Loyal Customers in Good Times and Bad

Loyalty. Something most businesses would give their bottom line for! Loyal customers are the best investment and asset a business can have and will help you weather the proverbial storm during the mean times. In the end, it’s your loyalist’s experience with your company, products, and employees that will keep them faithful and encourage them to spread the word to others also. So what strategies do you have in place to not only keep your faithful customers happy but perhaps even increase their spending with you?

Consider what the impact on sales would be if you could motivate your top customers to purchase one more item per visit. Executing a cross-sell promotion to drive the purchase of an additional item or a bounce-back offer to motivate the customer to come back for an additional visit can have a significant impact on your sales. Make your loyal customers feel special and the results will speak volumes.

Not all ambassadors of your brand will need a specific reason to tell someone else how much they love you, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to empower them with new exclusive benefits that they’ll be so excited about they’ll tell everyone. With new customers getting harder to acquire, word-of-mouth marketing through your tried and true loyal customers may be the most attractive. Give them something fun or valuable to share, or create a “refer-a-friend” program.

Creating conversation with your most loyal customers is easy. They are already loyal to you and have a lot to say to you. You have earned their respect. You can get their feedback on your product line, customer service, or e-mail campaign by using a satisfaction survey or an exit interview at your register or door. Enhance any customer touchpoint with product review options, testimonial forms, and acts of sincere thanks for their business. Asking for your customer’s feedback and advice is the greatest form of flattery, and the last time I looked, there was no itemized budget for flattery, so use it generously.

One word of caution, when you collect your loyal customer’s feedback, don’t ignore it. The act of collecting it is not the endgame. It is imperative that you react to the feedback you receive from your best, most loyal customers. Be ready to respond to concerns that could lead a loyal customer to jump overboard. Lastly, don't let once-loyal customers slip away. Reach out with an incentive-laden “lifeboat” at the first sign of activity drop off.

Tweeting for Profit

Smart entrepreneurs are now doing deals in 140 characters or less on Twitter

(Source: Fortune Magazine)
A year ago Kris Drey couldn't care less about Twitter.

With 13 years of Web site experience, Drey is no technophobe. He serves as vice president of product marketing at Fliqz, an online video-hosting service with 20 employees in Emeryville, Calif. But when he first skimmed Twitter, the popular micromessaging service launched in 2007, Drey saw a lot of mindless chatter and very little that seemed useful to a video business.

Still, with the economy taking a dive, Drey persisted. He was looking for ways to spread the word about Fliqz without spending any more of his maxed-out $15,000 marketing budget. Not only was Twitter the fastest-growing social media service around -- its user base grew by a whopping 1,841% in 2008, to 14 million -- but it also wouldn't cost him a dime.

"The only overhead is your time," says Drey, 40. "You need to pay attention."

He did just that. Drey started posting three or four updates a day as @Fliqz (all Twitter IDs start with "@") and subscribed to (or "followed") the 140-character updates (or "tweets") of anyone he could find who seemed interested in the online video industry, even if the person was just posting links to stories on blogs. One Saturday afternoon Drey spotted a Twitter post from a Fliqz customer who was having trouble encoding video. After exchanging a couple of tweets with him, Drey called the customer on the phone, figured out that the guy had a corrupted file and fixed the problem. The customer posted a tweet of happy surprise.

Talk back: Are you on Twitter yet?
Fast-forward a few months, and @Fliqz now boasts 1,358 followers. Thanks to Twitter, Drey snagged 21 new sales leads, and Twitter also helped him seal one $6,000-a-year contract. Fliqz signs or renews up to 30 deals a month, so the company is hardly tweeting its way to massive growth. But it's not too shabby a return for a free tool. Drey estimates that he spends eight hours a week on Twitter, or the equivalent of 2% of his marketing budget every year.

Call this the year business invaded Twitter. The service -- which can be used on any cell phone or computer -- has been a hit almost since its inception, with celebrities as diverse as Richard Branson and Britney Spears using it to tout their appearances and correspond with fans. But in the past year, @Comcast has set up what has effectively become a help desk on Twitter, while @JetBlue (JBLU), @Zappos, @WholeFoods (WFMI, Fortune 500) and @Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) interact with hundreds of thousands of their followers. (Source: Fortune Small Business)

The Perfect Marketing Analogy Indeed!

The perfect marketing analogy! Love this video! Are you a follower or a leader?

From the marketing genius of Seth Godin, who writes on his blog today:

"My favorite part happens just before the first minute mark. That's when guy #3 joins the group. Before him, it was just a crazy dancing guy and then maybe one other crazy guy. But it's guy #3 who made it a movement.Initiators are rare indeed, but it's scary to be the leader. Guy #3 is rare too, but it's a lot less scary and just as important. Guy #49 is irrelevant. No bravery points for being part of the mob.We need more guy #3s."

Thanks to my linked-in group member, Geoffrey Short
Director of Sales and Marketing at Bio-Safe, International for calling this to my attention today.

Fantastic Visual Guide to Twitter

Thanks to Ritu Pant (Co-Group Member on Linked-In), Web Strategist, Content Optimization, Social Media Consultant for this incredible Guide to Twitter...to see a copy you can enlarge to read or print, CLICK HERE.

Are Brainstorms Dead?

by Andy Eklund

In the past two months, I've received five articles and two blog posts heralding the death of brainstorms. Is it the economy which has caused this? Perhaps. I've had three brainstorms in the same time period cancelled. (One client told me her boss said: "We don't have money to implement new ideas at the moment." Well, good luck with those old ideas.)

Or, perhaps it's because four of the authors had a new book to spruik. (What a surprise.) Each of them had a new "buzzword" and methodology which rendered the philosophy of brainstorms obsolete. One of them even confessed - and I'm not kidding - that he'd invented his new buzzword during a brainstorm.

Personally, I think the reason is even more simple. We're all tired of attending badly managed, poorly organised and strategically inept meetings where nothing gets accomplished - meaning, no good ideas are generated.

Does this describe your brainstorms?

They're held in a featureless conference room, without beverage or food, toys or stimuli, flipchart paper and crayons, and very likely, oxygen. There is no direction, no purpose, no insights, no information, no agenda, and no facilitator. Or, there is a facilitator, and he/she talks solely about their own brilliant ideas. Everyone else is there merely to witness the Immaculate Conception.

The wrong people are invited. Or rather, the right people couldn’t or didn't attend, so the blobs who weren’t invited originally (probably for good reason) become the front-bench by default.
The brainstorm is scheduled for one precise hour, and darn it, people had better invent the perfect, new, unique, never-before-seen idea in that hour. Or else.

If this assessment is accurate, then I too hope brainstorms are dead. They don’t deserve this kind of treatment.

Sarcasm aside, brainstorms can and do work – but only if they're given a bit of care and consideration in advance. A good brainstorm should be like the perfect party: energized and fresh, full of excited people at an unusual location with good catering. (You do know these type of parties are organised by a party planner who works their bum off to make it look spontaneous, don't you?)

As with any meeting, a bit of ground work in advance is important if you want it to be successful. And, I'm not saying this because I might have a book to spruik, but if you've ever been to a successful brainstorm, you know a good facilitator is worth their weight in good ideas.

Curious what it takes? Write me. I'll give you a bit of free advice.

At the same time, there are a number of principles that can be taught to teams to improve their creativity, as well as the quality of the brainstorms. I know I'm going to get e-mails from Important People telling me that creativity cannot be taught, so let's clear the air.

No, you cannot teach people to have eminent creativity - a divine talent bestowed on very few of us, like Leonardo da Vinci, Wolfgang Mozart, Albert Einstein or James Joyce. Yes, you can teach people to increase their everyday creativity.

Among these many daily principles, here's one of the easiest and fastest to put into action: know how and when your brain works most effectively, and leverage that information to be creative.

Most people say ideas come to them when they're doing something else, entirely unrelated to the problem where they need an idea, such as taking a shower, riding public transportation, exercising, and - yes, it's true - sitting on the toilet. The brain also tends to get charged with ideas when it's bombarded with stimulation: working on a project on a different topic, engaging in a lively discussion with someone else, or one or more of the five senses are piqued at the same time, such as experiencing a movie, artwork, music or sport. In either case, your brain is making connections between the current problem and the other disparate information floating around in your head, and these connections become potential ideas.

So, how do you leverage this everyday?

  • Know where and when are you most creative. Where do ideas come to you most easily? What time of day is your brain most active? What inspires you, or relaxes you, so you can think most prolifically? You can use these places, times of day, and sources of inspiration to stimulate your creativity - but only if you know what they are.

  • Learn to be sensitive to what your brain is thinking about when it's doing "something else." Can you apply any of these unrelated thoughts or visceral emotions to the "other" problem as a potential solution?

  • Have pen and paper with you to remember your ideas. You'll no doubt think this is weird, but I have pen and paper in, on or by ... my wallet, briefcase, gym bag, night-stand, all three of my computers, car, kitchen bench-top, television … and yes, even by the toilet.

  • Invite someone else - again, unrelated to your topic - to help you brainstorm. A different perspective can yield great insights. Ask a child to solve your problem is a common answer, but virtually anyone can be a potential partner in brainstorming potential ideas.

  • Seek out activities that deliberately put you into different situations or environments. In fact, when you need an idea, get up off your duff and go for a walk - preferably outside. You'll see and experience something else which might have the potential to connect with your original problem to create a new idea.

  • The last point is the simplest: when you need to brainstorm, stand up. Surely you've noticed that your brain is always more attentive and useful when you're not sitting down, at rest?

Reprinted from http://www.andyeklund.com/