There are two ways of thinking about customers: as transactions and as relationships. Have you ever stopped to consider which your customers are? If you don’t know which category you put your customers into, all you have to do is ask your customers, because the way you treat them is a direct reflection of which stance you take. They can tell whether you think of them as relationships or transactions by how you serve them.
So what’s the difference?
Transactions Don’t Create Connection & Lasting Impressions
When you think of your customers as mere transactions, you do your job, take what’s owed you, and leave. In your mind, you’ve done what was required or asked of you, and that’s the extent of things. There’s no need to go above and beyond. No need to follow-up. No need to make sure the customer is 100% satisfied. The end of the transaction is the end of the relationship.
So, what’s the harm in this thinking?
Well, for one, you’re not likely to provide the high level of service you’re capable of providing, because when it’s just a transaction, not a relationship, you simply won’t care as much as you could. You might provide adequate service, but you’re not going to go out of your way to provide memorable service. You’re not going to look for additional ways to serve your customers or make their lives better. You’re just going to do the job and then leave.
Engaging in transactional thinking is not how you build a loyal customer base. More and more, we see Google infiltrating organic results with Paid Ads, Yelp hiding positive reviews (supposedly because of an algorithm, not because you don’t pay for their service), and HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and other companies trying to get a piece of the service pie by taking a cut of what you do in exchange for putting your name out there.
You don’t want to have to rely on search engines and paid services to keep business coming in. You don’t want the customers you have served to go right back to the search box the next time they need the services you provide. It costs 7 to 10x more to attract new customers than it does to retain customers, which means, you want those customers to keep coming back to you.
But when you think of your customers as transactions, they feel it, and they think of you and the service you provide as transactions as well, which means you’re just one ship in a sea of competitors. You’ve given them no reason to remain loyal to you, and they’re just as likely to use you as they are a competitor the next time they need service. At the end of the day, you’re left with a slew of transactions, not a slew of customers.
With this kind of thinking, you’re cheating yourself and your customers, and throwing money at a problem instead of fixing it. You’re missing an opportunity to realize the lasting impact you can have on your community. And you’re missing an opportunity to really become a part of your customers’ lives and find true meaning in your work.
Relationships Create Value
When you think of your customers as relationships, it changes everything. You’re suddenly considering them as people and looking for ways to provide exemplary service that goes above and beyond meeting their needs. You’re connecting with them, following up with them, asking them how their customer experience was, and letting them know you truly care about the way they feel at the end of the service.
You’re letting them know that you appreciate the opportunity to serve them, and that your relationship with them is a valuable one that you’re willing to invest in. And when a customer feels like a valued relationship, as opposed to a meaningless transaction, they’re not as likely to go out and start fresh with someone new the next time they need your services. They’ve already got a guy for that. They’ve already found a company that’s 100% capable of meeting their needs and caring for them. They’ve already connected with you and it’s not worth it for them to go back out and possibly be burned by a competitor.
So take some time to think about which category you put your customers in. If you’ve been thinking of your customers as transactions to complete as opposed to relationships to build and nurture, it’s time to make a cognitive shift.
You might think that because we’re a digital marketing company, we’re only advocates for online marketing tactics and efforts. Not so! One of the best things you can do for your business is actively put forth effort both online and offline. Many times, offline efforts end up showing up online, and since the two really go hand in hand, it’s time to start thinking of them as two pieces of the same puzzle. Alright, let’s get right to it….Here are four things you should be doing offline to build business online:
Sponsor local events, activities, and sports teams.
Sponsoring events, activities, and sports teams is a great way to build brand awareness, earn a reputation, establish trust and authority, and stand out in your community. People want to do business with local companies who are invested and established, and community sponsorship is a great way to communicate that you’re that type of company.
Whether it’s a little league team, an annual town parade or festival, or a charity event, sponsorship is a great way to get involved in the communities you serve and let potential customers know who you are and what you’re about.
An added perk is that, oftentimes, these sponsorships will earn you links or citations online. Think about it: it seems there’s a website or a landing page for just about every event out there. When you’re a part of an event, there’s a good chance your company will be mentioned or linked to on the event’s website or landing page. In other words, your offline efforts could end up not just building authority and boosting your rankings with potential customers in your community, but also building authority and boosting your rankings with Google.
Invest in B2B relationships.
Don’t embrace the scarcity mentality that’s so prevalent in business and think you have to cut yourself off from everyone and hoard customers for yourself. Instead, get involved, network, and invest in building relationships with other businesses in your community and industry. When you build authority and trust with other businesses in your community, they’ll be proud to pass your name along to their customers, because they’ll know you’ll provide excellent service and an excellent customer experience.
Connecting with others and developing referral relationships can lead to more (and more satisfied) customers; a stronger, closer-knit community; and maybe even links to your website from your referral partners’ websites. Let me give you a quick example of a referral relationship here in my community.
I recently locked myself out of my house and since I hadn’t lived here long, I’d yet to make additional keys or hide a key. The only way I was going to get in was to call a locksmith. Being new to the area, I went to Google, and after several calls, I finally got through to someone. The locksmith I reached wasn’t going to be able to get out my way anytime soon, as it was a Friday at rush hour, so he gave me the name and number of a locksmith closer to me. I called the locksmith he referred, he got me in, and I paid him for his time.
Now, I’ve taken all the necessary precautions to avoid ever needing a locksmith in the future, but if I ever do need one, I’ll probably try the first guy again, because he proved to me that he cared more about me and my needs than about closing the sale. He was willing to give up business because it benefitted me. That’s the kind of company I want to work with, and he showed me that through a referral.
Get involved in your local BNI or Chamber of Commerce.
One of the best ways to build those referral relationships is to get involved with your local BNI chapter or Chamber of Commerce. These local groups allow you to learn more about what’s going on in your community and what other local businesses are in your area, and provide a place for you to mingle and mix with those you may not otherwise spend any time with. If you really want to see the referrals start coming in and learn from other businesses in your community, these are groups you have to get involved with.
Many local groups such as these also mention the businesses associated with them on their websites and provide links. Links and citations = higher rankings. Plus, being a part of local organizations shows your potential customers that you’re invested in your community, which makes them more likely to trust in and invest in you.
Ask for reviews.
And finally, ask for reviews! At the end of a service, let your customers know how much you value their feedback and how much you rely on referrals and online reviews for business. Whether you want to believe it or not, your satisfied customers aren’t likely to leave you a review if you don’t ask — so ask! The more positive reviews you have online, the more potential customers will trust you and the higher Google is likely to rank you.
So go get started!
A healthy level of competition can be good for us. It can even be a business boost and make us better. But the opposite is true of obsessive “winner takes all” or enemy-based competition. This type of competition can actually distract us from our own business and our own customers, make us feel like there can only be one winner (all else are losers), and incite fear-based and scarcity thinking.
It’s this very notion that there’s not enough to go around and that our competitors are our enemies that can change our experience of running a business from an adventure where every challenge makes us better and improves our industry into a cutthroat exercise in greed.
How much time do you spend thinking about your competition? Do you view your competitors as enemies that you have to crush? Do you think the only way to get what you want is to take it from others? Do you believe you’re either THE winner or just another loser in business? Do you let market share determine how “successful” you are? Let’s take a minute to look at how and why this type of thinking can actually hinder your success.
Thinking in terms of crushing your competitors or getting more market share leads to decisions that have short-term value, as opposed to long-term value. If everything comes down to market share, you’ll be chasing goals that don’t actually improve your business or your industry. And although you may initially get fired up and focused with this type of mindset, you’ll eventually get burnt out and lose sight of what you really set out to do. Motivation that stems from a desire to make your business into the best business it can be is a lot stronger and longer-lasting than competitor-based or market share motivation, and it’s what’s going to take you through the tough times.
In the race with your competition, you’ll be inclined to believe that being first is all that matters. Well, it’s not! Sometimes, it’s actually beneficial to let someone else be the first to do something. You get to learn from their mistakes and work on improving a model, rather than reinventing the wheel. Think about it: Apple wasn’t the first company to build a computer. Virgin wasn’t the first company to launch a commercial airliner. Yet, these companies took something that had already been done and found a way to do it better. If they had been focused solely on crushing those in their market or gaining market share, they would have bought out all of their competitors and missed a great opportunity to improve their industries and experience true success.
If your focus is 100% on your competitors and defeating them, you’ll likely turn a blind eye to the things that could truly make or break your business, like internal communication. According to data collected from a 5-year study by Bain, 94% of business challenges are internal. Figuring out solutions to many of these challenges is vital to maintaining and sustaining a business – much more vital than crushing competitors. But how will you solve these problems if you’re so focused on “winning” and beating out your competitors that you never even identify them? You can’t.
So take some time to look at your business and your motivation. Ask yourself whether or not it’s time to change the way you view your competition. Ask yourself how you can improve your business and the way you serve your customers, simply by shifting your focus. Make 2017 the year that you focus on your business and how you can improve, instead of focusing on your competitors. And remember, there’s room for all of us at the table, so move over and stay focused on what’s on your plate!
Staying on top of all the trends in social media is a pressure, isn’t it? And that’s just for your personal accounts. What about for your business? New platforms and social avenues seem to pop up every few months. Which ones does your competition use? Did they already sign up for the shiny new ‘Next BIG Thing’???
The fear of being left behind is very real and quite valid. Should you be on every social platform your competitors are on? Should you be trying to catch a wave on every trend?
Managing your social media accounts can be incredibly time-consuming, especially if you sign up for every platform out there. Think about it. If you put the time into creating and launching content and engaging with others on every social channel out there, you wouldn’t have time to run the very business you’re trying to promote. That’s why you have to give it some thought.
Social media channels are like shoes. Like shoes, you need to try them on to see which ones are a good fit. Some are better fits than others and you need them if you are going to make headway. Instead of trying to wear all the shoes, invest in the right ones.
The social media account that bears your business’s name but just sits there twiddling its thumbs should be abandoned. You know, the social accounts that, at one time, had your full attention, until … they didn’t? It’s better to have strong channels representing your company (and YOU) rather than idle channels drifting at sea like a derelict vessel. If it’s got your name on it but it isn’t doing much – it’s not a good advertisement for your business.
Don’t look at abandoning a social media channel as a failure. People have followed your company on multiple platforms and they will continue to follow you elsewhere – where you have frequent and engaging content. Your time and energies are best spent focusing on the channels you are most comfortable with and that show signs of forward motion (Increase in Followers + Increase in Engagement = Increase in SEO). Time is, and always will be, money. Return on investment is crucial, but the ROI of social media for business can be harder to calculate than other aspects of your business. Really put thought into which social platforms will likely give you the highest ROI.
LinkedIn is a must for business owners as well as key employees because it allows you to connect with other businesses and network with key people in your industry. Some love LinkedIn while others feel it to be a necessary evil, but it’s just that – necessary.
Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. So many potential clients use it, so there needs to be a presence, however light, especially since customers and clients are able to leave reviews on this platform.
Twitter & Instagram
Whether you choose to invest time into Twitter or Instagram may come down to how much you like to chat and engage versus how much you take photos of your work and surroundings. What may on the surface seem like a great deal of effort becomes less so when the brand awareness and SEO impact becomes evident. Hashtags should be used with both platforms. Tweets are indexable by Google and using your SEO keywords as searchable hashtags on Instagram posts will go a long way towards helping your online visibility.
Snapchat & YouTube
Whether you choose to invest time into Snapchat or YouTube may depend upon your target demographics and what exactly you are promoting. Snapchat works well for events, retail, and entertainment. It is presently a younger demographic than other platforms. But remember, Facebook started out with a younger base before the Baby Boomers took it over.
YouTube is a great platform for building authority because you can post instructional and informational videos, and if they’re good, you’ll get shares and subscribers. As Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all allow videos, it is kind of a no-brainer to have a connected YouTube channel/account for your business. Videos can be uploaded to YouTube before sharing elsewhere or added later. You don’t necessarily need fancy video equipment to have a successful YouTube channel either. Most camera phones provide quality video footage, and 30 to 45 seconds of footage is all you really need.
This is sounding easier, isn’t it? Remember, the authenticity of your business and your message will have a better chance of ringing true and hitting the proper marks with fewer, properly focused and tended channels. So go get social and don’t be afraid to kill the platforms you don’t use – save your energy for those you can invest in!
Do you think of marketing as something that’s either on or off? Sure, you’re aware of the dangers of under-marketing (no phone calls, no jobs), but are you cognizant of how over-marketing can hurt you? Just as no one marketing plan or strategy works for every business, no one marketing plan or strategy works for the same business all the time. Smart marketing involves looking at your size, your workflow, and your capacity for taking on new clients and new jobs – it’s not as simple as doing the same thing you’ve always done.
Are you taking the time to evaluate your marketing plan and advertising strategy each quarter? If not, you could end up hurting your business and your customers.
Too Much Of A Good Thing Is A Bad Thing
In a seasonal business, it can seem counterintuitive to slow down advertising and marketing at any point in time– after all, finding a customer during the “off season” can be as challenging as finding water in the desert. You may instead be tempted to keep advertising and marketing going strong even though you’re slammed with business and booked out for weeks. You may find yourself hoarding customers, stringing them along through your busy season so you’ll have guaranteed work once things slow down again. But this can actually hurt your business.
When you can’t get to all of the customers you’re attracting, a few things happen:
- You turn off potential customers (possibly forever) by not returning calls or answering schedule request forms. You appear too small or too inefficient to meet the needs of these potential customers, so they’re not likely to call you in the future.
- You put unnecessary strain and stress on yourself and your employees and clear a path towards inevitable burnout.
- You underserve your existing customers. When your employees are booked back to back, there’s a better chance they’ll show up late or try to rush a service.
- You waste advertising and marketing money on attracting customers you simply can’t serve.
Assess & Address
It’s natural to be reluctant to turn away leads, but if your capacity to serve doesn’t line up with your marketing and advertising spend and strategy, you’ll have no choice. To avoid this situation, you need to be regularly evaluating your marketing and advertising, as well as your schedule and workflow.
Many service businesses are beginning to incorporate service plans and preferred scheduling for existing customers to help disperse appointments throughout the year. Some offer incentives to existing customers to encourage them to schedule their annual maintenance during the slow season, focusing on the benefit to the customers. Additionally, many offer loyalty programs and monthly maintenance programs. Not only does this help even out cashflow and keep revenue more consistent, it also leaves the “busy season” open for new customers.
Is Your Short-Term Strategy In Line With Your Long-Term Plan?
No matter what you do, you need to be honest with yourself about what needs to be done to keep your business’s reputation intact and your customers (both existing and potential) satisfied. You need to be willing to tweak marketing strategies and temporarily pause ads if you can’t provide the level of service you set out to provide.
So take a good look at your business – are you struggling to keep your head above the rush of new customers or are you killing it this busy season? Master the long-term by taking the time to think about your short-term strategies and strategize in a way that supports true growth and success. Business will still be there when you’re ready to ramp up that ad spend again.