Marketing Monday: Building Trust with Social Media

trust-group-of-people-1940x900_35342Once upon a time,  7 years ago now,  as a matter of fact,  I wrote a post called “Sell, Sell = Bye, Bye” which talked about the notion that doing nothing but selling on a company social media feed would drive customers away instead of inspire them to buy.   The whole premise behind the post was to drive home the idea that becoming part of the community and building trust should be the goal,  not moving product.  While I think my point is still valid,  I also understand that building trust can be a complicated and drawn out endeavor, and that some companies may not be sure how to go about creating social media accounts that build trust.   Today’s Marketing Monday post details some ways that can be accomplished.

Method 1:  Show off completed work – Showing off work that is completed serves a couple of purposes.   First,  it shows what your company can do,  spotlights your creativity,  and presents you as a business that produces.  Second,  it can serve as an inspiration for other customers who might be looking for similar work.  Third,  it,  without the words ever being said,  lets prospective customers know that your work is being purchased,  which means that people are trusting you with their ideas and their money.

Method 2:  Ask for questions – Encourage your customers to post comments or to message you asking for ideas or thoughts on how a specific job could be done.  Customers may also ask questions about particular supplies or types of garments.   The idea is to position your company as an expert,  and to get customers accustomed to coming to you when they want solid information and helpful answers.   This technique is definitely about building trust.   Studies have shown that customers are much more likely to do business with companies and people that have demonstrated they are trustworthy.   Providing unbiased,  helpful information is one way to do that.

Method 3:  Ask for reviews – Reviews can come through the mechanism that is used by an individual social media platform to allow and encourage reviews.  Those are helpful and often referenced by potential customers.   The other option for reviews is to ask customers who are pleased to post on their social media feed,  so you can share the post on yours,  or to post on your feed directly.   The posts don’t have to be elaborate,  a simple “Thanks XYZ Company!  My daughter loves her new shirt” accompanied by a picture of said daughter wearing the shirt and a big grin is more than enough.

Method 4:  Ask for referrals – Referrals are all about trust.   Someone,  a current customer of yours,  recommends you to a friend or business associate who needs the kind of work you do.   The friend/business associate trusts the person who made the recommendation and therefore trusts you by association.  Some companies will solicit referrals by offering a discount on the next order of the person/company that made the referral.  That is a valid technique,  just make sure the referral actually pans out into a quality customer before rewarding the company that made the referral.

Method 5:  Share a view behind the curtain – On the EnMart Facebook page,  I sometimes talk about the weather,  or share a picture of the company owner’s dog doing something funny.   Sometimes we’ll share video of a piece of equipment running,  or talk a bit about why use a particular product or work with a particular company.   You don’t have to share trade secrets,  and you don’t have to get personal,  but letting customers have a little glimpse into your process and how your company operates can help them to trust you and your company more.

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Marketing Monday: The Sample Dilemma

question-markSamples cause a lot of questions among decorators. Who should receive them? What impact does a sample have on bringing in new business? When should samples be offered? Where should samples be offered,  online,  only in brick and mortar shops,  only if a customer is in front of you and asks? Why should samples even be offered at all?  How should samples be used to increase business?

That’s a lot of questions,  and there are probably just as many answers,  depending on who is supplying them.   Some companies elect to offer no samples at all. In some cases, instead of samples, a company will offer a sketch or a design mock-up.   Other companies will offer a standard sample,  but won’t do custom samples.  Another option is to offer one custom sample for free,  but charge for additional samples.   In some shops the rule is,  if you want a sample,  you pay for it.  The answers tend to depend somewhat on the philosophy of the shop being asked for a sample,  somewhat on what the competition in the market in question is doing and,  often,  on the size and potential profitability of the proposed job.

So,  given all the questions, and all the potential answers,  how do you decided what your company policy should be regarding samples?  The final decision will have to be based on the realities of your business,  but here are some things to consider while making your decision.

How does your competition handle samples? Do a little research and see if you can determine how your competition replies when asked for a sample.   If customers are conditioned to expect a “yes” when they ask for a sample,  it makes business harder for your company if you’re the only “no”. Finding out if and what everyone else charges for samples is useful too.  Knowing the norms for your market can help you decide what your company will do.

Can your shop do samples without sacrificing production? – Smaller shops that are one man bands, which have a single head machine or a manual press may not have the ability to produce samples the way a larger shop would.   If making a sample is getting in the way of work that is producing income,  it’s fairly easy to see what needs to be running.

Do you track the ratio of samples to actual jobs? The purpose of a sample is to convince the customer to give your company the job,  so you want to know how many times that actually happens.   Your tracking can be as simple as a spreadsheet,  but there should be some way to see what samples are going out, and what percentage of those samples are resulting in jobs and money coming in.  If you find you’re making a lot of samples,  but not getting a lot of jobs,  it may be time to reexamine your sample policy.

Standard samples vs. custom samples – Standard samples are samples of a product that are generic or were made simply to allow the customer to see and feel the product in question.  Some companies will have a look book or a design wall that allows customers to see and touch the work so they can understand what their particular job might look like.  For many customers this will be enough.

Custom samples, as the name implies,  are samples created for a specific customer,  generally using that customer’s artwork.  A custom sample takes more time to produce and is generally only done for larger jobs.  While customers may insist on custom samples at first,  often their questions or concerns can be addressed using a standard sample.  Creating custom samples also demands a high level of tracking,  since you want a high ratio of custom samples turning into jobs.   If you find you’re doing a lot of custom sample work and not getting a lot of orders in return,  this is another sign that your sample policy may need some thought.

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Marketing Monday: Know Thy Market (and Thyself)

iStock_000010133336XSmallI’m not really one to believe in the 10 Commandments of Marketing,  or that any such thing even exists.   I think marketing properly depends a lot on who is doing the marketing.   What works wonders for one company may be a complete failure for another.  Some marketing techniques may work for most businesses,  but it’s rare if not impossible to find one that will work for all.

The big secret to marketing well is simply this:  knowledge.  The first bit of knowledge you need to collect is information about your target market.   This, of course,  starts with first nailing down the groups to whom you want to sell.  This also involves understanding that “everyone” is not a group or a realistic goal.  “Everyone” in my town or “Everyone” who likes Doctor Who is a realistic goal,  albeit,  in some cases, an ambitious one.  “Everyone” in general is a pipe dream, and certainly far too large and nebulous a group to be marketed to in any effective fashion.

Once you’ve narrowed your focus and settled on the group or groups to whom you wish to market,  the next task is figuring out how to make effective contact with your selected groups.   The key here is effective contact.  You can have social media profiles all over the place,  you can create a blog,  you can do print ads,  there are any number of marketing venues available,  but none of them are worth anything if they don’t allow contact with your target demographics in a meaningful way.   So, after pinpointing your target markets,  the next thing to do is pinpoint where those markets spend their time and what they do there.

Once you’ve figured out where your target market congregates,  make sure your company appears in those places.  This also requires some research,  because you don’t just want to be in those places,  you want to be there in a way that generates interest and sales.  So,  before you set up your own profiles,  or create your blog,  or make your website live,  spend some time looking at how other successful companies who market to the same markets you wish to penetrate do things.  The goal is not to copy,  it’s simply to pick up techniques and insights that will aid you in making contact and making an impression on your designated market.

Finally,  while you’re pinpointing your market and figuring out where they are and where your company needs to be,  you should also spend some time figuring out where your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to marketing.   Some social media platforms may suit you better than others.   You may find you’re great when speaking in front of a group,  but not so great when required to write an advertisement.  A good marketing plan will not only take into account the needs of your market,  it will also consider your needs as well.

Marketing Monday: Publicizing Properly Pays

megaphoneThere’s an old saying “any publicity is good publicity”  which some people take to be truth but which is really quite misleading.   Yes, word of mouth,  advertisements,  press releases, posts on social media and other forms of publicity can help drive sales and raise awareness of your business,  but poorly done publicity generally will not help and may do your business harm.

The truth of the matter is that publicity that is well done can be a great help, both in boosting the notoriety of a business and in boosting sales.   The opposite is true of poorly done publicity.   This sort of publicity tends to reflect badly on a business,  or may be entirely ignored by venues that might otherwise be helpful in spreading the word.   If you want to be sure that your publicity helps and not harms your business,  here are a few things to keep in mind.

Quality Counts – Whether it’s photos or white papers or a press release,  make sure everything you put out is the best quality it can be.  Poorly done,  out of focus photos,  or poorly written press releases or social media posts make it look like you don’t care or you’re not paying attention.   From a customer’s point of view,  putting out poor quality work on your own behalf may make them wonder what kind of work you will produce for them.

Learn the Proper Formats – There are established formats for things like press releases.  Take the time to learn how to write such things properly.  Templates are generally available online,  and the formats have most likely been established as they are for a reason.   Following the formats makes it easier for those who might want to use or read your content to be able to do so.

Make Connections – Sending a press release to “Editor” may get it noticed,  but sending a press release to a specific editor will get it read.   Take the time to do the research and find out to whom you should be sending press releases or ideas for stories.  Once you find out to whom such things are properly addressed,  you can also make connections with those people on social media.   Don’t underestimate the value of having a friend at a magazine or television or radio station.

Keep Trying – Every press release you write and send will not get used.   You may not get any comments on the blog post over which you’ve slaved.   The perfectly crafted social media post that made you laugh for an hour may attract no attention at all.   Keep in mind that there is a lot of competition out there for the same audience you’re trying to attract.   Your goal is to build a loyal following and to generate more engagement today than you did yesterday.

Marketing Monday: How Much Customer Service Is Too Much?

Customer service –  we all know it’s vitally important to the success of any business,  but it can be difficult to walk the path between perfect provider and patsy.   Most of us have heard “the customer is always right” and “there’s no traffic jam on the extra mile”  enough that we could probably recite those platitudes in our sleep.   The reality is, however, that what constitutes “good” customer service varies,   and it can be easy,  in the effort to provide exceptional customer service to your clients,  to slip over the line into providing customer service that may serve your customers,  but doesn’t serve your business.

The question is, where is that line?   Where does it become less about servicing the customer and more about a customer or potential customer taking advantage?   Is going above and beyond always the right answer?  Are there times when the best way to be of service and to be fiscally responsible is to say “I can’t help you”?

Our training and conventional wisdom may tell us that the right thing to do is always to go above and beyond,  but while we all have a responsibility to serve our customers to the best of our ability,  we also have a responsibility to our businesses.   The goal of customer service is to provide your customers with such a good experience that they return to you again and again.   The customer gets what they need and want,  and you get revenue which keeps your doors open and your machines running.   It’s a simple transaction,  but one that can quickly become lopsided and problematic.

Maybe it’s a customer who demands special treatment but doesn’t spend a lot with your company.  Perhaps it’s a customer that didn’t purchase a particular product from you at all but “just needs a little favor”.   You could encounter the potential customer who keeps you on the phone forever with questions and concerns,  but never quite pulls the trigger and makes a purchase.  In some cases it’s the customer who expects that you’ll remember every detail of their every order,  even if they only order once in a blue moon.

With some customers of the types described above,  the payoff is worth the extra time and/or aggravation.  Maybe the customer that “just needs a favor” buys other things from you regularly,  and this is an opportunity to remind him or her why he buys from you.   A customer who demands special treatment might be convinced to spend more if informed that special services are offered for premium customers.  A potential customer with lots of questions may be transformed into a customer simply through being asked to purchase (something a lot of business neglect to do because it makes them uncomfortable).  Customers who only order once in a blue moon could benefit from a schedule or perhaps a discount plan that encourages them to place orders more frequently.

The trick here is to figure out where the lines are for your company,  and then make an informed decision to cross them.   If there seems to be benefit to going above and beyond what might be considered “standard” customer service,  than do so.  If there doesn’t seem to be any benefit,  or if the benefits don’t seem to be worth the time and effort,  than politely let the customer know you’re sorry,  you can’t help,  and move on to assisting those who will help benefit your bottom line.   There’s no harm in telling a customer who is wasting your time,  interfering with your production and not making it worth your while that it’s three strikes and you’re out.