What Mom and Pop Shops Can Teach Us About Customers and Relationships

Male Owner Of Coffee Shop

Male Owner Of Coffee Shop

Before the age of major chain stores, most towns and cities across the country were served by small “mom and pop” shops. These stores are nothing like the enormous stores found in many places today. Instead, they tended to have a more specialized purpose. These small businesses served people for generations, and many of them were excellent at building relationships with their customers.

The importance of building relationships with customers remains incredibly important, no matter what your company’s size may be. To help you successfully accomplish this, let’s take a look back at what helped those old mom and pop shops stay in business and thrive.

They put the “service” in customer service.

Successful mom-and-pop shop operators really knew how to serve their customers. They paid attention to the people, asked questions about what they sought, and helped them find what they were looking for.

In modern commerce, this translates to establishing your website and business practices to make things as easy as possible for your customers. People shouldn’t have to struggle to find products or contact information on your website. When they call you, they should be put in touch with someone who can actually help them right away.

They knew their customers.

Shops of old knew those who patronized their establishment. They knew them by name and knew their regular purchases.

While this might not be possible (depending on your company’s size), focus on personalizing the experience whenever possible. Create marketing materials that use the customer’s name and company and segment email lists to reflect customer behavior. People are more likely to pay attention and take advantage of offers when they can see how the offer applies to them.

They understood their customers’ needs.

The business leaders of old understood what customers wanted when they came into their establishment. They lived in the community and knew the people. They understood trends and needs. This allowed them to create a business that met those needs and was an important part of the town.

With the advent of online commerce, the communities served by a business (even a small one) might easily stretch across several states, if not across the country or around the world. Even so, it’s still important to speak with your customers whenever possible, and use data and market research to learn what your customers want. Surveys and conversations with regular customers can offer tremendous insight. Track the spending habits of your customers and see how different customer personas are leveraging your products and services. Market research about your industry can also add much needed information to the equation. Combining these different tactics can create a very good picture of what your customers seek, allowing you and your business to meet those needs and exceed customers’ expectations.

Creating a successful business today means building relationships with customers and meeting their needs. In years past, it was the mom and pop shops who had mastered this skill. To learn how to improve your relationship with your customers, you can look to these examples for a few lessons.

Ways to Increase Your Foot Traffic at Your Convention Booth

three businesswomen at an exhibition

three businesswomen at an exhibition

Conventions are and always will be one of the best ways to grow your brand, build your reputation, and generate new leads and opportunities moving forward. Regardless of the type of industry you currently operate in, you won’t have to look hard to find a convention that fits your needs. Conventions aren’t only excellent networking opportunities — they’re also a great way to attract the attention of potential new customers on a massive scale as everyone in attendance is already interested in products or services like the ones you offer. It’s always important to remember, however, that simply showing up to a convention won’t be enough. If you want to generate the maximum amount of foot traffic to your booth, you’ll need to keep a few key things in mind.

Make Sure People Can Find You

When you sign up for a booth at a convention, you’ll likely be given a location by the people organizing the event. This will not only be your own little corner of the event to carve out and do with what you please, but will also be the main way people will find you during the show. The booth number you’re given by the convention organizers will be printed in the program that’s handed out when people file through the door.

One of the keys to generating foot traffic involves making sure people can find you in the first place. Remember that you’ll likely be packed in a section with potentially dozens of other businesses, all fighting for the attention of the people walking by. Things can quickly feel overwhelming for convention attendees with so much going on, so sometimes finding a vendor based on booth number alone is a lot easier said than done. The layout of the convention itself may also make this difficult, especially if sections aren’t numbered in any type of logical way.

As a result, you’ll want to make sure you have at least one element (like an oversized banner or large poster) that clearly displays your company’s name so people can find you, even if they’ve already gotten lost along the way. Make sure you place it as high above your booth as possible, so people can see it from several aisles away if necessary. Many times, you’ll find that just making yourself visible makes a big difference in improving foot traffic to your booth.

Make Sure Your Staff Is Friendly and Approachable

Once people do find you, one of the easiest ways to scare them away is to have people behind your booth who seem like they don’t actually want to be there. Conventions are tough on everybody, but can especially be tough on vendors. You’re constantly under the gun to set up your booth, deal with your neighbors, make sure all your materials are in order and more. Your staff will definitely be stressed out, but the key is to make sure they never come off that way. Everyone who walks up to your booth should always be greeted with a friendly smile and a sunny disposition. If they’re greeted with a negative attitude, rest assured your booth WILL develop a negative reputation that will spread around the convention center as the event goes on.

Conventions are excellent opportunities to grow your business — provided you’re approaching things from the right perspective. Remember, reputation alone will never guarantee convention success. Your reputation will only take you so far. You need to go out of your way to be as warm and inviting as possible to unlock the full business potential of these types of events.

The Unseen Lessons Our Teachers Taught Us

senior high school teacher teaching in classroom

senior high school teacher teaching in classroom

When first exploring the power of buyer personas, it’s natural to worry about the extra work and effort needed to complete the process. Fortunately, these fears are not unjustified. While it’s true you’ll need to have an intimate understanding of potential customers and what they seek from brands like yours, the investment is completely worth it and can lead to tremendous growth for your company. Here’s why…

Consider for a moment your high school history teacher. In schools across the country, history teachers teach multiple classes with students at all different levels. One class might be filled with students who are ready to break down the information at a very high level. These students are capable of exploring difficult themes. Learning about the American Revolutionary War requires covering more than dates and names, and they will dive into motivations and outside influences.

Another class might be at a more introductory level of history. Rather than covering motivations, they might need to learn more about the major people who influenced the events of the day and focus on learning the timeline.

Both classes are covering the same topic, but if the teacher is going to effectively teach both groups, he or she will have to develop separate lesson plans for each class. If the teacher tried to create a common lesson plan for each group of students, neither group would receive the instruction they needed to succeed. It does require more work for the teacher to create separate lesson plans, but the teacher knows it’s worth the effort. A teacher who keeps their eyes on the end goal — to ensure that both classes walk away feeling challenged and with new knowledge about the founding of the United States — will know their extra work helped them reach their students effectively.

The Takeaway for Marketers

The same concept applies to marketers. It does take a little more work to create separate content for each of your buyer personas, but if you want to effectively reach your potential customers, you have to be willing to go that extra mile.

Each of your customers comes to your site looking for different information. One customer might be concerned about finding an affordable solution to their problem. They feel as though they’ve spent too much money in the past, and their primary concern is budget. Another customer might focus primarily on utility. They trust that when they find a well-created solution to their problem, their return on investment will justify their cost. Each of these customers will respond better to different types of content and offers. Creating just one type of content will make it harder for you to reach all of your intended target audiences. It may have been less work upfront, but it will end up costing you more when you fail to bring in the profits and returns you had desired.

In a world where time is money, it makes sense to avoid spending unnecessary time and money whenever possible. What you need to remember, though, is that while efficiency is important, it cannot replace doing something correctly. Sit down with your team, outline your buyer personas, and draft a plan for reaching each one. You’ll be amazed at what these additional steps can do to help you close more business.

If you’re ready to start building a new marketing strategy, reach out and speak with us today. We’d be happy to help you get started.

Do You Want to Drive James Bond’s Car?

Car running in a racetrack.

Car running in a racetrack.

From the famous Aston Martin to the Bentley of Casino Royale, the cars of James Bond are famous enough to warrant their own Wikipedia page. Many fans who flock to the James Bond movies love salivating over these gorgeous cars and the incredible gadgets they are often outfitted with to make them even more spectacular. Like everything else about James Bond, people love the cars for their association with class, bravery, heroism, and the mysterious yet luxurious life of the world’s most famous (fictional) MI6 agent.

Of course, as anyone familiar with advertising knows, the cars chosen for the James Bond movies, just like the conveniently placed Coca-Cola, Subway sandwich, or Apple computer in your favorite movies and shows, were not chosen by accident. It’s all a part of something called product placement, and brands will pay a considerable amount of money to get their products featured in popular television and movie time slots.

Why Does Product Placement Matter?

It’s all a part of tapping into the consumer’s head in a process known as the bandwagon effect. According to the bandwagon effect, when we see people we admire or members of a group we’re a part of (or want to be a part of) using a particular product, we want to use it, too. In other words, when we see people on our favorite sitcom sitting down to enjoy a Subway sandwich with an ice cold Coke, we think that sounds like a fantastic meal option the next time we want to find something easy and fast for lunch.

Tapping into this powerful phenomenon isn’t reserved just for major brands with seemingly limitless marketing budgets. Even smaller companies can implement and reap the benefits of the bandwagon effect in their advertising. Here are some great ways to get started:

Use Images and Quotes from Real Customers

People enjoy feeling like part of a group. When you use images of real customers using your products, along with some reviews that use names (instead of just being anonymous), you help to build this type of group.

Build a Strong Social Network

People use social media to connect with their friends and family members as well as the brands they enjoy. Building a strong social network around a particular brand can help attract more people to your business. As people participate in your conversations and ‘like’ your products on Facebook, for instance, those activities will start to show up in their friends’ newsfeeds, introducing them to your brand. Similarly, if people retweet you on Twitter or otherwise interact with your brand, they’ll be spreading your company’s message. With the bandwagon effect, people will be naturally drawn to the brands and interests of their friends.

Encourage Others to Share Their Experiences with Your Brand

Encourage people to share their experiences with your brand, particularly through social media. Hold contests, and invite people to submit pictures of themselves using your products or telling stories about their use of a service you provide. Such interactions naturally help to promote positive experiences with your brand and show the number of people who appreciate your company.

Movies and television are excellent platforms for brands looking to take advantage of the bandwagon effect through product placement. If you want to see how well this psychological phenomenon can work for you, consider using some of the above techniques. Building a strong following around your brand is an excellent way to grow any business.

Maintaining a Balanced Marketing Diet

Food collage

Food collage

We all have favorite foods. If you’re like most people, your favorite food is probably not the healthiest, either. Some people have a weakness for pies, while others prefer brownies, cakes, or even just rich and delicious pasta. No matter how much we may like one particular food, however, we all know we need to limit our intake of it. No one can survive on just one single type of food.

Imagine parents trying to introduce their baby to new foods. Although they might focus on a particular food for a meal, they aim to create a rich and varied diet for their child. Each type of food has different benefits that help the child become healthy and strong. The different parts of the body all require different nutrients to keep them functioning properly. If a person’s diet becomes too concentrated on a particular food, they’ll end up short of the nutrients found in other types of foods. This can result in a variety of disorders resulting from nutritional deficiencies.

A Similar Concept Applies to Business Promotion and Marketing

It’s easy in business to limit yourself to just a few marketing techniques. You might look at the success others are having on social media and want to confine your marketing to social media. Or, if your company’s been around for several decades, you might feel reluctant to dive into new digital and inbound marketing techniques and try instead to keep growing your business using cold calls and other outbound techniques.

This level of restriction will seriously deplete your business of the growth it needs to succeed in the modern market. Just like a person who eats only pasta dishes, your business might continue to grow, but without many key nutrients needed to sustain that growth. Eventually, the person trying to survive on only pasta will notice they don’t feel as healthy as they once did, and you’ll notice the same about your business if you limit yourself to just one or two marketing strategies.

Developing a Well-Rounded Campaign

It’s important in business to maintain a balanced diet of marketing techniques. This means integrating a variety of different marketing strategies to reach your targeted audience efficiently. Every company will have different marketing platforms and systems that work best for them. Finding the right balance can help your company stay healthy and prosper.

With that in mind, here are a few steps to consider as you begin to plan an integrated campaign across several platforms.

  1. Carefully identify the ideal buyer for your brand by analyzing current customers and using market research.
  2. Determine where your ideal customers can be found through research and speaking with existing customers.
  3. Implement a campaign across the key platforms identified.
  4. Measure what aspects of the campaign are most successful at bringing in new customers.
  5. Adjust the marketing strategies to account for these strengths and weaknesses within the campaign, then run a new campaign.
  6. If particular aspects of the campaign failed to produce enough results, don’t be afraid to eliminate them and try something new.
  7. Allocate more resources to the most successful parts of the campaign to maximize the budget.

Building a successful marketing campaign is like eating a well-balanced diet. It’s important to build a healthy mix to strengthen your business and maximize the opportunities for reaching new customers. If you’re interested in learning more about beginning a new marketing campaign, contact us today. We’d be happy to help you get started.

The Re-Branding of Curious George

Half-peeled banana

Half-peeled banana

Many people are unaware of the origins of Curious George. For the youngsters who love the books and TV show today, George is just an adorable little monkey who happens to live with a man in a yellow hat. The children watch as George gets himself into all kinds of trouble, learning along with him how to problem solve.

The stories didn’t begin that way, though.

When the very first Curious George stories came out back in the 1940s, George was a monkey who had lived in Africa. The man with the yellow hat tricked George into coming out of hiding by playing on his curiosity. He originally planned to take George back to Europe and put him in the zoo. Instead, the two began to develop a relationship.

It’s interesting to note the prevailing opinions of the time. Many people looked at explorers who went into the jungle as heroes. They wouldn’t have had as many negative associations with an explorer kidnapping a monkey from the jungle as we would today.

The new books that children read today came out in the 1990s. These later books don’t really talk about how George came to live with the man in the yellow hat. The authors of these later books, which are modeled after the original books, focus on George’s curiosity and how he manages to solve his problems. The authors of the newer books recognized that people today wouldn’t appreciate the story of the man with the yellow hat kidnapping George from the jungle.

When the newer books and television series first came out, the authors focused on creating a fun story centered around a lovable monkey and the trouble he could create. Rather than focus on how the monkey and the man with the yellow hat came together, they just developed an entertaining story focused around the present.

You could say this was a re-branding of Curious George — and it was a complete success.

Successfully framing your company for success

When you set out to market your company to your customers, you must understand your audience and what they seek. The new audience of preschoolers in the 1990s and 2000s wanted an entertaining character without the baggage that came with the original, so that’s what the authors delivered.

Similarly, you should familiarize yourself with your customers enough to predict what’s going to resonate most with them. Use this to guide your marketing and re-branding efforts. Audiences might change over the years, particularly if your company’s been around for several decades, so don’t be afraid to shed parts of your original message and add in something new if it will help you reach your customers.

When it comes to advertising, nothing matters more than understanding your audience. Those familiar with the saga of Curious George will find the comparisons between the popular monkey and the marketing campaigns of evolving companies intriguing. If you’re interested in developing a new marketing campaign, speak to us today. We’d be happy to help you get started.

Spicing Up Your Voicemail Greeting

“Thank you for calling. Today is Monday, March 17th. I’ll be in meetings all morning and… blah, blah, blah…” Voice mail is one of those “conveniences” most people love to hate. They hate recording an outbound greeting, and they hate leaving inbound messages. But using voice mail doesn’t have to be as painful as a root canal without the anesthetic. Here are four ways to make your voice mail fun, memorable, and a better marketing tool…

voicemail greetingEducate your customers. No, that doesn’t mean telling them you’re either on the phone or away from your desk. And it doesn’t mean letting them know what day of the week it is. Instead, try sharing a useful tip relating to your products or services. Let customers know how you can help improve their bottom line. Update the message frequently, with new and different advice.
voicemail greeting Inspire them. Start your message with a daily quote or quick anecdote that’s enlightening and inspiring. Your customers will appreciate the daily lift and might even encourage their colleagues (your potential customers) to call and hear the message, too.
voicemail greeting Involve them. Ask one or two of your best customers if they would be willing to record a brief testimonial to use on your voice mail message. The customers who provide the testimonials will enjoy the experience and probably encourage their peers to call and hear it. Your other customers and prospects will hear the testimonials and know they’re in good hands trusting you.
voicemail greeting Entertain them. Add a spark of humor to your voice mail message. Offer a “celebrity” endorsement, if you’re good with impersonations… or even if you’re not so good with them. (Robert DeNiro from Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me? You must be talkin’ to me, because Phil isn’t here right now.”) Poke some gentle fun at yourself. (In a harried voice: “The ringing. I hear the ringing… then the voices. Always the voices.” Second voice: “Hi, this is Gene’s psychiatrist. He can’t take your call right now…”) Share a humorous anecdote or (clean) joke of the day. Have fun with your voice mail message, and make it a treat for customers who call and cannot reach you.

Create the Need

John Patterson, known as the father of American salesmanship, is responsible for many of the modern sales practices used today. His work with the National Cash Register Company (NCR) changed the way salespeople think about marketing and selling their products. In his book entitled The Patterson Principles of Selling, modern sales expert Jeffrey Gitomer unpacks some of Patterson’s most powerful tactics.

selling machine
Patterson’s greatest sales accomplishment didn’t lie in selling cash registers, but in creating a demand for his product. He knew that sparking a desire would increase demand, and he focused his sales and marketing efforts on convincing consumers of the importance of obtaining a sales receipt. When consumers began to ask for a receipt from store clerks, the store managers felt obligated to purchase a cash register that would produce such receipts, and Patterson was poised to sell them one of his machines.

The same can be done in your business. Gitomer says in his book, “You must create a balance between the emotion to trigger the sale, and the logic to justify the purchase.” What is one thing your company could do to create a demand for your products or services?

Take a Lesson from Disney

If you visit any one of the Disney Corporation’s facilities, you have experienced a phenomenon they call “Onstage and Backstage.” It’s quite a simple concept, and one that Disney has definitely perfected. The “Onstage” area refers to anywhere that guests may roam freely, while “Backstage” is where the cast members (employees) travel from one part of the park to another, take “Disney-free” breaks, and get into costume. For Disney, the separation between onstage and backstage is essential in maintaining the magical feel of their facilities.

Your company most likely has a similar onstage (customer area) and backstage (production area) structure. And while your employees may not use your “backstage” area to don their Mickey or Minnie Mouse costumes, there are things that go on behind the scenes that most of your customers are not privileged to see.

man and women in Disney
That is, of course, unless you offer to take your customers on a tour of your facility. At most Disney facilities, visitors can take a ride backstage to see some of the inner workings of the magical world. The same can be done at your business. Allowing your customers a peek at the inner workings of your company and introducing them to your staff will improve your relationship with them. And, showing them any impressive machinery or workflow systems you have in place will increase their confidence in the work you do for them.

Take a lesson from the Disney Corporation and see what kind of response you get from offering backstage tours of your company. You may be surprised to see how many people would be interested in getting to know your company better, and the effect their knowledge can have on furthering your relationship with them.

Developing the Ultimate Sales TIP

What exactly is a TIP, and how does it work? In his book Getting the Second Appointment, author Anthony Parinello describes this sales weapon as, “a tool that helps you to eliminate individuals and organizations that are likely to waste your time.” TIP stands for Template of Ideal Prospects, and it works to qualify your sales leads by comparing your current prospects to the qualities you see in your top current customers.

Here’s how you can create your own TIP sheet:

  • Take your company’s current customer list and study it very closely. You may need to break the list down into sub-groups, industries or niches in order to get the best understanding of what lies at the core of each company.
  • Ask yourself: What do my company’s best, biggest, and most profitable current customers have in common? Then write down your answers this question for each top current customers, being very detailed and deliberate about what you record.
  • Develop a worksheet that lists these common factors, along with a way to record whether your prospective customer meets that criteria (see sample TIP sheet below). The longer the list of common factors, the more accurately and completely you will be able to prequalify your prospects.

sales tip

Once you have created your TIP sheet, you can begin filling it out for your prospects. In the beginning, it is best to only spend your energy pursuing the prospects that meet all of your criteria. Remember, the criteria you have established was gathered from your top current customers, and offers a reflection of the type of companies you want to do business with. Don’t compromise on what you deem to be most important.

If you have been wasting your time tracking down lukewarm leads and prospects, this TIP sheet is sure to give you a fresh perspective on landing hot sales.