But what was presented as a nefarious covert system for evaluating the value of every American and either promoting them to VIP status or sending them to the back of the line is really just modern life’s approach to a merchant’s common sense.
Of course, you should take extra special care of your best customers. It doesn’t require a mathematician to prove that the big spenders are important to the success of your operation. The old 80/20 rule (Pareto principle) is obvious to any Main Street business owner. And one doesn’t need an AI-driven, supercomputer to decide to offer a bonus, a gift, a free dessert, or more of your time, warmth and courtesy to your best patrons.
Perhaps the fallacy is that customers should all be treated the same, or that business owners and their workers are capable of doing so. This is not to say that anyone should be treated poorly. A business can’t stay in operation long dispensing bad service or products. But humans like interacting with people they like. And that works both ways across the counter. Buying a lot helps too.
If you can forget the torture inflicted in eighth grade science class surrounding the forced memorization of the Periodic Table of the Elements, then you might be able to squeeze a smile out of the blog article posted lately on a website called FreeLogoServices.com.
Their business concept is pretty clever too. Offer online tools to help you develop your own logo and if you like your artistic efforts, the graphics file is yours for $39.95. And by the way, they’ll sell you business cards, coffee mugs, imprinted clothing, signs and other kinds of stuff to proudly display your artistic creation.
But back to the blog article and a tip of the hat to the company for knowing that content marketing has real value. They’ve created an infographic posting, which is an effective way to explain a complicated subject. And this is not just another pretty picture. Even though selling logos and promotional junk is their business, the posting serves to educate their small business clientele about the realities of branding.
They chose a trendy meme – reimagining the Periodic Table – to portray three distinct groups (remember the alkali earth metals?) for simplifying the general concept of branding. And they created 23 “elements” that zero in on concept specifics.
Even if you hate the thought of chemistry, perusing their “23 elements for branding success” will leave you better informed and with a useful checklist for assessing whether you have dealt with all parts of the formula for marketing success in your industry.
Marketing programs can certainly get expensive in a hurry and lots of options are out of reach for small businesses. But there’s an enormous range of possibilities that cost little or nothing to implement but go underutilized.
Here are some examples.
A customer loyalty program. Sure you can go hog wild and create a sophisticated internet-based or plastic mag-stripe custom, scan at POS advertising, airline-point-like extravaganza. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Instead of having nothing, how about a cardstock punch card for the treat-of-the-month club? The Radio Shack free battery card was just this simple. Even if you don’t have a traditional retail business, as yourself how can you get your customers to buy your products or services more often? Only sell big-ticket, periodic purchase stuff? What about selling service check-ups? What about giving away free check-ups to generate add-on or related sales?
Customer identification is the other payoff in a loyalty program. Amazingly, there are still businesses that do not know who their customers are except in general terms. Direct Marketing News ran a cartoon recently of a lemonade stand where the child proprietor was asking a customer to enter her email address on a tablet computer. So I suppose there are legitimate settings where speed of transaction or privacy concerns impede a lot of data collection. But getting more customer information can be as simple as a zip code survey at the time a sale is made.
Customer direct advertising via email collection has admittedly become a difficult proposition and open rates have dropped over recent years. But this form of communication is by no means a dead letter. And speaking of letters, if you do know names and postal addresses of customers, consider the value of a 35 cent postcard for announcing what’s new in your offerings or simply saying “thank you” again to generate more goodwill. How many of your competitors do this? None, huh? Is that because they are marketing management geniuses and somehow have determined that being appreciative is not cost-effective? I’ll bet it’s because they haven’t put in the effort. So when you execute on a simple program like this it will really distinguish you, which is what good marketing is all about. -- Frederick Welk CEDF Business Advisor
Most every business wants to be easily findable on the internet. As the internet has sophisticated, this chore has gotten its own name – search engine management (SEM). One branch of this discipline (but not the whole effort) is search engine optimization (SEO) which is perhaps the more widely known acronym. Another branch on the SEM tree, and one that is also very important to helping a business be found on the internet is local search.
Happily managing local search doesn’t require nearly as much technical knowledge or marketing training as SEO.
Local search consists of the hundreds of (but usually only a couple dozen important) directories that point internet users toward your business. We’re not talking about the search engines such as Google or Bing, but directories – yellowpages.com, orangepages.com, lemonpages.com, tangerinepages.com etc. Actually, Yahoo, Facebook business listings (not your page), Yelp, MapQuest, Superpages, Citysearch and similar sites are the big players.
Having correct listings (obviously) is important. This used to be very simple a few decades ago. There was one phone book and you either bought an ad or satisfied yourself with a simple listing of your phone number. ("Let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages" was the jingle). It became more complicated when deregulation brought an age of a half dozen competing phone books, mostly used as doorstops. The smart phone era reduced printed directories but an industry of online special directories blossomed.
How does a business get listed in 50 or 100 or more directories? No effort is usually required for an established business because there are about five major data service companies that feed the ecosystem of online directories with information. So, if you want to establish purplepages.com, the information is available for licensing. You can read about this whole environment here.
The problem for a local business comes in when errors have crept into your listings. Perhaps another business had your phone number previously but the company is still in business somewhere else and the directories are not completely updated? Or what if your operation moved and the addresses aren’t updated everywhere? What if your business name has variations, abbreviations, shortened versions (left off the Inc., LLC, etc.)? Computers don’t necessarily deal well with data that’s not an exact match. The artificial intelligence era may be coming but it’s not here yet.
Fortunately there are numerous tools that business owner can use to run a free scan of the local search jungle to see how they are listed. Here’s my favorite simply because I’ve used it frequently for clients. Here’s another from a well-respected SEM company.
I recommend every business owner conduct a scan of their local search presence. The owners of these scan tools naturally have something to sell you related to fixing incorrect listings. My first inclination is that there is no substitute for elbow grease in scrubbing a shine onto your internet directory listings. If you go through the trouble to “claim your business” on all of the major directories plus Google My Business and on the Bing equivalent, you’ll have better results. The various directories let you add photos, videos, business and product descriptions, listings of business hours, and more. But the formats and the variety of information varies considerably. It’s like setting up two dozen social media pages. This might sound daunting but knock one or two off every week and within the year you’ll have squeaky clean listings on (whatever you deem to be) the most important directories for your industry. I don’t think an automated web service can effectively do this for you for $29.95 a month or whatever.
And pointing several dozen authoritative websites toward your own website is a plus for your SEO. But that will require an entirely different article to explain.
-- Frederick Welk CEDF Business Advisor
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