Connecting Your Brand With Your Customers

Connecting Your Brand With Your Customers

No business starts with the mission of becoming run of the mill and ordinary. But somewhere along the way, after the excitement wears off and the daily routines take over, some businesses seem to lose their way.

Running and managing a business isn’t for the faint of heart.

The daily tasks of keeping the operation flowing smoothly and bringing in enough revenue to keep the lights on while managing customer demands has a way of making one forget about the dream of creating an extraordinary business.

But the reality is that the customers of today want more than just a product or service. They want an experience. Simple delivery of goods and services may bring a customer in, but it takes more effort to turn that buyer into a steady client who will come back often.

Businesses that provide a way for the customer to feel like they’re part of something special (and maybe even a little extraordinary) attract the kind of clients who not only return themselves but also refer others to enjoy the same level of service they loved.

People have a way of flocking to businesses that give them this type of unexpected experience.

Who wants to go somewhere ordinary when they can experience a business that makes them feel wanted and special? Most people expect average, so when they find a business that goes above and beyond, they don’t need prompting to refer others.

Being different and offering an experience in addition to products and services doesn’t have to be difficult. It only requires that you stand apart from your competitors. Sometimes all that takes are some simple tweaks.

Going above and beyond might be as simple as the presentation you make when you deliver your products and services. The Apple iPhone is just a smartphone. However, from the product announcement down to the packaging, the stage is set that you’re about to experience something extraordinary.

How can you package what you sell in a way that sets you apart?

When you give your customers the expectation that they’re part of something special (a fun company that makes them feel exclusive), then you’ve gone from an ordinary company with a logo to a brand that connects with its clients.

Customers connect with brands that make them feel special. The revenue and profits flow naturally when you can achieve that level of branding.

Here at Print & Copy Factory, we go a long way to help you keep your brand consistent with all of your marketing materials.   We may not be the cheapest printer in town, but – the care it takes to help you build your business with consistent marketing materials, marketing messages and strategies is priceless. If you would like to know more about how we can help you with your branding, come to our marketing classes. Contact us at work, 360-738-4931 and talk to Becky.

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6 Ways to Ramp Up Your Referral Marketing

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to grow a business is through strong referrals. Whether these referrals come to you through a system you have in place or because of the solid reputation your business has built over the years, each referral is a precious gift. You have one chance to turn this opportunity into a client who will in turn refer others to your business.

If you drop the ball in some way, not only will you lose this chance for new business, but you could also discourage others from referring business to you. Therefore, you must handle these warm leads with extreme care. Here are six key steps to consider as you guide a referral into becoming a real customer.

    1. Respond quickly. Nothing will stop a referral process faster than slow response and showing a lack of urgency in communication. Lead360 conducted a study of 25 million data points which showed that successful conversion rates are 391% higher when a lead is called back within a minute, 120% within two minutes, 98% within three minutes, 62% in under thirty minutes, and 36% in under an hour. Clearly calling back and following up with referrals quickly is the first and most important part of the process.
    2. Gather information and qualify. Once contact has been made, it’s time to gather any necessary information to make sure there’s a good fit between what the referral is looking for and what you can provide. Having relevant, open-ended questions to ask will help you find what you’re looking for while at the same time establishing your expertise in helping solve client problems. This is the time to develop insight into the scope of the opportunity and key factors.
    3. Be the expert. Once you’ve established that the referral is a good fit for your business, it’s time to do your homework. You must spend a little time to learn about the referral’s business. The more you learn about what your prospect is looking to solve, the better you can prepare a solution. This in turn will position you as the expert who took the time to present a customized solution when your competitors offered a generic, cookie-cutter bid.
    4. Make your offer stand out. The best way to make your offer stand out is by adding value. People like to buy, but they don’t like to be sold to. You can add value and help your offer stand apart by helping a referral evaluate your capability and see their problem clearer. Relevant, simple, and insightful information that helps your prospect will lead them to buy much more readily than if they feel they are being sold to.
    5. Use technology. As great as your memory may be, relying on the old pen-and-paper system is just asking for trouble. The way to truly systematize the referral process is by using a CRM system that can help you track your referrals. Determine if the software will help you give the prospects the experience you set in your action plan. But remember that technology can only go so far. Sure, it can help you manage the referrals, but converting those leads into customers takes the human touch that only you can provide. There are two great popular programs,   SAGE ACT  http://www.act.com/   and SalesForce  http://www.salesforce.com/
    6. Create a powerful experience. Turning a referral into a client can be as simple as contacting them quickly with information they’re seeking. However, the real secret to make them truly want to do business with you on a consistent basis is to create a “wow” experience. Your “wow” experience doesn’t have to be complex.
      Building it can be as simple as: 
      • Responding to inquiries within 30 minutes
      • Offering a small gift or thank you note for contacting you
      • Sending a small gift or thank you to the person who made the referral
      • Delivering a professionally prepared, customized solution with clear information
      • Following up after the sale to answer any questions
      • Being persistent without being a pest

Turning referrals into customers is not an act of magic or accomplished through luck. It’s done by developing an action plan and by implementing the plan. Keep track, stay organized, and monitor the process. Referral marketing can be a gift that keeps on giving, but only if it’s treated with the care and respect it deserves.

6 Steps to a Referral Strategy

6-steps-to referral=-strategyReferrals are one of the best ways for growing a small business, yet most companies have no formal process in place to make sure this great source for quality leads continues.

Waiting for leads to fall in your lap is not a systematic referral-generation strategy! Some people feel guilty about asking for referrals because they falsely believe they are simply asking for favors. The truth is, if you believe that the products and services you provide deliver real value to people and will benefit those who use them, you’re the one who’s doing the favor in asking for referrals… not the other way around. Achieving that mentality is the first step toward building a solid foundation for your lead-generating referral system.

Here are six steps to turn up your referral-generation machine.

    1. Define your most ideal referral. Your chances of finding referrals increases if you know who you’re looking for. The tighter you can articulate the demographic characteristics of your most ideal referral, the better. What are their business needs? What problems do they have that you can solve?
    2. Team up with matching referral partners. After defining your ideal referral, identify who would be ideal referral partners for you. Who’s already doing business and in contact with people that fit your most ideal referral profile? Find ways to provide value for them and make it easy for them to refer you.
    3. Build a database. Create a contact list of potential referral sources and contacts. This can help you focus your referral-generating campaigns on people who can help you the most. Great communication starts with a focused list of ideal referral partners.
    4. Create an incentive. Most people want to help others. You can encourage them to do what they already want to do by giving them an incentive to refer you. Incentives can be something tangible like gift cards, discounts, commissions, and other perks. A simple thank you card and other positive reinforcement goes a long way to building the goodwill generated from helping others.
    5. Have a referral script. It’s comforting to know what you’re going to say ahead of time in asking for a referral. Your script should be adapted for face-to-face networking, email communication, phone conversations, and mailed letters. Practice until it becomes natural and not forced.
    6. Set goals. An effective system includes a way to measure it. Setting referral goals and tracking results weekly is a great way to build and sustain continual momentum. Tracking your referrals also allows you to see how many referrals it takes to get one new client.

No system works without action. Start your referral-generating system by implementing and tracking the results. Ask your current network for referrals. This will give you something to build on. As you practice and gain confidence, refine your tactics and branch out to get referrals from other sources. It’s easier than you think.

Where are the budding stars at your company?

Superstar_employees

The answer is simple: They’re everywhere. And it’s up to you to find them.

In his biography of Bill Russell, author Murry R. Nelson writes about the NBA legend’s athletic struggles in high school and about one teacher/coach who helped to bring out the best in the young man others had overlooked and taken for granted.

After failing to make the school’s football team, Russell decided to try out for basketball instead. There were 15 spots available on the junior varsity team, and Russell, who had never played organized basketball before, was number 16 on the depth chart. But his coach “saw something in him as a person” and allowed him to split time with another player in order to make the team. He also helped Russell join the local Boys Club, where he could “practice his game on an indoor court.”

“In return for the faith and ‘investment’ [the coach] made in him,” Nelson writes, Russell “provided a constant drive and energy on the basketball court.” What’s more, he began practicing hard throughout the year and was able to make the varsity team his senior season.

Bill Russell would go on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, where he led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles over the course of 13 years.

Just as faith from a coach helped to mold a young Bill Russell’s career path, guidance and mentoring are valuable training tools in business, too. Providing team members with the resources and skills training needed to succeed at their jobs can make a difference not only for the individuals you’re helping but also for the company (and team) as a whole. After all, who knows what potential “all-stars” might be waiting to be discovered on your team. All they need is a chance to shine.

Your VIP Clients

Even if you’ve already heard these statistics before or intuitively know them to be true based on your own experience, it may still be a bit startling to see them here again:

  • It can cost up to 7 times more to acquire one new customer than to keep a current one.
  • The likelihood of a prospect buying from you is between 5 and 20%. The likelihood of an existing customer buying from you again is between 60 and 70%.

Based on these numbers, it’s clear that nurturing and cultivating your existing client relationships can go a long way toward improving the health of your company’s bottom line. However, many companies devote most of their marketing budgets to new customer acquisition, rather than trying to keep existing customers coming back. New leads and customers are important, but your existing customers should also hold a very high place on your list of marketing priorities.

How can you keep customers coming back?redcarpet-for your customers

Sending simple thank you cards to show your appreciation is one idea. A monthly printed newsletter that informs, educates, and entertains is another. Picking up the phone and having a real conversation is perhaps the least expensive, yet most powerful way to retain existing clients.

There are many ways to show your appreciation, but timing is essential if you want to maximize the effect. The first 30 to 90 days after your new customer comes on board is the most important time to begin showing them your appreciation. If you haven’t done so already, create a blueprint for your remarkable customer experience plan that must be followed throughout your organization. Place one or two key people in charge of overseeing this plan to make sure it is implemented and followed through with every new customer.

This plan should have tasks and due dates attached for each activity. For example, your plan might call for a thank you card to be sent the day after a new customer comes on board. Gifts, lunches, coffee, phone calls, newsletters, and personal visits can all be part of the plan, as well. Make your customers feel like VIPs. Listen to their needs and respond quickly. What’s critical here is that you have a plan, that you have someone who is accountable for implementing the plan, and that you include due dates for each task in the plan.

Creating a remarkable customer experience can be as simple or as complex as you would like it to be. The more remarkable and unique you can make it, the more memorable the experience will be. The key is to have a plan and to always remember that it is much less expensive and profitable to keep an existing customer happy than it is to acquire a brand new customer.

5 Keys to Getting Past the Gatekeeper

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Keys to getting past the Gatekeeper!

In business, the term “gatekeeper” refers to the person who has the authority to control access to the decision maker in the company. The gatekeeper guards and monitors traffic to the person in charge. In most companies, getting an appointment with the decision maker requires getting past the gatekeeper.

Selling to the decision maker requires learning the art and skill of gracefully getting past the gatekeeper. Here are five keys to help you get started:

Key #1: Speak with authority.
Whether you’re the CEO of your company or not, you need to speak with confidence. You want to be perceived as a person of authority making the call. Speak with authority, assurance, and self-confidence. Gatekeepers are trained to keep salespeople out but are much more likely to let an authority figure through.

Key #2: The gatekeeper is your friend.
The gatekeeper can be your ally if you treat them with the utmost respect and courtesy. Remember that they have a job to do and that they may even have the power to make decisions on whether or not to buy. It’s vital to recognize from your first contact that dealing with a gatekeeper can be a make or break proposition.

Key #3: Ask for help.
Everyone likes to feel useful and helpful. People like to help others, but few like to help a salesman. Put yourself in the position of a person needing help instead of a pushy salesperson. You can quickly disarm a gatekeeper by asking questions to help both of you. You want to speak with the correct person, and they don’t want anyone wasting the time of the person they are protecting.

You can accomplish this by asking a simple question right at the beginning. For example, “I provide (your services) and believe that (decision maker’s name) is the person that I should be speaking with. Is that correct?”

By asking for help in this way, you have gotten to the point quickly and have empowered the gatekeeper to either begin the conversation by asking you to set an appointment or by directing you to the right person.

Key #4: Referrals are a big help.
Obviously, having a name to use as a referral to the decision maker can help pave the way in getting past the gatekeeper. Another, less used referral method occurs when you make an initial call to a company and someone informs you that you should be speaking with someone else (and gives you that person’s name). Using the name of the person you spoke with as a point of reference when calling the person they referred you to can help to break the ice and move you past the gatekeeper.

Key #5: Make it fun.
Very few people will admit that they actually enjoy making a cold call. You can help take the drudgery out of it by setting goals for yourself and building momentum from there. Begin by setting up a variety success metrics, such as finding the right decision maker’s name, determining the best times to call, leaving your name and number for a call back, and making a small connection or bonding with the gatekeeper. Success can mean more than getting through to the decision maker and setting up an appointment. Celebrate the smaller victories along the way.

There’s truth in the adage that cold calling is a numbers game. The more calls you can make, the more chances you’ll have of getting appointments and closing sales. Likewise, the more positive contacts you can make with a gatekeeper, the better your odds of turning that person into an ally who will let you through to the decision maker you’re hoping to reach.

What is Your Sales Process?

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You may have the greatest service or product in the world, but if you can’t sell it, how much good will that do?

The good news is that small improvements in your selling can have exponential effects on your bottom line. Focusing on the factors that can increase your selling efficiency or selling effectiveness will have a far greater impact than changing prices or reducing overhead.

The path to selling efficiency and effectiveness starts with proper planning. Begin by focusing on the factors you have the most control over:

  • The quality of your prospects
  • The quality of your sales pitch
  • The cost of the sales process itself
  • How you use your time
  • Your sales process

The quality of your prospects depends on how well you qualify them. This is one of the most important factors in improving your selling effectiveness. You have complete control over this part of your process. Begin by asking if the prospect truly is a good fit for what you sell.

When determining the quality of your sales pitch, remember that your prospects are too busy to pay attention to generic sales speak. Find a way to quickly show them how your product or service has delivered measurable results for people just like them. You need to prove that you know your stuff and that you can help them solve their problems.

The cost of the sales process is another area where you have control. Tracking expenses in both hard costs and time spent provides benchmarks that will help you determine just how much it costs to acquire a customer. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Effective time management skills separate the top sales superstars from everyone else. Finding the right customer acquisition techniques and tools is essential… and well within your control. Nothing is more valuable than your time. Learn to use it wisely.

Do you have a sales process in place, or do you handle sales in a piecemeal and patchwork manner? A strong, systematic sales process can take much of the mystery, magic, and waste out of selling. Track it, measure it, and tweak it until you have a dynamic process that can be replicated by every new salesperson.

There is one last item that binds all of these together, without which none of them will work. That is productive activity. Nothing can replace the actual work it takes to generate a sale. Phone calls, direct mail, networking events, emails, and in-person sales calls are all productive sales activities. They all work when they’re part of an overall strategy and plan that leads a prospect to a sale.

Sometimes it only takes small improvements to get big results. Take a closer look at how you’re currently selling. Shorten your sales cycle by improving your process, and watch your sales grow.

Optimism, Poetry, and the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Optimism is not a trait born necessarily out of good fortune. Edgar Guest was 11 years old in 1893 when his father lost his job. Barely a year earlier, the family had emigrated from Birmingham, England, to Detroit, Michigan. Now, young Edgar had to take on odd jobs in a still unfamiliar land to help support the family.
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In 1895, at age 14, he went to work as a copy boy for theDetroit Free Press. This would prove the beginning of a career that would span more than six decades.

At first, Edgar was able to attend school while working. However, in 1898, when Edgar was 17, his father died. Edgar dropped out of high school and began working full-time to support the family. Later that year, his first poem was published in the paper.

Over the next half century, Edgar Guest would become one of the most prolific writers of his time, publishing more than 11,000 poems, syndicated in more than 300 newspapers and compiled into 20+ volumes. He also hosted a popular radio show in Detroit and later appeared nationally on the NBC-TV show A Guest in Your Home.

In spite of his rough start, Edgar Guest was known for the optimistic outlook captured in his verse. One of his better-known works, “It Couldn’t Be Done,” is a good case in point — and a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit we all share as business leaders. It reads in part:

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

“How Do You Tackle Your Work?” is another of Guest’s poems that sings the praises of optimism, hard work, and dedication — traits we as entrepreneurs hold dear. Here’s a passage:

You can do as much as you think you can,
But you’ll never accomplish more;
If you’re afraid of yourself, young man,
There’s little for you in store.
For failure comes from the inside first,
It’s there if we only knew it,
And you can win, though you face the worst,
If you feel that you’re going to do it.

The full text of each of these poems is available online, and I encourage you to read both of them. They’re a good reminder — especially when the grind gets tough — of just why we chose this crazy life in the first place.

It Couldn’t Be Done - PoetryFoundation.org
How Do You Tackle Your Work? - Google Books

Is Your Business Sellable?

One of the goals of every business owner should be to build a company that is worth selling. Whether it is actually put on the market or not is another matter.

A business that is worth selling is growing, vibrant, and healthy. That’s why it’s in the best interest of everyone involved in the company to continually work toward building a sellable business.
Business worth selling?
Many metrics are used to measure the worth of a sellable business. One of the key metrics is the ability of the business to generate recurring revenue.

There are several ways to achieve a consistent, recurring revenue stream. Not all will work for every type of business, product, or service. Here are a few ideas to consider, depending on the types of services and products you provide.

Long-Term Sales Contracts

One method of building recurring revenue is to offer contracts that tie a client to a long-term engagement. A customer could be enticed to sign a contract if they are offered preferred pricing and services. An example of this can be seen with most cell phone contracts. The multi-year contracts are offered as a way to get a free or discounted cell phone in exchange for signing a two or three year contract. The buyer gets the cell phone quicker, and the cell phone provider locks in a guaranteed, predictable revenue stream.

Service and Maintenance Contracts

Some businesses can offer service contracts for after-sale support. For example, an IT company will charge for installing and setting up a network in a business but could also charge a yearly support fee to keep the network up and running free of viruses. Maintenance contracts can be a great source of additional revenue throughout the year. In many automotive dealerships, the service bays bring in much higher profits than the car sales departments.

Product and Service Training Fees

If your product or service involves a learning curve, customers would get more value from their purchase if you also offer training and certification after the sale. Product training becomes a true win-win, as the customer gets better use of their purchase, while you get additional revenue from an existing client. Many software companies offer training for their products to help their buyers understand and use the software to its potential.

When your business can generate sales from multiple revenue streams that support each other, the risk to a potential buyer is reduced dramatically. The business becomes a much more attractive candidate.

Predictable, recurring, multiple income streams make a business seem less risky to a potential buyer. So the sooner you start building recurring revenue streams in your business, the better your position will be if and when the time comes to sell.

Why Sales Should Be Your #1 Priority

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One of the keys to a successful business — and a fulfilled life in general — is to not only have a plan but to also have forward momentum pushing you in the direction you want to go. Many times, the problem in moving forward isn’t the goal but the struggle to generate the drive needed to accomplish what needs to get done.

When the momentum is lacking, it’s easy to become disheartened and slack off or abandon the goal altogether in favor of looking for a new magic bullet. In almost all cases, the missing ingredient is very close. Typically, that missing key involves taking massive action. Not just any action, but action that is focused on the fundamental steps needed to drive the company forward. More often than not, that action revolves around sales. After all, if there are no sales, there is no business.

“Nothing happens until a sale is made.”

Every business and industry has its own subtleties and nuances when it comes to sales, but there are core activities that apply to all.

What are these core activities?

Generating sales momentum is not as complicated or difficult as you might think, but you must have an effective plan for prospecting every single day. Begin by dedicating time on your calendar for prospecting and getting new clients. Nothing should interfere with this. Focusing on prospecting and sales is what creates forward momentum for the entire organization.

Sales should be the number one focus, whether you are a one-man show or a company with hundreds of employees. If sales activities aren’t the focus and the priority, they’ll be too easy to put off until tomorrow. You’ll always have fires to put out and other tasks to attend to. Making sales the number one priority for the whole organization creates the momentum to move the entire company forward.

If sales is not the number one priority in your company, try this approach. For the next 30 days, make sales your number one priority every day. Don’t stop selling even when you pick up new clients.

Create a dedicated time on your calendar every day for prospecting. Create and send direct mailers, make phone calls to reach out to prospects, attend a networking event, give a talk, send personalized emails, and visit top clients, asking for referrals. Seek momentum. It’s the wind for sailing the ship forward. Dedicated, laser-like focus on prospecting and selling activities creates that momentum.

If you perform these activities without fail for 30 days, you’ll be amazed at the positive energy you create. That activity and the results it brings will give you the boost and motivation to continue. Success and growth in business comes from focused sales momentum. Dedicate the next 30 days to making a permanent shift toward becoming a sales-focused company.

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