Friday, May 17, 2019

5 Customer Service Phrases to Avoid (and What to Say Instead)

In May of 2018, Barbara Carroll ordered three cartons of toilet paper from Amazon. The order total: $88.17. The shipping charges? $7,455.


Carroll wasn't overly concerned, as Amazon typically takes great care of its customers. But in this case, Carroll complained to Amazon six times and even wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos. After every complaint, she received a form letter explaining a refund was impossible because the delivery arrived on time and undamaged. It wasn't until Carroll notified a local television station (and the story went viral) that Amazon took action. Months later, she was finally reimbursed.


While this case is extreme, every company has its share of customer service flops. In some situations, the problem is no communication. In other cases, it's inconsiderate attitudes.


Want to steer your team toward positivity? Here are five customer services phrases to avoid.


1. "No" (or) "I can't help you with that."


Even if a customer makes an impossible request, it's your responsibility to care for them and to steer them toward a solution.


Alternatives to try:


"This feels like an issue which might be out of my control, but let me double check . . ."


"That's not my area of expertise, but I want to connect you with someone who can help."


2. "I don't know" (or) "You need to check with someone else."


If you can't solve a problem, be as helpful as possible. Rather than abandoning someone mid-stream, work with them to find an answer.


Alternatives to try:


"I don't know, but I'll find out."


"I'm not sure, but I'd be happy to look into that."


3. "Ok, calm down."


When diffusing a tense situation, telling someone to calm down usually frustrates them more. Instead, communicate empathy and turn the focus from the problem to the solution.


Alternatives to try:


"I understand how this must have upset you, and I'll get on it immediately."


"That would frustrate me too."


"I'm sorry for this inconvenience. Let me help you with that right away."


4. "I don't understand the issue."


People who are upset find uncertainty even more frustrating. If you're struggling to connect, clarify the issue or soften your request.


Alternatives to try:


"OK, so let me clarify…"


"What I'm hearing is [ISSUE], is that correct?


"If it's not too much of a problem, I would ask you to be a bit more specific…"


5. "I'm going to put you on hold."


Time is valuable, so don't assume you can extend a service call without asking permission. If you do have someone hold, check back with a status update if they've waited longer than two minutes.


Alternatives to try:


"I understand your issue and if it's ok, I'm going to ask you to hold on while I check on a solution."


"The problem you're describing is rather peculiar, so if you have a minute, I'd like to put you on hold while I check with my supervisor."


"I'll get right on it. If it's ok, I'd like to look into this today and call back to you once I resolve this."


Ultimately, customer service is not about the right words but the right attitudes. Remember, the biggest customer service frustration question is "why isn't this as important to you as it is to me?" As you handle issues, address the person behind the problem. Communicate with compassion, empathy, and enthusiasm, and you will find your way through many sticky situations.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

3 Reasons Direct Mail is Still Effective

Long before television and online marketing, direct mail ruled.


One of the most popular examples of direct mailing can be traced back to Sears in 1888. The company sent a printed mailer to potential customers advertising watches and jewelry. Not long after, the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog became extremely popular nationwide.


Today direct mail has received a bit of a bad rap. The term "junk mail" isn't exactly a compliment! Some refer to direct mail as an "old" form of advertising, thinking of direct mail as antiquated or off-target.


But is that really the case?


The fact is, many companies do use direct marketing. According to a 2015 study by the Data & Marketing Association, 57 percent of total mail volume was comprised of direct mail pieces.


Response to direct mail continues to be strong every year, generating leads for businesses across a range of industries. Consider customer response rates from these common marketing methods:


  • 0.9% -- Online Displays

  • 0.6% -- Social Media

  • 0.5% -- Paid Search

  • 0.45% -- E-mail Marketing

  • 6.0% -- Direct Mail to Household

Why is Direct Mail Effective?


Direct mail is easy.


Direct mail marketing is helpful because it's easy to process.


In an age of digital noise, the tactile presence of a physical mailing is refreshing! One study found it takes 21% less cognitive effort to process physical mail, so your audience can digest it quickly and easily.


Direct mail is interesting.


The USPS found that 47% of Millennials check their physical mailbox each day, and many consider perusing mail a leisurely activity.


According to the Data & Marketing Association and the USPS, 18-21 year-olds' response rates to direct mail are as high as 12.4%. If you have a new business or are willing to offer coupon discounts, millennials are quite likely to respond!


Direct mail is memorable.


People who spend time with physical ads have a stronger emotional response and a better memory of this material.


Of course, a clever message goes a long way too! If you send direct mail, do your best to create colorful, memorable messages, like this:


IKEA wanted to feature the simplicity of its inexpensive furniture so they engineered a 3D postcard. When customers "opened" the postcard, this flat mailing turned into a replica of the LACK side table, available for under $10 at IKEA.


The postcard perfectly demonstrated one of IKEA's clever design concepts – minimalist furniture that ships flat but pops to life upon arrival. IKEA's postcard allowed users to experience the simple assembly of the LACK table, which left a deep, memorable impression.


Go Face-to-Face Through Distinct Direct Mail


Whether you send mass e-mails, many people will toss your message without reading it.


But if you send direct mail, some will offer you one-on-one attention they wouldn't give to any other medium. Paul Entin, owner of New York City-based EPR marketing, said he uses direct mail because it stands tall in a digital generation:


"Except for the many catalogs that clog our mailboxes between Halloween and Christmas, most of us receive very little snail mail, certainly far less than in years past," Entin said. "This means your direct mailer has a far greater chance to stand out from the rest of the mail and get noticed."


If you need help creating the perfect direct mail piece that will stand out, we can help you every step of the way.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Drive Fresh Traffic for Your Business

A new era in business is bringing fresh flavor to Kohl's.


As traditional retailers struggle to keep their doors open, Kohl's executives are trying something radically different: a grocery partnership with Aldi. In March of 2018, the department store announced it would team up with Aldi to offer grocery sales in 10 of its locations.


"The key priority we have as a company is to drive traffic," Kevin Mansell, the chief executive of Kohl's said in a Thursday earnings call. "We're focused on traffic-driving retailers: Groceries, supermarket chains, they drive a lot of traffic. We're finally on a path where we're getting more [shoppers]."


In an age of online shopping, brick-and-mortar businesses have to hustle to make their company more relevant to consumers. Kohl's has experimented with lighter inventory, smaller stores, and more streamlined partnerships with companies like Under Armour and Amazon. Other retail giants have focused on adding communal spaces, demonstration areas, and workshops to encourage shoppers to linger.


Feed Your Funnel with New Customers


Ultimately, every successful business has to draw new business and keep customers coming back.


In your niche, there are probably several complementary businesses that don't compete directly with your product or service. Many of these companies have a base that could easily feed your sales funnel.


What are the mutually beneficial relationships you could build with other businesses?


While Aldi and Kohl's may seem like an unlikely match, their differences balance each other in a unique way, allowing Kohl's to gain additional foot traffic and offering Aldi to expand their market reach. For Aldi, renting space within Kohl's stores is cheaper than building stand-alone stores, and the partnership creates exposure for the lesser known German grocery chain.


As you consider new partnerships, it's also healthy to keep an eye on the competition, because an ideal way to grow your client base is to capture users who are already in need of services like yours! Examine the market tactics of businesses you compete with. What product are they offering? What are they doing that their customers like or dislike? How could you do it in a better, more personalized way?


Actively monitor what your competitors are doing in web design, service packages, or marketing techniques to feed your creativity or to counter punch with your own sales strategies. Looking to woo some of your competitor's customers? Tools like Mention or Reddit can help you monitor customer sentiment. Online reviews of your competitors are also a great place to see how your rivals are succeeding or where you can do better.


Position Yourself as the Answer


Whether you're wooing new customers or generating leads, it's important to give potential clients a good reason to try your services.


Think about what makes your ideal customer happy, sad, scared, or excited, and position yourself to bring the answers they need. "Identify those places where they are likely to be found (media, online, offline, mail, etc.) and then create messages for them," says Jeff Motter, CEO and chief marketing officer of Easy Bay Marketing Group. This may mean creating content via webinars or printed newsletters or physically networking through community events or industry conferences.


And don't forget to close the loop.


After your efforts to bring in business, remember to intentionally follow up with calls, e-mails, or samples. Many prospects and great conversations fall by the wayside because you fail to execute after a lead shows interest. As real estate sales guru Michelle Moore says, "Not following up with your prospects is the same as filling your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain."

Friday, April 19, 2019

7 Banner Options to Raise Your Bottom Line

As a small business owner, you need ways to grab attention and look your best, and business signage is your foremost advertising tool.


For high-traffic areas custom printed vinyl banners are an excellent investment. In terms of cost, a vinyl banner is one of the most inexpensive, most high-impact marketing tools.


Vinyl banners are also versatile, great for large exteriors, point-of-sale kiosks, welcome centers, or interior displays.


Studies show that good signage directly boosts a business' profits. Pole banners can add up to 15.6% to your bottom line and larger storefront signage may boost sales by up to 7.7%.


Banner Inspiration


Need some inspiration to get your creative juices flowing? Here are several types of banners that can give you a killer first impression.


Ceiling Banners


Get your customers looking up by taking advantage of your unused ceiling space!


Use ceiling banners for event signage, special events, product features, or welcome messages. Suspended banners or circular hanging signs are eye-catching, easy to install, and extremely impressive.


Personalized Retractable Banners


Great for special events or pop-up displays, roll-up retractable banners include accompanying stand and carrying case for mobility.


Economical retractable banners are sleek, lightweight, and easy to transport.


Seasonal Business Banners


A fresh look conveys momentum and energy.


Print seasonal business banners to spice up any seasonal promotion, window display, or an exterior signpost.


Feather Flags


Want to get the job done with a contemporary edge?


Feather or teardrop flags are especially effective when you have limited space or want to enhance your exterior advertising.


The average storefront sign is seen 50-60 times per month by anyone living within five miles of your location. This could be responsible for as much as 85% of your monthly walk-in sales!


For street and sidewalk advertising, festivals, trade shows, and more, feather flags or waving swooper flags will catch attention and make your message shine.


Text or Graphic Only Banners


Sometimes, the simplest designs are the most effective, especially when you want to send a straightforward message that can be understood at a glance.


Try monochromatic backgrounds, all caps letters, or sharp contrasts between the images and elements in your banner.


Welcome Banners


Whether it's a grand opening, a sidewalk greeting, or a hallway banner, welcome banners are an appealing option to add a professional, hospitable touch.


Bright colors and branded designs are ideal for putting your best foot forward.


Sale Banners


When surveyed, 50% of in-store shoppers named "on-premise signage" as the reason for their visit or purchase.


People are always hunting for a deal, so shout it loud with banners that can't be overlooked.


Want to stretch your budget? Print generic banners (think "20% Off," "Free Shipping," "Featured Item," or "New Collection Clearance") so you can use them repeatedly. 


Banners can attract attention, create brand association, and set the tone for your business. Capitalize on this simple marketing tool and accelerate your sales today!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Use Short Deadlines to Get Lasting Results

In a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, scholars found that longer deadlines can be a detriment to workers.


The study asked volunteers at a local community center to answer a short survey about retirement planning. One group was given seven days to access the online survey, while another group had 14 days to respond. Results showed that, though the 14-day group gave more thoughtful responses, they were more likely to procrastinate or skip the assignment.


A second study revealed longer deadlines affected outcomes on tax filings. In this research, a short deadline group received their "lost" W-2 tax form later (closer to the filing deadline) and had less time to complete their taxes. Despite the setback, the short-deadline group spent less money than their peers to get the same job done via tax professionals or self-help software.


Beat Those "Last Mile" Blues


Do you struggle to take projects across the finish line in an efficient manner?


There's a reason! Parkinson's law states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."


Longer deadlines lead people to set easier goals and decrease effort, costing more time and stress overall. Researchers also found that longer deadlines sometimes make workers think an assignment is harder than it is. When people commit more resources to a difficult task, they procrastinate and are more prone to quit.


For managers and workers alike, it is important to set achievable goals and appropriate time limits using four simple strategies.


Think Small


Procrastinators who avoid finishing struggle to break projects into manageable tasks.


To overcome this barrier, psychology professor Joseph Ferrari (author of Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done) recommends a narrow focus. "People who have trouble finishing a project don't have problems seeing the big picture," Ferrari said. "It's how to break it into manageable tasks that can be paralyzing. Just do something now. Start something and get going."


Starting small breaks your fear of failure and shortcuts perfectionistic hang-ups.


Stay Disciplined


Sometimes when the finish line is in sight people accelerate the pace but lose focus.


Discipline slips, which can lead to delays. Overriding budgetary constraints, ignoring quality control checks, or fast-tracking publications can bring painful consequences. Instead, stay on track with small deadlines to ensure work on larger projects is done in a timely, precise manner.  


Call in the Closers


Burnout and fatigue are genuine risks near the end of a project, and high-value contributors are often needed to airlift the next big project.


Consider deliberately structuring your team so starters take a project to 90 percent, while fresh eyes step in for the final spit-and-polish.


Use Incentives


When deadlines are distant, shift attention to everyday outcomes.


"Can you get that to me by the end of the day?" isn't a request many people like to hear. But quick turnarounds can actually boost morale because lethargy breeds inertia but accomplishment spurs accomplishment.


From cash incentives to extra work-day coffee breaks, consider attaching small perks to fast-action deadlines. Self-starter rewards can work for yourself too. When writing her thesis, one grad student filled a glass jar with tantalizing chocolates. Throughout a year of writing, she rewarded herself with one truffle per week as she stayed on schedule. Progress was visible, and the rewards were sweet. When the jar was empty, the project was done!


Short turnarounds on urgent tasks elicit attention and improve outcomes. Whether you're managing yourself or others, consider adding incentives, bringing in closers, or breaking large projects into daily deadlines to achieve better results.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Small Business Twitter Tips for 2019

If you're a small business owner, you know time is limited.


Usually, your task list far outweighs your capacity for meeting your goals. When identifying social media objectives, you have to be clear on the what, why, and where you will engage.


How Can Twitter be a Valuable Resource for You?


Stats show that Twitter is still an effective way to connect with a broad range of customers.


Forty-seven percent of people who follow a brand on Twitter are more likely to visit that company's website, and 75% of companies with an online presence are now using Twitter for marketing. Twitter's own study found that Twitter users, compared to the general online population, were more likely to discover or try new things and were more receptive of change. Twitter can help you reach broader audiences and engage with a generation that values interaction and experience.


As you evaluate your Twitter marketing in 2019, be clear about your goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Offer customer support or increase online sales? Also, evaluate what kind of Twitter voice you want to have. Some Twitter accounts exist to respond to customer complaints while others seek a playful or promotional tone. Find a persona and stick with it to build trust and continuity with readers.


Twitter Metrics That Matter


Next, take a peek at these performance metrics as you consider how to engage:


Post Native Media


Twitter favors posts that are uploaded to its own platform more than sharing from another platform, so it's always better to upload something directly.


Uploaded photos and videos will receive a larger preview treatment than external links.


Use Video Frequently


Video Tweets are six times more likely to be Retweeted than photos and three times more likely to be Retweeted than GIFs.


Studies found that regardless of length, in-feed video ads were effective in introducing products, creating buzz, or communicating a brand message.


Get Eyes on You


Want people to Tweet more about your brand or product?


Add a branded generic business hashtag to your bio and share it in all your print and digital marketing. Pin upcoming events to the top of your page, tag other businesses or customers when you post, or consider giving people discounts when they make a reservation or win a special trivia challenge through your feed.


Play With Words


Part of Twitter's appeal is that it's short and sweet.


Marketing hashtags are a punchy way to launch a campaign or to connect all other Tweets about your company or product (classics include #TweetFromTheSeat by Charmin or the #WantAnR8" driving surprise days by Audi).


Hashtags give your Tweets context and give conversations longevity and momentum. Hashtags aren't case sensitive, but adding capital letters can make them easier to read, like "GoForGold" versus "goforgold." Short, distinct hashtags are more likely to get used. During recruitment season, colleges on Twitter may use the hashtag "#NSD2019" instead of this, "#NationalSigningDay2019."


Refresh and Repeat


Many users are on Twitter for quick bursts of time so even daily posts can be missed.


Don't be afraid to resource your material and Retweet the same material several times. You can change photos, captions, or the featured media but attach the same content several times over the course of your marketing schedule.


As you grow on Twitter, be sure to listen! Twitter offers a great platform to hear what customers are saying, to keep a pulse on industry opinion, or to network with other businesses. Some of these people may end up being your most valued customers or your next project partner!

Small Business Twitter Tips for 2019

If you're a small business owner, you know time is limited.


Usually, your task list far outweighs your capacity for meeting your goals. When identifying social media objectives, you have to be clear on the what, why, and where you will engage.


How Can Twitter be a Valuable Resource for You?


Stats show that Twitter is still an effective way to connect with a broad range of customers.


Forty-seven percent of people who follow a brand on Twitter are more likely to visit that company's website, and 75% of companies with an online presence are now using Twitter for marketing. Twitter's own study found that Twitter users, compared to the general online population, were more likely to discover or try new things and were more receptive of change. Twitter can help you reach broader audiences and engage with a generation that values interaction and experience.


As you evaluate your Twitter marketing in 2019, be clear about your goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Offer customer support or increase online sales? Also, evaluate what kind of Twitter voice you want to have. Some Twitter accounts exist to respond to customer complaints while others seek a playful or promotional tone. Find a persona and stick with it to build trust and continuity with readers.


Twitter Metrics That Matter


Next, take a peek at these performance metrics as you consider how to engage:


Post Native Media


Twitter favors posts that are uploaded to its own platform more than sharing from another platform, so it's always better to upload something directly.


Uploaded photos and videos will receive a larger preview treatment than external links.


Use Video Frequently


Video Tweets are six times more likely to be Retweeted than photos and three times more likely to be Retweeted than GIFs.


Studies found that regardless of length, in-feed video ads were effective in introducing products, creating buzz, or communicating a brand message.


Get Eyes on You


Want people to Tweet more about your brand or product?


Add a branded generic business hashtag to your bio and share it in all your print and digital marketing. Pin upcoming events to the top of your page, tag other businesses or customers when you post, or consider giving people discounts when they make a reservation or win a special trivia challenge through your feed.


Play With Words


Part of Twitter's appeal is that it's short and sweet.


Marketing hashtags are a punchy way to launch a campaign or to connect all other Tweets about your company or product (classics include #TweetFromTheSeat by Charmin or the #WantAnR8" driving surprise days by Audi).


Hashtags give your Tweets context and give conversations longevity and momentum. Hashtags aren't case sensitive, but adding capital letters can make them easier to read, like "GoForGold" versus "goforgold." Short, distinct hashtags are more likely to get used. During recruitment season, colleges on Twitter may use the hashtag "#NSD2019" instead of this, "#NationalSigningDay2019."


Refresh and Repeat


Many users are on Twitter for quick bursts of time so even daily posts can be missed.


Don't be afraid to resource your material and Retweet the same material several times. You can change photos, captions, or the featured media but attach the same content several times over the course of your marketing schedule.


As you grow on Twitter, be sure to listen! Twitter offers a great platform to hear what customers are saying, to keep a pulse on industry opinion, or to network with other businesses. Some of these people may end up being your most valued customers or your next project partner!