Monday, August 13, 2018

3 Ways To Rethink Customer Relationships In The Age Of The Consumer

I think we can all agree that the world of buying and selling today looks drastically different than it did as little as 10 or 15 years ago. With the advent of the internet and the proliferation of content, consumers are more informed than ever. And the byproduct of this easily accessible information? A shift in the balance of power in the brand-consumer relationship.

Early in my book, “Top of Mind,” I talk about how this shift has necessitated the transition from “Me Marketing” to “You Marketing.” Instead of only considering their brand, their product, and their pitch, businesses are building trust with audiences by taking a more customer-centric approach — essentially shifting their messages from being all about them to being all about the audience.

These days, pushing a message out will only get you so far. Instead, companies must focus on all the ways they can help customers, drawing prospects in when they’re ready to convert and retaining them once they do.

It sounds intuitive because it reflects the way most of us prefer to interact with brands. But actually implementing a plan to act on it is another story. Below are three tips to help you rethink your relationships with your audience members and succeed in the age of the consumer.

1. Prioritize the post-sale experience.

A lot of companies have an obsession with landing sales. This mindset is understandable, given that even the best product or service will completely flop without customers. The problem arises when companies become obsessed with always trying to get more new customers and fail to invest in the experiences of the customers they already have.

Growth and success are about more than landing new clients; they’re also about retaining current ones. According to McKinsey, “even small differences in net-revenue churn have very real implications for a company’s top line.” In fact, a 5 percent increase in customer retention rates can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent.

Taking care of the customers you already have is a win-win. By improving retention rates, you’re simultaneously driving new business.

2. Focus on customer success over customer service.

It’s mind-blowing how many companies resort to a reactive customer service approach. This traditional method of customer support naturally highlights problem areas because customers don’t interact with your brand until they’re having an issue.

No business is perfect, but if you spend all your time putting out fires, you'll have a hard time demonstrating how easy it is for your customers to work with you to reach their goals. A proactive approach focused on truly helping your customers succeed and adding value to your relationships with them can turn an entire business around.

When interactions with customers focus on helping them achieve as much as possible — as opposed to quickly fixing a problem to quell a complaint — they’re bound to be much more positive. In the long term, this can strengthen your relationships and highlight opportunities for revenue growth.

3. Use the right tools and resources.

Hopefully, you’re starting to understand the value of a customer success methodology over one centered around customer service, but if you think you’re going to clap your hands and simply proclaim the change in your organization, you’re mistaken. To really make the shift, you’re going to need the right tools.

One place to start is by taking advantage of customer success platforms such as Gainsight that leverage predictive analytics to monitor customer health. Managing relationships effectively is incredibly valuable, and using the right tools can help you maximize customer lifetime value.

Your company content is another essential tool, so consider updating your content marketing strategy to align with a customer success mentality. This means retiring those traditional Me Marketing tactics that put you ahead of your customers and focusing on providing authentic, educational resources to your audience. This kind of content not only helps you continue to attract new customers, but it also helps your current customers get the most value out of working with you — effectively killing two birds with one stone.

In business and in life, we tend to follow tried-and-true approaches, but sometimes this limits our growth potential by enforcing certain boundaries. The most common interpretation of customer service has been around for years, but it’s time for a change. By making a commitment to put customers first and ensure that they know how to take full advantage of what you have to offer, you’re making an investment that will ultimately benefit your business.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

The Dos And Don'ts Of Growing Your Small Business

Learn the best ways to grow your business.

Growing your business is an exciting task. It means customers are receiving your business well and you’re bringing in a profit.

But, growing your business can be intimidating. Many things have the potential to go wrong. That’s why you need a plan. When you know what to do and what to avoid, you can avoid stumbling.

Use the following seven dos and don’ts to successfully grow your business.

1. Do Your Research

Before you even start growing your business, you need to do some research. You need to know what your business is capable of doing with its money and other resources available.

Assess your business. Look at all the analytics, stats, and accounting records that are available to you. Analyze how your business has done in the past. And when possible, make projections of how you think your business will do in the future, such as sales projections.

You might also consider talking to business advisors, accountants, and lawyers. These experts can help you make good decisions about your business’s future. It’ll cost money to get their input, but this added research can point you in the right direction.

2. Do Set Goals

As you are growing your business, you need to have goals that you try to hit. Without goals, you can’t possibly know if your business is improving. When you have goals, you have something to strive for. You know if you are headed in the right direction or not.

When you set goals, create SMART goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. These standards will make sure the goals are realistic and possible.

3. Don’t Do Everything

When you’re growing your business, you might become protective. You might want to do everything yourself to protect your business from outsiders and big changes. But, this protection could hurt your business.

If you try to do everything yourself, you can become burnt out. And without outside input, you might not have the necessary creativity to grow your business.

You have people you can rely on to help you get things done. Your employees can do many of the tasks in your business. You can hire independent contractors to help. You might also seek help from business experts and local business owners who already have experience with what you’re trying to do.

4. Don’t Rely On Informal Agreements

Always put your business agreements in writing. You can’t rely on informal, verbal agreements. Having written agreements ensures that everyone keeps their promises and gets what they want. 

You should create written agreements when working with business partners, lenders, and other businesses.

5. Do Get Feedback From Customers

Your customers are a perfect group to get feedback from to learn how you should grow your business. By getting to know your customers, you learn what they want. Their feedback can give you an exact direction to take your business. You can discover what to grow and what products and services your customers really want.

Ask your customers for feedback. You can ask them to submit reviews and answer surveys. If possible, you might also interview some candidates so you can delve deeper into their wants and pain points.

6. Do Look For New Customers

It’s important to keep your current customers happy as you grow. But, it’s also important to search for new customers. Without new customers to buy your new products and services, your business profits won’t grow.

A market analysis can help you identify new customers. You can discover where they live, work, and hang out to better market to them. You might also learn what social media and other sites they use so you can target them online.

Find people who are similar to your current customers. You might also add new products or services that fit with your business but will also attract new customers.

7. Don’t Rush The Hiring Process

As your business grows, you will likely need to hire more employees. But, you should not rush the hiring process simply to fill positions. If you rush the hiring process, you might hire the wrong people.

Before you start the hiring process, make sure you know what position you want to fill. Create a job description and list the required skills and qualifications. You might think the job description is to attract candidates, but it also helps you narrow down what you are looking for.

When you do post the job and start interviewing, don’t be quick to hire the first person you interview. A bad hiring decision can set you back. Don’t invest your time into someone who isn’t right for the job or will quickly leave. Waiting for a good candidate is worth it.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

The 16 Most Important Email Marketing Tips For Small Businesses

As a small business owner in a digital age, you understand the importance of generating new leads and keeping your prospects engaged at every opportunity online.

One of the best ways to do this in terms of measurable results and ROI is by running targeted email marketing campaign.

Today, with the abundance of email marketing services that are out there, sending regular communications to finely-tuned audiences doesn’t need to break the bank or give you a headache in setup and execution. Even if email marketing isn’t always a walk in the park, and does require an approach all of its own.

Get ahead of your competition and ensure your emails hit the right note with their recipients by following these 16 tips.

Before You Begin

1. Have a clear goal in mind (plan your customers’ journeys)

First and foremost, before you even consider an email marketing campaign in structure, you need to have a clear goal in mind. At the end of the day, your emails are being sent with one overriding objective (no matter how far off), to nurture leads into sales.

In effect, anyone who subscribes to your email database is embarking on a sales journey which, hopefully, will result in them hitting the ‘buy’ button with you.

To ensure your emails are right on the money and optimized accordingly, it is important to map this journey out and then create email marketing messaging around it.

2. Make subscribing (and unsubscribing) easy

It may sound obvious, but you’re going to get far more subscribers if you make the subscribing process as easy as possible. Some businesses don’t even feature a subscribe box on their websites, instead choosing to sign people up offline/in-store.

By not having an obvious subscription box on your website, you are missing out on countless opportunities.

Your subscription box should also be as simple as possible. That’s because people are more likely to sign up if all they have to do is enter their first name and email address.

Likewise, you should include a simple unsubscribe option in every email you send. Nothing annoys consumers more than not being able to remove themselves from a company’s email list.

Tip: For more on this be sure to read the very last section in this piece about GDPR. It’s extremely important.

3. Let people know what to expect

Whether you intend to send company updates, special offers or simply promote your blog posts, you must tell people what to expect before they sign up. Those last four words are in bold because this is actually a GDPR requirement.

But aside from it being the law, it’s also just courteous. By providing as much information as possible you are giving your visitors an informed choice. This alone will reduce the chances of them unsubscribing in the future.

4. Offer an incentive

Ask yourself, why should someone give me their email address? What’s in it for them?

The bottom line is there’s nothing wrong with offering an incentive for people to subscribe to your newsletter and doing so will boost the chances of them signing up.

The best part is that an incentive doesn’t need to cost too much either. A free eBook, discount voucher or raffle entry are all perfectly acceptable incentives and could be the difference between securing a sign up or not.

5. Segment your lists and market them accordingly

Once your email lists start to grow, you’ll want to start segmenting them so you can effectively market to each one separately.

Now you may be wondering why this is so important, especially as it’s going to involve more work in the long run. The answer is simple: purely because all of your subscribers are different. For example, you wouldn’t send the same marketing email to a 70-year-old woman that you would to an 18-year-old man. Well you might, but it wouldn’t be particularly effective for at least one of the recipients.

Look to segment your lists by age, gender, location, previous purchases, whatever. Doing so will enable you to effectively target your audience and drive more ROI as a result.

Now For The Actual Emails

6. Design your emails around your brand

Chances are you’ve already got an established brand voice and associated visual imagery. The last thing you want to do is ignore these in your email marketing.

Create templates that include your logo, colors, and are consistent with the rest of your image/brand. This not only leaves nothing to the imagination in terms of where the email came from, but also instils confidence from the start.

7. Test, test, and test again

Unfortunately, with an email, once you’ve hit send it’s almost immediately delivered to the recipient’s inbox. And while there are delay features to reduce the chances of you sending something that’s not quite right, they are not infallible.

That’s why you need to test your campaigns before you even contemplate sending them.

What looks okay on your computer might look terrible on someone else’s – different screen sizes, different browsers, and even different user preferences can all make your meticulously designed newsletter look awful.

It’s also a good idea to test your newsletter on Internet connections of varying speeds. That big image which loads fast on your corporate Internet pipe might die a death on a lesser connection. Eliminate all these risks through rigorous testing.

8. Mobile-friendly is a must

Your testing should also include checking how your newsletter/email campaign displays on a mobile device (tablet, smartphone, etc.). If it doesn’t, don’t bother sending at all.

According to Adestra, mobile accounts for 61% of email opens (15% desktop and 24% webmail client) [source: emailmonday]. Furthermore, 3 in 5 consumers check their email on the go on their mobile devices and three-quarters (75%) say they use their smartphones most often to check email.

If those stats alone don’t highlight the need to test mobile compatibility I don’t know what will.

In short, if your email campaign isn’t optimized for mobile and/or doesn’t display correctly on a much smaller screen, you’re doomed before you even start.

9. Make your emails easy to read/scan

Sticking with the theme of user experience, your email should be easy to digest. That means no walls of large text and definitely plenty of subheadings and images. Moreover, people reading it on the go will likely scan its content, so facilitate that with your content structure.

Your subscribers are busy people, so don’t consume too much of their time with an email that’s off-putting as soon as they open it. A short teaser/summary of what follows is a nice element to add at the top.

Remember, your subscribers inevitably get lots of emails every day, so assume you haven’t got their undivided attention and that you need to earn it to keep it every time you email them.

10. Have an irresistible subject line

Again, following on from the previous tip, this one is crucial for boosting the chances of your email piquing the recipient’s interest and triggering them to open it.

An irresistible subject line isn’t something that always comes easily. Some marketers spend huge amounts of time coming up with ideas and A/B test them to determine effectiveness. The trick is to be unique and (somehow) make the recipient feel as though they’d be missing out if they didn’t open your email – easier said than done, right?

11. Include links to your social profiles

By including links to your social media profiles in your emails, you encourage engagement and build consumer-brand trust. In a world of social media omnipresence that just makes sense when you think about it.

Your subscribers have proactively signed up to receive emails from you. In other words they are (in theory) interested in what you have to say, so it stands to reason that what’s happening on your social media accounts would interest them too.

It may be the case that your email subscribers didn’t even know you were on social media, so kill two birds with one stone by always including them (clearly) in every email you send.

12. Be personal

When it comes to the tone and style of your emails, always keep it friendly. Email is a very personal communication method and since they usually go from one person to another, recipients expect human voices.

Also, it’s highly likely that they’ve already given you their first name so use it when you address them. It’s amazing how much more engaging an email is when it speaks to an individual directly.

Keep your correspondence informal and really build a strong, prosperous relationship with your subscribers.

13. Check it yourself, have it proofread by others

Have you ever received a marketing email or a newsletter from a large company and noticed a glaring spelling mistake? It doesn’t happen very often because these companies check their email outreach with a fine-toothed comb. But when it does it reeks of unprofessionalism.

As mentioned, emails go directly into a person’s inbox, so spotting a mistake after you’ve hit send is simply too late. And while the odd spelling mistake isn’t exactly the end of the world, it does speak volumes about you as a company in terms of how meticulous and conscientious you are.

Remember, grammar and style are just as important in your emails as they are your blog content and marketing literature.

14. Send a welcome email

I’m a big fan of welcome emails. They serve two main purposes: (a) they act as a nice introduction and allow you to thank people for subscribing (b) they provide the subscriber with an early opportunity to unsubscribe. Now while that second purpose may sound decidedly counter-intuitive, there’s no point in having people on your list who simply aren’t interested in what you’ve got to say. It’s one of the downfalls of offering free incentives.

On the other hand, your welcome email can also be used to send the subscriber a special offer or point them to some more exclusive content as a way of saying ‘thank you’.

15. Be consistent (utilize an editorial calendar)

If you’ve told people you are going to send them a newsletter or email on a monthly basis, follow through with your promise and do just that. A publishing calendar is excellent at helping you combine email outreach with a coordinated content calendar, you’ll know ahead of time exactly what you’re sending and when.

The problem with going several months without sending anything at all is that you run the risk of your subscribers forgetting about you. Then when you do send something there’s a strong chance they’ll simply ignore it or, even worse, mark it as spam.

16. Analyze and optimize

Finally, in the same way you would for any new business initiative, you need to evaluate the performance of your newsletters/email campaigns are and optimize them accordingly as they need it.

Four important things to monitor:

  • Open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Unsubscribe rates
  • User action rates

Try to identify any patterns that affect (both positively and negatively) your open and click-through rates. If you get a high number of unsubscribes following a particular email, consider changing your approach in your next one. Most of all, every email should have a definitive purpose – to attract website traffic, drive a sales, build social engagement – so make sure user action is getting monitored and improved to deliver true email marketing ROI.

A final (quick) word about GDPR

The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on May 25, 2018. And even if you are a US-based organization, it is still likely to have implications for you. That’s because as well as encompassing all businesses operating within the EU, GDPR also applies to businesses that offer goods or services to customers or other businesses in the EU. In other words, if you have just one person on your email list who is based in the EU (or you might in the future), GDPR applies to you.

When it comes to email marketing and GDPR, you need to be aware of the following as a minimum:

Never trick someone into giving up their email address
Always highlight how their email address will be used e.g. for newsletters, marketing purposes, special offers, etc.
Make sure there’s a clear, affirmative action. For example, a box they have to tick (not one that’s pre-ticked) to explicitly say they want to hear from you
Provide an easy way to unsubscribe at any time.
The penalties for breaching GDPR guidelines are severe, which is why you need to be on top of them at all times.

Wrapping Up

While some people will (wrongly) tell you that email marketing has had its day, the reality is that it’s still one of the best ways to keep customers informed and prospects engaged.

And yet it’s an increasingly tough nut to crack because people don’t just give their email addresses to anyone, which is why you should make the most of every single one you obtain.

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Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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How 3 Simple Strategies Attract More Clients Into Your Business

It has never been easier to launch a business, but how do you attract endless clients and customers? In the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, Airbnb founder Brian Chesky said, “we are in a world where people can become businesses in 60 seconds.” Shifting trends, such as globalization, give us access to the top quality talent around the globe. The Information Age allows us to access answers to almost any question imaginable with a few clicks of a keyboard. Technology offers access and automation, often for free. According to futurist Peter Diamandis, “As individuals, we are now able to do what only large corporations and governments could do 20 years ago.” In fact, 33% of US workers have made money in what analysts call the YouEconomy. Serial entrepreneur Mel Robbins, author of The Five-Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence With Everyday Courage, is adamant that we step into the YouEconomy sooner rather than later. We can make extra money on the side, or replace a 9 to 5 income with our own businesses. The opportunity is great if we know how to take advantage of it.

According to SUCCESS Magazine, here are seven key ways to get involved in the YouEconomy, step into greater ownership of our lives and create a blueprint for a brighter financial future:

Sharing: Feel like earning extra money in a side hustle? Download an app and get started. Lyft and Airbnb offer you the opportunity to set your hours of availability and your earning potential.

Education: Everyone is an expert in something. Create a digital course that sells your expertise or offer workshops for companies and organizations yourself. This one-to-many business model could offer a low-overhead, high-profit-margin option and this allows others to benefit from your knowledge.

Platform: Build a platform that allows others to set up YouEconomy businesses under your umbrella. CrateJoy and CreativeLive are examples of tech-based platforms with high scalability potential.

Gig: Have marketable skills to share? Companies such as The Upside, Upwork, and Power To Fly offer professionals competitive rates for flexible work options, often from home. Whereas Handy, and Thumbtack allow you to access clients and customers who need your services and perhaps bid for the project.

Direct Selling: Want a low barrier to entry with a proven model? According to Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad and 21st Century Business, network marketing is a promising option for individuals now and in the future. You can promote science-backed, high-quality products as an extra income or make millions with this scalable business venture.

Online Marketing: Already have a platform, such as a thriving Instagram account or popular blog? Leverage your hard-earned community to start an online marketing business selling other products and services as an affiliate. Amazon is a great example of this business model, which is available for individuals, also.

Entrepreneurship: Ready to take the leap? You can purchase a franchise or create a custom business selling products and services online or in a brick and mortar store. The only limit is your imagination and skill set.

According to the Kauffman startup index, 550,000 companies are launching every single month. Although launching a YouEconomy business takes seconds, there is often a gap between start and success. For example, with millions of competitors vying for clients and customers, how do you differentiate yourself in a sea of similar options?

If you feel like you are struggling to find a way to stand out, position yourself as the go-to candidate, or become a household name, the secret lies in the art of visibility.

In future articles, I will expand on each of the categories below. For now, here are 3 fundamental strategies to set yourself apart, attract more clients and customers, and position yourself for success:

  1. Lead with empathy: As a member of the YouEconomy, you are a solution-creator. Successful businesses solve real problems that real people have. Data-driven big companies may satisfy stakeholders and investors, but YouEconomy entrepreneurs need to remember their customer’s emotion. Listen and get to know your customer like a close friend. Take notes on the struggles that they express. Those struggles ensure your business success if you solve them appropriately. Build a communication strategy to reach and resonate with your audience from a place of empathy.
  2. Secure testimonials: Your business grows when your prospects know you have something they need and they trust you enough to work with you. According to Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room.” Secure testimonials from clients, customers, and leaders in your industry to make yourself as an industry expert. (Even better if they are in video format.) Testimonies should demonstrate results, affiliation, and credibility, which will convert to business growth.
  3. Generate visibility: No one can buy from you if they do not know you exist. The primary goal of media and publicity is amplification and social proof. Visibility allows you to stand out in a crowded marketplace; whether through paid or earned media, it is a critical component to business success. Getting featured in the media should be a consistent part of your growth strategy. By raising visibility, you can connect with a broader audience, capture their attention, and convert them into clients and customers.

I am an award-winning visibility strategist who helps people package and share their message for maximum impact. Get my 5 Proven Pitch Templates here.

Image Credit: Unsplash

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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