Developing Sticky Customers

The most expensive element of marketing is gaining new customers. First, you need awareness of your business and what you do. Second, creating and communicating your competitive advantage. Finally, converting that consideration into activation. Three steps before any revenue is created.

That’s why sticky customers are so valuable. Those who already know your product and value and will continue to bring sales over the years. So, what are you doing to enhance your “stickiness”?

1. Be a Hero! Great customer service is dying, especially in retail. Engage and help your customers. Be a solution to their problem. If you have a retail store, greet your customers and ask what they are looking to buy. Not only does this allow you to help guide them (solution) to solve their needs, it also offers a chance to build the ticket with other items to complete their project, ensemble, etc.

2. Keep the conversation going. Contact them after the sale to ensure satisfaction. If they have an issue, solve it! Everyone has a story about how a company ignored a problem after purchase of a product, or worse.

3. Develop some sort of loyalty program. It can be a points system, special pricing, special offerings, appreciation party. Find an impactful, appropriate program that works for your product category. As you develop it, ensure that it has value and helps lead to incremental sales. It’s part of loving your customers.

4. Ongoing subscriptions. Can you create an offer that allows monthly/weekly ongoing purchases? Presell that offer for 6 months/one year/automatic renewal and generate ongoing revenue!

5. Create a newsletter. By having an ongoing messaging, you stay fresh in your customers mind. Otherwise they can be swayed by a competitor, or simply forget about you (people have busy lives!). But commit to regular messaging. Many times, a company starts the newsletter and then it dies because other issues come up. Assign this responsibility to a reliable creative person, or outsource it. Make it entertaining as well as informative. Don’t forget an offer to generate return traffic.

These are a few idea starters. It will work best after an analysis of your business trends and a strategic marketing plan to sell your best features and most profitable programs/items.
This is guaranteed the most profitable marketing you can do…maintain your customers and continue activating them.

Boost Business… Strategic Marketing.

Listen, Do You Want to Know A Secret?

I was an early adopter of XM Radio and really appreciate the diverse programming available. Last month they added a Beatles channel and I since have had the music of the Fab Four front of mind. So yesterday I heard a song that related to my obsession with discovering customer motivations and desires.
“Listen, do you want to know a secret?” Key to our business success is discovering the pain points of our current and potential customers, then delivering workable solutions. For many, listening has become a lost art. If you can develop a conversation and truly LISTEN, many times you will hear “secret” problems, desires and open a door that can lead to break through solutions to complex business problems. In a carefully guided conversation discussing a client’s business processes nuggets of information can be discovered that can lead to “a ha” learnings. Self discovery is so much easier with an outside partner to see the issues an owner has been “stepping over” for sometimes years. As a consultant in the discovery phase, LISTEN, you might learn a secret.
Uncovering the end user’s motivations and unlocking the triggers to their motivations and desires is led by listening as well as observing. Less talking about your offerings and listening to people is what leads to discovery. As a friend used to say “it’s hard to hear when your mouth is open”.
When working with a new client, I like to start with some philosophical questions along with the basics. Why did you get into this business? What was the best promotion/event you’ve done? How do you rate success? Do you run cash flow projections? What was the happiest day you remember since running the business? These are not always easy questions, to get answers shut up and listen. Don’t fill the quiet with follow up questions unless they give quick, shallow responses. We look to find long term satisfaction as well as short term success. If you want to know a secret, listen.
If you want to discuss more, reach out. We’ll talk…and listen.

Ready, Fire, Aim…(oops)

Constant demands, staff needing answers, upset customer, bills to pay, renew insurance. This is a typical day for a Small Business owner. Then you realize sales are softening, need to do something. So you do……something. Does it target your primary customer base? Does it reinforce your ideal brand message? Does it drive profitable sales? Is this a good ROI for your marketing spend?

Wouldn’t it be smarter to schedule time to…review your business to discover the best profit drivers and best practices, then use that ammo to drive home a tuned message to your primary target? In a small business it is easy to let the business run you.

The key to successful marketing is to first truly understand your “reason for being” in your customers mind.. Why do your happy customers do business with you? Why do they choose you? WHO is your target? The more you can define the characteristics of your ideal customer, the more targeted your spending will be with the greatest return on your marketing dollar.

Just as important to your financial success is to discover the profit drivers in your business. Many of the small businesses I work with sell a variety of items/services, but do not find time to analyze the business to find the 10-20% of their offerings that generate 80% of their profits. If you don’t yet know how to drill down on your financials to find this information, please find a consultant or accountant to help you find this vital information. Find out where the most profits comes from and do more of it! It sounds simple, but what you “think” you know, is many times different from the actual sales and profit margins learned by studying your financials.

Ready – This should be the main use of your time spent on marketing. Analyzing both your business and the marketplace to define your ideal customer profile as finite as possible. Find your niche and what message gives you superiority above your competition. Set your budgets.

Aim – Sell your best performing products (most return – responsive to your target customers and profitable). Review and insure that the message reinforces your brand message and personality. Plan to spend enough time to thoroughly understand where you are aiming.

Only then – Fire! (and measure your results, so you can aim better next time)
In a small, slim staffed business we can easily get caught up in the “urgent, not important” issues, feel backed into a corner and then feel a need to “do something”. Who has time to analyze your primary customer, product mix, define your powerful brand positioning message, or your true brand essence? You think you can’t afford for someone to help you, or you don’t have time. But, a good “coach” can be the best investment you make, helping focus your efforts on energy that moves. You don’t have to have a full service marketing agency with added overhead costs, these days an experienced, proven marketing expert can help you focus your message enabling much more firepower for your advertising dollar, at an affordable cost. You pay for expert accounting and legal advice, why wouldn’t you hire a reasonably priced marketing expert as well?

Most entrepreneurs are challenged to find the time and knowledge to complete the analysis (Ready, Aim). Consider hiring someone who can help you so that your marketing efforts can “Work Smarter, Not Harder”

A great shot takes planning, AIM well and save your ammo.

Are you running your business or is it running you?

Owning/running a business is great!  Except when it isn’t.

The thrill of owning your own business is exhilarating in the beginning.  You start your business with goals, a plan of action and budgets.   As the business grows, the entrepreneur encounters new challenges as well as opportunities they hadn’t anticipated. This can create time management issues, a loss of goal focus and ultimately, stress.  At these times the FUN of running your own business can impact the rest of your life, socially and personally.

What to do when “the thrill is gone” and the pressures of the business are starting to overwhelm you?  You have a passion for and deep knowledge of the product you sell, but you may need help in the mechanics of business: financial analysis, marketing and sales.

Business coaching as a category is booming across the country as entrepreneurs and owners realize the value of outside assistance.  Foremost, it is extremely difficult to gain an objective view of your business from the inside, especially regarding marketing.

Just a few ways a Business Coach can help –

  1. A fresh look at your business, with new eyes and an outsiders (customers) viewpoint. Reviewing your successes and challenges with a clear vision.
  2. Brainstorm new ideas, concepts, based on a broad and objective viewpoint, not stuck in “what we’ve always done”.
  3. Help set realistic goals…and create dashboards to measure results toward the goals.
  4. A sounding board to bounce ideas and fine tune the strategies and tactics to boost sales and improve your margins. Especially relevant for HR issues, to filter out emotions and help find the “hard answers” on personnel.
  5. Advice from someone who has “been there, done that”. Learn from the lessons of others, their successes and setbacks.
Help is available, it is a strength to seek out a mentor to help you grow to your fullest success.
Let’s get started and boost your business and your life.

David Hays


Could you use a Business Coach?

Are you feeling the pressure of business success?  Have you realized unexpected challenges?  Are you ready for someone to help you find the ideal path for success?  Do you just need some relief from the stress?  Are you looking for answers and encouragement?

Successful business owners all had someone to help them along the way.  Either a former supervisor, family member or knowledgeable friend, an experienced person who helped them see through the “cloud” of distractions and naysayers to focus on the core elements of their business.  An outside advisor can bring a clean vision of your business and quickly spot the opportunities and danger points.  The “view from 30,000 feet” will overlook all the clutter that running the business comes with and can see plot the course to success.  A good business coach has already traveled the road to victory and has survived similar problems along the way.  Why not use their experience, good and bad, rather than learn it for yourself, the painful and expensive way?

Daily “clutter” can hide the problems and solutions in your business. Clutter comes from short-term finances, employees, family, ego, regulators, vendors, etc.  Whatever the issue, a good business coach will help you discover and overcome the issues.  Sometimes it is a simple “blinding glimpse of the obvious” that is not possible to see up close, but clearly visible from a new set of eyes. Or discovering proven processes that identify problems and solutions to increase revenues and profits.

If you are ready to be challenged about your company, if you don’t have all the answers but are ready to find ways to grow, if you need the support and encouragement from an advisor, you are ready for a business coach.  Grow your support team, grow your business, improve your life.  Sound good?

Even the “Dream Team” of the best players in the world needed a coach to keep them focused and efficient.  Consider a Coach and learn to live with less stress.  The right business coach will be rocket fuel for your business.

If you don’t water them, they will die

Lessons from Election Night

OK, first of all, this is not political.  But I think there is a business/marketing learning to be had from this year’s election.  The TV pundits gave the upstart virtually no chance, but at the end of the night, the states came in and Trump “upset” the experts to win the night.

In the aftermath, the analysts actually spoke to the voters and found that the preconceived notions and past habits changed, but only one side seemed to understand the opportunity. Voters there felt neglected and forgotten.

Thus the lesson – Are you still loving your loyal customers or taking them for granted?

The business world is littered with companies that didn’t adapt when a disrupter changed the playing field.  Where the biggest share of efforts are spent on gaining new customers to grow market share, neglect of your core will result in the slow erosion of your most profitable customers.

What is your business’s loyalty program?  How are you reaching out to ‘love’ your customers?  Do you have any real idea what your base thinks about your customer service?  If you are just assuming, you don’t really know.

Voting day in business is every day.  If you are not satisfying your core consumers, they are waiting for some sweet talker to win them over.

Don’t just talk the talk, define measurement systems to ensure your loyalty with the core and keep nurturing them.

Bricks & Mortar’s Secret Weapon

If you own a local retail business I know you are tired of the constant message that “brick and mortar stores are dying”?  Let’s kick that message to the curb and focus on your business…and win.

We know what a virtual, or web store means, but what is a simple term for a bricks and mortar store?  For now, let’s call it a “real” store.

Like many things you see on the internet, complex issues get distilled to a simple factoid, usually in order to get you to click further.   But the complete story needs more digging.  Sure, the major chains and big box stores are losing share to the web.  Why?  They are usually trying to complete on the same playing field: Price and selection.  Your local small business “real store” surely can’t keep up with the lower cost virtual stores.  Shopping centers are filled with the ghosts of those who tried.  DON’T DO IT!

The retail sales landscape is truly a battlefield.  A great general will tell you that confronting a larger, well armed enemy head on is suicide.  The path to victory is by outflanking the enemy, finding their weak point and focusing your efforts on that weakest link.  For virtual companies, that is customer service. Have you tried to contact a web based sales company on the phone?  Assuming you finally go through all the phone prompts, then sit through the awful hold music, then get to someone whom English is definitely a second language, congratulations!  Then you hope they have a script that will answer your problem, not just frustrate you even more.  They are not allowed to think and solve problems unless it is on the approved script in front of them.  The latest attempt at “customer service” is the chat pop up.  But if you have experienced these, you can tell that technology created automated scripts for selected questions.  Nice try, but a real thinking in store person can form a bond that the computer can’t compete with.

The secret weapon?  Love your Customer!

Now, you can’t give this lip service, you must deliver.  “How can I help you?”  and mean it.  How many times have you gone into a store and the employees seem reluctant to make eye contact?  “Oh my gosh, if I just hide, or stay talking to my workmates, maybe they will ignore me.”  Then you find the store (usually local, owner occupied) that greets you as you enter, and asks “May I help you?”  Isn’t that just heaven?  Customer Appreciation shouldn’t just be the name of a sale, it needs to be lived every day!

Great customer service leads to the best prize a store owner can get: a loyal customer.  Get that person on your side and you will reap the most effective and cheapest marketing available…word of mouth recommendations.  Step two: create a loyalty program.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge reward, but the combination of great customer service and some loyalty program is extremely valuable.  Further, if you invest in data collection about your customers, and offer targeted rewards, it becomes a multiplier.  But the public is not stupid.  A loyalty program without great customer service will fall flat.

Sure, most businesses will say “our customer service is great. We care about our customers.”  But are you truly delivering on that promise?  Sure your crew is fantastic when you walk in the door, but do they deliver that same experience every hour, every day, with every customer?  You need metrics to discover.  If you need some help, just call us, we have processes to review and improve your crew.

Can you share your great customer service examples, and great loyalty programs?

The secret weapon is your staff.  Train them, monitor them, love them, and encourage them to love your customers.  That emotionless website can’t compete.

Digital Strategy Success starts with Strategy

The marketing world is abuzz with “What is your Digital Strategy”!   Digital has been the great disrupter in media.  Old print has had to adapt, as hard copy media circulation has cratered.  Broadcast is struggling to find ways to maintain relevancy and monetize their existing content.  Meanwhile, digital media firms have grown, focusing on keywords, SEO, programmatic, all about delivering your message to the most defined target audience.  Great!  Waste (paying to deliver your message to non-target consumers) has been a long term issue for advertisers.

But with all this focus on Digital, it seems that STRATEGY has gotten lost in the noise.

Digital is terrific, but it’s just media.  The Strategic message that defines your products benefits is what sells.  In my previous ad agency days, a big focus was on “award winning” creative.  We’ve all seen really cool looking/funny/emotional advertising, but can’t remember what the ad was trying to sell. Creative, award winning ads that deliver the refined brand strategy kick ass not only on rewards, but also with results!

Sure, all businesses need to have a web site these days.  Ideally, a social marketing presence as well.  But you don’t just need a list of what you offer and a list of locations/purchase point.  You need to sell your competitive advantage.  If you are retail, why do your customers shop with you.  Don’t know?  You need to find out.  Equally important, why don’t previous customers come back?  What you do not deliver can be as telling as what you do deliver.  Hey, this doesn’t mean should try to deliver on everything that each person is looking for.  You won’t be special.  You need to be special…unique.  It’s almost always more successful to be the perceived leader in what you do, instead of another company in a crowded category.

Get the Strategy right – what problem does your product solve- and then the digital delivery can be very powerful.  But, the foundation is the strategic message. Spend the time and funds on making sure your strategic marketing message is powerful and deliverable.  Yes, it takes time and some funding to develop, refine, then creatively execute.  But that will be the best return you invest in.

Content is king.  Yep, make sure the content is on target.  All messaging (web site, programmatic, video, etc.) should be reinforcing the same brand promise.

Social media is great, but it is a mistake to just “do it”.  It should be on strategy for your brand.  Don’t confuse a digital agency with a strategic consultant.  Make you have the right strategy first, then execute.

Let me know if you need some help, or find an experience Brand Strategist you trust to assist you.  Independent, outside counsel is advised to give you “new eyes” on your business and refine your brand promise to a simple, effective message.

Now, let’s go look at some silly cat videos on YouTube.