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Five Tips That Make Asking for Referrals Less Intimidating

Five Tips That Make Asking for Referrals Less Intimidating

Asking for referrals can be tough. It can feel like you’re being pushy or imposing on someone’s time. But in reality, the majority of happy customers are more than willing to give a referral when asked.

While the first hurdle in asking for referrals is getting over your own insecurities or mental blocks associated with the process, here are five additional tips that make asking for referrals less intimidating.

1. Provide Great Service

This one might seem obvious, but the first step to feeling good about asking for a referral is providing the best service possible. Of course you’re going to feel sheepish approaching a customer who had a less-than-stellar experience with your company. But if you are honest, responsive, and helpful from start to finish, then why shouldn’t your customer be excited to pass your name along to others?

We’re all human and mistakes do happen. There will be times when a customer has a sub-par interaction with your business. That doesn’t mean that you should run away and consider that customer a lost cause. If you are proactive about reaching out, apologizing, and asking for a second chance to wow them (and then delivering on your promise the next time), you might just create an even more loyal customer. People appreciate honesty and businesses who are willing to go the extra mile, so when you make that effort—even if it’s after an initial mess-up—you should feel confident asking for a referral after you’ve proven your mettle the second time.

2. Start a Conversation

Sometimes it can feel difficult to ask for a referral because it feels like you’re selfishly asking for a favor out of the blue. One way to mitigate this feeling is to establish a meaningful conversation with someone before you ask them for a referral. Send them a congratulatory note when you see on LinkedIn that they reached a milestone in their career. Forward them an article that you think would be of interest to them. Donate to a Kickstarter related to their business’s newest product launch. There are lots of simple ways that you can show support for someone that will make asking them for a referral further down the line feel like more of a part of a conversation rather than a demand coming out of nowhere.

Of course, there is an art to doing this. You don’t want to make a grand gesture of kindness and then turn right around and ask for a referral. No one wants to feel like they’re being bribed into saying something nice about you and your business. But if you show a genuine interest in what someone is doing in their business life, they’ll feel even more open to saying something genuinely kind about you when you ask.

3. Provide Various Ways to Gather the Referral

It’s always best to ask someone for a referral directly; people are far more likely to refer when they’re asked than they are to go out of their way to do it on their own (even if they had a positive experience with your company). However, you want to be sure you’re making it easy for customers to refer you, whether you’re asking them directly or not.

Include a link to sites where customers can provide a review (whether that’s Yelp, Facebook, or a tool like Grade.us) in your email signature. Customers who see this reminder each time they communicate with you might be more likely to review you when they have a spare minute if they’re presented with the opportunity to do so on more than one occasion. You can also create a “refer a friend” button or page on your website. This makes it easy for you to collect referrals from customers by sending them a link to the page, while it also allows customers you haven’t reached out to directly to still submit a referral if they feel so inclined.

4. Create Partnerships

One of the best ways to generate referrals is by creating partnerships with other business owners. They’re facing the same struggles as you when it comes to generating referrals, so it’s easier to ask them for referrals. They understand how intimidating it can be to ask customers to pass your name along, and so they’ll be all the more willing to do so for you and your business (and you will be willing to do the same for them).

Work to find businesses that are providing a good or service that makes sense with the work your company does. If you own a shoe store, talk to the cobbler down the street. If you’re a DJ for weddings and events, speak with the local party equipment rental company.

Asking a fellow business owner for referrals is not only a bit less intimidating than asking a customer, it also establishes a steady flow of referrals. Business owners will continue to come across prospects who are in need of your services, whereas past customers might only meet someone every once in a while who’s looking for the good or service you provide.

5. Be Specific In Your Ask

Some people are hesitant to ask for referrals when it seems like a broad ask: “If you know anyone who needs what I do, let me know!” One way to counter this is to do a little research.

Let’s say you’re a website designer who already has a list of local businesses you’d like to target. You’ve looked at their sites and have some specific thoughts on how to strengthen each of their designs to help them grow their business.

Go onto LinkedIn and see if any of your current clients have connections at these businesses. If so, you then have a specific referral ask that you can make. Reach out to your current client and say, “I see that you know the marketing manager at Company X. I’ve been wanting to get in touch with someone over there about their website design; I’ve got some concrete ideas about how to organize their site that could help grow their sales. Would you be willing to put me in touch with your connection?”

This serves a few purposes. It shows to your current client that you’re serious about your business, know your stuff, and do your research. This makes them feel more at ease in referring you to their connection. It also makes you feel more empowered in your ask. You know exactly what you want, and you’re confident enough in the services you provide to be unafraid to ask for that referral.

Asking for referrals can be scary. But if you provide excellent service to your customers, there’s no need for you to feel shy. People are excited to spread the word about a great business, and if you’re able to drum up the courage to ask for referrals, you’ll be sure to get great new leads for your efforts.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Referrals.

Transcript of How to Edge Out Your Competition by Being Uncopyable

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John Jantsch: You come up with this great, new invention or innovation, and you’d go to market, and then like within a week, somebody copies it. That’s a problem, isn’t it? What you need to do is learn how to be uncopyable, and that’s what we’re going to do on this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. I visit with Steve Miller. He’s the author of a book called Uncopyable. No more commodity for you. We’re going to make your business a star. Check it out.

Stuff like payroll and benefits are hard. That’s why I switched to Gusto, and to help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive limited time deal. If you sign up for their payroll service today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to Gusto.com/Tape.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Steve Miller. He is a consultant, speaker and author, including the book we’re going to talk about today called ‘Uncopyable: How To Create An Unfair Advantage Over Your Competition’. Steve, thanks for joining me.

Steve Miller:  Hey John. Thanks a lot. I appreciate the invitation.

John Jantsch: I’m going to let you do kind of a response to something I hear all the time. “I sell blah, blah, blah, and everyone has the same blah, blah, blah. How in the world am I going to differentiate?” I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that from people selling stuff that they think is just a commodity.

Steve Miller: Yeah. That’s so true now because, and it’s technology’s fault quite frankly because … In fact, you and I were just laughing because of we’ve been around this for so long. Back when I used to have a real job, and you do go into production and build things, a lot of times, you had an advantage over the competition, and the advantage was that you had a little bit of time before they could catch up with you or copy what you were doing. Over the years, technology has turned it into where it is really hard to differentiate yourself from your competition with just your product or even your services, and so we hear these complaints.

You and I both hear these complaints all the time from people saying, “Guy, I come up with a new idea, and gosh, the competition just grabbed it and copied it right away. How do I separate myself?” It’s kind of how this whole thing got going with me as a consultant, was because I saw this happening a number of years ago, and ultimately developed into my book. What I try to explain to people is that they’ve been fighting and competing under the same unwritten rules for so many years, and the unwritten rules are that you compete by product, service and price. As you all know, if your products or commodities, and the customer can’t really see a huge difference between your services, well then, it boils down to a decision of its price, and nobody wants to fight that battle to the bottom, but unfortunately, most people, that’s what they do.

John Jantsch: I always tell people, “There’s always going to be somebody willing to go out of business faster than you.”

Steve Miller: Yeah. I actually heard you say that once, and I thought that was really hilarious.

John Jantsch: I have said it many times on this show as frequent listeners will attest.

Steve Miller: Yeah. Yeah.

John Jantsch: What’s interesting is, when they do find that way to differentiate, especially a way that is valuable to somebody, then price really goes way down the list, doesn’t it?

Steve Miller: In fact, in my opinion, if it’s done right, price kind of just goes away, because the people are recognized that what you have, I mean, what they’re going to pay you for what you have is far less than what they feel they’re going to get back.

John Jantsch: Think about all the people that are out there, that all the companies out there kicking themselves going, “I can’t believe it. Those guys do blah, blah blah, and our product is clearly better. Our service is clearly better.” I mean, so what do you attribute that to, because I think everybody could almost pick a category and say, “Why are these guys, what do they do that nobody else is doing?”

Steve Miller: First of all, I find it really hard to believe that … I mean, I get it. When we have our own product, it’s our baby, right? It’s our company. Of course, our product is better, and of course our service is better.

Why can’t the customer just see that, right? I think that in a lot of those cases, it’s probably that they really aren’t that much better, but clearly, somebody has done it, either you had done a better job of marketing or they have created what I call the ‘Attachment with the customer’, to where the customer that they become so attached to you, that they feel they would lose if they leave. That’s kind of what the uncopyable philosophy is all about, is to develop that relationship where it’s not loyalty. It’s attachment. Those are different things, because satisfied customers leave all the time.

John Jantsch: Yeah, so there’s a … I don’t know if this qualifies as a quote in the book, but a line in the book that I so agree with and I think people don’t get this idea. I want to get to your, because I’m sure people will start saying, “Okay. How do I do this? How do I make myself uncopyable?”, but competition doesn’t breed innovation. Competition breeds conformity, and gosh, I found that to be true.

Steve Miller: Yeah. Yeah, and that has been kind of one of my mantras for many, many years that, because when I talk about that we tend to be commoditized, it’s within our world, within our marketplace. I like to use the example of things like hotels. How many hotels right now have a curved shower rod? The answer is all of them.

They all have curved shower rods in the bathrooms, right? A few years ago, and it really wasn’t that long ago, Westin Hotels installed curved shower rods in their hotels, thinking, “This is going to be a great differentiator from us.” All the other hotels were watching, and they said, “We can do that too.” Right? That’s what happens, is that we are in our own little marketplaces.

This is the box that we all talk about, and we are in there, and we’re all just staring at each other. When we stare at each other and somebody comes up with something that is typically better, not necessarily different, we just say, “We can do that, but we can do it better.” Then, the person across the other side of the box is looking at you saying, “Oh, we can do that, but we can do that better.” It just turns into this vicious cycle of everybody’s copying each other, and so as a result, that type of competition does not breed any type of innovation. It breeds conformity, and when you just stare at each other all day long, you will never come up with new ideas.

John Jantsch: It’s amazing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with business owners and showed them, “Look, everybody’s saying the same thing. That’s our opportunity.” Instead, I get the, “Nobody, no other accountant wears purple shirts. Why would we do that?”

Steve Miller: That’s right. That’s exactly right.

John Jantsch: It’s almost like they’re afraid of it, and I think it’s a real opportunity, isn’t it?

Steve Miller: It’s a tremendous opportunity, because it’s like I see … I mean, I’ll say to people, “Look, what’s the most popular roller coaster in the world?” Eventually, people start to figure it out, but for the most part, they start thinking about, “Oh, these big, high roller coasters that if you don’t blackout two or three times, then it wasn’t any fun”, and when the bottom line is, it’s Space Mountain. Space Mountain is just a roller coaster. In fact, it’s not even a great roller coaster.

It’s just an average roller coaster, and what Disney did was they said, “You know what? Everybody else just has these roller coasters that are sitting outside, and people ride them, and they’re fun, but I’m going to have something that people, that they don’t get anywhere else”, and so, he created Space Mountain, and they don’t even call it a roller coaster.

John Jantsch: One of the things that, and this kind of gets at my people are afraid to be different sometimes, I think one of the things this takes, and you talk about the uncopyable mindset, so that’s got to be the starting point, doesn’t it?

Steve Miller: Right.

John Jantsch: Explain to us what that is.

Steve Miller: Yeah. It is the starting point, and I actually learned this a number of years ago from a couple of pretty smart people. When I was a kid, my dad was the co-inventor of the 8-track tape player. I think for most of your listeners, they’re probably going to have to go look that up. It wasn’t dad who taught me this.

It was that they decided when they were going to manufacture this, they were going to manufacture it in Japan, and back in the ’60s, made in Japan was, it was a piece of junk, but there was this American who was consulting for Toyota at the time, and helping them to develop cars with high quality, and his name was Edwards Deming, and so dad and his other partners hired Deming to come in and work with them on creating this, a quality 8-track. As a kid, as a young teenager, my dad thought it would really be fun to just drag me along to some of these dinners with these guys and stuff, totally ignoring the fact that I was a teenager who had no interest in being around these other people whatsoever. Deming is now very, very famous, and one of the things that he used to talk about in his Total Quality Management Theory was benchmarking. We just talked about that a little bit, because benchmarking is, basically means to watch the competition, but the essence of benchmarking is that you watch the best, and you study best practices, and then you emulate within your own context. Now, one of the things that Deming stressed though, which is what’s missed by a lot of companies, is that he said, “Look, you can’t just benchmark your competition, because again, you’re not going to come up with new ideas by benchmarking your competition. You benchmark them just to see where you stand in the industry, but when you want to get new ideas, you have to leave your planet and go study aliens.” In other words, get out of your box and go study aliens who are completely unrelated to you. Then, when you study them, now you start to see things that you can steal from them, and I call it ‘Stealing genius’. That’s the technique that I use, and you go study ideas from them, and you bring it back into your world, and it’s brand new.

John Jantsch: Wouldn’t it be great if in your business, all you had to do was the stuff you love, the reason you started the business, and not all that administrative stuff like payroll and benefits. That stuff’s hard, especially when you’re a small business. Now, I’ve been delegating my payroll for years to one of those big corporate companies, and I always felt like a little, tiny fish, but now, there is a much better way. I’ve switched over to Gusto, and it is making payroll and benefits and HR easy for the modern small business. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive limited time deal. If you sign up today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to Gusto.com/Tape.

One of the things you mentioned was this connection, because again, I think a lot of people are thinking, “Oh, I just need to make this new twist on my product or this new way that we go to market”, and I especially watch millennials, because I have four daughters that fit in that age group, and they will spend their last dime to be entertained by a company. In fact, some of them won’t do business with a company if that company doesn’t have smart marketing and a good experience, and so I think that that idea that the real innovation that a lot of people are missing is in creating a better experience.

Steve Miller: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. The great examples, the fact that you mentioned you had four daughters, I have one daughter, and so I assume you’re familiar with the American Girl Store. The American Girl Store did exactly that.

Let’s start with the fact that it’s just a doll store. I mean, that’s really all … All it was all about was selling a doll, but they decided that the dolls would have stories, so the dolls had stories, and in the early dolls were historical dolls based on different eras of American history. My daughter’s was Tiffany, who was the American Revolution. She has authentic clothing for that.

They had books that you could read about the doll, but they would be based in actual Revolutionary War events, so she learned about the Revolutionary War. Then, when you take your daughter to the American Girl Store, they had a restaurant, they have a beauty salon. I’ve heard they’ve even started having a tattoo parlor. I’m not sure about that, but lots of different ways for the girls to experience a doll, right? I think that that’s one of the early really great examples.

Those guys in Disney obviously, but of exactly what you’re talking about. They want to be entertained, and it’s more than just the product.

John Jantsch: Let me throw into your story. We had all of those, and I think I was $1,200 or so poorer after purchasing some of those.

Steve Miller: Easily.

John Jantsch: We had a dog that found one of the dolls and chewed an arm off, and so we looked up, “Gosh, how do I get this fixed? We’ve spent all this money on it”, and so they have a hospital.

Steve Miller: Yeah. They don’t get broken. They get sick.

John Jantsch: We sat their doll to the hospital, and it was going to be about a two-week process, and about halfway through, my daughter gets a letter from the doctor saying how … I can’t remember the doll’s name, but how the doll was doing. Then, when we got the doll back, there was a full report of how she did, and what happened, and it was unbelievable.

Steve Miller: Right. Yeah. If you’d actually taken the doll to the store, you would have actually gone in, and you’d had to checked her in to the hospital, and somebody in a nurse’s uniform would have come out with a wheelchair for the doll. This is actually what they do. I mean, it’s a fantastic learning experience for those of us that are stuck in our worlds, is to go study those aliens that we have no relationship to.

I mean, I can’t tell you, I’ve had construction … I took Caterpillar to the American Girl Store, and Caterpillar came up with a ton of new ideas for connecting with their marketplace and connecting with the drivers of their vehicles and things like that, and it was just a blast watching these men walk around with notepads and cameras.

John Jantsch: There’s another thing that you suggested. I’ve always felt that this is something that even the smallest of businesses could do, because I think a lot of times, when we use the word ‘Branding’, we immediately lose some small business owners because they immediately think of Procter & Gamble, or Toyota or whatever as a big brand, but I think it’s available in just about every market.

Steve Miller: Yeah. Yup.

John Jantsch: One of my secret weapons over the years has been this idea of owning a word.

Steve Miller: Yeah.

John Jantsch: I think that what’s nice about that is it gives you a filter. It’s like, “Is that our word? Are we living our word? Are we being true to our word?” I think as much as anything else, it actually helps you from just being a scattered brand.

Steve Miller: I think that there’s, yeah, there’s a lot of confusion about the word ‘Brand’, and what I try to explain to small businesses in particular is that it’s probably more important for them, because it’s what is actually going to help separate them, and so like you say, that’s exactly right. Of course, probably the most famous example is Volvo. They own the word ‘Safety’, and if they were to ever start building cars that were not safe, they would destroy their brand, and I think for small businesses, when you can take ownership of something like a word, and then you embody it, and you run with it, and you’re selling that to your marketplace, then they attach that word to you.

John Jantsch: Yeah. Years ago, and I put this everywhere, but I wanted to own the word ‘Practical’, because I saw a lot of stuff out there that was pitched at small business that wasn’t very practical, and obviously that’s, if anybody’s going to associate anything with Duct Tape, it would probably be practical, and so that was kind of my embodiment of that word.

Steve Miller: Yeah.

John Jantsch: The subtitle of my book was ‘The World’s Most Practical Small Business Book’ or something like that, and like when I get introduced on shows, “He’s known as the most practical”.

Steve Miller: Yeah.

John Jantsch: Of course, that was, I called myself that.

Steve Miller: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.

John Jantsch: I think that idea of owning a word just made it simple because then, a lot of cases where, if somebody would say, “Oh, have you seen this new tool?”, and I was like, “That’s not a practical tool for small business, so I’m going to pass.”

Steve Miller: Right.

John Jantsch: That to me is one of the beauties of it, is because we’re so attracted to, “Oh, we can do this, or we could do that”, and I think owning a word or having that word be your thing allows you to stay based, where you should stay.

Steve Miller: That’s a really good idea. I mean, I do talk about that in my book about selecting, understanding that if you select something like a word, you can use that to connect with your marketplace, but I think at that also, exactly what you just said, it grounds you, and it keeps you kind of on point when there are shiny objects all around us.

John Jantsch: When I started, there were about five ways to get your word out, and they’re now about 50, and I think that’s actually been the source of a lot of stress for small business owners. It’s like, “I can’t do it all”, and I think the point is you probably don’t need to if you have a good strategy.

Steve Miller: No. That’s exactly right. I mean, it’s like even, people say to me, or people will ask, “What about social media? What should I do about social media?”, and I just tell them, “First of all, find out which one your customers are using. Don’t go just using one if they’re not on it, and just pick one, and use that.”

John Jantsch: Steve, where can people find out more about your work and obviously pick up a copy of ‘Uncopyable’?

Steve Miller: Obviously, the book is on Amazon. It’s done really, really well. I’m just blown away by how well it’s done since it’s coming out, and just nothing … I’m going to jinx myself here because I’m going to say that it has nothing but five-star reviews, and my wife is just totally paranoid that somebody is going to come up with a four-star review, but …

John Jantsch: Tell her the research suggests that 4.6 is actually more believable than five, so you really need that one or two four-star reviews.

Steve Miller: Okay. I’ll tell her that. Sure. She can hear it when she listens to this, but obviously, you can get the book there. You can connect with me at my website, which is Theadventure.com.

T-H-Eadventure.com, but in addition to that, following along was exactly what we were just talking about, about how branding is so important for small businesses. If you go to Theadventure.com/DuctTape, one word, you can pick up … I’ve got a white paper for you. Real quick little read, it’s got three speed branding tips for small businesses, so …

John Jantsch: Awesome, Steven. We’ll put that link in the show notes for those of you listening as well, so you can just click away on it. Steve, appreciate you coming on the show, and hopefully we’ll see you out there on the road someday.

Steve Miller: Hope so, John. It was a pleasure talking to you.

 

How to Edge Out Your Competition by Being Uncopyable

How to Edge Out Your Competition by Being Uncopyable

Marketing Podcast with Steve A. Miller
Podcast Transcript

How to Edge Out Your Competition by Being UncopyableThis week’s guest on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Steve A. Miller. Miller is a consultant, speaker, and author. His most recent book, Uncopyable: How to Create an Unfair Advantage Over Your Competition, is about how small business owners can create an uncopyable relationship with their clients to keep them coming back time and again, and it’s what we discuss here on the podcast.

Miller founded The Adventure LLC over thirty years ago, and has served as a consultant for many global brands, including Proctor & Gamble, Nordstrom, and Coca-Cola.

He has spoken at over 1,500 conferences and workshops, and has contributed to numerous publications including the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week.

Questions I ask Steve A. Miller:

  • What is the uncopyable mindset?
  • How do you innovate to create a better experience for your customers?
  • How can owning a word help you define your brand?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to make your customers stop caring about price
  • The difference between loyalty and attachment
  • Why competition doesn’t breed innovation, it breeds conformity

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Steve A. Miller:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto! Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits, and HR easy for modern small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team.

To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive, limited-time deal. Sign up today, and you’ll get 3 months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to Gusto.com/TAPE.

3 Elevating Customer Experience a Must When Marketing Luxury Brands

It’s no secret that luxury brand buyers’ needs are quite different from those of traditional buyers. With more resources and generally less time available than the average consumer, competition for their money and attention is fierce. So how do you amp up your brand and make it stand out to the luxury customer?

Cutting through all the noise in marketing and advertising nowadays means ditching the old school practice of simply promoting the characteristics and features of your product. Today’s luxury buyer is not sold on solely the benefits of what you are selling but on the overall brand experience; an experience that must be conveyed at every possible touchpoint whether digitally, on a customer service call or in person. Capture the attention of luxury buyers by focusing on these three aspects of your brand experience.

Know Your Audience

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is a practice ignored by brands all too often. Not all luxury buyers are driven by the same motives or respond the same way to marketing tactics, and failure to tailor your efforts to your specific audience’s needs could be costly.

kuhlman cellars

Example: Kuhlman Cellars

Those who book tastings at this Texas winery are not the average wine guzzlers, but rather aficionados with an appreciation for learning the ins and outs of wine making and tasting. They knew that their visitors would be more impressed with the high level of knowledge their staff possessed about their products and the industry than showy, grandiose surroundings. Rather than compensating with over-the-top interiors as many high-end wineries do, they chose to keep their tasting rooms simple and keep the focus on creating a personalized learning experience tailored to their visitors’ interests.

Tell a Story

Today’s luxury buyers also favor substance over style, meaning they are more likely to connect with a brand that has the marketing savvy to tell a story and align with their personal values rather with a brand that relies on its product’s flashiness. Your customers are educated, so treat them that way by ramping up your content and avoiding gimmicks and commodity marketing language.

5th and west

Example: Fifth & West

Future downtown Austin luxury high rise Fifth & West is one of the area’s most exciting residential ownership opportunities, and their marketing tactics needed to express this landmark development to potential residents on every level. While stunning renderings of the building certainly spoke for themselves, any accompanying copy needed to speak to the carefulness and thoughtfulness put into every aspect of the project. Vivid yet concise language and even quotes from interior architect Michael Hsu in marketing pieces effectively conveyed the heightened luxury living residents would experience. In fact, more than 60 percent of residences had been sold within three months of groundbreaking.

Convenience is Key

Now that you have hooked your customer with your brand experience and story, give them the ability to interact with your brand in a way that is most convenient for their demanding lifestyle. Providing ample options to suit their unique needs during every stage of the buying cycle allows them to shop and make decisions in a manner of their choosing. Accomplish this by pushing the creative envelope and utilizing technology in a way that both accommodates your buyers’ unique needs and provides that Wow Factor.

lexus of austin

Example: Lexus

Lexus of Austin’s launch party for two new vehicle models needed to set the standard for how grand and technology-centered the event would be. The invitation’s attention-grabbing, animated graphics captured invitees’ interest and created an interactive experience while allowing readers to gather information about the event and RSVP with ease. Convenience? Interactivity? Wow Factor? Check, check, check.

Fine-tuning your marketing efforts to focus on the needs and preferences of luxury buyers is a surefire way to create deeper connections with your audience and build loyalty. Doing so is the difference between your brand being uninspiring and being unforgettable.

Maria OrozovaMaria Orozova is the President and Creative Director of The MOD Studio, a boutique marketing and design agency based in Austin and the creative powerhouse behind many local and national brands. www.theMODstudio.com

Where Does Social Media Fit into the Customer Journey?

Businesses know that they must have a presence on social media, but they don’t know how to use it. The wonderful thing about social media is that there are multiple platforms and countless ways to use them. It can also be overwhelming for some business owners who begin social media marketing without a plan.

To understand how to use social media marketing, you first have to understand how your customers think. We’ve posted a lot about this idea customer journey a lot in the past, but it is critical to your customers. The bottom line is that there are seven behaviors that all of your customers exhibit as they interact with your company: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer. It is your job to guide them through those behaviors.

You can use social media to assist in guiding several of these behaviors, particularly know, like, trust, repeat and refer. If you go into your social media marketing campaign with the mindset of achieving these behaviors with customers and potential customers, social media suddenly becomes much clearer.

But each of these behaviors requires specific tactics to achieve. Here’s how to use social media to guide your customers through their journey.

Know

Social media is incredibly helpful in first introducing your customers to your business or product. Being active on social media, especially Google+, and engaging with your local community can help your SEO ranks. Often, social media channels will show up high on any local search. Frequently use keywords for which you want to show up in searches, and you can improve your search engine rankings in those keywords.

In addition, social media advertising has become more robust and effective over the years. You can target potential customers based on interest, who they follow or like, even location getting your brand/product or service in front of more of your ideal clients.

Like

Because social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook give businesses unlimited opportunities to interact with their fans, you have a chance to get them to like you and your business beyond your product. Be active and present in local social events, even cheer on local sports teams during big games. Enjoy the moment with your community, and your community will respond.

Trust

The longer a person is engaged and likes a business on social media, the more likely they are to trust that business. Share customer testimonials and ask your customers why they like and use your product, prospective customers can see what value your product provides.

In addition, if you use social media as a customer service tool, (I’ll explain how later) potential clients can see and know that they will be taken care of after they buy.

Repeat

At Duct Tape Marketing, we know that if you hold a customer’s hand for 90 days, you’ve kept them for life. Maybe the customer doesn’t need as much hand-holding. You can interact with them using social media to increase brand loyalty. If they post something related to the use of your product, respond and reach out. They’ll feel important to your business and want to continue to work with you.

Refer

Finally, you can use social media to not only get your customers to refer your business, but share those referrals with other potential clients. Ask your customers to tweet with a photo using your product, or post a picture of the completed service on Facebook. If you share and retweet those referrals and endorsements, you can reach an even larger audience than the individual networks of your customers.

Social media platforms are powerful tools to help you market your business. Knowing which behaviors your customers exhibit, and how to tap into those behaviors on social media are critical to having a successful social media plan.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

Want Life-Long Customers? Design the Customer Experience Through Their Eyes

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, Debra Mendes – Enjoy! 

The relationship you create and develop with your customer is key to developing a successful business. The experience the customer has with your business is a driving factor in developing this relationship. The experience or relationship is not just about how they feel about your product or service; it is the entire journey beginning from the first moment they meet or discover you.

To build a long lasting relationship with your customer, begin with a comprehensive and consistent framework. The Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass™ allows you to design the customer experience by identifying and understanding each interaction with the customer and progression in the relationship with you. The Hourglass will allow you to map the journey the customer takes as they get to Know, Like, and Trust your business, into the conversion phase of the Hourglass as they Try and Buy your product or service, and ongoing as a life-long customer who Repeats and Refers.

Defining your customer interactions may seem like a lot of work. It is. But it’s valuable. Customer loyalty and referrals deliver financial dividends and are the result of a positive customer experience – one that is worth sharing with others.

The key to building successful interactions is to predict your customers’ needs and proactively resolve them. Often what we do is think from our point of view of how do we connect, what do we give them. Instead consider questions from their point of view such as:

  • What information do they need?
  • When do they need it?
  • How do they want consume it?
  • What will they want to do next?

Questions to understand what your customer needs and wants will help you create and reinvent a positive experience. Taking the approach from the customer perspective first instead of mapping out the points of contact and how you want to interact with them will give you the fresh look at what it is the customer expects.

Step 1 – Getting Started

In order to design and deliver these customer interactions, you first need to have developed your marketing strategy. Understanding your purpose, difference, core message, and ideal customer makes defining your customer interactions easier for you and more valuable for your customers. Each of your interactions should be designed from the perspective of an individual customer persona.

Step 2 – Understand the Customer Perspective

Begin by creating a customer experience map. In the first column list the following five (5) questions. (Note: you can do this on a piece of paper, a spreadsheet, or a white board.)

1. What is the customer goal(s)?
2. What questions does the customer have?
3. What is the customer expectation? (What expectations to they have in perspective of answering their questions?)
4. What is the customer feeling?
5. What action/outcome do we think best helps customer? (What action do we want them to take?)
6. How can we create the journey to achieve customer goal?

Notice we did not start with points of contact, the idea is to know why they would connect, and then design how to connect with a purpose.

Step 3 – Map the Customer Journey

Create a row above for each stage of the Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass™ begin with Know, Like, and Trust then continuing into Try and Buy and ending with Repeat and Refer. This framework will allow you to answer the questions about the customer experience and envision how they will progress from one step of the Marketing Hourglass to the next. Repeat the process for each of your interactions.

Step 4 – Prioritize and Implement

With your new experience map in hand, you can now prioritize and begin to develop or improve the systems that will provide the most value to you and your customer.

Designing the customer experience with a view to creating life-long customers doesn’t have to be complicated. Using the Marketing Hourglass as the framework and putting yourself in the mindset of your customer will allow you develop customer relationships that have lifelong benefit for you and your customer.

debra mendesDebra Mendes is the Co-founder of Valens Point, dedicated to helping small businesses in the high-tech industry achieve their growth goals in a systematic and practical way.  Debra is a Master Duct Tape Marketing Consultant. She currently lives in the beautiful and rich historic area of the Shenandoah Valley near our nations’ capital   In her spare time, she gardens, and hangs out on the back yard decks with friends and neighbors.  For more articles like this, visit the Valens Point Blog, or connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.

 

5 Your Stuff Is Probably Good Enough

Small business owners and entrepreneurs create new stuff everyday. And the feeling that a business, product or service is their “baby” leads to constant fussing over making it good enough, better or perhaps the best.

photo credit: atibens via photopin cc

photo credit: atibens via photopin cc

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for putting really good stuff out there, but at some point making it better becomes a game of diminishing returns or even a crutch for the real need – creating a remarkable customer experience.

If you really want to create a better product, service or company create a better experience and wrap it around what you actually sell.

I know a lot of people talk about customer experience these days, but I’m not simply talking about better customer service processes and response times.

I’m talking about the stuff most people never see, you probably don’t even know occurs, but your customers and prospect surely feel, even if they never say it.

I’m talking about the hidden processes or lack of processes that erode a great experience over time and keep you from building the kind of momentum that comes from something close to perfect.

I spent some time recently with a brilliant marketer named Dean Graziosi as he explained a recent process he undertook to expose the gaps that might exist in his organization’s customer experience.

His business does hundreds of millions of dollars a year in training and support services in the real estate industry. His customers are raving fans for his products, he uses his own products and advice to close thousands of personal real estate purchases each year so he knows is product is great.

He told me that he recently hired someone to “secret” shop all of his products, processes, policies and training. He had them sign up for information, attend workshops, buy products, return products, complain, question, inquire and enroll in all manner of training.

His number one goal throughout the research was to judge how his undercover customer “felt” throughout the process. He wanted to know what they were thinking, what seemed odd, what slowed them down, what made them doubt their purchase, what kept them from succeeding and what felt awesome.

By focusing on understanding the conversations his customers were having with themselves throughout he could go to work on creating the most positive narrative possible. Before he could do that however, he had to get inside the real story.

The distinction to measure how every interaction made a customer feel is key here. So, often we want to create what’s fast and efficient or what seems obvious to us, when the real money is in creating something that feels good and right and caring in the mind and heart of the customer.

While Graziosi runs an incredible company, with a complete customer focus, he readily admits that this process uncovered dozens of seemingly little things that, when viewed through the eyes of a newbie customer, became obvious places for improvement in how his customers feel about their experience.

It is very easy to get caught in the trap of creating a certain response or process that works for us, but sends an unintentional wrong signal to a customer. Simple things like email copy that is robotic or lack of communication while a customer waits for an order often work against us in ways we no longer even consider.

Take this idea seriously as it could unlock simple innovations that deliver far greater return than any improvement or tweak in what you sell could even offer.

Hire someone or, better yet, multiple someones, to go through everything you do as a business with an eye on how they feel throughout the process.. Require them to sign up for free stuff, get your newsletter, buy your products, engage your people, experience your service, follow-up and every form of communication. Give them each a journal and ask them to record how they feel about every email, conversation or interaction.

Then, map out every process, every touch point, every way in which someone comes into contact with your organization as a baseline and start taking it apart based on the feedback your shoppers give you.

Include every email, ad, form, response and timing as part of the map. Don’t forget seemingly unmarketing type contacts in things like shopping cart navigation, payment processing, returns and delivery.

So, where are the gaps? Where could you build trust, represent the brand and ease tension and remorse in ways that you are not. This process should reveal both ways that you are currently screwing up royally and opportunities to create some very elegant and profitable innovations.

Make this project a priority and watch your business magically experience a significant bump in business and referrals.

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services.

6 The Best Lead and Referral Generation Tool Is . . .

I suspect I’ve uttered the sentiment in the image below several thousand times over the past few years.

happycustomersmall

It sounds so simple, but it isn’t always easy. The greatest way to generate more referrals is to be more referable. The greatest way to generate more leads is to give your customers something to talk about. The greatest way to build a business is focus more energy on conversion and fulfillment than you do on creating awareness.

Teach

Few things sell better than teaching. Make it not only part of your marketing, make it part of your culture. Teach your people, teach your customers, teach your industry. When you become a education resource to your entire community you’ll become the company of obvious choice.

Overcommunicate

When you get a new customer teach them how everything works, who in your organization they’ll want to know and how to get more out of what you’ve agreed upon. Tell them what you’re working on for them, how their order is doing, when it will ship, why it will be late, when they can expect to get a new model and pretty much anything you can think of at least two or three times.

Surprise

Plan to surprise your customers in a good way. Few things get people talking more than a fun surprise. And the good news is we do it so infrequently that it’s just not that hard to do. Find someone in your organization, you know the one, and give them huge leeway in terms of creatively surprising your customers.

Exceed

Throw something in that they didn’t order, let them have samples from your strategic partners, ship early, ship free, do more than you said you would. Doing what you promised might actually exceed some people’s expectation, but it’s funny how complacent our customers can become when we merely do what was expected. Shake it up on purpose.

Measure

Are you measuring the results your customers are actually getting? Make it a point, no a process, to go back to every client and get some form of measurement. Are they thrilled, get a testimonial. Are they so-so, figure out how to improve. Are they unhappy, fix it! Any of these results are better than simply wondering or hoping.

Appreciate

Today, go order some simple thank you cards and start writing thank you notes to everyone that’s helping you build your dream into an empire.

I’ve just released a new free eBook that delves deeper into this topic and the subject of trust and referral building.

It’s called How to Build a Referral Engine, it’s free and I invite you to check it out here.

11 Begin With the Customer Experience in Mind

When most businesses create a new product or service offering they initially develop the attributes of the product or service. Makes sense, you don’t have anything to sell unless you create something people want to buy.

The Marketing Hourglass

Marketing Hourglass

But, the very next thing they do, once they think they have a winner of their hands, is go to work on the promotion of the new offering – the sales letter, landing page, brochure.

Again, another important marketing consideration, but I would like to suggest what is ultimately a much stronger path to take.

Begin with the end in mind.

In other words, the very first thing you should do when thinking about bringing a product or service to market is to think about what you want the customer to be thinking and feeling about your product or service180 days or so after they made the purchase and work backwards toward the point where they become interested in making a purchase.

The processes, touches and follow-ups you build by taking this “customer experience” approach can help ensure that you have a winner, promote a winner, and perhaps more importantly thrill your customer.

In the rush to create and promote our goods it’s this final, crucial point that often goes without thought or is made up after repeat sales and referrals lag.

Think of it this way – the sale is not complete until the customer is so happy they confidently make referrals.

So, a backwards process example for a training course you’re promoting might look something like this:

  • 180 days after purchase – customer receives free course updates and offer to meet with a select group of other course participants in an invitation only peer-to-peer group accountability program.
  • 90 days after purchase – customer receives email offering them 30% off of any other product or service of their choice as a current customer courtesy
  • 60 days after purchase – customer receives coupon offering free evaluation of their progress with the training course and the opportunity to engage a consultant to help them if they are stuck working on their own
  • 30 days after purchase – customer receives coupon for free 60 minute coaching session to help keep them on track
  • 14 days after purchase – customer receives coupon for 30 days of unlimited email support to keep them on track with their purchase
  • 7 days after purchase – customer receives mailing with additional bonus materials as a way of saying thank you for their purchase
  • Immediately on purchase – on successful shopping cart transaction customer is directed to Web page that hosts a welcome video that sets the expectation for when and how they will receive their purchase. Automated email provides instructions and orients the customer to the contents of their new purchase and how to receive support if they have questions.
  • Trial – After viewing video series prospect is offered the opportunity to download 2 free chapters from the course and receive free 30 minute coaching session to discuss their specific challenges.
  • Information gathering – After seminar prospect is offered opportunity to sign up to receive video series of client case studies and ebook featuring content covered in seminar
  • Awareness – Attends informational online seminar that dives into the problems most business face when trying to do X that your course addresses

Obviously, the components of this approach will vary greatly depending upon the offering and prospective customer, but it’s the thinking here that’s so important.

The process of beginning with the end in mind actually forces improvement on the product or service, creates opportunities to upsell and cross sell and focuses on the long term positive experience for the customer – which creates lead generation by way of referral and word of mouth.

Astute Duct Tape Marketing readers might recognize this as The Marketing Hourglass  – a process that suggests the development of logical processes that move prospects to customer and customers to loyal fans by way of 7 phases – know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.

One final word of advice. Don’t make this a stiff, automated, spammy drip system. Put personality, fun, surprise and value in each and every contact.

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services.

22 How to Create the Ultimate Customer Experience

Everyone talks about creating a great customer experience, but few people really deliver one that’s special in any way. Creating an exceptional customer experience is pretty simple really – you only need to do one thing – pay attention.

Customer Touchpoint Map

Click to Download Map Form

Okay, I know you want more than that so I’ll expand on this thought and then break it back down again.

We lose customers and erode what could be a great customer experience when we fail to pay attention to every possible way that our business comes into contact with a customer, or for that matter, a prospect.

Everyone works in the marketing department

No matter what department bumps into a customer in the name of your business that department is performing a marketing and overall customer experience function.

So you see Stan from Accounting is equally capable of creating or ruining a great customer experience as Sandy from Customer Service, but I wonder how often you pay attention to that fact.

There’s plenty of evidence out there to suggest that our perceived experience with a company is often formed by our last contact, not the first impression, put on your Sunday best, marketing contact we’ve had.

Map the touchpoints

One of the most potent tools you can create for your business is something I call a Customer TouchPoint Map. (Click to download sample map form) The idea behind this tool is to use it to chart every way your business comes into, or should come into, contact with a customer and then set out to make sure that each touchpoint is designed to create a better customer experience. (This dovetails nicely with our Marketing Hourglass)

See, we’ve been trained to think that the marketing department is the only place where marketing messages, brand flourishes and little things matter.

One of the most effective marketing things the Natural Running Store did for me as a customer is slip a handwritten note and some samples from strategic partners into the box of running shoes I purchased recently.

What if your invoices had humorous quotes related to how super-excited you were to present them with this representation of the value delivered in every order? What if you delivered products on a bike?

What if you made it a point to follow-up with every customer using a simple tool that made it easy for them to vote on how good of a job you did? What if your CEO wrote hand-written notes of thanks?

What if you sent timely messages with videos educating customers on how to use or get more from their purchase? What if you included more than they expected?

What if you sent them flowers just because? What if your phone hold message wasn’t painful to listen too? What if you wrapped your shipments in works from local artists? What if . . .

All of the things mentioned above are examples of touches that could enhance your customer experience and get people talking, but it’s the collective focus on the entire map that really pays off.

It’s not really that hard, map it out – pay attention to how your business comes into contact with customers and make every touchpoint, with every department, thoughtful and downright enjoyable.

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services.