The importance of trust in marketing your small business

Think of the businesses and brands you return to regularly. Why do you keep going back to them? Most likely, it is because you trust they will do a good job, provide a positive service and do the same for those who you recommend to use them.

So, how do these businesses generate this trust – and, more importantly, how can you build trust for your own small business?

  • Engage and interact – be open, honest and available. Customers value good communication, even when they don’t get the answer they want. There is nothing more annoying than a wall of silence for your customers.
  • Provide good service wherever you can, and be prepared to admit and rectify any issues as soon as possible. Again, communication is key.
  • Be reliable and maintain a consistent service. Nobody will recommend your business to others if they cannot guarantee what service they, or their contacts, will receive.
  • It can be hard to keep small businesses open 5 or 7 days a week, but establish opening hours (which may include when you are available if you don’t have physical premises) and stick to them. If someone arrives at your door and can’t get in, they may not try again.

You cannot ask for customers to trust you – trust needs to be built and maintained. This is no easy feat, but one that is essential to ensure a loyal customer base and ongoing recommendations to new customers into the future, no matter what type of business you run.

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Human to Human Marketing – A Buzz Word Too Far!

The website Ragan’s PR Daily has a great article on the latest buzz word being touted by some marketers: human to human marketing.

Apparently it has originated as a reminder that business owners should remember to speak directly with their customers, rather than solely online or through social media. Whilst I don’t disagree that this is a good reminder for everyone that speaking face to face with customers is an essential part of developing relationships and establishing loyalty, if anyone uses the phrase in conversations with you about your marketing, feel free to roll your eyes!

 

What are other businesses doing for Valentine’s Day?

If you’re still looking for inspiration on how to show your customers that you love them this Valentine’s Day, I’ve pulled together some great articles which might help you to come up with an idea suitable for your business to help you stand out from the crowd.

  • Twitter’s advertising blog gives some examples of what angles businesses are using to promote products on the microblogging site in the run up to the big day, and gives advice on pairing up with other companies in order to tweet to a wider audience.
  • The Smarta blog is full of good advice for small businesses, and they’ve posted some of their favourite examples of Valentine’s Day promotions. My particular favourite listed here is Dr. Pepper’s use of their ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ tagline in setting up a cheeky ‘spin the bottle’ Facebook game.
  • David Haddad has written a post on last minute Valentine’s Day publicity campaigns on Publiseek – perhaps the idea of offering something for couples as a promotion to entice customers could work for your business?
  • Social Media Today has written 10 quick tips on using Valentine’s Day to promote your business on social media – these tips, written by Julia Campbell, are quick and easy to follow so can be put in place with ease to get involved in the spirit of the day!

If you’re a Valentine’s Day cynic, don’t forget that you could run some anti-Valentine’s Day promotion – maybe 10% off for anyone who DOESN’T mention the day on Friday?

This Valentine’s Day, Show Your Customers How Much You Love Them

 

 

It is Valentine’s Day on Friday, so before you rush out to buy flowers and chocolates, why not surprise your customers by showing that you love them too? Here are five suggestions for showing your customers that you love them this Valentine’s:

Valentine's Day Hearts

  1. Send a hand-written letter or personalised email to your existing customers or clients to thank them for their custom over the last year. Simple, but will go a long way to show that you appreciate them – especially if you include a coupon for money off for them to use next time they visit.
  2. Pick up the phone and say thank you for their business. Ask if there is anything further you can do, or whether they have any feedback to help your business improve. People always appreciate the opportunity to give feedback, so show them you’re listening.
  3. If you can, set up a ‘VIP night’ for your customers and invite them to attend. This could be an informative seminar, or an invite to a product trial or exclusive sale. Promote the event on your social media pages and website too, to show non-customers what they’re missing out on by not using your business.
  4. Surprise your customers through listening to them online – so many of us are now using social media, so look at what your customers are publishing. If they are in your salon and tweet they love a nail polish, why not treat them to it? Or if you run a restaurant and see that someone has said on your Facebook page that they go there for your cheesecake, put it on the house next time they visit. You don’t need to do it for every customer, but where you can, this kind of behaviour will go a long way in making you stand out over your competitors and will ensure your customers come back to you time and time again.
  5. If you have employees, show them you appreciate them too. A local CEO told me she used to go into the office early on Valentine’s Day to leave a red rose on everyone’s desk. A token of appreciation, of any size, will help to motivate your staff and in turn, they’ll pass the resulting enthusiasm on to your customers – so this is an indirect way of showing love to your customers, by ensuring a happy workforce!

However you show your appreciation, make sure your act is genuine. Customers are savvier than ever at spotting sales techniques, and whilst we all want to increase our businesses, you’ll get more recognition for acting in their best interests long-term, rather than doing something which intended just to generate sales or enquiries.

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day and don’t forget to share the love!

When does publicity become bad publicity, and what can you do to stop it?

On Sunday, my local local newspaper ran a little feature poking fun at the wording in a job vacancy. It was harmless, but it got me thinking about the old adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity“.

Now that we live in a world where everyone has a voice to discuss issues and experiences, is all publicity good for our businesses or is bad publicity exactly that, harmful to our brand and image?

If your business receives a bad review online or on social media, it is recommended that the best way to deal with it is to respond quickly to lessen it’s overall impact. We don’t just shrug our shoulders and say “at least they’re talking about us”. This suggests that views on publicity have changed – we now all are actively seeking positive promotion from those around us.

So what can you do if your company receives bad publicity?

1. Take expert advice. Don’t make the situation worse by handling it badly.

2. Respond straight away, if not directly then at least by taking advice. Don’t ignore it and hope it will go away.

3. Don’t badmouth the person or outlet (i.e. a newspaper or similar) who has given the bad publicity.  It will only make you look petty.

4. Don’t keep a low profile and hope the situation will blow over. Counteract the bad publicity by generating some good profile – publicise a charitable act or demonstrate where you’ve made positive changes in the business.

Unfortunately,  every news story or social media comment now lasts forever as an online footprint. So make sure you put best practices in place from the outset across your marketing and customer care strategies, and hopefully you will be at less risk of bad publicity for your business.

New Year Non-Resolutions

There are plenty of fantastic articles and blogs advising small businesses on what they should do to increase their customers in 2014, but what shouldn’t you do?Happy New Year!

1. Don’t forget who your target audience is. 

With every marketing activity you do, your first thought should always be to consider who your audience is and whether they will actually see or benefit from that activity. For example, if your audience is largely made up of students, putting an advert in the business section of your local newspaper is unlikely to be seen or responded to. You can easily avoid wasting money by simply considering your audience every time you make a marketing decision.

2. Don’t follow the crowd. 

Just because your competitors are doing something, it doesn’t mean you have to! Try and think outside of the box (see my earlier blog post for more) and make sure you stand apart from them.

3. Don’t be afraid to try something new. 

If you haven’t already done it, 2014 is the time to get your business onto social media. Set up a Twitter page for your business, upload some fantastic photos showing off your business onto Pinterest and get your profile set up on Google+. Then get talking – social media is a two-way dialogue, so make some connections and start sharing articles, blogs and videos which link to your business and that your followers will find interesting.

4. Don’t forget to tell your customers what you want them to do. 

Wherever you can, make sure to put a call to action in your marketing copy. Tell potential customers what you want them to do, which can be as simple as saying ‘phone to book an appointment before the end of January’. Don’t be shy!

5. Don’t lose focus on your current customers. 

It is often said that 80% of new business comes from returning customers. So make sure you are looking after them – don’t make them wait until you return their phone call, respond to their emails and always offer a fantastic level of customer service. The easiest way to think of it is to make sure you always give the level of customer service which you expect back. That way, you’ll keep your customers happy and encourage them to both return to you and recommend you to others.

Have a very Happy and Successful New Year!

Brands on Twitter

Twitter is a great tool for small businesses to tell their clients and potential customers about who they are, what they do and how their business can benefit them. However, it is always worth injecting a little personality into your business tweets, because nobody wants to follow a robot!

Scott Bryan has put together a great blog post on BuzzFeed which rounds up a few funny interactions between big UK brands and customers or rivals, and is well worth a read to see how the big brands are starting to let their social media teams really interact and get noticed on the social media site: http://www.buzzfeed.com/scottybryan/this-how-every-single-company-should-interact-with-their-cus