Archive for July 2014

25 July, 2014 11:38

July 25, 2014

One pervasive characteristic most people share is the desire to belong. Children in school often develop close-knit groups of friends as a way to satisfy this need. Even in our professional lives, the desire to be part of the crowd continues.

A major component of this desire is the tendency to follow the decisions made by group leaders. This explains why trends in fashion, music, and business can spread so quickly.

People come to trust certain brands based on the opinions of those they respect within their peer group. As a marketer, you can tap into this phenomenon to help your own products and services succeed. Here are just a few ways to make the most of people’s desire to follow the crowd.

Reviews

Product reviews are huge. An estimated 70 percent of Americans say they look at product reviews when considering items to purchase. Many of these people trust product reviews nearly as much as they would recommendations from people they know personally. Positive product reviews can help show customers that yours is a product worth their investment.

Start by asking customers to leave reviews after a sale. Then advertise those reviews on your website and marketing materials. If your company has positive ratings from organizations like the BBB or Angie’s List, make sure you present that information prominently, too.

Along similar lines, user-generated content, such as blog posts, testimonials, and YouTube reviews, can hold considerable weight with new customers. Try to spark new content by holding user-generated content contests, where winners receive coupons or a special promotion.

Social media mentions and shares

Given the penetration of social media, it makes sense that social media mentions and shares can attract lots of attention for your company and its brand. Use monitoring tools to track the number of times your products or services are mentioned online. Encourage people to share content you publish on their social media pages. Add social media sharing options at the bottom of blog posts, newsletter articles, product pages, and other key content areas of your website. All of these can be great ways to capitalize on this phenomenon.

Statistics

Statistics are a fantastic way to get a second look from potential customers. User statistics can show you how your products or services already appeal to the crowd. Track down and leverage whatever your most positive statistics may be. These could include anything from blog readership to how long you’ve been in business to customer retention rates. Any statistics that help to establish an air of legitimacy can (and should) be used to leverage the power of the crowd.

Humans are by nature social creatures. We tend to seek out social groups that make us feel like we’re part of something larger than ourselves. We also tend to follow the lead of those around us and trust the opinions of our peers. Keeping these dynamics in mind and finding ways to leverage their power is essential to effective product marketing.

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22 July, 2014 16:32

July 22, 2014

When little Maria wanted to learn to fish, she asked her father to take her out on the lake to teach her. Her father eagerly agreed, glad to encourage his daughter’s interest in his favorite pastime. They got two rods, a few lures, and a net, then set out around dusk. As soon as the boat left the dock, Maria started preparing to cast her fishing line, but her father told her to wait, so she sat back down. A few minutes later, they had reached the middle of the lake, so she once again got ready to cast out, but again her father told her to wait. Finally, they began to get a little closer to an island about 500 yards from the shoreline. Her father cut the main motor and began to use the paddles to get the boat in a little closer. Once he had found just the right position, he turned to his daughter.

"Maria," he explained, "this lake is filled with fish. When you first attempted to cast your line, we were going a bit too fast and were heading into deeper water. The second time, we were in the middle of the lake, still going a bit too fast for a good cast. Is it possible that you may have caught a fish there? Yes, but it would have taken much more time and effort than around here. Around this island, the water is still deep, but there are plenty of rocks and shelters for the fish to hide. This makes it a more attractive place for them and a better place for us to catch them."

As Maria learned that day, sometimes waiting for the right moment and knowing how to find the right spot can make an enormous difference in the amount of effort needed to accomplish a task. This same idea applies to finding customers for your business.

Fishing for customers

Just like the fish Maria and her father sought, the customers you and your business seek are more likely to be found in certain places. It’s certainly possible to run a marketing campaign that consists of broadcasting the company message across a large number of platforms in an effort to reach more people. Undoubtedly, this marketing campaign will snag some ‘fish.’ On the other hand, it’s also guaranteed to require more resources and energy than a more targeted approach.

Figuring out where the customers are

Determining where exactly you can go to find your best customers will allow you to promote your brand and encourage more people to enter the sales cycle with significantly less expense. The most common way to accomplish this is through market research that examines:

  1. Who your most likely customers will be
  1. What matters most to these customers
  1. Where these customers can be found

To determine these answers, start with polls, surveys, and research among your existing customers and your anticipated demographic. Look also at what the rest of your industry has to say. Statistics about the efficacy of different marketing campaigns on different demographic groups will be helpful, too. Combine these sources to create a successful and efficient marketing campaign.

In many ways, marketing is like fishing. As any experienced angler will tell you, you have to learn where the fish are congregated to make the most of your day. The same goes for marketing. Put these lessons to use, and watch your marketing campaigns grow.

18 July, 2014 14:57

July 18, 2014

The business world continues to adapt at an astonishing pace. Fifteen years ago, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and similar movie rental businesses dominated the market. Soon, however, Netflix arrived on the scene, and cable providers began offering on-demand movie options. The cost and inconvenience of having to stop at a store rather than just turning on the TV or computer meant that these once dominant businesses quickly began to lose ground. Now they’re all but obsolete.

What these major corporations can teach businesses of all sizes

There are two ways you could look at the fate of Blockbuster and similar companies. You could either worry yourself sick about your own place within your industry — or take action and learn from the mistakes these companies made. If you look closely at what happened to these corporations, it’s easy to see the importance of market research, innovation, and finding ways to make life easier for your customers.

Some companies thrive at adapting to new situations. Nokia went from being a paper company to one of the largest cellphone makers. Companies like Amazon.com managed to turn entire industries upside down. These companies were able to innovate, capitalize on what appealed to their customers, and become successful.

Lessons to take away

There are two main lessons to be learned here. The first is to never neglect the importance of market research. You probably already know the importance of market research before launching a new product, but don’t stop there. Market research is something you should do regularly throughout the year. Intelligent market research can help you get inside your customers’ heads and determine exactly what they want that you can provide. The better you can predict the wants and needs of your customers, the more likely you are to successfully remain an industry leader.

The second lesson is the importance of serving clients. Make it a priority to determine exactly how you can serve customers in a unique way. Customers like convenience and affordability, which is why companies like Netflix and Amazon.com thrive. Determining new ways to make your products and services accessible for customers is a wonderful way to market products and attract a following among new customers.

Before you begin any new marketing campaign, sit down and discuss how you can make your products or services more accessible for customers. Determining your unique niche is a great starting point for any marketing campaign.

Over the years, numerous companies have risen and fallen as technology and the marketplace continue to change. The companies that survive are the ones that can innovate and remain ahead of the curve in determining customer desires. Combining a customer-first attitude with ongoing market research is a fantastic way to take a strong step in the right direction. If you’re interested in learning more about how to make your marketing efforts successful, contact us today.

15 July, 2014 11:14

July 15, 2014

Customer service just might be one of the most neglected, yet important aspects of growing a business. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, it’s 6 to 7 times more costly to find a new customer than it is to retain an old one. When you consider that an estimated 89 percent of customers have stopped doing business with someone because they experienced poor customer service, it’s clear that customer service can have an enormous effect on your company’s bottom line.

Unfortunately, a shocking number of organizations are content to allow their customer service systems to remain unchecked, while devoting far more time and energy to finding new customers. As a business owner or leader, here’s what you should know about your customer service and how it affects your marketing campaigns.

The importance of quality customer service

Just about everyone has dealt with frustrating customer service at one time or another. Most of us have experienced the annoyance of being passed from representative to representative in an effort to find an answer to our questions. Often, by the time we hang up the phone, we’re so frustrated that it taints the rest of our experience with that company.

Studies show that customers who have had a negative experience are two times more likely to tell others about their experience than those who are satisfied. What’s more, for every negative experience a customer walks away with, you’ll need to provide about 12 good ones just to make up for the damage to the company reputation and potential profits. From a purely economic standpoint, it makes little sense not to take the time to develop good customer relations.

Quality customer service and marketing

When you set out to market your company, you’re interested in building a reputation for your organization. That’s what branding is all about. But the best branding in the world can come unraveled by a poor customer service experience. This is especially true for smaller organizations trying to build their clientele. Reputation is crucial to success, and a poor reputation can easily spread like wildfire. When that happens, all your efforts to earn the trust and goodwill of potential customers will be hurt and will require considerable time and effort to recover.

How to develop quality customer service

The most important part of developing a quality customer service experience is to encourage customer feedback. Customers will be able to tell you if they struggled to find the information they needed, if the representatives they spoke with were actually helpful, and if there were particular points in the process that stood out to them as being poorly handled. Focus on revising the key areas of the customer service experience that seem to matter most to customers. It will be nearly impossible to revise the entire customer experience at once, so focus on improving key areas and then work from there. Open communication with the customer is always key.

If you’re interested in growing your company, don’t overlook the help, or hindrance, customer service can provide. If your organization is seen positively, you’ll find your branding efforts complemented by your reputation. However, if you’re seen negatively, those negative experiences can derail your marketing. Taking the time to develop a strong customer service experience is an investment that will pay off in more ways than one.

11 July, 2014 14:43

July 11, 2014

From the time the x-ray was invented around the turn of the 20th century, people have been fascinated by the capacity of these rays to capture what lies beneath the skin. When the technology is used by doctors, it can help determine if bones are broken, detect disorders or illnesses, or see how well a broken bone is healing.

As business leaders, we must sometimes look at our own businesses with x-ray eyes: uncovering and treating problems beneath the surface before they get out of hand or cause permanent damage.

Uncovering problems

Few businesses run perfectly. As any company grows, it will experience bumps, bruises, and hiccups along the way. Part of running the business involves being able to lead the company through these times, so you can come out the other side stronger and better prepared for the future. Many times, this involves easy fixes. Perhaps a new employee is needed to handle greater demand or a policy might need to be tweaked to adapt to an evolving workflow.

Sometimes, however, problems are not so easy to fix. Take, for example, customer service. We’ve all experienced times (as customers) when we’ve felt like we’re being passed around from person to person, trying to find a simple answer to our question. By the time we get our answer, we’re so frustrated with the process that we end up completely annoyed with the company. This damages the company reputation and may even cause us to stop doing business with them.

As a business leader, you need to realize that these kinds of deep, penetrating problems cannot be fixed with simple, one-size-fits-all solutions. Sometimes, you need to look deeper and see where the ‘bone’ is broken — and how badly — before you can begin to treat the symptoms and heal your company. Only after you have a clearer picture of what’s really going on can you find the right way to fix the problem and make your company stronger for the long run.

Making the repair

If your company is facing a major problem that can’t be fixed easily, don’t be afraid to go back and start over in finding the solution. While it can certainly be intimidating to think about how long the process will take and how much potential revenue you might lose along the way, it’s important to remember that taking the time to complete these repairs properly will make your company stronger over the long haul. This, in turn, will help to boost revenue and make up for lost time. Companies that neglect to make difficult but necessary changes often find themselves losing money (and customers).

So how can you go about fixing tough problems? Start with these steps.

  1. Sit down and plan out exactly what your end goal will be. Providing higher-quality customer service is one possible example.
  1. Work backwards to generate ideas about how this goal can be reached. This will typically involve doing industry research and learning more about what the competition does to accomplish a similar aim.
  1. Educate and retrain all members of the organization about the new methods and procedures, so everyone is on the same page, even those who aren’t directly involved with the affected areas.
  1. Invite feedback from customers and employees to see how well the changes are working.

Growing a business sometimes means being willing to go back to the drawing board to see how a key part of the business can be changed and repaired to make it stronger in the future. Don’t be afraid to ‘x-ray’ your business and find ways to help it grow in the years to come.

8 July, 2014 12:17

July 8, 2014

At first glance, the various platforms used for delivering your marketing messages couldn’t look more different. From social media to bus ads to print or radio ads, each platform has a completely different feel and intended audience. Regardless of the differences, however, it’s critical that your campaigns maintain some key consistencies across every medium.

What’s the purpose of an integrated campaign and what does it look like?

An integrated campaign works to build an audience no matter where the advertisements are seen. The campaign is designed with a common message that’s then tweaked and sent out over a variety of platforms in an effort to attract the attention of customers wherever they’re found.

Integrated campaigns send customers toward a common sales funnel. This means that the social media and direct mail components will both point customers in a common direction (promoting an upcoming sale, for example).

Design consistency is also a must, so customers recognize your brand wherever they may see it. Customers see thousands of advertisements a day. It’s important that they make a quick connection between your ads and your brand, so your brand can become more memorable to them. To accomplish this, use similar colors and designs on bus ads, social media ads, and print ads. This consistency will help you stay in front of your intended audience while simultaneously making it easier for potential customers to interact with you.

So how can you start making more integrated campaigns?

Begin by identifying exactly who you’re targeting and where those people can be found. Develop a common, unifying message, then tailor it to each major platform you intend to include in your campaign. That way, no matter where the customer encounters your brand, they’ll have no trouble entering the sales funnel. This might mean using QR codes in print advertising and prominent, well-labeled links on websites.

One of the biggest challenges many companies run into is maintaining consistency across multiple teams. For example, you might have one team that specializes in print and radio ads, while another group focuses on social media and website advertising. Make sure all your marketing teams understand the common vision and can successfully work together to achieve a collective goal.

As your campaign gets underway, track each portion, so you can successfully gauge where new customers are coming from. This will provide key insights into how well each portion of the campaign is doing and let you know if certain aspects need to be modified or even abandoned altogether.

An integrated marketing campaign is crucial for growing a company and finding new customers in the modern market. Rather than thinking about your various platforms as separate entities, integrating them can lead to higher brand recognition and conversion rates. Keep this in mind and prepare to reach your customers on a much deeper level.

If you’re ready to get started building an integrated campaign, give us a call or drop us an email to see how we can help you move forward.

7 July, 2014 11:38

July 7, 2014

When it comes to marketing, the million-dollar question is: "Have we been successful in our campaigns?" No company wants to pour money into a marketing effort and get nothing in return. It’s common for marketing professionals to track numerous metrics in an effort to gauge the success of their campaigns. Unfortunately, many are monitoring the wrong thing, and that can be dangerous.

What metrics don’t matter?

It doesn’t matter how many people visit your website. Some people might argue with that and try to talk about brand exposure or sales funnels, but think about something. Say you do a massive overhaul of your website. You really focus on optimizing content, creating a clean and attractive layout, and improving your search engine ranking. Your site traffic jumps by a shocking 200 percent! Wow! Congratulations! What does that mean? Nothing.

The jump in traffic is only significant if the number of conversions jumps with it. If you received 10 quality leads per week on your old site and you receive 10 quality leads per week on the new site, your jump in traffic actually means your site is now performing worse. If you were only monitoring your site traffic, however, you might be tempted to say that the overhaul was a huge success. This can be detrimental to your business in the long run.

The same thinking applies to social media followers or even physical bodies in the store. What matters is quality leads and potential conversions. These are the metrics you should be tracking. Site traffic is only important for comparison purposes to see the percentage of visitors who convert.

Finding quality leads

The most important aspect of finding quality leads is developing content that offers value to your ideal customer. You should have a good idea of the type of customer you’re looking to attract. This includes their interests, what matters professionally to them, and what they’re looking for.

Build quality content, which will naturally incorporate keywords and help to answer your visitors’ questions and concerns. More importantly, when visitors find your site, they’ll become interested in what your company has to offer. This will lead to a higher percentage converting. Visitors will come to trust your company as an industry leader who can help them find what they’re looking for.

Focus on building a conversion friendly website. Whether a customer arrives on the web page from a QR code or web address on a direct mail postcard or through a Google search, the site should have a clear sitemap, show obvious value for the customer, and make it easy for them to convert into customers.

Customers don’t like having to hunt around for phone numbers, addresses, or the chance to sign up for products and services, so don’t make them. Prominent, easy-to-use buttons are great additions. Neuromarketing also tells us little tips, such as offering customers choices (even if the choices are meaningless) will improve conversion rates. For example, customers are more likely to sign up for a newsletter that comes with a ‘sign me up now’ button next to a ‘no thanks, I like wasting money’ button, rather than a newsletter with just a sign up button.

There’s no doubt getting chatter on your site is addicting and exciting. Everyone who’s ever built a website knows how enticing it is to watch the number of visitors increase. When it comes to a successful marketing campaign, however, it’s important to remember to measure the right things. Visitor counts don’t matter unless conversion rates also rise. Spend your time attracting quality leads, and watch the important metrics increase for genuine success.