Categories

Recent Posts

Building a Reputation Through Volunteering

building-a-reputation

“Oh! I know Ginger!” My team often hears that phrase while talking with people at events around Tampa Bay. When the topic of work comes up and they mention Pinstripe Marketing, they frequently get that response. Years ago, after hearing dozens of those exclamations, our former creative director joked, “Geez, we should have buttons!” A project manager agreed and they decided to arm themselves with a response of their own at the next event. It caught on. Although silly, people would actually wear the buttons, causing others to say “I know Ginger; where’s my button?” or “Who is Ginger? I want a button.”

building reputation through volunteering

I am what many would consider “a habitual joiner.” Perhaps suffering from a severe case of FOMO, I wanted to be involved in everything – professional associations, business organizations, non-profit boards – wherever I could surround myself with people (typical ENFP) and give back to my industry and community. By being involved and serving on boards, I had the opportunity to illustrate my work ethic, organization, communication and marketing skills, and (hopefully) that I was friendly and easy to work with.

Through the relationships I’ve built volunteering, I have met some of my very best friends, business colleagues, and, most importantly for my business, clients. In fact, I can directly trace a significant portion of the agency’s annual revenue to connections made from my volunteer work.

Just recently, we landed a new client in a fast-growing segment of the GPS technology industry. When I asked the vice president of operations how they initially heard about us, he said, “I sent a query out to my circle of trusted associates and your name came back twice.” Similarly, when meeting with a local law firm that week, I asked the same question. The marketing director said, “I asked a group of legal administrators and you were recommended seven times!”

While most professional services firms attribute more than 70% of their business to referrals, I know our involvement in the community is responsible for even more. How do I know? Because we have rarely proactively pursued a client.

However, now is the time to leverage that reputation and implement a business development campaign to strategically target new clients. We’re looking forward to growing the business and building relationships with new clients who will ultimately make new referrals.

I understand that we’re all busy, and over the last several years, I have become more selective about where I spend my time. It’s important to identify what organizations will provide what you’re seeking – more knowledge, more connections, or more passion for a cause. Getting involved and serving in trade associations or volunteer organizations is an excellent way to build a network, particularly for introverts who may cringe at the thought of attending a big networking event or non-profit fundraiser. The idea of “working a room” is unappealing to most, but getting to know a small group of like-minded individuals working toward a common mission creates bonds that last.

I wrote this article because we have been planning for 2017 and analyzing many aspects of our business. This year especially, my involvement in the community has really paid off. So whether you are making resolutions or just looking to approach business development from a different perspective, hopefully this is a good reminder. We always recommend to our clients to stay heavily involved in trade associations and the community – for many reasons. Best of luck capturing more of an audience for your business in the new year!

Oh, and let me know if you want a button. 🙂

 

Below are some resources for getting involved and building your own reputation.

Find a Trade Association

Networking for Introverts

Fundamentals of Serving on a Board

 

The Importance of Measuring Client Satisfaction

Tampa Bay marketing firmAre your clients happy with you? You might answer, “Business is good. In fact, it’s never been better!” If that—or something similar was your response—frankly, you haven’t answered the question. You see, customer satisfaction is just one among several factors that motivate buying behavior. There’s also price (a big one!), convenience and brand familiarity. One of those may be the reason for your success. So why is customer satisfaction still a big deal if you have another of these important business-drivers as your ace-in-the-hole? Here’s the thing. Customer satisfaction affects loyalty, so when a competitor matches your best general attribute (and one will, eventually), happy customers stay with you. That’s why you should be measuring client satisfaction.

To gather information that will allow you to evaluate customer satisfaction, conduct a survey or some form of live interview … or maybe both. Take a look at the following questions for your survey subjects:

  • How would you rate the quality of our products/services?
  • Do you feel our products/services fit your lifestyle in terms of ease-of-use and convenience?
  • Are you satisfied with the range of products/services that we offer?
  • Do you feel that our products/services are a good value for their cost?
  • How well do we meet your expectations in terms delivery or provision of our products/services?
  • How satisfied are you with the level of courtesy you receive from our staff?
  • How would you rate the availability of our staff?
  • Are you satisfied with the knowledge levels of our staff?
  • Would you describe our staff as friendly and responsive?
  • If you have ever had a problem or question in regard to a purchase, how would you rate our ability to resolve your issue?
  • What would you say is the public perception of our company?
  • When business with us is concluded, how do you usually rate the experience?
  • Would you recommend us to a close friend or family member?

Please note, the questions above should serve as information reference points for your research. Simply rephrase them to match your own survey format. The questionnaire design should allow easy comparison across all respondents (apples to apples), and you will want to distinguish differences in intensity such as “very satisfied” to “not at all satisfied” for easier quantification. Survey templates are readily available on the Internet (i.e. Survey Monkey, Qualtrics) and many of these are free, so explore your options.

There are a number of ways to conduct your survey including regular mail, email and website, phone or in person. Regardless of which best fits your circumstances, it’s most important for your survey to be randomly drawn from the same population pool—presumably current and/or former customers. As much as possible, avoid letting respondents self-select themselves. (This is one reason that phone surveys and face-to-face interviews may result in more accurate results than mail or online surveys).

Naturally, you’ll review the survey results looking for potential trouble areas. If your “report card” is good to very good across the entire of range of questions with little variance, that’s great! Doubtlessly, you can still find something to improve—even if your customers haven’t noticed—but be proud of yourself. And if you have mostly good customer ratings, with only one or two trouble areas, at least you now know what to work on—immediately!

But—just theoretically speaking—what if your ratings are uniformly abysmal? Where do you start? The best approach is to choose the easiest thing to remedy first and go from there. That way, customers who stick with you can see improvement quickly as you set about making things better for them.

One thing you should always do with a customer satisfaction survey, is let everyone know the results. You don’t have to get into details (especially if the results, were really, really bad), but make it plain that you value the feedback you received, note that areas for improvement that will be getting your immediate attention (and possibly the specific steps you’ll be taking) and promise to continue to maintain high standards in the other areas (a little humble-bragging never hurts anyone). And if (theoretically) you got a massive FAIL on your report card, let your customers know how hard you’ll be working to regain their trust. It’s been done before, very successfully, so don’t panic and get to work.

Customer surveys, just like any other, need to be carried our consistently over time in order to measure progress toward your customer satisfaction goals. Because, ultimately, happy clients are your best defense against determined competition.

Some of the information in this article was culled from Customer Satisfaction Surveys & Research: How to Measure CSAT.

Other links to check out:

12 Steps to Creating an Effective Customer Survey

How to Develop and Effective Customer Satisfaction Survey

How to Write a Customer Survey

How to Speak to Your Ideal Customers

ideal customer relationship
Earlier this year, we shared our thoughts on how to identify your ideal client. This month, we’re going to consider what to say to them once you know who they are.

Speak to their concerns – Whether from surveys, conducting focus groups, or simply talking with a sizable portion of your client base, you’ll have developed a fair understanding of what the majority of your customers have in common. Most importantly, this intelligence should include understanding problems that you can help them solve, or goals that you can help them accomplish. Your messaging needs to speak to these concerns at the very outset of a communication in order to get their attention quickly. Then once a prospect is paying attention, don’t beat around the bush in stating how your business can meet their demands.

Impress them with your expertise – If you’re conducting a business-to-business campaign, you want to show that you understand your client’s livelihood. Therefore, in the course of explaining how your own company will meet their needs, throw in some terminology or phrases that are specific to their industry. Don’t overdo it (and for heaven’s sake, verify that you’re using your ‘key words’ correctly!) but demonstrating familiarity with your customer’s industry will increase their confidence in you. Additionally, and for any sort of customer, be sure to mention any awards, designations, or professional qualifications that you have as an aside to your main message.

Recognize their individuality – You’ll be assuming members of your target audience have many things in common, but don’t forget what folks say about the word ‘assume.’ Craft your mass-audience message to acknowledge that no person or organization is exactly like any other. One of the easiest and least obtrusive ways to do this is by using the word ‘you’ in your advertising copy. (FYI, the individuality-vs.-mass-appeal conundrum is why you often see phrases like “if you …” or “whether you …” in marketing copy.) And anytime you can easily customize communications with a client’s actual name, do so.

Acknowledge (and defend against) objections – If you’ve spent any time at all your business, you already know why a good portion of your prospects are hesitant to become customers. There’s no use pretending these objections don’t exist, so the best course is to meet them head on. (This will also reinforce that you understand their interests.) Be first to cite their concerns. and explain how much better off—overall—they will be once they decide to do business with you.

Offer proof of your value – As one excellent way to defend against objections—as well as show that understand your customers—is to provide them with real-life examples of your success. This could be as simple as brief customer quotes, or as detailed as a lengthy case study. And while you may not want to prominently include this element in all of your communications, we do recommend letting prospects know that such testimonials are easily available for their review.

Presume a long-term relationship is in the making – This is not something that you should necessarily spell out in your marketing communications. Rather it’s a thought that you should always keep in the back of your mind. That is, speak to your customers as if you both want and expect to serve their needs for years and years to come. Maintaining the mindset of an enduring relationship is a very good way to witness a happy self-fulfilling prophecy.

Below are some more resources on building client relationships:

 5 Tips for Building Strong Relationships with Clients

10 Steps for Growing Your Keys Accounts Infographic

Relationship Building for Business and More

relationship building for business
Relationship building is a fundamental facet of life – we meet people, we connect with them, we become friends with them. Building relationships happens over time, and as time goes by, acquaintances become friends through common interests and shared experiences. Perhaps we’ve known a person long enough to have watched their children grow or were present during tough life events. The longer you know someone, the more you share. These shared experiences form bonds and serve as the foundation of a more profound friendship, but this type of relationship affects our professional lives as well.

Friendships and business relationships overlap fairly often. One of the things we have learned over time is that business relationships often evolve into friendships, and vice versa. Someone who has been a friend for years may one day open a door that you never knew was there.

Case in Point

This is a story about a small network of three people who were connected in different ways, with names changed for anonymity.

September was on the hunt for a job, and her first search terms pulled up a website for a company that she had never heard of, despite the fact that it was right down the street from her old photography studio. She looked over the website and thought the company looked interesting, so she prepped her cover letter and resume and thought she would give it a shot. Sending an unsolicited resume is often fruitless, but September knew that sending hundreds of resumes out would be more likely to yield a collection of viable results. She sent her resume to every single email address she could find.

Diana received September’s email and read over the cover letter with curiosity. She was intrigued, so she decided to do “the search.” First, she went to LinkedIn and discovered that she and September shared a number of connections, although she had never heard the name before. One friend in particular was William, who was a good friend of Diana and whom she had met years ago through a leadership program. She immediately called William to get the scoop on this mysterious September. William, always one to chat, was instantly excited. He told Diana that she had to hire September, sang her praises almost endlessly, and almost kicked himself for not having made the introduction himself, much earlier.

On the other end of things, September continued her search and had sent her resume to a few more places, not expecting immediate results, but diligently focused on acquiring at least one or two responses within a week. To her surprise, she was to receive a response within minutes of sending out that first resume, certainly a personal record. The phone rang and it was William. It had been quite some time since September had seen or even spoken to William, but he was one of those timeless friends who you pick up with wherever you left off. She was happy to hear from him. William instantly began talking about Diana, the owner of the very company September had just sent her resume to. He was ecstatic for the connection, and told September that he thought it was the perfect fit. He told her that he had just gotten off the phone with Diana, and had a really good conversation.

September emailed Diana when she hung up with William. They set up a time to meet, and their first meeting was such a success that September knew almost instantly that this was where she would end up. William was right. He had seen something in these two women that he knew would bring them together. September accepted Diana’s job offer, and the rest is history. The three of them still have lunch on a regular basis, and September and Diana both are grateful to William for bringing them together.

As you can see from the story, there was one small hole in this network – the connection between September and Diana had not yet been made. Now this web is complete, and they have connected other parts of their web as well, through friendships, business partnerships, and acquaintances. It is quite interesting to think about the vast network of people that we have in our lives, especially for those who are involved in many community activities. Your network could extend much farther than you even realize. Sometimes it takes only one person to bridge the gap, as in this case. Once September and Diana’s gap had been bridged, they realized how many other friends they had in common.

Have you had a similar experience? We would love to hear your stories about networking surprises.

Cultivating the Best Customer Experience

cultivating client relationships

There are satisfied customers – those who have received their products or services and are content with their purchase; there are dissatisfied customers – those whose expectations have not been met; and then there are off-the-charts fans of your business – those clients who have received memorable, exceptional customer service and products. Can you think of the last customer service experience you had that made you a raving fan? Creating this type of memorable experience for your customers does not have to be difficult.

Use Failure as an Opportunity to Improve

We all set out to make our clients happy with the work we do, but we don’t always succeed. Failure to make a client happy with your product or service is not a failure at all – rather, take it as an opportunity to create an even stronger impression. Think of client dissatisfaction as the best time to show just how resilient, patient, and cooperative your company can be. Use negative feedback to improve your future operations and customer service. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you will only get better.

cultivating strong client relationships

Say it with a smile – being personable and passionate goes a long way in great customer service.

Customer Experience is a Part of Your Brand

Great customer service should be a part of your package, not an afterthought. If you find yourself constantly patching up problems and messes, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate your approach. Think of good service as a part of the product you are selling – people are buying your product or service over others because you offer the complete package – a great experience in addition to a great product. Win more sales with great products, win customer loyalty with great service. Be passionate about customer service and show your customers that you care. Find a way to build excellent customer service into your process from the very beginning.

Leadership Leads Good Customer Experience

Realize that good customer service starts at the leadership level. If treating your customers to a good experience is not valued by leadership, then that will be reflected in other positions. Other hindrances to good customer experience are apathy, disorganization, and disengagement of employees. All of these are problems that can be solved by good leadership. Executives should provide training, assistance, and perks for good customer service. A solid client-centric program should have guidelines for providing good service, as well as protocol for addressing problems when they do arise. In the case of Zappos, for example, if clients don’t like the shoes they ordered, no problem! Just return the items with free shipping both ways. The problem of customer dissatisfaction is virtually erased, since they can return the product without worrying about being charged. When you have a great customer experience, it’s because that experience is built into the very culture of the organization, beginning at the top.

Check out a few of our favorite books on the topic of customer service:

The New Gold Standard – The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company

Zappos: Good to Great