Yesterday my spam filter caught 6 holiday e-cards. This morning it caught 11. I understand companies are looking for ways to cut costs. I get that people don’t necessarily have time to sign a few hundred cards. However, if you think your e-greeting has the same effect as a paper card, I’m sorry but it does not.
The general reason to send holiday greetings is to say hi, I’m thinking of you during this festive season and I wish you and your family the best. Business reasons to send holiday greetings, along with the above, are to keep you and your company name in front of the customer, to make them feel special and to add a personal touch to a professional relationship. But an e-card doesn’t do this, especially if it comes into an inbox along with a lot of other greetings.
First of all, it being caught in a spam filter makes me treat it as bulk mail. I don’t feel special getting a “Happy Holidays” email blast. It’s not personal. It doesn’t remind me of your service/product. In fact, your e-card does not make me feel like anything other than a name on your email list. At least with a paper card I’m going to open it, read it and probably put it on display in my office. If you personally signed it I’m going to appreciate the extra effort.
I’m not saying you must do paper cards, but I am saying if you are going to acknowledge the holidays, do something that won’t get filed as spam. For instance, start right after Thanksgiving and send a personal email to 10 of your contacts each day welcoming the holiday season. Thank them for their business (make this specific) and mention a way you will follow-up in the new year (lunch maybe, etc.). And don’t title it Happy Holidays!
Posted in Business, marketing, mid level professionals, personal branding, Towanda Long
Tagged business follow-up, customer relationships, experience marketing, holiday e-card, marketing, small business marketing, Towanda Long
It doesn’t matter that you have a great service or product. It doesn’t even matter that your potential customer needs it. When it comes to your marketing campaign, your message must engage the customer so that they understand, in their way, why they need your product/service.
Here are some ways to get your message heard and spark the “need” factor:
- Tell your story in an engaging way. Make it colorful, different and memorable.
- Highlight the benefits that are important to your potential customer, not necessarily the things that are important to you. For instance, it’s great that your shoes are scuff-proof, but if I only care that they are comfortable tell me more about comfort. Stop trying to make me care about scuffs.
- Show the specific need you answer as well as the impact on their general wellness.
- Acknowledge your competition and highlight the differences. This one is tricky because you don’t want to speak negatively about your competitors, you only want to point out your uniqueness.
- Use a customer-friendly tone. Avoid big words, jargon and by all means, condescending stereotypical language.
- Use testimonials of current customers that are similar to your target audience.
Vertical customers want an expert. They want to feel like you not only understand your product/service, but that you understand their industry.
Here are a few ways you can highlight your knowledge throughout the relationship, not just during the pitch:
- Include industry news in your communications (e-newsletters, emails, website, etc.).
- Offer commentary with solutions regarding current hot topics. For example, a mask manufacturer could discuss swine flu.
- Host a monthly (or weekly, quarterly, annually) seminar. Don’t exclusively highlight your company; instead mix up the agenda with speakers from other businesses.
BONUS: This is a great way to build relationships with companies that may be able to forward referrals.
- When discussing your business, use friendly language. Avoid jargon and big words as much as possible; they don’t say knowledgeable. It says you’re overcompensating or hiding something.
Here are three ways you benefit from talking to your customers regularly:
Things mentioned in casual conversation may spark a great value-add opportunity. This opportunity can be a service that you offer and your client forgot or never knew you provided. It can also be an opportunity for you to offer a referral. It may even highlight a new service that you could provide with little or no effort, but that may be a lifesaver for your customer.
Your conversations can serve as informal research. You can learn everything from true competitor pricing (not what’s posted on a website) to industry news (how it’s really affecting them) to stereotypes and/or urban legends that you may need to address.
You may learn of other places to reach your target market. For instance, regional events and hobbies are a great way to connect with your customers. Unfortunately it is difficult to figure out which regional events are worth a second look without some insider information. And you may never know that your customer loves bird-watching unless he mentions an upcoming trip in a conversation.
It’s more than the annoyance of prompts for an account number, zip code, phone number, pin number, birth date, last five digits of a social security number and your bra size (okay maybe not that one but you get the idea).
It’s the false sense of hope once a customer service rep answers. For a minute, customers believe that the rep has power to resolve an issue. They believe that the person will be able to listen to an issue and come up with a human-based answer, not an automated, scripted one.
However, customers soon realize the rep is just a live version of the automated help maze. They see that the person on the line has little to no power, because they are not trained to use their judgment to make a decision. They must rely on scripts and cookie-cutter answers for questions that are not cookie-cutter.
If your company is going to hire people for customer service, empower them to make decisions (Zappos is my favorite example of this). If you don’t feel your reps can handle making decisions, then hire new people with competent judgment skills. Stop giving your customers a false sense of hope when they hear a person. It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to your reps that have to deal with irate customers.
Here are other things you can do to improve the customer service experience:
- Don’t ask customers to repeat the information they just entered into your automated system.
- Use a CRM (customer relationship management) system to record your customer’s history. That way your customers won’t have to rehash previous problems or conversations with other reps.
- Insist that all reps are nice to clients (And no, this is not a given. I’ve had reps hang up on me and I was not irate).
- If you are going to use a survey to evaluate your efficiency, use questions that will offer productive feedback. Instead of “Were you happy with your service today?” try “What part of your experience could have been better?”
- Hire happy people.
- Monitor what people are saying about you online (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
- Don’t use generic answers (e.g. Our policy states…).
- Find reasons to say yes to customers’ requests.
Here are some basic ways to reach a target audience that’s not online because let’s face it, there are still a lot of people that don’t use Facebook, Twitter and hold your breath… Google.
- Support causes special to your audience.
- Organize an event for your audience.
- Gain credibility of thought leaders.
- Create a subscription-based newsletter with valuable information.
- Utilize Print, Radio and Television Ads.
- Run a contest.
- Give samples.
- Produce a cable access TV show.
- Distribute coupons.
- Use a referral campaign.
- Create a campaign based around a holiday.
- Create your own holiday.
- Team with a company that offers a vertical service.
- Attend social gatherings.
- Find interest groups that can benefit from your product/service and:
- Offer or sponsor a class/seminar of interest
- Offer to speak at a meeting
- Give samples
Here are a few reasons your Press Release was ignored:
It was not well-written.
It did not tell the media outlet why their audience would be interested in your news.
The story was not news worthy.
It got lost among the hundreds of press releases the outlet receives everyday.
It was sent to the wrong person in the organization.
There was no follow-up.
The timing was wrong.
It got caught in the spam filter.
I could go on but the point is this. Getting your story covered takes much more than writing and distributing a release. It takes research, follow-up, relationship-building and sometimes a little luck. Think about it; there’s a reason media relations is considered a skillset.
Towanda Long aka mscafe
Want a list of free ways to start, run and grow your business? Entrepreneur.com has a great article here.
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If you haven’t already, nominate yourself or another business for the challenge. All the information can be found at the link above.
Towanda Long aka mscafe