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Referral Marketing is More Important with Social Media

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Oct, 17, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

referral marketing

 

 

 

 

I’ve done a lot of work in and around referral marketing both before and after the growth of the Internet and social media.

 

Referral marketing continues to be the most powerful, effective and cost efficient marketing you can have.

 

This is particularly true for high-priced products and services and high net-worth individuals.

 

I’m talking about personal referrals as opposed to providing feedback online to a group of people you don’t know.

 

However, this is also important since 92% of people trust what they hear from a family member or friend, 75% trust what they hear from a stranger on the Internet, while fewer than 20% trust what they hear from a company.

 

I don’t think most people like making referrals unless they are asked for a referral by a friend. Then they are pleased to share their positive experience on a particular product, manufacturer, service or service provider.

 

If asked for a referral, then the person is proud to have been asked and sees it as an opportunity to help their friend by providing information of value.

 

There are a couple of reasons people are not comfortable making referrals unless asked: 1) they don’t want to seem like they’re a sales person, and 2) referrals are inherently risky.

 

If the product or service being recommended does not live up to the expectations of the buyer, then the referrer’s credibility is questioned.

 

Every time a referral is made, there is an implied endorsement also being made.

 

As such, if you are the recipient of a referral, I suggest you over-deliver so your new customer, and the referrer are both pleased with the outcome.

 

This also enhances your chances of obtaining additional referrals from both customers.

 

What also enhances your chances of obtaining referrals is to create “raving fans.” I’m a raving fan of a national quick service restaurant (QSR) chain (Chipotle), a local auto tire and maintenance provider (Atlantic Avenue Tire) and an online book seller (Amazon).

 

I have personally brought all three businesses at least 100 new customers because these companies have never let me down. They consistently provide excellent service, good value and are ultimately reliable.

 

Regardless of your business, if you can provide consistently excellent service, product quality and value for your customers, you can build your business with referral marketing.

 

That is even more true today since your raving fans will tell others about you via their social media channels -- especially if you ask them to, or better yet, provide an outstanding customer experience.

 

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Tags: loyal customers, customer experience, raving fans, referrals, promoters, referral marketing

Customer Journey: From Funnel to Circle

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 16, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

customer journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McKinsey & Company noted the change in 2009. The customer journey is no longer a funnel, it's a circle.

 

The traditonal purchase funnel of: awarness, familiarity, consideration, purchase and loyalty has been made obsolete by the internet and social media.

 

In today's digitally driven marketplace, the customer journey is more like a circle with four phases: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure and post-purchase.

 

In order to provide customers and prospects with information of value, you need to know where they are in the journey and what information they want at that particular point in the journey.

 

Begin mapping the customer journey by understanding all of the places your customers go for information before they ever interact with you -- search engines, social media, reviews, other online channels.

 

Understand what information the customer is trying to get at each touchpoint and strive to provide some information of value at that touchpoint.

 

The more information of value you provide, the more awareness and trust you build with your prospective customer.

 

Engage with customers during the pre-shopping, decision-making process. Do what you can to simplify their life, save them time and make a confident, well-informed decision.

 

When mapping the customer journey, make sure you are able to indentify barriers to the purchase process.

 

If you're able to remove the barriers, you've just simplified the buying journey, and the customer's life.

 

I buy running shoes from an online retailer. I'm also a "VIP" so I can get discounts and free shipping. However, this site is unable to recognize my VIP membership so I always end up having to call them to order what I want. A major barrier.

 

So far, they've overcome the barrier by being available by telephone; however, at some point, I'll just buy from Zappos since they are the masters of providing an outstanding customer experience.

 

Don't forget to follow-up after the sale to ensure your customer is happy with their purchase and that your product or service is solving the problem your customer purchased it to solve.

 

This follow-up is critical to ensuring satisfaction, building loyalty, obtaining feedback and referrals -- online and in person.

 

Don't assume you know the customer journey. Once you've mapped it, share your perceived customer journey with a few of your best customers and get their insights on what they really do and where they experience barriers in the process.

 

What have you learned by mapping the customer journey?

 

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Tags: dialogue, loyalty, consumer insights, customer satisfaction, satisfied customers, customer journey, referrals

5 Reasons to Provide an Outstanding Customer Experience

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Sep, 10, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

Outstanding customer experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Temkin Group (#btemkin) just published the results of its research, the ROI of Customer Experience, 2014.

 

In it, they share the five benefits of providing an outstanding customer experience:

 

  1. Loyalty

  2. Repurchasing

  3. Willingness to try new products

  4. Forgiving mistakes

  5. Recommending your product or service to a friend or colleague (a.k.a., referrals)

Based on a study of companies in 19 industries, companies that provide an outstanding customer experience have a net promoter score (NPS) that's an average of 22 points higher than those companies that do not provide an outstanding customer experience.

 

In addition, by modeling the revenue of the companies with their NPS score, The Temkin Group projected that companies that continue to provide an outstanding customer experience will see significant greater revenue growth, than their competitors, in these three industries:

 

  • Hotels = 46%
     
  • Fast food = 44%
     
  • Retail = 43% 

 

Are you and your company committed to providing an outstanding customer experience?

 

Are you using net promoter score (NPS) to measure loyalty and increase revenue?

 

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Tags: outstanding customer experience, loyalty, net promoter score, referrals, NPS

9 Ways to Generate More Leads and Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Aug, 13, 2014 @ 15:08 PM

generate more leads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every busy owner I talk to wants to generate more leads.

 

Most of them are hiring more sales people or asking their sales people to make more cold calls.

 

B2B nor B2C prospects want to be cold called and are likely to screen calls with voicemail.

 

Here are nine ways I've found to generate more awareness, traffic, leads and sales, without making cold calls:

 

  1. Provide information of value via a blog.

    Become a trusted source of information and you will earn the trust of the prospect so they'll call you when they're ready to buy your product or service.
    The more you blog, the more traffic you'll generate and your SEO will improve.

    I've found that blogging at least two times a week will double web traffic and leads in less than six months.
     
  2. Answer your prospects' questions before they're asked.

    I'm asked what to write blog posts about. Start by answering every question you've ever received from a prospect openly and honestly.

    Odds are your current prospects have the same questions your current customers had before they hired you.

  3. Respond quickly.

    Responding to a question or inquiry within five minutes gives you a 100 times greater chance of turning the inquiry into a lead than if you wait 30 minutes.

    Why? Because the person who made the inquiry is still thinking about your product or service and is still online or by their phone.

  4. Be where your prospects are looking for information.

    Odds are your prospects begin their search with Google. How are you performing with regards to long-tail key words?

    This is another reason why writing blog posts are so important. The topics you're writing about are the same questions your prospects are asking. Therefore, if you have a blog post that answers their question, you're more likely to show up higher on Google -- and every other search engine.

  5. Ask for referrals and testimonials from your current customers.

    Word of mouth continues to be the most effective and efficient form of marketing. It has become moreso with the advent of the Internet and social media.

    When I was the director of operations for a company in a town where I did not live, I found our phone supplier and our multi-function copier supplier by asking local business professionals in a LinkedIn group.

    Would your customers recommend you if asked?

  6. Ask your current customers how they found you.

    It'll give you ideas on where you need to be and what topics you need to address.

  7. Map your customers' journey.

    Understand the process by which customers are researching and making decisions today. Based on a number of studies, more than 60% of the buying process is complete before a prospect ever speaks to a sales person or visits your place of business.

  8. Take the opportunity to speak to groups.

    Look for opportunities to provide information of value in your community or industry. Don't sell, answer the most common questions people have to build awareness and trust of yourself and your business. 

    Coach your salespeople to do the same and ensure everyone is delivering a consistent message.

  9. Get published.

    Even in the age of the internet and social media, Public Relations is still a great way to get your story out to your prospects. Vertical trade publications are huungry for content and frequently that content is printed and put online.

    When I was the director of marketing for a manufacturing company, we had a case study published in a vertical trade publication and our phone was ringing off the hook the day the magazine was delivered.
     

Remember, every piece of content you develop can be used multiple times.

 

The more information of value your share, the more questions you answer without being asked, the more awareness, traffic, leads and sales you'll generate.

 

Update, SiteOScope has some more ideas to share with you.


What other ways have you found to generate leads without forcing your sales force to make cold calls? 

 

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Tags: trust, information of value, accelerate sales, referrals, content

Empower Influencers and Raving Fans to Grow Your Business

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jul, 03, 2014 @ 10:07 AM

influencers and raving fans

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great webinar by David Amerland (@davidamerland), Linda West of Act-On, and Carly Tatum (@carlyjeane) at Dell entitled, "Influencers 2.0: ROI of the Influencer" presented by Social Media Today (#smtlive).

 

The key takeaway from the webinar -- provide a great customer experience (#cx) to engage your influencers (a.k.a., raving fans).

 

We live in an age of advocacy. Word-of-mouth and referral marketing grows more powerful as social media grows.

 

An increase in brand advocacy is one of the most important benefits of social media. Content is shared, comments are made and awareness and attention is gained. You just want to ensure that what's being said about you, and your brand, is positive not negative.

 

Do this by being relevant, being reliable, being responsive and being real.

 

Fail to do any of the four and you'll be called out in social media and lose the trust of influencers, customers and prospects.

 

Marketing induced customer-to-customer word-of-mouth generates more than two times the sales of paid advertising.

 

Why do consumers write about brands online?

 

  • 64% offer advice

  • 61% praise a brand

  • 52% criticize a brand

  • 51% share contents produced by a brand

 

Influencers and raving fans can seriously drive a brand message.

 

Influencers and raving fans are gatekeepers for information of value.

 

They help increase visibility in social media and search thereby saving time, effort and directing the attention of prospective customers.

 

Reach out to influencers to gain their trust, ensure alignment of values, goals and aspirations.

 

This is part of the personalization of business. Social media is about establishing mutually beneficial relationships with people. Use it to establish a relationship with influencers and raving fans.

 

Reach out to build trust through dialog.

 

Encourage and empower your employees to engage with influencers and raving fans. The more people within your firm that an influencer or raving fan has positive connections with, the more trust is gained.

 

Social influencers help attract visitors to your website.

 

You can track revenue by looking at referred social traffic and then seeing which ones convert to leads and sales.

 

Dell identifies an influencer as an individual, trendsetter or tastemaker with a signficant following among their target. Someone who's often quoted in the media. Someone who's statements result in action. A thought-leader in an industry vertical.

 

Dell works to:

 

  1. Identify influencers

  2. Engage with them at events so they have an in-person connection.

  3. Give them early access to products ("product seeding") as well as access to company executives.

  4. Maintain an ongoing relationship.

  5. Track the amount of advocacy the influencer provides over the course of the relationship.

 

Dell strives to have sufficient transparency for a customer to interact with the company on a personal versus corporate level by identifying the people within Dell who will be able to provide the most value to the customer.

 

Carly recommends engaging influencers from the outside in using customer feedback and from the inside out using influencer dialog.

 

The key is empowering employees to engage with influencers, customers and raving fans as real people rather than corporate spokespersons.

 

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Tags: be reliable, be responsive, be real, authenticity, be relevant, raving fans, referrals

Use Customer Stories to Create an Emotional Connection to the Brand

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Apr, 01, 2014 @ 10:04 AM

emotional connection to the brand

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best ways to create an emotional connection with the brand is to include a customer's story in the campaign.

 

Another is to share customer stories on the brand's website and social media channels.

 

We did this in a campaign with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina when they were considering becoming a for profit company and when the media reported the CEO was making more than $2 million per year.

 

Just recently, the media reported that six executives were making more than $1 million per year.

 

By doing one-on-one interviews, we learned the strong positive feelings customers had for the insurance company.

 

We found several customers who had exceptional stories about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina helping them through very challenging, and emotional, medical events.

 

We produced a series of TV commercials, print ads, banner ads and billboards sharing these stories.

 

Negative perceptions of the brand fell 39%, positive perceptions increased 18% and the number of inbound leads doubled the first eight weeks the campaign ran.

Viewers' perceptions of the brand changed with these emotional-charged stories that showed how Blue Cross and Blue Shield was there for their customers when they really needed them. 

 

Once customers have fallen in love with a brand, they're more likely to be committed to it.

 

When customers are infatuated, they're not as easily persuaded by competitors, but they will try to persuade others, especailly during major events.

 

Empower your customers to spread the word about you and tell your story.

 

Word of mouth is still the most efficient and effective marketing. 

 

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Tags: emotional connection to the brand, connecting emotionally with customers, referrals, promoters

10 Reasons Customer Experience (#cx) is a Marketing Investment

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Mar, 27, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

treat customer service as a marketing investment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brad Wolansky, president Consumer Direct and CMO of Yankee Candle, was the keynote speaker at a recent eTail West event.

He made some interesting points about why companies need to treat customer service, and ultimately providing a great customer experience, as a marketing investment.

  1. Price isn't the only differentiator. People will pay more for excellent customer service and a great customer experience (e.g., Nordstrom and Disney).

  2. The current sales tax advantage for online retailers will go away. You would be wise to differentiate on customer service rather than price and commit to providing an excellent customer experience.

  3. It's not that hard to improve the level of customer service your provide and improve the customer experience of your customers. It does take commitment, focus, determination and measurement.

  4. Happy customers are good customers. They buy more, they buy more frequently and they tell their family, friends and colleagues about your products, service and their customer experience.

  5. It doesn't require leading edge software. However, it does require a good customer relationship management (CRM) software and a commitment by everyone in the firm to use it.

  6. It's cheaper to retain current customers than acquire new customers. Some studies suggest by a factor of 7.

  7. Any company of any size can provide consistently excellent customer service and "wow" customer experiences. It's a customer-centric attitude that starts at the c-level and cascades down to everyone in the organization.

  8. Happy customers find new customers for you. They provide referrals, testimonials, they share their positive thoughts and experiences with family, friends and colleagues, they post on social media sites.

  9. It pays for itself. Think of providing good customer service as a marketing investment.

  10. Most companies provide lousy customer service and a negative customer experience. This is a great way to differentiate your firm from your competition.

A customer who has an issue that is resolved is more likely to become a long-term customer, and spend more with you over time, than the customer that doesn't complain.

 

Providing great customer service and a "wow" customer experience can help create "raving fans" that will sing your praises to family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers via the internet and social media.

 

A dissatisfied customer leaves and tells their friends, and possibly many others, about what a poor job you did.

 

You're much better off resolving the issue to the customer's satisfaction.

 

Use simple math to convince the CEO to bring marketing and customer service together.

 

Listen intensely to learn customers' needs and expectations.

 

Empower everyone in the company to have a role in providing outstanding customer service.

 

Attitude is everything. When every employee considers themselves part of the customer service team, your company is able to deliver a level of customer service that's a competitive differentiator for your firm.

 

Pay back customers for their business with excellent customer service. Raving fans will evangelize your brand.

 

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Tags: customer experience, customer satisfaction, empower employees, customer retention, customer centric, customer engagement, raving fans, referrals

10 Ways To Enhance Customer Engagement

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Mar, 20, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

raving fans referrals and word-of-mouth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many of you know, I'm a raving fan of Chipotle. I've been eating there every day for more seven years. I've written a number of blogs about them and brought them a lot of new customers by introducing friends, family, colleagues and business associates.

 

If someone wants to meet with me at lunch, they know the best place to do so is at Chipotle. Any Chipotle, I'm not picky. In fact I like seeing the different restaurants.

 

When I travel, I know where the nearest Chipotle is to where I'm staying and where I'm working.

 

However, Chipotle, and many other firms, are missing the boat on keeping their loyal customers, promoters and raving fans engaged the way companies like Zappos, Apple, USAA, Ritz Carlton and Nordstrom do.

 

Following are 10 things any company can do to recognize their loyal customers and convert them into raving fans and more active promoters:

 

  1. Give them branded clothing. Ask them what they want. Some people like hats, others shirts. I've asked for a Chipotle dri-fit polo. I'm told they're only for managers -- really? You don't want me wearing my Chipotle polo when I go to the NCAA Tournament? Colleges and universities do a great job of getting alumni and fans to promote their brands, and paying Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Rawlings a lot of money to do so. Why don't all companies with loyal followings do the same?

  2. Give them a behind the scenes look at how things run. Again, some people may like this, others may not. I'd love to see how Chipotle prepares for the day. Others might like to be in one of your daily team meetings. Imagine how much your customers would learn and be able to inform others about your company and what you'd learn from your customer. I look forward to going on a tour of Zappos when I'm in Las Vegas for a conference. They're even picking me up at my hotel for the tour.

  3. Let your best customers speak to employees and tell them why they like your brand so much. Let your employees ask the customer questions and let the customer ask the employees questions. Again, think of what you'll learn from the exchange and how much of an emotional connection the customer will now have with your brand when they get to know the people that are your brand.

  4. Recognize loyal customers, promoters and raving fans -- publicly in your place of business and on social media. A free drink, putting their name on the welcome sign, using their name will go a long way to making a long-term positive impression on the customer.

  5. Handwritten thank you notes. In today's world of emails, a handwritten thank you note speaks volumes about how much you really care about the person as an individual. After my wife was in an auto accident she went to Panera for her daily coffee, she received a "get well" card signed by all of the employees. That card is still atop our kitchen counter nine months after the accident.

  6. Tchotchkes. Give them little gifts every now and then to remind them of how much you value their business. Think about what's relevant to your customer and will associate your business to them. An accounting firm may use a letter opener, a law firm or optometrist a screen cleaner. Brainstorm with your employees what your best customers might like to have from you.

  7. Discounts/gift cards. When I first started eating at Chipotle everyday, I'd get comped, once every 10 or times so I visited. Not any more. They know I'm going to be there every day, regardless. Don't ever take your customer for granted. Let them know you value their business and think of other things you can do to simplify their lives.

  8. Invite them to your annual meeting. What would you and your three biggest customers gain if your customers came to your annual meeting? Both parties would end up with a lot of insights. Since you would have more employees interacting with your three largest customers, you would be coming away with even greater insights and your employees would have a better understanding of your customers. A "win-win." 

  9. One-on-one's with managers, executives and researchers. Do you think your best customers might have some ideas on ways you could serve them, and others like them, better? Your best customers want to see you be successful. Ask them what you can do. They may also ask you what they can do to help you. Be prepared to tell them how they can best help you.

  10. Rewards. What is the ultimate reward you could give your best customers? A trip? A laptop case with your logo on it? A simple thank you? Ask your best customers what you can do for them to show them you value and appreciate their business.

Twenty percent of your customers account for 80% of your revenue and profit.

 

If you look more closely, I would bet that 4% of your customers account for about 64% of your revenue and profit (the 20:80 of the 20:80).

 

Do you know who those 4% are? You need to.

 

Also, have you identified the influencers that are passionate about your brand?

 

These customers do more marketing for your brand via word-of-mouth and social media than you are aware of.

 

Make it easy for them to do so and give them awesome experiences to share with their family, friends and colleagues.

 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book   

Tags: dialog, connecting emotionally with customers, customer engagement, raving fans, referrals

Empower Your Employees to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Mar, 06, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

empower employees to accelerate sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice ebook from Dynamic Signal "An Introduction to Employee Advocacy" which affirms what I have shared in several posts -- empower your employees and they will help you build your business.

 

Empower and encourage all of your employees to send out positive messages and attract new customers, generate referrals, recruit great hires and tell a consistent story about the brand.

 

If your don't trust your employees to do this, how are you failing to earn their trust? Employees will only treat your customers and well as you treat your employees.

 

Channel the passion and knowledge of your employees so they reach out to their social networks and amplify your brand. Ensure your employees are engaged and are fully aware of your vision, mission, values and strategic position.

 

Doing so will drive leads, revenue and profit and further engage your employees.

 

According to Edelman's 2013 Trust Barometer, "41% of people believe a company's employees rank higher in public trust than a firm's P.R. department, CEO or founder."

 

When you empower your employees, your employees trust you and their social networks trust them. Their family, friends and colleagues see them enjoying their jobs, in person and online, and start to think more highly of the company.

 

For every 1,000 employees, companies can gain more than $1 million in earned media, save $500,000 in recruiting expense and geenerate millions in incremental sales.

 

According to Gallup, "companies with engaged employees outperform those without engaged employees by up to 202%."

 

Have a social media policy that's accessible and understandable. Explicitly tell people what you want them to share like a press release or video.

 

According to McKinsey, "when marketers empower their employees, they stand a much better chance of reaching customers in the right place, at the right time, with the right message."

 

According to Social Media and Sales Quota Report, "78% of salespeople using social media outsell their peers." 

 

Reviews, recommendations, case studies, purchase history, coupon redemption and ecommerce will all provide feedback on whether or not your employee empowerment initiatives are working.

 

Employees are your best sales channel, your best advocates and the greatest promoters of your brand.

 

Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: empower employees, alignment, one voice, referrals, promoters, emotional connection, loyal employees

6 Ways to Turn Customers into Brand Advocates that Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Mar, 03, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

empower customers to provide referrals via social media

 

 

 

 

Here are just six ways to turn loyal, satisfied customers into brand advocates that will help accelerate sales by sharing their positive feelings about you, your products and services with their families, friends and colleagues.

  1. Invest in your customers. Have a customer bonding program that reaches out to your customers on a regular basis to ensure they are happy with the products and services you are providing and to let them know how much you appreciate their business. Failing to follow-up, and stay in touch, with your customers after they buy your product or service essentially tells the customer you only care about making the sale. You don't care about them as individuals. An ongoing, well thought out, customer bonding program will help you have customers for life.

  2. Wow customers with unusual customer experiences. Not everytime, sometime. Find out what you can do to simplify your customer's life and do it. They'll remember you for it and share what you've done with their family, friends and colleagues. Zappos has raised the bar with next day delivery. You should be creative about what you provide customers based on your knowledge of what's important to them.

  3. Provide customers with information about your brand. Loyal customers are interested in your success. Give them a "behind the scenes" look at how things work and how you do what you do.The information you provide will help them generate referrals for you as well as enable them to educate less educated customers. Chipotle recently did this with their Farm Team and is taking a more activist stance with their latest series of "Farmed and Dangerous" videos.

  4. Invite vocal customers to become advocates. You can identify vocal customers by those that provided in-depth answers to open-ended questions in your Net Promoter Score (NPS) or customer satisfaction survey. Their responses give you the opportunity to engage with them more deeply and have a better understanding of what they like, don't like, and how you can improve your service.

  5. Transform negative experiences into positive ones. Listen to the customer's concern. Let them vent. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. Fix it to the customer's satisfaction. By doing so, that customer is likely to be with you longer than a customer who never complains. 

  6. Use all social media channels. Find out where your customers are active in social media and strive to be in the same places. Empower your employees to help you engage with customers across all the different channels. Your employees likely know the various social media channels better than you do.

 

Empower your employees to empower your customers. 

 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: loyal customers, dialog, connecting emotionally with customers, customer retention, customer engagement, referrals, social media