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.

Finding Leads on LinkedIn

Finding Leads on LinkedInLinkedIn is a great prospecting tool for B2B companies. In this article, learn more about finding leads on the platform. (If you’ve already established that you should develop a LinkedIn strategy, based on my article, “Is LinkedIn Right for Marketing my Small Business?“)

The key to finding leads is making connections, both by inviting many people to connect with you and by having memorable interactions with those people.

When you invite someone to connect with you, personalize the message beyond the default, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” My friend and business expert Steve Yastrow‘s biggest pet peeve is when people he barely knows send him the default connection invitation– he just ignores them. If you act like a robot, people will treat you like one.

How Do You Find People to Connect With on LinkedIn?

You know more people than you think you do! Most people can double their number of professional connections in just a few days.

Make connections with employees at your vendor and partner organizations– these contacts will be eager to connect with you and might have access to valuable leads.

Similarly, make an effort to connect with several people at your client organizations, not just your main contact. Developing more relationships will help broaden your involvement with your client.

Reflect on your past for opportunities to make connections. Consider high school classmates, church youth group friends or professors from college. Also, reach out to social contacts that might be professionally relevant, like parents from your kids’ playgroup.

If you’re fairly new in your career or business, consider connecting with friends of your parents who are more established professionally and will probably be glad to help your development.

These are just a few ideas to get you started expanding your LinkedIn network. Remember, “connecting” is not enough! Your lead generation will only be successful if you develop and maintain your relationships over time.

Marketing Your Personal Life on Facebook? Don’t.

In an apparent effort to raise advertising revenues, Facebook is now encouraging individuals to develop a marketing plan for their personal lives by advertising “important news” to their friends and family. Find that hard to believe? It happened to me just yesterday, when I shared the news I’m expecting. Here’s the picture proof (personal details removed):

Marketing your personal life on Facebook. Don't.

If you’re wondering, Facebook wanted to charge me $7.00 to pester my friends and family with advertising.

What a terrible idea. My friends don’t want me to target them with a marketing campaign. And I’ll probably unfriend the first person to advertise to me.

I’ve always advocated thinking of customers as individuals and real people instead of “target audiences.” Facebook seems to be trying to do the opposite – turning friendships into impersonal marketing strategies.

Cookie Monster is Happy Again

A few years ago, in the face of the obesity epidemic, Sesame Street tried to give Cookie Monster a new slogan: “Cookie is a sometimes food.” Cookie Monster bravely faced this new challenge, giving up his favorite phrase, “C is for cookie. That’s good enough for me.” Fans were not so kind. Petitions, blogs and forums sprang up protesting the change to fans’ beloved furry muppet.

I’m pleased to see Sesame Street has finally listened to the fans who miss Cookie Monster’s favorite line. In this new music video parody, Cookie Monster sings “Share It Maybe,” and follows up with an interview assuring us he’s not giving up cookies:

Video – Sesame Street: Share It Maybe

So what does this story have to do with small business marketing? Cleverly hidden among the muppets is a marketing lesson. When you have something customers absolutely love, don’t change it. Marketing and product improvements are essential when customers simply like them (or don’t like them at all), but when customers love something about your brand, it takes discipline to protect it from changing fads and trends.

Also, I just loved having a reason to share an awesome music video featuring Cookie Monster. Happy Friday!

Why Isn’t Every Business Using Yelp for Customer Service?

My husband and I had a great experience dining at Jimmy G’s, so I wrote them a five-star review on Yelp.

Positive review of Jimmy G's on Yelp

Less than an hour later, I received an email from Ross, the manager, thanking me for reviewing the restaurant. At first I thought, “What courtesy! How kind! How unusual!”

But then I thought… “Why isn’t every consumer business doing this?” Ross’s simple message turned me into a raving fan. I’m even giving them publicity on my blog. And it only took five minutes of his time.

How long would it take you to write a short thank-you message on Yelp to each of your reviewers?

Beyond thanking positive reviewers, what if you could repair customer relationships that resulted in negative reviews? Usually, it wouldn’t take more than an apology and a token of your sincerity.

Wouldn’t that be valuable to your business?

Should I be on Twitter?

If you answer “Yes” to the following two questions, you should probably include a Twitter presence in your marketing plan:

  • Are you interesting?
  • Are your customers on Twitter?

That is my basic litmus test to answer if a business or person should be on Twitter. More specifically, personalities, speakers, authors, thought leaders, news organizations, technology companies and similar groups should make room in the marketing budget for Twitter.

Who shouldn’t be on Twitter?

To effectively market with Twitter requires quite a time commitment– you have to develop a community of followers by engaging in conversation and keeping them interested. If your customers don’t use Twitter, don’t bother including it in your marketing activities. It’s OK to just say “No!” to any marketing activity that won’t help you reach your business goals.

What should I say?

Marketing on Twitter is less about what you say and more about how you participate. People use Twitter for news, stories, conversations, and to learn what others are thinking right this moment about important (and not-so-important) issues in their lives. No one uses Twitter to receive deals or special offers from businesses. Be friendly and join conversations. Consider Twitter the cocktail party of marketing more than a megaphone.

What about that Twitter vocab?

Here’s some Twitter vocabulary to get you started.

  • Tweep – a Twitter user
  • Tweet – What tweeps post
  • # – This little guy is called a hashtag, and it allows tweeps to add categories to their tweets. For instance, #marketing would be a tweet about marketing. Usually, event organizers specify a hashtag to use when attendees are tweeting from the event, so people the world over can follow the happenings.
  • RT – Retweet. Give credit where credit is due. If you repost someone’s tweet, credit them with RT @username.

Be Good, Businesses

The plumber ruined my plaster ceiling.

A year later, the roofer broke my deck.

Does this look right to you?

Does this look "right" to you?

They both told me, “I want to make this right.” Then, they did everything in their power to avoid paying. (With limited success. I’m pretty tenacious.)

In the age of word-of-mouth marketing, with Angie’s List, Yelp and girlfriends getting together for coffee, how could any business person be so short-sighted to think shirking a responsibility today would result in profit tomorrow?

Honesty and virtue are key ingredients to long-term success. It sounds old-fashioned, because there’s nothing new about being a good business with good people.

Dishonesty can lead to short-term gains–remember Enron?–but ultimately ends in business disaster. For the plumber, I wrote a reasonable yet scathing review of his business and chose one of his dozen competitors to be my go-to plumber. As for the roofer, I related my story to friends and neighbors, so they can make informed decisions in the future. I’m just one home-owner, but my influence extends beyond my own purchasing needs.

And the same is true of your customers. Each day, your customers are evaluating your dependability and trustworthiness. They are sharing their opinions with friends and family. Their opinions carry more weight than the most perfectly-designed marketing campaign.

So, be good. Do the right thing.

Your business will profit from it, and so will your conscience.

P.S. Bonus: The effects of unethical business decisions extend further than word-of-mouth. If you have customers who won’t pay anything until the last jot and tittle of the contract are fulfilled, they’ve likely been treated badly in the past. They feel the need to protect themselves. And who can blame them? We’ve all heard the lie at sometime or other, “I want to make this right.”

Marketing Throughout the Lifecycle

Do you have different marketing strategies for interacting with customers at each phase of the customer lifecycle? Most businesses don’t, but they should. The cost of acquiring a new customer can be quite high– think of traditional metrics like CPM, CPC or less traditional ones like the time spent making unfruitful sales calls and writing proposals. However, the cost of keeping a customer is usually much less. (Additionally, the cost for getting referrals from your customers is often nothing.)

There are many different customer lifecycle models, but I like Steve Yastrow’s. In fact, he wrote a great article about the topic, “Most Companies Stop Marketing.” Here’s his model:

As illustrated, most businesses focus their marketing on helping customers learn about them, then slack off when it comes to purchasing and the ongoing customer relationship. Think of it like the cable TV, wireless phone provider or car insurance model: reel customers in with a great deal, then see how much hassle you can get them to put up with before a competitor entices them with a better deal. Most businesses aren’t quite as blatant as this, but the result is the same– customers get upset or bored with them and move to a competitor.

Your business will have an incredible competitive advantage if you develop and implement marketing strategies for keeping your customers. When competitors lose their customers, those customers will come to you. And these customers will stay with you, breaking the cycle of fickleness.

Give Thanks to Your Customers

How often do you “give thanks” to your customers? I don’t mean sending them a coupon or throwing them a scanty “Thank you!” as they walk out the door. I mean being truly thankful to your customers.

They could spend money with your competitors, yet they choose you. Without customers, you and your employees wouldn’t be able to make a living. Even be thankful for the customers who complain. Without them, you would never improve, and many silent customers would simply stop buying.

I can’t tell you how to give thanks to your customers because I don’t know them. Giving thanks is a personal, individualized practice, and you need to do it based on what you know about your customers.

So on the day after Thanksgiving, after you’ve given thanks to God, family and country, spare some time to be thankful for your customers.

Small Business: Marketing with Personality

Small businesses have a great marketing advantage over large businesses: built in personality. Large companies strive to develop personalities with expensive advertising and PR campaigns– think Apple (I’m a Mac), Wal-Mart (Power to the Savers) and Toyota (the Swagger Wagon family). But if you have a small business, you are the personality (for better or worse).

Why is personality a great small business marketing tool? By showing your personality, you give customers something to be loyal to. Loyalty can’t be bestowed on products or services, but people are loyal to other people and organizations. Loyal customers will buy more from you and rave more to their friends. You just need to show them some personality.

What have you done lately to infuse the best parts of your personality into your small business?