Internal Marketing – Are You Doing It?

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Administrative Professionals week is April 24 – 30th this year. As I started getting requests for clients for gifts for their administrative staff to be delivered that week, it got me thinking once again about how many companies don’t bother with their internal marketing.

OK, so “What’s internal marketing?” you ask.

Simple, it’s the things we do for our employees to keep them engaged and motivated so that they believe in what they’re doing and are able to communicate that to our customers.

If you haven’t heard me say it before, here it is again: Your most important marketing tool is the delivery of good (and great is really the goal) customer service. Without that, don’t bother spending any money on any other marketing because you’re going to need that money when you declare bankruptcy.

While that may sound harsh, it’s true. Losing a customer because of poor customer service will not only deprive you of future business with that customer, but they will become influencers of whether other people do business with you.

If it’s less expensive to keep the customers you already have than to go out and find new ones, imagine how much more expensive it will be to try to find new ones if you have a reputation for delivering poor/bad/horrible customer service.

Good customer service starts at the top. It means, among other things, appreciating your employees – and not just the ones who have direct contact with customers. (What if your janitorial staff feels that you couldn’t care less about them and they don’t do a good job cleaning the restrooms, which your customers use?)

Appreciation doesn’t have to take the form of gifts. It can be a hand-written note from a manager in appreciation of a job well done. It can be calling that person out for an achievement at a staff meeting. It can be remembering employees’ birthdays with a card. And, yes, it can be a gift at holiday time, on their work anniversary, or on occasions such as Administrative Professionals Week.

Now, go – do some internal marketing!

Respect the Time You’re Given

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I was at a networking event the other evening and we had a guest speaker come in. He was billed as a motivational speaker, but I would call him a sales strategy speaker.

He was dynamic. He had some great ideas. He had some great phrases that you could steal. He was personable. He was interesting.

He also was completely disrespectful of our time.

Keep in mind that this was an evening event. We had all already put in a full day’s work, some of us starting as early as 7 am and it was about 6:45 pm when he started. Most of us were tired and were ready to go home and relax, but we were putting in the time and effort to be at an important networking opportunity.

After speaking for about 35 minutes, he looked at the time (7:20) and told us that he wanted to be respectful of our time (the meeting had started at 5:30) and he’d breeze through the remaining content to be finished in 15 minutes.

45 minutes later, he finally ended. Yes, he gave good information almost right up ’til the end, but some people were starting to disengage.

To make it worse, the last 5 minutes were a sales pitch for his upcoming seminar, books and recorded materials. When he asked how many people wanted to purchase tickets to his upcoming seminar at the end, I noticed that the number of people who were interested was about half that from when he’s asked the same question 30 minutes before.

Whether you’re speaking in front of a group or it’s a one-on-one meeting, respect the time you’re given. If you promise it will take 30 minutes, don’t go over. In fact, taking a few minutes less is fine, too. Don’t lose the business because you can’t learn how to stop talking.

Your #1 Marketing Tool

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Clients often ask me, “What is the number one most effective marketing tool?” My answer is, “Delivering consistent customer service at or above the level that is consistent with your image.”

The truth is that no matter how good your product or service is, your customer service will play a huge part in whether your business will generate repeat sales and word-of-mouth referrals (unless you’ve got a monopoly and you are the only one selling a must-have item.). Without repeat sales and customer referrals, you will be spending all your time, money, and effort replenishing your customer base rather than growing it.

Jeff Toister, President of Toister Performance Solutions, Inc. says that the strongest form of marketing is having “enthusiastic, highly engaged customers who refer you to friends and colleagues.” He adds, “People are more likely to trust recommendations from their friends, and a word of mouth referral doesn’t cost you a dime.”

How do you get these highly engaged customers? By providing customer service that goes a step above average for your type of business.

For example, you can purchase a pair of jeans anywhere, from Wal-Mart to Neiman Marcus, so why would people choose to pay tens or even hundreds of dollars more for a pair of jeans at a high-end department store? There are several possible reasons, designer brand names being one, but customer service levels certainly play a part.

Look at Nordstrom. The high-end department store’s customer service staffers are not only available to answer your questions about products on the sales floor, they will also set up a dressing room for you, bring items into the dressing room that will work with what you have already chosen, switch out sizes if an item doesn’t fit properly, and even walk with you through other departments to help you match accessories to the clothes you’ve decided to purchase. Few other chain stores offer that level of service. Devoted Nordstrom clients choose Nordstrom specifically for that reason and are willing to pay the higher price for a pair of jeans (name brand or not).

If Nordstrom ever started offering Wal-Mart, or even Macy’s level of customer service, would the department store be able to command higher prices for its clothing? Possibly for a while, but many devoted clients would ultimately seek a better price for that same designer brand.

Without a doubt, customer service delivery–or lack thereof– has the power to make or break a company. What are you doing to ensure that service your customers are receiving meet or exceed their expectations, so that they will return and refer their friends and colleagues to your company?

Over the next several articles, we’ll explore the important roles of both internal and external customer service in your marketing efforts and business growth. Not sure what internal or external customers are? Stay tuned!

Is Yelp a Friend or a Foe?

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I just had the opportunity to read a blog post written by a friend of mine – Jeff Toister is a well-respected trainer in the field of customer service. If you know me at all, you know how important I think great customer service is to the marketing of any business or organization. Well, Jeff is a great source for implementing the steps and culture it takes to get to providing great customer service on every level.

This particular blog post has to do with Yelp. I hope you find it as fascinating as I did: Five Yelp Trends Business Owners Should Know

When You Are the Brand, Make Sure You Represent!

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Although the customer service representatives are always the face of the brand, people are willing to have some leeway knowing that, in a larger company, the rep they’re dealing with today may not be representative of the overall brand. After all, you’re bound to get a lemon once in a while.

If the company is you, however, then your actions and behavior are the brand. A bad day can damage your brand with one prospect or 100 customers. A bad attitude on a regular basis can build give your brand a bad name no matter how friendly and inviting you think it is.

When I worked in the hotel industry, part of my training including a video produced by the Walt Disney Corp. on customer service. One of the main things I learned all those years ago, that stuck with me no matter what type of job I’ve had since then, is that, when you’re working with the public, you’re on stage. You need to act in a manner that your “audience” (customers) expect. Whatever is going on in your personal life needs to remain backstage and if you can’t take on the persona of someone who is helpful, nice and charming, then you don’t belong in a position where you are interacting with customers and prospects.

Your behavior, your reaction to situations that are thrown at you, and your general approach to dealing with people will make or break your brand, which, in turn, will make or break your business.

When Is Social Media Expertise Not Very Social?

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I attended an event featuring a LinkedIn expert who spoke on how to leverage LinkedIn to grow a business. I must admit that I was impressed by what he had to say – his strategies made sense to me and didn’t seem to make promises of social media bringing marketing instant gratification.

I wanted to set up a meeting with him to discuss how we might be able to work together, since social media coordination and content creation is something we do, but on a limited level; and he doesn’t do offline marketing.

I e-mailed him and he preferred doing a phone conversation, so we set it up. I was not thrilled with that solution, but it seemed to be a take-it-or-leave-it thing.

As I was setting up the phone meeting on his online scheduler, I remembered my “interaction” with him at that event I attended. I was engaged in conversation with someone when he walked up to us and started talking to the guy I was talking to. He didn’t bother introducing himself to me, didn’t apologize for interrupting, didn’t include me in his conversation, and never even really acknowledged the fact that I was there. He certainly didn’t make a good impression on me.

Needless to say, I was ready to dismiss everything he was there to teach us about LinkedIn based on that interaction with him. Even with that, I was impressed with what he had to say and I was ready to learn more about him and maybe even work with him myself.

Comes the day of the phone meeting and, guess what? No phone call from him (the confirmation e-mail I received from him said he would be the one placing the call and showed the phone number he was to call). OK, maybe he tried 5 minutes early and my phone line was tied up with a fax. I’ll never know – three days later, I haven’t heard from him via phone, e-mail, LinkedIn, or smoke signal.

Not anyone I’ll be doing business with and he won’t be getting a referral from me. Not very social, don’t you think?

What Does Your Outgoing Voicemail Message Really Say?

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One of my pet peeves is the outgoing message on a seemingly friendly and helpful voicemail that ends with, “I’ll call you back at my earliest convenience.”

Your earliest convenience? So, you’ll get to me when you get to me? Because that’s what I understand, at least on a subconscious level, when I hear those words.

Look, we all know that you’ll call me back when you’re good and ready – or you’ll choose to not call me back. I realize that you’re not going to drop everything else to return my phone call – unless, of course, you’re desperate to speak with me and just can’t wait another moment. (Nope, not even my kids fall into that category, unless they need $$$.)

OK, so you want to reassure people that you will be in contact with them if they leave a message. How about?

“I’ll return your call as soon as possible.”

In my opinion, a timeframe promise is even better: “I return all phone calls within one business day.”

Of course, in the end, the most important thing is to actually return that phone call; but unreturned phone calls is the subject of another pet peeve rant.