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Six simple questions about your website

I received these questions in an email from Tony Robbins last year.

The premise was to ask if you could answer these questions without doing a bunch of research, much less if you could answer them at all.

  1. How many visitors come to your website per month?
  2. How many of those turn into sales?
  3. How many emails are you collecting per month through your website?
  4. How long has the site been up?
  5. How many emails are in your database that have been collected through your website?
  6. What are you doing to follow up with visitors and close sales?

Seems to me they’re as important now as they were in 1995, much less last year.

A lot of businesses pay attention to #1. Many pay attention to #2.

Number 3 and 5 get plenty of attention from some, not so much from others.

The Big One

Number 6 is the one that I see the least effort on across the board.

Are you assuming they’ll come back? Are you doing something to get them to come back? Are you doing something to keep them as a customer over the long term?

So many questions…

Rather than being overwhelmed by it all, deal with the lack of an answer one at a time – particularly if it requires work.

Having one answer is much better than having none.

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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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Talk is cheap, conversation is priceless

How we talk, write, stand, sit or hold our hands and arms plays a huge part in how effective we are in helping others understand what we have to say, much less keep their attention long enough to finish the message.

If they don’t get it all, at best you may as well have said nothing. Worst case, the other person could misinterpret your message and think or react the opposite of what you want.

Imagine that you make a trip to an Eastern European country.

You arrive by boat and step onto the dock with your bags in your hands.

A young Lithuanian man standing on the dock looks at your feet and says something to his friend. By the way his voice rises at the end, you’re sure he either asked a question or made a joke about your legs. Too bad he isn’t speaking your language. If he was, you would know that he was telling his friend that a camera fell out of the unzipped side pocket of your bag.

If you don’t understand the man, you might keep walking without paying attention. Once the man realized you didn’t understand, he would take another step to let you know what he was saying. He might make eye contact with you, repeat his comment and point at the camera.

As with the Lithuanian man, your business communications – from marketing messages and press releases to ads to fill staff openings – will be ineffective if they don’t use the right language and the right context, much less speak to the right person.

What is the right language?

The man’s effort to make eye contact and point is no different than speaking in a language you understand. By establishing eye contact and pointing, he brings context to the conversation – a context you care about.

The language and context you bring to conversations with your prospects and customers is equally important. The right language provokes your audience to think, act, react, remain attentive, follow your instructions (or advice) and believe in your message.

Or not.

Robert Collier famously suggested that writers “join the conversation already going on in the prospect’s mind”. Collier wasn’t encouraging you to be creepy and spy on your prospects and customers. He’s encouraging you to get to know and understand them, including their needs, desires and fears.

The right language…like the empathy that the video gets across so well… requires listening, paying attention and understanding what’s going on behind the face they put on.

Until you make the effort to learn, listen and observe these things, how can you begin to join their conversation? How can you engage with them in a conversation they care about? How can you understand what they lose sleep over? How else can what you say begin to address what’s critical to their decision-making process?

All of these things help you use the right language and the right message, whether you’re on the phone, writing an email or composing text for a billboard.

You wouldn’t walk up to a few people who are actively chatting at a gathering, interrupt them and start talking loudly about something they don’t care about – yet that’s exactly what most marketing does.

It helps me to imagine that I’m speaking directly with a single person who is exactly the type of person whose needs, desires and fears my message will resonate with in the strongest possible way. Notice that I didn’t say “the group of people my message targets”, or that I said “speaking with” rather than to.

Think about how important the positioning and context of your message must be in order to move from broadcasting like someone yelling at passersby on a random big city street corner, to that of a personal conversation with a trusted advisor.

Hippity Hop

If you overheard just a nibble of a conversation about hops, you might guess that someone was talking about the communications via the internet, frog jumping competitions or rabbits.

On the other hand, they could be talking about craft beers or microbrews. You’d have to listen to more than just one word (hops) to figure out the topic – and that’s the key.

Listen. Observe. Develop empathy and understanding. Join the conversation.

Disclaimer: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

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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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Monkey See, Monkey Don’t?

Do you watch other business owners or mentors use techniques, technologies, strategies or tactics successfully – and then not try them in your business?

This isn’t just the domain of new, first time business owners who might be leery of trying something else, much less being swamped enough as it is.

Not long ago, I was sitting in a room with about 250 very successful business owners. Most of them had purchased the right to attend the seminar during a phone seminar or webinar.

While discussing entrepreneurs’ tendency not to stretch themselves (in particular regarding their sales/marketing), one of the speakers asked this question: “Everyone here bought access to this seminar during a phone seminar or webinar, so you know this selling mechanism works. Given that, how many of you use these types of seminars to sell your products?

No more than 20% of the people in the room raised their hand.

Remember, these are not new business owners. Most of them are running seven figure businesses. Yet most of them were not modeling the successful strategies that were working right in front of them – and in this case, strategies that had worked to sell them something.

What’s working right in front of you that you aren’t using?

 

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Everyone is no one’s customer

hikers of Mt Fuji
Creative Commons License photo credit: diloz

Several times a week, someone pastes a spammy little message into the contact box here on the blog.

It starts off something like this:

Hi,

I hope you are the right person to discuss about the B2B Lists. We are a leading player in the list vending industry catering to all list requirements from various industry sectors.

If you really are “a leading player” in your market, you don’t “hope” I’m the right person at my business. You KNOW because you did your homework.

What’s bad about this is that a lot of the marketing efforts resemble it. They attempt to target everyone at the cost of doing a less-than-ideal job of attracting anyone. And they don’t even address you by name.

Unless you sell food or toilet paper, your market isn’t everyone.

Except

Except, when you pay close attention to buying habits, even those seemingly “for everyone” markets are finely segmented and “everyone” is not anyone’s customer.

These list brokers advertise like this:

We are primarily a B2B Database company & have in excess of 30 Million+ records with emails across all geographies, industry verticals etc.

<snip>

American Businesses    20 Million+ Executives    Sales & Marketing Executives    500,000+ Executives

<snip>

Industries : Healthcare, Insurance, Finance/Banking, Electronics, Telecom, Retail, Consulting, Information Technology, Electronics, Food and Beverage, Construction, Engineering, Computer Software/Hardware, Transportation, Education, HR, SMB/SME, Business Services, Oil and Gas, Energy and Utilities, Media, Manufacturing, Automotive, Marketing/Advertising etc.

Notice something? They’re selling everyone to everyone.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having something for everyone – they really sell lists of names, and that data comes in all flavors. Focus further and you’ll learn that they sell information that helps me find people who might be interested in what I have to offer. Eventually, some subset of what they sell becomes a person interested in my solutions. A lead.

It’s easier to sell a lead than it is to sell 20,000,000 leads.

Generic fails

The problem is that the sales pitch comes off completely generic. Generic because there’s no attempt to ask me what I want/need, to ask me who my customers are demographically, much less industry-wise. The only reason this can be effective is that the delivery cost of spam approaches $0.00 per delivery attempt.

Where this becomes an issue is when the person who receives this generic message might actually be the one who would get something out of it…unless they can’t see through the clutter placed in front of them.

Buried deep inside that 900+ word email is one niche that is always a good market segment for me. Buried inside that generic message, that niche could be missed by the reader. While there’s no way that I’m going to buy from a spam email like that, there are parallels to the advertising many businesses do – specifically selling to everyone.

Filtering, old school

I have an acquaintance in the newspaper advertising business. His business sells the ability to fine tune newspaper inserts by subscriber, like the two inches of stuff the papers bragged about on Thanksgiving Day. His business saves paper and postage and thus makes newspapers more profitable by lowering insertion related costs.

This slimmer, trimmer advertising is less likely to be discarded en mass by people who don’t want to sort through it.

Why? People who don’t use products like “Product A” rarely see inserts for that type of product. Why? Because the ads for things they *might* be interested in actually might be visible when they aren’t buried in two inches of insert fliers for things they have no interest in.

That is what this email’s problem ultimately becomes. It’s not for me, it’s for everyone. If I don’t see what I need, I hit delete. Now sure, when it’s a spam (and is visibly obvious as such), I’m likely to hit delete anyway – and the same thing happens to your ads.

Someone is important

After a speaking gig earlier this year, one of the executives in the group remarked “No one ever spoke directly to us like you did.”

Before the gig, I interviewed a player in their business, Google’d their industry and looked at their business websites. Then I fine tuned my speech to the people who would be in the room – and NO ONE ELSE.

When you’re speaking to someone, they’ll listen. When you’re speaking to everyone, no one listens.

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Show them a hoop

Honeymoon 54
Creative Commons License photo credit: NathanF

One of the more daunting challenges for business owners is figuring out how to deal with a diverse group of leads.

What’s a lead?

Without over-complicating it, a lead is someone who in some way, shape or form has expressed an interest in buying something you do.

I know that isn’t very personal and such, but it’s a generic dictionary-style definition to get us all on the same page. Let’s move on.

Sifting flour?

Figuring out who is ready to buy isn’t as easy as putting them in Grandma’s flour sifter and turning the crank.

Your lead sifting process will probably be quite different, and potentially a time-consuming challenge.

So what are the goals of the process? I believe they should be to help you identify the folks who want your help without annoying/interrupting/bothering the ones who don’t want your help or aren’t quite ready for it.

Those who aren’t quite ready should already have the opportunity to consume information about your products, services etc via print, audio, video, blog, email or whatever. When they’re ready, they’ll give you a sign.

Sign?

The sign is really what you’re looking for.

If you don’t find a way to identify the “ready-to-buy”, you not only attend to folks who really aren’t interested (yet?) or don’t (yet?) need what you’re selling, but that time can’t be used to help people who really do need and want your help. That speaks directly to the quality of what you can deliver, so it’s pretty important to make the identification of the ready as effective as possible.

Keep in mind that while these folks are leads (what could easily be considered an impersonal term), they’re individuals. They’ll still in their own place along their trail of discovery to making a decision, getting interested, or just plain discovering what you do.

So how do you figure out who is ready and who isn’t? While a few will come right out and tell you, most aren’t going to hold up a sign that says “Hey, you… yeah you, I’m ready.”

Ready?

To figure out who is ready…give them something to do.

Like what?

A hoop to jump through. Something that gives them the opportunity to raise their hand and say “Me. I’m the one who thinks (or IS) interested in that thing you do/make.”

For those who don’t jump up right away, you may need a series of ever-increasing steps that take additional commitment.

  • Hoops tell you who is really interested.
  • Hoops can tell you *why* someone is really interested.
  • Hoops can tell you the depth of their interest.
  • Hoops allow them to make it clear, perhaps subconsciously, that they are ready NOW (or not quite).

Depending on how your customers take part in your business, the first hoop might be signing up for an email list, newsletter or webinar. The next one might be something more specific to one of your products or services.

Bricks

If you have a retail store, restaurant or “brick and mortar” service business – these steps can be just as effective for you. Even a not-for-profit. Each of them give your prospective buyers, donors, customers or diners a way to self-identify.

You might hold a class or seminar – free, inexpensive, or not so inexpensive – whatever fits the step in the process they’re at. Think about ski demo days. They’re a lead gathering activity as well as a way to get skiers to “raise their hand”.

Hoops, or whatever you call them, need to be constructed with care. They can’t be a means of troubling someone or putting off those who really aren’t interested, even if that’s the result. You want to gain understanding of the customer while providing some help to them.

These kinds of obstacles, hoops or whatever you want to call them can be critical to helping you accelerate your identification of those who are ready to buy now, without running off those who aren’t.

What not to take away

This may seem mechanical, but it really isn’t unless you do it incorrectly. Not being mechanical about this is critical. DON’T use this like you would that sifter or gold pan. The result (finding the gold nuggets) may be similar, but the processes have nothing in common.

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Why they don’t take your calls and don’t read your mail

The enlightened leader
Creative Commons License photo credit: seeveeaar

Do your customers and prospects let your calls go to voice mail?

Do they open your emails? If they were, you’d know (or should).

Think about why *you* let calls go to voice mail and why you ignore certain emails.

While you might be busy and decide to let calls go to voice mail, more often than not, when the caller id appears – you can’t think of a reason to bother taking the call.

Is relevance the reason?

Get relevant

Lets discuss a few examples.

I get my internet from a local cable provider. While they offer telephone and cable service, we don’t use those services. About twice a week, the “(cable vendor) Robocall department” (as the number is named on my phone) calls me to ask what TV, phone and internet service I use.

Every time they call, they ask the same question. They want to know what service I use for internet / TV / phone. Funny thing is, they’re calling to get information they already know. The caller never has any idea that I am already their customer.

It doesn’t have to be that way, even with an outside telemarketing firm. While I’d be unlikely to use one, that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective.

Most modern telemarketing firms are well beyond the stone age “dialing for dollars” mode of the past. They’re capable of taking a list you provide to them and filtering out existing customers from their call list. They are also capable – automatically, if you use a good one – of changing the script used by the caller so that they don’t seem totally uninformed.

If instead of “who do you use?” they asked something like “I see you use our internet, but not our cable…” and started the conversation there – that would at least be in context. Someone experienced enough to run a huge cable firm’s marketing and sales department should know this.

On the other hand, if you’re a small business owner, this makes perfect sense, but you might never have considered its impact.

If you send email or make cold (or even warm) calls, are the conversations pertinent to those customers? If they were, you might get a better response.

Share

I have a 401K plan. The vendor regularly emails me…..to sell me their 401K plan.

These emails are personalized – they know I have multiple accounts with them. Yet they send emails that talk as if they have no clue about our business relationship.

These things make your company (and you) look inept, or at the least, like the left hand has no idea what the right’s doing. It tells me your systems and the people running them are just going through the motions, wasting money that impacts other people’s livelihoods and perhaps driving up your prices.

Doing things this way:

  • Starts the conversation in the wrong direction. You have just seconds to get enough attention to get peoples’ attention. Don’t waste it by talking out of context.
  • Makes you look like you have no idea who I am. Not in the “Do you know who I am?” way, but the “Do you know / care that I’m already your customer?” way.
  • Leaves money on the table. Instead of trying to sell me the thing that clients like me buy after buying the last thing I bought from you, you’re trying to resell the thing I already have.
  • Wastes the opportunity to discuss something customers care about – the thing they already bought. IE: Rather than discussing how to get the most out of my 401K, they’re trying to sell one.

Your marketing systems should know your paying customers and engage them in THEIR context with you – not as total strangers.

Newsy

Recently a 79 year old national magazine announced they will become digital-only as of January 2013. This couldn’t have been a rash decision, given the contracts in place for printing and distribution, much less the internal changes/considerations necessary to make a change like this.

Yet a subscriber tells me she just got a renewal offer in the mail – and it didn’t say a word about the fact that it wouldn’t be in print.

When you communicate with your customers, be in context.  If 10% more people responded positively, what’s that worth?

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Are You Sending Invisible Signals?

Sometimes a business does things that just don’t make sense, particularly when you consider the business they’re in.

Consider every hospital foundation director’s worst nightmare: Sending a donation request addressed to someone who recently died. What could be worse? Sending a donation request addressed to someone who died…. in their hospital. I haven’t personally seen this, but I had a conversation today with a hospital foundation director who knew of such things.

Paying attention

After my dad passed, I setup his email account to echo to mine just in case some last-minute personal business needed to be dealt with or a long-lost friend emailed him. Most of the email I get requires no action and off it goes into the circular file.

And then, there’s Ancestry.com.

I received this email on my parents’ wedding anniversary. Their first anniversary since my dad’s death.

Ordinarily, I would spend several paragraphs on the email itself.

I might mention things like the lack of the name of a real person as the sender. Or why they didn’t include a “PS: Happy Anniversary” (remember, they have data on marriages and divorces). Or the lack of questions why the renewal never happened after contacting me “several times”, much less the lack of a follow-up offer that repositions the pricing somehow. Or how calling me a “member” in a relatively impersonal email doesn’t make the email more personal. Or how the email is all about the payment and ultimately, all about THEM. Or by not knowing that the addressee has passed that anyone reading this might be considering whether or not to take over management of their genealogy data.

But that isn’t why I’m bothered by this email. It isn’t even about Dad.

It’s about demonstrating competence.

Competence

Ancestry.com sells data. Data about births, marriages and deaths.

Birth, marriage and death records are public information…and in Ancestry’s case, the delivery and organization of that data is their business.

Yet somehow, they don’t make the effort to figure out that their own customers are no longer alive. Receiving an email like this almost makes you wonder how close they pay attention to the quality of the data they sell.

When you aren’t paying enough attention to the invisible signals your business sends, you risk it all. In Ancestry’s case, they risk giving the impression that they aren’t paying attention to the quality of the product they’re trying to get me to renew.

Now turn this to your own business. Are you sending invisible signals about the quality of what you do?