June 2015 Archives

How to Create Buyer Personas

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You may already know who your "audience" is, but do you have buyer personas? Buyer personas provide insight into a particular audience so that you can focus your marketing efforts.

By understanding the importance of buyer personas and how to create them you can focus your marketing effort and close the deals that are important to your business growth.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer (or customers) based on research and data from your existing customers. While your audience is similar, a buyer persona takes that often one-dimensional profile and brings it to life.

buyer persona

A buyer persona doesn't just consist of the type of person, but the journey your consumer will take to buy your product and use your product. It encompasses attitudes, concerns and criteria that drive customers to your business. These personas will give you insights into your business and provide quotes from customers so you can accurately align your business to what they desire.

Why does your business need a buyer persona?

Buyer personas provide insight into your customers and where your business should focus its efforts. The more focused your efforts the more valuable your visitors, leads and customers will be for your business.

You have the ability to personalize and target your marketing to get the right message to the correct audience, tailoring each message to each persona your business serves.

In other words, you may know your target buyers are realtors, but do you know what their specific needs are? What is the typical background of your ideal buyer? In order to serve your customers best, you need to understand what they desire and, therefore, can grow your business.

The more research you gather from your customer base the stronger and more accurate your personas will be. Your business could have as few as one or as many as twenty (LocalVox has three).

How to determine a buyer persona

When creating a buyer persona you should consider customer demographics, behaviour, motivation and goals. Remember the more detail you include, the more accurate the persona. buyer persona

You can find this information through research, surveys and interviews with your target audience and current customers. Including a mix of existing and potential customers will provide you with what your current customers expect and came to you for -- and what prospective customers are looking for.

Some methods you can use to gather information:

  • Uncover patterns about how your customers find and consume your content.
  • Create form fields that capture important persona information on your website, such as business size and lead-specific information.
  • Discover what generalizations are already being made by your sales team about the different customers you serve.
  • Interview customers and prospects to discover what they like about your product or service.

Each of these methods will provide you with more information for your buyer personas.

Having detailed buyer personas will help you refine your marketing and sales strategy and bring you more qualified leads, which take fewer resources to close.

Does your business use buyer personas? Let us know in the comments below.

The post Why Create Buyer Personas? appeared first on LocalVox.

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How is Your Sharing Strategy?

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Are you posting content to social media but not getting any response from your audience?

Here are 5 potential reasons why your content is not being shared...and what to do about it.

1. Lack of Visuals - Social media audiences like visual content. If your content is text-heavy, try posting some images, infographics and videos. Visual content is shared more frequently than anything else.

2. Too Promotional - If your content is consistently aimed at selling, then you are not offering your audience anything of real value. Likely your content is also not being seen (Facebook's new algorithms are specifically aimed at reducing promotional content seen in newsfeeds). Try posting content that is helpful, inspiring or entertaining instead.

3. Wrong Time - You may be posting content at times when your audience isn't online. Try posting at different times of day and measure what times generate the best response.

4. Wrong Message - It could be that the type of content you're sharing isn't really what your audience wants to hear (or it's simply not what they want to hear from you). Start switching things up. Create a range of content messaging that serves your audience in different ways, and see what they respond to best. Exploring competitors' pages is often helpful.

5. You're "Lecturing" - If all you're doing is posting content and you, yourself, are not listening to your audience, responding to their comments and engaging proactively with them, then you can't expect them to engage with you. Start engaging in the conversation.

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If you're a business owner, then of course you want to do everything you can to not only gain new customers, but to keep your existing customers loyal to you. Unfortunately, customer retention isn't always easy; customers may leave as a result of a bad experience with one of your employees, a bad product, or even a lower price offered by a competitor. While there are all kinds of customer retention strategies out there, there's one that's been proven to be the most successful.

Develop and Enforce KPIs Among Employees

Because the majority of customers who leave a business do so as a result of poor customer service, the single best thing that business owners can do to retain customers is to implement Key Performance Indicators (also known as KPIs) within the workplace. KPIs should be tied to a company's goals and should be easily measurable. They should also be included in each employee's contract.

Some examples of KPI's that can directly improve your customer retention rate are benchmarks such as:

  • Response time to customer inquiries.
  • Time between receiving and order and fulfilling it.
  • Ratings on customer surveys.
  • Quality control levels on finished products.
  • The actual measurement of your customer retention

At the end of each quarter, all employees should receive a KPI review; during this review, managers and supervisors can determine whether or not each employee is meeting those key performance indicators as outlined. If not, then corrective actions may need to take place, additional training may be required, or the employee may not receive a special bonus or incentive.

On the other hand, if KPIs are met, then the employee should be rewarded in some way, whether it be financially or even just giving him or her some form of recognition within the workplace.

How KPIs Improve Customer Retention

There are many ways in which implementing and tracking KPI requirements among employees can help boost customer retention in any business. For starters, employees will have a greater incentive to deliver service to customers that reflects the values and goals of the company. As a result, customers are more likely to be satisfied with their service. After all, an employee will know that he or she could be reprimanded for not delivering the level of service expected and will strive for excellence as a result.

When it comes to customer retention in your place of business, you need to do everything you can to keep your customers around so your company can be as successful as possible - this is good for you, your customers, and your employees. Therefore, if you don't have a KPI strategy in place among your employees, now is the time to start thinking about developing and implementing one.

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Social media at its best is an experience that is highly interactive and lots of fun. The question for businesses is: how do we create that experience for our audiences?

Sometimes great content isn't enough. Sometimes the answer is simply to play. By "gamifying" the social media experience, you create a playful online environment in which your audience will want to participate. Note: even more "serious" B2B companies can achieve great results through gamification.

Here are some thoughts to get you started:

1. Show it - From caption contests to selfie uploads, utilizing images as part of the game can be highly effective. When those images also involve interaction with your products/services (eating your food, shopping at your store, demonstrating your software in action), then your audience is doing your marketing for you.

2. Think it - Challenge your audience with riddles, brain teasers, puzzles that they just can't resist solving.

3. Stretch it - Games with multiple parts prompt ongoing engagement. Whether moving through levels or seeking treasures in scavenger hunts, there's something to be said for making the experience last.

4. Work it - Your employees can be your greatest advocates. Give them incentives to engage, and make it worth their time.

Don't forget to identify a reward that will create an additional incentive for participation. Rewards can be physical (gift cards, products, etc.) or virtual (points, badges), whatever will drive your audience most.

Work and play don't have to be mutually exclusive. Throw a little fun into your social media mix, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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Storytelling, storytelling, and more storytelling.

Seems like every marketing book, blog (including mine if you've been reading this week's posts) and study is talking about how we should be using storytelling as a marketing technique.

I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, I think most attempts fall short.

Earlier this week -- I made the point that A) It seems that despite all the hype -- we're doing less real storytelling today and B) storytelling is hardly a new tactic.

Marketers clearly believe that storytelling is a critical component of their marketing efforts.

As you can see by the chart above, according to a previous B2B Content Marketing Trends survey conducted for Holger Schulze for Optify, 81% of respondents listed engaging and compelling storytelling as one of the three most important aspects of content marketing.

So -- no argument that marketing's version of storytelling is critical to a business' communications success.

The question is -- why are so many companies doing it badly and not experiencing the results they want?

The stories don't evoke an emotion: There's not a memorable story around that isn't seeded in emotions. For some businesses, especially those in the B2B sector, it's hard to imagine what emotions their products or services might trigger. That's because the marketers are staying at the features level of sales, not delving into the benefits that lie beneath.

It might be as simple as your prospect is afraid if they make a bad decision, it will cost them their job. Or it could be that what you sell is helping your clients fulfill their reason for existing -- which to them is very emotionally motivated. If you dig deep enough, you'll find the emotions behind your stories. Be sure you expose those in your storytelling so that your audience can relate to and empathize with the people in the tale.

The stories don't use data to lend credibility: As we discussed in my post about the Revolutionary War book -- what made those stories so dramatic and grabbing was the facts that were dotted throughout.

As the folks at the Content Marketing Institute points out in this blog post -- data can be used in a variety of ways to tell your story. Think visual data like an infographic or let the data suggest a new angle or insight for both you and your audience.

The story doesn't take us on a journey: In marketing's version of storytelling, we often take shortcuts to get to the big reveal. But in doing that, we rob the audience of the arc of the story. Every story is, in essence, a journey that chronicles the the problem, the fight to solve the problem and how things are better once the challenge is resolved.

But a great story lets the journey also help the audience see the motivations, frustrations and worries of the characters while they try to face the problem. The outcomes are also wrapped in more than just the tangible results. When the story is rich with details - we also learn more about the intangible results and ultimate value of delivering the right solution.

The story doesn't include a next step/call to action: Here's where most marketers really miss the boat. A well crafted story draws the audience in, helps them connect with the main character and feel their common pain. As the story evolves, the prospect is pulling for the character -- because in reality, the character bears a striking resemblance to them. They experience the ups and downs within the story and as the story delivers the happy ending -- the prospective customer is thinking and feeling relief and a desire to share in that sort of outcome.

So marketing's version of storytelling is all too often, a big tease. You led them right to the edge -- get them hungry for what you're selling but don't give them a clear and defined next step. Ask yourself -- what do I want them to do next and be sure you make it easy and quick to take that next action.

If you don't include this as a part of your storytelling -- the whole point of telling the story in the first place is wasted. You aren't a court jester earning your supper. You're trying to help someone decide whether or not you hold the answer to their problem. Once you demonstrate that you are the right choice -- be sure you give them a chance to tell you so.

What do you think? Can you tweak the way you're telling your company's story so that it drives leads and sales?

Drew's original post can be found as his blog Drew's Marketing Minute.

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Frances Leary outlines three questions that will help businesses determine what social media platforms they should be using to propel business growth.

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FREE. No Cost. Complimentary. No charge.

Have you noticed? We have gotten so used to getting things for free that it's nearly impossible to find any product, service, experience, or program that doesn't include something given away for nothing at some point in the selling cycle.

The trend to free is certainly not new. I remember "free" sticking it's claws into my business back 15 years ago when I was in the women's underwear business.

Originally, we offered a twice yearly sale at 20% off. Then people got numb to that so to maintain our numbers, we went to 25% off twice a year.

Then customers had to be enticed with Buy 2 Get 1 Free (or 33 1/3%) off. Now it's Buy 2 Get 2 Free.

Without FREE, women stopped buying. This trend to FREE killed the department store business and forced manufacturing offshore.

Now let's take a look at what's happening in the service and information sectors of business....

Why Free Stuff For Business Has Taken Over

Information may mean power, but we sure don't want to pay for that power.

One massively successful marketer wrote his book, and sold it on Amazon FOR FREE for an entire week. Why? To get it on the Amazon best "seller" list of course. Amazon counted free downloads as sales!

More and more you find books and e-books, audio courses, video courses, entire modules of programs, free sessions, free masterminds, free blogging services, free free free everything. I've seen courses and programs overblown with bonuses and freebies to entice the sale. They are so overblown with bonuses the customer has forgotten what the main value proposition is.

So who's buying anything with real money?

Great question.

It is taking more and more for people to part with their money for even high-value content and services.

Why?

Because we have trained them to expect almost everything for nothing. We who use FREE are responsible for this dysfunctional mindset.

I recently saw something that just about blew my mind:

I was reading a question in a very popular marketing forum.

One business owner posted the question: "Is clothing deductible on my taxes?"

Seriously?

Asking marketing entrepreneurs whether they think clothing is a valid tax deduction vs. asking (and paying) your highly qualified CPA for the best answer for you and your taxes?

And the business owners in the forum answered! As if they know or are qualified to know.... they don't know the question-asker's business entity or her tax situation.

Free is costing you a fortune.

That's right, I said it.

  • If you are trying to piece information to help you grow your business - with free information
  • If you are trying to get legal advice to protect you as you grow your business - with free advice
  • If you are trying to use free financial, marketing, business planning, production, web development input

.......your business is pretty likely going nowhere fast.

I can give you example after example of people who got free websites from "friends" that took ages to finish and are still not properly designed and developed.

I can give you case after case of people who bartered for business plans. Guess what? Those business plan writers suddenly vanished in the middle of the project leaving these folks high and dry.

Like you, I love getting free info, reports, books, but understand this:

There is a really high price for not paying for quality, service, or information. It's going to cost you much more in the long run in time, mistakes, and effectiveness.

I see this FREE mentality as an addiction; a disease that is killing off robust, healthy, responsible enterprise.

Expecting a lot for nothing. As a business owner and professional: do you see anything wrong with that equation?

One of my favorite business gurus, Michael Hyatt recently wrote a great blog post on How To Use Free To Drive Your Marketing Strategy. In his post, he also shares his concern about free as a business strategy, but distinguishes using free as a marketing strategy.

I can sort of get behind this. Sort of.....

Why? Because where do we draw the line?

We train our prospects and clients how to treat us. Free is a very dangerous and powerful tool.

Use it right, and it can open lots of doors. Overuse it and it's like going on a drinking binge and waking up after a blackout. You don't know where you're going or where you've been.

In Chris Anderson's book FREE: The Future of A Radical Price (Hyperion 2009) he says:

"Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it is."

FREE becomes an unhealthy drug , because we don't have to take any risks. And as humans, we are afraid of loss much more than we are drawn to gain.

So where does that leave you as a service business owner?

Am I recommending No More Free across the board?

Am I being a hypocrite because I still offer some items for FREE on my website and my blog?

Not really.

Here's why:

The Solution To Tire-Kicking Free-Stuff Seekers

I recommend FREE in selective, well-controlled doses.

I recommend establishing very clear guidelines in your own mind about where FREE ends and FOR FEE begins.

Here are my recommendations for you to get off FREE and build respectable FEES so your business can thrive.

1. Train prospects and clients that your knowledge, expertise, information, and tools comes with an corresponding appropriate price.

2. Selectively offer appetizer-sized bits of information and tips to prospects giving them a fair, reasonable taste of what you can do to help them be successful and accomplish their objectives.

3. Stop giving FREE sessions. That's right. I said it.

By offering a for-fee introductory session ( I have no problem offering this initial session at an "appetizer rate") you will quickly learn who is willing to have skin in the game and who is just kicking tires, who just wants something for nothing. If you are the only one with skin in the game, your prospect has zero accountability and values you and your expertise less.

As Michael Hyatt indicates, using FREE as a marketing lever to build your subscribers is a viable strategy. The key is to not overdo it and begin to train your readers and followers that they can get lots and lots of FREE from you and hold off on hiring you.

FREE should be the appetizer, not the meal.

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Networking can be great or it can totally suck.

I think everyone's viewed it through both lenses before. Almost all of us business owners have attended formal networking events where the only thing you were thinking was, "what the hell am I doing here". The other times, we've left events where we were excited at the possibilities of new leads and potential business partnerships. It can be hit or miss.

I wrote a previous article on why networking events are worthless. I'm not here to pee on everyone's networking parade, nor am I against networking......I attend formal and non-formal events almost every week. What I'm saying is that alot of the time, we're not doing it effectively. Either we approach networking the wrong way or we are networking with the wrong people.

Below are 5 times that you're wasting your time networking, at least in my opinion.

1. You network because you're scared of selling

Everyone hates cold calling. Heck, most of us hate warm calling. If only people would just randomly hand us money and beg us to sign a long term contract, life would be grand. If you're not into selling (you better go find someone who is), networking can be a safe haven of soft talk and non-intimidating interactions with "friends". That's alot easier then walking into a business and trying to pitch your value to a skeptical business owner. While networking is good, don't use it as an excuse not to actively go out and sell to potential customers.

2. You network because it's comfortable

Just like above, don't use networking as an excuse to not do the things you really know you should be doing. At many networking events, most of the people are looking to get business, they aren't necessarily seeking to buy anything. Alot of sellers and not enough buyers. They may not be your target market, you're ideal customer is at work, at there business.....probably listening to a pitch from one of your competitors while you're having tea and strumpets with other business owners just like you, "brainstorming" on how to find your ideal customer. Networking is great, just don't use it as a crutch.

3. You spend all of your time networking

Are you a professional networker? If your business is booming, that's awesome, keep at it. If after several months, there's nothing, maybe it's time to re-evaluate your marketing plan. Networking is the offline version of Social Media, it can be highly effective, but can also be a huge time suck if left unchecked. Just like in your personal life, make sure you have balance in your business life. Networking can be fun if you meet the right bunch of people, but don't let it distract you from working on your business.

4. You networking isn't really networking

I've attended networking events where most of the conversations revolved around shopping, family, vacations.....everything except business. If you attend networking events like this, don't fool yourself into thinking your networking for your business, you're socializing with friends. People will argue that this is networking......you're building friendships and relationships. If your marketing plan is to get business by osmosis, then this type of socializing is great.....it's just not effective.

5. Your ideal clients aren't networking- They're At work

Be honest about this one. Are the people you're networking with fit your ideal customer profile, or are they like you, looking to drum up more business? Most of our ideal clients are too busy to network, they are running businesses and have little time to spend on a Tuesday afternoon at the local cafe. While your networking circle may be able to refer you to your ideal client, you still need to go to the source and get them yourself if you want control over your business.

How Effective Is Your Networking?

Networking should be a part of your overall marketing strategy, its not a marketing strategy in of itself. It also shouldn't replace a sales strategy for your business. Put it this way, the guy who walks up to a girl and asks for a date will get rejected several times.....but will eventually land a date. The guy who's afraid to ask for a date will hang around groups of friends.....hoping one of those cute girls will basically "ask him out" so he doesn't have to. Sometimes it works, but you could be waiting a very long time to get asked out.

I could not resist commenting on Dilbert on Social Media: Vague Plans , or costly BS Plans. (Comic by Scott Adams: Dilbert)

A great illustration of the two polar reactions to social media experts.

  1. We don't know exactly what you do nor do we understand what you are talking about so, then you must be right.
  2. Social media experts are full of costly bullsh**t.

People who believe 1. will eventually be disappointed because you are not performing magic.

The people who believe 2. will never trust you.

Part of our responsibility is to educate people about online marketing and to give them value for their investment.

Just because some people believe those one of the statements does not mean that social media gurus, inbound marketers, and online experts have to be that way.

Here are a few things to practice:

  1. Be Transparent: There is no secret sauce. Anyone with a Google Search Engine and some time can learn what you know about social media. Tell people what you are doing.
  2. It's a Science: There is a science to all of this. If you don't think so spend some time on Marketingexperiments.com DanZarrell.com, and SEOMoz.org.
  3. It's an Art: This is marketing and you are asking people to do things like click something or like something. People are different and they react to different things differently. Because something worked once in one situation does not necessarily mean it will work in another situation. Be upfront about the variances but don't be vague.
  4. Don't Over Promise: Just like any business it is important for you to understand what you can deliver and what you cannot. Getting more "likes" on Facebook may not get your client more sales. Be realistic and remember: Under promise and over deliver.
  5. Return On Investment: Measure, track and quantify to demonstrate what your client is getting. Be sure everyone knows what the goal is and how you will show you have achieved it. Offer value.
  6. It's a Tool: Social media is one of the tools in your toolbox and it is not the objective.
  7. Look at the Big Picture: Aligning your skills, tools and methods to your client's goals will help both of you be successful. They say the devil is in the details, but don't drown in a sea of minutiae.

I attended a webinar this morning by Seth Godin, and someone asked him about how to convince people who don't understand social media or inbound marketing to try it.

In essence he said not to bother. The people who think it is bull will continue to think it is bull no matter what. Those who think social media is some vague type of voodoo will never have reasonable expectations. Spend time with those who see the value you can offer and will work with you to achieve their goals.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

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