Month: November 2012

Client Referrals: Don’t Ask… Don’t Get

Many SMB owners describe client referrals as one of the hardest things they have to do. No matter if they receive client emails thanking them for their service and singing their praises, very few see that feedback as marketing opportunities to ask their clients for referrals.

With November drawing to a close this week, I can’t think of a better time to set up face-to-face meetings with your existing clients to wish them well for the holidays, discuss their plans for the new year, and ask them for a referral.

I am not suggesting in any way that we substitute client referrals with other lead generation tools such as social media, landing pages, online marketing, QR code campaigns, etc., but there is no better lead than a “warm” lead or “endorsed” lead from an existing client.

Although many business owners feel comfortable asking their clients for a testimonial, when it comes to referrals they seem to steer clear.  I’m not sure if it’s that they are shy or just afraid of the client reaction, but referrals are not only a fantastic source for lead generation, they are “free” and therefore should be included in every marketing strategy.

Here are a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you approach your clients and get the business referrals you deserve:

  • Book a face-to-face meeting with your client. People will always be more likely to do something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them. Although it is acceptable to ask for referrals by email or phone if you’re in a situation where a face-to-face is not possible, you will have greater success when meeting in person.
  • Use the upcoming holidays as an opportunity to set up this face-to-face.
  • Make it a more casual setting – since it is holiday time, a lunch offer would be nice with the idea to thank them for their business and also to connect on plans for the new year.
  • During your holiday lunch or coffee, and after you have discussed their business needs, be as sincere and direct as you can be and say something such as, “I’m really glad that you’re pleased with my work. I’m always looking for referrals and wonder if you know anyone else who might be interested in _______ (what you do).” If they do offer names, take them down and ask the person if they mind if you contact the people directly or if they would prefer to pass your information along to them yourself.
  • Another approach might be to add: “May I leave a few of my business cards with you in case someone comes to mind?” Leaving extra business cards with a person makes it easier for them to pass your name and contact information to someone else.
  • Keep this meeting upbeat and never ask for a referral when presenting your client with their invoice.

It does take some effort and possibly courage to approach your clients for referrals, but the effort promises great rewards.

How have you asked for referrals? Do you have any approaches you would add to this list?

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Putting It All Together on Facebook

Last week I shared with you a few tips on creating a Facebook Strategy for your SMB, to help you achieve your marketing goals.

This week, I want to follow up on that blog by sharing some examples of the types of campaigns and activities you might want to consider including on your Facebook Page.  Of course these campaigns need to be tied to your strategy and have measurable metrics in place. (see Facebook Strategy Tips for SMBs from last weeks post).

Who’s the Boss?
When setting your Facebook Strategy you may have decided who will be the point person, responsible for posting on the site.  This person is referred to as the “Page administrator”.  Although you can have more than one Page administrator, be clear as to who is the “boss” – the person responsible for posting and managing the entire site.  If you have too many Page administrators, you run the risk of each of them writing in a different style, posting on similar topic and ultimately creating brand confusion on your page.  Before you launch the page, establish a clear set of roles and responsibilities for your Page administrators.

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Do They “Like” Me?
Regardless of whether you have a lead gen or increase brand recognition Facebook Strategy, you need to build audience for your page.  One of the best ways to build audience is to give them something of value in exchange for a “Like”. You might want to consider a competition or contest to entice new “Likes”. Please note that Facebook has rules and regulations for running contests on their platform and a very hefty price might have to be paid for holding a contest without their consent.

Will You Come Back?
In between your campaigns, you need to keep your audience engaged.  One of the best approaches is to create variety with images, polls, questions, videos, links, message clips, company or customer news and also industry news. Your Facebook site needs to be “alive” with a flurry of activity. By using a variety of media, you’ll keep your audience engaged and help you in setting up the stage for the next campaign.

Show Them You Care
Although it a simple idea that if someone comments on your Facebook Wall, you answer them, unfortunately on many sites it’s not always the case. So make sure you treat your Facebook Wall like you would a phone or email message from a potential client – get back to them as soon as you can.

Set Policy for Customer Feedback
Facebook does not shut down or turn off.  Particularly for SMBs focused on consumers, who may visit your site at anytime day or night, you need to set a policy for your company regarding feedback response times and how to deal with negative comments. You need to decide if you can accept one negative comment, two, three or if one is already one too many.  There are lots of schools of thought on this, but you will need to take a company stand on how to deal with customer feedback and inform your agency or internal page administrator how to deal with customer comments and when or if negative comments are to be deleted.

Value Equals Sharing
Social media and particularly Facebook are all about sharing. So as a business you need to think about what you can offer your audience that’s of value to them, but that they would want to share with a friend or colleague. For example, you might want to share an eBook, an exclusive offer, a cool competition, amazing industry news segment, trivia, etc.  If they value what you’re sharing, they will return the favour by letting others know and providing them with the same opportunity.

Leverage Facebook Insights
Facebook Insights is a set of analytics that tracks usage and interaction with your Facebook Page. It is available for free as long as you have over 30 Likes.  Leverage the Insights data by seeing how people are using your Page. What content is of most interest? What types of posts interest a particular audience? What is just not resonating? Once you see how your audience is behaving you can adjust your Page activities accordingly.

Be Consistent
Just like all of your other marketing activities, make sure the look and feel as well as the messaging, graphics, colours, etc. are consistent across your corporate website, Twitter feed, LinkedIn site, email signatures and your Facebook Page. The more your audience sees your consistent branding, the more brand recognition you’ll receive and therefore the better chance of success.

I hope these tips have helped you explore a few ways to reach and grow your audience through this powerful online marketing tool.

What types of campaigns are you running on Facebook? Have they been successful?  How do you engage your audience between campaigns?  What is your biggest challenge on your Facebook Page?

Facebook Strategy Tips for SMBs

With 700 billion minutes spent each month by people using Facebook, it’s clear there is an audience there. However, you’ll need to decide if YOUR audience is there, and if they are, what and how Facebook can help your business to achieve its marketing goals.

If you are a SMB owner who is thinking about whether Facebook is the right platform for you, or you’ve already created a site with little to no success, then I’d like to share with you a few tips on creating a Facebook strategy, to help you achieve your marketing goals.

1. Decide Why You Have a Facebook Page

You want to interact with your customers on Facebook in a way that adds value to their experience and maximizes returns for your business.  To do that, you need to clearly understand why you are doing the marketing in the first place. You’ll need to decide what type of Facebook Page you want. Do you want to have a customer service, content or news source or will this be an e-commerce type vehicle for your business?

2. Develop a Strategy

Now that you know why you want a Facebook Page, define your marketing goals, and develop a corresponding strategy.  This does not need to be a 10-page document – just outline what you hope to achieve on this site, with which audience, doing what. E.g. We want to target women, aged 25-35 who are interested in buying health products for babies using ongoing incentives on an e-commerce platform.  To achieve this, we will have 12 incentives per year, and advertise using several integrated platforms.

With most online platforms, it’s worthwhile to think long term. As such, plan out a strategy for at least a year. Rome was not built in a day. By the same token, Facebook Pages and audiences take some time to build, so be patient – they will come.

3. Success Metrics

Whether it serves as an e-commerce tool, or only shares news content, your Facebook Page needs to have success metrics. These could be as defined as wanting to increase your brand awareness with a goal of 1000 “Likes” within a year, wanting to increase traffic to your website by 10%, or wanting to increase sales of a particular product by 5%.   The key is to be as specific as you want, as well as making sure to tie the metrics into your audience and tactic in order to nail down what amounts to a “success” for your business.

4. Create a Tactical Plan

Once you have the strategy with measured outcomes outlined, you can develop a tactical plan or critical path that outlines the details of what (as well as who, when, how) is going to happen on your site. The plan should include as much detail as you can, allowing for some flexibility as your online audience may dictate changes. E.g. You created a content-only site to build awareness, but customer discussions on your site are asking for products. In this case, you might want to start a campaign offering these products online.

5. Commit to a Posting Schedule

Facebook is all about sharing and interacting with others, so you’ll need to stick to some type of posting schedule. This schedule needs to be defined in your plan, and followed diligently. Depending on your business and audience, this could mean posting once a day, three times a week or even once a week. Just as with any marketing for your business, if you are going to do it, then do it well.  By ignoring your Facebook Page, you are sending the wrong message to your audience, by making it seem as if youdo not care.

6. Be Consistent

From your website, Facebook Page, other online media to your business cards and other marketing collateral – the look, feel, and messaging need to be consistent.  Your audience has to know that your company is professional, and one way to do this is to make sure your branding is consistent. When deciding on the Facebook Page name, make sure it is consistent with your brand name.

The potential for marketing opportunity on Facebook is tremendous for many businesses, so I encourage SMB owners to consider using Facebook as one vehicle to better reach your audience.  I hope my tips will help you to align your Facebook strategy to better achieve and measure your goals.

In next week’s blog, I’ll discuss in more detail what types of campaigns and activities you might want to consider including on your Facebook Page.

Do you have a Facebook strategy? If so, feel free to share how it has helped to shape your marketing experiences on Facebook. If not, will you now consider having one? Let me know in the comments below.

How To Create A Unique Brand In Five Simple Steps

Differentiating your brand in a global market where businesses compete for a piece of the pie can be a daunting task.

For SMBs, who often feel their competitors seem to be selling approximately the same services/products, your unique selling proposition (USP) becomes more important as a way to stand out, and build a reputation based on a “special” difference.

As the owner of a marketing agency focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses succeed through strategic planning, I’d like to share some of the branding knowledge, specific to creating a successful USP, that I have gained over the years.

These steps will lay the groundwork that you need to help you make the most of your marketing and business planning activities.

Before we begin, let me clarify the term USP. A USP is a summary of what makes your business unique and valuable to your target market.  It answers the question: How do your business services/products benefit your clients better than anyone else’s?

Step 1: Analyze Your Competitors

Look at how other companies use their USPs to their advantage. Analyze other companies’ ads and marketing messages.  If you analyze what they say they sell, and not just their product or service characteristics, you can learn a great deal about how companies distinguish themselves from their competitors.

Step 2:  Solve a Problem

Armed with the knowledge of how your competitors distinguish themselves,now you can clearly identify what sets you apart. This step involves looking at your business from your prospective clients’ or customers’ perspective, to identify what the problem, need or challenge is that they face, and then outlining how your service/product can solve it for them.

Step 3: Big Benefits

Now that you have identified how your business solves a problem, list a few of the biggest benefits of working with you. Explain why your services are important to your customer, and why they should choose you over another provider.

Step 4: Your Target Audience

This is a trickier step than you might think, as your target audience is NOT simply everyone who buys your product/service.  Since we all enjoy a good fishing analogy, here’s one as it relates to USPs: If you want to catch salmon, then you need to use a specific fishing net. Otherwise, if you try to catch salmon using a huge net, although you may catch a few salmon, you are more likely to catch trout, sturgeons and tench. Think about what you’ve identified in steps 1 to 3, and then be as specific as you can when identifying your target audience for your service/product.

Step 5: The Pledge

A big part of a successful USP is making a pledge to your clients.  This is a promise of sorts, which clearly states the type of promise or guarantee that you will provide to your clients. This could be a statement that you can either publicize or simply keep internally. Either way, it is a statement of your commitment to your USP. For example, in Toronto, we have a pizza delivery service that promises to deliver your pizza in 30 minutes, or it is free.  This promise speaks volumes to customers about the type of commitment they are making to their customers, and the value they place on customer service.

Using specifics to identify what makes your business unique and valuable to your target audience is unquestionably one of the most important and valuable processes your business will ever undertake.  When you can clearly state how your business services/products benefit your clients better than anyone else’s, then you are well-positioned to differentiate your brand and develop strategies for business growth.

Do you have a USP? If not, do you have any questions about how to create one?  Is your USP incorporated into all of your marketing activities? Let me know in the comments below.