Boost Your Marketing Power with Storytelling

woman reading story to young daughters in garden
People image created by Jcomp – Freepik.com

Storytelling is an essential and ancient part of human communication. Before the advent of writing, detailed stories were told orally, passed from generation to generation. Stories hold meaning for cultures, reflecting their histories, beliefs, and customs. We tell stories to learn, build relationships, and make sense of the world around us.

In fact, our brains are programmed to recognize patterns and find meaning in those patterns. A story is a kind of pattern, and stories are an effective marketing tool that you can use to build connection with your audience.

There are good stories, and then there are great stories, the ones we remember. But what makes a compelling, memorable story?

Elements of an Effective Story

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Is Social Media Print’s New Best Friend?

facebook interacts with print
Background vector created by Freepik

While print and social media may compete for your marketing dollars, they don’t have to compete for your customers. In fact, using them together can make your marketing more effective. Let’s look at five ways print and social media can work together.

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Want More Sales? Ensure Good Word of Mouth

two smiling women exchanging information by word of mouth
Business image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com

Recently, I enjoyed a delicious meal at a local restaurant celebrating with a friend. Despite seeing advertisements for this establishment, I had never been. But lately in conversation several people mentioned to me what an exceptional experience they had dining there.

After that, I couldn’t stay away. Recommendations from friends and colleagues spoke to me in a way that ads never had. I stopped in for a bite and was not disappointed.

While a conversation may seem like just another part of each day, in this case it functioned as a marketing device. Word of Mouth Marketing (sometimes referred to as WOMM or WOM), is a crucial tool in any business’ marketing kit. Consciously or unconsciously, you’re likely participating in WOMM frequently. Anytime you recommend a product, restaurant, establishment, service, or destination, you’re influencing whether another person decides to patronize that business or purchase that product.

You may be asking, is this really marketing? The conversations we have from day to day aren’t scripted and approved by a company’s marketing department. But they have just as much, if not more, power than traditional marketing channels to make or break your business.

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How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything

cartoon of businessman riding rocket toward space
Business vector created by Dooder – Freepik.com

The place: a recent introductory meeting with the newly-hired Marketing Director of a local established and respected mid-sized company.

The topic: the state of the company’s marketing collateral.

This is a good-sized business selling big ticket services that regularly invoice in the $100,000 to $1M range. Yet, you would never perceive this when handed one of their business cards or company brochures.

The firm was seemingly still holding on to their start days, when print collateral was designed in-house using Microsoft Word, then printed on the company copier. That may have been appropriate and practical then. But given the size and capabilities of the company now, the state of their print collateral imparts a huge perception gap on the brand.  This company was attempting to continue to grow business and generate leads. However, the amateurism of their branded handouts did not match the professionalism of their work.

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Boost Your Fundraising with Celebrity Status Donors

illustration of small man talking through large megaphone
Background vector created by Dooder – Freepik.com

$44 million. That’s how much was raised during a telethon last September hosted to support victims of Hurricane Harvey. Oprah and Beyoncé joined a cast of celebrities encouraging people to give and fielding calls from donors.

And remember those sad ASPCA commercials starring Sarah McLachlan? The ASPCA raised $30 million in just the first two years of that campaign.

These numbers are admittedly larger than many nonprofits can expect to see from any one campaign. But they show the effectiveness of influencer marketing. It’s an increasingly popular marketing trend, where companies partner with well-known celebrities, politicians, and business people to promote their products. And, it’s an effective sales tool—in 2016, revenue generated from influencer marketing on Instagram alone topped $570 million.

Continue reading “Boost Your Fundraising with Celebrity Status Donors”

Make Your Marketing Powerful With Humor

Quick! Stop what you’re doing and watch this video!

Did it make you laugh? Every time I see this commercial, it makes me smile.

It’s probably true that all of us can use a good laugh. Humor is a big component of what makes many advertisements successful. It can strongly affect the way we connect with and respond to marketing messages.

A key concept of marketing today is to not just provide your customers with products or services, but to also serve as a knowledgeable source of information about anything and everything related to what your company does. When you provide customers with helpful info, it builds trust in your relationship with them and gives you greater credibility.

That seems great, right? So much so that you probably want to focus the bulk of your content development efforts on generating information that will be the most useful to readers and help them to best achieve whatever it is that they are trying to achieve with your guidance.

But helpful information isn’t the only way you can build trust in your brand. Humor is an extremely effective piece of content marketing. And if you aren’t making use of it, you should be.

3 Key Benefits of Humorous Marketing Content

Think of the person you know who’s most likely to be the class clown. Is it sometimes hard to take them seriously? Probably. One of the arguments against using humor in marketing is that it can cause you to lose credibility and seriousness in the eyes of your audience. If you lose those, your brand is in bad shape.

two people laughing and drinking wine
People image created by Freepik

But guess what? This isn’t true, at least most of the time. Humor is not just a laugh as we skim through funny cat videos. Rather, humor creates a human connection.

Humor is a natural part of conversation. It has an impact on our emotions, bodies, and brains. When you use humor in your marketing, it gives your business a human side. You’re not just a faceless source of information. You’re a real person who understands the emotions and problems of your customers and can help to solve them.

Because humor is so impactful, it has significant influential power. We watch funny videos of cats or ridiculous comedy movies because they are an emotional distraction, helping us to reduce stress. Humor inspires a feel-good reaction. When you can make your customers laugh, it creates a connection between you and them. If you can make your audience feel less stressed, you are giving them the impression that your business can help to relieve their stress in relation to whatever services your company offers. You create a bond with them that makes your business more relatable.

Humor is also memorable and enhances learning. A study by Chegg, a textbook rental service, found that nearly 80% of college students remember ads that make them laugh. The basic purpose of an advertisement is to tell your audience who you are and what you do, while inspiring them to purchase your products or services. If your ad is memorable, it will stick in people’s minds. Though their brain is remembering the amusement they felt from viewing your ad, they will also remember what you’re offering. And they’ll be more likely to go to you for their future needs.

Think about the above Volkswagen video, or the last piece of funny content you saw. After you laughed at it, what did you want to do? Since humor is such a key part of our conversations, it’s likely that you wanted to share the laughs with someone.

Humor has been cited as the key reason why content goes viral. When your audience shares your content, they are increasing your brand awareness as well as the positive emotions they associate with your business. Humor can also catch people off guard, lowering their defenses and making them more receptive to your message.

So, to recap—3 benefits of humor are:

  1. It creates a human connection between you and your audience.
  2. Humor makes your advertisements and content more memorable.
  3. Funny content is more likely to be shared, leading to greater brand awareness.

Your Sense of Humor = Your Brand

There are also three reasons why marketers are afraid to make humor a part of their content development strategy:

  1. That fear of not being taken seriously
  2. The humor could fall flat, and no one will find it funny
  3. Humor can be offensive

While these are all valid concerns, instead of focusing on if you should use humor, consider how you will use it. Humor is a spectrum. No single tone or joke is going to be appropriate for all businesses and audiences. This is where you need to know your brand—the level of humor you use should align with your brand values. If you make use of humor that is visible and shocking but ultimately offensive to your audience, you are more likely to lose customers than to gain them.

Your demographic is key to determining what kind of humor fits your business. Funny content is more likely to be shared, but if you are sacrificing your reputation to reach a larger audience, you’re alienating the customers that feel loyalty to your brand.

So, how can you be funny?

Keep it Casual

You can adopt conversational humor by sprinkling it into your content in small doses. Maybe you use some irony or exaggeration in your blog post, or add a funny component to your next advertisement. I like this ad from Amazon:

Amazon has become a popular online retailer for a wide demographic. This ad is heartwarming and made me smile. And, you don’t lose sight of the ad’s message, which is the ease and speed of ordering from Amazon. At the same time, Amazon comes across as a fun company to do business with.

Just for Fun

Separate your more serious content with posts created just for laughs. Share a meme or video with the sole intent of putting a smile on your customer’s faces. You can relate them to your brand in some way, or they can be totally random.

Rock the Boat

Some brands have the flexibility to be edgy in their marketing, while others need to stick to tamer content. If you feel confident your audience would respond favorably to shocking content, go for it. Create an ad campaign that makes you stand out from competitors in your industry, and will get your audience talking.

The most important thing to remember with humor is to keep it simple. If your audience has to think too much about what you’re saying, they won’t be laughing, and you’ll lose the chance to make that powerful connection. But if you can get it right, a touch of humor could be just what your business needs to increase marketing success and develop a stronger relationship with your audience.

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Do Your Company Colors Match Your Personality?

Brand colors on cork boardMaking an Impression

When you buy a new car, sweater, or sofa, you consider a number of factors: durability, comfort, ease of use. These are, of course, important qualities. But the initial appeal of the product, what draws you to it, may depend on one thing—the color.

So when evaluating and strategizing your company branding, how does color play into the mix?

Items like sofas and sweaters have the advantage of coming in multiple colors. If you don’t like one, there may be another that fits your needs. But when it comes to your company’s brand, there can only be one color combination to consider—the one with the best chance of making a good first impression.

And that impression is almost instantaneous. You may not realize it, but you’ve made up your mind about a product in 90 seconds or less from your first interaction with it. In that unconscious moment, your assessment is based 60 to 90 percent on color alone.

Studies show that 93 percent of consumers consider visual appearance of a logo and other branded materials before deciding whether or not to purchase. No matter how compelling your company’s services may be, or how well they are performed, your brand is only as strong as its presentation.

It is critical, then, to make a strong first impression. Color can be an impactful way to do so.

But Which Colors?

There are many theories about the emotions different colors evoke. However, the guidelines of color association are imprecise. An important reason for this is personal preference. People prefer certain colors over others and associate different things with the same color. Any meaning a color may have comes in infinite variations. Thus, choosing the color yellow for your brand will not automatically make consumers associate your brand with happiness.

This is not to say that color does not have an effect on how your brand is marketed. Rather than attempting to have the color of your logo speak for itself in terms of meaning, make sure that the color is appropriate for your brand.

What does this mean? Essentially, you want the color of your logo to represent your brand’s personality. The context of personality is necessary to make color choice important –otherwise, you could use any color.

Content creator network Dashburst found that 80 percent of clients believe color is the primary way to recognize a brand. A common example is Apple, which uses white as its main color. White can represent simplicity and cleanliness, and Apple is aligned with that. Their products are promoted as easy to use with a simple appearance, focusing on clean lines and a basic design. Apple is such a well-known company that the color of the product alone can trigger an immediate association.

Color Speaks to Your Customers

Consumers generally see white as an appropriate color for Apple’s brand. That feeling of appropriateness is important. Choosing a color that a majority of people favor is not as important as choosing a color that customers believe appropriately reflects your brand and what it represents. Though one study found that blue is the favored color of 1/3 of women and over 1/2 of men, blue should not necessarily be used in every logo or advertisement.

By this logic, even an unpopular color can be used to sell a product or brand well if it fits the product. Brown was only the favorite color of 3 percent of participants in the color survey. But it can be used effectively if it is aligned with what the brand does. If you are a woodworker or own a gardening company, shades of brown would be perfectly appropriate to include in your advertising, as it is representative of what you do.

Sometimes it is less about individual colors and more about color schemes. Similar base and background colors with a contrasting accent color help to accentuate the importance of the information presented in the accent color. If your background colors are mostly whites and grays, using red or green in small amounts will direct customers to those parts of your advertisement or website that you most want them to see.

Which Pulls Better, A or B?

It is also important to test different color schemes when you can. Track how those different campaigns compare to see what resonates best with your audience. In the Button Color Test, the website of Performable created two pages that looked the same, except for the color of the “Get Started Now” button. On one page, the button was green to align with the accent color scheme. On the second page, the button was red, the only place that color was used on the page.

The result? There was a 21 percent higher conversion rate with the red button page over the green button page. Many sites have such a button, whether it reads “Join Today” or “Donate Now.” You don’t want anyone viewing your site to have to search for these links. Having a color scheme that flows throughout the site and a high-contrast button can make aligning with your brand easy.

Other Color Considerations

Want to design a brand-new logo or re-evaluate your existing logo? Here are some additional nuances to consider before you release your brand to the world.

  • Know your competition. If your logo looks a lot like Company X’s, consumers may be confused. Making your brand colors different from your main competitors will help your company to differentiate itself.
  • Keep culture in mind. Different countries and cultures have associations with colors that can vary widely. Color association is imprecise. But, there are some colors that have culturally been assigned to certain things. (Think red and green at Christmastime.) If you’re going to market your brand globally, make sure you know your audience. Consider how the logo may need to be adapted or changed in different areas to avoid cultural gaffes.
  • Men like shades, while women prefer tints. Depending on which gender you are marketing towards, you may want to try using colors more appealing to that gender.

Using color is only effective if you choose the right color, one that fits with what you want your brand to say to the world. Ensuring the appropriateness of the color you choose can increase your potential of making a positive and lasting impression on your intended audience.

Whether you have an established color scheme or are looking to start fresh, contact Paw Print & Mail for all your printing needs.

Direct Mail Marketing, Alpha Romeo Style

Alfa-Romeo-mailing-panelWhat’s the most powerful and effective way to engage your clients and prospects in your marketing message? Speak to them one-on-one. Communicate in such a way that each person you mail to knows, or better yet feels that they are special to you; that you have something to say that they’ll be eager and enthusiastic to hear about.

One of the best ways to do so is by using one simple word… “You”.

The following real-life example and images are used to illustrate just how valuable it is to speak to your target audience when conveying your brand in your sales and marketing messaging.

And by “brand”, I don’t mean just the logo, which is only one graphical representation of your brand; but your BRAND – that special something about your company or organization that defines who you are, what you do, and how you do it. It’s what attracts customers to your company, converts them to customers, and prompts them to spread the word.

I’m a car guy. I am a big fan of sports and performance cars, both vintage and new. Back in the day, I drove a bright yellow 1973 Triumph Spitfire; one of those teeny-tiny British 2-seat roadsters that helped define the classic wind in your hair (when I used to have some) description of top-down motoring. To this day I’m still an enthusiast and enjoy driving cars for more than mere transportation. My current Audi has a manual transmission with a stick shift that for me, is simply fun!

So when this mailer arrived in my mailbox from Berlin City, the local Alfa Romeo dealership for this Italian car manufacturer’s reintroduction into the US market, they had done their homework by identifying me as a member of their target audience – someone with an interest in fun sporty cars.

Let’s breakdown this mailer… Alfa-Romeo-mailing-panel

First, the iconic Alfa logo and branding is front and center on the outside of the mail piece. They don’t design logos like this much anymore.

 

Alfa-Romeao-Greeting-Paw-Print-and-MailI turn the piece over to find the headline at the top that reads:

YOU ARE INVITED TO EXPERIENCE THE ALL NEW 2017 ALFA ROMEO GIULIA.

This could have easily been written to read: CHECK OUT THE ALL NEW 2017 ALFA ROMEO GIULIA INSIDE; and while I still would have been curious, the actual headline speaks to me by using the word “YOU”.

They also used another very powerful word in this headline… EXPERIENCE. Let’s face it, the fundamental function of a car is transportation; carrying people and things from point A to point B. Any car can do that and for many people, that’s all they need, want, or expect out of a car. But for the driver of a hot Italian red car like this, the point, or more aptly the unique selling proposition, shifts from utility to emotion, and the experience you see, hear, and feel when behind the wheel of this automobile.

Alfa-Romeo-Direct-Mail-Paw-Print-and-MailNext, I open the mailer and the very first thing I notice are the letters VIP – with the “V” creatively crafted using the V-shape of the Giulia’s classic signature Alfa Romeo front grille.

We’ve been trained through language and marketing to put a high value on the letters VIP, and it works every time. Then, right below the VIP is the coupes de grace… the Call-to-ActionSchedule your personal Test Drive Experience, employing an equally influencial derivative of the word “you”… “your”.

Alfa-Romeao-OfferPaw-Print-and-MailYes, there’s more throughout the mailer that visually shows off the car, along with an attractive lease offer, but the REAL call-to-action is the invitation to experience driving this car; because Alfa Romeo and the dealership are pretty confident that once driven, the sales process gets much easier from there.

People buy on emotion

So THIS is a great example of the power and attraction that direct mail has and will continue to have so long as marketers know how to use it and apply direct mail marketing’s three fundamental best practices:

  1. Know your target audience and focus your time and budget on them
  2. Include a compelling offer that speaks to the person and evokes emotion
  3. Design the mail piece to be relevant and attractive to the target audience; integrating personalization and the word “you” whenever appropriate.

For the best experience and results for your direct marketing projects, Contact Paw Print & Mail to discuss your objectives and needs with us.

Online Reviews – 50 revealing stats for your business

online-reviews-business-strategy

So you’re eager and ready buy that new range for your kitchen. Or hire a photographer for your wedding. Or you’re in the market for a new SUV. Or want to know where the best Thai food in town is. If you’re like most people, what’s one of the steps you take before plunking down your hard-earned cash?

Read a review

As a consumer, when looking to buy something your decision is most likely influenced by reading reviews, especially as the price tag rises.  EBay was one of the pioneers to implement an online review-based transaction process that turned out to be brilliant yet simple, and the foundation to their sustainability after all these years. Maintaining a positive review score encourages the buyer to give preference to those that rate high, while motivating the seller to do what’s necessary to please the buyer and earn a positive review. Simple, efficient, and generally very reliable.

How often do we see and hear the word value or phrase delivering value when reading or discussing what makes a business successful, success that’s not differentiated solely on price. It’s easy for a seller to “say” they deliver value, because it’s one of the right things to say when in front of a potential customer, but it’s quite another to actually deliver value, which can be measured in so many different ways. What’s perceived as value to one may not be considered value to another. In today’s marketplace, where the customer possesses virtually all the power, especially in an online marketplace, identifying and delivering value to a wide array of customers can be tricky and perplexing.

Enter the review

Customer reviews are the great equalizer in the marketplace. For the buyer they build confidence in the purchase decision, provide peer feedback data, and move them along the buying cycle. For the seller, reviews help get inside the customers’ head, they can (should) cause a business to level-up their game, and they can help to define what value means to the customer. Reviews can also result in a learning, if not humbling, experience.

About five years ago I was introduced to a simple and easy to use automated online survey service for Paw Print & Mail made available to me through one of my trade groups. The service, provided by Survey Advantage, has turned out to be one of the most valuable tools I’ve ever implemented over my 26 years in business. Not only has this tool influenced my sales and marketing efforts, but also my customer service standards; which in turn comes back around to influence sales. Do good work, earn good reviews, and build more sales. Repeat, then repeat again, and again. I call it the circle of business life!

But if you choose to solicit reviews, be prepared for a little surprise, if not disappointment, now and then. Sorry to break the news but life isn’t perfect and sooner or later, no matter how hard you try to please, a sour review will come along. Maybe you really screwed up an order, or maybe it’s not a screw up at all but a miscommunication or perception that has influenced the bad review; but that’s the checks-and-balance part of the equation and the part that makes you better, if you care and pay attention.

The key to handling a poor review is to respond immediately, clearly understand the nature of the complaint, ask what it would take to fix the problem, then do the right thing.

Reviews keep sellers honest and on their A-game when done well and implemented as part of a strategic marketing plan. Great for SEO ranking too!

Looking to grow and generate more leads for your business? Take a look at the following statistics to better understand the full potential of making and managing reviews for your business or organization.

50 stats that show the importance of online reviews

  1. 92% of consumers now read online reviews vs. 88% in 2014
  2. 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just one to three reviews vs. 29% in 2014
  3. Star rating is the number one factor used by consumers to judge a business
  4. 44% say a review must be written within one month to be relevant.This highlights the importance of recency in reviews!
  5. 68% say positive reviews make them trust a local business more vs. 72% in 2014
  6. 43% of consumers search a business by reviews at least one time per month vs. 38% in 2014
  7. 60% of consumers have searched a business at least six times per year vs. 56% in 2014
  8. There has been a considerable decrease in those that “never” search for a local business online, down from 22% to 9%, and an increase in those that search for a local business every day, up from 7% to 14%
  9. 73% have read online reviews on a desktop
  10. 29% have read reviews on a tablet
  11. 33% believe all local businesses should have websites designed for mobile vs. 25% in 2013
  12. 61% are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile optimized site
  13. 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading one to three reviews, vs. 29% in 2014
  14. 73% of consumers form an opinion by reading up to six reviews ,vs. 64% in 2014
  15. 88% of consumers form an opinion by reading up to ten reviews vs. 84% in 2014. This means it’s important to have a large body of reviews, as customers are reading more reviews now than in all years past.
  16. Only 12% are prepared to read more than 10 reviews vs. 16% in 2014
  17. 26% of consumers say it’s important that a local business responds to its reviews
  18. Only 14% of consumers would consider using a business with a one or two star rating
  19. 57% of consumers would use a business with a three star rating
  20. 94% of consumers would use a business with a four star rating
  21. 51% of consumers will select a local business if it has positive reviews
  22. 88% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, vs. 83% in 2014
  23. 48% will visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews
  24. 23% will visit the business premises directly after reading positive reviews
  25. 9% of consumers will phone a business after reading positive reviews
  26. 95% of consumers suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see bad scores
  27. Reliability (27%), expertise (21%) and professionalism (18%) remain the most important attributes to consumers
  28. More consumers are interested in “good value” than before, while less are concerned about the “expertise” of a business
  29. Word of mouth is still the most popular method of recommendation for consumers despite a 2% drop year over year
  30. On average, a consumer will look at over 10 information sources before making a purchase
  31. Over half of young people aged 18 to 34 say they trust online reviews more than the opinions of friends and family
  32. 88% of online shoppers incorporate reviews into their purchase decision
  33. Consumers who read reviews on a smartphone are 127% more likely to buy than those who read reviews on desktops
  34. Reviews are especially important for local searches as they influence up to 10% of the ranking
  35. Only reviews from friends and family are trusted more than online reviews. Reviews from experts and celebrity endorsements are less trusted than online reviews
  36. 30% of consumers assume online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews
  37. The three online platforms dedicated to reviews with the most global traffic are: yelp, tripadvisor, foursquare
  38. 58% of consumers said they have recently (within the past five years) began leaving more and more online reviews based upon customer service
  39. 100% of customers who make over $150,000 annually claim to leave reviews when it comes to a poor customer service experience
  40. Reviews of 50 or more, per product can mean a 4.6% increase in conversion rates
  41. 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews
  42. 105% customers are more likely to purchase while visiting, when site visitors interact with both reviews and customer questions and answers, and spend 11% more than visitors who don’t interact
  43. Reviews produce an average of 18% uplift in sales
  44. 64% of consumers would read online reviews when purchasing technology items
  45. 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores
  46. Between one and three bad online reviews would be enough to deter the majority (67%) of shoppers from purchasing a product or service
  47. 86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews
  48. Number of reviews posted every minute by Yelp users is 26,380
  49. If a business resolves its issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers returns back to your business
  50. 38% have read online reviews on mobile internet vs 24% on a mobile app

All stats sourced from 

BrightLocal,  Business2community,  Bazaarvoice,  webrepublic,  reprevive,  Econsultancy, business2community, Reevoo and Social Media Today.

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.