Who shouldn’t you serve?

you shouldn't serveWho shouldn’t you serve? I have often said that the power of a good brand is not only does it attract your sweet spot customers but it repels the wrong customers.

Too many businesses adopt the “every dollar is a good dollar” philosophy which inevitably brings them misery, unhappy customers and financial losses.

When you try to serve people who are a bad fit — they almost always leave, disgruntled.  And that’s after you have chased your tail, trying to make them happy, even if it means you lose your shirt.

You’re far better off to dramatically narrow your focus.  Only serve the people/companies who can be your very best customers or as Steve Farber says in Radical Leap — “Doing What You Love in the Service of People Who Love What You Do.”

The picture with this post is a window at a Tattoo Parlor in Asheville, NC.  Clearly they know exactly who they do and don’t want to serve.  And while they have taken a rather aggressive way of communicating that — it’s highly unlikely that they get a lot of walk ins who turn out to be bad customers.

I’m not suggesting you post a sign. But I am suggesting that there’s value in knowing exactly who you should and who you shouldn’t serve and going out of your way to be equally clear on both sides of the equation.

By the way — this isn’t rocket science.  Make a list of your best customers.  The people you’d clone if you could.  What do they have in common?

Next, make a list of the people who you’d pay to stop serving.  What do they have in common?

Now — look at your marketing messages.  How can you tweak them so they attract your best customers and communicate to your worst clients that they’d be better off going somewhere else?

You cannot have a love affair with your worst customers.  You simply can’t woo them and win their hearts.  So it’s better to let someone else have them so you can concentrate on the people who truly will love you and what you do for them.

Love advice is not good marketing advice

Love advice is not good marketing adviceAs we celebrated Valentine’s Day this month – there were many a cliché uttered in the name of love. I want you to remember that in most cases, they don’t work as well as marketing maxims. Love advice is not good marketing advice.

In fact, in general I might suggest that you shun cupid’s advice when it comes to marketing your organization. Let me give you a few examples.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder: While this may be true in human interactions, buyers have a very short attention span. When your marketing is sporadic or worse – nonexistent, you can’t expect a prospect to think about you when they’re finally ready to buy.

Trying to reach our consumers, no matter what we sell, is a little like trying to time the market. The truth is – we don’t know when they’re going to be ready to pull the trigger. We do know that when they’re ready – typically they will identify three potential solutions and explore them. That’s why marketing’s job is to keep your product or service top of mind all the time so that when the prospect is actually ready – you’re in the short set of possibilities. Absence doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll get a shot at the sale.

Love is blind: While in human interactions it’s true that appearances don’t trump love…in marketing, love is definitely not blind. How you present yourself has incredible impact on your ability to capture and keep the attention of a customer. When it comes to marketing, this isn’t so much about attractiveness as it is about consistency and being true to your brand.

Adhering to graphic standards that represent and promote your brand is vital to growing demand and brand loyalty. Consistent use of logo and brand colors begins to create a subconscious connection with your prospects and repeat customers. Pretty soon – if you’ve honored your brand’s visual guidelines you can trigger a reaction every time you use the brand’s color palette or logo. Think how we immediately associate a red soda can with Coke or a brown truck with UPS. You can create the same effect.

Opposites attract: We all know couples that seem like they couldn’t possibly have anything in common who are deliriously happy with one another. Shows what we know. But that phrase doesn’t work so well when it comes to customers. The truth is – every business has what we call “sweet spot” customers. Those people who are the perfect fit to what we have to offer. One of the reasons they’re our best fit is because they see the world in the same way we do. They agree with how we approach our industry and the specifics of not only what we do but how we do it.

Many companies go broke trying to be everything to everyone. Instead of embracing their sweet spot customers, they chase after every dollar, no matter how bad the fit may be. The result of that is almost always a very rocky relationship that ends in an ugly crash. And then, that former customer runs around town (or your industry) telling people about their bad experience. You’re far better to

All you need is love: In today’s economic times – I don’t care how much fun you are to work with, if you can’t generate results you won’t get to stick around for too long. One of the marketing mistakes that many organizations make is that they don’t put the spotlight on the results and give them their due.

There you have it. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s Valentine’s Day fueled parade but when it comes to love clichés and marketing – it is definitely not better to have loved and lost. Remember — love advice is not good marketing advice!

Instead, market smart and keep those customers for life!

How cause marketing can be smart marketing

Cause marketingIn the last 20 years, the term “cause marketing” came onto the horizon.

The whole idea was this: Many companies donate their time, their talent and their money to various charities, but it was done without anyone knowing about it or the company gaining any additional value from being a good citizen.

Some would argue that to give without any expectation of reward or recognition is the true definition of giving.

Perhaps that’s true. But it’s also very small.

Another word for small in this instance might be isolated. If I give five dollars to a charity and don’t tell anyone about it, the charity gets five dollars and I get a warm feeling inside. All good. But if I tell my friends about the charity and that I’m giving five dollars and invite them to do the same, now look at that I’ve created:

  • More awareness for the charity
  • Additional dollars donated to the charity
  • A community of people who believe in/care about the charity

Which do you think the charity would prefer?

Now, take that a step further. Rather than just telling my friends about it, what if I aligned my choice of charity with my customer base? Odds are I serve a group of people that I have a connection with and that I care about.

So if I look for a charity that would be important to them and to me, I can amplify the impact I can bring to the charity by engaging my entire customer base to rally around them.

When anyone talks about cause marketing, one of the examples they use is Avon and their commitment to fight breast cancer. They were pioneering in the idea of uniting a cause and a group of customers, for a greater good.

We’re all smart enough to recognize that Avon benefits from this alliance as well, in earned media exposure, creating a powerful connection to both their female customer base and their female employee base as well as increased sales.

None of that mitigates the good they do. It’s truly a win/win situation. Here’s how Avon talks about their efforts on their own website:

“One of the company’s largest ongoing projects is the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which is aimed at funding research and access to quality care. Now in its 20th year, the project has donated more than $740 million to the cause, making it one of the world’s leading corporate supporters of the fight against breast cancer. Among the successes that Avon lists on its website:

  • Linking more than 15 million women around the globe to early detection programs and mammography screenings
  • Educating 100 million women on breast health
  • Expanding into 55 countries
  • Enabling access to care for underserved populations
  • Providing $175 million to breast cancer research projects since 1999
  • Creating Love/Avon Army of Women, a program designed to accelerate the pace of prevention research by enlisting more than 350,000 women (potential study volunteers) for this effort.

Avon fundraises for these efforts through various methods like hosting the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series and selling Crusade Pink Ribbon fundraising products.”

I know your company probably doesn’t have the reach of an Avon, but you do have loyal customers who care about the world around them. And I’ll bet there’s a charity or cause that matters to you and that would matter to them if you made the introduction.

As you work on your 2015 marketing plan – I challenge you to weave in a cause marketing effort. There’s nothing that says marketing can’t also make the world a better place.

Building a great brand means going the extra mile

My Briggs & Riley bag

My Briggs & Riley bag

Want a great brand? Building a great brand means going the extra mile. Let me give you an example.

I travel a lot so I decided it was time to invest in a suitcase that could take the beating that 100+ flights a year dishes out without having to be replaced every year.  So after doing more research than a suitcase purchase should require, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Briggs & Riley suitcase.

Keep in mind, I’m usually a run to Target and buy a bag kind of guy.  So this was a big money decision for me.

I made the investment because the bag is guaranteed for life.  Here’s how they talk about their guarantee:

If your Briggs & Riley bag is ever broken or damaged, even if it was caused by an airline, we will repair it free of charge – Simple as that! Here’s how the Briggs & Riley Simple as that® guarantee works:

A. Simple bag repairs – you can send or bring your bag to a local Authorized Repair Center. No repair number is needed. Please note that you are responsible for any freight charges incurred when shipping your bag to an authorized repair center.

B. Badly damaged bags – we recommend sending them directly to Briggs & Riley at one of our Official Company Repair Centers.

Our ‘Simple as That®’ guarantee will cover the repair of all functional aspects of your Briggs & Riley bag for life.

In my mind, that meant:

  • It would last a really, really long time before anything broke, ripped or didn’t work
  • It would be easy to get it fixed, if I ever had to
  • These people really care about their customers

I love the bag.  It’s easy to pack an entire week’s worth of stuff into, if I need to.  Shirts and sports coats travel well and come out pretty wrinkle free.  So I’m happy.

photo[2]_optFast forward to 10 months after the purchase.  The bag has a rip in it.

So I go to the B&R website and complete a form.  It’s relatively painless (who knew a suitcase could have a serial number?) and I submit it.  Unfortunately, because there were no authorized repair centers in my area, I had to send my bag back to Briggs & Riley.

The email telling me this gave me all the information I needed but didn’t express any sentiment or apology for the fact that I was going to be inconvenienced.

I had to take the bag to a UPS store because really — who has a box big enough for a large suitcase laying around.  By the time I bought the box and paid for the shipping, it was close to $100.  Lovely.

photo_optThen, I waited.  And waited.  I didn’t hear anything from Briggs & Riley.  It had been a few weeks and I was just about to reach out to them via their website when voila, my repaired suitcase arrived with this card that outlines what got fixed.  And that’s it.

So let’s review.

  • Briggs & Riley makes expensive and well crafted bags
  • They guarantee the bag for life and will repair the bag for free
  • They make it simple to get the bag repaired
  • They honored their promise — fixed my bag and sent it back to me

So they follow all the best business practices.  They make a quality product and charge a premium for it. They back their product with a rock solid guarantee and then they honored that guarantee.

They did it all right. And yet….they screwed it up at every turn.  They had so many opportunities to build a bond and their brand and they whizzed by every one of them.

When someone pays a ridiculous amount of money for something you sell — they want to be reassured that they made a good call.  they want to be your fan.  Let me say that again — they want to be your fan.  But you have to extend the invitation and make the effort.

If I was the Director of Marketing for Briggs & Riley, here’s what I would do different:

  1. When someone buys one of our bags and registers it (with the serial # etc) I would send them a hand signed thank you note from the CEO/President, welcoming them into the B&R family and inviting them to join our customer exclusive club
  2. Our club would offer travel tips for the seasoned road warrior, packing tips etc.
  3. Every holiday season, we’d send a small gift (like B&R luggage tags) to the members of our club.
  4. If someone came to our website to report a damaged bag, we’d have them fill out the form but the email confirmation/reply would outline what they should expect, in terms of time frame etc.  It would also offer a sincere apology that they have to be inconvenienced by not having their bag.
  5. We’d have a suitcase loaner program.  No one spends that kind of money on a suitcase unless they travel a lot.  We’d offer to ship them a clean, used bag to use while theirs is in our shop.  All they’d have to do is pay to ship it back.  (I doubt very many people would accept this offer…but the gesture matters)
  6. When their bag arrived at our repair center, we’d notify them that it had arrived and give them an estimated date for the return of their bag.
  7. Sometime during the repair timeframe, we’d send them a funny video about their bag recovering from its surgery and as soon as it was released…it was headed back home.
  8. In the box with the returned bag, we’d send them a thank you note from the repair team, thanking them for their confidence in Briggs & Riley and apologizing again for the hassle.
  9. In 30 days after the bag was returned — they’d get a letter from us, asking if the bag is now performing to Briggs & Riley standards.

Most of those ideas wouldn’t cost very much money.  But each one would get one step closer to creating a brand zealot — someone who raves about their bag and convinces other people to buy one too.

Building a brand doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s about doing what’s right and then asking yourself — what else could we or should we do? And then doing it.  That’s how you create a love affair with your customers.

Don’t rest on your great product. In today’s hyper competitive world, you have to do a lot better than that.

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Facebook fun can also equal profits

It seems like every business is rushing to build a Facebook Page.  But once they get it built — they’re not too sure what to do with it.

  1. Many just ignore it, publishing once a week or less
  2. Some use it as a sales channel — pushing out deals and wondering why people are ignoring them
  3. Others share the same links that they share on Twitter

But very few organizations actually have a good time on their page.  They don’t trigger conversations with their fans and they sure don’t turn their page over to their customers. But the folks at PostCardMania.com decided to have some fun with their fans.

Early this year, they were trying to come up with some ways to get more of their customers to like their Facebook page.   Their CMO was out doing some shopping (every great idea is not born in a brainstorming session!) and spotted those wax lips and wax mustaches that they sell in the candy section. She bought some and took them back to the office.

She was able to convince her CEO that it would be fun to send the lips and mustaches out to a list of customers who had not placed an order within a year as part of a Valentine’s Day effort.  In the package was the request that they take a picture of themselves wearing the lips or mustache and post it on the PostCardMania Facebook page wall.  Everyone who posted a photo would also get a free book written by the CEO.

500 packages were sent out. They increased their likes by about 50 people and had 20 or so clients add their photos to the wall. They also connected with their customers in a very personal, memorable way that generated a lot of goodwill.

On top of that — within 4-5 days of receiving the package — that list of customers placed over $120,000 worth of orders.

Here’s the takeaways for us in this little case study:

  • They never mentioned postcard or direct mail in their communication
  • They didn’t put together a long list of rules about what kinds of photos could be posted or who had to be in the photo, etc. They just opened the doors
  • There was no coupon, QR code or any sort of offer in the package

This is a great example of creating a love affair with your customer.  PostCardMania simply reached out with something fun and invited their customers to take part.  There was no hype, spin or sell.  They just were having some fun and voila — they sold $120K worth of stuff.

Delight your audience and watch what happens.  I dare you.

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Have you built a marketing megaphone?

I spent a few days in Vegas recently and the 24/7 chaos was overwhelming. It’s pure overload for all your senses – tons of people everywhere, driving billboards, TVs in the restrooms, a wide array of smells, and a cacophony of sounds at full volume.

It’s a little like how we’re assaulted by marketing messages every day. Over 5,000 messages a day – aimed at all of our senses, pretty much 24/7.

As consumers — it feels like an attack we have to guard against.  As marketers — it’s like a mountain we have to scale.

But somehow our message needs to fight its way to the top and actually be heard. How do we make that happen?

We need a marketing megaphone. (Download 8.5 x 11 version by clicking here) Something that amplifies our message so it gets right where it needs to be.

But that megaphone has to be built in the right order and contain the right elements.  Otherwise, it’s just more noise.

Here’s how to construct a marketing megaphone that actually works.

It starts with you: To break through the clutter – you need to be crystal clear about your core messaging. You need to completely understand how you’re different from your competitors, why you matter to your customers and how you can improve their world.

Imagine your voice in the din of over 5,000 messages. You’re whispering and counting on the next layers in the marketing megaphone to magnify your message. So it sure better be the exact right words/sentiment.

Once you know yourself, you need a plan: Marketing doesn’t happen by accident. You need a clear-cut vision for how you’re going to get out the word. Over 90% of businesses operate without a marketing plan and yet they wonder why they have to work so hard for new sales.

A marketing plan eliminates stutter (you hurry up to market when you’re slow and then stop when you get busy, losing all momentum along the way) or inconsistent marketing.

Your inside advantage: One of the most costly mistakes made by companies is that they forget how vital their employees are to their marketing efforts. A team that’s left in the dark can’t possibly help amp up your message. In most cases, they have the contact with your customers and prospects. So why wouldn’t you want them to be completely plugged into your core messaging and your marketing plan for spreading the word?

Be worth bragging about: Another way to turn up the volume in your marketing megaphone is to give your current customers something to talk about. If you delight them or are the kind of organization they’re proud to be associated with – they’ll shout it to the world via their social networks, their in person networks and through referrals.

All too often, we forget to romance them once we actually get the sale. But, by making them feel wanted and special – you not only create recurring revenue at a lower cost of acquisition but you create a legion of cheerleaders, all out there, putting some oomph into that megaphone.

The exact right prospects: One of the key benefits of truly understanding your brand is that you learn who your perfect customers are. You will identify who really needs what you offer and who would be elated to buy it from you. When you have a profile of exactly who that is – you can aim your marketing megaphone right at their ear and not worry about the rest of the world.

Getting heard isn’t easy but with the help of a properly built megaphone, your message can rise above the din and get to the right audience every time.

Want a full-sized jpg for your own? Click here to download one.

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