October 27, 2009

The Word of Mouth Marketing Manifesto

Close friends of mine will know that I have a bit of a business book fetish. I even list a few of my favorites at www.discountbusinessbooks.com.au.

Last week I sent a 1300 Web Pro customer home with a copy of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking by Andy Sernovitz.

Half way through the book, Sernovitz shares his "Word of Mouth Manifesto," which every business owner should read and reflect upon:
  1. Happy customers are your best advertising. Make people happy.
  2. Marketing is easy: Earn the respect and recommendation of your customers. They will do your marketing for you, for free.
  3. Ethics and good service come first.
  4. UR the UE: You are the user experience (not what your ads say you are).
  5. Negative word of mouth is an opportunity. Listen and learn.
  6. People are already talking. Your only option is to join the conversation.
  7. Be interesting or be invisible.
  8. If it’s not worth talking about, it’s not worth doing.
  9. Make the story of your company a good one.
  10. It is more fun to work at a company that people want to talk about.
  11. Use the power of word of mouth to make business treat people better.
  12. Honest marketing makes more money.
Referrals by word of mouth can be the least expensive and most productive tool in a business' marketing toolbox. Follow Sernovitz's advice, and not only will these referrals increase in number, but your business will be a fun place to work and do business with.

For more information on Sernovitz's book, visit www.wordofmouthbook.com. To order your copy at a 20% discount in Australia, visit Discount Business Books.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

October 21, 2009

Tom’s 5 Keys to Business Success

The inspiration for today’s article comes from Tom Esplin, owner of Signs on Time and Tint-A-Car in Toowoomba. During a presentation this morning, Tom shared his personal “5 keys to business success.” He has graciously allowed me to share them with my readers…

  1. Refer to people who have been where you want to go
  2. Know your strengths and weaknesses
  3. Back yourself
  4. Make small improvements often
  5. There is no substitute for discipline and hard work

1) Refer to people who have been where you want to go

Take time to reflect on people in your life whose example is worth following and learning from.

In a basic example, an apprentice will refer to their supervisor for the correct way to erect a wall or bake a cake.

However, that apprentice might also learn to manage money by observing an uncle who was able to retire young, and how to stay organised by observing the businesses’ receptionist.

As you choose these mentors, in addition to observing them and reflecting on what makes them great, consider talking to them and use them as a sounding board.

2) Know your strengths and weaknesses

Be sure to identify, and address, both the strengths and weaknesses in yourself, your business, and everyone in your organisation.

At 1300 Web Pro, we have a variety of individuals involved the production of a website. We have designers who are known for their keen eye, customer service folks who are known for their personality, and back office staff who are known for their thoroughness and technical skills. The business is structured to take advantage of the strengths of each individual, and to marginalise the weaknesses.

3) Back yourself

Having absolute confidence in oneself is a key in business. A strong business requires strong leadership, so pick a direction and follow it. If a mistake is made, fix it and move on.

That said, be sure to analyse outcomes objectively and don’t be afraid to change direction when necessary.

4) Make small improvements often

One of the biggest sources of innovation in a business is the “small stuff,” and you absolutely should sweat it.

Recently we had feedback from our website consultants that we had no process for issuing a tax invoice on the spot when presenting a quote, if the customer wants to pay their deposit and get their website under way.

We created manual receipt books, and it instantly improved our cash flow and offered a more fluid experience for our customers.

How often have you gone into a business and said, “Jeeze, that’s a bit silly! Why do they do it that way?”

Ask customers, employees, and yourself, if there are any little annoyances or improvements that can be made in your business, and put one or two in place each week.

5) There is no substitute for discipline and hard work

Someone once told me, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” There is simply no substitute for discipline and hard work.

Having said that, be sure to have some fun too!

Please feel free to forward Tom’s 5 keys to success to your family, friends, and business colleagues.

We’ve recently had great feedback and discussions take place in the comment section of the blog. This week, how about sharing your keys to success?

James Deck

1300 Web Pro

Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

October 13, 2009

Discover why more than 2/3 of customers leave a business

According to Betsy Sanders, author of the customer service book “Fabled Service,” 68% of customers who leave a business leave due to Perceived Indifference.

In other words, the products, price, quality, service, and the customer’s own personal circumstances have not changed… The customer simply feels that the business doesn’t appreciate their patronage anymore.

In most businesses, the customer’s perception could not be further from the truth; with all of the uncertainty of running a business, the existing, loyal customer base is a business owner’s saving grace.

An easy way to reduce the number of customers that distance themselves from your business, therefore, is just to let them know you haven’t forgotten about them.

Five simple ideas to get you started:

  1. Institute a loyalty program (eg. a “frequent sipper card” for a coffee shop)
  2. Create an e-mail newsletter
  3. Send “reminder” cards when the purchase cycle is predictable (eg. for a mechanic)
  4. Institute problem to reactivate lapsed customers (could be as simple as e-mailing people you haven’t seen for a month and sending them a special offer)
  5. Resist “New Customers Only” offers!

Remember, attracting new customers is the hardest business to get, and will cost the most to get.

If you have any other ways to show your existing customers you appreciate them, please comment on this blog post so others can benefit.

As always, your feedback, questions, and topic requests are appreciated!

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

October 06, 2009

Have A Brand You Can Be Proud Of

Driving to work you will see sign-after-sign with a business name written in COPPERPLATE font. If you actually read a few of them, chances are you will see a business you drive past every day but didn’t know existed.

This article is for the owners of all those non-descript businesses. My message is simple. Get yourself a nice looking logo, and create a brand you can be proud of.

What is a brand?

The concept of a brand itself is somewhat abstract. There are many great books out there on this subject. A favorite of mine is Brand Simple.

To me, the brand of a small business consists, at a minimum, of:

  • A name
  • A logo
  • A consistent look between your website, business cards, signage, etc.
  • A consistent experience for customers and prospects

What’s in a name

Since most of my readers are already business owners, I won’t go into much detail here. However, if you are looking at starting a business, consider the following points:

  • Include what you do. For a new business, including or at least alluding to what you do will help. Do you think in 1972 people asked, “What is a Nike?” (Actually, it is Greek goddess of victory).
  • Check availability of domain names, 1300 / 1800 numbers, business names, and trademarks.
  • Google the proposed name, and similar names, to see what else it is used for.
  • Make sure it is unambiguous – can it be spelt multiple ways? When you write the domain name out and the words are added together does it form other strange words?

A good brand needs a good logo

A few reasons a good logo is essential to a creating a memorable brand:

  • Serves as a memory aid – a picture is worth 1000 words, remember? Chances are, you instantly associate the Golden Arches with McDonalds.
  • The logo can tell a story. In Woolworth’s new logo, we have a picture of an apple to confirm they are the “The Fresh Food People.”
  • Businesses with a cheap and nasty logo will be assumed to provide a cheap and nasty product or service. If Godfrey’s gave out pens that broke in a day, what would you think of their vacuums?

For the sake of a few hundred dollars, be sure to get a clean, professionally designed logo if you don’t already have one. It is essential part of the branding exercise.

Does it work? At 1300 Web Pro we regularly find people thinking we are a large national company. Why? Because they’ve heard of us and seen our logo. Our branding has been so successful, we now need to focus on another element of our branding – that we are a local Toowoomba based company.

Consistency in look

Most of the points made about logos apply to all types of marketing collateral as well, from business cards to websites. When a businessperson approaches me with a nicely designed business card, with a matte finish on heavy cardboard, I immediately think, “Okay, these guys are professional.” Likewise, when I get handed a homemade ink-jet printed slip of paper trying to be a business card, I think, “Hmm… Will their product be this flimsy? Will they not invest in 500 business cards because they are concerned they might not exist long enough to distribute them?”

The main thing with consistency is that customers and prospects see businesses as a join the dots picture. The logo, the website, the products and services themselves, the customer service, and the staff are all connected (and the list goes on!). If any of these dots are out of alignment, the customer or prospect’s perspective on the entire business changes.

A consistent experience

If you ring 1300 Web Pro at 7PM, we’ll probably answer the phone. It’s always diverted to a mobile. If you visit our office, you’ll probably leave with pens, rulers, and stubby coolers, and we’ll probably have offered to send you a restaurant gift certificate on your birthday too! Hopefully you’ll feel a part of the 1300 Web Pro family.

In our business, in every decision we make, no matter how large or small, we try to remember to ask, “Is this the 1300 Web Pro way?”

Get in the habit of constantly asking, when walking around the office, factory, and sales floor, “Is this decision/product/policy/etc consistent with the business’ brand?” If not, maybe you need to experience the 1300 Web Pro difference and get your branding in line today.

Wrap Up

Last week, Mark Jocumsen of Better Business Outcomes added a great comment on Marketing without Money. He suggests using a risk reversal guarantee. If you have any comments on today's article, please be sure to post them!

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro