Relationship Building Requires Follow-up

Relationship building requires followupChecking in is never a bad idea. Whether to make sure ideas discussed at a meeting were shared in a clear fashion or to otherwise cement your interest in a connection, it’s always a good idea to approach a good situation a second time with a clearer understanding of what you want and how you can help should the occasion arise. This is especially important to note following social events.

Networking is much more than showing up and passing around business cards. To truly connect with people, you have to be willing to put in the extra leg work to schedule a follow-up meeting. By doing this, you set yourself apart as an individual truly invested in developing relationships with those you call back. After this follow-up, you’ll have a much more secure standing with the connections in question.

More Than a Meeting

Keep in mind that a follow-up is more than just agreeing to have conversation over coffee. It’s your time to develop a business plan in regard to what this connection could bring about. Learn what you can about them in order to come up talking points. Study the position they play in the company they work for so you can better understand possible offers they could bring to you or even how you can support them and build a stronger relationship.   Take this time to understand their background is a great way to pursue the relationship further without being blindsided or disappointed due to your own imaginings.

Follow-ups are also more than just one meeting. In order to keep up a relationship, you have to be willing to agree to continue your conversations at many points in the future. By forever sharing recent memories together, you stay fresh in their minds, even if it is just for a 15 minute break over a cup of coffee. This way, you are always at the forefront if they come across a job opening or sales opportunity that would further bolster your position.

Offer First

It’s no secret that we connect with others with the slight hope they will offer us payback in the future. However, this will never happen if you don’t approach the situation as a giver. Setting up meetings is a definite step in the right direction as it offers them your time and your attention.  Their agreeing is payback with their own time. From there, offer what you can based on anything that came up during your talks. Did they mention needing a new babysitter? Give them the contact info of yours. Did they rave about the symphony? Invite them to join you for a night at the music hall. No matter how big or how small, it’s a way to be altruistic and place yourself in a good position in their mind.

To build on this, always make sure that what you’re offering is as clear as possible. Miscommunication can be an immediate relationship killer, depending on the person in question. Where some people laugh off little mistakes, others take them personally and refuse any further contact.

Know Your Goals

To make this follow-up beneficial for you as well, don’t schedule anything until you have a definite goal in mind. It doesn’t have to be anything more than getting their direct line at work, but it has to be something. This will provide you with the motivation to seek them out and schedule them into your already busy day. It will also give you a way to drive conversation if it proves to be a little less exciting than it was at the event you met. To further make this easier, give yourself more than one goal and see how many you can hit before time runs out. This way, should you hit one brick wall, you’ll have a few options of where to go without seeming like an indignant person that just doesn’t know when to stop.

Remember that going in with a goal also takes a bit of societal acumen. If you’re looking for job openings, don’t ask them about it straight out of the gate. Start with friendly talk then steer the conversation toward the topic of jobs. Then, if the situation presents itself, you pounce. Because of this, you may swing and miss at the first few networking follow-ups you pursue. Allow for these mistakes so long as you promise yourself you’ll learn from them. With time, you’ll be a networking master.

About the Author:

Maria Elena Duron is a Marketing Coach and Strategist with Know, Like, + Ignite and @mariaduron on Twitter. Would you like practical tips to create and curate content and experiences worthy of being passed person-to-person? –Get exclusive access.

Stop Making Excuses and Start Building a Great Brand

Extraordinary Experiences Book CoverWhen you hear the word “brand” do you automatically think of large, established consumer companies?  Organizations with huge marketing budgets, big footprints, and sexy products?  Do you wonder how a start-up or small business with limited resources or how a business-to-business company selling a complex or technical product can build a strong brand?

It might seem that your situation is different and you might blame your lack of resources, your “unique” business model, or some other restriction for not focusing on your brand.  But your challenges really aren’t that unique.  Others like you have adopted a different approach, applying commitment, discipline, and focus on building a great brand.  And they’ve reaped great benefits.  Here’s how.

“We’re too small” is a common refrain among business leaders who believe that brands matter only for big companies.  People who write off examples of brand-building successes, saying that large marketing budgets are what made those bigger businesses so strong, fail to recognize that many great brands, including Starbucks, Nike, and Apple, started their brand efforts when they were resource-constrained. From the very beginning, these companies were driven by a bold mission and attracted new customers by appealing to those who shared their values.

More recently, sweetgreen, a fast-casual restaurant chain, was founded by three students in a 560-square-foot retail space — but they didn’t allow a small start to confine their big ambitions. They set out to create a brand that would make a positive difference in their communities.  In addition to serving up savory salads made of fresh, locally sourced ingredients in sustainably designed buildings, sweetgreen hosts an annual music and lifestyle festival called “sweetlife.” It also teaches thousands of elementary school students about healthy food every year and partners with other socially minded organizations to offer healthy living programs.  In a few short years, sweetgreen’s revenues have grown to more than $50 million, proving that when it comes to building a brand, size doesn’t matter.

Some business leaders think price sensitivity prevents their customers from establishing brand preference. They believe customers in their category make purchase decisions solely on price – brands don’t play a role.

Restaurateurs display this mindset when they continually rely on price promotions to create news and drive traffic. But some companies, including Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, and Buffalo Wild Wings, have thrived without competing on price. They’ve managed to increase the influence of non-price drivers on purchase decisions – factors like experience, service, and brand personality. They’re competing with a different value equation and winning by infusing their brands with perceived value.

Another common excuse for opting out of brand-building is the presence of larger, better-resourced, more aggressive competitors.  You might think your brand-building efforts are doomed, so why bother, right?!

Walmart is probably the fiercest competitor most companies ever battle and yet the grocery store chain H-E-B has taken on the mega-retailer and won.  A couple of years ago, Walmart entered San Antonio, Texas, with guns blazing, announcing plans to bring its legendary low prices to the market. But H-E-B, which had long enjoyed a near monopoly there fought back.  It leveraged its  manufacturing plants to keep its prices competitive with those that Walmart achieved by strong-arming its suppliers. Moreover, H-E-B used its brand differentiation to keep Walmart at bay.  They developed unique private label items that were tailored for Texas taste — and their customers stayed loyal to their hometown favorite.  H-E-B shows that great brands face stiff competition with respect, not resignation.

It’s easy to see how brand-building works in categories such as sporting goods, fashion, and luxury products. It seems harder in those where products seem boring and unemotional. But PIRCH, an appliance, plumbing, and fixtures retailer, proves that brands have a place in unsexy categories, too.

Granted, a refrigerator may be more personal and relatable than industrial equipment or a technology platform, but the leaders at PIRCH could have used the same excuse that other hard goods companies do and designed their stores with a focus on features and functionality.  Instead they saw an opportunity to make their customer experience and their brand more exciting and creative.  From the “Baristas of Joy” who greet customers with offers to make handcrafted espressos, to the quirky signs like “The Demystification Station” that help customers navigate all the features and technology of their products, to the working shower heads that can be fully tested (by appointment; bathrobes provided), PIRCH has transformed the typically laborious process of shopping for home fixtures, with its tedious discussions about dimensions and delivery charges.

The opportunity is to make “boring” products inspiring and fulfilling through a unique brand personality, design details, and extraordinary customer experiences. ACME Brick did it with construction products, Google did it with a search engine, and Evernote did it with a note-taking app. Now PIRCH is doing it with home appliances.

Brand-building works whether your organization is big or small, new or old, out-spent or under-resourced, price-sensitive, differentiation-challenged, or economic cycle-impaired.  So, stop making excuses and start building a great brand!

Learn more about building a great brand in Denise Lee Yohn’s the new book, Extraordinary Experiences: What Great Retail and Restaurant Brands Do – available now.  Blending a fresh perspective, twenty-five years of experience working with world-class brands including Sony and Frito-Lay, and a talent for inspiring audiences, Denise is a leading authority on building and positioning exceptional brands. Denise is also the author of the bestselling book What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest (Jossey-Bass).

The Total Brand Experience

Disney is the master of experience. From the first click to the last day at the park, they grew from an animation studio into a worldwide corporation that has redefined exactly how we think of omnichannel experiences. Year after year after year, they underline just how crucial it is to keep customers engaged no matter where they are doing business with the mouse.

The Omnichannel

disneylandIn its most basic definition, an omnichannel is a multiple angle approach to a seamless experience for the customer as provided by the company. It’s a way that leads to continued engagement through the phone, website and in-person. Even so, that doesn’t mean constant engagement is always successful. There are a few stipulations that have to be followed to ensure the omnichannel experience works correctly.

Unification

Above all, the continued experiences have to be the exact same no matter the medium. Customers that go to a website expecting one thing and are greeted at the door with another will become confused, frustrated and even angry for being lied to. This is why some businesses are portrayed as a villain. Their website paints then out to be a company that cares about its customers, yet any customer that has ever tried to deal with customer service has been met with horrible service.

Disney, on the other hand, has every single channel perfected so that customers expect the same treatment no matter where they run into Disney. Including color schemes, verbiage, content and ease of use, the Disney experience is immersive from start to finish.

Tiers

Once everything sends the same message, the next step is layers of interaction based on how in-depth the customer goes with the company. While remaining unified, each tier builds upon the last one creating a magical journey and rides that delights them with consistency and trust as they become newly converted fans of the brand. Such a technique is what turns a passing customer experience into a lifelong relationship.

Walt Disney said it best, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” Technology has really allowed Disney to adapt to this even more rapidly.  Enter the Fast Pass, where customers now had control over how long they would have to wait for a ride, making the parks a bit more enjoyable. Hotels began upgrading, becoming themed. Hotel guests were treated to special perks and transportation. Now, they have Magic Bands – a tool that has cemented Disney’s success for the next few generations.

This virtually indestructible wristband contains park tickets, acts as a hotel keycard, works as a credit card, orders food and can be used to track a lost child should the worst happen. It also allows guests to choose their fast passes for the day. In short, it has further taken what would otherwise have been a stressful trip and made it easier than ever to enjoy the parks themselves. Customers can literally forget about their responsibilities because all symbols of responsibility – hotel keys, driver’s licenses, credit cards – can now be left locked up in the hotel room. It’s a stroke of brilliance that has proven just how business changing total omnichannel experiences are.

Harnessing Greatness

As a smaller business, the task can seem daunting, but it’s not impossible. Like all things in life, it’s simply one foot in front of the other. Do what you can now and then expand outward. First, you’ll need to determine what experience you want your users to have and how you want them to be treated during the experience. This concept has to be crystal clear in order to be expanded upon successfully.

  • How do you want people to feel when the do business with you?
  • What does the journey look like as they consider you, do business with you and then refer friends to you?

Once determined, decide where you want to start. Will it be in-house with customer service or online where the majority of your audience comes from? Keep on top of customer feedback as either warning flags or signs of success. Following this, continue expanding outward until your brand is recognized and respected for its impossibly seamless omnichannel approach to the customer experience.

Appreciation in Business When You’re a Solopreneur

mmHow do you feel when someone genuinely appreciates you for your input/effort? It feels nice and warm, doesn’t it?

That’s the kind of feeling you want customers and clients to associate with you. As a solopreneur, chances are you will perform a lot of the business’s tasks yourself, so you’ll probably relate with a lot more people than if you had a team working for you.

As a business owner, you don’t need to be reminded on the importance of keeping customers happy. However, in the midst of all the tasks and appointments you have to keep, you might forget to do the little things like genuinely saying “thank you” that make a whole world of difference in other people’s lives.

Appreciation is important

According to data obtained from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) office on client retention surveys, 68% of clients leave because they perceive the business does not care for them. Compare that to 14% because of product dissatisfaction. At the very least, you can rebound from having a bad product, but where the client feels you do not value them, they will leave, and it will be much harder for you to bring them back.

How people feel about you and their desire to transact with your business are closely related, if not directly proportional. And it’s true in reverse scenarios, too. With the exception of a business offering low prices, you will buy from someone who treats you kindly, smiles, and lets you know how valuable you are to them. So why not do the same for your clients?

Put yourself in their shoes

To understand properly the effort you need to put into your appreciation efforts, you have to think like your customer/client. Remember, in their eyes, it is all about them. Thus, you need to put other’s needs before your own if you are to succeed at conveying genuine appreciation.

Genuine appreciation is heartfelt and sincere. Fake appreciation is easy to spot, and cultivates a level of distrust in the recipient that is hard to shed.  Appreciation in business requires constant opportunities for them to sample your character and competence to develop know, like and trust.

Appreciation has to focus on aspects other than those that benefit you. [tweet this]

You have to identify the personality traits that make working with a particular client pleasurable to you and praise that. It’s more like giving compliments, and you also don’t expect anything in return.

More than just appreciation

Even as you go about being appreciative to the people you interact with that make your business grow, you have to think continually of ways to make the customer experience better and easier. Make it easier for customers to transact with you through a number of ways, like having an easy-to-remember phone number, fast responses to email and social media queries, and easy to fill online forms.

Encourage customers to give feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about doing business with you. Customers have with them a wealth of knowledge that is useful in your efforts to improve your services and overall attitude.

Lastly, never forget to say “thank you.” Don’t just say it when customers purchase from you. Make appreciation a consistent theme in your work and life, and clients will take notice and want to associate with you. Happy customers will likely come back, and they’ll share their positive experiences with others, thus expanding your potential reach.

That’s something to be thankful for, isn’t it?

About the Author:

Maria Elena Duron is a Marketing Coach and Strategist with Know, Like, + Ignite and @mariaduron on Twitter. Would you like practical tips to create and curate content and experiences worthy of being passed person-to-person? –Get exclusive access.

10 Characteristics of a Well-Written Review Response

In metrics-based brand management, one of the most important steps of the process is benchmarking.

startup-849804_1920Having a clear idea of the standard by which your processes, services, and results will be measured can help in any facet of a business, but it is particularly important in areas that directly affect the customer. Review responses on third-party review websites are now a must-have for any business that aspires to have a solid online reputation. Responses speak of due diligence and commitment to delivering a customer experience conducive to retention, loyalty, and growth.  If you have been engaging in a two-way dialogue with your customers and potential shoppers at large through review responses, then you need to know how to craft a review response that addresses customer centricity, brand development, SEO objectives, and message amplification.

We see plenty of review responses which are amateurish in tone, and borderline dangerous. If you are working on implementing a way to evaluate and improve the tone, style, content, and technique of your review responses on third-party websites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Google+, and OpenTable, then read on as we count down the 10 characteristics of a well-written review, regardless of industry.

  1. A Well-Written Response Can Respectfully Disagree and Provide a Way Out

When someone has a poorly based complaint that is unfair and the result of the customer not having a clear understanding of product or policy, and the business wishes to respond with a clarification that is in direct disagreement with the complaint, it must be done politely. If the truth and the facts are on your side, then you still need to be gracious and frame your response in a way that conveys relational interest with the customer and leaves the door open for additional business. Even if you are 100 percent correct and the customer is 100 percent wrong, it is never a good idea to back a person into a corner without giving him or her a way out. Craft a response that points to the facts but also coveys the value of the relationship. Respectfully disagreeing is all about balance.

  1. A Well-Written Response Banks on Emotional Connections

Both negative and positive review responses are an invitation to establish emotional bonds with someone who is already vested in your business. Write a response that appeals to the needs and wants of the reviewer and seeks to connect emotionally by conveying affinity and shared objectives. Let your customers know that you are on their team.

  1. A Well-Written Response Expands on the Best That Your Business Has to Offer

Did you know that almost 8 out of 10 consumers read reviews prior to engaging with a business? With this in mind, and taking into account that most shoppers will at least read five customer reviews, the way you respond is likely to define whether the shopper is likely to convert into a customer. Craft responses that not only tackle the issues the reviewer brought to light, but also expand to discuss the features that make your business desirable and worthy of patronage time and time again. Did the reviewer highlight your killer Mimosa?  Consider expanding on your response by talking about your happy hour and Sunday brunch. A shopper is far more likely to read your response than to head to your website and review your overall offering. Give the reader a taste of things to come, and hopefully capture his or her attention and business.

  1. A Well-Written Response Is Brand Sensitive and Consistent

We really need to give a special emphasis to consistency across all responses. Consistency in review responses can be achieved by making sure every single reviewer is treated equally and given the same level of attention, the same types of remedy, and the same options. In addition to making sure there is equanimity in how businesses deal with customers, those responding to reviews must make a concerted effort to always stick to the brand voice and find ways to encourage top-of-mind awareness.

  1. A Well-Written Response Aims to Restore Relationships

Customer acquisition is pricey, and marketing budgets are best utilized in expanding a business instead of dealing with a high churn rate. Responses that seek to restore relationships and right wrongs by setting the stage for a second chance are evidence of an online reputation heading in the right direction.

  1. A Well-Written Response Is Crafted with Clarity

A review response will be read by a variety of people from many backgrounds. Stick to language that is conducive to clarity and simplicity. Refrain from industry lingo, colloquialisms, or verbosity. There is great beauty and effectiveness in responses written with simple and intentional language.

  1. A Well-Written Response Follows Host Policies

Smart business leaders know how to play by the rules. The best way to get ahead in the online-reputation game is by making sure you are familiar with the policies and procedures associated with each of the host websites. A response that follows the host-website rules will be quickly moderated and approved for posting, allowing for a more agile interaction with the reviewer. Learning and following the rules will give you a competitive advantage and help you maintain a good standing with the host.

  1. A Well-Written Response Is Grammatically Correct

Conciseness, clarity, and proper grammar are essential in conveying professionalism. Make it a point to edit your responses and, if needed, have a second set of eyes look at each response prior to posting. Poor grammar impacts credibility and leads to confusion.

  1. A Well-Written Review Response Is Relevant

You need to listen to the voice of your customers carefully and intentionally. More than we care to report, we find review responses that have no relevance to the issues raised by the reviewer. Instead, the brand representative tasked with responding to reviews uses a template and responds per the star ratings. If 4+, the template expresses gratitude; if less than three stars, the response is a generic apology. Lack of personalization and relevance to the issues or compliments raised by the reviewer is borderline criminal and a terrible reputation-management faux pas. The tone of your response and level of attention to detail expressed through relevance shows your commitment toward customer retention and loyalty. If you are going to respond, then do it as if you had the customer in front of you, looking eye to eye. The reviewer deserves your respect as conveyed by how you decide to package and deliver your review response.

  1. A Well-Written Response Is More Than Words

We love to leave the best for last. If there is one thing you can do to cause a great impression, it is to actually follow through. Do what you promised in your response, particularly if you are dealing with a disappointed customer. A review response that is not backed up by actions is worse than no response at all. Let your word be as good as money.

Author: Crystal Shuller –  Article originally published on Review Trackers blog.

The Social City: Social WiFi and Hotspot Marketing

Social Rise WiFiWith today’s WiFi capabilities, the practice of social WiFi is starting to seem much smaller on the grand scale of potential. Where the possibility existed with just one store, entire areas are beginning to pop up, uniting once scattered locations under a blanketed network. Even something as small as a shopping center is enough to render data necessary for helping the entire area flourish, not just individual stores.

Social WiFi & Hotspot Marketing

It’s no secret that the more famous social WiFi generators, such as coffee shops, offer free internet with a purpose. Though you are gifted relatively fast, free internet upon ordering your drink, what you give back far outweighs any monthly bills. After all, this “free” internet is paid for with your data. From the sites you visit to your path around the store, everything businesses can collect and analyze is information they can use to make themselves more appealing by making your experience even better.

Taking this a step further, this connection to all customers within the store means that companies can immediately connect and interact without interrupting or being too pushy. Simple things such as “thank you” text messages or immediately sent emails with coupons in them all serve to attract the customer to come back one more time, improving customer retention and conversion.

Expanding to a Social City

Sometimes storewide reach isn’t enough. Take Hinckley town center, for instance. As the second largest town in Leicestershire, it boasts an extremely popular market full of high end fashion, fine dining and department stores. According to the case study put together by Purple WiFi, this collection of shops just wasn’t enough. The “Hinckley Town Partnership hope[d] that the new free WiFi [would] enhance the online experience when out and about in the area.” Simply put, Hinckley aimed to make technology the core of the city’s shopping experience.

The goal was to connect visitors with unrestricted WiFi at all major areas in the city, combining a system that could deliver real-time updates with the collection of visitor data. For this project, they turned to the engineering prowess of Purple WiFi. Because the demands were so unique, the solution was actually specifically built for the city. With the longest distance being 1.2km, it was challenging coming up with a continuous signal that would envelope the entire area. The answer came by “mounting Ubiquiti hardware to various lamp posts.” The traffic is then collected and sent to a central, managed connection.

Embracing the City

Moving from a store-based approach to a city-based strategy comes with added benefits. First and foremost, stores in Hinckley no longer need to worry about setting up their own WiFi for customers. Instead, they can use what’s been set up by the city, making the area even more appealing to the brands that want to get in on the WiFi hotspot action without investing the time and effort it takes to determine how to make it happen on an individual basis.

Beyond this store appeal, it’s a tactic that benefits the entire area as a whole. Those in charge of the city can now interact with their locals and visitors on an unprecedented scale, sending out SMS messages regarding various sales around the area or events going on. There are even social media portals that can be accessed to vastly increase chatter on places like Facebook and Twitter. The other side of this is that the entire area can then receive immediate feedback on what the populace is thinking about their various events, helping them further tailor the area to the wants of the customer base.

In the end, though, it all comes down to how much data your WiFi hotspots can gather. As in Hinckley’s case, they decided to go with Purple WiFi because of the type of data it offered them. Instead of restrictive options that could only place the footfalls, it’s the more advanced options that really make free WiFi across an entire city worth it. Including what stores are visited, what sites are visited, social media popularity and even gender and age, this information is pivotal for the city to continually enhance its attraction to users. By playing to the preferences of those that visit, Hinckley can expect to see unprecedented growth by using citywide WiFi to not only promote the city and its stores but encouraging more than one return trip.

Online Review Management: Fostering Feedback

Fostering Feedback

business-meeting-617738_1280In a world where news is instantaneous and people all but expect reviews for every business they come across, it’s not too much of a stretch to tell you that your business needs testimonials to thrive. However, sometimes it seems only the angry customers are happy to provide feedback, leaving you with an unfair representation of your brand. It’s time to take to the offensive. Here are the proven best practices for inviting your customers to leave their two cents.

Give Them the Tools

Even when it comes to the internet, people are lazy. The more pages they have to visit, the less inclined they are to visit them. This is why having a review section directly on your site will greatly increase the chance your customers will respond. Be it a pop up during check out or a submit field in their email receipt, keep the process as hassle-free as is technologically possible.

Personalize Your Request

Chances are when a customer reaches out to you, they leave their name or some form of identification. Do not let this go to waste. Use their name to personalize your correspondence. The use of their first or last names immediately grabs their attention, increasing response rates by up to 10%.

Use Surveys

Surveys are great when you find yourself with a lack of customers filling out dauntingly empty textboxes. In the feedback world, surveys can be as long or as short as you need, helping incorporate feedback from those that don’t have the time necessary to form their own thoughts. It’s a simple gauge of their feelings on your brand. Then, after they’ve been warmed up with some easy questions, the feedback box at the end won’t seem so intimidating.

Keep it Simple

Some companies take the feedback option a bit too far. They’ll have an unobtrusive tab that opens up to a full page exam not even related to what the customer experienced. Nothing will turn away suggestion providers faster than a surprise, two-page feedback quiz. Remember, feedback is about small, specific moments. The simpler it is for them to fill out, the more likely they will.

Offer a ‘Thank You’ Gift

In the end, sometimes all it takes is a small token of gratitude to get your site decorated with testimonials. Coupons, free items and chances to win big prizes pull in reluctant supporters. Just remember to keep the reward value in line with the value the testimonial would have for your site. And, remember, you offer it for the review – good or bad.  It is not to serve as a “bribe” for a good review.

Start bringing in feedback now by actively pursuing your regular and new customers. You have to be proactive and take charge of your online review management.  It’s a part of your first impression and it’s lasting.  Without their words of approval, the rate of new business will remain slow and stagnant, never blooming into the growth you planned to see this quarter.

The Power of Email Marketing

Email might seem like an antiquated practice, however current data is revealing that it is actually almost 40 times more powerful than Twitter and Facebook combined in terms of acquiring new customers. The simple truth is that not everyone uses every social media outlet. Some prefer Pinterest while others are diehard Instagram fanatics. The one thing they all have in common is email. There is no way to function on the internet without a valid email address, keeping it a steady and reliable marketing target.

mobile-phone-791644_1280The Facts

  • Of all US consumers, 91% use email on a daily basis.
  • Emails get more customers to buy products three times more than social media.
  • The order value of purchases gotten though emails averages out to be 17% higher than through social media.
  • Since 2009, email has been growing as a way to acquire new customers, hitting 7% in 2013.

The Secret

Using email to bolster your sales isn’t as easy as mass spamming, though. With today’s technology, you should be using email as a legitimate way to begin creating personalized messages. If you have an email database, and you should, you know what people buy, when they buy it and how much they typically spend. Begin putting in parameters for your automated emails that send targeted sales to those most likely to take advantage of it.

Businesses miss the mark with email marketing when they don’t have access to the metrics of an email campaign.  There are more metrics than just “open rate” to look at when analyzing an email you’ve sent.

What was clicked on, who clicked on it, what time they clicked on it, what device they used and how often they looked at your email are basic metrics you need to review. Then, also review how often it was shared on social media and on which channels (your email program should have all that) along with any bounced emails or unsubcribes or even spam reports.   Refrain from being romanced by the “open rate” that is one metric and it’s absolutely not the best one to measure since an email can be tracked as “open” when all that happened was that it was “touched” when someone swiped past your email to get to one they really want to read.

Email campaigns are rich with metrics and data on your customer’s behaviors and preferences. No other media platform lets you do this. Take advantage of it to keep your business growth heading upwards.

Updates for Small Business Yelp

The pioneer of aggregate critique collection, Yelp continues to be the hub of how consumers judge businesses. The higher the rating, the better chance you’ll get new visitors. To date, it remains the most influential site for customers. This means that every one-star rating yields up to a 9% decrease in sales. What this means for you is that you need to be on top of your Yelp page, monitoring and responding to reviews. Recently, Yelp released a whole host of updates through their Yelp for Business Owners app, giving you, the small business yelp user even more power than before.

Master the Profile Pic

bar-768564_1280Before you can actually start posting on Yelp, whether as a business or individual, you need a profile pic. Though the requirement might seem a bit draconian, it is in place to scare away as many trolls as possible, considering many only target easy to sign up for sites. This new app makes the process much easier, allowing you to pull photos from your phone. As soon as the photo is up, you can then tackle the reviews.

Why reviews? The reviews are your reputation. If too many bad ones pile up, you’ll be a company people avoid rather than flock to. Responding to the reviews is a great way to connect with your customer base to learn what works and what doesn’t, opening the doors to improvement. The first step, however, is actually seeking them out.

Picture Your Business

It used to be that Yelp photos could only ever be uploaded while at a computer. Luckily, this outdated and restrictive mode of updating is no longer an issue. The new app lets you add business photos from your phone as well. Be it more great pics of the interior or happy customers, those businesses with a selection of photos find themselves with customers that spend more time on their page.

Protect Your Page

Any page is subject to spam, not the least of which is Yelp, a high profile site. Though their team is great at preventing as much harassment as possible, they simply can’t catch everything. When you come across a flagrant violation of the site’s guidelines, you need to get rid of it fast. With their new app, you now have a flagging feature. With one tap, a picture, review or message is noted as a potential removal. The Yelp team then reviews the issue and deletes it if need be. This simple feature makes managing your business’ reputation even easier.

Yelp for the small business is no longer a day long hassle that seems to never end. With their current roster of updates, it’s clear that they are ready and willing to change with the times to remain a viable source of information for both the public and businesses at large. Don’t let this resource go untapped.

Reviews are Word of Mouth: The Most Powerful Form of Advertising

11043390_1553045351622453_1788492456641338107_oMany have read negative reviews and some may have written one or two themselves. Often, when a business receives a negative review they don’t know really what to do.

Some will come out of the gate swinging

Mad, angry and ready to defend their team and their every move – sometimes they miss the main message or the constructive feedback embedded in the review.

Some will take the ostrich defense

Acting too busy or completely unaware that there has been a negative review or comments about their business, they decide to not even acknowledge the review.

Some are just as service focused online as they are offline

And, it serves them well. They are focused, listening and eager to help their customer and do take a genuine interest in translating their customer’s review to something that could become a plan to put into place for improvement.

How do you reduce the negative and increase the positive?

Make it a priority

A recent study shows that, on average, 10.4 information sources are checked before making a decision.

Create a good product and provide quality service

It’s important that you are providing quality all the way around. As a marketing team, we’re often asked to put “lipstick on a pig” which means we’re asked to make someone look amazing and engaged on social when their actual product or service is not that good.

Those companies we ask to “go back” and review their actual services. Many times, they know what they need to improve on but haven’t focused or made a commitment to make those changes.

Provide avenues or front level connections where customers can communicate and vent

It’s true. If you’re listening at the level where customers are doing business or engaging, then you’ll decrease negative reviews.

Providing customers the opportunity to be heard and to be valued, will negate those who want to take to the review sites or social airways to vent. If they feel heard at this level, they feel valued.

Are you asking for feedback? Are you listening to the response?

Does your team do the same? Are they willing to listen to constructive criticism and helpful in seeking solution?

Have the ability to capture positive comments in an easy way

To increase positive reviews, the key is not to bribe your customers for them or to exchange goods or money for them (that’s not ethical!).

Instead, provide an easy format to capture their positive comments.

One fitness facility we worked with had a laptop available to clients to capture their video comments and reviews on how much they enjoyed the facility.

Another utilizes a review funnel we created them that captures and promotes the positive reviews and sends negative reviews immediately to a customer care team member who contacts them for more personal interaction and feedback.

Respond fast

Either online or in person, quickly respond to reviews with a level head and the focus of nurturing the relationship with the client. Unless after careful consideration you feel that the person is being abusive or disrespectful and that would need to be determined during you contact of response to them (unless they were very explicit and derogatory in their review).

It is a conscious decision that needs to be made and not a knee-jerk or “rage quit” decision.

*rage quit: when someone emotionally takes action to no longer speak or engage with someone and quits in a fit of anger.

Offer opportunities and incentives

Let’s be clear. You’re not offering these in exchange for a positive review – that would be unethical! What you are doing is offering this opportunities and incentives to those who have left negative reviews giving them a chance to try you again; or to see how you’ve made improvements from their feedback; or to show them that what they initially experienced was not the normal experience and provide them the opportunity to experience what you really deliver.

If we can assist you in creating these easy systems with the tools we have that make this easy for you and encouraging positive word of mouth , please let us know – we would be honored to assist you!

Maria Elena Duron, Marketing Coach

About the Author:

Maria Elena Duron is a Marketing Coach and Strategist with Know, Like, + Ignite and @mariaduron on Twitter. Would you like practical tips to create and curate content and experiences worthy of being passed person-to-person? –Get exclusive access.