Are You Your Customer’s Biggest Fan?

Are You Your Customers Biggest Fan?Ever buy something that costs less than the thing you really wanted because it looked all right and somebody said it would work just as well?

Then, when it didn’t live up to your expectations, did you tell yourself you’d gotten what you paid for?  We’ve all done it.

Stop selling on product and price!

Yet, people continue to buy based on appearances and price…and to make them comfortable about products that can’t be tried before they’re bought, both makers and sellers issue liberal promises. Those promises are on the web, in advertising and sales literature. They are repeated by sales people, and reinforced by warranties.

But, customers sold on unfulfilled promises can be lost forever once they are unsold. The web and social media give these unhappy customers a megaphone to declare their disappointment, frustration and, occasionally, raw bitterness.

There is a way, however, to beat the price game, still make the sale, and keep the customer satisfied. The answer is to add value to your product lines.

Tthe way to do that is to stand out from the competition.

The real key to unlocking growth with your customers is to align your business with their needs

Key to unlocking growth with your customers is to align your business with their needsTruth is, having the right product at the right price and an acceptable level of service are the cost of entry today.

You have to stop selling product features and specifications.

You need to start selling

  • Service
  • Relationships
  • Customer success

Your customers, like all of us, are bombarded with thousands of messages everyday…family stuff, business, the news of the day, social media, advertising, email, sales promotion, publicity. The trick is to avoid having your message lost in the daily clutter. So your customers know who you are, what you have to offer, and that you care when they’re ready to buy.

Looking beyond products

Looking beyond productsIt’s the “care” part that makes you different.

You have to guarantee their satisfaction. Your sales people must be knowledgeable. You have to offer the best products available in every price range…best for the money, best for the application, best for builder, best for remodeler and homeowner satisfaction.

You’re an expert at what you do. That means you need to look up from the day-to-day business long enough to identify market problems and turn them in to advantages.

Do this customer by customer with the goal of being the supplier who is most committed to their success. Leverage your strengths as the marketplace expert and resource.

Why adding value is good for your business

Good for your businessThe end result? You will stand out in your customer’s minds. You will make your competition irrelevant because all they are selling is product. And if they are using price as their primary sales tool, this strategy makes price less important.

That’s why adding value is good for your business.

Because aligning to customer needs benefits you with…

  • Increased customer loyalty
  • Less price sensitivity
  • Higher sales

And, that helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace, beat the market’s economic swings and pitfalls, and increase sales profitability.

For other posts on value from Channel Instincts, see Are You Ready For A Dog Eat Dog World? and  Are You Delivering Real Value to Your Customers?

Good Selling!

Image via Shutterstock

Using Content Marketing to Drive Sales

Content Marketing Is Driving Brand ConversationsSocial media offers brands a set of inexpensive tools that can quickly get marketing messages out through interactive discussion and rapid word of mouth and, properly managed, can deliver measurable results.

You can use content marketing to create conversations around topics and social channels related to the need for your products.

Use a two-pronged approach to creating awareness and driving interest and sales

To do this successfully, you need to take advantage of both a top down and a bottom up approach to social media.

  • Your top down strategy is to create broad awareness and credibility among experts and consumers
  • Your bottom up goal is to drive consumer awareness and engagement through grassroots and in-market activities

How to spark and drive sustainable conversation and recommendation

Social media platforms for your content marketingHere’s how to spark and drive sustainable conversation and recommendation through social media:

  • LISTEN:  Track and identify key trends, stories, posts and influencers
  • DEVELOP:  Build content that makes it easier for consumers to share and recommend your brand
  • ENGAGE:  Work together with consumer influencers to drive discussion, posts, reviews, give feedback, conduct contests and share recommendations with others
  • OPTIMIZE:  Ensure both new and existing content is tagged to make brand discussions easily searchable and sharable
  • PROTECT:  Establish a protocol for responding to negative word-of-mouth and mitigating damage from competitors and brand detractors
  • MEASURE:  Build-in metric that demonstrate the impact of engagement at each point in the Conversation Engine

The most important step in building your social media foundation is creating a “sharable story”

Sharable story is like an elevator pitchA shareable story is basically an elevator pitch story with messaging that connects your key points together in everyday, natural language.

The sharable story shapes all engagement to ensure the story you want to tell is infused into all of your conversations.

Become the leading expert, resource, authority and trusted partner in your space

Next, you need to engage leading industry eminents across all relevant vertical channels. Find and engage those individuals who can influence people to consider your category and become interested in your brand.

Screen influencers using rigorous criteria to ensure identifying only the leaders:

  1. Reputation
  2. Reach
  3. Visibility
  4. Accessibility

Remember, these influencers are going to give you credibility so focus on engaging the right online influencers.

Track & identify key trends, stories, posts and influencers

Track & identify key trends, stories, posts and influencersThrough either subscription-based tools or through publicly available free tools, develop a daily monitoring routine to identify opportunities, influencers, and key trends.

Create conversations around topics and social channels related to the need for your products

Social media platforms for your content marketing

Now you are ready to activate your online social media channels. You want to create conversations around topics and social channels related to the need for your products.

Consider doing this in stages so you don’t overwhelm your team or confuse consumers by creating online content but not having the time or energy to keep it fresh and current. A possible phased approach is to launch on Facebook and Twitter initially.

Once you have Facebook and Twitter up and running smoothly, and the team is comfortable managing and posting content, it’s time to expand to additional channels like Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Google+, etc.

These channels allow you to broaden your content and create additional content that your created and control to help further enrich the consumer education process and provide opportunities to link into your customer websites with rich content.

Your goal is to drive fans and followers with these two sites. Remember, these sites require you to engage regularly. That means you need to manage and moderate daily, especially since you will quickly find consumers using these sites to post customer service, quality or warranty issues.

Don’t worry if there are negative comments. Ultimately your goal is to bury these comments under an avalanche of helpful tips and advice on where and how to buy your brand. It’s this kind of news that will ultimately shape your brand conversations.

Focus on building assets that make the benefits of owning your brand shareable and portable

This will allow you to leverage the full capabilities of online multimedia sharing sites to maximize visibility and reach.

  • Action Words Bullhorn Megaphone Motivation MissionCreate checklists for occasions or life events that should include your brand
  • Build video demonstrations and distribute to YouTube and beyond through services such as TubeMogul
  • Build photo libraries that illustrate specific benefits of safe ownership and distribute to publicly indexed networks like Pinterest, Flickr and Instagram
  • Encourage consumer-generated testimonials (stories, videos, photos) – leveraging the capabilities of Facebook and Pinterest for running sweepstakes and contests

A good way to draw consumers to your social media sites is to host contests. It’s a straight forward way to build followers of your brand and ultimately to have them “opt-in” to being open to receiving email offers from you for new products, services or promotions.

Create and share content regularly that engages consumers and encourages them to share, recommend and, ultimately, buy

The final step is to measuring the impact of your online social media efforts.  A great way to do that is with a measure call an Earned Digital Engagement or EDE.   Earned Digital Engagements are the metric you can use to measure the direct impact of your online social media efforts, independent of natural conversation.

Using an EDE methodology, you’re able to provide a comparable measure of the number of people reached online, but this form of measurement also accounts for their action.  The EDE measures the number of people reached through a brand’s social media efforts across channels – from blogs to Facebook to Twitter and YouTube and Flickr.

An earned engagement consists of the number of people influenced by an interaction with your brand that results in a:

  • Post
  • Tweet
  • Photo
  • Video
  • Or public Facebook engagement

Forrester Research said it best: “…interactive marketers must move beyond experimentation by making social applications a permanent part of marketing, measuring and demonstrating their value, and integrating them into marketing efforts.”

Has Social Media Made PR Obsolete?

In an age of social media, why PR?Social media has changed the role of public relations, not made it irrelevant.  The speed of breaking news on online channels has increased the need for planning and crafting of consistent messages to be able to quickly respond to current events.

Too often, it seems, the only time a company attracts media attention is when something goes wrong; a product recall, an environmental hazard, a labor strike, or some other problem that suddenly thrusts a firm into the harsh glare of the media spotlight.  Because of this, many companies tend to view the media as a necessary evil — or, at best, a friendly adversary.

Which is better: “No news is good news” or “Good news is no news?”

Extra Extra In its simplest form, the problem is really nothing more than a difference in perspective.  A company wants coverage for its products, policies, and programs, while the media is looking for an interesting and informative story.  Unfortunately, controversy sells better than commonplace, which means that the old maxim “No news is good news” isn’t nearly as true today as its inverse: “Good news is no news.”

Given this, how does a company get the word out when the word is good instead of bad?  And if the word is bad, how can you make sure you’ve minimized the damage your company may have suffered as a result of any “negative” coverage?

Dealing with the media can be a positive experience, however, as long as you view it as an opportunity to consistently get your company’s message across – good, bad, or otherwise.

PR is part of the marketing mix

PR is part of the marketing mixTo understand the difference between media relations activities that merely publicize and those that exert a strong influence on the marketplace, take a look at the advantages you gain from a solid public relations program.  A strong media relations program:

  • Is economical.  PR allows you to reach large audiences very inexpensively.  Compare PR to the high cost of advertising in today’s market.  Few companies have enough money to reach all of their prospects on a consistent basis.
  • Extends the reach of advertising.  All too often, advertising, social media and public relations compete for money and management’s attention.  To be truly effective, all should work in concert by getting a consistent message out to all buying influences.
  • Adds credibility.  We all realize that an ad — in the form of publication space, broadcast commercial, internet banner, billboard, brochure, or direct mail piece – is a paid message from the advertiser with the explicit goal of selling something.  We are more likely to believe a third-party endorsement in a publication’s editorial columns because the editor or reporter – not the company – is telling us about the company or product.
  • Measures interest.  If the news or trade media cover a product announcement and no one responds, either there is no market for the product, or you were reaching the wrong target audience.  Public relations allows you to easily determine whether your announcement’s appeal is universal or very narrow.
  • Generate leads.  Most management is volume-oriented.  In fact, some firms have developed lead generation into a science by determining exactly how many sales will result from every 1,000 inquiries.  Inquiries at least provide a starting point for your sales call, letting you focus your efforts on an audience that has some interest in your point-of-view.
  • Builds or rebuilds an image.  A company’s image is extremely fragile.  Late deliveries, product recalls, rumors and innuendos can severely cripple a firm’s ability to stay in business.  Solid and aggressive public relations efforts can counter problems, and entice customers to give the company another chance.

Public relations is about your whole company – not just promoting an item or a special.  It helps create a more robust – and controlled  – image of your company.

7 tips for getting your message published

8 tips for getting your message publishedHere are seven tips that can help assure that your experience with the media is a productive one, one that is mutually beneficial to you, to the editors and reporters you deal with, and to the audience you’re trying to reach:

  1. Make sure it’s news.  Generally speaking, “news” is a deviation from the norm, something that’s different or unusual.  That’s why bad news gets so much attention.  Since good news may not be considered news at all, you’ll have to search for an angle that will give your story appeal — things that play up uniqueness.
  2. Be accessible.  Return phone calls promptly.  If you don’t return a call promptly, your opportunity to tell your side of the story may be lost.  Your value also depends on your ability to give complete, accurate and timely information.  If you can’t give the facts, know who can offer the best prospective on a particular topic.
  3. Avoid mind-fogging jargon.  Most reporters are generalists.  Often, they will have little or no knowledge of your company or industry.  They need facts laid out clearly, concisely, and in an orderly fashion.  They don’t need unfamiliar acronyms, jargon, or technical talk; they need to know what’s significant and what isn’t.
  4. Never say “No comment.”  This is seen as a terse brush-off that implies something is amiss.  If you have a legitimate reason for not commenting, give some brief explanation of why you can’t comment.  It will make you and your organization more credible.
  5. Keep your writing crisp and to the point.  Start with a short, punchy headline.  Don’t try to cram every fact into the opening paragraph — save something for the paragraphs that follow.  Avoid glowing adjectives and fluff.
  6. Don’t be afraid to volunteer the bad story.  This is a difficult concept for most organizations to swallow.  By releasing the bad story as quickly and professionally as a good one, you retain some control over your destiny.  This helps avoid your being put in a defensive position later on, and adds to your credibility.
  7. Make your visuals memorable.  In our digital world, compelling visuals that help tell your story are a must.  Be sure to have videos, photos and logo available in multiple formats.

PR’s role has changed

PR+Social MediaPR’s role has changed but by employing the full mix of public relations and social media tools, and by measuring their impact on the marketplace, you’ll establish stronger relations — and higher visibility – with key media players.  That visibility will reinforce your company’s image and show that you are a winner.