Friday, January 30 2015
A while back I signed up for a year-long program with a well-known guru. I pay a monthly fee and in return I get certain services and goodies.
The same day I signed up, the first email I got (after the "Welcome we're so glad you're here" one) invited me to sign up for a month long program for the month of December. The email stated that it was going out to his complete list, affiliates and joint venture partners. It was also posted on Facebook.
Strangely enough, the month-long program was scheduled at the same time as our weekly webinar for the program I was paying for. So it seemed that I was paying for a program for a month that was offered to the general public for free. Hmmm.
So I emailed to ask what was going on.
First I got a phone call saying "I understand you have communicated by email with [name] and you want to know the difference between the free program and the one you signed up for. "
Wrong. I wanted to know why I was being charged for a program that was being offered to the general public for free.
Strike One: they hadn't read my email accurately.
I emailed again stating my concern clearly.
This time, my email was passed up the line from the customer service staff to the guru himself, who wrote back stating that yes, he was offering this to the general public ("I am making a generous offer to them"). And then came the crunch: "In providing all the value I am providing you I am making an equally generous offer to you." Wait a minute! What's generous about the fact that you're giving me what I paid for?
Strike Two: all he did was defend his actions and lay out why I should be grateful that I'm getting what I paid for.
It doesn't take much to say: "I understand your concern." That would have defused the whole matter for me. Instead it was misunderstanding and defensiveness all along the line. At the start I wasn't angry about this, more curious about why this was happening. By the time it was all over, I was steaming!
Is this a way to endear your clients to you?
What galled me most about the situation was the total lack of understanding of my concern.
Connecting with and empathizing with your clients is the first step in developing long-lasting, respectful relationships.
How do YOU deal with sticky situations that can backfire if not handled with understanding?
This is not the first time I've experienced lousy customer service from a well-known name. Makes me wonder if it isn't really all about the money and once they have your $$$'s what comes after doesn't matter.
End of rant.
Saturday, December 29 2012
Do you have a folder full of marketing ideas sitting on your desk? Or are those ideas still rattling around in your head?
Either way, putting them into a concrete plan forces you to evaluate whether they make sense or not.
A clear plan helps you channel your energy into routes that give you the best chance of reaching your goals rather than scattering yourself by doing a bit of this and a bit of that as the fancy takes you.
It does take time and effort to put a plan together but once it's done, your life will be easier and your activities more productive - with less effort.
Here's what a marketing plan helps you do:
A well-designed marketing plan is a step-by-step program for success because it guides your actions: you'll be clear about what to do, how to do it and when to do it; you'll stay intentional and focused on getting where you want to go.
- Get your dreams out of your head and onto paper.
- Define what you want your marketing efforts to achieve over the next year.
- Do all your thinking at the beginning of the year! When you consider your strategy for the whole year, you'll see how your marketing methods can support and feed off each other so you use your time and resources more efficiently and you get better results with less effort.
- Understand what your audience wants and how you can satisfy them.
- Figure out how to attract and retain your clients, and how to reinvigorate old clients so you make more money with what you already have.
- Keep your focus only on the activities that will bring the results you want.
- Measure the results of your efforts so you can make adjustments if necessary.
- Evaluate whether the latest, seductive new marketing method fits in with what you are trying to achieve.
- Become more effective at handling problems because you'll have a foundation to make decisions from.
- Reach your financial goals.
This doesn't mean that you don't make adjustments as you go through the year but the plan sets the direction.
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
The most important step is the first one: getting started. Go for it!
I know how daunting this can be: drop me an email to Maggie@MyMarketingMessage.com or give me a call at 805 965 9173 if you need help putting your plan together.
Copyright 2012 Maggie Dennison
Wednesday, March 28 2012
Before money was invented, bartering (also known as trading) was how local economies worked: you give me a chicken and I give you a bag of potatoes.
Today there are organizations that facilitate barter (or trades) between businesses. I used to be a member of one.
The organization functioned as a middleman between the service provider and the client. When you bought the services of another member, their fee was deducted from your account with the barter organization and credited to theirs. The service provider could then use that credit to buy services from other members of the organization. The fee you charged for your services was the same as your regular dollar fee: if your cash services cost $100 an hour, then you charged 100 barter dollars for trades.
This type of system works well because you can use your credit to buy from anyone in the organization.
It gets slippery when you trade directly with another individual, rather than through a middleman. A few simple guidelines can help avoid some of biggest mistakes people make when trading. They will help keep the relationship professional and avoid animosity, misunderstandings and resentments later.
These simple guidelines will help you make sure that your trades unfold in a way that's satisfying and productive for both sides.
- Do business exactly as if the client were paying you by check, credit card or other traditional method. Even though you're getting paid with services rather than cash, it's still a business relationship and should be treated as such.
- Only trade the VALUE of your services, not the TIME you spend delivering your service. I once had a massage therapist ask if I'd trade services: she would give me a one hour massage and I would give her an hour of consulting. The problem was one hour of my services was more expensive than one hour of her massage. That kind of trade can end up with one person feeling that they haven't received full value. Make sure the value you're giving or getting is the same as if you were both paying cash.
- Trade the full monetary value of your services. Just because it's trade doesn't mean you have to offer a discount (unless you have a solid business reason for doing so).
- If you usually use a contract, use the same one as for your cash transactions. The terms of your business relationship remain the same, only the form of payment is different.
- Trade for services you genuinely need or want. Don't trade to do someone else a favor. It devalues your service.
- Only trade for services you need right now or in the very near future. Many people do not keep good records of their trades because they don't take them as seriously as cash transactions. They can forget that they still owe you. That can lead to awkward situations and has the potential to damage the relationship.
- Check with your tax professional on any tax ramifications of trading.
Copyright 2012 Maggie Dennison. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, August 16 2011
What do you do in an economic downturn? Moan and groan about how the economy is destroying your business? Believe everything you see on TV or read online?
I know how easy it is to buy into the doom and gloom on TV. (My solution to that was to get rid of my TV!) And I limit how much news I read online.
Wallowing in the depression keeps you stuck in what's happening now. Not that it doesn't deserve attention: we all have to make tough decisions about where to spend our marketing dollars.
But what happens when the downturn is over and the upturn begins? Now is the time to position yourself to meet that time head on. Those who position themselves now will survive when the economy recovers. Both IBM and Microsoft were started during economic downturns. We're not all aiming to be the next IBM or Microsoft but there's a lesson to be learned from them.
Keep the vision of what you want and work towards it, so that your direction is clear when things turn around.
In a sluggish economy, it's the businesses who keep marketing, spreading the word, and planning for better times, who survive with the best results.
What can you do today to make sure you are investing not just in current survival but in the future of your business?
I'm investigating this question right now. I'll keep you informed of developments!
Copyright 2011 Maggie Dennison. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, June 15 2011
Over the years I've come across lots of books that have helped me tremendously in my writing, even though they don't appear to have anything to do with business.
Here are some that live within arm's reach of my desk because I dip into them all the time.
Mars and Venus in the Workplace by John Grey
It's primarily about relationships between the sexes and how they operate in a work environment. But before you run for the hills, it's also a great education on how men and women think, speak and respond differently. Really useful when crafting your message and how to present it.
How to Get Ideas by Jack Foster.
If you're ever stuck knowing what to write, grab this book, wander over to your favorite coffee shop, and do some of the exercises. It shows you how to come up with more ideas, faster and easier. It teaches you how to become "idea-prone" and gives a five-step procedure for digging up creative ideas. Lots of quirky illustrations too.
Here's a quick link to Amazon.
How to Get Ideas
The Analogy Book of Related Words by Selma Glasser
It's not a dictionary of synonyms. It covers a series of topics such as acting, aeronautics, money, sales, insurance, travel and many more. Under each topic is a list of words and phrases that could be related to the topic. Some you wouldn't think of. For example, under the topic "love and marriage", you'll find everything from "aisle" to "old maid" and phrases such as "eternal triangle," "justice of the peace," and "mating season." It'll certainly broaden your thinking.
Here's a quck link to Amazon.
The Analogy Book of Related Words: Your Secret Shortcut to Power Writing
Woe is I by Patricia T. O'Connor
A plain English guide to writing plain English. It's a grammar classic updated to include the Internet age. From the jacket blurb: "common-sense, jargon free, even witty answers to all your questions about the basics and subtleties of grammar, style and usage." It's fun, charming and useful whether you have to write or speak for your business.
Here's a quick link to Amazon.
Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, 3rd Edition
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
I never thought punctuation could be funny but leave it up to Lynne Truss to find the humor in periods and semi-colons. This is a spirited and playful look at the foibles of the colon, comma, ellipsis, dash, and other signs; how to use them properly and the effect you create when you do so. Worth reading for entertainment value alone.
Here's a quick link to Amazon.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
There you have it!
Copyright 2011 Maggie Dennison. All rights reserved.
Saturday, March 19 2011
Marketing guru Jay Abraham was the first to point out to me the difference between customers and clients. At first I thought he was splitting hairs - until I saw how much of a difference it made when I shifted how I talked about those who bought my services.
How do you describe the people who buy your product or service? Or do you consider them merely sources of income and the name doesn't matter a bit?
The terms customer and client are often used interchangeably, but let's turn to the dictionary to find out the difference.
Here are the primary meanings:
Customer: one who purchases a commodity or service.
Client: one who is under the protection of another.
- A customer is someone who buys and consumes your product or service.
- A client implies a relationship that has more to it than simply an exchange of money. It's someone who comes to trust you and comes back to you frequently because they know they're taken care of.
Which would you rather have?
And what does it take to turn customers into clients?
- Treat them as you would treat a budding relationship with a friend.
- Give excellent customer service. That should go without saying, but good customer service isn't always a given these days.
- Answer the questions they don't know to ask. After all, you're the expert who knows what they don't realize they need to know. Help them learn.
- Give more than they expect. This could mean sharing expertise that's outside of what they are paying you for.
- Be interested in them beyond the business they do with you (but only if they're open to that). I've never come across anyone who didn't like to talk about their own life. Ask questions, but only if you're genuinely interested, otherwise it'll sound fake.
- Contact them now and then to find out how they're doing. Again, your interest must be genuine.
- Keep an eye out for articles or tidbits of information that might interest them and pass them on. It lets them know you're thinking of them.
Before you know it, you become established in their minds as a person they feel they can turn to for advice and recommendations. You become a trusted advisor.
That's when you know they're with you for the long haul.
And what could be better than that?
Copyright 2011 Maggie Dennison
Saturday, January 22 2011
As I write this,
Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us. For non-American subscribers, this is the championship game of the National Football League (NFL). It's a huge event for sports fans. It comes with an onslaught of ads, trumping each other in creativity, shock value, special effects and entertainment.
That's followed by the buzz about which one you liked best. Maybe loads of media coverage about the advertising extravaganza. Yet one piece is missing and that is: Did the ads work? Did they increase sales? Did they translate into dollars in the bank?
Advertising Age is a well-respected magazine that delivers news, analysis and data on marketing and media. Here's what they say about Super Bowl ads.
"If viewers like what you depict in your ad, but fail to connect with your brand name or your message about the brand, then much of your activity has been wasted...while 'liking' has clearly proven to be a strong indicator of creative performance, we have seen that 'transitory' liking doesn't always translate to sales effectiveness."
All that "marketing speak" boils down to one thing: just because someone likes an ad at a quck glance, doesn't mean it will make money for you. Now, Advertising Age is talking about Super Bowl ads, but I believe the same principle applies to ANY promtion, including websites, blogs, display ads, postcards, sales letters and more.
I see it happening again and again. Writers, designers, web developers do something because the client likes it. Sure, if you're paying large sums of money - and these services don't come cheap - you want something you like.
But what's more important? Something you like? Or something that gets results for your business? It's a good thing that the decision is not always so black and white. BUT, if you HAD to choose - and that's often the case - what would you choose?
Fortunately, most clients are savvy enough to recognize the difference. But first they have to know there IS a difference. It's our job as professionals to make sure they do. Then, if the client still prefers 'like' over 'it works" that's their conscious decision.
Copyright 2011 Maggie Dennison
Sunday, February 15 2009
You and I both know you're not a sp*ammer but how do you make sure the recipients of your email marketing agree with us? Here are some simple tips that will help ensure that your emails are seen as legitimate.
- Make sure you ask people to take action to get on your list e.g. they have to submit their name in a form or, if you're at a business meeting, ask them to write "sign me up for your newsletter" on the back of their business card and hand it to you. Just a verbal "sign me up" is not enough. That can slip from the tongue easily and is just as quickly forgotten. People are less likely to forget when they've taken physical action.
- Don't buy lists. You have no idea where the names came from and that can get you in trouble. Those people may have signed up for something, but not for YOUR list. Collect your own names. Don't be overly concerned about the size of your list. It's better to have a small number of targeted, responsive subscribers than a large group of people who could care less about you.
- Use an autoresponder to thank your subscribers as soon as they sign up, and let them know what to expect from you.
- Keep in touch with your list regularly. If a long time goes by without an email, people will forget who you are and why they signed up and may consider your email spam without even opening it.
- Don't make outrageous claims in your subject line. Initially it may get attention but in the end it doesn't look credible and may trigger an alarm button in the minds of some of your reader.
- If someone complains directly to you, send a brief apology and remove them from your list.
Copyright 2009 Maggie Dennison
Wednesday, December 03 2008
What's an autoresponder you might ask?
If you know already, read on anyway for useful tips on how to make their work well for you. If you don't know, read on and find out!
An autoresponder is exactly what it says - a responder that's automatic. It's an online system that allows you to distribute emails automatically without having to write and send each one individually.
Here's how it works.
Let's say you have an newsletter that you send out regularly and you want new subscribers to get certain information on signing up. In advance you write your emails containing the information. This can be just one email, or a whole series spaced over a period of time. The number of emails and the intervals at which they are sent is entirely up to you.
Then you set your autoresponder to begin sending when someone signs up. The autoresponder for my newsletter subscribers contains a long series of emails sent at intervals of a couple of days. They include a 7-part email course on marketing as well as details on where to download the free website report I offer and they end with a special gift just for my subscribers. And once it's set up I don't have to lift a finger to make it happen.
Watch your inbox and see how many other uses there are for autoresponders.
You've probably noticed that when you buy a product online, you get an immediate confirmation email: that's an autoresponder in action as well. Notice how many emails you get. Usually a confirmation of your order. Then one when your product is shipped. And maybe more.
Often that's the last you'll hear from the company but it doesn't have to stop there.
You can offer great customer service by setting up a series of emails asking if the product arrived safely or, in the case of an electronic product, if they downloaded it without problems, whether it was satisfactory, maybe to suggest another complimentary product they might like to buy, (this is called up-selling like the folks at MacDonalds who ask "Do you want fries with that?") It's planting a seed that might not have been there before and may lead to more business for you.
Key of course is to be friendly and sincere, and to write your autoresponder emails from a place of wanting to be of service rather than simply wanting to suck more dollars out of their bank accounts. Believe me, the energy you write your emails with, will come through to the recipient!
The beauty of autoresponders is that you can keep in touch with your customers regularly. You nurture those client relationships without spending endless hours on the phone. Or forgetting altogether. Or having so many clients that the sheer volume would not allow for telephone follow up.
The emails are sent out automatically, whether you are at your computer or online or not. You can be enjoying your vacation in the Bahamas (lucky you!) and your emails will still go out like clockwork.
There are lots of autoresponder systems available. Many of them only have email distribution and some are hooked into a complete shopping cart system.
If you're just starting out and you intend to sell products later, I recommend a full shopping cart system, even if you don't use all its features at the beginning.
Otherwise you can run into problems. You may end up with some contacts in your autoresponder program (those who signed up for your newsletter or teleclass etc.) and some in your shopping cart (those who bought a product). There's no easy way to transfer all your clients from one system to another without requiring them to "opt-in" all over again. So if you decide to start with a system that is purely autoresponders, check that it integrates easily with shopping cart software.
One system that does it all is 1shoppingcart. It's the one used by many of the big name Internet marketers. Check it out here.
Copyright 2008 Maggie Dennison
Thursday, September 22 2005
Are you in a business that slows down around the holidays? Are there other times of the year when business is traditionally slow for you? I know very well how easy it is at times like this to moan and groan and worry about not making enough money. Or to obsess about what's not working and think there must be something wrong if business is not flowing with the same regularity all year round.
The truth is, it's a fact of business life.
Have you heard the saying "Most of success is showing up?" You can still show up for your business even when clients are not beating your door down. In fact, these times are a great opportunity to catch up on all those activities that get pushed to the sidelines when business is booming. I've put together a short (by no means exhaustive) list with ideas of things to do when you have time on your hands.
- Revisit your marketing strategy and business goals and update your plans.
- Write articles that you can publish to get more exposure for your business, or dig out those old articles that are hiding on your hard drive and submit them to internet sites.
- Write a series of articles for your newsletter or blog so that you have a six months' supply ready to go. It will save you time down the road when your business is booming again.
- Develop a new workshop or informational product.
- Ramp up your networking with your strategic partners. Take this time to get to know them better and find out how you can help each other's businesses grow.
- Review your website, brochures, fliers, sales letters and update/rewrite them.
- Start a blog.
- Pursue joint ventures with people who are not in competition with you but who know your perfect clients.
- Finally start working on that book you?ve been dreaming of.
- Create a new speech to promote your business.
Clean up your computer files.
Set up systems to streamline your business so you can save time and money.
Of course you could also plan your vacation for those times when business slows down. That way you'll come back refreshed, with new perspectives, and ready to hit the ground running!
I guarantee if you use your slow times to pursue some of these activities, it will pay back in spades. Not only will you have more to offer your new clients when they begin streaming through your door, but you will have used your time wisely to focus on positive ways to move your business forward.
Copyright 2005 Maggie Dennison