13 ways to make your customers’ day

From handwritten notes to just-baked cookies, a simple gesture can go a long way toward shoring up customer loyalty in a competitive marketplace. Even just a quick phone call can do more to earn your customers’ long-term trust than any coupon or discount code—really. To find out which methods have been most effective for my peers, I asked thirteen entrepreneurs to share one special way they get more word-of-mouth referrals and thumbs up. Their answers may surprise and delight you—and give you some great ideas to test drive in your own company:  

1. Writing Notes

During our first holiday sales season, one way we inspired word-of-mouth support for LSTN Headphones was by writing handwritten notes to each customer who purchased a pair of headphones. It seems simple, but it made a huge difference! – Bridget Hilton, LSTN Headphones  

2. Setting the Bar High

Most companies make it a mission to have satisfied customers, but satisfied customers aren’t compelled to share their experiences. The factor that inspires word-of-mouth support is having happy customers. To achieve this, you must set the bar high by going above and beyond what your customers expect of you. Underpromise and overdeliver. Shock them with delight. Wow them with service. – Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits  

3. Sending Cookies

At Speek, we use AppSumo religiously for great deals on the tools we use to run our business. One day, I got a box from Noah Kagan (the CEO of AppSumo) that contained some amazing cookies—completely out of the blue! It was a random, simple gesture that meant so much to me as a loyal customer. I thought it was absolutely brilliant of Noah to do this. – Danny Boice, Speek

4. Providing Personal Service

PeoplePerHour has a community of more than 500,000 users, but one of the main delights for customers is getting support tickets answered by myself—the CEO and founder. Customers get delighted when they see the guy at the top take time for this and consider customer support important. – Xenios Thrasyvoulou, PeoplePerHour  

5. Getting to Know Your Customers

Learn your customers’ names and some brief personal information. Establish a basic friendship with them because you’re looking to meet their needs. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance    

6. Valuing the Little Things

From time to time, we send gifts to our clients, such as their favorite tea or coffee. Another great thing all of our VAs do is really care about the client and ask about their kids and parents. It’s great because you really build a strong relationship with the client. – Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME    

7. Being a Customer Advocate

Real customer advocacy means looking out for their best interest, even if it means a short-term loss for you. Is a customer paying too much for your product? Ask him to downgrade. Did you screw up? Refund him proactively. Does he have a charge complaint? Resolve it in his favor until you can prove the opposite. Small gestures like this can build real fans for your brand. – Pablo Villalba, 8fit

8. Saying Thank You

Send handwritten thank you cards and fruit baskets during the holidays to show your appreciation. – Phil Dumontet, DASHED    

9. Retweeting Customers

We follow many of our clients as they come in the door, and then every once in a while, we retweet their tweets. They get a notification that we’ve done this, and it shows we are paying attention to them and that we’re on the same page. It establishes a bond that goes beyond client service. It shows that we respect what they are saying. – Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com  

10. Treating Them to Birthday Coffee

We always make sure to ask our customers when their birthdays are. They soon forget we asked this until their birthday rolls around. When it does, they receive a birthday card from us with a gift card for coffee. Our customers are inspired and excited to see that we remembered, thanked and recognized them on their special day. – Matt Shoup, MattShoup.com  

11. Sending Them Postcards

As a token of gratitude for anyone who reads my blog or book and has the courage to reach out via email, I ask for their mailing addresses and send handwritten postcards. The postcards match my brand and have a fun quote or saying on the front, and readers seem to really appreciate the human touch from someone they previously assumed would be inaccessible. Plus, who doesn’t love snail mail? – Jenny Blake, Jenny Blake  

12. Remembering Important Dates

If a client shares an important milestone for the company, the date she opened the company or even a birthday, you should remember them! People like to know that you were listening when they shared information, and a surprise card, cake or gift on that milestone will let clients know you are on their team. – Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding  

13. Checking In

It’s nice for clients to know you were thinking of them even when you didn’t have something on the calendar. With coaching clients, I try to reach out and check in with them or send articles I thought they might like in-between scheduled sessions. – Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E® Read more: http://articles.bplans.com/13-ways-to-surprise-and-delight-your-customers-today/

Developing a keyword strategy

Read this article to learn how to construct your first list of keywords and to get pointers on the overall keywords strategy.

How to come up an initial list of keywords

When you first start brainstorming keywords, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Your keywords strategy will evolve over time as you research various long-tail keywords, but here are a few questions that can help get you started:
  • What products or services do you offer? Come up with an initial list of the products or services that you offer to your leads and customers. Try to focus on long-tail keywords over broad keywords.  If your company sells shoes, you should create a list of keywords that includes all the different types of shoes you sell. It’s the difference between “shoes” and “nike red running sneakers.”
  • What problems do your leads have that your company can help solve? Create a list of keyword phrases that matches the problems for which potential leads search for solutions. If your company sells iPhone cases that make an iPhone waterproof, your leads would probably be searching using keyword phrases like “Waterproof cases for iPhone” or “How do I waterproof my iPhone?”
  • How would you describe your business to someone who has never heard of your company? Leads might not know all the industry keywords for your products or services. They will instead try searching using keywords that they are familiar with. Also keep in mind that various keywords may vary in different parts of the world. For example, the terms that describe what your company does can vary by region. What is “pop” in one part of the world might be “soda” or “cola” in another part of the world.
  • What common questions do your leads ask? When you read through the blog user guide, you’ll learn that answering your lead’s most common questions in blog posts is a great way to produce quality blog content. Any of your salespeople should be able to tell you what questions their leads ask. Once you identify what these questions are, create a list of keywords that match all the different ways these questions can be asked. Leads typically have questions about what your products or services cost, what features they have, how they can purchase them and what support your company offers.

Additional tips for generating keywords

Below are a few more tips for generating an initial list of keywords:
  • You want your keywords to be what people are searching for; therefore, you shouldn’t just focus on adding keywords that you think search engines will find easily (ie the exact name of your business). Think about how you would search for your own business. Also, come up with some keywords that you think someone who doesn’t know your product would search. Someone wouldn’t necessarily know to search for “Lyric snowboard 142” but they would search for “best affordable snowboards” if they were interested in buying a snowboard.
  • Make sure that your keywords are relevant to your content. People will read the keywords in a search and then determine whether they want to read the article, website, etc. You wouldn’t want to mislead visitors and give them a false idea of your topic.
  • Have a strategy for your branding so that you can focus your keywords in the same direction. For example, if you constantly describe your business using different terminology on your site, your keywords will be less consistent. Consistency in your language on your site can help your site rank for keywords that you repeatedly use in your content.
  • When coming up with long-tail keywords (see this article for an explanation of the different types of keywords), be specific to your company’s products or services. You should also have some location-based keywords. For instance, instead of “bakery” you could use “cupcake shop Savannah GA.”
With thanks to hubspot for this great article – http://knowledge.hubspot.com/keyword-user-guide/how-to-develop-an-initial-list-of-keywords

Personas 101

Personas 101 – A Quick Guide to developing marketing personas
Most marketing experts will tell you that in order to be able to optimize your inbound channels for your target audience, you should dedicate sufficient time and resources to creating personas. A persona, in its simplest form, is a fictitious character that embodies a segment of your target audience. The main premise is that by developing very specific characters, you empower your marketing team to be more strategic in terms of catering to each demographic. As you go through the process of establishing your personas, it’s best to go through a set of questions (such as “how old is he/she?”, “what is his/her job?”, “what is his/her biggest pain point?”, etc.), the answers to which will crystallize your characters. Ultimately, by answering those questions for each persona, you know much more about your target audience’s preferences, behaviors, and attitude, which enables you to target them more strategically.

Let’s look at the questions that you as a marketer would like to get answered as a result of your persona development, as well as the questions that you can ask during the discussion.

How can you best reach them? In order to communicate effectively with your audience, you want to know where they hang out (in person or online) and what media they prefer. Questions may include:
How much time do they typically spend on the web?

  • When looking for advice, where do they go?
  • How big is their social and professional network?
  • What are their preferred social media channels?
  • How do they manage their inbox?
  • What devices do they primarily use when interacting on the web?
  • Do they prefer written or verbal communication?

How can you attract and keep their interest? Once you know where to find your target audience, you want to identify how you can pique their interest, drive them to your content, and keep them engaged. Questions may include:

  • What sites do they visit most frequently and why?
  • How much interaction and engagement are they seeking?
  • What type of content is most important to them?
  • How much time do they have to interact with you and/or your content?

How can you help them? Remember our golden rule: Always Provide Value. Therefore, it’s crucial that you determine how to best serve your audience. Questions may include:

  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What are their biggest pain points?
  • What do they want to get out of interacting with you and/or your content?
  • What’s their level of expertise in their industry and in your industry?

How do they make purchase decisions? It goes without saying that ultimately, you want to convert your visitors into leads and your leads into sales. After all, you’re running a business. As a result, you will want to know as much as possible about your personas’ decision making processes, so that you can nurture them appropriately along the way. Questions may include:

  • What are the driving factors when it comes to purchasing decisions?
  • What is their role in the decision making process?
  • How quickly do they make decisions?
  • How much research do they do before making a decision or recommendation?
  • If they are not the decision makers, what types of deliverables do they need to bring to the decision maker?

As you can see, just by answering this short list of questions, you can quickly establish several marketing personas for your business and optimize your strategy to target them in a more effective manner. What are some other questions that you would want to consider as you are developing your marketing personas?

 

With thanks to Spectate for this excellent article: http://spectate.com/2012/03/personas-101-a-quick-guide-to-developing-marketing-personas/ 

 

The ultimate F-word: Why failure can be good

Business Coaching | Business Coach | Business Planning| Marketing | Marketing Coach

Written by Amy Hamilton-Chadick for Westpac Red News.

Read the original article here.

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Failure: For business owners, it’s the ultimate F-word. We don’t like to say it, or think about it. But failure is now being recognised as a force for transformation and reinvention.

While it’s not something to aim for, failure is an inevitable part of life for all of us, including our most inspirational entrepreneurs.

“Even the poster boys have their own failures,” says Debra Chantry, owner of Ventell and a business coach at Icehouse. She names Xero CEO Rod Drury and GrabOne founder Shane Bradley as two entrepreneurs who have invested in ideas that fell by the wayside before starting spectacularly successful ventures.

“I’ve had two failures myself,” Chantry says. “One was through naivete, and it was a bit of a learning curve. The other one was a spectacular failure. Looking back it was one of the best things that could have happened to me, though I wouldn’t have said that at the time.”

So how can you bounce back from failure and turn it into a springboard to success?

Turn a failure into a pivot

Having coached the founders of more than 100 companies, Chantry says she’s seen all types of failure, and they run the gamut from total collapse to survivable turnaround.

For some start-ups, the failure of one idea can be used as a pivot point to turn the company in a different direction. Take shopping network Tote – its owner found that instead of buying through the site, users were just assembling collections of favourite items to share with friends. That was the pivot: Tote’s failure provided the catalyst for Pinterest.

If you have to fail, fail fast

When your business is no longer viable, it’s better to pull the pin entirely than to keep throwing good money after bad, says Chantry. It’s a difficult decision to make, but failing fast can be the lesser of two evils.

“Sometimes you do have to give up,” Chantry says. “I’ve seen some privately owned business where the owner has invested over a million dollars and then it has failed. It can be an expensive lesson. So we say fail fast. You won’t waste your energy, time and money – and you’ll still have the lessons.”

Lean on your support network

The stigma of having failed can be painful, stressful and even damaging to your health, says Dr Smita Singh, an AUT lecturer at the Department of Management, Faculty of Business and Law, who has been researching entrepreneurial failure for a number of years.

Singh discovered that one of the most important ways to recover from a failure was the ability to tap into a social support network, and sometimes a stock of spiritual belief too, in order to help you put your failure in perspective. This, she believes, is what helps people to bounce back.

“Once you’ve been hit, you have to be proactive and tap into your social resources,” says Singh. “You can’t do it alone. Networking and getting out there can minimise the damage – the stigma of failure can be quite crippling, but don’t let it get you down.”

Analyse what went wrong

It’s tempting to try to pretend your failure never happened, but it’s important to learn from what went wrong. Chantry’s “spectacular failure” resulted in a liquidated company and the laying off of 15 staff; it was a distressing episode in her career. Talking to other business owners who understood the process of failure, and had moved onto bigger things, helped Chantry to start again and build the thriving company she has now.

“Don’t see failure as a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ scary event,” says Singh. “Think of it as a chapter in your life that can be challenging and manageable – and an opportunity for a new and fresh beginning. You have to keep moving, keep working and keep making changes.”

Define your own success

Not everyone whose business fails goes on to start another one, but that doesn’t mean they’re a failure. Of the 21 failed entrepreneurs Singh interviewed in her doctoral research, 18 went on to new start-ups. But the other three were much happier going in a different direction: “On the surface the experience seemed negative but it taught them a lot about themselves, their resilience and their skills. It wasn’t a wasted experience, it was an enriching experience.”

Some people start their businesses because they love their jobs, says Chantry, and they sometimes find that running the company takes them further away from the work they enjoy. After a failure, they find out they’d much rather be working for someone else, and by not jumping into another start-up, they’ve succeeded in learning from their mistakes.

Don’t add to the stigma

Singh has one last reminder: If you have a friend or family member whose business has failed, be supportive.

“You need to remember that if a business has failed, it can be for reasons that are beyond anyone’s control – think of the businesses that failed after the Canterbury earthquakes,” she says. “The reality is that it can hit anybody at any time. It’s important for society to have an open mind and give entrepreneurs a second chance. They can get up and do wonderful things.”