Posts Tagged ‘word of mouth’

When Word-of-Mouth Advertising Isn’t Enough

Friday, December 31st, 2010

The number one way small businesses advertise and market is through word-of-mouth. This works because the owners of the business are almost always involved in the direct day to day business. They are the primary face of the business to the customers and clients.

This works extremely well if you see your customers every day or every week. Membership in the Chamber of Commerce and service clubs like Rotary, Kiwanas, Lions Club, and so forth are one of the main ways of doing this. When the subject of printed apparel comes up, you are the natural name that comes to mind.

This only works to a point. As the business grows, it becomes too much for the owner to do it all. Sooner or later a front office person is hired and they begin to take on some of the customer service duties. As hard as they may try, it just isn’t the same as being an owner. Now instead of seeing the owner every time they do business with you, they may deal with the customer service person.

As the order volume grows customer contact time decreases further. When this happens, you begin to lose the connection to the customer and that constant presence in their mind. If printed apparel comes up in a conversation, you may not get mentioned, or if you are, it doesn’t have the same enthusiastic response it used to have when there was the owner connection.

Over time, the situation continues to degrade, and WOM becomes less and less effective. It becomes an effort to maintain your existing customer base, much less grow the business with any kind of confidence.

To improve this situation, it’s a simple matter of increasing your contact time with your customer base. It today’s economy one of the most effective ways of doing this is e-mail marketing. Companies like Constant Contact are an excellent example. They allow you to create electronic newsletters and follow-up campaigns where you can keep your customer base informed of exactly what is going on in the business and present new opportunities, ideas, case studies, promotions, and so forth. You don’t have to be selling here, it’s more about the contact time.

The beauty of e-mail marketing is the automation of it. The cost is very inexpensive, and done right, you can significantly extend your reach with the existing customers you have. With the addition of “tell a friend” scripts, your customers simply have to click a button, add the email address of their friend, and off you go to someone new.

This is a very simple overview of a very powerful tool. In 2011 you’ll be seeing a lot more posts from me on how to automate your marketing without looking automated and impersonal.


The Principle of Reciprocity - Giving Free Stuff Away in Order to Receive

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

When I talk to printers about how they market, I get a number of different answers. By far the most common one is, Word-of-Mouth. This is great, but unless you have a plan in place to maximize the result, it can be unpredictable at best. There’s no doubt it’s the most cost effective (free) form of marketing, but you give up a regular stream of business unless you go about it differently.

Another very common one I hear is, “We sponsor fun runs and events in the community.” This usually means either contributing the shirts and printing, or heavily discounting the printing costs for the group or function. This leads me to the the discussion in today’s post; the value of Reciprocity.

Reciprocity is the principle that if you give, there’s an implied obligation to respond in kind. This is an age old principle. It’s led to the saying “There’s no free lunch.” Simply put, there’s always an expectation of a return favor. Obviously this can have sinister implications if it’s used for personal gain. On the flip side, we can use this principle to increase our marketing efforts and help give teeth to those weak sponsoring relationships and inconsistent Word-of-Mouth referrals.

We’re all aware of the practice of free samples. If you’ve ever been to a Costco on a weekend, they’re at the end of almost every food aisle giving samples of salsa, chips, sausages, cheese, salami, you name it. I know this must be effective because I watch how many people actually put the product in their carts after sampling. It’s amazing. If you’ve never watched, make a point the next time you have the chance.

We can do the same thing. We don’t even have to give away printed shirts or embroidered hats. We can give away information products that make it easier for the consumer to make a buying decision. One of the best ways of doing this is to put together a consumer awareness guide that contains all the right questions to ask potential vendors.

We’ve all see the comparison charts with the checklists. This is a great way to level the playing field. I even go so far as to provide a chart for them to fill in. They can add the name of the vendors they’re shopping at the top and then check off the answers as they talk to each one. This is a great way for them to realize it’s not about buying from the guy with the cheapest shirts.

You can expand on this concept and provide short pamphlets on specific subjects. Things like “Buying T Shirts for Your Family Reunion.” or “Making Your T Shirt a Hit at Your Event.” The idea is to inform and educate, but not sell. Of course you’ll brand every page with your logo and phone number. Be sure to add something to the effect of: “Prepared as a public service by (name of your company.)

The point here is two fold. First, it’s very inexpensive to do this. Secondly, the more information you can layer on, the greater the reciprocity factor. You’re seen as the knowledgeable expert doing the consumer a favor. Even if you don’t get the initial order, you can be sure you’ll have made an impression which will positively reflect on you when the Word-of-Mouth factor comes into play.


Are You the Local Authority?

Monday, May 11th, 2009

One of the common problems I hear all the time from t shirt decorators is “my customers don’t take us seriously.” In general, the public sees apparel decorators as “just another t shirt guy.” We want, no need, to be recognized as the premiere authority of decorated apparel in our market or niche. Our credentials must be unchallenged. Our technical ability recognized by the by the marketplace. Our reputation must go beyond our local market/niche to encompass everything about how our product is used, but how do we accomplish this?

We want people to recognize the opportunity to have access to our skill set locally and to feel welcome in doing so. Part of accomplishing this involves our risk reversal or guarantees. We want our clients to know they’re welcome and that the business they do with us will be a positive “experience” they can talk about and pass on to others.

Jay Abraham calls this “Preeminence.” We want to encompass everything about what we do and how we do it. We are here to exceed the expectations of how our clients use our products and delight them with the final outcome.

A goal of Preeminence is to create a story that goes along with the experience. The easier we can make it to tell the story, the more word-of-mouth referrals we receive. This is important because a referral comes to us with a different expectation and a different mindset than someone off the street who doesn’t know us or what we do. Those individuals require much more time and effort for us to differentiate ourselves and prove we’re who we say we are and that we do what we say we will do

A second major goal of Preeminence is the role of authority. If you are truly an authority, your objective is to completely educate and position yourself as the only logical provider of the goods and services your customer is seeking. In this capacity, you have an OBLIGATION to completely inform and educate those you do business with. In the process, you will automatically differentiate yourself from all of the price cutting, low balling, fly-by-night competitors that are continually starting up and closing down.

It’s important to understand the role of education is all about just one thing, education. This isn’t some hidden sales pitch. The commercial focus is minimal to nonexistant. Our entire goal is simple to build confidence in our position as an expert in the market at what we do.

In my next post, I’ll go into the concept of Reciprocity, a condition that develops as a natural result of giving information away at no cost.


What Are Your Customers Saying About You?

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Most small businesses rely on positive word of mouth as the primary way to grow their buisness. I think the reason is that it’s free and the person doing the referring is excited about what you did for them and they want to share their experience.

This can occur organically or we can have a systematic referral approach where the results are much more tangible and measurable. The organic way happens naturally and we really don’t have a good way of making this happen. The more contact you have with your customers, the more inclined they are to talk about you. Since most of us are too busy doing our own thing, this customer contact element of our business is reduced to the point of need. In other words your customer or you have a need to talk to each other about something of interest to the other party.

This can happen on a regular basis if you see the other party regularly. More likely, it happens gradually over time. If this is the case, there’s really no incentive for your current customer to talk about you unless the subject of t shirts comes up in a conversation. Even then you may or may not benefit depending on whether your customer remembers to mention you. Most likely, they won’t. It’s not because they don’t like you or have a problem with you. Rather, you simply aren’t in their mind at that time. You need to know how to get a positive referral. You have to have top of mind position.

As any marketing or advertising pro will tell you, your brand depends on repetition, repetition, repetition. Regular reinforcement of what you’re doing, what’s interesting/new, anything of value is helpful. The more benefit you can deliver to your customer, the better the chance they will remember to mention you. You need to give them a reason why when it comes to recommending you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I didn’t get the order because someone else “knew a guy who knows a guy who’s doing t shirts.”

To defeat this kind of situation you need to be positively positioned in the brain of your customer so they can recommend you. There are several ways to do that. Tomorrow I’lll outline one of my favorites.