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How to Create the Happily Ever After with a Genuine Business Referral

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Lisa at PA Promotions – Enjoy!

photo credit: flickr

photo credit: flickr

Once upon a time, an apple was a crunchy fruit available in red or green, but now ‘Apple’ is a global brand that has changed the way people communicate. It is a brand we all know and appear to trust; it currently sits proudly as the number one business at the top of the Interbrand top 100 brands. Apple has been referred to as one of the most valuable companies of all time, it has changed our lives and we enjoy their products and appreciate the fact that they continue to innovate.

So what has this got to do with your business? The truth is everything, even though the Apple management team has undergone significant changes at the top, the business continues to thrive and keep close to its brand ethos, continually delivering even more impressive and up to date technologies. As Steve Jobs’ once said about Apple its “brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.”

You Might Not Be the Next Branson

I’m guessing if you are reading this you aren’t Richard Branson or Lord Sugar, and the size and stature of Apple is not something your business has achieved… yet. But you can still learn from them and adapt the same type of transparencies to your brand so that you can enjoy repeat business and create a strong system to generate valuable referrals.

Everyone in business is looking for the same thing, a client who will commit to using their products or services. A chance to develop a long lasting relationship with their clients and hopefully an opportunity of third party endorsement which will mean a strong referral scheme and a chance for your business to grow.

Firstly, of course you have to entice the client into your brand, your shop, your showroom or your website. How do you do that? You create a relevant imaginative name, invest in the design of a logo which will appeal to your target audience and make sure you stand out from the crowd. Brilliant, if you have done this well you can sit back and enjoy the rewards, right? Wrong.

A pretty logo alone will not ensure that your business grows or that your relationships develop. For that to happen the client needs to get a sense of your brand. What is it that your company stands for? Are you eco friendly looking to launch a new widget which will make recycling more convenient for end users? Or are you a reliable boiler engineer that will ensure once serviced your boiler will live to survive the long cold winter?

Whoever you are, whatever sector you operate in, you need to be more than just a logo. You need to have a personality that people can connect with, trust and enjoy dealing with. Every interaction with your brand needs to reflect the brand promise, if you are a health care provider, make sure your offices are decorated combining the perfect mix of cleanliness and professionalism if you are a tattoo artist display your work using your walls as your portfolio.

Let Your Brand Do The Talking

Once you have created your logo, don’t just leave it static, confined to your website, newsletters, and business cards. Lift your logo and take it to your target audience, if you can’t afford TV advertising or billboard campaigns then consider your target audience and send them a gift which you are confident they will find useful. The gift will then enjoy a shelf life and even be passed on to third party end users, who will go one step closer to ensuring a business referral.

To make your brand talk to your customers and encourage more referrals consider the following:

  • Be seen, be noticed, be on a product which will not necessarily stay with the end user but travel to hit a wider audience, for example the popular pen or pencil.
  • Create a collection of merchandise that reflects your brand, and ensure each product will enhance the image of the company. For example, if you don’t want to see your brand in the bin always choose a quality ‘stormproof’ umbrella.
  • Consider subtle branding, create a range of promotional items which are subtly branded alongside an attractive pattern so that the end user is more likely to use your mug rather than somebody else’s’.
  • Understand your target audience, what would they genuinely find useful and therefore keep? For example, a trolley coin, a keyring with a torch or a bottle opener.
  • Send them a sweet treat to thank them for their business, let them know you appreciate them.
  • Be creative with the materials that you choose, consider using pencils made out of recycled bank notes or notepads made out of tyres to create an eco friendly feel.

A survey commissioned by the bpma, British Promotional Marketing Association in 2013 found that the UK is a nation of freebie hunters and that brands who use promotional products as part of the marketing mix will reap the benefits. The research found that 3 in 10 consumers had purposely changed their regular brand in order to receive a promotional product.

So while you are waiting to see what amazing new device Apple will create, take a look at your own business, give yourself a brand health check and consider how you can strengthen your relationship with your customers and encourage that all important brand referral. Establish your own brand guidelines, personality and budget to buy products which will lift your logo and encourage brand loyalty.

A final thought from the leader in creating a leading and long lasting brand, Steve Jobs once said: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that is what matters to me.”


Lisa-Author-small
About the Author – Lisa is Creative Director at PA Promotions, she has a passion for content and marketing. PA Promotions have been supplying promotional products and corporate gifts to businesses for almost 30 years.

Just Work the Program

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Justin Belmont – Enjoy!
Work The Program

Photo Credit: Barber Chair

Many barbershops go beyond a simple haircut to treat customers to a grooming extravaganza. A haircut may come with a beer, great conversation, hairstyling tips, full shampoo and conditioning with top-notch men’s hair products, and a massage chair. A repeat customer will likely expect a repeat performance. Yet, if the barber falls short on the friendly conversation, if he forgets to offer a beer, or even if the massage chair is out of order, the customer may not return.

While any of these mistakes is forgivable, the customer has come to expect a certain type of haircut. As the owner of a new luxury barbershop, you would need to set the standard of service and stick to it.

Marketing is no different. Patience may be difficult in the midst of a marketing program, but if you lay out a plan and follow it consistently, you build customer confidence in your brand.

Work The Program

Photo Credit: Maplay out a plan and follow it consistently, you build customer confidence in your brand.

For example, if your social media campaign begins with three tweets per day and you begin to build an audience on this strategy, that audience is going to expect to find tweets three times a day. Along the same lines, if you only tweet once or twice a week, you may build an audience that prefers a sparse style. If you start to ramp up your daily tweets, this audience may un-follow you.

In either case, decide on a consistent strategy that is appropriate for your brand before execution. If your social media ship has already set sail without a consist heading, reevaluate the program. Start anew, but be faithful to the new program. In some ways, correcting course on a social media program may be easier than on other marketing platforms. Format is fairly standardized, making frequency the primary consideration. As long as you supply relevant content, there are relatively few corrections to be made. Traditional marketing campaigns, such as pitching media or running online advertising, may require more work to recover.

Work The Program

Photo Credit: Marketing

Whether the business is a barber shop or a new real estate investment firm, the rules are the same for any small venture. Consistency is key. The logo on social media pages should be the same as the logo on emails signatures and on the bandit signs posted around town. If you want to build consumer confidence that your business is legitimate, maintain branding across platforms to establish recognition. For example, the Nike “swoosh” branding is so recognizable that Nike no longer needs to supplement it with the brand name. The logo speaks for itself.

Inconsistencies are a red flag to audiences that something is amiss. Sloppy marketing may indicate that the product cuts corners as well. Audiences may think your company can’t handle the work, either because distractions have let the marketing program fall to the wayside or because the company cannot afford proper business promotion. No matter the cause, inconsistent marketing will elicit shaky confidence, which in turn will make customers disappear.

 

Justin BelmontJustin Belmont is the founder and editor-in-chief of Prose Media (prosemedia.com), a writing service that creates high-quality content for brands–from blog posts and newsletters to web copy and white papers. Prose (@prose) employs top professional journalists and copywriters with expertise in a variety of industries.

With a background in corporate communications, Belmont has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and was formerly an editor at Google.

Prospecting on LinkedIn: 3 Easy Steps to Finding Your Ideal Clients

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Jean Hanson– Enjoy!  

By now you know that LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, is the best online tool for B2B prospecting and finding your ideal clients. But many people fumble about the site, not quite sure what to do, so they begin by connecting to the people they know, such as friends and family. Now what?

Step 1: Make a wish list of companies you want to do business with

After making your list, use the search box to find their company page. I’ll use an example of a commercial cleaning company prospecting for local banks. They’re trying to find a way in but don’t know any of the players.  After finding the company page, click on the yellow Follow button, to start receiving notification of their company posts.  This will keep you connected and up to date on what is happening with their company.

Step 2: See how you’re connected

LinkedInNext, look at “How You’re Connected” to see if you have any 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree connections. If you do, take a look at these people to see if you know any of them personally.  If so, you could contact that person either through LinkedIn or by picking up the phone and requesting a third party introduction to the person responsible for hiring cleaning services — or perhaps to a person in the company who would know who that decision maker is.

If you don’t have any close connections to the company, click on the “Followers” link next to the yellow Follow button, and you’ll see everyone that is following company updates. Most likely, key company employees will be following their own company status updates.

Step 3: Look for common ground

Start looking at the profiles of key players in the company that you could potentially connect with. In the example below, I’ve found a company Vice-President, and see that he has advanced non-profit fund raising skills.  If I were active in any local non-profit activities, I might keep this in mind if I’m in need of any advice regarding fund raising for that non-profit.

LinkedIn

As you review the profile, also pay attention to companies they’ve worked for and educational institutions they’ve attended. Perhaps you’ll spot a common connection. If they belong to any Associations such as the local Chamber of Commerce, send an invitation to connect and mention the common membership. This also applies to any common networking or volunteer organizations you both may belong to. Most people will accept your invitation to connect if you mention something you have in common.

And finally, look at the LinkedIn groups they belong to.  In the example below, this person belongs to a group called “Hockey players doing business together”.  Since we are in Minnesota (the land of hockey), you just might have found a common interest, and could join the group and start building a relationship with not only this particular prospect, but other members of the group.

LinkedIn

As you can see, LinkedIn can be a very powerful tool for prospecting and finding your ideal clients. But it’s not simply a numbers game where you go through and collect as many names as you can in order to blast them with sales pitches. Rather, it’s a slow moving process of building meaningful connections with targeted prospects.

Once you’ve connected with these prospects, begin engaging them by following the 4-1-1 Rule, which is a concept created by Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute.  This is a concept originally created with Twitter in mind, but it can be applied to all social media status updates. The concept is that “for every one self-serving tweet, you should retweet one relevant tweet and most importantly share four pieces of relevant content written by others.”   This way, your followers won’t feel bombarded with desperate attempts at selling them your products or services. Instead, they’ll see you as a helpful resource that always provides relevant, useful information. And when the time is right, it’s YOU they will contact.

dtm-blog-jean-hanson-150x150Jean Hanson is a long-time entrepreneur, co-founding two commercial cleaning companies, running a virtual assistant business, and in 2005, launching a business portal for commercial and residential cleaning business owners. Jean is also an Authorized Consultant for the world-renowned Duct Tape Marketing System. To learn more about her marketing business and to apply for a free marketing audit, visit MarketingSystemsByDesign.com.

 

5 Key Ingredients to Charging What You’re Worth

I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from Sarah Petty.

Sarah is a highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca-Cola Enterprises and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. It was at this ad agency where she taught small businesses the value of a strong foundation and how they would grow with a strong brand. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand.

Regardless of what industry you are in, you probably struggle with having a competitor that is willing to do what you do (or claim they do) for cheaper. But how do you make sure price isn’t a sticking point with your clients?  It starts with having these five key ingredients right in your business and following the boutique business model. It’s a model that works in nearly every industry from insurance and retail to fitness and real estate.

Ingredient 1 – Protect Your Brand

Most small businesses fall down here. They have something wrong with their brand that attracts price sensitive buyers from the start.

Your brand is more than a logo. It’s how your ideal client feels about you. Your ideal client conjures up these feelings when someone mentions your business name. YOU are an integral part of your brand thanks to the enthusiasm, personal flair and individual attention you present to each of your clients. From your identity (how your clients recognize you) to your consistency, your niche, your reputation and your gush-worthiness, having a positive brand goes a long way to charging what you’re worth.

Ingredient 2 – Understand Your Numbers

There are a lot of ways to price your offerings, but most just don’t work if you want to charge what you’re worth. Copying your competitors is not the answer. Start by understanding the cost of each sale you make: this includes any packaging, merchandise and labor. An accountant can help you with this. You then mark up your costs based on industry standards. Once you understand these numbers, you have your bare minimum price. Then you can look at setting a price based on demand. The key is to create demand the right ways to attract clients who love what you do, not by attracting the wrong price-sensitive buyers with discounts.

?Ingredient 3 – Make Marketing Decisions That Thrill

To charge what you’re worth you must have offerings that are not easy to imitate. Marketing starts with products and services that your customers can’t easily get elsewhere. Your clients should go gaga over you if you want them to pay more for you. To do that, you need to have offerings that are extra special, custom, unmatched, interesting or even shocking. They need to be special enough to make someone want to talk about them, and not just because of the price. Instead of searching for ways to raise prices, slash costs or become faster instead find the empty place for your ideal client where you can add a thrill for them. The more customized your offerings are, the more difficult it will be for anyone to copy you and your perceived value will continue to rise.

Ingredient 4 – Promote Differently

Promotion is what you do to tell people about your offerings – and it goes beyond paid advertising. For the most part, boutique businesses should steer clear of traditional advertising and focus not on reaching the masses, but instead reaching the right people who may be drawn to what you do. Boutique ideas for promotion include giving a presentation or educational session that highlights your expert status, partnering with other businesses who also reach your target audience to host an event or create a unique product, working with charities to help elevate their cause while attracting new clients to your business and developing a promotional piece that makes your ideal client gush about you to their friends.

Ingredient 5 – Sell Better

Boutique selling isn’t about schmoozing, high pressure or manipulation so if that’s what you’re doing this may be where you’re going wrong. In boutique selling there is high engagement between you and your client. You need to build rapport, get to know your customer and spend time educating them. Your first thought should be ‘What problem do they have?’ ‘How can I help them?’ The sales process should be relationship based and the service and experience should continue after the transaction. Instead of giving them a smooth talking sales pitch, you’re searching for solutions that will absolutely, positively satisfy their needs and bring them joy.

Image Credit: dougbelshaw

Get Your Shine On

One of my most frequent mantras for small business is “Strategy Before Tactics.” In other words, you must develop a solid marketing strategy before you ever consider the what and how of the tactical side.

For me, that strategy is always based in two core ingredients – a thorough understanding and description of who makes an ideal customer for your business and a simple, yet meaningful, way to communicate how your business is different than all the others that say they do what you do.

The longer I’ve owned my own business and the longer I’ve worked with small business owners I’ve come to add a very important third element to the strategy piece, and it’s one that I think somehow must come before anything else.

This 3rd strategy element is something I call “Your Shine.” Essentially this is the illumination of your marketing and life vision in what is ultimately a highly personal and unique way.

You already know that line that separates your business and your life is so thin that without a vision for how one will serve the other, perhaps neither will serve either. And that’s what I believe holds people back from building truly remarkable businesses and equally remarkable lives.

So what does this shines thing look like? I don’t know exactly, but I do know it has nothing to do with balance. First off, balance is impossible to achieve and it’s wrong thing anyway. Building a business and a life that shines isn’t about balance, it’s more about blending the right notes to create a certain kind of dynamic harmony.

See, the beautiful thing about harmony is that only you can determine the kind of music that excites you.

Your Shine then is your personal understanding of your organization’s (substitute job if you like) higher purpose or reason for being that syncs perfectly with your personal goals and values. Okay, before you conclude that this is starting to sound a little too spiritual for your taste, let me bring it back to a simple, practical idea. You and only you can decide what “higher purpose” means, the only point I’m making is that without this driving vision or “this is why I do this” it is far too easy to get knocked off track the first time you suffer some setback or criticism of your dream.

A firm grasp of this thing I call your Shine is what gives you the courage to stay with what you believe.

    So the parts of your Shine, your harmony and by their very nature parts of your marketing strategy are:

  • Your personal, business, strategic and tactical long-term and short-term goals
  • Your marketing vision – the higher purpose of why you do what you do that helps you throw off the desire for a homeostasis kind of balance in search for a much more dynamic kind of harmony
  • Your vision story – A detailed description of a day in the life of your business if, in fact, your marketing vision was being fully realized and that your business was indeed allowing you to create a remarkable life – in a word, a life that Shines.

Once you create Your Shine as part of your marketing strategy you may find that the other elements of your strategy, your ideal customer and your core difference, are much easier to get your arms around.

The most exciting thing I’ve witnessed when people take the time to really get this idea, is that all of a sudden marketing gets really easy, because they have a guiding light that drives every single marketing decision.