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You can learn many things you didn't know about your business by getting valuable feedback from your customers. Your customers may buy your main product just to get the free gifts. Your visitors may think it's to hard to navigate through your web site.By knowing this type of important information you can improve your web site, products/services, advertising, and marketing. Below are nine techniques you can use to get valuable feedback from your customers.-Use surveys ...

9 Secret Ways To Get Valuable Feedback From Your Customers

9 Secret Ways To Get Valuable Feedback From Your CustomersYou can learn many things you didn't know about your business by getting valuable feedback from your customers. Your customers may buy your main product just to get the free gifts. Your visitors may think it's to hard to navigate through your web site.By knowing this type of important information you can improve your web site, products/services, advertising, and marketing. Below are nine techniques you can use to get valuable feedback from your customers.-Use surveys and questionnaires regularly to improve your business. Publish them on your web site, e-zine, print newsletter, direct mail material, include them with product shipments or inside product packages. Post them on appropriate online message boards, e-mail discussion lists and newsgroups on the internet.-Create an online community for your customers. Include a chat room, message board, e-mail discussion list on your site for customers to participate in. You can regularly moderator these communities to see what your customers are saying about your business.-Give away your products to a group of your customers. Ask them to use and review the product. Ask them to fill out an evaluation form and send it back. Some customers may fill them out, some may not, but the feedback you do get will be valuable.-Offer your web site visitors an online product or service from your web site at no cost. It could be an ebook, search engine submission, consulting via e-mail, web design, etc. In return, ask them to fill out a short survey about your web site, products or services you're selling, customer service, or your web site.-Create a customer focus group. Invite ten to twenty of your most loyal customers to meet regularly. They will give you ideas and input on how to improve your customer service. You could pay them, take them out to dinner or give them free products.-Stay in contact with customers on a regular basis. Offer them a free e-zine subscription. Ask customers if they want to be updated by e-mail when you make changes to your Web site. After every sale, follow-up with the customer to see if they are satisfied with their purchase. -Make it easy for your customers to contact you. Offer as many contact methods as possible. Allow customers to contact you by e-mail. Hyperlink your e-mail address so customers won't have to type it. Offer toll free numbers for phone and fax contacts. This will make it easy for your customers to voice their opinions.-You could regularly contact customers on birthdays or holidays. Send thank you gifts to lifetime customers. E-mail them online greeting cards on holidays or birthdays. Call them personally to wish them a happy holiday. You couldthem follow-up with a survey or ask them if they're happy with your business.-Invite your customers to company meetings, luncheons, workshops or seminars. Create special events for your customers like parties, barbecue's, dances etc. Make a point for yourself and your employees to interact with them at these event to get valuable feedback for your business.You could use a couple or all of the techniques listed above to get valuable customer feedback. These aren't the only ways, be creative and come up with some of your own.

Why Smart People Don't Know How to Market

Why Smart People Don

But whos growing your business while youre busy tending to your clients needs? What are you doing to attract and maintain a steady stream of qualified, motivated prospects? How do you find and keep interesting clients who pay you what youre worth? Like most professionals, you may not be able to answer those questions because the answer involves marketing.Sure, referrals can be a decent source of new clients, but theyre only one approach in a system of balanced strategies for guaranteeing youll have many desirable clients for as long as you wish. It doesnt matter how many referrals you get, if you dont know how to build and extend the potential relationship that each referral represents.As a Smart Person, you have lots of options at your disposal for attracting more clients to your firm. And they dont have to include the expensive things that spring to mind when you say "marketing," such as slick brochures, advertising, or direct mail.However, your professional expertise alone will not differentiate you in a crowded marketplacenor will it bring clients to you. Youve got to let them know you exist and help them understand why youre different why you are uniquely qualified to address their needs. This is called positioning. It takes some thoughtful, creative work to nail this first, most important step in attracting more clients.Once youve determined your positioning, you have four more major steps that will bring clients to you and your firm: packaging, promotion, persuasion, and performance. Each step requires that you are able to communicate with your target client audience in a variety of ways that they can understand in their need-based language, not your expert language.In a nutshell, here are some of your strategies for each major step to attract more clients:Positioning: niche, specialty, specialness, reputation, unique competitive advantage, client-centered worldview, saying no, commitment, no Plan B, congruence, self knowledge, re-nichePackaging: knowledge-sharing, articles, reports, surveys, web sites, slide decks, CDs/cassettes, videos, books, mini-booksPromotion: knowledge-sharing, speaking, writing, networking, referrals, newsletters, e-newsletters, letters, postcards, calls, teleclassesPersuasion: listening, diagnosis, openness, curiosity, visioning, education, presentations, asking, recommending, assuring, sharingPerformance: competence, solutions, results, keep promises, manage expectations, intelligence, creativity, guarantees, thank yous, commitment, walking the talk, innovation, persistence, integrity, generosity, alignment inside firm, staying in touch, management competenceChances are, youre on a learning curve in one or more of these major steps. Even if youve been in business for years and have built a successful firm, taking your practice to the next level means setting new metrics, ensuring your niche hasnt grown stale, and learning new ways to reach that next stage in your firms growth or maturity.For larger firms, maybe now its time to pay attention to how your firm delivers on your brand promise do principals, management, and staff really "walk the talk" of what you promise in the marketplace? Or are you, like many professional service firms, a cobbler whose children have no shoes?Or perhaps you serve "internal clients" inside of a very large organization, and need support or buy-in for the services your department offers. You can put these principles and strategies to work for your work to get noticed, get invited, attract positive attention, and get buy-in.So whats a Smart Person to do to attract more clients? Here are some suggestions:Raise the role of strategic marketing in your practice to a conscious level. Get it on the agenda and apply your smarts to it, just like you do with any other crucial aspect of your business.Create a niche for your practice you cannot be all things to all people. However just because you enjoy working with a particular market or prefer a special approach, it doesnt mean your target clients will. You need to understand the difference between a good niche and a bad niche, and strategize accordingly. Lynda Falkensteins NicheCraft is an excellent source of ideas.Position yourself to others through their worldview, not yours. Instead of saying, "Im a strategy consultant," start with "I help (Fortune 500) companies (increase market share)." Obviously youd tailor the statement to fit who you help and what problem you address, but you get the idea. For tons of information on how to get this right, Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing is the guru on what he calls creating an "audiologo."Develop a system of marketing strategies that both attracts new clients and helps you retain the ones you have. Start with the metrics of what you want to change or improve in your practice and tie the system to driving those metrics.Develop an action plan that translates your marketing system into specific tasks, with real assignments, deliverables, and deadlines.Commit to and put a system in place to keep you on track and motivated as you work through your plan. Build non-billable time into your business model dedicated to marketing. A rule of thumb is at least 20% of your firms time should be allocated to marketing.Get expert help and resources for any of these suggestions, including implementation. For many professional service firms, this requires getting away for a day or two of focused thinking and discussion among key people. When you consider that stakes, its well worth the time and effort.There are actually two more "ps" in marketing. Intelligent, effective marketing requires a great deal of patienceand the ability to see this not as a series of transactions completed in a few weeks or even months, but as a relationship-building process with your current and future clients over time.Marketing really is a life-skill and something to learn as one of your core competencies as an educated professional. Now thats being smart!ReferencesArgyris, C. "Teaching Smart People How to Learn," Harvard Business Review, May-June 1991.Falkenstein, L. NicheCraft. New York: HarperCollins. 1996.Middleton, R. "InfoGuru Marketing Manual." Action Plan Marketing. 2002.

3 Foolproof Ways To Soar Through A Recession

3 Foolproof Ways To Soar Through A Recession

Winners are ALWAYS looking for ways to grow their business. They trust their company, trust their customers to come through for them, and realize that a financial crunch offers advantages that aren't available during better economic times. 1. Get More For Your Advertising BucksWhen the economy makes a turn for the worse, it just makes sense that your advertising will give less of a return than during and economic boon. Sure there's a lot less money being spent, but you don't have to have to watch your profit margin plummet!Think about it... advertisers are feeling the recession just as much as you are, and are more desperate for clients. It's the perfect atmosphere to negotiate your way to lower costs - even if you are already getting a good price. Every advertising penny you can save, is that much more profit you'll earn on the products.Have you thought about getting free publicity? Local newspapers are always looking for something of local interest. Make the news! Publicity is free, but a wonderful way to get your business in front of potential clients.Do your advertisements really need to be as big as they are? We tend to think the big is better, but the facts are that short ads with 11 words or less often generate higher response than large ads. Give it a try, and trim some costs right off your advertising bill.2. Take Advantage Of Big Ticket SalesNot all of your customers suffer during recession. Remember that there are always people who are thriving financially, so don't be afraid to make big ticket sales offers. Additionally, when money is tight, people who place a lot of stock in your product will value it even more.Think about ways to create products similar to yours, but with much higher prices. Internet marketers often create members only sites and sell their products at much higher prices. Hey, they'll obviously make fewer sales, but the people who really value the product will buy. Each sale will net an immensely higher profit. Think about it like this... even though the sales are fewer, the actual profit may be even greater than when it was sold at a lower price.3. Maximize The Customers You HaveYour customers already know that you have great products and provide satisfactory service. They trust you to come through for them. Think about it... it's much easier to make sales to someone you already have a relationship with.Use every opportunity to increase your sales volume within the customer audience you already have. Do you have a product that goes with the one they are purchasing? Offer it to them at the register. It's a proven and effective method for increasing sales. You may be shocked at the additional sales you can generate from those who are already buying from you.

Marketing To Generation X

Marketing To Generation X

If you're trying to market to adults who are now in their thirties, then you need to understand the best method for reaching generation X. Who is Generation X? Gen Xers were born between 1965 - 1976 and make up about 17% of the U.S. population. As a whole, this group is both independent and skeptical, existing in the shadow of Baby Boomers. As this group moves into their mid 30s and 40s, Gen Xers are establishing themselves as consumers who are starting families and buying homes. Gen Xers grew up with recessions, single-parent households, cable TV, the Internet and other personal technology. Consequently, this group consumes media differently than earlier generations. Communicating with them through traditional marketing channels can be difficult. So, how can you reach these groups, communicate your message, and get them to take action? The answer is more traditional than you think. In combination with online marketing, direct mail is one of the most powerful ways to market to Gen X. According to a recent study conducted by InnoMedia, NuStats, and Vertis, 86% of Gen Xers bring in the mail the day it's delivered. Furthermore, 68% of Gen X retail direct mail readers have used coupons received in the mail. Gen X consumers rate 75% of the mail they receive as valuable. To reach Gen X with direct mail, there are number of basic marketing practices you should keep in mind. Before discussing these tips, keep in mind that your direct mail efforts can be supplemented with online marketing in the form of targeted site advertising, key word buys, or perhaps giving consumers a reason to visit you online via email (contests, sweepstakes, discounts, etc.).Direct Mail is most effective when you understand your audience, time your campaign appropriately, provide a compelling offer, and develop a relevant message. AudienceKnowing your audience is essential for the success of any direct marketing campaign. Having information about Gen Xers in general terms is a place to start, but you need to dig deeper and develop a fuller understanding of the segment. You should know what motivates them, what their greatest pains are, their latent needs, and what products or solutions they currently use. Once you've gotten to know your audience, other marketing criteria can fall into place. TimingCommunicating your message at the right time can make all the difference in your marketing results. For example, selling tax software immediately after April 15th won't produce the results you're looking for. Therefore, you need to have an understanding of your audience's timeline and when they are in the market to buy your product or service. Be sure to reach them with enough time to respond to your offer, but don't leave it open ended. OfferMany consumers need a reason to buy, especially Gen Xers who are normally skeptical. Your offer should provide some benefit to the buyer as well as provide some level of comfort in moving forward with a purchase. This can be in the form of a satisfaction guarantee or something similar. One great technique is to place your offer on the outside of the envelope that contains your marketing materials. This can help to differentiate your mail and get your envelope opened by prospects. MessageYour message needs to resonate with prospective buyers. Do you understand their needs? Have you communicated benefits as well as features? Are you solving a problem for them? Have you provided a simple, yet compelling message? Many direct marketers talk about the "long" letter versus the "short" letter. There are a number of studies that validate the use of both long a short letters in a direct marketing pieces. As long as your message resonates with buyers, it doesn't matter how long it is. Be sure to test your messages on an ongoing basis. If you're marketing to Generation X, use direct mail in your marketing mix. Individuals in these groups respond to direct mail. Keep in mind however, that a direct marketing piece should be supplemented with other forms of marketing - Internet marketing, search engine optimization, advertising, etc. Direct mail is your key to success with Generations X when used as the main vehicle of your marketing campaign.

Interesting Preliminary Results On Headlines

Soon, Ill do a large study on headlines using a list of profitable and unprofitable sites. However, I have been running some split tests and have seen some interesting results in the last week or so. The sample size is small (3 sites), but all three split tests agreed on the following factors:1. Blue (#000080) is winning over black by a small margin on all three sites. I hadnt expected that. I use dark blue just because I like it and the large study showed that any dark color was fine as long as it wasnt red. Green just never appealed to me and I wanted some color in my sales letter, so Ive been going with that dark blue. Because darkness was important in the large study, I expected black to win over blue. Its a nice result to see that Im not doing the 2nd place thing in this case.2. Serif fonts (Times New Roman in the tests) are winning over sans-serif fonts (Arial in the tests). That makes no sense to me. Everyone knows that headlines should be sans-serif and regular text should be serif; right? Thats just basic typography info. In fact, I think sans-serif fonts were specifically created for headlines. Well; it appears that isnt the case for sales copy. Times New Roman is winning over Ariel in number of conversions in three different split tests.3. Ive been using size 6 fonts for headlines. Its a fairly large size and it just feels right. Size 7 is just too large. Not so say the split test results. Size 7 has an average of 24% more conversions than size 6 in the split tests Ive been performing.Ill eventually do a real study on a few thousand profitable and unprofitable sites and have a conclusive answer to all three of the above questions.I thought you might find the results interesting as I did though, so there you go for what its worth.

What's So Great About Popup Displays

PopUp Displays are currently the most common form of low priced trade show and event display. A Popup Display is not a trade show "booth" as much as it is a backdrop or background wall for your display area. A popup display normally has only two main components, with two or three other optional accessories. The most substantial part of a popup display is the folding frame which is normally made of either fibreglass or aluminum tubes. The frame serves as a skeleton that you cover with display panels either velcro-ready fabric panels, or graphic panels made of a material like Duralex which are lexan panels that have already been printed, normally using a high resolution large format printing process. Before the frame is made to "popup", it comes folded down to a unit approximately 8" square by 30" wide. When it is unfolded, the frame "pops up" to a skeleton approximately 8' (or 10') wide by usually) about 8' high. This frame normally weighs about 15 lbs. and is stable enough to just sit on the floor without any anchoring or external support. For exact specifications and measurements, see the links below. The panels (either fabric panels or graphic panels) are normally about 30" wide by 8' high. There are usually either 4 or 5 panels required to cover the frame, with extra "end cap" panels made of the same material to wrap around the ends of the frame. These panels are flexible enough to be rolled up so they fit in the lightweight carrying case. They are normally adhered to the frame by means of magentic strips applied to their back surface. These are attracted to the magnetized bars that are part of the skeleton frame. Once the panels are applied to the frame, it gains even greater stability. If your popup display has duralex graphic panels, then the display is complete once the panels are applied to the frame. If you use the more generic fabric panels, then you will probably have a number of graphics that are adhered to the fabric with velcro strips. These graphics can be duralex (as above), flexible vinyl essentially indoor vinyl banners or posters (display prints) printed on paper and laminated so they are both flexible and durable. Often, the display is finished off with two or three halogen lights that are attached at the top of the frame and illuminate your graphics. The entire display frame, magnetic bars, fabric and graphic panels, and lights can be packaged up in a sturdy, lightweight carrying case with wheels. The carrying case often doubles as a display counter or podium with its own special top (normally an optional accessory) and wrap around graphics (also optional). A normal case for an 8' or 10' display is small enough to fit in the trunk or back seat of most cars, and normally weighs around 40 lbs., depending on the type of graphics and accessories included. This makes it light enough to be easily moved around by most people. A normal popup display can be assembled by one person of average height in about 20 minutes. If you are shorter than about 5'6" you may need a small ladder to reach the top. Normally a chair works too. If a popup display seems like overkill, or if you think you will be in situations where setting up a popup display will be difficult or impractical, you may want to consider an alternative like a Banner Stand or retractable Jiffy Roll. These units come in their own lightweight "over the shoulder" carrying cases and can normally be set up in less than one or two minutes.

Summary

You can learn many things you didn't know about your business by getting valuable feedback from your customers. Your customers may buy your main product just to get the free gifts. Your visitors may think it's to hard to navigate through your web site.By knowing this type of important information you can improve your web site, products/services, advertising, and marketing. Below are nine techniques you can use to get valuable feedback from your customers.-Use surveys ...