Archive for March 2012

10 Simple Ways Make it Easier for Customers to Contact You

March 28, 2012

A toll-free number is no longer the standard way for customers to contact you. Customers are bombarded with choices in today’s technology-focused world. If your business doesn’t offer a method of communication that suits your customers’ preferences, they may find another company that does.

Here are 10 tips to make it easy for ALL of your customers to get (and stay) in touch with you:

* Consider offering a live chat support service option on your website that provides real-time, text-based conversation with someone who can quickly answer questions.
* Use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with customers. Post helpful information in your stream, and encourage customers to ask questions and provide product feedback.
* Provide interactive maps that allow people to customize directions to your location, as well as a photo of your building to make your business easier to find.
* Include any helpful information that may save customers frustration when they try visiting you. For example: “XYZ Road is currently under construction — please use ABC Street instead.”
* Create a Google+ page to share updates, promotions, links, and photos. This will make it easy for people to recommend your business, products, or services to friends and contacts, while at the same time helping you measure your followers’ interactions.
* When posting blogs, be sure to offer an area for comments and feedback, as well as contact information, in case the reader has questions.
* Build trust with online customers by providing your company’s physical address in addition to email, phone, fax, Skype, and support line info on your website’s contact page. Add links to customer forums, your Facebook page, and your Twitter feed, as well, and consider offering a contact form as a convenience for customers.
* Include, at minimum, your website info, company email, and toll-free phone number on every marketing piece you create, including letterhead, notepads, brochures, flyers, quotes, surveys, etc. Customers who desire additional information will often seek out your website’s contact page.
* Consider a mobile website designed for smart phones that makes it easy for users to find information about you, regardless of what device they are using.
* Provide a clear call to action in direct mail, email messages, and other marketing pieces so readers know how to get in touch with you.

We encourage you to contact us anytime if you have questions or comments. We look forward to hearing from you!

Of Manhole Covers and Marketing

March 27, 2012

You’ve probably heard the question asked, “Why are manhole covers round?” Answers vary from the obvious (“because manholes are round”) to the more obscure. Wikipedia offers several possibilities. My personal favorites?

1. A round manhole cover cannot be accidentally dropped into the round hole it covers. 2. The circular shape makes the heavy covers easier to roll.
3. Round castings are easier to machine lathe than those of another shape and less expensive to produce in a size wide enough for a person to fit through.
4. The round shape makes it easy to replace an open cover without having to line up the corners.
5. A round tube holds up better against the earth’s compression surrounding it than a shape with corners would.

If I were to guess, I’d say it’s probably a combination of all these things (and maybe more) that made round manholes and manhole covers so popular.

Which brings me around to marketing.

Like a manhole cover, the best shape for your company’s marketing is also round. More to the point, the best approach to your marketing is a well-rounded one. Just as the reasons for using a round manhole cover are many and varied, so too are the reasons for choosing each specific element in your marketing plan. The big difference? In marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all.

As you consider new marketing opportunities for your company — and reexamine existing channels you’re not sure are still working as effectively as before — ask yourself, “How well does this approach fit with my overall marketing plan?” If the answer is “not very well” or the reasons you come up with for trying it aren’t very sound, you know where that idea should go: straight into the file shaped like a manhole cover.

Disconnect to Connect

March 21, 2012

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by various forms of electronic communication, you’re not alone. There’s something to be said for traditional forms of contact, whether the warmth of a handshake or the crunch of a newspaper.

In our attempt to feed our information-hungry prospects and customers, we run the risk of creating a system overload. If your business is looking for a way to break through the electronic communication overload, try marketing in print.

People are so used to being bombarded with emails, texts, Facebook notifications, tweets, and pop-up ads that attractive, quality postcards, self-mailers, and other marketing pieces offer a refreshing change of pace.

Sometimes you just need to disconnect to connect.

Perfect Pitch

March 18, 2012

Perfect pitch is a musical term for the ability to recognize any note on the scale just by hearing it — or to sing any note on the scale without a point of reference. Experts say only one in 10,000 people have this ability, though others may possess elements of the skill.

In sales, we often refer to our own sort of “perfect pitch” — a presentation so persuasive it overcomes objections and leaves no doubt in a prospect’s mind that our product or service is exactly what they need.

Like perfect pitch in music, a perfect pitch in sales can seem equally elusive. And while there is no fail-safe way to close every sale, there are things you can do to make your presentations resonate with prospects and strike a better chord.

Do your homework. Get to know as much as you can about your audience before you meet. Discover their needs, their wants…and their motivations. Tailor your pitch and approach to address those triggers, and focus on how your product can benefit the customer, rather than just the features it possesses.

Start with an analogy. Stories have a way of breaking the ice and making your product more relatable. Telling a prospect your high-speed Internet service is faster than the competitors’ might impress them momentarily, but comparing your service to running on smooth pavement with the wind at your back versus running through a pool full of molasses, against the current, might make a stronger and more meaningful (long-term) impression.

Answer the whys. Wise salespeople prepare ahead of time to deal with the whys: Why do I need your product? Why should I choose you over the competition? Why should I care about all those bells and whistles? All of these are valid questions you’ll need to answer. And, no, “because I said so” is not an acceptable response. If you can’t make a concise, compelling case for your product, you’ll have trouble making many sales.

Practice, practice, practice. Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Just as a musician or singer needs to practice their craft, successful salespeople must prepare themselves for every presentation. Outline your presentation ahead of time, and practice your delivery so you know what you need to say in various situations.

Keep honing. No salesperson hits the right note on every sales call. Learn from your mistakes and miscues. Use all of your experiences — both positive and negative — to sharpen your skills, so you’re always prepared to perform at your best.

Would You Like Fries With That?

March 14, 2012

If you’ve ever eaten at a fast-food restaurant, surely you’ve been asked, “Would you like fries with that?” or “Would you like to supersize your meal?” Cross-selling involves presenting customers with complementary products or services to consider above and beyond their initial purchase. Here are a few tips on how to successfully cross-sell (or up-sell) your products to increase revenue:

* Use cross-selling as a way to help customers try to solve a problem, rather than just to sell more stuff. Educate them on products or services you have to offer that may meet their needs or new items that weren’t available before.
* Suggest relevant items that complement and make the initial purchase more valuable (such as selling a memory card, camera case, and batteries with a new camera). Also consider offering items that vary in price, such as an $8 case, a $15 case, and a $25 case. The least-expensive items will most commonly be added as impulse buys.
* Position products in lucrative places on your website to cross-sell complementary items, or direct customers to other items they may be interested in. For example, Amazon.com offers suggestions of items that are frequently bought together, as well as “Customers who bought this item also bought XYZ.”
* Promote bundled packages that provide a price break to purchase extra items together. For example, “Save $15 when you purchase our XYZ camera, case, and memory card value bundle.”
* Reinforce cross-selling efforts with customer testimonials or expert recommendations. Popularity sells, and people are more likely to follow suit when they see what others are doing.
* Timing is key when up-selling products. Don’t try to promote an extended warranty until after the decision has been made to purchase an item.

Done properly, cross-selling is an effective way to boost revenues, while at the same time helping customers get more value from their purchases.

9 Ways to Increase Customer Retention

March 7, 2012

Experts say it costs five times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. Consequently, customer retention is critical to the success of your business. Here are a few tips to help you stay in front of your customers and increase your customer retention rates:

* Develop a customer loyalty program that offers special promotions and incentives for return customers, such as birthday discounts, a reward punch card, free shipping, monthly discounts, free upgrades, and the like.
* Offer surveys that ask customers what they think of your business and how you can improve.
* Encourage open communication with your customers. Request feedback and suggestions. Offer options such as email forms, surveys, a toll-free number, chat forums, and social media links.
* Consider creating a focus group with a couple loyal customers to provide their insight from a customer’s perspective. Be sure to reward them for their input.
* Utilize customer complaints and suggestions to improve your products or services.
* Create a referral program that encourages and rewards loyal customers to do the selling for you.
* Differentiate yourself from the competition. Offer value add-ons, educate your customers about industry trends, provide helpful tips, and have a live person answer your phones instead of a confusing automated system.
* Socialize with your customers. Attend trade shows, offer open houses, encourage customers to respond to blog posts, and communicate with your customers on social media sites.
* Mail personalized thank you cards showing your appreciation for recent purchases or for interest in your products and services.

If you have other ideas for keeping customers satisfied, please feel free to share them in the comments below.