Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Making Friends and Finding Customers: Using the Same Process to Find Both
Why we care about finding friends with similar interests
We seek friends who share our interests because these common touch points make it easy to find things to discuss with them. Friends who share our interests can anticipate our needs, answer our questions, and engage us in a way that people with whom we have nothing in common cannot.
Of course, these similarities don't have to revolve around particular activities. Sometimes, personality traits or beliefs will draw us to our closest friends. But in all cases, there's something we find engaging and significant in the other person when we begin to form a friendship.
Relationships with companies
For your company to be successful, you must build relationships with your potential customers. Understanding the dynamics of friendship can make this easier. Similar to the process of meeting new friends, your company must seek out potential customers who have particular characteristics that align with your buyer personas.
Just as a person seeks new friends by participating in activities they enjoy, you, must look for new potential customers in areas where those prospects tend to congregate. This might mean going to Twitter if you're trying to reach the college-age crowd or to the daily commuter newspaper to reach middle-aged commuters on the metro. Knowing where to go to meet potential customers will make an enormous difference in the success of your marketing campaign.
Once a new customer has been introduced to your company, the relationship will need to be nurtured, so it can grow. There are a number of techniques you can use here. For example, providing a regular stream of content that offers value to customers will help them grow to trust your company to answer their questions and provide them with the services they require. Compelling content will also keep bringing customers back to your website or physical place of business. The more they return and are exposed to the company brand, the more willing they will be to do business with you.
You can also build relationships with customers by encouraging camaraderie among them. When customers feel like part of an exclusive group, they tend to have greater feelings of customer loyalty and are more likely to become repeat customers.
Building friendships typically involves finding people who share particular traits in common. You naturally use those traits to build a relationship you come to rely upon and trust. Similar techniques need to be used when building a customer base. Seek people with particular characteristics that match your identified consumer personas, then work to nurture those relationships and encourage people to return time and again. If you think of finding customers like finding friends, you should have great success building a marketing campaign.
Friday, June 20, 2014
What Marketers Can Learn at the Farmers' Market
You approach the first stall. The farmer offers a variety of foods -- fruits, vegetables, and even a bit of meat and cheese. You try to ask some questions about what pesticides were used when the plants were growing, what the animals ate, and whether or not the chickens were allowed to roam. The farmer seems annoyed by your questions. He gives you gruff, brief answers that don't really address your concerns but seem focused instead on getting you to make a purchase or move along.
The next stall is similar, except you note that the prices are about 10%-20% higher. Still, you reach out to the farmer behind the counter and start asking questions. What a difference! The farmer comes out from behind the counter and tells you all about the methods he uses to grow and raise his different livestock and crops. He explains what safeguards he has in place to protect the consumer's health and the experience he has in the field.
The time comes for you to make a purchase. Who are you more likely to buy from? Is it the farmer who just pushed you to buy or the farmer you've begun to trust because of his helpfulness, even if he does charge a few cents more? For most people, the answer is going to be the second. When people form bonds with merchants and begin to feel as though they can trust them, they become increasingly likely to buy from those vendors. This same concept should be incorporated into all your marketing campaigns.
Helping to build a relationship of trust
Becoming a source of answers and an authority in the industry for potential customers is a critical part of building this relationship. This often involves building plenty of valuable content online that customers can turn to when they have questions. Content that adds value helps customers begin to trust a company, their products, and their knowledge of the industry. When a single company has the answers a customer is looking for time and time again, there's little question who they'll turn to when they're ready to make a purchase.
One way to build this kind of relationship is by working to become a regular community figure. Look for events or people you can sponsor to help get your company name in front of potential customers on a regular basis. Being available in person to answer questions for potential customers is one of the best types of marketing.
You should similarly take advantage of networking opportunities and work to establish friendships with many other professionals. As you nurture these relationships, remember that you're building for the future, too. Even if you don't get any immediate sales from a contact, they'll be far more inclined to turn to you in the future if they know you're someone they can trust.
Taking the time to build relationships with potential customers -- by answering their questions, providing them with quality content, and even forming friendships -- is a wonderfully easy way to grow your business. People naturally turn to the people they trust in business, so follow the same rules as the helpful farmer in the farmers' market, and begin to improve your own marketing techniques.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Marketing Your Brand to Every Palate
Distinct appetites and marketing
Just as every person has their own unique palate when it comes to food, your customers have their own appetites when it comes to how they want to receive your marketing messages. Keep this in mind as you plan your marketing campaigns. Work to tailor your message (and media) to address the needs of the various types of customers you're trying to reach.
Begin the process by developing several key buyer or customer personas. Your marketing campaigns should be carefully tailored to address the particular characteristics each of those personas share. For example, if you're marketing for a bank, the ads you use to reach consumers looking to save time checking their balances and making deposits might not be the same ads you would use to reach consumers searching for information on a reverse mortgage.
In the same way, try to tailor your campaigns to address the platforms your customers are using to access your information. Emphasize web links and clickable phone numbers on mobile websites, email addresses and phone numbers on standard web pages, and easy-to-remember URLs on print ads and brochures. For direct mail marketing, target your campaigns based on demographic information, such as income levels, number of children, location, and so on.
The more precise you can make your campaign, the more likely it will be to succeed. Customers appreciate it when they feel as though a marketing campaign addresses their unique concerns and problems. When customers see advertisements that don't apply to them, they tend to ignore them. In some cases, they may even get completely turned off by the company involved. Taking the time to tailor your ads to address the needs of different groups of potential customers is the best way to start gaining new customers and improve the visibility of your company.
Whether it's a night out with the family at a favorite restaurant or a marketing campaign aimed at gaining new customers, remembering the individual tastes of the people involved always makes good sense. A well-planned, well-focused, multifaceted campaign leaves customers feeling appreciated and increases the chance of reaching them when they're ready to buy. If you're ready to get started with your next marketing campaign, reach out to us to see how we can help you make it happen.
Friday, June 13, 2014
Management Lessons From Our Elementary School Days
Why are these types of celebrations so popular?
For one thing, they offer everyone, including the teacher, a bit of a mental break from the daily grind. When people return from a break, they're ready to sit down and work some more. Without a break, it's easy to get burned out.
Secondly, they help to keep the atmosphere happy and joyful in the classroom. Everyone functions better when they work in a positive atmosphere.
And finally, they offer the teacher and classmates the chance to recognize the accomplishments of the group as a whole, as well as those of individual students. When students know their efforts are recognized, the motivation to continue to perform and earn more rewards is strengthened.
While most working adults are far removed from elementary school, that doesn't mean these basic lessons learned in childhood no longer apply.
What business leaders today can learn from their elementary school teachers
Elementary school teachers understand that the best way to keep people motivated is to celebrate their accomplishments. When you find ways to congratulate people or teams who meet particular goals at your organization, you'll also be encouraging them to continue to strive and accomplish more. Employees who feel as though their accomplishments and efforts are recognized are more likely to feel satisfaction at the workplace and trust that their efforts contribute to company success.
How businesses can create the environment on an adult scale
Working to keep the atmosphere light and pleasant can also contribute to a positive work environment. While most professional environments wouldn't be able function with parties every week, there are plenty of other ways to encourage a positive workplace. Cards, token gifts, bonuses, announcements of accomplishments at meetings, and similar strategies can all help employees feel appreciated. Even personal notes from management will let employees know their leaders notice the efforts of everyone below them. Save the parties for more memorable occasions, such as the holiday season.
Employees who feel appreciated have greater company loyalty. Loyal employees tend to be fantastic company evangelists, while also contributing to the stability of the company. The result is a stronger company that can move forward more effectively. Loyal employees tend to speak positively about the brand to their friends and family, as well as online. Creating a positive company environment will help to make the entire company a welcoming place for employees and customers.
When companies have specific goals in mind, it's tempting to just expect everyone to put their noses down and work. In reality, companies that work to create a rewarding atmosphere where employees feel happy and content are likely to accomplish greater things and have employees who feel more loyal and appreciated by management. How happy an employee feels can have an incredible impact on their productivity. So take the time to foster happy employees, and get started building your company today.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Writing an Amazing, Effective, Brilliant Press Release
While some marketers have pushed the press release into the background -- throwing it under the bus in favor of newcomers like Twitter, Facebook, and banner ads -- this venerable marketing tool has definitely not outlived its usefulness. In fact, some even say that with today's focus on content, the press release is more valuable than ever... that is, as long as it's done right.
We've collected best practice tips and advice from the experts to help you take full advantage of this tried-and-true marketing strategy, so you can write a brilliant, amazing and -- most of all -- effective press release that'll get noticed.
Press Release 101
First, the basics: What, exactly, is a press release, and why does it exist? In a nutshell, a press release is a written update or summary, usually a couple hundred words in length, that alerts the media to news about your business. Whether you've created an innovative solution, are introducing a new service, are planning a big event, or have won an award, a press release supplies journalists with the information they'll need to write an article about you in the press.
At least that's the goal. Crafting your press release to appeal to journalists is key, as they're inundated with information every day. Here's how to make yours stand out.
Make it Accessible
Your press release should follow a standard format, which includes an attention-grabbing (but relevant and accurate) headline followed by a strong opening sentence that gets right to the point. Reporters are busy; assume that they'll probably only read the headline and first few sentences before scanning the rest of your text, and really make that prime (content) real estate work for you.
Within the first paragraph, think like a journalist and address the 5 "W's": who, what, where, when, and why. Use the remainder of the text to support the important information you just shared in the first few sentences.
You Invented a What?
Here's the fun part. Remember, what's huge news to you as a business owner (that new line of tires you're offering is amazing! Your lobby redesign is a stunning example of modern design!) may not be quite as huge to those who aren't directly connected to your company.
But don't get discouraged: Get creative. Find the angle that makes your information compelling -- the angle that makes your press release more like a news article. You need to demonstrate the value of your information; does it solve a problem for consumers? Will it fill a need in the community? Think like a reporter, and turn your press release into news that people want to read and can use.
Short and Sweet
Again, journalists don't have a lot of time to savor each and every word, so keep your message short and sweet. Be succinct; get to the point and say what you need to say in as few words as possible. Your press release should always fit on a single page.
Contact Information is Key
Whatever you do, don't forget to include your contact information! This vital data should go at the top of your document, where it's easy to find. Ensure that you're including the contact data for the person you want reporters to contact, as well. Maybe that's your secretary, your CEO, or a project manager. Whoever it is, ensure that those who want to contact your business can.
If you continually deliver direct, relevant press releases, your recipients will take notice. As your credibility increases, so will your chances of getting that valuable media attention.
Friday, June 6, 2014
Networking Tips Straight Out of High School
Typically, the smart students would react to these requests in one of two ways:
- The requests that came from friends -- people the students socialized with outside of class -- were met with assurances of help.
- The requests that came from strangers were often dismissed.
Why the disparity?
No one likes being taken advantage of. While it may have been just as easy to offer study help to members of either group, the smart students didn't like people suddenly trying to be their friend, only to be 'dumped' once the other person passed an exam. It wasn't that they didn't want to help. They just preferred to help genuine friends they could trust to actually care about them.
How this relates to networking
People often look for shortcuts to take with networking. They don't want to go through the trouble of building a relationship with a new connection; they just want to know if the person is going to be interested in doing business together or not and then leave it at that.
The problem with this method is the same problem that many struggling students found when they tried to suddenly befriend the smart kids at the end of the year: No one likes to feel that they're being taken advantage of.
When you're on the other side of the relationship, you don't want to have someone approach you and just immediately start trying to sell you. You're more interested in doing business with someone you've already built a relationship with and you trust to be concerned with your business as well as theirs. If a connection that you've gotten to know over the course of several years reaches out and offers you a trial of their new software and invites you to sign up for a newsletter, you're far more inclined to accept that offer than you would if the same invitation came from someone you just met.
Making this principle work for you
Networking takes effort. There's no getting around that. Forming these valuable connections, however, has the potential to really grow a business. To help make your networking overtures successful, keep these tips in mind:
- Discuss business, but don't try to sell after just a meeting or two.
- Keep detailed records of contacts, such as meeting dates/conferences, birthdays, anniversaries, and similar dates. Send cards on applicable days.
- Keep a rotation of connections that you reach out to on a regular basis, such as once every few months to maintain the relationship.
- When making a sales pitch, frame it in a way so the other party sees how it might benefit them as well.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Outside the (Paper) Box: Creative, Innovative Uses for Paper
Around the world, some very bright, creative people are coming up with some very innovative uses for paper that truly represent "outside the box" thinking. Here are a few of our favorite paper inventions that have the power to change the world for the better.
When you hear the word "origami," your mind probably imagines cranes, paper airplanes, and funny pointed hats. But Stanford University professor Manu Prakash and his team of researchers have taken this folded paper art to a whole new level with the Foldscope.
This ground-breaking invention consists of a flat sheet of paper, an LED, a watch battery, and a few tiny optical units that can be folded together -- just like origami -- to create a functioning microscope. This portable microscope offers a number of benefits, especially for medical personnel in developing countries. For starters, it's easy to assemble, as it consists of just a few parts. The foldable design itself is printed directly onto a sheet of paper.
Plus, it's lightweight. The microscope's optical devices are about the size of a grain of sand -- so it's easy to move from one spot to another and simple to store or take into the field. The Foldscope is inexpensive, costing from $.50 to $1 to manufacture, yet powerful, with the ability to magnify objects up to 2,000 times and to project images onto almost any flat surface.
Best of all, the Foldscope provides healthcare workers with a cheap, simple, and effective way to diagnose diseases such as malaria, improving the lives of those in developing countries.
In many parts of the world, safe, drinkable water isn't readily available; diseases related to contaminated water lead to more than 3 million deaths each year. Many of these deaths could be prevented if people had access to filters -- and knowledge -- about water safety issues.
That's where Water is Life comes in. This non-profit organization partnered with researchers at the University of Virginia and Carnegie Mellon University to create a (paper) book that not only teaches recipients about water hygiene, but also comes with built-in water filters (its pages) that eliminate 99% of the waterborne particles and microbes that cause diseases like E. coli, cholera, and typhoid.
The Drinkable Book performs almost like a coffee filter; when water passes through one of its specially treated paper filters, germs and bacteria are killed by a special coating of silver nitrate nanoparticles that render treated water as safe as tap water in developed nations. The book costs just a few cents to produce and provides enough filtration to last up to four years.
Finally, researchers from Peru's University of Engineering Technology took a familiar sight -- the billboard -- and transformed it into a water-producing tool. More than 10 percent of Lima's 7.5 million residents have little to no access to potable water. But UTEC's innovative invention gathers moisture from the air during humid summer days and runs it through a series of condensers.
The water is then cleaned through a reverse-osmosis system, and Lima residents can access the clean water through a faucet at the bottom of the sign. This amazing invention provides almost 100 liters of water per day.
As you can see, paper isn't just for brochures and business cards anymore. It's -- literally -- saving the world!
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