A Business Anniversary to Remember: CCC Turns 7

This week, Clearly Conveyed Communications turns seven! It’s hard to believe my little venture is hitting the 7-year milestone on May 15th, but I’m so grateful to so many people who I’ve met and worked with along the way.

 

CCC turns 7!

 

As we celebrate our seventh anniversary, I want to share seven tips I’ve learned during our seven years in business.

  1. You can be a small business owner. Entrepreneurship isn’t only for people with extensive resources, a trust fund or a Harvard MBA. It’s hard work to build a business, but it is possible to do it from scratch. Have an idea?
  2. Remember your why. The day-to-day grind of running and growing your business can be overwhelming at times. Remember why you started your business, and keep a prominent reminder in your office or close at hand, so you can see it when you need a boost.
  3.  Celebrate the little (and big) victories. Small business owners have big dreams, so remember to take the time to celebrate victories, large or small. These successes will keep you going during tough times and losses, which will happen. What are you celebrating?
  4. Be ethical always. Some people say there are no ethics in business today, but I disagree. In the digital age, trust is more important than ever. As we spend more time online and on social media, it’s imperative that you’re honest with customers, partners and yourself. Don’t promise results you can’t achieve, or work with people who use unethical business practices.
  5. Your time is your most important asset. As a small business owner, you have to weigh every request on your time, and learn to say no to opportunities that aren’t a good fit for your business. It’s hard to turn down a potential project or client, but it may help you grow in the long run.
  6. Focus on paid work. As a small business owner, you need to focus on revenue-generating activity as much as possible. If you can’t bill for an activity, can you delegate it or stop doing it? That may not be possible, but you need to regularly review how you’re spending your time to make sure your cash flow remains strong. Too much non-revenue work can put you out of business.
  7. Put your current customers first. We all want to grow, but remember to put your current customers first. You’ve probably heard that it’s much less expensive to do more business with current customers than to find new ones. By spending time on (and with) your customers, you can find new opportunities to grow your business with them, and you’ll deliver an impressive customer experience that will encourage referrals.

 

Thank you to everyone who has supported us along the way. What an incredible journey it’s been, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds!

If you’re looking for help with your company’s marketing, writing or social media needs (or know someone who does), let’s talk.

Toasting 7 incredible years,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about small business life, your marketing needs or what you’re celebrating):

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Why Customer Experience Should Be Your Focus in 2018

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to welcome Dan Ridge as a contributor to the CCC blog!

The customer is always right has long been a business adage. In today’s highly competitive environment, it’s more than just selling products to customers; it’s about providing them with a seamless and enjoyable experience throughout the time they’re in touch with your business.

Why Customer Experience Should Be Your Focus in 2018

Whether they’re looking at your website, talking to a sales rep, or reading one of your brochures, the customer should gain value and insight from their experience of dealing with your business, which is why everyone is talking about customer experience.

Good customer experience has a huge role to play in whether a customer buys from you and can be the key decision-making factor. I interviewed Rory at Promotions Warehouse and asked for his view on why customer experience should be your focus for 2018.

A good experience increases overall customer satisfaction

Research has shown that providing a consistent approach to customers throughout their customer journey with your business can increase customer satisfaction by around 20%. If every touch point the customer has with you from initial contact to purchase to post-sales communication is consistent and positive, that customer will be far happier than one who bought your product, but experienced poor service while doing so.

A good experience means customers are more likely to come back

It’s far less expensive for businesses to carry out repeat business with loyal customers than to constantly attract new customers all the time. Enjoying a great customer experience is a very good way to ensure customer loyalty to your brand. If they have a positive experience dealing with you, they’re more likely to come back again and again. Customer experience is what will make you stand out from your competitors and adds value to your customers, so they won’t want to risk switching their business elsewhere.

Customers who are happy will spread the word

If your customers have a good experience, they’re more likely to spread the word among their friends and colleagues, which can lead to an increase in referrals.

They’re also more likely to write favorable reviews on your website and to praise you in online forums or groups on social media. All this free word of mouth publicity can only enhance your business reputation and spread your name to other potential customers who might not otherwise have heard of your business.

“Good customer experience is more than just selling customers a product they need at the right price; it’s about providing them with consistent communication, tailored messaging and information which is valuable and interesting to them.”

Good customer experience is your key differential

Unless your product or service is completely unique, you have some competition out there in the marketplace. With others offering the same product, the only differential for customers is their experience buying from your business.

Offering superior customer service compared with your competitors is a clear way to make your brand stand out and help your customers with their decision-making process. It’s also a better long-term strategy than trying to beat competitors solely on price.

Happy customers spend more money

Customers who enjoy the experience of working with you or dealing with your business are far more likely to spend more money with you. Research has shown that customers who enjoy good customer service are 70% more likely to spend more money with a business than those who have experienced an adequate level of service.

They’re not just more likely to become loyal and repeat customers but also customers who spend more each time they use your products or services. This is one of the biggest reasons why customer experience should be your focus for this year if you want to grow your business.

Building long-term customer relationships

If you can create a great customer experience, you’ll be able to build a long-term relationship with your customers, keeping them coming back repeatedly.

In today’s consumer society, customers are bombarded with messages and marketing material at every turn. Creating consistent personalized, tailored customer communications will help your brand break through the noise and stand out in their minds.

If customers look forward to your emails/mailers/catalogues/offers because they know they’ll be relevant and interesting, you’ll be able to build lasting relationships with them to help create a sustainable business.

Good customer experience is more than just selling customers a product they need at the right price; it’s about providing them with consistent communication, tailored messaging and information which is valuable and interesting to them. Customers need to have a great experience at every single touch point with your company, from the first ad they see to when they walk through the doors. If that happens, your business will benefit.

Weigh In on Customer Experience

How does your company offer a good customer experience?
What companies provide you with an enjoyable customer experience?
What other benefits do a quality customer experience deliver?

Dan Ridge is a freelance writer specializing in marketing and small business.

 

Content Marketing: A Crucial Component of the Customer Experience

A stat from a recent article on content marketing caught our eye.

“Consumers engage with 11.4 pieces of content on average prior to making a purchase.”

pexels-photo-296878

In the B2B world, buying journeys tend to run longer anyway, but consumers (B2B and B2C) are doing their homework these days. Studies show that 70-80% of people research a company online before visiting the small business or making a purchase with them.

Whether it’s leftover angst from the Great Recession or the availability of information today, it’s precisely why content marketing is so important.

Here’s a real-life example:

Recently, I stayed over in Park City, Utah, for a day after working a client’s conference in nearby Salt Lake City. On a whim, I decided to get a massage after spending the previous four days pounding convention center floors. I pulled up local spas on my phone, checking their hours, availability and services. Not surprisingly, I contacted the spas who had this information available online — not ones I had to call just to see if they were open. And the spas who had additional content available — more in-depth descriptions of their services, photos of their facility, online real-time availability, etc. — moved to the top of my list.

What does this have to do with content marketing? The information I sought was quality content created by (or for) these spas: descriptive services pages with quality photos, blog articles on the benefits of one type of massage over another, recommendations on how to maximize your spa-going experience. This is what consumers are looking for today before making a purchase or even contacting your company.

While I didn’t end up getting a massage, I did manage to take a break from technology and enjoy the magic of Park City. But not before I utilized even more content — a visitor’s guide from my condo, Park City Transit’s website — to plan my stress-free day.

We’re all consumers at some point, so don’t forget about your experiences as a customer when you put on your marketing hat. These experiences are valuable and can make us better marketing professionals, if we choose to use them.

Reader Feedback

How have you used content marketing to learn more about a business or make a purchase?

How do you use your experiences as a customer to become a better marketing professional?

What types of content do you prefer when researching a company or purchase?

A professional customer and marketing professional,
Jaime

 

Let’s chat (about content marketing, customer experiences or otherwise):
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Customer Experience: Starbucks Shows How It’s Done

Loyal readers of this blog know that I’m an espresso lover and Starbucks fan. Despite being a longtime, loyal customer, I do run into problems with the coffee behemoth once in awhile, like you will with any brand. What matters most is how your favorite brands resolve these occasional issues.

Starbucks logo on coffee sleeve

The famous twin-tailed mermaid, or Siren, makes me smile.

Earlier this week, I decided to run to my local Starbucks to grab lunch. In the midst of a chaotic day, I ordered a deli sandwich via Mobile Order & Pay in the Starbucks app. Upon arriving, I learned that the sandwich I had ordered was sold out.

The barista apologized and let me know what other sandwiches the store had and reminded me of the newly available (in our area) Bistro Boxes. I decided on another sandwich that I had been debating on ordering anyway, and my revised order was quickly filled.

The same barista, who took control of my situation, didn’t charge me the additional cost of my new order and promptly gave me two $4 coupons for future use. The best part was that I was still in and out of the store in 3-4 minutes so I stayed on schedule.

The substituted sandwich was delicious and paired nicely with my second latte of the day I brewed when I was back in my office (with Starbucks coffee, of course). Instead of leaving the Starbucks store peeved and empty-handed, the barista made sure that I walked away with a positive experience despite the hiccup.

How do your favorite brands handle the occasional hiccup?

Always drinking (or thinking about) espresso,
Jaime

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The Dark Side of Social: How to Respond When Things Go Wrong

At CCC, we’re big believers in the power of social media and the value that it can provide to your brand. However, you need to understand the darker side of social so you’re prepared for anything that could go wrong or reflect your brand in a negative light.

Velvet Heart Promoted Tweet

Velvet Heart was trying to promote its new arrivals for spring, not trend with a mass shooting.

Recently I was on Twitter and noticed the name of a nearby town trending (regionally). I clicked on the link to see why it was trending and discovered a mass shooting had occurred at a retirement village. (My thoughts and prayers are with this community during this difficult time.)

While scrolling through the feed, I saw a promoted tweet advertising a retailer’s new spring arrivals. I was included in the audience targeted in this campaign, so the tweet showed up in my feed — no matter what I was viewing at the time. The advertiser had no say where its targeted audience members saw its tweet. (For more on Promoted Tweets, click here.)

Last week, I saw a news story about a guy who blew his lower leg off while shooting a lawn mower packed with explosives. As usual, an ad played prior to the video on the news site where I watched it. AT&T didn’t ask for its ad to play prior to a graphic video, but that’s when I saw the ad and its brand.

“A brand can’t control the message in the way it once did but it can still have influence.” –Jeff Barrett, CEO, Status Creative

These examples both point to why some brands and companies are so afraid of getting social — loss of control. On social media, it’s impossible to control every aspect of the message about your brand.

I’m not trying to discourage you from joining the conversation — just the opposite, in fact. If you’re a part of the conversation, you can help guide its direction and speak directly to your online community.

What if I hadn’t known that advertisers don’t control where Promoted Tweets show up? A user may have tweeted the advertiser expressing her dissatisfaction that the company would try to profit off a tragedy. That’s why you need to be aware of all the possibilities before jumping into something like Promoted Tweets. You can respond to say that you only chose to promote a tweet to a targeted audience, and did not use a trending hashtag or phrase inappropriately. If you’re not active on a social platform where a discussion breaks out about your brand, you can’t help set the record straight.

“While you can’t control the conversation,  you can participate and give fans a firsthand account of what’s going on at your company.”

Don’t worry about controlling every aspect of the conversation about your brand. Be prepared and know what you’re doing before jumping into social media in general, or a specific area, such as Facebook advertising or Promoted Tweets. Have a plan, but be prepared to adjust it as necessary.

Social media may not be easy for brands, but it’s worth it. Getting social can start a conversation that takes your business to new heights!

Are you struggling with your social media strategy, goals or execution? Let’s talk. We’d love to help you join the conversation and shine the spotlight on your brand.

Getting social (day or night),
Jaime

Let’s chat (about social media, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Share the Luck of the Irish with Your Clients & Employees

Whatever your background, we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick's Day revelers enjoy the celebration

St. Patrick’s Day by Courtney Collison via CC BY-SA 2.0 http://bit.ly/1QVmT1J

Here’s how to share the spirit of this holiday with your business family:

  • Throw an Irish potluck — Ask employees to bring their favorite Irish-themed foods for a festive event in the office. If you’re throwing a last-minute shindig, order in from your favorite Irish restaurant. Hand out fun promotional items, such as four leaf clover-printed sunglasses, green hats or four leaf clover beads. Remind everyone to wear green and punctuate the event with some fun Irish music (or March Madness)!
  • Enjoy March Madness during a St. Patrick’s Day Happy Hour — Invite your employees and/or clients to Happy Hour at your favorite local pub. Cheer on your favorite men’s college basketball teams (or the ones you picked on your bracket) with an ice cold Guinness in hand. If you’re feeling lucky, pick up the first round of drinks along with some hors d’oeuvres. Enjoy the camaraderie as you survive the roller coaster ride of the NCAA Tournament!
  • Hold a Luck of the Irish Contest — Invite your clients to participate in a themed contest celebrating this popular holiday. Anyone who places an order receives a mystery discount or gift. You can hold the contest digitally with a well-designed landing page, email marketing and social media promotion. Take the contest offline with direct mail, scratch off tickets and in-person visits. Don’t forget to create a hashtag and encourage clients to post their winning tickets on social!
  • Bring the Irish Spirit into Your Office — Encourage employees to wear green along with festive accessories. Reward the most festive, creative and other categories of your choice with gift certificates to your local pub, lunch delivered in the office or a day (or afternoon) off. Throughout the day, highlight your festivities on social media so fans can get to know the faces behind the scenes and see your fun culture.

St. Patrick’s Day 2016: How the World Will Celebrate From Dublin to Tokyo

However you decide to celebrate, have fun! May the Luck of the Irish be with you and your business always.

Cheers,
Jaime

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How to Provide a Superior Customer Experience on Social

If your brand is on social media, fans expect a conversation, not a one-way broadcast. They’ll use this medium to provide feedback on their customer experience and request assistance when needed. Are you ready to provide a superior customer service experience on social?

"A Conversation" by Khalid Albaih via CC BY 2.0

A Conversation by Khalid Albaih via CC BY 2.0

“Brands that are still refusing to use social for customer care will really start to look foolish in 2016.”  -David Moth, Econsultancy

Speed Matters But So Do Solutions

Yes, timely replies are appreciated but responding immediately is overrated. People want an answer to their question or a solution to their problem. They don’t care whether you tweet them every few minutes that you’re working on their issue. If a solution is going to take some time, respond to give them a time-frame and then provide an update if that changes.    

Respond in the Right Way

If assisting a customer requires sharing sensitive information, move the communication to a private channel. Facebook helped Page administrators earlier this year by adding a Message option to posts and comments. When choosing this response option, a message opens with the post and/or comment included for easy reference and a note is displayed on the Page letting others know that you responded. Twitter also made private communication easier this year with a number of changes, including the ability to receive and reply to Direct Messages from anyone.

Facebook Pages: Now Open for Communication

Don’t Nix Negativity

It’s a judgement call whether the conversation should be made private. However, don’t do it just because a customer makes a negative comment. Resolving an issue in the open can be a boost for your brand and shows others that you’re transparent and willing to correct a poor experience. No brand is perfect but how you handle a negative situation can be the difference between a disgruntled fan and brand evangelist.

Get Social on Social

If possible, keep your communication on social media. This is the medium that your customer chose to use, so don’t just respond with a stock message to call your general customer service number. Your customer may have already tried other routes, so pushing her back to those failed avenues is frustrating and will lead to an even more negative view of your brand.

Providing a superior customer experience on social requires work, but the pay off is worth it. By keeping the four tips above in mind, you can create evangelists for your brand and fans for life.

Let’s get social,
Jaime

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Evaluating Feedback: How to Listen to What’s Not Being Said

In our last post, we talked about how the gift-giving process makes you a better marketer. The final similarity discussed was evaluating your feedback, which is crucial to your success in marketing.

Local Call by Wes Peck via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Local Call by Wes Peck via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The problem is that it can be difficult to evaluate your feedback. Prospects and customers are human, so they’re complex. Perhaps they fit your buyer persona except for one crucial aspect, which is causing your marketing to miss the mark.

Another issue is that human beings want to position themselves in the best light possible. Said another way, peer pressure never goes away. Focus groups can lie, surveys can mislead and customers can tell you they want things that they really don’t.

How can you evaluate feedback from prospects and customers?

  • Develop Buyer Personas, Not Stereotypes — Buyer personas are a fantastic (and necessary) way to attract the right leads, but don’t rely on stereotypes. Research, research, research. You may find subtle differences between members of a persona, so you can adjust your message accordingly.

Why Consumer Intent Is More Powerful Than Demographics

  • Know Your Customers —  Once someone becomes your customer, go beyond the persona. Get to know your customer as much as possible. What keeps her up at night? How does she go about her day? Knowing her hobbies, personality and routine can be the difference between servicing a customer and creating a loyal client.

The Art of Follow-Up

  • Listen (and Pay Attention) — When you’re talking to a customer, listen to what he has to say. Don’t check email or mentally prepare your to-do list for the next day. Focus on your customer. If you’re meeting face-to-face, take in non-verbal clues, such as body language and facial expressions. Listening is an art form that can strengthen relationships and develop trust.

Trust is the most powerful currency in business

  •  Study Psychology — Don’t worry, you don’t need a degree. But understanding basic psychological concepts can help you develop relationships, business or otherwise. Learn about the different types of personalities, how the human brain processes various types of information and how emotions play into our decision-making process.

5 Quirks of the Human Brain Every Marketer Should Understand

Evaluating feedback can be difficult but is a necessary part of the marketing process, especially during the Close and Delight phases. (Huh?) So remember to stay away from stereotypes, get to know your customers, listen and pay attention to them and understand the psychology that drives how human beings think and act. You (and your customers) will be glad you did.

What tips would you add on evaluating feedback?

How do you get to know your customers?

Do you use psychology to do your job?

W’d love to hear your feedback!
Jaime

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How To Earn Your ’15 Minutes’ In Business With Style & Grace

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

-Andy Warhol (or not)

People often ask me what the hardest part of leaving the corporate world and starting my own business was. It was learning to promote myself, which may come as a surprise. Granted, I should have been doing that in the corporate world, but that’s always been an area of weakness for me.

Posing for a picture at a client conference

I’d rather run the show from behind the scenes, but I’ve had to learn to be more visible while running my business.

In the past, the old adage was to keep your head down and work hard. Today, that will get you nowhere. You need to work hard and let others know what you’re doing, in a positive way. How can you do that?

4 Ways To Earn Your ’15 Minutes’ In Business With Style & Grace 

  • Use social media to build your brand. Take advantage of social platforms’ tools, such as adding projects on LinkedIn and showcasing happy customers and successful projects on Facebook and Instagram. (Use platforms that your customers are on so you can tag them in relevant posts.) Prospects want to see and hear about work that you’ve done and happy customers are your best brand ambassadors.

Photos with faces get 38% more likes and 32% more comments on Instagram.*

  • Give credit where credit is due. If you collaborate on a project, give credit to others who contributed. When adding projects on LinkedIn, you can tag multiple people as contributors. Colleagues, customers and business partners will appreciate the recognition.
  • Be grateful. Remember to thank and recognize people who help you along the way. Whether someone acted as a sounding board, contributed to your business plan or came through in the clutch during a last minute project, let them know how much they are appreciated. Small gestures and kind words can go a long way.

Related: Stop Saying Thank You on Social Media & Say Something Meaningful!

  • Let others tell your story. When you follow the first three suggestions, people will be happy to spread the word about your work. Most human beings enjoy helping others, especially when they view others as deserving. Make sure you’re deserving and continue the cycle by thanking those who take the time to promote your brand (and reciprocating when you can). You never know when a casual mention will turn into your big break.

Related: How to Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk (on my reading list!)

On the topic of humble self-promotion, I’m excited that the CCC portfolio page is live! Feel free to browse some of our work, and let us know if you would like to discuss a project. (Perhaps how to build your brand on social media?) 🙂

*Source: Georgia Institute of Technology & Yahoo Labs

Your reluctant self-promoter (and introverted business owner),
Jaime

Let’s chat (on self-promotion, building a brand or otherwise): 
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