Getting People In the Door

customer relations

Photo (CC) by Ydubel, on Flickr

Business owners look for ways to get people in the door and then how to make the sale.

My work faces the same challenges. I am in the service industry. I provide nontraditional educational services to adults and youth. With a network of Extension colleagues across the country, we provide a variety of programs and materials to help people start and run successful businesses. Some business owners sell widgets, but others, like ours, provide services. Our service is helping business owners and the communities where they live achieve their dreams and goals.

Yet recently a friend asked me, as a recent workshop had to be cancelled due to low attendance, how can get people to use what we have? We have the product, in our case materials and seminars, online and in print. and even though much of it is provided at low cost or even no cost, we sometimes struggle, like any business owner, to get an audience in the door.

So what can we do? My immediate response is to shout it from the mountain top, “We exist.” Yet that message will probably just get caught up in the deluge of messages that assault our senses every day.

Like all business owners, we need to:

Listen, ask questions, and gather any additional information we can. It is not enough to know that a business owner needs help with finances. We need, and you need, to drill down. Are we talking revenue or expenses? Is it finding a loan or speeding up the accounts payable process? Is it a tax issue or an accounting issue? The list goes on.

Offer something of benefit. We can provide lots of information but does it help solve the problem (right back to the listening issue)?

Be recognized as trustworthy and authentic. Some call this building our brand. This comes from establishing relationships over time, being where the customer is at, and being there over time. It also involves staying in touch or at least knowing that the lines of communication are open. People get busy, people forget. What can you do to stay in touch and provide ongoing information. This blog is one tool that we have selected to use.

Be where our customer is at. And if we are not sure, check it out. It is important to remind ourselves that there may be several groups of customers each of whom choose different channels of communication. Track what happens. We encourage business owners to do that but it just doesn’t always get done.

Don’t stop the process. We need to continually look at how we are doing and make adjustments.

And we can’t forget to “shout it from the mountain.” We need to have a clear, concise marketing message and a strategy to get that message in front of our customer base. In that process, we need to have a call to action and a offer for doing so.

These practices are the same for all businesses including educational services such as Extension and even nonprofits. One final reminder is to remember that none of this happens overnight. Practice them one day at a time. You will forget and miss opportunities but if you are consistent it will become a habit and you will look back and see your success.

What would you add to the list? Give us your comments. We will add you to our monthly newsletter, Power of Business, for sharing your thoughts.

The Power of Promise – Why product guarantees work

A number of years ago, I purchased a tree from a local, well-established nursery. I did everything I was told to plant and care for the tree properly but the next spring the tree was dead. Since the receipt had “100% replacement guarantee” printed on the bottom I called to see about getting a replacement tree. The person on the phone made me provide a lot of information to prove I actually did buy the tree from them and then proceeded to grill me with questions about what I had done wrong. Finally I was told if I wanted a replacement I would have to bring the dead tree in so they could look at it.

Satisfaction guaranteedI was offended. I did not bring the dead tree in. I did not collect my original money or a replacement tree. I also never returned to that nursery and have since spent thousands of dollars on plants and products with other local businesses. About five years after this experience that particular nursery went out of business. And, nearly two decades after the fact I still remember this incident!

In the psychology of consumers there are few things more powerful than a simple guarantee. In most cases, it will cost you very little and it just might increase your sales and bring in some new business! 

When customers see that you stand behind your product it sends a powerful message. It says, “I am proud of my product“. A product guarantee says, “I want you to be satisfied and I am willing to do whatever it takes to see that you feel good about doing business with me“.

Furthermore, the implied message in a guarantee is “I value your business and trust your judgement.”  In the example above, the nursery in question lost my business not because a tree died or because they would not replace it. They lost my business because their policy and actions said clearly they did not trust me.

All of these sentiments help build the type of customer loyalty that our businesses need to face the relentless competition in the marketplace. Having a guarantee and promoting it will also set you apart from those competitors who aren’t willing to fully get behind their product.

Here are a few considerations about product (or service) guarantees:

  • Make it easy for customers to return products. It is perfectly OK to ask a few questions but don’t grill customers — remember the goal is to make them happy not annoy them more.
  • Be clear about what your guarantee covers — Is it cash back? Is it a replacement? Store credit?
  • Train your employees on how to handle complaints and, if you are not available, empower them to make judgement calls when it comes to refunds, replacements, etc. No one wants to hear, “we’ll have to check with the manager and get back to you…

 Are there risks to offering guarantees? Sure. Could you be taken advantage of? Sure. But not offering guaranteed satisfaction sets you up for even greater risks down the road.

Small Business Marketing Trends for 2013

I love reading SmallBusinessComputing.com – they have some great ideas and thoughts about helping Small Business Owners with their online marketing journey.  Sometimes due to so many other good reads I don’t always get to the best articles and ones I like to share – this one in particular emphasizes some things that we have been telling businesses in our educational workshops and so therefore I am going to take some time and go into some more detail about each of the trends!  The article Top 5 Small Business Marketing Trends for 2013 highlights 5 Trends:

  1. Mobile Marketing Is Here and Now
  2. Content and Content Promotions is the New SEO
  3. Email Marketing:  Focus on Mobile Optimized Messages
  4. Personalize and Customize Ecommerce Marketing
  5. Social Advertising is Hot

Tune if for more Mobile Marketing but in the meantime read the article – Top 5 Small Business Marketing Trends for 2013