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.

Applying the 80/20 Rule to Marketing

This well known principle holds that 80 percent of your outcomes come from 20 percent of your inputs.  In practice, the concept of focusing on a few options that provide the greatest benefit is applied to management (defects, staff, project management, etc.), economics (wealth distribution), information architecture and marketing. 

Here are questions to ask yourself as a small business owner / operator or marketing professional.

  1. Which key (20 percent) customers and key products or product lines generate 80 percent of your revenue?
  2. Which few sales staff or employees are responsible for the majority of your revenue?
  3. When you’re seeking new customers, do 20 percent of those also generate 80 percent of your new revenue?
  4. Which 20 percent of your customers or products generate 80 percent of your complaints?
  5. When it comes to marketing,  are you focusing roughly 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of your work that’s really important?

Another Spotlight on Keller, Texas

 Growth and quality of life

¨ 2007 Money Magazine Top 100 Best Places to Live

¨ Average Household Income of $108,000

¨ Current Population of 38,400;  40 percent growth since 2000

¨ Median resident age: 34.6 years

¨ Primarily served by Keller ISD, Keller’s largest employer serving over 28,000 students 

Points of Interest

¨ Unique mixed use development called Keller ArtHouse within Town Center

¨ Focus on developing extensive hike and bike trail system

¨ Implemented half cent sales tax for park development

¨ Economic Development Board meets monthly

¨ Historic Old Town Keller

¨ Other major employers are Corning Cable Systems and Southstar Logistics 

Important websites

City: www.cityofkeller.com

Chamber: www.kellerchamber.com

School: www.kellerisd.net 

Source: numerous sources

 

Planning a Marketing Campaign

Essential Steps and Important Questions to Answer

1. Who are you targeting and why?
    Generally your target will be new customers or existing customers.  Furthermore, you’re likely to be driven by a need to introduce new products/services or focus on a new competitor who’s entered the market.

2. What are your specific goals?
    Your goals, whether to increase awareness or to increase sales, must be measurable.  Examples are a gaining a certain number of new customers, enlarging mailing list by a certain percentage, or increasing sales by a certain sales amount during your slowest month.

3. What steps are needed to carry out the campaign?
    Your timetable should focus on activities such as establishing appropriate promotional methods for reaching your target market, testing your message, conducting training, setting a realistic budget, preparing for additional calls and purchasing inventory.

4. Finally, how will you measure if your campaign has been successful? 
    Refer to your goals, use on-going tracking and write down what you’ve learned about customers, costs and competition for the next campaign. 

Customer Loyalty or Reward Programs

There are two general reasons for creating a customer reward or loyalty program:

  • Devise incentive  for existing customers to buy additional products/services
  • Strengthen customer relationships with the goal of diminishing the likelihood of customers switching to your competitors.

Here are suggestions for a successful reward program.

  1. Prepare to implement the program by clearly explaining it to customers and fully training employees.
  2. Utilize your customer database by deciding how you will make the offer at the time of their next purchase.
  3. Develop progressive reward system by making rewards easy to obtain and offer the best incentives for  larger ($) purchases, such as your high-end products/services.
  4. Offer meaningful rewards that also benefit your business by striving to increase the sales of your most profitable products and services.
  5. Use your database to customize future offers based on customers’ purchase behavior and gain insight for finding new customers who match the profile of your best customers (target marketing).
     

Marketing in a Sluggish Economy

Here are three tips to remember when marketing in a struggling economy.

First, focus on strengthening relationships with your best customers.  Who are the twenty percent generating eighty percent of your revenue?  Use your tracking system to identify them if you don’t already know.  If you don’t have an effective tracking system and customer database, now’s a great time to start developing them!

When was the last time you had a personal conversation with these key customers?  What are their concerns?  Do you need to modify payment terms?  Do you need to reward them with special services that may only cost a small amount but generate additional loyalty?  Do they provide referrals?

Second, examine your current marketing activities.  Focus on those producing the greatest return on your investment of time and money.  If you can’t quantify your return, now’s the time to develop a practical method.

Third, now is not the time to cut corners on customer service.  If you lose profitable customers due to a decline in service, you may not regain them after the economy improves.

Local Kudos

Here are two examples of local businesses providing great customer service.

Southlake Jewelers, located in the Village Center Shopping Center (with Kroger as the anchor) on East Southlake Boulevard, has always treated me very well.  Whenever I’ve visit their store, they’ve not only always cleaned my rings for free, but they’ve also repaired various broken necklace clasps for free while I waited! 

The Albertsons at West Southlake and Davis Boulevards made a special trip to our home with a case of chips I had special ordered.  I visited their store twice in one day to pickup the merchandise after receiving a phone call that the case had arrived.  The food manager who placed the order was not in at either time when I stopped by the store.  They found the case of chips immediately after I left the store but couldn’t catch me in the parking lot.  They called our home before I arrived home and asked where I lived as one of the employees who had been involved in the search for the case of chips was getting off work and wanted to deliver the chips!

 

Unraveling the Strategic Planning Process for Small Businesses – Part II

Here’s the final part of a two-part series designed to help small businesses understand the strategic planning process.  This first part focused on the BIG picture or visioning process as it’s often called.  This second part focuses on the steps taken annually to develop and update an organization’s marketing plan. 

Both articles are written in everyday language and hopefully provide practical ideas for your small business.  My mission is to explain the variety of terms employed in strategic planning that are also used in budgeting and other planning processes.  I’m relying on common definitions, explanations and examples of the most frequently used terms.  As previously mentioned, if you read a variety of books on strategic planning, you’ll find authors using and offering varying descriptions of these terms.

As we switch gears to the annual planning process, we’re talking about goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.  Here’s a quick overview of these four terms based on definitions found in Barbara Findlay Schenck’s highly recommended book Small Business Marketing for Dummies.

A goal is a sales or professional target set for a specific time frame and employs the use of numbers or percentages.  A goal answers the WHAT we want to achieve question and is measurable. 

An objective is a measureable result to achieve a goal; one goal can require two or more objectives.  Objectives address HOW to meet a goal.  Action words such as introduce, gain or improve are put to use.  An objective statement often includes the use of a verb, a noun and then a precise description. 

A strategy is a plan for achieving each measureable objective; it should be flexible to respond to external forces.  A marketing strategy generally addresses one of the four P’s of the marketing mix: product, place, price and promotion.

A tactic is the specific ACTION you’ll take to enact your strategy.

At the first level of annual planning, we start by setting our goal or goals for the year.  Webster’s offers this definition: a goal is the end toward which effort is directed, or the AIM.

Let’s think of a small business’ goal or goals as the one or two financial targets you really want to achieve, whether net profit or some type of unit goal.  And yes, you may establish more than one goal for a year!  Also, one should have a tracking system in place to measure these goals.

In The Successful Marketing Plan by Hiebing and Cooper, the authors discuss how goals vary by industry. 
• If a manufacturing entity, you’ll probably focus on dollar and/or unit goals.
• In retail, focus on dollars and transaction goals, or unit goals.
• If a service provider, the focus is usually dollars and persons served.
• Non-profits are likely to set a goal for funds raised to support their programs and the number of volunteers involved or volunteer hours contributed.

They also point out that dollar sales goals should be set to provide a profit to the business.  If you set a gross sales goal, you may meet it but you may not have enough money to pay for expenses and earn a profit.  If you solely focus on units, transactions or persons served, you again may meet the goal, but may not earn a profit. This doesn’t mean that you won’t track or set goals for gross sales, but that net sales or revenue is a more meaningful goal.

Here are examples of goals.
• Increase net revenue by six percent
• Increase occupancy by four percent
• Achieve an average $2000 net profit per month
• Increase membership by five percent

After establishing your goals, you’ll now want to establish objectives to meet these goals.  (Please note that numerous business planning authors discuss the need for setting objectives but may not have both goal and objective setting steps.  Additionally, if you refer to dictionaries and thesauruses, the terms goals and objectives are interchangeable.)
  
I favor the establishment of both goals and objectives (similar to Ms. Schenck) so one has an opportunity to break down each goal based on measurable categories within our business, such as new customers and existing customers, residential and commercial customers, dining-in versus take-out.  At this stage, we can focus on target markets; a target market is a group of people or businesses with a set of common characteristics.

And just to reiterate, both goals and objectives should be specific, quantifiable, and measurable, such as related to a certain time frame (i.e., quarterly, annually, etc.).  If you’re just starting your business, you may want to set gradually increasing goals and objectives.

Here are examples of objectives.
• Increase the number of new customers by four percent or acquire 200 new customers
• Increase the average sales per customer by 1.5 percent
• For a spa, retain 95 percent of your existing customers by ensuring they visit your store and make a purchase (services or products) at least once every three months
• Purchase a new truck for a service route with an outlay not to exceed $20,000
• For an insurance agent, increase from six to ten the number of monthly presentations to new prospects.  If you offer both car and homeowners insurance, the agency could have different objectives for these two types of insurance.  They could also establish objectives for year 1, year 2 and year 3.

At the third or strategy stage, we’re going to focus on different methods or ways to meet your objectives as we concentrate on affecting the behavior of your target market(s).  Here’s the chance to use more descriptive terms, and as Ms. Schenck mentions look to the four components of the traditional marketing mix. 

Here are examples of strategies.
• Find two new products for your home improvement line (product)
• Eliminate the three poorest performing products (product)
• Segment or categorize customers to identify their purchasing habits, if you don’t already do so (product)
• Undertake a study of customer satisfaction (product)
• Find one new distributor for your line of engraved baby linens (place)
• Extend delivery service hours (place)
• Develop a frequent buyer program (price)
• If a floral shop, increases prices by five percent over Valentine’s holiday and Mother’s Day (price)
• Offer quarterly seminar on a specific topic (promotion) 
• Market to one new zip code (promotion).
 
At the final or tactics stage, we’re getting down to specific actions for putting strategies into play.

Here are examples of tactics.
• Join the Chamber of Commerce by a certain date.
• Contact two customers each week; maintain contact log including whom called, issues discussed, action taken or needed.
• Take one customer out for lunch once each month; maintain activity log.
• Develop a tracking system of residential versus commercial accounts and review every two weeks.
• Locate a consultant to help with a customer satisfaction study
• Study competition to determine if and what types of seminars they offer
• Donate two products to the local PTO fund raiser.

Here’s a brief example for a gift / card shop in which I only identify one goal and one objective with related strategies and tactics.  Since tactics can involve very specific details, a marketing plan may just list high-level details or dates.

Goal: Increase net revenue by five percent

Objective: Increase the number of existing customer visits from once/month to twice/month at a minimum.  (This assumes you know the average number of times customers visit and you’re able to track visits by sales receipts or credit card/debit transactions.)

Strategy:
1) Conduct a six-week long sweepstakes for prizes in which customers complete an entry form when visiting your store; purchase not required.  (May be able to collect missing or important customer data on the entry form!)
2) Implement a frequency shopping card program which offers increasing rewards the more often they shop.  (May need to have a minimum purchase requirement.)
3) Offer mystery coupons over a two-month period (that differs from the timing of the sweepstakes offer) in a sealed envelope that are awarded at one-visit and may only be used at the next visit when un-opened envelope returned to the store.

Tactics:
1) Develop and print sweepstakes rules.
2) Design promotional program for sweepstakes promotion.
3) Design and print entry forms.
4) Train employees on sweepstakes rules.
5) Obtain on-site collection box for entry forms.
6) Evaluate sweepstakes promotion.
7) Develop and post card program rules.
8) Design promotional program for reward program.
9) Train employees on reward program rules.
10) Develop and print reward cards.
11) Conduct quarterly evaluation of reward program.
12) Develop and print mystery coupon program rules.
13) Design promotional program for mystery coupon promotion.
14) Train employees on mystery coupon rules.
15) Purchase envelopes for mystery coupon promotion.
16) Develop and print mystery coupons.
17) Evaluate mystery coupon promotion.

I want to close by encouraging the use of a marketing calendar which organizes and reminds what you and/or your staff should be doing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  If you attend the Chamber monthly luncheon on the third Thursday of each month, place that in your calendar for each month.  If you desire to contact two existing customers each week, post it on every Tuesday or whatever day works best.  If you want to visit a competitor’s location once a month, pick a day such as the 10th or 15th, and schedule it for the next twelve months.  The use of a calendar is a great way to develop positive habits.

In a perfect world we would be able to establish a year long calendar; but plan to enter as much as possible even if you start by just entering dates for starting the planning and execution of all details for each strategy, and then routinely updating your calendar!

If you would like to meet to discuss how strategic planning can be put to use for your business, please contact us at kgbmarketing@hotmail.com.

Unraveling the Strategic Planning Process for Small Businesses – Part I

Here’s the first part of a two part series designed to help small businesses understand the strategic planning process.  This first part focuses on the BIG picture or visioning process as it’s often called.  The second part will focus on the steps taken annually to develop and update an organization’s plans. 

Both articles are written in everyday language and hopefully provide practical ideas for your small business.  My goal is to explain the variety of terms employed in strategic planning that are also used in budgeting and other planning processes.  I’m relying on definitions, explanations and examples of the most frequently used terms.

When an organization discusses and develops its vision, mission, or statement of purpose, they’re focusing on statements to guide the entity for the long term and are quite broad.  You’ll find that organizations of all sectors undertake this process including for-profit companies, non-profits and governmental agencies.

So at this top level, we’re talking about the WHY of a business or organization.  These statements
• don’t involve the use of numbers
• won’t change from year to year (that is until the next visioning process is undertaken)
• will be incorporated in numerous company documents
• should be shared with employees, customers and prospects.

If you read a variety of books on strategic planning, you’ll find authors offering varying descriptions of these terms; I want you to remember as a small business that you really just need to have one of these statements that expresses what you want your business to become in the long term.  Whether you call it a vision, mission, or statement of purpose is not significant, but creating one is!  The following definitions are based on Barbara Findlay Schenck’s highly recommended book, Small Business Marketing for Dummies. 

A vision is a statement of what your company strives to be in the desired future.  A vision statement uses verbs or action words such as eliminate, make, or find.

A mission is a statement of how to create your vision, i.e. the core purpose of and the approach you’ll take to achieve your vision.  Some experts refer to it as the general path. A mission statement uses verbs and action words such as build, travel or rehabilitate.

A statement of purpose is usually a combination of the vision and mission.  This statement defines your purpose and states your long-range goals and core values.  It might also state the positive changes you are trying to create.

Here are examples:

  • Microsoft – to enable people throughout the world to realize their full potential
  • 3M – to solve unsolved problems innovatively
  • Southwest Airlines – The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.
  • Merck – to preserve and improve human life
  • Avis – to ensure a stress-free rental experience by providing safe, dependable vehicles and special services designed to win customer loyalty
  • Walt Disney – to make people happy
  • Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream – A product mission stated as: “To make, distribute & sell the finest quality all natural ice cream & euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.” This mission inspired Ben and Jerry to build a cause-related company.
  • Mary Kay Cosmetics – to give unlimited opportunity to women
  • Wal-Mart – to give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people

If you’re currently working on your vision, here are a few quick guidelines.
• Define a person or an organization by setting out the basic purpose for being
• State what you value and are trying to accomplish
• Use to inform, motivate or involve
• Incorporate the parent company’s mission into yours if you’re part of a large organization.

If you’d like to share your vision or mission statement, just email it to me at kgbmarketing@hotmail.com.

The second article will focus on the annual process of planning and strategizing for your small business.  The primary terms we’ll discuss are goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.