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Billboards and plumber’s pants

Drive around long enough and you’ll see a billboard that says “If you’re looking, it’s working”.

I see the same slogan on electronic advertising displays, which can be found everywhere from restaurant restrooms and gyms to billboards.

Is it “working” when you accidentally glance at the back of a plumber’s pants when he’s on his knees with his head buried under your sink? Or when you stare at an auto accident?

A definition

“My ad is working” means “people take action as a result of the ad”. It does not mean “someone with a heartbeat saw the ad”.

“Working” doesn’t always equal spending money, but it does always mean taking action.

After you glance over at that auto accident, if you put on your seat belt…. that’s action. Cause and effect. Taking action.

That’s what “working” means when it comes to an ad.

“But, you can’t track billboard response”

Yes, you can.

I’ve yet to see a media whose usage cannot be tracked.

To be sure, you can’t track how many people read your ad on a billboard or in the newspaper, though you can estimate numbers based on drive-by traffic statistics published by governmental agencies (for billboards) and subscription + newsstand buys + online page views (for newspapers).

The number *reading* your ad isn’t the important number. Sure, if you have a general consumer product, you want to tell as many people as you can, but you don’t go to the bank with “eyeballs”, page views, newsstand copies or cars-per-day.

You go with sales revenue.

What you really want to be paying attention to is how many people took action as a result of your ad, no matter where it is.

You can absolutely track what happens if readers take action, but many businesses don’t. As a result, they’re operating on gut feel, guesswork or a seat of the pants idea of what their ads are doing.

Look at the advertising you’re doing. Are you tracking any of it? If not, how do you know which ads work and which don’t? How do you know which media work (for you) and which don’t? (or don’t work as well)

Just because an ad or media is “free” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be tracking results.

Start tracking and you’ll start knowing what’s working and what isn’t.

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A desk calendar, a yellow pad and a pen

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that there were some “numbers you might care about“.

Examples we talked about included figuring out the costs to obtain both a new prospect/lead and a new customer.

In prior discussions, I’ve also suggested that you need to be thanking your customers, following up with them, tracking referrals that customers (and others) make, checking to see that more time than usual hasn’t passed since their last purchase, and so on.

And then…I get emails.

Many of them tell me I’m nuts because no one has time to do all that and that I must be making it up. Others get it and they ask HOW to get all that stuff done.

GETTING STUFF DONE

Here’s part one of a primer on getting this stuff done.

What I mean by “primer” is that it’s simple and you don’t have to buy anything fancy or expensive, nor do you need to do anything geeky. You *can*, of course, but it’s not a requirement.

Start with these tools:

  • A free calendar (banks, insurance agents and others hand them out all the time). A large one-month-per-page desk calendar will help if you feel the need to splurge.
  • a free pen/pencil (ditto)
  • a $0.99 yellow pad

We’ll keep it simple for now and create a process for each of these events:

  • A new prospect contacts you
  • A new customer buys for the first time.
  • An existing customer buys again.
  • Someone calls to make an appointment.
  • You communicate with a prospect or customer.

DIRTY WORK

Now it’s time for the real work.

Use the yellow pad for these tasks:

  • When a prospect contacts you, write their name on one of the yellow pad sheets. Write the date they first contacted you at the top of the sheet. Below or next to that, write “Last contact date” and keep it updated (yes, it’ll get a little messy, but this is a paper system). Ask them who to thank for sending them to you. Write down the answer as “Source”. It might be a person, an ad or something else.
  • Keep a separate sheet for each prospect. Keep the sheets sorted by last name, unless you have a different way that works better for you.
  • When a prospect becomes a customer by buying something, write a C in one of the upper corners of the page so you know they’re a customer. In addition, write the first date of purchase at the top of the page. Write “Last purchase date” next to or below it. Keep it updated each time they purchase. Use a calendar on the internet to figure how out many days since they last bought. Write that down too.
  • When contacting (or contacted by) a customer or prospect, write a summary of each contact on their sheet. Indicate briefly their satisfaction level.

Use the calendar to remind you to perform these tasks:

  • Record appointments. Make note of them on the prospect/customer sheet so you can follow up as well as thank them.
  • Follow up with a note a few days (if that’s the right timing) after a new customer buys for the first time. Write the follow up on the appropriate date as soon as they buy.
  • Follow up with a customer after an on-site delivery or service to make sure all is well. If a staff member or contractor is doing the work, use the follow up to make sure that they were on-time, clean, courteous and took care of the customer’s needs.

Do these every day:

  • Check the calendar for follow ups, appointments, thank yous and such. Make them that day. Don’t get behind or you’ll never do them.
  • Check the contact sheets to make sure that customers are being properly taken care of. Your “satisfaction level” comments should feed this process.
  • Check the contact sheets for customers who haven’t bought in at least a month (or whatever time frame makes sense). Follow up to see why they haven’t been back  and include that on the sheet. If a particular competitor is involved, make note of that.

BOOOOOOORINNNNNNG!

Yes, this is mundane stuff.

It’s also exactly the same stuff that *so many businesses* fail at day-in and day-out. If you can’t get the basics right, you need to fix them.

Disclaimer: The computer guy half of my head insists that I remind you that manual processes and yellow pads don’t scale well (and eventually not at all), meaning that what works for 20 or 100 customers doesn’t work worth a darn for 500, 1000 or 10000.

Because paper doesn’t scale, I know what happens next. You get busy and eventually, you just won’t do the work. This happens despite the realization that doing all that stuff is at least part of the reason you got so busy.

If you do realize there’s a connection there, then you’ll either decide to introduce some technology or you’ll get some help. This kind of work is ideal for a stay-at-home parent, retiree or similar.

Crude? Perhaps. Understanding the value of these tasks – and of a tool that automates much this labor – is easier after doing it the hard way. This effort is just as valid for a four-star restaurant as for an oil change shop.

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A number you’d care about

Last time, we talked about those 10 things that cause small businesses to fail, and zeroed in on the business model as most important of all.

There’s usually a reason you got into the business you’re in, but whether you love it or just chose it for the money, the math that makes the business work…actually has to work.

It’s more complicated than how much you spend and how much you make.

How’d you come up with the prices for your stuff?

If you’re a retailer, you probably had someone tell you about keystone. Or maybe you’re using manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing (MSRP). Or maybe you’re 3 cents under your competition because that’s what you felt you needed to do to get the sale.

Ever sit down and figure out how much it costs to open the doors every day – even if you don’t have a door?

Ever think about taxes, licenses, shipping, insurance, and yes…some money for you to take home?

35 prospects

How much does it cost to get 35 people to call you? How much does it cost to get 35 people to visit your store? How much does it cost to get 35 people to visit your website and opt-in to your email newsletter, subscribe to your blog, your YouTube feed or “Like” your Facebook page (or whatever)?

In fact, each of those ways of getting a new prospective customer (often called a “lead”) have differing costs because the advertising (or whatever it took) to motivate them to buy has different pricing and each one convinces different numbers of people to become a prospect.

Note that I said nothing about how many people that advertising reaches. It doesn’t matter if it reaches 35 or 35 million. What matters is how many people raise their hand and say “Hmm, I might be interested. Tell me more.” and show that by calling, stopping in, going to your website and so on for every dollar you spend.

Those things have a cost. In fact, it’d better be an investment. If it isn’t, you’re doing something wrong. Divided by the number of people who said “Hmm”, you know what a prospective customer costs. Most people have no idea what the number is.

Seems like a number you’d care about.

10 customers

Now let’s say 35 of those prospects turn into customers. They buy something.

Each one probably has a different “buying profile”. In other words, customers you meet online might buy different things than walk-in/phone customers do, or they might spend more or less, or they might buy more or less often.

If you don’t pay attention to these things, you won’t know how to deal with them.

You also won’t know which source of buyers purchases the most profitable items, which source returns the most items, and so on. Seems kind of important, doesn’t it?

If you know how much it cost to get those 35 prospects to call you, stop in or what not, AND 10 of them bought something, then you can also figure out how much it costs you (per media, per ad campaign and overall) to get a new customer.

Seems like a number you’d care about.

42 orders

If over the course of a year, these customers place 42 orders or make 42 purchases, you have another important number: cost per sale.

Not cost OF sale. Cost PER sale…to get the sale.

What’d you have to do to get those folks to order or purchase? Nothing? I hope not, because you’re depending on random behavior.

What if that random behavior changes?

If you do expend any time, effort and/or money on marketing, you ought to know which efforts/expenses are working and which aren’t. If one is working, you keep using it and try to improve it’s performance. If one isn’t, you either stop doing it or tinker with it a little and see what you can do to make it work.

Either way, those efforts have a price tag.

Seems like a number you’d care about.

Groundhog Day

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character relives the same day repeatedly. He goes to the same places and buys breakfast (etc) day after day.

What are you doing to encourage that from your customers?

Recurring revenue is a critical part of every (YES EVERY) business model. Maybe not the same person every day, but definitely on a regular basis.

What if you woke up every morning and knew that you’d make 7 sales today, based on some prior effort, history or activity?

What if you knew how much of that effort, history or activity was needed to keep making that happen?

Seems like a number you’d care about.

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Automation Business Resources Buy Local Competition Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Email marketing Productivity Retail service Small Business SMS systems Technology The Slight Edge tracking

Automation *can be* personal

Run, Motherfucker, Run
Creative Commons License photo credit: JOE MARINARO

Like I suspect you do, I get a number of automated emails asking how someone’s service was, or reminding me to deal with this or that before a deadline.

Most of these are innocuous emails that were done with an honest effort to help, but because the process was left unfinished, there’s very little long-term or accumulating value in them.

More value *could* come with a little more automation salted with a little personal touch.

For example, if I take a box to the local UPS Store (which recently reopened in our town, thankfully), I have an email waiting for me before I arrive home from the 3 mile drive from their shop.

The email includes the tracking number, a link to check on my package, an estimated arrival date, and perhaps the destination and a brief thank you.

Right up to that point, this is a minimum that should be getting done. There’s value in this email because I can check the link and perhaps put the email in my calendar so I remember to check the status later. Yes, a link to an iCal file to auto-add the delivery date to my calendar would be a nice option.

And then….silence.

Silence isn’t the right answer. It’s unfinished business.

Why silence isn’t golden

In many businesses, there is no email confirmation going on.

When doing business with those firms, I have to call (or they do) in order to find out what’s going on, when my work is done, what the estimate amount was and so on.  For those businesses, this post is a bit of a what-to-do checklist.

So why is the silence after that first email “unfinished business”?

Because it doesn’t complete the task at least as well as you would if you were standing in front of them when the package was delivered. An email isn’t an excuse to get out of work. It’s a way to give your customer the choice of being better informed.

But still, unfinished?

Yes, because (for example) I don’t get an email when the package is delivered and signed for.

That means they’ve missed an opportunity to confirm that the transaction completed as promised while subconsciously reminding me I use them because their job is to set my mind at ease.

It also subconsciously plants yet another seed that I can trust that business to get my package where it’s going safely and on time so I can consider the job delegated successfully.

That’s a big thing if you’re in the service biz.

In addition, they miss the opportunity to add a comment that…

  • Reminds me that 9 packages have been shipped this month and all arrived on time for less than USPS or Fedex rates (or similar).
  • Reminds me that customers who ship as often as I do can save time by opening a monthly-pay account at the store, allowing me to walk in, drop the package and leave rather than wait in line to ship and pay.

And so on.

Note that none of these emails require any manual labor once the templates are setup. The automated shipping notification systems are doing all of the work from that point forward. The result is that your business is more productive (given fewer calls re: package status) and your clients are better informed.

The next step: Those “How was our service?” emails could be of far more value to your customers and your business if someone paid attention to them. More on that tomorrow.

PS: These references to email could just as easily be text messages to my phone. Wouldn’t be lovely if I could choose one or both?

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Business Resources Competition Direct Marketing Email marketing Marketing Small Business Technology tracking

Creating the slot machine that never loses

Lobster Slot Machine - Las Vegas
Creative Commons License photo credit: dlr2008

I‘ve had a survey going on the site here for a while. It asks “What’s your biggest marketing challenge?”

25% of respondents have said “Making time to do the marketing”. That tells me that those folks still aren’t tracking the response they get to their marketing.

Why? If your marketing has been successful, then you know that it’s like a slot machine that doesn’t lose.

What I mean by that is that when your marketing is working, you can put $1.29 in and get $2.34 out (or whatever your number is).

So let me get this right… if your marketing efforts (overall) return $1.05 in PROFIT every time you spend $1.29, why wouldn’t your marketing be one of your highest priority tasks? In fact, why wouldn’t it be number one?

Are there other tasks you perform that have a greater return?

Tracking in circles

I realize this is a bit of a circular argument:

  • You: “I don’t spend much time on my marketing cuz I don’t know what works.”
  • Me: “If you start tracking, you will know. Once you know, you’ll understand what works, what doesn’t and it’ll become clear why your marketing is job #1 and how you can outspend your competition on it and still win.”

…and so on.

The only way to get to the point where you can play the slot machine that never loses is by *tracking the response to your marketing*.

I know, we’ve talked about this before. Tracking transforms your marketing from an expense into an investment with a known return.

PLEASE, please start paying specific attention to the performance of your marketing efforts.

Here’s a starting point to find posts at Business is Personal that will help you get started on tracking response: https://www.rescuemarketing.com/blog/?s=response