Words Your Customers Love to Hear

31 12 2013

Next time you’re creating a marketing promotion, you may want to include one of these “magic” words that customers most love to hear:

  • Guarantee. Not only does a guarantee show confidence in your products, but it also removes the risk of trying your product, giving potential customers the added persuasion to purchase your product over another.
  • Instantly, immediately, or fast. We all love fast results or solutions, so it’s no surprise that people love instant gratification.
  • New. Today’s society is always on the lookout for the latest and greatest products available. However, be aware that the novelty of “new” can wear off. After a while, customers often fall back to their familiar, tried-and-true products again.
  • Save. Saving money is something that everyone wants to do. Whether you offer an exclusive savings promotion, a discounted package deal, or even a money-saving coupon, your customers will be listening.
  • Results. The word “results” also means success. It’s a powerful word because of its inherent promise of a better outcome.
  • Discover. The word “discover” offers a promise of something more to come. Like unwrapping a gift on your birthday, discoveries always bring a sense of excitement and adventure.
  • Easy. People love to purchase things that are easy to figure out, easy to assemble, easy to manage, and so on. The less effort required by the customer, the better.
  • Free. Although the word “free” is often overused, it continues to be the number-one attention-getting word. Use it sparingly and only when you truly have something free to offer with no strings attached, such as a free sample, free trial, free shipping, or buy-one-get-one-free deal.
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Branding on a Budget: Four Steps for Brand Consistency

24 12 2013

All companies can benefit from developing a consistent brand image. The brand definition and features may encompass everything from logos to color palettes to fonts, but it must be maintained consistently across marketing collateral, presentations, correspondence, and proposals. Your brand image may even influence your office décor, if you have logos or product photos as part of your furnishings. Keeping everything in sync is difficult, especially as time passes and the company grows or expands its product line. Here are a few tips to help you keep your brand elements consistent.

1. Develop a logo.
In the long run, it pays to have a professionally created company or brand logo as the centerpiece of your company’s identity. A custom logo doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be simple, eye-catching, and unique.

Unless you’re a graphic artist or you already have a great one on staff, work with a designer for logo creation. While there are libraries of standard logos you can choose from, it’s worth it to have a logo custom designed by an experienced graphic artist who can capture the essence of your business. Try to resist the temptation to design your own logo using PowerPoint or a similar program because it will probably always look amateurish. You also won’t be able to generate all the different file types you need for various media.

2. Pick a color scheme.
Once you’ve found a graphic designer to work with, ask him or her to create a corporate color scheme for you while they’re working on the logo. The color scheme should include two or three colors that coordinate well together, and it should include light and dark shade variations of the chosen colors.

The experienced eye of a graphic artist will come up with fresh designs and color schemes that you’ll love, even though you might not have considered them on your own. When you settle on your colors, you can ask the designer to provide the Pantone color code values and the CMYK equivalents to prevent inconsistencies that occasionally occur if people try to “eyeball” the correct shade on future documents.

3. Create a style set and templates.
If you use page layout or word processing applications, you’ll want to create a custom style set that includes fonts, heading styles, margins, and spacing defaults so your documents always have a consistent look and feel. A graphic artist’s expertise will come in handy here, too, by giving your documents an appealing look.

Consider installing the style set for new employees when they join your company, or have IT set them up for you, so employees automatically create consistently formatted documents and presentations. It’s a huge time saver when you don’t have to reformat every document before publishing it.

4. Post a branding “book” or style guide.
A style guide doesn’t have to be complex, but it does need to make the guidelines for logo usage and other branding elements clear. To help ensure consistency, include the standards for color values, official product and company names, and links to corporate templates. It only makes sense to have a style guide if employees will use it, so try to keep it simple if you can.

Creating a recognizable brand requires consistency to avoid muddying brand identity. By following a few guidelines, you can help ensure that prospective customers will instantly recognize your brand.





Preparing a Sales and Marketing Plan for 2014

20 12 2013

As the year draws to a close, many companies are preparing to review and develop their marketing plans for 2014. A solid marketing plan will articulate a vision for the company in the new year, including how the group is going to expand and what the revenue goals should be. Developing a solid plan requires quite a bit of forethought and planning. Here are the three steps that businesses should use to get themselves prepared for the upcoming year.

1. Determine where the company is going

It’s not enough to simply say that the company is going to make a certain amount of money in the upcoming year. A good marketing plan will determine what markets, geographical areas, and populations the business can expand into and how that will affect revenue. There should also be estimations about how much the company is depending upon past customers returning and what percentage can realistically be expected to spend again.

2. See how the company is going to get there

This will encompass the company’s plan to generate revenue and meet the goals described in step one. In 2014, there are a variety of marketing techniques that should be considered. A company can produce excellent copy or presentations, but without a solid, well-rounded marketing campaign, it will go nowhere. Everyone knows about the importance of working online, but many neglect the print world. Yet a stunning 73 percent of customers prefer to receive printed announcementsrather than email announcements from their preferred brands. Consider some of the following marketing techniques.

Direct mail

According to Target Marketing magazine, direct mail had the highest rating for customer acquisition, contact, and retention ROI. One of the biggest problems companies face with direct mail is that few people are experienced with the medium and how to run a campaign. If this sounds familiar, work with someone who is used to this type of print marketing.

Print advertising

Customers have indicated that they prefer paper ads, especially when shopping. An estimated 69 percent of shoppers depend on newspapers for information about brands and deals.

Integrated marketing

Many people use their smart devices for nearly everything. While print advertising is effective, it often works best when integrated with online campaigns. For example, include QR codes on pamphlets to take people to the company website or ordering page. This will drive traffic and help you reach across demographics to include everyone on and offline.

3. Measure progress and revise when necessary

Schedule benchmarks throughout the year to see how well the company is reaching its goals. These benchmarks should be reasonable and take into account how much time marketing techniques require to be effective. For example, a new direct mail campaign may not be as effective when it is first launched. After a few mailings, however, customers may begin to recognize the brand and give it more recognition.

At the same time, the team must be willing to revise when necessary. If the company is falling short, examine the ROI of different lead generation and conversion techniques. See if revisions are possible or if the budget money would be better allocated elsewhere. If the company is surpassing expectations, revise expectations so as not to shortchange what the company is capable of producing.

Developing a successful marketing campaign is an important step in preparing a company for the upcoming year. Taking the time to research and create a practical plan will give everyone a clear picture of the expectations and will guide the business to the next level.





Understanding Authority: The Milgram Experiment

17 12 2013

Back in the 1960s, Dr. Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment which was to become known as “The Milgram Experiment.”

Dr. Milgram wanted to find out why so many people in Nazi Germany followed the orders of Hitler’s regime with seemingly little questioning. He surmised that either the whole country was evil or that something else was at play. His experiment aimed at testing what that something else might be.

Dr. Milgram and his team devised a series of social psychology experiments. To get volunteers, they placed an ad looking for individuals who would be willing to administer a “learning test” to students.

When volunteers arrived at Dr. Milgram’s lab, they were greeted by what seemed to be an authority figure wearing an official-looking coat. Volunteers were instructed to sit at a table with a rather intimidating-looking shock-generating machine on it. The machine had switches labeled with terms like “slight shock,” “moderate shock,” “danger: severe shock,” and two others that simply read “XXX.”

Each volunteer was to take on the role of the “teacher” in the experiment. The teacher was to deliver a shock to the student each time a wrong answer was given. While volunteers believed they were delivering a real shock to students, the students were actually volunteer actors who were pretending to be shocked when the switch was pressed.

With each incorrect answer, the level of shock was to be increased correspondingly.

Results of the Milgram Experiment

Dr. Milgram used the experiment to measure the level of obedience among his volunteers. How far would the volunteer “teacher” be willing to go in obeying the shock application?

This question was posed to a group of Yale University students who predicted that no more than 3% of the participants would deliver the maximum shock.

In reality, 65% of the volunteers delivered the maximum shock. This study was replicated several times under different conditions, but each produced similar results.

So why would seemingly normal people be willing to subject another person to possible life-threatening harm? Is it because all people are evil? Dr. Milgram didn’t think so.

Appeal to Authority

The Milgram experiment seems to suggest that people place an immense amount of trust in authority figures. Even our own society seems to back up those claims.

A doctor tells us to take certain pills to cure an illness, and we obey without much questioning. A person steps on stage, appears on TV, or writes a book, and we immediately view them as an expert or authority, when in reality they may be far from it.

How This May Benefit You

The conclusion is clear. It’s wise to always think and question any command, even when it’s given by an authority. Yet, it’s easier to follow the crowd and obey rather than use our brain cells to think.

Most people prefer to follow rather than to lead. It’s uncomfortable to deviate from what everyone else is doing. It’s a part of human nature.

We can benefit from understanding this experiment in a different way. Knowing that the majority of people listen to authority figures, wouldn’t it be a benefit to be the authority figure in your field?

People like working with experts. They will often boast to their friends and colleagues that they have hired the leading firm to solve their problem.

Breaking from the pack and breaking the rules is not easy. It’s extremely hard to do the first time. But once you do it a few times and see the benefits, it becomes a much more natural process than following the crowd.

Be the authority figure for your field in your market, so you can set your own rules.





Why You Need to Call Your Leads Right Away… or Don’t Even Bother

13 12 2013

In today’s ultra-competitive business landscape, your company is likely spending a good deal of money to generate leads and prospects for your products and services. Hopefully, these efforts are generating quality leads for your business. But what happens once those leads do contact you?

You already know how important it is to follow up with your leads. But did you realize how important the “need for speed” really is?

Here are some eye-opening statistics to drive home the point:

  • Studies show that waiting more than five minutes to contact a lead after they have contacted you the first time results in a 46% lower qualification rate.
  • Waiting another five minutes results in a 23% lower conversion rate.
  • If you wait more than an hour to contact a lead, you’re seven times less likely to convert them to a sale.

In this instance, speed really does make a difference.

This study suggests that by simply calling a new prospect within a minute of lead generation, the likelihood of conversion increases by 391 percent. After two minutes, it drops to 160 percent. After three minutes, it goes down to 98 percent. After 30 minutes, it reduces to 62 percent. And after only one hour, the conversion rate drops to 36 percent. It goes down from there.

The key takeaways are:

  1. The “speed-to-call” is the single biggest factor in converting leads.
  2. Calling prospects six times leads to optimal conversion rates.
  3. Combining the recommended call strategy with an optimal email strategy can yield exceptional results.

Combining this strategy with an integrated print campaign leaves little doubt that the hottest leads will be reached in ways that very few of your competitors are implementing.

Consumers may start with price-shopping, but a sense of loyalty drives a large portion of them back to the vendor who reached them first. The company that educates and shows responsive customer service is able to build a bond that can overcome price sensitivities.

Being the first company to respond to a lead conveys the impression that you’re more interested in doing business with them than your competitors are. It can also lead to a longer and more memorable conversation.

The speed in reaching a hot prospect is one major part of the success equation. The next part is to focus on the conversation itself rather than trying for a quick close or sale. Listen first, ask questions, and then provide the answers the prospect is looking for. It sounds simple enough, but such subtleties are often overlooked.

Being systematic, consistent, and persistent will be the winning formula in this race. You’re competing hard to generate quality leads, new inquiries, and new prospects. But that’s only the beginning. By putting systems in place to contact incoming leads as quickly as possible and to follow up with them fast, you’ll save precious resources and make customer acquisition a much simpler process.





Does Your Advertising Have a Goal?

10 12 2013

You know all about the importance of setting personal and business goals, but what about setting goals for your advertising? Such goals are also important to the success of your sales and marketing efforts.

The three traditional goals of advertising are to inform, persuade, and remind. However, you should add one more goal to that list, especially if you run a small or medium-sized business. That goal is to break even on the cost of running your ad. If the ad makes money immediately, that’s a bonus.

Why just break even?

Your strategy should be to create an ongoing relationship, not just a one-time transaction. You want to build a base — a growing list of customers who come back to buy over and over again. Long-term growth and stability are the keys, not just one-time, short-term gains.

“The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.” – Henry Ford

Advertising your business is important. Advertising your business on a consistent basis is even more important. Your business has to get noticed. It needs traffic, and that traffic needs to buy.

Instead of thinking about advertising your business as an expense, think about it as an investment. It’s an investment with the goal of breaking even quickly while generating ROI for years to come.

Here are eight reasons you need to advertise consistently with a purpose and goal in mind.

  1. Get Noticed — At any given time and in any market, only 2 to 4% of consumers are ready to buy what you sell. It’s nearly impossible to predict when this group is going to actually make the purchase. They’ll buy from the company that comes to the top of their mind when they’re ready. The company that’s most consistent in being seen and getting noticed will win the business most of the time.
  2. Remind Them — People tend to forget quickly. Busy lives and long to-do lists can make anyone forget about your business. Just because you sent one postcard doesn’t mean a prospect will remember your business when it’s time to buy. In the advertising race, the tortoise beats the hare.
  3. Your Competition — Your competitors won’t quit advertising anytime soon. You shouldn’t either.
  4. Shifting Quicksand — Your market is constantly changing. You have to be nimble and adjust with it. Change up your ad copy and design. Test it, measure it, and tweak your ads until you achieve your desired return on investment.
  5. Momentum — Advertising consistently not only informs your audience that you mean business but also serves notice to your competitors that you’re in it for the long haul. Advertising boosts the morale of your own staff as well, signaling the vitality of your brand.
  6. Current Customers — You know your competitors are nipping at your heels, trying to steal away your customers. Don’t take your current customers for granted in your ad campaigns. Remind them on a regular basis the unique value you bring to the table and deliver for them. Don’t assume they know already.
  7. Past Customers — One of the fastest ways to boost sales is to reactivate past clients. Most customers leave a business because they feel unwanted and neglected. Tell them you’re sorry and that you want them back. Give them an incentive to come back again. Many will come back. This time, don’t neglect them. Communicate regularly and tell them that you appreciate their business. Advertising is not just for boosting sales; it also works for retaining customers. It’s much cheaper to retain a customer than to find a new one. Advertising to current and past customers is an investment that makes lots of cents!
  8. Competitive Advantage — Nothing helps you maintain a lead over your competitors like consistent advertising. Whether you’re there now or you’ll get there soon, once you have the lead, keep the foot on the pedal, so the competition has little chance of catching up.

You must have both strategic and monetary goals in mind when advertising your business. When done with a purpose and vision, your ad campaigns will produce real ROI and real customers who will pay you back for years to come. To start and build momentum, advertise consistently. You’ll end up creating your own economy.





An Important Business Lesson from an 8-Year-Old Girl

6 12 2013

There’s something undeniably different about this time of year — an almost palatable sense of wonder, excitement, joy, and possibility not always seen in our everyday routine.

Amid the hustle and bustle of shopping, planning, and reconnecting with family and friends, we often find ourselves thinking back to seasons past — and forward to the future with renewed energy and hope.

For a few weeks each December, we’re willing to suspend disbelief and imagine the possibility of what we cannot see.

New York Sun writer Francis Church shared his thoughts on this very subject more than a century ago. “The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see,” Church wrote. “Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”

Church addressed his commentary to Virginia O’Hanlon, an eight-year-old girl who had posed a very simple question: Is there a Santa Claus?

While intended to quell the fears of a questioning child, Church’s words could just as easily apply to each of us in business today.

Like young Virginia, we, too, find ourselves in doubt sometimes — unsure whether we should trust the instincts that have taken us this far. In Virginia’s case, those doubts were fueled by “little friends” who told her Santa Claus was not real. For us, those “friends” often manifest themselves internally as a quiet, yet nagging voice that assures us we’ll find safety in convention and by taking the road more traveled.

And so, like Virginia, we need an occasional reminder that seeking the unseeable and trusting the unknowable can lead to places many would consider unattainable.