Being Face-to-Face With Your Customers

Truism #1 – the more things change the more they stay the same

You’ve probably come across this truism at one time or another. I have found this phrase to be true on many occasions, which I suppose is what makes a truism, a truism.

Specifically here, this truism refers to a circling back to the fundamental practice of person-to-person sales and marketing. That is, growing your business or nonprofit organization by getting in front of your customers or donors by putting people first and making the relationship the central theme of your efforts; all day, every day.

Pretty obvious right? But in reality, how many sales and fundraising professionals are consistently in front of their customers or donors?And make no mistake, whether a for-profit customer or a nonprofit donor, both are considered a customer because in either case you are selling something – your product, service, or mission – to somebody for money, time, or both.

Whether you’re a B2B business, a nonprofit organization relying on donations, or a B2C business that sells bigger ticket items or only occasional purchases, your success relies on a higher level of engagement with your customer when compared to more consumer-based businesses where the one with the biggest ad budget and lowest prices usually lead.

More accurately, you live or die by how you view and respect the customer; because at the end of the day, the customer is in charge. With more ways to solve problems and vendor options to fix them than ever before, the customer is in the driver’s seat when deciding who to buy from – whether from you or your competitor.

Though dated, I recall this 1990 United Airlines TV ad that speaks to this very topic and is as true today as it was then. Take a look…

Truism #2 – Everything old is new again

While it’s foreign to imagine a time without our digital channels, before there was email, social media, and text messaging, and even before faxing and television, by-and-large, people did business face-to-face; a channel that require the buyer and the seller to be in the same space together telling stories, asking questions, sharing ideas, handling objections, negotiating, and ultimately shaking hands. In direct selling, the relationship is integral and unavoidable, whether positive or negative, and remains to this day, the most effective way to grow your sales, your business, or your brand in a meaningful and sustainable manner.

And you know, or should know, that if you aren’t in your customers’ space, somebody else is or will be. It’s just a matter of time; and in that space and time, your customer will gather information, draw their conclusions, and make their decision. Being the first one they think of is a by-product of making this the year of your customer.

And when you spend dedicated and interested time with your customers, you come to know more about them and their needs. When you can do this at a level that even anticipates their needs and makes their job so much easier as a result, not only do you get the sale, but you build upon the lifetime value of a customer or donor. It’s magical.

It takes effort, but it’s magical.

To this point, check out the following 2016 SalesForce Research data from their Second Annual State of Sales report:

Pulling from the immutable 80/20 Rule, to the 20% that comprise the sales and fundraising leaders in any given sector, they know the importance of the customer connection and are in front of their key customers on a regular business. But for the other 80%, personal contact with key customers tends to be less consistent because it’s so easy to become distracted – by technology, by time management, by the next shiny thing that appears in front of us, by trying the proverbial silver bullet, and by simply becoming complacent.

The leaders in sales, fundraising, and any other occupation – the 20 percenters – attain their success by always focusing on the fundamentals; doing the basic and often boring things that, when consistently applied and repeated over time, yield the desired results. And that thing is focusing on the customer in personal and meaningful ways.

So, I’m not advocating dropping your email marketing or blogging or the social media posts you use to build your brand and awareness, but reminding you (as I do for myself) that everyone else is doing some or all of these things too, because it’s convenient and current with the times. But those who make the extra effort to be in front of their customers this year, will the 20 percenters at end.

4 Content Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business

Paw-Print-and-Mail-lead-generationThe future of marketing is all about content. Consumers want to see exactly what your business has to offer and how it can benefit their lives in a real way.

But what, exactly, does content marketing mean? Literally speaking, content marketing can be defined as a strategic marketing approach which focuses on creating consistent content materials to drive customer and lead generation.

So how can your business get involved with content marketing? Here are four big ideas to get you started.

1. Start a blog
Without a doubt, my Paw Print & Mail blog is my most prolific lead generation machine. Every published blog article adds a new page to my website which increases the number of pages indexed by the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. This strengthens my website’s SEO (search engine optimization) which helps Paw Print & Mail rank higher and more readily when people search for the types of products and services I sell.

But, simply publishing articles isn’t enough, the articles must be written with the reader in mind – providing content of value that informs and helps solve problems. A consistent and well-written blog hosted by your small business or nonprofit organization builds your online authority in your field of expertise and gives you the opportunity to relate to both clients and potential customers at the same time.

A blog is an excellent opportunity for your business to show clients its relatability. Write about topics such as how your product or service can improve lives, testimonials about people you’ve served or why your business is a better option than competition. You can even get personal and write about daily news topics or expert tips from your field.

By far the biggest challenge of adopting a blog as a marketing strategy is consistently devoting the time necessary for it to be effective. If you can arrange it, dedicate an employee to posting one blog article a week through your website, then share the article via your business’ social media accounts or email marketing.

2. Give a guided tour
Your small business can also utilize technology to record and share a guided tour of your facilities, complete with employee interviews and surprise interactions. Some consumers may feel uncertain about working with a business if they don’t know what’s “behind the curtain,” so make them feel comfortable by opening up with approachable content.

Record a video while touring your facilities and show clients the inner-workings of your business. Afterwards, you can share this video as part of your content marketing plan. Customers will feel engaged and attended-to, while also gaining a sense of trust for your small business.

3. Host a webinar
Right alongside a guided video tour is a webinar. While these may sound difficult, they offer a huge opportunity for potential customers to see your business and its expertise in the field. Develop a webinar on instructing clients how to use a specific product or service, offer hands-on training and real-life examples.

The most important part of hosting a webinar is offering real value to people. If consumers feel like your business has something important to offer them, the webinar will be more successful and generate more leads. Once you’ve given the webinar a try, see about making it a weekly or even monthly part of your business’s marketing strategy.

4. Develop a (blank) of the week
If your business is active on social media, create a content marketing strategy based on what you post. One easy method is developing a (blank) of the week… product, service, employee, board member, you name it. This type of content marketing allows consumers to get to know your business better and gives them something to look forward to every week.

One specific example is promoting a Question of the Week. Allow customers to write in via email, social media or snail mail with questions for your business, then answer them every week. This shows your organization’s transparency and eagerness to work with clients on a personal and relatable level.

When it comes to content marketing for your small business, jump on board with these main ideas. The more content you provide, the more involved your customers will feel, and your lead generation will skyrocket. So give it a try, and give it some content.

Marketing 101: What to Avoid

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When marketing for your small business, there’s a number of things you should do. You should hire a designer to do graphic work, you should define your own brand, you should develop a campaign plan and so on and so forth. However, you’re not often told what you shouldn’t do.

The truth is, when it comes to marketing savviness, there’s a variety of practices to definitely avoid. These can be common mistakes or specific scenarios, but they all fall into the category of Marketing 101: WHAT NOT TO DO. If you’re still unsure about what you should avoid while marketing for your small business, check out these top categories.

Lack of Self-Promotion
The idea “My small business doesn’t need any marketing” is a long and archaic concept which should be erased from your brain database indefinitely. The fact is any business wanting to make money should have a marketing and promotion strategy.

You may believe your product or service can speak for itself, and people will naturally come through word of mouth. While this may be partially true, nothing is going to bring in customers more than your own promotion. In other words, your business should sell your business.

Undefined Target Audience
Consider your ideal customer. Someone who fits your business values perfectly, who loves every single product and who would be willing to spend quite a bit of money with your organization. What do they look like? How do they act? How would you define them?

If you’re not sure who your target audience is, develop a plan as soon as possible. An undefined target audience can make your marketing campaigns appear scattered and uncertain, leaving your business looking unorganized and unreliable.

This is particularly applicable to direct mail marketing which carries the investment in graphic design, printing & mailing production services, and postage. Direct mail can be very effective as part of a multi-channel marketing mix when mailing to a targeted audience.

Social Media Ignorance
There’s no way around it: social media is here to stay. That means if you want your business to stay, then social media marketing needs to be a staple. Help your organization out by avoiding social media ignorance.

This means creating a Facebook page for your business, and depending on your target audience, a Twitter or Instagram as well. Not only will you be meeting your customers on a more personal level, but you gain free promotion and increased search engine rankings.

Aggressive Email Blasts
If your small business utilizes email marketing, wonderful. Keep it up! According to Entrepreneur.com, email marketing for mid-size businesses offers a 246% return on investment. However, make sure to be careful about how the emails go out.

An unregulated email blast to all of your subscribers can leave customers feeling more isolated than engaged, and before you know it you have consumers leaving your list. Practice audience segmentation of topics and avoid overdoing timely emails.

False Promises
Above all, when marketing for your small business, avoid making any false promises to customers or clients. False promises can negatively affect your company’s response rate by clients and brand affinity.

For example, if you advertise fast and effective service but fail to treat customers in the same way, potential clients will be unconvinced your business can come through for them. When developing a marketing plan, be clear and concise, while avoiding any confusion or falsity.

Marketing is an important part of any small business plan, so make sure to take it under careful consideration. Decide on what your marketing strategy should consist of, but be reminded of what it shouldn’t as well. Then you can be certain of your business success.

Key Components of Successful Marketing Videos

marketing-video-statisticWhen it comes to marketing, staying current on the latest trends has a vital impact on successful lead generation. Whether it involves a new social media app, a trending topic or an online marketing campaign, a business grows when it stays up-to-date.

Video marketing continues to grow exponentially for online in particular. There are more video posts online now than ever before, and video shares are only expected to increase. If your business wants to stay current on the latest marketing trends, put video to good use.

Interested in getting started? Check out these five key components of how to make a strategic video script which will set your marketing campaign apart and boost lead generation.

1. Get ‘Em Hooked
Like most aspects of marketing, the initial hook of a video script should catch viewers’ attention and draw them in. Let the audience know you are talking to them specifically by addressing them directly. Identify the target audience and brainstorm how you would want to be addressed from their perspective. By giving your video script a strong, attention-grabbing intro, it will draw viewers and set the tone for the rest of a successful marketing video.

2. Connect Emotionally
After hooking the viewer’s attention, establish a personal connection with them. An emotional connection makes viewers feel your company cares for them and the community, thus encouraging them to take immediate action after viewing. As human beings, strong feelings impact our decisions, logic and mindsets; your business can take advantage by connecting with consumers on a deep personal level.

3. Tell a Story
Once you’ve grabbed the viewer’s interest and connected with them, get down to the point. Every successful video marketing campaign should tell a story—the company’s story, the service’s story and benefits or a customer’s story. Use the time to expand and go in-depth on the narrative’s focal points. The goal should be to gain the viewer’s trust and empathy, but take time to give details surrounding the story and lead viewers into the next big point.

4. Share Your Values
When you’ve established a story basis, the time has come to drop a value bomb for viewers. This is the most important part of a marketing video and should be restrained to one short, concise sentence. Until this point, the entire video should be leading up to this moment. The value statement is the main takeaway viewers should get. Keep it values-driven, short and powerful to gain viewers’ attention and make them remember your product or service.

After your business has established its value statement, wrap up with an influential outro. The goal of a video close involves viewers doing something after watching—a call to action. Depending upon the video’s focus, the call to action could be centered on buying a specific product, trying a service or just stopping in to take a look. Be sure to include information for a website, social media or any upcoming events.

Video marketing is a current and useful option to take advantage of for your business. A strong video script consists of five key components, each one with a specific purpose, working together to produce a video and generate successful leads.

By utilizing these component strategies, your company can create engaging, successful marketing videos, which will help promote your product or service. Try it out and see how your business grows.

Put the “why” in your marketing

In a 2009 TED Talk, leadership expert Simon Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”

Do you know your company’s “why”? (Hint: It’s not to make money). Think about the core purpose of your business, and then think about how you market your products or services. Are they aligned? As Sinek has found by studying successful companies like Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Patagonia, having loyal customers is all about attracting the people who share your fundamental beliefs.

In each of these companies, and other similarly focused companies and organizations, leadership has flipped the typical business model upside down. Instead of leading a company’s marketing with the “what” of the company – the products and services they sell – followed by the “how” a company does what it does, companies that enjoy the strongest brand loyalty, which tends to translate into profit, lead with clarity on “why” they are in business and “why” they do what they do.

Ideally every product, service, and cause should exist to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Who would buy it or why do it, otherwise? What’s a positive difference? That depends on a person’s need; from making someone smile, to saving someone’s life and everything in between. At the end of the day, the “why” is your most powerful value proposition and not your product.

Your “why” sets you and your business or organization apart from your competition. Your “why” resonates and imprints on your customers’ psyche and emotions which helps shield your “what” from competing solely on price.

It’s your “why” that gets people talking about you and spreading your brand.

Once you are clear on your “why”, share it with your customers and your staff, and sprinkle it into all your marketing efforts. While you may have the best product or service on the market, sharing your “why” will help potential customers understand how working with you will benefit them.

Curious to hear more about what Sinek had to say? Join the over 27 million other viewers and watch his TED talk here.

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Top 7 Ways to Grow your Business on a Small Marketing Budget

Paw-Print-Mail-MarketingI don’t know what it’s like in your business or organization, but here at Paw Print & Mail, summertime is our slower season. The pace will pick up soon as people come off vacations, schools ramp back up, and businesses and nonprofits in general return to the mindset and realization that “as the 4th quarter approaches, it’s time for that final drive downfield to end the year with a score!”

Quite often, the first thing to go when times get slow or get tough, is the marketing budget. But that’s a mistake as marketing your business or organization is essential, especially during the slow times and tough times, to maintain brand awareness and being “top-of-mind” when your customers are ready to buy.

Try these seven low or no-cost tips to create a “buzz” and generate leads when your marketing budget is small.

Social Media. Devote time to setting up or improving your Social Media footprint. It requires little in terms of financial investment but does require a time commitment in providing high-value content and frequent updates.

So, what’s “high-value content”? This depends on who your customers are and what products or services they sell or provide; but some of the most valuable and high-ROI content you can generate is simply paying attention to what’s happening in your customers’ worlds and promoting them.

The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is the sound of their name, including their business name. By simply devoting 30 minutes a day or every other day towards seeking and finding tidbits of information on your clients’ world, and posting a “shout out” on your Social Media site to mention their event, storewide sale, awards, accomplishments, and achievements, to express thanks for the project you and your team just completed for them, or kudos to them for how well they took care of you as their customer – goes a long ways towards building goodwill and strengthening your relationships.

Public Relations. Getting PR for your business does not require paying a PR firm. Check out local journalist gatherings or contact media directly. Get to know your contacts and help them learn about your business and how you provide value to your clients. Come up with your own questions and answers to make their jobs easier too.

Network. Expanding your circle of professional contacts can help drum up more business. Consider bartering your services for services you need but do not have adequate skills to perform.

Another effective form of networking is to invite your clients’ out for a cup of coffee. Asking a client or prospect to lunch can sometimes feel like too much too soon depending on where you are in the sales and marketing “dating” process, whereas a coffee visit is a more casual outreach towards building client relationship. If this sounds more palatable, give it a try; who isn’t game for a coffee break on some of those more hectic days?

Increase Your Community Involvement. Being involved in your community, whether on a nonprofit board, as an organizer or participant in fundraising or civic events, as an advocate or ambassador for an organization, by donating your products or services to a local charity, or on some level that finds you working with others towards a common goal or cause, can result in building your personal and professional brand, and social capital.

The key point here is to be involved for the love and benefit of the cause and not for self-promotion. By doing so, not only will you meet new people to strike up new relationships while making a positive difference, but the exposure and involvement can be good for business as a side benefit as well!

Try Direct Mail. Direct mail has been producing solid returns for years. If you haven’t sent a mailed piece to your list in a while, it might be time to consider sending a campaign via mail to help support what you are doing online as well.

To optimize your direct mail budget, thoughtfully construct your mailing list to include true target audience recipients to avoid wasting printing and postage dollars on mailing to those who are less likely to buy what you sell. At Paw Print & Mail, we’re experts at direct mail marketing and helping our clients optimize their mailing dollars.

Ask for referrals. This often overlooked function feeds off the most powerful form of marketing there is – word of mouth – to produce faster results than most any other type of approach.

Testimonials. Similar to referrals, ask your clients for testimonials and begin adding them as positive reinforcement content on your website, brochures, direct mailings, and Social Media sites.

At Paw Print & Mail, we contract with online survey specialist, Survey Advantage, to collect post-sale customer satisfaction data that we then post on our Paw Print & Mail Reviews page to not only inform visitors, but to optimize our SEO strength.

So you see, when you focus on “relationship”, it doesn’t necessarily take a large advertising and marketing budget to pull together some very powerful, organic, meaningful, and sustainable tactics to get your business or organization through the slow times, and beyond.

Lead generation and brand building with a printed Newsletter

Hanson Doremus NewsletterTalk about consistency and discipline, Hanson & Doremus Investment Management in Burlington, Vermont has not missed publishing and mailing their monthly investment newsletter Thoughts to their clients and key prospects since 1995. I know this because Paw Print & Mail has had the privilege of being their printing company since that time.

When asked why founder Eric Hanson persists mailing his newsletter all these years, particularly in a digital age, he knows there’s no substitute for disseminating the valuable work that goes into producing such a document, while reinforcing his brand, than putting it right in someone’s hands. Says Hanson, “It’s far too easy for people to pass over or delete an email in a crowded inbox. We still believe in mail because it’s tactile, it has shelf life, and because mail has become more unique and impressionable than email. We make the digital version available on our website, but the printed version gets more readership.”

A newsletter is a cost-effective medium for building and maintaining regular contact with customers and prospects. In its 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends study, the Content Marketing Institute found that 78 percent of respondents used newsletters. Research firm Nielsen Norman Group asked respondents how they preferred to receive company updates, and 90 percent cited newsletters, compared to 10 percent for social media.

Developing a newsletter program with a solid audience will prove to be a very important marketing asset for the duration of your company. Think about how on any given website you only have a few seconds to capture the attention of a visitor before they are potentially gone forever.

Developing a strategy to attract new customers and retaining existing clients is crucial to successful marketing. Maintaining a company blog is a great way to get your personal message out to many viewers. But a blog is a passive effort, meaning a user must navigate to it in order to get the message. Transforming a passive blog into a pro-active newsletter program is a logical ancillary step.

Build Awareness:
Publishing a newsletter gives you the opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of your company and its products and services. Customers and prospects may have a limited perspective of what your company can offer if they only view your advertisements or receive promotional email. Newsletter content builds a broader picture. To encourage readers to find out more, add a call-to-action to encourage action and include links to more detailed information on your website.

Demonstrate your Expertise:
A newsletter can demonstrate your expertise and build confidence in your company as a potential supplier. Marketing consultancy PR20/20 notes that newsletter content that provides valuable information to customers and prospects helps to establish a company as an industry leader. To establish leadership, include articles that cover important issues in your market sector or share information on industry research. Provide details of any conferences where your company is making a presentation.

Promote your Business or Organization:
You can use newsletters to promote products and services or launch new products. Including information on special offers helps reinforce the effect of your advertising and promotional campaigns. Running special offers exclusive to readers enhances the value to the newsletter. You can integrate newsletter content with other elements of a new product launch by including announcements and articles related to the product.

Connect with Your Clients and Prospects:
Issuing newsletters at regular intervals – weekly, monthly or quarterly – helps you maintain contact with customers and prospects between purchases or sales calls. If you face a decision-making process that is long and complex, for example, you can use newsletters to communicate with all decision makers throughout the process. If customers buy your products or services infrequently, you can maintain contact between purchases so you build a strong relationship before the next sales opportunity.

Expand your Marketing Footprint:
Newsletters can help you increase the coverage of your target audience. By placing information about the newsletter on your website, you can capture contact details of new prospects by asking visitors to subscribe. Issuing newsletters by email to all of your customers and prospects is a low-cost method of communication, leaving more in your market budget for advertising or other promotional activities. Newsletters are therefore an extremely valuable marketing tool used by ourselves as well as by our customers. If you don’t have a newsletter, here are twelve reasons you should:

1. To increase awareness. Your newsletter should give enough information to create awareness about what you are offering your customers. People should get a good idea of how it would be to deal with you, or to buy your products, so that when they leave, they will feel compelled to find out more.

2. Position your brand. You should create the best first impression about your products or services on your newsletter. Customers tend to use your marketing and communication tools to form an impression of your business. Newsletters are an extremely strong marketing tool to differentiate businesses from one another.

3. To get more business from current clients. A newsletter is an effective way to let clients know about your other services and show them how they can benefit from those services, without being “pushy”.

4. To get repeat business from former clients. People who used your services or bought your products once will purchase again–when they’re ready. A newsletter is a great way to stay in touch with them until they are.

5. To educate prospects. A newsletter that provides prospective clients with valuable information helps them make better decisions, allows you to demonstrate your expertise, and provides a mechanism for staying in touch with them until they are ready to hire you.

6. To generate word-of-mouth referrals. Newsletters have pass-along value. A good newsletter will be shared with an average of three other people, even more online.

7. To build your contact list. You can offer visitors to your website a subscription to your newsletter in return for providing their email (and other contact information). When speaking or networking, you can offer to send your newsletter to people who provide you with their business card.

8. To establish expertise and credibility. Your writing helps prospects, publishers, reporters, meeting planners, and referral sources see you as the expert you are.

9. To provide content for, and traffic to, your web site. Your newsletter can drive traffic to your website or blog. Your newsletter content can be re-used as content on your web site or blog, generating additional traffic from search engines and social media.

10. To shorten the sales process. People who respond to your newsletter are better informed about what you do and pre-sold on your ability to do it, in contrast to people who come to you via advertising.

11. To serve as a networking tool. Your newsletter is a tool to reach out to other professionals. You can interview them for an article, conduct a survey, ask them to write an article, or ask permission to put them on your mailing list.

12. To add value to your services. A newsletter can provide an added benefit for clients. Give clients “subscriptions” or added value to current services or discounts on products. Put a price tag on the newsletter but send it free to current clients.
A newsletter requires an investment of time, and possibly some capital, but the return on that investment can be substantial. If you want to grow your business, a newsletter is one of the most highly leveraged marketing activities you can do.

Since 1990, Paw Print & Mail has been the reliable and expert source for printing and mailing newsletters, nonprofit appeal campaigns, and B2B printed communications of all kinds for hundreds of businesses and organizations. Read our reviews or contact us to plan or produce your next project.