Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

TRUST, A Social Media Missing Link!?

Having a Facebook Page WILL NOT bring instant sales.

Twitter WILL NOT triple your Web traffic overnight.

A press release WILL NOT get journalists banging down your door.

Harsh truths, I know, but ones that need to be heard. The problem with small businesses and marketing is they want instant coffee. They want to see a spike in sales or Web traffic instantly, and that simply doesn’t happen unless you’re the Old Spice guy. Freshly showered men aside, all your marketing efforts should lead to one thing:  T-R-U-S-T.

Why Trust Is Important

Is trust necessary? Not really. You could sell a thousand widgets to a thousand people and never see them again. Or you could work to build trust with these customers, and rely on them to become your brand evangelists, to let them tell others how great you are because you’re a trustworthy company. Let them blog, tweet and share their love on Facebook.

Trust keeps customers coming back. If what you sell costs a lot of money, it gives them the confidence to drop the $100, $1,000 or $10,000 on your product or service.

How to Build Trust

Every component of marketing is about trust-building, if done properly.

  • Social Media. Face it: You probably haven’t bought much from brands on Twitter just because they’re there. If a brand you’re following is having a promotion, you might click the link and buy. But that’s promotion. Not marketing. So your role in social media is to use it as a channel to build trust. Create conversations, whether they’re related to your industry or not. Share relevant links, even if they’re not from your own blog. Interact. Give people a reason to seek your brand out on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Press Releases. Sometimes trust is just about being there consistently. Putting out a press release each month can go a long way to say, “Hey! We’re still here doing awesome things.” And while journalists may not be clamoring to publish your news, searching for keywords that lead them to one press release after another from your brand certainly shows that you’re consistent. And consistency is one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship, is it not?
  • Blogger Relations. If you’re smart enough to be working with bloggers to spread the word about your products or services, kudos. But how you work with them can have just as much impact on your brand as what they think of the product. First off, pay your bloggers. Their time is as valuable as yours. But be there for them too. Make sure they know you’re partners in the blogger outreach campaign you’re working on, and make sure to address any questions or concerns they have before they post. If you build that trust, they’ll go beyond the call of duty for the campaign and talk about your brand on all the social channels, resulting in bonus play for you.

Now WHAT!?

If I’ve put you into a tailspin, don’t worry. Keep doing what you’re doing in marketing, but shift your thinking.  Don’t focus on how many (or few) website visitors that last Facebook contest netted. Instead look at how you built the trust of hundreds of loyal fans. If they are engaged in what you’re doing, you’re successfully building that trust. Keep it up, and those relationships will come to fruition.

The Sales Cycle! What You Need to Know!

Many non-sales people don’t really understand that great sales people have the process of selling down to a half science / half art form. Good sales people don’t even really sell, they simply help a customer resolve a problem they may have. The other thing people working in a small business don’t understand is that nearly every customer facing employee needs to know the science part of sales. A long time ago I was taught that there were five steps of a sale. With any client you need to know exactly where you are in the cycle, so you can use probing questions to find out what needs to be known to get to the next stage.

Stages in the five step sales cycle are progressive and you can’t move to the next step until you are sure your customer is ready.

Step 1: Attention. Before you can start getting into the detail of what your customer needs or wants, you need to get their attention. Attention simply means that the prosopect (or suspect) is willing to listen to you and go through as many of the steps to qualify or disqualify them.

Step 2: Interest. After you have gotten their attention and they are listening they must be interested in two way dialogue that will help you identify what is most important to them. Many sales people loose their prospects at this step because the sales person hasn’t been able to keep a prospect engaged long enough to determine their needs. An example of a customer that is interested is after talking about your product or service and the ways it may benefit them, they give you indications they are still interested you know you are at this stage.

Step 3: Conviction. Although all steps of the sale are important, conviction may be the most important and hardest to overcome part. Conviction has two parts: First the customer must know they have a problem, and second they must believe you, your company, and its product or service is the solution that is going to help them solve their problem. Here is a good example. Let’s say you are a consultant selling a service to help business owners understand better how to measure their business performance. You may easily see the company is having serious problems and you may know exactly how to help them fix them, but until the business owner really believes he has a problem you won’t get past part one of the conviction step. This is the step where ideally you the sales person do more listening than talking and you ask probing questions that will help you understand how the customer perceives their situation. You then use anecdotal stories and examples that will allow the owner to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

If you are able to check off the first part of the conviction stage, your client must believe you are the one to help them solve their problem. Both parts are equally important. I like to think that once a prospect has passed the conviction stage, the rest is the fun part of sales.

Step 4: Desire. This is the stage of the sale when the prospect / customer emotionally buys into your company’s solution as theirs. It is the stage of the sale where the customer has mentally checked off the box for resolving their problem. It’s important that even when a customer is in the desire stage, they may not “buy” for a number of reasons. Affordability may be a reason, timing of other projects that are consuming the buyer’s time and a host of other reasons may require you to put the sale on the back burner until they customer believes they are ready to move to the final stage.

Step 5: Action. The action stage is where the customer places an order, pays for your services or signs a contract that may allow you to move forward.

Don’t assume that a customer won’t move backward in the process once or twice while moving through the stages of the sale. It happens. For that reason it is important to evaluate which stage you are at every time you plan to move to the next stage.

It is easy using the methods I have described above to set up a customer relationship management system (CRM) to show the stages of the sale and put % of estimated success on each stage. It’s also easy to teach this method to those in your company that are customer facing since they also play a continuing role in keeping a customer happy.

Face to Face Matters in This Social Media World

I have grown up in the business world working and interacting directly with people for many years. I enjoy it, I look forward to it and I still say it’s where the magic happens in relationships. But today, we have two worlds that are learning how to blend, balance and work together: online/Web-based and offline/in person.

In the past few years, so much emphasis and shifting has gone to the Web/online world because that is where the growth and movement trends are. In-person networking has taken a hit, as evidenced with declining enrollment in chambers of commerce, fee-based networking events and professional organizations. It’s not that people don’t want to go; it’s simply a matter of finances . . . or is it? Are we substituting an e-mail, tweet, post or text for live, in-person activities. thinking that is going to grow relationships?

We can never forget how important and powerful people getting together for face-to-face interaction can be. Nor can we allow sending e-mails or texts to replace that interaction. Blending your online and offline activities is important because today, people are communicating and engaging equally in both places. The online and offline worlds are interdependent and interrelated.

If I meet you online and strike up an online relationship that has value and interest to me, then taking it offline is going to enhance that relationship and help it progress. If we meet in person, then staying connected online is going to enhance our relationship and help it progress until we meet in person again.

Why is face-to-face networking so important?

  • The power of personally connecting and human interaction accelerates relationship building. In 10 minutes I can learn more about someone, and they about me, in person than in six months online!
  • Finding common ground comes from having a conversation or discussion on the phone or in person. The energy that passes between people finding out that they have a hobby, favorite book, peer or life experience in common can be profound.
  • Making decisions on what the next step is and putting the plan in motion can happen in one minute on the phone or in person, as opposed to multiple e-mails.

If you haven’t been out and about enough, set some goals this year to reconnect in person in your community, business world or hobbies. Go where you already have commonality and know people. It’s a much easier and faster way to get connected, get personal and make some new friends and connections–and you just might get that job, interview or new customer.

BOSS: Are You Being Heard??

We are at the beginning of another year — that time when we turn a critical eye to what worked and what didn’t last year. So let’s give some attention to the foundation of all great marketing efforts: interpersonal communication. Think of traditional marketing as air cover but personal communications as the sales maker that wins customers and keeps clients happy and loyal.

I recently visited with an amazing business owner regarding his success.   After speaking with him, you find yourself buzzing (with possibilities) and wanting more. Here are some of his suggestions for improving front-line communications and building rapport and trust.

Ask for permission: This is my favorite. In any communication — phone, e-mail, in person — ask for permission every two to three minutes. Why? Because every two to three minutes we get to a different place in our talk. Pepper your conversation with little comments like, “May I continue?” or “There is something more I have to say about this, would you like to hear it?” Doing this,  guarantees that the other person is still in the conversation.

Repeat after me: Here’s a big mistake many businesspeople make — assuming their point has been totally understood because it didn’t elicit follow-up questions. Often, what is really happening is that people aren’t fully engaged in what you are saying, which is why they aren’t asking questions — and won’t remember what you said. The solution is repetition. As with advertising, most people need to hear something seven times before they acknowledge you’ve said it. It’s the way we are programmed.

Sell yourself as much as your product: Humans are creatures of the gist not the content. We get a sense about something that fits our world view and adapt the information to fit it (think CNN News). We are pattern-making creatures, and the pattern we are always trying to make is the gist. We are not trying to make patterns out of the details. What this suggests is that many customers want to hear why they should buy you or your company — not how you are going to deliver your products or services or meet their needs.

Master your body language: Trust is essential in almost every transaction. Often, people pay more attention to the nonverbal messages than the verbal. If we are telling a client that we offer the best solution to some problem, but our voice and body language don’t match up, they won’t buy it.If you’re saying yes while scrunching the skin around your eyes, that scrunch tells people you’re not sure. You can correct this by looking your customer dead in the eye, leaning in slightly, and offering firmly, “Yes.”

Watch what you say by e-mail: Keep those messages short and sweet and constantly ask for clarification. For example, you can write, “I’m ready to provide you with a full report in the body of this e-mail. Is that good for you or would you prefer to review it as a document or on the phone?” One big warning: Humor comes across poorly in e-mail and we shouldn’t use it.

Do not overwhelm: Most people put three or four points in an e-mail, but we typically only respond to one or two. Why? Because we are in a hurry? Actually, it’s more than that. There is evidence that humans can only accept seven bits of information in a moment. If you give us eight, we’ll reject them all (see “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two,” a paper published in 1956 by George Miller, a Princeton professor).  We can all remember three points.

Try smiling: Call centers know this: if you smile, it’s hard to speak in an unhappy tone. Try it. Pausing is important, too — it lets people process the information that is critical to getting your point across. One of the biggest failures in communication is not allowing people the time to process.

Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe

Who is the best customer that I know?

What customer(s) immediately come to mind when you answer this question?

Are they your most profitable?

Do they account for the highest percentage of your income? Are they the easiest to deal with or service? The ones you’ve had the longest?

Do you even know why you think they are the best?

3 Easy Steps to Know Your Customers and Make More Money

You may be tempted to skip down to the last section of this blog post. You know your customers and you’re ready to act! Weren’t you the one who just sold that big account to Widget, Inc. last week? And you know perfectly well that ABC Store was the first client on your books.

What more could there be?

LOTS!

If you don’t know which client is the most profitable, how can you duplicate your success?

If you don’t know that you earn a sub-par profit on your biggest client, how will you fix it?

If you don’t know why a client has stayed with you for 10 years, how can you be sure they will stick for the next 10?

Even if all your accounts are happy and profitable today, you can still benefit from this process. Leverage your strengths to grow profitably. Determine the real reasons behind your customer loyalty – it may surprise you.

Step 1 – Create a Comprehensive Customer List

The optimal list would include all your customers. At a minimum include the clients that account for 80% of your annual revenue. I would encourage you to create the list in Excel rather than Word in order to make the analysis as painless as possible.

Your Client List Should Include:

  1. Client (Company) Name
  2. Main Contact at Client (optional if you are willing to cross-reference later)
  3. Customer Address (optional if you are willing to cross-reference later)
  4. Year they became a customer
  5. Annual revenues you receive from them
  6. Variable Expenses – Includes commissions, cost of goods sold, and any other cost incurred only if a sale occurs.
  7. General Expenses – Often called Overhead or Operating Expenses. These expenses are the same whether you have 5 or 5,000 customers. Include the amount allocated to this client.

This may seem like a great deal of work. Remember that you only need to do it once, keeping it up to date will be easy if done regularly.

Step 2 – Analyze Your Customer List

Ugh, analyze, really? Yup. But its not so bad. I’m going to walk you through some quick and easy ways to analyze your data for maximum results.

Step 3 – Act!

Model Client

Once you’ve determined who are the model clients, you want to replicate that success.

First look at the client – their size, industry, their target market, and any other identifying characteristics.  Where is the best place to find more of that type?  Now consider what did they buy? What were their price points?  Use that information to selectively target your marketing and sales efforts.

Client Rehabilitation

What if you discovered this client is making you little or no money? Is it because you offered them a big discount to win the business? Are they a long standing client for whom you just won’t raise prices? Or were you shocked to discover how little you make off this account?

Once you determine how it happened, you need to put in place some sort of firewall to be sure it doesn’t happen again on this account or any other.

Longest Client

Talk to them.  Yes it’s that simple.  Extend an out of the blue thank you to them, indicating how much you appreciate their patronage through the years.  Ask them what is the main reason they have stayed with you. Revolutionary I know, but have you ever done it before?