Archive for November, 2008

Simple Customer Service Marketing Tips

Regardless of whether you sell a product or service or you run a solo business or have employees it is essential you have a customer service program in place as part of your marketing program. The best customer service programs are simple to understand and implement and are focussed on adding value to your customers.

Tips to Consider when Implementing a Customer Service Program include:

Customer Service Support
It is important that your customers can reach you if they have an enquiry or complaint. Make sure that on all your communication to customers you include your customer service number (preferably toll free or the cost of a local call) and what your customer service hours are. If you have a website, this is the perfect medium to provide answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQ) by customers. Stipulate how long it will take you to reply to their email eg. within 24 hours and ensure you keep to this. You should also have your full contact details clearly visible on your website.

Training Employees
A customer service program is of no use unless all of your employees are aware of it, understand it and use it. All employees need to be trained and given the necessary tools to be able to provide the highest level of customer service.

Rewarding Employees
It is important to reward and recognise employees who have shown to provide excellent customer service. An employee of the month or quarter program could be implemented to reward and recognise employees who have provided exceptional customer service.

 Dealing with Customer Complaints and Enquiries
As the old saying goes, the customer is always right. All customer complaints and enquiries need to be handled sensitively, respectfully and in a timely manner. To deal with a complaint, identify what the problem is and resolve it. A customer will only be satisfied with how you handle their complaint, if you provide a solution that suits them.

Tracking Customer Complaints and Enquiries
Keeping a record of your customer complaints, enquiries and their positive or negative feedback, provides you with valuable information needed to continually improve your customer service and business operations. Tracking customer feedback also provides you with information needed to reward and recognise your employees.

Key Customers
Your Key customers are the best advocates of your business and the strong relationships you build with them can also lead to great referrals for your business. They are also a valuable source of information on how you can improve your business operations. Continually ask for their feedback and how you can better meet their needs.

Warranties and Guarantees
If you have a high quality product or service you need to stand by it. Determine what your customers expect from your industry with regards to warranties or guarantees and make yours better than your competition.

Your Competition
To finalise your customer service policy, analyse your competitors’ customer service policies and how they differ or are better than your own. What do you like about their customer service and what do you dislike? Do they understand their customers’ needs and do they satisfy these needs better than you?

Standard Industry Policies
Your industry or market may have a standard customer policy i.e. a minimum level of customer service expected from all businesses. Make sure your customer service policy, at the least, includes these standard policies.

 Do you have any customer service marketing tips?

Post by Susan Oakes

 

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November 28, 2008 at 12:29 pm 2 comments

Creating Your Marketing Plan

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 This is the third post of the series and revolves around selecting your sales and marketing objectives, marketing strategies and your marketing tactics. If you have analysed your business, customers, market and competitors then it becomes easier to create your marketing plan and tips were given how to do this in the last post. The aim of creating a marketing plan is to set your business up to succeed during the year.

The steps involved in creating your marketing plan that I have found useful over many years are as follows:

Set Sales Objective
Set a realistic objective to achieve for the year and break the objective down by monthly targets. By having monthly or even weekly targets helps you see what is needed to be achieved with your marketing efforts.

Establish your Marketing Budget
By doing this at the front will guide you when you are selecting your marketing tactics. It also means that as the year progresses you can see how much you have spent per month versus the sales you have achieved. If you are comfortable with financials it is also a good idea to work out what the proposed marketing budget does to your business’s profitability. You can always ask your accountant to help you with this. One thing to remember, that some marketing tactics may not cost money but they will involve your time which is still a cost to your business.

Select your Marketing Objectives
Keep it simple and if this is the first time you are doing this then just choose one or two objectives you want to achieve, such as gain 10 new customers by year end. The main thing in setting the objectives is that it will keep you on track when selecting your marketing tactics.

Select your Marketing Strategy
This is what I call your overall game plan and it will help you choose what areas of the business you are going to focus on to achieve your objectives. For example you may decide to focus on the attracting customers with emphasis on the delivery of your service.

Choose your Marketing Tactics
If you have followed the above then you are now in a position to choose those tactics involved with service delivery that will help deliver 10 new customers .Examples of tactics could be a service delivery guarantee that you promote on your website, brochures, business cards, PR for all potential customers to see.

Remember the KISS way and set up a simple marketing calendar so you can chart your progress by month. Also a marketing plan should be an active and is not cast in stone so review your progress per month and it you need to change your marketing tactics or sales forecast etc then that is fine.

By creating a marketing plan means you are in control of your business and at the end of the day it just makes running your business easier.

Do you have any tips to share?

Post by Susan Oakes

November 26, 2008 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

The Marketing Plan Treasure Hunt

Keeping up the theme from the last post of using the KISS way to develop a marketing plan, I decided to rename the business and market analysis step to the Treasure Hunt. The reason is that when we conduct an analysis you are looking for that little treasure or gem that will help you gain the edge over your competitors, attract and retain key customers and find opportunities to grow your business.

The business and market analysis is an important step because the information you find will form the basis for your small business marketing plan where you will set your marketing objectives, marketing strategies and marketing tactics. It can also be a bit daunting if you have not completed one before so using the KISS way here are some tips:

Get Help
If you are a solo business then it can be difficult collecting the information, analysing it and working out the importance for your business all by yourself. Why not ask for help from family, business partners, trade associations or even online forums. If your business has employees enlist their help to conduct a market or business analysis.

Sources of Information
There are so many resources available now including free industry reports from government associations, trade magazines, online newspapers from around the world etc. Also set up news alerts with keywords about your industry, competitors, your own company and products and services to let the information come to you.

Get Organised
You can collate the information over time instead of spending an entire day or days. Try allocating 20 minutes a day for a week to collect different pieces of information before you even consider analysing it. For example Monday you could look at your competitors, Tuesday gather information on your past marketing activities etc. You will also find that the analysis is better as you will have the total picture and not just some information in isolation.

Ask Questions
To make the analysis easier set down some questions you need to answer as some information may be interesting but will not take your business to the next level. Questions should revolve around what, why and how. For example if you are analysing your sales from your customers over the last year, you could ask yourself; what are the sales trends from your key customers, why are some customers increasing in sales and not others and how will this affect your business.

Keep Notes
If you are conducting a business and market analysis for the first time you may not be able to find all the information or there may be questions still unanswered. Just write down so you don’t forget as you can always update the analysis and your marketing plan throughout the year.

The next post will cover the actual marketing plan, which is the Launching Pad.

Do you have any other tips to make the business and market analysis a better Treasure Hunt?

Post by Susan Oakes

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November 25, 2008 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

Develop a Marketing Plan the KISS way

In everything we do in life or business, some activities are interesting and we enthusiastically take on the activity. Other activities we know we should do or complete but we either procrastinate or ignore them until we absolutely have to. For many small business owners developing a marketing plan falls into the second category.

There are many reasons for this, but the reality is that developing and of course actioning a marketing plan does not have to be a chore. I have always looked at how I can do things in a smarter way and this has led to using the KISS way – Keep It Simple Silly (you may have heard of other words used instead of silly) to developing a marketing plan.

This week we will look at each step but before we commence here are some tips to prepare you.

1. Change your perception of developing a marketing plan
A few weeks ago I wrote an article called “Creating a Marketing Plan can be as Exciting as Planning a   Holiday”.  If you change your perception from one of it’s too hard, I don’t have time, into a more enjoyable activity then you just may find it is not so difficult to do.

2. Think of the end result and this means keep in your mind or place a picture in front of your desk what having a successful business will do for you and your family, employees etc.

3. Keep in mind that you do not have to write a book, perhaps instead taking the holiday theme that you are going to have a great itinerary to enjoy growing your business to the next level.

4. Think of what you know, instead of what you don’t know. Before you start any research or analysis, just take a little time and write on a piece of paper what you know about your market,      competitors, customers and your business. These can be just bullet points and it will show you what areas you need to find out more about.

The next post is going to look at how to use the KISS way with the review and analysis step, which I will call the Treasure Hunt.

If you have any tips you use when you are about to develop a marketing plan, please share them with us.
Post by Susan Oakes

 

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November 24, 2008 at 11:00 pm 2 comments

Marketing Tip to Help Other Small Businesses Grow

We know recommendations are important for small businesses to succeed and we are encouraged to seek out satisfied customers or business partners to provide recommendations, testimonials or referrals to help our business.

When someone asks us to recommend a product or service we are usually very helpful but how often do we actively recommend a businesses’ product or service that we actually use. I thought about this the other day when a customer rang and asked if I knew of or could recommend a database product. I recommended the product we use but I also told him about other products. Later that day I thought why didn’t I just recommend the one that we use.

I believe there an opportunity to be proactive as a customer of another business to help them increase their revenue without asking for anything in return. Could our own customers experience the same value, service etc that we experience by purchasing that product or service? The answer on many occasions is yes.

If you know your customers well and this is done in the right spirit of proactively helping others, I can’t think of too many reasons not to give a go. If you have any tips in this area that you would like to share or if you have actively recommended a product or service that you use, let us know.

Post by Susan Oakes

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November 21, 2008 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

Small Business Marketing – Why Sales Analysis is Important

If you are serious about marketing and growing your business, then conducting a sales analysis on a regular basis is essential. An analysis of your brand’s or business’s sales enables you to establish growth trends and how your results compare with the market in which you compete. If you have more than one product or service it is also important to compare their sales. Product or service sales comparisons will enable you to determine which of your products or services make the greatest contribution to your business and which are growing or declining.

Why Is It Important?
Analysing your sales over several years enables you to establish sales patterns which will assist you in setting your sales budgets in the future. It is especially important to include the analysis when you are developing your marketing plan each year.

Your sales analysis will also help you identify where your strengths lie within your product or service range. Your sales and marketing activities can then be allocated accordingly to support the products or services that represent the greatest opportunity for future profitable growth. For example, if one product or service represents the majority of your sales you may need to allocate enough marketing and sales support to continually protect it from your competition.

You will also be able to compare your sales performance with your market. Whilst your business may be increasing in sales each year the market may be increasing at a greater rate. This may mean that one or more of your competitors are gaining share capturing more of your potential customers.

Tips
When analysing your sales performance consider the following:

  • Pricing changes eg. price increases or discounting
  • Competitors – competitors entering or exiting the market
  • New product or service launch growing sales
  • New product or service cannibalising existing product or service sales
  • Customers moving between products or services
  • Changes in customer demand eg. increasing or decreasing
  • The segments and distribution channels you operate in

 Do you conduct a sales analysis for your business?

 Post by Susan Oakes

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November 19, 2008 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

Increase Your Marketing Expertise – Take up a New Hobby

At one time I considered going back to University to get my MBA, however at this time I was also flying around the country for business. I enjoyed the buzz you get when an aircraft takes off and thought the buzz would be even better if you were flying a light plane. As I could not afford to do both I considered what I get out of the MBA versus a Pilot’s licence and apart from the fun of learning to flying I it was the challenge of learning new skills and gaining knowledge in a totally new area that that made the decision for me.

What I learnt from gaining the pilot’s licence, apart from the fact that landing the plane safely is much better than taking off are these simple marketing tips which can apply to many hobbies:

  1. If you do not prepare a flight plan before you take off you can easily go off course with rather drastic results. The same can be said if you do not create a marketing plan for your business each year.
  2. When you fly a plane with passengers on board you need to be aware of their needs during the flight. One tip is not to take up anyone who does not like heights and is likely to feel nauseated. For a small business, if we do not have a focus on keeping our key current and potential customers they can easily go to a competitor.
  3. Learning any new skill requires gaining knowledge even in those areas that you may not be particularly fond of which in the case of flying was having to learn about how the engine of a plane works. With small business marketing, not all elements excite everyone such conducting market or competitor analysis, but they need to be done.
  4. Small business marketing involves thinking strategically as well as tactically to ensure you meet your business and marketing objectives. I learnt when flying a plane that unless you do both of these things you will not reach your destination as successfully if you only think tactically along the journey.
  5. After each flight whether you are with an instructor or flying solo you conduct a post flight review to see want went well and why and what could have been done better. If you review each marketing tactic that you implement then you are more likely to achieve even better results with future activities. 

If you have a hobby that has helped with your small business marketing tell us your marketing tips.

 Post by Susan Oakes

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November 18, 2008 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

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