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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Turn Customers into Salespeople

One cost effective way to grow your business is by letting your customers do the selling for you via referrals. Referrals are earned so be careful here. They need to really like you and trust you before they will give their referral.

Here are a few tips on how to grow your business through customer referrals:

  • Create a customer referral program. For example, provide custom printed referral cards that provide an exclusive discount to new customers. Also reward existing customers based on how many new customers they recruit.

  • Educate your customers with the information they need to market your products. Make sure your customers have access to adequate print literature, website links, blogs, newsletters, and other materials relevant to your company.

  • Differentiate your business based on a key feature or benefit you offer that your competition doesn't, such as free shipping or low-price guarantees. These differentiators make great selling points to entice new customers.

  • Ask for referrals. If you've just talked to a happy customer who complimented your business, ask if they would be willing to refer others on your behalf.

  • Popularity sells. If your business has a very high number of referrals, promote the fact on your marketing materials and website. For example, "More than half of our new customers are derived from customer referrals" would make a great tagline somewhere on your website or in your product literature.

  • Ask new customers how they learned about your business. It's always exciting to see real-world results from your marketing efforts, especially from word-of-mouth.

  • Include a statement on the back of your brochures, business cards, and other collateral that encourages customer referrals. "A customer referral is the finest compliment we can receive" would be a good example.
Don't forget to show your sincere appreciation to customers who refer others to your business. A handwritten thank you note is a great way to follow-up, and that one extra step will reinforce the reasons why they recommended you in the first place.

Tips to Convey Quality

While the quality of your products and services is ultimately measured by customer satisfaction, here are a few tips on how to brand your products and services with quality in everything your business does:
  • Provide a no-hassle satisfaction guarantee...and stand behind it.

  • Offer a longer or more inclusive warranty than your competition does. This will show customers how committed you are to your products.

  • Post customer reviews and testimonials to encourage readers to see what others are saying about your products and services.

  • Offer a risk-free evaluation of your products to allow customers to experience your outstanding products and customer support firsthand.

  • Create a customer referral program that encourages and rewards customers to do the selling for you.

  • Distribute professional marketing materials such as letterhead, envelopes, business cards, brochures, flyers, and product catalogs.

  • Use only high-resolution, quality images. If an image isn't up to par, don't use it.

  • Include your contact information on all materials, including your physical address, phone numbers, and email address. This will show customers you are easily accessible.

  • Choose words carefully when marketing your products. Instead of using the word "quality," use words that imply quality, such as "premium." Instead of "inexpensive," use the word "value."
One of the easiest ways to show customers your dedication to customer satisfaction is by following Henry Ford's famous words of advice: "Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Does Print Still Have a Role to Play in the Online World?

With the constant drumbeat of articles and posts discussing how the Internet has affected so many aspects of businesses large and small, it's been hard to argue any other points of view and make a real dent in the conversation. However, it's important to look objectively at all sides in order to come to the best conclusion of what works best for your particular business model.

There's no arguing that the Internet and social media have an important role to play for most businesses that rely on engaging with their customers to drive sales and revenue. The danger is believing that a purely online strategy is the only way forward for business success. That is simply not the case. Customers prefer to receive messages in ways that they enjoy and find most useful. Some prefer the physical piece in their hand while others consume messages on their computer screen or mobile device.

The wise business will not guess and force feed their audience in ways that might alienate them. The smartest businesses will use all available media in practical ways to educate their target audience. What is the best way to do this? You need to cross-promote.

Cross-promotion involves finding a balance between your online and print campaigns. For example, when you send out a postcard or other printed item, make sure to include information about your website and how it can help make a customer's life easier.

When running a marketing campaign, utilize both print and online media to get the most powerful effect. Don't neglect either if you want successful results. When you use consistent messages across all media, you will create a consistent front to deliver your audience to the exact place you want them to be, whether a physical storefront or your online portals.

There are many ways to marry the online world with the physical world. Here are two examples:

Mobile Barcodes or QR Codes â€" These funny-looking codes are becoming more mainstream and accepted in North America with each passing month. QR codes (or Quick Response codes) allow instant access to information via smart phones (iPhones, Droids, etc.). That information may include videos, contact information, product brochures...the possibilities are endless. The QR codes can be printed on postcards, brochures, business cards, signs, posters, vehicles, and even billboards.

PURLs â€" Another creative way to marry the two worlds is through PURLs. PURLs are personalized URLs that can deliver highly targeted messages to each recipient. The recipient receives a unique web address, typically with their name as part of the URL, delivered via a printed item like a postcard. The destination website can be used to collect information and deliver incentives for the recipient to further engage with your business on a much more direct level.

Breaking through all the clutter (whether in the online world or in the physical mailbox of your targeted recipient) requires the same strategy: creativity. Your marketing messages must be a little unique in order to stand out. Using print to drive your online and social media presence ensures that your messages will reach your customers and prospects in ways they want to be reached. It is said that only 50% of all advertising is effective; the problem is figuring out which 50%! When you cross-promote, you take some of this guesswork out of the equation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hot Summer Marketing Ideas to Think About This Spring

For many businesses, the weather may heat up, but sales cool off in the summer. While summer may be a few months away, it's never too early to start thinking about a summer marketing plan. Here are a few creative ways to stay on the minds of your customers this summer:
  • Plan a customer appreciation lunch or ice cream social to stay in touch with customers and prospects during your slow season. Fire up the grill, set up some tents, and get ready to greet some new and familiar faces.

  • Encourage customers to sign up to win something related to summer fun (ranging from something as simple as a large cooler filled with goodies for a picnic to something as extravagant as a boat or paid getaway to a fun summer destination).

  • Offer value add-ons to summer purchases, such as "Receive XYZ free with a $40+ purchase!"

  • Surprise loyal customers with a summer-related lumpy mailer campaign that includes a promotional gift such as a sleeve of branded golf balls, a reusable water bottle, a frisbee, sunscreen, lip balm, or a can coolie with a creative note. (You can visit our new ad specialty website for ideas too --

  • Plan a sidewalk sale to draw attention to your storefront and encourage people to check out your sales.

  • Keep in touch with social media. Offer prizes and discounts for customers who provide input, participate in quizzes, or sign up for contests.

  • Organize a community-driven goodwill event, such as hosting a toy drive, a blood drive, etc.

  • Create a forum for customers to share their favorite summer recipes or grilling tips.

  • Offer free lemonade and cookies daily during the month of July to those who visit your store.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Talent vs. Teamwork

Babe Ruth once said, "The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."

This quote is true in all types of organizations. Talent is undoubtedly important, but depending on the type of career, teamwork can be far more valuable to a business. A group of the most highly talented individuals who don't work together efficiently are unreliable, waste resources, and often have competing agendas. Without teamwork, talent is wasted.

In comparison, a strong, cohesive team can often make up for weaker talent because they form a strong alliance and are committed to reaching the same goals. Successful teams benefit from a blend of various skills and can-do attitudes. They also share resources, learn from one another, and offer invaluable encouragement and support.

If your organization is struggling to find top-notch talent, try focusing on building a top-notch team instead. The winning results may surprise you.