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Seven ways to make your loyalty scheme a success

January 20, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Seven ways to make your loyalty scheme a success/rewards{{}}Customer retention is incredibly important for growing a sustainable business. The relationship you have with your consumers shouldn’t end once the initial deal has been done and an essential component of any customer strategy should be developing repeat custom.

Get it right, and your loyal customers can become key brand ambassadors, helping to bring in new customers from among their friends, family and acquaintances.

Using loyalty or reward schemes is one way to attract and retain customers. Here are some top tips for small businesses on how to make the most of them in order to establish a long-term relationship:

1. Communicate clearly

If your customers are entitled to be part of your reward scheme, then make sure they are clear why they are being given the reward and what value it holds for them. Remind them frequently that they have the benefit and relate it to their current requirements.

2. Make the rewards relevant

The reward on offer must be relevant to your consumers’ requirements, interests and aspirations and it must compliment your brand. In recent years, with many consumers having had to tighten their purse strings, those brands that have been successful in building loyalty are those offering rewards and discounts that are relevant in terms of product, brand and timing.

3. Keep it simple

Don’t overcomplicate the rewards programme as your customers may not understand it and will not engage with it. Present consistent offers that offer the greatest level of flexibility and are not limited in number or by timescale, rather than one-off deals that are only available for a fixed period of time. This helps to establish a long-term relationship.

4. Stay fresh

Keep the reward programme interesting by offering new opportunities. This ensures customers stay interested and shows your commitment to great customer service. This can increase repeat purchase and build loyalty and also gives you a reason to communicate more. This in turn enables the collection of valuable data, so you can develop more targeted communication going forward and have a real impact on the bottom line.

5. Stand out from the crowd

To achieve stand out from other loyalty schemes, reward your customers with something that is not readily available elsewhere. If you can deliver better value than those offers and discounts that are freely available on group discount and other websites, then your consumers will take notice.

6. Make sure you listen

Remaining in constant two-way communication with your consumers is key. If they feel they have a voice they will be far more engaged. Allowing them to feel they are shaping their reward package through feedback and suggestions will tell you exactly what they like and don’t like about the current offering.

7. Ensure your programme can attract and retain

Giveaways and welcome bonuses work very well for customer attraction. However, after the initial reward has been offered, a secondary element is required to aid retention. A programme that can do two jobs in one can save a great deal of time and money and have fantastic results. Impressive acquisition results can be achieved through promoting the benefits of the scheme. Then, through successful engagement and repeated usage, you can add a strong retention element. If your customer’s daily life is enhanced by a rewards package, they will be reluctant to sacrifice this through moving to another brand.

The right reward scheme can turn a customer’s first purchase into a lucrative, long-term relationship.

Daniel Nugent is head of Entice.

Make your business vision a reality in three steps

January 16, 2014 by Tamsen Garrie

Make your business vision a realityin three steps/vision{{}}Many business owners start with a vision and some even create a strategy to achieve it. However, many business owners fail to achieve their vision — usually because they fail to take the actions necessary to make it happen.

In a business context, a vision is an image of how the business owner wants the business to look in the future and so it dictates the direction of the business. It includes the core values that drive the ethos and culture of the business and it forms the basis of the strategy and all activity going forward, providing a framework within which all decisions are made.

An effective business vision is one that inspires and motivates the people in the business to take action. If it doesn’t do that, then it is of little use. Follow these three steps to creating a truly motivational business vision:

Step 1: Define your intent

Your Intent is about the “what”.

It’s about knowing what you want your business to be like. It’s about specifically defining what you want to achieve and clarifying the kind of work you want to be doing and with whom. It’s also about deciding where you want to work from, both in terms of environment and location.

Step 2: Define your purpose

Purpose is about the “why” — in other words the reason you are in business.

Your “why” stems from your personal values (the things that are important to you) and because of that, it is your deepest driving force. It’s about what your intent means to you and specifically what achieving it will enable for you.

Step 3: Make it tangible

Once you have defined your intent and purpose, you have the basis of a vision. However, to make it real, you need to take action.

The key to this is making it tangible — it’s about literally creating your future. When your vision starts to exist outside of your imagination, then your beliefs, thoughts and actions become aligned with it and you are more likely to make it happen.

Tamsen Garrie is a business and personal growth mentor and coach.

Are you embarrassed by your website?

January 15, 2014 by Sharon Tanton

Are you embarrassed by your website?/vintage typewriter{{}}The business case for having a good website packed with valuable content is very strong. Many people now realise that 60% of a sale happens before clients get in touch (or don’t — as the case may be). Your website plays an increasingly important part in the path to new business.

But it’s often sheer embarrassment that finally flicks the switch between “we really must get round to doing something about our website” to “we need to do it NOW”.

Worse than driving away potential leads (who we’ll never meet and can therefore ignore), a poor website makes it difficult to look our best amongst people we respect and want to do business with.

Having an embarrassing website is like having a really messy house. You just don’t want to bring people back there. Ring any bells?

Here are six signs that you’re embarrassed by your website:

  1. Like the spooky house on the corner, no one’s touched your website in years. It’s creaking at the seams. You daren’t even look in some places. It feels like it’s covered in cobwebs. If you dig too deep a skeleton will fall out of a cupboard or a bat will fly in your face.
  2. It’s like a ghost ship. Your website is haunted by the ghosts of people who left the company months ago, and the spectre of ideas you’ve moved on from. You’d change it if you could, only changing anything is so difficult, so you just avoid sending people to it.
  3. There’s no room at the inn. Look, you’d like to add some new content, but where’s it going to go? Your website isn’t a house, it’s a tiny caravan, and there’s no space for anything else. It’s just not up to the job.
  4. You’ve lost the plot. There are so many words but no one understands what you’re saying. Your website just doesn’t make it clear what you do. (In fact, you’re so mired in the wrong words that you’re finding it hard to explain it too).
  5. Your website looks like it was decorated by Laurence Llewelyn Bowen c.1993. Web fashions change. If too much frippery detracts from your message or the design gets in the way it just feels wrong. If your website fees like a rag rolling disaster, or a gold spray painted cherub fiasco, you’ll want people to stay well away.
  6. It has childhood bedroom syndrome. Your business is growing. You’ve changed. You’re clear what you offer, and how you help your clients but your website hasn’t caught up. Taking people back to the website is like trying to have a serious business conversation in a room decorated in Noddy wallpaper. You’ll do anything to avoid it.

If this sounds like your website, then it’s time to take action.

Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, creative director at Valuable Content and co-author, with Sonja Jefferson, of Valuable Content Marketing.

How well do you really know your customers?

January 13, 2014 by Guest Blogger

How well do you really know your customers?/clients{{}}As business owners, we like to think we know our customers pretty well. After all, we spend much of our day either speaking to them directly or communicating with them by email and on social media networks.

But just how well do you really know your customers? Try answering these questions honestly. Do you know:

  • What does your typical customer looks like?
  • How your customers vary, according to the product or service you supply them?
  • Which sectors you penetrate with the greatest success?
  • Who is most likely to be receptive to your business?
  • What additional products or services your customers are most likely to be interested in?

You may be able to answer some of these, but few of us can say we know all of the answers for sure — and of course some of the answers may be dependent on our different products and services and are likely to change over time.

Or you might think you know the answers but then be surprised by the results when you gather customer feedback — proving that your assumptions aren’t always accurate.

What your existing data can tell you

But you don’t always have to ask your customers for feedback to get the answers you need. Often your existing data can tell you a lot.

Start by segmenting customers according to the specific products they have purchased. From here you can identify the audience most likely to respond to future direct marketing campaigns, helping you to increase ROI.

Know more, target better

You can also identify which criteria means a prospect is most likely to be interested in your product or service, based on your existing customer knowledge. For instance, for B2B customers you can analyse: best sectors, company size, regions, contact types and so on. For B2C customers, you can look at: best income bands, regions, hobbies, ages, social class and more.

This knowledge can also show you where your best cross-selling opportunities are with existing customers.

Smarter marketing = improved outcomes

Ultimately, the more customer knowledge you derive from your data, the better you can identify prospects and target those with the highest propensity to become a customer. This, in turn, will reduce your communication costs, improve response rates and maximise the efficiency of your marketing campaigns.

Antoni Chrysostomou is sales and business development director at Data HQ.


Want to drum up sales? Get exhibiting

January 08, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Want to drum up sales? Get exhibiting/Drum-set with sticks{{}}According to the latest research, 86% of business directors agree that exhibitions are the second most effective means of generating sales leads after a company’s own website.

This finding may surprise you when you consider the array of other alternative channels available to companies. So why are exhibitions still such a successful means of drumming up business?

One reason why every company, regardless of size, should get showy is due to the unique captured target audience you can gain from attending a show. At trade exhibitions you can be certain of reaching a large portion of your target audience.

Meeting customers that want to buy

Most people who make the effort to attend exhibitions up and down the country aren’t there to window shop. If they’re taking the time to visit a particular show then these are real potential customers with real money to spend. The fact that you can access a relevant, filtered audience is the key to trade exhibitions and is a great reason why businesses should exhibit.

Another big gain is brand affinity with your customers. In a world where everybody is connected by computers, brand differentiation often gets lost in translation.

By giving your target audience the chance to physically engage with your brand in an environment that is primarily in your control, you can gain a serious upper hand on your competitors. When done in the right way to suit your brand, this can be a great way to stay in people’s minds.

Even though it can seem an expensive option, in the long term an effective exhibition stand can be a much more economical investment than other ways of trying to reach your audience and it can deliver real results.

It’s definitely worth considering taking the time and effort to get yourself and your business in front of your target audience. Just make sure of a firm handshake at the end of it!

Rick Hewitt is marketing and graphics assistant at Envisage.

Why Twitter beats Facebook when it comes to marketing your business

January 07, 2014 by Veronica Pullen

Why Twitter beats Facebook when it comes to marketing your business/twitter bird{{Image credit: mkhmarketing on Flickr}}Recently I’ve been hearing lots of people saying that Facebook has become their preferred choice of social network for promoting their business. Lots of people seem to be making use of Facebook, but are reluctant to start using Twitter or feel it’s not the right social network for them.

So I thought I would share my top four reasons why Twitter is better than Facebook for marketing your business, to give you the inspiration to start using Twitter, or to re-ignite your passion if you’ve started feeling a bit “meh” about it recently.

So, in no particular order:

Image credit: mkhmarketing on Flickr.

1. It’s fast moving

Now I know to the newbie Twitter user, the first time you realise just how fast moving it is, you can feel a bit like you’ve suddenly found yourself at Victoria Station at 8am on a weekday!

But the pace of Twitter opens up plenty of opportunities for you to get in front of your ideal clients.

Because it moves so quickly, most people don’t screen what they tweet in the way they do when posting on Facebook. Twitter users are much more likely to “brain dump” into a tweet — which means you get access to lots more detail on people than you ever will on Facebook.

On Twitter you’re more likely to post the minutiae about your day; the train is delayed, the fact that you stopped for coffee en route, your immediate thoughts after the meeting, the quick whizz around the shops, the people on the train and so on.

So think about what your ideal client might be tweeting about during their day — and search for it on Twitter. They’re right there.

2. It’s easier to learn

It is actually miles easier to learn how to use Twitter than it is Facebook.

The reason is that Facebook changes the blooming rules every other day; so just when you think you know what you’re doing, it all changes.

I can only think of two changes Twitter has made in the past six months, and one of those was about the way you report (and they deal with) abusive tweets. The other was the introduction of a new feature that allows you to accept direct messages from anyone who follows you — regardless of whether you follow them.

Both of those changes will make very little difference to how the majority of us use Twitter.

Conversely, Facebook have made about 98,516 changes to their platform in the last month — slight exaggeration but something changes in Facebook at least once a week. Grrr!

3. Your prospects can find you easily

This week we’ve needed to find three types of businesses, and as we’re new to the Isle of Wight, we don’t have many contacts in the offline world. So instead of faffing around skimming through the Yellow Pages, Google etc, we decided to do what any Twitter fan would do — we waited for the IOW Twitter Chat.

So on Monday night , we hit #WightHour to look for the people we needed. By 9.30pm, we had sourced an electrician, IT person, and a cleaning company. Job done, easy.

Are you participating in your local Twitter Chat? Or in all the Twitter chats your ideal clients are? If not, you’re very likely losing business.

4. You don’t have to wait for conversations

I like to compare the social media world to a shopping mall; Facebook is the shops around the edge of the mall where they set out their window display, then have to wait for customers to come inside.

Twitter is the row of stands that sit down the aisles of the mall. The advantage the stands have over the shops is that they are right in the middle of the crowds of shoppers. So they can easily move into the crowds and talk to people to get their attention.

And that’s exactly what you can do on Twitter. You don’t have to wait for people to come and find your page; you can get yourself into the crowd and initiate conversations yourself. Who do you want to tweet with? Just do it.

Veronica Pullen is a social media expert and small business coach. She is the author of the free ebook, Unlock the 3 Best Kept Secrets to Skyrocket your Sales from Twitter.

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