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.

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs

Strangely, reality TV has fostered a golden era of business-focused television. Whether it’s Lori Greiner detailing why a product is “a hero or a zero,” Marcus Lemonis cutting through complicated shareholder agreements or Gordon Ramsay refocusing managers on the primacy of the guest experience, small business owners have opportunity for a free (and entertaining!) business education just by turning on the television.

1. Shark Tank

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs

This show is an obvious choice for my list, and I hope my entrepreneurial readers already watch it. ABC’s hit venture capital series offers useful advice to inventors, start-ups and small businesses.

2. Beyond the Tank

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs
Shark Tank shows the exciting deal-making element of business, but Beyond the Tank delves into the day-to-day operational and marketing struggles of companies that made a deal with a shark. Watch this show to become inspired to implement!

3. The Profit

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs
In this CNBC series, Marcus Lemonis takes over promising businesses that are failing due to operational issues, marketing failures or bickering owners. Not every business experiences success, which makes this show even more instructional.

4. Hotel Hell

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs
We all know Gordon Ramsay’s “exploding chef” persona, but he’s also a stellar businessman. His perfectionism comes from a desire to deliver the absolute best guest experience. In Fox’s Hotel Hell, he guides struggling hotels/restaurants to profitability. It’s similar to his previous show Kitchen Nightmares (but with more mold infestations).

5. Nathan for You

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs
Reality business programming has become so popular, the genre has earned a parody show. In this Comedy Central spoof, Nathan Fielder brings terrible advice to unsuspecting small businesses. The opening credits reveal his qualifications in booming tones, “I graduated from one of Canada’s top business schools with really good grades.” Perhaps this show isn’t truly educational, but you are going to love it.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Precise language is one of my joys. It’s exhilarating to find exactly the right word that communicates in the best way possible.

Which is why it pains me to admit that accuracy isn’t all that important if it’s boring. For marketing communications, you must be interesting first and precise second. To catch a customer’s attention, it’s best to spark their curiosity with memorable content.

Words become boring through overuse. When a word is ubiquitous in the culture, customers start to overlook it, like static in the background. Sometimes, these words are useful descriptors of what your company does, but it doesn’t matter if customers have grown accustomed to ignoring them.

Instead, choose words that are easily understood but unique in the context of your business. Compare these two marketing campaign approaches from Mosquito Joe and JH Mosquito Control Services. Mosquito Joe takes a friendly approach that is much more interesting and memorable than JH’s technical description of its service special.

Mosquito Joe – Outside is fun again.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

JH Mosquito Control Services – Mosquito Control Special!

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Some Terms that Might be Accurate, but are Terribly Boring:

  • Solutions
  • Collaborative
  • Communication
  • Service
  • Special
  • Alignment
  • Outside the box
  • Cutting edge
  • Turnkey
  • Innovative
  • Expert

Perfection is Illusive, but Keep Working on It!

True marketing magic happens when you find precisely the right words that also perfectly describe what you do and why customers should buy from you. I advocate striving for that goal!

In the meantime, though, you have to keep marketing and selling. “Don’t let perfection become the enemy of good,” is a powerful business adage. As you move forward, infuse more interesting and unique language into your marketing. You’ll attract customers’ attention, and they will allow you more time to explain accurately what you do.

Save Your Marketing Budget with Negative Keywords

Almost every pay-per-click advertising campaign has room for optimization. Today, let’s focus on one simple way to save money with your Google AdWords campaigns: adding negative keywords. A negative keyword prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.

For instance, it’s incredibly important to list negative keywords for my clients who are professional speakers. Otherwise, our ads would display for searches such as “Sony speakers for sale,” or “Public speaking tips.”

How to Add Negative Keywords to Your Google AdWords Campaigns

First, you’ll need to identify which keywords result in undesirable clicks to your ads. Fortunately, Google has a tool for that. In the Keywords tab, look at the Search Terms sub-tab, shown below:

Save Your Marketing Budget with Negative Keywords

Google describes this report as follows:

“Learn how customers are finding your ad. With the Search terms report, you can see the actual searches people entered on Google Search and other Search Network sites that triggered your ad and led to a click. Depending on your keyword match types, this list might include terms other than exact matches to your keywords.”

When I ran this report for a veterinary hospital, I found a few stray clicks from searches for things like “cat declawing” and “ear cropping” – services my client definitely doesn’t provide!  Also, several searches indicated clicks that might not results in optimal clients, such as “free vet clinic.” And there was a weird “def leppard” result. (Sometimes running this report can be really funny– except your advertising budget isn’t laughing.)

To add the negative keywords, click on the Negative Keywords sub tab, then click the big red +KEYWORDS button:

Save Your Marketing Budget with Negative Keywords

All done! Enjoy your savings.

Suggested Negative Keywords to Get You Started

Different industries usually require different negative keywords, but here are a few general suggestions I use for most of my clients:

  • Cheap
  • Free
  • DIY
  • How to
  • Learn to
  • Profanity and explicit language

Add some negative keywords and watch your AdWords reports to track your results. You should save money and also receive more relevant clicks from potential customers.

A Really Limited-Time Offer

The department that writes marketing campaign headlines at Walmart clearly isn’t the same department that designs the automated app marketing:

A Really Limited-Time Offer

Make Mom Happy! Until Saturday, that is. After Saturday, Mom will have to fend for herself.

Consider this weekly ad from Walmart a friendly reminder to always test your automated marketing, mail merge settings and other customer communications before they reach your audiences.

Don’t Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

Since I named my small business marketing firm Zoo in a Jungle Marketing, it’s pretty clear that I approve of marketing metaphors. Taken from Peter DeVries’ quote “Life is a zoo in a jungle,” my company name promotes stepping outside the constraining zoo of your immediate business environment into the jungles of possibility.

But some brands take marketing metaphors too far. For instance, Roehr Insurance:

Don't Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

When I first saw this banner, I thought, “Okay, a lion shield for a logo. I get it– lions symbolize strength, wealth and honor. Those are all desirable attributes in an insurance agency.” The lion shield serves as a clear, quickly-understood metaphor for the service you hopefully would receive from this firm.

Then I saw the tagline,”Put the Roehr back in your insurance,” and the pun-inducing groans started. Heavy-handed and silly are NOT desirable attributes for an insurance agency. (Not to mention confusing– what would it mean to have insurance that roars?)

While I certainly encourage the use of well-placed marketing metaphors, watch out for instances that give the impression of amateur efforts instead of well-crafted expertise.

Avoid the ‘Alphabet Soup’ Product Naming Approach

Naming products and services is an incredibly important element to your branding strategy and marketing plan. Ideal product names are clearly descriptive, motivating to customers and memorable.

Or, you could take LG’s example and go with the alphabet soup approach:

Avoid the Alphabet Soup Product Naming Approach

The LG G Pad F 8.0 (don’t forget it’s trademarked!) is a real product. Try to imagine a customer talking about their new LG G Pad F 8.0 to a friend. Do you think they could even remember the full model name? Perhaps this clunky name is partially to blame for LG having to offer this tablet for $0.99– not exactly a high-margin sale.

LG’s product name is a prime example of naming a product from a production team’s perspective instead a customer’s. To the LG engineers, I’m sure this is a perfectly logical model name. But it doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of a simple, clear product name like iPad.

When naming your next product or service, try to be more like Apple and less like LG.

USPS’s Every Door Direct Mail: a Small Business Marketing Tool

Direct mail is expensive, and a large part of that expense is the growing cost of postage. But USPS offers a marketing program that significantly reduces postage costs called Every Door Direct Mail. In my experience, postage costs can be reduced as much as 40%.

USPS EDDM - Marketing Tool

Sounds too good to be true? For some brands and marketing strategies, it certainly is. Generally speaking, EDDM campaigns reduce costs, but often not enough to create a positive ROI. Here are my guidelines for when to consider an EDDM campaign.

When is EDDM Right for My Business?

EDDM could be a useful tool in your small business marketing plan if:

  • There are specific neighborhoods or ZIP codes that contain high concentrations of your customers or prospects.
  • Your product or service is something that almost everyone in a given mailing route could reasonably want or need.
  • The lifetime value of your customer justifies the cost of printing + postage. Lifetime value includes both the initial purchase and subsequent purchases.

Tips for Increasing the Effectiveness of Your EDDM Campaign

If you decide to try out USPS’s EDDM, here are a few tips for success:

  • Personalize the mailer for the neighborhood/ZIP code. EDDM is highly-targeted, so you may as well take the time to create specific messages for specific groups of customers.
  • Consider when customers are most likely to purchase your product and service and time your mailer appropriately. For instance, a retailer who receives most of its sales in November and December may not want to send out a mailer during the slow season when demand is slack.
  • Develop a compelling call-to-action. A campaign-specific call-to-action not only will increase the success of your mailer but will help you track that success, as well.
  • Create a unique design that resonates with your brand. Using an unusual mailer shape or colors can help your piece stand out in a stack of mail. Just make sure the piece also communicates your marketing message clearly.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried EDDM, either with success or lackluster results. And just give me a call with questions– this USPS offering can be rather confusing to figure out!

Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?

Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?An editorial calendar helps answer the question, “What am I supposed to do next?” It’s a tactical element of your small business marketing plan that lays out the month, quarter or year. With only a few hours of work, you’ll boost marketing productivity and effectiveness.

Start with Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies

As a small business, it’s incredibly important you spend your marketing budget efficiently and effectively. You can’t afford to keep doing the same marketing tactics year after year unless you know they really work. Before implementing any marketing campaigns, make sure your strategy is solid and will help you meet your business goals.

Ensure Marketing Implementation with an Editorial Calendar

One of the toughest challenges for any small business is consistently deploying marketing campaigns on time. When you often spend your day “putting out fires,” it can be hard to remember to grow your audience on Facebook, communicate with customers via your email newsletter or schedule in-person meetings with prospects.

That’s where an editorial calendar comes in. This tool helps build discipline into the timing of your marketing and ensures no channel is neglected.

For each of my small business clients, I typically outline an entire year’s calendar, with goals set for each month. This document becomes our to-do list. It’s fairly simple– take a look at the sample below for 2016 Q1.

Sample Marketing Editorial Calendar

January 2016

  • Film two videos surrounding “Winter” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Winter” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Winter” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Winter” campaign January Email Newsletter
  • Manage “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Refresh website design template for 2016

February 2016

  • Stop “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Love” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Love” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Love” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Love” campaign February Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Design and print “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS mailer

March 2016

  • Stop “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Spring” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Spring” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Spring” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Spring” campaign March Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Spring” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Send “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS to target ZIP code