Tag Archives: Marketing

Building Your Brand: Customer Service and Client Relations

Are you building your brand? The answer is always “Yes!” Every step you take while operating a business brands you in a positive or negative way. Whether you are a sole proprietor or employ thousands of people, customer service and client relations should be foremost on your mind.

How are you representing your company? How do you treat prospective clients, and do you maintain positive relationships with the clients you have?

Quite a bit of what I do at Big Grey Horse Media involves marketing. Not only for my business, but for others’ businesses. I grew up in an entrepreneurial, small business environment so I learned early on to treat your customers right.

I’ve had disappointing experiences this year not only with interviews for blog pieces, but actual customer service experiences with companies I wanted to do business with.

A photographer I wanted to buy pictures from didn’t take photos of my horse. That’s cool, as I learned after the fact that the guy runs from ring to ring and is a one man operation. I offered feedback that the majority of the photos he took during the show were of kids and ponies, and to remember that the amateur adults and professional riders were the folks with purchasing power. This photographer was offended by my statement. He set me straight, so to speak, by saying that he did horse shows for free (which I knew), and if I wanted him to photograph my horse, I would have to pay him to do so (which I didn’t know).

In the long run, he missed the boat because paying him was exactly my intention. And no harm was meant when I said adult riders wanted to see photos of their horses, too. Here’s the kicker: “Adults rarely buy from me, and the pony riders’ parents do.” So in this instance, and in this photographer’s mind, kids and ponies win.

Truth is, as long as the shots were good, I would have bought every photo taken of my horse. Heck, I was interested in purchasing photos of my barn mates and their horses, too! And with those fabulous, professional photos of my horse in hand, I would have spread the word. We’re a Texas blog and we thoroughly enjoy endorsing stellar individuals and companies.

This is powerful stuff, people: word of mouth marketing.

Now I will use this experience to portray what happens when you’re rude to a potential client: You lose the sale. Further, your company can go viral in a negative way if someone chooses to call you out.

My take? The show’s prize list indicated this photographer would be at the show. Nothing was said about him being a one-man operation, just that the company would be ringside. Nothing was said on the photographer’s business cards (which were at the concession stand) that you had to ask to have photos taken or that you had to pay him in order to get his attention. Had I known prior, I would certainly have asked him to be ringside while my horse was going.

I felt that I offered this company invaluable insight into a prospective client’s mind. I also think it was a super opportunity for said company to salvage, through excellent customer service and client relations, future sales (the horse world is tiny and I’m sure I will run into this photographer again).

Building your brand is easy. Take good care of the people who come your way. Take good care of the clients you have. Forge bonds with everyone, even if you think they’re not your target market. Relationships drive sales.


Is Word of Mouth Marketing On the Way Out?

With the recent acquisition of several marketing agencies by large corporations, there is speculation regarding the viability of word of mouth marketing and face-to-face conversations. Brand advocates, used by companies and marketing agencies, are in demand. Word of mouth marketing used to be just that: You talk with friends and family about the products and services you use or are given to try out. What brand advocates have to say about those products is crucial. Great products and their buzz will spread like wildfire, increasing the chances of more consumers spending money on that particular item or brand. However, now companies are pushing brand advocates to use social media to get the buzz going. Is word of mouth marketing on its way out?

As a media company, we’re interested in how people have conversations. How do folks find out about events, goods, and services? How do people know what’s going on in the world? What brands are the best, and which companies should we support? While we posit that word of mouth marketing and “old-fashioned” face-to-face conversations are here to stay, it seems that big retailers, marketing agencies, and advertising companies are pushing hard to expand their presence into the social media realm – on the backs of consumers. We definitely have mixed feelings about this.

That said, we agree that social media is a great way to communicate. The efficiency of reaching your target market through social media is unparalleled in terms of cost, speed, and utility. I recall the pre-internet days and how hard we, as marketing teams, worked to get the word out. How did we do it? We talked to our prospects and clients, schmoozed in person (a lot), and used snail mail for direct mail campaigns and pushes.

Today, companies are born on shoestring budgets. One of the things technology has done is level the playing field. Marketing can be done at a low cost, and social media programs are free. As long as your target market can be found online, you’ve got an eager audience.

Marketing agencies and companies are smart. Why not have those loyal brand advocates do the work? It’s FREE. Especially when consumers are using their social media accounts and blogs to spread the word. At the end of the day, it’s a great thing to have a large group purchasing everything you have to offer and speaking positively about your brand. And if those brand advocates choose to blog, “like” you on Facebook, and follow your Twitter account, all the better. Everyone is happy!

The flip side? What I hate seeing is companies pushing brand advocates (who are rewarded by special programs) to use online media to reach more customers. Reading others’ reviews about products used to be a way to measure the success of a brand. In the last two years, we have been extremely wary about what we read online, and take many reviews with a grain of salt. Although the government insists on disclosure from brand advocates, we know those advocates aren’t always honest, even when they disclosure they received a product to review. We also know that many are reviewing products and not disclosing their relationships with companies. False, paid reviews are all too common in the writing world, unfortunately.

We’re afforded luxuries with social media. Let’s not get too caught up in the moment, however. If marketing companies push their brand advocates, forcing them to use Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets for marketing, rewarding only the “best” brand advocates, where does that leave the rest of us? What kind of marketing buzz is this creating, and isn’t this simply a case of dealing with a new kind of advertising? Something that may look trustworthy, but at the bottom of it all, is really nothing more than paid advertising? An online infomercial?

What is a brand advocate? Is a brand advocate someone who talks about the services and products they’ve tried, but gets nothing in return? Or is a brand advocate someone who’s connected to a marketing agency or corporation…someone who receives free products and services to use and talk about? This brand advocate gets a lot in return – free swag, points through a marketing system, etc. Is this really someone you can trust to tell the truth, knowing the brand advocate gets freebies plus company rewards for talking about their experiences?

Will the good, old brand advocates who aren’t rewarded with samples and points still communicate their preferences face-to- face? We think so. And we also think that those who talk about the brands they love, the folks who readily give their hard-earned cash for products and services they believe in, will always be the kind of brand advocates other consumers will trust, and the kind of brand advocates smart companies will want on their side.

Just for the record: I’m biased because I am not a freebie grabber or someone who yearns for free things to try out simply to have swag. If I like a product/service, you know I like it because it works for me. I’m proud to pay for the brands I dig! Retail prices don’t scare me. If I like a product, I’ll continue to buy it. If not, I’ll stop. No strings attached.

What do you think?

Why Your Small Business Needs a Website

Ever considered why you should have a website for your small business? Maybe your customers ask for your URL or perhaps they’d like to place an order online. The truth is, it’s not hard to build a professional website and the costs are minimal. You’ll put some time in to get things started, but the return you receive is well worth it.

Build Your Brand

A small business website helps promote who and what you are. Whether you’re a one man show for your lawn maintenance business or the head of a 50-person plumbing company, a website matters. With 77% of Americans connected to the internet (and wireless users growing by the minute), it’s important to have an online presence.

Give Customers a Choice

By pointing potential and current customers to your small business website, it’s easier to grow your business. Let automated processes like an online store sell your products. Prospects can easily glean more information about your company with a few clicks. Current customers can join newsletters or email your support team. Remember that you’re solving problems and finding solutions for your customers. That’s what makes the sale!

Social Media is the Wave of the Future and It’s Happening Right Now

People want to connect and technology provides that option. Give your customers a sounding board through your website. When you establish a blog, offer product review/comment sections, or have a forum, your small business gets the edge over your competition. Remember that the majority of your customers are internet savvy. They want to interact with you! Give them transparency and you will earn their trust.

Websites are a Low-Cost, Easy Way to Market Your Business

Besides building your brand and on line reputation, a small business website is an almost free way to market your services or products. The cost of running print ads or direct mail marketing campaigns are costly. Setting up your website and marketing through it costs very little. A domain can be bought for around $12 annually and hosting runs anywhere from $3-8 per month, depending on your provider. (Hosting costs are much higher for websites with large amounts of traffic, but starting out, you won’t need it.)

Now that you’re armed with new information, what are you waiting for? Get your website set up and build your brand!

The updated version of this post can be found here.

Cyber Monday: Did Your Message Make It?

My inbox is swarming with email from retailers I do business with. Cyber Monday’s in full swing – did your copy make it out the door?

People are willing to open their wallets, so sweeten the deal to close the sale. After all, what have you got to lose?

Absolutely nothing.

Smart companies take advantage of holidays (national or otherwise) to put their products and services in front of customers. Cyber Monday is a great way to offer additional discounts and bonuses. Using your online store, offer checkout codes, discounts on a minimum purchase, and promote sale items. Don’t forget to include free or reduced shipping – it’s an extra incentive.

Two of the Cyber Monday emails I received demand my attention. (And that’s a good thing, marketing-wise.) For me, it’s a question of:

  • Do I need to purchase supplements for my horse? If I do, SmartPak offers free shipping and up to 20% off a purchase. I have to make it to the check out desk to find out my “surprise” savings. (Clever!)
  • Do I need Texas Pepper Jelly as a holiday treat? Proprietor Craig Sharry promises a 15% savings if I make a purchase before midnight.

These are only two examples, and both are compelling. (I dig Texas Pepper Jelly and SmartPak is a mainstay for my horse.) What floors me is that more companies aren’t taking advantage of Cyber Monday.

Black Friday and Thanksgiving deals are yesterday’s news. Christmas deals are for tomorrow. Are you willing to let Cyber Monday roll by without jumping in? Your online presence is established. Take advantage of good copy and promote yourself! Keep your message in front of consumers. If you don’t close the sale the first time, try again.

Email is a low cost way to encourage sales. The trick is ensuring the copy speaks to your readers. It’s the difference between junk mail in the trash and hearing cha-ching!

The Wall Street Journal reports retailers are pushing sales through Cyber Monday promotions. Sales are predicted to fall in the $900 million and $1 billion range. You read it correctly – that’s ONE day of sales.

If you didn’t get your message out (yet), it’s not too late. Cyber Monday isn’t over.

Put your best copy out there!