An Important Message from…You

28 10 2011

If your business is looking for a great way to relay important messages and create a favorable impression of your company, consider a “message from the owner” (or president, CEO, etc.). Here are a few tips to create a “message” that speaks for itself:

  • In addition to creating a standard “mission statement” message from the owner, consider offering regular messages via a company website, newsletter, blog, sales letter, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc. to communicate new initiatives, announce new products, or simply offer an insightful perspective on a relevant subject.
  • Include a photo of the owner/president/CEO. Readers feel more of a connection when they can put a face with a name.
  • While the messaging is most effective when it comes from the owner him/herself, consider help from a member of your communications team for message ideas, editing, and wordsmith help.
  • In addition to sharing a message with customers, a message from the owner is also a great way to create a sense of community within an organization and narrow the gap between the owner and coworkers.
  • Encourage feedback and open lines of communication whenever possible. A forum where customers or coworkers can ask questions and receive a response from the owner can be a powerful marketing tool. Consider highlighting questions and responses as topics for the messages.

Try Before You Buy

25 10 2011

What better way to offer a glimpse into your quality products, services, and support than with a risk-free trial or evaluation? Depending on your product, a free trial is not only an effective marketing tool to increase interest and expand your customer base, but it also helps establish rapport with potential customers and shows them your product or service is valuable and worth purchasing. Here are a few tips for offering a free trial:

  • Set a clear time frame for your trial offer, such as a 30 or 60-day evaluation period.
  • Consider a first-time discount if the user decides to purchase from you, as well as a referral program that offers coupons with a trial to pass along to friends.
  • Avoid scaring away potential customers by asking only for necessary information when signing up for the free trial.
  • Don’t spam those who provide information. Offer an option to sign up for promotions if they are interested.
  • Notify users before the trial ends to avoid sharp cutoffs or automatic billing.
  • Lastly, think of a free trial program as a way to improve your products or services. You can gain valuable feedback from those who choose not to purchase from you.

Increase Sales by Becoming a Detective

21 10 2011

If sales of your products and services have been diving off a cliff or are just plain flat, there are other paths to improvement besides simply reducing prices. To find the clues that lead to those answers, you will need to do a little detective work.

Good detectives don’t typically rely on just luck and good fortune to solve a crime. Neither can you when you’re looking for answers to the crime of slow sales. Detectives follow a certain protocol to try and find the criminal. You must also follow certain steps to find what you are looking for.

Gather the evidence.
The first step that a detective takes is to carefully collect evidence. A clever detective tries to recreate the crime scene and see it through the eyes of the suspect. Slow sales leave a similar trail of clues which can be collected and analyzed. Look at your business through the eyes of your customers and prospects. What unnecessary obstacles and hassles are you unwittingly creating that stop a prospect from doing business with you? Work to remove any unnecessary conditions and restrictions that are making your customers jump through hoops to do business with you.

Good cop, bad cop
You have undoubtedly heard about or seen on TV crime dramas the technique known as “good cop, bad cop.” After the suspect is brought in for questioning, a “bad” cop tries to intimidate the suspect while the “good” cop tries to gain his trust so he spills the beans and admits to the crime. In a business setting, you must be able to present your company as the “good cop.” If you can become the trusted source for your customer, sales leads will begin beating a path to your door.

Persistence is key.
Detectives with long and successful careers typically have one common trait — they don’t give up easily. In tough economic conditions, offering great service and products is no longer enough. It is expected…and only the starting point. The slow economy has undoubtedly played a role in slow sales for some companies. But there are companies that have experienced continuous sales growth, even during the recession. What is the difference? These companies have a very good understanding of their customers. By staying close to their customers, these companies have learned to adapt as needed and stay ahead of the curve by offering what their customers need and want.

Don’t overlook the details.
Detectives solve crimes by doing their homework first and then completing all the nitty-gritty, unglamorous tasks that the TV crime dramas don’t show. Great companies survey their customers to find out what they need and then over-deliver on what they promise. When you can do that, you will be able to lock up slow sales forever and throw away the key.

Jared from Subway Has Important Marketing Advice For You

18 10 2011

So what in the world could a pitchman for sub sandwiches be able to teach you about marketing? As it turns out, quite a bit!

Jared’s story about how he lost weight while eating Subway sandwiches has some important marketing lessons that should not go unnoticed. With a little thought and analysis, you can choose the areas where you can apply these lessons to your business.

Lesson number one — Jared has an intriguing story that people become curious to learn more about. This story line is interesting and different, which helps it stand out from the barrage of boring, yawn-inspiring advertisements. Think about how you can create a story around your products, services, and brand. Strive for real human interest, not just simple feature descriptions.

Lesson number two — Jared’s story has an emotional appeal to it. The story is believable, and people become engaged because we all like to pull for underdogs. Every human being makes daily purchasing decisions with emotional aspects to them. If you can infuse your brand story with believable emotional appeal, you will have a distinct advantage over your competition.

Lesson number three — Jared provides visual proof that eating at Subway has helped him take off the pounds. As much as possible and in as many areas as possible, you must provide testimonials and proof in your marketing that reassure your audience how your products and services will work for them, too.

Lesson number four — The Jared campaign has been running for a long time now. Surely, the franchisees, employees, corporate management, and even the ad agency handling the account must be getting sick and tired of seeing the Jared ads. Many companies, large and small, mistakenly stop a successful marketing campaign simply because they themselves are tired of it, even though their audience is still responding. If you need entertainment, go to the movies. If you want to make money, continue running a successful ad until your market stops responding to it and the campaign stops producing results.

Lesson number five — This lesson is perhaps the most important for you and your company. Subway makes sandwiches. Sure it has a little different twist, but it is similar to thousands of other sub shops across the country. One of the things that has helped it stand apart and enjoy growing sales is that Subway was the first within its category to take its product (subs) and reposition it as a health food. Through Jared’s story, Subway took a sub sandwich and turned it into a diet product. With one simple story, the company was able to tie into the healthy eating wave. The product didn’t change much, but the story around the product did. Now how brilliant is that?

So how can you reposition what you currently sell into something that can increase the value proposition without completely recreating it? Jared and Subway have provided a path. Create a story with emotional appeal that repositions you and your business in the minds of your target audience. If Subway can turn bread and sandwich meat into a diet pill, surely you can come up with something.

How to Build a Powerful Brand

14 10 2011

The word branding began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. Unless you are selling cattle, the branding we are referring to here is a little different. Wikipedia defines it this way: A brand can take many forms, including a name, sign, symbol, color combination, or slogan. The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity — it affects the personality of a product, company or service.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers.”

If you ask someone to give an example of a brand, the most likely answers will be: Coca-Cola, Disney, Starbucks, Google, and Apple, among a few select others. While most companies don’t have the budgets and resources to build brand awareness like these large corporations do, it is still important to understand why building a brand is important for companies of every size.

What are the advantages of building a brand name?

Let’s take a look at a few examples. People willingly and gladly pay four dollars for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, when they could pay a lot less at many other places. Coke products have been imitated by many companies, yet they can still charge a healthy premium over the other brands. Apple has built legions of loyal customers who stay in line overnight to be the first ones to purchase their latest products. That is the power of having a brand name.

Still think this only applies to big companies? Think again. Every company has a brand of some sort. Your brand is your reputation in the marketplace, and it is being defined every day by your customers, your prospects, and even your competitors.

How do you build your brand?

Fulfill the promises that your company makes. Every time. Each time you do this successfully, you are building your brand. When you do this consistently over time, you build trust. Trust leads to word of mouth. Word of mouth leads to more customers and longevity. Do that long enough, and your company will be the next overnight sensation with a powerful brand name everyone can remember.

Turn Callers Into Customers with Messaging On Hold

11 10 2011

Think about the last time you called a business and were put on hold. Dead air can make a 30-second wait feel like forever. The majority of callers will hang up if they feel like they’ve been on hold too long, and many of them will never call back.

On-hold messaging is a great way to decrease caller hang-up by entertaining callers and making their wait feel much shorter. It’s also a creative way to inform and educate callers. Many of your customers aren’t aware of the variety of products or services you offer. On-hold messaging provides an easy marketing opportunity to target customers or prospects that have already shown interest by calling your business.

Here are a few ways to get the most out of your on-hold messaging:

  • Inform callers about upcoming sales or promotions.
  • Advertise tradeshows, open houses, and other events.
  • Educate callers about new products and services.
  • Highlight industry resources and other helpful websites, articles, etc.
  • Provide fun facts and intriguing trivia questions and answers to get the listener thinking.
  • Remind callers about upcoming holidays and important events.

While nobody likes getting put on hold, well-produced messaging can keep your callers entertained and informed while they wait.

Is Your Company Tagline Boring Your Customers?

7 10 2011

A tagline is a short, descriptive phrase used alongside a company logo to drive home the message and promise of a brand. If your tagline is getting long in the tooth or does not resonate any longer, it may be time to take a look at upgrading it. Even big brands like Coca-Cola change their tagline when it needs reinvigorating. It’s never too late to change a tired tagline.

Eric Swartz of the Byline Group suggests sitting down and asking yourself some core questions about your company:

  • Who are you?
  • What are your values?
  • What is your vision?
  • How would you describe your corporate culture?
  • What nouns and adjectives would you use to convey your brand’s promise and its solution?
  • What words might your customers use to describe your company?
  • Are there any misconceptions about your company that need to be cleared up?

(More information here: Slogans That Are the Real Thing)

To get your creative juices flowing, here is a list of the top 10 taglines since 1948:

  1. “Got milk?” (1993, California Milk Processor Board)
  2. “Don’t leave home without it.” (1975, American Express)
  3. “Just do it.” (1988, Nike)
  4. “Where’s the beef?” (1984, Wendy’s)
  5. “You’re in good hands with Allstate.” (1956, Allstate Insurance)
  6. “Think different.” (1998, Apple Computer)
  7. “We try harder.” (1962, Avis)
  8. “Tastes great, less filling.” (1974, Miller Light)
  9. “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” (1954, M&M Candies)
  10. “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” (1956, Timex)

(Source: The 100 Most Influential Taglines Since 1948)

Not having a great tagline (or one at all) may not doom a business, but having a memorable tagline can certainly help a business stand out from the clutter of a crowded marketplace.