29 Dec

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s cold and late and I’ve been in a sugar coma for the last few days of holiday celebrations. It’s that time of year when I evaluate the months passed and do some soul searching. During this week before the New Year rings in, I always take a moment to ask myself if I am who and where I wanted to be at this point in my life. I guess I take personal inventory.

I feel that this time to analyze my current situation is almost like the business equivalent of doing an annual business or marketing plan. I feel that everyone should have goals. They shouldn’t be unrealistic, as in my opinion, having goals are the beginning of creating a vision that will move you from dreaming about something to actually doing something. In business, it’s one thing to say your goal is to increase sales, and another to develop a strategy to help make your hope of increasing sales a reality.

Talk is cheap – actions are what make change – or at least the steps that will take you closer to where you hope to be (either personally or professionally).

I’ve created a brief list of both personal and professional goals. Life is not all work and work is not life –  you need to be balanced. For me, balance comes out of knowing that I’m not just letting my life pass by – but that I am working to craft the kind of life that gives me true satisfaction and is an example to my children. I never want to look back with regret wishing I’d done things differently.

Personal:

  1. Learn Spanish (much better than my current level) and help my children to learn as well so they can communicate with relatives.
  2. Run another marathon and post a time that makes me feel WOW.
  3. Be a better listener.
  4. Reduce unnecessary clutter in my life.
  5. Lose the last few lbs. I need to (for good!)
  6. Help in my community.

Professional:

  1. Develop quality relationships in social media – not quantity.
  2. Continue to grow, learn and explore.
  3. Write more blog posts.
  4. Engage more with marketing and social media professionals in my community.
  5. Work with passion, daily.
20 Dec

Customer feedback

If you would like to get a handle on what your customers are saying about you, one great way is to use social media to gather feedback on your brand. It’s actually one of the greatest things about using social media that many small businesses are ignoring; the ability to monitor your brand with Twitter and Facebook is fairly easy.  One way to proactively use social media is to communicate directly with your customer to garner feedback on issues from new product ideas to marketing campaigns. The customer responses you receive can really be valuable information to help you make decisions.

  • Add a poll to your Facebook page
  • Add a survey to your blog or website
  • Post a video
  • Post a question on LinkedIn (great for businesses)
  • Participate in a Twitter chat (How about #jewelrychat every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month from 8-9pm EST?!)

Here’s one way I would not suggest using social media. A few months ago I posted on Twitter (I am @rubymarcom) about how much I loved my new Zoot running shoes. I was pleased and surprised to find a that they had mentioned me later that day. We had brief messages back and forth a few times, it was nice to see that they were paying attention to what people were saying and I appreciated the connection. Fast forward a couple months. I ran a big race and noticed that my shoes had a tear. I took a photograph and tweeted to Zoot that while I love my shoes, there’s a tear and they’re new ones. What do they suggest?

This time they didn’t reply. I sent them a direct message (DM) thinking they hadn’t noticed. Still, no response. It’s been several weeks now and they’ve never replied and frankly, I’m disappointed. I just wanted a response.

Communication using social media is not meant to be a one-way method of communicating.  If you can take the kudos, you need to be able to take the criticism too.

Pay attention to what people are saying about you and reply. You will learn from them and build more loyal customers in the process.

What have you done using social media that you felt was an effective way of gathering customer feedback?

15 Dec

What does a brand promise mean to your business?

As you know, the brand is the identity of a specific product, service or business (Wikipedia). While it seems that everyone is talking about branding these days, I’m getting the impression that among some, branding still feels like an abstract and something they are doing because they should rather than to garner any sort of benefit.

When people talk about a brand promise, they are referring to statement or a sentence that communicates the one thing that the brand represents or intends to own in mind of the target consumer. Meaning, something the target consumer will associate with your company that communicates what unique benefit you deliver to the consumer. A brand promise needs to be clear, concise, believable, unique and catchy.

Here are a few questions that might help you when developing a brand promise:

  1. What unique benefit does your brand provide?
  2. Who is your target consumer?
  3. Is the benefit mentioned valuable to the target audience?
  4. What makes your organization uniquely qualified to provide it?
  5. Looking at your competition, are they touting a similar promise? If so, time to re-work.

According to Businessdictionary.com: “Benefits and experiences that marketing campaigns try to associate with a product in its current and prospective consumers’ minds.” is a brand promise.

It’s important to note that in many cases it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate a brand based on functional attributes alone. For that reason, a shift in focus to more relationship oriented benefits, such as ease of process or customer service may be a stronger direction to take for developing a brand promise. That’s why it’s essential that the message you communicate to your target audience, needs to be communicated with and believed in by employees at every level as ultimately it’s the front-end staff that need to be able to deliver the brand promise to the customer.

In the end, it’s a strong brand that’s more likely to experience growth and higher returns because people know what they can expect to receive and how it will affect their lives. Successful companies have discovered that brands are their most valuable asset (along with their people) for numerous reasons – but the key is that you have to make promises you can really keep. In the end, if you do your job and keep your promise, customers will be loyal to you and your brand.

06 Dec

Get Out of Town!

This is an article I wrote for one of my clients (ARMS). It appeared on their blog and in Instore Magazine on April 5, 2010. I think you might find it to be useful.

Many store owners feel strapped to their business and are unable to leave to enjoy the fruits of their labor. One reason for this of course, is that some people are not managing the funds they have open to buy and then over buy and put themselves in a financial pitch where they’re paying for less employees hours and as a result, spending more time at the store. For this you need to get a better handle on your inventory and take control of your store. Your investments will pay out with more financial freedom.

Then there’s the owners that made the investment into an inventory control system that has fended off financial woes, through sheer management of inventory and better buying. These people get to go on vacation.

When you head to surf and sun, you leave the office behind and relax. Forget about those nagging customers, you have nagging children or grandchildren to worry about!

Well, not quite. If you recall, marketing is how we interact with our customers. It’s both making the sale and proving customer service afterwards that enables us to retain existing customers and gain referrals.

I was making calls to some clients and received a lot of  “out of office” messages and email replies. It’s annoying. It seems kind of rude and impersonal…and I’m not a client who might have just dropped a chunk of change on a gift!

Here’s why. I want attention when I call. Sure, I know you, even my favorite jewelry store owners go on vacation – you should, you deserve it, you worked for it. But,…my problem or question is (in my mind) important and warrants attention NOW. So an impersonal message, quite frankly makes me feel slighted.

I know you think I’m being a little selfish, but how do you think a customer feels?

All I’m suggesting is that you leave an away message that makes me feel like you care – like I matter to you. It’s more courteous and friendly and it’ll make me feel like a priority even when I know you’ll be relaxing in the sand.

Here’s a message that wouldn’t make me feel dejected if I called you:

“Hello. I appreciate your call, unfortunately I am out of the office for the next five business days, and will return on April 15, 2010. Your call is important to me, so in my absence my associate Susan Strang will be taking care of all of your needs. You may reach her via email at susan@yahoo.com or by calling her directly at 555.555.1212. Please know that while I’m away you will be taken care of in a timely and efficient manner. Thank you for your understanding and I will follow up upon my return to ensure your satisfaction.”

Now that would make me feel like a happier customer.

03 Dec

Don’t Ignore the Benefits of Social Media

Yesterday’s post was my rant on the basic human need to feel loved :) and many retailers are avoiding that need by not making it standard policy to greet each and every customer. I know, you say it’s policy and that by now, everyone knows this and encourages the basic hello…but trust me, it’s not. Try mystery shopping and see what happens.

Social media, while it feels different because of the perceived distance between people communicating with one another…isn’t. When I see a tweet for example, that you’ve posted and I reply to you…I’m trying to strike up a conversation with you.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted a congratulations to a store for their recognition as a cool store. They ignored me! No reply. Nothing. My need for feeling loved was not met.

Social media is about engagement and connecting with people who have an interest in you (you can tweet that quote if you want). It’s interactive, and it’s precisely the interactiveness that provides the benefit. The interaction enables you to make deeper connections with the people who care about you.

Ever want to ask fellow jewelers about their experience with a particular product? Tweet it and wait for a response. Want to know if your customers like your new packaging? Post the question on Facebook and wait for a reply. Or better yet, considering changing your packaging? Take some photos of the options and post on your FB page, take a survey, garner feedback…directly from the people who matter! What could be better?

This really can be fun, and in my opinion it should be.

What I’m finding are a lot of businesses that have blinders on. They tweet and post and don’t really care what you have to say. In fact, look at the posts and tweets of many small businesses and you’ll see for yourself what I mean. Posting about how great you are or your sales (or any one-way sales message for that matter) does not encourage engagement.

It needs to feel authentic and transparent to be believed to be more than sales.

In closing, watch what people are saying about you and have the courtesy to reply. Strike up a conversation with people who follow you or that you have friended. Be genuine, and for goodness sake, people don’t just copy and paste information from another person’s tweet or post to make it look like it came from you. Give credit where credit is deserved: retweet, respect and reply.

Don’t treat social media relationships any differently from how you would treat a person in the flesh…and everyone will benefit.