Improving Customer Loyalty

Here are nine ideas to increase loyalty to your business.  Not all ideas are applicable to every business.

Service Related

  1. Make follow-up calls after service, sales or installation to ensure satisfaction.
  2. Provide home-delivery service to increase convenience.  This is a great time to offer a free demonstration on how to use and/or maintain your product.
  3. Examine your instruction manual  to ensure it’s effective and clear.  Use diagrams and list the steps for programming various features.
  4. Add frequently-asked-questions section to your website.

Price Related

  1. Offer money-back or price guarantees such as matching your competitors’ prices.
  2. Offer renewal or repurchase discounts or maintenance coupons.

Other Ideas

  1. Highlight alternative uses for your product, i.e., think of baking soda and vinegar.
  2. Install kids’ play area if serving families with small children or at least have toys and books available.
  3. Make contribution to charity for every product sold.

Please return to this site in a few days as this article will be expanded!

Increasing the Visibility of Your Business

Whether brand new or fairly young, generating awareness of your business is one of the initial necessary marketing steps to success.    This article discusses ten ideas for making your business (of any age) more visible in the marketplace, and of course with your targeted prospects.

But before I list these ideas, a business should always begin a marketing campaign by clearly identifying who you are targeting.  At the first step, it’s easy to state whether you’re focusing on existing customers or new customers.  Then, tackle the specific geographic, demographic and psychological characteristics of your target. 
Marketing experts tell us to develop customer profiles which are the detailed descriptions of your desired customers, i.e., target market.  Here are two examples.

  1. Company S, an upscale sporting goods company, targets American male executives between the ages of 30 and 45, with an average household income greater than $100,000.  These men enjoy outdoor sports and purchase sporting goods at least twice per year for recreation and travel.
  2. Company P, a printing company, is targeting firms within a radius of 20 miles, with annual revenues of $10 to $25 million and a need for four-color printing runs of approximately 5,000 pieces.

Assuming you have undertaken the necessary research to develop your customer profiles, here are ideas involving your target market.  Examine the characteristics of your target market to ensure you’re really communicating with those who benefit from your product/service.  By this, I mean that you know who your target market is based on who uses or needs your product/service and how to reach them. 

  1. Can they be reached by newspaper, magazine or the Internet?  Have you obtained their address at time of purchase or inquiry?
  2. Do you have a small base that can be effectively reached by personalized direct mail pieces?
  3. Do you have permission to email them? 
  4. Is it feasible to use local newspapers to geographically target where your customers and prospects live or work? 

Second, if you have a storefront, compare the demographics of your geographic location with your target market.  If you’ve been in the same location for quite some time, have the demographics of the area changed?

  1. Are greater shares of your customers driving greater distances to your store?
  2. Has your community become more of a mature market with empty nesters and fewer families with young children, or is it experiencing change in its ethnic make-up?

The remaining eight suggestions are promotional ideas for improving the visibility of your small business.  One low-cost idea is to publicize (through the media and to your customers and prospects directly, if appropriate) the charitable donations and favorites causes of your business.  Women in particular often take note of the charitable contributions made by the companies they support.

A second low-cost idea is to offer your storefront or office as a deposit center for a charitable drive, such as clothing, food, toys or books, or hosting a blood drive.  Third, write and distribute a story about how your product or service benefited a particular user. Human interest stories are for the most part very positively received.

Never forget that one of the most powerful marketing words is FREE.  By offering a free sample of your product or a free or low-cost demonstration of your service, you’re likely to attract new prospects. A few ideas to spark your imagination are bottomless cups of coffee or free batteries with purchased products requiring them.

By holding a contest or sweepstakes, you can draw people to your storefront or generate a lot of interest based on the type of contest or sweepstakes. 

  • A contest involves some type of ability or skill, such as writing the best story or developing the best recipe.
  • Sweepstakes are promotions in which prizes are awarded on the basis of chance, not skill, and entrants cannot be required to make a purchase in order to enter.

I would be remiss if I didn’t stress the need to carefully plan and research contests and sweepstakes.  Marketing experts advise consulting with an attorney or local authorities to ensure compliance with federal, state and local laws.  In Texas, refer to the Texas Sweepstakes Act that is part of the Business and Commerce Code.  A few specific ideas are asking customers to fill out an entry blank every time they visit your business for the chance to win a valuable prize, and working with a local elementary school in which the classes compete with one another in a window-decorating contest.

Finally, for the last three ideas, let’s focus on your actual promotional messages.  First, always assess or evaluate your messages prior to putting them to use.  Have non-vested parties provide feedback on your business cards, flyers, coupons, brochures, website, etc. 

Second, do you ever find that your eyes are drawn to large print?  When it comes to building awareness, your initial effort may be telling of your existence.  Using large print in ads and coupons is one way to increase the likelihood that your advertisement will get noticed at a faster pace (i.e., less required repetitions).  This can be beneficial if your name easily tells what your business offers and you have a highly visible location.

Third, consider developing co-op advertising with other tenants in your shopping center or office building along with suppliers and other non-competitors whom you’ve met through networking.  Here are a few examples.  Consider manufacturers, such as jewelers or clothing, who develop co-op deals with local retailers.  The manufacturers don’t have the boutiques and stores to sell their products to the public, and the local merchants welcome the partnership opportunity for reducing advertising costs.  On a local level, think how a dry cleaners, video store, card shop and hair salon of the same shopping center could combine forces as they’re all targeting residents within the same geographic area.

If you would like to discuss these ideas or others in greater detail, contact Kate Barlow at 817-488-2761 or kgbmarketing@hotmail.com.  Now is also a good time for small businesses to examine the effectiveness of current marketing efforts and new ideas worth considering.

Coupons are great for small businesses!

Coupons are a great small business promotional tool for many reasons.  First, coupons are ideally suited for both existing and prospective customers.  Some potential objectives may be to increase awareness of your business, generate traffic to your store or website, increase sales, especially during a slow season, or stimulate trial of a new product / service.  Second, unless you’re printing thousands, coupons are fairly inexpensive to print as they can be created in-house with desktop publishing software.   

Third, as the printer, you not only control the value of the coupon but also its lifespan.  You get to choose whether the coupon is offering a free product, a percentage discount, a volume discount, or the bearer will be given a gift with his/her purchase.  Fourth, while you can freely give them away or pay to have them distributed, there are endless ways to dispense.  Coupons can be directly mailed in various forms such as postcards or coupon books / decks, or within invoices.  Other options include distributing them within newspapers and magazines or from your website.  Or one may leave them on windshields, front doors, or counters. Lastly, you may attach them to a product of a current sale, i.e. Pizza Hut boxes, or include them within gift bags. 

The fifth reason is that coupons give your business an opportunity to establish alliances with other establishments within your shopping center or with a related product or service provider.  If you’re in the carpet cleaning business, perhaps a window cleaning operation could give away your coupons.  Or, if you’re in the dry cleaning industry, perhaps a shoe repair or small boutique might want to align with you.  And finally, your coupon can be made to look like a miniature version of your print advertisement.  By increasing exposure, prospects and customers are more likely to remember your business as you build familiarity. Plus, according to Jay Conrad Levinson, coupons can make an advertisement up to 26 percent more effective. 

In 2006, $331 billion worth of coupons were distributed and $2.6 billion were redeemed. 

  • Overall, in-store coupons garnered the highest redemption rate at 34 percent. 
  • Eighty-nine percent of 2006 coupons were distributed through newspapers in some form of an insert, and almost 93 percent of all 2006 coupons were sent directly to the home.
  • Two recent trends are shorter expiration dates and lower face value. 
  • Source: Donna L. Montaldo on About.com and CMS.com

I want to close this brief article by sharing three useful tips. 

  1. First make sure your coupon clearly states all your important contact information such as address, phone number, website, etc.  What good is the coupon if they don’t know where you’re located, can’t call you to find out your hours, or gather information about your specific product lines, service policies or warranty programs?
  2. Second, make sure your coupon is coded so you’ll know how and when it was distributed.  This information will be helping in determining the effectiveness of your attempt through tracking.  One coding method is to use a letter for the type of distribution, such as N for newspaper, R for other retailer, and M for mail.  By using numbers, you can track in what month they were distributed.
  3. Third, find out if your competitors are using coupons.  You’ll want to know how they distribute their coupons, what discount they’re offering, and how often are they distributed. 

If you would like to learn more about other low cost marketing efforts, please call Kate at 817-488-2761.  Our first hour long consultation is always free. 

Answering the Age-old Customer Question, “What’s In It for Me?”

Marketing experts continually remind us that our customers are always asking this question.  In The Little Blue Book of Advertising by Steve Lance and Jeff Woll, the authors reiterate the essential need for businesses of any size to identify and understand the differences in the features, advantages and benefits of their product or service. 

Thus from this comparative analysis, you’ll want to develop marketing messages that incorporate those items that personally mean the most to your customers and prospects.  Remember that your customers are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands of marketing messages each day.  By applying this strategy, your message is more likely to reach them and/or tug at them in an emotional manner. 

So to get started, let’s examine features, advantages and benefits.  A feature is a statement of fact about some aspect, element, or prominent part or characteristic of a product or service.  Features can often be the technical jargon your industry uses on a daily basis, but the end user may not understand or relate to such terms as GHz or network interface card. 

An advantage helps the customer or user in a specific manner, i.e., something the feature provides or delivers to the user.  An advantage can also describe how the product or service is better than an alternative feature, and/or a feature offered by the competition.   

A benefit is what the consumer or user gains from the feature and/or your product.  For many products, start by thinking of the problem or problems your product or service solves.  The benefit is what you want to offer and sell to your customers and prospects.  As stated above, customers are primarily concerned about themselves and want to know how a product benefits them.  In an on-line article by Laura Clampitt Douglas, the author recommends thinking of benefits as the end “result” for the customer.  So if you prefer, interchange the terms benefits and results. 

Research indicates the following are some of the primary benefits sought by a purchaser.

  1. Improve quality of life / save time / life made easier / high reliability
  2. Save money
  3. Save lives / safety concerns
  4. Improve health and well being
  5. Improve one’s status – wealth / appearance

After you develop your message, always remember to test it.  Ask non-vested people or some of your customers for their feedback.  And don’t be surprised if women have a longer list of benefits since they tend to seek a solution to a greater number of needs and wants.   

I thought it would be helpful to provide some examples to start your creative process.  Codes are “F” for feature, “A” for advantage and “B” for benefit/result. 

F: four wheel anti-lock brakes

  • A: help the car stop faster
  • A: safer than the competition’s car
  • B: save the consumer’s life 

F: non-stop airline service

  • A: gets the passenger to his/her destination faster (compared to a one or two stop itinerary)
  • B: save the consumer’s time 

F: wireless mouse

  • A: less wiring and fewer cords on top of desk so it’s clearer
  • B: customer can be more organized and effective 

F: clothes soap with more cleaning power

  • A: clothes get cleaner
  • A: improve your appearance
  • B: customer may feel and look better 

F: over-the-counter cold medication

  • A: purchase without a prescription
  • A: stop a runny nose
  • A: relieve congestion
  • B: improve customer’s health and/or she/he feels better faster 

F: accepting credit cards

  • A: no need to have cash at time of purchase
  • B: customer convenience 

F: feature, advantage, benefit analysis

  • A: makes one sit down and truly think of the benefits from the customer’s perspective
  • A: develop more effective marketing messages
  • B: improve the return on your advertising    

If you would like more information about this strategy, contact Kate at 817-488-2761 or kate1.kgbmarketing@verizon.net 

Major Local Women’s Groups

Since women are involved with the purchasing decisions of over eighty percent of all consumer goods in the United States, more businesses are focusing on marketing to women.   Thus I thought it would be helpful to present brief information about the following active women’s groups found in the greater Southlake, Texas area.  Remember, involvement with these groups can be a great way to make our communities a better place in which to live, grow and work along with growing your business.

 Greater Keller Women’s Club

  • founded 1989
  • primary goals are community service and fund raising
  • hosts annual Fashion Show and a variety of on-going social/networking activities for members
  • www.gkwc.org 

Colleyville Woman’s Club

  • founded 1981
  • holds annual Fashion Show and Holiday Homes tour for their fundraisers
  • has monthly meetings September through May
  •  www.c-w-c.org 

Grapevine Chamber Women’s Division

 Greater Grapevine Newcomers Club

  • primarily a social group
  • Contact 817-488-8949

 Greater Southlake Women’s Society

  • founded 1997
  • supports numerous local philanthropic causes and events throughout the area
  • holds annual art auction and annual blood drive
  • www.southlake-gsws.org 

Southlake Newcomers Club

 Southlake Women’s Club

  • founded 1985
  • sponsors two major fundraising events, Art In The Square and the annual School Supply sale
  • hosts annual Valentine Luncheon for local senior citizens
  • www.southlakewomensclub.org

 Trophy Club Women’s Club

  • founded 1981
  • sponsors annual garage sale, golf tournament and progressive dinner
  • www.tcwc.info

 If you would like more specific information about marketing to women, please contact Kate at 817-488-2761 or kate1.kgbmarketing@verizon.net  I would love to meet with you!

Important Facts on the Women’s Market

Women in the U.S. influence or are responsible for making the purchasing decisions on eighty percent of all consumer goods in the average household. 

Martha Barletta, author of Marketing to Women, does an excellent job in describing the differences between male and female consumers. The following summary highlights three main points made in her book, and will likely make many women smile! 

 If women frequently shop in your store, use your services, or buy your products on-line, why should you consider taking a different approach when marketing to women? 

 1. Women have a different purchasing process than men

· They consider more factors and generally do more research

2. Women have different attitudes,  priorities and (often) responsibilities than men

· They are more likely to bounce ideas off others, generally favor “we” over an “I” attitude, and want everyone to get ahead

3. Women have different responses to marketing messages than men

· They prefer realistic people in ads, respond to emotion and human situations, rely on word of mouth so if a product works for someone else, it’s likely to work for her situation 

Nine Common Small Business Marketing Mistakes

You’ll find a variety of common marketing mistakes’ lists on the Internet.  But I thought it might be helpful to present these issues in reference to the stages of the sales cycle that I’m defining as: 

  1. Prospecting, trying to build a list of contacts or “filling the pipeline.”  This phase includes networking and non-personal promotional activities such as advertising.
  2. Following up with prospects / contacts.
  3. Turning prospects / contacts into presentations.
  4. Converting presentations into sales.

Additionally, I’ve also provided a few questions and suggestions to help address these common mistakes.   

First, not taking or making the time to clearly define and promote your benefits.  As an example, you may be talking about the features and advantages of your product, instead of focusing on what the purchaser needs and how your product or service will benefit them.   

Potential benefits may be saving time, saving money, increasing revenue, simplifying a process, or saving a life. This of course can also apply to staff at a retail store.  Are they trained to state benefits prior to features and advantages?  Do your advertisements promote benefits? 

Second, not focusing on the correct target market.  Have you taken the necessary steps to identify your target market to know who really needs your product at this point in time or in the near future?  Do you know where they live?  Do you know what they read, listen to or watch?   

What information do you have about existing customers that can be researched for answers?  If you’re starting a business, what industry information can you obtain about your competitors and their customers’ needs? 

Third, not being able to succinctly state what he or she does.  When you’re meeting new people, this core message is called an “elevator speech” or USP, unique selling proposition.   No matter what you call it, you want to tell people how you solve problems, such as helping small businesses fix their computer problems, or helping people maintain a healthy lifestyle.  This statement encourages them to ask for more information, instead of just stating “Oh that’s interesting” when you tell them you’re a computer repair specialist or a fitness instructor.   

Fourth, if you have a website, not providing enough information to generate leads.  Does it clearly state benefits and provide testimonials and examples?  Have a few non-vested people look at your website to obtain objective input about the design, content, colors, ease of using, etc.  Websites can be interactive to sell, handle customer service and/or accounting issues, or they can be just an informational site. 

Fifth, not using an effective contact database system.  Have you established a system to routinely update your database with new contact information?  Are you keeping track of enough information to ask additional qualifying questions?  

One expert recommends the use of index cards for maintaining contact information only if you have less than three hundred contacts.   Perhaps you might benefit from asking patrons to fill out a card when visiting your store or leave their business card. 

Sixth, not adequately listening. Remember, based on customer service research conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Institute, the number one thing people want from someone they do business with is to be listened to!   

Do you focus on what the prospects are telling you in terms of their needs?  Your business may not be able to help them solve a big problem, but you might know someone who can.  Personally, I think of this follow-up stage as the time to develop meaningful relationships.  

This also applies to retail staff.  Do they have adequate information about the various products sold in the store, where they are located, or how to obtain service and installation? 

Seventh, not following up with enough contacts.  What type of item or contact would be useful to your business and fit your style.  Should you write a monthly or quarterly newsletter?  Should you send out postcards with helpful information?  Are phone calls the best option for your industry? 

Eighth, not identifying meaningful solutions.  Have you clearly understood the need or the urgency of the prospect’s situation?  Are you adequately answering their questions, or are you providing a cookie cutter response?  Are you talking too much during the presentation?  Are you showing enough examples of your work, providing enough references or sharing enough testimonials?   

Ninth, not adequately preparing for presentations.  What type of feedback have you received about your written and verbal skills?  Are you comfortable with public speaking if that is an essential part of your presentation?  Should you consider taking some type of class or joining a group that provides public speaking opportunities?  Can you honestly say you know your material well enough that you’re flexible to address all of or the majority of issues that might surface during a presentation? 

This list does not address the importance of focusing on repeat customers and the six marketing fundamentals for all businesses posted under the Strategy category on April 16, 2007. 

If you would like to discuss solutions to these and other marketing problems that you may be encountering, please contact us at 817-488-2761 or kate1@kgbmarketing@verizon.net 

Major Local Events in the Greater Southlake Market

  This list includes the location and organizer 

April    

  •    Southlake’s Art In The Square (Southlake Women’s Club)

May  

  •   Grapevine’s Main Street Days (Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau)

June  

  •   Keller’s Keller Fest (Keller Chamber of Commerce)

August   

  •  Keller’s Keller Lions Club Fair (Keller Lions Club-generally limited to advertising & booth options)

September

  •  Grapevine’s Grapefest (Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau)
  •  Keller’s Wild Wild West Fest (City of Keller Parks & Recreation Dept.)

October

  • Southlake’s Oktoberfest (Southlake Chamber of Commerce)
  • Trophy Club’s Fall Festival (Trophy Club Parks &Recreation Dept.)

December

  • Colleyville’s Celebrate Colleyville (City of Colleyville)
  • Grapevine’s Christmas on Main Street (Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Generating Name Recognition

 Sponsoring community events is one way to generate awareness of your small business. 

 According to Raleigh Pinskey, author of 101 Ways to Promote Yourself, just about any small business can find a way to contribute to “almost every event imaginable.”  In many instances, your participation may primarily be limited to time and/or services.   

Your business can benefit from this participation when

  1.  event promoters publicize sponsors and volunteers
  2. you and your employees network at the event and pre and post events
  3. your business name appears in the event program.

 Other promotional objectives might include developing community goodwill, improving image or stimulating trial of your service or product.  Your employees may also enjoy an opportunity to volunteer, meet new people and provide service to the community.

If you would like to share some of your personal experiences, I would enjoy hearing about them.  Either phone me at 817-488-2761 or email me at kgbmarketing@hotmail.com.  Also, if you operate in the greater Southlake area, visit our DFW Marketing section to learn more about major local events in our market.

Practical Business Card Hints

  A professional’s business card is one of the first impressions given of both yourself and your business.  Here are design related factors to consider.

  1. The quality of the paper (how thick, heavy or sturdy) tends to indicate the seriousness of your company.
  2. Glossy cards can be very hard to write on; thus the recipient may not be able to jot down important notes from your conversation. 
  3. Primary contact information is essential.  Phone numbers should have a consistent format and include the area code and an extension, if applicable. A physical address may not be needed if you do business exclusively online or by mail.  Website addresses can be listed with or without the http:// preceding the URL.
  4. One expert notes the use of too many colors may give the look of indecisiveness.  At times, elaborate print can be hard to read.
  5. Taglines are useful if the business name is somewhat ambiguous or doesn’t clearly convey the purpose of the business.
  6. A logo or picture can play a major role in creating a professional’s or company’s identity.

   This brief article appeared in the July 2007 newsletter published by KGB Strategic Marketing Solutions.  If you would like to be added to the distribution list, please email Kate at kgbmarketing@hotmail.com.  We will be more than happy to add you to our list!