Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Imagine if nearly everything you needed to know about your customer base existed in a single space, and all you needed to do was find a way to listen to the conversation. Well, it is -- and you can. That space is social media.
Social media (and the Internet in general) has come to dominate nearly half the globe. Customers use the Internet to communicate and connect with each other and the brands they want to do business with. These customers are telling you what you need to know about the needs of your intended audience. Here are a few ways you can put social media to work for you.
Pay attention to how your customers speak
You likely already know you should be monitoring social sites for mentions of your brand in case customers register complaints or talk about experiences they had with you. There's more you can get out of these basic brand mentions, though.
Pay attention to how people speak about your company and the services you provide. Listen to what your customers are mentioning as the most important aspects in their buying experience. What matters the most when developing customer loyalty? What draws people to your products and services? What causes them to go to your competitors? This insight will help you improve the customer experience and better meet their needs.
Get quick results for surveys
Rather than spending weeks or months gathering data from surveys and study groups, you can use social media to learn about your customers significantly quicker. Pose questions to your followers, and encourage customers to share experiences with your brand to get a feel for what matters most to them.
In many ways, the information you glean from social media might be even more valuable than what you learn from focus groups. Nearly 3/4 of all people with Internet access use social media in some form. Using social media for your research, therefore, has the potential to help you gain a much more complete picture of industry trends and customer preferences.
Using social media for your surveys can also be a fantastic way to control costs related to social research. There are a variety of free tools available across a number of social platforms, but even the ones that have a cost tend to be more cost-efficient than spending the time and money to conduct surveys and poll focus groups.
Get real-time results
Traditional surveys often take several weeks or months to process and analyze. When you use social media to gather this important information, you get your answers in real time. This can help you implement positive changes for your customers and take advantage of the information you learned, while remaining confident that trends have not yet shifted.
Social media is a valuable tool for market research. It can help you learn more about your customers so you can better meet their needs and grow your business.
Monday, April 27, 2015
To illustrate just how important a consistent brand experience is, take a look at a company that has mastered it: Apple. Apple is notorious for the strength of its brand. Say what you will about its products and services, but you can't argue with the fact that when that shiny white "Apple" logo appears on a computer, portable music player, or advertisement on television, a very clear image of what that logo represents pops into your mind almost immediately.
The major theme of Apple's company over the years has been simplicity. The lengths to which the company has gone in its effort to reinforce that concept are actually quite astounding. Apple has long been lauded for its television commercials. Instead of relying on flashy graphics, loud music, and other tropes typical of traditional television advertising, Apple displays key products on stark white backgrounds with a basic music track not unlike what you would hear in an elevator. In a word, the ads are incredibly simple, just like the products themselves.
If you take a look at Apple's website, it's almost like one of the company's television commercials brought to life. The website features a stark white background and large, simplistic lettering. The products themselves are clearly the emphasis. Simplicity rears its head yet again.
This extends even to the print marketing materials that come packaged in the box along with Apple's products. Instead of the extensive user manual that accompanies most products, you get a short and painfully straightforward pamphlet with basic tips on how to get started using the device you just bought. The only other item in the box (accessories notwithstanding) is a sticker with the Apple logo. Simple, simple, simple.
Apple succeeds because every last bit of marketing it puts out into the world harkens back to that core message of simplicity. The avenues it uses to communicate that message may change, but the look, feel, and emotion behind the message remains the same.
This isn't a phenomenon unique to Apple. If you think of the biggest companies in the world (or even the most successful businesses in your area), the one thing they all have in common regardless of industry is the consistent brand experience they deliver. By focusing on your own marketing message and clearly communicating it in a straightforward and consistent manner across all marketing avenues, you, too, can build awareness and create the same type of consistent brand experience for your company.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
You also need to make sure you have the tools to accomplish the job. In construction, tools all have very defined purposes, and failing to listen to safety guidelines about using the tools can end up either hurting you or destroying your house.
Once you have your final plans and all the tools and materials you need, it's time to get to work. Now is your opportunity to put all your knowledge to the test. The process might be slow, but as you go step by step, you start to see progress. Before you know it, the final result begins to take shape. The further you get, the more confidence you gain in your abilities.
Most of us will never build anything more elaborate than a bird house. That doesn't mean, however, that the steps involved in building a house cannot teach us anything. Even just planning how one might begin to build a house can teach us something about how to succeed in marketing a company.
Before building a house, everyone involved in the process needs to know their role and desired outcome. Without a final goal, it would be impossible to create anything useful or of value.
The same holds true in marketing. Marketing is most successful when you have a final goal and vision in mind from the beginning. Understanding the end goal is the only way you'll know where you're going and what the final result should look like. This final vision will guide you as you develop your campaign message and plan for reaching the desired intended audience.
When building a house, you need to use a variety of tools that each serve a very distinct role. In marketing, you'll also find various tools in your tool kit. From direct mail to Facebook ads to inbound marketing, a successful campaign involves understanding the purpose of each individual tool and how to successfully use them.
Building something as large as a house will require an incredible amount of perseverance. There will be times when you get discouraged or struggle to see progress, but you still must keep going.
The same lesson applies in marketing. When starting a new campaign, it can be hard to see tangible results right away. The results will come. You just need to keep pressing forward. You must be willing to put in some effort before you begin to receive any return.
Building a house is something most of us only imagine doing. Those who have had the opportunity to work on such a project, however, know what an educational experience it can be. Even if you only ever dream of building your own house, consider the steps you would take. You might be surprised at the tips you can learn about marketing your company. If you're interested in making your dreams a reality and getting your marketing plan off the ground, contact us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.
Friday, April 17, 2015
1. Lex Luthor - Supervillain, Business Leader, Or Both?
If you've only known Lex Luthor as a "mad scientist" who will do whatever it takes to stop his arch rival, Superman, you haven't been keeping up with the character for the last several decades. In the classic Richard Donner film, Superman, Luthor's plot involves buying up thousands of acres of worthless Arizona desert that will eventually be transformed into a "new West coast" of high-priced real estate after he separates California from the rest of the U.S. by way of his dastardly plan.
Though Superman thankfully puts a stop to him before that can happen, the business lesson here is abundantly clear. Luthor recognized an opportunity in real estate (or, as he so eloquently put it, "the one thing they're not making any more of"). He thought outside the box and was able to find a new way to penetrate an existing market, which is something all business owners should be doing on a daily basis. Even though his target market seemed impenetrable, he was able to put a bold new slant on an old idea just by embracing unique possibilities.
2. The Avengers - The Importance of Teamwork
One of the most amazing things about the 2012 film The Avengers is the important business lesson inside. From the moment these heroes get together, all they do is bicker. Instead of saving the world, much of the first part of the film involves them arguing with one another to the point where a villain is able to execute the vast majority of his master plan while no one's even paying attention.
The business lesson from The Avengers, however, rests in the third act. Separately, each hero could not complete the mission before them. Only by properly teaming together and utilizing their complementary strengths were they able to form something much bigger than any one person. It's the same thing you need to be doing in business on a daily basis. Your team members are there for a reason. Everyone is good at something. Recognizing those strengths is what drives success.
3. Wile E. Coyote - There Is No "Magic Bullet" In Business
Wile E. Coyote is known for many things, including being a textbook illustration of what not to do in the world of business. As Wile E. Coyote attempts to capture his arch rival, the roadrunner, he keeps trying to do so with a single solution. Sometimes that solution takes the form of an Acme rocket that explodes too early or an anvil placed in just the wrong location.
The business lesson here is startlingly simple and amazingly important at the same time. If you depend on one single "magic bullet" solution to achieve business success, you're never going to get what you want. Such a solution doesn't exist. Putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, isn't the way to run a successful business. It's gambling that will never quite pay off. You can't expect any one single move to rocket your business into the stratosphere. Instead, you need to have backup plans for your backup plans and (most importantly) patience.
You really never know where inspiration might rear its head. One second you might think you're only watching a diabolical villain trying to pull one over on the last surviving son of Krypton. But before you know it, you realize you're actually watching a master businessman at play. Important business lessons can come from even the most unlikely places. You just have to make sure your eyes are always open and you know where to look.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
What is Transparency in Marketing?
At its core, transparency means being truthful about your business at all times. Far too many business leaders believe that acknowledging problems or mistakes is akin to showing signs of weakness. As they see it, letting people know your business may be going through a rough patch is proof that blood is in the water and the sharks will soon begin to circle.
In reality, transparency is one of the best ways to establish yourself as a trusted brand. If you make a mistake, don't attempt to sweep it under the rug. Instead, lean into it, take the heat, and use the experience to better your organization. From that regard, transparency isn't a weakness at all. It's a way to show your organization is run by human beings who sometimes make mistakes but who always care about their customers above all else.
Consider the recent surge in data breaches that have affected some of the biggest companies on the planet. There are commonly two types of reactions to these events. Some companies try to pretend like a data breach didn't happen for as long as possible. This never ends well and only damages their reputation. Others step up, take full responsibility, and go to great lengths to do right by their customers. These are the companies that survive the PR disaster that a data breach represents.
Authenticity is Key
Gabe Newell is the co-founder and managing director of the Valve Corporation, a highly successful video game development and distribution platform. When asked about the early days of Valve and the major success it had with digital distribution when so many other platforms were faltering, Newell said the key was simple. "One of the things we learned pretty early on is don't ever, ever try to lie to the Internet," he said. "They will catch you. They will de-construct your spin. They will remember everything you ever say for eternity."
Newell understood what so many others failed to: authenticity is no longer a recommendation for business professionals. It's a requirement.
Building a following for your business is always a challenge, especially as new competitors crop up with each passing day. Transparency and authenticity are two of the most important resources you have that will move you toward that goal.
Friday, April 10, 2015
Fortunately, there is a solution. By focusing your efforts on improving your customers' experience, you can help encourage them to return to you, improving retention and stopping the bleed of past customers going to your competitors. Here's how to do it.
Focus on employees
Your employees are the face of the company when customers interact with your brand. Make sure they represent you well. Develop a strong relationship with employees by giving them degrees of independence, flexibility, and a work environment that's a pleasant place to be. Employees will become more appreciative and enthusiastic about your brand and pass that along to customers.
Give employees training, then independence
Focus on building a culture of independence. Allow company representatives to troubleshoot and solve problems on their own. This will help them feel more appreciated, while improving customer service. Now, when a customer calls with a complaint, the person who answers can actually help them, rather than passing the phone call from person to person.
Try to under-promise and over-deliver
Far too many customers are used to companies neglecting their promises, so show that you're different. Promise customers the minimum of what they can expect and then over-deliver.
Listen to what customers say are the weakest parts of their experience
Though fewer and fewer customers actually use complaint lines to let companies know they did wrong, that doesn't mean they've stopped complaining. Instead, it's simply become more common for people to release their reviews to the public through social media.
A bad review from a disgruntled customer can have an enormous impact on your company's reputation. Address customer complaints head-on and try to make amends for their poor experience. If the customer is satisfied, then politely ask them to update or remove the bad review.
Treat bad reviews as learning experiences. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What part of the customer experience was impacted (product research, pricing, the purchase itself, questions about the product, etc.)?
- Are there any patterns to the types of complaints made by customers?
- What do these bad reviews say about how customers wish to be seen in your organization?
The customer experience can be a fantastic predictor of consumer loyalty and retention. When you learn how to convince customers to stay with your brand, you'll see more money in your pocket and better growth. Use the above advice to update your customer experience to make the most of every interaction between customer and company.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Establish Your Business as an Industry Authority
Pinterest is golden when it comes to establishing your business as an authority in your industry. Provide real value in your pins and boards, and you can quickly position yourself as the go-to expert in your field. Value is the key. Go out of your way to give as much free information as you can with your pins and boards. Your pins should tell a compelling story about who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
Don't just make one board on Pinterest. Create several, and put them into categories, such as "how to," "FAQs," "interesting uses for a product or service," "how other people are using the product or service," "tips for getting the most out of the product or service," and any other category you think would provide real value to your customers.
Make sure your boards are fun and engaging, too. The more people look at your boards, the more they'll take your pictorial stories to heart -- and the more they'll share those images with others. If you have a YouTube channel, post videos to your Pinterest boards. These are great for a "how to" category. The more you post, the more of an industry expert you'll seem. This will increase customer engagement with your company, as well as customer loyalty, since customers love to be associated with the best in the business.
Tap into the Power of Other Companies' Networks
Do you want to reach potential customers you might have never found on your own? Collaborate with other business owners on Pinterest. There are a number of ways you can do this. One is to start a group board with another business in your industry. Another is to allow a business in your niche to put pins on your boards in exchange for you being able to pin to their boards.
The more followers your collaborative partner has, the more potential new customers your business will be exposed to when you post on a common board or to your partner's board. Your partner will get the same benefit from being exposed to your followers. You can collaborate like this with as many business partners on Pinterest as you'd like. Just make sure they're all in your niche, so you don't confuse current or potential customers.
Vet collaborative partners thoroughly before embarking on a Pinterest business venture with them. Remember, the things other companies post on your boards reflect on your company, so choose your partners carefully. Make sure you trust each other to only pin appropriate and relevant content to each others' boards.
Use Pinterest as a Conduit to Your Main Company Website
Is your main company website lacking the traffic it needs to thrive? Pinterest can help attract new visitors to your website. The people who use Pinterest are really passionate about it. If they like what they see on your boards, they'll be more likely to visit your website to find out more about your company.
The key is to get people to re-pin your images to their own boards. You want people to re-pin and to share your pins with others. Getting them to do this means pinning visually entertaining, enticing, mysterious, and/or educational images to your boards. Pins that make your followers stop and look twice are more likely to motivate them to re-pin and/or share your pins with their friends and family. Try to make sure your images solve a problem, appeal to someone's interest in a hobby, inspire them, or are just plain gorgeous.
Include a link back to your company's website. That way, when other users re-pin your images to their own boards, their followers will see them, along with your link. If you've made images interesting enough for others to re-pin and share, it's highly likely they and their followers will want to click your links, as well, to go to your website and learn more about you. That's your chance to turn them into customers who will buy from you and tell others about you, too.
As you can see, Pinterest can be a powerful tool for increasing the success of your business. Follow these tips, and you'll be amazed at the additional customers, followers, and profits you acquire. When it comes to boosting your bottom line, Pinterest is picture perfect.
Friday, April 3, 2015
When you break down those two categories into their core elements, however, what you're left with is the same type of local marketing businesses have been using for decades. This is why traditional print marketing and -- more specifically -- local marketing remain hugely valuable tools to businesses in the 21st century.
What Is Local Marketing?
Studies have long shown that most people do most of their shopping within a ten mile radius of their home. This is still true, even at a time when people can have something delivered to their home with the press of a few buttons and the click of a mouse. People are still willing to venture out of the home to pick up that hot new item or to participate in a service they truly believe in. They just need to know where to look.
According to a recent report released by the CMO Council, 49% of all respondents to a survey agreed that localized marketing was crucial to the overall growth and longevity of their business. More than that, one in four marketers were spending at least 50% of their total marketing budgets on localized programs, certain location-centric promotions, and more.
At its core, local marketing allows you to use these types of stats to your advantage by not just targeting as many customers as you can with your campaigns, but by targeting the right customers -- namely the ones who live in the area where your business is actually located.
The Benefits of Local Print Marketing
To illustrate just how effective local marketing can be, think of one of the oldest such strategies in the book: the business card. As you meet new people or network with fellow industry professionals, you're likely to hand out a business card to whomever you meet. Even if that particular person doesn't have any use for the product or service you provide, they may know someone who does. Thanks to your business card, they now have something tangible they can give that person to point them in the right direction.
The whole idea is brilliant in its simplicity. You're establishing your organization as a local leader in a way that creates increased traffic right to your doorstep. On the one hand, it really is no different than sending out mobile "push" notifications to a smartphone or making people in your area "friends" on your Facebook page. The advantage it does have over those digital channels, however, is that it's something tangible. By tailoring your printed materials to a local market, you're instantly increasing their relevancy in the lives of those people. The result is improved marketing effectiveness, which will ultimately build brand awareness and position your business as the type of authority you know you are.
Targeted local marketing remains one of the best ways to bring your organization to the attention of a new set of customers who may not even realize you exist. In an age where you're competing with digital businesses that may offer the same services, it's no longer about trying to attract the biggest possible audience. It's about attracting the right audience. That's the power local marketing gives you if you know how to use it.