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10 Simple Ways Make it Easier for Customers to Contact You

A toll-free number is no longer the standard way for customers to contact you.
Customers are bombarded with choices in today’s technology-focused world. If your business doesn’t offer a method of communication that suits your customers’ preferences, they may find another company that does.

Here are 10 tips to make it easy for ALL of your customers to get (and stay) in touch with you:
Consider offering a live chat support service option on your website that provides real-time, text-based conversation with someone who can quickly answer questions.

  • Use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with customers.
    Post helpful information in your stream, and encourage customers to ask questions and provide product feedback.
  • Provide interactive maps that allow people to customize directions to your location, as well as a photo of your building to make your business easier to find.
  • Include any helpful information that may save customers frustration when they try visiting you.
    For example: “XYZ Road is currently under construction — please use ABC Street instead.”
  • Create a Google+ page to share updates, promotions, links, and photos.
    This will make it easy for people to recommend your business, products, or services to friends and contacts, while at the same time helping you measure your followers’ interactions.
  • When posting blogs, be sure to offer an area for comments and feedback, as well as contact information, in case the reader has questions.
  • Build trust with online customers by providing your company’s physical address in addition to email, phone, fax, Skype, and support line info on your website’s contact page. Add links to customer forums, your Facebook page, and your Twitter feed, as well, and consider offering a contact form as a convenience for customers.
  • Include, at minimum, your website info, company email, and toll-free phone number on every marketing piece you create, including letterhead, notepads, brochures, flyers, quotes, surveys, etc. Customers who desire additional information will often seek out your website’s contact page.
  • Consider a mobile website designed for smart phones that makes it easy for users to find information about you, regardless of what device they are using.

Provide a clear call to action in direct mail, email messages, and other marketing pieces so readers know how to get in touch with you.
We encourage you to contact us anytime if you have questions or comments. We look forward to hearing from you!

What Do Your Business Cards Say About You?

The design of business cards is always  a hot topic of conversation among start up businesses, we are always asked as a marketing specialists, what is our opinion.  Of course it depends on the type of business and your budget and what your business goals are. At any networking event, encounter of a prospect, you want to make a great impression and lasting impression.  Even in the digital age, despite of all of the technology, business cards will probably be the only tangible evidence of an encounter and the presentation of a card still represents the initial contact for many influential businesses. So don’t cheapen or miss-represent your company, the format, coloring and size of business cards can help to turn a brief encounter into a lasting first impression.

1. Make sure the card is great quality.
Good-quality cards are available on an economy of scale; unlike the long waiting times and expense of pressing traditional cards, the modern digital process is swift, economical and can result in superbly memorable designs. Thick, soft card with rounded corners can make a favorable impression.

2.Contact information should be 100% correct.
The correct name, address, phone numbers, email address and website address are essential to allow your contacts to reconnect with you long after your initial meeting. The important facts should still be prominent and easy to read.

3.Think of a card as a vehicle for your branding.
When spending money on marketing materials, you can get more value of your marketing dollar if you use consistent branding and image. From stationery to your website, to your inside of your business, branding is who your business is, what people remember, and the perception that is created.  Your card should not be limited to just you; it needs to tell people about what makes your company so unique and exciting. It could be that the logo isn’t very exciting, or the purpose of your company isn’t apparent. Take a look at your card and ask; what’s missing?

4. Card sizes vary greatly.
In the United States, business cards are normally set at 3.5″ wide x 2″ tall.  You can consider various sizes, to stand out, but be aware, if it is a functional size for your customer base.  Massage therapist for example can get away with a fun size such as 2.25″ x 2.25″ square, whereas a law firm should stick to the professional size.

5. Font, Spacing, color and style.
The font should be elegant but legible; Gothic script can be difficult to read, and Comic Sans suggests that you don’t take yourself seriously, let alone your business. Think about sizing and spacing of letters to ensure that the script does not conflict with the color pattern of the card.  Non-confrontation colors, can be an indication of the comfortable image that your company is trying to project. Cards in full color with custom logos are great for sticking in people’s memories.

6. Stock & Printing style Choices.
There are oodles of different papers and print methods that can create a card just for you.  Consider a textured paper such as linens, with a foil stamp, or a blind embossing.  Thermography, is a raised lettering technique that was really popular in the 70’s and is finding its way back into the design arena.  We also are creating business cards with different quality of lamination and Ultrakoting processes. If you are trying to convey as much information as possible, you can have a set of CD business cards made, with multimedia content, but ensure that your investment will cover its costs- these are expensive unless you commission a batch of several hundred.

7. Consider your photo or photo of your product on the card.
The new marketing is to create relationships, and people tend to first remember how they look and maybe not their name. So a photo on the card is very important.

8. Consider putting a QR Code and social media icons.
Consider the fact that social media is here to stay, well for the moment anyways. Might as well take advantage of this vehicle for what it is worth! It is not for every business, however, for ways of keeping on top of the mind of your customer, this is a great way to do it. You can create fun games and loyalty with all of the great technology advances social media offers.

9. Water run-resistance.
I have seen so many people try to print their business cards on their home ink jet printers. This ink is not water proof. And it looks very unprofessional – not to mention the sloppy quality of the graphics and fonts it generates.  The print and paper of your card should be crisp and the text unable to be obliterated by just a few rain drops. Accidents happen, and an occasional spilled glass of wine should not ruin an opportunity. Ink jet printers-produced cards do not use waterproof ink and leave a very unprofessional impression, no matter how small your business is and your budget. Business cards are your number one marketing tool in your tool box, do not short change it!

10. And lastly, Keep them in a decent case.
If you regularly produce dog-eared cards from fluff-infested pockets, consider the impression that this gives prospective clients about your business. Produce cards one at a time from a case with a lid and exchange them with care. The care you take over your card shows the concern you have for your business.

Take a look at your card and ask; what’s missing?

 

How to create an “Unique URL” or Vanity Facebook “Like” page

It is really simple, just follow these instructions and you will have it in two shakes of a stick!

When you first start your Like Page, Facebook gives you a url that looks something like this…..
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelley-Insurance-Agency-Financial-Services-Inc/302511421554

What you would like it too look like is this:
www.facebook.com/YourChosenName

It is much easier and cleaner to use for advertising in print, as well as you will be “share-able” on facebook easier by using the @YourChosenName will come up during a post.  You need to have reached 25 “likes” you are able to claim your own unique Facebook URL. This used to be 100 names, and as fast as facebook changes things, this may change too.

According to Facebook Terms & Conditions
Usernames were created to make it easier for Facebook users to identify their profile and share with others. As a public figure, business or brand with a Page on Facebook, your username should be straightforward and easy to remember.

Facebook encourages you to consider the following when creating a username for Pages:
•    Create a username that is as close as possible to your public figure or business name (e.g. ElvisPresley, BestBuy).
•    If you own the rights to a given name, make it your username so that others cannot obtain it.
•    Usernames can only contain alphanumeric characters (A-Z, 0-9) or a period (“.”).
•    Choose a username you will be happy with for the long term. Usernames are not transferable.
•    Your username must adhere to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

There are a few things to consider before creating your username.
•    Once created if can’t be changed
•    Do you want to use your business name or the main keywords user are searching for ie: BestBuy vs Everything Electronic
•    Facebook is indexed by search engines quicker than most website and therefore your fan page could appear in the search results quicker than your website
•    Make sure you follow their terms & conditions to ensure that you can keep your username.
So now you have decided on your username, follow these steps to claim it.

Log into Facebook then follow these simple steps:

1.    Go to http://www.facebook.com/username
2.    Select “Select a Username” for your page
3.    This brings up a drop down menu, select the page you want to create the username for.
4.    If your page has the needed 25 fans it will bring up a box 
5.    Enter your desired username and click on “check availablilty”
6.    If it’s available, you will be shown some final terms – if you are happy with your choice click “confirm” or select “cancel” to try another one.

Hope that helps!

 

What Are Your Product Photos Saying?

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, have you ever thought about what your photos are saying? We live in a visual age, where images surround us. Whether on your website, marketing materials, billboards, or ads, the photos you choose to represent your products and services are very important. Here are a few tips to ensure your photos are saying what you want:

  • Don’t photograph your products on a cluttered shelf. Rather, depict them in use in an appropriate abstract environment or on a clean white background.
  • Save your originals, and don’t reduce their file size. You never know when you’ll need to re-purpose images, such as if you want a low-res image from your website to work in a high-resolution print brochure.
  • Take a lot of photos when you have the opportunity. You may be surprised how a new angle or different lighting can change the appeal and appearance of your products.
  • If images don’t do justice for your products, don’t use them. Consider posting a “photo coming soon” placeholder, rather than posting a poor-quality photo. But do so only if you fully intend to post an image later.
  • Adjust the resolution of photos on your website to ensure they won’t slow the load time for the page. Nothing is worse than a great photo nobody has the patience to download and see.
  • Use intriguing photos to supplement Facebook posts and create additional interest. Organize these photos into albums for easy viewing, and use relevant album names, such as “new products,” “seasonal promotions,” and so on.

7 Rules for Prospecting in 2012

The best way to not only survive the recession but to actually thrive in it is to bring in new clients and new business. Growth is possible, even in this economic climate.

The lifeblood of all businesses is gaining new clients. Acquiring new clients is challenging enough in any environment, but especially today. The lack of new clients is often the primary cause for the decline and failure of a company.

To get new clients, you must look for prospects who fit what you do best. Here are seven rules for prospecting in today’s environment. Following these rules will make it easier to start new relationships that will lead to new opportunities in 2012 and beyond.

1. Do This, and You Can Forget All the Other Steps!

You must have heard by now that all you have to do to get new business is to send a few tweets and Facebook posts, then sit back and wait for the hordes of leads to flood your website and your phone lines, right? Inbound marketing can fix all of your company ills by solving all the lead generation problems. Old school prospecting is a thing of the past. Your leads will now pursue you. No doubt you have read and heard about all of this, and for those who believed it, it wasn’t too long before frustration set in. Thousands of dollars later, the realization came that these are half-truths. Sure, there is a place to mix in these tactics, but to really succeed in growing your business, nothing can replace real prospecting that leads to real relationships that open the door to real opportunities.

2. Have a Plan.

You will never know where you need to go if you don’t have a plan. This is an old rule, but it applies as much today as it did in the past, and it will continue to apply far into the future. You must know the profile of the person and the company you can profitably do business with. You must set real goals and have a realistic plan to achieve those goals. Know what you want your ideal client to do as the next step when you are prospecting, and use that as your objective. Break it down to a step-by-step process, and track your leads to see where they stand in your sales lead funnel.

3. Research Before You Make the First Call.

Do some homework on your potential prospect before the first call or meeting. Know who the decision makers are, and try to find out their hot buttons ahead of time. The more you learn, the better your chances for making a connection and bond. You may never get that chance again. But don’t waste too much time researching. If you stop all of your prospecting activities to research, your pipeline will grow stale, and you will halt your momentum. So do your research, but don’t stop your prospecting.

4. Decide What Methods to Use.

Prospecting & Cold Calls

Which are the best methods to use for lead generation? The best way to open the door to a relationship with your ideal client depends on the prospect. Some will like phone calls, some will like email, some will prefer direct mail, some will only respond to referrals, and some will respond to a business or casual network environment. Don’t just rely on one method. Use as many as you can, and vary your approach. Let your prospect decide which one is best for them.

5. Just Do It.

Doing everything you need to do once you start the process of prospecting is not easy. Get help where you need it. It doesn’t matter if your process is not perfect. Can’t get an appointment to see the top decision maker? Go for the second in command. Do whatever is necessary to keep the activities moving forward. Work hard, but also work smart. Use all of the productivity tools and help you can get. But whatever you do, don’t let anything stop your momentum. Keep your eyes on your goals.

6. Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse.

Great. You are filling your pipeline and getting appointments. Now what? You will greatly improve the odds of getting your prospect to say yes if you have a compelling proposition that adds real value or potentially solves a problem for them. Why should they do business with you over any other similar company that wants their business? Why should they choose you and invest their limited time with you? How are you going to help them grow their business and improve their business results? In other words, you must answer the question: what’s in it for them?

7. Ask Questions and Follow Up.

Ask great questions and (more importantly) listen to their answers. Take notes so that if you can’t give answers instantly, you will be able to get back with them with the correct information later. Most of the prospects you meet will be juggling multiple tasks just like you are. It is very easy to forget about you and your proposal. Follow up relentlessly until you get an answer. Of course, you don’t want to be a pest, but at the same time don’t take a lack of response as a negative answer. Be respectful, but don’t give up easily. These character traits are what set apart the top achievers from the also-rans. If you learn these skills and master them, your prospect pipeline will never dry up.

Websites and Driving Traffic Toward Them

So, I had a client this morning inquire about getting their website on the top of search results, which is a great question, so I thought I’d try to share some resources and information about it. Websites are seemingly straightforward at a glance but there are countless aspects to each that require a lot of considerations to make when building and utilizing them. I’d like to share some information on a couple of different topics, but the main point of each is to optimize traffic toward your website through Social Media and Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engine Optimization

One of the major factors in how you are ranked in search results is the content of your website. If a website is not updated frequently, its pagerank will be lower, as a more up-to-date website tends to have, well, more up-to-date information. Having consistent content creation for your website gives search engines something new to parse each time they analyze your website for content, increasing your pagerank.

Not only that, but your website will contain a much larger repertoire of content that contains keywords. When a search engine looks at your website content, they’ll note these keywords and relate them to your website. So when someone searches for that keyword at a search engine like Google, you’ll be considered more strongly by the indexing robots because of that article you wrote about weather winterization for a heating or house-siding business, in example.

One caveat to this is that it is an organic process that occurs over time. You can’t expect to write an article and have your website instantly become #1 for all the tangential topics related to your business. This is because your website is indexed periodically by search engine indexing robots,  as it takes time to calculate where you’ll fit into the pageranks with the advent of new content. It is a slow process that will over time develop into a more lucrative return, given consistent effort and management.

Social Media

Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+ are powerful tools for leveraging your business to customers, but how does one best utilize these networks to drive traffic to your website? You, as the business owner need to entice users to get involved, whether through special deals (facebook just rolled out an updated check-in deals mechanism on their website), offers, providing content, hosting events at your business, etc. But one great way to reach out to customers is through Content Creation.

Content Creation

Creating content for your customers that is relevant, interesting, and engaging is extremely important for using the internet as a business tool. Engaging your customers with articles that help them better use your products or services helps develop a relationship with them that only increases over time. Consistent content creation through the blog also allows you to pop up on Social Media news feeds by sharing the articles on your business page. This not only increases awareness of your business by popping up in a fan’s newsfeed, but also links people back to your website.

Your website’s main purpose may not be to blog, but the driving content will bring your customer to your website, which is the important consideration. If they read the article, that’s great, mission accomplished. They may not need your services at this time, but you’ve enriched their experience, which will increase the relationship between you and that customer. Not only will traffic be brought to your site, increasing chances of people to look at other things on your site, such as your products and services, but you’ll also develop a marketing team out of this customer base that reads your content.

This is the underlying strategy of Social Media Marketing. To entice your customer base through instrinsic value to do marketing for you– by sharing the content you’ve created through deals, articles, etc., but also the more basic sharing: word-of-mouth recommendations.

Some Last Thoughts

All of these tools are at your disposal as a means of increasing your business’ online presence, driving traffic to your website, developing stronger relations with your customers, and increasing your pagerank in search results. The main advantage of these strategies is that they are cost-efficient and sustainable, and all it takes is time and effort(I can hear the groans already!). None of them are a magic bullet that’ll solve all of your pageranking blues, propelling you into sky-high success, but when managed properly and consistent, these avenues of communication can be a powerful utility among your toolset.

By Scott Prindle

The Power of a Good Word

Referrals are among the most effective and least expensive marketing tools available to small business owners. People don’t always trust an ad or sales call, but they do trust their friends.

Think about the places you’ve done business with in the past week, month, or year. What first led you to those establishments? Was it an ad on TV, on the radio, or in the newspaper? Perhaps a piece of direct mail? Maybe a billboard or website? Or a particularly persuasive sales call? All of these are effective means of marketing to the public. But none is as effective as a referral from a colleague or friend.

A referral from a friend will carry far more weight in most people’s minds than the cleverest ad or most well-articulated sales call. So how can you generate more referrals for your company?
Model it. If you want your customers to start referring people to you, refer your friends and colleagues to your customers’ companies, too. Reciprocity is a powerful thing. If you refer business to others, they will be far more likely to refer business to you.

Ask. When you meet with established customers to follow up on a sale or just to check in, ask if they know anyone else who might need your services. Even if they can’t think of anyone on the spot, your question will plant a seed and remind them to think of you when they do come across a friend who might benefit from what you sell.

Offer an incentive. Provide a discount or special thank-you gift for those who do provide referrals. Make it something fun and worthwhile that will make your customers realize how seriously you take their business. In some cases, that might mean a month of free service, a free upgrade or enhanced service plan, or some other unique perk available only to them. Tailor your incentive to your own specific business and customer base. You may also want to offer a discount to the prospect who was referred.

Keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re providing outstanding service and support, along with exceptional products and services, referrals will come. If someone enjoys doing business with you and feels like you’re providing good value for their money, it’s almost certain that eventually they will start telling others about you and talking you up with their friends and colleagues. Of course, the opposite is true, as well, so make sure you’re providing the kind of service worthy of a positive referral.

Say thanks. Whether you have a formal referral program or not, when someone tells you they were referred by a friend, make a point of thanking that friend. Even something as simple as a hand-written note in the mail will let your customer know how much you appreciate their kindness.

Social Media Strategy

People have often asked us about Social Media and some guide lines.

I have found some notes and thought it would be a good idea to put them in a blog – I would love to hear your comments and feedback, they will help others too!

SOCIAL MEDIA GOALS:

  • Increase Brand Awareness
  • Reputation Management
  • Become more responsible to people/consumer audiences
  • Engagement. Create a dialog between you and your audience that is engaging while staying on top of the mind.
  • Make your brand a little more “human” to the outside world
  • Improves Search Engine Rankings, with online conversation performance

STRATEGIZE:
Strategy lays out the goals that need to be accomplished and the ideas for achieving those goals… What a strategy is not:

  • It is not a plan
  • it is not a timeline
  • it is not a goal
  • it is not what tactics you will use to achieve your goal

Tactics are the “doing’ aspect that follows the planning. Tactics refer specifically to an action.

PREPARE YOUR ORGANIZATION
Find an Internal Evangelist. Many people may contribute, but one department/group/person will lead the charge and manage the posts to be sure that they follow the integrity and goals of the organization. Make sure you have your rules and policies in place for clear guidelines.  This also is to be considered for employees personal posts, that these posts can effect the organization if there is slander.  Make sure your employees understand the company policies.

CONSIDER A SCHEDULE
Social media works best when you have consistent posts that cover 33% personal/relationship building  33% business news global/local/yours and 33% insights-those ah-ha moments are memorable!!

 

-Becky Raney, Owner PCF

 

 

 

Become a Resource for Your Customers

The average prospect is bombarded by so many salesmen eager for their business that they can be selective over the solution provider they choose. While quality and price will always remain important factors, the level of expertise and guidance provided is often just as important. Here are a few ways you can become a resource for your customers:

  • Offer hands-on training as an extension of your customer’s organization. By enhancing their ability to anticipate, understand, and solve problems, you can help them develop solutions faster and more efficiently than on their own.
  • Provide a newsletter, or encourage customers to sign up for your blog. Then fill that newsletter or blog with tips, articles, industry trends, new product highlights, and relevant industry articles and resources. Create an archive section on your website that makes all previous information you’ve provided available for viewing.
  • Create a resource page on your website that offers a comprehensive list of engaging and helpful links to industry resources, helpful websites, associations, event calendars, etc.
  • Create an industry chat forum through your web page that gives people with similar interests the ability to chat with others about your industry, products, resources, etc.
  • Stay current on industry trends and new products, as well as competitor solutions, so you can offer educated answers to your customers.
  • Stay involved with your customers. Periodically check in to see how they are doing and to show that you sincerely care about them and your relationship with them.
  • Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Learn more about their industry, customers, associations, events, etc. Think of creative ways you can help them be more successful in their ventures.
  • Don’t just use a sales pitch. Instead, share your enthusiasm and knowledge. Salespeople who are passionate are the most successful because their belief in the products or services shines through.

 

What’s Your Story?

Want to breathe some life into your marketing? Try telling a story.

The art of storytelling is as old as civilization itself. Through the years, storytellers have used their skills to educate, entertain, enthrall, and explain the world around them. Heroes, villains, gods, and demons. Storytellers breathe life into their characters and keep their audiences spellbound until the end.

So what does any of this have to do with business? A lot, really.

At its heart, marketing is storytelling. Like a storyteller of old, you need to connect with your audience (your customers and prospects), engage them, educate them, enthrall them, and inspire them to act on that new found knowledge by buying your wares or responding to your offer.

Does that mean you need to strive to become the next Steinbeck or Shakespeare, or that you should fill your website with flowery prose? Certainly not. But it does mean you should try to make your materials more engaging and less dry, dull, and routine.

One way to tell your story is through the eyes of a satisfied customer. Case studies and testimonials provide an ideal medium. Start with a look at the customer involved. Introduce them and offer some background information about who they are and what they do. Next, present the challenge facing them (a difficult deadline, a tight budget, a bad experience with the competition). This will serve as your antagonist and provide the conflict necessary in all good storytelling. Finally, talk about how you (or someone at your company) helped them overcome those challenges and live happily ever after.

The key is to make the customer the focus of your story, not your company. Your company merely helps that person overcome their challenges. Readers need to relate to a story’s main character and to the struggles they face. Otherwise, they won’t feel invested in the story enough to care how it ends. They’ll also tune out if they sense a story is nothing more than chest-thumping and self-absorbed bravado.

Of course, storytelling isn’t limited just to case studies or testimonials. Consider your company-focused content, like your history and executive bios. Are there any interesting stories from your company’s past you’d like to share? For example, what led your company’s founders to start your company? Did they as consumers have a need that no one else was meeting? What challenges did they face? Were there any obstacles that stood in their way? And how did they position themselves to overcome those challenges…to the benefit of their customers (people like those who are reading your materials)?

Even product literature offers a chance to tell a story and captivate an audience. What led your company to introduce the product you’re writing about? What challenges does it help customers (like those reading your materials) overcome? How has customer feedback helped you improve the product? And what role do you see customer interaction playing in future product offerings and upgrades?

Notice a common theme here? In all of these, the focus is on the customer. They are the heroes of the stories you tell. It’s their challenges, struggles, and needs that shape your decisions and encourage you to do what you do.

And that makes for one very compelling storyline.

 

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