Tuesday, March 31, 2015
What Gardening Can Teach You About Marketing
Start with a plan
Any experienced gardener knows a garden must be carefully planned. From lighting and shade considerations to eventual plant heights, watering needs, and general arrangement, failure to consider the characteristics of each individual plant can easily result in a struggling garden that doesn't please the eye.
Marketing is the same. Randomly throwing together a variety of different strategies and hoping something sticks is never a good approach. You need to plan how each piece will fit together and serve your ultimate goal: getting your message in front of the people who are most likely to buy from your company.
Provide regular maintenance
Once you plan and plant your garden, you'll find yourself returning regularly to care for it. Weeding prevents undesirable plants from taking over. Watering ensures the garden prospers and grows. Without regular care, your plants could die, and the entire garden might turn into a small, wild field.
Your marketing also requires regular attention. Track how well each strategy performs and how much you're spending per customer. Identify areas to improve and refine your marketing. On social media, use each platform to interact with your followers. They aren't going to magically buy just because you set up a page.
Have patience when tracking results
Gardeners know the fruits of their labor might not be visible for several weeks or even a couple months. They put in the work and planning so their yard can look amazing in the future.
You must also be willing to wait to see the results of your marketing efforts. Just because you sent out a direct mail flyer or set up a few social media sites doesn't mean customers will just start rolling in. You need to have patience to see results and understand that marketing is all part of the plan to grow your business.
Make a plan to handle abundance
Anyone who's ever planted a garden knows that sometimes you get too much in return. Maybe your bushes have started to grow so much they're overtaking the other plants. If you planted vegetables, you might suddenly have too much produce on your hands. You need a plan to deal with this excess.
It's also possible in business to get overwhelmed by a very successful marketing campaign. A sudden influx of customers can leave your company scrambling to keep up with demand. Make sure you have a plan for dealing with fluctuating customer numbers. Consider part-time help and training staff to adequately handle larger numbers so no customer gets neglected.
As you plan your garden this spring, consider the many lessons you can learn about marketing as you go. If you're ready to start working on a new marketing campaign, contact us. We'd be happy to help you get started.
Planning a Meal, Planning a Marketing Campaign
Understanding integrated marketing
Planning a successful integrated marketing campaign is a lot like planning a successful feast. Just as choosing various dishes that complement each other helps to create a memorable meal, using a variety of marketing platforms to create a single campaign will help to capture the story of your brand.
Too many companies try to create different marketing campaigns for each platform. The result is like a meal of random dishes that have absolutely nothing in common. Separately, each might taste good and draw compliments, but together they seem confusing and fail to provide the lasting impact you hoped to create.
The importance of audience
It's also important to consider the desired audience for an integrated marketing campaign. When you plan a meal, you carefully think about the atmosphere and what people will expect. Similarly, when you plan the various aspects of your integrated marketing campaign, you need to consider who you want to reach. If your audience consists of largely retirees and empty nesters, focusing a large part of your campaign on Facebook might not be the best use of your time and money. The same way you think about the types of dishes people would expect and appreciate, you want to maximize the reach of your marketing campaign by thinking about where people are most likely to appreciate your message.
Planning a large meal requires careful preparation to ensure that each dish fits together well to accomplish the desired final effect. Similarly, your integrated marketing campaign must combine various marketing elements into a successful, incredible campaign that attracts the right attention.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
How to Handle Customer Complaints Effectively
Listen and acknowledge the customer
It sounds basic, but a surprising number of businesses care more about defending their actions than listening to the customer. Remember that the vast majority of people who have a problem with your company won't bother complaining to you. They'll just complain to everyone else. Every customer who takes the time to complain directly to you should be thanked for the opportunity to make the situation right. This means listening carefully to everything the customer has to say about the experience and offering an apology for their discontent.
If you encounter a complaint online, reach out and publicly acknowledge the complaint online as well. Let the person know how disappointed you are that they were unhappy and ask for the opportunity to discuss the incident with them privately.
Discover the source of their frustration
If a customer complains that they can't find something in your store, you might assume they're asking you to reorganize your shelves. However, they might really be upset that no staff members noticed their frustration and stepped in to help before they started complaining.
Find out what the company can do to help
Sometimes all the customer really wants is an apology or information about how you'll work to improve so you don't make the same mistake again. In these situations, it's easy to exceed customer expectations by offering coupons or a similar incentive in addition to meeting their request.
If the customer's not sure how they'd like to be compensated or if they have demands you can't reasonably meet, you should have a policy in place to help alleviate the customer's concerns. Make a point of explaining what your company's doing to improve in the area of the complaint, and thank them for their feedback.
Handle the publicity of social media
If a complaint originates on social media, take the solution back to social media once the situation's resolved. Everything in social media is public, so once a customer posts a complaint, it can be seen by countless potential customers. Bringing the solution back to social media will help those who saw the original complaint see how well you did addressing it.
If someone complains to you through a blog post, ask them to either update the post so new readers know the situation was resolved or remove it altogether. If the complaint was made on Facebook or a similar platform, return to the original post and make an update yourself, such as, "I'm so glad we were able to work together to resolve this problem. We look forward to doing more business with you in the future."
Customer complaints are an aspect of business no one enjoys but everyone has to know how to manage. Keeping the above guidelines in mind should help you successfully navigate this terrain, strengthen your company's brand, and improve your reputation.
Friday, March 20, 2015
Take the Time to Get Positive Customer Reviews
It actually is.
Consumers are depending more frequently than ever on reviews from people they know and from sources they trust. They don't put much faith in the write-ups companies develop themselves. They assume the organization will present itself in the best possible light. Customer reviews, however, are seen as more credible.
With that in mind, here are three ways you can use customer reviews to support your business.
Improve customer trust on your website
Place customer reviews and case studies on your product/service pages, at the bottom of your home page, and anywhere else prospects might look on your website. Positive feedback from real, live customers will encourage visitors to take what you have to say seriously and let them know that you already have numerous satisfied customers.
Harness the bandwagon effect
The bandwagon effect describes the natural human desire to try things we see others using. It explains why we instantly want the newest and latest gadget we see our friends or coworkers using. Customer reviews are a fantastic way to tap into this phenomenon.
Use customer reviews to let other people know just how much past customers have enjoyed using your products and services. Invite new prospects to 'join the club' of satisfied customers.
Enhance your marketing campaigns
Since customers aren't all that inclined to believe whatever you claim about your company, don't use your own words. Instead, use the words of your customers. Add quotes from positive reviews to your direct mail literature, social media posts, and radio ads. Think about the quotes movie producers use to promote their films. Take a similar approach with your advertising campaigns.
Customer reviews might be one of the most valuable tools you have in your arsenal. People want to do business with reputable companies they feel they can trust, and customer reviews help to build that confidence. Take the time and energy to cultivate positive reviews. You'll be happy you did.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Hitching a Ride on the Bandwagon
In the mid 19th century, however, that began to change.
The queen's wedding was well-photographed, and the image of the white wedding gown intrigued people. Other members of the higher classes began to choose white wedding gowns as well. Etiquette books and advice began to speak about the value of wearing a white wedding gown, especially as it communicated the bride's purity. Although it became increasingly more common, it still would not become mainstream among all the social classes for another century.
After WWII, Hollywood and film became increasingly popular, and guess what color brides wore on the silver screen? You got it: white. It was the presentation of Hollywood's brides that largely sealed the fate of the white wedding gown.
So what does any of this have to do with marketing?
Well, the white wedding gown is an excellent example of the bandwagon effect. When society's elites throughout North America and Europe saw the Queen of England marry in a white wedding gown, they felt driven to mimic her style. The same principle applied to the rest of society mimicking Hollywood. People saw their favorite stars adorning themselves in gorgeous white gowns and wanted the opportunity to take part in the style as well. A tradition was born, and now brides that choose to select other colors are viewed with mild surprise. It only took a few generations for the concept of a white wedding gown to become that firmly entrenched in culture.
This is the bandwagon effect at work. When we see our friends or those we admire doing something or using a particular product, we want to try that product ourselves. We feel that if these other people like this product or service, it must be worth trying. Finding a way to capitalize on this effect can help you boost your sales and brand loyalty.
Using the bandwagon effect in marketing
- Pictures are a valuable tool. Sponsor photo contests where people take pictures of themselves using your products or services.
- Use Facebook features that let people see how many of their friends have 'liked' your company.
- Offer rewards for existing customers who refer others to your company.
Friday, March 13, 2015
4 Ways To Boost Your Email Success Rates
Unfortunately, often one of your biggest hurdles is simply convincing people to open your email in the first place. You have to battle against being perceived as spam and being overlooked to attract the attention of your intended audience. Here are some tried-and-true techniques you can use to boost your email open rates and find success with your next email campaign.
Do you like to open emails that come from impersonal companies or unknown senders? Neither do your customers. Make sure the emails you send are personalized for your recipient. A personalized email will include a specific person at the company as the sender, such as Janet Smith from XYZ Marketing, instead of just XYZ Marketing.
You'll also want to personalize the information within the email. Carefully store the information you have about your leads, then use that data to personalize your message and make it relevant to the recipient.
As you gather email addresses through your website and other interactions with potential customers, you'll find there may be large differences between your leads. One person might be researching for their office but have very little decision-making power, while another might be CEO of his company. Segment your email list based on criteria such as location, job title, budget, or other important factors. Then tailor your messages to each of these groups you're trying to reach.
When convincing people to open your email, few areas matter more than your headline. Headlines that are excessively general, use too much punctuation, or otherwise look like spam are going to be ignored. Write headlines that capture the essence of your message and make your email look appealing. Pique your readers' curiosity and offer them a small taste of the value they'll receive when they open the email.
Above all else, you want to make sure your email provides real value. Your message should offer your customers a clear return when they open it. Just like the rest of the content you create for your company website and marketing materials, your emails should provide useful information people can use, forward, and share with others.
When your emails clearly show their own value, you build your relationship with readers. People come to trust the emails they receive from your company even more. As a result, you'll get better open and click-through rates. On the other hand, if your emails repeatedly show little value, customers will begin to disregard them, and your messages will be relegated to the 'junk' folder or trash.
Email can be a fantastic tool for communicating with potential customers and building relationships. The key is to use this method correctly. If you're interested in boosting your ROI from your email lists, make sure you've implemented the above ideas. If you're interested in beginning a new marketing campaign and have questions, contact us to get started.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Translating a Study Abroad Experience Into Business Success
Jump in with both feet
When you find yourself studying in a foreign country, you don't have the luxury of taking it slow. You're living in a new land, completely immersed in the new culture. You now have to completely rely on your language and culture lessons because this is no longer just practice.
When you start a new business, you need to apply the same principles. You need to jump in with both feet and completely apply yourself to your new business and new industry. If you try to cut corners or resist investing the time and energy needed for the business, it's going to be substantially more difficult to succeed.
Be assertive about learning
When you first arrive in a foreign country, the next six months or year feels incredibly long, but it's actually quite short. Before you know it, you're back on a plane coming home. You have only a matter of months to absorb all you can about your temporary country. This means meeting the people, trying the food, seeing the sites, and learning the language. You need to be assertive about learning to maximize your opportunities.
When you start a new business, you need to dedicate yourself to learning as well. Once your business officially opens, you only have so much time financially before you need to start having customers. Before you open your doors, you should have a very good understanding of everything there is to know about your customers, how to market to them, and what your appeal will be to reach them.
Surround yourself with helpful people
When you arrive in a new country to study abroad, you're likely to experience some degree of culture shock. There will be a period, however brief, when you feel overwhelmed by the differences in how things are done in the new country versus your home country. One of the best ways to cope with these problems is to surround yourself with people who can help you. In a school program, this might be fellow students going through the same emotions as you. If language becomes a struggle, professors can offer some additional tutoring to help you communicate as well. Finding these key people who want to help you is enormously beneficial.
In business, you'll also face difficult moments. There are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed with your ambitions and will wonder if success is possible or worth the effort you're putting into the company. You also need to surround yourself with helpful people who can support you. These people can serve as your sounding board, helping you bounce ideas around while also offering guidance when you feel like giving up.
Running a business is a challenging proposition for anyone. If you studied abroad, however, you learned some valuable lessons about success that you might not have even realized. As you begin to prepare for the future of your business, consider the lessons you learned and see how they might be applied to moving your new enterprise forward.
Friday, March 6, 2015
Finding Your Niche in a Crowded Industry
Thanks to the Internet, you're likely competing with far more businesses than ever before. Today's consumers often research companies online before giving them a try, so avoiding the Internet altogether is not an option. Even local businesses must often compete with one another online, too.
To survive in this intensely competitive atmosphere, you need to carve yourself a niche. With the right niche, you'll have something unique to offer your customers and will know exactly what type of clients you're looking to reach. Thanks to modern technology, you can now find each other.
So, how do you discover your niche?
Start by focusing on what makes your company unique. For some, that might mean discovering a product or service that appeals to a very specific group of people. For example, there might be a few different companies that make pet clothing, but you can set yourself apart by focusing on a particular type of clothing, such as winter gear or beach gear for pooches.
If yours is more of a service industry, focus on finding what makes your service different from your competition. There are countless companies and professionals who provide marketing services, for example, so branding yourself as a general marketer might not be that helpful. Instead, specialize in a particular type of business, gain particular certifications, or focus on a particular type of marketing.
Look for groups that have been under-served within a particular industry. You want to find potential customers who have been just waiting for someone like you to come in and help fulfill their need. When you reach these customers, you'll have the best chance of growing your business.
What do you do once you have your niche?
Once you've figured out what sets you apart from the crowd, make sure your potential customers see your value as well. Take the examples above. If you want to specialize in producing beach gear for dogs, you don't want to focus your advertising efforts on attracting the attention of people who just want dog clothes. You'll be up against countless competitors! Instead, focus your marketing efforts on those who are seeking your specific products. Target those going to beaches regularly, those researching information about taking pets on vacation, or those who live in seaside towns.
In the second example, incorporate your unique qualifications into your advertising materials and use them as keywords in your online marketing.
Once you've identified your niche and discovered how to market specifically to them, you need to focus your efforts on becoming the niche authority. Since this is your specialty, you'll have incredible insight to offer your customers. Take the time to develop valuable information and content that can help you stand out even further. This will help potential customers trust you.
In today's competitive marketplace, you don't have the luxury of being a general provider. You need to find something that sets you apart. Whether you provide services or products, finding a way to appeal to your customers on a unique level will provide you with the key to growing your business.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Mastering Business Strategy at the Chess Board
While most people are familiar with the intense challenge chess provides the brain, you might not realize how much it can teach you about marketing and running a business. Two key lessons involve pragmatism and playing the "long game."
To be successful at chess, you must be pragmatic. You need to be able to think on your feet. While most successful chess players have concrete strategies they enjoy using, no player can completely predict the moves their opponent will make. That means they must be able to make decisions on the spot.
A good chess player also has the skills needed to read their opponent. Through experience, they can often anticipate an opponent's next move and will devise strategies based on what those moves might be. This gives them the insight they need to succeed with the next skill: playing the long game.
Playing the long game
A chess player knows that one must be willing to sacrifice a pawn or two for the long-term goal of winning the match. A good player will never get so caught up in an individual "battle" that they lose sight of their end goals. Chess players are continuously looking to the finish and developing their strategies based on their desired outcome.
How these lessons relate to marketing
To be successful in marketing and business, you must realize you're not going to be able to completely control every factor in your industry -- or even in your company. You can't control the response of your audience, what your competition does, developments in the industry, and other factors. Instead, you must be able to adapt your business and marketing strategy to whatever's going on around you.
That said, a successful marketer will be able to "read" their intended audience and anticipate the type of marketing that is most likely to solicit a response. They'll also be able to change their strategies based on customer actions and industry trends.
Playing the "long game"
When you're successfully managing a business, you must always have your end game in mind. You can't allow small upsets to disrupt your goals and strategies. You must have the presence of mind to know what you'd like to accomplish and what you need to do to get there. That might mean making a few sacrifices here and there to reach the end point. You don't want to get so caught up in the small battles that you lose sight of where you want your company to be in the long term.
Chess has been used for centuries to teach strategy and improve critical thinking skills. As you sit down to play your next game of chess, think about how the strategies you learn on the chessboard can be applied to making your business a success.
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