Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nine Tools for Building Customer Loyalty

Here are 9 follow-up tools sure to motivate your customers to keep coming back:

1. Thank-you notes: This is a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how many entrepreneurs neglect to write thank-you notes--especially when they get really busy. Take the time to show your customers that you genuinely appreciate their business. They'll remember your thoughtfulness because most of your competition won't send out thank-you notes.

2. Postcard mailings: If you target consumers, send out monthly mailings that make good refrigerator fodder, such as "Quote of the Month," "Recipe of the Month" or useful tips on such topics as time-management, gardening or anything else that interests the bulk of your customers. Avoid being too promotional here. Just provide the kind of information that customers will want to hang on their frig. The added benefit to you is that whenever guests visit your customers' homes, they'll see your name, potentially leading to conversations about your business.

3. E-mail updates: Think of your e-mail update as a press release that you send to your customers. Providing them with regular product, service and customer updates via e-mail at least once per month will convey a sense of positive momentum. This keeps customers in the loop and, over time, gets them excited to be involved with you and motivates them to pass on referrals.

4. Getting together over coffee or lunch: Try to spend face time in a nonsales environment with your customers. Ask about their family, hobbies, personal goals and so forth. When you show customers that you really care about them on a personal level, they're yours for life.

5. Birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions: These occasions are very important to your customers and their families and friends. Be among the few who actually remember a customer's special days, and that customer will never forget you!

6. Follow up on well-being: For example, if you find that a customer's wife has been sick, call periodically just to find out how she's recovering.

7. Pass referrals: One of the most powerful ways to encourage loyalty in customers is to pass them referrals. When you get a chance, scroll through your customer database and think through people you know who might add value to your customers.

8. Entertaining at your home: Throw a party for your best customers. You'll be amazed at how much rapport and goodwill you can build with people when you get them in your home environment. Your guests will also find value in your party as a networking opportunity for them.

9. Post-sale feedback: Demonstrate that you care about the quality of your service. Call customers and ask them questions like:
o Are you pleased with the service you received?
o What did you like most about working with us?
o What would you like to see improved?

Without this invaluable information, you'll have a hard time improving your products and services. Besides, when you ask customers for feedback and implement their comments, they feel a sense of ownership in what you're doing and thus become more loyal to your products and services.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How Can I Help You?

Is customer service important? Is customer service every employee's responsibility?

The clear answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes! And more important, the major responsibility for creating a customer friendly atmosphere begins with you, the boss. Not only are you responsible for teaching first-rate customer service skills, but as their leader, you must demonstrate these behaviors and be a role model for your employees. Without positive examples from you, they're not likely to improve.

But just why is customer service so crucially important to the success of your company?

Whether or not your employees work specifically as customer service people, as the head of your organization, you must instill in all your employees one key strategic thought and direction: If you're going to create a positive and productive business environment, everyone must speak and relate to customers and potential customers as if each person were their paycheck. Because, in fact, they are.

Tell your employees to seriously consider this startling truth: If customers don't keep coming back and purchasing your company's products or services, there will be no company. And obviously, if there's no company--or if you're forced to downsize--many of the people working for you now may lose their jobs.

I bet you'll have your employee's complete attention.

So just what is optimal customer service? Simply stated, it's a positive way of relating to people that lets them know you care about them, their actions, their purchases and the buying process, no matter how expensive, intricate or involved it is. Your main goal is to have each customer leave with a smile on their face and a feeling of having been well taken care of by you and your employees--and for having purchased just what they needed or wanted.

But why is optimal customer service so crucial? Won't customers keep coming back if your price is right? Not necessarily. If you want your customers to come back again and again, you've got to satisfy them by making it easy for them to do business with you, which will get them to return for more. Understand that if they aren't treated properly, they won't become those coveted return customers.

Here are four powerful points you need to model and impart to your employees in order for them to provide top-notch service to the purchasing public.

Optimal customer service means:
1. Your employees can keep their job. Remember, no customers equals no business and no employees.
2. You've created a positive buying atmosphere for both first-time and repeat customers.
3. You're able to satisfy the information or buying needs of your potential customers.
4. You're able to transform prospects into happy, satisfied customers. And happy, satisfied customers come back for more.

Your next step is to teach and motivate your employees to demonstrate the following successful customer service behaviors:

· Stop talking with colleagues and get off the phone whenever a potential customer approaches.
· Look up and at the person, smile and welcome your potential paycheck.
· Ask how you can help or assist your potential customer.
· Provide information in a pleasant manner, always remembering to smile.
· Ask, in a friendly way, if you've been of assistance to the customer. If the answer is no, continue to serve your customer until you've satisfied their needs.
· Ask if there's anything else you can do to help them make the right decision.
· Smile and say goodbye, encouraging the customer to return with other questions.
· Mean what you say and mean what you do.

And don't forget that the most important features of an interaction that potential buyers will remember are how helpful the employee was and how delighted or satisfied the customers are with the product and the process of purchasing.

Undoubtedly, these satisfied customers will return over and over. And this result is due to the attitude, politeness and willingness to assist that your employees express.

Bingo, they just earned their paychecks!

Monday, September 28, 2009

33 Marketing Success Tips

Part of the guerrilla marketing mindset suggests that you should be thinking about marketing all the time. Not just quarterly, not just monthly, not just weekly, but every single day. Really, it's not as hard as it sounds--there are quite a few ways you can incorporate marketing into your daily activities.

It's often said that doing anything for 21 days in a row will eventually turn into a habit for you. And a marketing habit is a great thing for any business to have. So what I'm going to suggest is that you choose three to five things every day that are related to marketing for your business and do them at the beginning of the day before you start fighting the daily fires--and forget all about your planned tasks.

If you work on this developing a marketing habit--and the proper marketing mindset--every day, you'll soon find that you're going above and beyond your "three to five things" limit. You'll find yourself talking and thinking in terms of headlines or talking, listening and thinking in terms of your customers and prospects' benefits. And the more you think marketing, the greater the chance you'll accomplish your marketing and overall business goals.

When talking to many business owners, professionals and organizations, I find that in the beginning, they're sometimes challenged when it comes to finding three to five marketing tasks to do every, single day. Just remember, these activities don't have to be elaborate, they don't have to be long and drawn out, and they don't have to take up much time.

To get your habit started and to help with your marketing mindset, here are the types of activities you can employ each and every day before your non-marketing, daily work activities begin:
· Hand write a thank-you note to a prospect or customer
· Enter customer or prospect names into a database
· Brainstorm tagline ideas
· Visit a competitor's website
· Write an article to pitch to your local business organization
· Make a list of press release ideas
· Write a press release
· Call a newspaper and ask who the feature editor is for your area of expertise
· Compose an e-mail sales letter
· Call a few prospects or customers to get their e-mail contact information
· Develop a series of survey questions
· Brainstorm advertising concepts
· Write a pitch letter to a radio or TV station
· Get contact information from media outlets
· Plan a renaming of your products
· Work on new product development and introduction ideas
· Invite a customer or prospect to your office for coffee or to discuss new ideas
· Recognize a special prospect or customer
· Discuss a fusion marketing idea with a strategic business partner
· Visit a few marketing-related websites
· Post new information on your website
· Plan your networking calendar for the week
· Call to follow up with networking contacts
· Get price estimates for the printing and mailing of your direct-mail campaign
· Mail samples of your product to top prospects
· Brainstorm ideas for an "enter to win" contest
· Develop a coupon for your product or service
· Rewrite your phone's on-hold message script
· Write an article or other text for your newsletter
· Brainstorm new product or service ideas
· Plan a new customer service activity that will truly delight your customers
· Develop your benefit list and compare to it to your competitions'
· Develop a checklist, top-ten list or other information as a response to a marketing hook

If you're still challenged with finding the right activities for your daily, three to five tasks, break your marketing down into these general categories: Direct Mail, Networking, Publicity, Advertising, Fusion, Planning, New Products and Services, Marketing Communication Materials, and so on. Then concentrate on thinking up activities for one area at a time. No one is really counting your "three to five" things. The point is to do something related to marketing every day to help you think about marketing all the time.

Obviously some of this activities will take a longer than just a few minutes--it's OK if they consume your whole day. Although your goal to accomplish three to five things related to marketing every day, on some days, you may only get to one or two; on others days, you may get on a roll and do five to seven things. Don't get married to the numbers.

The purpose of all of this activity is to help you develop a marketing habit and to move your marketing efforts to the next step in your plan fulfillment. And even if you planned out your activities for the day, don't be surprised if at times your progress, responses and results dictate the direction of your activity--and get you moving in a different direction than what you'd planned. Generally, this is a very positive thing, and you should let the activity guide you and keep the habit going.

No matter how much or how little you accomplish, the point is to get started. Because three weeks full of nonmarketing activities quickly becomes a nonmarketing habit, and that is a sure recipe for business failure.