Category Archives: Getting and Keeping Customers

How can Digital Marketing Help Your Small Business

The old ways of digging out the phone book to find small businesses in your area are being phased out. The new king in the small business marketing game is digital marketing. Whether you’re a running an auto body shop or pizzeria, a paint store or restaurant, if you want your business to thrive in this digital world, you have to adapt.  iStock_000010784876XSmall

Adjusting your marketing plan for the digital age doesn’t have to be a struggle, though. There are dedicated digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) companies out there that can handle all of this for you.

Below, some of the important services these companies can provide your business so that you don’t miss a single customer.

Website Building and Revamping

Unless you’re one of the few holdouts, your company already has a website. It doesn’t matter whether your company is strictly online or has a brick and mortar presence. To put it in context, even traditional offline businesses like vending machines now use online strategies in order to reach more customers and potential vendors. A great example of this is 1800Vending, which allows prospective business owners to compare technology and strategy for 3 different kinds of vending services.

If you are one of the last remaining people without a dedicated website for your small business, you’re doing more harm to your business than good. The age of the internet has been upon us for a while and now there’s a smart phone in the pocket or purse of nearly half of Americans. It’s with these tools that people now find all of their information, so now, more than ever before, a website is integral to any marketing strategy, not just the digital kind.

If you’ve got a website up and running, but it’s not getting you the leads your business needs, maybe a website overhaul is due. Marketing agencies employ digital design professionals that can offer your website a more professional and industry-appropriate look, which will encourage visitors to explore your site and lend your business a certain level of professional credibility.

Search Engine Optimization

Another aspect of digital marketing is SEO. While search engine optimization is not the same thing as digital marketing, the two go hand-in-hand. SEO is the practice of driving traffic to a website via various online methods. Some of those methods include press release writing, blogging, on-site optimization of website content, and more.

Think of SEO as digital PR. Sites of all kinds use it to get mentions from huge media outlets (as seen on their website) which give them a PR boost as well as a bump in the search rankings.

One of the big ideas behind SEO is that when people search for information on Google, Bing, and Yahoo, there is a certain way they formulate their search terms. One of the ways SEO helps your business’s website get found in the search engines is by optimizing it for specific keywords and search phrases related to your business so that when people type them into the search engines, Google, Bing, and Yahoo know that your website is relevant to those search terms and brings your site up.

Social Media Management

In the last decade, the way individuals communicate on the internet has dramatically changed because of social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more have given internet users new tools and ways of creating and sharing information with one another. The way small businesses interact with their customers has changed as well. For one thing, the norm these days is for a business to have social media accounts through which customers and potential customers can interact with a business.

This is a good thing, though. Because so many people use social media, it plays a role in how they search for and choose businesses to support. Digital marketing and SEO companies often offer social media management as part of their monthly packages and may also offer social media training for businesses that are more comfortable having an employee interacting with users.

So, if you’re company has been struggling to find customers, leads, and sales, digital marketing will definitely make a great addition to your marketing strategy. As the world becomes more digitally centered, it’s adapt or die, as Darwin would say—so what are you waiting for?

Types of Promotional Products for Your Startup

If you are currently working on putting together a new startup company, you are going to have to take the initiative to advertise and market the business in a promotional effort. The purpose of marketing would ultimately be to help build your business from the ground up, allowing you to gain exposure and new potential clients and customers who will do business with you. There are numerous promotional products that can be used for startup companies. You can give these products a try to reap all of the benefits.iStock_000002056823XSmall

Choosing a Product

Choosing a product for your business is the most important thing. You want a product that is actually going to represent your startup in a good way. There are so many products that can feature your business name or logo in a marketing sense, so you should choose wisely. Some options that you will have include t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, mugs, and personalized tote bags. You can create customized hooded sweatshirts with a graphic design that represents your business. These sweatshirts can be worn by all kinds of customers and as they wear the comfortable sweatshirt, they are basically walking around as walking billboards. You can decide on just about anything because the type of product you choose is your decision.

Printed Business Cards

You can customize your own business cards, have them printed out, and start passing them around. There are lots of online websites that make this undeniably easy to do. Interestingly enough, this is one of the oldest forms of advertising for a business and it is still a tried and true method to this day. Every business owner should have promotional business cards on hand at all times because they do come in handy. You can place them at the front of your business so that customers can grab a few and pass them out to their friends. You can also ask to place them in other local stores and shops around the area. Try to create eye-catching and professional printed business cards so that they are visually appealing and actually get positive attention from possible customers.

Offering Coupons

You may not have realized this but offering coupons is much like offering a promotional product for your startup. Aside from coupons, you can also offer discount specials to get people to buy something from your business. The coupons or discount codes should include the name of your business so that people automatically know what store the code is for. It is important to remember that customers enjoy sweet deals and discounts. If this is what you are offering, they will likely try out something that you have to offer, and you can end up gaining loyal customers from this.

There are so many promotional products that you can use for your startup. It is always good to use a few of these promotional products, especially if you are trying to increase traffic for your business and gain more customers. These marketing efforts can prove to be very worth it in the long run, especially when it comes to building a loyal base of customers who will continually choose to do business with you. Get creative when it comes to the promotional products and choose items that you think represents your business in the best way.

 

How Your Small Business Can Compete With Giants

It’s hard for any small business to get the leg up on their bigger competitors. It is a sad but simple fact that people know the big companies exist and are often unaware of the existence of many smaller companies. The huge marketing campaigns larger companies can afford to create doesn’t help either. The only thing you can do is try to advertise yourself, but if you attempt to compete with bigger companies by marketing in traditional media you will fail. Thankfully guerrilla marketing is a great alternative for businesses wanting to grab attention and a loyal customer base.

Guerrilla marketing refers to any form of advertisement that is unconventional and does not use traditional media such as television, magazines and newspaper. As such, what you can do with guerrilla marketing is limited only by your imagination, and is often low cost enough that even the smallest of businesses can afford to do it. The downside is that when not done right a guerrilla marketing campaign can blow up in your face. It’s best to get some general liability insurance to be safe, but if you want to attract attention you need to take the risk.

An example of how guerrilla marketing was used can be seen in the case of The Blair Witch Project, a now famous and profitable film. At the time though it was simply a low budget affair assembled by a group of college students. In order to build hype for the movie, they decided to make a website claiming it was a true story. It included mocked up missing person reports, lore on the Blair Witch and even interviews with ‘the authorities’. The site was so realistic that even now some people believe that the movie was real, and it certainly got a lot of people into theaters.

When was the last time you saw a mainstream marketing campaign decide that the best way to advertise a product was to make two huge plastic mock ups of political candidates, grow some ivy on their head as though it was hair, then have people vote between them on who has the best ‘hair’? And yet, this is exactly what happened in Cow Wow’s guerrilla marketing campaign to advertise their fertilizer. This was so out there that the client actually cancelled the entire campaign at one point for fear it would all go wrong, but an amendment on how much the heads would tour and the nature of the voting changed their minds. A good thing too as the unique and frankly bizarre advertising stunt netted a lot of customers for the company.

Guerrilla marketing can even be used to provoke a very specific response from a very specific party. When it comes to advertising for a small business this is usually not necessary, but for charity work it can be invaluable. In Paris, the Medecins du Monde ran a campaign where they simply handed out easy to assemble tents to as many of the homeless who couldn’t find shelters as they could. The sheer mass of tents springing up prompted a strong response from the government, who gave the homeless a great deal of support after that. This just goes to show how even a simple campaign can have a huge response when done right.

You don’t need a lot of money to run a marketing campaign, and if your aim is to compete with larger corporations that approach is counter productive to begin with. A creative guerrilla marketing campaign is often the perfect way for a small business to attract lots of attention and customers.

There is Great Customer Service — Even at the Airport!

You’ll be reading a lot from me over the next few days as I report from InfusionCon.  I’m headed to InfusionCon to help promote BizSugar by interviewing and writing about the small business owners and entrepreneurs that will be attending the conference.

Little did I know that my first taste of customer service and entrepreneurial, cost-cutting spirit would actually be at the Cleveland airport.  That’s where I met Jeff Huston, the friendly baggage handler.  He just about fell over when he saw me and my 5 boxes of BizSugar bags.  He said “Do you know how much this is going to cost?”  I said that I knew that it would cost some money, but didn’t know how much.   That’s when he told me (and get THIS) it would be $25 for the first bag, $35 for the next bag and $110 for EACH ADDITIONAL BAG!!!!  At that rate it was literally going to cost me more to bring my bags than the flight itself.

CLE service

This was when Jeff and his team got to thinking.  “You know, if we bundled the bags together, we can cut that cost in half.”  I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I was.

Jeff and the other sky caps at the airport live and die by their customer service.  They might be employed by the airport, but their salary is so low, that they make all their money in tips.  In other words, some of the money they saved me — ended up going back to them in the way of a tip.

These guys even have business cards with a phone number.  If you’re a frequent traveler – they encourage you to call ahead and they will be there to greet you and get you on your way.

I’m usually a light traveler and very rarely have the need for “help.”  But today I learned that great customer service can come in many forms.  Today, I (and my bank account) want to say THANK YOU to all the entrepreneurial sky caps at our airports.

Do you have a great customer service “save the day” story?  Share it in the comments!

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What Have We Learned About Social Media ROI?

We’ve spent the last few years getting our feet wet with social media tools.  This year, it’s time to make all that learning pay off.  I got this cool presentation link from my social media measurement guru, Adam Henderson.

I love this fun presentation about social media ROI.  There are so many things to learn here:

  • Social media is a marketing tool and not a toy.
  • I think of social media as being in the PR family – it builds brand and reputation and gives you the opportunity to put stories and a human face on your company
  • It has spawned a new “Manager” to add to your team – the social media manager.  Doing it right requires time and effort.
  • All is worth NOTHING (I like to say the big ‘Nishta’) if you’re not making money and generating customers.
  • You have to know what to measure: transactions, new customers and dollars per transaction

What have you learned from social media and ROI this year and what will you do with it in 2010?

What to Do When Your Customers Are Holding You Hostage

Are you feeling like you’re in survival mode lately? You lose one customer – then maybe another is threatening? The next thing you know you’ve got this knot in your gut and you start questioning the foundation of your business.

This is natural.

Like children, your customers will push the boundaries of your relationship, and it’s up to you to be in charge of your destiny. But how? Here are some helpful hints that will keep you prepared when new business comes along or the old business threatens to depart.

  1. Know what you need to be profitable (the dollar amount). Don’t negotiate something that will suck your margins – you’ll be overcome with unprofitable work and keep profitable customers away.
  2. It’s never about price. The challenge is finding out why the customer is even considering you or finding out what in-tangible you offer that no one else does. Download the free worksheet and see if you come up with anything.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. If your customer is at risk it might be scary to even consider asking or bringing up the subject. Don’t. Be honest and diplomatic. Fear mostly comes from not knowing or having all the facts.

What are your strategies for keeping fleeing customers?

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What Do Your Customers Trust About You?

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Image by el_floz via Flickr

Trust is an amazing thing. Like a spider web; it’s unbelievably strong and fragile at the same time.

When you establish trust with your customers, and nurture trust – you will have them forever. But when customers lose trust – it’s gone for good (well at least a long time.)

Our brains can’t possibly do a logical evaluation of every choice available to us. If they did we would spend years trying to decide if we want pepperoni on our pizza or not. Instead, our brains learn to trust and so we make decisions quickly and easily – albeit emotionally. Sometimes we’re wrong and it hurts, but more often than not – it’s a good system.

Like in any relationship trust is the glue that holds us all together. So what do your customers know they can trust you for? Let your brain run wild and don’t just focus on tangible features, think about intangible benefits too.

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The “True Happiness” Marketing Strategy to Get and Keep Customers

Perfectly Yourself I received this book at the conference I attended last week.  So, in addition to the plethora of books I'm reading, I added it to my nightstand.  It's a book about being the very best version of yourself.  Matthew Kelly has written many books, but like the rest of the small business world, I love books with numbered lists, and this one has 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness.

One thought that occurred to me as I was reading this book is that businesses and companies want happiness too.  After all, companies are really nothing more than groups of people who are in the unending pursuit of happiness.  Can Kelly's 9 Lessons apply to marketing strategy?  Of course!  Let's review them and see how.

  1. Make and acknowledge progress.  Unless you are truly living under a rock, you are making progress.  Unless you acknowledge that progress, you will stick yourself in a rut.  Take the time to review and share the progress you are making — daily.  Speaking and acknowledging your progress will propel you toward more.
    • Have employees and associates send their daily progress "moments" to you and then share them on a board or via a corporate e-mail.  I'm not just talking about big deals, I'm talking about the small stuff.
    • Share the progress you've made on specific customer problems with them.  We often avoid telling our customers that there are problems we deal with around their business.  While it's we don't want to bother customers with every little detail – be sure to note the major improvements you've made or problems you've solved and share those.  It will build value.
  2. Do the next right thing.  You know what this is.  It's the moment when you complete an activity and think "now what?"  Your brain will tell you the next right thing to do.  At that moment you can choose to do it or not.  Do it, and you move your organization toward being more of the organization your customers love and value.
    • Call a customer
    • Write a personal note
    • Complement an associate or team member
    • Help someone complete their task or solve a problem
  3. Put Character first.  Your company is based on a passion or a peeve – something in which you believe strongly.  Stick to it and never compromise.  If you value helping customers solve problems quickly – make sure that everything you do accomplishes that very outcome – every day.
    • What character traits drive your organization?
    • In what ways can you show and provide evidence of this to your customers?
  4. Find what you love and do it.  There is no stronger differentiation than knowing your character and doing what you love.  It's the most potent advertising and referral driver there is.
    • Involve your employees and create the connection between what they love and do and what the purpose of your organization is.  It attracts customers like honey.
  5. Live what you believe.  Again this is an inside out marketing strategy - that will drive customers and keep customers if you are able to translate it into systems.
    • Make a list of what you believe
    • Map out your process
    • Outline what you do and WHY it's done that way – that matches your beliefs.
    • Train employees on your story.
  6. Be disciplined.  A disciple is someone who follows the path.  Discipline is what we do to keep ourselves on track.  Discipline is not bad – it's a powerful success driver.
    • Discipline = process
    • Process comes from your beliefs and your character
    • Follow the process and your ideal customers will come to you.
  7. Simplify.  Don't let your systems and processes take over the spirit of your business.  Keep it simple.
    • Urge employees and associates to find simpler, easier ways to accomplish your purpose.
  8. Focus on what you are here to give.  Your mission has to be simple and differentiating so that when your customer experiences "X" you are the company they choose.
    • Review your tasks and objectives around your mission.  If the connection is not clear – then stop doing them and do the next right thing.
  9. Seek the good in everyone and everything.  I don't believe in problems.  Everything happens for a reason that will help you become more of the best version of yourself.  Without being a "Pollyanna" search for the good in what's happening.
    • You lost a customer – so what?  Were they hard to work with?  Did they value what you provided?  What can you learn from the experience that will stop the next best customer from leaving?

Know yourself and know your ideal customers and your marketing strategy will be pure, effortless, easy and fun — bringing you, your employees and your customers true happiness.

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Customer Loyalty Requires Authenticity

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Allow me to rant for a moment – and join the rant if you like. 

Marketing has run amok in our political process. 

As an immigrant from a socialist country, I take my "Americanism" very seriously.  And as a marketing professional, I take the combination of psychology,science and art that is marketing very seriously as well. 

But can I just say — I'm so sick of empty messages from EVERYONE across the board.  I would love nothing more than to have every communications and political consultant barred from this process so that we can see our candidates in their true form.

Perhaps what I'm asking for is the equivalent of allowing people to see you in your pajamas with no make-up, but I just can't tell who or what is real anymore how about you?

If you are like me and a fan of books like Neuromarketing, or authors like Robert Cialdini - then you can't help but see through so many of these messages and images.  As I like to say, "You can't con a con."

I'm dying for some authenticity here – and I'm talking about the real kind.  Has it become impossible for consumers to get an authentic candidate, company or product?

Authenticity sells – especially when we are so surrounded by well-designed and articulated messages.  I read in this morning's paper the Obama changed the original authentic approach that made him so appealing.  Then across the line, McCain made a strategic move in selecting Palin.  Will a real candidate please show himself. 

When I'm purchasing a product, I generally know what to expect and what value I trade my dollars for.  but in this case – I'm not sure what value I trade my vote for.

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What Will Your Customer Remember About You?

4216849702 I was in a mastermind meeting the other day and one of our members, Stephen Brand (ex-CEO of the Inventors Hall of Fame) asked one of our members a fantastic question.

"What is the one thing you want your audience to remember about your book?"  OK, you can list up to three.  But what is that one message we want to stick to their gray matter.  When they talk about this book to their friends, what will they say about it?

I know, you’ve heard that before.  But when was the last time you’ve actually written or spoken with the intent of getting that one message across.  I have to admit, that aside from the class I teach on the topic – it’s been a while. 

As a reference, Stephen mentioned the Guido Sarducci stand-up skit he did on the "Five-Minute University."

It’s about 3 minutes – but it will get your juices flowing: