Have You Created Your Holiday Marketing Campaigns Yet?

Have You Created Your Holiday Marketing Campaigns Yet?

Wait, it’s not even Halloween yet, and I’m talking holiday marketing?

Yes, and I’m not the only one. If you’ve visited Costco, Wal-Mart, or other major retailers in the past two weeks, you’ve seen the tree displays. A lot of folks complain it’s way too early to do their holiday shopping, but it’s definitely not too early to plan your holiday marketing campaigns.

Even if your business isn’t directly or even remotely tied to the celebration of seasons and holidays, you can leverage these themes in your marketing to boost sales. These annual events provide opportunities to connect on an emotional level with customers. When you mention the start of a new season and upcoming holidays in marketing messages, you can convey heartfelt goodwill and gratitude towards your customers, provide a unique experience of surprise and delight, or create a sense of urgency.

The pump is already primed

Frankly, holidays prompt a buying mindset. Consumers already plan to be spending extra dollars on their celebrations. One angle or “hook” you can use to promote your business is to offer ways of helping customers maximize time and money as they prepare to celebrate a new season or holiday.

Businesses that offer home maintenance services such HVAC and carpet cleaning services, and retailers that sell home furnishings, have traditionally used the holiday hook to offer customers special deals on their services and products well in advance of the holiday season.

You’re competing for your customers’ attention

The closer it gets to a holiday, the less free time consumers have. Their attention becomes laser-focused on their holiday activities. Businesses offering services and products unrelated to the holidays will get better results if they schedule holiday-themed marketing campaigns earlier in the season.

Some business owners who have seen their marketing messages get lost in the avalanche of holiday marketing messages now schedule their holiday campaigns earlier. For example, a local realtor who used to deliver holiday candy boxes just before Christmas to current clients switched to giving boxes of cookies in the fall — her gifts get more attention from her clients when not mixed in with all the other holiday gifts.

For many, anticipation is everything

From a practical perspective, businesses launch holiday marketing campaigns early because consumers start holiday shopping early. Marketers want to reach the people who buy early in order to avoid the hassles of last-minute shopping — the crowds, long lines, sold-out items, and extra traffic. In fact, one recent study found that 56% of the people surveyed do all their holiday shopping before December.

Early holiday/season marketing also taps deeply into consumers’ feelings and emotions. Many people enjoy anticipating a season or holiday as much as they enjoy the season or holiday itself. They want to extend the pleasurable feelings they associate with the season or holiday. Famously, Starbucks moved up the annual kick-off date for its Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) to the end of August, well before the first day of fall.

The period of anticipation for the holiday or season gives you permission to launch seasonal and holiday-themed marketing campaigns early. Starbucks points to consumer demand as the reason for kicking off PSL season in August, and they celebrate the reveal of the August launch date each year with targeted marketing campaigns.

Now is the time to let your creativity flow

The holidays are a special time of year for your customers, so don’t rely on routine, recycled marketing campaigns. Allow the season and holidays to inspire your creativity. A fresh approach will make your holiday marketing campaigns stand out and get noticed.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Five More Ways to Prompt Repeat Business

Five More Ways to Prompt Repeat Business

Today I’m sharing another five ways you can get more business from your current customers. If you missed part one of this series, you can find it on last week’s blog.

6. Loyalty Programs

Whether you call it a club, VIP program, frequent user award, or anything else, a loyalty program take the customer relationship to the next level. By recognizing the relationship with a formal name and committing to offering rewards, you forge a connection with customers who are already sold on coming back to your business regularly. All you have to do is make them feel special!

7. Make offers

Give customers an incentive for coming back next time. Tell them about what happens with their next purchase or when they provide a referral to your business.

8. Apply the 80/20 rule to your marketing and sales communications

Creating customized, targeted pitches for your different customer segments ensures your sales and marketing messages resonate with customers. Eighty percent of your business comes from 20% of your customers. What are you doing to maintain relationships with that 20%? Are they getting value that demonstrates your appreciation for how important they are to your business? Take a look at the customer tier below the top 20% — how are you motivating them to rise to the next level up?

9. Surprise and delight

Often relationships are built around tiny moments that create a big impact. It might be a sample with a purchase, a birthday or holiday gift, or a special event invitation. When customers receive gifts from you, they feel they have a relationship with you.

10. Communicate

This tip is a culmination of the previous 9 tips. Communicate regularly and frequently. If you go silent, consumers may only remember the competitor who is communicating and forget about what your business offers.

The internet has made it possible for consumers to be far more informed about their buying options and to become more savvy shoppers. Take every opportunity to communicate about every aspect of your business. That way customers keep you top of mind and stay aware of all that you do.

So there you have it: 10 easy ways to convert one-time buyers into repeat customers. To get started, experiment with one or two of these tips and see what works. Keep trying new things until you land on what works best for your business.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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How to Increase Sales the Easy Way

How to Increase Sales the Easy Way

In this two-part series, I’m sharing 10 simple ways to get more business from your current customers. Why focus on current customers? That’s because the number one way to increase sales and profitability is through repeat business.

It’s more work — and more expensive — to win new customers than to retain current customers. According to an article published by the Forbes Agency Council, your chances of converting a new customer range from 5% to 10%, but rise to between 60% and 70% for existing customers. Also, the same source claims existing customers result in 67% higher order value compared to new customer orders.

Here are the first 5 of my 10 tips for retaining customers.

1. Deliver exceptional customer service

Show you care about your customers by always delivering great service from the first point of contact past the point of sale. When your customers discover your offer service that meets or exceeds their expectations, you’re laying the foundation for repeat business and referrals.

2. Reconnect with previous customers

Get in touch with previous customers. Let them know what’s new with your business. Ask questions to learn if their needs have changed or if possibly you failed to meet their expectations in the past. There are customers who may have been dissatisfied for some reason but feel uncomfortable about raising the issue. These are the customers that don’t come back, but you won’t know why unless you ask.

3. Leverage your customer contact information

Reinforce relationships with customers via your mailing lists and social media channels. Email and social marketing have minimum costs other than your time. They create visibility for your business in the places where consumers spend much of their time — online!

Create consistent, quality content that will:

  • Create a favorable impression of your business
  • Educate customers on the benefits of your services or products
  • Prompt an action to connect with you via a phone call or email

A clear and simple call-to-action provides a phone number or email link, making it easy for customers to get in touch with you.

4. Mix things up

Change is what creates excitement for consumers. Bright, shiny new things capture attention. Look for ways of presenting your offerings differently, such as offering a limited-time special or partnering with a compatible business.

5. Get into the (video) picture

I can’t overstate the importance of video to your overall marketing plan. Videos are simply more engaging and more persuasive than other types of marketing. According to a survey conducted by HubSpot, each year the numbers go up:

  • The number of people watching online videos doubled from 2018 to 2021
  • The number of marketers using video marketing went from 61% in 2016 to 86% in 2022
  • The number of marketers who feel video has increased their sales went from 64% in 2016 to 81% in 2022

There are many types of videos and a wide range of costs for producing videos. If you’re making a “who we are” video for your website, you’ll want to put some thought into a prepared script and possibly consider using professionals to do a video shoot. On the other hand, for a “how-to” social media post, record yourself using your smartphone. The more videos you create, the easier it gets.

Look for my blogpost next week for 5 more ways to increase sales the easy way — by reinforcing your existing customer relationships.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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How to Manage Conflicts at Work

How to Manage Conflicts at Work

It’s completely normal for disagreements to occur among employees, with customers, and between business partners. However, when healthy debate turns into heated argument, no one wins.

Whether you’re the one involved in a conflict, or you’re faced with managing employees who are involved in a conflict, it’s not easy to think of efficient and effective ways to resolve conflicts in the moment. Knowing several strategies in advance prepares you to de-escalate a situation before it spirals out of control.

Choose the relationship over winning the argument
In the midst of an escalating disagreement, it’s easy to overlook the long view of the relationship. You can often stop conflicts you’re directly involved in before they escalate, if you think about what will it take to preserve the relationship, rather than how you can win the argument. To put things into perspective, ask yourself, what will I gain by arguing in this specific situation that I’m right and the other person is wrong? If you are trying to defuse a conflict among others, try to set up a time and quiet space to talk about team goals and past achievements. For the moment, don’t try to resolve the conflict; just redirect their focus on finding common ground, changing their mindsets, and creating a feeling of connection.

Avoid blaming others
We’re all human and we all make mistakes. In healthy work relationships, it should be safe to own up to a mistake. Pointing fingers at a culprit or blaming others only increases tension and perpetuates argument. When a mistake happens, focus on making things right and work together with those involved to identify lessons learned for the future.

Don’t ignore simmering resentments
Address tensions directly and promptly. Sometimes simply acknowledging that friction exists in a relationship can help prevent escalation. There are times when friction is more likely to occur, for example, when employees must adapt to change or in times of heightened pressure, such as deadlines. Prevent resentment from taking shape by preparing employees and providing incentives or rewards for getting through tough times.

Focus on facts
Whether you’re involved in an argument or managing employees who are in an argument, insist on facts. Reframe statements that are based on rumor, inferences, and interpretations.

Empathize rather than criticize
Before saying what’s wrong with the other person’s view, try to say something that demonstrates your understanding of their position. This shows you’re listening, and if you’re listening, you’re more likely to be open to resolution. If you manage employees who are engaged in conflict, invite them to articulate the opposing view and to calmly state what they agree with and what they don’t agree with. It’s a first step towards breaking away from an either/or mindset; i.e., either I’m 100% right or the other person is 100% right.

In many cases, conflict at work is unavoidable. But by understanding why it happens—and knowing how to deal with it when it does—you can keep your emotions in check and help employees stay calm as you work towards a resolution.

What Does Accountability Mean to You?

What Does Accountability Mean to You?

Accountability is a word that gets thrown around in business, but what does it mean to you? Is it about being perfect and never making mistakes? Is it about what you did or what you failed to do? Is it about finding excuses when things go wrong? Is it something you expect from your employees, or something you expect from yourself? 

Accountability has many meanings in our work and personal lives. For business owners, it’s a quality that can make or break your business.

What is accountability?

Quite simply, accountability means taking responsibility—to yourself, your employees, your partners, your clients, customers, and family.

In business, you have to be accountable for financial commitments and obligations. Accountability is also one of the keys to repeat business. If customers discover you don’t take responsibility for your services or products, they won’t return—and they may tell others about their negative experiences.

There’s a misconception that accountability only applies to situations where problems have occurred. It’s also about taking the necessary steps to prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

No excuses

The first step in being accountable is taking responsibility. President Truman famously had a sign on his desk that stated: “The buck stops here.” It’s a great motto for a business owner. 

When a customer brings attention to an error or faulty service, the best response is “I can fix this by …” not blaming others. The customer isn’t interested in who is to blame for mistakes. 

Accountability turns something that didn’t work out as planned into an opportunity to win a customer’s loyalty and repeat business. It creates trust and builds a relationship.

Goals define accountability

When it comes to asking your employees to be accountable, clearly inform them what they are accountable for. Performance criteria and performance reviews reinforce accountability. 

Strive to create a workplace environment where employees understand they can own up to mistakes without fear. Support their growth and progress towards doing their jobs better.

Accountability is not about being perfect

Accountability doesn’t mean never making a mistake. In fact, the pressure of such a high standard creates anxiety and can lead to tension and friction in the workplace. Rather, it’s about creating a culture of honesty and support among the business owner and employees and putting emphasis on making things right and learning to do better as a team.

Team Building with a Purpose

Team Building with a Purpose

Team-building activities can help employees feel more comfortable and connected, which leads to better morale, productivity, and employee retention. But there’s a common misperception that team building is all fun and games.

While there’s a time for and value in employee recreational activities, there’s also benefit in bringing your team together for a day to focus on solving a specific challenge your business faces. Work, it turns out, can be good way to build a better team.

Learning and applying new problem-solving skills to model or “fake” situations can feel sometimes meaningless and forced. An exercise around a hypothetical challenge may demonstrate some new ways of thinking and collaborating, but when it’s a real problem, the activity gains purpose and relevance to the participants: real money is on the table. 

It takes advance planning and preparation to conduct effective team-building around a real problem. The day shouldn’t feel like just another day at work. As much as possible, put regular roles and responsibilities on pause and allow the team to fully focus on the problem to be solved. Ordering in lunch will keep the team connected while they take a break from the activities. 

However, at the top of the planning list is the task of identifying a problem to solve. Identify a specific issue that is solvable and has the potential for different problem approaches. For the team to get a true problem-solving workout, the problem can’t be impossible nor can it be too easy. 

 Here are a few examples:

  • How can we drive more repeat business?
  • How can we reduce the number of internal meetings?
  • How can we increase engagement on our social media channels? 
  • How can we provide superior customer service?
  • Are there products or services adjacent to what we currently offer that might be compatible with our business and provide an opportunity for growth?

Set up a few rules of engagements to ensure everyone contributes and no one judges. Depending on the number of members of the team, you may want to have some breakout sessions to give people a chance to be heard in smaller groups. 

Another thing you’ll need to do is create to structure the day to ensure the team arrives at one or more solutions. Time constraints are actually useful prompts — people tend to think fast when they realize time is nearly up. 

Solving a real problem will give your team a positive experience of collaboration and a sense of satisfaction and pride. And given the opportunity, they might just come up with a game-changing idea for your business.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Manage Your Digital Information More Efficiently

Manage Your Digital Information More Efficiently

Everyone feels information overload. It’s not just that there’s so much information available on the internet—it’s all the files we save to our computers and devices. In 2020, the average number of emails a person receives per day at work was 120, and the average number of emails sent at work was 40 per day.

We save information because it’s “important now” to us or because we think it will be “important later.” As a small business owner, you have to manage both “important now” and “important later” information in two contexts: information to be shared with your employees, clients, and partners on a server or in the cloud or via email and other platforms, as well as personal information files that only you see. By personal, I don’t mean only your private life information, though that’s definitely part of it. There are work files that only you need to access.

The number of files and emails that we accumulate can lead us to feeling as  if we’re drowning in data. So, let’s go through some simple strategies that can help you start to manage digital information more efficiently.

Create a file management system

Many people manage digital files and emails the same way they manage paper information: piling. They receive a letter or a document and place it in a pile. If they’re organized, they have an incoming pile and regularly move paper from the incoming pile to physical folders. Whiles piles are useful for managing most paper we receive, the sheer number of digital files we have make a simple system of piles less effective for digital information.

An effective file management system has these basic qualities.

  • Easy to use and learn 
  • Scalable—it can accommodate your growing volume of files as you add more content over time
  • Flexible—you can use it for different purposes or in different contexts (shared files on a server or cloud as well as your own personal files)
  • Secure—protects your information from anyone who doesn’t have permission to access your information

Navigating is faster than search

The process of looking for a specific file and following a pre-defined route through your folder structure is navigation. If you have no idea where to find a file, or maybe you don’t remember exactly what you named the file, you can use the search function to surface likely candidates for the information you seek. But this is hit or miss, and that’s where search can take much longer than navigating through a system of clearly defined folders.

File names, labels, and tags

When naming your files, using specific, detailed file names will help you identify the information you’re searching for. Incorporating the date can also be a huge help in organizing types of documents that recur over time.

Tags and labels can help when you use search. A tag is simply a keyword that you assign to a file to help you find that file later. The useful thing about tags is you can use them to cross-reference a group of documents that may be saved in different folders. A label is a visual way to identify and prioritize the content of your files. Color coding is one example of a file label.

One file system for all

If you share work across a team, everyone should follow the file naming and organization system. It can be a big transition for some to remember to use certain conventions if they’ve been doing things a different way. Try to make learning the new system a fun team event, and follow up with refresher sessions as needed.

It’s more work upfront to maintain a file organization system rather than relying on piling documents. However, you’ll save time in the future when you’re looking for information and you’ll make collaboration among your team members much smoother. 

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Win the Conversation About Fees for Your Services

Win the Conversation About Fees for Your Services

One question clients frequently ask me is, How do I negotiate when a customer claims my prices are too high? For some, negotiating their own fees is one of the most challenging tasks of owning a business, but it’s also one of the most important skills for long-term business survival. The good news is you can learn and practice negotiation skills.

Here’s the strategy I’ve shared with clients for years to help them successfully negotiate: Mount a counterattack that prevents the issue of “your prices are too high” from arising in the first place. Here are two key steps you should take before you make the pitch:

  • Do the math
  • Demonstrate the value of your offering

Do the math

Before pitching a customer, know your own numbers and the customer’s numbers. On your end, have a firm grasp of all your costs and the market value of what you offer. Clearly communicate set, firm price levels for all your offerings, so the customer doesn’t get the impression you’re making up numbers on the spot.

On the customer side, explore their business model so you can determine whether they can afford your fees. Understand how their costs and margins and learn how their transactions are structured. Do they have recurring customers or one-offs?

Research the demand for their services or products and the competition. Tailor your pitch in their language to show how your fees can fit their income model.

Demonstrate the value of your offer

Your pitch should clearly communicate the value of what you offer so that the thought, “this costs too much,” won’t cross the customer’s mind.

Start with setting the context and managing expectations. Talk to them openly and transparently about the sales process, let them know you will ask them for a decision, and acknowledge not everyone is the right fit.

The wrong approach, however, is for you to talk non-stop about the features and benefits of what you offer. Make space in the conversation for them to feel in control of their decision. Ask them what is the importance of this project or purchase to their business, so they articulate for themselves the value of what you offer. Ask them how they determined the budget. There may be an opportunity to educate them about the work, and for you to better understand whether they are looking for price or value.

Don’t be afraid to walk away

If you know your numbers, it will be easier to say no if the customer doesn’t appreciate the value of your offer. That’s not the outcome you were hoping for, but the timing wasn’t right this time. Let the customer know that’s okay.

Avoid the temptation to discount the price more than you can afford to give away–that’s not the way your business will grow. Look for other ways to get to yes: change the scope of the project, reduce the number of deliverables or offer payment plans.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Make Every Meeting Count

Make Every Meeting Count

Employee meetings can be a huge drain on your time and energy, and they can contribute negatively to employee morale. Poorly planned meetings  leave everyone feeling frustrated, stressed, and more behind in their work than they were prior to the meeting. A meeting leader who fails to prepare in advance may be focused more on what to cover in the meeting than on listening to what others are saying, further reinforcing the employees’ perception that meeting is a waste a time.

Whether you are meeting with one person, several employees, or your entire staff, the key to making every meeting count is planning ahead. Here are some basic principles to help you.

Have a clear purpose

Identifying what you want to accomplish in the meeting will inform planning your agenda and prevent you from wasting time. Having a standing meeting on the calendar once a week is not a good enough reason; each meeting should have a defined purpose.

Your purpose allows you to determine who should attend. Not everyone has to attend every meeting, but on the other hand, you want to be sure no one who is relevant to the topic at hand is overlooked.

Create an agenda

Your purpose also will help you create your agenda. The agenda should include a welcome/introduction statement, topics, and next steps. Schedule a specific length of time for each topic, plus allow time for discussion and questions. Once you have an agenda, share it with the attendee(s) in advance or at the start of the meeting.

Run the meeting efficiently

Always start a meeting on time, but make a practice of arriving at the meeting space a few minutes early to engage in casual conversation with other early arrivals.

During the meeting, follow the agenda closely. If the conversation veers off the topic, make an assertive suggestion to “get back to the agenda,” even if you must interrupt a speaker. Offer to address the speaker’s digression at another time. 

Taking notes during the meeting will allow you to accurately summarize the next steps  at the end of the meeting. Review the action items for each person in attendance, including yourself.

Running an efficient meeting takes extra time and effort, but the rewards are shorter meetings, improved productivity, and more engaged employees.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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4 Tactics to Crush It on Social Media

4 Tactics to Crush It on Social Media

If you’re just starting out on social media or you’re not seeing the results you want from your efforts, you might be wondering what else you could do to get likes. Here are five tactics that will help generate engagement with followers and create interest in your business.

Know your audience so you can publish content that’s relevant

Great content is the most important part of effective social media marketing. Your audience has a limited attention span and they are bombarded with messages.

The better you understand your audience — what they need and want, what worries them most, what they want to do and where they want to go — the more valuable your content is to them. Keep your content fresh and varied so your audiences won’t want to miss your messages.

Use multiple channels to reach a wider audience

Meet people where they are. Some people only use LinkedIn; others may read emails but don’t have a social media account. The only way you can be sure to reach maximize your reach is to use several channels. It’s not necessarily more work; you can use your same message or revise slightly. There also are social media management tools that will post to multiple platforms simultaneously. 

Post or email consistently and frequently

If your audience likes your online voice and messages, they’ll look forward to your regular publication day — so don’t disappoint them! Consistent posting keeps your followers feeling connected to you and they won’t wonder if you’ve still in business.  

Prompt user-generated content on your social media channels

This can be anything from posing questions, conducting surveys, and inviting people to share their experiences. You’ll never know what might strike a chord and prompt an outpouring of comments, so keep posting and experimenting with different types of content.

Take your own interaction on others’ accounts up a notch. Comments serve as a signal to prompt others to contribute a reply. You’ll find there’s an unspoken code of reciprocity among many social media users — if you like and comment on others’ posts, they’ll feel motivated by an unspoken rule of reciprocity to do the same on your accounts.  Make a point of engaging with others every day — you may enjoy giving likes as much as you want to get likes!

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