Working from home – the new different!

2020 has been the year of working from home. Are you looking forward to going back to work or is it just another day NOT at the office for you for the foreseeable future?

According to the English newspaper, The Guardian, it has been reported that “only 34% of British white-collar workers had returned to the office, compared to 83% in France and an average of 68% among major European counterparts.” So, if you are working from home, how do you cope? For some, this has been a massive transition.

I’m lucky enough to always work from home, but I also live in rural France, where it is very quiet. I’m not sure how I’d fare in a city with noisy neighbours or sounds of traffic. The only problem I encounter on a regular basis is the inefficiency of my internet provider – being in a rural area means the signal is not always great. But I’m learning to manage that. But I guess that, so long as you don’t have neighbours who suddenly decide that DIY with noisy machinery is what they want to do all day, it works well…and the Covid pandemic means that more and more workers have had the chance to experience what it’s like. But of course, there are other factors to think about. Here are some handy hints and tips for working from home.

Start the day promptly    

It’s very easy when you work from home to procrastinate and ‘just do’ a few things before you get started. So, try and think of it as a normal working day. When you go to the office, you get up, shower and get to work. Try and do the same at home. Try and stick to your normal routine. Get up, shower, have a coffee and breakfast and set yourself a time to start work.

Structure your day

Get a normal structure going, as you would if you were at work. Have a ‘to do’ list and break your day into segments. For example, you might trawl through your emails first thing to see if anything urgent needs doing. Then get on with the tasks you’d normally do in the morning. You can stop for a coffee break/comfort break, as you would at work and of course, have a break away from your screen and desk at lunchtime. But don’t be lulled into the false sense of security of allowing yourself an extra half an hour to scroll social media or watch a daytime TV programme. This can seriously impact your efficiency. I know as I’ve been there and done that!

Have a dedicated work space

Rather than sitting on the sofa with your feet up and laptop on your lap, try and create a dedicated work space, with an office ‘desk’. This could be your kitchen or dining room table, but having this space encourages you to focus more and feels more like you are ‘going to work’.

Eliminate distraction

For me, the biggest distraction is social media and email. If I have them switched on when I’m working, I can’t help but respond to every ‘ping’ I hear. This is counter-productive and a huge distraction, causing lots of wasted time. I schedule a time to look at my social media pages, answer questions or comments on posts, and answer DMs etc. I also schedule time to post to my own business social media pages. Other than that, I switch it all off, so I don’t hear those enticing pings!

Know your most productive times

We all work differently, and working from home is a different experience for everyone. What is the best time of day for you to get the harder tasks done? For me, it’s in the morning. I write better in the morning and have more concentration. So, I schedule the most important, urgent or difficult tasks for the morning, and leave the things I find easier to cope with for the afternoon.

From research I’ve done on the subject of working from home, most articles advise that you save all your calls until the afternoon. However, I find that checking emails, responding to requests or phone calls are better done in the morning, before I start writing. If I think the calls are going to take me a long time, I might do them straight after lunch, but I think better in the morning, so it’s better for me to do them then. You may feel completely different – it’s about doing things in the order that best suits you.

Have some planning time

As an ‘at-home’ worker, I tend to do my planning for the next day late afternoon, or even in the evening. Whatever suits you best, ensure that you do have time in your diary to plan your next project, or plan the tasks that need to be done the following day. There will always be times when all your plans go out of the window and something happens that needs your immediate attention – that can’t be helped, but having a plan means that you’re ready to get up and go each day, knowing exactly what you need to do first.

It can be lonely

I think that the pandemic has probably taught a lot of us that isolation can be a big problem in working from home. Before lockdown, you could always relocate for a morning at the local coffee shop, so you are around other people, but lockdown means that bars and cafes are closed, so you are stuck completely at home. This is where technology comes in – you can keep in touch with other work colleagues or friends using messenger, Zoom or FaceTime calls. You can also join virtual meetings in the same way, so you don’t feel quite so alone. And it is good to check in with your work colleagues to chat about a particular project or ask advice. Sometimes just to chat through your day.

I know quite a few people who work from home in rural France. I know that a lot of them have a music playlist in the background to help them concentrate. Having some kind of noise in the background may work well for you. I even read somewhere that one lady has The History Channel on quietly in the background as that helped her concentrate. Again, it’s what best suits your situation and how you work.   

Manage the family

This is where I am lucky, as I live with just my partner. Our children live in the UK, so chats with them, and with each other, tend to be in the evenings. If you have your partner also working from home, or maybe retired, and children at home, then they have to be considered and their expectations managed. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you’re home, so they need to learn to respect your work time and not constantly disturb you. Having set hours that you work does help with this and they will also know what time you will be finishing, for lunch for example, so can chat and interact with you then. Obviously this is not always going to happen if you have young children at home, but it’s about trying to manage whatever situation you’re in as best you can.

Take breaks and have a finishing time

Finally, make sure that you do take regular breaks. I usually start work around 9.30 – 10am and don’t take a break until around 1pm. I’ll have a snack lunch, and sometimes have a wander around the garden. I might put washing on the line or do a bit of tidying up, or maybe half an hour weeding the flower beds, but I keep my lunch break to about an hour, so that I get back to work at a reasonable time.

I sometimes have another short break around 4pm and always switch off my PC between 6 – 6.30pm.

Above all, be kind to yourself and if you have the odd day where every plan goes out the window and you’re just not feeling it….don’t! And don’t feel guilty about it. If you’re not in the right frame of mind, you won’t get anything done and will find yourself procrastinating. Get some fresh air and focus on something else for a while and you might find you at least gain back some of your day. If you don’t, don’t punish yourself, you’re only human and sometimes there will be days when it’s just not happening.

For most, I’m sure that 2021 will see some sort of return to work. Some of you may be lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), to carry on working from home. It’s about what works best for you and only you can really know that. The tips in this article are meant to help with a bit of organisation, but you may find other ideas that work much better. It’s important to look after yourself and I wish you all the luck in the world to do what works best for you and your situation.

I’d love to hear from other home workers and how they’ve found the transition from busy office to working remotely. Let me know in the comments below, or feel free to email me.

Review of 2020 and plan for 2021

Here we are, nearly at the end of another year, and it’s time to look at our year-end review. What a year 2020 has been! The year of a world-wide pandemic, which is still seeing businesses unable to open and more people than ever working from home. Words we’d never linked to our everyday lives before are now the norm; lockdown, covid, furlough and I’m sure loads more. We wear masks wherever we go and we are restricted on when we can go out of our homes and who we can visit.

And all through this we still have to try and run our businesses from home. This has meant a huge upsurge in the number of people online, selling their products and services like never before. So this year end is even more important than any we’ve seen before; it’s even more crucial to do an end of year review and to start planning for the year ahead. With a possible vaccine in our sights, hopefully 2021 will see a more positive outlook for small businesses. That is, at least, something we can do for ourselves and our businesses. We can use what we’ve learned this year to plan for next year, taking into account the new skills and tips we’ve picked up to push business forward and still be successful.

So, where to start…

Review of 2020

Your business and your products/services

First of all, go back to basics. This helps you look at your business in a whole new light. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are you and what does your business do?
  • What are your products or services?
  • What went well and what didn’t go so well?
  • What products or services were popular? Is there room for improvement? 
  • Do you have any new products or services planned for next year?
  • Due to the changes you’ve had to make this year, are there any expenses you need to take into consideration for next year, e.g. for training, new technology, new equipment?

Your competition and your area of business

How, look at your competitors.

  • Do you know who your competitors are? If not, do some research and find out about them and what they offer.
  • What is your USP (your Unique Selling Proposition) that sets you apart from your competition?
  • Looking at what you do and comparing yourself to your competitors, are there any trends, any opportunities you haven’t picked up on or any threats you hadn’t thought about?
  • Are there any changes in your industry that you need to be aware of or address?
  • Do you adhere to all the new GDPR rules that came about in 2018? For example, does your website comply with those rules? Are you doing everything you can to protect your customers’ data?
  • I hate to use the ‘B’ word, but have you considered Brexit, due to hit the UK in January 2021? Have you thought about how this will impact your business?
    – Can you still get access to materials for things you make? If you can, will there be any export charges?
    – If your business involves travel, either to or from the UK, depending on where you live, what impact will Brexit have on travel? Parliament have already passed the bill to take away freedom of movement, so how will this affect you?

Customers

Our customers are the most important aspect of our businesses. Do you know your customers well? If not, do some in-depth research.

  • Who are you selling to? Build up a picture of at least six customer personas, so you can tailor your products and services to them.
  • What are your customers’ needs and wants?
  • What are they buying and why?
  • Has their buying behaviour changed? For example, where are they buying? Is it more online?
  • What are your customers’ challenges? What are their problems and can your products/services solve those challenges or problems?
  • Are there any new markets or new groups of people that could benefit from your products/services that you haven’t yet considered?

Customer behaviour will constantly change, so it’s important to keep ahead and know what they want. If you have customer personas or profiles that you’ve created in the past, how have they changed and evolved?

Marketing your business

Marketing is a hugely important part of your business. This is an area that you really need to review. Take a step back and look at what you’ve done this year to market your business.

  • How are you talking or interacting with your current customers? Can that be improved?
  • How do you approach and talk to new or potential customers?
  • How are you positioning yourself in the marketplace? How are you promoting yourself and your business?
  • Look at your brand; what does it say about you?
  • Take a look at your pricing. Is it relevant to what you offer? Do you need to put your prices up to compete in your market?
  • Look at all your social media channels. How are your using them and how engaged are your audience?
  • Are there any new platforms or ways to market on social media that you’re not currently doing, but should…such as video?
  • What are your competitors doing with their marketing? Is there something you could take or use from their example?
  • Think about new campaigns or activities for 2021 that will help you stay connected to your current customer base, and also attract and engage new customers.

Resources

Look at your current resources.

  • Do you have anyone working for you? Do you have a business coach or Virtual Assistant? If you do, do they meet all your requirements? Is there anything more you can outsource to them, or anything they shouldn’t be doing anymore?
  • Do you have any skill gaps that you need to fill? If you do, look at what courses you can take to get you up to speed.
  • Is your workspace or office space big enough? Does it suit your needs? Do you need to update any equipment?
  • Do you need to update any technology or invest in something new?
  • If you buy in materials, are you getting a good deal? Sometimes we stick with one company to supply materials because we know them well, or just because we always have. That doesn’t mean they’re the best supplier, so take a look at some alternatives.
  • Are there anything you’re currently paying for that you no longer need?
  • If you post your products to customers, do you have a good deal? There are so many new companies that have sprung up, you may be able to find a much better deal than you currently have.

Finances

OK, now we’re at the biggie. The one we don’t like to think about, but a very important part of your year-end review.

  • What was your turnover in 2020 and what was your profit?
  • What is your projected turnover and profit in 2021?
  • Do you have a healthy cash flow or is your business having cash flow problems? If you’re having problems, what can you do about it? It’s not a good idea to ignore it!
  • Do you have any capital or any excess cash?
  • Are your books all up to date and ready for the tax man? I know I said the ‘T’ word, but it’s important to keep your business afloat. If you need an accountant, shop around and ask friends who are in business. If you have an accountant, ask him/her to give you all the relevant figures for 2020.
  • Do you have any operational costs or employee costs for 2021 that you haven’t planned for? How are you going to pay for that?
  • Do you need to look for external funding or any kind of investment to reach your goals for next year?
  • Do some projections – they don’t have to be exact. Maybe start with monthly projections, or where you’d like to be this time next year. And then, what you’d like to see for your business in 3 years’ time or 5 years’ time.

Once you have completed your review of 2020, you’ll have all the relevant information you need to start planning for 2021. Now you can start planning your goals for next year and thinking about where you are going to take your marketing.

Good luck and happy reviewing and planning!

Should I publish my prices online?

It’s a question that I know a lot of people in business struggle with, especially if you offer a service. ‘Should I publish my prices and packages online?’

It’s actually quite a personal decision and you’re not alone in wondering if it’s the right thing to do or not. So, to help you make the right decision for your business, there are a few pros and cons to consider. Hopefully this will help you decide…

Pros of publishing your price list

  • It will cut down the number of emails you get asking you for a price. Therefore, those who do contact you are more likely to be more serious from using your services, or buying your products.
  • You might hear from people who are very excited to find out that you are within their price range, when they thought you would be way out of their reach, financially.
  • This is an important one – customers actually want to know your pricing. I know that in the past, when I’ve been looking to hire someone, I find it very frustrating if there are no prices on their website. Often, I’ll give up and find someone who does. So, transparency plays a huge part in publishing your price list.
  • It might help allay the fear of your inbox! I know the panic feeling when you get an email asking exactly what you charge. You suddenly start overthinking everything! ‘Am I charging too much?’, ‘Am I not charging enough?’ Having your price list on your website says you are sure of your rates and happy to share them.
  • Just as I may go elsewhere if there’s no price on a website I visit, so will other people. By having your prices visible, you may win out against your competitors.
  • When you do get an inquiry, they’ll be less ‘sales patter’ as they’ll already know your prices, so less likely to haggle and more about what you can do for them.
  • Having pricing will keep your bounce rates low and encourage potential customers to stay longer to browse.
  • It can improve your SEO too as words like ‘pricing’, ‘prices’, ‘costs’ are popular google search words.   
  • If you can’t give a set price for all your work, as I can’t with mine, you can simply publish a starting rate. It still gives potential customers a base rate to work from.
  • You may have a customer who, now he knows how much you charge, can save up until he can afford to hire you. This saves him the embarrassment of ringing to ask costs, then having to say he can’t afford it at the moment.   
  • Ultimately you’ll save time and energy!

Cons of publishing your price list

  • If someone comes across your website and they don’t like your prices, they will move on without ever having been in touch, meeting you or getting the chance to interact. It may be a lost opportunity, in that you may have been able to do them a deal.
  • Competitors can see your pricing and they may then choose to undercut your prices.
  • Your website will need to be updated on a regular basis with any new prices, or special offers. You could forget to put your prices up online, and then have to honour the lower price on your website.
  • Having a set price really leaves no room for negotiation and you could lose business because a client may have needed a smaller package than the one you have on offer.
  • Limiting your prices or packages can be hard to do if you are the kind of business that offers bespoke work or services. But there can always be a clause at the bottom of your list for Bespoke Services. You can have a statement that says you also do bespoke work or offer customizable services, and ask them to contact you for more details. This gives the best of both worlds!

My personal preference is to publish my price list on my website. But I do have a clause to say that I also do bespoke work and to contact me for more details. I just know that for me, looking on a website for a price and not finding one, is frustrating and will be sure to have me leaving the site.

Places like Amazon list prices, but someone who sells very high end cars may not. This will, no doubt, ensure that they attract only the target market that they’re after…one that doesn’t have to worry about money, so can easily afford one of their high end cars.

Conclusion

To be brutally honest, there is no real conclusion and only you know what is right for your business. If you sell physical products, I would definitely encourage you to include prices next to everything you sell. But if you’re a service based business, you might find it hard to create a standard price list. You need to look at your target audience and decide what will be best for them.   

Like I said, I have a price list…you might want to swing over and find out how I approached this issue as I provide a service, not physical products.

Please feel free to ask any questions or you can email me in private if you prefer, at cindymobey@outlook.com  

How to promote your customer loyalty programme

In last week’s blog, I covered the pros and cons of having a customer loyalty programme. So, if you have decided that it is the way to go, how do you go about promoting it to your target audience? This week’s blog looks at the strategy for loyalty marketing and how you can get the best out of it for your small business.

What is loyalty marketing?

Loyalty marketing is about encouraging your customers to buy from you over and over again…it’s keeping them coming back for more.

It can apply to both existing, active customers and past customers, as well as new ones. Your strategy is to incentivise them to buy from you more frequently. The obvious example is a coffee shop. They give you a card, which you get stamped every time you buy a coffee. When your ten stamps have been completed, you get a free coffee. Everyone loves a freebie, even if they have to work for it.

Why is loyalty marketing so important?

We all like to feel that we’re appreciated…I know that I do. It’s even nicer if the business you buy from shows their appreciation by giving you something in return. You are being rewarded for your loyalty, which feels great.

The first step to achieving this is to make your customers feel valued and acknowledge them for their continued support. However, this isn’t easy; customers are not tied to you or your business and can jump ship for another brand at the drop of a hat. Another brand may be more accessible, may be a local business or friend. Sometimes customers just feel like a change and want to try something new. But there are some marketing strategies that can help you keep your customers for as long as possible.

Make it simple  

Keep your customer loyalty programme as simple as possible. You could add a sign up at your website checkout and give an immediate benefit of some kind. It could be a small discount off their next purchase.

Also make sure that it doesn’t matter what your customer spends, they can still join the loyalty programme. So, whether they spend big bucks or small change, they are all treated equally.

Add value 

Take your time to decide what customer rewards you want to give. You still need to think about your profit margins, so don’t go mad! You might go with ‘buy one, get one free’ on certain items, or a straight-forward 5% off their next purchase. Or, like the coffee house example I gave earlier, your customers have a physical card that they get stamped every time they buy an item. Then they get one free after the tenth item is bought. Obviously the coffee shop idea wouldn’t be appropriate for most businesses – only those who sell something fairly cheap in the first place…coffee is ideal, so this idea is great for cafes and restaurants, juice bars and sandwich shops.   

Give new members a gift

When someone joins the loyalty programme, give them a small gift as a welcome. This will reinforce the value of the programme, and hopefully they will pass this on to their friends and family.

Give an incentive to introduce a friend

If a customer refers a friend, who goes on to buy from you, you could give them an incentive gift.

Personalise the programme

If you are sending out details of the programme, use the customer’s first name and thank them for being a loyal customer. Personalising the email, phone call, or however you choose to do it, makes your customer feel special and it also makes your email feel bespoke if it has their name on it.

Remember your customers’ birthdays and send them an e-card or an email to wish them a good day.

Don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ to customers for their continued support.  

Let your customers know that you listen 

There is nothing more frustrating, as a consumer, than sending off an email, or sending a message on social media, and your comments are ignored. So don’t do this! Make sure you reply to everything in a positive and friendly manner.

Get customer feedback

This goes hand in hand with listening. Providing your customers with a way to leave feedback is imperative to finding out why they stay loyal to your brand and also, why they leave to go elsewhere. Make sure there is somewhere on your social media sites for them to leave feedback and also on your website.

Listening to what your customers have to say can be a very positive experience, but inevitably you will also get some negative comments. However, so long as you answer them straight away, you can often turn that around. Sometimes feedback will give you new ideas, or ideas on how you can improve your current products or services.

Most customers tend to only leave feedback if there is a problem, so it’s about encouraging them to leave it when they’re happy! If you do get a negative review, don’t try and hide it or delete it – work on the problem with your customer and hopefully they will leave another one stating how you solved their problem.

Feedback can be obtained via a customer satisfaction survey. With this, you are in control of the questions, and it is a straight forward and easy way to gain opinions on your products and services…and the overall customer experience they receive with your brand. If you do opt for this, keep it short and sweet – they won’t want to take more than a couple of minutes to complete it, so just ask a few questions and if possible, opt for multiple choice answers as that makes it even easier.

You could offer an incentive to complete your survey or to leave a review. The most important thing to think about is the timing of your survey or the asking for a review. You need to give your customer time to use your product or service. So just be aware of that.

Promote at every opportunity

This means at every single customer touch point.

  • Website
  • Phone calls
  • Text message
  • At the till if you have physical premises
  • When you send out an order, put details in the order with the invoice
  • Blog about it
  • Put your programme on your social media sites – ask your followers to share your post
  • Tell customers about it in email or newsletter
  • Promote it in adverts about your business
  • Consider a paid ad on Social Media
  • Mention it in podcasts and videos
  • Maybe have a partnership with another business that compliments yours and share the running costs

Talk about your customer loyalty programme to anyone and everyone who will listen.  

Conclusion

Always remember that customer loyalty goes way beyond giving out a loyalty programme or rewards…or even engagement with them on social media.

It’s about you letting your customers know that you really value their custom, and appreciate the support they give to your business.

Finally, make sure that you use the same images and tone of voice in all interactions about your customer loyalty programme, so your particular, branded programme stands out and is easily recognisable.

Discover my 7 Cs of marketing

In a previous article I’ve talked about the 7 Ps of marketing, which are a set of key principles that are at the heart of all marketing strategies. They are often referred to as the ‘Marketing Mix’.

Today’s article is about the 7 Cs of marketing and why you need to get your business online. These Cs are the ones that I think are important. Others may prefer other Cs!    

Credibility

Millions, yes millions, of people from all over the world go straight to the internet first when they want to buy something. Be it products or services, we all check out the internet for advice and information.

If your business, small or large, is online, then you are more likely to be found for what you do or what you sell. Potential customers can see your reviews, can look at your pricing and products, find out a bit about you etc. etc. And this gives your business more credibility.

Having a website is the obvious choice as you can explain everything you do all in one place. You can show your products or talk about the services you offer in detail. People can see who you are and what experience you have; you can list your qualifications and experience and more importantly, your website shows you are human. Your website will have contact details, so you can be reached and your potential customers can therefore get in touch if they want or need to.  

Customer

The customer! Ah, yes, now this is what everything in your business hangs on. No customers? No business.

This is why your business marketing strategy is so very important, (and why I bang on about it a lot with my customers)!

Your marketing strategy helps you find your ideal customer or your target audience. You discover where they hang out, what they’re interested in, how you can pull them in. Your strategy is about getting into the head of your customer and you can only do this by getting to know them.

Any content you put out needs to speak to your customers, be engaging, entertaining or educational. Once you’ve posted content, on whatever social media site you choose, or online, ensure you reply to every comment. Reply to those comments with a question and get a conversation going. And post consistently. You won’t hold your audience’s attention if you are posting once a month, but every day or every couple of days will keep their attention.

Doing your target audience research will let you know which social media sites they use, so you can target that site. Make sure your business is listed in ‘Google my business’, so you can be found locally. And there are loads of free, online business directories out there that you can be part of. Anything that helps your business be found online.

Consistency

I’ve already mentioned this, but consistency really is a key factor in marketing. You don’t just show up once, or just when you feel like it. You need to be showing up, delivering valuable content and products to your customers day in, day out.

If you have a website, which I highly recommend, start a blog and show your audience that you are an expert in your field. Share your blog to social media sites. Show up every day on social media and give something that is engaging, entertaining or educational. Make your audience laugh, teach them something new or point out something that they didn’t know.

Give your customers confidence in your ability to engage with them. They will see you as the ‘go to’ person and in time, this will convert to loyal customers. Consistency is what keeps your customers attention…it takes a long time to build up a customer base. And minutes to lose it. If you are not delivering, your customers will go elsewhere.   

Creativity

For me, creativity is about being original. Not about being the same as everyone else. For this reason, rather than use everyone else’s 7 Cs of marketing, or the industry standard, I’ve gone with what I feel is important. When I am helping small businesses with their marketing strategies, these are the things I concentrate on.

Creativity is HUGE! We are all constantly exposed to all sorts of advertising and, if you’re in marketing, you have to find new, creative, innovative ways to target your audience and get their attention. Creativity gets your brand noticed and makes your messages more memorable.

A lot of people out there buy things using their emotions, not for practical reasons. Being creative with your messaging enables you to communicate the emotional reasons for buying from you.

Every touchpoint you have with your customers is an opportunity to be creative and help your customers experience your brand in a positive and unique way.

Community/Communications  

I’m going to cheat here and do a ‘2 for 1’ offering! In my opinion, these two go together. Marketing is about communicating great messages to your target audience that reflect your brand, engage them and eventually convert them to customers. By regularly posting on social media, you will build up a community of people who follow you, who like your posts and engage by making comments, or asking questions.

You can set up your own social media groups, so customers can sign up for more in-depth information from you, or maybe coaching in a particular subject. They have to be a member to get access to this information – you may have a few freebie checklists, or helpful hints, or maybe even an e-book that they will get if they sign up. Building this kind of community really helps establish you as an expert and you gain the trust and respect of those who sign up. You’ll be recommended by them and so will grow your audience and also your customer base.

I haven’t mentioned communications specifically, but it runs through everything I’ve just talked about. Digital marketing, or online marketing, is without doubt, the most effective way to communicate with your target audience. You can talk to millions of people from all over the world.

Communication is at the heart of every business, big or small. Regularly communicating with them allows your customers to ask questions; it makes them care about your business; be loyal and recommend you to their friends and families. Most important of all, communicating shows you care, shows that your customers are valuable to you, that they matter and that you value their opinions.  

If you have a website, set up a monthly newsletter and ask your customers/potential customers to sign up. They will then hear from you every month. You can use that newsletter to talk about new trends, new ideas, ask questions, teach them something, share your blogs, share new products and show them your human side by sharing what you’ve been up to away from work. The list is endless, but it will be engaging, entertaining and educational which is what marketing is all about.    

Customer Service

I can’t stress enough how important good customer service is. Whether you’re looking for new customers or making sure you keep the ones you have, it’s important to make them all feel valued and wanted.

When you have been in business for a while, you will start to recognise the problems that your customers face. If you can answer those questions and solve those problems, they will become loyal customers who will recommend you to their family and friends. If you have a list of common questions that you know your customers need an answer to, put an FAQ section on your website and point to it from your social media pages.

Monitor your social media pages and email – if your customers ask a question, make sure it is answered promptly. You might be trawling a group chat or forum and see a question that you know the answer to – don’t hang around, answer it straight away. Show you are an expert.

You can also give your customers incentives to keep their interest and reward them for being good customers. You can offer freebies or special deals if they join your mailing list…or membership to a closed, member’s only Facebook group.

And, most importantly, say ‘THANK YOU’ to your customers. Make them feel valued, that you care and that you appreciate their custom.

Conversion

There are lots more Cs I could use, but this has to be my seventh…Conversion. It’s the reason we do all the marketing, spend hours on blogs and engaging content. We are trying to get new customers…that doesn’t mean this is the be all and end all, but it is necessary to pay your mortgage and bills!

Knowing your audience and what they want…what their pain points are, will all help you to convert your audience into paying customers. The first thing to do is to make sure you keep track of your customers and potential customers. If you have subscribers to your email, they will all be at different stages in the marketing funnel. Some will be at the bottom, just starting to engage with your business, taking an interest in your content, products or services, but not yet ready to buy. These still needs lots of nurturing by producing that all important engagement, entertainment and education that I keep banging on about!

Next up are the ‘Market Qualifying Leads’ (MQL). They might have come to your email via a free download, (checklist, workbook etc.). And they might have signed up to your newsletter to find out more about you and your business and what you have to offer. They will respond well to receiving more information, but not necessarily to the hard sell. They won’t want to feel any pressure to buy, nor will they want to be bombarded with sales emails. That will just put them off and they will unsubscribe and you’ll have lost them.

The next group are ‘Sales Qualified Leads’ (SQL). This group may have been subscribers to your email for a while, downloaded several freebies, and maybe taken part in some free training. They will be engaged with your online content, following you on social media – and maybe a member of your social media private group. They will be familiar with your business, know how you work and what you stand for. There will already be some trust and respect for what you do. They might start asking specific questions which qualify a meeting. They’ll already know that you can solve their problems, and that you know their pain points, and will now be ready to move on to get the solutions for themselves. They might be open to coaching, or paying for a course, buying an eBook, or buying your products or services.      

  • Always make sure you follow up on new contacts, engage with them as much as possible.
  • Ask questions, show an interest in them and be genuine!
  • Always listen to your customers. You may hear something that you hadn’t thought of – another way that your products or services can solve their problems. Or you might hear something that the customer doesn’t realise is a problem, so you can then educate them into recognising that problem – then offer the solution.
  • Whenever you put content out, make it easy for your potential customers to contact you. Add a Call to Action so they know what they need to do next.   
  • Include testimonials so you have proof that what you offer or do actually works and that you give value.

And…I am at the end of my list of 7 Cs of marketing. I hope you have found this useful. Please follow my blog for more articles to help you with your marketing.

You can also follow me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/cindyfreelancewriter and on Instagram http://www.instagram.com/cindymarketingconsultant     

Do you know how to market your content?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content marketing isn’t anything new, but it is a term bandied about a lot in marketing circles. Those who have always got involved in the traditional kind of marketing would argue that they use content to advertise. But this is the crux of the matter and where the differences lie.

Traditional marketing vs Content marketing

Larger businesses will typically use traditional marketing as it is the kind of content that is pushed into the view of the public. For example, TV commercials, radio ads, print ads, brochures etc. You will see traditional marketing everywhere; on billboards, sides of buses, the ad breaks in the cinema, but they are all high end marketing which require a big budget to reach that large audience.

For the small business, content marketing is the way to go; it involves having a content marketing strategy, which comprises of all types of content being created and then published online in multiple locations. Instead of forcing your content on the public, your content will sit online forever, with the end goal of attracting your ideal audience or customer.

Content marketing is also different in that it doesn’t concentrate on just advertising your products or services, it’s about drawing your audience in by providing useful information that is helpful and solves problems. Your readers can follow you on social media to read more of your content, or follow your blog, in order to find out more. This helps you gain a loyal audience who trust you…and ultimately, will sign up to your email list in return for some kind of offer…be that a newsletter or a freebie checklist or e-book.      

What kind of content can I share online?

When your audience find your content useful, their connection to you and your brand is strengthened. They will share your content, so that your audience widens further. So, what kind of content can you share?

  • Your website copy (this is everything you write about on your business website)
  • Your Blog
  • Social Media posts (status updates, tweets etc.)
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • E-books
  • Printables
  • Guest posts on other websites 

To make your content work, it needs to be optimised for your target audience and it needs to be relevant to the niche you are in.

How do you market your valuable content?

Now you have your content online, what do you need to do to market it?

Website

If you have a website for your business, you can add a blog to it, so you are creating content that people will see when they visit your website.

Email

Do you have a ‘subscribe to email’ button on your website? If not, do it! When you have subscribers, you can send them a monthly email as a newsletter. You can include:

  • Links to any blogs you’ve written
  • Details of new products or services
  • Special offers
  • Send links to videos you’ve produced on YouTube
  • Links to any podcasts your record
  • Links to any articles, news or videos you think they might be interested in (not ones that you’ve done)
  • Generally talk about new trends in the marketplace, a little bit about you and what you’ve been up to, ask questions make them feel like part of an exclusive ‘club’. 
  • You can also enable buttons so that your audience can follow you on your social media channels

Social Media

Share your content to all your social media pages. You will have different audiences on Facebook to those you have on LinkedIn for example, and again different to those you connect to on Instagram.

  • You can schedule your posts, so you’re not constantly on social media (and therefore getting distracted by other things!).  
  • Share the link to your blog in your profiles on social media.
  • Ask questions linked to your content and respond to anyone who makes a comment. In fact, respond to any comment you get and thank people through messenger or private DM for following you.
  • Share you blog posts as soon as you publish them. The more immediate responses, likes and shares you get, the more credibility your post gets.
  • Share your blog posts more than once…share again the next day, with a different caption and image. And again a week later. This way, you will pick up people you have missed, or who didn’t see your original post.
  • If you notice that an old blog post went well and got lots of engagement, then share that again…not all of your posts, just the ones that had great stats.
  • Posts with images get better engagement, so really think about the images you use to entice your audience in. There are lots of free image sites out there (such as Pixabay, Pexel, Unsplash and Canva) that you can download licensed images for commercial use. DON’T just google images and use one as you could be fined for copyright.
  • Join groups on social media and participate in group discussions, giving advice, answering questions etc. This helps get your name known and helps you get seen as an expert in your niche. They also have ‘share your blog post/business page’ type events, which help get your content in front of a different audience.
  • Use hashtags, which categorise your content for your audience.
  • You can also pay to boost your reach on social media.
  • Write a guest post for someone else’s website or blog – you then tap into their audience.
  • Make sure your blog/website has social media sharing buttons, so your audience can click to go look at your social media sites.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Choosing the right keywords will help your content get seen.

  • Google’s keyword planner will help you pick the right keywords and help you brainstorm ideas.
    Log into the Google Ads platform with your account, then choose ‘Tools and Settings’, ‘Schedule’ and then ‘Keyword Scheduler Tool’.
  • Write a long, compelling blog post and use your keyword(s) and variations of it throughout the blog.
  • Optimise your whole post for the keyword you decide on. Include your keyword in…
    – your title
    – your Meta description
    – your main headline (H1)
    – use the keyword frequently throughout your blog post, without stuffing it anywhere – it has to make sense! And you don’t want Google to think you are being spammy!
    – Use related keywords in subheadings and in the first 100 words of your main body of text.
    – use your keyword in your URL slug
    – use keyword and related keywords in your tags and categories

Link building

Internal links: A good way to get your content noticed is to build internal links into your blog post. This simply means that you link to previous posts you’ve written. For example, in this article, you will see highlighted phrases or words – these are links to articles I’ve written about that subject before, so my audience can take a look at those.  

Revisit your older blogs from time to time and add internal links to newer blogs that you’ve written.

External links: where other people link to your blog post.

  • If you send out a newsletter email, ask your customers to share a link to your blog posts.
  • When you publish your blog on social media pages, ask your audience to share.
  • If you publish entertaining or educating blogs that capture your audience’s attention, they are more likely to share.

Headlines

A headline really matters – the ones that seem to get the most traffic are lists, how to, or a question. Also, headlines that contain numbers, e.g. 101 ways to …….

Emotional headlines also seem to hit the mark too, as well as a bit controversial headlines!

Images

Using great images can help market your content. Images don’t just have to be photos; it can be GIFs, infographics, graphics or video. These help capture and keep the attention of your audience.

If you have a Pinterest account, make sure your images can be pinned (shared) by other Pinterest users.

If appropriate, also put a caption on any image as this helps with search engines – images alone won’t necessarily be picked up by search engines, but if there is text, they will be.

Revisit and repurpose your content

Revisit your old posts and content regularly. Revisiting content means you can update it with new information, add new images/infographics and maybe add a short video you’ve made on the subject.

You can also repurpose posts into e-books, video or a podcast. You can also use ideas from them to make social media posts.

Conclusion

I’ve shared loads of different ways to market your content. But the most important thing to keep in mind when marketing is to always have your customer/target audience at the heart of everything you do. Do it for them, aim it at them, and make sure it’s something you know that they will be interested in.

Keep your brand in mind and write in your own particular style – don’t try and copy anyone else. Keep your content original and engaging. Remember, content should always entertain, educate and engage your audience.

If you found this post valuable, please share on your social media site. And if you have any further ideas as to how to market content, please leave a note in the comments box.

Happy content writing and please get in touch if you need help with your content!

How to write creative, persuasive content

Do you dream of being able to write creative content that is persuasive and that inspires your readers? It’s all about structuring your content so that your article is appealing and irresistible!

There are four forms of content…

  1. Written
  2. Audio
  3. Video
  4. Images

No matter which medium you’re working on, it’s crucial that your content is valuable and useful to your reader…or they simply won’t read it and it won’t resonate with them. Your articles need to help solve a problem or improve their life in some way. This will also help set you up as an expert in your field.  

Create a content strategy

Your content strategy is your why, who and how. Why you are creating it, who is it aimed at and how are you going to get it out there. Businesses use content marketing to build an audience and to either increase their revenue, lower their costs or to get better customers. For me, it’s about engaging with my audience and, almost as a proof point to illustrate that I know what I’m talking about and am experienced in this field.

Publishing content is great, but it also needs to be published consistently. It needs to educate, entertain or inspire your audience. This way you can turn total strangers into followers and then those followers into customers. You do this by building relationships and solving problems.

Know your audience

Once you know what your strategy is, you need to build the content around your audience. What makes them tick? What problems do they have? What do they look like? If you know your audience well and know what they want, you can really deliver.

Now you’re ready to choose which form of content to use. Try and utilise a mixture as this will help keep your audience’s attention.

Written content

This is the most popular and most used way to communicate with your audience. There are lots of different ways to communicate using the written word…

  • Blogging – Blogging is about writing relevant, useful, informative and entertaining copy. A blog is a regular, consistent post. Your audience can follow your blog, and so get informed automatically every time you publish a new one. Anyone can start up a blog about absolutely any subject you can think of! There are cookery blogs, health and fitness, nutrition, fashion, travel, crafting…you name it, and I can guarantee it’s out there.

    A blog post can be as long or as short as you like – you will soon get to know what your audience likes. Use SEO (search engine optimisation) to get ranked higher in search engine results and use categories and tags to make your blog easier to find.   
  • Email – A direct way to communicate with your followers. If you have a ‘subscribe to email’ button on your website, you can regularly keep in touch with your customers and followers. Just be aware not to overdo it and bombard people with emails every day, or use them solely to sell or push your products/services, or you will find lots of ‘unsubscribes’.
  • Newsletters – These used to be hard copy, but most businesses send these out via email nowadays. It is, in effect, an email as in the last point, but this is specifically your newsletter. Again, don’t go mad with the frequency – once a month is great and also more manageable for you too. You can give news on what you’re doing in your business, any new products or services on the horizon or any freebies you might have created. Or, it might be just some interesting information you want to share, or hints and tips. And of course, you can use it to share links to your blog post.  

Audio

Podcasts are very popular and are growing in numbers every day. There are less podcasts out there, than there are blogs, so it is a good one to try for your business. Like blogs, they can be about absolutely anything…someone out there will be interested in what you have to say. It’s also a great way to reach your audience as they can listen to your podcast whilst driving to work, or working out. Your audience don’t necessarily have to set aside a certain amount of time to catch up with your latest message.

Video Marketing

This has been around for a long time now, but it is fast becoming the norm for all sorts of small businesses, as well as the larger corporates. You can ‘go live’ on social media, or record a short message to your customers/followers. It’s versatile, you can say what you like and most importantly, you will reach your audience more quickly. In a few seconds, you can convey a mood, a setting and your message can be received shortly and succinctly in less than a minute. There are lots of ways to use video in your marketing…

  • Live stream – in real time on social media accounts. As it’s recorded ‘live’, it will be a ‘warts and all’ recording, so you won’t be able to edit out any mistakes – but this does add to the excitement and appeal. People see you as you are!
  • Recorded stream – the same as the ‘live’ stream, but you’ve pre-recorded it before you put it out, so you can edit out anything you don’t like and add in anything that might have forgotten with the ‘live’ version.
  • Vlogging – the same as blogging, but using video. This can be longer that the ‘live’ or pre-recorded videos. Your audience love these as they feel they are getting to know you as a person – if you Vlog regularly, they will get used to seeing you and this helps build a relationship and trust.
  • Whiteboard videos – these are animated or sketched videos, so the subject matter and scenery is not real.

Images

Using images is also a great form of content marketing. They are usually on your website, on social media or within a blog. Images can be very powerful to help you convey a message and help you create more impact. They say that a picture paints a thousand words, and whilst this can be true, I tend to use them more to enhance my messaging.

The only downside is that search engines don’t necessarily recognise images, so a good tip is to make sure you add a caption to your images, wherever it is relevant. If using in a blog, use keywords to help the search engines find the images.    

AND SO, ONTO YOUR ACTUAL CONTENT

Writing your content

Here are a few tips to help you write your content to help make it more persuasive.

  • Write the headline first. Make sure it is compelling and sparks the curiosity of your reader to want to read on.
  • Write your subheadings next. This will help you plan your content and split it into readable chunks for your reader.
  • Add a few captions. Captions catch the readers’ eye, so add a few in for good measure!
  • Opening paragraph – this is what will draw the reader in and help them decide whether they want to, or can be bothered to, read the rest. People spend seconds scanning an article and, if the opening paragraph and headline doesn’t draw them in, you’ll have lost that reader.  
  • Closing paragraph – Depending on what you’re writing about, this is the end of your article/blog or whatever. Use it well; maybe reiterate the most important take-away from your article and have a CTA (call to action) so they know what to do next.  
  • Bullet points – these are easier to remember and, if someone is just scanning your article, these are likely to be read. So, make them stand out, make them full of good hints or tips and great advice. Make them totally fascinating!

Now we know what to include, let’s dig a bit deeper…

Why is a headline so important?

On average, only 20% of people read an article beyond the headline. If your headline doesn’t grab attention then of those 20%, even fewer people will read your content. So what can you do?

  • Give a benefit in your headline. Give your readers an incentive…’how to’ do something or a recipe. Use numbers…’20 ways to …..’
    Let them know that there is something in it for them.
  • Absolutely command attention. Not always easy, but remember you only have a few seconds to hook someone in. Use power words or positive words, such as ‘inspiration’, ‘revelation’ or even things like ‘is your business doomed because…..’
  • Be specific. Make your headline specific to the article – don’t use a generic headline. For example, if you were writing an article about Mental Health, just having the title ‘Mental Health’ isn’t very inspiring and won’t necessarily pull in your audience, but if you have ‘Mental Health – what does this mean?’ or ‘Mental Health – 10 ways to help yourself’, you’re giving specifics and are more likely to get readers.
  • Don’t get cocky. Don’t try to be too clever with a headline, as these are notoriously hard to come up with. And, they can spectacularly fail!
  • Use a proven structure…as talked about in previous points. Being original is great, but you can try too hard!
  • Keep on, keeping on – practice, practice, practice…makes perfect! Take notice of headlines when you’re reading a newspaper or magazine. Look at headlines on billboards and understand how they capture your attention.
  • Action – Know what action you want your readers to take and make sure that is incorporated throughout your article and in your headline.        

Write content your readers will remember

Here are a few tricks to help make your content unforgettable.

  • Emotion – appeal to your reader’s emotions – this makes them care about something and if they care, they will remember.
  • People have short attention spans – use sound bites to grab attention. I’ve heard the term ’60 is the new 40’, referring to the fact that people now live longer…this is a sound bite.
  • Surprise your reader – Say something unexpected – the element of surprise always makes people remember
  • Use solid details. As well as all the trivial stuff, make sure your content has some real concrete solid details and information that help your readers understand your content.
  • Use stories. It could be a case study, or just a little ‘aside’ piece from your personal memory. People love stories, so be a good storyteller.

Using persuasive writing

If you want your readers to buy something, subscribe to your course or newsletter, you need to be persuasive. Here are some of the reasons you can give your readers…

  • Tell them why…why they should buy your product. Keep it simple – use the word ‘because’ – that tells them all they need to know.
  • Expect objections. If you’re on social media, you’ll know that no matter what you post, there is always someone who objects or who doesn’t agree with you. So, when writing copy, anticipate those objections up front and address them!
  • Give an incentive. Most people have endless curiosity. So give incentives to read to the end of your content…. ‘As well as this, you’re going to love…..’, ‘Here is the best bit’…’Here’s the most awesome part…’. You get the picture!
  • Use stats – these give credibility to your content. And quote your source if there are lots of specific stats.
  • Be passionate about what you do. If you love what you do, it will shine through your work.
  • Give the benefits of what you are offering. You might have told readers why to buy your product/service, but also list the benefits – what can it do for them? How can it make their lives easier? How can it save them time and money?
  • Write about a subject you know about. It will be obvious if you are just spewing out information. KNOW what you’re writing about as it will be easier to be more persuasive about it. And bear in mind that the person reading might not know anything about the subject you’re writing about, so keep the ‘beginner’ in mind.
  • Have a clear call to action. Once they’ve read the article, tell them what to do next and remind them why it’s good, and why they should click or subscribe or buy!     

At the end of the day, you know your customers and you know who your ideal customer is. Write for those people. Write as if you’re talking to a friend in a pub over a drink. Use easy to understand language and not jargon.

Entertain your audience, educate them and ultimately you will sell to them. But as with most marketing tactics, it’s important to have that all important engagement first.

If you have any other ideas, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

How to measure customer satisfaction

We all know that unsatisfied customers cost money. Research has shown that about 80% of customers will go to a different company after just one bad experience, especially if it’s about the service they receive. This is why it’s so important to measure customer satisfaction to find out exactly what your customers think of you, your company, your products or services, and the kind of customer service they receive.

It’s a fairly simple thing to do, but the first hurdle for any business, big or small, is actually admitting that you have a problem, or that there is room for improvement.

Measuring customer satisfaction simply boils down to collecting feedback from your customers, either via a survey or using customer data…preferably both!

Why should you measure customer satisfaction?

I’ve already mentioned one reason – customer dissatisfaction.

If a customer is not happy they will not buy from you again. They will find take their business elsewhere and you will see a rise in complaints.

If you were measuring satisfaction, you would identify any problems early enough to be able to do something about it, and save your customer before they defect to another company.

Customer retention

It’s much easier to retain your existing customers rather than go through all the marketing and hard work to acquire new ones.

If a customer buys from you regularly, they bring much more value to your business. A happy customer is more likely to remain loyal to you and your brand.

Measurement helps you keep your customers happy, so they’re more likely to stick with your business, buy more and recommend you to family and friends.

Negative comments can damage your brand 

A bad customer experience will most likely be shared with family and friends. An unhappy customer is also likely to share their bad experience on social media sites. This can give your business a bad reputation.

Best-selling author and sought after celebrity speaker, Catherine DeVrye, is a world authority on customer service. She also won Australian Woman of the Year. She once said, “It takes years to win a customer and only seconds to lose one.” This one statement resonates with me more than any other I’ve read. I want my customers to be loyal, and loyalty, like trust, has to be earned – you can’t buy it.

I get my computer protection software from a big, well-known company and stay with them because it’s easy to deal with them. Their product is good and does what it says on the tin and they have a good reputation. But it has started to annoy me that this company spend thousands on expensive advertising campaigns, with rousing music, great copy and a fabulous enticing offer for new customers. But, hang on a minute, I’ve been a loyal customer for countless years and the amount I pay goes up substantially every year. Sometimes I think they take it for granted that I’ll just renew my subscription every year and pay whatever they say without any questions. Should I stay loyal to them when I get a new computer? They don’t make me feel valued as a customer. Apart from sending me emails about new and enhanced features that will ultimately cost me more, I don’t hear from them. There is no incentive for me to stay with them…would it really hurt for them to say, “you’ve been a great customer for more than 10 years – we’d like to reward your loyalty with XXXXXX” It doesn’t necessarily matter what I’m offered – it could be 10% off for a year. It could be that they offer me, as a valued customer, the new features to try out for free for the first year and no increase in my annual subscription. Now that would impress me. It doesn’t take much.

With this in mind, I’m so careful never to take my customers for granted or to forget about them. At the end of the day, they are my ‘bread and butter.’  

Enhance that all important customer experience

By measuring what your customers think of your products or services, you are giving them the chance to have their say. This will help you improve your relationship with that customer and could produce ideas on how to improve the customer service you currently offer. Your customers could come up with the solution to a problem you’ve been having, especially if you ask the question, “How can we improve on the service you receive from us?”

If you’re measuring customer satisfaction on a regular basis, you will be able to see the spikes in either direction. The measurement might reveal that customers are very happy with the service they get…in which case you know that you’re heading in the right direction.

Measurement Strategy

Once you are measuring what you do, the results will form the basis of your strategy – how are you going to improve so the scores are better the next time you do it?

So, when doing your marketing plan/strategy, always include a measurement section, which details solid measurable objectives and KPIs, (key performance indicators).  If you’ve ever worked for a big company, you’ll have heard of KPIs as they form part of your annual performance review!

CSAT  

OK, I have talked about measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT), but how do you measure it?

CSAT is a key performance indicator (KPI) that tracks how satisfied your customers are with your products or services…or both.

It is measured by customer feedback surveys that you send out. Usually it is a question at the end of a survey which will say something like…

‘How would you rate your overall satisfaction of the (service or products) you have received?’

Your customers are asked to reply by ticking the box of one of five answers…

  1. Very unsatisfied
  2. Unsatisfied
  3. Neutral
  4. Satisfied
  5. Very satisfied

The results you get from all your customers can give you an average score…best done as percentages. For example if you surveyed 100 customers and 85 said they were satisfied or very satisfied, you would have an 85% total customer satisfaction rate, with 15% customer dissatisfaction. 

The next step would then be to look at the 15 customers’ feedback, who rated you as giving dissatisfaction to try and identify why. This could be answered in other questions you’ve asked. If you can’t identify the reasons, it would be worth contacting those customers to find out what you can do to improve. This gives you a chance to turn the feedback around to positive for next time. The important thing is NOT to ignore it.

You can use a survey to ask very specific questions, such as ‘How do you rate the service you receive by telephone?’ or ‘How likely is it that you will recommend our business to your family and friends?’   

The only downside of CSAT is that it only measures how your customers are feeling here and now, at the time they complete the survey. They might be having a bad day or have been trying to get hold of you and haven’t yet had a reply, which could provoke a negative answer.

Before you jump in and send out a survey, define what you want to achieve.

  • What do you want to measure?
  • How are you going to send it out? By post, email, telephone or via social networks?
  • How often do you want to send a survey – once you send one, you’ll need to send more in the future so you can compare results. Once a year is good as you don’t want to bombard your customers with questions.
  • What questions do you want to ask? It’s good to have a range of questions – some that have multiple choice answers and some that are free text. For example, you might want to ask ‘How can the service we provide be improved?’ This would need a text box so the response can be written by the customer and they can write as little or as much as they want to.
  • Questions need to be clear, concise and straight forward and be easy to understand.

Conduct an interview on the telephone

This is a more costly way to get feedback, but it definitely has its benefits. For example, if you are launching a new product and have several long-standing and loyal customers, it would be a good idea to get their opinion. This not only makes them feel very valued as a customer, but also that their opinion matters to you and that you listen to them.

Obviously you couldn’t really do this with a big survey to all your customers – you could have thousands – so it would not be cost effective nor a good use of your time. 

Analytic tools  

There are loads of analytic tools out that that can help you with looking at engagement on your social media channels. These will, to a certain extent, give you details of your customers’ behaviour; how they interact with your brand; how often they buy from you and if they are a repeat buyer of a particular product.

The analytics will also tell you what kind of posts your customers like, what time of day they are online and what day of the week is most popular for your posts. This helps you decide what and when to post.  

Regarding social media, it’s always useful to listen to your customers and reply promptly to any questions or comments on your posts. 

Live Chat and Social Media

Most social media sites have the facility to have a ‘live’ chat with someone, so you could utilise this to talk to customers online. Messenger is another way to speak to them, but be careful not to bombard their inbox with meaningless messages.

The good thing about using social media channels for engagement and chat is that it is a free service!

You may also have live chat software and can use that to interact with your customers. Again, be aware not to be a nuisance!

Marketing emails

Email is perfect for engaging with your customers and for collecting feedback. If you send out a regular newsletter via email, you could always embed a survey in that communication. Or, you could send an email to your subscribers just about your annual survey.

Text

Texting is another great option for getting feedback. It’s cheap to send messages in bulk and gets a survey direct to your customers’ phone.

Customer Experience Factors

Whether you decide to send out a survey, text, message, telephone or email, there are some things you will always come across, which are absolutely crucial to the customer experience…

Pricing

What you charge for a product or service will hugely impact whether a customer will be satisfied or dissatisfied, depending on the customer. If you charge for something you don’t or can’t deliver, they will go elsewhere and will be dissatisfied with the service they’ve received. I’m not saying make sure your prices are low, no indeed not! A product or service is worth what a customer is willing to pay for it. You don’t want to be really cheap as they will question the quality of the product or service you offer. But at the same time, you don’t want to be so expensive that you price yourself out of the market.

Offer easy access to support 24/7

Customers like to have access to your products/services and know that they can contact you 24/7. Don’t just have a phone number with office hours (9-5, Monday-Friday). If you have a website, you can put an email address. Even if you’re not immediately available, at least they can ask questions at the time they want to.

Offer messenger support on social media channels, so they can message you if it’s an emergency. Most of us are online every day, even at weekends and, although it can be a pain on your day off, if you do answer any urgent queries via messenger…or agree to call the customer, you will gain more loyalty and respect. 

Educational content and training

If your products or services require the customer to learn something, make sure that there is support in place as everyone learns differently. It might be that you have a blog and post about how to use certain products or a certain service you offer.

Make sure that products or services that need training or support are covered. Include instructions with the product, give them a link to your YouTube channel where it is explained in detail, or give them a link to a Facebook group where you talk about your products or services in detail through discussions or forums.

Email all these support structures to your customers, as well as putting them in with products/services when they buy them. That way, they know they can save emails for use at a later date and don’t have to worry about losing paper copies of instructions.

Build a community on social media

Start your own social media group to support your customers with the products/services they buy from you. Communities serve several purposes…

  • Customers can talk and discuss your products/services with each other and give tips that they’ve found through experience
  • Customers can ask you questions
  • You can set up a regular forum, where you are there, ‘live’ to answer questions
  • You can advertise your new products or services
  • You can host networking events online
  • You can host training sessions, which can be ‘live’ or recorded with a link to the recording for your customers

Cancelling contracts or subscriptions  

Make it easy for your customers to change, or cancel a contract or subscription they have with your business.

It needs to be clear and concise and easily accessible. This might seem a bit odd, as you want to keep your customers, right? But if something you sell is not the right fit for your customer, they need to know that they can easily get out of it. If you don’t do this, you could risk damage to your reputation and your brand if the customer bad-mouths you and your business.

Customer incentive scheme  

You will have customers who absolutely love your products/services and who come back to you time and time again. What better way to reward them and show you value their custom, than you have a customer incentive scheme or loyalty programme. Incentives can come in all shapes and forms – it’s up to you what you choose to do.

If you run a coffee shop or café, you could give a card that gets stamped every time they buy a coffee. After buying 10 coffees and collecting 10 stamps on their card, they get a free coffee.

If you have a customer who has bought a website design from you, you could tell them that you’ll add a blog to their site for free.

These are just a couple of examples – the sky’s the limit really!

Whichever way you look at it, customer service and the experience they get when dealing with you and your business is crucial to your business’s success. So, be prepared and put in place measures that help you keep track of what your customers are buying and why. And of course, always ask for feedback! And you’ll be having your customers jumping for joy!

What makes storytelling so powerful?

From a very early age, we are brought up on stories. I remember my Dad making up stories at bedtime, full of action and adventure, and I was always in there somewhere. Why do we tell stories to our kids? It brings us closer to them, it’s something we can share and it’s something they look forward to. It’s really no different to telling stories as an adult to help your marketing. Storytelling is a very powerful marketing tool.

Why is it so powerful? 

Stories have been used throughout history to give messages to future generations. They convey culture and values that both unite and divide people. History books are full of stories and legends…there are even stories in the bible. And what makes them so powerful? They connect people with fact, ideas, spiritual growth and develop a sense of community. The stories we have in common are what ties families together.

The same can be said about business. Stories not only connect the reader with the writer, they build relationships and familiarity in a way that factual articles and bullet points don’t. Good stories draw the reader in and make a point, which other forms of communication can’t. They enable your reader to learn about you and your business on their own, so it’s important when you decide to tell a story, that it matches the message you want to get across to your audience.

Make it unforgettable and meaningful     

The reason why your audience remember a story is because it strikes a particular chord with them. So, if you know about a certain problem that your target audience has, try and write about it in an engaging way that talks to that particular audience, so it speaks to them and they have that ‘aha’ moment. Use words and examples that help your audience remember what you have to say, using persuasive language, whilst being friendly and helpful. It isn’t easy and I don’t have a formula, but repetition of your main point, looking at the issue from different angles will help people remember your message.

Emotion plays a part

Emotion also plays its part in storytelling. I’ve laughed and cried when reading a book or watching a film on TV. This is because the writers of those kind of scripts know how to tap into the part of us that makes us human. Getting inside the heads of your target audience, and working out what they feel passionate about, will help you influence them with your writing. This, in turn builds a bond or a rapport between you and your readers.

The most powerful stories I’ve ever heard have come from motivational speakers at conferences at the company I worked with in the UK. Stories that tell about a struggle the speaker has overcome…very personal information that they shared and held captive an audience of hundreds of people. The most powerful stories you can tell will be life experiences…maybe a time when you failed at something and how you got back up, dusted yourself down and started again. It could be about a mistake you made that you managed to eventually find a solution to. These stories build connections with your audience and get them on your side, and often it’s something they can relate to.  

How to tell your story?

Once you have decided on your message or the important point you want to get across, it’s largely up to you how you write it. But it’s important to think about how you are going to present it to your target audience. If you know your target audience well, you will know what kind of media they prefer. 

They might like to read your stories, they might like to watch you on video or listen to you speaking animatedly on a podcast. You might want to tell your story through a presentation, combining all three elements. It’s up to you. Whichever way you choose, you will be engaging with your audience on a personal level, influencing them to your way of thinking, connecting with them to gain their trust and giving them inspiration to carry on.    

If you post on social media, I’m sure that you’ve used quotes from famous people. These are used to make us laugh, cry, entertain, educate and always have a moral in the story or a meaning that resonates in the quote. Quotes are a form of a short story and that’s why they can be so powerful. Often when I post a quote, people will say that it speaks to them. Some might say ‘I really needed to hear this today’ if it’s motivational or addressing a common issue. What I’m getting at here is that to tell a story, it doesn’t have to a long rambling tale, it can be short and snappy and to the point.

Whichever way you choose to tell stories to your audience, give them a meaning, be sincere and your readers will be inspired to engage with your content and your brand. Give your story context, maybe some conflict, educate them or make it emotive. You are sharing your reality, or something you have been through – your audience will love you and will love and engage with your content.

What sort of story do you like to hear from an influencer in your life?

Don’t underestimate the value of Word of Mouth Marketing

What is Word of Mouth Marketing?

Word of Mouth Marketing seems like a pretty obvious one, but it is absolutely crucial to your business. It’s when your customer’s interest in your products or services is spoken about in their daily lives. In simple terms, it is free advertising generated by the experiences that your customers have with your business. This can be anything from a great customer service experience, where you have gone the ‘extra mile’ to help them with a problem, or maybe solved a problem they didn’t realise they had. Something extraordinary, or just a product or service that they are really pleased with and want to tell their friends and family all about it.

It really is one of the most powerful forms of advertising as 92% of consumers trust their friends over traditional media, according to The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising.

Word of Mouth Marketing (or WOM Marketing) includes viral, blogs, emotional and social media marketing.

Example of WOMM

WOMM is all about creating a buzz around your business – your products or services. The more you interact with your potential target market and with your existing customers, the more the name and reputation of your business will spread. It kind of creates a snowball effect. For example, say you own a restaurant. You create a comfortable atmosphere, the food is great, the service is exemplary, BUT, not only do you do that, you make every single customer feel special. Their dining experience is perfect because you have gone above and beyond to exceed their expectations. When they leave the restaurant, they will leave a review on your social media site; they might tweet about the fabulous service they received, about what a great place it is to eat and what a wonderful time they had. That’s great, but the snowball effect is that they will not only leave a review or tweet, they’ll also talk to their friends and family about what a great night out they had, and tell them they ought to try out your restaurant. This is part of the ‘creating a buzz’ scenario. And this can be followed up by you…

ALWAYS reply to reviews and feedback; thank customers for their comments and say how pleased you are that they enjoyed their meal at your restaurant. If you have a website, point them to the website to sign up to your newsletter, so they will be informed when you have special events on, (you might have live music nights, for example or do a special ‘Curry night’ or ‘Chinese night’). And advertise these events on your social media pages for those that don’t choose to sign up to a newsletter, (they’re not for everyone)!

Ask your customer who has left a glowing review if you can use it for your marketing. Share the review on your other social media sites, website and in your newsletter as ‘proof’ that your place is the best! If you get some really glowing reviews, you could ask the customer a few questions about why they enjoyed that particular evening – what made it special for them? Then you could turn this into a mini case study as to why your customers enjoy your restaurant…and give your customer his five minutes of fame, whilst at the same time making him feel very valued and that his opinion really does matter to you.

It’s all about TRUST

If a customer feels that he or she is listened to and valued, they will start to have an emotional bond to a particular business. This is the reason that most large Corporates have a whole team of people, who talk to their regular customers to discuss products, either with a personal visiting service, via a review of products the customer has (insurance products for example), or on the telephone. This works well as the customer feels that the company cares about them and is interested in what they are likely to do next in their lives. Let’s face it, this kind of interaction is not only to make sure that customer has the right insurance products, it’s also a fact finding mission to find out if there is anything else that could be sold to them in the future. But the point is that the customer feels that the company they have chosen cares about them.

No matter how big or how small your business is, TRUST is a huge issue and one that needs to be nurtured with every customer you have. If they trust that you have their best interests at heart, that you genuinely care about them and value their opinions, they will be loyal to you and will always be willing to try out new products or services that you offer. And, they’ll tell their friends that you have a new offer going on!

Can’t I just make up some great reviews?   

Yes, of course you can, but this wouldn’t really achieve very much as you won’t have that real person going around telling their friends all about you. It may help you attract new business, but you’re starting off from a deception. There is an official body in the USA that has crafted a code of ethics for the industry.

“The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is the official trade association dedicated to word of mouth and social media marketing. Founded in 2004, WOMMA is the leader in ethical work of mouth marketing practices through its education, such as WOMMA Summit, professional development opportunities, and knowledge sharing with top industry marketers. WOMMA’s membership is made up of the most innovative companies committed to progressing the word of mouth marketing industry through advocacy, education and ethics.”

https://expertfile.com/organizations/WOMMA-Word-of-Mouth-Marketing-Association

The word of mouth marketing strategies they promote are “credible, social, repeatable, measurable and respectful” and there is no tolerance for dishonesty.

How is WOMM different to referral marketing?

Word of Mouth Marketing is about creating that buzz, no matter what kind of business you have, how big or how small you are, or the kinds of products or services you offer. The more you engage with people, the more the name of your business and your business ethics will spread. It’s all about the snowball effect.

Referral marketing, on the other hand, is a more focused and targeted marketing media. It focuses your attention on a specific person to actively encourage that one person to refer their friends. It is a segment of WOMM, but it’s a more proactive way of generating new customers. You have control over the whole referral process to convert a particular customer to buy your products or services. This could be through the use of funnels, for example.

How to do WOM Marketing

Engage with your customers and potential customers, not just collect them. You might have hundreds, or even thousands of followers on your social media account, but are they all interested in what you do or sell? Or are they just there, not really interested, but more of a ‘follow for follow’ basis? Do they interact with what you post? Do they feel that connection with you? It’s about building engagement, building a relationship with followers that are genuinely interested in what you do and feel a connection to your business. The more passionate they are about you, your business, your products, your services, the more likely they are to share what you do, share your posts and tell people about their experiences.  

 

If you set yourself up a strategy, there are things you can do to increase the WOM around your business…things like a partner programme, affiliate marketing and using reviews.   

Your biggest marketing asset is your existing customer base, so create something worth talking about and encourage your existing customers to talk about it too.

  • People trust their friends and what they have to say. Ask customers to refer a friend…you can give incentives to encourage that. For example, refer a friend and get 10% off their next order or get a free gift.  
  • When a customer has bought something from you, or used your services, ask them to leave a review.
  • From the reviews that you get, identify something about your brand that has the possibility to generate a buzz or create something new that will generate that buzz.
  • Get your existing customers on board – you could create a competition, with the winner receiving your new product or service.  

Word of Mouth Marketing is a free and easy way to promote your business, but does take a bit of time and hard work. Gaining trust and engagement with your business is a two-way street, but when it works, you will have meaningful relationships with people who will become your best brand ambassadors.