6 Ways to Develop Repeat Customers

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing’s own Kala Linck – Enjoy!

You may have heard us talk about the Marketing Hourglass. The Marketing Hourglass refers to the entire customer journey, from when they first hear about your brand, to when they decide to purchase from your brand, to when they become a loyal customer and refer your brand to other potential customers. This technique, we’ve found, is the best way to find and secure business.

The bottom of the hourglass (“Repeat” and “Refer”) can be neglected when so much energy is going into finding and converting new clients and customers. Now that you’ve secured the business or converted the lead, you’re celebrating! Plus, you’re exhausted from all of the work it takes to make a sale or gain a customer. Today, I’m going to help you make sure that your clients are repeating. It’s vital that your customers return to your business a second and third time. When they become repeat customers, you rely less on the energy for new customers because

a) you’ve got customers coming back, and

b) those customers can refer you to new customers.

Products and services are different, which is why I put together three tips for each on things you can do to ensure you keep those customers coming back for more.

Services

Photo via PhotoPIn

Photo via PhotoPIn

Let’s start with services. There is a lot of pressure on the service industry to provide continuous support. Just one bad experience can turn a customer against you, and these things can help prevent that from happening and keep them coming back for more. The key is to be the most convenient offering of your particular service. You can do this by:

  1. Offer packages. If you offer packages, you’ll provide an immediate reason for a customer to keep coming back to you – at least until their package is over – giving you plenty of time to provide great customer service. By the end of their package, they won’t want to go anywhere else! A great example of this is something I recently experienced when I needed an eye exam. It’s necessary that each time I go in for an exam, I purchase contacts. So, by purchasing one eye exam and getting the next two free, my eye doctor is guaranteeing that I will make my next two contact purchases from them.
  2. Send reminders. One reason that I keep going back to my dentist is because every six months, they call to remind me that it’s time for a regular cleaning. When they call me, we schedule my appointment. Now, remembering to go to the dentist is one less thing that I need to do, and it’s that convenience that makes me a repeat customer.
  3. Offer an unexpected bonus. Many times, what we pay for is what we get. We can pay to get our yard mowed from seven different lawn companies, and when we get home we see that our lawn has, indeed, been mowed. Stand out from the other lawn companies by spending an additional half hour edging the sidewalk for a client. They will see the difference, and it will help them to remember to call you when they need lawn care again.

Products

Photo via PhotoPin

Photo via PhotoPin

What about products? All products, but especially if you’ve got a lot of competitors, need to ensure customers get value out of your product so that they will continue to make purchases. With products, you’ve got a margin to contend to. What are some subtle differences that you can offer without diminishing that margin? Here are three ideas that can help you maintain your customer base:

  1. Provide fast shipping. I don’t think I’m the only one that gets thrilled when something I ordered gets to me at the low end of the projected shipping timeline. Three days is certainly better than five! There is minimal that you can do when the package leaves your warehouse to head to your customer, but what can you do on the front end to speed up your process? Knowing how long packages take to get to your customers is the first step. Make sure your projections are accurate, under promise and over deliver, and if necessary, make some changes in your process to get your customers what they purchased faster.
  2. Offer points. Credit card companies have been doing this for years, but now products are starting to see the benefits of offering a points system. Much like the rewards program at your favorite lunch spot that you keep going back to because you’re SO close to that free lunch, rewards programs are a great way to stay in touch with customers and build loyal fans.
  3. Use special packaging. When packaging is personal or nicer than your average crushed box, customers are more likely to buy again. Most everyone wants to feel special. Whether it’s putting your product in a decorative paper bag with crepe paper before they walk out the door or adding a special customer note in their package when you ship it, that little touch of something extra will help your customer remember you for their next purchase.

There are many ways that your can make your customers feel like they are spending their money in the right place, and these are just a few that I have found to keep me coming back for more. You’ve probably been thinking about your product or service throughout this post. Have you come up with any ideas to implement into your customer journey? Or is there something that you already do that is effective? If so, please share below!

IMG_2750Kala is the Community Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. She’s a specialist in digital marketing, who loves nothing more than picking up a newspaper and tuning into the local stations. She’s worked with clients spanning a variety of industries and knows that people are the heart of a successful business. She loves to travel and try new foods, and documents her travels in her blog. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

 

How to Create the Perfect Customer Journey

photo credit: Reloj.cp via photopin (license)

photo credit: Reloj.cp via photopin (license)

The Marketing Hourglass is a powerful tool to map out your marketing efforts in a way that makes sense to everyone in your organization. Most marketers view the customer experience as a funnel, but we at Duct Tape Marketing know that the customer experience ideally goes beyond the point of sale.

Mapping it out in this way has helped many small businesses think about and improve upon their method of guiding customers. Having a game plan for your customers to know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer you is necessary to ensure your customers are taken care of across all levels of the customer journey.

Keeping tabs on how your brand is represented within the Hourglass mindset is equally important.   Follow the steps below to conduct your own Marketing Hourglass Brand Audit: 

Before you get started on the Marketing Hourglass:

Step 1: Define and sketch the makeup and personality of your ideal clients

Step 2: Discover your perfect value proposition

Step 3: Brainstorm and document your vision and goals

Step 4: Create your brand personality that represents your culture statement

Step 5: Outline branding guidelines – ie colors, fonts, images, etc.

Step 6: Create a brand positioning statement including all the elements above

Once you complete the brand positioning statement, run through the following questions of the Hourglass to ensure your brand is consistent across all stages.  These questions are meant to get you started thinking through each stage. You may want to add more questions in as you go through the process.

Know

–       Do your ads communicate the brand positioning statement? Do they target and connect with your ideal clients?

–       Do your social media accounts have consistent images and messages?  Are they promoted on your website?

–       Are your guest post contributions targeted towards your ideal clients audience base?

–       Are your keywords consistent and focused on monthly themes?

–       Are your local directories complete with your core difference and branding guidelines?

–       Do you have a systemized plan to handle all referrals that come in?

Like

–       Do your print assets include your core message and brand personality?

–       Is your website consistent to your brand positioning statement and your writing style guide?

–       Do your logo and company name represent your brand positioning?

–       Do your business cards include your core difference?

–       Are your email signatures and tag lines consistent across your entire team?

–       Is your vision documented on your website for your ideal clients to relate to?

–       Is your website mobile responsive?

Trust

–       Are your newsletters consistent with your website branding?  Does the newsletter go out on a regular basis and include valuable content for your audience?  Is there an opt-in incentive for your newsletter?

–       Are your email campaigns consistent with you branding guidelines?

–       Do you follow monthly themes on your blog to establish your company as an expert on focused topics?

–       Do you regularly promote and monitor review sites?

Try

–       What is your free or trial offering?  How do you encourage people to sign up for the free trial?

–       Is your follow up for the free trial consistent with your brand positioning?

–       Do your PowerPoint presentations match your website branding?

Buy

–       What is your starter offering?

–       What is your core offering?

–       What is your members-only offering?

–       Do your contracts and invoices match your brand positioning statement?

–       Do you have a detailed new customer kit once someone signs on as a customer?  If so, does this follow your brand positioning?

Repeat

–       What are your add-ons to increase value?

–       What is your “make it easy to switch” offering?

–       What is your surprise gift to encourage repeat customers?

–       Do you have a targeted process to upsell to your current clients?

Refer

–       What are our strategic partner pairings?

–       How do you encourage your current customers to refer?  Do you share your ideal client personas?

–       Does your incentive for referrals tie in your branding and/or culture in some way?

The point of the hourglass metaphor is to get you thinking not only about how to generate and close deals but how to create the best possible experience as part of the plan.

Sara HeadshotSara Jantsch is the Director of Community at Duct Tape Marketing.  She is also a Marketing Consultant and has a strong passion for working with small business owners.  Interested in developing your own Marketing Hourglass with the Duct Tape team?  Click here to learn why a Duct Tape Marketing plan my be perfect for your business. 

As a Business, We Are What We Aspire to Be

The title of this post applies to most things in life I feel and certainly in business. Unless we have goals and aspirations for our business, it’s hard to imagine arriving at a destination of our own control.

Businesses have long espoused the virtues of mission statements, but it’s only when you live these statements through everyday acts that they become real.

My business has always been driven by a few simple ideas, but only recently did I turn them into what I call a “culture statement.” I would say these ideas represent a great deal of what I’ve always stood for, but seeing them in this fashion keeps them even more firmly rooted in my day to day actions.

The idea behind a culture statement is to come up with a set of ideas for what you stand for and then build upon them in ways that make them real in everyday situations. This not only lets team members know a bit about what we stand for it also helps us all make the right decisions when the heat of the moment may creep in and attempt to dictate how we act.

This is how culture is built, communicated and lived through decision-making that happens in real time.

We use this document in training and keep it front and center at all times. It’s our plan to discuss individual attributes during review meetings and I’m happy to share it here publicly.

If you find this document interesting you might also enjoy similar ones from Buffer, Zappos and check out the companies rated by Glassdoor to have the best cultures. After wrestling with this idea for a while a couple things became very clear:

  • A culture statement starts by reflecting who you really are – there’s no point in coming up with stuff that simply sounds good
  • A culture statement should include some aspirational elements – it’s okay to include “this is something we strive for but don’t always achieve “- that’s how we grow
  • A culture statement will evolve as you grow – add new things, take things away, consolidate and learn
  • A culture statement, like so many things in business, will flow only as it’s lived from the top – if the boss doesn’t live it, it won’t mean much
  • A culture statement must be taught, led and enforced – make time to discuss various elements of the culture statement as you teach and review actions inside the business
  • A culture statement is a team game. not an edict – everyone in the organization needs to come to their own terms with what the values mean to them and how they can best live them

How to Add Serious Value to Your Online Community

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jamie Thomson – Enjoy! 

According to research carried out by social media experts, Socialnomics, 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations, whereas only 14% trust advertisements. Perhaps that’s why online communities are so good at generating business referrals?

Developing an online community is all about engagement. As a small business owner, you want people to participate in your forum discussions, leave comments on your blog posts and recommend your products and services to other people. But how exactly do you go about achieving this?

The answer lies in the value that you add to your members. Here’s how you can inspire your online community and create a small army of brand catalysts.

Encourage Press Release Sharing

According to press release experts, PR Web, 80 million of us read our news online every day and amongst those 80 million people are your community. If you’re not already in the B2B marketplace, get other businesses in your industry involved in your community by encouraging them to share their press releases on your site. Not only will this improve your brand authority but it’ll also add huge value to your existing community members as they’ll be able to keep up to date with the latest movements in the marketplace without having to look elsewhere.

Create a Classifieds Board

In the same way that Gumtree enables people to post classified ads in their local area, enabling people to promote their services within your industry is a great way to add value to your community. A classifieds board will encourage people to visit your website regularly to see what promotions and offers are available. Consider allowing other businesses to post job vacancies on your site too as this can help improve your authority in the marketplace and establish your brand as a market leader. This in turn, will add value to your community as your members will associate themselves as being part of a successful network.

Initiate Collaborations

‘Hi Linda, have you met John?’ Much like a business version of Match.com, your website can become a hub for people in your industry to find collaborators with whom to create new projects. Actively promote new members who join your community and encourage existing members to introduce themselves. By creating business opportunities within your community, you’ll add significant value and encourage people to increase their presence on your website.

Develop a Forum Thread Specifically for Beginners

We all had to start our business careers somewhere, right? Why not make your online forum the place that those new to the market go to for advice on getting started in your industry? Developing a thread specifically for newcomers will help expand your community and recruit new members. It’ll also give more experienced users the opportunity to share their wisdom with others. Your thread may even lead to successful mentorships for your members.

Review Related Products and Services

The chances are that your industry isn’t limited to the types of products and services that your business offers. One way to add value to your community is to review related services that your website visitors will find useful. This can help establish your business as a trusted brand and will expand your community out with your own particular niche. Writing reviews will encourage people from all corners of the marketplace to visit your site for impartial information about the latest products in your industry.

Adding value to your online community will help you retain existing community members, attract new users and position your business in such a way that you’ll benefit from having an army of loyal fans spreading the word about your brand.

 

Jamie ThomsonJamie Thomson is a freelance copywriter at Brand New Copy where he writes about small business and content marketing on his copywriting blog. He’s also the founder of The Tutor Website, an online hub for small business owners in the private tutoring industry.

 

Why Online Reviews Are Almost As Good As Actual Referrals

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jason Keeler – Enjoy!

image 2 online business reviewsAs a business owner, there isn’t much better than a good referral. It shows that you’re doing something right, and that your customers think highly enough of you as a partner to tell other people in their circle about their great experience. Referral leads have a tremendously high closing percentage as well versus other cultivated leads. The implied trust factor allows you to skip a lot of the relationship building and get right down to business. Unfortunately, even your most vocal brand advocates will likely only influence a handful of prospective customers at most, and more than likely just one or two. But what if your happy customers were able to influence hundreds or even thousands of prospects?

The Power Of Faceless People

In the absence of a trusted business contact steering a prospect to your door, an online review can be almost as powerful. Never mind that there’s no connection between the reviewer and the prospect reading their review. According to Forrester data from a 2012 study, nearly one third of online consumers trust a stranger as opposed to a brand. That data speaks specifically to consumers buying an online product, but the sentiment holds true for prospects researching brick and mortar businesses on the web. A 20123 study by Bright Local showed that nearly 85% of customers read online reviews before trying a new restaurant, hiring a local contractor or making a major in-home purchase. The impact of positive reviews from total strangers is incredibly powerful, even if their testimonial fails to put a face with a name.

The Impact On Local Search

The value of search engine optimization to any specific business varies, but local SEO – impacting where your business falls in Google’s local search returns – can be a huge driver for both foot traffic and online visits. The online reviews of your business are a big driver for where (or if) your business appears in the pecking order. There are quite a few other factors as well, but total reviews, quality/length of reviews, having variety in the sites where you are reviewed and of course the sentiment of your reviews will play a big role in determining your place. Aside from helping you manipulate local search results, reviews on popular portals like Yelp! can be a source of referral traffic to your website as well.

Ask And You Shall Receive

As is often the case, some things can be acquired simply by asking. Ensuring that your company actively seeks both referrals and reviews will most certainly pay dividends. And for those who need more than a simple ask? There’s certainly nothing wrong with establishing a review reward similar to a referral bonus, as a consideration for their time. Smart companies may even tie it in to a discount on a future order, not only ensuring a good review but also improving the chance that there’s a repeat order from a current customer. Another unique way to improve your review rate is to use surveys. The bonus here is that you can also find out a few interesting things about your business – areas that you’re surprisingly weak or strong in – and either reward those responsible or start making improvements.

As previously noted, referrals are like gold…but good online reviews are at least like silver, or a high-grade copper. There’s real value there. Make sure you spend time focusing on reviews as well as referrals, and you’ll put more prospects in your funnel with relative ease.

Jason Keeler imageJason Keeler is the Director of Digital Marketing at EAG Advertising & Marketing, Kansas City’s small business ad agency. He’s an avid Royals fan and a lover of all things related to internet marketing.

How Networking Can Increase Your Sales and Help Your SEO

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Samantha Pena – Enjoy! 

pushing social network structure

photo credit: Thinkstock

You know the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know”? Although your skills and dedication play a large part in starting your business, your chances of success rise when you know the right people.

Networking is one of the most valuable business tactics in growing your business, because it gives you the opportunity to learn from others and to tell them about your business in return. Consequently, networking can expand the reach of your business, boost your website’s search rankings, and increase your customer referrals. Here’s how:

Collaboration with industry experts increases your brand exposure

Networking gives you the chance to not only discuss your business with professionals but to also offer them something of value, whether that is your help, your service, or your knowledge.

When you meet others whom you think might be a great resource for your business, offer to partner with them on a project that is mutually beneficial to both of you. Although the type of partnership you create will largely depend on your business and your goals, there are so many collaboration opportunities available in real life and in the digital world.

Offering to speak at one of their events or collaborate with them on a white paper gives you the opportunity to showcase your industry expertise while tapping into and connecting with their existing network. Cross-business collaboration is thus a great way to gain greater publicity for your business without coming across as overtly promotional.

Trustworthy referrals influence consumers’ purchasing decision

In an age when reviews are readily accessible on the Internet and the market is inundated by similar products and services, businesses rely on positive referrals to gain new customers. In fact, statistics show that 65 percent of new customers come from referrals, primarily because people gather other people’s opinion before determining whether they should purchase a product.

Therefore, in order to boost your brand trust and increase your referrals, you must establish excellent business partnerships. For example, ask a business connection if they’d be interested in setting up a barter program with you, in which you’ll do work for them and refer new clients to their business and vice versa. Although you’ll be doing some work for free, the high-quality leads that you’ll receive from the partnership will override any monetary loss you may have.

In addition, maintain positive relationships with your loyal customers by offering them referral incentives. Offer a reward or a discount if they refer your business to a friend. A compelling reward and a clear and easy call-to-action will encourage customers to recommend your business to their contacts, increasing your network, brand reach, and leads.

Digital networking encourages brand trust

Building a network between your business, your customers, and experts in your field not only builds up your brand’s credibility but also boosts your SEO efforts. The best way to do this is to create connections with important bloggers and to network with your customers on social media.

In the last year, consumer confidence in social media as a trustworthy source of information increased +75 percent. Therefore, instead of advertising, which don’t work anyway, network on social media. When you connect with consumers on a personal level, you not only gather valuable insight on your their needs and wants but you also earn their trust. In addition, many experts say that there is a correlation between social media and SEO in link opportunity and search volume increase, which is an additional perk of using social media.

You also don’t have to network with just business owners. Sometimes, establishing a connection with thought leaders and influencers in your industry who are willing to write about your product or service and link back to your site is useful in increasing your brand exposure and building up your backlink profile. Especially since SEO and PR are becoming more integrated, it is important to get featured on authoritative sites in order to boost your site ranking.

Networking is a powerful strategy earning you high-quality leads, more customers, and brand trust. Therefore, view every moment as a potential networking opportunity and watch your business grow.

20140319144747_samSamantha Pena is a Content Strategist for Hudson Horizons, a digital agency that offers Web design, development, and marketing for small to mid-sized businesses. In addition to her weekly posts on Hudson, she also writes for various notable digital marketing sites on social media marketing and SEO. You can read her latest posts on Google+.

 

Weekend Favs July Nineteen

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.

jjantschguitar

Part of my presentation at World Domination Summit

Good stuff I found this week:

Briefmetrics – Weekly email report for your Google Analytics data

Taco – Unified task list app that draws from all of the services you already use

PPC University – Great, free,  pay per click advertising course from Wordstream

How to Incorporate Brand Advocates into Your Marketing Strategy

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Holly Cordner – Enjoy!

When asked about how and why they make purchases, most people say that reviews and recommendations play a major role. That holds true even in the B2B marketplace—according to one study, 60 percent of B2B tech buyers look at peer reviews before making buying decisions.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, when it comes to your own purchasing decisions, are you more likely to trust an ad or a person who’s actually used the product?

The question is, how can you boost positive reviews of your business and how should that play into your overall marketing strategy?

Brand Advocates: Generating Buzz

Brand advocates are more than just loyal customers—they’re ambassadors. They’re people who believe in your business and who are willing to answer questions, write blog posts, and help you create favorable word-of-mouth buzz. They can help you by reviewing your products and helping convince leads who may be on the fence about your services to take the plunge.

Who are your advocates? Where can you find them?

Begin by identifying customers who have had a good experience with your brand.

  • Get in touch with people who are interacting with you on social media or on review sites like Yelp.
  • Find customers who’ve given you positive reviews on comment cards or surveys.
  • Ask your salespeople—which customers to they turn to for references? Which customers are most satisfied with their experience?

Try to identify potential advocates on a regular basis—every three to six months or so—to keep your pool fresh.

This should go without saying, but in case it’s not obvious: in order to keep your loyal customer base large and happy, you need to provide consistently great service. It’s not enough to be just “adequate”— most companies do that—you need to “wow” your customers with attention to detail and personalized service. Try to accommodate special requests when you can, and let them know how much you appreciate them.

Setting Up a Brand Advocacy Program

Identifying advocates is only half the battle. You need to decide what to do with them once you’ve found them. Here are some ideas about how you can leverage their power to help maintain a positive image for your brand:

  • Ask them to follow you on social media and comment on and share what you post.
  • Ask them to write positive reviews and testimonials on your site, review sites like Citysearch, or their blog and social media profiles.
  • Ask them if you can film them talking about their experience with your brand.
  • Ask them to contribute to communities or forums.
  • Ask them for referrals.
  • Ask them to write blog posts or create images for you.
  • Ask them if you can use their experience as a case study.
  • Ask them to speak directly (over the phone or via email or chat) to potential customers.
  • Ask them to come up with FAQ questions and answers or identify improvements for your website.

These are just some of the ways that brand advocates can be put to good use. You should get creative and decide on which strategies will work for your business.

You should probably start small. Ask potential advocates to do something easy at first, like follow you on Instagram or give you a five star rating on Google+, before moving on to bigger projects like testimonials and blog posts. You may also want to consider setting up some sort of rewards or kickback program where advocates get a percentage off, a nominal payment, or free products (à la Amazon Vine) for completing tasks.

You should also invest some time in mentoring and quality control. You should let your advocates be authentic voices for your brand, but you may also want to set some guidelines if, for instance, you plan on connecting brand advocates with potential customers directly.

How about you? How are you leveraging the power of brand advocates in your business?

Holly Cordnerhollycordner is a marketing manager living in Salt Lake City. She writes for Needle, which helps businesses of all sizes identify brand advocates and connect them with customers. Her first love is technology with tofu coming in a close second.