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.

How to reach your target audience

Once you have identified who your target audience is, the next thing to do is to find them! How do you do that?

Hopefully this article will answer those questions and fulfil the main goal of marketing…get the right message to the right audience, at the right time!

Here are a few ways that will help you decide how you can best connect with your target audience.

  • Any marketing you do needs to speak directly to that audience you have defined. This does sound pretty obvious, but so many people think that their products are universally appealing so are targeting everybody. It’s nice to think that is possible, but it is seldom true and that mind-set can get in the way of talking to the right people.
  • The next thing to do is to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. It is most likely that they won’t know much about your brand, products or services as well as you do, so by seeing what you offer through different eyes, you can look for potential weaknesses or misunderstanding. Then the right messaging can be crafted.
  • Now you need to identify the best channels that will speak to your target audience. Now, there is not just one answer here, it will all depend on who your target audience are. So, when you did the research into your target market, what do they turn to for information?

    Do they read local magazines or newspapers? If they do, a local ad might do the trick.
    Do they listen to local radio? Could you get an ad on the radio or get in touch with the radio station and ask to be interviewed?
    Do they use social media and if so, what sites do they use? It’s no good putting everything on Twitter and Instagram, if they mainly use Facebook, for example.     

Building a communication/PR strategy  

Once you know who your audience are and where they like to get their information, now you need to get that information out to them. This does mean having some kind of strategy…I don’t mean another long and arduous document that you’ll do and never look at again, but a more pointed plan. So, let’s look at the strategies you could use…

Social Media

This pretty much goes without saying – most target audiences these days are on social media in one form or another. Social Media is a great way to engage people in conversations with your business. You can encourage people to follow your page by creating ‘follow’ buttons on your website that link to your social media pages. If you send out a regular email to your customers, add a follow button on that to get them engaged with your social media pages. You can also use ads on social media to attract followers.

Post content that you know will interest them and they’ll find value in. Ask questions in your posts and remember the 80/20 rule. 80% engagement and building a following and only 20% actually selling a particular product. If you only ever post details of your products and cost, people will lose interest. They like to get to know the person behind the brand, so engage with video content, podcasts, inspirational quotes, funny quotes, ask questions that may be related loosely to your product or service, do a ‘this or that’ – do you prefer coffee or tea for example. There are loads of different post ideas in one of my previous posts.

Get into publications they read

If you know that your target audience like reading hard copy material, like magazines, trade publications or newspapers, you could put a small ad in it. You could also contact the publication direct and ask if your business could be featured. If it’s a newspaper, pitch a story idea to a journalist who writes for the newspaper, or ask if you can be interviewed. Alternatively, you could write an article and then submit it with a pitch to the relevant publication. This isn’t easy, but there are a few free courses and articles online about how to pitch to this type of media.

If you know that your audience read certain blogs, contact the blog owner and ask if you could write a guest blog article. Make sure that your SEO is on point with this, and also check the SEO on your website. It needs to be good to appear high in search engines, so take a look at your website and make sure it hits the mark, so it will be seen by your target audience.

Networking events

Join local networking events, as this is a great way to meet your target audience and talk about your business. Even better, if you can get a speaking spot to talk about a particular area of your expertise. You’ll not only be speaking about something that is relevant to your business and your target audience, you’ll also get the chance to mingle with your target audience afterwards. If you get a spot as a speaker, the event will be advertised with your name and subject, so you know that people interested in what you have to say will be in the audience.

Creative Content

OK, so now you know where and how to connect with your audience and how, let’s look at the content you share in more detail. This can be written content, video or podcast. It’s good to try out all the different forms of communication.

Appeal to emotions

People in general, are more easily moved to take action by their emotions than by anything else. Sometimes even good old logic goes out the window when emotions are involved.

For example, some of the big cat food manufacturers advertise on TV. Although the ads do focus on ingredients and how good it is, the product is mainly sold by the cute kitten talking to itself, or running around playing…or just sat there looking cute. There’s one brand of cat food that is described as ‘gourmet’ food. The cat in that ad is a pampered, long haired pedigree that looks a cut above the rest. This kind of advertising, using the right kind of images or video is what helps sell that product.

Solve a problem

If you have done your research on your ideal customer, you will know what problems they have…and how you can solve them. You just need to let them know that you can fulfil their needs and solve their problems. And, whilst it’s important to give the features of your product or service, all your customers really want to know is ‘what is in it for me?’ So, solve a problem they have and you are more than halfway there.

The time factor

Time, or the lack of it, is also a great marketing ploy. If you can communicate that your product or service saves people time, whilst also giving them what they want, for a price they can afford, you’ll be onto a winner. It’s a very busy world and people are constantly looking for ways to save time, so they are happy to listen to anyone who can help them save some of that precious time…and solve a problem for them at the same time!

DON’T push the sales angle

As I said earlier, use the 80/20 rule. I absolutely hate it when I sign up for something online – it might be a freebie, it might be something I pay for and in order to get it, I give my email address. I’ve not got a problem with that, but if I then get bombarded with emails in my inbox, I not only find it irritating, it’s usually about selling the same thing, something better, something bigger. OK, I get it, I’m happy to be asked once or twice, but some people send several emails a day over several weeks. In my mind, that’s just unprofessional and pushy. So I’ll unsubscribe…and might actually miss out on something I would have liked a few weeks down the line. I just can’t stand the hard sell. So it’s definitely about the getting the right balance on pitching products/services and engagement and building a loyal audience.

Ask questions

In order to connect fully with your target audience, you need to really know them. Ask existing customers and potential customers for feedback, so you can gain more information about their needs and wants. This could be via a poll on social media, or a survey to their inbox. There is no better way to get information about your audience than to ask that audience itself. You will gain great insight into what makes them tick and find out what they need, or what problems they might have. Then you can work to provide that need or solve that problem.  

Share and improve your Brand

Talk about your brand values in your content. This will engage people with the same values as you and will help you identify with your audience and to connect with them on a deeper level.  

Stand back and take a good, long look at your brand image. Read your website and social media pages through the eyes of your target audience. Does it speak to them in the way you thought it did? What could you do differently to improve it? Is your brand warm and inviting, or cool and aloof? Does it connect with your target audience? The way people perceive your brand goes a long way to deciding whether or not they will become a paying customer.   

Publish a case study

Whether you provide a product or a service, you will have a case study to share…a happy customer, someone whose life you made easier, or whose problem your product or service solved for them. What better way to advertise your business, than to interview a happy customer and ask them how your business helped them and why it is so good. This makes your business more real to your audience. It also gives your target audience the reasons why buying from you is such a great idea.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s crucial to have a connection or a two-way conversation between your business and your target audience. It’s also really important to realise that, just because you have identified your target audience and identified how to get to them, that your job is done. Far from it I’m afraid. Every post you make, every campaign you run will show you how to do a better job next time around. And if you continue to ask for feedback and are willing to take criticism and ideas on board, tweaking what you do, you will get more and more effective results.

How to identify your target market

Your customers are your biggest assets; they love your brand, buy your products or services, recommend you to friends and family, give you rave reviews and are loyal to your business. It totally makes sense to have a customer-first mind-set and this is now firmly embedded in the culture of most big corporations. They recognise and understand that building the right customer relationships are crucial; it not only builds trust and loyalty, but also results in repeat business and recommendations. This is just as important, if not more so, with the small business. It’s not something that can be achieved overnight, but if you work on getting to know your customers like the back of your hand, your business will succeed. 

You can’t successfully market your business if you don’t know who you’re targeting. Who is your ideal customer? What is their persona? Why would they want to buy your particular products or services? All these questions and more need to be answered so you know what your ideal customer looks like and what makes them tick. Then you will be better placed to target them with your marketing.

Identifying your target market is all about three things; Demographic, Geographics and Psychographics. 

Demographics

  • What is their age and gender?
  • Are they married or living together?
  • Do they have children?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • If you know what they do for a living, what is their rough income?
  • Do they own their own home?

You can usually gain demographic information from your existing customers by simply talking to them. Social media accounts can also give you relevant demographic information. If your customers are on Facebook, for example, you can usually see information like date of birth, relationship status – people seem to love to share about their lives on social media, so you will probably see if they have children or grandchildren, what they do for a living etc.

You could also get this information from feedback you get. For example, if you make and produce quality rag dolls, you may have feedback that says “Love your product, my daughter/grand-daughter loves her doll and hasn’t put it down since she received it.”  This tells you that your customer is a Mum and Grandma and that she likes buying things for her grandchildren.

Knowing the demographics of your existing customers makes it easier to tailor your marketing accordingly.

If you’re really not sure who your target market it, go to Google and research some of your competitors, people who do the same as you, and look at their marketing techniques. Who are they targeting and how? What are the messages they are sending out? What images do they use? What media do they use to advertise? You will then have an idea of what direction you should be aiming for with your business. 

Geographics

This is the simplest – where do your target market live? Are they local to you? Just in a particular region? In the same country, but miles away – nationwide? Or international – in other countries?

Psychographics – why customers buy what they do

If demographics look at who your customers are, psychographics take you a bit further into their lives to find out why they buy the things they do. What motivates them and what makes them tick.

Psychographics include things like:

  • Interests
  • Activities
  • Religious beliefs
  • Attitudes
  • Personality
  • Spending habits
  • Lifestyle choices

Interests

You might think this relates to hobbies, but it’s more than that. It’s more about what you’re interested in, rather than partake in. It’s probably the most telling feature on the list as ‘interests’ covers a wide range of things. Interests will include life experiences and are shaped by all sort of things, such as culture, upbringing and socioeconomic status.

For example:

  • If you have a child, you will be interested in raising them. You will look on Google for ways to be a better parent, how to keep them amused, how to deal with certain problems etc. You will spend time during the day automatically learning how to be a good parent and thinking about being a good parent, as well as playing with and talking to your child.
  • You may be interested in getting fit. You might want to change the way you look by losing weight, gaining weight, toning up muscles. This might have an impact on what you eat and drink, how you spend your time and where you go. You might go running, go to the gym, do a line dancing or salsa class!
  • You might be interested in getting rich, so will be interested in how people get rich quick, in celebrities and their lifestyles. You might google ‘get rich quick’ schemes or business opportunities.
  • You might simply be interested in going out with your friends and having a great time, drinking and eating in good restaurants, or just clubbing and getting drunk! This might spark an interest in fashion and accessories or fine wines and Michelin star restaurants. 

One person’s interests will change over time. What you liked to do when you were a child are vastly different to your interests as a teenager and as an adult.   

So, looking at this from a target market point of view, interests will not necessarily characterise your target market – you’ll want to look at a range of interests to suit each of your products or services.

Activities

Now then, activities is the section that could be described as hobbies. As part of psychographic research, you are going to want to know what activities or hobbies your target audience get involved in. You’ll get answers like reading, writing, going to the gym, fishing, taking part in a sport, computer games, playing a musical instrument, singing, painting…you get the picture. The list is endless, but the more information you can gather about your ideal customer or target market, the better you’ll understand them. 

You also need to think about people who answer that they don’t have a hobby or many interests. How can you word the question so that you get some kind of answer? One way would be to say, ‘how do you spend your free time when you’re not working?’ Some people might be workaholics and actually spend all their time commuting to and from work and at work, so that when they’re home, it’s eat and sleep…yes, there are those that do that! But this still gives you an answer, and I bet that if they commute on public transport, they’ll be glued to their phone, so may see your ads or marketing. You can still target them.

Someone else might say that they spend their free time with their family – they may have children and they take up all their free time.  It’s good to know that, again you can target parents.

Someone might be involved in their local community, run a Scout or Girl Guide group; they might be involved in church activities or council meetings. I’m sure you get the idea.

Each of these kinds of responses gives you a lot of information about your target market, or your ideal client.

Religious Beliefs

This is pretty obvious – people may be reluctant to give these details, but if they say they attend services for example, you can always ask where and if they enjoy it. Are they an active member? Do they get involved in youth groups or teaching the youngsters about their religion?  

Attitudes

OK, this is a pretty hard one and involves you drilling down further into the lives of your target audience. If you want to discover their attitude or opinion on something, you need to ask questions.

For example, if you sell beauty products, you could ask what they think about beauty products in general. You’ll probably get answers like ‘they must be cruelty free’ or ‘not contain palm oil’, or be vegan-friendly. They may ask if you do products for sensitive skin as they get eczema.

You’d need to think of questions that are related to your particular products or services. Let’s take another example, if you sell some kind of software, you might ask, ‘What do you think about the performance of Microsoft 10, compared to Microsoft 7 or 8?’

Obtaining attitudes to things around them, not just related to your business, gives you a much deeper insight. You could ask about their opinion on the government or wind turbines. Knowing someone’s opinion or attitude to the world around them helps you to know your audience better and know more about what makes them tick. 

Asking questions will also give away details of your targeted market’s personality, their values, what they like to spend money on and their lifestyle choices. 

However, psychographics are difficult to gain and take a huge amount of time, effort and research in order for you to gain all the information you need. This is one of the reasons why big companies have a marketing department, solely dedicated to finding out who the customers are and working out the right way to market their products to attract those customers. If you combine the data you collect on the demographic and psychographics of your customers, you can paint a picture of what your potential buyer (or your buyer persona) will look like and who they are. Let’s have a look at one example …

Buyer persona 

Let’s say you’ve done your research and this is what you have discovered…

Demographic data

  • Female, aged 40 – 55
  • Married with children
  • Household income around £45,000
  • Stay at home Mum who works part-time

Psychographic data

  • Interested in health and fitness
  • Likes to be eco-friendly
  • Is an active member on Facebook and Pinterest
  • Likes socialising with her small group of friends
  • Loves cooking

This demonstrates the difference between the two sets of data and why it’s important to gain both – you have more insight into what your customers might like. Then you can look at your products to see what would interest this kind of customer.

How do you make this relate to your business…and therefore your marketing? I’ll share some examples…

If you have a crafting business, for example, and your crafting activities were soap making or candle making, you’d know that this customer likes natural ingredients that are environmentally friendly and safe for children, so that could be part of your marketing angle.

If you are in the catering industry, making cakes or preserves, she might be interested in special birthday cakes for her family or in your preserves and pickles that use natural ingredients.

Her children are likely to have birthday parties and her friends are likely to have children of a similar age, so anything you make from a crafting perspective may be of interest – bunting for parties, toys, jewellery, etc. And as she enjoys socialising with her small group of friends, she may be interested in hosting an at-home party to buy your craft products.

Where to find her

Once you have this data, you’ll also know where to find her and this is very important. She may attend local fitness clubs or gyms; she may visit a local spa; she will enjoy lunches out at restaurants or bars with her group of friends. This is where you could leave your flyers and business cards.

Now you know what your customer looks like and what she’s interested in, you can tailor blogs to suit her, you can make products you know she’ll like, and you can find out if she has any particular problem that your products can solve. 

Survey your existing customers

If you already have a raft of existing customers who buy from you regularly or even customers that have bought once or twice, hopefully you will have asked for their email address, so you can let them know when you launch new products or have any special offers etc. If you have emails of customers, send them a simple survey asking them some simple questions. You can gain both demographic and psychographic information this way, but you can also find out what products of yours they like, what they don’t like, what could be improved and what other products they’d like to see you supply.

Analyse the feedback you have from your customers

Do you have feedback from your customers? Do they recommend certain products? If they do, what reason do they give for the recommendation? It might be that the reason they give is a great tip on how to market that product.

If you have any negative feedback or complaints, don’t put them away and forget them or let them get you down.

You should look at negative feedback/complaints as an opportunity. What are they complaining about and why? Can that product be improved? Imagine being able to go back to a customer telling them that you took their complaint or feedback on board, looked at ways to improve the product and have come up with a new and better product. Then offer to let them have it at a reduced price.

This shows goodwill, shows you’ve listened to that customer, done something about it and then offered the improved version. They will feel valued as a customer, feel that they’ve contributed and will be much more likely to sing your praises and recommend you to their friends and family. You’ve just turned around a complaint into a compliment!

How do your customers like to buy their products?

These days, I would hazard a guess that most of your customers will want to look at products/services online before they buy. They have such a wide choice that it’s important you make yours stand out. People spend their commute to work, breaks, lunch hour, evenings and weekends online, usually browsing through social media sites or looking for something specific. If you are not on these platforms then your products/services will not be found.

Selling online

Social Media is a great way to promote your products or services and to advertise what you do. But, you also have to bear in mind that not everyone is on social media. If your target market is in the older age bracket, they may prefer not to be on social media, so you will have to reach them another way.  

Even though they don’t do social media, your target audience probably still uses the internet to search for things they want. You could set up an online shop on eBay, Spotify or Etsy.

A website is a crucial business tool – you can link it to your Social Media sites and vice versa. A website can help you reach a wider audience – it gives you a shop front that is open 24/7 – you can even sell when you are sleeping and you can sell to anyone in the world!

You can put more information about yourself and your business and products or services that you can on Social Media and, if you have an online shop, you can point your customers to that site. Whatever you choose to do, there is always a marketing technique to support it. If you have a website, you can also choose to add a blog, which could also be a fabulous tool to write about your individual products or services … just another way to get your name/business out there.

I know this has been a very long post, but I hope that it give you inspiration and fires you up to investigate your target market in more detail. Once you are armed with all the relevant information, and market your products or services to that audience, you stand a much better chance of making a sale or obtaining a new customer for your services.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, please like and follow me for more marketing information for small businesses. And if you have any comments, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Discover the secrets of delegation for small businesses

Unless you’ve actually owned your own small business, it’s difficult to tell someone what it’s like – you need vision, passion, a huge helping of optimism and lots of positive energy to start a business from scratch. Then you have to maintain a high level of dedication and work hard to pull everything together. There is so much to think about, from sorting out your products/services, your brand, website, social media marketing, online marketing, ads, as well as running your business and all the day to day things that entails.  

Most of us who own a small business launch ourselves headlong into everything, have our fingers in every pie. But even during the early stages of your business, it’s often worth getting some help with some aspects, such as building your website, designing a logo and advice on building your brand. However, I know that most of us will try and do everything ourselves and eventually there will come a time when you find you can’t do everything on your own AND keep your business successful and thriving.

It’s impossible to work 24 hours a day, so there comes a point where something has to give. You either have to think about what you can stop doing, or you have to think about delegating some of the tasks you’re either not that good at, or don’t like doing, or simply need someone with more expertise to get it right. It can feel like a tough call to make as your business is, in many ways, your baby. I understand that only too well, and delegating or outsourcing some of the work means you have to give up a certain amount of control over that area.

How do you decide what to delegate?    

First of all, why is delegating so important to you and your business? The most important aspect must be that it makes financial sense – that you’ll make more money by passing a task on to someone else, than if you tried to do it yourself.

Most businesses think nothing of employing someone to do their accounts or tax return. Most are happy that they are handing it over to a professional and you trust them to do it properly. It’s the same principle with the other aspects of your business that you want to pass onto someone else.

Another thing to think about is the stress factor. If you try to do too much and are working long hours, six to seven days a week to keep your business running, you are in serious danger of suffering from burnout. As well as making you physically and mentally ill, it can leave you feeling trapped, detached from the very business you love and with no motivation to pull yourself back up again.

You are the leader, the boss, of your business. If you had an employee who was not coping with the sheer amount of work he/she had, what would you do? You would most probably remove some of the stress that person was under by giving some of their work to someone else to relieve the stress they were feeling.

As the leader of your business, you need to make the best use of the resources you have. Your time, energy and enthusiasm MUST be spent on working on the most important and core parts of your business.  

OK, time to put your thinking cap on. First of all, do not pass on any tasks that are the absolute core of your business – things that you need to have absolute control over and MUST do yourself. Think of a big company like DELL or Apple. They come up with the innovative ideas for their products that fit their brand and also work on the design, so they know exactly what they want and what it will look like. But they don’t manufacture the devices themselves – that is outsourced.

For a smaller business, it could be that you design and produce something yourself and you get involved in everything around that. But you may not have the expertise or time to spend on social media, your blog, your website or sending out your monthly newsletter. That’s where you can get someone else to do that for you.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of passing work on to someone else.

Advantages

  • You get to work with experts, who will bring a fresh perspective to your business and may come up with ideas you hadn’t thought of.  
  • Work will get done more quickly by passing on things that are time consuming.
  • It gives you the chance to focus on the skills you bring to your business – strengthening the processes that make your business work.
  • Some of the risk is shared – by delegating certain processes or maybe a campaign, you will benefit from their ability to plan and alleviate potential risks.
  • It’s always going to cost less to outsource small pieces of work than hiring someone on a permanent basis.
  • If you decide to outsource work overseas, due to time zone differences, a certain amount of work will get done whilst you are sleeping!
  • You will be able to do more effective and targeted campaigns and projects that you wouldn’t normally have the time to take on.
  • Finally, you get peace of mind knowing that you have hired a reliable individual or agency and that the tasks you have assigned will be handled in a professional and efficient manner.

Disadvantages

  • You do lose some control over how the tasks you assign are being monitored and performed, but so long as you take this into account when hiring and understand how the other person/agency works, it shouldn’t be a big issue.
  • Make sure you read all the terms and conditions of whoever you hire. Some big agencies have very long contracts and you could find yourself with hidden costs if you don’t read all the small print. With an individual, the terms and conditions tend to be more straight-forward.
  • Be aware of data protection. With the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), you need to be very vigilant if you are outsourcing tasks that use your customer data. You need to be aware of the privacy rules – always worth thinking about, although most individuals offering freelance work/agencies will be aware of the rules and regulations, so always worth checking.
  • Although rare I’m sure, some individuals/agencies will be more interested in the money they are earning, than giving a good quality service…as I say this is rare and most are reputable, but just something else to be aware of.
  • If you are outsourcing or delegating work overseas, you will need to check that anything you ask them to do doesn’t get lost in translation. Make sure they understand exactly what you expect and by when. And you need to be aware of the different time zones for anything that is needed by a particular deadline.

In conclusion, if you are looking to get more stuff done in less time, so you can concentrate on the core aspects of your business, then delegating tasks or outsourcing projects or campaigns might be the best way forward for you and for your business. 

9 ways to keep your customers coming back for more!

Happy customers will love your products or services, they will recommend you to their families and friends…and they will keep coming back for more.

So, how do you get your customers to return time and time again?

The answer is providing excellent customer service. But not just providing excellent customer service, you need to have that genuine desire to delight your customers, making them feel valued and important. Customer service is not about selling your products or services, it’s about the whole experience that someone has when dealing with you; what you make them think and how you make them feel. There are several ways to do this ….and so keep them coming back time and time again.

customer-1251735_640

Know your products or services  

First of all, you need to know every single product or service that you offer inside out. Know how they work, anticipate what questions your potential customers will ask about each one and know the answers so, when a customers asked, you can immediately reply. Think about what your existing customers have asked you in the past and keep a record. There will always be a list of common questions.

Be approachable   

Customer service is all about being friendly and approachable – it starts with a smile. When I worked for a global corporation, we were told that when we answered the woman-977020_640phone, we must smile as it comes through on the call, even though the customer cannot see you…and it is true.

If you are meeting a customer face to face be welcoming and, if they buy something from you, thank them. This is so simple, but so important – it shows you value your customers and are grateful for them choosing you above your competitors.

Give a little respect!

Sometimes customer service can involve emotions; your customer may be upset, angry, happy, joyful, tearful…you can see every emotion. The most important thing is to keep neutral – NEVER let your own emotions get in the way of seeing your customer walk away happy with the service you have provided. Upset and angry customers can always be turned around by you understanding their issue and asking them what you can do to make it better. This takes me onto…

Listen to your customers

This is probably one of the most basic rules of excellent customer service. Listen intently to what they are saying and be aware of body language as someone can be talking to you as if they’re mildly annoyed, but their body language could be telling a completely different story.

hand-997394_640When your customer tells you something they are not happy about, or makes a suggestion that something you do could be improved, repeat what they have just told you. This shows them that you are listening to them and also that you value what they’re saying. Ask what you can do to rectify a mistake, or complaint….or ask how they think that something you do could be improved. Then it’s important to take the answers on board, write them down and tell your customer that you will deal with it personally and get back to them within a specified time-frame….and make sure you do! If within that time-frame you don’t have an answer, contact the customer anyway, even if just to let them know that you haven’t forgotten them, but that the issue or whatever, is taking longer than you expected.

Respond in a timely manner

If you use social media and customers make comments, respond as quickly and efficiently as you can. The same applies to emails…respond quickly. You may not be able to answer the query immediately, but responding quickly, if only to say you’ve seen their comment/received their email and that you’ll get back to them with an answer.

Ask for feedback on your products/services 

feedback-4746811_640As a small business, it’s important to keep in touch with your customers, so it’s always worth giving a customer a call, or send an email, thanking them for their custom and asking for feedback on the product or service you provided. This often produces very positive comments, which you can then ask them to put into writing or to leave a review or comment on your website or social media page.

You could also conduct a customer survey, use a feedback form … just try and make it common practice to ask for feedback.

Use the feedback you receive

If you ask for formal feedback via a survey or feedback form, it’s important that you act on the feedback you get. Review all the feedback you get, identify areas where you can improve and make any appropriate changes to your business. You may even get an idea for a new product or service you hadn’t thought of from feedback.

Keep your word

If you promise to do something for your customer, do it! Never break a promise or under-deliver. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver.

There are times when you can’t deliver what you’ve promised…speak to the customer, apologise and explain why and offer an alternative.

Reward your customers

gift-box-2458012_640Customers love to feel valued and a simple way to do this is to thank them for their custom – a simple thank you card sent with their order will go a long way.

It’s also good to encourage them to recommend you to friends and family – how? Offer an incentive. If a customer refers a friend and that friend buys from you, the customer gets 10% off his next order with you or receives a small gift.

You could also run a loyalty scheme or loyalty card – every time a customer buys from you they get points on a card – when the card is full – say having bought 10 items, they get a free gift or their next item up to a certain value, free of charge. Online card companies do this a lot.

Conclusion  

Excellent customer service is all about making your customers happy. If you have happy customers, they will be loyal to your brand, will recommend you to their family and friends and they will definitely be back for more!

If you have any other ideas on how to keep your customers coming back for more, please leave a comment.

Boost your productivity with a clean and clear desk space

I don’t know about you, but I love the spring…seeing everything coming back to life, flowers pushing their way through the ground, lambs in the field next door to me and spring-bird-2295434_640everything feels fresh and new. The only downside is that the grass grows at a phenomenal rate, so I’m out on the sit-on lawnmower a lot! But even that gives me a weird sense of pleasure…my thinking time!

On my last batch of lawn mowing, I was thinking about my writing work, as I often do, and about a couple of articles I’d read recently about how productivity can be boosted by simply having a clean and clear desk space – I guess the this saying sprang to mind, “A cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind”. This rings a bit true for me, because while I constantly make lists about everything, from my daily work ‘to do’ list to shopping to what I need to do around the house and garden, I am a maker of ‘piles’. I have piles of books, papers, a ‘to do‘pile of stuff that needs looking at urgently etc. etc.

Piles of paper

cluttered-1295494_640I’ve always thought that my piles of stuff were a kind of organisation – I know where everything is; it’s my system and it works for me. In reality, it doesn’t, there have been several times recently where I couldn’t find something important…because I’d put it ‘somewhere safe’ in a pile of other paper. I’ve always found what I’m looking for in the end, but this has taken up precious time and effort…if I’d had a designated space for my piles of stuff, I’d know for sure where everything is.

Dump the piles!

It’s quite simple to get rid of the piles of ‘stuff’. The answer is organisation.

  • Go through the piles of stuff and organise the paper into an order – you might have bills to be paid, articles to read, stuff that needs filing. Whatever it might be take a few minutes to sort things out. Use a filing cabinet or shelving system to organise yourself – maybe use box files or lever arch files to put the same kind of thing in one place.
  • Have an inbox with things that need doing today, such as bills you can pay online, a reminder to email someone or ring someone. When those things have been done, file them away.
  • Throw out anything you don’t need – there’s bound to be things you no longer need or use, so bin it!
  • computer-2593921_640Go paperless – in our world of recycling and conserving the environment, it amazes me how many people don’t do online banking, for example. It’s so much easier that sifting through page after page of bank statements, when you can do it at a click of the mouse. I do appreciate that not everyone is computer savvy, but as much as possible, get rid of everything ‘paper’ that you can.
  • Schedule in a 15-20 minute session a week to clean your desk and surrounding work space. This will help you keep things organised and won’t allow you to let your piles build up again!
  • If you have documents that you need to keep, scan them into your computer and save them in a file. These things don’t have to take up valuable space on your computer, you can use one of the many free cloud storage devices, such as Dropbox, G Drive or iCloud.
  • If you use an office desk, take everything out of the drawers, be ruthless and throw away anything that you no longer need or use – if you have anything with personal information on it, burn it or shred it. Organise your drawers, so you will know where everything is at a glance.
  • If you have loads of electronic devices, chances are you’ll have a spaghetti-like muddle of cables and wires. That can be distracting or sometimes, even dangerous. Get them organised using a cable organisation system or those plastic ties. There are loads of products to help you with this – simply Google search or look on Amazon.

background-2091_640Finally, I just LOVE stationery! I have an abundance of pens, pads, staplers and little gadgets, but do I really need them all? I like to have them, but I don’t necessarily need them all on show on my desk, so if you’re the same, it’s time to find a place to put them…in a drawer, or in a box within a drawer, so you know where they are. Actually, having all my bits and bobs in a box within a drawer means I can buy some more stationery (!)…the little boxes to put everything in! Probably not a good idea, but works for me!

How does this boost productivity?

paperclip-168336_640A clean and clear office space will help you feel more organised and motivated, whereas a messy space makes for muddled thoughts and needless stress.

A cluttered desk also serves as a distraction, so if it’s clean, you can be more focused on what you need to do.

approval-15914_640Stress plays a bit part in most of our lives, and a huge pile of paper can make you feel that the hill is too big to climb; it’s overwhelming.

So, with a clean and clear desk space, you can start the day knowing where everything is, knowing what is a priority for the day and you’ll be able to be more focused on what needs to be done.

What do you do to help keep your desk space uncluttered and keep your mind clear to focus on your work? I’d love to hear from you!