Don’t wipeout! How to check for target market viability

How to check for target market viability in the post-recessionary world. Are you still on target?

How to check for target market viability in the post-recessionary world. Are you still on target?

Have you ever seen the game show ‘Wipeout’?

Contestants have to complete assault courses over large pools of water – and the quickest person wins.

Indeed, if contestants are too slow, the obstacle might tilt, shift or even shove the contestant into the pool below. If you snooze, you lose – but if you’re quick, you might just win.

The post-recessionary business world is just as harsh on the slow movers

The recent recession (or Global Financial Crisis – or GFC if you’re into your biz-buzzwords) shook up the business world as we know it.

Many businesses failed due to mis-management (financial and otherwise).

A large number of small business owners decided that running a business was too hard, and went back to paid employment.

At the same time, China was booming. Here in New Zealand, we saw an influx of Chinese immigrants* and consequently Chinese-owned businesses. These businesses are able to undercut New Zealand-made products with cheap imports – the downside of a very small country doing a free-trade deal with a very large country.

*In 2001, 3% of the New Zealand population was Chinese; in 2013, that number increased to 4%. In terms of numbers of people, that represents a 63% from 105,057 to 174,411. Source: Statistics New Zealand.

New business models emerged during the recessionary period too: for example, the one-day coupon industry boomed. However, that turned out to be a double-edged sword as these one-day deals commoditised many industries: customers were trained to shop around on price, and customer loyalty dwindled. The coupons might have generated cash flow, but to the detriment of businesses’ medium term viability.

So yeah, the post-recessionary business world is a bit of a mess

Most industries have been shaken, stirred and rattled around, so it’s worth doing a bit of a reality check.

Specifically, be sure to check where your target market is at. There’s a very good chance that the target has moved, and therefore your aim may be off target.

Questions to ask yourself when checking market viability

In my eBook, The Leaky Bathtub – Marketing 101, (which you should check out, by the way, if you’re not clear on marketing stuff, such as target markets), I suggest that business owners ask themselves the following questions periodically:

  • Is your target market big enough to be profitable?
  • Can you reach your target market with your marketing?
  • And can you reach your target market profitably with your marketing?
  • Is your target market suitably stable?

With the assault course of changes that have taken place during and after the recession, I’d now add the following questions into the mix too:

  • Is your target market willing to spend money on your industry?
  • Does your target market value what you do? Or has it become commoditised?
  • How does your target market treat your industry? Is it with warmth? Suspicion? As a partnership? As a last resort? With trust?
  • Is your target market engaged with you all year round? Or do they lose interest over holidays or other periods? Or do they treat business as a hobby?
  • How has the competitive landscape changed?
  • How have your competitors altered the marketplace?

How can you answer these questions on market viability?

Chances are, you already know some of the answers in your heart of hearts (even if you don’t want to admit it to yourself).

Also, have a chat with some of your customers; ask them for feedback. You can do this face to face when you see them, or you could consider running a survey. (But face to face will allow you to naturally progress the conversation.) They key is to find a customer that’ll be totally open and honest with you, rather than say what they think you want to hear.

Analyse the questions new prospects are asking you: that’ll give you an idea of what’s going through their minds. You’ll get an insight into their concerns and challenges, and how they view your industry as a whole.

And as for seasonality, look at your website statistics, for example. Do you get a lot more traffic for some months, while other months are very low? Or do you get lots more phone and email enquiries at certain times of the year?

What about your marketing campaigns: are previously successfully marketing tactics falling flat?

All these things indicate a shift in the market.

Shifting markets can mean opportunities – or wipeouts

Many of the businesses I’m speaking with at the moment have faced some major changes in their competitive environment and target market(s). And many businesses are struggling to adapt, because they’re not sure of where the new opportunities lie.

The key here is to be nimble and quick. It’s a bit like the ‘Wipeout’ assault course: if you’re too slow, you might go under. But if you’re quick, you’ll win the prize.

So I’d urge you do seriously evaluate these market viability questions; weigh up your options; crunch the numbers; and go for the prize.

Summary

The business world has changed dramatically in the last few years. Answer these questions (honestly) to check on your target market’s viability:

  • Is your target market big enough to be profitable?
  • Can you reach your target market with your marketing?
  • And can you reach your target market profitably with your marketing?
  • Is your target market suitably stable?
  • Is your target market willing to spend money on your industry?
  • Does your target market value what you do? Or has it become commoditised?
  • How does your target market treat your industry? Is it with warmth? Suspicion? As a partnership? As a last resort? With trust?
  • Is your target market engaged with you all year round? Or do they lose interest over holidays or other periods? Or do they treat business as a hobby?
  • How has the competitive landscape changed?
  • How have your competitors altered the marketplace?

Keep your eye on the target; move nimbly; and the prize can be yours. 🙂

 

Small business marketing tips: The best articles from 2013

January’s a time of new beginnings – and a great time to review your marketing plans for the year.

If you’re wondering what to focus your marketing efforts on this year, this round up of small business marketing tips from me, Cornelia Luethi, will help to get the ideas and motivation flowing.

Cornelia’s copywriting secrets…

Discover Cornelia's copywriting secrets...

Discover Cornelia’s copywriting secrets…

Writing marketing and sales copy for businesses is my bread and butter… and here I share the techniques I use to get great results for my clients. (My writing work has again helped my clients win awards this year!)

Video marketing for small businesses

Video marketing is the cool new kid on the marketing block – but getting started can be a bit daunting for a small business owner.

These articles sort out the facts from the fiction, to help you get on the right path…

Website tips for small businesses

Get better results from your website with these small business marketing tips.

Get better results from your website with these small business marketing tips.

Even though websites have been around for a while now, there’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation out there.

Here are website myth-busting articles to help small business owners figure out the facts from the fiction. 🙂

Customer retention articles

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

From a series of articles I ran over a number of months, covering all the different technologies and modalities you can use for customer retention.

General marketing tips

Here’s a treasure trove of marketing articles – and best of all, it’s the kind of stuff your competitors probably don’t know about. 😉

Time management tips

The biggest marketing challenge many small business owners have is actually a time management challenge. Or in other words, there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day.

Um, well yours truly has managed to write all these marketing articles in a year; script, record and edit a bunch of marketing videos; AND launched a couple of new books. (As well as completing all my clients’ copywriting projects.) And I have just as many hours in the day as you have. 🙂

Here are my top time management tips:

Whoa, that’s a lot of small business marketing tips… and those are just the articles from 2013!

If you like these small business marketing tips, be sure to check out the eBooks written by Cornelia Luethi!

If you like these small business marketing tips, be sure to check out the eBooks written by Cornelia Luethi!

If you want more of my small business marketing tips, be sure to check out my eBooks. The content of my eBooks is totally unique (i.e. they’re written by me, Cornelia Luethi, and you won’t find the eBook content on this or any other blog).

The only way you can get the eBook content is to buy them!

So check out my eBooks! (And buying is easy, as there’s a 60-Day Money Back Guarantee)

Happy reading,

Cornelia

Cornelia Luethi BSc (Hons), DipM
Author of small business eBooks on Marketing

Shop for eBooks written by Cornelia Luethi →


PS. Want even more small business marketing tips?

Here’s the summary of 2012 articles with even more small business marketing tips!
You’ll find articles on topics such as website conversion, writing photo captions, email marketing, plus more copywriting secrets.

Why do video marketing? Video marketing strategies for small businesses…

Before you invest in a web video, make sure you're clear which video marketing strategies you're working towards.

Before you invest in a web video, make sure you’re clear which video marketing strategies you’re working towards.

“You need to put a video on your website.”

“Video marketing’s the latest thing, y’know.”

… Does that sound familiar?

Chances are you’ve heard plenty of folks saying things like that to you. I know I’ve heard plenty of such statements!

Sure, people love watching videos. Here’s some 2013 data from YouTube:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube every month.
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube – that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than last year.
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Crazy, huh?

It’s little wonder that business owners and marketers are so excited about video marketing: video is huge!

Whoa, wait a mo before you jump on the video marketing bandwagon!

Before you jump on the video marketing bandwagon, it’s important to consider where the wagon’s heading, and how much the wagon ride will cost you.

After all, video marketing represents a reasonable investment in either time (if you DIY) and/or money (if you hire professionals), so it’s worth giving your goals some thought before you get started.

I’ve seen too many business owners get all enthusiastic about video; make some random videos (based on the first ideas that popped into their head) without any clear thoughts on objectives… and then claim that “video marketing didn’t work” because they had no clear measures or goals in place. Duh!

So rather than making that kind of expensive and disappointing mistake, ask yourself what you want to achieve from your video marketing.

Here are some of the different video marketing strategies available to you…

Effective video marketing strategies

Go through this list, and see which of the following video marketing strategies would be most helpful in your business.

Or in other words: What do you want to achieve?

1. Create a more personal connection with your prospects

Type of video: This is where you make a personal introduction in the video, and briefly explain your product or service. This should take no longer than a minute.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This video selects-in your target customer, but will help to weed out the personality types you’d probably clash with. If you are a single-person service-based business, this can be gold!

Example of an intro video: I use an intro video on my Words By Cornelia copywriting website – it’s at the top of the right-hand side bar.

2. Explain your product or service to prospects

Type of video: This is where an overview is provided, either by yourself, a colleague or an actor. Alternatively, an animation-style video can be used.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: Video can help explain complex things in simple terms – and very quickly. You’ll often see these sorts of videos for software services, for example, and you get a quick demo of how the software works and what the benefits are to the user. Some things are simply easier to explain by demonstration rather than in writing… so using this type of video can increase your sales, whilst lowering the work burden of your sales team or customer services team.

This kind of video also works well for businesses where your customers visit your premises: it lets them know what to expect, and can help take the fear out of going somewhere new. It’s also a great way to highlight your company’s culture, and really bring your uniqueness to life.

Example of an explanation video: The video below features my beauty therapy client, Rubywaxx. The video was made as part of Rubywaxx being Awards finalists (and then winners), but the video is also a useful addition to the company’s ‘About Us’ web page:

3. Demonstrate your expertise to prospects or customers

Type of video: “How to” videos that provide hints and tips to viewers. Such videos may be from 30 seconds to about 5 minutes in duration, depending on the content you’re communicating. (Read about video lengths for web videos.)

The viewers may be prospects, who are in research mode, and the video can boost your sales conversion rates. Or if your existing customers can also watch the videos, it can reinforce your expertise and help prevent your customer from going to another supplier. It’s a great value-add to a business relationship.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This kind of video can also help to minimise complaints and refunds if people understand your product or service better. Plus you can also use the videos on your website, blog and newsletter: one video = many opportunities to use it!

Examples of how-to videos: This is the kind of video I’ve been making, and I’ve been using the videos on my blogs as well as on my YouTube channel.

Here’s an example:

4. Increase sales

Type of video: Sales videos, whereby there is a single call-to-action – which is usually to buy a product or service online.

Sales videos can vary enormously in length: some are just a few minutes long; others can be an hour or longer! It depends on your product or service, your offer, your sales technique, and more. You can read some facts about video lengths and drop-off rates here.

In the internet marketing world, video-based sales pages have been outperforming copy-only sales pages for some time now. I tested this myself earlier in 2013, when I launched a new eBook. I ran a split test, whereby 50% of website visitors saw a copy-only sales page, and the other half of website visitors saw the exact same page – but with a video added, right at the top of the page. The copy-only page converted at 6.98% and the sales page with the video converted at 16.67%… so yes, video marketing can and does work.

Note that that was my very first sales video, so it is a bit rough in terms of content, production and editing (I had to get the entire thing finished in a weekend!), but I’m pretty happy with that!

You can see this warts ‘n’ all sales video on the sales page for my Keyword Research eBook. 

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: If your video can keep viewers engaged for a reasonable length of time, you can go into quite a bit of detail about your product or service and how it works. Provided you don’t overstate or exaggerate the benefits, this could mean low refund rates and minimal complaints.

5. Grow your email list

Type of video: This would generally be a “how to” video, or a quick tip of some kind. In other words, something interesting to entice potential subscribers to sign up for more.

Whatever kind of video you use, you’ll need to add a call-to-action for viewers to subscribe. However, do not rely on YouTube, as YouTube viewers are unlikely to click through to your website. That means using some other kind of video hosting service – usually a paid-for service. I personally use Easy Video Suite, but there are many other options out there, such as Wistia, Vimeo, Viewbix, and more. You’ll need to figure out for yourself which service best suits your needs, your strategies – and your budget.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This kind of video can also help with the “demonstrate expertise” strategy. If you plan you video marketing strategy well, you can use one video to achieve multiple tactics.

6. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): get more organic search engine traffic

Type of video: Theoretically you can use any kind of video here, but a “how to” type video would be ideal.

However, it takes more than just uploading a video to YouTube, and/or embedding it on your website.

You see, Google can’t actually ‘see’ inside videos, so they rely on Meta data (behind-the-scenes data). This should include the keywords you’re targeting, based on keyword research.

This video Meta data is called ‘schema.org markup’ and is supported by Bing and Yahoo, as well as Google. 

Using schema.org to describe your videos will allow Google to index and show your videos in search. The main markups to add are:

  • Title 
  • Description 
  • Thumbnail (i.e. the graphic that represents the video’s content). 

While only a few properties are required, providing additional information helps Google understand your video and enhance its appearance in search results. 

You should also upload a video sitemap, and if there’s an opportunity to add a transcript, make sure it includes keywords.

For more details see: http://schema.org/ and http://schema.org/VideoObject 

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This type of video can help you achieve other video marketing strategies too. For example, you could demonstrate your expertise, or encourage conversions. Your call-to-action could be to encourage a purchase, or to grow your email subscriber list.

Pitfall to be aware of: Using YouTube is a double-edged sword for SEO. If you use YouTube, yes, your videos are likely to show up on Google. But it will be YouTube getting the website traffic, NOT your website.

You will need to use an alternative video hosting service if you want to get the traffic to your own site – but you may not get the same amount of search engine exposure as you’d get with using YouTube.

Remember, Google owns YouTube, so Google will do what’s best for their business, which may be incompatible with your own goals. You’ll need to figure out the best solution for your business goals. And now that you’re aware of the different video marketing strategies you can use, you’ll get a clearer picture of the tactics to follow.

2 video marketing strategies you should treat with caution…

Whilst video marketing does have many benefits, there are some, um, “strategies” I’d advise caution against:

“Build awareness”

“Building awareness” is a very vague objective: after all, how would you measure this?

I’d recommend choosing a video marketing strategy that’s a bit more specific and measurable.

This kind of vague strategy might be OK for a large corporation with vast budgets, but it’s a different story for small businesses that need to see a return on their marketing investment.

“Go viral”

“Going viral” is a very high risk goal. After all, everyone wants their offering to “go viral” yet only a tiny percentage of videos do go viral.

Besides, “going viral” doesn’t necessarily equate to earning lots of money. I bet that the owners of most of those funny cats on YouTube aren’t millionaires – or even close.

Instead, I think it’s far better to have a more realistic and measurable target than “going viral”. Just because “going viral” is one of today’s buzzwords, doesn’t mean that you should aspire to do it.

Next steps:

Now that you’re clear on which strategies you’d like to use video marketing for, you’ll need to consider:

  • Scripts: Video scripts need to be written in such a way to achieve the strategy you’ve chosen. The script needs to be well-paced: not to slow and not too fast.
  • Reasonable production values: This means things like the video/picture quality; audio; and lighting. You don’t need a mega budget for this, but it is important to do it properly, if you’re thinking of going down the DIY route rather than engaging professionals.
  • Video editing: Video editing is time-consuming, yet it can make the difference between a so-so video, and an awesome video. Unless you’re prepared to spend some time (and money) on learning how to do this, you might want to consider outsourcing this.
  • Video hosting: You’ll need to find the best way to host your videos. Whilst YouTube is convenient (and free), it does have a number of drawbacks, so it may not be the best solution for your business.

The technical side of video marketing is a whole separate topic. But at least now you’re clear on how video marketing can help you in your business.

Congratulations on considering the strategy first, rather than jumping straight into the technical nitty-gritty side of things. Based on my experience, this will most likely put you a step ahead of your competitors! Most small businesses dive right into the tactical stuff without considering the bigger picture – or rely on a local videographer who may be great at making videos, but not so good at actually delivering results that contribute towards business goals.

So yes, figure out which video marketing strategies align with your overall marketing goals – and then implement video marketing so it delivers tangible results to your business.

How to choose eye-catching marketing photos

When you’re choosing marketing photos to go with your copy, you need to think carefully about where you’re directing your readers’ eyeballs.

Discover why the Mona Lisa Effect is a no-no for most marketing photos, and why a Non Mona Lisa image will help your message to get across more effectively.

FREE Marketing Tips: http://wordsbycornelia.com/marketing-tips/

When you’re choosing marketing photos, there are 3 things you should look for.

1. The marketing photo should be aspirational

The photo should be positive and inspiring, so it creates an “I want that” factor.

2. If possible, use marketing photos with a person in them

People are far more drawn to photographs of people than of objects.

3. Pay careful attention to where the person in the photograph is looking

There are two main types of “people” photos:

1. The Mona Lisa Effect

This Mona Lisa style of picture, where the model is looking straight at you, is effective for magazine covers and other scenarios where the role of the picture is to get attention.

I call this style of photograph the Mona Lisa Effect, and it works well in crowded magazine stands. This is because the photos job is to make eye contact with you, so that you pick it up and buy the magazine.

So yeah, the Mona Lisa Effect is great for magazine covers. (But not so great for most marketing photos.)

2. Non-Mona Lisa

A Non-Mona Lisa photo is one where where the model is looking into a space.

What you do with that photo is to add a strong headline into that space. That way, your prospects’ eyeballs will be lured into reading your headline, as they’ll naturally follow the model’s gaze.

This is a technique that works on websites, brochures, advertisements… just about anything where you have a headline.

And this eyeball controlling technique really works! This has been tested with heatmaps based on where people are looking. So use this technique for marketing photos and really take your marketing message to the next level.

Summary

How to choose eye-catching marketing photosWhen you’re choosing marketing photos:

  1. The photograph should be aspirational and positive.
  2. It should have a person in it.
  3. The model in the photograph should be Non Mona Lisa, that is, looking into the copy space.
  4. Add a strong headline into that copy space.

This technique doesn’t take any extra time, or cost extra money, but it gets your prospects to read your message.


Next step: Discover even more ways that you can use photographs to grow your sales

Don’t risk losing sales because you’re not using marketing photographs – or you’re using the wrong type of photos.

My eBook shows you exactly how to use photos to leverage sales

Are your marketing photos making or breaking your sales?

Are your marketing photos making or breaking your sales?

Here’s what a reader says about the book:

“The book takes you through the whole process of using photos in your marketing materials, starting with how they can add impact to your copy. If you’re like me, you’ll find it fills all the gaps in your knowledge (including gaps you didn’t know were there!).

The book is crammed full of examples showing you exactly what works (and what doesn’t). It also has detailed explanations of why these techniques work.

If you’ve avoided using images in your marketing material, either because you’re more of a ‘words’ person, or don’t really think images matter or because you’re unsure how to make images look professional, then this will be the best $$ you ever spent“.
 – Juliet Fay, Wales, UK

CORLUE---eBook-Call-to-Action-Button

It’s not cheap if it never breaks even…

Don't be like Sara the Witch throwing your marketing budget down the drain - do a break even analysis before you spend a cent on advertising!

Don’t throw your marketing budget down the drain – do a break-even analysis before you spend a cent!

Recently I met a customer, JC, for the first time.

She told me: “I’ve saved thousands of dollars, thanks to you”.

How so?
(I was super curious, as I hadn’t met this lady before… she’d bought an eBook from me, and now we were meeting for her Marketing Consultation for the first time.)

JC revealed that she’d bought the Premium edition of my eBook, The Leaky Bathtub, and with that you get a break-even calculator.

This break-even calculator makes it very simple for you to work out if a marketing campaign is likely to pay for itself – or be a huge waste of money.

JC uses that break-even calculator to assess all of her campaigns

JC told me that the break-even calculator had proven to be a real eye opener as to which campaigns would be profitable, and which campaigns would be an expensive flop.

In other words, she had saved a massive amount of money on advertising campaigns that would never have worked out, and instead has been able to grow her business by investing wisely.

Little wonder that JC’s business is flourishing!

What kind of marketing campaigns can you assess with the break-even calculator?

You can assess any kind of marketing campaign with the break-even calculator. It’s particularly helpful for new customer campaigns, such as:

  • Google AdWords campaigns
  • Facebook advertising
  • Online display advertising
  • Print advertising
  • Flyers and brochures
  • Letterbox drops
  • Exhibiting at expos

The Leaky Bathtub eBook

You can use the calculator over and over again, as many times as you like.

It takes just a few moments to input the numbers, and BAM! You’ve got your result.

the-leaky-bathtub

I used the calculator myself last week…

I was curious if a Facebook advertising campaign would stack up… after all, it’s so cheap to do Facebook advertising, right?

Well, the calculator told me straight up that for this particular campaign I’d NEVER break even.

(Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean that it’s worth spending your money on, or that you’ll get a return.)

Who needs a crystal ball when you can use this tool for less? (And this will pay for itself the very first time you use it!)

For more information or to use the break-even calculator risk-free for 60 days, click here now:

The Leaky Bathtub eBook

Cornelia Luethi, author of The Leaky Bathtub, will show you how you can stop your marketing budget from leaking away.

Cornelia Luethi, author of The Leaky Bathtub, will show you how to stop your marketing budget from leaking away.

Till next time,

Cornelia

Cornelia Luethi  BSc (Hons), DipM
Author of The Leaky Bathtub

PS. Remember, you also get The Leaky Bathtub eBook… the break-even calculator is just a bonus goodie!

See more details of how The Leaky Bathtub can grow your business by saving you money

 

Announcing: How to grow your business through positive word-of-mouth

There's a lot that you can learn about customer service from a stinky fish... read on to find out more!

There’s a lot that you can learn about customer service from a stinky fish…

Wow, what great feedback I got from you, my Marketing Tips readers!

It seems that the stinky fish customer service story really hit a note with you.

After all, everyone has been on the receiving end of poor customer service at some time or another.

(And if a company has bad customer service, then all the money spent on glossy brochures and slick websites is wasted.)

How to give your customers a great story to tell about your business…

The flip side of story telling is that a good story also gets passed around.

(Yep, that’s positive marketing you can get for free!)

But how can you get your customers to proactively tell other people a positive story about your business?

There’s a methodology in generating a positive word-of-mouth story

There are specific steps you can take to give your customers a great word-of-mouth story to tell their friends. I call this giving your customers ‘Mentionitis’, because they get a buzz out of telling the story!

The Leaky Bathtub eBook guides you through this word-of-mouth methodology step by step. There are also lots of examples so you can see how the storytelling works in different industries. Invest in your copy today.

The Leaky Bathtub

Get The Leaky Bathtub today.

Till next time,

Cornelia

Cornelia Luethi  BSc (Hons), DipM
Author of The Leaky Bathtub

PS. One reader loved this book because it’s “so easy to read and understand as it’s written in plain, non-marketing guru language for us non-marketing people”.

See more details of how The Leaky Bathtub can grow your business

 

Here’s what a stinky fish can teach you about customer service…

There's a lot that you can learn about customer service from a stinky fish... read on to find out more!

There’s a lot that you can learn about customer service from a stinky fish… read on to find out more!

For years I’ve been telling clients that consistently good customer service is a far more powerful marketing (and sales) tool than anything else.

In fact, all the money spent on glossy brochures and slick websites goes down the drain if your customers have a poor purchasing experience… Something I was reminded of recently when I unwittingly bought some stinky, rotten fish at the supermarket.

Here’s what happened (in a nutshell)…

Bought fish. Opened the pack. It stank (even my dog turned its nose up at it). Too stinky to put back in the fridge – it HAD to go in the bin.

Contacted supermarket via Facebook Page… no response for several days. (Marketing lesson: if you’re on social media, you must be ready to respond and provide customer service.)

Emailed supermarket: was told I had to drive across town to return the stinky fish. Spend 45 minutes driving (worth $115 of my billable time) and a few dollars in petrol for a refund of $9.16? I don’t think so!

Was told via email that the supermarket had been notified of the rotten fish they were selling. (But was not told what action had been taken.)

Phoned supermarket to request a refund without chauffeuring rotten fish across town… I was told the store manager had to give approval for this. Eh? Doesn’t the store manager have better things to do than monitor requests for $9.16 refunds?

Bear in mind that my household spends thousands of dollars with this supermarket every year, and we aren’t in the habit of making returns. They can easily track my purchasing habits through my loyalty card number.

Anyhoo, I hadn’t heard back from the store after a few days… the call centre told me that if I wanted an update, I had to call back.

Customer service: fail!

Yet this is a large corporation than spends millions of dollars on TV advertising, direct mail, yadda yadda yadda… it’s New Zealand’s biggest supermarket chain (not a mom ‘n’ pop store).

Mega fail!

I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences a consumer.

Let’s take a look and see how a company can better handle customer complaints…

The key thing is to consider the outcomes a customer wants… But what outcomes does a customer want?

There are two outcomes you should work towards:

1. Fixing the customer’s immediate problem

Fixing the customer’s immediate problem should be relatively simple: apologise sincerely, and make restitution.

The nature of “restitution” may vary depending on the status of that customer. Yes, the restitution should always fully compensate a customer (and in a way that’s convenient to them, seeing as they’ve already been inconvenienced), but if it’s a VIP customer that’s been loyal to you for many years, you may want to go beyond the basics.

For example, with the stinky fish scenario, the ideal outcome would have been for them to quickly agree to the refund, and mail me a voucher. (I would have been happy with a $10 voucher.)

2. Fixing the wider issue

Most people care about the people around us. So with the stinky fish example, I would hate for an elderly person to buy the rotten seafood; not realise it’s rotten; and get really sick.

After all, that’s the real reason I alerted the supermarket – I’m not that fussed about my $9.16, it’s more important to me that other people don’t get sick from eating dodgy food.

Sure, the customer service centre told me that the supermarket had been notified, but that’s not quite enough. Ideally they would have gone into more detail, and told me what corrective action had been taken – e.g. the seafood counter had been examined, and all the fish from that batch had been pulled off the shelves.

The customer service issue isn’t fixed until both the immediate and wider issues are solved

Customers are left with a bad taste in their mouths if the problem isn’t fully solved.

However, many businesses make the mistake of fixing just the customer’s immediate issue… but that isn’t enough to re-establish your business as being high quality and trustworthy.

Speed is the other issue here: customers want both the immediate problem and the wider issue dealt with promptly.

If for any reason you can’t action something right away, let the customer know when you will action it – and do it. And then give them a detailed, timely update when you have rectified the issue. That’ll help restore your business’ credibility and professionalism.

What happens if you don’t put things right in this way?

Not addressing customer problems in a way that satisfies the disgruntled customer is expensive for business.

The White House Office of Consumer Affairs reckons that “news of bad customer services reaches twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience”.

I’d say that it’s more than twice, in this age of social media… depending on how connected (and verbal) someone is, it could easily be 5 or 10 times – or more. (I know for sure that the tale of my stinky fish will reach thousands of people globally!)

What’s even more worrying is that for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent. (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs.)

That makes sense: complaining to a business takes time and effort, so many people put it in the “too hard” basket. So if you get a complaint, take it seriously. It might not be important to you, but if someone’s bothered to tell you something, you need to listen. (Whether you agree or not is up to you, but remember the old adage of “the customer is always right”.)

What if the customer is a jerk?

Let’s face it, not all customers are created equal. If the customer is being unreasonable, and they’re getting you riled up, my advice would be to refund their money, and cut them loose.

A wise friend of mine told me that a small business should budget so that they can afford to walk away from difficult customers, and I think that’s wise. You don’t have to serve everyone, and if someone makes you stressed and unhappy, you don’t need to put up with that. Be prepared to give them their money back, and walk away.

But fortunately those customers are rare. It’s far better to focus on keeping your VIPs happy.

That’s the very best marketing you can do. It’s not always easy, but it will be far more effective in the long run than any expensive marketing campaigns.

Prologue: the happy ending

After a week, the supermarket contacted me by Facebook, asking for my address because the Store Manager was going to visit with a gift card.

Sure enough, the next day a $50 gift card was hand-delivered… I was staggered to say the least! (Bearing in mind that I would have been happy with a $10 voucher mailed to me.)

Bonus lesson: the sooner you act on a complaint, the cheaper it will most likely be for you to resolve.

The Manager also explained in more detail the action they’d taken regarding the rotten fish. So yeah, I’m happy again. I will resume shopping at that supermarket (though I may be buying my seafood from elsewhere…). 😉

Summary

  • News of bad customer services reaches at least twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience.
  • For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.
  • If you get a complaint:
    • Fix the customer’s immediate issue, and make restitution.
    • Fix the wider issue – and let the customer know what you’re doing.
    • Deal with complaints promptly, to nip them in the bud. (This may save you further expense down the track.)
  • Social media is a double-edged sword: if you’re using social media, ensure that problems and complaints are handled swiftly and professionally.

Why you’re wasting your time focusing on “target markets”

It's important that you have a  very specific target in mind for your marketing to be effective.

It’s important that you have a very specific target in mind for your marketing to be effective.

Knowing whom you’re talking to is crucial when you’re writing your marketing material… this is Marketing and Copywriting 101!

When writing your marketing copy, you need to be able to put yourself into your prospects’ shoes.

That way, it will help you to speak your prospects’ language, and address their specific needs and problems.

The problem is that most business owners don’t have a clear picture of their prospects…

And the reason why business owners don’t have a clear picture of what their prospects look like is because traditional marketing books and courses drone on about  “target markets”. They talk about mumbo jumbo such as “socioeconomic profiles” and “industrial segmentation” …Yawn!

Invariably, business owners respond to this mumbo jumbo by devising really broad definitions of their “target market”. These “target market” definitions are simply too vague to be practical.

Here are examples of the kind of “target market” definitions I’ve come across:

  • Flooring supplier: any home or business within a 10km radius.
  • Property manager: property investors in my catchment area.
  • Manufacturer of high quality dog treats: anyone in Auckland with a dog, with a household income over $60,000
  • IT supplier: all SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in Wellington.

These broad definitions may be well and good for the academics teaching about “target markets”, but you’ve got a business to run and sales to make.

And these broad definitions are actually going to hold you back, because the resulting marketing messages are likely to be too vague to be useful.

Vague “target market” definitions lead to weak marketing messages

The problem with these vague definitions of a “target market” is that they lead to vague and uninspiring marketing messages.

Here are some examples of marketing messages addressing a “target market”… these examples are fictional, but very typical of what I’ve come across over the years:

  • Flooring supplier: Do you have a home or business in Auckland? We can help you with all your flooring needs!
  • Property manager: Let us help you with your property management, so you have more time to spend on things you enjoy!
  • Manufacturer of high quality dog treats: Nutritious treats for your best friend!
  • IT supplier: One-stop shop for your business computer needs!

Those kinds of headlines are 100% snoozeworthy! They’re so general; they won’t grab anyone’s attention.

So you need something less theoretical and less broad when targeting – and more “real” and specific.

How to be more specific in your targeting

The reason why this concept of a target market doesn’t work is because it’s too vague. It’s so broad, that you won’t appeal to anyone.

Instead, you need to get really really specific with whom you’re targeting. And the best place to start is with your existing customer base.

Specifically, look at your top-notch, A-Grade customers.

What’s an A-Grade customer?

A-Grade customers are the ones who:

  • Spend a good amount of money with you – and are likely to do so again in the future.
  • Pay their bills on time and without haggling over the price.
  • Are a pleasure to deal with, because they’re people whose company you enjoy.
  • They are respectful of you, and you are respectful of them.
  • They may also be raving fans, and regularly send new customers your way.

Let’s look at some (fictional) examples of target profiles:

  • Flooring supplier: Alisha and Ben have just bought their first home, and it’s a “do-up” job. They put new flooring into every room, transforming a drab house into a chic home that’s ideal for entertaining their friends. So the flooring they’ve chosen is both fashionable and hardwearing and easy to clean, to suit their busy lifestyle. Alisha and Ben are about to buy a puppy, and are thinking of starting a family.
  • Property manager: Rupert has just been promoted to Sales Manager of a large corporation, and has just bought his first investment property. He has a plan to accumulate a portfolio of investment properties over the next 5 years. He’s hungry to maximise his profits and have no tenant-related headaches. Rupert wants to delegate the property management, so he can focus on his day job and earning the bonuses that’ll let him purchase more properties.
  • Manufacturer of high quality dog treats: Jane’s west highland white terrier, Lili, is her best friend. But like many dogs of her breed, Lili has skin disorders, which are triggered by certain foods. Jane wants to be able to give Lili treats, but the mainstream products make Lili sick. Jane’s discovered that Lili responds well to these dog treats, and has a standing order of treats automatically delivered each month.
  • IT supplier: Siobhan’s just hired another bookkeeper for her growing accounting business. As her business is totally reliant on computers running smoothly all the time (plus data security is important), she’s invested in on-going remote monitoring of systems, premium anti-virus software, plus online data back-ups. The supplier also visits once a month to fix any computer bugs and niggles, and checks printer supply levels, re-stocking as needed, so that Siobhan can focus on running her business.

Notice that target profiles work for all types of businesses

Defining target profiles works for business selling products and services, as well as B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) companies.

This is because your customers are always people! Even in the B2B world, buying decisions are made by real, live people with names, challenges and aspirations. (People do business with other people, not businesses.)

What do you do with the target profiles?

So you’ve identified your target profile – what happens next?

There are a number of things that you should be doing with them:

1. Target them in your copy

Have your target profile in your mind when you’re writing your marketing and promotional copy.

Think: does what you’re writing appeal to your target profile person?

Let’s take a look at the (fictional) examples again to see how this works in practice… the companies have re-written their introductory blurb to appeal to their target profiles:

  • Flooring supplier: Renovating your first home? Budget-friendly, fashion-forward flooring that’s housewarming-proof, pet-proof and baby-proof. Flooring that’ll cope with whatever life (or your kids) throw at it.
  • Property manager: New to property investment? We’ll grow your assets with property management services designed to make you richer.
  • Manufacturer of high quality dog treats: Poorly pooch? Organic, nutritionally-balanced dog treats for a healthier pet. Formulated to address common doggy difficulties, from bad breath, to itchy skin, flatulence and more – or your money back.
  • IT supplier: Never experience a computer bug again with our proactive, fixed-price maintenance services! Focus on growing your business – on computers that run faster than your competitors’.

Note: This is the high-level, condensed copy… in most cases you’d have more space to expand on that message (e.g. on a web page, or in a brochure).

The idea is for you to see how this copy is more specific (and more intriguing) than the generic target market-centric copy shown previously.

If you were the target profile for any of these examples companies, you would most certainly want to read on to find out more information. (Which is the whole idea of a headline, or introductory sentence/paragraph.)

2. Obtain (and use) testimonials

Make sure you get (good) testimonials from your target profiles, and put them on your website and in your proposal documents. Remember, like attracts like.

3. Get feedback

Have you ever had a new idea or concept for your business – but you didn’t know if it was lousy or genius? Ask your target profile for feedback.

And no, they won’t be offended… chances are they’ll be flattered to be asked! Really!

Sure, you don’t want to bug your target profile all the time about every tiny little thing, but asking them on important matters once or twice a year is absolutely fine (and a good way of keeping in contact with them, above and beyond your regular customer retention activities).

4. Keep your finger on the pulse

There are external factors (political, economic, social, technological) that create change in your business environment. You can’t change these things; rather you need to continually adapt your approach to use this change to your advantage. By having a continuous dialogue with your target profile, you’ll be well prepared to make these changes in your business.

How many target profiles should you have?

When you look at your list of A-Grade customers, chances are you may have several names on the list.

It’s good to have multiple people to approach for testimonials, feedback, and keeping your finger on the pulse.

However, when it comes to writing marketing copy, you need to pick just one target profile person. Yes, just one.

If you try and address multiple people in the one message, you’ll be back at square one, talking to the “target market” and trying to be all things to all people.

Instead, you need to pick the one target profile that is the most representative of the type of customers you’d like to have more of. You know, the profitable, big-spending ones – who are also pleasant to deal with.

Pick that person and write your marketing messages as if you were speaking to that individual directly. If it helps, pin up their name on a Post-It note on your computer to help you keep focused on that one person.

Isn’t it too narrow an approach to focus on just one target profile person?

Seriously, the sooner you move away from the “everyone is my target market” approach to being more specific, you’ll get better results in your marketing.

Because you’ll be communicating at a meaningful level, your message will actually appeal to more people.

Best of all, your message is most likely to resonate with future A-Grade customers. So not only should you be getting more enquiries and sales, but also they’ll be coming from the kind of people you want to be working with.

I challenge you to try it!

All my consulting clients that have embraced this haven’t looked back since, because it’s made a real difference in their business. It’s given them a sense of focus and direction that they were lacking – and made them feel more connected to their customers.

So go and really get to know your target profile – you’re bound to develop deeper relationships with your best customers in the process!

Summary

  • The traditional “target market” terminology is too broad to be of real use to small business owners.
  • Look at your A-Grade customers, and analyse those instead. These are your “target profiles” – a one-person target market.
  • Speak to your target profile in your marketing material.
  • Obtain (and use) testimonials from your target profile people.
  • Get feedback on business-critical decision from your target profile people before you take any further action.
  • Keep in regular contact with your target profile people so you can keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your market and industry.
  • Getting your A-Grade customers involved in this way usually deepens your relationship with them – most people will be happy (and feel honoured) to help a business that they already love!

 


Next step: more resources on target profiles…

'The Leaky Bathtub' eBook will guide you through defining your target profile step-by-step.

‘The Leaky Bathtub’ eBook will guide you through defining your target profile step-by-step.

Targeting is one of the chapters in my eBook, ‘The Leaky Bathtub – Part One: Marketing 101’.

In it you’ll find even more examples, including a suit store, a workout gym, an accountant, a website development company, a hairdresser, and a fruit and vegetable shop.

So you’ll see even more practical examples in action, to give you ideas on how to apply the target profile concept to your own business.

There are also step-by-step exercises to help you develop your own target profile in 4 steps.

The result: you’ll be far clearer on where to focus your marketing efforts!

See details of this eBook and buy online →

 

Why SMS (text messaging) for customer retention is a double-edged sword…

How to use text messaging for customer retention.

How to use text messaging for customer retention.

Since the first text message (or SMS: Short Message Service) was sent in 1992 in the UK, it’s become the most widely used data application in the world. In 2011 there were 3.6 billion active users, or 78% of all mobile phone subscribers. So yeah, text messaging is big!

(Facts ‘n’ figures are from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMS)

However, text messaging as a marketing tool is a double-edged sword…

The great thing about using text messaging as a marketing tool is that just about everyone has a cell phone. And most people have their phone nearby all the time. Thus texting is a very personalised, instant way to communicate with people… and that’s what makes it a double-edged sword.

You see, that personal connection needs trust. When you send someone a text message, it’s quite an intimate form of communication. So it’s absolutely vital that you, as a marketer, respect this intimacy.

For example, many consumers won’t tolerate receiving lots of generic promotional text messages. (Some may be happy to, but I’d say that most folks would find it annoying to get lots of promotions on their phone by SMS.) That means that if you send promotional text messages to your customers, you need to be really sensitive about their preferences. If you don’t act sensitively, you could very easily upset and alienate clients and lose their custom and referrals. Eek!

So does this mean you should never use SMS in your business?

No, not at all… you just need to be careful about it!

You see, there are some text messages that people find helpful; and other messages are annoying. (Like the promotional messages I’ve already mentioned.)

What kind of text messages do people find helpful?

The most helpful kind of text message is a reminder. For example, my beauty therapist and hairdresser send me reminders of my appointments, and I have to reply to the text message to confirm them. These reminders are really handy for me, and if I ever forget what my appointment time is, I don’t even have to open up my calendar, I can just look at my text messages.

This reminder/confirmation system is hugely advantageous for the business owners, too. Many appointment-type businesses have a problem with “no shows”, i.e. people simply not turning up to their appointment, and without letting the business know. That means that the empty appointment can’t be offered to another customer, which means downtime, which means no income in that time period (whilst still paying staff wages and overheads), which means a loss of profit. Using a text message reminder/confirmation system can drastically improve no show rates.

In that scenario, text messaging doesn’t just help with customer retention; it can make a real, measurable difference to profitability – instantly.

Personalised messages can work well too

There are a few different ways to send personalised messages. Here are some examples… and if you’ve got any of your own, I’d love to hear them, just add a Comment to this blog (below).

  • Birthday messages and promotions: If you capture clients’ birthdays, send them a congratulatory message on their special day. Businesses such as beauty therapists could even send them a special birthday offer, e.g. pop in this week and get a free manicure as a thank you for being a loyal customer. (If possible, tier the gifts so that they align with the customers’ spending levels, and better still, get them to try a new service – they may just love it and spend even more money with you in the future!)
  • Congratulations: Has your client just appeared in a newspaper, or been on the radio? Or won an Award or run a marathon? Send them a text message to say “nice job”! It’s instant; it’s personal; and it’s great for those times when you’re not sure whether to call them on the phone or not. And because text messaging is so personal, this will probably get noticed more than an email would.
  • Thanks: Maybe you’ve just had lunch with a client or strategic alliance partner. Or maybe a client came to your seminar or workshop. Send them a text message right away saying something like “Thanks for your time, it was great to catch up.” It’s thoughtful, polite and a good relationship builder. And it’s instant, too: you could say thanks in an email, but you don’t know when your contact will next be checking their emails. But they receive the text message right away.

How do you send the text messages?

Sending personal congratulatory or thank you messages is easy: you just whip out your phone, type and hit ‘send’.

But for anything more complex than that, e.g. birthday promotions, appointment reminders, and so on, it would be difficult to do manually. There are computer systems that can take care of that, and that are linked directly to your client database. (What kinds of systems? You’d need to do some research specific to your industry and to your country. A good place to start is by finding out what your competitors use.)

You also need systems to store clients’ communication preferences

Another reason why it’s a good idea to have a computer system take care of your text messaging is because you need to store your customers’ communication preferences. You see, text messaging (in most countries) is governed by anti-spam laws, similar to email marketing laws.

The smart business owner will have separate opt-in options for:

  • Email newsletters
  • SMS (text message) promotions
  • Reminders

You see, it’s highly likely that you have to offer some way of letting clients unsubscribe from SMS (text message) promotions. (Check the laws that apply to your own country.) So imagine if you just had one opt-in list which covers ALL your client communications: you’d lose that subscriber completely! Yet in reality, that subscriber may not want to receive text message promotions, but they’re happy to receive emails and reminders.

Therefore the more flexible your opt-in options, the better it will be for your business.

Another problem with SMS promotions is that they’re expensive

Text messaging is a relatively expensive way to reach your clients: here in New Zealand, it’s usually 20 cents per 160-character message. If you have a big database, the costs can quickly add up.

If you do try sending promotions by text message, be sure to:
(a) Carry out a cost/benefit analysis beforehand, so you can identify how many responses are needed to break even on the campaign.
(b) If possible, do some split testing with 2 different offers, and track the popularity of each offer.
(c) Carry out post-campaign analysis, to see which offer performed better, and whether the campaign was worthwhile or not.

Should you use “txt language” in your messages?

Gosh it can be hard to fit everything you want to say into 160 characters! (Yes, it’s another of those double-edged sword issues with SMS!) So should you use SMS language?

  • For example: Thank you for the meeting today, it was great to see you.
  • Becomes: Thx 4 t mtg 2day it was gr8 2 c u.

My thoughts: Use words in full where you can. SMS language doesn’t project a professional image (leave it for messaging your buddies), plus it can be misunderstood far too easily.

For example, there are still lots of people who think that “LOL” stands for “Lots of love”. (In case you’re wondering, it actually stands for “Laugh out loud”.

So don’t risk any misunderstandings, and be clear in your communications by using proper language!

The future of text messaging

SMS has been around for a decade now, and let’s face it, we love being able to send and receive messages instantly, all over the world.

With smartphones being so popular, the technology we use for messaging may well evolve over time. For example, we may see more location-based features in the future. And the cost of messaging may become more affordable, with the ability to send longer messages and include graphics.

It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on what’s happening, because it’s a very exciting time to be a marketer!

Summary

  • SMS (text messaging) is a very personal, intimate communications medium and you need to treat it with respect.
  • Be helpful and be personal, rather than be too promotional.
  • Reminder/confirmation messages are generally found to be useful by recipients – plus they can work wonders for your “no show” rate.
  • Messages can either be sent manually, from your phone, or can be integrated with a specialised database.
  • Be sure to observe the laws in your country regarding SMS marketing.
  • Obtain opt-in consent (adhering to the laws in your country), and if possible split out the consent between different types of electronic communications (emails, SMS, reminders, etc.)
  • If you send promotional text messages, be sure to test and measure your campaigns carefully to ensure they’re worthwhile.
  • Avoid using shorthand “txt language” in your messages: it looks unprofessional, and can lead to misunderstandings.
  • Cell phone technology is evolving rapidly, so keep an eye out for future trends and opportunities.

 

Small business marketing tips: The best articles from 2012

Happy New Year to you!

The new year is a great time for marketing planning. And whatever’s on your To Do list for the year to come, you’ll find a topic here to help you.

Here’s a round-up of the most popular small business marketing tips from Cornelia Luethi at The Leaky Bathtub from 2012… enjoy!

Hint: bookmark this page so you can easily find the small business marketing tips you need!

How to use technology to generate more repeat business…

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

… a.k.a “How to grow your beanstalk of customer loyalty”.

This series of articles looks at all the different technologies you have available to you to grow your customer retention rates:

This series on customer retention will resume in 2013 (it ain’t over yet!), so make sure you’re on the Marketing Tips email list to get the latest instalments as soon as they’re released.

More articles on email marketing…

How to use email marketing to zoom your customer retention rates.

Discover how to use email marketing to zoom your customer retention rates.

Because email marketing is such an important part of customer retention, here are all the small business marketing tips on email marketing:

How to increase your website conversions

Getting your readers to trust (and like) your website straightaway is vital for good website conversion rates. Discover how to do it.

Getting your readers to trust (and like) your website straightaway is vital for good website conversion rates. Discover how to do it.

A lot of the time when I’m engaged for website copywriting and advice, it’s about helping small businesses get better conversion rates from their website.

Here are some of my top website conversion tips:

Shhh… here are Cornelia’s copywriting secrets!

Headline writing is just one of Cornelia's many copywriting secrets you'll discover here...

Headline writing is just one of Cornelia’s many copywriting secrets you’ll discover here…

Did you know that more than 90% of my work is copywriting for clients – and that I often have a waiting list for my services?

(I have a waiting list because I’ve earned a good reputation for getting great results for my clients. Business owners would rather wait for me than make a wrong marketing move.)

Here are some of my most important copywriting tips and secrets…

How (and why) should you write photo captions?

Photo captions are twice as likely to be read as the body copy... so it's a no-brainer that you should always use (good) photo captions.

Photo captions are twice as likely to be read as the body copy… so it’s a no-brainer that you should always use (good) photo captions.

I have a bee in my proverbial bonnet about photograph captions (understatement!).

In the next set of small business marketing tips, you’ll discover why you absolutely must use photo captions in all your marketing.

There are also step-by-step guides that show you how  to write good photo captions:

Whoa, that’s a lot of small business marketing tips… and those are just the articles from 2012!

If you like these articles, be sure to check out the eBooks written by Cornelia Luethi!

If you like these articles, be sure to check out the eBooks written by Cornelia Luethi!

If you want more of my small business marketing tips, be sure to check out my eBooks. The content of eBooks is totally unique (i.e. they’re written by me, Cornelia Luethi, and you won’t find the eBook content on this or any other blog).

The only way you can get the eBook content is to buy them!

So check out my eBooks! (And buying is easy, as there’s a 60-Day Money Back Guarantee)

Happy reading,

Cornelia

Cornelia Luethi BSc (Hons), DipM
Author of small business eBooks on Marketing

Shop for eBooks written by Cornelia Luethi →

Customer retention doesn’t happen by itself: How to get your customers to climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty

In the ideal world we’d like our customers to come back to us again and again… after all, customers are the lifeblood of any business. No customers = no business!

But don’t customers come back anyway?

No! 68% of customers defect through perceived indifference:

Customer retention campaigns are vital, so that you don't lose 68% of clients through 'perceived indifference'.

Customer retention campaigns are vital, so that you don’t lose 68% of clients through ‘perceived indifference’.

We have to put time, effort and resources into ensuring our customers come back, and that’s why customer retention campaigns are so important.

Is it really worth putting in this effort into repeat business?

Yes, absolutely! It’s 6 or 7 times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. So if you need to be careful about your marketing expenditure (and which small business doesn’t!), then it makes sense to focus on your customer retention campaigns. Not only can it mean more repeat business, but also more referrals.

Why customer retention campaigns can boost your word of mouth referrals

If you’re regularly contacting your best customers in a helpful, proactive way, chances are they’ll be impressed by your care and attention. They’ll feel valued and appreciated… and that means that they’re likely to tell all their friends about your business too. This can transform many customers into being Advocates or Raving Fans, who’ll do your marketing for you.

In short, you’re helping your clients climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty. (This is a concept covered in my book ‘The Leaky Bathtub‘.)

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

The key to customer retention is to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.

Notice the topics of customer retention and customer loyalty are very much related. Why? Because it takes a happy, satisfied customer to become an advocate or raving fan.

Let’s take quick look at the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty

Most of these levels are fairly self-explanatory. The one thing that does tend to surprise business owners is the ‘Shopper’. That is, that someone who’s bought from you once is not a customer – they are just trying you out.

If you have a lot of shoppers, you have a problem, and marketing alone won’t fix this. You need to ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your product/service of an adequate standard?
  • Is your product/service priced at a level to match its quality?
  • How good and consistent is your customer service?
  • Are you regularly maintaining contact with your clients? Not just to sell them more, but in a way that adds value and makes them feel appreciated?

Assuming that you’re happy with your answers to those questions, you can now focus on how to get your clients to climb that magic beanstalk of loyalty.

Clients won’t climb this magic beanstalk of loyalty by themselves

Although you might get some raving fans without trying, most clients need a little more encouragement to climb this magic beanstalk of customer loyalty. They need a reason to climb it, and it’s your job to give them those reasons.

Not all clients have a head for heights

Even if you do all the right things, not all clients will climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty. It’s impossible to convince everyone to be a raving fan. For some people, it’s simply not part of their personality to gush and enthuse about other businesses.

Or for others, maybe the fact that they use your product or service is their little secret that’s very personal to them. It doesn’t mean they don’t love what you do, it’s just that they want to keep it to themselves.

And that’s okay: they’ll appreciate that you’re keeping in touch with them anyway, and will help to ensure that they’ll remain a loyal customer. They may climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty as far as ‘Member’ level, and that’s fine too.

Besides, so what if a certain percentage of clients don’t climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty all the way to the top? That’s okay too, because many others will – provided you give them a reason to climb.

How to get your clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty

The good news is that you have lots of tools and media to encourage your clients to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty. And many of these are low cost, too.

Here are the different media you have available to you to help you with your customer retention (and to get clients to climb the magic beanstalk of loyalty):

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Mail
  • Phone
  • Face-to-face

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about each of these five media, so you can see how to use these tools, their pluses, and their negative aspects.

What you need to know about these different customer retention media

These media vary in terms of effectiveness, and you need to be aware of this. I’ve seen far too many business owners use just one tool (or maybe two tools), and think that’s enough.

For your message to really get through, you need to be using as many of these media as you can, and as effectively as you can. People are incredibly busy these days, and if you use just one medium, your business will appear flat and one-dimensional. The more media you use, the more multi-dimensional and sparkling your business will appear!

You need to nurture your magic beanstalk of loyalty all year round

For your customer retention campaigns to work, you need to implement them all year round. After all, you can’t water magic beans just once or twice a year and expect them to grow: you need to water them regularly. Same with your marketing campaigns; you need to tend to them regularly.

That’s why it’s vital that you make a marketing plan for the year, which includes regular customer retention campaigns. And then diarise these campaigns to make sure they actually happen.

Here’s an example as to what a solopreneur might do to encourage customer retention:

  • Social media: updates five times a week
  • Email: monthly email newsletters
  • Mail: send Christmas cards plus a mid-year mailing
  • Phone: call two or more clients each week
  • Face-to-face: arrange a catch-up with your top clients every quarter or every six months.

We’ll cover each of these media in more detail over the coming weeks, but that gives you an overview of how you can use multiple media without getting overwhelmed.

Summary

  • To get repeat business, you need to actively work on your customer retention campaigns, so that clients feel valued.
  • It’s 6 or 7 times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.
  • Customer retention is strongly linked to customer loyalty.
  • There are various different levels of customer loyalty; your job is to give clients a reason to climb the magic beanstalk of customer loyalty.
  • There are 5 key media to help you with your customer retention/loyalty:
    1. Social media
    2. Email
    3. Mail
    4. Phone
    5. Face-to-face
  • You need to have a year-round plan to make sure you’re continually at front-of mind with your clients.

 

Why article writing is the reluctant marketer’s best friend

Ugh. There it is. Scrawled at the bottom of your To Do list: “Marketing”.

Just the sight of it makes your heart sink.

Ah well, you tell yourself, you’ll get round to that once you’ve done everything else on your list.

Of course, that dreaded marketing task never gets completed!

This is a familiar scenario for many small business owners: even though they realise that marketing is important, they don’t enjoy it and find it time-consuming and frustrating.

The good news is that there’s a highly effective marketing tactic that’s quick and time-saving

Time-saving marketing? Is it possible? Yes – if you use articles as part of your marketing tactics.

Articles? Why use articles?

Articles are a wonderful marketing technique, because one article can be used in many different ways:

Article writing is a smart marketing tool, because you can use the one article in so many different ways.

Article writing is a smart marketing tool, because you can use the one article in so many different ways.

1. Newsletter content

Include the article in your newsletter as it’ll remind existing clients of your expertise. Good quality articles add value to the relationship with your clients, and put you ahead of your competitors.

If you regularly send your clients quality articles, in time it will help to increase both your customer retention and word-of-mouth referral rates.

2. Website and blog articles

Having an informational article on your website or blog will be appreciated by both your readers. These readers could be existing clients, or they might be prospects who are umming and ahhing about contacting you. A meaningful article might just prompt them into taking action.

Customers and prospects aren’t the only ones who’ll appreciate your articles: so will the search engines. They rate websites that are rich with unique, high quality information, and if you regularly add well-written articles, you should see your website rankings increase over time.

3. Social media updates

Once the article is on your website or blog, it’s a doddle to link to it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other social media network. It can be a good way of driving more traffic to your website.

Seeing your article on social media sites not only reminds existing clients of your expertise (and help your customer retention rate), but it may even introduce new prospects to your business

4. Free reports and eBooks

What do you call a collection of articles? It’s a book! You could put your content into an eBook format, and either sell it online, or give it away to clients and prospects.

5. Information sheets

Put your articles into an Information Sheet format with your logo on the front, and all your contact details in the footer of each page. You can then give these Information Sheets to prospects at sales meetings, or send a PDF copy after the sales meeting.

By adding value in this way, and proving your expertise, this inexpensive method can boost your sales conversion rates.

6. Guest blogging

Other websites and blogs are always hungry for content, and if you can get your article in front of a targeted, quality audience, it can (a) drive more traffic to your own website, and (b) introduce new prospects to your business.

There are various ways to make this work, but the most important thing is that you edit the article (and its headline) before you post it elsewhere. Remember how I said in point 2 that search engines like unique content? The search engines actually downgrade sites that have ‘duplicate content’. So if you get the opportunity to post your work elsewhere, make sure that you edit it – and that the article or byline includes a link to your own website!

But what if you don’t like writing – let alone article writing?

Many people who don’t enjoy writing are great at talking. If that sounds like you, dictate your article: you can either use speech recognition software, or else get a secretarial service (such as a Virtual Assistant) to type up your dictated article.

Your other option is to get a copywriter to write your articles for you. Professional article writing is worth the investment, as the articles bring so many different benefits to your business over an extended period of time.

Summary

Article writing is a powerful marketing tactic because one article can be used in so many different ways:

  • Newsletters
  • Website and blog articles
  • Social media updates
  • Free reports and ebooks
  • Guest blogging

A marketing tactic that helps with customer retention, referral rates and introduces new customers to your business – what’s not to love?! Article writing is an investment that can yield you returns for a long time to come.

 


PS. Yes, I can help you with article writing!

Don't enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Don’t enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Read more about  copywriting services from Cornelia Luethi at The Leaky Bathtub.

“Cornelia writes the text for our newsletters and some website updates. She did a great job of taking our rambling thoughts and turning them into professional, easy to read copy. We’ve had a good reaction and it has had the desired effect of prompting some existing clients into starting new projects with us.”   – Nigel Smith, Transformer Design