Marketing Smart: How to Know Your Target Market

Make sure you hit the target with Bootstrap Graphic.

Recently, I’ve been noticing a pattern among business owners when I ask them about their target market.

They don’t know their target market.

There are two ways in which many business owners do not know their target market:

  1. They have never spent the time to decide who exactly they want to reach with their product or service.
  2. They have decided who to reach, but yet haven’t conducted market research to acquaint themselves with their target market.

Many businesses think they can appeal to everyone. A home repairman, for instance, may think any homeowner would make a fine customer. But what about niching your service? Instead of saying you’re a home repairman, why not say your specialty is working on homes built before 1970? Then you have a niche that allows you to become very specific with your branding, your market research, and development of your services. It requires a different type of preparation, perhaps, but well worth it.

For instance, as a home repairman for homes built before 1970, you can then scour the internet and bookstores for common home repairs for older homes. You can research which products on the market would be best for such repairs. You can also search your local area for homes that fit your niche and conduct a very targeted direct mail campaign.

Once you decide who your customer is, marketing becomes so much easier!

If you already know who you want to reach, you need to then find out what they want.

Notice I didn’t say what they needed, but what they want. They may need a new vacuum cleaner, but what they really want is the security of knowing their house is free from allergens. They may need to purchase a car, but what they really want is the feeling of belonging to an elite group of customers who can afford a luxurious ride.

Think of it this way. People want:

  • Wealth
  • Love
  • Success
  • Security
  • Acceptance (A sense of belonging)

If you look at some of the most successful brands, you’ll start to notice that they focus on hitting those needs. Apple has rabid fans because Apple learned how to make the fans feel like the coolest kid on the block. Michelin Tires succeeded because they focused on keeping the driver secure on a slippery road.  Cadillac cars are sought-after because it proves a person has reached a level of success when they can afford one.

Market research doesn’t need to be intimidating. You can find out what your target market wants by doing one very simple thing: Ask them.

You can send out questionnaires, but what I recommend is actually asking them in person. Offer an incentive for people to sit down and talk with you or one of your employees. Host an informative presentation and then really pay attention to the questions people ask. Ask the audience if they’d be interested in a certain service or feature in a product. Continue to ask and discover what your customer wants.

After you receive enough feedback, you can use one of the “wants” listed above and wrap it around whatever you may be offering. Presentations are a great way to learn more about your customer. And even if you think you’re too busy to give a presentation (Or just hate the thought of public speaking.), you can still employ a powerful technique that Michelin used:  Listen to what your customers are already saying.

Take the time to develop your own understanding of your target market and you’ll find it easier and quicker to give them what they want!


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The Business of Outdoor Recreation: Create an Event

Spring is fast approaching and with it, a palpable anticipation to enjoy the outdoors. If you have an outdoor recreation business, now is the time to capitalize on that, if you’ve not already started.

Recently, the Pocono Mountains Visitor’s Bureau decided to capitalize on all the sporting events that are hosted in their area by dubbing themselves, “Outdoor Adventure Sports Capitol of  the East.” Since they recently hosted the Ironman, the largest triatholon brand in the country, it was a good call. They leveraged the interest into building post-events and opportunities to tour the area.

If you’re looking to increase your exposure, consider hosting a fun event. Advertise locally but also search for industry magazines, both online and in print. Use LinkedIn to find media connections and learn how to pitch your idea for a story. (Remember: the story needs to be newsworthy, so think about why your event would appeal to their audience, whether it’s for print, radio, television, or the Internet.)

If you already live in a city where there are plenty of events already occurring, leverage it by hooking your wagon to their stars. Look for joint partnerships or sponsorships that make sense. For instance, if you operate a hunting and fishing business, look for opportunities with RV Shows or camping guides. Their audience will most likely be yours.

Events take work but the payoffs are huge. People enjoy them and often look forward to the next one. Adding a bit of silliness to an event (i.e., for fishing: Ugliest Catch) will also keep it fun and memorable. You can also use an event as a reason to build up anticipation by offering special classes or sales discounts.

Opportunity awaits! Create your own unique event, promote it smartly, and you’ll be rewarded!


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My New Hair Stylist Said The Sweetest Two Words to Me

Women and their hair…

Men can joke about how women spend an inordinate amount of time and money on styling their hair, but they simply don’t realize how difficult it is to find a good hair stylist.

Just this past week, I discovered what I call the trifecta of hair stylists. One that:

  1. I liked
  2. Did a great job and
  3. Was within my budget

However, I noticed something that my new stylist did that I could not remember any other stylist doing. And it struck me so powerfully that I realized she utilized a reliable method of connecting with people that is all too often overlooked.

She said my name.

This was my first visit with her, but as she chatted away with me, she used my name a few times. It sounds so simple, right? It also doesn’t seem like it would be that big of a deal, but yet it was.

Because my previous hair stylist had recently increased her price by 30%, I was in the market for someone new. My sister-in-law gave me the name of her stylist, who she had been a client of for years. I gave her a call. Surprisingly, she has been a stylist for over 30 years but wasn’t stuck in a fashion time warp.

She was warm, engaging, and within twenty minutes, had cut my hair into a flattering style.

Dale Carnegie, king of teaching others how to be successful in his classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, said this about names:

Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Using your customer’s name will most definitely win you points. However, you want it to sound natural. If you begin or end every other sentence with someone’s name, you can come off like a high-pressure salesman. But if you sprinkle the name like seasoning into the conversation, and if you are genuine with your intent, people will love you for it.

Using someone’s name makes a difference in online communication, too. I admit that I notice when a marketer took the time to personalize a message to me. Even if I know it was simply a matter of adding a field function within the email template, I still like it.

Learn the names of your customers. This goes for your most loyal customers to those who are just beginning to discover you. Teach your staff to use the first names of people. You’d be surprised how much of an impact it will make.

Using someone’s name makes them realize that you see them as an individual, not just a purchase. After all, we’re all trying to build relationships with our customers. And everyone knows that the start of a beautiful relationship begins with knowing their name.

Start getting to know your customers. They’ll reward you with loyalty!


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Firehouse Subs Scores With Service Recovery!

In my previous post, I expressed a dissatisfaction with Firehouse Subs customer service, or what I perceived as a lack of service.

A few updates:

Firehouse Subs did something that many businesses do not do. They contacted me.

They used the only contact information available to them, which was the Contact Me page with an email address. I was impressed with Paul D. Belle’s response because as the Firehouse Subs Area Representative, he obviously was someone who was alerted to my dissatisfaction and actually did something about it. He wrote a very nice email to me, asking if I would be kind enough to explain the situation so they could rectify it. We corresponded, and the manager of the location I visited was brought into the conversation. All ended well.

The culprit was a cordless phone.

I’m not a fan of cordless phones, mainly because they get misplaced too easily and the battery has the lifespan of a fruit fly. But that’s just me. I discovered Firehouse Subs’ cordless phone had died and that was why it rang without an answer. So after my complaint, and a very courteous conversation with both Mr. Belle and the manager, it was nice to know it was a “technical malfunction” more than anything else.

We’re all in the customer service business. Here are some ways to use this information for your own service recovery plan:

Whenever you’re faced with a dissatisfied customer, listen to them. It’s human nature to defend yourself or justify a certain action or conversation. It’s also difficult not to respond in kind if someone is losing their temper and taking it out on you. Resist the urge. Calmly listen to the customer and repeat their dissatisfaction phrases back to them so they know they’ve been heard. (i.e., “So if I heard you right, Ms. Smith, you were angry because you had to drive across town to return this product only to discover they only receive returns by mail?”)

After listening, provide solutions. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than to vent their concerns and be met with a half-hearted, “Sorry for your trouble. We’ll look into it.” A customer wants resolution. Provide a clear option to her and then ask, “Does that sound fair?” If it doesn’t, ask the customer what would be fair. You may be surprised that all she wants is to make the problem known so something can be done about it.

Follow up with the customer. This is perhaps the most overlooked part of the service recovery process. It may be the most difficult part because so often customer providers get busy and drop the ball on following up with dissatisfied customers. Develop a methodology for your follow-up. It can be automated to a degree, but a personal phone call or email will always trump a form letter. Let the customer know that you’re interested in their satisfaction. If you get this one right, you’ll most likely have a customer for life.

Customer service is all about trust and showing your customer you care about their business. Too many businesses take the customer for granted because they don’t focus on their concerns. Firehouse Subs did an excellent job in reaching out to me, even when I chickened out and didn’t let the manager know my true feelings. We both learned something.

Meanwhile, I’ve become even more of a faithful fan of Firehouse Subs. Thank you, Firehouse Subs, for caring. And, for continuing to deliver the best and tastiest subs in town!


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Twitter Tips: Firehouse Subs Has A ‘Code Three’ For Customer Service!

Owning a successful franchise can be a very satisfying experience, but also is filled with challenges. You only have so much freedom to experiment with your own management approach because you’re ultimately expected to duplicate a consistently enjoyable experience to the customer.

Customers who love Starbucks coffee expect to find the high standard of coffee freshness, whether they’re in Seattle or New York City. Someone who is having a “Big Mac Attack” expects to find their hamburger complete with the special sauce at any McDonald’s they visit. A bucket of KFC chicken should taste the same whether it’s bought in Kentucky or Idaho.

Firehouse Subs is a sub restaurant chain that currently has over 400 locations in the United States. Two firemen started the business in 1994 and I discovered them while living in North Carolina from 1995 – 2000. I immediately fell in love with their delicious, hot sub sandwiches. Not only were their meats succulent, they didn’t skimp on the portions. I can appreciate a good sub just as any burly fireman and the restaurant quickly became one of my favorites.

Just recently, several Firehouse Sub franchises opened up in Columbus, Ohio. I was thrilled! Finally, we had a quality sub chain in town!

However, I don’t remember being as irritated by a lack of basic customer service as I’ve been with our local Firehouse Subs.

This particular location has been open for about seven months. This should be plenty of time to get a crew on board with expectations. However, they’re still acting as though it’s their second day on the job. I’ve been to the restaurant three times and each time, there was a customer service “fail.”

  • The first time, it took a nine-person staff over ten minutes to deliver the sub. The restaurant was two-thirds full.
  • The second time, I visited with my husband waiting for me in the car. I was told that they ran out of a popular sub (Which of course was the one my husband requested.). It was 8:30 PM on a Thursday night. To the manager’s credit, he gave me a card for a free drink and chips. Wait time was still very slow.
  • The third time was today, which tipped the scales against them. If a restaurant has information on the back of their take-out menus that clearly designates a “carry-out” number, then answer the phone and anticipate that yes, people are going to try to call ahead to place their order.

I tried to do that today and was met with an unbelievable lack of response. The first time I called, the guy answered and asked if he could put me on hold. (Who ever says, “No! Don’t do it!”?) I said yes, and then heard him put the phone down (as opposed to placing someone on hold) and then listened as he took the order of five other customers. I waited five minutes and then hung up. I called again. The phone rang 15 times and no one answered. I couldn’t believe it, so I called again. This time I allowed it to ring even longer: 25 times and again, no answer.

By this time, I was very frustrated. So I took my complaint to where I thought I’d get a response: Twitter.  Here are my tweets:

(Yes, I have a typo in that one. I usually delete them but kept this one. I was definitely ranting.)

I then later tweeted the name of the business and location, and then wondered how you could have eight people working behind a counter but no one could answer the phone?

I decided to head to the location and place the order in person, which is not what I wanted to do since I didn’t want to wait that long for my order. When I arrived, I counted 9 staff and interestingly enough, no line. I placed my order and decided to clock their response, just to see how long it took to complete my order. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took two minutes.

But still, with such spotty customer service, it’s tough to imagine it a regular lunch destination.

What is even more amazing is that after I sent those updates on Twitter, I did not receive one response from Firehouse Subs. Obviously, their marketing department isn’t monitoring tweets about their own business.

When monitoring Twitter, set a search for your business name, not just the @BusinessName tag. There may be many people talking about your business but haven’t followed your Twitter account. (And if someone is irritated, there is little chance they want to follow you.) Twitter provides a great opportunity to capture customer loyalty and re-capture someone if they have had a frustrating experience with your company. Many start-ups built a loyal customer base by being responsive to customer issues that appeared on Twitter.

So take a tip from this experience: Monitor your Twitter company account by creating a search for your company’s name and offering. For instance, Firehouse Subs should have searches for “Firehouse Subs,” and “Subs” as well as the hashtags used for food so they can dialogue with current customers and potential ones.

That way, you can put out your “fires” without burning your reputation.


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3 Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn From the Netflix Fiasco

If you’ve not heard, Netflix decided a few weeks ago to nix its plans to split its mail-order DVD and Internet-streaming services. This decision is yet another awkward decision to halt complaints from its customers while building a business strategy that would still be profitable.

There are many lessons to be learned from Netflix’s “back and forth” attempts to appease both their customers and their entertainment suppliers. An obvious lesson is that confusing your customer is never a good idea. As the old sales adage goes, “A confused mind never buys.” Give your customers too many choices and frequently, they’ll chose none.

But there are other lessons.

 

Never tell your customer the reason for raising prices is because it makes financial sense for you.

From Netflix’s VP of Marketing, Jessie Becker:

“At the time, we didn’t anticipate offering DVD-only plans,” wrote Netflix VP of Marketing Jessie Becker in a blog post. “Since then we have realized that there is still a very large continuing demand for DVDs both from our existing members as well as non-members.”

Considering this demand, she wrote, it doesn’t make financial sense for Netflix to offer DVD service as a $2 add-on to its streaming service. Nor does it satisfy the needs of people who only want to use Netflix’s DVD service.

Customers do not care what makes financial sense to your business. What they care about is if your service or product is giving them enough value for their dollar. If you offer something that seems like a good deal — then increase the price, don’t be surprised to hear complaints.

The mistake Netflix made was focusing on the wrong thing. Instead of focusing on their need to increase their pricing, they should have created a message that showed how the price changes would bring more value to their customers. Without that, the customers rightly felt like they were being taken advantage of and predictably canceled their memberships.

 

Don’t mess with your brand.

Netflix had the enviable name that was known throughout the country and entering into global markets. The little upstart company became the “David” who beat Blockbuster. They were known for admitting their mistakes and giving customers a break when they owned up to it. Netflix proved to be a reputable, honest company that clearly demonstrated how it always was looking out for their customers.

And then Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, wanted to break the brand into two separate services.

One service would focus on the Internet-streaming movies and TV shows, and the other would focus on the direct-mail DVD side. This inexplicable decision left many customers (who already were ticked off about the price increase), even more frustrated. Before, they had one account for the streaming service and DVD service. But now, the services would separate, requiring a customer to have two separate accounts and billing information. And who wanted to check two websites to get what they used to have with only one site?

No one.

And so, all of the hard work that it took to build Netflix into a brand that listened to its customers suddenly came to a screeching halt. It’s no wonder many customers decided to get off the Netflix train.

 

Choose your messaging venues wisely.

I ended up having a rather “lively” discussion with my husband about this one.

CEO, Reed Hastings, did something that completely floored me. He sent an email to Netflix customers to apologize for rolling out the price changes in a manner that was seen as “arrogant” by some. He also made this puzzling comment:

For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn’t make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

AOL dialup? Borders? Both became failures but the link to Netflix’s streaming service doesn’t strike me as a smooth comparison. And why associate your name with failed business models, anyway?

But in the midst of the clumsy apology, Hastings turned around and made things worse.

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.

It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.

What Hastings managed to do was announce a brand new approach to Netflix services, in an email, in the middle of an apology.

As a marketer, the decision to unveil something this big, in an email of all places, was wrong. And boy, did everyone let Hastings know it. At this point, I was beginning to feel a little sorry for the embattled CEO.

But the lesson is this: When you are a big brand, you do not make a major announcement that will change your product, in an email. Without a press release. Without a press conference. Without taking into consideration the impact such a decision will make upon your loyal customers.

Large companies and small businesses both have an advantage when they carefully plan their messages regarding a change in their business. When you hold a press conference, or send a press release — you are crafting a narrative regarding your announcement. Plus, when you have a reputation as big as Netflix, it would have been a good idea to invite the press to the announcement so you could address questions. The lack of both a press release and press conference made it look as if Netflix didn’t consider their customer relationships as that important. Their customers didn’t receive a decent announcement. Instead, they got a half-baked apology and then in the midst of that, another change that immediately highlighted its inconvenience.

Businesses will need to change course throughout its history. Few customers expect a product or service to never change. But as a small business, you have the opportunity to create a message that will resonate with your customer. Not make them feel used or taken for granted.

Show the value to your customer and treat them right. If you’ve been a business that goes the distance in serving your customers, there’s an excellent chance they’ll stay with you. Just don’t do what Netflix did. Their stock numbers are still reflecting the fall-out.


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Small Business: Don’t Make the Same Mistake As Starbucks

Recently, a few disgruntled Starbucks baristas have been making the headlines. Whether it’s creating a video about rude customers that went viral or resorting to writing an unflattering term on someone’s cup, Starbucks is failing to deliver their “legendary” customer experience.

Full disclosure: I used to be a Starbucks barista.

To put this into context, I have been a student of customer service ever since I got my first job as an ice cream shop cashier at the tender age of 15. The timeless retail mantra of “the customer is always right” was instilled in me by a father who was a top-notch manufacturing sales rep and said without customers, he’d be out of business.

In 1982, Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. published a landmark business tome, In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies. I devoured the book, fascinated with companies like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and DuPont; and how they achieved success in a fiercely competitive market. I deliberately got a part-time job at The Disney Store just so I could learn how they delivered customer satisfaction. And, I joined Starbucks for similar reasons.

I didn’t just want to learn how Starbucks did customer training, but I looked forward to working in an environment that I knew I’d enjoy. I was (and still am) a coffee aficionado and I wanted to learn the recipes to my favorite drinks so I could make my own.

I still have the training manual from 2003 (the “Learning Journey Guide”). From the introduction letter inside, the barista is expected to deliver a true “Starbucks Experience”, upholding Starbucks high standards with every customer, with every product, every day, on every shift. (Emphasis in the letter.)

I only worked part-time, and as a result, didn’t receive enough experience “on the bar” (making the espresso drinks) in order to ever fully feel confident. But I did an okay job with the drinks although my strength was definitely working the register and connecting with the customers as soon as they came through the door.

I’ll never forget the man who came in on a Saturday morning to get a hot coffee drink for his pregnant wife that had ten various customizations on it. I busily marked the cup and the barista rolled their eyes at me after he left. We both shook our heads over the complicated order. And then the next day on my shift, the same man returned saying, “You guys did such a great job yesterday with the drink that I’m going to get another one!” Oh, joy.

Did we deliver it with a smile? Of course we did. But there’s a saying Starbucks employees have when they get frustrated with overly demanding customers: It’s just a cup of coffee. It helped restore our sanity after trying to meet the high expectations of a particularly demanding customer.

However, this begs the question: where did these demanding customers come from?

And the answer is: Starbucks.

Starbucks began the battle between barista and customer by elevating their brand into an elite symbol of success. That young professional walking down the street, clutching the iconic white cup with the hunter green logo is a living billboard: I know the economy sucks. But I’m doing well enough to justify buying a $5 cup of coffee for myself. Go, me!

It was Starbucks that produced a small booklet of how to order more complicated customized drinks that were delivered in Sunday newspapers across the nation. And it’s Starbucks who profusely apologizes to customers who didn’t place their order right the first time and rewards their inability to distinguish between a latte and a cappuccino by showering them with free coffee vouchers.

In other words, Starbucks has become the indulgent parent who denies her child is a complete brat.

What are the results of such conditioning? Surly baristas who are increasingly more frustrated with the customer and customers who believe that dammit, they deserve to be treated like a king or queen because they’re paying $5 for a cup of coffee. It’s a no-win situation.

The take-away is this: make sure you’re not setting the bar so high that your service delivery team can’t consistently satisfy your customers. Don’t encourage unrealistic expectations from your customers. Have a staff member shadow the front line employees to observe and understand what the obstacles are in delivering “legendary customer service.” Take note of unsatisfied customers and work toward an agreeable solution. Sometimes that means a free drink, other times it may mean a discount for their next visit. But use customer loyalty programs carefully to avoid abuse by those just looking for a free ride.

We all know that there will always be a few customers who won’t ever be satisfied. Whether they’ve just had a bad day or they’re a relentless critic always finding fault; it’s a good idea to have customer comment cards so they feel as though their concerns have been heard. However, most customers just want to feel as though they’ve received value for their purchase and as long as a company is taking time to add a few extra-special touches (like a regular who is treated to a discount because the staff knows her), customers will return.

Who knows? You may avoid having a ticked-off employee make a viral YouTube about your business at the end of the day. And you may notice less employee turn-over around the holidays, too. I think both your employees and your customers will be happier.


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How to Rock Your Groupon Special Deal

You have a brick and mortar business. You’re using Groupon or Daily Deals or some such to entice new customers to visit your fabulous location and hope they’ll become regular customers. What will make or break you?

  • Visuals: This includes the exterior and interior of your building. Is paint peeling off the sides? Are your windows dirty? Is your flooring ripped and shabby? Guess what? Your customers are going to take one look, grab their deal, and most likely never return again.

People make decisions in a split-second. Ever hear of the book Blink? In it, the author Malcolm Gladwell talks about how people will make decisions without even realizing it, their brains on hyper-drive, taking in minute details and clues to help organize the data for a quick decision.

One day I walked into an independent craft retail store. As I scanned the room, I noticed many of the signs were handwritten on pieces of paper and then taped to either the display turnabout or on a wall.

Really?

It doesn’t cost much to print your own signs on cardstock. When you don’t make the effort to make your product look good, it’s easy to assume you’re not going to make the effort to make sure your customer is satisfied.

Think of it as a date. You want to look your best, right? It’s no different when getting to know a potential long-term customer. They want to be wooed. So woo ’em.

  • Attitude: This depends on the sort of business you’re running, but if you have staff that are rude and pretentious, they’re likely not going to impress potential customers. Sure, those retail stores that cater to teenagers may get away with it, but even then, a helpful staff is needed. It amazes me how many B2C businesses employ people who are obviously not “people-loving” people.

If you have a staff person who rarely smiles, rarely initiates a conversation, or can’t exhibit a helpful attitude — get them away from the front area. If you don’t want to fire them, then put them to work stocking inventory or cleaning detail. You could be losing customers because Miss My-Face-Will-Break-If-I-Smile is scaring them away.

  • Cleanliness: This is part of “visuals” but I decided to give it a category of its own. Why? Because people are more germ-a-phobic than ever. If they walk into your humble establishment and notice empty gum wrappers on the floor or streaks of dirt on a display case, they’re not going to be impressed.

If you’re too busy, hire a cleaning service. And having an air freshener wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

  • Don’t Lose That Lovin’ Feeling: If you have new people signing up for a special deal, here is the NUMBER ONE thing you need to do.

Sign them up for an email list.

Most of the time, you need an enticement for people to sign up for an email subscriber list, but here’s the cool part: you already DO have a reason and your new customer is standing there, already primed for it. They signed up because they love a good deal.

Entice them by telling them your email list is for special offers and coupons, but only for those on the list. It’s magic. It works.

People love to be considered an insider and it’s even better if they know they’re going to get a deal that the rest of the great unwashed masses know nothing about. So entice them, make irresistible offers, whatever it takes. Just get their name and email address before they leave so you can build a relationship.

And that’s what it’s all about. You want to build a relationship with new customers so they trust you. When people trust you, they’ll buy from you. It’s a courtship, of sorts.

So take a look around your business and think, “Would this attract me if I were someone new, or repel me?” Then make the changes as needed.

Soon, you’ll have the best kind of advertising going for you. Word-of-mouth referrals. Golden!


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Listening To Your Customer

Years ago, I discovered I could get paid to be a part of a market research group. I found a few in my area and signed up. Over the course of the past two years, I’ve watched political ads, tested cold medicine syrups, ate hamburgers (yes, that was fun, although after the third test, not so much…), drank nutritional drinks, and drank coffee. Along with each of those experiences, I filled out forms and engaged in discussions regarding my preferences.

Market research has been around for a long time. Major corporations spend huge amounts of money testing their products to ensure customer satisfaction. Smaller businesses can do something similar and in comparison, it will only cost pennies.

Recently, I spoke with a golf course owner and explained how I wanted to ask questions of the golfers visiting his course. These weren’t course-specific questions, but general ones. He mentioned that he found out most of what he needed to know by listening to his customers. But then he said something that completely shocked me.

“You know,” he said, “I can learn a lot from just listening to them. But then they expect something to be done about it.”

Well, yes! Of course customers hope that a business will listen to their needs and respond. Everyone knows that you can’t please everyone all the time. But businesses are smart to try to please most of their customers.

How can you do this? Ask. It’s as simple as that. Asking customers to fill out a form. Asking questions. Asking how your customer enjoyed whatever it is you’ve sold to them.

And after you’ve listened, make the changes in your business that are needed. Once your customers have entrusted to you their opinion, yes — they do hope to see some results.

One of the best things I did when I had my own coaching business years ago was give free workshops. I might have been giving information to them for free but what I received in return was so much more valuable — their input. I listened closely to their statements, their questions, their hopes and dreams. And then I incorporated those answers into products and services. I created solutions specifically for their problems.

What problems are you solving for your customer? Find out what they are by asking, and then surprise them by going above and beyond with your answer. You’ll be delighting them in no time!


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How To Use Twitter For Your Golf Course Business

Twitter has become not only a popular way to stay in touch with friends, but a way for businesses to create fans and nurture relationships.

One way to make Twitter work for you is to create a strategy. You certainly can jump on Twitter and talk about everything under the sun; but it’s better to know what you want to promote first, and then create a plan around that.

For instance, say you have a fundraising tournament in a August. On Twitter, you can start to ask for volunteers and promote the event by sharing developments. This creates excitement and anticipation, plus can draw in new followers who will also retweet your updates to their followers.

Here are a few other ideas:

    1. Get the staff involved. If you have one Twitter account (ex.: Green Valley Golf), you could ask some of your staff to create accounts that would feature their first name and then the name of your golf course. Such as “John_GVGolf.” Another way to handle multiple users in a business is to allow several people access to the account and ask that they type their initials after an update. So John could update the @GreenValleyGolf account and after his tweet, type ^JS.

 

    1. Keep track of any mentions you receive on Twitter. It’s polite to thank people for their retweets since it creates a sense of goodwill. You also want to track questions. You can save the URL of the tweet by going to the bottom of the update and clicking on the time of the tweet. This comes in handy when you need to forward a tweet to someone in an email for follow-up.

 

    1. Follow other golfers and golf industry accounts. Many times, you’ll learn of breaking news on Twitter before it hits your email inbox through a PR agency.

 

  1. Engage as much as possible. Scan through the #golf search on Twitter to see if there are others you can follow and share information with. You may find some interesting websites you didn’t know about before that could become a partner with you in your promotion.

Developing relationships takes time, but Twitter is a great place to start them. Once you start connecting with people on Twitter, don’t be surprised to find a whole new world opening up. Someone may decide that your golf course is the perfect place for his company’s annual outing, or another person from out of town may decide to visit your course the next time she’s in the area.

Twitter is fun and yes, can be addictive! But once you have a strategy in place for promoting your business, it could also end up becoming one of your favorite promotional vehicles.

Don’t forget to follow us at @BootstrapGrphic! We’ll be happy to send out the word!


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