Transition

Plates Are Steering Wheels

Plates Are Steering Wheels

Plates Are Steering Wheels

 

The Power of Creative Marketing

Our family was preparing to sit down to supper tonight. My two year old son and I had just finished setting the table and had sat down to await a big pot of spaghetti.

As we sat waiting, my son did the most curious thing. He picked up his plate and tilting it sideways, proceed to use it as a steering wheel to drive our dinner table like a truck.

The level of imagination that children have is to be admired.

I got to thinking almost immediately, how much I admired my two year olds perception of things. Where I saw a tool for serving supper, he had found entertainment.

As a self proclaimed content creator / curator for Transition Marketing Services, it was humbling to see just how lacking in imagination I can be.

That is the crux of this post. Creativity will almost always play a larger role in your marketing success, than big, flashy and pricey.

Small Businesses of all backgrounds can make a lasting impact, even on a limited budget, but to do so, we need to harness the power of creativity.

Transition Marketing

We must never be afraid to use our imagination.

Have some fun with your advertising and try something new.

Dominos Sign

Grab your consumers attention, engage them and their imagination. Give consumers a memory, a chuckle, an anecdote to share with their friends and you will have gained more than a flashy ad ever could.

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Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions.

6 Small Business SEO Tips

Small Businesses can still market big.

Small Business / Big Online Marketing.

97 % of consumers polled recently stated that they begin sourcing products and services through online means, a number that is increasing with the on surge of mobile tech.

Regardless of what business one may be in, a website is a necessity.

Creating a website is a careful balance of style and function. It needs to be visually stimulating and it needs to be easy to find.

The term SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the science and engineering that goes into ensuring a website appears at the top of specific search results. SEO is all about making a website the first one a consumer sees and it can take small business online efforts from zero to hero.

Here are some simple SEO techniques any small business can do today to boost its Ssearch Engine rankings:

Basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips:

1. Develop The Website To Be Search Engine Friendly.

Almost every website platform is going to do this anyways. However if when a site is customized, several key areas should be examined. Consider your site map, the HTML or code readability and your Folder structure.

These technical aspects reside more or less in the background of every website. Many website designers  are highly focused on creating an aesthetically pleasing site. The aesthetics and image are very important, however a website that is not engineered properly will seldom be seen.

The engineered background of a website is what matters to Search Engines, it is what dictates the websites ranking in search results. Better search results mean a larger audience and more traffic.

Put another way. A good website succeeds in two areas:

  1. Human Audience: It’s layout and content is visually appealing, and it navigates easily – customers can find their way around without any trouble.
  2. Search Bot Audience: It’s internal coding and structure is virtually appealing, Search Engines can find it easily and quickly ascertain what it pertains to, thus affecting its ranking.

Technical engineering does not mean sacrificing appealing design, it simply needs to be considered an equal partner. When it comes to a websites technical engineering one is best to forget about “style” and concentrate on text based descriptions, content. The more clues a website provides to the search bots, the better.

Enter key words that pertain to your business & industry.

2. Determine What Key Words You Want Associated With You Website For Search Results.

This is most easily determined but quickly writing down the first half dozen ways you personally would search for your site. It is best to ask the same thing from those around you, then cross reference and determine which are the most common ways from all of the results.

A few of the results will likely be the same, those are the ones to be key in on. Once that is done, run each of the search terms and isolate where your site stands in the results. The idea is to be in the top 10 results. This may be harder to achieve, depending on the number of related sites in your industry, and how common your business name is.

Generally speaking if you site does not appear within the first two or three pages, then your site should be examined. Not many consumers have the patience to click through that many pages.

While running the test searches, examine which sites are appearing higher in the results. Are the in the same industry? Are they local or global? Small or large? Do they offer direct competition to your business?

When choosing your search terms, remember that other sites will be fighting for top ranking as well. Keep this competition in mind. You may find it useful to break the trest results of search terms into three categories and then target as such:

  1. Strong Search Term | Low Ranking | Minimum Competition: Your results show your site low ranked, but the search term is highly relevant to your site, and there is not much in the way of relevant competition. Start here. Prioritize them and you will begin to see results quickly.
  2. Strong Search Term | Low Ranking | High Competition: Your appearance in the results is low, the search terms is highly relevant, yet the competition is as well. The high competition should be an indicator that this as a strong opportunity. However your competition is likely entrenched here and it could get expensive trying to punt them.
  3. Strong Search Term | High Ranking: Hurrah! Your site appears high in the results, the search term is relevant and you have clearly risen above any competition. Monitor these terms and ensure you stay on top.

Choosing relevant search terms, and prioritizing your targets should have resulted in at least three strong key words to concentrate on.

Make sure your website is Search Bot friendly. Image source: ezearn.info

3. Your Homepage Is To Contain A Textual Description That Includes 2 – 3 Of Your Top Key Words.

And so we begin melding the artistic and the technical. The content should stimulate the viewer, yet make easy climbing for the Search-Bot-Web-Crawlers.

Simply put: “If you want people searching for your key words to find you, then place the key words all over your site”

Think of your key words as little rock holds for the spidery Search Bots to grab hold of in their search. The more holds your site has, the more grip those little Search Bots will get on your site (that is a good thing).

Keep in mind that you do not want to cover your site in redundant textual info for the sake of the Search Bots as you then lose your Human Audience. It needs to be a careful blend of both worlds.

As you change and adjust your sites engineering and content, monitor the changes in your ranking.

4. Include A Page Or Blog Spot Dedicated To The Top Key Words.

This is a good idea for two reasons:

  1. If provides a natural text space to use your key words (again keep in mind not to overdo it, it needs to be readable).
  2. It provides an opportunity to show expertise and relevance in relation to your key words, and therefore your industry.

Rule of thumb write as if you had five minutes to explain to a friend or family member what it is you do.

5. Ask Colleagues, Industry Partners, Friends & Family To Post Content About You.

Search Engines view external links to a website as an endorsement of sorts. Like references on a Resume.

Asking external sources to post about your business AND include one of your key words within a direct link to your site, is known as a “Link Exchange”. While a useful SEO tool, many look at this as questionable when done in large quantities, or when exchanged with irrelevant sites or content (Ex. A Dental practice Link Exchanging with a Bulldozer rental site).

Mass Quantity Link Exchange Examined:

  • Some businesses and web developers will trade Link Exchange rights with other sites regardless of their content. For instance Herp.com may ask Derp.com to allow them to place a link on their site in exchange for the same privilege – even if the sites have nothing in common.
  • Others developers may go as far as to purchase the rights to share the links on other sites, or even set up a website directly aimed at nothing more than mass Link Exchanging.

There are a few schools of thought on this as an SEO strategy. Many Search Engines, like Google, do not like this type of thing – considering these types of Mass Link Exchange as misleading in relation to relevant content. These Search Engines are beginning to adapt their algorithms to give this sort of link sharing a pass.

Side Note: Google – the Search Engine with highest consumer use – has made it clear that they are geared towards search results based on relevant content, not SEO “cheats” like link exchanging to irrelevant outside sources. As such creating wide spread relevant content attached to your name is becoming important while mass link exchanging may be on the brink of extinction.

Make sure any link exchange you take part in, is relevant and provides relevant content to the reader. No misleading! That is a massive SEO party foul!

Mass Link Exchanging is frowned upon, however done legitimately, Link Exchanging is a great above-board practice for genuine websites with original content.

6. Back Link Your Website To Your  Social Media.

Relevant Content is the key to true SEO. Image source: Inboundwriter.com

I for one avoid Link Exchanging anyways. I prefer to develop my own content and utilize Social Media platforms for independent link sharing.

It is similar in nature and concept, to Link Exchange, in that it is positioning your link, attached to keywords, elsewhere on the web – yet different in that it is not on external source, but still on your own.

The Bonus here is that it is also CONTENT related, so it scores on two SEO levels and works within many Search Engine preferences for relevant content (it keeps the Google bots happy).

By developing a Social Media platform and link sharing your site, you are creating a larger “web presence” and more reason for Search Bots to find you and rank you.

The Search Engines will essentially crawl the content and trace it back to you. The more relevant content you have for them to crawl, the larger your presence and the higher your rank.

 

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds.

We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions.

TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists

13 Small Business Marketing & Sales Tips

Small Business is full of challenges, yet there are many tools and strategies available for success. Below we outline 13 tips to help the small businessman move from surviving to thriving.

13 Small Business Marketing & Sales Tips

Developing a business plan is a must for any small business.

1. Develop A Business Plan. This is absolutely key and not as difficult as you may think. A business plan can (and should) consist of a budget outline, current customer base, current marketing/advertising efforts, current strengths and weaknesses, target markets, areas of high potential and the methods/mediums available to reach targets and high potential areas.

Or more simply put. It should be made up of reasonable goals for your company, the ways available for achieving these goals, the resources available and then a final plan, and a scheduled outline for moving forward.

2. Make It A Long Term One. Every small business is constrained by the almighty budget.

Take some time to determine the areas of easiest and greatest potential gain. Isolate the best prospects for your business then determine how best to access them. Set your goals, make them achievable then proceed.

The key to achieving market goals is to remain consistent in your marketing. Find a plan that works with your resources, budget and availability then stick to it. If you are not certain how best to go about this, many tips and articles (such as the one you are reading) exist.

Or you can contact specialists who can sit down with you and hammer out the right – individualized – strategy for your specific business. You would be surprise how cost effective this can be.

3. Separating Sales & Profits. There are two types of money for the small businessman. Cash & Profits.

  • When you make a sale you make Cash.
  • When you make a sale at more than your overall cost, you make a Profit.

Typically speaking many small businesses have a primary focus on making sales and bringing in cash – a necessary and intelligent step if you wish to survive and maintain a roof over your head.

To move forward as a business however, cash must begin becoming profits. Profits allow businesses to not just exist but to grow. The small business man must analyze where the greatest profit potential lies and develop a plan of attack. These plans can take many forms, and are a necessity for success.

Business sourcing is increasingly shifting to online searches. Is your business visible online?

4. Free Online Listings. Working under the assumption that you already have a website (necessary!) Get yourself listed with Search Engines and get found.

It is said that 97% of consumers search for businesses online. I know that I do. With the advent of mobile technology, online searching has surged. If you are a small business online, increasing your presence is a must. If you are a small business not online – get online!

As Small Businesses we cannot afford to lose even one customer. Creating and then increasing an online presence ensures YOUR business is what turns up when customers are searching.

For things like Search Engine registration no technical expertise is needed. Here are a few good starting points:

  1. Google Business Listings
  2. Google Places
  3. Bing business portal
  4. Foursquare
  5. Yahoo Local
  6. Yelp Claim Your Business

5. Cold Calling Is Not Dead. So unless you are, hit the road. Make the sales calls, contact the prospects and be regimented in doing so. Again, set goals for yourself – three cold calls a day, eight in a week, whatever it is, stick to it.

Build a list of targets – who they are, what they do and why they should be interested in you. Treat it like a job interview, research your prospect and be ready to answer questions. Have at least three reasons they should look to you.

Start with high potential clients first then work your way down. Yes it may seem scary, however it gets easier with time – remember YOU have value for your customers and you know it, therefore YOUR goal is nothing more than to demonstrate that. Don’t focus on selling (it is cheesy) explain and relate – you will see higher success.

6. Keep Following Up. Do not be irritating – but keep your business in clear view of your customers. Remind consumers you are there. Do not barrage them, keep in mind however, that even if they want to purchase from you – they may not necessarily remember you. Stay visible. Follow up.

Survival: All of your marketing exposure, engagement, goodwill and efforts need to lead to one thing – making the sale. Remember that you want more than just the one sale – you want the customer for life.

7. Close The Deal. None of these tips matter if the deal doesn’t go through. Marketing in itself is a means to gain the sale. Yes it creates brand awareness and increases business to consumer visibility, however if it does not result in a sale your business won’t last long.

You need your customers to make the purchase. There are good and bad ways of going about this. Engaging them, building relations, and creating brand trust are all a part of this.

Provide your customers with a strong “call to action” in your Marketing. Provide incentives to solidify the deal sooner. Give them a reason to sign the dotted line.

Don’t be abrasive, but personally and directly ask to take the order and finalize the sale.

8. The Rule Of “Return & Refer”. The rule is simple: If you satisfy a customer, they will return to you and refer you to others. Gaining these two favours is a top priority for any business. Satisfy your customer, then look to them for the repeat business.

Never assume they will remember you years later, so make an impression at the start. Go the extra mile and win their loyalty.

9. Market To Prior Customers (Repeat Business). A solid part of any small business marketing strategy is targeting current and former customers. The first preliminary sale should be considered not the end, but the beginning of your business transaction with a consumer.

Good first impression notwithstanding, not all customers will remember a business name so “market to remind”. Repeat sales typically take less effort and resources to secure compared to going out and winning new accounts – this factors into turning cash into profits. A good portion of a businesses profits will come from these repeat customers.

Make sure your business is still visible to your customers from three years ago.

Image source: Followyourcustomer.com

10. Get A Contact Management System. Every small business needs an organized system for managing business contacts. With mobile and cloud technology it is becoming increasingly easy to setup an online system, accessible from just about anywhere.

You will never need to be without your little black book again. Consider a few of these options:

  1. MS Outlook Integrated System
  2. Salesforce.com
  3. Prophet (By Avidian)
  4. FollowYourCustomer.com

11. Shop Local, Shop Small. If every one of your customers suddenly began making their purchases at the big box stores or online, how would you feel?

That is how the small businesses in your community feel as well.

  • Support your local small business community and they will support you.
  • Build relations with other businesses and make your purchases locally whenever possible.
  • Avoid making the purchases online. Yes there are some deals that cannot be turned away, however small businesses cannot survive if all they are, are showrooms for online retail.

You reap what you sow. Want the community to support you business? Then support them first.

12. Use Social Media. First off Social Media is not going to directly make you profits. Social Media is, in itself, not the means to make the sale.

It is however:

  1. A primary means of increasing online presence.
  2. A direct TWO WAY line of communication with customers.
  3. A monitoring feed for following trends, communications and competitors.

Social Media is a free resource, but as with any Marketing avenue, should be approached with a plan.

  1. Who will post on behalf of your business?
  2. What will they post?
  3. How often will they post?
  4. Who are they targetting?
  5. Why are they targetting them?
  6. How are they to handle direct feedback and/or criticism?

It may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t that scary. Simply sit down and answer each of those questions in turn until the strategy is in place. We also recommend checking out a few of our previous posts on Social Media Marketing:

13. Create An Annual Newsletter Utilizing Cloud Services. We have mentioned newsletters before, however they bare repeating. They are a prime tool for budget friendly Marketing.

No a newsletter does not need to be boring. It is simply put “news”. Broadcast sales info, new products, customer stories… the options are endless – as are the sites that can facilitate this.

  1. Mail Chimp
  2. Constant Contact
  3. Vertical Response
  4. Emma

Now-a-days, by utilizing a cloud service you have access to built-in analytics – that is information on “opens” and “click-throughs” etc. Which is highly useful for monitoring your efforts and the results.

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds.

We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions.

TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists

16 Tips For Marketing On A Budget

Image Source: smallbiztrends.com

Clever Marketing Does Not Need To Always Be Expensive.

Small Business owners seldom have the budget for glitzy or high profile marketing and advertising. Small Business marketing often needs to be as unique and specialized as the business it represents. Here are a few tips for Marketing on a budget.

1. Get On Board With Your Local Press. Most local news outlets have resources available for the local small business community:

  • 1. You can go with a standard ad.
  • 2. A classified ad (billed per word).
  • 3. Issue a press release. A press release is a great way to get free exposure in the local media.

Check with your local papers and see what they have in place.

2. Support A Local Charity Or Campaign. This is something businesses should do either way, however by getting on board with community initiatives you can get a great deal of (positive) free exposure.

You gain terrific PR, build relationships within the local community and lend support to those in need. This is the type of Marketing that truly builds a brand.

3. Sponsor A Local Sports Team. This refers back to supporting local charities or campaigns. It is an excellent way to boost community relations and branding. Just about any amateur team would be glad to don your logo for the cost of a jersey.

It can be a great way to build contacts and good will with parents, athletes and athletics supporters.

4. Local & Online Business Directories. The Yellow Pages are still a consistent resource for most local consumers. Many communities will also have their own local business directory. These can be inexpensive means with which to ensure consistent exposure, primarily to people looking for local and specific services.

There is an slew of online directories available as well, however these should be researched and explored according to their relevance for your industry, your geographic region and their results in search engines.

Bulletin Boards are a free place to post your advertising. They should be utilized with thought towards how they will portray your brand.

5. Use Free Cork/Bulletin Boards. The one caution with this, is to be mindful of how an ad and its placement portrays a business and brand. One can place a printed ad on almost any community cork board – typically free of charge – however they need to be mindful of how it represents the company.

  • Make sure it is a professional and clean ad – it should portray professionalism and associate the business with experience.
  • Place it nicely – square it up, fasten the corners, keep it neat. Don’t slap a thumbtack off centre and call it a day – that looks shoddy.
  • Make it catchy – corkboards fill up fast and typically wind up cluttered. The ad needs to stand out and grab attention.
  • Monitor it – It will eventually wind up behind other posts and ad’s. If this happens it will look dated. Cycle it out with new ad’s to keep it fresh and ensure it is at the top. Many billboard owners like a date placed somewhere on the ad to indicate it’s age (this enables them to clear dated posts) work with them and help them maintain the board.

6. Hand Out Business Cards To Everyone. In the age of online and social media, printed mediums are still highly relevant and nothing reinforces your word-of-mouth campaign like business cards. They are inexpensive and easy to keep on your person at all times.

Typically they print in groups of 250, 500, 1000, 2000 – with costs being reduced with each increase in quantity. Keep in mind that 250 cards can last a long time, so do not be afraid to hand them out and hand out more than one. When we meet with clients we will typically hand them three or four cards, this provides for their misplacing them or handing them out to colleagues.

Business cards are one of those items you want to revise every once in awhile. Hand them out while they are fresh and you will not have a bunch of obsolete cards when you revise your information.

7. Let Fly The Flyers! Going back to the relevance of printed materials, a flyer is a great (inexpensive) way to draw attention from the local community. Included in papers, door to door, or exchanged with other businesses along with business cards – they can increase brand awareness and draw attention to your services.

This ties in nicely with posting free Corkboard ad’s as flyer’s can be utilized also for this purpose.

8. Product Placement / Venue Exchanges. Brand yourself publicly at events and venues with product and logo placement.

Example: If you are a DJ make sure you have a banner, flyers, business cards and wear a shirt with your logo – brand yourself to the public. The amount of business that can be procured at a wedding, by a good photographer or DJ is incredible. Don’t ruin the wedding by networking, but be prepared if guests come to you for information.

9. Hand Out Branded Swag! Whatever your budget may be, there is a Merchandising manufacturer out there that can accommodate, so get some merch’ and hand it out! Useful items like pens, shirts, hats, mugs etc. will get used and make their way around.

As with all other materials, put some thought into type of “swag” that matters to your industry and have some fun making it. The more creative and relevant the merchandise, the more likely it will see use.

People love gifts, it is a great way to establish relations and create a positive experience for your clients. As with business cards, hand them out frequently and freely.

(Hint: Make sure the pens are decent quality – shoddy pens quickly find their way to the bottom of the bin)

Drive your marketing! Vehicle decals and wraps are cost effective and guarantee exposure. Image Source: indepthwraps.com

10. Decal Your Vehicle. Hank Yarbo of late Corner Gas fame exemplifies this concept in a rather unique way with his “Hank Board

A personal vehicle is literally a moving canvas. Brand it with decals and graphics and it effectively becomes a billboard wherever you find yourself. There are a number of businesses that offer this service – the price versus the advertising exposure makes this a top value option.

11. Advertising On Public Transit. Depending on the communities mass transit infrastructure, there can be many advertising spaces available in buses, taxis and trains. Check with your local transit authorities, these spaces can be surprisingly inexpensive.

12. Join Online Networking Communities. LinkedIn is likely the top source for these type of groups. By connecting with groups relevant to specific industries and the local community, one can gain both, an audience and dialogue opportunities.

13. Trade Shows. Local trade shows can be a great way to boost both, customer awareness and client engagement. For the price of a booth or table, one gains the opportunity to network with relevant, and local, small business groups and individuals.

14. Socialize With Media (Social Media). Blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, there are numerous online avenues that (at no charge) provide the opportunity to increase online presence and engage customers, both current and potential.

(Hint: Visit blog posts on “Social Media Engagement” or “How To Find A Good Social Media Specialist” for more information on this)

15. Reward Your Current Customers. Build goodwill with the current customer base and the word of mouth campaign will pay back the efforts a thousand times over. Offer incentives, “swag” (see tip 9) and insider info.

16. Web Updates. Basic web updates can be a great, cost effective way to keep customers interested and coming back. Fresh content, news and designs are the means for consistent engagement. One should never underestimate the value of increasing online traffic and engaging the online audience.

No matter what size the business, customers need to be communicated with. There are many inexpensive and effective marketing avenues available – if you know where to look.

Small Businesses have several key advantages over their larger competitors. Recognizing and leveraging them can drastically impact success.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.


The Delicate Art Of Engaging Customers

Branding is all powerful, in an ever changing world the ability to brand is hinging more and more on the ability to engage customers. Social Media is one primary means of doing this, but what do you do when a customer engages you with tough questions or questionable attitude?

FIRST: The Foreshadowing.

My wife and I had a wonderful Mother’s Day Sunday this past weekend. I muddled through making her breakfast, we attempted a hike up Rose Swanson Mountain here in Armstrong and more or less enjoyed the bright Okanagan sunshine. Nearing the end of the day we were feeling relaxed and more than a little lethargic. The thing with Armstrong is that it is tiny and tiny towns often lack many of the amenities of big cities – including family restaurants open past five o’clock. There are a few nice pubs, but they frown on bringing in an 18 month old so we decided we would simply order some take-out and eat on the patio at home. We placed our order at the local pub and then went to the park to chill until it was ready. I ordered the biggest sloppiest burger available, while my wife settled on the Greek Wrap (carefully described in the menu as being loaded with Greek vegetables). When we got our food home, we discovered that, aside from the normal tomato, lettuce and black olives, the “Greek” wrap was made up of shredded carrots, radishes and purple cabbage. We are not culinary snobs by any stretch, but we were a little dumbfounded by their definition of “Greek” Vegetables. A quick search of vegetable origins found the following information:

  • Radishes – Originate in China.
  • Carrots – Originate in Afhganistan (along with Parsnips).
  • Cabbage – Originate in either Sweden & Poland (or both).

Now yes, I get that the Greeks we a singular golden culture, and that their empire did indeed stretch across europe under the reign of Alexander the Great. I was not, however, aware that carrots and radishes were considered “Greek”. I laughed a little as I thought of a couple of quips I could post to their Facebook page (if they had a Facebook page). That lead me to think about how they might respond, which in turn lead me to think about how I would respond if I were them. One thing lead to another and now we have this blog.

Second: The Crux – Customer Engagement

Actual customer engagement tests your brand promises.

Customer Service, for many businesses, is the front line for brand image. It is where Brand promises are put to the test and in many cases it is the first “real” engagement that customers are going to have with any business brand. This can be where many large businesses lose out, but where small business can excel. The larger the company, the more people represent it and the more difficult it can be to maintain a consistent Brand message. Disconnects can occur between employees of the same department (IE Customer Service Reps answering differently to the same question) They can also occur between departments (IE Sales making promised that After Sales cannot deliver on). Larger companies tend to source out their service departments. As such there is less of a personal stake in the response and care offered. The service reps are often underpaid, understaffed, under trained and under the gun to respond according to pre-scripted operating procedures. Lack of knowledge and lack of flexibility in your service department is a big problem. Answers need to be quick, thorough and above all RELEVANT. When I call in I do not want to hold for twenty minutes listening to commercials promoting your outstanding service – that makes me bitter and sarcastic. I do not want to speak to a rep who knows less about the product than I do and I want to be able to understand what the rep is saying. Lastly I do not need a blanket response, or corporate run-around… I want an answer to my problem, my SPECIFIC problem. If you want to build a strong brand, build a strong service department. This is where small business has some advantages – there is a personal stake and a more direct line with the people to whom the business (and customers) matter. It is more consistent and more urgent. I call to a local small business and I am likely to get a response from someone who believes I matter. I am not just a drop in the bucket for those who can count their clients on their hands, and often know them by name. Engage me and I will be a customer for life. I still send my business to the little guys for that reason. I have relationships with these people, with their businesses – relationships built on previous service, honesty and faith, relationships that surpass the bottom dollar. Engaged customers are willing to overlook the occasional blunder or hiccup. They are willing to work WITH you and once engaged they will follow your brand the distance – and that is what branding is all about.

Third: Customer Engagement 2.0

Social Media acts as a magnifying glass for this engagement. For many customers it is easier to post to Facebook or Twitter then to call in. It is also quicker than the traditional means of email or snail mail, which means more emotion is included in the message and less time can be taken in structuring a response. Let’s go back to the story of the Greek wrap that wasn’t Greek. Hypothetically, let’s say that I posted to their Facebook page “Hey _____ Pub, I ordered a Greek wrap, not a Inter-European/Asian wrap – Carrots & Radishes are not Greek!” How would you respond? How would you expect a business to respond? Am I kidding around with this statement?, am I being belligerent?, am I being a troll? and how can you be sure? How do you engage the customer in a situation like this? Do it wrong and it will cost you. Do it correctly and it will promote you. Social Media requires fun, amiable, personable, creative, quick and professional direction. Those representing your business need to love people and dance on coals. The term “Social Media Ninja” is about as cliche as “Social Media Guru”, but Ninja fits the bill – keep watch, be quick, adapt and engage. Social Media is not just for big business, many small businesses are beginning to utilize it and the I’ll leave you with this nifty example of someone trolling Taco Bell, and Taco Bell’s subsequent response.

How you engage customer via Social Media Channels can drastically impact your brand.

Notice that they engaged not only the sender, but their entire audience, by not only going along with the joke, but coming out on top. They even utilized hash tags to further both the joke and their commanding statement. In this case context was made evident by the name of the sender (Men’s Humor) and the hashtag. It is not always so clear, and misinterpreting it can be costly. But, as this example shows, doing it right can have amazing results.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.