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?

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.

A Small Business Marketing Campaign that Understands the Customer

James Free Jewelers is enjoying success with a clever marketing strategy tailored for engaged couples. With any bridal purchase over $5000, customers receive a free 4-day, 3-night honeymoon cruise.

Small business marketing campaign

This offer is much more attention-grabbing and interesting than a straight percentage discount, while still preserving margin for the retailer. A full-price, 4-day Bahamas cruise with Norwegian starts at $658/couple. That’s 13% of a $5000 purchase. Considering the bad PR that cruise lines like Norwegian have received in the recent past, James Free Jewelers probably doesn’t pay full-price for these complimentary cruises, allowing them to preserve even better margins.

Changing the conversation from a 13% discount to a free cruise shifts the purchasing decision away from raw price calculations into a more imaginative realm. You can picture a couple debating about which engagement ring to buy, and one of them says, “That other jeweler may be cheaper, but they don’t offer a cruise!”

Also, the promise of a cruise could push couples to spend more money with James Free Jewelers. They might opt for an engagement ring that’s a bit more expensive to qualify for the promotion. Also, the offer might motivate them to purchase the engagement ring and wedding bands from James Free, instead of shopping around and buying the pieces from various jewelers.

I encourage other small businesses to get creative with their promotions and use James Free’s campaign as inspiration. Think of experiences or benefits that would complement your products and services, like a honeymoon cruise for newlyweds. You’ll give more of a WOW factor and likely end up spending less marketing budget.

Why Do Customers Write Reviews?

Who are these people who write reviews on websites like Yelp, Amazon and Angie’s List? And why do they have so much power over your success?

Contrary to some opinions I’ve heard, online reviewers usually aren’t just disgruntled customers or dishonest competitors in disguise. They view themselves as part of a community that plays an important role in helping consumers make wise choices.

Remember that these online review websites are companies, and they have a business interest in encouraging reviewers. The more reputable and helpful their community is, the more successful the company will be.

For instance, Yelp recruits active reviewers to engage in its ‘Elite’ program, offering special free events and perks to this group. You can see from my Yelp profile that I participated in this community for awhile:

Why do customers write reviews?

On a smaller scale, some companies offer sweepstakes giveaways or discounts to customers who write reviews. And we can never neglect the allure some feel of developing a following, being considered a community leader or creating a reputation as an expert (even if it’s just expertise in local restaurants).

Because online review companies develop authentic communities, your customers trust the reviews they read, and they make purchase decisions based on reviewers’ opinions. So be nice to the reviewers and encourage your loyal customers to make their voices heard.

The Pinterest Marketing Checklist

With 14.9 million users as of July 2012, Pinterest is certainly a growing social network. But should it be part of your marketing plan? If you answer “yes” to the questions in my Pinterest Marketing Checklist, a Pinterest marketing campaign should probably be in your future.

  • Are a significant portion of your customers or influencers women?
  • Is your brand related to fashion, art, crafting, event-planning, cooking, travel or something similar?
  • Can your brand tell a story with pictures? Do pictures of your products, services or location impress?
If you answered “no” to these questions, you can dismiss Pinterest from your mind and stop reading this article. I like to make life easier for my readers. Those answering in the affirmative should read on.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest LogoPinterest is all about organizing and sharing pictures of things you like. These pictures are collected in groupings, called “pin-boards.” Users see pictures that friends and brands “pin,” and they “repin” the content if they like it. Pinterest users want to display their style and personality, along with using Pinterest to help them plan events and store ideas.

The overwhelming majority of active Pinterest users are female. There’s some controversy in the media about the truth of this statement, but anyone who has ever visited Pinterest sees the obvious truth of it.

Brands must be careful about marketing on Pinterest– promoting oneself too obviously will ensure your “pins” are ignored. Engage users with stories and environments that subtly include products and services.

Pinterest Marketing Success Story

Fashion brand Anthropologie has made a concerted effort with their Pinterest marketing the last few months. Visitors to the Anthropologie website can pin any product, sharing it with their friends. Importantly, the brand encourages customers to spread the word on Pinterest for them, creating a more authentic, populist campaign (and relinquishing control over what products actually become popular).

Pinterest Marketing on Anthropologie

Anthropologie took the Pinterest marketing offline, as well. Pages in their catalogues cheekily display collections of pins, with copy, “From oodles of brooches to the pull of Pinterest.”

Pinterest Marketing from Anthropologie

If you’ve decided to give Pinterest marketing a try, use this Anthropologie example as a start, or contact me for more ideas – amanda@zooinajungle.com. For readers who will be in Alaska on October 4, 2012, learn more about social media marketing during my presentation at the Getting Down to Business Sales & Customer Service Conference. Click here to learn more.

Why Facebook Marketing Still Matters

Facebook’s stock price plummeted on the news that 83 million of its user accounts are fake– either duplicates, spambots or (most interestingly) pet accounts. That’s 8.7% of Facebook’s 955 million monthly active users.

Despite the market’s reaction to this news, Facebook marketing still matters. Why? Because Facebook marketing still works– if businesses do it right.

If you’re reading my small business marketing blog, it probably doesn’t matter to you if Facebook has 955 million users or 872 million users. You’re never going to need that many customers. Facebook marketing still gives businesses the opportunity to connect with people who are interested in their brands, products and services. For many of my clients, Facebook is still one of the most effective marketing tools in our toolbox.

To learn more about effective Facebook marketing, read my article, “Facebook Marketing Tips,” which gives the following four tips:

  1. Post interesting content to Facebook
  2. Motivate your customers to interact on your Facebook page
  3. Respond to your customers’ questions
  4. Be subtle with your sales

Facebook Marketing Fills the Movie Theatre

Saturday morning, Cincinnati’s Esquire Theatre introduced little-known movie Moonrise Kingdom on Facebook. Saturday evening, from my observation, both showings of Moonrise Kingdom appeared to sell out. As my husband and I, who aren’t particularly ardent film buffs, took our seats in the crowded theatre, we discussed how glad we were that the Esquire’s Facebook page alerted us to this movie we were sure to love (and which we did!). For the Esquire, these sold out shows represented a huge Facebook marketing success.

Kathy Parsanko, PR Director for the Esquire, Mariemont, and Kenwood Theatres, agrees that Facebook marketing played a role in the film’s success:

“We don’t often sell out, so Moonrise Kingdom‘s performance was impressive. I believe its success came from a combination of factors, including our Facebook promotion, trailers playing before our other films, really great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and word-of-mouth. Many of our Facebook fans responded to the posts with shares, likes and comments.”

For casual film fans, Facebook might have been the only way to learn about the first showings of this movie. If you weren’t at the theatre to see the preview and don’t often check Rotten Tomatoes, a smaller movie like this might pass you by. Without these casual fans, Moonrise Kingdom probably wouldn’t have sold out.

When I ask Kathy what methods she used to get the word out on Facebook, she says:

“I used the ‘Promote This’ feature for this Facebook post. It was a reasonable cost, and many Facebook fans responded. We received 49 Shares for this post– which was extremely unusual.”

Here’s the moral of this story. Facebook marketing of interesting content like this:

Description of Moonrise Kingdom at the Esquire

Can help businesses achieve results like this:

Sold-out crowd at the Esquire

Today’s Top Social Media Networks

As a marketing consultant, businesses often ask me which social media networks they should include in their marketing plans. The number of social media networks is skyrocketing beyond yesterday’s trifecta of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (although those are still the top three!). It can be dizzying to learn about these networks, let alone to decide if they make marketing sense for your business.

Based on my experience, here’s a quick primer on today’s top social media networks (and if they might fit into your social media marketing).

Facebook

Brand with personality and loyal customers, like locally-owned shops, thrive on Facebook, where showing your friends you ‘like’ a brand is part of your online persona. Engage fans with quick polls, contests, pictures, videos and the occasional special deal. If you invest in Facebook advertising, also invest the time to make your Facebook Page a “hangout” for customers. For some ideas, here’s a podcast with Facebook Marketing Tips.

Twitter 

Most apparently, people who know things find their home sharing that knowledge on Twitter– speakers, authors, scientists, journalists, software engineers and other subject-area experts. Brands connect with these influential customers to grow loyalty and get publicity, like Morton’s Steakhouse did in their famous airport delivery to a Twitter follower. Learn some Twitter lingo with this article, “Should I be on Twitter?

LinkedIn 

Professionals mull around LinkedIn, connecting with friends and colleagues while seeking new clients, new jobs or endorsements. Many companies successfully use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool.

Pinterest 

With a user-base that is overwhelmingly female, Pinterest is a visual site for collecting virtual pin-boards of things that interest you. Brands must carefully join these conversations– promoting oneself too obviously will ensure your “pins” are ignored. If Pinterest users sound like your customer base, engage them with stories and environments that subtly include products and services.

YouTube 

Although this video-sharing site doesn’t fit the conventional definition of “social media,” it can be crucial for hosting and sharing videos of interest to your network. Now, these videos can also be repurposed with Google AdWords. For businesses with interesting, funny or informative content, such as veterinarians or resorts, video can be a powerful marketing tool.

Yelp

Restaurants and, increasingly, other local service businesses definitely belong on Yelp. This review site’s diligent work in building a community of reviewers and users paid off– Yelp will power Microsoft’s Bing local results, and this fall it will become part of Apple’s Maps application on the iPhone and iPad. For a more detailed look, see my article, “Yelp for Small Business Marketing.”

TripAdvisor

If you are in the travel business, have you looked up your TripAdvisor reviews? If your reviews aren’t stellar, you can partner with TripAdvisor through their business listings– and even if they are, you may want to offer special offers or appear at the top of search results.

Instagram

This picture-sharing network was recently purchased by Facebook, but it’s still a force in its own right. Users subscribe to others’ photo streams, including brands they like or find interesting. Instagram has an interesting look at how some brands are using their network.

On October 5 in Anchorage, I’ll be joining some of Alaska’s top small business leaders for the Getting Down to Business® Conference. In my “Marketing Matters: Social Media” workshop, we’ll discuss the top social media networks, which ones should have a place in your marketing plan and how to tell if they are profitable. I’ll make the complex and diverse world of social media clear with straightforward explanations and common-sense examples. If you’re a small business in Alaska, you’ll want to stay-tuned for conference details.

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?

Why the Facebook Timeline Makes Marketing Sense

Lately, I’ve heard many complaints about the new Facebook timeline for businesses. Change can certainly be unwelcome and inconvenient, but the new timeline design has actually improved Facebook marketing opportunities for businesses.

A Simply Measured study released at the end of March shows that brands received, on average, a 46% increase in engagement when updating to the timeline. Photo and video post engagement increased an impressive 65%. Engagement includes commenting on or sharing a post. Engaging with customers is what makes Facebook a powerful marketing tool, so these increases can be very valuable for businesses.

Customization is another great benefit to the Facebook timeline design– now businesses can uniquely portray their brand with a cover image, highlighted stories and important events in the business’s history. Before, all business Facebook pages looked pretty much the same, and it was difficult to communicate your brand rather than Facebook’s brand. Facebook now tries to put the emphasis on the business, not themselves.

Before the timeline, it was easy for a business’s Facebook page to become cluttered with posts, comments or complaints from customers. Now, there is much better organization for this content. Businesses can also send and receive private messages from Facebook users. For most businesses, this will help keep their Facebook marketing communication free from confusion– a customer who asks a question or makes a complaint can now receive a private answer.

To see some examples of how other businesses and brands are marketing with Facebook, I recommend checking out Facebook’s own page – “Introducing New Facebook Pages.” There’s also a brief overview of new features. If you still have questions, or need some help, send me an email – amanda@zooinajungle.com. I’m always glad to talk small business marketing!