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How to use calendar marketing

SpaghettiOsPearlHarbor

When I say “calendar marketing”, I’m talking about using the context of historical events and dates, holidays and current events to spice up your marketing.

Done right, you can briefly tie what you do to the event, date or holiday, have a little fun and perhaps get the attention those about to buy.

Like any tactic, there are right and wrong ways to use it. Like any tactic, there are right and wrong ways to use it – as the SpaghettiOs social media team found out on Pearl Harbor Day.

While social media provides good and bad examples, keep in mind that your efforts in this area can be leveraged in almost any media.

Doing it right

Doing it right involves asking yourself a few questions.

Q: Who will see it?
A: If it’s good enough, everyone. If it’s stupid enough, everyone.

With that in mind:

  • How will you feel if everyone sees it?
  • How will your customers react?
  • What will they be inclined to do?
  • Will it makes things better or worse for your business?

No matter what – Think it through.

Oreo is a good example to watch, but even they slip up now and then:

AMCOreo

How do I know I’m about to do it wrong?

If your thought process is “Let’s use their memory, our logo and wrap them together in the flag in our marketing”, that would be wrong. Stupidly wrong.

This shouldn’t have to be explained to you.

Anyone who isn’t doing this in a strictly robotic fashion has to have this thought process going on:

  • Remembering Pearl Harbor – Good.
  • Slapping your flag-wrapped logo on it – Dumb.

While SpaghettiOs managed to apologize (and delete the earlier tweet), your goal is not to put yourself in this position. Some found it offensive, some stupid or at the least – felt the message could have done without the cheesy brand + flag graphic.

No matter what, it distracted from the reason for the post in the first place – to encourage their customers to take a moment to remember.

SpaghettiOsPearlHarborApology

Numerous major brands have misfired on things like this. In each case, you will see calls for whoever wrote the original tweet to be fired, or for their agency to be fired. That doesn’t make it any better – it just makes a few angry people feel better for a few minutes.

For a small local business, national outrage is unlikely, but you could provoke a local boycott or worse.

Have a “Reason why”

Earlier this week, USA Today had this headline re: Mandela’s death (hat tip to @JSlarve and @SameMeans for catching it):

MandelaUSAToday

The point is not to point out the mistakes that major brands make. Everyone makes mistakes. There are plenty of examples to learn from.

What you need to keep in mind is WHY you are creating this content (doesn’t have to be an ad) in the first place:

  • To honor someone? Fine. Keep your brand and schtick out of it. Stick to the topic. Say what you feel. The old GoDaddy always remembered Veterans Day and the Marine Corps birthday – and you never saw their typically cheesy stuff in those pieces.
  • To be funny? Make sure it really is funny, rather than funny at the cost of some group or individual.
  • To provoke someone to buy – see the prior two and then consider every bit of copywriting experience you have.

Your message has to be focused on that reason – whatever it is.

Connect rather than being just another “Me too!” marketer

Ill-advised content aside, calendar-based marketing is an effective tool when used thoughtfully.

The temptation is to do “Me too” marketing here. Things like a holiday-themed sale on a holiday weekend are not going to stand out in a crowd of me-too sales.

Sometimes connecting national to your business to local works well. For example, you might have Super Bowl-related promotion or event that encourages people to visit/buy and make note that you’ll be passing along a percentage of Super Bowl related promotion/event sales to a local youth athletic program. It doesn’t have to be football and it doesn’t have to be a percentage.

In Columbia Falls MT (pop 4000ish), Timber Creek assisted living facility hosts the Rotary “Brunch with Santa” community Christmas event in their public areas. While no one is selling assisted living that day, hundreds who would never go inside otherwise get to see how nice the place is – planting a seed that might sprout next week or years from now.

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Google India knows that Business is Personal

Brilliant.

What stories are you telling about your customers that can illustrate the power of the value you deliver?

No matter what you do, I’ll bet you have stories to tell. When will you start sharing them?

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Advertising Competition Customer relationships Direct Mail Direct Marketing Email marketing Getting new customers Improvement Internet marketing Lead generation marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Sales Small Business Social Media strategic planning The Slight Edge

How to segment your customer list

Have you heard that you should “segment” your customers before marketing to them?

Ever wondered what that means, much less how you’d do that?

We’re going to talk about that today in simple terms, but before we do that, you might be wondering …

Why should I segment my customers?

Good question.

You want to segment your marketing is to achieve something called “Message-to-market match“.

Let me explain with an example. Let’s say your company sells women’s underwear.

Would you advertise the same underwear in the same way with the same photos and the same messaging to each of these groups?

  • Single women
  • Pregnant women
  • Newlyweds
  • Moms of girls approaching puberty
  • Dads of girls approaching puberty
  • 50-plus women
  • 80-plus women
  • Women under 5′ 6″ tall
  • “Plus sized” women
  • “Tiny” women
  • Very curvy women
  • Not-so-curvy women
  • Women who have survived breast cancer
  • Significant others

I’ll assume you answered “No”.

Message-to-market match” means your message is refined for a specific group of recipients so that it’s welcome and in-context, rather than annoying and out of left field.

A lack of message-to-market match is why people tune out ads and pitch so much mail – the message isn’t truly for them. If it happens enough times, everything you send them is ignored. Ouch.

Like the recycling bin

When recycling different materials, the processes required to break down cardboard (shredding, pulping, etc) will differ from the process that prepares glass, plastic or animal manure for reuse.

Think of your messages in the same way. If the message a customer receives doesn’t make any sense because it’s out of context, it’s like recycling something with the wrong process. The money, time and energy invested in creating and delivering the wrong message will be wasted. Worse yet, the wrong message can alienate your customer and/or make your business look clueless.

Ever received an offer “for new customers only” from a business that you’ve worked with for months or years? How does that make you feel?

You might think a generic piece of news is received the same way by everyone – when in fact that news might excite some customers and annoy the rest. The time spent considering this and segmenting your announcement can save a lot of pain.

Your First Oil Change

Look at the groups listed for the underwear business. That’s customer segmentation.

If you sent “The Single Dad’s guide to helping your daughter pick out her first bra” to the entire customer list, how many would think “This is exactly what I need”? Only the single dads group. Most others would hit delete, unsubscribe, click the “Spam” button or just think you’re not too swift.

The smart folks sending the “first bra” piece would break it down further by sending a different guide to the moms than they send to the dads.

Need a simpler version? Chevy vs. Ford vs. Dodge. Harley vs. every other bike. You shouldn’t have the same conversation with these groups, even if you sell something common to all of them, like motor oil.

Think that list is broken down too much? Don’t. I just scratched the surface.

Why people think they can’t segment

– They don’t have or “get” technology.

Whether you use a yellow pad or a fancy customer relationship management (CRM) system, you can make this work. If not, consider a better way to keep track of things.

Long before computers, savvy business people would sort customers into the “blue pile, red pile, yellow pile” before putting together a marketing piece. No technology is no excuse.

– Their media doesn’t offer segmenting.

What if your chosen media doesn’t provide a way to target a specific segment? They don’t deliver special Yellow Page books to single people, retired people, CPAs or car dealers – so how do you segment your message?

You can segment those media buys by message since many vendors are unable to deliver a different book, newspaper, magazine or radio/TV ad to different types of customer – which should also improve ad ROI.

You might be getting pressure from internet-savvy staff (or vendors) to drop old-school media. If it works now (do you know?), dropping them makes no sense.

– They don’t have a customer list

Start creating one today, even if it’s on a yellow pad. Figure out what differences are important to you and record them.

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How to Win The Three Inch Tourism War of Words

tourismbrochurerack

When I’m on the road, I always take a look at tourism brochure racks.

Take a look at this rack in the Havre Montana Amtrak station.

It’s a typical floor-standing tourism brochure rack that you might see around your town or at the local chamber of commerce office.

I took the photo at this height and angle because I wanted to simulate the view the “average” person has when scanning the rack for something interesting to do or visit.

The critical part is that this is also the likely view they have of your brochure.

If you’re the tourist and this is your eye level view:

  • Which brochures get your attention and provoke you to pick them up?
  • Which leave you with no idea what they’re for?

A critical three inches

The critical question is this: Which ones easily tell their story in the top three inches?

Those top three inches are the most important real estate on a rack brochure because that’s the part everyone can see.

Everything below that point is meaningless if the top three inches can’t provoke someone to pick it up and open it. That cool info inside and on the back? Meaningless if they don’t pick it up.

Whenever I see one of these racks, I always wonder how many graphic designers put enough thought into the design of these rack pieces to print a sample, fold it up and test drive it on a real rack in their community.

If they tried that, do you think it would change the design? How about the text and background colors how they contrast? The headline? Font sizes? Font weights? Font styles?

I’ll bet it would.

I guarantee you it isn’t an accident that you can clearly see “Visitor Tips Online”, “Raft”, “Rafting Zipline” and “Fishing”  from several feet away.

Brochure goals

The primary goal of a brochure isn’t “To get picked up, opened, read and provoke the reader to visit (or make a reservation at) the lodging, attraction or restaurant”, nor is it to jam as many words as possible onto the brochure in an attempt to win an undeclared war of words.

The first goal of the brochure is to get someone to pick it up.

That’s why you see “Raft”, “Fishing” and “Visitor Tips Online”. Either they care or they don’t. If they don’t, you shouldn’t either. From that point, it needs to satisfy the reader’s interests and need to know. If you can’t get them to look at your brochure – all that design and printing expense is wasted.

Is that the goal you communicated to your designer when you asked them to make a brochure? Or was it that you wanted it to be blue, use a gorgeous photo or use a font that “looks Victorian”?

None of that matters if they don’t pick it up.

Heightened awareness

I wonder if brochure designers produce different brochures for the same campaign so they can test the highest performing design.

Do they design differently for different displays? What would change about a brochure’s design if the designer knew the piece was intended for a rack mounted at eye level? What would change if the brochure was designed to lay flat at the check-in counter or on a desk?

Now consider how you would design a floor rack’s brochure to catch the eye of an eight year old, or someone rather tall? Would it provoke a mom with an armload of baby, purse and diaper bag to go to the trouble to pick it up?

This isn’t nitpicking, it’s paying attention to your audience so you can maximize the performance of the brochure.

“Maximize the performance of the brochure” sounds pretty antiseptic. Does “attract enough visitors to allow you to make payroll this week” sound better?

Would that provoke you to go to the trouble to test multiple brochure designs against each other? To design and print different ones for different uses?

This doesn’t apply to MY business

You can’t ignore these things if your business doesn’t use rack brochures.

The best marketing in the world will fail if no one “picks it up”, no matter what media you use.

What’s one more visitor per day (or hour) worth to your business? That’s what this is really about.

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The unexpected message clients get from you

Ruins
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nicholas_T

Have you ever received a new-customers-only offer from someone that you already do business with?

In particular – Have you received one and found that the “new customer deal” in the ad is better than what you’re paying?

As an existing customer of that business, how does that make you feel? To me, it devalues whatever relationship I might have with that vendor.

What message is that vendor sending you when they make new-customer-only offers that you can’t take advantage of?

It might feel something like this:

Dear Old Client,

Today, we’re going to offer a great deal to people we don’t know because we really want more new customers.

Because you’re already a customer, this discount isn’t available to you. Yes, we realize that we have a customer relationship with you, but we’re going to ignore that and the fact that you may have been one of the key customers who helped get us where we are today.

Again… discounts are just for NEW customers, so please don’t ask us to give you the same discount they get.

Until next time,

Some Business Name, Inc.
“Your (whatever) vendor”

I doubt that’s the message you wanted to send them.

So do I hide my new customer offers?

Discount offers intended only for new clients aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they should never appear in front of an existing customer unless you’re using mass media.

With mass media, it’s going to happen because you can’t control who sees the ad and who doesn’t. Radio, TV, newspaper, magazine and billboard come to mind as possible places where long-time customers might be exposed to your “new customer deal” ad.

If you’re going to place ads in a media that you can’t control access to, there are some options for minimizing it – such as your choice of radio time slot, TV time slot, TV show your ads are shown with, magazine location and so on.

Still, some customers are going to see/hear the ad.

Why? Because you’re advertising in a place where you expect to find people who resemble the customers you already have. If your customers restore experienced sailboats and you advertise in “This Old Boat” magazine, people who are already your customers are pretty likely to see your ads.

So what do you do?

What else do you have?

Normally I would encourage you to use a direct, personal means of reaching the new prospect. If you did, an existing customer would be unlikely to see those ads. Thing is, you should already be doing that, and that doesn’t apply to mass media (yet).

When your ads are targeted at a new customer, it’ll be tempting to assume that existing customers won’t call or email to respond. They will. They might even want to add new people, new location(s) or new services to their account.

If your sales team’s response is so formally scripted that they can’t  (or aren’t allowed to) adjust appropriately to a response from an existing customer – you could lose that customer. You need to have something else (presumably better targeted) to discuss with customers who call to ask about the probably cheap thing you’re hanging out there to attract new customers.

Mature, advanced, special

Your newest customers tend to have less mature needs than your long-time customers. What would attract new customers that long-term customers already have and are unlikely to express interest in? That’s your new customer deal.

For example, long-term customers probably don’t need startup services and entry level products – unless they are starting a new venture. In that case, they should qualify for the deal you’re offering and you’re nuts not to let them have it.

When existing customers aren’t starting something new, be prepared to discuss advanced offerings with them, even though they called about your new customer ad. A meaningful conversation with long-time customers is more important than a discussion of the thing you frequently sell to new customers. Your offer might include more, better, more frequent, more frequent *and* better, extended hours, access to senior staff, exclusive services and so on.

The point is not to bait and switch – after all, your ad was targeted at new customers. The existing ones will contact you despite that, so engage them in a conversation about something that really matters to them.

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Famous Last Words: “We can’t afford to market our business.”

Tyres!
Creative Commons License photo credit: mickyc82

This past weekend, I took one of my favorite drives of the year – that first drive after removing studded snow tires.

I enjoy the feel of a performance tire in a tight turn and that’s something studded tires just don’t offer. As I waited for my tires to be swapped and munched on Les Schwab’s complimentary popcorn, I looked forward to that first drive.

While I waited, a friend who works there mentioned a new restaurant in town – a place he’d first heard about the day before despite the fact that they’d been open for over six months. Neither of us could remember seeing any marketing from them. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t any, just that we hadn’t seen it.

Today, I remembered something they’d done. It was a good way to introduce what they do to those likely to visit their place, thanks to an affinity with another business.

One (apparent) marketing effort in six months is not ideal and is usually the result of a single, often fatal, mindset: “We can’t afford to market the business.” The reality is that you can’t afford not to.

If cash is tight, what can they do?

Frugal but effective

First, know that there is no magic pill, despite what so-called “gurus” will tell you while trying to sell you a shovel. “Shovel sellers” is a reference to those who made a fortune selling shovels during the California Gold Rush, yet never used a shovel to work their own claim and thus learn which (much less IF) shovels are best for the job.

Marketing is steady, don’t ever stop kind of work. If you don’t have a bunch of cash to invest, you’ll need to find inexpensive, effective ways to share what you do with those who would be interested.

Getting Local

Have you filled in your business info at Google Places? How about Bing for Business? What about local business directories?

There are plenty of free and paid directories out there. These can consume a lot of time and capital, so use them wisely. Try a few Google searches to see how their results place. Talk to someone who uses the directory (they’ll be listed). Ask if they get good customers from these listings and what techniques they’ve used successfully. The most effective local directories are likely to be those run by local people, so do your homework.

Registering is not marketing

Is your business registered on Trip Advisor, UrbanSpoon, FourSquare, Facebook, FoodSpotting, Twitter and Yelp?

Registering is only the first step. Each of these outposts require regular attention. Investing five or ten minutes per site every other day (worst case) will give you enough time to answer questions, comment on reviews, post a daily tip/menu item or recognize a customer, supplier, neighbor or event (remember: give first).

The business I’m speaking of is registered in several of these places, but appears to have done little to build and maintain an active presence on them – a critical step. Remember – these sites are about attracting and engaging people who self-identify themselves as “interested”.

Keep the mobile user in mind. Encourage reviews. Reward the mayor. Reward check-ins. You don’t have to throw a pile of money at them. A free cup of coffee or a dessert is more than enough. Make them customer of the day – and find a simple, inexpensive way to make that day special. So few businesses recognize mayors (much less check-ins) that you’re sure to stand out.

Doing The Legwork

Keep your customers informed without the hard sell. Stories evoke interest.

Start an opt-in email list and make it worth reading. Send postcards or a monthly flier/event calendar to locals so you stay on their radar – same as you would by email. Print up plain paper menus and drop them off at local retailers and motels.  Offer the front desk/register staff a sample tray now and then so they can make a legitimate recommendation. Listen to their feedback.

Follow Tourism Currents and similar rural / tourism / local marketing resources. They frequently talk about strategies and tactics other small rural businesses have used and offer valuable tips about connecting with locals and tourists.

None of this is free, but all of it is inexpensive.

If you don’t market your business, how will your situation improve?

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I’d like to talk to someone about advertising

[blackbirdpie id=”250701760501518336″]

 

Unreal, but it happened. Yes, a for-profit radio station advertising salesperson cold called another radio station to sell them ad time – and not just any station, but a National Public Radio (NPR) station at that.

Cold calling isn’t my first choice of marketing tactics, but if you’re going to do it, *know* who you’re calling.

Cold calling is a numbers game. If you’re going to do it or anything else that resembles contacting a list of cold possible leads, choose your list well. Refine it so that you aren’t wasting their time or yours.

Cold calling without a prior business relationship or expression of interest by the prospect is also illegal if the call recipient has registered with DoNotCall.gov. It’s your responsibility to check before calling, not theirs to inform you when you do call.

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How to avoid wasting the best advertising dollar you ever spent

James, I think your cover's blown!
Creative Commons License photo credit: laverrue

Are you wasting those carefully planned advertising investments?

The most expensive investment we can make is one that’s wasted.

You’ve studied, sifted and listened intently to figure out the perfect message for a certain group of people interested in what you make or do.

As you hoped, it resonates with just the right people at just the right time. Lots of folks are calling, stopping by your store, and visiting your website.

Minutes later, all the positive you’ve created can be gone… POOF!

At speaking engagements, I’ll often mention the importance of following up with the people you meet at a trade show (you *do* follow up, right?) and recall a trade show story about a major personal electronics manufacturer. During the show, they collected contact information from almost 30,000 people who said “Hey, I am interested in this new product”. Numbers like that are a big win, even for a global electronics company. Yet they wasted it by not following up with those people.

We’ve said enough of the right things to gain someone’s interest and then….what?

Saying the right things to the right people isn’t enough

We spend a lot of time tracking our marketing investments so we know what works and what doesn’t. We spend time making sure we’re delivering just the right message to just the right people by studying their demographics (facts/figures like gender and age) and psychographics (what they do, read, etc) and fitting our message to the reader.

But that isn’t the entire equation.

When we say the right things to the right people at about the right time, it usually results in “high-quality leads”. What exactly does that marketing-ese mean? To me, it means “people who have raised their hand to say they’re interested in what you have to offer – and are ready to buy now or soon if it’s the right fit”.

So then we turn our sales staff loose on them.

What makes this advertising so expensive?

Whether we’re a big company or a mom-and-pop, we have to sell. Ideally, we sell by helping them arrive at “Yep, this is what I need” or “You’re right, I really need something else”. Whether they buy or not, you’re creating trust for the next time they need what you sell…creating a customer, becoming an informed advocate for them, not just chasing a sale.

What sometimes gets lost in the sales process is congruency between the marketing message and what sales says and does. If sales’ behavior and words are disconnected from our marketing, we have a problem. If the sales team that prospects talk to in our business are “those kinds of salespeople”, all the trust we earned can be lost with a single sentence, like “Honey, we’ll talk price when you bring your husband to the dealership.”

When things like that happen, the expensive, finely-tuned message that we spent good money on is damaged, possibly for good. You might lose the sale now and the customer for life.

If the marketing-to-sales transition is where you most often lose them, there’s good and bad news:

  • The bad news: All the advertising investment that attracted those folks was wasted. That’s the most expensive marketing ever.
  • The good news: That’s a reasonably easy thing to fix in most cases.

Trust, The Final Frontier

We ask ourselves “How much do I like the salesperson?”, “Do I believe them? and/or “How much do I trust this product/brand/manufacturer?” before we finally buy. All of this comes down to “Do I trust this business?”

“We don’t like to be sold but we love to buy.” says Jeffrey Gitomer. We buy from people we like and trust.

Because the trust earned over time by some “institutions” is crumbling, that lack of confidence can seep into people’s ability to trust your business, something that’s already at risk in most sales situations. It’s no less damaging in a sales situation than the differences between a candidate’s promises and what they later do as an elected official.

Your entire staff must be aware (and regularly reminded) that reputations are built (or damaged) and trust is earned (or lost) with every single transaction and every single interaction. Keeping your reputation’s momentum headed in the right direction is everyone’s job.

The point is not to blame your sales staff as the source of your company’s ills. It’s to remind you that grooming, training and supporting them is critical to your success. The best marketing in the world isn’t enough if you aren’t supporting the sales team properly.

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The business you’re really in

Purple Pencil Power!
Creative Commons License photo credit: theilr

When something is viewed as an expense, your instinct is to reduce it to the smallest possible amount.

Doing this to your marketing is not unlike choking yourself.

Marketing as an expense

The most obvious clue that a business treats marketing as an expense is that they cut back on it when things get tight.

It makes sense on the surface, but it’s a clue that the business doesn’t know what works and what doesn’t.

For these businesses, the marketing goal is typically to get the next sale. Focused there, little effort is invested in the “care and feeding” of existing customers.

Without that care and feeding, you’re focused on people who woke up this morning, decided to buy an item and looked (for example) in the paper for a coupon. This buyer often has little or no preconceived notion where they will buy that item. Even if they planned the purchase, the where is still up in the air. Not what you want.

All such businesses compete for the low hanging fruit, the “uncommitted to any particular vendor”, the random, the price-at-all-costs shopper. Any buyer can fall into those categories if the vendors in that market do nothing to change it.

When you do this, you’re depending on buyers to randomly cross paths with you at just the right time. It encourages customers to shop solely based on price and/or what side of town they’re on and where their errands take them that day. On top of that, these businesses reward that buying behavior with a coupon discount for “just passing by”.

The way these businesses spend marketing dollars, it *is* a cost.

Marketing as an investment

To fix this problem and transform your marketing into an investment, you have to know what works.

When you know what works, you know the typical return on investment. That helps you avoid pulling back on marketing to cut expenses because you know better. If you put a dollar into something and get two dollars back plus a new customer, it doesn’t usually make sense to back off (capacity issues would be a valid reason).

In a time of uncertainty, many businesses pull back by instinct. On the surface, austerity of this nature makes sense. These cuts a business usually shrinks. You can see this going on now – leaving an opportunity for the business that’s paying attention.

Meanwhile, the business who knows the return on investment for their efforts can increase their marketing to increase their revenue (or maintain it in a slow economy) whenever they’re ready.

When marketing is viewed as an investment, a sale is made to get a customer. Each customer is viewed as an asset to be treasured and well-cared for. The relationship between the business and the customer is maintained (at the least)

Learning what works isn’t about changing what you do. Just start measuring results *then* adjust based on what you learn. No matter what media you use for your advertising – the results can be measured without expensive tools or technology – often using none at all.

What it’s really about

Because your goal is to get (and keep) another customer, you have to understand that the business you’re really in – finding and attracting the perfect/ideal customer for what you do – and then retaining as many as possible.

So many are waiting for the customer to decide, to step up, to figure it out. Do you have time for that? Even when a customer checks a reference service like Angie’s List, that’s still a customer whose “where to go” decision is uncertain.

Few business expend the effort to guide the customer, to establish in their minds who the no-questions-asked best vendor is so that when a purchase is imminent, there’s already a preferred vendor in the customer’s mind. When you do the necessary work to identify the perfect customer and do exactly what it takes to attract those customers – market share doesn’t matter. You can go get more customers based on your numbers because you know what works.

You can probably name a vendor that you would do business without considering any others. Your job: Be that vendor in your market.

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Advertising Business model Competition Customer relationships customer retention Getting new customers marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Positioning Sales service Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge

Where’s my concierge?

One of the rungs on your ascension ladder should include cater-to-their-every-whim service – within the context of your business.

Audible has figured this out, as you can see from the screen shot above.

I’ve told you about my use of it in the software business (“done-for-you software setups in 7 days, guaranteed”) as a way of getting new users started quickly as a way of increasing sales, improving our percentage of sales closed and improving our service so that renewal / maintenance agreements were a non-issue.

Have you figured it out? If so, I’d like to hear what your “cater to their every whim” concierge service is like.