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Losing weight, giving up smoking, getting a better education, getting a better job. Some people only need it. Others really want it.
And so it is with customer service. Some organisations really need to give better service. Their customers are telling them so, their employees are telling them so and their profits are probably telling them so. But for whatever reason, they don’t want to give better service.
And then there are those who really want it. Those organisations that recognise the importance of listening to their customers, creating a culture with high levels of employee engagement and building their bottom line and their goodwill.
If you want to experience great service, go to an organisation that wants to serve you, where the people are empowered and encouraged to delight you. Very often these organisations don’t need big budgets for advertising or recruitment or training. I’ve never seen a single advertisement for Pret A Manger yet their service is outstanding and their business has grown rapidly from humble beginnings in 1986.
It starts with leadership, with a vision, the ability to communicate that vision and the strength to look for long term growth rather than short term profits. You can feel the leadership running through the organisation like the word Blackpool in a stick of rock. I feel Julian Richer’s influence at Richer Sounds, John and James Timpson at Timpson shoe bars, Richard Branson at Virgin Atlantic and Charles Dunstone at Carphone Warehouse.
You don’t have to be big. You don’t have to be small. But remember that a big business is just a small business that did the right things.
Think lifetime value. When a customer comes in for a USB stick, for instance, think what their lifetime value might be — a computer every two years, plus printers, and cables and inks and paper and servicing and broadband, for them, for their family, for their business. Cock up on the £10 sale and you lose that lifetime value for your lifetime.
It’s a question I am often asked — whether it’s better to have a blog that sits within your main marketing website or to have a blog that sits on a separate domain.
As ever, you need to have a plan, look closely at your objectives, your brand and how your customers want to receive useful information from you and interact with you.
If you have a good website, one that enjoys many visits and conversions to leads, then it is feasible to integrate a blog within your main sales website. Keep it between your own goal posts! This is what marketers call reinforcement and endorsement. Potential customers can see other customers commenting on your products and services and your marketing messages are all in one place.
If, on the other hand, you have a website that needs optimising in the search engines, one that remains static or that you wish to leave as your main sales funnel, you could consider a separate blog domain. A separately hosted blog allows you to extend your marketing messaging further and it can enable you to create freer marketing information — such as blogs that are aimed at educating your audience. This option effectively gives you two websites – and you can register a keyword rich URL which can set you apart from your competition!
Many small and medium-sized businesses struggle to maintain a consistent level of marketing activity because energies and resources are diverted to deliver work for paying customers. Indeed, many don’t see the point in spending precious budget, and even more precious time, when they have plenty of work on the go.
As a business owner myself I certainly recognise the dilemma and can understand why marketing can slip to the bottom of the to-do list at times. But, if you want to grow your business, you need to maintain your marketing momentum.
Marketing for growth means marketing consistently. Here are five reasons to maintain a steady level of marketing activity for your growing business.
1. Build a steady and predictable sales pipeline
When new business becomes a rollercoaster, it is exhausting. Many small businesses find themselves in “feast or famine” mode — consistent marketing can break this cycle. If you know that the buying process in your business takes six days, six weeks or six months, then you know that you need to be generating those initial enquiries six days, six weeks or six months before you actually do the work or deliver the product. Famine happens when you forget to do your prospecting because you’re too busy feasting.
2. It’s worth repeating yourself
You may have heard talk of changing the education system to reduce the long Summer breaks, because it has been shown that children forget what they’ve learned over the long holidays. The same is true of your market. If you haven’t said anything for a while, you’ll have to forgive people for not immediately recalling who you are and what you do. If, however, you have a programme of regular communications that continually keeps you front of mind, when you do pick up the phone or bump into a potential buyer at an event, you’re one step further on in the conversation because you’ve not had to introduce yourself from scratch.
3. Generate the right kind of work for your business
Yes, there is a right and a wrong kind of work for your business. The right kind is profitable, enjoyable and builds skills and credibility. The wrong kind simply takes up time and barely turns a profit. Being busy does not always equate to being profitable, or fulfilled. By continually presenting your business as the experts in the right kind of work, you’ll get more of it. But, if you all have your heads down simply fulfilling the wrong kind — when will you get a chance to tell people about what you’re really good at?
4. Maintain those marketing muscles
Marketing is made up of many different skills and techniques. If you only pick them up from time to time, you’re likely to need to re-learn what you once knew. What’s more, with digital marketing techniques moving on at a staggering pace, if you look away for more than a few weeks it is likely that some new technique will have passed you by. Regular, consistent marketing activities undertaken throughout your firm will embed the skills so that it becomes second nature. And, when that happens, it’s no longer a chore — it’s just a great habit.
5. If you generate enough demand, you can put your prices up
Scarcity builds demand. Take the recent strikes in France and the impact on the availability of fuel. If people had simply bought the same as usual, there would have been no shortage. But, the sense of shortage prompted them to stock-up. Now, I’m not advocating scaring people into buying your products, but you’d be amazed how much more people seem to want what you have (and are willing to pay) if it seems like it’s in high demand. Taking this on board, it makes sense to keep marketing even when you’re full to capacity.
Using the right tool for the job is important in any business, and it is no different in the world of content.
Valuable content is an essential part of any marketing strategy. From basics like websites through to business books, a portfolio of good content can become a valuable toolkit for your business.
Not every business will need all the tools, it’s about getting the communications mix right for you and your customers. Understand how your customers like you to communicate with them, and talk to them that way.
Website: Pack it full of value. Make it a hub of useful resources for your clients. The answers should all be there. Needs to engage. Keep it up to date.
Articles: Give away some of your hard-earned knowledge and show thought-leadership. Generate interest and understanding in return. A business blog is a fantastic way to publish and share your articles.
Whitepapers: Positioned somewhere in between a magazine article and an academic paper, this powerful form of content can super-charge your thought-leadership efforts.
Newsletters: Keep in touch. Short, sweet, relevant. Should be regular.
Social media: Join the community. Be seen. Social media offers a good way of showing what you know. Interact and make yourself useful. Twitter and LinkedIn are among the best.
Email marketing: The best campaigns are targeted, responsive and useful. Email can be a clever way of carrying on the conversation with potential buyers.
Case studies: The kings of content. Make sure yours show potential clients exactly how you help people like them.
A business book: If case studies are the kings of content, business books are the Masters of the Universe. Sure fire way of positioning yourself as an authority in your field. Big commitment to create, with bigger pay-off if you get it right.
What collection of content tools is right for your business?
By Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton
There is so much focus on social media that it is easy for marketers to forget that email is still an equally important part of the marketing mix. However, email is only a powerful tool if it is used intelligently – and as technology advances, the rules change rapidly. But by always respecting the customer, you can see a significant return-on-investment.
Before sending anything, put yourself in their position to check that the email is of value in some way.
Sending the same message to everyone is no longer effective — or acceptable. Instead, it is important to send people content that is relevant to their preferences and therefore likely to engage them.
Consumers are real people with individual preferences, interests and life-cycle events. Emails must treat them as such.
Social networking has led consumers expect two-way conversations — make sure you deliver.
Use each communication as an opportunity to develop and strengthen your relationship with the customer by learning more about them.
If you want consumers to divulge the personal information that you require for targeted email campaigns, you need to “pay” for that by providing something that they perceive as valuable in return.
CRM is the essence of intelligent email marketing. It requires that as much information as possible about the consumer is gathered, stored, analysed and used to enhance messages.
Treating recipients as individuals by sending them emails that make them feel valued and important will encourage all-important customer loyalty.
Getting the recipients of your emails to share the content via social media or forwarded messages introduces a powerful snowball effect to your campaign. Encourage them to do this with easy-to-see, relevant buttons in the body of the email. Spreading the word through recommendations is a fast and straightforward way to develop your subscriber database.
Some consumers are forgiving – most are not. You usually have only one chance to get it right. Use it wisely!
If, like me, you are a product person, then I think it’s safe to assume you spend a healthy amount of time thinking about how your product can make an impact on its market.
At SellerDeck, we are pretty lucky as we have a sizable user base, but it wasn’t always the way. Plus, I have never met a product company that doesn’t want more users.
So here are my top ten tips for making a big splash:
Every industry has a set of influencers. Get to them, demo your product or offer early access if you are yet to launch. An interesting tip I picked up is to look at those that write books about your space, contact the authors and the people that are quoted on the back and get them on board.
You need to become the face of your product in relevant online communities — everything from social networks to discussion groups. If you’re not the authority for your product then someone else will be.
Get out of the office and away from the desk. Nothing beats good old-fashioned networking and many events are free to attend.
Seriously, business cards are not dead. In my opinion they are the most powerful marketing tool available and considerably more acceptable to hand out at events. The premise of the double-sided card is simple; one side has your contact info, the other a short description of your product. But avoid marketing BS at all costs.
A great tip I picked up at a conference last year is to search for comparisons between your competitors. If your space is reasonably mature you’ll find everything from reviews to blog posts. Why not include a comment while pointing out how your product is different from those being discussed?
I am amazed at how few companies in the tech space still offer a marketing kit. It’s one of the most useful tools a marketer can provide. Think about how you can condense all of your information into a concise PDF or simple HTML site. Include interesting information, case studies/testimonials, product details, market statistics etc.
It all makes a difference and remember no one likes a constant stream of “why you’re the best”. Mix things up, be interesting.
Pay-Per-Click advertising is the long-established method of getting eyes on the prize. The reason for this is simple — it works. Google and Bing ads are the obvious starting place but don’t forget about Facebook, where you can target a campaign based on people’s interests and demographics.
Think about Linkedin, Crunchbase, Mashable and others — they are often free. There are loads of business directories, make sure you’re in all of them.
Cliché I know, but if your current customers are not raving about your product or service then I doubt the new ones you’re trying to attract will be either. Also no-one sells a product better than an existing, happy user.