Act from the Perspective of Your Customers

Today, a client and I received a group text message from a marketing services vendor:

“Need to get your credit card today if possible. Got your bill together.”

I understand this vendor’s perspective. It’s nearing the end of the year, and they want to maximize revenue. From the message’s urgency, it’s likely they have outstanding accounts payable coming due.

But here’s our perspective. Asking for a credit card by text message without even sending the invoice for us to review appears desperate and unprofessional. We don’t have the same sense of urgency regarding this payment.

Recently, I was discussing the end-of-year sales pipeline with another client. We started our conversation with the question, “What will our customers need between now and the end of the year?” By focusing on the needs of the customer, we’ll ultimately enjoy stronger results through customer loyalty and referrals.

To build great customer relationships, all communication needs to prioritize the customer’s perspective.

It’s Election Day. You Won’t Read this Post.

I VotedExcept you might read my post now that I’ve included a shameless mention of Election Day.

When your customers are universally interested in an event or holiday, don’t change the subject. Work with it. Although cycles of celebration may not correspond with your business cycle, customers will disregard marketing communications that don’t fit with their interests or current needs.

Small business marketing requires strategic use of resources that earn a high level of engagement from customers. We can’t waste time and money on efforts that will be ignored.

Here are some ways I help my clients address the ebbs and flows of the calendar:

  • One B2B client accepts that her clients’ attention is distracted during certain times of the year, including Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We focus our marketing efforts on other times of year and don’t waste resources trying to “cut through the clutter.”
  • Another B2B client tackles the New Year with challenges for his clients to plan for success in the coming months.
  • To tie-in with Thanksgiving, I’m helping one veterinary client promote pet safety during the holiday, for instance with this Fido Friendly Thanksgiving Infographic.
  • With another veterinary client, we typically run seasonally-themed Facebook photo contests for clients to brag about their pets. Last year, we sponsored a Winter Wonderland contest.
  • A landscape services company knows that pre-Thanksgiving is a popular time for customers to install landscape lighting, so we run promotions during that period.
  • This summer, another landscape services client earned customer attention when we suggested ways to create an herb container garden to enhance their outdoor kitchens and barbecues.

So, after you go vote and before the results start coming in, spend some time today considering how to make your marketing communications more seasonally relevant to your customers. It will certainly be more productive than nervously biting your nails as you wait to learn who our next President will be.

 

The Business of Halloween

This Third-Most Popular Holiday is Setting Record Sales of $8.4 Billion

Christmas and Thanksgiving are the big contenders when it comes to favorite holidays, but Halloween is undeniably growing in popularity. Take a walk around your neighborhood for some anecdotal evidence. Have you noticed a spike in spooky yard decorations popping up? The National Retail Federation reports that 48.6% of those planning to celebrate Halloween decorate their home and yards. Here’s a look into other Halloween plans:

The Business of Halloween

All this celebration means increased spending. This is America, after all. In 2016, consumers spent $8.4 billion on Halloween. Although spending for this holiday appears to fluctuate considerably, the overall trend is significant growth:

The Business of Halloween

My question to my small business readers is: How have you incorporated Halloween into your marketing plans? For inspiration, look at this chart detailing what Americans plan to buy for Halloween:

The Business of Halloween

Next year, get creative in planning for Halloween campaigns – it might just be a great way to scare up some business (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun).

5 Perfect Times to Ask for a Referral

5 Perfect Times to Ask for a ReferralAsking for referrals makes many small business owners and salespeople uncomfortable. However, if you do a great job for customers and they are happy with you, customers are usually pleased to help you succeed and give you a referral. But customers often won’t think of referring your small business without prompting. You have to ask.

The most effective way to overcome reluctance is to build asking for referrals into your regular habits. Here are five ideas you can consider as “triggers” to asking for a referral:

  1. When a customer submits a glowing customer service review
  2. In the middle of a project, when the customer is most involved in your work together
  3. After delivery of a product, when the customer is most delighted
  4. At your anniversary date with a customer, as part of a broader “It’s been an outstanding year” message
  5. During any conversation with your customer when they are particularly pleased with your small business

As a bonus, these are also perfect times to ask for a testimonial. Why not do both?

Think Like a Minimalist to Get Your Marketing Message Across

I’m helping a client design a consumer rewards program, with the goal of increasing our competitive advantage and attracting new customers. Because the product mix has excellent margins, we can offer a program that provides high value to the customer. To give you an idea, joining the rewards program includes ALL THESE GREAT BENEFITS:

  • Minimalist Marketing StrategyFree product for signing up
  • Points on every purchase
  • Free product on your birthday
  • Referral rewards

Our marketing challenge is to motivate customers to sign up for the program through on-site signage and online advertising.

Because customers will only give your marketing messages a glance (if you’re lucky!), what they see needs to be arresting. Our marketing strategy for launching the consumer rewards program is to minimize what we tell customers– only try to communicate what the customer needs to know for the next step.

Marketing Communication Strategy

Step 1: Sign Up – Enjoy a free product today for signing up

Step 2: Repeat Purchases – Earn points on every purchase

Step 3: Feel Delighted by Our Brand – Surprise customers with a free product on their birthday

Step 4: Refer a Friend – Earn referral rewards

Although it’s tempting to tell customers all the great reasons they should sign up for this program and the many ways they will benefit, they may be too busy or distracted to notice a list of features. It’s the marketing communication corollary to Steve Yastrow’s sales tip, Don’t Load the Slingshot.

By sharing one compelling benefit at each stage of the customer lifecycle, we’re offering a reward for taking one specific action right away. Minimalist marketing goes against many companies’ instincts, but it matches customer behavior and attention spans perfectly.

 

Creative and Keepable Business Cards for Your Small Business

Take a look at your business card. If it looks like this, your card is failing at marketing your small business:

Boring Business Card

Custom printing technology has advanced to make many premium elements realistically affordable for small businesses, such as gold foil, rounded corners, double-sided printing and glorious full-color. Take advantage of these possibilities to turn your business card into a marketing asset that customers talk about and keep.

Photographer Laura Northrup of Reflected Spectrum Photography details how her business card design facilitates conversations with prospective clients:

“I use double-sided business cards as a mini-portfolio for my photography business. When I meet a new person who may be interested in my services, I can casually share my photographic style and philosophy through my business cards.  It makes a memorable first impression, yet keeps the conversation fun and friendly.”

Here are samples from three online printers to give you some ideas.

Personalized Pizazz from MOO

With all the design options MOO offers, any small business can craft a meaningful, custom design that speaks to customers. Some of my favorite choices are large-format cards and spot gloss. Find your favorite here.

MOO Business Card

Watercolors and Vintage Style from Zazzle

If MOO has you feeling a bit overwhelmed with choices, here are two interesting styles from Zazzle that draw inspiration from watercolors and vintage designs. View more of their catalog here.

Zazzle Business Card

Zazzle Business Card

Striking Typography and Patterns from Minted

The designs at Minted combine typography and patterns for a modern, artistic effect. Here are two examples (with a little gold foil thrown in). See other designs here.

Minted Business Card

Minted Business Card

Make Your Card Purposefully Creative

Your creative business card design needs to be part of your overall marketing strategy. There are many beautiful designs that won’t encourage customers to buy from you. Be purposefully creative to help customers connect your card with your brand.  Identify these goals before finalizing your business card design:

  • How your business card should be delivered. Do you personally hand it out? Do customers take it from a standalone holder?
  • What you want customers to think when they take your card. Should they think that you’re professional with deep expertise? Maybe a creative problem-solver?
  • What you want customers to do with the card. Hang it on the fridge? Share with a friend? Connect with you on LinkedIn?

Want to improve your business card design? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to me at amanda@zooinajungle.com.

Big Businesses Just Don’t Get Customers

Small Business Maintains the Marketing Edge with Customer Engagement

In a recent poll with 58 senior-level retail executives, a mere 10% listed store associates as one of the top factors affecting their brand’s customer engagement.

Instead of the people in their stores, 63% of retail executives chose “Brand image/marketing” as a primary driver of customer engagement. Many of those executives also cited “Product choice/assortment.” Here’s the full graph of all the things big brands think are more important than their retail employees:

Big Businesses Just Don't Get Customers

I’m surprised at how out-of-touch these executives seem. No one engages with marketing communications or product choices, although those are important elements of the overall customer experience. Engagement is two-way communication that is most easily achieved with another living being.

Small business retailers are close enough to their customers to realize that in-store employees are critical to engaging customers by providing service, offering recommendations and selling products. You understand your customers, and that’s one key competitive advantage for small businesses.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Green City Resources designed and installed this beautiful habitat garden on the roof of Macy’s Corporate Headquarters in Cincinnati.

Rose Seeger and I produced a video to help prospective gardeners learn about the five elements needed to grow your own certified wildlife habitat. The video is posted on Green City Resources’ Facebook page.

Macy's Corporate Headquarters Wildlife Habitat Garden

Watch the video: How to Build Your Own Wildlife Habitat

3 Examples of Videos for Small Business Marketing

Small businesses are particularly well suited to video marketing campaigns, as I wrote about in “How Videos Boost Your Small Business Marketing.” Usually, the founder or employees are personable characters, which result in compelling and memorable videos.

To give you inspiration, here are three marketing videos I produced for clients.

Small Business Marketing Video Example

Watch the video: What Happens if You Don’t Winterize Your Sprinkler System

In this video for TriState Water Works, the founder of the company provides a dramatic example of failing to winterize a sprinkler system.

Small Business Marketing Video Example

Watch the video: Make these 2 Easy and Amazing Treats for Your Dog

Marketing videos don’t always need to feature the founder. Often, customer-facing employees make excellent videos that customers really relate to. In Grady Veterinary Hospital’s video, a receptionist shares healthy recipes for dog treats.

Small Business Marketing Video Example

Watch the video: Don’t Let the Wealthy Widows Get Away!

Marti Barletta is a speaker, so she always looks for opportunities to have her keynotes filmed. In this way, we turn a one-time event into an ongoing marketing campaign. In this speech to financial advisors, she shares details about how to earn business from affluent widows.

These three video marketing examples are quite different, but they have something in common: they are each extremely relevant to the organization’s customer target. And because of that focus, they have been very successful elements of my clients’ small business marketing efforts.

How to Make a Commodity Product Interesting

Canned vegetables are certainly a commodity product. They’re cheaper than fresh, and often discredited as less nutritious than frozen vegetables. But if you drive through South Carolina, you’ll encounter a marketing campaign by Glory Foods that makes canned vegetables, well, glorious.

Glory Foods, founded in Columbus, OH, has woven Southern soul into its brand. Each can of blackeye peas, collard greens or green beans is “seasoned southern style.” Billboards drive home this message with cheeky Southern sayings that emphasize the convenience of the product. Here are a few I saw recently:

Commodity Marketing

Commodity marketing

Commodity marketing

Other marketing slogans include:

  • Give peas a chance
  • Flavor and spice and everything nice
  • Southern greatness: yes, you can
  • Open up a can of flavor
  • Soul of the South
  • Hail to the kale!

Glory Foods is successful in marketing a commodity because it gave the product a perspective and personality. The marketing team made canned vegetables memorable in a way that was meaningful to customers– and definitely encourages motorists to try the product.