7 Low Cost Marketing Campaigns Plus a Bonus

Are you guilty of thinking of marketing as buying an ad for a year and then forgetting about it?  Or maybe along with that ad, you put out a few brochures and consider yourself done.   

That is what we call “lackluster advertising” and not marketing.  Marketing takes effort but it will definitely pay off.  Here are some simple ideas that you can put in place with a little effort and should     give you some real return in the way of sales.

1.)   Partnering

If you are an RV dealer, find a local RV park that you would be happy to promote to your customers, and of course the reverse is true for RV parks.  Maybe you don’t want to go to the expense of moving new units to the park and staffing them for people to walk through, but how about sending one of your experienced techs to the park for a couple of hours to answer any questions that people in the park may have?

2.)   “Selfie” Campaign

With digital cameras in phones, tablets or self-contained, people enjoy taking photos of themselves, their friends and families and then posting them on their social media sites.  Take advantage of this by putting together a quick campaign that allows people to upload photos of themselves enjoying their RV’s.  Post these prominently and even better, have them rotating on a TV screen in your reception area.

3.)   Create a scavenger hunt

Start a number of miles away from your business.  The hunt can be as easy as identifying unique landmarks on the way to your business or as complicated as having to bring in a scavenger token from the particular clue.

Either way, make sure that your prize at the end of the hunt is one that people want.  This is really no different than any other contest.  If your prize isn’t worth the effort, people won’t participate.

4.)   Create New Content

If you haven’t heard that content is king by now, you must not be listening.  Everyone is looking for new and interesting stories to tell about their business.  Let’s do a change-up.

Start the story off and then ask your customers to fill in the next paragraph.  For example, start the story with “As I was walking in the door at XYZ, I was relieved to see…..” then let the story go where it may.

You can continue this effort by taking the best of the first five submittals and using those to create the first line of the next paragraph.

You are going to get a lot of insight into what your customers truly think, what they are looking for from you and how they want to tell their friends about your business.

5.)   Create a Drip Campaign

If you don’t want to take the time to create a newsletter, consider using an email marketing program that sends out short and simple emails with links in them.

For instance, send out an email that links to a checklist for getting the RV ready for storage for the winter.  A link to a camera tips site or to a recipe for cooking outdoors works well also.  You want to give your customer information that they will hold onto and even send to friends and family.

6.)   Concierge Services

Put together a well organized area of things to do and see in the area.  Make sure any area brochures are current and get rid of the old ones.   Don’t limit yourself to just the immediate area; add in information for attractions that are a short drive from you.

7.)   Survey Your Customers

It is easy and inexpensive to create your own customer survey that you can send out in an email.  Most of the email marketing services give you the ability to create and receive responses to a custom survey.  Make the survey short, seven or less questions.  Make the last question a Net Promoter Score (NPS) question.

This is a very basic Yes/No question that simply asks, “Would you recommend us to your family and/or friends?”  Your survey should be anonymous so that people are willing to give you a truthful answer.  Your NPS will give you an idea of how healthy your word of mouth is.

8.) Bonus

While this isn’t a marketing campaign tactic, it is critical to achieving results that mean something.  Take the time to review your email list on a regular basis.  If an address hasn’t opened your last three emails, it’s time to send them a final email asking if they want to continue hearing from you.  If you don’t hear back, definitely take the address off of your list.  It is only serving to drive your costs up and your response rates down.

One last point you need to remember for these campaigns to be successful.  Make sure that you have a means of measuring how successful each campaign is.  Use a unique code for any special offers so that you can put numbers to the results and determine whether it is something worth doing again.

Hope this helps you get started thinking about quick and easy campaigns.  Give me a call at 800.478.0516 to brainstorm some other ideas that you can make your own.

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Still don’t know what you need to do?  Give me a call at 800-478-0516 and let’s talk about what would work for you.   Be sure to follow me on Twitter:  @RVStops and @FocusedWords and join my group on LinkedIn, “Social Media in the RV Industry” and “RV Park Management Software User’s Group”.   Check out my blog at www.FocusedWords.com/blog for more articles about doing business in the RV world.  Copyright by FocusedWords.  If you would like to reprint, please email pwright@FocusedWords.com with your request.

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Is Your Shoestring Marketing Broken?

Committing major marketing dollars to a single location isn’t necessarily a good choice in today’s world.   Marketing isn’t a pay for it and forget it product.  This is true whether the commitment is to a particular ad, to your web page or to your collateral materials (brochure, business card, etc.)

Shoestring marketing doesn’t mean sloppy marketing

Here are 12 points that you need to keep in front of you all year long as you market your business.

  1. Low Cost Marketing – Not only is it possible to market your park without breaking the bank it is absolutely doable.  You can grow your customer base without spending a lot of dollars but you do need to spend the time to do it.  Time is a precious commodity so schedule a day each week when you can spend a large chunk of the day working on your marketing plan, your marketing program and your marketing campaigns.  If you don’t know the difference in the three check out Campground e-News (http://issuu.com/industryenews/docs/163newcampground-1), or go to my blog page (www.FocusedWords.com/blog) and go to Plan vs. Program vs. Campaign.
  2. Commitment—It is easy to get discouraged with your marketing efforts when you don’t see any affect.  Your efforts will pay off if you just see it through.  Don’t give up before it has a chance to stick.  Remember that, in today’s world, it takes the customer seeing your marketing at least 7 times before they will take action.
  3. Branding—Your guests need to have a clear picture of who you are and what your business is all about.  Saying all of the areas you want to serve is going to muddy your marketing efforts.  Select the one that best applies to you and use that as your focus for the next year.  Once you have that side of the market developed, you can begin to develop the other areas.  Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed trying to be everything to everybody.
  4. Consistency—Be consistent in your marketing message.  Let your ads, brochures, pamphlets, marketing packets all reflect a consistent image.  The actual wording can be different but make the look and feel of the graphics remain the same.
  1. Target markets – Mass marketing isn’t going to work in today’s world.  Focus on the market that you are branding your park for and find out everything you can about them.  If you try to market to the entire RVing world, you are going to spread your marketing dollars so thin that you’re not going to see great results.
  1. Elicit Trust—If your current guest trusts you to deliver what you say in your marketing efforts, they are going to be confident in recommending your RV Park to their friends.  If you deliver more than they expected, the likelihood that they will spread the word for you increases.  If you deliver an outstanding experience, they are going to be sure to tell everyone what a great time they had.  Their trust and confidence is key to building your community.
  1. Repetition—Here is where the bad news comes in.  Research suggests that people need to encounter your marketing efforts between seven and twelve times before they are ready to stop in.  Put repetition together with consistency to build recognition.  Once you have built recognition, people will begin to associate you with your message which is what marketing is all about.
  1. Quality—If your park isn’t top quality, you’re not going to get repeat business.  Your long term success is going to depend on your satisfied guests talking about you.  Take a look around your park and imagine yourself as an RVer coming into the park.  What could be improved on?
  1. Relationships—Establish relationships with your guests.  Make sure all of your employees/workampers are always smiling and asking the guests how their stay is going.  If they have a complaint do everything you can to resolve it immediately.  This also means giving those employees/workampers the authority to make a guests stay the best.  Don’t get me wrong.  You probably don’t want to give all of your employees the ability to hand out free stays or refund money, but you can give them the authority to move a picnic table, take a trash bag to the dumpster, etc.
  1. Tracking Results—It is imperative that you know how well your marketing efforts are doing.  Don’t put an ad in a local paper, a magazine or on the internet without some type of code so that you can know when a person is responding to the ad.  Always, always, always track your results and adjust your efforts accordingly.
  1. Flexibility—Be ready to change as your environment changes.  Be willing to jump out there and try out the next marketing platform.  However, you do need to do this judicially.  At the rate new platforms are coming out, you would need to hire an entire staff just to stay on top of what is new.
  1. Determine Costs—Here is where a lot of effort falls down.  Calculate what your cost is for each of your marketing efforts and divide that by the number of people who responded to you.  This is going to tell you how much money you are spending on one individual.  Some items are givens, (i.e.  Brochures, business cards, websites) and won’t have individual costs; however, when you run an ad you can determine what the cost per person is.  Now you have a way of determining whether the ad gave you any return on your investment (ROI.)

These are my 12 points for successful marketing.  What would you add?

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How To Market With Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Vine, LinkedIn, RV Forums, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and on and on and on.  Social media has exploded into so many different pieces that it is hard to decide which ones to work on and which ones to let slide by the wayside.

How to Market Using Social Media

So much to remember when marketing with Social Media

Then we have to make the decision of how to use that particular channel.  What do you post?  How do you attract attention?  How much time do you have to spend?  Is it really worth it?

Once you have decided which channels you are going to use, you are faced with the tough decision of how you are going to use it to promote your business.

I recently came across a marketing program that the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts are using on Pinterest.  This program would be so easy to create across any of the Social Media channels you choose to use.

Using Pinterest as the example, Four Seasons created a board for Pin. Pack. Go.  The concept is really pretty simple.  They asked their potential guests to create a board titled Pin.Pack.Go.   The guest then asked the particular hotel/resort they were interested in to collaborate with them on their board.  Now the social media person at the particular Four Seasons Hotel/Resort pinned suggestions to the guests’ board on what to wear, what to plan on seeing, etc.

Isn’t that a great idea?  You are not only impressing your potential guests with your understanding of what it takes to plan out a vacation, you are also influencing them to stay with you instead of your competition.

Now the question becomes “How do I incorporate this idea into my social media plan?”

Let’s first of all deconstruct the campaign into the basics behind the idea.

1.)    What social media channels are you using to communicate with your potential customers?  This is a critical first step in the process.

2.)    What do your potential customers want to know from you?  If you are an RV dealer, they probably want to know things like what do I need to pack in the RV for a weekend outing, where can I go close by to gain experience in using my RV?  If you are an RV park/campground, they probably want to know things such as what is close by, what are your activities, where is the local grocery?

3.)    How do you influence your potential guests to take the next step and make a reservation or come in to check out an RV?

 

To create your own campaign based on these basics, these steps should help.

Question # 1:

I strongly recommend that you ask your customers on a regular basis which social media channels they use.  This should give you a pretty good idea of the major channels that you should be posting to on a regular basis.

Question #2:

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and start doing your research.  You probably have most of the information close by but may not have taken the time to organize it into a useful database.   Now is the time to do just that.  During this process you are going to come up with other subjects that you are going to be able to offer.

Question #3:

The real point in this exercise is to get the customer in the door.  Make absolutely sure that you have a CTA (call to action) somewhere in this campaign whether you run it on Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social media channel.

Above all else, remember the Golden Rule of social media.  Don’t be the door-to-door salesman who only has a sales pitch to deliver.  Give your potential customers reasons for remembering who you are and where you are located.

There are a lot of things to say about social media, but let’s remember what social media isn’t.  This is your marketing avenue, not a sales pitch venue.  While you can occasionally sell on social media it isn’t the main thrust that you should be using.

And finally, take a look at the marketing campaigns that attract your attention.  Deconstruct them just as I have here, and then utilize that information to create your own marketing campaign.  Learn from the big guys and adapt it to your business.

Let me know which campaigns you really like and let’s break them down to their basic elements.

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Still don’t know what you need to do?  Give me a call at 800-478-0516 and let’s talk about what would work for you.   Be sure to follow me on Twitter:  @RVStops and @FocusedWords and join my group on LinkedIn, “Social Media in the RV Industry” and “RV Park Management Software User’s Group”.   Check out my blog at www.FocusedWords.com/blog for more articles about doing business in the RV world.  Copyright by FocusedWords.  If you would like to reprint, please email pwright@FocusedWords.com with your request.

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Online Reservations versus Reservation Pages

There has been a lot of discussion in various groups and forums lately about online reservations and their value.  First of all, I have to say that I

online reservations

Do you want to book reservations online?

believe a page on your website for a reservation request is absolutely necessary.

Now, let’s do some defining of the terms.  Online reservations have evolved to mean being able to make a reservation online, provide a credit card number and in a number of cases, be able to pick your site.  There are a number of companies that are currently providing this type of service since it would be extremely costly to provide this type of system for an individual.

A reservation page on the other hand is merely a page on your website where someone can fill out the information that you would normally request at the time of check in, size of rig, number of adults, pets, etc.  This information is then emailed to the email address you assign.  Now the person at your front desk who takes reservations can call the customer, verify the information and get the credit card information for a deposit if it is needed.

In other words, the question becomes do you want to “Book” reservations online or do you want to “Take” reservations online?

What Do You Do?

Reservation pages

Do you want to take reservations online?

If you have online reservations, what do you do once a reservation is entered?  Do you call the RVer and confirm the reservation or just send an impersonal email?  Do you receive any notification about the individual reservations or do you just wait for the RVer to check in?

If you aren’t calling back to confirm, you may be making a major mistake.  I’ve heard all the reasons for not calling back and for using an automatic responder – It takes too much time, I don’t have enough employees, It’s easier, etc.

So I would like to ask you one thing.  How do you feel when you call a company where you are going to spend money and only get their voicemail?  How do you feel when they don’t call back?  Or maybe just show up with what you were looking for.

Do you get irritated?  Do you decide to go to another company?  Well, your customers aren’t any different.  If they don’t hear from you, they aren’t going to be real confident that they are going to have a place to stay when they get there.

What About Hotels?

I’ve heard this argument also.  When I book a reservation at a hotel, they don’t call me to confirm.

So my question here is, if you were to book at two different hotels and one of those called you to confirm and give you information about the area, while the other one didn’t , which reservation are you going to keep?  I’m betting it will be the one that took the time to treat you like a guest and not just another reservation number.

So Why Have a Reservation Page?

That is an easy one to answer.  By having a reservation page, you have most of the information that you need in order to enter a reservation before you talk to the customer.  After you have made your call to confirm with the customer and to get their deposit, you can now take your time about getting the reservation into the system.  You don’t have to tie up the phone line while you ask them to spell their name, what town they are from, phone number, type of unit or any of the other questions that are involved with putting a reservation into your system.

You will get more reservations because people won’t be on hold waiting for you to finish entering the last reservation before getting to them.

Your customers aren’t going to give up because the phone just continues to ring without anyone answering it.  After all you are on the other line entering a reservation, you don’t want to put them on a long hold do you?

You don’t have to identify sites like you do for online reservations.

You don’t have to make people wait at the front desk while you finish up a phone reservation.

Are those enough reasons for you to create a reservations page for your website?  I do have one caveat.  Don’t make your reservation page so involved that people feel like you are asking them for their life history.

Need help?  Give me a call and I can help you decide what you need to get started.

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Is Mobile Worth It?

Let’s face it.  We are in the industry which has mobile as its middle name.  If RVer’s aren’t mobile, who is?

I would like to give you a few statistics before we get started:

1.)    57%.  That’s the percentage of users who say they won’t recommend companies with poor mobile sites.  (MediaBistro)

What kind of mobile website do you need?

2.)    1 in 4.  This is the number of online searches that are conducted on mobile devices. (MediaBistro)

3.)    >50%.  More than 50% of U.S. mobile phone users are now smartphone users, according to a new report by research firm eMarketer.  (AdAge, May 2013)

Now, I would like to give you some anecdotal statistics and a couple of questions:

1.)    A recent client had me create a marketing program for him that included redesigning his website.  His Google Analytics show that 30% of his website traffic is coming from mobile devices.

2.)    How many of your guests use their smartphones or tablets to make reservations with you?

3.)    If you were to search for your RV park/resort on your smartphone, what would you see?

While we may bemoan the use of electronics in an RV park, the fact is that they are here to stay and we might as well get used to that fact.

Now that we’ve gotten used to the fact, we need to take a look at how we can use this to our advantage.

The first thing to consider is having your website go mobile.  In order to do this, you need to make a decision.  Should you go with a responsive website or a dedicated site?  Let’s take a quick look at both.

Definitions

A dedicated mobile site is one that is created solely for mobile devices.  It isn’t your website that is shown on a smaller screen.

A responsive mobile site is one that uses your online website, adds some code and then shows on a mobile device.

Pros and Cons 

Responsive Site Pros:

If you decide to use a responsive mobile site, you will only have to maintain one website.

Your website presentation is going to be consistent across all of the devices that are used.

The user is going to have a user-friendly experience with your business no matter how it is accessed.

You will be able to use Google Analytics to determine how your site is viewed and which devices are used.

You won’t incur additional costs for hosting of the website.

Responsive Site Cons:

You will have to have your website redesigned to make it a responsive site.

You won’t be able to control the order of your graphics and/or text.

You won’t be able to add custom apps to help enhance the user’s experience.

You may encounter problems with the rate that the pages load.

You can only use your existing website navigation.

Dedicated Site Pros:

You will have a customized design and user experience that considers all of the mobile limitations.

You can create additional pages with your mobile site.  You may want to create a special call-to-action page that appears only on your mobile site.

You can add widgets and apps to your mobile site.  It is easy for the designer to add a “Click to Call” button that allows your user to reach you easily.  Directions can be added that works with the smartphone GPS to guide your guest to your park.

You will have analytics that are specific to your mobile site usage.

Dedicated Site Cons:

You will have to maintain two sites instead of one.  This includes having two separate charges for hosting fees.

Some of your existing forms and databases from your existing site may not work on the mobile site.

You are going to have to monitor your brand consistency between the two sites.

How To Decide?

It isn’t an easy decision between the two, but it is a decision that you are going to need to make.  I would like to challenge you right now to stop and check your analytics for your website and see what percentage of your website traffic is coming from mobile devices.

Don’t have any analytics?  Then drop everything, call your web designer and get an analytics program put on your website.  While Google Analytics isn’t necessarily the best, it is free and does provide you with a lot of information that will help you make decisions about your website.

The next step is to decide which way you want to go and then get it done before your next season starts.  Don’t lose a hefty portion of your website traffic just because you don’t want to take the time to go mobile.

Ok, I realize that this seems overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be hard.  If you don’t have the energy to approach this problem by yourself, give me a call and let’s see what we can do to make this happen for you without all the stress and worry.

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5 ToDo’s for Your 2014 Marketing Plan

Here we are at the end of 2013 and looking towards a New Year.  Regardless of when your season begins or ends, you need to be thinking of what you want to do next year to promote your business effectively.

Time for a new plan

It’s easy enough to get caught up in the day to day details and forget about planning ahead until “ahead” is already here.  Here are five ideas for getting your marketing plan for 2014 started.

1.)     Newbie Special — Early spring is typically the time of year when RV sales take a jump.  Think about working together with your local RV sales to offer a special to their customers.  What better way to introduce your park to new customers than to give them a free night to set up and check out their new RV (even if it is used, it is new to them.)

2.)    Buddy Weekend – Plan a weekend to promote to your current guests.  Have them register together to receive a special discount.  This could easily be combined with a clean-up weekend.  They give you a couple of hours cleaning up their site and they get the discount.

I can hear the objections already.  “They don’t really do the work” or “I have to go back and do it all over again.”  The object of this exercise isn’t necessarily to get a lot of work for the discount, but rather it is to have your park at the top of your customer’s minds when they do decide to go for a summer getaway.

3.)    “Selfie” contest.  Taking pictures of yourself with a smartphone is all the rage, so why not capitalize on the fad.  Have people take pictures of themselves in the park and post those pictures on a wall, even better, put the pictures on a flash drive and have them rotating on your TV in the office or common area.

4.)    Celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week – The first full week in May has been designated as National Travel and Tourism Week.  Plan special events to celebrate travelers and tourists, even if you aren’t considered a destination park.

Some ideas would include inviting your local CVB (Convention and Visitor’s Bureau) out for snacks and a tour of your park.  After all, they recommend places to stay and if they don’t know what you have to offer the odds of you being one of those recommendations are quite low.

5.)    Press Release – Create press releases around each of these events.  You can write them now and be ready to hit the send button a month before the event.  Send these out to your local media, post the release on your website, email the release to your email list….In other words, write your press release so that you get the most out of your effort.

Hopefully, these will get you started thinking about what you can do to promote your business in 2014.  While your current marketing effort may be working for you, it does get stale for the customer, so let’s shake it up a bit and add some new efforts.

Need some more inspiration?  Give me a call and let’s brainstorm.  What have you got to lose besides a phone call?

By Pamela Wright  copyright 2014

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5 End of Year Tasks

Wow!  Where has the time gone?  Here we are in December already and I still have a number of items on my yearly “Get It Done” list.

Here are my end of year, must be done, don’t let it go into next year tasks:

Don’t forget these 5 must do’s.

1.)    Domain Name.  Yes, I already have my domain name but I haven’t been very diligent in protecting that name.  This issue was brought home to me very recently by new client.  He was having problems viewing his website, wasn’t receiving any of his emails and didn’t know what had happened.

To make a long story short, it seems he didn’t have the login information, didn’t know who his host service was and was at a total loss.

After some investigation I found that someone had neglected to pay for the domain name when it came due.  When it went back into the available names register, a company bought the name.

Now comes the really bad part.  He had bought a ¼ page ad in Trailer Life (which we all know what that costs) that listed the website and email address with the domain name that he no longer owned.   All of his collateral materials used this address also.

When I contacted the new owners to try to buy the name back, they were willing to sell it for $5,499.  That’s right, five thousand four hundred and ninety-nine dollars.

Morale of the story:   Create a document (I call mine “Critical Info”) where you store your domain name, domain host name, login information and dates of when you paid for the name.  Put your due date for renewing the domain name on your calendar with a notice for 30 days prior to the due date.  Do not depend on your webmaster/designer to maintain this information for you.  All kinds of things can and do happen that will leave you scrambling to find out how to log in to your domain name.

Don’t let this happen to you.  Get that information and put it somewhere safe (and somewhere that you will remember where it is.)

2.)    Website:  This is going to be a “Do as I say, not as I do” recommendation.  I’m a prime example of  ”the cobbler has no shoes.”  I do this for my clients just haven’t found the time to do it for myself.  Anyway, at a minimum, schedule time at the end of the year to review your website.  Make sure your copyright date is current and covers the New Year.  Review ALL of your pages for accuracy.  In fact, now is a good time to revise each page if you haven’t done so already and while you are revising, keep the concept of merchandising your website in mind.  Make sure any dates mentioned are for the New Year and do not carry last year’s date.

As with your domain name, add your website host (not necessarily the same as your domain name host), login information and the due dates for the hosting service to your Critical Info document.

If you should decide to change your web designer, it is going to be a whole lot easier on your new web service to get things started.

3.)    Online Advertising:  Now is the time to review how your online advertising efforts are going.  Once again, you need to have a document listing everywhere you have advertised for the past year, website address for the advertiser and login information.

Using your analytics from your website, review how much traffic you have received from the advertisers’ website.  Review who is sending the most traffic to your website and consider bumping up your advertising on that site.

Hopefully, you also took the time to make a CTA (call to action) in the ad that is unique and you have been tracking that in your “How did you hear about us?” information.   This will also give you a pretty good idea of where your marketing dollars are working.

4.)    Offline Advertising:  Has all the money you spent this last year for offline advertising given you a ROI (Return On Investment) that is greater than the money you spent?

Again, the key here is to have a unique CTA that you can track.  Easy CTA’s are things like “Mention this ad for a 15% discount on your purchase” or “Bring this ad in for your free gift.”

Just insert these into your ad and when your customer asks for the discount, you ask where they saw your ad.  Easy-peasy.  Now you have a better idea what is working and what isn’t.

5.)    Collateral Materials:  Pull out all of those flyers, your brochure, your business card, anything you have used to give potential customers information about your business.  Review them again for the accuracy of the information.  One thing that I have seen a lot are brochures that don’t have addresses, or the phone number doesn’t have the Area Code.  Get started with your revisions for your next print run.

While we are at it, let me vent on one of my major pet peeves.  If you are going to use a copier to make additional flyers, do it professionally.  Don’t use a copy that wasn’t centered on the copier screen.  Don’t use a copy that has toner smeared on it.  In other words, don’t use a copy that doesn’t present you and your business in the best way possible.

These are just a few of my major review points.  I’m sure that you can come up with more with just a little thought.  While it would be great if you could do each of these more often, doing them at least once a year and at the same time will help you make all of your marketing and advertising materials stay consistent.

Need help in getting your Critical Info document set up?  Give me a call and I will get a basic template off to you.

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DIY or Buy?

There are a lot of points within our daily businesses where we get bogged down in the details to the detriment of our overall success.   Deciding whether to purchase or create our own systems becomes a critical component for how bogged down we will become.

Sometimes it’s better to buy than to diy

For years I took a look at various systems and thought, “I can do this myself for a whole lot less.”  (Sound familiar?)  What I didn’t take into consideration is the amount of time, effort, backtracking because of mistakes and what parts of my business would suffer because I was developing a new system.

That last one is major.  While it can look so easy to create a quick and dirty Excel spreadsheet to track the ROI on marketing efforts,  invariably I found myself redesigning the spreadsheet because there were columns I hadn’t incorporated, formulas that weren’t working the way I expected or information that I hadn’t considered.

At the end of the day, you need to decide whether it is worth the time and effort, if it would be cheaper to purchase and whether it is really something you need or just an OCIWO (Oh cool, I want one.)

Here are some rules that I have developed for my business to determine which road I am going to travel.

 

1.)    How badly do I need the item?  (It really doesn’t matter if it is a new system, hardware, software or Advertising)  While most of us do a pretty good job of considering our real needs for the big ticket items, most of us don’t think about the small ticket items.

I’m really guilty when it comes to OCIWO.  I can’t tell you how many times I have signed up for a trial package, only to run out of time before I had a chance to really figure out whether I really needed what the package offered.  And then to add insult to injury, I have forgotten to cancel the subscription before I was charged for the first month.

Even if it is only $9.95 a month, it is still $9.95 that I could have spent on something else and $9.95 over a year amounts to $119.40.

 

2.)    How much is my time worth?  This can be a tough one.  Start by asking yourself, “If I were to apply for a job at another company, how much would I have to earn to enjoy my current level of happiness?”  I find it easier to consider a yearly salary and then break it down to an amount per hour.

Here is the real trick to this calculation.  You need to consider the benefits that being employed by someone else will provide you, i.e. FDIC payments, medical/health insurance, sick pay.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that private industry payroll costs averaged $20.47 per employee hour worked.

 

3.)    Can I turn out a professional looking product?  We all have areas that we thoroughly enjoy dabbling in.  But here is the real key, dabbling does not equate to being able to provide a professional quality product.

I have seen many websites, brochures, flyers, etc. that scream “done by an amateur” when you really want the opposite impression.

Use your ideas and your words but take a long hard look at how well you can deliver the finished product before you decide to do it yourself.

In the long run paying a professional to do the job will give you a much better return on your investment and will free up your time to concentrate on how well you business is doing.

 

Once you decide to buy the expertise you need, there are a number of places to look for help.  Your local college is a great resource for people who need the exposure and the experience that you are going to offer.  Contact the instructor for the discipline you need, explain what you are looking for and then be prepared to give a detailed description to the person you are hiring.

Use your local Chamber of Commerce and see if you can get a discount by using someone local.

Social Media is a great source.  Check with people in your network on LinkedIn to see if they know of anyone or if they are able to help you.

Look at your current employees’ background to see what they have experience in.  You may be surprised to find that they have a great deal of knowledge and would welcome the chance to show you what they can do.

Once you decide to let someone else take on the tasks that keep you tied up and away from really running your business, you will be surprised to find how much more time you have to truly manage your business.

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Are You a Copycat or an Original?

Watch TV commercials, look at display ads, and check out the Facebook business pages.  You are going to find that they have a very similar look, feel, and give you the impression that they were all written by the same person.

Being original will make you stand out.

It all goes back to the idea that if your competition is doing it, then you have to do it also.  While that isn’t such a bad idea, just copying what someone else is doing is a lousy idea.  Why?

It all goes back to branding.  If the marketing that you are copying is closely associated with your competitor, then you will be helping them drive THEIR message home.  You won’t be creating your own brand and driving your customers to you.

Let me give you an example.   If you take a look at ads for any RV dealers in your area, you are going to see pictures of a bunch of RVs.  If you look at the commercials, you will see a person (usually the owner or manager) standing in front of all the RVs on the lot telling you what great deals there are just waiting for you to take advantage of.  If you look at the Facebook business page for any RV park, you will see a lot of posts about the activities for the next week.  I dare you to remember which ad was for which company.

Take a look at your website.  Does it look like all the other websites out there for everyone else in your industry?

The problem here is that nothing stands out.  Everything starts to blur together and the person that you are most interested in, the customer, loses interest very quickly.

What can you do?  Let’s revisit some basics.

1.)    While you need to keep track of what the competition is doing, DO NOT copy what they are doing.  Think about what you can do to stand out from the competition.  It can be a real challenge but keep the old Apple motto in the front of your mind….”Think Different.”

2.)    Make sure that every piece of marketing material you produce has a call to action.  You can have the most beautiful ad in the world, but if it doesn’t tell the reader what you want them to do, you have just spent a lot of money for a very small return on your investment.

3.)    Find someone that you can bounce your marketing/advertising ideas off of.  Even the most creative person needs constructive criticism.  This person isn’t your business partner, your employee or your best friend.  This person is someone who is willing to be totally honest with you.

4.)    Don’t be afraid to step out there and try something that no one else is doing.  Do your homework and make sure that your audience is really where you are headed and then take a step out here and do it.  If no one else is marketing to young families, find out why.  If the reasons don’t seem to be reasonable and you believe that this market is being underserved, then go for it.  Don’t sink your whole marketing budget into this effort until it proves to be successful, but also don’t ignore it just because everyone else is.

5.)    Too many ads are obviously put together by the advertising sales person and not by the business owner.  Yes it is a lot of work to find someone to design your ad and the cost of getting the ad designed is included in your ad rate.  However, if the ad doesn’t bring the customer in you have just wasted all of that money.  Find someone to design your ad for you.  They will have your interests at heart and not the interests of the business that is selling you the ad space.

6.)    We have come full circle.  Encouraging the hometown feel to your business will encourage more sales and in turn will begin to develop the customer loyalty that we are all looking for.

We have come full circle.  Encouraging the hometown feel to your business will encourage more sales and in turn will begin to develop the customer loyalty that we are all looking for.

My last piece of advice is to not be afraid to be yourself and put that image into all of your marketing materials.  All of your customers want to feel like they know you and because they know you they also know what kind of business you have.

Need help in deciding whether your idea is worth moving forward with or finding a graphic artist?  Give me a call.  I’m sure that between the two of us we will be able to get you headed in the right direction.

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Are You a Waffle House or a Popeye’s?

My husband and I enjoy going to the local Waffle House for breakfast,
whether it is early morning, late afternoon or early evening.  The one thing

Give your customers a community

that we can depend on when we walk through the door is that everyone behind the counter will look up and say “Good Morning.”

We also frequent the local Popeye’s when we want a quick dinner of fried chicken.  One thing that has happened frequently is that anytime a mistake is made, by either the cashier or me, the cashier will give me a free soda, free pie or free fries.  In fact, I can almost guarantee that when I go to Popeye’s, I will come out with something free.

Why am I telling you all of this?  In both cases, it appears that the business was going out of its way to please the customer.  However, there is a very telling difference.  In the Waffle House example, the business didn’t incur any loses by greeting us with a hearty Good Morning.  In the Popeye’s example, something of monetary value was given away, which in turn takes away from that day’s net profit.

Those are the obvious differences.  But there is another, more subtle difference.  At the Waffle House, being greeted at the door with a hearty Good Morning makes me, the customer, feel like I am coming into a community that knows me and enjoys having me around.  This is a good thing and has me coming back to the same Waffle House, even if there is another choice for a quick, cheap breakfast.  In other words, they have created a loyal customer without any added expense.

Now I will admit that if the quality of the food were to go down, my loyalty to this particular business would come into question; but as long as my expectations are met with the product, the fact that the business makes me feel not only welcome but a member of their community, I will continue to frequent this particular Waffle House.

Now let’s take a look at Popeye’s.  Obviously, the business had a problem with customers who were unhappy with their level of service.  To correct this problem, management decided to instruct their employees on making sure the customer is happy even if it means giving away product.

In both cases, the business was trying to create a community around their customers; however, in the case of Popeye’s, the attempt failed miserably and affected the bottom line even more harshly than in the case of Waffle House.

After the third time of getting a free desert, I left the business feeling like I had cheated somehow.  I had gone in and placed my order and paid for it as usual.  I then remembered that my husband had asked me to also pick up an apple pie for him and told the cashier that I needed to order one.  Instead of ringing up the request, she added the apple pie to my order and told me that it was a no charge item.

Instead of feeling good about getting something for free, I left the business feeling like I had somehow cheated.  I had been willing to pay for the order, so why should I feel guilty?  Because I knew that what the cashier was doing was wrong.  And by participating in the freebie, I was wrong.

Now, instead of a happy, loyal customer, the business has created a customer who feels guilty about any changes to their order, is uneasy with the freebies, and does not feel like they are a part of the community.

What has all of this got to do with your business?   When a customer walks through the door do they feel like they have come into a community that they want to be a part of?  Are they welcomed warmly and naturally, or does the welcome come off as someone reading a script?  (This is especially important with telephone calls.  Can’t tell you how many times I have come away feeling like the person on the other end of the phone is bored with their job and just going through the motions.  Not someplace I would like to patronize on a regular basis.)

When a customer complains, how do you handle the complaint?  Handling complaints is not for the faint of heart or for the inexperienced employee.  It takes quite a bit of finesse, patience, empathy and conviction to effectively answer a customer’s complaint.  Just offering a freebie isn’t going to create customer loyalty.  In fact, it may very well work against you.

Too many businesses consider the employees who have the first interaction with a customer as the least important of the roster, when, in fact, they are the most important.  Remember the old adage, “You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.”  Train your frontline in how to create that community feel and watch your customer loyalty increase.

 

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