The Minimalist Guide To Managing Your Brand Reputation Online

A dissatisfied customer, on an average, tells 25 of his friends, while a happy one tells only 15. Seems like if good reviews spread like wildfire, bad reviews would be rushing with light speed. Reviews, and how the masses consume them, are human nature, but this human nature can be fatal for online businesses especially at a time when 8 out of 10 customers treat and trust online reviews just like personal recommendations.

Let me tell you, brand value is diluting. And it marks an uprise of a generation of advocates and influencers that are a part of the crowd our customers identify with.

So here is a quick look at the ways you can ensure that your online brand reputation shines forever like gold and earns you higher AOVs, bigger ROIs, and ever increasing conversions.

How to ensure that each product has at least five reviews

Tip #1: Ask and ye shall receive

Most customers will happily review your product if you ask for it. Just call them up or send a follow-up email. This picture here shows how to get reviews on site through email:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.55.46 AMTip #2: Give an incentive for review

For the hesitant ones, incentivise the review process. Run a reward point campaign or a loyalty program. [editor note – the FTC frowns on this practice unless you disclose that the review was incentivized.]

Tip #3: Poach the influencers

Dig out the people whose reviews are most trusted and offer them freebies or trial packs to ensure that each product has been reviewed.

How to manage third-party reviews (off-site)

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.56.03 AMManaging third-party reviews can get a little twisted if you do not have an automated services like Yotpo, which will syndicate all reviews in one dashboard and give you a chance to monitor and reply them instantaneously.

The first thing you need is a customer content service and second, a Godly omni-presence. Staying social does help, but so does having a profile on every review site. A great idea would be to have a separate profile, maybe on Twitter, to handle customer complaints.

Finally, be open and amiable. A demonstration of ‘respect for your customer’s opinion’ and ‘openness to take up criticism in stride’ will take your business a long way in fetching you repeat, happy customers.

How to build a positive reputation online and leverage customers’ trust

Most of the marketing experts unanimously vouch for one factor that gets most conversions, which is openness for customer opinions.

Step #1: Patiently listen to your customer.

Step #2: Respond instantly, but in an appreciative, comforting tone.

Step #3: Be vigilant.

If you find a great review somewhere, spread it on social media and display it on your site as a badge of honor and proof of great service.

Pay special attention to negative reviews. Do not leave them unaddressed. As much as you try to delight your happy customers through giveaways and discounts, try to make amends with the angry ones too. Apologize with a genuine voice and thank them for pointing out the potholes in your service. Send them goodies or vouchers if they are really unhappy with your service. However, do not do this too often or with everyone as it will encourage bad reviews more than good ones.

Believe it or not, customer reviews boil down to one thing – perceived value or customer expectation. If you set it too high on your website and the product doesn’t live up to it, your customer is going to feel disappointed. Keep the product copy unique and compelling but do not exaggerate its features.

parasParas heads Product Marketing at TargetingMantra, a SaaS company that lets ecommerce retailers create a personalized shopping experience for their customers just like Amazon and Zappos. An expert in Personalization and behavioral targeting, Paras has consulted over 50 clients across the globe on conversion optimization and increasing customer loyalty. He is a serial entrepreneur from IIT-Guwahati and Indian School of Business, who loves to spend his time exploring new technologies. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Weekend Favs May Two

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr or one that I took out there on the road.

Lavender flower

Good stuff I found this week:

Boostsuite – tool that makes it easy to exchange guest posts with relevant sites

Toolset.co – suite of tools to help manage and grow your Twitter account

Talk@Anymeeting – simple and free way to schedule conference calls

Converting Subpar Writers In to Content Champions

Content- there is no easy button.Consumers love content. It entices them visit company websites. It inspires them to share business insights. It gives them trust in the brand. And, ultimately, it encourages them to make a purchase.

Sixty percent of B2C marketers anticipate increasing their content marketing budget within 2015, according to Content Marketing Institute. While this statistic isn’t necessarily shocking, marketers are increasingly concerned about the lack of trained professionals to fulfill these needs.

The report went on the state that more than 40% of respondents were challenged with “lack of knowledge and training” and “finding trained content marketing professionals” to produce engaging, converting content.

In-house marketing teams and digital agencies can help employees develop into skilled writers by providing growth structure and educational opportunities. This will not only strengthen the content team but can further propel clients toward online success.

5 Techniques to Help Writers Succeed in the Digital Sphere

1. Start With an Assessment

When a new content marketer is hired, provide them with an evaluation to get a better idea of the individual’s capabilities. The evaluation should be based on your company’s specific content needs and can come in a variety of forms.

One evaluation option is to assign an initial writing exercise followed by an editorial review that will note necessary areas of improvement, organization skills, pace of writing, improper grammar use, etc. Another assessment could be as simple as creating a grammar and punctuation test.

Assessments, in conjunction with writing samples, will give the content strategists a baseline understanding of where the writer may experience difficulties. Additionally, asking the writer if there are any key areas they’d like to develop further can set the tone for growth.

2. Establish a Style Guide for Each Medium

Consumers on each medium are typically there for different reasons, and it’s important to convey those needs to new writers. Clearly outline the company’s tone and objectives for blogs, email content, each social network and other marketing mediums to guide content writing. A concise overview of each platform’s needs is important to establish expectations for writers. Check out MailChimp’s Voice & Tone for inspiration on creating a style guide for your company and/or clients.

Additionally, new writers should be briefed on which standard of writing the company follows. Many bloggers use AP Style, others prefer Chicago Style and some companies have created an alternative variant. This resource will help the writer make quick, informed decisions and ensures the company’s content is consistent.

content-calendar

3. Stay Organized

Setting up processes for content construction is imperative to develop successful writers. There are three distinct necessities for any organization tasked with content construction:

  •  An editorial flow chart clearly outlines the process for creating, editing and approving content.
  • Utilizing track changes in Microsoft Word ensures writers and editors are clear on what changes have been made to a document and allows individuals to leave comments.
  • Content calendars track what topics should be covered and when. They can also include notes on the progress of each piece (see image). This streamlines communication and keeps everyone informed on content marketing efforts happening throughout the team.

If new writers require extra assistance, working on outlines together before the writing process begins. This can proactively address potential errors before the writer even makes them.

4. Identify Quality Resources

Editors and content strategists are often well versed on valuable tools and resource that newer writers can benefit from. Share these with content teams; advocate that writers regularly read informative blogs and stay attuned to techniques that established content marketers use. While each writer will undoubtedly have her own diction, well-written blogs can provide valuable insights on potential style and structural improvements.

The Web also offers an array of paid instructional resources that can aid in the writer’s growth.
Some websites to reference:

5. Schedule Time to Write Daily

Every writer should work to figure out when they are the most productive and creative. After learning when that is, give writers daily assignments or allow free flow writing during that time. Writing is a skill improved with regular practice. Daily writing gives time for experimentation, growth and learning new techniques and formats.

Training writers to fulfill your organization’s content marketing needs will help them feel professional fulfilled and grow with your business. It can take time and patients from an experienced editor or content strategist, but will have a lasting, positive impact on your company and clients’ online presence.

Jennifer ClineJennifer Cline is the Digital Account Lead at Element5, a Michigan-based web design, development, and marketing agency. With a background in Journalism, Jennifer enjoys working closely with content writers and companies to produce quality writing that not only informs, but also converts. Element5 helps companies achieve online success and is committed to crafting a better Web. For more article like this, visit Element5’s blog. @Element5Digital

Maximize Your Content Creation Efficiency

I get it, great content is difficult to produce. It is even more difficult to consistently produce day after day and week after week. But consistent content production is critical to reaching your content marketing goals. It allows your readers to get comfortable with your voice and your business, and reach the “Trust” step of your marketing hourglass.

Creating content takes time, and you don’t want to waste time thinking about what to write or produce. It’s going to happen, even I’m sitting here wasting time thinking about to write while finishing this post, but you want to minimize that wasted time. The key to achieving this is all in the planning.

At Duct Tape Marketing, we use several strategies to help maximize our production of content, and these can be easily implemented by any business using a content marketing plan. Here are three tips for maximizing your content creation efficiency:

Create a content calendar

We’ve preached about the importance of a content calendar in the past, but I can’t stress how important this tool is. If created at the beginning of the year or month, a content calendar can help you guide every piece of content you create, and help you stick to your marketing strategy and plan.

In order to create a great content calendar, you must include the dates you want to plan to produce content as well as what type of content you want to produce. If these are blog posts, you can keep a line for the title or general theme, and a place to write thoughts or notes. Once you’re done distributing the post, you can add links for an easy reference to share in future posts.

Duct Tape Marketing Content Calendar

Duct Tape Marketing Content Calendar

Here is an example of the style of content calendar we use at Duct Tape Marketing. You’ll notice it isn’t structured in the typical “Grid” pattern you see most calendars, instead as a line-by-line, color-coded spreadsheet. Because we have multiple people involved in content creation here at Duct Tape Marketing, we use the color-coding to keep track of who’s writing what. We created ours in Google Sheets, so that everyone can update their lines as they create their individual pieces of content.

Use Themes

Themes can be a great way to keep you from asking yourself “What should I write about today?” You can have monthly, weekly or even daily themes across all of your content distribution platforms.

But how do you come up with themes? A great place to begin is to think about key local search terms in which you want to improve your ranking. Are you a mechanic that wants to improve your ranking in “engine repair” in local search. Spend a month creating content that specifically focuses on your engines. Posts like “How to keep your engine running well beyond 100,000 miles” or “How To” posts for general engine fixes will help increase your mentions of your keyword.

Use varying formats

If you’re a regular reader of the Duct Tape Marketing blog, you know John use formats every week. On Tuesdays, John writes a blog post. On Wednesday, we post our podcast, and every Saturday John posts his weekly favorites. Every week, three of our posts are dictated by the formats we use for those posts. Essentially, we know what to post.

If you create regular formats, you’ll have a great baseline to create content. Maybe you can do a “Mailbag” post where you answer regular questions posed to you by customers or fans. Maybe you can post infographics or other multimedia content on the same day every week. Combine this with your monthly themes, and you’ll know what you’re posting every day and the topic you are covering. Your content calendar will practically fill itself in.

Having a plan when approaching your content creation will result in better, more consistent content that helps you achieve your goals. Besides, who wants to sit around wondering what to write?

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

How to Write a Press Release

Today’s Guest Post is by Nash Riggins, Enjoy!

The web is filled to the brim with static content. That’s bad news if you’re an up-and-coming business owner because there’s a never-ending sea of competition out there – and so if you want your brand to stand out, you’re going to have to move beyond that generic company blog and start making some real headlines.

In order to do that, you’ll first have to come up with a story. It may be that you’re releasing a quirky product, sponsoring a charity event or have discovered some intriguing market insights. Either way, it’s got to be interesting, and it’s got to be genuine. That’s the easy part. The tricky bit is convincing journalists that it’s worth publishing.

So, here are three quick tips on how to craft a fool-proof press release that’s guaranteed to raise eyebrows:

1. Put a label on it

It might seem trivial, but the most important part of your press release is the headline. Most journalists are incredibly busy, and their inboxes are overflowing with generic press releases. Unless you’ve got a snappy subject line, chances are that your press release will go straight in the bin without getting read. So, what constitutes snappy?

First and foremost, don’t try to be clever, and don’t bother with puns. Think about it: what is the key message you’re trying to get across? Shrink that message down to no more than 15 words, and make sure there are a couple colourful verbs or jagged adjectives in there. Be objective, and make a bold statement that’s a little controversial. By hooking a journalist in with an audacious opening line, you’ve passed your first hurdle. Now, it’s time to turn your attention to the story itself.

2. Start with a bang

News reporters are under a tremendous amount of stress to churn out stories. Consequently, any news item that’s delivered to them press-ready is a blessing. Translation: if you can craft a press release that already reads like a quality news story, it’s far more likely to get published. So, how do you write a news story?

Let’s start with the basics. The opening line of your press release has got to tell the reader everything they need to know about this story. You need to tell them who the story is about, where it’s happening, what is happening, when it’s happening, why it’s happening and how. Do your best to get all six of these details into the top couple of lines – and preferably the opening sentence if you can.

Be as concise as humanly possible so that you’re able to give readers a meaty chunk of what they’re about to eat without giving away all of the ingredients. From there, the paragraphs that follow should work like an inverted pyramid – expanding on the bullet points you’ve touched upon in your first line with bigger (but non-essential) facts. This is the time to present products specs or a few quirky tidbits from your survey. As you progress, try to keep your language snappy and mildly objective – because nobody wants to eat a dry piece of toast.

3. Create a figurehead

After you’ve provided a couple hundred words of in-depth coverage, you must include at least two separate quotes from someone within the company. Most newspapers won’t even consider publishing a story without quotes. Bearing that in mind, there are two rules you absolutely must not break when adding these quotes.

First rule:

Do not use a quote that simply repeats what it says elsewhere in the release. Journalists aren’t going to settle for redundant soundbites that just take up space. This is your chance to add some analysis and spice to the story. Don’t blow it.

Second rule:

You must put a name to the quote. Journalists despise having to quote faceless representatives. When businesses choose to hide behind the word “spokesperson”, it demonstrates a clear lack of resolve. Tell the world exactly who in your company thinks what, and busy reporters will be eternally grateful.

To be honest, a lot of this boils down to a matter of luck. Newsrooms are chaotic and distracting places – and so even the most intriguing press release on earth might slip through the cracks if it’s sent to the wrong reporter at the wrong time of day. But if you follow the aforementioned writing tips, you should emerge with a fairly ironclad press release that will almost definitely get published somewhere.

Just remember: keep it concise, keep it snappy and don’t take no for an answer.

Nash RigginsNash Riggins is an American business journalist based in Scotland. You can connect with him on Twitter @nashriggins, or follow his blog at www.nashriggins.com.

Earning Referrals Takes More Than Luck

With the madness of the annual NCAA tournament upon us and St. Patrick’s Day behind us, there’s a lot of talk about luck. The luck of the Irish or that team was lucky to pull off the upset. Some of you may be thinking you could use some of that luck in your business for turning your current customer base into a steady stream of referrals.

The bad news is that whether or not you believe in it, luck it is hard to create. You also can’t just go to a store and buy a bottle of luck or a program to make yourself and your business lucky.

The good news is that you don’t need luck to get more referrals, what you need is just a bit of hard work and focus on your customers.

Referrals are the culmination of your customer’s experience with your business. They are the reward for completing the customer journey, and doing it in a way that surprises and impresses them to the point that they recommend that experience to their family and friends.

But here’s what is most important about referrals: people want to refer you. They want to be wowed by your company, and they can’t wait to tell everyone about it. It is your job to take advantage of this by meeting and exceeding their expectations.

Here are some ways you can increase referrals for your business:

1) Take Time to Educate Potential Customers

In order to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations, you must first make sure they are reasonable. Take the time to educate your customers about your product or service, and don’t rush them into buying it. If your customer knows exactly what they are buying, their expectations of what you will deliver are realistic.

2) Surprise Your Customers and Show Gratitude

Now that your customers have a clear expectation of your product or service, you can now take an opportunity to surprise them. Give them something extra, whether it be a promotion or a gift, which they aren’t expecting. It can be something as simple as a short personal letter to your customers or, as Sara describes here, you can send them a loaded new customer kit.

It is also important to make sure your customers know you appreciate their patronage. Go out of your way to thank your customers, and try to add as much of a personal touch as possible. The “Thank you!” at the end of an invoice is expected, but a Holiday card from you or your whole team still carries a lot of weight.

3) Resolve Issues and Welcome Feedback

In college, I spent a fair amount of time waiting tables, as I’m sure many of us have. One of the main lessons I will take away from that time is that people are willing to recognize that things don’t always go as planned. Whenever there was an issue with food or the environment or the wait times, I worked hard to resolve those issues as quickly as possible. Customers in those situations often tipped better than most, because they recognized and rewarded those efforts.

To bring that same principle to business, work with your customers to resolve any issues that may arise during the customer journey, and ask for feedback on how to improve. If you take their feedback seriously, they are more likely to refer your business. Just because something goes wrong doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost their referral.

4) Ask for a Referral

Too few businesses ask for referrals at the end of their customer journey. I don’t know if businesses feel like they are asking too much, or if asking somehow cheapens the referral. But because we know people want to refer your business, you should give them an opportunity to do so. Digital media has made this so much easier because your customers no longer need to be in the same room as their friends and family to refer you.

You’ll want to make this as easy as possible, or even give them an added benefit. Offer a gift or discount for a positive Yelp review or Facebook post, or use a tool like Get Five Stars to increase your reviews.

Just remember: you have to be constantly working to earn referrals. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

Building Relationships Through the Customer Loop

Today’s Guest Post is by Sam Balter – Enjoy!

The customer journey is a simplified expression of the complex thought process of a customer looking to purchase something. A quick Google search for ‘customer journey’ brings up a myriad of complex diagrams full of hundreds of metrics. The truth is that every company has a unique customer journey; each marketing channel has a unique customer journey, and every product has a unique customer journey. All customers go through a different journey and engage with a brand in a unique way.

The customer journey model relies on seeing a buying decision as linear and a one-off interaction. Brands that will succeed in cross-channel marketing are building a relationship with their customer in every stage of the journey. When thinking about mobile, specifically mobile messaging, it’s all about creating a frictionless and compelling experience for the customer.

Let’s take the basic model of the customer journey: Awareness -> Consideration -> Purchase -> Retention -> Advocacy. The most successful businesses will foster a relationship each step of the customer journey, and along the way, delight their customer.

waterfall, the customer journeyAwareness:
Using physical signage or online advertising is a great way to create awareness of your brand. Visual advertisements capture customers’ attention and use the present moment to start building a relationship via mobile. Here’s an example of a simple text Call-To-Action (CTA) on a billboard:

Get 20% off your next purchase
Text KRUSTY to 55155

Using a text call-to-action on outdoor signage helps get more from marketing dollars because the billboard creates an impression, and the mobile messaging gives you a way to speak directly to your customer. Mobile messaging adds a CRM component to an awareness campaign.

To take this a step further, a brand might want to ask their customer for their zip code so that location-specific offers can be delivered. If you want to see some great CTAs, check out our site where we’ve compiled examples of successful CTAs, Art of the CTA.

Consideration:
To optimize the efficacy of mobile as a channel, it’s imperative to send the right message at the right time. If Krusty Burger wants to increase lunch traffic, it makes no sense to send a message at 4:15pm. Instead, achieve optimal results by sending a message one to two hours before a customer is encouraged to take action. That way, when their stomach starts to growl, they know they’ve got a Krusty Burger coupon in their pocket.

To take it to another level, consider using a share-with-friend function that will allow more people to get in on the savings while capturing more phone numbers in the process.

Purchase:
This is an incredibly powerful step of the customer journey. I am very cheap, so sometimes purchasing things can make me feel a little guilty. It is important to offset these feelings of guilt with heart warming offers. For example, offer customers the ability to receive a receipt via Multimedia Message, thereby saving paper, or the chance to enter a sweepstakes, to win a prize. If you have connected unique coupon codes with your point of sale system, you can even deliver the customer a coupon just moments after their purchase.

Retention:
An excellent part of mobile messaging campaigns is that in the awareness stage, a customer can opt-in to a loyalty program, and from there, consistently receive coupons and deals. For mobile messaging loyalty programs, we suggest the offers vary; mix SMS and MMS, and collect different pieces of information every few messages. Ask questions like: What is your favorite meal? When is your birthday? What is your email address, etc.? Encourage customers to provide information with incentives, and only ask for information if you will use it to delight your customers.

Advocacy:
It seems like only a few years ago, the only way for people to advocate for a brand or product they believed in was through word of mouth. Now, every customer has access to a digital bullhorn. Capitalize on customers’ social media connects with mobile messaging by embedding ‘click to tweet or post’ within your message copy. At Waterfall, we are big fans of viral sharing campaigns. Dropbox built an enormous user base through a viral sharing campaign in which every referral you signed up added additional storage to your account. This is a great way to provide value to your most helpful customers by leveraging the power of social amplification.

Customer Loop – The future of the customer journey
The customer journey has long reigned as a keystone of modern marketing. As we move into a cross-channel world, where brands are advertising to, providing content for, and engaging in conversations with customers, the journey will be replaced by a loop in which each interaction strengthens the bond between brand and brand advocate.

Sam Balter WaterfallSam Balter is a Marketing Manager at Waterfall, a mobile messaging and CRM provider that helps companies engage their customers on their phones. Sam writes about mobile strategy, industry trends, and how to create successful cross-channel marketing campaigns.

60 Ways to Screw Up the Customer Experience

I rarely lead with the negative, but sometimes it’s the best way to get someone’s attention.

Customer Experience

photo credit: Untitled via photopin (license)

When I present marketing strategy to groups I’ll often ask them to identify the characteristics of their ideal customers, and they can’t seem to narrow their thinking beyond people with money. But when I ask them to tell me who they “don’t” want to work with, many characteristics leap to mind.

Here’s the deal – every way, shape and form that your business comes into contact with prospects, customers and friends of friends of both, you are performing a marketing function. So let me ask you this – have you considered the impact or lack of impact of every touch point in your customer’s journey?

In order to expand your thinking on this point, let’s audit the real and potential touch points that impact the customer experience and ultimately your brand, in general. (The main thing we are looking for is an appealing, positive, consistent message across these touch points and a call to action that makes someone want to go on a continuing journey with you.)

Some of you might recognize the categories of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer as stages in something I’ve been calling the Marketing Hourglass, that point to the logical way to think about a perfect end-to-end customer experience.

Know – This is how people become aware of your business and brand.

  • Website – Many times a prospect visits your website first to learn what you have to offer – what message does this touch point send? (add this question to every point below because that’s what I want you to consider.)
  • Advertising – Your ads may be the first way someone is introduced to your business.
  • Marketing materials – Don’t forget offline materials that help tell your story in more tactile ways.
  • Networking – How you network, where you network and who you are in conversations with, are all part of your brand
  • Networks – What social network you choose to engage in, and how deeply you choose to participate matters.
  • Referrals – When a raving fan refers someone to your business, how are they greeted? Are they treated special?
  • Content – How are you using content to both create awareness and act as a home to send those who encounter your ads?

Like – This is the stage in which people are starting to notice your brand and decide if they want to know more.

  • Community involvement – Encountering your brand through other communities and community involvement can send a strong signal about what you’re passionate about.
  • Events – Demonstrating your expertise and giving advice before you ever start to promote is one way to gain respect and authority.
  • Physical presence – What does your office, your store, your dress say about your brand? I’m not suggesting what it should say, simply that it does speak something.
  • Value proposition – Do people automatically understand that you do something very, very well that matters to them?
  • Social engagement – How you engage on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is observable – have you considered the impact of this on your brand?
  • Graphic design – Many companies have won with a focus on design. Many more don’t give it a second thought. What does the design of your product, service, website, communication, email signature say or not say?
  • Content – Again with content – it has an intentional use at just about every stage, but you must understand each use – for like, content might just be mostly about telling your story.
  • Your people – Culture is marketing and for the most part people experience culture through people. Do your people understand your brand and have they been recruited because your story resonates?

Trust – No one buys from companies they do not trust and it’s never been easier to learn who is trustworthy, and who is not.

  • SEO – I like to put search at the top of the trust list because today if you’re not showing up in a variety of online fronts, you’re throwing off a huge trust downgrade. If you don’t dominate the entire page one for a search on your company name, you’ve got an issue.
  • Reputation – We won’t do business with companies that even total strangers have told us don’t keep their word. Proactively managing your reputation online and off has to be part of the marketing puzzle.
  • Referrals – Referrals, like other elements, show up in different stages because we are no longer really in charge of how people go on a journey. A referral can be the ultimate trust signal if you treat it that way.
  • Demonstrations – People often misinterpret a demo as a way to show what a product or service does – it’s not, it must first be a way to show why what it does is so awesome for me. Fix this part!
  • Influence – Like it not, the last time I checked my Klout score (okay it was today) is was considered pretty good. Yes, people obsess over social proof and that’s what makes it matter as a factor. Work on building your influence by helping others build theirs – more on that.
  • Success stories – Show me proof that other people just like me actually achieved what I want to achieve by working with you.
  • Public relations – I believe someone else who says you are super talented more than I believe you telling me that. Seeing your name penned by others or reading a piece you contributed to a publication I respect send huge trust signals.
  • Consistency – This is a tough one. I guess this is actually a rallying cry for process documentation, but know that one of the greatest eroders of trust is an inconsistent experience. How do you make sure I get the same experience every time and every place?
  • More events – Getting to experience your knowledge and slightly sarcastic sense of humor by way of a webinar or presentation at the lunch network I belong to is one powerful way of building trust.
  • Connecting – Who you are connected to, who you have as a guest on your podcast, and who you reach out and connect me to suggests you are someone to trust.
  • Content – Oh no here it is again – what content are you offering freely that takes our relationship to entirely new level now that I’m really paying attention?
  • Sales process – This might be another call for consistency, but simply having a process for when someone completes an online form or requests a demo is a start. Even better, what could you do that would blow me away in response to my hinting I might need what you offer?

Try – This is a stage that many neglect, but now that I think you have the answer, can you prove it?

  • Demonstrations – The demo shows up here again because now I just might want to know how the thing is going to work for me and my team – this is a different kind of demo, but it still needs to be about me and my team.
  • Freemium offer – Is there a way to let me try it for 30 days first?
  • Starter offer – Is there a smaller version  that would give me a greater sense of why I can’t live without you and your solutions?
  • Switch offer – It’s painful to switch – what could you do to make it fun and risk free?
  • Proof of concept – Personalize something just for me so I could see just how great life will be when you’re my partner.
  • Events – Events are also a pretty good way to let someone see what it might be like to work with you – an event can be a meeting with the executive team of a prospect where you facilitate a discussion and help the team align on priorities.
  • Conversion materials – Blog posts and ebooks are great in the start, but now you have to personalize and demonstrate or calculate the return on investment for me.
  • Upsell process – Okay I’ve tried it out and I love it, but now you want me to pay? What have you done to hammer home the value and let me see that I would be a fool to not jump in full time now?
  • Incentive program – Sometimes you’ve got to have a plan to sweeten the deal to get me act today – let me bring a friend, give me annual pricing or surprise with me something more than I was expecting.

Buy – The buying experience itself is an often overlooked touch point in the marketing process, but it must be as intentional as everything that led to this point.

  • Sales process – What do you do when the phone rings? Remember if this has been done right, I already know, like and trust you – what do you in the sales process that keeps the experience useful?
  • Nurturing process – I can’t make a decision right now or at least I don’t know how to – what do you do to continue to show value – what materials, training, education can you shower me with?
  • Orientation process – I’ve said yes, now what? Do you have a process that makes certain I know what’s going on at all times, I know who to call, what to send, how to get in touch?
  • Training materials – Yes I know you explained how to use your gizmo, but that was a while ago – where can go to learn how again, where can I send my people, how do I become a ninja user?
  • Cross sell process – Worst phrase a business can hear – Oh wait, I didn’t know you also did that, I bought from XYZ company. How will you let me know what else I might need in a way that a friend might tell a friend about something cool?
  • Contract process – Wait, you mean legal is part of the marketing team? Oh yes, and how many sales have been killed by this branch of the marketing team? The contract process is what it is, but does it have to be so painful? Why not make it one of the most playful parts of your brand?
  • Financial engagement – You expect me to pay, I know that, but did you know your billing, shopping cart and even how you communicate about being paid are also marketing functions? Consider this touch point as part of the buying journey.
  • Project management – Depending upon what you do, how you manage the work, communicate progress, add and assign tasks weighs heavily on how smoothly a project goes and whether there will be another.
  • Delivery – This can be the delivery of information or of a physical product in a box, but it’s a marketing touch point. Think about the coolest present and wrapping you ever received, and work from there.
  • Communication – As you work with clients you have to adjust to how they want to communicate. Sometimes that means you have to offer options, show them how to unify communications and teach them some new ways to communicate that will benefit their productivity and amplify your results.

Repeat – One of the best ways to grow a business is to do more with existing clients while you add new.

  • Results review – Now that you think I’m happy what are you going to do to make certain? Do you actually know the value of what you’ve delivered?
  • Events – Events and content are staples in every stage but now that I’m a customer I want to know that you consider me a part of your community.
  • Testimonials – Part of the process of finding out how much value you’ve delivered is to use it as a way to consistently collect rave reviews.
  • Case study – Do you have a process to document what a great result I got?
  • Cross sell – Do  you have a process to make sure I know what else you can do for me?
  • On going training – Keep teaching me more about how to do things I want to do, and I’ll keep buying more of those things from you that allow me to do that.

Refer – Every business loves referrals – most get referrals for good work done, but few intentionally generate referrals.

  • Referral education – Do you have a process to teach your referral champions the best way to spot and refer a prospect?
  • Events – Bring your champions together and make them a network – empower them with extra attention
  • Referral offers – Make a game out of referring your business, and keep your offers (rarely financial) top of mind by reminding me quarterly how to play the game.
  • Referral materials – Do you make it easy for your referral champions to put something tangible in the hands of their friends, neighbors, and colleagues?
  • Partner outreach – Don’t forget about the power of building a team of best of class providers for almost everything your clients might need. This team could be the greatest source of new business for you.
  • Co-marketing – Have you identified 4-5 other businesses that target your same ideal customer? How could you multiply the number of people that come into contact with your brand through this group?
  • Referral content – Yes, I’m going to end on content. What eBook, webinar or presentation could you take to your partners with the idea that they could use this content to shower value on their network while also subtly referring you?

As I read back through this long and winding post it dawned on me that you could view this as a way to guide the customer experience or you could simply employ this as your entire marketing plan – either way, you win.