the problem. They revisit their sales process. If they’re not careful they can embark on incredibly expensive campaigns that result in very little. Why? Because they’ve failed to grasp that their customers don’t want what they’re selling.
They might need it. But they don’t want it. Nightmare.
As we know, business development is a continuous and cyclical operation. The cycle is one of extremes; it’s either going fabulously well and opportunities are in abundance, or there’s precious little on the horizon.
All business development professionals question their ability to produce good quality leads when at this juncture.
With over a decade of front-line practice, this is something I have consistently experienced; exhilarating highs and frustratingly low periods of drought. Although, with the right formula and robust processes in place, thankfully these droughts don’t last very long!
We all consistently strive to perfect our methods to engage our audience and enjoy a higher success rate, yet often neglect to consider that people only buy from people that they like, can trust and that they can relate to.
Understanding the stages in the sales cycle and following good practice should go hand in hand with the development of the individual qualities that all successful new business openers seem to be unconsciously competent at.
Here are my top five essential attributes of a successful new business marketer:
A relaxed manner only comes to those who have prepared, are confident and that have a good level of understanding of their audience. Respecting the audience’s precious time and good manners will result in a positive all round experience that builds rapport for future potential.
Knowing when to talk, what questions to ask and at what level, when to listen in order to take in the right intelligence. These skills will help shape the conversation in order to get the most from it.
Immersion in the sales cycle on an on-going basis at all levels is necessary when you are in communication with director-level decision makers.
Problem-solving propositions are the best method of approach (above solutions based and offer based approaches). Asking what issues and problems the contact is faced with provides an opportunity to demonstrate how these problems could be overcome.
Respectful consistent communication when the contact has agreed for further contact works. Particularly when new insight/industry analysis/further evidence of suitability is presented as part of the warming process.
I’m in a generous mood this month, so I thought I would give away the details of some of my favourite free marketing tools that can really give a boost to your online marketing.
SeoQuake is a browser plug-in that’s available for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. It’s invaluable for gathering intelligence about your main online competitors, and the factors contributing to their success. It consolidates data from a range of different sources that you would otherwise have to interrogate separately.
With the plug-in installed you can search for any key phrase on either Google or Bing, and see a variety of useful information about each page, just below its search listing. This includes page rank, backlinks, Alexa traffic rank, the size and age of the site, and several other options.
You can also save the results to a file. For some reason SeoQuake uses colon separators instead of commas, but a quick find and replace in Word fixes that, and makes the file importable into Excel or any other spreadsheet or database.
Click on any link and you can access data on keyword density and additional information about the page.
Search Google for ‘SeoQuake’, and find the link for the browser you want to use it with.
If you want to track your Google rankings for a range of keywords, but you don’t want to splash out on a pay-as-you-go service like WebPosition, then Free Monitor for Google from CleverStat is a great alternative.
You can track an unlimited number of key phrases for an unlimited number of domains. For each phrase the tool will show your current highest ranking, the previous highest, the change in position, and a list of all the top ranking pages. It doesn’t provide any graphing facilities, but you can paste the results into Excel and create your own reports from there.
Sometimes you may want to evaluate the page rank of a list of pages, for example if you are evaluating prospects for link building, or you want to monitor the rank of your own site’s pages. Checking them one by one can be a pain, but fortunately there are several free online tools that enable you to check page rank in bulk.
The PageRank Checker at http://www.bulkpagerank.com/ works well, and checks up to 500 pages at a time. It lacks a .csv export, but you can copy and paste the results into Excel or another application.
If you have a favourite app you’re willing to share, leave a comment below.
In short, an email preference centre is much like a membership page on your website that allows your subscribers to manage their subscriptions.
After signing up and when they log in, they’re given the opportunity to update their profile and also specify what information they’d like to receive from you and how often. This works best and is necessary if you have a variety of email campaigns that you send out, such as newsletters, sales alerts, product information, industry updates and more.
In the preference centre, your subscriber can opt in for as many of the campaigns as they wish, and subsequently make changes whenever they want. They should also able be to specify how often they receive correspondence from you, the format of the emails (html or text versions) and whether they want to subscribe to RSS, mobile or SMS updates.
If you supply products such as books, music, DVDs or clothes then you should definitely look at incorporating an email preference centre to manage your subscriptions effectively. If however, you only offer a single product or service it’s not necessary.
The real value of a preference centre is that it gives subscribers complete control over what lands in their inbox, and this helps build trust and loyalty, which is one of the main objectives of email marketing. By giving them what they want when they want and honouring their preferences, they’ll have less reason to unsubscribe from your email campaigns.
Keep in mind that customers are voluntarily offering private information about themselves at a time and pace that suits them. Therefore, it’s important that your preference centre is friendly and welcoming and the questions aren’t overly complex, in depth or personal. You want them to feel like they can come back at any time to make changes and when they do, it’s a painless process.
Contrary to popular belief, an email preference centre is pretty easy to implement and to begin with many people simply store data on their email platform or CRM, which is perfectly acceptable.
Georgia Christian is the editor of the online email marketing service Mail Blaze.