The day that I get a company phone directory that doesn’t announce, “Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed” that company will poll just a hair below the
The day that I get a company phone directory that doesn’t announce, “Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed” that company will poll just a hair below the few that still have a live human answer their phone in my customer service rankings. Does your company directory repeat this ubiquitous and meaningless waste of your customer’s time? It’s just one of many things you might want to consider changing about your phone service.
Want to improve phone service, retain current customers and maybe gain more new ones? Start by calling your own company, “Act as if you are the customer. Listen closely and experience the call process.”
Read more from Customers Deserve Better.
Two of the most cost effective methods I’ve used for generating sales in residential areas are direct mail and door hanging. These strategies both do one thing for the small business better than any other method – target your immediate neighborhood without wasting effort on people across town who will pass 10 competitors on their way to your door.
I used direct mail as part of a strategy that made me a top 1% real estate agent in my market. Even more effective, especially considering cost, I used door hanging as the linchpin of a marketing strategy that saw sales increase by double and triple digit percentages year-to-year at multiple restaurant locations.
Here are my 11 top tips for making effective use of these direct customer contact methods. I’ll start with the two tips that are specific to direct mail only.
Tips for Direct Mail
- Postcards. If the target has to open an envelope, it’s wasted money. Even while throwing a postcard away, they’ll notice a good deal and your name.
- Door hang instead. Door hanging is much more cost effective. You can contract it out at about half the cost of direct mail. If you’re in a business with low wage employees with downtime, you can send them door hanging with a pager or cell phone in case you get busy. If sales are really slow, you can even do it yourself.
Tips for Door Hanging and Direct Mail
- Color. You need color and a simple design to catch the customers attention in a couple of seconds while they open their door.
- Specials. Door hang specials, not menus or catalogs. Too much information generates distraction instead of action.
- Add-ons. Since you want your flyer to be simple and attention getting, you can’t list every great combination. Be prepared to offer suggestions that really add value and satisfaction for the customer.
- Build ticket average. The service labor and advertising cost don’t change much when the amount sold goes up. So, focus on the higher priced sale to add the most to your bottom line.
- Free. Don’t be afraid of the word “free.” Selling a $15 item at regular price with an equal or lower priced item free is usually much more profitable than giving half off the $15 item. (See Tip #6.)
- Offer repeat specials. Repeat business is more bang for you advertising buck. People who respond to specials respond to value. To get their repeat business, provide exceptional service and a different offer to bring them back again.
- Loyalty program. Do you have a loyalty program? You don’t need plastic cards with magnetic stripes. Ask for an email and track it on your computer. Or, just use paper punch cards. Give your loyal customers a sense of ownership in your success.
- Follow up. Ask for contact information and follow up with direct mail or email. An ideal approach for email is a followup survey invitation. For direct mail, in higher priced items especially, a handwritten thank you note is ideal.
- Personal contact. Small business has a massive advantage in personal contact between customers and owners or top managers. Learn names, shake hands, learn birthdays. You’re more than a product on a shelf; treat your customer as more than a dollar sign.
Why is it that we work so hard at the simplest things only to lose customers? Usually it’s because we haven’t bothered to simply treat customers the way we would want to be treated. IBM Director of Marketing Tami Cannizzaro gives a great example:
As a consumer, you know in an instant when you’re dealing with a company that doesn’t have it together. We’ve all been there: “Pleeeassse, don’t ask for my serial number again and the spelling of my name and my account numbers. Know me. That’s all I ask.”
As small business owners and managers we have the opportunity to get to know many of our customers on that personal level. Of course, remembering the customers serial number is a job for a well organized system – whether it’s a computerized Customer Relationship Management system or the box of notecards that a rare bookstore owner I know uses. But the computers, the files and the paperwork are no substitute for the smiling faces with your name on their lips and your basic needs in their head…and heart.
Whether it’s a server at the restaurant asking if you want “the usual, Jim” or the manager of the UPS Store saying, “Hi, I’ve got a package for you, Tom” when you walk in the door, that’s the personal touch that makes us loyal customers. Deep down, we’d all love to be Norm from Cheers with a bar full of people shouting our name, our favorite spot at the bar reserved and the beer in place before we make it to our seat.
We may not be able to make every entrance a Cheers! moment for our customers, but we should all make getting to know our customers our number one priority and make sure that our employees know it’s the number one priority for them as well.
The Gooder Group’s Real Estate Rainmaker website recently featured 17 Survival Tips For Facebook Marketing .
Two of them really stood out:
6. Focus on engagement, not Likes.
15. Never buy bulk Likes.
On Facebook and Twitter it’s easy to get caught up in statistics such as numbers of Likes or Followers, but you can have great stats and no sales. For the small business, social networks are all about human contact. A Facebook post by a loyal customer is just the tech version of good old fashioned word of mouth. (And somebody posting negatively is probably even worse than the old version if you don’t react. But fortunately, if handled politely and appropriately may be easier to recover from since it’s easier to track.)
So, if you’re not focusing on racking up the ReTweets, what should you be focused on? Two things:
- Encouraging your loyal customers to recommend you
- Engaging with the online opinion leaders in your market
Unless your selling social networking, who matters much more than how many.
A check in with a positive comment from someone with an established reputation paints the picture you want to paint of your business and like a picture, it’s worth a thousand Likes.
These 11 Great Customer Service Stories from Business Insider are what building long term sales and customers for life are all about. Here’s a personal favorite:
Sainsbury’s, a grocery store in the U.K., must have been pretty amused when they received a letter from a three-year-old girl named Lily.
“Why is tiger bread called tiger bread?” she asked, referring to one of their bakery items. “It should be called giraffe bread.”
Lily was just being observant – the pattern on the bread does resemble a giraffe more than a tiger. To everyone’s surprise, Chris King, a customer service manager at the chain, responded. “I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it? It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a looong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.” He enclosed a gift card, and the bread was renamed earlier this year.
I found this article by way of economist Craig Newmark who added, “…I’d think it would be worthwhile for many companies to cut a little of their mostly stupid advertising and increase expenditures on services like these. ”
He’s absolutely right. If you can devote an extra 1 to 10% to advertising or chop 5-50% off your prices, you could make your customer’s day better instead. The bonus, aside from increased sales, is that when we handle our business this way we get to deal with happy customers and happy employees and go home feeling good about our work at the end of the day.
Think that the big corporations with the big budgets have the edge in online marketing? You should probably think again. Forbes writer T.J. McCue’s article of 19 Things Successful People Do on Social Media reads like a list of small business advantages. #7: They are genuine and #15: Success in social media demands that you get personal describe two of the biggest reasons that customers choose the locally owned business over the corporation. Social media just magnifies the difference.
#15: Success in social media demands that you get personal.
I find it laughable that CEOs join social networks only to post about their companies. There are , no doubt, some high profile CEOs that people follow regardless, but most knowledgeable executives understand you have to get personal. That above lighthearted joke about what you had for lunch is not what I mean. “People don’t fall in love with hex colors and logos — they fall in love with people”
As a small business owner or manager, your customers want your personality in the mix, though they may not explicitly say so. So, don’t share every trip to grocery store (except on Foursquare), but do share that photo of the new pet or the Little League victory in the family.