Facebook as a Customer Service Tool

Have you ever had a customer reach out to you with a customer service issue on social media?

Most businesses think of social media as only a marketing tool (if they think of these channels at all). But including social media in your customer service strategy could lead to happier customers who rave about your business in public.

Facebook as a Customer Service ToolOne great example of a business using Facebook for customer service is my client Grady Veterinary Hospital. The practice receives frequent queries on Facebook, and always responds promptly and thoroughly, in a caring manner. If appropriate, the staff replies publicly. This customer service approach on Facebook is partially responsible for the practice’s 194 reviews, averaging 4.3 stars.

Customer service personnel need to be adept at more than just phone and email communication. Small businesses should empower them to interact on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or other social media where your business has a presence.

By honoring customers’ communication preferences, you show that you listen to them and that they are important to you. Already, a reconciliatory tone has been set. And the customer has an easy platform to shout your praises from the virtual rooftops.

Your Phone System is Killing Your Marketing

As a small business, if you have an automated phone system, it’s killing your marketing. From your customer’s perspective, everything you do is marketing. And the upbeat, chipper voice on your phone system drowns out all other marketing attempts.

When customers hear this:

“Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed.”

They already know you don’t care about them, and the feeling becomes mutual.

Maybe they are calling after receiving a flyer in the mail about your latest special offer. Or maybe a friend recommended they try you out. It doesn’t really matter why they are calling. It just matters that now they want to hang up instead of dealing with a phone system maze.

Brand Harmony by Steve YastrowWhen you spend marketing money to get phone calls, make sure a real person picks up the phone. A customer’s impression of your business extends beyond the marketing campaign. As Steve Yastrow writes about his book Brand Harmony:

“When each experience you create for your customers blends with every other experience they have with your organization to tell one compelling, integrated story: that’s brand harmony.”

Consider the story you are telling your customer– does every interaction blend together to tell the best story of your brand?

Small Business Marketing Memes

Small Business Marketing MemesThose of us with small businesses “wear a lot of hats,” but many elements of small business marketing are similar whether your’re in retail, B2B, service or other industries.

Here are some memes small businesses share that show our enthusiasm, ingenuity and tenacity:

  • Putting out fires
  • We’re real go-getters
  • Do more with less
  • Think outside the box
  • Give 110%!
  • Too many chiefs
  • Don’t drop the ball
  • I love my job

In your small business, how many of these phrases do you and your employees use? What other metaphors and phrases are popular with your team?

How to Use Photographs in Your Marketing

A photograph is only worth a thousand words if you pick the right one for your marketing message. Here are examples from three photo shoots I have done for clients that we now use in their marketing campaigns.

Show your product in action.

How to Use Photographs in Your Marketing

Use a photo to tell the story of your brand and how it benefits your customers. TriState Water Works provides Prompt and Proven Sprinkler Service so that customers can enjoy lush lawns and beautiful gardens throughout the summer.

Rivet your audience.

How to Use Photographs in Your Marketing

Unique, dramatic or beautiful imagery will draw customers’ attention and interest them in your brand. Paramount Lawn + Landscape offers customers the beauty and drama of architectural landscape lighting, with the added benefit of security. For this product in particular, the photograph does more to encourage the sale than any marketing copy ever could.

Get personal.

How to Use Photographs in Your Marketing

Featuring people or animals is especially effective for small businesses that primarily provide services. This photograph for Grady Veterinary Hospital conveys happy, healthy pets and compassionate, understanding care.

Here’s something to avoid: clichés. Stock photography clichés like a woman wearing a telephone headset or a family holding hands and smiling cloyingly at the camera are completely useless for communicating marketing messages. Customers are so accustomed to seeing these images that they have become meaningless. I won’t even include an example stock photo image, because it might cause you to skip reading this paragraph entirely.

Finally, high-quality, professional photos are much more effective than ones taken by an amateur with a smartphone. Professional photographers know how to tell a story with their camera and capture your brand’s benefits to best effect. Choose a photographer who understands your business goals and brand personality.

Make it Easy for Customers to See Your Marketing Content

When marketing your small business, keep in mind that customers are naturally less interested in seeing your marketing messages than you are in sharing them. One simple way to make it easier for customers to engage with your marketing content is to always think about removing barriers to accessing the content.

Let’s say you have a beautiful and effective direct mail piece that you want to share with your email marketing list and social media audiences.

Many small businesses will share a PDF or picture of the direct mail piece, inserting this image into an email or sharing a link to it on social media. But posting or emailing a PDF actually creates a barrier to seeing the content.

How do you remove the barriers and make your marketing more accessible?

When translating a printed piece for web marketing use, follow these tips:

  1. Reduce the number of clicks required to view the content. Whenever possible, include the marketing message directly in the media. For example, instead of including a “Read More” link, put the entire message in the email or social media post.
  2. Optimize loading speed. Build email marketing messages in HTML instead of embedding an image or PDF containing the entire communication. It will load faster, and if there’s a loading error, most of the message will still make it to the customer.
  3. Consider the media you are using and how customers interact with that media. On a printed direct mail piece, customers expect all the information they need to call you or to buy. However, on Facebook or Twitter it’s easy to put a customer into information overload. Consider more frequent, shorter messages.

Make it easier for customers to interact with your marketing content, and you will enjoy improved results and happier customers!

No One Cares about Free Estimates

Have you ever paid for an estimate? Neither have I. And yet the marketing universe is full of badges, buttons and starbursts proclaiming their benefits:

No one cares about free estimates.

Promoting free estimates is like boasting about offering a toll-free number. It’s simply a cost of doing business, and customers won’t be persuaded to buy from you because of either.

Instead of wasting valuable customer attention with offers of free estimates, give them a unique, persuasive reason to contact you. It’s true that the marketing power of “free” is very strong, so consider free consultations or free upgrades as compelling alternatives. By thinking creatively, this one simple change will result in more customers reaching out, interested in your small business.

Eight Terrible Small Business Names

Small businesses have the great advantage of being unique and full of personality. Your small business’ name should highlight what makes your brand special. But some business owners go too far, try too hard or don’t think about alternate interpretations customers might have. From made-up words to edible children, here are eight examples of terrible small business names:

Swampwater Grill – If I found a grill in a swamp, I would not be inspired to cook on it. Restaurant names should at least attempt to sound appetizing.

Tender Tots Daycare – If restaurant names should sound appetizing, childcare center names should not.

ABC Systems, Inc. – Do they manufacture alphabets? This business name is so obscure, perhaps it’s a CIA cover organization.

Bleux Water Spa – “Bleux” is not a real word in any language (that I could find, anyway). I suspect the URL for Bleu Water Spa must have already been taken.

Scarlett O’Hair – Salons have a long and storied history of employing puns, and I do love a good pun. But something about this name is simply off-putting.

Mario’s Lord of the Wings – OK, I admit it. The pun for this wings’ restaurant is so terrible that I really, really like it. But can you imagine seriously recommending this place by name? Out loud?

Dress Barn – Not technically a small business, but this chain should have remembered the phrase, “big as a barn.” Alternately, the name implies that its customers might be cattle.

AAAA International Driving School – The days of racing to the top of the phone book’s alphabetical listings are over. It’s time to develop a more compelling name. Also, because this company operates in southwest Ohio, the designation of “International” is mysterious.

For entrepreneurs thinking about starting a new small business or rebranding an existing one, these eight examples give insight into what to avoid. Choose your business name carefully, because it’s the first impression customers have of your brand.

 

Just How Excited Should Your Marketing Copy Be?

At lunch yesterday, one of my favorite diners, The Echo, proclaimed some pretty extreme excitement over its new brunch cocktails. As you can see, there are exclamation points galore (Except for the Irish Coffee. Apparently, it doesn’t deserve any enthusiasm).

Seven exclamation points!

As a rule of thumb, seven exclamation points in about 50 words of marketing copy are too many. Your marketing copy should be interesting enough to customers that you don’t need to create artificial excitement with exclamation points. Understated use of punctuation will appear more confident, classy and trustworthy. Often, hype only serves to make your brand sound desperate.

Imagine this placard with no exclamation points. It would be a well-designed, appealing piece. The exclamation points don’t ruin it, but the effect would certainly be more powerful without them.

When Competitors Copy You

If your small business is at the leading edge of your industry, chances are competitors regularly copy everything you do. From innovative products to customer service standards to something as simple as the headline of an advertisement. Here’s one blatant example I found while flipping through Cincinnati Magazine of a competitor copying my client, Paramount Lawn + Landscape.

When a Competitor Copies You

How do you feel when you find instances like this? Maybe you feel frustrated, indignant or cheated. That makes sense. But what you should really be feeling is excited and validated.

If a competitor copied you, that means you’re doing something right. Something that works. You understand the market in a way the “other guy” doesn’t. That other guy can’t think of anything better, so he will always be one step behind you.

But you can’t rest on your laurels.

When competitors copy you, it becomes harder for customers to tell you apart. Perhaps customers can’t tell who will “Light Up Your Night!” best. It’s time to implement an even better marketing strategy and leave your competition, once again, in your dust. Until they copy you again, that is…

 

Marketing Strategy Trumps Marketing Execution

I once helped a small business that sent out poorly-designed post cards. Although the company lacked design sensibilities, its efforts were still incredibly successful because the marketing strategy was carefully crafted and spot-on. The lesson here is that marketing strategy is more important than marketing execution.

If a small business has a fixed marketing budget, I recommend prioritizing an incredible marketing strategy over an amazing marketing design. You have to understand the reasons you are communicating before it matters how that communication looks.

Here are some elements that are crucial for a successful small business marketing strategy,

Top Elements of a Successful Small Business Marketing Strategy

  • Identify your audience – Who are the customers or prospects you should reach out to? Who is going to buy from you?
  • Identify purchase behavior – Think about how customers will buy your product. Are they searching for it, or is it an impulse buy? Do certain events trigger purchases? Is it a gift?
  • Talk the customer’s language – What does your audience care about enough that will influence them to buy from you?
  • Media matters – Where will your customers see your messages and be receptive to listening?
  • Narrow your focus – You can’t be all things to all people. Narrow your focus to be memorable and meaningful to customers.
  • Measure and adapt – Measure your marketing success and make changes based on performance.

Once you implement a great marketing strategy, you should see your success grow. Then, you’ll have the resources to improve design and execution, which will help your success grow even more. Marketing execution is important, but it’s wasted without a great strategy behind it.