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8 Reasons to Blog / 7 Ways to Generate Trust and Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jan, 27, 2014 @ 10:01 AM

blog to increase awareness, trust and sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing a blog about something about which your product or service is a great way to build awareness and trust of your firm and your products and services.

However, prodvide information of value, don't sell. Answer questions. What problems do you solve? How have your customers used it? What do you need to consider before buying?

The information needs to be relevant, interesting and informational to your audience or target personas.

If you take the time to share information of value, via a blog on an ongoing basis, you will grow your brand. Businesses that blog:

  1. Get 55% more website visitors than businesses that do not.
  2. Get 70% more leads than businesses that do not.
  3. More than half (57%) have acquired a customer through their blog.
  4. Are making a positive impact on their search engine optimization.
  5. Are adding content to their website with every post and increasing their opportunity to be found.
  6. Are demonstrating thought leadership, trustworthiness, showcasing their expertise and providing fuel for their inbound marketing efforts.
  7. Have 97% more inbound links than businesses that do not.
  8. Help solve their customers and prospects problems. 

Write down every question you get from a customer and then write one blog posts that answers each of those questions.

Consumers want the truth and you are able to provide the truth with transparent content and straightforward answers to their questionsu.

Since content is a function of listening to your customers, everyone in your organization should be responsible for providing ideas for content and generating content.

If sales people are being asked questions, those questions should be answered on your blog and on your website.

Following are the seven strategies recommended to develop transparent content:

  1. Tell the customer what it costs!  If you don't, the customer will just go to Google and find out. Build trust by providing information customers want.
  2. Some customers search for "cost," others for "price." Provide answers both ways with different blog posts. Writing the way people ask questions or search is the key to outstanding SEO performance.
  3. Everyone wants to know about potential problems. Talk about your problems and your solutions to the problems. Address customers' concerns upfront, don't make them search another site for the answer.
  4. "Versus/Compare." People want to compare alternatives. Go ahead and present the alternatives for them in an open and objective way.
  5. Awards. People love awards. If no one is recognizing providers in your industry, go ahead and do so. Recognize what your competitors do well and they'll post your content on their website and Facebook page. This gives your site more links and more traffic.
  6. Break news. Be the leading voice, and thought-leader, of your industry. Provide insights be they good, bad or ugly. There is power in being the source of news and knowledge for your industry.
  7. People love "best of" lists. What "best of" lists can you create for your industry?

By becoming the respected voice of your industry, you will improve your leads, shorten your sales cycle and improve revenue.

Think like a customer. Always be on the lookout for content. Encourage and empower your employees to do the same.

Be a teacher and a lifelong learner, especially with regards to what customers want to know.

How can we help you develop an inbound marketing strategy based on content marketing?

Click Here To Schedule a 30-Minute Consultation  to Discuss Marketing or Sales Issues

Tags: transparency, trust, information of value, accelerate sales, honest communication, be relevant, trusted advisor, social media

Engage to Have Customers For Life

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Nov, 15, 2013 @ 06:11 AM

 

Engage customers to accelerate sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Businesses who don't listen to, or create a dialog with, their customers are missing the opportunity to have a "customer for life."

This is the essence of what I've been discussing on this blog and is the synopsis of Brian Solis' book, "Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate and Measure Success in the New Web."

While I discuss establishing a person-to-person dialog via one-on-one interviews, e-mail or the telephone, Brian's focus is leveraging social media and the opportunities provided by social media.

As I've shared in the past, analytics provide access to more data than ever before. However, data without insights is not worth a lot.

It's important to know where customers are finding you and how they want to engage with you so you can make it easy for them to do so. If they want to engage via e-mail then do so, if they prefer Facebook, engage with them there. As always, the customer is the driver of the relationship. It's just easier for them to drive the relationship now than it was before the Internet and the advent of social media.

Building a relationship with your customer is critical to your business's success. If you have built a positive relationship with your customer, you'll increase referrals, increase retention rates, sales and lead generation. And if you do have a slip-up in terms of product quality or delivery down the road, you'll have some positive equity to help offset the negative experience.

When you develop a relationship with your customers you're inviting negative feedback which, as I've mentioned before, is a good thing. How do you know if you're customer isn't satisfied unless they let you know? What's key for you is to be available, address their feedback and resolve their problem. Goodness knows how many other customers are having the same problem and not letting you know.

It's critical to maintain your credbility. As such, don't make promises you can't keep, or you have no control over. You need to have some sense of your customers' expectations in order to meet or exceed those expectations. I personally believe it's important to underpromise and overdeliver.

It's also important to empower your employees that are working directly with your customers so they know you expect them to deliver service that will make the customer one for life. Your employees may need some training on what this means so be prepared to help them undertand what you expect of them.

The elements of Brain Solis' book apply equally well for social media as they do for all other forms of media, CRM and customer satisfaction. I believe they are the fundamentals of having a customer for life.

How is social media affecting how you deliver high levels of customer satisfaction and have a "customer for life?"

 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: emotional connection to the brand, customers for life, trust, dialog, honest communication

9 Rules for Building Trust to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Oct, 07, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

I've written numerous posts on The Integrity Chain and how integrity leads to trust which leads to repeat business which leads to profits.

Consumer insights on building trust

Here are nine rules, from Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge: The Key to Strategic Influence and Selling Success.

1. Be yourself.

Everybody on the planet has had unpleasant experiences with salespeople, and many have walked away from a sales situation feeling manipulated. So, rather than acting or sounding like a salesperson, simply act the way you would when meeting with a colleague.

2. Value the relationship.

If you want people around you to value having a relationship with you, you must truly believe that relationship building is important. You must also believe that you honestly have something of value to offer to the relationship.

3. Be curious about people.

People are drawn to those who show true interest in them. Curiosity about people is thus a crucial element of relationship building. Having an abiding fascination in others give you the opportunity to learn new things and make new connections.

4. Be consistent.

A customer's ability to trust you is dependent upon showing the customer that your behavior is consistent and persistent over time. When a customer can predict your behavior, that customer is more likely to trust you.

5. Seek the truth.

Trust emerges when you approach selling as a way of helping the customer–so make it your quest to discover the real areas where the you can work together. Never be afraid to point out that your product or company may not be the right fit.

6. Keep an open mind.

If you're absolutely convinced the customer needs your product, the customer will sense you're close-minded and become close-minded in return. Instead, be open to the idea that the customer might be better served elsewhere. In turn, customers will sense that you've got their best interests at heart.

7. Have a real dialog.

Every meeting should be a conversation, not a sales pitch. Spend at least half of every customer meeting listening. And make certain the conversation is substantive and about real business issues, not just office patter or sports chit-chat.

8. Be a professional.

Customers tend to trust individuals who are serious about what they do, and willing to take the time to achieve a deep understanding of their craft. Take the time every day to learn more about your customers, their industry and their challenges.

9. Show real integrity.

Be willing to take a stand, even when it's unpopular with your customer or your company. You don't need to be adversarial, but have the ability to make decisions based upon what you know is right. And on a related note: Never promise what you can't deliver.

Adopt a philosophy of having "customers for life."  When you have this philosophy, you take a long-term view of the relationship and continue the dialogue with the customer long after the sale.

What do you do to build trust with your customers and prospects?

Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, trust, empower employees, honest communication, people do business with those they know like and t, reliability

5 Reasons Customers Leave and 9 Ways to Keep Them

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 24, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

5 Reasons customers leave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Ken Dooley and the Sales and Marketing Business Brief for these reminders (http://bit.ly/q4wSfk).

5 Reasons Customers Leave

  1. 1% pass away
  2. 3% move
  3. 14% are lured by a competitor
  4. 14% are turned away by product or service dissatisfaction
  5. 68% leave because of poor attitude or indifference on the part of the service provider

Control what you can

The survey points out that salespeople have little control over the first four reasons why customers leave, which account for 32% of those that depart. But salespeople and business owners have complete control over at least 68% of the customers who leave.

As such, it's in your best in your best interest to empower your employees to be engaged and encouraged to provide an outstanding customer experience.

9 Ways to Keep Them

Here are nine critical skills that will help you, and your reps, establish and maintain the right attitude with your customers — and keep them from jumping ship:

  1. Exceed expectations. Personalize your service. Instead of promising more than you can give, give more than you promise -- under promise, over deliver. Deliver a "wow" customer experience.
  2. Always be available. Be there to serve customers whenever they need you to be there. The Internet has enabled companies to have a constant presence with their customers, “24/7.” Reliability and availability are vital. Make sure your customers know you are available on demand. Be involved in the same social media channels as your customers.
  3. Customize how you serve. Find or develop solutions that fulfill your individual customers’ specific needs. Successful salespeople customize their business relationships with customers. They pride themselves on their one-on-one interactions. These salespeople value the differences in customer needs and respond with customized solutions.
  4. Be easy to deal with. Make doing business with you easy and pleasurable. Assume the burden of relieving inevitable aggravations for your customers. Salespeople who exceed their customers’ expectations do so by creating hassle-free experiences.
  5. Put the customer first. Don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves. Seek them out. Give customers more than they expect.
  6. Resolve conflicts and solve problems. When conflicts arise, some salespeople have a tendency to deny them, debate them, shift responsibility for them, place blame for them, or hold their breath hoping they’ll go away. Top salespeople accept ownership of the problem, collaborate on a solution, and take on the burden of finding a resolution regardless of fault.
  7. Handle complaints. Complaints usually have some validity and can be an “early warning system” of conflict on the horizon. When you view complaints this way, they can become your ally, helping you resolve problems and minimize their impact. Complaints that go unattended may evolve into conflicts that could have been avoided.
  8. Communicate constantly. Ask questions that result in a dialogue. The more the customer talks, the more you’ll learn. Continue questioning until you understand and have uncovered all the information required to proceed. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions with customers.
  9. Remember nonverbal communication. When communicating with customers, observe their non-verbal signals. Take note of their body language, appearance and posture. Look for signs of distraction. Pay attention to their facial expressions and eye contact. Listen to the tone of their voice as a means for understanding what they may be feeling.

Adapted from the book How You Do … What You Do: Create Service Excellence That Wins Clients for Life by Bob Livingston, CEO of REL Communications, a sales consulting group. 

How do you keep your customers and clients for life?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, earn your customers trust, honesty, honest communication, people do business with those they know like and t, extreme trust, integrity chain

A Clear Call To Action Will Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Sep, 06, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

Call to action accelerates sales

 

What do you want your customer or prospect to do?

I recently attended a presentation by an advocacy group. At the conclusion of the presentation, they had someone handing out a flyer asking us to go the their website to tell our story.

I went to the website to tell my story and didn't see where they wanted me to do so.  

I sent an email to the group telling them I appreciated their presentation and was looking forward to telling my story but was unclear where to do so.

Two days later, still not response.

Tell your customers and prospects what you want them to do and make it easy for them to do so.

Do you want your customers to tell you how likely they are to recommend them to ther friends and family?  Give them a Net Promoter Score survey to complete, ask them right there or send them an email with the survey.

I'm in the process of doing this for a grocery store chain and their score, after nine interviews, is 100%.  Granted this is a small sample size; however, the industry leader is 62% and the national average is 37%.

Do you want your customers to say something good about you on social media? If they're not familiar with how to do this, help them do so right there in the office or store. If they are familar with how to do so, find out what social media channels they are most active with so you can converse with them on those channels.

Do you want a prospect to download an ebook or white paper? Put the link right there in front of them and don't ask for any more qualifying information than you need to.

Do you want to know what customer expectations are?  Ask them.  Ask what you are doing well and what you could be doing better.  Be sure to say "thank you" for the customer taking the time to give you this invaluable information.

Do you want to map the customer buying process?  Sit down with a few customers, one-on-one, and ask them to take you through their buying process while you map it.

Do you want a customer to refer you to someone?  Tell them you are trying to build your business based on referrals and you would like them to introduce you to someone that they believe you can help the same way you have helped them.

Be clear about the next step you want a prospect or customer to take and make it easy for them to do so.  If you don't, someone else will.

Work to build a mutually-beneficial relationship with your customer and they will want to help you be successful.

Do you have clear calls-to-action for your customers?

Click Here to Download the Free e-book

Tags: dialogue, emotional connection to the brand, customer experience, earn your customers trust, honest communication, referrals, genuine interest, face to face communications, call to action

No Values, No Trust. No Trust, No Customers.

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Sep, 05, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

Values, integrity, trust

 

I recently had a second telephone interview for a chief marketing officer position with the CEO of a start-up.

The first interview lasted one hour and went very well.

We agreed the CEO would send me a non-disclosure agreement and several documents for my review to provide more insights on their technology and market opportunity.

During the second telephone interview I shared my observations and opportunities as well as where I believed I could contribute to help the company achieve its growth goals.

I suggested we meet in person and that's when the CEO said this was a "hybrid deal" and I would be expected to invest $300,000 in the company in order to be considered further for the position.

If the CEO had told me this up front, I would not have continued the conversation, signed his NDA, spent the weekend reviewing the documents he sent, nor share my thoughts on how they could successfully approach the market.

The CEO's lack of transparency and ethics has left me feeling very negatively towards him and the company. 

He asked me to send any one else his way who may be interested in the opportunity.

Why would I want to do that to anyone I know?

I looked on this company's website for their values and didn't find any. I guess that's better than finding some that are not lived up to.

People like to do business with people they know like and trust. If I don't trust you, I don't want to do business with you.

If this company treats prospective members of their management team with this level of disrespect, openness and lack of integrity, I can only imagine how they treat prospective customers.

Treat a customer or prospect in this way, in a very small and insular industry, and word will travel fast.  

While you may have bleeding-edge technology, no one will want to do business with you becase they can't trust you to be forthcoming or to do what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it.

Personal integrity is "doing what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it."

Corporate integrity is when every member of the company follows the same philosophy.

Integrity leads to trust. Trust leads to repeat business. Repeat business leads to profitiability.

Does your company have values? Do you earn your customer's trust?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

 

Tags: transparency, earn your customers trust, honesty, honest communication, people do business with those they know like and t, extreme trust, integrity chain

Improve Customer Experience to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Aug, 30, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

Improve customer experience to accelerate sales

 

A lot more money continues to be spent on demand creation and lead generation than on improving the customer experience or customer satisfaction.

Yet a satisfied customer will spend more with you, more frequently and have a higher total lifetime value to the company -- B2B or B2C.

So why don't more companies spend more time, and money, trying to provide outstanding customer experiences to current customers than spending most of their time and money trying to reach people who aren't their customers?

This seems very irrational.

How can a company improve the customer experience?

Set expectations, and deliver on them or, better yet, exceed them.  The bar for customer service is very low.  Customer expectations are low. It shouldn't be hard to exceed expectations if you, and your employees, put your mind to it.

Sadly, companies spend more time worrying about the cost of serving a customer than the value and revenue of providing an outstanding customer experience.

According to Bruce Temkin, "Customers are more loyal to companies that keep their promises.  At a minimum, broken promises lead to unhappy customers." Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.

Doing so will differentiate you from your competition.

The same is true in your marketing communications. Deliver on your brand promise consistently.  Failure to do so will lead to the failure of your brand and it will happen more quickly in the age of social media.

Provide information of value.  Relevant content builds trust, credibility and loyalty. Answer customers' and prospects' questions openly and honestly. The more you do, the more credibility you'll have and the more people will trust you and your brand.

We all know people like to do business with people they know, like and trust.

Know why your customers are doing business with you rather than with your competition. Understand their emotional connection to your brand. The emotional connection is what you want to emphasize in your communications to attract more people like your current customers.

Ensure that your employees, especially those customer-facing, know the emotional connection customers have with your brand so they can be sure to reinforce the connection in their service delivery.

Rather than viewing customer interactions as a cost (i.e., calls to the call center), view them as an opportunity to have a dialogue with the customer to find out how you can help them achieve their needs and wants. This alone will enhance their emotional connection to your brand.

Ultimately customers, especially loyal customers and raving fans, want to connect with the people that represent your brand. Empower your employees to make this connection and reward them for doing so.

Recognize employees who provide an outstanding customer experience or unearth an insight about a customer that enables you to enhance the relationship.

Employees that do this are your most valuable employees and should be recognized as such. They are likely the next generation of leadership in your firm -- if you can keep them.

If you want to drive long-term business success, everything marketing does should be about improving the customer experience -- every brand message, every communication, every ad, every product, every interaction.

What are you doing to improve the customer experience at your company?

Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: emotional connection to the brand, customer experience, earn your customers trust, empower employees, accelerate sales, honest communication, employee empowerment

The Importance of Face to Face Communications

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Aug, 08, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

importance of face to face communication

 

Thanks to Carol Kinsey Gorman for her article, "What's So Great about Face-To-Face" (http://bit.ly/jm2UEd, membership required) in a recent edition of Communication World magazine.

Ms. Gorman reminds us of the importance of face-to-face communications with the growing popularity of email, texting and social media.

She references a recent study by the Harvard Business Review in which most leaders put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of doing business in person and link it directly to the bottom-line.

The study shows 87 percent of professionals think face-to-face meetings are essential for sealing a business deal, while 95 percent said they are key to successful, long-lasting business relationships.

There is also a great post on The CSR Blog entitled "Leadership Lessons from WD-40's CEO, Garry Ridge" (http://onforb.es/mlzLMh) in which the CEO espouses the power of "connection."  Ridge notes that when there are gaps in connection, there are opportunities for distrust and fear.

In face-to-face meetings, our brains process a lot of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy.  Face-to-face interaction is information rich.

We interpret what people say to us only partially from the words they use.  We get most of the message, and all of the emotional nuance behind the words, from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language.

We rely on immediate feedback, the instantaneous response of others, to help us gauge how well our ideas are being accepted.  The moment we see an emotion expressed on someone's face, or read it in their gestures or postures, we subconsciously place ourselves in the other person's "mental shoes" and begin to sense that same emotion within ourselves.

In his book, On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers wrote, "Real communication occurs when we listen with understanding -- to see the idea and attitude from the other person's point of view, to sense how it feels to them, to achieve their frame of reference in regard to the thing they are talking about."

Reaching that goal of real communication, of understanding and empathy, is why in-person interactions are crucial to professional success.

When a communication has any emotional charge, a face-to-face meeting is the most effective way to communicate.  It's the only way others can see the alignment of your verbal and non-verbal messages and be convinced that your motives match your rhetoric.

Garry Ridge passionately speaks about the need to build a culture of trust, respect and candor with employees, channel partners and end users.  He likens business relationships to those of "old friends" who have mutual respect, freedom to discuss challenges and opportunities, and people doing what they say they're going to do.

When is the last time you met face-to-face with your employees, your channel partners, your end users?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: dialogue, earn your customers trust, connecting emotionally with customers, honest communication, genuine interest, face to face communications

10 Ways to Build an Honest Brand to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Aug, 01, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

trust is critical to customer relationships

 

 

 

Customer trust in businesses is languishing to non-existent.

Trust is essential for customer loyalty and profitability

Customers want to know they are dealing with a reputable company, one that won’t take advantage of them:

  • Amazon lets you know you’re about to buy a book that you bought just three months before and reminds you of that purchase rather than immediately ringing up the sale and generating revenue.
  • Cell phone companies send you a bill letting you know  you exceeded your allocated minutes at $0.40/minute rather than warning you that you’re about to exceed your minutes.
  • The water company sends you a bill for $250 when your historical average has been $40 rather than reaching out to let you know you may have a leak.
  • Credit card companies move your rate from 12% to 28% for being late with a payment.

The financial industry, the press, the government and many companies (i.e., Enron, Tyco, Worldcom) have negatively affected consumer trust so much that in some areas, research shows a 10%+ decline in customer trust.

According to Forrester, globally, trust in business is 50%, while trust in business leaders to tell the truth is at 18%.

How to avoid having a trust issue, or regain lost trust:

  1. Encourage honest communication among peer groups on the web and in social media.
  2. Include your customers, prospects and influencers in discussions – the more you do, the more “ownership” they’ll have over the products and services they buy.
  3. Empower, and seek input from, employees.  Your employees likely know your customers, and their concerns, better than you do.
  4. By facilitating a customer network of peers, consistently adding value (versus selling), and doing what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it, companies can improve customer trust and brand perceptions.
  5. People trust other people like themselves; as such, product recommendations, and referrals, from peers carry a lot of weight.
  6. Have a dialogue with your customers to understand their needs and wants – not only will you improve customer satisfaction you’ll see a greater return on your investment.
  7. Be more concerned about the relationship than making the sale – commit to a “customers for life” philosophy and you’ll end up earning customers’ trust, and a greater share of wallet, over the life of the relationship.
  8. Worry less about selling better and worry more about teaching.  The power of content and information translates into sales.
  9. Operate in a transparent manner. If you're not who you say you are, you'll be found out and your business will die a fast death.
  10. By providing value, companies will gain customer trust.

Trust is the evaluation criterion through which business success is created.

Consumers buy more products from companies they trust.

The more loyal customers are, the more likely they are to be customers for life.

What are you doing to ensure your brand is honest?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, trust, empower employees, honest communication, people do business with those they know like and t, reliability