8 Easy Ways To Make Your Customers Love You

Increase Your Sales With Customer LoyaltyApr 13, 2011 –

Everyone knows you can’t have a business without customers. However, one of the worst mistakes any business can make is focusing its marketing efforts on attracting new clients while neglecting past and current customers. Studies have shown that the cost of acquiring a new customer is far greater than what it costs to generate business from an existing client.

Thanking your clients for their business can also set you apart from your competitors, increase loyalty, boost sales and even build relationships that last a lifetime. Effective marketing depends on repeat exposure and showing appreciation is an affordable and effective way to build your company’s presence.

Here’s what you can do to show your clients how grateful you are for their business:

1. Send a thank you card after an appointment or major purchase. Thoughtful and unexpected thank you notes are an easy way to let people know you appreciate them. Consider sending a hand-written note in the mail. Sending birthday cards with a coupon is another way to express your appreciation.

2. Give small gifts. Token items such as flowers, books, and mugs make thoughtful gifts for clients. These can be sent on special occasions or can be sent for no other reason than to show your gratitude.

3. Let them choose their own reward. Give people what they want by letting them choose among several options. Introduce a rewards program that lets customers choose from a variety of gifts or coupons if they spend a certain amount within a month, for example.

4. Surprise them. Select repeat customers at random and surprise them with a free gift or a discount. Zappos, a company that is renowned for its strong customer service and company culture, gives “surprise” free upgrades to overnight shipping for many customers.

5. Fill customer service roles with people who are patient and have a pleasant attitude. Encourage your employees to be personable, particularly when they interact with your customers. “It’s the simple things that mean the most to everyday people, it’s about caring and listening to the customer,” Jane Judd, the senior manager of Zappos’ Customer Loyalty Team, tells Econsultancy. “Many times retailers are about the sale and not the experience. We try our best to be personable and we don’t upsale our customers or put a time limit on our calls.”

6. Implement your customers’ suggestions and tell them about it. Score points with your customers by proving to them you’re taking their suggestions and complaints seriously.

7. Reward referrals. The highest compliment a business owner can receive is a referral. Always acknowledge when a customer sends business your way.This gesture deserves recognition in the form of a thank you note, discount on services or small gift card.

8. Pay it forward. If your clients are business owners, look for ways to refer business to them in return.

Be aware that some industries have strict guidelines about accepting gifts. Gifts can be perceived as bribes so when in doubt, ask your clients if such policies exist or stick to sending items with no monetary value.

Compliments of American Express Open Forums

Matt In The News!

Facebook is a growing part of many companies’ marketing efforts. Many Procter & Gamble Co. brands, for example, have hundreds of thousands of fans. Pringles, with nearly 11 million “likes” on its Facebook page, is the 71st most-liked page on the social networking site.

Matt Plapp, president of Driven Media Solutions, said even companies with big numbers need to talk to those fans. [click above to read more]

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Franchise growth sizzling nationwide

 Tom Demeropolis Cincinnati Business Courier

Premium content from Business Courier – by Tom Demeropolis, Courier Staff Reporter

Date: Friday, March 11, 2011, 6:00am EST

Read more: Franchise growth sizzling nationwide in recession’s wake | Business Courier

Ray Wiley knows the challenges of being both a franchisee and a franchisor. The longtime Subway franchisee launched his own Mexican fast-casual restaurant concept in Dayton back in 2007. Now, Hot Head Burritos is one of the fastest-growing franchise concepts in the region.

And in the wake of the Great Recession, Hot Head Burritos could have as many as 100 locations in some stage of development before the end of the year.

Wiley is far from alone, as franchise businesses across the country are gearing up for growth.

Coming out of recessions, franchises historically have grown at a faster clip. Matt Haller, director of communications for the International Franchise Association, said franchises perform better in down economies because of the nature of franchising. Franchises are easier to operate and easier to expand because franchisees can draw from experience in the franchise system and support from the franchisor.

Many who lost their jobs during the recession don’t want to be dependent on someone else for their income. Franchising offers a way to be independent without starting from the ground up.

Don Boroian, founder and chairman of Chicago-based Francorp International, said franchising offers entrepreneurs an easier way to own a business.

“Ninety-five percent of people who try to start a business from scratch fail,” Boroian said.

Franchising is the fastest and strongest way to scale a business to create new jobs and expand a business, Haller said.

Darian Richardson - Owner, RMC Franchise Connect - Cincinnati Franchise ConsultantDarian Richardson, president of Cincinnati-based RMC Franchise Consulting, works with clients interested in buying a franchise.

For the first quarter of the year, activity is up 10 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2010, Richardson said. He’s seeing increased interest from two different segments: those who have lost their jobs during the recession and those who are looking to franchises to supplement their existing income.

For those making a career change, Richardson helps them investigate the type of franchise business that fits them best.

“If you’re considering starting a business, perform a self-assessment first. Figure out what’s important to you,” Richardson said.

And franchising goes far beyond restaurants. That way, you don’t have to come home smelling like hamburgers if you don’t want to, he said.

Franchise segments that are seeing continued expansion are senior care, personal care, such as hair salons, and business related to pets, Richardson said. There are more than 300 business format lines that operate as franchises, Haller said.

The biggest obstacle facing both franchisees and franchisors is access to credit. Banks have tightened restrictions on lending, in turn making it more difficult for franchisees to get money to start up their own business.

“We’re making the argument now that we can turn this economic recovery into a jobs recovery if we can get the banks lending again,” Haller said.

For every $1 million loaned to franchises, 34 jobs are generated, Haller said.

Credit has been a hindrance for potential franchisees in the past, but a growing number of franchisors are acting as banks for their franchisees. Haller said this is a trend across the board for franchises.

“Franchises are looking for creative solutions to grow their systems,” Haller said.

Toledo-based Marco’s Pizza, for example, has several programs aimed at helping franchisees open stores, including providing them financing or guaranteeing their loans with banks. The 225-unit company has roughly 60 stores in development.

ServiceMaster Clean is offering qualified prospects up to 80 percent financing to start their cleaning business.

Another franchise offering lease finance options is Hoodz Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning, Richardson said.

Franchises of all shapes and sizes have targeted 2011 as a growth year.

Locally, LaRosa’s is looking to expand through multi-unit franchise operators in cities such as Nashville, Louisville and Columbus.

Dunkin’ Donuts experienced a 50 percent increase in development deals last year, crediting existing franchisees and incentives. The chain opened 206 new locations in the U.S.

In some markets, the Canton, Mass.-based franchise offered reduced royalty fees for three years and an extra $10,000 in local store marketing.

After more than 35 years in the franchise business, Boroian said there is always room for another franchise, as long as it’s well-run.

“The naysayers in 1970 said there was no room for another burger operation. We’ve seen burger operation after burger operation go on to flourish,” he said. “There’s always room for one more.”
Read more: Franchise growth sizzling nationwide in recession’s wake | Business Courier

Are you giving good instructions?

Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant
Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant

Recently I bought a new desk.  Once the boxes were delivered to my house, I unpacked everything and organized the pieces by their letter and number.  Ten years ago I would have been stressed looking at these 25 pieces of wood and bags of hardware.  The task of making everything look like the display the store would have seemed impossible.  But I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, the most important is to follow the instructions.  I followed every word on every page and sure enough a few hours later I’ve got a beautiful new desk.  This was similar to my experience over Christmas with my son and his Lego’s, everything went as planned, except for searching for an occasional dropped piece:)

I bring this up because I can’t help but think how detailed instructions could make customer service top notch.  What if every time you hired an employee you had a multi-page document that outlined your company, what you did, why you did it and the expected result.  If every task they were required to perform was written down to the smallest possible detail.  Just imagine how many of your customer complaints would go away.  How many times does a customer have a bad experience with your company because a few steps were skipped in the process?

Now, relate this to your marketing plan.  Have you ever written down everything you are going to do each month to help drive sales and profits.  Defined the goals of each marketing medium and outlined to your staff how this should be carried out?  How can you expect good results without doing this?  AND how can you judge a particular advertisement without setting the proper ROI goals and expectations.

My challenge to you is not only to sit down and write out instructions for your business before 2011 is gone, but to also map out your marketing plans just like you were leaving tomorrow to drive to Nebraska.  Make a plan and stick to it, and I’m sure you’ll have a great looking desk in 9 months.

Matt Plapp is a the President of Driven Media Solutions, a Full Service Marketing Firm in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at matt@mattplapp.wpengine.com.

Dorron Hunter Featured On Channel 9

A close friend of mine, Dorron Hunter, is featured in this video on his work in Over The Rhine and with the youth.  Dorron is an inspiration to me and the work he does is making a major change.  I’ve not only worked with Dorron and his kids the past 2 1/2 years, but a few of these young men work for me part time on marketing projects.  Dorron is helping change lives.

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Local Business Against Texting While Driving

Lisa Russell, Co-owner of Five Star Collision Center, is taking a personal interest in the campaign against texting and driving.  As a busy mother of four with a new teenage driver, she realizes the many challenges faced by parents as they put their children behind the wheels of a car. She also realizes that the “techno savvy” society we live in today adds additional challenges not faced by older generations.  Most recently, after viewing an episode of “The Extreme Makeover Edition,” one challenge became very clear:  TEXTING AND DRIVING ARE A DANGEROUS MIX.

It is a fact that distracted driving is dangerous and life-threatening. Being part of the collision industry, Lisa sees first hand the crashes that occur from not paying attention while driving.  As a result, Five Star Collision Center is encouraging a commitment from parents and young drivers to sign a pledge to NOT TEXT while driving.  Five Star now has these pledge forms available, in addition to the “thumb bands” which are a visual reminder of the pledge.  Call 513-821-7827 to make your pledge!

Let’s all take a STAND and a PLEDGE against texting while driving and help to make our roadways safe for everyone!

Five Star Collision Center is located at 7710 Anthony Wayne Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45216.  We may also be contacted through our website: www.fivestarcollisioncincy.com.

Backup over the Internet – HANDS-FREE

Allen Miller Computer Consulting
Allen Miller Computer Consulting

A couple of points about backing up your data.

1. Counting on humans to perform tedious tasks is not reliable

2. If you only have 1 backup you are not protected

3. If your data backup resides at the same location as your data source you are not protected

There are many situations where you might need to restore data from your backup. If you accidentally delete a file or make a change you wish to undo you should be able to retrieve a previous version from your backup. If the last time you updated your backup was a month ago – you may be out of luck. External backup hard drives (or even worse – tapes) can fail and you might not know it until you attempt to retreive data from it. If you suffer a physical disaster in the location that your computer is – the fire or water that ruins your computer might also ruin your backup.

There is certainly a valid use for having local backup. However, you should combine a practice of maintaining local backup PLUS Internet Backup.

A good Internet Backup will be able to backup continuously (or multiple times) throughout the day so your backup will always be current. Higher end Internet Backup services will enable you to save multiple versions of files that get updated. If your spreadsheet became corrupted 2 days ago and you just found out – your backup from last night will not help where a backup from 3 days ago could save you. If your backup is stored offsite (as an Internet Backup is) you will be protected from fire, water damage, theft and other physical disasters.

Carbonite.  It’s not a question of IF you will have a hard drive failure – rather – it’s a question of WHEN you will have a drive failure.  You NEED this Protection. 14 Day Free Trial!   $55/per year for UNLIMITED storage – Documents, Photos, Music, whatever.  AMCC recommends Carbonite for stand-alone computers.

Allen Miller
Allen Miller Computer Consulting

Are You Special?

Micheal Davis - Speaking CPR
Micheal Davis - Speaking CPR

Why is it that most speakers never make a deep connection with their audiences?  Even those that are polished presenters, terrific story tellers, or humorous speakers? Unfortunately, they fail to touch their audiences because they’re too busy building themselves up.

When most speakers tell their stories, what do they tend to talk about?  Their successes.  Business success!  Financial success!  Personal success!  Unfortunately, in building themselves up, they are also building a wall between themselves and their audience.

Why?  Because when you tell them how ‘great you are’, they may think “That’s nice for you, but that couldn’t work for me“, or “Well, you’re just special“.  Are you coming across as ‘special’ to your audiences?

Why do most presenters share their victories first? Because they don’t understand that telling others about your failures, your fears, and your frustrations is a way to make audience members feel like you.  When you share those negative experiences, the audience may think, “Wow, I’m not the only one that’s happened to“, or “Glad that didn’t happen to me!”  They’ll realize that you’re just as human as they are.

Am I saying not to tell about your success?  No.  Once you’ve shared your difficulties, the audience is ready to hear about your success.  They want to know the strategies or techniques you used to overcome your challenges.  When you share this information, you offer them a valuable gift… Hope.  In addition to changing the way people Think, Feel or Act, the greatest benefit you can offer is hope.

Although it is natural to think that you will connect with people by telling them about how you’ve succeeded, the fact is that people will gravitate more quickly to you when you tell them about your struggles.  You’ll help them understand they are not alone, or that there IS hope.  Your best chance of connecting with the people sitting in front of you is to bare your soul, and resist the temptation to be special.

Micheal Davis is the President and Founder of Speaking CPR.  If you are looking for an excellent motivational speaker or you’d like help becoming a better presenter contact Michael at (513) 315-6825

Are you SERIOUS…The customer is always RIGHT!

Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant
Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant

For 10+ years in retail I was forced to constantly make changes in how we treated our customers.  That meant hours of soul searching and looking in the mirror.  My least favorite part was firing people that just did not have the ability to do the job.   It’s tough because the bigger you get, it becomes harder to have that consistentcy.   My favorite part though was knowing that we had customers, friends and family that cared enough about us to let us know when we were making mistakes.  I actually started giving out $100 gift certificates whenever someone would give me negative feedback.  Not to make them happy due to a bad experience, but to show them how open we were to making their visit with our store PERFECT.  Just when I thought companies where turning the corner and making strides in customer service it happened to ME and by MY CUSTOMER!  In retail there is 1 rule to live by, “THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT!”  With the exception of crazy customers, vulgar language and abuse, the customer is ALWAYS right.  It’s not that hard, your job is to over deliver and make your customers happy.

Here’s the story.  We had a client in the restaurant business that we were helping with their marketing.  My family had been a long time customer.  In the past year the service had progressively gotten worse.  In the past 3 months I had many conversations with the owner to let him know how much we loved their food and the atmosphere but that he really needed to address the staff’s customer service.  I don’t claim to be an expert at many things, but with 10+ years of retail experience and the fact that I eat out 10-15 times per week (for over 15 years), I think I’m pretty well equipped to judge a restaurant.  You name it and I had experienced it here and I let the owner know privately and professionally.  I want nothing but them to succeed.  He always had an open ear and seemed to listen, but not many changes were ever made, only excuses.  In retail there are WAY too many choices, so if you don’t take great care of people they will simply go somewhere else.

So in the past month we had a few really bad experiences, the basics of customer service were being completely ignored.  Typically my customers and their employees treat us great and usually (though not necessary) go overboard.  They not only realize we are a customer, but that we also have the ear of the owner and we’re watching to make sure they’re at their best.  I’ve been to this restaurant many times in the past year and everything that had happened to us was happening to many customers.  It was a common occurrence from my observations.  I finally had enough. I prepared a well thought out email and sent it to the owner basically saying that we loved him, the company and the products but he really needed to address these issues or we were going to stop working with them.   I did not like what was happening and I simply could not put our reputation on the line.  What did I get in return???  Finger pointing, excuses and a really negative tone. So with that, we are onto the next of 100 restaurants within a few miles of our home.

Recently I was at a business seminar where the speaker hit the nail on the head with his presentation.  He was talking about advertising and customer service.  He mentioned a few examples of how companies had great advertising, but when you went into their stores the experience did not reflect what the company had portrayed in their commercials.  Simply put their sales staffs were terrible.  Service was sub-par and he went somewhere else. His point was that many companies need to focus on what they are doing everyday in front of the customer, instead of creating fancy ads.

I had to write this because I am passionate about small businesses.  I love locally owned companies.  They can act swift to make changes.  They have their ear to the ground and are always tweaking their processes to make the experience better.  So this really hit home and I am really at a loss for words.  I hope this company sees the light and makes some changes.  They have great products and a great brand, but that may not last.  The bad part about retail, you don’t get 2nd chances to earn a customer’s trust.

Matt Plapp is a the President of Driven Media Solutions, a Full Service Marketing Firm in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerrilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at matt@mattplapp.wpengine.com.