Mastering Permission Marketing

Marketing is one of the biggest challenges to being a business. Things are constantly changing, growing and evolving as to what’s most effective, what’s got the lowest cost, how to reach the most people, and ways you can reach people, so while even many of the tried-and-true practices have stuck around, there are many others that are new and great opportunities for marketing. But perhaps the biggest issue is that it typically has to be done consistently and with quality to be most effective, which takes time and effort.

One of the types of marketing you can do is called permission based marketing. As you can imagine, this means that the person has given their permission to you to market to them. They’ve given you that permission where they’ve given you that permission for one of two reasons: one reason is that it’s the only way they can sign up for marketing from you (for example you only have a Facebook page, you’re not on any other social sites and don’t have a newsletter or blog). The other reason they gave you that permission where they gave it to you is because that’s how they prefer to be marketed to.

As someone who does and consults on marketing I’m very intentional about what I choose as far as marketing. One of my favorite ways to be marketed to is email because it’s one I have the most control over. This week I received two emails from people I signed up to receive emails from, emails with two very different messages. One told me that they were going to send maybe an email a month and the rest of the updates I could get on Facebook in groups. The other explained that they wanted to make some additions to what they send but wanted to give us (the subscribers) the ability to choose what we each do/don’t receive. I found one email to be incredibly frustrating and the other exciting.

As a side note I should mention there’s a difference between changing what you send (i.e. just product/service updates to tips) and how you send it (Facebook to Twitter). Yes, surveying your customers is a good idea if you’re going to change the content, but it’s not typically as big of an issue as changing how you do the marketing.

As mentioned earlier, the thing to remember about permission marketing in situations where you give your customers or visitors the opportunity to choose from a variety of marketing opportunities (newsletter, blog, podcast, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.), is that the person who gave their permission specifically indicated how they wanted to be marketed to. If you’re venturing into new marketing options and want to see if they would rather receive updates that way, let them know! Give them the ability to subscribe to their preferred opportunity, and unsubscribe from what they don’t enjoy too.

There’s a cost to all marketing so I understand that a business may choose to go in a direction where they get more bang for their buck, but the best part about permission marketing is that a business has the ability to ask their existing subscribers how they want to be marketed to, and to invite people to unsubscribe/subscribe where they prefer. This gives your customers the ability to cut your marketing costs and tell you exactly what their preferences are.

Making the decision to stop one type of marketing or start another is a big decision, one that is not only about you but also about your customers. I encourage you to not make the decisions for them, unless you’re left with no other option (for example the site is closing down).

Are you practicing permission marketing, and if so what have you found works for you and your customers?

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Beyond Boring Businesses

One of the things that you hear from business owners is that they want to go viral, or be super popular, but let’s face it, there are some businesses that just aren’t naturally built to be celebrated as some are. Even a business that has difficult and boring days like a vet who has to put pets to sleep or give them shots will see at least one cute animal they can share with their community each day and week to include in their marketing. But what about the businesses that don’t really have the greatest built-in marketing opportunities?

The first thing I would say is that the business is as boring as you make it out to be. Second, even if you do have one of the most boring businesses in the world, it doesn’t mean that you should treat your customers poorly, not be passionate about your offerings, or be lazy and inconsiderate about the experience you offer. Regardless whether your business is the most exciting or the most boring in the world, you are offering something that is of value, something that people need, and you should be proud of that.

One example of a boring industry is the home/car insurance industry. It’s really not that interesting, few of us deal with them other than to pay a bill. And for those of us that deal with them it’s not really interesting or exciting to talk about your house being robbed or being in a serious car accident. Those are moments we would rather forget. But as we’ve seen through the many Farmers Insurance commercials, there are some crazy stories that go along with insurance claims, and they’re true! While the crazy is, I’m sure, a very small percentage of the claims they deal with, they’ve brought those stories to the forefront to illustrate that if they can deal with the crazy they can surely handle the boring.

No, it’s not always the right choice to find the crazy to highlight, but there is always an emotion that you can speak to with your customers, and there are almost always stories you can share to show the community that you support ranging from the heart-wrenching to the sweet. Don’t worry about going viral or being the most interesting business in the world, focus on helping your customers feel recognized, that you understand the different situations they’re dealing with and showing them that you can help make their day even just a little better.

What are your tips for navigating the boring parts of business?

The News on Newsletters

One of my favorite marketing tools (and communication tools) is email. Before you groan let me explain. In 2018 a newsletter can include podcasts, videos, articles, and many other things, so don’t think it has to be all/mostly text (unless that’s what you and your customers want it to be). It’s an opt-in opportunity to know that you’re speaking with people who are actively interested in what you’re offering. It’s one of the lowest cost, most direct, most consistent opportunities to connect with your people. It’s a way to build trust and become top of mind with your people. Let’s talk about what you can do with a newsletter and getting people to sign up for yours.

Before you can send anything, you have to get them to sign up. While I understand that a newsletter is a free gift in and of itself, it’s usually easier to get people to subscribe if you offer some bait. Whether this is a discount, special report, opportunity to talk with you or helpful resource, offering something like this is a great way to encourage people to sign up (make sure to take into account GDPR and privacy policy changes when planning this).

The other thing to take into account when trying to get people to sign up is what you’re offering. Way too often I see a newsletter subscription box at the bottom of the site and nothing except the phrase “sign up for our newsletter.” Why?! Why would I want to sign up for another email? There’s nothing convincing about that phrase. Make a clear and concise statement about what you offer that makes people want what you’re offering.

As far as what you’re doing with a newsletter, it’s a great way to provide exclusive content and insights that people can’t get from your blog or offers you don’t want to share with the world on social media. It’s also a great opportunity to dive a bit deeper into stuff you’ve shared on social media.

What about you? Do you put out a newsletter? Which newsletters you subscribe to are your favorite?

The Message in Your Marketing

Over the past few years there have been a lot of issues raised in the marketing community, the most recent being GDPR. While I think it’s ultimately a good thing to help consumers be more aware of their options and have some control back, it has presented some challenges for businesses in implementation because many aren’t in line with GDPR type standards already. Other issues that have been raised in the past and continue to be an issue are spam, fake news and clickbait titles/articles. A recent experience has prompted me to write today about some of these topics as well as the bigger topic of marketing.

Let’s start with my recent experience. I’ve owned my car for quite a few years now and over the years I’ve gotten calls, emails and letters from the car company letting me know they would like me to sell the car back to them (so I can buy a new one). While slightly annoying it has been almost an expected thing, but not something that has really annoyed me or made me dislike the company. Recently I made an appointment for service and a couple days before the scheduled service I got a call from someone at the dealership/service facility and they said that they would like to ask me a few questions when I came in for service. That’s it. There wasn’t any clue whatsoever regarding what they had questions about or why they even had questions for me. Turns out it was a sales person at the dealership who wanted to talk with me about selling back my car. I made it clear to them that the part I appreciated least about their contact was the lack of specificity.

Here’s the thing. Marketing is a tool, a resource, a trust building exercise, an awareness raising opportunity and something we as business owners really need to be respectful of. I’m supportive of many of the changes that the industry has been making because I don’t feel that enough business owners are truly treating marketing with the respect, and reverence almost, that it deserves. There’s a definite line between raising awareness and bashing people over the head with your message. The obnoxious intrusions need to cease. There’s been plenty of recent research done that has indicated that people are interested in interacting with companies and receiving marketing from them, but not in a way that’s disrespectful, rude, invasive, pervasive or blind. There’s also a line between teasing your customers with what’s to come and being completely vague.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your marketing. Are you being specific, relevant and in line with what your customers want? If not, I’d be happy to talk with you about getting things back on the right track so you effectively connect with your customers. It’s time we start making marketing good for everyone.

Refresh for Spring Success

With spring officially arriving even if we did have a snow storm where I live this week, I thought we’d talk about some ways that you can bring new life to your business.

1-add a new product or service. I get emails from companies on a regular basis announcing new collections they’re offering, new partnerships they’re doing or seasonal offerings they’ve got. There’s something exciting for both the customers and the company when a new product is added, whether it’s planned to be a permanent edition or just a seasonal or short term opportunity.

2-refresh your marketing. Maybe marketing isn’t something you’ve been consistent with for your business, or you’re just not happy with the marketing you’re doing. Spring is a great time to redesign your newsletter email, recommit to marketing consistently, create and implement a new strategy for marketing on social media, do more local marketing (yes, even if you’re just an only business), or make some updates to your website.

3-clean up. If you’ve got a physical location that customers come to, or a location where you spend a lot of time working or store products, spring is a great time to do a deep cleaning of your location, move things around, throw things out and put a fresh coat of paint on the place.  Customers will appreciate the space being neat and clean, and so will you!

4-education. Spring is also a great time to learn a new skill or get some education, both for you as the business owner as well as your employees. Whether you’re interested in expanding your services and need some education to do that, or you want to give your employees some opportunities to be more proficient or work in other areas that they currently don’t, sometimes some education can be just the thing to get you refreshed, renewed and bring new life to the business.

So what will you do to put some spring in your business?

Building a 4 Leaf Clover Business

With St. Patrick’s Day this weekend I thought today we’d talk about 4 aspects of business success in honor of the 4 leaf clover. We’ll first take a look at the 3 things that appear on all clovers (in all businesses) and then we’ll look at one that only appears on the 4 leaf clovers:

People:
However you want to look at what you offer, without someone to buy what you offer, there’s really no point to being in business. It’s essential that you take care of all your people if you want to stay in business, let alone become one of the few beloved companies who lasts the tests of time.

Product/Service:
Every business needs at least one product or service that has value, addresses a need or solves a problem for people. Once you’ve got the concept for your product(s) and/or service(s) you have to decide what type of quality you will provide, and whether to differentiate yourself by price, or serve only a specific location or try and reach the masses among other things.

Marketing:
Once you’ve got a product and/or service you’ve got to tell people about it! There are tons of ways that you can market your business and what you’re offering from social media to blogs to newsletters to TV ads to radio ads to joint ventures to affilates. Marketing today has evolved from just product/service awareness to creating experiences, educating potential customers, and interacting with them in real time all in addition to product/service/brand awareness.

Purpose/Mission/Vision:
As I said, most businesses do their best to attend to the first 3, like any clover, but some business go the extra mile and give the extra effort to do things on purpose and with purpose. I had a business owner ask me recently if they really needed to have a purpose/vision/mission because they were “just selling a shirt.” Yes, you can differentiate on the exact product you sell, price and marketing you do and the people that fit your niche, but if you really want a tribe, if you want people to come back again and again and have a passionate investment in your business you need to have and follow a purpose/mission/vision.

So what about you? Are you just working to sell a product or service, or are you working to create an experience for your customers, one that they want to invest in, be part of and share with others?

Back to the Brand

Today I thought I’d talk a bit about a topic that I’ve touched on in the past but it’s been a while since I really devoted time to it, because this week a client approached me because they were having trouble with branding, so it got me thinking about what branding is and how we work with it in our individual companies. According to dictionary.com, a brand is “a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic,” “to impress indelibly,” “a trade name or trademark,” and/or “to give a product a distinctive identity by means of characteristic design, packaging, etc.”

So what does that mean to you and your business? I believe that branding is personal, and if it’s not personal and you (and any partners) don’t like it, the company won’t do as well. You have to be comfortable with, excited about, and connected to the brand you choose. That doesn’t mean it won’t change or develop over time, but whatever you go with now or in the future, it needs to be something you like. And once you settle on something you like then you can get feedback from others to make sure it’s crowd friendly too.

So how do you decide on a brand? From the definitions above your brand can be reflected through anything from the words you use to the images you use to the packaging you have. There are lots of sites you can look at to get ideas as far as what other people have done or how to pick colors that work with the feeling behind your company (and brand), but again, what you put on your site has to be something you’re comfortable with.

Why? Because once you’ve established your brand you have to show or say it everywhere. If I talked about little blue boxes you’d think about a particular jewelry company; they don’t put things in any other color boxes, just blue. If I said “Just Do It,” you’d think of a particular sports company that encourages everyone to get out there and be active and live their lives. If I talked about the ‘happiest place on earth’ you’d think of the feeling you get when you watch a particular company’s movies or going to their theme parks, a feeling they hope extends to other parts of your life as a result.

So what about your company? Have you established a brand and consistently taken it through all of your offerings, customer service solutions and presentations/packaging? If you don’t have a brand, establishing one could help you stand out among other companies in your industry and connect better with potential customers.

Cost-Sensitive Sales

If you’re struggling to make sales, or aren’t making the sales you want, chances are good that you’ve thought of all kinds of things you can do to have more sales including adding more products to your inventory, doing paid ads, moving to a trendier location, adding more sales people to your sales team, or redoing something (like your store, your products, your packaging, your website etc.) Some of these things can get to be expensive, and you may not have a lot to spend right now. Unfortunately, you may have to spend at least a little to get in some more sales, but there are somethings you can do to bring in more sales without raising the overhead too much. Today’s post is a little longer than usual but there are lots of ideas in it to help you increase sales and be more profitable.

First and foremost is addressing something that too many companies aren’t addressing in their marketing, including on their website and social accounts: who are you, why you do what you do, and what makes you different. Maybe you really aren’t much different as far as the products or services you offer, but because you’re running the business, your business is different than any other one out there. How you approach business, the people you hire, the things you offer are all a little different because you’re behind the business, but people don’t know that unless you say so.

Another thing you could try is reusing existing supplies or technology in new ways. For example maybe you buy decorative boxes that you sell as the packaging for your gift box sets (spa day, wine inspired, new baby etc.), but some people may be interested in buying just the boxes for their own purposes, so you could offer them as a separate purchase. For technology, maybe you do embroidery on shirts that companies buy to resell from you, but you could use the same technology to embroider logos on shirts for companies, or embroider initials on towels for hotels or for newlyweds.

You can also look for products that you can resell, including digital products and items that you never touch. For example if you create dog leashes you could find some products on Amazon to sell (aka drop shipping), or a digital video course on training your dog you can sell as an affiliate.

Another way to increase sales with a physical location is to give your location a fresh coat of paint and do the deep cleaning you may have been putting off. Everyone prefers to shop in a neat and tidy space. Even when the atmosphere suggests that it’s a dark and mysterious type location that doesn’t mean that you need to have dirty floors, peeling paint or a kitchen (or back office) that hasn’t been cleaned since you moved in.

As for the people-cost concern, something I’ve always suggested are working with interns from high schools and colleges. Adding them to your team even for 1-6 months gives you the extra hands or bodies you need and gives them real world experience that they can apply to their future job, gives them the opportunity to try something out, or fulfills that school credit they have to get in the community. Especially when it comes to technology students are great to work with because they know the technology far better than many because they’ve been exposed to it for longer and understand it in ways that it may take some of us years to ever get, if we ever get it at all.

There are lots of free and low-cost marketing opportunities as well, from social media to guest blog posts, to media interviews. The only catch there may be that you have to do the work of finding blog post and media opportunities and letting them know why they should share you with their audience.

Now, the question you’ve got is cost. Yes, depending on how you’ve had your website done or you’ve done your website there may be some cost there (if you don’t have a website set one up now using any number of free services or contact an agency or tech expert for help). You may also have to buy more of something you already buy, but there could be a good chance for a (higher) discount then and you could take advantage of that and spread the cost around. And yes, you may have to pay a minimum wage for the interns (many programs require it), but it’s usually far cheaper than what a regular employee would cost you (and you may decide to hire them later which would save you future training costs). Most of these suggestions though require more of your time than your finances, but all of them require that you really commit to doing better and helping more people. These are just a few of the ways you could grow your business and reinvigorate sales, what will you do today to move your company forward?

Creating a Customer Connection

Today I thought we’d talk about 3 of what could be the scariest and most intimidating words you’ve ever heard relating to business (and maybe life too), and why they’re super important if you want to succeed in 2017. The words? Personal emotional connection.

That’s one of the secrets to being successful today in 2017, to make your customers have a personal emotional connection with what you’re selling. Yes, details are very important as are facts and information and honesty. Also important is providing consistency across your marketing, customer service, and products/services, so that whether you’ve got someone who buys from you on a weekly basis or someone who only buys every 6 months, they can expect the same experience now and in 6 months.

So what’s the big deal about a personal emotional connection? First, it’s personal. That means that the buyer feels that you’re personally interested in them and understand their personal needs and desires, and that your product or service will align with them. Second, it’s emotional. You’ve probably seen the commercials where little kids in war-torn countries look starved and you’ve probably seen the commercials with starved animals as well. Both of those commercials play on your emotions, knowing that there are plenty of people out there who will have their emotions tapped by those commercials and want to donate. Third, it’s a connection. People like knowing that they’re heard, understood, appreciated, and that they have something in common with others. You want someone to come to your brand saying “finally! Someone gets me and my needs!”

One of the biggest challenges is that although sometimes a personal emotional connection can be made instantly, more often than not it takes time. And time is not something that everyone is willing or things they’re able to wait for. But the research shows that more often than not you can get more from a customer who has a personal emotional connection with your company, than you can with someone who just buys for the price or availability. So go ahead and come up with some services and products that people would buy for price or availability and then have in place a plan to create a personal emotional connection with them, and have other products and/or services available for if and when that connection happens.

Have you made an effort to make a personal emotional connection with your customers? If so, what have you learned?

Listening in Business

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is listening. It’s so important if you want to be successful in business to be listening. Let’s take a minute today to talk about the important things you should be listening to if you want to be successful.

Your customers: what are they saying? They will let you know about their dissatisfaction and the things they love. The internet is a great place to find reviews about your products and services, and you should invite your customers to give you feedback directly as well. You can also listen to their silence and their lack of return to your business and products/services as a clue as to how much they don’t like you.

Your suppliers: are your suppliers constantly raising prices? Are they hesitating on delivery? Do they tell you it’s difficult to get what you ask for? If so it may be a clue that there’s something broken or not working right in your supply chain.

Your employees: your employees are often your first line of interaction between your customers and your products/services, so it’s important to listen to what they have to say about what you offer, what customers are saying to them, things they’re feeling challenged by and what they would like to see changed. If your employees aren’t happy, aren’t respected and don’t think your product or service is worth what you’re charging then you’ll have some difficulty getting them to work at their best for your company.

Your marketing: I know it can sometimes be difficult to understand all the metrics and know exactly what things mean, but it’s important to be in touch with your marketing team to see how people are responding to your marketing. If they’re not responding and you’ve done the proper a/b testing, and tried different marketing opportunities for a consistent period of time, maybe the marketing isn’t the issue.

The market/business world: are you in tune with what’s going on in other businesses? With how they’re marketing their products? With what’s going on with your competitors? With how others are marketing? With government or industry changes that might affect you? I know it sounds like a lot of work but it’s important to be aware of what’s going on outside of your company, not just inside your company.

How good of a listener are you as a business leader? Take time today to really listen to what’s going on in and around your business.