15 Key Customer Service Skills

We all know that excellent customer service is good for your business, whether you’re a huge corporate, or a small business. No matter what you do, your customers are what makes your business work, so it’s crucial to look after them and make them feel valued.

According to Dimensional Research, 52% of consumers say that they have made an additional purchase from a company after a positive customer service experience. And that 90% of customers are influenced by positive reviews when buying a product.

So, what key customer service skills do you need to possess to make your business stand out?

Patience

They say that ‘Patience is a virtue’ and I’m a firm believer in this. It isn’t the easiest of skills to master, but patience will help you and your customer. It’s very important to hear what your customers have to say; they might be frustrated about something, or just simply confused. They might ask totally irrelevant questions, but it is absolutely crucial to keep calm, hear them out and then try and work through their issues together.

Active listening

Active listening is closely linked to patience. Don’t just hear what your customers are saying – listen carefully and, if necessary, repeat back to them what they’ve just said to you. This demonstrates that you’re listening and understand what they want or what issue they have.

Respect

Hand in hand with patience and active listening is respect. This might seem obvious, but important to remember. Respect is about treating your customers as you would like to be treated. You’d want the person on the end of the phone or email to solve your problem, be polite and actually do something. You can show respect by:

  • Using their name
  • Don’t interrupt them when they’re speaking
  • If you are face to face, look at them when they’re speaking.
  • If you’re on the phone, don’t be checking emails or scrolling your phone, give them your full attention and SMILE! It really does come over the air waves!
  • Wait until they have finished talking or telling you their problem before responding – then summarise what they’ve said and offer a solution.
  • If you can’t offer an immediate solution or alternative, tell them that you will investigate and get back to them.
  • Get back to them in a timely manner – when you said you would!

Self-Control

You are going to get a range of customers calling your business. Some will be happy and calm, will speak in a low voice. Some will be excitable and speak loudly and quickly; and inevitably, you will get the angry customer who shouts and yells, using harsh words – maybe even using expletives to insult you or your business personally.

This is the time to exercise self-control. This is not an easy skill to master, but it’s absolutely vital, especially with the shouting and yelling customer!  Don’t interrupt or tell them you’re not prepared to listen to them – they might just want to be heard and the only way they know how is to shout. Even though they are shouting, try to listen to the actual problem they have encountered. When they have finished, take a couple of deep breaths and then respond. Apologise if necessary and ask them how you can resolve their problem – ascertain what they want. Tell them that you understand their issue and repeat it back to them. Then, in a calm voice, try and discuss a solution that is good for them and for you and your business. You might have to offer an alternative product or service. They might want a refund or replacement. Whatever it is, there is usually a solution to be found, by talking it through with them.

Genuine concern

It’s well-known that showing genuine concern for your customers’ well-being is one of the most important good customer service skills. Concern for your customer is linked to being concerned for the reputation of your business. If you are not concerned about the success of your business and your businesses reputation, you’re not going to be very concerned about the happiness of your customers. They are inextricably linked.

Use positive language. Language and how you say something to a customer plays a big role in delivering excellent customer service. For example, if a customer contacts you to ask about ordering a particular product, but you don’t have any in stock

Negative response – That product isn’t in stock, so unavailable at the moment.

Positive response – We will be restocking that product next week, so I’ll contact you as soon as it’s available.

It’s a very subtle change in language, but makes all the difference to a customer.

Be flexible

It’s important to be flexible when dealing with customers. You may have a policy that says you don’t give away a free product or service, or you don’t do refunds. But there are times when this will be necessary to resolve an issue. If you find you have to bend the rules from time to time to keep your customers happy, it’s not a failure on your part. It can turn an unhappy customer into a future loyal customer – one who tells their friends and family how great you are and how you solved their problem, so worth keeping that in mind.

Communication Skills

This goes without saying really, but thought I’d add this into the mix. Communication is more than the words that you use – it also involves body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, to name a few. These can be very important when dealing with a customer who is not happy. 

  • Keep your body relaxed
  • Show genuine concern on your face
  • Keep your voice calm and neutral
  • Use positive language – words such as can, will, help and resolve are great words to use to help diffuse a situation.

Time Management Skills

It’s always important to be aware of the time you are spending with a customer. If you are finding that a particular customer is just too demanding, or you find you can’t resolve their problem, you need to recognise your limitations. It might be that they are not a good fit for you and your business. There is no shame in admitting this and referring them to someone who will be a better fit. This will save you both time and money in the long run. And that customer will respect you for solving their problem by referring them to someone who can help them.

Handling the unexpected

No matter how long you’ve been in business, there will at times be an element of surprise. At some point, you will face an unexpected situation, so always worth thinking about this so you have a plan.

Now, I have no idea what you might face with your business, but it’s worth knowing what you’ll do if you are faced with something you don’t know how to handle. I would ask the customer for a contact name and number, then make sure I completely understand the situation and tell them that I’ll come back to them. I always give them a specific time – even if I say, ‘I’ll ring you between 10 and 12 tomorrow morning’. This gives them confidence that you’ll look into their issue and gives you time to think about it and work out how you can solve it.

Just ensure that you do get back to them at the time you said you would. If you haven’t been able to get them an answer by that time, still ring them. Be honest and say that you are working on the problem, but it’s taking longer than you expected and give them a new time that you’ll ring to let them know the answer.

Responsibility

Responsibility links in with the element of surprise. If you take responsibility for the problem, your customer will respect and trust you in future. Get involved, be honest with them and stay with the problem until you resolve it.

Persuasion Skills

You will have customers who will be happy with the solution you offer. And there will, inevitably, be some that won’t. This is where persuasive techniques come in. Sometimes, a customer will want to know more about a product or service in more detail before buying. Persuasive skills will be giving them more details and turning that into why the product or service is suitable for them (if it is of course). This will obviously be beneficial to your business too.

You might need to use your persuasive abilities to illustrate exactly why the solution you offer is the best for them. You many need to offer an alternative offer – or try to explain in a different way. 

Improves your brand image

Your company brand is linked to your reputation. Part of earning that reputation with your customers is by doing things well, no matter how hard they might be.

Customer service sets the tone for your whole brand. First impressions really count and a helpful attitude assists in shaping that first impression. Everyone likes to have a positive customer experience and friendly, honest customer service. A good communications strategy will help you and your business to be seen as caring and one that really values its customers and their opinions. It should cover everything from how to talk to your customers and how that aligns with your brand and business strategy.

Feedback

Never underestimate the power of your customers. Customer servicing calls can give you valuable feedback about your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. For example, if you are made aware of an issue, you can ask for your customers’ opinions, through feedback surveys, social media and emails. These tools can serve two purposes; gathering feedback about a potential solution and getting you positive reviews and feedback that you can use to promote your business.  

Asking for opinions makes customers feel valued and can help improve your customer retention. If you use their opinions and suggestions, they will become brand advocates.

Measuring customer satisfaction, through the use of surveys, social media polls etc., help you keep an eye on your customers’ overall experience with your business and brand. You can often deal with a potential problem before it becomes an issue.    

Ability to close

I don’t mean closing a sale here. I’m talking about ending a conversation with a customer. Sometimes a customer just wants to chat and can go completely off subject. You need to be able to steer the conversation back to the point. Only end your conversation after you have solved the problem, or told them that you’ll find a solution and get back to them.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and treat their problem as yours. The customer needs to be aware that you care, value their opinion and they need to be confident that you will deal with whatever they throw at you.

Conclusion

It is well-known that customers are more loyal to those businesses that show transparency in everything they do. And they don’t mind paying a bit more if they are confident in your business and its transparency.

Excellent customer service promotes trust and loyalty; customers are more likely to try other products or services that you offer and they are more likely to recommend your business to their friends and family.     

The 4 Rs of Content Creation

If you write content, you’ll know how long it takes. It’s not just about the time and the money, but as a content creator, you put your heart and soul into everything you write.

This is where the 4 Rs of content marketing comes in. It puts the oomph back into what you’ve written before and gives it a whole new lease of life.

So, let’s take a look at those 4 Rs of content marketing:

Repurpose

As a content creator, you’ll have written hundreds of blog posts or articles and, in order to reorganise that content, you need to take a long, hard look at that older content. How can you repurpose some of your content and make it into something else?

Repurpose content

You could tie some blog posts together and make an eBook that you can sell, or give away as part of a lead magnet. You could make an infographic, or break down a post into several parts and make social media posts. And the great bit about that is that you’ve already done all the hard work to produce the content in the first place – it’s just about repurposing it into something new and fresh for your audience.

Retire

Sometimes you will come across an old piece of content that is just past its sell-by date! It might be that things have moved on and it is no longer relevant, or it could be that it just wasn’t something that performed well and probably still wouldn’t.

The other thing to look at is, ‘is this still relevant to my target audience?’ If it isn’t something that they would care about, it’s time to retire that content.

Revamp

I’ve talked about retiring old content that is out of date and no longer relevant to your target audience. However, you don’t want to simply delete or archive that content, as it may have good links attached to it or great SEO (search engine optimisation). Have a look at ways that you may be able to replace it with something more vibrant and current…revamp it!

It could be that you can rewrite some of it – has technology moved on, so you can update some of the information that is out of date? Can you add new statistics? Don’t forget to also add new images and bring your design up to date, so it’s more in keeping with how you do things now.  

Everything you write, or have written in the past, has its value, so updating is a very worthwhile exercise. Simply put a note at the top of the article, blog or whatever, saying when the article was first published and noting that it’s been updated with new information.  

Readability

Do you read other peoples’ content? I’m sure you do, but most of us only remain focused on something for a few minutes, unless it is something we are personally interested in. The internet has so much information, with loads of articles on similar subjects, that choice for your reader is vast.

So, ensure that your readers stay on your page. But how?

Make your content easy to read and easy to scan for information. Use bullet points, small paragraphs, headings and sub-headings and numbered lists. This breaks up the text and makes it easier to read.

Call to Action

Don’t forget to put a CTA (call to action) at the end so they know what to do next and you could offer an incentive to go somewhere else on your website, such as a freebie that takes them to an opt-in to your newsletter. For more useful articles on marketing, please visit my blog. If you need some help with writing creative content for your blog, website or social media posts…or if you’d like help creating your lead magnet, please feel free to email me – cindymobey@outlook.com

User Generated Content ideas

User generated content (UGC) is the original content that is created by your audience. It can be anything from comments or reviews on your blog or social media site, to images and videos.

According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising. This is probably because UGC is not paid for by the brand and created by your audience, so it is unbiased and seen as more trustworthy and genuine. It acts as social proof and helps you to grow your following, strengthen relationships with your clients, helps with SEO and can boost sales.

Here are a few ways to use user generated content for your business.

Credibility

When potential customers want to buy something, most like to look at product reviews before taking the plunge. Reviews show them that your product or service is reliable. Ratings and reviews can help increase traffic to your website, which ultimately can help grow your business and encourage those potential customers to buy from you.

I would advise every business to encourage customers to leave reviews wherever possible. You can ask them to leave reviews on your website, social media page, or on your Google My Business page.  

You can also give an incentive to get more reviews, by offering something like a discount or gift card. Send an email with incentive keywords in your subject line to encourage customers to open them.

If you get a negative review, don’t ignore it. Treat it as an opportunity to turn the customer round and gain their trust. Always reply personally to show that you care about their experience and try to solve the problem they’ve highlighted. If you do turn them around, they will then recommend you to their friends and family.

Host a contest

One way to get customer content is to host a contest on social media. You can even create a unique contest hashtag and get followers to contribute to the hashtag. Users could share their photos or videos accompanied by your specific hashtag to win a prize. If enough of your followers do this, it can push your hashtag to trend, which will not only build engagement with your target audience, but also build awareness of your brand and boost sales.

If you do decide to do this, just keep in mind that your hashtag needs to be simple and not difficult to spell…and also use one that sets you and your business apart from your competitors. And don’t forget to start using your new hashtag in all your own posts.  

Video

Video is a fantastic way to create user generated content. Video has such great potential for sharing and there is a higher possibility that video content will go viral.

User generated video give your audience a new perspective on your brand, which not only boosts your credibility, it also illustrates that your brand is genuine as these are the videos of real customers…not something you’ve created yourself.

Use events and holidays    

There are loads of different holiday seasons and individual days in the calendar, from Christmas and Easter, to Valentine’s Day or just summer! You could also choose to use a major event.

These holidays or events gives you an opportunity to engage with your customers and connect with them. This gives your followers the chance to share images or videos, use your hashtags, take part in a competition or even write a testimonial and share it with their friends.  

A few years ago, a major coffee chain launched a campaign during December. They produced a branded coffee cup with a Christmas theme and asked for inspiring and innovative photos with their cup in the photo. There was a prize of a gift card…and of course, in order to take part, customers had to buy the cup first. They were inundated with photos, which were really imaginative and published them on their website. Customers absolutely loved coming up with really innovative ideas, they loved seeing their entry on the website, (which of course they shared with their friends) and the coffee brand sold loads of coffee. All for a very simple idea.

Have a think about what you could come up with for your business.  

Recap

User generated content acts as social proof and helps you grow your following, strengthen relationships with your clients, helps with SEO and help boost sales.

Have you ever done this? If you have, I’d love to know how you got on. If not, why not try it out. Again, I’d love to hear all about it. Please comment below and share your story.   

Data Protection and your small business

If your business collects or stores any kind of information from your customers, you need to ensure that you are complying with the current rules and regulations of GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulations).

Every business should have a privacy policy on their website, which details how you keep your customers’ information safe and secure, and how your business complies with the latest GDPR rules and regulations.

Disclaimer

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a very large and complicated piece of legislation. I am not a lawyer. The information in this article is absolutely not legal advice and I cannot be held responsible for its accuracy. Details of where to get the appropriate legal information for both EU and UK can be found at the end of this article. However, the information in this short article will give you a heads up that you need to make sure that your business complies and that there is now BOTH an EU GDPR and a UK GDPR following the UK’s exit from Europe.  

Customer data

It is up to you to make sure that the information you hold on your customers is kept secure, accurate and up to date. When you collect someone’s personal data, you must tell them who you are and how you’ll use their information, including if it’s being shared with other organisations.

You must also tell them that they have the right to:

  • See any information you hold about them and correct it if it’s wrong
  • Request their data is deleted
  • Request their data is not used for certain purposes

If you control or process any kind of customer personal data, then your business is impacted by the GDPR rules and regulations. This is everything from the simple collecting of customers’ names and addresses, telephone numbers or IP addresses, to the m ore complex keeping of medical information, bank account details etc.   

Two key principles

Data protection is just about protecting your customers from having their data fall into the wrong hands. The two key principles are that businesses must have appropriate, legal reasons for processing personal data, and a business can only collect personal information for a specific purpose…and it is only to be used for that purpose!

Most of us who have a small business hold some form of personal information about our customers. It might be just an email address, or name and postal address, so we all have to ensure we comply. There are very steep fines for those that don’t.

UK and EU Data protection

Up until their exit from the EU, the UK was subject to the EU GDPR rules and regulations as they were still affiliated to the EU, but the UK now has its own UK GDPR rules and regulations.

I am NOT an expert on all the legalities of the General Data Protection Regulations for UK or EU, so it is up to you as a small business to ensure that your business, website and all data you hold on your customers complies with the relevant regulations of your country.

As today (28 January 2021) is Data Protection Day, I thought I’d just bring this to your attention and give you the relevant links so you can do some research and take any advice that you might need from a proper legal representative for your country.

UK GDPR and data protection

GDPR and data protection for France/EU

I wrote a more in-depth article about this in January 2020, which was based on EU regulations, which you are more than welcome to read.  Click here to read it.

The 7 Cs of Communication

Communication is the most important aspect of your business. It is the general term used to describe how you speak to your target audience and how you write your blogs or emails.

Our language enables us to share our ideas with other people, and communication is probably the most important aspect of our culture. Without communication, the pyramids wouldn’t have been built, the Eiffel Tower wouldn’t be standing – communication enabled the architects to convey their plans to their workers. 

Effective communication helps avoid any misunderstanding with your audience, employees and customers alike.

My blog this week looks at the 7 Cs of communication and how, if you keep these seven things in mind, your written communication will be much more effective. 

Clear

It’s important to always keep in mind the purpose of every message, email or post you put out. So, what is the purpose of this communication? As long as you keep this in mind, you will better be able to put your message across to your target audience.

If you don’t know the purpose of your communication, your audience won’t either!

Being clear is also about giving clarity to your reader – avoid complex words, long sentences and jargon. Keep it simple and to the point.

Concise

Keep your message short, simple, concise and to the point. Why use a whole paragraph to explain something that can take one sentence?

Being concise will also keep your audience’s attention, saving them and you time and energy.

BUT, keep in mind that, although you are keeping your message concise, you still need to give detail for the message to be complete.  

Concrete

This is about being specific with your communication, avoiding it being too general, vague or obscure.

Use words and sentences that can’t be misinterpreted, and it’s a good idea to add facts and figures if you can to underline your meaning. But keep the balance so that any illustrations or examples don’t detract from your main message.

Correct

ALWAYS proofread your message before publishing. I find that reading it aloud ensures that it makes sense. If you use facts and figures, put a link to the source, so you have proof that they are correct and that you haven’t just plucked statistics out of the air!

Check for typos or spelling mistakes, and ensure that sentences are short – this makes it so much easier to read.

Doing these checks saves you time in the long run and boosts your credibility.

Coherent

Look at the structure of your communication. Does it flow in a logical way? You don’t want to be jumping from one subject to the other, as that makes it harder to read and understand.

Do a sense check to make sure you haven’t tried to be too in-depth and cover too much in one message. And ensure your communication doesn’t go off on tangents and side issues.

Complete

In order for you to get the desired response to your message or communication, it must contain all the necessary information.

The best way to do this is to think about your message and about any questions your target audience might have as a result of reading it. Then you can make sure that those questions are answered in the communication.

Include a call to action, so your audience knows exactly what you expect them to do next.

Courteous

Always be polite. Being polite builds trust and goodwill with your readers. Make sure that your communication shows respect for your readers and their feelings.

My parents always taught me that manners cost nothing and this is just as relevant to written communication as to verbal.

Conclusion

Overall, the 7 Cs of Communication is an effective checklist, which will ensure you are communicating with your audience more effectively.

If you use this simple checklist, you can be assured that you are delivering the best and clearest message you can, with little in the way of misunderstanding.

Ultimately, this will boost the reliability and trustworthiness of your business, as well as saving you more time.

Let me know how you get on with this checklist the next time you write a message or communication.   

The Benefits of using Google My Business

In general, people across the world are relying more and more on Google to find answers to their questions, or to find out information about absolutely anything. Google My Business (GMB), is a free online tool for businesses to manage their online presence across the Google platform. This is especially good news for small businesses and start-ups to help them with their online visibility.

According to searchengineland.com more than 2 trillion users log onto Google search every year – more than 5 billion searches per day. That’s pretty mind-blowing in itself, but just think how many people your small business could be exposed to, simply by having the right keywords and being on Google My Business. Wow!

How to claim your Google My Business profile

You need to have a Google account (Gmail account), in order to be able to claim your Google My Business profile. If you sign into your Gmail account, then log into GMB, simply enter the name of your business into the field of the form and confirm that you are authorised to manage the business. There will then be several fields to complete in order to set up your account, such as your opening hours, about you section etc.

You have to choose a service category too, from the list provided and it’s important to make sure that your business name, address and phone number is up to date –if your business is on other search engines, such as Bing, you need to make sure that they are all have exactly the same details, so it’s easier for you to be found. By putting in your address, a map will pop up so anyone local to you will be able to easily find you. You can also add a link to your website.  

There is an area to add photos of your business – both external view, which is great if you have physical premises as it makes it again, much easier for people to know what they’re looking for if they decide to visit your business. You can also add photos of the interior, so you could add photos of employees, processes you carry out, and photos of your products. This is really important to make these as engaging as possible as it will encourage people to choose you over your competitors.

One of THE most important parts of GMB is the reviews section. Online reviews are obviously testimonials that you are the best at what you do. Encourage your existing customers to leave a review on your GMB page, by sending them a link to the page and ask them! Most will be happy to oblige. If you have an email list, or send out a regular email newsletter to your customers, this is a great item to add to that … and the reviews will really help your Google rankings. As all small businesses will know, good reviews are absolute gold in helping potential customers to choose to buy from you over your competitors. When I want to buy something, I always look at the reviews first.

Put the link to your GMB on your website and on your social media pages, so potential customers and existing customers know that you’re there.

GMB is cost-effective

Well, it’s free (!), so why wouldn’t you want to have it? For start-ups and small businesses, it really is a fabulous platform to get your business out there with no cost – we all know that every penny counts if you’ve just started, or if you’re a small business. GMB gives customers all the information they need to know about you, all in one place…but if you put a link to your website or to your Etsy shop, for example, you can also point them to your other resources, products or services.

You can post to your GMB

Just like social media platforms, you can also put posts on your GMB page. You can use this to promote your business, talk about offers or discounts, new products, updates, news, announcements etc. The possibilities are endless! I use my posts to highlight new blog posts, as well as news about my business or about marketing. I also share some of the posts I use on Instagram and Facebook.

Your post title should only use four or five words, and although you are allowed to use up to 1500 characters for the post, I always keep it to as few as I can – 100-200 at most. The reason for this is that under the post there is the option to use a Call to Action (CTA), which encourages your visitors to take a particular action, such as ‘Buy’, ‘Book online’, ‘Learn more’, ‘Call’ or ‘Visit’. For my blog, I use ‘Learn more’ and then a box appears so I can put in the URL of my blog post, so if visitors want to find out more about the blog I’ve written, they click on the URL box and it takes them to my full blog post and website.

Posts only stay in front of your customers for seven days, so you do need to update your posts regularly. If a customer clicks on posts, they will be able to see old ones, but they won’t be ‘live’ on the homepage of your page.

You can post an event, and this is the only exception to the rule of seven days. Once you input all the relevant details of the event, it will be displayed until the event is over.

A fairly new feature, which is good news for restaurants or cafes, is that GMB now has a menu editor, which includes titles, descriptions, prices, and you can break the menu into sections – starters, main, desserts etc.

Video

You can share video on GMB, and this is a fairly new feature. The video should be no more than 30 seconds and once uploaded, it can take up to 24 hours before the video content shows in local search results.

The maximum video file size is 100MB and minimum resolution should be 720p. 

Messaging feature

There is a message feature on GMB, which you have to switch on via your dashboard on your page. This means that customers can message you directly. There will be a message icon which they can click on to send a message and if you have an iOS device you can get these directly via an app. Otherwise, you will need to make sure you check your GMB page regularly. Please not that Google advise that you don’t encourage customers to share sensitive information via their messaging service. 

Conclusion

Google My Business (GMB), is a fabulous, free platform for you to advertise your business. The many features make it easy for your customers to find you and find out all they need to know about your business. It’s up to you to add as much or as little information about your business that you choose to. As with any platform, it’s a good idea to have a strategy around using the platform, factor in time to keep it up to date and keep track of any messages and changes that might affect your business or that platform. But, in today’s online world, where billions of people are searching Google every day, it totally makes sense to make use of this great tool.

How to solve your customers’ pain points

A customer pain point is a specific problem experienced by your customers at every interaction they have with you and your business.

If you want to build credibility in your brand and gain your customers, and potential customers’ trust, you need to understand their journey and what keeps them happy. If you can find your customers’ pain points, earn their trust, and solve that pain point for them, they will know that you care about them and they will be happy.

You’ll also be one step ahead of your competition!

Different types of pain points

Generally customer pain points fall into four different areas, no matter how big or small those problems are.

Support

Support issues are probably the easiest to resolve. Customers expect to have a certain standard of support from businesses they deal with these days. Whether they have a problem with one of your products, a query related to one of your products or just want more information, they expect to be able to contact you and get the answer quickly.

Some of the most common support issues are those of delayed response, lack of product knowledge, or your business is simply not on your customers’ preferred channel of communication.

These few simple problems can impact your customer retention and also the loyalty they have to your business.

And it’s so simply to resolve. Have options!

Delayed response

This could be solved by ensuring that emails/texts/messages etc., are looked at in a timely manner – look at them on a regular basis a few times a day.

Lack of product knowledge

This refers more to having employees – make sure that your employees know all about your products. Provide cheat sheets if necessary, so they know all the ins and outs of everything you sell.

Put good descriptions of your products on your website and give customers the option of contacting you if they have any problems or questions.

Preferred channel of communication

As well as having email/text/messenger, you could also use some of the more recent tools like live chat and AI chatbots. These allow them to speak to someone in real time.

Finally, always give a contact telephone number, where customers can speak to a person directly, or ask them to leave a message with their number and you will return their call within an hour….AND DO IT!  

Productivity

Productivity pain points often come about because customers expect to have a straight forward and easy experience when they contact a business. They don’t want to spend a lot of time on anything they see as frustrating or inconvenient.

It might be that a product is not how they want it to be, or expect it to be – some kind of inconvenience in using the product. Or it could be that there is some kind of problem with the buying process.

In order to solve this problem, it’s important to convince your customers that your product saves time and effort. This can be achieved by using images and good product descriptions, which explain your product’s features and benefits and exactly how they work and gives value. It could be as easy as having fewer steps in your checkout process.

Financial

The third pain point is financial. This is about the pain of spending money on their business that ends up putting them under financial pressure. This could be through spending a lot on subscription fees or membership fees. Or perhaps paying a lot on repeat purchases. Sometimes, products are advertised as being made to last, but in reality they have to be replaced frequently.

Transparency about pricing also comes into this area. Are there any fees that are hidden that are added on at checkout? Or, perhaps fees go up dramatically and this isn’t made clear.

If you have customers with any of these pain points, your goal could be to show your customers what value they receive when using and choosing your products over your competitors. Also, if they pay a subscription or membership fee, that the value, information and advice they receive is worth every penny. Lastly, be transparent about pricing, then customers know exactly what to expect and there are no surprises.  

Process

A process pain point is about how your business interacts with your customers through your processes. This could be as simple as they can’t get through to the right department when they need to, or that when they submit an order or application for something, that the process is not streamlined enough.

This could be a simple matter of streamlining communication processes to be sure that any queries are answered by the right people at the right time. Make it easier for your customers to contact you and ensure that your products/services are easier to use.  

How do you find out what your customers’ pain points are?

If you don’t know what your pain points are, how can you solve them? It’s important to find out…but how?

Conduct research

There are several ways to conduct research.

  • If you have an email list, you could send out a survey to find out if there are any pain points. Questions would need to be specific and written around the four different types of pain points.
  • Have a look at your sales pitch. Is there something missing?
  • You will have regular customers, but have you had customers that don’t come back for more? Look at your complaints or feedback. There may be a little nugget of information that you’ve missed – a throw-away comment that could give you an insight into why they haven’t come back for more.
  • In the same way, look at all your online reviews. Are there any clues into any potential pain points?
  • Hopefully, you will have worked on a few buyer personas, but there may be other audiences that you could reach, but you just don’t know why those people don’t resonate with your brand. Do some research on your competitors. If you know that your competitors reach a certain audience that you currently don’t, analyse what they do, and how their products or services reach those people.   
  • Look at how your customers interact with your brand. Are there things you could improve? Check that links work on your website and social media. Are you easy to contact?

Customer pain points can be a massive hurdle to you being successful. And finding your customer pain points is not necessarily easy to pinpoint. But, in order to get your customers’ attention and make them want to do business with you, buy repeat products, and use your services etc., it’s crucial to know what those pain point are.

If you can base your products and services on pain points…eliminating as many as you can, your customers will have more reasons to do business with you and there will be less obstacles in the way.

How to create your buyer persona

Whenever I create content, I think about my target market. And that leads me to the buyer personas I’ve created. I find it so much easier to write any content, be it social media posts or blog posts, because I have a particular person, or group of people in mind.

What is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is a kind of fictional mock-up of your ideal client. This is based, not only on demographic, geographic and psychographic criteria, but also more specific data, such as what motivates them etc. 

Each buyer persona you have, (and I recommend at least 3-4), will represent a particular group to whom you are going to aim your advertising, your content and your sales pitch. You couldn’t do individual ideal client or buyer personas, because obviously all your clients are different, but it just helps you to focus your communications.

When you are writing your content, you want to:

  • attract potential customers to your website or online shop
  • engage, educate, entertain and inspire
  • gain their trust
  • convert them into paying customers 
  • retain their custom and hopefully, make them an Ambassador for your business

In order to do all of this, you need to know who your potential customers are, then it’s easier to do all of the above! You need to make sure that you attract the people who match what you have to offer. For example, it’s no good aiming your content at people who hate sport, if you sell football boots!

How do you create this buyer persona?

First of all you need to research your target market, as this will help you create a realistic persona.

Step 1

Look at your current client base and see what your current customers do, what they like and dislike. Are there any similarities between them? Make a note of everything that is similar.

If you have regular customers, you could ring them directly and ask them questions about their buying decisions. Alternatively, if you have an email list, you could send out a survey to your customers asking them things like:

  • What kind of content would you like from me?
  • Why do you buy my products or use my services?
  • Do you have any problems or challenges in your business/life that you’d like me to solve?
  • Do you have any questions about my business?

This will then give you a good basis for creating your personas.

Step 2

The next step is to narrow down the information you have even more.

  • What are their demographics? For example, age, occupation, marital status, salary)
  • What are their geographics? Are they local, regional or in other countries? (You would do one persona for each of these.)
  • Psychographics – what are their interests? Do they have any hobbies? For example, are they interested in your products because they’re eco-friendly? Take a close look to see if you can align your products/services to their hobbies or interests.
  • What about their behaviours? What do they like to read about? What kind of programmes do they like to watch on TV, Netflix etc?
  • How do they learn? This would be important if you are planning to teach something or run a training webinar. Do they learn through being shown how to do something, or through step by step instructions?
  • What are their pain points?
  • How often are they happy to have emails from you? When do they look at their emails? What attracts them to opening emails?

Step 3

 Now you can start to create your separate personas. You can organise the information you’ve gathered into groups, and each of those groups will be a separate buyer persona.

You could have a group that have similar challenges or pain points, for example.

I give my buyer personas a name, as I find it easier to identify with that group and it makes it easier for me to write for them.

For example:

One of my buyer personas is called Jennifer.

  • Jennifer is in her late 30s
  • She is married with two small children, both at school
  • She runs her own small crafting business. She makes craft items that she sells at local markets, and she has an online shop.
  • She likes to buy things that are eco-friendly and looking after the environment is important to her.
  • She struggles with juggling time in her busy day, so her social media posts, although consistent, don’t always sell her business well. She knows that marketing her business is important, but doesn’t have the time or money to invest a lot in this important aspect. She’d like to know more about how to promote her business and get more clients.  

I have six of these specific buyer personas, all made-up people, but all of them have one thing in common – they own their own small business. I target my blogs and my social media content at them, aiming to help them with their marketing. They are loosely based on clients I have or have had in the past. 

The importance of buyer personas

Now that you have your different buyer personas, you can tailor everything you write or create to those groups of people. You have put a human element to your buyer personas, so everything you create, from social media post and webinars, to podcasts and video etc., can be targeted at your ideal market.  

You’ll find that people will engage more with your content and take more notice of your emails, as they will be specifically targeted to them.

If you need any help with identifying your target market, or pulling together your buyer personas, feel free to email or message me. I offer a free initial consultation.

cindymobey@outlook.com or you can book a free consultation on my website… www.cindyfreelancewriter.com   

Turn your blog readers into customers

Blogging is a huge commitment for most of us…it takes up valuable time and energy to produce your once a month, or once a week blog. And whilst you may write your blog for fun or to purely engage with your audience, there will come a time when you want to try and make money from it. So, what can you do to help make that happen?

Absolutely know your audience  

I find myself writing this all the time when talking about marketing, but it is really so important that you know your audience, especially when you’re writing content for them. Your audience will dictate how you write and what you write…and the language that you use. For example, if you write for a young, gaming audience, you will write for them – you wouldn’t write a blog the same way if it was aimed at a business audience or an older audience.

I’m a marketing consultant so I sometimes have to reign myself in when I’m writing. I love writing about marketing, but when I read my blog back, I have realised in the past that I’m writing for my own peer group of marketers…and that’s not who my audience is! My audience are owners of small businesses who want to increase their own profile online, engage their audiences and of course, sell their products or services. My aim is to teach my readers about marketing, so they have the choice to have a go at it for themselves, and of course, I want to help them with their choice, but ultimately I want my audience to come to me to help them with their marketing and content creation. It’s a fine line!

Just knowing who your audience is isn’t enough – you need to find out a bit more…ask these questions…

  • What age are they?
  • What gender, if appropriate?
  • What is their marital status?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • What are their interests outside of work?

And the biggie…What are the problems and challenges they face?

Once you have this information, you can pull together a profile of your ideal customer and use this to direct your blog content at.

Choose the right subject to write about

You’ve sorted out your ideal customer and you know what problems and challenges they face. Write them all down and work out how you can solve those problems.

Once you have a list of solutions, there’s your content. If you’re helping your ideal customers solve their problems, they’ll know that they can turn to you. The right way of course, is not to provide all the answers, which is something I’m guilty of! But this doesn’t mean you don’t provide a detailed article about how they can solve their problem – you can give information that is useful and actionable, but leave something that they can come to you for.

Call to action

It’s important to leave room for a CTA (call to action) that will draw your audience in, make them want to know more, or ask you for more help. I don’t mean asking directly if they want to employ you. It might be you encourage them to sign up for your newsletter, join your mailing list, download a freebie, listen to your podcast or watch a webinar you’ve set up. This won’t immediately make them a customer, but you’re leading them down the right path, and can help them see how you can add value to their business, or to their life.

For example, say you’re a life coach. You write a great blog post, and your CTA could be you point your readers to your website. You might talk about a particular subject and point them to a free webinar where you talk in more detail about that subject. You might have a free social media group they can join to talk to other like-minded people. Ultimately, this could lead to them booking a coaching session with you.  

Content and the buying cycle 

Think for a minute about your own buying cycle. Let’s take a recent example at my home. I was out on our sit-on lawn mower and it stopped working and made a strange whirring noise. I told my partner about it when he got home. I know nothing about lawn mowers and certainly wouldn’t have a clue how to fix it.

  • So, our first problem was THE NEED to get it fixed, but we’re not sure how.
  • The next obvious step is to find out what could be wrong. My partner goes onto YouTube and investigates the problem. He tries to work out whether it’s worth trying to fix it himself or whether it just needs a new part. This is the INITIAL RESEARCH stage. His research tells him that he needs a new drive belt.
  • My partner now has a solution to the problem. Now we have to find out who sells drive belts and where we can buy it. This is the FINAL RESEARCH.
  • Finally, the PURCHASE stage and we order the drive belt and pay for it.

If you are writing a blog with the idea of getting customers from it, you need to be targeting those that are at the INITIAL RESEARCH stage. Then you can give them the answers they’re looking for. But, it doesn’t stop there – you also want to make your content give total confidence in your product or service, so the blog takes them from that initial stage right through to the purchase…and show that your business is the right place to do just that!

The content needs to be in long-form, so that you have time to engage your readers, gain their trust and ultimately help them to see that you have that perfect product or service that solves their problem or meets their needs.

Content needs more than that…

OK, so you’ve let them see that you’re the perfect fit for what they’re looking for, but not all our readers look at an article in detail, so it’s really important to think about the format of your blog.

If you just write plain text, they might miss the point, so you need to make your content visually appealing.

  • Use bullet points to draw their attention to the important bits
  • Use short paragraphs
  • Use subheadings
  • Make sure that the font you use is easy to read and a decent size
  • And of course, use images to break up the text
  • If you want to draw attention to a particular part, use CAPITAL LETTERS or BOLD text…or both!

Include testimonials

How many times do you buy something without looking at the reviews of a product? I know I always do, as it gives me an idea of the product I’m going to order. For example, with shoes, some reviews will say ‘buy one size bigger, as these shoes are on the small side’. This helps me to make my decision to buy or not. So, include a testimonial in your blog if you can to sway your audience that your product is the best. Find a testimonial that says why your product is the best.  

Don’t digress

Don’t go off on a tangent and start talking about something else, make sure that you focus on the one product or service that you’re trying to sell or engage your audience with.

By all means, lead up to your point slowly and build a picture, but try not to get too distracted and don’t use too many links, as this will distract your reader.

Buy now!

Try and create some urgency around buying your product or service. I’m sure you will have heard of FOMO – personally I hate this expression, but in marketing it’s an effective tool. The ‘fear of missing out’ on something makes us want to buy it now.

Using language that suggests an urgency to buy can persuade your audience that it’s now or never. Things like:

  • For a limited time only
  • Only three spaces left on my course
  • At this price for a limited time only

You get the idea!

And if you’re building up to a sales pitch, using one of those FOMO phrases…

Start using shorter sentences.

It makes you sound breathless.

It’s urgent.

You need to do this now.

This makes your readers read faster and they’ll feel the urgency.

Don’t be too salesy

Finally, don’t be too salesy. Your audience will know you, they’ll follow your blog because they like to see what you have to say. They don’t want the hard sell all the time.

You need to be giving advice and showing a solution to a problem and that should take up most of your post, but you can weave a subtle sales pitch into the content. Selling your product or service is only a small part of it.

Your readers trust you and trust your content. As my readers, you’ll know that I rarely use my posts to sell my business. Rightly or wrongly, I enjoy writing as it’s my happy place and I’m passionate about helping small businesses to grow. If I suddenly came over all salesy, I’d lose that trust and I’m sure, a lot of my followers.

It’s about getting the balance right. You don’t want to sell so hard that you destroy your reputation and your credibility. Writing a blog lets people know that you are an expert in your field and your followers will be confident that you know what you’re talking about. They may take a while to get to know you, but if they can see that you are knowledgeable and helpful, they will come back, and that will increase the chance that they will buy from you, or work with you in the future.    

The pros and cons of blogging

There are several pros and cons to having a blog and blogging. I’ve had a blog for about seven years and have been writing pretty consistently now for about three years – it was a bit hit and miss at first.

Why do I blog?

I’m a small business marketing consultant and also a freelance writer, creating content for businesses. So, it makes sense to have a blog to give articles that will help educate my audience on how to market their businesses. The information I give is free and I know it has helped lots of people to get on track with their marketing.

I also enjoy writing, so it’s a challenge to find a new subject to write about every week, but I never seem to run out of ideas as my subject matter is vast. My blog also gives potential clients the chance to see that I can write, so they are seeing regular examples of what I can do.

These are my reasons, but what are the more official pros and cons?

The pros of blogging

Blogs are a great source of information and in this digital age, if anyone wants to find out something, they search online first. Blogs can help give the information they need. But let’s get down to the nitty gritty:

  • First of all, starting a blog is easy. I use WordPress and they have several templates to help you when you start. Adding posts is simple and straight-forward and you don’t need to know any HTML or other code to do this.
  • Blogging is a great creative outlet. If you love writing, you can get started immediately and write about any subject you want to. If you love travel, for example, then you could write about all the places you’ve visited, with advice for people who are thinking of going there. If you love food or love cooking, you could start a food blog, giving recipes and adding video to show people how to make something. The possibilities are endless.
  • You don’t have to be an expert – if you’re interested in a certain topic, that’s enough. You can write about what you do know and research the rest. You’ll learn as you go and your writing will improve with every post. The trick is the same as everything else – just get started. Your first blog post won’t necessarily be fabulous, but you’ll grow as you write more and more.
  • A blog is the perfect reason for people to visit your website. Mostly, websites are pretty static and you don’t constantly add or change content. Adding a blog means that your site is constantly being updated, which ensures people come back for more. You can also link to other blog posts that you’ve written in the past from the one you’re doing now – backlinks.
  • Blogging can be good for your business as it can be a way you’re your business to be found on Google. Generally, people will connect more with other people than with a brand, so your blog helps potential clients out there relate to you. It helps them get to know you.
  • Writing a blog will also set you up as an expert in your field. If you consistently publish blogs that are useful or that people want more of, every time you publish a new blog, you’ll get more followers. People will share the blogs they like and then that opens you up to a whole new audience. The key here is to provide valuable and useful content that people need and want.
  • Blogging is really good for those of you who are more introvert. You can write in private and have your content reach thousands of people. If you don’t have the confidence to speak publicly or do presentations, blogging is the next best thing. And the good thing about a blog is that it is there permanently, so if people want to come back to it to refer to the information you give, they can…any time of the day or night.
  • Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ll realise that you are constantly picking up new skills. Blogging is a lot more than just writing. You learn how to use WordPress, for example, and how to build a website; you learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO); Social Media marketing, as you have to promote your blog; Email marketing; improve your written skills and learn about images and graphics.    
  • You can also use blogging to get into freelance writing. Your blog is your portfolio, which demonstrates you know how to write, source images, do extensive research on a subject etc.
  • Finally you can make money with your blog. If you write about certain products, you can sell them through your blog posts. You can also do affiliate marketing, get an income from Ad revenue or sponsored posts. To make money on your blog, you will need to constantly put in the time and effort to keep it going, but it can be very lucrative.    

Of course, as well as a host of reasons why you should be blogging, there are some cons. It’s always good to know, so you can make up your mind as to whether it’s right for you.

The cons of blogging

  • You need to be very disciplined to stay on top of your blog, especially if you are going to be doing it for a living. I blog once a week as it suits me and is an aid to my business. I don’t use it as an income, but if you intend to, you will need to write much more frequently and consistently. It takes a lot of time, effort and perseverance to be noticed and is a very steep learning curve. If it was easy to do, everyone would be doing it. It does take months, years even, to really get noticed and to have enough content to prove your expertise.
  • Because of the reasons above, time etc., you’re not going to make money overnight. And if you do make money from your blog, it isn’t going to be a regular income – it will fluctuate month on month.
  • Blogging is also a lonely life – you spend hours at your computer and it can be quite and isolating existence. You won’t have the interaction with colleagues face to face like you do in an office, but it does also give you freedom to pop out if you have to. It’s swings and roundabouts!
  • You need to be good with change and be prepared for technical issues. Sometimes servers crash, there are glitches in your website, which you need to sort out. You could have internet problems, so can’t get online. And of course, the algorithms for the various social media channels that you’ll link to, plus algorithm changes on google can impact who sees your blog and who it is shown to. The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that changed back in 2018 had an impact on being able to just send your blog out on email – your audience had to sign up and give their permission to receive it by email. These things can change at any time.
  • You need to be organised and have a plan, so you know what you’ll be writing about and how for at least a few months in advance. And you need to invest money into your blog, so you have the right apps to promote it, use paid ads etc. Your website will also incur hosting costs, keeping up with the latest training costs money too. If it’s really successful, you might even want to employ a VA to help you getting your blog onto all the various social media sites.

So, now you have all the pros and cons, you can make an informed decision – to do or not to do a blog!

If you do, please share the link with me and if you have any further questions or need help, feel free to drop me a mail.