Competition Management Marketing Positioning Small Business systems The Slight Edge

Pet peeves and your business’ addiction to crack

Plumber James #2
photo credit: MoToMo

Who hasn’t either had a plumber hanging out of their sink, or heard about one? You know the stereotype.

Some guy’s rear end is hanging out from under your sink, his pants are not quite the right size, and “too much information” is pointed right at you. It’s like looking at a car wreck on the highway. You know you shouldn’t look. You don’t want to see that. But, you look anyway. My eyes, my eyes!

That’s probably one of the most commonly-known consumer pet peeves with the plumbing business.

In your business, no matter what you do or sell, people have pet peeves with your business.

If you’re a builder, the common ones are: communication is poor, workmanship, management of sub-contractors is troubling, rarely on budget, rarely on time, cheap materials that weren’t what was spec’d out.

Note: If you’re a builder, you may not do these things, but I’ll bet you know some builders in your market that DO have these problems. Likewise for the plumbers.

In every single market, there is a common list of pet peeves that consumers have about your business.

We’ve all had that lovely waste of time the “our service person will be there <27 days from now> between noon and 7pm.” That’s what many businesses call a service appointment. I call it a good waste of a day.

What pet peeves does your business inflict on your clients?

Not sure? Ask your clients. Ask friends what ticks them off or annoys them about doing business with businesses like yours. Once you have a list, take steps to eliminate them and put processes in place to prevent their return.

Then take it a step further. Make note of the contrast between you and your competition as it relates to these pet peeves.

For example: “Our service appointments don’t last all afternoon. We’ll be there when we say we will, or we’ll give you $50 and buy you dinner.”

These are easy things to fix, and being the only plumber in town who isn’t putting on a show will make an impact.

Competition Management Small Business systems Technology

Keeping score is important for your business

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ll have read a few posts about the value of measurement.

Measuring marketing response is the primary thing you’ll find, but as a CFO friend of mine says, “That which is measured will be managed”.

Seth starts off talking about the green marketing but ends up making a very good point about why those things we measure are better-managed.

Bottom line: They’ve got a number.

Got something that’s important to your business? Keep score. It matters.

Competition Customer service ECommerce Management Marketing Small Business Strategy systems

Making it easier – isn’t that what your clients really want?

Easy Cheese photo credit: xiaming

Yesterday, we talked about making it easier for your clients to do – whatever it is that you make them do, hopefully not making them do it at all.

But what about making it easier to do the things that you can’t eliminate? One example is making it easier to reorder from you. You already know what your clients buy, right?

What do you do to remind them it’s time to refill, replenish and reorder? Since you know what they ordered, it should be easy for you to do this.

How do you know? It’s in your order database, point of sale (POS) system or online store order history.

You know how long it has been since they’ve visited your store or ordered online.

Is that number of days getting close? Shouldn’t you send them something (or call) to make it easy to order?

Has that number of days already passed? Shouldn’t you be contacting them to make sure all is well and that they haven’t run out of whatever they buy from you?

Do you have a system in place to get regular reorders pre-authorized by your clients? Makes life easier for them and more fruitful for you.

If you have automated reorders in place, isn’t it that much harder for a competitor to steal your clients from you? And aren’t your clients that much happier with the way you’ve added a little non-stick Teflon to their day to day lives?

Advertising Direct Mail Internet marketing Marketing Media Small Business systems

How to measure advertising response in any media

measuring advertising response (or in this case, a plane's tail)

Recently, I received a few questions about measuring advertising response so I thought I’d cover that a bit today.

The measurement and use of the results you record is one of the most important things to do when advertising – at least once the ad has been created for a particular target market.

Question: Why can’t all ads produce a response?

Very, very few ads pull nothing, but I have heard second hand of a business that mailed 20,000 direct mail pieces and gotten nothing for their trouble.

However, as I hear it, their mail piece was poorly done and was mailed to anyone with a heartbeat, so they sorta “deserved” that result.

In any audience, there is a percentage of people ready to buy (and thus, your timing is good), another percentage thinking about it, and the rest in various modes of not caring, not being interested, caring but not having a need or want at this time, etc. The key is motivating the 2nd and last groups to buy.

Question: How do you eliminate the process of testing ads and culling the non-performing ones?

The key isn’t to eliminate it, but to always test what you’re doing so that you can make decisions based on information rather than gut feel.

If we mail 1000 pieces, we might mail 333 people one letter, 333 people another letter and 334 people another one. Next time we mail, we’ll know which is the best producer. After that, we might mail 500 of the winner and 500 of a new challenger. You should always be trying to beat the current best performing ad you have in each media for a particular type of prospect.

If we place 20 radio spots, we’d alternate 2 or 3 spots in each time slot we select so we know which one works in that time slot (ie: different audiences, assuming they should all be “target rich” audiences). As each day goes on, we might adjust the spots that play in a slot based on the response we’re getting.

Question: Isn’t ad testing a very expensive process?

Depends on how you do it. If you try to contact everyone with a heartbeat instead of focusing on a personal, contextually important message for that prospect group, it can be very expensive, not to mention seriously unproductive.

For example, you wouldn’t likely send the same mail piece to opera lovers that you would NASCAR fans, for obvious reasons. Sure, there will be some exceptions (people who like both NASCAR and opera), but you aren’t worried about the crossovers. You’re worried about completely missing the boat with your message to one group or another.

Question: So how do I measure response on a mailer, newspaper/magazine ad, radio ad, email or website?

I could go on for pages about the details of this, but the bottom line is to do at least one of two things so you can tell exactly which ad they are responding to:

  • Create an offer that is specific to the ad.
    Ever notice how TV ads ask you to ask for a specific operator, department or send you to a website that has what seems like random numbers in it? That’s why they do this” so they know which ad you are responding to. They want to know which time slot works and which ad works, among other things. A particular price, quantity or product name can also indicate which offer you chose (and thus, which marketing effort you responded to).
  • Create a mechanism for contacting you that is unique.
    A different phone number (800 numbers are easy to use for this, because they forward to another number). A different fax number. A different web address. Google Analytics codes on your URLs (in emails, for example). A different email address. A special page on your website. A department number, or a contact name, ie: “Ask for Harry”. You can give them some sort of reference that gives them access to a discount or bonus, such as “Tell em Tiger Woods sent you”.
Corporate America E-myth Marketing systems

Independent bookstores wouldn’t bore me like this


On the other hand, they might not send me *any* email. I generally like Amazon, mostly because I live in a small town, the nearest big box bookstore is 20-25 minutes away and the only bookstore in my town is really only a used book store. Most of my purchases don’t fit the inventory profile of that store.

Amazon has a lot to like, even if you own an independent bookstore. You can sell the stuff that isn’t moving, and try and flatten out your cash flow. And of course, there are the systems. Michael Gerber (of E-Myth fame) is likely impressed with Amazon’s systems, as he should be.

He, as I, would suggest that local bookstores could and should implement many of the same systems, even if the implementation is not the same as Amazon’s.

One of Amazon’s more obvious systems analyzes your purchases and occasionally sends you emails about books that you might like. The books are chosen based on what they know about the buying patterns of folks who also bought the book(s) you bought. It’s not a bad system. In fact, sometimes it opens new doors to me. I like it.

Of course, it sometimes suggests rather odd things. This one I found a tad boring (see the image above), and unlike anything I’ve ever bought from them.

“Proceedings and lecture notes from Practical aspects of declarative languages“???

I can’t imagine how exciting a read that’ll be:)

What systems does your favorite local independent bookstore have?

Ever wonder why Borders and Barnes and Noble don’t email you with suggestions like Amazon does?