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Innovative Ways for the Flooring Retailer (or anyone) to Become a “Marketeer”

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The world has changed, have you?

The world has changed, have you?

You know what it’s like; you’re getting plenty of leads, but no one is following up.

At first, just a few go by, but then they start to stack up. You’re also aware that the sales staff isn’t following up on customers who have come into the store and haven’t made a purchase.

Every business needs fresh customers, but what about those who are good leads or have already been in your store?

If you’re working harder at getting new customers than keeping old ones, you’re spending a lot of money on marketing. Think about it this way; every time a customer comes back or sends a referral, the average marketing dollar spent per customer goes down. Furthermore, a good salesperson will be cultivating customers who have bought before or paying attention to “hot leads.” The competent sales associate knows these are easier to sell.

No matter how you’re gathering your leads, they’re valuable if you’re following up and closing them. If you’re not doing either, it’s like throwing money out the window.

If this sounds like your business, the best thing you can do is start capturing customers’ home addresses and email addresses. Stop entering “Cash” on your invoice where it says, “name and address.” After all, if you don’t have customers and good will, what do you have?

The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently said the only way to steer customers to your business is to help them cut down on their buying choices. One way to do this is to send them small bites of information that is both educational and fun so you ultimately become their trusted adviser. An article on “Tips for finding the right flooring retailer” can help influence a fresh lead or referral to walk into your store.

The smart dealers realize that being high tech is not something for the future—it’s here now. I recently spoke with Cary Cass, general manager of Dolphin Carpet and Tile, headquartered in Miami, Fla. With over 30 years in the business and a member of the NFA (National Flooring Alliance), Dolphin is utilizing many online tools to help the customer stay connected.

We realize that once a customer is in our store, we have an opportunity to both sell them and build a customer for life. Our interactive on-line design center makes it easy for the customer to build a profile of her likes and store her choices with us. We’re also testing software that will automatically contact our customers with timely offers and useful tips. It may sound trite, but its not up to the customer to remember us; it’s our job to be memorable. This is not something we have the time or expertise to do by ourselves.

Being consistent with customer communications is the key. “White House, Black Market” a women’s clothing store targeting consumers age 25 and older, does an excellent job of staying in touch with the customer. By receiving their emails, post cards and phone calls, I feel like we’re old friends. I feel guilty not going in to look at their new styles. I know the communications are automated, but they’re still fun, informative and useful.

follow your customersMichael Vernon, president of followyourcustomer.com, gave me this advice:

The goal of any business is to build relationships with customers. In the article, Why the Zero Moments of Truth Matter More than Ever, Google points out there are endless opportunities a business has to ‘touch’ the consumer. The key is to get her to like you because people buy from people they like. To build top-of-mind awareness, these must be sent least 12 to 18 times a year. If they dont, the customer will go to the competitor. Our system will customize your message and automatically keep in touch for you.

Customers have many choices; why not be their first one?

isbeth has been teaching businesses how to improve their customer service and the customer experience for over 20 years. To schedule a consultation or have her speak at your business, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com. If she’s not in her office, she can often be found mornings at the YMCA in East Greenbush.

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Is A Complaining Customer A Good Customer?

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Are they better with their mouths closed?I know lots of customers that would disagree with this statement. If you’ve ever had a customer complaint on line than you know what I’m talking about. I have seen some mighty disagreeable comments that wouldn’t seem to go away.

How do you counteract these things? The first thing is to have your “great” customers  post loving comments about your service, your staff and your products. This way if you have any negative comments there’s a possibility they will get lost in the good ones or the complaining person looks like a nut job to the rest of the  readers. My experience is that most businesses don’t “stack the deck” with great comments to counteract the possible nasty ones before they occur. When a nasty comment is written, it is glaring.

I found myself the target of one of these feuds. A client of mine got some bad press for posting a photo without giving credit to the photographer. The title of the blog charged the customer with something other than the above which was not only incorrect, but slandering.  I pointed out the error of the title and immediately someone else became annoyed at me. (By the way, I checked with a lawyer first about my concerns which turned out to be correct.)  The title charged the customer with a very serious crime, obviously the writer didn’t understand what he was writing.

Online remarks can get very sticky. One of our local supermarkets received an unflattering comment on Twitter which was responded to by an employee of the market. The employee was so upset he went to the commentator’s boss and suggested the person be fired! The target took his case to the local newspaper and the rest is history.

Last year I was curious about a local luggage store so I went online for testimonials. Much to my dismay, there  was more than one nasty comment. When I went to the store to have my Tumi luggage fixed, I told the manager about the comments. His reply, “I never noticed”. Needless to say they closed the following month; they had been in business for over 20 years.

Some thoughts about what to do before it happens and after:

Manage your own publicity; get your happy customers to post great comments.

Post articles of value for your customers; articles that make them smile, feel special and get valuable information.

Be aware, watch for comments, Google your business to see what’s being written about you and your business. Sign up for Google alerts.

Blog about your great customers. Interview your customers about their families and their businesses. Make your customers your business partners. Great customer service means giving your customers what they want and possible helping them to stay in business.Consider the bank or insurance company  that provides valuable workshops on marketing and sales  for their small business customers.

By the way, I couldn’t find any. But it stands to reason if your customers can’t stay in business neither will you!

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Still Attached To Your “Dumb” Phone?

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Rotary_270x232I knew it would come to this. Not only has the pay phone gone but so too has the house phone. 

You know, the one attached to the wall.

While helping my friend Mary clean out her mom’s home recently (her mom had recently gone to a nursing home) I noticed an old dial telephone on the shelf.

“Mary," I asked. "Could I have your mom’s phone?" 

Of course she replied "yes," but not until she asked "why?"

I told her it will probably be a collector’s item and besides, I won’t have to worry about losing it.

The longer I looked at the phone, however, the stranger it looked. It really is a relic.

The latest Forrester Research tells us that the number of smart phone users who access the Web daily from their phones is 36%. In addition, 80% of Americans are online which makes you wonder, in addition to Irma, my 94 year old neighbor, who isn’t online?

Another interesting statistic supports that three-quarters of these Americans have broadband, and have not yet added mobile or social network strategies to their marketing mix. I know, many of you that belong to the “I’m not going on Facebook ever” group are gloating. Don’t get too complacent, the latest statistic about Facebook is: if it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world. I never thought I would get myself involved with FarmVille or the Mafia Wars on Facebook, but they really are fun.

I would say it’s just a matter of time until we all move to mobile phones and Facebook. According to Henry Harteveldt, Forrester VP and principal analyst, one in four use their mobile device to research products they will buy either online or offline. For one thing, it’s easier. Forrester predicts that mobile will become the hub of consumer relationships. And it will be all about Apps.

I don’t have an iPhone but I am enamored with their Apps. If you need to know anything, just ask an iPhone user and they have an “App” for it. 

Want to know about the weather? They have an App. 

Want a recipe? They have an App. 

As Yahoo! defines it, an App — or application — is fun or useful software that can enhance your experience on your phone or on the Web.

So how will this affect your business?

  • Communication in your business is important, knowing how your customers communicate is even more important. You don’t have to like where communication is going, but know it will affect your business. And by the way, what’s not to like?
  • Is information about your business constantly being updated or is it forever carved in stone? Think of your web site as if it were a magazine cover. Would you open a magazine if the cover never changed?
  • Embrace new technology; attend workshops on social networking and building your business, determine what do you need to learn and where you start. You may think you’re old school or behind other businesses, but for mainstream it’s fairly new. Don’t get complacent.

One reason to look at online marketing is it’s pretty cheap, and sometimes free. If you know your stuff, you can compete with almost anyone and make a dent in the marketplace.  Do you own a smart phone but still using it as a dumb phone? Take a trip to wherever you bought it and ask for a lesson or two on what it can do. That reminds me; guess I need a trip to Radio Shack for a lesson on my Blackberry.

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By |2017-03-03T12:07:14+00:00December 10th, 2009|Web/Tech|0 Comments

Is Hulu Giving T.V. a Run for its Money?

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I wrote last week about Hulu, and wanted to provide some recent stats that you might not be familiar with.

  • 55+ age group are most Hulu viewers: 47% in March 2008.
  • 130+ Content providers on Hulu. NBC, Fox, Sesame Street, Comedy Central, Sony, MGM, Lionsgate and content produced specifically for the Web.
  • 1250+ Titles of free shows and movies offered. Examples, Lost in Translation, all Force One, The Office, Family Guy, 30 rock, House, Arrested Development
  • 125 Hulu employees in offices in Los Angeles, New York, Beijing and Chicago.
  • 7.8 million site visitors in February — a 55% jump from January likely due to Alec Baldwin Superbowl commercial.

Pretty incredible! The site is clearly giving T.V. a run for its money.

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By |2009-05-22T02:38:00+00:00May 22nd, 2009|Web/Tech|3 Comments

Still Don’t Want To Twitter? You Might Be Losing Out On Business

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Twitter-buttons A new report from Nielsen Online suggests that Twitter hasn't yet reached a level of growth that can sustain the service, according to the research firm's mathematical model. Despite the explosive popularity of the messaging service, Nielsen data indicates more than 60 percent of Twitter users that visit the site in a given month do not return the following month.

So how can Twitter benefit your business? A funny thing happened the other day. A woman in my seminar said she was dying to meet Barry Manilow. So I "tweeted" precisely that — meaning I put a message out on the Twitter wire asking about Barry Manilow. Before I knew it, there was a tweet back telling me where Barry was starring! Okay, so Barry isn’t your thing and you don’t care where he is, but suppose you had a problem and you wanted to get some information, where would you do? I now know I would go to Twitter.

How to use Twitter?

Start thinking of Twitter as an educational resource. Get into the habit of asking people for email addresses, their Facebook page and their Twitter page. Now you have it. So it feels strange because you still don’t know why you’re asking. A store owner of note told me the other day after three months of haphazardly going to Facebook, he knows has a sense of its value. Why, because he is asking all of his customers to "be his friend" — a statement he still finds rather silly, but he has lots of lots of friends. You know, friends and friends of friends. I know for many of you it seems like a secret society, but I guarantee if you think about how it can help your business your thinking will change. Follow people and get them to follow you.

Twitter is a way to network. I received an email from someone I am following and they thanked me for my reply to their Tweet. (A short update of 140 characters or less). How can it be bad? Start following and leaving Tweets. The pluses are:

  • It's a good way to keep in touch with clients and friends. A very quick way.
  • You can get notified of events, deals, specials. Information from companies that might be useful to you.
  • Setting up an account is simple; start by following me, www.twitter.com/Lizzc, leave me comments and ideas.

And now, a little terminology lesson to help you navigate the ins and outs of Twitter:

  • Hashtag: Discloses the topic of your tweet by prefixing a word with a hash symbol, (i.e. #nbaplayoffs or #nfdraft.) Helps users find updates on specific subjects.
  • Nudge: A notification sent to a user’s phone asking them to tweet.
  • RT:Short for re-tweets. Users add RT in a tweet if they are reposting from another’s tweet.
  • Twackle: Websites with sports-related Twitter updates and organizes the tweets by events.
  • Tweetup: When Twitter users meet face-to-face
  • TwitPic: Allows user to post photos to Twitter.
  • Twitterati: Term used by the A-listers on Twitter.

Still not sure what it all means? You’re not the only one. I hope when Microsoft does a spell-check update they put in Twitter terms!

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By |2017-03-03T12:07:17+00:00May 20th, 2009|Web/Tech|2 Comments

Are You Doing the Hulu?

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Hulu I watched an interesting interview recently with Jason Kilar, the CEO of  Hulu. For those of you who "don’t Hulu," the Web site was launched in March 2008 for viewing in the United States. Basically, it’s a service that broadcasts previously-shown T.V. shows and movies and has become quite the competitor with television. Hulu — which comes from a Chinese proverb which means "the holder of precious things" — began its advertising campaign during NBC's Super Bowl XLIII with an ad starring Alec Baldwin. Now, there are more than 200 advertisers.

Here's how the Economist describes the rise of Hulu:

In the spring  of 2007 Jason Kilar was trying to beef up the video offerings of his employer, Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, when he got a call from a headhunting firm. Would he consider running Hulu, a new joint venture by two "old media" giants, NBC Universal and News Corp? The idea was to enter the confusing online-video market by starting a service from scratch—and doing it properly. Mr Kilar said yes. He showed up in his new office in Santa Monica, near Los Angeles, and with his small team started scribbling ideas on the "whiteboard" wallpaper. And so Hulu was born.

Hulu provides a combination of content and convention which ultimately attracts customers.  What does it mean to you? Mainly that television participation is shrinking. The day following its Super Bowl ad, Hulu attracted 1,082 brand mentions online (a 259% increase). According to Nielsen’s BlogPulse, Hulu also generated  448 shared links after it's first ad — i.e. bloggers who passed along a link to the site.  Socialmedia.com even crowned Hulu as the winner of the "TweetBowl".

This is an example of viral marketing at its best. It isn’t like the Swine flu and there are no shots for it. Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, to millions.

So let’s say you are looking for your favorite Saturday Night Live programs. Go to Hulu and you will find plenty of shows to watch. So now you know what your customers are watching and why they aren’t watching your commercials. If you can watch your "favorites" maybe you don’t need to pay for cable?

"The world has turned completely upside down," Kilar told the Economist.  "I find that very inspiring. Others might be scared out of their wits. But to me, this is the way media always should have been."

What does it mean to those of you advertising?

It just further supports the notion that advertising is changing. Many of you are commenting on how TV viewing is down. As you can see, there are lots of reasons for this. Most of it is connected to non-traditional ways of viewing, namely video. It is essential that you start asking your customers for their email addresses. You might phrase it as such: "We would like your emails so we can notify you of special offers or events that we are hosting." Collect emails from your Chamber of Commerce attendees, your Kiwanis members or any other place you hang out.

If the customer doesn’t have an email, aim to get their mailing address.

Remember, there’s a huge difference in price—direct mail vs direct email. Post your video on Facebook and your blog and you’ve moved way up!

How about creating your own video email campaign to send to your customers? Are there other non traditional advertising channels are available to you?

How many of you out there are "Huluing?" What do you think?

Need some help with viral marketing? Give me a call and let’s brainstorm.

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By |2017-03-03T12:07:17+00:00May 14th, 2009|Web/Tech|0 Comments

Generation “O” Makes a Big Impression

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I tell people that prior to the elections I received at least one e-mail a day from Obama asking for something. Would I attend a rally, send some dollars, talk to a friend or attend a barbecue? The barbecue sounded interesting, so I made the phone call and asked where it was to be held. I was told Lexington Avenue in the city of Albany, my home town. I said to the caller, do you know where Lexington Avenue is? I guess he thought I needed directions so he proceeds to read me the mapquest directions from my home. No, I said I know where it is, it’s definitely the wrong side of town and certainly not a place where I should go alone at night. He proceeded to tell me that one of my neighbors was going (who I knew) and that she would be happy to pick me up. It would be a great time and he could assure me I would meet some great people who were supporting Obama. Wow, I thought, the power of networking and these tireless folks.

So, about the barbecue, it was splendid. The people were gracious and I left my $25.00. It was a college student who had called me, someone from the new "generation O.”

The 18-29 year olds came out in droves to support Obama and the numbers are staggering, between 22-23 million, according to the Center for Information and Research of Civic Learning and Engagement. This is the group that managed Obama’s Facebook page, raised over $125 million dollars online and who sent me a text on Election Day asking me to vote for Obama. When it came to the electronic media, Obama had it all tied up. Following the election, Obama posted pictures of election night on flickr and introduced a new Web site, change.gov, on Thursday. Tell me what you think it said, be part of the change.

There were the Obama Girls — the YouTube bunch that tied up the electronic media 24 hours a day, manned and femaled the Facebook, posting daily and answering the phone calls and emails. The tireless bunch who knew that they could make a difference because of what they knew and that Barack was in their corner. To them he was Barack, a friend with the same values, who didn’t mind them knowing him personally.

This is the bunch that read the book, drank the Kool Aid and wanted to live their dreams. According to a New York Times article written by Damien Cave on November 9, 2008, “A government under Mr. Obama, they believed, would value personal disclosure and transparency in the mode of social networking sites. Teamwork would be in fashion, along with a strict meritocracy.” This is the group that doesn’t mind if you know who they are, are forever blogging and MySpacing and value informality. They scare some of us too. How could they be pouring their hearts out for anyone to see? How frightening and look at those tattoos!

This was the group that opened remote offices all over the country; tied together by values and a culture of change. In addition, they understand the value of teamwork. Lazy you say? Not if they believe in what they are doing. With their social networking skills they can find you and bombard you with data. Obama himself is 47 years old and part of the post-boomer era.

The group believes in social networking and complete disclosure. The rest of us are trying to hide from social networking and can’t believe that someone can not only find out where I live and who I am, but can get an aerial view of my house!

I had a good chuckle as I listened to CNN and they talked about the old Jewish ladies living in Florida and how important their vote was. No problem, Generation O organized “Jew for Obama,” hit the streets and the nursing homes in Florida to bring out the vote.

So, what does this mean for your business?

In 5-10 years the O generation will be shopping in your store, looking for jobs and they'll know more about the electronic media than you care to know. But you will need them.

Learn to embrace change. Research how technology can grow your business, get someone to teach you. I got a great email from a 60 year old plus retailer the other day with an invitation to visit his Facebook. I said, you sign up for my blog and I'll join your Facebook!

Listen, be open with an eye for the future. It will always be the future; all of us are just passing through.

Boy I hope my new spell check will have some new words: blog, Facebook, MySpace as well as Obama in it. Oops, I have an email asking me to make a donation to help get the Democratic National Committee out of debt; for $30.00 or more I can get a limited edition 2008 Victory t-shirt.

It came from my very close friend David, whom I’ve never met.

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By |2017-03-03T12:07:19+00:00November 17th, 2008|Web/Tech|0 Comments