Zee2A's Marketing Edge Blog

March 15, 2010

Anyone for a game of ‘telephone-tag’?

Our colleague and associate Merlyn Sanchez of SMART Business Owners wrote these excellent tips for leaving an effective voicemail.  The article can also be read directly on her blog.

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In this over-connected, cell phone to the ear, Web 2.0 world, it would seem inconceivable that it can be near impossible to reach someone. However, it’s more likely that your phone call will go to voice mail rather than to a human being!
So, what do you do when you encounter someone’s voice mail?  Many business owners and sales people tell me there’s no point in leaving a message because they’ll never get return call.  What they really mean is, “I can’t sell them anything via voice mail”.
Well, they probably weren’t going to buy anything even if you did reach them!  Without an objective and a plan, you’re just one more person vying for attention.  And since you haven’t developed a relationship, you’re very easy to ignore.
Here are some tips on how to leave an effective voice mail message:
1. Define the objective of your call. Is it a follow up to a networking event? Or are you returning the prospect’s call or email requesting information on your product or service?  Is it a “keep in touch” call where the purpose is to keep the relationship moving forward?
2. Prepare a script. You want to make sure that you make it clear why you’re calling, how you can be reached, and let them know when you’ll be following up if you don’t hear from them. This will help prevent stuttering or losing your train of thought.  There’s nothing worse than those rambling messages that you wish you could erase!
3. Make sure that you’re easy to reach. Leave them your office number and cell phone number.  And make sure to check your voice mail messages (it could be embarrassing if you don’t!)
4. Repeat your key information. Introduce yourself at the beginning and the end of your message and include your phone numbers.  Speak clearly and slowly enough for someone to be able to take down your information without having to replay your message several times.
5. Don’t give up! It may take several tries and a few rounds of telephone tag to finally reach your client or prospect.  So don’t be discouraged.

By the same token, learn when you’re being avoided and leave a message that lets the other person “bow out gracefully”.  Just ask them to respond if they’re no longer interested in hearing from you. This usually works best if you use email since there’s no fear that they may actually reach you if they call.  Inject a little humor and make it clear that there are no hard feelings.  It’ll go a long way to demonstrate that you are both persistent and considerate.
Every contact you have with someone is a potential to create or further a relationship.  Don’t miss an opportunity to get your message across in an effective and powerful way.

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February 3, 2010

Ethical list building: Tip 5 of 5

Today we address the 5th in our series of the Five Top Ezine Publishing Guidelines. If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, please pick up the links from our archive in the sidebar on the right of the screen.

5. Communicate with a frequency your readers expect

How often you send your email newsletter depends on how much content you include. Perhaps you send a ‘daily tip’ that is short and to the point, or you send a longer article only once a month. Either way it is best to set the expectations of your readers upfront and then stick to it.

Why? So that you keep on the radar of your prospects (which your readers ultimately are), and so that they can look forward to receiving your emails and are more likely to read them. Whatever you do, be sure not to send emails so frequently that you get on their nerves, or so infrequently that they forget who you are!

There you have it.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts on this series – even adding any top tips that you follow as an email marketer.  And if you’ve enjoyed this series of short articles and would enjoy reading more like them, please sign up for our e-zine The Marketing Edge.  We practice what we preach – promise!

January 28, 2010

Ethical list building: Tip 1

Over the next few days we’ll be exploring the top 5 ezine publishing guidelines that you need to follow as a reputable, ethical e-marketer. If you missed our previous post/s you can read them here. Today we look at tip number 1:

1. Only add subscribers with their permission!

Why? Well, a major reason for having an ezine or email newsletter at all is to position you as an expert in your field, to demonstrate your services, and enhance your credibility. You ruin it all by growing your subscriber base without their consent.

Additionally, people who actually want (and have asked) to hear from you are qualified prospects and are more likely to buy from you eventually. It is a complete sham to have a database of hundreds or even thousands of recipients that don’t want what you have to offer, never read your newsletters, and possibly even have your messages land straight in a junkmail folder.

How do you ensure you have their permission? By using what is known as ‘confirmed (or verified) opt-in’. This not only makes certain that every name on your mailing list has given you permission to send them your newsletters, serves to validate the email addresses you hold, and also prevents third parties from adding subscribers without their knowledge.

By definition then you would not add people to your mailing list simply because you picked up their card while networking. Neither would you mine the Yellow Pages or Chamber of Commerce member list to increase your subscriber numbers.

Responsible e-marketers regard this as standard practice.

Check back tomorrow for tip number 2.

January 27, 2010

Are you building a massive email list?

Ezines (or email newsletters) are a great way of showcasing your knowledge and positioning you as a credible expert in your field. They also allow you to stay on the radar of qualified prospects in a low-key, non-threatening way. They are low cost, created with ease, and delivered at the exact date and time that you determine.

It’s little wonder then that so many businesses are following the trend to build massive mailing lists.

Are you?

Read on over the next few days to learn the five top ezine publishing guidelines. If you don’t follow them, at best you’ll be ruining your reputation, at worst you’ll be breaking the law!  Check back tomorrow for tip number 1.

Are you sick of spam?

Like almost every email user (and that’s prettymuch everyone these days!) you probably get plenty of email newsletters landing in your inbox on a daily basis. But how many did you actually sign up to yourself?

If you’re anything like us you are probably receiving a wide variety of newsletters, offers, sales pitches, and local business announcements that you never requested.

Worse still is that if you don’t actually appreciate receiving them you probably can’t even have yourself removed from the mailing lists, can you?

It’s bad enough when you are the victim… But what if you are the perpetrator?

Over the next few days we’ll be sharing five of the top guidelines that ezine publishers need to adhere to – check back tomorrow for tip number one and make sure that you start getting it right!

September 21, 2009

Persistence Pays Off

I love parables, don’t you? They entertain and there’s always a lesson to be learned. Sometimes we get to snigger at the dupe that just doesn’t get it too. This week I’ve got two parables for you, and the best part is that they both happened to me within the last few weeks. You’ll learn from each one while they’re (hopefully!) entertaining you, and in one of them you’ll get to chuckle at the numpties who just didn’t get it.
Ready?

1. Persistence Pays Off

Last summer Vanessa and I took a long hard look at the bargeboards and soffits on our house, and hung our heads in shame. They were awful! So we used our network to find a recommended fitter, and were introduced to Mike Sullivan at Trade Plastics. Mike came over to give us a quote – and that’s where things got a little slowed up…

You remember last summer, don’t you? That was when the world was introduced to two new phrases: ‘credit-crunch’ and ‘publically-owned financial institutions.’ So Vanessa and I did what everyone else did, and put a hold on our buying decision. How many of your clients did the same? And that was where your sales-cycle ended, I’ll bet.

But not for Mike. Earlier this year he knocked on our door and asked how things were going. He didn’t come on strong at all, just wanted to see how things were with us. Wow! Follow-up! Who’s heard of such a thing? I wish I could say that we gave him the job right then, but we didn’t. We still weren’t ready to loosen the purse-strings, so we thanked him for the visit and told him we’d call him when ready.

So how many of us would have thrown that lead in the bin and moved on? I’d probably have put my hand up to that one. But once again, Mike didn’t go with the conventional wisdom.

About three weeks ago, our doorbell rang. And it’s a funny thing, because in the week leading up to that ring, Vanessa and I had been talking about our bargeboards. If they were awful a year ago, can you imagine what they looked like by now? And the gentle ‘thaw’ of the recession is undeniable, so we were looking once more at our budget.

So when Mike was behind the opened door, we asked when he could start the job. A week later, we had lovely new bargeboards and Mike had the money in his bank account. (We can heartily recommend Mike’s work, by the way. Also, he’s a great guy, he has a great team and his prices are reasonable. So if you need that kind of work done, drop him an email.)

The moral of this story? Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Don’t be pushy, but if a prospect seemed interested and then got distracted, touch base and ask how things are going. If they’re still not ready wait for an appropriate interval then rinse and repeat. Like Mike, you may well get the business in which you invested so much effort.

Check back on Friday for my other story!

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July 6, 2009

How’s YOUR Reputation?

Three Ways to Ruin Your
Business Reputation

Funny how the minute I use the word ‘reputation’ ears prick up. We all know the power of a good reputation, and the damage a bad one can do. Businesses are concerned over matters like their environmental impact; Fair-trade policies; adherence to health and safety standards; etc because those issues impact on their reputation. A good reputation drives good publicity and ultimately longevity of a business. A bad reputation leads to bad publicity (whether via the media or simply the power of ‘word-of-mouth’), lost customers, and can ultimately result in business failure.

This article is not about to focus on environmental impact, Fair-trade policies, or health and safety. What it is going to focus on is three other areas that customers find critically important. Customers are, after all, the lifeblood of your business. If we as businesses are not delivering what our customers deem important they will drift away and go to our competitors that are. Specifically we are going to address three customer satisfaction issues that impact on your business reputation.

I hosted a survey among a group of consumers to find out what key issues made them extremely dissatisfied with a service provider. The following three issues came up over and over and over again. They were:

  1. Recurrent Mistakes – with little or no attempt to prevent future occurrence,
  2. Disrespectful Behaviour from a member of staff, and
  3. Appalling Telephony Systems.

Recurrent Mistakes

No one is saying that we have to be perfect and are not allowed to ever make mistakes. Humans, being imperfect as we are, will always need to allow a margin for error. The problem comes in when people do not learn from their mistakes and keep on doing the same wrong things repeatedly. A number of complaints I have heard are around the lack of effort to correct mistakes.

There could be different reasons why mistakes are repeated. At times a lack of skills or training is to blame. At other times it is a personnel issue – either the wrong person has been assigned to do the job, or the employee involved is simply careless and takes no pride in their work. And of course a management issue is often involved – failing to address issues before they escalate (be they training, staffing, or attitude issues).

Disrespectful Behaviour from a Staff Member

Now while you as a business owner are gasping that none of your employees would ever treat a customer disrespectfully, 2 out of every 5 people I surveyed (that’s almost half of them) have a different view! The kind of behaviour that they find disrespectful includes:

  • An inconsistent level of service from different people in the same organisation;
  • Discrimination based on their perceived value (or lack thereof) as a client;
  • Staff members unwilling to take responsibility;
  • A member of staff who obviously regards customer interaction as an interruption; and
  • Unfulfilled promises (phone calls and emails not returned; promises not followed through; etc).

Would it surprise you to know that Harvard Business School conducted a study a few years ago, which established that nearly two thirds of customers that leave an organisation do so as a direct result of bad service or discourtesy from a member of staff? And it’s not just junior members of staff that are guilty of disrespectful behaviour either. In my survey there was evidence of managers and other senior people giving their junior staff very poor examples to follow.

Appalling Telephony Systems

Ooh, now this is a hot-potato isn’t it? Customers hate call centres!

We can all relate personal experiences of being caught in an automated loop with no quick way to a real, live person; or being stuck with “option 1, option 2, and option 3” whether our call had anything to do with those options or not; and when we do actually get to speak to somebody on the other end, often they can’t actually help us at all.

Is it the call centre per se that is the problem? Or is it perhaps the individuals on the other end of the telephone that either enhance or ruin your experience?

There are two distinct areas here that need addressing, and both relate to training. On the one hand, customers need to be better educated to use the alternatives available to them. I feel qualified to say (because I am frequently guilty of this myself) that if the customer first referred to their user manual/policy document/the business website; there would probably be no need to pick up the telephone at all. On the other hand, the staff within these call centres need to be more adequately trained in product knowledge and in effective use of the telephone.

Let’s face it, as a customer, I would have no objection (nor be any the wiser) to my call being answered anywhere and by anyone, as long as my call was efficiently dealt with.

It’s easy to see how failing in these three areas can completely ruin our business reputation. Customers talk. Fact. We really don’t want them spreading negative publicity about us. I’ve heard it said that a happy customer will share their story with one or two close friends, but an unhappy customer will tell everyone they can! So then is there an easy way to protect our reputations? Absolutely Yes!

These issues (and indeed many others too) can usually be resolved by the following three steps:

  1. Sharpening the recruitment process – finding the right people, and putting them in to the right roles;
  2. Managing problem staff more closely – being close to the causes, is it motivation, attitude, or a skills gap? and
  3. Providing an adequate, ongoing, and consistent training and personal development programme for all members of staff.

©Vanessa Deakin and Zee2A Limited 2009.  Vanessa Deakin works with Professional Service Executives frustrated and disappointed with their current growth rates, marketing efforts, and business profitability. Through one-on-one and group mentoring programmes she helps them to skyrocket their results and break their own best records. To learn more, sign up for her e-zine, or make an enquiry please visit her website at www.zee2a.com.

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June 30, 2009

Customer Service No-No’s

I noticed two interesting news headlines in the last few days.
Firstly, the OECD say that we are ‘at the bottom’ of the current economic recession – actually a positive thing, because it suggests (without promising) that things may begin the slow climb back to prosperity in the near future. The second indicated that the UK economy suffered a 2.4% shrinkage in the first quarter of 2009 – 0.5% worse than predicted and the worst for 51 years, apparently. Again,
although it may not at first blush seem like it, this is good news.
These type of figures are by definition retrospective – they look back at a period we have already lived through. There are many signs of recovery, mostly in the form of a slowdown in bad news!

In this week’s Marketing Edge (out for publiction tomorrow) we are re-running what was one of the most popular articles of 2008 – a critical look at customer service no-no’s. Remember that everyone struggles in a recession, but those who take customer service lightly will continue to struggle even when conditions improve. So take the key points to heart and root poor customer service out of your organisation. When you do, your customers will show their appreciation via longer, more profitable business relationships.

Sign up for your free subscription at: www.zee2a.com and make sure to verify your request before midnight tonight!

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June 26, 2009

How’s your game?

Today’s feature article has been guest authored by fellow Sales Coach and contact of Vanessa’s, Adrian Miller. In it she tackles the issue of dropping the ball while networking. Our clients and seminar delegates will know that here at Zee2A we use the analogy of a relay race and talk of ‘dropping the baton.’ The principles are exactly the same.

For more top tips on getting the most from your networking why not take a look at our best selling Performance Tuned Networking ‘Seminar-in-a-Box’. It contains over three hours of powerful instruction you can work through at your own pace, and really start ramping up your results in this area!

 

Don’t Drop the Networking Ball!

(Guest authored by Adrian Miller)

Dropping the ball in the game of networking is akin to not catching a fly ball in baseball. Others are counting on you to successfully execute the play and keep the game going. Let the ball drop too many times, and you’ll be booted off of the team.

Networking is entirely about follow through. Just like in baseball, a networking introduction is like a spectacular ball that is heading right for you. You need to keep your eye on it and reach out if you’re going to make the most of the opportunity.

Too often, individuals get busy and forget to make contact with leads that were given to them or don’t follow up with the individuals who facilitated the introductions. Both slip ups are grievous errors in the realm of networking and can really tick off those who have put time and energy into helping you. If you’re guilty of lack of networking follow up and follow through, don’t be surprised if you’re given the “three strikes and you’re out” treatment from your colleagues and acquaintances. No one is going to continue to help someone who isn’t appreciative.

Don’t let yourself be demoted to the minor leagues of networking. Follow these tips and stay in the game:

Say Thank You

As soon as you obtain a lead from someone who has facilitated an introduction, thank them! Don’t wait for a week to go by, and don’t blow it off as something of little importance. A networking lead is a gift, so be gracious even if you don’t think it’s going to amount to a new business opportunity. Write a hand-written note or offer to take them to lunch. Don’t just send a lame, half-hearted thank you email. Remember, no one is going to go out of their way for you if you’re not enthusiastic in your response!

Keep Organized

Use a system for keeping track of your leads and who has provided them to you. Don’t let the information get buried in your email or on your desk.

Follow Up Promptly with the Lead

Develop a rule for yourself for the maximum amount of time you will take to contact a new lead. Ideally, it shouldn’t take you longer than 24 hours to make that first contact.

Follow Up Promptly with the Facilitator

Your work is not done once you’ve had that initial conversation. Now, you need to contact the person who facilitated the lead and give them an update. This step is frequently forgotten but vitally important to maintaining good networking relationships.

Reciprocate

Networking is not just about you receiving new contacts. It’s also about you reciprocating the favors bestowed upon you. Be generous about helping others, making introductions, and offering assistance whenever you have the chance.

Adrian Miller©Adrian Miller. Adrian Miller is a sales trainer, consultant, speaker and author. She launched her firm Adrian Miller Sales Training 21 years ago and works in a vast diversity of industries providing real world solutions for real world situations, on-site and through webinars and teleclasses. She recently started Adrian’s Network, a virtual business networking community that is gaining new members every day. Adrian can be reached here.

June 12, 2009

Online vs Offline?

Philip Rosenthal sent Vanessa an email asking:

‘How much effort should a consultant put into their online presence versus offline face to face networking?

It may be different for different consultants, but how do you decide how much time to put in or what mix of time to put into different areas? I am concerned that online marketing is a potentially endless sink of time and am not sure what the returns will be compared with traditional marketing.

Also, I have been on [a particular online networking facility] for less than a month and have about 30 connections – some of whom are people I don’t really know but are members of professional societies of which I am also a member and live in the same city as me – I hope to get to know them better this way. Any suggestions?’

Hello Philip,

Great question, and one which I’m sure many other Marketing Edge readers are wondering about. You raise three separate points, which I’ll address one by one:

Online vs offline networking

How much time you decide to spend in one area versus the other depends entirely on where your prospects are and you may have to do some research of your own to find out where that is. As a business owner with many commitments you simply cannot afford to waste your time, money and effort in activities that have minimal impact.

Are your prospects researching and making buying decisions from behind their PCs? If so, are they building relationships with potential suppliers through social networking, or are they using search engines to find information on specific services? (Two distinctly different approaches!) Or are they making those decisions on the golf course? Do they read specific trade journals or attend business to business shows and exhibitions? Find that out, then find a way to regularly get in front of them.

The returns compared with traditional marketing

Any marketing you do – whether online or otherwise must fit in with an overall strategy. They cannot be adhoc events or activities that get done on a whim and without proper forethought and planning. Remember too, that not all methods work for everyone. You have to test it and measure it. If it works, do more of the same. If it doesn’t work, or doesn’t work well enough, change tactics.

For example: Just because you’ve always had an advert in the Yellow Pages doesn’t mean you should just keep on renewing it. Do you know how much business you actually get because of that advert?

The same principle applies to your weekly networking breakfast; your brochures; your website; etc. Don’t blindly keep doing something just because you think you should, or because you think that ‘doing something is better than doing nothing.’

Getting to know your contacts better

Well done for creating an online profile and getting active in making connections! (For some top tips on creating and maintaining your profile, see my article Revamp Your Online Presence in Four Easy Steps.) It is important that your connections have substance and that you can add value to each others’ networks.

What is the point of hundreds of connections that are just there to boost your numbers, but you know nothing about each other and never interact? It would be just as ludicrous to collect hundreds of business cards at face-to-face events and stuff them into an overflowing business card folder that never gets opened again, other than to add more cards!

Your approach to connecting with fellow members of professional societies you belong to and people who live in the same town as you is a good place to start. May I suggest you take the initiative in arranging a meet-up to build those connections into REAL relationships. Perhaps something like meeting for a drink after work – invite all thirty connections and see who turns up. Not only will you benefit from getting to know them better, but they will benefit from meeting each other too. (By the way: This suggestion works equally well if applied to that over-stuffed business card holder too!)

Thank you for your question,

 

Other readers with questions are invited to submit them here and we’ll do our best to answer them in an upcoming issue.

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