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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 Using Convenience to Disrupt the Competition

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John Jantsch: How would you like to disrupt your entire industry, disrupt your competition? Well, it’s possible, and today, the way that you do it is that you are just easier to do business with, you’re more convenient.

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Shep Hyken, and we talk about the convenience revolution. Sure, we talk about Amazon and Uber and these companies you all know, but we also talk about a very specific point of view that every small business owner can take to make their business more convenient. 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. 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. My guest today is Shep Hyken. He is a best-selling author and the Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations. He’s also the author of an upcoming book called The Convenience Revolution: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience That Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty. Shep, thanks for joining me.

Shep Hyken: Hey, man. It’s great to be here, John. Thanks so much for having me.

John Jantsch: Well, I can’t believe this a first time I’ve had you on. You’re a fellow Missourian, and you’ve been doing this as long as I have, so I’m glad to finally get you on.

Shep Hyken: Well, thanks. We’ve got a lot to talk about, and I love what you do. I remember your book when it first came out. Highlight, that was the book of the year, the Duct Tape Marketing.

John Jantsch: Thank you for saying so, and thank you especially for saying so as I’m recording. Why convenience as a revolution? I mean, it seems like, hasn’t convenience always been a good idea in business?

Shep Hyken: Well, convenience has always been a good idea in business but what’s happened is, and we can go back and talk about the very beginning of convenience and when I believe it first started, which is actually in ancient times, but what’s happened is customers are expecting more than ever before, and they don’t compare your business any more to the competitor. They compare you to the best customer service experience they’ve ever received from anyone. That could be some company as big as Amazon or it could be the guy that just sold you a $25 pair of running shoes that were on sale at the department store, and he was just so knowledgeable and friendly and helpful, and you’re dealing with somebody, you go, “Why can’t these people be as nice as so-and-so?” or, “Why can’t they operate as efficient as whatever that company is?”

Today, customers are smarter, and they demand that service, and guess what? Companies are starting to get smarter, and they’re starting to deliver a better level of service. Usually, that service is translated into soft skills, customer service training, which, by the way, still it’s imperative that every company do this, and they keep doing it for all the obvious reasons because you can’t slow down in the area, but the people have to be good, they have to be knowledgeable, they have to be helpful, they have to be engaging. If everybody does that, what else can you do? Figure out a way to be easier to do business with, and that’s where the word convenience comes into play.

I’m going to ask you a question if that’s okay. What … By the way, you can answer right or wrong, I’ll tell you you’re right no matter what because you’re the host of the show, but what would you say the most convenient and easy-to-do business company on the planet is today?

John Jantsch: I would say is not Budget Rent a Car. Sorry, my own personal bias there, but I think probably most people would say Amazon.

Shep Hyken: Exactly. That is the correct answer. Thanks for playing the game. I identified six different areas of convenience, different obvious areas that companies have excelled in, and Amazon excels in all six of these areas. By the way, there’s a number of companies that do, but boy, what I love about Amazon is from the very, very beginning, their goal is to be so customer-focused, and they disrupted that book industry pretty well with saying, “Hey, we’re going to offer you a broader selection, even at a lower place,” because a lot of times, convenience comes with a higher price so people are willing to pay for it. Amazon offered it at a lower price, and that is “buy your books here, and by the way, bigger selection, and we’ll deliver the books.” You don’t even need to leave your home. You can do it from sitting in your office or sitting in front of your computer. That’s what they’ve done.

By the way, today, while they still have good prices, they’re not always the lowest prices, and they even put right there on their website, “You can find us at a lower price with one of our other,” what they call third-party for buyers or merchandisers, and these are just companies that use the Amazon system, and guess what, people still want to buy from Amazon just because of all that they offer, but Amazon offers convenience, they offer high technology from the standpoint of they use technology that drive a better experience, they deliver, they’re accessible 24/7, they’ve got great customer support. A lot of it’s self-service, but when you need their help, they call you. It’s amazing. I can go on and on about Amazon, but you’ve guessed it. They are the most convenient company on the planet.

John Jantsch: Well, and I take a lot of companies that have embraced this idea have looked at, in some cases, outdated business models. I mean, like the taxi sort of was an outdated business model, and Uber I think completely disrupt that by making it more about the user than about the taxi. CarMax is another great one I like to cite because buying and selling a car through CarMax completely changed I think the automobile industry, and I think that that’s what’s interesting is, and you even have it in the title, don’t you? Yeah, disrupt the competition, and I think that people that are actively strategically trying to figure out how can we reduce friction, how can we use technology not as a barrier but as an enabler. They are disrupting industries, aren’t they?

Shep Hyken: Right, and it’s not just technology, but let’s talk about Uber for a moment. I put Uber as … What I did is first I talk about Amazon to explain what all six areas were, and I use them as the example, but then let’s talk about Uber. Reducing friction is the first area. Now, everything about convenience is reducing friction; however, some companies like Amazon and Uber have taken reducing friction to whole nother level. What Uber did is they looked at how people would … If you don’t live in a busy urban area where there’s taxi cabs everywhere, you’ve gotta call a cab. You pick up the phone, you call a cab, he’ll be there in 15 minutes. Twenty minutes later, the cab’s not there. You gotta pick up the call, “Where is the cab?” “Oh, they’re just a mile away. They’ll be right there.”

Well, with Uber, you know how it works. You open up the app, you can see where all the drivers are. You put in the address where you’re going. It tells you how long it will be before they get there. You can watch them driving down the streets by looking at the screen on your phone, and then they get there, they know where you’re going, they even know who you are, and when you get out the car, you don’t even need to pay for it at that moment. You don’t really reach in your pocket, pull out a credit card or dollar bills. No. They just automatically charge you because you’re in the system. What they did is used technology, but really, they looked at the whole concept of reducing friction.

Another technology company, I use PayPal as a lead example for the technology segment. They figured out how to get money transferred from here to there real fast and real easy. Once you’re in the system and you understand how to do it, I can send money to you, John, in under 45 seconds if I have your email address. That’s all I need, and it’s done. That’s using technology to make an easy and convenient service experience.

John Jantsch: A lot of my listeners are small business owners, and sometimes, even though the application’s the same, we start talking about Uber and Amazon, and they’re like, “Well, that’s not me,” but when you talk about reducing friction, I mean, your form’s easier to fill out on your website, being able to schedule an appointment, those are ways that I think even the smallest of companies can actually start looking at this idea, can’t they?

Shep Hyken: Exactly, and as an individual, you can say, “Hey, I’ll call you. You don’t have to call me. I’ll come to you if it’s a local business. You come to me.” One of the lead, well, actually, it’s a lead case study in the concept of delivery. Amazon delivers. Well, so does my local car dealer. I wouldn’t call them a small sole entrepreneur business. They probably have 40 or 50 employees, but they’ve got a half a dozen sales people, 10 sales people, they’ve got their mechanics, but here’s what happened. After 24 years of dealing with a particular dealership who I was not unhappy with … They were about a mile or so from my office. I’d drop my car off. Sometimes they had a loaner for me. If they didn’t, they might give me a ride, or I could just walk to work.

One day, I saw a car in the window. I said, “That’s a beautiful car.” Not my regular dealership. This was about 10, 12 miles away. I walked in. I looked at it. I test-drove the car, and I said, “Can’t buy it from you. You guys are too far away.” He said, “Do you see a waiting room anywhere in this dealership?” I said, “No.” He says, “Well, we have one. It’s small. It’s behind that wall, but most people don’t use it because if you buy a car from us, we’ll deliver it to you. Every time you need service, we will take you a new car, pick yours up, and bring your car back when it’s done. The next time you step foot in this dealership will be to buy another car.” I thought, “Well, what’s the catch? How much does it cost?” “Nope. No extra charge. Well, here’s the offer for the new car. Go shop it around. If you can get a better deal, let us know.”

I went back to my original dealership, and they wouldn’t offer the same services. Guess what? They made it more convenient for me at this new dealership, Kirkwood Audi, and I switched. It’s been about seven or eight years. I’m getting ready to buy my third car from them.

John Jantsch: If somebody’s listening, and they think, “Okay, yeah, this sounds good, but I’m pretty close to my business, and I think I’m doing a good job with it,” I mean, do you ever advise people on where they might look for clues to find ways that, maybe they don’t want to disrupt, they just want to make a better service, more loyal customers. What are places to start unearthing some of these innovations?

Shep Hyken: Sure. Think of what … By the way, that car dealership wasn’t out to disrupt the industry. They were just out to be better than their competition so they would win business and create loyalty. What I would do is I would take a look at your direct competitors. I’d look at everything I could. I’d get as much intel. What is it that the customers like about doing business with them? Am I doing that? By the way, if I’m not doing that, I don’t want to copy what they’re doing. I want to figure out what they’re doing and then add my spin, make it a little bit better. I would use what they’re doing as a benchmark, not as a goal, if that makes sense. I’d take a look at that competition to say, “What do they do different than me?” Then I’d ask myself, “Why do my customers buy from me instead of someone else? If there’s a gap, I better make sure I cover that and close that gap.”

Another question I’d ask my customers is, is there one thing you can think of that would make doing business with me better, because if I know what the one thing, and they’re already happy with me, but if I know there’s one thing I can do better and several customers say that same one thing, I’ve got an opportunity to improve on greatness.

John Jantsch: I think it’s tough, though, sometimes because I’m sure that somebody standing on a corner of New York City waiting for a taxi didn’t think, “I sure wish I had an app that showed me where this car was coming … ” I think it’s, a lot of times, it’s very hard for our customers to tell us how to do better because maybe everybody, that’s how everybody does it. I think sometimes you have to look outside your industry and things like to look for ways that other people are disrupting.

Shep Hyken: That’s why in the book, under each of the six different areas of convenience, I’ve given you at least five different case study story-type scenarios so you can choose from small businesses, and even I have a whole chapter there on how an individual can be more convenient, which we already talked about, but by looking at all these stories you’ll understand.

I talk about subscriptions, which is a great convenience, and we think of a subscription as a paper gets dropped off or a magazine gets mailed to us, but how about the hardware store that says, “Hey, every six month you change the filters in your air conditioner, why don’t I do this, give me your credit card, and every six months, I’ll mail you the filters. You don’t have to come in, and it’ll be a reminder when they show up that it’s time to change the filters.”

I mean, that’s convenience, it’s reminders, and it’s steady ongoing business. The subscription model, by the way, is a huge opportunity for small businesses. It’s great ongoing reoccurring income, and big businesses. Look what the guy did with the razor blades, The Dollar Shave Club, which I’m a member of. I love that club. That’s one of the cool clubs I’m a member of. Every month, I gave my shaving, my blades and my shaving cream and everything else.

The lead case study I use for that is Netflix because that’s a cool subscription service, and they disrupted the industry. They disrupted their direct competitor, but again, small businesses, big businesses, a bunch of different ideas, and then you can start to think the way they think and incorporate that into what you do.

John Jantsch: You can do services, I don’t know, a tree service. I know I’m going to need my trees trimmed every fall or something like that, set it up as a recurring service. I don’t even have to think about it. I think there’s so many people that want that convenience.

Shep Hyken: Yeah, it’s getting them to agree to a steady, ongoing, that’s a subscription. Hey, you subscriber, the tree service. I’m getting ready to do a speech this weekend coming up for a company called Pet Butler. You know what they do? They scoop poop. That’s the truth. They go into people’s lawns, and they look for it, and they clean it up. I thought, “Wow, this is a great business.” It’s ongoing. It’s every week. They stop by, and they do it, and in a sense, that is a subscription type of a service experience. People are paying by the month or they pay by the year for an annual contract, and now it’s my job as a provider to give them what they want, which is a weekly or monthly or even daily in some cases services that different companies might offer.

John Jantsch: I will tell you, a lot of older generation would think, “Get out there and pick up that poop yourself, you lazy bum,” but the millennials expect this convenience. I look at my kids, and I mean, if your website doesn’t work right, if your app doesn’t allow them to schedule the way they want to, forget it. They’re out of there. I mean, they demand it.

Shep Hyken: True story. When we first announced the book was coming out, we still have a prepublication promotion, one of my friends called and said, “Hey, you know what? You’re not really very convenient.” I go, “What are you talking about?” He says, “I went on. I tried to pay with PayPal, and it didn’t auto populate the name and address and all that.” I go, “I didn’t know that I could do that with that. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.” Then he says, “So I went and bought it in Amazon for the pre-pub,” and I go, “Okay, well … ” He didn’t get the bonus I, everybody gets an ebook, the actual ebook of the book when they buy it in advance, but I sent it to him anyway because that’s just the kind of customer service guy I am.

But more important, I looked into that, and unfortunately, and I’m really bummed because my shopping cart system doesn’t allow that to work that way. I’m still researching to see if there’s a plugin that I could use with it, but that was an example. The guy said, “Hey, if you’re going to be convenient, practice what you preach.” You know what, sometimes, we can just do what we can do, but we do our very best, and hopefully most of our customers recognize that.

John Jantsch: But I think you made a good point that really at the very beginning, if somebody is used to that, and it does auto-populate, and it does remember them and all that kind of thing, that just raises the bar, doesn’t it? I mean, because now we want that everywhere.

Shep Hyken: Right, and that’s the point I said, that customers no longer compare you to the direct competition, but they compare you to the great service they had from anywhere else.

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 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.

Shep, tell people, you’ve been mentioning, dancing around this promotion for the book. Flat out tell us where they can get this promotion and how they can get that free ebook. Depending upon when they’re listening to this show, perhaps in advance of the actual book.

Shep Hyken: Sure. If you’re listening to this in advance of October 2nd when the book comes out, just go to beconvenient.com, and you can order the book there. When you do, you will get an instant, an email back, which has a link to the ebook, which is the same ebook that Amazon is going to be selling for 19.95. At least that’s what the price is right now. You get that today, and you get it for free. So you, in effect, even though you bought the book and it won’t come out until October, you’re able to read it today. Even if you buy it through Amazon, let me know, and I’ll be happy to send you the ebook.

John Jantsch: Tell us where they can find out more about you as well, so.

Shep Hyken: Sure, I mean, you can go to Be Convenient because that’s actually on my website, or just go to hyken.com, H-Y-K-E-N.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, Shep, thanks for stopping by. Hopefully we’ll see you out there on I-70 or something, somewhere on the road in-

Shep Hyken: I look forward to it. You’re in Kansas City. I’m in St. Louis. We might have to do a home and home baseball game.

John Jantsch: Yeah. It’s been a rough year. Cardinals haven’t exactly lit it up either, have they?

Shep Hyken: I know. I think we’re in the same place.

John Jantsch: We’ll be back. There’s always hope.

Shep Hyken: Okay. Hey, it’s history. We just have to look forward at this point.

John Jantsch: That’s right. Shep, thanks so much.

Shep Hyken: Thanks for having me on the show.

 

How to Use Convenience to Disrupt the Competition

Using Convenience to Disrupt the Competition

Marketing Podcast with Shep Hyken
Podcast Transcript

Shep Hyken

This week on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I chat with Shep Hyken. He is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations and the author of the upcoming book The Convenience Revolution: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience That Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty.

Hyken’s previous books have been New York Times and Washington Post bestsellers. He is also a prolific speaker, having been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession.

Hyken works with companies to revolutionize their approach to customer service and to help them build loyalty and longstanding relationships with their clients. In this episode, Hyken details the ways in which becoming the company that is most convenient to do business with can help you stand out from the competition and create lifelong customers.

Questions I ask Shep Hyken:

  • Why convenience as a revolution? Hasn’t convenience always been a good idea?
  • How can a small business owner apply the friction reduction principles used by a giant company, like Amazon, to strengthen their company?
  • Where can small business owners begin to look for places to unearth the potential for innovation?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why you’re now expected to compete with the best customer service a client’s ever received from anyone, rather than just your direct competitors
  • How to use what your competitors are doing as a benchmark, not a goal
  • Why looking outside your industry can help you find inspiration for innovation

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Shep Hyken:

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.

hug your haters

Why You Must Increase Your Negative Reviews

Jay BaerJay Baer

Marketing Podcast with Jay Baer

Jay BaerJay BaerOkay, I’ll admit, the headline for this post probably seems a little odd, so let me explain.

No one likes or wants negative reviews, but the fact is, that’s how you get better.

In a perfect world, everything your business does makes the customer smile, but I don’t know too many businesses that live in that world.

In reality, it is quite likely, there are many things your business does that are confusing, irritating and surprising – the problem is that it’s also quite likely that you have no idea what those things are.

By encouraging and rewarding people to give your feedback at every turn, you can learn and hopefully fix things that do not serve – without this mindset you’ll go blindly out there wondering why you can’t keep your best customers happy and loyal.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert, and author of Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers. We discuss customer service, the nature of complaints in today’s market and the basics of improving your customer retention.

Baer explains why so many businesses despite negative feedback and why you can’t afford to do so. In Hug Your Haters he relates a story of a marketing officer who claimed that her number one current objective was to triple negative reviews. Now, while that may seem like a terrible thing to do on the surface, the point is she was simply going to encourage and involve her customers in the process of helping them get better – and that’s the lesson this book teaches so eloquently.

Customer service is the new marketing!

Questions I ask Jay Baer:

  • How can you view Customer Service as a competitive differentiator?
  • Why is exceptional customer service so rare?
  • What’s the first thing you should do to improve your customer service?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How you can turn a complaint into a raving fan
  • The root of most of your customers’ complaints
  • How negative feedback affects your mindset as a business owner

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Jay Baer:

Why You Must Increase Your Negative Reviews

hug-your-hatersMarketing Podcast with Jay Baer

Okay, I’ll admit, the headline for this post probably seems a little odd, so let me explain.

No one likes or wants negative reviews, but the fact is, that’s how you get better.

In a perfect world, everything your business does makes the customer smile, but I don’t know too many businesses that live in that world.

In reality, it is quite likely, there are many things your business does that are confusing, irritating and surprising – the problem is that it’s also quite likely that you have no idea what those things are.

By encouraging and rewarding people to give your feedback at every turn, you can learn and hopefully fix things that do not serve – without this mindset you’ll go blindly out there wondering why you can’t keep your best customers happy and loyal.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert, and author of Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers. We discuss customer service, the nature of complaints in today’s market and the basics of improving your customer retention.

Baer explains why so many businesses despite negative feedback and why you can’t afford to do so. In Hug Your Haters he relates a story of a marketing officer who claimed that her number one current objective was to triple negative reviews. Now, while that may seem like a terrible thing to do on the surface, the point is she was simply going to encourage and involve her customers in the process of helping them get better – and that’s the lesson this book teaches so eloquently.

Customer service is the new marketing!

Questions I ask Jay:

  • How can you view Customer Service as a competitive differentiator?
  • Why is exceptional customer service so rare?
  • What’s the first thing you should do to improve your customer service?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How you can turn a complaint into a raving fan
  • The root of most of your customers’ complaints
  • How negative feedback affects your mindset as a business owner

 

3 How to Create the Ultimate New Customer Experience

5216909292_0c9b8121ef_mTell me about your “buy” process.

This simple question causes confusion for many of our small business clients.

In response they might say: “Once a new customer signs on, we send them a contract and maybe even an invoice and start working with them.”

While that does describe the basic process and in some ways is correct, it’s not really the complete answer.

What I am actually looking for is what is your new customer experience?  How do you thank a customer, orient them for the work, make them feel welcome, set them up for success, and turn them into raving fans is the question I am actually asking here.

One of the most powerful tools to accomplish this right off the bat is the new customer kit.

This tool can be used in just about every industry, however, the contents will vary based on a number of factors. Type of sale, price, upsell potential, client life span, and other pieces of information should be considered when creating a new customer kit.

What should be included in every Marketing Kit?

Welcome and/or thank you note
I am sure you have heard it by now: A handwritten note goes a long way these days.  If a handwritten note is not possible, include a printed letter with an actual signature from the CEO. Sure it might not be the most fun signing 100 letters but think of each signature as a new closed sale and the process gets a little more exciting.

A branded invoice
This is where people fall off the map from time to time.  Anything to do with financial transactions should be taken seriously, don’t forget the invoice and fail at one of your first impressions.  Some pieces to include besides basic elements of an invoice: branding (colors, fonts, logos), contact information, URL to website and links to social media profiles.

Contact information for members of the team
More than just a link to a “contact us” page here.  Include actual pictures, actual email addresses, actual phone numbers.  Customers love to have a connect with the people they are purchasing from vs feeling like the are giving their money to a team of robots.

Additional items to include in the Ultimate New Customer Kit:

Introduction to success
Overview on how to get the most out of your products or services.   This could include best practices, FAQs, and “how to” content.

What to expect next
Will you be contacting the client to schedule a demo? Will they receive login details soon? Taking out the wonder and make the process as simple as possible is the goal here.

Pledge to clients
What is your plan to make sure the client is taken care of? What is your Mission? What are your company values? An overview of why you do what you do – how you make the world a better place for your clients.

We appreciate you
A “surprise and delight.” Some kind of gift that the client is not expecting. This could be something related to your products or services or something completely unrelated. Every time I order from Photojojo, I look forward to receiving my little free dinosaur they include with the invoice. Do I need a toy dino? Of course not, but I appreciate the unexpected little bonus and it makes me smile.

Free stuff
Do you have any samples? Could you provide a “try” opportunity to upsell a client to a different product or service? The main focus here is providing something else free to the client with the goal to sell.

Introduction to your Referral Program
Do you have a referral program in place? A client may not be 100% ready to suggest a referral at this stage, however, informing them of the program will help them keep the opportunity in mind as you continue to make them the happiest customer possible.

As you can see, the new customer kit not only provides your customer with the best possible onboarding experience, it also gives you the chance to upsell and ask for referrals making it a very important element in the overall marketing plan.

Now it’s your turn! What do you include in your new customer kit?

Sara HeadshotSara Jantsch is the Director of Community at Duct Tape Marketing.  It is Sara’s job to see to all the little things that make our community members feel appreciated, informed, special and looked after.  She is also a Marketing Consultant and has a strong passion for working with small business owners.

6 Ways to Develop Repeat Customers

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing’s own Kala Linck – Enjoy!

You may have heard us talk about the Marketing Hourglass. The Marketing Hourglass refers to the entire customer journey, from when they first hear about your brand, to when they decide to purchase from your brand, to when they become a loyal customer and refer your brand to other potential customers. This technique, we’ve found, is the best way to find and secure business.

The bottom of the hourglass (“Repeat” and “Refer”) can be neglected when so much energy is going into finding and converting new clients and customers. Now that you’ve secured the business or converted the lead, you’re celebrating! Plus, you’re exhausted from all of the work it takes to make a sale or gain a customer. Today, I’m going to help you make sure that your clients are repeating. It’s vital that your customers return to your business a second and third time. When they become repeat customers, you rely less on the energy for new customers because

a) you’ve got customers coming back, and

b) those customers can refer you to new customers.

Products and services are different, which is why I put together three tips for each on things you can do to ensure you keep those customers coming back for more.

Services

Photo via PhotoPIn

Photo via PhotoPIn

Let’s start with services. There is a lot of pressure on the service industry to provide continuous support. Just one bad experience can turn a customer against you, and these things can help prevent that from happening and keep them coming back for more. The key is to be the most convenient offering of your particular service. You can do this by:

  1. Offer packages. If you offer packages, you’ll provide an immediate reason for a customer to keep coming back to you – at least until their package is over – giving you plenty of time to provide great customer service. By the end of their package, they won’t want to go anywhere else! A great example of this is something I recently experienced when I needed an eye exam. It’s necessary that each time I go in for an exam, I purchase contacts. So, by purchasing one eye exam and getting the next two free, my eye doctor is guaranteeing that I will make my next two contact purchases from them.
  2. Send reminders. One reason that I keep going back to my dentist is because every six months, they call to remind me that it’s time for a regular cleaning. When they call me, we schedule my appointment. Now, remembering to go to the dentist is one less thing that I need to do, and it’s that convenience that makes me a repeat customer.
  3. Offer an unexpected bonus. Many times, what we pay for is what we get. We can pay to get our yard mowed from seven different lawn companies, and when we get home we see that our lawn has, indeed, been mowed. Stand out from the other lawn companies by spending an additional half hour edging the sidewalk for a client. They will see the difference, and it will help them to remember to call you when they need lawn care again.

Products

Photo via PhotoPin

Photo via PhotoPin

What about products? All products, but especially if you’ve got a lot of competitors, need to ensure customers get value out of your product so that they will continue to make purchases. With products, you’ve got a margin to contend to. What are some subtle differences that you can offer without diminishing that margin? Here are three ideas that can help you maintain your customer base:

  1. Provide fast shipping. I don’t think I’m the only one that gets thrilled when something I ordered gets to me at the low end of the projected shipping timeline. Three days is certainly better than five! There is minimal that you can do when the package leaves your warehouse to head to your customer, but what can you do on the front end to speed up your process? Knowing how long packages take to get to your customers is the first step. Make sure your projections are accurate, under promise and over deliver, and if necessary, make some changes in your process to get your customers what they purchased faster.
  2. Offer points. Credit card companies have been doing this for years, but now products are starting to see the benefits of offering a points system. Much like the rewards program at your favorite lunch spot that you keep going back to because you’re SO close to that free lunch, rewards programs are a great way to stay in touch with customers and build loyal fans.
  3. Use special packaging. When packaging is personal or nicer than your average crushed box, customers are more likely to buy again. Most everyone wants to feel special. Whether it’s putting your product in a decorative paper bag with crepe paper before they walk out the door or adding a special customer note in their package when you ship it, that little touch of something extra will help your customer remember you for their next purchase.

There are many ways that your can make your customers feel like they are spending their money in the right place, and these are just a few that I have found to keep me coming back for more. You’ve probably been thinking about your product or service throughout this post. Have you come up with any ideas to implement into your customer journey? Or is there something that you already do that is effective? If so, please share below!

IMG_2750Kala is the Community Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. She’s a specialist in digital marketing, who loves nothing more than picking up a newspaper and tuning into the local stations. She’s worked with clients spanning a variety of industries and knows that people are the heart of a successful business. She loves to travel and try new foods, and documents her travels in her blog. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

 

12 How to Set Your Business Up So You Never Have To Actually Talk to Anyone

I’m guessing the headline for this post brought you here for one of two reasons – you were curious or you were dismayed by the thought of it. And I’m okay with either, but one of you is going to be disappointed.

human touch

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

See, technology has indeed brought us to the point where we can actually run a business, sell a product and serve a customer without the need for human interaction.

This is a glorious thing, right? By throwing off the physical bonds of storefronts, employees and office hours many people have been able to carve out a non-traditional living that wouldn’t have been possible just a few short years ago.

While this is a positive thing for some, it’s also created an opposing opportunity for smart marketers to seize.

You can set up a business so you never have to actually talk to anyone, but the more we engage in automated contact, the more we crave human contact.

As our daily business transactions become cold and machine driven, we seek out and are far more receptive to the kinds of real life interactions this very convenience walls us from.

Think about a typical marketing related engagement these days. You get an email urging you to sign up for an online seminar. You fill out the form, get an email confirmation, miss the call because you know you’ll get the recording, download the recording and put it in a digital folder where it sits today unplayed.

Heck, I do this all the time, so there’s no judgment here; it’s simply the recognition of reality.

So, where’s the opportunity in that? What if we started adding human engagement back into our automated routines? What if we starting shocking people by asking them what they wanted? What if we took the time and energy to warmly greet and welcome people into our communities?

Let’s go back to the online seminar above. Imagine if you enrolled in that online seminar and then received a call thanking you, confirming the time zone conversion for you and offering you some material that would make the call even more useful.

Something tells me you’re gonna be more likely to attend that call and pay just a little more attention to what’s being said and offered.

Now, let’s say you sign up for that session, but couldn’t make it, and then received a call letting you know where to get the recording and how to get the transcript as well. Again, I’m thinking you’re going to respond simply because nobody does that.

Not everyone wants a phone call from you, but a growing percentage of people will be open to contact and so taken by the effort they will feel a sense of obligation to see what else you’ve got in store for them.

And that’s the point – this being human stuff means you’re going to need to raise the bar on everything.

This is one simple example of how you can turn the tide of technology numbing marketing to your favor by being that company that actually delivers value and shows appreciation for every single member of your community.

You can build and add human touchpoints as internal systems initially and as you perfect them and grow use external resources to scale.

This is how you stand out today and this is how you stay close enough to your list of customers (people) to discover what they need and want and how to turn your best customers into raving fans.

7 5 Ways to Turn Incredible Customer Support Into a Profit Center

This post is one in a series of tips for making your small business run better and is sponsored by UPS. UPS is all about logistics — the logistics that makes your business run better and faster

customer support

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Providing customer training and support is costly, but it’s also quite important.

Some organizations view it as a necessary evil while other, more innovative thinking companies, view it as a way to differentiate, up sell and create additional profits.

The key to creating support that generates profit is to create support that’s worth paying for. The way to do this is make it a formal package, think about it like a product and offer it either as a tangible added value or as an à la carte offering.

The Apple Genius Bar is a great example of how to generate profits from support. They sell service packages, offer training programs and even take back and recycle old products when you upgrade.

There are many ways to tap this mindset. Below are just five examples of how to turn extraordinary customer service into a revenue stream.

Live Q and A chats

When someone buys a product or service of any kind you can offer reassurance that they will receive full value from their purchase by implementing regularly scheduled chat sessions where users or customers may ask questions about their purchase and receive help with features or implementations.

Of course this is also something you could offer as a pre-sales education tactic as well as a paid subscription add-on.

There are many tools available that make this tactic somewhat easy to implement. If you are a 37Signals software user you probably already use their integrated chat tool Campfire. There are other tools such as Chatroll that allow you to embed a group chat tool on your website for a simple branded option.

Drop in Fridays

If your customers are primarily local you may want to schedule a time where customers can come in or bring a product in and receive additional advice, specific training or simply a chance to network with other users.

Trade in days

If you sell a product that is upgraded frequently, such as technology, or has you going head to head with competitors, create and promote specific times when customers or prospects can come in and get credit for recycling an old version or upgrading to your product over a competitors.

Be prepared to offer a service that makes it both very attractive and very easy to switch.

This tactic lends itself to hard goods, but certainly software and other process driven services could benefit from this approach as well.

Weekly Hangouts

One of my favorite tools right now is Google+ Hangouts. Using this tool you could easily create video Q and A chats, offer weekly lessons or simply create a series of expert adviser knowledge sharing sessions to benefit your clients.

One of the reasons I really like this tool is that you also broadcast these sessions publicly or password protected and archive them on YouTube to instantly create a library of customer service and training videos.

Online courses

Once someone buys a product or engages you to provide a service you easily establish a relationship of ongoing support through online courses.

The technology to create, manage and deliver content using full-blown membership site tools such as Kajabi or WordPress plugins such as Premise or Wishlist Member makes this approach something that every business should consider as a way to expand offerings and generate a residual stream of revenue.

Most content delivery applications today integrate with leading eCommerce payment systems as well as shopping cart, CRM and email service providers.

The need to provide basic support and training will always be part of the deal, but by creating even greater levels of support, delivering it in new and exciting ways and making is worth paying for is how you grow your profitability in ways that also makes your organization stand out.

3 5 Social Media Lessons Gleaned from a New SMB Study

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Frank Strong, director of Public Relations, Vocus – Enjoy!

There is no shortage of social media advice.  Unfortunately, much of it is often at odds, conflicting and even confusing.

For example, consider scheduling tweets.  A quick Google search will return many passionate arguments both for – and against – the case for scheduled tweets. Proponents point out automation allows them to space out their social posts to avoid inundating their followers. Meanwhile, opponents say it can lead to disastrous results when these posts coincide with unforeseen events.  There’s always room for middle ground.

While such advice comes with a great deal of experience and has points of merit, it often also comes with the unique and perhaps, narrow perspective specific to that person or organization.

This is why sound research is so important and why we teamed with Duct Tape Marketing to conduct a statistically valid social media survey of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB). As we have studied the data over a course of several weeks, we have come to several conclusions based on research.

Here are five lessons we have learned from the study:

1.  You have to find your own path to influence.  Social media users are almost spiritual about the ‘right’ way to approach social promotion.  Many believe that building a tighter, highly engaged community is the best approach – it is a concept I subscribe to as well.  However, 27% of SMBs reported focusing on building a very large number of followers or fans on social media, regardless of interaction.  While this flies in the face of conventional social media wisdom, this same group was also more likely to say that social media has been very helpful for their business.  This is a testament to the fact that every business is unique: What works for one, may not work for another.  We all face different challenges in terms of industry, budget and finite resources and have to experiment to decide what will work best for us.

Lesson:  Listen, study, and observe what others are doing, but do not be afraid to go against the grain and try something different.  After all, that is what entrepreneurs often do best.

2.  Social works, but only with effort.  Most SMBs believed that social media was moving the needle for their organization. Fifty-eight percent said social media had been somewhat helpful, while almost one-third said it was very helpful. Just 10% said it had no impact.  However, there is a clear correlation between effort and results:  Those that were more willing to work at social media saw better results.  Entrepreneurs understand this concept. In many ways, it is the very reason they decided to strike out on their own.  Social media can be productive and it certainly takes an investment of time. Those that invest the time are more likely to see a return in the long run.

Lesson:  When committing to social media, keep in mind it is a marathon, not a sprint.  An aspiration of a quick hit that goes viral and leads to instant sales is setting you up for disappointment. 

3. Addressing customer service issues is an untapped opportunity.  Ninety-one percent of SMBs say they use social media to share news about their organization – the most common activity.  That is not surprising, since it is easy to share good news.  The least cited activity was managing customer service complaints, with just 46% of SMBs saying they engage in this activity online.  That is less than half and the reason is clear:  It is uncomfortable to address service complaints in such a public manner. Certainly there are different levels of customer complaints online – marketing strategist Peter Shankman breaks them down into five types – but more often than not, complaints represent an opportunity.  What opportunity?  It is the chance to resolve an issue and earn greater loyalty from the customer.

Lesson:  Addressing service complaints quickly may not just resolve the issue, but turn a customer into an advocate; there is a bonus in that those observing will credit you for addressing the matter.

4.  The challenge of dual hat responsibility.  Seventy-three percent of SMBs have added social media as an additional duty of an existing marketing person. In other words, they had a job, and then got a little more work on top of it. As your community grows, so too will the time demands of social media. How you resolve this challenge may vary – perhaps new tools, new efficiencies, or even new people. The danger of simply assigning someone an additional duty is in forcing people to do things that may not meet their natural abilities, skills or inclinations. Sure, we all have to roll up our sleeves and do grunt work sometimes, but it is the sort of commitment John Jantsch is referencing in The Commitment Engine Resources that we should be after.

Lesson:  Consider carefully who gets assigned social media as an additional duty; experience matters, but then so too does enthusiasm.

5.   Facebook dominates but keep tabs on emerging social sites. Google+ and StumbleUpon were ranked by fewer SMBs as effective social platforms for their engagement, but those that use them were also more likely to say they were very effective. It reminded me of the first solid case study I saw several years ago that used FourSquare, where a burger joint named AJ Bombers, had tapped the network with such success it captured national attention.  With social media, we do not simply build a presence and hope people visit. Instead, we go to where our customers and prospects are spending their time.

Lesson:  It may seem like everyone is on a platform, but it is important to understand if the users there are the people you want to engage. A less popular site may be the answer to driving business results.

* * *

If there’s one overarching value proposition of engagement on social media, I would borrow a phrase from a respondent to this survey:  “It has allowed us to promote our products to people we may not have been able to reach normally.”  Indeed that is simply the power of the Web.  To download a copy of the survey please visit: Path to Influence: An Industry Study of SMBs and Social Media.

Frank Strong is the director of PR for Vocus. Find him on Twitter and the Vocus blog.