Building a Community No One Can Resist

29 04 2014

People enjoy feeling as though they belong. It’s a part of our universal desire to form strong bonds with other people and feel connected to those around us. From student clubs to neighborhood organizations, this desire plays out across our nation in a variety of settings.

This desire also has a firm place in marketing. One of the best ways to encourage brand loyalty involves encouraging customers to feel as though they’re part of an exclusive group when they use your brand. When people feel connected to your company and to other users, they’re more likely to become repeat customers and even recommend your brand to others. Few companies have enjoyed the success Facebook has in this regard.

The early days of Facebook

Back when Facebook was first developed, it was available only to users at colleges and universities, and they had to have a .edu email address to register. This effort to create a distinctive market resulted in a very strong community among Facebook users. Many users today still reminisce about the early days when their parents and grandparents weren’t registered and it was just a way to communicate with their college friends. In many ways, the desire to belong to this exclusive ‘club’ of Facebook users helped the company grow exponentially.

Revising the Facebook exclusivity

After a few years of immense popularity with the college-age crowd, Facebook began to open registration up to people outside their original targeted demographic. At first, this upset many people who had eagerly waited until their college years to join, only to find that everyone else could now, too. In recent years, there have been some reports of the younger generations leaving as they search for a platform that allows them to converse with their friends without their parents and grandparents seeing their comments. Overall, however, the platform has continued to grow. This is because the developers have taken the time to still encourage feelings of community among users, even though everyone can now join.

How have they managed to maintain this feeling?

  1. Newsfeeds update users to their friends’ activities as soon as they log in. This offers a unique way to stay in contact with friends and family. Users know they would lose all this information if they were to leave.
  2. Games and similar activities encourage users to work together on the platform for entertainment, connecting people by common interests within the platform.
  3. Since Facebook use is so prevalent, the default is to use the platform. People expect to be able to connect and communicate with others through it. Those who don’t have a page risk losing out on a key form of communication.

How businesses can learn from Facebook

Facebook has managed to build a community so strong that it appeals to nearly every demographic. Few companies will have the reach to accomplish this, but they will be able to strengthen their own connections to encourage customer loyalty and retention.

For example, try building portions of your company website that allow and encourage communication between customers. You can occasionally interject advice as needed, but in general try to keep the conversations between end-users, to encourage a connection between your customers.

Loyalty programs and rewards programs are also helpful. By offering prizes to those who use your products and services regularly, you’ll show your appreciation and encourage customers to return to earn more. Publicly rewarding customers, such as showcasing particular people for their loyalty, can also help enhance brand loyalty. Even promotions such as free t-shirts can help customers feel connected to your company.

Facebook has shown the business world what is possible when a brand manages to build such a strong sense of community that users cannot imagine doing without it. Companies of all sizes can take some of the lessons to heart and begin to build their own communities. If you’re interested in developing materials to help reach your consumer base and encourage them to be a part of your community, reach out to us. We’d be happy to help you!

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Top 5 Secrets of Successful Direct Mailers

22 04 2014

Savvy marketers know that direct mail offers a cost-effective and potentially profitable marketing method — but in order to work, it must be done right! In fact, some of today’s most innovative and creative advertising is sent through the mail, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

An effective direct-mail campaign can accomplish several goals, including:

  • Generating leads
  • Attracting new customers
  • Engaging with current customers
  • Expanding the reach of your brand
  • Producing profits

Here are the top five secrets of successful direct mailers.

1. Focus, Focus, and More Focus

The success of any direct-mail campaign depends in large part on your audience, so you need to target the right people. A direct-marketing rule known as the 60-30-10 states that 60% of success depends on the list, 30% depends on the offer you present, and 10% lies in creative elements. This highlights the importance of choosing the right list for your mailing.

If you’re building your own list, start with your past and current customers. After all, they’re a known factor — they’ve purchased your product or service before, and you probably already have all of their info. (If you don’t, now’s the time to start collecting it!)

If you’re purchasing or creating a list, consider your target audience’s characteristics carefully. Who’s your “ideal” customer? Look at demographics such as age, gender, locale, interests, buying patterns, climate, and leisure activities when compiling your mailing list. The more specifically targeted you can get, the better.

2. Keep it Updated

If it’s been a while since you updated your customer data, a direct mailing is a good place to start. People change addresses more than you might think! Simply add a request for address corrections onto the label; the post office will send undeliverable mail back with the recipient’s new address. It costs a bit more, but doing this at least once per year keeps your database updated.

3. Determine Your Goal

What do you want this particular campaign to achieve? Do you want to generate orders, build your brand, or produce leads? Setting a clear, measurable objective will help you drive the creative portion of your campaign. If your goals are too broad, your message is likely to be vague — and less effective — as well.

4. Grab their Attention

You only have a few seconds to grab their attention — and if you don’t, they won’t even open the envelope. Take a look at your own mail; what are you most likely to open? Are you enticed by offers of “FREE MONEY!” or “AMAZING PRIZES!”? Probably not, and your audience is similarly jaded to cheesy, gimmicky headlines. Instead, pique their interest with a creative headline, interesting use of color, a hand-addressed envelope, or a bit of humor. In other words, go for elements that stereotypical “junk mail” doesn’t have.

5. Develop a Relevant Offer

Now that you’ve gotten your customer to open the mail, present them with an offer that appeals to them. Here’s where knowing your audience is key. Be brief, but include the information they need to make an on-the-spot decision. Why do they need your product? How will your service benefit them? Testimonials from satisfied customers can be powerful in this capacity.

Above all else, make it easy for them to respond. Provide multiple contact channels, including a website, email address, and phone number, but don’t leave it at that. Always (ALWAYS) include a call to action. Tell them to call, email, or visit your website. Remember, if you don’t tell them what you want them to do, they simply won’t do it.





Keeping in Touch with Your Customers — Without Annoying Them

15 04 2014

When you’re trying to build your business, it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of the hunt — for new customers, that is. However, as studies from the Harvard Business School show, focusing attention on existing customers and increasing retention rates by just 5% will increase your profits by 25% to 95%!

Of course, savvy business owners know there’s a fine line between keeping in touch and being a bit… well… annoying, or even worse, stalky.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: How many e-mails do you want to receive every day? How many phone calls do you want to take? Sure, persistence is important in cultivating your customer base, but overdoing it can prove counterproductive by annoying the very customers you’re trying to reach. Here’s how to find the right balance.

Make it Personal

Who doesn’t like to receive a personalized card or handwritten note in the mail? There’s a world of difference between sending out an impersonal flyer or form letter and a customized note printed on attractive cardstock. Which would you be more likely to open and read?

Send personalized updates on the “regular” occasions — clients’ birthdays, anniversaries, major holidays, and the like — but also consider spicing it up a bit by sending a note or card when they don’t expect it. After all, most businesses send appreciation cards and letters during the winter holidays, so that’s just par for the course. Stand out by also picking a random date to surprise them.

Loyalty Programs

And speaking of dates, choose a day with significance for your customer — like their birthday or the anniversary of their first major purchase from your business — and use that occasion to automatically enroll them in a loyalty program. All you have to do is send an email letting them know you’ve enrolled them into your “VIP” program, or whatever you choose to call it.

Why automatically? Because a key to successful loyalty programs lies in making it as effortless for your customers as possible, without requiring them to take any extra steps or actions.

Artificial Advancement

The other key to successful loyalty programs lies in creating what’s known as “artificial advancement” toward a goal or milestone. A 2006 study in the Journal of Consumer Researchfound that customers who received punch cards as part of a loyalty program were more likely to become repeat customers if they were given a head start toward reaching a goal. For instance, many coffee shops offer loyalty cards that give a customer a stamp for each coffee drink they buy, then reward them with a free drink once they’ve accrued 10 stamps.

Researchers found that customers were almost three times more likely to use their punch cards — and spend money at a business — if at least two stamps were already present on the card when they first received it. Apparently, customers like to feel that they’re already well on their way to receiving awards!

Make Contacts Worth Their While

Whether it’s in an e-mail, through a printed newsletter, or on a sales call, providing customers with information they can use adds value to your communications and eliminates the annoyance factor. Offering industry news, community updates, or other data that’s relevant and useful to your customers goes a long way toward transforming the way they perceive your marketing efforts. A professionally written and well-designed direct mail piece sent a few times a year that’s packed with info they can use is always welcome.

If you keep your communications relevant, concise, respectful, useful, and personalized, you’ll never have to worry about being too persistent.





Honest Abe, A Cherry Tree, and Running a Successful Business

1 04 2014

Quick: Name two of the most popular historic U.S. presidents. The first names that come to mind for most people are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. These two presidents are well known for their leadership during tumultuous times in American history. But they’re also known for their place in American folklore. Specifically, they have both gained reputations for being exceptionally honest.

George Washington and the cherry tree

According to the popular story, young George Washington was playing with his new hatchet when he killed his father’s favorite cherry tree. When his father confronted the household about who had hurt the tree, young George quickly confessed, telling his father that he could not tell a lie. His father forgave him, reinforcing the importance of his son’s honesty. George Washington carried this lesson about the importance of telling the truth with him the rest of his life.

Honest Abe

Before Abraham Lincoln became involved in politics, he was involved in a number of businesses. He bought a small store, was a lawyer, and served in Congress. In each of these positions, he became known as ‘Honest Abe.’ Stories abound about young Abe returning a few cents of change or tracking down customers to complete their orders if their requests were mis-measured. He carried this reputation as a reputable businessman with him to the White House.

What these two men can teach us today

Many people couldn’t tell you the date the American Civil War ended, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, or when George Washington died. Despite these gaps of knowledge, most people would be able to tell you that these men were known for their honesty. Why is that? Because people value honesty in their leaders. They want to be able to trust the people they elect.

This also applies to their business leaders. When customers are looking for companies they want to work with or buy products from, they need to be able to trust that the company will provide them with the quality service they’re expecting. They want to trust that the advertising they see is accurate and that if they have any kind of problem, they’ll be able to get the situation addressed by a quality customer service team.

How you can show your honesty to potential customers

Since we all know customers are looking for honest businesses, it’s important to display this characteristic in all our dealings with customers, especially online. Social media and websites make customer service and customer opinions very public, for all potential customers to see. This makes honesty and quality customer service even more critical.

As a business leader, it’s important to monitor the web for discussions about your company to see what people are saying. If customers have legitimate complaints about the quality of service they received, make sure you do everything you can to make it right. This may include issuing refunds, providing coupons, and addressing other concerns.

Similarly, when you come across positive reviews, it’s a good idea to send notes of appreciation or coupons to encourage repeat business and as a sign of thanks. Above all, you should strive to be above reproach when it comes to honesty.

People like knowing they can trust their leaders, whether presidents or business owners. Stories abound in the collective consciousness about the honesty of some presidents in particular. When you (and your company) gain the same reputation for honesty, you can also live in the public consciousness as someone worth following; and that’s how customers are gained.