Monday, March 24, 2014

Improve Customer Loyalty

It's far more cost-effective to retain existing customers than it is to attract new ones. Here are a few tips to increase customer retention rates by improving your customer loyalty:

  • Mail personalized thank you cards showing your appreciation for recent purchases or interest in your products and services.

  • Create a customer loyalty program that offers special promotions and incentives for return customers, such as birthday discounts, a reward punch card, free shipping, monthly discounts, or free upgrades.

  • Give customers a great experience with your brand. Offer a quality product and stand behind it.

  • Encourage open communication with customers by requesting feedback and suggestions. Offer options such as e-mail, online surveys, a toll-free number, and discussion forums.

  • Humanize your brand and create a personal connection with your customers by interacting in social media. Encourage customers to respond to your blog posts, attend trade shows, provide open houses, offer hands-on training sessions, and more.

  • Treat your customers like insiders. Include them in decisions, ask for feedback, and assure them their opinions are valued.

  • Consistently under-promise and over-deliver to ensure customer satisfaction.

  • Surprise your customers with something they don't expect, such as a coupon for "$10 off your next $10 purchase" just because.

  • Remember the golden rule. Think about the type of treatment you would like to receive as a customer.

Being the Apple of the Industry

When it comes to technology, few companies have enjoyed the branding success of Apple. In certain circles, they've cast themselves as the industry standard. Customers across the country line up for days to be the first to buy their latest products, even if their latest phone has only minor improvements over the previous one. Apple's products are so coveted that many people even overlook the company requiring them to buy special parts or the lack of synchronization with other technologies inherent in some Apple products, just for the opportunity to be part of the Apple community.

The power of the Apple symbol and reputation is something many companies can only hope to one day taste. What makes the power even more incredible is that among the technologically inclined, there is still a debate if Apple products are actually superior to other brands.

So how in the world did Apple manage to control the conversation about technology so completely that users of their devices feel so superior? Perhaps even more importantly, what can you learn from Apple's experience and apply to your own business?

Apple and Innovation

Apple is nearly synonymous with innovation. The company prides itself on being the first to develop a wide range of products. For products that are already in existence, they look for ways to make theirs superior. Being a follower is not in the vocabulary of an Apple designer. Steve Jobs and his business partners were experts at getting people excited. Even if an idea had already been used by other companies, they had a way of making investors and customers feel as though they were getting something new and exciting, and people jumped at the chance.

As a business leader, you should aspire to this same spirit of innovation. Rather than looking and seeing what has made your competitors successful, try instead to see where your competitors still fall short, and capitalize on those differences. Take these weaknesses and use them to drive the industry forward, with your company at the helm.

Apple and Price

There's no denying that Apple products tend to cost more than comparable products from other companies, yet that has not hindered the company's progress. While customers like feeling as though they're getting a good deal, they're more concerned about getting quality and service. An estimated 70 percent of customers would be willing to pay up to 13 percent more if it meant having a more positive customer experience. Apple has fine-tuned the customer experience. Just walk into one of the stores, and watch how carefully the associates acknowledge you, get to know your name, and find out what you're looking for.

The products themselves also define style and elegance. While people might debate whether Apple is the actual industry leader, few would deny that their products do perform well and continue to amaze people with what technology is capable of doing. When companies successfully combine innovation, customer service, and solid products, sometimes a bump in price can actually work in their favor. The higher prices Apple charges only add to the perception that their products are superiorly made.

Whether people love or hate Apple and its products, they cannot deny the influence the company has had on the technology industry. For many, the company represents the pinnacle of branding and controlling an industry conversation. Although only a few companies can so completely dominate their respective industries, all businesses can learn from Apple's business model. Apple offers lessons for even the most seasoned of business professionals looking to improve customer reach. If you're not sure how to go about implementing these ideas, we can help you hone your message and control your brand conversation.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

All Brochures are NOT Created Equal

When it comes to marketing your business, professionally printed brochures are a great way to build credibility, while also telling your story. Here are a few tips to help you create successful, sales-building brochures:

  • Focus on your audience and their needs. List benefits your customers will receive by choosing your product.

  • Design an appealing cover that motivates readers to look inside. Include product benefits, a thought-provoking statement, industry tips, and other items your customers will find valuable.

  • Keep it brief. Since brochures have limited space, provide a brief summary of your information, along with links for interested readers to go online and learn more.

  • Provide clear headlines that make it easy to find information, along with high-quality imagery that supplements your messaging.

  • Consider a creatively shaped or unusually sized brochure to grab attention.

  • Include information that encourages the ready to keep your brochure. This may include how-to information, tips and tricks, sales calendars, and more.

  • Consider providing a Q&A section to answer questions you think your readers may have when learning about your products or services.

  • If your brochure is lengthy (8 pages or more), consider creating a table of contents to pique reader interest and make information easier to find.

  • Include a call to action, so readers know how to respond. An 800 number, reply card, website landing page, or email address are all good examples to try.

If you need help creating an effective brochure, give us a call today. We have many samples and creative design ideas your customers will be sure to love.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Top Tips for Generating Customer Reviews

If you own a business, you probably know how important great online customer reviews can be to your bottom line. In fact, one 2013 study revealed that eight out of every 10 customers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.

So how do you go about generating online feedback? Here are some simple things to get you started:
  • Get social: If you don't have a Facebook page and Twitter account, now is the time to get one. If you already do have Facebook and Twitter accounts, make sure you're checking them regularly for comments. You need to keep a close eye on your social pages and respond to customer comments -- good and bad -- as they arise. And of course, you need to make it easy for people to find your social sites, so include links on your website and in your emails.

  • Make it easy to be nice: Sure, you may like to go on and on about how great your product or service is, but your customers may not be that chatty. For the verbally shy, make reviews easy by adding non-verbal options like multiple choice options or a star-rating system.

  • Get your game on: Ever heard of gamification? Basically, that term refers to websites that incorporate some sort of game play into their design to make it more fun for customers to engage. You can get as complex as you want, but even a simple thing like adding virtual badges or trophies for customers who leave reviews can increase feedback.

  • Be generous: Everyone likes to score something for free, and offering a free sample or free trial period can be really effective at getting customers to leave reviews.

  • Follow up: A customer just made a purchase. Is that the end of the transaction? Not if you want to generate some (generally positive) reviews. Once a purchase is complete, touch base with the customer to discuss both the item they purchased and the purchase experience in general. When you get positive responses, ask if you can share them as testimonials on your site.
OK, so those are just a few ways to generate reviews and feedback, but what should you do if some of that feedback is negative? First, set aside your anger and indignation, and don't stress: Every business is going to catch a little flak once in a while. Don't ignore negative reviews; instead, reply politely to deescalate and help soothe the customer. Try not to get into a debate on your social page; instead, invite the customer to contact you by phone or email, or offer to contact them. Be sure to thank them for their feedback and apologize for any inconvenience they've felt. And of course, if the feedback is on target, use it to make needed improvements.

Engaging customers and generating positive reviews takes work, but it's work that can yield big returns. Take a few minutes today to think about how your business can improve feedback and start building its own base of dedicated fans.